Our little garden is chugging along—presiding over the (spotty) new lawn our landlord insisted on planting on the hottest day of the year—and weathering the stifling New York City heat (made even more mouth-breathingly hot by the hundreds of AC butts panting out the back of everyone’s brownstone, pointed at our zucchinis) surprisingly well. We pulled this ‘lil harvest on Sunday- two sweet knobby cukes, one lone, long red basque sweet pepper, two small banana peppers, and a mess of basil. Our eyes are trained on our one reddish tomato (one!), and anticipate its ripeness by the end of the week. Three meals worth of bounty isn’t too much- but it’s pretty darn good.
After seeing Jenny’s Mom’s sideboard looking so fresh and so clean (almost as an aside in this post about the lovely green wallpaper), I decided to tackle our identical Ikea NORDEN for my first project. I capitalize NORDEN because anytime I say any Ikea name I say it loud and in a bad/deep Swedish accent. Here is the naked NORDEN:First, let me tell you a few things about our apartment. It is the whole bottom (read: basement) floor of a classic Brooklyn Brownstone. The kitchen is HUGE by New York standards (110 sqare feet) and our landlords re-did it a few years ago, choosing the marble-and-cherry wood finish and stainless steel appliances that were so very popular at that time. All the nitty gritty kitchen functiony things about it are pretty great (storage, counter space, big sink, dishwasher [!!!!!], large gas range with griddle etc.) and we cook in it ALL the time. But… it will never look like this:It will never look like this for a few reasons: a) I am not Julia Child (sigh) b) our kitchen has no windows, it is, in fact, in the very middle of our apartment which is in the very bottomest darkest basement and c) there are no plugs in the kitchen into which to plug such a thing as a standing mixer and/or a lamp so- no-knead bread and overhead lighting it is. But I digress. Since I couldn’t just up and move to France, it was time to paint my NORDEN. For that I needed my Mama. We had ingeniously scheduled for her to come and visit at the exact time when the need to revamp was reaching a critical fever. With her help and guidance, we had two major projects lined up, first take care of das Norden and second, to paint the old secretary that I use for my desk (spoiler: you will be seeing some pictures of this very soon). We went together to pick out paint and decided on these two colors. Martha Stewart Oolong Tea- a sandy celadon we hoped would read less yellow- for the NORDEN, and Gabardine- a blue-green-grey color equal parts “stormy sea” and “I think the man in this suit is a spy”- for the secretary. Even after many inspiration based e-mails on the subject and lots of in-person discussion spent contrasting the colors of my pots and pans, we still probably talked about it for, like, an hour at the Home Depot on Nostrand Avenue next to the Sugar Hill club. We got our paints mixed, bought a few tools and a fair amount of wine and got to work sanding and priming. We had help the whole time:After our first round of sanding and priming, we had to leave the NORDEN in the middle of the kitchen overnight, so we ordered takeout and started in on the wine. About a bottle into it we looked at each other and said: We’ve got the colors backwards! NORDEN must be GABARDINE not OOLONG! In vino veritas. The next morning we started in on the gabardine, and spent most of the day on the floor. We had a very good time down there:When all was said and done, we loved it. We kept looking at it and saying “It looks more blue than green!”, then “it looks more green than blue”:Do I wish my kitchen were different? Yes. Do I wish it was brighter, airier, and not lit by four recessed floods? Yes. But, honestly, I can’t realistically change those things, so instead of maintaining some sort of bitter renters inertia, the simple act of just painting the NORDEN made our kitchen feel absolutely marvelous. Now the cast iron wok and the red dutch oven are friends, the fruits and strange amaros are close at hand, and we feel a bit more human.
More ever-loving thanks to Mama, who- as we’ve already established– never does anything half assed.
Julia Child’s marvelous kitchen from here.
Today is the day that the Christmas season officially starts! Sweetheart and I are getting our tree today and the girls are coming over tonight for some hometown Colonial Williamsburg crafting (O it’s marvelous to be from Virginia, you can embrace pioneer spirit and make complicated decorations out of fruit and vines totally unironically), I’ve got Vince Gauraldi cued up, and also a strange and wonderfully joyous new-to-me collection of Swedish Christmas Carols I stumbled on delightedly from Door16 (free downloadable! God Jul!). With all of this in the works, how utterly perfect was it that my friend Renee posted this staggeringly lovely, utterly pitch perfect Gingerbread Brownstone on her wonderful (aspirational) food blog Kitchen Table Scraps. It’s like a scale model of my house! I can just picture Sweetheart and I carrying a miniature tree in through the basement door under the stairs… and I can almost see Nipsey Russell peeking through the spun sugar windowpanes through the gingerbread “window guards” (a nice gentle Brooklynese way of saying bars), in fact the giant “Whisk” installation might be right next door in the to-scale-Pratt-Sculpture-Garden. Bike Parking to the side.
WordPress still won’t allow me images (gnashing of teeth! shaking of fist!), so here’s a little narrative:
Expecting a slew of guests for the holidays, sweetheart and I are working on making our Brooklyn brownstone as streamlined and lovely as possible. After my recent jaunt abroad, it’s hitting me that we don’t have very much time! Here’s what we did yesterday to try and make our bedroom nest a little nicer (full disclosure I’ve been obsessing over the amazing Jenny at Little Green Notebook, and this bedroom redux will have her fingerprints all over it… I heart a woman who hearts her staplegun):
-Took the old curtains down, took measurements
-Notice that though windows look the same size, one is two inches smaller than the other.
-Also notice that one is flush with the ceiling and the other is two inches lower. nice.
-Went to home depot, flirted my way into getting wood cut for headboard also realized that pre-made curtain rods for the shoe fireplace (yes, I have a fireplace- non-working- dedicated as a shrine to shoes) are either too short or too long blargh!
-Got some wooden dowels in an attempt to circumvent.
-Drove to East Village and picked up a free dresser for Sweetheart from Craigs List. Had him meet me so I wouldn’t be abducted. Told my Dad that, he was happy.
-Dresser has some pretty serious dings on it, but has good bones and actually nice hardware.
-Many drawers inexplicably full of glitter. NOTE: Glitter is the Herpes of the craft world.
-Drive home across the Manhattan Bridge with the dresser vibrating and rattling.
-Find an amazing parking spot right outside the apartment. Score!
-Neglect to take before pictures in zeal to get things moving!
-Remove drawers from his old dresser, remove old dresser carcass to kitchen.
-Remove my dresser drawers, and wipe the whole thing down (yuck).
-Move my dresser to the other side of the fireplace to prepare for moving the bed to the other side of the room (which I’ve measured will fit).
-Move a big old naugahyde chair and side table into the corner for “holding tank”.
-Move bed across the room.
-Become Aghast at dust bunnies under bed.
-Realize bed on other side of the room “fits”, but won’t allow dresser drawers to open OR bedside table on either side. Also makes the path from the door to the bathroom feel like one of those humane slaughterhouse animal chutes, no bueno.
-Abandon that idea.
-Move bed back across room.
-Move my dresser back to its old spot.
-Wipe new dresser down/try valiantly to remove glitter
-Apply about 1/4 bottle of dark Old English on it- it looks damn good. May your first dresser be a masculine dresser.
-Put new dresser in dresser hole.
-Banish old dresser to curb. Still there today. A brief pang of “Brave Little Toaster” really, no one loves that dresser.
-Put Naugahyde Chair and side table back on opposite wall.
-Sweetheart begins to make dinner.
-I get out trusty drill and install custom cut rolldown blinds. Like a Champ.
-I then try to screw into the fireplace. NOT HAPPENING. It’s made of kryptonite. I break my littlest drill bit. Now, really not happening.
-So- I realize I can screw into the mortar at either side, so I do this survival-desert island deal where I screw screws into the mortar, put a brad-type-nail perpendicularly into the wooden dowel/curtain rod and tie a string around the screw and around the nail. This, amazingly, works. Not a long-term solution, but it’s my version of a coconut radio.
The good news: A few steps closer to a streamlined bedroom that will be as “airy and spacious” as a brownstone basement allows.
The great news: The guests that are coming (Mama and Daddy among others) will bring a SEWING MACHINE and have already promised to fashion exquisite pillows, curtains, and valences. BAM.
If and when I ever get the power of pictures back I’ll post some pictures of the whole shebang!