Thursday, October 27, 2011

Country Paradise: Bringing the outdoors in

So remember when I showed you something worthy of a horror movie?

Well, I've managed to finish the project.

Of course, I have to give a little background.  A few months ago, we had an enormous tree cut down and as  a special gift, the tree men left the big trunk cut up into pieces.  How lucky was I?  Didn't they just charge you less since they didn't haul it off?  Yes, Mr. buzzkill.  I prefer to think of it as a present for the mind because it takes mental fortitude to come up with ways to actually use these enormous hulks of wood.

See ginormous wood in upper left corner.
And yes, I took this photo through a window 2 minutes ago.
One of them seemed almost level, so it dawned on me. People in the country hunt animals.  Hunters like wood in their homes.  So I could bring it inside! (since we're trying to bring the country to Roeland Park)  Of course, my favorite example of country lodge decor is my aunt and uncle's home in Birmingham, Alabama.  They live in Homewood, which is one of the swankiest areas of the city, hardly the country.  But Uncle Charlie is a hunter and has plenty of wood furniture and animal heads in his house.  Perhaps it inspired his son Aaron to become an awesome carpenter and start his own business, Lane Woodworking.  His custom work is really gorgeous.  But now I can say that woodworking runs in the family because my little project is just as cool.*

So Ryan leveled off the stump and we set to work.

After 2 cans of primer, the stump appeared ready for the good stuff.

I decided the world had had enough to white, so I went a muted turquoise.  Katie actually picked it out.

I love how the cut end soaked up the paint in such an interesting pattern.  It has many coats of paint and yet isn't uniform at all.  Since uniformity is for the birds, I adore the way this looks.

Speaking of the birds (and their poop), I have to figure out how to get it inside. The bugger is heavy. Not holding-a-30-lb-toddler-for-2-hours heavy.  But break your back heavy-as-lead.

So for now, it shall remain outside while I guard it with my pellet gun.  It'll give me plenty of time to ponder what to do with the dozen remaining wood chunks.  

*This statement in no way reflects reality.  I am but a bug, not a master carpenter.

I linked up to Saved By Suzy, Miss Mustard Seed, Domestically Speaking, and The Shabby Nest.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Fall Preview

It was pushing 90 degrees yesterday here on the prairie.  Okay, I don't live on the prairie, despite my Kansas address. You have go a tiny bit south or west to see the fields of sunflowers. But it's not that far, so Imma say I'm on the prairie. Got it?

This morning, though, I was greeted by rain. Cool breezes. The scent of someone's roaring fire (not true, but sounds good, doesn't it?).

And this view when I went out to get the paper.  Storm clouds and bright fall foliage.

With this weather, our painting projects are a tad delayed.  We're still working, but nothing is ready for a good photo yet, so here's a preview to whet your appetite.

So what are we looking at?  I'm not telling you yet.  But you can see it's hot pink.

Wait, in the blog world, things are supposed to be off-white or grey! Maybe if you're feeling adventurous, a robin's egg blue, like Martha Stewart would choose.

Yes, you are right.  Too late, though!  

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Country Paradise Day 5: Chainsaw Horror and Awesomeness

In the spirit of the season, we have a little modern-day horror for you.

Ryan with a chainsaw.

Now go change your pants since we all know what just happened.

You spilled your drink out of fear.  Or lost your lunch.  Or, well, you know.

A tree stump had an ugly.  And it had to go.

Yeah, we're goin' there. We're gonna be sporting lumberjack chic in the house.  But I won't show you how...yet.


This post is part of our Country Paradise series!
     Our Country Experiment: Day 1
     Country Paradise: Day 2
     Country Paradise: Day 3
     Country Paradise: Day 4
     Country Paradise: Day 5

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How do people find The Kiefer Cottage?

Recently, I've been taking notice of which sites drive traffic to The Kiefer Cottage.  The obvious choice is facebook.  I post the link to a recent entry, and the people who love me click on it.  Those who don't love me, well, they either click on it sometimes so they can smugly congratulate themselves on their far superior circumstances or so they can find more reasons to dislike me.  Either one works.  However, I'd prefer that even more enemies visit--a person without enemies must not stand for anything!

Some folks click on the links I post at linky parties on other blogs.  My posts, bursting forth from my irreverent genius, might seem a tad disrespectful to other blog-world royalty, so I'm not surprised when folks read, and then appear to never return.  I'm okay with that, too, because I've been to plenty of sites that bore the bejeezus out of me, or contain too many typos or poorly written free verse.  No reason to be butt-hurt when someone thinks the same about my site.

Others use Google to pop on over to visit.  I love reading the search terms (because blogger will tell you).  Some highlights:

1) light with pull down poker (guess the dining room post got picked up on the search)
2) painted 1980s fake wood paneling (do I even need to mention which posts)
3) anyone know about the house that looks like a castle

Yes that last one is weird. Turns out there is a house built to look like a castle in Kiefer, Oklahoma.  So that's how this poor soul ended up here on The Kiefer Cottage.  I do admire (fear?) some searchers' stamina because our blog comes up on like the 10th page or later of a google search for some of the stranger terms. I know that because I checked!

I do have a small bone to pick with some of you, though. Some google "kiefer cottage" or some other variation like "the kiefer cottage" or "the kiefer cottage blogspot".

No big deal.  But at least one person has typed "the keifer cottage".  I won't call for a public flogging, but next time you can't remember how our name is spelled, remember that guy from 24, Kiefer Sutherland.  Of course, Google will correct your spelling anyway, but it hurts Ryan's feelings.  Almost as much as the people who insist on calling him Brian.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Country Paradise Day 4: Gender Politics of the Country

So, how's our country-fied life going?  I'd say the girls are settling in nicely.

Katie loves rocking in her chair, reading politically charged manifestos, remembering the good ol' days.

Winslow is learning how to wrangle crocodiles.

She practices on the cat.  And she loves it.  The cat?  Well, poor Rufus.

As you see, here at the Kiefer Cottage, we think girls deserve more than princess mani/pedis.  They need to learn how to get down and dirty.  Stand for what you believe in (just hope it isn't tyranny)!  Show that crocodile who's boss (who cares crocodiles aren't indigenous to this part of the world?)!  Skin that snake!  Sass that pathetic conformist!

Even if you have to wear a crown while doing so.

But that brings me to my point of the day.  Bringing the country to Roeland Park doesn't entail welcoming rigid gender expectations (although I am *really* excited about the new apron on its way because I'll look the part, which is very important of course).  On a farm, the men and women all work hard.  

Since we don't have cows to milk, Ryan and I split the duties we do have. Ryan does not fuss about his domestic work.  Partly because he knows how hard it is to care for three small children all day by myself (and sometimes without any transportation if he has the car) and partly because he is such a damn good student.

Witness last night.

Our options for dinner last night?

Or should I say option. Singular.  Black-eyed peas that were tasty, but not enough for a supper. The kids had already eaten leftovers.  And there are only so many nights I can settle for Oreos for dinner for myself because I'm too worn out to cook.

While we waited for the meatballs.

Long story short, Ryan whipped up from-scratch meatballs, a quick sauce (also from scratch--no jarred sauce here!), and pasketti noodles.

And then he cleaned it all up.

On a visit from my in-laws, my lovely mother-in-law Nancy said that she'd never been treated to cooking by her children until Ryan cooked black-eyed peas this past New Year's.  Of course, I take all the credit.  But since we're talking about sharing the duties, I might as well share the glory. I hope you, readers, are lucky to be blessed by a generous husband, wife, partner, friend, child who doesn't cook horribly.  If you're not, send 'em to me.  I'll whip 'em into shape.

This post is part of our Country Paradise series!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Country Paradise: Day 3

Two country wins today.

First, my Uncle-in-law (awesome Uncle Mike!) informed me that his lovely significant other's daughter-in-law makes aprons and sells them on Etsy.  Did you catch that?  My husband's dad's brother's partner's son's wife.  So when I take the plunge, after selling something "city-fide" like the Roku (don't tell Ryan), we'll be going the family route and buying one from Pamwares.

Vintage Bright Floral Full Apron for Women
Isn't it gorgeous?  Source.
Okay, too late.  This one is vintage fabric, so waiting wasn't an option.  Merry Christmas (and Happy Birthday) to me!

Second, Ryan has joined the staff of Every Man's Auto, a car blog devoted to down-to-earth reviews.  The pay stinks, but perhaps his work will catch a millionaire's eye, and s/he will just write him a check for being awesome.  But more important than pay, this makes Ryan happy.  He loves cars but only has a bicycle budget.  His first review was for the Ford Fiesta, and it's quite funny, even for a I-couldn't-care-much-less-about-cars gal like me.

What does this have to do with our plan to bring the country to Roeland Park?  Well, Ryan will be doing an extended test drive of a Mini Countryman this weekend.  See?  The name alone makes it relevant to our quest.  I wonder if, instead of new car smell, it smells like horses?  Or fresh apple pie?  Oh, the possibilities are endless.

This post is part of our Country Paradise series!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Country Paradise: Day 2

As I was cooking lentils for lunch the other day, I ended up splattering my favorite sweatshirt (Let's Go, Spar-tans!) with olive oil.  And then it hit me.

In order to be a country wife, since we're trying to turn our *home* into a *homestead*, I need an apron.  I have a few.

They just don't cut it.

So I'm going to have to purchase one. I know, I know, a good country wife would make her own.  But learning to sew is a project for another day.

Etsy can help me, though.

Double PERFECT CIRCLE Full Apron in Very Berry Garden Gnomes Print by Michael Miller
Doesn't everyone need a gnome apron?
Retro Apron Squirrels and Owls Vintage Inspired Full Apron - CHLOE
I love owls.  Find this apron HERE.
Flirty Chef Apron - Retro cocktails print with red and white polka dot trim.
Nice Kitchen, too.  Wonder if it comes with the Apron?

I Love Lucy  Apron.. Vintage Inspired Sweetheart Style with a handmade Heart..Navy Blue Fabric with white polka dots
It's called an I Love Lucy apron, but I also see touches of Raggedy Ann.

Cute Kitsch Apron / Red and Aqua Mix it up In Heather Bailey Pop Garden and Michael Miller Blue and Red

NErDY // NEON BLUE Rainbow Owl Apron// Neon Kitchen Accessory
You can find this one here.

Of course, my favorite, the nerdy one with the petals, is the most expensive.  

But would I really want one that costs a lot?  More importantly, shouldn't you just be a good steward of the Earth and use the ones you have?? Woah, let's not get too crazy. I agree that I don't want to get grease and food all over a custom apron. But I still want one.  

Which one do you like best?

This post is part of our Country Paradise series!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our country experiment

Hey dudes and dudettes (spellcheck doesn't like the word "dudettes".  or the word "spellcheck")--

This past week has been eye-opening.  I'd had some wonky blood tests in July, indicating some kidney function issues, and I tested positive for ANA.  I don't even know what that means exactly, but because of some of my other symptoms, the doc suggested lupus.  Really fun to be told that--there's no cure for it. Instead, patients are handed toxic drugs to keep symptoms at bay.  Turns out, though, that I have a vitamin D deficiency.  The kidney problems weren't really problems--just blips--but my fatigue, joint pain, etc appear to all be because I hate the sun and don't eat enough salmon.  I can't even eat D-supplemented dairy because my son is milk-protein sensitive (I can't say "allergic" because doctors hate that word.  No matter how bad the reaction is, it's not an allergy unless the doctor says the word first, before the patient.).  So now I've got some high dose D to bring my levels back to normal.

Why should you care about all this?  Well, I haven't been working on my house that much because I've been busy feeling sorry for myself.  Crying right before bed, milking it for all its worth with my husband, telling him I might have a disease that could kill me so I couldn't change that poopy diaper!  Poor Ryan.  And I'm not even saying that with a fake pity expression on my face (You know, the one people put on when they say dumb things like "someone's got a case of the mondays" and  you wanna punch that smug mouth into next week).  My husband is a saint.

And why should you care about Ryan being a saint? He's also great at coming up with new lifestyle ideas for us.  And he always always always signs on to my crazy ideas, so he's a genius, too.  Anyway, I am a reader of Mama's Minutia, Jennifer Jo's blog about her rural Virginia life.  She's got a gaggle of kids whom she homeschools, and she is a domestic goddess.  Her site is blissfully free of ads, her recipes are really fantastic (we are huge fans of her carbonara), she's a reader, she has no television, and she even gets angry sometimes and yells at her kids (have you noticed that so many mommy-blogs portray perfect parenting?  And low-fat "healthy" recipes that no one would want to eat?).

So what's our crazy idea *this time*?

We're going to bring the country to Roeland Park, Kansas.  Of course, you might assume that since we live in Kansas, we already live in the country.  Um, no.  Roeland Park is literally 100 feet from Kansas City, Kansas and a few miles from Kansas City, Missouri.  It's a suburb (eeeeek!) that really isn't suburban.  It's actually quite urban.

Why are we bringing the country here?  Because of one of Jennifer's most recent posts about her kids.  They have lessons and such on readin', writin', and 'rithmatic, but they also enjoy a life of improvisation and creativity.  She fosters their creativity by leaving them alone to their own devices.  Mommy is not the main source of entertainment.  I mean, I don't know Jennifer that well, in fact, I don't know her at all except through her blog, so maybe she does say things like, "Kids, I'm gonna teach you to be creative today! Let's get out the crayons!", but something tells me, that doesn't happen.

After reading that post, Ryan suggested we move to the country to give us all room to breathe a bit. This city girl's heart can't take that.  I need urban restaurants (just knowing they're there, despite the fact we can't afford a night out, brings my blood pressure down), and anyway, we just bought a house!  I'm not doing that again anytime soon.

So instead, we're going to do what we can to make our home more like a homestead.  Will that make our kids creative?  Haha, if you know my children, you know they're already wild, and have fantastic imaginations.  But by simplifying, bringing things back to Earth a bit, I think we can add another dimension to their educations.  Plus, it makes great blog fodder, and that's really what matters most.  Well, that, and the kids, right?

Some of the ideas on our "Turn the Kiefer Cottage into a Country Paradise" project list:

1) Make all of our bread from scratch.  We use the breadmaker, but I think we've got this one down.  Remember Ryan's post on making pita?

2) Keep chickens.  This might be difficult. We have a small dog run where we could put the coop--we'd want to not do it now that it's freezing--but there have been complaints recently from RP residents about their chicken keeping neighbors.  We'll keep this option open for now.  In the meantime, visit the RP City Hens website!

3) Grow our own food as much as possible.  We're in the process of building our raised beds so they'll be ready.  I've got some local peach pits ready to be planted too! And don't tell me it won't work. I'm going to pretend I'll have peaches by next year.  Are you laughing at me?  Meanie.

4) Use earthy ingredients in our food. No, I'm not saying we'll start eating dirt.  But we'll eat food that *tastes* like dirt!  Or, Ryan will serve it to us and we'll refuse to eat it, like this morning's improvised sunflower seed pancakes (see, we're teaching the kids that creativity and failure are a common combination, but that's okay!).

One bite was enough.  Love you, hubband!
5) Make our own clothing.  Okay, maybe not right now.  Maybe next year.

6) Turn the TV off more.  I love TV, and I see no reason to completely cut it off (spare me the new research--I don't care), but having it on less will most certainly turn us all into artists.

7) Do other country things.  Like drive tractors in the backyard.  Keep horses.  Take over fresh-baked goodies to the neighbors' houses and complain about this year's harvest being threatened.  Build an outhouse.  Wear more plaid.  Have manure hanging around all over the place.  Throw a barn dance.

So maybe I have unreasonable expectations.  But we figure if the kids can see us engaging a little more deliberately in our own lives, it's all good.

AND ****BREAKING NEWS****** we are throwing a Kiefer Cottage open house! We won't be square dancing, but we will have food and drink and two little birthday girls.  We have 3 confirmed guests.  Whoohoo!  I'm already declaring it a success. If you're local to us and want the deets, let me know. If you're a weirdo who wants to steal my cloth napkins, ignore the previous sentence.

Thanks for indulging my long-winded post this cold morning.  I think those earthy pancakes made me eloquent.  See, I'm more creative already! (and a little exclamation-point happy, too, huh?)  Yes, and according to one of my grad school professors, I have an unhealthy addiction to semi-colons.  ;-)

This post is part of our Country Paradise series!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Fall Mantel

Browsing around the blog world, it has become apparent that I am required to decorate my fireplace mantel regularly.  Switch out last season's decor with fresh, original tchotchkes so when people come into my house, they know that *I* know it's fall.  Or that Valentine's Day is here.  Or that it's pie season (which really is the only thing that matters to me as the holidays approach).

Purchasing stuff is out of the question.  So I've gone on another 'round the house shopping trip so I can decorate my mantel.

Yes, I'm off to a good start. An old plastic pumpkin bucket.  It's vintage, at least three years old. So that makes it Awesome!

Starr, really?  

You again?  Yes, really!  It's a "found treasure". I see vintage things on other people's blogs all. the. time. (I also see that add-a-period-to-make-sure-people-know-I'm-serious technique all. the. time.)

I'm not sure "vintage" is the appropriate term for that. Perhaps ugly Americana?

Perfect!  Have you considered a career in politics?  Your talent for words could pay off big time.

Oh, stop.

A peanut pumpkin. It's French. Which, of course, makes it double awesome.  

I agree.  It goes on the mantel.

Lovely.  Winslow and Katie won't mind donating their pumpkins to the cause.

Wait, these are the kids' pumpkins?  That go outside on the stoop?  Well, lemme say. You've *stooped* to a new low taking the fun out of Halloween.

You're totally right.  I'm a grinch!  Hmm...that's Christmas.  But it works well enough.

Look at all these leaves!  I'll grab a few for the mantel.


Starr, it's a doormat.  It's wet. It's meant for outside, not your flippin' mantel.

Ah, you're right.  I think now I've collected enough to get started.  Let's head inside to put together my mantel of fall glory!

Uh, are you forgetting something?  You don't have a mantel.

Of course I do! It's...

I could've sworn I had one there yesterday.

I can't use the little ledges on the sides.  It's too useful for hiding things from the kids.

The base could work.  If I didn't have small children.

Didn't you swear you wouldn't stop doing cool things just because you have kids?

I also thought that you can *make* babies nap.  And that labor was only painful for the wimps.  And that only bad parents had kids who misbehave.  Now that I have kids, I know nothing about anything and will do a lot to protect my precious few untouched belongings from the outrageously attractive walking (and crawling) natural disasters.

Anywho, I'm bummed!  What do I do now?

That's on the enclosed porch. Where no one goes except for the cat.

Well, I tried, loyal followers, to create something of beauty for you.  I was going to take a pile of leaves, a few pumpkins (plastic one included), and a doormat, and turn it into something really fantastic.  


Linking up to Funky Junk Interiors.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Great Chalk Paint Test

In a previous post, I celebrated finding a DIY version of chalk paint, the name-brand version of which is quite pricey.  I'd never tried the stuff, and while I'm all for jumping in feet first (graduate study in history of science and technology?  Count me in!  I'll think about what I'll do with that later!), I gotta be more frugal now that I have kids to feed who can't live on ramen and pinot noir.  Anywho, for those who don't know, chalk paint is supposed to be great for stuff other than walls, like furniture, because it creates an ultra-matte finish and requires very little prep.  Since I can be ultra-lazy, I figure it's a perfect fit for me!

I found a great test case for the recipe--I'll share the complicated formula in a moment--a picture frame!  And even better, if it didn't work out, I was gonna give it away anyway as a gift.  So a lucky family member would have to look at it instead.  So why did I need to paint a frame?  Read on...

This picture is stunning in real life.  This digital copy is very gray, but the print I have is bright blue.  Stunning. Wait, I just said that. Well, it is.  Just accept it.  I blew up the photo to 8x10 ($2.99) on Snapfish.  I needed a frame, though, that would make that blue pop.

I spent 30 minutes at Kohl's looking for a frame. Why Kohl's? Because I had a gift card.  And for those who don't appreciate that 30 minutes is a lot of time, you try doing it with three small children. Long story short (and believe me, three kiddos in a large store can make for a looooong story), I left empty-handed.  I couldn't find anything that wasn't overpriced or dark wood.

So I went shopping in my house instead.  And found a decent frame that needed a little TLC.

Obviously, this dark wood would not work, so I was forced to try out faux-chalk-painting.  Ryan was nice enough to set up my work area on the kitchen table. It was already protected by Winslow's birthday tablecloth.  What else did I need?

Calcium Carbonate ordered from Amazon.  Not expensive.

Paint.  I had a sample size of "Glimmer", which is a slight slight bluish white.

I poured in 2/3 cup paint.  1/3 cup Calcium Carbonate.  Stirred with a plastic kiddy spoon.  And then I painted.

I didn't prep the surface at all.  Just globbed on the paint. It was quite thick, and I chose not to add any water.  Two coats on each side.

I think it turned out great.

Looks like something worthy of a beach house, which is fitting, since it was taken at the beach. Duh.

I was going for a rustic finish, and the paint makes that look easy to pull off.

Sometimes, folks choose to finish their chalk-painted pieces with wax.  Since the only wax I had around was in a few candles and ears, I made the executive decision to stop at painting.  

Now all I have to do is pop it in the mail to my brother Ryan (remember, I'm married to a Ryan and have a brother Ryan, too, who are NOT the same person).  I am not a gift-y person, and I especially balk at forced gift-giving (like if Hallmark tells me to buy something), but I liked the photo of him fishing, and thought he might like it, too.  If he doesn't, he can hang it in the storage shed. Or under the deck outside.  Or use it as kindling in his next bonfire and dance wildly around it.  

No matter, I now know I'll be painting again with this concoction.  

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