Wednesday, October 30, 2013

September snapshots

Before November swoops in and this really gets belated, let’s look back at some favorite pics from September.

Final swims of the season… here Erik is making a wave pool and Luke is swimming with a kickboard.

Croc-tober at the zoo (which started in September). Did you know that huge crocodiles can go a year or more between meals? Here the kids are checking out a cute baby alligator, another crocodilian.

And we always like to catch our zoo’s premier daily show – polar bear feeding with epic leaps to snatch up fish thrown in by the keeper.

We went to the state fair with Luke’s preschool class and enjoyed pig races,

Fought fires,

And survived a frightening encounter with the park ranger mascot… elk??

We went back to McCall’s pumpkin patch for the third year and once again the giant slides were a hit,

And pumpkin field photos will never be optional.

It’s so much fun to capture the eager explorations of the L & E team. Best friends and playmates all day long they’re always having fun (or into trouble!) together. Last month I took Eleanor out for a mommy-daughter shopping date and she kept telling me that she needed to buy something for ‘her Luke-a-boy’. Luke makes Eleanor a card almost every day that he’s at preschool and presents it to her beaming when we pick him up. Stay sweet and take care of each other, my loves!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Living room progress: soft & serene

Half of our backroom is in a mild state of construction. Specifically the kitchen.

Erik took a small wall down, moved the stove, and a few other changes. We love the way it’s opened the space up, but… we’re not quite sure what to do next. So we’re living with it as is for a few months and weighing the possibilities. Who knows, if Erik is furloughed it could be sooner rather than later that we have some more demo action in the kitchen. We shall see!

But in the meantime, the other half of the room has come together. When we moved here, the coffee table was the only furniture that we brought with us for this space. For six months we lived with it as an empty play zone, and then I bought the couch on a Black Friday sale at Home Decorators collection. The yellow leather chair is a flea market find (from the 50s!), the other chair is a Pottery Barn floor sample. The dresser in the back is a Craig’s List piece we cleaned up and the dhurrie rug might be my greatest shopping score yet. I bought it new just this week for $25 including tax!

The room is currently referencing a touch of autumn, Albuquerque’s loveliest season. Four little pumpkins field-picked by the kids on a preschool field trip (above), a few lanterns on the mantle,

and our autumn doll friends up on a bookcase.

The glimpses of nature in the butterflies and landscape photos on the wall reflect the indoor/outdoor feel of the picture windows.

We’d love to change out the wall-to-wall carpeting for hard flooring since our kitchen table’s in the room too, but who knows when we’ll get to that phase. For now it’s a cozy sunny spot where Erik is currently reading books with the kids before diving into this morning’s home projects… a hood vent for the kitchen and a mini-split for the playroom/guestroom. Just in time for Auntie C’s arrival this afternoon we hope!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Porch spruce-up

This year I cashed in a few holidays for front porch progress. For Mother’s Day, Erik bought me three lovely red hanging planters from Lowe’s. Thanks to his toil and talent each one is auto-watered, dramatically extending the survival rates for these pretty petunias.

For our anniversary, I requested a porch makeover and we made a weekend project of it. We cleaned up the porch and moved in a bench and side table from other parts of the yard. Then I purchased/sewed a few pillows and added a clearance pot and birdbath stand.

We also added a few things to the walls to cozy it up. The rustic tree art lived on our mantle inside for about a year until I decided to replace it with a zestier watercolor. Now the tree livens up our porch – a fitting motif for a house we affectionately call ‘Wild Oak’.

By the door we put up a vintage chalkboard from my favorite ‘upscale flea market’ (is that store title an oxymoron?). It’s a perfect spot for spontaneous sketches and greetings to guests. Here my poetry is joined by Erik’s tracking of our gas meter. A multifunctional piece!

We also wired in some low-voltage pathway lights along the front path and added plants with my parents.

Usually there’s plenty of kid detritus to counteract the tidiness, but I like to think of it as adding to the laidback hacienda feel. Come on over to watch the sun set and cruise a bit in the cozy coupe!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Playroom progress: A closer look

It took me forever to settle on a paint color for this space. I’d been leaning toward yellow since it’s our whole-house accent color, and a playroom is the perfect space for an accent shade to take center stage. But I feared that it would look country, gender-neutral baby, or intense in this busy space. So I retreated toward our standby, greige. It took the advice of a talented interior designer to talk me into a different kind of yellow, with the tiniest hint of green. Fresh and modern but not too loud. So I ended up using Martha Stewart’s ‘rice paper’ color, a creamy yellow, with hints of lime from the green accents in the room.

The colors and nature motif in the lamps and lampshades (Target) were the starting point for the space. They tie into nature’s palette outside and the creative mood that I wanted to evoke.

We bought the low plywood play table on craigslist while the house was under contract. It had been handmade for an in-home daycare and was being sold for a song. I knew it would make an ideal surface for the kids to engineer their duplo/train/playmobil and other creations. So it lived for several weeks in the back of our station wagon before the house closing because we didn’t want to unload it twice. Erik may have gotten some strange looks going through security into work, but it was worth it!

Our arts and crafts table is another CL treasure. I love the vintage French look to its blue-grey metal frame. And the small size and light weight make it great for moving around the room for forts and projects. I also like how the clear plexiglass top lets it recede a bit so the playtable can dominate avoiding the awkward dilemma of two dueling tables vying for authority in the room.

The table’s colored metal frame happily stews with a slew of other metals. There’s the bronzy door handles, a stainless steel art hanging system, a tin oversized clock, a chunky brass curtain rod, and these vintage metal file boxes.

I also mixed art styles. There are a few skilled pieces by grown-up artists amidst vibrant groupings of kid art. I love the message it sends to L & E that their art is just as beautiful and full of meaning as professional pieces in our home. I also hope it inspires them to grow further in their painting abilities!

As you would expect, toy storage is abundant. I loved that we could use both our white bookcases in this space. They’re such big pieces that we’ve often had to split them up, losing some of their clean and organized impact. The larger one holds mostly art items and there’s lots of open space on the lower white bookcase and in the play table cubbies. For now we keep most of the toys in the grand toy closet. I allow 1-2 toy sets out at a time to minimize clutter and keep their toys fresh and exciting as they rotate into play.

The ‘rug’ is just a remnant piece from when we recarpeted our old house, but it’s great for now since I don’t stress about messy art projects or other mishaps. Eventually I’d love to get something huge to go in this space, and switch out the old white chair for a compact loveseat to make things a bit cozier. Way down the line for the teen years, I could see moving out one of the tables and bringing in a sectional couch and a TV.

We’re often found building racetracks, painting masterpieces, perfecting forts, and pretending to be turtles in this happy sunny space. And for me, the cherry on top is an old rotary wall telephone that receives incoming calls. Fortunately it can’t dial out, so the kids can spin the clicking dialer to their hearts content. Our next project in here is more of a modern than a vintage endeavor though. We just ordered a heating/cooling unit, and hope to get it installed before our much-awaited visit from Auntie C!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The crown jewel of home layout

Two years ago when we started looking at houses, our realtor told us that few clients ever find their ideal layout. My first response was shock – how could anyone buy a house if it’s not their ideal layout?!? Then I moved on to solemn vow mode, promising myself that we would surely wait for the perfect layout. Well fast-forward seven months of arduous house-shopping and we were almost ready to settle. But just then an intriguing photo-less house listing popped up, we toured it the next morning, and our search was over! Wild Oak offered just what we’d been looking for… single-story, open kitchen-family room, small masterbath, big mastercloset, coats & shoes space in the back hall, separate formal dining with space for a big table, and a small front entry area. Is that being picky?

Those were all excellent, but the most compelling layout feature was a large bonus room that’s separated from the main living areas. I love having a separate playroom for toys so that I’m not constantly staring at them with mixed feelings. Part of me wanting them cleaned up and the other half wanting to preserve the kids’ creations for further play. A separated playroom is also nice for distancing the kid soundtrack so that grownup conversation can still be had when we entertain. Most significantly, we hope that if we’re still here when our kids are teenagers it will be a space where our kids can get together with friends. Private enough to make it appealing as a hangout but close enough for some supervision. Bring the parties here please!

Just as important, we envisioned a separate playroom that could do double-duty as a private area for houseguests. It’s so nice to have the guest space separate from the other bedrooms so that visitors aren’t awoken by our kids’ nighttime cries and don’t have to worry about being quiet if they get up early from east coast jetlag. And Wild Oak’s bonus room has its own bathroom, sealing the plan for private guest quarters. Finally the separation appealed to us because it lets you heat/cool the space more or less than the rest of the house as needed.

Yet somehow most houses have the second living area/playroom in plain sight of the main living areas! Leaving all those toys in view, a clash of kid and adult volume levels, and no possibility for the room doubling as a private guest space or conserving on overnight heating/cooling costs. Wild Oak’s previous owners had their act together though. They added an addition behind the garage that’s connected to the rest of the house by an L-shaped laundry/pantry/mudroom hallway. This provides easy access and some sound monitoring for kid play with the doors open, but plenty of privacy for overnight guests, teenagers, and toy messes. It’s also been fun since it allows for a more bright and kid-geared decorating aesthetic without clashing with the rest of the house since it’s not in view.

Well, clearly I can wax on at length about the merits of this layout. But let’s move on to a couple more photos. Here it is at play with the Ellabelle and Luke-a-boy, far enough removed from the rest of the house that the clutter and paper clippings don’t bother me too much!

I’ll be back hopefully tomorrow with some more pics and details on the room. Who knows, maybe October will be my month of blogging and I’ll work my way up to a house tour yet!