Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Tea Towel Collection: February Edition

Folks, I have a confession to make.  I have a tea towel addiction.  I was innocently surfing my own personal crack favorite shopping website, etsy, when I noticed the amazing abundance of truly awesome tea towels.  For those of you not in the know, etsy is a place where crafters can easily and safely sell their wares directly to the consumer.  I'm all about the hand crafted stuff and I try to use it wherever I can in my life, but there was just something about tea towels that really struck a chord with me.  I guess it's because I love fun domestic items, and what could be more domestic than a tea towel?  Plus they're a relatively cheap and easy way to change up the decor of your kitchen.  So I began snapping up tea towels from a lot of my favorite crafters on etsy.  Then I discovered the world of vintage tea towels. Before I knew it, I had amassed quite the tea towel collection.  What I didn't have was a place to display them.  Till now:

Imagine the music when Indy is gazing upon the idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark playing softly in the background here.

One of the wonderful things about designing your own kitchen from scratch is that you can add in whatever weird feature that you want, including bars to display your crazy perfectly reasonable tea towel collection (the open shelves are for my perfectly reasonable Pyrex, Glasbake, and Texasware collections, but more on that in a later post).  My plan is to change the tea towels that I display every month, so that my kitchen has a fresh, seasonal look all year round.  I thought it might be fun to do a post every month too, showing the changing tea towel display (or maybe I'm just a wee bit tea towel obsessed).  Anyhoo, here's my display for the month of February:

From left to right: snowflakes block printed on natural linen from etsy seller PonyAndPoppy, vintage embroidered puppy days of the week, vintage pea soup from vintage linen etsy seller Neatokeen, upcycled vintage embroidered heart from etsy seller TwoGirlsLaughing, vintage rebus tomato and lettuce from Neatokeen.

 A more detailed view of the puppy day of the week tea towel.  This was most likely done from an Aunt Martha iron-on embroidery transfer pattern.  Aunt Martha made thousands of these patterns for home crafters for the past 70 years, and I think they're still producing some (although the brand has most likely changed hands to a different company).  If you'd like to try your hand at one of these vintage patterns, I recommend you check out the selection at Pattern Bee.  Vicki Haninger has taken old patterns, cleaned them up, and made them available again as iron-on transfers or PDFs.  I've bought many neat patterns from her that I plan to embroider myself some day...when I have free time again...after the renovation.

 A more detailed view of the vintage embroidered heart tea towel.  I love collecting vintage embroidery.  I like looking at it and thinking about the person who sat down to do this project.  What made them choose the heart pattern?  Why did they go with the colors that they chose?  A lot of love went into every stitch of this towel, and it makes me happy to give it a good home where it will be appreciated again.  The ladies of the etsy shop TwoGirlsLaughing share that mindset.  They rescue bits of vintage embroidery and sew them into tea towels.  This heart embroidery most likely started it's life as a pillowcase.

From left to right:  winter from etsy seller claudiagpearson, vintage chicken in a stew from Neatokeen, a tea towel I embroidered myself  from the Sublime Stitching Krazy Kitchen iron-on transfer embroidery pattern, Valentine's Day dachshund from etsy seller persnicketypelican, folk hearts from etsy seller PonyAndPoppy.

 Detail of my embroidered tea towel.  This was my first attempt at embroidery, and I think it came out great.  A large part of that was due to the clear instructions of Jenny Hart, the Queen of the cool, hip, trendy embroidery revival.  If you're interested in embroidering some tea towels for yourself, but you prefer designs that are more modern than Aunt Martha, I can't recommend Sublime Stitching enough.  Jenny has tons of neat, offbeat patterns to choose from, and her embroidery tutorials make the whole process easy for even the most novice crafter.  Seriously, go check her stuff out!

Well that's it for this time folks.  If you're interested in starting your own tea towel collection, I suggest that you search over at etsy.  There you'll find not only unique, artistic, handmade tea towels, but lots of vintage treasures too.  Tune in next time when I share my vintage valentine collection (I meant to post it sooner, but we've had no good light for photography this week), and coming soon, more renovation progress.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!  Maybe it's because I'm from New Orleans (we like any excuse to party), or maybe it's the fascination that I've always had with other cultures and far away places, but I thought it might be fun to host a Chinese New Year themed games night.  So we invited our gaming group over to our house for a night of fun, food, and just general hijinks (I found a plastic snake in my bed at the end of the night, no lie).  But you can't have a theme party without some cool decorations, so I hit up Oriental Trading Company and this is what I found:

I believe this handsome fellow is Cai Shen, the Chinese God of Wealth. I'm not sure what he's carrying in his right hand, but it might be the tool that he uses to convert iron into gold. I like his banner, but I have no idea what it says.  It could be "stupid Americans know nothing about our traditions", but I'm betting it's something about good luck and personal wealth in the new year.

This pretty banner is supposed to be saying "good luck", but again, it could be anything.  I once bought my husband a pair of boxer shorts that were supposed to say "back in the USSR" in Cyrillic.  When I showed them to a Russian friend, he almost fell off his chair laughing.  The shorts actually said "hot stuff", "big hose", "on fire", and other salacious phrases describing the wearer's penis.

I'm not entirely sure why dragons are so closely associated with the Chinese New Year (2012 was the Year of the Dragon, by the way).  I do know that the famous Dragon Dance is often performed at Chinese New Year celebrations.  The dragon does make a pretty spiffy decoration though, I'm tempted to leave it up year round.

Getting down Chinese dragon style!

Ah, the warm glow of softly lit red lanterns...  Red lanterns (and the color red in general) is associated with the story of Nian.  You see, Nian was this nasty beastie that celebrates his new year by eating livestock and small children.  Villagers, not being stupid people, lock up their sheep and small children on New Year's Day and leave food outside their doors (the hope being that Nian would chow down on people food and not on people).  One day, to the horror of the villagers, a small child wearing red got out, but instead of noming him, Nian ran away.  It turns out that, despite being a big ole baddie, Nian is scared of the color red.  So everyone puts out red lanterns, red decorations, and wears the color red to scare away Nian.  I must say it worked for us, no wiener dogs were eaten by Nian...

 ...much to their relief...

So that's it for this time folks.  I hope you all had a wonderful Chinese New Year and that you have a fun and prosperous Year of the Snake.

Keep watching this space for more holiday decorations, an introduction to my crazy collections, and of course renovation updates.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Goodbye Pat

I have a short and sad update for you today folks.  Pat Vloebergh, the sweet lady and talented artist who designed all of the stained glass in our house, has passed away.  I first met her many years ago when she designed our front door glass.  I was afraid that she might think I was crazy (or just tacky) to want a Halloweenie front door, but she was very supportive and full of wonderful ideas.  She put her heart and soul into designing something just for me, and every day when I walk out into the hall and see that front door, I smile.

I kept this quiet because it was not my story to tell, but during the course of our current project, Pat lost her beloved husband of many years and broke her back.  Despite her grief and serious injury, Pat never let her concentration on our project wane.  She was passionate and professional about finishing our stained glass, even in the face of crushing personal tragedy.  Truly, she was an amazing woman, and I admire her strength and courage.

The hubby and I feel so very humbled and lucky to have Pat's stained glass in our house.  She made beautiful art, and her legacy will live on.  The talented people that worked with Pat- artists, stained glass designers, craftsmen, and installers, have decided to keep her business going.  I can't help but think that would make Pat happy.  So, if you are in need of stained glass, I highly recommend you contact the good folks at Vloeberghs Studio.  They will design something beautiful and special just for you.

As for our renovation, well things have been a bit quiet around here.  First the hubby got sick, then I got sick, then our contractor Brett got sick.  With all that illness, the renovation naturally slowed down.  We're all hale and hearty now and things have picked back up, so I will have another post for you soon.

Goodbye Pat, we miss you.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Scenes From The Last Week Of The Year

Most people slow down and relax the last week of the year.  The holidays are pretty much over, it's time to unwind, rest, and reflect- or at least it usually is for me, but not this year!  Things are still going on with the renovation and little by little the to-do list is getting smaller.  Before I go into that, I just wanted to post a few scenes from the last week of 2012.

A curious little kitty touched one of our newly painted doors and then tracked cute paw prints in the hall.  We cleaned it up, but I was very tempted to leave it.

 Our friends Bo and Becca stopped by to see the house and wanted to try out our tub.  I think we should make all of our friends pose for photos in it.

 Wiener dogs love racing across the nubbly hex tiles in the master bath.

 They also love watching us while we take a shower in our big open shower area.  They come in and look at us like we're crazy, then beat a hasty retreat lest we grab them up and wash them too.

 The cats have enjoyed exploring our new antique mantles.  I suspect the far left kitty is the paw print culprit.

 We cooked our first meal on the AGA.  It was just humble spaghetti with marinara sauce, but it was hot, homemade, and tasty.

It wasn't all fun and games with friends and animals, lots got done around the house too.  Our master bath had it's missing sink recovered and installed.

 Reunited and it feels so good.

The tub got it's cabinetry surround and plumbing installed.

Sorry the photos are so dark.  We run out of good light early these days.

Panel for easy access on the tub. I'm sure there's an "easy access" sex joke in there somewhere, but I'm way too much of a lady to point it out.

The tub also had it's stained glass window installed. The shower stained glass wasn't able to be installed because the window wasn't square. We're working on fixing it.

An artsy shot of the window early in the morning with the sun streaming in.  This photo does not do it justice.

The transom that separates the addition from the old part of the house was also installed.  Astute readers will note that this was not the transom we chose back in the summer.  We were somewhat flabbergasted when this was the one that showed up at our house.  Our stained glass designer has been going through some deep and personal trauma that I don't feel I can go into here.  We love her work and thought that the owl looked pretty cool, so we've decided to keep it.

Stone slabs were delivered for hearths throughout the house.

The one in the office matches the marble we have as our desk top.  Also, way to photobomb vacuum cleaner!

This hearth in the living room was a remnant we found at the stone yard.  The browns in it will look great with the reproduction Victorian tiles we'll be using around the firebox (more on that in a later post).

This is the hearth in the master bedroom.  It's the same granite that we used for our kitchen island.  The stone yard cut it too short.  I'm not really thrilled about this (seriously, how hard it is to cut a fricken rectangle?), but our contractor will add some extra woodwork around the hearth to make it look okay.

The big event for the week was the delivery of the kitchen island.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

It really does sort of look like a map of Middle Earth.  I think Frodo had to take the ring to somewhere in that purple splotch to the right.

That's it for this week folks, and for this year.  Thanks for reading this blog and for keeping up with this crazy renovation.  We've got lots more exciting stuff to come in 2013, but until then have a safe and Happy New Year!

New Year's narcissus bulbs, a gift from a sweet friend.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's Beginning To Look At Least Somewhat Like Christmas

Well folks, it's almost Christmas, and just because we recently moved doesn't mean we can't get all festive up in here.  Sadly, I was seriously stressed and running out of gas last week just trying to deal with the move and all the fun complications that ensued.  The thought of having to find/pull out/put up all my Christmas decorations just exhausted me.  Fortunately Shea (the lovely lady who has been doing all of the refinishing on our furniture) had a way to solve the problem.  Shea is quite often hired by people to decorate their houses for Christmas (I didn't know people did this sort of thing), so she offered to do ours.  We quickly agreed and she was off to Target to see what she could find for us.  As you can imagine, the selection was somewhat diminished, but I think Shea managed to score some cool stuff for us.

First up is this little white tree in the front hall.  I've always been a traditional red and green Christmas kinda gal.  I would never have thought to get a white tree, but it does look stunning against the purple accent wall.  I love the neat silver balls and purple snowflakes.

 Here's a shot of the tree lit up at night.  We need to hit a fabric store to get some purple fabric as a tree skirt.  Hopefully we'll have time to do that this weekend.

Here's our main tree in the living room.  Shea chose purple because it looks great with the burnt orange walls (and she knows I love purple).  It's pencil thin, which is nice because it won't block our TV.  I would have NEVER had the guts to do something like this on my own, but I have to say I love it!  It's hard to tell in this photo, but the silver wreaths on either side of the tree have little purple berries in them too.  Neat!

Here it is all lit up.  We want to get the 7' pre-lit tree that goes with this and have them both out next year, but Target is currently sold out of them.  I hope they get them back in stock before the season is over.

 Not to be outdone by Shea, the hubby decided that we needed to decorate the outside of the house too.  He headed to Ace hardware and picked up these very retro chunky looking lights.  I remember decorating with lights like these as a kid.  Remember how hot they used to get?  Well these modern versions are much better.

And here is our house all lit up at night.  I think it looks very festive, and for some reason it reminds me of Snoopy's house when he decorated it for Christmas.

Do you think we'd win first prize too?

That's it for this time folks.  There's still lots of stuff that needs to be finished up at the house so I'll have plenty more to post in the New Year.  Until then, I would like to leave you with my all time favorite holiday song:

From our old Atlanta house to yours, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

And We're Back!

Whew, it's been one hell of a week folks.  The move did not go as smoothly as we'd hoped.  The moving company forgot about us and never showed up on Monday morning.  By the time we called them and straightened it out, Atlanta was hit by a pouring rain storm, and it was decided that we should just put off the move till Tuesday.  That's all fine and dandy, but everything we owned was packed up into boxes.  Fortunately, our contractor Brett offered to take some guys over to our rental house and move our bed so we could at least sleep in our "new" house.  Also, it helped that I had a suitcase packed up with clothes, toiletries, towels, and essential electronics (phones, ipods, kindles, etc) so that we could live for a few days without having to unpack boxes.  Delaying the move did stress me out some, because we need to host our family for the holidays.  It's essential that I get the house up and running by then, and losing a day of unpacking just sucked.

The rest of the week has been a flurry of trying to get the kitchen and master bedroom/closet unpacked and organized.  The hardest thing has been figuring out exactly where we want to put things.  I want to get the unpacking and organizing right the first time around because I know that we are just too darn lazy to ever go back and redo it.  Also, I have to wash every dish, pot, pan, plate, utensil, and froo fraa that goes in the kitchen before putting it away.  I know I'm probably being a little overzealous (especially since this is kind of still a construction zone), but I just can't stand the thought of putting something away that was dusty from the move.  You should see my poor dishpan hands!

Yeah, so the construction is not exactly finished here.  Brett and his boys have absolutely busted their humps trying to get as much done as possible before we moved in, but little things kept happening that were out of their control.  For instance, the washer and dryer that we ordered is no longer being made so we had to pick new models (they won't be here till next week).  The slab company lost one of our bathroom sinks so we weren't able to have our final inspection.  They also have delayed coming out to install our kitchen island slab and some of our hearth slabs (for unknown reasons)...sigh.  If this were any other time of year, the hubby and I would have just canceled his vacation time (yeah, he took the week off to help unpack and get us settled, poor guy) and moved our move back date till everything was done.  But, as I've mentioned, we have to host the family for the holiday (for personal reasons that I won't go into here), so we kinda had to be back in our house.  So, we're living in a work in progress here, but that's okay.  Our family won't mind, and we feel like we're in good hands with Brett.  He is out here every day, ticking off every little thing that he can to complete the house.  Seriously, I cannot stress enough how hard this man has worked to try and get us back into our house for the holiday season, or how he has gone above and beyond the call of duty for us.  I cannot recommend him enough as a contractor, and if you live in the Atlanta area and need a contractor, I would be happy to send his information out to you.

I also want to take a moment and mention our wonderful designer Karen.  She has been working feverishly this month trying to nail down every little detail so that our house could be as complete as possible by our move in date.  Keep in mind that she has a full time job (that does not involve designing for us) and a small child and a husband and the holiday season to deal with just like the rest of us.  She has worked herself to exhaustion trying to make sure everything was as comfortable, cozy, and complete for us as it could possibly be before she went on her holiday vacation.  I cannot recommend her enough as a designer, but I can't recommend her to you.  You know why?  She doesn't do residential design professionally.  Karen designed our house for us as a labor of love, and we feel so humble and lucky to have her as a friend.

Well that's it for this week folks, but let me leave you with some "keeping it real" pics of the house RIGHT after we moved in (seriously, the movers had just left when I demanded the hubby take some pics).

 The front hall.  That hutch will not be there permanently.  That's the spot where a family heirloom piano will live, but right now it's in storage somewhere near my parent's house.  Also, that's our wiener dog Sookie sniffing a drill.

The office.
 The guest bedroom.  A lot of that junk is going down to our basement.  We just didn't put it down there that day because of all the mud from the previous day's rain and the fact that our basement is only accessible from the outside (temporarily).

 The master bedroom.  That's a drop cloth we're using as a curtain.  The sweet lady who is making our draperies is working as quickly as she can, but she has a 7 week old baby, and a 3 year old, and there are only so many hours in a day.  I'll post when we get them up.  Can you spot Sookie's butt?

Our master bath.  The stained glass windows aren't in yet, but hopefully will be done soon.  Note the one sink...sigh...

The living room.

 And finally the kitchen, or my personal nightmare this week.

Tune in next time when I share the cool and interesting way I learned to do completely stress free (and adventurous) Christmas decorating!