Getting to know you.

We’ve been living together for 10 months now, this mid-century house and me. And I think we’re really starting to get to know one another on an intimate level.  Of course, it’s not a perfect relationship, but we’ve done a lot of growing together, and I think we’re really getting to a point where we know how to live comfortably with one another.

You may wonder why I decided to enter into a relationship with an older gal. After all, she’s pushing 60, so allow me to provide a little background as to WHY Heath and I opted to move in with an old school casa versus something a little more modern and relate-able.

We always knew we wanted an older house. Maybe because we’re weird. Maybe because we like a challenge. Definitely because we value character–potentially to a fault. We gave up a lot when we decided to marry our current home: a dish washer, state-of-the-art energy efficiency, two bathrooms… But in the end, you’ve sometimes got to consider personality over perks, and we think we gained more than we lost. For one, the location (on our budget) is unrivaled. We also loved the idea of having a unique house that wasn’t one of four or five cookie cutter home plans repeated throughout a development. Sure, maybe our door dilemma is a head-scratcher, but it’s OUR head scratcher. We liked fantasizing about finding a house with good bones and then customizing it to make it fits our needs, something you can’t do with a ready-to-go home, equipped with counter tops, cabinets and floors pre-packaged by Joe Blow Developer for exclusive use by John Doe Homeowner. Sometimes you have to follow in the footsteps of Freddie Prinze Jr. and take a chance on the art student in overalls.

Hey girl, can I get your number?
Why the old house caught my eye in the first place.

  • The picture windows. I adore them. They are single-paned but totally amazing because they crank with this quirky little lever that makes a task as mundane as opening a window seem sort of exciting and retro. “She’s fun!”
  • The bathroom tile. It is original to the house and in amazing condition, but why blog worthy? Besides being pearly porcelain that feels clean and shiny and epitomizes a zen bathroom, it’s green—the best color of all the colors. It’s as if it was written in the stars! I’ve seen my fair share of pink and yellow tile bathrooms in houses from the same era, so I am ever grateful for finding a house with retro green tile in impeccable condition. “She’s pretty!”
  • The built-in planter in the front. It’s functional, encourages landscaping and was built well. I filled it with succulents and pea gravel and it looks amazing.  “She’s smart!”

Maybe we should go to couples counseling.
What I want to change.

  • Popcorn ceilings. Why do that to a perfectly lovely home? They make rooms look smaller, they collect dust, they are super difficult to paint. “She’s irrational.”
  • No backdoor. What genius thought skipping out on a back door was a good idea? We’ll put one in one day, but for now we let the dogs out through the window when they need to do their business. It’s one of the trashier truths about me. “She’s careless.”
  • No electrical outlet in the bathroom. This is another one I just don’t get. How hard would it have  been to put in one measly electrical outlet? I know they had electricity in the 1950s, so what gives?  We didn’t discover this little nugget until after we moved in. No one dried their hair in the 50s?  Come on architects, look alive. “She’s weird.”

You know me better than I know myself.
What I’ve learned to love.

  • Knotty Pine.  I’ve definitely come around on knotty pine, which I have been known to refer to as “naughty pine” on more than one occasion. When cleaned up and paired with appropriate fixtures, appliances and wall colors, knotty pine can be incredible and rich. I’m so glad we opted to refinish our cabinets in the same hue rather than go for a complete overhaul that would be out of style in another 10 years. “She’s classic.”
  • Detached laundry room. Basically, I like not hearing the washer and dryer running more than I dislike walking outside to the laundry room. “She gives me my space.”

It turns out, there’s a lot to appreciate about 1950s architecture–something I never expected to love. Growing up, I always envisioned myself settling in a 1920s craftsman bungalow. But instead of substantial window trimmings, and cozy niches, I got minimalist lines and and an open floor plan–definitely not the characteristics I would have checked off  on a list of qualities describing my dream girl. If she were a contestant on The Bachelor, the house would have made the initial cut only as a wild card.

When we moved in last October, I had a huge list of things I wanted to immediately add, remove, change or update. I was sure we would have wood floors and a revamped kitchen within the first month and a lusciously landscaped yard within the first year. Some of that happened, some of it didn’t, but in retrospect I’m happy with our pace. If I had changed the kitchen on my original timeline, I wouldn’t have realized that I wanted to keep the original cabinets, and instead I would have likely ripped out or at least repainted something that is now one of my favorite elements. And if I dropped a chunk of change putting in wood floors up front, we probably wouldn’t have installed the gutters that let us recapture rain water. It’s amazing to discover how priorities change the more you get to know a place.

When I first moved in, I was warned against making any drastic changes too soon. My mother cautioned me against renovations the way friends might warn against getting that girl’s name tattooed  on your back after the third date. I’m glad I’ve taken the time to get truly acquainted with the old girl, to know her quality quirks and her catastrophic catches. We’ve got many more months and years to take our relationship further, but as of now, I’m glad we’ve taken things slow. I think she’s into me, and I know, despite her weird habits, I’m into her. In our 10 month courtship, I’m grateful for learning to appreciate the house for what she is. She’s not a glamorous Hollywood type and she’s not a fashionable and modern mistress. She is what she is—a small, 1950s Delwood dynamo—and I’m loving her for it.


And with that, wedding season has come to a close.

This spring/summer has been very wedding-centric for we two, but alas it has come to a close (at least until September), and we made a point to go out with a bang. For the season finale, we attended the nuptials of Dan and Destiny who paired traditional elements with some pretty off-the-wall ones. I thought I had seen the coup de grâce of wacky wedding fare after Eric and Lisa tied the knot last September; their big day featured a midnight snack of breakfast tacos, a venue named after a haircut, multiple live music performances and iPod parting gifts. This event didn’t incorporate those elements, but there was badminton, snow cones and a wedding reception held at a swimming hole.

The Town
D & D got hitched on her family’s land out in Ingram, Texas (which is near Kerville, which is near nothing). The location is one Destiny had always singled out as her future wedding day destination long before Dan even came into the picture. Lucky for Dan (and for us), she chose well. Ingram was a treat to behold.

Getting to Ingram from Austin entails a 3-hour drive though some of Texas’ smaller towns, but it’s a pretty one that winds through Texas’ version of wine country and passes through historical landmarks, like Johnson City (birthplace of LBJ). So getting to the wedding festivities was actually half the fun.

The Ceremony
Dan and Destiny, or Danstiny as I shall call them for the remainder of this post, were lucky to have family with astonishingly beautiful hill country property. But getting all the guests from their respective lodging accommodations to a hilltop located smack dab in the middle of a 700 acre sprawl is not an easy feat. Guests met at a bunk house located at the foot of the hill and were then transported via limousine party bus to the ceremony site. The drive was windy and rugged, and with zebra and deer roaming the country side to the left and right of the bus, the whole event seemed more the stuff of an African safari than a Texas girl’s wedding. The combination of Beyonce songs being blasted from limousine speakers along with sightings of families of deer made for an interesting juxtaposition.

The hilltop where the couple said “I do” was remarkable and benefited from a breeze that kept guests from sweating through their britches. The couple wrote their own vows and kept the whole affair short and sweet.

The Reception
After the ceremony, guests were shuttled to the family swimming hole. And though her family titled it as such, the spot was less like a “hole” (which made me expect to find a muddy mess that perhaps was once a lake, but in these times of drought would more closely resemble a puddle) and more like the private swimming quarters of Texas royalty. Beautiful stonework surrounded a pristine blue pool that overlooked garden lights, green lawn and beautiful native terrain.

The couple were received with splashes of lavender seeds which sent an aroma through the air that lingered throughout the reception, and they celebrated with Texas BBQ and hill country wine. Wedding cake flavored snow cones were served to children and jars of homemade jellies and preserves were passed out to guests as they arrived (Heath and I snatched some Apple Butter to enjoy at home). Those who wanted to, swam, and those who preferred to stay dry hung out in the biergarten where Danstiny had arranged to entertain friends and family with a bean bag toss, card games, Chinese Checkers and badminton (which allowed Heath to say the word “shuttlecock” more times than I would have preferred).

The affair was personal and romantic and perfectly picturesque.  I will remember it fondly and file it away as one of the more unique and inspiring celebrations of love I have been privileged to witness.

Fare thee well spring wedding season, and onward with summer vacation!


SUH-MER!

SUMMER!!!

I do not normally support the excessive use of exclamation points, but today is a special day. It’s the last day of school/first day of summer for Mr. Heath. He has worked for the school district in some form or another for the past three years, but this was his first year as a classroom teacher—a goal he’s had since he was elementary school-aged—and year one of lecturing, tutoring and paper grading has come to an official close. But unlike me (who was praising JesusAllahBuda on day 185 for getting me through it in one piece), Heath has a different attitude about his final day with his pupils.

The poor guy is actually a little sad.

Since I’ve known him, Heath has always wanted to be a teacher. I, on the other hand, change careers every year or so (not an exaggeration). So it’s hard sometimes to comprehend how happy and fulfilled he is through his work, as it is quite literally a dream come true. He comes home every evening not venting about something trivial that happened during the course of the day, but instead laughing about the funny, reflective, and endearing things his students have shared with him. I am so proud of him for sticking with it over the years and for caring so passionately about education.

Of course, what get’s him through this little rough patch of bidding adieu to his year-one youngins, is the knowledge there will be a whole new crop of kiddos next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.

So let us not wallow in sadness at the passage of time, and instead celebrate what all there is to look forward to this summer….

  • Dozens of garden projects
  • Daily trips to the public library
  • Sleeping late
  • Labradoodle walking
  • Vacations to Mexico City
  • Vacations to New York City
  • Birthday Celebrations
  • Texas Rangers Baseball

And now is the time for this season called summer, and though school is now out, let’s not view it a bummer. Tonight we will party in true doodle house style. Happy summer to all, see ya after a while!


Movie Night

There are few rituals Health and I abide by religiously: one is watching every game of Heath’s favorite sports team The Dallas Cowboys, one is playing foosball to decompress after work, and one is attending a weekly ceremony appropriately known as Movie Night.

Movie night started as Mad Men Mondays–a time when friends would come together to mooch off each other’s cable television and watch the previous night’s episode of Mad Men. But then the show went on an extensive hiatus and we were still itching for some way to pass the time with dinner and TV. (No books of course. A book club would be way to classy for the likes of us.) Thus, Movie Night was born.

Movie Night has become a staple for we doodlers for several reasons. First and foremost, it gets us out of the house and prevents us from being weird anti-social hermit crabs. (This is extremely important as Heath and I can often get sucked into home improvement projects and forget the rest of the world exists. We even bailed on SXSW this year to redo our kitchen, so it’s sort of a problem.) Second, it’s a terrific way to see films I probably never would have known existed, much less watched, on my own. Third, like watching an episode of Lost, we get some pretty good backstories on our friends. Selected movies are usually given some context for why they were chosen—whether it was a Christmas-time family tradition, a film that had an impact, changed someones way of thinking, etc. You can learn a lot about someone based on their movie choice for this most precious of traditions.

As you may have presumed, Movie Night operates as follows:

  • A different person volunteers to host each week
  • A specialized cuisine is prepared by the host (sometimes related to the film, sometimes not)
  • A film is selected, screened, and discussed.

One truly enjoyable aspect of the ritual, is there are virtually no limitations or parameters set for what type of film can be screened. We’ve viewed everything from Ding-a-ling-Less, the part-comical, part-bizarre story of a fictional man who is, well, minus one ding-a-ling, to Waltz with Bashiran astonishingly original animated documentary about the 1982 Lebanon war. (And oddly enough, both were chosen by the same Movie Night Patron.) Having no guidelines, no theme, no confines from which to operate within has allowed for some wonderful cinematic experiences that have been eye opening, contemplative, riotous, thoughtful and other diverse but intriguing adjectives.

I’ve started to view movie night as more than just a weekly social gathering. On paper, I suppose that’s the gist of it, but for me personally it has taken on a greater role. While not a totally original concept (I know, dinner-and-a-movie is a classic date-nightish staple in American culture), this weekly gathering of friends, communal cooking, humorous reflections and fresh cinematic experiences will forever be engrained in my memory as unique custom specific to a truly remarkable stage of my life. Most of us are existing in a weird, post-college transitional stage where we’ve all disembarked, in one form or another, from our own families and family customs but have yet to create our own. So in a sense, Movie Night is my family’s Saturday trip to the public library, my after-school ballet rehearsal, my summer trips to my grandparents’ house. It’s a custom I take great joy in experiencing, but know–like my ballet rehearsals—will eventually come to a close. I aim to cherish it while it’s  here.


Dear diary…

WARNING: This post is personal and includes me talking about my feelings. (Gross!) So if you only like looking at photos of pretty things (which, let’s be real, is what 99 percent of my blog browsing entails) you might want to just skip on over this one. 

This post started out innocently enough—me, prioritizing my home improvement projects. Easy peasy, right? Then I started writing and, consequently, started thinking. I hate when that happens. One minute I’m calculating just how long I have until I can buy a new couch, install a dishwasher, put in wood floors, yadda, yadda, yadda…. and the next minute I’m in the middle of an idealogical dilema: Am I a fool (or tool) for wanting to invest beaucoup of money on “things” and not on experiences? When I look at some of my friends and the people whom I admire most for their free spirits and adventurous outlooks (like Laura and Casey for starting a blue grass band in the Kentucky wilderness, or Nick and Melissa for quitting their jobs to go on an indefinite sailing trip through the Bahamas), I think they would tend to say…yes, Kelsey. Yes you are. (Though, they would never ACTUALLY say that because, you know..the whole friendship thing.) What I’m getting at is, when you’re on your deathbed, no one ever says “Oh I wish I had spent more money on trendy design elements.” They say, “I wish I had done more, seen more, loved more, etc…” Consequently, I wonder if my priorities are all out of whack.

I realize I’m not the first or last person to do the whole “what does it all mean” thing. I know EVERYONE deals with this same dilemma in one form or another at one time or another, but now that I’m more-or-less a “grownup” I suppose it’s my turn to get to have that discussion with myself.

The astonishing conclusion I have arrived at (after having spent way too much time writing, deleting and then rewriting this post) is that I’m going to do whatever makes me happy. Living life and having diverse experiences is important, without question. I want to (and will) hike throughout South America and photograph the monkeys in India, but I also want to feel sublimely happy and comfortable in that place we call home. I know “things” don’t make people happy…but building and creating something beautiful on a blank canvas (in this case, our first home) does. So if I want to go to Mexico City for my second honeymoon, I will. And if I want to spend too much money on a goofy throw pillow, I’m going to do that too.

Finding happiness in delightful design or daring destinations? Tough call.

I spend a lot of time here talking about design and do dahs and doodles (and sometimes I’m embarrassed by the seemingly trivial things I post), but I guess what I’m really doing is talking about the things that make me happy. Sometimes it’s trinkets and sometimes it’s travel, and I think that’s OK because all times it’s things that give me joy.

What say you? How do you find balance between home and adventure?


Scoob Sitting

Today I shall tell you the tale of Scooby, the newly adopted dog of our friends Zack and Caitlin, who spent a recent weekend at the doodle house playing the role of awkward stepchild.

Scooby is a 3-year-old mutt that might be part German Shepherd, might be part Shiba Inu. We don’t really know. Such is the fun of adopting a mystery dog.

We dog sit all the time for other mutts, but what made Scooby’s case special is that he was a fairly new dog to us and his “forever family.” Scooby had been bounced around through a few other foster families over his life so you never quite know what to expect. So allow me to let you know how some of the weekend played out.

Chapter One: The Chase. In addition to being part dog, Scooby might also be part bunny or antelope because your boy can jump. We learned this when, within 5 minutes of being in the backyard, he promptly cleared the fence to chase after a neighbor cat. (Clearly Scoobs has some long-running hatred toward felines because there was no convincing him that this cat was not worth the effort. Come on buddy, there are 4 chickens and 2 dogs to play with, why are you wasting your efforts on this dopey cat?)

The escape sent Heath into panic mode…panic along the lines of misplacing someone’s child or wrecking someone else’s car, but 10 times worse. Is there any feeling more gut-wrenching than losing your friend’s new dog in less than 24 hours? Nope. Definitely not.

The cat took off toward a busy intersection, followed closely by Scooby, and Heath trailing not too far behind. The cat made a right cut toward some houses and led Scooby to a corner. (Hallelujah!)  Scooby tried to break free and continue the chase, but Heath made an epic lunge at the Scoobster and the event was over as quickly as it has begun. Scooby was back in custody and Heath had the road burn to prove it. CRISIS AVERTED. Note to self: maybe don’t let Scooby in the backyard without a leash.

Chapter Two: The Affair. Stella gets along with most dog folk, in fact she’s kind of a flirt. She’s never met a dog she didn’t like and Scooby was no exception. This is not a problem except that it drove Wyatt crazy. He’s not one to “show affection” if you catch my drift, but when Scooby was in town, Wyatt was all about letting him know that Stella was his gal. Though that didn’t keep Stella from falling into bed with this mysterious stranger. Wyatt didn’t take it so well.Luckily, they have worked things out since then.

Chapter Three: The Good Dog.
I love dogs and I love to be helpful, so volunteering to take on Scooby for the weekend while his parents were gone was a no-brainer for me. It wasn’t until his family had left that I realized this was a big deal…for us and for Scooby.

Until Zack and Caitlin came along, Scooby never really had a stable home environment. And now, the only people who ever really gave him the proper attention he needed, were taking off for four days. Who could really know what effect that would have on a little pup with abandonment issues? Plus, as we saw with the cat incident, we didn’t know all of Scooby’s quirks yet. We didn’t know how he would act in tense situations, or around loud noises, or in the rain. (The list goes on…) Anyone with a pet knows that there are dozens of factors that can sends animals into a tizzy, and there was so much we didn’t know about Scooby, his personality, and his past.

So let me clarify my “awkward stepchild” comment, by saying that Scoobs is a really good dog. There were a few rough patches (or should I say “RUFF” patches? Yes I should.) which is to be expected, but all-in-all he was a welcomed guest. He is amazingly friendly and playful (sometimes too much so) and was a very fast learner. He never chewed anything or had any house accidents and that’s more than I can say about Stella and Wyatt.

I applaude Z&C for taking on the challenge of adopting an older, larger dog, rather than shelling out $$$ for designer dog puppies like  we did (yes, I am aware that we are going to Hell). It takes a tremendous amount of courage and patience and love to be able to take on the title of adoptive parents. And in the end, I think Zack, Caitlin and Scooby will all be better for it. Way to be.


God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt—except when it does.

Whoever coined the expression “dirt cheap” was a little misinformed. As we’ve gotten our hands dirty in the world of gardening (pun INTENDED) we’ve learned that all dirt is not created equal, and the good stuff that makes things really grow will cost ya. In fact, good and fertile dirt is so valuable Heath actually packed up the soil from our old garden and brought it along to the new house. That’s commitment.

Happy Veggies

The run-of-the-mill dirt you’ll find in the average backyard in Austin (zone 8b) is high in pH, or very alkaline. That’s not so bad for veggies, but it will make it difficult if you choose to plant azaleas or blueberries and other acid-loving plants. So if you want to get creative with you’re gardening, you’ve got to outsmart Mother Nature because “you don’t put a $10 plant in a 5 cent hole.” Sometimes, in Austin, our holes are lucky to be worth that much.

So here’s what we’ve learned when it comes to soil solutions.

  • Get tested. Your soil, that is. This way, you can know exactly what you’re working with as far as pH, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and other elements are concerned. You can either send soil to a lab or buy a testing kit from a home improvement store. We did the latter and felt the results were trustworthy, and now I’m tempted to test a batch of fertilizer to see if the results read “full of crap.” (I laughed at my own “joke” there for far longer than I’d like to admit.)
  •  Count your blessings. And by “blessings” I mean worms. Worms are to soil what twitter users are to the Internet. They keep things fresh by constantly circulating and rotating the good stuff through, and their poo is dynamite fertilizer. (That is probably not true, however, of twitter users.) Finding 10 worms in a square foot of soil is like striking gold. We had 5. We are the 99 percent.
  • Till baby till. There are two schools of thought when it comes to tilling. The first  says you should till the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches to truly provide plants with the proper amount of aeration. The other says you really only need 6 inches of soil and you can experience good results by simply digging to that depth and adding compost. In Austin, with Blackland Prairie soil as thick and hearty as it is, double digging or tilling to a depth of 10 inches (the way we would do it in fantasy land) is not doable, at least if we want to use our back, legs or arms ever again. So we make do tilling what we can, which is still a whole heck of a lot of tilling.

Sugar snap peas in freshly prepared soil.

  • Compost counts. Decomposed organic matter is rich in nutrients, helps condition and fertilize the soil, adds Humic acid and acts as a natural pesticide. Is there anything sexier than a steaming, decomposing pile of compost? Besides being steroids for gardens, compost reduces the amount of trash we humanoids send to the landfill. Basically, if you’re not composting, you’re a bad person. I’m just joking. But not really.
  • OK, but what the heck is Humic acid? It’s an important chemical to know about especially if you have clay soil because it improves the texture and can enhance water penetration resulting in better root zone growth and development. At the atomic level (impressed?) it frees up nutrients for plants to absorb. For instance: if an aluminum molecule is bound with a phosphorous molecule (impressed now?) Humic acid will separate the two, making the phosphorous available to the plant. This is very important for fruiting plants. So, in a nutshell, Humic Acid = Good.

Healthy soil, healthy garden

You don’t win the Kentucky Derby on a donkey and you don’t grow quality plants without well-cared-for earth. Even if you’re starting with soil that resembles a miniature pony more than a champion steed, you can do a lot to improve your conditions and be a real contender. Test your soil, add compost and soil balancing nutrients (like the iron potassium silicate Texas Greensand) and you can easily be off to the races.