Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New addition

Nope - we're not adding onto the house. We're not moving. We're not adopting another Berner (although, if they didn't shed so much...we sure would love to have another). We're having a baby! Due at the end of March, we are waiting for the surprise to find out if Little T. is a girl or boy. Both of us love surprises and we figure that this will be one of the best surprises of our lives. We can't wait to meet Little T., but until then...it's definitely time to get down to business.

Our bedroom is on the first floor of our house while the spare rooms are on the second, so our first decision was to figure out where we'd put the baby after we move her/him out of our bedroom. We knew we wouldn't really want to be doing stairs in the middle of the night - so we thought briefly about our closet. That sounds a little ridiculous, but before we added shelves and clothes racks, it was a small, cozy empty room. But then we finished the closet this summer and knew there wouldn't be space for a crib. In discussing this with family, my father-in-law said, "What about Susanna's first floor study?" And that's when it clicked. My study is a nice size, cozy room with two windows, a coffered ceiling and opens to our open-concept first floor with two french doors. When we moved in we brought my grandmothers large desk into the study, filled it with all of my books, computer stuff, stationary, etc, and I figured we might be able to clear out my stuff and repurpose the shelves and two cabinets for baby stuff.

Close up of the fabric - beautiful 'drape' I think.
I knew the french doors and windows would need curtains and I hoped that adding fabric to the glass surfaces would help muffle some of the sound that could go through the doors from our TV or kitchen while the baby was trying to sleep. So the second decision was fabric for the room. This room is ultimately going to remain my study after a few years and I knew I didn't want to make curtains that could only be used for a nursery. And because the french doors have window panels, the fabric would need to work with the rest of our first floor - the colors of which are mostly blue, white, and flax. I scoured fabric sites and finally found on fabric.com a navy and white linen/cotton blend print that I loved and seemed gender-neutral enough for a baby's room - Dena Designs Sunshine Ornament. I ordered 15 yards - more than enough for curtains, door panels, and a crib skirt. Added bonuses to this fabric: it has a beautiful drape being 50% linen and 50% cotton and is easy to measure, cut, and match, given the pattern.

The view from our main living area when the doors are closed.
First up - door panels: I decided to line these in a white cotton linen, instead of doing both sides in the print. I didn't want the room to feel overwhelmed by the pattern while inside (more for me when the room goes back to being a study). I made one stupid, rookie mistake with these: I cut the fabric before washing it. I never expected the fabric to shrink 2 inches! So, although others won't be able to notice, I would have really liked these to be about 2 inches longer to give a little more light block from our living area when the doors are closed.

Second - curtains. I've always made curtains that fit inside the frame of the window, but for our house I wanted a more current style. I also thought that we would need easy-to-use shades to actually block light, just in case our baby is a fussy sleeper. So I decided to make curtain panels that would go almost from the ceiling to the floor, over roman shades that would sit within the window frame. I lined the curtains with a light, yet insulating fabric to give more light-blocking potential and to keep the cool air from the surface of the windows contained. I washed everything before cutting and sewing this time. From the stories I've heard, everything in a baby's room needs to be washable!
Curtain liner to add insulation and light-blocking.
Window treatment - finished and hung thanks to my amazing husband who installed the hardware and the roman shades.
Third: crib skirt. I had seen many variations on the DIY crib skirt and found a post on the tealandlime blog that seemed to have the best instructions. I wanted to attempt a box pleat and that post has very clear instructions. So I measured the washed fabric to fit the sides of the crib, added 16 inches per side to allow space for the box pleats and set to sewing. I decided the panels didn't need to be lined. I think if I had had more energy at the time, I would have lined them...but in the end I can't tell that they aren't lined so I'm okay with my decision to be lazy.

Apologies for the mattress showing - I haven't gotten to sheets yet and don't want to buy anything until after our Baby Shower (coming up soon - I'm soo excited!).

Cribs are usually made to have adjustable heights. The highest setting is used first, when the baby can't stand up and try to crawl out. So I knew the skirt would have to be adjustable. I'd seen some great solutions on a few blogs, but ultimately decided to go with ties at the top to make my skirt adjustable. It seemed like a clean, simple solution. So I cut about 14 12-inch lengths of satin ribbon and sewed the ties to the top of the skirt. This way, I can tie the skirt higher as we adjust the crib down for growing Little T.

Here's the tie solution for when we need to raise the skirt and lower the crib height.
And here's how it all looks together. I still need to organize the desk for storage, purchase a rug, find some artwork, and pull it all together...but I'm so happy to have these 3 sewing projects completed. 10 weeks to go! (Also, I think the contractor khaki paint is going to have to stay - it looks more brown here than it does in person...and I just don't want to mess with paint while I'm pregnant. I'm still feeling burnt out of painting our last 2 houses!)

Sewing projects for Little T.'s room completed. Check!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Putting down roots

When we married over five years ago, I asked for a garden shower instead of a bridal shower. My mom's friends, family members and my friends gave us the most thoughtful gifts for starting our garden(s): Smith & Hawken tools, clippers, beautiful pots, a hose holder, copper herb markers, a neat little garden sign hand painted on a shutter, Tiki torches (a garden isn't complete without parties!) and more. We've used everything we received in the two gardens that we've started and then moved away from in the last five years. Now, here we are in our third garden. Our home in Western Mass feels the closest to longterm that we've ever had - I feel so fortunate to be able to think about our future here. And in that future: I have a garden. Actually, multiple gardens.

I spent last year weeding, mulching, and just getting the existing flower beds out of their state of neglect. I also spent the year watching the sunlight hit our yard to figure out the best place for growing vegetables. In that year, I guess I vocalized my dreams for a vegetable garden because my family (Coach's parents and sister) gave me the most incredible gifts: at Christmas, my parents-in-law gave me seeds, gardening gloves, gardening tools and...the most amazing bean trellis. It's right out of Martha Stewart magazine - seriously. My father-in-law saw one just like it in a Martha Stewart magazine, figured out how to recreate it, and then built it for me! My sister-in-law bought a collection of vintage silver spoons and created the most artful plant markers I've ever seen - she soldered the plant names using a neat modern type design onto the back of the spoons. And then, for my birthday, my parents-in-law brought me a frame and hoops for a raised vegetable bed!

Basically...all I needed was soil, the amount of which I somehow managed to screw up by seriously overestimating. So...we got a rather intense load of soil delivered on Wednesday and yesterday I moved about a a third of it from the front yard to my new raised bed frames in the back yard.

After two plus hours of shoveling and carting dirt, I bought four bags of composted cow manure and worked those into the top five inches of soil. I assembled my bean trellis and then planted squash, pumpkins, two rows of lettuce, two varieties of beans, cilantro, basil, broccoli, and some tomatoes that I started inside last month. To end the day, I watered everything and staked up chicken wire to prevent our local harem of bunnies from destroying my hard work.

I can barely move today, but I feel pretty excited about what I was able to accomplish:

Now, let's hope something grows.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feeling Crafty

Since we moved in almost one year ago (WHAT?), I have done very little to actually decorate. My thought was that I would wait until our house in Maine sold to get busy on this house. Maybe I just needed a break after putting so much effort into Maine, then moving twice in one year? Whatever it was, I'm feeling like it's definitely time to get down to business here in the woods of Western Massachusetts. It's lacrosse season, and for a coach's wife, that means lots of time to futz around on my own.

So futzing, I have begun. Last weekend I dusted off my trusty sewing machine and created a curtain and two valences for my office at work. (In the middle of these projects, Coach made a really great point: "So, you do remember that we don't have any curtains in our house, right?")
Our school has a vintage feel - and because my office is right on the main hallway, I wanted to pick a fabric that worked for me...and for the existing decor. I think I succeeded (and even managed 100% cotton for $7.99/yard at my local Joann's!)

I made my door curtain double sided so that when the door is closed, it still looks nice and put together.

I lined the valences so they last for a LONG time. I feel like I made them too short, but my office doesn't get much sunlight and I definitely didn't want to lose the little bit that I get.

So what should I tackle next? Our house is still painted with "contractor's choice neutrals," which are great and non-offensive...but our bedroom is a light moss green color that I don't mind...but isn't my first choice. So paint and curtains for the master bedroom is next. Okay - I've said it out loud, in writing. First step to getting it done, right?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vintage Table Linens...or...send me to Betty Ford - I admit, I'm addicted.

My Mom came to visit me this past week and oh my goodness, did we get ourselves into Trouble. And yes, it deserves a capital T. For starters, I found a new addiction: handmade, gloriously whimsical, and completely unnecessary vintage table linens. But, I'm ahead of myself.

My Mom (my best friend) has thrown off the anchors, and is starting out on a new endeavor - which you'll hear about directly from her in her new blog, soon to be created. This new endeavor has brought her into the world of vintage textiles and fabrics...so when she found out that one of the best East Coast vintage textile shows was to occur in Sturbridge, MA, we schemed a week together.

The vintage textile show was this past Monday, the day before the start of the infamous summer Brimfield "Antique" Shows (more soon on that!). Sturbridge is about an hour east of the Pioneer Valley, so we planned an early departure so that we could arrive at the start of the show. After a drive through the small towns that make up most of Western and Central Massachusetts, we arrived at the Host Hotel in Sturbridge where on the front door was a prominent "No photographing or sketching permitted" sign. Apparently, devious types had been visiting, sketching and photographing, and then creating reproductions to be sold to unsuspecting consumers at top dollar. Too bad for the bloggers of the world.

We paid our $10 dollars and passed through the door, sans cameras. In the first booth we wandered into, we found the most amazing placemat and napkin sets, likely from the 1940s and 50s. I found a set that I immediately fell in love with, but thought - "No, we shouldn't buy the first things we see." So we proceeded to meander through the booths. Vintage clothing racks lined each booth, Bakelite jewelry abounded, vintage buttons, lace, fabric and hats took over any available space. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming. The vintage clothing was difficult to see because so many pieces were crammed on each rack. The '50s cocktail dresses looked a little sad with their crinoline squished up against cotton day dresses from the '30s- '40s. (Hint to vendors - organize your merchandise by era.)

Despite the sheer volume of stuff (some great, some okay, and some JUNK), it was so much fun to look and admire. We spent hours going through the booths, but at lunch we both decided that we should focus on the things we really wanted. I kept coming back to the fact that I had NEVER forgotten some pink elephant cocktail napkins that had been used during the wedding shower weekend for a dear friend of mine. I thought, "Well...hell. Here I am at a vintage textile show. Maybe I can find some neat cocktail napkins." I also kept coming back to the amazing placemat and napkin set that we had seen at 8:00 AM in the first booth. Over sandwiches, we decided on a plan: 1) Go to that first booth and see what hasn't sold. 2) Go back to the one place we saw an assortment of cocktail napkins.

Upon return, we found that the two sets we had fallen in love with were still there. Hooray! And so, we made some purchases. Perhaps my Mom will blog about her purchase, so I'll give you a peak at the one she so generously made for me (thanks, Mom!):

Love the sailboats! Can you see the cloud detail in the upper left corner? The edges are amazing too. 

Here's some detail of the sailboats - complete with little people to man the sails! Apparently the pink color of the sails is desirable in vintage linens.

Here you can see the fish detail and the gorgeous edge stitching.

Can't you just see these used for a summer lunch? Why aren't things made like this anymore!? The extra special part of this story is that the seller of these linens bought them at an estate sale in Pennsylvania and she discovered that the previous owner lived in the same area I grew up in! She was a baroness. With exquisite taste.

After we made these fun purchases, we made a beeline for the vintage cocktail napkin ladies and spent about 30 minutes devouring their collection (and book on the subject!) My Mom and I couldn't resist buying 3 sets - one of which we will share by sending back and forth whenever either of us needs to host a baby shower (each cocktail napkin was appliqued with a pink elephant balancing a pink/blue/white ball!). The other 2 sets have started my collection. And yes, I have a marine problem:

The shape of each napkin is perfect for folding and handing to a guest with their custom cocktail - mojito anyone?

The detail of these fish is so impressive - check out that tiny delicate stitching.

And because I love navy. And I wanted to keep with my marine problem: fish. Each was handmade in Portugal.

The result of this vintage shopping spree? Parties at my house are going to go swimmingly. Hah.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Did I find my aesthetic?

I've tried for years to nail down my interior aesthetic. I know what I like for exteriors and need no help there - in fact, I wish I didn't have such a defined taste in that realm. But interiors!? I can't figure it out. I love prints, I love vintage/antique, I love industrial, I love natural fibers, I love color, I love traditional, I respect modern. Ugh - if I pursued all that...we'd have one garish looking house.

I've tried to take style quizzes on various websites. I've tried to nail down the colors that I'm most drawn to. But everything I try leaves me in the same place: a persistent state of indecision without ability to move forward with anything interior. I also have a difficult time buying furniture or decorative items, because I have a fear that anything I buy will look out of style in 2 years max. And so: our house is spartan. And the furniture that we do have...is looking a little ragged.

But, in the June 2011 issue of House Beautiful, I turned to page 84 and almost felt something clicking into place. The next 8 pages revealed a home that I would love to visit...or LIVE IN. The gorgeous spread is called "Simplify It" and the genius design is by husband/wife team Jesse Carrier & Mara Miller. After reading a bit...I realized that they actually designed Anna Wintour's house. Wow. And the fact that she actually promotes their work...and had them design the lobby of the Vogue office? Amazing.

So anyway, the house - called Dove Meadow - is a 19th-century farmhouse in upstate New York. The furniture is all vintage or antique (probably muy expensivo) and they manage to use color, prints and natural fibers in this cohesive, unpretentious, clean, earthy way. I love this house. Also...they are innovative: The curtains in the office are my favorite - "handkerchief-style curtains" affixed with two simple hooks (LOVE):

And I'm absolutely using the same idea for kitchen bar stools, but we'll do navy blue instead of red:

Anyway - check out the whole spread on the Carrier and Company website...or take a look at House Beautiful. I think my plan is to rip out the pages of House Beautiful and carry them around in my journal so that when I'm out at flea markets and 'antique' shops - I can be reminded of how all the things I love CAN actually work together. This house is exactly what I want to achieve in our house...now I just have to do it.

Taking it outside

This spring was the first spring in our new house. We moved in on March 1st with plenty of snow blanketing everything. Almost through April we were snowshoeing in the back woods, enjoying the white quiet of our woodsy, rural life with Porter bounding through 3 ft of snow. Since we found the house in January, we weren't quite sure what we'd discover under the snow. As much as I love snowshoeing, I was excited to see what would appear.  And I haven't been disappointed. Spring brought us a goshen stone patio in the backyard, beautiful stonework walls, a belgium block lined driveway and some pretty little flower beds.

Since the house had been vacant for 2 years, the flowerbeds (or shall I say weed-beds) needed some TLC. We weren't quite sure what we had, but knew for certain that we had some ornamental grasses and boxwood bushes (one of which got nailed pretty badly by the plow guy). I also knew that I had a lot of mulching and weeding to do. As a kid, I used to help my parents in the yard just about every weekend during growing season. I weeded, mulched, watered and whatever else they needed. During those years as I crawled through their gorgeous gardens, I think I absorbed a lot of information about gardening, or at least I hope I did. One lesson that I definitely learned: mulch works. It helps keep weeds at bay, it helps lock in moisture so your flowers don't get too thirsty between showers, and it just makes everything look nice.

So in early May I set out to tame the wildness of our neglected flower beds with weeding and mulching. I snapped a few pictures for your viewing pleasure: 

Here's a little post-weeding comparison: without mulch vs. with mulch. Check out that sorry excuse for a plant -he's not digging the sun that he gets in that spot and needs to be replaced with something more sun-tolerant. I'm thinking hydrangea.

Here's the front flower bed in May. The grasses back there don't get enough sun and will need to be moved. The middle boxwood is the one that had the run-in with a plow. It seems to be bouncing back a bit.

Love these low walls that we have. Our hostas are big and beautiful now - the landscaper or whoever put them in got placement right for those. They love the shadey, protected spot between our front porch and the enclosed breezeway.

Again...love those walls. Ornamental grasses are looking better now as compared to this photo as well.

I've ALWAYS wanted to have hanging fuschia baskets...and now I do! Our front porch is perfectly shadey. We got these beauties at Stuart's Nursery in Turners Falls, MA, but inspiration was delivered by Riverside in Waterville, ME.

And here's the view of our backyard mountain in May! The mountain's trees have leafed out...and it looks lush and lovely.
Here's the bed in the back, next to the sunroom. It's going to be a great perennial bed once I get my act together and plant a few more things. I've already added some lupine, daisies, and bee balm. My zinnia seedlings are starting to sprout too (I should have put those in earlier!)

And while I've been working on the flower beds, Jon's been tackling our lawn (or more accurately, our expanse of weeds).  It's going to take years to get our lawn to be at least 50% grass. And that's Jon's department - I just supply the cold beer when he comes in from outside frustrated that his grass seed isn't growing...or after a downpour has washed all of his seed away.

Despite the lawn problems, our back patio is just lovely. The mosquitoes this year were a bit of a pain, but now...our afternoons out there are amazing. Margarita or beer + patio + great view + great company = heaven. Check it out (and please don't judge our patio furniture - there's a plan in the works): 

Happy Saturday! I hope you're outside in your yard...enjoying a lazy afternoon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I love my dog.

Why write a post to my dog? Because sometimes when I'm driving and he looks at me in the rearview mirror, I am overcome with love. Because his audible yawns in the morning provide the most gentle alarm clock a girl could have. Because he gets 'helicopter' tail when he's at his happiest. Because he is a rumpled mess of fur and dreadlocks, but he thinks he looks great. Because he hates the rain and stepping in puddles, but LOVES to get toweled off. Because he is lying on the floor next to me even though we have multiple rooms where he could be. Because he gets so excited when my husband comes home that he wags his tail uncontrollably knocking things off every surface. Because he loves me so much that I find my discarded socks, bras, t-shirts and pajamas in his bed. Because he still has the capacity to surprise me, even though he is so predictable. Because he gives kisses on command. Because he sits at the vet office and doesn't freak out when an errant bulldog tries to bite him. Because his paws smell like popcorn. Because he thinks squeaking toys are the most amazing thing a person could give him. Because he somehow knows to be gentle with babies and old people. Because he loves my dad and my brother, even though men make him a little nervous. Because his bark is big enough, his stature imposing enough to be our alarm system/theft prevention device. Because he tries to sit on my lap, even though he is 103 pounds. Because he never allows me to feel lonely.

Porter has been the single best addition to our lives since our wedding on 10/14/06. Even on a day like today (rain on top of snow forming slushy puddles the size of swimming pools) he makes me get outside to walk and breathe fresh air. His uncompromising desire to smell every little rock makes me pause to observe the world around me. Despite the plethora of furballs, the chewed shoes from puppyhood, the responsibility of owning him, I am so grateful for his life, his quirks, his funny personality.

Porter, we love you so much. I just wanted to let you know. I hope we tell you enough.
The day we adopted our little "Bumpers"

I spent every morning of his first 4 weeks at our house holding a bully stick for him to chew.

His first bed.
Snuggles with Mom.
Porter helps Jon with tile removal during our first home renovation.
17 weeks old.

Fall in the Pioneer Valley, our new home.
Porter loves the snow.

Our 2010 Christmas Photo

Showing off his Capt'n Hook whiskers. Porter love to snuggle. And so does Jon.

Looking rather regal with the Holyoke Range behind him.