Last chance: Vintage maps leaving shop 07/31/15

Vintage maps

I’ve had these vintage telephone service area maps in my shop for a while, and I even added one to the collection in our family room.



But on the path to essentialism, I’m paring down what I sell, and these maps will be leaving the shop forever July 31, 2015. So if you’ve had your eye on one, now is the time! Many states are sold out, but I still have a number available. All marked down to $5.

States I have available: Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia/Florida, Indiana/Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont.

Final bathroom renovation update!


Our bathroom renovation is finally complete. This whole thing started nearly two years ago when we discovered a cracked plumbing stack, but that was really just the final and indisputable straw. You can see what this bathroom used to look like in this post from 2010. We kept all the fixtures in the same place, but we corrected a number of weirdo design decisions (like adding a door and removing that strange elevated portion of the floor around the toilet). And we bumped out the wall into the bedroom about six inches, which allowed us to put in a bigger shower.

While the floor space is quite gracious, this is still a small bathroom. The ceiling is short. Just six and a half feet over by the windows and seven feet in the shower. So my strategy for the lighting, medicine cabinet and such was just to make everything compact. I wanted fixtures that hugged the wall, and didn’t stick out too far. The old sconces projected into the room way too much and this feels much more spacious.

So after all that, it’s a real bathroom again! And although I still need to find or make some sort of art for that frame over the toilet, I thought it was time to share and cross this project off my list. Finally!













Declutter 2015: Epic post without any photos


Challenge: I am tasking myself with going through my entire house and getting rid of everything that we don’t need anymore. I’m also taking this opportunity to repair things that are broken, eliminate annoyances, develop new systems, and just streamline as much as possible. See more posts in the series >>

Hey there! It’s been a while. Summer schedule has taken hold, and I’ve made a conscious decision to post less frequently in favor of regaining my sanity. To be honest, I’ve thought about retiring this blog altogether, but something inside me isn’t letting that happen. Anyway, I’m still here, though I’m spending most of my free time/creative energy working on my shop.

So… decluttering. Where was I again? The decluttering process is not easy to document. Sometimes it’s so slow and gradual, filling boxes bit by bit. Other times it’s let’s just pitch all of the things RIGHT NOW and get them out of the house immediately. No time for photos! The stuff has to go!

Since my last update, we’ve gone through all of our books (mostly Dan’s books) and condensed everything down to a single bookcase. (The kids have their own books in their room.) It took a lot of mental effort to get the courage to do it, but once we were there, it wasn’t difficult. We got rid of something like 100 books. We are readers, but heavy library users, so most things were old acquisitions.

I got rid of some of the kids books too. Things that no one cared about. Books that were falling apart beyond repair. Garbage books with no real artistic or intellectual value. The kids have so so many great books. There’s no need to keep filler junk.

We also went through the DVDs, which are also mainly Dan’s territory, and got rid of a handful. And we checked to verify that each case actually held the disc it was supposed to. Luckily, they were not all that mixed up. (I suspect our CDs will be a different situation.)

Then it was onto the papers. You guys, I got rid of so many papers. I recycled manuals for electronics, old college notebooks, expired coupons, receipts, old birthday cards, two or three years worth of Christmas cards, old magazines… I didn’t even know we still had a lot of this stuff in the house, and there’s probably more hiding.

And then my plan to declutter by category as suggested in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up just fell apart.

The getting rid of things by category system works when you have categories to work with. Clothes, papers, books, etc. But it doesn’t work for the most challenging spaces: closets and the basement, stuffed with stuff that’s all mixed up. Boxes full of stuff that I don’t even know what’s inside.

Anyway, I reached some sort of tipping point and an avalanche of stuff flew out the door. I scheduled a charity donation pickup and found out about an Earth Day recycling event (yeah, this update is way overdue), and started collecting anything I could grab.

We got rid of:

  • A giant stack of styrofoam packing (It had been hanging out because was too big/too much to fit in our trash can.)
  • A bunch of plastic plant pots/containers
  • An assortment of dead electronics and wires
  • Stuff from thrift stores that I had planned to rehab (but hadn’t been touched in two years)
  • And boxes and boxes of random things that were so unnecessary, I don’t even remember what they were. You can’t miss something if you didn’t remember you had it in the first place.

If you live in a big metropolitan area, and charity pickups are available, you really should take advantage. It gives you a deadline and all you have to do is get the stuff to your porch. And then it’s gone! You don’t have a chance to procrastinate. You don’t have a chance to take things back. I’ve done two pickups since April, and I’m about to schedule a third. It’s my new secret weapon against the clutter.

And then it was on to the baby stuff…

After all that was gone, I finally made my way into the closet with all of the baby gear in it and was sort of amazed. More than half of that crap could just go. Our Pack ‘n Play days are over, so I donated a bunch of still usable baby things to a local charity that works with babies and moms in need.

I feel like I’m exiting the “acquisition” phase of my life. We have a house. It’s mostly furnished. (Of course, there’s always fine tuning.) We’re out of that tiny newborn phase and done with the baby gear. While we are always growing and changing, wearing things out and using things up, the large waves of accumulation are over. And now we’re in a phase where I’m valuing quality over quantity, trends, and junk. No more saving for what ifs. There are too many what ifs to save for.

Next up: not sure, though that basement certainly could use some help.

Upstairs bathroom update: Almost complete!

Bathroom almost done!

A quick bathroom renovation sneak peek. We are almost there. 95% there! Since my last update, all of the tiling is complete. We have a floor and a functional shower! Also a vanity, toilet, medicine cabinet, lights!

Considering we were down to one bathroom for more than a year and a half, this is kind of amazing.


Also, the adjoining bedroom went from looking like this…


…to this! Progress!


All that’s left to do is some touch-up painting, getting some privacy film on the windows, towel hooks, and of course, a bit of decorating.

Literally phoning it in with these iPhone photos. Expect some better shots and a more complete “tour” after everything is complete!

It’s a baking party!

Baking birthday party

I’ve noted before that my daughter Elise loves baking and wants to be a baker someday. So it was natural that she chose a baking party theme this year. This was the first “kid” party we’ve had, and we invited the girls from her Kindergarten class to celebrate with us.

Baking party invitation

I found this vintage birthday cake illustration and Photoshopped out a candle so there would be only six.

Baking party - cupcake wrapper garland

The decorations were minimal, but I knew we needed a cupcake liner garland (as seen on every pretty baking party on the internet like this one, and this one, and also here). It was really easy to make and took about 45-60 minutes. (It took me longer to collect all the different wrappers from various stores.) Using a needle and thread, I strung all sorts of cupcake wrappers and coffee filters randomly without a plan or strategy. This is one of those “the messier, the better” type of things, and I didn’t have to ruffle or adjust anything.

Baking party decorations

Baking party aprons and chef hats

When the girls arrived, everybody got a pink apron and paper chef hat. Before the party, someone asked if I was going to make aprons for everyone. Wow! Um, no. I do not want to spend 20+ hours sewing aprons when I could buy these for less than $3 each. The paper hats were a bit big on everyone, but they stayed on pretty well.

Cinnamon dough ornament

Our first activity was making cinnamon dough ornaments. They smell so delicious!

I prepared the cinnamon dough ahead of time with this simple recipe. Everyone got a piece to flatten and cut out a shape using a cookie cutter. There was a bit of a mishap because this batch of dough was rather sticky. (My two practice rounds had gone fine, but that didn’t matter at this point. And of course, I didn’t have any more cinnamon on hand to thicken up the dough.) Everyone had messy hands and many baby wipes were used in cleanup, but we somehow managed to make the ornaments look halfway decent. (No photos of the process, sorry!)

We sprinkled some glitter on the shapes, and I poked a hole in each one using a straw before putting them in the oven at 200°F. I left them there for the entire party and took them out just before everyone went home. You can handle them pretty much right out of the oven at that low temp. In 90 minutes, they had hardened enough to travel, but I suggested a few more days of air drying before hanging with a ribbon.

Cupcake decorating party Cupcake decorating party

But the real fun of the party was decorating cupcakes. I baked six dozen cupcakes the day before: white, chocolate, and confetti. Every girl decorated five cupcakes: one to eat and four to take home. I had a variety of icings, sprinkles (like, a lot lot of sprinkles), candies, and other toppings available. The girls really got into it! I bought small cupcake boxes from Joann, and everyone took home four cupcakes to share.

Cupcake decorating party Cupcake boxes

Baking birthday party

Baking party I Spy jars

Baking party I Spy jars

As the party was winding down after opening presents, the girls colored their hats and some coloring sheets with crayons. I also made up some “I Spy” jars using some of Elise’s baking-themed miniature toys and sugar. (We also tried flour in the jars, but that didn’t really work. You couldn’t see the toys, and the flour didn’t really “flow” around them like the sugar does.) Since they aren’t all readers yet, I drew all the items so that they could find them visually.

This is so Elise.

This is so Elise. My comedienne.

p.s. We also played a few party games I made up like “balance-the-egg-on-the-spoon”-type stuff and the girls complied, but I could tell they were not at all into them. Message received. Skip the lame games next time, mom, and get to the fun stuff.