I love color in a room. Color can transform a room and give you certain feeling before you even step through the threshold. Before I begin painting a room I spend a lot of time thinking about the color, looking a paint chips in various lights, and immersing myself in the imagination of how that color feels. I love websites like this Behr site that lets you “try out” your rooms color combinations before you begin painting.

The first time I ever walked to the paint counter of my local hardware store I felt fully prepared for the experience. I handed over my paint chip and requested two gallons. And that’s when utter confusion set in. The conversation went something like this:

Gentleman Behind the Counter (GBC): Ma’am (okay he probably didn’t say ma’am, but in my head, everyone is super polite), what type of paint can I get for you today?

Me: Type? As in brand? I’ll take the one with that offers the rebate. (I plan these things out. I’m thrifty. I’m still proud of myself at this point.)

GBC: I mean, what finish would you like?

Me: Finish?

GBC: Would you like matte, satin, semi-gloss, gloss?

Me: (I say nothing here, I just look at the guy, so of course he feels the need to continue with his most helpful explanation.)

GBC: A gloss finish is very shiny. (He said this very s-l-o-w-l-y)

Me: (apparently at this point I look SO befuddled, GBC doesn’t even think I know the meaning of the word gloss. Or matte or semi-gloss, because he keeps going.)

It isn’t that I didn’t know the definition. I, who took so long to prepare for this very moment, was not in the least bit prepared for the question. I didn’t realize so many choices were available. Now, if you shop at a hardware store where the man behind the counter knows a bit more about paint, he may offer the following advice.

GBC: Well, if you are painting a kitchen or a bathroom, you should go with a gloss, because gloss is easier to clean.

Me: I’m painting a living room.

GBC: Well then I recommend satin or semi-gloss.

Me: Why?

That is about as far as those conversations take you. They might have a few manufacturer recommended solutions – but I needed much more information to make my decision. The following is a little guide that I hope helps you.

Gloss: Like GBC said glossy = shiny. A gloss finish will pick up all available light sources in the room. Use this paint finish on areas that you really want to showcase. For this reason a gloss finish is typically used for trim pieces. However, if you are trying to hide imperfections in your trim, go with a different finish. Also, trim pieces, especially baseboards and chair rails, tend to attract dirt. A gloss finish is a snap to clean.

Matte: At the other end of the spectrum from gloss, this paint finish is meant to recede into the background. It is most often used on ceilings. Do you have a room that is just too sunny? If you find yourself squinting often, a coat of matte finish might be just the thing for your room.

Semi-gloss: Used often in high-traffic, accident-prone areas of your home, like the kitchen and bathroom, this finish is easy to wipe clean. But don’t stop there! If your walls have texture, if you are painting over a tile paneling, or you can’t seem to get enough light in your room – this is the finish coat for you. This finish will draw your eye to your lovely walls and all they display. Warning note – if you have wall imperfections such as cracks or holes, this is not the finish for you. Based on personal experience, I wouldn’t recommend this finish choice for covering old plaster walls. It will show off every defect!

Satin: Doesn’t the sound of “satin” just make you think of a luxurious bedroom? This paint finish recedes in a similar way as a matte finish but has just a bit of twinkle in it. This finish is an excellent choice for rooms in which you intend to use low lighting. It helps create an ambience of calm, making it wonderful for bedrooms or any other room where the primary function is relaxation.

Now, excuse me while I go print out a handful of copies of this guide and hide them among the paint brochures at my local hardware store. No weekend home decorator will be caught off guard on my watch!

Do you have any paint texture tips? I’d love to hear them. Leave your helpful comments below.


Familial Romanticism

When I was a young girl I found a poetry book that looking back, I’m sure I was much too young to understand. But from the book, I took away an impression of a woman who wrote about everyday things, like folding clothes and washing dishes, and for her, love was in these simple tasks. The one I remember the most was “I Stop Writing the Poem,(Tess Gallagher).

I thought of her poetry when I heard an interview on NPR with Middlesex author Jeffery Eugenides. He recently edited My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekov to Munro. He was asked if he was a romantic. I enjoyed his reply.

 “I’m a father and a husband, and I find that as life goes on, the kind of youthful romanticism changes into a deeper kind of, familial romanticism that is not really something so often written about in these kinds of stories,” he says.

 Now in my first year of marriage, it is this type of love that inspires me, this type of love that I hold sacred. I decided a long, long time ago that if I were to ever write a collection of poetry it would be an ode to laundry-folding, dish-washing, everyday love.

 My empty
chocolate milk glasses
lie scattered around the house.
Exquisite shrines
to a childhood necessity.

My husband picks them up –
one by one
and they are taken
to be washed.



These Lovely Bones


This piece by beachbungalow8 on the essence of her home inspired me to think about the character and personality of our home.

Ultimately, I was reminded of a story my husband tells about his childhood. When they were small children, he and his twin sister had a dog that went with them everywhere. When the children went out to the pasture to play, she was right by their sides. She always positioned herself between them and the danger, whether that danger be a cow, or an angry goose, or something else they shouldn’t be getting themselves into.

Our home is a lot like that – a protective mother, wearing an apron, making cookies – but the kind that are good for you.

When you drive up to our home, she looks rather plain and unassuming.  There is really nothing about her that would beckon you to come inside. There are no indications that she has weathered two, yes TWO, tornados. She sees her job as protecting her family, not flaunting herself to strangers.

She is truly a buttress. There is no place I would rather be when the winter wind comes whipping wildly across the fields that surround our house. Inside, her cozy warmth lulls the southern girl inside of me into enjoying the beauty of winter – safe from the sting of that brutal artic breeze.

 She sat empty for a good many years, and as we are slowly remodeling, I can feel her day by day blossoming. She has a family again, and nothing could make her more happy.

It is official! Yesterday Eric and I signed the papers on our contract. I thought it would be more difficult or scary or…….well I thought we would have to sign in more places or something. But it wasn’t difficult or scary at all. Then we went to the tax assessor’s office to put the taxes in our name. Again, easy as pie. We took in our contract and a form from the lawyer and that was it.


So – what did we really spend most of the day doing? Working outside!!! It was a glorious day and finishing painting the kitchen could wait. We picked up sticks. SO many sticks.




Okay not really that many sticks, but that is our stick pile. Then we raked Hickory nuts, or at least shells from Hickory nuts. Does anyone know what you should do with Hickory nuts? I read a bit about them today. Apparently there is a sweet kind and a bitter kind. I’m not yet sure which category ours fall into – guess there is only one way to find out.


My next job was bringing Armageddon to all the ants. You see, down where I’m from, ants make one big nest. A huge pile – you can easily tell if you have ants and it is easy to tell where to spray the bug stuff. I tracked some ants from our kitchen window back to a bed – a rather big one, under a few rocks. Then later I started looking around and I saw more ants, going different places. I intently followed each set of ants back to the holes and I found hole after hole after hole. There are ants EVERYWHERE. Apparently in Illinois ants don’t like to live together as one big happy family. They would rather have ant condo communities and retirement communities and you get the picture – LOTS of ants.


I’ve been told I just need to accept that ants are a part of life here. Inevitably, once a season, sugar ants will appear in the kitchen. Maybe it is my memory of Texas fire ants (which we don’t seem to have around here) but I have a very large aversion to ants and I don’t want to see them in my kitchen once a year. Someone needs to invent something for this.


So, after the sticks and the nuts and the ants, I raked the grass. And mom, you would be proud of me. I did not use a stupid people bags and I did not set my grass out by the side of the road. I have saved it in the stick pile for future composting use.



If you happen to know the name a of this beautiful tulip like flower, please let me know. This photo was taken in the evening as the flower was closing. During the day the blossom was full opened.

Weekend Update #2

I’ve never been, shall we say, manually dexterous. Personally, I blame it on left handedness – that just sounds like a good idea. My mom says it is because I didn’t play Nintendo enough with my brothers when we were little. What does that have to do with renovating a new house? Quiet a bit, I am primarily relegated to organizational tasks. I provide direction for the chaos and my opinion matters the most in most rooms of the house. (And I’m not going to lie, that’s pretty cool.) So, I get to pick the color of paint, I’m just not allowed to paint, unless someone is willing to go back over the spot I just painted.


Eric took art classes in college. Eric is also a perfectionist. And Eric has played a LOT of Nintendo, which means he is the only one qualified to do all the painting.


I started painting primer in tight spots with a really tiny roller, thinking Eric would rather do the “cutting in” since he is more into detailed work. Also, cutting in means getting close to cabinetry, which has already been taped and covered with a layer of plastic, but come on, we both know a little plastic and tape isn’t going to stop me. Using my tiny roller didn’t last long. Eric ended up painting over everything I had painted, (excepted for the spots I managed to paint in my hair), including the spot behind the stove that no one will see. I have become an expert cutter-iner because most of that gets painted over anyway. And I suppose I don’t mind because I will have an absolutely perfect kitchen – which is what Eric kept saying as he would repaint a whole section of my work.


Here is a sample of what we are painting over. A fun filled floral print in peach and blue.

Now, use your imagination……for our kitchen colors we decided to select olive gray and heavy cream for the trim.


The walls of the home are primarily plaster. They have been covered in almost every room by paneling. No, not the dingy faux wood board paneling. In most cases the paneling looks like wallpaper. With the right primer, I’m told, it is very easy to paint. I will tell you what I think when we finally get to the paint – which seems like it will be a while, seeing as we spent a whole Saturday afternoon redoing what I had done.













I know – it is Monday, and a weekend update is in order. Maybe tomorrow. Today, I want to talk about the place we are moving out of. Moving somewhere new always means leaving somewhere old behind. In this case, Eric and I are leaving behind a cute two bedroom home, with a great kitchen and lovely landlords. – Really, they are lovely. Oh and a beautiful Star Magnolia Tree. (Is that why Mississippi’s license plates read “And Stars Fell On” ? – oh wait, no, that is Alabama). Anyhow, the tree is beautiful.


Over the weekend Eric and I have been packing up and cleaning up the old place because our landlords are showing it this evening to a potential buyer. We really like our landlords and want to make sure we do our best to help their efforts. But fast-forward to the juicy stuff.


When I walked into the kitchen this morning – well it just stinks in there. So I thought, well we’ve just got to be sure we take out the trash before we leave. We took out the trash – same smell. It’s coming from a particular corner of the kitchen. The ants are making a trail through my kitchen, but they aren’t eating our food. They are going to the little mousey hole in the wall. I’ve been trying to draw them away with ant poison, but they persist towards the hole in the wall. The smelly hole.


So here is our hypothesis: over the weekend we took all the furniture out of the kitchen. Saturday night our faithful mouser Cali Elizabeth had it out in the kitchen with a mousey friend. But Cali is more of a player than a killer. She kills things by accident, or when she is really, really angry. And when she does kill something, she eats part of it, if she is interested. She doesn’t eat bugs. So, it is our hypothesis that Cali caught and played with a mouse and that this mouse crawled back to it’s hole – mortally wounded. And died – in the wall of course. Now, Cali can’t get back to the mouse, but alas, have no fear, the ants can!


This reminds me of the time a pigeon flew into my attic and somehow fell down between two wallboards and couldn’t fly back out. They had to cut a hole in the wall to remove the pigeon – which was of course already dead. True story.