Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Week 2: The Entryway.

(I was with the daughter at Emergency last night for 3 1/2 hours only to be told they aren't testing for H1N1 unless the patient is having severe breathing problems or has "other" conditions as well. Fortunately she has neither. She'd been sick all day and we panicked when her fever spiked at 103.9 F at 1:00 am. She now has a free pass to drink ginger ale and watch TV for the rest of the week. Poor kid.)

The Hallway.

It is an "ell" shape, to the left. An upside down "L." It's just wide enough in both its legs to accept a piece of furniture and it's just narrow enough for that piece of furniture to make it feel crowded. I'd love to get rid of the cabinet in the first part of the hallway, but it is too useful.

Here's a tour.

This is the view of the hall as you come in the front door. The dining room/office is to the right and the living room to the left. The hall continues to the left behind it.

Standing at the stairs looking back to the door.

And this is as close a "close up" as you can get of the cabinet and wall arrangement I want to change.

I need dog resistant storage for boots and other consumables like hats, mittens and scarves. The basket in the cubby worked well until hubby made it "dog proof." Anything which replaces it also needs to store everything already there and be handy for the library books on their way out.

Turning the corner, we have two closets and a dresser and lots of doorways.

The closet you can see in this picture needs a serious cleaning out.

I took this shot in July, planning to do a thorough clean. I never got to it which is part of the reason why I'm doing the Cure, now.

The drawers of the dresser also need a serious cleaning out. I'd like to replace the dresser completely: the top is damaged, but it isn't in the budget. I can replace the art work, though, and that might help. This is the mail sorting center and an "overflow" grooming station from the bathroom behind it.

Also opposite the dresser (and beside the bathroom) is the coat closet. It's also the broom, mop, and vacuum closet as this is the only place to put them.

To Do List:

1a. Get new rug for front door.
1. Clean out cleaning closet
2. Clean out coat closet
3. Clean out dresser drawers
4. Clear off dresser top
5. Paint dresser top or replace dresser
6. Replace artwork in both parts of the hallway
7. Solve mitten/hat/scarf storage problem
8. Fix boot storage problem (if possible)
9. Paint up closet door trim
10. Clear stairs.

It'll be a challenge.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kitchen Wrap Up.

It was a week.

Here is a collage of the befores, originally posted here

And how much better it is.

It is hard to describe how I feel in this kitchen. I will be putting the map back up, but that's it. The long shelf that was above the stove isn't being replaced and the wall above the books will stay bare. The "white space" truly does feel like breathing room. Somehow, I really do feel freer. Maybe it's simple. Maybe it's because there isn't something vying for my attention at the corner of my eye. Oddly enough, I also feel like something has been removed from me: guilt, or shame, or something. I'm guessing...but this scrubbed and denuded kitchen feels fantastic.

First Cure Project

As most of you know, I cannot resist little projects as they come up during the Cure. This one was really very simple and because of that, kind of fun.

So, the steps to any project are:

1) Identify the problem:


And, the "wall" behind the spice rack is actually our chimney flue. Thus, screws put into the "wall" (which is a piece of plasterboard, about 3/8" thick) aren't in there very deeply. So, I have an engineering problem as well as an aesthetic one.

2) Find a solution.

I considered actually trying to create a series of shelves from threaded rods, nuts, bolts and drilled wood and running it from ceiling to floor somehow, but it was just exhausting. In my search for "spice rack" however, google coughed up these:

3) Assemble the bits:

I found the spice jars at Wally World and the steel plate at Home Despot. Then, I found mirror mounting tape. (I had been going to use mirror clips but this is much, much better. It's what I used to call "foam squares" in my former scrapbooking days.) The package reassured me it would hold weight. (One inch of tape for every 1/8th of a pound. The jars and steel plate weighed 2 lbs altogether according to my food scale.) I "over-engineered" it.

And so here we are, the first project complete.

disclaimers: I'm not sure it entirely "goes with" my style statement of "classical whimsey" or whatever two word string I'm using this week. Now that it is done, I think it may be a tad "too industrial" for the quaint jar and shelf arrangement adjacent to it. But then maybe the juxtaposition is precisely "my style." I don't know. The husband really likes it. That's something.

(Another kitchen project is also complete. But as it involved verathaning the school book shelf, there aren't any exciting visuals.)

I'll have the "entryway "before" photos and the kitchen "after" post soon, I hope.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Further Research

After I posted yesterday's picture of the aqua kitchen, I kept hunting. I discovered that this kitchen--and other vintage 50's kitchens--were actually constructed out of metal. Metal cabinets. Who knew? I hadn't known. Metal cabinets never made it out here.

The second thing I learned was that toekicks were apparently painted black. Always. It helped the cabinets look as if they were floating.

I also discovered that two-tone kitchens were featured in magazines. I don't know how popular or "fashion forward" they were. This slide show of 1950s kitchens from the archives of House Beautiful doesn't feature any.

But here are a few I managed to find:

The cheerfulness of the primary colours (plus white) is almost overwhelming to a curmudgeon like me. And yet, it appeals. Like a cartoon.

The wall paper in this one reminds me of Curtis of old AT.

This illustration from Retro Renovation is fascinating to me. I could study it a long time.

And here is a current interpretation:

So, if I want that aqua--and a change--badly enough--there is precedent to painting just the bottom cabinets a lovely darkish aqua.

I'm still contemplating. I have no idea whether it would balance the ginormous top heavy cabinetry--or just look silly.

(Cleaning these inside--and out--is today's task.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Dream Illustrated.

This is very weird. Very, very weird.

I decided to go image hunting for retro designs and found Pam's Fabulous blog.
And then I found her kitchen.

Remember when I said I had dreamt of gray walls and aqua cabinets?

Strange but true.

Cleaning walls 101

Wende asked me how I clean my walls.

She asked me to break it to her gently, if elbow grease was involved.
I'll try to be gentle: but when you take pride in shooting from the hip, it can seem as though "gentleness" exists in another universe. (And preferably one without grease and dust and other unpleasantness.)

The most important thing when cleaning is what you cleaning. Not the dirt: but the surface underneath the dirt. That's why door and window trim is panted in gloss and semi-gloss paint: the shinier the surface, the easier it is to clean. It's also why I don't use flat paint on any of my walls and why I should have used oil paint on the kitchen cupboards instead of latex. (The latex has worn and chipped over the years with repeated swipes. Enamel would have stayed out).

Tools needed:

rubber gloves
Hot, hot water
bucket or bowl for the water
step ladder
a cleaner, preferably in a spray bottle, if possible.

The most thorough way to wash the walls is to wash them as though you were going to paint them. TSP is a fantastic cleaner, in my opinion and I may need it, yet. You can find it wherever you find painting supplies. (Except New York City. I believe it has been banned there. I don't know why.)

I am merely washing my walls to clean them, however, so I'm using Method's all purpose cleaner in the spray bottle. Spray it on, work from the top down (to catch those pesky drip runs) and remove with a hot damp cloth. Rinse. spray. repeat.

For the tops of the doors and doorways (a particularly greasy, dusty mess) I am using dish soap. I just squirt it directly from the bottle onto the surface, then I take a nylon scrubber and have at it until it's clean.

My son went through a disgusting period of picking his nose and then wiping his hand on the wall. Most of it is gone: but it took me a while to figure out how to remove it. When I finally tackled it, it was years old. What finally removed it? WD40. Spray it. Leave it to sit for a bit. Get a paint scraper and remove it. Wash as usual.

If the problem is uric acid, as it may be when your toilet is too close to your wall, use vinegar for your first effort. I had a very anal boyfriend once who would fasten sheets of plexiglass to these walls in every apartment he moved into just so they would be easier to clean. I have got to the point with respect the the upstairs bathroom where I'm strongly considering it. (I suppose that's why bathrooms have tiled walls.)

I hope that helps.
And I hope I was gentle.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Doctor of Quitology

I love these certificates.

Isn't it silly how something so frivolous can be so rewarding? A certificate generated by a computer--but created by someone likely toiling earnestly in a government public health office, who knows where, but with that rarest of qualities: a sense of humour, and the wherewithal to get his or her sense of whimsy to prevail through the bureaucracy. An achievement almost as difficult as quitting smoking--and staying quit.

For one whole year.
I love it.

(I'll love it even more next year when our life insurance premiums are lowered).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In the midst

of all the chaos, my daughter decided to make brownies.

For her brother.

(She knew I wouldn't say no with that pitch.)

It's his 12th birthday, today.

(We're doing the dinner celebration with Grandy tomorrow night as the kids have a thing to attend tonight).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 2: The Kitchen

I woke up this morning dreaming of pale grey walls and turquoise cupboards.

The plan, however, does not involve paint. Instead, I am going to take no more than the allotted week and do a thorough clean. This is not an apartment sized kitchen. It is a poorly laid out, awkward 10x10 room with three doorways, a floor which needs replacing, and inadequate storage space. It is heavily used for cooking, meals, family games and schooling.

I want to tackle one wall every two days. I plan to clean everything on the wall and the wall itself in those two days. For example. I started in on the East wall yesterday. It begins with a doorway, contains a cart, the microwave, the stove, shelves above and beside the stove and ends with another doorway.

(I took the photos from one corner to its opposite. It's efficient way to photograph an entire room, but not a good way to show an entire wall.)

I like these jars. I like these shelves. I'm sick of the whole thing. I need a change. Actually, that's not true. I need an exhaust fan. I want a change.

I may be able to clean the South wall, the one with the map and the window, in one day instead of two.

The west wall, with the school room shelf, the sink and most of my cupboards will be a bear.

Here's the To Do list:
1. Cull books.
2. Verathane the shelf
3. Replace water filter tap. (We have the replacement, we just can't figure out the instructions).
4. Wash out the bottom cupboards.
5. Wash out the top cupboards.
6. Bleach counter top.
7. Shop for new dishrack tray. It is stained beyond redemption, unfortunately.
8. Replace artwork on that wall.

This last wall has very little: just a few cupboards (the top one I cleaned during culinary therapy) , the fridge with the blackboard on it (which needs another coat of blackboard paint) and the cookbook shelf and utensil rack. Oh and the garbage can which needs a complete hose down. This wall will take two full days.

Unfortunately, I don't think I can get to cleaning the appliances themselves.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Week 1: Style Tray

This is one of the funner parts of the Cure. I have scrapbooks, I have multitudinous files on the computer. I collected a few more pictures this past week and I found some old ones which still speak to me.

I am highly schizophrenic when it comes to style. I love fun, kitschy, and colourful as much as elegant, refined, and neutral.

What I want is a successful integration of the two, a happy marriage. I also need to settle on a colour scheme for the living room (I say this every cure) and add artwork and subtract books and doodads from every room.

I've made my repair list (which was depressing) and my decorating list and borrowed a steam cleaner to clean the couch.

Oh--and the one item I removed this week? A set of three glass vases.

We're good to go.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Cure; Fall 2009

I have signed up.

I am not sure exactly why.

I'm not sure how much I want to participate. (I really need to focus on keeping school going with the kids). There is, as usual, no budget. And what I really need to "help" my home along is not a "cure" but a thorough cleaning and developing routines to keep things clean. In short, I really need housekeeping therapy.

But, hey, it is fun. Not only is it fun to participate: it is fun to encourage others on this remarkable road of discovery. I really do think I have discovered all there is to know about living in our 1200 square foot, 1950's home with two kids, a husband, a dog and a guinea pig--but you never know.

So, I suppose that's as good a reason as any.
Who knows what will happen?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It is a Bit Early....

One of my not so brilliant ideas in the past was to "paint out" all the trim on the house. I did this because I'd read somewhere that it would help make the house look larger.

This summer, I decided we needed to refresh and energize the place: so we'd paint all the trim white. Of course.

Well, I don't happen to have a proper "before" picture of the back of the house. You can get an idea of just how awful my original idea was when you see this, though.

Of the front, I have last year's picture of the first snow, Nov 11.

Here are the pictures as of this afternoon.

Of the back:

and the front:

and the first snow of the year.

Of course, we're not done.

I suspect the snow is here to stay, too.

Of course.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sunday Soup

Now that the colder weather is upon us, soup is the new salad.

I've decided to make a big batch of soup early in the week. The idea is to have it on hand for hubby's lunches. He has taken a package of noodle soup and eaten half of it for years. Other than being loaded with sodium and packing 300+ calories, it didn't offer anything nutritionally speaking. It's time we changed that. As well, having a vegetable soup around is handy for my lunches and snacks.

So, today's featured soup is a recipe I got from the Maintainers Forum at 3FC. I call it Glory's Minestrone*.

Olive oil for sautéing
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
3 cups low-fat low-sodium vegetable broth (I use bouillon cubes)
3 cups water
4-6 carrots (however many you happen to have, I used 6 last night), sliced into circles
2 cans Italian-style stewed tomatoes, NOT drained (if they have no-salt Italian style, bonus points)
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
about 1/8 - 1/4 tsp black pepper (to taste)
pinches of whatever Italian spices you have on hand (I use a bit of oregano and thyme) to taste
1 cup uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 can no-salt-added cut green beans (sometimes I use fresh, you just have to add them earlier so they can cook in the broth) or 1 to 1 ½ cups frozen.
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
½ cup frozen corn

1. Heat the oil in a large stock pot (Dutch oven works well) over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sauté until onion is tender.

2. Add water, broth, and carrots, bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat, cook until the carrots can be pierced easily with a fork, about 5-8 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes and spices, bring back to a boil. Add elbow macaroni and cook as long as the package says to (usually 9-11 minutes), stirring occasionally (the macaroni WILL stick to the pan if you don't).

4. Add green beans, corn and kidney beans, cook until heated through.

*even though Glory didn't post the recipe, someone named "paperclippy" did that.
(I have also modified the amounts of the ingredients: it now has more green beans and less pasta. The picture shows the soup with the pasta originally called for. As you can see, two cups (uncooked) was just too much!)

Actually, the more I ponder this, the more I think I may just leave out the pasta altogether. It does tend to soak up all the liquid over the course of the week. On the other hand, I do love the taste of pasta and beans together.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Monthly Menu

Another monthly Blitz attack on the grocery store is now complete. This month I had to purchase items for Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday, as well. It was quite the shopping trip.

Here are the menus. If nothing else, CT has shown me how nice it is to have all my dinners neatly typed out on the calendar.

Here it is, then.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

CT: In the Can....

I'm not entirely sure why Wende has pulled the plug on CT. I thought it was going along as well as these voluntary group projects seem to go.

I have been wrapped up in my own world a lot lately, it's true. And, I admit, I was lazy about looking up assignments. I didn't like paging back through Wende's entries and ignoring them...so until it was linked in the sidebar, I was rather lazy about getting to the weeks assignments. In fact, I hadn't even seen Decade Five when I saw that the project had been canceled. Pity. I was looking forward to what might happen next.

Meanwhile, however, I went ahead and did something I've always wanted to do and have never done before. And I'll do it again, too.

I made pearsauce.

It started when I bought 7 litres of unripe green Bartlett pears. No, I have no idea, really, how many pounds that is. By the time they were really ripe and ready for fooling about with, the family (and I) had eaten a fair number of them from the box.

Someone at 3FC suggested I make pearsauce. I cruised the internet while the pears were ripening and discovered you make it just like applesauce...and in fact a few recipes I found on-line suggested making it with apples to help keep it sweet.

But what made this whole endeavour CT-worthy was not that I made perasauce--anyone can make pearsauce and freeze it. Nuh-uh, what made this culinary therapy was that I canned it.

I read up on canning on-line. (I was on-line a lot last week! The Internet is my friend.) I went to three different stores one evening before I found the one that would even carry such a thing. Canadians will not be surprised that, no, there weren't any at Sears. And no, the Big Grocery Stores didn't have them either. The place to go? Canadian Tire. But they were sold out.

My pears were ripening quickly. I had, at most, likely 24 hours before they turned to mush. We packed the cell phone with the husband's lunch the next day and I printed off a photograph and slipped it in his lunch. He was to visit another Canadian Tire store across town after work --and to a nearby Superstore Walmart and report on what he found there. He called and told me he found a little home canning kit, to wit:

a jar lifter
a funnel (to fill the jars easily)
and two other little gizmos:
one, a "head space" measurer and bubble remover-in-one (no joke),
and, two, a little magnetic lid lifter.

I told him to buy it. But there were no canners. Not one. So, he moved on to the Wallys. They had a canner--but they wanted $45.00 for it. Something had to be wrong with that, so I told him to leave it there and come home.

Then, I called every single Canadian Tire and found out that 1) there was a mini-canner available at precisely one store, (big enough for pints, but not quarts) and 2) there may have been a shipping problem with the larger canners as CT hasn't seen any of those since the spring.

So, I high-tailed it off to the store and got the mini-canner and the jars. Oh--and I also bought a handy dandy book on canning by Bernardin.

And so I measured out my pears: 5 3/4 pounds. I think I had about 4 Galas on hand. So, I used those.

Aurelia and I peeled. And cored. And peeled. And cored.

And several hours later, we had this.


Three pints.

That is all.

Hair Polling Results

OK, so I feel very silly. But that's OK: I'm also enjoying myself!

I bought make up last night and did my "face" this morning--and then "tried on" the two top hairstyles from yesterday.

Here they are. It was a tie.

This one is my preference. However, as is, I agree with Wende, it may be too time intensive for me to style.

(You notice it's flipped. That's just the way the chin and eyes in today's photo lined up!)

But this one--well, my hair is a bit wavier than this--and not so professionally blonde! Still, a Bob may be the way to go.

This one looks odd because my face is actually thinner and longer than the model's which is pretty square.

(I feel like I'm 16 again. And boy, am I anxiuosly waiting for that last little bit of the double chin to fall off. But, hey, I have now offificially lost 40 pounds.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Makeover Part 2: Playing with my Hair

Please don't laugh.

Well, not to hard, OK?

I've discovered a program on the web--www.hairmixer.com--where you can upload a photo of yourself and "paste" it onto someone elses to see what their hair looks like on you. Some pictures work better than others (it helps if you and the model are looking in the same direction, for example) but the program lets you change the angle of either photo AND reverse and zoom. As well, you can upload pictures from your own computer: so you can use any hairstyle from any web site. And, my goodness, I hadn't known, but there are a lot of them out there.

So, without further ado, I present to you several options for my hair. You may vote. Please vote. The first set is of really short styles, the second with Bobs (and one really short one.) I aplogise for my face being somewhat blurry and orange. If that's an obstacle in the way of ascertaining an honest or valid opinion, let me know and we'll try again another day. I'm not in any rush to make a decision. I'm just curious what your impressions may be.

Remember my buzz words are:
Pulled together

I don't suppose any of them look like that! Oh well.

Set One: Shorties

Set Two: Bobs plus a Short

Have at it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Makeover, Part 1

Sorry to have been incommunicado! I have been doing Important Things, like plucking my eyebrows.


I came across a book called Staging Your Comeback, A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45, by Christopher Hopkins. As usual, I'd never heard of the guy before this, though I gather he has some fame from Oprah.


I read through the first chapters last night and he's fairly inspirational. He has a questionnaire for you to determine your "personal style." Mine came out "classic" and "casual." I thought that would be a contradiction--but it turns out you are to pick "buzzwords" from each style category to come up with your own style "definition." I haven't quite settled on mine yet but here's what I came up with this morning:

Pulled together

I'm having a hard time with the words!

He does give examples of women over 45 who exemplify these "styles." I've been doing some internet browsing to find examples. It's difficult, of course, because if the woman is an actress or model, most of their pictures are taken when they're "dressed." Nonetheless, I think I may have found a really nice example of "Classy and Casual" in Christie Brinkley and the outfits she wore to her court appearances for her divorce. For example:

Change the pencil skirt to a pair of trousers, and I'd certainly have something "pulled together" yet casual enough for my runs to the library and grocery shopping!

I loved the difference between the "befores" and "afters" in Hopkins books, but I do have to say that I found his "afters" --while many of them individually eliciting the "wow" response-- begin to look the same taken together. Each has pale hair and lips and very pretty eyes. (Except the lone Black woman, of course. She's "wow" though, too, just not pale!) They each have unique and beautiful hair cuts: it's no surprise this is his area of expertise. But, overall, this is an inspirational and, so far, really useful book.
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