Wednesday, January 26, 2011


It's January, so it must be time for a little redecorating.

And I kind of hate our dining room rug.

The print is off-center, it's faded in spots (thank you, urping cats), and the blue floral design goes with precisely nothing else in the living/dining/kitchen area.

So I did this:

Meet the new rug, same as the old rug. The rug is dead, long live the rug!

I was inspired in part by Melissa, who recently posted a tour of her quite lovely, semi-monastic  bedroom and got an interesting discussion going about making do, beauty versus function, and money for possessing things versus time for living life.

I find these discussions of stuff--the having of it, the getting rid of it, the buying less of it, the doing without it--endlessly fascinating. They often seem peculiarly American to me. Protestant, somehow, in the way that the rejection of materialism acquires a moral quality. I can't quite put my finger on it but maybe Thorstein Veblen could explain it to me. Or is this not Protestant at all but more like Thoreau's doing?

Anyway, I'm not criticizing these discussions--just overanalyzing them (typical). And the truth is that I'm also endlessly susceptible to them. The idea of LESS really appeals to me. But when I try to put it in practice, I find my rebellion against the anti-consumerism I grew up with at war with the authentic anti-consumerism I've developed as an adult, and I'm never sure where to draw the armistice lines.

I think what all this means is that I still want a new (well, new to me anyway--I'd prefer it were not actually new-new) dining room table and chairs, but I'm pretty happy with my old "new" rug.

I mean, not bad for an investment of fifteen minutes and zero dollars, right?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vote of Confidence

We were cuddling on the couch this afternoon when the kiddo said, out of the blue: "We have a nice cozy house...and a little backyard to play in..."

I'm writing this down to remind myself that sometimes I'm doing a better job than I think.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Now that the Christmas tree is gone, we have all this extra space in our living room.


What should we do with it?

Here's the only picture I could find of what used to be in that corner. This is from several living room iterations ago (oh, and thank goodness that Exersaucer is long gone):


Those vintage movie chairs are really awesome, but I think we've decided to let them go. They take up a ton of room and aren't very functional. And the kid treats them as a jungle gym, a habit that is shaving years off of my life.

You know how in house tours on home design blogs people with gorgeous and stylish houses are always saying things like, "Just buy what you truly love and somehow it will all work together"?

It's not really true, is it? I mean, I think it is when it comes to style, but space is another matter. I would love to use those chairs as a bench in an entryway. But it will be a loooong time before we have an entryway, if ever.

So, space.


We've been talking about getting a chair and a little table to put here, to make it into a reading nook.

Or maybe the answer is nothing. Maybe the best way to make a small house feel bigger is not to fill it up.

Anyone want to weigh in with opinions or other ideas?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


You only need to know three things about these Brussels sprouts:

1. My Brussels-sprouts-hating husband had seconds.
2. The three-year old ate more than one bite.
3. They are dead easy to make.
      (3a. But they don't keep very well. So instead of making a big batch tonight make a smaller batch tonight and make them again tomorrow. It'll only take you 5 minutes, I promise.)

honey and sesame-seed coated brussels sprouts from eat make read.

Monday, January 3, 2011


The truth is, I'm not ready for it to be 2011. (Insert your preferred cliche about time passing too quickly, etc., here.)

But I can't deny that the year got off to a decent start. On Saturday, I found a copy of this book at the used book store (half the cover price, and the pattern envelope hasn't even been opened):


(Please excuse the random shadow and paw; we can't do anything around here without at least one cat and usually two getting involved.) So that should help with the sewing-for-myself resolution.

Then I went home and invented out of whole cloth the exact recipe I'd been craving.  After the bustle of the holidays, during which I frequently screwed something up and then complained that it was because I was trying to do 14 things at once, it was nice to find that being slow and deliberate in the kitchen yielded good results.

So I'm still feeling a little blue, but at least I've accomplished something, right?

Squash and Barley Casserole

For the casserole:
1 large shallot
Half of a large onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
5 stalks celery
half a dozen mushrooms
1/2 C. barley
2 C. water
1/2 tsp. ground sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Half of a medium butternut squash

For the topping:
About 4 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 C. Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 C. panko

Chop the shallot and onion. In a large oven-proof saute pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent. Meanwhile, wash and chop the celery, and add them to the pan. Wash and chop the mushrooms, and add them next.

When the mushrooms have cooked down a bit, add the barley, water, and herbs. Cover the pan, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, peel and seed the squash, and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Add the squash to the pan and continue to simmer until the barley is done, about 45 minutes total.

Combine the topping ingredients in a medium bowl. (Instead of using a mixture of seasoned and unseasoned breadcrumbs, you could use all unseasoned, but if you do this add some herbs and salt to taste.) Position an oven rack high in the oven and turn on the broiler. With the back of a wooden spoon, even out the surface of the vegetable-barley mixture, and spread the topping over it. (Make sure the vegetable-barley mixture is good and hot when you do this.) Place under the broiler for a few minutes, until the topping is browned and the cheese is melted.

Makes 6 servings.