Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Whistful Wednesday

What grabbed my attention today?  All sorts of things.

Most of the day was spent in the garden.  Pam came over to help plant beans.  We also planted a few rows of corn and some companion flowers - nasturtiums and zinnias and marigolds.  It's an added bonus that flowers have a purpose in the garden. 




When Dad started furrowing rows for the corn, I grabbed my camera. 

There was something about the moment that seemed special.


This vase is from a recent yard sale excursion.

I'm loving it more and more.  I can't wait to put hydrangea cuttings in it.




And finally, I spent my Pike's Nursery gift certificate. 

I bought two Gardenia bushes for the east side of the house.  That's the side we come and go from the most and I want it to look pretty. 

I'll always think of these as Penny's Gardenias

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Life is Like a Rainbow

 What a day - I saw two rainbows at once!  

In the photo below, one is bright.  There's another above.  By the time I fetched my camera, it was very faint.




 Life is like a rainbow.  
You need both the sun and the rain
to make the colors appear.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Buds and Blooms

Oh, how I love spring!  I love watching as each new flower buds and blooms and invites us all to take a moment to enjoy nature.  I love opening doors and windows and enjoying the breezes, especially just after a rain, when the pollen is low.



 One of the symptoms of Spring Fever, I have found, is the desire to plant even more things that bloom.  Snowball viburnum's are at the top of my list.  Gotta get one! I am seeing them all over right now and lusting away. Is that a sin - to lust after a snowball viburnum?  They can be rooted.  Maybe I'll just get a cutting and start one.

Side note: Check out the garden boots at the top left of the collage.  I found those at a yard sale for $2.  I've already used them.  When not in use, there's no need to hide them away.  They look cute by the door.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A SCOOP on Pancakes

I can't remember where I read this tip, but it's a good one.  An ice cream scoop makes a prefect scoop for pancakes or muffins.  My original ice cream scoop didn't have the push thingy so I bought another just for this purpose.  It's a perfect size and much less messy than all the other utensils I've tried to make work.

And speaking of pancakes, if you would like gluten-free, Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix makes great pancakes. 

I've decided to move towards using less wheat, or rather, less gluten.  It seems that more and more people are having digestive problems at a young age - irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and more. A recent study showed that intolerance of wheat gluten is 4 times more likely today than it was in the 1950's.  Since human genetics can't change that fast, it's assumed it has to do with the way wheat is grown or processed.  The wheat we now eat has been genetically modified to produce bigger kernels and more gluten.  Hello!  It's not nice to mess with Mother Nature!

I sure did stray from the topic on this post!  I guess, just like in life, one thing leads to another.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Yard Sale Finds

Fridays are officially my new yard sale day.  Saturdays are bonus days - maybe I will, maybe I won't.

Trish and I had pretty good luck at some yard sales this morning.  I think I have made a yard sale enthusiast of her!  Hurray!  It's so much more fun with a partner.


Her biggest score was this pretty $5 quilt from Pottery Barn Kids.  Each square has embroidery stitching around it.  It's in great shape.  The colors are great.  Love it!

My favorite find of the day was this $10 red chest.  It has good lines.  I will likely rub stain or glaze over it soon to tone down the red just a smidge.  No rush.  I'm enjoying the pop of color on the porch.  I may eventually redo it a little nicer and use it inside.  It's a versatile piece - I can think of a number of places it could be used.

Excuse the porch chairs. They are waiting their turn to be gussied up.  My list of projects is getting very long! In fact, my list of projects is getting so overwhelming that I framed this quote to keep me calm:

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. 
We shall get there some day.
- A. A. Milne, Pooh's Little Instruction Book

 On a side note, we put out a few rows of tomatoes.  My sister, Pam, grew most of them from seed.  I haven't looked at her thumbs lately, but I'd be willing to bet they are bright green.  The tomatoes were huge. We planted them extra deep to promote a strong root system.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Lifetime of Medals

Rudy's oldest sister, Linda, and her husband, Carl, have been working on a major project for some time.  Linda sent off for her father's war records.  That was not easy and it took ages, but she finally hit the jackpot.  She received a large stack of papers detailing all of my father-in-law's army records. The records are amazing, but it takes a lot of reading and research for a civilian the information.  It's fascinating.   He served all over the world through World War II and the Korean War.  He went through some horrific things.  No one is ever the same after going through a war.

Linda gathered medals and dog tags and patches and more and put them together in a case as a tribute.  It has turned out very nice.  By the way, the bullets in the case are the ones that were wrapped up in the flag presented at his funeral.  She has the flag in a nice case of its own.

As you can see by the medals, he went through a lot.  Every time I think of him, I can't help but think of all he went through.  The medals are meant to honor bravery and acts of courage, but I can't help but think how each experience must have also taken away a bit of his heart and soul.  Sad memories are hard to keep at bay. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Early American? Me?

I'm not sure what is happening, but I keep running across Early American pieces of furniture that work for me.


The first piece I found was this end table.  The size and shape work great.  It's sturdy and functional.  It's NOT a style I'm in love with, but I think it has possibilities.  A paint job is coming soon.  Maybe I'll love it then.  I'm thinking of painting it an accent color - red maybe?  Or robin's egg blue.  I don't have anything in the room that color, but for some reason, I keep picturing that table in that color.  I may go for it.  I never liked following rules that seemed unnecessary.  And I definitely have a hard time sticking to a color scheme.

I found these dining chairs at a thrift store.  They, too, are heavy and sturdy, plus they are comfortable.  I wasn't in love with the look, but with a little paint...  The only problem is, I can't decide what color to paint them.  Red? White? Black? Cream?  Tan?  Black would look good, but I think I'm leaning towards cream.  That could change tomorrow.

I have been looking for family room chairs with a back and bottom cushion that I could slipcover.  Since I live with cats and dogs, slipcovers are a necessity.  I want chairs with simple cushions that I can recover easily anytime I want to update the look.  It's also important to me that the chairs be comfortable.  I've been looking without success for ages.


This past weekend I found this set at a garage sale.  I wasn't looking for the stool, but it's a pretty comfy addition.  The chair is very heavy and well made.  Again, the style wasn't perfect - I had pictured a chair with simpler lines, but this one has possibilities.  If I later find a more attractive chair, I can move this one.  I have a number of places where it would work.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to paint it cream.  Before I decide for sure, I'm going to pick out my fabric.  Hopefully the fabric will be what gets noticed first.

I don't know a lot about this style of furniture. I don't know for sure if it's Early American or Colonial or something else. The pieces I keep finding are maple.  They are all heavy and sturdy.  The have turned legs.  They are comfortable, well-thought-out, functional pieces.  They seem to be taking over my home.  I think it's "a good thing".  Time will tell.  Actually, paint and fabric will tell!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Love a Rainy Day!

Today was a perfect rainy day.  I didn't have to go anywhere.  I was alone in my house with nothing pressing to do.  I was able to enjoy puttering around and doing whatever struck my fancy.

One of the first things I did was open my kitchen windows.  It was fairly warm, but a cool breeze came through.  It was really quiet.  All you could hear was the soft sound of the rain.

I opened the door for Jack so he could enjoy the breeze, too.  He seemed to appreciate it and settled in for a long nap.

Every now and then I made a point of stepping outside to enjoy the moment.  I'm lucky in that it doesn't take much to give me a thrill.  I was quite entertained by the patterns the raindrops made as they fell on the rail of our steps.

My car was happy about the rain, too.  It had been an unattractive yellow from days of pollen.  The rain had reminded me that the car was actually blue.


Since the day was so sweet, I decided a cake was in order.  I made a Brownstone Front cake - the recipe is from my Taste of Georgia cookbook. It's supposed to be made in a bundt pan.  I was in the mood for a layered cake with cream cheese frosting.  I made a mess while trying to frost it.  It didn't look pretty, but no matter - it was very tasty!   It was a sweet addition to a wonderful day.  When the DH got home, he was welcomed by delicious smells and a wife who was blissfully happy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Desk Space - Adding a Pretend Hutch

I've changed my desk space... again.
The wood shelf was not working and I have been thinking of finding a hutch or something similar to use in that spot.  But would a hutch be exactly what I need?  I wouldn't want to invest in one only to find I didn't really like using it. 
Then I realized I had an easy to move piece that would let me try out the hutch idea before buying one - my metal etagere!  It's shaped similar to a hutch with deep shelves at the bottom and smaller up top.   The height of the main shelf is a little lower than a hutch would be, but it's close enough for me to use it as a test piece.


The picture below shows everything taken apart.  This is the stage where I always wonder, "What have I done?" 
 
It was all worth it.  The whole area has a cleaner look and it functions better.  I still don't have the perfect containers or a pretty to look at space, but I'm a step closer.
I love how everything I need is within arms reach. 
There is a small rolling shelf just to the right of the etagere.  I found it for 2 bucks at a yard sale this weekend.  When it's time to do my husbands bookkeeping, I can roll it to my left.  I need to use it for a bit to see if I truly like it.  If I decide it's a keeper, I'll probably paint it.

Oh, and I think I have decided what I want to use for my desk - a vintage formica table!  How fun would that be?

They can be be pretty pricey, but I sure do love them.  


You can actually buy the vintage look Formica now. I considered using the lime green in my kitchen, but lost my nerve.  But a bright red formica table as my desk - mmmmmm... perfect.  I'd better start saving!

Here are more posts about my journey in setting up an ideal desk space:
Part 1 -  how it feels
Part 2 -  how the space functions 
Part 3 -  how the space looks

Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Ideal Desk Space - Part 3: The Look

In creating my new work space, I want to merge three concepts - how the space feels, how it functions, and how it looks.

I posted about how it feels in Part 1
Part 2 focused on how the space functions.

Now I am ready for the icing on the cake, so to speak...

THE LOOK
I want my desk space to look nice.  Pilers spaces can look messy, but they don't have to. See post 2 for an explanation of a piler. I just need to organize and contain my piles so they look nice.  Helen suggests bins, baskets, and trays.  

The look I most enjoy could be described as colorful vintage.

The vintage look can be pulled in with old furniture pieces.  The containers can pull in a bit more vintage and some color. Old wooden boxes, pottery, and wire baskets make functional and attractive containers. It's easy to re-purpose things like drawers for creative containers. 
Plus, I want pleasing color.  I love to look at white on white rooms - they are beautiful!  I truly appreciate sleek modern design.  I enjoy completely coordinated looks with a limited color palette.   I really enjoy those looks in other people's homes, but for me - I want an eclectic mix of color. I do not want to be locked in too much. 

For now, I have gathered what works from what I have on hand. The setup is functional but really unattractive.
This is just a mess. Cords are showing. The colors are all wrong.  The shelf is ugly.  There's no continuity to any of the containers. I keep telling myself to be patient.  I'm just trying out different things so I'll know what works and what doesn't.  Pretty much anything I do will be be an improvement, don't you think?  I am a little hesitant to go wild getting nicer containers at this point.  The first thing I need to do is to find a better piece of furniture to replace the shelf.  Then I'll get containers to fit the space.

I have a feeling that getting my desk space just right is going to be a long process... probably never-ending.  Whenever I go to yard sales or second hand stores, I will be on the lookout for things that are both functional and pretty. 

Meanwhile, there's lots of inspiration to be found.
 
The blogging queen of organizing, in my humble opinion is Benita at Chez Larsson.  I don't even need to link to a particular post.  Everything in her small house in Sweden  has a place and she keeps it very very neat.  She's quite creative with her containers and no matter what your decorating style, you can get plenty of ideas.

 This is Benita's home office

I've always been a big fan of the way Susan at T-Cozy uses colorful vintage items to contain her stuff.  This look can go horribly wrong and just look like a bunch of clutter, but Susan is a master.  I never tire of looking at her studio.   Here are some examples:

There are some very good examples in this post I did about the studio area from Snapshots of a Good Life. I especially love her drawer on wheels.



I'll need folders and ways to contain papers.  There are so many options.  Here are a few interesting ones.

 If I need to have folders out, they could still look nice, 
like in this photo from Out of the Attic.

Or like this.
I can't remember where I found this photo.

I promise there will be more posts about my desk area in the future. It's high on my list of things to improve!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Be Kind to Your Accountant

The third post about an ideal workspace will come soon.  Meanwhile, this is what's on my mind:

Long, deep Sigh.

I have been working at an accounting firm for about 16 months - two tax seasons.  I have a whole new respect for accounting. 


The accountants I work for have been working 7 days a week and keeping very late hours for months. They haven't had any time to enjoy spring.  At this point they are worn out.  Haggard.  Walking around like zombies.  Hanging on for dear life.  They have been looking forward to this day - April the 15th - like a drowning person waiting on a life raft.


I have learned a few things from working there.  I'd like to pass on some tips.

E-file.  Use direct deposit.  It's safer and more secure.

Extensions are good. If your situation is normal and you aren't expecting to owe an arm and a leg, extend.  Your accountant will have more time and energy to work on your taxes if you wait til after spring.  It's ridiculous to think that everyone's taxes can be done in such a short period of time.  So many people come in a week or two before the 15th and expect to have their returns completed on time.  If we said anything about the limited time and/or number of returns ahead of them, almost all would tell you that theirs was really simple so it should be no problem.  Hello.  A whole lot of simple returns still add up to a whole lot of time.  Get in line.  I wish I could have been more blunt. 


Make copies of everything your give your accountant.  I don't say this to suggest anything about reliability.  I say this because unforeseen things can happen.  Accountants can die and clients can't get their stuff.  Offices can burn.  Make copies.  Give your accountant the copies and you keep the originals. 


Be organized.  Put your name and contact information on the things you turn in.  I am amazed at how some people turn in their stuff.    If a client brings in a heap of papers and receipts in disarray, it's very likely that something will be missed.  And just remember, if you or your taxes are a pain to deal with, you'll probably be charged more.

Smart clients have their papers grouped into categories.  They add up their contributions.  They put their items in a folder or envelope or small binder. They use gem clips, not staples!  They make it a point to learn what's needed.


If your accountant gives you something to fill out... FILL IT OUT!   It's for your own good.

Last but not least, be kind to your accountant... even if you end up owing.  They did the best the could for you.

Today was my last day at my job.  I loved the people I worked for. They were fun and incredibly nice, though I do question their sanity for being in this business. I know it crazy, but I loved organizing and making folders and doing the little jobs I did.  But, I am so excited to be a homebody again.  I have so much I want to do... as soon as I recover from tax season.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Ideal Desk Space - Part 2: The Function

In creating my new work space, I want to merge three concepts - how the space feels, how it functions, and how it looks. I already moved my workspace to a spot that feels great.  I talked about that in Part 1

THE FUNCTION
This post is about something I feel strongly about - function.  I am really drawn to organization and efficiency. I don't like things that are pretty, but don't function well.  In thinking about the function of my space, it's helpful to understand my organizing styles.  Of the two main styles, filers and pilers, I am a piler.  Here's how professional organizer, Hellen Buttigieg, explains both:

You are either a filer or a piler. Filers prefer to keep their papers upright, while pilers like to stack them. Pilers tend to have messier offices but claim they know exactly where everything is within the piles. On the other hand, filers tend to have neater looking offices but seem to accumulate more paperwork and access it less frequently than pilers. One type is no better than the other. Even though pilers may look messier, it doesn’t mean they are less organized or less productive than filers.  Click here for more of this article.

The problem I have with being a piler is that a messy look makes me uncomfortable.  I keep finding myself in circumstances where I have to pull together things that work, but have little control over how nice they look.  That has happened to me especially in my work life.  I plan to change that.  I am going to be a piler without the messy look.  It's a challenge I am looking forward to.

As a piler, I want everything I use regularly to be easily accessible.  My desk in our downstairs office is really pretty - a big, heavy, old oak desk.  Unfortunately, the drawers don't exactly glide easily.  They don't stick or jam, but they do require a bit of muscle to open.  That's annoying.  That's NOT easily accessible.

I want everything I need to be in easy reach. Over the years I have tried out a good many desk arrangements, both at home and work (I am a retired teacher).  The best arrangement for me is L-shaped. I don't want to get up and walk over to a shelf beside my desk.  Not because I'm lazy, but because it bugs me that it's not efficient.
 
Seriously Unattractive, but Functional

THE FURNITURE
Now, don't get turned off here. This is not the finished look!  I worked with what I have on hand to experiment with function.  I pulled the table and shelves out of my storage space to create the L Shape I am after.
 
The table and shelf are not pretty, but they work decently.  Plus, they'll allow me to fine tune and eventually I'll find better pieces for the area.  By using these two pieces I have already figured out a few things.

The shelves I am using aren't quite working.  The top shelf is the primary shelf, but it's too high. I can't easily get to the things I need to be there. The third shelf would be a great height for my primary shelf, but it doesn't have enough room to easily get to the things I want to be there.  I'm thinking a hutch or wardrobe might work better.  Plus, it would be more attractive. 

The table could be just a little bit longer (wider). I could use a little bit more room on my left side. The depth is great. The height is perfect for me.  I don't want drawers.

Before I head out on my next thrifting expedition, I'll be sure to have measurements and wish lists in my notebook.

THE STORAGE
Now remember, I'm a piler.  I don't want things in drawers or cabinets.  I want the things I use to be out where I can see them and get to them quickly.  As you can see from the earlier photo, I put together an assortment of bins and cans and boxes and baskets and pots and containers.  They look awful together.  For now, it doesn't matter.  I'm just trying out different things to see what works best for each of the things I need to contain.  Only two things so far are keepers - the lamp (not cute, but wonderfully functional) and the wrought iron napkin holder. That piece looks cute and functions very well holding the three different envelope types I need. Everything else will eventually be replaced by something more functional and hopefully, much more attractive. 

Speaking of attractive... stay tuned for the next post in this series...  Part 3: The Look

Sunday, April 4, 2010

An Ideal Desk Space - Part 1: The Feel

I have moved my computer workstation.

I had been sharing the small downstairs office with my beloved DH. The setup I had there was not working for me.  My DH liked me being there just fine.  I was very accessible... at his beck and call.  I was (and still am) his personal secretary and bookkeeper.  Because of the room layout and interruptions, it was more difficult to do the things I needed to do (bills and his bookkeeping).  It was also more difficult to do the things I wanted to do (blog and learn and create).    Keeping in mind that I am defining my new life, I moved my computer station upstairs to my loft.  That's my space to be creative and free. 

I have been pondering what it is I really want.  Right now, the focus is what I want from my desk, but in a way, it also relates to what I want in my life.  Deep, huh?

I want to merge three concepts - how the space feels, how it functions, and how it looks.

PART 1:  THE FEEL
From reading a number of feng shui books, I have learned that the way you arrange things can impact how you feel.  The best example I have for this came from one of the books (can't remember which one).  If you are sitting in a nice comfortable chair, but you have a cactus on a table beside you, you will feel uncomfortable and will most likely lean away from the cactus, even if it's not actually close enough to bump into.
For me, the feel downstairs has a lot to do with facing a wall.  In the downstairs office, my DH faces the window and has a great view.  I was on the opposite side, up against the wall... literally and figuratively. I felt trapped, blocked, restricted.  The DH said he was willing to switch spots with me if I'd stay there, but that would only solve one of my issues.

 
The Downstairs Office


The wall desk area is a bit dark.  The office is on the north side of the house and faces a deep covered porch.  The window is large and gets natural light, but not enough to give much light to the opposite wall.  I put a mirror over my desk to reflect the light from the window but it still wasn't enough. 


My upstairs loft is a huge room with a great view and tons of windows and light.   It's a much better setup. I'm where I need to be.  I hope my DH adjusts.  I hope he comes to realize that my loft is as special to me as his workshop is to him. 

This photo shows the view from my new workspace.  I like this sooooo much better.  I used to not mind my computer facing a wall so much.  For the last year or so I've been working in an office with no windows and not much light.  Maybe that's why I'm obsessing about windows and light.

I'm not completely happy about the arrangement of the rest of the furniture in the loft.  I moved it around last weekend and didn't have much time or energy.  I'm sure I'll rearrange some more.  The papsan chair will likely go.  The rug is not staying.  We had it made to fit the downstairs office.  I will need the DH to move some heavy furniture around in order to put it there.  While I wait for him, this is the temporary home for the rug.  I'm eager for it to go. 

Still, all in all, I am now pretty happy with how I feel at my new workstation.  I've made a step in the right direction.

Next post... Part 2: The Function

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A New Design for My Life

When we first moved, I wanted a part time job. I am a retired teacher and my pension is decent, but we needed a little extra while trying to sell our house. My plan was to work about 15 to 20 hours a week, 2 to 3 days a week. That was my plan, but that's not how things worked out. I let my plan get away from me. My life revolves around my work with not enough time or energy for much besides "chores".

The key point in the paragraph above is that I let my plan get away from me. I can't blame this one on fate or say that God meant me to do this. I'm pretty sure I'm the one who dropped the ball.

I read an article yesterday about the true cost of working. There are expenses you take on when you work - gas & transportation costs, lunches, extra money spent on food when you are too tired to cook, childcare (I don't have to worry about that one), clothing, office gifts and more. There are online calculators to help you figure out what you truly make. It's pretty interesting.

I have continued to think about the cost of working.  The "costs" that are bothering me most cannot be input on a calculator. You cannot put a price on things you miss.

I miss time with my family.
I miss sunlight and vitamin D.
I miss having time and energy to have fun while I cook and clean.
I miss having time and energy to play and visit with friends.
I miss sleeping well and waking up with a smile on my face.
I miss wearing my comfy at home clothes.
I miss moving around all day.

Last but not least, I miss moving towards the creative life I want. I have postponed that life over and over and over. 

I plan to enjoy my job through the tax season (I work in an accounting firm) and make the most of working with people I have come to love - I have great bosses and great co-workers. But, after tax season is over, I plan to become the designer of my life again.  I will be retired again.  Anything I do involving making money will be for myself.

To celebrate my new life, I bought new flowers.

This photo does not do them justice.  They are so vibrant and amazing.  Usually I go for flowers that look like you picked them from your backyard or a field, but this time I chose some that made quite a statement.

I also put out a new quote. I keep a frame in my kitchen for quotes.  I change the quotes often to suit the season and/or my mood.
This quote may not be the perfect one to define my new life, but it's pretty darned close.  I intend to enjoy life again... to really live it with purpose and joy.  It's hard to tell from this photo, but the credit for the quote goes to Hans Christian Anderson.  That seemed fitting.  The master of fairy tales is providing me with a bit of inspiration.  Once upon a time... we lived happily ever after!

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