Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Kitchen: The bones are good, but I've got plans...

The kitchen usually makes or breaks it for me when I see a house.  I've learned my lessons the hard way through various homes we've owned and rented about what I do and don't like in a kitchen.

I bet you are asking yourself, now that I am a month or so into our new house, how I feel about my kitchen. I'm so glad you asked :).

So far, the things I love about my kitchen are mostly things you can't get easily unless they are there already--plentiful natural light and a lovely view.  See?

However, I am not in love with my kitchen yet.  I don't have enough workspace. I have dark-stained cabinets with no pulls, pebbly-looking solid-surface countertops, white appliances and vinyl tile flooring.  I would not have picked anything that is in this kitchen, but all of it is in good shape.  The big questions are, do I just live with it (realizing that in the grand scheme of things that there are much more important things than my kitchen)?  Or, do I make small cosmetic changes?  Or, do I make more significant cosmetic changes over time?  Or, do I break the bank and gut the kitchen and start over (which my thrifty soul and finite wallet cannot seem to justify)?

Just so you have a baseline, here is a kitchen I absolutely love from House Beautiful:

I love the mix of old and new, of rustic and warm wood with more refined materials and the utilitarian loveliness of it all.

What I have is not exactly that.

While I can't make my kitchen into this one, I think I need to do some things to make it mine--or at least make some plans that I can slowly implement over time.  Even making a list of what I'd like to do (even if I don't finish everything) makes me feel better, somehow.

Stage 1:
  • Acquire additional storage and workspace with a ready-made cabinet/island (or convert a dining room buffet) along our window wall pictured below.

     Maybe something like this one from  It would make a great baking center.
    Mix and Match Premium Create-a-Cart w/ White Finish and Black Granite Top by Home Styles
    • Install pewter knobs and bin pulls on the cupboards (like the ones below from Overstock)
    Stone Mill Weathered Nickel Nantucket Cabinet Cup Pulls (Pack of 5)
    Stone Mill Weathered Nickel 3-ring Cabinet Knobs (Pack of 5)
    • Start replacing outdated appliances one at a time, starting with the stove--get something that looks more heart of the home-y
    • Do some strategic accessorizing--hang up vintage aprons, put away anything that is detracting from what I love, introduce some warmth through pine pieces and warm-colored wicker 
    Stage 2:
    • Paint and glaze the cabinets to look something like this: (although almost everyone I've mentioned this to in our neck of the woods has recoiled in horror)

    • replace the flooring with stone tiles
    So we'll see.  Again, sometimes just writing what I wish I could do helps me feel emotionally better about it for a few years.  In the meantime, I have summer school to run, drainage work to organize and some more boxes to unpack.  But it feels good to have a plan.

    I'm belatedly linking up to Sarah's Kitchen Party at Modern Country Style.  Her blog is so fun--I thoroughly recommend it!

    Thursday, June 23, 2011


    Pitcher and glass of ice cold lemonade on grass lit by afternoon sunlight Stock Photo - 1489365

    Summertime, and the living is not easy. I am tearing my hair out, and the kids have only been out of school for three days. However, in all fairness, I have kind of brought it on myself.
    Let me explain.

    Every summer I do a sort of home school for the kids.  It is a time-honored tradition in my husband's family, and I think it is a good idea to keep boredom at bay and to make sure summer is fun and productive.  It consists of structured leaning activities (both academic and non-academic) and work around the house all morning, and then free time from the early afternoon until dinner.  Every summer, I start out with high hopes and well-organized schedules, only to slowly disintegrate into laziness and chaos by the end of the summer.  You could say the gradual destruction of our summer school is a time-honored tradition in our family, as much as it pains me to admit it.

    The thing is, there are things I need my kids to learn that they aren't necessarily learning in school.  Things like working hard, taking responsibility and contributing towards an important group goal.  Things like kindness and respect for others, and service, especially to those who are weaker and smaller than you.  Things like pursuing your passions and enjoying learning.  These are things better learned at home, and these are things that are more easily taught at home in the summer when I have more time with my kids than during the school year when we are busy going every which-way.  Knowing that Brendan is only going to be in our home full-time for a few more years puts an additional flame under me to make sure I am doing everything I can to teach him (and the rest of the kiddos) everything I want them to know.

    The tear-my-hair part comes in because I am not a good delegater by nature.  Without delegating to my older kids, summer school is six hours of me running around from kid to kid, checking on them, answering questions, talking them down from the whining wall and trying to keep them all on track. That means that when the kids are ready for their free time, I have a lot to try to squeeze into my "free" time, like: chores, errands, projects, blogging, bill paying, taking kids to friends' houses or the park, making dinner, laundry, etc.  I have even less time for myself during summer than I do during the school year.  And it is no great shakes during the school year, by the way.  Thus the hair tearing...

    So far, school has been going pretty well, but I don't know if I can keep it up all summer because of the aforementioned lack of time for me to get things done.  Buuut, I really think it is an important thing for our family to do.  I've been mulling it over.  Here are some tweaks I need to implement--maybe these will be helpful to others who are struggling with how to make sure summer with your kids doesn't make you crazy:

    I am trying to get my older kids to help out with mentoring the younger ones more, so I can relinquish some of my evil overseer role and be able to get some of my chores done in the morning.  I have only recently realized (dense as I seem doomed to be in some areas) that supervising my kids is a full-time job.  I can either do work myself, or supervise/help my kids, but not both at the same time.  I soothe myself with the thought that it is good for the older ones to learn to patiently help and train the younger kids, right?   Also, the younger kids like to model their older siblings.  And bottom line, it keeps mom from going crazy--a crazy mom is not any body's idea of fun.

    I am also making my kids do more of the cleanup, rather than trying to do my normal chores (like daytime dishes and laundry) all myself.  The workload at least doubles in the Summer with all the kids home all day, constantly grazing through the kitchen and changing their outfits 50 times a day (only slightly hyperbolic, by the way :) ).  My normal modus operandi is to try to keep it all going while they meanwhile sit like lazy lumps on the couch or follow me around whining about boredom.  However, here is a startling realization:  The kids can take responsibility for their own messes.  Strange that this feels so revolutionary for me.  I think I've felt for many years that if there is any way I can possibly do it myself, I shouldn't ask other people (especially my children) for help with my household chores.  I've had a few light bulb moments lately where I've realized that my kids can and should do more in terms of the clean-up and maintenance of our home.  My husband is probably wondering (as the oldest of six kids himself) why it has taken me so long to figure that out, but better late than never, right?

    Anyway, that's why nothing else on my looong to-do list seems to be getting done, or at least not with any kind of speed.  I'm trying to remind  myself that although developing people and keeping up with essential household tasks may not be the kind of thing I can post on my blog (although ironically--isn't that what I'm doing right now??), in the long run, it's what will matter-- far more, in fact, than all the seemingly critical things on my to-do list.

    Sooooo-- how is your summer going?  Both smug reports of how well you are doing and shameless venting are welcome, by the way!

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Western Washington Mom Field Trip #2: Second Saturdayz Market

    Last Saturday my friend Brynn and I went to the 2nd Saturdayz Market in Seattle.  Annoying cute-sy misspelling of Saturdays aside, this was a great field trip.

    Brynn and I met in England.  Both of our husbands had jobs in London at the time, we both had kids 5 and under and we had so much else in common that we became fast friends.

    Fast forward 12 years, and she is still one of my dearest friends in the whole world.  We just love chatting and commiserating with each other, but we also share the same decorating aesthetic for the most part, so it's fun to go shopping with her.  We both love vintage and antique home furnishings.  And there is nothing we like better than a good antique fair or flea market.

    In England we used to enjoy going to the Sunbury antique market at Kempton Park Racetrack .  If you live in England or visit England, please go here and tell me all about it so I can derive vicarious satisfaction.  It is the BEST, and many of my favorite things in my home were acquired there.

    But since I came back stateside, Brynn and I haven't found anything that quite compares.

    2nd Saturdayz really didn't compare in terms of size and scope with Sunbury, but it had the same heady vibe of people browsing and passionate sellers with lovely things to sell.  Here are some of the things I saw:

    One of the sellers' Airstream greeted us as we walked through the parking lot to the main building.  I have a dream of having an Airstream all decked out with awesome vintage stuff someday.

    Cute vintage kid's garden chair at the front door.

    I loved both these tables.

    Well, helloooo lovely.  Haven't you forgot something?  This was the first booth  as we came in.  I bought a cool vintage flag for the little boys' room from them (which I of course forgot to photograph, but don't worry--more to come later).  Love all the pewter-y looking stuff and the old flower pots, too.

    A lovely still life.  I want to plunk one of those hats on my head, fill that picnic hamper with tasty things and  go have a stylish picnic somewhere.

    This picture is not great, but I loved how they turned this architectural salvage into a mirror.

    These vintage dishes look so modern.  Love the green and brown.

    I thought this lamp was so cute.

    I loved the color of this painted bench.

    This is the one that got away for Brynn.  Somehow I don't think the airline would have let her carry this on.

    Love the map and the sign.  What is "excess parking" by the way?  I have been mulling it over ever since.

    This gorgeous, curvy buffet caught my eye.

    I bought some Scrabble tiles.  Check out what they are displayed in.  Ewwww! :)

    Adorable skirt made with vintage-looking fabrics and vintage Ric-rac.  I love me some Ric-rac.

    I absolutely adore vintage cowboy fabric (check it out on that adorable bib).

    Brynn's finds.  I especially love the old canning jar of dominoes at the back  and her flour sack.  I actually loved everything she got.  It was all I could do to not creep in her room and take it all in the middle of the night.

    A few things I got.  Two beautiful linen pillowcases with lacework, a red embroidered napkin, those scrabble tiles and the cafe table.  I have a few more things (the flag, a great dresser), but I'm going to show those next week when I show what I've been up to in the little boys' room.
     All in all, a great day of shopping with one of my favorite people.  Now I need to dash--it's the last day of school for my kiddos, and they have to be picked up in just an hour.  What is the point of going to school for only two hours, I ask you?

    But before I go, some questions: Do any of you like to go to antique markets and/or flea markets?  I'd love to add some more fun places to my antiquing bucket list!

    I'm linking up to:

    Weekend Bloggy Reading

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Brendan's Sweet 16

    We had a good weekend.  Keeping it real, the whole house looks like a bomb went off, but it was worth it.

    Not only was one of my dearest friends in all the world here (and we went to an awesome flea market that I will post about later this week), but we had a birthday party for my oldest son, Brendan.  We had about 20 of his friends over for a barbecue, fun and a movie on Saturday night.  I tried to shove aside my insecurities that we are still not completely organized/unpacked/decorated and make it a fun night for him (with lots of help from the rest of my family and my friend Brynn).

    I can't believe he is 16 years old!  How is that possible when I'm still only 22 ;)?

    Here are some pictures from his party.  
    Big mouth Brendan.

    Hanging out and enjoying the food with his friends.

    Sophie acting like the big kids (don't worry--it's Root Beer)

    Johnny getting pensive.

    Some of his friends-who-are-girls' cute shoes.

    Alarming feats of strength using our deck as a climbing frame.

    Having fun on the tramp.

    The food table after the hungry hoards came through.  I forgot to take a "before" picture--doh!

    We served Brendan's favorite Root Beer.

    Also water--but really I just wanted to show off the cute cafe table that I picked up at the flea market :).

    Me and Lucy enjoying the evening.

    Brendan opening his gifts.  Damon can't help himself and is firmly a part of the action. Brendan is kind enough to put up with Damon wanting to hang around, which is one of the reasons I think he is such an overwhelmingly fine person.

    Blowing out the candles.
    We had an impromptu concert with a few of Brendan's friends and and Brendan playing the guitar and singing.  Here is David singing "Collide."
    Here's Brendan singing an original he wrote (in 7th grade no less) entitled "Rapunzel."    He loves to write and record music.   

    Brendan is an amazing person.  I am both thrilled and sad that he is growing up.  He is very fun, intelligent, creative, and most of all, kind.  I'm so glad he is a part of our family and that we could have a fun evening to honor him.