Monday, March 30, 2015

Chinoiserie Chic Dining Room Reveal

I'm posting my Chinoiserie Chic dining room reveal, even though things are far from perfect. This is the view of the dining room from the breakfast nook.  It is one step down, so we have this amazing railing. The hardwood is laid over concrete that slopes towards the far wall... this room was the first garage addition.  When we bought the property it was being used as a media room.  There was track lighting, lots and lots of furniture and the carpet was maroon with a large scale tropical motif.  I think it was a remnant from a casino (we're just South of Reno, NV... reno-vate...).  Another thing that couldn't be moved... that front and center intake vent.
This is the dining room looking back from the french doors.  I'm sorry about the weird color!  I want to get professional photographs. This is actually the second time I have decorated the room.  At first, I had the hutch in front of the window.  Natural light shined through an opening in the hutch but it was very hard to open and close the window. The room is very long and narrow and I thought the previous arrangement would make it a more comfortable shape, but it didn't work. The curtains were hanging on the french doors, but they were always in the way.  The wide woven-wood shade works perfectly. I also thought I wanted a dimmer more moody and romantic dining room. At that time the room was painted a dark caramel color, but it just wasn't me. I love me some white and bright decor!  The plantation chairs are slipcovered and I bought them from One Kings Lane years ago.  The kid booster chairs are from Ikea. If you have kids in your life, get some!  Their little feet can sit on the rail so they are more comfortable for them than sitting in a booster in an adult chair. The Chippendale style chairs were from Ballard Design's garden collection last year.  If you don't remember seeing them, I bought the brown ones and painted them white.  Good outdoor furniture is indestructible.  My boys can tip them back and the legs won't come loose and when they get dirty I can wash the cushion covers. We eat outside all summer long so it's nice to be able to go in and get extra seating without worrying about it getting damaged.
The entire room was inspired by these vintage Scalamandre curtains.  The colors in them are so luscious.  Coral.  Teal.  Olive green.  Lilac.  Sage green.  Ballet slipper pink!  I had to take advantage of the colors, which is why I painted the ceiling green.  If I had these panels made today, it would cost about $6000.  A couple of years ago I was searching "Scalamandre" on eBay, maybe thinking I could score a La Tigre remnant or something else fun.  These draperies were left over from an estate sale with a reserve of $70!  I couldn't believe my luck when they actually arrived on my doorstep for the reserve price.  The ticket from the Estate auction was still pinned to them, with an auction reserve of $1700.  I'm telling you, half of my home furnishings are from Ebay and Craigslist.
I love the pacing of this room.  It unfolds in little vignettes.  First, "Oh, there's the dining room".  Then you see the pretty focal point of the window wall, then you notice the hutch.  Of course, my beverages were totally depleted when I went to take this picture.  This room is the pass-through to my husbands office, and he likes to sneak a bottle of Martinelli's now and then.  The picture is hanging on the wall, there is no back to the hutch.  That's where the window was before.  
My father in law's mother bought this crystal punch bowl at an antique store in Virginia City, Nevada in the early 1960's.  The family had lived all over the world, but had just moved to Reno.  My mother in law inherited it, and it moved around with them until she passed it down to me when I was living in Oregon.  We love that it's come home, just down the road from where my husband's grandma bought it almost 60 years ago.  It is 2 pieces, the pedestal and the bowl.  The bowl is so heavy, I can hardly carry it.  I love that it is safely in that little niche, tucked away from my rowdy boys, refracting the sunshine by day and twinkling in the chandelier lights by night.
I host at least Sunday dinner every week.  My table seats 12, and if more people join us, there's always the kitchen.  Last night my sister and her family joined us along with my mother and father in law.  Most weeks we have our college-student cousins over.  Their gratitude towards being in my home encourages me to keep on with this tedious renovation for another week.  Don't wait to share your home until it is perfect, because it never will be.  
Gracie wallpaper would have been so perfect in here, but it didn't quite fit in the budget.  Instead, I grouped the landscapes and still lives from around the house.  It gave the artistic watercolor affect I wanted.  I just wish I had twice as much art!  I only want real things in my home, and that includes original art as opposed to reproductions, so the collecting process is slow.  The two little "love" pieces are from TJ Maxx.  They were hung as Valentine's decorations and never came down.  They're just place holders, but they're cute and only set me back $11.  Once the art was hung, I made sure everything was level and put a bit of sticky tac on the bottom corners of each piece.  If you have a gallery wall, do this or it will drive you nuts trying to keep everything strait!  I remembered this tip because now I'm noticing the "Love" art is crooked.  The door goes to the man cave, which was garage addition #2.  That garage had been converted into an office before we bought the home. We do not currently have a garage.
I still need to replace that door... and get the new door matching hardware. Details, details.  The hutch is supposed to be installed as a built in, but that still hasn't happened.  The room isn't trimmed, baseboards are missing, and the French door either needs some serious TLC or it just needs to be replaced.  Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed the little tour.
Oh, and speaking of things being real, every room needs a living, breathing plant.  The dining room has a fern on a nifty brass plant stand.  The fern has such long fronds and you can barely see the pot.  It reminds me of Cousin It and it always makes me smile.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Poalo Castelli

I want to introduce you to the furniture company you have been looking for your entire life, Paolo Castelli. But first, a story. When I was first married I made a friend named Ana.  She was also a newlywed and was setting up her first home. Maybe she gravitated towards me because I am a designer and she was looking for help with her apartment, maybe it was my red hair, but we became friends and have remained close ever since. She and her husband have lived all over the world (romance and wedding in PARIS!), host the most elegant dinners, and always have something interesting to say. When they moved back to Italy a few months ago, Ana contacted me to see if I was able to help her with her new apartment. For the past couple of months we have been working on an e-design plan for her current apartment in Bologna.  Next month I will go there for the install, which brings us back to Paolo Castelli.
Paolo Castelli is based in Bologna. That is also where they manufacture their high end furnishings and lighting.   While I am in Italy, I am meeting with them and touring the factory.  They are also sending me to the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, International Furniture Show in Milan.  There's a lot more to this story that I look forward to sharing but Littlenickjonas gets back from playing next door, soon. At least now I can just write about this trip in the future and you'll know what I'm referring to.  Here is some more Paolo Castelli eye candy, try not to lick your screen.

Monday, March 23, 2015

I'm better now.

Wow.  2015.  Good riddance, right?  Or, maybe you kicked 2015's trash.  Congratulations!  For us it was one of those times where we just couldn't get a break.  For example, Dan had a discectomy on a vertebrae in his neck... and it was unsuccessful so they tried two or three more procedures... which were unsuccessful... and in the meantime, when he shouldn't have been goofing off ANYWAY!  He twisted his knee playing basketball with the boy scouts at our church and needed KNEE SURGERY! Worst of all, he is my general contractor.  Actually, the worst part is, my tough guy is still in chronic pain... bad bad hurty pain that nothing can touch... not even the good stuff.  Maybe he should try Gung-ho.  Just kidding.  Inside joke.  We still plug away at the medical bills every month and I would rather be buying art.  I was discouraged.  Really bummed in a way I tried to hide so my sweet husband wouldn't feel worse than he already did.  It's been kind of sad.

People have asked why I haven't subbed out more work.  Well, for one, it's SO expensive, but that's not even the biggest problem.  Every time I mentioned getting help Dan took it really personally.  It really hurt his feelings, and I couldn't see why.  Through no fault of his own, no progress was being made on a total mess of a house, which he lives in, too. Couldn't he just understand my logic? One day, as I was trying to create perfection in a hopelessly imperfect space... a thought popped into my head: "How would you feel if Dan hired a party planner for the kid's birthdays?"  Uhhh... that would never happen.  I'm really good at parties, they're adorable.  And besides... that would be a total waste of money. The thought persisted, "But hear me out.  Your parties are great... but you spend so much time on them... it would be worth it to just hire a professional.  And you have to admit, your parties are cute, but no one's exactly in a frenzy to re-pin them or anything.  You should hire someone".  This thought stopped me cold... and I got the message.  The randomness and perfection of the analogy was no coincidence.  God was talking to me... with words... and maybe even saving my marriage.  I've been feeling better and much more loving and patient ever since.

Well, way to start out all heavy after a year of crickets, but there you go.  Oh!  And the previous post of horrible photography... I found a sweepstakes online that had to be linked to a blogpost of a favorite room, so I threw up those pics.  I never heard back from them.

I used to have another blog that really made me happy.  I few people told me it made them happy, too.  I've started wishing I had time to write again, to get out all the stories my kids don't want to hear.  If I keep everything pent up I become REALLY needy around grown women, like, pull your arm, make you look at me and talk, needy, so... I'm baaaack.  I've realized that if I wait to write until my house is clean and I've made all the phone calls I need to make, it will never happen.  As long as the kids are good, I'm writing first.  Two features on my previous blog that I really enjoyed were Media Monday and Foodie Friday.  I'm going to get back to those posts here, with some pretty house stuff thrown in for good measure.
This morning Littlenickjonas and I were walking next door to visit the Grandparents (they're living in the bunkhouse now... I'll save that for another day).  I was taking pictures the whole time because he's just delicious and he'll be five soon and he's my youngest and I have enjoyed every second of his childhood and I wish I could freeze time. He said, "Hey, it's really windy!" and started to dance around and say cute things like, "I'm catching the wind.  I can catch the ground!"  Not sure what he meant by that, but then he decided it was cold, grabbed my hand again and we went to harass my in-laws.  Of course, they kidnapped him and took him "to town", aka, Walmart for Legos.
Media Monday!  Hurray!  Have you heard of this book?  Definitely do the audio version.  It's about an OCD Japanese woman who is going to demand that you get over it and clean your house, already!  I really and truly love it, and  the title is not overblown.  Do you remember Peter Walsh*?  He was Oprah's organization guru.  I love that guy.  Years ago, he made me realize that organizing wasn't going to the container store and finding clever ways to sort huge piles and masses of stuff, it was getting rid of stuff until you had what fit and stayed tidy.  Marie Kondo has taken it a step further.  I'm not going to go into it** because you just need to spend the $15 (or no dollars if you haven't taken advantage of the audible free trial, yet) and kick everyone out of the house for five hours and start cleaning out a category while you listen to the book.  Search konmari on you-tube if you want a sample, but the you-tube stuff is pretty boring because she uses a translator.  The book is much better. Leave me a comment if you have read it, I'm so interested in your review, and thanks to Laurie, one of my precious jewels, for turning me onto this method.

*One great tip from Peter Walsh that she never mentioned in the book: The space you have for a category is how much you can own of that category.  For example, if you have one shelf for dishes in your kitchen, or one shoe rack in your closet, when the shelf or rack is full, you quit acquiring, or if you upgrade you get rid of something.  This rule has served me well, I could be much worse.

**OK, I'll get into it just a bit.  She organizes by category instead of area.  She uses the example of clothes, but my achilles heal is linens, so let's take that.  I have linens stashed all over my house, so cleaning out a particular closet wouldn't expose the excess of my linen-hoarding tendencies.  When I eventually get around to gathering every sheet and blanket in my house on my dining room table and start to sort and fold... I will understand that I have way too much and I'll be able to pass on the pieces which no longer "spark joy".  When.  I'm not ready.

Oh, and speaking of Media Monday: if you're reading this, you're probably a relative so you already know that I'm on instagram.  Finally, I know.  Always the last one at the party.  @verdantluxe.  Have a great week.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I can do laundry at my house.

I can do laundry at my house!  Whenever anyone asks how I've been, how the house is coming along or what I want for lunch, the answer is always the same: "I can do laundry at my house!"  I didn't even realize what a hassle it had all been until I brought the dirty clothes downstairs and cleaned them without even leaving my house then took the clean clothes upstairs 90 minutes later and put them away.  It was miraculous.  I am so content.

I met with a little ladies group from church this week (the group was little, not the ladies), and we all went around the room and said how things are going for us.  Responses included, "Next week I'm one year cancer free!"  "It's been a year since I lost my daughter and her kids are doing so much better", and "I can do laundry at my house!"  My cute grandma friends were thrilled for my news, I love them.

Nothing is ever "done" around here.  I need to hang my ironing board, hang the hooks and grout the tile.  Oh, and a door would be nice.  I was questioning the coral color a bit, when I found this pic from Wendy's Look Book.  That's totally the vibe I was going for with my ultra glamorous warrior-housewife under-the stairs washer and dryer, Wendy!  Thanks for the endless validation!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Reading

We are so naive.  Just last week, after all that we have learned, we said I would have a laundry by today.  Such sweet kids, so full of hope.  I do have a floor!  Actually, Dan would have gotten further, maybe even finished, but I made him come out and play on Saturday, and that was the right choice.  Sunday is the Lord's day here at Winters Creek Ranch... so nothing got done on that front yesterday, either... but soon!  This week for sure.  For sure...

I read a lot during the break.  I hate most movies, and I for sure hate any movie the guys want to watch, so when Dan and the kids watched movies most nights, I went to bed early with a book.  I will only review books I liked.  Who has time for negativity?

Reading level... Us Weekly (4 hours)
I love The Mindy Project (in large part for her white and bright apartment... she has my green chandi, even!  We're twinners!) so I thought this would be fun, and it was.  She has a really developed voice, so the series of essays sound like conversations with a friend.  She brought up two points that I have felt for years, so I will tell you what they were, then read the book for a much more articulately expressed explanation of said points.

We are both children of type-A immigrant parents, so we see most Americans as whiners. Sorry, we just do.  She says she hates it when people say they are "stressed".  Her mom, who was an OBGYN in Africa, had to re-do her residency in America, which meant commuting (1...2 hours... I can't remember) while she had a young family.  Every day before she left she prepared all three meals for the day and left them in the fridge.  She never heard her mom say she was stressed.  On a personal note,  I hate it when people say they are busy.  Really?  Then eliminate something, whiner.

OK, the other thing she is really vulnerable about is her desire to be a wife and a mother.  This is such a politically incorrect and uncool thing for a young, accomplished Hollywood (or anywhere else) young woman to want, I was surprised she was so candid about it.  She talks about her married friends who drone on about how hard marriage is.   She says something like, "Shut up!  You have what we all want!"  I don't remember the exact quote because I gave my copy away... but the point is to be grateful that you found someone who you can build a life with.  As someone who has been married for 13 years, I agree.  We have had Hard Times, but this whole dialogue about "Marriage Is Work", just creates an attitude of drudgery.  I studied a bit of Eastern religion in college, and one philosophy I remember is that with arranged marriage, you are expected to love the one you marry, while in the West you are expected to marry the one you love... and Eastern marriages are much more successful.  It goes back to your attitude.  In America, we are free to have it both ways, so be careful with who you pick and make the most of it.   I like to think of Hard Times like, "You're being a jerk, so be cool so we can have fun again".  Joking!  Moving on...
Reading level, High School, 7 hours
My bookish girl friends had all recommended this book to me years ago, so if you are still reading this post you have probably already read this book, but here it goes.  Probably the best book I have ever read.  What a contrast to set down Kaling's memoir and pick up Walls'.  Their parents are a total contrast in life philosophies, and it shows how people experience the same opportunities so differently.  I had this story described to me as that of a homeless family.  Well, sort of.  The tragedy of the story is that children are the victims of the adult's choices.  The brilliance of the writing is Walls' ability to "show, don't tell".  She describes the most horrible scenes like a reporter, but this is a first person account.  She rarely even says how she felt at the time, allowing you to feel the pain, hunger, fear for her.

I read this book right before Christmas, and it put all of my expectations and those of my children into perspective.  We need so little and we have so very much.  This book really stuck with me.  As angry as I felt towards her parents, her mother in particular, I also related to some of their philosophies, which made me think, "There by the Grace of God, go I".

The most important passage of the book for me, what could be it's thesis, is at the end when she is in college and her professor is discussing poverty and homelessness in America.  In the class, Walls suggests that there are some homeless people because they choose to reject traditional values and have made it their choice (again, I am paraphrasing).  The professor slams her in front of the whole class, "People want to go cold and hungry?"  Not able to tell her story, she submits, "Of course not".  If you agree with the professor, read this book.  I have known homeless people, and the homeless people I knew had other resources which they rejected to be a part of the counter culture.  I'm just speaking of the people I know personally.  I see homeless people on the street who are disabled, often veterans, and I always give them anything I have.  Cash, food, anything, and I teach my children to show the less fortunate compassion, so that's not what I am saying.  I am saying that as hard as it is to believe, there are entire populations of people who prefer the hunger and cold to following the norms of society.  Poverty in America is sometimes choice, albeit more by default than actual planning.

I was still subdued after reading The Glass Castle when I started Unbroken, the day after Christmas.  Oh, boy.  Where do I start.
Reading level: Mature, 10 hours
Nutshell:  Brilliant.  Important.  Devastating.  Heart breaking.  I love history.  Maybe you've noticed these are all biographies.  That's 90% of what I read, and 99.9% of the time I read non-fiction.  I fancy myself an above average historian, but I was totally shocked by the brutality and suffering of the Pacific Theatre in World War II.  I have talked to people who read this book who had the exact same feeling.  In school we learned about the Nazi atrocities and the horrors in Europe, but not so much of the Pacific action between Pearl Harbor and the Atomic Bombs.

Maybe it's too soon for a review, I'm surprised that I'm feeling emotional trying to summarize this, I truly can not.  I'll tell you what.  Google it if you're interested, and if you don't read, I hear Angelina Jolie is directing the movie.  Will I see the movie?  On the fence.  Probably not.  Like I said, I go to movies for entertainment and I don't think I have the stomach for it.  This book has a happy ending.  I mean, sorry to spoil it for you, but if it didn't it wouldn't be much of a story, so duh!  Of course it does.

This is a long book.  It documents years of suffering and atrocities by POW's.  I found myself thinking, "Drop that bomb already!  When does the bomb drop so we can just call this thing!"  Of course, I mean the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   I lack the vocabulary to express what I'm trying to say.  My brother is an expert on WWII, so if he reads this he will think I'm a bimbo... but here it goes.  I didn't understand the warrior spirit... war philosophy... I don't know what it's called... of the Japanese.  I knew about Kamikazes and that Japanese troops committed mass suicide rather than surrender, but I didn't understand how deep this whole honor thing went.   I started to understand that Japan would never surrender if there was any option at all.  Still, why two civilian targets? Perhaps if it was tactical targets the Japanese would have seen it as more collateral damage and continued the war, it had to be civilian targets for them to surrender.  This book was from the American perspective, so I tried to find unbiased information on the topic, which doesn't exist.  Research led me down a rabbit hole of politicized rhetoric and hind-site judgements, and I don't think we will ever have those answers.  War is a tragedy and disgusting and everyone loses.  How am I so lucky to raise my children in one of the only times and places in the history of the world where we are free?  A humbling thought, and my ultimate take away from the book.

My interest in WWII was peaked.  Dan had been taping the mini-series "The Pacific", so we watched the first one together.  It's too soon, I just can't.  I really have little tolerance for violence, and even though it was well done and compelling, I have to take a break from that whole topic for a while so I can get out of bed in the morning.  Read Unbroken, you can handle it, and I am really sensitive.  Hopefully you're of stronger stock than me.  I have talked to other friends who loved the book and are really looking forward to the movie.  I admit, I am kind of wimpy.  It's definitely one of the books that I am going to make sure my boys read... in High School.

Ok, thanks for letting me ruminate on my recent books, Dan can only take so much.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Dream Refrigerator, because I dream of Refrigerators.

I have played outside with my boys 2 days in a row now... in winter.  I'm really gunning for Mother of the Year, here.  We hiked all around Davis Creek Park and after an hour, somehow ended up back at our car.  The boys turned and ran the other way, not ready to leave.  When we ended up at the parking lot again a while later, I made them load up.  They were still bursting with energy so I drove them to the park down the road and read in my warm car while they chased each other around for another hour.  Graham fell asleep on his Dad's lap right after dinner and the older boys weren't far behind.  I love Reno sunshine.  I can't complain about the 40 degree days.

A while ago I posted this picture on Facebook of the kids frosting sugar cookies and people asked about my fridge.  Lincoln's blood sugar has crashed... too much frosting... I've been wanting to do a kitchen post for a while because I am so excited about how things are (extremely slowly) coming along, but I will have to divide it up or it will never happen.  The kitchen was a total gut, we (Dan) even had to replace the rotten sub floor.  The worst part was removing the drop ceiling.  It was at about 7'6", now it's back to 8 like the rest of the South side of the house.  It took a couple of weeks to raise the plumbing and wiring, a very nasty job.  Fortunately, Dan's dad and brother came into town to help.

The East wall houses the fridge.  Ta Dah!  I love it.  It's a Fridgidaire Commercial.  If you want a glass door, you can get this one, a GE Monogram with the freezer on the bottom, or a sub Z.  This is far and away the best value.  The only negative is that there isn't an ice maker.  We buy pellet ice from Sonic (holla!) and keep it in a rubbermaid box in the freezer, ain't no thing.  When my pantry is built (that shelf is just a temporary sitch... not as temporary as I had hoped, but still... ) we will do a built-in there with a pellet ice-maker and a butcher block.  Someday.

You can see where the ductwork ran, leaving a nook just tall enough for the fridge.   Most everyone, even the salespeople, tried to talk me out of the glass door, but I have wanted a glass door fridge for YEARS, and finally we are doing a kitchen just for us, not as an investment, so I held firm.  The sales people all said that customers get sick of the glass door because it's hard to keep fridges clean.  Glass doors are SO unpopular that this model is discontinued.  If you want one, get shopping before it sells out.  The castors are pretty sweet, too.
My sister was on my team, telling Dan, "Jacqui never has any food in her fridge, anyway.  Keeping it neat won't be a problem".  I HAVE food, I just don't archive food!  I have very strong feelings on groceries.  I have a lot of repect for food, and I hardly ever waste anything.  I only grocery shop about 3 times a month and I buy pretty basic fresh foods. I can't wait to get Arancana chickens so I can have pretty green eggs.  (I LOVE to clean out other people's refrigerators, but it's not the sort of thing I can offer, so if you want my help please ask.  It's my gift to this world).

I agree with Peter Walsh , an organizing guru.  Set limits for your stuff based on you capacity to store it.     If the condiment basket is full something gets tossed so the fresh condiment will fit.  It's kind of gross to have 10 open salad dressings in your fridge, don't you think?  Some of them must be so old. Large spice containers are in the freezer.  In the unlikely event that I am baking I pull out the whole spice basket.  It's very convenient and the spices last longer chilled.

The obvious benefit to a glass door fridge is that the kids aren't opening it and staring at the food all day while energy is wasted.  I got Dan this sweet Elk bottle opener (apron hook) for Christmas.  $10 at Cost Plus, the perfect host gift for that Super Bowl party coming up.  There's some news you can use! 

Dreams do come true.  I have a glass door fridge, I can die now.
P.S.  Paolo wants you to know that we found "deer paw" tracks in the snow yesterday.