Cool Things


The color of our dinner last night

The color of our dinner last night

1. Eating by color–check out this helpful grocery list 

The list is a lot more action-oriented than the tired advice to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.

2. Librarians who recommend books

I had a great experience at the Orem Library the other day, but this Provo Library service takes the idea to a whole new level!  What a great service!  I think responding to these forms would be a fun job.     

2. Facebook, blogs & social media

On both my blog and facebook, I have received so many great furniture and furniture store recommendations.  It is so helpful!  Thanks, everybody!  So far, I have checked out Four Chairs, BassettDandBwoods and Cherrico furniture thanks to people’s recommendations.  I even got to see the chairs I was interested in in the wood I was interested in–invaluable.  (Thanks Brad!)

Furniture Wood: What I’ve learned

The oak table I hope to replace

The oak table I hope to replace

Oak is the most durable choice, and undoubtedly what you should choose if you like the way it looks. Oak is also cheaper than many of the other choices. I saw a nice solid oak table that you could get with 10 chairs for $2000 at IM home. This weekend I visited my parents and admired their 25 year old oak table. They’ve refinished it a few times and now it looks almost as good as new. That table lasted through their children’s growing up years and now looks to be headed far beyond. It is proof that a good table could be a lifetime investment.

Maple is also very hard and is a great choice if you are going to have the furniture painted. It is not known for its beautiful grain and doesn’t take stain very well though. If you are looking for something to stain dark, you need to keep looking.

is known for its beautiful grain. Unfortunately, Alder is the softest of the hardwoods and will mar comparatively easily. If you like the distressed look that is popular now, Alder works well for that. Alder also stains very nicely.

Cherry is my favorite. Cherry is softer than oak and maple but considerably harder than Alder. All woods darken with age–have you ever seen a light colored antique? But cherry is particularly known for this. It can darken dramatically with age, so beware if you are trying to match other pieces of furniture! A dark stain slows the color change, but UV rays will still penetrate. If you like dark wood, cherry takes a dark stain beautifully. To me, cherry says elegance.

There are other beautiful hard woods–walnut and mahogany for example–but I haven’t found a good place yet to buy a solid wood table made out of these.

One of the most important things I discovered is that it is possible to get a nice-looking solid wood dining table without veneers. However, as Robin said in response to my earlier post about dining room tables, they can do things with veneers that they can’t (or usually don’t) do with solid wood, so the veneered tables usually look fancier/more elegant/prettier.

What is your personal experience with these woods? Would you choose the wood your furniture is made out of again? Why or why not?

Wisteria gone Wild

Wisteria Gone Wild

I may not have the prettiest Wisteria you’ve ever seen, but you can’t say it isn’t floriferous. Last year was different. I had at most two or three blooms on the entire tree. Visiting my in-laws was discouraging, because their Wisteria is amazing–it winds along the perimeter of their roof for yards and yards with many, many blooms. I was jealous and frustrated. Maybe I had a different species? Maybe it was because my wisteria has been cut back to be a tree rather than a vining plant?

Fortunately, my good mother-in-law was willing to share the secret: Wisteria must be tortured before it flowers. She said something about hitting hers with a heavy chain. Weird. But then I remembered how as an overly devoted 12 yr old I had killed my Nasturtiums with kindness–only realizing after the fact that giving them good soil, plenty of water and lots of care is the worst thing you could do for them. Some plants just don’t reproduce until they feel threatened. If you want flowers, you don’t baby them, you stress them!

So, last summer, I got out my big pruning shears and my Wisteria tree was quaking, it was so stressed. I walked up and put a couple of big gouges in its trunk. Sorry innocent one, but you do want to propagate don’t you?

I forgot about it. Winter came, and I hibernated.

<img src="" alt="Wisteria–lots of flowers, lots of blooms" title="Wisteria–lots of flowers, lots of blooms" width="640" height="480" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-2837"

Last summer’s gouges are almost healed. I suppose I should gouge it again after it finishes flowering this year?

Wisteria trunk with mostly healed gouge

Dining Room Decision

Monaco dining room table by Ashley FurnitureWhere do you buy your furniture? How do you make a decision?  What is your experience with dining room tables and chairs?  We ordered this lovely table  a couple weeks ago.  It was delivered just before Mother’s Day.  But it looks like we will return it. 

I  like the dark wood and it is just the right size:  74″ not extended, 108″ fully extended–which is just what we were looking for.  I didn’t seek out something quite so ornate, but if I were going to get something like that, this is the design I would pick.        

The chairs that match the table are HUGE.  They are really big, really wide, and really heavy.  They are also noticeably uncomfortable to sit in.  They wouldn’t offer any support while you were eating–they angle backwards.  And if you did lean back against the back of the chair, the pretty pattern turns out to be a pretty pain. 

I’m curious: Do you have dining chairs that look nice and are comfortable?  Or am I in search of a unicorn?    

Also, we have three youngish children.  1) Not only do the chairs not fit them (since none of us are tall they actually don’t fit any of us) but they would not even be able to scoot themselves in for the foreseeable future.  2) This table is mostly solid wood, but the top is a veneer.  Veneer = child does something awful, table is ruined.  We would prefer to get a table that was all solid wood (no veneer), but several salespeople have claimed that formal tables don’t come that way.  (You can get oak, but we don’t want oak).  My mother in law has a beautiful formal solid wood table, but it was made about 100 years ago.  Do they really not make them that way any more? 

Monaco dining chair--too big for wee folk

In your opinion, how long is it worth it to look for or wait for the perfect table? I am frightened to have them come pick this back up because I am afraid that I will never see a table I like so much again. On the other hand, I am terrified not have them picking it up, because I know these chairs are a mistake!

Could I be that bad?

I am not famous for my driving prowess. I compensate by being quite cautious, knowing my limits, and sticking mainly to driving places that I have been many, many times before. It seems to have worked pretty well so far. In my ten years of driving, I have never had a traffic ticket or been in an accident where I was at fault. I do not speed. But look what my daughter is turning in for homework! She wrote this for a school assignment in which she was supposed to reflect on what it had been like to pretend to be a 1950’s child for a week (no television, no wearing of pants, yes to eating dinner with the family every night, yes to daily outdoor chores, etc.) One of the Time Swap requirements was not to drive anywhere over forty miles an hour. She reported the following:

Even though we usually go at least a little faster than forty miles per hour, I actually got places faster. When we are going faster than forty miles per hour, there is less time to think through where we are going to go, and how to get there, so it is much more probable that we will miss a turn someplace, and it will take longer to get home. When we are going fast, the driver of the car has to concentrate, and so we cannot talk as much, because if we do, than whoever is driving the car, cannot concentrate and makes a wrong turn. But because this week we had to go slower, there were less wrong turns, so we got places faster. Then, because there was much less prospect of making a wrong turn, we talked together much more in the car this week, and had fun, because we made jokes, laughed, talked, got to know each other more, and had meaningful conversations together.

Do you ever wish you could include a rebuttal with your child’s homework?

Trick or Treat

Chocolate invention

Amelia’s school assignment: “Invent” something using chocolate.
Her mother’s intervention: How about chocolate-covered brown rice balls? (What was I thinking? Umm, Nestle Crunch, but healthy?)

Amelia: Thirty minutes before school, Amelia is fighting tears. Up far past her bedtime the night before, rolling balls of sticky rice and sushi rice in chocolate [no brown sticky rice was for sale at the Asian market, rats!] she now tries one. And they are peculiar. Peculiarly awful. There is no time to concoct a new chocolate invention. If she doesn’t take the balls to school she will get a bad grade [in Amelia's mind = death]. If she does take the balls to school, she will have to “sell” them to her peers [in Amelia's mind = death by humiliation].

Mother’s intervention: “Amelia–you’re just like Thomas Edison! You don’t think the first filament he tried for his light bulb worked, do you? Invention is about trial and error. Just take the balls to school to show that you did it and tell everyone you’ve experienced the “error” part of invention.”

Amelia: Rolling of eyes, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. [I exaggerate, but you've got the idea]. Amelia prepares to toss the hated chocolate balls.

Duncan–to the rescue: Duncan breaks into tears. This is teacher appreciation week. He would like to give his wonderful teacher chocolates. Voila! There is a tray full of beautiful chocolates in the kitchen! But his sister is horrified at the thought of him giving the chocolates to his teacher. Worse, she keeps threatening to throw them away! He tries a rice ball and insists that it is delicious. If she is going to just throw them away, he wants the balls for his teacher!

Amelia: Ten minutes before school, Amelia continues to protect little bro by prohibiting him any access to the chocolate balls. She packs them for school instead–still quite upset. “What am I going to do? What if someone tries to buy one?”

Duncan: One minute before school, Duncan runs crying to the school bus, stung by life’s injustice.

Six hours later (testimony that prayer works–pray over your flocks, pray over your chicks): Amelia nonchalantly climbs into the car for the ride home. “A couple people bought them. It was no big deal. I marketed them as ‘trick chocolates.'”

Chocolate invention bagged for transport to school<