This maple tree in our yard has started turning yellow and dropping its leaves. In July. (To be fair, I took this picture right before sunset, so the bright gold patch is from sun rays). Some plants bloom a lot when they are dying, a last-ditch reproduction effort. So maybe this early color is because I refuse to water the grass. I think a monoculture of immaculate green grass is boring.
Notice Riley peeking around the corner of the shed for woodland creatures. She has about five posts in the yard, this being one of them. All day long she goes from one post to the next, in order, monitoring bird activity to the point where she’s starting to wear a trail in the grass. Obsessive? Perhaps. Entertaining? Definitely. It’s better than Squawk Box in the morning.
It is raining today and Riley has been moping around, willing it to dry up so she can stalk the robins. Remember how I said I weeded on Saturday? Well, I got poison ivy on my forearm. I knew I was handling it, so I used gloves and washed my arms afterward. On Sunday I noticed 3 “bug bites” that started spreading and getting painfully itchy. I will spare you photos and instead post a picture of my latest creation. I want to oxidize it, but that means hand-polishing because I can’t tumble sponge coral or turquoise.
Steve and I were in Delaware Sunday through Tuesday, then he flew to California and gets back today. So I haven’t moved anything from my studio upstairs yet. It has been so blazingly hot this week that I actually don’t mind being in the basement. I’ve been writing tutorials, describing every little thing I do for a project and then taking step-by-step pictures.
Yesterday I met with one of the bead stores in town and scheduled classes for August. Then I helped my dad go through stuff that has been in their basement. I filled my car with the boxes of Wedgewood and Fiesta dinnerware I inherited but don’t quite know what to do with. Dad went to the Orioles game last night, so Mom and I gave ourselves pedicures. And to top off how cool my mom is, she recently stocked the basement fridge with alcopop.
Near the kitchen is a half-bathroom that was painted terra-cotta when we moved in. I didn’t mind that color, but I really wanted to paint something robin’s egg blue and that was a nice, contained spot. The mirror is kind of ornate and looks great against the Tiffany-box blue, but was competing with the faucet on the pedestal sink (brass). Steve tackled the task of swapping the faucet for one of antiqued copper. I wanted to get an Audobon-style print of a robin or bluebird to carry the bird theme, so I got some Arthur Singer prints on eBay. Then my mother found a pair of my grandparents’ framed bird prints in the basement and it turns out they are two from the same series Singer did in 1957, so I’ll add them to my collection. (Mom also suggested the next grandparental throwback will be crazy-loud hummingbird & vine wallpaper from my grandmother’s kitchen). All of the light fixtures in the house are brass, so I’m slowly swapping them out for more current designs like oil-rubbed bronze or rusted iron.
Here is the kitchen the way it was yesterday. Notice the white sink that stains easily and the brass cabinet knobs (ick). To me, knobs are the jewelry of the cabinetry. Corny, I know, but I value cool jewelry. And birds. So my friend Debora found a few cast iron bird knobs on eBay and I am planning to scatter them around and get oil-rubbed bronze knobs for the rest. The granite was installed today (woo hoo!) so I wanted to post a pic even though I don’t have the knobs switched out yet. We had a granite island in our kitchen in Delaware, and once you go granite it’s hard to go back to Formica. The silicone has to set for 24 hours before we can hook up the faucet, so it’s a good my parents invited us over for dinner.
By the way, I want to say a public “Congratulations” to my mother on her retirement. She has been the science department lab lady (read: mother hen) at the local high school and is looking forward to having more time to spend in her sewing room and with my nephew.
Trying to fight The Lag, we stayed up as late as we could last night but still managed to wake up completely rested at 3am. Another sleeping pill (I’m not addicted – I’m not!) let me sleep until the breakfast buffet was almost closed this morning – glorious. Just so you know what you’re missing in Sweden, at any given meal there will be some sort of pickled herring. Fortunately there are also items on the breakfast smörgåsbord like soft-boiled eggs, muesli, a selection of cheeses, crispbread, and marmalades.
Steve went to the office after breakfast and I sat in the park and read the rest of Marian Keyes’ Watermelon. I mean Moby Dick. Gothenburg has a series of green spaces which makes it feel friendly and beautiful. It was designed by Dutch architects, so it also has a series of canals that liken it to Copenhagen and Amsterdam. While watching people walk by I noticed the wonderful absence of Crocs, or even sneakers. Women tend to wear ballerina flats and the guys wear leather shoes (often the gorgeous, handstitched variety I thought was only characteristic of Italian shoes).
Another thing I have noticed is the borad use of high-contrast graphics of stylized vines (!), birds (!), and butterflies in advertising and fabrics. Here’s a sample from the Copenhagen airport. Another was the cobalt & white bird/flower print that Lagerhaus is applying to everything from bedsheets to paper napkins. I’ve seen this in the US (esp. Marshalls) and on Etsy so I imagine that a year from now I’m going to hate it.
Here is the dining room the way it was when we first saw the house. It’s not that big of a room and all the strong color was a lot to take, so we kept the faux finish on the upper wall and the gilded ceiling (for now) and neutralized the rest. I think the new chandelier (found on CraigsList) is an improvement but too small, so I have my eye on this one. More branches! (Steve, be glad it doesn’t have birds on it like this one). Or, I may revisit my original plan of spray-painting the brass one for an iron look. Other items in the room are the dining table I bought unfinished, the vintage white cabinet I trimmed out to match our kitchen cabinets in Delaware, china cabinet from an antique store in Tipton, PA, and rug from HomeGoods. I’m trying to figure out which pictures to put where and right now I’m leaning toward framing a set of Anne Hussey originals (paintings or B&W photos) to flank the china cabinet. I was trying to figure out if PB’s Megan slipcovers will fit on my Ikea Hendriksdal chairs when I come across the IkeaHacker blog – a nifty resource for how to modify Ikea products for other uses (repurposing). After looking through their projects, I may try dyeing the current slipcovers.
Our house is coming together so I thought I’d show you some before & after pictures. The first is of our living room before we bought the house, then the way it currently looks. The walls are now cafe au lait instead of Band-Aid, the club chairs & coffee table are from CraigsList, wooden chair from an Englishwoman’s yard sale, rug is from HomeGoods, and our Ektorp sofa from Ikea will be replaced soon. (The 2-ton sectional sleeper sofa in the basement that conveyed with our house has been recently extracted, so we’ll be moving our current sofa & loveseat downstairs for TV watching). I recently came across Bemz, which offers Ikea slipcovers in alternative fabrics, but I don’t think new slipcovers would make this set look any less slouchy. I have sagey-olive silk to make valances. Notice the birch “tree” in the back left corner, courtesy of Cheryl’s neighbors who had put the broken-off branch out for the trash. (Have I mentioned my bird-tree-leaf-berry-acorn fetish?) You may also notice the lovely ceiling fan which we have used exactly never and sorely need on the adjacent screen porch where it will be moved. Dad recently helped us replace our dining room chandelier, so now that we know how to change them out, the rest of the brass light fixtures’ days are numbered. Fortunately, there’s a Habitat For Humanity store locally that can use stuff like that.
We did our camp cooking on Monday, and last night I got to do another fun part of camping (without actually going): I slept on the rattan sofa on our screened porch. It was surprisingly quiet given the major road that runs by our house, and the best part was falling asleep smelling honeysuckle. I’m not sure if it was real or imagined, but I felt like mosquitoes were around so I finally headed inside around 4am. Riley slept on the loveseat and had no interest in heading inside with me. I’m sure she was up and watching the birds (her favorite pastime) at dawn.
With the much-needed warm weather this week, I have found myself outside a lot. Feel free to assume I’m mowing, weeding, fertilizing, etc.. In actuality I’ve been sitting on the screened porch watching my neighbors do all that. Riley has taken to stalking birds all… day… long… She’ll stand on point for as long as that robin is poking around for worms, and when he flies away Riley runs to that spot and sniffs it. Makes me wonder what kind of information she can learn. I took my jewelry-making to the porch today because it sure beats the dark basement. So if you’re wondering why I’m not answering the phone or my email, I’m outside. Yes, we have a cordless phone and wireless router, but I’m enjoying being unplugged.
You may recall the robin incident in September. Apparently Riley is a bird dog only in the sense that she likes to eat them. This time Steve caught her looking guilty with a mouth full of nest, then eating the last of the little blue eggs inside. She had removed the nest from its perch about 5 feet off the ground inside a prickly juniper. We’ve seen yellow birds (finches?) flying in and out of there since then, so I’m hoping they’re trying to lay eggs again, perhaps higher up this time.