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. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Garage Door

Sometimes, a girl just needs more - more cake, more hugs, more sunshine, more opinions, more coffee, more sleep .... and a whole lot more words!

Just when my Mom didn't think I could do any more talking, I have decided to expand my blog, and empty out more of the words that dance around in my head when I least expect them. Not content to confine my thoughts to decorating, I want to write about everything else that goes on in my head as well. It will be the same as before, but different (and might even include an entire story on why I don't think the world needs any more broccoli) but mostly it will just be more. More of what we like to talk about, more odd bits and pieces, and more than you ever knew you needed to know.

Talking of which, I wish my neighbor's hadn't fixed their garage door. I miss seeing them come and go. I miss knowing when they were home for dinner, or seeing them leave early on a Summer's day - off to enjoy the sunshine, visiting friends and stopping at their favorite diner for lunch.  

It is all electronic now, and while in the Winter I wish like crazy for my own attached garage and automatic door opener, I realize that I have lost the comfort of feeling people around me. Now, cars slowly approach a house, buttons are pressed, and they all slip in and out of their car home with barely a sound. Unless your nose is permanently pressed to the window, you won't see this happen, so the outside of a house can remain unchanged for weeks at a time.

It is strange not knowing if people are home or not, and I wonder if they feel the same way?

Our previous neighbor, Mrs. Hansen, didn't have a garage at all, so there was a lot of waving through the row of trees, and my daughter and I could easily pop over to say hello when we knew she was home. As my daughter grew older, I could safely send her all by herself to visit, because we could see when Mrs. Hansen was and wasn't there. It was easy to see by her car.

We would wave and complain about the cold during the snow storms, as we both shoveled our driveways and scraped the ice off our cars. Being much older than I, she put me to shame with her energy, and if I saw her outside I knew enough to be embarrassed, and that I had better bundle up and get my backside out there as quickly as possible.

In the Springtime, we would find ourselves talking about the weeds, or how on earth she got her Iris's to grow so tall, and in the Autumn we would both rake leaves, side by side, in an almost magical companionable silence.

The car in her driveway was like a welcome sign, and my daughter would run over to tell her about school, or just to say hello and share some cookies; she liked the freedom of being able to go by herself, and I liked the security of knowing that I could see at a glance that Mrs. Hansen was there.

Now, the street is becoming a sea of automatic garage door openers. We have no idea who is home, and who is not. We will never know if they are housebound and something is wrong, or if they have a new girlfriend and got married. Which is such a shame, because neighbors create a sense of ordinary, everyday, necessary comfort....and I miss that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Pantry Secret

Y'know when we drool over those kitchen makeovers? The one's where everything looks so neat and organized? Where we wonder if they are even real, and if the owner has ever yelled at their children, or snuck downstairs in the middle of the night to eat a slice of pizza?
Do you notice that when they open the pantry we don't see torn boxes of cereal, and fallen over bags of rice - piled together on a shelf, barely closed with a chip-clip and a dash of hope?

Of course, they have to look insanely pretty because it is a photo shoot (and a messy kitchen isn't going to inspire anyone, or sell the next issue of their magazine) but it's also because every good, working kitchen has a secret.

We sometimes think that only serious cook's have fabulous kitchen's, but whether we cook every day of the week, or grab handfuls of cereal on our way to work, we all deserve a space that makes life easier, and is as efficient as it is good looking.

A coat of paint will always freshen things up, but the thing that unites these kitchen makeover's is one simple idea - almost everything that can be eaten, or used to create something delicious, is removed from its package and stored in a clear container.

Contrary to what we might think, it's not about being pretentious (they can be as inexpensive or as fancy as you like) it's about loving food, and enjoying your kitchen. So, whether your favorite food group is chocolate (yep) or you spend hours making a bouillabaisse in your pajamas, we all need to eat, so here are some reasons why you must make it more pleasurable, and go out today and get some clear containers.

1.  Saves you time.
You will always know how much (or how little) you have left of everything.
2.  Keeps things fresh.
They will extend the life of your ingredients, and save you a heap of money.
3.  A neater pantry will always make you happier than a cluttered one.   
It just will.
4.  No more surprises.
Nothing worse than opening a box of cereal on a busy morning, and tipping out three, stale cheerios and some pixie dust.
5.  You can see exactly what you have.
Instead of trying to play detective with the small, oddly-shaped, folded-over, rubber-banded, half-eaten packet of something.

To buy: The modular containers are from OXO - they cost approximately $10 each, and can be found on their website, as well as Walmart, JCPenney's, Bed Bath and Beyond etc. 
The set in the middle (Flour, Pasta, Rice and Sugar) is from Birch Lane ($30.)
Apothecary Jar is from World Market (approximately $25.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dining Room Good-bye's

Someone asked me the other day where they could buy a new dining room set. It confused me for a moment, because we were sitting at theirs while we talked, and although it seemed perfectly nice to me, it turns out that this was the first time she had used it in almost a year.

As we thought of what to do, it got me thinking about the way that we live now, and how the dining room is becoming obsolete for many of us. So often, I meet people who just use theirs for special occasions; it is left feeling unloved and outdated, stale and abandoned until the next Thanksgiving.

Rooms shouldn't feel this way, and while we are quick to complain about not having enough space, sometimes all we have to do is bring ourselves up-to-date, and find ways to re-use the space that we have.

1. Why not hand it over to the children while they are little?
The dining room is usually near the kitchen and television area, so you can happily let them play in their own space while you get to keep a watchful eye on them. 
p.s. Keep the chandelier - it adds a touch of glam, lights up the room without worrying about lamps being knocked over, and gives you (or the next owner) the option to return it to it's former life.

2. How gorgeous is this room as a Home Office/Library? 
I admit, that most of us don't have gorgeous brick on our dining room floors, but if you add a rug, bring in your favorite books, pens, pencils and a laptop, you'll soon have a space that everyone will want to spend time in. 
p.s. If you have the energy, paint your china cabinet a fab color before you bring all your bits and pieces in.

3. Why not forget the dining table altogether, and buy a pool table? 
Did you know, that taking a few moments to match the fabric and style of a pool table to your home actually costs no more than using the traditional green felt we see down at the local pub?
p.s. Decorate around it the way that you would any other room, with a nice pendant lamp, some art on the walls, and a few comfy chairs.

4. Paint your china cabinet (and use it for anything other than china. 

Many cabinets are not made of quality wood anyway, and some of them, no matter how hard we try, just can't escape the uglies. It doesn't have to be perfect, and if you're nervous, go for something classic like black or white, or, just paint the inside back panel and see where it takes you.
p.s. After you're done, fill it with endless craft supplies, childhood souvenirs, favorite books, plants, beautiful shoes etc.

5. Turn it into a Music Room.
Storing musical instruments can be difficult at the best of times, but not if you use them as decorations. If you have the space, why not indulge in the luxury of a music room; paint it a gorgeous color, invest in a few organizers to help you hang guitars, LP's, posters etc on the wall, and I bet it will quickly become your favorite hang-out room.
p.s. A few non-musical decorations will add a bit of interest and sophistication.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sleeping Rooms

I remember reading a meditation once, where it said we should consciously uncurl our hands before we go to sleep, leaving them (and us) open to all sorts of good energy that wants to flow through us while we dream. Unfortunately, I found that it was almost impossible to do this without looking (and feeling) like my fingers were sticking up in some sort of awkward, unnatural puppet show, so I decided to sleep with my palms open, lying smooshed flat against the sheets instead.

In my quest for calm, I also used to pretend that I was a sloth sleeping on a tree branch, but that just made me laugh, and led to too many questions about where my legs should go, and how did sloths sleep all dangly-like anyway. So, now I imagine I am some kind of peaceful, elegant mermaid (okay, so that's a stretch) or, a very confused, yet colorful tree frog, flat against the window of his aquarium. In reality, all this imagining does help me drift off to sleep, but I am sure I end up appearing more like Mr. Bean than a landlocked mermaid.

Recently, I painted my bedroom. Before, it was a dark, brown suede color, but after nearly ten years of sunshine it had softened down to a very unfortunate shade of tan, and was starting to really bother me. If I don't like a room, it is amazing how quickly I am motivated, so I went with my gut, and I quickly found a color that was the inky black of a clear night - one that provoked thoughts of old fashioned poetry and childhood dreams.

By day, the room takes on a hint of gray, like the lead in a sharpened pencil, but at night it is black with a splash of navy, which I love. Because it is small, and has a really large window, it isn't as shocking as you would imagine; with high gloss paint on the ceiling, and an old exposed radiator, it suddenly feels like a cozy, yet sunny and warm attic nook - happily accidental in its design.

Although it was quite minimally furnished to begin with, emptying the room was the perfect excuse for me to live with the black paint for a few days. For almost a week, I lived in a room that just had a bed; at night, I would look at the dark walls, and wonder what I wanted them to be. Such a lot of thought for a tiny room, but it felt important, and shouldn't it be as much as I wanted it to be?

As the days wore on, my perspective grew, and the quiet beauty of the empty room made me acutely aware of how much I had, and did I really want to fill up my room with what was there before.
I decided to put back only what I truly loved - it had to feel incredibly comfortable, minimal in design, slightly grown-up, and I had to be able to keep it tidy (which meant that everything had to have a purpose or a place - no random bits of miscellany, and not a convenient spot for who-knows-what on its way to who-knows-where).

It's been a few months now,
and despite my random inclination towards Mr. Bean, sloths and mermaids, it has quite possibly become the dog's most favorite room in the house ...

p.s. the main photograph is a composite of the zen tree frog and the princess and the pea, and the paint I used was Graphic Charcoal by Behr.