Category Archives: Lifestyle

Domestically Dis-Inclined

Domestically Dis-Inclined: How One Family Takes Back Their Home

I have realized for a long time that we are not all created equal when it comes to the domestic home front. Some people are just born with the desire and ability to create order out of chaos, to maintain systems and to think ahead. Others have to really work at it. And some either have no inclination, no desire or no awareness.

I have discovered over the years that I fall somewhere between the last two. I do have the desire to have a clean, organized home, but I am not naturally gifted at creating it nor am I genetically predisposed to maintain order. The good news is that there is help for people like me as long as one has the desire and remains aware of one’s surroundings.

I come from a long line of women who believe that function follows form. Homes should be beautifully decorated but less thought goes into the actual orderly running of things. I suppose this was less of an issue for my grandmother who had staff to keep things orderly and clean. My mother, who worked outside of the home much of my childhood, had to tackle this on her own. She admitted frequently that she was not a good housekeeper nor did she get any pleasure from it.

The lesson that I gleaned from my mother’s example was that as long as the pillows were plumped and there were fresh flowers, as was well with the world. Clutter was what made a home looked lived in—especially if the clutter included beautiful and/or interesting objects and books. Books were always plentiful in our home and were kept close to hand (past and future reads were equally important as current). As long as there was a surface, there was no such thing as too many photographs, too many books or too many decorative objects. I believe that I have followed this example well.

Over the years, however, my family has accumulated more than our share of stuff. Some might say that this is simply “the American way” and perhaps I believed this as well. But now I realize that this “collection” is actually the result of disorganization, laziness and paralysis.

Two months ago my family embarked on an adventure to regain control of our home through purging and organizing, rethinking our spaces and how they are used and by refurbishing our 17-year-old house. We call it “Project Take Back Our Home”.

Project Take Back Our Home

Over the next few months, I will be sharing the process and the results of our efforts in this new series. I hope to give some encouragement to those who are where I was: in a state of complete denial and immobilization due to the enormity of the job at hand. I will reveal organizing tips from the perspective of a “real person” (i.e., one who is domestically disinclined). And I will share how our complete domestic re-boot has helped my family. I hope you will join me on this adventure!

 

 

 

 

My Father the Farmer: Dirt Runs Through His Veins

dirt in his veins

My father is a farmer. Not the up with the rooster, working the fields, dirt under nails kind of farmer. He is the kind who looks at a yard and sees a small plot of earth in which to grow things. The kind who thinks and plans and plants and eats and then thinks and plans….He is a man of letters with South Carolina agrarian blood generations old pulsing through his veins. He scrapes scraps, churns refuse, spreading and working it through the soil like a baker kneading bread. He sees life beginning, stretching, full of possibility, regenerating in every square inch of dirt he has sanctioned. I have heard the tenderness in his voice as he walks me through his garden, seen the loss in his eyes when he talks about leaving a place and leaving behind his plants. He has taken an impossibly cold, rock of an island in the St. Lawrence River and planted tomatoes and herbs. Dirt runs through his veins.

I have long hoped that this same blood runs through me—this love of the land and tending things. Maybe it will become more dominant as I age, settle and slow down but for now, it is still just a longing. I lack the patience, the attention to detail and the long view that characterizes one who plants. My desire is for the immediate, the applause, the back slap. I live for the dreams, the ideas, the process, the prototypes. My father patiently turns and nourishes the soil. Waters and dead heads and stakes his plants. He collects leaves from neighbors, hand washes delicate egg shells and sorts through the remains of meals to create the perfect compost cocktail.

These things don’t come naturally to me. So, for now, I emulate hoping that in the doing—the digging and planting—any remnants of the South Carolina soil that runs in my veins will be stirred and awaken the farmer in my soul.

Celebrating Teachers: How to Host a Teacher Appreciation Luncheon

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With the school year almost over, it is an ideal time to thank the teachers who have guided our children for the last nine months. The parents’ association of many schools celebrate the faculty and staff throughout the year while in some schools they are honored during a specific “teacher appreciation” week.

We have done a variety of things at my daughter’s school during her twelve years there. It depended on the age division, parent involvement and leadership. Since she has been in high school, we have supplied the faculty and staff lounge with beverages and snacks each month and hosted a nice luncheon near the end of the school year. I have been responsible for the luncheon for the last few years.

Ashley Hall, Charleston SC

My daughter attends Ashley Hall—an independent, girls’ school in Charleston, South Carolina. There is a lovely campus with a beautiful lawn and hundreds year old live oak trees. Given the setting, a luncheon on the lawn is a must (as well as lots of prayers for good weather).

I chose a travel/bon voyage theme this year knowing that everyone was ready to get away from it all in some way or another. The food table was decorated with antique [looking] luggage, globes and atlases.

antique suitcases and globes

food tables

The beverage and dessert tables were decorated in a more whimsical par avion (blue and red) theme with colorful, vintage [-like] suitcases and paper banners made from road maps.

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Each table had a living centerpiece (taken from my front porch container garden).

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teachers

luncheon on the lawn

Each place was set with a merci treat bag.

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The favorite part of the luncheon is always the “giveaways.” I found lots of great ideas that fit our travel theme at TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

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Parents donated lots of great items to give away too.

giveaway

gifts up close

We held the drawing for prizes after lunch.

the drawing

The prizes are always a hit with the teachers. These two had trouble deciding what to pick. This year we had so many prizes that every teacher was able to select two.

making a choice

prizes

The key to the success of this luncheon–as always–was the great parent volunteers who helped decorate and who donated or made food.

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piled up

All of the supplies and decorations waiting to be loaded back into my car at the end of the luncheon.

The “Ashley Hall Upper School Faculty and Staff Luncheon on the Lawn” is a wonderful tradition and is just a small way of showing appreciation to the incredible individuals who guide and teach our daughters.

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 How does your school celebrate and thank its faculty and staff?

And the Winner is . . .

And the winner is...Garden Party Giveaway on amywatsonsmith.com

My first giveaway is over and the winner is . . . Anne Walpole from Charleston, South Carolina!

Thank you to all who signed up for my mailing list last week. I cannot tell you what a boost you all gave me. So many of you not only signed up but took the time to offer me sweet words of encouragement.

If you missed out on this giveaway, do not despair. I will be doing another one in June, so go ahead and sign up now so you don’t miss my next giveaway announcement!

Some of you have asked about how to purchase some of the items in this “Garden Party in a Box”. I do not have my “store” set up online quite yet but am happy to take an order if you just contact me at amywatsonsmith@gmail.com. I will have other items available in my store in the future so be sure to check back here.

Just as a reminder, here are a few of the items in the Garden Party box:

Hand-decorated glass bottles with coordinating straws - $4 each

Hand-decorated glass bottles with coordinating straws – $4 each

Hand-made Garden Party Invitations and envelopes - quantity 8 - $16

Hand-made Garden Party Invitations and envelopes – quantity 8 – $16

It’s A Garden Party Giveaway: How to Win

Sign up with your email to join my mailing list to win this Garden Party Giveaway on amywatsonsmith.com

Sign up with your email to join my mailing list to win this Garden Party Giveaway

I am so excited to be able to offer my first-ever “giveaway” on amywatsonsmith.com. I have put together a Garden Party in a box to show my appreciation to my followers.

Want to enter to win this giveaway? Then pop over to the sidebar on the right and sign up to join my mailing list. I would be thrilled if you would share this opportunity by regramming this post on Instagram and on Facebook.

This giveaway ends on Friday, May 16 at 10 pm. I will draw a winner on Saturday.

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I had the best time putting this together. Here is what I included in my Garden Party Giveaway:

  • Six glass milk (or other beverage) bottles hand-decorated in pink and green
  • Striped pink and green paper straws
  • Handmade Garden Party invitations
  • Paper coasters
  • Pink enameled pail in which to serve dip (included) or other yummy snacks
  • Flowers and tablecloth are not included

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Thank you for following me! I would love to hear from you and look forward to getting to know you better!

A Few of My Favorite Things, Part 1

A few of my favorite things, part 1 on http://amywatsonsmith.com

A few of my favorite things, part 1

This morning I have assembled a few of my favorite things to share with you. It wasn’t very hard to narrow this grouping as they were all within reach. I keep my favorite things close.

And just to be completely clear, all of these things are items that I or a family member has actually purchased. None of these have been “freebies”.

Here is what I included in the photo above.

Lots of stripes:

Books:

A few other things:

  • White and navy swiss dot cotton pjs from J. Crew (a gift from my very sweet husband who knows how much I l o v e pajamas).
  • “Oops” letterpress card by Ink Meets Paper, my favorite local letterpress studio (soon to be featured in my “Bee Smitten” series). I am a huge fan of snail mail
  • Reading glasses by Peepers. Now that I have reached a certain age, reading glasses are essential. I leave them all over the house but try to keep them somewhat ‘girly’ so my husband won’t borrow them. I have several favorite brands but the price is right for these stylish lovelies.
  • 154 Cologne by Jo Malone. This is my “go to” scent but when I want to change things up a bit, I layer it with one of their other fragrances. My favorites are grapefruit and pomegranate-noir.
  • Bright pink leather handbag with lime green interior by Sigrid Olsen. I especially love the scallops and bow. I picked this up for a steal a number of years ago at Marshalls.
  • Cream satin handmade rose brooch. This adds just a little something to anything. I purchased this several years ago from my favorite local store, Out of Hand in Mount Pleasant SC.

A few of my favorite things are missing:

peonies, gingham, red nail polish, coconut cake, seersucker, grapefruit, velvet ribbon, English breakfast tea, rick rack, colorful espadrilles, . . . .

I will continue to add posts to this series so keep coming back to see more of my other favorite things.

What are a few of your favorite things?