Wednesday, October 31, 2012

{Day 31: Happy Halloween!}

Today is the official last day of "31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces" (I hope that nobody is sick of hearing the word lovely :)  We celebrated Halloween with some cold, rainy trick-or-treating in our teensy Michigan village.

This was our backyard a few weekends ago...
And this was the scene a few days ago. I heard a great clatter outside and now the corn is gone.

This is my cute little witch at her classroom party today. Every time I braid her hair, I tell her that I always wanted a little girl who looks just like her with braids in her hair. She likes to tell me that she is a big girl. And she is! She's my big first grader.

This is Griffin at his class party. By fourth grade the kids are planning their own parties, but he was happy to have me stop by. He told me later how cute he thought this friend's baby sister looked as a little chicken. It reminded me of my grandma and her sister who called me the Polish word for little chicken when I was a child. I have no idea how to spell it, but it sounds like "Coo-da-ka".

Griffin was Ghostface (??). His mask has a pump that makes blood squirt all around the face. Totally gross and he loved every second of it! Bela smiling & wearing her witch's hat.
And they're off!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

{Day 30: Lovely, Overall}

We are almost at the end of "31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces" and it's time for a re-cap. 

In the first week I worked on making homecomings more lovely by organizing the mudroom. This is the area where we come and go most frequently. It's connected to the laundry room so I needed to work on making that space work better. Too often I would come home and be exhausted by all the stuff I had to do. Seeing a prettier space (and having a system) made me more cheerful.

During that week I also began thinking about the main entry. At the front of the house and opening to our main living area, this is where friends and family come & go. Throughout the month, I considered and tweaked what to do. The universe provided me with some things just when I needed them. And I came back to "finish" this space at the end of the project

During the second week, I started thinking about family meals and moved into the kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of our house, and it's where all the important papers end up, including homework so I talked a lot about paper organizing here and again, here. 

October is also a wonderful time to celebrate fall's beauty and decorate for Halloween. So that's what I did here, here, and even here with what comes home from school.

Thinking ahead to next month, I blogged about the arrival of something big here and how to remain grateful here.

I also purchased an e-book from the Money Saving Mom on how to live with more discipline so I'll be sure to stick with blogging everyday, even without a 31-day challenge. Because as much as days like this can wreck a design plan, they're still better than this.

Hope you were inspired by something and that you'll stick around for more... 

Love, Carrie

{Day 29: Lovely Book Storage}

The predominant suggestion to my paper organizing post was to go digital. But what to do about books? Although I have a Kindle Fire and Phil has an iPad, I still love books. LOVE.

This is not yet a lovely little space because I can't quite decide what to do with it. Every year I reorganize the bookcase on Memorial Day or Labor Day. This year I did it both days. And I'm still not satisfied.

Partly because that's only about half the total number of books in my possession (I haven't bought myself new socks in three years, but books?? Always.) The rest of the books are in the basement. I've read that it is better to store books in cardboard boxes because it helps the pages breathe easier. A batch of mine are in a Rubbermaid tote, though, and even more are just on the basement floor. Luckily they're not rare or vintage, although I do have a few books that have been signed, including The Halloween Tree, in which the late Ray Bradbury drew a jack o'lantern. 

There's also no other good place for family board games--I like to have them out to remind us to play. I have moved some of the games into the kids' rooms and all of the kid lit on that shelf was relocated back to the kids' rooms this summer here and here.

As you can see from this photo I also like to use the bookcase for some decorative displays. It breaks up the look of a row of books. There are family photos and an artsy print as well as decorative boxes and shells. I've seen people create a rainbow effect with the spines of their books, and that might be a fun look.

Ultimately, though, I don't think the bookcase is going to stay in this corner of the room. We may not yet be through trick-or-treating, but I've already begun thinking about Christmas, and this is the best spot for a big tree. 

But where, oh where will that bookcase go???

Sunday, October 28, 2012

{Day 28: Kitchen Knobs}


The first step in transforming our kitchen from an oaken mess into a white beauty took place this weekend. We replaced some of the hardware with multi-faceted clear glass knobs. 

Next up, drawer pulls!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

{Day 27: A Lovely Little Update}

Remember my entryway progress with the mirror and the large crock from Day 16??? I've done some work and this is how it is looking now:

An overview of the formally blank wall. I moved this console table into the space and propped the mirror on it (for now). This necessitated that I move the photos up higher on the wall. And since I was doing that I switched out the 8x10s inside with some that have more green in them. I also hung glittery green spiders on either side of the pictures.

Here's an updated shot of the crock, decorated for fall. There is a leaf garland coming out and I hung a door decoration off the mirror with an orange ribbon.

A close-up on the special number 15 detail on the outside of the crock. Both kids' were born on the 15th.
We don't use this entrance on the front of our house for our daily comings & goings. But it is a logical place for the newspaper and mail. All those magazines I talked about a few days ago are in the basket on the middle shelf, next to my current library books.
One of the really special details on the table is this series of black & white photos of my grandma with my aunt and mom. They were re-printed and I framed them inexpensively with pop-in frames from Dollar General. I like how they look lining the bottom of the mirror. And I love seeing my mom and aunt as little girls, younger than my own kids, and seeing my gram being a mother.
The console table also gives me a chance to do more holiday decorating. I used a tall yellow vase for height & color, the black tree candelabra for visual interest, and a small basket (that reminds me of a bird's nest) filled with colorful leaves for texture. 
One final detail of the space... A spooky Halloween ornament hangs on the doorknob of the coat closet.

{Day 26: Two Houses}

I am actually writing this post on day 27 because I just couldn't bear to write it yesterday. It has been on my mind to update the story of who I am--my About page--so that I don't give readers the wrong idea. Somehow this falls into the category of lovely little spaces and why it's so important to me to create them. 

A rainy field trip.
As you may have learned from my morning makeover, my home life can look very different, depending on the day of the week

I have been divorced for nearly four years--more than half my daughter's life and nearly all of my son's time in elementary school. Back then, as I researched the effect of divorce on children, I read that kids can emotionally & educationally lose up to an entire year of school during their parent's divorce. What better time than kindergarten then if you have to lose a year? Which is an absolutely awful thought. And ultimately the divorce really wasn't a choice. 

There are plenty of things I would do over, given the chance. But the number one is the custody schedule. At the time, I agreed to nearly halftime to ensure that the kids had lots of time with their dad in order to have a relationship with him. I had seen too many examples of fathers & kids being torn apart by divorce. I now realize that kids can be just fine seeing their other parent on a less frequent basis, and that they benefit from more consistency than our situation provides.

As an aside, my kids seemed to actually flourish once the divorce occurred. They grew physically and they smiled and laughed more. It is very difficult at times, but the lesson was not that we shouldn't have divorced but that we never should have married in the first place. Of course, if we hadn't married, there would be no Griffin or Bela in this world. 

Upon learning of our schedule, a nice mom from our elementary school said, "You must get so many projects done while they're gone!" But in reality, I didn't. For a long time, I would close their bedroom doors when they were gone and not go in. Too painful. I missed them too much. The house gets too quiet. I like having people to do things for, even if it means it takes me twice as long to do everything. 

I have resisted writing about it because I don't want this blog to be about divorce, even though in real life, I feel like I am the ambassador to Divorceland. My door is open to any mom who wants to talk, and I now have a legion of friends who are divorced moms. 

Clearly, I could go on & on. But I'd rather focus on other things, like making this home as warm & loving as possible, and writing about that. I am sure I'll write more about the divorce because it's part of who we are, but that's enough for now.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

{Day 25: Paper Organization}

The number one way to stay organized with paper is to control what comes into our homes. 

However, Phil and I have roughly 15 magazine subscriptions between the two of us (we like magazines, what can I say??), plus all of my catalogs, a daily newspaper, and grade school papers for two little people. It can feel like an avalanche of paper!!

How to stay organized? A few guidelines can help.

1. A place for everything: kids' papers
Good systems require pre-planning. So to keep organized with the papers coming in, we have to think a little bit about where & how they come in and where & how we'll use them. 

For example, the kids' school papers come home in their backpacks. Backpacks go in a basket in the trunk of the car after school. When we get home, I carry it into the house and take it to the kitchen where I empty lunchboxes, check for homework, and take note of important papers. The basket goes under a table in our dining area. Homework is done at the dining room table after dinner. Then, everything gets packed back up and taken to the car the next morning.

Our car basket. Big enough for two backpacks and my purse.
My goal in life is to not hang on to every piece of paper the kids bring home. In practice, it is much harder for me to part with their creations, but there are a ton of them. My favorite drawings and impressive homework assignments get set aside. Eventually I'd like to have a special file box for each child. For now, though, it's just a jumbly pile in a Rubbermaid storage tote in the basement.

Our calendar and file storage area.
The paint swatch class schedules are on the bulletin board.

Other information like important dates get transferred to a centralized calendar. The kids' school schedule--knowing which day each has gym or library or art or music--is written on a colorful paint chip. So, on Tuesday morning when Bela asks, "What do I have today?" I can look up and be reminded that it's music day, her favorite!

2. Keep one, toss one: magazines & newspapers
With 15 or so magazines showing up in our mailbox each month, we need to cycle through them or we would soon be able to fill a small room with all of the periodicals. It's not a perfect one-to-one ratio, though. Some months we have more time for leisure reading; other times, less so. But once a magazine has been read (unless its cooking or design-related), I put it in the recycling pile. The same is true, on a daily basis, for the newspapers

Special note about magazines: roll one up and stick it in your dressy boots so they won't fall over.

Waiting is much more tolerable when I have a magazine to read. One of the things I want to design is a place to store magazines near the back door so I can grab one on my way out. Since the space is teensy yet busy, it's going to have to be something that hangs, but I haven't found just the right thing yet. 

3. Seasonal purging: recycling 
We don't have curbside recycling in the village, which means that if I want to be "green" I have to drive somewhere to do it. Luckily, there is a facility on our way home from school so I don't need to go out of my way. I only make the stop once we have a bounty of stuff to be recycled. It feels so good to get rid of a season's worth of magazines, newspapers, and office papers. In the last session I got rid of old telephone directories (one for a neighborhood where I haven't lived in several years), and it felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was a really great feeling!

4. Errand box
Finally, it's very helpful to have a special place designated just for the stuff related to errands. A box or basket near the door can work perfectly for this task. This is where packages to be mailed can be left; library materials can be stored; and Goodwill donations can be assembled. Hopefully the errand box will be in a conspicuous-enough spot that you will remember to take care of the task, and the pile does not become clutter!

And, of course, all easier said than done. :) I still have some work to do at home to shovel out from our paper avalanche. Do you feel like you have too many papers or are you skiing ahead of the avalanche? Please share your tips in the comments section. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

{Day 24: Lovely Gratitude Trees}

I don't remember the exact quote and I don't have my own copy of the book so I'll try my best to accurately convey this idea. 

In The Bench, a novel fictionalizing life on the Michigan Supreme Court written by former Chief Justice (and founder of Cooley Law School) Thomas Brennan, the main character's father was a man who always had the best of everything, and even when it wasn't the best, it was the best to him. 

I absolutely love that idea because it's such a great example of how to show gratitude. As I told you all yesterday, having a good attitude is something I need to work on sometimes. Especially when I don't get a lot of sleep. And the dog has gotten sick on the carpet. And we're late for school despite a certain someone (me) having had a professional morning makeover.


So, this seems like a perfect time to start thinking about November and how I can cultivate a spirit of Thanksgiving for the entire month. I love this beautiful collection of branches from Emily Rose, the Simply Vintage Girl. The "leaves" are notes about what she is grateful for.

Unfortunately, the big guy is not a fan of bringing branches indoors. He has a (legitimate) concern about bugs being inside the wood. Which is a huge bummer because I found the biggest, best branch at school the other day and brought it all the way home. Since he does make a good point and I would prefer to keep him in the house (plus I haven't yet figured out a way to make the branches safe--there must be a tutorial out there, right??), I think we'll draw a tree. 

But not just any tree. Oh no! This will be a special tree.

I also read about a fun game to do with the kids. Rather than just write the things we are thankful for on the leaves, we also have to write things that would be bad, like a broken leg. Then, you pick a "leaf" and find the good. So, in the broken leg example, you might say "It's good because I get a cast that all my friends can sign."

And I would turn not enough sleep into gratitude that a certain little snuggle bug still needs her mama.  :)

Linking up to The Inspired Room's Fall Nesting party today. Hope you'll check out what other bloggers are doing for their Holiday Nesting.


Monday, October 22, 2012

{Day 22: Lovely Little Time Management}


Some of the time management principles that executives use can be applied to your home to create better organization and more happiness. David Allen's Getting Things Done is the modern-day bible for doing just that. (And fans of The Office may have seen former warehouse manager Darryl reading this book in a recent episode). 

Some of my favorite principles, applied to the home:

1. Touch it once.
This principle is as it sounds. You try to deal with something only one time. For me, it is also much harder than it sounds. Some days it feels like I have the attention span of a butterfly. "What's that?" and I'm off to the next thing. Staying focused on the project at hand is the goal with "touch it once". So the laundry that I pull from the dryer gets folded and put away in the drawers or closet (not just set on somebody's bed to get put away later, or left on top of the dryer...). Can you think of others way to challenge yourself with this rule? I think it's fun enough to try!

2. One minute rule.
In this principle, if it takes a minute or less, you do it. If it is going to take longer, you make a plan or put it on your schedule to deal with at another time. An example from around the house is to take something back to where it belongs in another room. It takes less than a minute and prevents things from piling up. Plug in your electronics so your cell phone is charged. Empty the lunchboxes when you get home from school so you can easily pack them for the next day later. These tasks don't take more than a minute and save you time in the long run. Even unloading the dishwasher takes much less time than it seems.


3. Brain dump.
Maybe it's because I'm the mom of grade schoolers but I have a hard time with the name for this one ("poop" jokes: guaranteed laugh getter in our house). Instead, I prefer this image of Professor Dumbledore removing memories to his penseive to illustrate the idea. By making a list of all those things that are on your mind, you free yourself up for more higher brain thinking. It's as important around the house as it is in any office. Make a list of all the things that you need to shop for at the grocery store, appointments you need to make, even things that have gone missing and you are looking for (surely I'm not the only one with this kind of list??). 

{The Power of Moms, a gathering place for deliberate mothers, has developed a program for moms based on David Allen's Getting Things Done. Called Mind Organization for Moms, it's available for a fee from their website here. They had some sort of promotion and I received the e-book for free last year. I don't know if they'll do that again, but their website is worth checking out if you're interested in learning more. I also liked this article from the NYTimes about time management tricks.}

Do you use any of these principles around your house? Please share some examples in the comments!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Morning Makeover Update

I had my consultation with the brilliantly-gifted writer Laura Vanderkam, who tweaked my morning routine as part of the contest I won(!!) from The Happiest Mom. It's online now and you can read all about how I start my days here.

{Day 21: White Room}

White walls, white drapes. It's the look I think I want for our living room once the new sectional arrives. 
Original source unknown.
There's still plenty of color in this room from the furniture and accessories. I like the contrast of the thin black picture frames against the wall & with the wide white matte inside, as well as the dark floor lamp. The medium tones are represented nicely by the window shade, basket on the chair, and small chest.
But which white to choose? It's tricky to get a white that's not too yellow and yet not too cold. This room, with white walls & white drapes is painted Swiss Coffee.

I think painting the walls white will help keep the visual noise down when all the kids' colorful toys are pulled out. It will also help us to appreciate the beauty of nature just outside our windows. 

However, the open concept is going to pose some challenges for actually putting paint on the walls. High ceilings and several different zones: entry, living room, kitchen, dining area, stairwell to lower level kind of makes the color we have look better and better. If only I knew what it was called...

Do you have a favorite white paint? What is it called and who makes it? Please let me know in the comments.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

{Day 20: Loveliness Leads to Happiness}

The entry. Re-decorated as a nursery.
What is the purpose of creating lovely little spaces? Why are we all on this quest to be more organized?


Why bother? Especially when you live with other people who--shall we say--don't share our design vision or same standards of neatness??

Baking cookies and helping Griff w/ homework in my puppy print pj's.
Because we love these little mess makers. And because we want to live in our homes--to bake cookies,  to read stories, and to play.

The living room--and another world.

Another angle.
Even Bela enjoys decorating her house.
Organization makes it possible to have a room full of toys and not feel like it's clutter. You can appreciate the creativity of a little child's imaginary world. And you're not cleaning up while the kids are still playing.

Creating lovely little spaces is the incentive I need to control what is within my reach. To clear the counters and manage the paper. To stay on top of the laundry. To have a routine for getting the dishes from the dinner table to the dishwasher to the cupboard.

Everyone on their own screen. 
Because we share this space. It is our home!

Friday, October 19, 2012

{Day 19: Choosing Colors}

Nobody decorates with color like Mother Nature. I am constantly being inspired by the natural landscape. I look out the window and see a spruce against a stormy sky and think how nicely dark green and icy blue combine. Or I look out the back window at our lawn rolling into the corn stalks in the farmer's field and feel the happiness of bright green and pale yellow. Violet and pale green. Crimson and blaze orange. Color combinations that are as unexpected as they are vibrant.

So I am definitely not afraid of color, yet lately I've been drawn to monochromatic color schemes. For example, I love the black legs and white tops of these two tables.

Crate & Barrel Bastille Side Table $449
Wisteria Spanish Travertine-Top Coffee Table $1,199
I think this look will be a perfect way to balance the dark furniture we already have with what we still need to get. Right now we have a low media console and tall bookcase that are a dark ebony color, but we also have white bar stools.

Table in my dining area
And then there is this lovely table in the dining room with dark legs and a white top!

We may need some end tables once the new couch arrives. The monochromatic color scheme would allow us to buy white tables or change the tops of the ones that we currently have to white.

Beautiful on its own, the monochromatic color scheme also allows the more vibrant colors to stand out.

I'm linking up to Furniture Feature Friday on Miss Mustard today. I love her "move mountains" philosophy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

{Day 18: Little Kid Halloween Decor}

"If my parents had a mantel, I'd be a completely different person."
George Costanza

As a little girl growing up in a home with a fireplace, I was baffled by homes that didn't have one. How did Santa get in??? Alas, of all the homes I've lived in since, only one has had a fireplace--and even that did not have a mantel.

Decorating for the holidays is a fun way to stretch out the joy of the season, and a mantel makes a wonderful display space for those decorations. Since Halloween is a pretty big deal with my kids, I wanted to make the house look festive but still be pretty.

Without a mantel in our house, I had to think creatively about how to replicate that look with what we do have. This lovely little space in our dining area makes a great stand-in.

The table against the wall in this small corner of our dining area is a great spot for extra dishes during big meals. It's also a fantastic spot for seasonal displays of holiday decorations. The three floating shelves above the table provide additional visual interest.

My vision when I put the shelves on the wall was to create a sophisticated-looking bar area. Bunches of liquor bottles on display is really not a super family friendly look, though. So now I just keep a few wine glasses there--two white, two red, and these two Waterford goblets in front. I occasionally change out the front glassware. For example, I had two margarita glasses there this summer, and I might do something else for the winter holidays. The bobble-head Dracula adds some Halloween fun!

The lantern is from my parents' yard. It is very, very heavy and Bela likes to open the little door and put things inside. I added a little straw witch for Halloween. To me it looks like she is in jail, which I thought would be fun for the kids. 

The lantern is a permanent element of the space. I plopped a cute china pumpkin next to it, all on top of a Pottery Barn placemat (clearance) and voila!

Next on the table is this display. Bela had put all of these little Halloween characters together once we got the decorations out of storage. I loved the charm of seeing all of them collected, and since this glass cake plate is another permanent element of the design, I set them on top of it. The basket of flowers in the back adds some color and texture.

A wider view of the whole area. The basket underneath the table is holding some little balls and glow sticks. We've been extremely lucky to not have anything broken, even with some lax rules about playing ball in the house.

On the first long shelf we have this now very old photo of me, baby Bela, and Griffin. To add some more visual interest to the area I hung the bat ornament on the wall above it. Note the gold star on the bat and the gold of the drapery in the picture--I love when colors can tie together like that! The spoon in front of the photo is a family heirloom.
Top shelf detail. This is kind of like a shrine to my little trick-or-treaters.  :)

Here is a wider view of the two shelves together. 

And a top down view of the little decorations on the cake plate. The orange box was a craft that Bela made in kindergarten that is meant to look like a grave. It has a note on the front of it that says "Here lie the bones of Bela" -- kind of creepy! We keep little Halloween treasures inside like bat and spider rings. 

I hope this has inspired you to do a little Halloween decorating around your house! I'm linking up to the Inspired Room's Fall Nesting Party and I hope you'll give the other bloggers there a look, too, for even more inspiration!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

{Day 17: Creating Living Room Loveliness}

Why can't I decide about a table for the foyer? Because we haven't gotten our new couch yet. But... we're getting a new couch!!!

We shopped for it on Memorial Day, thought about it all summer, and went back on Bela's birthday to make the purchase. 

We chose a sectional from a big Michigan-based furniture store. 
This is what the new couch looks like, but without the "cuddler" (the chaise) on the end. We also chose a different fabric; the store model is upholstered in a microfiber, which the salesman admitted he has, and with three kids, said it drives him nuts! The pile is always running the wrong way. 

We chose a B-grade fabric in kind of a sandy oatmeal color that we both loved best, and then purchased a stainmaster plan because, well, we live with two little kids and a dog. The fabric can get stained or ripped or whatever and they'll clean, fix, or replace it. I tend to be a little Generation-X skeptical about such offers, but we'll see...

I also have to admit that I didn't understand how fabrics were graded at the time, and assumed that grade A was best, just like in school. Being the budget-conscious mama that I am, I thus reached for grade B. I was so thrilled that my favorite--the exact fabric I had imagined and dreamed for this couch--was available. But, as many of you readers already know, that's not how fabric is graded. Here's a great explanation of fabric grades for those of you who were like me and want to know more.

A couch is an investment, though. It's one of the biggest pieces (both in size and price) in your home and you'll have it for a long (LONG) time. We'll spend a lot of time sitting on it, creating memories (because we're the kind of family that enjoys cuddle time and Friday night movies and reading books, sitting right next to each other, together.)

This is what the sofa looks like in one of the showrooms. As nice as this room may be, I guarantee it's not how I want our room to look. Wrong colors, too generic, nothing special.

But what kind of end tables will we use? Will we have a coffee table or an ottoman? Will we put a console behind the sofa? And that is where it gets difficult to make some decisions for the foyer... Because this is what the space looks like now.

That's the back of one of our current sofas in the mirror. In the past, we've had a tall table behind the sofa and it's very handy. You can put a drink on it, or a table lamp, or a basket for all the remote controls. Plus it's still in the foyer so it can serve the same function as having a table on the wall where the mirror is to hang. 

The couch won't be here until later in November so there's still a long time to think and create. And, to decide if we want to paint now or later... Because this is not how I want the room to look, either.


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