It was Heath who selected Boston and its neighbors to the north for our annual pilgrimage to Anywhere But Texas. A student of history and obsessive collector of revolutionary facts, New England — what with its statues of white men in tricorne hats, and old buildings in which to congregate those very same tricorne hat-wearing white men–seemed the ideal destination for scratching that colonial itch. (Fun fact: colonial itch was the term of endearment Ben Franklin gave to his STD).
Allow me to pontificate on the three important lessons learned from this jingoistic jaunt.
Boston’s Freedom Trail is maybe 90% cool and 10% tacky.
The Freedom trail is a walking tour of some of the can’t miss historical sites prominently featured in American history. It mostly encompasses places where our revolutionary heroes either died or thought about dying. I’m talking of course about massacre sites and churches. But all-in-all it’s an enjoyable way to spend the morning. And thanks to the National Park Service (a government agency so fine, even Ron Swanson can support it) you can get a docent-guided tour for free every hour on the hour. Highlights include: park rangers sneering at freedom trail buskers, lots and lots and lots of facts about Paul Revere, and the realization that the Declaration of Independence is one of the most tedious break up letters ever written.
New England’s seafood game is on point.
“Oh you’re going to New England, huh? Are you excited about the lobster?” I was a little surprised that question — or a variation of it — was the most consistent reaction I got upon telling people about our summer plans. But I get it now. New England is all about seafood, and maybe its because the memory is as fresh as the lobsters we cooked up at our campsite, but the seafood offerings here far surpass those of other coastal food hubs (I’m looking at you Seattle). And I’m not talking simply about your high-quality seafood restaurants here. Whether we were throwing back raw oysters at chic oyster bars, nomming on buttery fish and chips at English pubs, or drooling over foot-long lobster rolls at harbor-side restaurants, we were bowled over by the the most intensely flavorful and perfectly prepared seafood we’ve ever tasted.
If Ken Burns doesn’t feel stupid for omitting Acadia from his national parks documentary, he probably should.
Have you seen the documentary? The one where Peter Coyote waxes poetic about Yosemite and Yellowstone and Join Muir for 12 hours but doesn’t give Acadia a courtesy nod? It’s a conspiracy is what it is. Acadia is the oldest national park East of the Mississippi, and it may easily be the most beautiful. The sun supposedly rises first on Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain before anywhere else in America, and it has one of the largest expanses of naturally dark sky in the Eastern U.S.–meaning whether you’re an early bird or a stargazing night owl, this park is for you. It’s also a phenomenal place for cyclists thanks to our pal John D. Rockefeller who, in the early 20th century, had some 50 miles of carriage roads thoughtfully designed to weave about the park. We’re more of a hiking/camping duo ourselves, so we stuck to the trails that meander through the trees and along granite rock slabs that plunge into the ocean. Acadia is located on Mount Desert Island, which also plays home to the Bar Harbor, a charming resort town. But despite it’s proximity to this popular tourist destination, the park was relatively uncrowded, even during its peak season. While campsites require a reservation and fill up quickly, we very infrequently passed others on our many hiking excursions. Perhaps it’s because Acadia is not an easy park to get to, or perhaps it’s because few have ever heard of it before. If the latter, sorry Ken Burns. Looks like you did me a solid. My bad, I hope we’re square now.
All in all, New England is an invigorating region. The colonial callbacks that pepper Boston’s streets and sidewalks, while perhaps expected, are nonetheless deeply inspiring. They serve as reminders of the courage and ambition that motivated our nation’s founders to create a new society–one that would encourage self-determination and put mechanisms in place to secure unalienable human rights. Meanwhile, in Acadia, the salty aroma of the Atlantic permeates the air as waves unceasingly claw at the granite cliffs it may, one day, turn into sand. We came to New England to study its history and revel in its natural beauty. We left, whether by forces of man or nature, rejuvenated.
For everyone I love and everyone they love. The spectrum of colors and experiences that make this world so lovely to live in.
Traipsing across the parking lot of the Home Depot this afternoon, I was confronted with a harsh, and deeply unpleasant reality. As the vicious sun attacked my helpless pupils and a band of sweat hugged the back of my neck, there was no more denying the truth. Summer is coming.
Austin has been blessed this year with an uncharacteristically long spring season. A mild winter was followed by an outpour of restorative rains that resulted in a long and fruitful growing season, cool spring afternoons and many a porch beer.
The encroaching heat serves as a disappointing reminder that soon we will replace counting fire flies over IPAs with swatting mosquitoes over profanities. The end is nigh, but I am careful NOT to take for granted the swath of magical spring nights we were fortunate enough to enjoy before the season turned against us. Not just this year, but every year. The garden has seen some amazing transformation since we first made it ours some 4 years back.
Couldn’t help it this morning, I had to take a few snaps of the rain on our abundant supply of garden blooms.
Stay tuned for some more garden updates in the very near future!
Our DIY kitchen renovation is unquestionably the largest project we’ve undertaken since buying the house, but I can’t rightly call it finished. There remains one critical eye sore in the room as it stands—the flooring.
It’s this very unpleasant tiling–beige with brown marbling–that is suppose to have the intended effect of camouflaging dirt. The unfortunate truth is it does the opposite. Even after a deep clean, the floor ALWAYS looks dirty. Mark my words, 2015 will be the year that we finally toss the dingy tiles in favor of something a little more fresh and fun.
As I recently wrote, for our renovation projects, it is important that we make era-appropriate style choices for upgrading our space. But that leaves me with a lot of questions for what to do about the floors. My first instinct: classic linoleum.
But picking the right shade and texture of flooring to match our eclectic and busy kitchen, would be a challenge. Enter the wonders of photoshop to help point me in the right direction. Right away, two clear winners stood out.
The classic checkerboard:
And dark grey:
Linoleum definitely fits in with the ’50’s scheme, but the more I thought about durability and style, the more I started to wonder about other contenders. I knew I was a fan of the darker grey color for the floor, but wondered if something a little more sleek would make sense.
Dark grey tiles, perhaps?
I am definitely a fan of the way the floor tiles sort of mirror the mosaic backplash, but one of the reasons I was drawn to linoleum in the first place was because I wanted to avoid having grout, if at all possible. The kitchen arguably gets more traffic than any other room in the house. And the fewer cracks and crevices in which dirt can collect, the better. Which led me to my final proposition: concrete.
I’ve always loved concrete flooring, but had reservations about how that industrial look would fit in with a mid century vibe. While there is potential for it to clash, I’ve equal reason to believe the contrast could be a refreshing change.
While it’s not an exact science, photoshop confirmed my suspicions. There could be some real potential in demolishing the existing tile and giving the concrete underneath some TLC.
I’m a big fan of how the polished concrete reflects the light (which the small, one-window kitchen definitely needs) and how it would likely make for easy cleaning. What say you Internet? Am I grasping at straws or could there be something to this whole concrete idea? Does the industrial flooring complement or clash with the warm wooden cabinetry? I’m legitimately flummoxed.
I have found there are some things in life that, try as I might, are more-or-less inevitable. It goes without saying that at some point throughout the year I will:
- Get a sunburn
- Eat too many girl scout cookies
- Buy a gallon of blue paint with which to makeover a room in House Doodle.
While there is currently an empty box of Samoas (formerly Caramel DeLites, formerly Samoas) sitting in my recycling bin, I am writing today about Inevitable Life Event Number Three: Blue Re-Do!
This time, the office would be the victim of The Doodle House Blues. It was, after all, the only room in the house that still boasted the same bland beige color chosen by the previous owners. Yes, a renovation was clearly in order.
Our office gets a lot of use. A studious history teacher, Heath uses the space to prep (mentally and academically) for his lectures, and as a frequent work-from-home gal, I wanted a place where I would feel productive and comfortable. There were two inspiration rooms that I chose to emulate for our new work space.
From Elle Decore, John Robshaw’s New York City Home:
And from Houzz, this sophisticated and cozy work space:
Heath has always longed for a stately, near presidential, library in which to pour over his history texts, while I tend to prefer a more eclectic atmosphere. I liked that both of these spaces found a way to mix textures, color and patterns to create areas that feel both formal and welcoming. Common elements were the vintage oriental rugs, tufted seating, dark wall colors and minimalist desks. We could work with that.
In an attempt to create a home library, also on the wish list for the new space was a wall of books. Inspired by a bracketed bookshelf some of our pals recently installed in their new rental, we figured we could try something similar in our home office.
We are both pretty pleased with how things turned out.
Aside from the paint job and shelving, here’s what we did to update the space:
- Replaced the pink day bed with a green chesterfield sofa, picked up for an extremely affordable price thanks to the always great Room Service Vintage
- Exchanged the flimsy plastic blinds for bamboo Roman shades
- Added an oriental rug (formerly from our living room)
- Spray painted the file cabinets white
- Added hair pin legs to the desktop
- Added an Eames-inspired desk chair
- Exchanged Stella in the photo for Wyatt (Stella will have nothing to do with the new office, she is deathly afraid of the sheep skin throw…that’s a whole other deal.)
I’d still like to switch out the ’70s ceiling fan at some point, but all-in-all we’re both head over heels for the new space.
Working from home has never been more enjoyable.
Over the weekend, I was *THRILLED* to find that Apartment Therapy featured our DIY kitchen renovation on their blog.
I have never hidden the fact that AT is a huge inspirational blog for me, so it was really humbling to see our kitchen featured on their site. One thing that surprised me, however, was many of the comments. Namely, many people were surprised (some pleasantly, some not so) to see I kept the knotty pine cabinets rather than paint over them.
I can’t say I blame those curious commentors. In fact, when we first purchased our new house, I even wrote a blog entitled “Naughty Pine” all about how much I hate how knotty pine cabinets look. They were, I reckoned, dated and dark and dirty. The fact that I decided to keep them surprised me as much as anyone else. So, why did I do it?
For one, we didn’t have it in our budget to rebuild the cabinets or change the general layout of the kitchen. That certainly plays a significant role.
But why not paint?
It’s generally acknowledged that kitchens and bathrooms are the spaces in homes that age most poorly. Today, it’s all about granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. But in the ’90s it was mostly country chic that dominated the Better Homes and Gardens catalogs. The ’80s, dark wood trim surrounding stark white cabinets seemed to be all the rage. And in the ’70s, avocado green appliances were the standard. What I’m getting at is this: every era has had it’s signature look that ultimately becomes dated and disliked. Trends and fashions are cyclical and even if you renovate to achieve the most modern look possible, history says it will one day be out of style, old fashioned and in need of a yet another “upgrade.”
So rather than try and completely modernize the kitchen, I decided to embrace the era in which the house was built–1957–but still give the kitchen some life and updated style. It’s why we bought a Big Chill fridge (my most prized possession) and opted to keep the classic, mid-century cabinets in their knotty pine glory while still bringing in a shiny and new countertop and back splash. At the end of the day, a 2012 kitchen in a 1957 home didn’t seem like the best fit.
There are a handful of other blogs that reinforce this ideology. Retro Renovation, is one that very intentionally focuses on preserving the original integrity of older homes, and which has been a valuable resource for me. Check out some of their time capsule homes.
At the heart of it, what I’m trying to say is this: old homes have their charms and their flaws. And while it’s certainly tempting to demolish and reconstruct your home (if you have the means) to a more modern and magnificent space, there’s also something to be said for preservation. And I hope other caretakers of homes of other eras will find ways to enhance AND embrace the features that make those spaces a part of their city’s history.