Friday, January 24, 2014

One King's Lane told me a secret

That I have no intention of keeping. 

It said that it is now unveiling "Hunters Alley" (what is with this generation and its war on the apostrophe?  SAVE THE APOSTROPHE!!  It never did anything to you!).


This new site is a place where members of OKL may "shop and sell their past treasures."  (I'm not sure what "past treasures" means - you bought it at OKL and now you don't love it any more?  Or, you already owned it, and it is vintage?  Thus, a treasure...from the past?)  My secret-sharing email also states that the "listings . . . are lightly edited, so you see only the best."  That sounds like good sense to me - it wouldn't work with no editing; people would sell crazy stuff, and the carefully curated look of OKL would deteriorate.  (On the other hand, they're already farming it through a whole new site - evidently they're not too confident in the taste of the people who are buying what it is they're selling.  Heh.) 

This raises all sorts of questions that fascinate me.  First of all, apparently this new thing is in response to feedback from OKL users that a selling portal would be nice as well.  I have many thoughts about this.  One of them is - isn't that smart, for a Web 2.0 (3.0?) business - solicit feedback on how to be more relevant, and actually act on it!  Another is - I wonder whether this was users' polite way of phrasing the sentiment, "You would never in a million years buy at the markup at which you're selling, and I will never get back on resale 25% of what you're claiming is a 50%-marked-down price on antique and vintage items."  I have felt this sentiment very strongly, but could imagine no more polite way of phrasing it than "THIS IS A TOTAL RIP-OFF!" - so it never occurred to me to comment. 

Another of my thoughts (I have too many thoughts, I think.  Ooh!  Another!) is that this seems to compete with Etsy in a way that bodes ill for its success.  But maybe it will turn out to be a bit different from that. 

And my final thought is - well, won't it be interesting to hold this new site up as a yardstick to the old one.  "Heeeeey...when Emily Henderson buys a vintage chair for $50 and then re-upholsters it for $500, you sell it for $1000.  But when I find a vintage chair for $50 and reupholster it or the original upholstery is in good condition, I can only sell it for $95.  Something is odd here..."  Even more interesting would be if you bought a "vintage" piece and then turned it around and tried to resell it a month later without further wear.  I'm just going to put my prediction out there: twenty cents on the dollar, tops. 

I'm just a teeny bit tempted to offer some of the things I have that are the twin of stuff I've seen them offer for, oh, twenty times what I paid.  Like my camphorwood campaign chest, mismatched vintage china, vintage copper pans...it would be interesting.  But I have my stuff because I like it (and some of it's even family stuff), and I'm pleased with the bargains I got.  Unless I need to divest a lot of stuff all of a sudden, I'm not selling.  Just curious to know what would happen if I tried, you know? 

What do you think?  Any OKL shoppers out there who might turn into OKL sellers?  Or people who would suddenly develop interest now that this has been launched? 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

UN-word of 2014

Last year I had been planning to join the "word of the year" meme in January.  Although not every minute or every day, I found myself feeling hopeful and joyful for the first time in as long as I could remember.  You know - that feeling that children have when they wake up because it's a day.  That feeling of walking or running and feeling as though with one energetic step, you might escape earth's gravity altogether.  Joy.

And so in the post I was writing in my head (sometimes I get off the ground with these things a bit slowly.  Like, you know, the pictures of Christmas decorations I posted after Christmas last month), I was thinking my word of the year would be something along the lines of adventurous.  I was actually looking forward to the things in my life that might be around the next corner.  Whereas for years - as I think other infertiles will understand - my overall attitude toward the future had been one of burying my head under the covers and hoping it would just stop happening, because the status quo was bad and every new development for a long time had been worse - or, if good, not nearly good enough to outweigh the very bad things that were defining my life.

But before I could write my post on my newly-rediscovered hope for positive developments in life, and excitement to see what might lie around the next corner for us, this happened.  And my little guttering spark of hope was drowned in a tidal wave of, "Please, God, no.  Do not send me any adventures at all.  I will happily accept terminal boredom; I don't want to know what You have up Your sleeve.  SEND NOTHING."

So, no word of the year for 2013.  And I didn't really have a strong feeling about a word for 2014.  Then I heard about the Nester's (and others') "UN-word of the year" for 2014.  Sure, it smacks of needless innovation - a word of the year was cool when it was new and different from those new year's resolutions that other people were making, but then it lost its luster and had to be replaced with something nobody was doing yet, so there was an UN-word of the year.  I don't know; that might not be how it happened.  It had that look about it, to me, but maybe somebody was trying to think of a word of the year and thought, "I'm not getting a strong feel for what I want to be more of, but I definitely have a feeling about what I want to avoid."  And then everyone else thought that was awesome and a new "thing" was born.  It could have happened that way; after all, it struck me that way.

Instead of growing from 2013, having accomplished one goal or made one concept my own and feeling ready to take on larger things, I have stepped back; my goal for 2013 was not only not accomplished, but is much too big to take on for 2014, either.  I am not ready for God to send me adventures.  I know what adventures look like: my husband is killed on his charitable organization trip (blessedly did not happen) and I am widowed before my 32nd birthday.  One of us loses our jobs and we learn to do "more with less."  Someone in one of our crazy families does something even crazier than usual and everyone's life is thrown into serious unpleasantness as a result.  Someone is gravely ill or seriously injured or arrested.  I go from barren as a brick to having several miscarriages, but still no living children.  Someone inundates me with suggestions about adoption and I make the evening news with my totally justified stabbing.  Every single couple getting married this summer conceives on their honeymoons and I am forced to hear about it at length.  You know the drill.

(And the worst part is, even in the middle of perfectly sound reasons for me to fear change, life does send me positive adventures, too.  But I've so strongly developed the habit of expecting sadness that I'm more or less incapable of feeling elation at good things; the most I feel is fear that something I'm happy about will be taken away.  So, even thought I think 2013 was a good year for me, I have relatively little idea what good things happened...I'd have to think really hard.  I would probably still miss most of it.)

So anyway...with all that excessive preamble (baggage?), I've decided on an UN-word for the year 2014 - the thing I hope NOT to be, and will try to work toward not being:

AFRAID.  

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, January 13, 2014

I made an Ikea hack!

Have you heard of this thing?  Where you take an Ikea product that is not cool enough and you make it cooler?  So that you can be all groovy and DIY and too cool to want something from Ikea in your house unless you went nuts on it first and made it DIFFERENT?  Yeah, it's pretty silly.

Why is my version better?  Correct answer: it definitely isn't.  Partial credit: because I actually really liked the inherent Ikea product; I didn't need to re-brand or conceal it to make it OK.  It just needed one little element it didn't have to make it work better, and I supplied that element in what I, and only I, think is a fabulously brilliant way.  For this reason, it will be the least interesting Ikea hack ever.  Nothing dramatic is happening here.  In fact, you should stop reading now.  This is not remotely worth your time.  OK?  Good.

So I bought this from Ikea:

It's a $15 plug-in wall sconce in a brushed nickel sort of color.  Like all Ikea products, it's very modern, but like many Ikea products, it has the design elements of quite a traditional piece.  I decided that it might be a brilliant way to get us each bedside lights.  I'm not super-happy with the lamp situation we have going on presently.  Plus, our room has gray and white damask wallpaper, and pictures with silver frames, and I thought this would coordinate nicely.  Not taking up valuable night stand space (I never have enough) would be a bonus.  And because it's a plug-in, I wouldn't have to put a hole in the wall for wiring!  On the other hand, because it's a plug-in, there was going to be an Unattractive Cord Situation.

I kept it in the box for, oh, a month or two while I weighed the pros and cons (and forgot where I had put it).  I came up with a vague notion of what I could do to improve it, after I noticed some more expensive plug-in sconces that didn't have my light's drawback:


And I began to ponder.  Then, as my magical Christmas break was winding to a close, I put finishing the sconces on my to-do list.  The to-do list has check boxes next to the items.  I find check boxes intoxicating.  Therefore, over the list hovers a great, dark, impending cloud of doing.  Whether the sconces were actually a good idea for the room or not (a subject on which I am able to form no coherent opinion) was suddenly irrelevant.  They were going to get done.

It had occurred to me that at one point I had some of these plain-Jane cafe curtain rods from Target:


I was no longer using them to hold curtains (I believe I replaced them with something that could hold a bit more weight), but I was happy to discover that I had, in fact, kept them around, as being an inherently useful object that it would be wrong to throw out - just in case I came up with a use for it and suddenly didn't have it.  Thank goodness!  Because I had the brilliant idea that the tube part of the curtain rod could cover up the cord to my sconces (well, one sconce.  I figured if I liked the first one, I could buy another for the other side of the bed).  That is brilliant, right?

Anyway, first I had to get the cord through it.  But the plug was too large.  So first I took the back off of the sconce so I could free the wires from the fixture and thread the wire end through the rod.  Whereupon I discovered a problem.  Ikea used special wire nuts inside the fixture:


See how it's a bit pinchy in the middle?  Also, it's smaller than an ordinary wire nut.  Ordinary wire nuts look like this:


(Of course I have a bag of them on hand.  I need them.  For wires.)  For those not familiar with wire nuts - see the silver part on the inside?  It's threaded, so when you put the twisted-together ends of two different wires you're trying to join into the little cap and twist the cap, the wires are tightened together!  Isn't that clever?  I think it's seriously ingenious.

Anyway.  Ikeas wire nuts do not work like that.  It appears they're meant to be one-use sorts - they put the two wires in, then they crimped it really hard, the wires never come out again.  (Ordinary wire nuts are re-usable.)  This is sort of brilliant for inside a plug-in fixture, because then the wires can't actually come loose.  Generally, that would be a great safety feature.  In this case, it was a royal pain in the neck.  I tugged as hard as I could, and I could not get those wire nuts off.*  Eventually (slowly and painfully), it occurred to me that I could just cut the wires.  Then I could strip another half inch of wire and twist the newly bare sections together:


I elected to use electrical tape to secure my new connections, because (as mentioned) the Ikea wire nuts were super-small, and I thought the ones I had would take up too much room in the back-of-the-lamp area.  Of course, I re-connected the wires after feeding the newly-freed cord through the curtain rod:


Here is a close-up, since my lousy photography is totally unhelpful:



See?  How it has a curtain rod on it now?  And how I could never have fit the plug end through the curtain rod?  A partial victory.  The next part, of course, would be getting the rod to stay right up against the fixture once the fixture was hung up on the wall - rather than sliding down along the cord.  Where I had thus far proceeded with tidy, perhaps even mechanically sophisticated methods, I decided that for this part, I was willing to embrace the kludge.  First, I wrapped duct tape around the part of the cord that emerged from the rod when the rod was all the way against the fixture.  Then I hung the fixture.  Then I pushed the curtain rod all the way up, wrapped a twist-tie around right under the bottom edge (on top of my initial layer of duct tape), and then wrapped the twist-tie with more duct tape.  Like so:


I had actually measured so that the rod part would hang about down to the baseboard.  (If it hung further, the baseboard would push it away from the wall, and it would hang at an angle - no good.)  And now, the top looks like this:


Very successful, if I do say so myself.  In my humble opinion, it now looks like a much more high-end lamp.

As I say, I'm agnostic on whether it actually looks decent in the room.  I put it in the only location I could come up with, given that I had to work around the length of the curtain rod, the placement of my night stand, and the headboard, and make the pull-chain reachable, and have the light in a spot that wouldn't interfere with objects on the night stand.  And I'd still like to put them far enough apart that a future owner could use a queen bed frame on this wall (ours is an antique double modified for a queen mattress).  I intend to leave the sconces there if we move, because (a) they're not very expensive nor unique, (b) I imagine they would appeal to a lot of tastes, unlike some of my decor and (c) I had to put holes in the wallpaper to get them on the wall.  But I may have to fuss with that wall a bit before I like how the thing actually looks.  If I ever do.  That's a pretty lukewarm endorsement.  How about this: I totally think this would look awesome in your room, if you do a better job mapping out its placement than I did!

Sharing my little project at Susan's Metamorphosis Monday

* That is not appropriate.  You should be ashamed of yourself.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

kitchen lighting progress?

So I mentioned before how I was having trouble finding lighting for a particular spot in my kitchen.  This one:


Though that picture is helpfully illuminated by sunlight (obviously the best way to work at the table), sunlight is not always available.  Originally, I wanted to hang a sconce on the wall right over the window:


It's just a smidge of wall space (as you can see on the left edge, the window frame goes almost up to the ceiling).  Such a sconce would (I imagined) light both the work table and the little shelf under the tea/coffee cabinet to its right.   I also contemplated a pendant light over the work table. 

Then I actually decided to go ahead with a sconce attached to the side of the tea/coffee cabinet.  My plan was to convert the four-socket electrical outlet (below the cabinet in the picture above) into a two-socket-plus-light-switch combo.  As a matter of wiring, this is not difficult to do.  I would also need to run the wires up inside the wall from the outlet to the back of the tea/coffee cabinet, at which point I could bring them out of the wall and run them through the cabinet and into the fixture.  Running wires into the fixture through the cabinet also isn't that hard (I had already done that once).  I imagined that this sconce could mirror the other one:


That's quite an old picture, of course.  Here's that wall now:


Anyway, the sconce #2 project barely got off the ground, for the sad and pathetic reason that I could not physically force the wires through the wall cavity.  It's an exterior wall, which I am sure (through some mysterious mechanism I cannot really picture - such as, it's full of unyielding material) is the reason for the problem.  I only needed them to run about two feet and I could have made the rest of the project a success (and I had already cut a big hole in the side of the cabinet), but no.  So, I didn't get to have a sconce there. 

Granted, I'm not sure what all the fuss about tons of lighting in the kitchen is anyway.  I've never found that area too dark to work in (the room's central light fixture is very bright and fairly high overhead), and indeed, I've never found any kitchen too dark to work in as long as the main light was on - and I have bad vision.  But I can see that, if, in theory, the room needed more task lighting, that's where it would be most needed.  Also (and this may actually be my motivation - I haven't sorted the matter out), I think that wall (tea/coffee cabinet, shelf, window, work table) needs aesthetic resolution.  I think a valance or cornice might be the item to tie the room together, but while I ponder on that (with your help - stay tuned) lighting might help, too. 

I next moved on to attaching a light a little lower - about midway up the window, in the space between the tea/coffee cabinet and the window.  Of course the radiator pipe is massively in the way there (old photo):


So I mused on attaching some sort of (attractive?) clamp-y thing directly to the pipe - it's not going anywhere (sadly) and it could hold a bit of weight.  My Ikea solution for this failed to pan out.  Then I decided I was overthinking things and I should just get a sconce for the wall.  I bought a vintage sconce for the ludicrous price of $1.50 at a local second-hand place:


And it won't fit behind the radiator pipe.  (I have to say, I really enjoy that my typical home improvement story is 90% failures and maybe 10% "this finally worked!"  Arguably I am wasting people's time with all this information, but I am trying to be accurate.  This is the true story of my kitchen lighting.) 

I can't think of anywhere else to hang the vintage sconce just at the moment, but I am convinced it will nevertheless turn out to be $1.50 well spent.  After that I was briefly stymied.  Also I was distracted (by Christmas).  But in the last week or so I've returned to my around-the-house to-do list, and oddly, that seems to involve an awful lot of sconces.  (I hung some brass candle sconces over the mantel in the dining room, and I'm working on some bedside sconces for our room.  Those involve an Ikea hack that I'm pretty pleased with so far.  I may even take pictures and share them.  I'm so delighted when I do something clever and it works.)  And of course this brought my attention back to the un-attended-to lighting on this wall.  And then I saw a post from the Thrifty Decor Chick showing where someone made a sconce with a wall bracket:


And I thought, I totally know how to use wall brackets.  And where to buy them.  I would go a bit more ornate and less industrial, to fit with my kitchen, though that one is really cool.  And then I started looking at wall brackets...and the wooden ones were maybe not quite fancy enough...and then I saw some metal once that were not nearly fancy enough...and suddenly I remembered about swiveling wall brackets (don't ask me where I'd seen these before; actually, I may have been contemplating them to attach the antique oil lamp I wanted to use for the powder room, which turned out to be impossible to turn into an electric light.  Why does it take me so long to figure out that an idea from one project could work for another?)...and suddenly I was on Etsy looking at antique wall brackets. 

And then I found my credit card in my greedy fingers and I bought one:


Isn't it pretty???  After much deliberation, I concluded that the off-white color would go better in my kitchen than some other options I saw.  And - bonus - it's already got some visible (real) aging.  I was generally leaning toward raw iron or black-painted iron ones.  And I was particularly tempted by this one:


Because it's in an Eastlake style.  And Charles Locke Eastlake (and his school of furniture-making disciples) was turning out home furnishings during the time my house was built.  And, in fact, their Aesthetic Movement favored simplification of Victorian style (and my house is a very simplified carpenter Gothic, as I have recently confirmed), and Gothic Revival (again, the style of my house) was the only architectural style the Eastlake tribe considered "acceptable."  So I know any Eastlake pieces I pick will be period- and style-appropriate.  (I already have a little bit of Eastlake-style furniture, and I'm considering it for anything else I might need to buy later.) 

On the other hand, now that I've rebuilt it, I'm not entirely sure what style (if any) my kitchen most belongs to.  There just aren't enough historic photographs out there for me to learn this in all the detail I'd like.  So I can't decide whether the Eastlake sconce matches my kitchen.  Nor whether the more ornate one does!  What I am sure of is that the ornate one is pretty, and that its ornamentation will make it easier to wire.  (Note: it will not be possible to conceal the wires, but they will be less conspicuous than the ones from Thrifty Decor Chick's example, just because of the style of the sconce.) 

By the way, if anyone else wants to do this, there are lots more sconces on Etsy.  This one in particular appears to be the twin of the one I bought, but in the original black. 

The swiveling feature of the sconce is obviously a huge boon for purposes of lighting both the work table and the under-cabinet shelf.  Of course, I won't know until the precious treasure arrives whether or not it can actually swivel around the stupid radiator pipe.  But given the dimensions of the bracket, I'm confident that it will at least be possible to attach it.  (And of course, turning it into a wired fixture will be a whole 'nother adventure, involving lamp kits and a glass cutter, at a bare minimum.  I am already totally overconfident about the outcome of this project.) 

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Irresolute in 2014

I thought by some time today I would have come up with some good new year's resolutions and could write a fascinating blog post about them.  (OK, I didn't expect it to be that fascinating.)  I've been lightly thinking about it for the last several weeks, and it's the sort of thing I get on board with, so some sort of useful resolve should have materialized by now, right?  No such luck.

I think I'd like to have about three resolutions.  Here are the things I'm considering.  You help me decide.  (Or save all your good decision-making skills for your own resolutions.  Your call, I guess.)

(1) Lose weight.  Actually, that definitely is going to be one of my resolutions, but it is not the single most important thing in my life or my year, so I refuse to put it out there as my one and only 2014 resolution.  It needs to find its proper place in a constellation of resolutions.  After fighting a protracted psychological battle about even the idea of weight loss (quick summary: I'm losing), I think I've come to the point where the goal is no longer in doubt and it's not appropriate about to dally around with half-measures and tell myself that I'd be delighted to lose weight if this or that small exercise of discipline happens to be sufficient.  I need to buckle down, even if it means being really, really hungry.  (I tried to lose just five pounds - unsuccessfully - last May; I managed to lose four, and I had myself nearly starving with hunger for two straight weeks.  A normal, healthy metabolism does not react like that, and I truly believe the depo-provera is causing the weird metabolism, but I am no longer willing to rely on that excuse even if it is the truth.  If I have to be hungry all the time and run until I drop and cut out other activities to make more time for exercise, then I will.  I am not happy where I am and I am tired of being this dissatisfied with how I look and feel.  An even better reason for the resolution: on Christmas Day, I got my period for the first time in almost two years [obviously an effect of the depo].  As a recap, I took my last dose at the beginning of February 2013, meaning that it wore off end of April 2013, meaning that it took eight months to get my cycle back - and it wasn't an all the way normal cycle, of course.  My plan is to get my thyroid tested again after my next period and get a new prescription if I need one, which could only help - but I am losing this weight either way.  This was also my resolution in 2010, and I had gotten myself into about the same place I am now, weight-wise and mentally, in about the same bizarre way - minus the depo, but in that case because I didn't know I was hypothyroid yet.  And, for the record, I lost all the weight I planned to.  It was difficult, but I did it.  It upsets me that four years later I'm back to the same place, but at least until I started the depo I was doing a reasonable job keeping it off, and this time I hope it will stay off for good.)

(2) Pray more.  That obviously is a stupid resolution because it doesn't say what I'm going to do, such that I could convince myself I was keeping it even if I weren't, or that I wasn't even if I were.  A concrete resolution would be much more appropriate.  Unfortunately, I haven't figured out what I want to do.  Anything that seems likely to work strikes me as pathetic, and the things that sound worth doing I know very well I would not do.  How about I start with something that's not actually a resolution for 2014: step up my daily Mass attendance a bit.  I was doing pretty well for a while there in 2013, and I'd like to return to that - and I think it's perfectly feasible.  Perhaps I will discover a good resolution along the way.

(3) More therapy.  I started seeing a (really, really good) therapist in 2013.  But I've been ridiculously inconsistent about scheduling appointments.  In 2014, I need to see him more, and maybe make some progress on being healthy and ditching the baggage I've been carrying around for no decent reason.  I think at least once a month would be a good goal - I know, that sounds pathetic, but it's better than I've been doing (even more pathetic!) and certainly better than not seeing a therapist, which was the state of affairs in 2012.  And "at least once a month" doesn't foreclose going even more often, right?

(4) Nothing to do with the house.  In all seriousness - I don't have any house-related resolutions.  I have to-do lists and goals and notions, but I think I've done extremely well so far and I think resolutions are for places I'm falling behind and need a kick in the pants.  In my humble opinion, "keep on trucking" is all I need to do here.  I don't think I need to add anything cooking-related, either.  I do have a goal of trying out some of the new recipes I've been collecting, but I don't think that really rises to the level of a resolution.  Cooking is fun.

(5) Talk to my mother and my baby siblings a lot more.  A few months ago I chaperoned a retreat on prayer (I think I mentioned this before), and came away with the conviction that I need to call my mother and wee siblings at least once a week.  In the weeks since, I have not technically kept to that goal, but I've talked to both parties much more frequently than I had been before.  I will resume efforts to keep to weekly calls, but the exact frequency isn't as important as just talking to them a lot more.

I'm trying to think beyond that.  I could be a better housekeeper but in reality I think maybe 10% better would be a good goal; I could be easily 50% better, but then that would detract from other priorities and I have limited time (as everyone does) and I need to keep balance.  I probably should eat healthier but I think it's actually more important for me not to be neurotic about food, and for all I eat unhealthy snacks (which I will be working on), I also eat a lot of really good food, and cook a lot of really good food; I don't think this area is broken.  Of course I could always work on being a better wife (which I will also be working on.  Don't tell my husband).  I also need to work on being a better friend, but "meet new friends" is not on the list because I've done work in that direction for several years and I have been very fortunate in that area - truly, I am rich in wonderful people.  I think I have enough hobbies.  (Possibly too many.  Don't answer that.)  I guess I could be a better blogger?  Maybe I should start packing my lunch from scratch instead of frozen lunches?  That seems like letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Obviously, I need to improve in a lot more areas than I'm realizing.  Help me out!  Tell me about all the grievous flaws I need to fix!