(story)time: the mothers by brit bennett


A few people have recommended The Mothers by Brit Bennett to me recently, and after I wrote about The Turner House, and Kendra mentioned it again, I quickly put it on my library reserve list. I read it within a week, which is a record pace for me at this particular point in my life. I was immediately swept into the story and the secret that is carried throughout the book.

Stepping out a bit from the story, what I thought about the most as I read and after I finished reading, was the idea of this collective community – a village of sorts – involved in the raising of three children into adulthood. Is a secret ever really a secret in this sort of community? “The Mothers” speak occasionally throughout the book as a singular voice; observers of the young, but not actively engaged in their raising. (But perfectly free to discuss their observations – and opinions – amongst themselves.) The literal mothers of the three are complicated as well – choosing to exit their children’s lives prematurely, physically or emotionally, but influencing them still through their absence or withdrawal.

I’m drawn to stories with characters that are simultaneously intimately connected and distantly estranged. The weaving of their stories are powerful and compelling, and in the case of this book, often heartbreaking.

I’m excited to read more of Bennett’s work. What an incredible debut novel.

dust off, dust up, hang up

My living room is super clean this week. I realize this week has barely started, but it’s been clean for four days now, and it’s a really good feeling. On Saturday I set up the ladder and worked my way down from the ceiling – dusting, straightening and shifting all of the books. I brought books down from all over the house and shelved them on the newly clean shelves. It felt really good. 


The only way we could devote so much time to the planning and drawing and coordinating on the addition project was to let a few a lot of things go. Deep cleaning was one of those things. We weren’t living in filth, but we couldn’t let ourselves get distracted by the piles that inevitably stack up if you don’t attack them on a regular basis. I haven’t filed anything for almost a year. It’s a nice, neat stack, and if I need to find something I can thumb through it. But if I had time to sit and file papers, that was time I needed to spend on the drawings. I just had to let some things go, and ignore the piles. I’m behind on a lot of things like that – photo sorting and printing, closet cleaning, etc. I have stashes of framed artwork and portraits that haven’t been hung on the walls, and there’s trim to be touched up, and a summer front that is almost ready to be installed… and we’ll get to it all, eventually.

The nice thing about forcing myself to let so many of these things go is that they now feel more exciting to tackle – less chore-like and more reward-like. Cleaning the living room felt great. There is nothing better (to me) than relaxing in a freshly cleaned room. I basked in that joy for almost 24 hours before this happened:


My photo is a little blurry, but if you follow M on Instagram, he has a series of photos / video of the mess on there. M cut a hole in the bookshelves – in the area where we plan to install a fireplace. This one, to be exact:d604b8537048729b692df570f67c78e9He created a tent to contain the dust – and there was a TON of dust.

Then he used a vacuum cleaner to create negative air pressure so that he could take down the tent and the dust wouldn’t immediately fill the room. He cleaned the whole area up and you can’t even tell that he did the work. Now we have a giant hole where our insert will go. The foam core is a to-scale replica of the actual unit, and it conveniently hides the hole. Our early spring was squashed this week by freezing temperatures and snow, and so F keeps pretending to use the “fireplace”.


I’m rambling a bit here, but I’m trying to circle around to the topic of mudrooms. Our living room is our mudroom – it’s our entry and our drop off space and it always has a zone of items destined for other places. Right now that’s the east wall with a neat line of bags and bins ready for Goodwill.

BUT NOT FOR LONG! My very first mudroom is on its way!

As I mentioned before, it’s not a huge space, but it’s a space. An entry space, half a level down from the main floor, with an adjacent area to stash our stuff. It’s not large enough for lockers or cubbies, but I’m not sure those are really necessary for us. More than anything, I want flexibility. I want a system that is simple and elegant and can adapt to our needs of the moment and of the season. And because this room is pretty open to the new stair, I want it to be an extension of the finishes there.

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but we are working with a general contractor that I’ve had a working relationship with for almost two decades. He’s built several of the projects I’ve worked on professionally, and he’s also done some of the smaller projects around our house for us. (The library shelves and our staircase are some notable ones.) He’s wonderful to work with on a project because he’s truly an artist at his core. He has an amazing studio space and shop – he’s an incredible cabinet maker, and we can’t wait to work with him on our kitchen. When we get further along in the project, I promise to take some photos of his workshop and post them here.

I mentioned in the stair post that we would like to incorporate wood in the stair “link” as a material change between the old house and the new addition. I’m thinking that some of that might also extend into the mudroom, and help create a flexible storage area. If the stair enclosure at the lower level is perforated wood, maybe that same idea extends into the mudroom on the walls and becomes a place to insert dowels for hanging up items or adding shelves. I’m still in love with the pegs in our master bathroom, and I’ve pulled a few of the images I’ve saved over the last year or so along these lines. Think of it as a modern interpretation of the classic pegboard – just weightier for bulkier items.




This last image relates more to the new living unit over the garage, but it has the same lines we’re looking for in the rest of the project. I love the simple shelf for towel storage with a place to hang a few items for a weekend visit. I also love that walnut shelf – it’s almost exactly what I have in my head for the kitchen cabinets and shelves – material and finish. More on that kitchen soon…


wednesday morning in the garden

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We’re back here again. A little later than I thought we might be, but we had a run of cold or windy Wednesdays, even in the middle of an unseasonably warm February. It’s hard to get up an hour earlier when it’s 40 and drizzling outside. But this Wednesday was perfect.

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Everything is budding, green things shooting up through the earth, several weeks earlier than in years past. The temperature outside is dropping about forty degrees; there is snow in the forecast for Saturday. I hope it’s milder than the predictions, and all the early blooms survive.

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I took that shot of forsythia above from a distance. When I was looking through the photos, I noticed that the cardinal we had been watching earlier is perched on a branch in the trees. Can you find it? It’s such a bright thing. We saw several on our walk.

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There’s a new path and viewing area in the Japanese Garden. F was very excited to spot it – we nearly missed it.

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The view from this peninsula is lovely. I couldn’t believe how fragrant the garden was.

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So much color already, it fills me up for these busy days ahead. The wind was brisk, but the sun was warm on our faces. We were there just as they opened, and walked for over an hour, passing four or five people at the most. It felt like it was all ours.

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She wanted to see the sheep, and she struck a “Hamilton Pose” on each one. The photos look like she’s raising her hand to ask a question. Or give an answer. Probably the latter.

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The rest of my Wednesday wasn’t so great. By the end of the day I felt the opposite of relaxed and energized. It’s nice to see these photos again – to remember these moments and to look forward to the next ones. Watching a garden come to life again is a magical thing when you find the time to notice it.

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