home life

A New Kind of Autumn

It's fall but doesn't feel like fall. Not every day. Not yet.

Coming from the midwest I expect crisp, cool air, bright colors, crispy leaves, and the smell of woodsmoke in the air when I step out the door at night. As mornings get darker and days get shorter, I find my brain trying to reconcile what I'm experiencing with what I'm expecting.

It's not easy. Maybe I need to change my expectations.

What I'm finding in North Dallas is very different. We've had a few crisp days where I've pulled out the skinny jeans, boots, and hoodies. More and more days feel like summer or spring than fall, and I'm still trying to figure out where wearing shorts in autumn - in November - is supposed to fit in.

Last week, my Alma Mater's Alumni page on Facebook posted a series of photographs that capture fall in my hometown perfectly. Large trees covered in fiery red and orange, set with a backdrop of brick buildings and brick streets. 

It's idyllic in a way that feels like home - because it is home. It's the home that i return to for the holidays and to visit family.

Now, I'm having to adapt to a new kind of autumn. One where kids are in school and the days are growing shorter while the weather is still hot. This autumn we're getting record highs in Dallas. The kind of weather I couldn't imagine experiencing in Ohio or Kentucky. Sunday was in the 90s. Today - Wednesday? It's the 40s, raining, and feels ever so fall-like. 

It feels absurd. 

It feels lovely.

Today we saw colors on more trees than not and the next week the highs will top out in the 70s - a cooler-than-expected, yet much welcome stretch of weather. I cannot wait.

This is autumn in the land where the sky stretches for miles and is the richest blue of any sky I've ever experienced. It's ups and downs. Late colors and cool temperatures. Days where mornings call for hoodies and afternoons, tees. It's the light coming at a subtle angle, instead of harshly overhead as we walk to the park in the afternoon, and mornings crisp  It's pumpkins on display while the days alternate between hot and cool; summer and fall.

Autumn in North Texas is exactly what I make of it, as I take it all in. Storefronts smelling of pumpkin spice and holiday songs on as I shop. Hot coffee in the morning while I write and watch the sunrise, baby sleeping cosily in bed. 

Yes, friends, I do believe that in early November, it finally is starting to feel like fall.

Making a New City Feel Like Home

Most of us know that moving is hard, whether it's cross-town or cross-state. I don't know how many of us really know how difficult it can be to move cross-country. I moved cross-state once, then out of state (sort of. I could see my previous state simply by walking a few blocks), and then last summer, we moved cross-country.

On Monday, I wrote about how I felt homesick after we moved.  While I alluded to ways I tried to feel less homesick, I didn't talk about what I did to make Dallas feel more like home. Today, that's exactly what I want to share - how I made my new city feel a bit more like home, and how I started to feel less homesick as a result.

  • I made my space my own. Decorating your home in whatever manner you enjoy is a great way to start making a new place - even in the same city - feel like home. We haven't painted, but we have hung pictures, bought some fun new furniture, and put out mementos of our old home. Decorating made our new house feel like home, not just a place we're visiting.
  • I looked for things I like to do. More specifically: I looked for coffee shops. When I was working, getting to explore organically was a bit of a challenge, so I googled. For coffee. I love trying new-to-me coffee shops and looking for a place to get weekend morning coffee led me to find two favorites: Summer Moon and Nerdvana, which are close to home with two very different atmospheres. Now, when I want to hang at a coffee shop with Oscar, I can choose one based on what we're planning to do that morning. While I did this for coffee, it also works for food, bookstores, art museums (also something I've done) - really the sky is the limit!
  • I joined Meetup .  Now, I joined Meetup after I became a stay-at-home-mom to find playgroups, but it can be used for countless groups. Some groups meet for coffee and gaming, others for Bible Study, and others for fitness. It's a great way to get to know people in a new area in a low-risk setting. Meetup led me to an amazing playgroup with a great mix of moms similar to me. We meet weekly at various locations around our area, which has the added benefit (for me) of helping me learn my way around our tollways and nearby suburbs, which means I am less reliant on my GPS. Always a plus (for me).
  • I took walks in my new neighborhood. Since I live in a suburb, I'm not going for walks to get food or ice cream, but to get out for fresh air. What started as a way to find my way around has become a daily activity. It helps keep us active, especially since we can walk to the playground (and do pretty much daily). Since we're out so often, we've made several new friends!
  • We spent (and spend) weekends exploring. There are so many little towns throughout Dallas that it's easy to choose a new-to-us area, see how walkable it is, and go. Exploring has led us to some great finds; like pit barbecue in Historic Plano, amazing food in Denton, an adorable independent bookstore in Deep Ellum, and pie in McKinney. We've also taken the train into downtown to spend an afternoon at Klyde Warren Park, which Oscar found fascinating!
  • We've worked hard at keeping in touch with friends back east. I can't tell you how many days of the week I'm messaging my best friends from Cincinnati. If I miss them, or I miss home, I send a message, an email, or a funny photo. On days where I feel lonely, or miss scrapbooking with a bestie, or cyclebar with another, I'm grateful that technology means they're a snap, a chat or an Instagram post away.
  • I accepted that it is okay to be homesick. Most days since the start of January I feel like this is my home now, but that doesn't mean there aren't days I miss Ohio, our old friends, old house, and old neighborhood. It's okay to be homesick and miss what was and grieve over what could have been. Even on good days I find myself wishing I could show something off to E, or go to spin with J, and that's okay. It's also okay to love where I live now and to work hard to continue to make it into home.

While this isn't completely comprehensive, it does encompass a lot of what I've done to make Dallas feel more like home and less like a foreign land. It's not easy to make a new city feel like home, and being homesick is very real, but little things can make it so much easier to feel at home, and to find a niche of your own. 

Cross-country moves and homesickness

Y'all remember when I told you that we moved to the Dallas 'burbs? 

Yeah, so, let's talk about that. I was going to share a list of things I've learned since becoming a stay-at-home-mom (let's get real, since becoming a parent), but realized after chatting with a friend about our move I never really talked about it here, or what led to it.

Also, I'm sure we don't need to talk about how for some littles routine and nap time are king and queen, amirite?

I'm not sure where to start, but we found out we were moving for my husband's job not too long after Oscar was born. And from the day we found out (or decided - let me just say it all happened during the fourth trimester of mamahood - I was adjusting to my new normal and some details are maybe a touch fuzzy), to the day we moved was maybe 7 months.

Yes, you read that correctly. Last year was a combination of firsts and lasts and lots of change. It was not easy. Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky were home. Very much home. In our little historic house we became our tiny family of two when we decided to get married. I ran a half marathon. We decided to have a baby and celebrated our pregnancy in the backyard of that house. We brought our baby home to our beloved little old house.

And we were leaving. 

Why? Well, I'd like to say "why not?" right now, but it was - and is - a great opportunity. A new city. A new state. New opportunities and things to do. 

But it was and is very far from home. And if I'm being honest, (and Dallas friends, look away), I didn't like it here when we first moved. Allen moved two weeks ahead of me and Oscar to receive our household goods shipment, buy a washer and dryer, and get the house set up enough so it would feel like home when we got here. 

That helped, a little, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was plucked up and away from home to a place that didn't feel like home. 

I didn't know where I was in space. I got lost in my own neighborhood. The grocery store wasn't right. My friends were too far away. 

Oh, and it was too flat.

Looking back it all seems silly, but it wasn't at the time. It was serious. I had major homesickness, y'all. I missed my coffee shops (I could walk to three in my neighborhood). I missed my friends. I missed the view of downtown Cincinnati from my second floor. 

I missed familiar.

While I want to say that I got over being homesick quickly, I didn't. I'd get lost coming home from work and struggle to not be grumpy all evening. I'd go for a walk in the neighborhood and wish it was the Purple People Bridge or The Banks in Downtown Cincinnati. When I ran out of the coffee I packed up when we moved? I cried. We argued quite a bit because I wanted this - didn't I? and I was being more resistant than even I could anticipate.

It was not easy.

But then, slowly but surely, things started to turn around. There wasn't a specific turning point for me, more like a series of (fortunate) events. 

First, there was the Dallas Coffee Festival in what is probably one of my favorite parts of Dallas. I came away from that event with several pounds of coffee, and a renewed excitement for local roasters to visit (I now have one within minutes of my house that I adore). 

Then, I made a new friend. With a baby - a daughter - my son's age. We had a playdate. Then another. We started texting pretty regularly and now we get together almost weekly- even attending the same church.

My mom came to visit and we explored as much as possible during her visit to try to make Dallas feel more like home, and less like a foreign land. I took her to Emporium Pies more than once, and we discovered some hidden gems throughout Deep Ellum, McKinney, and right by my neighborhood. 

I found my coffee shops and started to learn the tollways. We found magic at Frisco Square at Christmastime, and after coming back from Ohio in early January, we started to explore different parts of Dallas, finding gems in old Frisco, historic Plano, and Denton. 

Then, one day, I was able to get to Costco and the grocery store and back home without getting lost and frustrated.

I found familiar. 

There are for sure still days I feel homesick and miss what I had in Ohio, but it isn't like it was in the beginning. I no longer feel like a stranger in a strange land. I don't always feel like a local, but when asked, I can tell you a few places to get good barbecue, really good pie, and amazing coffee. I may also be able to tell you which tollways to take to get you to your destination, which mall I like best, and which churches have really good indoor playgrounds. 

I'm making this my home, and I really, really love it.

So This Happened

You know how I basically stopped blogging for three months? 

Those were three months (eight weeks, really) of secret keeping, lots of sleeping, and waiting. All to hear my favorite sound ever: our baby's heartbeat. 

Yep, I'm pregnant! Due in early February. More details to come!


All of the lights

It's Christmas Eve and all I can think about is just how homey my living room feels. How the lights make it warm. And cozy. How I keep watching Rankin/Bass Christmas Movies because they remind me of childhood. And then I wonder why it's sixty degrees out on Christmas Eve. 

Because really, this year for me, the holidays have been all about the lights. All of them. The lights on our trees. The lights of the menorah. The warm glow that has emanated from my living room for nearly two weeks (even as the cats have tried to figure out why we have a tree. In the living room. Did I mention our lowest ornaments are plush ones explicitly for the cats?)

This holiday season has been one where I've needed a lot of light. Where I've gotten news that is good and news that is bad and news that makes me sigh in relief. The fact that Allen keeps bringing up just how homey our living room feels makes me smile. It makes the end of every day relaxing and restful. It makes home feel more like home and I'm loving every minute of it.

I'm going to be wrapping up my Christmas Eve working on my December Daily album, in its collection of blue and white, green and red, sparkles and more sparkles, light and glow. Because really, isn't that what this season is all about? Light?

I hope you are having a great holiday season, friends. Full of light, home, merriness, and joy.

A Festival of Lights

So, on Monday I waxed poetic about the holiday season, and today? I'm going to do just a bit more gushing. Because it's the first night of Hanukkah, and in my living room right now is a Christmas tree and a Hanukkah menorah. And they make me very happy. 

I think this photograph is one that is fairly representative of our home. It's also, as Allen put it, the most decorated, "arts and craftsy" our living room has ever been. Which is to say I probably should start to work on decorating for other seasons because I am loving just how homey it feels in here right now.

But it's gorgeous. And perfect. Tonight, I feel blessed. And I love it. Happy Hanukkah!

Weekending: Paint Everywhere

My weekend left me sore, exhausted, excited, triumphant, and covered in paint. It was busy and full of laughter. It was fun. But it was exhausting. And did I mention the paint?

Seriously though, we've had some pretty epic weekends now two weeks in a row. Last weekend it was the Bunbury Festival, and this weekend I bought a new day planner (yep, already. We have a lot of stuff coming up in the next 18 months, which is going to make life really busy.  A day planner was a must-have!), visited the cats at the shelter I volunteer at, and we hosted one of Allen's out-of-town coworkers for the afternoon and dinner on Saturday night.

Hectic? Sure. Fun? Yes. But the real fun and hectic events didn't get started until mid-Sunday afternoon, when we started to clean and dust the walls in our bedroom to get them prepped for some satiny gray-blue paint we picked out a couple weeks ago. There was a lot of moving of furniture not moved since much earlier this year. Lots of dusting and sweeping and vaccuming. Laying dropcloths. Then, we got to the painting, only an hour after we started (hey, bookshelves had to be taken out of our room. The bed had to be moved, and the dressers? Well, we had to work around those.).

So, the last time we painted was before we moved into our old apartment. That was five years ago. It was quite the undertaking. Painting is hard, you guys. I took painting in college and let me just say: the techniques are way different. For one, there is a LOT less shading, and probably a lot fewer colors. For another? Painting outside the lines means spots on the ceiling. Thank goodness for white paint.

Now, how did we get our room painted? Well, that's for a step-by-step to tell, because well, there was not a lot, and quite a lot involved:

  • Clean the walls with a dust rag and vacuum away any cobwebs. Magic eraser the scuff marks. Before the paint is even mixed, wonder just exactly why you decided painting would be a good idea. Remember that it's because you really don't like beige.
  • Move all the furniture away from the walls. Dust some more. Decide to move a bookshelf into the hallway to maximize space. Dance with the cats as they decide that the only room you don't want them in today is the onlyroom they want to be in. Because they're cats.
  • Lay your dropcloths out. Cover the bed because, well, it's your bed. Open the windows and pop a fan in to keep the paint fumes at a minimum. Realize that even low-odor paint is fumey, even when it comes without VOCs.
  • Tape everything off. You have a lot of wood trim in your house, so this will take a while. You might want to put some music on. Take down any switchplate and outlet covers that may be otherwise covered in paint. Make sure you put the screws and covers in a place you'll be able to find them later. This is important.
  • Paint! Well, actually, open the paint, mix it, put it into the tray, and start cutting in the edges. Then start painting the walls. Try not to get it on the ceiling, and remember you taped your edges for a reason. Remind yourself that white paint is exactly for covering up where you missed and got paint on the ceiling. It's OK. It's just paint - you can paint over it.
  • Midway through painting, stand up and trip and get paint all over your elbow in an attempt to catch yourself on the freshly-painted wall. Mutter something under your breath. Be grateful that was the first coat.
  • Once the first coat is done, check the first wall for dryness. When it's deemed dry enough, start the second coat. This time, you'll step in paint drips on the drop cloths. This is only a problem if you decide to step off of a drop cloth. Again, be thankful for hardwood floors. In the future, remind yourself to grab a few damp rags for just those moments. Grumble when you get paint on the floor. Grumble more when you almost paint your hair. Be very glad you're almost done.
  • When you're finished, take a shower. Rub off most of the gray paint. Realize your elbows are elephant-colored but the walls are a dark blue-gray. Only slightly darker than you anticipated. Look at the mess around the room. Decide to eat dinner and worry about it later. Leave the window opened, the door closed, and the cats out.
  • Finally, go to bed in the newly-painted, far-less-fumey and far-more-homey room. Love the color and the woodwork against its new background. Realie you intend to do this in another room in about a month. Vow to buy some beer for next time For after. Because you don't want to mess up such a pretty color in your bedroom.