Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Cupboards

 If there is one proven cure for dealing with uncertainty and anxiety, particularly for those events that are our of our control, it's to take control of something simple.  This is why I've been spending my time cleaning, editing and organizing all of the utility spaces in our home.

I tackled some cupboards last week, these were the easiest spots to begin my whole-home mission.

First up was this cupboard that is in the large back hallway outside of our main bath.  It functions as a catch-all for bathroom supplies, but it also stores cleaning supplies that I use up on the second floor.

I am a big fan of cleaning and laundry products from The Laundress New York (that's their Surface Cleaner, above, which I like to have around in bulk).  When we sold our house last summer I scrubbed the entire house with Laundress products, and then used the home spray to give the whole house their classic scent of the most delicious air-dried laundry. 
One of our agents told me that almost all of the potential buyers commented on the cleanliness and the wonderful smell.  So, I guess I credit The Laundress with helping me to sell my house!

 I use a mop with a washable microfiber pad to do all of the floors upstairs, both hardwood and ceramic tile.  Microfiber is especially brilliant on the ceramic bathroom tile
 I'm cleaning so much these days that my hands would be positively wrecked without wearing rubber gloves. 
Rubber Gloves 
 The Diptyque candles that I love also have the most amazing glass containers.  My daughter Gabby told me about this trick: when the candles are finished simply fill halfway with super-hot water and a little dish soap.  Check on them a few hours later and the remaining wax from the bottom will be floating on top.  Voila, you have a perfect pretty vessel to hold small items in a cupboard.
 Those long black boxes, above, are Marvis toothbrushes.  I like to have lots around for toothbrush change-outs and for when the Rascals come home to visit.
 I buy Q-Tips and cotton make-up removers at Costco, so of course I always have nine million to store.  These extra-large glass Kilner jars are just the thing to store them, it's easy to see when supplies are running low.
The first-aid basket also sits in this cupboard.  These days it holds a pink wool hot water bottle that I bought in Austria last summer, as well as a cheerfully starred ice pack for nasty bruises and headaches.  I keep Tylenol, band-aids, thermometers and Polysporin in here as well.

Next to the first-aid basket you can see a small supply of the symbol of our times: the disposable face mask.  I've been sewing some and I think I've finally found the perfect pattern, but I do like to keep some disposable ones around for quick grabs.  Masks have been mandatory in our county for nearly a month now, it's just going to be a way of life for some time. 

I'm planning to post the pattern and method I've been using to sew them up.  Another post down the line: the basement cleaning and organizing that has been keeping me busy and pleasantly preoccupied.  It's the ultimate utility area, and holds challenges like mold remediation and vermin control (!).

I hope you are well and staying safe out there.
Love, Dani

Monday, July 6, 2020

Go The Distance

 It looks like the theme for Summer 2020 is the Distance Dinner, and I am happy for it.
All of those months of not seeing any friends or family, locked down within our own household bubbles, are seeing a warm-weather reprieve.  Initially I invited friends over for drinks only, but I really missed having the whole social experience of sharing a meal together.  I've hosted three different distance dinners on our patio (which was the subject of my last post), two with the same group of friends and one with my aunt and uncle. 

I have to admit that the first time it really frayed my nerves.  One of my best friends is immune-compromised so we have to be extra careful as a group to follow recommended protocol.  I was literally going mad all day with Lysol wipes and thoughts of how it could all go wrong.

We know now that the virus transmits quite well indoors, and that outdoors is the place to see and talk with friends.  It is still imperative to stay six feet apart however, and to minimize contact between households with dishes and drinks.  How to do this and stay safe?
 What I've done is created extra dining space by adding on a table and placing couples at the recommended distance.  The first time I even used a measuring tape to be sure that I was distancing the minimum six feet.  I wear gloves to set the table and I disinfect surfaces as I go along.

I think it is key to ask guests to bring their own drinks and glasses.  This has worked really well, my friends and my aunt and uncle have all brought their own baskets with drinks, ice and glasses.  This erases contact with wine bottle handling and pouring, really important as the hours go on and the drinks create a mood of conviviality. 
It's a very long table.
 I have to admit it can be difficult to hear conversation.  Of course we are all getting older, and with a military man in our group as well as a musician we have some hearing aids in the mix. 
 We've done both take-out food and more recently I served food from my kitchen.  The take-out is quite seamless, everyone gets their own dishes that we've ordered ahead of time. It's a great way to support our favourite restaurants while making the whole event super easy for the hosts. 
 When I served food from the kitchen I tried to prepare ahead of time as much as possible, and then served each couple their own platter of main course and sides.  I divided the salads up into bowls for the couples to share.  This made certain that the physical distancing was still in place throughout the dinner.
 The bathroom can be tricky!  My method is to disinfect the little bathroom off of the kitchen, easily accessible to the patio, and then to provide a big basket of white linen napkins.  Guests are instructed to each use a napkin to dry their hands and throw it in a laundry bin tucked next to the sink.
 Then the guests need to take a Lysol wipe and disinfect the surfaces before leaving the bathroom and coming back outdoors.
Lysol Wipes
I am enjoying this while it is still possible.  Here in Ontario our cases are falling, and in our own county face masks have been mandatory for two weeks.  When will we be able to socialize indoors?  I'm guessing that it's not going to be a good idea for a long time.  As the weather cools down this fall we may not be able to have distance dinners at all.  Even if we stay six feet apart indoors we are all sharing the air, without the cleansing benefit of wind.  And of course it would be really very tricky to attempt drinks or dinner with a mask on.

I was speaking to my friend Laura this morning and she joked that we might be having drinks outside in the snow, in our parkas.  I'd better order some firewood this fall for our outdoor chiminea! 

Wherever you are I hope that you are safe and healthy.  This is certainly a stressful time and some areas are being hit really hard by the virus.  Every day it is overwhelming to keep up with the news and to think about what the next months hold for us.
Seeing friends and family, however far down the table, feels like a balm for the soul.  I hope that you are able to do so as well!

Take care and you can always reach me by email (my comment form is still broken).
Love, Dani
mopphilosopher@gmail.com



Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Patio

 In this summer of social distancing the patio is proving the place to be. 

If the area is large enough it's possible to have a few friends or family around for drinks, six feet apart and buffered by wind and fresh air.  (I'm finding the key is to ask any visitors to bring their own glasses and drinks, it feels a bit rude but it cuts the physical contact down to nothing.)

Even without trying to see a friend or two, this patio area has been a balm to the soul.  After months of staying inside, not just due to our covid lockdown but thanks to a miserably grey spring that was both cold and almost completely lacking sunshine, just being outdoors feels like the ultimate luxury.

 I didn't want to purchase anything for the patio (besides some new plants, and a Chiminea), so I've been using things I have to decorate and fluff the space.
 This is really a classic patio space: a completely paved area (a combination of poured cement, bricks and raised planter beds) that is adjacent to our kitchen and the big room.  It is private due to fencing, cedar hedges, and the walls of the house and the garage. 
 I somehow convinced MrBP to give our ugly steel and plastic barbeque a break for the summer, it sits in the garage well out of sight.  It freed up a prime corner of the patio for this colourful Chiminea.
Chiminea, marshmallow-ready.
 We are allowed to have open fires if they are used for cooking, so I keep a camping grill as well as marshmallows and sticks nearby. 
I have to say what I really love is the look of the fire and the smell of wood smoke.
 I've tried to use the colours of Provence out here on the patio as much as possible.  Not only do I have a few tablecloths and scraps of fabric from trips to France, I also had bits of golden yellow and blue kitchen things just collected here and there over the years. 
 Provence... isn't travel anywhere, never mind the dreamy rural areas of southern France, such a lovely thing to think about? 


 I try to spend time every day out here on the patio, not just for family meal times but to simply soak up the bright colours and the sunshine while I read a book.  It's very calming, and when juxtaposed to the worries and concerns of the world just now it feels like a dream holiday.
I hope you're taking time to enjoy this summer as well, even in this period of great unrest.

As of this morning I still haven't fixed my comment form, but I'm working on it.  In the meantime please email me if you'd like a chat, I'm around!
mopphilosopher@gmail.com

xox Love, Dani


Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World

Shortly after the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests began in America my father, from his home in Atlanta, told me to watch the most recent speech of his mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms.

"It's one of the most powerful speeches I've ever heard", he said.
Weeks later the speech sticks with me and I have to agree with Dad.  The power and the raw emotion, the sincerity of it, the frustration and the honesty, it brings tears to my eyes.

One sentence in particular reverberates through my mind: 

"...when I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt."

I keep thinking about that, about that primal hurt, one a mother would feel.  If all people thought of each other as the vulnerable children they once were, the babies who were nurtured by a mother's love, our treatment of each other would look much different.

If our organizations which police and punish were taken down and started over, with the premise of preserving and nurturing at their core, how different they would look.  If some of the money that goes into policing went to social programs that actually begin in the cradle, how would our communities and our society as a whole change?

Systemic racism is not just an American problem, and I have often told Canadians not to be smug when they claim that "we don't have racism here".  That's not true, I've heard plenty of racist remarks in my time here in Canada.  
For now, I have some faith in our prime minister that we are headed in the right direction, one of reckoning, accounting for, and enacting change to become anti-racist in Canada.  We have a long way to go.

I am most worried about America.  This is where we need to see the power of the mother.  

It would be easy to be pessimistic, to think that the racial problems in America are so centuries old, so rooted in a sin so grave that it has left blood on the hands of all white Americans.  How does a country based on an idea of liberty and personal freedom get over a legacy of its very opposite, the shackles of slavery?

I guess you have to begin again.  One can look at community examples like Camden, New Jersey, where the police were defunded and re-organized from the ground up, violent crime has been reduced and in recent weeks the police marched with protesters.  

I think of the communities in which mothers struggle to raise children whose fathers are either incarcerated or have been killed.  Begin here, with social programs, housing and supports, with funding for education and health care.  Begin at birth and do everything possible to bring those children to their fullest potential, breaking the cycle of violence, crime and absence.  

Begin before birth, with prenatal programs aimed at health and safety, and preparedness.  Give funding to single mothers to create a safe and nurturing home, give them maternity leave so they can nurse their babies.  It sounds expensive, doesn't it?  How expensive is it compared to the cost of war and weapons?  How would a budget of trillions look in the hands of a mother?

I've read of so many negative police interactions that actually began as a domestic violence call.  It's true, there will still be violent crime, there will still exist the mentally ill with an unfortunate access to weapons,  some policing with weapons will always be needed.  But how to answer a domestic call in which the assistance needs to actually enter the home, the cradle?  Social workers can play a more intense and positive role, people who are actually trained in de-escalation above all else.  

How do ideas of masculinity so rooted in our society play a part in a new way forward?  Men can mother too, you don't have to give birth to be a nurturer.  You don't have to give birth to protect the cradle, you only need to love like a mother, and to hurt like a mother would hurt when the vulnerable among us are targeted. 



THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE IS
    THE HAND THAT RULES THE WORLD.

       BLESSINGS on the hand of women! 
        Angels guard its strength and grace. 
      In the palace, cottage, hovel, 
          Oh, no matter where the place; 
      Would that never storms assailed it, 
          Rainbows ever gently curled, 
      For the hand that rocks the cradle 
          Is the hand that rules the world.

      Infancy's the tender fountain, 
          Power may with beauty flow, 
      Mothers first to guide the streamlets, 
          From them souls unresting grow— 
      Grow on for the good or evil, 
          Sunshine streamed or evil hurled, 
      For the hand that rocks the cradle 
          Is the hand that rules the world.

      Woman, how divine your mission, 
          Here upon our natal sod; 
      Keep—oh, keep the young heart open 
          Always to the breath of God! 
      All true trophies of the ages 
          Are from mother-love impearled, 
      For the hand that rocks the cradle 
          Is the hand that rules the world.

      Blessings on the hand of women! 
          Fathers, sons, and daughters cry, 
      And the sacred song is mingled 
          With the worship in the sky— 
      Mingles where no tempest darkens, 
          Rainbows evermore are hurled; 
      For the hand that rocks the cradle 
          Is the hand that rules the world.

William Ross Wallace (1819-1881)


God Bless America, and all her people.

Love, Dani


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.

Ranunculus.


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.
xoxDani
mopphilosopher@gmail.com

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 Hermes.ca 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 mopphilosopher@gmail.com
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.
xoxDani