My Sweet Chair

I stopped in a little consignment furniture store near our home this past fall “just to look”. And happened upon something I could NOT leave behind, no matter that it was near the end of the month, and after this purchase we had to eat beans for the remaining week left so that I could stay within the bounds of my budget. (haha, not really, but almost.)

This little chair and ottoman were hidden back in a corner – both pieces looked to be in wonderful shape except for a noticeable stain on the chair’s off-white slipcover, and the fact that the ottoman was missing its slipcover altogether. But they looked like “good furniture” to me, and the price was really amazing. I managed to wrestle the slipcover off the chair and was rewarded with a little tag that read “Crate and Barrel”. Not that I ever shop for furniture there, but I knew enough to recognize a good deal, as long as I could get that stain out. So, after talking the owner of the store down to $99 for the pair, and consulting a friend over the phone to make sure I wasn’t about to do something incredibly stupid, I paid for the pieces, ferried them home in my minivan and got my hunk of a man to lug them inside for me. (This was taken AFTER the ottoman got a replacement cover – don’t they look cozy??)

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Like all good obsessive-compulsives would, upon arriving home I immediately got on the web to look up these pieces of furniture, since I knew I’d at least need to order a new slipcover for the ottoman part, and this is what I found: I had just purchased The Potomac Chair and The Potomac Ottoman. Which, it turns out, are really incredibly made – these are quality pieces of furniture…..with a pretty high quality price tag to go along with them. The combined cost of this chair and ottoman bought new, made my jaw drop. Wowsers. In fact, once I had done the math, I calculated that what I paid for both of them after tax, was the exact dollar amount (give or take a few cents) one would pay for JUST THE TAX on the purchase of these two pieces new. Snap!

Of course, I did have just a little more money to shell out before I was finished. But, as Providence would have it, Crate and Barrel were right in the middle of their big annual custom upholstery sale: perfect time to go choose a slipcover, and they still carried the fabric I needed. Plus a hundred other fabrics they also tried to sell me. After all, the saleslady reasoned, why not pick up a second cover for the chair and ottoman for the winter months!?! Hmmm?? Well, maybe next year. For now, I am content with my wonderful new spot for cuddling up with a book, or as is usually the case, and CHILD and a book. Nicolas and I often do his reading lessons here with the sun streaming in the window.

Oh, and in case you are wondering…Yes! that stain came out with lots of pleading on my part, and a nice long soak in Oxy-Clean. And even though off-white furniture may seem foolhardy in a house with all these kids, I for one am a pleased customer, and a proponent of the slipcover…I’ve only washed these once since originally getting them back in September, and they really look great.

So here’s to thankfulness for little surprises in the back corners of used furniture stores. Now to get some pictures up on that wall!

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Very Big Deal

In April of 2007, the warzone-disguised-as-an-alley behind our house was blocked off and work gradually proceeded on replacing it.

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I am happy to report that today they moved the blockade just past our house, giving us access to our garage for the first time in 9 months! Thankfully, I was optimistic (for no apparent reason) and reorganized our garage over the past month to ensure we’d be able to fit both cars in it the moment the alley was accessible. For those of you who don’t know me that well, this is a Very Big Deal.

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Speaking of garage organization, one of my goals in this house was to not store anything in the attic. I’m not a big fan of the out of sight, out of mind consequences of stuff being squirrelled away in the attic, gradually accumulating over the years. But the Christmas tree and decorations presented a challenge.

You’ll see my solution above the car on the right. I put a shelf in a couple weeks ago as the Christmas decorations were coming down that fits above the garage door when it’s open. It holds the Christmas tree and several containers of ornaments and decorations.

Back of the House Gets A Face-lift

Ok, I am so not trying to turn this into a home-improvement blog. But there have been some fun things going on around here which I want to share. Many of our readers know that we did not buy our house for its cosmetic beauty, but because it was in a great area, had pretty good “bones”, and was in our price range. Frankly, much of it was pretty awful-looking when we bought it. But, we have been really thankful to be here.

So now, after many months, we have updated/improved/replaced many things which needed attention that were NOT cosmetic and which, while adding to the very important “soundness” of the home, didn’t do much to enhance the appearance of the house (think electrical, plumbing, gas lines, gutters). But this past week, we made the first profound improvement to the place cosmetically. And from the back at least, things are looking pretty nice!!

Here is a before shot of the back of our house. The folks who used to own the place let their dogs live out here (as well as several thousand colonies of fleas…which we have since evicted!), and they (the dogs, not the fleas!) did a number on the brick walls, back doors, deck floor. Ick.

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Here is how the other side looked, complete with random trash and Christmas lights (it was August!) left by previous owners:

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Here is the same spot now (with one lonely, albeit lovely chair which belongs to my lil’ sis):

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The pic doesn’t show it well, but the deck is actually a darker color than the house, so there is a bit of contrast. Still working on my Photoshop (or, in this case, Picasa) abilities…..

Here’s another before (remember this, Jamison?):

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And this afternoon:

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From what our sweet next-door neighbor tells us, this deck is over twenty years old, so I don’t know how long it will last, but hopefully we have just prolonged its life significantly with this latest TLC. I am loving this space. If you’re in the area, come on over for a glass of tea and a chat on the deck. We can fight over who gets to sit in my sister’s adirondack chair!

A Girl’s Best Friend…

…is, it turns out, her amazing new dishwasher!! When our vintage model, a KitchenAid Superba by Hobart…quite the machine in its day, my mother tells me…and indeed, I think ours had seen better days…

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gave up the ghost, I knew that ANYTHING would be a step up from washing all our dishes and utensils, pots and pans by hand. My month without a washer was helpful in demonstrating just how beneficial a real working dishwasher can be to the busy mommy of four. It was admittedly not a fun month, and I often felt as though I spent most of my waking hours in the kitchen, trying vainly to keep it somewhat tidy, while always staring at yet another stack of dirty dishes.

These past few weeks of having my new dishwasher has been a dream…I am very very grateful for this new convenience in our lives. I read a wee bit of the owner’s manual when we had the new washer installed (reading manuals is not my strong suit), enough to see that the company advises you NOT to prerinse your dishes before loading; only to scrape food from them, and place in the washer for cleaning. Never having owned a washer which would actually clean dishes that weren’t prerinsed, neither Jay nor I believed this would actually work, so we, being creatures of habit, loaded some well-rinsed dishes into the machine for its first cycle, and of course were pleased when they emerged an hour later, washed, hot and almost dry. And we were truthfully even a little surprised, especially since we couldn’t easily tell the hard-working washer was actually running….it was so quiet. (See? They have to put these nice little blue lights on the front so you can visually tell that it’s running, since you might not know otherwise.):

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We had been very used to a lot of noise coming from the dishwasher, given that our previous model pretty much made it sound like a train was crashing through the kitchen every time we ran it.

Well, about a week later we got gutsy and decided to see if the new washer actually lived up to its lofty claims. It was hard for us, but we resisted the urge to prerinse our dirty dishes. Instead we loaded the arrogant machine up with rubber scrapers caked in peanut butter, a broiler pan with crusted fish that had been cooked on at extremely high heat, a pie plate with some scattered remains of chicken pie which had hardened nicely over it, bowls covered with dried raw egg on the insides, well, you get the picture. We threw them in, poured in the scant amount of cleaner we were instructed to include, ran the dishwasher through its water-saving, whisper-quiet cycle, and were truly shocked when everything came out clean and fresh the next morning. Clean. Dry. Spotless. Not even a water spot. Wow.

Well, needless to say, I am in love. I have never owned a dishwasher like this. I honestly didn’t know such a thing even existed, much less at a price the average middle class homeowner could afford. As God is my witness, if we ever decide to move from this house, I will uninstall this precious dishwasher from its place under the countertop by myself, wrap it in a comfy blanket, and carry it on my back to our new place of residence.

Here’s a picture of my new best friend (IMHO it hardly does the wonderful machine justice, but of course after all this blathering I must include a photo):

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Sing With Me, If You Will…

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“The splotchy blue wall is gone…

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, Hah!

Let us sing a happy song…

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, Hah!”

Many thanks to Abigail who watched over Josiah this afternoon on her day off so I could prime over this stunning (a little too stunning, if you ask me!) bit of color in Josey’s room.

Now to paint the nursery a more pleasing (read “lighter”) shade of blue….

It’s Dishpan Hands for Me!!

Well, it looks like we made a very sound decision in purchasing the new dishwasher. Only catch is, it won’t arrive in time to save me from a terrible case of dishpan hands. Because it looks like ours has officially decided to stop working. Last evening the children on dish duty gasped in horror and called, “Mommy! There’s brown yucky water coming out of the front of the dishwasher.” Upon inspection, it was confirmed that the washer appears to be leaking its rusty innards out all over everything. Ew, and gross!!

I rolled my eyes at Jay and remarked that I guessed we’d be doing dishes by hand until early to mid October when our long-awaited new model will be in. He answered, rightfully so, that I was already pretty much washing them entirely by hand anyway, given the “washer’s” cleaning abilities had been mostly gone for some time now. And he’s right. We’ll probably save a nice chunk on our water bill these next few weeks if I am just washing things by hand, instead of first hand-washing it all, then running the dishes through the non-washing KitchenAid for a long, expensive rinse. Or we could just go to entirely disposable dishes for a time. But we probably won’t.

Truthfully, I know just how spoiled I must be to moan about going without this appliance for a few weeks, given that many people in the world today have never enjoyed the luxury of a dishwasher. I am hopeful that in the next few weeks as I am without one, that I may learn to really appreciate this help in life that I have usually taken pretty much for granted. Sometimes it helps to go without something for a time to realize just how thankful we should be for it when it is around.

Plump it UP!!

If the bed pillows at your house are anything like ours, they grow flat and floppy over time. Washing and drying them only seems to make the problem worse, and often adds “bunchiness” to the poor pillow. Soon, those lovely, cushy pillows on the beds start looking sad and limp on account of the pillows that are inside them, and they are no longer very comforting to sleep on. What is a lady to do??

Well, a friend of mine has the most clever way of utilizing the worn-out pillows: she stuffs TWO limp pillows into each of her decorative bed shams, thereby making them look plump and luxurious. What a great way to reuse something that seems past its prime! I tried this new trick today with several shams on our master bed, and can honestly say the pillows have never looked nicer!

A Fully Operational Bathroom

Well, dear Readers, I hope I am not boring you with my minute by minute accounts of our work around here, but the progress that we have made on the house the last few days is so exciting. On Wednesday morning, in our third bathroom, none of the bathroom “appliances” worked. The toilet had died, the sink was out of commission due to a leak which was damaging the vanity cabinet, and the shower was as it was when we purchased the house, that is to say, minus knobs for turning on the water (but the previous owners did leave some handy dandy vice grips affixed to the stems),

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and potentially installed incorrectly – we were awaiting the plumber’s test to see if there was a leak below the house, which was a devastating possibility. Despite our knowledge when we purchased it that the house had some need of TLC, the original inspection had not revealed that the shower might actually be unusable; if after testing, the plumbers discovered that it leaked under the house, all the tile would have to be torn out and redone, either a really major project, or a really major expense. So we awaited the verdict on the shower with some nervousness.

While we could certainly live with a nonworking bath for some time (after all, when we first moved in, we only had one working bathing place, and one working toilet), the combination of the mess in front of us along with the anticipation of actual overnight houseguests who were soon to arrive, spurred us on to want to fix the room up as best we could. As we told you on Wednesday, Jay tackled the toilet first.

After our plumbers gave us the glorious news late Thursday that actually the little shower was just fine, no leak, no problem, Jay set about to figure out how to attach knobs to the 1965 piping. Our plumber would have done it for $450, including parts, by replacing all the piping and valves in the wall (and leaving a nice hole in the wall to boot) but we were already paying them so much money for things we certainly had no business doing ourselves, that Jay wanted to try to do this job himself. He succeeded, with some unconventional methods, in getting everything working properly, so instead of the vice grips which had been left, we now have shiny chrome knobs. How fancy – well, compared to the vice grips.

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Jay also installed a nifty extender to allow the shower head to be moved appropriately into various positions for people of differing heights. On Saturday, we all visited Lowes and found a pretty faucet to install in place of the nonworking and very corroded original one.

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For about an hour, Jay sawed and fought with stubborn piping underneath the cabinet, and complained about rust particles in his eyes from time to time, but finally emerged triumphant: he had replaced the shut-off valves and hookups to the faucet underneath, and as the finishing touch to the sink, put in this lovely fixture.

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I love the porcelain “hot” and “cold” knobs!

So on Saturday evening, for the first time since we moved in last September, Abigail was able to shower in her own little bathroom. She was so excited, especially because it felt “cozy” (read “it is very, very tiny, perhaps the tiniest shower ever built”), and because she could bring the showerhead down to a ridiculously low level, exactly even with her 8-year old height.

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Now, because I am who I am, I feel the need to insert the disclaimor here that I don’t feel children need to enjoy a bathroom of their own, even if they are the only female sibling among three brothers. I have had conversations with many a person who insisted their children of different genders should not have to share a bathroom, and been admittedly horrified about such statements. It would appear that along with our general affluence that we seem to enjoy as a nation, we have somehow come to expect a number of things related to our and our children’s quality of living which are totally unnecessary. But that is really a topic for another blog, now isn’t it? And, perhaps you may think it’s all well and good for me to comment on not needing extra bathrooms for our children: after all, I am the mom whose daughter has that third bathroom!! But, I digress…..

When we set about looking for homes closer to school, a third bathroom, let alone one for Abigail per se, was not on our list of wishes – the idea never even crossed my mind. But this house ended up being the right price in the neighborhood we really liked…..and as you are learning, no one else wanted to deal with its host of “little” issues!! The split fourth bedroom and third bath it offered were appealing both for our daughter as she grows older and perhaps desirous of some more privacy than her three younger brothers are often wont to give her, and because we knew Abigail’s room would double as a guest room for any visitors, whom, we surmised, might enjoy the little bath off to themselves too. All in all, it has worked out beautifully, and we feel it is a huge and unexpected blessing.

Saturday night we were able to share that blessing with our very first real overnight house guests (not including some sweet little friends of Abigail’s who have been here for sleepovers). Here they are…come to stay at House of Horne: the famous Bloggys!!!

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What fun we had visiting with them. They were of course perfect houseguests, and left the bathroom cleaner than they found it. Jamison is just that way, you know!! We were so delighted they could stay with us, and thankful for their visit which helped to prompt such a major fix-up of the little bathroom’s functioning parts. While we have aspirations of texturing over old wallpaper, and painting the room a much more appealing shade of something than what is currently on the walls (this brown glaze with beige trim was used in several places throughout the house – same as was in the entry originally), we are so glad to have a functional and usable bathroom. Hooray!!

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Children’s Artwork in Home Decor

I see great articles in magazines about personalizing your home’s atmosphere – there are so many ways to do this, and make a beautiful home that is (to me) more appealing than the picture-perfect, professionally-decorated, periodical-worthy spreads we tend to drool over. Don’t get me wrong – I can use lots of help and advice with decorating my home, and sometimes wish my budget allowed for professional guidance, but, as a sweet and highly encouraging friend of mine says “Where is the fun in that?”

Anyway, I’ve seen various references to using children’s art as decor in the home, and know that using things our children have created certainly qualifies as personalizing our space. Most of us with children have more than a few masterpieces our progeny have put forth. Admittedly, I don’t want to frame and hang all of them, or even the majority of them, but I have for the first time, put one behind glass and displayed it in our home, and I like the result. I want to share it with you even though photos don’t really do the project justice, IMHO, and even though the walls around the display remain unpainted, etc, etc….

I needed a piece to fill the largest compartment in our living room built-ins (have I mentioned that I LOVE having built-ins in our new home? This is new territory for me) and I had no pieces tall enough to do justice to the space. My sis-in-law suggested hanging something – we talked about a tole tray as an idea – but my budget won’t allow for one of these right now, so I set about looking for something close to free, and happened on a painting of Abigail’s that I like, and an old frame from which I had removed the original picture, hoping to use it in a different setting. Last Thursday, with the children in tow, I popped over to our nearby Hobby Lobby for help. Within 15 minutes and for just $4 I had a custom mat cut to work with the unusually-sized artwork, and the non-standard-sized antique frame, and the entire piece put together and finished out with the proper hardware so that we brought home a ready-to-hang picture. It fits well in the space and helps to personalize the display in the built-ins too. Abigail is very pleased, to say the least. Here is the finished product:

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And here is the view of the set of built-ins. Keep in mind that since they are recessed, it’s nigh unto impossible to take a photo which shows everything and still looks straight and balanced, but believe me when I tell you that the picture is nicely hung within its little section on the wall. We are enjoying this space so much, and love the feel it contributes to our living area.

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