Archive for October, 2012


While we were talking on the phone this evening, I was driving through the country. You were walking through the city.

I glanced over at the shoulder of the single-lane highway and saw a pair of geese. Fat, white, farm geese. We could not be further apart.


(Written and forgotten about on March 12, 2012)

Read Full Post »

This little entry table has never quite looked right to me.

It was a very cheap and fairly functional Homegoods purchase (I love how our copper boot tray fits on the bottom shelf), but the scale was all wrong for this two-story room. I think I’m still getting used to the size of the spaces here; I often still think in terms of 632 square feet (where there wasn’t any room for a table by the entry at all).

I’ve been kind of looking for a replacement over the last few weeks. I saw an antique buffet for $200 at Habitat for Humanity—sort of like this one on Young House Love—but at that price, the condition was more than I was willing to take on. I don’t know how I would have evened out the peeling veneer before painting—it probably would have involved a giant sloppy mess of wood putty (like this, when I decided to teach myself how to trim a window).

I’ve seen a few more buffets appear on Craigslist, but most of them have already been caught and savagely shabby-chic-ed by intrepid locals. $500 for fake old paint? No thanks. I already have an antique dresser with real chippy paint–and probably lead.

Then, two days ago, this one appeared for $75.

No faux-crackle paint! Half the price of the wobbly particle board creations available from local retailers!

Amazingly, the sellers offered to deliver it in their truck (alas, this was a matter beyond even the magic of a hatchback). Craigslist transactions can be…unsavory. This one, surprisingly, was kind of pleasant. They had a five pound Shih Tzu called—rather aptly—“Silly.” One of the kids did threaten to kill Ricky, but hey. It’s Craigslist. And I think it was a joke? It turned out that the seller’s wife volunteered to take the buffet up to us from Loveland (about 20 minutes away) because she wanted a break from the kids. Hah.

It’s hard to get a good picture of the new buffet in place because the room is fairly narrow. It’s bigger than what I had been envisioning in the space, but I still really like it. We may need to adjust the collage wall a bit to fit the new height (which I think is so much better in the room). And really, one day I will fix that bird print. Soon. Really.

But now, to paint or not to paint? I knew that the condition of the finish was a little rough, so I’d been planning on painting it—maybe my old standby of Tiffany box blue. But now I’m not so sure. We may live with it for a while first, and I might try some wood restoration stuff before I give up on the finish. I kind of like how it looks, though the dark color does make it much more visually heavy in the space.

Maybe first I’ll try some new hardware—it doesn’t all match, and some of the pulls are damaged.

But, again, even that is kind of charming. So I’m not sure. But I do like a project. And I do like these.

Maybe Tiffany-blue drawer pulls are a good compromise between old and new? Could be worth a try.

Read Full Post »

Mantel Rabbit.

I always liked the idea of having a mantel.

Now that I have one, I can’t quite figure out what to do with it.

Which weird little things should be on display? Why is everything I own that same shade of blue-green? Even with the neutral walls, things are sliding back into hues of Tiffany box blue (I like it).

The little alcove presents a bit of a challenge; I’ve seen lots of nice displays with mirrors or pictures leaning against the wall, but we can’t do that. I hung a mirror—and yes, I hung it before I took the clearance tag off, and now I’m too lazy to get a chair and scrape it off—and that kind of helped. But it’s still so…rectangular. I could try one of my oval mirrors, but hanging these anchors was such. a. pain. The other mirror is narrower and would need new anchors. ugh.

The mirror, I think, may need to be painted white. Not glossy white, but matte, kind of milk-paint. But then I’d have to go and get that chair. And then things might be even more white and washed out. Did I mention that I’ve been toying with the idea of painting the brick, well, white-wash? It’s a weird kind of brick and it doesn’t do much for the room. But more white? Maybe not.

Oh well, here’s a rabbit. Sitting on some books I’m never going to read. I bought him in Edinburgh. Funny story: he wouldn’t fit in my suitcase (who knows what other weird things I was bringing back), so, at the last minute, Ricky had to take the sealed box in his luggage. On a different flight. Where he was terrified that they were going to ask him about a strange box with unknown contents that he was carrying for another person. But, see? So worth it.

We woke up to this today. It’s beautiful (and makes me even more grateful that we have a fireplace, lopsided-mantel-display-or-no).

I’m just going to leave this here.

Read Full Post »

Nightstands, etc.

It snowed last night—we woke up to a heavy and wet accumulation of several inches. It’s almost totally gone now, and the wintry landscape is reverting back to a faded autumn. Colorado is so fickle.

I bought this little cabinet last year at a garage sale—for $3. I kept meaning to paint it. I never did, and we still needed a second nightstand. So I bought a knob ($6.99—seems exorbitant in comparison) and called it done.

The finish is kind of a mess—cracks, uneven sanding, the traces of a previous abandoned attempt at refinishing. I kind of like it, though. For now, it’s staying as-is.

Also staying: Bear, in bed. He is nearly impossible to remove, especially when there’s snow outside and he would much rather stay in the blankets, thankyouverymuch.

This is my side of the bed. I bought this nightstand a few years ago at TJ Maxx; I really thought that I wanted something vintage, but properly proportioned vintage nightstands are apparently like unicorns. I have one, which matches my painted vintage dresser, but it’s frustratingly small. For a while, I thought that I might find a matching (or somewhat matching) one to pair with this. I don’t love the fake-weathered paint, but the size and the storage are nice and it’s never bothered me enough to actually repaint (though maybe I will someday). After never having matched nightstands (or lamps) in Madison, I was really set on having them here. Turns out, I don’t really care.

Here’s the dresser—and a random antique mirror that I hung because I always hang mirrors when I can’t think of anything else. The closets are also on this wall. You can kind of see that this bedroom (though it’s smaller even than the bedroom in Madison) has vaulted ceilings and lots of windows.

I can’t quite figure out how I feel about those little half-moon windows. They’re kind of cute. Also, kind of fussy. The house came with the dusty, not so great blinds. I’m worried that hanging curtains will make everything look cramped, especially on the side with the dresser. But I don’t love the blinds.

It also has a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, complete with bare florescent bulbs, almond fixtures, linoleum floors, shiny green paint, and a mirror that can’t be hung until we have an electrician in to remove that hulking fixture and install a normal box. So, let’s not look at that—we brought the vintage-y Lake Louise print back from our honeymoon; the room really needs more art on the walls, but I remain afraid of pounding too many holes into the fresh paint.

There are so many doors in this room—I left out the folding closet doors because they’re hollow core wood and so ugly that I want to pretend they don’t exist. It makes furniture placement a challenge; the wall to the right of the bathroom door is all closet doors and the wall across from this two-door wall is all windows (a nice problem to have). The bed is against the only uninterrupted wall, and it looks a little sparse.

Read Full Post »

On Saturday, instead of completing any of the many tedious tasks waiting for us around the house (like cleaning off the dining table or finally clearing the last of the moving boxes out of the garage), we drove up into Rocky Mountain National Park. It seemed a shame to waste a warm, clear day in a pile of crumpled bubble wrap and spiderwebs.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the loss of the parks and lakes I’d come to know in Wisconsin; the hot, dry summer here left me feeling trapped and restless.

But fall is a better time for wandering.

The meadows in the lower elevations were full of elk—I think we stumbled upon the fall rut. We found them huddled in a circle, doing a rather convincing imitation of a pile of rocks or fallen trees.

Another wildfire has been burning through the dead trees left by pine beetles—isolated high above the roads we took. By sunset, we could see the smoke  from Fort Collins.

The rest of the park was clear; we huffed and puffed, short of breath in the thin air. Nymph Lake rests at 9,475 feet—another mile above our usual altitude.

I tried to take a picture of this spectator at our trailside picnic; he fled the scene.

Fall colors are fading, but still visible—

mostly, winter’s faded grays have taken root.

Read Full Post »


I have loved this light fixture for years. The house in Madison was already abundantly fixtured and in no need of a giant paper dandelion—I loved the chandelier for a long time, but I was kind of relieved when the realtor made a mistake and forgot to exclude it from the sale contract (she paid me for it rather than trying to make the buyer give it up). I had thought that I might reuse that chandelier someday in a bedroom, but I’m happy not to own it right now.

Ever since (before?) we closed on this house, I’ve been trying to think of a place to put the PS Maskros. At first, I thought the larger version of the fixture might be at home over the stairs, hanging from the highest part of the vaulted ceiling (which used to house a brown ceiling fan). We decided, though, that a replacement fan would be more practical—currently, we just have a hole in the ceiling. Most practical of all.

But then I thought of the perfect spot for the smaller dandelion.

The old fixture in the upstairs hall was a generic, builder-grade frosted glass dome.

Over the weekend, my dad and I switched it out; installation of the new fixture largely involved snapping individual paper blooms onto the wire stalks. And me handing tools up the ladder to my dad. In other news, we still haven’t replaced the ugly bifold doors on the closets. . . So, we have no doors. And a hole in the ceiling. And a dandelion!

After we put it up, my dad and I walked around the house to admire the pouf from various vantage points. At night, it casts pretty little shadows all along the hall. I love it.

Another change—perhaps undeserving of an individual post—is the brass giraffe in an alcove. I’ve mentioned before that brass collecting is a family disorder; the giraffe is one that I never managed to let go. Fortunately, we have this weird little alcove in the hall—perfectly sized for a giraffe.

Finally, I’m still enjoying the new chairs. As in, I never sit in them because 1) lately Ricky and I watch Star Trek during dinner—TNG or Voyager and 2) because I have once again coated the table in a thick layer of debris. It’s homey, right?

I’m trying, though—look at the flowers! which are now all dead because the cats insist on pulling them out of the vase every night and leaving them out to wilt!

(unfortunate, but so much less traumatic than the long-ago end of my aquatic toad Oscar Wilde, who fatefully jumped from his tank and onto the floor)

And yes, Bear-dog sits there pretty much all the time. Except when he does this.

Read Full Post »

hodge podge

I’ve been getting cabin fever lately—hence the trip up into the mountains—which seems especially wrong given that the weather has been beautiful. Bright skies. Sun. It’s Colorado.

So, a few days ago, I decided to break up my staring-at-the-computer routine by first walking to Starbucks…and then staring-at-the-computer. After I finished my work, I kept walking, past Old Navy, past Barnes and Noble, past TJ Maxx, all the way to Homegoods, where I bought some cocoa powder on clearance. Ricky has mixed feelings about buying food at Marshall’s/TJ Maxx/etc., but I like the odd things they have. Candied mango. Chocolate granola. Cheap saffron. And when we went to Whole Foods the other day—or, as one of Ricky’s colleagues calls it, Food Hole—they were out of cocoa powder (save one $8 canister that was thoroughly smashed on one end).

All of this is quite mundane, but it amuses me; there’s something contradictory about sprawling, yet pedestrian-friendly expanses of big box stores. I walked a three mile loop (losing a pearl earring somewhere in process, alas) and felt almost like I could have been in a city again. The big boxes here are bigger, but somehow, this town almost works on foot. In Canterbury, we walked everywhere in a freezing, gray fog—to buy packets of mango slices at Tesco, to indulge in cream tea, to browse department stores (my navy Longchamps bag, purchased at Fenwick, is still a frequent companion) and charity shops.

I bought this little porcelain creamer at a charity shop in Canterbury—a shopfront crowded with our own artifacts, the detritus of one century (give or take)—worn shoes and yellowed paperbacks and novelty mugs—standing above layers of stratified junk from epochs past, Roman trash that has come full circle into treasure again—shattered bits of glass, cracked pottery, tilting floor tiles, ancient earrings with no mates.

Perhaps my own earring will emerge someday from the ruins of this civilization. If we are to believe political debates, cable news, and my dentist (who proposed, gauze and gloved hands crammed in my mouth, that all our economic ills be met with nation-wide adoption of night guards for stress-induced tooth clenching)—that end will be here sooner rather than later.

I’m at Starbucks again (wearing a different, complete set of pearl earrings—a Wellesley woman is always prepared). I meant to tell you about  the new light fixture that my dad and I installed. It will keep.

Read Full Post »

weekend wandering

We went up into the mountains—driving upward, ambling through the few trails that were open, picnicking in Roosevelt National Forest.

Traces of this summer’s fires were everywhere. Burnt trees.

Singed bark.

Bits of ash and charred pine cones.

And so much green, starting to show through again—even now, as snow rests on the highest mountains and comes down into the foothills in furious, short-lived storms that descend from blue skies and leave a dusting of fine powder that quickly melts as the sky turns from gray back to piercing blue.

Read Full Post »

For the most part, my posts revolve around books I’ll never read. See, for example, my header—featuring a selection of the largely useless antique books I’ve been collecting since I discovered The Honorable Percival at a sale of discarded Wellesley College library books. But I do read a lot—“serious” literature, trashy fiction, and everything in between. I donate most of the paperbacks that I read or pass them on to friends, so I tend to lose track of books that I liked and find myself at a loss when someone asks for a recommendation. Here are some of the things I’ve read in the last few months:

The House on the Strand, Daphne du Maurier: Strange, dense little time travel novel. Much better written than many of its genre—some lovely description and a compellingly layered narrative—but I found it a bit slow moving.

City of Dreams, Beverly Swerling: a historical novel that follows the rise of New York. Multiple generations of the same family reappear in the sequels, which stretch from the Dutch settlers to the Gilded Age: City of God, City of Glory, City of Promise. I got caught up in the gimmick and read them all, even though I didn’t think the series held together all that well.

Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel: I wanted to like this more than I did. I loved Wolf Hall because it made a familiar bit of history into something that was worth untangling again; for me, Bring Up the Bodies didn’t have the same momentum.

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell: I was afraid of this book—everything that I read about it made me think that it was going to approximate Pynchon-like levels of inaccessibility— but I wanted to at least give it a try before the movie came out (I never like reading a book after seeing the adaptation). I loved it—even the startling bits of fragmentation and transition. For me, it’s the perfect mix of genres—everything from historical fiction to post-apocalyptic. I would love to teach this book in an undergrad lit course some day.

The Sunne in Splendour: A Novel of Richard III, Sharon Kay Penman: This one is probably only for the dedicated historical fiction fans out there, but it provided quite a bit of stationary-bike-distraction material for me. The real reason I liked this one was that it nicely bookends Shakespeare’s wicked, hunched Richard III with a more charitable portrayal. I also read another by Penman, Falls the Shadow, which I can’t really remember. Wales? Something?

The Lady of the Rivers, Philippa Gregory: You know, it’s like The Other Boleyn Girl. And the rest of them.

Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore: I remember liking Graceling, though it’s been a while since I read it. I had a harder time getting in to this one—it felt a bit silly at first, overly fantastical and hard to pin down to any kind of understandable world—but by the end, I got into the story. It’s darker than you might expect.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor: Loved this one—unexpectedly clever young adult novel that takes the conventions and then does something more with them.


Read Full Post »


Hanging pictures is the worst. Leaving aside my chronic indecision—which led me to punch the crumbling plaster in the Madison house full of holes in every possible configuration—I’m just plain bad at it. For several years, I’ve had three John Derian for Target prints. They’ve never been hung, and probably never will be—for the simple reason that the set of three means that they’d probably have to line up somehow, and I just can’t do straight lines.

Eventually, in Madison, I settled for a small and non-linear collage featuring a piece of wrapping paper (printed with a map of London), a weird silhouette of George Washington that I got at an antique mall, a framed doily, and my now quite unfashionable “Keep Calm” poster. The blogosphere has moved on from those, but I don’t care. I like it.

Drywall is certainly easier to patch than plaster; even so, I was afraid to start bashing holes all over again. So, with a nod to this, we did this:

This is the other wall in the entry, directly across from the dining table. Everything looks short and squatty in there because the ceiling is two stories tall and I’m looking down from the landing.

Here’s where we are now. I really, really need to buy some acid free tape so I can fix that drooping bird. But there you go, a look at how things really are. And have been for years. I already had all of these little bits of art; they were part of the ongoing rotation throughout the tiny walls of the Madison house.

At first, as we started to put this together, we fretted over colors and balance and matching things. Then we gave up. And I like it. The only one that I might redo—now that I have some more white Ikea frames—is the Narwhal on the upper right. I don’t like how the big border of the print stands out from the blue frame. The version of this at Young House Love is all white frames, but I went with what we already had, plus a couple small new white frames for new acquisitions, like this:

It’s my twenty-five cent yard sale print, collected on walk through Madison on my last visit. The blue matte (mat? Google can’t decide) was just the wrong shade. It reminded me of the kitchen wallpaper in the Colorado Springs house—sprinkled with cream flowers. Nostalgic, for sure, but not a good match for out lives now. So, when I got back to CO, I made a stop at Ikea on the way back from DIA. Well, it’s not on the way, but twenty minutes out of the way, and I barely made it out of Denver before the highway shut down for the presidential debate at DU. Oops. But now I have white frames!

The best thing about this arrangement is that we can keep adding on without having to worry about straight lines at all. I already have a few more additions waiting in the wings—I finally cleared out the pit in our storage room, and found some bits of art down there. Along with many piles of dead spiders. And vestiges of my former affinity for shabby chic.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »