Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Modern Wing Back Chair: Love it or hate it?

Cal's new physical therapy office (for rehabbing his shoulder) sits just in the middle of my three favorite thrift stores. Not that I ever needed an excuse to shop for a great deal, but now, every Tuesday and Thursday I am guaranteed an hour to hit all three stores before closing time. Last week I found the most awesome-unusual, modern, cool, ugly?-wing back chair that I just had to have. When I say "I had to have it," I don't necessarily mean that I have to have it and keep it. I mean that I have to acquire something based on a combination of its coolness, low price and the fact that it doesn't belong in a thrift store. Later I decide where it really belongs, which might be my house, my antique booth, or in someone else's house for a slightly higher price than I paid for it. I never mark things up too high because my grandfather always says, "You have to leave room for the next guy to make a profit."

Chair side view. Piped in a dark cranberry suede cloth.

This is a handmade modern wing back chair by Vanguard Furniture. This particular chair is from their Bungalow Collection. It has a tall back (50.5" tall X 30" wide X 30" deep). It is super comfy and has a down-filled throw pillow with a removable cover. It appears to never have been sat in. It appears to be brand new.

The original tag. See what somebody paid to have this chair made?

Here is my dilemma. I saw this chair in one of the many decorating and home improvement magazines I read monthly I would think "wow, that chair is awesome!" But, as neat as it is, and as expensive as it was, it is really not my style. Although it matches our green walls and fall decor, both are temporary. We are planning on painting the walls dark tan. When fall is over, and all the pumpkins and leaf garland is put away, there really isn't any orange in my house. The light colored laminate flooring is being replaced with dark wood. That being said, this chair looks pretty nice in the corner of my dining room. Is it just too designer-ish for me? Cool in a magazine but not in my house? What do you think?

Update****March 13, 2013****

I decided to sell the chair in my shop about a week after this post. As much as I loved the chair, it wasn't right for my house or my color scheme. It lasted for a day until a sweet young couple put it on lay-a-way. Purchase price $450. What a deal!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preparing for Hurricane Isaac

The pretty tubes at Bob's Canoes
Hurricane Isaac, the first hurricane in our new house. How exciting! How are we preparing? Well, today we spent the day with our Pensacola friends floating down the Black Water River in Milton, whiling the day away in the sun. Yes, we live in the projected path of Hurricane Isaac, but it was the farthest thing from my mind as I floated down-river in my hot pink tube with three little boys in tow pretending to shoot bad guys hiding behind the trees along the banks. A bigger fear than the pending hurricane was the snake that meandered across the river just in front of us as we rounded a curve. The hurricane is two days away, plenty of time. The snake was right there in our path. Thankfully it was as afraid of us as we were of it, and it slithered away into a half sunken pile of downed trees.

The ride home from Milton was quiet. We were sun-drenched and worn out after a long day on a lazy river. As we drove home listening to the radio the alerts blurted through the music updating us on the storm's progression. "The Florida panhandle is under hurricane warning," and "Santa Rosa County Schools are cancelled beginning on Tuesday," aired on every radio channel. My cell phone signaled notifications from the kids' coaches and the superintendent of schools with messages granting permission to evacuate and encouraging families to stay safe. I guess there is a hurricane coming.

It wasn't until we entered into our neighborhood that things were noticeably different. People were actively boarding up their windows. Boats, just pulled from the water, were sitting on trailers in driveways instead of bobbing gracefully in the aqua blue waters of Pensacola Bay. My phone rang.

"Hi Jenni, it's Dad," he said. "Is everything OK there?"

I assured him that we have a plan-a plan to prepare the house and to evacuate if necessary-we just hadn't started yet.  He, of all people, would understand. My dad always says that it makes no sense to worry about things and spend lots of time preparing for them if in the end what is going to happen is going to happen anyway. And he is right. We could have stayed home all day today preparing for a storm that might or might not hit us, or enjoyed a day on the river. We chose the latter.

After today's sunny day I am looking forward to some rain, wind, and clouds. I love the anticipation of impending severe weather and the feeling in our house when we are hunkered down, waiting. The kids get along better, they want to help out, they wait for cues from us that dictate how they should react to emergency alerts. We stay calm so they can stay calm.

But now it's time. It's time to fill vehicles and the generator with gas. It's time to clean-up around the pool and move patio furniture, bikes and yard toys into the garage so they don't become projectiles under the control of hurricane strength winds. It's time to make a mental note of where the photo albums are, the savings bonds, and each of the kids' memory boxes in case we have to flee. It's time to remember the feeling of returning to Pensacola after Ivan hit here in 2004 and the devastation it caused that can still be felt. Even today, eight years later, there are vacant lots where houses once stood. Certainly Isaac is nothing in comparison to Ivan-which was projected to make landfall as a category 5 hurricane. But it is a hurricane nonetheless. And due to the uncertainty of its path, strength and timeline, it's time to start taking Hurricane Isaac seriously-well, more seriously anyway.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Let's Add Curb Appeal: Before & After Photos

Thank you to so many of you who visited the This Old House website and rated our exterior renovation entry in the Reader Remodel contest. As you know, despite a call from Scott, the editor, we didn't win the truck this year. (Read the full story in my "Did I Catch You at a Good Time?" blog entry.) But talking with him on the phone about our project, and learning that our entry was "notable enough" to gain recognition in the issue, was a nice consolation. Alas, the reveal issue was published in July and we weren't mentioned anywhere. Having a background in publishing I am not too surprised. Some content makes the cut, and some doesn't.

Our exterior renovation included:

  • New exterior paint
  • Finishing and installing a new front door and sidelight
  • Updating house numbers and doorbell
  • Wrapping and trimming-out porch columns
  • Staining the concrete porch floor
  • Laying a flagstone walkway
  • Installing a tongue & groove porch ceiling
  • Installing ceiling fans and porch lighting
  • Constructing window shutters out of reclaimed wood
  • Installing new gutters and downspouts
  • Defining the garden spaces and planing perennials
  • Adding a fountain and yard statues
  • Furnishing the porch

I've been busy keeping up with weeding the flagstone path (despite having laid weed cloth beneath the stones), and watering the garden by hand since we still don't have the front yard sprinkler system up and running. My red potting bench is getting lots of use storing gardening gloves and an antique watering can. It also makes a great Lego table for Rowan and Davison who like to be wherever Mommy is. The bistro set and wicker chairs couldn't have been better picks for porch seating. I've spent hours this summer sitting under the ceiling fans, reading my decorating magazines while the kids have enjoyed tea parties and picnic lunches.

When we bought this house I didn't give the front porch any thought. It had been covered with clutter and camouflaged by green paint. It wasn't until after moving in that we realized the space's potential. And we're certainly enjoying the fruits of our labor on this project.

Before: Every square inch of the house was green.
Also, notice what is missing here? There is no walkway to the front door. 

After: New paint in a much prettier shade of green and a winding flagstone path
lead to a welcoming landing and a new front door.
Dave brought this door knocker of his pilot wings home from for me from Korea.
As soon as we got to FL we had Dermody engraved on the banner.

One of the first things we did when we moved into the house was start painting the exterior. We knew that a fresh coat of paint and a contrasting trim color would help transform the exterior and we wanted to see results quickly. We bought an unfinished wood door and sidelight at a building materials outlet and primed and painted the door inside once it was too late to work outside. Installing the sidelight was a breeze. I actually did it myself when Dave was at work. Cutting the door down to size, adding hinges, and hanging the door was Dave's project, and it was not easy.

This pair of solid wicker steamer chairs were a perfect find
for the porch. They recline and have pull-out footrests. 

The gardens and walkway were really important to me. I wanted to create the feel of a New England cottage-comfortable and cozy. The flower garden is made up mostly of Salvia, Daisy, Mexican Heather, Black Eyed Susan and decorative grasses. Large sago palms, the only two plantings that existed in the original landscape, anchor the two sides of the garden.

With all the other renovations on our list there was no way we could afford flagstone for the walkway-but I really wanted it to complete the look. We removed old flagstone from the backyard of a rental property that we own on the other side of town and used it to form the new walkway. We had just enough!

I found this vintage bistro set on craigslist for $20.
A good sanding and a fresh coat of paint gave it a whole new look.
The vinyl decals add a personal touch.

We repurposed wood from the old deck that we tore off the back of the house to make
hefty board and batten shutters. The shutters are both decorative and functional
and can be latched closed in the event of a storm. The fountain is another craigslist find.  

The porch floor, that used to be green along with the entire exterior of the house,  got a facelift. First, I painted it with a textured porch paint. Then, I applied a deck stain over the paint. I poured the stain on with a small paper cup and spread it around in small sections using a crumpled plastic shopping bag. It looks just like stained concrete!

A potting bench under the window adds a touch of color. 

Welcome home!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Perfect Mudroom: Before & After Photos

I can't believe how many people have no idea what a mudroom is. For as long as I can remember, and even moreso since I started a family, I have dreamt about the perfect mudroom. A mudroom isn't as formal as a foyer, which is a landing just inside the front door for greeting guests. It's not a breezeway, as it doesn't connect a barn or garage to the house. It isn't what Davison thought either. "It's a room filled with mud."

Mudrooms are primarily found in homes located in northern states-which explains my familiarity with them, since I'm originally from Massachusetts. Commonly located just inside the back door, the mudroom is a receiving room for muddy boots and winter jackets during the cold-weather months.

The house I grew up in on Spring Street in Amesbury, MA was a late 1700's colonial. Our mudroom was a small space just inside the back door that was outfitted with built-in peg racks along the walls and baskets for hats and mittens. The knotty pine floors were worn through from all the foot traffic.  There was a pond in our backyard so our space doubled as a place to put on ice-skates and thaw out firewood for the wood stove-our only source of heat. 

My mudroom here in Florida will never experience the commotion that accompanies the cold weather months in New England. It won't see the days of winter boots and waterlogged mittens in need of a thaw. However, it will cheerfully hold the flip flops from our feet and be a comfortable place to brush the white sands of Pensacola Beach from between our toes. In fall it will be packed with school bags, muddy cleats and football pads.

I incorporated every item from my list of "must haves" into the design of our new mudroom. From sunny window seats with flip-top lids for storage, to a place to hang my collection of vintage tourist plates bought over the years at each of our duty stations, everything has its place.

This picture is of the original finished garage the day we closed on the house. It was taken standing in the back doorway. The door off to the right leads to the laundry room. Straight in front of you, on the other side of the wall, is the kitchen. In the end this space will become three dorm-style bedrooms for the older boys on the right, and a mudroom.

This picture is the same view as the picture above, after some work was done. We cut through the wall into the kitchen to make a doorway. On the right Dave framed walls to make the boys' bedrooms. Notice the position of the attic access on the ceiling in each picture-that will help you make sense of the space.

Finally, the space is transformed. Again, this picture is taken from the back door looking in. The opening to the kitchen is not visible but is off to the left along with the laundry room door and the built-in desk area. We did every inch of this work ourselves from framing, built-ins, hanging cabinets and crown moulding, installing the tongue and groove pine on the walls, tiling, painting and of course decorating the space.
This picture was taken from the kitchen doorway
looking toward the back door. Cal's bedroom
door is on the left. The window looks into the
driveway. The back door is to the right.
This is the same view taken from the kitchen doorway
looking toward the back door. Now, Cal's bedroom door is
between two window seats with flip-top storage under the
custom seat cushions. The wall cabinet holds keys, 
outgoing mail and store returns.
A bookshelf built into the 6" wall studs holds books and displays collections. Dave's maternal grandmother's blue glass dishes and my paternal grandmother's elephants collection are displayed on the shelves. A vintage plate collection, one from each state where we have been stationed, hangs on the wall outside Austin's bedroom.
Lockers for each child hold shoes and sporting gear. An old shrimp boat sign reading "Thistle" sits above the lockers adding a splash of color. A primitive painted white bench offers a place to sit.

A hand forged iron wall rack that we had made in Sicily hangs just inside the door.
Hand painted tiles show Mt. Etna in a typical Sicilian scene.

Mudroom Design Must-Haves:

  • Location near the laundry room for washing uniforms and gym clothes
  • Lockers for each family member
  • Shoe cubby for guest shoes
  • Storage for totes and bags for trips to the beach or sleepovers
  • Pet supply storage and hangers for leashes
  • Cabinet for store returns
  • An area for outgoing mail
  • Desk area for the family calendar, lateral files for each child's school papers and permission slips 
  • Area to display artwork
  • Clock
  • Bench for changing shoes
  • Seat near the window for waiting for company or a ride
  • Hanging coat rack near the door
  • Storage for bug spray and sunblock
  • A closet 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kids For Trade

Living away from family all these years is a bummer. Sadly, my kids hardly know their extended family. They have never had family birthday parties surrounded by aunts and uncles, proud grandparents and cousins to play with. I can count on one hand the number of times they have met Dave's parents or my grandfather, who happens to still be alive.

In contrast, I knew my paternal grandmother like I know my own mother. I spent weekends at her house growing up, and weeks at a time with her at her camp in New Hampshire. When I got older, and she got older, I called her just about every other day. I remember thinking that I would not be able to live without her when she died. But I made it through.

Living away from family all these years has opened the door to awesome opportunity. We have made friends with people that we love so much, and identify with so well, that they might as well be family. These are the people that we talk to every day through text or Facebook or have made the Godparents of our children. Their kids are our kids' best friends. We carry on relationships with these chosen few because we want to, not because blood relation and the branches of the family tree expect us to. They have probably spent more birthdays with my children than my own parents have which is both sad, and a blessing at the same time.

We met Lisa and John when we moved to Sicily in 2007. Coincidentally both of our families had been stationed in Maine at the same time but had never met. My friend Dina, who knew both of us, assured me that we would get along great if we ever crossed paths. In Italy we finally did cross paths and Dina was right.

Dave and I drove three hours east today meet up with Lisa who drove three hours west to meet us for a kid swap. Her kids Sarah, Hannah and Will are the same ages as my Evelyn, Lillian and Rowan and you couldn't imagine cousins who could get along better. I feel an overwhelming gratitude for the life we have been blessed with as a families serving in the Navy. I am honored that Lisa trusts us like family to take care of her kids for the week. I am thankful that my husband is at home to help me with the kids and that we can give Lisa a week off while her John is out to sea. 

So yes, living away from relatives is a bummer sometimes. I miss my friends back home, family and Dave's family too. But the distance the military has forced us to sustain has made us vulnerable-opening the pathway to new friendships that are as strong as family ties. 

  • Two weeks ago Austin drove 8 hours to Orlando to spend the weekend with his best friend Justin, a friend made during our tour in Italy. When we think of Justin living 8 hours away we think of that as close.
  • Last week Abby (Austin's girlfriend of two years who lives in Virginia) and the boys' friend Sarah came to visit for the week. They have visited us 3 times in 6 months. It may be a lot of miles but really Virginia's only a short flight away. I am certain they will remain lifelong family friends
  • Today Austin and Cal flew to Virginia for a few days to catch up with old friends. They called to say it was weird seeing new people living in our house and they didn't like it.
  • At the end of the week Austin and Cal are heading to New Hampshire and then Massachusetts to hike with my parents and have a family cookout at my Dad's beach house. My sister is arranging for the teenage kids of my high school friends to be there too. My kids don't see any of them often enough but when they do, they pick up as if they were never apart.
  • This week we are hosting the McGonagle kids. Next week our brood is headed to Lisa's house for another kid trade.
  • Phil and Amie, Rowan's Godparents, just got orders to Japan for the next two years. We are lucky enough to be stationed 30 minutes away from each other until January 2013.
All of these relationships are possible courtesy of the red, white and blue 
and years of serving in the US Navy!

Dave at Malcolm House's retirement ceremony.
Family vacation with the McGonagles, Outer Banks, NC, 2011.
Lily, Hannah, Sarah and Evelyn

My godmother (Great Aunt Elaine) with Rowan and Davey during a visit to Virginia, 2011.
Rowan and Will swimming in Sicily, Italy, 2009.

Landon's birthday stationed in Brunswick, Maine with the Brock boys, 2006.
Harrison, Liam, Ethan and Landon

Friday, June 29, 2012

For Sale or Barter

Sometimes I have to remind myself that reality TV isn't reality at all.

Note to self: If a trade on Craigslist seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.

I've entertained the idea of getting an old travel trailer. Not just a used trailer but an oldie, a classic. I don't even know if we would actually use it for camping or tailgating, but the thought of owning one is appealing. It could be a decorating project or a place for the kids to hang out with their friends. Part of the reason that we bought our house away from the covenants and restrictions of a HOA is so we can park whatever we want, wherever we want. Dave is worried that an old trailer in the driveway screams "redneck". I disagree. Who can't appreciate the nostalgia of an old Airstream? Plus, we've already got 4 cars in the driveway-including two classic convertibles-a landscape trailer, a go kart, and a collection of bikes and scooters. How much worse is a travel trailer?

I found an ad on Craigslist last week for a 1970 Airstream trailer for barter. Basically, with house renovations in full swing we can't spend any money on toys right now so the barter part of the deal was really appealing. Before I even called on the ad the kids were arguing over who would live in the trailer as their bedroom and what color the lights would be when we decorated it for Christmas.

"OMG Mom, Lily and I will even share a room if you let us sleep in the trailer. Then the boys can turn Lily's room into a man cave," Evelyn said.

I called on the trailer. It was still available. So Dave and I went to see it in Elberta, Alabama.

If you've ever pictured back-woods Alabama, Alberta is the heart of it. We pulled down a dirt road lined with dilapidated trailers, tractors rolling along to their own beat, and cars up on blocks in front yards. We joked about wishing we had brought a gun along, just in case we needed to use it. We pulled up to the address on the ad. The house and yard looked like something from the TV show Sanford and Son.

We got out of the truck and were greeted by a seemingly normal man named Rich. He was about 50, clean shaven, wearing blue jeans and wire glasses. Dave walked around the back of the house with him discussing the details of the trailer. I bent down as I got out of the truck and picked up a tiny kitten off the ground. He was orange and about 6 inches long. Two other kittens from the litter laid nearby, covered with tiny gnats. They weren't doing as well. I followed Dave's path to the trailer. The little kitten curled up in my arms and meowed like he had never been picked up before-he probably hadn't. Rich looked normal but clearly couldn't be.

After a walk around the property discussing what Rich was looking for in trade for the trailer, we left with a good feeling. The Airstream was in much better shape than we had expected it to be and Rich seemed motivated to make a deal. We happened to have a couple of the things he was looking for including a dirt bike and firearms. He also wanted a riding mower or cash. Cash was out of the question. On Barter Kings, (Have you seen that show on TV?), they never bring cash to the trade.

The story goes on, and after a dozen emails and phone calls between Dave and Rich we didn't end up with the Airstream trailer. It seemed that no matter what we offered Rich was never satisfied enough to seal the deal-firearms, a dirt bike, even a 2010 riding lawn mower! I guess there is a reason that his yard looks the way it does-he never gets rid of anything. Perhaps the only visitors he gets in Elberta, Alabama are Craigslisters. I think he likes the attention.

I still want a vintage Airstream. Eventually I'll find one for the right price, or trade. On Barter kings they always make the deals happen. I guess in real life it doesn't work that way. For now I have to figure out what to do with the slightly used riding mower that's outside? We bought it hoping to trade it for the trailer. If we leave it sitting in the driveway people might just think we're rednecks.

The vintage Airstream trailer that was almost ours...sort of.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Did I Catch You At a Good Time?

I think Dave and the editor of This Old House magazine are working together.

Yesterday, I stared at the walls and cabinets in the kitchen/dining room for hours moving from seat to seat examining the space from every angle. The wheels in my head were turning. In between reading Lego stories to Davison, who spent quite a bit of time sitting on my lap, I referred to copies of my favorite magazines for design inspiration.

Finally, the layout started coming together in my head and a plan formulated. However, there was one problem. I had to remove a 6 foot section of cabinet and counter top that was breaking up the space and distracting me. I grabbed the circular saw, lined up the blade with the top of the counter, and heard Dave's car pull into the driveway.

"I'm busted," I thought.

Dave walked around the corner wearing his flight suit and heavy flight boots. He and looked at me with a curious smile. I smiled back saw-in-hand, kissed him hello, and said,

"Did a little birdie tell you to hurry home because your wife was about to cut stuff apart in the kitchen?"  I asked.

After giving him a brief summary of my plan, the phone rang.  It was This Old House magazine. The editor started off the call by stating that I didn't win the Reader Remodel Contest. (Bummer, no new truck for me.) Then he explained that some notable stories are being mentioned in the July "Reveal Issue" and ours is one of them.

"You're a military family that has moved 12 times in 18 years and just bought your forever home, right?" He asked.

"Yes, that's us," I answered.

"Did I catch you at a good time?"

My thought at that point was that there is never a good time for a mother of 7 kids to talk on the phone. As soon as the headset hits my ear all hell breaks loose in the house.

"It's as good of a time as any," I answered. "My husband is probably pretty happy that you just called because I was about to attack the kitchen counters with a circular saw when the phone rang." 

It only made sense that they were working together. The magazine dialed me to offer a distraction so Dave could take over the demolition-the right way.

He started laughing; really, really laughing. In between laughs, and breaths, he said,

"What did you say?"

"Oh, I'm not kidding," I answered. "I was just about to cut apart the kitchen counters to move some cabinets when my husband pulled into the driveway from work. Then the phone rang. Now I am out here talking to you while my husband is on his back on the kitchen floor half way in a cabinet trying to figure out if I am going to chop through any electrical. He is still in his uniform so only his boots are sticking out. Some stay at home mothers cook in the kitchen. That's not me."

He asked me some general questions about the house and our many moves over the past 18 years in the Navy. He wanted to know what the kids said when they saw the house for the first time.

"They thought it was disgusting," I told him.

Then we hung up.

The phone call stalled me long enough for Dave to spend some time alone in kitchen, making sense of the newly proposed layout.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Dave asked.

Believe it or not, he is a little more cautious than I am.

I gave him the look that means less talking, more cutting. He took over; under my direction of course. And the kitchen renovation began. As the walls came down and cabinets found new spaces in the room, things started coming together. We make a good team. Here are pictures of the progress.

The closed-up kitchen just days after we moved in.
In great shape but in need of updating.

The space is now opened up and bright. (Blurry picture, sorry.)
Of course we still have to upgrade everything but at least the layout is coming together.
The glowing white light at the far back is a window that will soon be a slider.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I Don't Know Where to Start

So much has happened in the past two months. There are so many blog-worthy stories to share! Our move to Florida, the kids' transition into another school system, our house renovation-we've been busy. In a nutshell:

  • We moved from Virginia to Florida in late January. Saying goodbye to our friends in VA was very hard. Nobody had it harder than Austin though. He had to leave Abby-the love of his 16 year life-behind in VA. However, their long-distance relationship is going strong. Abby will be here for a visit in one week.
  • Austin got his driver's license, and another "new" car. Apparently the Chevelle was just a stepping stone. The newest ride? A 1970 Buick Electra convertible with a 455. It should be delivered any day.
  • Dave and I started the Atkins Diet the day after the new year and have both lost about 23 lbs. 
  • After a delayed closing on our new house we are moved in and the house is under complete and total renovation. I have been taking lots of pictures of the projects but haven't actually posted them. I have great shots to share of the before and afters. Projects so far include:
    • All new exterior paint
    • Craftsman style front door, sidelight and hardware as well as window shutters
    • A newly refinished front porch decorated with vintage furnishings and a nautical theme
    • Added a front walkway to the door
    • Three new bedrooms and a killer 22'X12' mudroom with built-in lockers
    • New interior carpet, paint and wall colors
    • An enormous new in-ground swimming pool in the back yard

If it's OK I am going to forget that I have been MIA for about two months. (Sorry about that.) And I am going to start off fresh. I'm happy to be back!

Davison posing with the deep end of our new in-ground swimming pool. Even the yard is under construction.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What color is your house?

We have spent our first few days back in Pensacola catching up with old friends, visiting the resturants that we missed and getting ready to move into our house. If all goes well we should finally be closing later today.

The kids were less than impressed with our new house. Rowan threw his arms up, looked around and declared, "This is disgusting". I assured him that the first thing on our to-do list was to paint the board and batten exterior an acceptable color-something different than dark aqua green which currently covers every inch of the house from the roof to the ground including trim, window frames, gutters and the foundation-and there would be no bugs in his room by the time he has to sleep in it. The rest of the day was spent formulating a plan for the whirlwind of renovations that needed to start immediately.

I have spent as much time in the past few weeks searching for the perfect exterior paint color as I have folding laundry-which is a lot of time. We finally decided on a craftsman theme of dark mocha with creme trim, a perfect compliment to the brown window frames on the existing house. (Imagine how that looks with the current aqua?!) We thought the decision had been made until we looked at rhe house next door, one that we hadn't paid too much attention to before, and saw tan and white siding. Of course the plans for our house would put it in another class from that one when we were done working our magic, however, I didn't want to be accused of being a copycat. It was back to the drawing board.
In a paniced call to my mother earlier that morning asking for ideas and inspiration for what all-of-a-sudden felt like the biggest decision of my life, she assured me that I couldn't go wrong with green-which has always been my favorite color. Thankfully we happened to stop at a nearby park to let the kids run off some steam and that's where we found the perfect exterior color. Across the street stood a beautiful two story federalist home with columns around the beautiful southern style porch. There were two cars in the driveway, a sign that someone was home.

"I'll be right back," I said to Dave.

Certainly someone with such a beautiful home would know her colors-or the number of the designer who chose them. (It was that kind of neighborhood.)

I walked confidently up the stairs to the door and knocked.

"I am so sorry to bother you but your house is beautiful and I just have to know the colors," I said.

I assured the woman at the door, who appeared to be in her late 60's, that our new house was in desperate need of a makeover. If she didn't mind I wanted to copy her paint colors. So much for not being a copycat huh. She asked me to wait a minute while she checked her file and came back with a neatly printed card that said Avacado Green, Dark Night and Nacre. She wished me luck with the move. I thanked her from the bottom of my heart. We loaded up the kids from their trip to the park and headed straight to Sherwin-Williams.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Warm Welcome

We're packed up and on the road again. Stopping for the night in Jacksonville was the best last-minute plan we could have made, offering so much more than simply a place to rest our heads.

The night before we left VA was filled with tears. Excitement about the pending move turned to fear. Saying goodbye became reality. I offered words of encouragement saying just about anything to ease the pain that the kids were feeling-you'll make so many new friends, our house is across the street from the beach, we'll never move again (I hope). And then I explained what I see as the greatest benefit of being a military family. Being transient offers the blessing of having dear friends in every corner of the country-and world- who welcome you with open arms despite months, even years, and miles of seperation. My friend Lisa's words below taken from a Facebook post from this morning are a testament to just how special this is. (fyi..The gator she refers to was a big rubber alligator that she hid under our pillow with a note, "Welcome to Florida." I'll get her back.)

"So there was a Dermody sighting in Florida...w/ gator, dog, scared kitty hiding in the garage, crab, 6 kids and two crazy big kids, lugging it all cross-country again! It was a sweet bday surprise from Jennifer Georges Dermody and Dave Dermody to me and as with all our friends, the door is always open...even if we're not here. But something else is confirmed in me again...the hope that in moving, all will turn out well again. And as the worn, and traveled-weary group trooped in last night in search of sleep and food and drink, hurting from leaving great people, they too were reminded that the world is small and the good one's you'll always see again. I saw it in the magnetic hugs our boys had to be pried apart with this morning and in the uber-silliness of the girls jumping back into old BFF land...the quick sharing of yearbooks from Sigonella and old family photos...family, because our military friends are our family. Glad we could ease the pain...and the best is yet ahead for you! Much ♥...Lisa."

Thank you Lisa. I hope you have a wonderful 40th birthday today. I love you friend!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Florida or Bust

At this very moment I am crammed in the passenger's seat of my Suburban. My iPad is strategically propped on top of the pile of junk on my lap which includes a bag of Legos, stuffed animals and books, the snack bag filled with string cheese and Pringles and my beautiful leather tote bag filled with paint color chips, floorplan designs and closing documents. I get to sit with all the extra bags-the ones that no kids want to deal with. We are on a road trip. Well, it feels like a road trip but it is actually a PCS move. For the non-military folks out there that stands for Permanent Change of Station. We're headed to our new assignment in Florida's Sunny Gulf Coast.

We left early this morning with grand plans-to do the entire drive in one day-all 17 hours of it. The combination of getting a late start and realizing after the first 20 minutes of the ride that the littlest kids were going to drive us completely crazy asking "how much longer?", there was no way we could pull that off. So, while I got a half hour of sleep under this pile of crap on my lap, Dave called our friends in Jacksonville, FL and asked if they minded company. Lisa, my dear friend from our tour in Italy and fellow Navy spouse, who happens to be the best hostess ever, replied with some version of "you need a comfortable place to rest your heads and a good meal. We'll wait up for you." Anyone who would welcome a family of nine at a moment's notice, along with their dog, cat and hermit crab is a saint. Lisa certainly fits into that category. (Dave did mention the pets Lisa...didn't he?)

I had a few minutes between bathroom breaks, a blown tire in NC, and stopping for gas to check email and Facebook. A friend posted on my page, "I can't wait to read your first update when you get settled." That got me thinking and then motivated to write about our adventure-moving a family of nine half way across the country yet again, buying and renovating what I hope is going to be our forever house and integrating our crazy, big, spirited, loving, athletic, smart, beautiful, family into the beachside community that we will soon call home. This is a pretty exciting time for the family. Until tomorrow, ciao.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Not Sure if I Should Be Ashamed or Proud

I cleaned up the mess from opening Christmas presents in record time this year. I think it was partly because of my new method. Santa left his gifts in the family room, while all of the nicely wrapped presents from Mom and Dad waited in my nice room. Surprisingly, opening presents in two different rooms did not create double the mess, it made managing the miles and miles of ribbon and wrapping paper manageable.

A couple of days after Christmas was trash and recycling day. It might seem strange but I love piling the trash and buckets of bottles, old newspapers and food packaging by the curb every week. Every time I get rid of stuff-donations to the thrift store, garbage, recycling-I feel like a little weight is lifted. Of course I just fill the space with more stuff, but purging still feels good.

I dragged the two cans from the side of the house to the street. On the left was our garbage can. It was light. and easy to move. The handle is broken off so we rigged it with an old dog leash-which actually makes it easier to pull-but looks really pathetic. The recycling bin was really heavy, and overflowing with paper. I placed it toward the right side so that there would be enough room for the rest of the pile which was stashed in the landscape trailer that we keep in our driveway. The HOA hates us for it because it's ugly-but we don't pay too much attention to the notes they leave on our door. 

As I lugged bag after bag of used wrapping paper, perfectly stacked Barbie and Fisher Price boxes neatly bound with string, and electronics's Styrofoam packaging to the curb, I created a neat and organized pile-well mountain-of recyclable waste. It was beautiful I thought, especially in comparison to the single, lowly can of trash next to it that would undoubtedly sit in a landfill for the next hundreds or thousands of years. I was proud of my dedication to recycling instead of discarding recyclable materials as trash. Then I started thinking about what other people would think about my pile. Would they see it as an accomplishment or a failure? Should I be proud of the huge pile of recycling that I saved from the landfill? Or should I be ashamed by the amount of waste my huge family creates every Christmas?

I have more to say-and a picture of the pile-but it is so late I have to sleep. I will write the rest tomorrow. Good night.