30 September 2011

Simply September: Making Home Work

One of the biggest, but most important challenges for me this month was looking at our apartment and our habits over the past year and finding new solutions to make our home work a little better for us. More simply  and easily.

That involved moving things around inside the three tiny closets we have, weeding out some excess, and inventing new ways to store items. 

One concrete example is this coat rack behind our front door. Last year, Joe and I were horrible about hanging up our winter jackets - preferring to just toss them on the couch as we walked in. But then we'd shove them on the banquet or the table when we needed the couch and inevitably one or both us of would be searching for our jacket or a glove or something. 

So I bought a coat rack and reappropriated a basket from elsewhere and now we have a better way to be lazy. It's so much easier to just toss a coat on the rack instead of putting it away in the closet, but we're not moving it everywhere and our hats and gloves and scarves are all ready and waiting. 

29 September 2011

Simply September: Cleaning out the Clutter

This is embarrassing. 

But over the last year, our office/guest room/laundry drying room/junk storage room just got out of control. And when I'm working, I don't have the luxury of time to waste on cleaning, so a lot of it just got ignored for far too long. 

This is what it looked like at the beginning of the month. No joke. 

Projects and messes and junk just everywhere. It made for some chaotic work days. And was not making life simple or easy for either one of us. 

I don't have true after pictures just yet because we're currently drying some laundry from last night in here and I don't air our clean laundry in blogland. But here's some progress mid-way through the month. The piles on the floor are items being given to new loving homes. 

But there's room to breathe now. And trust me, it won't always stay picture perfect, but it's a lot more organized and user-friendly. 

KtMac Reviews: I'd Know You Anywhere

Author: Laura Lippman

The Good: The novel is intriguing. It follows Eliza Benedict in modern day as she unravels her understanding of her past, including the traumatic kidnapping she endured, the strange "relationship" she had with her kidnapper, and her undeniable sense of survivor's guilt. 

The Bad: It is melancholy, but otherwise, seems to be in line with the behaviors and thought processes I would guess a survivor of a kidnapping would display. Especially given her desire to leave the past in the past. 

The Verdict: I recommend. It's not a light-hearted beach read, but it is definitely worth reading. 

28 September 2011

Simply September: Back to Basics

One of the the new habits I picked up this month was a basic one. 

Instead of paying for expensive moisturizer with a list of suspicious-sounding ingredients, I began using just a little bit of coconut oil after I wash my face twice a day. 

Just pick up a jar of coconut oil. It solidifies a bit in colder weather, but will melt quickly enough when rubbed against your skin. Simply use just a tiny amount and massage into your face. 

And honestly, your skin will thank you. 

I've already seen a dramatic difference in both the reduction of the number of breakouts I have and in how dewy soft my skin is. I definitely have combination skin - dry cheeks and an incredibly oily t-zone. And while it seems contradictory to put more oil on already oily skin, it's actually beneficial - your skin stops producing so much oil once you start routinely using the coconut oil. 

Additionally, a tablespoon or two dropped in the bathwater leaves your skin silky soft for several days (just make sure you clean the tub out afterwards - no slips and spills!) or use the coconut oil any time you'd use butter or olive oil in the kitchen for a healthy alternative. 

So simple. So good. 

Wednesday Wisdom: Anne Shirley

27 September 2011

KtMac Confessions: Relationship Realities

It's fairly typical - the longer you're in a relationship, the more comfortable you become. You don't watch what you eat in front of each other. You fart. You choose sleep over other activities. And you get to the point where you wear your comfortable pjs and show your true colors. 

Poor Joe. I really think we've been dating entirely too long now. We've not only gotten to that point...we've sailed right on past it. 

Tonight, I just can't decide if he's a poor bastard or a lucky bastard to get to come home to me after classes. 


Because when I got home following a downpour this evening, I opted for cozy as I putter around our little apartment. 

And let's just say, my Polish side is showing its true colors. Loudly. 

Why yes. Every fashionable KtMac sports a grey t-shirt, green plaid pj shorts, and grey and pink and green striped knee socks. At least I have greys and greens in common?

Aww hell. I'm just going to call Joe a poor bastard for having to come home to this sight.
And maybe, just maybe, I'll actually change before he gets home.

Pasted on the Wall Above My Desk

An old birthday card cover from a friend who makes you believe you can pull the stars down and wear them as a necklace for no other reason than because she believes in you that strongly.  It's been a few years, but I still adore that card.....and that girl. 

26 September 2011

How to Work on Dreary Afternoons...

The best cure for a dreary Monday afternoon?

A cuppa lemon tea in a sweetly sentimental mug (really, the sentiments behind it are so sweet, they'd make your teeth ache), and the smell of a deliciously yummy almond candle. 

Simply September: Healthy Eats

Last week was a great week. But, oh, my friends, let me tell you, it certainly wasn't a simple week. We had a steady stream of visitors to our little apartment, complete with three different overnight guests (not all at once) for seven consecutive nights. Which translated into a lot of meals out, showing off the best food the Windy City has to offer. There was deep-dish pizza, tilapia sliders, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, to-die-for risotto, pastries, breakfasts at the bakery, dumpling soup, s'mores (for our out of country guest), thai food, and burgers. 

And for a couple who doesn't eat out often, that's an awful lot of eating out in such a short time. Our waistlines and our budgets were definitely feeling the impact. Mostly our waistlines. 

So, to get back on track with homemade meals and healthy eating (and a smarter food budget), Joe and I are eating solely vegetarian meals for the week. And honestly, with a little meal planning, it's really simple to eat vegetarian for a week. 

Breakfasts: bagels with cream cheese, smoothies, cereal and milk (all of which we already had)

Lunch: PBNJ, soups

Dinners: (Supported by an awesome farmers' market trip) mushroom risotto with squash, vegetarian pasta, fish with corn and rice, veggie stir-fry, roasted vegetables.

So we'll end this month with some simple eating. So delicious, so good for you. 

23 September 2011

On What Makes A Home

What makes this house a home:

- Flowers on the kitchen table and green plants on the windowsill

- Stubble in the bathroom sink and an occasional long strand of hair in the shower
- A half-made, mostly messy bed where nightly blanket battles occur

- Photographs of memories on the wall instead of artwork (and cracks in the ceiling)

- An air mattress that gets blown up, slept on, packed away, and pulled out again, over and over, for the steady stream of friends who visit

- A well-worn couch with designated "his and hers" spots, beat-up pillows, and a wool plaid blanket
- A hodge-podge of family and friends smiling out from amid the beloved books

- Old bedsheets from the seventies that are used for the beach and impromptu picnics

- The smell of whatever candle is burning that day, mixed in with my choice of perfume for the day
- Piles of pillows and loads of blankets everywhere

- Piles of dirty clothes on the bedroom floor when the hamper threatens to overflow
- Friends who know they'll leave with one too many glasses of wine in their bellies and genuine smiles on their faces

- Abandoned shoes in every corner
- Knowing that the glasses in the sink may sit there a day or two

It is not a picture perfect house. Good Housekeeping or Better Homes and Gardens will never feature our home on their covers. A clean house will always be abandoned in favor of extra snuggles on the couch. But it is the imperfections that make this house a perfect home. Full of coziness, and warmth, and laughter, and love. Lots and lots of love. 

21 September 2011

Wednesday Wisdom: I Adore You

16 September 2011

KtMac Reviews: One Day

Author: David Nicholls

The Good: An interesting look at a friendship spanning 20 years by looking at the friends and their lives every year on the same date. I liked the reality of how the friendship isn't always easily explained and waxes and wanes as the years go by -- very accurate, even in my own life when I look at the enduring friendships.

The Bad: It is incredibly realistic in the heartaches and compromises so many of us want to avoid but end up making as time goes by. I appreciated the realism, but it did prevent me from just relaxing and enjoying the read.

The Verdict: If you're curious, it won't hurt to read, but I wasn't enamored with it. I had high hopes based on all the reviews, but it was just too melancholy for me to really enjoy. I probably will check out the Anne Hathway movie of the same title once it's on Netflix out of curiosity though.

15 September 2011

Simply September: Cleaning the Cupboards

I tried a new recipe last night. 

Joe picked up a whole chicken while I was in Michigan last week. Since neither of us had ever cooked a whole chicken before, I googled a recipe and tried my best. 

While the chicken was in the oven, to later be accompanied by roasted mushrooms, steamed rice, and green beans, I tackled the kitchen. 

It's a bit embarrassing. But here's what the kitchen and the cupboards (which were decidedly NOT user-friendly) before. 

And after.

It doesn't look like a completely dramatic before and after because there wasn't much to get rid of....just a little extra clutter. But in this case, to simplify our time in the kitchen, I reassessed what we use most often and rearranged things to they have a better fit in our teeny tiny kitchen. 

14 September 2011

No Denying...

Mama Mac at 18

KtMac at 26

The Little Moments

I'm a big believer that you have to celebrate the little moments. Like the last first day back to school. Even if it's just with a brownie topped with homemade frosting and silly, crooked lettering. 

Because, in the end, it's the little moments that make life big

Wednesday Wisdom: You Are

13 September 2011

KtMac Confessions: It Takes a Village

I was a little quiet hereabouts last week, unintentionally. 

You see, one luxury of working from home means I have a little flexibility in where I work from. And I took full advantage of that luxury to spend last week helping my Dad take care of my Grandma so Mom could spend some time with my bro DMac and get some much needed rest. 

Taking care of a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimers is not easy. As my Dad mentioned in one of our conversations, it really does take a village to make sure she's happy and healthy and well taken care of. There's mood swings, and tantrums, and forgetfulness, and confusion. 


And oh, my friends, but. 

There is some incredible love and affection and powerful moments of joy and reminders of the pleasures of the simplest things. It is a forgetful love, which can hurt, but it is also an unwavering, unconditional love. 

And I tell you, for every down, there was a much more special up, and the truth is, I'm the lucky one. Lucky to have the honor of showering my Grandma with love and affection and laughter and smiles and memories. 

Memories like coloring pictures...

relaxing in the neighborhood cafe...

giggling over the small things....

enjoying festival corn dogs...

riding the ferris wheel at the town fall fest....!!!

and just loving each other. 

So while my parents may have thanked me, the truth is, I owe them the thank yous for the honor of time and love and memories with my grandma. 

12 September 2011

Simply September: Space Saver

The first KtMac simplification step was to pare down some of the extras and create some more space in this tiny little apartment. We're already bursting at the seams, and after a year in our little home, I've noticed a few things that do and do not work for our lifestyles, so I'm trying, step-by-step, to make this place a little more user-friendly. 

DVD cases in a basket, slid under the TV cabinet was our default storage system for the last year. Except all of my girly DVDs were stored in an old CD binder. The dual-DVD storage system was taking up extra TV cabinet space and didn't allow for easy movie selections. So I pulled all of Joe's DVDs out of their cases and slid them into the binder. Now all our movies are in one, easy to flip through location, and the space-hogging cases have been tossed in the trash. The sole exceptions are TV series (much easier to leave those in their cases). 

Such a simple upgrade. It only took ten minutes, but has already paid off. 

08 September 2011

Making Grandma Smile

After two days of rain, Grandma and I are feeling a little cooped up. And Grandma doesn't function as well without her daily walk. Since downpours kind of have a tendency to prevent walks outside, I compromised and took Grandma downtown for lunch today. We got a little corner booth in a restaurant right on Main Street and Grandma was just tickled to look out the windows at all the men setting up for the town's annual fall festival this weekend.

Such a simple moment. Such great pleasure. It's times like these that make up for the mornings like yesterday. And the truth of it is, I'm the lucky one. I get the gift of spending these last years with Grandma, making her smile.

07 September 2011

Wednesday Wisdom: Unfinished

01 September 2011

Today I'm Thankful For...

  • September. It's the start of my favorite season, even if it's currently 87* with a heat index of 93* (and expected to get hotter) as I write this post. 
  • That Joe, no matter how many times I might ask, always, always, takes the time to listen and tell me the answer every.single.time. I ask "what's that sound?" Means the world to me. 

  • How ridiculously happy this little spot of color on the bathroom sink is making me these days. 
  • The joy of rediscovering the summer fun of friendship bracelets and the fact that I work from home, meaning I can wear them without a second thought.