(Most of) the Boxes Are Unpacked Now: At Home One Year Later

A few days ago, Stanton, the girls and I marked the one-year anniversary of moving into our “new” home here in New York. I’ve heard people say it can take up to a year to feel moved in somewhere, whether physically as in a house or emotionally as in a season of life. In my experience, this one-year guidepost rings true.

As I’ve shared before, it took us three tries, over the course of six months, to figure out the best setup for the living room furniture. It took almost this whole past year to unpack all our boxes. Most of them are unpacked now, friends. Although a couple of them will remain in the basement, purposefully, for years to come…possibly forever. (Yes, I’m talking about the ones that contain Stanton’s college fraternity and general life-before-wife memorabilia. 😉 )

I felt an odd mix of comfort and accomplishment when I lugged my favorite cookbooks up the basement stairs, from a box, and nestled them into a bookshelf in the kitchen. (You might notice that Anna also likes to store one of her sticker books on this bookshelf, under “Jack’s Wife Freda.” This is life with kids.)

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It takes time to get a feel for a space (and a place)—to move in and settle in—to feel at home.

Something Stanton and I thought about, when we closed on this house, was converting the three-season back porch into an actual part of the house—hiring some help to put in installation, do whatever was needed to turn the porch into a den.

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We still might do this down the road. As the girls get older, they might appreciate having their own hangout, with a comfy couch and TV to spend time with friends. For the moment, though, we love this back porch as it is, especially now that it’s spring again—a pleasant space for after-school snacks and not-in-a-hurry weekend cups of coffee.

I’m thankful we followed the advice of our smart and kind Realtor, which was to move in and live in our house first, see how everything worked for us, and then commit to which projects might make the most sense. We wouldn’t have been able to experience the back porch as we have, if we changed it up right away.

We did take care of two projects within months of moving in. 1) We love the original fireplace in the living room, and on the recommendation of our home inspector, we had a masonry and chimney company rebuild parts of it so that it meets current safety standards. This was an important, non-cosmetic priority.

We wouldn’t have been able to experience the back porch as we have, if we changed it up right away.

2) Sadly, we needed to hire a company to remove the beautiful 100+-year-old Northern maple tree in the front yard.

A couple of months after moving in, we noticed that a woodpecker—the same woodpecker, every few days, it seemed—liked to get comfortable in this tree and peck at the wood. The girls loved looking for him, and watching him when he came. But we soon learned that when a woodpecker likes a tree, it’s a sign the tree is diseased. In our case, the bark had gotten sick and soft, and the tree was in danger of falling.

A bittersweet goodbye, for sure.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen (trying to do a hundred things simultaneously—you too, right?!). Another future project might be to replace the current countertops with natural stone. Right now, though, what we have functions well.

I created a mini workspace for myself at the end of this counter, with a lamp, stool, and spot for my writing books and laptop. This is also where I look through the girls’ school folders at the end of each weekday, and try to hide and drink my coffee every morning. (For better or worse, my family usually finds me. ;) )

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After figuring out furniture arrangements and tackling essentials, it’s fun to decorate. I am not an interior designer, not by a long shot. But I do love great finds, especially when they’re cool and when they’re local.

One of my favorite finds has been this painting of a scene in Paris, which I came across at our church’s annual yard sale. I paid a small donation for it, and now enjoy it every day when I see it in the little hallway outside the guest bedroom.

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We love when family and friends visit us. Some of our visitors thus far (I won’t give them away 😉 ) have dared to sleep past the girls’ 6:30 a.m. wake-up. On these mornings, Grace and Anna have slipped notes under the guest room door with a simple, pointed message: “When will you wake up??? We want to play!”

The girls spend most of their time in the breakfast nook/sunroom, and I think I finally found the right piece to complete this space: this “cottage window” mirror from Pier 1. What I love most about this piece is how it reflects the sunset from the facing window at the end of each day, bringing the outside in (to quote many an HGTV interior designer I’ve heard over the years!).

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Something that took a much longer time than I ever thought it would was picking out window valances for the bedrooms. Possibly at some point we’ll get plantation shutters, my personal favorite window treatment, for the windows. We’re currently committed to valances, however (all the rods were installed when we moved in—we took the easy way out and just rolled with them). For example, Grace’s room…

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In another year or so, we need to repaint the living room/dining room—the current paint shows wear. We’ve decided to wait until Anna’s old enough to stop adorning the walls with her after-dinner handprints. 🙂

One last bit of home improvement, now that the boxes are mostly unpacked… This past weekend, Stanton and the girls planted flower and vegetable seeds in the back yard. We are all eagerly awaiting the first blooms and buds.

In true 3-year-old fashion, Anna asked, the very next day, “Why didn’t anything grow yet?”

It takes time, we told her. But just wait.

This is something I’ve learned, again and again, in my life, maybe beginning from the time I was little like my daughter. And it’s a worthwhile lesson, a good reminder for anyone in a not-quite-there-yet season of life: It takes time. But just wait.

Things will grow, will bloom, will fall into place.

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

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3 Tries to Get the Furniture Right

I almost didn’t write this post. Would anyone (besides my sister) care about the evolution of the furniture arrangement in my family room?

Then I remembered my surprise at how many people read and shared a previous post, “My Life Is Not a Pottery Barn Catalog,” in which I divulged pictures of my messy house back in Texas. Lesson learned: We like to peek inside people’s lives.

We especially like to peek inside their junk drawers. (I’ll show you ours next time.) 😉

So, friends, here’s another peek, in case you might still be interested.

Stanton, the girls and I moved into our “new” home in April, about seven months ago. Our Cape Cod-style house was built in the 1930s, and we love its old-school craftsmanship. We especially love the walkable neighborhood that surrounds it. Like many older homes, though, ours has smaller, contained spaces. A challenge has been making some of these spaces work, particularly the family room.

Our favorite feature of the family room is the fireplace. When we first moved in, we put the couch adjacent to the fireplace. We thought this arrangement would allow us to enjoy the coziness of the fireplace, while separating the family room from the dining space in the back.

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The problem with this plan was that it limited seating. We had a settee under the bay window across from the couch, but nobody sat there much. Mostly, the girls used the settee as an operating table for their toys when they played “Hospital.” (This is real life with kids, right?)

Several months later, we moved the couch so that it faced the fireplace, with space behind the couch as a separate entrance/walkway. I scrolled through the thousands of photos on my phone, and the best depiction of this layout that I could come up with is this one:

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Yes, this picture also reveals Stanton partaking in a Sunday Night Football game while Grace watches with shared interest, and Anna (not interested) peruses an issue of High Five. Before I snapped this memory, I was hiding in the kitchen, eating my dinner in peace. Yes, friends, we know: We won’t be winning any parenting awards anytime soon. 🙂

This second furniture arrangement worked well, for a while. Then on Sunday, we put up our Christmas tree, near the fireplace. And suddenly, we had limited seating again (the tree replaced a chair we had nestled there).

On Wednesday evening, I told the girls I was going to try one last interior design idea for the family room. I began moving the couch. Anna started crying.

“I love the couch!” she yelled. “Put it back!”

“I’m just putting it over here,” I tried to explain. As Anna watched with suspicion, I rearranged the coffee table and two end tables too.

Grace crossed her arms at my vision. “This doesn’t feel like home,” she announced.

Anna crossed her arms too. Her assessment: “I don’t like it, Mom.”

Lord. Help. Me.

“Girls, come on now.”

Grace tried to reason with me. “Mom, what happens when Dad comes home? He’s not going to have any idea what’s going on.”

I had to smile, friends. Because it wouldn’t be the first time…

“Dad be lost,” Anna worried.

I gestured around the family room. “Girls, I think this is good. I think this is it. Why don’t we give it a try?”

My daughters looked at each other. Sighed. “OK, we’ll try,” Grace said.

Here’s the family room, currently. (Like all aspiring lifestyle bloggers, I swept up the Cocoa Krispies crumbs and shoved the girls’ toys out of sight before grabbing my camera!)

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In this case, I feel as though the third time was the charm. After the holidays, I’d like to get an arm chair to go where the Christmas tree is. It would be a cozy spot, I think, for one of us to read (or watch Sunday Night Football), and for guests to get comfortable at the end of the day. And one day, I’d like to get a big piece of local artwork to hang above the couch. For the moment, though, everything feels good.

Your thoughts, friends?

Through the years, in the various homes I’ve lived in, I’ve found it takes a little time to find “the right spot” for everything. Everything doesn’t fall into place at once.

It can be hard to be patient. And it can be discouraging to fumble through imperfect furniture arrangements, specifically, and wrong turns, generally. Missteps, and mistakes.

But eventually, you find your way. You see the light at the end of the tunnel—you get there. You arrive. You figure it out, and you feel peace.

I love this quote from the writer Neil Gaiman, and it’s fitting for this time of the year: “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

Do something—an energizing New Year’s resolution, perhaps.

Thanks so much for checking in with me today, friends. Have a great day.

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

At Home in New York: One Year Later

Stanton, the girls and I have called New York home for about a year now. I feel as though I spent the beginning of our time here—summer through spring—in a slightly frazzled state. Moving, getting to know another city, enrolling the girls in school and activities, trying to write as much as possible, finding our house—there were a lot of, um, moving parts. 🙂

But summer is upon us once again, and things feel as though they’re in a good place. We love the sweet town we’re in. We especially appreciate its walkability. It’s so nice to simply go outside and enjoy the nearby nature trail, or walk (Stanton and me), bike (Grace) and stroller over (Anna) to local shops and restaurants. One morning recently, the girls and I had such a good time just walking over to this local park, and hanging out.

Of course, that was right after we stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee (me) and donuts (all of us)… #healthylivingfail

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The girls have been asking Stanton and me for a pet—specifically, a puppy. Their pleas haven’t yet persuaded us, but our next-door neighbors offered up a great middle-ground solution: babysitting their puppy from time to time. We’ll see how that goes, friends.

We closed on our house a couple of months ago. My friendly yoga instructor recommended her friend, a wonderful Realtor, to us—it is a small world. We’re so thankful to have found our home.

Here are a few pictures.

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We love our front porch. My mom and dad kindly passed along their not-needed-anymore wrought-iron furniture to us, and it’s allowed us to really enjoy this outdoor living space. Many a morning, I find myself reading “Madeline” or “The Very Busy Spider” to the girls.

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We still need to find (and/or unpack from the many boxes still in the basement) some additional art and décor for the family room. So far, though, we very much appreciate its cozy vibe. Speaking of passed-along furniture, the dining-space set once belonged to Stanton’s grandparents. We are grateful to be stewards of this beautiful family legacy, which traveled amazingly well from Texas to New York.

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Possibly our favorite part of our home is the sunroom/breakfast nook, nestled behind the kitchen. When family and friends visit, everyone instinctively gathers here. I happened upon the table and benches in a local furniture store, and they’ve become the perfect spot for the girls to eat, color and ask me over and over if we can please get a puppy today.

Lately, the girls have been having so much fun in the backyard. Yesterday after a Fancy Nancy-themed tea party, Anna worked on her T-ball swing. Toddlers: The busiest among us.

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While Stanton was traveling for work soon after we moved in, I enlisted my dad to help with some around-the-house projects. Ever the comedian, he called, “Hey, Melis, look at this!” as he pretended to struggle with hanging curtains. Thanks again, Dad. 🙂

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One of the things I most appreciate about this part of the country, the Capital Region of New York, is the beautiful nature all around us. On our little street alone, there are towering trees; evergreens abound and provide lush color all year. I’ve said to family and friends that being here is a literal breath of fresh air.

We’re lucky that so many loved ones have already come to visit with us. One of my favorite moments from our first year here was this September day, when Stanton’s mom and dad came to be with us. We loved apple picking at Indian Ladder Farms, catching up and simply taking in the splendor of the Helderberg Escarpment.

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The first time I laid eyes on this breathtaking slope—driving upon it from the Hudson Valley—I told Grace, “This is amazing.” Amazing, Grace.

Stanton and I do a fairly good job, I think, of keeping in touch with our families and hometown pals. We do owe our good college friends, though, some quality time. Folks in Virginia—we’re hoping to be your way later this year, or early next. ❤

The longer I’ve lived in the Albany area, the more I’ve learned how easy it is to get to other cool parts of New England and the Northeast from here. For example, Boston, Montreal and New York City are all about a three-hour drive away.

My favorite weekend getaway thus far has been to Manchester, Vermont. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been, friends, but this place is gorgeous. Stanton and I spent some time there for our nine-year anniversary and loved the glorious green mountains, quaint Northshire Bookstore and delicious local restaurants we tried (Thai Basil, Cilantro Taco and The Reluctant Panther).

We can’t wait to go back with the girls.

During this season in our life, it can be difficult to organize formal play dates. What have been so encouraging, though, are all the kind friends we’ve come to know through informal fellowship at our church, Grace’s preschool and the Y. We still miss our church, school and community friends from San Antonio, but love keeping in touch with these special people through Facebook, phone calls and texts.

In the winter, Grace took ice skating lessons at our Y. Then one weekend, she taught me how to ice skate at Empire State Plaza downtown. My 5-year-old daughter was so caring toward me, and patient—it was, friends, one of the best moments of my life.

After living in the South for 11 years, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy winter again. But it was fun, overall. Rediscovering all four seasons with the girls has been fun.

Many years ago in Virginia, one of the first things Stanton and I bonded over was our love of country music. Sometimes when we’re driving, we hear Tim McGraw’s contemporary classic “Humble and Kind” on the radio. I feel the song’s closing lyrics: “Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you…always stay humble and kind.”

We don’t know what the future holds. In this moment, though, things feel good. I’m very grateful.

I hope to pay that positive energy forward as we continue to get to know our community and surroundings.

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

I Almost Shared This Picture – But Then Wrote This Post Instead

What I most appreciate about Facebook probably is the same thing as you: keeping in touch with friends from the varied chapters of my life. I enjoy seeing pictures of new babies and four-footed family members; cool restaurants as well as at-home recipes to try; and reunions of all kids—family, school, work, neighborhood, you-name-it. These social-media moments are fun, and help me feel close to college partners-in-crime, old colleagues, etc. that I no longer chat with every day.

As much as I can, I participate in this social-media communion too. I share pictures, mostly of my ever-growing daughters. Our recent move to upstate New York has been providing fresh backdrops—nature preserves, museums, parks—that I hope are interesting for folks.

Some friends recently told me, “You all look so happy!” And that’s true; we are.

Yet.

We can be so happy—and look so happy—while still struggling with a challenge or two.

Thus, I almost shared this picture:

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Yesterday afternoon, Grace and I baked cupcakes for her preschool class Thanksgiving party (happening later today). Grace started to frost them; I took this picture. As usual, I emailed it to Stanton and both sets of grandparents.

Then I thought about sharing it on my Facebook page. The editor in me even came up with an insta-caption: “Who doesn’t love Funfetti cupcakes?” Followed by my signature smiley face, of course.

🙂

But.

Overall, it had not been a picture-perfect day. The night before, Anna had been up with a cough. When I finally settled her back to sleep, Grace woke up crying—a bad dream. Stanton was out of town for work, so I had no parenting backup. I was late for my yoga class, and just minutes after I took that picture, Grace had a temper tantrum because I told her no, she couldn’t eat the remaining frosting from the 15.6 oz. container for dinner (talk about a sugar rush!).

I love scrolling through my friends’ good times and celebrating along with them, and getting their positive vibes in return.

Every now and then, though, it might be healthy to take a moment and acknowledge that life is a beautiful journey of ups and downs. Happiness can coexist with imperfection. And we’d never know JOY if we didn’t dance with sorrow too.

My daughters bring me joy every day of my life. I am deeply, deeply thankful for them. They’re also the reason for my gray hairs, and my coffee addiction.

This is my moment.

P.S. Who doesn’t love Funfetti cupcakes?

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Local Flavors From New York’s Capital Region: A Newbie’s Perspective

Arguably the most fun thing about moving to a new city is discovering the local culture. Neighborhood hangouts, hidden gems and—my favorite—go-to homegrown eateries. Yes, friends, I love digging into the native food scene (pun intended!). 🙂

Stanton’s new job is based in Albany, N.Y., and we’ve been living in a family-oriented town a bit south of the city for about a month now. I’ve learned that this whole area, located at the northernmost point of the Hudson Valley, is known as “the Capital Region.” And here’s what I’ve learned so far about the local flavors here.

First up, a local coffee shop called Perfect Blend. Because every good story begins in a coffee shop.

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Perfect Blend is located at the picturesque “Four Corners” intersection at Delaware and Kenwood avenues. The quintessential local coffee shop, it serves up a variety of beverages and baked goods in a friendly setting with plenty of seating, both indoors and out.

…every good story begins in a coffee shop.

My standing order: spiced chai tea latte and an oat bran muffin. To my delight, the oat bran muffin features raspberries and blueberries—a sweet surprise in this traditionally hearty product. I last enjoyed my snack break indoors, admiring this stained-glass window panel.

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Across the street (Delaware Avenue) from Perfect Blend are the Delmar Marketplace and McCarroll’s: The Village Butcher, two local businesses that care very much about the high quality of both their products and their customer service.

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On a recent Saturday morning, one of the friendly cashiers recommended the Island Coconut Green Mountain coffee to me from the Delmar Marketplace coffee bar, which paired perfectly with my made-to-order breakfast sandwich from McCarroll’s: The Village Butcher, just steps away. All of this for less than $6—hard to beat.

Stanton was my breakfast date that Saturday morning. We told the gentleman working behind the counter that we had just moved here. He called to his co-workers, “Hey, we got some newbies!” To which they all replied, “Welcome, newbies!” Let me tell you, friends: I love this place.

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Now, across the street from McCarroll’s (Kenwood Avenue—we’re still at the Four Corners) is Swifty’s Restaurant & Pub. As you would expect, they offer extensive wine and beer selections to accompany the hearty pub-style food. I so enjoyed my sangria, as well as the Cubano sandwich that arrived later.

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Just two miles down the road from the Four Corners is Kleinke’s Farm, a local dairy farm that’s been operating since the early 1900s. What’s amazing to me about this part of the country is that you can walk and shop in a bustling community (the Four Corners area), and then drive just two miles and find yourself in beautiful farmland. I’ve only taken advantage of Kleinke’s flowers so far, but I look forward to sampling their fruits and vegetables soon.

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On the subject of beautiful farmland…Indian Ladder Farms in nearby Altamont (about 12 miles west of Kleinke’s) is stunning. We loved apple picking there over Labor Day weekend. As you can see from this picture, Grace did lots of picking, while Anna focused on munching. 🙂

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There’s so much for folks to delight in at Indian Ladder Farms, including a playground for kids. The cozy bakery and café also sells apple cider donuts, which I can assure you from personal experience are a hit with people of all ages.

Back in our town, Stanton and I had a lovely experience at Tool’s Family Restaurant for breakfast one morning. We walked inside during a busy time. An older gentleman sitting in a booth leaned over and said, “You can sit anywhere you like.” So we did. As we waited, we overheard other patrons chatting with one another and greeting the servers by name.

The vibe here is neighborly and down-to-earth. I ordered a broccoli, cheese and bacon omelet (an intuitive combination of flavors, yet one I never experienced in an omelet before!).

An older gentleman sitting in a booth leaned over and said, ‘You can sit anywhere you like.’ So we did.

Close to Tool’s is Shogun Sushi and Sake Bar. It’s similarly down-to-earth, yet more upscale. During late summer, people like to sit outside on the patio.

Stanton and I loved our alfresco dinner, which began with the Appetizer Sampler of pork gyoza (pan-fried dumplings), harumaki (Japanese spring rolls) and spicy rock shrimp. Everything was flesh and flavorful. We’ll be back.

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North of Albany is Colonie, a suburb with bigger developments and stores such as Barnes & Noble, Target and Whole Foods Market. I haven’t spent much time here yet, but one rainy weekend evening, the four of us stumbled upon Grandma’s Pies & Restaurant. What a delight to find a local restaurant amidst all the chain offerings.

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Another delightful find was TwisT Ice Cream Shoppe, which is part of an old-fashioned drive-in movie theatre (Jericho). Stanton, his dad and Anna couldn’t get enough of their cones (and one kid-sized cup!). The laid-back ambiance at TwisT is a breath of fresh air.

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Last but not least, you can’t talk about New York cuisine without talking about pizza. We’ve tried a few pizza places, and our current favorite is Andriano’s (pictured below). Another good one: Golden Grain Gourmet Pizza.

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Pizza is to New York what tacos are to Texas, you could say. Thus, I’m on a mission to find an excellent Mexican restaurant to satisfy the taste buds of my San Antonio-born better half. Mission No. 2: checking out the downtown area’s food and wine scene.

Pizza is to New York what tacos are to Texas.

Any recommendations, New York friends? 🙂

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.