Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm not Oprah - in case anyone was confused.

I'm pretty sure that's evident in a lot of ways!  But for the purposes of this post, my point is that I don't have walk-in closets that are larger than some Manhattan apartments.

This was my closet this morning:

This was the contents of my closet that needed to be gone through/tried on, etc.

This is my closet now.

I understand that it may not look like a drastic change in the photos.  But the two garbage bags for the trash and three for the Red Cross say differently.  Take that, Oprah - I can give to charity too.

Hey, I even went through the last remaining bag of maternity clothes that I had in there.  Of course I still kept a few choice items to appease the fertility gods so that they won't make me unexpectedly pregnant again.  What?  Doesn't everyone do that?

What I'd eventually like to do is get rid of my closet doors altogether and put up window panels so that I could pull them open and see everything I have in my closet all at once.

But that's a project for another day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One thing leads to another, which leads to another, which leads ...

Now I know why nothing ever gets done in my house.  Because nothing is ever as simple as you think it's going to be.

Shortly after we moved in we replaced one of the kitchen lights with a ceiling fan.  As you can see from this photo, the original light fixture was much wider than the fan.

We never got around to painting the ceiling.   Have I mentioned that we moved in nearly nine years ago?  Well, see There's a funny story behind this project for my excuse rationale for how that can happen. 

Anyway, a few months ago, our other light in the kitchen, a large florescent light, broke.  We had our friend who is an electrician come in, remove that light and replace it with recessed lighting.  We love the lights but the process left this behind:

So I could no longer ignore the kitchen ceiling.  Time to paint.

Ever the optimist, I first tried just painting white paint over the areas in question.  I know, I know - nice try.  The original paint wasn't pure white and it must've been a satin finish where I was using matte.  No dice.  I had to paint the entire ceiling.

Unfortunately, when I went up above the cabinets to tape off the walls I saw the dust and grime that had collected on the decorative stuff I have up there.  Yuck.  I couldn't just ignore it.  And so one simple project became another.  I took everything down, washed all of the things that could be washed, dusted off those that could be dusted and cleaned the top of the cabinets.  When was the last time this was done?  I'm embarrassed to say that I can't remember.  Do people do this on a regular basis?  I think the last time I was up there was when I painted the kitchen walls.  I was six months pregnant with Rachel at the time.  I think I've mentioned that she's almost six now.  *sigh*

OK, with that project finished, I got back to the task at hand and started painting.

In the process of painting I had to move the refrigerator - and needed to vacuum underneath it.  And the ceiling fan needed to be dusted.   When moving the kitchen table I noticed how dirty the walls were in the corner where Rachel sits.  So I wiped down the walls too.

Yes, the ceiling did eventually get painted.  But the whole project took a lot longer than I expected.  It looks fantastic now, though.  And there's something really great about knowing that the air in the kitchen is probably a lot less toxic since the tops of my cabinets are clean.

There were a few other things that I noticed while painting - the top of the refrigerator needs a good cleaning, the kitchen counter tops need some serious organizing, as do the two "junk drawers" that I think everyone has in their kitchen.

But those are projects for another day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

First day of spring - HA!

It's snowing.  And it's the first day of spring.  Mother Nature does like her little jokes, I suppose.

I have wonderful memories of baking with my mom on days such as this.   Warm baking smells are so comforting when the weather stinks.  So there was nothing for it but to bake.  I let the piles of laundry wait until later in the afternoon and got out the flour and sugar, etc.  Unfortunately my mom was at work so I couldn't have her join me today. 

A little over a week ago I persuaded the girls to forego Nick and Disney Channel in favor of the Food Network.  Nigella Lawson was on making scones.  The girls thought they looked delicious and I love them so I figured I'd give it a shot.  I searched Nigella's website and found about 40 scone recipes.  I took a little from this one and a little from that one and made some with chocolate chips and some with cranberries.  They came out great.

Abby liked the chocolate chip ones.  Rachel wasn't a fan at all.  I loved them both but preferred the cranberry - which is strange for me.  I'm usually all about the chocolate.

Today I decided to do something different.  My friend T. and I try to meet for coffee every weekend at Starbucks.  We sometimes treat ourselves and split a scone - but not as much now that they no longer carry the Maple Oat ones.  Not sure why they stopped making them but it is really a shame - they were delicious.  I googled and found a recipe at  My only problem was that it called for maple extract and I didn't have any.  I stopped at ShopRite after dropping my daughter off at school and they didn't have it either.  With the weather so lousy I decided to wing it rather than do any more shopping around.  I added more maple syrup than was called for and used a little vanilla extract.  The result was decidedly not very "mapley" - but delicious just the same.

I think I'll keep these babies all to myself.  I doubt the kids would like them anyway, right?  And my husband's not a scone person so he won't mind.  I will bring a few to coffee with T. next time we meet, though.

I'd better freeze them though or they won't last the day.  One of the hazards of being home.

It would be good to make something especially for my husband next time, don't you think?  Maybe chocolate mousse cake? Anyone have any good recipes?  Feel free to post in the comments.

Of course that's a project for another day.

(P.S. I did let Abby try one when she got home from school.  She liked it, darn it.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

There's a funny story behind this project ...

... but I can't tell it to you.  I mean I'd really like to - but I think it might cause my husband to divorce me if I put it up here on the internet for all eternity.

But I will say this:  we had a hole in our wall.  And it got there because of a not-so-fortuitous coming together of my husband, a potty-training two year-old, a bathroom shelf, an elbow, and a whole lot of poop.  I'll leave it at that.  (Although I will note that I was not at home at the time.)

So, yeah, back to the hole in the wall.  Considering that my younger daughter is now just about six, the hole's been there for quite awhile.  How did we let it go so long, you ask?  Well, you know how when you don't have time to deal with something you can kind of put blinders on until it's been there for so long that it just becomes part of your landscape?  Well, that's pretty much what happened with the hole.  It's not that it didn't bother me; I just trained myself to ignore it.

Well no more!  With many thanks to my dad, the hole is repaired.  My dad found this patch thing at Home Depot that has adhesive on the back. You stick it over the hole and let it dry.  Then you spackle and paint.  Voila!  Obviously we are not the only folks with unwanted additions to our walls.

If you look really closely you can still see the outline of the patch.  Despite that I think it looks pretty good.  But most of all, it looks nothing like a hole anymore. 

I will admit that there's a small part of me that misses the hole.  It was such a part of our lives for so long - and it was quite a conversation piece.  But most of me is pretty darn happy to have it gone.  Of course after painting that wall, the rest of the living room/dining room area looks dirty and dingy and it's obvious that the whole thing needs to be painted.

But that's a project for another day (or another week, or possibly for a professional).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting back to things I enjoy.

Back when I was single I used to love to bake.  Over the years, I've gotten away from it a bit since my post-children waistline doesn't need the extra calories.  But there's something very satisfying about making delicious baked goods.

Shortly after I lost my job I had the perfect excuse to dive back into baking - my older daughter's ninth birthday.  Since cupcakes are such a favorite I decided to try my hand at them.  I was inspired by a few of my friends who have baking businesses on the side so I went out and bought some disposable pastry bags and a decorating tip.  The result?  Devil's Food cupcakes with Chocolate Mousse frosting sprinkled with Ghirardelli chocolate shavings.

My daughter and her friends loved them.

While I don't think I'll be starting my own bakery anytime soon, it felt good to have the time to make something so delicious.  And to know that I haven't lost my touch!  I definitely plan on experimenting more with those decorating tips.  My younger daughter's birthday is in April.  We'll see what she dreams up for me to make.

But that's a project for another day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How did I get here?

A short time ago I got laid off.  It was a bit of a shock to the system.  It's not that I necessarily defined myself by my job, exactly.  But I did define myself as a career woman.  And now I'm unemployed.

On many levels, it's not such a bad thing.  I am one of the lucky ones.  My husband is still employed, thank goodness.  We need to cut back but we're not in desperate straits just yet.  But from a psychological perspective I know that I have to find good use for my time while I'm looking for a new gig.  If I'm going to be out of work, I'm gonna make the most of it and take advantage of the gift of time that I've been given.

I decided to start this blog to document what I accomplish during this time.  For me, it's important to feel like I'm making a contribution to my family.  While I know that those contributions have always been more than just my income, I do feel that I need to find ways to compensate for the lack of it.  So now, I'll have different contributions.  It might be home improvement.  It might be trying a new recipe. It might be organizing something that's gotten out of control during our busy lives.  But the goal is that each day I will find something new to stretch my abilities and try to make our lives a little bit better.

My first project was to paint and decorate the master bathroom.  Of course, being out of work means that I'm on a very tight budget.  And I'm not a carpenter so don't expect HGTV-type renovations here.  Unfortunately, now that I have the time to do these things I don't have the money to do everything exactly the way I'd like.  But therein lies the challenge.

Not knowing I was going to start this blog, I didn't take "before" pictures of this particular project.  Which is a shame because, trust me - the difference is dramatic!  Picture blah white walls that hadn't been painted in probably 20 years (we've lived here for nine).  Picture ugly glass shelves.  Picture a medicine cabinet with a corner of the mirror broken off.  Not pretty.

I chose Martha Stewart colors matched in Home Depot paint.  Lily Pad for the walls and Heavy Cream for the ceiling and trim.  I hated the green at first.  But after it dried I liked it more.  And now that I have accessories in, I love it.  Take a look:

I'm not quite finished.  New towels would be nice but that's not going to happen until I'm employed again.  I need to find some artwork but haven't found anything I like in my price range yet.  And today I purchased some fabric to make window treatments:

But that's a project for another day.