Sunday, 29 September 2013

Kitchen of the Year 2013

Rustic Wood Kitchen

Have you seen House Beautiful's Kitchen of the Year in the October issue?  Is something shifting away from the oh-so-boring white kitchens? – because this is the first one I have liked in a long time. Sure, I like the painted green kitchens, but the other non-white ones tend to be very dark wood and modern looking. Where are the cozy kitchens? Well, here is one.

House Beautiful 2013 Kitchen of the Year in Kips Bay Show House.

I think one reason I like it so much is is reminds me of what my kitchen is like, or could be like, someday, though my cabinets are prefab knotty alder, not quarter sawn oak. (You may remember my last post about choosing a paint colour for my kitchen.)  I haven't posted the after pictures yet, because we are still waiting for our new cabinet crown moulding, which is stalled in the colour match department.  My kitchen doesn't actually have a window in it either, except at the end of the eating area, and it opens into the light-filled family room. Still, it also has a low ceiling with lots of pot lights. The low ceiling might help it to feel cozy, too.

I like how a few cabinets in this kitchen have glass doors, and there are some shelves, to break up the look of the upper cabinets. But overall, I like the cozy look of the wooden cabinets themselves.  To me, this kitchen looks like home.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Maria Killam Answers My Question

"Ask Maria" to the Rescue

I sent my question to Maria Killam of Colour Me Happy because I really didn't want to repaint all the trim in the house as my Benjamin Moore colour consultant advised. (I may consider it if not for the vinyl windows.)

Now she has answered me on her blog!

And I am very happy with her answer! Thank you, Maria!

But not only that; I am also hugely impressed with her skills. She told me my counter and floors had a yellow tone and I had always wondered if they were pink.  She also suggested a new wall colour: Standish White HC-32 which will have a similar feel to the colour on the walls now, but blend into the fixed features better.  I never knew that our current colour, Summer Harvest CC-190, was too "clean" a colour for our counter and floor. She is hugely insightful.

Related Posts:

Choosing Trim Colour

Kitchen Addiction

I'm Dreaming of a Green Kitchen

Friday, 14 June 2013

Poems in the Home

Charming High School Chapbooks

Today was the last day of classes and exams start Monday. I have a lot of marking to do in the next week, then report card marks, work habits and comments to input, then more marking of provincial exams. However, I don't feel too overwhelmed this weekend because the marking consists of these beautiful little chapbooks written by my grade 8 and 9 students. 

After weeks of writing and revising poems, I booked the computer cart and showed them how to align their pages landscape wise and choose two columns.  Then how to photocopy two sided to make book like pages. I gave them card stock paper for the covers and showed them how to bind them with embroidery thread I bought. Some ran out of time and used the long armed stapler, which is OK, too.
A lot of the poem assignments are from the old classic, Rose, Where Did You Get that Red? And others are from Georgia Heard's books about teaching poetry writing.  Maybe because we read so many poems as a class, maybe because they know I am a poet, maybe because they are young and full of imagination, they took to writing and constructing poetry books naturally.

These books are pretty to have in the house, and I know it won't feel like a chore to mark them. Each has a BC English Curriculum rubric tucked inside so I won't mar the books themselves with marks. They all need them back Monday for their portfolio exam.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Choosing Trim Colour

Is "Cloud White" CC-40 too white?

Last summer, we ripped out the broken microwave and cupboard above and had the tile continued up to the ceiling behind the new hood fan. Right away I noticed something weird with the colour. But was in the white trim that made the tile look dirty, or the yellow paint? The trim and ceiling are Cloud White CC-40.

Oh, and the hood fan installer is coming back to make it snug to the ceiling.

Here is the whole kitchen. I am wondering whether to rip down more cabinets and put up more tile, or just get glass fronts in the upper doors to lighten up the room and cut the brown. By the way, new cabinet crown is on the way and so is green paint for the walls: Peaceful Garden.
Something like this.
Here's a little something I found on Pinterest from Elle Decor. These cabinets are lighter than mine but have glass tops and green walls.

Can you see the tile looks creamier below and browner above? Is that the yellow paint or shadows from the cabinets?

The painted moulding scrap is "White Down" CC-50, which I am considering repainting all the trim in my house (the same trim I just painted "Cloud White" last year!)  The tiny paint chip beside it is "Cloud White."  Do you think White Down is a better match with the tile or a tinge too yellow? Worth repainting everything? That's what my Benjamin Moore colour consultant told me.  That is a lot of work or money!

Oh, and one other problem: I have vinyl windows all over the house and the "Cloud White" trim blends into them, making them look not so cheap, I think.  Match the trim to the windows or the tile? Have two whites in one open concept house?  All I know is the yellow has to go.

These questions are too hard for me, unsolved after a year of pondering, and a consultation with a paint colour expert. I have decided to take it to the top and have emailed my question to Ask Maria (Maria Killam) of the famous Colour Me Happy blog.  Watch for her answers there and the results here.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Lilacs in the Dooryard Bloom

Lilac Time!

May may be the best month of the year, because our little town becomes Lilac Town and our backyard is filled with the heavenly smell of lilacs.  I cut a few for the table for mother's day.

They were my mom's favourite flower, too. They spread by sucker roots from one plant to another. A mother plant may be dead yet the daughter plants, still attached, will live.  A metaphor if I ever saw one.

Maybe we planted it a little too close to the house, but I like to look from the kitchen table, through the window on the right.

What else do you want from life?

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Let there be Light

Chandelier Rewired

Well, after a winter with a hole in the bedroom ceiling, our chandelier is back and operational.

If you read this post, you know the sad story of how the old wiring exploded one day.  I found a store in Vancouver that regularly rewires old chandeliers, so I sent my husband there one day when he was on a business trip to Vancouver. Another day, he had to pick it up and drive it to the CSA offices in Richmond for the sticker of approval all electricians need to see before they will install a light in Canada.  I think it was the first time they saw an individual with one old light in that place. They were used to dealing with huge importers of lighting fixtures and I'm sure they are talking about my husband to this day. The story is not over, however, for they found more grounding work for the repair shop to do. So back my poor dear husband went (I told him to imagine he was working for Sarah Richardson) to the repair place in Vancouver, then back again to Richmond to the CSA office, where by now he was on first name basis.  Yeah! It got the little blue sticker.

Then all I had to do was rehang the crystals and call the local electrician to install it. The repair place told him it was 1930s European. I still maintain the repair and approval costs were worth it and all together cost less than buying a new fixture with much less character.

 I like the pattern in makes on the ceiling. I had the electrician install a dimmer switch.

Now the room feels finished, and well lit when it needs to be.

For more on lighting, click here.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Emily Dickinson's Wallpaper

Emily Dickinson is one of my favourite poets and A Bloomsbury Life has just posted a blog about the wallpaper in her bedroom, where she wrote her poems. Please check it out.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Kitchen Addiction

Kitchens I Love

Right now we are doing little improvements in our kitchen: last summer we took out a microwave and overhead cupboard and put in a big stove fan with "chimney." Now we don't have enough crown moulding for the cabinets and need to choose something new.  Here is a small one we are considering:

Before and after pictures will follow in a later post. In the meantime, I am still planning.  What I am hoping for is a layered but simple crown moulding look like in this London England kitchen I saw in Elle Decor.

Kit and Tim Kent London Townhouse Kitchen

I absolutely love this kitchen. I know I can't make my walls round, and my cupboards are brown, not grey, but they have the same aged knotty look. I like how this kitchen is not afraid of cabinets, as no real cook without a separate pantry can be.  I wonder if I should rip out more cabinets, but if there is one I don't really need right now, what about when I get that big wooden salad bowl?  I like how just a few of the cabinets in this kitchen have glass doors, or nothing. I like the old tray leaning against the wall, and I love the bead board. But first things first, I love the small moulding on top of the cabinets with bigger moulding at ceiling level above.  That is the first thing I want to emulate, and while the moulding I am choosing for my kitchen is a bit more elaborate, it is the smallest that will match our cabinets.

Here is another kitchen I like a lot:
Michael S. Smith green kitchen
If you saw my post about green kitchens, you will know I have a weakness for them.  I love this one not because it is green, though, but because it has a similar cosy vibe to the one above; it is as though they have been there a long time. Maybe it is the large hearth-like stove. Maybe it is the bead board again, and the moulding.

So there you have it: it is moulding that I love in a kitchen, besides knotty cabinets, as well as big hood fans.  Maybe it's some sort of cottage kitchen in my past I am trying to evoke, when we had a wood stove and cloth curtains instead of cabinet doors. Or maybe it is some iconic ideal. Why does a modern feminist spend so much time thinking about kitchens, when my mother tried so hard to free my from the servitude of this place?  Maybe it is mommy, herself, we kitchen addicted are looking for.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Why do Little Things Make me Happy?

The Joys of an Organized Spice Drawer

William Hazlitt wrote, "It is better to drink of deep griefs than to taste shallow pleasures."  Well, I have drunk enough deep griefs in life and can't stop opening my new spice drawer to taste its shallow pleasures!  What is it about clean glass jars at an angle in alphabetical order that makes my heart sing?  I mentioned while installing it that it has long been my dream to have such a drawer in my kitchen, and my teenage daughter remarked, "Nice dream, Mom." OK, it is dream number 549,000 on my dream list, but still an old and dear one, going back to my mom's spice drawer of my childhood. I should mention also that our 25th anniversary is coming up this summer and most of the spice jars we had been using we have had for 25 years.
My new spice drawer.
 Now isn't that a sweet sight? Clearly visible labels and spices equals a happy cook. Of course, I had to buy fresh refills for many jars! I bought these little racks at my local kitchen store, The Seasoned Kitchen, in Gibsons, BC. (They even sell extra jars separately, which is good, as we can't make dip without dried onion or some of Vij's recipes without Garam Masala, so had to squeeze two more in front.)
Tidy, shiny, exotic!

Here it is in context. This drawer used to be for plastic wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper and the like, but two spice racks fit perfectly in here and those thin boxes don't need so much space. It is right next to the pantry.
"Old Spices"

Here are the old jars which we couldn't part with for a quarter century, now headed either to the recycling or my son's kitchen. So far he only wants basil. That mace you see in the bottom of the jar has been there since 1988! We didn't make a new mace jar.

Majestic Jars

The sight of these colourful herbs and spices, in ground or leaf form, makes me think of all the places in the world they have come from, and all the cooking and baking I want to do. This is the sight I must keep peeking at all morning and evening. Like babies in baskets or more like a control board?  Whatever the associations, this drawer is my magnetic north these days while it is new.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Little Tips from Steven Gambrel

A Simple and Interesting Kitchen Table

It has been a long time since I wrote a blog. I have been overwhelmed with my work as a teacher, and this week, I have been on an at-home writing retreat trying to finish my second poetry book. Still, today, while I was working at my kitchen table, I thought I should share the view I was enjoying.

First, though, I should say that last summer I bought Steven Gambrel's book and while he mostly caters to dot com zillionaires, I find his own homes especially inspiring.

In particular, the simple kitchen table in his summer house I took the liberty of using as a template for my kitchen table arrangement.

Steven Gambrel's kitchen table.

My kitchen table.

I took the simple formula of small potted tree on woven mat with extra small containers and simplified it a bit so there would still be room on the table for eating, homework, and poetry writing in the late afternoon sun. The small containers on my mat are salt and pepper shakers. I enjoyed looking at these simple and natural elements as I worked on some poems this afternoon. As my friend Heather Jessup, author of The Lightening Field, says, tulips make marking more bearable.  I would add a little tree makes any kind of work more inspired, though my husband doesn't like how it blocks other diners' faces when we eat here. I guess that's why Steven Gambrel's tree is so tall.

On the right of my kitchen is a metal door with a window in it. Some day I would love to get a wooden dutch door here like in Steven Gambrel's kitchen.

There is another inspiring picture from this summer house I would like to emulate.

Steven Gambrel stairs.

I love how there are blue walls above and below the stairs. Why was I so scared to paint the big wall above the stairs in our house blue?  I will fix that this summer, though i just repainted the bannister white and don't want to paint it black.

Stairs in my house with mis-matched wall colours.

Stay tuned this summer, when I post an after photo for this wall.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Am I Becoming Like My Mother?

My New Love: White Linen Tablecloths

My mom loved a beautiful table and had drawers of colourful linen table cloths, and even a specially sized table protector for under her tablecloth.  Because of ten-plus years of babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers in my home, I was slow to appreciate the charms of a table cloth, thinking only of how it would be pulled of accidentally, and the spills.  Even when everyone was old enough to sit at the table without summersaulting and knew some table manners, we didn't have a table cloth because I couldn't find one big enough for the giant sized dinner table my family had stored in basements for generations. I think it looks funny when the table cloth barely covers the table, and most modern round table cloths would barely cover ours. Then last year, our local kitchen store, the Seasoned Kitchen, brought in a huge round linen table cloth in grey here. And for my birthday this year, I bought another one in white linen.

Even ironed, linen looks a little rumply. The more these are washed, the softer they get. Did you hear me, a modern woman, admit that I iron table cloths? And pillow cases. When your first toy is a tiny pink ironing board and iron, the conditioning is hard to shake.  Important note: sweep the dog hair from under the ironing board before draping the table cloth over it!

I find that whenever one of the table cloths is on, there is an instant home feeling in the house. I know this must relate to my mom's love of table cloths.  They bring a softness to all the hard wood of the dining area.  Also, they allow me not to paint the chairs, the patina of which I have come to love, especially when the old black leather chair seats are covered in pretty cushions. By the way, the patina of the table was altered in the 80's, when my parents converted the table top to a giant coffee table and had it refinished. Now it doesn't match the legs or the chairs. Another good reason to cover it.

One obvious rule for using a white table cloth in my home: eat hamburgers in the kitchen. And put a placemat on top for safety.

Here are some of my other rules for the table, to help make dinner an occasion, which my family members now appreciate so much they complain when one is missing:

Telfer Table Rules

1.  Beeswax candles must be lit every night.  (These are made by local orthodox monks. A few extra are sold in a tiny local store.)  If you have old silver candlesticks, even better.

2.  Fresh cut flowers at all times. My favourites in the winter are hydrangeas from the florist because of their greenish white colour and long life (if you trim them and replace the water with warm water when they start to droop.)  In the summer I prefer fresh cut roses from the garden.  My husband insists on keeping the flower arrangements low so we can see one another.

3.  Cloth napkins.  I can brag about my environmental virtue by saying that we have never used paper napkins in our almost 25 year marriage. These ones are by April Cornell.

4. Placemats:  safety reasons already mentioned.  Still, no ketchup.

5. Tablecloth! Oh, and having two table cloths lowers the anxiety about spills. Now there will be a clean one for tomorrow and I don't have to stay up all night doing laundry and ironing. (I told you I was becoming like my mother!)

6. And for my youngest teenager: set the table with the knife, fork and spoon in the right order and even neatly. Not so neat above but I try not to be a terror.

7.  T.V. off. Sometimes we like quiet music, but usually not.

8. Do not answer the phone if it rings.

9. Don't eat your dessert until your mother has her piece in front of her. (That's me, not wanting to serve second pieces of cake or pie before I've had one bite.)

10. And one other little trick I recently learned: if I put the chairs on the diagonal, everyone has room to push their chair back comfortably.  Charlotte Moss says this size of table can seat six, and with the chairs this way, it can.  It aslo has four leaves, but I don't have a table cloth that big yet.

I think my mom would approve of this tablecloth, and of course I wish I could still invite her over for dinner, now that I appreciate the things she always did. I guess I am a slow learner in the household arts.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A Bloomsbury Life: Take Your Life to Eleven

Here is some inspiring life advice from one of my favourite blogs.
As I am too busy doing school work and working on my poems and visiting my son to write blogs this week, I thought this would be a perfect substitute.

A Bloomsbury Life: Take Your Life to Eleven: I know you are like me. I know you want to squeeze as much out of this crazy ol' life as you can. And so this post is for you, but al...

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Snazzy Valentine's Cookies

Cookie Recipe

This recipe is from a cookie book my parents had in the 1980s and I don't know where it is anymore or even if it is still in publication. Luckily, I wrote it down in my wedding present recipe book twenty-five years ago and have been making these cookies at least once a year ever since.  All my children love them.

Emerging in the eighties, these cookies aren't heart smart or anything like that, but neither is cheesecake, another wonder food containing cream cheese I discovered in the eighties.
The much used cookbook.
Here is a readable recipe:

Cream Cheese Butter Cookies 

1 cup butter, softened
75 grams (3 oz.) cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 + teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar. Separate the egg, (and save the egg white for your dog or a healthy omelette.)  Add egg yolk, vanilla and orange peel, grated on the finest grater. (I find freshly grated orange peel gives these cookies zing. I have never made them with the dried stuff in the spice section.) Mix.  Add the flour, salt and cinnamon; stir together either before or while piled on top of the dough before mixing in.  Turn on low so the flour doesn't go flying.

If your butter was really soft, you might want to chill the dough for an hour or so before rolling it.

Put it onto a floured surface in two or three batches in balls you have made with your floury hands, and with a floured rolling pin, gently roll out the dough. Be careful not to roll it too thin or the cookies will be crispy. A good solid 1/4 inch is about right.  Use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and carefully lift onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on how cold the dough is and how hot the oven is. I find 12 minutes in my oven bakes the thin cookies perfectly with just a bit of gold on the bottom. I don't like them as well crisp.

Let cool on cookie sheet for ten minutes before lifting them with a spatula onto the cooling rack.

The recipe says makes 48, but I get 36. Maybe my cookie cutter is bigger. The plate below is a side plate, to give you an idea of their size.

Do not ice! Icing would ruin the subtle orange, cinnamon and cream cheese flavours.

Aren't the orange flecks cute? These cookies are addictive.  I can't eat any other kind of sugar cookie anymore; they have ruined me.  But I can eat them with chocolate, just once a year.

Denman Island chocolate with a cookie, styled by my daughter.
If they all get gobbled up at once, don't worry. You have enough cream cheese left for two more batches. Enjoy!

Happy Valentine's Day, though these cookies are good anytime.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Using Lamps

In my house, I like the lights on, unlike other members of the family who will remain unnamed at this time, especially at this dark time of year. Like Psyche, I won't listen to anyone who wants to keep me in the dark.  I want to see who is around me! And I love table lamps for bringing the light to reading height.  

If I were a millionaire, I would have Christopher Spitzmiller lamps in my home.

From New York Social Diary
Being one of the 99%, a poet and a teacher, I make do with what I can find in my small town and what I salvaged from my parents' house.  I know a pair of lamps is what I should have everywhere, but so often only one is available, or I dither for too long on say, a pair of sea urchin lamps, that I miss out.

This one is from my grandpa's house. The original drum shade had gold edges and Jackson Pollack-esque drippings in green all over it. It was so groovy but eventually it got a bit beat up. I have yet to splatter paint the new shade, though it has received one flying splatter of spaghetti sauce. 

This one was a wedding present and is now on my desk. These first two are real pottery clay.

 This little one is on the front hall table.

And this one is on my dresser, which you have seen.
This one is from my parents' house and needs a bigger shade and a contrasting wall colour!  From the 1970s, it too is made of clay.

These are a pair on the bedside tables. I love how they have tri-light settings, for reading and romance. And I love the subtle pattern on the inside of the shades that you can see only when the lights are turned on.

Without me showing every lamp in every room, I think you get the idea of how I love electric lights when I can't have sunlight. I won't stand for the cold glare of compact florescent bulbs, though, and I forgot to stock up, so I guess we will be driving to Bellingham soon.

Chinese New Year is here, and pancake day, so that means the days will be getting longer and the lights will be going on not until after dinner, at this northern latitude, soon enough.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

I Love Books

Bookshelf Love

Practically the first thing we did when we moved into our new house was have bookshelves built for the living room. As an open-concept house, this one had few walls, and no long walls where, in previous apartments and our first house, we had placed three or four Ikea Billy bookshelves together, which I think is the way they look best. In this house, with the only long wall split by the focal fireplace, we decided built-ins would look better.

Then we had some crown installed across the top between them. Before I start listing all the things not quite right in the living room, let me say that these shelves and the books on them are at the top of my things in the house for which I am grateful list. With four degrees between the two adults in the family and a houseful of avid readers, it is hard to make room on the shelves, and sometimes I give books away, but then regret it later when I am looking for them. (I see one shelf in the upper right full of photo albums. Surely they can go somewhere else.)

I am now plotting for when my second son moves out next fall: I will move all the Billy bookcases from the garage up to their room and create a long wall by rearranging the beds!  Where to store books is an ongoing concern.

Don't you think the spot between the bookcases would be perfect for wallpaper to match the dining room, which is just left of the left bookshelf?

Here is another bookshelf I love, in an apartment designed by Albert Hadley.
House Beautiful
These are backed with wallpaper. I don't think you can see but ours are backed with bead board.  These ones do what you are supposed to do: add a few object to let the books breath. I never seem to have space for that.

My mom grew up with no money for books, but was an avid library user. I think that is cool, and as my bookshelves fill, I am trying to become a more regular library user myself. I also know about ebooks but never think I will get used to their uncoziness.  Hey, I am a poet, and poetry will always be published by small presses in books, I predict wildly. Still, I can't get used to the sight of bookshelf empty of books.
House Beautiful
This room is called a study, but what would you study in here but the shape of the vases?
And here is something that makes me really mad: bookshelf wallpaper.

I can understand not having money for books, but having money for wallpaper of books before books? I just don't get it. I can't imagine what my mother would say to that.

Here are a few little tricks I have tried after reading decor magazines and books, but I don't recommend them.

First, I reorganized my books by colour. People notice as soon as they walk into the house. But try finding a book by theme, genre, or author, as I used to organize them, and good luck to you. Many hours of frustration have ensued.
Second, I took the glossy paper covers off most of the hard covers in an effort to de-commercialize them and make them look more old fashioned.

The Matthew Arnold books really are old.
The not so obvious problem here is that in my mind is the picture of Angela's Ashes, The Courage to Teach and all the rest with their paper covers on. Now they are doubly hard to find!

I guess this summer I will go through them all again, put their covers on, and rearrange them by some method other than colour. Sure it will look more chaotic, but life will be calmer.  I like this work, because I get to hold each friend in my hands and love them up close, one at a time. You can't do that with an ebook.