Saturday, April 28, 2012

The To-Do List is Making My Head Spin

This blog post is representing evidence of two things, both of which you'll have to forgive, or at least avert your eyes if the spectacle gets too strong to behold. 

First, above you see my first attempt at.....of course I have to do this, wait for it.....monkeying... with PicMonkey, a new free photo-editing site. For those of you not in the know, PicMonkey is created by the same folks who created PicNik, another very beloved photo editing site. Google just very recently eliminated from its list of applications, which caused great hue and cry on the interwebs. PicMonkey looks like a very fun and encouraging replacement for all of the bereft PicNik fans.

Second? My house is beginning to derange me. 

One ominous sign is that I made a collage of ugly stuff. I mean really? This is a blog with mostly lady-reader types. So OF COURSE a photo-collage should be chock full of fuzzy puppies, whimsical crafts, hip vintage goods, and interior design eye candy. But I've featured a rotten floor, bare studs, and piles of busted up sod. My head is clearly not in the right place. 

I bought a house that needs a lot of attention. I've been able to do a lot in the almost year that we've been here. But I'm at a point where I feel as though I'm only making tiny little inches toward any kind of goal, and in the meantime, my family is living at ground zero of the entire mess. 

Up above in the collage we have 
1. My bedroom with the mystifying black goo. We now have clean subfloor, and we also have drywall. But we do not have plastering and sanding done in major parts of the room. 

2. This is the one wall of my room that still looks exactly as we had to leave it when my sister and I ran out of time during our commando construction marathon last summer. Now, my bedroom is still a work in progress, and I usually only step into it past midnight every night, throw my clothes on the pile, and fall into bed exhausted. Hardly the lady refuge of which I dream. 

3. My bathroom floor is still a mish-mash, at one end plywood subfloor, the rest this brittle and cracking sheet linoleum. I think this flooring is beyond cool but also beyond salvage, with nail holes, rust stains, and cracks all over it. I need to get something far more functional and cleaner in here. 

4. The garden project that began with such promise has been stymied by too many working weekends and too many rainy ones to count. I feel like I'm making progress at the approximate rate of one thistle per week. Considering that I also planned to scrape and paint the house this summer as well, if this weather continues perhaps I should just begin a moss farm on the siding and be done with it.

I also have a kitchen that needs fresh paint and trim work, a garage with a broken entry door, and a bunch of home dec sewing projects that I could be working on. Add into that cooking, cleaning, and laundry for four boys, a full time job, and it's no wonder I often come home, survey the pile, and sink into the sofa after dinner with a glass of wine and a heavy sigh. 

I am overwhelmed. 

I am temporarily down about it, but not out. I'll keep trying, but if my readers and friends have any tips or ideas about helping prioritize all this stuff, it will help until I get my suspenders snapped back up into position, and I find my backbone again.

I promise the next collage will be brilliant, and so will my mood.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Flower Break

Whew. Where did the week go?

I managed to sneak a little commando gardening in, which I'll share soon in a future post. It seems like we're making progress in the yard SO slowly, but we hope to conquer the front yard by the end of the summer.

In the meantime, I look at these little beauties parked by the front step every time I get in the car and go off to the payin' job. Sometimes you need a little something to get to Saturday, right?

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lamp Love Link: Perfect Aqua Pair

For this week's Lamp Link I'm pleased to share a pair of lamps with the trifecta (try to ignore the fact that a pair with a trifecta makes no sense) of vintage lamp appeal: they're in perfect condition, unusual, and labeled.

Royal Haeger Mid-century Lamps with original shades from ILiveModern on Etsy.

Holy buckets of disposable income, Batgirl, these are not a thrift find: $350. In my estimation, however, it's a fair price. They've got matching ceramic finials which I have NEVER seen before on lamps like these, a pretty color, original shades in perfect condition, and a label that tells us these are Royal Haeger. Some lucky, lucky person is going to have these for their Mid-century living room, and I wish them (whoever they are) much happiness with them. How could you own such beauties and not smile every time you walked past them?

Monday, April 23, 2012

History in the Junk Drawer

Sometimes, to say I overlook things is an understatement.

When I first moved into the house, I was presented with a jumble of keys, only half of which unlocked anything, a couple of garage door openers, and a drawer organizer full of stuff. The stuff included things like the business cards of all the real estate agents that showed the house (Over 50. Apparently my house was a wallflower in the dance of home sales), and the owner's manual to a rust-bucket refrigerator I'd already ordered a replacement for.

I KNEW there was a packet of photos in this box, and though the age of the envelope ALONE should have told me to look (it was from the age of film, for pete's sake) I just assumed they were the pictures used in the real estate promotions. Besides, the first thing that happened when I moved in, the plumbing got all up in my business, and I had other things on my mind.

The envelope turned out to be a gold mine.

Today, I'll share with you a series of photos of my house dated New Year's Day, 1942.

My house was brand new! What impresses me about this photo (besides the fact that is hella snow on the ground, even for my state) is how lovely the house looks with shutters on. Much cozier and finished. I found them in the garage attic last summer, and now I'm even more inspired to get these refurbished and back in their rightful place.

The house had a brick patio and front walk (instead of the current deck with a side entry down to the driveway) and the storm windows were four paned, over the 8-over-8 sashes on the regular window.  I also notice the house had a front door slot instead of the current mailbox on the exterior of the house. Very cool!

The south, or driveway side. What this photo is telling me (besides, DANG, that was some snow!) is that my current garage isn't the original one. That is what I suspected all along, since my garage is a two and half car garage, and the one in the photo is clearly a single car garage. 

This is the back of the house, which looks nothing like today. The house now has a screen porch off the back, and the door/window combo on the left has been changed to a sliding double patio door. The kitchen window on the right is over the sink, and that's also been replaced with a newer window. 

These things are probably not as exciting to the blog reader as they are to me. But this is just like finding photos you didn't even know existed of an elderly relative that isn't one to talk. So much information in these.

I've saved the best for last: 

Meet Richard and Charlie. I'm already in love with the little stinkers, because they appear to be wearing indian costumes and feather headdresses. The picture is labeled with their names and "1945 or 1946." 

Since we found cowboy wallpaper in the room that is now mine, I wonder if this was what these little boys saw as they drifted off to sleep under the eaves of this little house so many years ago: 

These little boys, if they are still living, are pushing 80 years old. To think I found all these things to wonder about, in the bottom of my junk drawer.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pet Portrait

Today is Mr. Man Friend's birthday. My sister, amazing talent that she is, is also a super nice human being. I "commissioned" (which in this case meant I asked "purty please with a margarita on top?") this painting for the mister's special day. Meet Sidney, his cat:

Copyright 2012 Dyan Millsaps Shirley. All rights reserved.
Dyan's got an Etsy shop here and a Facebook page here. Mr. Man Friend is pleased, so am I, and my sister simply rocks. That is all.

Twin Boys' Room Part II

The goal for Ben and Joe's room was for it to be a play space as well as bedroom space. Our basement level isn't yet ready for habitation, and the sole living room in my 1939 Cape Cod is too small to host the inevitable tide of Lego pieces, Nintendo paraphernalia, books, and Hot Wheels cars associated with not one, but TWO eight-year-old boys.

Luckily, their room, which is on the second floor, is spacious enough for all of that. While it is under the gable and not a complete full ceiling room, I was able to arrange it with the two twin beds under the eaves (enough head space even for adults), and a big floor space in the middle for play.

A made bed? Who's fantasy world is this?
Above you can see a book shelf niche that was built in to the wall, rather badly. One of the things still on the list to do is clean up the trim, and paint both it and the plywood back. The window that defines the full ceiling height (though it's only really 7 feet) is in between the beds.

Monkeys, bats, and fuzzy puppies.
Above is the other side of the window. You can get more of an idea of the ceiling lines of the room in this shot. The quilts are Nautica, and Mom and I got them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I like them for their 1950s classic boy's room feel even though they are new. How many times can you go through the register line to use up those "one item only" discount coupons? Just ask me. The pillow shams are sewn (by me) of denim recycled from a futon cover. To be perfectly honest with you, they're only there to gussy up the room for company; the boys wouldn't put up with them on a regular basis. And it's not like this is pillow overload even in this photo. There must be something on the male DNA strand that rejects multiples of pillows. Or throws them on the floor.

"We seem to have run a'bureau, Cap'n!"
The dresser is a few years old, and is another piece of Sears, Roebuck mail order furniture, pine, that I saw fit to paint. I did it with my twelve-year-old son's school desk in this post here. It's already got some dings and wear you can see in the photo. It was from the era in my life (which I'm now over. Who wants to do what everyone else is doing?) when I worshiped all things Pottery Barn, and sought Pottery Barn Look for Barn Sale Price. I've got more money in the new hardware than I've got in the piece of furniture. There's a matching dresser/bookcase piece too, but it wouldn't fit along any of the walls in the new home, and is now in the walk-in closet, which I'd like to turn into a reading nook.

The artwork is a collage I put together of patriotic background fabric, an old Life magazine cover that had become separated from the rest of its edition, some vintage post cards, vintage celluloid buttons, and some military themed ribbon and appliques from the fabric store.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Twin Boys' Room Part I: Trashed Room to Play Space

Ben and Joe, my twins, are eight. Their room was the first we worked on once we got the keys to the house. Going between two households as kids with divorced parents is a difficult transition, and I wanted very much for my youngest boys not to have to land on this doorstep, new as it was to them last year, in a room that was a construction zone. I wanted something cheerful, sturdy, and ready to rock. A lot like them! Here are my little monster-men:

Here is what we started with:

There was bird poop and pet urine stains on indescribably filthy sculptured carpet, and the walls were paneled with an exterior grade plywood that was stained an odd pinkish orange--- I mean, where it was actually stained (see complete blank spot above). It was an execrable room.

But my oldest son Grant, my Mom, and I got busy tearing it out as soon as we got our hands on the house. I elaborate more in a post here. Grant tore out paneling (cussing nails all the way), and I tore out carpet and pad (cussing staples all the way). We had to say goodbye to some awesome but heavily damaged vintage wallpaper:

We repaired, primed and painted the walls Journal Book, a pale blue color from Valspar Paints.

We decided to keep two big features of the room. First, the streaky vinyl composition tile flooring. My Mom was the champ, getting all that green carpet glue goo off the floor, stripping, and waxing it back into some of its former glory:

This was before wax. Dark chocolate, cream, and caramel. Why am I suddenly thirsty for a latte?
 And here it is with its shiny new baseboard molding, added by my sister during her commando construction work visit in July 2010:

We also kept a built-in desk that is topped in dark blue swirled linoleum: Here's a close up of the awesome linoleum:

And a little detail of the metal edge. This was one of the do-it-yourself jobs that wasn't too badly done, though the desk and hardware need some cleaning up and fresh paint:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lamp Love Link: Full Sail with Ship Lamps

Sometimes when I go looking around for vintage wares on Etsy, a trend in listings will hit my eye, and I'll wonder whether there was some great Karmic alignment of estate sales in the universe. This week it was ship lamps, and I was finding dozens of them. They are so full of kitschy goodness that I can hardly stand it, and what's even better is that there seems to be something to scratch any person's particular itch for kitsch.

First, we have the slightly more tasteful 50s nautical theme, perfect for family library or study:

Ceramic ship lamp with steel sails from Estate Hound on Etsy.

But if pink floats your boat (sorry, I couldn't help myself), we also have this little number:

Pink TV lamp with gold trim from BehindTheWall on Etsy.

Right up my alley this one with the color green and an Asian theme. It's also a planter, so you could really glam this up:

Green TV lamp/planter with pagoda shade, from threemartinilunch on Etsy.

And my personal all time favorite, which I would SO try to work into a boys room if I really needed it. Shiver me timbers!

Pirate ship lamp from fortunatenora on Etsy.
TV lamps were a 1950s pop culture trend that only lasted the decade. At the time, people thought that watching the new technology, television, in a darkened room would damage vision, and so it was thought a lamp was necessary. I think women were also looking for a way to decorate the new piece of furniture somehow. Why not a lamp? That's my kind of thinking. And if you're interested in finding out more, there's this entire website dedicated to TV lamps over at

Monday, April 16, 2012

Parenting in the 1930s

When I picked up my vintage office credenza/desk the other day, I also took the time to flip through a stack of old magazines that the second hand store had. I am curious about anything published in the 1930s, the decade in which my house was built.

So, if you shake together my love of the printed word, old illustrations, and the 1930s, you can imagine that it was unavoidable that I would come home with the November 1937 edition of National Parent-Teacher, "The only official magazine of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers."

What was interesting about the magazine?

How much things are the same as today:

1. Women and mothers who are portrayed as competent, knowing, and in control of their household and public affairs, like this elegant lady here:

If not for all the paperwork, Betty would already have served herself a cocktail.
2. Parents were, even in the 1930s, put out by the amount of time and resources local schools asked of their children, and worried that teachers' homework demands were taking up too much precious family time.

"Some of the parents protested that the tasks assigned by the teacher for out-of-school work consume so much time and energy that household tasks are impossible, if there is to be any time for rest or play."

I don't know if I find it comforting that this has always been a concern or whether it's just depressing. As a Mom I often bristle at all the extra things the school sometimes asks me to cram into the precious 5 to 8:30 p.m. bedtime hours of my children, in addition to that home cooked meal (families who eat together stick together!) cleaning up after said home cooked meal, packing lunches for tomorrow, allowing a little play time, time for reading (are you keeping up your reading chart?), bathtime, and tuck-in talks and snuggles. Can it be possible this was the same worry of mothers of school children in 1937?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Blossoms

After lots of thunderstorms last night, we ended up with a sunny, if blustery, day. The tulips at our local botanical garden are almost done, but the colors are still bright:

And the anemones seemed perfectly at home in the windy breeze:

Happy Sunday afteroon!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Secondhand Score: Office Desk

This is what I picked up this morning. Thank the thrift shopping stars it fit in the back of my van:

It's a steel and laminate-topped office credenza, I'm guessing from the 1950s, and was being used as a display piece in a local antique/second hand store. I love the aqua color and the size of it, which is long and narrow, like a portable counter top. It's got a few little areas of rust and one or two little chips in the laminate, but I love the shape and heft of it.

I asked the shop owner if she would sell it to me and she started with "Well, I've had a few offers on this piece before and I've always told them I wasn't going to sell it......." I thought that was it. But then she said, "I'd take $65 for it."


That was last week. She asked that I give her a week to ten to figure out new arrangements for her displays, and I said that would be just fine. We picked it up this morning, and right now it's residing in my garage.

It will become the boys/family computer desk printer home; first it will land in the front room, and then it will go downstairs in the basement once that area becomes the rec room/TV room/study room for the boys.

What I am digging most about this purchase is that I could have spent easily twice this much and more for a new computer desk that is made of chip board and plastic that falls apart in three years. This will go the distance for as long as I need it. Hooray for solid workmanship!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Making Time for Biscuit Love

There hasn't been a heck of a lot of home improvement going on around here, or garden work. By extension, that means there hasn't been a lot of writing going on around here either-- that stuff the professionals refer to as "high-quality, original content."

It's been one of those weeks. And it's not over yet. 

I have a job that can have crazy hours, which can mean long hours or irregular hours or both. Combine that with single parenting four boys, and well, sometimes I get a little sideways with the world. Too much to do, not enough time to do it in, and not enough money to pay for either.

I get overwhelmed. Realizing that a box of cereal would need to be 238 ounces in order to survive a week in our household overwhelmed. Several hundred dollars worth of unplanned car repair (surprise!) overwhelmed.

It's the kind of overwhelmed that finds you collapsed on the sofa at 11:55 p.m., still in your office duds, and eating buttercream frosting with a spoon straight out of the retail container.

It's at that point I feel the urge to start overcompensating. What do I do when I've got TOO much to do?

How about home made yogurt?

I know. I'm nuts. At the point most women would just hunker down and start opening up soup cans and peanut butter jars out of a healthy survival instinct, I've got to cram some home cooking in there somewhere. Right in the middle of grocery shopping at lunch hour, working evenings, and folding laundry at the breakfast table, I sometimes have to drop all the urgency and go make something from scratch.

The other night, we had chicken tenderloins from a freezer bag and some fruit salad I threw together. But I got out the flour and baking powder and made the biscuits. 

Have you ever made biscuits? It's just a few simple ingredients, a few love pats to a tender pastry, and pop them right in an extra hot oven (thus the phrase "hot as a biscuit"). My children are a bunch of little Yankees and like them with jam or honey. Mr. Man Friend likes it when I make him sausage gravy on biscuits for breakfast. I like them with slightly indecent amounts of butter.

They DO take a little more time than breaking open a tube of biscuits from the grocery store refrigerator case. And if a tube of biscuits is the only kind you've ever had, I feel more than sorry for you. It's an injustice to your person. Really.

Years ago, Noah, my 12-year-old, helped me coin the family phrase "biscuit love." We decided that means you love someone just crazy enough to make them homemade biscuits any old time they ask. You don't feel that way about just anybody. Only special somebodies. Somebodies who understand just how fleeting and wonderful and loving a hot biscuit is.

I think that's where it is coming from. The biscuit love. My cooking sprees aren't really guilt or self reproach or the need to compensate for perceived shortcomings. Lord knows it isn't exactly practical, but love rarely is anyway. Biscuit love is probably even a little more wild-eyed and wayward. Biscuit love is brash enough to claim the priority of my boys' hearts over the chaos, and shows I care for them with butter and honey on top.

That's a recipe my family can make time for.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lamp Love Link: Grapey Clusters of Kitschy Goodness

Somebody in your family had one of these. Don't even try to deny it:

For sale on Etsy by Modnique.

My Aunt Karen used to have one, just like this one in blue, but it was a tabletop style lamp, rather than a hanging one. I wonder what happened to it. I've seen others in purple, a more burgundy red, and amber glass (or lucite).

When my Wild Imagination (yes, capitalized. It tends to be demanding that way) gets going, it thinks it would be great to have a kitschy wine bar hung full of these, like crazy jumbo party lights. I mean picture it: Dean Martin, candles stuck in chianti bottles, wine barrel tables, baskets of those crispy breadsticks in the paper wrappers..... But since this one is being offered for $149 and others I've seen on line are in that price range, it would be some serious dough to get that daydream into reality.

While I'm offering spendy lamp links today, I'll also offer up this bonus one from a recent Ebay auction, now closed. Winning bid, $405. Wowza!

                                                  Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vintage Lamp Finds New Home

I'd been shopping for a new lamp for the living room for awhile. You'd think I'd get right on that since I love old lamps so much. It's good that I take my time; if left unchecked I'd have dozens of lamps sitting around every room, the neighbors would talk, and I'd begin muttering to myself in the slightly unnerving over-brightness.

The house has no overhead lighting in the living room (which is a good thing, I think. I dislike homes that are lit up like a corporate office). In the living room I have a brown leather sofa with two end tables. One of the end tables is low and so is able to hold one of those big, curvaceous lamps from the 1960s. The other end table, which is older and more upright, looked ridiculous and completely out of proportion with a tall table lamp sitting on it:

I dusted. Just for you.

It's a 1940s era two-tier end table; like I said it's higher and more upright than the lower, more horizontal looking tables that came later.

So, I placed my other big lamp on the buffet near an adjoining wall (to the right of the above photo):

That's new fabric covering the lampshade. If I ever decide to put such a busy and very directional fabric on an angled lampshade again, please slap me repeatedly until I come to my senses. While I like the end result, the afternoon of spray adhesive, cutting paper patterns, and hot-gluing edges was definitely for a woman with a sturdier psychological profile than mine.

Anyway, the lamp on the buffet ends up being a good 6 feet from where the sofa/end table combo stands, and while it lights up the room, it's a bit far away for me when I'm reading. I needed to find a lamp that was small, so it wouldn't end up competing for visual space with the nearby larger lamp, and so it would fit comfortably on the small upper tier of the coffee table.

After months, I found what I was looking for on Etsy. Ta-DAH!

 It's a perfect size at only 6 inches tall and perhaps a little over 8 inches wide. The little decorative ring at the bulb socket is a type of plastic, maybe celluloid, and with chippy gold paint. The design is the the same on both sides, and it's unmarked. I'm guessing anywhere from 1940s to 1950s for this lamp. The other two lamps in the room are definitely from the 60s, so you can tell I like mixing it up when it comes to the Mid-century decades.

To make it even better, I found a shade at Target that while just a teeny bit too big, mimics the shape and proportion of the lamp perfectly. You can find the link to the shade here, and take a look. Here it is in its new habitat:

In real life, this table holds a stack of books/magazines, a coffee cup, and a coaster made by a first grader.
Not bad. It's too tidy white-y for this lamp, so I need to cover it with fabric (shudder) or paper that would be in the brown/ivory/green/wood tone scheme of the living room. I'm thinking natural linen-type fabric. If I could find fabric or paper that was reminiscent of the fiberglass shades, that would also be a possibility.

Now, what other horizontal surface in my home needs a lamp? Hmmmmmm.......