Monday, August 31, 2009

The Quest For the Holy Grail, Ur, I Mean New Bedding

The time had come. The quest for new bedding. And here it is. But first, let's reminisce about the old bedding.

Ok, here is the bedroom before. And I know what you're saying. "There was nothing wrong with that duvet set. Nothing at all." But let me assure you, it's smoke and mirrors.

First, I must confess... I like to eat salsa and chips in bed at night while I watch one of two very saucy and foul mouthed ladies; Kathy Griffin or Chelsea Handler. Salsa and sassy (inappropriate) comediennes. These are my vices. But with the salsa and belly laughs comes the accidents. The tomato hued dribbles. The fiesta themed stains. Needless to say, they don't wash out very well.

Also, it's no secret that Mabel sometimes sleeps with us. Judge me if you will, but only a cruel heartless, sociopath would leave a whimpering schnauzer on the floor in the middle of a late night thunderstorm. And no matter my efforts, the aroma of Mabel on a hot summer day wafts mysteriously in our duvet cover, no matter how many times it's washed.

And just so you know, I can hear you.

"Sure Liz. It's the dog that smells (snorts into hand)."

But it's true. Dang dog.

It's all a domino effect. The less I like the bedding, the less often the bed actually gets made. Which means the bedding is kicked onto the floor and left there. Which makes me hate it even more. And I kick at it as I pass and whisper, "You disgust me." It's a downward spiral.
I remember perusing my mother's JC Penney catalogue and tearing out pages of bedrooms.
Multi-colored heart patterned bedding? Rip. I loved it.

Shiny pink satin comforter with ruffles and a canopy bed to match? Rip. I swooned.

But now, not so easy. I long for the simpler times when I chose My Little Pony themed comforter sets and all things pink or purple. Gone are those days.

And so, when I found this Nicole Miller bedding set at Bed Bath and Beyond, I was surprised that I liked it. I've made no secret of my wariness of dark colors. But when I saw the 'Anthropologie' knock off pillow that matched (it even has a tag that says "Anthology" with a similar logo, like that's going to fool anyone), I was sold.
It's an odd color, a grayish brownish purplish color. But I think it actually makes the white bed stand out a little more.

So this is the conclusion of the bedroom tour. Don't worry. This bed set will be folded neatly on the side table when the salsa jar comes out or Mabel makes a stinky late night visit. At least that's the plan...for now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not Yet Fall, In Between

This time of year is fascinating to me. It's not summer anymore. It's not yet fall. It's something in between. There is an almost unperceivable shift in the undercurrent. When I run by the lake, the pine needles blanketing the banks smell differently. The late evening breezes are a tiny bit cooler. The evening lightening bugs are dimming. The doves have stopped cooing.

I'm just itching to crawl into the attic and drag out boxes of fall decorations. But it's too soon, and as I found myself reaching for the latch in the hall ceiling last night I slapped my own hand. It's too soon for tables with pumpkins and apple pie candles, and yet, it's almost here.

Our garden seems to be making one last courageous stand, bombarding us with an onslaught of Poblano peppers and German Stripe tomatoes. The plants know summer is winding down. They see a change in the light. They hear the sound of rustling leaves. They're getting ready for fall, making the best of this in between time. And if I stand still enough, quiet enough, I can feel it too.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Painting Sidetables, Crack of Dawn

A week ago I bought these sides tables. They don't match, but I bought both of them for $35, so I figured I could make it work.

I usually attack spray painting projects with gusto, embarking on painting them ASAP. I've even been known to spray paint at night with the backyard floodlights ablaze while the neighbors wonder if we've built our own mini-baseball field of dreams. But nope. It's just me with a face mask, spraying to my heart's content. Sometimes, there just aren't enough hours in a day, so I make due at night.

But this time, I wasn't very speedy. This project drug out, mostly because Matt and I have been sick. Unlike normal people who say, "Gosh, I'm sick, I think I'll go to the doctor" Matt and I decided to tough it out. Which resulted in our finally going to the doctor anyway, only to discover Matt has strep throat and I have a viral infection that makes me cough like a swine flu victim.

Long story short, these tables have existed, half done, for days. Until this morning. I got up super early, re-energized after two days of penicillin and tackled this project once and for all. I painted them tomato red to match the shutters in the dining area. Mabel wasn't impressed.

In fact, she was downright appalled at our new, even earlier morning hours.

She'll get over it though. Finished side tables are far more important than Mabel's sleep schedule.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What If

I'm a big 'what if' person. I double check to make sure my flat iron is unplugged five times each morning. What if the house burned down? I double check to make sure my dress is not tucked into my panty hose. What if someone saw?It's happened before. You get the idea.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from the movie Some Like It Hot. Tony Curtis' character is arguing with Jack Lemon when he says...

"Why do you have to paint everything so black? Suppose you got hit by a truck. Suppose the stock market crashes. Suppose Mary Pickford divorces Douglas Fairbanks. Suppose the Dodgers leave Brooklyn! Suppose Lake Michigan overflows?"

See what I mean? And this week I've contemplated another 'what if.' What if I run out of pictures for the blog? What if I run out of things to write about? What if people check in, see things unchanged, and blow raspberries at their computer screens?

And I guess my answer is this. A no-picture post. A shrugged shouldered, "Sorry, maybe something exciting will happen this weekend."

But what if I go shopping and find the perfect chair for the new couch? What if I finally paint my half bath? What if Matt fixes a fabulous meal and lets me take pictures with the stipulation he's not photographed? What if I witness something hilarious and embarrassing (hopefully not involving me)? The possibilities are endless. So I hope you ladies have a lovely weekend. Thank you so much for your hilarious comments on the previous post, and here's hoping that your weekend 'what if's' are endless.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Happy In My Shoes: Beauty

Growing up, I wanted to look just like Carole Lombard. My peers idolized normal stars of the time; Debbie Gibson, Madonna, the entire cast of The Facts of Life. But I was different. Not because I had elevated taste on classic movies, but because I grew up sans cable.

I was raised with an artist mother who could easily live her entire life fulfilled and amused without a television set, and a father who had a run-in with the cable company which ended in a Hatfield and McCoy feud/boycott that lasts until this day. I think it was because they replaced his favorite sports station with a 24 hour gospel music ad station. I’ve never asked. I knew all I needed to know the day he donned his lineman climbing spikes, crawled up the pole in the backyard and removed the cable connection himself.

And since there was no cable, we rented movies. Mom’s favorites; classic movies. The African Queen, My Fair Lady, It Happened One Night, Mr & Mrs. Smith. I fell in love with Mryna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck. But Carole was my favorite.

Carole was tall, slim, tan, blond, funny. I wanted to be just like her. But gradually, in every stage of my life, it became obvious it was not meant to be.

In middle school the hips came. One day I was slim as a rail. The next day, thigh city. In high school I glared into the mirror, willing myself to grow at least six inches taller. Didn’t happen. In fact, I may have shrunk. In college I bleached my hair platinum blond, only to realize in horror that my dark roots started to show precisely twelve hours later. Becoming Carole wasn’t turning out as planned.

My quest to be like Carole (which to be honest waned considerably after my horrific platinum fried hair episode) made me dissatisfied. And while I do often fall down in public at least once a year(which elicits giggles from strangers), I’m no comedian.

The quest for beauty can be a frustrating thing. A bitter thing. Because it isn’t really about beauty. It isn’t really about our weight, or the shape of our faces, or the color of our eyes. It’s a matter of acceptance. A matter of liking, really and truly appreciating, who we are and what God gave us. It’s a matter of being happy in our shoes.

I started thinking about this yesterday when I read Stephenie Nielson’s blog. For those of you that read The Nie Nie Dialogues, this story needs no introduction. For those of you that don’t, Stephenie and her husband survived a horrible plane crash. They were burned badly. Their children spent months being raised by family members as her sister kept us all posted on Stephenie’s fight for life.

And Stephanie survived. But until this point none of us knew what she looked like after the accident and her numerous reconstructive surgeries.

I pride myself on the fact that I’m not a crier. Usually, if I’m crying, it’s because I’m miffed at someone. But yesterday, reading this post and seeing Stephanie’s picture, I cried. Do you know what my first thought was? Beautiful.

If you're like me, you're feeling a little ashamed right now. Stephanie Nielson is beautiful. She is beautiful because of her bravery, because of her vast love for her children, her devotion to her husband. She's beautiful because of her words and her life.

How much time have I wasted focusing on my hair, my weight, who I do and don't look like? To be happy in my shoes, I’ve come to realize how fruitless personal dissatisfaction is. What stands in your way? Do you spend hours obsessing about your weight? The shape of your nose? The threat of cankles? Oh wait, that's me.

They say that women in their 30's feel less pressure to conform. Maybe that's what I'm going through at 29, standing on the verge of a new era. I'm OK with the way I look. I don't mourn my lack of blond hair. In fact, this month I dyed my hair dark again. No more highlights. And my pale skin hasn't seen a tan in years. It feels good. It feels good to let go of the pressure. It feels good to look at Stephanie's picture and think, "THAT is beauty."

If I could go back in time and talk to myself, talk to the little girl in this picture, I would give myself some advice. I'd say, "Don't worry so much. You're beautiful the way you are. Besides, I read somewhere that Carole Lombard had a terrible potty mouth."

Monday, August 17, 2009


Bubkes: Nothing of value. From Yiddish 'bobkes; meaning 'little beans'.

I did nothing this weekend. Wait, I take that back. I got sick.

We had an exciting weekend planned. We were going to see Julie Julia ( Matt was taking me in return for my having suffered through almost three hours of hell on earth earlier this summer, aka Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). But the moment I arrived home Friday night, I knew something was wrong.

I had that old familiar burning in my lungs.
Well, hello chest congestion.
It's been a long time since I've seen you, crusty summer cold.

I was tired, achy, and the most important tell-tale sign of sickness: I had a beastly case of crankiness.So instead of going to the movies, I coughed and watched tv. All weekend. Instead of painting these mismatched side tables (I'm hoping the size/style difference wont be as noticeable once they're the same color), I watched six movies and drank gallons of apple juice.

Mabel joined me. Reclining motionless is really her forte. She participates with gusto. So there you have it. No clever posts. No flashy pictures. Bubkes. That was my weekend.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Healthy Eating... Bleh

I love veggies and fruit as much, if not more, than most people. I love a crunchy salad for lunch, baked salmon for dinner and orange slices for breakfast. I eat fiber bars in the morning, add sugar to my coffee sparingly, and dine on cottage cheese and tomatoes for supper. But sometimes, I get my fill. Sometimes I dream of Hostess Cupcakes and lose my mind.

Everyone has that other side. Another food personality. We should nick-name those mad-women alter egos who take over our brains and consume vast quantities of mozzarella sticks. Ravenous Regina. Starving Samantha. Dont-Block-The-Sonic-Drive-Through-During-Happy-Hour-Or-I'll-Run-You-Down-With-My-Car-Carrie.

What is this? Another aspect of the Curse of Eve? Wasn’t the pain of child birth enough? Nope, we have to endure massive swings in hormones that reduce us to one-woman eating machines.

This is what has happened to me. Healthy Liz has been replaced with some over-powering dark-deeded wench intent on making me eat chocolate & vanilla swirls topped with cherries from TCBY. Intent on forcing me to shove handfuls of potato chips in my mouth. Focused on reminding me how much I love olives straight from the jar, bags of cheetos a'la Brittney Spears, and diet coke after diet coke.

I like to refer to my alter ego as Break-The-Glass-On-The-Vending-Machine-Martha.

And before anyone says ANYTHING... no... I'm not pregnant. Sadly, I can reach this fevered state of eating everything in sight all on my own, without the influence of an impending baby. What can I say? Oink Oink?

And at some point, enough is enough. My fingers start to swell, my heart starts to race from the five diet cokes I've consumed since breakfast, and despite the fact that Matt assures me it isn’t so, I'm convinced that my ankles will one day reach Hilary Clinton cankle level.

So it's back on the healthy bandwagon. Back to cucumbers and baked chicken. Back to butterless baked potatoes and apple slices. Back to drinking, gulp, water. And while I look forward to buttoning my pants and wearing wedgie-less underwear yet again… Martha and I will miss our daily dates with the vending machine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

House Feature: Vertical House

Ready for a fun, funky house redo? Ok. That was a dumb question. Of course you are.

I revel in finding new home inspiration via flickr. Frankly, it’s the mother-load of cool, vintage, quirky people who fill their homes with fun and out-of-the-box finds. Some people have an incredible knack for creating a living environment that mirrors the life they lead, and Ashley is one of them.

Ashley is a realtor, and she and her husband also own a record store. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is. And on a side note, their cat is named Maple.

Vertical House was built circa 1903 for the manager of a mill in Huntsville, Alabama (gotta love old southern houses). It’s over 2,000 square feet, and if you want to grasp the sheer size of the Ashley’s home renovation endeavor, go check out her website:

Ashley was kind enough to answer a few interview questions for me, because you CANNOT look at a house this interesting and not have some questions.

How would you describe your design style?

I think my design style is really just a hodgepodge of items that have caught my eye over time. It's a constant,rotating collection of treasures I've found along life's way.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in everything!!
Outside our bedroom window, in a photo, perusing antique stores, even just taking a "mental moment" with myself each day. I sometimes think people look too hard to try to make themselves fit within a certain "look" or idea...but really, you can make it whatever you want. There's no right or wrong way to what you like, to decorating.

You have fabulous vintage finds. Any thrifting tips?

Thrifting takes patience. That's my best tip. One day you'll walk in and find so much...and the next, nothing at all. But that's the beauty of it! Each piece seems like it was meant to be when you discover it.

What should all aspiring renovator’s know?
Again, patience is key. But on a much larger scale.Everyone already knows it will take longer and cost more than they think, but the trick is to live happily the whole time. My husband and I basically squatted in our house for the first couple of winter weeks. No electricity, no water, no heat source. We made friends with the gas station attendants who saw us every night before bed and we had a blanket pile to snuggle into. But because we made the whole thing fun and "part of the process" it's now a memory we have to look back and smile on. Also, and probably more importantly, let the house speak to you. Try living in the space a while before taking it apart or doing any major overhaul. You might find you grow to like the quirky aspects. Spend time really sitting and analyzing what you see your life like in the house...picture the way you will grow with it and make sure you restore what is timeless and withstands the integrity of the home.

If you could pick your house up and put it down anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Oh good question! Can I please have my own tiny island?I've always wanted a banana tree! And a huge tropical garden!

Thank you again Ashley for letting us admire your home! Now I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm going to go to the nearest antique mall immediately and stomp around searching for some gorgeous, vintage aqua chairs just like Ashley's. I know my chances are slim, but inspiration like this makes me feel optimistic!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mabel's Trick (or Torture)

Mabel has quite the distinguished pallet. She loves all food. She eats everything. And as hard evidence I present to you this photo which displays her shapely figure. Don't worry, Matt has started taking her running. But you know that old saying that pets and pet owners start to resemble each other after a while? Well, I'll put it to you this way; I sure as heck dont gain weight in my upper body either.

Mabel's one trick, the 'hold it' trick, has been perfected since Rebecca moved in with us. Rebecca and Mabel have a connection. They get each other. Therefore Mabel is willing to submit to Rebecca's training, while she just mouths and complains at me. So much for all that malarkey about pet loyalty.

The 'hold it' trick involves Rebecca taking a piece of food and placing it on Mabel's nose, at which time she says, "Hold it." And Mabel holds it. Pure rocket science, I know. She stays as still as a statue, her little schnauzer nose sucking air in and out as she tries to detect the exact aroma of the treat on the end of her nose.

On this particular occasion it was a fresh green bean.

For all of Mabel's smart-mouthed attitude and continued insistence on trying to bite passing joggers and bicyclist who get too close to me, I will say this much: she is smart.

She'll stay just like this for as long as Rebecca ignores her. Stock still, eyes huge and unblinking.

The other night we started talking about an HGTV show and forgot poor Mabel. She stood with a treat on the end of her nose for over 10 minutes. Whoops.

So this is Mabel's trick. And torture. Don't feel too badly for her, it's the ONLY productive thing we make her do around here. Chasing squirrels and sleeping directly in the middle of a clean laundry pile to not count.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy in My Shoes: Dreams

When you were a little girl with a bouncing pony tail and sandals with ruffled socks, what did you dream about? What life did you construct for yourself on the movie screen of your mind? Did you see a cottage by the sea, children and picking up shells? Did you see suits and big buildings and nice restaurants? Ballerina skirts? Paint and canvases? Race cars (hey, girls drive fast too) or a farmhouse kitchen with pies on the window sill?

I contemplated this the other day as I watched The Kid. Have you seen it? Bruce Willis meets up with his eight year old self, a little boy with chubby cheeks who is vastly disappointed in Bruce Willis’ grown up choices for their life. He gets so upset that his little face flushes as he glares at Bruce, realizing that he doesn’t own a dog or fly jets, and screams, “No dog? NO DOG?”

And as I’ve assessed my quest to get happy in my shoes, I’ve had a similar ‘no dog’ moment of my own.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to draw on paper instead of eat it. I used to fold wads of paper down the middle and make my own books. The very first one was called “Grandma Secret.” We won’t get into the logistics of what the story is about, except to say that the opening sentence reads (cringe), “I awoke to the faint sound of someone wailing.”

As you can clearly see from my primitive, ten year old illustrations, even then I was obsessed with all things house related. This was the ‘setting’ of the story, which for some reason includes a storage room. Don’t ask, because I don’t remember.

The story also included a family portrait of the cast of characters, and yes I realize that my illustration skills were a complete apocalypse. But the dream was there. The seed was planted. And it’s been years since I allowed myself to remember, to go back and examine the dream.

My dream of writing burst into full bloom the day I picked up an Erma Bombeck book. I was probably ten or eleven, and I remember getting weird glances from friends who were immersed in Babysitter Club books while I was cackling about Erma’s unwashed children and crash-dieting attempts. And that was my dream. To write like Erma. To be a columnist. To turn the everyday hum drum, the everyday embarrassing event or tedious job into something funny and livable.

But as life moved on and I got pimples, and then started dating, and then enrolled in college and then got a job, writing like Erma was shoved under the rug. Instead of planning my life, I let outside forces plan it for me. I floated. And before I knew it, I blinked and realized my dream has been in a cryogenically frozen state just like Han Solo (that was my second childhood dream, to marry Han Solo). And that’s when I started this blog.

Blogging has been an unexpectated fulfillment of my childhood dream. And while blogger is by no means a nationally syndicated newspaper column, it fills that creative space that used to be empty. Mabel's House has, I think, put me back on the path of dreaming. Back on the path of being a small girl imagining a life spent typing and writing and sharing my life with other people. Granted, I don’t make much money doing this. But it has been a blessing, a reminder of what I started out wishing for.

To be happy in our shoes, we need to remember where we started. We need to remember the very first moment our eyes lit up and we knew instantly that we loved something. Whether it was a sport, or art, or writing, or knitting the best and most colorful pot holders in the world, we all need to remember. To be truly happy in our shoes, we need to take a pause, clear the clutter of bills and appointments and lunch meetings off our table, and remember our first loves. Remember our passions. Remember our talents.
“And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought.”Isaiah 58:11