Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bad Habits And Even Worse Dining Rooms

Just a quick update to let you know that I did not blog myself into the Bermuda Triangle.

I'm here. 

I'm just trying to find Debbie. If anyone sees her, please alert the authorities. She was last spotted sitting beneath a pile of old magazines looking for style inspiration. 

photo credit

Seriously,  I really am trying to find Debbie. I'm trying to discover, or rediscover, my own decorating style. I used to think I knew it, but somewhere along the line I lost my groove. I flumped from trend to trend or didn't update at all.  As a result, some rooms in this house, mainly the downstairs common areas, just don't say, "Debbie" at all.

 What they say, I do not know.
I can't remember the catch phrase of the '90s.

I do remember the color of the 90s, though. It was hunter green. 

Now, hunter green is a perfectly lovely color. It's just that it is not now, nor was it ever,  my color. It just happened to be the favorite trendy color of a very pushy former friend. Perhaps you can relate.

Somehow, during  my season with this woman,  she managed to convince me

that I couldn't make a tasteful decision on my own...
that I needed her help and guidance to decorate my own home, and
that my house needed to look just like her house.  

As the friendship waned, I was left with nothing but some unfortunate upholstery choices and sorry case of decorating insecurity.

But I've been thinking...
I'm always thinking...

In case you haven't heard yet, I'm turning 50 this year. Don't you think it's about time I grew up and got over it?

Yeah, I think so too. 

And so... with no further meandering, I would like to invite you to join me as I make those rooms in my house say, "Debbie" again and rediscover my own personal style.

I'm starting with my dining room.
Want to guess what was the first thing to go?

(really lousy picture... the best I had)

Not the brass light fixture...
nor the valance and sheers...
nor the '80s casual  oak furniture...

Oh, they are all going, but the first thing to go was the hunter green wall. 

We just matched the lower wall to the upper one. It's a color called worn path, and it actually is to my liking,  Lucky for me, the store still had the formula for the color. Since the spaces are divided by molding, any difference in hue is not noticeable at all.

Yeah, I know I could paint the top too. Shhh.

So here we are at step #1.
Room painted. 

...a little tease at the window...

The oak furniture has been moved out. 

I like the look of my recent project against that wall,  
but it doesn't belong to me. 

 It's just squatting there while I'm working on step #2.  If you want a hint, take a look at The List.

Anyway, that's all I've got. In case you're wondering, I'm still working on walls, and I'm still working on dressing Mabel the desk.  They don't call me A-D-Debbie for nothing, you know...

Joining Laura at Decor to Adore for her Fall in Love With Your House  party.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Simply Over

For the past year or so, Dayle at the wonderful blog, A Collection of This and That has opened her blog door every Thursday and invited the world to celebrate the simple pleasures. 

It has been grand.

She challenged us to stop and record the moments that stopped our hearts, to note the things that whispered our names above the noise and said, "Enjoy me, Debbie. I'll be gone in a flash."

I remember the inspiration for Dayle's party. Do you know what it was? It was the simple sight of her twin sister's laughter. Simple laughter... something so small and so common that it can far too easily be taken for granted, as if we will always have those moments,
                 and always have the laughter,
                                     and always have the sister.

We won't.

Dayle noticed that. And because she noticed, she invited us to notice too. Week after week, we gathered at her place for our day of virtual show and tell.

 Mine was always a little heavy on the telling part.

In the year following, I was a pretty regular attender, often dragging Sir Lotsa Hair along with me. He is, after all, my perpetual pleasure.  I brought his rainbow, and his love notes, and his rendezvous.

On my own, I brought everything from 
Bible study to the blue hour...

Calls from the daughters...

The contents from an old box...

Simple treasures, really, and I wonder how many of them would have gone unrecorded in this little blog of mine had a woman named Dayle not stopped to noticed her sister's laughter that day.

Unfortunately, my simple pleasure posts have been rather scarce these days. There's a reason for that, and it's more than just the physical giants I have been battling. It's that those giants, coupled with some rolls in the game of Life, have left me holding a cup half empty.

Oh, I've tried to find the pleasures. I've even noticed them. But when I tried to sit down and put wheels to the words, they just wouldn't spin.

I would think, "Maybe next week..."

Then I relearned that age old lesson about opportunity. Just like a simple pleasure, it's prone to fleeting. There won't be a next week this time. In fact, there won't even be a this week. The simple pleasures party has run its course.

Yeah, I know... Parties don't last forever.

Neither do bloggers.  Am I the only one who gets a pang of sadness when a favorite blogger closes shop?  Some do it conspicuously with a farewell post. Others  just do it gradually and quietly and sort of fade away. And then, there are ones who are blogging one day and gone the next, as if they blogged themselves into the Bermuda Triangle.

I always wish that I had said good-bye before they sailed away and thanked them when I had the chance. Opening your heart and home is a big step, after all.

So today,  I thank you Dayle, from the bottom of my heart, for opening your blog home every Thursday for our little game of show and tell.  I have met some of my favorite bloggers at that party, and I mean it very sincerely when I say that your challenge changed my life for the better.

And that's why I'm going to continue to write  try to write about my simple pleasures, even without a party. In this upside down  crazy world I live in, I need to remind myself that, "... it is the sweet, simple things in life that are the real ones after all."

Monday, September 19, 2011

How Mabel Got Her Groove Back

 I won the crown!

Of course, you probably didn't know we were competing. I have kept you completely in the dark. I find it's easier to win that way.

The crown of which I speak is this one:
I am the Queen of  Half Complete

It's true. One critical tour of the old homestead, and you will discover tiny little touches left undone all over the place. The Big Kahuna of all such projects... the one for which I won the crown...  is a little drop front desk that has been living in my attic half naked for over a quarter of a century.

 It's true.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I started stripping furniture on my first summer vacation from teaching school, way back in 1985. My first project was this special little pine table.

It's special because my very special grandmother gave it to me to use for my very first desk. You see, at a very tender age, I fancied myself to be the next great American novelist, and a great American novelist needs a great American desk upon which to novel, doesn't she? Yes, she does.

Grandma thought so anyway, and so she gave me this little pine number which had been made by her father as a sewing table for her mother.  That would make it nearly a hundred years old by now.

Back then, it was painted black. If memory serves correctly, Debbie Hemingway requested  pale pink. In the years that followed, it went from pink to white to a trendy 70's antiqued orange. When it traveled to our newlywed nest, I stripped her bare.

I was so pleased with myself that I started looking for other family treasures to strip. I settled on a wonderful old drop front desk. This one was given to the Duchess when she was a teen by a maiden aunt.   A little investigatory stripping revealed a cherry-ish finish. I was thrilled. In  my head, it was going to look very refined.

Believe it or not, I even have an (almost)  before picture.  This was snapped in the back yard of our little newlywed nest way back in 1985.  Apparently, I was predestined to be a blogger.

(That's a before picture of my twenty something legs there. Don't expect an after shot....)

Folks, I stripped that sucker of about six colors of paint, and that was back when stripping solutions were neither as effective nor pleasant as they are today. 

I stripped the sides,
 and the legs,
 and even some little cubby holes on the inside. 

Then, I started on the drop front,
 and just guess what I discovered...


Not just any old veneer, either, but broken veneer, veneer that had already been repaired at least once. Yes folks, my lovely desk was finished in early American putty.  At least I knew why it had been painted to begin with.

I was so disappointed that I began a pout of epic proportions which traveled from home to home along with my putty covered half naked drop front desk.

It moved from the newlywed nest to the starter home. 
It moved from the starter home to our current home.

And then, it moved to The List
You know... the one that sits mocking me on my sideboard.  
The one with the completion date of December 18, 2011.


And so, after I finished the daughter's project, I pulled it back down.
I finished the stripping.
 I peeled away the putty and fixed the veneer.

And I did what I should have done to begin with.
I painted it. 

That would be the bottom color under those layers of paint.
(She's actually not as shiny as the picture shows. I was trying to get a decent light.)

 I've named her Mabel, after the old maiden aunt.
I think Mabel looks rather nice in basic black, don't you?

I put Mabel in my living room and paired her with a handsome Hitchcock chair. I think Mabel and Alfred make a nice looking couple.  I'm currently working on dressing her jussssst right. If you don't see a follow up post, feel free to assume that it's going as well as my wall decoration.

Sharing this on Met Monday
and with Laura at Decor to Adore

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were you...

I think we all remember where we were the moment the sky started falling. As for me? I was exactly where I'll be today,   I was at church.

Tuesday was the day of our women's Bible study. You would think that I could find the exact moment that I heard news,  jotted in a margin in the study of the day, but I can't.  By process of elimination, I have figured out that we were studying Beth Moore's Breaking Free. The exact words we were reading, I do not know.

Our group was so large back then that it was divided into three age appropriate groups for the discussion.  My sister and I were in one group; the Duchess was in another.  It was into this small group that the phone call came. One of our members, a woman named Ruth, was married to an army doctor. A frantic call from her mother-in-law  alerted us that a plane...or maybe two she thought... had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. She had just turned on the TV and was confused about the details.  So confused, in fact, that Ruth thought initially that the woman must be mistaken. Apparently, she was well known for making   mountains out of molehills. 

The next few minutes seemed almost surreal. She  hung up the phone, promising to call immediately after Bible study, and then...believe it or not...  we returned to our discussion. I remember being slightly distracted as we did, that panic that I carry along with me creeping from the back of my mind to the front.

I'm well known for a panic button set on automatic.

But then, she called again. I'll never forget the look on Ruth's face as she heard the report of a third plane, this one hitting the Pentagon. You see, Ruth's nephew worked at the Pentagon.

This was no  misunderstanding. This was no accident. This was personal and deliberate, and it was definitely not a molehill. What we were staring at was a big huge mountain.

I'm not sure whether we joined the other groups of our own design or someone came to get us.  I just remember coming into the common area where they were waiting with one of the pastors.  What I could tell by the faces was that not a single one of those older woman had the first clue.

He gathered us in a circle and asked us to join hands. Then he told the whole story as well as he knew it. And then, he prayed. 

And that, my friends, was the first moment in my life that I actually understood the well worn passage of scripture from Philippians 4,  May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God is a supernatural peace. It's a peace so powerful that it transcends circumstance. It was that supernatural peace that kept me from jumping into my car to retrieve the girls from school.  I went instead to the Duchess's house, where were sat transfixed like the rest of the nation.

Time marched on for the women in that group just as it did for every one else. We praised and thanked God that Ruth's nephew was not among the victims. We cried and prayed for the families of those who were.

We prayed Ruth and her army man through his year of deployment which came all to expectedly and all too soon. Here we are, a decade  later, tying yellow ribbons of our own.

Because ten years later, it's still very personal.

And so I remember that September morning today, not because it feels good, but because it feels right.

And today, I'll do exactly what I did ten years ago. I'll stand at my church and hold the hands of sisters in Christ, and I'll pour out my heart in prayer to the One who is never taken by surprise.  I pray that you do the same.

And may the peace of God, 
which passes all understanding, 
guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

comments are off

Friday, September 9, 2011

Because I have the perfect stripper's body...

If you've read here long, you have read my true confessions of domestic inability.  What you haven't read though, is about something that I can do.

Because really, there is something.

I'm a  stripper.
Just call me Gypsy Rose Lee...

It's true. I've been stripping since the first year of my marriage, and I not only enjoy it, I'm pretty good at it. In fact, I like to imagine myself to be a master stripper. If you need wallpaper stripped off a wall or paint stripped off a piece of furniture, I'm your gal.

Believe it or not, it was just such a stripping adventure that has kept me occupied during these last few painful weeks.  That might seem odd to some of you, but I'm here to explain that it is actually during my weakest moments that I have the perfect stripper's body.

That's because stripping furniture correctly takes patience. It's not a hard process, but it is best done slowly and patiently, with long wait times between steps. What you're about to see took me two long weeks. It's a journey of many baby steps and intermittent rest stops.

Here's the deal. Recently, our wonderful neighbors offered (as in free...) this old dresser to my daughter for her post -college apartment.

The Lord loveth those cheerful givers.

It had all of the drawers; I had just removed one when this was taken. 

At first, we thought to paint it black, but then she saw this one from Pottery Barn.  We wondered if we could copy it.

So I checked the original wood.
Let's face it. Furniture is like people.
Some things just don't need a  strippin'.

Looking pretty good.

Rather than yak up my supplies, I just took a picture of the stuff I personally like to use. Actually, I prefer the Citristrip wash as well, but I ran out midstream and couldn't find it locally. 

Don't be a skimpy stripper.  Lay it on thick. 
I'm very good at that part, as you might suspect.

I'm not naturally good at the next part. That's the waiting.
You have to resist the urge to nudge it along just because it looks like this.

I don't care how crinkly and tempting it looks. 
It's not ready.

Don't ask me how I know...

Give it the full 30 minutes to work.  Give it more if it doesn't strip easily. See why I'm tailor made for stripping right now?  I needed those wait times, and I took them.

Ta Da!

It only looks that good for about five minutes. Then, it starts to gum up a little.

That's why you need the wash. 

And then, you wait again.
This time for at least 24 hours. 

And then, I sanded.  

OK, technically the husband sanded. 
That's an area that was a bit too much for me right now. 
I did sand some drawers, though.
I'll have to yak about my love affair with the hand sander another day.

Then, it was vacuumed and wiped and  tacked off, 
and the conditioner was applied to each surface. 

And then? 

More waiting
This time for the conditioner to completely soak into the surface.

At some point,  we sprayed the hardware with oil rubbed bronze. I spray in a box so I can do it inside.  I did all the painting and staining inside the house. It's way too humid here to do it outside. I'd still be waiting for it to dry. 

Finally, I stained it with red mahogany. I like to brush it on and wipe it with a rag. It's a great use for those 576 t-shirts that come with a college diploma.  

And then, you wait again. 
Let that stain soak in for at least 24 hours before lightly sanding again. 

Then, I rubbed it down with tung oil, 
and that's how it stands in its current condition. 
If she decides she wants a little more sheen or varnish, we'll wait about two more weeks to do it.

She says that she doesn't though.
She says she likes it fine just the way it is. 

How did we do?

Side by side

Maybe not perfect, but not too shabby either. It's even better when you consider the price of  this comparably sized one in the PB catalog was $1,499.00.

Ours was around $20.00 mainly to replenish supplies.
That's $1,479.00 in savings.
I think we'll spend it on shoes.

Anyway, that's what I've been doing over my painful vacation.
I'm hoping to share this at Inspiration Friday  if it's not too late and Metamorphosis Monday.
I'll also be sharing at Debbiedoo's Copy Cat Challenge
unless I am successful copycatting a wall instead.
Just a party girl, aren't I?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

If these walls could talk...

...mine would say, "Bless her heart."

A few weeks ago, Laura at Decor To Adore announced an upcoming party series about falling in love with your house again and fixing what ails it.

It was tailor made for me for two reasons:

#1... I have some decor that I do not adore... and
#2... I've been under the weather lately, which means that I have come down with an acute case of  Sedentary Syndrome. You know....that glass half empty view of a space which comes from an uncharacteristic amount of time sitting around and staring at it.

That's what I've been doing for the past week or so. I even went to so far as to get a pad and pencil to list the  offenders.

As the list grew, I admit to getting kind of overwhelmed.  It's probably not the smartest move to make yourself  house sick when you're already body sick, is it?


So I put down my list and decided to go in a completely different direction. I decided to tackle the # 1 design feature in my house in which I'm the most remedial.

Decorating my walls. 

Folks, I'm a C- wall dresser.  I've been known to keep entire walls empty in a room because I couldn't decide what to do with them. When I do take the leap,  I stay smack dab inside the old box. You know... pictures, plates, maybe a little iron thingie or a wreath...   Even then, I lack the art of the display.

I'm not so good with change, either. Once something is tattooed to my walls, it pretty much gets to abide there.

I've been thinking about all of this, and I have come to a conclusion.  In no other area of my life would I tolerate being that remedial without trying to do something about it.  After all,  I was pretty lame at table vignettes before I discovered Marty's Table Top Tuesday. Now, I'm a solid B copy cat. I'm working toward the A.

So I made a decision.  

This week, to jump start Fall in Love With Your House season,  I decided to do something radical ( for me anyway...) .  I  stripped the walls in my kitchen, living room, and dining room of  every single thing that wasn't screwed in to them. I piled it all in the corner until I can find a place to store it.

And I'm starting from scratch.  

Based on my reckoning, I have created about 25 blank canvasses of varying sizes and shapes in those rooms, and I am going to work on those canvasses until I start to get it right.  I'm committing   planning  hoping to post my progress. You can grade it if you want.

You can also help.

If you have ever posted some wall inspiration,  I would love you to leave the link in a comment.  If you know of a party or meme specifically about wall decor, I'd love for you to share it.  I have yet to see one in my hopping.  I would throw one myself, but I have that blog party anxiety disorder ya know...

Anyway, that's it for me. Again, I thank you so much for your prayers. You have no idea how much they have been felt.  I feel quite a bit better and am  hoping to finally put this thing behind me.

Even though I don't have a finished project, I'm still dropping in on Laura's party. After all, step one is still a step, isn't it?


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