Monday, August 31, 2020

Growing Season
August 30, 2020

^ Here we are at the end of August, when all around the country and indeed the northern hemisphere, our backyard gardens have reached the crescendo of the growing season and our homegrown crops abound.

My personal plot has indeed expanded since the beginning of summer. For point of reference, here's a quick look back to how my eating garden looked at the beginning of July

^ Oh, wait. That's my baby pickle but the actual garden is just a bit further to the left...
July 2, 2020

^ There we go. I started out in early July, as you see here, with two raised garden boxes, one full of baby tomato plants, and the other, fledgling strawberries. 

I know what you're thinking. Isn't July a little bit late to be setting out a summer garden?

Well, my friends, welcome to the Pacific Northwest, in which our June weather does a fine impersonation of November, and any tender plants set out during that month just hit snooze and sleep until the sun finally shows up around the first of July. As a rookie PNWer and native Midwesterner, I used to make the mistake of laying out my new plants in May, only to have them languish during the endless weeks of cool, cloudy weather and often drown in gentle rain before they ever had a chance to grow. 

So now I wait till July.

You'll notice that my garden boxes themselves actually went forth and multiplied. You may recall that my husband made these for me from our old fences, which came down with the rain in June, and he cut enough lumber for four planing beds, so four is what I have. 

The new crops, set out in the shorter pair of planters, are set for a fall harvest, with spinach,  experimental Brussels sprouts, and a handful of easy herbs. They're still just getting settled in.

But my summer crops are bursting forth.

^ The strawberries began producing by early August, and often we enjoy a handful or two during dinner. Alright, truth be told, I eat a good percentage of the ripe berries straight off the plants while I'm watering them. What can I say, it's an old family tradition. Eating fresh fruit is exciting and sometimes it's hard to wait.

But waiting is essential for the elusive Pacific Northwest tomato and I'm delighted to report that today I found my first ripe specimen. Finally, we can break out the bacon and homemade mayo for our annual festival of BLTs, though I'm not sure how far we're going to get with just this one tomato.

Still, I am an optimist, and I figure with just another day or two of sunshine, our crop will increase manyfold. Yay for another happy growing season!

* * * * *

More stories about my food gardens, farm-to-table dining, and those lovely home-grown tomatoes:

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Not Every Day Can Be A Pretty Day

There are a lot of ways I could have spent this sunny summer Saturday.

I could have gathered the fresh bloom of roses into vases and tucked them here and there around the house.

I might have painted some new pieces of art for the gallery walls I'm planning. 

Shoot, I could have gone totally crazy and lounged in the sun with a good book, cooling myself off every now and then in my pocket-sized pool.

But no. 
Today I was feeling fierce.

So I walked out to the grubbiest corner of my ever-challenging garage, and dug in.
My husband does not like to declutter. He likes to keep things, because he never knows when he might need them. And he specifically does not like other people to declutter for him, because honestly, he knows my daughters and I are likely to get rid of what isn't nailed down. So convincing him to straighten out his workbench is going to be the grand finale of our entire garage reclamation project. This corner next to his workbench, however, is fair game for me, and I mounted a full attack. 

This is the spot where we 

hang our hard-working garden tools,
park the fertilizer spreader and the odd assortment of fertilizer, seed, and soil bags,
house my husband's collection of used oversize bags which he uses for, ahem, Gracie's yard waste,
and hide a handful of other such lovelies.

I mean, at first, I thought it would be a quick project.

Drag everything out to the driveway, 
wipe down the white painted walls, 
scrub out the concrete floor, 
and declutter as I put it all back.

Yeah, right. Sometimes I'm so delightfully naive, I even make myself laugh.
I realize there is something profoundly unsustainable about painting garage walls white. Especially the walls where the garden tools hang. But I adore the look of the crisp white wood against the raw lumber of the roof, and therefore I paint anyway. 

Because once I transferred the abhorrent heap to the driveway and gave the walls a no-nonsense scrub down with some Simple Green , I realized that the paint was beyond salvation. Suddenly, a quick painting project seemed the most logical thing in the world. 

So. Out came the drop cloths and the paintbrushes and the mini paint roller and the step ladder.

My husband, who had been installing trellises on the back fence, walked into this malestrom without warning. "Hey, would you mind pulling out these nails for me?" I hollered as he stopped in his tracks and gaped at my progress. 

"Uhh, I didn't know you were planning to paint," he tried to recover. 

"Yeah, well, neither did I," I said gaily. "But now I'm committed."

The first coat flew on in about an hour, and after a break to walk my ever-patient dog, I tackled the first round of sorting out the keepers from the let-go-ers, and organized the two piles back into the garage for the night.

Tomorrow, I'll give that corner a second coat of paint, convince my husband that it's okay to get rid of all the things in my go pile, and then carefully put everything back into place. 

And then, I'll have to think of some other interesting thing to do with my summer afternoon. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Thanks, Gracie
See those wonky trellises propped up against my fresh cedar fences? Yeah, that's not a finished look.

You better believe that as the work week winds down and the weekend opens up, I'm busy cranking out another one of my fabulous To Do lists, chock full of interesting chores and projects for which I'd like my husband's help. And today, as I was wandering around the backyard with a running hose, which means I was deep in thought, Gracie reminded me that the new trellises need to be properly installed. 

Yes, my princess. Duly noted.

And I'd like to point out that after a summer spent crushing most of the hostas growing here and there around my backyard, my dog who loves to rest on a nest of cool, smooth green leaves has moved on to the daylilies. Which have already bloomed for this season, and are therefore already in a natural state of disarray, so 85 pounds of resting red dog don't do much additional damage. 

So enjoy your throne of green, regal lady. And thanks again for reminding me about the trellises. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A Fountain At My Oasis

"But I don't mind / as long as there's a bed beneath the stars that shine / I'll be fine." -Oasis

This is a summer for staying home. I'm committed to doing my part to stop Covid in its tracks, and deeply grateful to our worldwide scientific community for sending us such a simple and clear message about what helps. 

Stay home as much as possible.
When you must go out, keep six feet away and wear a mask.

In this spirit, I've come to see my home and my yard as my bubble, my sweet spot of safety and satisfaction. My oasis, if you will.

And I've recently had a revelation.

A proper oasis needs a fountain.

So here's what I did.

Waiting for everything to arrive was the hardest part of the job.  

When that blessed day finally came, I approached my task with the anticipation of a thirsty camel smelling water in the air.

I put the pot in a sunny spot, tucked a rubber stopper into the drainage hole to, um, prevent drainage, and filled my soon-to-be-fountain with fresh, cool water. 

As the hose did its job, I took the solar fountain out of its box, clicked the nozzle into place, and turned it on. 

When the water filled, I set the fountain into the water and whoosh

A gentle spray rose up from the surface, glinted in the sunshine, and fell back in tinkling drops, soft and soothing as a Saharan sunset. 

Here, see for yourself:

Now, I'll be honest. The jet on this solar-powered baby is not exactly Niagara Falls-worthy. What I hear, when I relax nearby, is a gentle trickle, rather than a resounding burble or a significant splash.  And I know that to really get the powerful stream needed for full auditory enjoyment, I could hire an electrician to hard wire a proper fountain into place. 

But I don't mind.

For a small investment and a minimum of fuss, I'm now enjoying the sweet music of water at my own private oasis, and as long as there's a safe place for me here at home, I'll be fine. 

P.S. The musical fountain at my private oasis reminded me of this band and this song, 
and I hope it puts a smile on your face as it did mine.  

Monday, August 24, 2020

Irish Setter Love

"Mom, this was on the front porch for you."

Handing me a medium-sized green gift bag, my third-born sat down in the chair next to me to watch me explore this mystery. My fourth-born was not far behind. 

Peering inside, I discovered that the bag was full of...paper towels.

Or more accurately, things wrapped up in paper towels. 

Not at all sure what to expect, I took out a tiny bundle tucked into a safe spot at the top, unrolled the paper and out into my hand fell a tiny figurine.

A figurine of an Irish Setter.
And she looked exactly like Gracie.
They are all so adorable I could burst. 

"Ohhhh!" I remembered out loud. "These are from Kelly!"

Kelly is the lady who brought me to Gracie. She eats, sleeps, and breathes her undying love for the breed, and keeps her hands full with three red heads of her own. 

Yes, three Irish Setters. That's a lot of energy but Kelly takes it all in stride.
Gracie also approves.

I knew that Kelly has been working on downsizing and decluttering her home.

Yes, just like me. We've been partners in this task of lightening our respective loads.

And Kelly is a collector extraordinaire. 

But she's ready, she says, for the joy of less, and recently she's taken on the task of giving away her collection of Irish Setter figurines. Gathered up over the years from countless antique shops, flea markets, and estate sales, she owns dozens of darling likenesses of our beloved Irish, and when she mentioned that she was ready to part with them, she asked if I'd like one or two.

Yes, please!

I have no such adorable figurines in my household and I can't think of a better way to reflect on a lifetime of Irish pups in my life, or to celebrate my special friendship with Kelly.
"Yes, they are very cute. Maybe we should have some treats to celebrate??"

So this bag full of treasures was Kelly's gift to me, four figurines from her gorgeous group, and as I unwrapped each one, my daughters and I delighted over their amazing likeness to our Gracie:

the tilt of the head,
the tip of the tail,
the tuck of the front leg into a classic 'setting' position.

Each artist had captured the special nuances of the breed, and memories of my three Irish boys - Kelly, Casey, and Ranger, the dogs before Gracie - flooded into my heart.
"Hmm, what's this? More dogs in the family?"
"Mmm, they're pretty cute. I like how they sit so perfectly still."
"Good dogs. Now let's all take a nap."

I love the figurines. But even more so, I love Kelly's thoughtfulness in sharing her beloved treasures with me.

And even than the objects themselves, I love how Kelly's gifts remind me of our connection, our shared passion for these 

and deeply affectionate dogs.  

Kelly and I are bonded because of our dogs, and her gifts will always remind me of how lucky I am to have a friend who shares that Irish Setter love. 

* * * * *

If you're catching up, here are a few stories that explain how our Gracie came to us - and Kelly was a big part of that crazy chain of events. So grateful for everything she did to settle Gracie into our family. 

* * * * *

For a recap on my lifetime of loving the Irish, read these stories:

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Emily, You’re Right

"Pretty always looks good next to pretty." -Emily Henderson, decor goddess.
The black walnut cupboard is a handmade gift from one of my husband's 
woodworking forefathers and I'm eternally grateful to him. 

I'd like to tell you that there was a method behind my madness.

But sadly, there was not. 
Just some perfectly normal chaos.

The problem, if I can describe it succinctly, was that over recent months, as I decluttered and restyled one small area of my house, as one does, I would reject one or two items from their former home. Now these were all things that I admired and wanted to keep, but I just didn't know where to put them at the moment, so I took the lazy way out and sent them on pilgrimage to find a new place to live.

Which is not necessarily a horrible problem if you are talking about a handful of wandering possessions. But I'm talking about a crowd.

The orphans gathered here around the black walnut cupboard in the living room, which was already a bit topsy turvy, and I'll be honest. As the crowd grew, they made a pretty unruly mess.
I'm not a huge fan of displaying things on the floor 
but this globe situation is kinda working for me. 

Now let me go back a few months and unwind the progression of this madness.

 Last Christmas, these shelves housed a pristine arrangement of thirty-some-odd white pillar candles and posed as a neutral and minimalist foil for my Christmas tree. They were neat and orderly and I loved their white cylindrical perfection.

Then 2020 happened.
The drawers hold my carved wooden animal collection and the lower cupboards are full of oversize photo albums, old family photos, and our collection of diplomas. They minded their own business and stayed out of the mess. 

After the holidays, a handful of thrifted books were wedged among the dwindling supply of candles, and in a midwinter's attempt to make the arrangement look artful, I tucked a wooden box and few small baskets.

I'd also framed a flat-lay nature print from Haarkon that my second-born gave me for Christmas, and needed to hang it somewhere safe as I pondered its permanent location. In February, I found a vase at IKEA in the exact same shade of green as the print, so obviously they needed to wait together for their forever home. And in what turned out to be my last shopping trip before Covid shut down the world, I spied an irresistibly round and adorably green vase at Sky Nursery. Surely, vase belongs with vase, right? So I shoved it onto a spot of quickly diminishing shelf space, and tried not to think about the mayhem I was creating.
That tiny little wooden sugar dish belongs to a long ago tea set and I love it for several reasons, including its survival instincts. I'd long puzzled over what to do with it, but smacking it down front and center all by its lonesome is working for me. 

As spring turned to summer, and I began dumping even more haphazard items on the generous ledge of the cupboard - I believe it's that ledge that gets me in trouble; it just begs for wayfarers to come and sit a spell - I had the distinct impression that I was taking a bad situation and making it even worse. Items were carefully stacked against all three sides of the cabinet, and spilling out onto the floor. Definitely out of control.

The pile continued to grow until last Friday night. And then, around two a.m. which is when I do some of my best thinking, I walked past the dump zone and said to myself, in quite a stern and no-nonsense tone, "Come on. Surely you can do better than this."
I love how the greens came together -in the painting, the vases and bowl, and the background of our wedding photo. Let's pretend I planned it that way, k?

Abruptly, with no vision of any kind, muscle memory kicked in and I simply began putting the heap of untoward objects into logical places.
  • The small mirror, a wedding photo, and a dearly beloved picture of Irish Setters playing in the surf all took a lean against the back of the cupboard.
  • Two white ceramic candle holders scooted underneath some of the holdouts from the candle display.
  • A green handmade ceramic bowl made friends with the tiny green vase. 
  • Three handmade ceramic containers lined up front and center on the ledge. My mom and I bought the first and third containers from the same potter at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair back in the 1970s and I love to see them back together again.
  • A pair of fish-decorated ceramic dishes from Cambodia dropped onto the lowest shelf so I can see their happy selves as I walk by. 
  • And my favorite two globes - in sizes Colossal and Ginormous - lined up on the floor nearby, where they fill my eye at the same moment as the incredibly detailed model of Planet Earth created by my fourth-born that hangs in a nearby corner of the room.

I finished and stepped back. My mind was utterly blown.
Not only are the first and third ceramic containers a mom-and-me purchase from the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair circa 1976, but the framed photo of the Irish setters came from the same place. We each bought the same photo and now I have them both. Not sure if this one is my mom's or mine, but at this point, it really doesn't matter. 

Because somehow, this crazy configuration of random objects - each one pretty in its own right but together a seeming cacophony - suddenly made sense. 

Now, I'm not about to enter this specimen in a shelf-styling competition. (Is there such a thing as a shelf-styling competition? There should be.) But all the same, I found my jaw on the floor when I realized that what was once a disheveled assortment of flotsam and jetsam had suddenly taken on a reasonably aesthetic and inspiring glow.
Looking across to the entry, I see more walnut furniture, another photo of an Irish Setter, and in the painting, a matching splash of green. I planned none of this; interesting how it all worked out. 

As I stood observing this miracle, stunned into thoughtful silence, a sentence popped into my mind.

"Pretty always looks good next to pretty."

This pearl of decor wisdom had poured out from the gifted brain of decor goddess, Emily Henderson, and onto her blog, and then earlier this same evening, into my eyeballs and heart.  To be fair, she attributes the sentiment to her own styling mentor, and uses the mantra to guide her in similar moments of impromptu and unrestrained rapid-fire styling.

And you know what else I was thinking, as I continued to ponder the magic of the moment?

"You're right, Emily. You're exactly one hundred percent right."

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Use It Or Lose It: Shaker Stool
Hello, shaker stool! Welcome back to my life. 

Once upon a time, four little girls lived in my house, and man alive, how they loved to color. 

Hours upon hours were spent with their heads bent in intense concentration, little fingers wrapped around their crayons, seated at our family room coffee tables. 

That's how my girls liked to color. Not on any grown-up sized tables that created awkward poses for tiny ladies, but working close to the ground. And seated of course, on a cute little stool
Your checkerboard seat makes me smile whenever I pass by. 

Now, being a house full of children, we kept in play a lovely assortment of stools for reaching high places, and these came in very handy during the daily coloring rampages. 

But best of all was the little orange stool.
During those long-ago days called the 80s, we built you from a kit.

Thusly named for its bold and beautiful woven seat, the sweet little specimen was one of my beloved Shaker collection. Back in the day, I loved - and still cherish - Shaker design and saved my pennies to buy several pieces. This little stool was one of those favorites.

He was a delight to behold.
I found your replacement tape on Etsy, and wove you a new seat just as good as the first. 

Years passed. My artists grew tall and began to sit on adult-sized furniture while working on their projects, and the little orange stool fell into disuse.

He suffered some fading over the years, and I'm sorry to say that one of the cats developed a penchant for scratching the darling checkerboard seat. All told, the little orange stool became a bit worse for the wear.

A few years ago, he was banished to the garage. Poor guy.
You look pretty rad here by Gracie's couch but you are welcome anywhere in the house. 
Feel free to float around. 

But, joy of joys, he's back! 

With a fresh coat of finish on his pale maple legs, and a handsome new seat woven from black, he has recently rejoined us here in the house.
I'll never neglect you again!

.And though at the moment, there are no little artists around to put my black-is-the-new-orange little stool to his proper use, I am delighted to have him back in action.

* * * * *

More stories about my Use It Or Lose It adventures:

Friday, August 21, 2020

Don't Let 'Em Push You Around

The Margo Collection Throw Pillow

The Margo Collecton by Petra Kaksonen

You know what I love? Light pink and bright yellow together. And circles. So how could this pillow not be my very best dream? Well, here's the thing. It is. 

For the last few weeks, I've been shopping for throw pillows.

I know. This almost sounds like a plot line from a Real Housewives episode, except they'd be shopping for Jimmy Choo's and there would be considerably more drunken cat fights and gossipy backstabbing lunch conversations than I'm good for.

Nostalgia in the garden Throw Pillow

Nostalgia in the garden by Alja Horvat

I'm crazy for a little vintage floral action that takes me right back to my flower child roots. When I look at this, I feel like the best five-year-old version of myself, and that feels pretty darn good. 

Mundane and superfluous as throw pillows can be, they also provide an easy and affordable way to inject pattern and pizzazz into my home. And since I've been putting some effort into zhuzhing the place up lately, throw pillows are a good place for me to start. 

Happy California Poppies / hand drawn flowers Throw Pillow

Happy California Poppies by modern tropical

A little more edited, a bit more refined, this print makes me imagine myself running down a wide hillside of actual California poppies under a summer sun. What's not to love?

At first, my quest led me far and wide across the internet, combing my favorite trend-makers to see what's all the rage in throw pillows these days. But after my mind had been severely boggled by incredibly boughie specimens priced out well north of a hundred dollars, which is a lot of money to spend on a pillow that my dog will undoubtedly use for her naps, I narrowed my field down to  Society6.

If you haven't wandered through this website before, allow me to explain. Society6 engages artists to design custom work which can then be applied to a variety of products: art to hang on the walls, for sure, but also a seemingly endless consortium of tech covers, apparel, and housewares come decked out in these original designs. Which means that every reasonably-priced purchase from Society6 puts money into the pockets of an artist, and I think that's incredibly cool.

Orange Grove Throw Pillow

Orange Grove by Lizzy Powers

Once upon a time, I bought my daughters a picture book version of Beauty and the Beast (not the Disney bastardization but the actual fairy tale) that features a grove of orange trees around the mysterious castle, and ever since I've had a particular obsession for oranges with leaves and stems. This print captures that magic for me and I love it. 

So deep into the rabbit hole of Society6 throw pillows I have fallen, first filling my cart with a fantastical array of any design that struck me, and then each successive night, reviewing my collection, looking for commonalities and overlaps, imagining how they would work together on my couches. I spend some time tinkering and fussing with my wish lists and 'saved for later' inventories, moving items in and out of my cart, as I slowly move toward making my purchase. 

Shop slow and don't settle, right?

Those are my mantras, pearls of familiar wisdom that came to me during my year-long shopping ban, and I'm keeping them close to my heart as I ponder my throw pillow options. 

Swiss Cross Black Throw Pillow

Swiss Cross by Modern Home

Well, I already have a lot of black and white pillows - this new selection is supposed to be all about color and whimsy, right? Sorry, I am still in love with a big, bold graphic mama like this one. 

But here's the thing. 

By and large, corporate retailers are a pushy breed.

And it seems that each and every morning after a good throw pillow workout shesh, Society6 is hammering on my digital door with 

a friendly reminder that there are items in my cart, 

a tempting discount,

 a deal on delivery, 

all messages that are designed to get me to pull the trigger and complete my purchase. 

Oranges Foliage Throw Pillow

Oranges Foliage by Lisa Monttinen

More oranges on the stem, and these with tiny pink blossoms. My aforementioned Beauty and the Beast illustration dances before my eyes. Utterly adorable. 

And you know, sorry to pick on you, Society6 people. It's not just your company engaging in high pressure sales techniques. Every postmodern retailer worth their loyalty program has an incredible array of subtly manipulative ways to hook their customers and reel them in for a sale. I realize that this is just the way the game is played, and I don't take it personally, but when I'm shopping, I need to repeatedly remind myself that, nine times out of ten, retailers are the hunters and my wallet is the prey. 

Flower power orange Throw Pillow

Flower power orange by Yesterday People

Back in the sixties, my grandmother might have had sheets just like this on the bed in the back bedroom, where I often slept. And even if she didn't, that's what they remind me of, so win-win. 

So go ahead, Society6. Keep flooding my inbox with your 15% off limited-time promo codes and the one-day-only free delivery deals. I appreciate your enthusiasm. 

And I love your pillows too. I'll definitely be buying some. 

But only when I'm good and ready. 

orange and hot pink classic Throw Pillow

Orange and hot pink classic by her art

There's something about that rigid stripe that makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable, but I could stare at the orange and hot pink all day. So do I want it or don't I? Still mulling it over.

So let's add a third bit to my shopping mantras - a second corollary to my original reminder to shop slow, if you will - and it's aimed right at those retailing masterminds who try to get us to buy before we're ready:

Don't let 'em push you around. 

* * * * *

Did you notice that [almost] all of these pillows are orange? Read about my newly rekindled desire for this boldest of colors here:

* * * * *

Read more about my journey to mindful consumption:

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Life-Changing Magic Of The Orange Gingham Dish Towels

"Life should be chic, glamorous, and colorful, and so should your home." 

"Beautiful, playful art shows people the second that they come into your house that they're in the presence of a provocative funster."

-Jonathan Adler

It all began with the orange checked dish towels

Looking for a gift, I was browsing around the Crate & Barrel website when I stumbled upon these dish towels. 

Immediately, I was obsessed. 

Night after night, all week long, I went back to look at those towels, wondering if I still loved them as much as I had the night before. 

I did.

And I began to seriously consider buying them. 

But wait, I told myself. You don't buy orange dish towers. You buy white and black and grey dish towels. 

Hmm, that's true. But I used to buy orange dish towels. What has happened to me?

And it all came rushing back.

* * * * *

Seventeen years ago, I realized my mother had the early signs of dementia.
Eight years ago, I got involved in her daily care.
Four years ago, my mom died. 

Pick out any one of the countless events during those years that pulled us both deeper into the darkness that is Lewy Body Dementia, and I can draw a line to a corresponding change in my home.

I stripped the colors out of my rooms and left black, white, and shades of grey.
I pulled much of my art down off the walls and minimized what was on display.
I put away most everything that did not serve a useful function. 
I needed my home to be almost bare and tediously tidy. 

And it's been taking me a long time to work my way out of that dark place.

Wow, this is heavy stuff. Isn't this supposed to be a story about chic, glamorous, and colorful home decor and orange gingham dish towels?

Yes, hang on, I'm getting to that. 

* * * * *

In just the past few months, I've felt something stirring in me.

No, not an absence of grief. Losing your mom is not something from which one will ever fully recover.

But ever since I found those orange gingham dish towels, I've noticed the small and quiet awakenings of some things I have not felt in a long time.

A lightness of being. 

I realized that I'm ready to lighten the mood of my surroundings too. 

So I bought the orange gingham dish towels. They bring me a really ridiculous amount of joy. 

And they have inspired me to slowly and deliberately invite a few more things into my house, and I'm hoping they too will inject 

some color, 
some whimsy, 
some fun. 

Here's what I've done so far:

^ In my living room, which had been completely overrun by plants and neutral colors, a few new throw pillows from Society6 bring in splashes of orange, yellow, and green, and a vaguely sixties' retro vibe. Between the colors and the graphics, the pillows make me feel very connected to childhood me, and that is a lovely comfort.

^ The coveted orange gingham dish towels have been granted a place of honor on my kitchen counter. I don't even use them; I just smile to see them folded neat and clean, each and every time I walk into the room. 

On the shelves are two orange bowls and a bright blue flowered plate, both of which I picked up at a thrift store years ago, and had stashed in the back of my overflow dish cupboard. To be honest, I'd forgotten completely about them until I got the dish towels, and then my brain connected the orange dots. They've all become great friends.

^ As part of my use it or lose it adventure, I came across this orange painting stashed in the garage. It used to hang horizontally in my bedroom, back when my bedroom was colorful, but somehow when I looked at it now, my brain saw it in a vertical presentation and I knew that this long and narrow space would be a perfect new home. 

I tossed a new giant gold throw pillow on the couch in front of it, and felt intense pleasure. The coordinating candles on the side table were just a lucky find in my candle stash, and I took them as confirmation that this color story was meant to be. 

* * * * *

I didn't plan for orange to be the new coming-out color of my reinvigorated home. But I think it's more than a happy coincidence that this is the color I'm drawn to. Orange speaks to me 

of confidence
of sunshine
of fun.

Thanks to the magic of the gingham dish towels, orange is the color that is bringing out the provocative funster in me, and I am relieved to have her back. 

* * * * *

More stories about my reinvigorated home:

The Life-Changing Magic Of The Orange Gingham Dish Towels

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Use It Or Lose It: Office Updates

Welcome, come in! You've just stepped in my front door and glancing to your right you get your first look at my library.

Well. It's not really my library. Allow me to clarify.

We've traditionally referred to this room as our library. Which makes perfect sense since it's chock full of books and a fabulous place to read, down here at the far end of the house from the kitchen which makes it quiet and fairly orderly. But since Covid, my husband has taken over as head worker-from-home and commandeered the space for his finance director-y business. So these days, it's more an office than a library.

And since my husband is in here grinding through spreadsheets, wrangling consultants into line, and Zooming with his homiez, this room is not really mine anymore. At least, not during the day. Once the sun goes down and my husband signs off of for the day and heads upstairs to sleep like a normal human being, Gracie and I take over for the midnight shift. 

Anyway, come on in and look around. Thanks to my new use it or lose it policy, which dictates that I not just hang on to possessions I want to keep but actually put them to use, I've made some changes in here lately, and I'll tell you what's new.

I mean, first off, you're sure to notice the giant red beast snoozing on the couch.

Correction. Her couch.

Contentedly, Gracie sleeps through my late night work sessions curled up just like this, usually cuddled  on her favorite throw - too hot for that today - and her beloved pillow, almost completely hidden under her cute little head. 

But notice behind her the slim table tucked between the couch and the window.

Recognize it? It's a little gem that was born to serve as a bench in my bedroom, created from a slab of live maple that I sanded and finished with my own two hands, and a set of hairpin legs. And it was adorable in this purpose...until I realized the little darling had become a treacherous drop zone and in a burst of late-night furniture rearranging, I brought her down to use as a coffee table in front of this couch.

Which was a wonderful concept. But remember the big red dog who considers this couch to be her very own? Yeah, she has no need of a coffee table in front of her couch, nor any special regard for one placed there. 

Which means that every night when she came chugging into the room and took a flying leap toward the cushions, my lady bear could not have cared less if the darn table rocked on its curvy little legs, or the tokens on top got knocked around. 

Which made for a dangerous situation.

So several months back, I gave up on this arrangement and, defeated, put my maple table into the scary place known as my garage. 

Nooooooooo! I'm supposed to be taking things out of there, not adding to the heaps!

Well, don't worry. This story has a happy ending. Not an hour later - the spiders hadn't even had a chance to spin any webs on it - I snatched my table back out of the garage and marched it back into the house to give it yet another home - behind the table, where reckless airborne dogs cannot disturb it. Now it is a peaceful home for plants and a perfect spot for a reading light, and Gracie and I are both pleased as punch about this new arrangement.

Alright, now please direct your attention to the back wall of the room. Remember this work-from-home annex table, designed to be a gathering place for my husband's hordes of transaction summaries and account reconciliations? That was a shining use it or lose it moment, and I'm pleased to report that the desk is doing a bang-up job of keeping the papers corralled but in full disclosure, it's become a bit of an eyesore. I hauled off about fifty pounds of pulp before I took these photos and then dragged it back into place to be at my husband's fingertips come Monday morning. 

How about that art arrangement? You may recall that just a few months ago, I had hung a thrifted oil painting of a happy mountain a la Bob Ross and mentioned that sooner or later, I was bound to replace it. 

Yep. That day came.

One might argue that the former landscape introduced a bit more variety into this assortment of art and had a charm all its own, and I wouldn't disagree. But every time I glanced up at the wall, this is new painting is what I saw in my head and I decided it was high time to create my own reality. 

Couldn't be happier with how my wobbly black circles turned out. But I saved the Bob Ross mountain art, just in case.

The IKEA Knixhult bamboo lamp got shuffled out of the family room when the big pine cabinet came in, and in a desperate attempt to find him a new home, I tried him in here. Bingo. Now he springs to life every night on a timer, and splashes beautiful golden light across this arrangement. I'm fairly obsessed with timers on my lamps these days. Best idea since sliced bread. 

And stacked to the left of the lamp are my husband's current library reads. Yes, he really has chosen to plow through War and Peace, just for the fun of it, during quarantine. 

He's an Enneagram 1 and an ISTJ. Are you shocked?

Alright, one more stop on this tour of new homes for displaced objects. Take a look at this wall, opposite the window, loaded down with desks and tech gear, and dominated by a huge striped painting, done by my second-born during her college days. I am crazy for those stripes. 

Off to the left, over my desk, I've been collecting up from around forgotten corners of the house a few smaller compositions that seem to speak the same color language as the big stripey boy, and adding them to the mix:

The bottom painting, all white stripes and angles, was also done by my second-born. Her art always feels good in my head, and I love to have those reminders of her faraway self all around my house. 

The middle painting, a study of fruit, came from my nephew, who now paints professionally in his home on Martha's Vineyard and makes a living selling his beautiful rural landscapes to the tourists. 

And the top painting is a watercolor of an adorable store in Vermilion, Ohio. just a block off Lake Erie, where my husband's great-uncle used to run a grocery. We visited there last summer and I'm delighted to say that the yellow striped awnings still hang overhead.

In a fit of rebellion a few years back, I painted the inside of the door the same shade of red found in the big painting's stripes, though they don't look much of a match in this lighting.

I love the way these pieces talk to one another. 

I love how the colors repeat in subtle variation.

I love how each composition is unique, and true to itself.

And I'm glad I hung them here on my wall, where I can look at them and smile every day.

So there you go. That's a lot of use it or lose it projects for one weekend, and I'm feeling quite satisfied. Deciding how to add the things I love to my rooms in interesting and un-cluttery ways is a demandingly creative process, and I must say that I am enjoying the ride. 

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More stories about my Use It Or Lose It adventures: