Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

We are off to celebrate a fabulous Christmas with Margot Pants. Right now we are busy playing Santa, hosting one more dinner party before Christmas with out of town friends, decorating cookies for Santa, putting the last stickers on our advent calender and having a jolly good time!

We wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

An advent calender and a minor panic attack

Last night before putting Margot to bed we were counting star stickers on her advent calender, she get's to put a star up each night, when I realized that there are only 10, scratch that, 9 days until Christmas. Then I started to freak out. Then I realized I was too tired to freak out so I went to bed. Then I woke up and came to work where I am now full on freaking out. Let's just chat about how I haven't don't anything I need to do for Christmas:

  • Christmas cards, sitting in my library yet to be addressed and sent
  • "Santa" has not even started on Margot's big gift which needs painted, a quilt and mattress needs to be sewn
  • 0 Christmas shopping has happened
  • Christmas morning brunch??? no freaking idea
  • the Muppet Christmas carol has yet to be watched
  • gifts need wrapped
I have been so busy with house renovations. Kitchen cabinets painted, baseboards in today, ugly fences coming out today, new carpet downstairs...soon. So alas I better get my butt in gear. 

Or I could keep procrastinating and spending every weekend making Christmas cookies with Margot, her new favorite thing, and just wait a few more days....regardless I'd better make a list.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter wonderland

Greetings from the great freeze of 2013! We have had record cold temperatures for a week now. It's been six days since the temp rose above freezing and we were hitting below zero temps over night for 4 days in a row. Sunday we woke up to -9 degrees outside. For a community that's December weather is a pretty consistent 44 and raining it's been mass chaos. The record cold temps came along with 6 inches of snow. Schools have been closed since Friday and most roads, especially on side streets and neighborhoods are sold ice still.
Friday and Saturday Margot and I were all about the snow. We enjoyed a lovely snow day at home on Friday complete with snuggles, Christmas books, a winter walk and building a snow man. We even broke out some hot cocoa!

Then Saturday we took a family hike down our massive hill to the market to stock up on provisions. 

Our neighborhood is gorgeous right now. I looks like a 1940-1950 Christmas card. Then Margot and I NEEDED to make shortbread cookies to go with our afternoon movie and hot cocoa.

Margot was a fan! And don't we all love her vintage-esque old man sweater!

But now that the initial fun has worn off, I have been cold for days, Margot has been in our bed for nights, because it's too cold, and so on. But perhaps even more concerning is that 60-90 people are coming to my house for my annual holiday cocktail party and my kitchen is in shambles and mid-cabinet painting. Everything that should be in my kitchen is everywhere else in my house, baseboards still have not gone in because my finish contractor cannot get up the hill and I am taking lots of very deep breaths. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

paint transformations

The truth is I hate to paint. Not a great fact for someone who bought a 3700 square foot house where in every inch of the interior not only needed new paint but about 4 coats of new paint. There were a couple serious problems going on with the paint in our house. One, it hadn't been painted since 1960, two the original oil furnace had a broken filter which mean oil residue was layering itself onto the paint throughout the house, three there were lots of original single pane wood windows that had been collecting moisture over the years and finally there was mildew and mildew stains throughout due to the house being vacant and unheated for year. All of this is quite fixable but requires a few extra steps. To paint, first the walls need to be cleaned well. Mildew spots had to be cleaned with a bleach solution to kill the mildew. Then stains, both from oil and mildew had to be first spot primed with a heavy duty oil base primer. Then the walls had to have two coats of a low-voc acrylic primer with a mildicide added. Finally two coats of high quality no voc paint AKA expensive paint went over the primer. The final outcome of rooms and spaces we've painted has been awesome but the getting there...ugh.

So I tackle small spaces, the inside of Margot's closet, Margot's room, the back hall, the hall bath, the kitchen etc. But I put off the bigger projects like the living room, family room and sun room. Two weeks ago we got the super exciting news that our gorgeous cork floors had arrived and were ready for installation. These floors were originally going to be one of our first projects but then the raining on my head happened and well....we're finally back to the cork floors.

But there was one big thing holding me back from pure floor elation...the dreaded sun room. I knew we had to paint the sun room pre-floor installation as to not risk paint on new cork floors. But oh how I was dreading that room. You see this room was in the worst shape. The whole lower wall had mildew stains that stubbornly remained after two treatments of bleach solution. The upper walls are a serious of 6 by 3 foot windows with wood frames. The wood paneling was cracking, bulging and generally looking awful and the other half of the room was concrete block plus there were cabinets. Did I mention that all those windows were single pane and the room has no direct heat leaving this room the coldest in the house especially on the 40 degree day that we finally tackled it.

ewe! Right?! But there was cork so we just picked a starting point and dug in. The first step was nailing down the wood paneling in places it was coming up with finish nails. The second was carefully caulking all the cracks, bulges and other uneven places, particularly around the window frames. Once everything was prepped we opened all the doors and windows and started applying the oil based primer. 

Once all that prep was done and the windows were taped we started the long process of 4 coats of paint. I used a small brush and did all the cutting, and window frames and cabinets while my sister Jess and her roommate Jacob who I hired to help with the job (they are poor college students always in need of some extra cash) worked on the other walls, ceiling and doors. Eight hours later with barely any light left we called it. And oh what a difference. Even with splattered paint on the floor, tape and tools and plastic everywhere and a general mess of brushes, rollers and empty paint cans we could see it was so much better. No more grungy, grimy stained walls but beautiful creamy buttery walls that were so clean! 

And the windows???!!! So much better. 

So while the job sucked the result was delicious. That being said I promptly hired a professional painter to come paint the huge living room and rec room and master bedroom. Because seriously there are only so many Saturdays that I want to paint for 8 straight hours.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We're Cracking over here

In more ways then one! On the one hand house projects, despite the evidence to the contrary demonstrated on the blog, are moving along . In the last two weeks 7 spaces have been painted, new floors are in my kitchen, 5 different contractors have come a knocking with various bids and dollars are rolling out of our bank account! I suppose that's how it goes. But with all the hustle and bustle of two full time + jobs, a toddler, a giant old house, and work being done on said old house, we're also cracking a bit under the weight of it all. Our lives are so busy! And in times like these we have to prioritize what little time we do have so the poor blog gets pushed to the side. Because reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the 22nd time in one week is clearly way more important than writing on my blog. Am I right?

I'll post some real house updates later this week but first I wanted to share some fun and cuteness from our holiday weekend.
Seriously could she be more adorable and fun! Margot has just been a blast. Full sentences are coming like mad and she really does say the funniest things. She has been so excited about Thanksgiving and Christmas and it has been a joy to share the season with her.

It's been cold but we had some sunny days so we bundled up for a much needed family walk to breakfast. Margot was quite happy to be "snug as a bug in a rug" for the very cold jaunt.

All dressed up in our Thanksgiving outfit! Margot loved her bow and pretty dress. We had a nice Thanksgiving with extended family. There were 6 kids 7 years old and under running around and Margot loved every minute of it. She pronounced cranberry sauce and turkey to be good and ended the day by saying, "Mamma, Thanksgiving is fun!"

Once the Turkey dinner was behind us Margot was all ready for "kis-mus" and was ecstatic over her Christmas tree. We decided to do a simple and more formal tree in the living room in gold and white but wanted to still put up some special ornaments and Margot's ornaments (she gets an ornament each year for Christmas) so we decided to put a little "Margot tree" up in her room. She adores it and keeps thanking me for her Christmas tree. Her and I decorated it together and she loves to point out and talk about each ornament. Her favorite is the dinosaur. 

We also decorated our tree and Margot was eager for round two.

The tree is trimmed and the Christmas decorations are out. We started our advent calender with Margot Sunday night and are reading Christmas books every night before bed. It is really starting to feel like Christmas now even though part of me still feels like we are in October. Where did fall go???

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Our secret little project...

...did you think it was a baby??? I bet you did. Anyway, no babies. But we do have a secret project,

 We (and by we I do mean my father with a a lot of help from me) made Margot a toy kitchen!
Margot turned two over the weekend, still not sure how that happened, and to surprise her my Dad and I cooked up (ha ha) her own custom toy kitchen. 

The best part of this is that we got almost all of the materials from Bring Recycling. I have been looking at toy kitchens since she turned one. I knew I wanted a wood one and with the exception of the Ikea toy kitchen the prices are outrageous. Then I started to see several blog posts about homemade toy kitchens. The easiest option seemed to be converting a cabinet into a kitchen which was where we started. 
This one took about 5 trips to BRING to find the pieces and 12 hours to put together. We started with a rough plan but it really evolved as we worked on it. We worked several evenings after Margot was in bed. 

Initially I thought we'd paint the cabinet and then paint the counter another color. I also thought we'd just have a 2-3 inch high back splash. But when we laid the pine board on top of the used stained counter we loved the contrast of wood colors and grains so we decided to just stain the pine with teak oil to give it a slight finish. The toy dishes are actually vintage 1950's toy dishes that I found on ebay. And in case you couldn't tell from the above photo the oven has a working light!

So here's how it came together (roughly):
  1. Once we gathered our parts we built measured Margot and our cabinet and figured out that we needed to add additional height to get to our desired 22 inches tall. We started buy building the base or kick board that the cabinet sits on.
  2. We rotated the hinges on the "oven" side of the cabinet and adhered the two doors with a thin board and some screws to make two cabinet doors into one oven door. 
  3. We built anchors and a shelf for the cabinet side, side walls separating the cabinet from oven and closing in the oven and found an oven rack.
  4. We built a riser to go between the cabinet and the counter top
  5. Used a jig saw to cut the space into the counter top for the bowl and then cut smaller holes for the faucet 
  6. put grooved tracks in the counter to hold the burner grates in place
  7. placed screws, which we trimmed with bolt cutters to not be sharp, to hold burner knobs
  8. stained the base, riser and counter top/backslash with teak oil, used wood filler to fill holes in cabinet then treated it with teak oil
  9. waxed all the wood with beeswax
  10. assembled
  11. painted burner plates black
  12. added hardware
  13. installed light
  14. arranged kitchen accessories
Margot LOVES her toy kitchen and so far it's providing hours of entertainment. It's still lingering in our living room from the party but will make it's way into the kitchen soon I think.

Now you know why we've been lagging so much on house projects. Toy making is time consuming work my friends!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Until now our downstairs has been kind of a holding area, a dumping ground and a dark scary space that I avoid after dark. It's so time to change that. Saturday my over sized rugs arrived and Thursday I'm getting a big on some painting. We have realized that while it's all well and good to paint smaller spaces like bedrooms, hall closets (update soon I hope) and the kitchen, painting our enormous great rooms ourselves might just be more than we can do with two full time jobs and a toddler underfoot. And since we want to get a professional bid on our kitchen cabinets we are just going to price out those bigger spaces at the same time. Painting will allow us to get our giant book shelf bolted to the wall. To unpack the rest of our boxes down there and to arrange our furniture. In the short term this space will be furnished with a hodge podge of hand-me-down furniture. But in the long run I'd love for this space to be a mid-century poster child. Unlike the upstairs which has those traditional elements such as the marble slap fireplace, the downstairs is a blank canvass. And sans rose carpet it can handle more color, angles and I think some bolder design choices. On this vein I'm loving some of the furniture at Urban outfitters right now. In the end we will look for used pieces but for Tuesday morning inspiration check out some of this furniture:

draper media console

night and day convertible sofa

Charlotte sofa

modern chair

dragmar chair

danish modern coffee table

Friday, November 8, 2013

Something Iconic

So yesterday I waxed on a bit about the need to not be materialistic and today I'm going to talk about some of the great stuff I've bought. I's very ironic.

Perhaps it's no surprise but the two most "together" rooms in our house are the living room and Margot's bedroom. Both rooms we use A LOT and both are rooms where we have added new furniture. But I think what sets these two rooms apart is that they both do a nice job of incorporating things we had with some iconic new pieces. Our house is funny. It is a very early mid-century modern and while aspects of it are classic examples of mid-century modern design there are still some traditional elements lingering. We are trying to bring out those mid-century elements with some furniture but in a way that works with the traditional elements we have, like that sage marble slab in the fire place. 
 I love the way our living room is coming together. I was so worried before we moved that our stuff would just look bad in here. That salmony-pink-rose-colored carpet had me all kinds of freaked out. But the yellows and oranges we had actually work well with the carpet.
In this room we brought with us the two yellow patterned chairs, the white couch, the little vanity chair and the ceder chest behind the couch, as well as the photos, blanket, pillows and toys. All of it works. But what we've added I think really makes this space. I found the two little teak TV tray tables and the coffee table at a furniture liquidator store and was able to get all three pieces for $75.

 The gold lamp was my most recent purchase. I found it at a local antique store and was able to talk them down to $120 (original price was $175). And the cadenza, which is not in perfect condition, was a steal at $95. I stalked it for months as they kept lowering the price. All of this furniture was used, is somewhat period appropriate for the house and brings out the honey teak/oak wood tones in our doors, which I think contrast nicely with the darker walnut baseboards and fire place. I think all of the warm wood brings out the warmth in the carpet and makes what could be a large cavernous space into a very warm and inviting space. And the iconic style of both the cradenza and the lamp (which I know is circa the 1960's not 1950's) help to highlight the mid-century architecture already going on in this room.

 Best of all. Every single one of the pieces was used and reasonably affordable. It's come a long way from where we started. 
Even from where we were a month ago.

There is still a lot we'd like to do in here. Namely paint! I also am not convinced I like the configuration of art on the mantel, I'm always tweaking what's on the coffee table and I have mixed feelings about the pillows. So I'm sure it's a space that will continue to evolve. In the meantime at least it's furnished which is more than we can say about several rooms in our house.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


From time to time the need arises to stop and examine certain values. I suppose for me this is particularly true surrounding certain life changes. I know I referenced some new goals when we moved into our house but these are small things, doing the dishes, walking more, waking up early. I mean the big things our values, beliefs and priorities. 

For years now reading blogs and remembering these goals and values has been a constant challenge. I don't watch a lot of TV and the TV I do watch is without commercials and I read very little magazines so most of my media is coming from blogs. They are the place I learn what is "in", new products, ideas and often they cultivate wants. This isn't to say I don't want to read blogs or that they are inherently bad. But it presents some challenge and will power to not be overly swayed by the plethora of pretty things that fill my RSS feed on a daily basis. 

This is particularly true in this season we are in. A new and bigger house creates a lot of temptation to buy. But our values are still there, though perhaps after almost three months of acquiring and still not organizing, they need to be pulled out and dusted off. Examination may just be in order. 

So what are these values?
  • That our life include time and space for the people and communities that matter: volunteering, developing careers and making new friends are all well and good as long as they aren't detracting from our focus on each other, Margot, our family and church community
  • To be financially sound, frugal and giving with our resources: just because we have the money doesn't mean we should spend it especially since we are still working to pay of law school loans. As my grandmother would say, frugality my friends, is a virtue
  • To be stewards of our environment: this is really important to us especially as we turn to large purchases such as furniture. Always trying to buy used first, limiting unnecessary consumerism, and being mindful of the materials and substances we put in our home and near our family.
  • Good Food, local and sustainable food and healthy food. We are family that loves food. We love to cook and eat. While we strive for frugality in many areas we want to allow for spending in the areas that are really important to our family. For us this means buying good, local organic whole foods that are healthy and delicious.
I'm not sure why this is on my mind so much today. Maybe it's the transition into the holiday season? Maybe it's that we bought our 8th piece of furniture in 3 months or maybe it's looking ahead to a new year. Regardless, I never want to convey on my blog that a home requires stuff. I hope rather to convey that loving a home, being a family in a home and being creative with the resources you do have are what makes it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Belated Halloween Fun

We had so much fun this year with Margot on Halloween. She wanted to dress up like Minnie Mouse and so I made her a red polka dot pleated jumper to wear over her black leggings and white shirt. Then I found the Minnie Mouse hat online. I wish I'd done a better job documenting her costume as I made it but alas being the night before Halloween and past 10 pm I was just lucky to finish it.

This was her first year trick-or-treating and she loved it! We went with the neighbors and she really mastered "trick-or-treat" and "Happy Halloween".

And now she is ecstatic for the next exciting thing on the calender...her 2nd birthday!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I'm A llama in a bar and other tidbits

I'm back! After 60 hours of travel and ten days in China followed by 5 days of crazy jet lag I have returned more or less to my normal routine. I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of house projects but first I thought I'd do a couple of posts on China.

Later I'll post some "real pictures", you know those rare times you leave the i phone in your pocket in favor for the DSLR??? But since I haven't uploaded the 800 photos from my camera yet I thought I'd start with the random i phone photos that I took. While there may not be any grandiose shots of the Great Wall among them I think they capture a different view of china or at least some of my experience in China this second go around.
Our first real view of China once out of the air port. Just one among a sea of high rises.

Jessie and I riding around the Hutong in Beijing in a traditional Rickshaw 
The liquor shelf in the nearby grocery store = the start to a very interesting night. Major bonus points if you can guess what kind of alcohol one drinks in China
One cannot go to China without appreciating the art sign translations...classic
Jessie and ventured out to the lake district for drinks

We weren't the only seemingly strange things in a bar of only Chinese people, oddly enough the local patrons seemed more surprised by us than the llama
Only in China can you start drinking beer at 2 pm on your tour bus while driving through what was once the most pristine agricultural land in China and is now a smattering of small rice patty fields, large gaudy houses and skyscrapers.
Shanghai by night...just as amazing as I remembered it
Being the transit geek that I am, how could I not jump at the opportunity to ride on the fastest train in the world??!!! Why yes that is how fast we are going, oh and when another train passed us...there was jumping, screaming, squealing. It was freaking amazing!
And finally trying to pack all of my "loot" to take home. Highlights, a fine porcelain Chinese tea service, a little Chinese tea set for Margot, a one year supply of top quality green tea, some art for our house and a silk dress for one Moon pie to open on her birthday.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


So I leave for China (OMG!!!!) in 36 hours. One would assume I would be packing right now. But it seems I'm inclined to do everything but pack. In my kitchen jars and lids are sterilized and ready for chow chow.
While the chow chow drains on the counter awaiting spices and cooking.
Homemade chicken stock is simmering on the stove.
And I've been arranging my new latte bowls on the window seal...
And setting the table for our dinner party tonight...and still not packing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"mama pumpkin, daddy pumpkin, baby pumpkin"

It is a time honored fall tradition, taking ones child to the pumpkin patch to select their pumpkin. And so it was Sunday afternoon that we set out for the circus otherwise known as Lone Pine Farms. 
 Poor Margot was asleep when we got there and stayed asleep for the first twenty minutes only to wake up to complete chaos. 
Children where running and squealing, there was a cow train ride, a goat sky walk, children's birthday parties and countless first time parents attempting to catch a photo op with their slightly confused infant or toddler and a DSLR. 
But alas we survived, even had fun and came home with several "mama, daddy and baby pumpkins" as Margot says. 

Despite her generally confused expression at the farm she emphatically announced "pumpkin patch fun" once we were in the car. 
 For me, I am glad to have some fall touches scattered throughout my house.

Our fun day ended with a tuckered out Margot and lots of Sunday evening snuggles.