Friday, February 17, 2017

book review ~ radical beauty




I've always found Deepak Chopra's theories on alternative medicine interesting, so I was excited to read and review this book. Dr. Chopra is an acclaimed advocate for integrative medicine, the founder of the Chopra Foundation and co-founder of the Chopra Center for Well-Being. He's also the author of more than 80 books and has been described by Time magazine as "one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century".

Kimberly Snyder is a New York Times best-selling author, nutritionist, and beauty expert. She hosts the popular podcast, Beauty Inside Out.

This book was broken down into six parts, or "pilars":

 Internal Nourishment
 External Nourishment
 Peak Beauty Sleep
 Primal Beauty
 Beautiful Movement
 Spiritual Beauty


There's also an appendix of a few healthy recipes (salads, soups, entrees and desserts). I found the information in this book easy to understand, educational, and inspiring for taking care of yourself in a holistic and healthy way. I'd highly recommend this book.

I received "Radical Beauty" from Blogging for Books for my honest, personal opinion review.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

it's not all hearts and flowers

I have mixed emotions about Valentine's Day. I'm more of a realist instead of a romantic, so I don't get all gushy about this day. On the other hand, it's fun to have a special day in the middle of the February to give cards (and gifts, if that's your thing) and express your love to family and friends.

(Brian and I on a family vacation in Cancun, 2003)

I remember back to mine and Brian's dating and engagement days...I was working as a secretary at a major pharmaceutical company in the consumer sales division. It was Valentine's Day and Brian had a beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to me at my desk. The older (i.e., more experienced) ladies I worked with were teasing me and saying, "Enjoy it now (meaning the flowers on Valentine's Day), because it won't last!" I was all indignant and retorted, "Oh, yes it will! We love each other!" Those wise women just laughed.

(Banner made by Connie of Crafty Home Cottage)

OK, so they were right. I don't receive flowers on Valentine's Day anymore. But, here it is 34 years later, and our love for each other has lasted. We truly do still love each other. Flowers may fade, but true love lasts forever. Oh crap, did I just make up a cheesy romantic saying? Or have I heard that somewhere before? It just popped into my head.

(Heart made by Carol of Art and Sand)

True love means picking up your husband's dirty socks and underwear off the floor and not bitching about it (OK, you're entitled once in awhile). True love means working your butt off for your family. True love means cleaning up vomit after your loved one is sick. True love means making healthy meals for your family so they are nourished. True love means getting up extra early and starting the other's car and letting it warm up in the frigid weather - so they don't have to. True love does mean saying you're sorry ~ despite what you might've heard from Love Story.

(Lefton heart trinket dish at top ~ a recent thrifting find)

Oh, I could go on and on. But you get the gist. True love is messy. And hard. It takes lots of work. A marriage is not 50-50. It is 100-100. 

(Brian and I on our wedding day in 1984 & by the Rock River in 2014)

Thus all said, I'll be making a big pan of baked ziti with homemade marinara, fresh mozzarella (we're not big fans of ricotta), and baby spinach and kale; plus a green salad with lots of fresh veggies for dinner tonight. And because we rarely eat bread and my husband and son love it, perhaps I'll make garlic bread, too. To up the ante, I just might break out the "good china" (our wedding china which we sadly rarely use) and light some candles.

Maybe I do still have a little touch of romanticism in me sometimes. ;-)
Happy Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 10, 2017

mantels and windows

Having never had a fireplace mantel until recently, I've been playing around with decor. Why didn't anyone tell me it's harder than it looks?! There's a lot involved - scale, layering, color, balance and symmetry. I can't tell you how many times I've changed this up. This shall do for now. The framed photograph in the middle is one of Tim's from his BFA art show last year. I know it's hard to tell from my photo, but it's a photograph of a staircase and entryway. The shadowing and textures in this photograph are amazing.


There's just one little problem that you don't see in the above photo - but you'll see below. The mantel juts right up to the window trim. (Yes, we need new windows and trim, and we hope that will be coming soon.) So, that leaves the problem of hanging curtains. We obviously can't do so now, as the mantel is in the way.


The window is actually a double one and the room looks harsh without a soft window treatment. We can't leave the windows bare (if they were pretty) because a neighbor's house is right outside this window. So...any ideas? I thought of fabric Roman shades, but I still don't think that will make the room look soft enough, especially when the shades are down at night. There IS room on the left side of the window for fabric to hang down. I have some gauzy sheers that I was thinking of draping over a curtain rod above the window and then just letting some hang down to the left. Tacky? Silly looking?


View from the kitchen...here you can see the left side of the double window.


We're not the only ones that like the new pass-thru. Clementine loves perching there. So far, my glass pieces have been fine. Clem's quite dainty and has never broken anything.


I still haven't decided on any art or decor for the living room or kitchen walls, but I am loving the light that we now get in both rooms.


Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

how to combat cabin fever

Hello, February! We're one month closer to spring. If you live in a cold climate like me, where you're already tired of bitter cold temps, days on end of cloudy skies, perhaps lots of snow, then you know how cabin fever sets in once the holidays are over. Going to and from work or running errands just doesn't cut it for "getting out of the house". 

So, when the weekends roll around, I'm always looking for something to do ~ antique shopping, museums, a new restaurant ~ something, anything to keep the feeling of the four walls closing in around me.

A couple of weekends ago, me, Brian and my aunt went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the day. We love going to the Public Market - an indoor venue with different fresh food vendors, artisan markets, a couple of restaurants, and a wine bar. We had lunch there at a place called The Green Market. I had the most incredible salad of mixed greens and just about every kind of veggie you can think of - except for mushrooms and beets. Those are the only two veggies I can't tolerate. What's really cool is that it's build-your-own. You can pick and choose from 50 different vegetables and toppings! 


Across the street was a West Elm store. I was familiar with West Elm online, but I've never been in one of their on-site stores. It was ultra-modern with really loud music, so not my taste, but was fun to look around.


At least Brian found a comfortable chair to relax in!


On from West Elm, we took a walk around the neighborhood and all of a sudden, the fog rolled in from Lake Michigan. Was really cool to be walking around in the fog, but glad we weren't driving in it.


Loved the architecture of these buildings.


Our walk brought us to an Anthropologie store, so we just had to go in and look around. (Poor Brian. He's such a good sport.) I rarely buy anything from Anthro - overpriced and most things made in China - but the eye candy is fun. And they certainly have a knack for creating beautiful displays.


Later in the day, we stopped at our favorite Milwaukee coffee shop to relax and have a warm drink.


The inside is hip and painted in vibrant colors with local art, lots of plants, homemade treats, and wonderful coffee.




Speaking of art, last weekend a friend invited me to one of those painting classes that are so popular now. What was the first thing I noticed when we walked in? The decor, of course! We had time to linger before the actual start time, so I walked around and took some photos. Love this green sofa!


The little kitchen had an interesting backsplash - squares of wood.


This industrial style mirror was in the bathroom.


All set up and ready to go. We were painting coffee mugs with creamy coffee and a heart design in the middle. It was harder than it looked!


Here we are, all done. I'm standing by the window in the beige sweater. Don't look too closely at my masterpiece. ;-) I really messed up on the hearts and couldn't fix it. And I think my cup handle looks more like a bunny ear. 


Not sure what we're going to do this weekend, but I'm sure we'll find somewhere to go or something to do. We do have some home projects to work on, but we have to throw in a little fun, too, right? 
What fun things have you been doing lately on the weekends?

Monday, January 23, 2017

all done

The contractors actually completed everything in just four days! That was making the pass-thru, making a custom mantle, ripping off the wainscoting in the kitchen and installing new drywall, priming and painting the entire kitchen, tearing out the old range hood and two small cabinets above the stove and installing an over-the-stove microwave, painting the living room wall of the pass-thru, and replacing a couple of ceramic tiles and cracked grout in the master bathroom. 

I spent 12 hours straight on Friday putting the house back together. I made at least 40 trips down to the basement to get the furniture (nothing too heavy - I left the kitchen table and living room console table for Brian and Tim) and every item that was in the living room and kitchen. Because of the drywall dust, I also mopped the kitchen and living room floors three times, plus a fourth time on my hands and knees.  Let me tell you...I hurt from head to toe by the time I went to bed.

I wasn't able to get any decent photos until Saturday morning due to the continual dreary weather, but the sun came out for a few minutes and I ran to get my camera.

Ta-da ~ the completed living room pass-thru! It is amazing how much bigger the house looks and how much light now comes into both the living room and kitchen.


Other side of the pass-thru, as seen from the kitchen.



Don't the walls look totally different without the wainscoting? And no more blue! I know it looks bare and plain, but I'm actually enjoying the "clean" look for now. I want to change things up a bit with wall decor and want to make absolutely sure of what I want before I start putting nail holes in the walls.


In case you forgot what that kitchen wall (above) looked like before:


The completed fireplace. (Decorating not complete.)


The only problem we ran into was discovering some spots in the kitchen that needed paint touch-up and a portion of baseboard shoe molding that needed more nails, as it was arching a bit. We think they got a little sloppy near the end on the last day because they were in a hurry to finish. They had a new client to go to the next day. We had to contact the owner of the business and he sent the main contractor back this morning to touch up the paint and fix the baseboard shoe.

Was all this work worth the anxiety and stress? I would've said no in the thick of it, but now that it's over, of course my answer is yes. I'm just glad it only lasted four days. ;-)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

progress ~ day three

 The contracting work is moving along quickly. All these photos were from yesterday - day three of work. 

The fireplace mantle and surround are up, primed and painted with one coat of paint, so far. It's a simple design...we could've had other molding pieces put on to make it more elaborate, but our living room is small and not at all "fancy", so we wanted to keep the design simple as to not overwhelm the room.


The pass-thru ledge is also installed, primed and first coat of painting done. The light between the living room and kitchen is already amazing, even on a cloudy day and with a plastic barrier in place. Someone had asked on Instagram why we didn't have the entire wall removed. This wall is a load bearing wall. To have it removed would require major engineering work. We're not willing to go through that - mentally or financially! We also have different shades of hardwood flooring in the living room and kitchen. The flooring in the kitchen is a dark hardwood and the living room is a blonde hardwood. So, same sort of situation: no desire to tear up hardwood flooring in the kitchen (that's the older stuff, though it still looks good) and replace it with the flooring that matches the living room to make it all seamless.


 In the kitchen, the ugly, faux wood molding and door frame were removed from the opening going into the basement and replaced with white molding. Bottom halves of the walls that had the wainscoting got new drywall and everything primed to get ready for painting.


Believe it or not, all that's left for the contractors to do now is to paint the kitchen, the living room wall where the pass-thru was cut, and finishing up all the tiny details. They said they should be done today! Only four days of work - not bad. Though it has seemed like two weeks. ;-) I don't know how people go through major renovations that last weeks or months while living in the house. It's been stressful. But, I know, will be totally worth it.

I'll be back soon to show you the completed work!


Monday, January 16, 2017

here we go

I am so glad the contractors aren't working at my house today. It's 38 degrees and pouring rain, most of which is turning to ice on the pavement. It's so dreary and miserable out there, I'm content to stay at home in the peace and quiet and not have to go out.

The contractors were actually able to start a little work last Friday. They tore off the wainscoting and got some of the drywall torn off. If I had've known they were going to do this, I would've had Brian and Tim take the kitchen table, chairs and rug to the basement, but the contractors were able to just move everything closer to the kitchen counters and it didn't get in their way at all.


They also installed the over-the-range microwave. In order to fit the microwave, they had to tear out the two small cabinets that were previously there. (See my previous blog post for the "before" photo.) The problem is, that left a big gap between the top of the microwave and the soffit. So, they built us a little wooden shelf above the micro. I know it looks a bit strange right now, but once they paint the entire kitchen and then I put some decorative items in that bare space, I think it'll make a pretty nook.


Now for the reality part:

Renovation is stressful. 
The contractors are on your doorstep at 7 am.
That means you have to be showered and dressed and your entire morning routine done by then.
Coffee made and a quick something grabbed for breakfast ~ because you certainly don't have access to the kitchen once they start working.
Cats fed and locked up in the basement.
Car moved out of the garage and onto the street.

The one teeny perk to getting up early? You get to see the sunrise.


There's nowhere to go at 7 am to escape the noise and dust except a coffee shop. Nothing else is open. I suppose you could go wandering around a 24-hour Walmart or Walgreens if you were bored enough. I'll pass on that.

So, starting tomorrow morning, I'll hole myself up in my bedroom or in the basement with my laptop until I feel I can't stand the noise any longer. I have a feeling that coffee shops and the library are going to be my temporary home these next couple of weeks. I also have a few visits with friends planned.


I've also learned that renovation requires a lot of planning. Since I won't be able to cook during the day, I made several meals yesterday and put them in the refrigerator. Outfit for the day needs to be chosen and set out ahead of time - because you're certainly not going to have time in the morning to make any decisions. It's grab and go. Little things that might be kept in the kitchen - vitamins, phone charging cords - need to be kept in your purse or in a room that's not being worked on. Anything you need to take with you when you leave for the day - purse, keys, laptop, reading material, water bottle, food - has to be ready the night before.

We just found out that when the contractors are working with the drywall, they will be taping the kitchen cabinets shut on both sides. (That's another thing: the drywall dust is supposed to be horribly invasive.) So, we won't be able to open cabinets to get plates, silverware, or pots and pans. I'll be taking a few of these items out of the cabinets today and keeping them downstairs - where everything else from the kitchen and living room is piled. Even the normal stuff I kept on the kitchen counters for quick access - coffee pot, cooking utensils, bananas, pepper grinder - all had to be taken downstairs. Our dinners will be eaten down there, too. Dinner on the couch (if we can find it) in the family room...our new normal.


It's also very unnerving to have strangers in your house. Yes, you kind of get to know these contractors, but they're still strangers. And they're tearing your house apart and basically taking over.

I thought a lot of this was just me and my over-anxious mind until I came across this article on Houzz: 

Whaddya know - it's universal!


One more worry? My fur babies. I hate that they have to be kept in the basement all day. Sure, they have their little beds and nesting spots down there, as well as a cat box and a bowl of water, but they're used to having access to the entire house, including sunbeams on comfy beds. And I hate that they're subjected to such loud noise, especially since we usually have such a peaceful house. I wish I could explain it to them and that they understood. Last Friday when I went into the basement to feed them and talk to them and pet them, Monkey was cowering underneath a chair and didn't want to come out. :-(


Yes, I know that it will all be worth it in the end. But let's face it ~ we live in the here and now ~ so I'm writing about the here and now. Perhaps it will help someone else out there when they decide to go through some remodeling or renovations.


See you soon with more updates and reality checks!