DI Why?

Do you ever get super excited about a DIY project only to realize you may have taken on too much? I’m thinking I’ve done that to myself. And I haven’t even started yet.

My (nearly 30 year old) oak dining table is in dire need of refinishing. Just four of the original six Windsor chairs are left and those are missing sections of rungs chewed off by my dog.

The set’s American country design doesn’t quite fit in with the interior of our home (sort of a cottage European farmhouse vibe) and I’ve thought fleetingly about just replacing it.  But it’s handcrafted, solid oak, and where my children completed homework, carved pumpkins, dyed eggs, celebrated birthdays, and ate family dinners with us. It’s been the heart of our home for as long as I can remember. And as change swirls around us, I want that one element to remain.

So, instead of replacing, I’m refinishing. My total experience with such projects includes four chairs, two lamp bases, and one small bookcase.

I plan to gel stain the table top (Did I mention it also has four leaves?) and chalk paint the base. I’m chucking the chairs. They’ll be replaced with ladderback chairs, painted to match the table base. I’m still deciding if I should stain the seats. I’m envisioning the completed set beautifully tying together the three main areas of our home. As long as I don’t screw it up.

I’ve been watching YouTube videos, speaking to professionals, making lists, and stressing a bit. The two reasons I’m not having someone else do all this for me: cost and time. I need to complete the whole project before June 1. My parents are coming to visit and I start a huge three-month editing project just a few days later.

Now, I wait for a few warm dry days. And I pray I have the grit and the patience to see this through.



Does any of this sound familiar? Tell me about your DIY story. Disaster or success.





My Greatest Fear

Recently, I found a dog-eared handwritten essay of mine from 7th grade that detailed “My Greatest Fear.” It wasn’t heights or success or bats, which are just a few things that still scare me. It was about being and remaining insignificant, unimportant, forgettable.

Once in a while I wonder, in the quiet of the night or a morning in front of my computer in my pajamas, what, if anything, about me will be remembered. Will my words add any value? Will they resonate? Will anything I’ve done make the world better? (Geez, I even wonder that now.)

As a kid, the word “accomplish” was tossed around a lot in our house. But it was more of a daily commitment to completing tasks: cooking, cleaning, doing your homework. It wasn’t the grand scale achievement I’d alluded to in my guileless essay.

Life then wasn’t as much about purpose or legacy as personal responsibility and survival. And I wasn’t clear in my composition about what I’d be doing exactly to avoid obscurity. It was more of a big picture ideal.

In college, I realized, after fleeting thoughts of movies and television, that I could write. I’ve been fortunate enough to use this skill to report, promote, educate, and occasionally entertain. It’s given me a modest living.

But looking back on the words of my sweet younger self I think it’s time I should aspire to more. It may not be just one project, like my novel-in-progress, but a commitment to consistently create. And not let fear stand in my way.


“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
— Earl Nightingale









Irish all weekend


Even though St. Patrick’s Day is really more of an American tradition, I’m happy it allows me the annual opportunity to acknowledge my ancestry (at least one aspect).  To celebrate, I hit Spotify to find Irish music, pore over recipes I can prepare, and reminisce about driving around the Emerald Isle years ago with my mother. I even search the Internet for limericks, poetry, and trivia I can drop into dinner conversation with my husband and daughter.

This weekend though I must space out the Irish food and frivolity, as tomorrow night is my niece’s birthday party (and of course I wouldn’t want to miss it). My husband is Filipino and much of his family lives nearby. Birthdays, death anniversaries, religious holidays, and impromptu gatherings (food, fun, and karaoke) happen often. And attendance generally exceeds 40.

At first, I was bummed that yet another Filipino gathering was interfering with my plans for tomorrow, but now I’m thankful. Instead of one night, I have the entire weekend to showcase Ireland. And potentially drive my husband and daughter crazy. Tonight, it’s The Dubliners and salmon and colcannon (a side dish of mashed potatoes and kale topped with Irish butter); tomorrow morning, corned beef hash and traditional Celtic instrumentals; and Sunday, a musical mix of modern and classics from Paddy O’Reilly to Flogging Molly, with my beef and Guinness stew, traditional brown bread, and Irish bread pudding with caramel-whiskey sauce.

I’m not sure they will be as excited as I am. But, hey, I figure they owe me.


A wonderful bird is the pelican;
His beak can hold more than his belican.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week,
Though I’m damned if I know how the helican!
—Dixon Lanier Merritt (often incorrectly ascribed to Ogden Nash)





All the Cookies

I love sweets, but cookies are my weakness. The aroma, the texture, the taste. And a world of choices: bar, drop, filled, molded, rolled, sandwich. If there were no repercussions, I’d probably enjoy a handful every day.

My love of cookies started young, but not with the misshapen, slightly burned rejects from my mom’s December bake-a-thons for holiday giving. It blossomed with the boxes of ginger snaps my grandparents would bring, just for me, during their oft impromptu Sunday afternoon visits.

My cookie cravings have gotten a bit haughty since then. I now prefer my cookies fresh baked and homemade or from a really great bakery (as I nibble a ginger snap from a box).

I’ve been blessed, or maybe cursed, with a few fantastically talented baker friends who have introduced me to cookies I’d never known: John and his pistachio cranberry biscotti; Betsey and her twisted macaroons; and Lisa and her hamantaschen.

These triangular filled pastry cookies are served during the Jewish holiday of Purim to deliciously commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from the evil Haman.

I was taking a bit of a break from baked goods last week and vowing to stick to the rolls and cinnamon bread on my list when these beauties nearly jumped out of the display case at me: traditional poppy seed and eight or nine other innovative varieties. Oh. My. Goodness.

I must have one. I’ll break the fast I had going. Just one. Maybe two.

Instead I took four – to share with my husband and daughter. Or so I thought.

That 10 minute car ride was just too much.



Just sit down and do it. That’s what the voices kept saying. One of them my own. I’d found every excuse to keep me from the goals I’d given myself five years ago. I’d left full-time work to finish my novel and be with my daughter. I don’t regret the decision, because my daughter, well, she’s amazing. And she isn’t a baby. She’s 14. See I missed the toddler stuff, so I vowed I’d be there for the teenage years.

But what about my novel? Well, it hasn’t quite turned out as I planned. The first year, I started out strong. And even the second and third. I wrote about 96,000 words (maybe 50,000 usable ones). I also blogged pretty consistently. I completed a children’s book manuscript and a couple of short stories. Then, the last two years, I got lazy, I got sad, I got lonely. I even let the blog go. I didn’t sit down and do it.

Now, I’m beginning again. I could be high from the recent Eagles win, but I’m telling myself it’s like riding a bike. I’ll just put my feet on the pedals and keep moving forward. I just need to pace myself and watch out for potholes.



My Signature Drink

teapotsMany unforgettable characters have signature drinks. It’s a detail that defines them. James Bond has his shaken, not stirred, martini. Mad Men’s Betty Draper had her vodka gimlet. Me? I prefer tea.
I slurp it iced. I sip it hot. I’ll succumb to it flavored, green, red, black, white. Just ask the baristas at my local Starbucks. I don’t drink their coffee, but I can’t live without their tea.
Starbucks uses Tazo, which I will buy in bags. But that’s about it. Otherwise, it’s always loose. An English friend convinced me with a first teapot and strainer two decades ago. Now, that gift is among 17 or so I’ve collected.
A delicious Earl Grey Crème is my house tea, yet frequent trips to teahouses result in tins and bags of other varieties about my kitchen.
I know the beverage originated in China, some of the best grows at the foothills of the Himalayas, and rooibos comes from South Africa. But I never knew that a tea plantation existed here in America.
Did you?
Seems the sandy, sub-tropical climate and rainfall in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, is perfect for harvesting the Camellia Sinensis plant.
Tucked away on historic Wadmalaw Island is the 127-acre Charleston Tea Plantation. A fascination for tea freaks like me.