Wednesday, July 13, 2016

MEASURING, MATH, AND HEAVY LIFTING

After finding out that I was on the way, my mother and father got married in 1972. They had a lovely wedding in the backyard of a friend's brownstone in Greenwich Village. I arrived in December, leaving them little time for a honeymoon.

So when I was about six months old, my doting parents left me with Auntie Ann Burr and Uncle Michael and they flew off to Africa. I can only imagine my Aunt and Uncle were thrilled, considering they already had six children of their own, the youngest of whom - my Cousin Timmy - is just a couple of years older than I. But they are truly lovely, lovely people and have always insisted that taking care of me was a joy and the addition of an infant to their household for weeks and weeks was pure pleasure.

Touring Africa in the early 70s seems to have been fairly adventurous, not to say rugged. Judging from the photos it was like a far cry from a typical luxurious, romantic vacation celebrating newlywed bliss, but both my mother and father look as happy as I've ever seen them, standing outside an insane army green canvas tent in which they slept on cots on the Masai Mara. 

In addition to the happy couple, there are dozens of pictures of wild animals. Going through the (many, many, many) boxes of photos in the house while growing up was always interesting: Oh, look! Here's me as a toddler on the beach! Here's Sissy in a highchair with cake on her face! Here's a lion on a rock?!

Anyway, my father had several of the photos blown up and framed; I remember them hanging on the walls as a child. Fast-forward 40+ years, and seven or eight of them ended up in my basement - old, faded, and looking every bit their age. My mother still has the film, and I could probably find it and have decent prints made but I kind of like them better this way. And nearly two years after moving in to this house, I finally got motivated to hang them in the basement/playroom. 

It was a total nightmare. 

I wanted, reasonably enough, to hang them in a row, the same height and spaced evenly on the wall, and not end up looking like an incompetent or perhaps intoxicated person hung them. But not only is math is far from my strong suit but the photos are still in their original frames which weigh about 40 pounds each and none of the hanging wires are the same length (because of course they aren't).

In an attempt to not fuck the project up completely, I drew a picture that I could use as a guide of sorts. Well, "drew" a picture...


You will note that I am artistically as well as mathematically challenged. But you can also shut up because it worked perfectly!

Elephant, Antelopes, Giraffe, Birds of Some Sort, Tree, Rhino, Lion Cubs

Full disclosure: It sort of worked almost perfectly. There are several holes in the wall behind more than one of the photos.

But I'm happy, and will stay happy until one of my unbelievably active and wildly uncontrollable boys chucks a baseball or something across the room and shatters glass all over the floor. 

And yes, I am aware of the hideous popcorn ceiling, but after removing it in the bedroom next to the playroom, I can tell you it'll be a while before I summon the energy required to do the rest of the basement. Get off my back! Jeez.

XOXOXO
ABC
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Sunday, April 3, 2016

KITCHEN UPDATE ON A DIME: PART TWO

Without fail, every DIY project I attempt reaches a point at which I sit back, survey my surroundings, and wish with my whole heart that I had hired someone to do the job. Below is a photograph of this exact moment in the whole covering-my-kitchen-counters-with-a-giant-granite-looking-sticker effort:





After choosing to ignore the one consistent piece of advice in every single video and comment on Amazon ("get someone to help you!") and deciding to attempt this by myself, I got, like, one side sort of done and was sad sad sad.

Covering your ugly laminate counters with a giant sticker that looks like granite (SHUT UP IT DOES LOOK LIKE GRANITE) is hard. And yes, doing it alone was probably harder, but I honestly can't imagine a scenario in which I would still be speaking to the person I asked for help after trying to do it with together. 

Lo, after a few hours of sweat and (almost) tears, the green counter was gone!







Pretty nice, right?

But my dreams of a "new" kitchen were bigger than just getting rid of the green. I wanted to add a counter where there was just a sort of half of a wall with a top (best shown in the picture above). I really, really wanted to make a kind of "breakfast bar" there to provide an alternative to the dining room (in addition to the "the floor of the family room" which is where my kids currently eat most of their meals).

After much research (and a trip to New Haven), I was the proud owner of the IKEA SALJAN Countertop,  four IKEA EKBY HENSVIK Brackets, and four IKEA INGOLF Bar Stools. All I had to do was get it on there (this part I did have help for, and a good thing I did because the new counter is level/properly attached and supported/actually safe for children to be around, none of which would be true had I done it alone).




Add some sticker granite to that bad boy, and we're SO CLOSE to finished...


All that's left is replacing those three recessed lights with pendants (which is waaaaaay easier than it sounds, thanks to lights like this) and my Kitchen Update is a wrap!

XO
ABC

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

RETAIL RECOMMENDATION: BUDSIES

As a Pinterest addict user, I have long been aware of online companies that take one of your kid's drawings and makes a stuffed animal from it, but never really seriously considered using one. Both of my boys are very, very into stuffed animals in general, forming deep and long-lasting attachments to several specific favorites, but the seven-year-old does way more drawing than his nine-year-old brother ever did. 

My sister (also known as the worst client ever, or Sissy) was kind enough to tell young William all about these magical places that would turn one of your drawings into an ACTUAL STUFFED ANIMAL! He had even knew which drawing he wanted to have transformed - a masterpiece in crayon of a cat that appears to have eight legs but, it has been emphatically explained to me several times, only has FOUR legs, the other leg-looking-things are just spots. 


For weeks, he kept asking if we could have "Jake" made into a stuffed animal. After checking out the Budsies website and seeing how much it was going to cost for this to happen ($89), I did the best I could to put William off and just sort of hoped he would forget about the whole thing. 

But, while he cannot manage to remember to hang up his coat or where he put his backpack or anything that is actually helpful, when it came to Jake as a potential stuffed animal William's memory was like a steel trap. Week after week, he asked. Until I caved. 

(I did not, however, completely lose my mind. I opted out of paying $39 more for a larger version. I was also more than willing to forgo a "birth certificate" for Jake, saving another $5.)


video


I am really, really happy I caved. William was in love the second he saw the "real" version of Jake. Months later, he still wants Jake with him in bed every night, and carries him around the house during the day. As for whether or not William is correct about how much "Jake" looks like the drawing, I will let you be the judge:



Jake (The Stuffed Animal)
XOXOXO
ABC
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Thursday, February 25, 2016

KITCHEN UPDATE ON A DIME: PART ONE

When I moved to Connecticut, I was lucky enough to find a house I loved. Except for the kitchen. I only really "liked" the kitchen.

My dream kitchen involves white cabinets, grey streaked granite countertops, a stainless steel undermount sink, glass subway tile for the backsplash, pendant lamps over a breakfast bar where the kids could pull up stools for a meal... Never mind, I'll just show you:





So the dark wood cabinets, green laminate counters, recessed lighting, no counter for the kids, green laminate counters, and white drop-in sink - while not awful and certainly much, much better than it could have been - were making me sort of sad, kitchen-wise:

Yes, That Is A Baking Sheet In The Sink. Yes, I Was Too Lazy To Wash It For The Photos.
Also, This Is Easily The Cleanest My Kitchen Has Been Since Moving In.
How Much Do You Love The Decorative Tile Above The Range?
My initial plan to cure me of my kitchen sadness involved a new counter, sink, and backplash. After a trip to Home Depot, a visit with one of their "Kitchen Consultants," and a ballpark estimate of $3,000 (and the Kitchen Consultant wouldn't listen to me AT ALL and just kept saying that everything I wanted was impossible and basically trying to boss me into dumb ideas, so I wouldn't even be getting what I wanted anyway. Not that I'm still bitter about those three hours of my life that I will never get back or anything.)

Needless to say, while my kitchen was not ideal there are several (SEVERAL) ways in which I would rather spend $3K than on renovating my kitchen into something I also don't like. I began to explore, uh, less expensive options. Well, to be honest, I started looking for the cheapest possible way to turn the current kitchen into something I loved. (I am an optimistic person.)

Granite is too pricey? No problem! Head to Amazon and search for "instant granite." (No, I am not kidding.) After reading A LOT of customer reviews, and looking at A LOT of customer photos, I ended buying this. I know. It's a sticker. It's basically (slightly) fancier shelf liner. I am aware. However, two rolls cost me $120 and I figured if it looked terrible I could chalk it up to a learning experience.

My sticker granite arrived and I could barely wait to get started on the magical transformation of my sad-making kitchen:

Sticker Granite! AKA The Beginning Of  Magical Kitchen Transformation!
After watching at least ten video tutorials, it was clear that unlike shelf liner (I assume, I have never actually lined a single shelf so I don't know for sure), the installation of sticker granite is no joke. 

From the videos, it was clear that it was important not only have all the right tools, but (and every single video stressed this) to get someone else's help. Apparently turning laminate counters into "granite" with a giant sticker is not a one-man job.

I was all set with the tools:

Water Sprayer, Staple Gun, Hair Dryer, Painting Tape, Box Cutter, And Plastic Smoother Thing.
But despite the (in retrospect, very good) advice given out in all of those video tutorials, I chose to go it alone on the installation. I have no explanation as to why I thought this was a good idea - it was not. At all. In the next installment, I will elaborate on exactly how bad an idea it was. Stay tuned!

XOXOXO
ABC

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Monday, November 16, 2015

PINTEREST PROJECT: SUCCESS! (...SORT OF)

Hello, my name is Ann Burr and I am addicted to Pinterest. Awareness is the first step, or so they say. But honestly? I'm probably not going to be trying to quit anytime soon. Pinterest is a time suck, but it's not crystal meth or anything (and kids, crystal meth is really, really bad and don't ever try it, also you probably shouldn't be reading this blog because there's lots of swears).

The worst thing about Pinterest, in my humble opinion, is that it sometimes tells enormous lies and makes you think you can do things that are not actually possible. I know this because I have fallen for these lies several times.

But every now and then,  Pinterest is nothing less than a gift from the heavens, especially for DIY kid-type stuff. That Christmas was a smashing success and had the added bonus of saving me some money and making me feel crafty. Win/Win.

The feral children little angels are 7 and 9 now, and my house is basically an armory for Nerf guns and those fucking foam darts I spend hours picking up off the floor, which is an exercise in futility because there are always more.

So when I saw this:


...it seemed like a perfect project, despite the fact that the child in the picture is clearly cheating by shooting from a distance of maybe 6 inches and also the way those corners of the cut-out squares have no tape makes me crazy. 

But other than that, it seemed like a great idea. The kids could shoot at something other than each other (or me), and who knows? Maybe one of them would develop amazing accuracy, and take up riflery. 

I spent a lot of time lost in daydreams of one or the other of my progeny participating in the Olympic Pentathalon (I already have them fencing and taking horseback riding lessons - add shooting and they'd be more than halfway there) and as soon as I came to, I clicked through to find this blog post which explains how to make the thing, step by step. I immediately started looking for an appropriate piece of cardboard. 

Fortunately (for the credit card companies) I shop online. Like, a lot. Which means I have an inordinate amount of cardboard in the house at all times (except for the afternoon of the day we go to the town dump and chuck it all down the recycling chute), so finding exactly what I needed was not a problem.

I'll spare you the painful details involved in the actual work - mostly because I forgot to take any pictures while I was doing it - but suffice it to say that cutting any sort of thick-ish cardboard into a decent circle is  a total bitch, even with a box cutter. Also, you have to weight those circles with pennies taped to the back because otherwise they won't hang properly from the straw-holder-thing, and figuring out how many pennies is enough weight but not too much is a really annoying process.

Once I finally had the circles cut out, two went to the boys for decorating, and because shooting is for girls too (and because pink duct tape is awesome), my Significant Other's progeny and I got the other two. 


Not bad, right? Of course, seeing it next to the original I'm annoyed that it's not nice and white, but whatever. At least MY cut-out squares have tape corners! (I may need to get a life.) By the way, my next project is painting the brass on those fireplace doors black. Checking Amazon, I see I ordered the paint for this project on October 15, 2014, so you know. Any day now.

As it turns out, it's a very, very good thing I didn't spend any more time on this Nerf target than I did, because none of the children had any interest in it at all. In fact, and this is absolutely true, I haven't SEEN the fucking thing in weeks and when I asked one of the boys where the hell it was, he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about, let alone its location. I mean, this house is big, but it's not THAT big - where did it go???

So in the end, I'm not really sure whether to put this project in the "win" column or not. I mean, it came out pretty well. But it was never used. Not once. And as it has apparently walked out of the house on its own, the thing may or may not be possessed. Let's call it a draw.

Are you guys craft-masters, capable of anything Pinterest throws your way? Or have you failed as miserably as I have at something that looked so great pinned to your board? Share with the group!

XOXOXO
ABC
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Sunday, October 4, 2015

GIRLS AND BOYS AND HALLOWEEN

Let me start by saying that before I had two male children, I MAY have labored under the delusion that all sex-typed behavior was due to nurture rather than nature. I was sure I would have enlightened boy children who gave equal attention to trucks, toy guns, and dolls.

Nine years, twenty five Nerf guns, several hundred rounds of foam dart ammunition, and countless hours spent longing for decent hearing protection later, I have come to realize that boys and girls are indeed different in many ways that have nothing to do with societal expectations.

However.

Boys and girls are also nowhere near as different as a parent might be led to believe when shopping for a halloween costume. Yes, there have been great strides - the news that Disney will no longer market their costumes to specific genders is welcome indeed. But it's still a fucking problem, and one that makes me crazy. OK, crazier.

(As a child in the 70s, I often longed for "boy" toys, such as an X-Wing Fighter and a TIE Fighter and the enormous Death Star, but it never even occurred to me to ask for stuff like that so I never got any which is probably contributing to how mad this all makes me, but whatever.)

There has apparently been much Internet buzz lately about a police officer Halloween costume, or rather two police officer Halloween costumes. One for a boy, which I imagine looks like a police officer costume, and one for a girl, which apparently looks like something one might see on the stripper who shows up at a bachelor party. 

I'll be honest, I haven't seen either one. I haven't even looked. I'm very busy browsing Craig's List for things I don't need and planning DIY projects for the house and wondering why the laundry is NEVER EVER DONE and frankly I don't have to look to be fairly certain that the little girl costume is beyond inappropriate and why make myself sad?

My point (yes, there is one) is that it's not just the blatant sexualization of little girls by big companies that mass produce Halloween costumes. I saw this on Pinterest the other day, and my heart broke a little:


She wants to be BATMAN! This is not a Batman costume. Even the small child who is going to have to wear it knows enough to say OUT LOUD that it looks too much like a princess - "lol"! 

I get it. I have two boys and I long (LONG) for a daughter to dress in tutus and bows, and I buy such items with reckless abandon for my Goddaughter (who, alas, by age three already had her own boho chic look going on and isn't much interested in my gifts).

But don't force your daughter to be a princess when she wants to be a superhero.

And lest you think there are no tutu-free options for girls who want to be Batman for Halloween, behold:


The same Pinterest search I had to do to re-find the original sad-making tutu pin turned up this awesomeness (OK, the gogo boots are a bit much but jeez, stop bitching about EVERYTHING):


This Batman won't get any fancy gadgets caught up in layers of tulle while battling bad guys and keeping Gotham safe.

So there are options. Ones that don't involve "princess-izing" whatever it is that your little girl actually wants to be for Halloween. I beg mothers and fathers out there to consider these options.

In closing, I want to give a shout out to my ex-mother-in-law. When Ted was seven, he wanted to be his favorite superhero for Halloween. His favorite superhero was Wonder Woman. And God bless his mother, she got him an awesome Wonder Woman costume that he wore with pride, along side his tiny four-year-old sister who that year opted to be King Kong. There exists a picture from that night which is truly priceless.

And if this shit is still going on now, I can't imagine it was a no-brainer for a suburban mom in the 70s to let her firstborn son wear a "girl" costume, and to do it without making him feel ashamed or awkward or anything but psyched about Halloween (really, the picture is worth a thousand words). 

So mad props to Ted's mom, and here's hoping there are more and more moms like her out there willing to let their kids be whatever the hell they want for Halloween (unless it's that stripper police officer costume because just no).

In case you are wondering - and I KNOW you are - Andrew and William will once again be going as Clone Troopers. Blasters and all. I tried to get them to be 80s rappers, with track suits, Kangol caps, and a huge stereo I was going to make out of cardboard, and they seriously considered it for a while but the Force is strong in those two and I lost out to Commander Cody and and an ARF Trooper. 

Such is life.

XOXOXO
ABC
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

OUTDOOR FAMILY FUN (NOT EVEN KIDDING!)

I was born and raised in Manhattan. As far as I'm concerned, Westchester, NY is the country, and where I live now is a fucking episode of Nature on PBS. My feelings about any interaction with the wilderness that surrounds my home is pretty much summed up with this:


And even here I just have to point out that the chair doesn't look super comfortable in that drawing, and isn't somewhere I can imagine wanting to sit for very long - even with a drink in hand.

However. I am not actually immune to ALL of nature's charms, and when my Significant Other and I happened upon the Nepaug Dam (totally by accident), which has some hiking trail thing where you can park your car, get out, and walk along a road/path, over the dam itself, and then turn around and walk back again. And we actually did it. It was BEAUTIFUL. Like, awe-inspiringly beautiful.



And I walked like AT LEAST two miles without complaining at all (a minor miracle), and it was an all-around great experience. So we thought we'd go back with the boys, which, I'm not going to lie, involved some convincing on our part and a lot of whining on theirs. 

Even once we got there and forced them out of the car, both kids were dragging their feet and asking things like "How long is this going to take?" and "Can someone carry me now?" which was irritating in the extreme but thankfully ended once they saw the water.

William Admiring The View
Andrew Admiring the View, But Casual-Like So As Not To Seem Overly Impressed
Posing For Mama Under Extreme Duress
Andrew also rediscovered his interest in photography, and was allowed to borrow the good camera to use with the understanding that if he damaged it in any way he would be sent to his room for the remainder of the summer - without his iPad.

A Photograph That Has A .0001% Chance Of Being In Focus
The Nepaug Dam
Once the dam itself came into view, all whining ceased and small footsteps rapidly increased with the goal of looking over the edge. Here's where I have to come clean and tell you upfront that there will be no pictures of the view over the far edge of the dam that has a very steep, very long drop. I suffer from extreme vertigo and was almost barfing on myself watching the others look over the side.

However, the views over the other side were just lovely:




Andrew, who obviously did not inherit my extreme vertigo, took lots of shots over the other side:

Who Is This Child And How Are We Related???
Once we crossed the dam, there was some sitting on a rock wall to rest up from all the physical exertion that's involved in a leisurely, not-very-long walk over paved roads:


Which, to be fair, was followed by lots (and lots and lots) of tramping around in the forest (a story for another time) which we found out later was maybe probably totally trespassing but I swear we didn't know at the time:


The six-year-old got a bit worn out on the walk back to the car and had to be carried by yours truly for most of the way. What? Could you resist this face? Well, I could not. 

Mama, Can You Carry Me Please?
In the end, I have to admit this outdoor adventure was GREAT. I had fun, spent real quality time with the kids, and got to experience awe which is apparently spiritually invigorating AND good for physical and mental health. And who can't use more of that shit? 

We shall see if my newfound enthusiasm for the outdoors is a passing fancy or the beginning of a new-and-improved me, but I personally have high hopes. Yes, it was one hike walk, but as I always say:


XOXOXO
ABC
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Thursday, May 7, 2015

LIVING ROOM: BEFORE AND AFTER

When I moved out of the city into the first house I had ever lived in, I looked at literally one house in one town. I walked in the door and knew that it was MY house - I made an offer immediately. As difficult as the divorce was, it was almost as hard to leave the house. I fucking loved it, and I never in a million years thought I'd be able to find another house I loved anywhere near as much.

I was wrong.

When I bought the house in which I now live, once again I looked at one house, in one town, and immediately made an offer (I am nothing if not decisive). I didn't even have to walk in the door - as soon as I saw the listing I knew it was the one.

Once I moved in I had very little time to furnish it, to make it the home that I wanted - needed - it to be for my children. I managed pretty well (I hope), and here is the first Before and After reveal :)

This is what the living room looked like when I saw the house:





Here's what it looked like once the previous owners had moved out:



Personally, I was beyond excited to live in a house that also has a family room so I could keep a TV out of the living room (televisions in living rooms have their points, but I hate them almost as much as I hate TVs in the bedroom).

And after trying unsuccessfully to convince several clients to paint one room or another in their home Palladian Blue from Benjamin Moore, it finally dawned on me that I could paint a room in my OWN house this amazing color:


I chose the living room. And I love it just as much as I knew I would. It's a pale blue-green that changes with the light. So beautiful.

Enough with the before, here's what it looks like now:


The couch, chair, and ottoman are from West Elm, and I have admired them for quite a while - I was slightly nervous about going with such a strong color but I'm SO glad I did as it keeps the room from being too neutral.

The elephant used as side tables were bought by my parents and it means a lot to have things that I remember from growing up in my home now.

The rug is another item I had been lusting after forever and after much Internet research I was able to find it for much less than I expected - yay!


The rocking chair is an antique, from the grandmother of my significant other, and I love love love it. Aside from the family sentimental value, I grew up with a rocking chair in our living room and having one here makes the room feel complete. It doesn't hurt that I love the dark wood, pale caning, and beautiful lines of the chair :)


The mirror over the couch was a Craig's List find (when you have five minutes and about five dollars to furnish an entire house, CL quickly becomes your BFF) and I was lucky to get it.


Those two beige chairs are from Joss and Main and were ridiculously cheap. I think I paid less than $300 for the pair. The table between them is from Craig's List and let me tell you THAT purchase was quite the experience and included an offer from the seller to be his girlfriend (I politely declined). The bookcases are two of the (very) few things I took from the old house - they were in my home office and fit here perfectly.


The wooden chest is also from Craig's List - it's in perfect condition, has wheels, and is perfect for storage. The chairs are antiques from One Kings Lane, and were not cheap. At all. But I loved them with a passion that would not die so I bought them anyway and I'm not sorry - they have ELEPHANTS!!! (Yes, I may have a small elephant obsession.)



The framed letters on the wall are also brought from the old house - they written by Woodrow Wilson (before he was president) to my grandfather and given to me by my father before he died. I don't have much from my grandparents on either side, so these letters mean a lot.


Here is a gratuitous close-up of the china Staffordshire dogs on the mantel, the dogs that everyone loves to hate. Everyone. It's like unanimous. Whatevs, haters! Their names are Hampshire and Windsor and if it seems like they are looking down on you, they are. Oh, they are!


And here? Here we have the bar cart for which I have longed and longed. The upside to getting divorced is that you can get the bar cart that you have wanted for ages. It's a little thing, I'll give you that, but sometimes it's the little things that get you through :)

Let me know what you think! Unless you like the Before pictures better, in which case keep your opinion to yourself #justkidding #giveittomestraight.

XOXOXO
ABC

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