Dining Room Dreaming

When we moved to Wester, we lost a dining area.  The table from our casual dining set was not a good fit for the space in the new house, so we have been using our formal dining table.  For lack of a better place, my office ended up in the dining area - I can keep an eye on the kids while I am on the computer.  This seemed like a good solution, but the truth is my desk is ALWAYS a disaster area and it has contaminated the entire kitchen.

Once we started on the attic renovation, it became clear that both the kids play area and my office would be moving upstairs. (Yay!)  This is going to leave my dining are really bare.  Also?  Since it is the only dining room in the house, I would like for it to be a little nicer than our former kitchen dining area, but still comfy and inviting. 

I knew I needed to include more storage, even though my kitchen has a lot of cabinet space.  I have a lot of special occasion dishes (that it would be nice not to have to go spelunking to get to) and I would like to display at least some of my china and crystal.  Also, I need more/more flexible seating.  I need to be able to accommodate large groups for holidays and still have seating for the ways we use the kitchen.  T doesn't like to eat at the table because he says the chairs are uncomfortable, so I need to work that in somehow, too.

Here is what I came up with:

 Here are the design high points:
  • Two 'hutches' made from semi-custom cabinets.  Drawers on bottom, glass doors on top.  Black, but distressed to let the wood show through.
  • Built in banquette with long willow baskets for storage underneath.  A great place for my place mat collection and also a good place to collect odds and ends from kids projects/homework.
  • Wing chairs for the grown-ups.  I found a set of two for $100 on Craig's List.  I could so totally recover them.  I love me some leopard print, and I think it can function as a neutral, so I think I will go that direction for the upholstery.
  • Bench seating for the side of the table closest to the kitchen.
  • Large harlequin paint treatment on the walls.  Tone on tone, probably flat vs. gloss.
  • A selection of art by Rodney White.
I spent WAY too much time messing around with this design on PhotoShop today, but I love the result?  What do you think?  Any suggestions?

Lazy Saturday

I had some girlfriends over this morning. They are the very best kind of girlfriends in that they don't expect my house to be clean when they arrive, but are complimentary if it is. They know what I'm like and like me anyway. Heaven!

Anyhoo, Bun has recently started working, so I am not seeing nearly enough of her lately. She and CJ have been getting together on Saturday mornings for a while so I asked them both over to my house this week. Moms and sons arrived around 10:00 this morning. As it was noisy inside (David the contractor working on my stairs. On a Saturday, no less!) and lovely outside, we adjourned to the screen porch and let the kids run wild.

There is usually some kind of breakfast involved on the Saturday get-togethers. Ever an over achiever, I decided to make my sister's recipe for Apple Puff Pancake (recipe to follow). It has easily been ten years since I made it last. I had forgotten how good it was! It was a hit with the moms, but not so much with the kids. Luckily, we are well stocked up on cereal, dried blueberries, granola bars and milk. No one starved!

We talked about decorating and frustrating husbands and funny children and everything else under the sun. All too soon, the little guys were tired and my friends had to go home. Why is it that the kids are always ready to leave before the moms are done visiting? I am already looking forward to the next time!

Apple Puff Pancake

6 eggs
1½ cups milk
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter
2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Mix eggs, milk, flour, sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon in blender until well blended.  Mixture will be slightly lumpy.  Melt butter in 12-inch casserole dish in oven.  Add apples and return to oven until butter sizzles.  Remove from oven and pour batter over apples.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 425° or until puffed and golden.  Yields 6 to 8 servings.


Photo Finish

At long last I have pictures! Ta dah!  Z's room:  now with more animal print!

Here is a comparison of how I had pictured them in my head next to a picture of the finished product.  Impressive, no?  I SO love it when things turn out just like I see them in my mind's eye!

Next I will be digging into the panel that I am going to add to the top of the bed-in-a-bag I got from Tar-zhay.  That sounds simple enough, but I have decided that I am going to make a border with ruching and piping.  Wouldn't want to make it easy on myself!

Luckily, my fab mom-in-law had a gathering foot for the sewing machine, so I am hoping that once I learn how to use it, it will do most of the work for me.  Of course, I am expecting a Lucy-and-Ethel-like adventure (misadventure?) before I have it mastered.  I watched a how-to video on YouTube.  She made it look easy enough.

Luckily, if it isn't easy?  I have lots of extra fabric!


Rats! Foiled Again.

With only a few false starts, I was able to complete the valence for Z's room.  It is so gorgeous I can hardly stand it!  It turned out exactly like my drawings.  I love when that happens!

I have been mulling over how I was going to hang this behemoth valence for weeks now.  My dad built and hung valences just using nails.  I knew this method would give T a stroke so I decided to be all structurally sound and put up a cleat (2x4s screwed into the studs) and expected it to hang like... something that hangs beautifully.  (My simile skills seem to have abandoned me.  Darn.) 

What I didn't expect was for my gargantuan valence to practically LEAP off the wall once I got it hoisted up onto the cleat.  Yikes!  Mah baby is going to be sleeping under the darn thing.  I really don't want it to fall off the wall and decapitate her in her sleep.

The force of instant gratification was pulling me to figure out another way to get the dang thing on the wall without killing my firstborn, so I called my dad.  Engineer Daddy had several excellent and non-grandchild crushing ideas.  Most of which involved a trip to Lowe's.  Now, I love me a trip to Lowe's, but I really wanted to get it up now.  As in before bed time.

We hit upon a plan that didn't involve the purchase of more hardware, but I decided it would be prudent to wait to hang the potentially dangerous window treatment tomorrow while Z is at school instead of right before she goes to bed.

Man, I wanted to finish this project today!  Pictures tomorrow after I successfully adhere that puppy to the wall!

Kid Speak

Q was playing with a bubble sword that he got at his school's end of the year party.  Suddenly, he look up, very concerned.  "Mama, this is not a Batman sword."

"That's okay," I tell him.  "Not everything needs to be Batman's."

"But it does, Mama!  It really does!"

.  ..   ...  ..  .

Driving home from school, we pass an open field that is home to tons of prairie dogs.  Lately, we have been playing a game to see who can spot one.  As we drove by today, Z said, "Look, Mama!  They are posing!"



Z's curtains came together like a dream.  They are gorgeous!  I guess the good part about doing something in your head over and over again is that when you finally do it for real, it is a piece of cake.  I am in LOVE!  I'd post a picture, but all I have are the before pictures.  My camera died before I could take the afters.  (Shut up, T!  I already have the battery recharged!)

For the remainder of the post-kiddo/pre-mama bedtime time, I am going to work on covering the valence.  The trick will be getting the batting on and covered before Holly can turn all destructo-dog and rip it all off.  Batting looks a lot like dog toy innards - Holly's favorite snack.

Z's room is finally starting to look like a real bed room!  And not like squatters live in it!  Yay!  Pictures soon!


The First Cut

I am a planner.  I plan and plan and gather and plan.  I love a well thought out plan and the process of collecting just the right pieces to make it happen. 

I have all the parts for a variety of projects... that I have never started.

One such plan is the decor for Z's room.  I have been talking about it for almost exactly  a year now.  (Huh.  I didn't realize it was the anniversary of my first Z's room post today.  Kinda ironic!)  I mapped out the embellishments to the bed-in-a-bag set I bought last spring with blueprint-like detail.  I started collecting fabric shortly after Christmas.  I found fabrics online, in sheet sets, at Hobby Lobby, and a curtain panel.  The last print arrived in the mail from Javis Davis yesterday. 

I am still on the hunt for the over-the-top trims I want to use.  I purchased some giant rick rack in a beautiful lime green only to discover that it clashed mightily with the lime in the Paris print I am using.  And giant rick rack is hard to come by.  Sharpie to the rescue!  I colored a small part of it with my yellow Sharpie an it was the perfect color!  Yay!  And also? Boo!  I hand colored 18 feet of giant rick rack.  Sucked two Sharpies dry.  Man.  I am so compulsive.  And that was just for the valence!  I'll have to do

Over the weekend, I constructed the wooden box that will become a valence over Z's window.  I'll pad it and upholster it with three of the prints from her bedding (and the Sharpie-d rick rack).  Finally, after putting it off for as long as possible, there was nothing left to do but start sewing. 

Making the first cut into a piece of fabric is always the hardest part of any project for me.  I guess it signals the end of the planning part and the beginning of the doing part.  In the doing part, there is the very real danger that my project won't turn out as I had envisioned.  I hate that.  But I did it.  I cut three fabrics and pieced them together. 

So far, so good.  I love it when a plan comes together!



Apparently, after two dog-free weeks while the dogs were at Camp Grandma, I completely forgot the basics of pet ownership.  And also the destruction my hounds of hell can wreak if left un-crated while I am out.  In fact, the crate and its lack of dogs didn't even cross my mind until I had been gone for over an hour.  I wasn't going to be back for hours, but it didn't matter anyway.  The damage had been done.

I guess I should be grateful that the carnage wasn't more widespread.  Instead, it was a targeted attack right where it hurts the most: the remote.  Blackie/Holly ate the remote to the still-practically-brand-new-TV. 

T was not pleased.  Channel surfing just isn't the same when you have to get up every time you want to change the channel. 

At T's desperate insistent urging, I called Best Buy to see if they carried replacement remotes.  When I explained our dilemma to the home theater guy (my end sounded like this, "My dog(s) ate my remote.... No, I'm not kidding.... Yes, she(they) ate it.... Yeah, she(they) ate my first Kindle, too.), he suggested that perhaps I might want to get a new dog.  I told him I already had four dogs and didn't need another one.  His reply?  Maybe there is an exchange program?

Best Buy doesn't carry replacement remotes (Universal remotes?  Yes.  Brand/model specific? No.)  Thank goodness for the internet!  I found an exact match on eBay for not a whole lot of money and it is already making its way through the U.S. Postal Service to Wester.  Unfortunately, there wasn't a shipping upgrade, so we have to wait for the regular mail.

In the meantime, perhaps we will drop a pound or two walking back and forth to change the channel.


Not Dead Yet

Though the killer germies did their worst, I'm not quite dead yet.  If fact, I think I'm feeling a little better, really.  (Bonus points if you get the reference!)  I spent all of my Mother's Day trip to Ginormousville sick in bed and trying to cough up organs.  Seriously?  A spleen?  An appendix? Who needs them anyway?  A kidney?  A lung?  I've got two!  No need to be greedy!

I didn't get to visit with any of my buds while I was there.  Boo hoo!  And I had to cancel the much anticipated trip to the zoo with the Alpha Aunt, Sister L.

The camp cot of a mattress we started our married life on? Not so good for days of convalescing.  I am SO glad to be back in Wester in my own comfy bed.  Ummmm.  Bed.  (said with Homer Simpson accent).

After a night of sleep on my blessedly supportive/not poke-y bed, I thought I was well enough to take the kids for our usual Monday play date.  All was well until Q had a blow out and had to be carried ALL the way across the park for a new diaper, then carried back again because he left his shoes at our picnic table.  It felt like I was sucking wind for the remainder of the afternoon.  And when deep breaths lead to extended coughing fits?  Bad news.  When we got home, it was naps for everyone - including me!

I have spent the last couple of days improving, but am still kitten weak and limp as a dish rag after the slightest exertion.  Blah.

On the up side, I did manage to get two items moved from the garage to their homes in the attic addition.  Huzzah!  Cough, cough!  Wheeze!  Hack! 

Oh, yeah.  That.  The attic reno is on day what?  48,312 or so?  And no, we aren't finished.  We are SOOOOO close!  We have been promised every week for the last month that we would be done by 'This Friday! No, really!  This Friday!'  Um, we'll see.


RAW(e) Photo Competition: Automotive

Rebuilt Bronco safety: fail.  On a test run up a (smallish) mountain, we discovered that Z wasn't nearly as immobile as we thought.  Huh.

P.S. Join in if you like. Just click here.



Today was a day for the record books here at Casa Critical Mass.  We covered the whole range from tragic to ridiculous.  None of it handled with any sort of grace.  I'm glad this day is over and the kids are in bed.  I see a bowl of ice cream in my future.

We started out with the tragedy.  A boy at Z's school died in a boating accident over the weekend.  Not in her class, but some one she knew.  The school sent home a letter letting the parents know what was going on and giving us the opportunity to talk about it at home before they discussed it at school.  I stumbled around the lead in and finally dropped the bad news like a bomb.  Fail.  We have talked about before, so she appeared to take the news that his spirit was up in heaven pretty well. 

She was quiet for a minute or two then somehow the discussion got all mixed up with the dead bird we saw at the park yesterday.  "Why don't the spirits of the birds go to heaven?"  That led to an uncomfortable (for me) discussion of caskets and cemeteries and how birds don't have anyone to bury them when they die.  Oh, the perils of a smart child!

Fast forward to after school.  Hubs helpfully left a giant irresistible accident waiting to happen wash tub of ashes from the fireplace on the back porch.  The kids had gotten into it, and he promised to move it... but he didn't.  Q came in covered from head to toe in ashes.  He had them in his hair, caught in his eyelashes, ground into the knees of his pants, and stuck in a grotesque mask to his runny nose.  Blech! 

Into the bath with him!  When we got in the bathroom, I noticed (again) that Z had pulled her brush apart.  I got my Gorilla Super Glue (an awesome product, by the way.  It holds my house together.  I totally recommend it.) and glued it back together.  When I was done, I put the cap back on and set it on the counter while I bathed Q.

As I was finished rinsing off Q, I got a brainstorm to give Holly a bath in Q's leftover bath water.  She has been digging holes  in the yard and was filthy.  The last time I attempted it, I think I got wetter than she did!  But this time, I had a brainstorm to use a leash to loop around the support bar and keep her in the tub.  Genius!  I ran to the utility room to grab a leash and was running back when I met Q, buck naked, coming the opposite direction. 

"I bring your glues, Mama!" he said as he hands the super glue to me.  When I take it, I see that he has unscrewed the cap.  And is sticky.  And he is naked.  And what does my son like to hold on to when he is naked?  That's right: his parts.  Ack!  Danger, Will Robinson!  With visions of the most embarrassing trip to the ER ever dancing in my head, I may or may not have shrieked like a howler monkey, "Hands up!  Hands Up!!  HANDS UP!!!"  as I watched his hands drifting down to perform a routine check. 

I think I totally traumatized him.  As I rushed him back into the tub, his eyes were round as saucers and not a little bit hurt and confused.  He had not made the connection that the glue on his hand would have stuck to his junk.  Luckily, all's well that ends well.  I managed not to let him super glue himself to anything.  Whew!

Now we skip ahead to dinner time.  I was bustling around the kitchen with two kids and four dogs under my feet, so I banished everyone to the living room.  Not wanting me to think they had been replaced by pod people, my children only retreated as far as the dining room.  They were playing some strange combo game of school and doctor's office.  Unfortunately, they set up shop right next to the microwave and I didn't want to slop boiling water on them, so I goose stepped them into the living room.

A little later, I rounded the corner into the living room to find their game had shifted wholly to doctor.  As in doctor.  Gynecology style.  Z had her legs in the air and Q was using a toy syringe to give her a shot.  Inside her panties.  Just. Kill. Me.  We're going to have to move away and become hillbillies!  Head spinning around, I sent them to their rooms.  All that was missing was the pea soup for a complete horror flick.

After I recovered from my little stroke, I realized that I needed to make sure this was all innocent curiosity and not a sign of something more sinister.  I calmly asked questions and Z assured me that no one besides a doctor had ever touched those places before.  Well, at least there is that.  I called T and told him I needed reinforcements.  Pronto!

After he got home, we sat down to dinner.  We broached the topic of the doctor incident and T took over to put in his two cents.  He has a more Q&A parenting style.  He says his piece, then asks questions.  He looked at Q and asked, "So why don't you touch your sister's bits?"  His earnest reply?  "Because they are icky!"

And then I died.  The end.


Potty Talk

"This has been a banner week here at the Critical Mass household.  Q has finally figured out that diapers are for babies and he is a big boy.  He has woken up dry for the last four days and has stayed dry all day two days in a row.  Yippee!  We have officially moved onto the bribery portion of the festivities. 

Several times today, Q has told me he wanted to sit on the potty because he needed to poop.  He would sit for a minute and get down without much success.  (We did have and accidental poop make it in the pot yesterday, but I think that was more in the category of a shart.) Tonight he walked up to me with an unmistakable odor emanating from his back side.

"I have poop.  I need to sit on the potty."

"Are the poopies in your diaper or are they still in your hiney*?"  Given the cloud of funk he arrived in, I assumed it was the former.

"They are in my hiney!  I need to sit on the potty!"  Sure enough, a quick diaper perusal showed him to be correct, so we hustled to the loo to attend to business.  I got him undressed and on the throne in record time -  where he sat for about a nanosecond and declared, "I all done."

Since he hadn't pooped all day, I knew he had to go, so I suggested he wait a sec and give it another try.  No dice.  (No dooce?)  Finally, I told him that I had to go get something and that I would get him off the pot when I came back.  As I walked out of the bathroom, T stage whispered, "You can't pressure him like that!"  I ignored him because how many potty training books has he read?  Oh, right.  None.

Thirty seconds later, there was celebration from the bathroom.  T hurried into our room and said, "Q pooped!" 

"Did you make a big deal about it?"

"Yeah.  I told him I would send you in to clean him up," T said casually.  Of course he did. 

When I got back to the bathroom, I sensed that the appropriate big deal had not been made.  So I made one!  There were what-a-big-boy-you-are!s and I'm-so-proud-of-you!s in loud high pitched voices.  There were hugs and kisses.  There was much ooh-ing and ah-ing over the poop in question.  There may or may not have been some spontaneous singing and dancing in his honor, followed by the ceremonial flush and "Bye-bye, poopies!"

And sherbet.  Yes, his bribe for poop was sherbet.  Way to go, Q!

(And also?  Mah baby!  Mah baby!  How did he get so big?!?)(Sunrise, Sunset playing softly in the background)

*A couple weeks ago, we were getting ready to leave a friend's house.  I asked Q, "What's the diaper sitch? Do you have poopies?"  His reply, "No.  They are still in my hiney."  My friend declared it to be perfect blackmail material.  Probably not as much as this post, though!