Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Master bedroom reveal!

For so long our bedroom was a depressing place. None of the furniture matched, in fact much of it wasn’t even intended for a bedroom – we had a desk, buffet, bookcase, and toddler toys all vying for floorspace. We lacked many standard bedroom items such as night stands, a mirror, and sufficient storage. But the worst part was that it was always a mess, clearly serving as the overflow zone for the rest of the house’s junk, and lacking proper storage to ever be neatly organized. I would shut the door when we had guests and cringe if anyone peeked inside!

Slowly, we’ve transformed it. I’ll fill you in on the main stages:

1. We painted the walls. I think it’s recommended that you decide on all your furnishings and decorative accents and then paint to match, but since I hated the old color and a can of paint is a cheap change, we started there. Since the room opens directly into our living room, I picked a deep, saturated teal because I wanted a contrast in color to help it feel more like a separate space. Wee had Home Depot color match Benjamin Moore’s ‘azores’.

2. Window treatments. We traded out the old stained vertical blinds (that would flap unsettlingly whenever we opened the windows) for white faux-wood horizontal blinds at Home Depot. We love the look, price and sturdiness of these blinds, plus we got them at deep discount due to minor damage. They keep the room cozier and more private by blocking the top half of the window while letting in light and air on the bottom. They also work well with two sheer curtain panels that I bought in high school, thinking that they’d be lovely curtains for my house someday and/or a great egyptian costume! Now they’ve served me well on both counts!

3. Erik made us a bed. I loved Pottery Barn’s Riley bed but not its price tag. So I found one of the Riley slipcovers slightly used on ebay and Erik used its measurements to construct a headboard that holds it perfectly, just like the PB one. Then he made an extra-high platform bedframe, which allows for a line-up of storage bins underneath. The bins and the frame’s unfinished  2x4’s are completely hidden thanks to a pretty 18” tailored bedskirt, also an ebay find.

4. We found good homes for a few furniture items that we just couldn’t make work together. This might have been the hardest step, but made such a difference! Our house is 1400 square feet with no basement, virtually no attic storage, and Erik is very territorial when it comes to the garage. So finding new homes was our only option for things that couldn’t work within our floor plan.

5. We flew to Phoenix to shop at Ikea buy a car. We flew in, bought Solveig, and then drove across town to Ikea with a completely empty vehicle to fill with furniture! It was actually my first time ever at Ikea and I do wish there was one closer, or that we hadn’t been rushed by a cranky baby and a looming eight-hour drive back to ABQ that afternoon. Nonetheless, I had a glorious time selecting two nightstands and a wardrobe, all of which matched, for our bedroom. The wardrobe only came with a few shelves because it was meant to store hanging clothes, but Erik crafted plywood shelves so that it now accommodates a slew of plastic bins.

  6. I bought a Lane cedar chest on Craig’s List. The date of manufacture printed on the bottom is in the 1940s! It makes me wonder what sort of history it has seen, and I just love all the storage it provides at the base of our bed. Right now it’s holding gifts that our east coast Santas have dropped off early, my own Christmas shopping to date, and holiday decorations.

7. My mom found the perfect bedside lamps and shades for us on clearance at Target. I love these Thomas O’Brien lamps and the black shades that break up all the white in the room and stand up to the dark walls.

8. On a walk in our neighborhood, we found a huge antique mirror marked down to $30 at an estate sale. It brightens and opens the room wonderfully, and holds its own against the space’s other big pieces.

9. Then I just framed a couple photos and made up the bed with new euro shams.

10. And here is the finished room!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving snow!

Well, we didn’t manage to get Luke into his Thanksgiving costumes this year. I had the best intentions, but by the time we deliberated over paint colors using our stockpile of sample cans, went to the grocery store, and made and ate a turkey dinner, we were all starting to run out of steam. I broached the topic of putting on the ‘deerskin’ vest with the little brave but decided not to push his evening mood from fragile to critical.

Despite his tired ending, the little boy had been in high spirits that morning as he set off to explore the freshly fallen snow!

Without any prompting, he got right to work digging his car out. Just think what he could do with a real snow shovel!

There was one minor point of confusion however. He would empty each shovelful into the trunk of his coupe. We’ll have to be sure to clear that up before we let him shovel out our car.

Then he began to push it free of the ice… and picked up speed!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

O, Ommy!

We have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with Luke’s verbal communication skills. He has never been a talker, waiting a while before saying his first words and still only reluctantly resorting to speech as a mode of communication. He also tends to omit the first sound of words, thereby lessening their impact and often muddling his meaning altogether. Often we ask him to ‘use words’ with no intelligible response, leaving him frustrated that I won’t fulfill his demand and me aggravated by his whining.

But once I finally figure out his way of saying a word, I grow attached to his quirky reinventions. For a long time I wondered if he had some sort of color blindness because he would say all of his colors reliably except for orange which was ‘juh” – green right? But eventually I realized that green is ‘geen’ and ‘juh’ is orange according to his pattern of removing the first sound, only this time he took off two sounds.*

Only a couple months ago did Luke begin to use the word mommy regularly. Before he would cry for me with a ‘ma-ma’ once in a while, but mostly he would just cry or whine and assume that I knew that the noise was for my benefit. But now when he wants me he calls out, ‘ommy!’ Sometimes Erik tries to correct his pronounciation, emphasizing the ‘'mmmuh’ sound, but I’m quick to interrupt and assure Luke that ‘ommy’ is the perfect way to say my name. There are plenty of mommies out there, I’d like to enjoy my elite ‘ommy’ status just a little while longer, thank you!

Fortunately, Luke has also yet to become a child who uses the word ‘no’ frequently, with anger, or even intelligibly! My parents joke that it’s because he never hears it and Erik likes to think it was reinforced by his consistent use of the phrase ‘not for you’ as a no substitute for Luke. Myself, I would like to think that it’s because our boy has such a contented temperament, although I’m not sure how that quality stacks with his whiny fits on the floor. Nevertheless I think we can all agree that his cuteness plus his pattern of removing a word’s first sound leaves him with the sweetest ‘no’ that there could be! If you ask him a question he’d like to decline, he simply shakes his head sweetly and says ‘oh’!

* Need a Lukan lexicon for colors? Red: ‘eye’, blue: ‘boo’, white: ‘ite’, yellow: ‘ellow’, black: ‘app’, purple: ‘buh-ple’, pink: ‘pin-tuh’, brown: ‘bown’.  He still is resistant to saying the names of most animals, though he will gladly let you know what sounds they make!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ship ahoy!

Tomorrow brings our maiden voyage in Thanksgiving dinner preparation! We tried inviting some friends over and considered going to a friend’s house, but due to travel, colds and Luke’s naptime,  none of those scenarios quite worked out, so I’m planning dinner for three. While I still need several items from the grocery store and have yet to start cooking, we’re set to sail on the tablescape front. In fact, I had the table set so far in advance that tonight Luke was delighted to host dinner for the three of us at his play table.

I was inspired by a little pilgrim craft (instructions here) I saw in the Thanksgiving issue of Martha Stewart Living. I added a few sea creatures to our ship scene since Luke loves his ocean books, and then marked the boat with three special initials and a pilgrim hat. Don’t worry, the candles are lit by LEDs so the risk of ship fires is low.

Of course my beloved turkeys needed a little limelight too. And who knows how we would beat out all the competition for our seats without namecards!

Next time, especially if guests are coming, I’ll be sure to have the food prep started a little sooner. But since it’s just the three of us we’re having a very simplified Thanksgiving spread. We’re also hoping to continue Luke’s dress-up tradition – bringing out his homemade ‘indian’ costume from last year (below) and adding a pilgrim one. Happy Thanksgiving says our little brave!

[PS: there are new photos in our most recent Luke gallery plus new videos, hopefully we’ll have cute T-giving shots up soon!]

Monday, November 22, 2010

Website mini-makeover

“We made lots of great changes on our website this weekend!” I reported excitedly.

“Fabulous! I’ve visited it twice already today and didn’t see them, when will they show up?”

Actually, they’d been up all day, but I guess the improvements weren’t quite as dramatic as I’d thought. Nevertheless, we’d love for you to visit our website homepage to see its sleeker look and try out the new links in the header. We also added a navigation bar to our photo galleries page. It allows you to easily access some of our favorite photos and to view photo galleries by topic. On the blog, we updated aesthetics, labeled posts with keywords, and added a sidebar that sorts posts by topic.

As I write out these changes, I can see how my sister missed them. And I wonder if the time it took to make the tiny font, color, or alignment customizations was a little inordinate. Perhaps, but Erik and I enjoyed working on it together, and it’s satisfying to see many of those pesky imperfections resolved. Luke looks pretty impressed with his new publicity platform, doesn’t he?!

PS: Here’s a ‘before’ pic of the blog for comparison…

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Don’t honk at cattle

Twenty miles of washboard after a long empty paved road, we arrived. For miles the road had seemed to be slowly petering out and it completely disappeared after this house. Several cattleguards previous, any signs or road names had ceased, which explained the seller’s lack of address. We noticed several solar panels and a ring of rain barrels, and as I wondered about their purification system I made a mental note to avoid accepting a glass of water.

“You thought I grew up in the middle of nowhere, honey, what do you say now?'” Erik asked. I didn’t need to say anything to concede his point. We took Luke out of his car seat and I wondered once again what we would do if they demanded our money, our camera equipment, or worse. Would our precious boy be safer if I just stayed with him in the car, keys at the ready, or would he ensure our protection with his irresistible cuteness? I assured myself that they seemed nice on the phone, and we walked toward the house.

We were met by an older couple with friendly smiles and very tanned skin. They were very thoughtful and solicitous in asking about our drive, and their kindness put me at ease. When we entered their home, I was relieved to see the camera equipment set out for us, and typical kitchen and dining furnishings. The couple explained that they no longer used these types of lenses for their landscape artwork, which Luke and I enjoyed viewing while Erik inspected the equipment. They offered us terrific prices. It seemed their location may have somehow discouraged other Craigslist trollers from snapping up the deals.

We left with several upgraded lenses for hardly more than we would earn selling our current models on ebay. Erik was elated, and my patient and indulgent wife status was secured for many months to come. We also came away with some tips on humanure and this solemnly given advice – don’t honk your horn if a crowd of cattle collects in front of you on a dirt road. Evidently, the ranchers honk when they drive out to the cattle with truckloads of feed, so honking will cause the animals to mob your vehicle and significantly delay you. Instead, roll down your window, bang on the side of your car, and yell loudly. Getting to try out this tactic would have added to the story, but I didn’t mind that our journey back to civilization proceeded without incident.

Since this mid-October trip, it’s been fun to see the nicer pictures that our camera can produce. One of these was the winning shot for the (very small) Kiwi Industries photo competition. Wasn’t it worth the adventure to capture such cuteness!?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Perfect autumn days

Around the Rio Grande, fall foliage seemed to peak this past weekend and we took advantage of it with a trip to the zoo and another to the botanic gardens. Albuquerque autumns get prettier and prettier to me each year we’re here. They don’t offer the range of reds and oranges that you find on the east coast, but there is plenty of beautiful yellow from cottonwoods and aspens as well as other spotlight specimens of rusty red and the occasional orange. We spent Sunday afternoon at the Japanese garden (in the ABQ biopark) and soaked up the exquisite fall foliage colors on display there.

Luke loved throwing leaves to the fish in the pond. He was also generous with his kisses for the baby. For some reason he gives the baby sweet perfect kisses but all his parents usually get are head butts on the cheek. At least he softens the tough guy act for his sister!

Then we lured him away from the pond by watching the biopark train pass by

And Daddy taught him how to drive a tractor -- basically it’s the same techniques Luke’s already perfected on the cozy coupe. (:

On Friday we spent another gorgeous afternoon at the zoo. Luke wore his ‘circle sweater’ because the manufacturer (kiwi industries) is having a photo contest and I wanted to submit a pic or two of our little munchkin. Does my certainty that he should win destine me to be overly concerned about my child’s achievement? 

Here we are watching the mountain lion exhibit. The cats paced magnificently along the front of their cage, but the fact that they are native to our area combined with the way their eyes seemed to track Luke’s every movement made us both a little nervous…

This week the weather is turning cooler and soon those leaves will be on the ground. We’ll miss you perfect autumn days!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A tale of four faucets

It seems that the nesting stage of this pregnancy has hit a little early as we’ve been flying through home projects these past few weeks. The thought of two little troublemakers goads us on, and Erik’s talent and patience for all sorts of projects makes it easy to cross items off my list!

I’ll start with the most dramatic transformation, our two bathrooms. We painted the oak cabinets (using the same paint we’d already applied to the kitchen ones) and installed new faucets (in hopes of solving a recurring leak). Then we added a few decorative touches. Here is the master bath when we first moved in – we hadn’t yet replaced the carpet (around the toilet!) or taken down the wallpaper:

This is it today, after tiling, wallpaper removal, updated door & cabinet hardware, wall & cabinet painting, and new faucets. In a dream world, I would replace the big mirror and light fixture with two more interesting ones of each, one pair over each sink. But I’m pretty certain those projects are beyond the scope of our plans for this house.

Here is the guest/kids’ bath before, with more busy wallpaper and less than lovely linoleum.

And this is the guest/kids’ bath after. Of course our biggest improvement is the precious little marshmallow man! But I also like my alligator towels and the new tile… (:

Another sink in our house saw a smaller spruce-up recently. When I saw this in Home Depot, I decided that the time had come to upgrade our kitchen faucet too.

Then I made a valence for the sink window since the old one hadn’t matched as well since we repainted the walls. Don’t look too closely, I’m still learning to sew and it came out rather crooked. 

We’ve also made big strides in the master and guest bedrooms, but they are still awaiting finishing touches. I’ll be back to post on them once we put a few more pieces into place. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a photo of how Luke has been preparing for the new addition to our family. Watch out for fire trucks, baby!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More pumpkins…

This will be my last pumpkin post of the season, I promise! A few days ago I found these Halloween luminaries discounted at Target and I love them so much that I can’t pack them away quite yet.

In fact, I thought they were such a find that I had to buy some for my mom since her local Tar-jay was out of stock. I still do most of my non-food shopping with my mom despite the 1700 miles that separate us. Lately our venues of choice have been ebay (we’ll both have our computers on and send auction links back and forth) and the Target clearance areas (we each go to our respective stores and discuss the inventory, sending photos as needed). She and my sister are still my primary authorities on all style questions. Sorry, Erik! But anyway, here are the luminaries on the bookcase behind our table:

They combine well with Luke’s gourd collection to make a pretty autumnal arrangement, but in reality these gourds can’t display long before Luke manages to whine them off the platter and into his trucks.

Tomorrow I’ll post about our recent bathroom facelift. Now that we’re in November and ‘little princess’ is due next month, the pressure to finish things off is really on!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween weekend!

This year Luke had two more admirers for his Halloween costume. Grandma and Grandpa Nielsen came out to visit for the weekend! Luke has developed into such a pumpkin enthusiast that we decided to spend Sunday afternoon at another pumpkin patch. The combination of autumn gourds and child-size tractors made for a Lukan paradise which could only be enhanced by Grandpa’s willingness to push the little boy around on the tractor.

Later that evening our wholesome little farmer morphed into a fearsome tiger! Watch out below!

Despite his stealthy prowling and wild roars, this tiger did have a soft spot for the paparazzi…

Notice the three candy bowls on the sideboard in the pic below? We were visited by about 175 trick-or-treaters and then had to turn off our lights at 7:45 because we were out of treats!

While the grandparents did candy duty, Erik and I took the little wildcat around to a few neighbors' houses. He picked up the technique of holding out his bag and was fairly reliable about saying ‘thank you’. But he never quite managed to deliver the ‘trick or treat’ line. Too much to distract him at the crucial moment! Maybe next year he’ll master that one. In the meantime, he’ll leave you with a ‘So Long, Cowboys!’

For more Halloween weekend pics, click here.