Friday, November 26, 2010

don't be jealous, but my ceiling is cooler than yours

See?  I don't lie.

I'm so excited that this project was able to be done.  My friend, Shelly, volunteered to help me paper my powder room ceiling and I was super excited.  The paper was waiting for me when I got home from work on Wednesday so Shelly and I made plans to get started right after lunch today.  Fab.

But then I was clearing off the top of the dryer and realized that getting to that far corner would be difficult.  Hmmm - how much room is left when I wiggle it all the way next to the toilet?

Yeah, not that much.  But the washer/dryer seems pretty sturdy, maybe we could climb on top?  Shelly was game and also said that she had a skinny 2-step ladder that might work.  So I headed over to Home Depot to pick up supplies.

Note: wallpaper was bought through Will's Decorating, not HD

Shelly arrived and we cut strips of paper.  Originally we thought that we would only need three strips, but then we overlapped the edges pretty significantly to be able to match the pattern so ended up needing a fourth piece.  And each piece needed to be extra long as well.  Even so, I ended up with plenty of leftover paper so look for that in future projects!

I decided to hang it widthwise because the room is a bit of a rectangle.  This should help widen the room a little and make it seem like more of a square.

Shelly came up with an ingenious plan for fitting into that sliver of space between the washer and the wall - put the step stool on the "thin" setting and then prop it up with a couple of books.  Maybe not the sturdiest thing in the world, but as she said, just as sturdy as climbing on top.  And it was jammed in between the wall and the very heavy washer/dryer combo.  Well, it worked and that's all that matters!

So Shelly squeezed in the tiny space on the left and then I perched on a one-step stool on the other side of the toilet and we got the first piece up, Shelly cutting around the light/fan thingamajig.  That sucker was tricky.

Then it was on to the second strip.  Lining this one up wasn't hard, but there were just a ton of wrinkles and bubbles.  Here's Shelly trimming the second strip.  Did I mention that she basically did everything?  I smoothed a bit and that was okay, but I just couldn't get the hang of trimming.  I kept scoring the wall and not getting any of the paper.  Shelly rocked at it.  She also lined up each new piece PERFECTLY with the previous one.  You can see the seams a bit where the paper is solid, but it's wallpaper.  It has seams.  Blow up any of these pictures and you would not be able to find the seam.
My very-important job was to keep the supply of clean rags coming, to hand off tools and to clean up the excess glue on the ceiling and walls.  I was also pretty good at prepping the paper - pasting and booking.  But the queen of the day was definitely Shelly.

The third piece, though, almost made Shelly give up.  Lining it up was nearly impossible and then when letting the paste set, we got distracted by the internet and so it wouldn't stick to the ceiling.  Then wrinkles and more wrinkles followed by bubbles and more bubbles.  Getting rid of one just caused another.  More paste and some deep breaths helped all around and then it was time for trimming!

The fourth piece was easier because we cut it nearly in half lengthwise before putting the paste on.  We knew we'd only need about a foot instead of the full 27" and it also made it easier to manage.

And then, about 4 hours later, we were done!  I love it so much - I keep going back in to check it out.

It was hard to get a good picture of the ceiling - the entry is a little cramped.  But lying down on the floor let me get a shot of the whole thing!

I love my ceiling.  Love love love love love.  It's definitely the coolest thing in my house!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Would Debbie Do? My mom's house for Thanksgiving

First in an occasional series on how I would redecorate a space

As I touched on in my last post, the Thanksgiving table at my mom's house is a bit random.  A cramped table, too many dishes, a mish-mosh of serving dishes and tablecloth that has been washed one too many times.  Quality linen it is not.

Her china was her mom's, but isn't some special family heirloom.  Nope - it was a giveaway the local bank was doing.  Make a deposit and get a piece of china.  It's not the prettiest stuff in the world, but my grandparents didn't have a lot of money.  And when my mom inherited it, she and my dad didn't have a lot of money.  So even though she's always thought it ugly, it's always been on the table.  Beggars can't be choosers and all, right?

Well, now my mom is in a more comfortable place.  Not enough to go out and buy new china, but you know, she isn't really a china person anyway.  She wants to be, but she's not.  She's stoneware - Fiestaware, to be exact.  She already has a few pieces of it in cobalt and always likes expanding on her collection so I'm going to help her along.

I'll start with a dark purple tablecloth from World Market with matching napkins

The rich colors are still autumnal but will go better with her dishes than the green.  And it's cheap, which is great considering she'll only use it once a year.  Veering a little from tradition which is unsettling for my mom, but I think she'll really like the outcome. 

Then I'll complete her set of cobalt Fiesta dinner plates.  Thanksgiving is a more-the-merrier event so let's give her a total of 16 plates. 

I'm tempted to mix and match a bit, but it's easier to just stick with all cobalt and then she can easily keep expanding after I've finished with this little blog post.

So let's replace some of her tired dishes.  The light turquoise one?  Yeah, it's been passed down, but I don't think it's heirloom quality and is too light for the winter holidays.  Fiesta has a very nice pedestal bowl that would be good in its place. 

Note: the colors in these pictures are all over the place, but they're all the same deep cobalt in real life

So now we have 16 cobalt plates and four cobalt serving dishes (counting the ones she already owns), it's time to shake things up a bit.  But I'm going simple and streamlined so I don't want to inroduce another color.  How about pewter?  My mom loves pewter, it will add some shine to the table and is a bit more rustic than actual silver so will go better with the Fiesta.  How about a couple Revere bowls?  A little expensive at $130 each for the 9" ones (and we might need bigger), but they're gorgeous.

Let's pull out the Jefferson cups she already has and buy some more to make a set and use those for wine.  They're a little more casual, a little more fun and since she already has footed water glasses, a nice contrast.

A pewter gravy boat (with it's own stand since when they're not attached they never end up back together) would round out our glitz requirement for the table.  Two would be necessary, one for either end of the table.

She already has a good selection of small Depression glass dishes that are great for things like cranberry sauce and olives and will add some nice sparkle.  They look fancy, but they originally were as dime store as the Fiestaware.  Love it.  And if we happened to find this one at a yard sale or antique store?  Well, I wouldn't complain.

I really wanted to find a platter to replace the plain white one but couldn't find one I liked.  Oh well. 

I think these pieces would help my mom's Thanksgiving table better reflect her personality and she would be more likely to use them everyday.  After all, life isn't all about the holidays!

table centerpieces

I always drool over all the centerpieces displayed around Thanksgiving.  Tables full of flowers and twigs and leaves and mini pumpkins and votive candles.  So pretty!

But where does the food go?  And what do you do with all those extra plates when you sit down to eat?  Does the host then have to shuttle them all back to the kitchen?

At my mom's house, there's the platter for the turkey.  Bowls full of mashed potatoes, stuffing, butternut squash, pearl onions, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce.  Bowls full of food guests brought - this year it will be Brussels sprouts, a rice dish and a green salad.  A basket of Parker House rolls.  Butter dishes.  Wine and water glasses.  Seriously - no room even for the smallest floral arrangement.  It is not a buffet house or a put-a-little-on-everyone's-plate-in-the-kitchen house.  It's family style and it rocks.  I actually did a whole blog about Thanksgiving at my mom's house a few years ago.  Here are a few pictures showing the crowd at the table:

Then at my house, my dining table is so ridiculously small that as soon as you put one platter on it, there's barely any room left for the plates.  And it's all so squished that it becomes a sea of white instead of clear against pattern.  I should just hang ribbons from the ceiling fan instead of fretting over my lack of a centerpiece (oooh - good idea for Christmas Eve!).  But candles or flowers would block the folks on the ends from being able to get to the food. 

So maybe all those pretty centepieces are from houses with large dining rooms, wide tables and no sideboards.  My dream house will definitely be that way!

Monday, November 22, 2010

wallpaper on the ceiling: step 2

Step 1 was deciding to do this crazy thing.

Step 2 was buying the paper.  I did that yesterday.

I went to my local decorating store - Will's Decorating.  I had been in here before and was a bit overwhelmed.   So much to look at and most of the in-stock product was very early 90's.  Not really inspiring.  But I remembered that they had TONS of wallpaper books so I figured I could order something even if I couldn't find what I wanted in stock.  Plus I wanted to see the colors in person - colors on your computer screen aren't necessarily accurate.  And it just seemed cozier than ordering online.

I was originally going to go Thursday as they're open until 8pm, but traffic was not on my side.  Then I was going to go Saturday, but The Lost Symbol had me captivated all morning and I had to get out to Annapolis to sit with a newborn in my arms all day long.  Couldn't miss that for wallpaper shopping! 

So I made sure to get over there as soon as they opened on Sunday.  I went to the wallpaper section and looked at the books on display.  One was promising - it was from York, Antonina Vella's La Dolce Vita collection and was open to this page:

Hmmm - that seems pretty modern, not frumpy early 90's ditsy floral.  Let's see what else is in there!

Yes, I think this might be THE book!  And totally a sign that it's the first one I came to.  Even better was their selection of green patterns.  I had pretty much decided that green was the direction to go with - I don't own the rug yet so I can't match any of the colors exactly, but I feel like green is one of those shades that don't have to match so much.

Anyway, here were my green possibilities:

Yeah, that second one?  Totally Imperial Trellis.  But it would so be wrong on my ceiling.  Too much white space.  The third one was a close second, but I thought it might be TOO grid-like, you know?  The first one would normally be my first choice, but the background (which isn't clear on my computer - glad I went in!) was cream and kind of looked like wrinkled paper - in a good way, but not MY way.

My final decision was the Edda in the green colorway:

How pretty is this!  The elongated paisley, the grassy green color combined with white, making it very crisp.  And it's busy without being cluttered.  So very me.

I thought about the yellow colorway:

But while I love yellow, I'm green.  And then I'm planning on hanging blue antique lusterware dishes and I don't really like blue with yellow unless there's a good dose of green or pink somewhere in there.  So green it is!  And I think it looks really nice with the rug.

The paper will be sent directly to my house and should arrive on Wednesday or Friday.  And then the plan is to put it up on Friday (assuming it arrives in time) and maybe I'll get the plates from my mom at Thanksgiving and have an almost-finished powder room by my holiday party!

Friday, November 12, 2010

a productive day off

My office was closed yesterday for Veteran's Day and I managed to pack it full of personal stuff.  I really love having productive holidays.  It's so easy for me to be lazy on a weekend that being lazy on a holiday seems like a waste.

My sister made me wake up earlier than I do for work to go with her to the press opening of Neiman Marcus's Last Call Studio in Rockville.  This store is great.  I feel like rather than it being an outlet for Neiman Marcus, it's more an outlet for their cool little sister, Cusp.  Everything was on trend and at fabulous prices.  As an added bonus, we got $100 gift cards.  I spent mine on a fab pair of Jimmy Choo sunglasses. 
My current sunglasses are cheapo ones from Target with butterflies at the temples.  I bought them for Bonnaroo and continued to wear them all summer, though my niece had dropped them and scratched the lenses.  But I loved the shape and while it was a bit goofy, I loved the butterflies.  But once September rolled around, they just didn't seem appropriate, you know?

Unfortunately, one of the arms fell off this morning.  So weird.  I wore them on my way into work and didn't take them off until I was in the elevator.  Took them off and went to put in the case, but they were a bit smudged so I wiped them and then put them in the case.  Once in the office, I pulled them out to show to my colleagues and one of the arms was missing!  I called Jimmy Choo who said they would either have a local store (there's one in Chevy Chase) fix them or I could send the glasses off to be exchanged.  Will keep you updated.

After shopping, Alison and I met her husband and daughter for brunch at the Silver Diner.  Love this place and love getting extra Emerson time.  We bonded over my jewelry and while I showed her my sunglasses, I didn't let her try them on :) 

Next up was the One Day Meat Sale at the Co-Op.  I had actually forgotten about this sale and at first wondered why the parking lot was so full, even though it was a holiday.  I actually had to park in the last row!  But I bought a whole chicken, some lovely strip steaks, ground beef and pork chops.  Came home and separated it all out into single portions and filled my freezer.  Now that my work schedule is back to normal, it will be nice to cook real dinners again.

The plan was to then go straight outside and tackle my front yard, but the Nate Berkus Show was on.  I love this show - it's like a moving design blog.  And can Nate's handyman please come to my house and switch out the crazy light switches in my kitchen and bedroom?  Would be nice for guests to be able to turn on these lights without a 15 minute lesson.

I did have self-control and turned off the TV before Ellen came on.  Otherwise she would have sucked me in as well, but my yard was calling!  It's been a wild wonderland all summer and I kind of loved its mess.  Overgrown and wild, it had its own beauty.  But by the end of the summer, I was sick of it.  All of the winding vines and overgrown mint made it impossible (for me, at least) to do any constructive gardening.  I knew I needed to clear it out now so it would be ready for me in the spring. 

So I spent about two hours filling three of those tall paper yard bags...

and ended up with a cleared out yard!  You can actually see the parking lot!  Light!  Air!  It's a good thing.

I pulled out all of the vines and mint, trimmed down the rest of the weeds and the wild parts of the bush/tree things and cut away the dead parts of one bush that was almost completely flattened by the snow this winter.  I pulled out the faux stone edgers that were randomly placed in the yard and pulled up some of the randomly placed paving stones.

Next up is to fully remove all the weeds and random green stuff, relocate the hostas and brown flower-things to better places, remove the rest of the paving stones, put the saint the previous owner left on Freecycle and lay down some mulch.  In Greenbelt, you have to have something covering the dirt in your yard and I don't want to deal with grass.  It's hard enough getting bits of it to grow in my backyard.  Then I'll be all ready to make it pretty next year!

Having successfully cleared out my yard, I treated myself to watching Lost in Austen on Netflix On Demand.  SUCH a cute little movie that I didn't even mind that it was 3 hours long (it was originally a miniseries) and cooked up one of the steaks I just bought with some heirloom cherry tomatoes.

It was a fabulous day!

Monday, November 8, 2010

dinner at the Mint Green House

I had my sister, brother-in-law and niece over for dinner Saturday night.  I was at the Co-Op on Friday and saw bags of clams for $6.99.  Cooking shows always scare me away from clams and mussels with suggestions to talk to your fishmonger or some other scary thought.  I like my grocery experience to be a bit impersonal - get in, get out, smile at familiar faces and say please and thank you to the cashier, but that's it.  I'm getting better at this, mostly due to the farmer's market and this fabulously talkative farmer, but it's a slow process.  So I'm always excited to find new food items just sitting out there waiting for me!

And clams are SO FREAKING EASY!  I may even talk to someone just to get them again.  Boil up some water & wine, toss the clams in and 5 minutes later?  Dinner.  Sure, I had to soak them for an hour, but I can do that and then go back to wasting time somewhere else.  I remembered too late hearing that one should toss some cornmeal in with the soaking clams so they'll spit out even more dirt, but they weren't too bad.  And I loved the freaky gurgles and bubbles they made.

Sides were leftover macaroni & cheese cupcakes, a loaf of sourdough bread and some green leafy bok choy-ish greens from the farmer's market.  I bought them two weeks ago, but they were still bright and crisp - probably because they were still covered in dirt.  Love getting food straight from the source.

I really like entertaining now that I have a good collection of dinnerware and serveware.  I set my table in less than 5 minutes.  Glasses were clean and in the cabinet, as were the platters and bowls, and the tablecloth was folded up in the dresser.  Reminds me how nice it is to be organized!

I pulled the orange chair up to the table for my niece because she likes to sit in big chairs (and I don't have a high chair for her).  I thought she'd be more likely to stay in her seat if it was one she liked.  Yeah, not so much.  But that's the good thing about having such a small house - she could run around while we ate.  She did sit there for a few moments at a time!

pictures by Alison Gary

Friday, November 5, 2010

what I love about Old Greenbelt

I started this blog partly to document my move to Old Greenbelt.  It's this quirkly little town that's only 20 minutes outside DC but often feels a world away.  And the cooperative grocery store really reflects this.

* The cashier knows you.  Anyone can shop at the Co-Op, but you can also become a member.  My sister and brother-in-law are members so I saved myself a step and just use their number.  The other day the cashier said "hi, Mrs. Gary, I saw your husband in here earlier today!"  I corrected him that Mrs. Gary is my sister and we had a laugh over that.  My brother-in-law was probably there hours earlier, yet this cashier - whom I have never seen before - remembered and made the connection

* The other workers know you.  There's this one woman who works there and I usually see her pushing a cart full of stuff to go on the shelves or sitting out front taking her break.  No clue what her name is and she doesn't know mine, but she always recognizes me, smiles and says hi.  The week before Halloween she asked what my favorite candy is.  It's just cute.  Often we know store employees, but they see so many people that they never get to know their customers.

(side note - when I lived in Adams Morgan, the cashiers at the not-so-Safeway did get to know me, but I lived there for eight years.  I've barely lived in Greenbelt for a year)

* at the "grand re-opening" (quotes on purpose), they serve hot dogs and lemonade

* several times a month they have a wine tasting - plus, the wine aisle is awesome.  Almost all selections are under $20 and tons are under $15 and under $10.  They also have a selection of good boxed wine (not an oxymoron) and a decent selection of beer.  Everything is hand-picked so it's rare to get a bad bottle.

* tonight I went and felt like the parking lot was PACKED.  What does that mean in Old Greenbelt?  I couldn't park in the row facing the store, had to park in the one facing away.  Still in the first row of parking, though, and when it came time to pay, I was second in line.  Maybe everyone was drinking their wine and eating hot dogs?

* there's a great selection of organic food, much of the produce and meat comes from local farmers, they have almost no Purdue chicken and whenever possible, they offer products from local vendors.  For coffee, you can buy Green Mountain - or Zeke's that's roasted right up the road in Baltimore.  So if you can't make it to the farmer's market (like me, who often sleeps through it), you can still drink local coffee.  Love that.

* the grocery bags are extra-sturdy so double-bagging isn't necessary and they make excellent trash bags and can be used over and over again for lunch bags.  Much better than some other plastic bags that develop a hole from carrying a single apple.

I knew the Co-Op from shopping there when visiting my sister, but even by the time I moved here, I didn't fully appreciate it.  After stopping in about once a week for over a year?  I'm fully in love.

food for mah jongg

My friend, Anne, got me into playing mah jongg and I love it.  LOVE it.  Part of it is the group of women.  Sure, Anne is one of my best friends, but the rest were strangers and so different from me and my usual group of friends.  We all have a quirky sense of humor and are very easy-going so it's fun and relaxed.  We're almost all novices so just play for bragging rights, which I always prefer anyway.  One woman has another mah jongg group where they're all very good and bet on each hand so she tries to encourage us to bet, but we're not there yet.  Another woman is very good at knowing what hand you're playing (rumor is that she can count cards) so it's fun to try to outsmart her.  But there's about twelve of us and we try to have 5 people at each game so we can rotate in and out (and so we don't have to cancel if one person can't make it).  And we rotate who hosts.

Last night was my first night of hosting.  I took a half day from work so I could clean my house and cook some yummy treats.  But what to serve?  Most do some a mix of appetizers and candy, which is always a big hit.  But it's fall, which brings out the need to pull out mixing bowls and crank up the oven. 

I did a little online searching and found macaroni & cheese cupcakes.  Are you kidding me?  How freaking fabulous is that idea!  And I remember that Martha Stewart had a recipe in a holiday magazine for making individual mac & cheese for a kids' party and I always wanted to do it for adults.  Putting it in a cupcake liner is just even more brilliant.

I wish I remembered to take a picture because they were darn pretty.  I used a mix of Sargento reduced-fat Italian cheese blend and Kraft sharp white cheddar and then put a teaspoon or two of shredded parmesan cheese on top to give it a crunchy crust.  So picture the recipe author's version but a little crispy up top.  Plus hers is a much better picture than mine would have been.

I've never made macaroni and cheese with egg in it before (I come from the layered-casserole school of m&c) and I think it was the egg that helped it stay together when you took off the liner.  I sprayed the inside of the paper so they came out a little greasy, but nothing a napkin couldn't take care of.  Fab finger food.  And not too shabby heated up the next day for lunch!  Think next time I would have used all sharp cheddar, but the blend was still very nice.

I always like a little green with my mac & cheese.  Broccoli is great, but then I found a recipe for spinach balls.  Perfect for my appetizer mindset!  And they were super easy and super good.  I think they were even better room-temperature than warm.  I made them with whole-wheat stuffing mix, shredded parmesan instead of grated and herbes de Provence since I was out of garlic powder.  Think I also used a medium onion instead of small, but since I was missing the garlic, figured extra onion would be good.  And it was.  Next time I might use 3 boxes of spinach since I like a lot of green, but otherwise it was perfect.

For dessert, I made my now-favorite red velvet black bean cupcakes.  Take a box of cake mix (or make your own - I do always prefer homemade, but I'm in a lazy mood) and add the necessary water, but instead of oil, add the same amount of applesauce.  And instead of eggs, add a pureed can of black beans.  Seriously.  It sounds weird and a little gross, but you cannot taste the beans.  I first did this for Halloween with a fudge chocolate cake mix and just mashed the beans - when you bit into a bean piece, you just thought it was a chocolate chip.  For the red velvet, I decided a puree would be better since the batter isn't dark enough to hide the bean chunks.  Icing was 2 boxes of 1/3 reduced-fat cream cheese, maybe two Tb of vanilla and granulated Splenda to taste.  One woman dubbed them "health cakes."  Though they didn't taste healthy at all!

I assmembled it all on my cupcake stand.  Red velvet on the bottom, mac & cheese on the top.  It was so pretty and I really am kicking myself for not taking a picture!

For a 100% healthy side, I sliced up a few star fruit.  The light green on my turquoise platter was a great combination and the lightness of the fruit was a nice contrast to the heaviness of the other food. 

Overall, I was quite pleased with my selection and think I'll repeat it exactly when I host again in two weeks - after all, it is a different group of players!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I always feel like somebody's watching meeeeee

When I read Apartment Therapy's tweet about their wallpapered ceiling post, this song came into my head and now IT WON'T LEAVE.  So I'm sharing with you before getting to the actual post.  Enjoy.

So, yeah, wallpapered ceilings.  I wonder if someone at AT is secretly reading my blog and was inspired by Friday's post?  Or maybe it's just weird cosmic timing.  But do check out the post as there are some fab ceilings there. 

The one that's most like what I'll be doing is this one:

Pattered ceiling, white walls with stuff on them.  Of course, my room is about 1/3 the size of this one, but you get the idea.  It's going to look great.

I was browsing through Walnut Wallpaper's selections earlier today in my post-Election Night hangover phase and am in love with these, though I will probably end up with something a heck of a lot cheaper.  But they're just so pretty!

For my rug?  Think I'm going to go Anthropologie.  I've loved their Conure rug for a long time and am super excited to have a place for it!

I'm also excited to do a room in the decorator-approved method of 1st picking out a rug, then walls (or in my case, ceiling), then accessories.  It really is so much easier this way!