Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend: Knowing Where Time Goes

I don't know where the time goes. That's pretty much the theme of this post, both in the small details and the larger message. Pay attention.

A month or so ago, I claimed that I'd be starting the grand scraping and painting project on Memorial Day weekend. The kick-off of the paint-off, as it were.

Only, my internal calendar was critically screwed up. Really screwed up.

At the same time I was making that grand pronouncement, I also knew that my oldest son's high school commencement ceremony was Sunday, May 26.

I didn't see the problem. I thought there was another week/weekend in May afterwards, and that mythical weekend was Memorial Day. No problem.

See what I did there?

Yeah. I stretched one weekend into two. Thankfully I figured it out in time. Yes, it's pretty crazy. No, I don't get enough sleep. Yes, I do actually have a planning calendar. No, it didn't seem to actually help.

I don't know where the time goes.

Instead of scraping paint, I took a long 15-year look backward, to the first day of preschool:

To this, a high school senior:

He's been a joy to raise:

And now he's a young adult:

Original image by Amy Vinchattle Photography
He seems to appreciate the wonders of this world and realize the injustices. He's also dependable and kind. I'm proud of him. But the four-year-old boy with grubby paws, dirty seat of the pants, and cheerful smile disappeared around a corner; he was only with me a short time. I sometimes fabricate that baby boy out of desire, memory, and wishful thinking, sort of like that mythical extra week, but I know it's just me, wondering where all the time goes, and wishing for more.

Since my time expansion trick didn't work (except in my mind) it was still also Memorial Day weekend. I got to spend it with my favorite veteran, my Dad. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing on the blog, but as long as I'm bragging about the men in my life:

Dad served as military police at Bien Hoa AFB during the Vietnam War.

Monday morning Dad and I sat at my kitchen table and drank coffee and ate apple pie for breakfast (shhh, don't tell anyone). It seemed like there was all the time in the world. That was a good thing, because the day before my boy had just crossed a stage and picked up his diploma, and all those days and years seemed telescoped into one short minute. 

I don't know where the time goes, but I'm glad for the joys contained in it. I like to think that's why I invented an extra week in my mind. Not because I'm disorganized....okay, yes. Yes it's because I'm disorganized. But also because my life is full of good things right now. I was just mentally giving myself a little more of them, and the time in which to enjoy them. If only it actually worked that way. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Look At My Purty Dishes

On Tuesday I showed you my "new" printer stand, a vintage turntable cabinet. But oh, that's not all. I feel like it's third grade here on the blog this week, and it's show and tell. Every day.

One of my cousins is in the process of cleaning out the estate home of her aunt, and she picked out a box of stuff she thought I would like, and sent it along home with my Mom last week. Boy, did she have my number.

The items above from left to right are: a pressed glass spoon holder, an opalescent glass cream pitcher, and an amber Depression glass dish. I threw them on top of a dishtowel so the colors would show more in the photos, not necessarily to confess to you that I never iron anything. So there's your "keeping it real" moment for this blog post.

I'm one of those ladies who likes all sorts of "purty dishes" (say dishes with a long squishy southern vowel-- "deeshes") for entertaining, flower arrangements, holding eyeglasses, mail, and jewelry. Heck, I may even use that spoon holder as a spoon holder. I do, yes, have to actively manage my inclinations at garage sales, auctions, and thrift shops, or I'd have cupboards full. Cake stands alone are their own category.

Look at these!

Are these not perfect for my 1960s avocado supreme kitchen? The mixing bowls are especially great, because I've been needing some smaller-scale bowls for cooking. The casserole is a 9-inch square. They are all a Pyrex pattern called Spring Blossom.

There was also a loaf pan and a gigantic shallow casserole, almost 9x13 pan size. I'd never seen one that large.

And then there was this wonderful thing:

Anyone for some Tang? 

I could see myself serving mojitos in this. Tang mojitos? Hmmm. It's so summery looking. 

I am so grateful to Valerie (holla, girl) for thinking of me. All of these items are welcome to my home and will be used. 

I have to be honest and say I'm also grateful because it's hard to blog about progress on the house when, well, there's been no progress on the house. While all of these recent acquisitions have been great because they are wonderful in and of their own selves, I have to admit they've saved my blogger behind this week. 

I'll be back next week with some decor updates, some garden updates, and some project updates.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thrift Finds: Waiting for the Right Thing

I am not the world's most patient person. That doesn't always make me a good thrift shopper, the kind that will wait to strike until the exact item and price is right.

I think I may finally have learned my lesson. 

Last year about this time, I managed to pull together our front room with furniture I had on hand, plus some refitted curtains and a new rug: 

You can read about that adventure in this post. It's one of those rooms that looks better in person than in pictures, because the colors don't appear to play together in digital photos but do in real life. Also, I'm a little bit better photographer. (But only a bit.)

The thing I like best about this room is its coziness and personal art. Who doesn't like owl mirrors and drawings of dragons in teacups? Not anyone I want to know. 

The thing I liked least about this room was the printer situation. At first I put it on an old kitchen hostess cart that had been found lying about the place when I moved in: 

Which collected about six horizontal square feet of of crapola along with the printer. On an open shelf out in front of God and everybody. What a mess. 

I was so desperate to get that eyesore out of there that I sorted the mess, stashed the cart elsewhere, and  put the printer on the floor along that wall, which you can see if you scroll back up to the top photo. 

If you think a printer on the floor in a house with four boys doesn't seem like a great idea, I totally agree. I'm not saying this was ideal. Or even smart. But it beat the mess. Or the wrong piece of furniture, like that slightly rickety and rusty cart. 

But yes, I worried that one day one of the kids would come rolling along and step on the fold-out paper tray, and the Canon would be toast. 

I needed something small, no more than a couple feet wide, no more than 20 inches deep, and nothing too tall, bulky or dominating. I didn't want to spend a ton of money. I honestly didn't think finding something that size or shape would be that hard. Stupid me. 

Here. Look at vases while I kvetch about file cabinets some more. 
Since that project last year, I have looked at dozens of possibilities, some of which were: 

1. New printer stands, the cheapness and plastic crap of which depressed me. 
2. Lateral files, which were shallow enough, but too wide, and ridiculously pricey.
3. regular file cabinets, which were too deep, and not wide enough.
4. Vintage office furniture, which has taken a sudden turn into trendy and chic, and therefore now unaffordable. 
5. Surplus office furniture from our local university's weekly equipment inventory sales. Cheap, but everything I looked at was just somehow wrong.
6. An ongoing menagerie of second-hand small dressers, night stands, side tables, bookcases, and anything else I thought might fit the bill. 

A few weeks ago I was really getting fed up with the printer-on-the-floor situation, and was glumly contemplating a couple of options on and Ikea, but not really in love with any of them and feeling really grouchy about it. Luckily it was late, and I didn't even have the energy to click through an online purchase. 

This weekend I stopped by my mother's to pick up and drop off the endless round of things that pass through the hands of family when you live in the same town. She'd been down to family in Missouri to pick up some things that had belonged to elderly relatives and was going through a giant sort, including a pile of things destined for the curb. 

The curb pile included this: 

This is the obligatory terrible cell phone photo of the item fresh from the back of my van. It is my Great Aunt Elizabeth's turntable and album stand. I think it is awesome. Also? Twenty-two inches wide and 16 1/2 inches deep. And FREE. Perfect on all counts. Open shelving again is less perfect, but I think the way they are arranged in this case I can make it work. No vinyl records though! 

It's in pretty rough shape, with water rings, loose veneer, and scratches. 

Oh and the dust too. I haven't had time to even unload my dishwasher this week, so don't expect dusting even for a blog post. 

I'm not sure whether it will stay this finish. The wood is in terrible shape, and the finish clashes with the paneling in the room. It might become a painted color. I'm not sure. But if it's waited a year to come into my life, it can wait another year while I decide how to fix it up. 

Another little tweak to this room also happened in recent weeks. This chair was what I started with: 

Don't get me wrong. I like the chair. But it just seems awfully busy in a room with a busy rug and busy curtains and wood paneling. Also, the boys were being rather rough on it. Not deliberately, just four boys doing their usual thing requires sturdy furniture. So instead of this one we are using another one from my Pathologically Large Stash of Old Chairs. (Yes. Capitalized. If you knew you'd understand.)

The orange isn't as bright as it appears in the photo. I like that I can wipe it down if things get a little out of control with the after-school snacking at the computer. Vinyl. It's a way of life. 

I learned from this year-long exercise in waiting that eventually, the Thrift Gods will smile on you. I am glad I resisted the temptation to solve this problem with a solution that involved throwing money at something else that I was less than crazy about. That never ends well, does it? I also learned that, in the instance of the chairs, living with a room makes you realize how first decisions may not be lasting ones, and rooms need to evolve to fit the way you actually live. 

What home decor items have you waited and waited and waited for? Did just the right thing eventually arrive in your life?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Another Aimless Weekend, Done Right

Last weekend, I couldn't settle into anything. I did a lot of.....stuff, I guess, but didn't finish a single thing I started. It all felt unsuccessful, disjointed, and unproductive. I think two migraines in one week, besides being karmically unfair, had cooked so many brain cells I just couldn't muster a plan. And it showed. I felt dissatisfied about last weekend.

This weekend, I had made a list of the things I wanted to do. It went a little like this:

  • Clean the garage
  • Dismantle old storage unit in basement
  • Sort boys' outgrown clothing and organize dressers
  • Paint bathroom ceiling
  • Mulch front yard perennial garden

If you see the problem with this list, well, so did I by Thursday night. I have only 48 hours for one weekend, and I don't have multiple avatars or access to amphetamines. Clearly, I'm insane. Or unrealistic. Both.

It's at this point in planning anything that I start spinning my wheels mentally. I get overwhelmed with the bigness of my lists. If I'm not really careful, the list hits the trash can, my ass hits the sofa, and another weekend goes by in half-hearted attempts at not much of anything.

I am my own worst enemy.

By Friday night I'd abandoned the list and simply chose the one thing I wanted to do. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to garden. Did all those other things on the list need doing? Yes. Were they going to get done this weekend? No way. Even if I tried. So, Saturday morning the boys and I were at the garden center:

I spent the weekend in the garden, mulching. Eight bags total. But the weekend was made up of other little moments too. I was not always slave to the mulch.

Many of the other things were garden related. I weeded, which is a form of meditation for me. I moved plants around. I start out with gloves and a trowel but always end up with bare paws, hands in the dirt. Thank goodness for the existence of nail brushes and moisturizers.

I conquered a little more real estate from the weedy and forsaken area across the front of the house:

It doesn't look fabulous, yet. I ran out of mulch on this side of the yard. But the area was cleared of overgrowth and a place created for access to the tap and hose. The hose rack is new, but I'm not sure how I feel about it holding up kinked and filthy old garden hose for everyone to see, even if it makes everything more organized and easy to use. I'll have to make sure something bushy and pretty gets planted in front of it.  Those two clumps of green on the left are starts of sedum. It's a great ground cover and I like the way it fills in around pavers.

The daylilies my sister sent me two seasons ago are filling in thick and healthy this spring. It's going to be a beautiful show by July. ( I still need to weed the grass out from between them before mulching in this photo. The pointy plants in the far background are lily of the valley, one of my favorites.)

These petunias, called Picasso in Pink, are amazingly edged in chartreuse green. These things just seem to leap into my cart at the garden center and ride home with me. 

They went into a hanging basket with some other trailing plants:

Right now the bird feeder on the left is just for looks, so I could take the picture. I got it second-hand, and the bottom three inches inside is a hardened brick of old, stale bird seed. I need to get it down and clean it out properly before I can start serving up dinner to the birdie friends.

The basket and feeder are hanging on this garden stake:

Two-dimensional rabbits are the only ones I care to have in the garden. The real ones eat the lilies. You can see the hydrangea we moved in a previous post leafing out well in the background far right. It lived! Oh, and see? Proof of mulching. It wasn't all puttering.

My other big diversions?

It was Mother's Day on Sunday, and we had Grandma (my mother) over for afternoon coffee. The cake is courtesy of me, and the centerpiece can of grass is courtesy of Ben's third grade soil science unit. Do I not know how to Martha Stewart it up in here?

I celebrated by wearing my funky chicken apron:

Joe and Ben made me garden stepping stones for my Mother's Day present. I can think of no better way to dress up that new mulch:

Ben and Joe also began their adventure in container tomato and pepper gardening. Here are my proud farmers: 

We bought edgers, but didn't get them installed. Yes, it would be better to install edging first, then mulch. I don't always do things in the right order all the time. I'm a little difficult that way. 

I did a few other containers too:

In the end, this weekend was aimless too, but in a fundamentally different way than last weekend. Instead of being a disjointed pile of half-started, never-finished items and resulting guilt, it was more like a two-day riff with a common theme. Granted, I'm going to enjoy a two-day riff themed "Garden, Kids, and Cake" a lot more than I'm going to like, say, "Sanding, Spackling and Priming," but I think there's something to be learned from this weekend.

And that's this: choose one.

I think I should still make lists. It's a way of telling myself what my current priorities are out of the approximately 852 things that need to be done to this house. But I shouldn't expect the list to be all action items. I should learn to consider them more like a multiple choice set. But the only correct answer is my inclination.

I think choosing one is more realistic. I think it's more likely I retain a grasp on my sanity. Choosing one also leaves space for grace to fall into my day-- the kind of grace that includes soup cans of grass, cake, new flowers and deciding to move a clump of perennials from here to there. By choosing one, I ended up getting that one chosen thing done, and a jumble of other good things too. That's the kind of "aimless" that feels like a happy accomplishment by Sunday night.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Lamp Love: Seattle Finds

I am gradually getting around to all the little bits and pieces we picked up during our Seattle trip. It's fun to revisit that way when March seems already a distant memory. And since I haven't done a Lamp Love post in ages, I thought it was a good time to roll out this photo I snapped at the Seattle Antiques Market.

I've loved that place for a long time, though we didn't spend much time in it this trip. Grant is a history buff but doesn't necessarily share my love of old things. However, it had enough military antiques that he was willing to look a few minutes, so we ducked in to check it out.

These lamps stood out to me as really different from the usual in glass/crystal lamps, which tend to be a bit foofy and feminine. I know, because I have a boudoir set that's definitely in that camp. But these have classy, kind of Art Deco lines that sparkle but aren't fussy. I could definitely see these in a formal living room. And just as a bonus, check out those matching green mantel vases in the background. Sweet!

I'll be back sooner rather than later with another lamp link because (hides face in shame) I bought another set of lamps for the house. I'll let you in on the what and where as soon as I settle on a few other corresponding details.

In the mean time we're getting set up for a weekend of either a) spreading mulch or b) working on the bathroom, depending on sunshine or rain. I never know what to count on any more. It's been that kind of spring.

What's up for you this weekend?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bits of This and That: An Aimless Weekend

Let's just get this out there up front: weeks that start off with not just one but two migraines aren't going to finish off well no matter what you do. One is bad enough, but one on Monday and another on Tuesday meant that I spent the rest of the week in that migraine hangover that sufferers know so well.

It was a bummer. We'd started out the week with lovely weather, blue skies, and daffodils. The kids and I got our hands in the dirt: 

We'd planted dozens of gladiolus bulbs, to remind us of my paternal grandmother, Verlene. They are something my sister and I both remember about her garden. Dyan bought some and shipped the rest to me. It's a good project for two sisters to share: memory gardening. 

But then I had the headaches, and other than keeping myself glued together enough to get through each work day, nothing much got done.

And then this happened:

Snow. In May. We got about four inches. I guess I shouldn't complain, since other parts of the Midwest got as much as 10 to 12 inches. Yes, you read that right.

Now, snow in May isn't unheard of where I live. In fact, the last recorded date of snow ever in my area is 12 inches on May 28, 1947. But getting snow in May is enough to send most of us around here, who've seen a pretty nasty winter as it is, into moods ranging from extreme irritation to homicidal.

After the migraines, I didn't have the energy for homicidal. So I just moped.

I had thought that after malingering all week I'd hit the ground running for the weekend. I met with some girl friends for margaritas Friday after work.

I also shopped at Target:

Target is currently featuring Vera Neumann scarves. She was a Mid-century artist who got started screen printing scarves on surplus parachute silk during WWII, and become a fashion icon of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. You can read more about the collection with Target's online magazine, and find links to purchase the scarves. There are 17 of them! I had a hard time choosing, but ended up drawn the most to this one. I love the brown branches, the fresh green and bright red. It'll look fabulous with my red cotton cardigan.

I also picked up some nail polish:

The clear periwinkle blue is such a mood lifter. The polish, scarf, and margaritas were "migraine survivor" consolation prizes for myself.

That was Friday.

I bought paint for the bathroom ceiling......but didn't paint the ceiling.

I bought a frame for a piece of artwork for Grant's room......but didn't hang it.

I wandered around the yard holding a wee little tree that Ben got at school for Arbor Day. He has his heart set on planting it and I was considering just the right place. It's just a stick, but it is a viburnum and should look like this when grown:

Image source: Missouri Botanical Garden
But I didn't plant it. It's still in its little mesh bag on the screen porch.

I also looked at this:

It's the little filthy strip of carpet that was left from removing the carpet in the living room. That's the threshold between the living room hardwood and the foyer vinyl.

I thought perhaps now was the time to not only get that yucky last bit of carpet up, but also rip up the metal threshold, and the vinyl floor too.

But once I got the carpet and metal tack strip up..... I quit. 

I ordered a few things online needed for house projects....but didn't work on any.

I wandered from one little thing to another, puttering, and sitting down a lot for coffee and cream and flipping through magazines and browsing Pinterest. I did laundry and cleaned the older boys rooms and shuffled around the kitchen.

In the midst of the weekend I was feeling discouraged about my energy levels and lack of purpose, but as Sunday grew to a close and the boys and I ate supper together, I realized that it was a weekend to regroup, take a breath, and gather oneself together. Sometimes those weekends are as much a necessary part of the recipe for progress as those hardworking, jam-packed weekends.

It's a new week, blessedly snow and migraine free. I'll be back with you soon. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Do I Have To? Move a Shrub

Welcome to On the Doorstep's very first outdoor "Do I Have To?" the monthly segment where I tackle a home improvement chore that makes me whine.

I've been irritated since we moved into the house by a shrub planted right by the front door. Let me correct that. I'm not irritated by the shrub. It's a "Limelight" hydrangea, and during the summer she looks a lot like this:

Source: University of Georgia Extension Services
She is just fine and pretty when in bloom. It's where she was planted that's irritating.

According to landscape guidelines, foundation shrubs, trees, and plants should be planted a distance from the house that coincides with their full-grown size. If you look up the info on "Limelight," they are about 6 feet in diameter when full grown. That means it needs to be planted at least 3 feet from a foundation or fence, plus a little extra for air circulation.

So where was our Limelight planted?

About 8 inches from the brick:

She was planted smack up against the foundation, in the corner by the front deck. Irritating. When it rained her wet foliage was up against the wood siding, and in the winter her branches knocked against the house, right outside a bedroom window. Really irritating.

I wasn't looking forward to the job because I had no idea how big of a root ball was under this thing, and after my adventures removing maiden grass last year (see this post), I dreaded the possibility of wrestling for hours with a stubborn piece of plant life. But we'd had a rainy week the second week in April, followed by a sunny Saturday. I wanted to seize the opportunity to do the digging while the ground was soft.

I started by raking away a layer of pea gravel. Then I excavated around and as far under the root ball as I could. It looked like roots were pretty shallow, and with a lot of horizontal roots just under the soil. I don't know if that's the way these shrubs are, a sign of not enough deep watering, or a sign of being in too constricted of a space. This took about ten minutes of digging, though it doesn't look like much in the photo.

There are no pictures of the next part, because it involved me giving the branches a gigantic bear hug and bending them out of the way with my whole body, while Grant trenched out more with the spade so we could pull her loose. This is what we ended up with after fifteen minutes of further digging.  Readers can also see that we have yet to do the landscaping across the front gable of the front of the house, so-- weeds, sump drainage hose, landscape pavers and other ugliness: 

(My house's normally awful beige color looks even worse in this photo. Hurray! Not.)

See? Root ball, not that big:

After backfilling the hole, Grant made a fresh start in a new location:

Here's "Limelight" in her new location. It's now a generous 3 1/2 feet from the foundation and the porch, so she shouldn't cause any trouble with either. She looks a lot less cramped, and has more room to grow: 

Even with all the rain we've had, I gave her a good slow drink:

Here's a photo to give readers a little comparison. The big red "X" marks the shrub's previous location.

I'm glad to have this task out of the way. I think I may have dreaded it all out of proportion to what it ended up being, but you never know until it's over. I'll consider myself lucky.

It gets a major item out of the way for landscaping the front foundation. We've come a long way from this: 

To this: 

And this: 

We'll be thrilled to reclaim a little more territory for the bees, birds, and butterflies!