Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Big Room

Anna requested a bit of a tour of our house and so I am obliging with some very amateur photographs.
I actually took these photos about three weeks ago.  The fires roaring, the cloudy grey skies, and the monopoly game left on the table give these pictures a very useful time stamp.  This was the point of our lockdown when it was still chilly enough to warrant a fire, and when we were having a grand time playing monopoly for hours on end.

Though this is the "formal" room of our house it has found a place as an all-purpose room for all of us.  The real estate brochure described it as a "great room" but I think that's too modern a term for how it functions and feels.

We call it "the big room".  This is where we read, visit, draw, paint with watercolours, and work.  The dining table is my home office during normal times, though with Gabby still living at home and working remotely, it's really become her home office.

I've been doing the absolute minimum of admin work, in fits and starts throughout the house: on the stairs, in the second floor nook, on the kitchen counter.  The lockdown has left me with a permanently distracted mind, and for some reason entering phase one of easing the lockdown has increased my distraction and anxiety.

I just have a general feeling that I have no idea what is happening.  Of course this is baseless, at any moment I can turn on the news or read a newspaper.  I think it is the uncertainty of our future which is driving me slightly off-kilter, always one for plans I find myself now unable to really make any.

Making plans is a great illusion anyway, the truth is none of us ever really knows what the future holds for us.

When we moved in last November we planned our furniture placement to a certain extent.  We knew that this was the room for the dining table, and the piano, and our living room furniture.  We had some antiques hidden in a basement storage room that we hoped would fit in here.  We had everything placed in the big room on moving day and we just started arranging.
I think if you buy what you love things just come together in an interior space.  It may not look like a design magazine but it can be a true expression of a family's style.
Most of our furniture is old "brown" furniture, just the kind of thing no one wants anymore.  I'm a big fan of taking old chairs and other odd bits of furniture and having them refurbished, like the blue and white upholstered chair below.  This was in the house my mother-in-law grew up in, it always pleased her so much to see it in our house.
Joan's family chair.

Some of our brown furniture is from Poppa Max's family home in Austria, including the chest below, which functions as both a bar and my home office storage.  The chairs hold a hodgepodge of art supplies and photo albums at any given time.
The day we moved in we had help from our best friends Laura and David: they brought sandwiches and helped us make sense of all of the furniture, as it stood in what seemed a giant pile of brown things and various patterned fabrics.  David has one of those mathematical minds and Laura has a knack for looking at a thing and knowing where and how it should be, sort of an abundance of common sense.  They just knew how to place the rugs and chairs, the table and the piano.
The big room has eleven foot ceilings, it gives such a sense of space.  We removed all of the window coverings, and with the repaired walls and fresh paint things opened up nicely.

Old jug.


MrBP's favourite chair.

Empty bottle of champagne.
Best room for drinks!
Across the hall is the family room, which also functions as our guest room thanks to the pull-out sofa.  There are two doors leading into this room which can be shut in the evenings if we're watching a loud film.
You can see that Scout generally prefers the family room rug:
Giant fur ball Scout.
I have some ideas for posts whirling around: one on my current uniform and another post all about getting into "fighting shape".
My comment form is still broken but please email me if you'd like to comment or have a chat.

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Cheery Kitchen

Bunny plate from Emma Bridgewater.
 I finally finished decorating the kitchen and while it's quirky as ever and I probably did a horrible job with the painting, it is at least Cheery.

The wallpaper took forever to remove.  Granted, we were using a cheese knife to scrape it off the walls, real tools being unavailable to us during this pandemic time, but twenty five years on the walls, and perhaps a very strong glue, were also to blame.

In the end MrBP spent an entire Saturday removing the most stubborn portions.  The walls underneath were a mess!
Finally after a month my Amazon order of a wallpaper removal kit (too little too late), sandpaper and paintbrushes arrived.  You wouldn't know I'd just had a delivery from I was so excited.
I spent a couple of hours sanding the walls before priming them with the Farrow & Ball mid-tone primer.

Primer starting to go on along the top.
Look at the former wall colour!

This wall was in terrible shape and needed so much sanding.
The primer is finally going on here too.
 As the actual colour went up, Farrow & Ball's Cook's Blue, I thought it might be a bit too much.
 The fortunate thing is there's not very much wall space in the kitchen that needed painting, just snippets here and there.  As my Lil Rascal said, it's sort of an "accent wall situation".
 The bench below the coat hooks turned out well I thought, and this is with no sewing.  Rather than ruin my beloved Schumacher "La Menagerie" fabric I decided to just wrap it around the cushion and hire a real sewer to stitch up the cover when the lockdown lifts.
 I really love this little bit of wall leading into the back stair, the juxtaposition of the Cook's Blue next to Farrow & Ball's Green-Blue is my favourite.
Also that bunny plate is my favourite!
 Here is a bigger view of the kitchen from the bottom of the back stairs, above and below.
 The whole kitchen seems brighter and fresher, also in part due to removing the window coverings of course.  The trim needs painting, as does the tin ceiling, that will improve things further.
 I like that the cheery Cook's Blue sets off my colourful items from Emma Bridgewater, like this strawberry apron above.
 The skirt sink in the powder room didn't turn out too badly even though I sewed it up myself.
 In the end we did three simple things with this kitchen: we replaced the blue counter on the island with a wooden butcher block, removed the window coverings, and replaced the wallpaper with Cook's Blue.
(We also replaced the refrigerator after it just went kaput and stopped working about a month ago.  Due to Covid19 we had to bring the new fridge into the house and get rid of the old one by ourselves... we made Fred and Barney look like geniuses.)
 I also love the way Cook's Blue sets off copper cookware.
 The views outside to the cedar hedge are much brighter without the Roman blinds, and it's easier to spot the cardinals and the blue jays.
 Of course my absolute favourite thing about this kitchen is the built in pantry cupboard with the glass fronts.
With some copper tools hanging on the side.
I bought those at a Brocante in France.

Polish pottery, Emma Bridgewater and a jug from Aunt Deb.
In other news I am having a difficult time with the blog admin, I can't leave comments on my own blog!  I'm considering just removing the comment form completely until I can sort it out.  In the meantime if you'd like to chat please email me at
I've been thinking over a post on my Home Uniform of dresses or a skirt, as well as some good frocks I found at Brooks Brothers a month or so ago. Stay tuned, and be well.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

What Does Kant Teach Us Now?

How are you faring during these increasingly anxious times?

For the most part life in the BP household is running along smoothly.  MrBP is working away in his office, alone, though that's not true, he has a new associate: Scout.  Scout really enjoys practicing law (under the desk) and looks forward to the walk to the office each morning.  When another dog walks by on the street below she uses her best lawyer voice to make her argument.  The Rascal Daughters are keeping themselves busy and are, for the most part, cheerful.  Ole Rascal and his lovely girlfriend have settled into a routine of work, online game nights with friends, cooking and occasionally venturing into the city outside to acquire supplies.

I've been sick.  I seem to have some sort of gastric bug, and I have no idea how I caught it considering my Lysol Wipe Life.  I have been the designated person in our household for the last few weeks to venture out for supplies, and to deal with a couple of repairmen we've had to have at the house.  I've been so careful.  Of course these days, as soon as illness strikes, the very first thought is "Covid".  I had severe abdominal pain, vomiting and fever for four days.  Today I feel quite a bit better, though I still can't eat any solid foods.

There is a "gastric covid" affecting some people.  I had no idea this was a thing until my dear friend Tabs sent me some articles about it.  I don't think that's what I have, but honestly, who knows?  I guess I'll wait and see how things play out, and in the meantime I'll isolate at home for 40 days.  That's right, 40.  Gastric Covid sufferers shed the virus for up to 40 days after onset, another twist in the life of this virus that we are just beginning to understand.

I'm cleaning the bathroom after I use it each time and using my own towels, washing my hands a million times a day... it's the best I can do.   I won't lock myself in my bedroom alone while my family needs looking after, and it goes without saying that if I could get a test I would.  Our family of four members at home will continue to isolate together.

I've been thinking about Kant these last couple of weeks.  If you're not familiar with Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) what I can tell you to begin with is that he is one of the greats, the last born in a trifecta of philosopher giants: Plato, Aristotle and our man Kant.

Kant was of Scottish ancestry but was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia.  He never left his city, he was a complete homebody, and in fact he could teach us much about staying home, developing routines, and even social distancing.

 Every day at 4pm he went for a walk, and was known in his neighbourhood to be more accurate than the clocks themselves.  After he became a celebrity philosopher in his 50's he was invited all over Europe, but he never travelled.  Instead, professors, writers and philosophers came to him.  When Kant was overwhelmed with visitors his servant would let them in his parlour where they would wait for him to appear in the doorway.  Kant would stand and speak with them for a few minutes before going back to his study.  Pretty good social distancing right there!

Kant's writings are really complex and can take years to understand.  I would love to take a refresher course on Kant from a talented professor.  In the meantime I find myself, especially lately, turning to his writings to look for some of his ideas that could apply to our life today.

The "Categorical Imperative" really stands out as one such idea.  The basic tenet of the Categorical Imperative is "I ought not to act in any way other than according to a maxim which I can at the same time will should become a universal law".  So, if I act in a certain way that act should be able to be undertaken universally, or by everyone, not just me.  We are free beings, and are free to choose our own goals (and actions to attain those goals), but those actions and goals need to be compatible with other free beings acting (and striving to attain their choice of goals) in the same way.

What Would Kant Do?  This is the question I keep asking myself as I read endless articles about the pandemic, about how our governments are responding and how they should respond going forward.

Kant would appeal to our rational selves, and insist that any rules we come up with should be able to be applied to everyone.  That is our duty.  We are not animals, living only by the laws of nature, and we are not angels, living in a transcendent space beyond the boundaries of what our senses can tell us.  We have to make decisions based on what we can know empirically, and we have to be aware that our organization of that information, our interpretation of data, is our best chance to lead us to making rational decisions, decisions that are good for everybody.

If only Kant were here with us now!

I hope that you've been having a good week.  Please let me know how you are doing, what your routine is looking like, and what you've been thinking over these last days.


Friday, April 10, 2020

Decorating the Kitchen

 I have been reading varying advice on how to "make the most" of our time isolated at home, and for the most part I cannot relate to any of it.

Learn a new language, read all of the classic books that were ever on a must-read list, learn to knit or sew... I don't want to do any of those things, nor could I just now even if I tried.  My mind is far too distracted to focus for any length of time on a task that is new or challenging.  I want re-read the things that comfort me, re-watch every Will Ferrell movie ever made, and try to look after my family in a way that gives some semblance of routine and comfort.  There are days I've started to think of as "bad pandemic days", a particularly bad news day, or one when one of the Rascals is struggling with their new reality, but every day is a new day, and they can't all be good days.

I have found a project that will be a distraction from my own distracted mind, one that isn't difficult exactly, just time-consuming.  I'm going to decorate the kitchen.

As you know I've decorated the entire house with Farrow & Ball paints, I wrote a blog post about the whole-house colour palette here.

In that post I mentioned not touching the kitchen or the powder room, they were the only rooms we didn't decorate before we moved in.  I did mention the F&B colour Cook's Blue, however, because it is nearly identical to some of the countertops in the kitchen, and this colour is also in the tiles that line the walls.

So I've kept the colour Cook's Blue in my mind, though I couldn't decide if I should replace the wallpaper on the kitchen walls or scrape it off, repair the walls and paint them... that's right, with the colour I'm obsessing over: Cook's Blue.

The other thing I've been thinking about is the kitchen on the cover of this book:
 My good friend Kim of Northern California Style sent me this book last winter, well before we bought the stone house!  It was a weirdly prescient gift, because it is really so in tune with the kitchen here in our stone house.  Thank you Kim for such a thoughtful and inspiring gift!
Cook's Blue
I love this colour, it's so cheery.
 I found the most wonderful Schumacher fabric last summer on Etsy, in three oddly shaped remnants. I bought it for the stone house, not sure of where I would use it... I think it will be perfect in the kitchen.
La Menagerie

 I'll be taking the roman blinds off of the doors and windows, they're too difficult to clean and they don't provide any privacy, they are merely decorative.  I really like the look of bare windows in this house, where possible.
Door to the Terrace

Same door, snippet of counter and shelves.
The layout of the kitchen is something I've really grown to love, though at some point I might open it all up and create a truly unfitted kitchen, complete with a table in the centre.
Window to the left of the sink.
The sink is placed in a corner in between two large windows.
Window to the right of the sink.
This bit of decorating I'm going to do is really just putting my stamp on the colour scheme of the kitchen.
There is a bench just next to this window, below.  It has a seat cushion which I'll recover with the Schumacher fabric, something I would normally source out as my sewing skills are rudimentary at best.  Hopefully I won't botch it too badly.
Window to the side porch.
The bench and coat hooks are just to the left of this, on the back wall.

Door to the side porch.
There is a darling little powder room in the kitchen, it was built underneath the back stairs in the little alcove that was once a staircase down to the root cellar.  It has a ginormous toilet (which I was planning to replace this month, that will have to wait until we're past the pandemic isolation) and a tiny wee little sink.  It's like a little magical bathroom for children.
I'm going to use the Schumacher fabric to sew a new skirt sink, one of the remnants is just large enough.
Wee powder room sink.
I'll replace the skirt sink with my Schumacher fabric.
I started removing the wallpaper this week and as you can imagine it's slow-going.  I don't have any proper tools but I do have a Laguoile cheese knife that is doing the trick.  Making do!  I'm using a combination of Laundress all-purpose cleaner mixed with water and vinegar to help pry the paper off of the walls.
I'm going to get the family to help me with this project this weekend, we'll see if I can get them interested.

Have you found any distracting projects?  If you are still able to work are you finding you are busier than ever?  MrBP is feeling that, and I know some of my friends working from home say their days are longer despite the lack of commute.


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Chocolate Cake

 The best thing I did this past week was to bake a big chocolate cake for Gabby's birthday.

Typically I would go and buy a birthday cake for the Rascals on their birthdays, and now I can see that I've really been missing out on enjoying a process.

It was incredibly calming and cheering, and the cake itself was far more delicious than anything I've ever bought in a shop.

Of course it was also lovely to have the entire house smelling like chocolate cake for the day, definitely a bonus during these StayHome times.

Best Chocolate Cake Ever... It's True
Also So Easy
 Here are the recipes for both the cake and the frosting, though as you can see they are the recipe cards of a madwoman, you can find both of the recipes online here.
 I used my Williams Sonoma non-stick cake pans, and I prepared them first by smushing butter in them and then tapping around some flour.
 The buttercream frosting was absolutely delicious.  The recipe makes plenty, and a good chocolate cake needs lots of frosting between the layers:
 My Lil' Rascal decorated the cake:
 It was a pandemic birthday to be sure but we had a lovely dinner and everyone was feeling so cheerful.  This time is so difficult on young people who really just want to be living their lives and spending time with their friends... my girls are really impressing me with their maturity.  They understand what is at stake for all of us as a community and haven't complained once about having to stay home.
Now that doesn't mean we don't look at each other at some point during the day, every day, to share our anxiety and disbelief.  Who could have predicted any of this?

In general though we are keeping our spirits up, how are you doing?  Do you have young people at home with you?  Do they miss their friends?