Monday, December 31, 2012

One month left

I started my "year of not buying clothes" 11 months ago.  (I know a lot of you think it is over today, but I started on February 1.)  I didn't intend to make it a protest against consumerism, but I have learned a lot about my consumer tendencies during this process.  I thought that not buying clothes would make me feel like I didn't have a lot of clothes, but it has done the opposite.  It has magnified the amount of stuff I already have.  We all gasp at the "hoarders" they show on TV, but maybe all Americans are hoarders to some degree.  This just came out of our basement -

And this is only the broken stuff!  We have already given away two van loads full of the good stuff.  And we aren't finished yet!  How did we have this much stuff in our basement?  Our basement is not very big.

I think I rely too much on my stuff for comfort, for memories, and as a storehouse for the future.  "I might need that one day."  I am getting rid of everything that I say that about.  I can live with less resources and make it work.  I have a vision of a streamlined closet, house, and life!  (Well, maybe life can never be too streamlined, but at least I won't have so much stuff in the way.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On a lighter note...

We graffitied our hallway.

At just the right time...

That is one of my favorite quotes from the Bible.  " just the right time..."  Because I am a very impatient person, I repeat this phrase to myself a lot.  I have learned that when events happen "at just the right time" they are much better than when they happen "at just the wrong time."  And speaking of timing, we have still not started construction on our kitchen.  I thought we would be finished by now.  I know two families that started their kitchens at the same time we did and have now completed theirs.  We are still tweaking our design.

I went to visit a countertop distributor this past week and was reminded by Melvin, the stone cutter, of another great phrase - "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."   We started out by discussing the fact that the countertops I have selected are out of stock until June 2013.  He told me a story about recently buying a house and offering the seller a significantly lower price than he was asking.  Melvin said his realtor told him there was no way the seller would take the offer.  Melvin responded, "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."  And do you know what happened?  The guy took the offer.  Melvin went on to tell me, "The God we serve is strong enough to bring to pass whatever he wants to happen."  I thought to myself, "We aren't talking about countertops anymore, are we?"

But we were.  I continue to run into glitches in our kitchen process, and in order to keep the right perspective, I have to say to myself, "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."  God only knows if we will ever get past the design phase, but if we do, it will be "at just the right time."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


We just returned from a short family vacation to Chicago.  There was so much packed into a walkable distance, and the weather was in the mild 40's.  Thus, the city tricked me into asking, "Should we move here?"  My husband promptly said, "No."  However, he did say we could visit again.  These were the highlights of our trip -  

Highlight #1 - The people

I would change Chicago's name from "the windy city" to "the friendly city".  I kept expecting people to be like New Yorkers, but they weren't at all.  I never find New Yorkers to be rude, but they don't go out of their way to be nice.  So, in Chicago I was continually surprised when someone would say "sorry" for bumping into me on the street or a cab driver would wave me on in front of him.  And the waiters in restaurants were all cheery and helpful.  We made such good friends with one waitress that my daughter hugged her at the end of our meal.

Highlight #2 - The hotel

We stayed at the Hotel Monaco, and to the great (squealing) delight of my daughters, the hotel room was outfitted with two window seats hidden behind curtains.

They played in them morning and night.

The first day, the hotel delivered a real goldfish to our room.  On the second day, they delivered stuffed fish that the girls could take home with them.

Every morning hot chocolate was served in the lobby in front of a continuous loop of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (which was set in Chicago).  The hotel was definitely a hit.

Highlight #3 - The stores

The famous "miracle mile" is comprised mostly of chain stores, but they are the best versions of the chain stores that I have ever seen.  I could have spent all day in Room and Board.  And my girls could have spent all day in the the American Girl Store -

It was like little girl heaven.

I had fun being able to walk around the city.  Christmas shopping is so much more pleasant when you don't have to deal with traffic.  I even got to walk a few blocks behind some cute "sweater over sequins" style -

And there was a free little museum in an old building right in the middle of the square -

And speaking of museums...

Highlight #4 - The Art Institute of Chicago

It may be the best museum I have ever visited.  They had so many amazing paintings in the same building.  I have always loved "Sunday in the Park" by Seurat, and it was stunning in person -

I love looking at the all of the small, colorful brushstrokes that make up this huge painting -

It was fascinating to see several examples of how Monet would paint the same exact scene at different times of day -

The Van Gogh's are always my favorites.  They are so simple yet so brilliant and colorful -

And on the other side of the spectrum, we had to find the painting by Rembrandt, whom my daughter is studying in school.  His painting is so realistic it looks like a photograph -

In addition to the amazing paintings, we had the pleasure of seeing this -

Tiny dollhouse rooms that look completely real.

There were 169 of them including a few modern ones with tiny abstract paintings and acrylic chairs -

Because of my interest in origami style fashions, I was excited to see the display of clothing made by Japanese designers -

I am looking forward to making my own 3-D garment in the new year.

I could have stayed in the museum all day.  However, not everyone felt the same way -

Due to waning energy levels, we had to leave.  However, I happened to notice that she had no lack of energy for the 5K the next day -

We experienced a lot of the city but still didn't get to visit the Field Museum, eat deep dish pizza, or see the view from the John Hancock observatory.  We will definitely have to go back.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Cloud Gate at Millennium Park

We just returned from the "Windy City".  It wasn't that windy.  The weather was actually really nice most of the time.  And I love cities.  I already want to go back.  Highlights tomorrow...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gift wrapping with fabric

I was trying to come up with an interesting way to wrap a few gifts this Christmas and remembered the stacks and stacks of fabric I have in my basement.  I wondered if I could gift wrap with fabric.  I decided to make an envelope.  So, I cut a long rectangle with a point out of two different fabrics -

My measurements were 15.5 inches wide by 19.5 inches long plus another 4.5 inches of diagonal

I sewed the right sides together leaving a hole at the bottom.  Then, I flipped it to the right side, sewed up the hole and sewed the sides of the envelope together.

To make them look a little more festive, I added ribbons and buttons -

Here's a tip that I learned the hard way... then forgot and learned again -

If you cut the rectangle with the point going up (like it is shown in the first photo), make sure your fabric is upside down.  Or you can cut the fabric right-side up with the point coming toward you.  Either way, it was opposite of how I was thinking, so I cut it out incorrectly twice.  And that is why the "French" fabric is on the inside of two of them.  But I like that they are all unique.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I think I have enough samples now to open a kitchen showroom.  You may notice on the floor some porcelain tiles, and yes, we are now back to tile.  But the flip-flopping is not really my fault this time (although we have done a lot of flip-flopping that was my fault).  My contractor thought tile would not work well in my kitchen, but his partner (the one who is in charge of actually installing everything) says it will be fine.  Also, my contracting team thinks that the light fixture will work in the space.  However, this design process is taking so long that I'm not sure if this kitchen will ever happen.  I think I like looking at all the pretty things too much to choose just one.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

In the process - Part 3

Earlier this week I promised you more discussion on porcelain tiles.  I'm sorry, but our contractor has decided that hardwood floors will be best.  He says the tile will crack as the house settles.  So, there will be no more searching for tile flooring.  (Although, there are some really cool porcelain tiles out there that look like hardwood.  And vinyl tiles that looks like hardwood.  If the kitchen floor wasn't going right next to real hardwoods, I would consider either of those options.)

This kitchen design has been a loooong process, and I'm still trying to learn how to enjoy the process.  According to Tom Rath's Strengths Finder book, I'm an "achiever".  Everyday I "start at zero" and must achieve something to feel good about myself that day.  That is totally how I think.  And that is why I am so uncomfortable ending the day in the middle of the process.  But now that I know that about myself, I can tell myself that it is "OK!"

So, in an effort to find beauty in the middle of the process, I am going to totally switch gears.  I am going to end this day with some fashion inspiration.  I love how the coat is perfectly fitted in the shoulders but flowy around the lapel. And I really like the scarf.  This outfit is neutral but very interesting in its mix of texture and pattern  -

I hope you are seeing some beauty in the midst of your process.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Floor tile

Today, I am focusing on floor tile for my kitchen/dining room.  My two favorites from Floor and Decor are similar in look but are totally different materials.  The first is porcelain tile (fake stone) -

The second is travertine (real stone) -

It's not as evident in the picture, but the real stone looks more...real.  But with that "realness" comes little ridges that might bother one's feet and little cracks where crumbs might get stuck.  Also, the porcelain is a little cheaper and doesn't have to be sealed.  Does anyone have an opinion regarding real versus porcelain?  Later this week, I will investigate other types of porcelain tile.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jump roping in the morning

My girls have been begging me for jump ropes.  I thought it would be a 5 minute fad, but they have been jump roping every minute since I bought them yesterday.  First thing after breakfast, they wanted to go outside to jump rope.  I had no idea it was so much fun.

Today, I'm thankful that they have fun doing activities that are good for them.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The design process never ends...

Well, I had made two firm decisions about our kitchen - the wallpaper and the light fixture.  Now, we have determined that our ceiling is too low for the light fixture.  My husband and I have had several fights discussions over the fate of the light fixture.  The contractor suggested that we raise the ceiling.  My husband determined that we are now designing the kitchen around the light fixture.  And I responded that I was doing that all along.  But to allow my marriage this project to survive, I am giving this light fixture over to God.

I have to say that I have enormous guilt over splurging on a light fixture that doesn't even fit in our house (and can't be returned).  However, today I ran into some friends who recently had a stomach virus, and as I was slowly backing away from them, I was thinking to myself that the light fixture has not afflicted me in any physical way.  I would rather have to sell 10 light fixtures on Craig's list than have a stomach virus.  And to further put it all in perspective, this is the verse that I read this morning -

"Blessed are they whose trangressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

It doesn't say, "Blessed is he whose kitchen is really cool because of that amazing light fixture."  So, it feels a little like a death to give up my "art piece" (but not as bad as a stomach virus).  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am very thankful that all I can complain about is that it seems like we will never get this kitchen constructed.  I am very blessed that my family is healthy and happy and especially that my sins are covered (because they are many).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cheap thrills

I needed to clear my brain a little last week, so I took an inspirational trip to Ikea.  I like looking at all of the stuff I could buy so cheaply.  Even their kitchens are amazingly cheap.  You could buy this whole kitchen (including appliances) for $3,640!  I have always liked the look of high gloss white cabinets, and if I lived in a more modern house, that is what I would get.

I like the dark gray tile and the dark gray quartz (which I think is Caesarstone in concrete).

I also like their space saving wine racks -

  The one item I intended to buy on this trip was this acrylic chair -

I have been eyeing acrylic chairs for years, and then I found out that Ikea has them for $79.  So, I wrote down my item number and decided to head for the check out.  A trip to Ikea always starts out full of possibilities.  It always ends in - "How do I get out of this place?!"  When I finally found the "bin" for this item there were none left.  My purchase of the acrylic chair was not to be.  I guess I'll try again next year when I have another few hours to navigate the maze.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I have almost finished selecting everything for my kitchen and dining room, but I am still undecided about the tile back splash (and a few other small details like flooring).   I have narrowed the tile down to some good options.  I love the look of marble and originally toyed with the idea of installing marble counter tops.  However, after much research I decided I would be too nervous about staining or etching it (and it's expensive).  The Granite Gurus website was extremely helpful in making my decision.

Then, I stumbled upon this kitchen with navy cabinets and large marble tile.  A tile guy once told me that the bigger the tile, the bigger the space will look.  I found some beautiful 8 x16 Eastern white marble tile at Ann Saks -

But it's expensive, too.  So, I came up with a backup plan from Floor & Decor.  I have been to that store several times in the past and have been slightly annoyed that there was nobody around that could answer my questions.  This week, there were many people available, so I had a better experience.  I found several tile options.

 Carrara White -

Bianco Carrara -

They carry it in 2x4, 3x6, 6x6, and 6x12.  I like that you can actually see what's in the boxes -

They also have some beautiful "venetian art" that would make a big impact in a kitchen or bathroom -

I'll let you know what ends up fitting into my budget...