Monday, December 5, 2016

Third Child Pictures

I'm a third child, and I used to give my mom a hard time because there were fewer photos of me as a child (and no professional photos) than there were of my two older siblings. I guess it's a good thing, because I will be able to sympathize and commiserate with Susanna when she is older. I do have some professional photos of her, but not nearly as many pictures over all. It is not second nature to me to snap many pictures (and I don't have a handy dandy smart phone), so unless I am intentional, a lot of time passes between photos.

I recently made a little activity for her with plastic tokens and an old baking powder can. She has been playing with it a lot over the past couple of days. So I decided I should snap some pictures. I love watching a busy child.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Living Room Then and Now



A few days ago, I browsed through photos taken last October and marveled at the difference a year of hard work can make. I am so glad to be on this side of a lot of the major work. These before pictures were taken well before October, but it took us months to get to the mostly finished stage.

Wall to wall carpeting, old floor-to-ceiling drapes, 
faux wood paint on all the trim, mantle and 
radiator covers, and old wallpaper. 
This wallpaper seemed to be older than a lot of the 
rest of the wallpaper in the house. 
While other wallpaper came off in sheets, this old stuff 
had to be thoroughly soaked and scraped off bit by bit. 

Just ignore the air mattress - we had a friend
stay at the home a number of times during the early part of the renovations.

Carpets and drapes removed. 
Getting ready for the floor to be refinished.

For many months after moving in, this room had a large pile of boxes in the middle 
of it. My goal was to have the room cleared out and fixed up before Susanna could crawl. 
During the winter, I spent many hours painting the trim. It took a coat of primer and 3-4 coats of trim paint. I could have done one more coat of paint, but decided it was good enough. 

All in all here's what we had done: refinished floors, removed wallpaper and painted the walls, painted ceiling, painted trim. Removed sconces above the mantle. Updated the electrical wiring and installed some recessed lights. We also had both windows replaced. I think the previous windows were original, and while they had character, they had too much chipping paint and were very drafty.

It has been a slow progression, because it takes me a while to figure out what to 
do with a space, and it takes me a while to find what I like, but here is the current "after."
We still don't have anything on the walls, but I am actually starting to have ideas. I don't feel rushed or pressured to get those things done, which feels very peaceful. I have to admit that I kind of like fairly empty walls (except for those big areas). They provide a resting spot for my eyes. 

The coffee table and the small green stand in the corner belonged to our former neighbor. She passed away soon after we moved, and so it is special to have them as a reminder of her.

The inside of the door still has the faux wood paint. It drives me crazy, but clearly I have not gotten around to painting it. One of these days...

So there it is! Bit by bit we are making the rooms cozy and liveable. The couch is the only new piece of furniture. Those arm chairs have been with me since college. They aren't my ideal chairs, but they are quite comfortable, and they work wonderfully for now. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fall Happenings

A few snippets of life around here lately.

'Tis the season for grape juice. I have fond memories of drinking home canned grape juice as a kid. When we had friends over my mom's snack specialty was canned grape juice and air-popped popcorn.  This is Mom's grape juice recipe:
1 cup grapes
1/2 c. sugar
Put grapes and sugar in quart jar. 
Fill with hot water. 
Process at a boil for
10 minutes. Let sit into November.

Short and sweet. I need to write on my recipe card to remember to stir the grapes/sugar/water before putting the lid on them otherwise the sugar doesn't get dissolved. 

I use a mix of 1 and 2 quart jars. And some that are in between that amount. But I treat them like 2 quart jars.

I remember seeing pictures Mom would take of her canned goods. So here's my attempt at an artsy picture. (yeah, I'm not really photogenically artsy, it's true). You'd never know we live in a city, based on all that greenery outside our window. I love it.

We are slowly finishing up the 3rd floor room. Our futon cover was old and dingy (and not a real futon cover, so it didn't fit well at all), so we're going to be getting a new one made. I was going to attempt to make one, but I have decided I'd rather have a professional make this for me.

I have taken on the task of sewing roman shades for two windows in the 3rd floor room. I love fabric, and I love being able to make drapes and curtains. When we lived in Baltimore, I made roman shades for our bedroom windows, and I loved them. It was incredibly satisfying to make a shade that I could pull up and down (Such things excite me, yes. I'm a bit of a sewing geek). I am following similar directions (I had used an official pattern then and am using it again now) but tweaking them a bit because I am hanging them differently. So until they are done and hung, I feel a bit nervous about whether they will actually work. I keep reminding myself that since I made them once before and they worked out, they should this time too, if I just follow all the steps.

This little girl has gotten so busy. She learned (very quickly) from her older siblings, that she can push a chair over to the counter and climb up, and find all kinds of goodies. I really need to keep an eye on her now. Especially when I am cooking.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


It's not all renovation projects around here, although that is mostly what I post.  We spent part of August and part of September being amazed by caterpillars that turn into black swallowtail butterflies.  It started when the older children found a caterpillar eating the parsley in our garden. We brought it inside and put it in a container. Within a day it had strung itself up and so we just kept it and watched the whole process unfold. We ended up with a total of four caterpillars that survived the process (and we basically ran out of parsley, even though I got rid of a bunch of caterpillars - shh, don't tell my kids!). The pictures below are a mix of those different caterpillars.

This was such a fun activity, and it was initially spontaneous and unplanned. We all enjoyed keeping an eye on the caterpillars, watching for the change and then were excited when each one turned into a chrysallis and then a butterfly. I did not like the decimation of most of my parsley, however. I read that these same caterpillars also like fennel and dill. So perhaps next year I will plant some of those and keep my parsley clear of caterpillars.

Bathroom Final, Finally

We took our time about it, but we've finally finished the bathroom. For a number of weeks, our bathroom was doorless while we had the door and closet door dipped and stripped and then refinished. There is a company just a few blocks away where they dip and strip anything that fits in their tank. We've started to slowly get our interior doors refinished. Two down, about 11 more to go. At least, now if you come to visit us there will be a door on the bathroom!

Here's how the bathroom looks now. We need to put the radiator back in after we freshen up its paint, but that is the last thing to do, aside from some touch-up painting.

Refinished door

We kept the vintage ceiling light fixture.

(No, our hallway is not painted. The trim only has primer on it)

Ahhh, fresh and (mostly) clean. Original sink, new fixtures. Original medicine cabinet, new light sconces. Original wall tile, new floor tiles. 

Original doors, but without all that crazy fake-wood paint.

You know what's fun about this rug and stool? They are from the same company (Ten Thousand Villages), color coordinate wonderfully, but were purchased about 11 years apart. The rug was a wedding present, and I basically picked the bathroom colors because of it. The middle is starting to come apart, so I think some repairs will be in order eventually. I have no desire to replace it, and there is no guarantee I'd find another like it.

And just for fun: the contrast of before and after:



Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Tale of the Front Door*

Once upon a time, there was a strong, beautiful, white-painted wooden door. It had an antique brass knocker and antique brass door handle.  It sat under a tarnished copper porch surrounded by intricate wrought iron pillars. 

Over the years, it grew to look shabby and in need of repair. The door was as good as ever, but now there was a rusted, dented old storm door on the front. The trim was in need of new paint, and the wrought iron work needed to be scraped and repainted.

A new family moved in and began making changes to the house. The door began to hope its turn would be soon. After all, a front door is often the first thing a person notices when they go by or come to visit. When painters came and scraped, sanded and repainted the trim and wrought iron, the door was excited. Perhaps it was next on the list! But no, the poor door had to wait through the long, cold winter for its turn.

Then one spring day, some men came and took away the old, rusted storm door. It had protected the wooden door from the weather for years, but now it was time for a new storm door.

What a change! Suddenly, the whole door could be seen! The owners laughed and wondered why in the world they hadn't made this change earlier. Now the front door was inviting and beautiful to look at.

But, wait. It's actually not quite done. The owners of this house like splashes of color, and for months now, one of them had been trying to decide just what shade to paint the door. White is classic, but it wasn't quite right for this door. So, to the door's delight, it got a face lift too. Finally.

*Yes, this is the silly stuff I come up with after tucking the kids to bed when Dan is working and I am trying to avoid things like canning tomatoes or finishing painting trim somewhere in the house.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bathroom Updates

The work goes on here. Sometimes I think we will get to a stopping point, but then we just keep moving on to the next project. This time it is the bathrooms.  We have one full bath and one half bath.

Before moving in we had new tile put in the half bath because what was in there was so old and gross. The flooring in the full bath was only slightly better, but once I scrubbed it with steel wool, it was at least clean, if not pretty.

The walls in each room are old ceramic tile which has held up really well. The grout looked pretty dingy, so we figured regrouting it would make a huge difference. Plus, I've read that taking out old tile is really hard, messy work (think cement and wire mesh), so we decided to see if we could just make a few changes and freshen it up. I like some retro finishes, and I think this tile is original to the house, so it fits with the overall character.



Sink, toilet and radiator removed. 

Old flooring out. Best vacuuming help around.

New floor tile. Fresh white grout on the wall tile, charcoal grout on the floor. We've kept the old medicine cabinet (partly because we couldn't get it out even after taking all the screws out) but replaced the lights on either side. Trim is white and you can see we have a bright teal for the walls.

Marble threshold. 

The door and closet doors have been removed. I took them to a local "dip and strip" place so they can remove the paint and sand them for us, and then we'll refinish them and put on new hardware.