You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2012.

Yes I am still blogging weekly!  I get nervous when I read things like that on other peoples’ posts.   I was stumped last week for what to write about, and that coupled with the dog day heat of August basically made me very lazy :)  Hence no post.  

I have come to an important realization in my home decorating habits.   Well, that’s not really true.  I came to this realization probably about six months ago.  But I think (I think!) that it may finally have sunk in, if the past month is any indication.   You see, I realized a while back that my love of decorating generated an urge to see constant progress in my own home. 

Lacking progress, I was ok with settling for change.  Sew some new cushions.  Add or subtract a few accessories.   Try to stencil a plain lampshade (disastrous, by the way, it went straight in the trash and you never heard anything about it).   Basically I was spending my money and my time on little clutter projects that didn’t really satisfy me in the long run and didn’t move my home forward. 

Egad!  Was I at last internalizing the value of quality over quantity?  Well… no.  I still had the urge to do a few little projects every month, but I started working on how NOT to have the urge.  Ha!  Or at least how to choose the big picture plan over the desire for immediate gratification. 

You see, although we are not exactly young kids, the Chief and I both came into marriage with very little furniture.   I rented rooms and he rented out rooms.   I had two bookshelves and some linens.  He had an old sofa set, a bed, and a cafe table.   You see the problem.   So when I realized I was squandering my decorating power on little clutter projects, I made a list of what we most needed and wanted to make our home more comfortable, permanent feeling, well made, and good looking. 

The Vital and Important House Furnishings List:

  • sturdy farmhouse-type table (see previous post)
  • California King bed (we definitely need a new mattress, and the Chief has longed for a Cal King forever)
  • new sofa – we want a sectional that invites the whole family to lounge togther
  • living room rug to ground and enhance the main living space

I should mention that a plus side of the little clutter project phase is that it’s taken time to sort out what we may want stylistically from these items.  Like a lot of people new and enthusiastic about design, I found myself liking EVERYTHING trendy… until I got it home.  I’ll be writing another post about finding our style.

And now, dear readers, I come to my [wordy] conclusion at last.   I have not bought anything for the house for the whole month of August, and I have not wanted to.   Hopefully this is not just a symptom of the late summer heat.  Hopefully this is my mind’s resolution making it through to my heart. 

What do I really want?  Do I want to spend $15 on a flowerpot here and $29 on a lamp there?   No!  I want a rug – a bed – a table – a sofa.   We currently have a financial priority that is going to take most of our savings for a while, but I do have the budget to go after a dining room table.   And I mean not to waste those precious dollars on tempting discounts that waylay my eye!  I want, say it with me, a rug – a bed – a table – a sofa.  And by golly that’s what we’re going to get.

I can’t be the only person to come to this realization about the little clutter projects.  Or the only person on a small decorating budget.  How do you handle large purchases?  Do you find yourself tempted to go for the instant gratification?  What is YOUR best method for moving your home decor forward in a substantial way?


You know those life pathfinder systems where you’re supposed to envision what you want life to be like when you’re a grown up?  Maybe you don’t because maybe you were nothing like me and you knew more or less what direction you were going by the time you were ten :)  But if you had to dream a bit to figure out which direction to steer, this was actually a somewhat useful tool.

One of the things I’ve always wanted – still want – is to realize a certain very dear, very specific vision of having small groups of friends and family gathered around a big sturdy table in the kitchen in the evenings, with warm amber light creating an atmospheric glow as dishes clink and laughter and chatter fills the air.   It just makes me swoon.  I would bake teacakes and everyone would put up their feet and not want to leave.

Our family is pretty hospitable, but we have one major issue when it comes to this happy vision.

This is our dining set.

Actually, I’m sparing you with that photo.  The dining room end of the kitchen is one of the few remaining parts of the house we’ve done almost nothing to.  It has dingy paint, badly cut moulding, damaged linoleum, a tin punched chandelier with a festoon of Jack Skellington lights hardwired into it, a skylight badly installed one inch away from the chandelier by a drug addict, need I go on?  I’ve peeled off most of the sprigged country blue wallpaper below the chair rail and that’s about it.  It’s going to be quite a long way to go from this:

to this:

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things.  Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of new dining tables and Craigslist listings. 

O Craigslist, my beloved friend, where I can go thrifting for furniture when it’s slow at work.  I’ve actually browsed for this forever dining table before and there are definitely good possibilities that pop up regularly.  My requirements are:

  • no grooves between boards to collect crumbs
  • real wood (duh) of a good quality and color.  Dings are fine, shiny thick varnish is not.
  • rectangular shape
  • four interestingly turned legs at the corners because trestles get in the way of knees too much
  • a removable leaf, while not quite a deal breaker, would be highly desireable

I’m hoping to find this paragon for $150 or less, and I bet I can do it, too.  Chairs are not of much concern at this point and it can come with or without them – eventually I plan to mix and match or do the four of the same/ two different route.

Just today on Craisglist I found this lovely thing, which I emailed about to inquire if it came with a leaf.  I would probably paint the legs a different color, no biggie.  Look at that fancy edged tabletop!

And this one, which is exceptionally cheap at $60 (I would have the Chief fabricate a wooden tabletop for it) which I will not be getting because the gorgeous legs have long vertical cracks in them.

I know I’m not the only one hankering for a sturdy kitchen and dining table that will feed the ones I love, be a place to sit with a book and tea, and of course devolve into a convenient work surface and clutter catcher. 

Do you already have the table of your dreams?  Any great places you’ve found to look?  Did you make yours out of two by fours?  Do share!

This last week or two I’ve taken a kind of summer break.  They’ve been having a lot of ads on Pandora about how you shouldn’t let your summer go to waste and sit indoors all day.  You should go to Las Vegas!  Well, they lost me at Las Vegas, but it did make me think, Yeah, I want to enjoy some more of summertime.   I want to feel the sun and not have an agenda and I want to read good books all weekend and have a lot of peace and quiet and ice cream.

So I did it.  I took a break from non-essential house work, I took a break from having company over (or rather, the Chief obligingly gave me a break from his friends), I took one day off of work last Friday just because, and tomorrow I am going to the beach.

In honor of summer vacations and the joys of the senses, I give you two of the best, most beloved summer fragrances out there that you’ve probably never heard of.

First is Bronze Goddess by Estee Lauder. 

Total disclaimer: I am not a bronze goddess.  Ahem.  My skin is rather pale and I like it that way!  It tans a little bit, stubbornly, over the course of a whole summer’s worth of lunchtime walks.  Also, I don’t particularly love beach culture, the smell of sunscreen, or tropical blossoms.  And yet somehow this islandy-beachy fragrance delivers just such an atmosphere in a way that makes it widely beloved.   Victoria likes it on her white Russian skin in winter to remind her of brighter days.  Robin wore it through an entire vacation.  These are picky ladies! 

As I described this fragrance I found myself writing in a dreamlike mood, and that is a match for the atmosphere it creates.  The sea’s salty film – overheated skin – sandy warmth all baked together in slick sunscreen over hours and hours relaxing in pleasure and leisure at the beach.  Warm and approachable yet elegant, the hot baked languor is slowly visited by a single tendril of frangipani.  Not sweet, not nearly overwhelming enough to to become tropical, it is as if the fragrance of the beachside gardens has infused itself into her very hair.  Or perhaps the sun has gone down, and she has pinned up her hair and slipped into a simple silvery-black evening dress and flat jeweled sandals to savor a delicious dinner for two in an intimate coastal bistro, sitting on the outdoor patio where the flowering vines grow along the railings and the sea casts back the twinkle of the lights of town.

This is delicious and evocative, creating a fantasy of yourself – you could actually be this woman, and it is wonderful.  Through the base notes of all that warm salty suncreened heated skin comes a thread of warm cedar woods, grounding the coconut milk and flowers, and later a bit of gardenia.  Really a wonderful magical scent.  I’m glad it exists.  Four stars.

When I am not in the mood to be transported to a beach fantasy, I often reach for Philosykos by Diptyque. 

I suppose a Greek isle is surrounded by beaches, but it is also full of Mediterranean plant life.  As a fragrance, Philosykos is about the fig tree – its contrasts, bark, moist earth, green-white sap, unripe fruit, the fuzz on the palmate leaves.   I first tried this scent on a cool, cloudy day and was not particularly impressed with the sap, leaf, dirt and fruit medley.  It was like trying to drink a mint julep in fall – why would you? 

But then the dog days of summer arrived, and one hot and sweaty Saturday I gave it another chance… and it came alive.   This scent sinks into your skin and is released back to you by your body heat with added depth.  I like to spray it in the bend of my elbow to maximize this effect and its longevity.  With a snap of fig leaves and green twigs, Philoskyos weaves a shady bower overhead on the hottest days.  Just as being surrounded by the color green can make you feel cooler, this fragrance makes a hot day not only bearable but downright wonderful.   I swear the temperature drops five degrees when I have it on.  It’s like running through the sprinklers, or (blog title reference alert) sitting under a fig tree on a Sunday afternoon.  Five stars.


Today I have a tidbit of an update for you.  This is about the middle phase of messing with our house color.  I previously did a good deal of thinking about how to take our current 5 gallons of exterior paint and make it more interesting than the pale beige it had been.  I thought and thought and considered.  But you know, sometimes us introverts just need to exchange actual words with a human being instead of pondering silently.

I went to the Home Depot where we bought the paint and asked the man at the paint counter how I could achieve what I wanted.  Apparently I can just bring it back and they will tint and tweak it in the direction I want, for free.  Hey!  That was easy!

While I was there, I decided to get two samples of paint in a color that was similar to, but darker and more muddy/grayed, than our current paint, and then have them tweak our sandy beige paint toward whichever one of those looked better.  If I just brought in the 5 gallon bucket of paint and said, “Make it grayer and darker” I could be misinterpreted and end up with the wrong undertones or something else I didn’t want.  It seemed like this would be a more controlled way to experiment.  I like experiments, but I might like control a little better.  [snicker]

I sampled Behr’s Fortress Stone (top) and Unmarked Trail (bottom) on a few spots around the house.

Fortress Stone actually does look cold and forbidding, like a castle dungeon.  It appeared gray-green on the paint chip, but on my house it took on purply tones in the sunshine besides looking harsh.

Unmarked Trail is muuuuch more what I was going for, and so I decided to use that one as my goal when I took the paint in for tinting.  It’s gray, but it’s soft about it.

I was lucky enough to get a paint counter employee with a 20 years’ experience badge on her orange apron when I took my paint in to be re-tinted.  She was able to analyze the amounts of pigments in the original paint color and then add what it needed to get as close to the Unmarked Trail color as possible.  I also asked her to darken it just a smidge.

Here is the goal color, Unmarked Trail, on the top of the sample patch, and the slightly darkened version of it that we got by tinting the 5 gallons of beige paint.  I think it’s a slightly more true gray (less green) than Unmarked Trail, but it is pretty darn close and I think it’s  going to look GREAT once we get it up.

We will then have a black roof, red door, white trim and a gray house.   Classic, slightly cottagey, but also elegant.

This is the look I’m going for:

Source: via Julie on Pinterest

Source: via Julie on Pinterest

And now, we just need to borrow the sprayer, clear in front of the walls, and paint the house.  I think we can do that before August is through… fingers crossed!