Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My (finally, and lovingly) Refurbished China Cabinet

I did it!  I finally, finally, finally finished refinishing my Chinese Cabinet (at least, that's what Megan calls it).  It has taken me since...oh, I'd say, September 2012 to complete this project, but I think it turned out great!  I am so pleased about my new addition to our dining room.  

It all started when my Aunt Pat brought me boxes of my Grandma's china.  I thought that such a lovely gift needed to be displayed in a loving manner and so my search for a china cabinet began.

Pretty snowflake china from the 60s.

I had seen people of Pinterest re-do china cabinets and they made it look, why not?  I browsed Craigslist and found this beaut.

Yeeeesh.  Can you say U-G-L-Y, it ain't got no alibi?  But it was only $100.  First thing I did was make a trip to Home Depot and pick up this bad boy.

Easy. Quick. All in one box= Good.  Actually, I was pretty skeptical.  The china cabinet was awfully dark, and this promised to make it very white. 

Er....That's a lot of steps.  Could it be that this might take a few days longer than I expected?

I disassembled the whole darn thing, every hinge, every screw, every magnetic door-shutting doohickey, and every little plastic bit for keeping the glass windows intact.  It was a lot of parts.  Then I did the Rustoleum kit step by step.  Each side of each piece.  It took...awhile.

Brennan's bug makes a cameo
I also removed the mirrors that backed the cabinet.  It was tricky, but I had a cool little tool that breaks glass without shattering it.  I then had to peel of this horribly un-peelable sticky stuff that stuck the mirror on.  

Best done with a hair dryer and chisel

Once all the stripping agents were applied and it was painted white, the last application was this stuff that gave it an antiquey sort of finish.  The next step was to cover up the background where the mirror was.  I considered many different options: wall paper, contact paper, paint and stencils, but I settled on applying fancy paper with decoupage.

Pretty paper bought online from Paper Source

I would say that the paper is my least favorite part.  I love the design but I was sloppy in its application.  I would suggest using a squeegy of some sort to eliminate bubbling. 

I then (with a lot of muscley help) moved the cabinet back inside after its long winter in the garage.  I drilled in all the little bits and bobs to attach the doors and put the glass back in.  

And then I got to put on the wee finishing touches that made it ALL WORTH IT.  The knobs!

The blue crystal knobs are for the bottom cabinet and three brass birds for the top are from Cost Plus World Market.  

Even though (after all this work) I don't feel super good about putting in all these lovely breakable dishes while the kids are still climby and destructive, I did put in the sugar bowl that I bought myself for Christmas from Anthropology.  

I'm so happy I accomplished such a big undertaking, mostly all by myself.  I set out to get a china cabinet and that is what I got....with LOTS of trial and error.  

Final cost was probably $250.  I think that I could have finished this in a week or two if I didn't have to work around two small children's nap times.  It was pretty limiting.  I also think that if I wasn't working in a freezing cold garage in Seattle during the winter, it might have gotten done a tad earlier.  None of that matters though, now that I have the finished product beaming from my dining room.   

*sigh*  I love my Chinese Cabinet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Top 10 Pandora Stations

I love Pandora.  I love being able to create my own radio stations and listen to them commercial free.  This is because I pay the extra fee that allows me to not be interrupted by those pesky ads.  I feel spoiled when I turn the radio on in the car and have to switch the dial every five minutes, when Pandora provides me with hours of musical entertainment.

We listen to Pandora often throughout the day, usually on my phone, but sometimes on my laptop.  What we listen to depends on our moods, and here is a list of my top 10 favorite stations (and the reasons we love them).

In no particular order:

1. Bread

You know that soft 70s band Bread?  No?  Well, for shame!

What's not to love?
Some of their songs just hit the spot--If, Baby I'm-a Want You,  Make it with You.  Bread really melts my butter.  I also love the other bands and songs that get played on the Bread station--Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, America-- it's like taking a stroll down my 70s childhood lane; all great music for a lazy Sunday morning.

2. Duran Duran

Awesome 80s new wave pop, good for house cleaning, projects in the garage, and remodeling your bathroom.

And look at that hair!

3. Gotye

Oooo!  I really love Gotye!  I know, I know it's not really cool anymore.  Whatevs.  Gotye is a cool drink of water alternative band, and the Pandora station plays other fairly mainstream alternative music--the kind that has a good beat and you can dance to.  Megan LOVES Gotye, so therefore I love them (although I love them anyway), and often requests this stations or "dance music" as she calls it.

4.  The Cowsills

This might actually be my number one favorite.  I love this station.  It reminds me of my mom, and of the kind of music we would listen to on the radio when I was a kid.  It's the station I put on when I'm playing with the kids, making crafts, playing with toys, baking.  I would put it on my phone and bring it out to our deck on warm days last summer and let the kids strip down and play with the water toys and mud pies.  We listened to this station and ate peaches and frozen bananas and it was my favorite part of last summer.  Not only does this station focus on the Cowsills, but you get the Beach Boys (Finn's fave), The Association (my fave), The Turtles, The Mamas and The Papas...SO good.

Masterpieces made while listening to the Cowsills

5.  Owen Duggan

This is my favorite kids music station.  Found this one pretty randomly and it quickly turned into our go-to playtime station.  We especially like listening to it during bath time.  It focuses on kid music that isn't annoying.  This is good.  You won't find Barney, or any nails on a chalkboard children singing along.  It's pretty alternative without being too hipster and Megan knows all the songs by heart.

6.  Anugama

I love this one for it's super meditative, calming tunes.  When I have time, (which isn't often), I like to sit quietly and breathe with my eyes closed while listening to this.  Anugama is a new age band which incorporates a lot of nature sounds.  I love that it's a meditation station that isn't Enya-y, (I like Enya, but it seems like that's all you get with new age music), and it has a nice Buddhist flair without being to chanty.

7.  Black Eyed Peas

Haters gonna hate.  That's cool.  I listen to this station when I go running and it is super motivating.  It's all totally upbeat, hip-hoppy, fun music that keeps me in motion.  They play Rhianna, Lady Gaga, Usher, Justin Timberlake, LMFAO, and I unapologetically love this station.

8.  Dave Bruebeck

What's not to like about Dave Bruebeck?  He was so cool.  My favorite jazz song of all time is Take Five.  Listening to this station makes me feel like I've got one of those neat Wurlitzer juke boxes in my living room.  This is a good station for dinner time, especially with a nice glass of wine.

9.  Quaker Meadows

I was just messing around and curious about Quaker music.  I knew it would be calming and quiet, but I wasn't expecting it to be so delightful!  You know, it's a gift to be simple and all that.  I listen to this with the kids on weekend mornings while Brennan is sleeping in and it's like, 6am and we're making pancakes.  It's sort of Celtic and Irish, and I can easily see unicorns prancing in a meadow while we listen to this station.

Quaker unicorn

10.  Don't Worry Be Happy

Yep, my favorite feel good song, now a Pandora station!  It's Bobby McFerrin , but also it's reggae, it's Harry Belafonte, It's Michael Frante, it's Iz.  I love listening to this when I feel blue, because who doesn't smile when listening to someone tell you not to worry?  The message: BE HAPPY!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Things That Made Me Happy In The Last 365 Days

Getting back in shape.  Again.  Last year at this time I was at the heaviest I had ever been.  2011 was a shitty year and I ate my feelings, smooshing away the grief I felt over losing mom.  I didn’t care.  I ate and ate and ate, half knowing that after the new year I would go on Weight Watchers and get back into shape.  And that’s what happened.  I think that the highest amount I lost this year was 40 pounds.  It didn’t stick, not all of it; I gained back about half of that when I tired of the program and not feeling like I could eat…well, anything.  But what really made me happy was just getting off that unnatural grief weight.  I am happy that I started exercising AND kept exercising.  Now it is part of the routine of life, I do it several times a week and it feels so good.  

I am happy that I feel like I found my natural weight too.  It may not be “skinny”, or the weight I was when I was 25, or what the charts say I’m “supposed” to weigh, but it’s what my body naturally goes back to every time.  After I go off every diet, after I lose all the baby weight after birth, this is the weight my body bounces back to.   I’m not going to fight it anymore; I’m happy with the number, how I look, and the feeling I have –so good for me!  I think what I’m going to do this time, instead of a diet or Weight Watchers, I'm just going to eat healthily and exercise.  I’m pretty much doing that anyway so it’s not big stretch, AND it’s better for my psyche, and better for my kids to see their mama eating good food like it’s no big deal.

Brennan and I ran a 5k last summer!

Going to the YMCA.  I am a huge fan of the Y.  At first we were going to the Bellevue YMCA and it was pretty good.  The facilities were pretty good, but the childcare was only so so.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the Northshore Y in Bothell is so much better!  We went there this summer when the Bellevue facility was shut for yearly maintenance for the week.  We never went back to the Bellevue Y.  The Northshore children’s area is SO GOOD!  They have so many caring teachers in the child’s area, just milling around, playing with the kids, doing crafts with them—the other place only had one mean lady and Megan hated it there.  Now both kids look forward to going and I love it because they do, and I can get a break and exercise while the kids get their goof out. 

Megan and Finn running around the YMCA in their Halloween costumes

Getting my tattoo!  This design was on my mom’s shoulder and last January Sherri and I each got one of our own.  Sherri’s is on her calf and mine is on my wrist.  I love my fairy butterfly lady, and each time I see it I think of my mom.

Right after I got my tattoo--it's still a little swollen

Megan starting preschool!  She loves it!  Now, it started out a little rough, what with there being rules that Megan didn’t understand, and new teachers to enforce those rules—so time outs were had….but I think she’s found her stride.  She loves the class, her little friends, the crafts she makes, the little songs they learn.  I’m happy because she is happy. 

Hawaii!  How could I not be happy about going to Hawaii for a week in June?  It was fabulous!  We relaxed, we played, we did sand and surf-type things, we bonded as a family, and we created some lovely memories.  My favorite moments were sitting in our living room after the kids went to bed and talking with Brennan, my dad and sister Sherri.  It was terrific.

Don't I look relaxed? 

 Finding my happiness again (or for the first time, depending on how you look at it).  I had been in pretty sad shape after my mom died.  It felt miraculous when this happened, but it did and so far I’ve actually been able to maintain quite a bit of that happiness.  I think it’s helped that every day I try to write “things that made me happy in the last 24 hours” posts on Facebook.  My friend Tatiana inspired me to do this and it really helps to stop and recognize the small things that add up to a good day.  Believe me, I could spend all day complaining about something, but it’s the choice to acknowledge the happy things that makes a difference. 

Having my dad over for dinner once a week.  We have made it a habit to have my dad come over on Wednesday evenings and share a meal.  The kids love having their grandpa to play with and I love the company and the help.  We eat dinner and after the kids go to bed, Brennan, dad and I have a super good, deep talk.  It refreshes my outlook on life every single week!  And on that same note, I’m so happy that my dad and I have developed such a good relationship.  It was good before mom died, but it was different.  Mom was always the focus.  Now that’s she’s gone, dad and I have done some good bonding.  So that’s nice.

Me and Dad

Having all kinds of wonderful help from my sister Sherri.  She is the most selfless person I know, and I don't think I'd make it from week to week without her love and support.

Sherri LOVES Finn and Megan so much!  She's a great aunt

Writing.  I am happy that I started this blog.  I sort of hid out from it during the holidays, but I’m back.  I want to keep writing at least once a week.  It’s been a real pleasure to share parts of myself on here.  I have also been happy about developing (but not yet writing) a new story.  I think this year I’m going to find more time to write it out. 

Spending another year with my love—Brennan O’Reilly.  He is my family and my best friend.  We have raised us up some good kids, created multiple blessings, some amazing feats of abundance, and we’ve somehow managed, in the end, to do so with good humor.  I love him.

What an amazing family!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gratitude Bags

This is a month of being thankful for all of life's blessings, of which I have so many.  Part of showing my gratitude is giving what I can.  This was SO EASY too!  I hope this encourages other people to give what they can as well.

I don't do this enough, but I want to turn a new leaf in this department.  Especially now that I have kids who can learn how to be giving, caring citizens from such an early age.

We found this activity on Pinterest.  They called them Blessings Bags, but for some reason I called them Gratitude Bags and the name instantly stuck.  I don't want it to seem like I think the recipients of these bags need to be grateful to me, but the opposite.  In being able to give to others I feel grateful for all that I have.

We went to Target the other day and loaded our cart with things that we thought people would need if they didn't have a home.  Snacks, toiletries, socks.

This is what we bought for our Gratitude Bags:

Applesauce (and spoon!)
And we also added a dollar bill

We dumped it all on the table and started a (sort of) assembly line.  Toddlers make any sort of assembly line a little like Lucy and Ethel, but it was a fun activity.  We even listened to Christmas carols while we worked.

I added a card with a note of encouragement in each bag too.  This summer I went yard-saling a ton and one of the treasures I found was a huge box of greeting cards.  I got to finally use some of them which was inordinately thrilling to me.  (I'm weird that way).

This is what the bag looks like when it's filled up with goodies.

We loaded the 12 bags into a box to keep in the car.  My plan is that when I see someone in need, I can just pull over and give them one.  Or if there is a homeless person at a freeway entrance I can hand them a bag out the window, instead of loose change.

Maybe it'll brighten someone's day.

I know that this is such a small gesture.  I know that the problems of the world are overwhelming and this is such a tiny bandaid.  But I hope it helps.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today would have been my mom’s 66th birthday.   I started this blog with a post about the pain of losing her to cancer a year and a half ago, but today I want to honor her awesomeness on the occasion of her birthday. 

Easier said than done.  A few days ago I started to go through my photo library for pictures for this post and suddenly plummeted into a deep and gloomy funk.  I miss my mom!  Seeing these beautiful, vibrant photos of her—so full of life, so full of vivacity—happy and alive, well it was hard.  I totally broke down. 

When I get super sad about losing my mom, I also instantly tune into her.  What she said to me as I was crying and carrying on, was that she didn’t lose any of that vitality, but she only gained more of it when she passed, unencumbered by a human body.  She didn’t become any less warm, loving, or funny, she became more of that person.  She is right here with me all of the time, completely still the same awesome mom, but only more.  I am immeasurably comforted by that. 

I want to honor her wonderful life and the amazing person she was.  I wish I had more and better access to photos of her as a child or of her from when I was a child.  I will get a hold of these some day and do another mom post, but for now let's look at some of the cool things about my mom Janette Dean.

This is where she and my dad lived for years before moving to Washington near the end of her life.  They built their dream house on this gorgeous Colorado property.  Brennan and I spent many Christmas vacations up there in the snow and nose-bleed altitudes (nearly 10,000 feet and close to Pike's Peak--my mom was made of hearty mountain-woman stuff).  

This was the used bookstore that my mom and sister Sherri owned in Woodland Park.  It was called Blue Heron Books and was fairly thriving for about 9 years.  It was awesome!  She and Sherri really followed their passion on this one.  I wiled away many an hour perusing the used books while visiting the family in Colorado.  It was also the halfway pit stop from the airport in Colorado Springs up the hill to nose-bleed Victor, so it was always the first place we'd stop when we visited.  Happy memories!

This is a typical Christmas shot of my parents Janette and Bill.  My mom loved her dogs too!  

Here is mom with her mom--my Grandma Mabel, my sister Sherri, and I having lunch on Alki in West Seattle during one of her visits up here.

This is one of my favorite photos of me and my mom.  We're in Hawaii a few days before my wedding and we are so healthy and tanned and relaxed.  This was a really special time for me and having my mom with me made it all so much better.

This is one of my favorite pictures of mom and Megan.  They both had such a funny sense of humor!

I feel very blessed to have spent 37 years with my mom.  She was an amazing woman and today, and every day I celebrate her.  I love you mom!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My year in Redmond

This last week marked the one year anniversary of moving to the suburb of Seattle that we call Redmond.

We lived in a little, adorable house on Beacon Hill for about seven years.  We had lovely neighbors, an almost view of downtown, and loads of history and culture at our doorstep.  But with the birth of our second child we were running out of room, and Brennan's commute was usually an hour each way.  If we wanted a short commute and a bigger house for our dollar we would have to move across Lake Washington to the 'burbs.

Wasn't it cute?

Brennan and I both lived in Seattle for many years; I moved there when I was 17.  I had a few stints of living in Bellevue or Lake Forest Park, but for the major part of the last 21 year I have considered myself a Seattleite.  It was weird to even consider moving to the Eastside.

We put our house on the market in August and a millisecond later it sold.  We were thrilled to have sold so quickly in a shaky housing market, but knew that we'd have to find a new house fast.  Our realtor Ben Carr was fabulous and showed us a ton of houses in Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond.  Two houses really stood out for us, and one was a truly viable option.  We made an offer and it was accepted!

Homeowners again!
Things I have learned from our year in Redmond:

I really like our new, bigger house.
I like having an open floor plan with the kitchen, play area, and family room all rolling into each other.
I really like our bigger yard and deck.
I definitely feel more pressure to keep our yard looking nice.
In Redmond, they collect recycling once a week!  It's awesome!
I love having a bunch of stores (and their big parking lots!) nearby.
There are some great parks on the Eastside.
I LOVE that Brennan's commute is cut in half.
Redmond is super cute and has a lovely little main street/small town feel.
I like the quiet cul-de-sac we live on.

I completely miss Seattle.
I miss the liberals.
I miss the arts, culture, diversity, ragtag-ness, even dirt and garbage of Seattle
I miss our old neighbors.
I miss the smell of coffee roasting from the Tully's coffee plant.
I miss the constant noise of the ships, trains, planes, and cars of nearby I5.
I miss the independent coffee shops.
I miss knowing the city like the back of my hand.
I miss being close to the aquarium, zoo, downtown, Seattle Center, Capitol Hill, West Seattle, Wallingford, Columbia City, the arboretum, Seattle friends, our old park, the Jefferson Community Center...and about a million other little things.

I don't miss the traffic on I5 or the West Seattle bridge.  At all.

I think that when it comes down to it, it's a wash.  The benefits of the new don't necessarily outweigh the old.  There are lots of good things about living in Redmond, and there were lots of good things about living in Seattle.

Will we ever return to Seattle?  Maybe someday.  But for now, my focus for this next year of living in Redmond will be on enjoying every new day.