The Trouble with Treasure Boxes

Let me know if this sounds familiar:

Step 1: Graduate from college.

Step 2: Move into your parents house for a couple months while you look for a job. (But totally don’t need to come home for dinner every night if you don’t want to because you’re an adult now. (But do anyway because you’re broke.))

Step 3: Ah! Finally. Get a good job. Move into your own apartment. Adulting commences.

Step 4: Get married, buy a house, have kids…

Step 5: Parents decide they don’t want to hoard your crap anymore and drop off 12 boxes of said crap on your doorstep and leave. Parents turn your childhood bedroom into a home gym.

Oh, I forgot to include…

Step 0: Save every birthday card you ever received since you were 8.

This is my life. Except the home gym – that was Monica from Friends.

With the new year now upon us, I make a familiar resolution to want/buy/have less stuff. My first step in keeping this resolution is to go through the boxes of childhood memories I’ve been hiding in our attic. It’s a process, so I started with a small goal of consolidating 4 boxes into 2. The strategy involved the typical “toss, donate, keep” rule. Sounds easy enough until the nostalgia washes over you!

Here’s a sampling of what I found in my treasure boxes…and what I ended up doing with them!

Notes. Oh my goodness. Pages and pages and novels of notes written in civics and passed before chemistry class. Together, these notes create a very detailed history of critical events happening between 1999-2005. Which is why I am keeping every single one!¬† One thought I had while carefully unfolding each origami-esque corner of notebook paper was that “kids these days” will not have a tangible time capsule of their social lives during the formative years. Most communication is done in short-form text messages that may or may not contain clip art of an eggplant. I spent several hours sifting through these notes, so maybe on the bright side, kids will grow up and have more time as adults to save the planet or cure cancer.

Greeting Cards. Does anyone else find it difficult to throw away greeting cards? What’s the shelf-life of a greeting card? One week? One minute? How about 21 years? I did a little bit of keeping and tossing as I went through a ton of birthday cards, bridal shower cards, thank you cards, etc… For those that landed in the toss pile (please don’t be offended if your card is in the toss – I literally kept every. single. card.), I learned that I can donate the fronts to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children so that they can be reincarnated as beautiful art projects by the kids! Although I don’t think I’ll be donating the front of this birthday card that my big brother designed in Greetings Workshop and printed at home, circa 2002:

Posters. As much as it pains me to do so, I must toss the many Tiger Beat posters of Leonardo DiCaprio (and apparently Lance Bass – I was a Backstreet Girl, so this was an odd find) into the recycle bin and rely on Google Images for my Leo fix of the 21st century.

School Projects. I am keeping my “Geometry Madness” handbook in case I need to help my daughter with her homework in 14 years. That’s totally practical, right?! But I’m also keeping some projects that were not necessarily done in school, but in my free time – ya know, career planning. As a kid, I wanted to be a major league baseball player, veterinarian, editor, and evidently, a marketing director. That was up until 5th grade. For the 10-12 years that followed, I pursued a career in fashion merchandising before pivoting to marketing ūüėČ Anyway, when I was a marketing director, I wrote this very stern message to one of my associates:

“Dear Michael Watson [Marketing Manager],
The company is a beginner marketing company, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be organized and not have a budget. For any company, beginner or advanced, should have everything they need. I care about this company. I can’t let it crash and burn. Having only a little over 7 million is poor for an aquarium in NY. If this company doesn’t shape up, I will have to move you to Chicago. They know how to handle this better. I can’t do this all by myself, so I need everyone’s help.
I would like to be a speaker at your next meeting. I need to speak with everyone.
Lauren Pritchett
Marketing Director”

Hey, with a few substitutions, this could totally pass for an email in today’s corporate world!

The Core Value System

I don’t normally post about self-help-esque topics or existential musings. In fact I have a slew¬†of post ideas in my head dealing with DIY patio¬†fun¬†and Raleigh development. But today I’m feeling inspired to write about the drivers of happiness which is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. People¬†often struggle when they are advised¬†on how to¬†“be happy”.

What does being happy mean? (Aside from cherishing the obvious friends, family, Quailford, and not counting relishing in life’s niceties¬†like flowers on the table or a $20 hidden in a winter coat pocket). The things that make me happy¬†can all be summed up in something called The Core Value System. A¬†dear (and wise) friend of mine defines “core values” to be the things in life on which one is¬†not willing to compromise. These are the things that cultivate¬†the most happiness for us as independent human beings of society. Being happy means making choices. I¬†choose to hold fast to these¬†core values because I know they make me happy.

Hilgs’ Core Values

  • Yoga:¬†This is an obvious core value of mine because I sacrifice SLEEP for yoga. I’ve been going to¬†Early Bird Yoga at Blue Lotus since late September. Twice a week. Every week. At 6:30am. The evening classes were too difficult for me to commit to (because of things like the next core value). It took me a few weeks to forgo the¬†“snooze”¬†button, get out of bed, and groggily travel¬†the .6 mile to get to the studio. I would set my alarm clock but never make it. Now, when I wake up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it is like my body is craving the mat even though my head is saying “whyyyy!!!!”. My body knows what it needs to do before my brain does.¬†Yoga has not only given me strength and flexibility, but confidence and of course happiness.
  • Book Club: For the past four years, I have been a member of a book club. I think I have missed one meeting. I think it was when I was on my honeymoon (tropical vacations should be a core value of mine). Growing up, I wasn’t¬†an avid¬†reader. My mom is probably the most proud of me for joining a book club out of all of the things I’ve done. I consider the monthly book club meeting a sacred time for me. Who doesn’t love drinking wine, great books, and meeting up with new and old friends?!¬†Perhaps most special part of all is that we are able to discuss our opinions freely without judgement. I am so grateful to the other ladies in the book club that are dedicated to keep¬†meeting¬†throughout moving houses, getting married, and even having babies!
  • Food:¬†Duh, we all need to eat. But I’m not talking about the necessities of life – food, shelter, water. And I don’t think I’m considered a foodie either. I just need to know when and what I’m going to eat next. I am infamous for being hangry. Hence, food = happiness. Plus, if food is involved, there’s a chance that a party is happening. Food = maybe a party.
  • Breaking Bad: I will not compromise on the fact that Breaking Bad is the best show ever.¬†Breaking Bad is incomparable. You can’t find a more beloved underdog than Jesse Pinkman nor a more conniving¬†anti-hero than Walter White. I sought out¬†to find another BB fanatical coworker at my new place of employment to confirm¬†that this was the right career path. Thankfully, yes, this is the right career path for me. The other night, we had a few friends over for an impromptu Memorial Day cookout. As many conversations do, the topic turned to television. Everyone at the table watches Game of Thrones except for me so that show naturally took precedence. After a while, someone apologized to me for talking too much about it since they know I don’t care about GoT. Even though I was a little bored of the topic, I just thought of how much I love Breaking Bad, and if my friends at the table love GoT as much as I love Breaking Bad, than this discussion¬†must be amazing.
  • Raleigh:¬†Sometimes I experience¬†a brief moment of sadness¬†about how¬†I have not really lived anywhere else because I have already found the place I want to live forever. (Sans my stint in NYC).¬†It’s a very fleeting moment until¬†I quickly realize¬†how good I have it here.
  • Being¬†Accommodating to Guests:¬†When it comes to hosting guests, there are certain rules I live by. I don’t have the most modern or fancy guest accommodations. None of my towels match. I only have a pull-out sofa. But it is important to me that despite these pitfalls, guests have what they need to feel at home. These self-made, self-followed rules are:
    1. toilet paper that is readily available in an intuitive location should the guest be faced with the inevitable last square
    2. an outlet (granted it might not be grounded) in the guest room that is easily accessible for device charging
    3. snacks that meet the dietary needs of the guest (see core value: food)
    4. enough wine

    Rule #4 is obviously the most important. If I live by rule #4, then the first three matter less. Popular advice tells us that we need to put our own oxygen mask on before we help others, but doing these little things for my guest makes me happy. Hopefully these practices make my guest happy, too!

  • Outdoor Seating:¬†There are restaurants that I frequent yet rarely have been inside: Mellow Mushroom, Boylan Bridge Brewpub, Village Drafthouse, MoJoe’s, to name a few in Raleigh. ¬†I will not eat at these places if there is no outdoor seating available. Even during the winter months, I don’t go inside MoJoe’s. Part of this¬†core value is derived from my preference of¬†dog-friendly establishments.¬†The fresh city air is just as important to the flavor of my¬†Magical Mystery Tour pizza as is the side of ranch (which could also be a core value of mine). I am one of those crazy North Carolinians who¬†loves the heat and humidity and will always choose outdoor seating over indoor when given the option.
  • Exclamation Points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!¬†Read more about my passion for this peppy punctuation mark¬†here.

I encourage you to create your own Core Value System. Maybe your list will include sleep, ability to travel, achieving 100% attendance at NC State football games, alone time, not wearing pants, etc… It’s a system that is unique to you, and will help prevent straying from happiness¬†when making decisions.

A Developing Historic District

Cameron Park Homes

I don’t spend all of my time working in the backyard, and that is one reason why my blog posts come few and far between. But this blog is not only a place to share my projects with you, it is also a great place for me to rant! ūüôā

There has been a controversy that I have been semi-following, and today my emotions toward it just boiled up and is now spilling out onto this post. I will quickly debrief you on the issue: A couple purchased an empty lot in Oakwood and hired a local architect, Louis Cherry, to design their dream home – a Modernist home. Since Oakwood is a historic neighborhood, Cherry needed to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) from the Raleigh Historic Development Commission (RHDC) in order to proceed with building. After following the guidelines and utilizing the proper channels, Cherry successfully received the permit and began construction in the fall of 2013. Everything’s fine and dandy, right? Wrong. An Oakwood resident proposed to the City Council that the construction be halted because the Modernist home did not fit the aesthetic of the historic neighborhood. She hired a lawyer to repeal the COA to the Board of Adjustments (BOA). Last month, the COA was revoked and Cherry was forced to stop, mid-build. Cue uproar. Find more info on the subject here.

If Cherry followed the rules, and the RHDC gives its blessing, how can a legal permit be rescinded based on personal architecture tastes of a few neighbors? What is the point of having rules if it turns out the rules do not even matter? What would the neighbors wish to put in the home’s place? A fake 1875-esque facade, thus devaluing the true historic homes? Newsflash: You can’t build a new historic home. The Modernist home in question is being built in its contemporary, just like the Second Empire/Queen Anne styles lining the streets of Oakwood were built in their contemporary (or should I mention that they really weren’t contemporary, as these styles were brought to NC 10 years late thanks to its Rip Van Winkle status – how pass√© ūüėČ ). I understand, appreciate, and evangelize the importance of historic preservation. Keyword:¬†historic. It burns my biscuits to think of all of the time and money that could be wasted on this issue. Not only that belonging to the couple, the architect, and the builders, but the City Council, the RHDC, and potentially the Wake County Superior Court. All because of a difference in architectural tastes. Shall I ensue shock-and-awe by comparing Oakwood’s closed-minded attitude toward architectural diversity to that of Cary (where I grew up)?!

Now, I am a friendly frequenter of Oakwood and all it has to offer, so I should not generalize Oakwoodians. Can’t live without the dog park. Strongly support the growth on Person Street. Charmed by the Cooke Street Carnival. Mouth waters for the fried chicken sandwich at Quality Grocery. But, as a Cameron Parker, my opinion is irrelevant to Oakwood elitists who might consider me a lowly rival. Cameron Park is one of the “newer” Raleigh neighborhoods, plotted in 1910 shortly after Boylan Heights and Glenwood. Though Oakwood may be the “envy of other cities”, I am proud to live in a neighborhood where artistic diversity is celebrated. Please note that Cameron Park is a Historic District as defined by the RHDC, but according to the¬†Unified Development Ordinance, it is a¬†Neighborhood Conservation Overly District¬†which regulates fewer features than a Historic Overlay.

I often admire my neighbors’ homes, especially when on foot taking Quailford for his daily walk. Today, I stopped to take a few snapshots in an effort to put together the puzzle of architectural characteristics. We’ve got all kinds of styles including American Craftsman Bungalows, Pueblo Revivals, Foursquares, urban farmhouses, and even¬†Sears Kit Homes! And so much in between to show the timeline and trends of the neighborhood. Just consider the¬†AIA Triangle Homes Tour¬†that showcases green homes in all different types of neighborhoods including Cameron Park.¬†Somehow, even though Cameron Park exhibits several kinds of architecture, the overall look is cohesive while featuring unique character.

Cameron Park Homes Cameron Park Homes Cameron Park Homes

In ¬†my opinion, the Modernist home does not in any way cheapen its historic neighbors. It is a symbol of healthy growth and of a city that embraces all types of homes. When it comes to historic preservation, more attention should be put toward rehabilitating dilapidated structures instead of stifling new growth that improves our city. Props go to those who are committed to such efforts like Empire Properties,¬†and James Goodnight¬†who is working on the historic Nehi Bottling Company Building.¬†I am confident that Cherry will be able to continue on. Oakwood is a developing historic district, and no, that’s not an oxymoron.


Summer Bucket List!

Well, if you hadn’t noticed the 90 degree weather and 150% humidity, it is officially summer! One of my favorite things about living in North Carolina is that spring begins in February if we’re lucky and summer ends in October. It’s perfect for a gal like me – one that thinks the unbearable heat beats anything less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why I think it’s ok that I did not come up with my spring bucket list until April, because any day could be like spring here!

I completed a healthy chunk of it, but I must admit I could have done better! For instance, we cooked out a few times, but never made it to the butcher shop to get the real deal. Neglected our golf game, but were in San Fran during the US Open. Didn’t pay a visit to the art museum, but we did enjoy the new¬†Nature Research Center¬†at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences! We still haven’t been to The Raleigh Times since the thermometer has surpassed 50 degrees, but don’t worry – we made it to other bars.

Now that we have just celebrated the summer solstice, it’s time to start thinking about a summer bucket list. But, did anyone else’s spring bucket list wear them out a bit? ūüėČ This season, I’m going to create my bucket list as I go along. If I happen to enjoy a Fla-Vor-Ice, yay. If I end up with a Mister Softee instead, I will be ok with that, too. I’ll let you know the highlights of my DIY bucket list come September!

With all of the hustle and bustle of packing and traveling and driving and sweating, in the end summertime is about slowing down while wearing sunscreen. No matter if your view from the front porch is the ocean or just your neighbor’s AC unit, treat those extra hours of sunlight after a 10 hour work day like vacation by putting a crazy straw in your daiquiri and enjoy!

Summer Bucket List…TBD…

Soul Food For Thought

You may have noticed that I have not been blogging so much lately. ¬†If you haven’t noticed that, then perhaps you’ve noticed my neglect of the use of social media. ¬†If you have not noticed that, then I must be putting my smart phone to good use and not even realizing that I have in fact been posting to social media.

I’m in a bit of a transition with my career which can be time consuming, if not exhausting. ¬†Nonetheless, my wee bit of life experience has really brought to light how important my health and happiness are to me. ¬†Maybe you are thinking, well of course! ¬†Who doesn’t cherish their health and happiness? ¬†But I mean really putting my health and happiness first. ¬†This has proven to take some actual consideration and a little bit of hard work initially. ¬†I’m learning to put more thought into my everyday decisions and ask myself “will this make me happy?”.

We seem to all struggle with time management in relation to happiness. ¬†Why aren’t there 8 days in a week? ¬†Better yet, how about 8 days in a week and working full-time meant 20 hours a week ūüėČ ¬†Think about all the crafts I could do and books I could read and breweries I could visit and museums I could tour! ¬†Well, that’s not reality unfortunately. ¬†We need to manage our time wisely. ¬†We have the power to prioritize.

The biggest contributing factors to my own personal happiness are my relationships. I make it a goal to make time for the people I care about. ¬†And I’m going to say something that no one wants to admit on paper, but it’s the way everyone in love feels: my priority relationship is indeed the one I have with my significant other. ¬†Since we are both “super busy” (I use air quote quotes because everyone is super busy, so we are no more special than everyone else), I try to think of ways to maximize my time with him while still allowing for me-time, girl-time, blog-time, etc…

A midst my career change, I have to get a little creative when dedicating time to the different compartments of my life, including my marriage. ¬†At first, I was so worried that I would have to trade our home-cooked weeknight dinner table conversations in for mystery¬†frozen dinners¬†and rushed chit chat.¬†But, realizing that these family suppers bring the brightest smile to my day, I knew I couldn’t give them up.

To allocate more time to quality time with my husband and less time in the kitchen on a whirlwind of a Wednesday night, I turned these smiley suppers into make-ahead marvels!  And of course just had to share a couple of my favorites with you.

Here’s low fat baked ziti just before I put it in the oven! ¬†I’ve tried a lot of baked ziti recipes and this one is the only one I’m keeping. ¬†It’s a great base, too, in case you want to add your own flavors to it!

Pritch says he does not “prefer” casseroles, which is a shame because they are my specialty. ¬†Sometimes I have to disguise casseroles as non-casseroles and this chicken parmesan meatloaf is a great example! ¬†It’s as easy as meatloaf (I’m not particularly a fan of traditional meatloaf) and all I have to do is steam some veggies and butter some bread and you’ve got a nice little dinner plate!

Tired of chicken? ¬†Here’s something new! ¬†Probably not the most figure friendly dish, this baked shrimp scampi is the newest staple in our weekly line-up.

What’s more is that these dishes can be perfectly portioned and priced for your brown bag!

Food makes me happy. Friends and family make me happy.  Free time makes me happy.

Do you have any tricks that help you smile even through the craziness of daily life?