Happy, Happy

Nico Allergies-1

The results are in! Nico does not have Mast Cell Activation Disorder! The blood work came back and showed he is allergic to pine nuts. How a pine nut got into a kitchen that swears is nut-free is a mystery I can’t investigate from California. Even the “pesto” they use from the manufacturer is supposedly nut-free. I called Morningstar, the maker of the veggie burger he ate, and they assured me there were no nuts of any kind in that burger (I gave them the lot number). Then they offered me coupons for free product.

“I think I’m going to pass,” I said.

Our best guess is that the pesto was mislabeled or there was cross-contamination. He’s only allergic to pine nuts, which his allergist says is one of the rarer allergies to cause anaphylaxis. Pine nuts are actually seeds from the pine tree but are grouped with tree-nuts due to their cross-reactivity. We’ve been advised that Nico should avoid all tree-nut and peanut products, including those items made in facilities that handle the same due to potential cross-reactivity and cross-contamination. I’m not sure if he should also avoid seeds. I need to call his allergist about that and because I’ve been ai found some studies that show pine pollen can exacerbate a reaction to pine nuts. We were in Lake Tahoe–is that a coincidence? My logical side says yes, more than likely. The mother in me says we should go to change.org and petition for the elimination of all pine trees and plants that share the same botanical family.

This isn’t our first time as a nut-free family. It’s rare for a pine nut allergy to return, but here we are. It can happen! I’m a little rusty, but I’m making my way around the grocery store. I found a cereal by an Australian company named Freedom Foods that is made in a dedicated nut-free facility. The boys loved it so, yay! Cereal, baked items, almost everything from a health food store–they’re likely going to have nuts or be made in a facility that handles them. We’ll figure it out. My most pressing concern is school lunches. What do you give a pescetarian child for lunch if they can’t have tree-nuts or peanuts? He can only eat so much tuna safely. Sunflower seed butter once I get the okay, sure, but what else? Dear God, I need to go to Pinterest again, don’t I?

Before You Start, Visualize Your Destination

Difficult, daunting, dull–those are just some of the D words that came to mind when I attempted to visualize my destination as instructed by Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You don’t want to know all the D-words I was muttering while putting together this post. What I really wanted to do is to jump in and start tossing. I’ve gotten rather good at discarding over the last few years! I’ve had my break; I’m ready to get back into the game.

Alas, Kondo says I must identify my house goals before I toss out anything.

What do you hope to gain through tidying? Before you start getting rid of things, take the time to think this through carefully. This means visualizing the ideal lifestyle you dream of. If you skip this step, not only will it delay the whole process, but it will also put you at higher risk for rebound. Goals like “I want to live clutter-free” or ” I want to be able to put things away” are too broad. You need to think much more deeply than that. Think in terms so that you can vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space. (Emphasis in the original.)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, page 36.

She goes on to explain the visualization process, but for brevity’s sake I’ll sum it up: impossible, but I did the best I could. I can’t stress enough how challenging this was for me! Kondo suggests gathering pictures to facilitate the visualization process if your spirit resides in an emotional tundra (paraphrasing), so that’s what I did. For those for whom this process was simple, lucky you! Seriously. You are in touch with your feelings and are probably Brene Brown’s best friend. I’m envious of your ability to tap into your emotional side. But may I make a suggestion? When a plague decimates the world’s population by 92% and you need someone to figure out how to make shelter out of 12 toilet paper rolls and a Bic pen, find me. I’m your girl.

Okay, no more delaying the inevitable. Here it is, heart on sleeve: The Destination

Kidding! One more delay. I cut out a tremendous amount of text from this post once the word count began reaching for the stratosphere. I realized that all the thought I put into defining each room was a post unto itself. I’m going to publish those posts as the weeks go by and will link to them here as well.

Okay, this time I’m serious. The Destination!

Entryway: A welcome point for new friends and visitors. The space will be clean and spare, making it easy to clean. Bright and natural light, a plant, and casual family pictures balance out the austerity.

Roger Davies Source: House & Home November 2008 issue

Roger Davies
Source: House & Home November 2008 issue

If you look at my original list, this space was also supposed to be where we stored incidentals from school, like shoes and backpacks. I’m reconsidering this because the end result is a space that looks like the war room of rioting middle-schoolers planning a hostile takeover. Hooks, I’ve discovered, are dangerous for adults and children who can’t manage to put away their flimsy California jackets in the closet right next to the hook. “It’s just like a hook,” I say scowling. “Only this hook is behind a closed door and is called a hanger.”

Although I once searched high and low for a rug, I’ve given up the hunt. A rug makes it difficult to open the door and adds physical labor (lifting, moving, placing) to the already soul-shattering task of mopping the floor.

    1. Rug for entryway
    2. Remove all furniture
    3. Add plant
    4. New window treatment or film for front door window.
    5. Station for school backpacks, purses, coats, etc. (This update no longer works for our family.)
    6. Hang photographs or prints in entryway

Living Room: An inviting room that exhibits an appreciation for nature, music, and art in an approachable manner. Styling and knick-knacks are at a minimum, but the room is still comfortable and relaxed.

My tastes has changed so much over the years. Chotskies, for example, are evil dust collectors that fall out of favor faster than I can type ‘antlers.’ Helping organize The World’s Largest Estate Sale will do that, I suppose. This room is far more styled than I prefer, but I do like the casual look and varying textures. I have a blue chesterfield, too, so that doesn’t hurt.

  1. Purge komono from room according to Kondo.
  2. Purchase jute or flat weave rug.
  3. Purchase cowhide rug.
  4. Purchase an upright piano; purchase stand for Mikey’s guitar.
  5. Style the piano.
  6. Shutters for picture windows in living room.
  7. Buy large plant for picture windows, preferably fiddle leaf fig.
  8. Remove fireplace mantel, possibly replace.
  9. Organize campaign dresser drawers. (Part 1: Respecting Money)

Dining Room: A gathering place for family and friends where one can linger in comfortable chairs to discuss the day, play games, and share meals.

This image is inaccurate. I don’t want to mimic this look, though I like it enough to make it my goal picture for several reasons, desperation and over-it-itis being the forerunners. Honorable mentions include the clean table top and the abundance of plants. I also really like this photo because it shows evidence of small humans. I think a mix of the two rooms is ideal.

  1. Purge komono from room according to Kondo.
  2. Purchase new, made to last dining room table and chairs. || Should be noted that I’m indifferent to the table and chairs that we own, but what I do like is outside our budget.
  3. Purchase dining room rug. || I’m debating removing the rug, again to make it easier to clean and mop the floors.
  4. Purchase china cabinet to match/coordinate with dining room table and chairs. || Reevaluate need for more furniture after The Purge.
  5. Sell current sideboard.
  6. Sell or donate IKEA display case. || This depends on the outcome of item 4.
  7. Sell midcentury china cabinet.
  8. Replace sliding doors with something safer.
  9. New window treatments for sliding doors/something safer.

Family Room: A cozy, embracing room where bodies sink into stuffed sofas and chairs to read books and watch movies. The lighting is plentiful, flattering, and comfort reigns over form. 

This is another case in which the picture reflects a concept more than a reality. The takeaways are the books, the varying textures, the white walls, and, of course, the plants. Incidentally, this is the same apartment as the dining room picture above. I guess I really like this apartment!

  1. Repaint family room a calm, comfortable color. || Done it, but now I’m thinking of going white. We’ve already painted two of the walls!
  2. Create a sense of warmth and family with pictures.
  3. Scrape acoustic tiles off family room. Drywall.
  4. Find a media cabinet, preferably with shelves for display or books.
  5. Replace with good quality, family friendly materials the sofa, coffee table, chair(s), window treatments, and lighting.
  6. Create a reading nook.
  7. Install floor to ceiling bookshelves along one wall.
  8. Replace carpet, preferably with hardwood and rug.

Kitchen: A point of entry into our home for family and friends and a place to create nourishing meals. It is welcoming, clean, and feels like as comforting as cookies and milk. Countertops are clean and empty.

This is the entry point for the house if you are family or friend. This means this place gets lots of foot traffic and is extremely prone to clutter. It will need a massive over hall in terms of decluttering and organizing.

  1. Declutter!
  2. Rethink systems. In a high-traffic place like this, everything must have a designating landing spot.
  3. Repaint kitchen, at least the ceiling.
  4. New floor in kitchen. (A temporary fix is okay if it can be reused somewhere else.)
  5. Caulk and paint window trim in kitchen.
  6. Create family organizer system in kitchen.
  7. Frame and hang prints, photographs.
  8. Organize medicine cabinet.
  9. Plant flowers or pots in planters flanking kitchen entrance.
  10. Repaint kitchen threshold.
  11. Replace cheap shades and inadequate window treatments.
  12. Organize and purge corner cabinet.
  13. Organize and purge dish cabinet.
  14. Organize and purge drawer under ovens.
  15. Organize and purge food processor cabinet.
  16. Organize and purge junk drawer.
  17. Organize recipes.
  18. Organize and purge freezer.
  19. Scrape and re-caulk kitchen counters.
  20. Switch to all glass containers.

Laundry Room and Guest Bathroom: Two bright and orderly rooms that function efficiently.

Looking for a picture of a laundry room put me in a bad mood. Likewise for the picture of the guest bathroom, which in my previous list was its own category. I combined both categories into one for this go round.

A while back laundry rooms and guest baths turned into glamor spots–a trend I fell victim for, no doubt about it! All of a sudden, laundry rooms had to be styled to the nth degree and a heaven forbid you empty your bowels in a room that doesn’t have a state of the art toilet. Looking back at all my previous inspiration pictures makes me want to hurl. They reek of privilege. Most of the items on my previous to-do list for the laundry room (see below) I accomplished but never linked to. I’ll do that eventually. What I really want is a clean bathroom and a laundry room that doesn’t have stuff piled on the machines. And, okay, a new washer and dryer set.

    1. Scrape off wallpaper in laundry room.
    2. Paint and patch walls.
    3. Repaint pantry doors in laundry room. Replace door handles.
    4. Organize broom closet.
    5. Organize and purge shelves in laundry room.
    6. New rug. Nope!
    7. New shelves.
    8. New washer and dryer.
    9. Put back original window that previous owner removed.
    10. Remodel and convert into mudroom/laundry room.
    11. Decorate yellow bathroom: paint, shelves, medicine cabinet, rug, and general zhushing.
    12. Install baseboards.
    13. New toilet and sink.

The Hallway: Clean, light-filled space with current family pictures on the wall. 

We had a rug in our hallway for a long time, but I removed it a while back so that, no surprise, mopping the floors didn’t take as much time or effort. This picture reflects my desire to update the picture on the wall, change out the frames, and mix finishes and materials. There is no room or desire for a bench with a fur-thing draped atop.

  1. Organize photo drawer. Create memory system. // part 2
  2. Replace pulls and door handles, possibly repaint.
  3. Create wrapping paper storage, do something with all the gift bags.

Master Bedroom: A respite where we go to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. A soft place to land.

I”m excited about this one. I know getting rid of the clothes will make a difference, even though we’ve been really good about purging clothes regularly. I know there’s still more I can let go. If the change is as dramatic as I suspect it will be, the bedroom furniture we’ve been eying will look great.

  1. Purge clothing! (Kondo)
  2. Komono! (Kondo)
  3. Clean out jewelry drawer.
  4. Clean out and organize drawers: unmentionables, . Donate clothing.
  5. Paint master bedroom a calm, relaxing color.
  6. Replace door handles and drawer pulls on built in closet.
  7. New window treatments.
  8. New blinds.
  9. Create rosary/meditation/prayer area.

Master Bathroom: Clean, bright, and from the 21st century.

unknown--help appreciated!

unknown–help appreciated!

We are so due for a bathroom remodel, and is has nothing to do with aesthetics. We have water issues, the plaster is crumbling in spots, and the sink doesn’t drain properly no matter what we do. This bathroom is clean and organized, which is good. The sink is a trough for horses and utterly gimmicky. I’m wondering if I pick pictures solely because of the plants. Those look fake, though that’s not unreasonable for a bathroom.

  1. Komono! (Kondo)
  2. Completely gut and remodel.
  3. Clean out and purge cabinet under sink.
  4. Clean out and purge medicine cabinet.
  5. Clean out and purge cabinet above toilet.

 The Boys’ Shared Bedroom: I want this room clean, happy, and without a lot of junk everywhere. Hahahahahahahahahahaahhaha! O_o



This collage of two new Ikea duvets don’t really go with the rest of the picture in this list! Oh well, the boys are their own people, and it’s more important to me that their room reflects their interests than it does a design style. My boys are in 3rd and 6th grade–they will be going off to college before we know it! Screw moodboards.

  1. Purge clothing! (Kondo)
  2. Organize and purge dresser drawers.
  3. Organize and purge nightstand.
  4. Organize and purge expedit shelf, secondary bookshelf, and toy storage.
  5. Organize closet.

 The Guest Bedroom: An uncluttered home office that also serves as a guest bedroom or reading nook.

I don’t know about this one! We have a studio in the backyard that serves as a home office for the Mister, who works from home when he isn’t traveling for business. Since it’s outside, he’s subject to the elements which, being in California, aren’t terrible. Still, in the summer it gets really hot where we live (triple digits). We’ve been talking about converting the guest bedroom into a home office but I’m imagining stacks and stacks of paper and machinery.

  1. Purge clothing! (Kondo)
  2. Komono! (Kondo)
  3. Organize and purge dresser drawers.
  4. Organize and purge nightstand.
  5. Organize closet.
  6. Organize and purge bookshelf and toy storage.
  7. Remove train table, donate or sell.
  8. Convert to guest bedroom.

The Boys’ Bathroom: The bathroom in a men’s club if the men in such a club would get over themselves and have a sense of humor.

Rita Konig

Rita Konig

Finally, an easy one! I’ve had this picture in my inspiration folders for years and year. I’d lose the magazine basket (in a bathroom? gross!) and change a few things, but the overall look I love.

  1. Komono! (Kondo)
  2. New outlet so I can play music while I get ready.
  3. Install shower rod/head combo, possibly call plumber for this since it’s not standard.
  4. Install shower curtain.
  5. Repaint ceiling.
  6. Purge and organize medicine cabinet.
  7. Replace overhead lights.
  8. Completely gut and remodel.

Office/Outside Studio: An invigorating, comfortable room that promotes creativity.

  1. Komono! (Kondo)
  2. Complete purging and organizing project started in October.
  3. General zhushing, make comfortable and inviting for the Mister—and maybe me?—to work in at night.

Garage: A place where people park their cars, not store junk.

  1. Purge and declutter, sell contents of discarded items.
  2. Maybe epoxy the floor?

Back Porch: A place to lounge and hide from the sun while enjoying its warmth.


unknown source–help appreciated!

I’m basically just trying to create another room for reading.

  1. Install ceiling fans and lighting.
  2. Purchase outdoor rug.
  3. Create inviting seating arrangement.

Front Porch: A place to sit and watch little boys ride bikes, play in leaves, and catch bugs.

I happen to like my front porch!

I happen to like my front porch!

  1. Landscape flower bed.
  2. Bench for lemonade.
  3. Pot and arrange grouping of plants.
  4. Purchase good quality, stylish door mat.
  5. General zhushing.

Backyard: A casual expanse of green with spots of color coming from modest beds of flowers. A pool would be amazing.


  1. Plant flowers around Chinese Elm.
  2. Plant flowers or plants along flower bed in the backyard.
  3. Purchase fire pit, new patio furniture.
  4. Purchase new grill.
  5. Install twinkle lights.
  6. Plant herb garden, vegetable garden, regular garden.

Front Yard: A happy, humble, tidy yard with a welcoming approach.



A lot of the homes in my neighborhood are removing their lawns and converting their front yards to drought tolerant landscapes. I really like the look, but don’t be fooled. They can be a ton of upkeep!

  1. Plant flowers in front brick area.
  2. Completely gut and landscape.

Miscellaneous: We all have those things that don’t really go anywhere but need to get done.

  1. Paint all trim in the house.
  2. Scrape and paint all exterior windows.
  3. Blow up and hang two favorite pictures of boys.
  4. Add images to family wall of pictures.
  5. Reframe painting from Helena’s parents, find permanent place for it.
  6. Paint all doors in the house.
  7. Replace all doorknobs in the house.
  8. Repaint top of board and batten.
  9. Polish and maintain brass candlesticks.
  10. Polish and maintain all silver.
  11. Replace wire and plastic hangers with wood.
  12. Return items that belong to others.
  13. Return items to various stores.
  14. Repair, reupholster vintage chairs in garage.
  15. Organize car to accommodate sport equipment.
  16. Thoughts on tidying up the house.
  17. Organize instruction manuals.


Prep Work is Boring

1-6959 copy

I found the book in a purse under our bed. I emptied out my purse some time at the end of the school year (except for the book, obviously) and left it on the bed in my rush out the door. My deflated purse slipped between the footboard and the mattress, fell to the ground, and didn’t appear again until this weekend when we moved the furniture around in the bedroom. Funny that I remember this now.

You never know how you lost an item until you’ve find it again. Only then does your memory kick in, the cruel mistress.

I can now say I’ve read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in two formats and paid for both. Not to brag, or anything.

On Thursday I begin the process! I’m ready and frankly annoyed that I have to redo my intentional home list per Marie Kondo’s recommendation to “visualize your destination” before embarking on a whole-house purge.

I’m not completely redoing my list. There’s still a huge list of projects to tackle–seriously, go look–but my list focuses more on what to do rather than how I want to live. I list a quick room description and then follow it with a detailed project list. Helpful, but not positive. Not always inspiring, either, and I’m a list person! For the last week I’ve been gathering inspiration pictures on pinterest, trying to figure out what I like and why. I thought that would be easy, but no. My tastes have changed over the last 3 years and figuring out what I like and how to make it work for a family is…boring.

There. I said it. Searching for pictures on pinterest for the house and doing all this prep-work is boring. I’m ready to start tossing things!

Note to my husband: No, I won’t toss out that ridiculous t-shirt. I promise.

Music Mikey


Last May, at a ridiculously early hour, Mikey and his music partner performed at the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association regionals held at Cal Baptist University. They played well, scoring an Excellent, despite Mikey playing with a reed that looked as if it had been gnawed on by a rat. He didn’t have an extra reed because he “forgot” them. The Mister flew home to grab them only to discover that when Mikey said he “forgot” his extra reeds, what he really meant was that he “lost” all his extra reeds. His music he didn’t bring because, “I have it memorized.” I welcomed the news like a fart in church.


His partner took it better than I did, probably because his sound wasn’t poor. I’m not sure what sort of wizardry he did with spit and tongue, but he managed to mask he was playing through what amounted to swiss cheese. Can I just say love Mikey’s partner? She’s such a sweet girl, very academic yet still fun, and she made sure her new dress matched her Superior ribbon from their first performance. I mean, honestly. When I pointed out how well they matched and asked her if she planned it, she gave me a huge grin, patted her ribbon and said, “Obviously, Mrs. Kendall!”


Fact: performing at a private university with a music department is nothing like performing in the science lab of a high school in a bad part of town. Even Mikey noticed the difference, and he gives decor the same attention he devotes to spelling homework. “Velvet curtains!” he exclaimed. “This is way nicer than the plastic skeleton!”


The judge this time around was very nice. Much nicer than the judge they had for my Mom Moment, if I do say so myself. He actually seemed to enjoy children and humans in general!

As for me, I only had two Mom Moments. One you can hear in the video. The judges always pick on the mom! The second is just ridiculous. I was trying to take a picture of the kids with the music building in the background. I may have repositioned them several times, with the last time requiring me to step on what I thought was a stable valve box. It wasn’t. I ended up dropping into 6 inches of mud and water. The picture, my favorite of the day and which I get bonus points for taking while falling, isn’t of smiling faces that say we’re so proud all our hard work paid off! It’s more like OMG Mrs. Kendall almost ate it or Ladies and gentlemen, that’s my mom.

Regional Festival | 2015 from Jules on Vimeo.

Happy, Happy (ish)

PicMonkey Collage

“…sitting and waiting is one of the most miserable occupations known to man – not that it usually is known to men; women do it much more often.”
― Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber

I waited 16 days for Nico’s appointment with the allergist. I monitored every crumb before it passed his lips. I stared at him while he chewed. I asked him how he was feeling and checked on him while he slept. I was very, very annoying.

One night, after I researched and called corporate headquarters, we went out for frozen yogurt. I barked instructions the entire time and made my patented Kermit Scrunch Face at the rogue peanut butter cup in the blackberry bin. I double-checked the ingredients and sat down in front of Nico empty handed. No yogurt for me that night; they were out of my favorite plain/original (of course my favorite is plain/original) and, besides, feasting on unrelenting anxiety was far more satisfying.

“Would you relax,” said the Mister, as my eyes made a 5th pass over Nico’s mouth, neck, the tips of his ears.

“I’ll relax on July 22nd when we know what happened,” was all I said.

We don’t know what happened. We know that his skin scratch test came back 100% negative for all tested food: milk, wheat, soy, eggs, seafood, and all the nuts expect pine nuts. Since he has a history of pine nut allergy, we went ahead and tested his blood for that. We also tested him for all the other rare allergies (including meat) and systemic mastocytosis. Those results we get in another 7-10 days.

Nico has been fine since the 6th of July. It’s like I’ve heard from so many people already–he went into anaphylaxis, we don’t know what caused it, and we don’t know if it will happen again. It’s not a comfortable place to be right now, but Nico is a trooper and I’m his rabid bulldog. We’ve got this.

The other day the boys and the Mister went and got yogurt without me. Mikey reported on the evening.

“Well, mom,” he said. “Dad and I took Nico to yogurt and we survived! I’ve never been so stressed in my life. Luckily, I didn’t have to ask Nico how he was feeling because Dad took care of that for me.”

“Oh? Dad asked Nico how he was feeling?”

“Every five minutes. Like clockwork!”

Really. You don’t say…”

“Mom,” Nico said, joining in the conversation. “I thought Dad was going to have a heart attack!”

Poor Nico. Flanked by not one, but two rabid bulldogs.