Thursday, October 13, 2016

Livin' Like It Was 1945 :: How Learning About WWII Helped Us Save Our Homeschool

Since switching to a more eclectic unschooling, delight directed learning model, homeschooling has become much less school-y and whiny, heaps more fun, and a lesson in life long learning for all in our home. Where curiosity reigns supreme and inquiries are a valuable commodity.  It was ridiculously scary considering the "unschooler" label for our family.  After month's of research (thanks to Susy Andres of A Little Way of Homeschooling fame and Julie Bogart of Bravewriter fame among others), encouraging friends from our new tribe, and a few wonderful experiences, that felt like coincidences actually, provided so much inspiration and knowledge.  Going with my gut feeling all this time, before encountering these beautiful perspectives, i felt like i was on the verge of failing my kid.  Was it terrifying?  I'd be lying if i said it wasn't. That old crutch most of us know well, The Blindfold of Institutional Schooliness, was stripped from our face, and the world and it's opportunities could be seen in a new light, shining like the most beautiful Golden Hour you've ever seen.  Brilliantly, i realise now from Cookie's perspective, that it was just the experience of not having TeacherMomzilla on her back, hounding her to get things done so she could "check boxes" on the To-Do List.  It was also relief for me, in that i could keep my coveted job as Mom, and only Mom, thus maintaining my nurturing sensibilities (instead of trading them in for my Schoolmarm facade at a certain time each day).  Hub's Last Nerve also caught a break because he didn't come home to an old fishwife, completely undone by a day of struggling with "his child".  Amazingly, unschooling has preserved everyone's sanity because we aren't bickering each day as the head of the Teen Resistance Movement starts exercising those muscles that like to test the boundaries that worked when she was a smallish child needing limits.  As much as the parent's don't like it, these teenlets need to be able to eloquently argue and win some family struggles, or i strongly feel they will be dumbed into submission for a greater portion of their young adult lives.

This outline of our efforts has two purposes:  serving as a brain dump for us to document what it was we did to study WWII (which started the latter half of 2015), but also to give you an idea of the possibilities that adopting a delight directed learning style can do for your family, and for the relationship of the parent and child(ren) involved in the day to day world of home education.  This list isn't meant to provide you with a "check list" of all things needing to be studied in a set amount of time, rather i offer this to hopefully inspire you to find what it is about a subject that intrigues your kidlet, then scour the libraries, museums, maps, Internet and see what you stumble on.  It is truly amazing when you find yourself working as a team to unlock the mysteries lurking in your child's curiosity or mentoring your kidlet down a rabbit hole that has completely captivated their attention.

Soon after completing the books in the Molly McIntire American Girl series, Cookie said those fateful words: "I want to study World War II."  I was at a loss for how or where to start on a topic so big (and frankly utterly devastating.) 

How was i going to cover heinous acts like concentration camps, 
Kristallnacht, Normandy, or the idea of families sending children away from war
 or daddies, brothers, grandpas never returning because they were killed in battle, 
Anne Frank, or the mass persecution of all religions with an 11 year old?

I asked her what, specifically, she was interested in about WWII, and she said she wanted to know what the experience must have been like for children around the world.  Whoa!

So as you can imagine, inspiration on The Internet was a bit lacking. Certainly she didn't quite know what she was asking for, and i knew i didn't want to dive right into the bloody battles, political ideologies, concentration camps, and the biggest elephant in the room--Hitler's psychological well being--for fear of creating anxiety and instilling fear in her about the world or a beautiful cultures over in Western Europe.   Jimmie's Collage blog was about the only resource i found useful at the time, except that my kidlet isn't a big fan of lapbooks. So we borrowed the idea of using World War II For Kids by Richard Panchyk as our guide through the time.

But we didn't start there right away.  Something in my heart nagged at me that in order to cultivate critical thinking skills, we needed to start at the Great Depression, at the very least.  Covering the result of WWI would be ideal.  So we covered the Treaty of Versailles, focusing on the effects it had on the people and the government of Germany. Then we traveled ahead to the time just before the 1929 Crash.
Our booklist included:
Kit Kittredge American Girl books

About this time, Ken Burns' Dust Bowl documentary happened to be on our PBS station, and we watched that in small increments.  We had just returned from a vacation where one of the stops was the Hoover Dam, whose tour and museum afforded us the opportunity to learn about the Civilian Conservation Corps and the WPA and who's art deco stylings were strongly nodding back to our 1920's studies.  It was exciting to be able to narrow down the bigger picture with family history, so Cookie would write letters to the grands asking if they remembered any stories from their parents about growing up in the Depression.  We also found many photo libraries online with pictures, just a simple Google search will return many sources.  Since one of her other passions is photography, we read a little about the FSA corp of photographers sent out to document the struggles across the nation, thanks to articles like this.  

It's amazing how when you are enamoured by a subject, news and other opportunities that you would have normally glanced right past now because golden nuggets of opportunity.  We happened upon a biography we both adore entitled The Candybomber because of a news clip we saw on Uncle Wiggly Wings in a movie about members of the Mormon church.  

By this time, Cookie could see her emotions were in for a roller coaster ride. 

Which is why i think Cookie reverted back to a passion of hers: fashion.  She started clawing through the Dewey391 section at the local library, procuring each and every book they had on historical fashion of the 1920's thru 1940's.  She poured over books like Fashions of a Decade 1920's 1930's 1940'sFive Centuries of American Costume20th Century Fashion: The 40's &50's.  She would search YouTube for haristyles of the 40's and try them out on her American Girl dolls.  And while she was slowly getting an introduction into Hollywood glamour, we started recording some of the classic movies on TCM.  Soon, a new passion for B&W pre-1950's film was stoked and the DVR would beg for a reprieve.

Just a couple weeks in and all ready we were deviating from the "perfectly schooly" plan i had in mind.  I mean, clearly you could only truly learn about children's experiences in WWII by methodically reading books about German children, English children, Japanese children, The Diary of Anne Frank and American children. Right?  During this time it would have been really easy for me to discount these "delays" in our learning "objective", eh?  Instead i took the time to challenge myself: observe her fulfilling her own curiousity and chillax, which coincidentally gave me more time to get household chores done and to read about how DDL and unschooly ways worked in the latter years of home education.  In these early days, i was certain i was going to be messing up my teenlets education and i could vividly imagine this mad dash we'd have to do to cram for an 18 year old who would suddenly decide she wanted to go to University.  To temper my anxiety, i distracted myself by compiling a list of historical fiction for her to read during this time, based on her desire to experience it from a child's perspective. (Links mean we've read them and can recommend them.)

That list includes:
Happy Times in Norway (Norway, just before the Nazi invasion)
Guest of War Trilogy: The Sky is FallingLooking at the Moon, The Lights Go On Again (British, during the Blitzkrieg)
The Hiding Place (Jewish)
In the Shadow of the Gestapo (Norway, introduces pacifism)
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Escape: Children of the Holocaust
Hana's Suitcase (modern Japan, historical Jewish family)
Midnight in Broad Daylight (Japanese in Western WA, internment camps)
Farewell to Manzanar (internment)
Parallel Journeys (comparing the childhood of a Jewish girl and a German boy in Nazi Germany)

And while on vacation this past spring (2016), she found The Girl in the Blue Coat (Jewish) while perusing a bookstore.  She now lists it as one of her favourite books.

Halloween rolled around and she decided she wanted to be Rosie the Riveter.  Cookie made sure to assert her passions when she said an off-the-shelf Rosie costume wouldn't do, because the pants included wouldn't be to 1940's specifications.  Bless her heart.  So this desperate Momma pleaded with her fashion-conscience pre-teenlet to shop the thrifts to see if the 2nds gods would have mercy on us and plop a pair of vintage jeans or high waisted trousers in our hands.  Alas, both of us hate shopping, so that was a short lived adventure.  The screeching of metal hangers on old metal racks must of jarred open a dusty old catalog card drawer in the far reaches of my grey matter, because soon after waving the white flag to the monotony of thrifting for something so specific, i remembered i had read about a book one of my favourite sewing bloggers had written years before.  Enter Cal Patch's book Design It Yourself Clothes.  Armed with our directions, a French curve, and a video on YouTube on how to use a French curve, soon we were drafting our own pattern for 1940's high-waisted trousers.  

Cookie decided she wanted side button closures, because we learned zippers weren't widely used in women's clothing--they made removing articles of clothing so quick and easy and could lead to a reputation of ill repute for the woman wearing them.  We also debated on whether new zippers would be made during WWII, with the metals going to more important things.  Which also led Cookie to wonder if anyone had braces during WWII.  We discussed that with resources so limited during the time of Rosies, women in this time most likely raided their man's closest to find appropriate work clothes to wear to their job at Boeing (a local employer of women during WWII), and so Cookie decided she would like to the pant legs long enough to roll up a few times.

We both learned a ton about sewing clothing, and as crazy as it sounds, drafting patterns was the easy part!  I showed her some of the tricks i'd learned over the years with French seaming and darting.  This project was when that little voice in my head that kept saying "This will never work.  She should be in school@home, you know" started becoming harder to understand.  Now Cookie says these are the only pants she enjoys wearing because they actually fit.  Now if i could stop her from growing so we could just make a couple and i could retire my fabric measuring tape. :)

When we returned to World War II for Kids, we were bothered that they would introduce a name like Stalin, Poland, or Mussolini, but not really give any other in depth background info on the subject. So again we deviated from the script and started making it work for us.

Books we found: 
and we found our library has streaming video of Churchhill's speeches from the WPA films.
Harry Truman
Charles de Gaulle
(anything without a link are subjects we are still covering)

For the geography of WWII, we found a delightfully thorough series on countries called Enchantment of the World. Combined with Home School in the Wood's blank maps on CD, we have been working our way through the locational geography contained within the books for:

Germany - England - France - Poland - Norway - Japan - Austria

We typically read the geography portion together while labeling the maps, and it is a little like putting a puzzle together.  Something like "The Thames River is in the southwest of England, while the River Tweed is in the north, closer to Scotland."  Having England, Germany, and France will be wonderful when we start reading from WWII for Kids again, because then we can plot the major turning points in the war, like The London Blitz, Kristalnacht, and Normandy.  As we work along, i am finding it might be more beneficial to read the geography while we work on a GeoPuzzle of Europe for countries that had minor conflicts in them, apart from being overwhelmed and folded into the Nazi empire.  And as countries come up, i'll add them.

Once we started focusing on these individual countries, these divine journeys unraveled before our eyes.   To give you an idea of how all this worked to help us relax and let me let her take hold of the reins of her learning, here is a snapshot from our time "in England".  We've spent quite a bit time down the rabbit hole that is England.  As it started to unfold, we were reading a book about Winston Churchill when also found brilliant historical reality shows from the BBC like The 1940's House and Turn Back Time.

Since she enjoys cooking, Cookie thought it would be interesting to find some recipes for British food.  As it would turn out, we would get a recipe for British pancakes from a British friend of ours who also informed us that the UK celebrates a sort of National Pancake Day on Shrove Tuesday, just before Ash Wednesday.  So of course we did that.  We found a UK grocer in our area and had lunch. Cookie rolled the dice and chose a sammie out of her comfort zone with a key ingredient called Branston Pickle, and discovered she *loves* it (it's a chutney like substance consisting of carrots, turnips and other root veg in tomatoes and spices.)  We shopped for British groceries that we could only find there, picking up a smattering of candies and baked goods to try at home with Dad, and of course Branston Pickle and Lyle's Golden Syrup (for the pancakes.)  We also made a delicious meat pie from Jamie Oliver that was apparently offered at Will & Kate's wedding.

We stumbled upon a cool exhibit at the Seattle Public Library. Shakespeare's First and Third Folio were coming to visit the library.  Seeing this stoked a curiousity about his books.  We discovered The Great British Baking Show, which is quickly consumed on the DVR with baking tips and recipes being noted for our own experiments later.  Cookie loves analyzing the sounds of the different British accents.

She started becoming curious about our heritage, and an interest in genealogy was born.  She found out most of our ancestry is centred in Europe, which led back to wondering about who from our families might have served in WWII.  Another rabbit trail we are in the throws of charting the course for.

Soon the holidays were quickly thrusting themselves on us, and by December we were eager to slide into Yule School mode.  This is an excellent tip i had implemented the year before.  The holidays are all ready crazy enough, why should be try to add all the "schoolwork" on top of all the holiday events we are excited to attend?  We spent some time mapping out ideas:  Christmas books to read, holiday baking, caroles to sing, decorating to do, cards to send.  We found English party crackers to wrap the cousins' gifts in.  We attended "The Sound of Music" at the 5th Avenue Theatre with friends, then after visited The Gingerbread Village, who's theme this year was Star Wars (which, if you think about it, is basically an eerily updated version of Germany and France during WWII, eh?)  Earlier in the year, Cookie had increased interest in learning German, so during Yule School we learned German vocab for the Christmas season.  For the advent calendar, i made a list of activities she could do.  Most were a-doodle-a-day style, with breaks built in there for feast days and field trips, which could also serve as catch up drawing days.  All this, plus recitals and dance competitions, and we were still relaxed.  Relaxed enough to invite my folks over for a last minute Christmas visit for a few days.

Once January rolled around, we were looking for ways to ease back into the subject.  We watched many war era films and read some historical fiction related to WWII.  Once we discovered Frank Capra's "Why We Fight" series, we were back in full swing.  We added The Fallacy Detective's lessons on propaganda to our daily reading list, to help with deciphering the propaganda we were encountering.

Our movie list includes:

Casablanca (1942)
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Journey For Margaret (1942)
The More the Merrier (1943)
Tender Comrade (1943)
Lifeboat (1944)
I'll Be Seeing You (1944)
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
A Guy Named Joe (1944)
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
White Christmas (1954)
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) (post war)
The Longest Day (1962)
Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Assisi Underground (1985)
Rosie the Riveter (2001)
Magic of Ordinary Days (2005)
The Monuments Men (2014)

By February in Seattle, everyone's itchy for a distraction from the grey skies, so we headed to Leavenworth to experience a little Bavaria.  We used some of our German to decipher menus and groceries, we enjoyed learning more about the Bavarian culture from flags to art to food to music in this little town.  We also picked up A Ticket to Ride Europe game to play to help reinforce European geography while having a fun time.

After we arrived home dazzled by German American culture, we found a German deli near us that we frequent for homemade pretzels and desserts with an amazing deli, where we are still learning about the different types of meats and cheeses available.  We pick up interesting looking groceries.  We scan the magazines, to see if there are sentences we can read without a dictionary.  Later, we visited the Norwegian Heritage Museum and a Scandinavian deli.  Next up to try is the French grocer and bakery in Seattle.

And so it goes, seamlessly moving through the cultures.  We learn so much more than any textbook could teach us this way, i can't even imagine trying to keep up with a checklist like this--if i had made it before hand it would have been more like a "chore list".  Amazing how much you can really do when you are fueling passions instead of checking off a checklist.  I would feel defeated before we even started looking at a list this long.  That is why it is important to find your child's interest, the angle from which they want to experience this, so that the passion propels you forward.


Field trips are imperative for this age, i believe.  It's the hands on, the experience, getting out in the world and being among all different kinds of people and opinions that is most beneficial in the teenage years.  Look will find so many things that can apply to your WWII studies.  Especially interesting is bring it home and seeing what it was like in your town, your county, your state during the War.  We found this book, The War Years, helpful in identifying significant places to visit in our area.

Some of our field trips/lectures were:

Jefferson Co. Historical Society, Port Townsend, WA
Fort Warden, Port Townsend, WA (The Triangle of Fire)
Bonner Co. Historical Society, Sandpoint, ID - Fashions of the 40's & 50's exhibit where we saw everything from fashion to home decor, and a wedding dress made from the husband's parachute he used in WWII.  There was a special display on Idaho-born Lana Turner's USO performances.
Bird Aviation Museum, Sagle, ID - military planes and medical inventions.
Farragut WWII Naval Training Museum, Coeur d'Alene, ID
White River Museum, Auburn, WA "Handmade in Camps"
Kent Historical Societylecture on Japanese internment camps from family displaced from the area to Heart Mountain, WY and Camp Harmony
Holocaust Center for Humanity, Seattle, WA - Exhibit from Anne Frank House Amsterdam.

Don't forget to chat with your community too.  People we run into at church are living bits of history, some served in the war and are happy to share their stories to this day.  One gentleman was in battles in the Pacific.  Another woman we know has shared toys and items she has carried all this time from her childhood.  One family has an aluminum roasting pan that was supposed to be turned in during metal collections and never was.  We've found examples of Shiny Brites for the Christmas tree, one is aluminum coated on the inside (pre- or post-war) and another is clear glass with painted decorations (manufactured during the war when metal was in demand.)  Another woman we visited with remembers growing up in San Diego.  Her school hosted the Hawaiian children who survived Pearl Harbor attacks.  She remembers the air raid drills and how the Hawaiian children would freeze in terror, while the Californian children found it to be like an extra recess.  She remembered a beach that she and her friends used to frequent, suddenly being off limits and after the war discovered artillery bunkers had been erected nearby.  She remembers air raid wardens coming by and scolding her parents for leaving the black out curtains open and remembers them talking about a Japanese sub being detected in the bay.   These are things we thought only the Brits dealt with.  I was able to show Cookie some of my pictures from the concentration camp i went to while in Germany and share with her the time my German host dad shared his story about being recruited to the Hitler Youth.

Last year, we also tried our hand at a victory garden.  First we designed our own war propaganda posters, then we planted a 20 x 20 plot with lettuces, kale, onions, squash, pumpkins, rhubarb, beans, beets, corn, and flowers.  We are blessed to live on a farm, so chickens are part of our day to day routine. We also have 12+ apple trees, 3 pear, 12+ blueberries, plums, and 100ft of grapes.  We've been experimenting with herbs and learning their medicinal uses as well, as our place used to be an herb farm.  And canning and preserving have been something we've been doing for years that fit in with the times.

It is truly humbling what we have learned in the past year, and i feel it is the best way to have experienced it.  I know too well what her experience would have been in traditional school.  There would have been a wink at WWII,  maybe focused only on Anne Frank, if they were lucky to have worked that far in the textbook before school let out of the summer.  

Now that Cookie is wanting to move along to the Civil War, i'd like to ensure we've gotten the big picture of WWII down.  In sharing this with a friend, she pointed me to the Core Knowledge sequence. We've been going through the list, and amazingly we can check off most topics because our meandering course has encountered them.  Covering the "Rise of Totalitarianism" gave us a chance to talk about a few of the different political views represented by the people in power during WWII.  She made this great mind map while we investigated the differences between communism, facism, socialism, totalitarianism, and democracy.  Racial doctrines were covered in our visit to the Anne Frank exhibit at the Holocaust Center in Seattle.  We still need to investigate a good deal of America's response to the war and the Manhattan Project.

Coincidentally, all these ways of governing were so relative to what we were hearing come out of the US Primaries, so it was a great way to draw connections to and understand rhetoric and propaganda during this election cycle.  My kidlet had the knowledge to deliver insightful opinions based on what she had learned so far about the entire climate surrounding the rise of Hitler and compare it to issues she sees today in our current events.  Her insights were blowing me away, because i hadn't heard anything as good from adults i've chatted with.

When we watched the early Star Wars movies of her parents' youth, she quickly drew connections to the Nazis when she saw for the first time Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers assembled together. And when we watched The Force Awakens, she pondered why Finn didn't know his mother or father.  A discussion ensued and we proposed that maybe he was a product of something like the Nazis "Master Race Breeding Camps", which horrified us both.

And now that this is written out, i can see more holes in the topics covered that we could go back and visit if we have down time later.  The Black American Migration, more could be covered on the Roosevelt family, the rise of union labourers.

Unschooling has been the best method yet for our family.  To investigate with passion and enthusiasm.  To wander until curiosity wanes naturally; there is no end--no feeling that we've learned all there is to know about that because the box is checked.  The subject can be returned to at any time. Or all the time again. To have the time to digest the information and find how it relates in our life.  And now to plan to include her desires to investigate genealogy with our history studies, letting our family trees dictate where we time travel to next.  I only wish each child could be given this gift of time to leisurely follow their passions.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Been a While...

Life is completely upside down from our old life...but in a decidedly good way.

See for yourself.

From this

driving down the highway in our 'hood

to this

driving down the country road.

View from the old kitchen,
Hi neighbour.

 view from the new kitchen
Moo, neighbours!

All this, and we now have a dining room with a built-in live action theatre of the chicken pastures.

Life is good!  Hope you have been well too!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Grand Finale

Wow, February is over, eh?  Where did it go, i wonder?  Thankfully, with it's end means we are that much closer to being done with our house in the suburbs.  Closing date is drawing near!

In honour of that, i have one last project to share.  This one was the coup de grase to our "to do" list for 3817.  It was a project i always wanted to do that involved a rather unfortunate fireplace in a wonderfully spacious daylight basement.  At the time of it's design,  basements in houses weren't all tricked out like they are nowadays.

The room was effectively a second living room.  It was also the first thing you see when you walked up to our front door, making relaxing in the space with your pjs on quite hard. :)  It had no finished look about it, especially because of the cinder block fireplace facade running up the focal wall. 

When we first moved in, the fireplace was a hazard and unusable.  Smoke billowed into the room anytime we tried to light something in it.  After a huge ice storm and consequential 4 day power outage, we installed a fireplace insert to make the fireplace functional.  As you can imagine, putting one of those beautiful black metal stove inserts in a cinder block wall kinda looks like putting newly refurbished red leather and chrome seats in an old rusted out Mustang '66 1/2.  :) 

Once we decided to move, i pleaded with Moose to finish that wall.  It would be such a shame to leave something so ugly unfinished, when it didn't take too much money to complete it too. 

We visited a couple of stores, and finally found a tile that worked with the brown tile that was already in place.  I was a huge fan of the accent tiles, and we found a way to incorporate them.  Moose and i designed the accent to work as a sort of mantle...breaking up the wall and providing more weight to the area to counteract the low ceilings.  I hope that it keeps the craftsman feel we tried to intro to the house.

What do you think?

IMG_0782 IMG_0379 IMG_0376 IMG_0371 IMG_0380

I hope the new owners will enjoy it very much, and i hope we use this lesson as a reminder to do home improvement before you leave, so you can reap the rewards of your labour and enjoy your creativity. :) 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Things I'll Miss

Before we put our house on the market, i wanted to document the things i will miss about it.  I went through it to take pictures of things i always liked about it.  I think it's helped me's not so much the house i'll miss as much as the stories that are housed within it. 

The Nursery:

Seaside Seaside 2

This room has the distinction of being the first room Moose and i designed together. We were eager to carve out a space for a baby after we were married, and decided we wanted to inspire our child with the gifts of the sea: lighthouses, sand dunes, waves, sea critters. We found the border at a local paint store and chose colours from it, painting the walls a sand colour and the ceiling the colour of the sky. We decorated with sea shells and sand dollars from trips to Oregon and lots of sea themed gifts were received when Cookie was born. Grandma made curtains and bedspreads.  We collected lighthouses and driftwood to add to the space. And books. Lots of books. Eventually, this was Cookie's big kid room, complete with big girl twin bed and a little kitchen so she had a little studio apartment for her and her stuffies. :)

Our room

Bedroom 2 Bedroom

This room was my favourite because it was our bedroom under the trees.  Some nights you could lay in bed and moon gaze.  On 4th of July it was great to watch the firework shows linger perched up in bed.  The thing i'll miss the most is the paint.  After my miscarriage, i choose this project as a distraction.  I spent hours and hours focusing on rolling paint on the walls, helping my heart to heal rather than spiraling into the desperate "whys" of it all.  It was my therapy.  Once we were all finished with the house, i couldn't help but take Moose in there for one last kiss goodnight in our first bedroom. :)

Wooden Stairs

Wooden Stairs

I've always been partial to wooden stairs. There's something old fashioned about them.

The Intercom
Nutone intercom

This is something i wished we would have gotten around to.  When we first moved in you could catch AM radio on it, but soon after it gave up the ghost.  It needed new tubes, or just to be rebuilt with a wireless hub on it would have been great.  I would have loved to have it to talk to each other in such a big house.  And as a way to answer the front door. :) 

The Craft Room

Craft Room

The best thing about this room is the colours...Belgium Chocolate and Lotus Flower.  It's the room design where i learned that for me, ceilings look so much better in a creamy, off-white colour in an area where grey skies rule 9 months out of the year. :)

The Bathroom

beautiful sink Tiled Shower

This is a heavenly little bathroom full of vintage goodness.  I love, love, love the tile walls and the original cast tub.  I documented the sink's design very well, because i would like to replicate it here in our new space.  The sink is undermounted, and water was retained in the sink space, rather than left pooling around the entire counter.  :)

Period Light Fixtures

Hall Light

Some of these glass light fixtures in the house were great.  I could have brought them all with me, but in the end, i could only bring my favourite.  It's really sad when houses get their originality gutted out of them.  Maybe the buyers will do that, but i hope people are waking up to the history and cultural assets in these old homes.  They are like the wrinkles and freckles and crooked toes that makes us people all different from one another.  This light fixture i will miss the most...with the copper coloured base and neat design in the glass.  Copper always reminds me of my dad...

In the end, all these things are just that...things.  They pale in comparison with the people that i love, the happiness we've found in our new community, the opportunities we have laying ahead of us.  They will only play a small part in my life's part of the place where my new little family began when i became a grown-up.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Living Room Project

The living room fireplace is a gem of a's huge and double sided, ajoining with the room we had our dining room in.  It's about as big as a ski lodge fire place...but the outside didn't really do anything to emphasize it. 

The worst thing about it was the fact the mantle was made out of concrete slabs that were just affixed to the wall with metal brackets.  One of the panels had been lean ever since i moved in, and i was always afraid of what was going to happen to it or the floor when it eventually broke away.

Now, i would have loved to taken out all the concrete, and remodelled the whole thing.  I had a few ideas while we lived there--like may cut out the walls around it, open up both spaces to each other, and finish the walls in the beautiful peach coloured brick like what was in the dining room.  I also thought maybe it would be best to leave the walls intact and just focus on a very dramatic facade for this side in the living room--something reminiscent of the wooden mantlepieces of the late 1800s/early 1900's with the columns mirrors above a thick mantle, fireplace opening with a tricked out tile surround and a tiled hearth underneath.  There are so many things you could do with this. 

And while i would have loved to finish this project, there was no way we could budget it, especially with our intent to sell. 

So we asked for a rebuilt mantle to at least make the area safe.  Unfortunately, it's not as big as it needs to be to keep the design's scale looking right, but at least it is safe.  But these days, it's all time is money with contractors...and you really have to put your foot down with them.  Which we did...but for a project that was much more important that i will show you later. :)


I can't get over how much it looks like a dance hall in there now. :)  The house really did have a ton of space that i wish i had a fraction of now.  But truly, i couldn't see it for all the stuff that was "in" the house, because of lack of good functional storage.  That wall around the fireplace should be flanked with bookcases and cabinets.  It should hold things like magazines, books, toys, phone books, a craft basket or two.  All the things that just laid on the beautiful wood floors before.  There is a lesson to be learned here.  And it can be implimented at my new little house. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Almost Ready for Market

Kent Home

We've been spending our free time up at the old house again--for the final push before market.  I am excited to show you some of the projects we have been working on.  This house is almost unrecognizible to the one we moved into as newlyweds.   Over the 12 years Moose and i lived there, the carpet was replaced, and removed again to reveal hardwoods, the aluminum windows were replaced with wood, all the beige kitchen appliances were eventually replaced with black and stainless steel models when they kicked the bucket, dated and unfunctional 1960's light fixtures were replaced.  Tons of experiments in paint color and decorating were conducted and much was learned here.  The exterior was repainted when we did the windows.  The yard was a blank slate of grass when we moved in, and we enjoyed shopping for trees and plants we added for interest and food.
Lots more things to memorialize, the contractor is done with his sprucing up projects, and now grime detail is in full swing, but i'll start with this first project.

She just got her exterior all spit-shined this past week.

Kent Home

The front garden has been completely detailed.  Wishing we had done this when we lived there. So much more room to plant now for the new owner's to be--the grass was hand dug out by a yard crew of men in one afternoon.  If it was mine, i would got through and plant the entire thing with herbs, more berry bushes, and lots of perennials flowers.

Kent Home

They tore through the sod in the rockeries.  I did this once the first summer i lived at the place.  What a job!  Most likely it will grow back in a couple months, with the warm weather and sunshine, but it looks nicer now than ever.

Kent Home

With housing inventories plummeting in the Seattle region, we are hoping these projects we've spent the last year tackling make for a quick sale, at full price. We shall see.....

more on new projects tomorrow

A Wicked Oz-some Birthday

Last weekend was Cookie Monster's Wizard of Oz Spa Birthday Tea Party.
(whew! that's a mouthful!)
Thankfully, the group of girls we had over are totally Oz-some and sweet
and had a super time together.

Always looking for ways to cut the waste of these parties, a few ideas came to mind.
We decorated our dining room with these classic and reusable decorations:
a golden garland for the Yellow Brick Road and

and these little spiral doo-hickies that resembled tornadoes.

We also pulled out a few Thanksgiving decorations like a scarecrow and a pumpkin for a little flare.

The tea was the best part of the party.  Listening to the girls sitting and chatting, while taking turns serving each other melted my heart and brought a big goofy smile to my face.

Around here, we enjoy our teas.  Each year, when we celebrate our family's special events at a locally owned tea house, we pick up an item or two to add to our tea service at home.  So our small stirring spoons, serving ware, and tiered stand came in handy for our party. 

Since we keep our gatherings intimate, we only needed four place settings at our table.  I decided to gather dinnerware from the thrift stores, not only because it was more economical when i caught a 50% of dishes at Goodwill, but also it would cut down on waste (we're just donating the items back to the thrift now that we're done with them.)  More importantly, it made the party a bit more special--it's always exciting to use grown up plates and glasses when you're a kid, eh?

The mismatched plates and fancy pants glasses i found for 50 cents a piece.  I found adorable floral cloth napkins that we will be saving for everyday.  Who can't use more cloth napkins, eh?  We used was Cookie's Great Grandmother's silverware.

I found a milk glass vase for $4 that served a tropical fruit salad with style.  They also dined on scones with homemade jam and homemade lemon curd, grapes, and devilled eggs that we served on the 3 tier serving rack lined with thrift plates from my china collection.

A sweet little etched glass dish ($1 at the thrift)  was filled with marshmellows, resembling lumps of sugar for they girls' hot chockie "tea" that we served in this green drangonfly teapot that we already had. 

We had these cute little espresso cups in our china cabinet that we used as "tea" cups.  Thankfully, one of Cookie's friends has family from England, so she showed the everyone how to pour tea properly.

They played some Twister

The main event at our party was making personal care items which doubled as party favours.  We made bath salts and sugar scrub with household items.  Our tricky project was making lip balm.  We sourced the materials from a company online called The Sage.  They had a vegan lip balm base and we ordered a couple different flavourings for the lip balm, which we also used in the salts.  The girls made a lip balm for their moms and themselves, which left half of a jar for us to use in our Christmas gifts this year.

Mixing up some sugar scrub

We made these funky labels for our spa goodies which we packaged in recycled jars.
"Dorothy's Bath Salts...guaranteed to melt your troubles away."
"Toto's Sugar Scrub...makes you wag your tail."
and "Frankly, It's Lip 'Baum'".

Yeah, i know that last one was a stretch, but we just couldn't help ourselves. :)

I also knitted face clothes for the girls from some cotton yarn i had in my stash.
Cookie made labels for the bags from large gift tags stamped with characters from Oz...she decided that if her friends were clever enough, they could reuse them as bookmarks. :)

And just like that, we had a fancy little tea party, building great memories with friends, and without a lot of fuss or items filling up our trash bin!