Friday, December 21, 2012

It's taken me weeks to finally write this...

as my heart was so bruised over the whole situation. And then the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings happened and it made my heart even more tender. But I think I'm finally ready to admit what happened and to preface it by saying that I'm so grateful and lucky to have Portia. Don't get me wrong--I'm so lucky to have Bianca too, but this little story is one that had my head reeling with thoughts of losing Portia.

It all started at cello lessons. Portia has a hard time remembering to keep her feet planted firmly on the ground when she plays. Her teacher pulled out two quarters and put them under her heels and said if he didn't see those quarters for the rest of the lesson, she could keep them. Since that lesson, she would ask me to put coins under her heels during cello practice with the same agreement. I didn't mind it. And she started collecting her money until she had a dollar and then kept begging me to take her to the dollar store so she could buy something. 

We had some time in South Jordan and I needed to pick up a book from the library there (Sorry, Highland City but your library isn't up to par) and I told Portia that we could stop at the Dollar Store over there by the library as well. As we were pulling into the parking lot, I asked Portia which she wanted to do first--the dollar store or the library--and she replied the dollar store. I was getting off the phone with Eric, asking about where the cheapest place to buy gas around his work was, when I parked the car right in front of the Dollar Tree. Bianca jumped out and made a mad-dash for the dollar store. (Kids love the dollar store--not sure why but I think it's because it's easier to persuade me to get them something when everything's so dang cheap.) Portia was getting out too and as she was, I jumped out of the car to hold the door so that it wouldn't ding the car next to us. She went to the sidewalk and I had to grab my purse and lock up the car. When I entered the Dollar Store, Bianca was studying some cozy socks near the front. She told me that Portia never came in. Of course she did, I said, and we started to go through the aisles trying to find her so I could prove Bianca wrong and that she could get to the toy aisle to finish up business so we could move on to the next thing on our to-do list. 

After three times through the store and a check of the bathrooms, I started panicking. Then I checked the stores next door--a dance studio and a mattress store. And I began to wonder, could someone have snatched Portia in the short, distracted time I was turning off the phone and grabbing my purse from the car? When I asked the cashiers about a missing little girl, they were not helpful. Just a shrug, a no, and they continued checking everyone out. I called Eric (he said he'd come right over from work) and then I called the police. In eleven years of motherhood, I've never had to do this. Never. I can't remember what I said, just something about not being able to find my child and I just didn't know what to do. The police came and there were officers everywhere. The woman police officer I was following around said her entire force was there, about 10 officers, all looking for Portia. Then I was the tear-streaked crazy mother following behind her, going from store to store, searching frantically. I know what all those people were thinking and it drove me mad that there I was, someone who prided myself on being a good mom, and being looked at with scorn as people thought, "You can't even watch your own kid?"

Eric and Bianca were now going to Menchie's (another of my kids' favorites) and Harmon's and everywhere along this very long strip mall. I just couldn't believe Portia would venture out there on her own. I pictured her stuffed into some strange car and couldn't fathom the myriad things that could be happening to my baby. I began to break down, not being able to see where this was going to end. 

And that's when my police officer said, "We think we found her." She put me in the back of her cop car (a first for me) and we drove to the library, all the way at the end of the strip mall. I think it's at least a good quarter mile from the Dollar Store with at least two through streets. And that's where we found Portia--hanging out with a police officer there, looking not so upset at all. It's funny how you can want to hug and kiss your child, while simultaneously want to beat her for putting you through such a heart-wrenching half hour. And what was she thinking, walking all that way by herself?!?  She informed me that she did let the librarian know she couldn't find her mom, but what good is a loudspeaker through a library when your mom is a quarter mile away frantically searching the aisles of the dollar store? Eric and I joke that Portia has a built-in compass, something neither Bianca nor I were blessed with, and maybe she's a little too independent knowing exactly where she was going. But didn't she say the dollar store first? Aghhhh!

At the end of it all, I have never been so relieved to have Portia with me. We ended up having to reschedule cello lessons that night to an hour later and I found it ironic that here we were, going full circle--ending right back where we started, at cello lessons. 

At least there was a happy ending. And we had a nice long talk on staying together. Always. Even if we think we know where we're going.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I just can't stop...

I blame pinterest. Too many ideas. I just can't leave my Christmas tree alone. I've been consumed by it. I keep adding something here or there. First it was the little brown owls and pinecones I already had leftover from my Thanksgiving decorations. Then the big snowy maribou owls I found at Taipan Trading. 

Then I went to IKEA and got some lanterns so I can replicate the big fabulous already-decorated tree I love at Taipan. Then I got these awesome little crystal chandelier ornaments there too. And I hung a chandelier over the bird's nest in the lantern. I LOVE this!

And oh my gosh, I love these birdhouse lights from Target. It fit with my bird and owl theme perfectly.

And I just can't stop. I cannot walk into Taipan again (UNTIL after Christmas for the after-Christmas sales, of course.)

But I LOVE my tree, even if it is a little overdone.

I realized as I was getting my girls ready for church yesterday that their dresses matched my tree's blue and red color scheme. See, I'm obsessed with my Christmas tree! (I can't believe this is Portia's Christmas dress from two years ago and it seems to still fit her just fine.) 

I'm pretty sure I just need to leave the poor Christmas tree alone. Maybe if I sit far enough away from it, I will stop tweaking and re-adjusting the ornaments as well. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas Day

Dec. 6 is St. Nicholas Day. I guess not many people celebrate St. Nicholas Day, but we always did when we were kids. Maybe it's from my mom's German heritage, as it is still celebrated in Europe. It's based on the Saint Nicholas who is the model for our modern day Santa Claus. This was a real saint who had a reputation as a "bringer of gifts." Before you go to bed, you're supposed to leave out shoes by the chimney or by your door and they're supposed to be filled with sweet treats when you awaken.

This is a tradition that I've tried to continue with my family. I know Christmas is already a lot of work, but I like this little mini celebration to get things started. This morning, Bianca and Portia awoke to a new pair of slippers with some of their favorite candy.

It wasn't much, but I love the little squeal of excitement and the happy footsteps thunking around the house after they find their treats. And I like to hold on to the traditions that were special to me, in hopes that my children will continue to pass it along.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Oh what fun!

Eric and I have been using the same decorations (burgundy and gold) for our Christmas tree since we were newlyweds. Last year, we had decided we were going to mix things up and try out a new color scheme. So when ornaments were 75 percent off at the after-Christmas sale, we bought turquoise and silver stuff and put it away until this year.

This does seem to be the year of change, so I guess it's apropos that we have a new Christmas tree. It's amazing, though, how well this tree's color scheme works in the library. To add a pop of color, I wanted to add red so I picked up some poinsettia clusters. I tried to lattice-tie the ribbon, which is experimental and harder than it looked and I'm unsure if I'll do it again next year. I'm kind of proud of my tree, although it's far from perfect. And I love the turquoise, silver and red color scheme!

I added things I had around the house that would enhance the bird ornaments, like the ceramic birdhouse (above), bird nests (see photo just below) and the birdcage and cuckoo clock (see next below).

I'm thinking, though, that I'd really like a taller tree in this room. I'm going to be scouring the stores after Christmas this year for a 12-foot flocked tree.

In the midst of all this Christmas fun, there is my constant dose of imperfection. Because the gas fireplace wasn't working, we had to pull out the old gas insert, which broke the tiles, and then we started retiling with these awesome vintage-looking tiles. But it's a work-in-progress and works-in-progress don't seem to care about things like Christmas seasons. Oh well, at least there's a working fireplace. And after all, I think the fire is more important than the surround. I'm considering buying some garland just to frame the backer board around the insert for this year. I'm still working hard to embrace the perfection amongst the imperfection.

But back to the tree, I'm feeling like the ornaments are a little sparse. Should I add some more brown? I have some brown owls leftover from Thanksgiving and some pinecones. Would that be too much? Or distracting? Or I was thinking snowy owls might be pretty. I suppose the tree is still a work-in-progress as well. I'll try not to let all that get in the way of a perfectly wonderful holiday season.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reflecting back on the fall...when I should have posted this blog

I think awards for the Reflections contest at school was in November. I can't even remember it was so long ago. But Bianca won a first-place award for her piano composition, and Portia won a third-place award for a picture she drew of the outdoors.

At Westfield, they give out these trophies. Portia slept with hers by her bedside for a good couple of months.

I always encourage my kids to at least enter one category in Reflections.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Playing Piano

We went the summer without a piano. I didn't realize how much I'd miss it. But when I'm stressed (and I was a lot this summer) sitting down on the bench and methodically working my way through a calming piece really helps my nerves. I didn't have that outlet. My kids couldn't practice. I missed the sound of plunking chords and measures of new compositions ringing through the house and instead had to settle for the discordant sound of drilling and hammering. Not good for the nerves. Wow, I sound like some old Austen-esque fuddy duddy, don't I? Maybe I should call it a pianoforte?

When the piano was finally delivered--and I kept a sheet over it while it wasn't being played during the last of the construction--it was all worth it. We had sold our upright Samick and got a baby grand. The notes ring like bells. I never thought I'd have a Steinway. When I saw this refinished Chippendale Steinway (circa late 70's which is when our house was built, and incidentally follows suit with my mom's Steinway nearly matching the building date of her old Victorian house although I didn't do it consciously), I knew it would fit perfectly in our new house. I love having a designated music room, that has doors that close--not that we' ever want to keep out the music, maybe the other way around.

We didn't do a lot of remodeling to this room, just added the new updated radiator covers and did some trim work on the ceiling. This ceiling was inspired by a restaurant where we ate in Victoria BC back in May. And of course, we replaced the light fixture. I love how the chandelier hangs right over the music so that there's no need for a lamp. We left the shelf that goes all the way around the room (despite what the designer suggested) because I thought it would be fun to put up decorative musical instruments and books. I have more to do, like curtains and artwork for the walls, but this stuff takes time.

This all brings me to the real reason for writing this. Bianca had her first piano recital since moving to Highland. After the piano was delivered, I needed to find a new piano teacher for Bianca. Luckily, we found someone who is going to work beautifully and it happened very fast. In fact, in more ways than one, I feel like we won the "piano lottery." Bianca's lessons just started at the beginning of October and here we are at the beginning of November, having her first recital. She played Chopin's Prelude, Op 28 No. 6, which is a gorgeous piece. If you want to see it, here it is:

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Dream, My Library

Oh, the library. The reason we bought a new home was that it had the bones to house the two-story library I'd always dreamed of. For years, I've imagined the library I would someday have. I have a manilla folder filled with ripped-out pages of libraries I liked (now I have a pinterest board as well) and bookshelves that would do. It was a dream I kept tucked away and decided that since it would be a while before I could have a real library, I would work on getting the books I would need to fill such a library. And then my dream came true.

Here is the room before we got to work:

And six grueling months later, my library is just about complete. The furniture is a work-in-progress and I'm temporarily using my husband's sectional that we're going to put in the theater room once the detached garage is finished. Then I want to buy some big overstuffed chairs. But enough of what I will do, I want to enjoy my library now. We pulled out the existing bookshelves above the spiral staircase  in the loft and then added more below as well.

I loved the original antique fireplace mantel, although we may still have to replace the old gas insert that doesn't work very well.

I bought these antique corbels off ebay and we stained them to match the wood in the library. I think they probably came off some old house exterior. It just soaked up the stain. We also added wrought iron spindles between the wooden because the railings were far from up to code.

Here are the other two Corinthian columns that I bought off a woman secondhand. They look great in our bedroom but I think also add a grand touch to the library entrance off the foyer.

I love that I can walk out my bedroom door on the second floor and see straight into my library every morning.

And I love the tin ceiling and beams. To me, it's everything a library should be.

I bought an antique table secondhand so that we'd have a homework table in the library as well as making it easier to serve food when I host book club. (And check out those awesome radiator covers and how the carpenter worked them into the bookshelves and the bench under the window. I love how those turned out!)

I've spent the last week dragging box after box up from the storage area and alphabetizing and categorizing my books exactly as I want them. I was starting to worry that maybe we didn't build enough space for all our books. But it turns out there's enough (although there are a few boxes still missing). I LOVE displaying the covers of books (it IS called cover "art" after all) to take up more space and then I can fill it as I go. I put contemporary fiction above on the loft and then categorized by genre on the bottom, such as Shakespeare, drama, poetry, memoirs, and my favorite, my illustrators. Here is my Hugh Thomson collection. Aren't the covers amazing?

As you can see from the window, it's snowing today. If only the fireplace would work, this just might be the best moment of my life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween...a little different this year

I've been saying all summer that my house better be done by Halloween. Here we are and I can honestly say that it is about as close to being done as I can expect. Being in a new place, I guess it's pretty easy to compare with the last twelve Halloweens we spent in Herriman.

Just like at Riverton Elementary, Westfield has a Halloween Parade. It starts bright and early, at 9:30 am. Portia and I went to the school to catch a glimpse of Bianca walking with her class through the school. I was able to shoot a picture of Bianca with her new best friend. I'm so glad she was able to find a good friend so quickly.

Portia and I spent the morning rocking out to our Halloween mix (blasting it through our house with the 80's style intercom system I wasn't quite sure I'd ever use). Portia had to practice her cello and it was just so cute to see her do it in her costume that I decided to video her playing Lightly Row.

Portia has been saying she is a Gargoyle Cat Fairy for a month now. We got the gargoyle fairy costume and then Portia wanted to add these cat ears and tail to the costume. She loves being "kitties" still and is better than any kid I've ever seen at imaginative play. I went to the school again in the afternoon to help with Portia's Halloween party at kindergarten.

Bianca was a Gothic Mummy this year. I've had the costume since last year and Bianca was putting up a bit of a fight about it (I've seen the face below a lot when discussing the matter). Here she is, doing her best "deadly" face.

Straight from school to Eric's work for trick-or-treating through the cubicles. We stopped on our way home from trick-or-treating at Dad's work to pick up a pumpkin-shaped pizza and Eric made pumpkin milkshakes. Ah, ice cream only on a Halloween as warm as this one!

When I was clearing up the dishes, I looked out the window and saw the silhouette of an owl on the nearly naked tree in our backyard. The owl flew off with huge flapping wings. I can't tell you how many times I've wondered if moving here was the right decision. Probably every single day since we've moved in. But on nights like tonight, it's clear why we're here. This is the kind of stuff that makes me so happy. And what are the chances that I would see the owl for the first time on Halloween night!

In our Herriman neighborhood, we would have close to 200 trick-or-treaters on Halloween. It's already 8 o'clock and I've only had the doorbell ring twice. Those were some lucky trick-or-treaters, though, as I have a whole lot of candy to pass out!

Eric took the girls out for an hour and they're back already now. Portia and Bianca are categorizing their goods now.

Here are the girls right before going out tonight, with the jack-o-lanterns we carved this year. The one to the right Bianca did with absolutely zero help from anyone. Not bad!

Here are the girls sitting on the bench we put in the front entry of our house. We added these metal grates so that the radiator heat is ventilated. Those awful baseboard radiator covers were one of the reasons we considered not buying this house. We've covered most of them with these old decorative grates and I think the difference is night and day (you can see others in the above pictures)!

So it's different here, that's for sure. But so far, so good. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Come," said the wind...

I love autumn. It's hands-down my favorite season. The colors, the smells, the anticipation hanging from the branch of the exciting things around the corner.

This weekend, I spent a fun, autumn-filled weekend with my mom and sisters, Betsy and Susannah. I literally checked off a list of the all the fun autumn things we did:

  • Picked ripe apples from the tree (you should have seen Susannah trying to do a shoulder stand to reach the good ones)--Check!
  • Shelled pecans fallen from the tree in my mom's yard--Check!
  • Hung around a bonfire and made s'mores--Check! Check! Check!
  • Drank hot apple cider--Check!
  • Ate come-said-the-wind molasses cookies in Halloween shapes (and sang "Come said the wind" with Susannah and Mom)--Check!
But the real reason we all came together was to run the Zombie 5K. This summer had been the first since I can remember that I didn't jog. I blame the stress of moving and remodeling, but I started running about a month before for this little gem (thanks to Susannah's update texts on where I should be in order to have my body ready to run). But this was all about strategy--staying in groups, swinging your arms just the right way to keep zombie hands from grabbing my flags, taking just the right course around mud and zombies. I wished I had trained with bursts of sprinting mixed with walking, which is what the race ended up being. Luckily, all three of us actually made it through with at least one flag in tact (which means we all made it out alive). That was a big deal, especially with the crazy obstacles at the end--the mud pit (which I spider crawled through so that I didn't have mud splattered all over like Susannah did), the pyramid that required hands to keep you from protecting your flags, and the big barrels you had to climb with a rope and slide down. With the craziness of everything, I really didn't think about the fact that I was supposed to be afraid of the zombies! At the end of it all, I was so glad I did it and so hope I never have to again! 

I don't think I mentioned that it was 35 degrees in the morning when our leg of the race was. So after the race, we stopped at Starbucks for hot chocolate. Here we are showing off our beloved flags. 

It's strange to be away from my kids even if it's just for a short weekend but wow, I'm glad I went! I needed this weekend, especially with the stress of this year. Now, back to my unfinished house...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Master Bath Reno

So, it's not finished completely, but it's close. I've always wanted to do a before and after blog. So here are some before pictures of our bathroom and the strange long, narrow room that ran alongside it:

So we knocked out the wall, opened everything up, and got to work. We're still waiting on the wood paneling on the angles (they stained it the wrong color) and a little electrical hiccup (a wire was cut) and a little touch-up paint, but I'm really starting to get anxious to use the new master bathroom. I'm dreaming of bathing in the copper tub. I've heard the copper keeps water warmer longer. 

This is my side of the bathroom, with a little vanity table. I love this old Victorian shaving mirror that I found on ksl. I think it fits the space perfectly. Now I need to find a chair to go here.

This is Eric's space. I tried to make his sconces and vanity a little more masculine, that way he would allow my crystal chandelier.

I call this Eric's car-wash shower. I can't imagine needing all these faucets, but this is what Eric wanted. I got my copper tub; he got all this water spraying.

This is the entrance to the bathroom. I'm in love with the beams and the crown molding. On the right is Eric's walk-in closet; the left is mine. The closets are left open, so I guess that means we'll both have to be a bit more vigilant keeping our closets organized.

This is my closet. I get the window and a little more space. 

Eric got more hanging space though.

I've started bringing up some of our clothes from the basement where we've been crammed in for the last several months. I simply cannot wait to move up!

Bianca's new tween suite in the attic

Teenagers like their space. I get it. When I was in high school, I needed to be as far away from my parents as I could get, which ended up being the room down in the basement my brother had vacated when he left for college. Even if it did have Star Wars wallpaper, I needed that space.

To prepare for that time when Bianca will most certainly need her space, we decided to create her ultimate teen suite (or for now, her tween suite). Instead of moving downstairs where sneak-outs are much easier, we're putting her up in the attic. I mean, she can either sneak down three stories or have to walk past our room on her way down the creaky stairs. It's fool proof (I hope). 

There were two big game rooms up in the attic. Here's the before photo:

So, we added a small attic bathroom. I love the shape of this room. We added white beams to accentuate the angles on the ceiling. And then painted the walls with Sherwin Williams "Stream" to compliment the black-and-white color scheme. And I love that when you open the french doors (frosted glass for privacy but not too much since this is the only real window in the whole attic), all you see is the claw-foot tub:

We opted not to do a shower, just a small soaking tub with this British-telephone faucet for rinsing:

One of my favorite things (and what makes the space extra girly) is this 3-inch hex tiles patterned into daisies:

Because there's not a ton of storage (or any closets for that matter), we had these open shelves constructed on both sides of the tub for holding towels, product, bubble bath, etc.

Because space was at a premium, we did a simple pedestal sink and I found this antique mirror at an antique mall while I was in St. Louis this summer.

Because one of our main concerns was the cooling, we had to add an air conditioning system. Because the house didn't have ducts, we had to use this Fujitsu system that (to be honest) is a little unsightly, but is supposedly the most efficient AC unit out there. Bianca has two zones in her attic space alone. We had this cornice built around the AC and then flanked the bed space (no bed there quite yet, but we're going to give her our old queen mattress) with these bookshelves with built-in nightstands and magnetic boards.

We brought in some of the decor from the bathroom floor by installing these hex tiles inside the inner-facing nightstand spaces and hopefully married the two spaces together. We used a subtle lavender-gray paint color called "Sensitive Tint" for this space. And now Bianca will have plenty of light for reading in bed with these LED sconces.

Right now, they're still installing the hardwood onto the stairs so we haven't been able to move up yet. Soon we'll add the bed and Bianca's super excited about her anthropologie bedding, called "Oh to Dream." Ah, finally, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel is blocked by unfinished staircases.