Monthly Archives: July 2012

Putting the Dishes Away: Bookshelves are for Books

Change is refreshing.

Take this weekend, for example. It was a weekend of the unusual, no sitting around and drinking coffee and waiting for the week to start again. There was Shakespeare, girl talk, gelato and beer. Then, there was camping, family, a simple wedding, plenty of sun, a few pages of a book I’m finding delightful and sad. Now, this morning has arrived, Monday, back to work, back to routine, and I feel refreshed and ready for it.

Similarly, moving things around in the house seems to refresh it. After I asked for your thoughts about our dishes shelf in the kitchen, I started thinking about where I should put the shelf after I cleared all the dishes off. Originally, I had assumed it would end up in the dining room, tucked into a corner and filled, in the most disorganized way possible, with the books that are overflowing from our little cheap bookshelves. But then, I looked around our living room and fell in love with a different location. As soon as I had decided, I couldn’t wait.

Of course, moving the bookshelf out of the kitchen and into the living room, required the rearrangement of not just one other piece of furniture, but two. I moved books and shelves and little side tables and plants and, finally, half an hour later, called on the husband to lend me his muscles and take the opposite side of the bookshelf. Now, this is where we’re at.

The kitchen feels a little odd now. Occasionally, I still turn towards where the shelf was to put the dishes away and I still find myself staring blankly around the kitchen wondering where I’ve put my coffee mugs, but we’re getting used to it and we’re loving the openness, the lack of a visual barrier that used to exist from the front door to the back.

I love the way the bookcase looks in the living room, creating a mini library of my favourite books right beside my favourite chair.

For now, this feels right. And so very refreshing. You know how it is, right? How a simple change re-energizes more than one could expect.

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Photo Friday: Books and a Goal

I think I might be crazy.

I think it’s a good crazy, but a crazy none-the-less.

See, yesterday at around 3 in the afternoon, I popped onto twitter and saw this tweet:

@RandomHouseCALooking to tackle your reading pile? Join our #OlympicReadathon http://ow.ly/cvYqp 

Well, no. I don’t really have a ‘reading pile’. I don’t make must-read lists. I see a book, I’m interested in reading it, I read it. True, there are a few that I’d love to read that I haven’t yet, but that has more to do with a) funds and b) lack of forsight to set holds at the library.

Even so, I was intrigued. I did some research, a little thinking about the logistics, then signed myself up, a house blogger in the midst of all those book bloggers. Why not? I miss reading the way I used to, the way I used to before I decided I should do a BA in English Literature.

(Don’t get me wrong: I love that I have a BA in English Literature and I would most definitely go get it again if I had to do it all over again. But it does take the pure joy out of plowing through a book and loving it just for the sake of loving it.)

Now I have a goal. 1000 pages between today and August 12th. That’s about 60 pages a day, no skipping days, especially on the weekends. Last night, I hemmed over my bookshelf for a while before selecting two books that I picked up from a free book table in my neighbourhood last week. I added my Kobo to the top of the pile, with Wuthering Heights loaded on it. And, I’ve still got 177 pages to go in the book I started last week.

Here they are:

I know I’m not the only house blogger who reads. Do you set reading goals?

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Three Things for Thursday: Sock buns, Yellow, and a Lament for Fabric

One: Sock Buns

Since the weather has been so hot and humid, I have been desperate to get my hair up and off my neck as often as possible. Recently, a coworker mentioned she had discovered sock buns and, while I knew about them and love how they look, I realized I had never actually attempted to figure out how it works and try it myself.

I remedied this on Tuesday thanks to Mr. Kate and have done nothing else with my hair since.


Two: Yellow

Lately, I’ve been falling in love with yellow rooms. They’re so cheerful, colourful, but not overly so, when done right. 
I have heard, though, that yellow can easily look cheap. I have no idea why and I absolutely don’t agree. But, what’s your take on it?



Three: Fabric and Fabricland

Fabricland North York is closing. I am sad about this.

I am not sad about this because I’ve bought a lot of fabric from Fabricland. In fact, even when we lived across the street from it, I only ever purchased 3 yards of one beautiful satin print.* 
But I am sad about the closing of Fabricland because, while there are so many options for picking up fabric online these days (Fabric.com! Tonic Living!) I am suddenly at a loss as to where I can buy fabric in person that is easily accessible and affordable. 
I used to buy all my  fabric from the $1.99/yard bin at Walmart. I don’t even know where the nearest Walmart is. And do they even still have fabric sections? Where else can I find such cheap fabric? And where do you buy your fabric?  
I also purchased a pattern for a really cute dress, brought the whole lot to the front to pay, had the person behind the desk squint at the pattern, squint at me, and then ask if I was certain it was my size. I said yes and she whipped out a tape measure, declared it not my size and got me the size range up. The finished dress was so big I couldn’t even bring it in enough to salvage. All that beautiful fabric ended up in the garbage after haunting my closet for 6 months.
Dear employees at fabric stores: just because a customer looks to be younger than 60 years old, it does not mean that she has never made herself a dress before and therefore doesn’t know how to pick out the right sized pattern.
Dear self: grow a damn backbone and trust yourself to get these things right. It’s not like it’s your first time sewing or anything.

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The Story of a Log Cabin Quilt

When I was 12 or so, my sister, five years older than me, was getting ready to move off the farm and into a dorm room. Part of her growing up process involved creating her own full twin-sized quilt. This wasn’t so unusual. Our mother was crafty, a nature she willingly passed on to her children. (Even my brother learned to knit and crochet, though I’m sure it’s not a skill he’s kept or developed.) I watched my sister cut triangles and squares from old, wear-softened jeans and stitch them together into quilt blocks. I remember there was a sparkly fabric she used that my 12 year old self fell in love with.

Five years later, there seemed to be no other option for me than to move into my dorm room with my own, carefully hand stitched quilt. True, I hadn’t had the same interest in quilting my sister had displayed before she began her creation. I hadn’t created the wall samplers she had or developed the basic knowledge of what went into a quilt. None-the-less, if she could do it, I could too.

My mother took me to Lens Mill Store. She walked me through the shelves and shelves of bolts, pulled me away from the sparkling fashion fabrics and into the section with broadcloth and prints. The first few fabrics went smoothly. And then, I started to yawn. Drag my feet. I knew nothing about bringing a collection of fabrics together into a combination that works. I was resistant to my mother’s strong guidance, to learning from her knowledge. It was with this mindset, that we settled on the sixth fabric and started hunting for the seventh and last, the fabric of which we needed the most.

It was to be the darkest fabric, but not completely black. There was not a lot of selection and we had already dismissed most of it. My mother pulled out a lightly printed fabric and my frustration twisted my voice into a whine as I looked at it. Bugs. The fabric was black, with light grey dots and, every six inches or so, the image of a fly. A fly.

I hated it. And yet, with no other options, despite my searching, and with our rising mutual frustration, this buggy fabric came home with us.


I don’t remember beginning to cut, but I do remember asking my mom for help. I don’t remember the rest of the cutting process because I didn’t do any of it.


I don’t remember beginning to sew, but once again, I remember asking my mom for help. And, once again, I didn’t do any of the rest of it. 


I do remember the quilting. I remember how hard it was and how quickly my interest waned. I remember how perfect my mom’s stitches were next to my awkward, crooked, large stitches. 


There is one square that was done by my hand. 





In the end, I did not make this quilt. My mother stitched each square, finished the binding, did the final wash and iron, and helped me fold it into my boxes to take to school with me. Even though it was not my hand that stitched those squares together, I was proud of it, proud of the place from which I had come, proud of my mother.


This quilt went through hell when Mocha came into our family. Now, it’s full of holes, her puppy teeth having chewed through the layers of fabric and batting. I love it still and will always love it for what it represents, but I think it’s time to make another. I think it’s time to finish what I started. 

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Open Shelving, Dishes, and A Request for Advice

We had a remarkably disappointing thunderstorm last night, a thunderstorm that dropped maybe 10 minutes of large, fat, but gentle rain drops. I don’t even want to talk about the state of my garden.

I do, however, want to talk about my kitchen.

When we first moved our heavy bookcase onto our main floor, I had it placed in our kitchen. This was partially for simplicity sake – it’s heavy, and I felt bad for my poor husband and our helpful friend who were moving it. The kitchen isn’t particularly far from the basement stairs, which is where it had been before. It was also partially because I am short, could not easily reach the cupboards above my head, and therefore, felt like I had limited shelf space in the kitchen. I wanted more.

But now, I have a stool.

And, admittedly, the shelf is placed somewhat awkwardly. It’s not bad. There’s plenty of space to get around it. But it does feel a little bit like a twist and a dance maneuvering past it’s 15 inch depth, especially when one is carrying a laundry basket from the front room, where the laundry machines are, to the back room, where our bedroom is.

Is it time to consider relocating my dishes to the cupboards, get rid of the bookshelf and give ourselves some space to breath, to move? What do you think?

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The Most Prettiest Folding Step Stool in Existence at This Moment

Happy Monday! I worked from home Thursday and Friday last week so, even though most of the time I work harder and better from the comfort of my dining room table, I feel like I’ve had an extra extra long weekend. Which made coming in today all the more difficult.
But! I have something kind of delightful to share with you today. It’s another DIY, another project that has been forever on the go, and finally, beautifully finished. This one, however, is not my DIY. This one is all the Husband.
Our unconventional kitchen design combined with every single inch of my 5’3″ height means we have a lot of cupboard space, half of which is completely unused because I simply can’t reach. Oh, there’s stuff in those cupboards. Stuff that never gets moved. Stuff like lightbulbs that don’t get pulled out except when the last bulb in the light fixture goes. And dozens of vases, left over from the centerpieces from our wedding, that should really be boxed up and dropped off at our local thrift store.
In reality, I use the centre cupboard almost solely. It’s been properly outfitted with a couple wire pull-outs from Ikea and holds my spices, my baking supplies, the peanut butter and bread, the things we use every day. The rest of the shelves? I would like to use them. There’s lots of space! I just need to be able to get up there.
Queue handsome Husband to the rescue. 
I can make you a stool, he said. One that folds away, and looks pretty while it’s doing it.
He scoured the Internet for weeks until he found a stool he liked. He tried to interpret the original designer’s instructions, instructions that were missing some important information. Regardless, and with great confidence, he bought some beautiful pieces of poplar, made some cuts, screwed some things together and then fell into the black hole of problem solving. 
We’re both guilty of ignoring the projects we start that get too hard. The pieces of my stool sat, gathering dust for almost as long as my little blue chair did. 
Then, one day last month, I came home to a front porch spotted and smeared with a little dark stain and a beautifully finished stool, drying on the ugly tiles. No matter how long we let a project lie, we always power through in the end, the Husband and I. 
Isn’t she beautiful?

I wish we could provide some plan details, a proper how-to. Unfortunately, when I asked the Husband if he could remember, he looked at me blankly and sadly shook his head. There was too much struggling through, too much un-doing and re-doing on this one.

Have you ever tackled a project that stumped you? It’s a victorious feeling – isn’t it? – that coming out on the other side.

-~*~-

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Giveaway Winner!

Drum roll please?

Congratulations to…

Franky and Sarah of How2Home!

Send me an email at thisdustyhouse (at) gmail (dot) com for details on how to collect your Blurb credit.

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Photo Friday: The Cat

Today is the last day to enter my Blurb giveaway! The giveaway will close at 7 pm tonight, so don’t forget to sneak your entry in last minute!

On Sunday, when it started to rain so hard I was getting splashed by the droplets in my seat on the front porch where I was curled up with a book, I came inside and settled on the couch by the window. The kitty was already sitting there, watching the rain come down, falling asleep every few minutes.

I love my cat. Moments like these, I fall in love just a little bit more. Pekoe came to me in the summer of 2006, the summer I was working the most difficult job of my life, in the heat, surrounded by people I didn’t know how to connect with. Every day, I came home, sunburnt, stinking of elephant poop, exhausted. This face greeted me.
Pekoe was a stray, so I don’t know his heritage, but when I took him to the vet this past winter, my suspicions were confirmed. 
“He seems to have some Abyssinian in him,” she said. She was referring to his coat, which has the characteristic Abyssinian ticking, meaning each strand is about three different colours, giving his coat a speckled, almost salt and pepper kind of look. I’d discovered the breed years ago, when I first got Pekoe. His personality fits the standard nearly to a T – active, curious, and fiercely loyal. Oh, fiercely loyal.
He is my kitty. I am his person.
Have a wonderful weekend, friends! I hope you have a weekend of Sundays. 

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Three Things For Thursday: Heatwaves, Bathrooms, and Portraits

One


I am ridiculously grateful that this heatwave has finally broken. The temperature of our house hit 90* at the highest this past week. This morning, it was a relief to read a mere 77* on the thermostat.


Two


We have two bathrooms in the Project Lift-The-Roof plan. That means two more chances to pick out tile, shower surrounds, vanities, sinks, mirrors, toilets, bits of bathroom decor. These days, I’m thinking at least one of those bathrooms is going to get a beautiful floor of hex mosaic tiles.

Three

Recently, Brittany of Gallery No. 8 shared this portrait on her blog. I love it. The high contrast is striking, the crisp detail of her face against the vagueness of her hair and clothing draws me in to the painting. 



But then I got thinking. I have no idea who this woman is. Likely, she’s not a real woman, but either way, she has a personality, expressed in the expression on her face, in her choice of attire, in her hair style. She may be fictional, but there is a person represented in the painting. A person to whom I have no connection.

Is it a little weird to hang a portrait of a stranger on ones wall?

Do you have portraits in your home? What’s your take?

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How to Reupholster a Club Chair

A few of you requested a step by step tutorial for reupholstering. I know I’m not the best person to teach you how to reupholster things. My little chair is fraught with imperfections. However, because I went at this with such little experience, I am, perhaps, the best person to share the reupholstering process and all the things I learned along the way.

So, don’t think of this as a tutorial. Think of this as a story, as my reupholstering story. My process, for you to perfect, to learn from, but not to take as gold. 
How I Reupholstered a Club Chair

  1. This is where we begin. With an ugly chair, purchased for $14.99 at Value Village on a fine fall day.

  2. Rip it apart. This sounds very haphazard, but in reality, it’s important to be a little careful with this process. Take off bits of the fabric in order, one layer at a time. Your digital camera is crucial for this step. Take a photo with every piece of fabric you remove making note of intricate ways it is attached, where it is stapled, and what’s underneath.

    I learned a lot in this step. As each layer peeled off, I came across a few surprises, wood where I didn’t expect it to be, construction that, as I went deeper and deeper, seemed more simple, more manageable. Taking apart the chair made me realize that, yes, I could put this back together!

    Note: the batting inside my chair was in pretty good shape and I decided not to replace it. This may be an extra step for you if you do need to replace it.

  3. Figure out how many yards you need to finish your chair. My method was not an exact science. I lay all the bits of carefully removed fabric on our back patio, each piece side by side in a line. Then, I grabbed the measuring tape, wrote down the number and ordered away. I ordered 5 yards for this chair, which I anticipated to be about 1.5 yards more than I need. Give yourself some leeway. Worst case scenario, you end up with way to much and make three matching pillows from the extra.
  4. My fabric arrived two days later. I waited a couple months.
  5. Finally. I started to cut! This is both the hardest and the easiest part of the process. Cut your pieces piece at a time, starting with the inner-most layer. Don’t work ahead. Cut one piece, attach it, cut the next, etc. Why? If you end up messing up on one of your first pieces, cut another and get it on your chair. You don’t want to have all the big later pieces cut out and realize you can’t attach the pieces that go under it because you messed up and you don’t have enough fabric. That’s a really good way to lose momentum.

    Use the old pieces as a template. Lay it out on the fabric, doing your best to match up fabric grain directions. This can be tough, because your new piece is likely to be stretched and warped. Just do your best. I found my upholstery fabric to be incredibly forgiving.

    Your old piece will already have a ‘seam’ (staple!) allowance, but feel free to give yourself a little extra space. I discovered that going bigger is far better than smaller. You can always cut extra fabric off. You can’t add fabric if your piece is too small. I learned this the hard way with the back piece. I fought with trying to stretch a too small piece of fabric over the back of the chair forever before I gave up, stitch-ripped the middle panel out and created a new one. This is what your extra yard and a half is for!

    Sew up some seams if you need to (I had four to sew in order to create the back and front paneled cover.)

  6. Staple and stretch, staple and stretch! If you’re upholstering a chair that’s anything like this one, a lot of the stapling is hidden underneath, out of the way. Follow the construction of the chair in reverse order! You’ll know what I mean once you get started on a project of your own. If you do that, you’ll understand where to staple, how to fold, when to tuck, how tight to pull, etc. etc.
  7. If you’re like me, you’ll end up with some ghastly seams and a trim of staples all the way along the back of your chair.

    I have some ideas about how to not end up with this for the next chair, but, for this one, I went with covering it with trim. The original chair had double piping, in the middle of which the staple was hidden. I still have no idea how the original upholsterer accomplished that. (Ah… right. It was likely a machine!) Instead, I simply glued some store-bought trim over the seam, covering seam and staples completely.

    I know. Glued. I’m sure it’s not the ‘right’ way to do it but… like I said… learning experience!

  8. Sew up the cushion! This is your opportunity to use lots and lots of pins. And probably your stitch ripper. At least twice. For simplicity sake, you may want to sew a zipper into the middle of the back part of the cushion’s band. It will be a lot easier to get the cushion in (and out, when you want to wash the cover!).
And that? Is pretty much it. It seems so simple, right?

HA!

Questions? Ask away! I will do my best to answer them!

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