Sunday, January 30, 2011

Keats This Week (1/22/2011 - 1/30/2011)

Better late than never. Hopefully.

Keats holding his prized lamb's ear leaf.
As you know, we were all sick this week, but that didn't stop Keats from being pretty darn cute. Last Saturday we celebrated his cousin James' fifth birthday at Hidden Villa Farm in Los Altos, California. It was so much fun. My sister did a wonderful job on some farm-themed cupcakes and the tour of the farm was really fun and extra cute with the addition of SO many baby animals! We were introduced to (and reminded of) some winter-growing vegetables and greens that we'll have to try next year (sorrel and fava beans). Nearly every animal on the farm was pregnant or had just given birth. Keats loved seeing the sheep and goats (as usual) and I was re-educated on pigs since James Herriot kind of ruined them for me years ago. It was also nice to hear that each piglet would grow up to be the same size, even the runt, which both surprised and gladdened my sister and I as we both have read Charlotte's Web one too many times. Keats did a little more walking, but as that was the very beginning of him feeling real sick, he became dazed and snuffly so we called it a day and went home. It was lots of fun! I hope his birthday party is half as fun as that farm party. Note to self for when he's turning two! 
The runt. It was less than half the size of its siblings!
The a-mazing cupcakes my sister made!
With his four cutting incisors in, Keats is now working on his two top side incisors. Coming right on the tail of a bad cold, teething is wreaking havoc on both day and night time, but we'll get through it. These two new teeth don't seem to bother him as much as the second set did, and for that I'm grateful! Keats has had some pretty tough days this last week and I don't know if Birch and I can handle that sad, pitiful face anymore! It's so sad to feel so helpless when your little one is hurting.

Speaking of hurting, Birch has gone from just having a bad cold to an ear infection. I know... sad day. He's a trooper, though, and I have to remind him to rest and take naps. Not to mention take his medicine. So, more days off work. Oh, well.

Hopefully this coming week will be better and healthier for all of us! We've completed our budget and figured out a new way to stick to it. We're both pretty excited about that and hope to be a bit more frugal with each passing month. Got to save up for preschool, etc. How crazy is that? Hope you are all having a lovely week, even in this rain of ours (pretty stoked that I don't have to keep watering our plants, though). All love to you and yours.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Elbow Grease and Water

We are so excited for spring. We're having some lovely, warm weather here in the Bay Area (hopefully it won't trick too many of our fruit trees into blooming early). Birch and I are still sick and Keats is on the mend, but we can help but do a little work in the garden anyway. After all, there's only so many days that one can sit around doing nothing. For Birch, that's one day, if that. And yes, that little attribute can get annoying. ;) But when the mood strikes both of us at once, nothing can stop us. We can stuff done! Since I've generally been feeling healthier than the rest of our crew, I've been on the forefront of the garden clean-up. Raking up oak leaves, cutting back plants that are taking over, and turning the compost. Birch and I spotted two free Papasan chairs on the street yesterday and snagged those up. Only one had a cushion and it was NASTY so we threw that away, but hey, we're pretty stoked. More outdoor seating! I'm planning on buying some cheapo cushions then using the covers as templates for some prettier fabric. Have you seen outdoor fabric lately? Hideous. So, I'll fix up the stands (perhaps a coat of paint) and make some cushions and voila! Pretty, new outdoor seating. Huzzah. Not today, though. Today we're hoping to laze about some more, go for a walk in this beautiful weather, play at the park, and I'll do some light garden work later this afternoon.

While we're stuck inside, I'll just dream of all the wonderful things we get to plant this year.

Plants to plant:
  1. Our Japanese maple!
  2. Tulips.
  3. Snapdragons.
  4. Golden Creeping Jenny.
  5. Hens and Chicks.
  6. Japanese eggplant.
  7. Thai eggplant.
  8. Clematis
  9. Plantain Lily.
  10. Bleeding Heart.
  11. Butterhead lettuce.
  12. Strawberries.
  13. Thai chilli peppers.
  14. Stonecrop.
  15. Runner beans.
  16. Golden beets.
  17. Elfin Thyme.
  18. Fennel.
  19. Arugula.
  20. Pickling cucumbers.
  21. Habanero peppers.
  22. Radishes.
  23. Cilantro.
  24. Water lily.
  25. Orchid.
What are you looking forward to planting this year?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oven, Sewing Machine, Pen, and Hammer.

Day three of the list countdown and Keats is slowly on the mend (although Birch and I are still struggling). The last few nights have been rough, but Birch is hoping to be back at work tomorrow, and hoping even more that we'll all feel healthy and refreshed.

As we slowly work on our place, I can feel it coming together and hope to have it in somewhat of a permanent state come April. My sister Rachel bought me a quilting foot and a Martha Stewart book about organization (thank you, again!) and I've already picked up quite a few ideas (although I don't think I'll be spending the cash she seems to think necessary). Some things I'll plunk down the dough for, but others (like bathroom storage) I'll be maneuvering about some thrift shops, etc., which I think is in keeping with the whole idea. Oh, and uh, our bed is going to end up where the dining room is. Sounds odd, I'm sure, but it's going to be awesome. Bedroom turning into a room dedicated to project undertaking and adult time? Yes, please!

So, here's list #3...

Things to Create:
  1. First birthday cake.
  2. Fabric playhouse.
  3. Pancake mix.
  4. Gnome hats.
  5. Skirts with ruffles.
  6. Garden arch.
  7. Mini skirts for me!
  8. A children's book.
  9. Curtains.
  10. An organized and accessible kitchen.
  11. Keats' Halloween costume.
  12. Changing table cover.
  13. More pillows!
  14. Photo book of Keats' first year.
  15. Birdhouse.
  16. Cheesecake.
  17. Slippers.
  18. Grapefruit tea.
  19. Poetry.
  20. A lovely room for Keats.
  21. Garden tool hanger.
  22. Organized and safe play area in the living room.
  23. A larger (extension) rabbit hutch for Harlequin.
  24. Christmas stockings.
  25. Presents.
What will you be creating this year?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reading Up a Storm

Keeping warm and cozy while reading philosophy, Winter 2007 in Virginia.
Books I'd Like to Read (many will be for a second or hundredth time):

  1. The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman (need to finish it)
  2. The Beauty of Straw Bale Homes by Athena Swentzell Steen
  3. Samuel Johnson: The Major Works edited by Donald Greene
  4. The Portable Thoreau edited by Carl Bode
  5. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  6. The Modern Baker: Time Saving Techniques for Breads, Tarts, Pies, Cakes, and Cookies by Nick Malgieri
  7. Quilt Artistry: Inspired Designs from the East by Yoshiko Jinzenji
  8. The Practical Guide to Patchwork: New Basics for the Modern Quiltmaker by Elizabeth Hartman
  9. Bay Area Gardening: 64 Practical Essays by Master Gardeners edited by Barbara J. Euser
  10. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard 
  11. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
  12. Step Right Up: Stories of Carnivals, Sideshows, and the Circus by Nathaniel Knaebel
  13. The Power of Art by Simon Schama
  14. Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman
  15. Notes on the Synthesis of Form by Christopher Alexander
  16. Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  17. Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley
  18. The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard
  19. Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell (note the irony that this has a bargain price next to it)
  20. The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait by Carlos Fuentes
  21. Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books by Uri Shulevitz
  22. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
  23. Second Nature: A Gardener's Education by Michael Pollan
  24. In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  25. The Island of the Color Blind by Oliver Sacks
What are you most excited to read this year? Started anything new that you love? Anything you threw across the room? Rereading an old favorite? Let me know! :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Places to Go, People to See. [Updated with Pictures]

Flying West over the United States for winter break 2007. I met Birch a few days later. Thank you, World.
Our family is sick. I seem to be the least hard hit, but Birch and little Keats are struggling. Hanging out in a steam-filled bathroom, taking warm baths, and drinking lots and lots of fluids has helped, but our poor little guy is so pitiful with his super running nose, wet cough, heavy breathing, and just general sadness throughout the day and night. Naps are frequent, but short. Birch is home from work today, trying to get well fast so that he doesn't use up too many sick days. My parents have kindly offered us a humidifier so we'll go pick that up today.

Weirdly enough, I seem to be getting more done today than any day this week. With Keats napping so much and with Daddy home, I've done laundry, cleaned the living room and bathroom, cleared out most of the debris in the yard, clipped some plants back a bit, and eaten two whole meals including tea! Wowsa.

On to the main event of the day: This is Post #100! To celebrate, I'm making a list of one hundred things I'd like to accomplish this year, separated out into four categories which I'll spread out over the next four days. So to start us off:

Place I'd Like to Visit:
  1. Tahoe. 
  2. Montana (specifically Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park).
  3. Hakone Gardens in Los Altos, California.
  4. Butano State Park.
  5. Oregon House, California (we're looking into land up there).
  6. Pinnacles National Monument.
  7. Utah (specifically Moab).
  8. Joshua Tree National Park (Birch has never been).
  9. Pacifica, California (to do some fishing off the pier). 
  10. Tataki Sushi House in San Francisco. It's been too long dear friend.
  11. Tyrolean Inn Restaurant in Ben Lomond, California. So good...
  12. California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
  13. Monterey Bay Aquarium.
  14. Hidden Villa Farm in Los Altos, California.
  15. Anderson Valley Brewery in Boontville, California.
  16. Any wineries my brother and sister-in-law want to show us. Please! :)
  17. Petaluma Seed Bank (ridiculous amount of heirloom varieties available).
  18. Tilden Park in Berkeley, California.
  19. Red Branch Meadery in Sunnyvale, California.
  20. Pescadero Bed & Breakfast.
  21. A's game.
  22. San Jose Giants game.
  23. U-pick fruit farms.
  24. Oakland Flea Market.
  25. Big Basin.
Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California.
    A lovely path through the woods in Felton, California.
    Where would you most like to go this year?

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Keats This Week (1/15/2011 - 1/21/2011)

    Keats is getting more confident with walking. He recognizes how excited we all are with each tiny step (which is usually when he loses control and flops to the ground).

    Every night before going to bed, Birch reads That's Not My Dinosaur and Time for Bed. We give Keats hugs and kisses and then he waves goodnight to Olive, to the lamp, to the kitchen, to his toys. Birch takes him to the nursery and Keats switches off the light, waves goodnight to the blinds (which are then closed), waves goodnight to his bunny lamp, his changing table, his rocking chair, his crib. Birch sings him to sleep in his arms. Naps during the day with me, same deal. Keats is a-dorable.

    On Tuesday, Keats was playing with Olive, handing Olive her fox and taking it away again. Suddenly, he plops down in the middle of the living room floor, starts crying, waving frantically at Olive, at me, at the piano, at the lamp. Time for bed, little Keats, little Keats? Yes, sir. Nap time. Thanks for letting me know little buddy.

    We took a trip down to San Juan Bautista on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday with my parents and brother. We ate at a lovely Mexican restaurant complete with a garden. Keats showed the family some of his walking skills and had a blast with his silly uncle. I ran into a friend from elementary school which was awesomely random and the entire town was crawling with chickens! All in all, adding in that delicious root beer float and the promise of some awesome antique shops, it was a beautiful little trip and a nice escape with family from the normal routine.

    Walking down Main Street.

    This rooster was real angry with me. Seriously.

    Grandpa, Uncle Johnny, and Keats relaxing by the plaza.
    Keats has been congested like crazy and coughing himself awake the last two nights. His nose is dripping so much I now have a cloth diaper practically affixed to my hand for wiping away... you know. Sick time means lots of cuddles and lots of mood swings, but thanks to Birch's selfless night duty, I'm feeling rested enough to take it on. Here's to daddy's! Keats' brain is definitely in sick mode and you can see the little wheels working overtime as he tries to process his surroundings and reminds himself how to crawl across the room. He's drinking lots of fluids, though, so hopefully he'll be feeling better soon.

    First birthdays are coming up so soon and I can't wait! I'm especially excited to see little Tyler and family because it feels like ages since we saw them last! (In reality, it's only been a couple of months but when you live five minutes away, that's a bit more ridiculous.) I'm looking forward to seeing the fun things we mamas have in store for our little ones' big day! There will be pictures, you can count on that!

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Fabric Choices for Keats' Playhouse

    For the outside of Keats' playhouse, I'm still deciding between these two orange solids, though I'm leaning toward the Papaya. Sewn with a thin batting, the walls will have a bit more heft and stand up to more potentially rough play (and the stitching will be more defined).
    Kona Solid in School Bus (left) and Papaya (right).

    For the window and door trim I'm considering a white/off-white fleece. The indoor fabric is a pretty fun one, I think. It's a bolder print that I'm hoping will help liven up the interior, especially with all of the natural light that I'm hoping will be flooding in through the windows.
    Zoo Babies Green Floral Medallion for the wallpaper.
    I'm still not quite sure what fabric I'll be using for the fireplace or even what color it will be. I want to pick out the bookcase first so the fireplace doesn't completely clash. That sounds ridiculous, but whatever.

    It's going to be so awesome to have play dates with this thing... I can't wait!

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    You Don't Have to Be a Millionaire to Build Sustainably

    In my search for information and inspiration for the design and construction of our future home I routinely come across "eco-friendly" houses built huge that also appear to be on the planet Jupiter. Not all of us want to live in a minimalist, concrete, baby-banning house where the only thing you could claim is that it'd make a great spread in the latest design magazine. Harsh? Maybe, but it's incredibly frustrating especially knowing how much money is being put into those houses. Living green doesn't mean living with lots of green.

    You know what I would love? I would love to see those "normal," every day houses that the average person builds to merely be built with sustainable products instead of the usual dry wall, fiberglass insulation, and paint that wreaks for weeks.

    These designer homes on display send the wrong message. While I applaud those who built it, I wish we were trying more to appeal to those people who aren't already a part of the movement. Sustainable housing should not be equated with huge (in fact, they're much more sustainable if they aren't), ultra-modern, ultra-tiny (practical for some, not for all), or big bucks. In fact, eco-friendly construction products are often cheaper and require less professional labor, you can do more yourself. Many construction methods use reclaimed products (wood, for example), unwanted by the general industry and therefore cheaper for you!  You can, for instance, build with tires, bottles, cans, or even bags of mud (dug out from the foundation, perhaps). You can choose to highlight your building materials by leaving it all exposed, leaving some exposed, or you can simply cover it up and just secretly know that you're house is built with recycled glass bottles. Pretty cool.

    Found objects are very popular, too. You don't have to buy the sleek, brand new $1,000 kitchen sink to be eco-friendly. Just try buying locally made or found pieces. Find warehouses that sell pieces that were a part of an estate sale, demolition, or extra building materials from somebody else (tile, for instance). Bottom line: use what is within a reasonable distance from your building site. The money saved by doing a bit more research could then be put away for a rainy day or spent on those very special pieces (antiques, a wonderful rug, landscaping, etc.).

    Also, don't freak out if you can't find every possible construction material in an eco-friendly way. You're doing your best and doing your part by just attempting to build with some. Consider just purchasing all of the energy saving appliances that are available these days instead of others. These do typically cost a bit more but they will save you tons in the long run. In general, think long term. You're building your home where you plan to live for possibly the rest of your life! Do the best you can with the best that you can find. You don't need an interior designer or a first-class, renowned eco-friendly architect to construct a sustainable home. You need knowledge, access, wisdom, and most likely a few friends and family members willing to put in a bit of time, energy, or know-how. Oh, and maybe someone to give you a massage every once in a while.

    I know, you've heard all this before, but I just love it when I see someone go for it and create a home that isn't sterile but livable, beautiful, and sustainable.

    Oh, and if you possibly can, give a bit of that saved cash to a company/organization that builds low-cost, quality, sustainable homes in countries less fortunate than your own.

    earth turns to gold
    in the hands of the wise.
    - Rumi

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    At first I wanted to sew, eat chocolate, and become commander of a great ship
    But then I fell asleep and it was worth it.
    Then I wanted to travel, publish, and create beautiful works of art
    But I washed the dishes instead and it was worth it.
    Then I wanted to fill a street with light like Chris on "Northern Exposure"
    But I ate nachos and watched "Six Feet Under" and it was decidedly worth it.
    I wanted to taste Thai street food, climb trees, and shave my legs every day
    But then I had an idea...

    I wanted to be happy, to be whole, to love and be in love
    And then I had you and it was worth it.

    Keats This Week (1/8/2011 - 1/14/2011)

    Keats wants to walk. Every morning, I hold Keats' hand and we walk across our living room three or four times after some toy or whatever may be striking his fancy. He's easily distracted and definitely still feels that crawling is more efficient, but he loves the practice and laughs and laughs when we get to our destination. I clap and make it generally known to our apartment block (inadvertently) that he's done a fabulous job of walking ten steps in a row.

    On Saturday, we went to the Gilroy Outlet mall to get Birch some new shoes and we couldn't resist getting a mini pair for Keats. The next morning, we practiced at the park while Olive didn't fetch. I loved watching Birch's proud look. Keats was sleepy and unsure of walking on the somewhat wet grass so it wasn't his most stellar attempt, but it was still such a great moment as Birch usually misses these things while he's at work.

    Morning truly seems to be Keats' most active and receptive time. We read books, play with toys, bang away at the xylophone (which Keats' godfather Leif taught him to use at two in the morning, but that's another story), dance, create chaos, and now walk assisted across the room several times!

    All this activity has left little room for cleaning and our apartment is suffering a horrible fate, but we'll get a handle on it soon, I can feel it.

    It was my birthday on Wednesday and Keats' Grandmama offered to babysit while me and my man went up to the city to enjoy a baby-free night. It was very fun and very needed. We promised each other that we'd get a babysitter every two weeks to help keep each other sane. It's amazing how neglectful we can be of our relationship without even realizing it. Being able to talk about whatever we want without keeping a constant eye (dividing our attention) on Keats has become a serious rarity and it is so nice to be able to relax, eat dinner while it's still hot, and just be together. Right now our parents seem eager to babysit for us (THANK YOU) but we'd also like to find someone we trust outside of the family to hire every once in a while. Coming back from the city, it was so nice to see little Keats sleeping soundly on his grandmama's shoulder having had a fun night himself full of excitement and new things to play with and see. And I have to admit, it was even better taking him home with us once again and knowing he was ours to have and to hold for as long as we all shall live. We love you, sweet Keats, all your funny antics and your sociable, loving personality. You share so much with us and we love you more than we'll ever be able to tell you.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Homemade Wednesday: Keats' Playhouse

    Today I'm making a three dimensional model of Keats' birthday playhouse. Ironing out the details is really important to me before I start cutting and sewing. You already know my penchant for graph paper, so you won't be surprised that I measured everything out, scaled it down, cut, folded, and taped it together. And yes, I'm regretting not cutting out the windows so that I could more accurately see the lighting inside the playhouse. Can you see my plans for our real house spilling over? Yeah, I'm a nerd.

    The inside windows and door.
    Inside there will be a real bookcase with some of his favorite books and toys and a small chair, creating a little solitary spot to let his imagination run wild. There will be a fake fireplace and a rug that has yet to be chosen. The interior walls will be made out of fabric that looks like wallpaper (I'm really excited about the fabric I chose) and hung on the walls will be fabric frames with real photographs and drawings in them. I'll make the frames so that we can switch out pictures as time goes by. I really want this playhouse to be able to grow with him and last a long time. Especially since (spoiler alert!) Birch and I are starting to figure out when we'd like to have our second child.

    The exterior walls will be stitched (with batting) to look like sideboards with plants sewn over some areas (mostly vegetables and fruit) as well as select varieties that will be attached with velcro so Keats can collect them and use them in his eventual play kitchen with his daddy. I'm considering putting fake solar panels on the roof but we'll see about that... it may push me a little too far into the nerd camp. (Although it could also confirm my awesomeness... whatever.)
    The outside of the playhouse.
    Photo frames have been cut out on paper, as have windows.

    Tomorrow I'll figure out the fireplace placement (as I got a bit too excited about picture frames and put them all over the wall, leaving no space for the fireplace) and design some of the two-dimensional fruits and vegetables.

    Planning this all is so much fun, I can't wait to get sewing and watch it come together.

    Tonight, though, I'm dashing up to San Francisco with my man (leaving Keats with his grandma) to celebrate my birthday. Should be a blast!

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Grateful Tuesday: The Man Who Paid for My Meal

    After dropping Birch off at school last Thursday, I was in search of somewhere to get breakfast. Though it's hardly amazing food, I knew as soon as I saw it in front of me that Carrow's was the place to go. We pulled in, walked inside, were given a highchair, and ordered an English muffin, fruit, a large grapefruit juice, and French toast for me. Keats and I played quietly as three older men discussed politics, their friends, and their relations. One man spoke up the most, heading the conversation with vigor while another sat completely silent the entire time. The third man, obviously having had meals with these two men on several occasions, questioned the talkative one, trying to steer the conversation back to something they could all talk about. Keats and I ate our food. I pulled apart his toast, skinned his grapes and cut them up, and diced the cantaloupe and honeydew melon ("seasonal" fruit, my foot). It's seasonal somewhere, I guess. We looked at the fan and the lights, played with napkins and his teething ring, and read his book about baby food given to us by his doctor the day before at his check up. When it came time to leave, the restaurant was empty except for Keats and I and the staff. Our server came up to us and announced, "Someone who knows you has paid for your meal and wants me to say that you have a beautiful child." I thanked the server, cleaned up the mess we'd left on the floor around us, left a tip, and collected our things. I had been quite prepared to pay myself and had even ordered sparingly, but someone was still so very kind enough to show someone else that they cared, even if they didn't know me.

    So, thank you dear sir. I don't know who you are, where you are, or if I'll ever see you again, but you showed me and my son kindness and I thank you. You made me smile and put a little hop in my walk. The day went by so much smoother after that and I know it is because I had just the right encouragement to keep smiling and keep doing what I'm doing: taking care of my "beautiful child." I love you, Keats, and hope that I'll show others the same kindness this stranger showed for us and that you'll learn to do the same.

    Here's to random acts of kindness!

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    Keats This Week (1/1/2011 - 1/7/2011)

    Keats is now nine months old and 20.5 pounds. We thought he was weightier than that seeing as that was his weight at our last check-up, but his check-up on Wednesday confirms that he's the same weight, a bit taller, and that he has a big head (which, believe me, we knew already). 18.5 inches!

    This week, Keats finished off teething his two upper teeth and has started to walk holding just one of my hands across the living room, though he is easily distracted by toys and definitely needs some kind of goal in mind to convince him that it's worth it and efficient to walk. Speaking of walking, congratulations to Keats' friend Sofie for taking her first unassisted steps!

    Sofie is 11 months old. I can't wait to celebrate her first birthday! It's going to be a blast. Wow, it's amazing that all these birthdays are happening already. "Slow days, fast years" is right.

    Keats is eating more and more "real" food and tolerates pretty much only his fruit purees at this point. Puffs are still an all-day long snack. We go through them so fast, I'm seriously considering my sister-in-law's advice of buying them by the case.

    Keats' twisting and turning during diaper changes has become a serious problem, though we've still managed to keep everything contained which I count as a personal triumph. However, our current cloth diaper system just takes too long and my patience is wearing thin. When someone is there to help and entertain Keats while I change him, things aren't so bad, but I get downright frazzled during the many daytime changes by myself. I remarked to Birch this morning that I'd rather deal with the cloth diaper steps after the change rather than during, as in, I'd like to switch to an all-in-one cloth diaper system like my sister and my friend use. We have to wash our diaper covers everyday anyway, so it doesn't seem like our current system is saving us what we thought it would financially. We'll see, but somehow I see this twisty phase lasting a long time.

    Keats is such a sweet boy and still very social. His grandmama (Birch's mom) comes over almost every week to help out for several hours, giving me unencumbered time to clean, sew, or reorganize. On super desperate days, I nap. It's so nice to have her here giving us her time. Though we're not necessarily in love with where we live, it is such a blessing to have both of our families so close. Keats recognizes his family and loves to play with them. It's so sweet to see.

    Keats talks a little bit now. He says, "Mama" the most, which as far as we can gather means a few different things at the moment: mama and milk being the most prominent. He also makes a smacking sound or a "p" sound for his puffs and all other food (purees and whatever he sees us eating) signaling that he's hungry. He is still breastfeeding, though I can already feel my body starting to peter out as it gets less frequent. We're trying to keep it going to his first birthday, but we'll see what happens. 

    Keats sleeping with Birch on the couch after a long day. (See our new pillows from my brother and sister-in-law? They're perfect!)

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Homemade Wednesday: Playing Architect

    I have always secretly wanted to be an architect, and no, not in the George Costanza kind of way. Since I was a little kid, I've drawn building plans for houses, zoos, chicken coops, anything with walls and grid paper. My complete debilitation with math kept me from actually going into the field, but I've kept my hand steeped in rulers, paper, protractors, pencils, and pens for years. About a year ago I began drawing up plans for Birch and my dream home and this week I came as close as I've ever come to designing our perfect house. Small, but roomy. A lofted upstairs, a rooftop garden, a cat porch (to keep them inside but out of Birch's allergic range), huge windows, circular stairs, a breakfast nook... oh, how I love it.

    The two floors together. The second floor has a hallway that looks over the living room and "Sun Hall" (like a loft).
     The first floor has a large Sun Hall that faces the South side of the house, capturing light and heat to better heat and cool the house as needed. As you enter, there are stairs on the left along with large windows from the first floor to the ceiling of the second. The project room and living room are separated by a small wall with a built-in bookcase on the living room side. The breakfast nook also has a small wall surrounding it, making it a cozy place but not completely isolated. The North side of the house is completely covered by large floor to ceiling windows (and where able, all the way up to the ceiling of the second floor). The idea is to fill the house with as much natural light as possible so that we're mostly/only using artificial light at night (plus, it's better for pictures). Between the breakfast nook and dining room there is a large scale shelving unit for house plants like ferns and orchids (for beauty and fresh air). The dining room has a short wall on the East side with a built-in buffet table (the front being wood and the back being the regular house materials). Birch has requested a large kitchen with a pizza/bread oven, an industrial hood fan, and the regular appliances. I've added a large pantry to save on cupboard space and electricity as some things that need to be kept refrigerated can be kept in the pantry (dirt floor). I haven't researched this part as well yet, so it may end up needing to be outside or dug into the ground more than I've indicated. There is a small bathroom with a toilet and sink downstairs to mostly be used by guests. On the West side, there is an enclosed cat porch. This will allow me, Cat Lover, to once again have kitties while keeping them away from Birch who is allergic. With ample space to play in, this will keep their outdoor time (if they get it at all) to a minimum without me feeling totally guilty. I saw a show on Animal Planet many years ago where someone had done this and it looked great!
    The breakfast nook on the North side of the first floor.
    The large kitchen, pantry, and dining room with built in buffet table.
    The project room and some of the entrance area.
    The second floor has a loft-like feel and an outdoor rooftop garden (over the cat porch below).
    The rooftop garden is accessible both from the inside and outside.
    The second floor is a bit more complicated in my mind and needs to be tweaked the most. For now, it includes only the bedrooms and the rooftop garden over the cat porch below. The master bedroom will have a window onto the Sun Hall as well as two doors for easy access to the entire house. One to be able to shout down to the floor below (and take "aerial" photos of activities in the living room) and the other for a quick getaway down the stairs. The two bedrooms will most likely have some kind of "secret" crawl space between each other for rendezvous's that I'll most likely regret thinking up later. I'm also planning on the changing the outdoor staircase from the garden to the ground into a circular staircase because they're cooler and I want one (and it gives more space for the garden). Over the living room, I'm considering sky lights and perhaps also over the master bedroom. Solar panels will also be used, although they've come out with some pretty kickin' solar shingles (scroll down to the ones that look like regular roofing shingles) or tiles. Yeah, seriously. I'm jumping on that bandwagon! 

    The only problem? Bathrooms. I need to figure out how to expand the space to make room for a full bathroom. Birch's solution? An outhouse. I could be okay with that during the warmer months, but man I do not want to be sitting my little behind on a cold outdoor "toilet" at six o'clock in the morning, I'll tell you that much. So, a full bathroom. There's one in the IKEA catalog that I am seriously obsessed with: the "Getting Ready in the Morning" one with exquisite green tile. Oooo... I love it.

    So, as I learn more about sustainable building techniques I'm sure things will shift around and get better, but we're not planning on building anytime soon, so there's time to perfect it all. Have you found any awesome how-to's or sites for sustainable building? Obsessive about interior decorating, my house design also incorporates several interior decorating looks, but I'll save that for another time.

    Some design and construction books I own:

    Complete Guide to Alternative Home Building Materials and Methods by Jon Nuan
    Apartment Therapy's Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan
    (I know I have more than this, but they're hiding...)

    Some on my wish list (hint, hint: my 26th birthday's next week!):

    The Natural Paint Book by Lynn Edwards
    The Natural Plaster Book by Cedar Rose Guelberth
    Old Wood New Home by G. Lawson Drinkard
    The Beauty of Straw Bale Homes by Athena Swentzell Steen
    Serious Straw Bale: A Home Construction Guide for All Climates by Paul Lacinski
    The Hand-Sculpted House by Ianto Evans
    New Built-Ins Ideas Book by Sandor Nagyszalanczy
    Earthbag Building by Kaki Hunter
    Building with Cob: A Step-by-Step Guide by Adam Weisman
    The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling by Daniel D. Chiras

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    New Year's Resolutions

    • Drink more water.
    • Use cash more and debit cards sparingly.
    • Give more to charities.
    • Go for walks way more often.
    • Bake/cook at least once a week to give Birch a break.
    • Sew twice a week (at least).
    • Take the time to gussy up a bit each day. It makes you feel better about yourself.
    • Invest in a hair stylist. You deserve the pampering.
    • Write a letter to my sister (in England) each month.
    • Ease up on the blog, you're not even getting paid. (Ha!)
    • Go somewhere special once a month.
    • Learn to knit.
    • Stick to your budget!
    What are your resolutions? I'm hoping that I actually stick to all of mine this year and I'm confident that I will. It helps to have realistic goals, but I can't help adding: find some land and make your dreams come true.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    "Reupholstering" Our Side of the Road Couch...


    Or should I stick with finding some awesome waterproof fabric to turn it into an outdoor garden couch?

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    Happy New Year!

    So I am really excited about this coming year. Opening up a new calendar, turning to January, and writing in all the birthdays, holidays, and fun trips we're looking forward to is so fun and refreshing. Starting a new year's budget that promises to make everyone happy (even our bank account), finally getting a hold on the cleanliness of our apartment (and how we plan to keep it that way), and the discovery of a wonderful quilt and fabric shop that I plan on frequenting as often as possible in order to complete the mountain of projects I've saved up this past year. So exciting! Oh, and I get to see Birch all geared up and ready to kick some butt several nights a week (in a gym) and that is always... ahem... nice.

    Keats is teething pretty bad these last weeks. Those two upper teeth are monsters! But right now he's sleeping soundly on the couch with Birch while I secretly plan for this year's holiday decor. I plan on making one or two things a month until Christmas to try and keep myself sane and stress-free for the actual holiday season. We'll see if that pans out. This year it was orange, but I'm thinking purple may be weaseling its way in come December.