Entryway

How to Hang Artwork in Your Manor in 10 Easy Steps

 Step 1: Convince your husband that the art needs to be hung RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. Stomp your foot if you need to make you point more emphatic. Sigh dramatically while husband slowly finds necessary tools.

Step 1: Convince your husband that the art needs to be hung RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. Stomp your foot if you need to make you point more emphatic. Sigh dramatically while husband slowly finds necessary tools.

 Step 2: Try not to scold as wood shavings are distributed around your newly cleaned dining room. Remember that ART is more important than tidiness. Distract yourself by looking up such search terms as "how to teach your husband to be neat" and "am i am unreasonable wife." Do not share results of second search.

Step 2: Try not to scold as wood shavings are distributed around your newly cleaned dining room. Remember that ART is more important than tidiness. Distract yourself by looking up such search terms as "how to teach your husband to be neat" and "am i am unreasonable wife." Do not share results of second search.

 Step 3: Assure now-irritated husband that yes, it is imperative that you document each step of this process for posterity. FOR POSTERITY.

Step 3: Assure now-irritated husband that yes, it is imperative that you document each step of this process for posterity. FOR POSTERITY.

 Step 4: Squirt a liberal amount of toothpaste in the holes to help mark the wall. Pause to engage in 20-minute conversation about why kids' toothpaste tube is so gross and how it's a miracle they haven't gotten Legionnaire's Disease yet.

Step 4: Squirt a liberal amount of toothpaste in the holes to help mark the wall. Pause to engage in 20-minute conversation about why kids' toothpaste tube is so gross and how it's a miracle they haven't gotten Legionnaire's Disease yet.

 Step 5: Make husband try to find nail holes while hoisting heavy art in the air.

Step 5: Make husband try to find nail holes while hoisting heavy art in the air.

 Step 6: Encourage husband to keep trying, exclaiming things like "won't you feel so great when this is done!"

Step 6: Encourage husband to keep trying, exclaiming things like "won't you feel so great when this is done!"

 Step 7: Take sixty-seven photos of husband next to art, until his eyes are open in one of them.

Step 7: Take sixty-seven photos of husband next to art, until his eyes are open in one of them.

 Step 8: Admire your spartan entryway. Tell children if they dump their shoes in the hall one more time you will cut off their feet.

Step 8: Admire your spartan entryway. Tell children if they dump their shoes in the hall one more time you will cut off their feet.

 Step 9: Move a little closer to get the full effect. Trip over suddenly-appeared shoes in hallway that children insist magically appeared while they were off dutifully completing chores.

Step 9: Move a little closer to get the full effect. Trip over suddenly-appeared shoes in hallway that children insist magically appeared while they were off dutifully completing chores.

 Step 10: Move even closer. Gaze upon art for another 15 minutes, then focus on the really important part: posting a photo of art on Facebook.

Step 10: Move even closer. Gaze upon art for another 15 minutes, then focus on the really important part: posting a photo of art on Facebook.

In Which I Realize The Manor Will Be the Death of Me

The house is killing me. At least twice a day I am convinced we made a huge mistake in taking on this behemoth that seems to be falling apart faster than we can (afford to) fix it. I'm counting on the fact that back in 1907 houses were "made to last" and thus should hold up for another couple of years at least.

I've narrowed my despair down to four main culprits:

  • I've been really busy at work lately. More work = more stress = more grumpiness. Plus, I've had less time at home to tackle small projects or do the daily organizing that keeps my family's disheveled habits in check. It's a bit of a vicious cycle -- clutter makes me anxious (which reads as "bitchy" to my family) so when I'm busy at work, the house gets messy, which makes me more stressed, which makes me more tense at work. Yada yada yada. 
 Except for the randomly placed and disproportionately small picture frame on the wall, this is what happiness looks like for me. Tidy and spare, with lots of white.

Except for the randomly placed and disproportionately small picture frame on the wall, this is what happiness looks like for me. Tidy and spare, with lots of white.


  • I was sick over the holidays. I caught the flu the day after returning from a trip to Bangkok in mid-December and that flu virus turned into a cold, which lingered until it became bronchitis. In all, it was a full five weeks of misery before I turned the corner. I felt off my game for Christmas and New Years, and it drove me crazy that the time I took off (almost 4 weeks out of the office) was devoted to laying on the couch and coughing rather than tackling any of the dozens of house projects on my list.
  • Bill and I are not on the same page. We've had a string of disagreements lately about project choice, scope, design, and budget. The Manor is a hard enough project to tackle, without being on the outs with your partner in crime.
  • Several of our projects have gone wrong, or haven't been finished. The expensive paint job we did on the front porch last year has bubbled and peeled, making it an eyesore every time I have to go through the front door. The plaster ceiling repair we did on several parts of the house looks fantastic, but there are still multiple areas in other areas where the ceiling is peeling away. The chicken coop paint job isn't done, nor is the new ramp to the back door. Living "in between" is hard.

I'm hopeful that the impending spring weather (although it snowed again last night) will create a renewed sense of optimism about The Manor. Otherwise, I've noticed some very attractive downtown lofts available for a steal.

That said, there have been some nice points over the last six months. Here are a few of the highlights

Sewing Projects

 Warm pajamas for the rooms where the heat is still a little iffy.

Warm pajamas for the rooms where the heat is still a little iffy.

 An animal-print wrap-dress for #JungleJanuary.

An animal-print wrap-dress for #JungleJanuary.

 Matching dresses for me and the spunky one.

Matching dresses for me and the spunky one.

Small Home Improvement Projects

 We got rid of this hideous light (and gave it to my sister, who thinks it is awesome)...

We got rid of this hideous light (and gave it to my sister, who thinks it is awesome)...

 ... and replaced it with a ceiling fan. So much better!

... and replaced it with a ceiling fan. So much better!

 We got a new storage unit for our bathroom, which gives us more room for everyday necessities, and about 15 extra rolls of toilet paper. #beprepared

We got a new storage unit for our bathroom, which gives us more room for everyday necessities, and about 15 extra rolls of toilet paper. #beprepared

 We upgraded the dining table to a proper one with pull-out leaves that will comfortable seat twelve. Finally had our first dinner party, which was a rousing success.

We upgraded the dining table to a proper one with pull-out leaves that will comfortable seat twelve. Finally had our first dinner party, which was a rousing success.

 Ultimately, I'd like to have the table repainted (professionally) but once we set it up for that night's dinner party, I came to grips with the fact that it will probably stay like this for the next decade.

Ultimately, I'd like to have the table repainted (professionally) but once we set it up for that night's dinner party, I came to grips with the fact that it will probably stay like this for the next decade.

Happy animals

 My sewing room is the warmest place in the house (since I crank up the baseboard heaters) and I find a lot of animals napping there.

My sewing room is the warmest place in the house (since I crank up the baseboard heaters) and I find a lot of animals napping there.

 This fall, all was bliss...

This fall, all was bliss...

 And the sassy creatures paraded around with glee.

And the sassy creatures paraded around with glee.

 And we ate delicious fresh eggs almost every morning.

And we ate delicious fresh eggs almost every morning.

 Then one of the chickens got a hernia. There's nothing to be done, and some chickens can live for years. Sadly, about a month after it happened, her skin split and she died. Thank goodness BIll took care of the remains -- I was told it was pretty gruesome. 

Then one of the chickens got a hernia. There's nothing to be done, and some chickens can live for years. Sadly, about a month after it happened, her skin split and she died. Thank goodness BIll took care of the remains -- I was told it was pretty gruesome. 

 Still, the eggs from our remaining hens are delicious, and a nap can fix almost anything.

Still, the eggs from our remaining hens are delicious, and a nap can fix almost anything.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

 I would be remiss not to mention a life-changing discovery. Putting a sheet of tinfoil on your baking sheet makes chocolate chip cookies bake perfectly -- soft and chewy with no burned bottoms. Please implement this trick immediately.

I would be remiss not to mention a life-changing discovery. Putting a sheet of tinfoil on your baking sheet makes chocolate chip cookies bake perfectly -- soft and chewy with no burned bottoms. Please implement this trick immediately.

That's all for now!

Quick Fixes

The backyard and porch projects have eaten up almost all of our "Make The Manor Perfect, or at Least Structurally Sound" budget so for the next few months we'll be focused on smaller things. Here's my current list:

Better lighting.

Almost every room in The Manor needs better lighting, but I'm going to focus on the kitchen, the master bedroom, and my sewing room. With winter's early sunsets fast approaching, these are the places I most want to brighten in the evenings.  

Wall art. 

It's been 18 months since we moved in and while I'm still terrified of the plaster walls, it's time to move past the fear. I'd like to start a gallery wall in the entryway, as well as get a few things up in the guest room.

Painting the barn and storage buildings. 

Okay, this one is actually a job I'm saving for Bill. Although I'd my goal is to get the job done by winter I might have to get out there and help. Ideally I want ask of the outbuildings to be blue with white trim. The first task is finishing the trim on the chicken coop and fence to make sure that were on the right track. (The Tiffany Blue is currently looking VERY bright but Bill will kill me if I change my mind. So I need to be sure before risking my life with another set of color swatches. 

Seeding the stable area.

We had to get our house appraised for some paperwork last month, and the appraisal assistant was from Kenya. As we were walking around the yard, she mentioned that the stable area looked like the backyards in rural Kenya, with chickens and goats running freely around. She meant it nostalgically, but when she said the words "with lots of scrub" I realized that we needed to reseed the area.

The vision was a continuation of the backyard, with regular grass (and the occasional weed, sure). Instead, we have a partially seeded area that is pretty rocky and filled with weeds that are approaching my waist. The goats are shirking their "eat anything and keep down the brush" responsibilities, so it's imperative that we get this problem under control before next spring.

Unfortunately, we'll probably have to keep the chickens locked up in their run for a couple of weeks to give the seeds a chance to root and grow before the seeds are set upon as tasty morsels. I am normally against restricting their space, but if it means a more aesthetically pleasing yard, lock 'em up.

Things we will not be doing: 

  • Anything more to Sarah's room, until she learns some self control and stops writing on the walls and furniture (including the antique dresser I bought and painted for her -- yes, she is lucky to still be alive and kicking). Her brother went through a similar phase at the same age that seemed to last about a year. Maybe next fall we can revisit painting the walls, recovering the armchair, replacing the carpet, and restaining the bedframe.
  • Dealing with the heating situation. After dealing with the frigid temperatures in The Manor (particularly the kitchen)last winter I would have sworn in my life that we'd have a proper heating solution in place by this October. (Probably gas fireplace inserts in some of the existing fireplaces, which were designed for coal.) But the price tag is pretty steep and we've blown or budget on other stuff. So instead I'll probably just wrap myself in blankets and drag a couple space heaters around with me. 
  • Fixing the columns out front. While this is soon going to become a serious problem, the $50,000 to $60,000 it's going to cost to completely replace the rotting columns just isn't practical right now. We'll probably aim to replace one each year (starting with the one in the worst shape) and spread the project out over four years. Keeping our fingers crossed that they continue to hold up until we can get to them. ##loadbearing 

So, dear reader, what home improvement projects are you planning to tackle over the winter? Any particular projects that gives you nightmares? I have a recurring dream where I'm standing on the front porch watching the columns disintegrate before my eyes, but am helpless to move before they squash me like a bug. Good times. 

 

Empty Space

Last weekend we moved the hall stand and shoe organizer or of the main entry and into the breakfast room. I was tired of seeing unzipped backpacks and fifteen kids' jackets right when I came through the front door. 

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But now there an empty space that (maybe) needs to be filled. The hallway isn't wide enough for seating against this wall, despite Bill's beliefs. It would go best with a buffet or sofa table. 

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In my dreams, I find the perfect apothecary unit about the height of the chair rail and quite long. I could use the little drawers to corral the bits and pieces that scatter around the house throughout the day, like permission slips and Legos and hair bands and screwdrivers and wood putty. Each person would have their own drawers and be responsible for cleaning them out regularly. 

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I can dream, right? For now, the space will sit empty. In my book, empty and spacious is almost as good as the perfect piece of furniture.