Donuts > Cake

I’ve worked out (almost) every day for about three years now, but eating healthy (though I certainly see the benefits) has never been my talent. I love food. James loves food. It’s one of the things we cherish about our relationship–finding new recipes, cooking together, and (most importantly) devouring our creations. It’s also one of the things we cherish about New Orleans–savory deliciousness around every corner! Though he’s not too big on sweets, they are my guiltiest pleasure. Oddly, though, I’ve never been too keen on cake, so it seems kind of silly for two foodies to have this one foodie’s least-desired dessert as the featured sweet on our big day.

Knowing I didn’t want a traditional wedding cake was one thing, but figuring out what I DID want was a bit trickier. At first, I thought cheesecake. It’s one of my favorite sweet treats AND New Orleans has some world-famous delicacies in that department. I also considered pies, being that they are so very southern and would make for a cute display. I also loved the idea of King Cake, but May isn’t exactly the season. I was torn and not too sure of either when Megan and I met for the first time regarding the wedding and she immediately mentioned the idea of donuts (y’all, I seriously LOVE donuts) and told me to check into District Donuts. I did and it was love at first delicious sight.

District makes their donuts from scratch and each day they have fun, new flavors to try: everything from Cereal and Milk to Margarita to Red Beans and Rice. By golly, they even do a King Cake donut!

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This and other mouth-watering photos can be found via their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/districtdonuts. It wasn’t too tough to narrow down the four flavors we wanted for the wedding; we just went with those that were most New Orleans: Mardi Gras King Cake, Beignet, Wedding Cake (duh!), and Pecan Praline.

I will make some type of labels for each flavor and use some fun stands for display. It’s going to be the cutest and most scrumptious  wedding “cake” EVER. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

<Next time you’re in the Big Easy, check out District or visit them online at http://www.donutsandsliders.com or on Facebook and Instagram>

 

You Are Cordially Invited {Part 2}

Invitations are done! Now you would think that what goes in the inside of the envelope is most important (and I do so love our Minted creations!), but the envelope itself can be made just as special. I knew from jump street that I wanted our envelopes to pop. So, of course, I asked my dear Megan to pretty them up using her beyond amazing handwriting abilities. She tried different ink styles and colors and did lots of practicing, getting it just right.

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We ultimately decided on a deep gold ink, to counteract the black and white, but still keep it N’awlins-esque. The bold writing helps offset the simple type of the cards within. I also decided on three different stamps to add visual interest. The Battle of New Orleans lets you know the setting before even opening the envelope, the flowers add a pop of color, and I ordered our initial stamps via Minted.com to give it that personalized, whimsical touch. I am BEYOND pleased with the final product:

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Mailing them out, however, was bitter sweet. You see, the hardest thing about planning our wedding thus far has been the guest limit. Our venue is amazing and we have zero regrets about this choice; however, because of the size of the courtyard and banquet room, we can only fit 45 guests comfortably and even this is stretching it. After ourselves, my children, and our pastor, that leaves us with twenty each. I have a large immediate family, which only leaves me with six spots for friends, three if you consider those friends have spouses/dates. My three closest friends were, of course, the obvious choices, but that still leaves me with many still wonderful people (including close family) who I love dearly and have to leave out. We are both blessed with many sweet friends and extended family, both new and old relationships, and narrowing it down to a select few has been nothing short of heartbreaking. Whenever someone asks our date and then says something like, “Oh I can’t wait to book my hotel,” I just want to crawl into a hole, because I don’t have the heart to tell them the bitter truth that we just don’t have the room. James and I are people people. We love entertaining and when we host parties, “the more the merrier” is how we abide. Neither of us think of leaving any one out, so it seems a bit strange and uncomfortable now, especially since this is the grandest, most important of any of our gatherings.

I wish their were a happy ending to the above or that I had some profound advice for other brides facing this dilemma, but I don’t, except to say sometimes you just have to be practical and go with your heart. We know that ultimately all of our friends and family understand and will hold no ill will against us for doing the best we can do with a tough situation and for understanding the following: ultimately (I’ve been told this several times since January and I know it IS truth, though not necessarily always easy), this day is only really for James, myself, and “our” children. That is what gives me peace about this whole pickle. What lucky folks we are to have so many people who wish to share in our joy at this beautiful time in our lives and I know each and every one of them will be there in spirit, but when it comes right down to it, this is where we want to share our special day and all we can do is the best we can when it comes to our guests. I have made my peace with our choices, knowing the aforementioned is all true.

 

 

 

You Are Cordially Invited

If you would have told me when I began planning our wedding that the one thing that would cause me the most stress would be invitations, I would have called you crazy. The first problem: WAY too many choices for this gal who suffers from chronic indecisiveness. We eventually decided to go with minted.com (reasonably priced and so many beautiful options for all wedding personalities!) and narrowed our choices down to twenty. Ridiculous. So we came up with a little plan to slowly eliminate: I would give the computer to James and he would delete his least favorite and then I would do the same. We did this until it was down to four:

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Johannis, minted.com

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White Shadows, minted.com

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Sophistotype, minted.com

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Wed In Type, minted.com

Though I fought hard to keep White Shadows in the mix all along, because of it’s soft grey color and vintage feel, I knew I wanted something more masculine that both James and I would favor. Though Wed In Type was fun and bold, I ultimately knew it was a bit TOO bold to go with the atmosphere of the event we are trying to create. Choosing between the two that were left was tough, but ultimately we went with Johannis for several reasons that all add up to it feeling like what we want out of our wedding. It looks like the cover page of an old book, it is so very New Orleans-esque, and I love the idea of having our wedding city as a feature on the card, since our setting is the thing we are most excited about. It is important that each and every detail of a wedding, even those that aren’t exactly “decor,” be aligned with one another somehow. This cohesiveness will give your guests a more welcoming feel and your photos (taken by the right photographer, of course) will be more like a story than just a bunch of random pieces.

We ordered invitations, travel/info cards, and RSVPs, as well as custom stamps with our initials to be an additional, fun detail. We purchased two other stamps, one a vintage floral and the other the commemorative Battle of New Orleans stamp, to add visual interest and also give our guests a feel for what our event will be like. This weekend, Megan, whose handwriting should be a font, is addressing our invites and I can’t wait to see the finished product and put them all together to send out to our guests!

{Stay tuned for part 2 of this post, where I reveal the final product and talk about the other aspect of invitations that has been incredibly difficult for me.}

New Orleans Love

Hello, all!

Brandie here. It’s been a while, but it feels beyond wonderful to be back at home here on Hunt and Gather to share the details of my wedding planning experience. The event decor and details will be a reflection of mine and Megan’s design sensibilities as she will have a hand in planning the big day, so we felt it was only right to document the journey here.

James (my sweet fiance’) and I share a love for renovation. As the founder/owner of a widely successful remodeling business, our conversations are often filled with talk of how to make what is old new again. After he proposed on New Year’s Eve and we began discussing where to have our wedding, it really only took a few minutes to decide on New Orleans, which  quintessentially represents all that we are. We both share a lifelong love for the New Orleans Saints, King Cake, Jazz, good food, and good times. Most of all, I think The Big Easy gives us a sense of home because of the unique historic architecture, the colorful sounds and faces, and the idea that life, to be most beautiful and full, should be lived not so seriously, but instead always with a cup of chicory coffee in hand and the sounds of a lonely saxophone and streetcar in the background.

Picking the city was easy. Picking the venue took a bit more thought. After looking at (no exaggeration) about forty places, I narrowed it down to two, which happened also to be the two Megan suggested to me in the first place (she knows me too well, y’all): The Latter Library and The Columns Hotel. The thought of getting married to the man of my dreams in an old library, surrounded by a plethora of books, made me swoon. However, after some inquiry, I learned that the branch is currently undergoing massive renovation. That left one choice-The Columns. The photos left me smitten and their events coordinator, Adam, was the most helpful and warm of any I spoke with. We made a weekend trip down to see it in person and, much like with James, it didn’t take long before I knew this was the one. The grandiose old residence turned hotel boasts exquisite Victorian detail inside and out. All around are massive, ancient oak trees, behind is a magnificent Garden District residential neighborhood, and out front is perhaps the most iconic of all New Orleans’ symbols: the St. Charles streetcar line. Everywhere you turn, it’s so VERY, so FABULOUSLY New Orleans.

We will be married in their back courtyard in a small ceremony of our closest family and friends. The reception will be housed inside in the Ballroom. Megan and I are excitedly working out the design details, using many of the things I already have in my home. Be looking for posts on this, as well as our oh-so-fabulous Jazz band, the food, the photographer, the party favors and so much more! Next week’s post will veer a bit from these specifics, as I will be talking about invitations and the struggle of choosing the right design and some advice for brides forced to choose guests when faced with a small count.

If you’d like to see for yourself the wonder that is The Columns, visit them at http://www.thecolumns.com for photos and a virtual tour or, better yet, in person. The Uptown location offers a more low-key approach to The Crescent City, the rooms are perfectly historic and quaint, the streetcar makes travel around the city beyond convenient, and the food is top-notch.

It will be the catalyst that drives the details of our day to be completely and absolutely perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

Hope and Heaviness: Living With Autism

My son has autism.

No matter how many times I say it, whether aloud or inside of my head, it never really settles or makes any sense.

I know this is a blog about old house living, but bear with me. I’ll get there.

I won’t get into our story much, because I’d be typing for days, but I will tell you that it is something that changes you in a way I think nothing else, good or bad, really could. Imagine a time something awful happened in your life, the saddest you’ve ever been, the heaviness in your heart that sat there for a while. Eventually, though you are changed, things get somewhat better, there is a healing in your heart, to some extent.

Now imagine that the heaviness stays, a kind of numbness that can’t be described. You learn to mask it, to put on a brave face, despite it, but always it remains. The one person you love more than anything has to struggle every day to make sense of the world around him and make a path for himself somehow. Some days aren’t so bad. Some days the heaviness is unbearable and impossible to mask. Lately, the latter kind of days have been much more frequent for us than the former.

When I write or speak about my sweet William, it is always mostly positive. Despite the heaviness, there is still much light. He has taught me love, the REAL kind. He shows me every day what strength and courage are. He is my hero. He is my salvation. He has forced me to find the strength within myself that I never knew was there. He makes me a better person. Most importantly, I think, he has taught me gratitude. Because of him, I take no blessing for granted and I am able to see each day for what it really is–a beautiful, wonderful gift. He has taught me that sometimes tough times make for a happier life, because once we have conquered one obstacle, the next one doesn’t seem so impossible, and then the next and the next. He has taught me about grace and he has taught me to ask questions and to keep trying and that it is okay to cry.

All of those lessons I am thankful for, but I have also learned, rather recently, that I don’t always have to be brave or pretend to be Little Miss Sunshine. These hard, heavy days we’ve struggled through lately make me feel more like Little Miss Defeated and Little Miss Storm Cloud. I know “this, too, shall pass,” but still I cry for a season, watching my love struggle to make sense of a new school routine and a newfound emotion–anger. I used to pray for him to feel emotions. Now that he does, they seem to be caricatured, overdone, unbearable at times. I know it will take time for him to sort through it all, to put the pieces together in his brilliant mind and eventually make sense of it all. And then, perhaps, a season of peace. However short-lived, peace is always so very wonderful, despite the impending, inevitable next storm I know is to follow. I understand his anger. I am angry, too.

It is not easy to live this way. It is a struggle to go out and be around people. I know better than to shelter him too much. I understand the necessity of his being in normal social situations. However, I have never really felt comfortable in public with him, even when autism is not evident whatsoever. I simply want to keep him away from any possible confusion or frustration or judgment.

And that is the most important reason why our home, where we prefer to spend our time, must be a haven.

There is nothing particularly bright in our home, nothing that would stimulate him too much. Every chair and couch is cushy and cozy, perfect for the hours he some times sits, playing his games or reading about his latest obsession. The furniture is all positioned in a way that he can walk from one piece to the next with ease. Yes, I said walk. This calms him, for whatever reason. So I allow it. Not any where else. Just here.

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This is Will’s room. The ship paintings above his iron bed (a steal at thirty dollars from a local flea market, only needed a quick coat of grey paint) are found pieces that took me three years to put together. They remind me of a puzzle, much like my William’s mind. They don’t fit together perfectly and they took a while to come by, but they still make sense to me. This is how I imagine he must see our world. They also remind me of the ships in Peter Pan, one of his favorite films. He often asks me to please find a way for us to go to Neverland. I figure our home is the closest he will ever get to that. That’s not something I take lightly. Neverland is an old house, I’m certain. They share the same charm and wonder.

See how nice and neat every thing is? That’s not staging. That’s just how it stays. Will has never played the way most children do. He simply has an obsession (never messy) and devotes all of his time to that. For a few years, he could sleep alone in his bed at night, but not these days. That’s why his bed stays made. He says sleeping alone gives him nightmares, and since reality is often a nightmare for him, I allow him to sleep with his sister or on a sleeping bag next to my bed, or even IN my bed from time to time. Sometimes when I pass by his room, it makes me sad. I think of his sister’s room, with stuff everywhere, full of life and personality and childhood normalcy. I imagine what his room would be like if he were not autistic. I imagine him getting home from school and sitting on the bed and maintaining a normal conversation with me about his day and maybe even soccer or karate and homework and having to fuss at him for leaving his things on his floor. I wonder if he will live in this room forever, if he will ever be able to leave this haven. I don’t know that I like either of the answers to that question.

In the meantime, I work to keep our home neutral and comfortable and safe for him. The claw foot tub gives him a spot to hide away when his sister is annoying him and the floors creaking beneath his feet let me know he is coming in my direction, making me smile, anticipating the hug I know comes with almost every encounter.

I apologize for rambling. I hate to ramble when I write. With these things, however, there is no way to really organize my thoughts or emotions, no way to make sense of any of it. My home is my therapy and writing is my therapy and this has, really, been a combination of those two, as I struggle through one of the toughest times autism has ever offered us. Sometimes I need to type out the words WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS before I can believe them.

See the shine in his eyes? It’s not always there. But, my God, when it is, it makes all the heaviness completely worth it. It makes me feel a much stronger and important emotion, the one that gets me through: HOPE.

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Master Bath Remodel…At Long Last

Since I was a very small child, I have had an obsession with claw foot tubs. They are so extraordinarily romantic. Synonymous with roses, candles, bubbles, and soft music, they seem to whisper, seductively, “Come on in, sweetheart. I’ll take excellent care of you.” They are therapeutic; step inside of one and all your troubles (pardon the pun) are washed away. While the other little girls dreamed of Barbie houses, I dreamed of having my own house one day. The most important detail within that house? My very own claw foot tub. It was so much more a need than a want–numero uno on the old bucket list.

It is with great pleasure and big smiles and a swelling, swooning heart that I announce that my dream has finally come true. A few months ago, demolition began on what was my final room in my home to renovate: the master bath.

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What began as a hideously green, small closet-sized room that was no longer functional, soon became double the size with the breaking down of an exterior wall, expanding (and almost doubling) the square footage.

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Then came the fun part! WALLS!! Sheetrock day is always my favorite of any remodel. The space finally is defined and bound, like a present that is wonderfully and beautifully wrapped. The jutting small portion of wall was a surprise. A giant plumbing pipe appeared with demo and threw me for a bit of a loop. Walling it up was the only option, which worried me at first, but it turned out to be a nice little feature, separating the tub from the rest of the space. I chose hexagonal tile for the floor because of its vintage look and cost efficiency.

The finished product is something that still wows me.

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That tub. MY (it is the most important adjective) glorious, romantic, seductive, beautiful tub. Purchased at a flea market at less-than-perfect condition, it was refinished and restored back to its former glory. Sometimes when I am soaking it all up (again, the puns…you must forgive), I wonder if there was another woman who once loved it as much as I, perhaps with the same struggles and worries needing to be forgotten, letting them all go as only such a tub allows. At first, I wanted to fashion my vanity from an old dresser, but could find nothing to fit the bill. I opted, instead, for a double-the-normal-size pedestal sink. I adore it. With a large Hobby Lobby basket with towels below and a framless, vintage mirror (thrown in FREE with my purchase of my tub at the flea market–yes, please!), it perfectly pairs with the tub. A simple stool, rug, and a few other small trinkets and do-dads here and there create a tranquil, relaxing sanctuary.

We all need a sanctuary. I feel like the luckiest lady in the world to finally have mine.

From Blue to Beautiful: A Bathroom Remodel

Today we are so very excited to bring you the story of our first design consult job! Heather contacted us a couple months back, asking if we would be interested in helping her with the design of her upcoming bathroom remodel. It was rather surreal, as our dream of consulting was finally being realized. We headed on over to see what we were working with and…holy wallpaper!!!

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The floral wallpaper and blue fixtures were visually overwhelming and we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us, but were excited to take on the challenge. The first big decision to be made was color scheme. Monochromatic (all whites and grey tones) or contrast (add in some dark wood and color)? Heather readily agreed with our initial suggestions of subway tiles for the shower surround, hexagonal white tiles for the floor, and grey for the wall. The vanity cabinet, however, was not such an easy decision. After nights of pinning ideas, shopping online and in local stores, and wrestling and grappling over choices, we all decided finally on a dark wood, stream-lined, carrera marble-topped piece. Beadboard, a shelving system above the toilet, and lots of primary colors for decorative accents rounded out the decision making to transform this dated bathroom into a classic, yet playful bathroom suited for kids. Here are the fabulous results:

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The styling was an absolute blast. An impromptu photo shoot of the family’s four beautiful kiddos provided sustenance for cute frames, purchased from Target and Tuesday Morning. The artwork is a mixture of framed pages from the family’s favorite bedtime story, “Goodnight Moon,” a fun graphic print, and an framed anchor. The anchor is fabric from Hobby Lobby and the mat surrounding it was cut from scrapbook paper from the same store. An estate-sale frame provides the contrast needed to complete the look. Another personal touch comes from the fun, polka fabric-covered initial for the family’s surname. The fun vase on the vanity countertop is a recycled bottle, covered in yellow burlap, mirroring the whimsical knobs on the cabinet doors, another Hobby Lobby find.

We could not have asked for a more wonderful job for our first. Heather and her amazing family were such a pleasure to work with. She never got overwhelmed with the decision-making process and listened to each suggestion with great attentiveness and consideration. Thank you, Heather, for reaching out and giving us this opportunity to express our creativity in your home.  We hope your family enjoys their new room for many years to come!

Featured Vendor: Junkin’ on Main

The question we get most often, when new visitors enter our homes or view our photos for the first time, (Well, other than “Will you come decorate MY house?!”) is this: Where do you get all your stuff? So we thought it might be a good idea to feature some of our favorite thrift store/antique shop vendors. The first may well be our favorite.

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If you head on down US Highway 165 South, you’ll pass through several little, sleepy towns like Woodworth and Forest Hill. Keep going a few more minutes and you’ll come to Glenmora, where you’ll find one of the sweetest ladies you could ever meet, Tina Burnaman, housed at her place of business, Junkin’ on Main. It is always nice to have a great shop where you know new treasures are always circulating, but when that establishment also comes with the added bonus of amazing owners who you always look forward to seeing and chatting with, it doesn’t get much better than that. On our latest visit, we asked Ms. Tina to tell us the story of her little place and this is what she had to say:

I believe it was in 2002 when in full swing with our cafe, Reggie’s, that a sweet friend opened a flea market across the street from us. Twelve of us got booths with her and we all got started by cleaning out our houses…we were all garage sale junkies already! We had a grand time and made a little money for the next two years together. Then the Bill’s Dollar Store building came up for sale and, being connected to our cafe building, my sweet hubby Reg, bought it…after I begged him to…and Gathered Treasures Flea Market was finally a reality and a dream come true! Since it was right next door with adjoining walls to the cafe, we busted through the cinder blocks, installed a door ( I always loved Cracker Barrel’s idea: eat and shop all in one bldg) and the rest is history! We have been open for ten and a half years as of today and have had a ball! We started with seven “fleas” and myself and now, all these years later, we have expanded to all three buildings and have twenty-three “fleas!” Myself, Carla Naron, and Michelle McBride run the shop each weekend and several “fleas” are in and out every week helping us out! We started our Vintage Wedding and Event Rentals in April of 2013, and had rentals a part of twenty weddings, three showers, and several photo shoots. Already this year (2014) we have booked twenty-five weddings so far! We have a great time, have made life-long friends, and will never be rich because we take what we make and buy more…it’s the thrill of the hunt that we really enjoy!!! At times it’s a lot of work, but we love every minute of it – we just don’t move quite as fast as we did ten years ago -but we have followed this dream and Jesus has provided the way!!!

As you can see, Tina’s passion for all things old is right in line with ours! Here are some of our favorite finds from our latest trip:

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Junkin’ on Main is open Thursday – Saturday, 10 – 4.

You can check  out their Facebook page, but we promise you’ll enjoy a day trip and much more!

Tell Mrs. Tina we sent you!

 

My Favorite Therapy

I can never leave my Christmas tree up past December twenty-sixth. 

This is one of my favorite days of the whole year. I am itching (literally, because the dry and brittle pine needles on my tree and garland are none too gentle on my skin) to get all of the holiday decor out and get things back to normal. I also take the opportunity (i.e. pine needles EVERYWHERE) to do some deep cleaning. When I’m done, every new toy and gadget is in its place, there are usually several bags of Goodwill giveaways, and I sip on some hot chocolate and begin thinking about the new year to come. 

I would say that eighty percent of my daydreams consist of bettering my home. I like to set apart an hour or two on the day after Christmas to make little goals for the house in the year to come. This year, I’d love to remodel my master bathroom (the thought of finally having a claw foot tub makes me absolutely swoon), finish installing crown moldings (living and dining rooms are all that is left), extend my front flower beds to the sides of my house, and brick my back patio. To save some cash, that latter project will be DIY, with the help of my mom and brother, who always come to my rescue when I get such hare-brained ideas. I also thought about how I will decorate for family gatherings, such as my children’s birthday parties and my sister’s high school graduation bash. I grin thinking of the possibilities and the memories. 

Another integral part of my day of reflection is going through my magazines (Country Living, Southern Living, and Better Homes and Gardens mostly) from the previous year. I collect them all from the tiny bench in my living room and have at it, tearing those pages I can not live without and placing them in an expandable folder since I’ve had since high school. I like to think of this as the original Pinterest! After I have purged these books of their gems, I cart what’s left over to my classroom, to be used by my teenage students for collage projects on whichever literature I decide we will delve into that year. 

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I return to my old, expandable folder often. Sometimes, when I’m having a particularly dreary day, I get lost in its contents. This is my favorite therapy. It is filled with so many visuals that make my heart swell. When I am remodeling a room, I take out some clippings and leave them out indefinitely. Much of my home was birthed by this kind of inspiration. There is this one photo of these GORGEOUS, worn, barnwood floors that I found when I was probably fifteen years old and I can remember thinking, “If I could have floors like THOSE, my life would be complete.” It’s no surprise that the first thing I said when I walked into my current home for the first time was, “OH, those FLOORS!” They are nowhere near as beautiful as the ones in that long-ago magazine clipping, but they sure do make me happy, nonetheless. 

Regardless of the time of year, it is important to take time to reflect and resolve. I find I often overlook any bad my year may have possessed. I think of the happy times, the goals I achieved, how far I (and my home) have come, and I send all those joyous vibes to the next year, knowing many more moments, and magazine clippings, of wonderful and inspiration are yet to come. I don’t know what I will do when I’ve completed all the projects I have for my home. Buy a new one, I suppose. It is the most wonderful addiction. 

No matter what is in your expandable folder, may it ever be growing and bringing you joy.