Friday, September 30, 2011

Progress: Craft room edition

I started out calling this my craft room, but now it seems that Office might be a better title. My new laptop is on its way. I'm going to spend some time this week setting up an Ikea bookshelf that my Philadelphian sister-in-law was kind enough to deliver. So as to spare me from a $350 shipping fee.

The office started out beige and lime green, with bamboo-painted window trim.

It was the first room we applied a roller to, the day after closing. Can you see the glee in my face? Oh my goodness, what a rush that was.

We painted the walls Behr Velvet Evening-- three coats! I love it more every day. I'm so glad I took a risk with the color and went for something bold.

The carpet went away. I studiously applied caulk. I'm getting nostalgic here. I remember singing along to Ani Difranco (at the top of my freaking lungs) while I did this. It was December. The work was still fresh and exciting.

Primer and two coats of Behr Downy, and voila.

So fresh and so clean.

Then, came the junk.

It can be so hard to make craft supplies look attractive. I am admiring (and slightly envious) of crafters who store their fabric in vintage suitcases. I've started collecting a couple, slowly, when I find them. I've started scouting out appropriate baskets and canisters for supplies, so I can upgrade from the shoeboxes and repurposed grocery store deli containers I currently use. Upgrades are good.

Hopefully by the end of the week this view will contain a sleek, white, six-foot-tall Expedit shelving unit in place of that motley clutter. I see a lot of dinky IKEA Allen wrench action in my future...

The other exciting craft room/office development: my desk finally came to live with me. Dear old Dad (the extremely talented and generous cabinet maker I am so freaking lucky to be related to) built this for me when I was nine. Did he know? Did he have any idea his daughter would someday be headed towards a future as a freelance writer? It is cherry. It is gorgeous. I have missed it. 

I spent SO MANY hours sitting at this thing, doing homework, art projects, scrapbook pages, writing letters, writing poems, creating. Sitting at it again is a little like sitting in a favorite, familiar cockpit. Everything is there-- pens, paper, tools. Files. It feels great. 

In between, I made a little bit of art for the wall. Gotta have art, right? I got this idea from Design*Sponge-- saw it and immediately fell in love. It sat on the back burner for a time-- a long time-- while I worked at assembling the necessary materials. Frames found on clearance, paper, notions, cardboard for the back... a box cutter to cut the cardboard for the back... little clippy things to hold the cardboard in place, little toothy metal guys to hang them on the wall. Finally, they are done. 

I need to take a better picture sometime when there's more light. That's the thing about a Velvet Evening-colored room, I suppose. As you can see, there's plenty of room to add ribbons and buttons to these, as my collection grows.

Lots of changes, and hopefully lots more to show off in a couple of weeks...

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Progress: Great Room edition

Moving on to the great room. This tour is fun. It's making me all nostalgic. This is the room I like to sit in and say... "Purple wallpaper. Berry pink carpeting. Purple wallpaper..." It makes me proud.

First, down came the wallpaper, and up went Behr Castle Stone.

Up came the carpet. We refinished the floor, painted the ceiling and trim, and oh yeah, I started painting flowers on the wall. We moved in-- sort of.

We got a little more moved in.

Now there's an antique couch facing the wall, almost expectantly waiting for the fireplace and bookshelves that are going to fill in that painter's tape outline. Someday. I'm gunning to get this done before Christmas, too, but realistically, I know it'll be a big job. Involving things like tile and grout, and routing a propane line, and asking my dad for custom bookshelves. (I love my dad.)

So, someday. The tape helps me dream...

Oh, and in the meantime, there's always flowers. I'm really looking forward to getting back to that this winter.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Progress: Stairwell edition

Continuing on our little tour of home improvement... most of which has been on the "decorating and arranging" spectrum since the springtime... I present to you, the stairwell. The early days.

We (Patrick) nailed the wainscoting back into place and spackled a big, uneven gap-- which took about seventeen applications of joint compound, and two weeks to dry, and now you can't even see the spot. He's golden, I'm tellin' ya. Then I primed and painted the wainscoting, and painted the walls Behr Baked Brie.

Then I took down the painter's tape (ha), and hung a couple of paintings. 

See, baby steps. Nothing life-changing, but a big improvement. A reason to smile every time I go downstairs. A little shot of motivation for finishing this-- painting the hallway floor and treads, and replacing/refurbishing the banister. We're gunning to get that done before Christmas.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Progress: Kitchen edition

The weather is cooling, the garden is winding down, the canning and freezing is mostly done. Music festival season is over, therefore Patrick will be around on Saturdays (at least occasionally!) and we are looking forward to getting back into home improvement. This week, I'm posting updates of progress on changes we've made over the course of the summer. Mostly, they're small, but oh, what a difference a little somethin-somethin can make.

Let's start with the kitchen. 

We came, we saw. We painted walls and trim, took down the curtains, sold the washer. 

We cleaned and scrubbed. We moved in. This picture below is from early May. We had just gotten our landline installed (you can see the phone on the counter). 

I took this picture yesterday evening, after I'd finished baking carrot pie, roasting butternut squash and broccoli, and making enchilada sauce. It's nothing major, but, see the light fixture? That's a big improvement over the possibly-older-than-I-am grotty fluorescent bar light we replaced. Gag. There were, like, dead bugs inside that thing. Like, in my kitchen. 

I found this little cutie (the light) in a clearance pile for... wait for it... $6.95. It's all about the small changes, right? The whole house, pretty much, is due for light fixture upgrades, so this is just one of many. 

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Just some kitchen magic

I'd been looking forward to it for quite awhile.

On Saturday, I took an evening off from waitressing so we could open our house to a whole crowd of our Binghamton friends. I missed them so terribly. I knew I did, and was excited, and then somehow when I saw them standing in our backyard with the late September sun setting behind them, I realized I'd missed them more than I'd thought. A lot of hugging ensued.

I love waitressing; I do that so I can meet the town. It's a social investment, something that will lead-- and has led-- to friendships in Gilbertsville. But it's important to take a night off every now and then, I think, so I can keep up with the old friendships. The ones that made Binghamton-- drab, gritty Binghamton-- into the often-joyous place it was. 

Fortunately, our friends have a way of providing us with the perfect excuse to see them: they are in a fabulous band. So, we booked them a show at the Empire House-- where I usually waitress on Saturday nights-- and so our new Gilbertsville friends and our old Binghamton friends could sit and drink and holler together as the band  played their show.

(Note: they're called the Lutheran Skirts, and you can check them out on YouTube here.)

Patrick and I have been hosting bands for a couple of years now, and we love it. Every time, I love it a little more, I think. 

It just doesn't get better. You get to see your friends, sure, and hear their wonderful music. You get to spend a couple of hours making magic in the kitchen (while your husband obligingly cleans carpets and closets and catboxes), and then everyone pours in and eats and exclaims and acts so grateful... when really all you did was sweep a little bit and make magic in your kitchen. The fact that they were all there to receive the magic is the best, most surprising, rewarding part. 

I didn't have friends in high school-- true story-- and now I have droves of friends who will travel great distances for the privilege of eating lasagna in my dining room. That is the whole story. I love them.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Tomato weekend

I'm trying to get over feeling guilty about not canning this year. Can you help?

I planted an orchard. I hung paintings. I overhauled a flower garden. I did not can.

(Okay, I did make three quarts of three bean salad and nine pints of bread and butter pickles. But I did  not can tomatoes. Or jam. Can we still be friends?)

I froze a lot of stuff this weekend. I pulled up my six basil plants (which were, at this point, more like shrubbery), and made a ton of pesto. I roasted a big box of red bell peppers. And I made tomato soup, tomato puree, tomato paste, and two different kinds of tomato sauce.

I'm such a junkie for the sights, sounds, scents, and sensations of food preservation. A couple of times I had to walk to the garden for fresh herbs, or carrots (for the soup!), and opening the door on my warm, steamy, fragrant kitchen was heavenly. Just like coming into mom's kitchen after a chilly afternoon of playing outside, only so much better. Because now it's my kitchen, and nothing smells better than bubbling tomato sauce.


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Old barns, toadstools, and that view

Thanks to all who commented on Monday's post. Life is going on. We have moments of teariness together. We talk about what we're going to plant under those birch trees in spring, to remember her with. "Something that's fluffy, like her tail," was Patrick's suggestion. Life is going on.

On Sunday, we visited my parents, and their woods.

I love their woods. When I'm a famous writer (which will happen, right?) I'm going to buy some land near our house so we have a place to hike, just us. A girl can dream.

Oh, Catskills.

My parents sent us home with treasure, as they usually do. And, because of all the rain we've had, I've been able to spend some time inside, arranging and rearranging, creating function from chaos. Creating beauty, even, in some corners where serendipity has showed its hand. What a process, this home-making business. Pictures Monday.

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Monday, September 12, 2011


I wasn't going to say anything. Nine eleven was yesterday. A catastrophic flood-- the aftermath from Hurricane Lee-- has wrecked homes and lives all through upstate New York. There are big problems, big things to worry about. 

I wasn't going to tell you that one of our cats got hit by a car. 

And yet, digging down into the ground together this morning, Patrick and I, as the fog lifted reluctantly off the hills and the dew dried in the weeds, there was beauty. I wanted to tell you. There was beauty in the way we swatted each others' mosquitoes and leaned back and forth, leaning back as the other leaned forward to scrape more dirt out from around the roots of our birch tree. There was beauty in the way we gathered goldenrod and asters, working together, sharing tears. 

It reminded me-- and not that I needed a reminder-- of how much I love Patrick. He isn't afraid to feel things alongside me-- even if those things are grief and sadness. I'm grateful. It's the sort of thing that's going to make the empty spot on top of the fridge a little easier to bear.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Still here.

Lent my camera to a friend over the weekend, and just it got it back, loaded with excellent pictures. I love it when that happens. The ones above are ones I took-- we went to the State Fair last week. I ate a funnel cake. We watched dog obedience and agility trials. It was awesome.

Below, pictures from the third and final anti-fracking Big Splash event, held in the Fingerlakes this past Sunday. These events have been going strong all summer, bringing incredible numbers of people, and talented bands, together for the celebrated purpose of protecting our drinking water.

The above photos are by my friend Ty. It was an amazing day. I drank beer, and ate catfish, and was silly. I slept on the ground, too, but that was the plan all along. It was, altogether, a fine way to end Labor Day weekend.

In between and all around, I've been trying to knock things off my before-winter punch list. It's nothing exciting, I promise, but it excites me. I love turning chaos into organization, and so I've been reveling in things like: installing the former upstairs kitchen cabinets in the garage, and filling them with tools to be used as a workbench; curbing our hand-me-down couch which had basically served as Diesel's bed for six years (IT STANK); and started turning a bunch of scrap 2 x 4s into a frame for the chicken coop I'm going to (eventually) build in a corner of the garage. We'll see if I get to that before the snow flies.

Yesterday evening, while it was cool and damp and generally unpleasant outside, I puttered around with Kate Wolf and Gillian Welch on Pandora, tidying and arranging and dusting and generally focusing on the inside of our house for the first time since springtime. I am grateful for fall. Fall will stir the domestic, cozy-ing instinct, make me thrill at hanging things on walls and decree a return to painting in the Great Room. I am ready.

Are you?

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