This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm not procrastinating, I'm simply taking my time...

Why do I still have a stuffed Santa sitting on the bench in the basement?

Why does my voicemail message still say "Happy New Year!"?

Why is the box of photographs I was going to "organize" over Christmas break sitting unopened and (now) dusty?

Why is my enthusiastic post about doing one room at a time for under a $100 still awaiting me to finish the first room?

Why are the snow pants I bought from LL Bean for our February ski trip but ended up not taking still waiting (with tags on and receipt attached to box) to be returned?

I would love to claim that great thoughts are being thunk and great deeds are being done and the unfortunate result is my current tendency toward procrastination, but I can't. 

I couldn't really tell you what I've been doing lately.  I just know it seems to be taking up all my time.

Does this ever happen to you?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wallpaper: Just Say No!

I spell good taste S-A-R-A-H

Yesterday I was watching one of my most-favorite-in-the-whole-wide-world decorating shows: Sarah's House.  I heart you, Sarah Richardson!  You and Tommy can come decorate any room in my house!  Just don't bring the wallpaper...

See the latest design trend (again!) is to create a feature wall.  This time instead of putting a bold paint choice on the wall, it's everything old is new again: wallpaper. 

This dining room in muted grays and creams is gorgeous, especially the feature wall

I beg you, don't do it.

I have spent so many hours with steam burning my arms, sweat dripping down my face, and sticky, gluey scraps of paper stuck to my arms, legs, the floor, and everything else.  Then finally, after hours of scraping, gouging the wall, burning myself, cursing the previous homeowners, and scraping some more the wallpaper would finally be gone.  The mess left behind was mind boggling.  Gouged walls.  Glue residue.  It's misery folks.

I have a 2 part arguement on why, no matter how well you prep your walls, wallpaper will never be a good idea:

1.  No matter how you look at it, you are glueing paper to your drywall.  In order to get that paper unstuck you are going to have to use something wet: steam, chemicals, fabric softener, vinegar...something.  Please note that the first part of drywall is DRY and it is NOT MEANT TO GET WET.  Bad things happen to drywall when it gets wet and there is no way to remove wallpaper without really soaking the wall.

2.  No matter how much you adore that wallpaper today, you will come to loathe it in 5 years.  What?  5 Years?  I must be crazy!  Be honest, is there really any pattern that you can look at all over your walls, day in and day out, exposed to sunlight, dust, dirty fingerprints, scuff marks, nicks, and scratches that you can truly say you'll still love after 5 years?  You may not hate the color, but you won't be able to stop staring at the small tear.  You may still like the pattern, but that faded patch around the picture you moved will drive you to drink.  Wallpaper is a decorating commitment my friend, and it's a commitment that designers don't have to make.  They install it, it looks beautiful for the cameras, then they leave.  Do they stare at it for 5 years?  Nope.  And if they decide to "freshen the look of the room" is it the designer who has to remove that wallpaper?  Nope, that's what the crew is for.

Do you have a crew?  Or will it be you, a scraper, a steamer, and a whole lot of elbow grease?  That's what I thought.

But what if, even after everything I've said you still love a particular wallpaper?  Here are 10 ideas of what you CAN do with wallpaper:

1.  Cover an old picture, canvas, piece of plywood, or even cardboard with wallpaper and hang it on the wall.
2.  Cover picture frames with it.
3.  Cover boxes with it.
4.  Make coasters, mattes, serving trays. 
5.  Matte it, frame it, and hang it artistically.
6.  Cover photo albums, journals, and notebooks with it.
7.  Wrap all your Christmas gifts in it.
8.  Use it under your glass coffee table, desktop, or tabletop.
9.  Cover your mousepad with it.
10.  Cut it into strips and create napkin rings, candle holders, egg cups, and weave placemats with it.

Just don't glue it to your wall.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

5 Things About Decorating I Learned the Hard Way

If you've been spending much time on the decorating planets in this here blog universe, chances are good you've run across Autumn from  I really, really L-O-V-E love everything that Autumn decorates.  It's not just her decor that's inspiring me though, her blog post about the 5 things she's learned as a decorator inspired me to write a post about some of the things I've learned too.  My advice is nowhere near as high rent as Autumn's, but you may find it helpful...

1.  Live in a space for a year before committing to changes.
Though I have held true to a fantasy with every one of the past 5 houses we've lived in that I wouldn't move one stick of furniture into that dwelling until it had been painted and re-floored where necessary, that has never been my reality and I'm actually glad my wishes didn't come true.  I have learned that for me, it takes about a year before I really figure out the natural light, times of use, and degree of usage for the rooms in my house.  You'd like an example, you say?  Well when we moved into our current house the half bath off the foyer was painted mauve with a cabbage rose border.  My teeth hurt everytime I looked at it so I decided that I would repaint the half bath the same color as the entryway, a color called Tree Moss by Benjamin Moore.

This gray-green is lovely in well-lit spaces

This gray-green color is absolutely beautiful in spaces that receive a lot of natural light or have good lighting.  My half bath has neither and the color simply looks dull and a little muddy.  After living in the house through the first winter I realized that the Tree Moss color didn't really look all that good in the entryway either because during the winter I don't have my front door open and therefore the entry gets almost no natural light.  I have recently repainted the entryway but now I want to repaint the half bath too, a mere 12 months after painting it Tree Moss.  Since I hate painting bathrooms I am particularly bummed about learning this lesson.

2.  If you prime first, tint your primer!
I am always so excited to start a decorating project that I like to pop open that gallon of paint and get to work, but when I am making a  major color change I have disciplined myself to prime first.  Since I rarely buy my primer from the same place I buy my paint I always forget to ask to have the primer tinted.  I have finally learned to make it a priority to tint the primer because I realized that I was doing a lot of extra work and spending a lot of extra money just because the primer wasn't tinted.  Since I usually buy a sample of the color I'm going to paint before committing to the full gallon, I almost always have some color around that I can mix with the primer to give it a tint.  Instead of painting a coat of primer and 2 coats of base color, I can usually paint one coat of tinted primer and one coat of base color.  The savings in time and money is huge 'cause let me tell you, that Benjamin Moore Aura paint isn't cheap!

At $60 a gallon this paint is definitely a commitment!

3.  Make everything neutral but your accessories.
I'm sure this flies in the face of many a good design principle but here's the thing:  my decorating budget can usually be measured by tens, not hundreds or thousands, of dollars, and that means that I need every single major piece to have longevity.   I have found the best way to achieve a timeless look is to keep my major pieces of furniture, curtains, and flooring neutral.  I even extend this to the wall color because I'm the one who does the painting in my house and I like to do it once and then love it for 5 years (even though I've never actually lived in a house for 5 years, I like to imagine that I would still love it...) rather than having to repaint (see the half bath issue in Lesson 1!).  After living with a hunter green and red plaid couch and love seat for 15 years because they seemed like a good idea in 1992 and then I didn't have the money to replace them until 2007, I have learned this lesson well enough to never forget it.

I loved this look for about 5 the 15 year mark, I hated it!

4.  Beware of scented candles, potpourri, aromatic oils, and room fresheners
I love walking into my in-laws' house because it smells like soap and mashed potatoes.  I know that sounds weird and like it somehow it wouldn't go together, but it creates the most warm, welcoming, homey scent I have ever smelled.   Perhaps the scent is so comforting because it's reminiscent of family dinners and holidays, but perhaps it's because the scent is so natural.  I have embraced every form of scented candle and potpourri ever sold but have found that I feel most comfortable in my home when it is scented naturally: a bowl of lemons on the table, coffee beans in the candle holders, and a hint of lavendar from the fabric softener I use.  Using artificial scents can create a, well, artificial smell and I find that I suffer from more headaches, allergies, or upper respiratory infections when I have those things around.

5.  Fewer, bigger pieces always look better than many small pieces
I remember the first time I ever saw a Mary Engelbreit decorating book.  It was the early '90s and I was fully into my sunflower/country cottage/more is more phase.  I remember thinking that if I could just have the money to buy all those accessories life would be perfect.  I had cut-out-heart-wooden shelves, quilt racks, and a passion for "vignettes."

Stuff layered with more stuff is Mary Engelbreit's hallmark

 Shiver.  I look back now and just cringe.  Not only is my current style cheaper, it's so much easier to dust, creates a lot less waste, and is much more restful.  If only I had a penny now for every dollar I spent on little signs, baskets, knickknacks, tchotchkes, baskets, whatnots, doodads, baskets, and cheap, imitation "antiques."  I'm sure I'd be able to afford that large beveled mirror I've been wanting from Pottery Barn....  Now I take a note from feng shui and ask myself  "is it useful or beautiful" before even considering bringing it home.  Simplify, simplify, simplify.

This mirror is simplicity at its best but the price?  Ooo-la-la!

What about you?  Any tips, tricks, or techniques you've picked up along this life journey?  I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Beth vs. The Snowmobile

Are you still out there?  I can't believe it!  Life has been kicking me around lately, what with my (quasi) new job, endless snow days and delays, the new stress of trying to figure out childcare on these endless snow days and delays...sigh.  All of it added up to a complete blogger block. 

But I'm back now, baby! 

After a vacation spent in the White Mountains of New Hampshire the Blogger Block was broken, I now have plenty to say.

It all started when we decided to go away for February break.  Now for those of you not familiar with the concept of February break, this is a week off from school a mere six weeks after returning from Winter Break and just six weeks to go til April Break.  It is a time designed to tax even the most careful-vacation-day-saving working parent.  It is a time created to ensure that kids never do really get back into the swing of school.  It is a break for the sole purpose of letting people ski.

Look at this scenic beauty.  Who wouldn't want a guided tour on these trails?

Never one to buck the system, our family decided it was time to learn to ski.  So we packed up the family truckster and headed for the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Learning to ski was fun, exhausting, exciting, nerve-wracking, and exhilerating.  It wasn't relaxing.  But I wasn't terrified.  But that's not really a good story, is it?  Oh no, the story you want to hear is about our 2 hour snowmobile tour...

The brochure spoke of "family fun" and "scenic views"

For the record I had never been on a snowmobile before.  I had only once been on a motorcycle.  I am what you would call a complete novice.  So with the brave naivete of someone sure that nothing bad can happen to you on a commercial snowmobile tour, I signed up, suited up, and hopped on.  I figured it couldn't be too hard because after all the only instruction I received prior to being turned loose with this expensive toy was "throttle on the right, brake on the left, don't push them both at the same time or you'll stall the engine."

Well heck, even I can keep that straight.

So off we went: guide in the lead followed by my husband and daughter on a double sled, followed by me, with 4 others trailing behind.  The first problem occurred about 1 minute into our adventure.  We had to cross the road.  It would have been helpful for someone to mention that snowmobiles don't really have good steering when they're not on snow.  In fact if your snowmobile isn't already pointed in the direction you want to go, there's little you're going to be able to do to rectify that situation once you're on the road.  Yep, that would have been real helpful information.  Lacking that information, I was more concerned about the oncoming traffic than I was about lining up my 'mobile with the trail on the other side.  So, once again with the bravado that only true ignorance can create, I gave it some gas and shot out onto the road where I proceeded to slide precariously sideways as I desperately tried to steer my snowmobile toward the path.  No dice.  I ended up ramming the 3 feet of dirty snow plowed up on the side of the road.  My snowmobile slid back down into the road.  The traffic is coming closer.  I give it some gas.  I try again.  Same result.  The traffic is right on me now.  I am stuck.  I am terrified.  I am embarrassed.  A passing motorist yells "give it some gas!"  So I do.  I squeeze that throttle as hard as I can and I fly and I do mean FLY over the embankment.  I am completely out of control, I am shrieking in terror, and I am leaning heavily to the left.  I wildly overcorrect, slam the snowmobile down on the right side, overshoot the path, and end up on the wrong side of the path, panting, crying, and still terrified.

That's when I began to get a bad feeling about this adventure.

The reality is that snowmobiling takes skill and can be dangerous

Luckily the guide, followed by my husband, were completely disinterested in my health and safety and had already moved on.  This was the pattern for the entire 2 HOUR tour.  I try to keep up with the others so I don't get lost in the woods and get eaten by bears.  The others go faster than I feel comfortable going so I am out of control through every turn, bump, and over every bridge.  I am hanging on to the handle bars for dear life as I see the sheer drop off the mountain on my right side.  I am crying as I near-miss every tree in every turn.  We finally stop in a clearing.  The woman on the snowmobile behind me loudly complains about me to my husband and shoots me nasty looks as she passes me.  My hands are cramping from squeezing the throttle.  My nose is running inside my helmet.  I have fogged up the inside of my helmet with my hyperventilating.  I am terrified to keep going and terrified to stop.

When the tour was finally over I was half-deaf from the roar of the engine, half blind from my teary-stuck-together-eyelashes, half grateful to be alive, miserable, and shaking.  I hadn't seen nor appreciated one speck of the natural beauty of the mountain.  I felt badly for disturbing any hibernating animals, and I was all-out-of-proportion mad at my husband for not sharing any of my bad feelings.

Ahhh, vacation.  A perfect time to relax.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Green House Transformation

The exterior color of my house happens to be green.  Believe me, this was not arrived at by easy decision (remember the TMPP???), nor is it coincidental that for someone who loves things to be "green" the exterior of my house reflects that love.  But we'll get to the exterior later.  Right now, we're going to the kitchen.

Yep, the kitchen.  This year I am going to redecorate each room in my house using only paint, fabric, and perhaps an accessory or two.  Each transformation has to occur for around $100 (my self-imposed budget restriction) and has to be as "green" as possible.

I'm starting with the kitchen.

Here is my kitchen now:

My kitchen is very large and very monochromatic because while the previous owner did a great job choosing quality cabinetry, beautiful hardwood floors, and gorgeous granite, she also chose them in all the same color.

Here is a close up of the wall color and curtains now:

The walls are a gray-green by Benjamin Moore called October Mist.  The fabric has a lot of black in it.  Here is how it looks against the granite counters:

Not bad, right?  But kind of busy for the look I'm going for. 

Here are the new inspiration fabrics:

There is still some black so the counters make sense, but a lot of ivory, cream, gold, and khaki tones too.  This is my plan:

Paint the walls Benjamin Moore's Windham Cream.  This cream has enough yellow in it to pop against the white woodwork and play up the gold:

I know it looks more gray here...but trust me, it's not

Then I'm going to take the polka dot fabric and use it as valances.  The floral will become the seat cushion for the new window seat that I want built here:
Doesn't this cluttered, unused corner cry out for...something?  How about a cute little built-in storage bench?  Can I hear an Amen?

The solid gold fabric I'll use to trim the other two fabrics, as a table runner, and in the throw pillows I'll put on the window seat.

I"m really going to try to pay attention to every detail.  Like making over even the smallest eyesores, like this one:

Could that bottle be any less attractive?  Probably not, but with the help of a great tutorial I found on another blog, I'll show you how it's going to look fabulous!  Are you with me?  I hope so, because I've got a lot of work to do, very little budget, tons of inspiration, but also a lot convincing (nagging) to get my husband to go along with my schemes.

What do you think of the color scheme and ideas thus far?  It's the perfect time to weigh in because I haven't done anything yet!!!