12 Months - 12 Resolutions

January:   Walk one hour daily.

February:   Eat 3 fruit and 4 veggie servings daily.

March:   Alternate upper and lower body strength exercises daily.

April:   Eat 80% daily.

May:   Floss daily.

June:   Stretch daily.

July:   Eat mostly fish and poultry.

August:   Drink mostly water and tea.

September:   Season food with spices and herbs.

October:   Use sunscreen daily.

November:   Use a daily skin care regimen.

December:   Practice 1 sudoku puzzle daily.  


A DIY Martha Stewart Real Simple Inspired Wedding Part 4

The Wedding Day Decor!

CJ and Ben's grass-themed stationery

CJ designed her invitation, this seating chart, table numbers, and getting acquainted cards using this grass theme.  She loves Photoshop!

a view toward the bar tent, which was adjacent to the main tent under a white EZ-Up

a close up of the table and a getting acquainted card

another close up of the table decoration in process

CJ wanted to experiment with a variety of textures on the table.  Her wonderful sister-in-law,  Magda Sayeg who founded Knitta Please, spent hours cutting the felt circles.  She used pink aquarium rocks in juice glasses and simple florals picked up at the grocery store surrounding white paper lanterns that covered clear glass candle holders.

 Water-colored paper lanterns and Martha Stewart pompoms & streamers

For several months as Walmart phased out most of its crafts section, I bought Martha Stewart assorted pink paper pom-pom sets.  Each package had five assorted ready-to-assemble pom poms and was $5 on clearance.  I bought about six packages, which provided more color and texture to the ceiling.  Martha Stewart has the DIY pom pom instructions here, so you can make them in any color.

Inspired by this Martha Stewart wedding streamers idea, CJ ordered lots of paper garland, which our wedding coordinator, Mary Brown, tied into swags along the tent poles to dress them up without obstructing the water views.

We rented a couple of strings of white globe lights for the ceiling of the tent, but CJ really wanted to disguise them as much as possible.  She also wanted to make the lanterns glow, so we did some research and found "throwies" which are small LED lights.  Sid found that to light a throwie (and keep it lit), he placed the battery between the two leads and scotch-taped them together.  For a six to eight inch lantern, he grouped four lit throwies together.  He took a small size binder clip (buy a lot of them), opened it wide to slide over the wire frame inside the lantern, then clipped all four throwies together in the clamp of the binder clip.  That enabled the throwie light bundle to slide back and forth on the lantern frame.  A beautiful glow!

Aguas Frescas
Inspired by an issue of Real Simple Weddings, CJ decided to serve colorful aguas frescas, which are basically a combination of fresh fruit, sugar, and water.  The magazine suggested using Crate and Barrel containers with silver spigots, which were about $50 each!  I bought four Anchor Hocking containers from Walmart for about $15 each and four silver Oneida ladles for about $6 each.  A beautiful - and colorful - look for much less!  

Dessert - no cake, no cupcakes, just yummy!

Remember how CJ was dead set against a wedding cake or wedding cupcakes?  She and Ben had a variety of delicious traditional desserts, from pies to cakes to potato chip cookies.  It was fun to pick a little of everything after a catered dinner of Tex-Mex.  I was in HEAVEN!

A view of the reception tent from the dock

The reception tent from the neighboring property

Inside the reception tent

Fun and really beautiful on a budget!

A DIY Martha Stewart Real Simple Inspired Wedding Part 3

A Wedding Day to Remember

CJ saved a ton of money having her super friend Brittany do her hair and makeup.  

CJ wanted her hair long for her wedding.  It looked gorgeous and very natural.  This look is a long way from her 18th birthday.  I was picking her up for dinner, and she told me she would be wearing a green shirt.  Why would I need to know that???  Because she had shaved - yes, shaved - her hair off!  She looked like Demi Moore in GI Jane.  And she did it at my mom's house.  My sister did it for her.  And she swore them both to secrecy until the reveal. O.K.  I like this look much more, don't you?

Some of our younger guests ready to party!

The girls are holding our party favors - CJ's green grass theme with the wedding couple's names and the date rubber cemented to a wooden stick.  The September heat made these fans a real hit - and a very inexpensive project, inspired by, of course, Martha Stewart's wedding fan.  

CJ and sister-in-law, Magda Sayeg.

CJ is holding her butterfly bouquet in the photo; there's another shot further down in this post.  The bouquet was inspired by a beautiful Brooklyn wedding featured in Martha Stewart.  We made this one evening while watching tv, following the directions for the butterfly bouquet we found online.  It's gorgeous, and very thrifty! 

A balcony shot of the extended family

Looking back, we kind of wished we had asked all of the wedding guests to come in for this shot.  A couple of items of note here:  when we arrived Thursday, it had rained for a couple of days earlier in the week, and the lawn had just been mown.  There was a low spot that was a little mushy, and we were concerned about keeping guests out of the muck.  I decided to create the letters to lay on the lawn for that purpose.  What you don't see below CJ is their wedding date: 09 19 09.  I bought 12 sheets of white foam board, hand drew the letters and numbers, cut them out with an exacto knife, and spray painted them pink.  I really liked the way they turned out!

Josh wanted to say something to the couple during the ceremony.

So did Devonne.

Davis, too.

In their wonderful quirkiness, CJ and Ben opted for a rather non-traditional wedding ceremony.  It was kind of hard to imagine some of their plans, but it was beautifully done, and I think the most meaningful ceremony I have ever attended.  It's easier to describe.

The pair came down the stairs (no real aisle outside) together to "Praise You" by Fat Boy Slim.  Pretty fun song to start things out.  All of the wedding guests gathered in a semi-circle around our officiant - in white - and the wedding couple.  After a prayer, the officiant invited us to offer our love, our blessings, our prayers, and our advice to Ben and CJ.  They are such a great couple and so well-loved that this part of the ceremony went on for about 45 minutes - with everyone standing (!)

There were lots of happy tears... 

This is their favorite wedding photo.

And lots of smiles and laughter, too.

time for the vows

After CJ and Ben exchanged vows, they sang "Truly Scrumptious" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to one another.  They only had eyes for one another, which is why they were oblivious to...

The officiant gets in on the joke.

...the joke we planned for them.  Sid's wonderful parents, who have practically adopted my family and me since my mom passed away, purchased and secretly packaged 200 pairs of Groucho Marx glasses.  These are the nice glasses, with real fake mustaches beneath the giant beakish nose and black-rimmed glasses.  They finished their song and were shocked to see all the Grouchos staring back at them.

The kiss

pretty in pink

CJ was always determined to have a non-white dress.  She tried on lots of them and found her absolute favorite for $300.  She rocked this dress!  Ben coordinated with her, wearing a pink shirt and tie and pink Vans.  A really beautiful couple.

tired but happy!

Saturday was truly a beautiful day.  I have to give it to the two hardest workers of the weekend: Sid and my wonderful friend, Mary.  Sid worked from Friday morning until Monday afternoon when we left the lake.  

I asked Mary to execute detailed plans that CJ had made to make sure that the day went smoothly and calmly for all of us.  Mary is crafty, intuitive, and a true problem-solver.  We budgeted $200 to put her in charge of the day - it was the BEST money we spent on the wedding.  

It was definitely a wedding that was created exclusively for Ben and CJ!  I wouldn't have had it any other way.

More to come!


A DIY Martha Stewart Real Simple Inspired Wedding Part 2

The wedding weekend arrived!

Friday afternoon Ben grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and their veggie counterparts.

Because many guests flew in from other states, Ben and CJ wanted to make sure they had plenty of time to visit with everyone.  We bought all of the food from Sams and saved a bundle.  The rental company set up the tent and brought everything we rented on Thursday.  We decided to take advantage of that by setting up some of the tables with simple bright blue and spring green paper products.

Swimming takes a lot of energy!

The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent boating, swimming, and jet skiing.  A lot of fun, and very relaxing!

Ben didn't know the breakwater included jagged rocks, rusted metal, and leftover concrete.  Lucky for him, he missed all of that!

The most popular suit of the weekend.  CJ found this retro red one-piece and lived in it when she wasn't wearing her wedding gown.

The back of CJ's retro swim suit.  The owners of the property, wonderful people, had a super dock with a fantastic rope swing for the adventurous.

More to come!

A DIY Martha Stewart Real Simple Inspired Wedding Part 1

Hoorah for DIY!  My daughter CJ and her fiance Ben married this September on a beautiful lakefront property.

To say that this couple is beautiful and loving and wonderful is an understatement.  To say that they are pretty eclectic is also an understatement.

Some of CJ's original thoughts:

1) marry at noon (!!!) in September in Texas
2) El Salvadorean delicacies for the reception - did I mention the lakefront property was eight miles from a town of 900???
3) no cake (everybody has cake)
4) no cupcakes (everybody who doesn't have cake has cupcakes)
5) reception on picnic blankets on the ground - how do grandma and grandpa get back up???

This is the location where the wedding weekend was held.  Beautiful!

We compromised - a little.  She was so easy to work with; I wanted the two of them to have a wonderful weekend with lots of quirkiness that made the wedding uniquely theirs while making their guests comfortable enough to stay at least through the vows!

We planned a wedding weekend: 

Friday - grilling and swimming
Saturday afternoon/evening - sunset wedding and reception
Sunday - brunch and swimming

Planning began early as tent weddings are logistically difficult.

The tent took about 6 hours to erect Thursday evening before the wedding weekend.

We rented the tent, lights, tables, chairs, linens, china, glassware, silverware, two large swamp cooler outdoor air conditioners, a cotton candy machine, a wireless mic and sound system.

CJ chose to put some color and light (her colors were a variety of pinks and oranges) into the tent using colored paper lanterns.  Since white is much cheaper than colored lanterns, we ordered them instead.  The tent was really large (30' X 70'), so we ordered 98 assorted sizes, including about 3 really huge lanterns.

Paper lanterns will provide color and glow to the tent in the evening.

Sid strung them up using nylon string in lines across the backyard.  We bought five spray bottles from the dollar store and mixed them with professional grade watercolor and water.

An inexpensive way to have colored lanterns!

We tried food coloring, and kids' watercolor before going with the extra money for the professional watercolor from the craft store.  We also learned to spray carefully so that we didn't saturate the paper and loosen the glue that holds the lanterns together.

After the paper was dried, we removed the wire frames and flattened the lanterns until the big weekend.

More to come...


Contact Me

Please contact me at lauraparingdown [at] gmail [dot] com.

Lyon Pride


I'm Laura, and for many years I have been shuffling many roles: single mother of two, wife, new mother of four, mother-in-law (!), sister, high school teacher, itinerant grad student, eclectic reader, amateur but enthusiastic decorator, organizer extraordinaire, Tex-Mex aficionado, magazine-aholic, hiker wannabe, wanderlust traveler, scaredy-cat movie watcher (no horror, please) ... and the list continues, stretching and twisting through the years.

 My new goal: simplicity seeker.

I've really never experienced much simplicity in my life.  I went from this

life as a single mom to my beautiful children, CJ and Josh

to adding this

Sid, the man of my dreams

plus this

my newest two nestlings, Devonne and Davis, who have grown a LOT since we first became acquainted

and this

CJ married the man of her (and our) dreams, Ben, this year on 09/19/09 - love the date!

which equals this

Here we are for Christmas 2009!

Here are our three furry family members who couldn't be corralled for the Christmas photo:

Pepper Jack, who most definitely has a Christmas tree fetish.  He is our Olympic hairball contender - in both size and frequency.  He LOVES to be petted - with our FEET.  We love him anyway.

Pumpkin is our fuzzy black bear cat.  She calls for us, is smart like crazy, and walks the house like she owns it.  When she's not asleep or yelling to be fed, she's smelling...our...breath.  


 This is Tabitha (the most original name ever, right?)  When our neighbors moved, Sid heard her crying underneath the storage shed in their backyard.  She was the runt and had been abandoned by her mother.  She will be five this year and still looks like she's an older kitten.  She loves her mom (maybe it's the other way around) and sleeps with me every night.

Simplicity, here I come.


I decided to create this blog because my husband Sid and I want to make some major changes in our lives.

We have one daughter who just got married and will be moving to NYC this summer.
We have a son who is a junior in high school.
We have a daughter who is a freshman in high school.
We have a son who is in the sixth grade.

We live in a mostly beautiful 25-year-old home on a quiet court with a huge wedge-shaped backyard, which we partially filled with a pool three years ago. 

This is our home.  Pretty, huh.  It's a lot of work updating (one bathroom left!) and maintaining the home and the yard with three busy kids and three cats inside.

For more on my husband, kids, and cats, please check out Lyon Pride.

Anyway, once we get the last chicklet out of the nest, we plan to downsize from the home and all of the trimmings to something like this:

Image Credit: .Larry Page

Our long-range plan is to sell our home, let our kids have any furniture they want, and move full-time into a fifth-wheel RV.  YAY!

It will be a used rig, because those things depreciate like crazy!  We have a HUGE consignment lot near us that always has used RVs for sale - many of them are less than a year or two old.  I've seen some really great renovations on RVs - which will happen because many of the RV manufacturers' design teams must be color-blind and permanently stuck in the eighties.

We want to move about four times a year so that we have plenty of time to check out our surroundings, which I want to be near amazing national and state parks so we have plenty of time to hike and explore.  I'd really like to work from home - wherever that is at the time.

It's going to take a lot of paring down to fulfill our dreams...

Thanks for joining me on the journey!