Xmas Decor 2016 & List of Upcoming Projects

Yesterday I brought the tree down from the attic, put it together, and decorated.  We were away around Thanksgiving, and I haven’t been terribly productive recently, but at least the house feels nice and Christmas-y.

Actually, I’ve been working on things here and there, like massive organisation bursts, but in the last week and this one not much else could be done.  L worked from home, took this entire week off, we were away, and I’m about to flip out for lack of alone time, so… I’m looking forward to more productive times.  Also, I’m now in the midst of the IVF cycle (number II,) and it is rather inconvenient.  For example, we left for Manhattan well before 7 on Monday and weren’t home until noon.  Thankfully on week days I can mostly go to a nearer location for monitoring, but city trips make for an exhausting day without much hope for large projects.  However, I do have a long list in mind to complete before family visits for Christmas.

Definitely:

-Purchase quartz tile and supplies to re-tile the entry area and hearth.  (Likely to be done this Friday when I go for local-ish monitoring.)

-Tile the hearth and entry.  This would have been ideally done before putting the tree up, but alas.  I am antsy to do this in particular, because it is a small enough project that I’ll get a lot of satisfaction quickly, and it will make a huge change to the look of our place.  Of course I’d like that done before we have the rare occasion of house guests.  (It already irks me that my tree photos now showcase the old tile!)

-Finish sanding the dining chairs before staining and waxing them to match the Restoration Hardware style dining table that I completed at least two years ago.  (!!!)  While I’m at it I ought to touch up the coffee table.

-Brush trim paint (coconut ice) on the remaining 40% of the kitchen beadboard that is sadly still only primed after about two years.  (Also !!!)

-(Semi-temporary) repairs to the front steps.  I began this and ran out of Quickcrete.  L would like this to be completed, so if I get warm enough weather and a chance to then I’d better get to it.

-Brush edges of masonry that I painted earlier in the fall.

-Finish the sofa reupholstering.  Specifically to staple the back properly, stitch the upper back as needed, and staple black cambric stuff to finish underneath.  (Why haven’t I done this yet?   This is why I should never let myself stop at “good enough for now.”)  To truly complete it I’ll have to sew four-six throw pillow covers of the same linen as the sofa.  I have them all cut and ready to go, but I suspect this will be a long term sort of thing, because the jewel toned silk dupioni covers that I make long ago are “good enough for now.”

-Paint ceilings of guest room, hall, and main bath; guest and main bath walls; guest paneling, doors, and re-coat other doors; and re-paint main bath headboard with gloss.

-Pattern and make a winter coat.  I’ve planned this for two years and have all the fabric and notions required.  I actually started work on this last week but felt a bit overwhelmed and stopped, because nothing but wasted work ever comes from pushing through when I’m not in the right creative mode.

-Change out all remaining switch plates and outlet covers after painting.

Hopefully, but maybe:

-Change all door hinges to brushed nickel, adjust, and touch up paint.

-Fix the drop ceiling droop, add cross bars for 2×2′ tiles, and install fancier new tiles to replace the institutional styled 2×4′ kind.  (I may have to cut this from the allowed budget thanks to a fancy Butchers&Bicycles bakfiets we bought.  This change would make such a huge difference in the appearance of the media room part of the basement, but it is one of the most sensible to cut from this year’s list and save for later.  I anticipate it being a very messy, fussy, and time consuming hassle of a project.)

-Replace the sewing room and probably dressing room/master suite doors with some that have a frosted glass panel to let in light.  (I’m dying to do this too, but it is the other sensible thing to cut from the budget as it costs a lot for likely a less dramatic change.  It makes less of an impact than the drop ceiling, I guess, but it is a far easier task without all the hassle and mess of the ceiling project.  We’ll see.)

-The exterior staining project.  Soon I’ll write an update post about this, but due to ladder circumstances I haven’t finished the two sides of the house.  I began the west side and wanted it done this fall, but the ladder thing complicated the matter.  Not only do I need good enough weather and L’s availability and willingness to help, but the hillside is a severe obstacle.  While I purchased legs for the ladder I’m still nervous.  The other side would have been easy, but first we needed to have a nastily rotten old pile of firewood removed, and that happened way too late.  It makes sense to leave that until spring now.  I sure wish the warm and dry weather lasted longer here!  A part of me still holds out hope of finishing the west side before winter.

-Paint dining/living window trim with coconut ice.

Future projects that I won’t even think of trying before Christmas but do intend to do within 6-9 months:

-Rip up the carpeting of the master bedroom.  Prime, paint, and stencil the sub flooring.

-Sort and organise the remaining boxes and stuff in the storage room and basement.

-Tear out the laminate and carpet in the media room and storage room.  Level whatever I find beneath, and install vinyl planks.  This is huge.  I’ll need to remove or move around L’s workstation and big entertainment thing, furniture, and a tonne of stored crap (see previous item.)  Then I have to deal with the demolition and rubbish, but I’m most concerned about what I’ll find beneath the laminate.  I can only fear what has caused bouncing dips and unlevelled spans as drastic as we have down there…  I hope that some levelling concrete is all that is required, but all sorts of nightmares plague my plans with this especially after we had a massive swarm of carpenter ants to eliminate this spring.  It’ll be a gorgeous change though.

-Paint the dressing room and curved stairwell.  Maybe re-do the master bedroom too now that I have selected the proper pale grey?

-Continue to replace torn and ugly aluminium screens of storm windows and re-glase windows.

-Refinish a crib, maybe???

-Lots of sewing.

-Reupholster a recliner and a cute little tufted round chair.

-Restore or basically do something to make an antique travel trunk useable as furniture.

 

Anyway… On to the holiday decorations:img_7982Above is the sofa featured in my reupholstering instructional posts (that I have yet to finish.)  Actually, I did that round chair/loveseat twice too!  You might also see that the crown moulding has been finished but the window is only white primer?

 

The tree.img_7992

 

This year’s additions.  I found a few more of the Egyptian glass, liked the random matte white with black ornaments, and finally added a pickle!  img_7930

 

A closeup of the centre-piece on the coffee table:img_8009

 

I have these allllllll organised when stored!  Each year some ornaments are put into rotation or maybe not.  Believe it or not, I’d like even more options to select from!  Since I do add a dozen or so each year that is becoming more of a reality.img_7940

 

Surprisingly Good Chicken: Buddha’s Hand Marinade

Last week, when I did our grocery shopping, I spotted something nifty:

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It’s a citrus fruit thing called Buddha’s hand, and I had to get it.  I just love trying out new and strange produce.  Heh, just ask my mother for stories of shopping with me as a kid and begging for a star fruit or some other foreign looking botanical specimen.  (Back then star fruit was really strange, and I remember the first time we started seeing kiwis on offer and marketed with special little spoons.  It was the boonies, okay?)  Anyway, I didn’t realise that there wasn’t going to be any fruity pulp to try, but luckily I planned to do something involving the zest as I shopped.  Often I’ll make a lemon based marinade, so I figured that work with this thing, and grilling sounded tasty… maybe shrimp kebobs?

I ended up with boneless chicken thighs.  I’d also planned on getting a pork loin to cure, but the store wasn’t running any specials (as they always seem to usually, darn it!)  Chicken was dirt cheap though, and after some consideration I went for it.  I’m not a big fan of chicken.  Generally I kind of dislike it even, and I only prepare it a couple of times a year.  Usually I bake thighs covered a bit of mayonnaise, dill, scallions or onion, black pepper, paprika, and garlic salt.  Occasionally I’ll dredge cutlets in coconut flour for a sort of schnitzel.  Other than soup I think that is pretty much it.  I’m just not into chicken.

Once I finished putting away the groceries I threw the thighs into a bowl with thin slices of the Buddha’s hand, the juice of a few lemons (after seeing there was no pulp in this thing,) a bunch of garlic salt, a little black pepper, and a little bittersweet Spanish paprika.  My idea was to kind of brine it, I guess, hence more salt than usual and put it in the fridge for a few hours before grilling.  I didn’t even photograph this since I didn’t plan to blog anything about it.

But it turned out to taste AMAZING.

This was days ago, so describing it is difficult, but L and I were really, really, really surprised and amazed at just how delicious this chicken was.  The flavour ended up penetrating through beautifully, every bite had a delicate and tangy goodness with a bit of the grill char too.  Freaking awesome.

This isn’t pretty, but I did take a photo of the chicken after grilling, because I tasted a bite and was wowed.  I don’t even remember what was in the foil, shishito pepper?  Yeah, shishitos with olive oil and salt:

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So, the point of this post is to encourage you to try cooking with Buddha’s hand.  Figure out what went right with my experiment, or Google for recipes, but do try it if you ever see it in the shop.

Capezio Can Can Boots VS American Duchess Renoir Button Boots

This morning I took photos of the two pairs of boots to illustrate the differences between them.  Surely not many people out there are comparing these, especially since the Can Cans are discontinued now and custom made only, but here we go anyway…  (Actually, this website appears to be selling the Can Cans, but I cannot vouch for them personally, and the price is significantly less than I was quoted by Capezio.)

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So far the Renoirs win on comfort, I believe.  The lower heel is of course easier on me since I barely wear heels at all, and they are a size US8.5 which my toes appreciate.  While I have always found the US7.5 Can Cans to be wonderfully comfortable I’ll have to admit that the feel caused by the heels is not optimal (nor is the size now, but that isn’t their fault.)

As noted in a previous post, I’ve worn the Can Cans for thousands upon thousands of steps over the course of a decade.  They are very sturdily made and have been the most wearable shoes I’ve ever had.  I’m looking forward to the look once the Renoirs have been broken in, and I anticipate that they’ll win the wearability contest.  They appear almost equally well made with the Can Cans looking just a bit better in some way that I cannot put my finger on.  Thicker leather?  Something about the construction?  It is a tad difficult to compare with the Renoir pair practically unworn yet too, but I have hopes that they’ll fare well over the years.

Nearly $200 for the Renoirs is pricey indeed, but I generally select shoes in that price point.  Seeing them in person I have no complaints about the cost at all.  In fact, they are a bargain compared to nearly $500 for the Can Cans.  So, there you are: my thoughts on these two beautiful Victorian/Edwardian-ish boots.  I hope that seeing “after” photos of the Renoir boots may be interesting to someone even if they aren’t truly broken in yet.  I was scouring the internet for reviews and images that didn’t look the same as the pristine pairs on the original website.  I hoped to see them after buttons were adjusted and after conforming to someone’s feet.

Most of the original boots I’ve seen have a gorgeous shape which the Renoirs are lacking, but I’m not sure if that might change with more wear and button adjustment?  Perhaps anatomy and tolerance of discomfort have something to do with it too?  Or did the leather shrink?  I don’t know.  I love these curves!

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Will the Renoir boots approach this look after a while?  I hope so and will report back some day to let you know.

PS: I was able to get the most lovely little folding button hook!  IMG_7046.jpg

A funny thing is that although I am a rather ambidextrous-leaning lefty it was much more natural to hook with my right hand.  I was surprised at how easily it went with my right while my left fumbled a little.  Maybe that is since my left is used to the idea of buttoning normally?  Heh.

The American Duchess Renoir Button Boots are Here!!! (Quick Review)

Today Yesterday I was staining the west side of the house, and I heard the mail carrier scan something.  Ooh, a package!  I’d been wondering if a button hook might arrive today (even though it is coming all the way from England) if I were lucky, but when I spotted a box by the door it was rather large.  Then I saw the sender was American Duchess with L as the recipient.  Surprised, I carried the parcel inside and tore into it, because I knew the Renoir boots were on pre-order and supposed to ship in 6-8 weeks!  I didn’t figure I’d get to see them until nearly Christmas.  Perhaps he had ordered another shoe as a surprise?  After all I’d emailed him a short list detailing my desires.  😀  Shockingly it turned out to be the Renoirs after all!

This photo is after moving the buttons and two long walks:

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I’m giddy with happiness about these boots.  Seriously.

When I was a kid I was in love with all things from the 18th and 19 centuries.  My focus shifted from time to time, but I especially was fond of the second half of the 19th.  I taped Dr Quinn, I read American Girl and the Little House books, and I watched the Shirley Temple version of The Little Princess quite a few times.  So, at some point I noticed high button boots and became obsessed.  Later, when I spotted impossibly tiny Victorian boots in antique malls I wished so badly that I could fit in them (although of course they likely wouldn’t survive being worn.)  I never really dreamt that some day anyone would offer brand new, real, buttoning boots for purchase.  I’m not even sure why it didn’t occur to me since plenty of 18th century reproduction shoes are available now, but I sure never saw button boots anywhere and assumed that the buttons themselves were the reason.

The nearest style, which I do love thought they lace up, are Capezio dance boots that they named Can Can.  They are extremely comfortable, well made, and durable, but my feet grew in the 10+ years that I’ve had them.  Unfortunately they are now only custom made, and I found the Renoir boots before L committed to getting me a new pair as a birthday present.

Yesterday I nearly finished this post but decided to wait until I could add the button moving process before and after etc.  I’m sure that the boots will evolve in their fit with time, but moving the buttons was pretty dramatic.  They still do not have the amazing curves of the real deal, but maybe I’ll shift the buttons again later on after wear and stretching a while?  I do think that they’ll never quite make it to the real curves since the heels are lower and apparently women had much smaller ankles and calves back then?

Last night we took a walk, and I found the boots comfortable.  I’d also worn them as much as I could inside too.  It appears that they are nearly as well constructed and durable as the Capezios?  As far as I can see they look comparable.  The heel is lower on these which is welcomed although it looks a little less pretty I guess.  My feet are picky, and I get pain and blisters from all of my shoes it seems, but two walks have proven the Renoirs to be some of the best to jump into that I’ve ever worn.  No hint of rubbing or blisters and no pain.  Very comfortable indeed.

This morning I spent performing button relocation surgery.

The right is snug now, but I’ll have to adjust the left for equality.  It seems that my left is a little narrower, which I knew, and the feel is not agreeable since I was afraid to take things in further than the other.  The time spent was annoying, one or two hours, so I’m not too quickly adjusting now.

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The right is done but that left is as it arrived:

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We walked for a bit and voted today, and I wore them:

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Review:

They are as comfortable as can be and surpassed my expectations on that point.  I do love them, but I’d be even more thrilled if American Duchess would make them in a style closer to the Can Can boots (curvier with the higher heel) and especially with the broguing and cherry colour of her new Oxfords.  That would be incredible!   The price is reasonable to me and a lot better than custom Capezios, and you can’t find real buttons anywhere else that I know of.  I’ll be having a cobbler rubberise the sole and heel, because they are a little slippery, and I know that the plastic heel cap thing is going to wear out like crazy.

I cannot wait to see how these look after breaking in more!

 

Halloween 2016: 1918

This year I didn’t take the time available to me to create a new costume, I am sad to say.  Mostly the reason was that there aren’t that many days of good weather left for staining our house.  That is rather unfortunate since, with IVF luck, perhaps next year a newborn might complicate the costume matter?  (I’m afraid to hope so too much, but it is a possibility.)

We didn’t even go out to a goth night on Saturday, because L made reservations at a really neat restaurant for my birthday instead.  I’d already scraped together old pieces to form a costume for going out though, so I wore it to our local haunt on Sunday night.  (They are closed Mondays.)

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While I had no great idea for a costume I’ve been looking for an excuse to make something 19-teens-ish.  I’m certain, after watching Downton Abbey this summer, that this is my favourite fashion period in all of history.  Even before the show I was drawn to it and even based my wedding dress in the era, so I had some pieces that I could put together for this Halloween’s look.

I used the old under-bust corset, a thrift store silk skirt that I’ve had for years, the fingerless gloves from our wedding, a leather mask from Etsy, and a silk chiffon wrap tunic that I made some years ago.  I think it has a ‘teens look.

This shot from the trial run shows more of the fabric details:

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At some point I’m certainly going to make at least a few good ‘teens pieces.  A coat is a must too, like one (far right) in this fashion plate?

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Meanwhile, I am thrilled about some new shoes…  L has pre-ordered REAL button boots for my birthday gift, and as soon as I have them I’ll be sharing photos and a review.  (I Googled forever, but no one seems to have shared photos beyond those from the actual website or upon first arrival.  I’d like to see what they look like with the buttons adjusted and all broken in, so I’ll have to be the one to put that online it seems.)  I’d wanted to get a pair of my beloved can can boots, but they are really expensive and now only custom made as it turns out.  (I realistically need an entire size larger than the pair that I’ve worn for more than ten years.  They still look pretty good, after tours of Barcelona and NYC, but my feet grew…)  Maybe another time, but I’m seriously excited to get my hands on actual button boots!  Even when I was a little kid I wished I could have a pair like I saw in antique shops or worn by Shirley Temple in The Little Princess.  OMG, the want.  😀  I already ordered a few antique button hooks, and I look forward to a post or two about the boots when they arrive and after a while.  I’ve also gone ahead and received a pair of Edwardian shoes, but I have yet to adjust the buttons or anything.