Wednesday, July 27, 2011

She's growing up

Today was my oldest daughter's last day of pre-school.  Madeleine's attended this school, which doubles as daycare, on at least a part-time basis since she was 4 months old, for a total of five years. We've had our ups and downs there, but overall, her school successfully provided a secure, happy environment that served as a second home.  She's deeply attached to her teachers and classmates, and so although she's excited about kindergarten this fall, leaving today was bittersweet.

We brought gifts and letters for her current teachers but wanted also to bring something sweet and simple for all of the teachers and staff who have nurtured her along the way.  The obvious choice: her namesake cookie, the one we serve at all special events like birthdays and baptisms, the madeleine.

As I wrapped each pair of madeleines in cellophane and ribbon, I did so with sincere affection and gratitude for all of the people who helped this little girl:

first day of school, age 4 months

grow into this one: 

pre-k graduation, age 5 years

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

August Reading List

In honor of 5 Minutes for Books' What's On Your Nightstand?, here's what's currently on my iPad and/or nightstand, ready for next month's reading:

Because it's a unique combo of mind + eye candy.

Because it's just good literature.

Because I loved Olive Kitteridge.

Because Elizabeth told me about it and it seemed right up my alley.

Which, given that it's a psychological thriller, I will not be reading before I go to sleep.

Monday, July 25, 2011

To throw or not to throw? Pillow Envy

We have exactly four throw pillows in our entire home: one one each of the beds.  That's it.  None on our sofas or chairs, none used as accessories or to "pull together the room."  The reason for this pillow void is my otherwise easygoing husband's strong aversion to fluffy accessories.  He claims pillows are the sole culprit of his allergy issues; he thinks they are germ factories; he views them as clutter.  In fact, he hates throw pillows so much that he even dislikes visiting homes of people who have throw pillows on their sofas.  And he once (half-jokingly?) said that he would know I intended to divorce if he came home from work to find throw pillows adorning our furniture.  So, we abstain from pillowry.  We all have our quirks, right?

That doesn't mean I can't admire other people's throw pillows, though.  Like this Chevron pattern, from idari and featured on a la mode:

Or this one, from Classic by Nature:

They carry an owl pillow, too.  I do love owls.

I am in love with most of Company C's products, including these pillows:

Love this hydrangea pillow from dede etsy shop:

And this beautiful work of art from Sukan:

Another Sukan pillow, this one with owls:

For the kids, I love this fresh idea from Perideau Designs:

And as soon as my girls grow enough hair to have a definitive style, I can't wait to order them olliegraphic pillows from Sarah and Abraham:

Finally, I love the tailored preppiness of Serena and Lily's initial pillows:

Sigh.  Am now wondering if it might just be easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission and buy some of these lovelies....

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Welcome to My Home: Family Room Reality v. Playroom Dreams

It's good that I have a tranquil living room in my home, because, in contrast, this is my family room on a typical day:

Toys everywhere, glitter glue on the floor, furniture askew, windows lovingly cleaned by my two-year-old with hair detangler spray.  Clutter central.  Can you even spot the dog sleeping on the rug?  And yep, that is a trampoline in the center of the room.  Why would I have a trampoline inside my house, you ask?  Well, we originally purchased it as a physical therapy aid for one of my daughters, and it has remained in the center of the family room because it is too big to get through any of our doorways without disassembly, which we are too lazy busy to do.

I am embarrassed by this mess.  I fear that a neighbor might drop by unexpectedly and judge me by this mess.  So I try, every night, to clean up.  But the best I ever can do is this:

There's still too much clutter.  And the furniture is in desperate need of replacement, a step I am unwilling to take until my kids are out of the decorate-the-furniture-with-contraband-markers phase.  I get sad that my family room will never look like this room or that.  And then I remember, my real life isn't a styled photo shoot.  It's messy and loud and filled with kids laughing and playing and dancing and creating.  Maybe someday I’ll find the time, energy, and inspiration to redesign the space to be beautiful and functional.  More likely, I’ll just give up and move to another house! Indeed, we do plan to move in the next year, and Item #1 on our Wish List is a third living area --- a playroom/gameroom --- for all of the kids’ stuff.  I’m already dreaming of the possibilities:
Do you dream of kid clutter containment, too? Or do you already have it mastered?  And does anyone else wanna 'fess up having a trampoline smack dab in the middle of their family room?

P.S., 2013: I finally got fed up with the clutter and moved! And I did create a separate playroom for my kids.  You can check it out here! :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Welcome to My Home: Our Living Room

In the spirit of virtual cul-de-sac hospitality, I welcome you to my home.  

We've spent most of the past six years remodeling, and then re-remodeling, our house.  It's been a chore, in part because we are trying to walk that fine line between re-sellable added value and money-pit-over-improvement.  We've tried to be good stewards of this home, knowing that it won't be ours forever, but ultimately, some cosmetic issues will be left to the next owners.

I live in a traditional Georgian-style home, and the floorplan nods to the yesteryear.  This is our toy-free, tv-free “formal” living room, which we use often for entertaining, and for quiet evenings of conversation or reading.  I love the lack of clutter, the crisp plantation shutters, the beautiful natural light during the day, and the intimate lighting at night.  The room measures 17 x 18 and is reliably the only clean cleanest space in my house.

The two sofas are from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Chester Collection and are covered in a chocolate brown velvet.  They were definitely investment pieces, but I love them and consider the brown a neutral backdrop for the blue, gold, and copper accents throughout the room.  I had originally wanted these from Restoration Hardware, but they didn’t have the right color fabric for me.  I then learned that MG+BW designs and makes some of the furniture for RHPBWS, and C+B, and that you can buy similar designs, with more fabric options, for less money, directly from them. Yay!

The crackled blue occasional table is a Chinese antique reproduction from Four Hands Home, which is an excellent source for eclectic occasional pieces.  The glass lamp and shade are from Restoration Hardware.

Have I mentioned my love of hydrangeas?

I designed the oval ottoman myself after not seeing anything I liked in retail.  I chose a fabric I liked and found a local carpenter and upholsterer to make it for me.  It is absolutely my favorite piece in the room, and it cost me less than $300 in labor and materials.  Plus, even after six years, it is wearing well and is totally child-proof.

The blue and gold striped silk chair is a hand-me-down from my mom that I re-upholstered.  I like the subtle Asian style, which I pick up in some other areas of my home as well to honor the Chinese influences that inspired Georgian design.

The rattan and glass console table and the blue and white lamp are more Asian-inspired hand-me-downs from my mom.

The photograph of the blue and green hands is called The Blanket Weaver and was taken by photographer Greg Davis in Vietnam.

The brown and copper striped silk chair in the corner was purchased on clearance at a Henredon truck sale.  I heart truck sales.


The mirror is a clearance purchase from Z Gallerie.  It reflects light from my dining room chandelier and the colors of the painting on the opposite wall. 

The large abstract painting is an original by designer and artist John Kapla.  It picks up all of the colors in my house beautifully and has hints of copper metallic, which I especially love.

The floors are solid Brazilian Cherry; the paint color is Restoration Hardware’s Butter; and the plantation shutters are Hunter-Douglas via Costco, all of which I use throughout most of my home.  And the jazz-themed art in my entry is a silk-thread-on-leather-canvas piece from West African artist Salomon M'Bala.

You’ll notice there aren’t any plants or many knick-knacks --- remember, I have three small children.  At this point in my life, finishing a room with accessories is secondary to my kids’ ability to run through the house without knocking things over. ;-) That said, I do need to accessorize the walls and tables better --- it's definitely a work in progress.  How do you balance elegance with kid-liveability in your home?

(Sharing with No Minimalist Here,  Savvy Southern Style, Saved by Suzy and View Along the Way)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Parenting: Storytime at the Art Museum

I've got to admit: I felt like a totally together super-mom on Thursday.  This is a rare thing, as when solo-parenting my three young girls, I often feel: (a) haggard, (b) frazzled, (c) incompetent, or (d) all of the above.  Seriously, getting all three packed up, loaded up, and driven across town for a "fun outing" while maintaining patience, grace, sanity, and good humor is not always easy for me.  So, I give myself kudos for at least one lovely day, in which all the stars aligned:

After a nutritious, well-balanced breakfast, all three girls cheerfully bathed, dressed, and loaded into the car; the older two both successfully self-applied sunscreen and chatted happily as we drove to our local university's art museum, which is open free to the public on Thursdays.  There, we enjoyed an hour-long storytime tour, during which my oldest was engaged and eager to ask and answer questions about the art and the literature, my youngest slept in the Bjorn, and my middle only tinkled on the gallery floor once quietly admired the paintings.  I happily accepted compliments from strangers on my well-behaved and sweetly dressed girls.  (These strangers don't know that many days this summer, my girls have refused to wear clothes, comb their hair, or use their indoor voices, even for a minute.)

With our spirits high and our minds enriched, we headed to our favorite urban outdoor space, where we picnicked and the kids chased each other under shady live oaks.  Nobody, including me, complained about the 100+ temps.

We headed home, where we read together for a full hour and then worked on a mosaic tile art project.  We spent another 30 minutes playing with blocks, and then I was treated to a ballet/magic/music performance with multiple costume changes.  Healthy dinner, more books, easy bedtime that included them thanking me for being "the greatest mommy in the world." Other than not swimming, it was a pretty perfect summer day for us.  Total mommy-daughters quality time.

How I wish I could just press "repeat" and enjoy every summer day as much....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Parenting: A Five-Year-Old's Favorite Reads

We read a lot in our house. Several books a day. My five-year-old is loving extended storytime every night this summer, as she works toward independent reading while still enjoying listening to Mom and Dad.  In this transitional summer before she starts kindergarten, it is fitting that her nightly choices mix old and new, comfortable longtime favorites and recent discoveries.

Her Top Ten Favorites this Summer:

A child transitions into kindergarten with help of an imaginary friend.

She likes the glow-in-the-dark cover as much as the astronomy lesson.

My daughter proclaimed herself an "Obama Girl" at 2; she's a big fan of the author.
Mom's a big fan of the beautiful prose and inspiring messages for young women.

About children who like themselves during life's challenges.

A little mouse self-actualizes while attending Harvard.
Not a bad role model.

She thinks this is the best in the series since the original.
Timely as we deal with Tooth Fairy issues as well.

We're working our way through the entire series.
It's this generation's "Dick and Jane."

Silly prose about a teacher and her students all getting ready
for the first day of school.  Addresses kindergarten jitters.

This was the requisite pre-k graduation gift.
She loves all things Dr. Seuss.

Each night, we read a chapter.  She wears her Dorothy costume.
Beautifully illustrated, this 1982 edition was originally a gift from my mother to me.
No other book thus far has engaged and enraptured her so much.

What books are inspiring your children this summer?

(sharing with Oh Amanda and 5 Minutes for Books Kids' Picks)