What do I love?



I walk part of the way to work fairly frequently, so I change shoes upon arriving at my office. A few days back I was staring at the undignified pile of pumps hidden under my desk when I remembered that I used to own a shoe rack. A little wire one that I stopped using when my bedroom was renovated 2 years ago. Did I still have it…?

The sad answer was that I probably did. And I knew where to look.

Let me just be honest and admit that my basement frightens me. It has been collecting discarded bits and pieces of my past life for 4.5 years, now, and whenever I go down there all I can think is if I leave this house how am I EVER going to get rid of all this stuff? As I slowly upgrade things purchased during my early adulthood, my basement has become a graveyard of old computers and Ikea bookshelves and adapter cables for god-knows-what.

I don’t even have any pictures of the basement to show you, because shhhhhhh, I do not have a secret hoarding problem! That door? That door doesn’t lead anywhere. Broom closet. Wouldn’t you like a tour of the second floor?


Anyway, last night I swallowed my pride an ventured down there, where a solid 10-minute search produced what I was looking for: the little wire shoe rack I bought in college. I don’t know whether I was more pleased or disgusted with myself. But hey, one more organizational challenged solved, I suppose. Now who wants a tiny 10 year-old TV? Anybody? Somebody? Please?

Time for a change

PHEW. For the last few weeks I have been steeping in a giant cauldron of end of the semester/holiday shopping/work event planning/social calendar stress, and I have emerged from it reeking of booze and coated with sugar and cookie crumbs.

But now I have a solid week+ here at Ye Olde Rowe Home. And I have a proper to-do list:


Don’t squint, I’ll summarize: I’m going to be scrubbing a lot of floors and caulking a lot of sinks. BUT I’m also in the process of redesigning both this blog and my personal website, as it’s (past) time for me to establish a real design portfolio. And I have lots of new work to share. Plus a few house tweaks that I’ve neglected to post. Stay tuned!

A truly happy holidays

I’m not normally a big Christmas girl, but this year I’ve been earnestly looking forward to it ever since jacket weather started. Perhaps it’s because I recently added Chez Larsson to my RSS reader, and Christmas in Sweden just seems so…magical. Whenever Benita posts a photograph of her cozy little house at dusk, all cheerfully lit up with candles and strings of holiday lights, I immediately want to beam myself over there to share a cup of something warm and play with bits of ribbon and paper. (Sidenote: if you’ve never seen Benita’s blog, holy hovjärn*. Her house is incredible. I have no idea how she keeps it so clean; I suspect Scandinavia is an enchanted place where dirt just falls from your shoes out of politeness before you enter the house.)

So maybe it’s Sweden. But also, after what has amounted to a really horrible year for myself and my family, maybe I’m just appreciating the comfort and the togetherness of the holiday season more than I used to. Bad shit — not just the normal “my life isn’t living up to my exceedingly high American expectations” angst, but the really bad shit — has a way of clarifying how important family and friends are. And why wouldn’t you want to bake a ton of Christmas cookies for the people who have been lending you kleenex and a listening ear for six long months?

Or, replace cookies with candied pecans in my case:

I made, um, 3 pounds of them. Packed up in little IKEA jars and spruced up with tags I cut from an old gift box, they make pretty good hostess/office gifts.

Let’s see…what other Benita-esque photos can I share? You can see that, after many shenanigans, we finally got that pesky tree up. Here’s what goes under it:

I have serious present-wrapping envy when I skim other DIY blogs. People do some amazingly elegant and creative things. Me, I had no present-wrapping game plan, so I had to put this together in an hour or so using whatever I had lying around. And then I whipped up one of these…

…using a few leftover tree branches. The icicle lights pressing up against the ENJE shade make a pretty nifty pattern, but I wanted something to cover the lower half of the window. Enter the wreath made of reject tree parts. I googled how to make tissue paper flowers and added a few of those to fancy it up a bit, since I don’t have access to holly berries or anything.

That’s all from this holiday house! Enjoy your together time, everyone. Have a glass of glogg for me.


*Horseshoe, apparently. I was just going for the alliteration.

Happy 2010, everyone! Hope the first few weeks have shown a lot of improvement over last year.

The New Year’s Eve party held at this old house went off pretty well. I always forget to snap pictures of the people, but at least I have blurry cell phone evidence of just how much we cooked:

And drank?

Missing from these pictures: the giant punch bowl of egg nog, even more spiced nuts, vanilla roasted pears, a veggie platter with homemade dip, and the crazy cannibal gingerbread cookies a guest brought with her.

As a side effect of actually having edible material in the house, I’ve now attracted a mouse. Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know about my ongoing struggle to catch this fuzzy gray thing. But enough about that! On to some new projects.

The first major goal I’d like to accomplish in 2010 is to pull off some eye-catching DIY shelving for one wall of the living room. I’ve been inspired by Morgan of The Brick House, who is running her own awesome and very thrifty home improvement blog. She spotted some shelving in a hotel made completely of plumbing materials and wood planks, which she adapted for her own home.

The Brick House shelving unit.

Morgan researching the Ace Hotel’s shelves.

Since then, I’ve seen a few other adaptations of the idea spring up:

From Apartment Therapy.

Is this not the best way to create your own customized shelving? A whole wall like Morgan’s cost only $200. I think I’m going to scale it down a bit for this wall in my house:

(Old picture alert. God, was my house ever that bright? I miss summer.)

Now that I no longer have a fish (boo), and since my Ikea bookshelf is just a piece of crap anyway (double boo), why not put that wall to use? If things go well, I’m hoping to incorporate a home for a brand new pet into my design. But nothing is going to happen until February. I’ve vowed not to overspend any of my budgets this month.

Stay tuned…

I’ve been working through a backlog of projects I’ve meant to post about, but couldn’t finish during the normal work week. I get home too late to photograph anything in decent lighting. But when I get vacation time, I’m free to barrage everyone with frequent blog updates!

Here’s the last of my saved-up posts. Holiday decorations!

Using the time-honored fold and snip method, I made a curtain of paper snowflakes. I think I’ll make more and use them in place of the to/from card on my holiday gifts.

Also, I was inspired to try my hand a wreath-making by all of the evergreen boughs we had to slice off of the Christmas tree to get it to sit in its holder.

Design Sponge has a nice tutorial. I wasn’t about to go cutting the roots off of my succulent plants to add them to the wreath, although their version sure looks nice. My version includes some funky seed pods and lots of stuff collected near where I work.

That’s it for me! I think the house is officially festive enough for a holiday party. Hope to see you all there.

The house has finally gotten into the holiday spirit. I present to you my very first Christmas tree!

The stand, skirt, ornaments, and really everything else was brought over by Jack. ‘Cause buying a zillion little glass balls isn’t really in the budget right now. I might have to start investing in some, though, because this tree looks fabulous. Like it belongs in that corner.

I’m totally going to be the person who still has the tree up in May.

What else do I have up my sleeve for the blog? Painting projects, sewing projects, construction projects, redecorating projects… things are really starting to shape up around here. I expect my energy will last right up to the party, during which I will collapse on the couch after one glass of champagne and fall straight asleep.

I’m going to be posting a lot in the remaining weeks of the year. I think it’s the pending party’s fault: a lot of my guests will be seeing this place for the first time, so now when I pass each minor annoyance around the house I think “I can’t let them know I’ve been living with that for a year and a half.” Which is silly. But at least it’s inspiring me to knock out some quick fixes that I’ve been meaning to get to. So, without further ado…

New in ’09

I’m a little iffy on the resolution thing. Instead of making a list of things I plan to force myself to do this year, I think I’ll list the things I hope to learn:

  1. How to be less broke. I don’t have a plan of attack for this one yet. Moving on!

  2. Cooking. I hope to start a recipe journal to scrapbook together what I’m learning on that front.

  3. Gardening. I have modest goals, here: keep some tomato and pepper plants alive long enough to get an edible product. Maybe set up an area in the back “yard” for container gardening. I’d like to compost some old leaves, too…

  4. Some new artsy techniques. I just bought a book on mosaic tiling and I’d like to pick up some info on upholstery and sewing soon. The craft projects I do for the house are my most enjoyable hobby at the moment. In fact, I just made a Flickr tag for the crafty things I’ve accomplished in the last year.

That reminds me: I upgraded to Flickr’s pro account, so all of my photos are properly organized now. Photos of the home improvement projects are tagged by room, in sets by season/year, and sets are grouped together in a collection. (I made one for Jack, too, as a Christmas surprise!)

My house: A Flickr Collection

I also have collections of images from trips I’ve taken and of photos from different Philly neighborhoods. Pictures of people, though rare, will probaby go to Facebook.