Friday, January 30, 2015

let's talk about love

 The well problems are mostly over. Yes, we have water now (and it tastes wonderful)
 but the pressure wasn't good today. When Brian got home from work, he figured out that 
there is still sediment being filtered and with all that sediment clogging up the house filter 
(which is a must when you have a well), it was slowing the water pressure down. He
 changed the filter and the pressure is good once again. Hopefully, that's the end of
 the sediment. We'll see. Brian might be changing the filter several times. And it's a real
 pain because you have to turn the water to the house off. And the filters are also expensive.

On to a better subject: Love. And Valentine's Day. The colors of this holiday ~ red and 
pink ~ are cheery in the middle of the bleak winter. There's heart-shaped everything.
You have an excuse to eat a few chocolates. Remember in grade school when you had
 to give a little Valentine to everyone in your classroom? And you  decorated a shoebox with
 a hole in the lid so that you could collect Valentines from your classmates? I don't think kids
 do that anymore. 

I like putting small touches of Valentine's Day decor around the house and
decorating the china cabinet in the kitchen.

The soft hearts on the top shelf were made by Carol at Art and Sand. The heart plate in 
the middle was a Target find from last year and the "love" glasses flanking the plate were
 from the Dollar Tree years ago.

This bowl was found at Target last year, too. I love the little bird perched on 
the edge! (Psst...have a chocolate.)

On top of the dresser in my office...that's a photo of my precious boys from a long time
ago in the notepad holder. A puffy fabric heart - another from Carol - says "sweet".

I found these LED heart lights at Target today in the dollar bins (they were $3) and
hung them across Phil's memory shelf. They look so pretty lit up at night. I think I'll
keep them there year-round.

A little vignette on top of the secretary desk in the master bedroom...

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
(Mother Teresa)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

our well saga ~ and small changes in the kitchen

 We have lived in our house for almost 25 years. There are still so many things we want
and need to do both inside and out, but that's another story for another day. We like the
area we live in...a small town about 45 miles northwest of a major city. But the one 
drawback has been having a private well instead of city water. Sure, we don't have a
water bill - that's a positive. But with all the maintenance, upkeep and repairs that a well
requires, we don't feel it's worth it. Not to mention getting used to the taste and odor of the
water when we both grew up with city water. The taste of the water is fine when the water
system is working right. We keep our drinking water in a Brita pitcher in the refrigerator.

Lately, our water has smelled funky and I could even tell it had a different "feel"
to it. Thinking it was our water softener, we had the guys from the water softener
company come out a couple of times to check things out. They said the water softener
was fine and suggested perhaps it was the water heater. Nope, that's new. We put
more salt in the tank for the water softener and set it for an extra cycle. Didn't make a
difference in the water. So we finally called a well company. Long story short, it turned
out to be a pressure leak in the tank bladder. And the tank had standing, stagnant water
 in it (which our house water was going wonder our water was awful!). There's
not supposed to be any water in the  tank. The shut-off valve was leaking, too. So, we 
ended up having to get a new tank, valve, pressure switch and gauge, and have the
well shocked/chlorinated.

Not only did this set us back a pretty penny (we won't be getting our fireplace surround
and mantle after all), but we didn't have any water for over 24 hours. Once your well is
chlorinated, you can't run any water for 18-24 hours. And then the real fun begins.
First thing this morning, Brian had to hook up hoses to all four outside spigots and 
let the water run for a couple of hours into the street. Not fun hooking up hoses when
it's 17 degrees and there's snow on the ground. Once that was done, we then had to
start indoors. The tub had to run until the chlorine smell was gone. Then the shower.
Then the bathroom sink. Then flushing the toilet several times. Then on to the next
 bathroom. The kitchen. The downstairs laundry tub. The washing machine had to be
run without any clothes in it. Then the dishwasher had to be run without any dishes in it.

Of course, it wasn't that simple. From well water sitting for 24 hours and then being run
"fresh" again, sediment then comes through all the faucets. Which means all the little
screens on all the faucets and shower heads had to come off. Sinks and tubs had to
 be cleaned out and scrubbed. Same with the toilets. For whatever reason, the water going
 into the washing machine still looks dirty after five go-arounds. Poor Brian had taken the
 hoses and screens off and cleaned the out each and every time. We have finally given up
 for the night. After all, Brian does have to get some sleep. He gets up at 3:45 a.m. for work!
 He is going to call the well company in the morning to ask them about the washing
 machine. Another concern is that if there's still chlorine in the water and I take my
 shower tomorrow morning and wash my hair, because my hair is color-treated, will my hair
 turn orange?! I'm now so paranoid of that happening that I think I will just take a bath
 tomorrow morning instead and leave my hair alone. If I have greasy hair for a day, so be it. 

 I don't want this post to be all Debbie Downer-like, so on to more cheerful stuff.
I bought a new rug from Target for the kitchen, but it didn't look good in here, so
it's now in the living room where it looks better. I'll show that to you at another time.
I'm just leaving the area around the table bare for now. I'm actually kind of liking the
no-rug look. I took the too-modern teak chairs from around the kitchen table, put
them in the storage space in the basement, and brought up two of the more country
style chairs. I painted one of them white last year but only did one coat. And it needs
another. So yes, it's only half-painted. That seems to be the story of my life with stuff 
around the house...half done. ;-) But I can see by having the white(ish) chair at the table,
 that it looks so much better than the brown. Especially in a kitchen that already has a
lot of brown. And yes, I know my tablecloth needs ironing. With all the other
stuff going on right now, don't care! Not on my "important things to do" list right now.

 More little changes...I took down that formal painting with the red frame that my aunt gave
me and good thing I did. When I took it down, I discovered the nail it was hanging on
 was almost ripped out of the wall. That painting would've fallen at any time. And  it was
 heavy. With glass on the front. That would've broken the lamp on the table beneath 
the painting, plus the glass in the painting itself. I also took the white stool with the plant on 
it out of the kitchen and moved a chair into that place.

"Before" pic with the painting and the white stool (not that there's anything wrong with
this "before" pic...I actually like it better than the after! But sometimes things have to
be moved around):

 "After" pick with a piece of canvas art that had been in that place for years and
a blue chair from the living room. Why the blue chair? Well, that new rug that I
 bought for the kitchen is also a bright blue. But a little bit of a different shade of
blue than the chair. So the chair and the rug totally clashed. The chair can be used
as extra seating at the table. Oh - and that bright neon-yellow doorway you see in
the background? That is the doorway that goes downstairs. The walls are not that
vivid yellow! I don't know if it's my camera or what, but in person the walls are much

As frustrating as today has been, I know that this too shall pass and that next time
I "talk" to you all, our water problems will be over. I hope. Positive thinking!  

Monday, January 26, 2015

monkey mind

 There's a Buddhist term called "monkey mind". It's when your mind is whirling and won't turn're feeling restless and unsettled. That's how I'm feeling today. I suppose it's part of
having anxiety.

All kinds of random thoughts have been going through my head all day...
I need to empty the dishwasher; I still need to put the clothes in the dryer; the kitchen
garbage needs to be taken out; the porch is a solid sheet of ice...I really should sprinkle
some salt there; oh yeah, while I'm outside I need to fill up the bird feeder. I wonder how
L (a relative in the hospital) is doing? I'm concerned about C and B (a couple of
friends who have cancer). Wonder if Tim's car is still pulling to the right when he brakes?

Oh shoot, I really need to bag up all that stuff for donation that's sitting downstairs. And
 then I'll need to load it into my car trunk. We need some groceries...
should I go do that today? Nah, I'll go Wednesday. The well guy is coming tomorrow to
shock chlorinate our well and so we won't be able to use our water for 24 hours. Can Brian
run to the store tonight while I'm at yoga class and pick up several gallons of water?
Which reminds me - better fill up the bathtub with water tomorrow so we can use that to
flush our toilets. Wow, it's January 26 already? Some friend's birthdays are coming up.
I'd better add birthday cards to my shopping list.

 And on and on it goes.

 So. This is where I'm writing this post. You can't tell from the view out the window, 
but it's snowing out there. I am watching the flakes dance around in the wind
and it's actually peaceful. Whaddya know. I'm looking at my poor plant by the window
 and willing it to perk up and hang in there. It's actually an outdoor plant from last summer
 that I brought inside when the weather got cold. Warmer weather is coming soon, little
plant. I promise.

 And this is where I'm headed now. My yoga mat. Some deep breathing, gentle
stretches, and...being still. Something that is very hard for me to do, but I'm learning.
It does help to calm that darn monkey mind.

 Check out this short, informative Huffington post article on how to tame your monkey mind.
Namaste! And happy Monday.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

a beautiful space ~ and a peek at my new curtains

In the previous post about my kitchen, I said that I moved most of my cookbooks into
my office. This small baker's rack is just the right size for my collection. I can sit in my
red chair and look through a cookbook, or take the book over to my desk by the window.

I love this sunny, peaceful room, so I thought I'd take you on a little tour. For those of 
you who aren't aware or are new to my blog, this room used to be my oldest son, Phil's 
room. Phil passed away suddenly in September 2009. The canvas family photo - the last 
family photo taken with all four of us in July 2009 - is one of my greatest treasures.

Isn't this a beautiful, vintage dresser? It's been in my family for many years. My sister
had it in her bedroom when she was growing up, though it was either white or pink at
the time. Or, maybe it was once pink and then my mom painted it white. Hard to remember
from 45-50 years ago!  Anyway, when I was pregnant with Phil, my mom gave the dresser
 to a family friend and she refinished it for us and gave it to me as a present when Phil
was born. He used this dresser for his entire 21 years. Now Brian and I share it.

This is the space to the right of the bulletin board, Phil's memory shelf,
plants and ~ surprise ~ more books.

The living room curtains came in from World Market and hubby patiently hung them for
 me today - which was more involved than it sounds. Isn't that the way it usually goes?
The curtain rod was originally hung lower. So that meant taking it down, patching up the
holes, repainting the wall, then hanging the curtain rod in a new spot. Brian is very patient
 with my decorating shenanigans.

Anyway, I love these curtains! They bring much-needed color into the living room, I dig
 the design, and the material is a heavy, quality cotton. They just need to be hemmed. 
Since I don't sew, I will be taking them to a local tailor. And another thing on the living
 room to-do list: getting a few more quotes for the mantle work around the fireplace.
What projects are you working on around your house? 

Linking up with Cozy Little House Tweak it Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

kitchen follies ~ and a recipe

The organizing and rearranging on with the kitchen. I went with a clean,
classic look on this side of the kitchen with using a lot of white in the cabinet and on the
wall shelves. Also, that's a new painting hanging on the wall. I inherited it from my aunt
when she moved last fall. I'm not crazy about the red painted frame as it's too stark 
for the painting, but since I have red accents in my kitchen and the painting is the
right size for this wall space, it'll do for now. 

Most of my cookbooks were moved into a small bookcase in my office, but I left a
few on top of the fridge and on the butler's table that you can see in the first photo.

I cleaned out my baking cabinet and my main food cabinet. I don't have a pantry, so this
is where I keep all my dry goods and staples such as grains, dried fruits and raw honey,
 pastas, dried beans, tea bags, and lots of spices. I like having the grains, pastas, and
beans in glass jars instead of all that plastic and cardboard packaging. Much easier
to see what you have and easier to fit into the cabinet, too. As for the spices, I find it 
easiest to keep them categorized by use. For example, on the basket in the left, that's
where I keep all the Italian spices: oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, bay leaves, etc.
The basket on the right holds cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg,
and star anise. Another basket holds spices for chili making: cumin, chili powder, 
cayenne, mexican oregano. And another basket holds spices such as curry powder,
garam masala, lemongrass, and turmeric. When you're making a certain cuisine ~
say, spaghetti sauce ~ it's easy to just grab the basket of Italian spices.

I am making vegetarian tacos for dinner tonight. We eat a lot of meatless meals
and I found this recipe on Pinterest. The lentil-rice concoction is in the Crockpot right
now and the house smells so good. I "cheated" and opened the lid to the Crockpot
about halfway through cooking (I did let it cook longer after I opened the lid - I know
that opening the lid takes off about 20 minutes of cooking time) to see how the mixture
looked and it's nice and thick, just like hamburger meat. I'm going to top our tacos with
salsa, guacamole, and a little bit of shredded cheese. Click here for the recipe. And 
interestingly enough, the name of the blog is Melanie Makes! No, it's not me. It's
another Melanie.

Hope your week is off to a good start!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

starting with the living room

 Thank you, everyone for the get well wishes. That nasty respiratory flu bug lasted
"only" four days ~ which isn't bad for the flu, I suppose. But those four days were the
sickest I've been in many years. There wasn't much I could do except rely on good
old-fashioned home remedies (sipping warm water with raw honey and fresh lemon;
steaming my face over a pot of water with tea tree oil in it) and upping my dosages
of vitamins C and D3 and Allibiotic (a mixture of elderberry, olive leaf extract, garlic,
oregano oil and rosemary oil). I don't like to take anything "over-the-counter"....
I prefer to use natural ingredients whenever possible. I find most of that OTC stuff makes
me wired and sets my heart to racing anyway.

So now that I'm well, I've been working on rearranging and organizing some rooms.
It's frigidly cold here (below zero temps), so what better time than to start indoor
 organization projects? I have so much to work on, but I started with the living room. 
Remember how the black ladder bookcase used to be on the other side of the living room
 with vintage suitcases and plants stacked next to it? I moved it to this wall where the 
buffet used to be. I think it looks so much better over here - really opens this space up. 
That buffet is so big and cumbersome that it took up that entire space and crowded out the couch.  

Brian moved the buffet for me to where the black ladder bookcase used to be. (Side
note: my mom said this spring she wants to teach me how to re-do the buffet. I'd like
to paint it flat black and leave the top with the mahogany finish, but fixed up and varnished.)
In other words, I traded places with these two pieces of furniture. Now the two big
things are deciding what to hang above the buffet (art work? floating shelves?) and
deciding what to finally do with that darn fireplace wall!

I had ordered a large white moulded floating shelf to go on the fireplace wall
and I was going to put corbels under it - kind of like a faux mantletop. After waiting
six weeks for the shelf and some shipping mishaps, I finally got the shelf. It was damaged
in three places, one of which was a deep crack. Totally unacceptable. I wrote to the company
and asked for my money back - which they gave me. And they didn't even want the 
shelf back! In the meantime, I found a carpenter who does custom wood working and
sent him some pictures of what we're looking for as far as a simple mantle. He's working
up a quote for us. I am hoping that it's not too expensive. After living in this house for almost
26 years, I think it's about time we finally get this fireplace wall finished the way it should've
been in the first place! It's always been a matter of finances though.

 I moved the vintage suitcases and plants in front of the window - another thorn-in-my
side area. I hate that fake plastic brown molding around the windows. I don't want to
replace it with white molding until we get new windows. So I'm thinking this spring that
I will just prime and paint the molding white. I also desperately need new curtains. I
have tried several pairs and nothing has looked "just right". I was looking at curtains online
yesterday and found these from World Market. I think I may order them.

 Today, I'm tackling the kitchen. Cleaning out the junk drawer, the baking cabinet,
the food pantry cabinet, and the freezer. Organizing my cookbooks and redoing
the inside of the china cabinet. What organizational projects are you working on
this January?


Friday, January 2, 2015

yucky way to start the new year

 There was no celebrating going on here on New Year's Eve. I'm sick. I finally went to the
doctor today to make sure I didn't have bronchitis or pneumonia, and the good thing is that
my lungs are clear. However, I do have the flu.

 I'm a hacking, congested, sneezing, tired, feverish mess. I haven't been this sick
in years and I know this too shall pass, but when you're in the thick of it, it stinks.

 So, just a little note to let you all know that if I'm not blogging for awhile, you
know why. Hope your 2015 is off to a better start than mine!