Friday, September 21, 2012

New Job, New Flowers, New Ways to be Crazy

National Archives and Records Administration photo, 1937
See that lady in the lower left hand corner of the photo? See how she's thrown up her hands? You know she's just totally hosed up the tab stops on her Smith Corona.

I feel like her right now, because I just started a another new job. Now don't worry, I still have that great new job that I started in June. I just added another one, a six-month temporary position which hours worked out exactly opposite my other job, and with an offer I couldn't refuse. So.....

To say it's nuttier than a squirrel farm around here is a bit of an understatement. Two new jobs in four months, and learning the ropes to both. Four kids in three different schools. Football season. Guitar lessons. Homework. Lunch box times five every weekday. Every day I throw in coffee, throw on clothes (and hope I don't miss) and throw kids out of the minivan on my way to the office. Second shift laundry, cooking, and cleaning. We're in the adjustment phase right now. Which is just my polite way of saying: Ahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaghaahahaagghhh!

Deeeeeeeeep cleansing breath.

I did manage a few minutes to homestead the homestead today, because iris corms came in the mail:

I love how instead of wrapping things in plastic and labeling the bags, they just wrote the name of the variety with a Sharpie on a blade of iris leaf. That's 'Babbling Brook'. Isn't it poetic? Do you ever pick plants because you fell in love with the name? That's exactly why I chose this one:

American Iris Society 
With a name like "Tennessee Gentleman," there was simply no way to leave this flower off the order form. I'm a dorky girl like that. I also got a variety called "Eleanor Roosevelt" (again, no way I could resist) and the company I ordered from also threw in a freebie called "Dashing." Eleanor Roosevelt and a Tennessee Gentleman will take a stroll by a babbling brook, and I'm sure they'll look dashing.

Iris corms are the weirdest thing you ever saw, because they are basically a root that not only wants to be horizontal, it doesn't particularly like dirt. They're supposed to be planted with their upper third exposed; if you plant them all the way underground, they won't grow. They also don't like wet feet, so well drained soil is important too. If the corm in the photo above looks a little dry, it is. But that's my naughty bad, not the company's-- the box came a few days ago, and I finally chucked these babies in tonight after work in the last few rays of light. Now they take root, snooze all winter, and grow next spring. That's what I like about fall planting. It's like a promise you make to your garden, and to yourself, and to the future.

I thought about that as I was shoveling soil: making promises for the future. The second job is sort of like that too, since I'm hoping the extra income will lead to some good things for my little Cape Cod, like a new roof and some other critical upgrades. Gardening makes me philosophical that way.

Have a good weekend with your own homesteads. Me, I still have this waiting in the corner of the kitchen:

But I've decided not to blog about the kitchen painting project again until I have something to show for my work. That ought to keep me motivated. At any rate, it's a break from a full week of figuring out the tab stops on my Smith Corona.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lamp Love Link: The Replacements

Glass light cover from lazydaysrelics on Etsy.
Even in a house with original light fixtures, there can be some tough decisions about what's worth saving and what's not. I've got some really nice ones. I've also got some simple upstairs hallway fixtures that were basic standard issue for their time (1940s), but have seen much better days. I notice one is cracked at the collar; I am not sure if it'll make it the next time I need to change a light bulb.

So, I've been hunting around. These simple, small, white and clear glass shades fit the bill and are mercifully inexpensive, compared to the thousands of dollars you can shell out for elaborate, rare, and sought-after vintage fixtures. Isn't this one cheerful and crisp looking? I love the Art Deco motif. Its modest size is also a big consideration for me. I do not have standard 8 ft. ceilings on the second story, so this pint-sized sweetie is appealing for that reason too. No head bonks.

This week's Lamp Love Link comes with an announcement about this blog feature. I've decided it will be published twice monthly, the second and fourth Wednesdays. As the blog approaches its first anniversary, I'm trying to figure out some basic scheduling to make this blog more predictable for readers, and also more predictable for me in managing content. I love lamps, but I think weekly links were saturating the blog a bit with one particular topic. Stay tuned for other tweaks as On the Doorstep gets ready for its first birthday (in November).

The bonus for this week's Lamp Love Link is for readers of a certain "vintage," who caught the reference in the post title. Let's hear it for the '80s!

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Collection: The Bead Goes On

I collect things--- chickens (ceramic far), lamps, things I feel sorry for, books, my children's artwork, aqua green mid-century ceramic vases, vintage ephemera, tablecloths, magazines with neat ideas, dust bunnies (under the sofa).

While none of those things are threatening to take over the household (so far) in any hoarding tendency sort of way, and none of them have cost me my financial fortune, I still sometimes worry. How many collections are too many? Even discounting the dust bunnies, when is too much too much?

Because I just realized I've got another collection. Old bead necklaces. I say "old" because in some cases "vintage" sounds a bit pretentious. Especially if you've fished it out of a box of junk at some estate or farm sale.

I'm not a super girly-girl, but I do like to feel feminine. I'm not really a fashion rebel either, but I like to assert my creativity and love of old things, my personal stamp, on the day-to-day office casual my career demands.

I found myself popping bead necklaces on with cardigans, with blouses, with jackets, to do just that. I liked the look so much I kept going. The coral pink one above is the most recent acquisition, the first one I bought because I loved the item, without necessarily having something to wear it with. This is the sure symptom of a collector. I like them much better than dust bunnies, and unlike the chickens, they are useful.

These red beads are Bohemian glass, and look fantastic with black sunglasses. I only wish I could pull off red lipstick too, but alas I am not a lipstick girl.

I especially like the contrast of the glossy beads against the chunky textures of sweaters.

This one reminds me of marbles, and I love the harvest colors. This strand is so super shiny and attractive that my inner two-year-old wants to put them in her mouth. They are that tasty looking.

The best thing about bead necklaces is that they're relatively cheap as vintage jewelry goes. While celluloid and rhinestone pieces are getting to be a pretty spendy habit, most bead necklaces can be had for dollars. They are definitely cheaper than new jewelry of the same quality.

This one came to me in a pretty grimy state, but it's cleaned up pretty well, and I enjoy the pastel glam. Classic like a sweater set!

Right now I'm thinking a strand of black beads would be nice, but I'm not out actively hunting for it in the wild. It'll come to me when I'm having good thrifting luck. Besides, I've got to keep myself under some sort of self-control, because I have to make sure there's still room for chickens, lamps, and my kid's art masterpieces. I am willing, however, to sacrifice the dust bunnies for the sake of my budding (or is that beading?) necklace collection. Priorities,  you know.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Night Lights

That's my boy with the ball in a game last year.

There hasn't been much "house" going on around here, and no, readers of On the Doorstep didn't accidentally stumble upon the Sports Illustrated web site. It's been crazy-busy around here. I started yet another job (more on that later), and did you know it's football season? I have a high school senior, and it's my last year (for now) of practice and weight room schedules, player rosters, packing coolers and warming stadium benches.

Since I haven't had much time to write blog content, and we're in the pigskin mood anyway, here's a column below that I wrote, published in the local newspaper two years ago, about my experience as a football mom. If you have Friday night lights of your own, win or lose, cheer for your hero. There's more than one on every field.

Where Football and Motherhood Collide
Something unthinkable happened to me last year. I became a football mom.

I am not a sports fan and never was. Football in particular wasn’t at all interesting to me.

Most of my adult life before motherhood, football was just crowd noise and the voice of Al Michaels on the tube while I occupied myself with other things. As a young mom raising little boys, I lived in Michigan. The high holy day of the year, the Michigan-Michigan State game, went unobserved in our household. They played soccer instead. Even while I worked in newspaper, the sports writers were on the far side of the newsroom, publishing football stories in a language foreign to me.

Last year, my oldest son went out for high school football. This year he is again. I have a ten-year-old who plays flag football. The six-year-olds tumble about the grass imitating their big brothers. Three-hour practices, game schedules, jerseys in the laundry, equipment in the hall, scrimmages in the back yard-- football came when I wasn’t looking. I am a football mom.

I was exhilarated to see my sons on the field, but clueless to what I was witnessing. Ever the journalist, I researched the rules online. I’ve been taking surreptitious glances through Sports Illustrated and have watched NFL games all the way through. It’s my job to know my sons’ lives. Therefore it is now my job to know football.

The blindside tackle that football made on my life wasn’t because I had different expectations of my sons. I was raised with my sister by a single-parenting mother. That solely female household gave me no idea of other possibilities, and the little girl me blithely thought that I would, of course, also have daughters.

This did not happen, and while I welcomed each baby boy into my arms with love, I never reconsidered my playbook for motherhood.

In some ways that was a good thing. I couldn’t embrace any tired gender stereotypes of boys because I never lived with any growing up. I think I have a fairly well-rounded tribe. They read books and play musical instruments and give hugs freely and are open about their feelings. But I am no gender-neutral idealist about raising boys. As a mother rearing four of them, I referee on the field where testosterone and male bravado meet. They brawl and shout and pee on the floor.

Every time I walk down the girls’ toy aisle in a store, I get a little nauseated by the ocean of pink, the wince-inducing cutesy-pie ponies and dolls, and the positively yucky undertones of premature sexuality and passivity implied in girls’ playthings. If I had daughters, I’m not sure I could stomach it.

That fussily pretty version of femininity doesn’t square with my own girlhood. I sported pants with muddy knees, grubby hands and ratty hair. I was running or rolling in the grass or ruining my clothes, not unlike what I see in my boys playing football. If our society insists on maintaining the great gender divide, I may have fallen on the right side of it.

As I am writing this, it is late on Friday night, and my oldest boy is playing an out-of-town game. I will pick him up from the team bus around midnight at the high school. He will be tired, caked in dried sweat and dirt, and lugging a duffel bag of equipment. He will be brooding if they lost, and deeply satisfied if they won.

The sight of my son in that solitary moment is alone enough to make me a fan. Always a history geek before (and still), I can only think of this one football quote by Theodore Roosevelt as I pull up to the curb to greet him: “In life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: hit the line hard.”

The metaphor comparing football and life may be as old as the game itself; it is new to me. But as my sons learn to run plays and I learn to raise boys, I believe it to be true. I am, after all, a football mom.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

What I've Learned About Projects, Paint, Plumbing, and Mental Stability

Behold my ideal painting project site: men in pleated trousers and immaculate white shirt sleeves. No drips, no drop-cloths, no clutter. They're probably listening to Vivaldi, and plan on going for a quiet scotch after they're done.
(U.S. WPA public domain photo of painters producing murals for the 1939 New York World's Fair)
1. Projects 

In a post on this very blog, I said that project plans need a dumb crap margin. It's a built-in allowance for the stuff (yours, somebody else's, or the twisted turns of fate) that make a project take twice as long or cost cost twice as much or both, with the added bonus of making you feel twice as inept as your average baseline. 

2. Paint

With that last sentence in mind, I turn to paint projects. More specifically me, painting my kitchen. You would think as a blog reader reading my posts that paint is going on my kitchen walls at approximately the rate of one-half teaspoon per month, with union-negotiated breaks in between each application. But no. It's just the dumb-crap margin, which seems to be extremely wide on this project. First I had my obsessive compulsive disorder with clean edges, which brought on my experiments with painter's tape. Then there was this little peripheral tragedy: 

Do not believe a thing this label says. Run away!
Now, it is a universal truth everyone knows that You Can NOT Paint Over Silicone Caulk. Experts gravely shake their heads and say so, the nuns in convent schools teach it, grandfathers on their deathbeds whisper this wisdom to their grandchildren. It's even stated in the Prime Directive of the United Federation of Planets (just ask Captain Kirk). But they tempted me away from this Truth of the Ages and Galaxies with a new silicone product that claims to be paintable. Look, look up there at that deceiving label. With a crack down one entire corner of the kitchen and claims that this paintable silicone caulk is "flexible, won't crack with age," I thought I'd found a better, easier, and more permanent solution than messing about with joint compound, sanding, priming, and finally, paint. 

Yes, the paint did go over the caulk. What they don't tell you is that it leaves a wet-looking "shine" or high-gloss look that shows through the paint, regardless of the paint's gloss. An icky tacky shine that darn near glows in the dark like laser beams. So I cussed. Then I tried a coat of blocking primer, and cussed some more. Then I tried sanding the whole thing really well to rough up the surface, and again with the primer, and paint. Still super shiny. At this point I think a putty knife may have been thrown along with the cussing. So I sanded it down again (cussed), redid the corner with joint compound (cussed), sanded again (cussed), primed (too tired to cuss), and painted (heavy sigh). Did I mention the drying times in between? And this was just for one corner.

If all this is beginning to make me sound more anal than a proctologist's office, well, yes. It does. And I'm not normally like that. I like to think I'm a fun gal when I'm not all angered up, using coarse language, and waving a (caulk) gun around. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Mid-century Art: Great Things on Etsy

Mid-century design enthusiasts are constant and savvy second-hand and vintage shoppers. But it doesn't always have to be a scavenger hunt.

Don't get me wrong. For people who love the design styles of past decades, the thrill of the hunt is part of the passion. But Etsy artists are turning out a lot of new and amazing stuff that would go seamlessly in Mid-century modern homes.

Here are my top picks from a recent Etsy "window-shopping" foray. The links to the items are in the captions.

This clock from CoMod Classics is amazing. I thought the clock was constructed of wood with metal "rays" like the vintage starburst clocks. On closer inspection, it's entirely laser-cut wood. It's a sharp, smart-looking update to the design, and the rays on this clock are reminiscent of the hairpin legs on tables from the time period. Double design win.

Mid-century inspired clock by CoMod Classics, Etsy.

I might just flat out get this Mid-mod monkey, from gutentagfibers. Not that I'm a monkey fan (other than the ones I gave birth to) that much. But the little guy is a cheeky take on Mid-century modern sculptor Henry Moore's abstract reclining nudes, and I love the little inside joke there. 

Mid-century Modern Monkey, by gutentagfibers, Etsy.

Is it just me, or does the print below, from Pool Pony Design, remind one of the Partridge Family logo? (can I have a show of hands for David Cassidy fans?) C'mon get happy even if it doesn't, because the Etsy site has lots of great prints of owls, cats, abstract designs, and even Catherine Holm bowls in lots of Mid-century appropriate colorways. 
Short Stack, Mid-century design art print, by Pool Pony Design, Etsy.

I'm also seriously considering where I might be able to work in one or two of these kidney shaped tables from Lunar Lounge Design. I think they have the most impact in groupings of two at least. The Esty seller makes other high-end pieces that are worth a look. 

Kidney Bean Coffee Table by Lunar Lounge Design

Do you own any new, but definitely Mid-century in spirit items?