Monday, February 29, 2016

CSA adventures

In December I signed up for a CSA box.  If you haven't heard of CSA, it is Community Supported Agriculture--you sign up to buy a box of vegetables weekly or monthly from your local farmer, and you don't have much of a choice about the contents.  It supports your local farmers, and gives you local, seasonal produce.

There are different choices for a CSA.  I looked around, and narrowed my choices down to two.  First was the local farm a few blocks from my children's school, which is a traditional CSA.  You sign up, you get a little box or a big box, and you get no input whatsoever about what goes in the box. What they grow is what you get.  You can pick up your box at the farm on a designated date every week, or they deliver to a few Whole Food or Sprouts locations, and you pick up from there.

The other choice was a larger, not-so-local West Coast co-op.  The co-op gathers produce from small, local farms (like my local farm down the street), and distributes it all up and down the West Coast.  It has a wide variety of produce, sizes of boxes, and allows you to mix vegetables and fruits, or just vegetables, or just fruits, or veggies one week and fruit the next, or whatever other combo your heart desires.

The large, not-so-local co-op is still mostly organic, seasonal produce; it doesn't offer cherries in January.  Importantly for me, since we have multiple food allergy issues, it allows us to customize our choices, to an extent.  I can refuse any nuts, or limit my selection of foods I don't like.  It also has the advantage of home delivery.

As you  might have guessed, I went with the not-so-local co-op.  Being able to customize the box was important to me. Also, the week I decided I wanted to do a CSA, the small, local farm took a Christmas break for six weeks, meaning that I wouldn't get a box till February if I went with them.

Its been a month of CSA, and here's what I've learned: I'm doing it wrong.

1) Getting a CSA with mixed fruit and veggies has not lowered my grocery bill. I'm not buying less fruits and veggies at the grocery store.  I don't know why.  Getting a CSA has increased my food bill by $33 a week.  We are eating almost all the food, so its not that we are wasting it....but $132 extra dollars a month is a lot.

2) I think "mixed fruit and veggies box" might be part of the problem.  I get two kiwis, two potatoes, two oranges, etc.  I don't mind two kiwis or two oranges to throw in the mix (the fruit always gets eaten), but I can't meal plan around one beet or two potatoes for a family of five.  I think I need to commit to a veggie box or a fruit box.

3) I hadn't thought of this before, but it has come to my attention that in the winter I eat a lot of sauteed greens, like kale/swiss chard/fennel, etc.  In the summer I eat more lettuce in salads.  However, I can't customize the box to give me all the kale in the winter and give me more lettuce in the summer.  I can't keep up with the amount of lettuce that keeps coming. I can eat three bunches of kale in a week, but three heads of lettuce are going to waste.

Actually, technically I CAN customize like this--but it involves paying $33 for the regular box, then removing items I don't want, and paying an additional fee for other stuff I would like.  So I can't swap out for more stuff I like.

4) I can customize the box to an extent--I can check off categories of vegetables I don't want. However, apparently I am a really picky eater, because I have now categorized too many vegetables as off limits, and they cannot fill our box with the available offerings.  So instead of just giving me  more kale or more potatoes or something else already in the box that I DO like, I am being penalized with MORE LETTUCE.  Or more cabbage.  Or more of whatever item I have checked off as "yuck."

5) We have tried many new vegetables. I have discovered that I do not like cabbage in any form. I can eat a small "no thank you" portion if socially necessary of everything delivered so far, but I cannot eat an entire head of bok choy, or four roots of ginger (we are getting more ginger this week, what to do with all this ginger??). I don't mind romanescue cauliflower but I don't actively like it, either.  Why can't I just have more kale??

6) Small (large?) nitpick:  the produce all comes individually wrapped in plastic bags. And then all the individual plastic-ly bagged produce is put into a larger plastic bag, which is then put into a cardboard box for delivery.  For a business that markets itself as so close to the environment, blah blah blah, there's a lot of plastic packaging.

I feel bad about not supporting my local farmer.  I've looked into changing over the local farm now that they are back from break, but....current offerings for the next few weeks include much lettuce and cabbage (obviously, since these are seasonal produce). The local farm also includes some baked goods and jams and chutneys in their boxes, and I don't have the option to leave them out.  Peter can't eat those and we try very hard not to bring forbidden items into the house so as not to contaminate our kitchen prep I don't think we'll be doing the local farm CSA.

I think I will go down to a smaller box, because that will reduce the number of items in the box.  (The medium box gets nine to ten different items, and if they can't fill that because of all my restrictions, perhaps the six item box would be easier with our restrictions?) I also think I need to do either a veggie or a fruit box, or perhaps the fruit one week and veggie the next.

Do you get a CSA?  What do you do with all the cabbage and lettuce?  Do you get a mixed vegetable and fruit, or just vegetables?  Give me your tips on getting the best use out of your csa box, please.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

art for the formal dining room

In my New Year's rearranging the whole downstairs, I took the playroom (formerly the formal dining room) and turned it back into a formal dining room.  I'll have a post on this room coming up with furniture in it (I bought two chairs I'm waiting on), but for now, I'll just show you the art I created for the room.

We have tons of unused art in the closet, but nothing we already owned felt right in the spot.  I wanted to make something colorful myself, and I feel that we have more than enough splatter paintings at the moment.

I took a pair of large white Ribba frames that used to hold large photos of the boys, and painted the heavy board in the back.  I thought a pair of ladies would be nice.

Despite being un-religious, I love religious icon art and have a fair amount of it (not currently displayed).  I wanted to do something byzantine-ish. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, and I have zero sense of perspective and symmetry, so I decided early on that drawing a normal looking face probably wouldn't work for me.  I drew this lady first and intentionally gave her a Picasso-esque out-of-kilter face.  When Princess saw the face, she said "oh, hey, its a Picasso!"  Success, I say.

I am not immune to tinkering, and there is a possibility that Blue Headress lady might a get a pattern on her headdress at some point in the future.

I wanted a pair of ladies, but not identical, or even very similar, so for the second lady I gave her big hair and a closed face.  I kept the backgrounds the same blue to provide some cohesion to the pair.

She originally had some going-to-the-club eyelashes on, but it felt like a caterpillar, so now she's just wearing a demure bit of eyeliner. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Living room, rearranged again, and some chiang mai dragon pillows

After the new year, I started a frenzy of rearranging. The living room was laid out like so:

When I moved the Tarva chest into the foyer, that left the Drexel console without a home.  I moved it behind the sofa, along with the tall white lamps.

I also moved the Expedit back up to the boys' room. In an ideal world I would not have a television in our front living room window, as it is supposed to be a formal living space.  However, I turned our family room into the dining room, so...yeah, I have a tv in the window. (In a really ideal world I would just get rid of the tv entirely.) I bought a $49 Vittsjo tv unit from Ikea, and moved the tv over the corner. I like that the Vittsjo is smaller and lower, and the tv doesn't block quite so much of the window.

I also took out the coffee table and put it in the garage.  I brought our old ottomans in, since they have a smaller profile.

One thing I love in the living room is the chiang mai dragon pillows I bought with two years of hoarded Etsy gift cards. I have been dreaming of the alabaster colorway with a blue velvet backing for years, but since I have hopes of getting a navy blue sofa eventually, I decided to go with a white and blue ikat back and red piping.  I bought them from Flying Tack on etsy, and I'm thrilled with how they turned out.


Lets be honest, eventually I will own chiang mai dragon pillows in every colorway.  Two colorways down, six to go.

Next up:  I turned the playroom back into a dining room, and made some art to go with it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Our ottomans are falling apart.  Or, should I say, the children are peeling them apart, strip by pleathery strip.

They were originally from Crate and Barrel eight years ago and they weigh a ton. If it weren't for my children actively and intentionally destroying them, they have actually held up really well. I like their utility--they store all our blankets, you can flip the top over to use as a tray, and they are very heavy and well built.

I would just buy another pair from Crate and Barrel, but I would like the new ottomans to be either white or navy blue, and they aren't currently offered in those colors. I also don't want to spend $300 on new ottomans.  I've been looking for something similar on craigslist for months, but no dice.  I've attempted a slipcover. However, the indented lid makes it difficult to make a square slipcover, and recovering the pleather is difficult because of the tight fit of the lid.

So, my requirements are 1) either navy or white,  2) it can be used for storage,  3) I'd prefer that it have feet, and 4) not too expensive.  I've looked at a few possibilities, but nothing is really jumping out at me.

1) I am kicking myself for not buying this discontinued nailhead ottoman from Target last year. I loved them, but told myself at the time I didn't need new ottomans, and thus I should keep my money in my pocket.  Fast forward six months, they are all gone, and I am super annoyed at myself, because it is exactly what I wanted.

2) This blue or white pleather box is from Walmart, but doesn't have feet. Also, its from Walmart.  But it is in the price range I'd like to pay.

3) This white leather ottoman from Wayfair is exactly what I am looking for but gets terrible reviews about cracking, peeling leather, which I already have.

4) Another option from Walmart that I really like is the Aria ottoman, which appears to be in a copycat Annie Selke fabric, but again, doesn't have feet and is a wee bit expensive for a Walmart item. 

I  wan storage, so these aren't going to work, but all of these non-storage ottomans would be nice on my tender ankles. 

I've been wanting to replace our ottomans for years, but keep telling myself that they work fine as ottomans, even if they are ugly mangy brown.  I don't need ottomans, right? They fulfill their function just fine, even if their form is unattractive.

I've had a hard time in the last few years reconciling my interest in minimalism/frugality with my interest in decor.  Does one replace functional but ugly things with newer, more attractive items, just because you want to?  When do you elevate want over need?  

Monday, February 8, 2016

too many lemons, a chair I don't need

We have a lemon tree in our backyard.  It has...flowered? Fruited? Needs to be harvested?  I have approximately one million lemons.  If you have any recipes that use many many lemons and doesn't involve seafood, I'm all ears.

One of my prized possessions that I don't have a spot for in this house is a beautiful palimpore roman shade from Pottery Barn. I don't recall the name of the fabric, which has since been discontinued, but it was a Josef Frank knock-off, which was itself a Tree of Life knock-off.

ANYWAYS, one day I am perusing my local craigslist, when I come across this:

A whole chair in one of my favorite fabrics! I have a roman shade to match it! And its only $225!

I have NOWHERE to put this chair.  Nowhere.  Except my garage.  Do I buy a chair I have nowhere to put, because I will certainly put it somewhere in the next house next year, or do I just kiss it goodbye?

I have a lot of other things I'd like to buy (lamps, sofa, dining chairs).  This would be a long-view purchase. Actually, I've been watching the ad for a few weeks now, it might not even be available anymore.  But I LOVE IT.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Boys' room

When we first moved in this house, most of the house was painted a flat, inoffensive beige. I don't like it, but I can live with it.  However, the three upstairs bedrooms were painted a hideous mustardy beige. The boys' room doesn't get much natural light, so the beige was even more awful in that room.

I can't find a picture of the boys' room prior to being painted, but it was the same color as the master bedroom:

The management company would not allow me to paint anything white.  However, they agreed that I could paint the upstairs bedrooms the same color as the rest of the house.  I hired our painter to do the bedrooms, but he could only fit in two bedrooms before we moved in.  We did the master bedroom and Princess's room.  When I bought the paint, I had the paint store color match the downstairs paint...and (ahem) then I had them use only 25% of the color and I used a satin sheen.  The sheen and the pared-back color makes the beige less awful.  You can't really tell that it is a different color--sort of like when you go up the paint chip in a different room.  

Sadly, since only two bedrooms were repainted, that left the hideous beige in the boys room for months. Every time I walked in the room I said "ugh, I hate this color." When the landlord had the exterior painted, I paid one of the painters to do it on the side, and it was finished in under two hours.  Now all three upstairs bedrooms are an inoffensive cafe au lait-ish color.

Nearly everything in the bedroom was from our old house.  When we moved in, I asked the boys what we should do with their room, and their answer was "leave it exactly the same." (Harrumph.)  

The red persian rug that doesn't match was a $45 craigslist find. I have been searching craigslist since we moved in for a different rug, but nothing has worked out yet. I bought the beni ourain rug from RugsUSA, and sent it back.  

The red painting was in our dining room in the last house, and the dressers were purple in Princess's bedroom in the last house.  They don't fit in her room in this house, so I painted them a cobalt blue and gave them to the boys.

None of this was staged. There is an owl and a raccoon skin hat on a bowling pin and four million legos on the dresser every day.

I'd like to get some art for over the beds, but nothing has presented itself as the perfect thing yet.  I've also toyed with getting bunkbeds.  The main reason I haven't gotten bunk beds is because it seems like changing the top bunk would be a pain.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Princess's room: new headboard and blanket

I seem to have gotten away from posting progress pictures.  I'd like to get back to it--no room in this house will be done anytime soon.  Budget and the discussion of moving to a different neighborhood (and laziness) have stalled much progress, but I think we are staying here for a I will continue to tinker with decorating here.

Last we saw the Princess's room on the blog, it looked like this:

I wasn't terribly excited about this room, but nor was my budget terribly inspired to do anything else in there, either.

In the last post about her room, I thought getting a navy blue headboard would solve all my design problems.  I bought an unfinished upholstered headboard from Target, and upholstered it in a plain navy fabric.

I didn't like it. I don't seem to have a picture of it. It was too dark, and my personal wish list of navy and white boho vibe did not match the Princess's preference for sparkly and pink.

I reupholstered it in a white fabric with silvery sunbursts.  That looked much brighter.

Then I got a pink and gold duvet from Target, but that didn't work out either. (The gold triangles on the duvet were actually pictures of has the impression of gold, but it is not gold. It is weird and not what I was expecting.)

Then a discontinued Pottery Barn Kids Quilt showed up on craigslist.

We like to accessorize with historical finger puppets. (I have video of Ben Franklin telling Frida that her outfit is "totes adorbs".)

I haven't figured out a window treatment yet.  Pelmet? Long curtains? Short curtains?