It All Got Started…

…when I hung some curtains, well, I suppose, they are sheers. Well, they’re not exactly sheers either… they’re cotton swiss dot… uh… things to hang in a window that prevents everyone driving by from looking in when your daughters are putting on yet another two hour dance show. And now I’m in the throes of moving things all over the house.

The Sheers or Something

But we started with window coverings. And look! It worked! Privacy that doesn’t exclude the pretty, pretty light! Unfortunately, all that nice, filtered, soft light made it obvious the rest of the room needed some work. Or maybe it was all the piles of stuff in the shelf and under and beside the bed that I had managed to ignore before that sent me over the edge.

Old Bed Arrangement

Old Dresser Position

We’ve shifted the girls around a bit in the past few months, to try to align sleeping with room arrangements, one moving into her own room and the baby into a new room and a new bed. It’s been going… uh… it’s been going… hmm. I guess it’s been going. Eventually we want all the girls to be in the same room, but we couldn’t quite wrap our head around how to arrange the beds. with all the windows and doors. So I decided I would try to fit a bed where the dresser was, and move the dresser in front of the window.

Dresser in Window

It was feeling a bit cramped. But I persevered!

And yes, before we go any further, you’re right, there is a significant amount (nearly all of it) of IKEA furniture and other fixin’s in here. Ah… IKEA… we have flipped and flopped with our decisions to add more of their products in our home. I think it will likely always be a mix of their pieces and old vintage flea market finds for us; IKEA is practical, their manufacturing processes are economical, and their environmental practices are a far cry above others, and honestly, you pay the right price for what you’re getting. I find most furniture stores offering similar quality pieces for a significant percentage more and paying all that money for something the kids will only need/use/want for a few years boggles my mind.

Flipped Around

But back to the arrangements, I surprisingly liked putting the beds in front of the window, flipping them with the dresser, the pushing the youngest’s bed closest to the wall. And now it’s obvious the third bed can easily fit!

Different Angle

The Rug

All the past week (I started with a bang, then the schedule overtook us all) making changes in the room, organizing the stack, tossing out things that were beyond broken or were no longer useful, moving furniture from other parts of the house, refinishing some pieces, dusting everything and scrubbing baseboards, packing up small clothing sizes out and bringing in things that fits… there has been a lot of work here, but it’s still not done. I’ll show you more as things settle and plans are made.

One thing that’s absolutely certain? This rug has gotta go! I think I’m going to sell it, but NOT to someone who has small children who enjoy legos. Or beads. Or playmobile… or anything small, plastic or wood, with sharp or pointy edges. Well, not unless they sign a waiver. Stepping across this rug in bare feet is both brave and stupid… and I don’t want to be held liable for someone else’s pain and suffering.

Yeah, it started with the sheers, and now I’m knee deep in the thick of it all over the house. Hopefully I can dig my way back out this week!

The Baby’s Room :: Dressing the Windows

I’m making progress, one slow little baby step at a time, on the littlest one’s room. I’d really like to have it “done” by the end of the week, but the more time I spend in there, the more ideas I come up with, which isn’t helping with the whole let’s get it done mentality.

One of the things I worked on this weekend was dressing up her bare naked windows.

Bare Naked Blinds

How do you feel about window coverings? There were sheers and curtains on nearly every window in each room in the house when I was growing up. And my mom still feels like a window without a curtain is pretty close to a criminal act. But I’ve got to tell you, here in this house, we hate the though of covering any little bit of the view out of ours. It might have something to do with how dark our first house was and how light-starved we felt, or possibly it’s how sometimes we have to pinch ourselves just to make sure that view is real life, or maybe it’s just that I’m too cheap to buy large swaths of fabric that do so very little other than look nice. I do have to admit there are certain windows that needs some sort of privacy covering (bathroom, anybody?), but I still have trouble finding anything I want to put up.

Whatever the reason for our window covering hesitation, we were incredibly thankful that the previous owners had installed room-darkening roller blinds on all the bedroom windows. Our kids go down incredibly early every night (5 pm for the baby and 6.30 for the older kids) and those room darkening shades certainly help in the spring and summer months when there is more light in the evening. I have to tell you, I am not so enamored with the brown/tan/taupe material used to make each one. The good thing is, when they’re down, it’s too dark to see them, and when they’re rolled up, you see only the tiny bit of the topper. But, those few inches really aggravated me.

I had a little idea, and thanks to ebay, a little box arrived in the mail a few days later. I found a sweet lot of delicate white handkerchiefs, which I thought would work nicely laid across the valance (how do you pronounce this… VALance or vaLANCE?) helping me achieving the vintage feel I’m trying to create in the room.

Handkerchiefs

When I opened the box, I caught the faint scent of a delicate perfume. The handkerchiefs themselves were in beautiful condition and the handwork blew me away. Tiny little knots, crocheted lace, hemstitching, embroidered details, super fine fabric; all of it reminiscent of another, more genteel time.

Not So Naked Anymore

I’m happy to report that this idea came together very easily and just as I imagined. The fabric is so airy light it is very nearly transparent.

Little Details

All those beautiful details are even more pronounced when the sunlight filters through and it doesn’t feel like we are blocking any of our spectacular sea view.

Hemstiched

Handkerchief Valance

Beautiful Hand Embroidery

The best thing about this? It is completely no-sew. They are simply folded and tucked into the crevice between the topper and the window frame. And when they get dusty? I can just give them a little tug and throw them into the washing machine.

Beautiful Borders

Such Detail

Crocheted Edge

They cover that rather indelicate brown/taupe/tan valance with just a hint of girliness.

Quite the View

Well, that was pretty easy! Now, onto a few more changes before the week is out!

Food on Friday :: Fried Egg Sandwich

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.

Butter Onion Salt

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.

Nicely Browned

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.

Add Beaten Eggs

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.

Falls Right On Out

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.

Yellow Mustard

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.

Piled High

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.

Time to Eat

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 distributed others, the care we give freely now as parents and neighbors and community members. How could I not feel comforted remembering that love?

Half Bath Project :: A Little Painting Here and There

Some Color

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.

Rollin Rollin Rollin

It’s quite shocking, isn’t it? I mean, who paints magenta in a bathroom these days?

Raspberry Beret or Royal Fuschia

But paint it I did, and three people walked into the bathroom and never noticed it until after I pointed it out.

Really Bright

You see, it’s on the ceiling.

Tomorrow… the trim!

Half Bath Project :: The Floor

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.

Spacers

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.

The Whole Floor

No Grout Floor

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.

Grout Grout Baby

And if you thought mixing it was scary, putting it on the floor was even more so.

Scary

Eek! I had to walk away at this point!

Absolutely Terrifying

But in the end, of course, it all worked out.

Finished Floor

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.

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:: Linking Up to ::
Young House Love, Bower Power

Half Bath Project :: Blank, er, Yellow Slate

There’s been a project a-brewing here for quite some time.

Plain Jane

The first floor half bath.

Good Bones

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?

Horrid Floor

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.

Peek at Pappy

Personal Labor Force

And here’s my handyman, otherwise known as Pappy, my Dad, Tom.

Magical Air Chisel

Pappy brought his magical air chisel…

Easy Clean Up

…which made getting the old floor up and the mortar chipped away a breeze.

Half Hour Later

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.

Hubby Hate Chaos

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!

 

The Pantry Project :: The Payoff

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.

The Right Side

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.

The Left Side

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.

Behind The Door

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.

My Precious Platters

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.

One Small Stand

Visible Stacks

Really… why is it interesting? Why do I feel compelled to write about it?

Airtight Jars

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?

Bakeware I Use

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).

Small Appliances

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.

Chalkboard Labels

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.

Baking Ingredients

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.

Doggie Bowl

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.

A Side Project

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?

The Accident

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…

Junk Drawer Stuff

… 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…

Still There

… 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.

Not Working

Sigh…

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!

Chalkboard

And on the other side I added one Grundtal bar to contain the pencil/pen mess, but still have it in an accessible spot.

Pencil Cups

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.

Detail

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.