Night Lights

One thing I didn’t talk about too much when I debuted our new art was the picture lights.  I searched high and low for just the right thing and never quite found what I was looking for – so I MacGuyvered up a solution.

I was looking for picture lights that were a) affordable and b) white.  Affordable large art lights were surprisingly hard to find.  I finally stumbled up these at Shades of Light (not the best picture but all they had on their website so I took a leap of faith).

SHADES OF LIGHT LIGHT

I got out my trusty spray paint and sprayed them matte white so they would blend in with the wall and not fight with the other metal finishes we have going on in the room.  The lights mount to the actual canvas and then we used two screws at the outer corners to mount the canvas to the wall and allow space for the cord to travel down the middle.  They’re hooked to an extension cord behind the bookcase so one flip of the power cord switch and both lights come on.

Night Light

And voila, we have art lights.  The cords peek out at the bottom of the canvases but are mostly hidden behind the record storage unit and camouflaged by the tchotchkes sitting on top.  So in the evening we have a nice glow in the living room and a subtle highlight to the art pieces we worked so hard to create!

Cheers – CT

 

 

Vegan Eats, Tiny Kitchen Edition

When I mentioned in the last post that our kitchen is so tiny, we would just keep getting take out until we renovated it, I was only halfway kidding.  Both JT and I work four (more than) ten-hour days and healthy, from-scratch cooking at the end of those days (in a tiny kitchen) just wasn’t always happening.  Add on top of that my study schedule for the NCIDQ (still no results yet — arrggh!) and I was happy that we found someone to cook for us.  That’s right folks, we have a personal chef…. sort of.  I convinced JT to accompany me to the 4th Annual Vegetarian Festival a while back in Scottsdale and learned of a local company called “The Vegan Taste

 

Every other Monday a cooler arrives at our front door with fully cooked all-vegan meals in individual portions.  I just stick the menu on the fridge and pick out a labeled Tupperware to reheat for my dinner.  JT does the same and we can even have different things for dinner on the same night (gasp!).  It’s been great.

On the non-delivery weeks we cook.  I try to do a lot of the prep work on the weekends to make it easier on the weeknights.  Here’s a few of our favorite tried and true recipes we love:

Eggplant Meatballs (with pasta and a spicy red sauce) from SkinnyTaste
Creamy Coconut Garlic Mushrooms (also could be with pasta or  spiralized squash … yep, we’ve been spiralizing and it’s great!) from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
Chipotle Mac and Cheese (I guess we have a pasta theme going on … I swear we eat more than just pasta!) from the Post Punk Kitchen
Deconstructed Falafel Bowl from Vegan Yack Attack
Thai Peanut Sauce Spaghetti Squash from Leelalicious
Pesto Tortilla Round-Ups from Vegan in the Freezer (great for lunches)

For more ideas and to see what we’ve tried out, check out my Pinterest board here.

In other vegan news, eggs!

I tend to steer clear of the meat and cheese replacers – the fake products are often very processed and I don’t really like the taste of meat anyway so I’m not too interested in a fake meat.  However I saw a vegan egg product at our local Sprouts store that I thought I might try …

It came in a cute little 4 pack egg cardboard carton but what was actually in the carton was the bag of powder … When mixed with cold water as directed, it did actually have that sulfurous smell of eggs but more the consistency of a cornbread batter.  I mixed it up into a kind of huevos rancheros breakfast burritos but at the end of the day I think my opinion of replacement products holds up.  This is not something you could probably ever convince a non-vegan to eat and there are so many yummy other ingredients you could mix in with the beans (rice, avocado, roasted corn, chipotle salsa …) that I don’t think the fake eggs make the cut.  I did however use them as an egg substitute in a cookie that I made for work (Gooey butter cookies also with vegan cream cheese and pea protein margarine) and they were a hit – no one realized they were secretly vegan.  Probably because they were covered in sugar.

So that’ s what’s going on in our tiny kitchen.  Any other must try vegan recipes I need to know about?  Cheers – CT

 

 

 

 

 

When Plans Change

As I mentioned the other day, we had an initial plan for our first floor when we moved in and after having lived here for a year and making some furniture investments, it has all shifted.

We knew from Day One that the kitchen was too small.  It didn’t seem to fit in a 3 bedroom, 1600 sf house – JT and I are a family of two and it’s small even for us.  But we had a tiny kitchen in St. Louis (remember that guy, he was in the Small Cool contest once upon a time!) so we knew it could make it work.  And with real estate, you know the saying – location, location, location.  With a mountain in our backyard, we had location covered.

Here’s our first floor plan when we moved in.

\ADMFS1redirectedcthompsonMy DocumentsCT MISC4327CCORRALI took some more photos of the kitchen today just to illustrate its postage stamp size.

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And don’t forget the boob lights – a matched pair!

Often when we are cooking in here (especially on the weekend when I like to prep a few meals at a time, the counter can be entirely taken over.

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Like so.  Bad picture but you get the idea.  This tiny kitchen gave us just enough cabinet space for our dishes and cookware but nowhere to go with all our food, spices and baking supplies.  So the breakfast nook became the pantry.

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When we were buying the house, I had my eye on the wet bar as the solution to our floor plan conundrum.  Standing at the wet bar, you’re within steps to either the kitchen sink or the first floor half bath sink.  So a wet bar sink didn’t seem all that necessary. Here’s a photo for reference (because this post is going to need more photos …)

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I envisioned walling it off towards the living room, and turning it into a large pantry accessible from the hallway side.  One side of the wet bar is already a coat closet and since we currently have all three of our coats (used mainly for skiing in Flagstaff rather than used in Phoenix) in the laundry room, I thought we could open it all up into one large closet/pantry.  I had dreams of an appliance garage and a mobile baking station and hiding oodles of clutter behind some kind of funky barn door system.

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I still think this plan works well for the space it makes in the living room.  Haha, I just saw that my plan is mislabeled – copy/paste wins again – and there really isn’t a dining component in the living space in this option.  I thought once we walled off the back of the wet bar, we would hang the TV there and make a cool fauxdenza or some sort of media wall.  Then there could be a desk by the patio window.  In the breakfast nook I was planning a counter height or bar height large table with a butcher block top so it could be used as additional counter and food prep space.  This solves a lot of problems with minimal cash outflow (of course at some point I would still love new appliances, countertops and cabinets also ….)

And then one day JT and I were talking about how lucky we were to live next to a mountain and wondering how it came to be that our house ever sat empty on the market for as long as it did.  And we came to the same conclusion – it had to be the kitchen size.  And a new floor plan idea came to life that may actually solve this conundrum.

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In this scenario, the dreaded wet bar and associated coat closet get demolished entirely.  It would mean all new flooring through out this level (good-bye dreary dirt brown floors!)  We would blow out the wing walls around the current U-shape kitchen and open it up as much as possible.  There is still a jut-out in the shape of the floor plate so we would turn that into a nook filled with a 24″ wide all refrigerator, base cabinets and a 36″ wide under counter two door freezer.  The windows in the breakfast nook now go below the counter height so we would have to replace the windows there.  And since we would have to replace the window, I would go down to a 5′-0″ opening so we could have a 24″ wide tall pantry to mirror the fridge.  Continuing into the existing U-shape foot print, we would have one piece of wall blank where we could hang our pots and pans on a rail (I really loved the ease of access for that in our last house.)  I would be able to center the sink on the window (it makes me crazy that it’s off center now) and move the dishwasher to the other side so it wouldn’t be so in the way when it’s open.  I would keep the range in the same location and I think maybe open shelves or some kind of cool upper cabinets would go on that wall that would tie into a proper range hood.   Then we would extend the counter out into the living space so we could have stools on the other side and the person in the kitchen isn’t cut-off from the living space so much.  Opening up the kitchen like this also makes room for an island.  I think we would just do a furniture one versus a built-in but OMG – so much more storage in this option, even though we would lose a wall of upper cabinets.

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And if it could end up looking like this house (in Australia, of course) designed by Corben Architects and found here, that would be pretty amazing too.  As you can see, this is a big dream that would involve a decently big budget so we need to figure out our next steps.  Right now I’m just going to get take out and forget we even have a kitchen.

Cheers – CT

 

Life with Art

The universe seems to be sending a message lately … one that I’m not sure we’re all receiving.  Losing Prince so soon after the also untimely passing of David Bowie is a cruel reminder that no matter our level of cultural impact or creative endeavor, we all pass on from this life at sometime, either sooner or later.  At the same time, I find myself all too easily sucked into the world happening inside my phone rather than present in this physical place.  And so, in light of the omnipresent reality that life is indeed fleeting, and that I shouldn’t worry what others may think of my attempt at modern art, here is our latest foray.

Plus, we needed something for these big blank walls.

Pardon the dog fort in the corner, Shenanigan had managed to get every one of his blankets and pillows and “things” all piled up in one princess and the pea sort of pile.

So JT and I made these big canvases from scratch – we bought and cut the lumber, screwed together a frame, stretched canvas over it (cut from a dropcloth from Home Depot), gessoed it until it resembled a store-bought artist canvas and then watched some YouTube tutorials (especially the Peter Dranitsin tutorials like this one) and set up a paint workshop in the garage.

JT and I picked out the paint colors together and then set to work.  He did one of the canvases and I did the other – can you guess which of us did which one?  (We’ve been keeping it a secret.)  Without meaning it, they came out with some elements that remind me of South Mountain in our backyard.

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You might remember from one of my last posts that we originally intended to hang the art on the wall that has the new giant TV on it.  And we had the Danish daybeds downstairs.  But in true Living Analog form, we shook it all up, moved the daybeds to the music room and ordered a new sofa from Gus Modern.  And once the new sofa arrived, our 32″ TV looked so sad, so we brought in the 55″ monster.

The new sofa, the Margot, has been great.  It came with a set of both brass and black legs so we can change those out later if we want.  In our original ideas for the first floor layout, we thought we would wall off the wet bar and turn it into a pantry.  The TV would then have hung on that new infill.  However one day a new kitchen remodel idea came to me and it involves mostly demolishing this thing and so we went ahead and hung the TV to account for the new floor plan and future (very future) kitchen reno. I’ll share more in a blog post about the great floor plan switcheroo.

Here’s another view of the room.  I’m still debating on what else to hang/do to the TV wall and also I eventually want to switch out the record storage.  We need to find a bench for the dining room table too but it’s a weird dimension (it has to be 42″ long to sit inside the table legs) so we might end up making that as well.

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So, to conclude a strange and rambling post, remember to stop and smell the roses.  Or paint yourself some art.  Or switch around your whole living room plan when a better idea comes your way.  Life’s too short to get hung up on the comparisons and worries.  At least that is what I am telling myself.  Cheers – CT

Busy never seems to take a break!

My view for the last month has looked something like this …

  

… as I’ve been studying for the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification).  I didn’t get much enjoyment from sequestering myself away every evening and the last few weekends to hit the books but it needed to be done.  I took two of the three tests last Thursday and then hopped on a flight to Iowa Friday morning for a cousin’s wedding.  I’ll get my test scores back in a few weeks and the tackle the drawing practicum in the fall.

  

The last cousin wedding on this side of the family was my sisters and that was almost three years ago now (right sis?).  We’re spread out all over the country so it’s nice when there is an opportunity to get together and celebrate.  Even if it means eating brunch at a Paul Bunyan table at a place called Jethro’s Bacon Bacon.

 

Cheers!  CT 

Fanning the flames

When it comes to finding a good looking, modern but not spaceship-like fan with a light kit that is not four figures, the search is real and the search is long.

ORIG FAN

Our house was fully “renovated” in 2007.  I’m pretty sure the owners intended to sell it after the renovation but instead the housing bubble burst so they kept it as a rental property.  The former owners are both local realtors and did seem to care about quality in their renovation but unfortunately their style and my style aren’t quite the same.  So while the Hunter ceiling fans in every major room in the house all work well and may be to some people’s liking, they just had to go. (And away then went, to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.)  However as much as I would have loved to just put light fixtures up in their place, the heat in Phoenix doesn’t make that a practical solution.  So I’ve been building a Pinterest board of fans that I didn’t hate and biding my time.

We tackled the living room first where there are two of these bronze and wood beauties (you can see the original listing photos of the space here). The main goal of the fans in this space is to be unobtrusive.  I just needed something with a light kit and I wanted it to blend away.  Here’s a side by side of the new with the old for contrast.

SIDE BY SIDE

Enter the Merwry from Home Depot. It fit all the criteria and at only $124 was something that didn’t cause too much pain when we needed two.

DR VIEW

JT installed them with minimal help from me (I’ve had bronchitis and a horrible, can’t seem to recover from cold, it’s hit me harder this year than any other time I can remember in the recent past and I was pretty much worthless for a month) and the improvement was immediate.  They’re quieter to operate and don’t have those stupid cords to hang down and clink around.  They each have a remote control which I labeled “A” and “B” on the back and we can dim each fan light individually and change the speeds.

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Since I had the camera out, I took a few shots around the living room.  JT and I made and painted two large canvases that we’re going to hang on that large expanse of white wall.  They’ve been in the garage waiting for a while as we get some other items sorted out like the picture lights and a new sofa. (Not to worry, the daybeds are going upstairs to our office. More changes, the only thing constant in life.)  You might be able to spot a Shenanigan lump back in his favorite corner, he lives back there and seems to like the kind of enclosed, sheltered space as his own little club house.

We just celebrated one year in our new house and while we still have tons of projects to go, our main living space has come a long way.

From this …

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To this …

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I should have cropped out the boob light back in the kitchen.  Still more projects to come!

Thank you to everyone for your kind words on Sophie.  Between her passing, the bronchitis, some heavy stress and deadlines at work and other general crap, the last few months have passed by with not much blog activity.  Now we’re into March, Phoenix is orange blossom scented and my office hired a new person to lessen my burden so I’m going to rededicate myself to both our digital and analog homes.  I hope to see you around.  Cheers – CT

Changes

2016 has started out as a year of change – gradual or sudden, they keep bursting upon us.  In January we had our Sophie girl with us and now in February, we do not.  In January we had David Bowie with us and in February we do not.  The same transition has happened to my grandmother with the loss of her second husband a week later.  In February we marked the twelfth year since my father’s untimely passing.  It’s a disappearing act, one day they are here and the next day they simply are not.  Their memories and mementos lingers and you expect to see them around every corner you turn.

Our pets are our daily companions and they give back an unselfish love every moment you spend with them.  With Sophie the dog’s passing, we feel it acutely and forcefully.  We were her earthly guardians and ultimately also the acting agents in her leaving this earth.  We willfully summoned the vet to our house and paid for her release with the doses of sedatives and drugs that stopped her lungs and heart.  In our defense, we were doing this to save her from an unnecessary suffering – a silent cancer had invaded her liver and spleen and rotted out her insides long before she showed any outward sign, brave girl.  In some ways, I think we are more humane to our pets than we choose to be towards ourselves when it comes to this end of life juncture.

I think that Sophie had a good life, for a dog.  We were newlyweds, living in a 400 sq. ft. second floor apartment with one dog already who was just outgrowing puppyhood – it made perfect sense to get a second.  (Sarcasm).  But I just knew we needed another to make our little family unit complete.  So I searched online and we visited one sweet pup at the APA that wasn’t “the one”.  And then I saw Sophie’s rescue story on Stay Rescue’s site and saw a resemblance to Shenanigan and such sweet, loving eyes that I knew that she was ours.  We put in an application and her foster parents brought her out for a visit.  She gravitated towards JT, giving him big eyes, seeming to know he was the one she had to win over.  I still remember her in the backseat of her foster parents’ green sedan, ears high, looking out the window at us as they drove off after the visit.  We talked it over and decided to try it out and her foster parents seemed to know that despite the second floor apartment and being young and naive that we would love her forever and so it was a match.

It wasn’t without its difficulties – Sophie came to join our family in our snug little apartment next to the Botanical Gardens and we learned that her past abuse made her nervous to be on a leash and especially be on a leash near other dogs.  But we didn’t have a yard for her to run in and so we’d wander around our little South City neighborhood trying to get her to do her business, only to come back in the house and find that she had snuck off to pee in a corner.  We tried joining a dog park to see if the off-leash experience would be better but she made such terrible noises when the other dogs played that it sounded like she was alternately murdering other dogs or being murdered herself.  So we did what rational people would do and bought a house before the first year’s lease had even expired on our apartment.  As Sophie learned to trust us and with a yard for early morning potty runs, she grew to be fine on a leash and we were able to take her many places.  Other things would pop up, like a brief period of chewing plastic things (the remote, the camera, my phone), an intrinsic fear of the “windman” and an unhealthy high alert stress reaction to small children.  We learned to take it in stride, listen to what she was trying to tell us and be sure to keep her out of stressful situations.  She’d already been through enough.

In exchange for a roof over her head and a back yard to pee in, Sophie was so sweet and loving.  She preferred to be around people and never fully learned to be a dog – she didn’t play with toys at all.  She loved bones though – we found one Nylabone-type thing with the end all the way chewed down and we worried she was sharpening a shiv for an escape act.   Although I doubt she would have ever tried to escape at all.  I fell down once while walking the two dogs after tripping over an uneven joint in the sidewalk and Shenanigan ran off to sniff everywhere he could, unconcerned with anything except his sudden freedom while Miss Sophie came to check on me and make sure I was okay.  That was her way.  The two dogs had a deal – Shenanigan guarded the house and Sophie guarded her people.  She entertained us a lot – when she got excited about going for a walk or something she would “moo” and we always thought someday we could teach her to say “I love you”.  Every morning after she ate her breakfast she would “wipe her face” by rolling around hilariously on her back, her big white belly in the air and her little feet kicking everywhere.

Phoenix seemed to agree with our dogs.  My mom and I drove them down here in a two day exhaustion-fueled driving tour (JT was already here for work) and they seemed content to sit in their dog beds in the back seat and watch the midwest slowly change to the southwest outside the tinted windows.  The weather here, so warm and dry, seemed better for their joints and Sophie especially seemed less arthritic and more relaxed.  Her face had turned from tan to all white so gradually that we didn’t fully comprehend what that meant until it was upon us.  We worried that they would miss the grass in this land of rocks and dirt and made sure to walk them to the nearby park or green space for a chance to roll around in the green stuff.

Her last day came when I was in St. Louis on a very short and stressful work trip.  I didn’t want to be away from home but I didn’t have any other option.  We landed and I got back in contact with JT.  He let me know I needed to get home.  I think she was waiting for me.  She wagged her tail but was too weak to get up.  I laid down on the floor besides her and she stretched out along my body.  I told her how much I loved her with my eyes and she huffed an acknowledgment, breathing my breath with her breath.  This and many more wordless communications of affection and love I will hold with me always.

Writing and re-writing all these past sweet and stressful and silly times with my old girl has tears streaming and maybe this eulogy of sorts is too long for a dog.  It seemed like it needed to be written.

All I know is we miss her so much.  And I’ve learned enough about grief to know that that’s okay.

 

PS – After all of these transitions, I read Paul Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air”.  It was partly because I’ve been reading Joanna Goddard’s blog A Cup of Jo for some time now and I was heartbroken to hear of the family connection (her twin sister was married to Paul) but also because I think we sometimes avoid the subject of death and dying and yet it’s so omnipresent.  In the space of time since I started this blog post and publishing it, one of my sisters has also lost a significant person in her life and my heart goes out to her.  I’m glad February is the shortest month.