A place for everything. And everything in its place.

Dear friends,

I was a busy bee yesterday. I took a day off following three consecutive 60-70 hour weeks. And while I was tempted to laze around, I had a project or two on my mind that urged me out of bed at 6:00 am and kept me working all day.

Remember my mud room makeover? Well, when I tackled that project I left a corner undone that has been bothering me ever since. You see, my mud space is an alcove that faces another alcove — which I didn’t show you in my last post. Basically, when you sit on my mudroom bench, you face an alcove that is lined with shelves. They’re nothing fancy, so as soon as I moved in, I hung curtains to hide the space — partly because it was more attractive, partly because I didn’t take time to organize the shelves.

So I spent a portion of Friday cleaning out and sorting all my cleaning and crafting supplies. Here’s a peek at the newly organized space:

backpantry

I keep the curtains closed for a sleeker look, but it’s nice to know that everything behind them is tidy now.

I also went to work on a corner of our laundry room, which adjoins this space. One of the many things that sold me on this house is the enormous laundry room. It’s about 17′ X 17′ with three walls of built-in cabinets. Although it’s a bit plain — with white walls and white cabinetry — it’s certainly bright and has plenty of room for Mr. Mom’s projects, and lots more.

Here’s a view from the mudroom:

laundryentry

That drafting table is mine, but Mr. Mom co-opted it long ago as his preferred laundry folding table. It’s a much better height for my 6’6″ laundry man.

Here’s another view of the built-in desk:

laundrydesk

This is Mr. Mom’s domain. It’s where he reads email, pays bills, talks on the phone and, of course, does laundry. It has been command central during our mountain saga and you can see he has a topographical map of  Colorado pinned above the computer and all his files (in the filing cabinet) nearby.

I don’t spend much time in the laundry room, except to retrieve my laundry, and I think Mr. Mom likes it that way. I’ve been thinking of hanging some sunny yellow wallpaper to break up the vast expanse of white walls, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. And I think Mr. Mom likes that, too.

On the opposite side of Mr. Mom’s desk is another bank of cabinets, with a sink and space for the washer and dryer. And until yesterday, there was an unused corner just waiting for me to make better use of it.

Voila! I created a sewing corner:

sewcorner

In the short time I’ve been sewing, I’ve grown weary of pulling my machine out of the closet and setting it up on my dining room table. So I sub-let Mr. Mom’s empty corner, set up a folding table, and created a space to store my supplies.

Here’s a close up:

sewcu

I sewed a slipcover for the table so that it would look prettier and so I could hide things underneath. The dust cover for my sewing machine is merely the box it came in (top removed and turned upside down) with matching fabric glued on. And my supply caddy is nothing more than a $9 vinyl shoe organizer picked up at Lowe’s.

Underneath the table, I’ve stored my fabric and a stool to sit on.

undertable

All in all, not a bad day’s work I’d say.

With gratitude {for my man, who gave up a corner of his decidedly atypical man cave and even helped me organize it},

Joan, who is itchin’ to make more progress on her quilt now that she’s in tip-top organizational shape

My current excitement level.

Dear friends,

I’ve had a less-than-lovely April, mostly due to a demanding work schedule, but here’s two things that have happened in the last 24 hours that ratcheted my excitement level way, way up.

CJ_Cregg

Kate has recently gotten interested in the West Wing. I love every single thing about the West Wing, especially CJ Cregg, who I fancy I could be if I tried. Today Kate tweeted that some episodes were “wayy” over her head. To which I suggested that we should spend our summer watching the series together so I could explain the context. To which she agreed. To which my inner political nerd squealed. As if I wasn’t already soooooo ready for summer to be here (it snowed today, for Pete’s sake!), that totally sealed the deal for this television-loving, poly-sci junkie mom.

And, as if that wasn’t enough to amp my excitement meter, Kate’s college tennis team received an at-large bid and #2 seed in the NCAA Division II Women’s Tennis Championship Tournament. Holy smokes that’s cool!

tennis2

Because of their favorable bid, they play their first match at home on Saturday. You can bet your left arm I’m making the trip. As a Freshman reserve, Kate is unlikely to get a match, but it matters not to me. I love these girls, I’m a rabid fan of the team, and I’ll be there cheering loudly.

By the way, the winner of Saturday’s match advances to the round of 16 in Phoenix, Arizona on May 8. Have I said holy smokes that’s cool?

So April may have given me a wild ride, but I cannot complain about the destination.

With gratitude {for plenty to look forward to},

Joan, who wishes President Josiah Bartlet was around to save the day

A present in a pear bowl.

Dear friends,

Last week was grueling. I worked six straight days that each spanned 12-14 hours, leaving home before anyone else had awakened and arriving home just as my boys were bedding down.

One night I came home and found a package awaiting me on my kitchen desk. Carefully wrapped in brown paper and sent by USPS from my friend Maridel, I had a hunch what it contained. Given my schedule, though, it was yesterday morning before I even had a chance to unwrap it.

It was totally worth the wait . . . A trio of pears to complement my own (featured here), each more lovely than the last. Here’s my favorite:

photo

It’s made from a vintage fabric kitchen calendar. It’s beautiful, and charming, and perfect in a way I never could have imagined before it landed on my counter.

Here’s all of them, in a bowl on my kitchen island as if I might wish to choose one to eat.

photo[1]

I couldn’t be more delighted with my quartet of stitched pears. If you’d like to know more about the artist, just click here.

With gratitude {for gifts from the atelier and from the heart},

Joan, who thinks presents made by hand and sent through the mail are a brand of 0ld-fashioned divine that can’t be matched

No experience necessary. Unless you want to finish.

Dear friends,

quiltblock

I’m not sure why I thought with no instructions and no experience whatsoever I could become a quilter overnight.

I’m one of those people who is blessed with confidence. I’m convinced I could have been an architect or a filmmaker or a novelist (to name but three professions I believe I’m suited for) if only I had tried. That I ended up in my current (unnamed) profession that’s really nothing like those I just named has more to do with the vagaries of decisions made in my 20s than talent. Or that’s the story I tell myself. Still, I’m smart enough to know that if I woke up tomorrow and decided to actually become an architect, I would need education and training.

So nothing explains why I saw this quilt on the internet  and — even though the pattern isn’t identified and I’m breathtakingly inexperienced at this sort of thing — went to bed Saturday night thinking I was going to wake up Sunday morning and make my own pattern and construct myself a quilt. Forget the fact that I’ve never taken a class on quilting, nor read an instruction booklet, nor even watched a video tutorial.  “I can wing it,” I thought.

The thing about winging it is that it’s not the fastest way from point A to point B, usually.

Try not to laugh out loud, but it took me about four hours to produce that single quilt block shown in the photo. Actually, I LAUGHED out loud as I typed that last sentence. Because if you look at the picture, it looks so simple, right? It’s eight little pieces of fabric, for Pete’s sake, and there’s not even any weird curves or points.

I thought about the quilt quite a bit as I fell asleep the night before. I had it figured out in my head, or so I thought.

Turns out, figuring it out in real life is very different than in your head.

I did everything wrong. I measured wrong, I cut the fabric wrong, I stitched the wrong sides together, I pieced it wrong, and I even ironed it wrong. (Who knew there was a right way to iron until I took a break and watched a couple of online tutorials for simpler patterns?)

And in the middle of stitching all those wrong pieces, I even threaded my bobbin wrong (because I ran out of thread and it’s a new machine and, of course, I didn’t read the instruction booklet on how to wind my bobbin).

The upside to making every mistake possible is that you eventually stumble on to doing it the right way. (The ol’ blind squirrel theory applies to crafting, I suppose.)

Anyway, now . . . now I think I’ve got it! The finished block is 1″ smaller than I imagined, but who cares? It’s not like I’m following a pattern.

I’m hoping that next weekend I can make several blocks. I need 42 to make a full-size quilt, which is the size I’m going for unless continued extemporaneous stitchery leads me elsewhere.

With gratitude {for improvisation skills learned in high school speech and drama},

Joan, who in the interest of full disclosure wants you to know she intends to make a quilt top, which she’ll ship off to somebody else for the actual act of quilting, an activity she has no desire to master anytime soon

Because why not get a head start?

Dear friends,

summercu

I know spring just sprung and all, but I spent Saturday feeling all summery.

It was sunny and 70 degrees. Mr. Mom and I went for a long drive near the Big Piney with our sunroof open and our windows down. We stopped after an hour and ate two big platefuls of pan fried chicken at a truck-stop diner, then found an antiques store where we whiled away another hour. It was the best Saturday afternoon I’ve had in a very long time (and I’ve got two gorgeous, pink china plates to prove it). Lordy, lordy my soul needed the sunshine and the quiet time with my favorite companion.

You know what other summery thing I did? Before we hit the road, I made an adorable red-white-and-blue pennant banner. It will be Memorial Day before you know it and I’ll be itching to remake my Easter-decked buffet.

Here’s what my newest banner looks like in full.

summerfull

It was super-simple, thanks to this tutorial from my new favorite fabric source. I modified the instructions a bit, opting for a rod pocket instead of muslin ties on my flags,  and I machine stitched everything rather than hand stitching. The pennants were easy enough to figure out on my own. I simply cut out hand-drawn triangles, stitched around the edges (so I could fringe them), stitched ric-rac across the tops (leaving room for a fold-over pocket to hang them by), stitched the pockets, then glued on fabric letters that I traced and cut out. (Before cutting out the letters, I ironed fusible interfacing on the backs to give them a little more stiffness.) From start to finish, I made the entire banner in about three hours.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a day, a pretend-summer day in April.

With gratitude {for adventures on the road and at the sewing machine},

Joan, who’s insistent on getting her money’s worth out of her new sewing machine

MUDandSTUFF.

Dear friends,

Because I couldn’t wait — and because I just KNOW you are as excited as me about my big reveal — I finished up my Mud Room Friday evening so I could show it to you today.

I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

And because, of course, I want the biggest ahhhhhh possible, I’m going to make you sit through two “before” photos one more time.

Here’s the space before we bought the house:

mudroom

And here’s what it looked like for the first two years we lived here. (This photo is taken from the opposite side as the previous photo. The reflection in the mirror is the view of our laundry room, which sits just to the west of this alcove.)  And, yes, all I did initially to “improve” this space was hang a mirror and throw a bucket in the corner as a catch-all for shoes and other junk. It’s clear it wasn’t much of a catch-ALL, as most of our junk ended up on the floor.

before2

I have only one word for this photo: YUCK.

But all traces of yuckiness have been banished. And here’s what it looks like now, after my flurry of online shopping and with Mr. Mom’s help:

MRlight

This photo is a tad underexposed so you can get a sense of the new light fixture, which I love, love, love.

And here’s my very favorite part:

MUDandSTUFF

I knew I wanted something to really give a punch to the accent wall and I had my heart set on individual letters that spelled out something appropriate for the space. I decided on MUDandSTUFF because it just seemed so . . . so perfectly descriptive.

This addition was my biggest expense. The letters are custom fabricated from aluminum and painted in a high gloss paint. I chose this professional sign company as my source because they offered many font choices, virtually any size, and custom colors. They are adhered to the wall with a fast-setting epoxy glue that was a pain in the butt to use. As you can see if you look closely, we messed up a little on the capital D. And Mr. Mom hung the lowercase n upside down, but figured it out about 30 seconds later and managed to pry it off  the wall just before the glue set so hard we would have had to take a sledgehammer to it. In total, my MUDandSTUFF art cost just over $300 — definitely a splurge but worth it, I think.

By the way, the coat racks (there are two of them hung side by side) are from Bed, Bath & Beyond. I thought they were a bargain at $29 each.

Here’s another view of more wall art. I bought a $10 poster from Urban Outfitters and a $25 K-Mart frame. It helped offset the cost of the custom lettering.

MRposter

And here’s a close-up of the key rack, also from Urban Outfitters.

MRflowers

By the way, the beautiful girl in the photo is our niece. And the vase is a vintage treasure from my beloved native state.

Here’s a close up of the bench, from West Elm:

MRbench

My West Elm rug is on backorder, so the one you see in the photo is a runner from Urban Outfitters that I purchased for the hallway leading to the kitchen. It’s roughly the same color as the one I’m waiting on, so it worked as a stand-in for this photo.

I’m under no illusions that the space is going to stay this organized. By next week, there will be 25 pairs of shoes strewn around the bench and 14 jackets on the coat rack, but it looks nice for now and that’s what matters when the post-DIY glow is still strong.

And because I just can’t get enough, here’s one final look:

mudfinal

With gratitude {for Mr. Mom who puts the “Y” in DIY and who graciously did all my fetching, toting and hanging for this project},

Joan, who has loved wallpaper since she sold it for $4 an hour at Barlow Interiors, her very first job in 1981, which convinced her a college degree might be just the ticket out of retail hell

The mud room. Errrr, space.

Dear friends,

As if I wasn’t planning enough activities for spring what with my newly rekindled passion for needlework and sewing, I’ve also got another big project on the front burner — a new mud room.

Okay, room is a stretch.

A mud corner?

A mud alcove?

Mud space?

Whatever you want to call it, no matter the size, I’m planning a re-do. Actually I’ve been planning a re-do since the day we bought our home, it’s just that it took me two years to move from planning to doing.

I perused untold photos on Houzz and Pinterest looking for mud room inspiration. And all this time, I figured the perfect execution of my plan involved hiring a carpenter for built-ins.

Finally, I realized my little spot just needs better organization, function and decor — and all of that could be achieved without custom woodwork.

You see, my space is five feet wide and nearly three feet deep. It sits right between the garage and the laundry room, so it’s the perfect spot for shoes and coats and bags and all that stuff that accumulates near doors.

Here’s a photo of the space that I snapped on the day we toured the house with a realtor in February 2011. I’m standing in the laundry room looking toward Mr. Mom, who’s going out the door to the garage. The hall to the kitchen is behind him. You can see my mud space is a perfect little spot. You can also see the former owners cared more about functionality than decor.

mudroom

I mean really . . . could the space have been anymore boring?

The first thing I did when we moved in was paint the walls in this area a nice gray (Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore), which I continued throughout the hallway and the kitchen. I also took down the previous owners’ ugly coat rack, which is the only thing in this photo they left behind, thank goodness, and which Mr. Mom was thrilled to put in the garage for his grimy motocross gear. I also hung a mirror and added a big basket to catch shoes, but you know that wasn’t enough. The space is still dreadfully plain. And horribly cluttered.

So my plan is to add a bench, a pillow, a coat rack, a key hook, some artwork, a rug, and a new light fixture. Oh, yeah, and I’m going to hang some wallpaper for a graphic punch. Here’s my source board of all the items I ordered on a day off two weeks ago.

PicMonkey Collage2

Can’t you just IMAGINE it? I can! All the items have arrived except the rug, which is on backorder until May. Mr. Mom has already hung the new light fixture and a professional wallpaper installer is coming on Wednesday. After that, there’s just a few more things to do, including picking up my poster from the frame shop, and I’ll be done. If all goes right, my mud space might be finished this coming weekend.

I’ll be sure to take the “after” photos I know you can’t wait to see.

How do I know you can’t wait? Because I can’t either . . . and you know what they say about birds of a feather.

With gratitude {for online inspiration and a tidy little tax refund that is finally making my mud room project a reality},

Joan, who thinks turquoise blue and seafoam green are two of the best colors of all time

First I swooned. Then I stitched.

Dear friends,

While searching the internet recently for embroidery inspiration, I stumbled across this creation . . . so charming, so lovely, so startlingly original that I swooned.

pearsample

Source: Etsy

For days, I was obsessed with the notion of a stuffed pear. In the same way I get obsessed with an elaborate dessert and plan it over and over again in my head, I was inspired by this delightful combination of crazy quilting, embroidery and fiber art. I was determined to replicate the design.

So I spent Saturday afternoon making a prototype. Because I had no idea if I my experiment would be a rousing success or a colossal failure, I kept it simple — where simple equals starting at 1:30 pm and finishing at 7:30 pm. So, yeah, even simple art takes time. But I was happy with the result.

IMG_1849[1]

I had no idea before today that six hours stitching nothing more than a pincushion (or a windowsill tchotchke) could be such a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Had I adorned my pear as lavishly as the inspiration photo, I would have spent two or three afternoons stitching. Today, I just wanted to finish. To know whether or not my fading eyesight and increasingly stiff fingers could pull off such a thing. The answer, apparently, is yes, so next time I’ll take all the time I need to bling my baby up.

Speaking of next time, I recently ducked into a flea market on my way home from work and found a vintage quilt for a song. It was terribly tattered around the edges and ripped down one side. But at $17, enough of the quilt was intact that I couldn’t pass it up, especially since the top was made from a lovely shade of faded cotton the exact color of Jadite. (If you read this post last year, you know I have a kitchen full of Jadite dishes. The serene seafoam color associated with these vintage dishes is a shade I simply can’t resist.)

I envisioned cutting up my tattered quilt for a number of craft projects, including another pear pincushion. But before I cut into my vintage treasure, I had to know I could pull it off.  Today’s prototype pear made from inexpensive fat quarters purchased at Wal-Mart gave me the courage I need to stretch my sewing wings a bit more.  Now I’ve got more designs than I can keep up with swimming through my mind, all competing for my limited weekend  crafting time.

The good news is I won’t be bored for pretty much the rest of my life.

With gratitude {for my kickin’ new sewing machine, limitless inspiration, and enough spare time to pursue my textile dreams vigorously},

Joan, who thinks the internet is the coolest thing ever for crafters and is especially grateful to the lovely people who post free patterns and tutorials like this one