Cupboard Under the Stairs

Don’t worry, we don’t have plans for a new room for Natalie a la Harry Potter.

Rather, this is dealing with our basement.

image(3)This is what it looks like on a good day. Sean just cleaned yesterday.

image_1(3)Like any typical American, our basement holds a lot of stuff. But what I’m focusing on right now is all of our SCA garb and gear. Currently, it’s hanging on this rack (which has collapsed on us before)…

image_4(2)…and in these bins. Which means I have to dig any time we go to an event. Ignore the laundry basket on top, please.

image_2(3)My solution? The crawl space under the stairs. It currently holds all of the paint in our home, which we haven’t touched in years. Our water shut off is under there, so we can’t completely block it, but here’s the plan:


  • clean out and safely dispose of all the paint
  • cover up the insulation on the right hand wall (see the pink fluffy? yeah, that)
  • put up a closet rod by the front of the opening
  • sort through the bins and store them in the back
  • pick up a plastic drawer set to store our socks and other accessories
  • hang all long clothing to cover the space

understairsbeforeOur home is meh on storage space, so this is the start of my efforts to think outside of the box in order to make what we do have work for us.


Mother Runner

I’ve begun running again in the last couple of months and, with the exception of October, have had a lot of success with getting up in the mornings and running before the kiddos arrive. Believe me, it’s more of a shock to me than to most. But I have gotten a lot of comments about how they couldn’t get up at 5 to run. I used to think that too. Here’s what’s changed my mind:

  • I’m a wife and mom. 5 am means a solid hour and a half of ME time.
  • Coffee. I set the pot brewing when I leave and it’s a welcome celebration when I get back.
  • I find I’m more awake when my alarm goes off at 4:45 than when I ignore it and sleep til 6.
  • My first kid arrives a little before 7. This ensures I have time to prep for the day instead of rushing to catch up with it from the time my feet hit the floor.
  • It forces me to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Someday this will be 10pm.
  • No one is awake when I get home, which means a nice hot shower for me, no rushing.
  • This time of year, with my schedule, the only time I can run is when it’s dark out. It’s safer to run the streets in the morning, when there are a lot less cars. (My husband knows my route anyway for safety’s sake)
  • It sets the tone for your whole day. You either start with a win or a loss. It’s amazing the funk I’ve felt having losses most of October.
  • You feel a bit like a bad ass saying you get up at 5am to run 😉

Maybe this will change your mind, maybe this will inspire you, maybe this was just an activity to motivate myself on bleary eyed mornings.


Second Chance Sunday: London and Natalie

Wow…sometimes you start writing a post and it just never gets published. But it really should have, because it was a gem. This was one of those that I found in my drafts folder.

So I’m having my own version of Throwback Thursday: Second Chance Sunday.

This post featured my “first born”, London, and was originally written back when Natalie was only a few months old:

A lot of people have been asking how the cats are adjusting to the wee princess. Thankfully I can say pretty well on both accounts. London was always a mama’s boy, in my lap at every opportunity. Once my belly got in the way he begrudgingly sought solace in daddy’s lap instead, and still has to for the most part. He does look for every chance to steal the lap or even share it with Natalie. It’s a very competitive relationship.


Today I snuck into Natalie’s room to take some pictures while she napped, and London decided he couldn’t just let her be the center of attention.

So first he showed off by nailing the high jump into the crib.


Then he checked to make sure he had good light.


Shook out his fur.


And posed.


As a follow up to this post, at 21 months old, Natalie is extremely good with animals of all kinds, and I attribute that to learning with the cats. From the get go we taught her to be gentle, and nice, and to not play with their faces. I’ve only had to remind her a handful of times about not grabbing the tail. “Kitty” was one of her first words, and she loves her big brothers. London will allow her to pet him as long as she’s slow, but Malcolm will still dart away rather than risk it. Eventually he’ll realize she’s another source of scritches and wise up.

London has a nasty habit of scratching our door jambs, and Natalie has picked up on our reprimands of him. She’s taken to admonishing him with a “London, no!” if she thinks he’s up to no good…which is 75% of the time. The other day she scolded him for knocking a tape measure off the bookshelf, then discovered that he wanted to chase it and began wiggling it like a wand for him. This only furthers London’s disillusion that I gave birth to Natalie only so he could have a devoted playmate and petter.


Marilynn Esther Benedix Gage (1922 – 2013)

This past week has been hard on my family. We had to say goodbye to an incredible woman, my grandmother.


It started last Tuesday, when she was admitted to the hospital for what they originally thought to be a UTI. Things quickly turned for the worse, and by Wednesday evening she was gone. Just like that.

Half of my grandmother (it’s the only older photo I have) with my parents. Yes, my parents are hotties.

Less than a week later, the funeral was done, and we were getting back to life as usual.

Life goes on. A sentiment at once promising and heartbreaking.


December 2012, reading to Natalie, 11 months old.

She’d been declining in health for the last 2 years, waffling between her home in Maine, my mother’s home here in Massachusetts, and finally, a rest home in Worcester for her final year. There she was visited daily by her daughters, grandchildren, and great grandchild. I am eternally grateful that she was so present in Natalie’s life, the brief amount of time that was in the grand scheme of things.


From June 2012, when Natalie (6 months) and I took care of her in Maine for 3 weeks.

She was the only grandmother I knew. My father’s mother died before I was born. Some may feel sorry for themselves, and I wish I could have known my other grandma, but I never felt deprived or lacking in only knowing Grandma Gage. As a matter of fact, I considered myself luckier than most. Now I have the extremely difficult task of keeping her memory alive so that Natalie will know who this loving, elegant lady was. When the opportunity arose to speak at her funeral, I jumped at the chance. Not only so I could tell others how blessed I was to have had her as my grandma, but also to create a record for myself and Natalie in the years to come, while the emotions were fresh.

Briana speakingI prayed for the right words, and here they are:

“Hi, my name is Briana, and I am a ‘Gage Girl’. For those unfamiliar with the term, it was lovingly coined by the men who have joined our family through marriage. What defines a ‘Gage Girl’? Well, we are notoriously running a little behind schedule, we are all beneath the average height for a normal adult woman (some more so than others), we like tea with our cream and sugar, and we bounce our feet in unison when sitting on the couch like a troop of vertically-challenged Rockettes. Grandpa would be proud. [side bar: Grandpa had a soft spot for the Rockettes.] But growing up a ‘Gage Girl’ meant so much more than that. After all, these men married us for a reason. We were brought up by the best, whether directly or indirectly.”

mom_janet“As a new mom, you question every choice you make in raising your child. I wish Grandma had written a book, because she has built a legacy that I only dream of rivaling when my days here are over. But in a way, she did. She kept notebooks of quotes and thoughts that appealed to her or made her giggle. In rifling through one of them, I came across this:

Mom: prays, laughs, gives hope, believes, cares, blesses, supports, comforts and encourages.”

Natalie_cuddle” Grandma did all of those things. Her faith was rock solid, and it shone through her service to her church, family and friends, her quiet grace, and her thoughtfully crafted prayers over home-cooked meals. Her smile lit up a room, and she’d sit quietly for a half hour only to chime in with a witty joke or funny anecdote from her youth. Laughter fills our family gatherings. People were drawn to her because she cared so much for others. Everyone was important. To be a Gage meant knowing you were unconditionally loved. She was proud of each and every one of us, and she showed it. Whether she was announcing our visits in church, remembering the little things in one of her many handwritten notes to us, or wanting to know the latest in our acting, music, gymnastics, writing, schoolwork, family and careers. We’ve all had our trials, our bumpy moments, but she was always there to love us. It didn’t matter if you were her child, grandchild, great grandchild, spouse, steprelative, just a date, or the person she met at the post office…you were FAMILY.”

salute“As I grew older, Grandma and I found more ways to relate: our enjoyment of recreating history (though she admitted she and the other ladies at the Revolutionary War camps would seek refuge overnight at the hotel), our love for mystery novels, or most recently, over war stories from being a new mom. I see now that so much of who I am, who we are, is founded by her. How she raised her children and therefore how her children raised us.”

present“Proverbs 13:22 says ‘a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children’. Well, we are all vastly wealthy thanks to this good woman. Thank you, Grandma. Because of you, your inheritance will continue to bless many generations to come.”

Now excuse me while I go use up a box of Kleenex.

Another Week of Smart Shopping

While nowhere near as thrilling as getting a free item, today’s shopping trip had me spending less and saving more than last week. I saved 40.42% and only used 3 coupons! The store was having a mega meat sale (40-50% off in some cases) plus a few other buy 1 get 2 free sales. I was able to get a lot of freezer stock for the next few weeks of meals. Now, the pic below is my total for today. And while almost $90 isn’t anything to brag about on any Extreme Couponer board, it’s the savings and the items I got that have me doing a happy dance.


This included:

 – 12 chicken breasts

 – 2 marinated pork tenderloins

 – 6 pork chops

 – gallon of milk

 – 2 boxes of cereal

 – 3 packs English muffins

 – 3 loaves of bread

 – 3 boxes choco chip cookies (craft night ladies, we’ll be eating well!)

 – 4 boxes brownie mix (see? what did I tell you ladies?)

 – 2 bottles laundry detergent

 – box of fabric softener

 – 20 yogurts

 – dozen eggs

 – 2 boxes Jello pudding

 – 2 boxes of tea

 – 2 bunches of bananas

 – 3pk of sponges

So I’m pretty pleased with myself.

And P.S. that $0.67 off a gallon will make filling the van a little less painful next time.

#15 Water Bug | Summer Bucket List 2012

Natalie’s first time swimming wasn’t on my initial bucket list since I haven’t owned a bathing suit since my honeymoon 5 years ago. But with the oppressive heat we’ve had lately, an opportunity arose to swim in a friend’s pool, and my sentimental voice piped up saying “Awww, Natalie’s first time swiiiiiimmmminng!”

So we made a Target stop to get Sean and me some new bathing suits and off we went.

Now, Natalie’s fairly fearless but I didn’t know how she’d react to less than bath temp water.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

Watch for her in the 2032 Olympics.

Once she’s built up some stamina 🙂

#4 Take Natalie to a Lighthouse | The Gardell Summer Bucket List 2012

While in Maine last month, my mom and I took advantage of a sunny afternoon and took Natalie and Grandma to Marshall Point Lighthouse for a picnic.

This was Natalie’s reaction to the lighthouse.

She thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing sea breeze and the chance to dip her toes into a tide pool.

And if you’re thinking, “I’ve seen this ramp and light somewhere before,” it’s because it was featured in Forest Gump.

Four Month Life Savers

I thought it was time for an update from my life savers after one month.

I still use the Moby wrap frequently, though when we go for walks, I use the stroller more often. Since Natalie’s gotten so much stronger, we don’t use the car seat attachment, and she loves to watch the world go by. Or conk out halfway through.

The Rock N’ Play has fallen into disuse, with the exception of shower time. She’ll sit in it while I wash up, then I’ll reach out and she’s at the perfect height to pull her in to join me. (clarification note: only she joins me, the rock n’ play does not)

Burp cloths seem to be everywhere, and yet I never seem to have enough. Tea is still my sanity saver, and my hair tie reminder is currently on my left wrist.

Now for what has entered our lives in the last three months:

1) The Play Gym

Natalie loves her gym, she can wiggle and grab and bat at the dangling animals. At first I was averse to the idea of a play gym, they are notoriously loud in color, design, and sound. They require batteries and an anti-seizure medicine to deal with their flashing lights and music (others may love that for their babies, but I’m not one of them). So I walked down the aisle and nearly gave up. Plus, what is with them ALL being a safari theme? Not everyone wants lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

But then I came across the Infantino Twist and Fold Gym. Yes, it has safari animals, but they’re in a cuter, vintage style fabric. Plus it collapses easily for me to stow away or bring with us. Its been amazing watching Natalie develop from batting at the animals to reaching for the rings, to intentionally grabbing them and trying to pull them to her mouth.

2) Sophie the Giraffe

There’s a reason Sophie is so popular. Natalie loves to chew on her nose, her ears, her feet, and the legs are skinny enough that she can grasp them. Plus the squeak she makes is another surprise for her (those with dogs, beware! She sounds just like their squeaky toys). So when the teething demon arrives in your home, splurge on her…she’s worth it.

3) Amber Teething Necklace

The belief is that the Baltic amber releases an oil when warmed by the body, and that oil has anti-inflammatory properties that ease the symptoms of teething. While I can’t scientifically prove that it’s true, I do believe that it is helping Natalie. After only a day of wearing it, the rash from her excessive drool had faded, and her cheeks aren’t so red. I don’t know if she’d be crankier without it, and I’m not taking it off to find out!

4) Nursing Cover

We go everywhere with Natalie. She’s in the play I’m currently rehearsing. She’s well socialized, travels well, and is also a breast feeder. I have breastfed at church, at the mall, at the theater, at restaurants, and no one has said “boo” about it. That’s mostly because I have a fabulous nursing cover, and most times, the passerby has no idea that I’m feeding the wee princess.

Hopefully this will help some other new parents, and I’d love to hear from you as to what has been useful and what hasn’t.

Disclaimer: The links provided will take you to the Life as a Gardell Amazon Associates Store

Hippity Hoppity Easter Came and Went

One of the downsides to starting your own family is having to split your holidays. Trying to create your own traditions while maintaining the ones with your different families can be exhausting and stressful. Luckily, we’ve been blessed that previous traditions have allowed us leisure time with both families on Thanksgiving and Christmas. But Easter’s always been tough. We split lunch with my family, dessert with Sean’s, and crawl into bed exhausted at the end of the day.

But this year plans were changed. Unfortunately it lost us our time with our extended families, but we were able to gather our immediate families together at our home and enjoy ourselves, instead of dashing around Central Massachusetts.


Natalie got loved on from sun up to sun down. She was the cutest baby at church, and she actually spared her Easter dress from the usual onslaught of drool and spit up, and wore it all day.


My mom made an amazing spread of ham, au gratin potatoes, green bean casserole, etc etc and so on. It all disappeared from my plate in a glorious blur.


 My beautiful sister brought her boyfriend…Image

…and her adorable foster kitten. The resident fur boys were a little put out, but they got over it when we left a bit of ham in their food dishes.


And this is the part where I brag on my baby girl. She couldn’t have been cuter in her little dress and flower headband. Oh, and the dress had POCKETS! 


I die.


As my last point, can I bring your attention to her little toes? She clenches them around anything that comes near them, and cups her feet together, so ladylike.