Weekly Read: "Captain, O My Captain."

Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success. 
             — Henry Ford

There is a certain beauty in a Midwestern autumn afternoon. The light is golden and the air is brisk, but not yet bitter. We cherish those days. This is not one of them ...

Basket Case

As we trudge through the process of renovating our dressing room I have seriously begun to consider a system that would rely on living out of laundry baskets (and the floor?) 

The whole process could cut out the (rarely used) middleman of pretending to fold and hang clothing. 

Life as a Basket Case. Could work. 

The Write Stuff. Grammarly: How to Sound Super Smart Without Even Trying (Much).

Note: I used Grammarly to Grammar Check this post, because I want to make my English Teacher think I valued her efforts instead of passing notes in class. 

Being a writer has the obvious problem that people expect me to be an expert on writing. The moment you get a byline or a blog header, you are expected to become a veritable savant of the English language. This is like saying that just because I can make change, I’m an expert mathematician.

The truth is that when it comes to writing I’m more train of thought, slip of the tongue, than scholarly. I like to write in a sort of flowing mess of words and feelings and hope that somehow the majority of readers – okay, some of them – can make sense of it all.

If my participles are dangling I don’t want to know about it. That sort of worry just trips a person up.

Harder still is proofreading. On the surface, proofreading is simple. All you need to do is read over the words you have written and insure they are not a hot mess of grammatical and spelling errors. In truth, it is ridiculously easy to catch OTHER PEOPLE’S mistakes and virtually impossible, after a point, to see your own.

Along comes Grammarly, a wonderful and much needed service designed to save bloggers from the all-too-fallible act of proofreading themselves.While it might be argued that proofreading isn’t “thatimportant, that readers understand and forgive typos and that you can always edit or clarify a correction after the fact I think there is something to be said for prevention.

Just ask the person who was lauded as the new head of “Pubic Relations" in a company wide publication.

Grammarly. Not only saves your writing but your reputation.

Weekly Read: Focus

 Weekly Column: Finding My Focus 
I took the standard boatload of back to school photos of my children this year. There are the requisite posed photos on the rock we have used since they were infants. The rock is a perfect photo spot. No matter what the state of the yard, with a bank of trees behind it, the rock always keeps the background of our photographs picture perfect.

Click to read more

Column: Weekly Read

"Thanks to the Internet, becoming a hypochondriac is a lot easier than it used to be. WebMD is great for fanning benign symptoms into a malignant crisis in mere moments. With just a case of the sniffles and click of the mouse, WebMD will have you writing out your last will and testament."  To read more:

Project Life: Back to School With Lots of Goofiness Edition

One and done - day that is. Photos taken 24 hours ago and already in the album. Yes, I'm bragging. This is how you keep the memories in focus.

Column: Being Fair to the Fair

For years we have happily ignored our county fair as something one enjoys hearing about from other people while blissfully avoiding the cost and stress for themselves. It’s like international travel. I want to thrill to your stories of working a mission in South Africa precisely so I don’t have to go to any trouble myself.

(click to read more)

Project Life Week Oh Who Am I Kidding? May-ish

Weekly Read: Outdoorsy

 "Once again we packed up Boywonder and sent him off to camp for the week. By “we” I mean “he,” of course. I haven’t packed his bags since the memorable year I filled his knapsack with snack bars and he asked, derisively, if I was planning to have him dragged off into the woods by raccoons?

 Weekly Read: Outdoorsy (Click to Read the Rest of this Column on Publisher's Website)

Lets Do this Life Up Right. Photos + Story = Memory Simplified

I was an avid - and prolific - scrapbook creator back in the day. I cherish even now the heavy volumes loaded with the moments, memories, and mementos of our many happy years. With the advent of digital photography came 10x (honestly 10,000 times, more images than I ever had to process before). Gone were the days of one hour photo processing a 24-exposure roll of film. Now I can easily download 500 photos from a camera or cell phone in one sitting. Each of these photos represent a cherished, precious memory. Alas, they can all be saved on a disc or drive but not necessarily printed out. It is not "special" to have 750,000 photos of anything.

I've been wracking my brain trying to find my way back to photos + story = scrapbook DONE! Then, one day, I was posting on FB (like I endlessly do) and realized - I'm scrapbooking ALREADY. Every day we write the story of our lives - on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, our camera phones, and via text. All my "journaling" is already there - I just have to gather it.

I took a quick look at my Facebook posts for the week (ridiculous), pulled in texts from friends (Classic) and paired them with photos snapped from my phone. 

Enter Project Life

I cannot take credit for the idea (Becky Higgins) or even the overall design (Cathy Zielske is my muse). I can take credit for the awesome family, wonderful friends and all the people and places we share our lives with. ♥

Memories Made Simple. That is Project Life.

Weekly Read: 8th Place

Click to Read 
 "By the time they blow past the primary colors and into the decorator shades of award ribbons, it’s fair to say you probably didn’t exactly excel at whatever it is that you’ve done."

Scene Seen Today

The Angels for Animals Garage Sale is a much anticipated annual event benefiting animal charity. Pals D and P and I attend annually, paying a $5 cover charge for a run on such treasures as these:

My Great Gram had one of these to hold brooches and small jewelry. I have a soft spot ...

"Open and Friendly, Beechwood brings a smile to your kitchen." Unlike those other, unfriendly kitchen surfaces which will shiv you on your way to the toaster. 

Um, so much of EVERYTHING is wrong with this product - and picture. 

Table of hideous ceramics. WTHeck is the catfaced duck thing?

Stuff I actually dragged home. Under that Naugahyde (and a few decades of dirt) is a cute vintage stool. The vintage cameras came home with me just because they are So Darned Cute!

Important footnote

When designing a bathroom it is crucially important to measure the cat ...

The Big Reveal

I don’t normally go through life thinking people want to visit my bathroom. A bathroom? Maybe. Mine? Not likely.
If, however, I have spent the past six weeks writing at least twice about said bathroom, then the uptick in interest makes sense.

Thus follows a photo-heavy post I call The Big Reveal. 

Apparently, there was a time when I thought that a jaunty feather and a pumpkin were the perfect addition to any bathroom. I was mistaken. Seriously, I looked at this bathroom and thought "Yes. That works. Perfect."


On the left you see the gi-normous shower, dark and unlit (aka “the cave”) and the slim yet wide cabinet to the left. It was so deep that you couldn’t reach the back – but all your toiletries, first aid, and sundries could and often did. We didn’t normally stash a toilet IN the shower, but by the time the renovation was underway it was as good a spot as any – with room to spare.

These are the “toilet lights” of column fame. The vote ran about 50/50 for keeping them, with all the “yes” votes being male. This is where the sink was prior to the renovation. It is now the space for the toilet and we can use that without spotlights. We’re talented like that. (Note: the wall is not really a strange, sickly green. Bad shot).

Finally we have what may be my favorite part of the entire renovation – the laundry area. I neglected to take a true “before” photo but you can just imagine it. From a dark closet space with choppy, hacked off cabinetry and machines so old they featured faux-wood panels – we now have a light, bright laundry area and machines with more chrome than a classic car. I love this space.

Boywonder has finally reached the age where his help isn’t just adorable (right before we pry the hammer out of his chubby toddler hand) – but actually crucial to the completion of a project. This was a happy day for us – if not necessarily for him. I have written more than once of the time we suspended the radiator from the ceiling and removed the floor underneath it. That project is visible in the 1999 photo, as is our toddler working valiantly to pitch himself into the basement below).

The cabinetry is new but the drawer pulls are actually salvaged from the kitchen. Brass is baaaack baby. At least at my house. In order to find a cabinet that fit the space and style of built-ins often seen in older homes, we traveled from the land of standard bathroom design across the aisle to kitchen cabinetry where a pantry unit proved a perfect fit. Seriously, keep an open mind and you will be amazed at what you find.

Of all the changes in this bathroom I think this $25 window just sets the whole look. Our goal was to update the bathroom to how we imagine it would have looked had it been original to the house. This window was a big part of any success we have had with that. A quick scrub and coat of Sherwin-Williams Alabaster was all it needed to fit seamlessly into the room. The original hardware was used to install it. It slid into place as if made for the house. I truly feel as if this window was kismet. (The ceiling in this photo had not yet been repainted. The small blemish shows where bolt holes were used to hang the radiator from the ceiling and rebuild the floor underneath – in 1999).

A simple schoolhouse style pendant and all trim painted a creamy alabaster works to keep the rooms many elements harmonious. The bead board was raised from the original height and the trim around the doorway completely rebuilt.

If the floor looks familiar it’s because it is. The same tile was installed in the upstairs bathroom (as was a companion window).

Along the way we did a lot of this:

(I’m sure his girlfriend is texting with crucial construction information).

This (He is the Brains – and ability to destroy things and make them pretty again) of the operation.

At one point people just thought she worked there
(Hello Home Depot! We had fun visiting y’all ALL THE TIME!)

Hello deranged renovator! Do these glasses and the bad ponytail make me look smart?

We lived like this (savages!)

Which led to this (Jagger gives up. He just. Gives. Up.)

And lots of random moments like this (and yes that IS Polly Pocket on the back of our washing machine. Our daughter is 13. How LONG has that been there?)

In the end we have - and love - this:

Columns relating to this project include: 

Renovation Junkie
Draft Dodgers
You Light Up My Life
It's a Wash

Special thanks and credits:

Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, American Standard "Sausalito" tile, Lou Berry's Antiques, Delta Faucets (kudos for having a late night hotline) and many others.

Paint: Wall, Sherwin-Williams Emerald in Grecian Ivory; Trim: Sherwin-Williams Emerald in Alabaster