the door series: handsome in hudson

I am obsessed with front doors. It is the place where a home’s personality is most projected outwards. My favorites are ones that are painted a bright color so they POP and let you know that something fun and quirky is within. This dandy door is in Hudson, New York, where we are lucky enough to hang out a weekend or two a month. Isn’t it perfection? The bright teal complements the gunmetal gray building color just right. The well tailored checked curtains are masculine and slightly retro. It’s also geniusly unsymmetrical: with a large potted plant to one side and a classic doormat on the left.

Have you seen a front door you love? Please let me know! We’ll do a series and show them off here.

From our partners

Is it okay to switch the living room with the dining room?

I’ve been absent from these pages for a while, and here’s why: we just moved 2,000 miles from Seattle to Chicago! What a change – the biggest part of which, at the moment, is our living space. We went from 880 square feet in a 1940s cottage to 2,000+ in a giant 1800s-era two-story house. (Lest you think we suddenly came into some money, we’re renting.) When I first saw the house, the previous tenants were using the dining room as a living room.

I just chalked that up to their age – guys in their 20s don’t tend to value décor, in my experience. But now that we’re in the house, I confess we’re considering doing the exact same thing. Despite all the space, we’re having trouble setting up the living room to comfortably watch TV (and I can admit: we like TV). There’s a huge open archway, an awkward room off the entry through another archway, and a three-window nook. The only wall big enough for the TV is also the only wall big enough for the couch. Putting the couch against the windows looks weird. I am adamantly against putting a TV in front of a window. And floating the couch in the middle of the room messes up traffic flow. The dining room, on the other hand, has two good-sized walls for both TV and couch, as well as a lot more electrical outlets. So, what do you think: have you ever switched up the layout of the house like that? Will we be risking the wrath of the feng shui gods if we do?

From our partners

a quick, sustainable way to loosen dirt and grass: why i love the broadfork

Chances are, your yard work stories are a lot like mine:

Part 1: I know! Let’s plant some heather along that awkward retaining wall in our front yard. It will soften the wall and give the dogs a visual clue not to fall three feet into the gully behind it.

Part 2: Hmmm, now that we’ve dug out a planting strip along the wall, I am reminded of how uneven and lumpy we left our yard from the last big project. Maybe we should just level out this part a little bit…

Part 3: We are now digging up and leveling our entire yard. This work will never end. Ever.

The good news is, this story has a very happy ending: the broadfork. After spending hours using shovels and hoes to level out just a tiny section of yard, we decided to a tiller would make the work go faster. The tiller was already checked out of our local tool library (more to come on those), but the volunteer suggested we give this big, heavy, slightly ominous looking steel fork a try.

I’m not kidding when I say, the broadfork completely rocked our yard work world! This one in particular is one piece, forged from steel by Meadow Creature on Vashon Island, a charming island 15 minutes off Seattle’s far southwest shore. You can find them in a combination of steel and wood, but the one-piece construction will no doubt last longer, and the heaviness (although it was NOT too heavy for me to lift, and my upper body strength is pretty pathetic) made the process super easy in breaking up hard-packed dirt and grass:

First, lift the broadfork up about a foot (being careful of your own feet — those tines aren’t exactly friendly) and then drop it down, letting gravity do the work.

Second, step onto it and wiggle it back and forth in the dirt — this is the fun part.

Third, push down on the handles, lift dirt

Then move the whole thing a half-step over and repeat.

Using the broadfork was a revelation: in just three hours, we’d completely leveled three times what we’d struggled with the day before. Once the dirt was loosened, it was easy to rake it into our yard’s lower section.

Best of all, using the broadfork was fun and gave me some exercise, too — kind of like doing light step aerobics, only with some upper-body work involved.

At nearly $200 each, broadforks are not exactly cheap, but if you have a lot of tilling work to do each year, they do come recommended. Or you can look into joining a local tool library like ours! — Mary T.

From our partners

how do you get your garden ready for spring?

In a blink of an eye, spring is suddenly in full bloom! Blossoms are on the trees, the bulbs have all sprouted — even the mosquitoes have come out. Hopefully it’s not too late to get my act together and prepare for the growing season ahead. Last weekend I gave the grasses in our front yard a haircut, and this Saturday it’s time to prune the crepe myrtles. I also want to get some herbs and veggies growing inside the house. I love this idea from Cottage Hill blog: recycled newspaper seed pots. They’re made using a tin can as a mold. Once the pot shape is formed by the folded paper, fill it with soil and compost. When the seedlings are ready to be planted, you can put the whole thing — newspaper pot and all — in the ground. Genius!

What are you doing to get your garden ready? I need tips!

From our partners

post off: are you as busy as you think?

A few weeks ago, an article making the Facebook rounds caught my eye. In it, author Laura Vanderkam asks “Are you as busy as you think?” Now. To hear me answer that the way I’d like to, you’d think I was giving the President a run for his money in the overburdened schedules department. I always feel busy, often without respite. And the truth is, I am busy. At least in recent years, I haven’t come face-to-face with a block of time I couldn’t fill, but it’s how we choose to use that time, and how we talk about it that matters. For starters, according to Vanderkam it’s our perception of what we’re busy with that could use some work. Most American sleep more and work less than they believe they do. And, we also fill those remaining hours with tasks that may not be in line with our true priorities. To get a better handle on what really fills our days, she suggest three simple things: keeping a time log to help really understand exactly where the time goes, to be honest about how we want to fill that time and to change the way we speak, reminding ourselves that our priorities should dictate our schedules, and not the other way around. For me, it all comes back to a quote by David Allen, (author of this insightful book on the subject): “You can do anything, but not everything.” We have to choose. It seems simple, but in reality proves difficult to put into practice. Do you agree? Do you feel like your days are packed with no escape? Let’s chat!

From our partners