Friday, July 30, 2010

Art wall

In our old house, we had a blank wall separating the dining room from the living room.  That wall was blank for nearly three years. I couldn't figure out what to do with it.  Then, one day, the West Elm catalogue came.  In it was this:

 image via Sarah's Fab Day

I loved it, and it was the perfect size for the space.  It wasn't cheap, so we saved up our pennies...and when I went to order it, it was sold out online.  Waaah.

We went out to dinner on our anniversary in Philly, and did a little window shopping afterward, and happened upon a West Elm store.  They had almost all the art in the gallery, so I bought it right then and there.  I wasn't excited about the bird, so I picked a different print, but otherwise, I bought the entire thing and hung it up in my house the exact same way. (I'm not offended by mass-produced art. Don't judge.) The colors went really well with our autumn-ish color scheme.  When we moved up here, we hung the gallery in our dining room.

Yes, they are all crooked.  And yes, I took the picture with a flash, at night, and there's glare, so shoot me. Its the only picture I can find from the way it was six months ago.

I was not thrilled with our old furniture color scheme in the new space when we moved up here.  Our new space is not quite as open and light-filled as our old place was, and everything seemed a bit dark and heavy.  A few months ago I made a few changes in our living/dining room. I painted the bookshelves, dining chairs and credenza white, got a white slipcover for the sofa, got a lighter rug, and brought in some red/aqua fabrics.

The art in the gallery wall was a bit on the autumn side....yellowish reds, browns and oranges, which didn't really go with the new white/red/aqua.  So I took a few out and put some new ones in.

I came across a bird wall decal in Target on clearance for $4.  I cut out the sections I like, put them on a thick white paper (actually, I didn't have any thick white paper so I tore the back off of two of my kid's coloring books), and switched out the butterfly prints.  Honestly, I know vintage animal anatomy prints are hot right now, but I never particularly liked them. I'm much happier with the birds.

I took out the squares and subbed in a bit of aqua quatrefoil fabric.

For the biggest frame, I found an etsy store that makes Keep Calm posters, and had one custom made in the red aqua. 

I considered getting the For Like Ever poster, but it didn't fit the dimensions of the frame.  I'm sure it will make its way into another room. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dresser makeover

We bought our dressers at a discount furniture place in Middletown, at a store that no longer exists.  We were engaged, moving in together, and neither of us had any real furniture to speak of.  The Mister had an Ikea bedroom set that fell apart if you looked at it. I had a bedroom set that my parents had bought me when I was 10.

Together we bought a set that was blonde laminate with a slightly mission style headboard, bed, dresser with mirror, tall chest of drawers and two nightstands. (I don't have any before pictures.)  I did not particularly care for the style, but it was in our price range (which was very limited).  The headboard, mirror and nightstands are no longer with us, but those dressers keep on trucking.

The dressers have lovely deep drawers that roll easily. At one point we split up the dressers, using the long one  in our bedroom and the tall one in our son's bedroom.  We've painted the dressers multiple times.

In the last five years the long one was painted burgundy, then chocolate brown, then a different color grayish brown.  Here's a picture of the grayish-brown. (My bedroom no longer looks like this.)

The tall one was painted the most delicious green. I dont have a picture of the tall one painted green, but here's a picture of the changing table I painted to match it:

Now the two dressers have been reunited, and they have a slightly different paint treatment.

The sides of the drawers are beveled, and the larger drawers have an interior bevel as well.  I taped off the bevel and painted the fronts of the drawers white. 

I really like this paint treatment, its got a very fifties/retro look to it.  Next, I'd really like to switch out the hardware and replace them with silver ring pulls.  I am having a hard time finding a plain inexpensive silver pull. This one is a bit too fussy but is the closest I've found.  I'll keep looking:

The end result would look something like this inspiration picture from Aubrey and Lindsay's blog (see the whole post about how to make this nightstand here):

How do people take pictures like that? My pictures never look like that.

My only problem is that I need twenty-eight pulls.  I have yet to find them for cheaper than $4 apiece.  That's a lot of $$$$ hardware.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

a kitchen makeover (part 2)

Here's the rest of sister's kitchen:

check out yesterday's post if you haven't yet - guest blogger again (Denise mom), talking about kitchen makeover projects I recently completed.

Next up, the counters need to be installed. We need to get a template made first, so we need to remove our old countertops and they come measure the cabinets, and then we have to wait ~2 weeks for the new counters to be installed – yes that means 2 weeks without any countertops, since we have already removed the old ones. Ugh. Once the template guys come, we run into another problem. Our cabinets aren’t level.  Not noticeable to the eye, but enough that they need to be fixed before putting the super heavy granite on them or we’d risk cracks. There’s another unexpected cost. We need another professional to come in and do that for us. We’ve also realized that since tiling the floor, once we put the granite counters on top, we won’t be able to get the dishwasher out without completely removing the floor tiles if we ever needed to do repairs. And the oven is having other issues about its height and the difference in thickness between our old counters and the new ones. So the carpenter and my husband decides the best solution is to remove all the cabinets and raise them all a few inches rather than just shimmy them.

I come home to find all our cabinets in our living room. All of our cabinet contents are in Tupperware bins in the dining room. This project has gotten way out of hand. Our house has been a dump for several weeks now. Sigh.

The cabinets get leveled, and back in the kitchen, the cabinet contents unfortunately stay in the dining room. We don’t want the contents getting dirty in the kitchen when the counter guys come back for installation. The day before the counter install, we disconnect the water to the sink and dishwasher, and put in the new connections. Oh, did I mention we needed new plumbing for the sink because of the different dimensions of new counters and sink (we did manage to get a free sink from the counter people, but had to buy the new hardware and plumbing accessories, and now my husband can add plumbing to his list of skills!) once the new plumbing was in and ready for the new counters/sink, the counter installers postponed our install by 3 days. Doh! So now we had no plumbing in the kitchen, and I was washing dishes in the basement. Not fun. Three days later the counters went in with no problems. And they look gorgeous!!

Backsplash time. We ended up purchasing mostly white subway tiles for the backsplash. We were trying to keep it fairly neutral (because we realize future buyers may not love orange as much as I do), and we liked the price of the subway tiles. We did think all white would be boring, so we chose a glass mosaic tile to create a border and a picture square above the stove.

Loving how it came out. the tile was pretty easy to put in, by this time the husband and I had a great little routine, him outside with the wet saw cutting all the pieces I was measuring for him (there actually ends up being quite a bit of cutting to go around outlets and corners and fit under cabinets. Tiles in, grouted, and edges caulked. And here’s the dramatic reveal.




Tuesday, July 27, 2010

a kitchen makeover (part 1)

My other sister J has also agreed to guest blog for me...she and her husband have been slowly remodeling their house.  One room they just finished was the kitchen, which looks fantastic, and she's going to share:
younger sister here (not sure if i have a code name or not? but i'm the mother of denise), guest blogging again.  here for a kitchen makeover story. if i had my own blog, this post would take up a least a month on my blog, instead you get the condensed version in 2 days. 

Does anyone else’s projects ever grow beyond the point of recognition by the time you are finished? This past winter, the husband and I decided to tile our floor. It used to be white linoleum… that our loving (and occasionally muddy) dogs had turned a lovely shade of grey-ish brown that no amount of mopping, scrubbing, and bleach could return it to white. Additionally, there were holes, yes holes, in the linoleum. When our golden retriever tried to tell us she hated the linoleum floor. And was determined to rip it up one patch at a time. We needed tile. Something nice and hard, dog resistant. And perhaps in a nice dark color (brown?) that didn’t show mud as easily - since our kitchen is a dual purpose mud room from the back yard (ugh).

So there we are, tax return money in hand, headed to the tile store to look at tiles for the floor. We are browsing through the store and keep looking at wall tiles. We are loving the glass mosaic tiles, pretty colors etc. we don’t need wall tiles, or do we? Well we do have this seriously ugly stainless steel backsplash behind our oven and a painted laminate backsplash over the counters that could seriously use some upgrading. And we do have some money burning a hole in my pocket… yes, we should probably get a new backsplash. Ok!

ugly before picture:

So who knows what happens next? Of course a new backsplash should not be paired with old counters. Unheard of! Especially when said old counters are ridiculously old laminate countertops that you painted a faux stone pattern on a few years prior, and have since decided is rather ugly. Ok, we can get new laminate countertops fairly cheaply to finish off this mini kitchen re-do. What? Your grade 1 granite is on sale? And we can get it for just a little more than laminate counters? Well, we obviously need granite countertops. Granite comes in various grades depending on the rarity of the stone – and the prices vary accordingly. Grade 1 is the lowest. The two granite places we looked at, had grades 1-4, I have no idea if there are even rarer stones (higher grades) that are for sale at super rich people stores I would never step into? Anyhoo. Apparently the husband and I both have champagne taste too (just like my sister). We blindly picked out the stone samples we liked. All grades 3 or 4 – which comes with a price tag approximately double of the on-sale grade 1. However, once we decided we liked the granite, there was no going back to laminate counters. And we certainly weren’t going to buy grade 1 granite when grade 3 and 4 were so much prettier!

I won’t get into how many inspiration picture I looked at for ideas, or how long it took for us to select the counter, floor tiles, and various backsplash tiles, and how many tile stores we went to. But we finally got our materials, and were ready to go. We did want to save some money by DIY even though neither of us had ever tiled before. Plus we actually enjoy learning new skills, so we were all over tiling the floor and backsplash. We did leave the counter installation to professionals. Heavy granite counters are not for amateurs. We started with the floor.

First we pulled up the old laminate. Which took way longer than anticipated.

Next, you normally put down hardy backer. We bought a fairly new product – it’s a plastic padding layer called blanke underlayment that acts as the hardy backer, but cuts so much easier and cleaner than hardy backer, dries significantly quicker, and comes with a ridiculous warranty. More expensive, but way worth it. that layer went down super quickly.

And you can start tiling about an hour later (hardy backer in comparison needs a full day to dry). Laying tile is  not quick. Between figuring out where to start so you don’t have tile slivers on the edges of the room, doing dry runs, and making cuts, getting the spacers just right so your tiles are straight, and that we were doing this after work in the evenings – it just seemed to take us forever. Did I mention I was 5 months pregnant doing all this?

 Finally the floor is finished! (we obviously also grouted and sealed the floors once we finished laying the tile, but i won't bore with the details - we just followed the instructions on the bottles).

Stay tuned tomorrow for the counters and backsplash.

Monday, July 26, 2010

my sister is giving me a stabby necklace

My baby sister has kindly agreed to guest blog for me while I'm on vacation in Italy.  She is very crafty--she knits, makes necklaces. She has her own blog I'm Super...Thanks for Asking.  Drop by and visit!

I have a new hobby.  Again. 

I pick up hobbies the way a junkie picks up new track marks.  Seriously.  It's like CRACK for me. 

As a bonus, my new hobby is also very self-serving for me.

I adore jewelry, however, for the last 3 years I have been working for an area of the company that I am not allowed to wear jewelry.  It's been so bad, two (out of 8) of my earring holes have closed up...and I can't even go get them re-pierced since I can't wear the earrings long enough to have the holes last. 

However, starting September 13, I will be working in a facility that actually allows me to wear jewelry.  Unfortunately, I haven't really been keeping up with the purchasing of necklaces or earring since I couldn't wear them for so long.

So I've recently started making them for myself instead. 

Initially, all I knew how to do was wire beads together with a pendant of some kind.  These are two of my first attempts at making a necklace.  The one on the left is a little elaborate, but still a pretty basic design. 

However, I LOVE the colors and the pendant and pretty much EVERYTHING about the necklace even if it is pretty simple.  The one on the right was initially for my mom, but she ended up taking a different necklace as a birthday gift, so I still have it. 

I then learned how to use wire to make a more elaborate and "finished" looking necklace. 

This was my first wire necklace and I actually think it's very pretty looking.  However, it kind of sucks to wear because it has a bunch of sharp edges from where I suck at cutting the wires. I'm working on fixing that. 


I have a made a few more wire necklaces, and I think I'm starting to get better.  I ADORE both of these necklaces. 

I mean, look at the AWESOME wire sculpting I did on the turquoise necklace.  (Ha...I am so modest...).  And the heart. Who doesn't love an awesome pink and green necklace? 

And last but not least, my sister had requested a green necklace so I decided to make one for her today.  I didn't think the pendant would like right with the wire, so I just used simple beading...but I still really like it.  I just hope she does too!


So, with all these new necklaces, I'm looking forward to having a job where I can wear jewelry again.  Only a month and a half to go! 

Friday, July 23, 2010

lunch at Oceana

I went into the city to meet the Mister for lunch.  Its Restaurant Week in the city, and we went to Oceana. I managed to traverse the subway all by myself, even though I was rushed and left my directions at home. This is quite an accomplishment, as I get lost on a frequent basis.  And whenever I ask the Mister for directions, he wants to know if I'm going east or west, north or if I would know.  Why do other people have a mental compass in their head?  How am I supposed to know if I'm facing east or west?  By the position of the sun? Lick my finger and test for the wind?  Seriously, I can tell you I went left or right, but I have no idea how people internalize what direction the North Pole is.

I digress.

I would have liked to have taken pictures of the restaurant decor, but the Mister thought it was unseemly to be taking pictures in a restaurant, so I didn't. Much.

I did, however, manage to get a snapshot of the far wall of the restaurant, which had--ta DA---a botanical print wall!!!

Actually, it was more of a anatomical print wall of fish and various sea fauna, but still--gold frames in a grid with animal and floral prints!  Look like anyone's dining room we know??

I did not get to take a picture of the first course, which was DELICIOUS.  I'd also like to know how come the Mister always seems to get the tastiest thing on the menu.  He had the scallop sashimi with peach chutney. OMG so good. I had....I forget, something with shrimp and beans.  Tasty but not as tasty as the sashimi. Which I promptly helped myself to and gave the Mister the shrimp and beans.

Again, the Mister got the better entree...chilled skate with marinated zucchini and chili-fennel vinaigrette (the picture is after I already started eating it):

I had the grilled bluefish with beefsteak tomato and olive tapenade:

Dessert was also tasty; blueberry almond lemon merangue tart thingy, and chocolate chip cookie parfait:

It was really a lovely meal.  So nice, in fact, I think we'll go back next month for the Mister's birthday.  Even more exciting, Oceana is extending their Restaurant Week lunch through Labor Day, every day but Saturdays.  So for $24.07, you too can get 3 courses of delicious seafood. (I'm not being paid to talk them up, I just thought they were a fantastic meal.)

Our lunch had that delicious peach chutney, and riding the subway on the way home I read Better Homes and Gardens, which had an article on fifty ways to make peaches.  So I came home and made barbecued chicken with grilled peaches.  Which sounded great in theory but sort of fell off the skewers and is still stuck to my grill.

The three bites left on the skewers were tasty, tho.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Off to Nonna's house we go

This afternoon we are off to visit the Mister's grandmother in Naples.

She lives on a farm right outside of Naples:

 Doesn't she look like an Italian grandmother?

Ok, have to finish packing, we are leaving in 2 hours. Ack.

There will be some guest posts (thank you sisters!) next week, plus I wrote a few other posts and set them to publish while I'm is not really my friend so hopefully they will publish. 


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a typical night here at Chez No Sleep

For the last few weeks, my night looks something like this:

7:00 Put kids to bed.
10:00 Go to bed myself.
11:05 Four year old wants a drink of water.
11:30. Four year old claims a bug is in his bedroom. Inspection finds nothing.
11:45 Baby wakes up. Bring her to my bed to nurse for a bit.
12:15 Wake up to find myself sandwiched between baby and four year old.  Return all children to their respective beds.
12:50 Baby wakes up, cuddle her quickly back to sleep.
2 am: The party begins.  Baby wants to nurse nurse nurse. She is teething, and no teething toys will do---just Mama's boobs.
2 to 3: In between nursing, she rolls around, kicks my spleen, elbows my head, climbs the headboard, returns to the boob.
3 am: return monkey child to her crib.
3:20: go to pick up shrieking child.  Slam foot into pile of half-packed suitcases at foot of bed. May have broken foot. Short nursing session, put child back in crib.
3:23 go to pick up shrieking child, slam same foot plus my shin into footstool.  Hurl (expletive expletive expletive) footstool into corner.  Bring shrieking child back to bed.
3:40: Return child to crib. Shrieking commences.
3:41: Retrieve hurled footstool from corner, use it to climb into crib with shrieking child.  Curl up in fetal position.  Shrieking child not happy with interloper, if interloper refuses to share breasts. 
3:45: Yell sternly admonish shrieking child to go to sleep. Because, you know, in my experience, babies react really well to being yelled at. 
3:46: Baby snuggles head into my neck and then gives four sloppy, open-mouthed kisses on my mouth.
3:47: Feel like a jerk for yelling at sternly admonishing a baby.
4 am Go back to my own bed.
4:01: More shrieking.  Really really loud shrieking.
4:02: The Mister attempts to give baby a bottle.
4:03: Baby hurls bottle.  This is not boobs, buddy, get with the program.
4:06: Relent. Give baby (kind of sore) boobs.  For forty-five minutes.
5 am. Place (still-awake!) child back in crib. Shrieking.
5:05. The Mister gets up for the day. Takes the shrieking child into the playroom.  I fall asleep.
6:15: Wake with a massive headache and a bad attitude. 

today is Greg's last day of summer camp, and last day at his old preschool.  We made cupcakes:


We leave for Italy tomorrow. 
I am not finished packing.
The four year old does not want to go to Italy. The four year old is somewhat change-averse.  He says "I do not want to go to Italy! I am only four and a half, you know!"
Um, ok, well, you'll be with us, and we will meet Papa's grandma.
"I'm not going to like her. I'll just stay here at home with my toys. You go and let me know how it went." 
Sorry, kiddo, that's not how things work around here.

While I don't really consider international travel with 3 kids under 5 to be a "vacation", I will admit I am really looking forward to the food.  I married into a family of good cooks.  Traveling with them generally means that I never have to cook a meal, and they make excellent, excellent food. 

Unlike the dinner I scorched last night:

That would be the blackened remains of ribs and hotdogs.  We at them, even though they flaked apart in our hands, because there was nothing else in the fridge to make since we are leaving for 10 days.  The taste of ash goes well with garlic buttered green beans, if you were wondering. 

my grandfather's birthday

My grandfather died earlier this year. He would have been 85 today. My middle child is named after him (my daughter is named after her grandmother....we captioned this picture The Beta Version and the 1.0).

Go get 'em, tiger.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

the length of my skirts

Many, many, many moons ago, when I was about 14 or 15, my Catholic high school had a dress down day, where you could pay $1 for a good cause and in return wear an outfit other than the school uniform.  On the appointed day, I tarted myself up in a pair of black tights, puffy royal blue sweatshirt with black squiggles, low black heels, and a short, tight, black spandex skirt that could have doubled as a tube top. (This was about 1990, you know. That outfit was hot then.)  I sauntered downstairs in my sexiness.

"Absolutely not," my mother said. "You look like a prostitute."

I could not have been that prostitute-y, since my upper half was swathed in a puffy sweatshirt, but the lower half....well.  I ran into the living room and confronted my father.  "Do you like this outfit?"

"That outfit looks fine.....(short pause)....on someone else's daughter."

I whirled around to see my mother standing behind me, making a slashing motion at her neck.  Nice save, Daddy.

These days, I could be mistaken for Laura Ingalls. My knees rarely see daylight.  I like shirts that come to the elbow.  I wear a camisole under v-neck shirts. My wrists and ankles still see daylight, but that's about it.  

Today I am wearing gauchos.  For the love of Pete, would someone bring back the gauchos.  Mine are getting ratty and I can't find any in stores to replace them.  T-shirt material, below the knees, soft, comfy, non-restricting, what's not to love:

My dresses generally hover an inch or two below the knee:

But yesterday, in a fit of madness, I bought a short skirt.

Why yes, those are my knees.

Its a weird feeling.  Knees are not covered! The skirt is a swishy, flirty little number! Everything feels the breeze!

I think its going back to the store.