Fridays at Home: My MCM Treasure Hunt

2nd March 2018

Tastes change. We all know it, but blogging over a period of time only reinforces that when you can look back at what you liked and how you thought. The Jenn of 2018 cringes looking back at some of my “design” choices in the past, yet I have always done what I could to make my house a comfortable home, pieced together with furniture from thrift and antique shops (and the side of the road sometimes, if I’m being totally honest).

A few years ago, I started working toward finishing the rooms in my house – identifying “for now” furniture and seeking out quality pieces to replace them with. This is a story of how my hunt for two chairs ended in the purchase of a new dining table and chairs.

My dining/reading room wasn’t working. The space is large, even with a wall of bookshelves, and the tiny table and two club chairs I had at the time weren’t taking advantage of the space. I moved furniture a dozen times over a year or so and decided the problem was with my chairs. While comfortable, the upholstery fabric is busy, and I decided I wanted two mid century chairs instead. I began hunting on our local Facebook page, as this seemed a good place to start. Mostly, this page is a mixed bag, people selling used bath mats (not lying) and old vehicles, but every once in a while, people post a gem.

After searching for a couple of weeks, I did my typical weekly search, and up popped a mid century table and six chairs…for $80. I fell and fell hard, immediately claiming them and only asking questions once the seller acknowledged my message. When the woman indicated her husband could deliver to my house the next town over, I jumped at the chance. I had to judge a UIL writing contest that night, so I handed my husband the $80 and asked him to stash the table and chairs wherever he could.

At about 8 that night, I got a text message: “Babe, do you know what you bought?” I responded that yes, indeed I did and got a response: “These chairs are kind of rough.”

In hindsight, I probably should have warned him the chairs were orange pleather and that , at some point, someone tried to spray paint them. The wooden legs had children’s stickers on them and appeared to have been gnawed on by a dog, but for $80, I knew I could afford to reupholster the chairs with something perfect. But bless the husband for “kind of rough.”

photo from Facebook listing

photo from Facebook listing

I could hardly stand it, I was so excited to get home and begin restoring them. The next morning I woke up early to research the type of wood I was dealing with, as mcm furniture is often teak, a very temperamental wood. Because the base of the table is pretty unique, it didn’t take long for my search to turn something up.

Adrian Pearsall Dining Table from the Craft Associates catalog

Adrian Pearsall Dining Table from the Craft Associates catalog

Not only was the wood walnut, not teak, but also, the very first search I did shocked me – the designer was Adrian Pearsall, who owned Craft Associates, Inc., and was a well respected designer of atomic furniture, and someone was selling just the base of the table for over $1,000. Lo and behold, I found out that not only did I get a deal, I got the deal of the mid century!

My aunt, Leslie Ravey, is an artist who creates beautiful wood furniture from exotic woods, and she offered to help us bring this piece back to life. First, we removed the legs from the chairs and began the time-consuming work of removing the vinyl chair covering. Thankfully, the workmanship was good because the foam was in near-perfect condition. Once the legs were off, we used fine grit sandpaper to remove the finish and some of the surface nicks and then applied Watco Rejuvenating Oil with an old t-shirt. We applied another coat of oil the next day. I couldn’t believe the results.

Initially, I had planned to reupholster the chairs by myself. I selected fabric, made a pattern, and got busy, but in the end, I needed a professional. Between the curves at the tops of the chairs and the backs, they didn’t look good. And I wanted them to look good.

Off with the pleather!

A local upholsterer was able to work with my cut fabric, and while the table and chairs have been finished for two years now, I am still in love. The set is sizeable enough to command attention in the space, and we eat, entertain, and play games around it. My mother in law bought us this gorgeous West Elm Multi Pixel Woven Rug for Christmas last year, and it’s perfect under the table.

Lesson learned: If you find yourself rearranging the furniture again and again, maybe it’s because you don’t have the right furniture. Oh, and maybe warn your husband when you buy something that looks “kind of rough.”

The Smonday train…

26th February 2018

My husband likes to joke that Sunday evenings, he knows I’m down about the eventuality of Monday because I emit continual sighs that sound like a train’s whistle. Thus, he has termed my sighs the Smonday train entering the station.

Last night, though, I was so happy with all that we accomplished that I really didn’t feel down at all. Here’s a glimpse into our weekend:


Friday, he picked me up from work (his car was having the windshield replaced) and we went to our local bar for an afternoon on the patio with nachos and cerveza because the weather was so nice. We talked about a few trips we’re planning and just enjoyed one another’s company.

Then we ran some errands and picked up a new tube of toothpaste from our local natural grocery store. (I know, exciting stuff.) We’ve been wanting to try the activated charcoal version of our favorite peppermint Earth Paste. We also walked the mall a bit just to get out and do something, as we spent most evenings last week working on the half bath.


Saturday, Caleb took care of the yard while I headed to Home Depot to locate and cut trim (so it would fit in the car) to finish out the half bath and await a friend who is going to help us install the toilet and sink. It was work, but we got floorboards, door stops and trim, and chair rail all installed, and I covered everything with an additional coat of paint to hide nails and dings from the hammer. I doubt I can post a reveal until at least next week, but I promise to have an alternative Fridays at Home post this week.

We even finished up early enough to meet up with friends for fajitas and a margarita or two!


Sunday was supposed to be stormy, so as Caleb went off to church, I faced the grocery store alone – never fun on Sundays. My sis is sick, so I wanted to bring her homemade vegetable soup. I’ve made this for years, but I wanted to see if I could improve it, so I combined Food & Wine’s Vegetable Noodle Soup and Genius Kitchen’s Old-Fashioned Vegetable Soup recipes. Delish. I also made these flourless chocolate chip cookies. Not super sweet, but very yummy.

I dropped soup and cookies off and got to snuggle my newest puppy nephew, Duck, for a few minutes before heading back home to finish folding laundry, while I continued re-watching Psych, one of my favorite shows.

After getting cleaned up, I tackled another box from my parents’ home. They stayed with us for six weeks after losing their home, and we’re storing some things for them. While we got most things cleaned and sterilized right away, my grandmother collected lab-created gemstones and jewelry findings, and that box has been sitting in my laundry room for ages, waiting for me to get to it. Funny how quickly you get used to something and forget you need to do something with it.

I felt like Indiana Jones as I opened up still-damp jewel packets and tipped them into hot, soapy water. Granted, most of the stones are so small they aren’t worth anything, but it was still fun. I definitely inherited her love of jewelry and think I might even have some of the stones set into stacking rings or something really delicate since the stones are so small. There are literally hundreds of stones, but I picked out about a dozen I might try to use. I spent the rest of my evening looking at possibilities to take to a local jeweler for inspiration.

from LilyEmmeJewelry’s Etsy shop

from NiringJewelryDesign’s Etsy shop


from MinimalVS Etsy shop

from MinimalVS Etsy shop

How’s that for some Sunday night fun? No wonder I didn’t have the Sunday blues.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Welcome to Monday.

Reading: Prosecco and Promises by A.L. Michael

12th February 2018

Requested for review from the publisher on Netgalley.

Mia is trying – and failing – to prepare herself for orphanhood. Her mother died when she was young, and now her beloved dad is succumbing to the cancer he survived years before. The dutiful daughter, Mia finally agrees to her father’s final wish. When the time comes, she is to leave him with his much younger wife, take a plane to the Italian island of Ischia, where her mother grew up and her family still lives, and have a drink in his memory.

Devastated, angry, and broken, Mia arrives in Ischia, to her warm, loving aunt (the only one who knows her father is dying), her shrunken, bitter Italian grandmother, and her fun-loving cousin. She remembers her only other trip to Ischia and seeks out the antique shop she visited only to find herself drawn into the shop owner and his grandson’s lives, as she learns more and more about her mother and herself.

While Prosecco and Promises didn’t appear to be my typical fare, combine Italy and prosecco with a little archaeology, and I’m all in. As in many books, the main character is seeking something, not realizing she really needs to find herself. Ischia is steeped in her family’s history, and Mia wants to learn more about her mother, the fleeting figure she can hardly remember, but at the same time, she has to come to terms with the impending loss of her father. A.L. Michael writes Mia’s ache so well, and I felt for Mia and understood her anger. At the same time, it was evident that Mia’s life was on hold and that the anger that bubbled out of her was directed as much at herself as anyone else. The release she feels once her father dies allows her to fast track the life she didn’t realize she was missing, and I loved that the author didn’t clip the ending but instead allowed Mia room to explore and feel her way a bit.

The cover belies the struggle Mia faces, as this is no chick lit, and Prosecco and Promises was a good mid-winter read, as the sunny Italian island is a perfect foil for the cold weather.

*Read what others have to say on Goodreads.

Fridays at Home: Half Bath, Flooring

9th February 2018

Last Friday, I talked about half bath demo and framing the wall and pocket door.

Once the wall was framed and the floor was clean and free of any leftover screws, we could lay backer board and then begin to tile!

We both really hated using the backer board. While it’s relatively easy to score (you really need a carbide blade for this, I discovered through reading contractor forums), the boards do tend to crumble, so it isn’t quite as easy to work with as drywall. You also do not want to lay your boards in such a way that four corners meet, so stagger them for stability. You have to leave space as well for them to shift. Otherwise, down the road, your tile might be affected. The purpose of the backer board is to make a monolithic substrate – a flat surface on which to lay tile. Contractors are divided as to whether or not you mud first. However, because we were going back with the same small mosaic tile, we were less concerned with breakage and decided to move forward. We used the appropriate backer board screws and, for stability, added them closer than every square foot. Time will tell if this was the right move.

Here’s where I’ll admit that I was desperately trying to get the job done. We host an annual Christmas party, and I was hoooooping I could have this close to finished. [Spoiler: I did not finish in time.] So I decided I could tile myself, once I finished the semester. Even though I’ve never tiled anything. Ever. We borrowed a wet saw from a neighbor who is really generous with his collection of tools, and I dry fit the tile to see how I could make the fewest cuts possible. After lots of looking and dreaming, we went with the Daltile Prologue Ceramic Octagon/Dot tile from Home Depot. The price was too good to pass up; the tile fits the feel/age of the house and the half bath and will abut the black and white lip into the kitchen (seen below). If you order tile, make sure you order more than you need – take it from me.

My husband helped me find the square of the room (don’t even ask me, it was way over my head) to make sure the tile was square. We snapped chalk lines for me to find a good spot to start. Note: Square and flush – those concepts are beyond me. Level is about as much as I can conceptualize.

Annnd I got started. I mixed my thinset, let it sit, per instructions, mixed again, and nervously began.

Mudding suuuuucks. I hate it. I was a mess. Who knew that using a wet saw and cutting tile was the easiest part of the process? Not me. But I powered through.

Tiling this tiny space took me all day. It’s so much trickier than it looks. See those little diamonds that fit into the spaces? Impossible not to have thinset ooze out. Because we used the same tile as the previous owners, I knew I had to fix that or be left with a tile job I was not pleased with. Once I finished, there were two square-foot sections that were higher. Thankfully, Caleb (my husband) was once a bricklayer, so he redid those for me.

After allowing the tiles to dry and cure, it was time to grout! Because of the size of the space between the tile, unsanded grout is recommended. I mixed it according to instructions, let it sit, then mixed a minute longer and got busy. You need a grout float and grout sponge for this step, and while it takes some elbow grease, it is SO satisfying to see the results! Essentially, you push the grout into the spaces with your grout float at a 45-degree angle, do an entire section, then wipe with your barely damp sponge. A haze will be left, but after 24 hours, you can wipe that away with a dry cloth. I couldn’t believe the difference.While it isn’t perfect, it’s so much better than the tile job before, and I love that even with the same tile, we went with a light gray diamond in between the white hexies. The gray is subtle but adds interest – and most importantly, made it feel like I wasn’t just having to correct someone else’s bad job.

We still have to seal the grout, but other than that, it’s ready to go! I’m proud that I did this almost totally by myself, but I will also admit, out of the many home projects I’ve tackled, this was not my favorite. But I saved us some money and retain bragging rights.

Join me next week as we get one step closer to completing this project.

Reading: Pacific War Nonfiction Update

7th February 2018

Since my last post detailing my Pacific War Nonfiction reading, I have written full reviews of To Hell and Back by Charles Pellegrino and Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard. I closed out that year with James Bradley’s Flag of Our Fathers. The year 2016 took me much deeper into my Pacific War reading. In 2017, I proposed teaching a study abroad course in Japan and switched my focus to Japanese novels and articles about Japanese literature, though I still have a mile-long list of nonfiction I’m eager to hunt down and read.

If you didn’t read my first post about my venture down the rabbit hole of out-of-print books on the subject, it all began when I watched Unbroken in the theater and realized just how little I knew about the Pacific Theatre in World War II – specifically, what a broad, isolated war it was because of the remoteness and distance between the islands on which the battles were fought. Initially, I searched for books in my local library and read their references. Then I joined a WWII reading group on Goodreads, and those guys had some really great recommendations.

Here’s some of what I’ve read since my previous update:


Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 by Max Hastings

How I wish I had read this book earlier in my quest for more information on the Pacific War. Though this book focuses on the last year of the battle with Japan, Hastings writes a multi-faceted look at the push to end the war – detailing key figures, battles, and political background. Because of this, readers get quite a lot of information, yet little context for what precedes it.

That isn’t to say, however, that this book is light fare. Hastings covers the Japanese in China, the British in Burma, the American re-entry into the Philippines as well as the impending threat of Russia in Manchuria and the widespread American firebombing of Tokyo, depicting the slow but steady tightening of the screws on Japan.

While not a play by play and casualty list of battles, Retribution is a fascinating, necessary read to pull together the various characters and stages of the Pacific theatre, and I plan to add his Armageddon to my reading list.


At War With the Wind by David Sears

The first 135 pages of this book are essentially a primer on the Pacific War – if you’re new to the subject, that might be helpful. However, even with my relatively limited reading, I was familiar with most, if not all, of the preview. Additionally, unlike other writers who include bits of soldier stories throughout the narrative, Sears includes details about soldiers in such a way that I had difficulty separating one from another.

Once the discussion of kamikaze pilots actually began (on page 136), the book continues to include dates, times, ship type, description of the kamikaze attack, and numbers of dead and wounded. The relay of this voluminous information becomes monotonous, and, at least personally, boring.

I also anticipated a bit more information on the psychological impetus for the kamikaze attacks and Japanese perspective, but the book did not address this.


Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix

While I can appreciate the feat of Bix to write such a sweeping biography of the war-time Japanese emperor, this book is a beast. At 832 pages, reading Hirohito is an undertaking, particularly as Bix takes readers back to Hirohito’s childhood, to help shape the image of Hirohito the country develops.

Bix was able to access primary documents of which previous biographers could only dream; however, none of Hirohito’s diaries is public, so reading much of the book was difficult, as I keenly felt the distance between the writer and his subject.

Unlike other readers, I did not feel that the biographer tried to change tack and absolve Hirohito of his responsibility. In fact, after reading of Hirohito’s near addiction to involving himself in his empire’s affairs, I don’t see how anyone could. Reading of his and MacArthur’s relationship and the American interest in keeping Hirohito on the throne only confirmed what I’ve read of the political machinations behind the occupation.

Not for the casual reader, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan was arduous but ultimately necessary for readers of Pacific War nonfiction.

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower

John Dower manages, in 676 pages, to make reading about post-World War II Japan gripping in a way few historians can. With photographs, documents, and both American and Japanese newspaper accounts, Dower details the immediate aftermath of the war as well as the six years of American occupation in an eye-opening account of American intervention in post-war Japan.

Japan, in 1945, was a miserable place to be. People were starving. Several of the largest cities were near decimated, and industry, which had been completely turned to producing for the war effort, left in shambles. Many women, left without husbands, turned to prostituting themselves to the occupation troops. Morale was incredibly low, and war crimes were being prosecuted, with military men shunned in the streets.

The question of what to do with Hirohito weighed heavily on MacArthur and the General Headquarters. So many Japanese gave their lives in the name of their emperor, the symbol of Japan. How the Americans transformed Hirohito from one for whom you must fight the white devils to a peaceful symbol of Japanese heritage was quite a feat. The efforts of the Americans to manipulate the Japanese government while simultaneously donning near invisibility in the machinations was both impressive and disturbing.

I’d venture to say that no journey into the Pacific War or post-war Japan is complete without reading Embracing Defeat.

Islands of Destiny: The Solomon Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun by John Prados

Prados introduces Islands of Destiny as a groundbreaking look at the battle he says actually turned the tide of the fight with Japan, the Solomon Islands campaign. For decades, the Battle of Midway was given pride of place as the moment Japan began to wane. Yet Prados points out that the Japanese had the upper hand in terms of strength going into Guadalcanal, and the Solomon Islands were strategic in terms of air support. Prados details each battle, complete with casualty lists, common to these battle histories, but at times the minutiae overwhelmed me.

That said, Prados also focuses heavily on intelligence and its role in the successes and failures of both the Americans and the Japanese and introduced the Australian coast watchers who were instrumental in intelligence gathering. This aspect of the book was fascinating to me, and I plan to seek more information on both the coast watchers and the Sea Bees, also of major strategic importance in the Pacific islands.