Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Projects of Late

We've had many projects going on recently, which has been taking up much of my time.  As way of explanation for my almost-absence from the internet, here's a look at some things I've been doing in my "free time."

I'm still working on the baby quilt at my quilting group.  I finished piecing the top.  I still need to get some batting so I can sandwich it all together, quilt it, and bind it.

This was my first time doing appliqué work, and it looks pretty rough up close.  Sewing right along the edges was not as easy as I expected, and I hit that point where I stopped caring, and just said "good enough!"  As long as it doesn't all pull out in the wash, I'm happy with it.

Another thing I'm doing with my quilting group is "block of the month."  Our instructor gave us a guide indicating how much to get of different types of fabric ("1/2 yard of fabric #1", "1/3 yard of fabric #2", etc.).  We get to pick all our colors, but we have no clue what shape it will all take in the end.  Every month, she'll give us a new pattern, showing us how to put together one block.  At the end of a year - supposedly - we will be able to join them together into a queen-sized quilt.

Here's my first block.

I'm making the quilt for my bedroom.....which is now finally re-painted!  

Master Bedroom
When we moved in, the master bedroom had peach walls with matching peach trim, done in dull flat paint.   Very unhappy looking place.


"before", but after we had already scraped a lot of the old caked paint off the window moldings

And here's the room after painting the moldings white and the walls in a purple-gray satin paint.

after - I'm loving the contrast between the walls and the trim

This was a big step, but our bedroom is still not done.  We need to hang pictures, refinish the free-from-Craigslist headboard (I'm thinking white, with some antiquing paint to pull out all the nice carved flower details), and - the big one - build some bookcases in the alcoves beside the bed.

Which is why the alcove area still looks terrible, with the original wall color and stacks of books, waiting....

Kitchen Backsplash
Ever since we had our kitchen cabinets and counters re-done, we've been hoping to attempt installing a tile backsplash ourselves.  It's taken so long to get started - mostly because we were intimidated by it.  But after reading many online tutorials and watching a handful of Youtube videos about tiling, I felt confident enough to try it.  So far, we've just done the small piece of wall above the side counter.  This was our "practice" wall - Tom did most of the cutting, I did most of the tile-laying.  We're hoping to start on the rest of the backsplash a little after Thanksgiving.

wall before

after laying the tile, but before grouting

I know the aqua and white is not to everyone's taste, but I think it's beautiful.  I can't wait until we have the rest of the backsplash done :-)

Moldings in the Playroom
When we moved in, the playroom had pale blue-green walls and white trim.  It was clearly in need of a new paint job at some point, but we decided not to even deal with it for a year or so.  We have too many other projects we'd like to do first.

But we noticed a few areas on the window frames and doors where there was some paint starting to chip off.  Worried that it might contain lead, Tom started pulling these little chips off with his fingers so he could throw them away before the kids got them.  It was soon discovered that 1. the paint is no longer well-adhered to the wood, and can pull off very easily, and 2. the stained trim underneath is still in great shape.

We did not need this as a project now, but Tom is so excited to restore the room to its former stained-wood glory that he's taken this on as a little side job when he has nothing else to work on.

I am going to miss the fresh and bright white trim in that room.  I'm so torn between wanting to restore the house to its historically-correct look, and claiming a few rooms for a more-modern white-trimmed look.  (Luckily, the trim in our bedroom was discovered to have always been painted, so Tom didn't fight me on that one).

This shows the white trim on the window and the baseboards (taken shortly after moving in)

This was a few weeks ago, after Tom started to chip the paint away
I don't have a clear vision yet for this room's future look (or function), but it's definitely going to be a big change in feel.  To me, white trim seems light and feminine, while dark trim seems heavy and masculine.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Don't Like Playing With My Kids

I haven't worked this all out in my mind yet to figure out what it all means, but I have an admission to make.  A lot of the time, I....really don't like...playing with my kids.


I feel guilty about this.  My whole life, when I pictured myself as a mother, I imagined running around with my kids, taking them to parks, joining them in games playing with toys, and simply having lots of fun with them.  And I do have my moments where I like to be silly with them and dance and sing and play pretend and give tickles and have fun. 

But the majority of the time?  I'd seriously rather stand in the kitchen washing dishes and gazing at the kids out the back window than have to go outside with them and play. 

I like watching them, snuggling them, or talking with them.  But I don't like to be their entertainment.  I tell Sly, "Mommy's job is to take care of the family and the house.  Your job is just to play.  So go play!"  But they want me to play with them all the time.  And I have to force myself.

I dread Sly asking me to play Candyland with him.  I feel like I'd rather do anything else.  Playing four-year-old-level board games is done completely as an act of love and for no other reason.

Am I not giving them enough attention at other times?  Perhaps I'm not being "present" enough when we are spending time together?  Or maybe it's just that I've never been good with young children?  I can't figure out if there is a problem with me not wanting to play with them, or if it is just a manifestation of my particular temperament.

I love my kids, I love being around my kids.  But it's so much nicer when Tom's wrestling with them on the floor, and I'm just sitting in the room near them, maybe sewing or paging through a magazine...enjoying the sounds and sights of my happy children. 

I feel drawn to the image of the typical mother of a couple generations ago who would feed the kids breakfast, give them a kiss, and send them out the door to go run around the neighborhood with other kids all day.  Mother as the holder-down-of-the-fort.  The mother hen who the little chicks come running back to at the end of the day.

This was all driven home for me recently because Tom was on a business trip and I had to take care of everyone on my own for several days.  Day times were fine, because we have our general schedule and I'm used to being home with the kids during that time.  But evening would hit - which is usually when Tom plays with them for a couple hours before bed - and I found myself thinking desperately, "what do I doooooo with them?!" 

I know that kids learn and relate to people largely through play.  And I absolutely want a good relationship with my kids.  So for now, I guess I just need to grin and bare it some days.  When they're older, hopefully we can strengthen that relationship based on other interests and ways of relating.

Thoughts?  Advice?  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Roughing It in the Cold

Well, winter weather is starting to set in for sure.  When I climbed out of bed this morning, there was a bit of snow on the ground (not as much as they got in Western New York - have you seen the pictures?!), and my little weather station told me it was 13° outside...and only 56° in my bedroom.  Oy.

At time of writing...
 We've been keeping our thermostat set to 62° to save money on natural gas.  But in an old house with literally no insulation in the walls (I did not realize this until Tom informed me of it the other day.  Apparently, in the 1920s, there was little need for insulation in houses, since coal was so cheap - and probably especially so here, as we live in coal country - and you could always just throw another shovel in to the furnace to make it warmer...), the upper floors never even get that high.  

There's a Facebook group I'm part of, and one of the women recently asked what temperature everyone kept their thermostats set to in the winter.  There were dozens of responses, ranging as high as 72°.  The average seemed to be between 65° and 68°.  Only one person I saw kept theirs lower than us: at 60°, and she said she lived in Vermont so maybe she's just used to the cold...? 

Here, we spend the days wrapped in several sweaters, thick socks with down-filled slippers on top, and scarves and hoods as needed.  Sometimes I even sleep wearing a hat.  My body maintains a low level of constant shivering.

Anyways, if I thought my room was cold this morning, it felt like a veritable sauna compared to the attic.  I went up there to wake Sly, and could hardly stand how cold it was.  You can see your breath up there!  Poor kid. The ducting just has no warm air left to give by the time it reaches the one tiny floor vent that's supposed to service the whole third floor - and that's after we've selectively closed off several of the vents in "unnecessary" rooms below, such as the bathroom....brrrr!

Tom and I have been brainstorming about measures we can take to help keep it a bit warmer in the house/cheaper to heat.  He's partially through with covering the windows with plastic, and using spray foam insulation along the drafty bits in the foundation in the basement.  Hopefully that helps a bit.  And he found a tutorial for how to strategically add insulation to the specific type of attic shape we have.

As much as I want to complain about how cold it is here - and I think I pretty much spent a whole blog post doing just that! - I keep reminding myself that in terms of human history, we are so lucky to be enjoying a house that's as warm as it is during the winter.  Even into the Victorian period, many people had to close up the majority of their houses during the winter, living in just a room or two, huddled around a common hearth.  And insulation or no, I know our house is much toastier than the little loft where the Ingalls girls slept in the Little House books!

Monday, November 3, 2014

October in Words and Pictures

As I mentioned in my last post - before falling off the face of the blogworld for three weeks - I've recently taken on a lot of commitments.  Life has been busy busy busy, and it's been hard to spare many moments for blogs - either writing or reading them, so my apologies to those whose I try to keep up with!  Here's a look at a few of the things that have been going on for me.


I've been trying to plan out one (easy!) craft a week to do with the kids.  They really enjoy it, and I get the benefit of having free but cute seasonal decorations for my house.

Some of the recent ones were...
Paper-bag puppet owls.  They look great on the wall and I may even save them for next fall, but I don't recommend making these with really young kids.  I pretty much spent a half hour cutting tiny things out of construction paper, while the kids sat - impatiently, of course - and waited.

Various ghosties for the chandelier.  Kleenex wrapped around a balled Kleenex, and cotton balls glued onto card stock.  Very simple.

And some gorgeous fall leaves ironed between waxed paper.  The number of stained-glass windows in the house just doubled!

I've also been working on some crafts of my own.  Mainly, the baby quilt I'm making at my quilting group.  I don't have any in-progress photos now, but here's the fabric I'm using:

Sly couldn't decide what he wanted to be until the last minute.  I wasn't too worried, because we had his costume from last year as a backup. He finally settled on being a cowboy, and luckily, I was able to throw it together with things we already had around the house.  I pleaded with Stella to be a cowgirl, because how cute would that have been?  But she insisted on wearing a masculine-looking pre-packaged bunny suit we had.  Oh well.  Linus wore his winter bear suit.

Our new neighborhood turns out to be a great place to trick-or-treat.  Our block was packed with kids, and most of the neighbors came to the bottom of their stairs/end of their walkway to hand out candy, instead of staying indoors (we also had pretty mild weather).

Some friends invited us all to a Halloween party after trick-or-treating.  Costumes were "encouraged," so Tom and I scrambled to get something together, literally minutes before leaving.

I dressed in orange and black, and threw on a bunch of dead animals [minks].  Aaaaand....yeah.  I don't know what I was, but I looked Halloween-y, anyways.

Tom slicked back his hair, put on a power tie, grabbed some dry wall tools and went as "a banker on Dry Wall street"....Okay.

Soul Cakes
For several years, I've been wanting to bake soul cakes.  I can't really figure out if they're more appropriately made for Halloween or All Soul's Day.  In the end, I decided not to make them this year for the same reason I've always declined to in the past: we're already eating WAY too much junk food around Halloween, and we absolutely don't need any more!

All Saint's Day
We went to Mass on Saturday, which is when my church observes the feast.  And....that was it.

We had the opportunity to go to a couple different dress-up-your-kids-as-Saints parties, but I opted out.  Figuring out Halloween costumes for the kids was enough for me this year, and I didn't think they were quite old enough to really understand or appreciate dressing up as Saints.  I know some moms just do one costume, having their kids trick-or-treat in their Saint outfits.  My concern is that doing so would just be an invitation to your neighbors to be labelled as "the Catholic weirdos." Perhaps if I were holier, I wouldn't mind so much.

I promised Sly we would try to go to an All Saints party next year, though. He's already decided who he'll dress as: St. George.  A knight who slays a dragon?  I would guess that he is many little boys' first pick.

Other Autumnal Happenings
We're still soldiering on with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons - Sly and I, that is.  The daily lessons have been earning me some time off Purgatory....or sending me to confession.  Depending on how much patience I can muster that day.
ready to read!
Stella got into a tube of brand-new (and not-that-cheap) long-lasting lipstick and put it all over her face.  I may have freaked out a bit and caused her to cry uncontrollably for the next twenty minutes.  It took two days and several hard scrubbings to get it all off.

After a lifetime of half-doubting the existence of most people's "allergies," I finally had to humble myself and go get allergy testing done, at the recommendation of my doctor.  And guess what?  I've got 'em!  Among a couple more minor things, I am allergic to dust mites.  This explains so much.  I won't bore you with all my symptoms, but basically I wake up many mornings feeling like I have the worst sinus infection ever.  Because, uh, dust mites live in my bed (and yours too!).  It feels pretty empowering to know this, actually, and to know that there's hopefully a way to make things better.

We took a walk in a city park, and got to enjoy the last hurrah of the deciduous foliage.

Oh, and I finally re-painted our bedroom!!  No more peach walls with peach trim.  It looks great, but I'm going to wait to take photos after we hang our pictures and curtains.  And knowing the pace we've been moving on our home improvement projects recently....that might be a while.