Friday, December 30, 2011

The Hall - Part III

I think my fascination with hallways started when I was in college.  I'll never forget the description of the entry way  in James Joyce's Dubliners as all the guests arrived for a party.  Growing up we didn't have a hall or entry way and our old house didn't either.  It's always been on my list for the perfect house.  Maybe that's why I am so excited. 
So now for the picture gallery!  I am almost done my one, two, three day project and haven't done anything else on the list!
Looking up the stair well I just knew it had to get done now and that it would put the finishing touches on our new space. 
So just to recap, here is the before:

This is how the picture layout began:  All the pictures laid out on the floor... a tape measure to try to measure...

Then I made templates of the frames with old newspaper and hung them approximately where I thought each picture should go.  The blue painter's tape helps with nailing into plaster walls, too!
One more before:

The first three pictures are hung!  (The mirror on top is another restore find - only $1!  which reminds me, I have got to get back there...)

The view from the living room...

The view up the stairs.  I feel like the house is much more homey and welcoming.  The kids are even stopping to look at the pictures on their way down the steps. 
My  other favorite thing in this hallway is the clock - which reminds me of a house we visited in Virginia.  The ticking is like a heartbeat of the house, and reminds me that the minutes are all too fleeting!  Goodbye 2011, hello 2012!
Happy New Year everyone!

The Hall - Part II

Lighting always plays a large role in the feel of a space.  Our old light fixture was pretty bad.
 But the one I found to replace it was worrying my husband. 

It hung much lower than the other one.  But since we weren't going to spend any money on this, it was our only option.  I had picked this one up at reStore over the summer for about $3 and it had sat in our basement too long. 

So I invited my father over to help me with the electricity. 

And I set to work in the basement with some paint projects.  I didn't really need to be careful of the floor, but using the cardboard box propped up like that allowed me to paint to edges of the frame easily.

Although I thought I would put the glass panels back in, the lightbulbs were fairly large and I thought I'd try it without.  Melissa at 320 Sycamore had tried something similar and I thought it wouldn't hurt to try.
Only I had inadvertently painted the white sleeves black.
So here is the hall with its new paint and new new light!

banner image

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Hall - Part I

My project began at 8,9, actually 10 o'clock.  But don't think I was laying in bed.  I got my husband off to work with packed breakfast and lunch, made breakfast, made kids brush teeth, which hasn't happened in about a week, and then got caught up in my new book.   I had a plan in mind to paint the hallway,  and this is what it looked like to start.
So, I took down Christmas (tear) and then began.  I thought I would just paint the wall over the stairs in one of the paints we already had in the basement. 
I took out my old paints left from other projects.  By the way, I always look for mismixed Mythic paints at the store.  They sell for about $10 a gallon (bargain!) and they are eco and family friendly.  I can usually find something to do with whatever color they have!  We didn't have a full gallon of anything, except the paint I had used in the closet and Annie's room were mostly full, so I got creative and started mixing.  It was fun playing mixologist, or so I thought, except that this is not like mixing colors in kindergarten.  Back on Labor Day weekend, when I spent the entire weekend in the paint store, the kind paint man told me how pigments are much different than just mixing paints.  I guess I only partly paid attention.  When you mix paints, it's not the ratio you have to worry about, it's the amount of pigment.  The color I ended up with today was much more of a purple brown than I had planned, but I love it!  It's dark enough to make a statement, it's definitely not beige, and it welcomes and warms what was a very cold space. 

Well, after I finished one wall, I got so excited I kept going.  The wall going up the stairs will still be a feature wall with all the pictures, but the whole space had to be painted.   
It does make the white wood work pop!  I just wish there was actually room to sit there and enjoy it!  Still, when we all came home after an evening out tonight, we really felt warm and welcome!

Organization 101

I love looking at all the January magazines featuring great new tips for getting organized in the New Year.  I think I've probably read all those articles before.  Of course we all go through cycles in life and mine usually revolve around purging, nesting, then creating.  I can feel the creative energy beginning to flow.  I am ready to take it all on, but the list grows higher each day.  I have 3 more days off this week and I am planning to climb Mt. Everest and tackle about 8,000 projects in this house.  So, first I'm going to make a list.  Then I'm going to prioritize.  Then I'm going to see what I can do with what I already have in the house at this moment.  Then I'm going to see what I can do if I use the coupons I have for Ace Hardware.  Then I'm going to see what kind of time I have because the kids have made plans to see friends, go ice skating, go to the movies, all those fun things I should probably be doing too! 

The List:
  • Paint hall stairwell
  • Frame family pictures
  • Hang chair in boys room
  • Move desk out of bedroom
  • Sew pillow shams
  • Put up chandelier in dining room
  • Fix bathroom ceiling
  • Put desk in J's room
  • Paint and cover 'coffee table'
  • Clean out pantry
  • Clean out 'desk closet'
The race begins tomorrow morning at 8 am sharp, after I have had my coffee and done a load of laundry, which is quickly backing up!  I'll keep you posted.  But that stairwell is getting painted!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Calendar Time

The New Year always brings with it that wonderful project of finding the quintessential kitchen wall calendar, at least in my house.  I can remember most of my pre-teen/teen years were spent collecting the infamous Teddy Bear Calendars and I know it put an extra burden on my mother to find it before it went out of stock, which always happened long before Christmas.  In the past few years I have found wonderful wall calendars that promise to shower me with a bit of beauty in the hustle and bustle of planning the family agenda.  This year I found the new Vera Bradley calendar, which my daughter quickly confiscated for her bedroom (and really the colors are perfect! and it doesn't have room for writing anyway...)  Last year I hung the Stendig wall calendar in our kitchen and people always remarked on it.  The year before I had erincondren.com family planner which I loved and it was personalized with each of our names.  When the children were smaller we had the wooden perpetual calendar that you could change each month.  But this year I am at a loss.   There are so many wonderful calendars to choose from, yet I know there is a simpler way to manage everything, too.
My husband has taken to emailing me a family weekly calendar just to be sure we are on the same week, so to speak, if not the same page.  Now, though, we are endowed with these wonderful devices called iPhones and I'm sure if we played around a bit we could find out how to sync each other's schedules and never have to pick up a pencil or a neglected child again!  But what to do with that big kitchen wall space permanently reserved for the calendar?  I think I still need that eye candy in the morning, if not the evening when I'm off to pick up the last child of the day.   I have to research this and I'll get back to you...

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Exchange

One of the few moments mothers find to themselves in the bustle of the holidays is in the kitchen.  Now there may be 100 things to do but I find refuge in the kitchen.  After the dinner is done, people in my house usually evacuate the kitchen as quickly as possible.  I really don't mind if they don't do a dish, as long as I can find a few minutes of quiet.  The other night after I did all those dishes I found my recipe books and clippings and began to plan for the cookie exchange.  It is a trip down a familiar lane, looking at all the recipes I have collected, some scrawled in my grandmother's perfect Palmer penmanship.   I drank a cup of tea and fantasized about what my cookies would look like this year.  After finding a recipe whose ingredients seemed simple enough to master, I got to work.  Molasses cookies!  This was one of my Grandmother Sandell's recipes and it was simple enough to make.  It calls for lukewarm coffee, molasses, and lots of flour.  Perfect.  Precooked, this batter had a dark almost smoky taste. ( Of course when the kids knew the batter was ready it was all hands on deck wanting to helptastehelp taste!)  When cooked it lost a little of that sublime flavor but was still delicious.  Then, you know, the packaging is all-important in the cookie exchange.  That would require a little thriftiness.

I love using Chinese take out containers for packaging.  After that it's free game.  I usually try to find a ribbon, paper, and pen that either match or coordinate.  This year I found brown in my trimmings bag and it worked well with the Molasses theme. 

 Then I took a closeup picture of the one that I misspelled - mosasses.  Can you tell?  I hope the recipient couldn't. 
Enjoy your baking!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tried It

In a new house you are constantly trying to create the stage set for your life.  It is a creative process.  In Philadelphia there is lots of talk about the fact that the Barnes Foundation Museum was relocated when Mr. Barnes specifically stated in his will that it not be moved.  I can empathize with Mr. Barnes.  The story goes that he was constantly moving the art in his home creating vignettes that best featured the art and the objects he had collected.   I do the same thing.
So the one vignette I created for Christmas was this:
I was really proud of this.  I thought it had a sleek look that worked with the blue.  I pulled out the kids silver baby cups and rattles and lay them on the mantle.  I spray painted an old boxwood wreath that had begun to yellow with pewter color metallic paint and did the same for some dried hydrangeas.  (I don't know who stuck that card up there between the hurricane candles....)  Cheap and easy, yes.  But beautiful?  Not quite.  I tried it, but I don't like it.  I didn't know what to do until I visited a friend last night and realized that she is the one the wreath is meant for.  I am delivering it today and I will start over with my living room mantle.  Part of the creative process is realizing the mistakes we make and starting over.  I let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday House

Our house is not done yet, but day by day I am finding new places for our old things.  After staring at a pile of greenery on the dining room table for about a week, you kind of get motivated!

 Here's the dining room window with wreaths.

 A snowman wreath, which I had planned on dismantling, on the back door in the kid's playroom.

In the kitchen I hung decorated balls from the chandelier.  I like the lights on the window sill and I like the wreath on the stand.  I've thought about spraying this wreath with the snow spray, but not yet...
Mini-wreaths decorate each door.  As I was going to ask one of the kids to put this out in the shed, I realized I kind of liked the look of it here, because why not?  It might just need a ribbon though.  As soon as they start sledding in the family room, out it goes!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nothing Like a Little Pressure

"It's that time of year,  when the world falls in love..."  EEEKKK.  Stop the song.  What happened?  What happened that we so easily forget the miraculous, good will toward all, merri-ness of Christmas?    It's okay.  Just resist.  Resist the urge to do everything.  Everything we do is a marathon these days.  We moved into a neighborhood where they ride around on a trolley seeing judging seeingjudging no, SEEING other people's Christmas decorations!  (Now, what-who Susie Santa thought this up, I don't know!)  But, it's not a contest, really.  Why do we make it out as such?  We scrambled around yesterday just to make sure all the bulbs on the lights work, the wreath is hung just so, the garland is fresh and the tree is placed just right in the window.  Are we crazy?  In short, yes.  As much as I complain though I love it!  We had a wonderful time rolling around in a little old trolley (complete with carved wooden seats) looking at the lights and singing Christmas carols.  Nothing like a little pressure to get you motivated!  Our lights did look good and we were happy to see everyone else's as well.  So here's a little glimpse of our house ready (on the outside) for Christmas!

Some of the candles in the windows worked!

This Funky Tree was inspired by a much better version done down the street (WAY down the street...) But it was also probably the most fun to do...Since we took out all the trees when we moved in, we didn't have one growing in the front, so we brought this potted one around from the backyard.   I just had visions of it catching on fire as the trolley drove by because of all the plugs jabbed into one another!   Now THAT would have been memorable.

Monday, December 5, 2011

12 Days of Reading

We are still unpacking books.  There are a lot of them, some we've outgrown, some that I thought I should put away or give away.  But this weekend we brought down from the attic all the books that were saved for Christmas and it's like a special present.  Forget the typical decorations, stories are what I need to get in the spirit.  I'll never forget my mother's collection of Ideal magazines, which she had started during her teaching career.  I would pour over those magazines reading poetry and stories every Christmas by the light of a lamp swathed in crepe paper ribbon.  The story of the original "Over the River and through the woods..." I learned from reading that magazine!
Opening the box and remembering the stories is a trip down memory lane now for my own children!  Who can forget Christmas Mouse or The Littlest Tree or The Gift of the Magi?  So my gift to you, because I sometimes get the urge to write lessons for books, is a list of Christmas stories to read before Christmas.  Forget the Christmas specials on TV, invite an author into your living room to tell you a story.  Turn on the tree lights, make some hot chocolate, light a candle and sit cozy on the couch - believe for a moment.   ( I'm giving you advance warning because I know you might have to order some from the library, or get them out of the attic... and you might skip a night or two.  It's okay.  It's Christmas!)

On the 1st Day of Christmas:  The Elf on the Shelf, Aebersold and Bell
A classic in its own right and we had to read it...

On the 2nd Day of Christmas:  Jacob's Gift, Max Lucado
A wonderful story!

On the 3rd Day of Christmas:How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Dr. Seuss is so much more Christmas-y than Jim Carey

On the 4th Day of Christmas:  Polar Bear Night, Lauren Thompson
Not a Christmas story, but a beautiful book

On the 5th Day of Christmas:  Look at the words to "Little Drummer Boy,"  "The Friendly Beasts," and "Away in a Manger"  These will put you in the true spirit...

On the 6th Day of Christmas:  A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote
Merry Christmas, Maisy, by Lucy Cousins
I don't know, my kids just love it...

On the 7th Day of Christmas:  A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
preferably read on the placards as you stroll through Christmas Village at Macy's in Philadelphia

On the 8th Day of Christmas:  The Mitten, by Jan Brett
Another classic

On the 9th Day of Christmas:  Luke 2: 1-20
Because you have to know the real story.

On the 10th Day of Christmas:  Is There a Santa Claus?  Francis P. Church
Because you have to believe!

On the 11th Day of Christmas:  The Gift of the Magi, O.Henry or
The Little Blue Dishes, Elizabeth Amy Janke
The magic of gift-giving

On the 12th Day of Christmas:  A Visit from St. Nicholas, Clement C. Moore
Perfect bedtime story?!

Others we can't forget:
The Nutcracker, E.T.A. Hoffman
A Merry Christmas, from Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (or any of her other Christmas stories)
Room for a Little One, Max Lucado
My favorite source for stories this year is Caroline Kennedy's A Family Christmas. 
Enjoy reading together!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Annie's Room

Even though it's after Thanksgiving and all of my decorating energies should be directed toward Christmas, I thought I'd take a step back and talk about the kid's bedrooms.  When we first moved in one of our priorities was to make sure the kids had special spaces.  We loved our old house and simply outgrew it, so it was not an easy transition.  Annie's old room was the perfect little girl room, with "All things bright and beautiful, the Lord God made them all..." stenciled around the ceiling.  I knew that we would have to step it up for her big girl room so for her birthday we painted and refreshed the little girl look.
Here are the pictures:
Here is the bed we ordered from JCPenney almost 8 years ago.  The circles are chalk-ready - just three coats of acrylic paint!  (No, you don't need special chalkboard paint :)  )

We moved this chair into the room when my mother-in-law visited during the hurricane and it has stuck!

This chandelier is from restore, the Habitat for Humanity store.  I spray painted it with a cream paint.  Annie picked out the ribbons and we used them on the window rods and the chandelier, since she does not like beads.

These are the remnants of her old little girls room which we were able to incorporate into the new look. 
(The dresser was mine growing up and I painted it with her initials when she was born!)
I hope you enjoyed it. 
I'm off to plan our Christmas decorations!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


In the Kindergarten classrooms I visit, many teachers have lists of words that are "Juicy words" or "Words that Sparkle."  There are so many wonderful words we use this time of year.  Nourish, harvest, bounty, plenty, gratitude, thanksgiving, gathering, family, welcome, holiday, retreat, homecoming, tradition, heritage.  Just hearing the words reminds us of good things.  Nourish is one of my favorite words.  It has such a wonderful loaded meaning.  You can nourish yourself, your spirit, or those around you.   Nourishment has such significance as we shop and prepare menus and welcome friends and family from far away.  We need to nourish ourselves as we begin this festive season.   We are like the hibernating animals that need to load up before the long days of winter.
During the holidays we have the excuse to set aside time to play, relax, and eat.  We treasure special time sitting around the table or a fire with family, playing a game of touch football on the lawn, and savoring the harvest of good food that we prepare with love.  It's the simple things that draw us together and warm our spirits.  I wish you time to nourish!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My List

The other night, driving home from CCD, my son said, "I can't believe it's almost Advent.  That means I have to start my Christmas list."  I know there is some guilt looming here.  I am ashamed to say that one of the things I look forward to this time of year is the O List, the collection of Oprah Winfrey's best stuff that you would love to give or receive for Christmas.  So in lieu of the Oprah to-die-for favorite things, I'm creating my own list.  Trust me, they won't cost millions and you can find some as close as Sears. 
For instance this quilted pillow:
It's by Cannon, costs less than $15 and it's the best I've ever used!

After sleeping on this dreamy pillow, you'll need a great cup of coffee to wake you up.  Peet's coffee is the best:
Holiday Blend Gifts
Once you try it, you'll be hooked. 

To drink that coffee, you'll need a special mug from StoneSoldier Pottery in Vermont, and though these are a little costly, $23, it makes drinking a divine experience:
Midinite Blue Tankard(The picture doesn't do it justice! See if you can order the tea cup rounded mug, not pictured.)

I would love to give everyone the perfect book, but there are just too many to choose.  So instead I'm asking for a subscription to the New Yorker.

Best Run Guaranteed:  Lunarfly shoes by Nike
and they're only $60.

For my nieces and nephews, wooden sustainable toys, from Etsy
forest set wooden waldorf toy
Now, I found  potholder sets for my sisters-in-law this summer for $10 on Zulily and was all proud of myself for getting them half-off, but I just saw them last week at Homegoods for $7!  So much for advance planning!  They don't seem to have any more, but you can find other graphic design home accessories at Macbeth Collection.

Calendar Art:  This Stendig calendar is always a conversation piece in our house.  Not so great for writing on, but good for looking at.  I use color coded stickers with times and places to keep track of events.

I also can't get enough of this Northface supersoft fleece.  My kids are addicted and so am I.  It started with the gloves and this year I'm asking Santa for the jacket:

(Dick's has a coupon for $25 off $100)

Even better is this fuzzy sweater by J.McLaughlin!  I just couldn't copy the picture.

I think part of the reason I became a teacher is because I love paper and pens and all things stationery.  Here's a great place, Dress My Desk

Devora Designs - Magnetic Buletin Boards/Magulletin (Damask) (MAG-02)This is the bulletin board - so cool!

Another new favorite thing is boiled wool felted bags.  Check this one out by Caramia.
Entrelac Felted bag in bright colors

And another thing I found on Etsy...
  I don't know about you, but ever since my pregnancies my favorite thing is a heating pad.  This one is microwavable, made of natural ingredients and can be scented!  Only $20!

Double Layer Knot Dress (Purple)
Perfect dress? I don't know what Kate Middleton is wearing this Thanksgiving, but this is my favorite English place to shop, Boden.   I'm thinking that I don't want to do black this year, but purple is understated enough to be classy and elegant at all the holiday parties this year.  It just might need some chunky beads! 

Head to Zappos for these from Lucky Brand.

Finally, for my husband - a shirt from UnderArmour.  Our kids have more of this stuff than we do.  What I should really get him is stock in the company!

So even though the holidays are not all about gifts, I hope this has been as fun for you as it has been for me.  It's been great shopping with you!  I hope you enjoy your Black Friday, either at the malls or at home. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Winter Scapes

So, honestly, this started as a joke.  I looked at this cover of Country Living, and thought,"Yeah, right, an old bench, rubber boots and some sticks?  Really?  That's the cover of a magazine?"  So I thought I would do a parody of it and you could have a good laugh.  But, the weather this weekend was so beautiful and I thought wow, it would be nice to have a    little outdoor space to curl up with a mug and a book.  

 So I got to work.  I wish I had taken the pictures of the pieces first, so you could see how it came together, but basicially it is what it is.  Blankets are always warm no matter what they look like.  Benches are always welcoming, allowing friends to sit together for a quick chat.  So this is what I did:

The rug/mat is nice to sit your feet on.  The pumpkin was leftover fromm Halloween.  The tray was my little addition. The black basket is the one my husband made in woodshop in high school.  (It has so many uses I might have to have him make another one!) I'm still not really sure why the boots are there?  All we need now is a little bonfire in the backyard.  I just hope I can actually sit out there sometime this week!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Spirit

Since this is our first holiday in our new home, I feel a little pressure to make this season special.  We are still learning how to make this house feel like home and give our children the memories for the holidays that they had in our old house.  Well, after worrying and venting last week I have come down with a severe case of Holiday Spirit.  The truth is I love creating, it's really just the time factor that throws everything off.  I found an extra hour of time on Saturday when a friend offered to drive my son home from a birthday party.  I stopped at Produce Junction and I picked up some pears and artichokes and some greenery, all for under $8.  The ivy grows in our yard and the pumpkins were from Halloween.  The real secret here is skewers: they are strong and sturdy hold the fruit in the arrangement. (If you find the fruit starts to slip, you can put a piece of wax under the fruit.)

Since I still wasn't going to make the table runner, I used these rolls of organza ribbon from Joann fabric.  Remember those placemats you made in grammar school?  I just weaved the pieces in and out.

Now our table is set for Thanksgiving!  So then I got the real bug and decided to redo my front door wreath too!

This is our Thanksgiving front door.
Really my true inspiration was a new magazine I found in JoAnn called flower.  You can find all the details on this beautiful creation at the website, including how to drill a stump of wood to hold it all together.  Now that I definitely don't have time for!  Happy Creating!
mantel piece