Category Archives: Worth it anyway

The Kitchen Reno: Ottawa Edition

Many of you have come through a rip-it-back to the drywall and start from scratch kitchen renovation and lived on to lead full, productive lives. But man, it’s a major shakeup to body and mind. I can’t count the times I’ve reached down for a roll of plastic wrap to be foiled by the drawer that’s not there anymore.

My father got most of the work done before I arrived, but there was still plenty of cabinet emptying and stuff-reshuffling to handle this weekend. Yesterday was demo day. Here are some pix of the devastation:
The pantry, relocated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bye, bye cabinets and tile backsplash. What took the most time was removing the wallpaper. David was hard at  it until 7:00 pm, which shot my plans for cooking dinner. Here are random views of the rest of the house, now a storage locker for kitchen contents.

 

 

 

 

 

The mantle and hearth are now shelves for two centuries of Blue Willow and lead crystal.

 

 

 

 

 

The dining room is now an appliance bin, prep area and storage.

 

 

 

 

 

Upheaval can be a good thing, leading to broadening experiences and improvisation. Case in point: for the first time in his 85 years my father ordered a pizza for dinner. We had a picnic in the parlor off paper plates.

 

 

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Filed under Home, Worth it anyway

Girls’ Night out in the ‘Ville

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve the friendship of Jayne and Gretchen, but I’m glad that after what — eight years — they still want to hang out with me.

We met at a former employer of mine, where they were, and are, stars, and where,for the first time of my life, I found a job where I felt out of my depth in a couple of important ways. It wasn’t all my fault (trust me!) but the mysteries of the payroll taxes, different in all fifty states, was something I came to undertrained and mystified.

Having my life’s work and happiness dependent on the quarterly accounting schedule was something I didn’t take to like a Canada goose to the man-made ponds of our office campus. Gretchen and Jayne helped me with the nuts and bolts of W2s, 1099s, and county taxes in Indiana, but more than that — we clicked. I’m older than either of them, and we’re different, each of us, in all kinds of ways. But we’re more alike than we’re different, we rejoice in our victories, have kids to be proud of, husbands to joke (very kindly) about, and sympathy for the professional and health mountains and valleys.

Best of all: I know that if I ask for advice, I’ll get it: frank, thoughtful and loving. No, strike that! Best of all is the laughter.

Erase any concept of Girls’ Night Out involving Cosmos and Manilos. We met at the Towne Tap, a Warrenville fixture dating back to the fifties. It’s a tiny, friendly wood-paneled roadhouse with a Cheers vibe. It shares a building with Al’s Pizza, another ‘Ville fixture, and the businesses have a symbiotic relationship. A drinker at the Tap walks next door to Al’s, orders a pie, gives his name, and Al’s will deliver it to your table at the Tap.

I’d like to thank Gretchen — another girl from the ‘Ville — for suggesting the Tap, because in all my years of residence, I’d never bought a beer there. That’s time wasted. I’m a big time pizza snob, because I think our home-made version is at least as good as Mozza’s. But! Al’s makes a damn fine thin crust pizza.

We didn’t party into the wee hours: a couple of brews apiece, a pizza, two hours. But when I’m hanging with these two amazing women , even when the conversation turns sad, I’m happy. I’m lucky.

 

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Filed under Drink, Food, The 'Ville, Twenty bucks, Worth it anyway

Object of the Day: Tisket! Taskit! Check Out My New Basket

Some goofball once said something like: “Pleasure postponed is pleasure doubled.” I’m not all about instant gratification; that two day UPS hang time is about perfect. The fine folks at L L Bean backordered my bike basket for a friggin’ month and a half.  Shipping, as always, was free.

Oh, I love it. I regret that I can’t photo style it with a baguette and a bunch of bluebells — my package of English muffins and bouquet of rogue goldenrod doesn’t hit that hip lady in Amsterdam vibe. Or the Miss Marple vibe. Or the wife of an investment banker in Nantucket vibe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thirty bucks isn’t too much to pay (free shipping!) for a rich fantasy life and a vehicle in which I can return library books, is it? It’s so much prettier than the woven  pink plastic woven dealio that carried my textbooks home from high school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love its retro convergence with my air horn. I love that it attaches to the handlebars with doll-sized leather belts : no screwdriver required. I love that I can remove it in a snap, and it’ll become my farmer’s market shopping bag.

Mostly I love that I’ve constructed the bike of my dreams. No gears. A comfortable saddle. The ability to sit up straight and watch the world, not the road. Serious exercise for legs and butt.  A Keystone Cop kinda air horn. And a basket I’ll take to TJ’s and load up with flowers, wine, and cheap snack food.

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Filed under Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, How Cool is That?, On the Street Where I Live, Worth it anyway

Making Bargains

I had a big birthday this summer, but I still feel as bewildered and bedazzled as I was when I  was fifteen. I think, at least back in my day when I was cheated out of the fun of an IPad, an IPod and an IPhone, I had I huge fantasy life. That fantasy life included Ray Davies, Glenn Gould and Pierre Trudeau falling madly in love with me. Those fools.

(I still don’t own any of those IThings. but I know my son-in-law could hook me up.)

In my early twenties I saved my money — 1000 bucks, and it financed four months in Europe. London, Paris, Rome, Florence.  Viarreggio. Oh, for the romance of one’s early twenties! Yeah, I picked  up a husband over the breakfast table at the Locanda Anna in Florence.

It stabs me, I mean it stabs me to the heart to know  that without an enormous creative effort from me and huge economic luck, , I’ll never see St. Paul Covent Garden again. I’ll never see the Pyramids, Ankhor Wat (forgive the bad spelling!) and Machu Picchu, Or Venice. Or NYC.

Maybe this is a list of the possibles:

Spillsville, Iowa. Antonin Dvorak lived in Spillsville for a year and wrote “The Symphony From the New World” there. I want to smell the air he breathed. I love Dvorak, and I adore annoying my husband by saying “He’s better than Brahms!” (He is.)

Columbus, IN. Here’s the deal from Travel and Leisure:Travel + Leisure magazine said:
Designed by legendary architect Eero Saarinen, the J. Irwin & Xenia Miller House ranks alongside Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, and Philip Johnson’s Glass House as a hallmark of Modernist design.  It was completed in 1957, but unlike those residences, it is surrounded by some of the most beautiful Modernist gardens in the United States, created by landscape architect Dan Kiley.“ 

Nauvoo, IL, the stop off point for the Mormons on the way to Salt Lake City. Freaky, but worth it.

Hannibal, MO. Mark Twain, period paragraph.

But my big North American travel dream is to get to Newfoundland, that wild and crazy place endowed with huge history, fat fish, cliffs, meadows and sea. And L’Anse Meadow, a Viking settlement whose existence has haunted my dreams since I was ten. (Of course, I’d have driven around Cape Breton Island,checked out Halifax, hopped the ferry to PEI where I’d visit Green Gables and gorge on shellfish and potatoes before I got to The Rock.)

Closer to home, there are Arthur/Arcola, the Amana Colonies and the Indiana Limberlost of Gene Stratton Porter. I have a huge crush on mounds, especially if they’re in the shape of animals — do I have to go to North Dakota to see one? (Attention Dale Simpson Jr.)

I’m laughing. Seems like my trip to Newfoundland will cost as much as a trip to Rome. I want it anyway, and I want to rent some goofy SUV and go with my father,my husband, my daughter, and my son-in-law.

And please, if you have any touristic advice — chat on.

 

 

 

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Filed under History, How Cool is That?, Into the Mystic, Worth it anyway

Apron of the Day: Gammy’s Garden

I’m easing back into the blogosphere with an easy post — my newest Apron of the Day. I’ve been neglecting my apron industry as well — among the mishaps of the the Week from Hell was a close encounter between the big toe of my sewing foot and a full bag of ice.

I’m  calling this Farm Kitchen apron “Gammy’s Garden” because my grandmother, among many things, was the doyenne of a working farm. These pretty prints remind me of her old-fashioned flower garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the fabric close-up — I knew I’d find just the right place to use those two old daisy buttons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, how I wish I’d bought a few more yards of this fabric! He’s pretty in pink, no?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, en avant! No more sulking, limping and having my heart broken by a couple of tennis players.

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Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Hunks, Sewing, Worth it anyway

Apron(s) of the Day: “Indochine” and “Game Night”

Loulander’s having a “little work” done at an undisclosed clinic. It’ll be a couple of days until my supermodel’s stitches heal, so I recruited Charlene and Big Dale to strut the red carpet for me. I mean green carpet — I snapped them in their garden. I’d say Lou has some serious competition.

This number’s called Game Night. For some serious Scrabbling:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those are some great gams, Dale!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bingo anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the reverse:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re off to the mysterious East with the lovely Charlene. (Why is her complexion exactly as smooth as glowing now as it was almost thirty years ago? Bottle it, Char!) I’ve named this numero “Indochine” You know I have a thing for Asian prints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you see the gazillion tomatoes ripening? I’m so jealous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I’ve owned this fabric for five years. I love it so much that I couldn’t cut into it until yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Char, you look mahvellous:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m working towards the opening of my etsy shop, be assured that if you want to buy either (or both) aprons, shoot me an email. I’m the Simpson’s agent, by the way — if you want them for print or tv work, go through me. (I’ll skim off a mere 10% Char and Dale!)

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Filed under A yard of fabric, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Reversible Aprons, Sewing, Worth it anyway

My New Wheels!

Ain’t she a beauty!

Lou asked me what I wanted my my birthday. You know, that’s getting harder as I get older. When I was fifteen years younger and a little better off, my answer was “Go to the silver room at Tiffany and buy me a bracelet.” He did, and I have a lovely collection. Much older and much poorer, I was stuck, but just for a minute.

“Bring me a bottle of Guerlain’s Jicky, or buy me a bike. A real bike, not like the ones we sold for ten bucks each three years ago. I want something with a seat that doesn’t split my buttocks like some creep in an S&M blog. No gears. No hand breaks.”

I was describing the red CCM I learned to bike on when I was ten. Sure, riding up the steep coteaux in Trois-Rivieres was real work, even for a fit twelve year old. But I wasn’t forcing my weight on aching wrists, staring at the pavement, as I did on my zillion speed racing bike. I could look around me, checking out traffic and the Dairy Queen and Notre Dame des Sept Allegresses. I could signal with my thumb on the handle of a bell, and I could carry my homework home in my bike basket.

You know how you can pull up a supremely happy moment as if it were a (to continue the retro tech thing) slide? Another birthday, long ago, when Honor was, perhaps, three. I was working as the supervisor of the Junior Lingerie department of Carson Pirie Scott on State Street, and because I worked later than he did, Lou would pick me up in the red Ford Fiesta. On that birthday evening, I crossed Wabash to wait for my ride, and looked south. Lou was riding a red bicycle up the sidewalk, with my daughter perched on the handlebars, her blonde curls flying. They were both grinning, she was squealing, the  El  clattering above us. He strapped the bike to the roof of the Fiesta and we drove back to 1208 W. Lexington, where he gave me a martini and his other present, a Mahalia Jackson LP. I stood on the back porch, looking over the unrivalled Chicago skyline, a tiny bit buzzed and feeling the Spirit run up and down my spine while Mahalia sang “Born in Bethlehem.”

I’ve had great birthdays, but that one is my favorite. Young as I was, I knew there was powerful magic happening. And I loved that bike. When we moved to the ‘Ville we were a one car family, so in decent weather I’d ride to work (in a dress and heels) along the Prairie Path. Sometimes I glowed when I arrived at the Unisys Training Center, sometimes I arrived wet from a a shower, sometimes I showed up with a bouquet of wildflowers.  Once I arrived home with the magic pastoral terror of the great outdoor god Pan, because a red fox had fled before my wheels.

The bike got stolen, and I endured twenty years of racing bikes and mountain bikes, eyes downward, wrists aching. ‘Lor love a duck, I’m not an athlete, I just like to pedal about, go to the library, feel the burn in my thighs and see and smell the flowers.

Lou received my rigorous standards for the bicycle of my dreams, and he met and exceeded them. (It was cheaper than a bottle of Jicky.) This bike could have been ridden by Miss Marple or Twiggy.

Daisy detailing, whitewalls with sky blue trim.

Note: No gears, no brakes. I’m going to buy a basket and a bell and I’m going to cruise around, no hands, looking up and looking around.

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Filed under Body, Machines, On the Street Where I Live, The 'Ville, The Great Outdoors, Worth it anyway

Springtime Greetings from the ‘Ville

Sometime last week I posted my status on Facebook indicating that if I wanted the precipitation and grey skies of the Pacific Northwest, I’d be living there. Nine solid days of cold,rain, and overcast skies was robbing me of energy, optimism and valuable early gardening time. My friend Lloyd, a Seattle resident, scoffed politely. “Only nine cloudy days in a row? Pfui!” or words to that effect. Geez, the weather gods even threw in a few frost warnings.

Behold a view of the back yard, snapped yesterday:

Yes, we’re swamped. I suppose I should be glad that it’s been so freakin’ cold, otherwise we’d be Malaria Central. But see that white glow on the water’s surface? It’s sunshine!

To quote the poet:

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling

It’s still too cold for any garment flinging — I mean, kids this Easter Sunday are shivering in their hoodies, not strutting in their Easter bonnets — but man, those few fleeting hours of sunshine! Our hearts lifted, we climbed out of the dumps and the grumps, energy and optimism returned…

But as I write this today, the world’s glum again. We received the gift of a few hours of Easter sunshine, but now it’s all shades of grey. I try to remind myself that rainy Sweden has been named World’s Happiest Country, (Canada was #3, the USA #13)and that England’s green and pleasant land’s that way because it’s cold and damp.

Cheerier news from the ‘Ville: my friend Richard from Grand Rapids sent me this link.http://vintagraph.com/wpa-posters/general-wpa-posters/8907514 Isn’t this WPA poster fab, ‘Villians and non ‘Villians alike?

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Filed under Art, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Home, The 'Ville, Worth it anyway

Shine on Bright and Mysterious Object: French Sewing Table

I’m home and all’s well. I was accident prone in Ottawa — (I haven’t mentioned that a Valentine’s Day candy pulled out a tooth,completing the Ottawa Trifecta of pain and humiliation.)

But apart from a broken toe, crochet elbow and the hillbilly smile, I was healthy like horse in Ottawa. I took a mile walk, on average, every day, and several of those days were a windy minus 20.  I shivered at bus stops. I bought a scarf, and remembered the true purpose of a scarf. I made myself — the beginning of my elbow prob — a cap. I lived through a Canadian winter and felt great.

Then I got on an airplane and I got sick. Flying does that to me — the ears don’t drain, the sinuses fill, post nasal drip and within a day I’m coughing up green pea soup, deaf, feverish and languid. Too languid to write a proper blog post.

So I’m going to show you my mother’s French 1820s sewing table. My parents got smart fast about buying antiques: they went to the same auctions their dealers attended and profited from the etiquette that precludes dealers bidding against customers. This table was an exception: they payed retail, mucho retail, at a shop. My father provided the explanation for this pricey purchase: “Your mother said if I didn’t buy it she’d never talk to me again.” (Note: After a day of shoulder-turning, my mother would have had plenty to say!)

It was, and is, the only table in the house that’s banned from plates, coasters and ashtrays because the original finish is still superb. It’s about a meter tall.

The pale green moire silk work basket is in perfect condition.

I just know that no Amish work table would feature a mirror on the inside of the lid, but those genius needlewomen had no cause to fiddle with a ringlet or practice a moue.

The interior. That pale green kid leather pincushion flips out. Please note the little bundle of slats, which fit into the slots at the upper edge of the table. Would the little compartments have held thread? Beads? Earrings?

I love the French bourgeoise who bundled her sewing into that silk work basket, admired herself in the mirror (or checked it for the entrance of a jealous husband) and I love the family who saved it so my mother could buy it and I could use it.

If I had her maid I’d tinkle a bell and ask for a poached egg on toast and afterwards loosen my stays and recline somewhere. As it is, I’ll poach and toast and pass out in front of the news.

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Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Collections, History, Home, How Cool is That?, Needlework, Worth it anyway

Shine on, Bright and Mysterious Objects

Laurie Colwin, wherever you’re lounging in Literary Valhalla — forgive me for bastardizing one of your best titles.

I’d planned to rent some skates today and ask Daddy to take some pix of me falling on my can as I attempted to glide along the beautiful Rideau Canal. Again God said “Hah! Not so fast, sister! ” and encouraged me to run a shopping cart over my left pinky toe. It resembles a baby eggplant and I can barely get my shoes on, let alone a skate. Perhaps it was Her way to remind me that I haven’t done the Hans Brinker thing for thirty years, and that a swollen toe heals faster than a broken leg.

So much for today’s plans, skate-wise and blog-wise — time to move the photography inside.I thought I’d share some of the objects from my parents’ silver collection and run a small contest. Some of them you’ll recognize and some may be mysterious. I’ll send a prize, made by moi, to anyone who achieves 100% identification of the mystery objects. None of today’s shiny things are the oldest or most valuable in the collection — they’re mostly Edwardian — but I love them. They’re mad cheerful, and for me they’re free;I get to use them and I didn’t pay a single pound sterling.

Here’s a snap of most of them to give you an idea of the scale:

 

 

 

 

 

I love engraving. Here I’m an Anglo Indian military bride:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to run out and buy Jordan almonds, licorice allsorts and wine gums to fill the little pans! The hallmarks indicate that it was made in Chester in 1908. The inscription reads:

Presented To

Capt. and Mrs. Farley

by

The NCOs & Men Of

“E” Company

2nd North Stafford Rgmt.

Peshawar India 1910

On the Occasion of Their Wedding

I can’t provide the date and provenance of this basket of beauty because I’d have to root around to find Daddy’s copy of Tardy’s. It continental and clever– each cup sits on a little peg so that the maid can’t jiggle the soft-boiled eggs about on the way to your breakfast table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never seen such a pretty piece of tea strainer engineering as this: The baskets turn to the horizontal when it’s time to strain a new cup, so that you can dump the leaves efficiently. Again, I’d have to find Tardy to check out the German marks. (I’ve hooked it over an epergne handle to give the general effect.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I’ll move into the Mystery Item round. Number One, from Birks, a Canadian silversmith. It’s about seven inches long.

 

 

 

Number Two (Chester 1904)may be my favorite of the group because it’s just so plain weird. I’m sorry about the crappy picture ; when I decided to reshoot I found my battery was dead. You might want to consult the group shot above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number Three, Birmingham, 1902.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, as they say, enter to win a Valuable Prize! And pray for me — I’ve been so accident prone I’m afraid I’ll fracture a finger flossing my teeth!

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Filed under Art, Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Collections, Giveaway, History, Home, Incredible Edible Egg, Worth it anyway