Monthly Archives: February 2013

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psst. over here.


Want to know more about me (including this delightful picture from high school)? Come check out Penelope’s Pad, I’m over there dishing on childhood, memory and how I cope with remodeling and children. Thanks for having me Cheltz!


towels Hey guys. How ya doing today? Great? Me too (not really, but let’s pretend everyone in my house has slept and not been plagued by ongoing night terrors, ok?). So, let’s talk about towels. I know.  It is exciting.  Thanks for playing along.

I’ve seen these Turkish towels, peshtamals,  pop up all over the place for a while now. Not only are they prettier than your average terry cloth, they claimed to be more absorbent, take up less space, to dry quickly, etc. etc. Plus, you know, trendy.  Just what every good bathroom needs. Practically speaking though, they did seem to have some benefits. We have a teeny, tiny bathroom (6 foot square. Four people. Yes) with no ventilation. There’s a window vent, but you don’t want that open in the winter. So towels that take up less space and dry quickly were appealing.  As ours were getting gross, I decided to give these a try.

After much searching I purchased them from Etsy. (here and here) The ones sold as a set shipped from Turkey. I ordered those suckers December 26th and they arrived last week. So, there’s that. The other ones, which, btw, seem exactly the same, shipped from Atlanta. They arrived the same week they were ordered. And they are cheaper without a sale.

But on to the review. What you came here for, yes? Unsolicited product reviews. As advertised, they take up significantly less space. I can now store my extra towels in a basket 1/3 the size of the one needed for my old towels. And with their narrower hanging profile, there is finally room for us to add more hooks. We only have three, as when we redid the bathroom there were just three of us. And they dry very quickly.  Considering how thin they are they must be more absorbent. They are  more effective as cover ups as they are much longer than a regular towel and they stay up better (great for when the in-laws are in and you’ve forgotten your robe). They are also, I think, prettier. And I do like pretty.

towels 001


But. They are not terry cloth.  They take some getting used to, as you have to put a bit more effort into drying off.  Its weird, you feel like you’re not getting dry but then suddenly you’re more dry than you would be with a regular towel. They have an exfoliating quality, although that is diminishing somewhat with repeated washings. I kind of like it. They get really wet when you’re drying off, so by the end, in our old house, in winter, they’re a little chilly. Especially if you’re drying off longer hair.

My kids have mixed feelings about them. Roan loves them. He particularly loves being wound up in one after the bath like a mummy. Emmeth oscillates between tolerating them and hating them, depending on where she is on the sensory scale after her shower. She would prefer the soft, mostly because she refuses to put the effort into rubbing the towel around to get dry and just stands in the bathroom yelling “I’m wet”. It’s ridiculous.

So there you are. My review of the currently on-trend peshtamal towel. Would I buy them again? I think so, I like having a dry towel that doesn’t smell of mildew (yes, I washed the old ones in baking soda, etc. It helped, for a while). Would I buy them if I didn’t have our bathroom and storage constraints? I’m not sure.

Anyone else use these?




julep heart wall

Have you seen Minted’s new blog, Julep, with managing editor Liz Stanley of Say Yes to Hoboken? I like its focus on “design” crafts, they always seem to be imaginative yet simple. And we all know I need simplicity in my crafting attempts.  I especially like this origami heart wall, a perfect examples of design craft personalized.


Along with great crafts, they also showcase  party decor ideas, like the Valentine’s above. What do you think of this new trend, businesses having inspiring blogs? This one definitely doesn’t seem to be a constant advertisement for their wares.




Her name is Gertrude. You can call her Trudy. She’s quite the lady, so no shenanigans under the table. And let’s all agree to ignore the horrible condition of my walls. They’re really never ready for a close up.

Paint color here. Ridiculously expensive (for papier-mâché) moose here (hooray for store credit).

The (Finally) Finished Dining Room

dining room text

That’s right, I’ve labeled it. The tiny rustic industrial dining room. And it is finished. Or, you know, as finished as things get around here. Which means I’ll have moved everything around by next week. This room has a much higher percentage of DIY projects in it than some other spaces. We made the chandelier, a roman shade and the table. No wonder it took us forever to finish (8 months).

You guys want pictures though. The obligatory before and after.
before after dining room

Different, yes? Tricky to photograph too. Some details.

dining room thru shelves


I’m still playing with the art/planter/lamp/bar situation on the back wall. I think I like the planters. I also like this moose, sprayed very light pink (maybe because then I could have the kids play a game called plant, plant, moose). I think the room may be taking itself a little too seriously (and I may be over thinking it) and it could use some silly. And what’s sillier than a pale pink papier-mache moose?

We went with plain wax for the table finish. The liming wax didn’t make enough difference to deal with the smell and mess and I didn’t like any of the stains. This wax smells lovely (seriously, like oranges) and gives it a rich sheen. Finn epoxied the major knots to keep them from filling with crumbs. It wipes down fairly easily and I already have to vacuum around there regularly, especially with the sofa, so adding vacuuming the table top to the repertoire isn’t terribly taxing.

table finish close

dining room no shelves

Dark and dramatic (and wouldn’t the moose be fun instead of the lamp?). Having the dining room done is making the kitchen look a little shabby. Some plans are afoot for that space. You can see some of what we’re thinking on Pinterest. Yes, I know I have a problem.

On Rearranging

front room collage

I’ve made no secret of the fact that our house is never the same. I constantly rearrange the furniture, evaluate room function, play with storage. We live in a relatively small house with no closets and two children, it seems like our needs are constantly shifting. Last year I couldn’t get them out of the basement playroom, the swings and ladder were in frequent use and there was a fair amount of Wii playing. This year I can’t get them into the basement, everyone’s curled up in various chairs with books, playing with legos or board games, listening to music. There are dance parties too, but this year they must happen upstairs. So things need to shift. We need table space for games, floor space for legos and dancing and we need them in the living room. I need to think about how we will use the basement, because right now it seems to be a large wasted space. And that’s ok.

Homes should be fluid. I want my kids to be able to change how they use a space and to know that space will adapt to them and their needs. Furniture moves. Storage evolves. Walls, well they take a little more work, but they can move too. This, really, is why I keep showing you guys the ten million ways I rearrange our space. I think there’s a feeling out there that you have to get your house “right” and then it stays that way.  I disagree. Not just because I happen to like rearranging things (although, yes), but also because I think static is non-responsive. Every family I know changes at least annually. Not just kids, dads take up tai chi, moms take up metallurgy. Someone loses a job, someone else gets a new one. Each of these shifts creates new patterns. Homes should adapt.

There are things you love that stay constant, those you figure out how to use regardless. My grandparents dining table is horrible as a family table. But its the only thing of theirs I have, I want it in a place where I can see it daily.  Right now it works really well as a nightstand next to our ridiculously tall bed. Our gray patterned couch is tricky to fit in every living room arrangement, but I like the reaction it gets when people come to my home for the first time, so every time I rearrange things I make it work. It’s important to take stock of the spaces in your home regularly, especially when you live in a small home, and ask yourself, is this working? And of course you can’t just constantly buy new stuff. I like to shop my house, see how else something can be used. Some things get put away for a while till I need them again. Others have served their time and head out to Craigslist.

I’m showing you the picture above so you can get a sense of time (also, look at my little baby). I have several friends with little ones who seem to feel that their house will never look good. Others who recently bought ugly houses because they were cheap (housing is expensive up here) and are finding, as we did, that it’s harder to live long-term with ugly than they thought. For years (years!) people would walk into our house assuming we’d just moved in and try to hide their surprise when I said we’d lived here for 3 or 4 years. In their defense, there were holes in the floor from where we’d moved walls, no molding around the windows and holes in the drywall from poor measuring.  You can see above that this room was the play space for a long time, so the first thing you saw when you came in was a brightly colored mess.

Those first few years all our house money was spent making the place function, doing the kitchen and bathroom, moving walls, etc. There was no money for furniture or decorating. And note the absence of photos for 3 years. Had a premature baby, redid the siding and backyard and cleaned out the basement to make a playroom. I’m sure this room changed, but not significantly.  We finally got around to fixing the floors (holes+crawling baby=no good) and the drywall (open electrical + baby = no good) 4 years after we moved in.  After that the front room stayed as mostly open space for a while before our renovation plan was finally able to turn to decorating. We painted, got furniture, rugs, etc. And all the while, the space accommodated the family. Bike repair, tea parties, legos, dance parties. This room has seen it all.

This is a long, long post just to say make your house work for you. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. There is no end point in evolution. If you’re still reading, thank you. And I’d love to hear your house stories. Am I the only one who’s taken almost 10 years to decorate a room?

Small Changes: New Curtains

front room from hallway

I hung the curtains on Friday. That’s right. I hung them. A Valentine’s Day present for Finn (we’re sooooo romantic). Know what else? These are not going to fall down. Also, they are level. My ceilings however, are not. Joys of old homes. In addition to hanging the curtains I also removed quite a few cobwebs and noted that the moldings needed to be re-caulked. Added to the list. The very bottom of the list. Maybe that’s what I’ll get him for Christmas.

More pictures. I moved our former dining table into the front corner. We need a little more space to spread out for school and projects. Seeing how little space it takes up here makes me realize that our dining room is truly tiny.
table close

Roan has claimed the corner behind the sofa as his hideaway.
front room from sofa

Moving the coffee table to this space has really anchored things. And I moved my painting from in front of the curtains (it fell down and I placed it on the mantel to get it out of the way). I like it there though, its nice to have a change.
front room from door

The curtains do make the space look a little smaller. They also make it feel finished and grounded (can I say that about something that hangs?). They carry the navy from the rug and chair into the front of the room without being match-y and add an extra dose of pattern. I worried that they would be too much with the sofa, but I think like it. Shockingly, so does Finn. He hated the pattern on the rug at first so I didn’t even ask him before I put these up (anyone else do that?). I’m still not sure if I like how they make the space feel a little smaller, but I think I just need to get used to it. We shall see.

So there you go. Curtains here. Hardware here. Unfortunately no longer on sale, it ended yesterday.

Baked Butternut Squash and Kale Risotto

baked risotto

Today I’m sharing one of my family’s favorite winter recipes. We get a weekly CSA delivery. When it started I really struggled to find ways to use all the winter vegetables, which can get a bit repetitive. This quick, simple and delicious recipe (from Martha, of course) was found during a search for new ideas. The risotto is baked, which makes it feasible for weeknights as well, although I like to make it on Sundays so I can take it for lunches.

Baked Butternut Squash and Kale Risotto

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced small (I often use onions instead, as I have them on hand)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium butternut squash (2 pounds), peeled and diced medium (4 cups)
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch kale, tough stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick strips
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium Dutch oven or heavy ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes.


Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until opaque, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add wine and cook, stirring, until completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add squash and broth; bring mixture to a boil.

add squahs

Stir in kale. Cover, transfer to oven, and bake until rice is tender and most of liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

finished risotto

To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan.

risotto plated

Have a lovely weekend (and let me know if you try this, it would be delicious with some no knead bread).  Lots of reveals next week – the finished table and dining room and the living room curtains. I can’t wait to share them with you.

Thursday’s Things

thursday collage

A perfect print in a pretty white kitchen, navy everything (seriously, I had three more navy things marked. Navy – the new black. Also,  the old navy), pretty jewels, new books (the english to english Emily Dickinson evokes fond memories of a favorite teacher) and a serious need for some peace and quiet. Happy Valentine’s Day!


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.



The Lego Scourge


I have children. Which means I have legos. A toy that, like most moms, I have a love/hate relationship with. I love them because my child will play with them, mostly unattended, for extended periods of time. I hate them because, well, yes. Most of the time, my living room looks like this. Minus the bed (I need to show you guys that project). I had some trouble finding a good picture of the mess, despite its daily occurence. Strangely it’s not something I’ve felt compelled to document.

Our lego collection isn’t insane, we have enough for two – four children to comfortably build with, depending on how big their projects get. We have a swoop bag full of general bits and a bin of technic parts, plus a rotating pile of projects. They live in the living room because Roan will play with them unattended, which means I can work from home while he plays near me. And we have a rule, any toys that get played with upstairs have to be tidied up at the end of the day. I need a couple of hours each night where I don’t have to see brightly colored plastic. But I still had to look at the bins and containers, which just didn’t fit with the rest of the room. A couple of weeks ago I decided I’d had enough. I wanted some way to store these things that I could stand to look at and keep in the living room.

A quick search for “pretty lego storage” yielded the following.

LLW - the model shop (LEGO storage)

Both of which are fine, but not something I want to see in my living room. Basement, sure. Kids bedroom, ok. My space, no thank you. And while they are pretty, we just don’t have that much of the stuff. I ran out to see what I could find and came back with two lidded baskets from Homegoods.

The small one holds the swoop bag of general legos and the large one holds the technics bin, large board and projects in process.

swoop basket close

large basket detail

They live here.
lego bin 2

Much better. I’m curious, how do you deal with the toy storage issue? Any toys that drive you bonkers?


“pretty lego storage” from I Heart Organizing and Noosh Loves.

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