Nursery Update!

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Friends, I want so badly to be a good blogger and not leave you hanging after a post like this nursery inspiration one.

 photo 20150923_085700_zps9ju595hi.jpg  photo 20150923_090004_zps741i7tad.jpg So, here’s your update! This room’s transformation from home office/junk room to nursery/home office was astounding! Dramatic! Shocking! It really was. Let me encourage you not to put off whatever project you’re considering, or all those repairs and things you might do if you were trying to sell your house, or host a party. Add the extra strand of twinkle lights so you can enjoy it now! Baby boy is not here yet, but already I’ve enjoyed the room so much—my own personal sanctuary and yoga studio—now that it’s brighter and lighter and has furniture that’s appropriate in scale.
 photo 30FA09E2-9B4F-4F97-94C3-85F8A1F2A69F_zpsrh8a43xn.jpgBefore. The room was dark blue. I don’t mind a manly dark den. (Our kitchen is navy!) But the shade wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t the feel we wanted for the nursery in any case. There was a large desk table, as well as a large, very comfortable sofa. Both of those were practical; they served their purpose. But really they were too big for the size of the room and together prevented the room from functioning its best, even though I’m glad the sofa served as a guest bed many times. Rounding out the chaos were a couple random bookshelves that we sold at the neighborhood yard sale. And I sent the large desk table back to Mama Rote’s emporium of household goods and sundries, exchanging it for a smaller wooden desk. But let’s not jump ahead!

One transformational weekend this summer, a group of laborers converged on Nashville (parents, cousins, uncle and aunt), and we/they cleared the heavy pieces from the room, painted, and picked up industrial shelves that I found on Craigslist. It’s all happening. (Name that movie.) photo 7725EDE7-5E07-4BF3-8038-4CA26980B801_zpsucduptsf.jpg

Paint. Thanks to this Emily Henderson advice—Design Mistake #3: Painting a small, dark room white—we chose an off-white neutral. We tested several different paint samples on the wall, and ultimately went with the one that Mom’s friend Beth had suggested. I know you’re supposed to paint samples on the walls to see how different colors actually look in your room, with different light at different times of day, but in the future we’d probably save ourselves grief by immediately going with whatever Beth recommends. I love the way it turned out. (The color is Pearly Gates by United Paint, but they’re out of business. Sherwin Williams looked it up and matched it for us.)

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Those wooden boxes, one that says EVERYTHING, are leftover from my grandaddy’s upholstery shop. 

Shelves. If you want to feel like all the possibilities in the world are open to you, do a Marie Kondo-style purging of books, etc. and buy some big industrial shelves. Gazing at the empty shelves will make your soul feel open and roomy. Mine did. Of course, several weeks later, the shelves are entirely full.

In my initial plan for the room, I wanted some tall shelves, like these from Ikea, fancied up with gold or another metallic. (By the way, as my cousin Nate would point out, painting something is not a “hack.” It’s painting something.) But I put it off, and Ikea shipping is outrageous, and I started looking at other options with a lot of vertical storage and an industrial feel. Lots of good possibilities. Then I lucked into some old school lockers on Craigslist. They looked pretty nasty and I figured we’d need to sand and varnish and paint or something. But when we got our hands on them, we discovered that they were pretty much just dirty. So I hired a crack team of cleaners.
 photo EAC7559A-6C55-441B-A485-C0D60760EBD6_zpspholclls.jpg photo 6D8A2D84-04AA-4B00-9991-730D1D1E65CD_zpscpdwimi5.jpg photo 83C8ADFB-CEC0-4430-907E-09838BB7C081_zpso9n3wej6.jpgThey discovered this pretty color underneath.
 photo 1A63E953-2D23-4BCF-8F86-51E7CE75CB6A_zpswerlwgxe.jpg Isn’t it killer? The color is fairly similar to what we did on these shelves a few years ago, so now it’s like we have masculine and feminine versions. I feel like we’ll use them forever in some capacity. (Check out this inspo from Pinterest!!)

After that major transformation weekend, we’ve been in a slower process of filling out the room, which in technical terms means looting and pillaging the rest of the house. Which means a domino effect of new random house projects. (Long story short, we got a new dining room table!)

 photo 54a90c59-1425-4de1-b894-31f1b1c0a1fc_zpsadxwp8zz.jpgWe’re using the same dresser that served as the girls’ changing pad, and brought the blue rocker from their room (replaced by another chair from my parents’ house) and my favorite pillow from the living room. Please note how the colors going on with this chair look like the one in one of my inspiration images! I like what I like.

I’ve done a good bit of musical chairs with art, too.
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 photo 20150923_085609_zpsrxhvla0k.jpgYou know, I’m one who doesn’t put a lot of stock into worrying about diaper cream and adequate baby supplies. The kid will need a solid sense of self, via the proper placement of a John Wayne poster (stolen from his Uncle John): totally masculine, but black and white and minimal so it’s artsy and not overly-themed.

The rug. You may remember that I wanted something with a lot of character. We were keeping an eye out for something colorful and old and just right, preferably made of wool or other natural fibers. But as the shelves were filled out with books and other items, my penchant for color was already manifesting itself and I conceded that something more neutral could be good. We continued to keep an eye out and I spent way too much time browsing these sites. Patience paid off when Beth (to the rescue! Again!) texted from one of Memphis’ best kept secrets, the Pottery Barn Outlet. She found a steal of a deal on a rug for the girls’ room, so we moved their white wool rug to the nursery.

Again, I’m so happy with the way it turned out.
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Once more. Before:

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After (from the same angle, because I’m keeping it profesh):
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And keeping the styling professional by featuring the chocolate croissant on the desk.

Fun! Thank you to all my design team and work crew!!! (And, oh yes. Come on, baby!)

P.S. I loved all these inspiration images on District of Chic: Southwestern Inspired Nursery Design.

Let the fun begin! Or, baby boy nursery inspiration.

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Yeehaw!

We are expecting another baby—a boy this time! “NO,” I said when the ultrasound technician told us. Disbelief. (You probably aren’t surprised that I had neither the will nor the desire to come up with some kind of clever gender reveal thing.)

To tell you the truth, the utmost issue in my mind re: Bebé Tres—aside from worrying about what in the world little boys wear, and fearing the inevitable urine sprayed in my face—is the nursery. I’ve been having a pretty good time brainstorming and playing [mental] tetris with furniture arrangements.

To get you up to speed: we are in a charming little bungalow in a charming little Nashville neighborhood. The girls are sharing a room, and so we have the office/third bedroom available for the new little dude. I hate to admit that this “home office” has been steadily slip-sliding into junk room status. (Do you have a junk room? Please tell me about it in the comments!)

So I’m excited for a fresh start. Redemption time, baby.

I decided that until we learned the sex of Bebé Tres, I’d be content with gathering ideas and brainstorming (i.e. Pinterest-ing hardcore) before springing into action. (Maybe springing isn’t the most exact term. Plodding into action?) I’ve been following Nashville designer Colleen Locke’s blog, Trot Home, where she opens a window into her process, especially the step of dreaming and scheming before narrowing down your options and deciding on your direction (which she discusses in this post in particular).

In that spirit, I’ll share some of the inspiration images I found.

[The picture at the top of the post is one I’ve had on my Pinterest baby baby board from the beginning, from Abbey Nova’s Upper West Side apartment.]

Here’s one that’s awesome and patriotic (though I’d be in trouble with Mama Rote if I didn’t point out that the flag’s field of blue ought to be on the viewer’s left):

flag baby nurseryWe have a framed Springsteen poster I gave to Israel when we were dating that could be used to similar effect.

I love this clean, white look with the oriental rug:

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A similar feel:

Amber Interiors nurseryBut then I saw this office tour (Sarah Vickers’ and Kiel James Patrick’s shared space):

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I really dig the green, and the layered, collected vibe.

(And I forgot to say that I’d like to keep a small office space in the nursery: at least a small desk for laptop, the printer, small filing cabinet.)

More delicious greens:

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Yum. And so, the time has come (the walrus said), to make decisions.

I scientifically evaluated my Pinterest board, and saw that my two directions were the white and the green, using a rug with character in either scenario. I’ve been reading Montessori stuff about simplifying the kid’s environment (not to mention Marie Kondo!); and considering that it’s wise for me to keep it simple (stupid), I decided to go with the white, clean walls; anchored with some kind of awesome, beautiful rug; natural wood and white furniture. (And I need not tell you, many pops of color.)

I’d love an oriental rug,

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or maybe a southwest/Mexican feeling one.

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I’m hereby sending this wish into the universe. (The room is about 11×10, in case you have the ideal rug for me.)

Which direction calls to you? Green or white? Perhaps my soul is an old British study, while my inner parent longs to be clean California cool.

I left my heart on Bourbon Street.

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A few years ago, we had fun with this post, brainstorming ways to fill in the blank: “I left my heart in ____.”

I was reminded of this after Mom did such a great job gathering, and executing, beautiful and meaningful ideas for John’s rehearsal dinner, which was held at the SweetWater Brewery in Atlanta at the end of January.

All the table names were street signs from places in John’s life, or Maltby’s life, or their life together: the streets they grew up on, South Africa, a ranch in Wyoming, Palo Alto, Athens, NYC, and of course New Orleans where they met. It was a super fun conversation starter, and a small glimpse into their lives which was appropriate for a gathering of family and friends from all over and from all stages of life, who may have only known the bride or the groom before then.

Mom also gathered pictures of the lovely couple as they grew up (we could do a photoessay on the evolution of John’s hair), and she did a phenomenal job with the centerpieces, along with her team of florists and designers (AKA Beth and Aunt Kace). Cotton, magnolia, pine greenery in silver julep cups, stacked on a couple old books for the height they needed.

The actual wedding reception was a gorgeous winter wonderland, and the style Mom and John chose for the rehearsal dinner was much more casual but complemented it nicely. Someone at my table (from Colorado) actually reached out and picked the cotton to see what it was like. Hard work. That’s why the cotton gin was such a big deal, I said.

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photo credits: the fantastic Vue Photography

So we know that John left his heart and his SweetWater beer in Athens with a brown-eyed UGA girl . . .

What about you? Where have you left a piece of your heart? And isn’t funny how it takes leaving to realize how much you completely adore someone or something or somewhere? Let’s see . . .

I left my heart in Del Ray (our old neighborhood in Alexandria, VA).

I left my heart at Little Lights.

I left my heart in Paraguay, at Pabla’s storefront home.

I left my heart in Cholula.

I left my heart, or maybe found it, no—my heart was stolen! that’s better—at Nick’s Nightclub, Alexandria’s premiere line dancing institution.

(And, always and forever, I left my heart in Cville, specifically at Take It Away. It’ll probably be right where they stack those little containers of house dressing.)

Your turn! But be careful. My heart is literally hurting right now. Nostalgia, you kill me.

Valentine’s Changes (or, Colin Firth forever and ever, amen.)

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Looking through the archives, I see that Valentine’s Day has been one of my consistent occasions for posting something here, for some reason. The feast day to remember a saint who loved God and loved others, enough to die for that love, now serves as the calendar notch on which we hang our ever-changing notions and expectations about love.

In past years I’ve posted about:

This year, my love for MT, and her little friends at school, has manifested itself through Pinterest-inspired activities: heart braid, heart crayons, the best oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies.

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So the holiday has evolved quite a bit. In six words,

2007: Went line dancing, found latin lover.
2015: Heidi braids. Heart, please don’t explode.

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This week Kitty’s post (How To Host a Simple Gal-entine’s Party) reminded me of a couple instances when Captain Papa came through in grand style for his baby girl (i.e. me) before marriage and kids. In particular, one year in high school he joined me down in our basement playroom as I watched the six-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice on Valentine’s Day. (FYI, he’s not necessarily a big Austen fan.)

Funnier was the year when he sent me flowers in college. I put the two sweet planters of mini-roses on the window ledge in our sorority house kitchen. The note with the delivery read something like “Love Forever” and it sparked a srat house mystery. Because, although it wasn’t surprising that Dad would send flowers, he didn’t put his name on the note, and when I talked with Mom that day she hadn’t received her flowers yet and told me Dad didn’t send them. The romantic mystery bloomed like the delicate pink roses . . . my friends and I spent many minutes (at least) wondering who my secret admirer was. We even called the flower company to see if they could release the sender’s information. They could not! [Drama!] I can only imagine how pathetic that operator thought we were, especially since she could see that the sender and recipient shared a last name.

Whatever Valentine’s Day looks like on a given year, the bottom line question we want answered is . . . Am I loved? Am I worth it? Is there someone willing to sacrifice for me, willing to watch six-hour Pride and Prejudice with me—whether it’s my dad, my boyfriend, my girlfriends, my cat (not to mention my infant who has no choice). Watching Pride and Prejudice may or may not be a big sacrifice depending on the person who makes it, but it points to sacrifices even greater. Is there someone willing to give up everything, for me? I think the answer is Yes. And when those affectionate husbands, or cats, fail us—maybe you saw it coming—we can go back to the Love who inspired the original Valentine.

Whatever’s going on with you, I wish you much Colin Firth (or maybe Stanley Tucci) this Valentine’s Day.

P.S. To be fair, it’s also about considering whether I’ll give up my sense of taste to watch something I consider ridiculous. What’s the male equivalent of P&P?

P.P.S. I do like the new Keira Knightley P&P, but I officially endorse the 1995 BBC version. My only contention with the BBC P&P is that Lizzy is prettier than Jane, which is inaccurate.

P.P.P.S. Who wore it better?

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Princesses eat mac and cheese.

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This weekend we celebrated Mary Tobin’s third birthday with all the pomp and circumstance befitting a firstborn princesa. Up until now, I’d hardly given her gifts for birthdays and Christmas since she didn’t really care either way (well, we gave small gifts mainly to keep up appearances—so that we wouldn’t look like terrible parents), plus the grandparents and tias always have gifts covered more than adequately. However, by this birthday, the developmental threshold has been crossed at which a kid knows that it’s all about her. Mary Tobin was preening and asking, “Is that a surprise for my birthday?” about any bag or package in the house. So obnoxious, yet so winsome. Fellas, watch out for those eyelashes.

Still, her needs are simple: her only specific requests were cupcakes and balloons. (Thank you, Angelina Ballerina. Seriously.) Done and done. After a day of fun activities on Saturday— ballet, bounce place (a big indoor overpriced trampoline place), nap, bunny house, baking; all buh buh B words! (school is going to kill me)—we had a little birthday party at our house Sunday afternoon.

 photo 1652CD71-A352-4649-AAC6-260CAA2E8827_zpsb8g0rjk5.jpgFootball game on in the background, to teach her that it’s not all about her. It’s not all about me either. At her first birthday party, I refused to let Israel and my dad turn the game on. I’m totally mellow now. 
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Again this year the gathering was more about the grown-ups, with plenty of beverages to accompany the decadent MAC AND CHEESE BAR. I totally recommend this option as a fail-safe adult- and kid-pleaser. I also totally recommend hiring Mama Rote as your scullery maid to prepare the scrumptious macaroni and all the toppings. Here’s the recipe from my family cookbook (h/t Aunt Reba!):

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Our toppings included: bacon bits, smoked sausage (small slices, coated in BBQ sauce, broiled), peas, tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, hot sauce, salsa, salt and pepper.

Of course, the birthday girl took hers plain. Happy birthday, MT!

Costume Contest

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What to wear when you’re falling in love and need to prove it to the world.

Halloween is not my favorite holiday, but it’s still fun and festive, plus I LOVE costumes. Now I’m in a peculiar phase of life: I think we’re beyond clever adult party costumes (not to mention awful sexy costumes), but not yet where our kids have fully embraced dressing up. In college I loved seeing all the students at The University trying to one-up each other in cleverness. I can’t think of a great example, maybe someone being a double helix or something like that, or a lot of plays on words, like one year I was a devil in a blue dress: clever (embodying some song lyrics), while also devilishly attractive (but seeing a picture of it makes me shudder).

And then in the DC young professionals crowd, we had ample opportunity for nerdy, tasteless, topical costumes (politicians, slutty intern and congressman, Sarah Palin; all real examples, but not mine)—so sad I won’t be there to see all the ebola references this year.

This year, Inez will reprise MT’s flapper of 2012, with some updates. Again, we want to take advantage of this magical time in which she can’t express her preference for something annoying. (Part of my parenting philosophy, truly, reasons that in order for something to achieve a healthy sustainability, it needs to annoy me as little as possible. Apply this to: toys, music, TV shows and movies, eating habits. Maybe I’ll try to flesh that out a little more for you in a later post.)

Mary Tobin generally has great taste because I give her only great options (I’m sort of joking). Who knows how long I can make it last, but I like the idea of dressing as a beloved book character for Halloween, thereby reinforcing the glory of reading in a new way. Last year, she was the most precious thing I’ve ever seen:
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her favorite, Madeline.

Maybe two or three months out from Halloween, she was asking to read Madeline every day (I can recite it for you dramatically, just ask any time), so Mama Rote went to work on an utterly darling costume. As Halloween approached I realized I’d better maintain Madeline’s favored status so MT wouldn’t suddenly refuse to wear the costume as I’d heard stories about, with other less refined children. Even so, at around 4:30 on October 31, 2013, Mary Tobin lost it. It wasn’t because she’d moved on from Madeline, but just because. Why would you change clothes at 4:30 pm, anyway.

Strong start. #halloween #madeline #capitolhill #dc #hilloween

A post shared by Josie Ortega (@josieortega) on

(Don’t worry: We persevered so that we her parents could enjoy lots of compliments on her costume. I was supposed to be Miss Clavel, and thus a pregnant nun, but I lost my headpiece immediately and avoided offending anyone.)

This year, she’ll be Angelina Ballerina, a bow-clad dancing mouse. Stay tuned to instagram. Easy breezy costume. I will be Mary Poppins. Our question mark is Papa/Israel. Mary Tobin’s vote is for Bert, to go along with Mama. Another idea was switching my costume as well for us to be Buttercup and Westley from The Princess Bride (since I just read this fun book!). Other options for Israel include a hippie, Wayne Newton, Marty McFly (the puffy vest is pretty much his daily uniform for fall), or any character who would wear a tux. If you feel strongly about one of these options, or have another idea, please comment below. We’ll head to the thrift stores tomorrow to figure something out.

What about you? Are you dressing up? Anything clever? Have you ever dressed like a book character?

Frame Your Story

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Not my house. Obviously.

If you’re not impressed by cheap inexpensive affordable art, I’ve got a couple of higher end recommendations, both on my wish list.

First: frames by Saw & Mitre. Earlier this year my friend’s husband resigned from his corporate job to start his own business, combining his two passions for photography and working with his hands. (“He was a carpenter, and I just figured if you’re going to follow in someone’s footsteps, who better than Christ?” Name that movie!)

Order from Saw & Mitre Frame Co., and Dave will create a beautiful, gallery quality frame to display your photo. And it will last forever, so you can switch out photos in the future—just like an art gallery!—if, say, your photog skills improve and/or your decor needs a change.

We got to chat with Dave at a friend’s wedding recently, and it was so interesting and inspiring to hear how the business is going. Already he’s connecting with some of his photography heroes, learning, and adding to the products and services Saw & Mitre offers. I asked him if my iPhone/instagram pictures would be good enough for these frames. I don’t think he answered directly (very diplomatic) . . . but he is offering wood and metal frames in smaller square sizes now!

I’m not much of a photographer, but I love following Dave’s story on his blog, and I really love the Saw & Mitre instagram account, which is inspiring on the regular. This one really got me, along with Dave’s question: “How will my grandchildren discover and see photos of me when I’m long gone? Will it be a Google Image search? Will they find an old hard drive that (hopefully) still works? I sure hope not. #printyourwork” How right he is.

Second: textiles from St. Frank. An acquaintance from college is the dynamo behind this lovely company that sells beautiful framed textiles (and now pillows!) made by artisans around the world. Of course, my favorite would be the Otomi from Mexico . . . too bad Christina didn’t have the advantage of Mama Ortega’s bargaining!

It’s really fun to look through their Tastemakers posts and Collectors pictures to see the art in place in stunning, fabulous rooms. Also, if you’re needing more Pinterest inspiration, check out their account. My favorite board is Global Chic. Or Salon Walls. OK, also, shout outs to St. Frank’s Passport to Mexico, and Saintly Blue and White. Just check it all out.

You are dismissed. Go find something beautiful in your day.

(Not sponsored; just love ‘em.)

P.S. The story of acquiring Otomi for the girls’ room here at the end of the post; and if I were forced to choose, maybe I’d use one of the photos from here or here in a Saw & Mitre frame.

P.P.S. Two of soccer’s most iconic photographs.

Awesomely Cheap (or Cheaply Awesome?) Art

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I have such a fun art secret to share! Not a secret, I guess, but something new to me that I loved so much. My friend Allison has some cool paintings at her house that I noticed. When I asked about them, she said, “Oh, those are by Steve Keene . .  . do you want one?” How generous! Little did I know.

Allison told me that Steve Keene is a Brooklyn artist (she knows him from his work in Charlottesville) who creates massive installations made up of hundreds of smaller paintings on plywood. His process is really interesting, but so is his philosophy: he wants visual art to be available for everyone, like buying a song for a dollar from iTunes. So when those installations are dismantled, the individual paintings can come live at your house! You pay $30 (plus $12 shipping) and he’ll send 5 or so medium paintings. You don’t know what you’ll get, but you know it’s folk art and it’s likely colorful (possibly bizarre).

Of course, I jumped on that opportunity pretty much immediately, and then had to wait awhile before our mystery paintings arrived in the mail. By the time the package arrived I’d become so curious and eager that I was Christmas-morning giddy as I ripped through the brown paper. And I was not disappointed. I’d emailed with Steve during the wait, so maybe because of that, maybe because of Allison, or maybe randomly, we got nine or ten paintings instead of the advertised four or five!

Then I put on my insane art curator hat and ran around rearranging and trying things out on our walls. In the end, not a lot was rearranged. But the whole process, with the surprise element, not to mention the low cost, was such fun. I might be addicted. It was like Stitch Fix for art, except less expensive. Think about it— five paintings for under $9 a piece, and in my case, $4.20 a piece! The low cost of it makes it so low risk, which I love. Don’t get me wrong: the paintings are awesome and might fit in timelessly with your collection, but if they’re not your speed, no biggie fry.

With that in mind, here’s what’s happening with ours. A few I knew immediately would be gifts (and I mean sincere gifts, as opposed to funny gifts—you’ll see what I mean in a moment), a few are on our walls,

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 one in particular is in the bathroom (inexpensive=don’t worry about water damage),

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and the weirdest of the bunch made a perfect post-bar exam celebratory gift for my cousin Nate.

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(Trust me, he appreciated this.)

I’m not sure how it happened along the way, but we’ve amassed a pretty fun art collection. Not super expensive collector pieces, but meaningful pieces that have some reason behind them like the colorful Memphis in May Music Festival poster, framed photographs from travels during college, this fruit painting (I love. Our most formal frame, in the kitchen. :) That’s why art is fun. My aunt and uncle gave it to us our first married Christmas.).

Though I love what we have, I realized a few years ago that most stuff on our walls was framed behind glass—prints, photos, drawings—and that we should go for more texture to round things out—actual paint, fabric, more three-dimensional hangings. Then I visited one of my good friends who lived with her husband in Charlottesville at the time. They had a small rental house, and when I walked in I said, “Wow, this is really, like, a grown-up house.” I think she had inherited some formal side tables, and had generally nice coordinated furniture, but it was the art that did it for me. In the living room they’d hung a large abstract floral painting by an artist that her family really liked. She and her sisters had gotten a discount when all of them bought paintings at an arts festival.

It was confirmed: I needed* paintings.

But, two problems with original paintings: 1) They’re pricey (you have good taste, so anything you like is bound to be super expensive). Or, 2) You don’t have an artsy background, and maybe you like something and could buy it, but you’re worried: what if it goes out of style and you don’t like it later, or maybe it’s great by itself but just doesn’t work with everything else you’ve got going on, decor-wise.

Why would you spend so much on something purely decorative (and possibly of questionable taste)?

Art should be fun, expressive, not anxiety-inducing. This is why I love Steve Keene for giving me some honest to goodness paintings on my walls. If you like folk art, you should give this a try. Even if you don’t, there’s no risk involved. Give a painting to your pilates teacher, your farmer, or your favorite barista.

Will you order some paintings?? Please report back if you do!

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 They’re not funny. They’re art. (Name that movie.)

Not sponsored. I love Steve Keene.

*Wanted. But visuals affect me, and you, too, so the need argument could be made.

Mosquito-palooza

 photo E7E19A17-C739-48E9-9DC9-8D6017EEF6E8_zpsg0ecbbtt.jpg Pros about shifting from city apartment living to a house:

  • Don’t have to think ahead and get out any clothes from our closet before Mary Tobin goes to bed or takes a nap (her nursery was a closet).
  • Our bedroom seems extra roomy without Inez’ bassinet on my side of the bed and a laundry cart on the other.
  • Laundry. Don’t need to roll a laundry cart down to the basement; don’t need to keep half a paycheck’s worth of quarters around for laundry and parking.
  • Parking. It’s easy.
  • Outdoor space! Wherever we move in the future I can never go back to being yard-less. Actually, more than the yard, we’re using the patios—front and back—to eat dinner and host friends.

Cons:

  • Mosquitoes.

[Shannon and Rebekah (neighbors in our building in DC): there are so many cons in terms of what we miss, but I just wanted a way to lead into crowd-sourcing some mosquito advice.]

Our family has taken an “all of the above” approach to combatting mosquitoes, including, but not limited to:

  • Traditional bug spray: Israel uses the serious stuff, because bugs love his sweet Aztec blood and he’s not messing around.
  • “Green” bug spray: both the commercial and home-made variety, which seem to be pretty much the same. Our homemade is avocado oil plus eucalyptus and lavender essential oils. This is another recipe that seems like it would be good to try (h/t LMLD).
  • Citronella candle: alright, but certainly smells and can affect the taste of dinner. My brother’s trick with this is to put it under your table, particularly if it’s a glass top, so that the citronella stuff kind of billows around the people sitting there, instead of up and away.
  • ThermaCELL lantern: our favorite! It works, and it doesn’t smell. It’s not supposed to be toxic, and I’m betting it’s less toxic that covering my baby’s skin with DEET. We are forever committed to buying the little refills.

To make our environment less hospitable to the skeeters:

  • Dump out any standing water, clean gutters, get brush under control.
  • Mosquito repelling plants. (Who knows?)
  • Dump out coffee grounds or leftover coffee around your patio. I don’t know if this is effective, but can’t hurt. The new neighbors likely have spotted me on my bizarre nightly dash outside with a red french press during dishwashing time, but they haven’t said anything.
  • An oscillating fan to make it tougher for mosquitoes to land. (I guess that would be the budget version of a porch like this.)
  • To make you yourself less tasty, take B complex vitamins. (No source; hearsay from Mama Rote.)

Do mosquitoes love you and yours? If so, what do you do about it?

 photo A54FA5AB-9973-40F4-BC19-04288CDFDAA2_zpsydb9mn6s.jpgGratuitous pic of us hanging out on the front steps.
Mary Tobin says, direct quote: “Get out of here, bugs. This is not your house!” 

Musical Beds (+ Girls’ Room Inspiration!)

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When my oldest brother Will was yet an only child and Dad was traveling a lot, Mom and Will met Dad at the airport, in the days when you could go all the way to the gate to greet incoming passengers. When Will saw Dad walk out of the jetway, he ran up happily and shouted, “Dad, nobody slept in Mom’s bed last night!”

Mama Rote is not a floozy. They’d been working on getting Will to sleep in his own bed all night. Good job, Brother!

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We’ve just gotten through a similar stage with Mary Tobin. She’s always been a champion sleeper and truly is doing great overall. (Please understand, my mom once told someone that I’m a “sleep nazi”—in other words, my standards are very high. I like to get a ton of sleep, so sue me.) Still, Mary Tobin hit a few bumps as several transitions converged . . . moving, new big girl bed, new baby in the family, a bit of potty training, new understanding of the dark and fear . . . who knows. But—knock on wood—getting into our new house with her new room, shared with sister, has helped a lot. I think things have been quieter partly because she’s scared of waking Inez up. Hallelujah.

Tell me, did you share a room with a sibling growing up? I never did because I was the only girl (read: the princess). But I love the idea and think it will be fantastic for them. At least, looking back I think it will be great, and they’ll have to learn to deal with each other in the mean time.

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Unsure about sharing.

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Getting the girls’ room all ready was also a lesson to me that I actually can be a good mover if I can motivate myself. We focused with laser-like precision on unpacking their room first to give these chickadees as smooth a transition as possible. Thanks to pre-painting and curtain hanging by the grandparents, the room was basically good to go the first night.

As we battle the disarray in every other part of the house, I’ve found myself sitting in the girls’ room whenever possible; it’s so peaceful by comparison.

Regarding decorating choices for their room: I’m doing my best to keep it simple, but it’s a struggle. We’ve got some lovely art in there, including the señorita mexicana and some prints from vintage style Mexican calendars. My new favorite is a piece of beautiful Otomi fabric that I’ve been saving for the right spot since I bought it in Mexico, thanks to mi suegra’s bargaining. I had my prices and my Spanish prepared, but after haltingly exchanging a couple of sentences with the vendor my courage failed, so I sent in the big guns: Mama Ortega.

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Let’s call the diaper pail a modern sculptural piece.

As we left the market in Cholula, she told me that the guy was so excited to sell that piece of fabric, and that his mother and sister had worked on it for five months. ¿¿QUE?? I felt immensely guilty for haggling them down (well, Mama Ortega was my bargaining agent) to such a great price for that amount of work. She quickly assured me that the guy was thrilled to sell it, that he’d go home that night and celebrate with his family, that it was quite a big sum of money for them. Phew. I could’ve dealt with colonial angst for a long time.

I love this wall hanging because it’s so charming and Mexican, but instead of the animal Otomi pattern that’s so hot right now, the flowers look like something that my grandmother could’ve had too. (The flowers are poinsettias, which are from Mexico. Did you know that?)

It doubles as a fantastic backdrop for a Father’s Day photo shoot:

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More on kids’ rooms/nurseries:

  • Examples of how to un-obnoxiously use pink in a little girl’s room. (I should be a headline writer! Clickbait!)
  • Lay Baby Lay is still one of my faves for nursery and general design inspiration. Here’s the post where I went a little nuts going through all her inspiration boards.
  • Finally, I’m [somewhat, half-heartedly] trying to follow Nashville designer Rachel Halvorson’s advice to keep it simple in kids’ rooms. This room she designed for twin girls is so lovely, and as she points out, “If you took out the artwork, and a few accessories, you’d still have a neutral palette to work with. And when they come in with their hot pink superman capes and polka dot beach balls?? There’s your pop of color.”