Friday, June 29

Kids' rooms

I'll never forget preparing the nursery for my baby.  This was back before blogging--even before digital cameras!  But I selected just the right shade of yellow for the walls, just the right accessories from the Classic Winnie-the-Pooh line, just the right fabric for curtains.

And then came the room I decorated for two little boys.  They loved fishing, and I used that theme for their room.  I painted the walls a deep olive green, made cafe' curtains that hung from bamboo poles, hung my son's first rod and reel on the wall, found perfect linens for their bunkbeds.  It was boyish yet beautiful.

And then there was a jungle-themed room, then a space-themed room, then an Army-themed room.  That one was the best, full of authentic items purchased from an Army surplus store--even camouflage netting used as a window treatment.

But now?  This is what my oldest son's room looks like right now:

That's an actual, unretouched photo.  Can you believe it?

You see, our home is in Durham, North Carolina.  We're just a few minutes from the campus of Duke University, where my son will be a senior.  Will's friends from all over the country asked if they could store things here for the summer.

Doesn't look too great, does it?  But it works for now, because Will is not here.  He's spending the summer in Rome, working as an intern in the office of the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.  (And if I can be a proud mom for a minute, I'll say that there is only one intern in that office--my Will.)

So Will's room at home is a storage room this summer, but it doesn't matter.  We just close the door and wait for August, when his friends will collect their things.

If you have little kids, my advice is to have fun decorating their rooms.  Involve them in the process, and create spaces that they'll enjoy.  But remember that the hearts and minds of the little ones who play and sleep there are way more important than the decor.

I'm joining Show Us Your Kids' Rooms party at Kelly's Korner.

Tuesday, June 26

Driving lessons

This month has included a momentous event for my family: my youngest son got his official "Limited Learner's Permit," granting him the privilege of driving with an adult supervisor as he prepares to get his full driver's license next year.

Be still, my heart.  Is my baby boy really old enough to drive?
Lee behind the wheel, photographed by his dad from the passenger seat

Lee and I have had interesting conversations as he has been learning to drive.  As we've reviewed North Carolina's driving laws, he's been perplexed that so many drivers don't follow those laws.  For instance, North Carolina law requires that drivers turn on their headlights any time the weather conditions require use of their windshield wipers.  "Lots of people don't do that," Lee observed.

I explained that using your headlights in bad weather is not for your benefit, but for the benefit of the other drivers on the road.  And I realized that people don't obey this law because they don't really get this underlying principle.  Although they may not go through the entire thought process each time they get behind the wheel, they've thought about it at some point.  A driver's declining to turn on his or her headlights shows that he or she figures there's no reason to use the headlights unless there's a direct benefit to him or her. Which means that the driver is caught up in thinking about what's good for him or her, not about what's good for all drivers on the road.

Examples of the principle of considering the good of others abound in the Driver's Manual:

--Use turn signals to let other drivers know your intentions.
--Turn on low-beam headlights in fog.
--Don't pass on a double yellow line.

Some of these laws seem very restrictive when viewed solely from the standpoint of the driver.  But when you consider that all drivers need to think about what's best for everyone concerned, they make a lot more sense.  For instance, my turning on my low-beam headlights in fog doesn't really help me a lot--my visibility is not affected much by my headlights.  But in that instance, my headlights are not for my direct benefit.  Instead, they allow other drivers to see my car.  Of course, I benefit INdirectly when other drivers can see my car and thus don't run into me.

Aha!  Isn't that the way life is supposed to work?  Turning from the Driver's Manual to the Scriptures (Matthew 22 and Mark 12, for instance), I'm reminded that God designed us to live our lives in love, keeping in mind what is good for everyone concerned, not just what's good for ourselves.  

Poor drivers.  It seems that no one is teaching some of them the underlying principle of love for others.  What do you think?

I'm joining Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now
and Inspiration Friday At the Picket Fence.

Tuesday, June 19

Wall art changes

Finding just the right artwork for our master bedroom has been hard for me.  I want this room to be calm and restful, so I don't want too much on the walls.  For a couple of years I had these pieces hanging above my bed.

Then I decided that I really wanted to use the metal pieces on my new front porch, so I needed something different for above the bed.  But what?

I had bought a couple of cheap prints from a street vendor when Jack and I went to Paris for our 25th anniversary.  I wanted to use these because of their sentimental value and because I think they're pretty, but I'd never had them framed.  I hated to spend a lot of money to frame them when I'd spent so little on the prints.

Then one day I remembered a couple of IKEA frames that I'd stashed in the garage.  Hmmm. . .

Yes!  Perfect fit!

In place above our bed:

Our wedding anniversary is this Friday, June 22.  We'll have been married 27 years.  So it only took me two years to get these framed and in place.  Do you think Jack married me for my efficiency?

Monday, June 18

Kids grow up--but not completely

Yesterday, June 17, was my middle son's 19th birthday.  In one more year I'll have two kids in their 20's.

And last week my youngest son got his driver's permit.  Which means that in one more year I'll have two kids in their 20's and my youngest kid--my baby!--will be driving.

So imagine how happy it made me to come into the kitchen and discover this treasure on my windowsill:

Look closely:

Yes, it's dead.  One of the boys found it on the porch and thought I'd like to admire it.  He was right, of course.

Mostly, I'm glad to know that my kids may seem grown up--but they still like to share their treasures with their mom!

Have your kids shared any treasures with you lately?

Wednesday, June 13

Screened porch updates

Earlier this spring I spent a lot of time on re-doing my front porch and was thrilled with the results.  Then my screened porch looked as if it needed some love.  Isn't that always the way it happens?  One thing leads to another!

I didn't have much time or money left to spend on this space, though.  So I gave it good cleaning and spent about $35--and here's what I have now.

Sticking mostly with what I already had, I made just a few changes to freshen up the space.  Here are some shots going around the room.

The sitting area in the evening light:

A few years ago I was longing for a sitting area as well as an eating area on the porch, but I thought it was too small for both.  But with a little space planning and a lot of imagination, I found that we could have two separate areas.

Most of the furniture is just indoor furniture adapted for use on the porch.  The eating table was a gift for my 40th birthday.  The table is made from reclaimed wood, so it contains lots of imperfections--what difference do a few more make?  The black chairs were in my breakfast room for years; they've held up pretty well out here.  The small ladder back chair and table are antiques; life on the porch has just given them a little more patina.  The bench and rug were made for outdoor use, so they've held up beautifully.  The pine shelves and wicker chair have made it fine on the porch.  And the ottoman I made myself from a heavy-duty styrofoam cooler.  If it shows signs of wear, I'll just re-make it!

My low-cost updates:

New throw pillows were simple to sew.  I found the orange fabric first, then searched for an aqua to go with it.  Bingo!

I crafted new tabletop accessories.  You can read about these here.

I mixed a few new shelf accessories with ones I already had.

The shelf-top vignette is composed solely of things I already had.  I just layered things until I was happy with the look.  The aqua vase is great with my new pillows. 

This pretty plate is from Target--it's melamine and cost just a couple of dollars.  The bottles I found at Goodwill for $1.99.  I painted and distressed the holder and ran the bottles through the dishwasher, which etched them a bit.  Now they look old, which is just what I wanted.

This little chair was part of a set my kids had when they were little.  I spray-painted and distressed it. 

One of my favorite things about this porch is the fact that it's on the second floor of the house, so the view is pretty.  Sitting out there almost like being in a treehouse!  Here's how it looks on an overcast day--don't the trees look lush?

And just for fun, here's how it looked before these updates:

And now:

No huge changes, but I'm really enjoying the updated look.  Now I wish I could have you come over for a summertime meal.  We could linger over dinner and not worry about bugs!   What do you say?

I'm joining some wonderful parties:
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
Open House at No Minimalist Here
Transformation Thursday at The Shabby Creek Cottage
Inspiration Friday, At the Picket Fence
Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now
Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest
Saturday Seven at Positively Splendid
Before and After Party at Thrifty Decor Chick

Tuesday, June 12

Free service for LEGO fans and their parents

In our home, no toy or game is more beloved than LEGO bricks.  Maybe that's true for your home, too.   Although they're a challenge to organize, they seem to multiply, and it hurts to step on them with bare feet, the good things about LEGO far outnumber the bad.  

But the vast world of LEGO sets can be confusing.  Many parents wonder if the the sets are good, if they'll be workable for their children, and if they're worth the cost.   

My son Lee can help.  Lee is more than a LEGO fan.  His knowledge of LEGO is encyclopedic and his ability to build with them is amazing.  Lee is known online as "LegoLee329."  If you have a question about LEGO, Lee can probably answer it.

Lee has a YouTube channel dedicated to reviewing LEGO sets.  Now, there are many people who review LEGO sets on YouTube.  What makes Lee special?

~He really loves LEGO.  He spends nearly every dollar he gets on LEGO sets--gifts, allowance, earnings--most all of it goes toward purchasing LEGOs.  He makes some money through Google AdSense, and he spends that on LEGOs, too.  (He has no affiliation with LEGO; he purchases all his own sets.)

~He can talk knowledgably about LEGO with adults, but he's young enough to know what appeals to kids.  He's been reviewing LEGOs for a long time, and his videos have been viewed more than 2 million times.  

~He does it all himself.  He works hard to make his reviews good.  He's not a professional with fancy equipment, but he puts his heart into his work. 

~He's a good guy.  He's not perfect, of course, but he knows that kids are watching his videos as well as teenagers and adults.  He doesn't swear or curse. 

~He makes his videos informative.  He includes information about price, piece count, availability, the building process, play features, and value.

Lee building a Lord of the Rings set

Lee has reviewed more than 300 different LEGO sets in just about every category, including the most recent releases.  Click here to see a list of all his videos.

After watching a video, if you have a specific question about a LEGO set, Lee would be glad to answer if he can.  You can send him an email (his email address is LegoLee329 [at] gmail [dot] com); he'll do his best to answer.

So if you have LEGO questions, ask LegoLee!  He'll be glad to help you if he can.

I'd love to know:  are there LEGO fans in your family?

Friday, June 8

Home tour: my kitchen

If there were to ever be a movie about my life, most of it would be set right here--in my kitchen.  So much of my time is spent in this room.  Take a look around with me!

Here's the view from one end of the room to another:

And the view looking back the other way:

As you can see, it's a long room, so I'll show you one section at a time.

At the far end is the door leading out to the deck and a bank of French doors leading to the screened porch.  Beside the French doors is my little desk area--my tiny "mom cave."

Next to that sits our giant (11 feet long) table and my mom's antique dough cabinet.  As you can see, I'm one of those people who mixes wood tones freely.

The dough cabinet is one of my most treasured pieces of furniture.  Behind its glass doors I keep little things that belonged to my mother and my grandmother, both of whom died in 1999.  The angel food cake pans on the wall to the right of the dough cabinet all belonged to my grandmother--this was just a fraction of her collection!

The dough cabinet is one of my favorite spots for seasonal decorations.  Right now it's just holding some of our hydrangeas plus the Lego "Town Hall" that my son Lee (aka LegoLee329) recently built.

On to the working end of the kitchen.  

The windows in my kitchen all face west, so they let in a lot of sunlight.  I like the plantation shutters in the eating and desk area, but I like having the window over the sink uncovered.  I created a super-easy no-sew faux Roman shade just to block a bit of the glare from the sun and to add some color here.

One of my favorite things about this kitchen is the feature at the top of the cupboards.  Those lighted shadowboxes give me great pleasure--but they sure threw me for a loop when I first started wondering what to put in them!  I decided on a single pitcher in each one.

And the other side of the room, which shows the doorway to the dining room and the living room.

Even though I have a nice desk at the end of the room, the bar is where I usually sit and work.  I like being right in the middle of things.

I found the barstools at TJMaxx and transformed them with paint and fabric.  Three of the people who live in this house are 6'6" or taller, so everyone wanted big barstools.

Lee sits here and works on his Lego creations, too.  

Here's a shot of the bar in relation to the rest of the room:

This shot gives you a look of the stairway that leads down to the "Terrace Level" (also known as the walkout basement).  The stairway wall contains one of my favorite DIY projects: a family portrait wall clock.

Recently my kitchen was the scene of some excitement: I won a brand-new KitchenAid stand mixer! Sandy Coughlin of Reluctant Entertainer held an amazing giveaway for a KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer, a darling apron from The Hip Hostess, and a copy of Reluctant Entertainer. Over 2000 people entered, and I won!  I'll write more about this later, but for now don't you think my mixer looks pretty in its new home?

And here are my darling apron and a copy of Sandy's book.  Lucky me!

I often get questions about my kitchen.  Sprinkled throughout this post are links to some of the projects.  Here are a few other details:
  • Cupboards are maple beadboard.
  • Granite is Santa Rita.
  • Backsplash is tumbled marble tiles.
  • Appliances are all KitchenAid.  Fridge and dishwasher are fitted with cabinet fronts.
  • Drawer pulls and cabinet knobs are from Restoration Hardware.
  • Wall color is "Ruskin Room Green" by Sherwin Williams. 

Thank you so much for spending time in the kitchen with me!  I wish you could come visit--we'd probably end up sitting at the bar with a cup of coffee or tea, wouldn't we?  The kitchen just seems to be the place where folks gather!

I'm joining Kelly at Kelly's Korner for her "Show Us Your Life" series.  You'll find lots of great kitchen inspiration there!

Tuesday, June 5

Letting my breath out

Ever have one of those weeks after which you wonder how you got everything done? Last week was one of those for me.

In addition to my regularly-scheduled life, I devoted last week to helping my oldest son get off on his summer adventure. And now that he has safely arrived at his destination, I'm excited to tell you about it.

Will is a senior political science and religion major at Duke University.  For this summer, he wanted to find an internship for this summer.  He particularly hoped to work with the U.S. State Department. And he got what he hoped for.  He is now an intern in the Office of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.  Yes, you read that right.  He's spending the summer working in the Vatican!  We aren't Roman Catholic, but we have great respect for the Roman Catholic church.  Will is very grateful to have this opportunity to serve and learn right in the thick of things in Rome.

Here are Will and his youngest brother Lee just before Will went through security to catch his flight to Rome.

A little closer shot.  As you can see, Lee isn't so much a "little" brother.

So I'm letting my breath out around here, catching up on all the things I didn't get done while I was helping my precious son get ready for this big adventure.

What's up with you?  I'd love to know!