I’m not sure I’ll have the trim done, but I do have something else to show!
I’m not sure I’ll have the trim done, but I do have something else to show!
I imagine, during these last long days before Spring, there are different food we all crave when we seek out comfort. Mine is the color of sunshine on a warm summer morning.
I am pretty sure that if I were to go back in time and tell me six year old self that this humble fried egg sandwich would be something that not only would I eat, but actually dream about, I would think the messenger had me confused without someone else.
I love to cook, although sometimes my plans are grander than what time or energy may allow. But there are times when I need something filling, and warm, that wraps arounds me like a soft blanket, and of course it should be quick. It never ceases to amaze me with all the spices and recipes and fancy vinegars and oils I keep on hand, that it’s the humble combination of onion, butter, and eggs to which I always return.
Browned gently with a touch of salt, the onions become transformative, changing a few beaten eggs into substantive meal especially when placed between two slices of bread thickly spread with mustard.
It smells wonderful. I can’t imagine a more welcoming scent than onions and butter cooking together. This, to me, is the smell of home.
I know some recipes call for a gentle approach to heating the onions and cooking the eggs. This, however, isn’t a delicate recipe, and I find the browning of both with a quick and hot flame adds a bit of depth, a touch of texture, and a quality that some may call rustic, but I consider heartening. And you need the good old-fashioned yellow mustard here; dijon and whole grain have their place but it is not here on this sandwich.
My mom used to make this for supper and although I’m sure we had them occasionally all year, I associate them most with clear winter evenings when the light faded early and the fireplace was warm and inviting and burned your back when you sat too close.
This is a pile-it-high type of sandwich, one where the bits fall out through your fingers and onto your plate and you need utensils to dig it all up.
It is not just eggs and onions between the slices whole wheat, it is a powerful memory these simple meals serve to us. I suppose it’s a way of reconnecting to a simpler time when we had more care given to us than we had to distribute others as we do now as parents and neighbors and community members. How could I not feel comforted?
It’s called Royal Fuschia, a shade by Benjamin Moore. But really, everytime I looked at it, I couldn’t help but to sing Raspberry Beret.
It’s quite shocking, isn’t it? I mean, who paints magenta in a bathroom these days?
But paint it I did, and three people walked into the bathroom and never noticed it until after I pointed it out.
You see, it’s on the ceiling.
Tomorrow… the trim!
Once we—and by “we” I specifically mean my dad, under my awesome leadership (read, picture taking)—got the old tiles up and moved on out, it was time to move on to more exciting thing, specifically, laying the new Carrara marble pinwheel tiles.
I have had my eye on several different types of mosaic patterned tiles (links to my pinterest board) for a while, but it wasn’t until I saw these was taking my daughter back to the bathroom in Lowes—just a chance encounter—until I knew the pinwheel pattern would be perfect. And I knew this is what we needed on our half bath floor. I originally wanted to do white hex tile; it’s classic, timeless, easy to assimilate to most color palettes. But this? This made those hex tile look like Mom jeans, comfortable but lacking in sass and style.
No mom jeans here on this floor!
The next part was a little scary… the grey grout. Doesn’t look grey so much as black, does it? I wanted grey grout because white grout is too finicky for me and requires too many layers of sealant reapplied too often and way too much scrubbing in order to stay white.
And if you thought mixing it was scary, putting it on the floor was even more so.
Eek! I had to walk away at this point!
But in the end, of course, it all worked out.
Tomorrow, we can discuss paint and trim, well, if I get the trim up. It was supposed to be done last week, but we’ve fought a few rounds of the latest stomach bug with the kids for the past five days, so things got a bit derailed.
I promise you though… it’s nothing like mom jeans.
There’s been a project a-brewing here for quite some time.
The first floor half bath.
I guess, really, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it per se, but to me, it was just so plain jane. It had good bones but the wall color was off-putting (nothing like looking sallow morning, noon, and night), the floor tile was quite limiting in terms of palette choices, and overall it was just a bit, hrm, blah?
And honestly, that floor drove me crazy. In the last house I wanted to put up a glass tile wall, and I thought maybe I would do the same here, but anything that I picked out that fit the budget crashed and burned when put next to that tile. This is one room I’ve been thinking about updating since we moved in, but I couldn’t figure out what direction I wanted to take it in. Nothing really jumped out at me, shook my hand and said “Yes, thank you, I’m coming home with you.”
Then, while browsing around on the internet, I saw this wallpaper, and completely fell in love. Suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the room, what the floor would look like, accent colors, everything. It all fell into place.
And, uh, then I saw the price per roll, per 15 foot roll! Yeah, um, that’s not going to happen. Sigh, back to the drawing board, at least for the walls, but the colors and accents and flooring were still workable. So, I bought the supplies, called my trusty handyman, and got started. We would’ve started a bit earlier, but there was a blizzard and three days without power, and blah blah blah.
And here’s my handyman, otherwise known as Pappy, my Dad, Tom.
Pappy brought his magical air chisel…
…which made getting the old floor up and the mortar chipped away a breeze.
It took a half hour to get the tiles up, the mortar off, and the whole thing swept and ready to go.
Of course I made it sound all simple and easy-peasy, but the truth of the matter is that we had to put up the blankets we just took down to keep the dust out of the rest of the house, it took over and hour and quite a few under-the breathe curse words (from my husband, not me!) to get the sink off of the wall, and having all the stuff in the hallway completely disrupted our flow for the week.
Not such a bad price to pay or a new bathroom, but I do not think my husband would agree. He is not a happy DIY’er.
But maybe he’ll forget all his pain in another few weeks, because I have a few more projects up my sleeve!
Something’s been brewing here in Two AM land this week, and I promise it’s not tea…
This morning I sat editing the photos for today’s post, and my five year old son asked what I was doing. “Working,” I said while he cuddled up next to me. “Doesn’t look like work to me,” he replied. And I thought about it, this strange place in the world that allows me to take pictures of my pantry—my pantry—and have other people look at it; a place where organizing a pantry is newsworthy. I wonder what my Gram would have thought about this, whether she would shake her head and chuckle about the crazy world we live in, or whether she would find any value in the activity at all. I suspect, as the master of the practical that she was, the idea would be so foreign to her that she might even be slightly appalled at how much time I was spending writing posts and editing photos about such a task when there were more important chores waiting to be done such as the never-ending and thankless laundry. I know she would be absolutely stunned that I would sit here and write in the virtual world while actual dust bunnies gathered on the real world stairs.
Yes, it is a strange thing, this blog-land we participate in, yet I find it comforting even as I wonder if it’s too large a time sink in my life. It’s not that pantry organizing is such an interesting topic, really, at all. I think posting about it and reading about other organization projects on the web is more about recognizing a connection with others, experiencing a piece of our everyday, mostly boring lives, through the lens of another’s perspective. It’s a highlight reel of the mundane, an instant capture of the the unremarkable and normal, the things we all struggle with and that aren’t a normal topic of conversation when we still down with loved ones but that does fill up the most space in our day. I can’t imagine an article about a mother of four’s struggle with her pantry on the front page of the New York Times—well, not without a more interesting existential byline—but really, when I look back ten years from now, I’m sure I’ll wonder how I managed to find the time and con my dear friends into organizing a space that is immensely practical and useful and finding some way to make it pleasing.
Yes, there was the purchase of the organizing racks, the lazy susans, the can stackers, and the chalkboard labels, and yes, we cut up little circles and tied them with ribbon on the front of brightly colored paper baskets I bought on clearance two years ago at Lowes.
And we finally found a place for the step ladder that’s been hiding in the garage while I used the wobbly chair to reach the top shelves. It’s probably not in the best place though, because I still use the chair.
And there are pictures that show things that are precious to me and hold interesting bits of family history; the platters made when I had three, then four kids, my gram’s recipe box, a few pieces from my depression glass collection that is still packed up in the basement waiting for the time when it can once again see the light of day.
Really… why is it interesting? Why do I feel compelled to write about it?
And although I thank you for following along—I really really do—is it really interesting enough to hold your attention? Rows of “airtight” jars that need to be replaced because they’re not actually airtight? Cans aligned, side-by-side. Ziploc bags, scales, bakeware?
Maybe another reason we read about these things—trust me, I read and love them too—is not just about the connection we feel, but also the payoff. Who doesn’t love a great reveal, the feeling that something somewhere was accomplished by someone, maybe even someone ordinary enough to have piles of dust in her pictures and coffee splatters on her machine (erHEM).
Maybe that payoff gives us some hope that really, it can be done. We can take that step to make something useful to us better in some fashion. There is evidence in the world that not only do we all share some of the same struggles, but we can each of us appreciate a good resolution; good even if it’s not perfect, or perfectly staged, or exactly finished.
And I know that a few months from now I might look back at these pictures and be thankful that I took them because I know that if it looked like this once, it can look like this again.
And maybe some other day, many years in the future, I’ll look back at these and not necessarily wonder about the curiosity that is the subjects we chose to write about, but marvel at the ephemera I captured—dog dishes, maple syrup, paper plates, lentils, beans—a visual representation of a moment in time that was so ordinary that it was never given another thought, yet ends up invoking a network of emotions about a life and time that was anything but ordinary or unremarkable, because none of our lives are.
All of this because of a pantry.
Gram might have thought blogging is a silly venture, but surely I would have loved to see these tiny snippets of her life, from her perspective… a different type of payoff, a treasure of small, nondescript moments from a life that is gone, moments in time that end up being more meaningful than the perfect posed Christmas snapshots and portraits in a studio. An important portrait of a life rich, and full, and anything but insignificant to those who loved the life they represent.
I don’t know about you, but when taking on a larger project, a whole lot of smaller ones seem to pop-up. Right before Heather and Ashley arrived, I decided one of the projects I needed to tackle was the basement entry way.
Make sense, right? I mean, who doesn’t want a nice cleaned up staircase to greet them when they walk down the stairs to drop off things in the basement?
OK, fine. What if I told you a few months ago a not so clever mama dropped a quart of paint all over the wall, and it was just about time to clean it up?
Funny story about that paint spill. It happened minutes—minutes—after I dealt with another paint disaster, that being the baby dumping out half a quart can on herself and the floor. I came down from my bedroom, started getting the coffe brewing and heard a funny noise, which was the baby squidging around in all the lovely green latex paint I left on the floor in a coffee can the night before, feeling too lazy to take it down to the basement as I should’ve after finishing up the sideboard. So I grabbed her, got her bathed, rinsed out the clothes, mopped up the floor (possibly not quite in that order), grabbed one can in each hand, turned around and lost my grip on the can in my right, which flew gracefully and in slow motion out of my hand, bouncing at a delightful angle off the floor, flipping its lid and letting the Duck Egg Blue flow like precious turquoise milk through the air to splatter artfully on the steps and wall.
I hadn’t yet had one sip of coffee.
So it was time to take care of a bit of clean up in aisle one, and I had just the project in mind. If you remember this image from the pantry…
… it’s quite a crazy collection of all our pens and pencils and other various junk that needs a home for four months before I finally decide it’s OK to throw it all out. The paint spill was on the right side of the stairs…
… and on the left were two copper baskets I used to store my onions and garlic. Seems like a clever idea, right? But in the end the top of the basement stairs were too warm and kept rotting/sprouting everything I stored there, so they needed to be moved. Where sould one store onions and garlic? I know they can’t be stored with potatoes (You know that right? They both release gases that soften and sprout the other.) but I like to buy onions in bulk and need a better storage solution. You can also see how we recycle here. No, not in those lovely wall containers I made the husband install, but rather on the steps, which eventually starts blocking the path and makes a lovely sounds when you trip on them on your way to grab some paper towels.
At any rate, I thought the right side would be wonderful for another chalkboard to keep track of my shopping lists. So I took 20 minutes (2 sessions, 10 minutes each) to paint it and get it ready and working!
And on the other side I added one Grundtal bar to contain the pencil/pen mess, but still have it in an accessible spot.
I need another longer bar as well as a few S rings. Thought I had kept them after the last move, but if I did, I’ve placed them in some magical location that no person on this earth could find. It’s also where the mates to all my single socks go between the wash and the dry cycle. Also, I believe, my sanity.
We were all hoping to make it out to IKEA last week (or was it the week before that?), but all our plans were derailed by the lovely blizzard that blew on through and took our power.
And my sanity.
I also began cleaning the third floor office, the basement, and the garage. No, I’m not kidding. No, not any single one of those had any bearing what-so-ever on the pantry project. No, I did not really think it through. See above sanity references.
Otherwise entitled :: It Might Get Worse Before It Gets Better…
OK, the pantry has been done for a few weeks now, but hey! Let’s pretend this is in real-time, shall we?
Some of my favorite people in the whole world came to visit for two quick days in January to help me out. It was such a short visit that I felt bad in possibly wasting our time cleaning out the pantry when we could be doing much more interesting things like watching Downton Abbey while sitting on the couch, but I gotta tell you, Ms. Heather is an organizing machine. Do you have a friend like that in your life, someone who thinks organizing is fun? If not, I suggest you find yourself one, because they are so much more than awesome!!
A few weeks (possibly months, but who is counting) I sent Heather a few images of the mess in the pantry and asked her for some advice. Here’s what she wrote back in ten minutes or less ::
Who knew thinking up a plan could be so adorable and stylish? Maybe I should get out of my yoga pants and throw on some make-up when it’s time to clean up…
But seriously, where I was paralyzed with inactivity and feeling overwhelmed with all the decisions that would have to be made, she dove right in. We started moving things around, putting them in “temporary” locations, so we could start with a “fresh slate”.
And it’s here that I’ll mention two things : One, it’s embarrassing to have your dearly beloveds come to your house and dig you out of the messes you’ve gotten yourself into… while Heather worked on the pantry, Ashley worked in the playroom; and two, they were the very epitome of grace while doing it, and managed to put me and my neurosis at ease and make the process as fun as it could be. They are good peeps, those two.
So here’s the thing; with this type of project, as with most on this scale, it all gets worse before it gets better. It reminds me of the mess the movers made a few years go when we first moved up to the Boston area. If the gals weren’t here, I would’ve probably stopped right here and started to cry. Then waited a month of two to get started again.
I wasn’t the only one feeling a titch overwhelmed. Some of the youngin’s felt they need protective gear to get through!
Seriously, this is the moment that I realized how important it was to have someone helping me through the process that isn’t emotionally attached to the stuff. Heather is able to see the end goal; she envisioned where things were going to go and what needed to be moved around and in what order. I saw growing piles of unfulfilled dreams, an encapsulation of all the things I wanted to do but haven’t made time for. Piles and piles and piles of teeny tiny little failures. It’s no wonder I couldn’t jump in and organize it on my own.
Heather doesn’t see the unmade gourmet meals I had planned to create to nourish my family. She doesn’t see unbaked cookies, an unconstructed lasagna, loaves of bread that were never kneaded into life, a fear of being without, of not having enough. She sees the clutter for what it is, and she has the personal distance from my symbolic mental contortions that it’s much easier for her to stay focused.
And focus she did, with a laser-like clarity. Looky at this image above… actual WHITE SPACE! It was such an amazing thing to see only a few hours into this task. One shelf almost entirely organized, and glorious, beautiful, fabulous white space, space that has nothing but air and clarity and fulfillment and promise.
I didn’t think that organizing the pantry would be quite so cathartic, but I will tell you, it was one hell of a therapy session! And it only cost me dinner!!
A few weeks, erm, uh, months ago, I wrote to one of my friends, Heather, to
ask beg for help with a project that needed some attention :: My pantry. I am lucky enough to have a friend who loves to organize, even though I thought such a person only lived in rainbow-land with the unicorns.
These are the pictures I sent her, which I will present to you, without comment.
That’s my pantry in all its glorious, hideous, excess of mess. She took pity on me, and this week I’m going to tackle this disaster (which has only gotten worse since I wrote the email, I can no longer see the floor) with her help. I’m gathering up all my resources and motivation now because she’s coming at the end of the week for a visit, and I want to get the pantry looking as close to those photos as I can, so I have some work to do. I am so thankful that I will be able to corral this into something that works better and I’m not embarrassed to be seen in. This is my project for the week; I hope you’ll stick around and chide me when I fall behind and offer your brilliant ideas and laugh when I spill lentils all over the floor.
Please, tell me I’m not the only one with a pantry like this?