Saturday, February 25, 2012

Coming Clean

I've been debating whether or not to show our ugly bathroom.  Honestly I am so embarrassed by just how ugly it is and each day it gets worse.  So before I chicken out again, I'm going to bear all, well not all exactly, but a lot more than I am comfortable with.  And while I'm at it, I'm sending it in to HGTV for the Ugliest Room Ever in hopes that we can have it made over.  Do you see any redeeming features?  What would you do with a bath like this?  Send it in to HGTV, right?  (Or at least not show everyone just how bad it is... ) Wish us luck... Do you think we'll win?
This picture shows the missing plastic ceiling tile that exposes the attic floor beams!  Have you ever seen a bigger medicine cabinet?  It's a trick - only the side mirrors open for storage.

While I see this pattern everywhere nowadays, it's old and cracked.

Here's the shower.  Lovely.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Paper Party

This week is definitely taking on its own theme, with all these little notes about paper.  But in the meanwhile, I am cooking up something big for next week, adding trim work to the upstairs hallway, so stay in touch!

Paper is so fun.  I think it's one of the reasons I became a teacher.  I just love playing with all things paper.  I could spend hours in the stationery store.  A few years ago at a conference at Penn State, I visited the bookstore and found all these new "teacher toys" for school:  blank hardbound books, highlighter tape, rainbow paper on rings, and tons of other goodies.  Here is one little notebook I love that sports the logo good thinking!
I'm afraid two of my children have the same addiction, one doesn't stop making paper airplanes and the other just loves paper.  This morning on his WAY OUT THE DOOR, my son stopped to grab a piece of paper out of the printer to MAKE AN AIRPLANE to fly on his way to school.  (I so wish I were ten again!)    Of course in the moment I was like, "Are you kidding me?  Get your lunch, get your backpack and give me that paper!"  My daughter is also a collector of paper.  She will write on any paper and it will be a short list or something that looks like a doodle and if I ask, "Is this okay to throw away?" she always says, "Oh no, I've been looking for that!"  She's got drawers and drawers of paper.  Well, I can relate. 

So when it came time for a friend's birthday, I used simple paper to create a little party.  Now I know that you could use those Cricut cutters and go all out, but this is my simplified version that took about five minutes.

These were a surprise find in Joann Fabric in the Martha Stewart section.  At first I thought I would find some flags to make that I could use for all the birthdays, but the kits were a small fortune. Then something caught my eye - the paper coasters!  They were precut in cute flower shapes, were very sturdy, and had a decorative white border.  All it needed was a white pen and a clever birthday wish!  I wrote b-i-r-t-h-d-a-y g-i-r-l on each of the coasters and simply taped them to a coordinating ribbon.  Viola!  I think the cost was $3-4, as opposed to $14 for the kit. 

The second part of the birthday was the cupcakes, except that my friend doesn't eat flour.  So a cute standby, meringues.  Just use a cupcake paper liner so they fit in the cupcake stand. 
Finally, wrapping paper again.  I wrapped a box of chocolates, which I may start keeping on hand for last minute gifts, in pretty wrapping with an elegant bow.  I'm sorry I don't have the final gift pictured, but I'll show you my wrapping station another day.
Instant party with paper!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What A Little Paper Can Do

This is our old book case.  It used to house books.  But when we moved, we left behind two corner cabinets, only because they were built into the walls and couldn't be moved.  (Though my one friend took hers with her, framing and all!  You go, girl, cause I'm wishing I did that!)  I loved those corner cabinets!  They had beautiful glass window-framed doors and in the lower cabinets, well,  you could throw anything in there when the doorbell rang!   When we first moved into the house, we painted the interiors red and the trim white.  Below the chair rail we did a cool painting technique of blue with poly-acrylic stripes so that it looked like real wallpaper.  We thought we were so patriotic until a few months later, after trying to get used to it,  we realized it looked ridiculous.  Anyway... you get the idea.   I loved those cabinets!
So here we are in the new house with no place to store our china and after all the shopping I'm doing in the attic, I thought I should bring it out. 
It's called Urban Twilight and it's by Lenox.  I love it now as much as I did when my husband and I first picked it out. 
So I converted the bookcase.  I took the backing off.  (This was an assemble-yourself purchase from Target, so that was easy.)  I found a pretty wrapping paper by Caspari, which they sell at Wegman's.  Wegman's, which is nearby, is one of my favorite stores.  Caspari, which is in Charlottesville, Virginia, is another of my favorite stores, but it is very far away.   If you ever get to visit, though, it is highly inspirational.  I could look at one of their table settings all day.  In fact after looking at their website pictures, I'm wishing I painted the light fixtures in that Tango Orange color I talked about before!  How cool is that!  (Just click on the top right picture)   And they have cool bookcases painted white with the tango orange on the back!  And look at their gifts... these cool key rings in orange and blue.  (Birthday list!)  Hmmm... may have to change everything now!  What do you think, blue and orange motif for the dining room?  Speaking of which, the dining room needs some help... I'll post those pics another time. 
Finally, I set the china atop these beautiful green placemats I purchased on my son's classtrip to Longwood Gardens.  (Every mom should get a souvenir when on a class trip, right?)  You can do a little browsing right here online.  Isn't that fun!  Happy Window Shopping!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Last year I had the incredible opportunity to go on a writer's retreat for teachers sponsored by AROOM. The retreat was held at one of the most peaceful places I've ever been - Pendle Hill in Swarthmore, PA.   At the retreat center there was an art studio that I wish I could somehow replicate.  Imagine a large light filled room with huge windows overlooking a garden.  Shelving lined the walls floor to ceiling and each shelf was filled with papers, pens, and all sorts of wonderful embellishments to add to your work. A few friends and I snuck away for the day and had so much fun creating!  We made these wonderful layered books where layers of different torn papers were glued together and folded in upon each other.  Words or poems could be written on each 'page.'  Talk about connecting to your inner child it was playful and fun -  like kindergarten for moms! 
I was looking for new inspiration for my book this week but after a quick look online, came up with nothing.  This link is about layered fabric, and is very inspiring, but it's not quite the same.  I'll share a bit of my old layered book, so you can get the idea:

First, get yourself a hardbound book with blank pages inside.  There are all kinds available with cute covers and decorative patterns, but the plainer the better for me.

This is what I did last year.  Each piece of paper is attached on one edge, so that it can open like a book.  You can use two pages on either side and have double doors.  Then underneath the little flap, you can tear a shape or write a poem, or phrase. 

It all starts with scraps of paper, which you can find anywhere, even a fancy envelope that comes in the mail can inspire.  Or pretty wrapping paper.  Another great source of inspiration is children's books, like Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day, or Eric Carle, who paints his own papers first, then begins to tear.  Imagine how much fun it would be to do with kids too.    But for me, this is going to be mommy-time.  All I need now is to find a little play time for mommy and some creative juice!  Almost as good as retreat.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Things That Are Blue

Our downstairs powder room is the only room so far that has undergone a complete renovation.  I wish that I had pictures to show you from before, but let's just say that my husband and I were going to put a deadbolt on the door and call it a 2 bath house, forget the 1/2.    That was until we went to Home Depot the night we moved in and found a toilet and sink for half-price.  Despite the fact that we were only shopping for a new mop, floor cleaner, and lightbulbs, we came out of there with a whole new bath.  We took off the deadbolt, tore down the walls, tore up the floor and got rid of every last bit of evidence.  (It was that bad!)  So three sheets of rock and two sheets of beadboard later, we had a nice new powder room.  We painted it the same blue as the wall from the living room and !voila! - a happy bathroom!  But this morning it needed heavy-duty cleaning attention:

You know how it goes, things get piled up and the room starts to lose its personality.  So I wanted to freshen things a bit.  It started with cleaning the toilet, but this is the fun part!  The new seat comes off for easy cleaning.  I know this is disgusting and my grandmother would turn over in her grave, but the seat snaps off!  You can clean ALL that gook!  What a great invention, especially with 4 boys in the house!  (Sorry guys!)

Then you just slide it right back in place and ....

SNAP!  I have a theory that if more women were engineers, we would have a lot more fun/function in our households.  That STEM education is really important, more than you know!   Hear that girls, go for engineering and make cool stuff!  Your mothers will thank you!

So then I cleared the decks and aired out the bathroom and burned a candle.  (Do germs in the air burn out with the candle?  Don't tell me. I want to live in this naive world.)
Next, how to decorate.  I decided to go shopping around my house.   Although it would have been fun to go to Homegoods, we're saving to renovate the other bathroom.  (I promise to take before pictures.)  So I've taken to shopping in my attic and basement.  You'd be surprised at the cool stuff I have.  Somebody must have good taste... ;)  Here's what I found:

My daughter's Vera Bradley calendar.  (Who can enjoy it if it's on her closet door?)  It is odd to have a calendar in the bathroom, but since I sometimes feel like I have early Alzheimer's, it really comes in handy!  I'm like, Oh, yeah, it's February.  February what?  Let's see, it must be the 10th because I know it's Friday.  Now let's see if that makes sense.  Yes, because, I went to work yesterday and it was definitely Thursday and so now it's Friday.  And last week I had a meeting on the 3rd and it hasn't been Valentine's Day yet, so yes, February 10th.  See?

It sits nicely on the small ledge we put it above the beadboard, which I highly recommend doing. 
The candle stick is from my Outdoor  Collection, i.e. summer junk, that I usually use on the patio.  The tray is also Vera Bradley which I just found at Hallmark for 70% off and I splurged, but for under $8, who can blame me.  Okay, I shouldn't say "I just found,"  because I kind of stalk the place every week when I take my son to hockey practice.  Now my husband is going to know why I'm so enthusiastic about volunteering for that job, when he probably thought I was doing him a favor.  Shucks!

Then there's the sink accoutrements.  I have really dry skin and love having matching soap and cream, but I'm such a freak that I don't even use the nice cream because I'm saving it.   For what?  I don't know.   I use the old stuff in the closet so I can keep my bathroom looking cute.  And again I always refill the fun jars with the store brand stuff...
Over the sink is a sign that says "Happy Everything", a birthday present from an old friend.  The painting was a housewarming gift from another friend.  It fits perfectly there!  And the towel is a print from Target.  (Always hang with the bird flying up!)

Here's the last wall.  Now I also have to say that as soon as my mother visited she not-so-subtley moved the toilet paper to a more discreet location behind the toilet.  But in my house I would hear,  "Mom, where's the toilet paper?" "Mom, there's no toilet paper."  "No, it's not."  "Honey, is there any more toilet paper?"  So.

Lastly, if you know me, you know I love books and the bathroom is no reason not to have good reading.  Keeping with the theme, I looked on the bookshelf for little books that are blue and found Runaway Bunny and The Going to Bed Book.  I know some in my house will laugh, but some will pick these up and hopefully be reminded of the slow, gentle days when this was what we read.   And maybe they'll remember me that way too, cause sometimes these days I'm not slow or gentle.

Finally, for full disclosure, all that junk that was lying around is carefully hidden in the closet.

It's in a cute little basket on the floor of the pantry until our company leaves this weekend! 
Have a great one!  Slow and gentle if you can...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Full Disclosure

Last week my seventh grader had a science project to do.  He completed the project on aerodynamics and wrote the report.  But the real work was not included in the report.  The original experiment called for an industrial-size fan, which my son assured me he could replicate.  Well, not quite.  He tried a fan, then two, then three.  Then he tried a blow dryer.  Nothing.  Then somehow he came up with the idea of a leaf blower.  And it worked.  But the trial and error part, the real work that took a full weekend, never made it into the report.  There was just one simple word in the material list and one simple line in the procedures, "Turn on leaf blower."
So here's my full disclosure.  I hung a reused light in the kitchen, which I loved.  Then I came home one night to find this:
The lights had actually melted the holders!   Thank goodness nothing worse happened.  The bulbs I used were too high a wattage.  So I went to the hardware store and bought replacements.  Cool, huh, that they have candle sleeves for chandeliers at the hardware store.

Out with the old:

And in with the new:

Now our new old light works again!  Full disclosure.  No matter how simple it may look on the outside, nothing is ever easy.  The grace lies in making it look that way.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kitchen Corner Office

I spend more time in the kitchen than any other room in the house.  I don't really know why.  Even if I'm working from home, I end up in the kitchen for probably an hour or so.  I'll bring the laptop to the kitchen table while the tea water boils and then I'll end up making phone calls and doing emails from there.  It's like a magnet for our family.  When I was home all the time when the kids were babies, the kitchen was the command center for so much:  bottles, trash, dishes, baby food, tea for mommy, dishes, sippy cups, chee-chos snacks, wine for mommy, baking to keep us away from the tv, lots of dishes, Jewish apple cake that I was addicted to while breastfeeding, and then more dishes.  These days it's more like homework, dishes, lunch packing, dishes, cereal, dishes, I'm hungry, dishes, dishes, dishes, dishes.  So when I'm doing dishes I really want to have something nice to look at.  At our first house I had a nice double window above the sink that could hold pretty little frames and pretty little vases.  It made the sentencing at the sink pass much more quickly.  In this old kitchen it takes a little more creativity.  The sink is tucked into an awkward corner.  Note:  Never put in a corner sink.  Corner office, yes, corner sink, no.  Window office, yes, window sink, definitely.  Here's what it looks like:
The kids made those plates for us for Christmas, thanks to their INCREDIBLE art teacher - the best!  There is barely any room for the dish drain and there are ALWAYS dirty dishes piled up.  In fact, I just finished all the dessert dishes, and I bet if I walk in there right now, another dish will have mysteriously appeared in the sink!  Swear!  So this is how we tried to improve my office space. 
  1. See that funny little cubby space on the right?  That apparently used to house some kind of convenient dispenser for foil, etc.  Here's what I did:

I love old Mason jars in the blues and greens and used to collect them until I decided that I should sell them at a yard sale.  Note:  Never sell something you love!  These jars are from Wegmans, the Ball mason jars that come in a big box and are pretty cheap.  They now house the sugar, (two kinds, like Starbucks, yes, I'm trying to set the stage here for my comfort zone...)  Then for matching color, cinnamon, brown sugar, two types of salt, and two types of pepper.  Just because.  (That jar of salt is Wegmans sea salt with the label peeled off.  It's, shhh, plastic!)

2.  On the other side, same thing, but this still had the dispenser contraption in it:



It took some elbow grease.  They don't make aluminum foil like they used too - it's a little wider these days.  I guess everything is, which is probably why my baking pans don't fit in the cabinets either!

Here's the antique seal inside:
Very Retro!

3.  Cute display for the soap:
I always reuse the fancy-schmancy bottles and refill with cheap stuff,  not too cheap cause I just need bubbles!  Doing dishes has to have a little spa-quality...

4.  Then a little bling behind the sink:

My grandmother gave me this silver tray for my wedding.  It doesn't fit in our new china cabinet (which is not a china cabinet, more on that to come) so I am following good feng shui and putting it behind the sink.  In feng shui one should never have her back to the people in the room, so a reflective surface will reflect the energy back into the room, and will prevent anyone from sneaking up on the dishwasher!  There are also two little silver picture frames, the kind you get at wedding receptions, with family pictures.    My new Corner Office!
take care of you,