Keeping Score

I read a blog post on a step-mommy blog (yep, that’s really a thing) recently about keeping score. If I can remember where, I’ll link to it. Basically, we all keep score whether we mean to or not. Whether, like it was in that case, between parents’ households in a shared custody situation, or like it can be sometimes, between members of one household.

It’s hard sometimes not to keep score – mentally. Sometimes the things we all do in our houses feel unbalanced and like we’re pulling more than our fair share. And it’s usually those times I find myself wondering why I’m always doing the dishes/laundry/etc. and those are the times it’s easiest to feel unappreciated.

In those times, I find it useful to think about why I am doing what I am doing. My doing laundry today means that The Boyfriend can focus on writing a paper for class and running conference calls for work. My taking The Minions out for breakfast meant the house was quiet for a couple of hours for him to work. It’s easier to feel like a team if I focus on how my contributions are helping.

This is not to say I hold a disproportionate share of responsibility in our house. We’re really good at balancing, actually. But there are still those days and this is how I handle them.

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The Blue Moon

We hosted a couple of neighbors yesterday for mid-afternoon cocktails (between lounging in bed and marathoning the new season of House of Cards, perfect lazy Saturday!).

I was initially going to make Bloody Marys. They are the perfect day-drink – spicy and delicious. But one of our guests doesn’t like tomato juice. So, I tried something new.

Last month, while we were in Massachusetts, I picked up a couple of things for an Aviation cocktail. Unfortunately, I haven’t picked up the final ingredient, maraschino. You can’t have an Aviation without maraschino, but you can have a Blue Moon.

Blue Moon Cocktail
2 oz gin
1/2 oz Crème de Violette
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Shake in an ice cocktail shaker, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with lemon twist

They were beautiful, slightly sweet, slightly tart, and very well received. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture, but the Crème de Violette gives the drink such a nice bluish purple color.

Our Cottage

Unsurprisingly, school has interfered with my blogging abilities this month.  Posts will be intermittent at best until mid-May.  Not that anyone is reading anyway, but still…

When I started this blog, I wanted it to reflect my life – equal parts family life, DIY house projects, delicious cocktails (we’re trying a new one tonight in advance of hosting the neighborhood for a cocktail party next weekend last weekend – so busy!), and probably random rantiness.  So far, I’ve had a cocktail, an introduction, and a rant about family life.  I’m lacking in the house stuff department.

We bought our house last summer after a long search.  Seriously, I think our realtor was happy to be rid of us when everything zipped up.  It was a long process – full of tense negotiations, roadblocks from our legal team, and issues with our rental that we were leaving.  When we finally moved in, I got very sick on our first night in the house and ended up losing that crucial first month to illness.  Having just passed a milestone related to the illness, I’ll likely be posting about it in the not-distant future.  I had such high hopes for moving in and spending the summer putting the house together – I’ve moved a lot in the last several years and moving in is usually a quick process for me.  This time, getting sick messed that all up and the poor Boyfriend had to handle all the furniture set-up and initial unpacking alone.  By the time I felt better, school had started and I didn’t really have the time to dedicate to unpacking or painting or even wallpaper removal (OMG, the wallpaper!  It is everywhere in varying degrees of horrible).

We still have boxes.  None of our walls have been painted.  But, we have managed to complete the powder room on the main level, which was a huge project for us.

When we moved in, it was all country cottage – oak cabinets, oak shelves with heart cutouts, pink-beige wallpaper with tiny flowers.  In short, it was horrible.  I knew it was going to be our first project.  The room is small and it didn’t need that much work…  (Haha, I laugh now.  The beauty of hindsight, I suppose.)  Just before school started, a friend sent me a link to Flavor Paper in Brooklyn.  I fell in love with their City Park pattern.  However, I didn’t love any of their default color options.  Lucky for me, they customize, so I picked my own color (3145 opaque, a deep teal) on a white background to coordinate with the ultimate aesthetic goal for the house, a somewhat more fun beachy cottage look.

I found a chandelier at Wayfair that I loved (I love chandeliers – I got teased a bit about putting one in a bathroom, but, in fairness, the ceiling is perfect for it and since it’s only a powder room, the electrical requirements were less stringent than in a full bathroom), a high-efficiency/low-flow toilet and pedestal sink that I adore and found online at eFaucets for less money (a lot less, actually) than at our local big box home improvement retailer, and to top it off, a beautiful, vintage styled bridge faucet from Vintage Tub & Bath.*

I love that the paper looks like a traditional floral until you get a better look at it.  The Boyfriend’s family was over for a large family gathering at the holidays and a few people passed through the powder room before a cousin and aunt really looked at it and laughed about the parking meters and hydrants.  I had to point out the rats and the pigeons.

It’s such a difference – there is white bead board on the bottom half of the room and all of the fixtures are nice and white – it’s so bright and clean looking compared to the beige that was taking over the room before.  The Boyfriend, being more tech-savvy than I (at least when it comes to Excel and iPhone photo apps) put together a before and after of the room – it’s pretty striking.  We did leave the beige tile – that would have made it too big of a project.

Powder Room Before and After

 

*A note about my links to retailers – I’m not endorsing these companies in any way, just putting their names out there as resources for home stuff.  I happened to have pretty good experiences with everyone I dealt with, but YMMV.

House Rules

We’re going through some adjustments around our house. I have been on the scene for two and a half years and lived with them for two of those, but the Minions and I are still figuring things out. There are days I feel completely powerless and unappreciated in my home and the feeling is not unfounded. I am the odd man out in our house.

The Boyfriend is usually understanding but sometimes doesn’t see things the way I see them. Minion 1 is excellent at turning on the charm around The Boyfriend, just seconds after pretending I wasn’t there or ignoring something I asked him.

To deal with this kind of behavior, we came up with house rules last week as a family. They are less rules than preferred behavioral qualities. Kindness, consideration, cooperation, honesty, and respect. So far, they’re working out alright. The Minions know consistently what we expect, and for the most part, they follow through.

As a reward system, I stole a points card idea from a friend and we keep a running points chart with some unknown prize at the end. If The Boyfriend cooks dinner, he gets a point. If Minion 1 takes out the trash without being asked, he gets a point or two. Points can be given by anyone and don’t get taken away. Minion 2 especially pays attention to the system and faithfully reminds us when he does anything that he sees worthy of points (unfortunately, no points for asking for them). Even without his reminders though, the points system puts us more on the lookout for good behavior and less on the lookout for behavior with negative consequences.

We’re all working on integrating and finding our way in our new family and I think our new system will help with it.

Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy

My new favorite toddy mugs, complete with cacti and armadillos.

My toddy recipe is really basic. You can add cinnamon or cloves if you want, but I like it just the way it is. I find these to be the best on a long, stressful day or on a day that I’m feeling under the weather and just chilled to the bone.

First, I put the tea kettle on. Then, I slice a lemon in half, and cut a narrow slice off one half for a lemon wheel. I drop the lemon wheel in the oversized mug, juice the entire lemon into the mug, put in a little under a tablespoon of honey, a healthy pour of Jameson, and just about now, the kettle is hot, and I top the whole thing off with hot water and give it a good stir.

On Pants, Socks, and Co-Parenting Fears

I am far from an ideal step-parent.  I have days where I need a bit of time to decompress before facing my co-parenting duties and days where I forget what it was like to be five or eight and how everything is so big in the minute – I can be short or impatient on those days and I always end up feeling like a big jerk.  There are other days though, like today, where everything goes smoothly – I am able to celebrate things (the minions set the table tonight for dinner without being asked!  Minion 2 learned to tie his shoes!) and be really happy and content with my family.

Tonight, while Minion 2 was demonstrating his mastery of shoelaces, Minion 1 pointed out a big hole in the side of his own shoe that exposed his sock.  As in most parts of the country, it’s going to be really cold here tonight (and it was cold this morning).  I was upset that he was sent to school in shoes that don’t even cover his feet.  I was upset that this has become such a regular occurrence in our house that when I mentioned it to The Boyfriend, he hardly reacted at all.  And so, I reacted.  (A bit of a backstory – I have only met The Boyfriend’s ex-wife once, when she was prodded by a friend, high school style, into introducing herself to me at an event.)  For the first time ever, instead of suggesting to The Boyfriend that he should talk to her or telling the minions that I wished their mother would dress them better, I reached out.  Directly to her.  She has not always been the most reasonable – she has a tendency to lash out when she doesn’t get her way (c.f. Christmas morning when The Boyfriend didn’t acquiesce to her unreasonable demands, she called names and demanded that the minions wait outside in the cold for her to come pick them up so that she didn’t have to wait for them to put on their coats), and I generally try to just stay in the background and out of her way.

Tonight, I penned an email explaining why it upsets me that Minion 1 was wearing swiss cheese shoes and Minion 2 was wearing pants that are four inches too short for him (I do admit that he has hit a growth spurt, but not four inches!).  I’m not sure what type of response I’ll get back, if any, but tonight, I feel a bit better for reaching out, opening a channel of communication, for my boys and for my family.  Frankly, I’m a little scared about her hostility (and a little curious – oh to be a fly on that Facebook wall!) but I’m happy that I finally had the courage to reach out to her instead of quietly folding the too-short pants into the donate bin and quietly fuming to The Boyfriend about the holy (not in that way!) shoes.  Maybe I am a better stepparent than I thought.

Ringing in the New Year

I figure the best way to start the new year is with a new creative outlet.

2013 was a big year for me. I finished my first year of law school, bought a house with the love of my life, battled a serious and life-threatening illness, spent time with wonderful friends, and I turned 30. Not bad for a single year.

For now, I’ll use this as a place to share things I have read, things I’m working on (in a week and a half, unfortunately, this will become mostly work and law school), house projects, step-family life, and occasional kitchen adventures (I love to cook, but I’m not terribly experienced). And definitely cocktails.

Presently, our house has been infected with the flu – New Year’s Eve involved no drinks, no sequins, and no late night for me. Instead, it involved pajamas and Sons of Anarchy with The Boyfriend (who fell asleep around 10pm, with me not far behind) and The Puppy. I had my champagne this morning with orange juice.

As of this moment, I am a 30 year old girlfriend to The Boyfriend, stepmom-ish to The Minions, dog mommy to the best puppy ever (yes, she’s two years old, yes, she’s still my puppy), law student, homeowner, paralegal, and cocktail enthusiast. I’m not talking cosmopolitans – I’m thinking something with bourbon and a house-made simple syrup. Maybe some herbs. Maybe some citrus. You get the idea. And if you don’t, I’m bound to share a recipe or two in the future.