November 30, 2009

november snapshot

1. I finally got my fall color fix on the east coast. 2. A very cool shed/garage in Mystic, CT. 3. A bright blue, crisp morning. 4. Cool old tractor at a farmers market.
5. Yet another pretty pond shot.

November 27, 2009

blue christmas

Blue is not your common everyday Christmas color. That said, in years past I have been able to find quite an amazing amount of aqua blue to adorn my dining room. I haven't been out shopping much this year, but last year I hit the jackpot in the aqua/crystal/mercury glass department.

A Christmas wreath of the Martha persuasion...shatterproof (i.e. cheap plastic) balls from her K-mart (Kame-apart to my kids) collection, and glitter from her ultra fab Michael's "essential colors glitter set."
*edited to add, the glitter set is on sale this week for 25% off!

Side note....I feel an entire post dedicated to glitter brewing, as well as a separate post dedicated to Martha. Both are swirling in my head and must. get. out.

I am still not ready to buy a macro lens, but I would love to be able to get closer to things like this pretty, sparkly crystal bead....

Have you started decorating yet?

November 25, 2009

since you'll be shopping friday....

....these little gems are on clearance at Pier 1 for only $1.68. Very cute, very retro. Just do me a favor. If you get them, please make sure the beverage to be consumed matches the picture on the glass. That particular issue has caused a squabble or two around here. And those squabbles may or may not have been instigated by me. It just seems very wrong to see milk in the lemonade glass. Bad combo.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2009

the real mccoy

I love McCoy pottery.

I love vintage tablecloths.

I love pretty china.

I love old quilts.

I love thinking about the very first owner of the vintage items in my home. I wonder if she got that china for a wedding gift. Or how long it took her to make that quilt. What her life was like.

I love my pretty stuff. It makes me happy to create a beautiful home. God made me that way, and I'm glad He did.

But...sometimes my stuff makes me sick.

Let me explain.

You know me as the mother of three fine young men. But I also have a little girl. A little girl that I love as my own. Her name is Helena, and she lives in Tanzania. I sponsor her through Compassion International.

A couple years ago, God led me on a journey that started with American Idol, of all things, and ended in Africa. I won't bore you with the entire rabbit trail I followed, but I ultimately ended up at the blogs of BooMama and Big Mama, two Compassion Bloggers.

Big Mama, Melanie, snared me immediately with stories about her hilarious daughter Caroline. If you want a daily morning laugh, you must go visit. She's hysterical.

BooMama, Sophie, another place to visit when you need a good giggle, had recently returned from a Compassion Blogger trip to Uganda, and the trip changed her life.

Many months later, for some reason, I became obsessed with that Uganda story. I couldn't stop thinking about it. It had really not impacted me that much the first time I read it, but for some reason, I just had to go and read it again.

And this time, my heart was broken.

The goal of the blogger trip was to share Compassion's work and ultimately get more children sponsored. I went to Compassion's website and blog and checked it out. What I found has changed my life.

Statistics can be boring, but statistics are what impacted me the most.

Here's what I discovered.

More than six million children die from malnutrition each year. Six. Million. That's about the same number of Jews who died in the Holocaust. Six million children die from malnutrition...




Malaria kills about one million children a year. One million. Easily preventable with a mosquito net. One million little kids, just as precious as yours and mine.

One point eight million young children die from diarrhea related sickness. One point eight million....young children.

Approximately five thousand children a day die as a result of unclean water and poor sanitation. Five thousand. A day.

Adorable little children.

Five thousand. A day. Die.

If you want to be further horrified, you can go here and find enough statistics to make you lose sleep for the next month.

I swing back and forth between whether it's okay to have so much stuff when there is so much need in the world. Sometimes I want to sell everything and make sure every single child I can possibly help gets what I can give them. Sometimes, right now, I am okay with having my stuff, as long as I am doing and giving what God has called me to do and give, and as long as I remember that it's just stuff. People, and how you treat them is important. Helping those who can't help themselves is important. Seeing a need and doing something about it is important.

Sometimes, it's easiest to just write a check and call it good. And writing that check is fabulous. But I want to find a way to tangibly, physically do more. I want to go to an orphanage and hold babies, change their sweet little diapers, feed them their bottles, get up with them in the middle of the night. Give an overworked caregiver a much needed break. Fill a desperate need. When the right opportunity crosses my path and the timing is right, I'm going.

One day, when my photographic skills allow, I want to take pictures that matter. I know that the pictures I take now matter. Pictures of family, friends, and babies matter. But I want to take pictures that could potentially change someones life. Pictures that somehow make it so that one less baby or child goes to bed hungry, or gets Malaria, or dies from diarrhea because his sweet, uneducated mama thinks diarrhea means he has too much water in his little system, and quits giving him liquids.

I don't know how, where, or when, but as of now, that is my dream.

That's who I want to be when I grow up.

Here are the photo's I have of my sweet little girl. The fact that they are held on my fridge with Martha Stewart magnets that color coordinate with my kitchen is simply a perfect representation of where I am in life right now.

Today, my stuff isn't making me sick. But maybe someday it will, all day, everyday.

When I started this blog, I assumed it would be for family and friends. I did not know that one little email to Jen would introduce me to all of you wonderful, cottagey, aqua loving people. People just like me who love pretty things. Who love to create a beautiful home. Who appreciate a simple picture of a baby they don't even know. Who enjoy a view of mountains and a pond that exists many, many miles away from where they live.

I just wanted you to know that I am more than just another pretty house. More than my pottery collection. I want you to know me, the real McCoy.

November 20, 2009

sweet baby

A new little friend came to play at my house this week.

He's the great grandson of a dear friend of mine, and when I heard he was coming to town, I asked if his mama might be interested in having some pictures taken. She was, and I was excited at the possibility of having such a young victim, er...subject.

This was my first time taking pictures for someone I don't really know. Someone who could potentially be a little freaked out that I talk to myself and my camera while taking photo's. Someone who doesn't have to love me anyway if the pictures don't turn out.

I was also very nervous about his young age. He's not so little that I could shape him like a gumbi doll while he slept, but also not big enough to sit by himself. What do I do with his smushy little self? He is in the precious little bobble-head stage. Sweet little neck muscles that aren't always up to the challenge of holding a little noggin steady. I ended up with quite a few blurry photos, but also some pretty adorable ones. I was so grateful his mama was willing to let me try to improve my skills.

It was a warm but very windy day.

After we totally offended him by subjecting him to one too many wind gusts in the face, we came back inside, he had a snack and fell into a very deep sleep. Precious boy.

Babies are such a nice way to start people. ~ Don Herold

November 15, 2009

the junk house - part three

It has been really fun to finally document the junk house remodel. I have been wanting to scrapbook the project, and have most of the supplies, but it is all in the craft supply black hole along with many of my other creative good intentions. Until now, all I've had to show people is a stack of pictures that I could never seem to find when I needed them. I'm glad to have other people enjoy the look back with me.

Lets head into the dining room.....

It has a great view of our front hayfield, but only had one window. One of our contractor friends traveled over for a long weekend, and he and my hubby added the bay addition. We built the wall along the kitchen, covered the rough beams with new trim, and bead boarded the walls and ceiling. The dining walls are my very favorite color, kind of a robins egg, aqua blue.

I have a lot of vintage china, but this is my favorite pattern. My mom found service for 12, plus all the serving pieces, many years ago. She has slowly been giving it to me, and it fits my house perfectly. Thanks, mom!

The stairs were one of the more interesting projects we tackled in the house. If you look closely at the top, the landing is two steps short of the hall, so when you got to the top, you either turned left, went up two steps into the front bedroom, or went the other way, up two, and down the hall. Dangerous nighttime bathroom trips!

Our contractor was able to come up with a great solution, and now I love the staircase.

Last, I'll take you down the hall to the scary bathroom. I don't have any pictures of the inside of the bathroom, and I'm pretty sure that's because the sink was actually behind the door, so you could only open the door half way (if that). The bathroom was painted a dark, bright blue and was very, very gross.

I can't tell you how much it bothers me that you can see my toilet in the after picture. I certainly could have put the sink on that side, but didn't think of it until all was done. When you are doing a project like this, the stupidest things keep you awake at night!

Just a few questions came up after the kitchen post. The first was what kind of material we used on the ceilings.
All the painted trim in our house is MDF material. If you are going to paint, it is so much nicer to work with because there are no knots or rough patches. We got it though our local lumberyard, but I know they sell it at Home Depot.
The trim paint in part of the house is a semi-gloss. We did all that painting ourselves, but when we did the second phase, we hired a painter and started using oil base paint. The difference is huge. The oil has a much smoother, nicer finish, but it is not fun to work with.
Last year, I visited a historic home that had dark walls, and gloss creamy white trim. It was gorgeous, and if I had seen that finish, I would have considered gloss for the trim as an option as well.

More Junk House to come.....stay tuned!

November 13, 2009

life is a highway

For the last seven days, I have been on a cross country road trip with my firstborn. After a two week stop at home on his way from Alaska to his new assignment on the east coast, it was time to hit the road. I decided to broaden my national horizons and tag along, so early last Saturday morning we started the voyage down Interstate 90. Six days and twelve states later we arrived. It was actually a very good trip. Our only disappointment came in the form of a Griswold family vacation moment, when we drove up to the gates of Cedar Point Amusement Park, the roller coaster capital of the world, only to find that it had closed for the season on November 1st. Fortunately, we had only decided to go to the park about five minutes before the freeway exit, so the emotional roller coaster of excitement and disappointment was extremely short lived. The look of pity from the gate attendant was the worst part. "Where you folks headed?" I'm pretty sure he thought we drove all the way from Montana for nothing.

We spent the second day of our drive in South Dakota touring Mt. Rushmore National Memorial and the Badlands National Park. Both were extremely cool. This was my second time to visit Mt. Rushmore. The first time, I wasn't prepared to be so very impressed. It is beautiful and awe inspiring to see the monument carved into the mountainside. Well worth the trip. A pair of mountain goats greeted us at the park entrance. This fella ignored the signs and was digging a hole to lay down in.

The Badlands were also a worthwhile detour, with the absolute highlight being the hilarious prairie dogs scurrying around, hopping up and down, whistling alerts and generally entertaining us for as much time as we could spare. I know they are members of the rodent family, which I generally abhor, but I make an exception for these cuties. My son claims I wouldn't think they were cute if they showed up under my sink like their relatives. I'll have to think about that one.

From the Badlands all the way to Mystic, CT is a high speed blur, as it was all about mileage until we rested for a day in one of the prettiest seaside towns I have ever visited. Street after street of beautiful, historic homes and a quaint main street made for a very charming town.

Yesterday morning we made a quick circle through a very old cemetery in Mystic that was full of beautiful statues and headstones.

Some memories from the trip (the freeway perspective)....
Minnesota and Wisconsin - barns and silos. I wish I had time to find some back roads to tour.
Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana - toll roads.
Pennsylvania - trees and rolling hills. I kept thinking that if we were a couple weeks earlier the fall color probably would have been out of this world.
New York - kamikaze driving skills required.
America in general - beautiful.

November 6, 2009

all i want for christmas

For the last two weeks, my house has been full. My two older boys have returned home. One, in transit to his new Coast Guard assignment, and the other, fresh out of boot camp.

Ironically, all the years that my boys were living at home, I loved the rare moments of peace when the house was empty. Now, my peace comes from having them all at home.

I told them that all I wanted for Christmas this year was a day of picture taking. With happy attitudes. And several clothing changes. And no bloodshed. That's a big request. They came through for me, and this afternoon we ventured outside. They were troopers as my subjects of the day.

I thought it would be fun to re-create some old photos.

This one, from about thirteen years ago, has always been a favorite.

And now.....

When they were little, I dressed them similar on purpose. This time, I picked the shirts for color, and didn't notice they were all from Aero until the pics were done. We also noticed the two older boys were on opposite sides of their little bro, but when I suggested we go out and redo them, I didn't get any takers.

My two older boys took the time to dress in their gorgeous uniforms. So handsome.

Another old favorite - the men in black, all ready for prom six years ago.

Now, they are ready to take on whatever comes their way.

The last two weeks have been great. The chaos has been fun, and it's going to take some time to get used to a quieter house again.

I love my boys!

p.s. I am not a little person, I am five feet, seven inches, but standing next to these guys makes me feel quite petite... That just gives you a hint of what our grocery bill has been the last two weeks!

November 5, 2009

a pre-thanksgiving turkey

Before I get to today's post, I want to thank Jen from The Cottage Nest for her wonderful introduction of my blog. Wow, what a nice thing for her to do. And, wow. What a nice group of people she sent my way. Thank you so much for all the encouraging comments. I have been very warmly welcomed to the blogging community, and can tell this is going to be fun!

Jen, you are the real deal, my friend. I am so glad we met. Thank you for taking the time to share your readers with me!

Now on to the pictures.

As I have now shared several times, improving my photography was one of the main reasons I started this blog. I have always loved taking pictures, but in a point and shoot way. I got my Rebel a couple years ago, and my interest has grown steadily since then. Almost exactly a year ago, my sister-in-law asked me to take photo's of her sweet baby granddaughter in her Halloween costume. I said yes, with the condition that their expectations be very low! That first photo "session" sparked a much deeper interest, and photography has become a pretty big part of my life these days.

My two older boys are gone from home, so that only leaves me with one victim to beg, plead and cajole. Sometimes he's willing, and some times, not so much.

It's easy to take lots and lots of pictures with a digital camera. With this little charmer, my ratio of good to bad photo's seems to be about 1 to 100 or so.

For every one of these.....

I get a LOT of these.....

A few cooperative moments....

Hello? Mama's trying to accomplish something here! I took 38 pictures in this spot and not one was good.

I want to hurt him, but I'm laughing too hard.


November 2, 2009

the junk house -kitchen edition

Now that you've seen the outside of the Junk House, it's time to venture inside. The kitchen was, of course, the most consuming individual room of the remodel.

It was actually remodeled twice. Once, from the initial gutting, and then again when we decided to make the house our permanent home. You see, we were just going to live in the house while we were building our new home. In order to make it livable though, we had to put a lot of time and money into, insulation, all new siding, and total reinforcement of the non-existent foundation (remember, we're 97 years old). In that process, the place started to grow on us, and we decided to make it our permanent home. While the house was just fine for a temporary place to live, knowing we were going to live here for a very long time made us re-think the big picture and function of the current floor plan. Unfortunately, we ended up re-doing and un-doing some of our recently completed remodeling projects. It almost killed my husband to take out/move walls that had just been freshly sheet rocked, painted and trimmed out.

I cannot begin to describe how disgusting the kitchen was. It's hard to see just how grimy and gross it was in this scanned photo. Cedar shakes ran around the tops of the cabinets, the light fixtures were covered with thick brown dirt and when we removed the cupboards, we found a mouse graveyard. Blech!

I have tried to stand in the same spot for the after pictures to give a good idea of how things have changed.

I think the only thing that stayed the same is the kitchen window over the sink, which isn't visible in this shot.

Below is the view from the living room, through the dining room.

We added the wall between the kitchen and dining room.

For phase two of the kitchen remodel, we took out a wall to make the kitchen bigger and added another wall of cabinets.

Here's one more after. (I think you've seen enough before's to get the idea.)

I love my kitchen. I love the vintage/retro feel. If there was room, I would have a bigger eating bar, but we make due with the two seater. That's the only thing I think I would change.

Dear Meadowbrook Kitchen,
You are an awesome kitchen. You have cooked lots of hearty meals for the men in my life, and they are grateful. On occasion, you crank out some great chick food too, for me and whatever girls I can convince to visit! The only issue I have with you is that somehow you are letting the occasional mouse get in under my sink. I have done my part with a can of spray foam, but somehow they seem to sneak by on the rare occasion. Is there a secret passage I don't know about? I don't appreciate you fraternizing with the enemy, and feel we really need to deal with this, then we can get back to our normal, great relationship. I look forward to many more culinary adventures together. You're a good, hardworking kitchen.

p.s. It is hard to take good indoor pictures! I had the toughest time getting accurate color and exposure. The walls in the kitchen are a light apple green, but I couldn't seem to get that to show up right.