Thursday, September 30, 2010

Keeping up with the (Van) Joneses

Living in this sleepy Dutch town means many things. It means your lawn is immaculate and your flowers are always blooming. It means every February you go to the Almond Blossom Festival…rain or shine. It means you never speak poorly of the crop (almonds) that has made this town what it is. If you don’t have a pair of wooden shoes or a windmill on your front porch, you might as well have a scarlet letter 'A' embroidered on your cardigan, which is hopefully 100% cashmere. Basically if you aren’t doing these things, you aren't keeping up with the Joneses… or in Ripon’s case the Van Joneses.

In my attempts to keep up with the Van Joneses, I have acquired a very Dutch piece of décor for my not so Dutch home. A few months ago I came upon this little Dutch liquor bottle. It’s blue and white with windmills all over. Now I am not a big drinker of Dutch liquor, (whatever that may be) so I converted the bottle into my handy dandy olive oil dispenser. I realize that olive oil is from Italy, but when you are keeping up with the Van Joneses it’s really not the inside that counts.

So we Vander Lehrs are one step closer to Riponian assimilation. Now I just need to remember to plant some tulips when the season comes around.


If you are just reading this blog and are finding yourself confused about all these Dutch references, I suggest you read this:
blog entry to make sense of it all.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Fresh Coat of Paint

During these harsh Great Recession times, I have to find wise ways to spend my hard earned dollars. A hobby of mine, that I believe I inherited from my mother, is decorating. This little brain of mine has a multitude of ideas to make my house look simply amazing. In fact, my little brain most likely has ideas for your house too.  Alas, decorating is quite an expensive hobby. My house is nowhere near the vision in my head, but it will get there someday… or I’ll die trying. Besides my decorating hobby, my mom also passed down an eye for garage sale and thrift store finds. With a little inexpensive paint and polish, something old and dreary can look fantastic. My furniture transformation projects satisfy my hunger for new décor and go easy on my wallet.

When looking for a painting project I recommend you start at home. Look around and see what you have that has the potential to be something great. For example, when my husband and I got married we could not afford to simply go out and buy a new bedroom set. We took his headboard, which had good bones, and painted over the old flaking veneer wood with a cream color. I realize it isn't the greatest project in the world, but if you saw the headboard before you would think so.

Someday I will get my tufted headboard...
for now this will do

Another good place to look for painting projects is in your parents’ house. My mom had this great vintage caned chair repainted a few times. When I was little it was in my room and I requested it be painted hot pink. I think my mom cringed a little, but she did it anyways (or maybe it was my dad who did the painting...can't leave out my dear old dad). After I flew the nest, my mom painted it a calming yellow. Somehow I have ended up with the chair again. There may have been a little begging and sweet talking involved. Now the chair sits in my kitchen nook ready to seat an extra guest...or to just sit there looking cute.

From red to pink to yellow, this chair gets around
...color wise that is.

The next painting project was a doozy. This is an old dentist cabinet turned hutch. My mom found it at a garage sale…sense a pattern?  It sat in her garage for years. She had good intentions but the project was a bit much for her to take on. The cabinet had layers and layers of old teal paint on it. The color was actually very cute, but it did not go with my kitchen. I took on the project when we lived in our rental house and finished it just in time to make its grand entrance at our current home. It took longer than expected, but when I was was marvelous. I get a lot of compliments on my dentist cabinet turned hutch. I painted the outside white, then painted the insides of the etched glass portions red. I also spray painted the faded knobs a shiny black.

Isn't it sweet?

What's black, white, and red all over?

My next painting project was one that I talked my mom into doing for me. I needed a stool for my vanity. At the time I was living at home with my parents and wanted it to reflect the pattern of my green curtains.  My mom did such a nice job on this garage sale stool, that I still use it while doing my makeup.

Funky Chic

Destressed edges are fun.

Notice the little "J" at the bottom?

The next project comes courtesy of my mother's garage as well. Before Danny and I got married, I decided we needed some hip matching nightstands. Naturally I went shopping in my mom's garage as it usually was full of garage sale finds. I found the perfect side tables; of course they needed a little renovation. The main problem with getting married is that in order to make your husband feel a little bit masculine in his own home, you can't paint everything with a girlish flair. So I came up with this homage to a classic black and white checkerboard design for the nightstands. It isn’t so cutesy that it makes Danny want to vomit although my floral lamp does.

My side...

Tayler enjoys the nightstand as well.

The next item was purchased already painted. This chair was a gift for getting good grades or perhaps it was a birthday present from whom else but my mother. Either way, I love it.

A touch of gold

This last project is my most recent. I came upon an old weathered garden bench and needed to re paint an extremely neglected table for a seating area by our pond. With a little sand paper and some fresh paint colors, my back yard went from depressing to cheery.

Isn't is sad looking?



Before you go to an overpriced furniture store, take a look around and see what you have. With a fresh coat of paint, you can make even the most hideous item look like a million bucks...or at least a hundred.

Monday, September 13, 2010

For the Love of Fall

Inspired by a refreshing change in the weather, this blog is about Fall. Fall gets a 9 out of 10 on my season likeability scale. Like most of my statistics, this doesn’t mean much. By the time a new season comes around I decide I am over the previous one and go on to claim the new season as my favorite. Nevertheless, fall is currently my favorite season. Fall means many things to me…

                                                          It means a change in the leaves

It means my favorite brown suede flats

Fall means a cheaper electric bill

(Cha ching!)

Fall means back to school (as a teacher) for Danny

(Doesn't he look handsome in his faculty picture?)

….Which means a happier me

(I'm kidding about that one...mostly)

Fall means mashed sweet potatoes and cinnamon.


Fall means less sweaty workouts.

(Okay this is me as a sweaty hiker, no one wants to see me working out...)

Fall = Apples.

(Yes...that's mini Jessica)

Fall means Halloween!

Autumn is a season of joyous celebration because this dog:


Sheds less

There's more where that came from!

and this lady....has less sweeping to do!


Fall means leggings!

...and cardigans

...and pea coats

Oh my!


Esme and Jude celebrate...


Pumpkin coffee...

Pumpkin candles...

Pumpkin everything...

Fall means turkey.

Tis the season for better sleep for this day time-sleeping, night shift-working, girl...

Better sleep for the dogs too...

More crock pot days...

More reading days...

...For the LOVE of FALL...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hooked on Books: A Double Session with Self Reflection

I recently finished reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you have any contact with the outside world, you know that this book is a New York Times Best Seller and its popularity has recently surged due to the movie version’s release starring Julia Roberts.

Eat Pray Love is sort of a typical, “Woman has inner conflict- thinks getting a divorce and dating men very different from her husband will help her-discovers like most post divorcees that men are not the answer to everything- goes on a year long travel voyage through Italy, India, and Bali-with lots of soul searching,” type of story. Of course everything falls into place for Elizabeth and she lives happily ever after and is at peace with herself.

Despite my hints of sarcasm, I did enjoy Eat Pray Love. Perhaps I am just jealous that Elizabeth Gilbert was paid in advance to go on her self reflecting journey, by her publishing company as long as she wrote a book about it...a book that as mentioned above, would go on to be a New York Times Best Seller and million dollar movie. I would like to throw it out there that if anyone wants to pay for me to travel the world; I am willing. Unlike Elizabeth, I wouldn’t leave my husband to do so.

A few months back, I did a very backwards thing and saw the movie Julie and Julia, before reading the book by Julie Powell. Julie and Julia is also a New York Times Best Seller and the movie received excellent reviews as well as some Oscar nominations.

Julie and Julia is about Julie Powell and her search for something more. Julie is a young wife, living the same boring life, day in and day out, while commuting to and from her underwhelming government job. Julie is stuck in a rut as the only thing exciting that seems to happen to her is when her garbage disposal breaks. Julie decides to take on something bigger than her, in hopes of finding a life outside of the subway and her job. She cooks her way through Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and blogs about it. Despite multiple domestic arguments and some not so masterful French meals, Julie finds her “something more.” It may have helped that Julie’s blog became a worldwide phenomenon, she was interviewed by multiple news sources, was offered a book deal, and the book became a million dollar movie.

Although the book was somewhat different than the movie, (which I loved) I enjoyed it. The Julie in the movie was definitely more lovable and I preferred her to the real life fowl mouthed Julie of the book. Nevertheless, Julie and Julia was the perfect read for me at the perfect time, because not only do I love cooking.......and butter… but I also had just started my very own blog.

Eat Pray Love and Julie and Julia are of course not exactly the same, but both with similar soul searching-independent women tones and happily ever after endings.

My “Why I started a blog” story fits somewhere between Julie Powell and Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s stories, but without such deep highs and lows. I was in a rut of some sort. My rut didn’t have any deep rooted issues with my marriage, childhood, or lack of contentment with my job. It just had to do with me. Luckily, (or unluckily?) I didn’t have to go to India or cook my way through a French cookbook to pull myself out of it.

My husband, being the helpful guy that he is, suggested a blog. At first, like usual, I thought his idea was silly. Instead I started doing things that I always dreamed about doing but for some reason never did. For example: I bought a beach cruiser with a basket and started riding it around town. This made me smile. In fact, if you look closely the next time you see someone riding a beach cruiser, particularly if they have a basket, look for a smile. I made it my mission to seek that smile. I found that smile in many of the things I blog about.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Eat Pray Love, “People universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes travel around the world looking for it.”

Almost a year later, I was continually seeking happiness and feeling it, when my friend Sharon told me she had started a blog. She told me how she used to be in journalism and loved writing. I had a similar story being on the high school newspaper editorial staff. I was always more excited than any normal high school student should be when an English essay was assigned. Sharon told me I should write a blog. I recalled Danny’s idea from a year earlier. I felt a little flutter in my heart, I SHOULD write a blog: A blog about happiness, a blog about the silly little things in my life that have helped me to be me.

Elizabeth found her way by traveling around the world. Julie found hers by a love of cooking, Julia Child, and blogging. I found mine by actually doing what makes me happy. The three of us have our happily ever after, the other two just wound up with a multiple book deals and few million more dollars than I have, but that’s alright because I’ve got my slightly silly world.