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Oh, how I’m longing for spring…warm breezes, rooms full of light, the smell of plants waking from their winter slumber and beginning to grow. Enough with the snow and dreary, gray skies; I want sunshine!

Too bad I live in the Midwest and according to the forecast, things aren’t looking good for us in the way of sunny days. I guess I’ll have to make do with some spring-y inspiration:

Pottery Barn

(From the latest Pottery Barn catalog)

Daffodils

(From Country Home)

Cottage Living1

Cottage Living2

(From Cottage Living)

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Slowly (very slowly) I’ve been trying to make our house feel more like a home for us. Right now it just feels like a place where we eat, sleep, and watch TV….just a bigger storage space for us and our stuff than our last house. But I desperately want it to feel warm and cozy, like a sanctuary that is an extension of who we are. Achieving that takes time (and money), so I’ve been trying to gradually add bits of personality here and there. My biggest problem is that my plans border on schizophrenic. I’ve never been able to focus on just one thing until it was completed, but instead start a million different little projects at once leaving every corner of my house in utter chaos…

…How’s that bathroom reno coming along you ask? The project has stalled until the weather clears. Neither J nor I have any desire to stand outside in 20-degree weather cutting a new sub floor. (Turns out there was a very peculiar 4″ gap in the original hardwoods running the entire width of the room; that coupled with severe rotting made our dream of refinishable floors just that…a dream.) So it was on to other things.

We started working in the living room, since it had been the most neglected room thus far, and we wanted to be able to enjoy the fireplace. But there too things came to a halt when we realized how expensive window hardware is. (Seriously? $100/window? And that’s on the cheap end? I had no idea.)

So we began to tear out the hideous wallpaper in J’s office, which was actually less work than we anticipated. But after finishing one wall we realized that we probably should have cleared all the junk out of there before we started (picture wallpaper bits everywhere), but where to put it all in the mean time? So it remains one-quarter done.

My attention then turned to our entryway/upstairs landing, which is in dire need of some life. The dingy white walls were making both of us depressed, and if I have to look at the ugly, matching brass lanterns that hang as light fixtures in both areas for another month, I may very well go insane. My first step was to pick a paint color. I already had a kind of “inspiration piece” lying around. I had ordered this tablecloth from Anthropologie a month-or-so ago and had plans to turn it into a curtain for the single window in the upstairs landing. It was an idea I stole from the Jan/Feb issue of Cottage Living Magazine.

The inspiration:

Jan/Feb Cottage Living Magazine
According the the magazine’s sources, it’s not the one in the picture, but it looks the same to me. The tablecloth I ordered:

tablecloth curtain

I also ordered the matching napkins (no longer available online) which I plan to turn into pillows. And since our living room sofa is about the same shade of green as the tablecloth-curtains and napkin-pillows, I figured that would be the perfect color for the entryway walls. So I pulled out my handy-dandy Sherwin Williams color palette and started matching. I found two options, a lighter one that’s a little closer to the tablecloth-curtain called Wheat Grass and a darker one that’s closer to the couch and napkin-pillows called Antiquity.

Entryway Paint Samples

After picking up the handy-dandy Color To Go samples for each option, I applied a small square to every wall in the entry, just in case the light variations had an affect on my decision. We’ve been living with the samples for a week or so now, and I think it’s time to decide on a color before J accuses me of abandoning this project as well. I’m leaning towards Antiquity. What do you think?

Look what came in the mail yesterday:

Silhouettes

It’s the silhouettes I ordered from Etsy seller OddznEndz. Yay! I love getting things in the mail. Thank you Debby! I love the silhouettes, and it was the perfect pick-me-up on a day that looked like this:

Snowy Day

And no, this picture was not taken at dusk; it was really this gray and gloomy all day. And can you tell how gigantic those snowflake were? I mean HUGE. I am so ready for spring.


Finds for 2/21/08

Originally uploaded by kiki monkey

I have been seriously remiss in my thrift-store shopping of late. The reason is that I haven’t been able to find a good shop since we moved. I’m sure they’re out there; I just don’t know where exactly. So until I find them, I’ll continue shopping at the local Goodwills (which I’m less than impressed with) and the many little antique shops in the area. The one store I am quite fond of is the Noblesville Antique Mall. It’s a kind of flea market chock-full of goodies at very reasonable prices. So, here are this weeks finds (clockwise from bottom left): a set of 6 vintage placemats I’m thinking of appliqueing to linen pillows, a very interesting little picture of a girl playing badminton, a little mirror in a gorgeous carved wood frame, a little round carriage silhouette, a beautiful teacup with a Bavarian design, and handmade cafe curtains which I purchased for the material.

She was delivered on Saturday, and we spent most of Sunday morning putting her together. Meet the newest member of our family:

Treadmill

Isn’t she beautiful…No?…Well then functional at least. And since I seem to be incapable of accomplishing anything without some serious motivation, we’ve decided to enact our own version of The Biggest Loser, a kind of mini-biggest loser. We had our first weigh-in on Sunday morning and plan to weigh in every Sunday through March. The mini-biggest loser will be named on April 1st, and in addition to bragging rights, she (or, I guess, he) will be granted a prize that is yet to be determined (because we can’t seem to agree on what’s fair…by the way, we’re open to suggestions).

But, of course, exercise alone isn’t going to cut it. So we’ve also been eating out less (which means bringing my lunch to work with me…can anyone recommend a good lunch box?), and being even more conscious of the ingredients we’re using than we were before. Monday we had this meal from THE cookbook. And last night we had this:

Hot and Sour Soup with Potstickers

Hot and sour soup and enough pot stickers to feed an army. You can find the delicious recipes here (also from THE cookbook) and here. We substituted ground turkey thighs for the ground pork and used grapeseed oil instead of regular vegetable oil. Other than that, it was surprisingly simple to make and tasted just as good as any I’d ordered from a Chinese restaurant. Tonight it’s Sausage and Peppers with Crispy Polenta from February’s Real Simple Magazine.

I’ll be the first to admit that I watch way too much weeknight television. For some reason, I can’t get enough of those ridiculous, inane shows. And having a DVR in the house hasn’t really helped me overcome my obsession. So, although I was as happy as the next fan to hear that the writers’ strike had come to an end, I must admit that I’m a little sad to say goodbye to my free time…What’s that you say? I don’t have to watch the shows just because they’re returning to my television?…Well, maybe I could cut back a little. I suppose I could do without ever seeing “Ugly Betty” again. And if “My Name is Earl” doesn’t start better than it ended, it’ll be quick to leave my “to watch” list too. But most likely my curiosity will get the better of me, and I’ll return to my old routine. That is, until summer rolls around, and it’s time to say goodbye again. (To find out when your favorite show will return, check out this article.)

Regardless of my desire to give up bad habits, there are some shows that will remain on my list no matter how busy I get. One of those is CBS’s “Sunday Morning.” I can’t think of a better way to spend my Sunday than by sitting down with a cup of coffee and the morning paper to watch Sunday Morning’s enlightened and somewhat whimsical news reporting.

This week’s theme was money, and to be honest, it couldn’t have come at a better time for us….not that there’s a problem in that area of our lives, but we’ve been in need of some perspective that the show was able to provide for us. One of the segments was an interview with famed financial adviser Suze Orman. She spoke about paying off credit card debt, saving for emergencies and retirement, and limiting everyday spending. Although I am typically a fan of her hard-hitting, honest style when it comes to buckling down and getting your financial life in order, I think she may have crossed a line. Her advice to everyone is to buy only what you need, citing the one pair of earrings that she personally owns as an example. Really Suze? Only what I need? I think this might be a bit extreme. Certainly there is some merit in purchasing items other than the basic necessities.

Jerry Brito from Unclutterer, one of my new favorite blogs (and recently featured in Real Simple magazine), shares my opinion on this issue and was able to put it into words better than I could hope to. He wrote:

To me consumerism–defined as consumption beyond one’s basic needs–is not an evil in and of itself. I don’t need all the clothes I have, and I certainly don’t need a DVD player and movie collection to live a satisfied life, but those things make me happy and give me enjoyment, so I think they’re fine to have. Living beyond one’s basic needs becomes a problem only when the accumulation of property becomes a source of stress rather than enjoyment. Unfortunately, I think finding balance is difficult for many because purchasing and accumulating can be effortless, while planning ahead and organizing takes effort…Simple living, therefore, should not be about asceticism, but about getting rid of (or preferably avoiding) distractions that prevent us from enjoying a modern, luxurious life. It’s about smart consumption, not no consumption. As Albert Einstein said, “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.”

This, I believe, is the difference between simple living and simply living. I don’t want to simply live my life, hoarding away my money in case of some unforeseen emergency. I want to enjoy my days to their fullest. And if purchasing an item will help me achieve that goal, then I don’t see the harm in doing so.

There, enough of me-on-my-soapbox for one day.

It appears that I spoke too soon, for when I returned home from work, this is what awaited me….

Valentine’s Day 2008

…flowers, prosecco, a roaring fire, and even my favorite salmon dinner (which I unfortunately gobbled up before I remembered to take a picture, but I promise to post pics and a recipe the next time we make it). All of this after my pathetic rambling about not celebrating the holiday. He’s really too good to me. I think I might be spoiled.

I wish I had beautiful pictures of heart-shaped pancakes, or little heart cookies with pink frosting, or even a cute little card and some chocolate to post for all of you, but alas, Valentine’s Day is not much of a holiday around our house. J is one of those “it’s not a real holiday; it was made up by the greeting card companies” type of people, and I don’t care enough about it to argue with him. Normally I would have done something to make today a little special, but our working hours have been crazy lately. J left for work this morning before I even woke up, and since he’s currently working with two different clients, he’ll probably still be working when I get home (which won’t be until about 8:20 pm). So for us, today is just Thursday.

But…If I had the forethought to prepare something for the occasion and the time to enjoy my efforts, this is what our day may have been like:

There certainly would have been breakfast in bed, and hell, since I’m dreaming I might as well conjure up someone else to make it for us because getting up at the crack of dawn to make pancakes is not my idea of an improvement on my day, so…let’s say it looked something like this, and was prepared and brought to us on a tray by Drake (by the way, 10 points to anyone who knows that reference).

breakfast in bed

(You can find the recipe here.)

Then it would have been off to work (even in my dreams I can’t escape having to go to work), where we would send instant message love notes to one another…awh, how sweet. At precisely five o’clock, we would have returned home where a candlelit dinner awaited us. I’m thinking pork chops, veggies, something sparkly to drink, and a brownie dessert. This menu sounds about right.

Something sparklyPork and veggiesBrownie dessert

As for my vision of the rest of the evening, I think I’ll keep that to myself….

I hope all of you have plans to spend today with your special someone. And may your reality be as perfect as my dream!

Have I told you how much I love Target? No? Then let me tell you now: I Love Target!! I love Target as much as I hate WalMart, and boy, do I hate WalMart. Does that make me a discount store snob? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Hmm….

Target caters to the fashion-conscious middle class, offering well-designed clothing and decor at discount store prices. (Wow, I should be in marketing.) But seriously, I’m consistently amazed by the aesthetic quality of the goods I find in this store. And if you’ve never been shopping at a Target, there is no better time than the present to give it a try, for now is the time of the Global Bazaar. Here’s a little sampling of my favorites from this year’s stock:

green ceramic stoolblack cabinetyellow wall art

mirrored side tablefloral rugwooden side table

wood trunkgreen tripticblue vase

green leaf pillowcarved mirrorgreen vase

Gorgeous!

Another of my favorite Target sections is the $1 bin…you know, that section at the front of the store where they sell a mishmash of oh-so-useful things for one dollar (or sometimes slightly more). I am almost always able to find something worth my hard-earned money in that section. In fact, here is the booty from my latest trip.

$1 Target Finds

I bought two sets (24 sheets) of gorgeous pastel paper (not sure what it will become yet, but I’m sure it will be something beautiful). There’s also two small white bowls to add to my collection of white kitchenware, a small pad of sticky notes with a pretty little French design, and a package of magnetic clips that I plan to use in my craft room (when I get around to organizing it….remember, baby steps). All of that for around $6! You can’t beat that for bargain shopping.

Speaking of my latest Target trip, I have to bring up one area of dissatisfaction with the store. My purpose for this visit was to pick up a gift for a friend’s baby shower using her gift registry, which I did (or at least thought I did) successfully. I got them this adorable baby sling…turns out so did someone else. And to make matters even more hilarious, another friend bought them a different baby sling, leaving them with a total of 3! Much joking ensued and all was well. However, my disappointment with Target’s gift registry remains. Tsk, tsk Target, tsk, tsk.

Despite this minor inconvenience, Target remains one of my favorite all-purpose shopping destinations. And I’m sure you’ll hear more about my Target purchases in the future….(maybe the very near future, cuz I’m thinking that mirror would look perfect in the living room….)

 

The Motherload

I think I’m addicted. I can’t help it. Despite the known environmental impact and the potential organizational stumbling block, I can’t stop subscribing to magazines and catalogs. I love them. I love the elated feeling I get when I open the mailbox and see stacks of beautiful images staring back at me. I love the hours I spend pouring over the pages with a good cup of coffee (or four). And I love the overabundance of inspirational wonder that comes with an exclamation of “I could do that!” and the intention to actually follow through with that remark. Which is why I can’t ever just throw them away. Someday I know I’ll want to recreate that old-door-turned-headboard and will need the picture and step-by-step instructions to do so.

This morning I was in need of a little bit of that magic, so I poured myself a cup and sat down with this week’s bounty. It turned out to be just what the proverbial doctor ordered. I now feel revitalized and inspired, ready to lose that last ten pounds (to fit into this…and this…and maybe this) and start doing all those decorating projects I’ve been thinking about (and putting off) for months. If only I could feel this way all the time, maybe I’d actually finish the projects I start!

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