Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kitchen redo - from country ick to modern chic

Over at Apartment Therapy, a reader has written in to ask for help with ideas on redoing a horrible oak/country kitchen on a budget. Here's my take.

The original (I've blocked out the current owners' horrible country dining set):

The redo:

What's the same? Fridge, cabinets (structure), woodwork (placement), backsplash, countertops.

  1. Strip and restain the cabinets and wood trim in a dark cherry finish. Time and labor intensive, but not too expensive.
  2. Replace the current linoleum with either dark slate tiles or dark grey linoleum (about $350-600 for slate, based on my guess about the room size)
  3. Repaint - dark charcoal below chair rail on empty wall, and a nice warm creamy color everywhere else. (About $40-$60 for paint)
  4. New light fixture, modern, chrome, black -whatever fits their tastes and budget
  5. New cabinet hardware - I used Hickory Hardware's Loft Satin Nickel Black Pulls
  6. Black and chrome/modern dining set - the ones here are from Target, and fairly inexpensive: the black leather Parsons chair ($119 each), and the Vernicia dining table $250.
  7. As they havethe budget, they can replace the current appliances with stainless steel ones to match. The picture above shows a new stove and the current fridge.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall means new shoes

or in this case, boots:
Can't wait to try them out. :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

On the decision to stop at one child

I wonder what your name would have been. Whether you would have been a girl or a boy. Whether you would have followed your older brother around with total devotion, or attempted to surpass him. When he would have first pushed you.

I wonder what would make you smile. Whether you would have clung to me, like the first one, or pushed me away to go run with the big kids, as younger siblings seem to do. Whether you would have kept us awake at night, or been that miracle - the Child Who Sleeps Through the Night.

What bedtime confessions you would have made about small hurts, or confusions, or wishes. Whether your hair would be fine and straight, or curly. Whether you would enjoy the feel of warm water on your head as I wash your hair, or, yelling, pulling away, refused to get wet.

I can almost start wondering about your interests, your passions, your careers, your children... but these small, childhood things are more immediate. More real. More impossibly distant.

I'm sorry, little one. we would have loved you so much.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Projects for the busy working mom

So, remember in my last post, where I said I don't have enough time? Yeah. Yeah, I said that.

Well, here's the list of projects I'm currently obsessing about, in addition to the day-to-day struggles to get everyone up/fed/dressed/on the way/go to work/get everyone home/fed/bathed/tucked in. Right.

1. Finish window quilts for bedroom
2. Make curtains for bedroom closets

Dining room:
3. Strip and stain mini-dresser
4. Strip and stain dining room chairs
5. Paint coat closet door

6. Make little bookshelf for under kitchen counter
7. Knock down bricks. Replace with something functional/attractive
8. Declutter the kitchen. Get rid of things we don’t use.
9. Figure out a way to keep kitchen counter from becoming the dumping zone for clutter.

Living room:
10. New couch/chairs for living room
11. New glass-front bookcase for living room

And that's just the beginning.

Some notes

Bedroom: We recently painted this bright-freaking yellow, and then I wanted everything to be yellow or white to match it. The old closet doors were really, truly, awful - giant heavy sliding things that hung from the door opening and moved left/right, so you could never access more than 1/2 of the closet at once, remnants of the original '50's aesthetic. We yanked them off, and I have some great white and yellow denim just waiting for me to sew into hanging panels I can suspend from suspension rods just inside the closet.

The window quilts are basically Roman shades - 2 per wide window (4 total) since we have casement windows on which the left half can swing open and the right can't. Since they're the original, single-pane windows, I'm adding a layer of batting to the shades to make them window quilts, insulating as well as screening the light. I found this wonderful white-on-white swirl pattern cotton for the fronts, which gives a nice subtle flair to them.

Dining room: as mentioned before, I seem to be going for the Swedish country look, so all the furniture's going from old thrift-shop wood stain to painted white, light green, yellow, etc or white stain. (We've got gorgeous dust-blue silk dupioni drapes and coordinating seat fabric already). The last few pieces bothering me are a wood-tone closet door that interrupts the flow, and a small wooden dresser that came out of our bedroom and is now holding candles and linens. I've also meant to strip and stain the chairs in white, but didn't get around to it this summer.

Kitchen/entryway: we have no foyer. To get into the house, you walk through the carport, where you can see into the living room, and open the front door. About 3 feet in front of you is a gigantic brick planter (about 4ft wide by 12"deep by 3 ft high). To the left is the living room, to the right the dining room, and straight ahead you're looking through the kitchen and out the window at the fence on the side of the property. (That's right, our "front" door is on the side of the house. mmph.) I really want to knock that sucker down with a sledgehammer and replace it with an elegant little white glass-fronted bookcase, or shoe storage, or SOMETHING that says, "hey, this is where you come in. You're not really IN a room right now, even though it seems like you're in 3 rooms at once."

The kitchen itself is quite a challenge, since it has very old, all-metal cabinets. And imitation wood-grain formica. (shudders)

Living room: since visiting some friends in Portland with picture-perfect, clutter-free, Pottery barn-type decor in their little restored Craftsmen (despite having 3 children under age 6), I want a New Look in the living room. Don't know if we'll actually manage it, since it's also the toddler's primary play area, but I'll keep trying. I have my eye right now on a couple of sofas from

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You know it's October when...

What do all these things have in common?
They are purchases I made today at Target, that bastion of cheap style, as I acknowledged that I am short on time, and running out of options.
The crockpot is obvious: on weeknights we get home between 5:45 and 6:10. We eat leftovers if we're lucky, or quick-prep meals if not. Last night we found ourselves sitting in the "dining" area of the local upscale grocery store eating pizza at 6:15, with a very overtired toddler. Enough is enough.
The orange toddler clothes, less so: apparently he wants to be a tiger for Halloween. Or thinks he does, because his cousin told him to. After looking in 3 stores over 2 hours yesterday for a tiger costume, I realized the smart moms have all bought theirs already - either raiding the stores early or going online, and still spending $20-30 for something their kids will wear once. (OK, ok, the little girls will keep their princess outfits for dressup as long as possible, but the boys?)
Screw that.
He's getting orange clothes, with a tail and ears sewn on, which will later be pulled off so he can wear them over and over until they're falling apart like the rest of his clothes.
And by God he's going to wear them, that day, too, and NOT try to go to school in his pajamas. again. like every other day... erm...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Discipline. And wearing pants.

My current overwhelmed-ness (is that a word? shush, I'm declaring it a word) has led me to ponder what things I'm doing that are not necessary. No, unfortunately, showering and going to work are not on that list. BUT, according to several well-paid child experts (who must therefore know SOMETHING), cleaning up after my son, getting him dressed and undressed, and fetching his toothbrush for him, are.

We have entered the era of CHORES. (dun dun DUN!)

Which also leads to discussions of DISCIPLINE. Things that we do because we have to, in order to keep ourselves safe and healthy, in order to get along with others, and in order to not cause mom to run shrieking around the house like a banshee at 7:55 pondering the multiplicity of places one size 11 boy's shoe could have gone to.


Today's dust-up was not about sitting down to eat breakfast. Nor was it about not kicking daddy in the back when crawling into bed for a snuggle. It came down to clothes. Or, rather, the lack of them.

After helping my son with the important developmental task of learning how to remove his own shirt (since he was screaming that he didn't want to wear it), I escorted a naked toddler out to the car. Luckily, it was a warm morning. (meaning at this time of year, low 50's)

After being assured that the ONLY way he would get warm on the ride to school was to don a shirt, no blankets being offered, he relucantantly chose the OTHER one. (Did you know this trick? Always offer two choices, and when they refuse to choose, pick the one you DON'T want them to wear. They will always immediately insist on having the other one.)

On the way to daycare, we had this discussion:

"No honey, there's a rule that you have to wear pants at preschool. You'll just have to stand outside the building until you're ready to put on clothes."

I'll let you guess the outcome.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Is it a bad sign when...

Your new life/career coach looks stumped when you outline the daily list of chores you have to do?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Strongest Life

If you're a woman (or someone who knows a woman), you may be hearing the buzz about Marcus Buckingham's "Your Strongest Life."

This guy is so good at self-promotion, he's on Oprah. AND Huffpost. Etc. Etc.

And, apparently, knows the secret to reversing the happiness decline among women.

What is it, you ask? Oh, simple:
Do what makes you happy, and only that. Stop doing all that crap you think you SHOULD be doing, and do what you actually like.

(Only he phrases it like "imbalance your life toward moments that make you feel strong.")

For example:

"Search your moments. Whenever you consider taking on a new responsibility or commitment, investigate and be certain that there are opportunities for strengthening moments within it. If the commitment doesn't offer you the chance for such moments, DO NOT TAKE IT ON. Do not take it because you are worried about letting someone else down or concerned about not doing enough. You do enough. You ARE enough. Accept yourself. You are at your best when you're committed to activities that strengthen you. As you take more of these on, you'll find yourself more energetic, focused, clear and happy. Stop prioritizing your goals and start prioritizing your MOMENTS."

I'm going print this out and post it above the sink, the laundry, the toddler's clothes dresser (heck, maybe even over his bed), and the bills pile.

"Sorry, honey, I can't do chores. The experts say it's bad for my mental health."

Let's see how that goes over, eh Marcus?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Lunch in the sukkah

Leftover duck, veggie pot pie, good bread...

and the neighbor's cat trying to steal every bite.

Still, there's something to be said for eating in the leafy shade of the sukkah on a warmish fall day, getting completely away from work for a little while, without anyone (except that darn cat!) to interrupt.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Of Etrogs and Aesthetics

Listening to the Orthodox discuss the relative beauty of various estrogim reminds me of a conversation I had a long time ago with a (black) friend:

"You see," she said, looking at a picture of some starlet holding a pocket doggie, "the difference between white people and black people is that white people look at that dog and say, aww, how cute! And black people look at it and say, DAMN, that's one ugly dog!"

Something to think about.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Sukkot menus, 2009

This year, we're having guests for the first three nights of Sukkot. We are really hoping the rain holds off long enough to make the blessings and at least do motzi outside.

Friday (Dairy meal)

Emphasis for this meal is on celebrating the harvest from our own garden.


  • Spiced pumpkin seeds
  • Baked sweet potato rounds with thyme from the garden

Main meal:

  • Challah
  • Pesto pasta (made with basil and cherry tomatoes from our garden)
  • Green bean/onion salad (green beans are homegrown)
  • Sauteed zucchini and yellow crookneck squash (ditto)
  • Wine (a local Riesling)


  • Calabeza en tacha (Pumpkin in brown sugar) with rice pudding or ice cream

Saturday night (meat meal, with kids)

This is our "fancy" dinner night. The hope is the kids will entertain each other and the grownups can actually socialize.


  • Stuffed mushrooms (with leeks and sage from our garden, garlic, wild mushrooms, breadcrumbs)
  • App 2: Not sure yet, could be pumpkin seeds/beets/white bean puree and bread/sweet potato rounds...



  • Pareve applesauce cake with caramelized pears

Sunday (dairy meal, with kids)


  • Dates stuffed with cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon mixture
  • Baked brie (with more homemade pesto tucked inside) and baguette rounds


  • Roasted vegetable pot pie (the secret is homemade veggie stock and roasted garlic)
  • Salad w/herbs


  • Rice pudding