Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My grandma

In the beginning of July we were told that if we wanted to see my grandmother, we should come home sooner than later, and our planned trip in August would be too late.  So, we changed our tickets and were back on the East Coast a few days later.  It was such a good trip, and I'm glad we got to see my grandmother one last time.

She was the mother of eleven children, and was a welcoming presence for just about every person she met.  One of the stories told at the funeral was that one of my uncle's friends "came for dinner, and stayed for five years."  (Pretty accurate.)  At holidays, there was always at least one--usually a group--of people who were new to the country or had no one to celebrate holidays with.  My sister said at the wake, "I don't know any other family where when you get ready for a family dinner you say "hmm, I wonder who we we will meet today."

She hated being the center of attention; she'd be mortified if she knew I was putting her on my blog.  One of the reasons I have kept this blog going for four years is because she enjoyed it so much.  She only ever commented once on the blog itself, but would call or dictate an email to my aunts when she particularly liked a blog post.

She was a child of the Great Depression, and everything was used until it couldn't be used any more, and then she would figure out a way to use it for some different purpose (not a surprise if you have 11 children). She loved yard sales, and never passed one without buying toys for grandchildren.  Her entire house was decorated from thrifting and garage sale finds.

If there had been design blogs in the 1960s she would have read them all.  I credit my grandmother with first introducing me to interior design.  I loved--still love--her home and her taste.  She sawed legs off tables without measuring.  She rearranged furniture all the time; you never knew what the living room might look like when you visited.  Art was frequently rotated throughout the house.  The only constant was a quilt that my mother made for her that was displayed in the living room.

She read everything and anything, but loved shelter magazines, cookbooks and inspirational books. (The apple doesn't fall far from the tree there.) She painted watercolors all my life, but never thought they were good enough for display or giving away, and I wrestled more than one out of her hands as she was throwing them out.

My aunt told a story at Grandma's wake that I thought really encapsulated the essence of my grandmother.  Years back my aunt, an executive at a large company, was given the task of clearing out the office of a coworker who had died.  My aunt was angry that her boss and other male colleagues thought that she, the only female executive in the office, should be the one to do this grunt work.  As she complained about it to my grandmother, Grandma told my aunt that she should clean out her coworker's office without complaint, and let that service be her way of honoring her coworker.

My grandmother had a deep, abiding respect for other people.  "Everyone brings something to the table, even if it isn't what you would like for them to bring," she would say.  She welcomed everyone into her home.  She respected everyone she met.  No one was too small, too lowly, too unimportant.  Everyone was welcome at her table, and she treated the landscaper with the same respect she would have given the President.

She listened to everyone, especially her grandchildren.  She attended every school play and graduation and grandparents day and any other occasion her grandchildren might be having.

She was an amazing person, really.

I named my daughter after her.  I tell my daughter I named her after the best person in the whole world.

The above doesn't reflect just how much fun she was.  She had a dry wit and love of the absurd.  She wrote snarky letters to nuns.  She cut weird stories out of the newspaper and hung them on a bulletin board in the kitchen.  My aunt came across a bust of a monkey head with light-up red eyes and nostrils and brought it home for her, and my grandmother said "oh, the children will LOVE it."

No, really, that monkey bust gives you some idea of just how cool she was, doesn't it?

On the evening of her death, ten of her eleven children were gathered around her bedside.  All night they sang songs that Grandma loved, and prayed with her.  When Grandma died she was surrounded by her children, surrounded by their love.  The priest who officiated the funeral mass put it pretty well:  "if you're looking for a death, that seems like a pretty good one."

She was love personified, and the giving of so much love came back to her many, many times over.


In the morning, when it was time to leave for school, Grandma would sing to all the children (eleven of them!) leaving the house.  "So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye, to you, and you, and you and you and you...."

So long, auf wiedersehen.  She is missed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Paint projects to finish before the end of 2014

I've drawn up a list of things to do before the end of this year.  There are a few large painting projects that need to be done, and I have been avoiding them, because they look like a lot of work.

1. Paint the kitchen cabinets.  I have gotten estimates for renovating the kitchen, so I'll talk all about the future plans for the kitchen in another post.  For the moment, I am going to paint the cabinets.

2. Paint the front walkway wall.  Previously, this wall was covered in ivy.  Ivy that was housing vermin.  We ripped it down, but it left its mark on the wall and trim.

It isn't terrible from the street, but up close it looks awful.

I love my painter, but he wants me to pay him $35 an hour to "appropriately prepare" the surface for painting by using a blow torch and water spritzer to burn out those few thousand dead fern thingys.  I THINK NOT. My cunning plan is to just paint over all the fern thingys on the stucco walls myself.

3. Paint the front door.

I don't need HOA approval for painting the walkway wall because I am simply repainting it in the current color, but to change the color of the front door I need to submit my request to the HOA two weeks prior to the next meeting, so....I need to get on with the paperwork. I am between a happy tomato red or a happy sunshine yellow.

4.  Paint the stripe on the back wall where we tore down the termite-riddled patio cover.

5. Strip the paint on the tile counters.  Find the idiot who perpetrated this crime on humanity and give them a stern lecture of the appropriate use of latex paint.

Here's hoping that writing it down will inspire me to put my painting clothes on and get to work.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Mister's Last Piece of Ikea Furniture***: the Vittsjo shelf

Back during the One Room Challenge, I mentioned that I was having difficulty figuring out what to do with the far corner in my living room.  I decided to leave Peter's Lego table in that area while I thought about what to put there.

I wanted some type of shelving unit or cabinet for displaying a few tchotchkes.  Last year I cleared out all the tchotchkes from our house and packed them away during Nester's Accessory-Free challenge.  Most of the tchotchkes went in a box in the attic, and a few remained out on our bookshelves.  However, those bookshelves are now full of books, and no room remains for tchotchkes.

I enjoy having a "quiet" house, without lots of tchotchkes. But I thought it might be nice to have one dedicated spot for tchotchkes.

One of the options I thought about was the Vittsjo shelf from Ikea.  I finally bought it.

I freely admit that vignetting is not one of my many skills.

Don't worry about Peter's Lego table, it returned back to its original home under the window on the right side of the fireplace.

***The Mister once solemnly swore that after he turned forty he would no longer build or transport Ikea furniture.  As that date is rapidly approaching, I only have one month to get more Ikea furniture into the house.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

maxi dresses

I have been living in maxi dresses this summer.  I love them to death. I bought two styles from Target in every color, as I like to wear a uniform and am incapable of dressing myself in a wide and varied wardrobe.   Since Target is holding a buy one get on 50% off this week on women's dresses, I thought I would share.

This summer's uniform is this dress:

And this dress paired with lots of colorful statement necklaces:

I am 5'2-ish and 145 lbs, usually a size 10 or 12.  The colorblock dress is a petite medium and I love the length and fit, no adjustments needed.

The solid color dress does not look terribly attractive in the above picture, but I love it on.  The verrrry low cut top offsets the muu-muu effect.  However, order a size down. I have two in the medium, and they fit fine, but the top is a bit loose.  When I ordered a few more I went with the small petite, which fits my top perfectly and also fits on the bottom.

I ran the petite smalls through the dryer and they are about an inch off the floor.  If you are shorter than 5'2 you might have to get them hemmed.  I tried on the regular size medium and it was a foot too long.

The petite is on clearance for $13 (buy two, get the second one for $6.50!).  The regular not-petite size is $24.99 for some reason.

Lastly, I am contemplating this:

Cardigans are also on sale! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The guest bedroom: some chiang mai and Jenny Lind

A few weeks ago a friend mentioned that she had a vintage queen-size Jenny Lind bed that she had bought in a church rummage sale, and if I wanted it, I could have it.  OF COURSE I want it! I've been looking for a Jenny Lind queen-size bed for years!

One small problem--the side rails were missing, and the mounting hardware was mounted at 15 inches high, meaning that simply screwing the spindle headboard onto a standard metal frame would be difficult.  Despite my previous bad experiences with vintage beds (yes, plural bad experiences, here and here), I figured we could work around that.  (Foreshadowing. I clearly have not learned my lesson.) 

In order to make things interesting, we sold the previous Malm bedframe and waited to do this project until we had out of town guests coming the next day.  No pressure! I hear guests love to sleep on mattresses on the floor.  

First we ordered a metal hookplate bedframe.  When we got it home, the hooks were too large to insert into the hardware. Weirdly enough, this weekend our next door neighbor put a queen size frame and boxspring out on the curb, so we returned the hookplate frame and used the free frame.  

Next we thought we would put the frame on risers so we could screw the frame in above the spindle.  One of the risers was a bit wobbly, and it seemed like an unsturdy solution for a bed that our boys like to jump on.  On to attempt number three.  

Using a piece of scrap wood, we screwed the metal frame to the wood at the bottom, and screwed the scrap wood into the frame higher above the spindle.  This worked well, although I think we should probably redo this with a longer piece of wood to give the headboard more support.  Also, I need to paint the wood white.  Someday.  

That finally did the trick. 

I miss the chiang mai dragon bedroom, so I pulled out that stuff out.

Voila! Fresh guest bedroom!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Earring and necklace corner

I have been looking for a place to put my necklaces and earrings where I could see them. A few months ago I bought this hanging organizer, which has pockets for earrings on one side and velcro tabs on the other side for hanging necklaces.  It hung in my closet for a while, but that was annoying and generally useless. I decided that the empty corner behind our bedroom door would be a good place to spread out.

My necklaces are now hanging on a row of pegs that I took from the entryway of our garage.  The earrings remain in the hanging organizer, but I will be perusing pinterest to see what other solution I can DIY. (Like this, perhaps?)

I bought the girl painting at a church rummage sale in Delaware for $7 when I visited my family in April.  Of course, that meant I then had to get her back to California.  She came with a reasonably nice frame that I hoped to refinish, but the frame fell apart when I packed her for shipping.  For now she is just hanging out unframed, staples and all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mah hair; and how do you store your photos?

You all were too kind on my last post--I am well aware that the boys room looks like amateur hour, but I appreciate the kind comments and suggestions.

Weeks ago I posted that I was getting my hair cut, and dithering between chopping all my hair off again or leaving it to grow longer.  (Time flies when you don't blog very often!)

I walked into the salon having decided to chop it off again.  Then my hairdresser talked me into letting it grow. So it sort of looks pretty much the same as before the haircut.

I know, I know, resting bitch face, I has it. 
I think my hairdresser talked me into letting it grow longer because she herself had cut her hair drastically short a few days prior and hated it so much she promptly got extensions.  Her hair issues may have been projected onto my head, as it were.  However, one drawback to having fabulously stylish short hair is that it needs to be trimmed on a four week basis, and that is just a giant pain.  One of the reasons I want to grow it out is to be free of the constant need for trims.  (I can stretch the gray hairs out for a while, usually 8-10 weeks at a time.)  So I am not unhappy that I am growing it out.  For now, anyway.  That could change at any moment.


I have thousands, nay, possibly hundreds of thousands of digital pictures of my children (and my house.  If I died tomorrow I would be terribly embarrassed that my husband would have to explain to the children why there possibly more pictures of our living room than there are of the children.)  Probably half of the pictures are duplicate shots of the same thing, which is the curse of the digital age and not having to pay to develop film.  Regardless, I have a million gazillion unsorted digital photos sitting on multiple hard drives and cloud devices that need to be sorted and put into some sort of order.  I feel like a hoarder--the project has become so overwhelming and huge that I do not know where to start.

I am not a scrapbooker. I do not want to spend my precious free time organizing photos.  I am probably going to start a fifteen-minute-a-day project to start getting this under control.  But I need some kind of process or end goal to work towards.

How do you keep up with photos?  What simple and easy app or website will fix my problem?