December 4, 2016: Hola everyone! Winter has arrived in Milwaukee and there are snow flurries today. Despite several hard freezes remarkably my "spikes" in two of my patio planters have absolutely refused to die. The rosemary and thyme plants I nursed inside the house through last winter spent the summer in their pot outside next to the side stoop off the driveway, where they get plenty of sunshine all day long. I transplanted them into a cozy sheltered spot right next to the stoop in October and they are still green and growing, too! With the delay in getting the drywall patching done in the relatively minor "reconstruction" work I had done in my kitchen, I am way behind my time in getting the house decorated. But yesterday I got my wreath decked out with extra lights and dressed the front door of the house, and my battery-operated traditional candles were put up on the window sills all around the house Friday evening. It becomes a ritual to go around at dusk and turn the tops to the right to turn the candles "on" and at bedtime to go around and turn the tops to the left to turn the candles "off." Today I put some "glittery" throw pillow covers purchased new last month from H&M on three of my sofa pillows to glam things up a bit in the living room and add some sparkle. Later on, after I sufficiently fuel myself up with wine and snacks and probably to distract myself while I listen to the Packers game on the radio, I will huff and puff and pull my artificial tree up from storage in the basement. I will decorate it simply this year. Every year I say that, and every year I end up throwing just about everything except the kitchen sink on the tree. I am very proud of myself this year, though. I did not buy a single new ornament or Christmas doo-dad for the house (throw pillow covers don't count!!!) Happy Holidays to all, with hope and fervent prayers for 2017. I've a feeling we're all going to need a lot of help from Goddess in the coming year. Jan

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What About That Back Hall Mess - It's DISAPPEARED!

Hola darlings!

I resolved to do something today about that back hall mess that I (and guests) can see when sitting at my dining table.  I wrote about in December.  As I'm trying to gussy-up the place as I work on the kitchen redo, I wanted to come up with an easy and inexpensive way to hide the mess.

I'd been stewing on it for awhile, plowing through Pinterest for ideas, shopping online, looking at all different sorts of put-together closet storage solutions, armoirs, etc. and all cost more than I wanted to spend.  The ridiculous part is -- I believe I had mentioned just hanging a curtain on a rod back in December -- and then proceeded to ignore this simplest and least expensive idea!

Finally, sick of looking at it as I sat hacking through my income tax returns with a machete, today I had enough!  ENOUGH!  I took a short walk to the Family Dollar near me and bought a tension rod that I knew would fit.  Within a few minutes after I got back home and unwrapped the rod, voila!  The mess was hidden away.  I should have done this a long time ago, duh!

Now you see it:


And now you don't!


It doesn't get much simpler than this.  I think I'll press the curtain, though.  Maybe shop for something a bit more "elegant."   This is one of the curtains that was taken down from my Shezebo outside when I winterized it.  It's a little hard to tell in the photo, but the stripe colors are darker and ligher grey, cream, blue, a sort of goldish olive green -- all colors that "go" with the colors used in both the kitchen/dining area and the back hall.  The rings make it super-easy to move the curtain back and forth on the rod and one curtain fits the opening just fine.

I keep staring at it, LOL.  I think I'm in love...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Kitchen Reno: Big Bad Blank Wall and What I Did (Am Doing) About It

Hola everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, whichever one you celebrate. This year Christmas, Hannukah and Kwaanzi all seemed to converge around the same time.  There are always the Winter Solstice celebrations, too, which are probably the most ancient of all.  I always look forward to the day on the calendar when I can mark off that daylight STARTS EARLIER AND LASTS LONGER once again!

That big blank wall staring me in the face every time I walk into my kitchen/dinette area (constantly, it seems) and have tried to avoid looking at --


it didn't exist in quite this form (and was covered up by the fridge) before I had the wall work done, but now POW, there it IS.

I'm not one to decorate every bare wall in my house, but this walls cried out to me for - something.

I dug through my stash of old picture frames and "art" in the basement - several times - and thought I had a plan.  But I ditched it.  The 24 x 36 framed print of a 17th century Dutch still life of flowers against a black background just didn't seem "right" for the space, somehow.  The scale was off, the mood was off, veering too much toward the traditional.

After more pondering and looking around online for abstract art posters (when did posters get so expensive?), I window-shopped online for "marble/mineral" look wrapping paper or wallpaper in tones of gold/grey/white/black.  I found beautiful hand-made papers at Mulberry Paper.  But I didn't want to order and have to wait, then get frames or figure out what I was going to do for frames or not, etc.

So, I continued to poke around my house and online looking for ideas. WHAT can I use?  I ended up using an idea I had used in the living room, just on the other side of that bare kitchen wall.  I used mirrors I had on hand, and borrowed three mirrors from the mirror arrangement from the living room.  That was taken down in preparation for the wall work done.  After I finish painting the patched drywall in the living room, I will make a new arrangement with the remaining living room mirrors.

This is what I ended up with (the borrowed mirrors are the two end mirrors in the top row and the large mirror in the center):



After looking at it for awhile, I lowered the two square mirrors in the bottom row to better even out the spacing so that it matches that in the top row. Turns out the square mirrors are 9" square and the small round mirrors are all about 10" in diameter.  The adjustment made all the difference in how the arrangement looks but I haven't taken a new picture of it yet.

The bookcase I ordered (with two doors on the bottom) arrived on December 22nd and has been hanging out against a wall in my rarely used front entrance, waiting for the living room to be put back to its normal arrangement.  That will clear floor space for me to unpack the box and wrestle with putting the unit together.

The bookcase will eventually have its back against the side of the fridge, and will "just fit" the width and height of the fridge.  It's white, which will be the color of the cabinets when they've been painted.  The two bottom shelves will provide covered storage for my squirrels' nuts and birdseed and the upper shelves will provide space for my cookbooks, my wood canister set, and display of some of my favorite glass and china pieces.

It's coming along!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

My tree is very simple this year, not even a topper.  I should have had a fire going in the fireplace, but I have those later in the evening, about 7 p.m.  I wanted to get the photos before the twilight faded.  Using the "scene" setting on my ancient digital camera results in photos that can look too bright, but if I use natural light, they often come out too dark -- as witness below the difference between the "scene" setting in the first photo and the normal setting in the remainder of the photos.






Happy Holidays from Maison Newton.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What About That Back Hall Mess???

Hola everyone!  First and most important, this will be my last post before Christmas, so HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE.

It's gorgeous here today.  After warmer (in the 20s) but dreary and damp weather yesterday, it's a bright and sunny 38 whopping warm degrees today and the snow is melting, hooray!  Not a cloud in the sky, this is shorts weather around here, folks.  It will be warm through the weekend, with rain expected on Christmas Day.  There will still be plenty of snow, though, as temperatures will

Of course leave it up to me be racing ten steps ahead when I haven't even gotten half-way through the kitchen redo.  But that back hall!  It's driving me nuts.

All of the homes in this area with my house's footprint were built between 1955-1956 and all of them have the angled sink facing two corner windows, rounded "knick-knack" shelves on the ends of the cabinets framing those windows, a peninsula which, in original form, also holds three half round shelves, and a small back hall from the side driveway that tops the steps to the basement and a step up into the dining area of the kitchen/dinette.  None of the photos of such homes I've seen, including my own home, has any indication that there was ever a door from the back hall into the dinette.

As a practical matter, a regular swing in or swing out door wouldn't work, there just simply isn't enough room.  There isn't enough room for a pocket door either, or a barn door on a runner, unless light switches are relocated.  So, that back hallway is open to view from the kitchen/dinette area.  And mine isn't very pretty.  It holds my trash container, my recycling container, a four-tiered wire shelf unit holding myriad gardening tools and supplies; there are five coat hooks that hold my purse, jackets during the summer and a host of winter regalia this time of year (gloves, hats, scarves, coats/jackets), a broom, a snow shovel this time of year, and a dust pan.  And then there is the shelf above!  That holds yet more stuff, but it's difficult for me to reach; I usually have to pull out the mini ladder to access some of the items.

So - a picture is worth a thousand words.  More pictures are worth more words, right?  You can get a glimpse of the stuff in that back hall in this photo:



Okay, two are enough.  I think you see the problems.  LOL!  Not exactly the kind of thing one wants to look at when sitting in what I hope to be a sort of "lux" dining area experience.

So, I started thinking about what to do back there to try and streamline storage and make the space presentable, since I cannot cover it up.  Well, I could hang a swagged curtain, but that is so 1970s and would also get in the way.  I am constantly in and out of that back hall area and I can quite easily picture myself getting tangled up in any kind of draped curtain.

The shelf has to go.  So do all of those coat hooks.  I'll be shopping for some kind of cabinet that will hold nearly everything, which will go a long way to improving the "view" from the kitchen/dining area and making me much happier.
I'll let you know when I come up with something.  Failure is NOT an option :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Kitchen Reno: And On the Umpteenth Day, She Rested...

Hola everyone and happy holidays to all!

I have finished doing the painting necessary to cover up the drywall patched and mudded/primed areas, hooray!  It took some doing but I'm more or less satisfied with the results.  Short of going out and buying more paint so I can redo the entire wall to get even coverage over old and new, it's about all I can do.  I used every trick I could find on the internet plus some savvy advice from the handsome young novice painter/drywaller/mudder who appeared on my doorstep some Fridays ago just as deer hunting season was opening up north (see prior posts for back-story), to get the "new" paint to "match" the texture and sheen or "hand" of the existing paint on the walls, which was evidently done some time in 2014 before I bought the house in July of that year.  I assume it was 2014 because that's the date on the leftover paint I was fortunate enough to find in the can left in the basement storage area, as most people do no run out and buy paint and then leave it sit around for 4-5 years unopened while they hem and haw about whether they (me) feel like painting.  After watering the paint down with 1/4 cup of water I eeked out enough to do the job and even got some touch-ups done, too.  And there is a teeny weeny bit of paint left over.

Fridge now sits where doorway used to be.

In honor of this occasion and to make you all think I'm the world's best housekeeper in the world,
I cleaned most of the stuff off the countertops that normally resides there.  My house has never \looked this great, LOL!

The hated corner windows, impossible to reach to clean - or open/close.

This is now the entry from living room into the kitchen/dining areas - no more window!
The sofa normally sits where the Christmas trees are.

Looking through the opening from the living room.  You can kinda sorta see all
the snow piled up in my backyard/patio through the patio doors.

The fridge is in its new home and fits like a glove next to the countertop.  Sometime later today the bookcase I ordered should be delivered, and since I finally finished shoveling myself out from under 16" of snow that fell over 9 days (it ended early Sunday morning) in two heavy snowy weekends and the 35 mph winds that created yet more drifts yesterday have moved east, I was able to get back outdoors without risking frostbite in 3 minutes,  I will now have time to unpack it and put it together.  Well, if I feel like it.  It may well until after Christmas.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Kitchen Reno: Painting Patched Drywall Is - Ugh!

Hola and Happy Holidays to everyone!

We are in for another weekend snowstorm here so I'm keeping this brief because I've got to do two important errands (1) grocery shop and (2) hit the liquor store. We got about 7-8" last week over Friday/Saturday, and we're in for a rerun.  Reruns already, geez.

I have started painting the areas in the kitchen where the drywall was patched!  I should have done it sooner, of course - but I have to be in the "mood" and the "mood" to paint doesn't strike very often.  It is not one of my favorite things to do.

Tell me, please, who DOES THIS:



More about THAT later.

I had dug out the supplies to paint the week before and found a scant amount of kitchen wall paint left in the basement.  YAY!  So everything has been sitting front and center on my breakfast bar area for more than a week staring at me every single day, taunting me.  Yesterday, a nice sunny and bitterly cold and windy day with windchills dropping to 20 below zero, I figured it was time to start painting as I knew I would not be forcing myself to come up with anything else to avoid painting, not even a trip to the liquor store.  Sigh.

So, I get the taping done and since I didn't have to tape off the ceiling, it went surprisingly quickly and no up and down my rickety old ladder.  I had no excuses left.  I got the paint can opened and saw there was maybe 3/8th of an inch of paint left at the bottom of the can.  That wouldn't be enough to do the job.  So, I did what any rational woman would do.  I added water to thin the paint down.  It hasn't been used in 2 years, after all, and could use some thinning.  I poured in about 1/4 cup (I used a coffee cup that was nearby and added water to it) and stirred everything up thoroughly, giving both of my arms a good workout.  I used a small sponge brush to do edges/edging and a small (4") sponge roller to paint rather than a full-size roller, which I knew would suck up the paint tremendously.  I don't want to run out and have to make a trip to the big box store to buy a quart of matching paint.  I think I have enough watered down grey paint to get the job done.

Even with 2 coats of primer the patched areas sucked up the paint, especially where the mud was applied thicker to try and smooth out the transition between the closed in doorway and existing walls.  Close up, as I was rolling away with my tiny roller, I could see all kinds of flaws, but I wasn't about to stop and try and patch/fix/sand the problem areas myself!  I'll save that for the time I repaint the kitchen - if that every happens (probably never).  The fridge will cover up most of the flaws anyway and it's not like people go around staring at your walls from 3 or 4 inches away inspecting for flaws.

Because I was using the tiny roller, it probably took 2x as long as it would have using the regular sized roller, but I did get a lot of coverage out of relatively little paint as the sponge roller is more amenable to being squished against the wall to urge just a bit more paint out of the roller.  There is more than enough paint still left to do a second and even third touch-up coats later today.  Building up a couple of thin layers of paint will also help supply much needed "texture" to the new and sanded areas.  The walls in this house have been painted several times over the years, and what I thought was an "orange peel" texture is actually, the painter/drywall mudder guy told me, just built up paint texture from multiple layers!  Even after just one thin coat, however, I can see success staring me in the face, YAY!  That serves as motivation to get this part of the project done.

Now, about that photo of a kitchen outlet near an area where new drywall was applied.  I did not show myself removing the actual outlet faceplate.  That's right.  The dudes who did all the work on the drywall, mudding/sanding/priming -- never removed the faceplate!  They mudded right around it!  They primed right around it!  Of course that got smush all over the thing, and like most men who are blind when it comes to such things, they made a half-hearted attempt at some point to wipe the smush off!  Didn't work.

So, after I finished taping off the woodwork and wall areas that I don't want to slop paint on (because I'm a crappy painter and I get it all over myself, the floor, and unintended wall spaces and the odd piece of personal property in the next room -- how does that happen?), I removed the faceplate to scrub it down.   And discovered RED PAINT!

Notice where the grey paint is.  The grey paint was applied (according to the paint can notation), in 2014.  They painted with the grey AROUND the faceplate, did not remove the faceplate!  At least whoever painted the kitchen dark red had removed the faceplate, LOL.  And there is also a layer of a sort of goldish color underneath the red, that looks like it was done minus faceplate on wall as well.

Can you imagine an entire kitchen in dark red?  Holy Hathor!  Can you imagine someone either so inexperienced in painting, or so lazy, that they didn't remove the faceplate!

Okay - to the liquor store!  Oops, I mean, grocery store, then liquor store.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Kitchen Reno: Putting Stuff Together and Dragging a Heavy Box - Ugh!

Hola darlings!

Progress!  I am nearly finished assembling the chairs.  My poor hands.  I am not as strong as I used to be, sadly, just a fact of getting older it seems, and my hands especially do not have the kind of strength they used to have, so turning an Allen key for what seems hours on end can be downright painful.  I have resorted to cheating by using a pair of pliers to get extra torque.  Three down - one to go!


Now, let me tell you about these chairs.  As you can see, or not, since I am not the world's best photographer and I'm not even going to tell you how old and how few pixels or whatever they're called my digital camera has.  It amazes me it still works actually, but it's a Nikon, it will probably outlive me.  Anyway, I unboxed the chairs last night and pulled one out.  I thought hmmmm, this is strange, as the chair just did not look like it was all that tall to me.  It's supposed to be nearly 41" tall.  The chair back and back legs are all attached in one long piece.  So I pulled out my trusty tape measure and sure enough -- lucky if this chair is 38" tall at it's highest point at the top center of the chair!  The measurements at Wayfair said 40.9" tall.  Now I don't know about you, but I think that's rather a large difference in height, especially if one has a taller table!  The table I'm using right now has a table-top height of nearly 34"!  These chairs look like midgets next to it.

Mightily ticked off, I measured the other chair pieces.  Seat measured 17.5" at its widest point, a full inch less than the 18.5" described at Wayfair for this model of chair.  And the seat height - DON'T GET ME STARTED.

I nearly blew a gasket, I'll tell you that much.  It is supposed to be 20".  It is NOT.  It is LESS. Fireworks erupted at Maison Newton last night, entertaining my neighbors for at least 15 minutes   I then fired off a blistering "review" at the Wayfair website about the outright lies on the size/dimensions and color of this chair.

The COLOR!  How on earth is light beige the equivalent of RICE PAPER?  Here's a clue - it isn't.  ARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!

The chair upholstery is nicely done, well stitched and seamed, a good sturdy and nicely textured fabric.  But it isn't anywhere near the creamy to white-ish color I was expecting.  I looked at photos of this chair on three different computers and on all three computers the chairs looked pretty darn white-ish.  The chairs I received are not white-ish at all.  I dug through the boxes and found the packing slips.  They are described as "rice paper" in color.  Great, just great!

On the plus side, the chairs arrived in excellent condition and other than painful hands and taking longer than the little amount of time most people bragged about spending putting these together at Wayfair's website in the reviews, they are great chairs and I got a great bargain on them.  By the way, last night they were even less expensive (by $6 for four chairs) than the sale price I scored.  So, I will keep them, and pray to the domestic Goddess Hera that the chair seats are just the right height for my new 30" tall table.  It is just too much of a hassle to pack them all up and send them back.  If they don't work, one of my newly married nephews will probably inherit them from "rich" Auntie Jan and I will not buy any chairs online, only in person and with tape measure in hand!

Then, about 6:15 p.m. in the pitch black darkness and drizzle last night, my doorbell rings.  Lo and behold, it is Fedex and I'm thinking what the hell?  I had received an email the day before from Amazon (where I ordered my table from) saying that the table had been delayed in transit and not to expect it yesterday.  SURPRISE SURPRISE!

Fedex guy was nice enough to wheel the large box into my garage where it spent the night, in the cold and dark, poor baby.  Today, taking a break from chair assembly duty, I determined to wrestle that box into the house, come hook or come crook.

Garage:


Driveway loaded with nut shells from my squirrelly pets.  I've been busy and not sweeping daily, plus it was cold and damp today, not conducive to a good sweep outdoors.

Back stoop:


Three steps from driveway level into the back hall - that third step is a killer, let me tell you!

"Walking" the box from the garage to the stoop was easy enough.  Leveraging the box up the first step, and from the first step to the second step, also relatively easy.  The ancient Egyptians would be proud of me :)

Then, with some heavy lifting/heaving and tearing of the cardboard box (which would give way first, cardboard box or Jan's arms???), I got one end of the box up on the third step into the back hall!

Back hall and final step up into the kitchen:


Dummy moi, in my excitement in getting the humungous box almost into the house, I didn't use a piece of wood for leverage and I didn't move the rug out of the way.  UGH!  And the box kept getting stuck on the rubber seal that seals the outside drafts from coming into the house (that large yellowish looking strip just inside the threshold).  I tugged.  I pulled.  I heaved.  I tried lifting.  Could not get that fricking box up that final step into the kitchen.  I wasn't able to get a sufficiently good grip on the slippery outside of the cardboard box and I don't have enough arm strength to heave it.  I needed more leverage.

As I toyed with the idea of dashing down to my mini junk-woodpile in the basement "shop" room (a convenient area put together by Mr. Former Owner), it occurred to me to try something easier.  I grabbed a box cutter and made two slits, one on either side, lower on either side of the box, large enough to get my hands into.  I heaved with all my might and the lip of the box topped the step and landed with a thud on the kitchen floor as I gasped for air!  Okay, slight dramatic license there.  I did gasp for air, however.  Leverage, people.  Leverage.  Leverage is everything, in heaving heavy boxes as a single woman, and in the stock market too.  Ta da!

Box in the house!


Um, yep, it's upside down.  LOL!  But I did get the right side facing out from the wall, hooray!  Good grief.  I might have a hard time believing it if somebody my age and size told me they'd heaved this damn big box that weights 84 pounds many feet across concrete from the garage up 4 steps into the house, all by herself.  But there it is, folks, the damn box!

I am now having a couple well-deserved glasses of wine before finishing assembling the last of the chairs.  Then, since I am the conquering Domestic Goddess of All, I may wrestle the Christmas tree up from the basement and rearrange the living room so I can set it up in front of the big picture window!  I'm 2 weeks late getting it up as it is, eek!