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Book Tree

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Book TreeWhat do you do when you don’t want to carry a pile of books to their rightful owner’s bookshelf because it’s upstairs and you don’t want to make three trips? Turn them into a tree.

Kitchen Cookbooks

It would be nice to have a full wall of shelves near the kitchen table, filled with cookbooks ready to be perused – and returned – right in the room in which they are used. I don’t have that. I do have a library, and there are several shelves full of cookbooks, but it’s nice to have a spot, even if it’s counter space, for currently used books.

When we were designing this kitchen and filling a secondary wall with cabinets, I traded a wider bank of drawers for a turned base. Easier with a picture:

Accessible to the working area of the kitchen and hidden from the table and guest area, it’s never neat and tends to gather dust as a busy corner, but it’s great to have. The top is stuffed with planning papers, the occasional cooking magazine, appliance manual, and recipes I’ve printed. The shelves are not, by any means, favorite cookbooks, but a mix of currently used, new-to-be-read, or simply resting.

Cool Waters is kind of fun for jazzing up water or plain soda. Marcella Hazan for many reasons but recently her pasta gorgonzola, and Tender is a gigantic, beautiful combination of gardening and recipes. The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper is a fun read, and I hear there’s a new one, must look into it. Do you know Super Natural Cooking and its sister on the shelf below, of 101 Cookbooks?  La Tartine Gourmande, also new and a nice blog. Mark Bittman. Of course, Mark Bittman.

There are two tiny paperbacks I bought in Italy, which I never use but love to see there on the shelf. Over the winter I made a delicious chickpea stew from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and a cake from Martha. More Mark Bittman. Between him and the slow cooker book is my recipe journal, where I try very hard to record recipes I want to make again so they won’t be lost forever in the flurry of sticky notes marking pages. Love Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven.

I don’t dislike the cookbooks I haven’t mentioned – I would give them away if that was the case – I just haven’t used them recently, or perhaps enough. Now, it’s nearly 9 a.m., and it is time to figure out what’s for dinner!


A little late by a few weeks but it’s time for the pumpkins!
The table is overflowing. Going to have to get a new table.

I add one each fall and a dear friend gave me a new one a few months ago, so I shouldn’t look at them whenever I go out. But that seems like a technicality.

Tutorial: A Better Dust Ruffle

Dust ruffles are practical (they hide the stuff under the bed) and pretty (they finish a bedroom nicely) and annoying (they never stay where they are supposed to and are often a little too short or a little too long) and sometimes hard to come by (in the right color, mattress size, and length).
I fixed every one of those problems. You’re welcome.
One of the bedrooms needed a black dust ruffle, full, ruffled-not-tailored, and with a 20″ drop. Impossible to find in town, easy to order online, although as a 21″ drop. After thinking through the steps of making a perfect dust ruffle for my master bedroom redecorating project, I came up with this method of altering a purchased dust ruffle to make it easier to install and live with. No velcro, no hot glue guns.
Keep in mind that a dust ruffle, or dust skirt, has two parts: the “deck” which is the flat piece of fabric that covers the box spring, and the ruffle, or skirt, which might be pleated or gathered. Either style of skirt will work with this method. You need your dust ruffle, shears, and a package of twisty pins, otherwise known as upholstery pins. You’ll find them at fabric shops, dollar stores, and sometimes department stores.
1. Cut the center of the deck out of the ruffle by leaving a 4 inch border on top of the seam where the dust ruffle is attached. In my picture the ruffle is black, the deck is white (they usually are), and I have left a 4 inch border all the way around the dust ruffle.

Keep cutting around the entire dust ruffle, maintaining the same 4 inches, being careful to only cut the deck fabric. You will end up with this,

a rectangle of fabric from the center of your dust ruffle. Rip it up, it will be a great addition to the rag pile. The dust ruffle is now a long strip, like this:

2. You need to finish the long edge you just cut, or it will continually unravel and be a nightmare after you wash it. You can serge the edge or zigzag it if you have machines. If you don’t you could press a small hem and use fusible tape, or put in a movie and settle in for a handsewing session. I serged.

3. Press the dust ruffle before attaching it to the box spring. The mattress does not need to be completely removed but can instead just be pushed off to the side a bit to give you room to attach the skirt border with pins. Start with a corner since the skirt has more gathers there, or possibly a split, to allow for a smooth turn.

4. Work your way around the bed, paying attention to the hem and how even it is along the floor. Use as many pins as needed to keep the ruffle from shifting.

Easy to remove for washing, it will stay in place when the sheets are changed, and it can be adjusted all the way around. Not a bad 30 minutes!

Bedroom Redecorating: Materials

New floors, freshly painted walls, “cloud white” woodwork and doors and finally – it’s textile time.

I’ve gathered floor coverings, quilts, shams, lengths of fabric, window panels and hardware and have spent the weekend sewing. It’s coming together. There’s a bit of a progression from light to dark: a fairly reflective shade on the walls, cool and light bedding, the windows are a little more saturated, and the rugs are vibrant against the dark floors, with pops of accent colors. 
Finished pictures just as soon as I’m finished, although it’s pretty scary to publicize your project. What if it doesn’t actually turn out all that well?? More soon!

Finally, Inspiration

Decorating inspiration.

I have been keeping my eyes open for months for colors to use in my bedroom. New hardwood floors are in, the other three bedrooms look lovely with freshly painted walls in great colors, and it is time to get moving on the master. The delay has been lack of inspiration. Usually something – something unrelated – catches my eye and becomes a color scheme, as in this picture:
I carried that little green plate everywhere while planning the kitchen renovation a few  years ago. The kitchen is neither French nor that shade of green, but the soapstone counters, green glass tile, and metal finishes echo the plate. I just liked how the plate looked and felt, and whenever I strayed over to some beautiful Italian marble or a gorgeous red granite, my daughter would wave the plate in my face. It helped.
I don’t have an inspiration piece for the bedroom project, but I have known I wanted light fabrics in some blue/green/grey combination but not “beachy”. I grabbed this little twin quilt at Target one day and found the bright-light green pickstitch quilt at Pottery Barn. 
I think I’m on to something and am looking forward to sitting down later and playing with the swatches and colored pencils. I still have to gather more fabrics for windows, a table cover, pillows, and dust ruffle, but I at least feel I have some direction now. More to come!

Lots. Of. Painting.

It starts so innocently, so offhandedly, so inexpensively.

The carpet on the stairs needs replaced. Easy.


Because what we really want is a hardwood staircase, just like the first floor of the house. So we’re going to rebuild the staircase, replace the wooden balusters with iron because, well, what the heck –  there we are with a dismantled staircase – and remove some (really unattractive) trim on the woodwork.

But that all comes later. Later because first we are going to rip up the carpeting in all the bedrooms and the hallway and put a wood floor down. But first first, since the bedrooms are emptied one at a time for the floor work, we’re painting the rooms because, well, what the heck – there we are with a dismantled bedroom.

So my daughter’s beautiful & bold room of about eight years is transformed. The three colors we used then: a warm tomato-pumpkin on one wall, and a pea-lime and bright blue on either side of the chair rail on the other three. Trust me, it was a great look and suited her style and decor when she was…14.
Now she chose the sophisticated and mysteriously-changing shade “northern cliffs” from Benjamin Moore:

It’s grey, it’s green (really), it’s mauve, it’s putty. It’s quite lovely with the white woodwork and the new floor. I’d like to thank Benjamin Moore for coming up with their line of Aura paint, which actually did cover those deep colors in one coat, although I applied two.

DS2 has finally decided to move into his older brother’s room, said brother only needing a bedroom in the house for a handful of weeks each year. After much deliberation, his choice of “evening dove” and “silvery moon” is stunning:

The dark and stormy blue is gorgeous. DH just painted one wall with it – one coat of Aura – in a flat finish and it is fantastic. My job is to do the other three walls in the silvery grey – what a nice room this will be, especially once we come up with windows and bedding.

For the third room, I am going to take the extra gallon of “northern cliffs” back to the store and have them take it to a darker shade, just to make it a little different from DD’s. All of the traipsing around for paint swatches has given me yet another opportunity to tell my family that buying a Benjamin Moore deck of swatches is an easy and great gift idea….

Subway Art

The day before Christmas Eve, I guess it’s Christmas Eve Eve, is usually the frantic one. We turn into elves running around cleaning, finishing wrapping, baking cookies, framing prints, and anything else that will feed our delusions of a picture-perfect stretch of days.

I had forgotten about this, however, and although I wish I had framed it earlier I am really happy I remembered to do it today! Need a present right now? Want to hang this in a corner somewhere, as I just did in my kitchen?

Thanks to the amazing women at the eighteen25 blog you can download the jpeg here of this 16 x 20 subway art print. Then:
1. Copy it to your flash drive
2. Run over to Kinkos/Costco/the copy room of your office and print it out.
3. Stop at Joann Fabrics/Michaels/AC Moore/anywhere for a frame and voila!
You’re welcome.

Forty Napkins

Although I do not quilt I went to a huge quilt show in Lancaster last week with my friend Eleanor, who is a quilter. I can admire the art and the craft, and let’s not forget, fabric is fabric. Notions are notions. Cute bag patterns are cute bag patterns. 

What made me happy was to find a stack of homespun (which means it’s the same on both sides of the fabric, as opposed to being printed on one side and having a shadowy wrong side) in colors that weren’t in dark browns, reds, and blues. I’ve needed to restock our “every day” kitchen napkins and haven’t been able to find any fabric. Until now:

I loved them. They are perfectly casual and a good quality cotton. Notice, before you think I turned and hemmed 40 casual napkins, that they are serged with a rolled hem.

And look how lovely they are with my shiny red dishes…

I did buy two printed fabrics that will make lovely napkins with the dishes as well, but I might have to back them with a solid.

I cut and serged the Forty Napkins in a few hours, any of you who sew know how really easy that project is. I listened to a Trollope novel while I serged what felt like miles of napkin edges, then seam-sealed and trimmed the threads. Voila. Table linens I don’t have to be ashamed of – I have been quite remiss in replacing our existing pile.

There was one vendor with fashion fabrics, all natural fibers, from Italy. To. Die. Boiled wools, linens, amazing shirtings, cashmere, and cashmere vicuna. Cashmere vicuna, which I have never even touched before. At $115 a yard, a bargain compared to pure vicuna, which starts at $1500 a yard. Yes, you read that right. I bought a lovely woven cotton for a skirt. From another vendor I bought a Japanese cotton that I think will make a nice skirt or pair of capris.

I chatted with friendly women throughout the day, Eleanor and I had and enjoyable dinner with two women we met that day, and it was a fun Friday!

I had this idea….

Although I didn’t spend any time playing in the snow yesterday, beyond just generally enjoying being outside and marveling at how much there was, I had a great time. We certainly all got plenty of exercise and really, it’s rewarding to see such dramatic results from your labor. We shoveled, plowed, found the trash can, excavated the bird bath, made a path to the patio, and dug out three cars. 

Then I had a great idea. Defying frostbite and the doubts of certain family members, I tested out my theory and it worked!  

 First I enlisted my daughter, who is usually willing to go along with things. We used a water bottle to make a hole in the snow. We put a little extra snow in the bottom and packed it down a bit before putting a candle in.

 DD went along making holes and I followed with the candles. It was a cold job. I keep a lot of candles around for power outages and I was thinking that if we lost power, I would feel pretty stupid.

Lighting them a few hours later was tricky and cold, but look!!

I wish I had better photography skills, but you get the idea. There were about 20 candles from the street to the house and they looked beautiful. They burned for 6 hours or so until DD insisted that we blow them out before going to bed. 

It was so fun!

I am definitely doing that again!