Wednesday, February 28, 2007

So...I am going to do a book review

My random grab and go was not quite as succesfull as I had originally thought. The book that I was so excited about caused me ever so many laughs because of it's inability to be practical. If only I had taken the time to glance at the back cover at the list of "how-to's" that the book contains. I would have placed it tidily back on the shelf I soon as I saw that it contained the proper instructions for washing and ironing sheets.

People iron sheets??? Hot dang, who has the time to waste, ironing sheets? Now, I understand that they must be washed- that is a given. But ironed???? Okay. Really, surely this one section can be ignored and I will gleam all kinds of homely tips from this books with such a lovely title as, "Feather Your Nest: The complete Guide to Outfitting, Cleaning, Organizing, and Caring for your home." (Oh, and a cute orange sticker declares that it has LOTS of earth friendly alternatives. The first question should be. Alternatives to what? Surely not cleaning. This author has a love affair with bleach. She sanitizes every THING in her kitchen with bleach. She does this once a week! Once I read the importance of sanitizing every kitchen utensil, I KNEW I was over my head. This woman would have my home condemned in less time than I could say, "crud the dog peed on the floor again."

If the tip-off on the cover had not clued me in I should have at least understood that this author was in no way connected with my lifestyle when I read her advice on cleaning an air conditioner. You have to clean air conditioners?????

Okay, I am a slob. I use bleach only on my monthly bathroom cleanings (just kidding. I clean them once a week... okay? Once a week. And dang it. My darn nose keeps clicking the keyboard...if only I could get it to stop growing). I NEVER EVER in a bazillion years thought to iron a sheet, and well, I have to admit, I have also never cleaned my air conditioner. I don't even know where my air conditioner is. All I know, is that it blows out cool air and that it costs me way too much money to have that cool air.

There is an entire page of this book devoted to combating the disgusting cooking smells of things like...sausage. What? I thought sausage smelled good. Apparently I was wrong. Apparently, when you cook sausage, you should ALWAYS, open a window.

My eyes were glazed by the time I reached the section on laundry. But I did flip through a few pages, and of course, she devoted several pages to IRONING. I have a fool-proof method of avoiding ironing. It's called "Wear Wrinkles: They are beautiful- on the face, or on your clothes!"

Essentially, I thought the book was a bust. It was too simple, at the same time being way too complicated. It would be best suited to a fresh college grad who wanted to live a wrinkle free life with a house designed for cocktail parties and dinner guests. It was condescending in tone towards the everyday housewife but...if you know someone who doesn't know how to wash the dishes, there is a nice little section in there on how to do it- as well as one on how you should NEVER put china or fine glassware in the dishwasher. OOPS.

To be fair to the author: I do not think this book was written for someone who has spent over ten years perfecting the craft of homemaking. I truely believe it was written for that fresh out of school, seeting up my first house, must devote every weekend to entertaining, kind of person. For that person, and for one who hasn't been taught the most basic tasks, such as how to clean a mirror, this would indeed be a handy book.

Oh, and I forgot something else. She suggests that we all fill two buckets with water. Add soap to one of the bucket. then we should get to work scrubbing down our kitchen walls. Scrub with the soapy water, rinse with the clear water. Surely there is an easier way..., oh, actually there is. MY WAY. option 1: ignore the dirt. Option 2: Mr. Clean Magic eraser for those areas so bad they can not be ignored. Option 3: A gallon of paint, which covers all dirt AND will give you a fresh new look, probably with the same amount of effort as scrubbing down your walls would be.
BUT, if, after reading this, you decided to scrub your walls- definately invest in a copy of this book. The discussion on whether to wash from the ceiling down, or the floor up, will be very interesting to you.

I give this book half a star for making me laugh at the idea of ironing sheets. I give it another half for enticing me to grab it with its aqua and red cover. gets a total of one star.

Feather My Nest (with books)

Our trip to the library was super successful today. I am a book grabber, I just randomly grab books from my favorite sections, and I just cross my finger that they are any good. I have three children who don't understand the concept of quiet and so, my library trips are a bit rushed and chaotic. Actually, that is not true, I have a basic routine down that keeps us from getting banned from the building. We carry all our returns in, and drop then through the book drop. This is perhaps the most precarious time of all, because I MUST divide the books fairly between all children. If perchance Marcus gets to drop five books down the drop, and Esther only had four, then we might as well pack our bags and go home. Trust me, the kids count. After they drop the books, the boys head back to the children's section and browse around while Esther and I pick out two movies. My little diva always considers these movies "hers" and is quite pleased to just carry them around. Of course, if one of the boys but takes a glimpse at the covers, she throws a fit- because, of couse, they are "hers". Each kid gets one book, and I have to wheedle myself out of yet another tantrum because of course, they have found 10 books each that they want.
Then, for their favorite part. If they have been well behaved, we get to ride the elevator. Weeeeeeee. How much more fun can life get than riding on an elevator. What can I say? My kids are deprived. They have never been on a roller-coaster, and they think elevators are the end all and be all of life's existence.
Upstairs, it is my turn. That is where all the non-fiction is and there are shelves upon shelves of cookbooks, cleaning books, decorating books, craft books, sewing books...and on...and on...and on. I kind of enter a trance like state, being surrounded by all those books. The kids sit in the floor and look at their books and I have less than 5 minutes to choose. I have learned not to actually choose. I have learned to just grab and hope. So far, it has worked.
Back downstairs to check the books out and I grab a couple of fictions that are displayed off the front table. I can't even hope for time to browse through the novels. Novel browsing would be tantamount to begging for a meltdown. We check out, the librarian sometimes notices my angelic children, and it is off for home, where I can peruse my books to see what it is that I actually got.

And woohowdyhoo! Today was a winner. I can't wait to dig into the book on feathering my nest, I flipped through it before taking the picture, and it was everything I could do not to just lie down on the bed and devour it. The pottery barn bedroom book looks scrumptious too! And- And- And, as if I was not lucky enough, I had grabbed a book by my favorite author- Anne Tyler. It was a book that I had not only have not read, but did not even know she wrote. This is quite an accomplishment as I am a huge fan of hers and have quite a hefty collection of her novels.
The day has been full of book loving and I hope yours has as much fullness and page turning as mine will have

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A day of rest

I think I am going to lay around and take it easy today. I am feeling a bit run down from taking care of a houseful of sick people, and I woke up Sunday morning with a nasty sore throat. It isn't sore anymore, in fact, it vanished later that day, but I am left with a general run-down feeling. So, today, in an effort to boost my immunity, I am going to take it easy. I will make a pot of tea, and curl up with a good book.

Okay, well, maybe I will do one thing. I need to make a teensy quick trip to the library to get a good book...besides, our books are due and the last fine I paid was over 20.00. I don't want to do that again

Monday, February 26, 2007

I always knew she was not made of sugar and spice:

Scroll down for the horrifying before pictures
She is the queen of snakes, and snails, and puppy dog tails. And now she looks the part, blue tongue and all.

I need some hair bows!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Someone needs to pass on a career as a beautician

Do you think I can dye it pink and pass her off as a punk rocker?


The silver lining: At least I am not sick. Everyone else is, but I maintain a modicum of health. I made muffins this morning to cheer all my sickies up, and it worked. Until they were gone. The kids and the husband are all grumpy again because of the lack of ability to breathe without coughing. I am grumpy- out of sympathy I guess.
The muffins are a favorite at our house and I am sure they will be at your too! They are the first muffins with a crumbly top that had a bottom as tasty as the buttery crumbles.

Delicious Pineapple Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour muffin pans, or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt. Drain pineapple, reserving 1/4 cup juice. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the reserved juice, egg, milk, and 1/4 cup melted butter. Mix just until blended.
In a separate bowl, stir together the cinnamon, brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 cup melted butter to make the topping.
Spoon batter into muffin cups, then spoon crushed pineapple over the batter and sprinkle with the cinnamon topping.
Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the crown of the muffin comes out clean.

And yesterday, in a desperate effort to ward off the germs, I made homemade chicken noodle soup. THe noodles are old fashioned eggs ones, just like grandma used to make. I learned how to make them from my great grandma, to whom I will be forever grateful.

I just take three eggs and whisk in some salt and pepper, then add enough flour to make a dough. need a few minutes, roll out and cut into strips.

Later, I add them to chicken stock, shredded chicken, and toss in enough onions to scare a preschool class of onion haters, and enough garlic to kill ever vampire in history. Throw in some carrots and celery and you have a yummy chicken noodle soup, far superior to Campbell's. The onions and garlic, besides the number they do on vampires and children, also seem to frighten away germ monsters. Except yesterday. Yesterday the germ monsters won.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It is time to plan a vacation

Planning a trip away from home is never easy, but when you have to bring the needs and desires of 6 adults and seven children into the matter, it becomes confusing, time consuming, and it gives one many nights of budget nightmares. But, along the way, you stumble on some very interesting places which are fun to explore- at least online.

this one looks very interesting

And if you are among the insanely wealthy, you might want to vacation at this extremely fun but expensive dude ranch. If only I could afford 1000.00 a night!

The picture is from our vacation last year. We went camping with a bunch of friends and this was a geocache site. For those who have not been or heard of geocaching, it is an awesomely fun, and very affordable family hobby. You get the coordinates from the geocache site, plug them into a GPS system, and then go on a treasure hunt. Some are more difficult than others, some are in the city, some are on hiking trails. There are as many unique locations for a cache as their are unique people to hide them. Every time you find the "treasure", you take something, sign the book, and leave something else behind. It's fun. Try it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mugs are not just for coffee

I have a "thing" for mugs. Not the cutsie kind you get for teachers or at souvinir shops. I like my mugs to give me some kind of feeling, mostly nostalgic.
We use mugs for everything. Just like my tea cups, they have multiple uses. Because they are sturdy, they make great cups for kids, and the handles make them easier to hold.
The ones pictured are new from Goodwill. I love the little cream flecked mugs, they are miniature in size and perfect for the kids. Because my mind makes weird and unexpected, unexplainable associations, they remind me of the tin cups from Little House on the Prairie. I told you I can make some weird mental leaps.

The Scandinavion floral mug was one that Marcus picked out (after I talked him out of choosing a horrid owl one), and the retro mug was Esther's choice.

Oh, and here is a small sample of what I use mugs for:

Serving dishes for pudding and icecream
holding containers for chopped onions and other veggies when I am cooking
the heavier weight makes them great water cups for watercolor paints
paper weight
candy dishes
serving dishes for trail mix
juice, water, and milk glasses (I swear milk tastes better out of a mug)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Here's a little cheer on a snowy, dreary day

Perhaps my favorite peice of creative decorating that I have in my house. I love this window. My great-grandmother made the dish towels and they were two pretty and sentimental to use for dishes. They make me laugh too. The middle one has a rabbit, reading a cookbook that is entitled, "How to cook Rabbit". Cracks me up. My great Grandma always did have a wonderful sense of humor.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A little bit of kitchen

Just a bit of the place I love. Stay tuned for more corners of my kitchen. Oh, and the hanging mugs are another goodwill find. They were fifty cents a piece and still had the original World Market price tags on them. They match all my other green. Ahhh, green, the color that makes me feel peppy or serene, all depending on the shade. In my humble opinion, green is the most perfect color in the universe. If I was designing would look a lot like the Emerald City.

In search of color

My home is missing an essential ingredient. It is missing an essential piece of the puzzle that declares it to be a home that belongs to "Becka". I knew it was missing, but I couldn't place eactly what "it" was. Now I know.

My mother, who perhaps knows me better than I do myself, looked at my pictures and said, "You are such a colorful person. You love color, and your house doesn't have any."

Where does she get the idea that I like color? Perhaps from this.

This was the play room area of the living room at our old house

Here's another view. I made the futon cover from some fabric I bought at IKEA. Those stenciled flowers never did get finished. I decided I didn't like them very much. And I have this issue with completing things

Here is the living room in it's final change and with the garish blue changed to a more mature but still brightly colored green.
Ignore the look on the boys' faces. It was Christmas morning and the were still sleepy. I didn't take any great pictures of that room and so this one will have to do.

I loved that room, it told people who I was, the moment they walked through the door. I heard jokes about needing sunglasses, about how I must have been high when I chose the colors. The truth was that it was a wonderful room. It was creative, imaginative, and so friendly. After getting over the first initial blinding shock, other people liked it as well. After being in the room for ten minutes, it grew on them. It was amazing how many compliments I got from that fun room. When we moved here, a certain set of people, let me know that they hoped I had matured enough to not destroy this new home with my obnoxious taste in color. For some reason, I let it get to me. I decided that their opinion was important enough that I would deny myself, my family, and my friends the one of things they loved about me.

Color. A sense of childlike love for brightness and simplicity. Creativity that defies normality.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

On Being Cozy

I think humans (and animals) look for a place to feel enclosed. To be surrounded by safety, warmth, and self. My place is sandwiched between a white cloud of feather comforter and feather matress, my head upon a feather pillow. My cozy spot is warm and soft. Usually I am not alone as my snuggle bugs join me. We pretend we are penguins, inside an egg, waiting to hatch. Or, sometimes we are wolves, lost in a winter storm, and hiding in a cave dug from a snow bank. Sometimes, we are bears, in a rocky cave, and other times we are a human family, snuggling and cuddling...blocking out the cold and distractions of the world.

Who wouldn't want to escape to a world of white softness? I guess Esther. I worry about her. She seems to have chosen the cold hardness of metal bars for her hidey spot. I guess we can hope that this is not an indication of her future. She likes the crate far better than Heidi does, and no matter how much she coaxes Heidi to join her, the dog just looks as if Esther has gone off her rocker. And maybe she has. She has her mother's genes afterall.

It's a white world

The best way to describe St. Louis weather would be to use the word odd. We have a saying that goes, "If you don't like the weather today...just wait until tomorrow." Not meaning that it will get worse, only that it will surely be different. Two days ago, we were taking our walk without our coats and then we were slammed with what some called a blizzard? Ummmm...a blizzard? I don't think so. I can still see my grass. I absolutely love the idea of being snowed in, but I think it will never happen while living where I do. BUT, this is the first real snow of the season (and likely the last) and so I am grateful for this glimpse of short lived white wonder.

Right before the storm hit, I decided to take a meandering walk through our local goodwill. I am so glad I did. I have an eclectic collection of tea cups and saucers, which get used daily, and most of which have been broken by my two legged, clumsy hooligans. This one was only .30 cents. I know that most people display tea cups, but I am not much for displayed things. I like everything to be pretty and useful at the same time. When I can pick them up at .30 cents each, I won't get overly sad when one falls and crashes to a million jillion pieces on my floor. I love sipping tea, or eating oatmeal, or dipping apples into peanut butter, all from the beauty of a tea cup. I love the way it makes me feel dainty and special. I love the link to the past that it gives me. And I am not one to hog good feelings, so...I share my pretty cups with my children, who are not quite as attached as I am to pretty fragile things, and who seem to like the sound of crashing china. And so, I am in constant need of tea cup replacements. My new one feels a bit wintry, which matches my world at the moment.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


One should never take a break from a task such as cleaning out a closet. The break will give you time to ponder the state of your wardrobe and you will become convinced you need a new one.

But seriously, If I were to toss every ill-fitting, stained, torn, or grungy item in my closet, I would have two pair of jeans, one dress shirt, one jacket, one skirt, one sweater, two everday shirts, and two pair of jeans. I am thinking that I need a new wardrobe. I am also still in the funk I talked about several posts down, and wishing and dreaming and shopping is a sure cure for a funk. Of course, finances would have it that I can only window shop. And the arctic weather would have me stuck inside and shopping from the warm comfort of my home.

Here's my dream wardrobe
3 pair of well fitting jeans These jeans are a perfect fit and HEY, They're on sale! I already have two other pair of jeans, so this one pair would do it.
5 everyday shirts that fit well, are stylish enough to run to the store or a casual outing, but inexpensive enough to do the daily chores in Such a pretty shirt... Holy cow, Eddie Bauer is having a winter clearance, I bet I could buy an entire winter wardrobe of shirt for less than what the one Hanna shirt cost! And did you see? Didja? They come in Talls.
1 grungy shirt to wear while painting or deep cleaning- lol, I have a million of these already.
3 dress shirts that can be worn with jackets or sweaters
2 pair of well fitting dress slacks
4 Sunday outfits- skirt+shirts or dresses, and matching hose and shoes I love this dress! I wish I could try it on, and lookie, it's on sale. I have never even touched anything from Hanna Anderson, but I hear, from reputable sources that the clothes are so soft you could sleep in them, and very well made. This one has a matching cardigan/jacket that could carry me through more than one season... This skirt, in green, of course, has me wanting to swish myself to church in a frenzy of smiles. I am pretty sure I NEED that skirt.
2 set of workout clothes
2 sets of lounge around the house and eat bon bon clothes
2 dressy jackets Is this jacket pink or red? because I am thinking I love it...but I am not much of a pink person.
3 cardigans (one should be cashmere, because if I am dreaming, why not dream in cashmere?) The matching cardigan to the Hanna Dress but it could be worn with jeans...or a's versatile...

I will just keep shopping and adding my finds throughout the day. maybe someone will have some cash and be able to buy my dream wardrobe for themselves, otherwise, I am having fun wasting time...and sometimes- while in a funk- you just need to skate through by wasting time.

and thinking ahead to summer when long sleeves and jeans make way for capris and tshirts, These capris are rugged enough for camping and expensive enough for someone who would rather be at a spa resort than roughing it up in a tent. Ooh, I like these too! but they would break my budget big time. But I am dreaming. Dreams are not limited by finances, so my dream summer wardrobe would definately include those two pair of capris. Oh, wait I found another pair, these are cute and are a great length for a short. I am thinking I need those as well. And These shirts look like they would be long enough. I think one stripe and one solid would be good.

And, as long as I am spending imaginary money- how 'bout these shoes? and these would be great for camping. I would only need to take one pair of shoes, these work for the water and on the trail.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Is it at least a small amount of improvement?

It still isn't the fabulous collective look that I want to achieve, but does it at least look a tad bit better? Surely there is some reading somewhere about making displays that look great. Are all these cottage bloggers just born with all the wonderful talent their pictures display, or is this something I can learn?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Surface Problems:

Warning: This post will have a LOT of pictures, and they will all demonstrate my lack of skill in arranging clutter. These areas are an embarassment to me, and I post them in hopes that some blog friends across the blogging universe can help me create that creative, put-together look I want so desperately to have. HELP ME!!! I have skills in other areas, this is not one of them, and it will be painfully obvious as you browse the following pictures.

Perhaps the ugliest spot in my house. I love these hatboxes and bought them to use as an endtable, but my current furniture arrangement doesn't allow for an extra endtable. So, I stashed these in an empty corner, and put some misc, crud on top. THe little green and brown things must go somewhere! They were a mother's day gift to me from Weston. Aren't they pretty? Want to know what they are? Help me find a better place for them and I will tell you.

And the dog crates double as an endtable in my family room. Eventually they will have pretty covers, but until I get the motivation to get them made, I am just piling on some random items.

Probably the nicest arrangement I have. This is a tiny shelf where we hold homeschooling workbooks and such. I think the only reason I like it is because of that gorgeous picture of Esther.

UGLY. Nothing else to say. It's plain ol ugly. It humiliates me.

A small work area for me, in my living room that doubles as a homeschool room.

Top of the bookshelf. THis shelf has so much potential. Why can't I get it to look right? Oh, and the gold frame is an obvious error. It was thrown up there during a recent furniture rearranging and I just tossed it up there for lack of a better place.