Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Don't Freak Out but This is a Legit Decorating Post

A couple of weeks ago I sat working at my crappy disastrous homey dining room table for most of the day, at some point remembering I needed to rustle something up for Bible study that evening. Sadly, I didn't have wheels because our "new" car had been totaled while the ink was still fresh on the temporary tags, but that's another story for another day. (Working title, "Why Can't We Have Nice Things?")

I looked in the fridge. I looked in the freezer. Nothing. Then a small swarm of fruit flies hovering in the corner led me to two badly bruised pears. Scanning the rest of the kitchen perimeter, I found a jar of barley, mostly used for decorative purposes.

Because the answer to most problems (except for deep-seated psychological trauma) is acid, I spontaneously began daydreaming about balsamic-pear-something-or-other.

Then I remembered a handful of weary Brussels sprouts in the fridge.
Then I wondered why I've never devoted any sincere effort to caramelizing onions.

A quick internet search led me to two contender-worthy recipes for a pear vinaigrette, but both called for white balsamic vinegar, and I will be honest, I flipped my laptop the bird. My root vegetables don't care what color their vinegar is and neither do yours. That's not how we roll here on 5th Street. We are not that cute.

I settled on this fresh pear vinaigrette and ended up throwing caution to the wind by substituting Champagne vinegar.

Though my "Autumn Root Vegetable Salad with Barley and Pear Vinaigrette and Gorgonzola Cheese" (that's what I named it because I'm an author and words matter) wasn't necessarily applause worthy, I keep sneaking into the kitchen when no one is looking, grabbing a teaspoon, and downing a mini-shot of the dressing. It has lemon, garlic, and pear. It's practically a health smoothie.

The point is, when it comes to cooking I've become a "use what you've got" kind of lady. I've become a real culinary frontierswoman. Salt of the earth. Resourceful. Innovative. Humble. Take your pick.

The same, I've realized, can be said for my decorating.

The last time I did a full-blown fall living room decorating update it was 2014. A lot of things have changed since then, but the blanket on the back of my couch isn't one of them.

I have, in many ways, misplaced my seasonal mojo. These days, "decorating" means dragging a different painting up from the basement and propping it against the wall.

But I handed the first draft of my manuscript in on the last day of August when it was scorching hot, then it got so cold I almost wept, then it flip-flopped between the two extremes a few dozen times, then we went to the beach in October and two of my kids swam in lake Michigan, and somewhere in the midst of this meteorological turmoil, I decided I wanted my house to feel like Fall.

I dug out my favorite fall photo of all time, and put it on a canvas. (Incidentally, my decorating speed always hovers right around 3mph, but this time it took us a solid three weeks to decide which photo to use. Sometimes it's hard to trust the slow work of Shannan.)

I love it so much. It is childhood, the smell of dry leaves, Ruby's cute hiney in pink sweatpants, crisp air, adventure, and home. (It was taken on the farm, but I'm all out of vinegar at the moment, so I can't talk about it right now...)

(By the way, I'm smitten with CanvasHQ. A family-owned canvas company, their work is all done in Arkansas, the customer service is stellar, and they're offering all of us 35% off and free shipping with the code "harvestlove" at checkout!)

(Would you believe my editor once had the gall to tell me I'm overly reliant on parentheses???) (I couldn't believe it, either!)

Our couch is a low-rider, which makes the wall behind it look like a drive-in movie screen if we're not careful. I knew we needed more than just the canvas. But rather than trying to solve that riddle hastily, I drove friends to their probation meetings, tried to stop baking fatty foods, spoke at five different churches in three weeks, moved some of our besties into their new home down the street (you guys blew my mind and are the official best - stay tuned for an update,) clipped Box Tops for the school, and took up the interior hobby of trying to imagine what Jesus smelled while he was alive in the flesh.

One fateful Saturday I helped my homegirl Timi sell her life-changing goat's milk soaps and body lotions at the Madison Road Market and I found the gather sign. And though Dave Ramsey would have said "No way, sucker! Beans and rice for you!," JailChap texted back, "Do it."

So I did, because I like Cory a lot more than I like Dave.

The rest is history, except for the pillows.

Right around the time I began warming to the idea of fur, I found the large fur pillow cover at Good Will for $1.99. (When will Goodwill start selling cars??)

Next, I found the plaid wool at the thrift store for $0.49 and a local woman sewed pillow covers for me for next to nothing. I decided they work with the floral curtains on account of the red and yellow vibes. And they make me want to drink hot cider, which is basically the whole point of seasonal decorating in the first place. I have always loved some heavy-handed pattern mixing. I'm not trying to bore myself to tears over here.

In hindsight, I would probably arrange the pillows a bit differently, and if that's also where your mind was going, I know how to fix it...

See? Nothing like a good distraction to make us unbothered by pillow placement. (It should go without saying that this is the state our house is usually in, only with many more piles of books on every surface.)

{this pic is all about perspective. those are our dining room lights in the foreground.}

As you can see, none of this is fancy or even super organized and pre-planned. If I had unlimited funds and time I would probably bake a French chocolate souffle rather than inventing a weird salad, you know what I mean?

But it works. It stretches my creative muscles. In a small way, it connects me to the seasons and the physical world outside my windows. It makes me want to hunker down with my family and invite people over. It makes me want to boss Cory around like I'm some mid-town Manhattan photographer. "Move that tray two millimeters to the north!"

I've said it before and I'll say it again, if this is not your thing, go do your thing. Whatever it is! No apologies. No disclaimers. No excuses.

But if you're like me and you sort of love the fluffing and the changing-up, don't think for a minute that you need to spend money you don't have or bow to a trend you don't love. Surround yourself with whatever feels the most you-ish. Work with what you've got.

Grab your banged-up pears and turn them into salad dressing, as the old saying goes.


This is your one life. Your one living room.

Look around.
Toss it together.

PS - Have you signed up to get my Super Scoop secret email? I'll be sharing the file for that sweet little church photo in the big gold frame. Almost ten years ago the sky was so beautiful that I pulled over to the side of the road and took one picture. One. It's still my all-time favorite. It screams Cozy Fall, and I thought you might like it for yourself. It will show up in the inboxes of my subscribers in the next week or so. xo

Couch - Ikea, Karlstad (this model is now discontinued, but there are similar. We love it!)
Rug -RugsUSA
Canvas - CanvasHQ (Don't forget the code "harvestlove" for 35% off your order + free shipping!)
"Gather" - Joyfully Said Signs
Curtains - Jess Franks for Minted (also, feel free to fall in love with her artwork on her site...)
Table - found
Accordian wall lamp -  World Market (several years ago)
Ceiling fixture - Barn Light Electric
Letterpress "M" block and Shine pillow - Dayspring
All other artwork, plant basket, blanket, tray, frames, tchotchke stuff - thrift stores
Flowers - Kroger and our yard
Howard the Cat - My mom's barn
Paint color - White Dove by Benjamin Moore