behind the fence... life around the house

{ four }

fidge turns 4.

We had a birthday here last weekend.

Figet turned four.  [ insert standard 'I can't believe how fast it's gone' comment here. ]  It was pink princess everything and she had the best time.  The Best. 

There is something magical and sweet about four year old girls.  I remember when the eldest was four.  I thought it was the Perfect Age.  She was just coming into her personality, and it was a transformation from toddlerhood to semi-big-kid status... The realm of make believe is so very important.  Fairies and princesses and all sorts of special characters are still very much a part of real life. 

And four year old girls can be reasoned with, for the most part.  Such a relief for this momma. They understand big things and little things and are obsessed with learning and When They Can Go To School.   She is on the precipice of new friends and homework and teachers and recess and lunchtime, but Not Yet.

My goal for her for the next year-and-a-half is to savor this last part of responsibility-free childhood.  She's going to remember these days.  We think The Bike will have something to do with that.  :)

and gets a bike

(The nice thing about laminate floors is that you can allow things like riding a bike indoors.  And tap shoes.  And, well, pretty much anything.)


I've been checking out so many of the new blogs over the past week.  It's overwhelming, the talent that is out there.   One of these days I am going to list some of the stuff that is blowing my mind.

Until then, xoxo

{ snowed in } making the best of it

Fallen leaves from an indoor plant, placed on the windowsill to get some sun. 

big snow 2010

Yesterday was -- day four? five? whatever -- of being snowed in here in KC. Like really snowed in.  The streets haven't been clear since before Christmas and we have 4'+ high snowbanks -- on either side of our driveway!  Plus, the cold.  Oh my.  I could handle this all a lot better if we could go out and romp outside a bit, but these little piggies are staying inside when it's -30 and windy.  Oh well.  

Here's to the optimism of almost-four-year-olds. 

in the oven, getting squishy

I took the cue from little Fidget and decided to make the best of it yesterday.  We got out some crayons, ripped off the paper, broke the crayons into pieces and tossed them into mini cupcake tins. She thought this was the best thing ever, AND it kept our fingers busy for almost a half hour.  Even the 13 year old played along.

Preheated to 275, and left them in for 8 minutes. I sprayed the tin with cooking spray, but I don't know if that part was necessary.

[edited to add: I guess the spray is necessary.  Glad I did.  Also, this is sooo not an original project, just something I've seen several times online over the last couple years and finally got around to doing...]

after about 8 minutes at 275

I put them in the fridge for a few minutes to set, and then in the freezer to further harden. They just popped out of the tin on to a towel and were ready to go.

mini tin crayons

One thing I had to do was cut off a fine layer of clear wax from around the bottom of some (you can see it in the pink one above).  I used a box cutter.  Fancy, I know.  Once I did that, the new crayons worked perfectly.  They nearly all have names.   The pink one in the middle is the Sleeping Beauty crayon, and the blue sparkly one to the left is Ariel, and the green and red one is the Christmas Crayon. 

I said we named them. Not that they were terribly original. ;)

. . .


We stayed inside this morning and wrote Christmas thank-yous, ate a late breakfast and played with baby.  We remarked at how lucky we are that if the sun can make her way out in the winter, our house can still feel all kinds of warm because of our southern exposure. Our 11 year old golden retriever (who does not retrieve) enjoys long naps in the sunshine.  I like it that tiny pj-feet are warmed by the floorboards.

The little girls went down for a nap a while ago and I happened to walk through the living room still not picked up from this morning.  Bathed in a gentle warm glow, it made me catch my breath. I had to stop and take a photo, just as it was.  It felt so beautiful to me.  The remnants of where Daddy played with baby.  The chair where someone was sitting with their back to the sun.  The toys scattered on a little quilt, quickly discarded for something more interesting to a 6 month old.  The sun streaming in, warming up all of our cabin-fevered hearts and frosty grumpiness.

evidence of a good saturday morning

It was a nice morning.

Optimism is obviously catchy. 

hodge podge monday. with flowers.

I did promise no more crab apple blossom photos.

I didn't say a thing about lilacs.

finally blooming... our first year.

Last year we planted three tiny lilac shrubs on the east side of our house, right next to our driveway.  There has never been anything planted there except our a/c unit which, as you might imagine, is way more functional than it is attractive.  The idea with these fast-growing plants is that we'll have some early spring color and then full lush landscaping the rest of the summer, camouflaging the otherwise stark and utilitarian side of the house.

Last year when we planted them they hadn't bloomed.  So imagine our surprise when we saw these tiny buds burst into rich purple blooms this weekend.

 and more... my neighbors must think I'm nuts by now, with all the gazing I do at these.

I keep running outside and staring at them and bending over to stick my head in them.  I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I'm nuts already, so this probably confirms it.  (And prepare yourself for more photos, because I'm so not done yet.)

It was a busy weekend that was kick-started with a sleepover for the 13 year old (dinner for 6 'teens' at the Cheesecake Factory, home to a movie which put them to sleep during, and back up for pancakes...) and included a zoo trip for Fidget, progress in reorganization of the sewing room, some Twelve Square sewing and another maternity skirt.  Throw in a trip to Lowe's, the park with the green slides, and Sunday Burger Night, and you've pretty much got the picture.  Busy and good.

like ramma-lamma-lamma-kadingady-dingdy-dong

Left:the azaleas are about to bloom in the front of the house.  Yay!  They should look delicious against the new gray paint. 

Right: My April Twelve Square block for Kathryn.  I loved the springy fabrics she chose.  And a simple 9-patch?  Sweet.  Easy as pie.   (more 12SQ photos at the flickr pool)

(Hat tip to Kirsten for seeing these photos at Flickr and suggesting they should be mosaic-ized.  I wish I had taken a few more photos of them both, for a 9-patch mosaic.)

Happy new week everyone... Hope your weekend was full, too.  xo

The weekend the crabapple tree came down.


Hubs took on our 20' crab apple tree yesterday with the help of a neighbor and his chainsaw.  Now there are bits of tree stuffed into all these "yard waste" bags at our curb.  Seven huge bags and a rather large pile of tree bits that couldn't fit into the bags.  All of it, still flowering.  I'm a little worried about what the garbage pick up guys are going to think.


It's sad that it had to come down during it's prettiest week of the year.  


The petals fell right outside my front door like confetti. 


Seriously, right outside the front door (I took this photo of my entryway two years ago:)

petal love.

But therein was the problem.  This tree, planted by previous owners nine years ago, was destined to be chopped down eventually.  It wasn't planted in the right place.


Can you see how close it was to the foundation?  About 2 feet on one side.  Sheesh.  It's branches dropped leaves directly into our gutters all season long, creating serious water runoff issues (and even causing hubs on more than one occasion to brave death and stand on a ladder with a golf club during a storm to free the debris).  The trunk was starting to grow at an angle because we had to keep cutting it away from the house.  The branches scraped the upstairs windows and threatened our roof shingles... who knows what the roots were doing underneath...

On the other side, branches hung also directly over the front walk, posing an eye-poking issue to many visitors.  Especially at night.

And then there were the crabapples in the fall.  Those darned things fell all over that front walk, attaching themselves to visitors' shoes and entering my house.  (If they didn't get eaten by birds first and *ahem* redepositedon on front walk in a sticky nasty mess.)  FYI: smeared crabapple does not come off with just a good hosing and a push broom.

crabapple tree. its last year.

(one last look, from last week)

So it's gone.  Strange and sad and a little exciting, as now we get to plant some appropriate landscaping.  I'll be the first to admit that outdoor planning is not my strong suit, but we do have a few ideas.  So far, most of it includes moving some mature boxwoods from the back to their new home up front.  We'll see.  If we can't get the whole stump removed, we may have to be creative.

Up first, though, is a new coat of paint for la casa.  We're switching it up, going with a medium gray (the one in the middle) and a white trim.  Isn't this patchwork paint effect lovely?  We have some on the back of the house as well.  We're so classy that way. 


Sherwin Williams has these little $5 cans you can buy in sample colors.  I highly recommend doing this because you never know what paint will really look like until it is on your house at different times of the day and in different cloud conditions.  And I'd rather spend $20 and be sure I like it before I've got a whole house covered in paint that has a lifetime guarantee.  (One of my friends has a house on her block that looks a little neon green in certain weather.  I'm gonna bet they didn't do the paint swatch experiment.)

And, finally:  The lilacs we planted last spring have buds!! This is their first bloom and it looks like they have 10-12 blooms on each.  Don't they make my AC unit look fancy?  heh.

Happy Monday.  If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading.  xoxo

The waiting chain

Let me start by saying that this is not a new idea, by any stretch of the imagination.  However, it has saved my sanity more than once.  And, shoot, there's a smidgen of a chance that someone, somewhere, could use this as well.


It's our waiting chain.

See, Fidget is really impatient for things.  She is terribly interested in our plans for the day, the week, tomorrow, whatever.  Where we're going, when, what holiday is coming, and so on.  This interest is great except that she has no real concept of the passage of time.   So Next Week means, well, the same as tomorrow.    And the questions never end. 

Not that I mind answering questions like that every day.  It's just that she isn't getting it, the idea of track-able time.  My answers mean nothing to her. 

Somewhere along the line I remembered a teacher-friend of mine who had made a huge paper chain throughout her kitchen so their family could track the days until they left for a family trip to Hawaii.  Every day they took off one more link and got one day closer to their trip.  I thought it was brilliant.

So, when we told the girls that we had planned a rather last-minute trip to Florida to see my folks, Fidget immediately asked, When I get up from my nap, we'll get in the car and go to the airport and get on the plane to see Nana and Papa?

No, sweets.

I had her help me make the chain and we hung it up front and center in the kitchen.  Removing a link each day is an exciting ritual for her.  She never forgets.  (Although she still gets confused when she wakes up from a nap; it seems like another link should come down then, too, I guess.)

the only way I can keep fidget at bay

The best thing is that she has a visual reference for our plans.  She knows just by looking at this chain that she made that it's not Today yet.  She also knows that on day 5 she has another outing planned, so she can see that coming up, too. I love watching those little Aha moments.

(Oh, and the little horsey top turned out perfect.  She wore it two days in a row, but the lighting has been awful for photos...)

One more thing.  If you have a chance, stop by Grace's new collaborative project, Near:Far.  It's beautiful.


Kitchen { Before and After }

Before.  Red walls.  White 2" blinds on the large window set and a black and gold valance.  You can't see in this picture, unfortunately, the 2-blub flourescent shop-light that the previous owners had hung in the middle of the kitchen. Our contractor even paused to say, 'that's like a...a... garage light or something.  What's that doing in your kitchen?'  Ahem.  Indeed. 


(It's really a shame you can't see the shop-light in that photo.  I got really good at framing that bad boy out of photos, though.)

After new paint, can lighting, new window panels and shades:


The paint is now a grayish greenish blueish color called "Smoke Infusion" by the American Traditions line at Lowe's.  It better compliments the warm red tones of the cabinets.  In fact, at one point I had considered painting the cabinets, but the new wall color put an end to that little fantasy.   

The biggest project was the windows.  The bamboo connects the two spaces in a way that the white blinds couldn't, don't you think?  I love the simplicity of these panels and the cordless bamboo shades.  Cordless.  Cordless.  That's a heavenly word. 



Curtain rods were a challenge, because the space around the window casings is limited.  I was able to find a rod collection sold with a connector to use in corners, which works well for the large window and the small one at its right that were installed so close. 


The ceilings are already 9ft, but it looks much taller in here now.  The panels don't reach the floor for practical reasons (dog, kids, dust bunnies, mop water, etc), but I like them this way, too.  It's very casual despite the dramatics. 


Remember when I cut the panels too short?  This is the seam in every panel, about 20 inches from the top.  Rather than try to hide it, I pinked and zigzagged the edges, and finished it off with a french seam, top stitiching on the front.  I kind of like the way it turned out, actually.

There is a short window over the counter in the right of the photo below.  I wasn't sure how it would look with curtains swinging about, but the linen softens all the angles and I do like it, very much. 

kitchen after, long view

So that's it.  Hardly seems worth three weeks of sewing fuss and an entire summer of little projects, but I am happy to mark this one off the list.  It feels good to know that a few well planned changes made such a big difference.  And saved us some cash.  By using stock-sized shades alone (and sacrificing about 1/2 inch width which is covered by the panels) we saved almost $300.  And by spending $50 on some linen for the panels saved us a lot, too -- the linen panels at Crate and Barrel are $99 each!   Ack. Best of all, a $20 can of paint saved us the pain of repainting the cabinets, so that was worth its weight in gold.  ;)  


Thanks for bearing with me over the past few weeks.  I promise, no more talk of kitchens or curtains or shades or anything.  Because there is a bathroom vanity that still needs painting. 

here and there and making curtains.

Pajamas and skirts and tops are fun to make. 


But I've veered off course and need to focus on the projects needing my attention so very much.  This is the week I really get to work....

 >> On the seven white linen curtain panels for those kitchen windows.

linen for curtains

 { I don't like making curtains.  All those chances to end up with wonky edges. And uneven hems that are oh-so-obvious against the squared corners of my windows... And yards upon yards of fabric slipping and sliding around while I try by best to press those hems.   And doing this seven times.  Frustration, thy definition is curtain-panel-making. }


>> And on that bathroom and it's hundred layers of paint.  See, we couldn't just paint the bathroom. No, we've got three kinds of primer, paint, faux glaze and two coats of protectant.  So far, I'm through two of the primers.  And that is just for the vanity.  There is also a linen cabinet, window and wall trim, and a door begging for my attention.

So maybe you'll understand if things are quiet behind la Fence for a few days.  Because photos of white linen curtains and irons and paint are thrilling and all { ahem }... but finding new ways to say, I painted this! and One more panel, done! might just do me in.  I kind of want to get the zone and get it done.  Ever felt like that?  Like ripping off a bandaid for a whole week.

* the one about the salad and the grout *

There are a lot of funny things that happen when you are remodeling your home. 

Like when you are walking into your newly tiled bathroom
with supplies, like dark tinted primer for the vanity
that the guy at Lowe's who-thinks-you-paint-anything-that-isn't-nailed-down mixed for you yesterday.
Just bringing it in there, 
in case you have 30 minutes to spare and want to 'dig in.'
And instead you drop the unopened can of darkly tinted primer
and it explodes at your feet
running into all the tan grout
and splashing up onto the side of the tub
and on your shoes
and legs
and towels
and the vanity (which is actually ok because that is the only place it's supposed to be).


And taking some of the towels it landed on, dripping with paint,
and thowing them into the vanity sinks.
And finding even more towels to wipe up the paint
(I'm talking almost a whole quart of thick charcoal gray kilz)
and smearing it all over the place.

And then, after a lot of words that are not very nice,
Thank you, Lord.  For making me the painter I am and knowing that I need to clean up sometimes.  I know that I have a huge can of mineral spirits in the garage.  Please please please please help me get this paint out of my grout.  Before hubs comes home.  Thankyousoverymuch.  I think I need to slow down.  Amen.

And I poured the mineral spirits all over the mess, took my toothbrush and scrubbed. And scrubbed.  Most of it came out.  I worked up a sweat, I tell you.  This mistake was not going to get the best of me.

Because I haven't even done after photos yet, for heaven's sake. 

I also find this particularly funny because I just had the best salad (thank you amy, that tuscan salad is superb!) that made me feel so wholesome and good.  I even rinsed my lettuce with vinegar, so as not to consume anything chemical or yucky. 

And then I spent a half hour with my head in the fumes of mineral spirits.  It's all about balance, right?

Also, I need to find a new toothbrush.

: : : the end : : :

* I've had a couple emails about my sense of humor with this little mishap.  The thing is, it was a mess, but it wasn't the end of the world.  In the Big Picture, I'm just a comfortable suburban housewife with very few things to worry about on a daily basis.  This really is the Small Stuff. And am I ever so thankful for that.  xoxo.  happy weekend. *

* Tall Wall Syndrome *

I love older homes.  My dream is to downsize to a 1960s ranch.  Take advantage of built-ins and solid wood construction, a nice flat yard and some mature trees. 

Something like this or this or this.

I know, I know, 1960s ranches come with 1960s baths and kitchens, but that is all fixable.  The other thing I like about those houses? 

The scale of the rooms. 

Because, although I adore the modern kitchen, bathrooms, closet space, and brand-new schools that a shiny new subdivision offers, we've all pretty much got Tall Wall Syndrome in our subdivision. You loft-ceilinged, 'small-tree' neighborhood people know of what I speak.  Ridiculous, 25-foot ceilings with no beams or exposed timber to make them the slightest bit interesting.  And, quite a challenge to paint. Who wants that much wall color anyway?  And decorating... Heavens to Betsy, have you considered how puny a 30"x30" canvas looks on a wall that is 25' high?  Gracious. 

This is not much of a before shot, but it's the same corner as my 'after'.  This ceiling slopes in, across the room and up all the way to the top of the second story.  You get the idea.  This is a 12 foot tree.  I'm telling you, these ceilings are HIGH. 

So I tell you what we did.  We added 6" trim all the way around our living room (baseboard hung upside down) to bring it to human scale.  Added some extra trim over the fireplace, too, so it all went together.  And lookee what happened. It's a paintable room with walls that do not need scaffolding!  Woohoo!

Tall Wall Syndrome, fixed.

It was pretty inexpensive and made a world of difference.  We even stuck little pieces in the corners, so we didn't have to worry too much about the mitre-ing. 

This tip or trick (or whatever you call it) is about 3 years old now, but I still love it.  And that means something, right? 

What tricks do you have up your sleeve?

5415 finished ... and a little sweetness.

Ta-da! McCalls 5415, on a model.  View C, cut short.  Fidge wears about a 2-3T these days, so I used the Large cutting pattern.

McCalls 5415, finished.

She wore it yesterday, and I must say this has one of the higher cute-to-easy ratios ever.  I like a longer shirt on Fidge, because she is long waisted, so I made hers even longer than the pattern called for.  Somewhere between the 'top' cut line and the 'dress' cut line.  The straps also seemed really long when I cut it, but I think that might be because there is also a neck-tie option, which I didn't choose.  I thought Fidge would mess with something that was up on her neck, but I do think it would be cute on a dress an offer a longer wearing 'window'.

5415, back

She is short waisted, but I think her shorts are drooping  a bit here.  She's not a hobbit, I promise.


Hubs and I were planting some lilac bushes on the side of our house on Saturday.  And this smell, this wonderful smell, kept wafting over to me.  It was delicious and delicate.  And a mystery, because I hadn't recalled smelling it, ever, in our driveway.  This will be our 5th summer in this house.  And I just now realized we have a huge honeysuckle vine growing in the corner of our yard over our fence.  It's there against all odds, because it was a puny little thing when we moved here, but we had so many other projects we didn't bother to take it out like we had planned.  We called it the big weed.  We never watered it and most of the time it has looked like something that died years ago.

And now, this.  I have got to say, sometimes it pays to be lazy about ripping stuff out of your yard. 


Fidget, her big sis and I sat on the patio last night savoring the delicate sweetness that only a honeysuckle at the perfect bloom can offer.  Their eyes would light up when they got a flower with extra juice.  Fidget would put her little tongue out, ever so gently, anticipating the sugary nectar I would squeeze out for her.  Big sis tried a variety of techniques for best juicing and was perfectly amazed "that something that tastes so good could come from a flower.  What can you use it for?" 

Moments like this.  That's what.