Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014: The Small Details of Joy

This has been the Christmas of small details.

In the last few years I've decided that not only can I not do everything over the holidays, I really don't want to. And that's okay. In fact, once I decided it was okay, it became better than okay, and I've regained what I thought I'd given up. More, even.

Last year I blogged about some of the hows of that decision in this post, and those are still my guiding principles for keeping our Christmas to the scale of what's comfortable for us.

But this year I seemed to narrow my focus even further. And you know what? It turned out great.

With three growing hungry boys in the house and a college student returning from a semester of indifferent dorm food, meals were important this holiday. I baked dozens of cookies. We had homemade toast and cinnamon rolls for Christmas brunch. I made pies, dinner rolls,  and noodles, and I put a lot of thought into good coffees and wines.  There seemed to be flour in the air and sprinkles on the floor all. the. time. We've had a lot of great meals this holiday. Not just for what got put on the table, but for what we talked about around it-- snow and Batman and Revolutionary War generals and the Detroit Lions and balancing redox equations. And fart jokes, yes.

We put up the tree, and decorated a bit here and there, but we didn't sweat it much. We did, however, put earrings (antler-rings?) on Bob. We thought he looked especially festive:

Every year, I get each of the boys an ornament for the tree. Sometimes I make them, sometimes I buy them, but this year I concentrated on making sure each one was thought-out and personal, either way.

Grant is off to college these days and in the process of launching himself in adult life. His ornament was this little laser-carved house (World Market). I want him to know that wherever life takes him, he'll always have a home here too.

Noah, my guitarist, got the laser-etched Strat to hang on the tree. It's from Etsy seller Miller Custom Solutions (link here).

Ben's ornament took the longest to make, but mostly because I was assembling it out of several things: a small picture frame, spray paint, old sheet music, and hand lettering.

Ben plays the viola, and music for that instrument is in the alto clef. It turns out that it is one of the only instruments for which music is written in the alto clef, so I wanted him to have something that symbolized the uniqueness of his musical endeavors. Also? No alto clef stuff to be had out there in retail.

And Joe is passionate about pears. They are his favorite fruit, and he averages at least one daily. So I made one for him out of wool felt (plus a little "test pear," to make sure I was making it the way I wanted. I made a few changes on the final version).

The little blackbird was a gift for a friend. Here it is finished:

Some years, I also get an ornament for myself. Having four sons, my Christmas tree is a whole lot of trains, bears, fish, and other masculine stuff. Sometimes I want something overtly feminine, just for me. This year it was a wool ornament from the Purple Pincushion (Facebook page here) I think I fell in love with the vintage button: 

If it sounds a little like all I did this Christmas was roll out dough and either shop for or craft ornaments, well--- yes. It was all I really focused on. Sure, other things happened, like Christmas Eve candlelight service and gifts under the tree and some other stuff. But the house wasn't all that clean and the kids wore jeans to church and there weren't any lights on the roofline and there was even a box of something, I don't remember what, that didn't get unpacked and strewn around. The Christmas cards will be late.

It didn't matter. In fact, I think it improved the overall success of the holidays. We were well fed. More importantly for me, my sons each received a small gift to show how well they're understood and appreciated. 

I don't think I really could ask anything more out of our holiday together. 

Merry Christmas to all of you! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mid-century Modern Dressers Poorly Timed (but still awesome)

I had it all in my head how it was going to work out. And then these dressers happened.

In 2014, my bedroom was supposed to be one of my remodeling goals for this house. But it's ended up being the unloved step-child of the entire year, with work in this room ending up last on the list of everything else going on.

Not because I don't want a nice grown-up lady refuge from the rest of the world, and there HAS been some progress I haven't blogged about yet. But that's where I need to sleep, there are often socks and running pants piled on the floor, and the lighting is bad for pictures.....

How it looked at the beginning of the year:

And the alcove now stenciled: 

In the meantime, I'd been living out of these two dressers, one from my mother's childhood bedroom, and the small one a curb find from a few years ago:

This was not ideal, and in real not-pretty non-blog life I was frequently piling stacks of folded clothing on top of both of them, or in laundry baskets strewn about the room. To say it tended to exacerbate my already slob-like tendencies about laundry is an understatement. 

But I had an order-of-work plan that didn't include buying new dressers until the room itself was further along-- that last wall drywalled, the plaster work finished, the rest of the floor painted and stenciled. That was the point at which it would seem the right time to get new and better furniture up there. 

I even had some picked out. On the budget plan, I'd decided to get some combination of Ikea Malm dressers: 

Ikea Malm Dresser (Source)

It seemed perfect for the dark woods and reds/grays/metallics I'd been using or plan to use in this room, and with good looks for a reasonable price. But I was waiting to purchase them when the room was ready, and when I'd have the time to not only make the trip to Ikea (there isn't a store in Iowa, which means driving to Kansas City or Minneapolis), but also to put them together once I got them home. 

Then I saw something in a furniture consignment store in the complete and opposite direction, and it changed everything. Including my so-called order-of-work plan. 

It was a second-hand dresser and chest of drawers, blonde wood, mid-century modern, and not what I was thinking of at all. It was exactly what I didn't know I was looking for. AND less expensive than the Ikea option. And better quality. And completely at the wrong time. Not only for the fact that I wasn't where I wanted to be on the room, but also because it was Thanksgiving week, and I had a house full of guests. 

I bought them anyway. Because duh. 

The chest of drawers features a shallow "handkerchief" drawer at the top, and the next one down is a divided drawer in three parts. My undies, hosiery, and bras have never felt so...orderly. 

The dresser has six gloriously just-the-right size drawers. 

The hardware, though a little worn, is still original. I had to vacuum glitter out of the bottom drawers, and eradicate some "old lady smell" with Murphy's Oil Soap. But that. was. all. That's been the glory of this situation in many ways-- not having to do an extensive rehab on an inexpensive but neglected second-hand piece, or getting the Ikea-induced migraine of assemble-it-yourself new furniture. 

I didn't realize how badly I needed more clothing storage until these two babes came into my life. Now I've moved on from my shuffling parade of laundry baskets. The largest of the two old dressers went into my twins' closet as off-season clothing storage, another badly needed improvement. The smaller chest may be re-purposed for another use, but I haven't decided yet. 

Of course, the the two new dressers will have to slum in their new environment for awhile, but their appearance motivates me to put the bedroom back at the top of the list in priorities for the new year. Sometimes poor timing is actually the shake-up one needs, and I'm going to take these pieces of furniture as just that. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Completely Non-Christmasy Update: Painting

Uh, hi. Been awhile, hasn't it?

Sorry about that.

After I painted my foyer, I had my sister and her clan here for the week of Thanksgiving, and that also included a guest dog, my oldest son home from college, and some drop-in visits by cousins.

It was busy, crowded, and noisy, there were lots of shoes piled near the front door, and great big pans of food on the kitchen stove. My coffee pot was in use non-stop and truth be told, my wine corkscrew was too. Meaning the whole thing was pretty dang near perfect as holidays go.

But with all my October travel and November company, I didn't really wrap up the exterior painting season on the blog.

And that's because with all my October travel and November company, I didn't really wrap up the exterior painting season in real life, either.

I left the south side looking almost exactly like it did in the spring:

But partly because I decided I wanted to concentrate on areas of the house I saw when I looked out the windows, like the patio area: 

And the front of the garage: 

The summer, between work, kids' schedules, and rain, didn't allow for much else. In a fit of frustration I slapped some paint on the screen porch: 

And I spent much of the rest of the time reglazing windows, a job that while necessary, wasn't a big show-boat noticeable improvement. 

I also had a handyman spend a day patching a rotten area of siding and a dry-rotted windowsill:

Progress, as I've said before, is progress. And writing this blog post is as much an exercise in realizing that as sharing with readers. During the summer I was too frustrated with the pace and weather delays to feel like ANYTHING was happening. Now I feel pretty good about it, and when April comes I'll be ready to start in again. 

For now though, I'm happy to just contemplate the idea from the comfort of my sofa.