Wednesday, November 28, 2012

overscale photographs in the boys' room

I finally took a good picture of the boys to put over their beds. I think they look handsome, yes?

Terrible glare in the head-on shot, sigh:

This room is done, or at least, I have no more projects planned.

Updated to add:  I forgot to mention that I had the posters blown up at PosterBrain.  It was fairly inexpensive--$26 for each 28 x40 poster, and it arrived three days after I ordered it.  I'm really happy with the service, and the photos are pretty crisp.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

post Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving was lovely; how was yours?

We are not much on tablescapes but we did make appropriate turkey day decorations (those on the left are hand turkeys, if you can't see them):

We cooked wayyyy too much food.  We ran out of bowls.  (Note to self, buy some more bowls for next year.)

We got our turkey on:

We got our baked ziti on.  (As one does.) (What.)

We gave thanks that we had our family here in our new house.  We can't spend all our holidays on the East Coast, which makes us sad, and we were so happy to have our family with us on this holiday.

Since the grandparents were here to babysit, the Mister and I drove down to San Diego for the weekend.  We stopped in La Jolla on the way down.  I had been to La Jolla fifteen years ago, and I remember it as a fun little town on the beach, with seals.  It was much as I remember it, although it was incredibly foggy.

Those things that look like rocks on the beach are actually the seals.

We had an amazing view of Coronado Island from our hotel:

We did not have enough time to get over to Coronado Island, but hopefully next time.

We did get to see the USS Midway, which was only a few blocks from our hotel.  We stumbled upon it while out for a walk in the morning, decided to take the tour, and ended up exploring it for three hours.  It was fascinating.  My grandfather served as a radioman on a destroyer in WWII, and it was neat to see an environment similar to what he would have served on.

I got thrown in the brig. (Insubordination.)

I thought one of the most interesting parts of the tour was seeing the kitchen, and listening to the audio tour's snippets about the cooks.  The recipes for feeding 4,500 people every day were immense---13,000 pounds of food every single day.  The tour described how creamed chipped beef on toast, or "stuff on a shingle" was the dinner that got the most complaints.  I recall both of my grandfathers talking about "stuff on a shingle", but it certainly wasn't described as "stuff."

We came home early Sunday and bought a fake Christmas tree.  Last year we discovered in mid-December that Peter is allergic to trees so fake tree it is.

Are you ready for Christmas?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

mad for madras

I am thinking of getting new dining room curtains after Christmas....I was planning on getting the Stockholm Blad curtains, but based on yesterday's comments they may end up in my bedroom instead. Which leaves a gaping hole in my plans for the dining room.

But wait! I am slightly obsessed lately with these patchwork madras plaid curtains from PB Kids:

At $89 per panel they are out of my price range.  But what if I made my own? (I am all about buying too much fabric and hanging unhemmed fabric panels in my house.)  

There are a few options:




There are surprisingly few patchwork madras plaids out there.  Have you come across any?  What are your thoughts on patchwork madras--preppy hip or brings back terrible memories of 7th grade sleepaway camp?

Grandma and Nonno have arrived (yay!), and the joyous noise level here are reaching circus performance levels.  Wednesday afternoon we will be cooking up most of the side dishes and desserts for Thursday.  What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?  I miss my grandmother's mashed potatoes, but I'll be making Uncle Mark's eggs and green beans dish.  And my inlaws make amaaaaaaazing stuffing.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

decisions, decisions: which curtains in the master bedroom?

In not entirely unexpected news, I am ready to change my bedroom again.  I want something quieter and less colorful.  I feel kind of like this house is a crayon box of color and needs some calming down.  At least in my bedroom.  And Princess's room, that room is still a hot mess despite my best efforts. Luckily I am doing nearly everything from stuff I already have so my mistakes are not costing money.  On the other hand, maybe mistakes are made because I am forcing things that don't work because I already own them.

Last we saw the bedroom it looked like this, with its recently painted emerald green mirror and lamps.  It wasn't terrible, but I am feeling something a little more low-key.

You know what would look totally fabulous with that duvet and greek key shams?  These blue Ikea Stockholm Blad curtains.

That would look awesome.  Except I have already mentally put those blue curtains in my dining room as my Christmas present.

I took down the curtains and put away the blue duvet, and replaced them with my old living room PB Audrey curtains and a brown quilt.  I brought in my chevron pillows from the reading nook and an aqua coral pillow.

I also took down the naked lady and tried to put up a vintage Palisades Amusement Park poster we have.  Irksomely the Ribba frame that fit Naked Lady just fine is too big for the Pal Park poster.  This "use what you have" idea doesn't always work.  Maybe I should just leave this wall blank.  

Gary is growing a moustachio for Movember.

I was thinking that I might spray paint the mirror and the lamps again (blarg), but the beautiful peacock blue paint that I am picturing in my head apparently does not come in spray paint cans. I picked up a can of Krylon Cherry Red and Rutstoleum Lagoon.

(Yes, the lighting is terrible since its dark out.)  I am not excited about either one, truthfully.  Or it could just be that I am not overwhelmed with the urge to repaint these items at the moment.

Since writing the above paragraph about the blue Stockholm Blad curtains it has sort of taken root in my brain--I could just get those curtains and then keep the blue duvet and not paint anything!

What say you?  Blue duvet with blue Stockholm Blad curtains?  Or PB Audrey curtains with brown blanket?  Repaint the lamps and mirror red or peacock blue if go with the Audrey curtains?

Does anyone else hesitate to invest in really nice expensive stuff because in two years you'll be ready for something else?  

Monday, November 19, 2012

the winter uniform

As I've discussed before, I like to wear a uniform.  Having too many clothing choices stresses me out, I spill stuff on myself all the time, and I am cheap when it comes to clothing.  Having a wide and varied wardrobe of expensive clothing just isn't my thing.  I like a limited selection in a few colors for not much money.  This past summer I bought seven of the same $22 dress in various colors.  I wore that dress in one color or another probably four times a week.

That dress is still going strong--I'm still wearing them frequently--but the weather is cooling off a bit.  Its not cold here by any stretch of the imagination, but I find that even with a light cotton sweater I feel not-quite-warm in my go-to dress and sandals.  I think its time to buy some heavier-weight dresses, and possibly some close-toed shoes.

This feels very weird to me, seeing as the NJ winter uniform for the past ten years has been loose sweatpants and heavy sweaters. I haaaaaate wearing jeans, or any other restrictive pants that encircle my waist. Flowy highwaisted dresses are my preferred clothing.  Unfortunately its hard to wear flowy highwaisted dresses in 30 degree weather without some tights or pantyhose or leggings or some other tight item that encircles my waist--you see how this is a problem?  I have high hopes that I can rock the highwaisted dress year round in California.

Sunday night I ordered this dress in 5 colors.

Its a nice heavy knit in an A-line pattern, it has 3/4 length sleeves, it wraps in the front and has a high waist.  This style of dress is generally flattering on me, so I have high hopes.  Over the summer I bought a few dresses in Medium, which is usually what I wear from most companies, but they were all enormous.  I ordered everything in a Small, which feels very daring and dangerous because there is very little on my person that is small, so we shall see.  Cross your fingers.  At worst I end up returning everything, I guess.

The most exciting part is that the dress was on sale (as of Sunday night) for $40 instead of $79, and I consider $40 to be the upper end of what I will pay for a dress, so that worked out just fine.

I also bought this drape collar dress.

It did not come with a leopard print belt, but I do believe I need one.  I know that this dress was $79, outside of the $40 max discussed above, but I had a coupon for 40% off one item plus free shipping, so that made it acceptable.

I also bought this dress, because holla, $17.  This dress looks pretty much like the first one but cheaper.

So, that's 8 dresses and that should be plenty for daily wear, if they fit.

The other part of the uniform--I would like to find a pair of (very) low-heeled boots, and a wide belt.

I have pathologically wide feet and calves. Regular boots do not zip up over my calves, and my sensitive feet feel pinched in nearly every shoe ever made.  In cold weather I wear sneakers nearly every day, and I have worn the same pair of ballet flats for seven years. I have tried for years to buy boots, one year going so far as to order seven pairs of wide-shaft boots from Zappos (the Mister loved that credit card bill) and returning every single pair.

Since I can rarely find shoes that fit well I am resigned to paying lots of money when I do.  I find the the most disheartening part of the process trying on four hundred pairs of shoes only to end up with nothing, or worse, old lady shoes.  I have accepted the fact that I am most comfortable in school-marm clothing but my soul yearns to wear pretty shoes.

I will try a few pairs from Zappos, although nothing is really catching my eye.

I have finally captured the elusive obi belt of my dreams.

For years, Garnet Hill seemed to put this belt on every model in their catalogue, but yet never sold the belt.  I even went to the website with the intention of pulling a picture of one of the models wearing the elusive belt, and much to my surprise it was actually offered--so I bought it.

I'd like to find a leopard print belt, and maybe a shiny gold one.

Thus the winter uniform is nearly complete.  I do not have much hope in finding shoes that fit, although I will try them on anyways.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I ordered directly from the Lands End website, not Sears.

What do you wear in the winter?

Friday, November 16, 2012

I am breaking up with Sears and we are never ever ever getting back together.

Last year, when we moved into our house in Westfield, we bought a new refrigerator at Sears.

This is quite possibly the worst appliance purchase we have ever made.

We bought a Kenmore model number 795.68272.900, and it is a Piece of Schmidt. (Sorry for the cussing, Grandma.)  We have not had any problems with it breaking down, or not performing fridge-like functions.  No, our problem lies in that there is an open door alarm that WILL NOT TURN OFF.


Well, that's a slight exaggeration.  Occasionally it will go off, sometimes for weeks at a time, just enough time for us to say, we shouldn't spend money on a new fridge, because this one is less than a year old and works fine other than that INCESSANT BEEPING.  But the beeping always comes back.

It beeps every 10 seconds.  All day long.  Six times per minute. Three hundred and sixty times per hour.   Eight thousand, six hundred and forty times per day.  Sixty thousand, four hundred and eighty times per week.  Guests visiting my house for the first time are always looking puzzled and say "is...something...beeping?  I keep hearing an alarm? Are you aware of this?"

We have had multiple Sears technicians out to deal with it.  First thing they ask is "have you tried pressing the Off button?"

This fills me with a fiery, molten rage.  No, Sears guy, I have lived with a beeping fridge for six months without ever once trying to turn it off.  Then the Sears guy takes a look, and discovers that my model fridge does not have an Off button.

The problem is then diagnosed that the fridge is on an uneven surface, thus causing the door to not seal properly, thus the seal lifts .00000000000001 cm off the alarm button, causing the alarm to think, hey! the door isn't shut! and then it starts the infernal beeping.

Then we have the discussion of how there is NO WAY to turn the alarm off manually.  If we are lucky, the Sears guy will fiddle around the wrench and the get the legs adjusted just right so the door stays shut and the beeping goes off.  Since we moved from the house where Sears originally delivered the fridge, our warranty is no longer valid and we have to pay $129 for this pleasure.  I have fiddled around with the legs myself many times, but to no avail.

Last month on Columbus Day weekend we bought a soft, plush mattress for Princess's bedroom.  It was nearly half off because of the Columbus Day sale.  The mattress in the store was so soft and fluffy and fabulous.

The mattress that was delivered was not soft, fluffy, or fabulous.  I slept on it multiple times, hoping that perhaps it just needed to be broken in or something, and this is just not the same mattress that we sat on in the store. It is hard and gives me a back-ache.

I went to the store two weeks ago to discuss returning or exchanging it.  Frankly, I am a) annoyed that this mattress is nothing like the sample mattress, and who knows if the second mattress they send will have the same issue, and b) since the delivery windows always encompass a time when I either need to be picking up or dropping off multiple children, this seems like a hassle.  The sales associate assured me that they would exchange it for free within thirty days of delivery.  I came home and discussed it with the Mister, and we decided to exchange it.

When I called Sears to schedule the exchange, they told me that I was outside of the return period, which was thirty days from date of purchase, not delivery, but they would do me the favor of exchanging it anyways, for a fee of $200. I admit that when I looked at the receipt, it did say thirty days from date of purchase, so I was wrong to rely on the employee's assurances of free exchange within thirty days from delivery.

But, Sears sent me a mattress that isn't what they claimed it to be, and now they are going to charge me for sending me another of the same model that may or may not be better than the POS they sent me the first time. And if its still crap they will charge me another $200 to take it away.

Nope, thanks.  I am done with Sears. We are breaking up.  I will keep the crappy hard mattress and buy a foam topper.  I will also NEVER AGAIN buy ANYTHING from Sears.  Considering that in the past ten years we have purchased two refrigerators, a washing machine (also a POS but in the interests of space I haven't told that story), a stove, a dishwasher, a treadmill, and two mattresses--that's many thousands of dollars.  Don't worry, Sears, henceforth I will take my thousands of dollars elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

price of food

Today I went to Whole Paycheck Foods for vitamins and contemplated a $13 rotisserie chicken, and $10 sweet potatoes.  I decided I would eat lunch at home.

When the Mister and I first got married, we would buy the smallest possible portions of meat at the grocery store.  Usually a pack of chicken or pork would have three to four pieces, and we would each eat one for dinner and either eat leftovers the next night or take them for lunch.  I realize this was ten years ago, but we rarely spent more than $5 on any package of meat.  When we ate pasta we made half a box, or we made the whole box and had leftovers for days.  We consistently spent the same amount on food every month.

After having one child, I did not see a large increase in our food bill.  (Except for the special formula he ended up on at 8 months, which cost nearly as much as the food bill for me and the Mister.) But what we were spending on actual food stayed about the same.

After the second child, our food bill started to creep up.  By the third child, our food bill had doubled from when it was just me and the Mister.  I'm not sure why, since my children reject every meal I make.  However, I would say that our meat consumption was about the same.  We were still buying one package of meat to feed five people.  Obviously I wasn't eating lots of leftovers from that one package of meat, but, on average, one pound of meat stretched to feed two adults and three children under the age of six.

It appears my children are growing up, because one package of meat is not really doing it for us anymore.  I am still only buying one package of meat, and pushing the vegetables, but the childrens are not so fond of the vegetables.

One reason I am still only buying one small package of meat per meal is because meat is ridonkulously expensive here.  I used to pay about $4 for a pound of pork or $7 for a pound of chicken  in New Jersey.  Here I am paying $12 (discounted with my Ralph's savings card from $18) for a pound of pork.   Bacon, commonly $6 in New Jersey, is $13 here.  What the hell, people.  We are not vegans, but it looks like we might end up that way.

I find that eating healthy and from scratch is actually not that cheap.  Because of Peter's food allergies, we eat very little food that comes out of cans or boxes.  We eat mostly chicken, ground beef and fish, fresh and frozen vegetables, and lots of fruit. We eat a vegetarian pasta twice a week (homemade tomato or pesto sauce, or a pasta with a vegetable sauce). I make most of our bread and desserts from scratch.

Irony: I detest cooking, and yet I spend a significant portion of my day doing so.

How about you?  What do you and your family consume?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paper Source papers as art

A few weeks ago the Mister and I stopped in the Paper Source while in the mall.  I'd never been to the Paper Source before and was enthralled with the wrapping paper.  I'm not really into wrapping things super fancy, and the wrapping paper is rather expensive as wrapping paper goes--$8 a sheet--but as art, its cheap!

There are tons of choices, but for art purposes, I looked for papers that had more of an abstract feel.

There are a few marbled papers:






I may have gone a little overboard buying pretty papers.  I'm still in the process of putting them around the house.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rose Bowl flea market

On Sunday the Mister and I went to the Rose Bowl flea market, which I have wanted to visit for years.  It was fascinating!

I did not see Emily Henderson, but I did have a pretty good time.

I had a shopping list--a set of dining chairs, a small dresser, a bowl, and a set of dishes.  I did not get a single thing on that list.

I found some tolix chairs that were reasonably priced for antiques, but I did not want chippy orange paint and they were too expensively priced for a re-do.

I do like busts, as you may have guessed.  I saw a number of interesting, non-grecian busts that I think would be fabulous additions to my collection--who doesn't love a bust of Chairman Mao or Abraham Lincoln?

Unfortunately the Mister does not share my predilection for representations of people's head and upper torsos. I also saw a number of oil painting portraits, but the Mister does not share my passion for oil-painted portraits either.

Luckily the Mister does share my passion for beer brats.  They were delicious and the closest thing on the menu to breakfast (we skipped the "excellent garlic fries" at 9 am).

I didn't get anything on my shopping list, but I did come home with two items.

These grape-y things caught my eye.  I tried to haggle the vendor down, but he stood firm on the price so I bought them anyways.  One booth over was another bunch for $10 cheaper (grrr).  I comfort myself that despite these being overpriced they were the nicest color and will look nice in the living room.

My other exciting purchase is a set of lion heads.  I have no idea where Aslan 1 & 2 will go, and they weigh a ton.  But I liked them so much I bought them, knowing I would kick myself if I left them behind. They will probably find a home in the living room, since the dresser in the foyer also has lionhead hardware.  (Pictured alongside the baseball cap for scale--they are pretty big.)

Found any fun stuff at thrift stores or flea markets lately?


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

tolix chair roundup

We have family visiting us for Thanksgiving!  We are excited to see them.  I am not so excited to have them sit on our dining chairs, which are in poor shape and in need of repair.  I am unlikely to get around to repairing them before Thanksgiving, so instead I am window-shopping for tolix chairs to replace them. (I will not be replacing them unless a set of six tolix chairs happens to fall into my lap for $50, but hey, I like window-shopping.)

Here is one of my absolute favorite tolix chair pictures.  I find woods and whites together to be the perfect backdrop for colorful accent pieces, and these yellow chairs and asian art just work so well in this space.  (You can see another view of the space here; it looks like the picture was probably propped weirdly in that corner for picture-taking purposes.)

image via Coastal Living

There are a number of places to get a tolix-style chair.  These chairs first came to my attention a few years ago in the Pottery Barn catalogue.

They are sturdy, they are metal, they will wipe off easily, and they seem like they would take a lot of abuse.  Unfortunately, they are $269 apiece.

Overstock has these tabouret chairs, which are the most economical option at $179 for a set of four chairs:

While these are cheap, and metal, and get fantastic reveiws on Overstock, I prefer the straighter tolix style to the curvy arms of the tabouret.

Home Decorators has a similar style for a pretty good price.  It looks a bit more squat and wider, but the measurements are the same as the Pottery Barn ones. I would like to get white, but this chair comes in dull chrome, pink and red.

Crate and Barrel has the Lyle chair, which also seems a bit curvier.  The nailhead/dots around the edge of the seat seem like it would dig into your thighs after a bit.

I do not consider Design Within Reach to be actually with reach, although I do note that they are cheaper than Pottery Barn AND have free shipping!

Amazon has one, although the shipping seems prohibitive ($32 per chair!):

If you've seen a tolix chair for a reasonable price, please leave a comment!