Ironing Sheets

When I was in my first year of college, I lived with my grandmother. I loved my grandmother, but she tended to have a rather rigid schedule for housekeeping. Tuesday was the day to do laundry. This meant I had to change my bed sheet- top to bottom and a freshly ironed sheet went on top along with a freshly ironed pillow cases. I don’t know why but either I guess she didn’t like fitted sheets or didn’t know they existed. Now of course, I don’t think you could find a flat sheet big enough to be used as a bottom sheet. In any case, I always ground my teeth at the idea that I had to iron sheets and pillow cases. I knew how to iron just about anything as it was one of my chores growing up, but the idea of ironing something that was just going to wrinkled up seemed ridiculous to me. Little did I know later in life I would adopt an attitude that a bottle of spray starch and a good steam iron can cover a multitude of sins.

I actually enjoy ironing. It is a great form of instant gratification if I am not too tired to enjoy it. Of course, if I have to come home and iron something after work, it seems like a punishment.

I iron table cloths, sheets, pillow cases, curtains, shirts not all at once and only if needed. I like crisp table cloths. They just seem much nicer and showing that you care about your table. I iron sheets but not the whole thing and only top sheets. I fold them in half so I can iron the top hem which usually gets accordion folds in it after going through the laundry. I use spray starch and do the top half of the sheet. I also do the pillow cases. I’m not big on the rumpled look.

I can tell you for certain that after I make the bed with the freshly ironed sheets and pillow cases, it is an absolute treat to flip on my small portable air conditioner and crawl under smooth fresh sheets. It feels like I am in a grand hotel and I sleep like a baby

A Little Project

We received a little whatnot shelf from my husband’s family along with a bunch of pictures. We could identify some of the pictures by notes on back, but some not so much. Families are always such a mystery especially after many of the older folks are gone and the younger ones never bothered to ask. This little shelf was from my husband’s grandmother Nanny Bordeaux who was so incredibly intimidating no one had much information about her. Her husband was photographer and we actually have photo of the shelf hanging in her living room.

Small Whatknot shelf

I like this little shelf because of the detail. It was painted this funky green color and I added some gold detail, but it just wasn’t right.

The color was a little weird and I wanted to use it for little perfumes and smalls in my bath. I knew I wanted the back to be a neutral color to show off the bottles. I even considered mirroring the back wall, but in the end just painted it. I really like the sort of renaissance gold that I found at Michael’s Crafts. It’s an acrylic paint with sort of translucent coverage. The back of the shelves are Benjamin Moore- Revere Pewter in pearlescent. I purchased this paint for my bath and have used the color in our living/dining as well though in eggshell not pearlescent. Different sheens work for different things.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out!

“My house is me, and I am it, and it is all my dreams.”

When my son was in third grade, he was in a play called the Big Orange Splot. It was, I believe a previously unperformed play. The story was about people in one neighborhood where everyone was to maintain their home to look exactly like everyone else’s right down to color. One day a big orange splot falls out of the sky onto someone’s roof. The reaction of the neighborhood was immediate. This would not be tolerated. The person whose house had the big orange splot decided that he liked it and intended to keep it. Chaos ensued. A line that came out of the play has been with me ever since, “My house is me and I am it and it is all my dreams.” I hadn’t thought about this line for a while until this week when we were in an area that might have to evacuate due to fire. It reminded me about my feeling of home.

As I looked around the house at everything and started to consider what I might need to take should we have to evacuate, I was filled with grief. What if what I bring is all that we have left? As a person who tends to, what we call Spiral in my family and worry about all the worst case scenarios, I lost control. I was weepy as I video scanned the interiors of my house in case we needed to use this for insurance purposes. I could barely think about this possibility.

This house was purchased with hope that we could get back on our feet and return to the place my husband and I began when we were first married. The house is a project. We have put so much love and energy into it. With so many things it needs, it has been a slow process. If you don’t have the money, you have to use time. Ever so slowly, my vision for the house is materializing. Unfortunately, we have to spend large chunks of money on very unglamourous projects such as a new septic system. Expensive and nothing shows. Not that you don’t have to maintain the infrastructure, but it sure would have been nice to spend the money on a new kitchen floor or cabinets. No one said ever” My what a lovely septic system you have!”

My fears about the fire have been allayed, but we are still in the midst of a series of horrifying heat spells. September and October are typically warm months, but with global warming, we are experiencing record setting temperatures everyday. The worry of fire always there. Now, I better understand the line from the play, I love this house probably more than the other houses we have lived in because we are free to craft a different life for ourselves. We are a work in progress…..In the context of the play, I also consider that it is not just about me, but also appreciating each others desire to define how they want to live.

Cleaning Up

I am sitting here watching a little bird pick up small pieces of weed and straw from our yard’s dodgiest location, the dog yard. Now I know that the little bird will create a wonderful nest out of all these scraps. It is in a sense recycling all the little bits to create a wonderful nest for its eggs and eventually its baby birds. As much as we all try, it is very difficult to keep our own nests tidy and recycle things. It could be a full time job.

When I was younger, I was often very critical of homes where yards and houses seem to run to rack and ruin. Why did they let those vines, creep over the entire front porch? Why was the broken bicycle allowed to disintegrate in the front yard? What was the deal with all the broken pottery on the walkway to the house? Even though I have more time as we are Sheltering in Place, I still can’t get rid of the feeling that I am not keeping up with the growing list of items to clean, replace, repair, repaint. And Now as the weather is getting dry and afternoons are breezy, I will have to contend with dust as well. Lots and lots of dust. I feel like I am becoming one of those people.

On Saturdays, I usually pick some larger projects like painting a small space, organizing something or getting rid of stuff though at this time that’s a little tough because the places I would like to donate to are closed. Still, I do have a lot of ideas.

For long time, I was reluctant to part with anything because it all reminded me of our old life with it’s abundance of travel, meals out, the parties, the entertaining- never on a small scale, spending way too much money on crap that I didn’t need. It is still hard to look at photos of that time. These, too, are stashed away in boxes.

Many of my decisions in life have been driven by fear. Once I discovered that I was my own worst enemy, attracting more bad luck by worrying about every little thing. When you have experienced a lot of traumas in your life, you tend to fall off the ledge pretty easily. It can get so bad, it is debilitating. One evening while sitting on the couch cocktail in hand, I thought for a minute ” Right here, right now, everything is ok.” This was a revelation to me. I discovered a quote that I love. It was written by Julian of Norwich, a medieval Christian mystic, ” All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” I now have this tattooed around my left wrist. Occasionally, I still freak out, but now, with practice, I am usually am able to talk myself off of the ledge

Weirdly enough, cleaning, tidying, painting, any sort of results driven activity will help me turn my thinking around. Anais Nin had a great quote about tidying up which has really resonated with me because I get it. I have to paraphrase because I don’t remember the exact quote, but something to the effect of “When I cannot bear outer pressures anymore, I begin to put order in my belongings….. As if unable to organize and control my life, I seek to exert this on the world of objects.”

Right now, I have some time to do projects. I have found working from home a wonderful respite from Daily commutes and 10 hour work days. I just hope that I will keep my motivation to keep tidying up and moving forward when we all return to our somewhat routine lives.

What We Do For Love

My childhood was rather tumultuous growing up. After my mother died when I was about 9 years old, we had a couple of housekeepers. One had no interest in making any changes, the other made some limited mediocre changes which frankly, I doubt that my dad even noticed. Then my dad married my stepmother when I was 12. She wanted to revamp everything. I know she wanted to make our house her home, but she had really different taste and not great taste. I tended to look askanse at all the changes. Paint, cheap furniture and I was sort of appalled that she got rid of most of my mother’s good furniture. Of course, my stepmother’s taste was nothing like my mother’s. My stepmother favored a weird combo of cheap Mediterranean and Danish modern and a few pieces from my mother that she deemed salvageable. My mother on the other hand was a died in the wool East coaster so a lot of her stuff was antique or based on antiques. She liked found pieces and old family stuff. She had good taste. Much of my taste was based on what I absorbed from her while growing up. I’d say the biggest problem that I had with all these changes was that I missed my home being as my mother had created it. I think a more astute person would have wanted to move a little more slowly in this process and perhaps enlisted my family’s thoughts on the matter. Unfortunately, my father was in his own misery.

I think my fascination with houses developed from this experience. I have always been enamored of old houses and houses in general. My husband is always surprised that I can remember the floor plans of most houses I have been in. We have owned a lot of houses and I have probably moved about 4 times in my life more than the average person. Each house had it’s own way of life and style, but in truth, I think that I keep wanting to recreate the comfort of my childhood home. What I missed.

It’s really not possible but I keep looking for that sense of permanence that illusive thing I miss. With each house we look at, I imagine what that life will be like in that house. It’s a little like trying on clothes, but on a much bigger scale- life! I fell in love with Interior Design from my mother. The way she put things together, the colors she used, the items she salvaged and repurposed. I am good at design, but never pursued it as a career because I hate sales, ugh. I love restorative work, rebuilding bringing back what was lost.

Now, the house we are in was a “purchase in haste repent at leisure” sort of a deal. After 2008 we had to put our house on the market and frankly, it was really too big for us anyway with our son off at college. It took three years to sell with the market in free fall. Finally, with a buyer in hand, we had to find a house and close escrow in less than 40 days. I picked this house because I knew we could get it cheap because it was a wreck and in a somewhat remote location. I had thought we would have enough money to do all the work necessary in the first couple of years, but that illusion quickly evaporated after a sudden downturn in my husband’s business.

So here’s the repent at leisure part. We have been here 8 years and only managed to get a few things done like that new roof, some painting, built a deck, done some foundation work replaced some of the heating system ( a wall Heater), and replaced the tub surround in my bathroom. We still have to replace all the windows, redo some of the siding, paint the rest of the inside of the house, redo the kitchen, build fences, new water heating system. Oh and did I mention the retaining walls slowly sliding down the hill returning the land to nature. All of this takes time and we both work full time. What keeps me going is that I am trying to do the best I can for my house and my family. It is both a frustrating and lovely journey.