hermes and hestia and some studio love

I've been hanging out with this book a lot lately (see the sidebar for info). I bought it right after we moved into the little gray house, which is actually a bigger-than-we-need gray house, because after over ten years of apartment and condo living, Neel and I were moving into our first honest-to-god house together. On our drive across the country to a land both foreign and familiar to us, I spent a lot of time thinking about framing our new life in this new space.

I still think about these things, oh, almost daily, and I love books like this. I tried for a long time with this book and books like Denise Linn's Sacred Space, or Karen Kingston's to work hard at really creating the kinds of spaces that they talk about. A lot of it doesn't quite feel like the right fit for me. Too much bell-ringing and energy-clearing. Oh, I tried it all, but boy did I feel self-conscious doing it. Still, books like this are so inspiring and... well, comforting. They tell me it's okay to spend time (way too much time, actually) thinking about stuff like, so, if I do get some brown curtains for the bedroom, what will that do to the gray and red quilt I want to make us? I still haven't decided about that one, but what I find works best for me is to simply be mindful of the space I'm living in. Really, being mindful is the way I want to try to live every aspect of my life, but it comes out more clearly in my home.

Jane Alexander talks about bringing Hestia, the goddess of the hearth back into our homes. Our lives, Alexander argues, are Hermes-driven, hectic and over-full. Over-full to the point that we have lost the essential order and sense of haven that our homes should give us. And I love this: Alexander points out that the word "focus" is a Latin word for hearth, and the hearth is Hestia's domain. You honor Hestia when you lay your table with attention and care, or when you light a fire to sit by on a cool autumn evening.

When I think about the rooms in my home, the idea of intention is what comes most to my mind. I like rooms with intention. Rooms that have a clear use and are clearly used. That's where Hestia seems to sing most for me. I offends my sense of order and focus when rooms are a hodge-podge of items and intents. "Let's put the CD case in here because there's room on that one wall, and it doesn't really go anywhere else," kinds of rooms. I'm never successful, but boy I'm trying. Our kitchen is our family room and home office, but really it's meant to be all of those things. Do I think a comfy sectional with a wall-mounted flat screen for tv watching and XBOX playing would give it more intention, well sure. But the sofa that's here now is serving it's purpose just fine. The tv too, I suppose. And what else is funny is that my same sense of order isn't offended in other homes. Just my own. In other people's houses, I tend to find myself thinking things like, "what a great idea to put the CD cabinet there. I wonder if ours would work in a different spot." Go figure.

All this thought about intention brings me right around to the Blue Rain Room. Of all our rooms, this room has had the least intention of any. For awhile, at least. When we moved in, the previous owners were finishing up a master bedroom/kitchen (don't get me started on that one...) addition, and what was once just a smallish bedroom became a walk-through room to the master. It's hard to know what to do with a walk-through bedroom with no lighting, only one outlet and a really small closet. If we'd had another baby, it would have made a great nursery, for awhile at least, but since we didn't, it just became a room we walked through to get to our bedroom. We plunked some bookshelves in there because that was a good place for them. We talked about ordering a closet system from IKEA and turing it into a closet space while using our current closet to expand our master bath. Somewhere along the way, as we were just walking through, I painted it this lovely shade of gray blue (Rain Washed, by Behr), and the color alone made me happier to be in there.

I started sewing only shortly before starting blogging, so have only recently needed a space. Knitting, which I've been doing for awhile, can be done anywhere... in the car, in front of the tv, on the front porch. Stuff your yarn and needles somewhere and you're good to go.

Sewing's different. With sewing, you need to be somewhere. Knitting you can pick up and take along. Knitting you can realize halfway through Top Chef that you have an unfinished sock or Josephine next to you and work your way through a few rows. Sewing you have to intend to do. It requires intention. Perhaps that's why I'm falling in love with it.

So I carved out a little space. Moved a table, squeezed in my machine, bought an ironing board. Tried to hang a shelf (it fell). Cleared a bookcase for some fabric. Bought some lights. Dragged in about a mile of extension cords. I did some research too. Spent a lot of time looking enviously at other crafter's studios. Some of my favorites can be found here and here or here or here. And did you know there's a whole craftroom pool over at Flickr? I could spend days digging around all those photos. Those spaces, and many others too numerous to name, all sing the same song to me. They are ordered and deliberate and intentional. They are as much about inspiration as they are about utilzation. Intention, as I well know, can be beautiful, and I want the Blue Rain Room to be filled with order and intention and inspiration too.

We've been working hard in here over the past few weeks. Really hung some shelves. Paid attention to what went on them. Oh the luxury of more than enough space. It's a dream really. I already felt lucky to have a room here that I could carve out just for me and my endeavours. Now, walking through here, I feel extra-blessed.

Many of the things that inspire me are here, from the baby blanket my great-grandmother made me to some pottery of Callum's to a photo of Neel as a young child...even the range of colors on the spools of thread hanging on the wall. There's still work to do, I need a better table to cut fabric on and definitely some better lighting. And one day I'll get my act together and get over to flickr to put some notes on these photos, but right now I can't wait to get to work!

Sometimes being mindful is about nothing more than putting my daily (or three) sparkling water in my grandmother's glass with a slice of lemon instead of just drinking it from the can. Sometimes it involves measuring and painting and many trips to the hardware store and pilot holes like a dotted line across the wall. Sometimes it's as much about how you got the room this way as it is about what you do in it once that space is ordered to your liking. All I know is that I smile when I walk through here now. That it's hard to walk through without stopping and grabbing a piece of fabric or digging out a matching bobbin. That I seem to settle into myself when I'm in there. And that my brain is about to explode with all the stuff I want to do, starting with every single project first and doing them all right now.

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baby steps

Well, while Neel didn't come home and put the numbers on the house, measure for shelves, or hang shelves, he did help me take our bed apart for staining.

It was kind of fun to sleep like this last night, mattress and box spring on the floor. I told Callum that I felt like Ma in Little House on the Prarie when they make their beds on the floor of the newly-framed house. We've slept like this, camped out in our own bedroom, a couple of times before. Once was when Neel was in graduate school, and he and our pup Phoebe and I were all kneeling (well, maybe Pheebs wasn't kneeling, exactly) on the bed to look out the window at a bird. The slats of my grandmother's bed failed somehow and we all came crashing down.

The second time was after our move to California while we were waiting to purchase this very bed that I'm staining today. Our mover wanted to set up Grandma's bed in the master bedroom for us, but I knew that we'd be getting another bed soon. I wanted the mattress and boxspring on the floor while we waited. He just did not understand this or me, and since I pretty much just want everyone to be happy, I let him set up the damn bed. Good grief. What a pushover.

Lucy is really concerned about these latest developments. (I'm sure she thinks it has something to do with that dog she met yesterday.) She has a routine, you know. Every night she comes upstairs with us and crawls under the bed to wait while we brush our teeth and settle in. Only after we're both tucked in does she come out and put her paws up on Neel's side for him to lift her into the bed. She can get in herself, but just won't. Not at bedtime. She had the most pathetic, confused look on her face last night after she hopped up onto the bed and watched us in the bathroom getting ready. Today she's been following me most carefully as I go to work on the staining. Keeping tabs.

So here we are, past the point of no return, right in time for my panicked second thoughts. Oh little bed, how I loved you just the way you were. Seriously, sometimes I am impossible to live with. I know. But I do like the stain, and I think it'll look really nice. I've been wanting to do this for years. It's just the transition, I suppose that has me overwrought.

That's what we're up to today. Staining and knitting or reading in between coats. Trying not to think about little doggies or all the other stuff I want to get done.

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muddle and midden

The backs for some necklace rolls waiting for me to choose their linings.

Neel asked me this morning if it felt like a burden to post on the blog everyday. No, not really, not yet. Mostly it still feels like an exciting daily challenge, and while I imagine that I'll have periods of feeling burned out and wiped out, they haven't happened yet. Today is different. All that's wrong with today is that I'm cranky and muddled and not sure I should subject anyone to this particular mood. And yet here we are. Sorry.

I feel scattered and restless and well, grumpy is really the only word for it. Not enough time on my own to recharge my batteries and a million and ten things I want to do. And why is it that here I am, working to reduce the clutter and excess in my life, but I need more and more things to accomplish that reduction. Baffling.

Take this cheap Target bookcase for example. It's in my dining room right now, holding cookbooks, some of the pitchers I've collected and Buddha. I don't like that it's a cheap Target bookcase, the pitchers are hard to see and the cookbooks are hard to get to. I end up stashing my favorite ones, the ones I keep going back to, next to the island in my kitchen.

So, breezily I decide that we need to get rid of the book case. (Had I mentioned that yet Neel?) Bye-bye cheap Target bookcase. Here's the problem. I need the cookbooks and I want the pitchers and the cut-glass Turkey that was my grandmother's and the vase my Dad gave me and Buddha. (And really here's where we get to the main crux of my eternal dilemma. I want to minimize my life, but I love my things. Bummer.) Actually, I think I mostly have this one solved. Not the eternal dilemma, just the bookcase dilemma. Read on...

Here is my "pantry." It's actually fairly close to an ideal pantry for me which would be long and narrow and have shelves that were only one can deep so I would never again end up with four cans of garbanzo beans. It's a hallway attached to the kitchen that has two sets of stainless steel shelves for all of our food. (I know, I know, I could stand to do some minimizing here as well.) You can see that there's tons of wasted space up near the top, and for a long time I've been wanting to put a shelf along the top for some of our appliances. Not appliances like the refrigerator. Appliances like the Cuisinart. It'll be a long shelf, so I'm thinking that the cookbooks could go here too. Definitely more accessible, and that takes care of three shelves in the cheap Target bookcase.

So what to do with the pitchers, the vase, the turkey and Buddha. Well they need to be somewhere...I could scatter them throughout the house. Still, I'd really like to do some more work on the bluerairoom, and I'd love to surround myself with some of my favorite pitchers, turkeys and Buddhas up there where I work. What do I need for that to happen?

More shelves. I'd like the whole wall behind the sewing machine to be shelved. I'd use it for storage, for sure, but what a great place for some of my favorite things. I went to Lowes and bought some brackets and looked briefly at their pre-cut laminate shelving. I want color, so I want to paint these (both the pantry and the studio shelves) instead of going the easy laminate way out. I just want it now. I want Neel to come home from work and help me measure and then go to Lowes with me to have the boards cut and come home and put in the brackets while I paint and then help me put them up. Now. (Hi honey! Hope you're having a good day!)

While I was at Lowes, I got some numbers for our house that I want to put on NOW. I got gel stain to stain my bed that I want to take apart and prep NOW, and I got an extra hose that I don't really care when it gets attached to my outdoor shower.

A restless muddled midden. That's what this is.

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backyard morning

Oh. My. Gosh. What a glorious day. It's 75 degrees on the second day of July. Seven. Five. Seventy-five. I can't even believe it. (And no humidity, which is even more amazing.) We have all the windows open and the back door, and with the ceiling fan on in the tv room, it's almost...wait for it...chilly.


Callum has been jonesing for some bamboo lately. He had Neel ask a friend of ours if we could cut a piece for him to play with, and he's been making all sorts of plans for that day. He took a ride with our neighbor Tyler to go get a sprinkler last night and on the way Callum apparently told Tyler all about the bamboo. Well, Tyler is about the perfect kind of friend a boy could hope for, because from the front yard of another neighbor's house we watched them come home from the hardware store and walk right into Tyler's house. Nothing unusual in that, but out they came a few minutes later with Callum holding two tall sticks of bamboo. Instant gratification. Callum says, "I'm gonna get some bamboo." And Tyler says, "I have bamboo. It's yours." (And what a gift! In the less than 12 hours since that bamboo got to our house, it's been a cannon, a pole vault, a probe on a spaceship and a gate for Lucy.)

Last week Tyler took Callum on a (sort of) high speed chase to locate the Ice Cream Van after it sped past our house. He does that for me too. Manages to get me just what I need when I need it. Those stainless steel counters that reflect all my cooking photos back at me? All Tyler. There is so much I need to say about this wonderful block in my own little corner of the world here. (And Rebecca, who is too busy today to even stop by - hi Rebecca!- is being remarkably patient about it.) But where to begin? I'll start somewhere, soon. Promise

I'm having dinner with a friend tonight, so it's going to be "Man's Night" at our house. Neel and Callum are going to have (birch) beer and frozen pizza and watch some mannish movie like The Great Escape. How can I seriously expect some lettuce wraps and an Asian Pear Mojito to compare?

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back safe, home again


Ahhh...Greece. It was so worth the 23 hours of travel it took us to get home yesterday. I have so much to show and tell, things like olives at breakfast and sleeping under an umbrella by the Aegean, but for now it's enough to have the early morning house to myself (my body thinks it's noon still) with Neel and Callum sleeping upstairs. Lucy is dogging (get it?) my every step, the crepe myrtle is blooming (!), and I didn't miss the hydrangeas (!), and our golden rain tree out front is deep yellow, showing me that color comes earlier to Virginia, compared to the same trees that line the streets of Athens.

More stories and pictures soon, bu for now I'm going to look up a recipe for frappe, buy a new Greek cookbook, and have a look at this which came while I was gone...and generally try to figure out how to make my life more Greek...

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–adjective, -er, -est.
1. (of vegetation, plants, grasses, etc.) luxuriant; succulent; tender and juicy.
2. characterized by luxuriant vegetation: a lush valley.
3. characterized by luxuriousness, opulence, etc.: the lush surroundings of his home.
[Origin: 1400–50; late ME lusch slack; akin to OE lysu bad, léas lax, MLG lasch slack, ON lǫskr weak, Goth lasiws weak

I think I might need some more peonies. Yeah. I do.

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Because of this (Lucy, STAY!):

And this:

We finally decided to do this:

And this:

Seriously, we must have had four patches of different shades of purple on our porch for the last two, okay three years. That's why we decided to paint the steps something called "Essex green." Or a little darker. Don't worry, the purple still exists, in its darkest mood.

Here are the steps:

And the purple door.
Looks nice together, hmm?

What's funny is that while I was doing this:

Neel and Callum went off to do this:

Not very fair, but the reward is having it done. And knowing that Neel will do the second coat.

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