Monthly Archives: May 2012

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25 Things

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I stumbled across this list of 25 things about me written several years ago. It’s generally still true, I still swear in front of my kids, refuse to hem pants and get tired of gardening by August.  Photo 2009, by Todd Rosenberg

1. I’m really tired most of the time. Ok, all of the time.
2. Both my kids came very early and were rushed off to the NICU. I feel random guilt about this and still get kind of weepy every time I see a “TV moment” where everyone’s happy and the baby is placed on the chest. I saw one of those tonight, so now its in the note.
3. If I wasn’t in arts education I’d probably be an interior designer. I really like to waste time rearranging furniture and thinking about that stuff. (Instead, four years later I’m starting a blog)
4. I am frequently amazed that a dance education that began in Arkansas led to such a fantastic career.
5. I met my husband when I was 19. Which seems kind of ridiculous now.
6. I don’t like to hem pants so I wear heels most of the time. But only comfortable heels, they have to pass the Roan test.
7. I’m huge advocate of breastfeeding and have nursed my preemies waaaay past most people’s comfort level.
8. I had no idea I was so granola about some things till I became a parent.
9. I swear in front of my kids. Roan used to say dammit a lot. It seems to have slowed down now.
10. I was a vegetarian for 10 years, but since it turned out not to be a life decision I feel weird saying it, like I’m trying to be cool but I’m faking it.
11. I was on the drill team in high school. Pretty much everyone who knows me now has to see photographic proof to believe it. I think that’s probably a good thing.
12. I like to start with things that are completely screwed up and fix them so everything is my way. At least with houses and jobs.
13. I really like to get my own way. But I like to think that I’m open-minded.
14. I’m not religious. At all.
15. I yell too much. See #1.
16. I like to garden. Or rather, I like to garden in the spring. I’m usually tired of it by August.
17. My mother is British. My father is from Michigan. They met in a bike club in Michigan. I was born and raised in Arkansas. Where I was once asked “so, what language does your mom speak?”.
18. I’m terrified of ending up like my mother, physically, but can only hope to be as good a mom as she is (I love you Mom).
19. I know some really interesting people these days that I don’t get to spend enough time with.
20. I find it very difficult to create and maintain real friendships as an adult.
21. I’m the person who always promises to write and never does. But I do think about it.
22. I spend too much time on the computer and too little time playing.
23. I wonder what it is I’ve searched on facebook that makes their targeted marketing think I would be interested in botox.
24. I don’t like clutter and mess. I’m trying to reconcile that with life with kids.
25. I moved once a year for 12 years, but have now been in the same house for 8 years.

Progress

There was much painting this weekend. A little more than planned when I discovered that the can of paint that I thought was Roan’s room color was not. So walls were painted, as well as the floor. I’m still a little sore from all the bending, this room is a good waist workout with all the angles. Washi tape, side table and rug are on the way. We’ve drawn up plans for the door. The room color is growing on me, I think it will be fine once everything else is in the room.

Before and After: The Backyard

This weekend was the fourth anniversary of our backyard renovation, a moment I celebrate annually. In the midst of being thankful for our personal freedoms and grateful for those who made and continue to make that possible, we also quietly mark a major achievement for our home. This was one of the moments that made us realize we really could turn this hideous house around. Think I’m exaggerating? Wait till you see the before shots. You’ve seen the front of the house when we bought it. It’s not fabulous, but it doesn’t make you want to run the other direction screaming. This my friends, was our backyard view.

 

Pretty awesome, yes? Paved over from alley to house (with, as we later discovered, asphalt OVER concrete. Because really, why stop at just concrete).  And let’s not discuss the pepto pink color. You can’t tell from the photo, but its not even the same material across the back of the house. Also not pictured, the 10 foot satellite dish and rusty basketball hoop. Those we managed to take down ourselves. Want to see more?  They all include the adorable two and three-year old, as she was the focus of the documentation at the time. Oddly, I have very few photos of the backyard during this period. Its like I didn’t want to remember it.

Why yes, that fence is falling down. No, I’m not sure why I even tried with the container garden. Nothing was going to help this. Classy stuff going on here. But wait, there’s more.

That’s right, there was also a metal shed. Falling down as well, of course. Not pictured, the drum container located inside of unidentified chemical something and the giant wasp nest. It was, I think it goes without saying, our dream home.

This was not a DIY project.  And, as you might imagine, it was not cheap. The backyard project had three phases. Phase one included removal of the metal shed and replacing it with a wooden kit one from Lowes. Phase two included removal of everything else. Which took about two weeks, with numerous strong men and machines and untold dumpsters. That was in March 2008. Then it rained for two months, so we had mud. SO. MUCH. MUD. The tall one was in kindergarten, so we invited all her friends over for a mud pie party one day, trying to make the best of it. It was insane and lots of fun.

Finally it dried up enough for the fence crew to place the fence posts and the landscapers to install the parking pad/patio and sod. A garage is part of phase four, but who knows when that will actually happen. I put in all the plants and four years later its hard to even remember just how ugly it once was.

So green, in fact, that I need to get out there and weed the patio. This next photo shows where the metal shed used to be. Now the home of our patio and herb garden.

The perennial beds. Our yard has no shade, which is perfect for a cottage butterfly garden. Everything I’ve planted is perennial, super low maintenance (with the exception of the hydrangeas, which need lots of water and aren’t happy in July) and attracts so many butterflies and bees to the area. Plants include may night salvia, Echinacea, foster’s reed grass, flame grass, butterfly bush, lilacs, hydrangeas, roses, tickseed, coreopsis, coral bells, the willow dome, crane’s bill geranium, peonies, the vegi garden by the house, asters, phlox … I’m sure there are more I’ve forgotten or that just haven’t come up yet.

The fence is no longer falling down and several happy freecyclers took the more than 200 day lilies I dug out from underneath it. I really need to trim back the monster butterfly bush and lilacs back there so that the grasses and Echinacea planted with it have a chance. And I wish we’d put in a higher fence at the back, when we do use the parking pad as a patio for parties I’d like more privacy.

Phase four, currently dubbed the “Someday Phase” includes installing patio doors and a narrow deck along the back of the house, as well as a green roof garage/covered patio utilizing the model of an architect friend who recently built one for his own home. Someday. There’s always a next step, but this weekend I was really happy with how far everything has come. It’s not quite as good for side-walk chalk as asphalt, but its much, much more livable.

Planning the Small One’s Bedroom

I mentioned earlier this week that a redo of the small one’s bedroom was up next in my list of projects. Let’s take a quick tour of his current set-up and look at what we’re thinking of changing.  Roan’s room is a mish-mash of furniture that was purchased originally for other areas of the house. The chair, rug and side table used to be in our living room (you can see them here).  We purchased the bed for our daughter and then gave it to him when we found a different option for her. It’s a good choice for a little boy though, steel beds are indestructible. The duvet cover was also originally Emmeth’s, purchased when she was three for I mentioned earlier this week that a redo of the small one’s bedroom was up next in my list of projects. Let’s take a quick tour of his current set-up and look at what we’re thinking of changing.  Roan’s room is a mish-mash of furniture that was purchased originally for other areas of the house. The chair, rug and side table used to be in our living room (you can see them here).  We purchased the bed for our daughter and then gave it to him when we found a different option for her. It’s a good choice for a little boy though, steel beds are indestructible. The duvet cover was also originally Emmeth’s, purchased when she was three for her first room. Its held up really well.

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Small Changes – Garden Updates

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Finn built this lovely bamboo pergola last summer to provide better support to my wildly overgrown wisteria and shade the small patio he’d built the summer before. The wisteria had to be cut off its previous support, but is coming back nicely this spring. Our little yard faces west and has no trees (it was paved over completely when we moved in) so this little spot is our one patch of shade for diners al fresco and general relaxing. It had one major drawback. Mosquitoes tended to make the evening hours unbearable. I stumbled upon this site listing mosquito repellent plants and thought I’d try stocking the planter boxes that surround the space with them this year. The weather last weekend was lovely and my garden has been neglected, so I pulled out all the baby trees from the planter boxes and went shopping. I had to go to a couple garden centers to find them all, although if I’d started here I wouldn’t have had to try so many places.

First I laid out my plants.

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Lemongrass, mint and marigolds. A random carnation I’d been given for Mother’s Day.  It was looking a little too sparse, so off I went again, this time looking for rosemary, more mint and something that trailed for interest.

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Anatomy of a Room: The tall one’s bedroom

Today I thought I’d take you through my daughter’s room. We completely gutted it last year and redecorated it (what we found behind the walls is a whole other story), moving it from the toddler/preschool era into a style more befitting who she is now. The space is tiny, with lots of architectural challenges. Our upstairs is an overgrown attic. Someone added a half-dormer at one point, poorly. The ceilings are low, there are no doors, no closets and few walls. Each end of the upstairs has a small room, 10 feet square, with pitched sides. We’ve made these the children’s rooms and of necessity they are designed simply. Each room has a twin bed, a desk, a dresser and shelves built into the knee wall (well, the small one’s will someday, his shelves are still on the project list).

 

Children are known for being rather opinionated. Or perhaps that’s just my children? At any rate, when we started discussing fixing the tall one’s room last year, she insisted everything (EVERYTHING!) must be purple. We knew we’d have to repaint, as we needed to remove her walls entirely as the plaster/drywall/who knows what was too badly damaged to repair and we wanted to put in some insulation, repair the electrical and add built-in shelves for some storage.  What started as a repair project which allowed her to choose a new paint color, however, quickly spiraled into an opportunity for her to completely redecorate the space. We hadn’t done anything with it since we first created it when she was three, it seemed time to let her make it more her own. But all purple. That was a challenge.

We began with the paint color. I found it easiest to give her choices I could live with, so for each item I gathered three or four options I found acceptable and within my budget. I picked up four paint samples in varying shades of purple and together we painted them on the walls, then she choose the one she liked best. She took her time with it, looking at the colors at various times, it was fun to watch her envision her space. I did the same thing with the curtains, choosing several fabric swatches and allowing her to make the final choice. Once she’d chosen several purple items, I asked her to choose a contrasting color. She picked teal and then proceeded to freak out when I painted the dresser we’d thrifted (less than $100 people!). She loves the final product though. From there I looked for a duvet cover that had blue and purple to bring things together. Not the exact same shades we’d already used, but colors that were the same tone so that things went together. Remember, it doesn’t have to match.

Once we had chosen the big items, I found lots of little accessories to bring things together and make the space feel more grown up for her. The jeweled curtain tie-backs and hooks above the dresser for her necklaces added some sparkly whimsy, there are frames in teal and purple for her shelves to bring the colors over there too. I found the decals at Homegoods and let her and a friend put them up where ever they liked. I love how she’s created little vignettes with her precious objects in the space. Her fairies line the window sill (they like the fresh air and light you know), there are little Japanese eraser animals set up in lines in a cigar box,

felted animals and elves live in harmony in a wooden house she constructed and painted last year,

even her books are arranged to showcase class photos and favorite items (she’s clearly my daughter).

I’m not going to claim it’s always this tidy, but as there’s very little in there it never gets too bad. Books and knitting projects everywhere seems to be the biggest problem and I can’t really complain about that. There’s always a stack of five or six by her bed and one or two knitting projects in process. It was a lot of fun to create a space with her and choose things for her that reflected who she is now. You can’t do that in the same way when they’re smaller. There are still several things to finish, even a year later, we always seem to get about 90% finished and run out of steam. Sometime soon I’ll go back and paint the trim on her window and round the bookshelves. And we need to figure out a door. How have you approached decorating kid’s rooms, anyone else have opinionated children?

ps – we’re about to embark on this process with the small one. He’s requested green. You can find a sneak peak of my ideas here.

Anatomy of a Room: Texas Traditional

A friend recently asked me to take a look at her living room and provide some guidance. Her style is very different from mine (plus she lives far away, so I haven’t even seen the space), but I thought it would be fun to stretch my boundaries and see if I could come up with something. Her living room space is similar to mine, long and narrow with lots of doorways and windows to work around. It also needs to function as TV space, office, music room and general living for their family of nine (9!), ages one and up. Definitely a challenge.

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Above and Beyond

Remember the Owl Cake Disaster? After saving that one I was ready to swear off baking for a while. The tall one, however, had other ideas. Her class is in charge of a fundraising event, Hootenanny for Haiti. The logo is, guess what, an owl. That’s right. So on Tuesday she informed me that she’d told her teacher about the cake from her birthday and that I was probably making another one for the Hootenanny. At least she put in probably. Although she may have added that in when she noticed my expression half-way through the sentence. Oh well, I had signed up to bring a baked good of some kind. I’d pretty much planned on phoning it in with break and bake cookies given my work schedule, but what the hell. And because of this, my dear readers, I have an owl cake tutorial for you. I know, I think its pretty awesome too.

So, like all great cakes, this one begins with cake batter. This one is a chocolate cake, using my favorite recipe. Gather your dry ingredients.

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Dancing on the Ceiling

Remember the turquoise chandelier project? Finn just reminded me he has some time off coming up which means I must. make. plans.  Right?

When we put up the chandelier I mentioned that I wanted to add a patterned ceiling to the tiny space. Here’s a view of what we’re working with:

Now I need your help. Which pattern should I put up there? Here are some images I’m thinking about.

Via

via

via

I’m leaning towards the chevron. What do you think? Any other suggestions?

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