the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Dusting off my Southern hospitality

This post is brought to you by Target.


About ten days ago I got a text message from a very good friend of mine who lives in Los Angeles. Kathy was the first girlfriend I made when I moved there back in 1999, a fellow Southerner who worked with me at an Internet startup. Our shared Southern heritage helped us bond immediately, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. She said she had a situation with her family going on back home in Georgia and was taking a road trip to get there. Would I mind if she stopped in Salt Lake City for a night? WOULD AH MAAHND? WOULD AH MAAHND? Yes. Her texts have a Southern accent. And they drink sweet tea.


This is my favorite story about Kathy, and it’s not so much a story about her as it is a story that she likes to tell: we used to swap tales about the weeks in summer as kids that we’d spend at Vacation Bible School which is a little bit like going to camp. It’s like Jesus Camp. And one year they held a rally at the gymnasium at her church, A RALLY, where half of the kids sat on one side of the bleachers and half of the kids sat on the opposite side. And one side would yell, “When I say Jesus, you say Jesus. Say, ‘Jesus!'” And then other side in turn would respond, “JESUS!” This would go on and on and get louder with each round, all these Southern kids screaming, “JESUS!” until they were blue in the face. And most likely turning it into a seven-syllable word. I asked her what she thought the point was and she’d always say very matter-of-factly, “Heather, when I say Jesus, you say Jesus.”

Two days after that text she was headed my way, so I made sure that the guest room was ready. Tyrant had met her when she visited over the New Years holiday, and he suggested we gather some friends to make her visit a treat. We didn’t have much time to prepare for her arrival, but Tyrant isn’t called Tyrant just for fun. No. He’s a lot like my mom in that “not a lot of time” means “all the time in the world and enough left over that you can warm it up for dinner.”


We called up some of his friends who have in turn become my friends:




What? I ran out of exclamation points.




And then I asked Cami to see if she could take the night off of work to hang out:


Cami then invited her best friend Philippe:


Side note: Philippe got accepted into medical school at Columbia University. Yeah. Medical school. AT COLUMBIA. Except he’s working in public health right now, helping people, helping people who need the help, so he’s deferring. Because he’s helping people. Could someone please talk to him about his priorities?

I didn’t want to break the bank feeding all these people so Tyrant and I came up with a plan to work with as much as we had on hand and to keep the recipes as simple as possible. So! Just what is inside my Paleo refrigerator other than warthog?







Don’t worry, we procured bread for those who are ignoring ALL THE BLINKING WARNING SIGNS ABOUT GLUTEN HAVEN’T YOU HEARD? You haven’t? Well, I’m certainly not going to tell you. There’s a place called “google” and a whole bunch of people known as “fanatics” who can fill you right in.

To push it beyond a leisurely gathering of friends and food, Tryant wanted to string lights outside. And at first I thought, that’s fine. Because I imagined that he’d wind them down the staircase or drape them along the railing in the yard. What I did not expect was this:



Move over Avon World Sales Leader. These are a few strands of clear globe lights found here for those who saw a preview of this on Instagram and wondered.


Another side note: Marlo was away with my mother on a trip when all of this happened. When she returned and walked outside to play in the backyard, she looked up at this masterpiece, gasped and then called for Tyrant.


He and I spent a few minutes cracking up before he explained, “No, Marlo. You can’t swing from those. Those will break if you try that.”

“Look right there,” she said, determined. “There’sth a pole! There’sth a pole right there. Lift me up and I’ll sthow you.”

Living with that kid is exactly like living inside a kaleidoscope.

This should explain the picture of Dane’s legs on a ladder in my yard. Dane wasn’t able to join us until much much later in the evening because of his job, but his handiwork dazzled everyone, my kid included. Sadly, no one lifted her up so that she could swing from the lights. But if in the middle of the night I hear one of these snap and a consequent THUMP we will all know who is not asleep in her bed.

Dane also usually helps with the grilling, but Natalie stepped in this time. Yeah, I don’t grill, either. What DO I do? Haven’t you ever heard of George Foreman?



You’re not going to see name plates decorated with gorgeous calligraphy on any of the dinner tables that I’m in charge of. And I’m not sure everyone had matching silverware. That’s not my area of expertise. What I CAN do is provide a place and an atmosphere where people, both friends and strangers, can gather and forget about all that other stuff for a few hours. And that night I think I pulled it off.



















This summer inspiration is brought to you by Target. Find more fun and surprises all season long on Target’s #SummerUp Pinterest board.

  • Kera Linnea

    2013/06/26 at 9:14 am

    I love all these photos…Looks like such a good time!

  • Samantha Davis

    2013/06/26 at 9:25 am

    Target is my favorite & I love this post. 🙂

  • Erin

    2013/06/26 at 9:40 am

    What are the yummy cocktails? The ones that look orange? Glad the party was a success!

  • tiffanyincali

    2013/06/26 at 9:43 am

    Those are the best get-togethers… cozy, comfortable, un-stuffy (is that a word?), and it looks like everyone had a ton of fun. I love the lights- are they from TARGET?

  • Jenn from Much to My Delight

    2013/06/26 at 9:44 am

    Your friends are all so…pretty. And with good food, you don’t need no doilies. I don’t understand the point of dessert tables or making labels for water bottles. That’s for people who can’t cook.

  • Rrrandall

    2013/06/26 at 9:46 am

    This blog’s recent 200% increase in Joseph is a good, good thing.

  • tmb

    2013/06/26 at 9:57 am

    aw man, I’m gonna have to BBQ tonight now. That food looked so good. And it’s 60 degrees and raining here.

  • Jennifer Hewett

    2013/06/26 at 9:58 am

    The best part of this? The slightly-hidden bottle of Charles Shaw (aka $2Chuck). Nicely done!

  • Amber Gregory

    2013/06/26 at 10:01 am

    Love it.

  • kth201

    2013/06/26 at 10:05 am

    I got those lights from Target for my wedding. They are AMAZING. One tip, though: you can’t shake out tangled strands like you can with Christmas lights. These suckers break. So, be careful.

  • nervrom

    2013/06/26 at 10:18 am

    Those…look like potato fries.

  • Kate S.

    2013/06/26 at 10:26 am

    More Joseph and his outfits, please.

  • kmpinkel

    2013/06/26 at 10:32 am

    We bought those lights from target last season for an inpromptu summer party, as well. They are the bomb! Nothing screams “I got it together!” like awesome lighting! (please note this post was never to imply your lights are sooo last season. I prefer timeless)

  • Mindy Williams

    2013/06/26 at 10:36 am

    This made me smile wide for you. What a fun night!

  • Mrs. Kennedy

    2013/06/26 at 10:44 am

    I’m on my way and I’m bringing avocados.

  • Erin @ Dwell & Tell

    2013/06/26 at 10:52 am

    Which camera lense did you use at the party? Photos look great!

  • shanparker

    2013/06/26 at 10:56 am

    Charles Shaw always brings class to a party!

  • Cassandra Marie

    2013/06/26 at 11:10 am

    Who doesn’t love happy people eating with pretty lights overhead? It makes me want to have a get together now!

  • Diane Maggipinto

    2013/06/26 at 11:30 am

    i thought the tri tip was perched on someone’s shoes for the photo. so … next time maybe.

  • KristenfromMA

    2013/06/26 at 11:54 am

    I agree with what everyone else already said, but I do want to add one thing: any posts that lets me look at pictures of the beautiful Tyrant are OK in my book!

  • KristenfromMA

    2013/06/26 at 11:56 am

    But don’t they look totally sweeeeet?

  • Scully

    2013/06/26 at 12:01 pm

    Miss Schader looks just like Sutton Foster!

  • Frank Purrkins

    2013/06/26 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you so very much for not being a design blog.

  • Torchness

    2013/06/26 at 12:17 pm

    More picture captioning and definitely more Joseph

  • WebSavvyMom

    2013/06/26 at 12:35 pm

    –>I was wondering what the cocktails were as well. Please share.

  • Tai

    2013/06/26 at 12:45 pm

    Joseph used to run the perfume counter at the Orem Nordstrom before the store was shut down, and cruelly wrenched from us. Every time he pops up on your blog it reminds me, and I go through withdrawals all over again. But sure, other than that, great post! And seriously, Cami has the most perfect hair.

  • Carla King

    2013/06/26 at 12:51 pm

    I love those lights. Your rental home has a lot of charm. Everything seems so cozy and comfortable.

  • NolaMomma

    2013/06/26 at 1:18 pm

    Brussels Sprouts, with an S at the end of Brussels…seriously. It’s ridiculous, but it’s true. Love all the community you got going on over there, looks like a great group.

  • Mabel

    2013/06/26 at 1:24 pm

    I love the lights, and I’m trying to do something similar in a backyard for a 70th wedding anniversary. Though there are no large posts to work with, except the house. Is that a pole strung from the house to the tree? And if so, where did you get it? I read the post fairly quickly so it is possible I have missed a critical detail. thank you!

  • Breanne

    2013/06/26 at 1:41 pm

    I love this whole post. I especially love the photo captions on the photos. Maybe I’m easy to please or maybe it’s because today is so happy… most likely it’s both and that the post is legit awesome.

  • Stephanie Brower Czosnek

    2013/06/26 at 3:01 pm

    Remember when you used to post Cami photos of her fashion? Yeah, that needs to happen with Joesph! ♥ his look!!

  • Lisa H.

    2013/06/26 at 3:40 pm

    I don’t mean anything other than genuine love but can I just say how glad I am that you got Tyrant in the divorce?!? Your friendship is pure magic and a delight to read about!

  • Beth Foster

    2013/06/26 at 5:24 pm

    Did you on purpose omit the fact that Chris is a member of One Direction? Cause I totally would have been all name dropping that shizzle. 😉

  • Grace

    2013/06/26 at 5:51 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for years and now I just realized that it’s Tryant, not Tyrant. I kept looking at him and thinking, he looks like a very nice person, why is she nicknaming him Tyrant? Oh, wait, it’s tagged Tyrant… I’m confused

  • Leah Shannon

    2013/06/26 at 9:37 pm

    I want a friend that dresses like Joseph.

  • dixdex

    2013/06/27 at 1:05 am

    Oh dear Lord. This made me cackle. Best kind of party, who cares about “design blog”? Everybody wishes their parties were this much fun.

  • Carol

    2013/06/27 at 1:38 am

    It IS Tyrant. It’s his nickname. His name is John

  • Carol

    2013/06/27 at 1:39 am

    He runs Heather’s house like a tyrant : )

  • Ffion

    2013/06/27 at 2:04 am

    A good atmosphere beats calligraphied nameplates every time. And I say that as a designer 😉 And a hobby calligrapher.

  • StaceFace

    2013/06/27 at 4:38 am

    Man alive, those are some good looking people. Seriously. Alex kinda looks like Even Peters. Yes?

  • ChickWhitt

    2013/06/27 at 9:27 am

    I long to have a backyard with lights and a variety of mismatched furniture that doesn’t look like redneck white trailer trash. I have yet to achieve this. You did it nicely, love it!

    My big goal is to have one just like the grandparents on “Parenthood”.

  • Crystal

    2013/06/27 at 9:57 am

    Looks like fun! Who cares if it’s not a design blog ;o). It’s a real life blog.

  • Necole Kell

    2013/06/27 at 12:37 pm

    I love Joseph. I am in awe of the hula hooping while playing with a ball! Awe I tell ya.

  • Dancermom429

    2013/06/27 at 1:22 pm

    Those glasses! Can’t stop looking at Joseph!!

  • KHM

    2013/06/27 at 7:36 pm

    Cami’s new hair? A 10! Yes, a 10! She’s got the blonde that I used to pay a lot of money trying to attain, yet never achieved.

  • Magatha

    2013/06/27 at 8:04 pm

    I’m so glad you gave the fine dentition a shout-out. That’s what I kept thinking: OMG, these people are gorgeous, their teeth are perfect!

  • Lindsey

    2013/06/28 at 8:07 am

    Beautiful photos. Beautiful people. Beautiful blog. Well done …. ma’am (keepin with the whole southern hospitality theme).

  • Erin Gill

    2013/06/28 at 9:51 am

    Do you have ugly people barbeques as well?

  • Danalan

    2013/06/28 at 7:04 pm

    Don’t you know any fat people? Are you sure you’re in the United States? Unrelated: I want to play Cards against Humanity with you.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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