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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Finding Time

Listen to this quote from Pottery Barn:  "Get ready for an unforgettable Thanksgiving with those you love...not only do we have everything you need to set a beautiful table, we also have expert tips...Host Thanksgiving expertly with our online party planner.  You'll find creative centerpiece ideas, free downloadable invitations, how-to videos, and much more."  Really?  I have to print and send invitations?  After reading that I feel like I might need a private tutorial on how to do Thanksgiving.   What happened to simplicity?  I thought this was Thanksgiving.  The menu's fairly self-explanatory.  The same people show up year after year.  The centerpiece just can't obscure views of leftovers across the table. 
I love this time of year: the gathering, the food, the warmth.  On the other hand, you know we all complain about it.  There is never enough time, we say.  I'm so busy, we say.  If only I didn't have so much to do, we say.  But after a rather philosophical discussion with my 13-year-old, I realized, there is plenty of time, we just have to have patience.  Patience is the pacifier of time.  Patience gets us everything we need, but in good time.  Patience calms time and lets it know it will be satisfied, eventually. 
My to-do list, like yours, is very long this weekend.  Family arrives, games go on, shopping has to be done, meals have to be prepared. And the list will grow longer the closer we get to the Holiday.  I haven't ordered my turkey yet.  I haven't made the table runner.  I haven't bought the latest set of turkey platter servers from Homegoods.  But guess what?  I have time.    Maybe I'll buy a turkey breast, so I can skip the herculean task of defrosting!  I'll have the table runner made by Christmas.  I don't really need another serving platter, I just need to go up in the attic to find the old one.  I can't expect or be expected to create the perfect Williams-Sonoma/Martha Stewart/Mayflower Thanksgiving and still be sane.  I have to have patience.  Finding the perfect cranberry-orange relish recipe is not going to happen this year.  (My family doesn't even like it that much!)  So I'll bake a quick cranberry bread instead, preferably from a box, and I'll have gained an hour.  An hour that I could actually spend with my family curled up on the couch, maybe with a good book to sneak a peek at.  I'm starting to think that the greatest drain on my time are all the inspirational magazines and catalogues and tv shows that "inspire" me to bake the next great Pilgrim Feast.  Look, I just don't have time.   Next year, or maybe in ten years, when the kids bring friends home from college, I'll cook up that perfectly delectable cranberry sauce that everyone talks about for the rest of their lives.  (Really, not going to happen anyway!)  So this year, family, don't expect much.  No homemade cheesecake, no homemade sweet potato pie, no honey-glazed-sausage-and-lemon-stuffed-beer-soaked-butter-laden turkey.  We are having frozen vegetables and a pie baked by someone besides mommy.  And I hope you'll be truly thankful!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Abundant Apples

In trying to design a family-friendly home, I have poured over magazines, blogs, and books to find help and inspiration.  Last week I picked up two books on Feng Shui, a way to design spaces that allows energy, or chi, to flow and promotes harmonious living.  (I found the books in the 50 cents bin at the library.) 
Here is what I didn't know:  In the feng shui kitchen food is visible and accessible, signifying abundance and wealth.  According to feng shui fresh food is potential nourishment.  I couldn't resist photographing these apples that we picked up from a farmer's market.  The woman told me they had come from Lancaster county and they look like the kind of old, imperfect apples you'd never find in Wegmans, with brown mottled spots and natural red color.  No wax.  Just looking at them makes me feel nourished.
One of my favorite things this time of year is the cornucopia, the harvest.  I am going to be sure to keep fresh food out where we can appreciate the abundance we have.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Happy Closet

When I thought of how to organize the closet mess that often ended up in the hall entrance, I started thinking of my grandmother's house.  When our large family gathered for Thanksgiving and Christmas, all the families would pile their jackets and coats on the hall banister.  It was a quick efficient system that got the coats up and out of the way.  That was my inspiration.  I wanted a big way to hold several jackets at a time. 
After shopping for closet organizers which ran between $15 and $60 for a coat tree, I found myself at the Ace Hardware and thought I would look down their aisles for some ideas.  I started out in the bathroom fixtures where they had several types of hanging options, but they seemed a little too small.  The regular hardware had a good selection with all sizes and colors of hooks, but again I wanted something really sturdy.  I saved the best for last - the gardening section!  There I found forged iron hooks meant for hanging baskets, but wouldn't they work perfectly for schoolbags AND jackets AND whatever else my kids could load onto them?  They are each about 6 inches deep, nicely rounded, and sturdy enough to hold just about anything!  I bought four and one larger wall hook I thought I could use for my handbags.  It was perfect!  So these were the items I would use to transform the closet:
A few baskets, a boot tray, some hooks, and an old metal trashcan my husband made in woodshop in high school!  It's perfect for umbrellas and yoga mats.

I hadn't planned to paint, but I found a can of Mystic non-toxic paint that was a mistint.  After coming up with a cool harlequin design to add some life to the closet, I measured taped and painted.  I loved the look it was creating, but there was a secret in this closet that I neglected to acknowledge - the previous owners had painted over wallpaper! 
So, we nixed that plan and painted a solid color with black trim.  

The closet has a whole new appearance that sort of reminds me of the coat room I used to work in at Charlie Browns.  I was hoping for a cabinet-y look, kind of pottery-barn-ish, but it's not really that either.  The black might be a bit much, but it goes with the hooks, which are working out perfectly. 

The baskets lighten everything up and the tags add a personal touch.  My plan is not to leave the house without my green grocery bags, but that never happens!  

My pocket organizer with four-letter words!  (Thanks, Joanne!)  The words read "love, grow, know, hope, live, pray."   I was going to make it rhyme because my kids would be all over that, but I messed up the K and the L...  I tied black ribbons at the top to hide the nails.  Everyone loves them, even my husband!
No more mess on the hall floor... couldn't ask for more!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wissahickon Walk

A perfect day, 11.11.11,   
to soak in the beauty of the good earth.

We were surrounded by glory...

made aware of the struggles of those who came before...

Time to reflect...

and be thankful for all those who secured for us the land we call home.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Word collector

I am working on one final project for the closet and am collecting four letter words.  I have a pocket organizer which I will hang on the back of the door that has six rows with four columns.  I thought it would be cool to find six words that I can stencil across each pocket and I am having fun thinking of the words I should stamp. 
There are lots of words, like Work, Play, Live, Give.  This is good too:

And while I was searching, I found this inspiration for the dining room table:
I might be stenciling for quite a while now!  If you're inspired too, here's a site with directions:
But back to the pocket project.  I wish I could use some 5 letter words too, like Laugh.
Naomi Shiyab Nye told a story about finding a young boy's word book, a collection of words he had learned to spell, and she turned to the L page.  This is what she found:
  • Live
  • listen
  • love
  • laugh
  • linger
  • lounge
  • long
  • learn
She said we could certainly learn a lot from this short list poem.  It's a great list to live by.  I could definitely use these words, especially long.  Isn't it wonderful to long for something?  It's so different from want or need.  So I have some beautiful inspiration for my pockets!
But then I had another idea.  Last week my son got a personal narrative essay back from the teacher.  He had written about going to Massachusetts and the second sentence read, "We all unpacked our junk..."  Well, the teacher crossed out junk and wrote in supplies!  Really, supplies?  We don't call it supplies.  My son doesn't say supplies.  I like the word junk.  So I'm also thinking of writing "JUNK" on every pocket because it's so apt, (the pockets will be full of junk!) and because I just want to affirm that his word choice in the essay was right on. 
I might also include the four-letter word Pray.  It's a good reminder each  morning and will be tonight when I meet his teacher for parent conferences!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New feature!

I added a button where you can subscribe by email!  It's down the left side toward the bottom.
Thank you!

For example, let's be curious

I found this quote in the New York Times Education section last week about elite schools easing up on homework:  “There’s very little evidence that doing homework makes kids smarter,” said Adam Gopnik, an author and parent of two Dalton students. “Even if it did, there are values other than achievement. For example, let’s be curious.”
I love that line, Let's be Curious. 
I have the privilege of going into many different classrooms for my work.  One thing that always strikes me is that in Kindergarten, the students are expected to sit still, in chairs, for hours a day.  Let's be curious - Yes!  Only a few months ago these same children spent their days on the floors of whatever they called home, grandma's, a daycare,  playing with cars, with small people dolls, with blocks and they were being curious.  They were creating imaginative stories that would be fuel for the stories they are now beginning to learn to put on paper.  When my son comes home from school the first thing he likes to do is lay on the carpet under the table and play with his action figures or homemade Lego men. 
Let's be curious.  What would suit their needs right now?  What will drive them to be curious about their worlds?  How can we make sure that curiosity doesn't die when they get to fifth grade?   How can we harness the energy of their curious natures to change the world?
There is a story I used to hear about a teacher who walks into a room of kindergarteners and asks, "Please draw me a picture of a dog driving a fire truck in Alaska."  The kindergarteners get busy making big fire trucks that are purple and black with dogs in windows and on top and snow and they go nuts for the fun novelty of the task.  When the teacher asks the same question in the second grade, they say, "What?  Dogs don't drive fire trucks.  How big do you want the fire truck?  What color should it be?  Which part of Alaska?"  We've taken the curious nature out of our children by setting expectations that are not aligned with their natural inclination to Be Curious.
I heard Mo Willems say, "Childhood Sucks."  "The furniture is too big," he said, "Imagine walking into a room where everything is supersized.  You can't get up in the chair.  Your feet don't touch the ground! You have to raise your hand to take care of basic functions."  We have a set of unrealistic expectations for our kids that they behave like adults sometimes.  We need to make room for curious exploration in our classrooms, not stringent rules that don't make room for children's imaginations or real lives.
If we had more opportunities for students to be curious in school maybe we could challenge students in real ways, not by assigning them 40 math problems and 40 spelling words.  I'd love to ask those kindergarteners what they would do about the environment or world hunger.  I bet they'd have some insightful answers.
I do see some value in homework.  Perseverance is a real life skill.   I want my kids to learn to pursue real passions, go after what they want and set the world on fire.  That takes some dedication.  It takes persistence, it takes focus.  But if their hearts aren't in it, is it really worth it? 
And what other values are we teaching our children from the earliest age:  Achievement, success, beating out the other guy no matter what?  Our society is so focused on glamour, wealth, fame, popularity, that we forget to teach children how to be who they really are, recognizing all their inherent strengths and their natural curiosity.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Going in the closet

After the grand entry the kids usually drop shoes-sweatshirt-backpack-lunchbox-notehome-leavesanddirt right on the hall carpet.  They do not see this as a problem.  However, multiplied x4 means that there are approximately one million things on the floor.  If the fire marshall came, he would declare it uninhabitable. 
I have tried to explain the concept of "TRAFFIC PATTERN" but they don't get it.  So I'm thinking I might be able to reprogram them by locking the front door.  We have 3 back doors, one of which might be more convenient.  So I have a few options for creating an entry/mudroom/catchall space.  One of the troublesome things is where to put winter jackets which we pulled out much earlier than expected this season.  (Are you sure you want to say there's no environmental crisis here?)

Option 1: the new and improved muddy room (with the outdoor furniture moved in for the winter.)
Option 2: the family room back door space:

Option 3: the hall closet:
All pre-makeover, obviously.
I'm off today to find inspiration in the Container Store, then to Goodwill and Restore to make actual purchases.  We'll see what I find!
The only other option here is that I can declare it a "SPIT PIT".  Walking to school the kids consistently and religiously avoid walking or stepping on two squares of pavement that, suburban legend has it, is a spit pit.  My son pushed me out of the way last week, "Watch out mom, that's the spit pit."  It's amazing how this concept works.  The pavement is slightly darker and more cracked than the rest of the sidewalk, but these kids will NOT step foot on it.  So I'm thinking that rather than the hallway, I'll just start referring to the area as the spit pit.  They wouldn't dare step on it, let alone leave their schoolbags-shoes-papers in it!