Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Favorite Thing: Cookie Jar

It's Saturday On the Doorstep. After a busy week that usually means excavating the kitchen, cleaning up a swampy bathroom (four boys? you think I'm exaggerating?), and getting ahead on the laundry.

Skies are overcast, but we'll be taking another crack at the front yard and mowing the lawn, which just between you and me, is an outrage in this part of the Midwest. Two years ago there was still a foot and a half of snow on the ground at this point in the month.

Until it's time for another update, I'm sharing one of my favorite things found in my web browsing, a cookie jar for sale on Etsy. It hits all my little obsessions; it's green, it's kitchen decor, and it's Art Deco. At $170 it's not something I'm likely to get for myself, but that doesn't bother me. I've always enjoyed "looking at cool stuff" even if it's not going to become mine.

Have a great Saturday!

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Friday, March 30, 2012

Highly Pinteresting: the Little Orange Desk

Remember this little old orange desk, from just yesterday?

I've been experimenting with Pinterest, and I like it some, though I'm not as addicted as some women seem to be. I have one pin board where I pin photos (original content only) from my blog. Just seeing if it will drive some traffic. I'm just an itty bitty blog, and I'm trying to grow.

Well, I pinned the photo of the desk rehab from yesterday's post, here........and it got repinned. FORTY-NINE times. And liked 10 times. Now granted, there's stuff on Pinterest that gets pinned a bejillion times. In fact, there's a chicken enchilada recipe circulating out there right now that I'm sure is being served for dinner tonight in EVERY household in the country, based on how many repins it's gotten. But for me, 49 pins is a LOT.

I'm not sure what I do has mass appeal, and I'm not sure I want it to. But it was nice to have a little affirmation that, yes, one or two of my ideas have some get-up and go. Some mileage. Now, Pinterest is virtual imagination, not real world execution. But if 49 pins means there might be, somewhere out there, even one more sunny bright orange kid's desk in the world, I feel I've done my part for a better humanity.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Another Boy's Room

This desk is suspiciously clean.

I'm not sure I can call this room, my 12-year-old son Noah's room, a renovation, or even a redo. It just came together with pieces that we already had, and even with leftover buckets of paint. It was the bedroom that came together the most quickly too, in those weeks before I moved into the house to live.

Noah's room is the smaller of two downstairs bedrooms. My teenage son Grant's bedroom I've blogged about here and here. The fortunate thing about those two rooms is that the oak hardwood floors and plaster walls survived history relatively unscathed. It was really only a matter of fresh paint and an area rug to get ready to move in furniture. I wish I could say the same for my room, which still looks like a construction zone.

Let's start the tour:
"Mama let that boy play some rock and roll..."
Noah is my musician. He plays acoustic and electric guitar, dabbles in harmonica, and has tried viola (that was the only thing that didn't take). Like Grant's room, there are two double-doored closets at one end of the room. The one behind the instruments we plan to turn into an awesome mini studio, which I'll write all about in some future post. For now, we just stash the gear in the bare bones closet.

I'd like to thank my brother-in-law Rusty, who cussed a paint sprayer pretty hard for this one.
Over in the diagonal corner from the music closet is the desk. This desk was mine when I was a kid. Remember Sears and Roebuck mail order furniture? Yup. This is it, and this is what happened to it a few years ago when I was yearning for the Pottery Barn Kid Look at a Not Pottery Barn Price. Noah was 8 at the time, and he wanted an orange desk. Mama delivers, yes she does. We also upgraded the hardware.

At the time Noah had sort of science/space thing going on and he's still a really good science student. So when we covered the desk top with a piece of glass, I downloaded and printed out fun art for underneath:

Eerie! Bizarre! Otherworldly!
What you can't see running off the photo to the left is a periodic table of the elements.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lamp Love Link: Owls

From Etsy seller RattyandCatty.

I don't usually go crazy over baby things. Mostly because I'm at an age where my babies all have stinky feet and sass right straight back at me; my ovaries are permanently parked. Having bounced four babies, my memory is too fresh of the sleepless nights, diaper changes, and baby burp to be fooled by all the trappings of sherbet-colored wee shirts and whimsical toys.

So I'm a bit surprised that I pounced on this as my favorite lamp of the week. It's for sale on Etsy over at RattyandCatty.  I think it's the owl. Definitely the owl. And probably his green eyebrows too. I also like the fact the lamp post is a little wonky, so it's more like the mast of the boat then straight upright. Then again, the assembly worker who put it together may have had his party on the night before. It's hard to tell.

And I have lamp gossip, too. You know I have a thing for lamps; the quirkier the better. I've been looking for just the right lamp for my living room end table, which is a step end table. That little upper shelf needed a lamp (not only am I too old to have babies, I'm too old to see to read), and I've been surfing along looking for the right thing. It couldn't be too big, it needed to be retro looking at least and actually vintage at best. And green. I finally found just the right thing. It's in the midst of being shipped, so I'll share when it's all settled into its adopted home.

Have a great Wednesday!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Specific (not random) Bits and Pieces: Flowers, History, Painting, and Love

People like to say "random" about seemingly unrelated things.

I don't. I believe in the specific. First because I don't believe there is much in this world that is actually random. Secondly because the things I discuss in this post are not only specific but related.

They are related by joy, because they all give me just that.

The garden, while still under construction, surprised me this week with bulbs planted by former owners. That pile of dirt is trying to be beautiful:

Pay no attention to the gigantic pile of of waste sod behind us.
Now pay no attention to the crappy cell phone photography. Ooo, pretty colors!

I also took possession (yes, it took a little while longer than usual, though there were no legal concerns) of the official abstract and deed to my property:

What da heck is a rod? It's so biblical!
A stack of property transfer records seems like dull reading, but I was riveted. My purchase of the property was the 99th transaction on the property, but I haven't sorted through it all figure out how many owners it has had. Since the house was built, in 1939, it's had four owners not including the builder and including me. Not bad for a house this age.

It all started back in 1855, when a man named Ira Rees was granted a patent on half of a quarter-section of land (80 acres), which included the land my house stands on. 1855! In my Midwest state's history, THIS is what was going on:

A Wikimedia Commons image, public domain, U.S. copyright expired.
European settlement West of the Mississippi. Covered wagons. Disappearing prairie. It's hard to look around my very urban core historic neighborhood now and think of that.

The abstract helps me piece together some of the history of this house; that's another post for another time. It's been almost a year since I purchased my home. I'm only just a little ripple on the surface of its history.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Garden Warfare: Getting Rid of Unwanted Plants

Warfare. I thought a lot about it as I was ridding my front yard of unwanted plants this weekend.

It was an unfortunately violent feeling brought on by that clump of ornamental grass I mentioned in this post. I referred to it then as pampas grass, which I think now is an identification error; pampas grass isn't winter hardy in the Midwest where I live, and it's more likely maiden grass or something in the miscanthus genus. Whatever. It doesn't matter. The point was that it was out of place, out of scale, and just wrong for this house and this front yard, in my opinion. I wanted it gone.

The problem is it didn't want to go. I didn't have any experience with the stuff, and I had no idea what I was getting into. Hoo boy. I ended up battling that thing for hours.

I'd started with the intent of making major progress on the landscaping upgrades that needed to get done in the mess of a front yard. With two whole sunny weekend days, I was predicting a major victory come Sunday night. Instead I got a surprise ambush by that ornamental grass.

Here it is, last year's growth trimmed down. That's about a 3-foot by 2-foot spread of root ball there:

Seems innocent enough, doesn't it?
I started in. My spade bounced off the root ball. I dug in the soil around it, and pried, but it only budged a little, and by then my spade handle was making those creaky noises like it considered cracking under the strain:

The spade and the Chuck Taylors survived. Wish I could say the same for my lower back.
If you can't see to the bottom of that mass, neither could I. I dug up all around the edge of the entire clump, and it showed no signs of weakening its grip on Mother Earth. It was at about the hour mark of the misadventure that I began thinking how much I'd like to borrow my Dad's machete from when he served in Viet Nam. And then that thought made me turn to dreams of Agent Orange. While I don't favor the use of cancer-causing defoliants in general, right at that moment they were beginning to sound rather appealing. I'll admit my next thought in the overall theme of military attack was napalm and flame throwers.

Finally some progress:

Well, $#%@!
An itty bitty four-inch clump. It was enough to make a good girl swear, and I am not a good girl, anyway not all that much. I pummeled that grass with a garden rake, and hacked at it with a shovel, and then did something that looked half like hog wrasslin' and half like a barroom fist fight, and I'm sure amused the neighbors half to death.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mid-Century Modern Garden Trellis

Just a quickie post on a Mid-Mod item that caught my eye today. Son Grant and I headed to Lowe's this morning to get some landscaping supplies. Even though there is typically still snow on the ground in my Midwestern state in March, today was 81 degrees, and the home improvement stores had rolled out the garden department early. And I found this garden trellis:

It's called the Zen Garden Trellis and the link is here. In my area it retails for $39.97. I think it would go smashingly in a ranch home garden with its Mid-Mod motif. Also a nice change for those who prefer clean lines instead of a lot of fou-fou.

Spent the afternoon raking, raking, raking, and pulling, pulling, pulling. More updates after the weekend, well, ends. (Is this blog in danger of becoming a gardening blog???)

(Note: this is my own review and I did not accept any compensation from Lowe's for this post.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Signs of Spring...

It's an unseasonably warm day here On the Doorstep, and LOOK! This crocus came struggling up through the garden refuse. I take it as a sign. Yes, of spring, my darlings, but also a sign that my garden doesn't want to be ugly. It wants to be beautiful. We'll tear into things tomorrow. I can't promise beautiful after only one day, but we'll be on our way. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Flea Market Spring

I like junk. I like stuff people throw away (especially lamps, as we know). I've been known to bring home the stuff rejected at farm auctions because I feel sorry for it. Family members shake their heads and hope the neighbors don't notice, much.

'Tis the season, as Spring warms up. Anyone ready to get to a flea market?

A garage sale? Shed sale? Auction? What I euphemistically refer to as curbside shopping?
I'm getting itchy for it. The good news is my itch is going to get scratched.

My sister's coming for a visit in May, and we're hitting a GIANT flea market that only meets twice a year. Friend Kristy is coming along too, and we hope three women can fit a day's worth of egging each other on and resulting junk inspiration into one minivan. If we can wedge some margaritas and chocolate into the weekend too, I'll be likely to consider it the best day of 2012.

My sister Dyan and I get ourselves into this kind of trouble nearly everywhere we go. The evidence, from a 2010 trip:

Why Mr. Tophat Crow did not come home with me is a question I'm still asking myself.
The vignette there above is just a little corner of the paradise that is Emma's Museum of Junk in Jasper, Arkansas, a place Dyan and I love with all our hearts. Of course, Emma's Museum is a big part of that. Part musty books and stacks of old ashtrays, part vinyl records and what our old Missouri kinfolk would call "purty deeshes," Emma's is just a grand place for sorting through both the oddity and the grace of previous lives. It's the kind of place we lose ourselves in.

Of course this blog post is a preview and a promise to document whatever we drag home. Me, I have a hard time leaving behind ceramic chickens, enamel ware pans and pails, avocado green anything, lamps, costume jewelry, vintage postcards, and the previously mentioned and occasional cross-eyed sad little objects. Dyan loves anything with a bird on it (so shove it, Portlandia), animal and nature themed objects, things with apples, and old books. I'm also looking for a few things to dude up the screen porch and patio.

This, my friends, is gonna be fun.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Searching for Garden Ideas

Last week, I called my front yard a white trash disaster.

(Politically correct police, simmer down. I can use that term because they are my people.)

Maybe it's even worse than that. 'Cause a plastic goose and a tractor tire annual bed might be an improvement. Last summer my sister Dyan and I took out yard waste bag after yard waste bag of weeds, stuff that the previous owners cultivated like plants that were actually weeds, and a buggy, diseased flowering plum that was slowly dying where it was. There remains to tackle a giant clump of pampas grass that appears to be devouring the northeast corner of the house, and another couple of weekends bushwacking out the front border. All that's left is refuse and some yardage of sump hose. This is what was left after Sherman marched to the sea, after the potato famine, after Agent Orange. It's that bad. I need help.

Here's my before:
Yessiree, we had a bumper crop of rocks and crabgrass last year.
Because I live in a Cape Cod style house, I'd prefer to see a mixed perennial border, more like this:

Here's another before, a slightly different view of the front border near the driveway:

This is where the lines of little rocks segue into broken chunks of concrete. Sigh.
The falling down retaining wall is made of up of oh-so-thrifty broken chunks of concrete probably from a previously removed driveway. The pole lantern doesn't work, and has become a little cock-eyed as the ground has shifted over the years. The deck isn't badly constructed, but I don't approve of decks on the fronts of houses. To me that just screams mobile home trailer. At any rate, it's entirely incongruous with the Colonial Revival style of the house. But that's an entire other blog entry.

Here's another view, of the front of the house proper:

I got nothin'
The corner there created by the deck and the house shows last summer's remains of a hydrangea that is actually quite lovely, but is planted literally 8 inches from the foundation. It's going to be a major job to move it out a proper distance into the border.

Browsing the internet I found this cute as a button Cape Cod and garden. This is the look I'm striving for:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Retro Garden Design

When I moved into the little Cape Cod that is now the topic of this blog, I not only had to have the dreamer's eye for the neglected house but also for the neglected property. I hesitate to call it a yard, let alone a garden.

Since I have pretty much a blank slate, I've been collecting ideas for a front yard garden and back yard patio area, but wanted it to match the the house, or at least pay homage to the era in which it was built, the late 1930s.

There's not a ton of easy-access information about retro garden design. And by easy, I mean stuff I can Google in my jammie-pants while drinking a glass of cheap red.

One book I found mentioned was The House Beautiful Book of Gardens and Outdoor Living, by Joseph E. Howland. Of course I found it over on the source of all things retro, Retro Renovation, and you can catch the original source of the mention here. A commenter mentioned the book, published in 1958, and I found used copies still available on Amazon. I found mine for just a few dollars because the binding was falling apart. It made me wince slightly less when I was guiltily forcing it into the scanner to get images (eek). Unlike today's lush looking garden publications, a significant amount of the book's photography is in black and white.

I found the book surprising. Not surprising in how dated or "vintage" the ideas looked or seemed, but by how recognizable, reasonable, and fresh they looked.

Residential garden design featured in the book by Midcentury landscape architect Thomas D. Church.
See the very Atomic age amoeba shape in the center of the path/patio? The combination of naturalistic elements (the stones) with more manicured spaces (the lawn)? The flow of outdoor space into indoor space? We do this all the time now; it's "natural" to us. In 1958, these elements were revolutionary. It's a testament to the Modern design movement that this book, published 54 years ago, now seems full of garden designs that are not only plausible to us, but still look attractive and noteworthy. The book also encompasses ideas that we think of as "contemporary" like water features, Japanese garden design aesthetics, and the use of annuals.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Door Quarantined!

I'm beginning to think we could use one of these:

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Though I don't think we have diphtheria, I and three of the boys have been running through a bout with a nasty cough. Not only is it difficult to shake, it's come accompanied with fever, achy bones, exhaustion, and loss of appetite that has us just crawling to bed with our sack of cough drops and glass of soda water, hoping it will all pass. My crew is usually ridiculously healthy, and so these whoppers always take us by surprise.

Just to keep the blog up to date, I'm posting a few photos of what I've termed "Random Vintage Awesome" collected on Pinterest. It's the most I have energy for right now while I recover from this nasty cough. I'll have some vintage garden things coming up in the next week too. Stay tuned, the quarantine will be over soon!

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Source: via Laura on Pinterest