Archive for September, 2012


We bought this house because of the location. In the previous renovation, I learned that there isn’t much point in worrying about the linoleum floor in the bathroom or the color of the kitchen cabinets (ew, honey oak). Every house is bound to have its design liabilities. What this house has, in spite of those, is open space on two sides of the lot—a creek with willows on one side, and a large park with two ponds on the other. It’s like having grounds without having to worry about mowing them. Although, given the summer we’e had, watering has been a much larger concern than mowing. We still can’t find the  charger for our electric lawnmower, but the grass hasn’t really grown at all since we moved in.

The two-story, vaulted wall that runs along the main living spaces in the house only has one window–really, it’s three windows, running from the base of the landing up to almost the peak of the ceiling. The cats often perch on the sill of the lowest window to look out into the park; I’ve been growing geraniums on the upper sill.

That little arched window is funny. There’s a matching one in our bedroom.

The geraniums were intended for our wedding reception. Instead, we took the mason jar arrangements from the afternoon tea down to the pub where the reception was held—really, my dad did, sneezing all the way from the pollen-laden blossoms. We were left with a surplus of white geraniums, several of which made the trip west with my mom (packed into garbage bags). Now they’re wintering in my window sill—things are settling in for fall. Someday soon, we’ll use the fireplace. I hope the doves have moved out of our chimney—the hoohooing seems to have ceased, at least.

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The mirror below is the Homegoods clearance mirror that I went back and got after it went down another $19; I’ve been trying it in the two bathrooms to see if it could work above either of the vanity cabinets. They’re both pretty blocky and ugly, so the mirror kind of fights with them. I thought about painting it white, but I think the frameless mirrors I got at Lowe’s are probably a better choice for toning down the builder-basic, almond and linoleum.

The mirror above is an antique that used to hang in Madison. Looking back at that old post—at the old context of this old mirror—makes me miss the way that house looked. It looked like me. This house doesn’t look like me—yet—and really, it’s a process of getting it to look like us, which is a bit harder. There’s a lot of negotiation, and a back and forth—not only between our tastes, but also between the space and the things that fill it. This house is a year younger than I am; the mirror is probably 60 years older than I am.

All the same, I do not miss the way the old house felt—like a dollhouse, a shoebox—but the wood floors, the bathroom, the remodeled kitchen… those, I miss. Last night, I was reading on the couch in our living room, looking up at the vaulted ceiling and across to the open space of the dining room— I love the openness and the height of this space.

That openness poses other problems. Namely, the ongoing saga of the dining area. Here’s where we were last week:

That rug was too small. You were right. So back it went (the people at the Homegoods here must think I’m crazy), and now we’re trying this one:

(yup, took this picture before I got that other mirror on the wall)

This rug is more along the lines of 8′ x 11′, which improves the balance somewhat, though, if we keep it, we’ll need to empty the bookshelves (!!!) and slide it under them so that it goes all the way to the wall. Right now, the rug blocks the entryway if it’s pulled out even with the shelves. The (unwise) thought of taking a pair of scissors to it may have crossed my mind.

So, rather than traditional and wool, we’ve got modern and polypropylene. And majorly marked down on clearance… yes, at Homegoods. I feel like this pattern looks a bit busy, but really, that’s only noticeable if you stand up on the top landing. It’s a big rug with a big pattern, but it’s a very big space, too. I think that my brain is still considering what would have worked in the last house—finding what works here is rather different.

Things are still a mess in the window alcove. I’m not sure about that coral-colored mirror. I bought it at the Urban Outfitters in Madison one year when they were clearing out their vintage window staging stuff. Then I painted it. I could paint it again. I like the oval balanced between the bookcases. The chairs are still awfully blue. I don’t know. Better? Maybe not the best? Maybe I need to stop being such a perfectionist?

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to rug or not to rug?

Right now, the entryway/dining area/library looks like this (ugh, that random wreath– I keep dithering on whether or not I want to try drilling a hole in our steel door).

Well, actually, as of five minutes ago, it looks like this:

Something about this space doesn’t look right to me. When we bought the house, it was staged with some random furniture as a sort of sitting area:It’s kind of an odd space, but it’s really the only spot for a dining table. I like the idea of having a dining table. In practice, I use it primarily as a dumping ground for random things going in and out of the house. I would like to remedy this by making the space feel a bit more finished. Maybe then I won’t eat pasta on the couch and cover myself in marinara sauce in the process? Probably not.

The bookshelves work for us. We need to live with the laminate flooring. I had hoped that somehow, the cartoonish blue chairs might work as a contrast to a more serious rug. That is not the case. Without the rug, the whole space looks really, really Ikea. I like Ikea. In doses. But things are getting a little too color-blocked around here, and I’m just not that trendy. So, the rug can go and the space can revert to bright and a little too empty—or, I could replace the Ikea chairs. They were discontinued, marked down, and we needed somewhere to sit. But my initial idea was something more like this:

or this?


Blue chairs, no rug? New chairs and new rug? No rug, new chairs? I don’t know.

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bathroom 1

A couple of weeks ago, my dad came up and we took down the two huge bathroom mirrors and hauled them to Habitat for Humanity. They weren’t overly excited with our donation, even though I had called ahead in the morning to verify that we could take the behemoths there. Apparently, someone had illictly dumped several huge mirrors just a few moments before we arrived with ours. Oh well, they’re gone! And now the bathrooms are maybe (?) on the way to progress. Things are looking a little rough right now.

Here’s the main level full bath, which opens into both the kitchen and the main level bedroom. The main level bedroom is the largest and has to big closets; the real estate listing specified it as the master bedroom, but we use it as an office.

Here’s the view from the office, through the bathroom and into the kitchen:

The room is very small, so it’s hard to see what’s going on in there–besides paint swatches, exposed outlets, beige walls, and white trim. Yikes. The mirror was on the wall behind the sink and toilet (seen here from the kitchen):

The light fixture isn’t too bad, but it is too big. And not centered. And mounted so high that it touches the ceiling. So, we need an electrician to move the box down a few inches, center it over the sink, and install a smaller fixture. After lots of looking—and very little liking—I think we may just go with a simple three light fixture like the one I had installed in the bathroom in Madison:

(from Lowes)

It’s very much like the one that’s already in there, but the scale is much more appropriate to the tiny space. See how the arches over the lights aren’t as high? We don’t want them to touch the ceiling.

After that, we need paint and a new, less overwhelming mirror. I’ve been looking at some options around town; I found an carved wood frame mirror I really liked on clearance at Home Goods, but it had some weird flaws. As for the paint, this room gets absolutely no natural light, so almost all of the swatches I’ve tried looked AWFUL.  I had these grand ideas of a bold navy or blue green, maybe like this. I tried a sample of Benjamin Moore’s Dragonfly. SO BAD. Part of living with a not-so-chic vanity and almond fixtures means adapting the plan a bit; modern colors aren’t working so well and I think that neutral may be the answer. We talked about painting the vanity–maybe? We’ll see.

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little piles of things

It’s been a busy week. Lots of writing, lots of baking. I made this cake twice then, because I still had nearly an entire quart of buttermilk, I made these. I am not a huge muffin enthusiast—most of the time, they’re just not very good. These are very good and not too sweet. I already ate two of them.  I made this granola, too. It’s a great recipe; I used some brown rice syrup instead of honey and snuck in some big flakes of coconut. And then I took a picture of it, which was awful. Our kitchen is really quite a dark little corner of the house. I photographed the muffin on my desk.

There’s a little pile of rocks and sea glass on my nightstand. I picked them up along a beach in Victoria on our honeymoon and put them in my pocket. From there, they migrated into the bottom of a bag, where I found them when I was packing for another trip a few weeks ago. I set them down here, and they’ve stayed.

That’s kind of how things are going around here right now. We put some things down when we moved in and then they just kind of stayed there. The bay window in the front room is a prime example of this. There’s a pile of random stuff just sitting there, including an Ikea bookcase door that we can’t install yet because we’re missing a piece (of course), a large blue glass bottle, and a wreath of dried flowers, wherein Alice the cat decided to take a nap. She placed herself very nicely in the center of it and then went to sleep.

Whenever I talk about animals whose names could be confused for humans, I always feel the need to clarify. I find it oddly unsettling when people give their dogs or cats names that frequently turn up as human names. Like Ashley. That would be weird. Alice is a little too close for comfort, but she came from the refuge with the name and it suited her. I think that when I mention Keats, people are (generally) not confused by the notion that the Romantic poet as taken up residence in my home and developed a number of bad habits involving houseplants and the pleasures of drinking from the toilet.

I’m ready for the weekend. And maybe another muffin.

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An update on the accidental cantaloupe.

Almost there, little melon.


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