Sarcastic SAHM of three kids, currently living large in southern Californa. (I used to live in New Jersey, hence the blog name. Yes, I should probably figure out changing that.) I blog about my kids, my decorating attempts and my love of cookies and my new sofa. Not necessarily in that order.
I have never done this before. We have always lived within an hour of my extended family, and my family is enormous, and thus any birthday party we threw was at least 20 family members...and so I've never thrown the kids a party where more than one school friend was invited.
I am dreading this. Like, ACK OMG THE HORROR THE HUMANITY kind of dreading. Not only has Pinterest made throwing a birthday party seem like an impossible feat (who DOES all that themed crafty shit?? Clearly lots of people but I find it intimidatingly beyond my skill set), but Introvert Central here is having hives just imagining the scenarios. What if no one comes???? What if everyone comes??? Either my kid will be sad with hurt feelings and I will die a thousand deaths for him, or I will have to TALK TO PEOPLE. Its a lose-lose scenario for me.
At the last two elementary schools Greg attended, there was a big production made about how either you invited the entire class, or parents could call other parents personally to invite less than the entire class, but you couldn't hand out invitations at school unless you were inviting the entire class. Here, this policy does not seem to be in effect---Greg has been to a few birthday parties, and it seems like you invite whomever you please, at school if you want.
Ok, all you party-throwers, help me out. What do I do?? While I am not spending thousands of dollars like some demented OC Housewife, I do have a reasonable budget that would extend to having it at a Chuckie Cheese-type place. (I have no idea if there is a Chuckie Cheese here; I haven't seen one in my travels.) In fact, I would much prefer to NOT have it at my house, as our backyard is the size of a postage stamp and the house isn't much bigger and under no circumstances do I want strangers to have to eat my edible-but-not-delicious cooking.
How many kids do I invite? The whole class? Just the boys? A small, intimate, hand-picked group for cucumber sandwiches and croquet? I feel like Greg is at that weird age where you aren't sure if you are supposed to drop your kid off and come back when its done, or if you are supposed to stay and supervise.
If you know of Etsy stores that will relieve me of my money and provide Pinterest-y type party stuff so I don't have to burn my fingers on a glue gun, kindly let me know in the comments. I like to paint furniture but I am not talented at crafty stuff. Ask my mother about the time I got married and sprained my neck in order to trick her into making scrapbooks for my bridesmaids. Me + crafts = no bueno. Although if I have it at Chuckie Cheese maybe I don't need crafty Etsy stuff?
Party possibilities: -the bowling alley. My kid likes bowling, but is bowling cool enough for the second grade crowd? The bowling alley provides pizza and hot dogs, we bring a cake.
-there is a theme-park type place that has miniature golf, a rock wall, laser tag etc. They provide pizza. I need to go check it out and see if I am responsible for overseeing 25 children playing laser tag by myself or if there are staff members assigned to a party.
-the pool. This is not really an option. I can barely keep track of my own three children when we go to the pool. I think I would lose my ever-loving mind if I were to be responsible for other people's children at the pool. Also, I would have to cook or find catering.
-the park. Our town has a number of parks, and there are pavilions that one can rent for parties. I need to cook or cater, and depending on what park pavilion is available (they rent quickly), it might not be one with a playground, so I might have to have games.
Recap: how many do I invite, where do I have it, you share your Etsy party store knowledge.
Somewhere in southern NJ my mother just gasped, clutched her heart and sat down. Don't worry, Mom, as of Thursday afternoon its still in my possession.
Despite the vast amount of stuff we have in this house, I am not all that attached to things. I have lots of things, but not because of sentimental attachment. I tend to keep things because they might come in useful one day. I come from a family that takes "use it up, wear it out" seriously. My mother still has nearly all of our toys from 1974-1990 (as I write this my daughter is playing dress-up in a clown outfit from 1978), and a large selection of items from her own childhood. My father comes from a family of eleven children, and you can rest assured that nothing was ever wasted in that family.
I have moved ten times in ten years, and I am loath to throw things out--will this fit in the next house? I never know what I might need, what will fit, and what won't. Moving is expensive without adding buying new furniture to the mix. For a few years, our basements and garages looked like a furniture consignment store; full of stuff that doesn't fit but I didn't want to throw away.
I am getting tired of hauling all this STUFF around. I want to own less stuff. Since Jules started her William Morris Project last year, she has inspired me to bring this chaos into order. I have been purging and purging and organizing and purging again. I have gotten rid of baby clothes, furniture, trinkets, anything and everything that isn't nailed down. Yet still there is more.
One of those "more" things is my wedding dress. I know, many of you are reading this thinking "are you INSANE? Get rid of your WEDDING DRESS?"
I got married in a frothy meringue-y pouf of a wedding dress.
While I felt beautiful in that dress, I don't think I'm going to be wearing it again. During the reception my sister stepped on the back of my dress, putting a very large, 20 inch horizontal rip in the top two layers of the skirt. When I had the dress cleaned, I inquired about having the rip fixed, and it is not repairable. The top two layers of skirt wold have to be replaced, for nearly as much money as I paid for the dress in the first place. (So I paid a lot of money to dry clean and box a dress that can't be worn.)
For the past ten years I have lugged this dress from house to house, storing it in attics and basements. Heaven knows what it looks after having been stored in such inhospitable climes; the box is too thick to store under a bed or any other out-of-the-way spot you might think of as a cool, dry place. I can't open the box without breaking the seal to check if the dress is even still in good shape. Currently the box is taking up a lot of space in my closet.
If the Mister and I were to renew our vows, I would a) ahem not fit in that dress without a liquid diet, and b) would probably want something a little more form-fitting this time around, as that dress was a mile wide, weighed a million pounds, and I couldn't visit the bathroom by myself in it.
My wedding day is one of my most treasured memories, but the dress itself...isn't. If the house burned down it is not even in the top 100 things I would grab before running out the door. The reason I keep it is because its my wedding dress, and aren't you supposed to keep stuff like that?
The point of the William Morris project is to make sure that the items in your house have meaning to you. The dress doesn't really resonate with me, at least not the way that the red dress I wore on our third date does, or the locks of hair I kept from the childrens's first haircuts, or the pictures from our wedding day. I don't feel "oh, that means so much to me, I must keep it."
On the other hand...it is my wedding dress. What if Princess wants to wear it thirty years from now? That's unlikely, given her independent streak, but that is the traditional thinking--keep it for future generations. And.....that's all I have in the "keep" column. I'm keeping it because I feel guilty about getting rid of it, not because I want it.
So...to recap, give it away because I will never wear it again and it is too damaged to wear and too expensive to fix just for it to sit in a box and I don't really have an emotional attachment to it, or keep it, because its my wedding dress and that is a sacrosanct item that belongs to future generations? Your thoughts, please. (Auntie June, I'd love to hear Grandma's take on this.)
Our living room is 12 x 11, with a fireplace and a full wall of windows along one side.
The obvious place to put a tv in our living room is either over the fireplace, or along the only wall that isn't full of windows. I don't mind the tv over the fireplace look, but we decided to put the tv across from the sofa on the far wall. Here is that wall shortly after we moved in:
You can read about how the campaign dresser I planned on putting in that spot was stolen during the move. I decided to work with the furniture that we had, which were the small Expedit and two Billy bookshelves.
The underbelly of the Expedit is a tangled mess of cables and electronic stuff we need but I cannot identify. So I wouldn't have to look at this horror, I convinced my mother to make a skirt for the Expedit, using this tutorial. I considered a gorgeous cobalt blue velvet for this project, but settled for the $5 a yard polyester.
At first, the polyester skirt had a "conference table at a hotel" air about it. We trimmed the skirt with a greek key trim, which made it a bit fancier.
The skirt has a flap in front that lifts up so we can access the shelves underneath.
I wrapped the same navy blue fabric around the foam board pieces in the back of the bookshelves. I think it really makes the white and red pieces stand out.
************ I also found a round ottoman for the living room.
You might remember a few weeks ago I found a round leather tufted ottoman at the home consignment store, but it was more than I wanted to pay. I stalked it for a few weeks, and then one day it was no longer there, so I assumed it had been sold. Two weeks ago I was browsing the home consignment store when I came upon the same ottoman in a different corner of the store, upside down on top of a table. After some haggling with the store owner, the ottoman came home with me.
Sadly, the ottoman was in the house all of three minutes before the kids plucked buttons out of the tufting. Ergo the yellow tray covering up the damage.
Based on the deafening silence in the comment section regarding putting a picture over a window, apparently pictures of old white men over windows are not popular.
Luckily, my magical never-ending mistake stash of Gullan Blom fabric from the living room curtains yielded a scrap juuuuuuust long enough to put over the window. Now every window in the house is covered in this fabric. Or so it feels like, anyway.
It appears that the fabric doesn't quite hit the bottom of the sash in this picture, but it does. Although not by much.
As you can see, I've used the same fabric in the stairwell. (And the living room; we are a veritable sea of Swedish fabric here.)
The scrap of fabric is actually turned sideways. I iron-hemmed both sides, then ironed on some ribbon trim about inch in all around with more hemming tape. I followed my time-tested measure once, cut twice method, which, as usual, yielded the results you would expect. Its not that noticeable. I think.
In order to hang it, I took a $3 strip of wood I found in the woodworking section at JoAnn Fabrics, cut it to a length a wee bit smaller than the fabric, then hot glued the top end of the fabric to two sides.
Then the Mister screwed the piece of wood directly to the wall, making sure that the two uncovered sides of wood were under the curtain and that the curtain draped over the side with the screws, like this:
This is the basic method that Pottery Barn uses for their Roman Shades, which is where I got the idea.
I still have about four yards left of this fabric. Somebody throw a party so I can have a hoop skirt and a "tighter, Mamie, tighter!" moment in my future.
Three houses ago, before the blog, we bought a gallery wall of art from West Elm. When we moved to our apartment in Fort Lee, it hung in our dining room.
When we moved to Westfield, that house was full of windows and doorways and there was not very much wallspace for hanging large art installations. It stayed in a box in the basement.
Now that we moved here to California, I have the perfect place for it.
Originally, my plan in the playroom was to mount the tv centered on the wall, and put two large corkboards on either side to hang the kids' artwork. Sadly, there were no studs in the middle of the wall to mount the tv on (we have the 18 holes to prove it), and the tv was mounted off to the side.
Since the tv was off-center, I thought a gallery wall would be a good place to put the West Elm pictures. It only took four months and a massive purge of the garage to find that box.
Almost none of the original art inserts from West Elm remains, although obviously we are still using all the frames. I had a few more black Ikea Ribba frames that I tossed in the mix, plus a few more frames that I spray-painted black.
We put some art from the kids in about half the frames. I moved my grandmother's paintings from the foyer to the art wall.
One print I was really excited about is the Michelle Armas Antonia print, which is now available at Land of Nod. (Its the red abstract print below, next to my grandma's peaches.)
Although I love these frames and their clean lines, every single house I have ever hung them in--THEY ARE CROOKED. Always. I put that blue tacky stuff behind them to keep them straight and they are still crooked. Forgive me and my crooked paintings.
The wall is still a work in progress. The large frame to the far left is a scrap of my curtain fabric until I come across a piece of art the right size. I've ordered another 8x11 poster for another frame that I'll share when it gets here.
I have a few more frames to hang, and the wall has some room to grow.
This post is ridiculously long, but this bookshelf is one of my favorite
projects in the house. Although it is
probably the least “designed” project in the house, it is a project that
brings my values in line with how we live.
I grew up in a house full of books.We
would frequently go to used bookstores as a family and spend entire afternoons
there.Asking for toys was usually met
with “No”, but asking for a book was usually met with “yes.” I tend to follow
the same trend as a parent.I have zero
problem saying “nope!” to whiny requests for the four thousandth Ninjago toy,
but I am helpless against a “please buy me this book Mommy please please
please?”(Even if said book is Ninjago:
Legend of the Golden Warrior.)
I have always wanted a Library Room, with wall to wall
bookshelves. No knickknacks, just
books and a comfy sofa. My parents have had wall to wall
bookshelves in every house we have lived in for as long as I can remember. Currently, my father’s office is lined with
six bookshelves, and every single one is full.
For twenty years I have carted around banker boxes of books from
apartment to apartment and house to house.
Although my book collection has grown, my bookshelf collection has
not. We have lived in a succession of
not-very-large houses, and somehow there never seemed to be the right spot for
rows of bookshelves.
In our condo I lined the loft with low sideboards and
crammed all the books in two and three deep, and I did the same in the attic of
our sidehall colonial in South Jersey. I
didn’t have enough room for all our books, so many remained in banker boxes in
the basement, and then we lost about eight boxes of books in a flood in our
basement. In our apartment in Fort Lee
I bought a large bookshelf and stacked all the books three deep, but then
figured out that I could put bookshelves in the bumpout in the living room.
Two months after I bought those bookshelves we moved to
Westfield, and again, the books outnumbered the bookshelf real estate
available. I also wanted a place to display knickknacks in our tiny living room, so the books went up to the attic.
Now we are here in California, and yet again, not enough
room for bookshelves, beyond the bottom of the two we had in our last house,
with the remainder stuffed in a cabinet in the garage.
Recently, however, I began to think about how our house reflects
our values. I've been inspired by Pancakes and French Fries's William Morris Project, where Jules posts every week about a project designed to make her house a more intentional and meaningful. In a similar vein, I am trying to make our house a simpler,
more meaningful place for us. And one of
the things that is important to us is books.
I have made books a priority for my kids. Their rooms all have multiple
bookshelves. The playroom also sports a
large selection of books. And yet, when
it comes to books for me and Mister, I have them crammed in boxes and stored in
the garage, where they are difficult to access.
This is hardly paying proper respect to household items that are
important to me. It is not paying
respect to myself—why am I not worthy of having my important items in my living
I decided yes, I AM worthy.
I will pay respect to my important items. Now I just have to figure out how to work my
books into the space. And then: a brilliant idea.I will cover up the pass through from the living room to the dining room with bookshelves.
I hate the pass-through; it is wasted wall space. If I owned this house, I would hire an
architect to deal with the load-bearing wall issues, close up the pass-through,
move the doorway about two feet to the right, and put in built-in shelving on
the left wall where the mirror is. But I
don’t own this house and don’t even plan to stay that long, so….cheap fixes it
We bought two Ikea Billy bookshelves and put them in front of the
pass through. I lined the back of the
bookshelves with foam board covered in navy fabric.
Behind the bookshelf I hung a curtain so that from the
dining room we are not staring at the back of crappy Ikea furniture.
All the books that were out in the garage have taken their rightful place in the living room. So have our photo albums, and our cookbooks.
I recognize that this bookshelf is hardly "styled". I debated arranging the books by color (like these), because I think it is so visually appealing. However, the whole point of this exercise is to access and enjoy my books, and thus my inner librarian insists that the books be grouped by author and subject. I can't have Sookie Stackhouse was mixed in with Harry Potter or the cookbooks. Its not what a designer would do, but its what works best for me.
The other "this was obviously not done by a designer" problem is the furniture layout. As you can see in the pictures, the bookshelf is partially behind the sofa, and not in a "I will walk behind my sofa and peruse the titles" sort of way. No, the sofa is pushed right up against the bookshelf, and the lower two shelves on the right are blocked.
At the time of writing this (Tuesday afternoon), I rearranged the furniture a few different ways. I'll save that post for another day.
In the end, although this bookshelf does not look like something out of Secrets From a Stylist, it is my favorite piece of furniture in the house. It puts the things I love front and center in our main living room. It really makes me happy.
I will be going to the hair salon to have my gray hair covered up. I will go to the auto shop to pick up my car, which got a flat tire on Thursday when I drove over a railroad spike on the way to the chiropractor. I was very lucky, my chiropractor fixed my back and then changed my tire for me. I will make myself a birthday cake (but not dinner, the Mister will bring home take-out, because I do not cook on Fridays and especially not on Fridays that are my birthday). And....thus concludes my exciting plans for my birthday.
My youth called, it wants its stuff back.
I wrote a much longer blog post, but am too chicken to post it. It was in large part an online therapy session prompted by becoming old and having accomplished nothing my younger self thought I would. (Only old people worry about getting older, right?) I am having a healthy doubt session of Where Do I Belong? mixed in with a large helping of Are You The Person You Thought You'd Be?
If anyone who reads this is over forty, tell me I'm just a baby and hoo boy, wait till you see the mental morass you'll have at fifty.
We have a gas fireplace in our living room. The fireplace is made of a weird fake concrete and is rather unattractive. I would love to refinish it. Unfortunately, since we rent, there is little I can do to the fireplace--I can't paint it, resurface it, or anything else....so the fake concrete stays. (I tell you this in case you are wondering why I haven't beautified the ugly fireplace in this relentless quest of decorating.)
We also have twenty foot ceilings. This means that I have a ginormous space over the fireplace to fill. Yesterday I discussed all the different art we considered for the space. However, we really like abstract art, and we wanted to try doing it ourselves.
On Mother's Day weekend, I bought a 48 x 60 canvas. I bought the kind of canvas with the thicker edges, not the cheaper thin type. I think the thicker edge really makes a difference in giving your art more of an "arty" presence. (The thinner ones are significantly cheaper, though.) Having learned from my chiang mai dragon mistake, I gessoed the canvas with two coats, and then painted three coats of navy blue left over from the blue lionhead dresser. After that dried, I laid the canvas out in the backyard on a tarp.
I bought six empty ketchup-type squeeze bottles from the supermarket, and a lot of jewel-toned acrylic paints. I bought red, yellow, white, blue and green; each tube was about $3. I put a dollop of paint in each squeeze bottles, and filled the squeeze bottles with water and shook them up. We started with trying to squeeze straight paint, but it came out all gloppy and thick. When we added water to the squeeze bottles it had a better consistency and better splatter.
I gave each kid a bottle, told them to walk in a circle around the canvas, and squeeze.
We kept giving each kid a different color, and saying "march in a circle! Keep moving! Keep moving!" in order to distribute the color evenly. After about twenty minutes, the canvas was full of color. We let it dry overnight. FYI, if you stand it up before its dried, some of the paint will run. I liked the runs of color, but if you want splatter only then let it dry laying down.
If you do this with your kids, use a big tarp, wear painting shoes, and dress your kids in something you won't mind being ruined with paint (we used undershirts and pajamas). Your feet and the ground around the canvas will look like a paint factory. (Or a ketchup and mustard factory, if you use yellow and red.)
I am rather pleased with how this project turned out. I get a piece of REALLY BIG ART with colors expressly matched to my living room, it was made by my kids, on Mother's Day no less, and it was fairly inexpensive. Woot woot.
You can see in the above picture where someone got a little overexcited with the green paint, and it got a little gloppy. The beauty of this kind of painting is you can just pick up another bottle of paint, spray some more on top of it, and it looks like you did it on purpose.
All in, this project was under $100. I splurged on the thick canvas, which was $90, but I just happened to walk into Michaels on a day when the canvases were on sale for 50% off, so it was only $45. The paint was also on sale for $3 a tube ($18), and the gesso was $10. The squeeze bottles were $12, and the blue background paint I already owned. So...arg, math....$85?
This was my first attempt at a splatter painting. (You can see the second one we did here.) It was a really fun time with the kids, an inexpensive way to get a large piece of art, and I am thrilled with how it looks.
Come back next week to check out the new bookshelves!
I pondered that space for quite a while. While my art collection is extensive (cough check in the garage cough), we don't have anything of the size needed for that space.
I thought of doing some type of gallery wall, like our old West Elm art wall, or a large grid of frames with some homemade art, but it wasn't really speaking to me. I wanted ART. REALLY BIG ART.
Unfortunately, REALLY BIG ART costs an arm and a leg, and I have a wee small budget. I thought about this piece:
but at $499 it was much more than I wanted to spend. (Actually, it was $499 plus tax plus $130 shipping plus $60 oversize package fee...uh, no.)
The Mister and I LOVE vintage travel and advertising posters. However, we couldn't agree on one that we both wanted. I lobbied hard for this one (look at the colors! Its perfect for the living room!):
but the Mister said we had enough naked people art. (I would point out that French Viking Man is wearing some kind of loin-covering item and furry cape thing and is thus not naked.) That one was vetoed by the management.
but again, after framing the print was not only $500+, but was also bigger than Art.com would ship.
Then, I discovered Walls 360--you can find vintage travel and advertising posters AS STICKERS. Giant wall stickers! For cheap! The Cognac Jacquet sticker in a 48 x 72 size was $134, which is a great price for really big art. I nearly pulled the trigger on this one.
Despite loving all these options, I didn't pick any of them. Check back tomorrow to see what I did.