Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pash on Pashley

I first saw her at Harris Cyclery in Newton while picking up my son's bike. It's officially spring, and the cycling season is starting. (That is, of course, if it ever stops raining.) Now presenting Her Royal Highness, the Princess Sovereign of Pashley, "hand building British bicycles since 1926."

Oops! Is my Anglophilia showing? I'll tuck it away then. Yes, the name is a wee bit over the top.

But just look. A wicker basket. And a dynamo-operated headlamp that's powered by pedaling. And a rear carrier. And the most musical little dingdong bell. It manages to sound whimsical and prim both at once.

I can picture myself pedaling along country lanes. Perhaps to visit the vicar at the parsonage? No. Wait. That's an Agatha Christie novel. But I can see myself pedaling to Whole Foods and virtuously bringing back groceries on the carrier. Look, Ma. My carbon footprint is shrinking! Of course, I doubt I can bring back a week's worth of groceries for five on that carrier. Not unless we all went on a serious diet. And there is the matter of hauling the Princess up the hill to my house. She may be beauteous, but I think she's a sturdier lass than her svelte titanium racing peers.

Of course, we have no garage to house the Princess so until we build a garage/shed, I'll just have to dream.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mass Audubon: Wachusett Meadow

A couple of weekends ago, we took a trip to Mass Aubudon's Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, MA. This 1,200-acre site is home to an 80-acre beaver pond, otters, countless birds, a small flock of sheep, and numerous trails. Here are some highlights. A nice antidote to yet another gray, rain-soaked New England day.

Beaver pond or beavers run amuck.

We didn't see any beavers, but saw their work. Note gnaw marks.

Showing kids milkweed

A snake in the grass. Alas.

Friday, March 26, 2010

It works!

It works! It really works!

After months of work, we finally have a working basement bathroom again! When your only other bathroom for the lower two floors is dollhouse-sized, this is really cause for celebration. We haven't passed inspection, and we still have a few remaining things to do. So no full reveal yet. But here are some photos of our work in progress.

I'm so pleased with my IKEA Lillangen sink. It's incredible that you can get such a stylish piece at the price. To accentuate its farmhouse feel, I paired it with this Price Pfister Ashfield faucet that's reminiscent of an old-fashioned outdoor water pump. Beadboard (painted in the ever-popular Benjamin Moore White Dove), white-and-black dot octagon tile, and a barn-style lighting fixture complete the vintage, farmhouse look. I would have preferred the Lillangen's metal-framed glass doors over the solid white mdf door, but unfortunately, our plumbing came in from the side wall and would have been very visible through the frosted glass. Sometimes you have to accommodate what's there.

Just a few details to finish up, and this DIY remodel can be checked off the "to do" list.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kitchen palettes

The time of our kitchen renovation draws nearer. We're targeting an early summer start. We need the open-window weather to finish the wood floors.

Here are the plans. They're missing a few details. For example, the hood shape is now trimmed out with an antique heart pine ledge along the bottom edge. If you're contemplating do-it-yourself design, I really recommend the non-Pro, free version of Google SketchUp. It really helps to visualize what you're planning and makes communicating clearly with subcontractors much easier.

So the materials. I've narrowed it down to two color palettes. I want simple, warm, inviting, friendly, and happy. The only thing already purchased is the backsplash. Everything else is still under consideration.

Backsplash tiles: Trikeenan custom blend with milk white, crackle white, fog, and matte chartreuse.The final mix will have a bit less green and a bit more cream per area.
Antique heart pine (possible floor or possible counter): Longleaf Lumber
Soapstone: Beleza from Dorado

This one combines:
Ball Green and Old White: cabinets
Green Ground: wall color
(All colors Farrow & Ball)
The Old White, a warm gray, would look beautiful on the cabinets by our enormous stainless fridge.

This one combines:
Ball Green and Farrow's Cream (or a similar cream paint from Fine Paints of Europe): cabinets
Green Ground: wall color
The cream color lightens and warms the space.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Must-know advice for do-it-yourselfers

Now that we're less than a week away from having a working basement bathroom, I wanted to share what we've learned. I hope these tips will help.

1. Be aware of the additional costs (in both money and effort) of the little add-on projects.

In our case, it was the wainscoting. I wanted to echo the beautiful powder room wainscoting in our basement bath. It turns out that the powder room wainscoting was not stock, but built up from many different pieces. Just cutting and installing a simplified version took many evenings. Painting all of its three-dimensional edges and curves took four hours per coat.

This simple change added at least three weeks to our project. The wood alone cost over $200, a sizeable chunk of our $1,000 budget.

2. Invest in good tools.

Yes, there are some drips on the final wall I painted. Exhaustion will do that. But I can't imagine how much worse it would have looked without my wonderful Corona brushes with Chinex bristles. They held and applied paint smoothly, and made my job much easier. Fantastic!

3. This actually might be the most important. Throw a party in your old space. Yes, I know. You're ashamed of it. That's why you're renovating it. But if no one has seen the before, no one can appreciate the after. And if you're doing it yourself, surely you want to show off your handiwork. Just a little bit.

In our case, the basement bathroom was so hideous that really, you had to see it to appreciate how much it had changed. I really, really should have had an "Adios, Basement Bathroom" party. Nothing says festive like margaritas in the bathroom!

4. Appreciate the domino effect.

We left our old shower alone. We thought with a thorough cleaning and a new showerhead, it would be fine. Now surrounded by bright new paint and tile, the old shower looks beyond tired. I thought the acrylic surround was white, but it turns out that it's an odd shade of biscuit. Your older pieces will look even older in your newly renovated space.

5. Beware of that last five percent.

I said we're less than a week from a functioning bathroom. But we still have little projects to finish up. Finding and installing a marble threshold. Putting beadboard on and painting the existing wall cabinet. I'm fairly certain that these little projects will linger incomplete well into 2011. It will nag at the corners of my mind and slowly drive me insane.

At least I'll have a renovated bathroom with lovely custom wainscoting to enjoy in my insanity. Happy do-it-yourselfing!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Real Simple. Not.

First of all, let me say that I really like Real Simple. I'm a new subscriber. I just received my second issue. A few recipes from my first issue have already made their way into my family's regular repertoire. I feel I'm part of the magazine's demographic: that vast continent of harried, overscheduled women who want style, organization, and delicious food...all done simply.

Then I encountered this photo spread in its 10th anniversary April 2010 issue, entitled "The New Easy." The blurb reads, "Does getting dressed call for more energy than you sometimes can muster? With these minimal-effort, wardrobe-changing pieces, you'll have more time for enjoying the good stuff. (Anyone up for a game of airplane?)"

The implications are clear. This piece is for the moms out there who want to enjoy both effortless style and relaxed fun with their children. Why, that's me! I enthusiastically flipped the page. I'm tired of my LLBean fleece and jeans uniform. My closet needed a wardrobe-changing revolution.

The opening photo featured a man playing airplane with a baby while a sleekly glamorous blonde smiled fondly into the distance. The blonde is wearing a Cannes-appropriate striped top with cropped wool pants and stiletto platform sandals. The next pages revealed more of the same. Chic, but impractical outfits accessorized with towering heels and oversized jewelry on steroids. Even Carrie Bradshaw, stiletto goddess extraordinaire, couldn't totter after a toddler in those shoes. From the layout, it looked as if the aforementioned "game of airplane" would be a quickie before handing the babe off to Greta, the live-in nanny.

This is my favorite photo:

The perfectly polished "mom" chats blithely on her phone while her onesie-clad baby tries to pull up on a desk and pull down a large glass urn on his or her adorable head. Note the fantastic stilettos (perfect for chasing down baby). I also love the ridiculously oversized ring, perfect for accidentally bopping baby. Has anyone tried to lift a baby wearing a ring of that size?

Who believes that the makeup and the glossily sculpted hair of the precisely eyebrowed, scarlet-lipped blonde require minimal effort? And does anyone on the editorial staff even have children?

Another favorite:

Yes, I'd have my stilettos on a hotel bed with my head flung back in delighted laughter. That is, if I were at the hotel without my children. I'd be laughing in slightly hysterical relief that I was finally, finally alone.

I'm growing offended by this spread. This is not aspirational fashion. This is ridiculous. If I wanted fantasy, I'd turn to Vogue or Elle. Real Simple is supposed to be for and about real women. But perhaps it's not for real women. Or even real, affluent, suburban/urban women. Perhaps it's for that razor-thin demographic sliver of women who're overwhelmed by their charity board, country club, and social calendar commitments?

I admit that I'm not a lady who lunches. Not unless you count peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwiches shared with the preschool set. I don't sit on any charitable boards. You won't see me at an opening gala or photographed at an haute soiree. However, I have friends who do these things, and let me tell you. None of them would classify these looks as "minimal effort." Spend the afternoon primping at the hairdresser's while the babysitter comes early. Yes. Easy. No.

Please, Real Simple. Get real.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pizza Fridays

On many Fridays, I make homemade pizza dough for Pizza Fridays.

Pizza dough recipe
This recipe is a simple variant of an allrecipes dough.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup warm water

Pour cup of water into large bowl. Add yeast and sugar. Stir lightly until dissolved. Wait for fifteen minutes. Froth signals that the yeast is active. Add olive oil, salt, and flour. Knead with oiled hands. Oil the surface of the dough ball and replace in bowl. Cover bowl with wet cloth and allow dough to rise for thirty minutes. Divide dough. We make three pizzas from this dough (two for the children and one for the grownups). Roll out dough until it's very thin. Prick it all over lightly with a fork. Cook in a 450˚ oven on a stone for 4 minutes or until crisping a bit on the edges. Take out and put on desired toppings. Put back in oven for an additional 5-6 minutes or until cheese melts and starts to brown on edges.

This dough is super, super easy. Foolproof really. I have had issues with the dough proofing and rising stages when the kitchen is cold during the winter. I've had to proof/rise in a 100˚ oven with the door open or downstairs in the basement (which is quite warm because it houses the furnace room).

Now toppings. This is where the fun begins. My kids prefer the classic cheese only or pepperoni and cheese. But I love to get creative. Here are some of the combinations that I've tried (all with regular tomato sauce and mozzarella unless otherwise indicated).

- fried eggplant slices and pepperoni
- fresh baby spinach, crumbled bacon, and blue cheese (yum!)
- olive oil brushed on crust, sliced hard-boiled eggs, crumbled bacon, fresh baby spinach, mix of pecorino romano and mozzarella with a drizzle of sriracha sauce added after it's done*
- barbecue sauce, shredded leftover beef, slivered red onions, cheddar or Mexican four-cheese blend**
- barbecue sauce, sliced or shredded leftover chicken, slivered red onions, jalapenos, cheddar or Mexican four-cheese blend**

*No tomato sauce
**No tomato sauce and mozzarella

I'm thinking thinly sliced grilled tuna, olives, sliced hard-boiled eggs, fresh baby spinach, and feta sound delicious too. A pizza nicoise! Or maybe something with asparagus and thinly sliced ham. Or a Thai pizza with peanut sauce, grilled chicken, and matchstick carrots and zucchini. Hmmm...Maybe next time.

What's your favorite pizza?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Worm hunter

and other buggy tales.

We're being inundated with all manner of creepy, crawly things. It must really be spring. Here's my fearless worm hunter. She unearthed three worms today.

If you think this looks very similar to a previously published photo, you're right. This is my life. Filled with little hands and mud.

I found this little lady on my bathroom wall. We trapped and freed five ladybugs from the study last night. Two more were in the bathroom this morning. Reminds me of the great Ladybug Invasion in the fall of '09. I think they're emerging from hibernation somewhere in my house and getting active. I'm trying to catch and release them all. Good for my gardens. I think. They are ladybugs, right? Not some other New England critter masquerading as the good bug?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Review: Shark Steam Pocket Mop

I blame it on Costco, that Shangri-La of impulse buying.

I guess I wasn't completely fulfilled by my Swiffer WetJet. It did its job well enough, but throwing away the disposable mophead after each use felt wasteful. Also, I wasn't comfortable using the Swiffer cleaning fluid on my marble floors. So I'd clean those on my hands and knees with a mildly sudsy sponge. I admit that this meant I rarely cleaned those floors.

So the Shark.

Maybe it wasn't all emotional. The Shark makes practical sense. It cleans with steam so I can use it on all my bathroom floors. I can wash and reuse the mopheads. It uses water and not noxious chemicals. It was under $100 cash and carry at my local Costco. During my last Costco trip, I fell for it.

Nitty gritties. The Shark's lightweight. Its cord is quite long and doesn't seem prone to tangling. The little well is easy to fill, and the mopheads are fairly easy to attach and detach. I started in my kitchen. The Shark gave a satisfying little hiss of steam (but not loud enough to set off my dog whose nemeses include the vacuum cleaner and the coffee bean grinder). I ran it over the battered vinyl. This version steams with every push of the mop. It seemed too easy. Was it doing anything? I stepped back, and wow. The grungy old vinyl looked really white. Whiter than it had in awhile. It was still scarred and scraped (nothing steam can do about that). But it looked noticeably better. Notably cleaner. Apparently the old vinyl was gross partially due to my poor housekeeping.

When I encountered particularly stubborn schmutz, I'd place the mop directly over the stain and steam for a little while. Extra steam and a little gentle scrubbing got everything up. I also love the little triangular mophead, perfect for maneuvering in tight spaces. It cleaned all the nooks and crannies in my pocket-sized powder room. One tankful of water was enough to clean my breakfast/kitchen (210 s.f.), one short hallway, and three small bathrooms. We're close to Boston so when I say small bathroom, think really, really, really small. Phone booth-sized.

So far, thumbs up for this little machine.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Liberty of London

I've been anticipating today's launch of Target's Liberty of London line for weeks. I wasn't certain when the online launch would occur so I stayed up til past midnight. No launch. I awoke later then usual. Well. I awoke at my normal time, but because we'd all sprung forward in our sleep, it was later than usual. I headed sleepily to my laptop to check the Target website. To my dismay, the things I wanted were already sold out.

Fueled by coffee, I hauled myself through the cold rain to a local Target where Liberty of London items were literally flying off the racks in front of me. It was an amazing sight. Women were grabbing dresses by the armload and whisking them away. It was two steps shy of a frenzy.

Why the ruckus? Well, the prints, for one. Charming and cheery. And I was happily surprised by the fabrics. Nothing stiff or cheap feeling. I loved the cotton used for the men's shirts, the girls dresses, and some of the women's items. The men's shirts and boxers felt lovely, very fine and soft. I was less fond of the slippery polyester used for some of the women's tops, but I'm not a big fan of slick, satin-like material. I felt the same way about the two throw pillows left on the shelves. However, they did have beautiful prints, and I loved the velvety material they used for the backs and trim on some. The material on the quilts and bedding felt luxuriously soft. The umbrellas and bags were sadly long gone, but the couple of straggler hats were adorable and made from a fabric with a very nice hand. Fantastic for the price points.

I was lucky enough that my wonderful mother-in-law headed up to Round Rock, Texas, to pick up some housewares for me. My kitchen will be graced by these cheery prints.

Theberton set of three prep bowls:

Dunclare teapot (and matching mugs):

I hope that you all got the Liberty of London items that you wanted. It looks like Target and Liberty collaboration was a huge winner.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Oh weekend. Weekend. Weekend. Thank heavens it's the weekend.

I'll leave you with this small obsession I've developed.

This obsession focuses on things made with threaded pipes. Vintage threaded pipe would be best. But modern threaded pipe works as well. Like this very cool table found on flickr.

But my true loves are these amazing pot racks featured in Christopher Peters' kitchens. Somebody tell me where I can find something like this.

Vintage and industrial and weathered. Sigh.

Signing off til Monday. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Temperatures are into the fifties. Not a snowflake on the ground. This lack of cover reveals the pitiable sight of my gardens, chock full of detritus from seasons past. Dead twigs, leaves, pine cones, and a surprisingly large area of tenacious little weedy greens resembling miniature clover.

My beautifully weighted trusty hand fork has mysteriously gone missing. So I pulled out the big guns for my attack on the garden beds. I'm feeling a bit overrun in general and not just in the garden bed area. Between the DIY basement bathroom (so close to being finished!), planning the kitchen renovation (so close to getting started!), school PTO commitments, and the regular cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, and household management, I'm being pulled like taffy. Not as sweet though.

Fork. Inspiration failed to fire today. Composition never felt right.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Farrow & Ball revisited

Our kitchen now officially looks like Joseph's coat of many colors.

I fairly sure...sort of sure...that the base cabinets on the range/sink runs will be Ball Green. Which is ironic because it was the very first color to be put up and the very first color to be dismissed. After a few weeks, I thought the coverage looked splotchy so I added another coat and voila. Beauty. The uppers on the sink wall and both base cabs and uppers on the fridge wall will be some yet-to-be-named cream. And the walls will be either Farrow's Cream or Green Ground. I love, love Green Ground. Such a happy color. I also love Cooking Apple Green and plan to use it somewhere. Maybe the laundry room?

More Farrow & Ball paint colors to add to the Internet's library of images. Hope they're helpful.

Ball Green

Stone White (green) and Old White (gray). Why are none of these "whites" actually white? Is this an English thing?

Green Ground. Someone mentioned on an online forum that they were surprised Green Ground looked so neutral in the photo. For them, Green Ground went very peridot. In my space, Green Ground goes from a very pale peridot to an almost stone color. This seems to be the color that is most difficult to capture correctly in a photo.

Cooking Apple Green

Monday, March 8, 2010

Field trip: Trikeenan Tileworks

One afternoon during our recent ski weekend, we drove to the charming town of Keene, New Hampshire, to visit the showroom of Trikeenan Tileworks. We'd seen their work in a local tile store, and wanted to see more of their colorful, beautifully glazed tiles. An added incentive for the visit: we'd read that their showroom offered seconds (tiles that were overages or very slightly flawed) at a substantial discount.

The store was bustling on this particular spring-like afternoon. It's a welcoming place with several comfortable chairs where the non-shoppers (children, spouse, or other tile-weary fellow traveller) can relax. The folks at Trikeenan were friendly and very helpful, answering questions and suggesting tiles to suit one's ideas.

I knew I loved their Basics line (especially combined into blends), but I was surprised by their new Reclamation Collection. This collection of 12 colors uses 100% reclaimed glaze to reduce waste in their factories. The colors are subtle and much more beautiful than Trikeenan's online images suggest.

As for the seconds, I was happy (and overwhelmed) to see that they had a number of tiles available. The selection was good, especially if you were tiling a small area like an accent over a range. There were also a few tiles available in larger quantities.

We needed a fairly large amount of tile for our kitchen backsplash. We were also hoping to find tile for our master bathroom floor and shower. We were lucky enough to find this for our kitchen backsplash. The combination of white, cream, pale gray, and mossy greens works perfectly in our space. (The green reads more neutral in the photo than in reality.)

They didn't have quite enough square footage. However, we were able to buy enough tiles that comprise this blend that we'll be able to build what we need. In buying seconds, you may be saving money, but you need to be flexible and/or creative.

I highly recommend visiting the Trikeenan showroom. Call ahead to make sure that Trikeenan will be open and to hear what quantities of seconds are available. And while you're in Keene, enjoy a brewed-on-the-premises beer at Elm City Brewing Company. A very satisfying day trip.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Bears don't enter my thoughts every day. Maybe on the rare occasion when I recount "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" or read Winnie the Pooh to the littles. So I have no idea why today, in the midst of my solo snowshoe trek across conservation land, I thought of bears.

I did note some disturbances in the pristine snow. That flurry of cloven prints. Surely deer or some other innocuous herbivore. But those others? Those were paw prints. They could easily be dog. Not bear. Were there even bears in New Hampshire? Alaska, yes, but New Hampshire? I didn't know. Both places were cold and had snow and had few people.

Bear kept crossing my mind, distracting me from the rhythmic crunch of my snowshoes, the crystalline sunny day. I peered into the woods. No bears.

What should I do if I encountered a bear? I deeply, deeply regretted not googling this before I left. Should I stand stock still and silent? Don't bears have poor vision and sense of smell? Or just poor vision? Was that some other predator? Or do I holler and wave my poles about? I didn't want to be New Hampshire's 1st or 4th or 85th bear fatality of the year.

Then it hit me. Surely the bears are all hibernating. It's winter after all. What a relief! I trekked on, firmly ignoring the little tickle in the back of my mind. It's March and warm. Maybe they've woken and are hungry. And what about mountain lions...?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Frost heaves

New England lesson #132:

"Frost heaves" is New Hampshire code for spine-crunchingly bumpy roads.

(And I thought it was Snow Miser with a tummy bug.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Deal flash: Restoration Hardware outlet, Wrentham

Love shopping days like this!

The Restoration Hardware outlet in Wrentham, MA had lots of lighting at incredible prices today, including a pair of Schoolhouse semi-flushmounts in polished nickel ($59.49 each), several pendants including Optic, Schoolhouse, Benson, and Clemson, and lots of sconces. Also, they had many drapery panels and rods, all on sale at an additional 15% off. No coupons needed.

Lighting for kitchen and laundry room bought today:
Vintage semi-flushmount in polished nickel: Originally $119, Outlet Price $35.49

Optic semi-flushmount in polished nickel (2): Originally $199 each, Outlet Price $59.49 each

Total original price: $517
Total outlet price: $154.47
Total savings: $362.53

I love being able to outfit my spaces in posh pieces without the posh prices.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


What's wrong with this picture?

The folks from Massachusetts may say, "Why is she barehanded? Where are her gloves? Doesn't she know it's winter?"

And the Texans among us may say, "Why in tarnation is she holding the gas pump nozzle?"

And that, folks, is the culture gap between MA and TX. You see, in Texas, there are these clever devices called trigger locks. They enable you to fuel your vehicle without constantly squeezing the gas pump handle. Instead, you spend those very important few minutes surfing your iPhone or checking the state of your cuticles or (as I often do) making goofy faces at your children through the window.

In Massachusetts, these fuel pump trigger locks have been disabled. No longer can I start fueling, lock the trigger into place, and let the fuel pump do its merry work. At first, I thought this was simply a product of New England's Puritan history. No slacking off! You must work for your fuel. Squeeze. SQUEEZE!

I was wrong. This is apparently for my own protection. Spark-induced fires have been caused by folks getting back into their cars, building static electricity by rubbing against upholstery, and grasping the nozzle again. Now, I've lived and driven in Texas for well over 20 years, and I've never seen a single gas station fire. However, I have to admit that New England seems to be far more staticky than Texas. (See previous blog about static.)

So you Texans, enjoy your hands-free fueling. There are Americans out there who don't have this luxury.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Kid-friendly fried turbot fillets

Wild-caught turbot fillets were a featured special in my local Whole Foods. A thing I like about buying specials (aside from its being very budget-friendly) is that it pushes me to try new foods and new recipes. I had no idea what turbot was. After cooking it, I still couldn't identify a turbot from a salmon in the wild, but I do know that fried turbot is yummy and kid-friendly (and an excellent choice for Fridays during Lent).

A note about bones: the portion of the fillet towards the tail has the fewest bones. So if serving children, that's the portion that you should give them. Thanks to the Whole Foods fishmonger for that very helpful tip. The turbot fillets I purchased from them were boneless.

Kid-friendly fried turbot fillets:
(adapted from a few recipes)

1.5 lbs turbot fillets
1 egg
panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 clove garlic

In a bowl, combine egg, mustard, and a minced clove of garlic. Heat oil in frying pan (I poured enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan in about a quarter-inch of oil.) Dredge fillet in flour. Dip it in egg mixture. Coat in panko crumbs. Fry in pan, flipping over when browned. Drain on paper towels.

Serve with tartar sauce (mayonnaise, relish, fresh lemon juice), lemon slices, or ketchup.

Every single child, even the picky one, ate their servings. One asked for seconds. This counts as a huge hit in my household. We ate the fish with a baguette and garlicky broccoli.


Is it weird when you spend precious babysitter time poring over paint and tile? Schlepping paint samples and countertop materials. Examining the very subtle color shifts that happen when you combine various materials under different lights. Growing ever more cross-eyed and confused. Is it...oh, I don't know...obsessive?

That's how we spent our most recent babysitter Saturday, fueled by breakfast at In a Pickle in Waltham. Yum.

And after all that work, I don't feel much closer to a decision. Here are some possibilities. Countertops will be a combination of antique heart pine and soapstone.*

*All choices subject to change due to fear, practicality, frugality, or sheer caprice.

Backsplash tiles will be 3x3, 4x4, or subway. I love subway tiles. I really, really do. And they're period appropriate to our house. It's unfortunate that subway is so trendy right now.

Pratt and Larson R-gloss tile blend:

A nice retro look that probably looks the most appropriate with the Aga.

Pratt and Larson Watercolor crackle tile blend:

Gorgeous glaze pools and crackle and depth of color. Really, really spectacular.

Trikeenan Autumnal Green:

A very nice pottery look. Specks of umber pick up the amber in the heart pine. Goes a bit celadon.

Trikeenan Autumnal Green and Random Autumnal (a mix of Autumnal Green, November Green, and Orange Umber):

This looked spectacular with the heart pine, catching even our tile salesperson's eye as she headed across the showroom with another customer. Unfortunately, the orange looks hideous with the black Aga.

After a while, you hit the wall. Colors start to blur. Everything looks pretty. Everything is possible. You feel vaguely dizzy and start to veer off-task. Hey! Blue is pretty. So is yellow. Hey! That's pretty too! Design-overload-induced ADHD. I'm suffering the aftereffects as I write. Maybe one day I'll achieve clarity. Maybe one day I'll give in and hire a decorator. Maybe.