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Friday, May 26, 2017

Beautiful Moments


I knew I needed to weed the garden and mow the lawn (as well as the twenty-seven other things on my to-do list) but I baked a cake instead. Then, when I ran out to do an errand, I saw that the clematis had bloomed - when I wasn't looking, it had gone ahead and does what it does every year - without any weeding, or any care at all from me. It had become beautiful all by itself.

Perhaps I was having a moment, but it made me cry, and I caught my breath as I stopped and took a good look around the garden. I went back inside and grabbed by phone so that I could take photographs, afraid that it would all be mysteriously gone by the time I got back from the shops.

So busy in my head over the last few weeks, I had neglected some of the things that were important to me - beautiful, silly things that fed my soul, that I needed to take care of because in doing so they actually took care of me.

When I grabbed my phone, I also took the gardening scissors and some floral string. I spent the next half hour pruning and tying up the roses - they haven't flowered yet, but I know they will appreciate not being thrown around by the next storm. There is a branch over twelve foot tall that is reaching towards the top of the house, but as it is covered in rosebuds I don't have the heart to cut it down. Perhaps after they bloom.

They all grew without me. With no help, no words of encouragement, no passing glance, no special soil or fertilizer to brighten their color. They just grew. They grew into their beauty. Soon they will lose their color, they will rest, and then begin to do it all over again. And as I stepped back onto the wet grass, tears dripping down my face, it struck me that we need them far more than they need us.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Floor Update and More DIY



I have been getting lots of questions about the Living Room floor that I finished with Safflower Oil the other week, so I thought I would answer them, and give you a quick update.

Did your house smell of oil, and were the floors sticky afterwards?
The Living Room smelled slightly for a couple of days, but it wasn't bad at all, because I used safflower oil which is almost odor-less. The floors had a bit of oil residue for a couple of days while it soaked in, but not enough to be greasy (and I did buff the floor again the next day).
How do the floors look now? Has it lasted?
They still look great! It soaked in completely by about the third day, and the darker color is still there.
Anything that you don't like about it?
No. It seems almost embarrassing - it took hardly any time at all, cost less than five dollars, and my floors look the best they have in over fifteen years.
What about the pets? 
The dog stopped licking it after a couple of days, and the cat couldn't have cared less. Now and again, the cat eats and throws up a few geranium leaves, so if I don't clean it up right away it does seem to "strip" the oil from the wood (not sure how) but all I do is drizzle a tiny bit of safflower oil on it, and the mark is gone within a day (see photograph above).

By the way, while we're on the subject of floors, I wanted to mention a couple of other flooring projects that I have also done in my own home. These were definitely DIY worthy, made a big difference .... and took no special skills (or tools) whatsoever.

Removing Wall-to-Wall Carpet 
It sounds daunting, but all it really took was time (a lot - almost a month for me to do the entire downstairs by myself) and a bit of planning.
Wearing goggles sounded ridiculous at first, but carpet tacks, staples and dust can be unpredictable and fly in all different directions, so I really would recommend them. For more detailed information on how to properly remove wall-to-wall carpet, go here.

Installing Vinyl Floor Tiles
If your floor is not too high (I think they can have up to three layers) installing these over your existing floor is really easy. I did my kitchen floor, with the peel and stick type, and you don't have to be a math wizard (or a flooring expert) just be sure to start in the middle and work out from there. Here's a more detailed explanation of what to do.

Painting your Floor
I painted a picture of a rug in my daughter's room (on a hardwood floor) with water-based acrylic craft paint over fifteen years ago, and while we loved it at the time, when we went to remove it, we couldn't. It will take a good sanding and proper refinishing, so although it was an easy project I recommend that you do this with a bit of caution (as it might be more permanent than you would like).

For a few more DIY flooring fixes, check out this article from Apartment Therapy.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Finding Design Inspiration


Some people wake up noticing shapes and colors. The form of a pillowcase resting against the bed, the taunting remnant of a forgotten spider web, it's thread of gray holding gently onto the ceiling, and the love of a soft, crinkled face still beautiful in its sleep.

For some, life is almost a sensory overload; too much to appreciate, and not enough time - an endless array of tactile change that both delights and overwhelms. Yet we are all wired differently, and whether visual cues come to us naturally or not, I am also a firm believer in taking our inspiration from others.

If I don't know how to do something, I ask, and if I'm not sure which road to take, I'll turn on my GPS. Decorating is exactly the same. There is a wealth of information out there; thousands of moments of inspiration are given to us every single day....and most of it is free.

Here are some easy ways to find design inspiration (when it doesn't seem to be finding you).

Magazines!

I know it's obvious, but their job is to show us beautiful things,
 and tell us how to get them. Envy is the name of the game.Look at the color combinations they use,and read the interviews with designers.
They are usually a confident bunch,
and because they are passionate about what they do,they are more than happy to share their secrets and ideas.

http://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/

Photographs!

Choose your favorite family photograph (this is one of mine)
 and start to really think about why you like it. 
Try to see it from an objective, creative perspective.
Is it the lines of the lamp post, the black and white background,
the blur of the snowflakes, the childish frog,
or the green shade of the umbrella? 


Junk Mail!

Even if you never buy anything from them, take a look inside the cover.
Many furniture and accessory stores add to the temptation by photographing their items in a warm and cozy home setting.
Remember when Rachel secretly bought the Apothecary table
 from Pottery Barn? Then Phoebe wanted the matching lamp?
It made us laugh, and while we don't want our home looking exactly like a page from a catalog,
it's perfectly okay to borrow ideas from them. 


Your Closet!

With our clothes, we say more about ourselves than we realize.
Lay some of your favorite clothes out on the bed,
and write down your first impression.
Are they structured, colorful, loose, casual,
similar, formal, interesting, boring?
The odds are, how you dress is an indication of what you want to project,
and how you like to live.
Your home should also be a reflection of who you are,
so ideally the two should blend.  


Ask!

If I see someone wearing a coat or a lipstick that I really like, 
I compliment them.
And, if we start chatting, I might ask where they got it from.
Same goes for a friend's new coffee table,
or the freshly painted color of a house down the street.  
Knock on the door, and ask.
People are rarely offended by a compliment. 


Friday, April 28, 2017

Sleeping with my Cell Phone


About six months ago, me and my trusty flip-phone were pushed (kicking and screaming) into forced obsolescence. I had coddled it for about two years before; slowly accepting that I had to stab at the letter's "XYZ" at least three times to make the button work, and that messages could often take several hours to send and receive. My friends understood that texting was becoming challenging at best, and that a random emoji, no matter how cute, would never reach me through my aging gadget.

But, I persevered until November, pretending it didn't matter, until suddenly the only word I could type for an entire week was "Hector". I'll spare you the stories, but no matter what I started to press, it defaulted to the very unknown and annoying Hector.
I dug my heels in, and managed without one for a few weeks, but eventually common sense overruled my stubbornness, and I gave in and bought a smartphone (i.e. the dumbest, least expensive smartphone I could find). I said good-bye to my flip-phoning Hector, and put him carefully away - reluctantly, not wanting to let go of the beloved saved texts and button-pushing memories.

After all, I only needed it for texting and the occasional phone call, so I vowed from the beginning to never go on the Internet, or check my email while sitting in traffic - I was determined not to become one of those people.

Then my daughter went away for a week. We texted back and forth, and because I wanted to text her good-night, I would take it upstairs to bed with me (well aware that teenagers stay up much later than their tired parents). One night, when I went to bed far too early, I wondered if I had received a reply to an email from the day before; just the thought of getting out of bed, and turning on the computer seemed like too much work, so I looked at my phone, and found google...

That was it. For the next three nights I would lie in bed, hunched over my phone looking up information, scrolling through clothes on ebay, and texting my daughter. I was hooked. Some days, I went to bed just so that I could look at the little information-filled gadget in front of me. I would lie until my shoulder hurt, and my eyes stung - way past my usual bedtime.

Not a book or magazine was read, and there was no drifting off to sleep listening to the frogs or the falling rain outside, imagining all sorts of wonderful thoughts. I didn't care. All I wanted to do was see what I could find on the glowing rectangle in front of me.

After a few days, I noticed my neck hurt, and the pile of magazines had built up. I was beginning to get curious as to what had happened to the heroine in my book, the furrow between my eyes had deepened, and I missed the comfort of silently lying awake in the darkness before I went to sleep.

Those who write about this stuff, always go on and on about how if you sleep with your phone it will damage your brain, you will sleep poorly, or it will spontaneously combust on your pillowcase, but I think the problem is much simpler than that - it's just bad for us.
After a week of doing it, I began to miss what was actually happening around me, and even though I became hooked on the screen (and the feeling of having access to everything in the world) it wore me out, and I never went to sleep peacefully at all.

As a smartphone newbie, it scared the hell out of me. Now, I leave it in the kitchen, and am happy to be going back to bed with a snoring dog, an open window, and a worn, paperback novel.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Four Dollar Floor Fix

This week, I was going to try and refinish my hardwood floors myself. When we first moved in, over twenty years ago, there was carpet everywhere, but after three cats and numerous spills, the warm, loopy beige concoction turned into a smelly nightmare, and it was time to go. 

When I pulled the carpet up (which took weeks, and a couple of near safety misses with my toddler) I was delighted with the hardwood floors that we found underneath. Barely sealed, we loved them, and made do with an occasional polish until the last few years (we have a dog who has literally licked wide, white circles onto it, and a cat who behaves less than well when we are not paying him enough attention).

So, I decided to take the job on myself, and researched the best DIY product for unfinished, hardwood floors. The ideas run the gamut, from full on renting a sander and days of polyurethane, to products that will clean and seal at the same time. Determined to get it done (when you are almost embarrassed to have people over, it's a problem) I wandered one night into the complete DIY Internet community; finding out far more than I ever needed to know, as I realized my floors were made really well, but were literally dried out, and thirsty for some nourishment.

That something, according to the experts, could be as complicated as a three-step chemical sealer, or as simple as mixing up some olive oil, vinegar and lemon oil in your kitchen.
As it was around 8pm, and I don't like olive oil (and didn't have lemon oil) I decided to drizzle some safflower oil onto a corner in my Living Room. It started to soak in almost immediately, so I buffed it around with a soft cloth, then left it for a few minutes to see what would happen.

When I tell you, it looked amazing, I am not fibbing. Within an hour, I had drizzled and buffed safflower oil all over my Living Room floor. Five days later, it still looks good, I am thrilled with the results, and I am planning to do the rest of my house.

Here are the results, and a few extra notes:

* Just an additional note - my floors are well over fifty years old, are solid hardwood (red oak?) and had no polyurethane or finish on them at all.