On being human

Birthday post balloons

Today is the day I turn 37 years old. It's funny, getting older, duh, because you essentially always feel like the same person you always were. What's this 18 year old doing with two children? Weird.

But I don't sit down to write about the weirdness of aging, I just trust we're all in the same boat. I sit down in the hopes that I can write this morning, as a birthday gift to myself, with bravery and honesty and, in the greatest hopes, to ease someone else's burden.

Last year, and I suspect in different ways, in many years to come, was a tough year. I'm sure I've alluded to it here before, and I know that piques your curiosity, and we all die to know each other's nitty gritty, but it'll have to suffice that it just was and that I have a family and that I cannot share all my details here. Anyway, if you can move past that bit, I'll get to the part that really matters, I think.

For the first few months of feeling really, really shitty, I walked through my life mechanically. I smiled for my kids, I waved at friends in the carpool line and I bought groceries. I made dinner. I did laundry. Those things required little thought. And then, when no one was around, I hid in my room and cried. I sat on my couch and stared. I felt justifiably sorry for myself, and then I also indulged in feeling sorry for myself because OF COURSE people have it far, far worse than I do.

Then - and I think this is the important bit - I began a Rocky sequence. I got off the couch. I began running - slowly and with lots of walking at first. I weaned off of my SSRI (slowly, slowly). I lost 30 pounds. I bought a small, run down house. I worked hard, hard, hard to fix it up (we're under contract!). I prayed, I meditated (poorly), I went to therapy. 

Then - and this part is even more important - I also failed. I cried on the phone to my sisters and my best friends. I indulged in a lot of anger and self-pity. I looked healthy habits in the eye and gave them the finger. I snapped at my kids. I was, and am, and probably always will be, full of mental writhing. In short I failed a lot.

Also, I keep failing. Also, I keep running. Some mornings I don't run. Some mornings I slog through two miles, miserable the entire time. Some mornings, like this one, I am King Kong running through the neighborhood, conquering all that is in front of me. Sometimes I succeed out of spite and a sense of life doing me wrong. Other times I am able to harness gratitude and compassion and peace. Those are the best times and they are rare and hard won.

My point is, and I'm not even sure I have a point, but my point is I am failing and succeeding at the same time and I have a feeling you are too. A Rocky sequence is sexy and movie-worthy, but it doesn't actually feel that way when you are inside it. 

I am in a boat with the rest of you, I imagine, and yet most of us feel like our friends and neighbors are in the better, well-balanced, shiny boat. The one where no one argues, no one makes poor decisions, no one grapples with the weightiness of being human (ever wish you were just, like, a fish or something?). 

We all know social media picks and chooses what it shows us (everyone on instagram can make the most swoony pies, while mine look like a jumble of assorted fruits smashed inside a lumpy crust). We also all know by now that those portray the highlight reel, the things our friends choose to show us. We also all know some of the gritty behind-the-scenes. But, still. Why is it so hard?  Why does Facebook tire me out and leave me feeling crappy? Is everyone going about their instagram-worthy lives while I press my face into the wind? I know they're not. 

The other day I saw a quote - one of those ubiquitous wall-quotes hipsters love to hang up in their gallery walls - and it said, simply, "Patience and discipline," I love that. I can do that. I can't do it perfectly, but I can keep trying. I can wake up some mornings in despair (looking at you, my best friend in the world) and put my shoulder into the hill. I can experience the tough and the shitty and the beauty and the transcendence. I can acknowledge the truth in opposing opinions. I can try my best to live in the exquisite slivers of a nuanced life. 

I hope this helps. I hope you feel less alone. I hope you know that while a few people must be living insufferably balanced hipster lives, the rest of us are right there with you just trying our best. xoxo 

2017 Grape Did It Holiday Gift Guide

For this year's gift guide, I tried to include ideas for a wide range of tastes + budgets. Hope you are enjoying the holiday season & not going bananas from over-drive. xoxo

Sezane Joseph jumper

First up, this Sezane Joseph Jumper. Slouchy, cozy & pretty. 

Embroidered towels

An embroidered towel from etsy. For the Fancy Nancy in your life. Ahem.

Stacked year calendar from Minted

Stacked year hanging calendar, from Minted. An understated & beautiful thing to look at all next year. 

Burdick's chocolate mice

These sweet chocolate mice (that come in a wooden box!) from Burdick's Handmade chocolates. I love everything about this gift.

Everlane weekender

The twill weekender bag from Everlane. I got one of these as a birthday gift years ago and I still enjoy pulling it down to travel.

Harry Potter mug

A Harry Potter mug that changes color when you add hot liquid. Because, duh, of course.

Bike bookends

Bicycle bookends

Mini zip Nana by Sally

A mini-zip made by my favorite local designer, Nana by Sally. I usually lean towards her leather designs, but this is the sweetest little bag. Sidenote: this is the bag June really loves ;)

Trtl neckscarf diving picture

Have you heard of the Trtl neck scarf/pillow? Looks like a perfect gift for a traveler. I wonder if it would work equally well for the carpool line?

Marble stunt set

A marble stunt-set for a kid...or grownup. 

Happy holidays everybody ❄️

Cool Christmas card idea

2013 Sypert card

I am endeavoring to work on a simple + awesome gift guide for 2017, but in the meantime thought I'd put this up for those of you who like to mail out cards (me) but find it kind of an obnoxious task. And - I promise, much as I'd love it - this is not a sponsored or affiliated post or anything like that.

Minted - a company I've used several times for our Christmas cards, is offering a new service. You text them the photo you've chosen and they send you back five different options for cards. You choose one, give them some text details etc & then they put it in your shopping cart! Woot! (Plus, I love their business structure of working with independent designers).

Now if I could only wrangle the four of us into a decent photo...

Happy card-ordering! xo

PS - above is our card from 2013 (totally heartbreaking) & and the same post on how to make your own custom holiday card, if you're more in the crafty mood :)

If you'd rather not make pie this week

Chocolate wafer stacks

I am a HUGE fan of pumpkin pie. Apple, cherry & other fruit ones are good, too, but I'll be honest & say I don't love pecan. I mean, if it's in front of me I'm probably going to eat some, but I don't go out of my way.

My point is, this is not an anti-pie post BUT it does give you a beautiful, chocolaty, creamy alternative to pies for the winter holidays. 

The recipe I found online calls it a zebra cake, but we called it a cookie log growing up. It's a traditional ice box cake, meaning you don't bake it, but you do let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. The beauty of this cake is that to the unsuspecting eye, it would appear you spent hours crafting layer upon layer of tiny sheet cakes only to put this together in all of it's magnificent glory. Or maybe that just makes you look like someone with too much time on her hands. Either way, it's a show stopper, and not difficult.

The wafers can be hard to find, but I've had luck at Publix during the holidays, in the ice cream section. Super specific, but worth the find. They're called Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, and here's a link if you need a visual.

You can visit the online recipe here, if you like detailed descriptions, but I can distill it in this way: place homemade whipped cream on either side of each wafer, smoosh them together into a shape on a plate, cover THAT whole thing with more whipped cream (think: icing a cake) & cover the whole shebang overnight in the fridge.

You. will. be. amazed. 

(image via thekitchn, with another version of this simple recipe)

Monday links

Manger blog photo dining room

I haven't posted links in a while, and they have been steadily piling up in one of my folders. So, I thought on this chilly fall day, what would be better than some interesting and/or beautiful things to read about?

I love the idea of scavenger hunts, with family, or friends. 

Halloween makeup ideas, no costume required (if you're still on the hunt).

5 questions to ask when you're buying (Thanksgiving) wine.

Food might be a key component to the ADHD diagnoses.

I LOVE this article on how to throw a simple dinner party. My suggestion? Just throw one for crying out loud. Also, I always have a few bars of chocolate on hand nowadays that I can break up onto a tray for a quick tea or after-dinner treat. 

I loved these satisfying moments on Cup of Jo.

Sweet nutcracker napkins for the holidays. 

I make this herb flatbread regularly now and it is so good, especially with a Mediterranean type meal. 

“I’ve turned my hand to lots of things but never stuck at them. Not that I’m lazy, just sort of restless.” From interesting quotations.

Best of Ikea, 2018. The leather pulls!!

Have you heard of unicorn food? So pretty. This might do the trick to get June to eat more veggies :)

Beautiful, simple teapot.

That's it! Hope you're having a good start to your week. 

(top image via Manger, the lovely blog by Mimi Thorisson in a post listing their spring workshops)

On the belated discovery of Jane Austen

Pemberly Pride & Prejudice

I am embarrassed to admit - with a degree in English, no less - that up until a few weeks ago I'd never read a Jane Austen novel. I've loved some of her contemporaries - the Bronte sisters in particular - and I remember leaving the theater devastated, in the best possible way, after watching Sense & Sensibility in high school.

Over the years I'd pick up an Austen book, and inevitably find the language too difficult, dense, wordy and confusing.

Until two weeks ago when I decided to try again. I wish I could remember why. 

In any event, I checked Persuasion out of the library and, upon reading it over the next few days, was left gobsmacked. Speechless. So totally in awe of Austen's ability to not only tell a shattering love story, but to enumerate so many human emotions in all of their delicate complexities. 

If Facebook leaves you depressed, there is an antidote. I just flew through Pride & Prejudice - heart stopping - although I believe my first love will also remain my favorite in Persuasion.

I'd like to post a few of my favorite quotes below. 

Persuasion

and looked so entirely as if he meant to be understood,

the misfortune of poetry to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely, and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly,

everybody has their taste in noises as well as other matters, and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity.

She had only meant to oppose the too common idea of spirit and gentleness being incompatible with each other,

She hoped to be wise and reasonable in time, but - alas! alas! - she must confess to herself that she was not wise yet.

What wild imaginations one forms where dear self is concerned! How sure to be mistaken. 

But how shall we prove anything? We never shall. We never can expect to prove anything upon such a point. It is a difference of opinion which does not admit of proof. We each begin probably with a  little bias towards out own sex, and upon that bias build every circumstance in favour of it which has occurred within our own circle - many of which circumstances (perhaps those very cases which strike us the most) may be precisely such as cannot be brought forwards without betraying a confidence, or in some respect saying what should not be said.

Pride and Prejudice

Miss Lucas perceived him from an upper window as he walked towards the house, and instantly set out to meet him accidentally in the lane.

It is difficult, indeed - it is distressing. One does not know what to think.

I beg your pardon; - one know exactly what to think.

Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object: it was the only honourable provision for well educated young women of small fortune, and, however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.

You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavor to persuade yourself or me, that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger security for happiness.

It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us.

If it is designedly done, they cannot be justified; but I have no idea of there being so much design in the world as some persons imagine.

And lastly, swoonily,

If you will thank me, he replied, let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.

image via architectural digest

When your plans for a Brooklyn Brownstone ish Halloween become more Miss Havesham

Brownstone Halloween Brooklyn

I wanted to stack heirloom pumpkins and create a spooky, cobwebby scene on our front stoop. You know, kind of like some stylish Brooklyn-ite might put on her brownstone stoop.

Instead, our chickens began pecking the pumpkins, and then the squirrels jumped in. I mean, literally. We found one waist deep in the bright orange bottom pumpkin. 

So I give you our Miss Havesham stoop instead ;)

Holey pumpkins

See the hanging rat?

Spider web

By June, This is the Zombie House. 

Sobe hose  June note

Truett's impaled, disembodied zombie hand, creeping out of the water meter.

Zombie hand  limp

Top image via Short & Sweet

Our chickens have no boundaries

Chickens living room 1

I half expect them to run through the house singing Snoop Dogg. 

I'm pondering a fall post all about pumpkins, Halloween, & red and gold leaves (I am an unapologetic fall enthusiast. Bring on the decorative gourds. Bring on the excessive use of pumpkin spice. A witches hat makes me terribly happy.) but in the meantime, here I bring you pictures of our chickens.

When I leave the back door open - as I am wont to do in the fall - they have grown bold in their determination to check out the house.

I call this one, Caught Eating the Dogfood.

Chickens run from dogfood

This one, Copper Doesn't Give a Shit.

Chickens living room 2

And this one, well, it's not in the house, but it is Pitch hiding in the neighbor's bushes. I jumped off the couch yesterday because someone was sitting outside our house honking. When I ran outside I saw it was our beloved neighbor who gleefully told me to run and take pictures of the chickens in her bushes.  

I like to call this one, Pitch Doesn't Give a Shit.

Pitch hiding Mary's yard

Marling renovation before & after photos

Good morning! Yesterday was our first official day of listing the renovation :) so I thought I'd take the opportunity to do some before & after pictures below, since that's basically the reason for renovations, right? So, let's get to it, shall we?

The side of the house which, in this case, also contains the front door (I think it's called a Charleston porch?)

Before

DSC_0180

After

After Marling outside

The biggest impacts: gravel driveway, white railing, pressure washing & fun paint colors.

The living room. It already gets great natural light, so it was more of an unveiling than a fix.

Before

DSC_0196

After

Marling after living room 2

Another after, same room, different view

After Marling living room

The biggest impacts: this room was simple, we just lightened up all of the paint colors, took down a couple of scrubby trees in front of the picture window, & refinished the floors.

The master bedroom. Large for a cottage - something I love about this house is that the proportions are really good.

Before

DSC_0201

After

After Marling master bedroom

Our biggest impacts here were also simple: lightened up the paint (the paint color I used throughout almost the entire house was called Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore (it's both warm and clean), refinished the floors, and updated the ceiling fixture. The fan was actually a craigslist find that I took apart, repainted the blades and then hung.

The smaller bedroom/office. This one gets great light too.

Before

DSC_0205

After

After Marling office

Biggest impacts: fixed the window glass (dur), lightened the walls & refinished the floors. 

The bathroom. This was, along with the kitchen, one of my biggest projects. It wasn't totally ripped down to the studs, but nearly. And since it is the only bathroom in the house, I wanted it to feel special. Someone at the open house said it has a Nordic-feel, I like that description :)

Before

DSC_0224

After

After Marling bathroom

The biggest impacts here might have been...everything. We added shiplap to the bottom half of the walls, retiled the entire shower with white subway tiles, replaced all fixtures, re-enameled the tub, and I found an antique mirror to hang above the sink. The hexagonal tiles on the floor are probably my favorite part. Here is a better picture of them I posted on instagram.

The kitchen. Ah, the kitchen. I used this kitchen by the famous Emily Henderson as my main inspiration. We had to make tweaks along the way - and the floors are notably (but beautifully) different. For this room I'll do a few before/afters. Too much to show :)

Before

DSC_0217

After

After Marling Kitchen 3

Before

DSC_0213

After

After Marling Kitchen

Before

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After

After Marling Kitchen 2

The kitchen probably requires a separate post all of its own, but suffice to say we replaced nearly everything. We also made space and rewired for a dishwasher (!) and moved some other electrical stuff around so the kitchen feels well organized and put together. 

This project was transformative for me. There were days when I'd be inside the house, my kids literally playing with sticks in the backyard, and I thought there was no way I was going to make it. The project seemed never ending, daunting, & it was difficult to see the forest for the trees. I will not deny a few tears.

The promise of looking at these before and after pictures became a bit of a carrot-at-the-end-of-the-stick image in the my head. I am so proud of what I (we) did, and, as is often the case with hard work, hope to have this opportunity again soon.

Let me know if you have any questions about materials/paint colors and I'll be delighted to share. xoxo

Photo credits go to:

Before - Chuck Holden Photography

After - Look2 Home Marketing

Renovation with pictures - almost done!

Marling floors finished hallway

We are ALMOST done at the renovation house! In the last two weeks - along with my computer being in the shop on and off for weeks - we've had the counters installed, floors refinished, patched some concrete on the walkway (mostly Bud's doing) & the backsplash/sink went in just today!

If you follow me on instagram you'll also see that my real estate agent and her team staged the house and it looks so good. I find myself wanting to stay more and more when I'm over there. It oddly feels like a second home.

Here are some pictures, if you'd like to see and! most importantly perhaps, we're having a pre-opening party this Friday, 4 - 7 and you're all invited. If you are in the Columbia area, I would love it if you stopped by. I'll post an invitation to Facebook shortly, but consider this a heads up. The address is: 2642 Marling Drive 29204.

Marling walkway patch

Marling counters in truck

Marling counter example

Marling floors being sanded

Marling bathroom - after

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About Me

My Photo Hi! I'm Hope. Welcome to my website all about: style, food, travel & parenting. I live in Columbia, SC with my husband and two bebes.

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