Friday, April 13, 2012

Feathered Aspen

While not quite ready for the big reveal (we're new parents, and figuring out Wordpress is tricky), Joshua and I have decided to form a new blog together with our own URL. It's not in working order yet (the tabs are all messed up, and lots needs editing), but I've imported most of the posts from A Carpetbagger's Tale to this website.

I think I'm ready for this change. Although I haven't been as faithful a blogger as I was when we were traveling, A Carpetbagger's Tale has been such a huge part of my life. I want to share the joy of sharing with the rest of my family - with Joshua and Henriette - and I can't think of a better way to do it than this.

We've entitled our new blog "Feathered Aspen" in honor of our totems and our new home. We mean to express and sense of rootedness and a sense of flight. Of adventure and of home. Go to to read about Henriette's labor, and as we find more time, the stories of our first days as parents.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Home on Gray Street

Above, a view of our green-green bathroom. Below, the photos I've been promising for ages: our new home.
Our "Japanese Garden" green master bathroom. Small but completely unexpected and totally functional :)
View of my dresser-top collection. Yes, I own a lot of jewelry. Yes, I am a girl.
Another view of the bedroom. Napping cat and wagon up above the headboard. To the left, our beautiful craigslist art nouveau armoire. On the right, my enormous mound of pillows for the pregnant belly :)
The light's not very good in this picture, but here's our bedroom. Found the four-post bed on craigslist for a steal. Mission-style lamp was a gift from our wedding. Night stands and dressers from Joshua's grandparents. Walls are "Lions Mane" with stenciled peonies. Some loved art on the walls.
Love my bubble-gum pink bathroom. Claw-foot tub, sink, and unseen built-in mirror are originals. One of my repurposed windows on the wall, and a fun find from Goodwill gracing the tub.
Another view of our dining room. There are the French doors (Joshua's tour de force :0). Some favorite art work on the walls (including Christina's World and some fabric prints from Kathmandu). Still love the light fixture - another Habitat for Humanity Restore find.
Here's the view from our couch. To the left, our dining room in all of its French-doored glory, and to the right, a glimpse of our bubble-gum pink bathroom. A couple of favorites here: a shadow box with blue china plates and a bakelite vintage clock above.
In the corner: an impossibly ancient side-table that I found, water-warped and wonky at the thrift store and then painted the same "Celery Bunch" green that we painted the kitchen cabinets, my very, very lovely rose and bee lamp with a vintage Habitat for Humanity Restore lampshade, a Louis IV mirror from New Orleans and one of my encaustics up above, and an assortment of odd and loved things at the base of the lamp (including a vertebrae, St. Theresa, and another blue encaustic).
Another view of the breakfast bar.
I love this corner of our living room. At first, when we purchased the furniture on the cheap from American Furniture Warehouse, I was completely over-under whelmed by the amount of beige. The rug was no help at all, but it was 45 dollars, so the price tage won out. Fast forward through a bit of paint, a bit of sewing, and some of my favorite thrift-store finds, and the beige is less noticeable. A few favorites: I sewed a lime-green ottoman skirt and tangerine curtains and blankets from our travels (on the left, from Cuzco and on the right, from Kathmandu).
This is the site of the adhesive kitchen counter top (which I wrote about here). Up above, shelves with heavy-duty fasteners hold thift-store purchased jars and containers full of baking goods, grains, and beans, as well as cookbooks and on the highest shelf, our "pretty things" (including Joshua's kombucha baby). To the right, a collection of red-framed items, and up above the refrigerator, a storage space for large kitchen appliances hidden by one of my curtains.
I spend a lot of time here :) A couple favored features: a tea kettle for brewing Raspberry Leaf Tea (come on, baby), an oven for baking spring-fresh asparagus, broccoli, and brussel sprouts, a thrift store Colorado landscape (with the perfect colors), and an Echter's spider plant.
I don't think I can pick a favorite room in our house (ok, I'm lying. The sunroom.), but this space wins for function. The countertops are a glittery, eco-friendly silestone, the dishwasher is a valued family member, the yellow enamel sink is the original, and I refuse to part with it. The breakfast bar above is Joshua's brilliant idea and so is the fact that you can see into the next room - there used to be a wall there. Love the apothecary pulls and the "Celery Bunch" cabinets. The cabinets below are the unpainted ones from the Depot, and the ones above are the sanded and painted originals.
Another view of our would-be wall. As you can see, our last project for the upstairs is a tile backsplash. Love how the knives match the curtains :)
View of the kitchen from the living room. Found the barstools for the breakfast bar on craigslist. They are lovely carved oak and they swivel. To the right, my Finland window (from a repurposed window), and up above, a few more shelves for a philodendron and the music box.

Sacrarium, Solarium, Terrarium

I've developed an obsession with terrariums. They have the voyeur-charm of x-rays and ultrasounds, the beauty of glass, green, and soil, and the fantasy of a miniature earth. I looked up the definition of terrarium, and the webster website provided a list of similarly enchanting terms:
aquarium - a water-world
puparium - the outer shell of a fly
sacrarium - a sanctuary
samarium - a silvery-white, lustrous, and metallic element of the rare-earth group
solarium - a glass-enclosed porch
velarium - an awning over an amphitheater
Anyway, my fascination began when a miniature terrarium necklace was featured on, and now I'm seeing them everywhere. I was particularly in love with a set of hanging terrariums made from repurposed light bulbs at the Habitat for Humanity Restore.
Yesterday, Stacy and I went on an adventure to Boulder, which involved climbing Green Mountain near Chattaqua, a huge salad from Whole Foods, and of course, a small trip to Goodwill. (I've mentioned this particular addiction in previous posts here and here.)
While the clothing racks don't hold the same allure that they usually do (read: pregnant belly), I did find a gold mine of glassware - perfect for my repurposed sacrarium, solarium, terrarium. This morning, I looked up a little DIY instructional, and when I headed to the Depot to pick up shims, a mortice, and razor blades (those would be for Joshua), I also picked up pebbles, sand, spanish moss, potting soil, and succulents.
The following (and previous) photos are the products of my earthy exploits.

This is some of the glassware last night, before the dirt and pebbles.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The bassinet is newly painted. Our organic cloth diapers have arrived. A carseat is sitting in the attic. Joshua cleared out two dresser drawers, and a collection of miniature pastel outfits have now taken over. In the basement, a Chariot awaits assembly. In a wicker chest, we have receiving blankets, glass feeding bottles, and a pump.

The house is clean. The refrigerator contains no expired items. The pantry is swept. The floors are mopped; the bathrooms are scrubbed. The vacuum has done it's best with pet hair (which is to say that there is still a fine layer - everywhere).

I woke up this morning with fewer tasks on my to-do list than I have had since January. I could paint the sun room door "Orange Peel." I could try and resolve our terrible resin-apoxy experiment (a kitchen counter top that acts as an enormous piece of adhesive: it collects dirt, hair, and the bottoms of appliances. I literally cannot remove the glass bowls that have adhered to the resin. Yesterday, when I tried to remove the spice rack, it became our first casualty.). I could clean out the oven, but the cleaners are toxic and I'd rather not.

I sat down to read. I half dozed off again. Thibodeaux curled up next to my belly and Oscar rested his chin on my feet. The sun came in and lit up the room. I stared at my dresser - newly organized and ready for the new season.

I'm trying. Really, really, really hard to be patient.

Last night, I made macaroni smothered in onions with brussel sprouts on the side. It was another Deborah Madison recipe, and the Pietari's joined us. Both Joshua and I were absolutely weary, having spent our second day with noses to the grindstone. While I scrubbed and purged, Joshua poured nearly a thousand pounds of concrete. In the evening, Stacy and I walked to the market to stock up on green things. By the time dinner was served, I felt absolutely depleted.

As I lay down, Henriette starts tumbling about. She knocks into my spine and sends sympathetic pains shooting down my hip. Her foot works on my rib. Her fingers poke the interior of my pelvis. I'm feeling a little beaten up. I tell Joshua that I'm having a "I'm-tired-of-being-pregnant" moment.

It's really not that bad. It's not bad at all, really. Sometimes, when I'm walking or sitting or cooking, I look down at my belly and think - hey! I almost forgot you were there! And it's not that I wish to forget. I'm constantly in awe of this body that can make another body, and feeling that little body swimming ranks up there with other things supernatural and magical.

When I was a little girl, I would look forward to my birthday party or summer family reunions or sleepovers with breathless anticipation. I would daydream about these events for weeks in advance. I was so excited. I couldn't wait, but I had to.

This is a new kind of anticipation. A new test of patience. It could be at any moment - an hour, tomorrow, one week, two...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Before and After

Here's a shot with all the crap that was inside the craft closet before I got started.
Our bookshelf disaster.
Side-board sans skirt, plus crap underneath.
Empty craft closet.
Linen closet disaster. Even though our house is usually clean, this place always made me feel like there was a boogy man in the hallway.
Hallway linen closet - no longer a disaster. Joshua had left a nalgene with one of his nasty shakes in there for so long that it literally exploded all over the back. I made Joshua scrub out the mold before I set to work :)
I love this room. Green curtains, finished side-board (painted pink in NOLA, then blue at Osceola, and now white). Dining room table with sweet table cloth and runner. Covered the chairs in fun orange and striped fabric. Light fixture from Habitat for Humanity Restore.
Obviously, still a work in progress, but a lot less cluttered :)


I sewed a skirt for the side-board. Underneath is pretty empty, but for now, this is our printer's home and extra storage space for when we need it. Love the green lamp and glass decanters :)
Our new craft and games closet. Joshua installed wire shelves on tracks to give us a little more storage space.
Henriette's bassinet.
An assortment of knick-knacks and loved things up above.
Somewhat unconventional curtain for the front door, but I love it. Had originally made the tie for a head band, but this way, I get to see it every day :) Still some green tape because I intend to paint the door "Orange Peel." Found an "H" for Henriette.
Blue bookshelves to store shoes. Picasso's Old Man Playing Guitar to greet guests.
Found an odd series of wall art from the Arc Thrift Store and fell in love: squirrels and other cartoon animals. Finally found a space for my vintage tray.
Those are my curtains in the back. 18 panels in 3 hours. The futon is a find from craigslist. Happy cat in the sunshine.
Joshua painted the back-boards "Pastel Jade" at my request. I love the beachy-blue ceiling :)
With only one week to go until our due date, we're a bit restricted for our Spring Break. To make the most of our time off, we've decided to throw ourselves whole-heartedly into a couple of projects.
As for Joshua, the "Guest House" is his project du jour. A bare-bones shed with a simple, cracked cement floor and wooden walls, this place will need a bit of love and care before it's ready for guests. Fortunately, the roofers not only roofed our house, but also the shed. The plan is to build a sub-floor, lay the old pergo from the house down, install a couple of windows and the door we purchased from the Habitat for Humanity Restore, insulate, and dry-wall. It should be a pleasant little cottage when he's done.
Needless to say, my projects are a little less epic. Today, I tackled the closets in the dining room and hall, as well as the bookcase and the last of the sunroom. It may not have involved demolition or scrubbing black-mold, but it had a satisfyingly big impact. Here are some photos of the spaces before and after.
As I was placing the finishing touches on the sunroom, a family walked by, and the grandmother stopped to look at our house. She said, "now, isn't that just the sweetest house? Look at those sweet curtains. This is what houses used to look like. Don't you just love it?"
I have to admit. It feels pretty wonderful to own a home that other people think is cute.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


It's been 10 weeks since I last posted, and it's been about that long since we took a photo of the belly, too. It makes me a little sad to think that there are 10 weeks - one fourth - of our pregnancy lost to all documentation, but I do have a couple of excuses.

First excuse (wasn't that the theme of my last post?): I've been working a lot. It seems like no matter how well I budget my time or how diligently I plow through each task, there are four or five more tasks to be done. So it's 12 hour work days for me. Every time I look at the clock and the minute hand is inching closer to the 6 or 7 pm mark, I feel this little fissure of panic.

Where did my devout work-life balance go? Sadly, I am too easily susceptible to the reviews of my superiors, and while they were mostly positive, I - like the type A dweeb that I am - latched on to the bad news. Learning that my students were not making as much growth as I had hoped they would was pretty devastating. I spent a long, sleepless night fretting over it, and then I began writing all of my lesson plans. Whereas before, I shared lesson planning with 3 other teachers, now I am/was planning day to day. I decided that I needed to know what my students could do when I cut out everyone else and left them with me.

As a school, we test every 6 weeks. At the end of the last 6 week period, my students' averages grew by 10 percent. For the first time, I had all four of my classes above an 80 percent average, which is our goal for mastery.

And while that should have been good news - and it was good news - I still felt defeated. I've taken ownership of my lessons, but I still struggle with behavior. It seems as though there is an infinite number of columns in this rubric, and when I finally improve in one area, another needs work or another slides. It leaves me feeling like I'm treading water.

Anyway, enough about work. As you can see, it's preoccupying far too much time and now blog-space.

Second excuse: I am painfully uncomfortable in front of the camera. I'm pretty sure that Ms. Obscura is out to get me at the most unflattering angle in the most unattractive lighting. So, after nearly 40 photos, these are the three I'm willing to show you :)

34 weeks and some :)
And Thibideaux too:

Little Henriette is not so little anymore. Now, when she moves, I can feel her hands near my hip, her bottom above my navel, and her feet just under my ribs. Her movements are so strong, my students can see them, and in the middle of lessons, they gasp and say, "she's kicking!" At night when I lay down, her twists and turns make my belly look like an earthquake.

These crazy strong movements have been going on for about a month now. It's also been about a month since I've been able to sleep with anything less than 5 pillows. Should I try to sleep with one or two pillows, my uterus sloshes up into my lungs, and I wake up, gasping for breath.

All in all, it's been a good pregnancy. I'm feeling a bit blue today (which I'm sure came through in my first few paragraphs), but I don't think I've ever been happier living and working. When I count my blessings, there are many. Among them:

1) Joshua. This is going to sound so very married and cliche, but I do love him even more now than the day we married or the day after that or the day before yesterday. He's my best friend, and although we're rarely apart, I miss him during the day or when we're busy. Whatever we do, it's always better when we're together.

2) This baby moving inside of me. It's pretty magical. With all of her furious and strong movements, we've already assigned her a feisty personality, and we can't wait to meet her.

3) Our home. And the first floor is finally, almost, very nearly done. Besides a tile backsplash in the kitchen, and a fully furnished sun room, it's there. Pictures are up, things are pretty much where they are going to be, and it looks and feels like a real home. We love it. The colors are awesome: tangerine and pistachio in the living, dining, and kitchen rooms, and the bedroom feels grown up in ochre with white stencils. I love my bubble-gum pink bathroom, and the sun room is shaping up to be beachy and inviting.

4) Our friends. Kyle and Stacy's companionship has made life so much better. We cook meals together on Friday evenings, and Sundays are often spent up in the mountains, talking and appreciating the view. Just a couple of weekends ago, we went to Santa Fe, and we had so much fun eating ourselves silly and exploring the city. Brian and Brittaney are sadly leaving us for the wilds of North Dakota, but we've been so lucky to be able to spend time with them this past year. Brittaney has pretty much been the only other pregnant woman I know, and watching them go through their pregnancy and the birth of their new son (on January 30), Harrison Curtis Devane, has made us feel very lucky to be a part of their lives during this very full year.

Denver/ The Mountains. We love our new city. It has everything we need out of a city: good restaurants, a big REI, parks with green spaces, an excellent tattoo parlour, and of course, the reason we're here in the first place - jobs that pay. The weather is always surprising, and we get all of my favorites: blizzards, rain storms, and hot, sunny days with cool, summer nights. And then there are the mountains. Would I love Denver as much as I do without it's proximity to the mountains? Probably not. But seeing as Denver is a 15 minute drive to the foothills and a 30 minutes drive to real-ass mountains, there's no need to speculate. We try to get out to the hills every weekend, and the views and the chance to stretch our legs and breathe mountain air never ceases to make us feel very, very lucky. Recently, snowshoeing has been our outing of choice, and the winter wonder lands that we've found and explored have been beautiful beyond comparison.

My walk to work. 2 miles there and 2 miles back give me a sunrise over the mountains and frosty lake views, as well as twilight along the front range. I see coyotes and foxes, geese, and runners. I listen to music and I wonder what Henriette will be like.

My students. Even though teaching can be a mixed bag, I am blessed to have some of the most wonderful students to grace the threshold of a classroom. They are beautiful and smart and they have so much heart. I am constantly surprised by their wisdom and grace, and they are so very generous with me: they share their smiles and time, their Spanish and their intelligence. I feel lucky to be a part of their lives.

And then there are the constant things that have made life good for a while now: Oscar and his perky tail and floppy ears, Thibby and her lemming ways (she's particularly attached to the pregnancy belly and what we like to the call "The Mammaries"). Good food and cooking, good health. Jobs that require our brains and our hearts, and weekends that give us a chance to reconnect and breathe.

So that's the news from Edgewater, a little forgotten suburb on the heels of Denver. Hoping all is well with you and yours, Ellie.