Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Monthly Book Roundup: October

Ah, October. It seems like it was so long ago, but it most certainly was not. I read some delightful things in October. They were:

Coastal Summons by Katrina Thomas
The Life of Objects by Susanna Moore
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson & Her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon

Not a lot of reading material, I suppose, but I enjoyed everything. Especially The Lost Wife. I'm a sucker for WWII stories. The Gordon book was very interesting, but it took me ages to get through it. That drives me crazy.

What did you read in October?

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Happy Ending

Does it seem like 90% of things that pop up on the news lately are depressing? Senseless violence, natural disasters, etc. You know. It sucks. Today, I got to see something really happy, though, and it kind of redeemed some of the terrible things.

A little bit after I got home, I heard a dog barking outside. I stepped out to see if it was one of my neighbor dogs because I like them and I always try to say hi to them and their human counterparts. The barking was coming from my next door neighbors' house. I started talking to the dog in question, thinking it was their funny old beagle, Cleo. Then I looked over the fence. It was not Cleo, but a little fluffy white creature. Karen, one of the neighbors, came out and explained that Kathy, her housemate, had found the dog (minus a collar, unfortunately) on her way home and brought it to the house until she could find its owner.

I helped Kathy find the non-emergency number for the police station near where she'd found the dog. She called them, but no one had called about a missing dog. I posted a found dog ad on Craigslist, accompanied by a funny little picture of our new friend. After spending a little time with the pup, it seemed to me that he might be blind. I recognized the way he was acting very confused and not coming over to me when I called. His eyes, when I could catch a glimpse of them, were cloudy like my dog Onyx's eyes were when she lost her sight (RIP Onyx. She passed away when I was in high school and I still get emotional thinking about her). 

At first, I thought that the foundling was a girl and decided to try calling her Judy. And then I saw that she was definitely not a girl. Ha! Kathy suggested that we call him Gerald. I agreed that that was good, but I wanted to try some other options. I tried calling him:

-Kleenex Box

He sort of responded to both Gerald and Punchbowls, soooooo I started calling him Gerald Punchbowls. It killed me.

Anyway, anyway. I went home and only a few minutes later, Kathy came over to tell me that the police dispatcher called her. The owner had made contact!!!! We learned then that our little friend was about 15 years old and known as Peaches. We got the address of his family and were going to head over there when we got a phone call from them. I was hanging out there with Peaches, trying to keep him calm, when someone came to the door. 

I answered it and the woman standing there looked so cautiously hopeful that I just immediately blurted out, "Are you here about the dog?!"

She looked so relieved. "Are you Kathy?"

"I'm not," I said, "but she's inside and so is Peaches."

When Peaches made his way to the foyer to greet her, she just started sobbing. She explained that he'd made a mess in the house while she was at work and, while she cleaned it up, she put him in the yard. He doesn't usually escape, but he did this time, and since he is so old and blind, he got lost and confused. She honestly didn't think that she'd see him again and had called her daughter, the one who named him Peaches at the age of eleven, to tell her that Peaches was gone. Her joy and relief was contagious. 

When I got back to my house, I was just overwhelmed. Isn't it amazing that something so simple as reuniting a dog with his family can be so wonderful and happy? I can't imagine the relief that her daughter must have felt when her mom called to say that Peaches had been found safe and sound. Not all stories have a happy ending like this. I'm glad I got to see this one.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Spinach Tortellini Soup

A few weeks ago, I whipped up some spinach tortellini soup for a weekend meal, recipe courtesy of Tracy over at It. Was. Awesome. 

It was incredibly easy to make, it tasted like I had spent hours slaving over the stove making it, and (maybe best of all) Boyfriend loved it. He said it tasted almost exactly like the pasta fagioli his grandma would make him when he was small. That, my friends, is a high compliment.

What I'm telling you is that if you make this soup, not only will your stomach thank you, but your family will love it and make you feel like a rock star. PLUS, this has delicious pasta in it. I don't think we have to address why that is amazing. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Monthly Book Roundup: September

September was a fairly calm month in terms of reading. Meaning I did not bulldoze over a million books this time. Sad, but true. The ones I did read were pretty great, though. They were:

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Code Talker by Chester Nez
The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
Austenland by Shannon Hale
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

I think I have something to say about all of these. First of all, I read Birdsong because I saw the Masterpiece series pop up on Netflix and I thought, "Well, I have to read the book before I can watch this." So I read the book. It was not exactly what I expected, but it was pretty enjoyable. I think the series is no longer on Netflix, which is a bummer, but I may be able to watch it through Amazon instant video. We'll see.

Side note, when I went to IMDB to get the link for the Birdsong series, I saw this trailer and got all teary-eyed and I think I probably need to see this:

Yay? Nay? What do you think?

Anyway. Back on track... I really enjoyed reading the Chester Nez book. His life has been an amazing one and it was really exciting to read about the use of the language of the Navajo in codes during the second world war. The Girl on the Cliff was kind of ehhhh for me. Know what I mean? I liked parts of it, but I was most certainly not blown away.

I read Austenland because Amanda and I had plans to go see the movie and I wanted to compare the two. For the record, the movie is nothing at all like the book. I mean it. Very, very little is the same. The book was very cute and I liked it. The movie was... ridiculous. Amanda and I laughed our heads off, but mostly because it was just insane. I think the movie wasn't trying to take itself too seriously, which really helped.

The Circular Staircase was the book club selection for September. I enjoyed it. Partially because the author, as I may have mentioned at some point, is from Pittsburgh, and partially because it was just a darn good story. I'd recommend it.

Ikea Dream House

Do you ever get jealous of the fake houses in the Ikea catalog? 

You don't? Oh... 

Neither do I. Nope. Not ever. 

The rooms they make up just look so wonderful! I love my house and I'm happy with the way we are working on making it lovely and ours, but damn. Ikea. You make me crazy. I want all the things.

It is a good thing my sister is an interior designer. I can use her brain to steer my house toward magnificence. MAGNIFICENCE!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Birthday Gifts for a Duck

This is my final post to catch up on all of the drafts I had floating around here! YAY! I'll feel much better about things now. Maybe I'll even be more inclined to post things timely. That would be amazing, right? Right.

Anyway. Back on track. Do you remember the fox bags I made for me and for Holly back in January? The one that I made using the techniques I learned in Deborah Moebes' book, Stitch by Stitch? Yes... those bags. I decided that the little Duck needed some cute bags for her birthday. See, ever since she was very small, she has liked to pretend that she is going to the office. To play this game, she needs to find a hat, a bag, someone's keys and someone's shoes (never her own). I actually don't know if she still plays this game, but I hope so. Maybe three year olds are too fancy to play going to work games.

ANYWAY. Geez. For her third birthday in July, I made the Duck two little skirts (I need to work on my child-size skirt skills; her mom said they fit her like pencil skirts) and two little matching bags. Here are the skirts:

And here are the matching bags. They are not the same size. I definitely made them smaller than the ones that I made for myself and for Holly, but they are also not equal in size to one another. I used the cotton webbing for the handles, rather than the fabric itself. I think they turned out pretty nicely:

I think she loved the Dora stuff the best, but she also seemed to like the cupcakes. She's pretty easy to please, though. And, adorably, she is so emphatic with her thank yous.

I'm looking forward to making her other cute bags in the future. She started dance class a few weeks ago and, if she keeps with it, I'll make her a special bag for that.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Minestrone Soup

Here's a thing you should know about me. When I read magazines, I rip out the pages of stuff that I like. (I subscribe to Better Homes & Gardens, so the majority of my torn pages are from issues of that publication.) I then use a three hole punch and those little circle reinforcing labels and put the pages into a three ring binder. I have sections like: color, recipes, decor, garden, and pretty things. You know, the usual. 
Anyway, I had a recipe for minestrone soup ripped out that I had been wanting to try for a while. In early August, I finally did it. It was delicious. I would share a link to it here, but I cannot find the same recipe on their website to save my life. Instead, I'll type it out here. You should know that this particular recipe was published in their March 2012 issue. It was a pretty quick meal, which was nice for a weeknight. 
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
1 14 or 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 medium yellow sweet pepper, chopped
2 tsp Italian seasonings or 1 tsp each dried basil and garlic powder
1 cup dry rigatoni or penne
2 to 3 cups baby spinach
Parmesan cheese and/or basil (optional)

-In a Dutch oven, combine the tomatoes, 2 cups water, beans, broth, pepper, seasoning, and pasta. Bring to boil over high heat.
-Reduce head to medium and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is just barely tender.
-Stir in spinach. 
-Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan and/or basil.

You should try this soup! I think it would be really delicious now that it is socially acceptable soup weather and the temps are supposed to be cooling down. I plan to make it again very soon.

Girls Weekend 2013

Since I have been so bad about keeping up with blog posts, it isn't super surprising that this one is so late. It is a bit ridiculous, though. 

In the tradition of the girls weekend we had at my house last November, my mom, sister and I got together for a weekend in April. APRIL. That is six months ago, isn't it? Goodness. I'm sorry for the delay. This trip, like the other was full of crafts and hanging out. Marmee and I traveled to Holly's house this time.

The first night we were together, we decided to use hot glue and buttons to create something pretty on a canvas. It was pretty fun and I liked the way it turned out. The picture below is our finished works. I am, clearly, the odd woman out. My flower makes me smile, though. I have had it up on my mantle since that day and it adds some color to the room. I figure it will get a more permanent spot somewhere in the house as we work more on our rooms.

We also made terrariums while we were together (and bracelets, but I don't love any of the pictures I took of those enough to post them)! Holly had most of the supplies ready when we got there. We just went searching for the plants themselves as well as little animal figures to put inside. It was more challenging to make them than I had expected, but I liked the way they turned out. I had to be sure to get plants that were non-toxic to cats, just in case. I put a little porcelain duck in my terrarium, and dubbed her Susannah. She's very cute. 

Sadly, my terrarium did not make it. I have since given up on it, but Susannah is hanging out on our bookshelf now. She's a cutie. 

It was a joy to be all together for a relaxing weekend. I got to see Alex, my brother-in-law a bit (he's usually out riding his bike if he is not working, you see) and visit with the cute pups, Charlie and Penny. They are very funny dogs and I love them. I made Marmee and Holly have a photo shoot with them before I left.

I am hopeful that we can get together for another girls weekend soon! It's always one of the best things ever. I always hate that my family is so far away and spread out, but I love it when we have the chance to be together.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Peach & Blueberry Buckle

Gosh, I've been so bad about posting lately that I can't actually remember when I made some of the stuff I've wanted to write about. That's not great, right? Probably not.

I'll keep this short, because I need to get my drafts cleared out so I don't feel so guilty about them lingering around here mostly unfinished. I made a super delicious, amazing dessert a while back. A peach & blueberry buckle. I had never made a buckle before, much less heard of one. I think it seems most like a coffee cake to me. I got the recipe from real simple and it was pretty easy. I took some over to Elisa when it was still hot and Boyfriend and I had some right away as well. I will definitely make this again. The combo of the peaches & blueberries was a great one.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Monthly Book Roundup: August

As I anticipated, August was considerably slower for reading than June & July had been. Oh well. Any reading is good reading, I suppose. This month, I read:

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert K. Massie
The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews
The Legacy by Katherine Webb
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

The Gaiman/Pratchett book was our book club selection and I really wanted to love it. I was such a huge fan of American Gods and Stardust. Tracy hypothesized that the problem was that I didn't like Pratchett's style of writing. It's possible. I did finish the book and I liked it much better by the end and I enjoyed some of the specific characters, but I don't think I really loved the book as a whole. 

The Massie book was really interesting. I've always had a fascination with the Russian Imperial family and this book was well done. It made me want to watch the animated film Anastasia which, of course, is really, really untrue. Haha. 

I think my September book roundup will be up in very little time. Keep a look out, friends.

Freezer Jam!

I have been thinking about freezer jam for months. MONTHS. I found this recipe via pinterest a long while back and knew I had to try it. Regular canning intimidates me, but I figured that freezer jam was more reasonable. 

A couple of Fridays ago, I embarked on my endeavor. I decided to do a straight up raspberry jam, despite the recipe calling for a lime zest. I thought I could get raspberries at Aldi, but I was wrong. So I ended up getting everything at Giant Eagle. Fruit, pectin, jars. The whole process was pretty simple and didn't take long at all. I ended up being able to make five jars. I kept two (mostly because we basically inhaled the first one), gave one to Elisa & Chantry, one to Jamie & Jason, and one to Boyfriend's parents. So far, rave reviews! If you've ever wanted to make jam but were afraid of boiling jars and all that, try this out.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Set Sail for Productivity

I have been so productive over the last few days, it is ridiculous. I took Friday off from work and used the time to work on things that I have been wanting to get done around the house. Here is what I did on Friday:

-bought three gold candlesticks at my local thrift store so that I can use them for a project inspired by one I found on Pinterest.
-got supplies to make my own freezer jam
-picked up some things I needed at Rite Aid (body wash, mascara, you know)
-mopped my floors
-made my jam
-sewed another blanket for the Bear (a bigger version of one I had made previously because Jamie loved the fabric so much)

After going over this list, it doesn't seem like much, but mopping took a bit and then I had to wait for the floors to dry. I also took some time to eat lunch and watch an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Overall, I was quite pleased with myself.

Friday evening, Boyfriend and I decided that we would have a lazy day on Saturday. The forecast was pretty much rain, rain, rain all day so we thought it would be perfect. We later decided to clean the cat litter areas in the house. We figured this would take a couple of hours. We were wrong. Once we got into it, we spend pretty much the whole day on it. We did take a couple of small breaks, including one for dinner, but by ten o'clock we were finally done and pretty exhausted. This whole thing was known as A Salute to Cat Hygiene. Did I mention we groomed all three felines? We did.

Today will involve an afternoon of porch rail painting, I believe. And I'm also baking a pumpkin pie. It's autumn, after all!

I'll be updating again more frequently. I don't know what my deal was before. Oh well.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monthly Book Roundup: July

If you guys thought I read a lot of books in June, you ain't seen nothing yet. July was a whirlwind of delightful things to read. Here's the list:

Catch a Wave by Peter Ames Carlin
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Some Girls, Some Hats & Hitler by Trudi Kanter
A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff
Heartbreak, Tennessee by Ruby Laska
Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

I really loved the Carlin book. It's a Brian Wilson biography and it was completely engaging. If you have any interest whatsoever in the history of the Beach Boys and the genius behind their music, start with this book. I'd read Paris Without End (the nonfiction account of the relationship between Hadley and Ernest Hemingway) before picking up The Paris Wife, so I was very intrigued to see how McLain did with the material. I liked it very much. And, of course, I loved Mariana. I'd probably read Kearsley's books every day if I could. 

Oh, and the Agatha Christie book was our book club selection for July. It was short and wonderful and I read it in one day.

 I think August is going to be a slower book month. I was taking a lot of time with one of my selections. Oh well. I'm trying to introduce a bit more nonfiction back into my reading, so we'll see how I do with that.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Burp Cloths

On May 20th, Jamie and Jason welcomed their baby boy to the world. I got to go see him the day after he was born and he was so tiny, it was ridiculous. When the Duck was born, we didn't get to see her until she was four days old and I know she was really small also, but I guess it's overwhelming to see such tiny humans when you don't see them that size for long. Does that make sense? Anyway, the baby has hilarious dark hair on his shoulders, so I decided he looks like a tiny bear. I will refer to him as the Bear until he inspires another nickname. 

I know that I posted about making receiving blankets, but I never did tell you about the burp cloths that I made! I used a great tutorial from Dana over at Made.

Fabric-wise, I used leftovers from the receiving blankets (so some match the blankets! yay!) as well as some remnants. All were cute flannel prints. On the opposite side, I used a cozy white chenille. It was lovely and soft. The tutorial was very easy to follow and the cloths were really simple to make. I was very happy with the results.

 Huzzah! Baby things!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Monthly Book Roundup: June

Well, well, well. I read QUITE a few books during the month of June. Don't you just love that? 

Confession time: I sometimes get very anxious when I think about the sheer number of books out there in the world and how comparatively little time I have to devote to reading. It's a problem. You know, because I also like having a life outside of books (shocker!).

Anywayyyy... here's what I read in June (And, FYI, I define read in the month as finishing the book during that month. The first book I have on my list for this month was one I started at the end of June, but finished in July. Tricky.), for your browsing pleasure:

Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (a book club selection!)
Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen 
My Life from Scratch by Gesine Bullock-Prado
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

So many books!!! It was a good mix of fiction and non, I think. 

I really enjoyed Homeward Bound. I had heard an interview with the author while listening to a podcast I occasionally enjoy, Stuff Mom Never Told You. I was fascinated by what she was describing as the phenomenon of "new domesticity." I checked out her website and anxiously awaited the publication of the book. I was not disappointed. It was VERY interesting and thought-provoking. Read it.

I'm also still a huge fan of these Sarah Addison Allen books. I think that, of all that I have read thus far, The Sugar Queen is my favorite. 

That's it for now. What did you read in June? Anything thrilling?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July one and all!

We celebrated by reading on the porch, relaxing, and going to our neighbors' house for a cookout in the afternoon. Elisa made watermelon mojitos! It was a lovely day. 

Too bad both Boyfriend and I have to work tomorrow. Boo.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Monthly Bood Roundup: April & May

Since I have been so bad about posting, I have decided to combine my book posts for April and May. Save myself some time, ya know?

In April, I read:

Fordlandia by Greg Grandin
An (Almost) Perfect Love Story but Rachel Schurig

I had my first museum internship the summer between my junior and senior years of college. It was at the Grand Traverse Heritage Center in Traverse City, Michigan. I loved it. Along with my co-intern, Whitney, I researched and wrote the narrative for an exhibit on car culture in the TC region. Of course, since we are talking Michigan here, we learned a lot about Henry Ford. He's a very interesting figure, if you ask me. Maybe not always for the greatest reasons (by most accounts, he was seriously anti-Semitic). Whitney and I even met a man from the area that was, at the time, 102 years old. He couldn't hear the frequency of my voice, so Whitney got to conduct the interview. He remembered working in a store and having Henry Ford come in and ask him a question, which I thought was awesome. 

Anyway... I didn't know until recently that Ford had tried to cultivate a rubber plantation in South America. This book talks about that project- the trials, the failures, the remnants left for the people that live there today. It was very interesting, and shed new light for me on Ford and his whole operation.

The Schurig book was one of those that I consider to be a light, fun read. I like to slip those in between heavier things, to give my brain a bit of a break and just read something that is pure entertainment. I particularly enjoy her books because they are set in Michigan (I had a loose theme going on on April, I guess) and they talk about places that I am familiar with. It's a good time. She has a few series (that are all somewhat intertwined) out there and they are very inexpensive for the kindle. I recommend trying them.

In May, I read:

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Clara's War by Clara Kramer
All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve 

Okay. I have been working on this post for about a month now. I'm sick of it sitting there in the draft state, so I will be brief about my books for May:

Remember Me was a good book if you're into Sophie Kinsella's work. I actually liked it better than some of the others I have read. The Girl Who Chased the Moon was very good. It was my first time reading anything by that author and I really enjoyed it. So much so that you'll be seeing her name pop up in my June roundup a couple of times. Clara's War was fabulous. It is a memoir by a Holocaust survivor and I just loved it. Clara's voice is so strong and unique that her experience will likely stick in my mind for a while. Finally, All He Ever Wanted was... just okay. I read another Shreve novel in June and I liked that one a lot better (but more about that elsewhere).

What have you been reading?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Conquering Post-Work Sleepiness

As I mentioned earlier this week, I am, more often than not, ridiculously tired as soon as I walk in the front door after work. I can spend all day thinking of my evening to-do list and be all jazzed up to be productive and then... nada.

Today, though, was different! I didn't do a ton of stuff, but it was enough of a variety to feel awesome. I:

-washed and sliced strawberries
-baked shortcakes to go with said berries
-took care of some clean laundry
-finished sewing some baby burp cloths (more on that to follow)
-read my book
-watched two awesome episodes of Saved by the Bell (the one where Jessie takes the pills and the one where Kelly goes to Paris to model)

Basically what I'm saying is, "go me! " I feel good tonight.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


You guys, I'm obsessed with wanting to make skirts. I was trolling the internet for ideas all weekend and have been thinking about fabric for the past two days. I need to make a maxi skirt. And like 1800 pencil skirts. 

Okay. This will happen. Soon.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Well, it has been quite a while, hasn't it? 

I do apologize for my silence. I think I will attribute this to my new work arrangement. The organization that employs me is consolidating office locations, so I get to travel to downtown Pittsburgh every day (not bad, really, but... more traffic and no free parking than the old location). I also switched my shift from 9-5 to 8-4. Soooo... now I have to wake up about two hours earlier than I was used to and I still get home close to the same time I had been with the old set up. 

Result: I. Am. Exhausted.

I hope to be better about posting in the coming weeks, because I do have a lot to share! 

What have you been up to, friends? Anything good?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Ham & Bean Soup

After Easter dinner, Boyfriend's mom gave me some of the leftover ham to take home. At first, I thought I would make a ham and potato soup... but then I decided that a ham and bean soup would be amazing. I'd never made one before, so I scoured the internet for a recipe that sounded good to me. And I found one! Yay! It turned out very nicely. I can't wait to make it again!!

And, for your viewing pleasure, here is yet another photo looking into the soup pot. Yes... I need to get more creative...

Happy soup time!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Kitchen Curtain Near Disaster

A couple of weekends ago, I decided to sew some curtains for the window above my kitchen sink. Until now, I had been making do with the ones that were in the window when we bought the house:

Not that these curtains are terrible, of course, I just wanted something more cheerful to look at while in the kitchen. Sorry about the not-super-perfect photo, by the way.

I decided that I would just copy the curtains that were already there for the new set. Here is the fabric I decided to use:

I chose the floral for the top two curtains and the solid green for the bottom. Our kitchen walls are painted a sunshine-y yellow, so I thought it would go nicely. When I was looking for a color for the bottom, I had really hoped to find a nice matching coral, but alas. I was unsuccessful.

I took down a curtain from the top and from the bottom to use as my pattern. This is where the near disaster comes in. I was going along just swimmingly, cutting my fabric and watching a Julia Roberts movie I had never seen before on tv. I thought everything was going great. And then I realized that I had cut the fabric for the top two curtains exactly the same. EXACTLY THE SAME. How can they mirror each other when they are the same??? OMG. I was so mad. 

Thankfully, I was able to make it work. I was so nervous, though, because I did not have a suitable amount of extra fabric to start over. So, the top two are not as big as I would have liked and they are not exact mirrors of one another, but they totally work.

Here are the finished curtains:

Ta-da!! And please forgive the miscellaneous stuff around the sink. You can also see my little burro tail plant hanging there. He's so cute. I need to re-pot him this weekend, I think. I'm very excited about my curtains, though. I can't wait to make complementary ones for the two other windows in the kitchen/mudroom!