Revisiting the Before

Remember that before picture from last week? Some of the contents have changed, but a week later I am facing the same messy obstacle on the desk. And this time, I want to beat it.
I think my desk is a sort of symbol of my inner inclination to pile, collect, and procrastinate. I feel like I have greatly improved keeping the rest of the house clean--it's not perfect, but it's better. The desk becomes the last place in the house where I can have a mess. Maybe I have subconsciously found some comfort in that.
Not anymore. I have to get used to the idea that I can have a mostly clean house most of the time--meaning that we could pick up everything in about 15 minutes tops. Oh yes, my friends, I do believe it is possible. Making it a reality is what my resolutions are all about.
There will be two phases to my cleanup. Phase one will be to clean and organize the area, and to figure out a system or routine for keeping it tidy. Phase two will be the fun part--making the space pretty. I should say prettier--I love the bones I have to work with. The white desk? The white chairs? The stunning iMac? The huge silver industrial lamp? I couldn't ask for a better blank canvas.


DIY Book Display

image via ohdeedoh.

I have loved the idea of a book display for a long time, and this is my favorite yet--and not just because of all the Miffy books on the second shelf. It could be easily done with the ribba picture ledge from IKEA. I'm putting this on my list of things to add to the next round of kids' rooms.
This picture could also go in the white walls gallery. And I'm slightly coveting that yellow stool.


The Joy of Mulligitawny

Warm, creamy, flavorful chicken soup. We love the version from The Joy of Cooking. It's warm and inviting--something about the velvety chicken and warm spices with the apple make it perfect for cold winter days, and rainy days. It's also conveniently fast. Lassis would be incredibly refreshing with this. The soup is gluten- and dairy-free.

The Joy of Cooking
Makes about 5 cups
about 30 minutes

*2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breast meat)
*3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
*1 medium onion, thinly sliced
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*one 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
*1 Tablespoon curry powder
*2 Tablespoons water
*4 cups chicken stock
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (optional, but worth it)
*1/2 cup hot cooked rice for each serving

*fresh coriander/cilantro leaves
*lemon wedges
*chopped apples

Skin, bone, and cut chicken into bite-size pieces.
Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes.
Add and cook garlic, ginger, and curry powder. Stir to keep from burning.
Add the chicken along with 2 Tablespoons water.
Cook, stirring, until the chicken loses its raw color and the oil sizzles and pools around the meat, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in chicken stock and salt; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes more.
Divide rice among bowls (1/2 cup for each bowl). Ladle the soup and garnish with lemon wedges, cilantro, and apples.



A nice part about trying to get more organized: there are so many beautiful calendars to choose from. I stumbled on this collection thanks to the decor8 blog. Some of my favorites:

Fun and retro, and kind of makes me want a Holga even more.

Perfect in a kitchen.

Channeling my affection for type.

Letter-pressed lovely.

They also share several calendars you can download and print yourself for under $10. Find those here.

Before & After: Before

Part of the purpose of this blog is to share my own projects, but before I can do that, I have to make a space to create them.
I hope you won't judge me too harshly when you see the before's. When I write about establishing new habits in 2010, our desk is one of the main pictures that comes to my mind. This week I could picture three solid scenarios where I Would Have Used the Desk if it were clean. Someday we dream of having a studio as part of our home. A room with cement floors and a deep sink nearby so B can paint; a big, long desk for working on paper cuts and sewing and other kinds of art or craft projects; a space for our children to make their own art along side of us; and a space for me to sit and write or edit movies or photos on a computer or laptop. Right now, our studio takes up a 14-foot wall in bedroom, and serves more as a dumping ground for mail and bills and random preschool accoutrements. I don't like to think about the message I am sending when I fill this beautiful white desk my husband built with clutter.
So no more. I want to sit here at the computer and write with Jane sitting beside me, drawing or practicing writing or playing Peep games. I want the desk to stay free and open and inviting, as a place to establish my own writing routine and start turning that dream into my life. Most of all I don't want to wake up to this mess anymore.

Stay tuned for the afters.


A Writer's Life

I have become more bold recently in telling people I am a writer. I have a long road ahead if I ever want to be a published writer, but it does help to share that desire with people.
One of my goals this year is to be more organized and better at starting--and completing--projects. Routine seems to be a big part of this lifestyle, and I found great inspiration in the writer Haruki Murakami. After writing his first successful novel, "he decided to become a full-time writer. He began going to bed early and getting up early, eating homegrown vegetables, and doing serious distance running. He's run several marathons in under three and a half hours."
His biography in this week's Writer's Almanac goes on to talk about how for one of his books, he spent six months with a strict routine. "Every day for 180 days, he woke up at 4 a.m. and began working on the novel. After five hours of writing, he went for a run. Then he would go to music stores and look for old jazz records, then go for a swim and play squash, then work on the book some more while sipping a Siberian Express, a drink comprised of Smirnoff Vodka, Perrier, and lemon. And then he went to bed at 9 p.m. He finished the first draft, took a one-month break, and rewrote for another two months. Then he took another break from the book, and rewrote again."
I find that so inspiring, especially when I read his description of how he writes.
"It's kind of a free improvisation. I never plan. I never know what the next page is going to be. Many people don't believe me. But that's the fun of writing a novel or a story, because I don't know what's going to happen next. I'm searching for melody after melody. Sometimes once I start, I can't stop. It's just like spring water. It comes out so naturally, so easily."
I doubt I will train for any marathons this year, or start going to bed at 9pm, but I am going to think more about my daily routines and how much time I allow myself to write.
What are your goals this year? What do you hope to accomplish?

For a Sweet Little Girl

I don't know if we will ever have another little female person in the house, but if we do, I shall dress her in this:

and it shall make me very happy indeed.
I might also spring for these

just to increase my joy.


White Walls

I grew up in a white-walled house. When friends came over, they always noticed how clean our house looked. This was due in large part to my tidy mother, but I also attribute it to the high white walls.
However, I thought our walls were boring. I vowed that I would live in all kinds of color when I had a home of my own. Well, that day is coming closer, & this last year I have discovered something shocking.
I like white walls.
I was looking through some pictures of homes or places I admire, & found that one common thread was the color of their walls (or lack of color thereof). The white or light walls make a great canvas for an electric array of art, textures, wood, & colors.

White wall in the kitchen=great backdrop for cookbooks & le creuset in colors that make me want to cook there, now.

The pristine walls & furniture make a lovely backdrop for flowers & other organic things--a welcome place to eat dinner.

comfortable, classic, clean.

Aalto's house and studio. I love the built in bookshelves and textures in this room.

The inspiring white walls of Moomah. These walls are begging to be filled with art and creativity, and white makes the perfect canvas to inspired thoughts young and old.
What colors are in your home, or what colors would you like in your home?

Images mostly via apartmenttherapy.com, and also moomah.



A new year always means resolutions for me. Some are old, some are new, but I always feel a renewed sense of energy when it comes to doing the most with the coming year.
This year is no different, especially since we already know some big changes are on the horizon.
I have been thinking today especially about what I want to do with my children, what kind of year I want to help create for them. While some of my resolutions are more about changing or forming habits, I have a few things I want to try, if only once.

Resolutions for 2010
1. Learn to use the new digital SLR we found under the tree this year
2. Make breakfast and lunch more special
3. Sew something for each red balloon
4. Cook something with saffron
5. Make two movies
6. Fill our home with lovely people, books, and things
7. Fill up the kids' journals
8. Do something creative every day (draw, photograph, write, cook/bake, sew, cut)
9. Use what we have
10. Read more--with the kids and on my own.
11. Do more handmade projects.
12. Organize and minimize the clutter in our lives.
13. Think ahead to plan projects--then do them (including, finishing the advent calendar, and making stockings.)

That's a good start for this week of the year.

images via designsponge and ohdeedoh.