So this house we’re renting comes with a pretty fantastic yard. There are mature fruit trees — cherry, apple and peach. Two strawberry patches and a raspberry bramble. An herb garden. Lots of good cutting flowers. A large garden spot (large for suburbia anyway) which we’ve planted with tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, melons, pumpkins, salad greens and beans. Plus a good sized patio/deck with an awning.
We left our outdoor furniture behind in New York and have yet to replace it. In lieu of the traditional table and benches, I’d like to fill our patio with an assortment of rocking chairs instead. I’m thinking 7 mis-matched rockers in bright colors. I’ve set a budget limit of $50 per chair and now I’m hunting them down.
On Saturday I found a great turquoise rocker in metal for $75 that I hope to barter down this week. And a squatty, bright yellow one in front of a costume store. It wasn’t for sale, but if I show up with cash, maybe they’ll change their minds?
I’m willing to add a coat of paint to a non-descript rocker, or embellish with colorful cushions, but I do want to challenge myself to keep to the $50 per chair budget. If you’ve seen any rad rockers around, please let me know.
Also: if you live in the Denver metro area and know of a trustworthy upholsterer, I’d love a recommendation. Please. Pretty please?
image from kitby
Last night, we organized the book shelves in the living room by color — they’ve been so drab every time I walked by, I’m hoping this will be the fix. You like?
Other than that, it feels like a funny day. I wonder what’s up? We returned an air mattress at Target. Then bought a new lamp shade. And some light bulbs. I went grocery shopping. We made cinnamon rolls (the super easy Rhodes version).
Now all I want to do is watch movies until it’s time for bed.
Feel free to join me. Happy weekend!
Choose a Piano That’s Not Worth RestoringThe best candidate for something like this is a piano that’s not worth restoring. Ours was perfect. It was the piano I grew up with and it was pretty beat up when my parents originally picked it up for a bargain $300. By the time I inherited it, it was even more war-torn and the first thing I did was get 3 bids on having it refinished and restored. All three refinishers told me it would be about $2000 to restore the inside and $2000 to restore the outside and that the inside was just old, and even if it was restored it wouldn’t be as good as new. All 3 recommended sending this one to the junk yard and buying new. But new was out of our budget. And so was a $4000 restoration. I got some other opinions, and it was decided that the piano was good enough for lessons for the kids (the kids were babies at the time), and that we could get a more serious piano when and if our kids became serious piano students. So we just kept the piano as it was and I dreamt of at least giving it a shiny coat of paint. I kept the dream alive for 9 years. Some years I thought a glossy black would be lovely. But then I felt like black would seem like I was trying to make the instrument more formal than it really was. Later I thought maybe a white coat that we could sand down and make sort of rustic would be nice. Then for about the last 3 years I decided turquoise would be the right thing to do, but I never made it happen. When we were moving, the piano was so depressing I almost left it behind. But Ben Blair said we should bring it to Colorado. Saturday morning I was craving a challenge so I decided to finally tackle the piano paint job. When I got to the paint store I had a vision: go big or go home. I decided on Grass Green then and there. I bought one quart of hi-gloss enamel, one quart of primer, tinted to match the paint, and a paint brush. Grand total: $40. By Saturday afternoon I had primed it and painted 2 coats of paint. At that point, I decided the green was a little too yellow, so I took the remaining paint back to the paint store and asked them to green it up a bit. Saturday evening, I added one more coat and then came back to the project on Monday. Monday I did two more coats. Tuesday I did some touch ups. And tada! It’s finished. Unexpected thing: I can already see this will be the signature piece in our home. I had never thought about a signature piece for our home, but because I went with a bold color, now we have one. Every person that comes in the house is drawn to it. Everyone wants to touch the keys. It’s been played more in the last two days than it has been in years. Ben Blair wants to host a recital and call it Variations on the Green Piano. Other unexpected thing: a piano is big. Physically and visually. It’s not just a small accent piece. Once you have a green piano, you basically have to design the room around it instead of just work it into the existing space. Which means I need to talk to the landlord about painting the walls… Seeing our newly painted piano makes me super happy. Green wouldn’t be right for every home, but it’s perfect for ours. I feel like I just bought this piano 10 more years of life. Next up: time to get it tuned.
Updated To answer some of your questions:1) The color is Benjamin Moore Yellow Green (but in my mind it looks more like grass green). 2) I didn’t use oil-based paint. 3) According to the paint store: yes, you should sand off any existing hi-gloss finish before you prime. 4) I don’t have any “before” pictures to share. I did have some. But they are gone. Because I am an idiot and mistakenly erased them. 5) Yes, I painted the bench as well. When I have the room more put together, I’ll share a photo tour. 6) I did not disassemble the piano, but an expert or less-lazy person would have. I painted with the keyboard closed. Once the paint was dry, I opened the keyboard and painted around it with a smaller brush. Happy painting! P.S. — More green piano photos. Plus, at what age should your child start piano lessons?
We left our tired, well-used sofas on the street as we packed up our house in New York. Which means we now have very little to sit on and are in couch shopping mode. Here are four I’m considering:
1) The Florence Knoll Sofa in fabric by NJModern pictured at top.
2) The Bucktown Sofa by Chiasso.
3) The Bantam Sofa by DWR.
4) The Abby Sofa by Chiasso.
These are all between $1100 and $1800 — about what I expect to pay for a good quality sofa in not-extravagant fabric. For a total bargain, there’s also this simple silhouette:
The Buse Sofa from JC Penney. More of an over-stuffed feel than I’m looking for, but you can’t beat the price: on sale for $499.
Morning all! It’s a brand new week. Our house is now wired up. I’ve got a new Guest Mom to introduce to you today. And I’ll be announcing winners of last Friday’s Giveaways in a bit. Life is good!
While I’m writing today’s posts, here are some pics of our maiden voyage to the library. Library cards were acquired by all.
Most fun thing about our new library: see that phone Oscar has to his ear? When you pick it up, someone on the other end is there to read you a story.
Which reminds me, we have decided to try something new: no cable/DVR. I am a bit of a DVR addict and want to declare from the beginning that I may not last a month without its joys. We’re not giving up TV altogether — we just want to experiment with the downloadable options out there. Maybe Apple TV. Maybe Roku/Netflix. We’ll see.
While we figure things out, the library has suddenly regained it’s prior glory in my life. I’ve got all sorts of reading time on my hands now that I can’t depend on American Idol to keep me entertained. So I’m need of book recommendations. If you’ve read anything wonderful lately, please leave a comment. I’d love a nice long list to plow through.
The feedback on the family photos in Central Park has been wonderful. Thank you! I promised a followup post with more details and I’m ready to deliver.
How it Came About
Candice Stringham (the Brooklyn-based photographer) contacted me a few weeks ago. She teaches online photography classes and wanted to build her family photo portfolio for an upcoming class. So she offered to take photos of my family in Central Park. I took a peek at the work on her blog, thought it was fantastic and said: yes, please.
Candice liked the idea of doing either a pastel English tea inspired color scheme, or a more colorful Kate Spade/Crewcuts inspired color scheme. She pulled Brenda Barrett Taylor on to be the prop stylist and they decided to go with Kate Spade/Crewcuts. My assignment was to come up with outfits in this color palette: navy blue, crisp white, grass green, cherry red and mustard yellow. I didn’t keep to the palette in every case (my skirt is royal blue, for example), but I did my best to keep to their vision.
While I took care of the clothes, Brenda and Candice provided all the props. The picnic. The teacups. The books. And the cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. Brenda is an incredible stylist. It was a treat to get to see her in action.
What We Are Wearing
I worked hard on the outfits. Dug through closets. Borrowed, begged, bought. Recruited friends to help shop. Overbought just in case. Kept tags on anything new until I knew exactly what we were going to use. I used my bedroom floor to gather outfits as they came together and get a sense of what colors we still needed more of. The night before the shoot I had the kids try on different options until we narrowed it down.
We brought additional clothing to the shoot in case the photographer wanted to mix things up — a mustard jacket for me by J.Crew, a green check button down for Ben, etc. But we ended up shooting in exactly what we were wearing. Amazingly, we didn’t need to buy that much. And everything we did buy is very useable.
Betty wore an adorable dress from Ses Petities Mains. It wasn’t new (she’s owned it since December), but it still looks great. Her red cable sweater is by Ralph Lauren, a hand-me-down from a friend. Her yellow sandals are by Salt Water Sandals, from Zappos.
Oscar wore plaid shorts and a blue oxford button down from Old Navy. His tie was picked up at Gymboree (score: $6!). I actually had a different tie picked out for him with wide, diagonal mustard and navy stripes. But he wouldn’t wear it. The one he did wear worked out just fine. His shoes were picked up last summer, classic boat shoes by Perry Topsider.
Olive wore a white eyelet skirt by Ralph Lauren, borrowed from my friend Kathryn Carmona. Her mustard shoes are also borrowed from Kathryn. They are European and beautiful. I can’t remember the maker — Kathryn, if you’re reading, please share. They were actually a size too small for Olive, but she manned up and wore them anyway for the photo shoot — without complaint I might add. Olive’s red stripe shirt is several years old from Old Navy. Her red flower was a lucky last-minute addition. I picked it up at H&M; last summer.
Maude wore a gorgeous mustard jacket from Ismodern. On sale. Grab one while you can. The dark denim skirt she made herself at sewing class last summer. Her red stripey socks were borrowed from Ralph — all stripey socks in the photo are from H&M;, and were found in Ralph and Oscar’s stockings this past Christmas. The flower headband was made by Olive last Christmas as a gift. Edit: Forgot Maude’s shoes — purchased at Target last month in the boy’s shoe department.
Ralph wore a green Lacoste polo shirt. Found at Lord & Taylor. Pricier than I would normally go for a polo shirt, but it was 25% off and was the exact perfect green. His navy blazer is by Gymboree (another score: $18!). His jeans he already had from H&M.; His sneakers were new — but weren’t bought for the photo shoot, he just needed new sneaks. By Adidas, from Zappos.
I wore a blue lamp-shade pleated skirt from Banana Republic. I already owned this. The white shirt is from H&M;, also already owned by me. The green cardigan was bought for the shoot and was found at Old Navy. Edit: Forgot my shoes — I bought the adorable gingham peep toes at TJ Maxx last summer, I believe the brand is called Unlisted.
Ben wore BR jeans he already owned. Lacoste sneakers he already owned. A tie he already owned. We picked up the blue check button down at Old Navy.
What The Shoot Was Like
The shoot was 90% awesome and 10% Oscar throwing tantrums. But really, the kids were great. Candice was patient. The weather couldn’t have been better. The whole shoot took about 2 hours but felt like a few really wonderful minutes.
The family pictures in Central Park turned out beautifully. Candice Stringham, the photographer, was incredible. Lots of patience. Great style. Flexible. A delight to work with. If you’re in New York — or anywhere near New York — book her right away. For reals.
I know preparing for a family portrait can be stressful. What will everyone wear? Will the kids behave? Will I look hot? : ) Leading up to our photo shoot, there were several times I was tempted to cancel — we’re just so busy right now. But I am beyond happy that I have these photos now. What a treasure for our family! Worth every bit of time and effort.
And I can’t even put into words how wonderful it was to spend an afternoon-with-perfect-weather in our beloved park before the big move. I’m going to get all weepy just thinking about it.
P.S. — Thanks for all the great feedback! Per your requests, here is a post about how the shoot and the wardrobe came together here.
image credit, Amy Hackworth
I think sewing is another great method for kids to express themselves creatively. I love this thought of teaching our children to sew as a means of being a “stabilizer” in their lives expressed beautifully by former first lady, Grace Coolidge:
“Every girl should be taught to sew, not merely for the sake of making something, but as an accomplishment which may prove a stabilizer in time of perplexity or distress. Many a time when I needed to hold myself firmly I have taken up a needle (a sewing needle, some knitting needles, or a crochet hook.) Whatever its form or purpose, it often proved to be as the needle of the compass, keeping me to the course.”
So here are some ways to get them (or you!) started:
One fun way, especially with really young kids, is beginning-level lacing cards. The ever-popular eeBoo has some adorable choices.
If your kids are a little older and you want to make your own sewing cards, check out Marie’s patterns at Make and Takes.
In The Creative Family, Amanda Soule suggests simply giving your children some fabric in a sewing hoop, a needle and thread, and letting them go.
We’ve also had success with my daughter drawing a picture and taping it to the window. Then she lightly traces it onto plain fabric, and stitches over the traced lines. A very simple way to let them capture their art in another form.
For another very simple project to do with your kids, Oliver + S offers this free download for an easy child’s skirt. I am no expert at sewing clothes (still a little scared of zippers and sleeves) but this one is totally do-able. And cute.
Really, you can do this. And it doesn’t need to be perfect. Keep it simple, but at the same time, let them run with it. Don’t be afraid to let them (or yourself) make mistakes. Your kids will love anything they have a hand in, and it will give them a ton of satisfaction to see a finished product that they accomplished with their own hands. Hopefully it will do the same for you too!
Hi Gabrielle. I’m really enjoying your Ask Design Mom week, and I have a question for you. What products do you use for your hair? Your curls always look beautiful, and I love that you wear it curly and don’t get it blown straight all the time. I also have curly hair and am always looking for product suggestions. Thanks, and good luck with the move. — Emily
Hi Emily! Thanks for the hair compliments. I feel like I’m having a hair crisis right now, so I appreciate the positive feedback. My haircare has been heavily influenced by the book Curly Girl. I don’t follow their instructions exactly, but I have adopted many of their guidelines. Two that I use daily are:
1) Pile on the conditioner. I use a light shampoo very infrequently, and then a heavy conditioner very frequently. Any thick conditioner will work. I leave it on in the shower for a few minutes. Then rinse it out. After I’ve towel-dried my hair I put in more conditioner, mixed with gel, and leave it in. On a particularly frizzy day, I might scrunch my dry hair with even more conditioner throughout the day.
2) Get rid of your brush. When I’m wearing my hair curly, I never brush it. I keep a wide tooth comb in the shower to work the conditioner through, but I don’t brush.
What about you Fellow Curly Girls? Do you have any favorite haircare products or haircare tips?
Images of curly haired peeps from Bumble & Bumble. Win a $300 shopping spree from Peek? Find out how here.
Gabrielle, I have been reading, enjoying and learning from your blog for a little over a year now and was hoping you could help me. I was elected as the new President for my sons preschool and will be taking this adventure with seven other wonderful, amazing women whom I want to greet, encourage and thank for joining together to make our school a better place.
I need gift ideas that are super cool and useful but on the less expensive side as I do not want to spend a ton. If you have any ideas or links you could send my way I would really appreciate it. I am a graphic designer so do it yourself projects would work too. Thank you for any help or direction you may give. — Jennifer
I love your question, Jennifer. There are always great suggestions in the comments whenever the topic is gifts — so many thoughtful ideas. Since you’ll be working with these women, my first thought was pretty office supplies. Specifically, I was thinking of the decoupaged clipboards I made for my daughter’s birthday party favors. I made mini ones, but you could make full size ones for the grownups. A great DIY project and very inexpensive. Plus they’re practical and useful. You can find instructions at Martha Stewart.
What about you, Clever Readers? What would you give as practical, super-cool, inexpensive gift?
You could win a $300 shopping spree from Peek Aren’t You Curious? Yay!! Find out how here.
Do you have any baby books to recommend? Thank you! — Aiilie
Sure do. There are many great ones out there. In lots of styles and price ranges. Take a peek at these books by Nikki McClure, Binth, Tracey Clark, the Metropolitan Museum (pictured) and Kistner Supply. All are gorgeous!
What about you Dear Friends? What are your favorite Baby Journal Books?
What’s Ask-Design-Mom-Week? See here. Win big. $300 big.
Katie Schultz had a great idea. She took her kids on a photo scavenger hunt. They walked around their neighborhood and took pictures of anything green they could find. So smart!
The same concept would work with any color. You could do it with letters as well. Or pick another sort of theme — smiles, toys, cars, things that make noise, animals, etc. Toddlers and preschoolers would be all over this.
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