33,096 to go

Fijian beach: image from Toto Tours

There's something about having a new baby in the house that makes you want to get away on a (dare I use this word) romantic vacation with your spouse. My husband spent the last year traveling approximately five days a week and has racked up the miles. He hasn't quite reached George Clooney's Up in the Air status, but he does have 126,094 to play around with, so I've been daydreaming about the South Pacific. Fiji sounds perfect to me: we only need about 33,000 miles to get there.

Although we have enough miles to get to Europe, which was our initial goal since my husband has never been there, I've since adopted the attitude that on my next vacation I want to be on vacation. I don't want to mess around with maps and public transportation and figuring out where to find a decent cup of coffee. I want to eat, sleep, drink, read and do little else. We'll save the European trip for several years when the kids are older and we can show them a bunch of important churches and museums. But for now the two of us will enjoy a quiet time out.

One of the places in Fiji I've been stalking is Navutu Stars (images below), which is a boutique resort on an archipelago 60 miles from the main island of Viti Levu.

I can picture myself waking up in our beachfront bure (pronounced boo-ray) to take a long walk down the secluded beach and then watch the day pass by. The food looks amazing; the drinks even better. How fast can we get 33,000 miles...and who wants to babysit?


bring on the books

Photo from t magazine

So I'm not the only one obsessed with bookshelves. I came across this posting from T Magazine's Inside Out  column on my twitter feed the other day, and I just had to share. Enjoy!


girl at the window

Salvador Dali's Muchacha en la Ventana

Yesterday my mom asked me what colors I'd be using to decorate Scout's room--once we have a new house and Scout actually has a room--and I told her I hadn't really thought about it. But then I remembered that I have thought about it. Although I didn't think about it during my pregnancy or over the past week, years ago I fell in love with Salvador Dali's painting Muchacha en la Ventana and said that I would like to use it one day to decorate a girl's room.

I first discovered this painting at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid while studying abroad in Spain. Although I was never a huge fan of Dali's surrealist paintings, the serene simplicity of the subject matter drew me in and I had to have a copy to take home with me. When I got back to the states, I had the poster framed, and I still remember it cost me a whopping $114--a king's ransom to a poor college student. Of all the posters that have moved in and out of my life, from Kirk Cameron in grade school to INXS in middle and James Dean and in high school, Muchacha en la Ventana is the only one that has survived in to my adulthood (until recently, it was hanging in our living room). Although I don't believe art should "match" a room, I do think it can provide inspiration and I'm curious to see how it plays out when it's time to decorate for Scout.


afternoon face lift

Little white house before

Little white house after

While we were in the hospital last Tuesday, the painters showed up and gave our little house a much-needed face lift. It's still white, but the house finally looks finished (as opposed to the former white that we suspected was just a coat of primer anyway). My husband has plans for the flower bed in front of the house--if the temperature ever drops below 90 so he can spend an afternoon outside without the threat of a heatstroke--so things are moving along. Considering the work we've put into the house in the last couple of months, we are so ready to get this thing sold, especially with a new family member who's going to outgrow her bassinet before we know it.


fast and furious

Scout, Alex and me 7.20.10

Tuesday, July 20th started out with a bang when our new family member, Scout St. Clair, was born at 7:32am. But let me back up for a second and bring you up to speed (pun intended) on the baby that was almost born in a parking lot.

Throughout the day last Monday I was feeling a little "off." Sometimes nauseous and a little crampy, I was having what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions. I was still 11 days from my due date, but I had a feeling that the baby would be arriving sooner. I even joked with a co-worker that afternoon saying she should be prepared to come to my house in the middle of the night in case we had to rush to the hospital.

At home that night, I felt a dull pain in my back (was that what contractions felt like--I couldn't remember) from time to time but went about my business as usual. When I went to bed around 11:00pm, I   came to the realization that I was definitely having contractions, but I didn't think they were strong enough or regular enough to begin timing. I was in and out of sleep the entire night, and while there were definitely moments of being extremely uncomfortable, I never thought I was in active labor. Every time I looked at the clock, I kept telling myself, "just [X] number of hours before you can drop Catcher off at daycare, and then you can go to the hospital." (By the way, you can't "schedule" a baby's birth when the baby is ready.)

Around 5:00am I began timing my contractions, which were about five minutes apart, and decided to wake my husband at 5:45 so he could get Catcher up and get him to daycare by 6:30 (I even told him he had time for shower).  I continued timing my contractions--with the handy Baby Bump app on my iPhone--and saw they were suddenly four...then three minutes apart. Then things really started happening fast...

I put off calling my doctor until Alex had left with Catcher. Looking back it seems completely ridiculous, but at the time I didn't realize that I would first call the office and speak with an after-hours operator; wait 15 minutes for the nurse to call me back (who spoke way to slowly in a sweet southern drawl); then wait an additional 15 more minutes to hear from the doctor who was on call at the hospital. By the time Alex walked in the door, I was panting and sweating and focused solely on getting to the hospital. When I finally got the doctor on the phone, I couldn't speak through my contractions so I threw the phone at Alex and said, "You talk!" Poor guy, he obeyed and the next thing I hear is, "Um, yes...my wife thinks she's going into labor." At that point I was having visions of my husband delivering the baby in our living room, so I grabbed the phone back to let the doctor know that I was certifiably in labor. He asked if I was ready to come into the hospital ("Are you nuts?" I thought)..."Yes! Immediately."

The actual car ride is a bit fuzzy. I paused on our front porch as a painful contraction and uncontrollable desire to push overcame my body (at that point, I knew I was in trouble but I couldn't let Alex know how serious it was). Our crazy next door neighbor was in his front yard trying to strike up a conversation about some lawnmower he had found on the street, "We're a little busy here, Andy," said Alex as he helped me into the car. Alex ran a red light or two; I dug my fingernails into his arm (he has the battle scars to prove it) while noises I've never heard before were coming from my mouth. When we arrived at the hospital, we went straight to the parking lot (the nurses would later give Alex grief for not dropping me off at the emergency room, but hindsight tells us he would've missed the birth had that been the case) and somehow maneuvered our way to the front entrance where an observant hospital attendant saw our predicament and got me into a wheelchair and up to the maternity ward in record speed (it's 7:15am at this moment).

The second I rounded the corner at the eighth floor nurses station, they knew by looking at me that it was go time. Because the hospital staff changes shifts at 7:00am, there were about twelve nurses and two doctors on hand to help out with our situation. Once I made it to the room (it's 7:20), the nurses worked like mad to get me undressed and into my hospital gown and on the bed for the doctor to check things out, "She's ten centimeters," I heard him say. "Shit!" I replied. No chance for an epidural...and it's time to push.

Alex was quickly shuffled to my side, and everyone was reassuring me that things were okay and we'd have a baby soon. "Just two more contractions," one of the nurses said, "and then you can push like you haven't gone to the bathroom in a month." The next thing I know I'm pushing; a nurse has jumped on top of the bed and is bearing down on my abdomen; Alex is by my side coaching and reassuring me...and then I hear the baby cry. It's 7:32am. Alex is on the phone with my mom and I'm texting friends by 8:00...breakfast is served at 8:30. The beauty of birth!

Catcher and his baby sister Scout


nosey neighbors

How to host your own open house:

1. Choose a lazy summer Sunday when eight to ten houses in your neighborhood are hosting open houses.

2. Visit the homes that are your competition.

3. Use your two year-old son as a decoy when Realtors start asking too many questions ("Are you looking to buy a house? Are you currently working with a realtor? Do you live in the area?").

4. Stalk young couples leaving your competition and strike up a friendly conversation ("I see your license plate--are you from New York? How long have you been in Charlotte? Do you like the neighborhood?").

5. Casually mention that you have a 2 bedroom/1 bath house on the market just down the street that you're happy to have them check out if they have a minute. Ask them to follow you in their car and then go open the door for them. Leave them alone to let them see how your house far outweighs the competition (wink!).

This wasn't exactly our plan for Sunday afternoon, but it happens to be how things turned out. At 2:00, we received a call asking to show our house at 3:00. Since we'd just been through a whirlwind cleaning the day before, the house was primed and ready for a show. We happily obliged and decided to check out a slew of open houses in our neighborhood to pass the time. As we were leaving a 2 bedroom/1 bath we saw a cute couple that we thought might be interested in looking at our house, so...(see above).

We haven't received feedback from the actual, legitimate, showing yet, but it was a second showing and (after checking out the competition in person) I'm pretty confident that we have the best deal going. The painters show up tomorrow, by the way, so we'll be brighter on the inside and out. Stay tuned for another before and after!


just in time

The reveal: before (above) and after (below).

On Friday my husband took on the task of painting the living room virtually the same color as it was before; however the fresh coat of paint makes a huge difference and somehow makes the room feel bigger and brighter (or is that just my wishful thinking?). There's no arguing, though, that toning down the fireplace tile has helped it recede into the background, and it no longer creates an eyesore for anyone not into lime green.

A couple snapshots of the work in progress--covering holes for nails that once held personal photographs.

Almost finished: a view from the opposite wall.

As it turns out, we painted the living room just in time. We received a call yesterday at 12:36 saying that someone wanted to look at the house between 2:00 and 3:00. My husband answered the call and hesitated for a split second before agreeing. He looked at me and questioned, "Honey? Someone wants to look at the house this afternoon?" My crazy pregnant mind shot back, "We have to do it! We can't afford to turn showings down at this point!" So we threw Catcher in his crib for a nap and frantically cleaned inside and out for the next hour-and-a-half. Our list of accomplishments includes: touch-up paint in the bathroom, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, "staging" the living room (the "after" picture above was taken just before we vacated the house), several more trips up and down the pull-down attic stairs for Alex, sweeping the front and side porches and sprucing up the backyard. 

We then broke the number one rule of sane parenting--never wake a sleeping baby--and got Catcher out of his crib and managed to pull out of the driveway at 1:58. Phew! We've already received feedback from the showing which is good but not great. The girl who looked at it thought it was cute and liked the yard, but the bedrooms were a little too small for her (surprise!) and she's decided to up her price range a bit to get something bigger in a close-by neighborhood. The realtor who showed it, though, was apparently impressed and said she would love to show the house again if she has the opportunity. Honestly, I'm just happy someone looked at it...


one last thing

In the midst of all my nesting madness, which has manifested itself under the guise of getting the house ready for any potential showings by painting the dining and living rooms, cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and packing up even more of Catcher's toys, I've neglected the one thing "the book" tells you to do around 36 weeks of pregnancy: pack your bag for the hospital. Today marks week 38; tonight I'm packing my bag. 


setting the stage

Get ready for phase two of neutralizing: tonight my husband and I will be prepping the living room for its mini-makeover that will take place tomorrow. The paint color I've selected is very similar to the one currently on the walls but a shade or two darker. The tile surrounding the fireplace has already been subjected to the neutralization process (I'll save the pictures for a complete "after" look), so the lime green is a distant memory (sigh!). They say you have to disconnect yourself emotionally from a house before you sell it, and I'm finally there. Wish us luck!


oh, snap

One of my favorite gifts that I received this past Christmas was the Fuji Instax Mini (pictured above). Call it the Polaroid of the 21st century: a cute little camera that snaps credit card-sized photos in an instant. I love it because it brings back memories of my grandfather's Polaroid that I found so baffling yet amusing as a child and--now that Polaroid film is no longer in production--it gives me the opportunity to create a compelling photo gallery like the one below that I once saw pictured in Domino magazine:

The casual arrangement of snapshots over the fireplace mantle is so simple yet clever--a candid homage to the people, places and things in one's life. It reminds me of being in high school and decorating the wall beside my bed with dozens of pictures of all my "best" friends at various gatherings (I mean, who hasn't done something similar, right?). To bring that idea out of adolescence and actually create something that is visually appealing and somewhat artistic, however, is where my Fuji Instax Mini comes into play. There's something inherently artistic in the look and feel of a "Polaroid" gallery. 

I'm thinking of decorating the half-bath of my next house (if there is a next house...and it has a half-bath) with simple Instax images taped up that will act as a kind of wallpaper showcasing the ever-evolving story of life. Here are some examples from others who've had great ideas for decorating with Polaroids:

Image on left from Cookie magazine; right image from Domino

Images from Rita Konig's design column in the New York Times T Magazine. I like the juxtaposition of informal Polaroids surrounding framed art and photographs (top picture) and the playful arrangement including handwritten notes and non-Polaroids in the kitchen (bottom picture).

Polaroid corner from apartment therapy


my greatest embarrassment

I can't believe I'm actually posting this online for all the world to see. Welcome to the thing of which I'm most embarrassed: my closet. I know--it's hideous. It's tiny; it's cramped; it's shameful. The clothes inside are worth more than my husband's car, and yet I'm treating them with such disrespect. You would think that living in New York City for almost seven years would have taught me a thing or two about handling relatively no closet space, but I never learned. The ironic thing is that through my job, I've helped others arrange and sort and organize their closets--telling them what to keep, sell or donate--but I can't do it for myself. Help!

Perhaps this is the reason the house hasn't sold? There isn't a speck of dust on any floor or baseboard or even under the bed, but open my Pandora's box of a closet, and all the evils of the house spill forth. I hope to post an "after" picture as my nesting kicks into high gear and I get this mess under control, but I (honestly) would rather concentrate my efforts on painting or organizing the kitchen cabinets and just keep the closet door closed.


which white

Phase 2 of "neutralizing" begins on Friday when we have the exterior of our home painted. The house is currently white, but we've been told it's too white. Actually, I do agree with the "too white" diagnosis. I believe the guy who owned the house before us--as an investment property--simply had the place primed and never really finished the job. So now we're going to pick off where he left off and have the house professionally painted. The color we've chosen? White. However, white is not white is not white...

After sorting through Sherwin Williams color samples for two days, I'm beginning to wonder which white is right. There's ibis white, pearly white, elder white, simple white, incredible white, aesthetic white, reserved white, nebulous white, Navajo white, site white, antique white...and the list goes on. There are blue-toned whites and yellow-toned whites; cool whites and warm whites; bright whites and subdued whites. What's a homeowner to do? After much consideration (and a vision that involved throwing the fan deck of color choices against the wall) I finally came up with a color combination that I believe will appeal to home buyers looking in our neighborhood: pearly white for the house, warm stone for the porches and caviar for the shutters and door. You'll have to stay tuned for the before and after.


dining room: meet pottery barn

One more look at before...

And here it is: the new dining room. Although I've been known to crack on "pottery barn" decor and colors, I have to reluctantly admit that our freshly painted dining room (color: barley by Benjamin Moore) is a nice departure from the previous garish blue. I understand the psychology behind keeping your interiors neutral to keep from distracting potential buyers with your own decor, and I concede that this color will be more attractive to anyone who looks at the house. My stubbornness to keep the house the way I want it has waned as I've grown more anxious with the rapidly approaching arrival of baby #2 and the feeling that our house is never going to sell. I'll miss the blue--even though my mom once referred to it as "Carolina" blue--but I'm ready to put all emotion aside to get this house sold.

Here's a quick look at the transformation: from bold to beige.

My "assistant" Alex removing the last of the nails that anchored our gallery of random photos--people, places and things--to the dining room wall. We'll be leaving the wall blank now to eliminate distractions for potential buyers. Honestly, the room feel bigger with the neutral walls.

A little Spackle to cover the nail holes; sanding and taping, and we're ready to paint.

Hello, barley; goodbye, blue. There's no turning back now.

Since the dining room project worked out favorably, this weekend we'll tackle the living room. I've picked out another suitable beige for the space (actually, it's very close to the color that we currently have on the walls, which really just need some freshening up). Stay tuned for more before and after looks...


i surrender

Remember this room?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm nine months pregnant and in desperate need of a "project," but last night my husband and I decided to comply with the advice of the agents who have looked at our house and tone down our color choices. So today--on Catcher's birthday--instead of baking a cake or wrapping presents, we're "neutralizing" the home. Starting with the dining room, we'll see how it goes and consider a fresh coat in the living room next week. Hopefully the baby will work with us and not decide to arrive early. Yikes!

We also have "a guy" coming to the house this afternoon to let us know how much it would cost to paint the exterior--it could use a facelift. And tomorrow Alex and Catcher are going out on an adventure to find suitable plants to plop down on the front porch. One of these tactics--coupled with historically low interest rates--has to get our house sold, right?

Stay tuned for "after" photos of the dining room.


dream home #2

Photos from carolinahome.com

Although this house does not top my list of dream homes, I literally dreamt about it the other night. I first discovered it when I was on my mid-century kick and determined to find a decent/affordable one for us in Charlotte. At the time, the house was under a conditional contract and I sent my husband out for some recon work to see if it was even worth my time daydreaming. He came back with the report that "it needs a lot of work." At that point I pretty much brushed it aside and focused on the box house, but now the contract that was on it has fallen through...and why was I dreaming about it? Here's a peek inside:

I've always been a believer in having a property "speak to me" (not speak to me in the sense that I fall for all that aura of the house or spiritual stuff, but speaking to me because I believe I see something that others do not). Although I have not seen this house in person, there is something about it that speaks to me. Perhaps it's all the windows and exposed beams that I find so appealing...

I'm also fond of the apparent openness of the space. Some of the details are less than desirable--is that wood paneling I see--but I'm curious enough to check out the space in person (just to make sure I haven't made up my mind before looking at more than one house on the market).

I'm not in love with this kitchen situation, but part of me likes the idea of having a house that needs a little bit of work where you can inject your own personality into it. Perhaps it's because I've never lived in anything close to resembling new construction (like the box house) that the "fixer-upper" is somewhat appealing to me. Of course, dreaming about remodeling and actually doing it are two completely different things. Let's see how I feel if and when I see the house in person and not just in my dream where anything is possible.


let's hear it for the boy

Now that Catcher is about to turn two (his birthday is Friday), I feel that he is outgrowing the nursery and is ready for a more sophisticated dwelling, if you will. Of course I'm not making any dramatic changes while we're trying to sell the house, but I'm constantly coming up with ideas for his "big boy room" (see: all jacked up). Inspired by the chic sports-themed room that Bob and Cortney Novogratz designed for their boys' room (pictured below), I've been looking into ways to incorporate sports that isn't too kitschy or predictable--it's not easy to go that route while steering away from all-star posters or beds in the guise of race cars.

Room design by Sixx Design - photo by Costa Picadas

One steamy afternoon a few weeks ago, my husband and I found ourselves wandering around the mall. While I prattled on about my vision of finding a vintage Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan photograph for Catcher's bedroom, we happened upon--and I couldn't have scripted this any better myself--a silent auction of sports memorabilia. While we browsed through the offerings, which included your typical NASCAR hologram photos and a poster advertising The Color of Money signed by Tom Cruise and Paul Newman, Alex discovered this photograph capturing Michael Jordan's winning shot for the University of North Carolina in the 1982 National Championship game:

Michael Jordan 17 Second Shot; image from cstv.com

The bidding started at $120 and Alex tried his luck by writing down $150. A week later he got the phone call: he had won. Yesterday I saw the same photograph--same size, matted and framed just like ours--selling for $999. I think we did get lucky...

And speaking of lucky, I also got lucky one night when I was playing on the Internet and came across the notNeutral platform bed pictured below on sale (less than half off!). I had been looking into modern beds for that day when it's time to make the switch from crib to bed, and this one was high on my radar. Because the sale ended the next morning, I had to go ahead and purchase the bed, which arrived packaged in three separate boxes that are currently "hidden" strategically throughout our house.

notNeutral bb2 twin bed; photo fawnandforest.com

While I continue searching for decorations and bedding that I can't yet put to use, check out these inspiring kids' rooms:

Kids' bedroom of actor Mark Ruffalo and his wife Sunrise. Photo originally featured in Domino magazine.

Image from ohdeedoh

Image originally published in Time Out Kids


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