Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Design Board: "Man" room

I completed this design board recently for a client who wanted a revamped "man" room. The room in question already has gorgeous dark brown leather furniture and a bookcase/entertainment credenza, but it needed window treatments, lighting, accessories, and most of all COLOR as the room was awash in "builder beige" and browns.

When I received a completed decor questionnaire from this client, I read over everything, and I could immediately envision this room redone with a vintage modern flair to it, but with a masculine feel.

Here is the design board:

I am so excited about this room. I love the contrast between the large dark leather pieces the client already owns and the bright yellow-greens and hints of orange. I think this room is going to be absolutely gorgeous when it's finished - I can't wait to see the finished space!

Note: Design boards also include a detailed listing of where to purchase each item and why it was chosen for the space, along with suggested furniture layouts and ideas for where to place each piece of artwork.

If you are interested in ordering a room-specific design board or if you are in the Austin area and are interested in decorating services, please email me at McGee_Clopper@InteriorsbyMcGee.com.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lentil Burritos

Last night I made lentil burritos, and oh my goodness are they fabulous! Meredith and Alex both happily ate every bite we gave them, and Mike loved the burritos so much he said we should put them in our regular meal rotation. Not bad, especially for a vegetarian dish!

Recipe (and photo) from Southern Living

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 16 (7-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce with roasted garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon green taco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Toppings: sour cream, guacamole


Simmer lentils in 4 cups water in a saucepan over medium heat 20 minutes or until tender; drain, reserving 1 cup liquid.

Sauté onion and bell pepper in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; stir in lentils and cheese. Spoon mixture evenly down center of each tortilla, and roll up. Place in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

Bring 3/4 cup reserved liquid, tomato sauce, cumin, and taco sauce to a boil in a saucepan. Stir together remaining 1/4 cup reserved liquid and cornstarch until smooth. Stir into sauce mixture, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, 10 minutes. Pour over burritos.

Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve with desired toppings.

McGee's note: This recipe calls for 16 tortillas - this is a joke if you want more than a tablespoon or two of your lentil filling in each burrito. We made 8 burritos using the above-listed ingredients. Double it if you want a full pan of 16. I also topped it with shredded Mexican-blend cheeses before popping the pan in the oven. I served it with fat-free sour cream and fresh avocado, and it was WONDERFUL!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shut out already

A little earlier in the day, I watched Meredith wander off to her bedroom. A few paces behind her, Alex was crawling as fast as he could after his big sister. I heard a door slam shut, and I figured that I'd soon hear Alex crying about being shut out of his sister's room.



After a few moments, I got up to check on Alex. He wasn't in the hall or in his room, and the doors to the the bathroom and Meredith's room were closed.

I opened Meredith's bedroom door and peeked inside. Just inside the door, two adorable faces turned and grinned at me. And then Alex leaned over and pushed the door shut in my face. As the door closed, I heard Meredith say, "We need privacy, Mom!" Four years old and 9 months old, and they're already shutting out their parents.

I told Mike I think they're plotting against us. Perhaps it's a good thing we only have two kids. If we had three, we'd be outnumbered, and then we'd really be in trouble.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Say goodbye to the McMansion!

We've honestly never been huge fans of so-called McMansions - giant homes with every conceivable amenity crammed into far more square footage than the average American family could possibly "need." Such giant houses are also an enormous waste of natural resources, and they cost a small fortune to heat and cool. We chose to buy an 1800 square foot home, and it works just fine for our family of four, even with me working from home.

We've long found it intriguing that as American families grow smaller, the size of our homes seems to increase. I followed a thread of a message board recently where a childless couple was encouraged to shop for a 4 bedroom house so they'd have plenty of room for a guest room, a home office AND a "workout room." Since when do homes HAVE to have a designated guest room, especially when you consider just how many days out of the year a guest room is really used.

In the 1950s, the average American home was a mere 983 square feet! If you asked most American families to live in a house this size, many would balk. But there's no guest room! No playroom! The kids would have to share a room! There's no home office! No gym! No TV room! By 2006, the average American home had ballooned to more than 2300 square feet to accommodate all of those new "must have" rooms.

It was with great interest then, that we read today that the average American home is actually SHRINKING! The US Census Bureau is reporting that the average American home size fell in 2009 to 2,135 square feet. Perhaps this is in line with the economic downtown, as consumers who do choose to build new homes opt to be less conspicuous in their consumption. Perhaps a bit of environmentalism is taking hold and people are realizing the environmental cost of building and maintaining a large home. Or perhaps we as a country are starting to slowly realize that you can have multipurpose rooms - that an office can share space with a guest bedroom or a treadmill and some free weights. One can hope, right?

To read more about the shrinking American home, read CNN/Money's article.

4 year well child visit

I took both kids to the doctor this morning. Meredith had her 4 year well child visit (supposed to happen in June, but I had to reschedule it because of a conflict with my work), and Alex was a bit under the weather so he went in for a sick child visit.

I am amazed at how quickly a young child's mood can change. After the nurse left us in the exam room, Meredith sat quietly in the chair next to me and listened to me read aloud from "Peter Pan". The doctor walked in, and suddenly Meredith was bouncing off the walls. She practically vibrated she had so much energy. I have no idea why she does that or where these sudden bursts of energy come from.

At 4 years old (and almost 3 months), Meredith weighs in at 40 pounds, 4 ounces, and she is 41.5 inches tall. This puts her in the 75th percentile for both her height and her weight. She's always been on the upper end of the spectrum in terms of height and weight, but it does appear that her growth is slowing down a bit.

Alex, on the other hand, is still growing like the proverbial weed. Since his 9 month well baby visit in early August, he's put on almost another pound! He weighed in at 25.5 pounds today. He'd been running a low grade fever and had been abnormally fussy (for him), and I'd chalked it up to teething. Then I saw a nasty ulcer in the back of his mouth. The doctor checked and found a few more. Based on his symptoms, it looks like our poor little boy has coxsackie virus. Fortunately it doesn't seem to be nearly as bad a case as Meredith had earlier this year. He should be back to his normal happy self in a few more days.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Feeling gray?

The ever fabulous Joni over at Cote de Texas wrote an excellent post a few days ago about GRAY. It is everywhere in the world of home interiors. I first started to really notice it about a year or so ago - gray walls are such a lovely compliment to the veining in carrara and calacatta marble slabs and tile! See?

Image: Rock Revelations of London

Gray (or grey, depending on how you choose to spell it) has moved out of the kitchen and bathroom and is now in use in just about every room imaginable. It's on walls, in printed fabrics, on upholstered furniture, in window treatments. It is, in my humble opinion, the new chocolate brown. For the last few years, brown has filtered down through the decorating ranks until it became quite common to walk into any suburban home and see an expanse of chocolate brown. I think this is the direction gray is heading. Mike and I are both seeing so much gray lately that we were going to do a blog post about it, but Joni beat us to it, and as usual, she's far more thorough than I likely would have been.

Head over to Cote de Texas and check out Joni's examination of all things gray.

Beautifully renovated home

Here's a little eye candy for your Tuesday morning! The following photos are part of a remodeled home in New York that was recently featured in Traditional Home.

The home's entry is a graceful space. I love the beautiful white paneling on the walls and the sharp contrast between the white walls and the dark wood floors. The entry also has a few items we're seeing in quite a few places: a natural fiber rug, ceramic garden stools, and a simple glass pendant light. I just wish the magazine had included a different view of the entry, because from this angle, the ceiling light appears quite offset from what appears to be the center of the space.

The living room is an exercise in symmetry, with art displays, tables, vases and lamps gracing either side of the remodeled fireplace. I love the symmetry, but the book lover in me would prefer to see low built-in bookcases on either side of the fireplace instead of tables. Still, I love the furniture arrangement, the colors, and overall feel of this room.

Another view of the living room:

Those glass doors and transom windows are gorgeous! Even though this is a large living area with a very high ceiling, the room feels airy but not overly expansive or empty.

This is part of the sitting room/tv room. I'm not a huge fan of the fabric used in the window treatments, but I love the pale blue upholstered furniture, and I'm a huge fan of the built-in bookcase. The print on the pillows is also very popular - I've seen several dozen variations of it while perusing fabric sites for NeNe's home remodel, and I have to admit that I'm a fan of the trellis/lattice fabric.

This is a corner of one of the home's guestrooms. I love the chair and the simple artwork on the walls, and I especially love the built-in window seat. I'm such a sucker for built-ins. I really am. I think they provide a cozy space in an otherwise large room, and they can really maximize your storage and use of space in a smaller room.

The kitchen.The white wood paneling from the entry and living room carries through the kitchen and the dining room as well. I love the continuity, and I love how the paneling on the end of the kitchen island mimics the walls. I'm also madly in love with the beams and beadboard on the ceiling. I could do without the striped fabric on the windows, and I think the green on the walls above the countertop is a little too bright, but even so, this is a gorgeous kitchen.

The dining room and more lovely walls. The rustic table is a great contrast to the more formal trimwork and sconces on the walls. It keeps the room from feeling too formal or too fussy. The monkey artwork? Yeah, totally not my style at all.

What do you think? What do you like about this house remodel? What catches your eye?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The journey of a thousand miles...

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

That's how the saying goes, I think. Today Alex's journey began: he took his first independent step!

He was standing up, about a foot away from me, holding my hands. I let go, and he balanced for a few seconds before flashing his trademark Happy Baby Man grin and taking a precarious step forward. As soon as his foot touched the floor, he held his arms out to steady himself, grinned at me some more and then grabbed my hands again for support.

We're awfully proud of our little boy tonight!

A little less chaos

The new school year is upon us, and kids are trickling back into school this week. The result: a blissful week of uncrowded stores, uncrowded shopping centers, uncrowded parks, and uncrowded swimming pools.

Meredith starts 4 year old preschool next week, so this is her last week of summer. I am planning to take full advantage of all the "big" kids being in school! We will make at least two, hopefully three, trips to the neighborhood pool during the school day and do some last minute back to school shopping. If it weren't so insanely hot here, I'd probably throw in a few picnics at the park too. Darn Texas heat!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Shoe shopping with Meredith

We promised Meredith a new pair of tennis shoes for preschool, so I hit the mall with the kids today to take advantage of tax free shopping. I was hesitant about going shopping today because both kids got up very early today, and Meredith had a meltdown before we even left the house (because she wanted her hair to look like Princess Leia's from Star Wars, and she was mad because she didn't have long enough hair to make really BIG buns on either side of her head).
A meltdown over hair before I've even finished my coffee just doesn't bode well for the rest of the day.

Meredith had her mind made up that she HAD to have a pair of Skechers shoes that light up when walking. I love my daughter, but bless her heart, she is one of those children who can't walk and chew gum at the same time. All I could picture was her in light up shoes, running into walls because she's busy looking at her feet and not at what is right in front of her.

Apparently a size 11 girls' shoe is VERY in demand right now because our choices were extremely limited - and not just in Skechers. I would estimate that 80% of the shoes we asked to see in her size were sold out. This led to a lot of drama from Meredith and a lot of frustration from Mommy because I really didn't want to go to more than one shopping center.

She gave serious consideration to a pair of purple Skechers sneakers that I thought were frankly pretty ugly. By that point though, we were on our fourth shoe store, and I was more than willing to buy them so we could just leave and be done with it all.

Then she turned the corner and saw them: sparkly pink shoes.
Cue a light from above and music from on high.

After trying them on, hopping up and down, running back and forth across the shoe department and doing a crazy dance, Meredith declared the sparkly pink shoes "absolutely perfect and VERY high fashion stylin'." The purple Skechers were slip ons, and these pink shoes are BIG GIRL shoes, according to Meredith, because they have shoelaces. She agreed that she was willing to learn to tie her shoelaces, and I was thrilled that we made it out of the store without a pair of shoes that light up, squeak, or play music.

As we left the store, Meredith took my hand and said, very seriously, "Mommy, these new pink shoes are perfect, but they don't match my purple purse. I think we need to shop some more."

It's a good thing our second child was a boy. I don't think we could afford two of Meredith.

Penny for your thoughts?

How about a LOT of pennies?

Yes, that is a kitchen counter made out of pennies, and it is entirely a DIY project. You can read the instructions here: http://makeprojects.com/Project/Install-a-Penny-Countertop/85/1 The short version of how to do it: once you clean the pennies, you lay them out over an existing counter and seal everything with multiple coats of epoxy and polyurethane.
I have to admit that it does look kind of neat. I can't see us doing something like this in our own home though. At least, not with pennies. For starters, Meredith would probably try taking a knife to the counter to free up some pennies for her piggy bank. Second, I can't imagine trying to sell a house with a penny countertop. Okay wait, I can - I can absolutely picture a penny countertop in a funky central or south Austin house that has purple walls, wild light fixtures, and crazy sculptures in the front yard. In THAT type of house, yes, a penny countertop would work, and it likely would not affect resale value at all because those houses are inevitably in pretty desirable locations. For the rest of us though, I have trouble imagining penny counters doing much for your home's resale value.

From a distance the penny counter pictured above almost looks like bronzed penny-round tiles - and THAT might make for an interesting and less "odd" DIY counter option. Here are some stone penny round tiles from Mission Stone Tile that have the look of pennies without BEING pennies. Something like this might be a better, albeit more expensive, option for tiling your counter if you like the look but are concerned about resale value:

I could picture this tile paired with an interesting tile pattern on the walls to top off a kitchen with maple cabinets and modern, streamlined faucets and fixtures.

Or if you like the look of round tile on a counter but don't want anything too dark, check out these beautiful carrara marble penny round tiles, also from Mission Stone Tile:

What do you think? Would you ever tile your counter with pennies? What about penny round tiles?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Well that was... not fun.

Today was pretty horrible. I expected the kids to be difficult to manage today. Meredith is always a handful after a lengthy visit with grandparents, and on top of that, she was over-tired. Alex was exhausted too, and I knew that both kids really missed their dad and weren't going to be happy when he left for work this morning. Mike literally dragged Meredith behind him as he walked to the front door. She begged the whole way there "Please take me with you. Please don't go to work today. Please let me come too."

It went downhill rapidly after that: Alex refused to nap today and chose to vacillate between playing happily and screaming like a wild banshee. Meredith whined and complained about everything and had a very hard time listening and following instructions. I had to work my regular part-time job plus an extra assignment my employer sent out. Oh yeah, and our air conditioner broke. Again. I changed out the filter (which took two trips to Home Depot because I bought the wrong size filter the first time), and when that didn't affect the temperature at all, I called the a/c repairman.

To recap: we spent several hundred dollars in a/c repair service calls the first year we bought our house. We spent nearly $2500 on a new a/c condenser two years ago. We spent another $2200 on a new coil a mere two months ago. The cost for today's after hours service call? Another $90. Oh yeah, and it. didn't. work. That's right, I spent $90 today to fix the air conditioner, and the temperature dropped to 80 degrees in the house before rising again to 83, which is the current temp in our home at 10:00 pm.

Obviously we will be calling the a/c repairman again in the morning. As I put Meredith to bed tonight, she frowned and said, "Texas is not fun. I want to go back to NeNe's house." Kiddo, after today, I can't blame you a bit. I am saying a little prayer that tomorrow is a better today.

And we're back!

I arrived home late last night after more than a week in Arkansas with the kids. Meredith and Alex glued themselves to Mike while I unloaded the car. Within minutes of arriving home, Alex peed on Mike, and Meredith kicked a football into Mike's forehead. Nothing says "We missed you, Dad!" like pee and a swift kick to the head, right?

I think I need to reevaluate future road trips without Mike. The drive to Arkansas was not bad. I packed plenty of snacks and drinks and a bunch of movies for Meredith to watch. We had a pleasant stop for a late lunch north of Dallas, and the kids both took lengthy naps through most of Oklahoma. I arrived at NeNe's house feeling pretty great. It's funny how you feel like you're a totally AWESOME parent when your kids are behaving.

The trip home - not so awesome. I'll spare everyone the gory details, but it involved a lot of whining, crying and screaming.

Despite all of the stress of the drive home, we made it in one piece. I'm planning for a (hopefully) quiet day at home today so I can unpack and the kids can unwind from the trip. We had such a great time with NeNe, and we miss her so much already!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Items of desire

Things we've loving right now:

Tess cocktail table from Worlds Away:A significantly less expensive version from Ballard Designs:

This patterned flat weave rug from Garnet Hill:

Fairview Pendant lights from Hudson Valley Lighting:

Opaque Belgian linen drapes from Restoration Hardware - the texture is lovely, and the light feel just says "summer" to us.

Weathered zinc single fez mirror from Restoration Hardware:

Alex's 9 month stats

On Friday we took Alex to the pediatrician for his 9 month well baby visit, where he hit a big milestone: he is ON the growth chart across the board. His head circumference, weight and height are all right at or above the 95th percentile, but he is now on the chart.

Actually, Alex has lost weight since his last appointment a few weeks ago for an ear infection. He is now 24 pounds, 12.5 ounces. The weight loss is due to his new mobility - all of that crawling and cruising burns a lot of calories! Alex has grown two inches since his last well baby visit at 6 months old. He is now 30.5 inches tall!