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Weekend Uploader at RR

The uploader is on over at Retro Renovation!  Stop on over and see the fabulousness.

Dreaming of a Special Place

At the start of every spring I start dreaming of some special little spot in the backyard where I can hide and read. So far it hasn’t happened (especially since there’s still snow on the ground and it’s 11 degrees outside), but when I spotted this little Bohemian trailer on Apartment Therapy over the weekend, I knew I’d found the perfect thing. I even went so far as to see if there were any trailers listed in the ‘free’ section of Craigslist, but nothing so far. Isn’t this place amazing? What a great escape!


I’ve had my eye on this Bissa shoe cabinet from IKEA for quite some time. I want to put it next to the front door to collect all the shoes that end-up on the floor. Now that it’s winter, we have a large collection of boots overflowing the boot tray I purchased a few years back and melting snow is a big problem with our wood floors. Plus, I’ve been wanting to give that area a “landing zone” since we don’t have a true entry and thought it would be nice to put a basket or bowl on top to catch J’s wallet, cell phone, etc. I showed it to J, who was less than enthused and pointed out that putting snowy boots in a shoe cabinet might not be ideal. (Sigh. Always, Mr. Practical but he’s my Mr. Practical and that’s one of the many reasons I’m madly in love with him.) Still, we were near IKEA last weekend and stopped in to take a look.
Our son N was with us (his sister had ditched us for parts of IKEA unknown because that’s what teenagers do) and I showed him the cabinet. He was super impressed and actually liked the pull-down fronts of the cabinet. He even told me it was “pretty”, so I ask him if Mama buys one will he use it for his shoes and the kid looks me dead in the eye and says “probably not”. J, of course, starts snort-laughing in that ‘told you so’ kind of way, so we move-on to the textiles. J and N disappear for a few minutes while I  peruse pillows that I don’t need and return with a sisal doormat.
J hands me the doormat and tells me that he’s found the answer to our problem. We’ll just use it in place of the boot tray and the rubber backing will catch any melting snow. It’s big enough to hold all of our shoes and boots and the kids will actually use it. “But”, I sputter, “it’s ugly and not at all what I envision for that area”. J, in his infinite patient wisdom says “yes, but what’s really important? What are we really trying to accomplish? We’re trying to protect the floor and have enough space for everyone’s footwear. I think this fits the bill and it’s cheaper than the shoe cabinet. Plus, it doesn’t have to be forever, so that gives us time to find a better permanent solution.” Fine. Compromise. Sold.
As it turns out, there’s even room for the cat. Plus, the boots are ending-up on the mat and there have been no more water on the floor issues. I have been contemplating buying one of the shoe cabinets for the warmer months and swapping it with the mat for colder months but that might be a bit excessive. Who knows if the kids would use it for their flip-flops anymore than they would for boots? I would probably just end-up with a pile of sandals next to the cabinet because J’s right. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of our fantasies, though, you know?

So what about you? What have you had to compromise on in order to meet your more realistic needs? (I’m still not giving up on my dreams of an organized and stylish entry!)

The Kitchen is Still the Heart of our Home

After J hung the shelves over the prep table, I “styled” them. I don’t have that special knack for artfully arranging things that so many others seem to possess. It takes me a few times to get something that’s balanced and pleasing to the eye. These shelves are also supposed to be useful so I don’t want them to be cluttered with a lot of useless bits and object d’art. My first attempt had a lot going on.
After living with it for a few weeks, I knew that the bright yellow painting my daughter made me had to be relocated because it just didn’t flow with the kitchen. The turquoise boxes for J’s fancy tasting spoons really popped against everything else so I took everything down and started over. I moved the painting to the master bedroom and found a dark basket in which to hide the spoon boxes.  I also moved the other items around so now things look a little less cluttered and a lot more cohesive. Here’s what I have now.
Here’s the painting in our bedroom where I can see it every morning when I wake-up.
It works with the yellow “highlights” I already have in the room and I’m not sure why I didn’t think of moving it there before.

Slowly, but surely, J and I are moving toward our shared vision of our “dream kitchen”.
Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 7.35.16 PM
In fact, we got a second opinion on the gas cooktop and it’s now installed! There’s still an issue with moving the regulator so the drawer can fully go back in and as soon as it’s finished, I’ll post some pictures. I’m thrilled that we didn’t have to get a different cooktop or have to re-sell the one we’d already purchased. At this point, the drawer is a minor issue which can (hopefully) be easily remedied. There are still a few  other things we want to do:

1. Replace the double sink with a single bowl.

2. Replace the faucet with a higher arched model for filling large pots and buckets.

3. Have the garbage disposal removed.  It’s old, rusting and leaking.  We thought about replacing it but since we’re on a septic system, we don’t put any food scraps down our sink anyway.  After much research, we’ve decided to get rid of it altogether and get the pipe replaced under the sink.

4.  Install a couple of magnetic knife strips for our butcher knives.

5.  Fill the existing holes in the mortar of our brick wall and install some hooks for our cast iron skillets.

6.  Buy two more LÄMPLIG chopping boards for the counter.  We bought one about a month ago and it is awesome.  A great value at $9.99.

This kitchen has been on an almost four- year journey of discovery and is finally feeling comfortable in its own skin.  I’ve loved the kitchen since the moment I saw it and, while it’s evolved quite a bit from my original interpretation, I’m still trying to honor the home’s ‘bones’.  I hope the house likes it.

Groundhog Day 2014

I know I’m a week late in sharing, but I made a special cake for my favorite holiday last Sunday. While everyone else was watching the Superbowl, I was watching a real classic.  Unfortunately, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so six more weeks of winter for us!

Gas Cooktop – Fail

Remember the gas cooktop that I was so excited about?  The one found on Craigslist for a great price and there was even talk of stars aligning?  Yeah, well, as it turns out, not so much.  J did a ton of research on installing these things and decided that he just wasn’t comfortable dealing with natural gas, which is completely understandable.  We called our local plumber out and he couldn’t install it because the drop-in part of the cooktop is too big for the opening in the counter and since the dishwasher is on the other side, there isn’t enough counter to cut to make it fit.  We were too eager and uninformed when we made our purchase.  I saw a 30″ cooktop and thought it would fit because it never once occurred to me that the drop-in parts are not at all standard.  It was a good deal, just not for us.  We are going to get a second opinion to see if there’s anything that can be done. If not, we’ll try to re-sell it on Craigslist.  In the meantime, we are considering this to be a lesson learned as we go back to the drawing board.  Know thy drop-in measurements!

What about you?  Have you ever bought anything in haste only to regret it later?  Ha – no one ever does that, right?

Fresh Flowers (?) and The January Cure

If you’ve been following the January Cure over at Apartment Therapy, this past weekend was all about flowers, bedroom organization and cleaning.  I still can’t bring myself to buy fresh flowers but we did finally hang the spider plant in the bedroom.  I love the way the healthy green really brightens the drudge of winter.
Unfortunately, we still haven’t started on the basement project because, once again, we’ve been side-tracked.  Last year it was our bedroom floor and now it’s the kitchen. We’ve started some ball rolling that can’t be stopped, apparently, because we bought a new-to-us gas cooktop on Craigslist and our next project is installation.
(This is the CL picture, not our kitchen.)

This is something we’ve been wanting to do for the longest time and it seems like suddenly all the stars are aligned because we’ve been finding the components we need on CL at great prices. It’s been very exciting for us (we don’t get out much) and J has been cooking some amazing dishes in our ‘new’ kitchen.

Are you working on any projects that you’ve been longing to do?

As Usual…

It’s perfectly normal for me to be running behind.  Right now I’m running behind schedule for the January Cure going on over at Apartment Therapy.  We were supposed to pick a piece of art to frame yesterday and I still haven’t framed the Charley Harper poster I purchased last year.
Even worse, I still don’t even know if I want to frame it in gold or black. What do you think?
drawimage or drawimage?
Since it’s going in our living room, I’m inclined to pick gold simply because it fits better with the other art already in there and I feel like it lets the art stand out on it’s own.  I could be wrong.  It’s happened before.

We’re also thinking about putting a Thomas Keller quote in our kitchen:

“When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about.”

Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook

J can put his graphic design skills to work and make something highly personalized to frame that really means something to us.

This weekend’s assignments are to buy flowers, work on kitchen organization and prepare a meal.  With two kids, we’ll probably prepare six meals between now and Sunday evening so that doesn’t even count. I do, however, have a cupboard that dearly needs clearing.  Otherwise, our kitchen really isn’t in bad shape.  I think my time will be better well spent working on clearing some of the clutter in the basement.  Sunday night is trash night in our house so it gives me even more incentive to get my groove on.  What about you?  Any big plans for the weekend?  I hope it’s a good one!

Hello 2014!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m more than happy to bid farewell to 2013.  It was definitely not one of our finer years.  I’m optimistic that 2014 will have us on a upswing and to start the year off right, J and I decided to do something we’ve wanted to do since we moved in 3 and half years ago –  remove the over-the-range microwave and add some open shelving to our kitchen.  Before we started we went through my inspiration file to help solidify a plan in our minds.  We’ve been creeping toward a certain kind of ‘look’ with our house but the kitchen was still in a sort of flux between modern and kitschy.  We have known for a while that we need to de-clutter and streamline things in there to better facilitate our meal preparation as well since we have a lot of counter space that was going unused due to random bits of ‘stuff’. After sifting through dozens of pictures, we decided we wanted something along these lines.
Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 7.35.16 PM
All of these kitchens are warm, modern and fairly uncluttered while not feeling sterile. They also feel right with our 1956 modern ranch and are welcoming and user-friendly, something we definitely want.  After doing some research on vent hood installation, we took the plunge and bought a new range hood on Craigslist for $25.  I used some Christmas cash I received from my mother-in-law, so no out-of-pocket expense for us.
Working underneath this microwave has been downright claustrophobic.
Putting up the range hood has been one of the best DIY’s we’ve ever done.  Not only is it freeing for an enhanced cooking experience, it makes the whole kitchen feel a lot larger.
Unfortunately, the tile under the microwave had been removed so we had to install a backsplash.  I don’t know if this is a ‘forever’ solution but it works for now.  It’s also a lot easier to clean!

We’ve had this prep table from IKEA for years, ever since we lived in a house with zero counter space and J lovingly bought it for my birthday.  When we moved into this house, we didn’t need to use it as much since we had a lot more counter space and it slowly became covered with a bunch of hot sauce and other debris. (It was actually a lot worse from when this picture was taken.)
We knew that some open shelving would clear up a lot of the clutter and give us back our prep table for actual food preparation. I used a couple of Lowe’s gift cards to purchase the shelving and hardware and J did a fine job of installing them for me.
I can’t begin to tell you how much of a difference these two relatively minor changes have made.  The whole kitchen feels so open now and is a pleasure to spend time in.  Plus, we have tons of counter space now to work on.  We’ve even uncluttered the long countertop.
The next thing we plan to do is hang the cast iron skillets on the brick wall similar to what is demonstrated in the upper left corner of our inspiration picture. We also need a new garbage disposal, since the old one is leaking, and I’d love to get a new single bowl sink. Baby steps, baby steps…  We’re definitely closer to our inspiration, that’s for sure!

I’m also participating in the January Cure again over at Apartment Therapy.  I was looking at some of last year’s projects, like the landing strip I created in the kitchen, and it’s still as neat and tidy as ever.  If I can keep it up, in a few years my house may have some semblance of order!  This year’s Cure is aimed at the basement and I’m hoping to get something, anything, accomplished down there.

So what about you?  What have you accomplished so far in 2014?  Are you doing the January Cure? Are you happy to see 2013 go?  Share!

Merry Christmas

This year’s tree is pretty traditional. We used J’s childhood ornaments to decorate it, along with the standard lights and tinsel. It’s a pretty tree and we’ve spent a lot of evenings just enjoying it’s ambience.
My snowman/snowgirl is back.
The nutcrackers are in formation, anxiously waiting to assist Santa when he comes down the chimney.
Finally, nothing says “Merry Christmas” like Lucky Strike cigarettes. This vintage ad looks great on the bar.

We’re hosting our family’s Christmas Eve party tomorrow night, so I’m busy getting ready today. There is a lot to do, groceries to be purchased and several loads of laundry to be folded but I wanted to pop-in and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! I hope it’s a good one!