Tuesday, December 28

Sweet dreams.

This is the twin bed we purchased two months ago for the small guest bedroom. It has a white-washed finish that's polished without being too formal. If you recall, this is the bed we purchased at a barn sale where I found the arm chair for the other guest room, the Swedish chair, if you will. This bed was tucked away in the chicken coop, and I have to give Dave all the credit for finding it. It has come in handy several times since then, and I'm so glad we picked it up.

The walls actually don't look so bad in this picture, but this room clearly belonged to a child, as there are hand and fingerprints everywhere. It needs to be painted, soon. I have the paint, one of my favorite colors of all time, Benjamin Moore's Covington Gray. Now all I need is a free day. Easier said than done.

I have no ideas for this room, other than I don't want it to get too prissy. I think a cool, clean gray will help with that. I want some crisp white curtains, nothing too fussy. This little bedroom may be great for a few plants, as it has three windows, and gets sunlight from the North and West. Now if I can remember to water them, it could work out nicely.

Tuesday, December 14

I saw Santa!

And it made me as giddy as a five year old on Christmas morning. Driving through town Friday evening on my way to run a few errands, I saw a man dressed as Santa standing in his front yard. I yelled out, Santa! (to myself), and quickly tooted the horn to say hello. Santa waved back, and I was immediately struck by a wave of what could only be Christmas spirit. That translated into a stop to pick up a few bottles of Prosecco. Nothing says holidays like some bubbly, right?

Saturday we got right into Christmas mode. We drove up to a nearby garden center, recommended by a friend of ours, to get our tree. Maybe came with us, in one of her holiday sweaters, to help find the perfect one. Instead she ended up bullying Lilly, the black lab that lived there, so back to the car she went. She occupied herself with figuring out how to get out of her sweater while we checked out the nursery store. They had an amazing collection of Christmas trees, all decked out with different ornaments for sale. They also had some gorgeous wreaths for sale, all real, in a variety of sizes. Beautiful as they were, they cost almost as much as the tree, so I held off. Somewhere I have a pretty decent fake I have to put out for the season. So we picked out some ornaments, and also grabbed some clearance bulbs to plant when spring rolls around.

We settled on a 7' Fraser fir for our Christmas tree. We took it home and then headed back out to do some Christmas shopping. At Target we found a new star for the top, along with some new gold bulbs, icicles, and a stocking for Maybe. The only thing I couldn't find was lights for the tree. There was a whole row of lights, but none of them were what we were looking for. LED lights, colored lights, globe lights...but regular white lights were no where to be found.

Thankfully, Christmas Tree Shops saved the day on Sunday, and we were able to stock up on lights. It took forever to get the tree trimmed enough to stay up straight in the stand, but finally we got it up. The Fraser is a pretty tree, and quite tough, but weaving the lights in and out was a bit of a challenge. It's nearly finished, we have some more ornaments to sort through and put up.
As you can see, Maybe has been gearing up for the holidays as well. So far her and Andre have been careful to slow down when they chase each other around the tree. My tuckered out little reindeer is curled up in my lap as we speak ,which is making it really hard to type. On that note, goodnight!

Wednesday, December 8

Sick day, my new obsessions, and other miscellaneous news.

I think the only way for me to get anything posted these days is to be on my death bed. I can't remember the last time I was this sick, it's been a few years. I'm not usually one for sick days either. I can usually take a DayQuil and be fine, but not this time. Such a waste of a day to be home but not able to be productive. The dust bunnies are safe for a few more days.

My clumsy self broke the camera this weekend, well, one of them. Of course it's the one we use the most because it has a great rechargeable battery. I dropped it, with the lens open, so now all I get is an error message and can't even get to the photos on the memory card. Hopefully the lovely people at Canon can help us out, and keep it on the cheap side. I did the same thing to my own camera last year, but it was less than a year old and still under warranty. I may have fibbed a little as to how the damage actually occurred in order to get it fixed for free.

I am hooked on a new website; http://www.fabric.com/ I arrived home yesterday to find a box of goodies I'd ordered online on Black Friday, all at great prices. Most of what I found was $5.58 per yard, with free shipping, and I also found a coupon code for 15% off my total order. I'm not sure what most of the fabric is going to be used for yet, but I didn't want to miss out on some of these prints.

This grayish-blue and white cotton print is going to be used to recover the seats on the pair of dining chairs for my sister.

I'm obsessed with this fabric. If I could, I'd buy every yard they have in stock. For now I purchased it in a few colors, including charcoal (seen here), candy pink, chartreuse, and corn yellow. I would have gotten more but it was sold out in a few colors at the time. It is a medium weight cotton duck, and it would be perfect for drapes or throw pillows. It's like a grown up, ethnic version of polka dots.

I also purchased a few yards of this zig zag print in several colors, including the chartreuse/ivory seen here, corn yellow/natural, titan blue/ivory, and a light blue/natural. You could go in a lot of different directions with this fabric. It has this timeless vintage-modern vibe that could go with just about anything.

This pretty print also came in a variety of color patterns, but I settled on this gray and ice blue combo. It's got a classic feel, but is hip and trendy at the same time.

So there's a sample of my new stockpile. Now I just need to get sewing and recovering. My mom brought me this great little bench that needs some love, choosing which fabric to use will not be an easy task.

Saturday, December 4

Gobble! Gobble!

Thanksgiving dinner went off almost without a hitch. We were pretty close to being on schedule, and of course had more than enough food. Two turkeys, four kinds of stuffing, three cranberry sauces, and many bottles of wine. I somehow ended up in charge of basting the turkey, every fifteen minutes, according to our recipe. I was quite proud of our beautifully browned bird.

(Ok, this isn't actually my turkey, but it's pretty close)

We used a Bobby Flay recipe, Black Pepper - Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Turkey, with a few tweaks of our own. I knew that not having stuffing from the bird would not fly with the family, so we ignored Bobby's instructions to leave the bird unstuffed. Also it turns out that even the great Wegman's does not carry Pomegranate Molasses, and there was no time to order online, so we improvised. We ended up finding a jar of pomegranate jam, which we reduced with some POM juice until we got the consistency we wanted. Lots of garlic and onion went into the bottom of the roasting pan, along with some organic chicken broth for basting. The pomegranate glaze didn't go on until the very end. Speaking of the inside the bird stuffing, we used a loaf of Wegman's Rosemary & Olive Oil bread, basically the most amazing bread in the whole world. It's seriously addicting. Warm and fluffy, and full of oil and spices, I knew it would be perfect for keeping the bird moist.

Somehow I miscounted our guests for the day, and ended up one setting (and chair) short. My poor brother got stuck with a mismatched plate and napkin. My table was ruined! But at that point, it was time to eat, not worry about my decor. I managed to have my table set before everyone arrived, which is usually a challenge for me. I picked up an extra long white cotton table cloth from Target to match my Crate and Barrel one, since we'd have two tables to cover. I had the perfect number of red napkins and cut acrylic napkin rings to go around.

Sadly, my table cloths did not survive the day. I've always marveled at how stains seemed to jump right off my pristine white table cloth. But alas, even with pre-treater, and some bleach in the wash water, this year was just too much. I may try some Oxi Clean, and if that doesn't work I think I will tie or tea them to give them new life. As karma would have it, I received a coupon in the mail on Saturday for $5 off a new Target brand table cloth. I may not give up on white after all.

Saturday, November 20

Recycled goods.

Who says new is better? We seem to be acquiring quite a bit of second hand furniture these days. I find it so rewarding to give something new life, to save it from the trash, all while gaining something really cool for myself. New furniture just doesn't have the character that older pieces do, and used (or free) is also great on the wallet.

I think the old currently out numbers the new in our house. The couch and love seat are new, as is my little damask armchair, our nightstands, and Dave's desk. Meanwhile, our bed frame, my desk, the dining room table and chairs (not a set), buffet, coffee table, guest bed, living room chairs, and TV table are all second hand. And that's not even counting the three works in progress in the garage.

I won't bombard you with pictures of everything in the house, not yet anyway, but here are a few recent finds...

This "Swedish" chair was picked up at a barn sale for $50. An absolute steal, if you ask me. I found the listing for the sale posted on Craig's List, and attempted to claim the chair earlier in the week, but the sellers, kind as they were, would not release it to me early.

Fortunately our weekend plans changed to allowed us to go to the barn sale at an old farm nearby, built in the 1860's. Everything was really well done, and displayed really sweetly. They even had hot cider and cookies for everyone. Dave chatted with the horses while I stood guard by my chair until I found the seller.

The chair has been repainted and loosely reupholstered. The fabric even came with one tiny little kitty footprint from the miniature barn cat that we saw running around.

The sellers encouraged us to check out the chicken coop, which housed some freshly white-washed antique pieces. Dave spied a pretty little twin bed, another steal, but at first I protested. Do we really need it? But, since we've recently purchased a treadmill to join our exercise bike, the gym has been moved from the small spare bedroom down to the basement, leaving us an empty room. I was quickly convinced that yes, we needed this too. So into the Subaru it went. Pictures of that to come soon.

I swear the CL people don't pay me an advertising fee. This beat up little table was posted for $40, and thankfully not too far away. I am a lazy Craig's Lister, I will not drive more than half an hour to get something. Or at least to date, have not found anything that has inspired me enough to want to travel that far.

I gave it a quick sanding and a few coats of creme colored paint, which luckily had the primer built right in. I'm quite happy with how it came out. AND...most importantly, it was picked up and transformed within a week's time. My first quick turn around project. Yay!

This pair of dining chairs are my newest acquisition. Purchased at Goodwill for $6.99 each. The detail on the ladderback chairs is really interesting. They look like they've been kicked around, but that's nothing some fresh paint can't fix.

As Dave pointed out, the current upholstery would have matched the old curtains in the spare bedroom. Too bad they have long since gone the way of the dump. A quick replacement of the upholstery will go a long way.

I'll be gifting the finished product to my little sister for her new apartment. I'll post pictures once they are finished.

Just a sample of some of the rehabs. For now I'm off to make some holiday decorations and maybe even some new throw pillow covers. My Thanksgiving guests are going to expect some changes inside the house. Eeeek. Off to work!

Wednesday, October 20

Let there be light.

Once again the chainsaw has brought down another round of trees. I never thought I would be responsible for the simultaneous destruction of so many trees, but it really has made such a difference in the backyard. Of course there are still a ton of trees, they are just a little less crowded now. And there is one in particular that I don’t have to worry about falling on my house anymore.

The canopy over the yard has been significantly decreased, mostly by the one crooked tree (seen below). I’m glad I wasn’t home for this round. I would not have been able to watch as those monster trees fell so dangerously close to my house. From what I’ve heard, and what you can see below, the large crooked tree had a close call. Luckily it just missed the house, landing on top of my rock wall, and just next to the picket fence behind the garage. Good thing my little wall is solid. The upper yard in the back is really taking shape now. Removing a few of the smaller trees right in the middle has given us a pretty large open space.

The tree in the middle is the "crooked" tree. It was very tall, and relatively skinny, but it also arched quite far over the house. Its leaves blocked a lot of light over the deck. And that menacing arch made me nervous, especially for such a thin tree. My pretty little pines are staying, at least for now. They provide some great privacy, especially since we don't have a lot of curtains up yet. They also look much better once they have been cleaned up, and the surrounding trees cleared out.

Eeeek! See! Close call there. I love how you can see the fumes from the chainsaw in this picture.

After: still at work on the other trees. The pines now stand alone, and there is already so much more light on the yard. Many thanks to our experienced tree removal crew. From what I hear, they enjoyed the work as much as I enjoyed coming home to the results of their efforts.

Firewood anyone? This is just one of the large piles. Which reminds me, I need to call someone to come clean the chimney.

This is a great view of the new yard. We've cleared out a ton of trees, and leveled some of the higher areas. We have a bit more filling and leveling to get it all nice and flat, but it is much improved already. Just out of view on the left is where the Pieris Japonica bushes are planted. They'll grow to make a nice border at the back of the yard. As you can see, Maybe is inspecting all the changes.

Tuesday, October 19

If you build it.

I am completely amazed, and completely exhausted, thinking about what we accomplished this weekend. The first of three retaining walls is built, and it came out better than I ever could have imagined. We've also started the foundation for the second wall, which is almost the longest part of the process.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the weekend forecast was going to be quite mild. All the rain that had been predicted earlier moved on, leaving us with sunshine and a perfect working temperature of about 55. Saturday morning we reviewed our directions over breakfast, then headed out to get supplies. We hit up the local Home Depot, the first of many trips this weekend. We found a great Home Depot associate in the tool department who walked us through most of what we needed, including a shiny, new circular saw and a selection of drill bits. Then we headed to the garden department to grab gravel to make the base for the wall. While over there I found a pallet of Japanese Maple trees, on clearance for $15. They were a little worse for the wear, after living all summer in their tiny little pots, but I picked one with great shape.

What was to be our last stop was the lumber department. After tracking someone down we learned they were completely sold out of the 6"x6"x8' pressure treated timbers we were looking to buy. Just two weeks ago we had an employee check the stock and they had nearly 100. So while we loaded up the rebar we needed, I called the nearest Lowe's to see what they had in stock. They did, in fact, have a large number of the timbers.

So off we went to Lowe's. The employee I spoke to over the phone led us to the end of a long aisle, where the 6x6x8's were stacked. As we walked down we told him how many we needed, and then he went off in search of a cart.

We stood dumbstruck in front of the stack. These things are massive! I tried to lift the end of a solo timber that was on the front of the shelf. It didn't budge. Uh-oh. We quickly started brainstorming our other options, because clearly, these were not what we wanted. Just as the employee was returning we settled on the 4"x4"x8' timbers, and we took every last one in stock, about 80 total. Unloading them from Lowe's rental truck was not fun. We later did some investigating to find that each timber weighed about 40 pounds. We estimated we moved about 1 1/2 tons of wood, in about 15 minutes mind you. I moved about a third of that, but by the end of the load, my arms had just about given out on me.

All of this took almost five hours, not leaving us much daylight to work. After dinner we cut a few timbers in half, and then headed off to bed with the hopes of getting up early to start work.

Sunday morning we started, not quite as early as we'd hoped, and with a small list of additional things we needed from Home Depot. I made it there and back in record time, and joined Dave at work out back. The base for the first wall leveled out pretty quickly. All of our directions, and everyone we talked to said the same thing; level, level, level. And so we did. I kept checking with each new layer, and it was dead on every time.

Above is the first three layers of timbers, a close up shot of the "deadman", a perpendicular support that will hopefully keep the wall from leaning. This wall is 12' long by about 3' high, with two deadmen for additional support. The bottom two layers are spiked with rebar deep into the ground, and each subsequent layer is connected with galvanized spikes down through the two timbers beneath it. This thing is solid.

The finished product! We decided to stagger the end a bit to better match the slope of the hill behind. We still need to fill in around it a bit more, and plant some plants to make it all work together. We can't stop checking out our work. I can't wait to see the other wall finished along with it. A very special thank you goes out to our friend Carl, who generously loaned us his tamper, sledgehammer and 6' level, none of which we could have done without. Sorry about that egg, Carl!

Monday, October 11

I'm in love.

With this paint color. Behr "Harmonious", a beautiful greenish-blue that has far exceeded my expectations. I can't find my original swatch, and the Behr site is all Flash, and the link won't work, sigh, so you'll have to take my word for it until you get to the end of this post. No peeking!

Over the summer we'd collected a stack of swatches for the guest bedroom, all a variety of blues, greens and greys. We wanted it to be different than anything we'd used so far, and we thought we could go with a bit of a bolder color than we might normally chose.

The final selection process for this color went something like this...Of course I always struggle trying to make up my mind with these things. We'd planned to go to Home Depot for a few things on a Saturday afternoon, and paint for the guest bedroom was on the list. So Saturday morning I sat myself down at the kitchen island with a mug of tea, a laptop, and a stack of paint swatches. Knowing how differently colors can look on the walls, I tried to google each of my favorite colors to see if I could find a photo of a room in that color. I didn't have much luck with the Behr swatches I'd selected, probably due to it being a new color line. So I looked up similar Benjamin Moore colors until I narrowed down my final choice.

I walked into Dave's office, where he was on the computer, and planted the swatch on the desk. "This is it. Don't let me change my mind."

Hours later at HD, swatch in hand, we stop to look at paint colors, as we always do, hoping something new and wonderful will pop out at us. "Do you think it's too much like the living room color?", Dave asked, looking one more time at our selection. Eyebrow raised, I turned, "No, not even close." As we are sifting through swatches, looking through booklets, we spot a sample room with two-toned walls, both colors similar to what was to be our final choice. We like the darker one, but it's a bit too dark. We pull the individual swatches to see what they look like. Damn it, now I'm doubting my choice.

Determined not to be swayed I point out that the darker color is very similar to our choice when you look at the individual samples. We go back and forth, comparing levels of green, lighter versus darker, etc. Finally, ah yes, we agreed, back to Behr UL220-6, aka Harmonious.

This was several weeks ago, and I've been itching to get it on the walls ever since. We've been trying to get everything done outside before the snow comes, so inside projects have been on hold. Until this weekend, when I found myself home alone for the better chunk of a Saturday afternoon. As soon as I was alone I set straight to work on the guest bedroom. It took forever to get it prepped and ready. This must have been a child's room, because the walls were nicked, the trim was dingy, and and I found remnants of glitter stickers when vacuuming out the corners. It was a mess. It had at some point been painted a flat white, and in keeping with this house, someone did a crap job. There is flat white paint all over the glossy cream trim, which will have to be touched up at some point, assuming there is some leftover in the basement. If not, matching will not be the easiest task.

Anyway, after nearly two hours of patching, sanding and taping, I was ready to get some color on the walls. I loved it again the minute I opened the can, and even more with just a small section of trim done. I was giddy, working my way around the room until I finally had the first solid coat on. The room was a lot bigger than I realized, and I thought I might not have enough paint to cover a full second coat. I decided to wait until morning to finish in case I ran out, that way at least the store would be open so it would just take a quick trip to finish up. Turns out I had enough to finish, barely. There is even a tiny bit left for any touch ups down the road.

Every time I go up or downstairs I stop to peak at the new room. The color is so gorgeous it almost makes me forget about the hideous white carpet in the room. Or maybe that's because I still have all my drop cloths down. Hmmm.

So without further ado, the before and afters of the guest bedroom (so far)...

Before: Nothing to write home about. White walls, white carpet, off-white trim. I hung a pair of pale gold curtains on the existing curtain rod. A small end table with a lamp and a large printed canvas were the only bits of color. It was very undone, to say the least.

After: I'm not sure if these photos are really capturing the true beauty of this color. It really has some nice depth to it. I can't wait to pull the rest of the room together. We've already picked out some artwork, as we have a theme of sorts in mind. Next up is picking out some fabrics, and I've been on the hunt for the perfect lamp. Wish me luck!

Sew cute.

One of my afternoon projects this summer was fixing up this little sewing table. Found on the side of the road by a skilled and experienced trash picker, all it needed was a little love. Some of my favorite pieces of furniture have been plucked from the trash, here is the latest...

This is perfect size for the guest bedroom. We didn't need a full dresser, but still wanted a small table for a lamp and for guests to set small things down. Seeing that it still has a full, working sewing machine in it, it's quite heavy for such a small piece. The top drawer even has spindles for little spools of thread, and a pin cushion built right in.

After much sanding, I was ready to paint. I'll admit I was being lazy, and skipped a coat of primer. This probably cost me a few extra coats of paint, but I had plenty to spare from a quart of a pale Benjamin Moore yellow, called Candlelit Dinner. The yellow is a bit paler than I thought it would be, it ended up being more of a really creamy off-white, which I'm just fine with. I didn't paint the inside of the drawers, or underneath the folding top, as I didn't want anything to stick shut, but I may go back later and clean up those parts with a fresh coat.

Luckily the missing knob was found in one of the drawers. I'm still debating whether to put the original ones back on, either in their current state, or painted another color. Or to possibly find new knobs, but I'm afraid anything too small might look out of scale. Even though it's a small piece, it has some weight to it, so nothing prissy or petite would really work. Along with a few really cute accessories, including a manual, and a red box and pale blue tin containing sewing odds and ends.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and I can't wait to see it in the finished room. Now all I need is a lamp, curtains, a chair, a headboard...

Sunday, October 10

More outdoors.

One of these Sunday nights I'd love to not be stiff and sore as hell. But I fear, until the snow falls, that will not be so. There is so much still to do, but it is really starting to shape up outside. I'm nearly finished rebuilding my stone retaining wall, and we've moved a significant amount of dirt to flatten out the upper and lower lawns. When I say we, I mean Dave watched me struggle trying to push the old, rusty wheelbarrow full of dirt up the hill before relieving me of my duties. I went back to weeding and my rock wall.

Living in the woods your work outside is never really done. Sometimes I feel like I could rake the entire yard, and sweep the driveway, every...single...day. Leaves, acorns and sticks are constantly falling, so keeping up with that is enough to keep anyone busy.

It's inspiring to see how much we've done already, and so we keep plugging on. We can't build the wood retaining walls until we have a few of the larger trees taken out. Hopefully those can come out in the next few weeks, so we can get moving on the walls. I hope I'm not underestimating things when I think about the actual scope of that project. We've already done much of the work to get ready for the walls. We'll have to dig a trench to fill with gravel, level the timbers (which will be pre-cut to length), and stack them, inserting metal spikes or rebar to keep them in place. Although the timbers will be pressure treated, I'm thinking about putting landscaping cloth against the back of them, just to give a little bit of extra protection from moisture. We have three small walls to build, each only a few feet high, nothing too crazy or overwhelming.

Sooooo yes, still more to do. At least all this yard work is a good substitute for the gym. And although I complain now, I'd much rather shovel dirt than shovel snow.

Monday, October 4

Andromeda lives to tell!

Pieris Japonica, otherwise known as Andromeda, is the newest addition to our landscaping projects. We were looking for something to plant that would grow enough to give us some privacy from the neighbors behind us. Lovely people as they are, we just wanted a little something. Of course with all our obstacles (lots of shade, deer, sandy soil) we were worried about finding something we'd like. Thankfully the guy at our local nursery is very knowledgable. He led us to the Pieris Japonica, a beautiful evergreen ornamental shrub, that could grow up to 10' tall and 8' wide (although they usually don't). We planted three, in a neat little row at the back of the upper yard.

They are said to be deer resistant, but as we've come to find, nothing is ever safe from a very hungry deer. Not to take any chances however, we concocted a homemade spray to keep the deer away. Based on some recipes we found online, which we of course added our own touch to. This site has some great recipes. We made ours with 2 raw eggs, 5 cloves of garlic, and 5 serrano chili peppers, all in the food processor, then mixed with water. We used a garden sprayer, one orginially bought for wallpaper removal, and doused my new babies with our toxic sludge. Hopefully that is enough to let the deer know they don't want to eat them.

Our neighbors are more careful, coverering everything in their entire gorgeously landscaped yard with burlap. Not taking any chances I guess.

Did I mention we did all this spraying out in the pitch black at 11pm? With a flashlight. Good thing all our neighbors are old and were hopefully in bed sound asleep. So my little beauties lasted the first night. I'll be keeping a close eye on them.

Moving mountains.

Literally. I can only imagine how sore my back will be in the morning. It was only two weekends ago that we woke up on Sunday morning, barely able to move, our bodies revolting against what we may possibly put them through again. That weekend we spent about seven hours outside on Saturday working on the backyard. Digging up stumps, raking sticks and leaves and debris, starting to move dirt to clear room for the retaining wall.

This is Dave's master plan. And to my bewilderment, it is slowly coming to shape. It seemed a daunting undertaking at first, clearing and leveling out our upper yard into something usable. When we bought the house we weren't even aware that the hill behind the house was part of our property. There was a row of evergreens with a hill rising behind, and we assumed that row of trees was out back property line. We were pleasantly surprised to find that row of trees was just the beginning. Our yard stretches another 45-50 feet beyond that!

Again I'll remind you that nothing had been done in the yard in about ten years. We live in the woods so there is a lot of debris, branches, a hundred million acorns and leaves in various states of decomposition. It has all made for great compost. Instead of trying to get rid of all the little stuff, I've taken to raking it into big piles which I occasionally turn. Depending on the weather, it doesn't take long for the pile to break down. Lots of that came in handy for filling the holes where stumps used to be. That way, we could use all the extra dirt to level out other areas of the yard.

There is also the matter of several stone walls which were in quite a state of disrepair. Along with a jumble of stones in various places throughout the yard. Which have now all been relocated, hence my poor sore back, to another area of the yard until they can be used again. I've taken down the small curved retaining wall close to the house and started to rebuild it. I flattened out the curve a little bit so it's more of a gentle slope than the S shape it used to be. That worked out to be a few wheelbarrows full of dirt for the upper yard as well, hooray!

We've been plugging along, working three days last week for a few hours after work, until it was too dark to see what we were doing. Thankfully Saturday was a fun day, but then on Sunday the sun came out to remind us to get back to work. I'll post pictures very soon. I can't wait to show our realtor when this is all done. We also joked last night about inviting the town DOT workers who've been collecting our yard waste each week to have a few beers and show them the before and after pictures. They must be wondering where the heck all this stuff is coming from.

Our goal before winter is to get the retaining walls in place, and remove several of the big trees that are leaning over the house. I'm hoping that will open up the canopy and give us a bit more sun. I also have a ton of planting to do. My aunt pulled a carload of plants from her garden, all mature, shade loving plants to donate to us. I think her garden needed the room, and ours certainly needed the plants, so it worked out perfectly. She gave us ferns, several large Astilbe, a huge clump of Peonies (one of my favs!) among other things. I can't wait to see everything in place.

Pictures coming soon I promise! For now, more Advil please!

Monday, September 20

Let's shop Target.

No really, let's go. Right now. I mean, who doesn't love Target? They have Starbucks right inside! I realized the last time I ran in to grab cat food and conditioner that my blouse, camisole and shoes were all from Target. This has happened to me many times. Usually I am reminded of what a great deal I got on the items, like the gold faux leather moccasins I’m wearing now, found on sale for $6.24. I’m not vegan but I prefer to keep my leather consumption to a minimum, so faux works for me. Target has high end designers create limited run collections of clothing and home furnishings, at deeply discounted prices of course. Designers like Anna Sui, Jean Paul Gaultier and Zach Posen have all created collections especially for Target customers. Usually these pieces fly off the shelves, but sometimes they are just a bit too funky for the average shopper. I’ve managed to get a few steals just by waiting out the clearance markdowns.

But enough about clothes. The home furnishings are a huge step above any competitors. Classic furniture pieces are mixed with trendy designer accessories. New collections are always coming in so you have to grab the hot new items as soon as they hit the stores or you could miss out. One of the latest collections, by designer John Derian, features charming nature prints on melamine plates, trays, stoneware mugs and more.

These salad plates (John Derian) are available in stores and online. $19.99 for a set of 8.

Can we talk about how cute this little girls chair is? It retails online for $89.99. Absolutely adorable for any little princess's room.

Big time style at a (semi) discount price. For $300 it's not that much of a steal, but it is absolutly gorgeous, and would work great in a small space.

Now this is a steal. This cute little accent chair sells for $200. A classic shape with a great print.

We've recently made a few purchases in their home department that left me quite impressed. I was really pleased by their curtains, curtain rods and hardware. The curtains offered a great selection of fabrics and colors, all at very reasonable prices. We picked up a drapery rod, in nickel, along with a pair of cocoa colored drapes, perfect for the sliding glass door in the kitchen. Target has also been great for picture frames, with very reasonable prices, on classic, stylish frames.

There is a lot more to be found online than there is in-store, for the most part, especially in the furniture department. I recently ordered a cute little buffet for my office lobby. It was a snap to put together and I'm really pleased with it.

One of the best things about Target is there is always an excuse to go there. Need toothpaste? Run to Target. Oh, while I'm here I might as well check out the sale rack!

Monday, September 6

Great Expectations.

Last week, while brainstorming ideas for the guest bedroom ,I was looking for canopy ideas. Something a little different and fun for our visitors. I found what I thought were some really cute inspiration photos, only to be met with a look of distaste from Dave. "That's creepy", he said. I was utterly confused. Creepy? I mean it's one thing to say you don't like it. Too much fabric, too girly, too ruffly, I get it. But creepy? "How is that creepy?" I asked.

"It reminds me of something out of Miss Havisham's house".

Oh boy.

Well now you've done it.

Great Expectations, one of my most hated school reading assignments. I'm thinking now I should re-read it to see if I can figure out exactly why I hated it so much. I can guess why, Charles Dickens has always depressed the heck out of me. But I recall there was something about that book I detested so much at the time. Anyway, Miss Havisham. A name that immediately conjures up images of a old, yellowed satin and lace. A name that instantly makes me cringe to hear it. "You're crazy!" I stated, Miss Havisham?! No way! as I scoured google images for something that was actually a bit more Havishamesque. Something like, I don't know, this...

or this...

I can see guests being uncomfortable in a room like this, especially if it's all crammed into a much smaller room, with much lower ceiling. This is too much. Agreed.

I was determined to redeem my idea, however fleeting it may have been at the time. I kept searching, occasionally getting an "eh" from Dave. We're getting closer. And then I found this...

Oooh. Oh. Oh that's nice. Uh huh, yup. Now we're talking. This is serene, peaceful. A lovely cocoon of coziness. There is a bit more going on here than what I'd imagined for our guest room, but at least we're heading back in the right direction. I'm thinking something a bit simpler, that will still be unexpected. There are so many beautiful fabrics out there that I'd love to incorporate, and this is such a great way to do it. Here are a few more examples of what I think would work.

Stripes and a simple box frame keep this look clean, and let the curves of the headboard stand out. I'd like to see a bit more space between the headboard and the canopy, to really give the headboard a good frame, but overall I like this combo.

*I really love this bedside table.

Hmmm...twin beds for guests? I love this look when done in pairs. Hot pink balanced with lots of crisp, clean white. The lining really makes the cut outs in the headboard pop. The fun fabric keeps this look from being too stiff or serious.

Symmetry at it's best. This vintage glam bedroom has an old Hollywood feel. Notice the puzzle piece cut outs in the canopy frames.

My favorite thing about this bed is the gentle mix of colors. Gray and yellow zig-zag on the box pleat frame, paired with ice blue drapery lined with fuchsia. The light blue keeps it airy while the dark fuchsia creates a great little sleeping cave.

Thursday, September 2

The end of summer.

It creeps up so quickly upon us. Suddenly, vacation has passed, the Great New York State Fair is here, and Purple Loosestrife lines the sides of roadways. We spent the last week on the beach in the Outer Banks. It was a very lazy, sun drenched, salt-watered vacation. By the end of the week we even got Maybe to dip her toes in the ocean. This took much coaxing, and probably most importantly, her attempting to keep up with her new friend, Dude. Dude is a sweet, yet reserved Airedale Terrier, who mostly wants nothing to do with Maybe. Several times he tells her, in not so many words, to piss off. She of course does not listen. At one point during the week he actually engages her in play. Success! Anyway, on Friday we found ourselves again at the sea shore, Maybe in tow. Seeing Dude trod straight into the crashing waves was enough to get her to take her chances with the rolling white foam that crested on her ankles. A little splash here, a crash there, all was good, as long as I was not far away. When all else fails, hide behind Mom.

All that sun and salt water makes everyone tired, even on a lazy vacation. With all the extra sleep I found myself having dreams about designing the guest bedroom. Of course I wake up in a tizzy, feeling inspired, but also flustered because of course, even in my dreams I can't make up my mind about anything. Sometimes I wished I just liked one style, it might be easier to make final decisions. But I like so many things, so many different things, and I'm afraid if I don't censor myself it will turn into a disaster. One of my big design motto's is if you fill your house with things you love, it will all come together nicely. I would tell this to clients, and usually peoples tastes fall within a range of similar tastes so that it rings true.

Yeah, not so much for me. I like modern, I like vintage, I like just about every color under the sun, I like everything. Maybe I'll just let go. No censorship. Hmmmm...

For us, extended time in the car eventually leads to conversations about the house, to-do lists, timelines, budgets, what if's.

Should we set the dining room on fire instead of trying to get the rest of the wallpaper off? Possibly.

Can we re-drywall the half bathroom ourselves? Only if we plan to re-tile the floor.

How much does one of those vanities cost anyway? A lot.

Can we start to take down the wallpaper in the hallway yet? Only when we finish the dining room and half bath.

Lists. In my head, in my notebook, in my Blackberry...

In the meantime, more vacation pictures of Maybe...

Wednesday, August 18

Speaking of plaid...

I mentioned the plaid wallpaper in my last post, of which we still have a relic to treasure. A papered outlet cover, whose origin was a bit of a mystery for a few months until I found a tiny strip of the same paper above one of the office windows. Not to totally diss plaid, it's just really hard to justify wallpapering a room in it, especially in the 80's.

Wiki says: Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven cloth, but now they are used in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns. (Tartan is also known as plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder or a blanket.)

Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over - two under the warp, advancing one thread each pass. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.

I'm all for a nice tartan, used well of course. Here are a few great examples of when tartan works.

Gorgeous. I'm not sure I should even put anything after this one. A classic Eames chair and ottoman, with a shift from the typical leather upholstery. It's a design nerd's dream.

Vintage cool. This old school thermos is available online at www.etsy.com or possibly in your gramma's attic. Perfect for carrying peppermint cocoa on a winter sledding adventure.

The pillow in the foreground is similar to the wallpaper that once graced our office walls. Very cute in a pillow, but I still shudder when I think about it as wallpaper.

This striking lampshade works when paired with a cut crystal lamp and crisp white paint. I love the little Greyhound statue, it's a great element in this little vignette.

You know I love my flats. Enough said.

A girl can never have enough shoes. These give plaid a little street cred.

And to close, a sweet example of how plaids, paired with stripes, can be very nicely executed. This classic settee is brought down to earth with a navy pinstripe upholstery. The plaids make it even more cozy.