Tuesday, October 20, 2015

mama confessions : what I am and what I'm not.

Yesterday was the last game of Cormac's soccer season.  

Let me sum up for you how each of his games went :  I would try to get him excited all day about it. He would seem excited!  We would get there.  He would cry and yell adamantly that he did NOT want to play soccer and soccer was the worst thing in the world!!!!  I would try to calm him down so as to not alarm the other soccer moms.  I would tell him he needed to at least sit with his team and watch, if not play.  He would finally calm down, after taking my hand and using it to roughly wipe his tears and boogs (basically a 'hand hankie.')  He would amble over to his team, already warming up for the game, and the coaches would be overly nice and encouraging to him.  He would participate eventually (aka run up and down the field, sometimes yelling "Hey Mom!" and smiling and waving at me, completely oblivious to where the ball was.)

The game ended yesterday, and I was just thankful he ended up trying, considering his epic meltdown.  He got a participation medal (which he promptly gave to Finola, the loudest cheerleader at the game.) He ate pizza with his team, sweetly thanked the coaches and said goodbye to his little friends.  Then we all went on a nature hike on the park trail I promised him -- his sole motivation for participating in the soccer game.

So my kid is probably not a soccer player.  And I am not a soccer mom.

Team sports, in general, give me anxiety.  I was the kid who was afraid of the ball, afraid of making a mistake, and completely uncoordinated.  I was required to play volleyball (disaster) basketball (nooo!) and softball (ew) in grade school and I was the one they stuck in the least obtrusive position and then made sure there was someone nearby to cover for me.  I also dislike crowds and people yelling things at me.  This is why I run, people!

I never tried soccer, but my guess is I would have been terrible.

Now, maybe Cormac will find a team sport he likes.  Maybe he will someday end up liking soccer, even.  He is only four, after all.  Or maybe he will be a runner, hiker, introverted adventurer like his mama.

That would be just fine, too.  :)

I totally understand this face. :D

Saturday, October 17, 2015

renovation diary : the powder room

If you have been reading this tiny blog in the past few years you know that in 2012 we took on a huge renovation project of a Victorian home built in 1859.
I call it the 'dream home' because I spent two years running by this house in our neighborhood thinking how much I liked it, dreaming that the price would dip to where we could afford it.

After a total of five years on the market, it finally got down to where we could justify the purchase + cost of renovation...and it became ours!

Wow, that seems like forever ago.

This will probably be the renovation that never ends, but I suppose we have plenty of time. :)

Now, time for a little update, since I haven't done that in a while.  Lots has been happening, progress being made, but nothing 100% completed.   So I've delayed in posting anything.  BUT, I don't really know if any space in this home will ever be 100%, so I may as well share the little things we've done so far.

Starting with the powder room!
Here is our entryway when we first bought the house, as you come in the front door.  As you can see there was a half bath straight ahead (with Paul and baby Mac checking it out!) 
The wall with the sink and mirror contained electric and plumbing, and also blocked the doorway to the back half of our home (which, since it's original build in 1859, had been converted to a two-family, the front and back divided into two two-story units.)

So, to convert it back to a single family home, we opened up that wall, moved the plumbing and electric, and created a hallway/door to the back half of the house.  Half of the previous half bath morphed into our current, tiny powder room.

Here are some photos of the transformation...
The entry has come a long way -- but we still need to paint the walls, as well as the backs of the steps and spindles/ballister (or whatever that big piece at the bottom is called.)

The photo below is looking through the hallway, bathroom on left, dining room straight ahead.  The dining room has pretty much been a "work zone" housing all Hubby's tools for the past year.  The floor is forever dusty.  It literally drives me insane and causes me to shriek, "I am done with this renovation - contract the rest out!" at my poor husband at least once a week.

Hubby had to use leftover trim and also re-create the look of our trim using new wood in this tiny hallway, which has three doorways requiring trim.

The tile work in progress.

Before the trim was painted, and after.  Brightens things up, right?  Now to decide on a wall color!
And do you like how our dog Colbie manages to be in every photo?

I really wanted a somewhat glam look to this bathroom - something black and white and bold.  So we went from almost choosing greige subway tile to a black with bright white grout.  I had also been wanting to try black paint on wall somewhere in the house, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity!  So we added a chair rail and did white above it, and black below.  I figured some art in black frames could balance it out.

So here is the 'after' in its current state:
I need to hang a couple more things on the white walls, and we still need a toilet paper holder and towel bar.  So yeah, not totally finished, but decisions (and action) take time in our house.
I got about fifty of these 'botanical prints' for $20 from Modcloth.com.  No idea where I will put them all, but this one will get hung up above the toilet at some point.

Paint : Tricorn by Sherwin Williams 
Sink : Kohler - came with the house
copper faucet : Signature Hardware
tile : Lowe's 
light fixture : Lowe's
floral framed art on wall : Lowe's (riiiight? I've never bought any art there, but this one was so vibrant it called to me.  and only $19!)
mirror : IKEA - already had...looking for a bigger one.

All the labor in this room (electric and plumbing included) was done by Hubby.
Nice job, baby!

Any transformations happening (slowly) in your home?  Are you a "get it done quickly" kind of renovator, or are you slooooow movers like us?  

Monday, October 5, 2015


Despite the history and literary lustre of London, Amsterdam was the highlight of this trip for me. Perhaps it was because I got to adventure a little bit on my own during this portion of our vacation, while Paul attending a two day conference (the entire reason for our trip in the first place.)  Our hotel was quite a distance from the city of Amsterdam, in Noordwijk, a beach town on the coast.  Therefore I had to take the city bus to Leiden, a larger city, and then take the train to Amsterdam.  I don't mean to sound like a diva, but I personally have never had to take a city bus by myself.  Anywhere.  Much less in an unfamiliar European country.  Other big cities I've visited I've been with someone who knew the ropes and was with me.  I've never lived in a city where it was the norm to commute that way, and have always had a vehicle to get places.  So this was all new to me!  A bit scary - and awesome.

So both days that I had to myself went a little like this.  Get up slowly (a luxury I rarely never get) then head to the hotel gym for a workout, shower and get ready in a leisurely fashion, then muster up the courage to go out into the unknown - on my own.  Obviously, the first day was the most daunting.  You should have seen me trying to look like a local at the bus stop.  Inwardly I was geeking over the whole concept.  "I don't have to deal with traffic!  I can read my book while I get where I am going!  I can enjoy the scenery!  Look!  They have cool screens to tell me exactly when the bus will get here!"  Yes, ridiculous, but I was really pumped.  Then I got on the bus and almost shouted to the driver with joy, "I need a ticket to Leiden Centraal!" He humored me by not outwardly rolling his eyes, and helping me find the correct amount of Euros in my palm.

My first bus experience was good - meaning uneventful.  Got to Leiden and went to a coffee shop for sustenance, since I had been too nervous to eat any breakfast.  Then it was off to buy my train ticket, and after determining I was not tech savvy enough to work the electronic ticket kiosk (actually, a helpful local told me I'd be better off finding the info booth and buying it there - doh) I got the ticket and headed to my platform.  To make sure it was perfectly obvious I was a tourist I took a "train station selfie" :
adventuring solo - train platform selfie with coffee
When I arrived at Amsterdam central station and headed out of the train station it was love at first sight.  I don't know exactly what it was, but I think there are some places you just know you are going to have a connection with.  The bicycles (I don't ride a bike) and the fragrant aroma of marijuana (I've never smoked it) overtook me in quite a positive way.  Kind of made me want a cute old bicycle to ride around on and partake in some weed!

I did neither 'quintessential Amsterdam' activity, but enjoyed walking all around the city all the same.  I stopped and shopped wherever I wanted to.  Spent an hour in a bookstore.  Walked through the Tulip Museum.  Walked past the two-hour long line at the Anne Frank house and decided to pass on that.  Enjoyed the artsy vibe on Spui Straat.
I found this city so interesting.  Chic, a bit gothic, edgy, pretty, clean, fun! 
just one of the many shopping areas - teeming with tourists and 'coffee shops' - which I learned means 'places to smoke weed' 
a massive array of bicycles greets you outside the train station
  Love the buildings here!  
pretty canals.
geeked over all the brick herringbone streets. 
old gothic church.
I didn't really care to do my hair that day, so...hello forehead!  
The second day on my own went pretty much like the first.  Except after getting ready I walked down by the sea for a while, despite the wind and the drizzle.  None of my crazy selfies turned out, as trying to hold an umbrella in the wind while taking a selfie is a recipe for disaster, but I love the shots I got of the other brave souls on the beach, dogs and a their people.
our hotel by the sea, where hubby's training was held. so imposing in this shot!
I went walking by the "Zuider Zee" as one of our children's books refers to it.  I wasn't the only one!  Dogs and other folks with umbrellas.
yes, I obviously filtered these.  but the pinkish glow captures the feel of the morning.
After walking along the shore a bit and collecting some shells for the kiddos, I headed to the bus stop for day two of Amsterdam adventuring.  Somehow I managed to miss my bus, so I ran to the next one and actually stood in the correct place.  This started off a much less smooth day of public transit - I missed my bus, took the wrong train once, sat in first class accidentally and got booted back to second, etc, etc.  Literally, I made any mistake that can be made, but only because I felt more comfortable and spent more of my time reading my book than paying attention.  So since I had no real agenda and had already walked Amsterdam I wasn't too stressed!  

That night at dinner, when Hubby was finally done with his conference, we went to a little Mexican by the beach and recapped our very different experiences over beer and margaritas.  We ate inside, away from the cold and drizzle, with the heaters...but it sorta gave us a reminder of Mexico!

Morning had us packed up sharing a car into the city with one of Hubby's co-horts at the conference.  After two days on the bus, I have to say that a car suddenly seemed like a luxury.  We enjoyed the first sunny day we had on our trip, whirling past tulip fields and windmills.

After dropping off our bags at our hotel near the airport, we rode the train to Amsterdam and got to have a full day together seeing everything...which, independent as I am, is just more fun.  We didn't really "do" much, just walked around, stopped for beers when thirsty at cafes by the canals, soaking in the sunshine, fresh air, and vibe of the city.  
I decided to go with an "authentic Dutch lunch" - ummmm...whatever this was, it was not my favorite.  Inside this fried thing was what I can only describe as "weird pudding with meat chunks in it."  This trip was not a "foodie dream" but at least we drank plenty of delicious beer. :)
the goat cheese salad was good, though!

adventuring solo was exciting, but adventuring with hubby is most fun of all.
The highlight of that day, and perhaps the whole trip, was walking through the Van Gogh Museum.  I am one of those people who could not paint a decent painting to save my life, but have always loved art.  Like so many, I've felt a deep connection with van Gogh's iconic paintings and bold, unique brushstroke style since taking art history, art writing and various other humanities courses in college, and having prints of his famous images all over my apartments during my single days.  I have connected with his work in that his story involves his struggle with depression, which I can intimately relate to, and find so beautifully and hauntingly captured in his work.

Seeing his masterpiece 'Sunflowers' up close and personal was beyond moving.  Obviously I highly recommend going through this museum if ever in Amsterdam!

Anyway, we bought some (cheap) art in the museum district to remember the day by, and then, feet aching, headed to find a cafe for dinner.  It just so happened my dinner came with potatoes, which I found really nerdy-cool after viewing van Gogh's collection.  Also ironic because we are pretty much the opposite of "the potato eaters."

Early the next morning we headed home to the US, to our babies, and some warmth and sunshine...all of which I couldn't help feeling deeply grateful for.

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Soooo...have you been one place this year that you've never been before?   Where would you go if you could choose any one place in the world to take a trip?