"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When in Doubt, Copy Your Sister!

Look what I did today! Woohoo!!!!

I've been wanting an area rug for the dining room for a long time. Rugs have such a great way of completing a room and designating spaces and making everything look all legitimate. They are perhaps my greatest interior decorating discovery yet. (Yes, I am in the early stages.) But, yes, let's do be honest, shall we? My dining room floor is horrific...not even sort of the place for a rug. I am wretched about cleaning up the floors after meals. They really get gross. I don't know how I'd ever manage in a house with carpet under the dining room table. My mother-in-law is awe-inspiring in this category...all busily down there on her hands and knees picking up each crumb my kids tossed overboard during the meal.

Right. So, after I established that there was no way a rug was happening...I mourned it and lived with the room feeling bareish for about a year. But did I give up? No! I hatched a somewhat crazy plan. See, my kid sister, Foxy had done this wonderful floor stencil in her dining room and it made my jaw drop. A "rug" that was stenciled onto fairly unfinished wood floors that we have for which there are no terribly concrete plans regarding their shining refinished future. Heh. It's pretty cheap and brilliantly simple. I had a can of white paint around for painting all the trim the house and I just dipped into that. It took hardly any volume to paint this pattern. I bought one plastic stencil on Etsy, I picked a somewhat complicated damask design which meant that I could cherry pick it apart and selectively stencil little bits here and there to make the rug design look more diverse.

And I love it! I know it will get grubby and eventually fade and be scuffed and scratched but as you can see by I'm not really going for a perfect look, I am thinking more old farmhouse, romantic/rustic than upscale. And eventually I expect we'll sand it off in favor of those shining floors and then I'll be back to the same old problem.

But for now...I love my new lacy rug.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Simplify for Peace

Keep Calm and Carry OnImage via WikipediaThank heaven for all you kind people and your very boosting, sweet comments. You are all so encouraging, you have no idea. And thank heaven for friends who say things like "Just focus on survival right now...eat, something....not perfect, from scratch, gourmet meals....sleep, get the laundry clean, don't sweat the perfect folding. Keep your standards sane."

I like the idea of lowering my standards from time to time. When I am full steam ahead and brimming with energy high standards can keep my sails trim and keep me on course but when the stock is plummeting and my sanity is ebbing away low standards can be a forgotten but very, very useful idea. I am giving my menu plan a second look at considering what very simple maybe even (gasp!) pre-fab meals I can have on hand to cut down on my end of the day meltdowns. I am considering a paper plate rule at breakfast and lunch to keep dishes at a minimum and I have had a good heave-ho rummage through the toys to organize them again and trim, trim, trim the stock. Nothing makes me feel as good as a good purge of our toy collection. I've done it before, and it always feels just as good, every time. I love throwing out the broken ones and culling the ones they never play with and putting all the markers in a baggie together and finding a spot for all the hats...etc. I must have simplification, at whatever costs and in whatever way I can devise.purgeImage by mightymoss via Flickr

I have given my solemn word to A that I will not spend money on more stuff for the house as somehow we managed to go over our budget in that category but oh, I am dying for bins and shelves and racks and other organizational systemy things. I want metal shelving in the basements for storing out of season clothes on, and the camping equipment and all the empty canning jars. I want a labeled basket for the library books to live in and little separate containers for the mittens and the winter hats. In the meantime, am trolling Craigslist free section because you never quite know what you'll find. Maybe I'll will some bins and shelving my direction by sheer force of determination.

Until then...I am writing a list of all the things I could do to make my house more livable and my life more heavy with peace. Got any brilliant ideas?

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Out of the Fog

I am complete toast. I cannot think clearly, I'm exhausted all the time, I go to bed early every night, take a nap most days and still can't manage to feel awake. Very little sounds good food-wise, Claussen dill pickles make the cut and breakfast sandwiches with lots of oozy cheese, sausage and egg. Otherwise...the list is pretty darn short. Most days I manage to quickly prepare dinner and then then serve it to other people but can't make much more than water sound appealing to myself. And my moods! Could someone please tell adrenaline to give me a break here!?!? I feel like I am freaking out over every little ridiculous thing...it all feels like the end of the world and nothing feels okay....ever. My housekeeping is doomed, my friendships are hopeless, my complexion is the pits, and forget my parenting skills. I can't stop crying left and right, the last thing I was sobbing over was the laundry.

Heavens! It's a good thing there's a sweet new baby coming in June to make up for all of that!!!!! Otherwise, I'd have to diagnose myself a bit gone in several categories. We're all very excited around here and as soon as the boys knew and were very strictly lectured on how this was "our secret" Ru went around grinning at all our social engagements looking for sly moments to take adults aside and tell them that he "had a secret to tell them!"  So much for waiting! Ha ha! We're out. We're proud...we're parents again and we're headed into the culturally insane category of four child family.

I feel super out of it. And although this was a very wanted baby at the moment I feel over my limit. Way over. I know most of it is the way that pregnancy, especially the early part, makes me feel like a total psyche ward case but it sure is daunting. I know Baby Four will fit in just fine and I know that we'll very quickly feel like we couldn't imagine life without him or her but for now I just feel like hiding under my quilt and never speaking to anyone again.

Jimmy DeanImage by mhaithaca via Flickr
I am not sure what to do to comfort myself for the next five weeks, infinite supply of Starbucks and cheesy breakfast sandwiches would help. Barring that, I think I'm just in survival mode. I sleep and sleep and also sleep and I cancel a lot of engagements. If I cancel on you, tell yourself I have a terminal illness and to expect very little of me....and in a month or so I will reappear in normal life. I am telling myself this daily.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bathroom Redo, Part Two

Remember when I stripped the wallpaper off the bathroom and then got stumped? I have spent months dithering about what exactly I should do next and how. Sometimes the answer was, drywall mud over the whole friggin' thing, glue residue and all and start over...sometimes the answer was old fashioned elbow grease, just a slow manual scrub of every single inch....and sometimes I convinced myself that this whole project was insane for us to be tackling at all and the real solution was to hire professionals and just outsource. I love it when a real person inspires me to suddenly believe in the impossible.

The next thing that happened was that I met Ashley. Ashley doesn't have any inkling that she turned on my lightbulb and gave me real life hope about being a home re-modeler, I'm not even sure she remembers my name...we met in passing at a women's group. She just shared quickly that she is mother of three and that their family purchased a 1929 home (the exact year of our house) that needs a lot of work and she is single-handedly renovating it piece by piece. The day she talked to me she had just finished lining and building a fireplace and installing a mantle over it! Holy moly! Forget my blues...with no training or formal qualifications. She just has an old house that she wants to see live again, she wants to be a can-do woman and she believes she is qualified to learn how to do virtually anything her house needs because she has a good mind and two sound hands. She does it all with her kids by her side with no nanny and her mother living across the country. Dude. She beats the We Can Do It woman all hollow if you ask me!

We Can Do It!Image by The U.S. National Archives via FlickrI went home completely inspired and super motivated. I sat down and did some quick research on what was the correct thing to do with a wall covered with wallpaper glue...no short-cuts or quick fixes or cover over jobs but what was the right thing that a real pro, going the honest route would recommend. I realized that even though it will take longer and in some cases take some special equipment and education I would rather renovate our home the right way than turn it into a giant hack job. That is work that a woman can be proud of with good reason. I'd be busting my buttons if I dusted off our home and made it shine again the right, honest way, giving myself an education in the process.

After my internet digging I found out that the right way is truly to remove the glue. Any other plan might fall right through. Drywall mudding over the top can go awry because sometimes the mud doesn't stick well to the glue or it doesn't stick long-term (even worse!). Painting right over the residue could have similar results and professionals would be very pricey and maybe not even a sure bet for "the right method." The only way to do it was to clean the wall. So then I thought, "Well, then let's think outside the box. I have to get the glue off...I need clever methods of doing it." and the research took another furious bend. And eventually I found Chomp wallpaper removal spray cleaner. I read reviews and ordered it up. It came in the mail and I got right to work testing it out this week. I am happy to say that the glue removal has been vastly accelerated, I am back to dreaming about bathroom paint swatches and feeling more hopeful than ever about my own abilities as woman home renovator. It's crazy to do with a herd of children and my feet and an optimistically small budget but is not impossible. I really believe that sometimes the key is just hearing encouragement, it sure changed my tune. Share your major achievements with people, you never know who really needs to hear a success story!
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Re-entry 101

The weekend was good. Not earthshaking, just solid, this-was-not-a-mistake...I-am-glad-I-came...good. Cape Cod is never bad. Friends + very late night conversations + good food + painting is never bad. The boys were thrilled to have time alone with their daddy and I really wasn't stressed about how they'd do while I was away from them. In fact, a friend asked me at one point during the weekend how I thought I'd find them on my return and I thought for just a second and knew the answer was, "Just fine. I am positive they'll be just fine." A must be getting pretty good, eh? My confidence is pretty boundless in his daddy prowess. When I came back they had balloons, new batteries in their electronic car, big grins and stories about the cool airplane movie they'd seen together. He's a good man is A.

I am amazed how hard it is for me to get my feet back under me, even when it was only a weekend, it was only me alone and there truly are not bags and bags to unpack. There aren't any excuses at all and here I am, flattened and looking for extra room in my schedule for hibernation. Motherhood has really highlighted my slight tendency towards introversion. I really need recoup time after big stuff happens...no matter how good the stuff was.

So, yesterday I sorted through my paintings, and vacuumed the floor and took the boys to the park for a little nature walk with friends and today I baked maple mustard chicken and butternut squash and smooth halved pears and sorted through my photos. Slowly my brain is coming out of the fuzz and I am starting to feel that normal will happen again.

May all your fall days be crisp and all your baked pears be eaten with a tiny spoon,
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October at the Door

I am feeling a little low lately for no particular reason under the sun. I know that stress gets to me and my upcoming artist's retreat weekend away (no kids! EEP!) although exciting is always stressful in the prelude. I always worry about how it will actually feel to hang out with people. The truth is, I'm still in high school in my brain and worried subconsciously about exactly how to fit in. I worry that I'll be lonely or overwhelmed or just odd and that people will point it out or not...or whatever. Bah! I wish I could somehow rise above it and just revel in the deserved euphoria that should come with this sort of exciting occasion. A weekend on Cape Cod, at a friend's family cottage? Round the clock painting? Trips out in the row boats? Personal space? Why is my brain panicking about this? What is wrong with me? If you have any idea how to stop the manic deluge inside my head, let me know. I wish I wasn't this insecure.

In other news, our stove is here....and although I am sure I saw the installation man grimace when he moved it and saw the horrific mess our family had created underneath it, it is all okay. The stove is gleaming and it works, it really cooks, it smells like plastic a bit from the factory but it has so many features and doo-dads that I honestly have to read the manual to be sure of myself before I turn anything on. We baked a test batch of chocolate chip cookies to be sure everything was in order. A double batch. Enough for a whole weekend away without Mommy in the house.

The leaves have just begun to turn and the bittersweet is just cracking open and showing dark orange glints. The dogwood tree, just over the hedge in our back-neighbor's yard is a dark plummy burgundy. The bees are flitting between manic gathering (warm days) and silently internal days (cool weather). The boys and I are doing a lot more reading and making trips at least once a week to the library. It feels so good to be going often enough that the librarians are recognizing us, makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

Nib is hardly a baby now but instead a lanky little boy, he runs around behind his big brothers and has become quite the little chatterbox. He says "Bad job!" with high enthusiasm. Calling forth judgement seems like a very worthy pursuit. He loves to eat dried fruit of any kind which he gets out of the pantry himself every time I turn around and is a huge fan of books. He wakes up every morning around 5-6 AM and the first thing he does is trot in with a book. It's a good thing we're book lovers who mean to get up early every day. We have our chipper alarm clock. He usually wakes me up by sitting on me with a book in his hands.
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thanksgiving Dreaming

A new stove is on it's way! We've picked one and ordered the shining beauty and it will bring it's magical goodness to the heart of our home on Saturday. I cannot wait to have a reliable cooking source again.
The Thanksgiving tableImage by Lane & Anne via Flickr

I have started mulling over what to make for Thanksgiving and am all salivatory over the possibilities. This year will be our virgin effort for local, "just us" and no-travel Thanksgiving celebration. I cannot wait to roast a turkey myself, to serve up a heap of fluffy mashed potatoes and to decide which rolls to make. How do you decide? I think I need more guests. There are not enough people in our house to eat all the things I want to make. There are the standards: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, stuffing pumpkin pie and then the delectable sounding options for adding to the menu....maybe stuffed mushroom caps, a fantastic cheese plate and some sort of veggie dish. How to decide? Roasted cauliflower with curried spices? Caramelized brussels sprouts with toasted pecans? Steamed green beans tossed with olive oil and roasted garlic? *sigh*
Me helping with Armstrong Thanksgiving (photo credit to my sister-in-law Jane)

Bri-en-croute is a must, right? And some kind of sparkling juice so the kids can join in toasting...and then what about a fresh salad. That sounds imperative after all those heavy, warm foods. Greens with pomegranate, fresh pear, goat cheese, burrata, beet slices, persimmon...oh heavens! And maybe Oyster Rockefeller for a New England touch? How will I choose?
Megaman carves the bird of 2009 (photo credit to Jane again!)
 I cannot wait for that stove to get here. I need to do some serious elimination and recipe testing. And what bliss, to have a broiler for toasting things, a working temperature gauge and an oven timer that works, right on the top. I cannot wait!
Thankgiving Feast afterglow... (Jane again!)
I realize that you might think I'm a bit over the top, after all...it's not even November, I have three small children and I've never even made a Thanksgiving Day meal before. That list makes me sound bonkers but, truly, Rome was not won in a day, a girl with three kids has to plan ahead...well ahead. And I don't believe in defeatist thinking so who cares about the "never have's" and the fact that I am a young mother to several. I believe in full-on-insanity in terms of ambitious and adventuresome celebration, so bring on the turkey!
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Corn Maze Adventures

Today a little photo essay of our visit to the local corn maze. Sometimes images are better than words. :)

Happy Tuesday night, everyone!