2.28.2010

Recessed Lights - Day 2

S was not joking when he said he wanted to wake up early to modify the lighting layout. When he snuck out of bed it was still dark out. At least I think it was dark; I barely opened my eyes and I sure as heck did not get up. Apparently 7am is a respectable hour to be woken up on a Sunday in our house because that's when I was pulled from my warm bed to go measure new ceiling dots.

When I turned the corner to the kitchen I was greeted with a dozen sheets, shower curtains and drop cloths hanging from every exposed surface, which we discovered later was totally necessary and not overkill at all.
We decided to go with layout option #2 from last night and based all eight lights off the center light. Nothing will line up with the cabinets, but the center row will line up with the center of the window.

Each of the light housings came with a template that you stick on the ceiling and cut around. But, because we have the wrong housings we couldn't use them and still be able to return the housings as new. S came up with a rather ingenious solution by making a paper compass with a center hole and an edge hole equal to the radius of the circle holes we needed to cut.
His tool made perfect circles, much like a compass would if we had been able to find ours.
When we had all the circle cut-lines drawn on the ceiling, S drilled center holes in each. He then threaded a coat hanger through each hole and poked around a bit to make sure we weren't facing any joist, plumbing or other obstruction issues.
Thankfully all was clear, so he pulled out the reciprocating saw and set to work cutting a swiss cheese pattern in the ceiling.
At this point things got really messy and S's dad showed up to lend a hand, so I made my way downstairs to tackle the massive goodwill pile that has been mocking our organized basement for months.

A few things happened while I was gone. First, the distance between the center light and the pendant light was too far to be able to drill through two joists to string wire. As a result we've gone back to the 3x3, nine light layout with a recessed light in line with the pendant. They're in line with each other so it will look just fine. Second, S and his dad discovered that a few of the holes are deep enough to be able to use the deep housings we bought yesterday. We'll have some light tonight! And finally, the ceiling really looked like Swiss cheese at this point.
With the room taped off tight I only had one angle to squeeze my camera in through a crack, my view otherwise looked like this:
They quickly set to work stringing wire from one hole to the next
And then started to install the fixtures in the holes, at least in the holes where the height of the light fit.
After all our time consuming, meticulous planning the execution of this project is certainly moving along quickly.

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2.27.2010

Recessed Lights in the Kitchen - Day 1

We've been talking about putting recessed lights in the kitchen for weeks now. When we moved in there was a massive florescent light that cast a ton of light, but was pretty unsightly, especially in an otherwise renovated kitchen. We took it out one morning and put up our first Ikea hack, which we planned to use as our upstairs hall light.
This morning we woke up and decided it was recessed light weekend.

I mapped out our kitchen to scale on graph paper and attempted to make a best-case scenario layout. Because our bathroom is directly above the kitchen I also marked the tub and where we think the tub drain runs. The drawing was a good exercise and it's really pretty, but in all honestly, we accomplished much more standing on stools in the kitchen with rulers, tape measures and our laser level.

I dug into our wedding supplies and pulled out the huge hole punch that we used a bunch last year (although I can't remember what for). We punched a dozen pink cardstock circles and set to work sticking them in equidistant spots on the kitchen ceiling.
The first thing we decided is that we do not need a dozen lights; nine would do. Then S took a shoe lace, made a big loop and taped it in front of the window where we'd like to hang a pendant light. We stepped back and decided that we did not need a recessed light less than a foot from the pendant, so we took down another pink circle.

Once we had a layout we were happy with on the ceiling, we left to buy the recessed housing and reflective trim pieces that we picked out a few weeks ago. We chose to use a local supplier of Lightolier products. Unfortunately the sales person who helped us choose the lights a few weeks ago sold us the wrong sized housing for our application. I'm pretty pissed since we spent over an hour with her explaining the exact conditions for the installation. And of course they're not open on a Sunday to get the right sized housing. I won't mention the shop's name since I think this may have been an anomaly. Plus, we discovered later that we have more than enough work to keep us busy on Sunday without the housing.

To say that we were precise in our measurements of the "ideal" layout is an understatement. The pink circles are measured to a sixteenth of an inch and everything is spaced perfectly. We knew we had joists to contend with, but we chose to plan and precisely measure our ideal layout first. I guess all our dots and marks will help us in the long-run, but when S moved on to the next step, pulling out the existing junction box:
 it was like a kick in the pants to see a joist smack dab above our center pink circle. As in a big piece of wood right where we wanted to shove this big thing in the ceiling:
S pulled out the reciprocating saw and cut out the metal bracket in the ceiling to which the junction box was attached and prepared the hole for the recessed light housing. It was at this point when we stuck the tape measure in the new hole that we discovered we bought the wrong housing. Learn from our mistake, if you're installing your lights in an existing home withOUT access from above, go for the shallow housing option. And if your housing is going to touch insulation or be in a potentially damp space, please make sure you buy the IC rated housing.
Thankfully this light hole is centered in relation to the window and the shoelace pendant light, but it's two inches to the right of where we wanted it to be in relation to the microwave/stove area. I just spent a half hour sitting on a stool with the flood light shining on the ceiling as I tried to figure out our next-to-ideal layout.

As they're laid out now, the lights would be centered on the double cabinet above the microwave and the muntins in the glass door cabinets on either side of the stove. Given the joist issue our options are: 1. to move the center line of lights to the right two inches, which would mean that the space between the lights would be larger to the left of the center line v. the right; 2. move the center and the left line of lights over two inches, but then the left row would not be lined up with the vertical muntins of the glass cabinet doors; 3. or we could use only five lights total in the center and four corners of the existing 3x3 grid. This last option would probably look the best on the ceiling, but I don't think it would provide us with enough light.

At this point I'm leaning toward option 2. S wants to wake up early tomorrow so we can move the pink circles around and "live" with the layout for an hour or so before we start cutting into the ceiling. I also need to decide on a pendant fixture since the firefly pendant from CB2 may be too busy for the small space.
The reviews say it's smaller than it appears on the CB2 website and I would just order it to hold up in our space, if the shipping weren't so ridiculously expensive. It would make things so much easier if CB2 just had a store in DC!

Do you have any better ideas for the recessed light layout or any pendant light suggestions?

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2.26.2010

More Stuff!!!!

I am beyond excited to report that we've finally arranged for movers to pack up all my worldly possessions from Maine and bring them to the Bee Hive! My stuff has been in various states of storage for the past six years and for the last year and a half I've lived with one car-full (and lots of fed-ex shipments) of 'goods. We've been married for 174 days and have only used a few of our wedding gifts because most of them are in storage at my parents' house where we held our fabulous wedding.

It is going to be like Christmas around here in a few short weeks. I am so excited!

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Floor Cushions

As I've mentioned a million frustrated times before, I'm waiting for our cordless roman shades to make their way halfway across the world on a very slow boat. When they arrive I plan to cover them with the same fabric I used to make our living and dining room drapes. In the meantime thought I'd whip up a few floor cushions with the same fabric.

I shopped around for some nice thick foam, and even considered buying a new memory foam mattress topper so I could chop ours up into floor cushion sized squares. I expected the innards of three or four cushions to cost about $100. Anything above $25 triggers my how-can-I-do-this-for-less reflex. Kind of an odd reflex for a project that was already a DIY venture. Conveniently this all happened the night before my last trip to Ikea.

So last weekend as I wandered through the maze that is Ikea I kept my eyes peeled for thick, inexpensive floor cushions suitable for covering. I scoured the living room section with a fine-tooth comb, which is probably why we I ended up with this red Poang chair in my office:
(remember this is my office's temporary home, but the chair will stay here, so I'm not too concerned that it does not work with the carpet for now)

But, to my surprise I found no suitable floor cushions. I also didn't find any perfect spice jars, which is another story.

As I was wrestling the Poang into my already full cart, I spotted a stack of floor "cushions" that matched the Crate & Barrel baskets in our coffee table perfectly. They were just sitting there in the Ikea self-serve warehouse, among all the boxes, calling my name. At $30 each three of them would cost less than my projected cushion project and they required no additional work. Perfect. I piled them on top of all my other goods and did the all too familiar, "God I hope I don't crash into anyone, please don't let this crap fall off the cart" walk to the cashier.

When I got home I was pleased to find that their knit-like weave matches the existing baskets perfectly, they fit in the corner by the console table, and best of all, they're fairly comfortable and very fun to sit on.
Extra seating dilemma solved! I've been using them every night this week as I work on sail bags and watch the Olympics. (Which is another project that has managed to overtake the entire dining room.)

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2.23.2010

A New Addition to Our Hive?

My sweet girl, Lexi, retired to my parents' home in Maine a few years ago after I graduated law school. We all returned to live back at home at one point or another after college graduation. When my brother, Nate, returned home he built my parents a cabin, when I returned home I gave them a ton of stress-out-law-student pissy 'tude. So the least I could do was let them keep my sweet Lexi girl. And to be quite honest, she loves all her humans, but she's just insane about my dad...even though he's "not a dog person." Yeah right.

It's been tough to live without Lexi nearby for the past year and a half. We share a bed when I'm home and I talk to her frequently on the phone, but I miss having a black lump of fur on the floor next to me and I find that singing the "going to Camp Maine" song to myself is just a smidget over the creepy line. Plus, Mr. Norman the fish doesn't quite provide the level of companionship I crave when S is away on his frequent trips. So, we've decided that it's time to add a new family member to the Bee Hive: we're "shopping" for a dog.

I adopted Lexi when she was almost 8 weeks old, which was absolutely fabulous because she was so adorable. But, 11 years later I have not forgotten how insanely needy puppies are. Granted it only lasted a month or two, but my roommates (to whom I am still grateful) and I took her out at least once an hour and shes still peed in the house. On top of house training I spent a full year teaching Lexi to be the perfect pup. In the end our hard work paid off as she graduated from college pup to well-behaved city office dog. This time around, however, I'd like to skip puppy and jump right into chill dog, even if it means sacrificing a few years that we'll be together.

I filled out applications with the national Portuguese Water Dog rescue group and with the greater DC area Labrador Retriever rescue. But there's one lovey boy who has recently caught my eye:
His name is Doodle (such an uncreative name for a Goldendoodle), he's a four-year-old Goldendoodle from Alabama, and is the half-brother of my friend Whitney's Harney girl. Whitney is fostering him at her home in Pensacola, FL right now and has to find his forever home by June. Apparently he's the sweetest pup AND, this is a real bonus for a dust-bunny hating, clean freak like me, he doesn't shed.

We're working out arrangements for me to go visit Doodle sometime soon, and even though S warned me not to get attached before meeting him, I'm totally in love. I'm also taking suggestions for his new name. Keep in mind that Lexi's full name is Misha Alexis Girl: Misha means baby bear (or something along those lines) in Russian, my parents were in Russia when I took their new car and sped off to pick up Lexi (and hit a deer along the way), and the "Girl" comes from our old dog Jessie Girl. So Doodle's new name will have to be similarly complex and have some special meaning. Right now contenders are:
Aksel Feeney Doodle
Wellington Feeney Doodle
Paddington Aksel Doodle

What new name suggestions do you have for Doodle?

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2.22.2010

The Icing on Our Bathroom

You may recall that we installed a larger medicine cabinet in our bathroom a little while back. And then I began the search for the perfect bathroom light fixture, which we found on the sixth try. Then I sealed up some holes around the bathtub faucets. We hung a floor-to-ceiling length shower curtain and S installed some new faux-wood blinds. Of course we can't forget that I went-to-town on the windows last week. But, for the past month or more we've been striking out in our hunt for the perfect bathroom rug.

We've purchased and returned at least a dozen rugs. S spent hours searching online and I've pulled into every HomeGoods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, and Pottery Barn I've passed during my errand-running journeys. I've even looked at a half dozen Targets, somehow convincing myself that one store will differ from the next.

"I want a 28 inch round while chenille rug!" I proclaimed two weeks ago when the 22 inch round rug from Crate & Barrel somehow looked too small in the already tiny space. So I'm sure you can imagine my excitement when while browsing a new-to-me HomeGoods/Marshalls last weekend, while balancing two pairs of clearance shoes in my arms and cradling my phone to my ear as I told my mom all about the red chair I just bought at Ikea, I saw a stack of white chenille bathroom rugs. I shoved the shoes in an empty space, completely lost track of the conversation with my mom, who was still chatting away, and started to rummage through the rugs. First I pulled out the super-soft 22" x 34" and threw it on top of the shoes. Our space is 32" x 32" but I thought that maybe I could somehow just shove it in there and make it fit. Then, as I pulled the shoes back into my arms and rug fell out with a label that read "28 inch round." I do not joke.

Because I must have some weird addiction to returning stuff, I bought both rugs. And of course the larger rug did not fit. But the round one, OH THE ROUND ONE! It was just the icing on the cake that our little bathroom needed. Now I can say that she's finished. Our bathroom is finished! And the best part of my little discovery is that S was in Norway when I found the perfect little rug, so when he comes home and sees my perfect little discovery he'll totally forget that I bought two new pairs of shoes too.

See how nicely the little rug fits with a nice symmetrical 2" buffering it from the tub, vanity, toilet and wall?
 
We chose basic white for our staple accessories so we could satisfy my need for constantly changing stimuli by bringing in pops of color with hand towels, like we have here with our Pottery Barn Valentine-red towel. The red towel has only been there for two weeks, but this week I'm craving green. Really, the all-white decision was well planned.
I love the way the texture of the chenille works with the waffle weave of our full-length shower curtain. S thinks the chenille is a little frou-frou; I assure you it is not.
And of course I still love the perfect light fixture above the medicine cabinet, which I think looks a bit like pigtails over the mirror. Can you see that, or is just me?
I would still like to move our two vertically-hung towel hooks on the back of the door to two horizontally-hung hooks. Inevitably the towel on the lower hook just doesn't dry and that's just not working for me, the lower hook girl.  Because our existing two hooks don't match, I've been meaning to pick up a set of alphabet hooks from Anthropologie after seeing them over at Young House Love, but surprisingly enough haven't made it to our local Anthro yet. Perhaps that's a task for next weekend.

So that's it, our bathroom is done!

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2.21.2010

Our Kitchen

Our tiny little kitchen was recently renovated when we bought our house, so it didn't take too much to make it our own. We added a hanging pot rack to free up the minimal cabinet space and installed LED under-counter lights. We plan to install recessed lighting and hopefully a fixture above the sink, in front of the window soon.

The wall between the dining room and kitchen was removed to create the prep-bar area. The ceilings are nine feet tall so we we were able to hang the pot rack above the island, close to the ceiling, and have plenty of room to work on the counter underneath.
Our refrigerator has a freezer drawer on the bottom and fridge on the top, which I absolutely love. My parents had a fridge like this and it just makes sense. In our old house the bottom shelf was the home of forgotten food, but with this fridge-on-top set-up nothing gets lost.
Even though it's a small space, everything is placed really well in the space. The dishwasher is directly next to the sink, the pull-out trash & recycling bins are directly next to the main prep area, and we keep our most frequently used utensils in a stainless canister to the left of the stove.

With the deep counters we had space to make a baking nook with my Kitchen Aid mixer and staples like whole wheat flour and sugar in jars. S's parents had the same jars for their staples at their Bay house and I loved the convenience.
We hung blinds on the kitchen window that looks out over our front yard. The window faces north east, so there isn't a lot of direct light, but the orchids on the decorative shelves are happy with the light so far.
The back door leading into the house from the driveway is in the kitchen. It's our main door so we made a little entry center in a corner of the dining room, near the door. There's a shoe tray on the floor and a Pottery Barn key holder directly above it on the wall where we keep our keys, GPS, sunglasses, etc., at the bottom left, below. To the right in this photo is the entry to the basement where we store all our lesser-used kitchen stuff, and have our pantry and freezer.
I ordered a cordless roman shade for the window on the door. Because the kitchen is so open to the dining and living rooms I plan to cover the shade with the same fabric I used to make our dining and living room drapes. Unfortunately the shades are coming from Hong Kong via boat, so it will be a short eternity before they arrive.
So that's our kitchen. I'll update again when the lighting project and roman shades are finished.

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2.18.2010

We Sold Another Sail Bag!

We sold another recycled sail bag from our Etsy store this week.
This bag was one of my personal favorites. I love the ones with the custom letters on them, but the big star bags are my favorite.

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The Window Situation

Our windows are from 1941 and apparently that's old. I grew up in a house built in 1790-something. Now those windows, with their wavy glass, were old. Our windows are just, well, neglected.

The windows are so disgustingly dirty that we have to assume that the previous owners intended to replace them. It's not that the panes of glass are so horribly dirty (they are, but that's not what has me gagging), but every other part of every single window is caked in dirt, mold, peeling paint, chunks of dried-up glazing, and in some places dead bugs. Yes, dead bugs. And to make matters worse we have at least two dozen panes of cracked glass throughout the house.

A few weeks ago we interviewed four replacement window companies. We (I) came to the following conclusions:
1. Vinyl is not going to work for a whole host of reasons
2. The lights cannot be sandwiched between the glass. I know this is easier for cleaning, but when I run through our neighborhood the houses that I love, love, love all have lights that actually look real.
3. We're not spending $25k on replacement windows that only have a 20 year guarantee. $25k is not short change and 20 years is not a long time in the grand scheme of how long windows should last.
4. I like fiberglass the most. It's rigid and it's not soft pine from a tree that I'd rather see in a forest.
5. Old windows with storms are nearly as efficient as your new window with its 20 year guarantee. Why do window companies compare new windows to old ones without storms? Why did that window guy let me use his little heat loss monitor? Trusting sales guy, you didn't think our windows were going to perform so well, did you?

Essentially we came out of our "interviews" with a full-on case of paralyzing indecision. Soooooo for now we're hoping to keep our windows and re-glaze nearly all of them. Quote from handyman? Ten thousand dollars. Correction: we're going to keep our windows and re-glaze nearly all of them...ourselves. This means we have to face the window situation head-on, which is what I did this week to celebrate President's Day.

It started innocently enough. My fabulous microfiber cloth was sitting on the kitchen counter so I decided to "dust" the dining room windows. Dusting meant jamming the cloth into the corners of each light and twisting it violently to get the dirt out. It took well over an hour to do three windows. And then...I moved to the bathroom. I was using the same technique with mild success when a light bulb went off in my head. Bleach. Bleach will kill the mold. I made a little bleach/water/soap solution and tried again with a smidget more success.

Then in a moment of utter frustration, I grabbed a toothbrush, replaced my solution with straight-up seventh generation chlorine-free bleach and went to town.
The windows are seriously clean now. Not. A. Speck. Of. Mold. On the inside that is. Because I found that the top sash of the DAMN WINDOWS ARE PAINTED SHUT. Are you kidding me?! Someone painted the windows shut!?! (Not to mention the paint all over the windows too.) The mold was mocking me as I tried all sorts of contorted maneuvers with the toothbrush to get spaces that would be so easy to reach were I able to open the top sash. Someone get me a pressure washer, stat!

When all that snow melts, and the sun room is finished, we'll be dealing with these windows; their cracked glazing, their broken panes, and their painted-shut sashes. Those replacements are looking pretty good right now....

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2.15.2010

A Spice Rack in the Stairwell

Our basement stairwell has a funky set of narrow shelves in it and given its proximity to our little kitchen, it's the perfect spot for a spice rack.
 Like everything else in the house the area was in need of a fresh coat of paint. So during one of the many snowy evenings we've had lately, S and I patched a few holes in the walls and painted  the stairwell and basement. We chose Benjamin Moore's white diamond, which is one shade lighter than the iced cube silver in the adjoining dining room.

Yesterday, on actual Valentine's Day, I got a surprise call from S around noon telling me that he was on his way home. He had left for Norway early in the morning, but because of plane issues he never made it off the ground. Lucky me! But, because he woke so early after a late night of watching the Olympics, he spent most of the afternoon asleep on the couch while I painted the spice rack. I chose a semi-gloss finish in ultra pure white - the same that I chose for the basement trim. I finished off the area with a coat of darker contrast paint behind the shelves, Benjamin Moore's silver half dollar.

S hung his Guinness mirror and I stuck up a little valentine's day heart.
We hung our bag of trash bags (used plastic shopping bags) in a leftover out-of-town welcome bag from our wedding on the back of the basement door, and the area was ready for spices.
I'm on the hunt for the perfect set of glass or plastic spice jars, but for now our spices are lined up in alphabetical order in the original containers.
 Now when I say, "grab turmeric, pepper, and chili powder, please," S won't have any trouble finding everything, quick-quick.

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2.14.2010

Happy Valentine's Day

We celebrated Valentine's Day on Saturday this year because S was supposed to leave for Norway on Sunday. After a delicious breakfast we hopped in my car, which hadn't moved from its snowy parking spot since we picked it up at the shop two weeks ago, and sped off to the outlets. Outlets? For Valentine's Day? Yeah, I had stuff to return from a trip a few weeks ago so it was a Valentine treat for me to have S's company.

It was a short trip; we returned a few things, bought a shoe rack for our entry closet and a bed skirt at Restoration Hardware and then we headed back home. When we got home there was a surprise waiting at the door!
 Something from Le Creuset?
It was a registry completion gift from Williams-Sonoma & Le Creuset. A red heart pot; how appropriate the day before Valentine's Day!?
We made a small batch of brownies for a Valentine brownie sundae.
Happy Valentine's Day!

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2.11.2010

My Office is D.O.N.E.

Finally after seven weeks or so of home ownership the room where I spend most of my days is neat, organized, and for the most part, done. As I've mentioned before my office will ultimately be in our yet-to-be-finished sun room, but recent developments on the weather front have delayed that project 'til we see bare ground again.

The office is the smallest room in the house and was the only room untouched by the neon paintbrush. When S first looked at the house and sent me photos the room was a quasi office / man room / dumping grounds for all sorts of random stuff and disproportionately large furniture.
It also hadn't been thoroughly cleaned in forever, well at least not after the floors were refinished, which I discovered when I removed the ceiling fan, and when S removed the top shelf of the bookcase. The control panel for the alarm system is also up here. How weird is that?

My first challenge was wading though the boxes delivered by the moving company. My office in FL was above the garage and there was a room dividing curtain separating my space from the storage space under the sloped ceiling. Our packers labeled all the crap that should have been thrown away a decade ago as "office." It was a fun little surprise.  A "what the hell are these lead-paint-caked, cancer causing, dirty Mardi Gras beads doing in my office!?" kind of surprise. (Trust me, these were crap, definitely not the beads you bare your ta-tas for.)

After figuring out which boxes actually belonged in my office we set out to find new office furniture. I used half of the glass "L" shaped desk that we had in FL for the first few days, but World Market's annual furniture sale happened to be during the very week we were in the market for new desks. So despite the fact that we had just dropped a sizable chunk of savings on our down payment, we bought two matching desks. His and hers. Even though hers and his were not going to be anywhere near each other.

S assembled my desk, hutch, and matching file cabinet for me, which is juuuust about when I started to really embrace this whole marriage thing. I really don't have to do everything myself anymore. It's pretty nice, this whole teamwork gig.
Then during one of S's trips to far off places where they serve delicious food and women wear bikinis on nearby beaches, I took down the atrocious ceiling fan. I may have demonstrated its uselessness by blowing really hard and throwing papers around while yelling, "look, fans blow papers around, it's useless!" It was one of my better drama queen performances, I'm sure. I am still in love with CB2's Eden pendant that I hung in its place, so the drama was totally worth it.

On a whim one evening after painting the bedroom I decided to paint a swatch of light gray paint on one dirty white office wall to see how it would look. Several hours later I had painted the whole room. It was amazing how just a coat of paint could make the whole room feel new. I reluctantly pulled one of S's carpets from where they were stored and laid it on the floor to make the space feel more finished. It's a beautiful carpet, but its not my style and the ornate patterns agitate me. But it's warm underfoot and will do for now. And I have to admit, I don't hate how it looks in here.

During S's next trip half way across the earth and back I arranged the furniture as best I could, acknowledging that this is not my final resting working place, and bought storage baskets from Target for all of the shelves.
We found cute red lamp at Home Goods, which I perched on top of the "A" shelf that fit so nicely in FL, but is so awkward here. The shelf is going to be perfect in the sun room though, so no worries there.

Above my desk S and I hung the framed photos of orchids that I took during a visit to the National Botanical Gardens several years ago.Who knew I'd be living so close only a few years later.

I sorted through years of outdated files, ran wires and cords, moved this and that, hung interim retro shades, cut off the ruffly edges from the retro shades, and bought a down-alternative blanket to drape across my lap on chilly days.
I set our programmable thermostat to 56 degrees for weekday daytime, and plugged in my little space heater next to my chair. Now it takes extreme hunger or massive snow storms to pull me from my perfect little office.

And finally, I hung my purse and other leaving-the-house essentially on the back of the door in the L.L.Bean tote that I was given as a bridesmaid's gift by my brother's wife last fall.

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