Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What color is my bathroom?

I can answer that question easily. My bathroom is pink.  But really, that is not the question I'm asking. I'm really asking, What color would my bathroom be if I ruled the world and had a bottomless budget?  Or better yet,  What do I wanna be when I grow up?

Bathrooms aside, I should say that I've been a teacher for most of my career.  I enlightened spring-breakers on the brewing process at Coors in Golden, CO; taught CPR in Columbus, GA; trained bankers on a proprietary credit processing system all over the country and in the great land of Canada (Please, I swear I am NOT trying to steal Canadian jobs, Mr. passport control man.  Ugh, a probe? Again??)

But I've often wondered what I should be.  Could I have hidden talents beyond being a know-it-all with delusions of grandeur?  Ryan told me recently that he took the ASVAB in high school. He scored so well that the Navy hounded him for years because his custodial engineering skills were out of this world. They were desperate to fill their shortage of deck swabs.  It's okay, though, that he skipped out on the armed services, because he's busy swabbing my deck.

No, really, he's outside with a mop as we speak.

Anyway, I have never taken such a test.  So, of course, I have no idea what my talents are (wink, wink).  Or I should say, I *had* no idea before I bought Discover What You're Best At: A Complete Career System Lets You Test Yourself To Discover your Own True Career Abilities by Linda Gale.  By taking such a test, you won't learn what you enjoy. You'll learn what you're actually good at doing.  Those two things might not match up.

So I took the test. It took about two hours.  From best to worst, here's how I ranked:


The book then puts the results in clusters and makes recommendations for career choices.  It was a bit difficult to make my clusters because my scores were very similar, but I managed to narrow things down to BLN (business, logic, numerical) and LNS (logic, numerical, social).

I'll just give you the highlights for recommended careers for LNS people:
1) Geriatric Nurse (am I old enough to be considered geriatric?)
2) Physician (and about 20 variations of this, including Cardiovascular Physician and Naturopath)
3) Probate Lawyer

For BLN:
1) Accountant
2) Silviculturist (apparently, these people care for trees in nurseries)
3) Probate Lawyer

You'd think I should be a probate lawyer, right?  Or maybe a geriatric probate lawyer?

But one recommendation stood out in particular:

Accounting Teacher.

Well, that was almost exactly my last job. I trained the Accounting system to accountants and bankers; it looks like my old job was a perfect match for my skills.  But then Ryan was offered a great job here in Kansas City, and I had to say a sad goodbye.

So next time you don't like something I've done in my house, just remember that I should've been a probate lawyer, NOT a designer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The New Library

The second floor landing has a purpose now: it's a library.  But not quite as you would expect because there is nary a shelf in sight. For now, at least.

Five years ago, the books would've been stacked up to the ceiling.  Moving fifty boxes of books every time I moved, though, inspired me to cull my collection down to its current size.   I also realized that owning more books doesn't make me smarter or more educated.  Having the entire Library of Congress in my home won't raise my IQ (I'm sorry, you'll just have to deal with my average self, with exactly two brain cells to rub together), and beyond that, books are dust magnets.  I am not repelled by dust, but I am repelled by dusting, so having less means I can forgo cleaning without guilt, except when my mother is visiting and then I feel compelled to pass the white-glove-test.  

All that said, the library is now merely a blank slate.  Sounds awful after all this work to say that we've just reached a point of departure rather than the actual destination.  And yet, I'm excited by the prospect of improving the room as time goes by.  

Of course, by "improving,"  I mean adding even more to the shrine of Starr that was created in the corner.  Hell, that's why we decided on a library in the first place!  Who cares about books when you can gaze upon diplomas and accolades?  By the way, we're still looking for Ryan's awards.  I'm hoping his mother reads this and sends his perfect attendance certificates from elementary school.  Because his side of the room is looking a tad thin.

So enough talk. Let's see some pictures.  Here's a quick reminder of Before:

In essence, this was a hallway to the bedroom upstairs.

At a midpoint in the process.  

And finally as a cleared-out-ready-for-more product.

New Light fixture.  I would've loved a chandelier, but unfortunately, this room is maybe 7 feet tall.  My  brother will even bump his head on this fixture, but I couldn't stomach the completely flush lights I found.  This was the most attractive boob in the store.

The "Proof of Starr's Awesomeness" corner.

The chair from my grandmother's bedroom suite.  It's itching for some new fabric.

The built-in looks really nice with the room completely painted.  Such an improvement from before.

Yes, the floor still requires work, and we're trying to decide what would look best, but that's for another week.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A barren backyard

Our yard is rather small, but it's a vast improvement over our 10x10 weed pit at the old house.

Well, this was technically the neighbor's yard, but this is such a great picture.  The day before we moved, the neighbor's dad acquired this "new" truck and pushed it to the backyard. No, it doesn't run.  And Yes, neighbor's mom obviously didn't want the junk in her yard, so it went in neighbor's instead.  The van doesn't run either.  My daily view from the back porch. I smell your envy from here. Just get over it.  

Anyway, we had a similar plot of weeds a few feet over, but without the scrap.

 When we moved in to our new house, we had a nice lot, but the coverage of a rain forest canopy without all the pretty rainbow colored birds.

Too much shade for grass.

Compost pile of unknown age.  I'm a little afraid to touch any of the vines, and Ryan gets horrible poison ivy.  So I'm thinking our next giveaway will be for the chance to help us in the yard.  Nice, huh?

Ancient raised beds.  More vines.

That sad bird feeder.

The elm that is no more. It was gorgeous, but very dead and only required a mere breeze to threaten the power lines.  Since our last storm had wind gusts over 60mph, I'm glad the tree's gone.

Free wood!  We've already had some takers, but we probably still have enough to build some hobbit houses.

This is my view now from my desk since we cut down 7 trees back there.  Plenty of sun, but no grass. Nowhere to relax yet.

That's about to change, though.

Can you guess what it is?

700 pounds of fun.  Courtesy of the grandparents for a large combination birthday/Xmas present, we have a large playset.  Of course, it's currently in the garage.  Awaiting some brawn and patience.  

Ryan cannot wait.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From Yia-Yia, With Love

Living near parents can be a fantastic boon. From the occasional free meal, to free babysitting, to a garage full of tools to borrow -- there are so many ways a young family can take advantage of their elders.

As a corollary, living far, far away from parents means we get none of those things, which can make life challenging when the lovely Starr and I don't feel like making dinner (but have no cash), want some free time (but have no cash), or need a new tool (but have no cash -- sensing a theme here?). Despite that, there is one thing we wouldn't get if lived in the same town...

Care Packages!

Now that we no longer live in Georgia, we get care packages from all parental parties -- Georgia and Louisiana. In Georgia, we only got these delightful surprises from our Big Easy sender, Starr's delightfully eccentric mother, whom we call Yia-Yia. Yia-Yia is the most experienced care packager, and the experience shines through every time a bursting-at-the-triple-taped-seams, too-heavy-to-be-true flat rate USPS box lands on our doorstep with a window-rattling thud.

The other parental contingencies will send mostly things bought explicitly for care package stuffing, then call or email to tell us the contents and expected date of arrival. Yia-Yia will buy one thing to send -- an outfit for one of the kids, an interesting non-perishable food she thought we'd like to try, or perhaps a book. The remainder of the box will consist entirely of things Yia-Yia grabs from around her house (and perhaps her office) when putting together the care package. Practically anything is potential care package fodder, from clipped newspaper articles and whole magazines, to nearly-expired jars of seasoning that she never got around to using, to some shoes she's decided she cannot wear anymore (or bought but never wore)...

Some contents of a recent package.

And just once, a half-eaten bag of Honey Nut Cheerios that was discovered by ants while en route.

Pickled Quail Eggs sent for me. I haven't yet had the guts to try them.

That was a nice surprise -- and that's the beauty of a care package from Yia-Yia -- it's always a surprise when one arrives, and we never know what is inside! Will it be some clothes she never wears? The last 3 years of The Week? A jar of mixed nuts she got halfway through before deciding she no longer liked her nuts mixed?

Chocolate reindeer -- a lightly melted Christmastime delicacy. In August.

Now, despite appearing to be a completely stream-of-consciousness style of packing, Yia-Yia does put a lot of thought into each package because she loves us, and knows that we tear open each box in a flurry of anticipation. She wouldn't send an article of clothing that wouldn't look amazing on Starr. She knows we love to read The Week, even though we let our subscription lapse because we just had too many things to read. And I don't mind my nuts all jumbled up -- in fact, I love 'em that way, and Yia-Yia knows it!

Yia-Yia is careful to label everything so we'll know who it is for.

That leads me to our next contest -- guess the contents of Yia-Yia's next care package. We'll take entries beginning now, but because we have no idea when the next package will arrive, we've no clue when we will be able to announce our winners. You only need to guess one item to win.

The prize? An item of our choice from Yia-Yia's next care package! Please send all entries to You'll receive a terse reply informing you that your entry is both stupid and irrelevant, and that Yia-Yia will be sure to NOT send exactly that item in the next care package, just to spite your insightfully disrespectful self.

**Also, please leave a comment letting us know you've sent an email.**

But don't worry, when Yia-Yia gets into full-on care package mode, she gets in such a joyous mood that she forgives and forgets all, so don't be afraid to enter!

We adore you, Yia-Yia, and always look forward to your next box of love!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mad Men, Take One

I am really enjoying the show Mad Men.  It's dramatic, it's funny, and it's full of eye candy.  That Don is a looker, although Sterling is quite handsome, too.  Too bad they're so sleazy.  And too bad they're fictional characters. (Call me, Sterling, k?)

The show also features lots of great design and period pieces.  Imagine my delight when I saw that the Drapers have Vernonware pottery for their plates.  I DO TOO!  That means I am as beautiful as Mrs. Draper, right?  Hopefully a tad smarter, though...

Here are some of my Vernonware pieces. I bought them almost a decade ago on Ebay.  

This is the Gingham pattern. I have the most of this, although in the past couple of years, little children have dwindled down the collection a bit. In fact, we've broken a few bowls in the past 2 weeks.  Now, I have four left.

I've also got the Belair pattern. Only three plates.  I broke the fourth.  I have more plates in the Gingham pattern, thank goodness.

What's sad about breaking them is that we're not talking about some pattern easily replaced at Macy's.  This stuff is hard to find, and to be honest, I'm a bit tired of it all anyway. So I'm packing it up, and replacing it with a great deal I found at Neiman Marcus. 

HUH?  Aren't you broke?  Why in tarnations are you buying chichi items from Neiman's?  Hypocrite!

I bought them with my birthday money.  They were not expensive. But they are awesome enough for me to have waited patiently since July.  Even more, I've only just gotten the plates. It'll be a month before I get the bowls and another four weeks on top of that for the salad plates.  However, I'm known for my patience. Ahem. Oh, be nice.

Today the dinner plates arrived.  

Elijah earned every penny of his salary with his packing job.

Looking good.

Hmm..another box. Makes me wonder if there will be like 10000 boxes and the plates are really only for dolls.  Ha!  I'm sure they aren't.


Yes, they all made it intact. All those damn boxes were worth it.  I bought this set because it goes together without being matchy-matchy.  Which one is your favorite?

Katie likes this plate best. I kind of agree, but I have to choose a different one because it's not cool when you all like the same one.  

Ah, yes, I love this.  Tomorrow, I'll have a different favorite.  

Oh, if you want to order these plates, you can get them online at Neiman Marcus.  They are still on backorder, but totally totally worth the wait.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gawgeous Cabinet ReDo

My house has been pitch black the past two days. No power. No fun.

I did get some great work done this week, though, and Ryan helped me by putting the hardware back on.  I think the built-ins on the 2nd floor look so much better.  Remember what they looked like before?

Dark, dated. Quaint, but not right for me.  For only a few bucks worth of paint, I got quite a transformation.

Doesn't it look great??

We kept the original hardware, and I think it's really cute.

The red plays off the white very well.

Now the *only* thing I have left to do is deal with the rest of the space. Easy, right?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It had to be Wood

It's a beautiful day.  The girls decided to polish off the last tidbits of Nutella, so they're pretty happy.  Drew's tooth finally pushed through, so he's content.  And the gas bill is really low again this month, making me at least a little less stressed. Plus, I've been watching Mad Men on streaming Netflix.  Those cute dresses make me smile.

So to celebrate our communal joviality (I've been using my thesaurus this morning), we had a little dance party.  Hosted by Lady Gaga.  While rocking out to "Born This Way", I was overcome by dizziness, confusion, almost terror.  All caused by wood.  Lots of dark, hard wood.

Not, not that wood. Get your mind outta the gutter!

All the wood in my house.  There's enough of it to cause some serious heartache.  Lemme take you on a tour.  Cue the Sinatra.

The bathroom vanity.  Yes, paint.  Stop shouting! I heard you the first time!  I will paint it!

Fake wood paneling in the kitchen.  

Country cabinets.  And what's that above the cabinetry?

Oh, it's more of the paneling.  There's supposedly storage up there, but I'm too afraid to look inside there. Gives me the willies just thinking about it.

Wood finish #3 in the kitchen.

The dark door to the 2nd floor. It's been "re-finished" a few times it appears.  

The other fake wood paneling, this time in the family room.  I've never seen this stuff before. It's like drywall, but has a wood-like grain on it.  

The original trim found in the downstairs bedrooms. This is in the best shape of all the trim.

Yet another color. Plus the floor.

You can see that this door is stained two different colors.  I admire the work ethic of previous owners, but the amateur work is not that good. I think they forgot to wipe off the stain after it was applied. Very strange.

These funny little corner protectors are found throughout the downstairs.  Uggggg-Leeee.

Brand new door doesn't match the trim either.  Love that the door is new, though.  It closes and locks even if it's hot outside.  You'd think that comes standard, but it doesn't. Our house in Northeast (historic neighborhood in KCMO) had a door that would not lock in the summer.

Yes, more of the same.

This door to the attic is just adorable.  Unfortunately, it also requires some TLC.

A view from the bathroom.

And to leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling...the toilet seat in the "master bath".  There wasn't enough wood in the house, so they added some more.  

So that concludes the Kiefer Cottage wood tour.  Stay tuned for some serious changes to be made. Thank goodness paint isn't expensive.  And all Ryan asks for is plenty of red meat and beer to keep him energized.

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