Thursday, February 24, 2011

Paint Sample Love

We're getting ready to do some painting at our house.  Hoooray!  That means it's time for me to haul out my paint samples.  I love paint fan decks!  As a matter of fact, they would make the short list of things I would bring to a deserted island.  I love to compare the colors between the different paint manufacturers and daydream about finding the perfect color for the room I'm about to paint.

My husband gets a little nervous when he comes home from work and sees this:

It usually means he's going to have to answer questions like:  "Is this white too yellow?" or  "do you think the green undertones in this gray will clash with carpets?"

When I read decor magazines, or watch decorating shows (Cityline's Home Day, in particular), I like to see samples of the colors the experts use.  Owning the fan decks saves me endless trips to the paint stores for samples.  I also bring them with me when I visit friends and help them choose paint colors.  I get coffee and they get advice- it works!

My first fan deck came from Benjamin Moore.  I love the Historical Colors!


When Benjamin Moore came out with their 'designer classics collection',  I needed to have it!  The sample sizes in this deck are about 2 inches by 5 inches, so you can get a better idea of each color.

I also like that the 'designer classics' come in a faux leather pouch; it makes me feel like a professional!


I bought the Sherwin-Williams deck shortly after I started reading blogs.  I have been a loyal Benjamin Moore customer until now, but I'm thinking about trying Sherwin-Williams paint.

Farrow & Ball is a British paint and wallpaper company.  Their paint has a higher pigment content than other paint brands, so the paint has greater depth (that's what is says on the back of the fan deck). I always feel like having a cup of tea when I look over the Farrow&Ball deck!

I love reading the back of their paint samples.  Their color descriptions kill me!  The sample below is called 'Cook's Blue'.  It was "often used in kitchens and larders during the 19th century in the belief that flies never land on it!"  I love it!

This one is called Lancaster Yellow.  It is described as a "pale yellow inspired by the silk on the walls of the Yellow Room at Kelmarsh Hall, Nancy Lancaster's mid-20th century home in Northamptonshire."  Very British!

There are many more descriptions- but we don't have time for that today!

Is it strange for a person to like paint samples this much?  I will say that having hundreds of samples at my fingertips intensifies my color indecision.  Wait until you see what I do once I've narrowed down my color choices!

I'm linking up with Amanda for her weekend bloggy reading...

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Morning Pancakes

The three kidlets in our house are not fans of breakfast cereal.  They also don't like toast, frozen waffles or instant oatmeal.  They do really enjoy cooked breakfasts: eggs, sausage, omelets, hashbrowns; but we're usually too rushed in the morning for anything fancy. I wouldn't classify my kids as breakfast snobs, because two of them would happily eat Pop-tarts or a handful of Pringles in the morning if I let them. Since I would like my children to eat something that's more nutritious than cardboard, I keep an eye out for yummy yet healthy recipes for breakfast that can be made in advance.

I found this recipe for Ricotta Pancakes in our local newspaper.  I like that these pancakes are made with milk and ricotta cheese, because my youngest daughter doesn't drink milk. I think they taste great without syrup.  The kids think I'm nuts, though.  I've made these pancakes many times since school started in September, so I think this recipe is a keeper.

These pancakes are perfect to make on the weekend.  You can make a big batch, cool them completely and then freeze them.  The pancakes can then be reheated in the toaster. 

By the way, don't try to fish small pancakes out of the toaster with a fork...or you'll have more problems than what to feed your kids in the morning!

Ricotta Pancakes


2 cups    all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp.   baking powder
1 tsp.      salt
4 Tbsp.   sugar
3 large    eggs, beaten
1 cup      low-fat ricotta cheese
2 cups    cold milk
1 Tbsp.   vegetable oil


Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In separate bowl, mix eggs and ricotta then stir in milk and oil.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix.  Pour batter onto hot non-stick pan.  Flip when bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake. 

P.S.   If you see me with my youngest daughter, and you want to tell me how wonderful this recipe is, please don't mention that these pancakes are made with r.i.c.o.t.t.a.  c.h.e.e.s.e., or they will be yet another thing she refuses to eat! Thanks!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kitchen Before & After: Out With The Oak

I am so excited to show you these before and after pictures of my kitchen!  This is a project we tackled a while ago, so I had to search for some 'before' pictures.  I almost can't believe this was how my kitchen looked for so many years.  Our kitchen is like a busy Command Center.  Life in our house happens in the kitchen and I wanted to have a kitchen I loved.  However, the cabinets' strong oak grain was way too loud for me.  The laminate green counters looked great in the '90s, and I'll just leave it at that!

These are the BEFORE pictures of our kitchen:

I wanted to change it all, but major surgery wasn't in the budget...then a crazy thought entered our heads...

Mr. StyleBurb is a pretty handy guy, and I know my way around a can of paint and a paintbrush, so we decided to refresh the kitchen ourselves.  We knocked out the ceramic backsplash, added under-cabinet lighting, removed the old counters and sink, sanded, primed, and painted the back, front and sides of the cabinets, and installed a beadboard backsplash.  Our big splurges were the gorgeous granite counter top and new appliances.  I kept tally of the number of hours it took to prep and paint the cabinets and it totaled somewhere in the range of 40 hours.  I think it cost less than 200 dollars for paint and supplies- including the beadboard.  Amazing, right?
I am proud to present some AFTER pictures of our kitchen!  Ta-Da!!!!

 Here is how everything looks with the under-cabinet lights on:

You might notice that these pictures were taken at night.  That's because this is the only time we could manage to keep the kitchen clean long enough for a photo! 

I love my kitchen!  It really is hard to believe that this is the same kitchen! The cabinets are so peaceful to look at now!   I love the detail and coziness of the bead board and the shine and zip of the granite and stainless steal as well.  We are so happy we did this!

This type of  makeover worked well for us because the cupboards were in good shape, the layout of the kitchen was fine and there was just no way we were prepared to do a full-blown renovation of the kitchen, and really, it would have been unnecessary.

Here's a list of some tips/details that you might find interesting or helpful if you've thought of painting your own wood cabinets:

  • we used Benjamin Moore oil paint on the cabinets and beadboard in Ballet White.  It's been a couple of years and so far, it's holding up well.  The beadboard got 3 coats of paint to make the backsplash extra durable.
  • the beadboard and cabinets are painted the same color to visually add height.

  • use a tack cloth after sanding the doors and in between coats of paint to remove any dust so that you get a nice clean paint finish.

  • really pay attention to sanding the grooves and edges of the cabinet doors.  You want the paint to stick well in high use areas.

  • since there isn't a window over the sink, I hung a picture instead (it's a print of the location where we got married).

  • update your counter top accessories if you can.  I think a shiny kettle on the stove is like a piece of jewelry for your kitchen.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Red is Best

I love red!
Anything scarlet or poppy or cherry,
Anything crimson or claret or ruby,
Yes, I love red!

There is something you should know about me; for years I have had a love affair with red.  If you haven't already noticed, I have a lot of red in my house.  I didn't plan to use so much red- it just happened!

A few years ago I painted my dining room red and I still love it!

A corner of my dining room

My house has red in the area carpets, red cushions, red accessories and now, red plaid kitchen chairs

Red in my living room
It's really fun to decorate using your favorite colors!

Last summer when I wanted new bedding, I searched online and in stores for weeks and weeks.  I couldn't find a single thing I really liked until I found this beautiful red quilt.  I bought it even though sleep experts advise us to limit red in the bedroom because it apparently interferes with sleep, but guess what....I sleep just fine!

Our master bedroom

Oh, I like neutrals, and I love the look of all white rooms- sometimes shown with a bit of beautiful blue.  Gorgeous!

But there's just something about red that makes me sit up and take notice. Red is vibrant and warm and cozy.  From late fall until spring red is an exhilarating shot of color when everything outside seems very blah.

There are a few rooms in my house that don't have red, which I guess is a good thing- I don't want to become too predictable!  My children get to decide the colors in their rooms and none of them chose red.  Also, the bathrooms are neutral because I'm vain enough to want accurate lighting and subdued colors while I'm looking in the mirror!

I often think about a children's story I used to read to my kids called Red is Best by Kathy Stinson.  It's a cute story about a little girl named Kelly who loves red.  Her mom tries to get her to experiment with other colors but doesn't have any luck.  Kelly says she likes red "because red is best" and "red puts singing in my head".

Yes...I know how she feels.  At the risk of sounding like a loony bird, red puts singing in my head too!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Procrastinators Unite...Tomorrow

Well, I have put off this job for far too long, and what was once just a little mess is now a BIG mess. My basement has become unmanageable and it's high time I do something about it.  I always gently explain to my kids (while trying hard to keep the screech out of my voice) that it's much easier to clean up a mess while it is small instead of letting it grow for weeks and weeks.

Of course, when it comes to the basement, I have trouble taking my own advice.  I have been procrastinating.  It is very easy to ignore something when it's not in your face every day. 

However, I now have major motivation to declutter and clean the basement, thanks to my son.  He called the basement his "man cave". Say what!!  He's 12!  It's not a man cave!  It's a family movie room and a craft room, and it's up to me to make sure it stays that way- for a few more years at least!  My son and his guy friends can hang out in the basement whenever they want, but I do want it to be a space where we all feel comfortable.  They don't mind the mess at all, but I do.

I'll show you a quick peek of what lies ahead of (or, in this case, beneath) me. You have to promise though to look at this picture for a maximum of 2 seconds- no studying the mess! Okay?

This is only one corner of clutter.  There are others.

I'll be underground for a few days. Let the phone ring a couple of extra times when you call me this week- it's going to take me some time to actually find the phone before I can answer it!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Doggie Does Damage

This is my dog, Harry.  Isn't he a handsome boy!

This is a picture of some scratches on the floor near the bottom of the stairs.  They're from when Harry wakes up from a coma-like sleep when he hears a bag of potato chips open and races downstairs in hopes of finding a few crumbs.

These are, or used to be, fringes on the carpet in the family room that Harry chewed off when he was a puppy:

These are bite marks on the kitchen chairs.  They mysteriously appeared one night.  Nobody has owned up to biting the chairs, but I have my suspicions.

I try to think of the bite marks, scratches and stains as "Character"!  Just like my laugh lines and crows feet!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Books: They're Not Just For Reading

If you have ever flipped through the pages of a decorating magazine, watched HGTV, or browsed in Pottery Barn, then you know all about using books as accessories.  Pottery Barn is famous for stacking books on shelves, on top of and underneath tables, in baskets, underneath vases or lamps and all sorts of other creative ways.

image from Pottery Barn
image from Pottery Barn
I have always enjoyed the way decorators 'randomly' fill empty spaces with books.  The texture of the pages and their variety in size and color make books really smart looking accessories.

image from Pottery Barn

However, my use of books in decorating has never gone beyond stacking them on a shelf.  I arranged my books according to author or genre, or, if I felt like being fancy, by size.  For me, once I finished with a book, I either returned it to the library (when I remembered), passed it along to a friend, or shelved it...until just recently.

In the hall I have a console table where I had put a white gourd lamp on one end.  It looked fine until I put a really large apothecary jar on the other end of the table.  The apothecary jar dwarfed the lamp.  What to do?  I grabbed a couple of burgundy hard covered books and placed them under the lamp.  Suddenly, and very easily, it looked right!  Have a look.

It was nice to put the Chaucer text from my university days to good use- even though I sometimes get a spine chill when I see it. (Was that even a compulsory course, and if not, what was I thinking!)  Oh well, the Chaucer book looks a bit more highbrow than if I had used my Tori Spelling autobiography (don't judge...).

Also, I remember having read somewhere that books in a kitchen can give a really comfy, homey feel, but at the time I knew I didn't have many open areas for books.  Then I spotted this little blank space under the microwave!

I added some cookbooks, a bowl and a few other things already owned.  

This little display looks much more interesting now and having cookbooks on a counter is really convenient.

I'm working on taking better pictures- bear with me!

It's fun to fuss with displays, so I'm sure I'll find more places where I can use books as accessories, but I think I'll try to choose books that bring back better memories than my 3rd year Chaucer course!