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I’ve been thinking about that question quite a bit lately.

My kids are ten and twelve years old, and now I find myself caring for a 4-month old baby most days as a way to earn some money.  This fall I advertised to provide child care for one infant, thinking it’s one job I know how to do and I can make some money at home while doing it.  Anybody would be happy to have their baby in my care all day, I reasoned.  I hold the baby.  I don’t let him cry it out, ever.  I feed him when he’s hungry, and I’m very attentive to when he needs a diaper change whether he’s wet or poopy.  And when he’s awake (which is sometimes all day long), we play and talk and bounce around the room.

I’m doing, by my own estimates, a pretty good job with this little guy.  And, also to my own thinking, having him around justifies my “still” being at home now that my own kids are growing older.  (Never mind that I’m homeschooling my twelve-year-old Asperger kid, in the world’s eyes I don’t NEED to be doing that as there’s a school just blocks away.  He could be there all day while I go out and get a job like the rest of the world…or so they say.)

There is so little respect for a woman, or man, staying home and doing the domestic things.  The other night on 30 Rock, there was even a joke about this.  Southern boy Kenneth gave one of his usual witty sayings. “That’s about as useful as a mom’s college degree!” was the joke, implying a mom had no use for a college degree.  I laughed, thinking yeah, what did I get that college degree for?!  I can take a joke.  It didn’t offend me, but it certainly spoke to me of our culture’s general perception of homemakers and stay-at-home-moms.

All joking aside, I would never give up that college degree.  It’s as important to my life as raising my children has been.  I miss those days of studying and hanging out with friends 24/7.  I miss the intellectual conversations I could have just by plopping into a chair in my college house living room and engaging one of my housemates.  I miss being able to sit and read British Lit. or theology until tears streamed down my face from the eye strain.  I have often wondered why I ever left college!  It was my “glory days”, for sure.

When I look at my kids, both son and daughter, I picture them going to college.  I imagine Eli as an engineer of some sort, maybe designing video games, maybe presiding over a wood shop making bows and arrows all day.  I imagine Rose as the CEO of some fashionable company, able to boss people around and get things done, leading a life of continual busyness and socializing because that’s what she loves.

What I hardly ever take the time to imagine them doing is raising babies, or vacuuming the floors, or cleaning up dog vomit.  Those are just things we DO in life.  Nobody talks about them.  Nobody makes plans for them.  (Well, maybe the HAVING  the baby part gets planned, but after that who can imagine all the stuff you’ll have to do with those babies?)  And nobody seems to respect that they’re as much a part of our necessary life as all the college degrees and high-paying jobs we dream about.

Making and keeping a home and family take a lot of time.  It used to be that EVERYBODY was home.  Men, women, children, babies, animals.  Everybody was doing housework, whether out in the field or garden, or hunting/gathering in the woods, or tending the fire and soup pot.  The focus was on home, food, staying warm and dry and alive.  It wasn’t until the industrial age that men started leaving the home in droves, to seek jobs building the railroad or manufacturing goods.  And just a century or so later, women in large numbers wanted to “get out” too.

To my mind, that’s no surprise.  Our highly mobile society had cut women off from not only their husbands who were at work all day, but also their families of origin and even friends and neighbors they might’ve had a move or two back.  It’s lonely being the only adult around.  And once some women went out of the house to work, it got even lonelier for the other women “back home”.  I look out the window at my neighborhood and see almost no adult my age, male or female, during the hours from 9 to 5.  (I see no kids, either, much of the time because even at the day care homes on my block the kids are inside or in a fenced-in backyard.  When adults stopped being home, it seems kids lost a lot of freedom.)

When George and Rose were home for Christmas break last week, I enjoyed their presence more than ever.  They became more arms to hold the baby, and more smiling faces to entertain him.  I declared then and there that “one adult alone with a baby all day is insanity.  Babies are meant to be shared!”  It was like an epiphany for me, little good that it will do me.  I don’t see society changing any time soon, to make more of us at home (depending on how bad the so-called Great Recession becomes, though).  And now George and Rose are back at school and it’s just Eli and me home with the little guy all day again.  It will be fine, but it does seem over-bearing and I feel as if I’ve lost all freedom (the key word is “feel” there–I think it has more to do with cultural pressures than actual loss of freedom).

So to get back to my original question and the title of my post…Why don’t we think more about raising our children to be parents?  Why don’t we see it as the highest calling that it is, and get as serious about preparing them for it as we are about preparing them for the “real world”, aka school and jobs?

For indeed, most of us do become parents, college degree or not.  Most of us do end up vacuuming floors, cleaning up after pets, and doing what has been called the “hardest job of all”, raising babies.  Yet in today’s world we do it woefully unprepared and woefully short of respect, support and help.

I know there is a fringe culture, namely Christian fundamentalists of a certain ilk, who are raising their girls to be submissive wives and doting mothers and homemakers, and their boys to be providers and heads of household.  I have had many glimpses into this world as a homeschooler and a curious seeker into the lives of others through their writings.  A few blogs on my blogroll come from this fringe group, and there’s one I found recently, The Aspiring Homemaker, which is written by a homeschool graduate girl of 18 who calls herself a “stay-at-home daughter”, learning the so-called “gentle arts” of domesticity and waiting for her knight in shining armor.  (That sounds derogatory, “knight in shining armor”, doesn’t it?  Not a hundred years ago the majority of young women lived at home until they found a husband, doing exactly what The Aspiring Homemaker is doing.  It should certainly be her right to choose to live her life in that way and I don’t mean to put it down.)

But should it be that only fundamentalist Christians (and by no means all of them), with their limited views of gender roles, are the only ones raising up the notion of the domestic arts?  Indeed it’s not the only place you find it.  Martha Stewart gets much credit for doing this, for placing value *again* on so-called woman’s work of cooking, baking, sewing, keeping house, etc.  But she does it all, perfectly no less, while running a Fortune 500 company and sleeping four hours a night.  She presents a model of “having it all” that is all too common and all too exhausting in the current Western, particularly American, world.

I think there can be a middle ground between the submissive wife/homemaker that goes along with the head of the household husband, and Martha Stewart’s model of perfection and having it all.  We hear talk of there being “seasons” to our lives, time to go to school, time to work, time to have babies and raise them, time to pursue a career.  This can be a middle ground, but only if the time of being home doesn’t take a lesser place than the rest of it.  By no means do I suggest all women should again stay home, anymore than I suggest men do.  But I would like to find ways to elevate what I’ve been doing for nearly 15 years now, namely being home, and make it part of the conversation with my children.

I’d like to raise my children to become parents, and maybe do other stuff too…

How can we go about that?  I’d be interested in any ideas you might have.  But one way I’ve been thinking about it is to at least start talking about it with them.  At least as often as I say to them, “you must do this to get into college”, I’d like to say to them, “here is how you hold a baby”.  At least as often as I dream of my daughter running a company, I’d like to talk to her about establishing a housekeeping routine.  With at least as much emphasis as I put on her about making money someday, I’d like to show her how to balance a checkbook and budget for groceries.  At least as often as I imagine Elijah being some guy in the woods building his own cabin, I’d like to see him (and talk to him about) bundling up his baby and carrying him/her in a backpack through those woods.  And at least as often as I picture my son being a computer geek, I’d like to picture him making beds and cooking dinner too.

I need to start PICTURING my kids as spouses and parents, in order to help them get there.  And whenever I talk to them about it, I’m sure to add that this Grandma will want to help out as much as possible!  I’ll be there.

I originally submitted this to a magazine but it seems they didn’t want to publish it, so I’ll put it here.  A funny piece, my writer’s group liked it so I’ll consider it a “free” blog entry for the day because I don’t have to write anything new.

On Gaining Weight While Remodeling the Kitchen:

Our kitchen just got a lovely new French Country remodel…

…and I got a good old American-style dough-nut around my middle in the process.

Partly it was the depression I felt. The kitchen job we just completed wasn’t even really a remodel, just a fresh coat of paint and some tile work. But this turned the entire house upside down, and what I envisioned as a one-week quickie took my perfectionist husband, with my inexpert help, nearly four weeks to complete.

I’m seriously affected by my environment, you know? Which is why I like to remodel and make things prettier in the first place. But having the kitchen mostly in the dining room, and the front porch furniture piled into the living room (so we could paint doors and drawers out there), and my husband—not to mention two kids, a puppy and the cat–constantly underfoot drove me into some very bad moods.

So I ate carbs. Lots of them. And chocolate. And sugar. And whatever other foods made me forget, if only for a second or two, about the mess my house was in.

With the kitchen and rest of the house all askew, we knew we wouldn’t be cooking much. I attempted to budget for this. By my calculations, one week’s dinners of pizza, deli food and Taco John’s should cost the four of us about 80 bucks. But soon the first week was over, we were still without a kitchen and money was scarce. (After blowing some of it on beautiful new kitchen linens that would coordinate the new colors in the kitchen with the dining room which meant I HAD to have them, well, spare cash for more eating out was low.) Do you know that those five dollar large pizzas they advertise are actually quite tasty and filling, not to mention convenient, for a family of four without a kitchen? We must have had pizza four nights the second week. Nobody even complained.

On the muggy, hot day we sanded the cabinets, we ran to the deli for an 8-piece chicken dinner with all the trimmings and hurried off to the beach to get away from the dust and grime. After a day of tiling and grouting, we spent an hour at the sub sandwich shop eating five dollar foot-longs because why get a mere 6-incher when you can get twice as much food for only two bucks more?! Besides, sub sandwiches are diet food.

One night when we felt brave enough to fire up the one-burner on top of the washing machine, what did we make? Pasta, of course. It couldn’t get much simpler than that. Just boil up some water, throw in the noodles, strain them through the colander into the utility sink (never mind the paint brushes and other gross stuff in there, it can’t be helped), throw on some sauce and grated parm and you’re set. Pasta is the perfect remodeling-the-kitchen food.

I was told by a nutritionist once that carbs and sweets produce a calming effect. It’s no wonder people crave them to relieve stress then. But the effect doesn’t last long, and when it goes away one is left with nothing more than a low mood, a sluggish digestive tract, and after four weeks of this, an extra five to ten pounds around the hips.

I’m happy to say that my kitchen is done and it’s bright and beautiful. And now I feel just a bit obligated to spend more time in there, keeping my cute new French Country cookie jar filled and turning out delicious dinners. After all, I always said I’d be the perfect wife and mother cooking in the kitchen if only the room were prettier.

But on second thought, I’ve got a dough-nut to get rid of. Maybe I can put weight loss affirmations in that cookie jar? Somehow, I think my family will complain.

More photos today…

Home Tour! 022It was foggy outside on Saturday morning, but I’m not sure how the mist got into our front hall.

Home Tour! 010The living room.  This is Elijah’s favorite chair, but when we bought it it was going to be MY favorite chair.  The print above the chair is an old photograph of Gloucester, Virginia, my husband’s home town.  I found the lamp at a garage sale for $5.  The table is an auction purchase, a 1970s/80s Thomasville Furniture piece that I painted black.

Home Tour! 011The dog’s favorite chair, with washable slipcover.  Is it any wonder I never get to sit down?!  This is one of a pair of wing chairs we inherited from my parents.  My dear friend Kim made the quilt for our wedding.  The print above this chair is by a local artist, Flora Schinkle, and it’s the church steeple and water tower in the last town we lived in, Richmond, Minnesota.  It’s part of a series of small town steeples and water towers that she’s painted.

Home Tour! 012I took many of these photos in the early morning before the Home Tour started, so they are dark.  It was a foggy start to that day.  The living room walls are “River Rock” blue/gray by Behr and do not normally look periwinkle like this.  We painted both the front and back porch ceilings the same blue.  The trunk/coffee table is an antique with the name Jules Thorner carved into it–likely it traveled from Scandinavia to America in the late 1800s.  I bought it when I was in college and already an antique lover (have been since jr. high, really).

I sewed the curtains the day before the tour, and they turned out lovely.  They are upholstery fabric I’ve had for ages, with a backing of light blue gingham sheets I’ve also had stashed.  These are so easy to make, just put the front and back wrong sides together, sew around all sides but leave a little opening so you can turn them right side out.  Turn in and sew up that little bit, then hang from clip rings.  I got many compliments on them so I’m glad I got them done and hung.

Home Tour! 013

The print above the bookshelf is by a local St. Cloud artist, Nona Huyler, and it is ice skaters on Lake George which is our neighborhood lake and is just a couple blocks from our house.  I framed both the Richmond and Lake George prints in cheap 16×20 frames and mats from Michaels.  You can see we are just using cheap tray tables from Bed, Bath and Beyond for end tables on either side of the couch.  We also use these for lunch and weekend breakfasts all the time because I grew up eating lunch in front of Sesame Street at my grandma’s, so it’s kind of nostalgic for me–bad parenting or not.

George used shoe polish on the leather couch the night before the tour, covering up the cat scratches which were bad but not horrible.  I saw him doing it and said, “that better look good in the daylight”, and it did.   A new idea!

Home Tour! 056The dining room, later in the day when the sun shone through the west piano windows.  George made the table during a weekend class several years ago at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota.  It is a family heirloom now, with a pine base and a top made from huge fir beams from an old Lutheran church in Wisconsin.  The benches were bought for half price at World Market, and at $100 each they were much cheaper than buying six chairs.  I sewed all the curtains in here the day before the tour, as well, with fabric I’d had-again-for ages.  The bookshelf in the far corner was a dumpster dive freebie; it was ugly plywood that I painted Cranberry (the paint was also free, from our county’s hazardous waste site where they give away paint that has been brought in for disposal).  It is now just a nice basic bookshelf that holds a lot of stuff.

Home Tour! 036Here I have just sewed a bottom from the calico fabric onto cheapie Target tab-top curtains that came with our house.  I was going to do something fancier, but then I came up with this idea at the last minute, saving time and actually looking better than my original idea.

Home Tour! 039And more curtains made at the last minute, inside this old cabinet/secretary desk which was a $25 auction buy.  It came with no doors so I had them made (roughly) for $65 and then painted it the same Cranberry color.  You can see we have french doors between living room and dining room, and from the living room into the hall.

Home Tour! 017The freshly white-painted back porch.  I promised a photo of a window seat with cubbies a few posts back.  Well, here’s how it went.  George had the top cut out of an old ping pong table from the neighbor’s trash pile.  He was making a frame from some oak 1x2s from another neighbor’s pile.  Sitting in bed the night before he was going to install it, I said, “Now,” (and you know how that “now” went), “the window seat will have a base, right, so it can sit up off the floor with a 1×4 as a baseboard around the bottom and then quarter-round and stuff?  Right?”

Well, somehow I had not been clear enough when I telepathically showed my husband my vision for this window seat (which I had to stop calling a bench because it was to be taller than a bench so that had been confusing him all along).  And as you can see, the window seat/bench/cubbies that were to hold these blue bins and NOT SHOES, no not shoes or boots or anything like that because that wasn’t what I wanted either.  Well, anyways…you can see I made do with a bench from the front porch to hold the bins (which I hope to replace with similarly-sized cuter baskets someday).

Home Tour! 021And the kitchen.  You’ve seen this angle, but here it is with mums and lemon balm in the pitcher, and a bowl of tomatoes on the counter so you know it’s now September.  I also added a little Tirolean wood carving/wall hanging of Mary and Jesus to the wall.  I’m not even Catholic, but I got this recently in a box at a neighbor’s auction and I think it’s so sweet and adds patina to the wall.  Also, it adds a 5th item because any grouping should have an odd number of items, correct?  Well, who cares.  I still need more old stuff in my beautiful but too-shiny kitchen, though.

Home Tour! 043And another kitchen angle, now that the windows are in and painted.  On top of the fridge I have an old crate with my cookbooks in it, something I’ve done in all our houses.  The basket is from an Amish woman’s home in Harmony, Minnesota.  The curtains are a $2 garage sale find.  The cookie jar is Goodwill.  The breadmaker is $5 garage sale.  The toaster was purchased with wedding money 14 years ago and is still going strong.  And George thought $65 for a toaster was too much!  My kids and I are huge toast people, so it was an investment.  Ha Ha.

Oh, and where it looks like there’s a hole under the sink, it actually WAS a hole because that piece of cabinet keeps falling off.  But George put a double layer of hardware wire/chicken mesh in there, spray painted the same brown as the cabinet handles.  It is dark so maybe we’ll paint it the cabinet color someday.

So there you have the main floor of our 1925 Foursquare here in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  This type of house is very common in Minnesota and we have tried to do both its history and present usage justice.  It’s fun to have it “done”.

Soon I’ll show you the second floor.

The other day I wrote about how we have just 77 bucks for gas and groceries (and spending in general) for the next two weeks.  A big part of that is because we had the unusual expense of Rose’s choir tuition, a couple hundred bucks for the year of choir (a bargain in kids’ activities, really).  We actually have a little money in savings, and even some more in the checkbook, but all that is untouchable except in an emergency!  I can make do on that 77 dollars because of a few tricks I’ve learned on how to stretch a dollar, so I’m really not worrying about it.  Well, maybe we worried a little when the final tally came in, but not much.

In the not-too-distant past, when we had a shortfall like that, we would’ve made up the difference with a credit card, “just until the next paycheck comes in and we’ll pay it back”.  Well, when the next paycheck comes in, invariably there are a million other things to spend that money on and the credit card bill hasn’t arrived yet, etc. etc. and eventually you’re up to your eyeballs in credit card debt just because of a few large and lots of little “oh this doesn’t count” purchases.

Been there.  Done that.  Much of my “adult” life.  And we’ve got to change our ways!  Is it really worth taking out a mini loan and paying big interest to that huge bank just to have that meal at Taco John’s?  Or those school supplies which are “on-sale-now-and-won’t-be-in-two-weeks” when I actually have the cash?  (Could you hear me hyper-ventilating with fear there in those quotation marks?  Our consumer culture loves to have us quaking in our boots about sales, “buy now!”, “get it today!”, “prices will NEVER BE THIS LOW AGAIN”!)  And you start shaking and think, I’d better get these notebooks now while they’re only 10.cents.each!!!

Oh my gosh, have I fallen for that one.  I was RAISED to fall for that.  Weren’t we all?  Those of us in our pre-teens, teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s seem to have been, at least.  At least since the 1940s.  Since TV, maybe even before.

George and I are really trying hard to stop it, though.  He has a better background than me, having been raised frugally, but one can’t say he’s been the perfect “Frugal Freddie” either (I made that up).  Both of us really know how to stretch a buck, though, when needed.

Some helps I have found are, first, Amy Dacyczyn’s The Tightwad Gazette.  I read this early in our marriage, when we were trying to merge two people with huge school debt (mine) into one income (his).  What I got out of Amy’s books wasn’t so much about how to use juice can lids in 101 different ways, or what to do with old tinfoil, but more a philosophy of thinking.  A philosophy I’ve only been sometimes good at, because sometimes you just gotta rebel and spend some money, eh?  She calls that “spendthrift” thinking, of course…But the main thing that won’t leave my mind from The Tightwad Gazette’s pages is the questioning of each purchase, “is the value of this item to me worth the effort it took to earn the money for it?”  I try to teach my kids to ask the same question.  Do you love it?  How much does it cost you in time to earn/get that money?  Fortunately, I think my kids are really good at it!  Hopefully better than their parents…

Some online sites I’ve found very helpful are:

Hillbilly Housewife–I actually took the time and ink to print out her entire $45 a week meal plan (though those recipes were priced just a few years ago in 2006, in 2009 the same items cost $70 a week–there’s some major inflation for you and no wonder we all feel strapped!) and all the recipes for that menu.  I love her Rock Bottom Salmon Patties, even more than my old Salmon Patty recipe (the most searched for post on my old blog, The Zahn Zone, by the way).  Hillbilly Housewife has lots of good recipes and ideas for feeding the family on a low budget.  For us, of course, having a pantry stocked with good foods purchased on sale, and gardening, has made a big difference in our budget.

Frugal Girls! and Money Saving Mom have been helpful for some “fun” freebies and coupon deals that I otherwise wouldn’t know about.  For example, through them, I heard about and signed up on the Noodles and Company website and got a free birthday meal and a BOGO coupon for another meal, which allowed for some fun lunches out I otherwise wouldn’t have had.

I also love Brenda’s pantry posts at her blog, Coffee Tea Books and Me.  Brenda and her husband live on disability and occasional jobs, and she’s very forthright with how they do it and still have a bit for those “simple pleasures” in life, such as coffee, tea and books (the very same “simple pleasures” that I will spend my last dime on!).  She has many links to her pantry-stocking posts, and other frugal living sites, on the side of her blog.

And lastly, I got most of my stocking the pantry motivation from Sharon over at Casaubon’s Book.  There are reasons other than saving money to have a full pantry, and if you want more information on that do some searching through her excellent blog.

I also like to decorate my house on the cheap, as you know from my kitchen post.  And in thinking about how I’ve learned to do that, I have to say most of it comes out of my own imagination.  I do search for bargains in fabric, or at garage sales, but a lot of it comes down to imagination.  I get a big rush from making something look nice for very little money.  Whereas some people paint, or play music, or scrapbook, making my home look pretty (with as little sewing as I can get by with!) is my “art form”.

Fortunately, I have a husband who’s a willing participant in my art form.  He can take a piece of old ping pong table plywood from one neighbor, some oak 1×2″s from someone’s scrap pile, bead-board we got through freecycle, and some free paint from the county hazardous waste site, and transform it into the back porch window-seat-with-cubbies of my dreams…You’ll see photos of that hopefully after this weekend!  Having a handy husband is essential to my decorating “cents”, though I suppose I could learn to do that stuff myself.  Nah, I’d just do more garage sale shopping and make do with what I found.

Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Do without.

~old New England saying

I love that one!

Ooh, you guys were all waiting with bated breath for the basement reveal, weren’t you?  Ha ha!  I doubt it.  Still, we worked hard and it’s clean, if not completely “decorated” yet.  I’m really happy it’s mostly done.  Now George can host his music lessons in the room, and when his parents come to visit from Virginia next month, we’ll be sticking ’em in the basement!  (I think they’ll like it, actually…)

Some photos:

project desk and game shelves

project desk and game shelves

Rose calls this "the lounge"

Rose calls this "the lounge"

basement clean! 004

complete with "early 90s" dorm-style entertainment center, phonograph included

complete with “early 90s” dorm-style entertainment center, phonograph included
even the closet is clean

even the closet is clean, Rose's dress-up shoes not included

Next for this room is a guest bed (it will fit near the desk), some sheer white curtains on the little windows, and a few more bits of art work.  The watercolors above the couch are from the kids’ preschool days and I can see in my haste to take these photos I hung them too high.  This room is no “miracle”, magazine-worthy space, but it’s so functional now.  It was the room we stashed stuff into it five years ago when we moved in, so it really needed a cleaning out.  Several boxes of stuff will go on the August garage sale, and quite a bit went into the trash.  Now, if we can just keep more from accumulating…

Now we’re working on the kitchen.  Here’s the spot on the ceiling that George is repairing, after years of bathroom leaks (no structural damage, thankfully, just plaster damage).

basement clean! 008

And here’s George measuring for tile on the backsplashes:

basement clean! 009

For basement before photos, click here.  For kitchen before photos, click here.

Here’s something from Grandma’s penny-wise idea jar (not that I ever saw my Grandma do this, but I know it used to be done):

When you slice your homemade bread, or cut the crusts off for your picky eaters, save all those little bits for bread crumbs.  Because I have an old-fashioned under-counter breadboard–love it!–I cut my bread on there, tuck the board back into place under the countertop, and let the crumbs lie until the next time I use the board.  By then, they’re dried out and I can put them in a little glass jar I keep handy near the cutting area. 

cutting up homemade bread from my $5 garage sale breadmaker and saving the crumbs

cutting up homemade bread from my $5 garage sale breadmaker and saving the crumbs

I set the cut-off crusts out on a plate until they dry and then stick them in the jar too.  When I need bread crumbs for a recipe, I just grind ’em up and use them.  I also stick the little bits of crackers at the bottom of a bag in the jar too.

Thursdays at my blog are supposed to be about books I’m reading, but since I’m too busy garage sale-ing, home remodeling, and keeping up with having both hubby and dear daughter home for the summer, I haven’t gotten through last week’s books. So I’m going to instead give you some links I’m loving lately.

First, I can’t get through a day lately without popping over to Chez Larsson for my daily dose of clean, pristine, beautiful and inspiring.  Benita, like me, is a Martha Stewart fan (though she, I would say, is much more of a fanatic than me–she keeps every issue of Martha in a cabinet whereas I always pass on magazines after a few months).  I think it’s the only “clutter” Benita has, though, and she certainly doesn’t let them become clutter–like everything the magazines have their designated place in her home.

She writes from her small home in Stockholm, Sweden.  Her English is perfect, somehow–someday I’d like to ask her about how she got to be so good at it, the slang and everything.  She is an organizer par excellence and she and her husband Martin and their teen-age son Willie make the most efficient use of their little Swedish house.  I get so inspired by all her projects.  And even just peeking into her kitchen drawers is a thrill!  (I think maybe you have to be a little bit of a neat freak, or at least long for neatness, to feel that way…)

Another blog I’m checking often is The Farm Chicks.  Being an “urban homesteader” and a farm girl at heart, I love that Serena and Teri celebrate the beautiful things about our nation’s farm heritage.  They, like me, love vintage aprons and all things “country”, but with a modern touch.

I had a chance to look through their new book, The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen: Live Well, Laugh Often, Cook Much, at Barnes and Noble the other day and I loved it!  In fact, I keep wanting to go back just to look at it and read some more.  They have great recipes and cute homey ideas, but I also loved the background stories of these two women.  Serena grew up with hippy parents and Teri grew up on a farm; they both tell their story well in this Country Living-published book.  I am definitely going to buy it come pay-day!

Some other fairly new-to-me blogs I’m really enjoying lately are Lizzy Lane Farm, Cherry Hill Cottage (I linked to Tina’s Chocolate Cobbler recipe yesterday), and The Nourished Kitchen, just to name a few.  You can see other blogs I like on my various blog rolls in the sidebar.

Have fun perusing!

In lieu of posting my own recipe today, I’ll just send you all over to the very cute blog, Cherry Hill Cottage, to see the amazing recipe that Tina posted today for Chocolate Cobbler.  It looks so yummy and so easy!  You don’t even have to stir much…And she has great photos of the whole, easy process too.

(photo from Cherry Hill Cottage)

(photo from Cherry Hill Cottage)

I should say, I haven’t made it yet, but I will do so for the next get-together for sure.  I don’t see how anything could go wrong with it, given the ingredients list.;-)

Here’s a photo of this morning’s garage sale “stash”.  I’m in heaven because I found 13 vintage aprons in pristine condition for a quarter apiece!!!

some of today's garage sale haul--aprons, stool and cabinet door

some of today's garage sale haul--aprons, stool and free cabinet door

The little green stool was just a quarter, too.  I’m going to paint chalkboard paint on the white part of this free cabinet door, leave the red, and probably hang it in my kitchen when we’re done painting in there.  I also got three pairs of nice L.L. Bean women’s flannel jammies for $1-2 a set; one set was still in the package brand new!

I’m fast becoming a garage sale addict.  Today I had to borrow the ten bucks  from my kids because I’m broke. ;-( Pathetic, I know.  I had to get my fix, though!  And with this haul, boy am I glad I did.  Can you believe those aprons?!  I guess I have a collection now, adding these to the 8 or so I already had.  Some I will wear, others will go in a cabinet for now.  Maybe I’ll get a booth at a flea market one of these days…I have a knack for this stuff.

Well, I shouldn’t say WAY before, because at least some painting work has been done in this basement room.  However, it is such a disaster area right now I’m embarrassed to show you today’s photos.

ew, don't look!

ew, don't look!

The project for this week is to completely declutter and organize this room.  George starts teaching summer private music lessons in our home one week from tomorrow, and we’ve decided this room will be his “studio” so there is a lot of work to do between now and next Tuesday.

I'm only showing you these so you will be impressed by the AFTER shots!

I'm only showing you these so you will be impressed by the AFTER shots!

Many of these toys will no longer be in our home.;-)

These built-ins are nice--what to put in them and what to keep out?

These built-ins are nice--what to put in them and what to keep out?

My craft supplies will find new homes either in our bedroom cabinets (my sewing machine has a nice spot in our bedroom right below a wall of cabinets that hold fabric and will hold yarn, etc. as well–sounds bad but it works), or they will be in the garage ready for our August neighborhood-wide garage sales.

boxes full of yarn and other junk

boxes full of yarn and other junk

This room will hold a loveseat, two Ikea-style chairs, and some shelving units for books, organized toys and TV/video games.  I’m thinking of adding a twin bed near the wall of cabinets and desk area, for guests or maybe to make this room a place for someone who needs to stay for a while (with the economy that could happen).  I also need to keep this play cabinet my grandpa built and would love to “feature it” somehow…

this was my mom and aunt's, then mine, now Rose's--made by Grandpa

this was my mom and aunt's, then mine, now Rose's--made by Grandpa

That messy closet will hold off-season coats, and boots, skates, skis, etc. in bins.  Right now George has files and musical scores in there, which is dangerous in the basement. 



As a space for instrumental music lessons, the room needs only seating for a parent and a couple of music stands.  It also needs to stay clean and decent (as does my laundry area on the way into the room).  I hate to send people to the basement, but it works in our house because students can enter into the side door and head right down the stairs for lessons.  It’s actually a fairly open basement so doesn’t feel like a dungeon heading down.   I can’t wait to get it looking nice!

And to make myself feel better, I’m posting this photo of a quick sewing project I did yesterday.  I have been needing a tea cozy for my red pot for so long.  When I saw some in a vintage shop on Saturday, I knew I could make one myself.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I’m not much of a seamstress, but I’m proud of myself for this!  I found the tutorial here at The Rusty Bobbin. 

made from a scrap of fabric I got in a box through

made from a scrap of fabric I got in a box through

Next week I’ll post “after” photos of the basement, so the pressure is on.  Then after this room, I’ll be working on the kitchen while George paints and finishes off our master bedroom.  It’s a whole summer of projects!  Thank goodness George is a teacher with summers off to get things done with me.

Are you impulsive like me?  Have you ever done this…

pink! underneath kitchen wallpaper

pink! underneath kitchen wallpaper

on a whim?

I have, lots of times.  George and I have renovated three different homes before we got to our current one.  They all started out pretty ugly and ended up mostly beautiful (the first kitchen turned out bad, but we moved out of there fast anyway…).  We’ve lived in this house, which is in very good condition, for nearly five years now.  Until now, the kitchen has been considered “okay”–if not exactly our style, at least decent enough to leave alone until more time and money allowed for a remodel.

Well, now our home is going to be one of five on our neighborhood’s 3rd annual historic home tour this fall.  And now, I’m freaking out!  I want everything to be perfect, in spite of what I said just a few months ago.  “As long as it’s clean, it’ll be fine…” to my husband who started freaking out sooner than me.

So now, the kitchen is getting redone by sheer force of my will.  No money, but willpower and sweat equity.  The cabinets will be painted.  After days and nights of obsessing over the color for them, I think I’m going to go with a dark cranberry red on the base cabinets and creamy white on the top cabinets and walls.  It’s really, really hard for me to decide on colors because I have so many things I like.  Here are my favorite kitchen things…

everyday pretties...

everyday pretties...

The things I use every day–the red colander and gingham curtains I found at garage sales and have been “saving up” till they matched the kitchen; the vintage aprons I wear, from my husband’s grandma; the blue Kitchenaid and red enameled dutch oven; the red teapot; and the mix-matched mostly thrifted blue and white dishes.  There’s a blue and red theme going on here, which demands a fairly neutral paint palette.  Or does it?

more everyday pretties...

more everyday pretties...

Then there’s the “wild country” look I also love.  Vintage brown bowls from my grandma; pottery mostly from local friends Ken Maddux, JD Jorgenson, Richard Bresnehan, Bill Gossman, and a few from travels; beeswax candles; and crocheted lace.  This would look good with all creamy white cabinets, but we’re afraid to do the base cabinets light-colored because the kitchen is tiny and sees lots of dirt!

and Sunday pretties...

and Sunday pretties...

No!  I am not a collector…but I have this lovely stuff, and more, as well.  All this stuff goes into my tiny kitchen (because we mostly use the dining room as an office/music/crafting space–the “creativity room” we call it–these days). 

So I’ve been thinking of black base cabinets, red base cabinets, 30s green base cabinets (which we had in our last house and I adored that color) and even light blue/aqua base cabinets for something different to go with the red and blue/white.  For sure white or creamy white goes on top, but what for the bottom?  Anyone have a strong opinion?  This morning I woke up to my first thought “cranberry!” but last night my last thought going to sleep was “light blue!”  I think black is too dark, since it has to go on the wainscoting on the walls, too, as you see here:

"before" ugly with no charm, no style

"before" ugly with no charm, no style

We have black appliances (I’d prefer white), which is why black cabinets have entered into my mind.  However, since I want to paint the wainscot (which is also ugly, but we’re not changing it) to match the cabinets, I don’t think I want black halfway up the wall.

Cranberry red?  That’s where I’m leaning…I have a cranberry red (Olde Century Colors paint) cabinet and shelves in the dining room.  And in the photo below you can see I have a light blue in the side-door hall and rose red in the front hall leading to the porch, which is (thankfully for some of you neutral lovers) tan and white with a “river rock” blue ceiling.

back door to front door

back door to front door

 Oh, and the dining room is green!

sorry I should've removed the trash basket!

sorry I should've removed the trash basket!

You may not believe it, but this house was all cream painted walls when we bought it.  It was fine  but for me the dark woodwork and urban setting of our home were screaming out for COLOR!  So, we’ve had fun with it.  And I really like it, but…my main goals for my dark kitchen are lightness and a fairly neutral background for all my stuff (I haven’t even shown you my orange kitchen stuff yet!  I love orange with blue and white, too.)
I will be obsessing for a while over this, I’m sure, so if you want to drop by and give an opinion, feel free.  (I’ll still do whatever I want, but I’ll take ideas.)


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