My friend Lauren recently commented on Facebook, “Give the people what they want: a house tour!” So, Lauren, your wish is my command. I’m working on cleaning small segments of my house so I can take pictures of them and share them with my interwebz friends. This weekend I tackled the main living space on the first floor.
Our home is located in East Denver and is a 1911 bungalow. We didn’t do any of the renovations– the previous owners had a remodeler brother, and he did all the renovations for them in 2010. We didn’t even paint before moving in. Luckily they did an amazing job creating a space that seemed perfect for us from the moment we walked in, and that we love even more now that we’ve been living here since the end of June.
The first floor was opened up and the stairs relocated to make a great open living space. Seriously, the first time we walked in, I said to Jon, “We could totally host Meatballs in here.” We decided to keep this floor TV free, to make it a place where we could focus on spending quality time with family and friends. Though the movers didn’t think it was possible, Jon the homebrewer’s beloved kegerator managed to make it into the space. Also, the plate wall (which you may remember from our last home) didn’t go up until this week, and I swear I didn’t feel fully moved in until that moment.
Today, I’ve got pictures of what I consider the main living space of the house on the first floor. Also on this level are two bedrooms, one belonging to Etta and Claire, and one we use as an office/craft room, and a bathroom located between the two bedrooms.
And there you have the first floor of our new home, minus bedrooms! I promise to share the rest of the house soon.
Recently, a friend at one of our Friday Night Meatballs dinners remarked as we set the table in the dining room that I must be a real adult because I have a dining room that I don’t use every day. It made me laugh.
I thought of his comment when I saw a post on Apartment Therapy called “Is the Formal Dining Room Dead?” Many of the 91 comments seemed to agree that the formal dining room is a thing of the past, with many folks preferring to eat at counters, breakfast nooks, in kitchens, and in other “open-concept” multi-function rooms.
Here’s the thing: my “front room,” sort of a living/dining room, is my favorite room of the house. I guess you could call it “formal,” since it’s full of our nicest things and is a space I keep free of kids toys, and, in fact, where my children are rarely allowed unsupervised. But that actually makes it “work” great for us. While we eat most of our meals around a four-seater table in our breakfast nook, any time we have one or more people join us for dinner, we eat at the dining table. And more and more as we host not just Friday Night Meatballs but also things like: a baptism brunch, baby showers, a Christmas party, wedding showers, and other gatherings, having a large “formal” dining table that expands from a small circle to a four-leaf oblong table that seats up to 12 has made having a “more the merrier” attitude about hospitality quite easy.
I know I’ve been singing the praises of toddlers a lot lately, but I gotta say, this was our best Christmas with our girls, yet. It’s the first one where they sort of knew something special was going on, and their joy and wonder have been a joy to behold. I think their favorite part of the whole season has been “kiss-mas wights,” and they love driving around, pointing out light displays according to whose side of the car they’re on– “ETTA SIDE! BEAR BEAR SIDE!” They also love turning on our Christmas tree and, though I worried they would constantly be messing with the ornaments, they actually play with them very sweetly and usually put them back– the lower 1/4 of our tree has seen a lot of rearranging.
This weekend, our television and Xbox both went on the fritz at the same time. I complained to my sister, and after inquiring whether they were on a surge protector (they were), she said, “Then the only explanation is ghosts.”
Now, I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in ghosts, but I have to admit that with our house’s history, ghosts are a possibility. This is our house:
As you can see, it’s a classic 60s ranch. The thing is, we live on a street and in a neighborhood in which all the other houses were built in the 1920s. It’s one reason I love our neighborhood and one reason I initially resisted buying this house– I love 1920s charm. Give me a Craftsman or Spanish Revival or Tudor any day. And yet, smack in the middle of all of these charming old homes is our midcentury modern house. It works out great for living with a child with a disability, because our home is open and all on one level, and so we bought it and have come to love it. Shortly after we moved in, a beloved college professor of ours told me that the reason our house was built in the 60s must be the plane explosion, which he remembered from his time growing up here.
Cue record scratch. Plane explosion?
A little Googling turned up the truth: in 1960, a plane from the nearby Air Force base exploded over the city. A large chunk of the plane landed on the house at our address, starting a fire and destroying the home, killing the woman inside in her bed. The bodies of two of the crewmen were also found on the property.
I guess after that, a new house was built in the architectural style that was popular at the time.
Given this crazy history, I guess it’s possible that the ghosts of that 62 year old woman and the two crewmen are hanging out and sending electronics on the fritz. But I hope not. I hope they’re at peace, wherever they are.
A few years ago, I inherited from my grandmother a collection of blue and white plates, some of which my grandfather had sent home from WWII to his mother. I have loved and treasured them in a cabinet for several years, but knew that the next time we owned a home, I wanted to decorate a room around displaying them. Well, we finally bought a house last summer, and all these months later, I’ve finally (mostly) finished our front/dining room.
It’s a weird space, because it’s the first room you enter after walking in the front door, and there’s a strange freestanding closet that awkwardly sits in the middle of the room, I’m guessing because there used to be more walls that were removed, but the closet had to stay for structural reasons. I think the weird closet contributed to this house being on the market as long as it was, because it was hard to picture how furniture would go and how the room would be used. For us, it’s more of our formal living area, because there’s a big den in the back of the house where we have our giant sectional and TV and all of the girls’ toys.
I made pillow covers (using this tutorial) in various blue and white prints to tie the plate wall into the sitting area, and I have plans to reupholster our couch and to recover the dining room chairs. I’m thinking solid colors for those, so let me know if you have ideas. The round table was a Christmas gift from my mother, who gave us her dining table after she heard me say I wanted a round table that expanded– this one has four leaves and can seat 12 with them all in place!
Another recent project, designed by me and executed entirely by my husband, was the remake of a thrift store end table.
The real showstopper of the room, though, is the plate wall.
In case you’d like to do a plate wall yourself, here are my plate wall tips: After asking some friends who had hung some plates, I settled on the metal spring plate hangers. I rolled out some extra wide wrapping paper on the floor and laid out the plates on top of it. Then, my husband and I traced around the plates, photographed the arrangement, removed the plates, and hung the paper on the wall. From there, we nailed hooks into the paper, and then ripped it down, leaving the hooks behind. I then referred to my photos to hang the plates on the hooks.
I love the way it turned out, and keep finding myself wandering into the dining room just to stare at the wall. It feels like something that belongs in the home of someone way cooler than we are.
We’ve been in our new place a few months now, and it’s finally getting into a state where I’d be willing to show you guys what it looks like. I figured I’d start with the cutest room: Etta’s and Claire’s.
Here’s the before:
And here’s the after:
If you’ve seen the girls’ room in our old house, there’s not a lot different in terms of actual stuff, but with light purple walls, the whole space feels so much lighter and more fun than the dark blue floral wallpaper in our old rental.
Greetings from the den of our new house! We’ve been here going on 3 weeks, and I am proud to say we are mostly unpacked. The lingering boxes are almost entirely books and things that go in the linen and hall closets, and we have grand plans to get some nice built in shelving up to hold all of that stuff. There’s still nothing hanging on the walls, either, but I’m pretty happy with our progress. Being surrounded by boxes really stresses me out, so I kind of go crazy to unpack as quickly as possible. I was lucky to have a weekend without the babies, so I got a lot done in that time.
Of course, the babies weren’t here because our AC broke when we moved in, despite having passed an inspection only a few weeks before. Three different people told us we needed a new unit, and worse still, we were told it would be weeks until they could install it. Going AC-free in the humid Arkansas summer, with two tiny tots, is not a good time. So the girls were sent off to Nonni and Poppi’s, which was nice and cool. The good news is, we finally had an AC guy come and look at it, who assured me that while most people want to sell new units, “most folks just need a $5 part.” He had it working in under an hour for $90, and gentle readers, I very nearly kissed him on the mouth. He was a humble fellow, though, so I refrained, because I didn’t want to give him a heart attack. He said it may run for years to come. (If you’re local and in need of an HVAC repair guy, let me know– I’d be happy to pass on the info of such an honest guy!)
Another update is that Baby Claire has still not had her shunt surgery. It got rescheduled thanks to a bronchial infection that made having surgery soon after too risky, and we are expecting to get it on the books soon. I will let you know!
I also realized that something big happened to me lately, and you may have noticed on Instagram, but I never wrote about it….
Now, this actually happened back in December. After a few months with a bob, I decided to go all the way to pixie town. And ever since then, each appointment, I’ve gone a little shorter. Six months later, the verdict is: I love it. It feels very “me,” as if my hair somehow matches my sensibilities. Which, considering I have been described as “impish” by others, a hairdo most suited to some sort of sprite just seems to make sense.
Since there may be some of you out there waffling on a drastic external change, can I please be the one to say: GO FOR IT.
My thinking on taking a step I had been waffling on for years was partially influenced by my recent brush with death. I mean, once you’ve faced down mortality, something as insignificant as hair just seems like a blip, not even worth agonizing over. The worst that could happen wasn’t anything scary, it was just the possibility I might not like my hair for a while until it grew out.
Of course, instead of hating it, I loved it. I strangely feel more feminine with short hair, perhaps because my face can stand out that much more without hair detracting from it. Now I’m very proudly #teampixie, and I have gathered a whole pin board of continued inspiration.
If you’re thinking of going short, I think now is a great time. I called it when I first saw the trailer, but I think Carey Mulligan’s Gatsby bob is going to have lots of girls wanting to go short. A picture of her is already my most-repinned pin. And then you can declare the Lumineers’ “Flapper Girl” to be your summertime jam as you enjoy the feeling of cool breezes on your neck in the sweltering summertime heat:
Cut off all of your hair
Did you flinch, did you care
Did he look, did he stop and stare
At your brand new hair
Only this time, for a change, it’s not a huge affair across state lines, as has been twice in the last 6 years, but just a couple miles from where I now sit. Of course, this time the move involves both two small humans and a cat who will surely hate us for a while, if that time he got suicidal when we took him on a weekend trip is any indication, so it’s still a pretty big deal.
The reason for this move is, after 3 years of renting and 3 years of further medical training for my husband, he has accepted an attending position in the hospital where he’s trained for the last 3 years. In other words, we’ve decided that Little Rock, AR is the place for us for the foreseeable future.
The house search has been long and arduous. There were difficulties in securing a loan thanks to screwups on the part of the bank who last gave us a loan for our house in Charleston. We got outbid/rejected on 3 houses we really really loved. I started feeling like my dreams of a perfect 1920s charmer within biking distance of my husband’s work with no carpet, a good-sized yard for the dogs, a nice kitchen, and a bedroom/bath on the ground floor for Claire were an impossibility. Actually, it turned out that they were: our new home is not the character-filled old home that Jon and I both usually prefer, but a 1960s ranch, smack in the middle of a street full of beautiful 1920s homes. So yeah, we are kinda getting the ugly house on the block. Except that it’s been fully renovated, has gorgeous dark hardwoods, and a really beautiful kitchen, even if it’s darker and more masculine than I would have chosen were I designing my dream kitchen from scratch (think lots of white and subway tiles and LIGHT). And we’re going from a 1200 sq ft 2 bed/2 bath to 4 beds/3 baths, with a huge carpeted den that I foresee will become our main hangout with the girlies the majority of the time. We’re not going to know what to do with ourselves with all that space! And if I ever get sad about the lack of crystal doorknobs or quirky built-ins, I will console myself by stepping into my WALK IN CLOSET, which is a real treat after 6 years in very old houses with very tiny closets.
We close on Monday, but won’t move in for a week or so while we have the house painted. Currently EVERY SINGLE WALL is a weird mustard-y beige, and that just can’t stand. This gives me time to oh…start packing?
I look forward to setting up our nest in our new home, and fully expect to be doing a lot more DIY/decor/home type blogging along the way. I’ve got all kinds of plans.
See, when we got our first dog Bessie, we just went to a shelter one day, found a pretty cute pup who seemed playful and friendly, and took her home. There was some puppy chewing of throw pillows and Playstation controllers, but for the most part, she was a freakishly good dog– well behaved, friendly, easy to get along with. Naturally, we thought this was all our doing. We’d go to other people’s houses and encounter unruly dogs who jumped up or begged for food or used the bathroom in the house, and we’d leave thinking to ourselves, what is wrong with them? They’re clearly doing a terrible job as pet parents! We’d think, if only they were as good as we are, they wouldn’t allow that behavior.
Then we got a second dog.
Olive, it turns out, is a vastly different dog, despite our clearly superior dog parenting abilities. In the years we’ve had her, we’ve been completely unable to teach her not to put her paws on us or attempt to climb in our laps or onto the furniture, both places she isn’t allowed. We have had to come to a very shocking conclusion: it’s not that we’re amazing dog owners, we just had a really amazing first dog.
This is a realization I think more first time parents need to come to. It’s a realization we’ve come to yet again as we parent twins who, at every turn, seem determined to remind us that they are very distinct individuals. It started when Claire began sleeping through the night on her own at about 3 months old. Etta still hasn’t mastered that feat. Baby sleep in particular seems to be an area in which everyone fancies themselves an expert. Particularly if they have one kid, the baby equivalent of a Bessie dog, they’ll happily tell you that all you need to do is exactly what they did, and you too will have a baby who sleeps through the night. I hope their next baby is an Olive, every time. Because even though we use the exact same techniques and parenting styles on both of our girls, one sleeps and one doesn’t. We can’t anymore take credit for Claire’s awesome sleeping abilities than we can the blame for Etta’s lack thereof.
The same thing happened with food. Claire took happily to purees quite easily (around 6 months), while Etta has always refused to let us spoon feed her. Several months later, at 10 months, and Etta has only recently decided that while she still hates purees, she’ll willingly chow down on any food she can hold in her own fist. Truly baby-led Baby Led Weaning. I can’t take credit for how either of my girls eats, really, either– they each just do their thing, and I figure out what that thing is through trial and error.
So, you parents of one baby who think you’ve got the whole sleeping and eating figured out through your superior skills? Your kid is probably a Bessie. The next one just might be an Olive.
It’s been months since I posted. It turns out life with twins as a grad student is a little busy, and then you add in the holidays, and you end up with a bit of a hiatus. I also think I’ve sort of been stuck in this rut where, unless a post is some sort of profound meditation on life and parenthood and whatnot, I don’t post it, and frankly, inspiration isn’t easy to find for the sleep deprived whose days are an endless cycle of feeding, changing, snuggling, and playing with babies. So, I’m going to try to get back into posting with less pressure on myself for every post to be some sort of major epiphany.
I figured I’d start with showing you the girls’ room lately, which has gone from a baby space to a space that better functions as a twin toddlers’ room. We’ve changed it around a lot to meet their needs as they are now very nearly ten months old. I know. Two months away from ONE YEAR. It’s insanity how the time has both crept and flown. (You can find the original nursery reveal here.)
I wanted the girls’ room to be more of a play space as they are now starting to be mobile and into everything, and I wanted them to have a safe space to explore. They got a lot of awesome toys from friends and family for Christmas, so we desperately needed some toy storage. Luckily, my husband is a super handy guy, and he built something amazing after seeing a few of my ideas on Pinterest.
To make space, we took out the futon and put in a secondhand chair. I will say, I am SO GLAD we had the futon for the first 8 months. Just to be able to lie down in there, or to rest the babies on either side of me in Boppies and feed both at the same time, was wonderful. I highly recommend a bed or couch in a nursery.
Anyway, here’s the space now, with before and afters for comparison.
Here’s a closeup of the new toy storage, built by my awesome husband!
The girls can crawl right up and grab blocks and toys out of the bottom bins, and if they’re sitting up, they can reach the shelf. As soon as they’re pulling up, it will be even more accessible. It was important to me that the toys be in view so they could easily see their options and get them for themselves. I had a feeling this would work better than a box or bin, because stuff on the bottom of a bin would be forgotten and never played with.
Here you can see the bucket we got to store stuffed animals, as well as one of my favorite things in the entire room, the canvas with the Vonnegut quote. It was a gift from a friend I met through Twitter, a “you survived” gift after all I went through getting the gals into the world. It is from a story in which a character is delivering a baptismal speech for twins, so it’s super apt. It says, “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies– You’ve got to be kind.” I think it’s a great rule.
Overall, the girls have the best-decorated room in our house, and we still haven’t bought a single new piece of furniture beyond the cribs, which were a gift from their grandparents. As I type, the girls are playing in the floor and I’m sitting in the chair.