Saturday, May 31, 2008


My sister got me this mask for Christmas one year and it is hands-down the best I've ever used. It's made by Mountain Rose Herbs. This particular type of clay is rhassoul, a spa quality clay from ancient deposits unearthed from the fertile Atlas mountains of Morocco. It dries very tight to the face, a quality that I happen to like in masks. Mountain Rose Herbs also carries wonderful essential oils, teas, butters, salts, aromatherapy and even pet supplies. Prices are very reasonable and the customer service is excellent.

The cucumber eye pads are ones I always keep handy in my fridge. They actually look like real sliced cucumber and contain cucumber extract. Nu-pore makes them as well as Caswell-Massey and both can be found on Great stocking stuffers. After a good crying jag, these are great to take away puffiness and redness.

More Sweet Gestures

Dear mother/daughter friends, Melinda and Skyler, dropped by this morning with a cake Skyler had made (when piping on icing, it's easy to lose track of what you're spelling, so carry on the typos throughout!) and this miniature rose bush in a Chinese carryout container. Thanks, girlies!

Friday, May 30, 2008

When you work with nice people . . .

I've been at the place where I work, Unboundary, for a long time. It will be 12 years this coming December. Are there times when I'm overwhelmed and wish I had either married rich or been doing something like curing cancer (in which case being overwhelmed would at least be put into perspective)? You betcha. But all in all, I like what I do, and the people I work with are ones I can be myself with, truly myself, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Here's what I got today from my "family" at Unboundary. The girls at the office, lovingly known as "The Mermaids" sent me this Edible Arrangement, chocked full of fresh fruit and chocolate covered strawberries. I took the first picture as the package arrived, and the second showing the unwrapped basket.

And flowers from the office. An arrangement too pretty not to capture in a picture. I feel very spoiled . . . and grateful for the people who surround me five days a week, many hours a day.

Taste of Bawlmer

Dear coworker Laura went to Baltimore and brought me back these divine treats, a cakey vanilla cookie with a thick dark chocolate ganache topping. We both agreed this was the easiest to tote back to Atlanta, compared to my other requests . . . a case of National Boh, a bushel of steamed crabs and/or my sister Beth. She brought a box of Bergers for the office and one just for little ol' me. Thanks, girlie.

I love how the packaging is so inconsistent — Berger on the label, Berger's on one side, and Bergers on the other side (sans apostrophe). Just a tribute to what I'd like to think was the case . . . five generations of a Baltimore family concentrating more on making a scrumptious cookie than caring about what it's packaged in! It makes for a rather endearing cookie, I think.

And love the expiration date on top. Yeah right . . . these are gonna last 'til July 2.

Surgery Gone Good

So today was my long-awaited surgery. After months and months of erratic and sometimes heavy bleeding, I went in yesterday for a D&C and endometrial abalation. My ob/gyn uses the laser form of the ablation, basically burning the lining of the uterus using a high-density light beam. Ablation destroys a thin layer of the lining of the uterus, therefore stopping all menstrual flow in many women. From the friends, co-workers and acquaintances I've chatted with about the procedure, I was shocked to find out many have had it done and with much success. And of course it is much less invasive than a hysterectomy.

My parents — the angels that they are — picked me up at 5:30AM to be at the hospital by 6:15 for 8:15 surgery. I said goodbye to Harleigh (working that day at her summer camp job) who had had a rough and tearful evening the night before, worried about the surgery and all its possible outcomes. I've always felt very faithful and somewhat calm about it, but it broke my heart to see her so concerned and afraid.

Pre-op was almost like Mommy's spa day with its pampering. The nurses, doctors, and all the staff were so nice and upbeat. The kind of people I prefer to be around at 6:15AM given that I'm more of a morning person. Into the hospital gown —  that's been washed so many times it's like putting on a boyfriend's worn t-shirt — with booties on my feet, and then under a pile of warmed blankets, in a private room, propped up in a bed with lots of pillows . . . ready for a facial and massage.  I spent the next hour and a half reading New Moon and listening to patients and staff in the neighboring rooms talk about their procedures, medical histories. A relaxing prelude to surgery.

My parents came in to love up on me before I was rolled off into the OR, I caught Harleigh on her cell phone to chat, and then the "margarita" went into my IV to lull me into sedation (which, by the way, never really kicked in like I was expecting, but since I wasn't freaking out, it didn't matter).

Once in the OR, the mask went on to pump in the general anesthesia . . like the nectar of the gods. So amazing that you go to sleep and don't feel a thing.

When I woke in post-op, aside from having a sore throat from the breathing tube, I felt no pain at all. As if nothing had happened in my nether region. And the anesthesia had no trace other than making me feel super sleepy.

Then into my check-out room where I was moved from the gurney into a recliner, drinking a diet coke to get me to weewee before leaving, still no pain! The nurse sat down with me, reciting the list of what to expect once home, that included a discharge like "soot." Well, considering that they did burn the wall of my uterus, I suppose that there has to be some residual "stuff."  

Now in my family, ripe with a dry and wicked sense of humor, soot coming out of my whowho is the kind of fodder we relish:

Dad in the car coming home: I smell something burning.
Me: (whose anesthesia-muddied head did not render her immune to humor): It's my uterus!

Harleigh: Call 911!
Me: My uterus is on fire!

Harleigh: Mom, the doctor's office is on the phone. They have the name and number of a good chimney sweep!

Ahhhh. Nothing like laughter to make an icky situation more palpable. I hope this pain-free state continues, although I'm taking it easy at the risk of doing too much and causing things to happen up there that don't necessarily need to be jostled about.

Once home I did want to go outside and pick up Gideon's poop. I have this "thing" for a poop-free yard. If I know there's a pile out there, I become obsessed with cleaning it up. Thanks, Mom, for arming yourself with a grocery bag and taking care of it for me. (I think you know me well enough to know that once you left, I'd be doing it come hell or high water.)

What a great experience as hospitals and surgeries go. I'm amazed at how many people attended to me and with such organization and care. This is the band of people who saw to all my needs:

1 admissions check-in gal
1 surgery check-in nurse who then took me to pre-op
1 nurse for IV and stats
1 anesthesiologist
1 surgeon
1 nurse for last-minute stats and to administer "margarita"
2 OR nurses to prep me for going to OR (who were in the OR as well)
1 assistant to the surgeon
1 post-op nurse
1 nurse and 1 nurse's aide for taking me to check-out
1 check-out nurse 
1 nurse's aide to roll me out to the car

I slept the rest of the day in my comfy bed, still feeling rubbery in the joints and with that feeling of almost not wanting to go to sleep because the state you're in — so tired and comfortable and with no cares or TO DO lists gnawing at you — is worth enjoying for as long as you can, as it doesn't come along all that much.

Harleigh brought me dinner in bed, a killer casserole and brownies that my Mom dropped off. And I've been guzzling water at a sprinter's pace.

Lots of well wishes from office friends . . . so appreciated! (Courtney, my mom thought getting your check-in calls was the sweetest!). 

Up this morning, still no pain (was anything really done down there?!?!?), but still feeling the aftermath of anesthesia. Finished New Moon yesterday between naps and I can't wait for Eclipse!!!!!!!!  Love to everyone who kept me in their thoughts and prayers. This certainly wasn't major surgery of any kind, but in our society, riddled with 60-Minute episodes and 48 Hours, we've seen our share of the simplest of things gone bad, and I suppose that can leave a pall and dread over any impending procedure. Dawn's alive and couldn't be happier!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In Fudge We Trust

Ever come across packaging that is so irresistible that you can't bear to see it thrown away? Such was the case with this box of salt water taffy that a co-worker brought back from a trip to Massachusetts. Don't know what I'll do with it, but to see it trashed would have just been wrong. (Click on the image and you'll see that the penny says "In Fudge We Trust.")

Monday, May 26, 2008

Remembering and Honoring

I am a sucker for a parade. And I cry at anything sappy. Needless to say, I take kleenex with me to a parade. Memorial Day is especially emotional for me. Seeing all the veterans and active-duty soldiers marching for the fallen. The American flags waving. Hearing the patriotic music. When the colorguard first appears at the start of the parade and everyone stands up, I'm a goner. Here are lots of pictures to capture the parade we went to today, a real slice of small-town USA. (Click on any of the pictures to see a better image.)

Sitting in his front yard watching. He had trouble standing up, so when the flags passed he saluted. Tissue please!
Spectators lining the street. My girlie's the one sitting on a blanket with her head down reading a book to pass the time until the parade began.
The colorguard ready to march.
Lots of heart-tugging sentiments.
Boy scouts and girl scouts.
Horses, big and little.
Vintage cars, Vietnam veteran bikers, and tractors (only in the South! We lost count after 30!). I decided the guy on this red tractor was really cute and that I would make a good farmer's wife.
Pageant queens and shriners.
And the soldiers. The live statue of Iwo Jima was very moving as was the young soldier atop the float smiling unpretentiously as the spectators clapped and cheered. Someone even yelled "thank you" which made his smile upturn a bit more. Yes, thank you.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Chance to Entertain!

This evening I've got three out-of-town guests coming over for dinner. Two are guys I used to work with, and the other is one of the guy's sister. All three are easygoing and so easy to prepare for. Yes, this kind of thing is a good kickstart to getting the house uber clean. But the best part of all is that I get to cook for more than just two! (And for men! There's nothing more complimentary to my cooking than a hungry man eating seconds and thirds, which rarely happens at Chateau Gahan.)

I made a poppy seed cake last night (recipe and picture below) which is a recipe I've had since my early days of baking and cooking. It was actually served at one of my wedding showers. One of those recipes I still have hand written on a piece of paper from the gal who gave it to me. I have made this cake many many times, for showers, brunches, housewarmings. It's easy but has the taste of a homemade cake. When I make it for us at home, it often gets eaten for breakfast as well. Enjoy!

I'll share my main course and salad recipes later, both of which are family favorites.

Donna's Poppy Seed Cake

1 white cake mix
1 4oz package of instant vanilla pudding
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 cup poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients — except eggs and poppy seeds — thoroughly using electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Beat in poppy seeds. Pour into greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sweet Spots

There are lots of areas of my house that warm my heart. Here are two of them, both in the study.
When my daughter and I moved into the house, this room was a dining room. Being that it is just we two, that we always ate in the kitchen, and big holiday meals were always served at my parents' home, I decided to make this room into a study. I had the built-ins installed by a carpenter, a feature I always dreamed of having in a house someday. Initially the room was a place where Harleigh could do her homework. In elementary and middle school there was rarely the need for a computer to tackle homework projects, so this spot — surrounded by reference books (including an old encyclopedia set that I can't part with), cans of pencils and markers, a good working light, and a dropleaf table on which to spread out books — was perfect. As the years went by and dear daughter retreated to her room or the rumpus room (where the computer lives) to do homework, I began migrating all my craft paraphernalia onto the table and the shelves surrounding. Now it is where I do all my projects. I can see Gideon chasing birds in the backyard, the stereo is right there, and I can even see the reflection of the TV in one of the windows in case I want to do some TV watching. (The big basket on the floor was a discard from my sister that I have loved. It holds a bunch of blankets and afghans.)

This dresser is one of my favorite finds from a local flea market. It's a beautiful pale pink color with glass knobs. My parents bought me the navy and ivory check wing chair for my birthday one year, and it is one of my favorite sitting spots in the house. I found the slipper chair at a yard sale and it's perfect to have as extra seating when guests come over, not to mention that it's girly. I took an old negliee (don't you just love that word?) from a flea market spree and made the lampshade cover. It softens the room, not to mention . . . it's girly (a key word in our household, if you didn't already get the idea). A friend's mother painted the vase and flowers above the dresser and I found a chipped frame that fits it just right. The footstool is a Shabby Chic piece from Target that I got on sale.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bedroom Bowls

Ever since I found these bowls at a flea market many, many moons ago, I've had them hanging in my bedroom. One evening I came home, made my way to the bedroom in the pitch darkness and accidentally hit the plate hanger with my shoulder. The whole thing came crashing down and the bowls shattered into pieces. I cried. One of those pathetic kind of cries that comes out of frustration and probably isn't warranted considering the subject matter (broken objects and not broken bones, or feelings or lives). But they were two things that I loved looking at whenever I came into the room.

Now, all glued together — the lines where the pieces join all dark and jarring against the milky backgrounds and pastel florals, reminders of my clumsiness — they tell of broken pieces that can be put back together to be whole once again.

Lightnin' Bugs

Growing up in the suburbs of Maryland, we always called them lightening bugs, not fireflies. A Northern thing? We'd catch them at dusk when it was easy to see before the black of night set in. So easy to catch, with just a cupped hand. And into a jar, with a lid Daddy would poke holes into with a small screwdriver. Some grass, a stick. And then once in bed, wearing clean cotton short-sleeved jammies and smelling of baby powder, with the windows open, we'd fall asleep with the best nightlight in the world.

I found this jar with batttery-operated fireflies in a catalog. They actually dim and then brighten, just like the real ones. I bought one for my girlfriend Ali; we had once talked about the joy of being a kid and catching them. And I couldn't help but get one for myself, into which I put some fake grass to make it feel like the real thing.

Today is not the official first day of summer, but it is the first day of no school, and in our book that's official enough. Happy Summer to all and to all a firefly-lit night!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

After the Storm

Quite a doozy last night. I was running a little late getting home and felt like a storm chaser trying to outrun a twister as I rushed to get home to a daughter and dog holed up in the bathtub with blanket, flashlight and transistor radio. Luckily our home was unscathed, but the neighborhood took a little bit of a beating with a scattering of downed trees and branches. I've got my tree guys coming in two weeks to cut the trees back whose branches are starting to touch the roof; last night how I wished they had already come and done the job. But, no damage to the roof.

This weekend Harleigh and I will be cleaning out the garage to get ready for the SECOND CAR. Her grandfather is on the hunt for a dependable used auto for her, and I'll want to be able to park both hers and mine in the garage. My bowels are moving just thinking about my baby driving by herself. But with all her before- and after-school activities, a summer job, weekend commitments . . . it's a necessity.

I'm gearing up to paint my bedside cabinet. I think I'm going to go with the whole bright white and ivory thing. This picture below shows the sideboard in my living room. I got it at Goodwill, stripped it, painted it ivory, and sprayed the hardware a white white. The storage space in it is amazing, holding hard-to-store items like my punchbowl and cake stands. Refinishing furniture is one of those relaxing escapes for me.
Here is a picture of one section of the bookshelves in my study. Jane at Posy has highlighted books like this before and I've been inspired and intrigued enough from ones I've seen on her shelves to add them to my own. Although her taste is a little different than mine, the Tracy Porter books are scrumptious eye candy and have given me so many ideas, especially for entertaining. And of course the Rachel Ashwell books; can't say enough about all that I love of her style. I think that Jemima Mills From a House to a Home is one of my top 5 favorites. It is picture after picture of comfortable, family-worn English interiors and a delightful read as well. So here's to piquing your interest!

Enjoy this day!

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Moon

Having finished Twilight last week, I sorta had the wind knocked out of my sails about jumping headfirst into New Moon, the second in the series, knowing that in the group of girls at Harleigh's school, I'm probably not queued to get it for awhile. But lo and behold, I walk in this morning and dear Laura, a coworker whom I had told about the series last week, handed over a hardcover of . . . New Moon. She had purchased all of the series printed to date and read the first and second over the weekend. You go girl — talk about a reading marathon. We oohed and aaahed over how good Twilight was and went to the website to watch the movie trailer. Oh . . . . . . . my . . . . . . . . gosh, does it look good. I can't imagine any more perfect in those roles than whom they've chosen. Since when did bloodsucking get so doggone sexy? December 12 can't come soon enough.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Container Gardening is So Rewarding

I really am a sucker for container gardening. I suppose that when I moved into my home I felt it to be a little less daunting and final as putting things into the ground surrounding my humble abode. Here is one container on my back porch that brings a smile to my face. It's taken me until this year to start planting shrubs, bushes, trees and perennials at Chateau Gahan. If they take, they take. If not, at least I tried.

Bathroom Musings

I used to go through shower curtains at a sprinter's pace. Buy one, it gets moldy, throw it away and get another. And the mid-priced ones I purchased were never THE ONE. THE ONE I really wanted was a bright white matelasse at around $100 . . . ugh. I debated the splurge and came up with my justification list: that 1) it would match my bedspread, 2) I could easily wash it, 3) it would go with everything in case I wanted to change up the bathroom decor, and 4) — and the big aha moment — was that I could buy shower curtain liners at the dollar store. What I invested in the matelasse curtain (which, by the way, I got for well under $100 when it went on sale and I had a coupon) and put into dollar liners is way cheaper than buying and replacing all the mid-priced ones. I'm currently using these pretty Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic shower curtain hangers.
A wonderful mirror idea that I discovered and put to use in my bathroom is from a company called MirrorMate that creates custom frames to disguise those horrible flat, frameless mirrors those of us in 70's-built homes are stuck with. I purchased one for my one bathroom and it was a piece of cake to put together and it helps to make my Brady Bunch bathroom look a little more up to date.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hydrangea Heaven

Did some cuttings for around the house. Such a happy flower. (And speaking of happy . . . finished the book last night! Was sorry for it to end. Getting the next in the series, fer sher!)

Where everybody knows your name . . .

Harleigh had a doctor's appointment this morning as she's been dealing with bad headaches, overly sensitive hearing, and vision problems. Lots of tearful calls from school the past couple of weeks as she's been suffering through the day plagued with these pains and trying to wrap up the school year with the pressure of finals. Saw the doctor and was told we had to head to the emergency room for a CAT scan. No problem. She has a full day of driver's ed class and then we can head over to the ER afterwards. No, we were told, later won't work. This has to be done STAT. Well both Harleigh and I have watched enough emergency room and doctor shows to know that when a physician has a serious look and says STAT, it's serious. We didn't panic, but both gave each other this fearful, unkowing look and, CAT scan order in hand, headed to Scottish Rite.

Now you gotta know Harleigh to know that we are no strangers to the Scottish Rite ER. When we enter those doors its like Norm walking into Cheers, when everyone yells a collective "Norm!" We walk in and hear "Harleigh!" We have been there for everything from concussions to questionable broken bones to stomach issues. After checking in at the Triage desk, we were handed a Welcome Packet that walks you through the procedures and layout of the hospital. Harleigh gave me a deadpan look and said "Mom, we don't need this. We could have written it." Enough said.

Turns out the doctor didn't want to do the CAT scan, but thinks that Harleigh is suffering from migraines. Now I've never had a migraine, but know people who have, and I was so disappointed to hear the diagnosis. I hate that she suffers like this, and with the medication prescribed and keeping a strict diary of her headache episodes, what she eats, menstrual schedule, stuff like that, we hope that we can figure out what's causing them and get these to go away for good.

So, Cheers to there being nothing serious. And we just pray that the migraines subside.

Gift Wrapping

I always keep a roll of off-white satin ribbon on hand for wrapping gifts. So many times when buying an item, you get a plain white gift box to go with it. If I'm in a hurry, it's easy to just assemble the white box and tie the ribbon around it. I love bright white and off-white together. I took two gifts to work with me this past Friday, one a birthday gift and one a going-away gift for a co-worker moving to Brighton, England. Here they are on my passenger seat, heading into work. (Just a clue as to how harried I was last week . . . taking blog pictures in the car — but not while moving of course.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dawn Who?

OK, this is just not what I intended. When you get the blog bug, you want to post every day, you want to read others' every day. And then when you get so inundated at work and can't, it really sucks. I have been slammed at work, with no time for even doing anything personal at lunch. Getting home at 8:00 where I have a daughter (and a dog) who, rightly so, get my attention, albeit rather tired and borderline cranky attention. Of course, my reading has even suffered and that ticks me off that I can't get this book finished and want to so badly. All in all, I hope work lets up a bit, although next week looks like it might be worse than this week in terms of staying late. So I am so sorry. I know what it's like to go to some of my favorite blogs and read and see the same post for days on end. It's just disappointing. I promise to kick it up a notch this weekend and try to make up for this lameness.

In the meantime, here is a picture of one of my favorite floral paintings in the house. This is one my world-traveling friend, Lisa, brought me back from Russia. I'll take some pictures this weekend of some other floral paintings I have, all of them dear to me and with such fond memories attached to them. (All that work stress just lifted off my shoulders as I typed something other than work-related emails, project calendars and all that other icky stuff that ties me to the computer at the office!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blog or Read?

This is sorta like the big question of the day when you're on vacation on the coast . . . "beach or pool?" It's not a weighty decision but a fun one, and either way you win.

The past few evenings I've had my head buried in this book. It's been passed around amongst my daughter and her group of friends. When Harleigh was finished I got the "Mom, you HAVE to read this book." I'd seen it on a few blogs, referenced as a good read, and so I decided to give it a shot. The series is actually geared towards teens, but I find nothing "teen" about it except that the main characters are in high school. Would highly recommend. And, yes, the blogging, both posting and reading, has taken a back seat to coming home and jumping into this.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Here is the corsage that my stepdad, Fred, has hidden every year, the Friday before Mother's Day, for Harleigh to give me on Mother's Day morning. It started with me not knowing he was doing it, and he would call our house early on Mother's Day and remind her to give it to me. She's 16 now, there's no reminder phone call, and I must admit that I do know about their little secret and we all giggle about how the sweet tradition continues.

And here is one of my favorite pictures of me and Harleigh. She was less than 5 years old (how horrible am I at remembering the age of my only child in pictures!?!?!?). Now that I've posted a picture of myself as a slender mid-30-year-old, it will be really hard to post one of myself now.
It's been a very nice day. Started off with a bad thunderstorm and has turned into a warm, windy and sunny afternoon. Out to lunch with my family and now home to relax before the daunting work week rears its ugly head. Happy Mother's Day to all, as every one of us celebrates moms, be it our own or one we know who inspires us. (I want to wish Melinda a wonderful day; she's one of my favorite moms out there!)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Finally . . . Saturday

Never more happy to call it a weekend than after this week at work. Ugh.

Here are some of my plants, doing well with all the rain we've had. The clematis is only half-bloomed!

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