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July 2012


we're two weeks into summer break, the crazy hasn't yet hit, and yet it still feels like it's all going so quickly.

last night henry was at a friend's house for the night, and the friend lives right next to a local park, where a summer festival was taking place. they were planning to walk over and do some activities, eat some hot dogs, watch the fireworks. a typical summer night, and i'm amazed that he is old enough to do that without mom & dad. and yet, i'm also so excited for him, that he is entering this phase of freedom and independence.

at home, harper went to bed a little after 9:30 after a long day, begging that she really wanted to sleep in my room (where this has come from in the last year, i have no idea. but it's driving me crazy.) and that she just can't sleep alone. where i'm enjoying the view of henry's growing maturity, i'm hiding my head behind my hands at harper's abyssmal bedtime and mealtime behaviors. less than 20 minutes after getting her in bed, i started hearing the pops of fireworks. sure enough, harp came banging down the stairs, complaining about the noise and how she can't go to sleep because she's scared of it. i tried to reason with her that it was just fireworks, but that didn't work. so i went upstairs and told her to come into my room to look out the window. sure enough ... we could see a fireworks display going off in some 'burb on the other side of the lake. (i don't think it was from the same festival where henry was ... the direction wasn't quite the same.) and then someone who lives on the lake started to shoot off fireworks. as we were watching the display, a memory hit me: last summer, on july 4th, we had opted to go to the new neighborhood and see if we could see either of the nearby towns' fireworks displays, since they were, pretty much, in our front yard. we ended up at our former neighbor's house to watch with them, but after awhile, harper wanted to go for a walk. we walked down to where our house was being built, we climbed up the temporary wood steps to the upstairs, which was framed in but not yet walled, and we sat in what would be my bedroom and watched the fireworks going off across the lake. then we walked to the open area that would be the loft window, and we watched the fireworks from the local towns. and we whispered that next year, we would be able to watch fireworks from our house again if we wanted. a year later, we were doing exactly that. minus all the mosquitos.

about 15 minutes into it, i said, "harper ... look at the wild part of the yard!" (the above picture? taken in the "wild part." the back third of our lot was planted with native grass seeds and left to grow. i love it and have big plans for it ... i'm sure the neighbors aren't as sure.) she looked ... paused ... and then spotted them: "fireflies!!"

now, we've lived in minnesota for 15.5 years. we've NEVER seen fireflies. i'd read that we don't have them because we're too far north ... that the lights of the city interfer with their light communication ... but suddenly, we have fireflies. and my kids, who have only had the pleasure of chasing after those little fancy bugs a few times in their lives when we've been in indiana during the summer, can now add "fireflies" to this list of childhood memories.

and once again i was hit with how "right" things suddenly seem. this PLACE we've found for ourselves ... the being a part of a community instead of just existing in our own sphere ... the peace of living in a little lake town, full of bait shops and liquor stores, surrounded by farms, where everyone waves, and the night sky is dark enough for fireflies. this is the childhood i wanted for my kids. i understand that life is what you make of it, and you have to bloom where you're planted. and we've always done a pretty good job of it. but there's something so timeless about being here ... the bikes, the bugs, the local festivals, the kids walking down the hill with fishing poles, the kids on the corner with a lemonade stand, the neighbors who walk over just to say hi, the four-lane local grocery where the check-out ladies recognize you and chat. when we moved to minnesota, never in a million years would i have said that this town is where i wanted to be. we loved the city and the vibrancy and the opportunity. but you know what? yesterday, we drove henry 30 minutes into downtown, watched "blue man group," signed the "vote no" pledge for the marriage equality ammendment, grabbed a snack at brew pub on a corner, then came home, about as far - in distance and atmosphere - from The City as you can get. and both sides of our world came together in perfect alignment. you need the yin with the yang, otherwise that balance is lost. maybe that's why i suddenly feel peace and contentment: i was missing the yin-part of life. the part that was wrapped up in the fireflies.


so, during the house tour (here, here, and here), i mentioned a few lights that i would like to someday replace. i also mentioned that the best lights in the house - the ones that are our favorites - are from barn light electric.

well ... guess who is having a $1,000 giveaway right now?

too soon to trade out some lights? maybe. trying to win the prize anyway? damn straight.

here are the changes i would make:

this ...

would get an upgrade with this, in a two-bulb, aged nickel finish ...

(and i'd probably have the mirror moved down ... or maybe find an alternative ... while i was at it.)

another light that would go would be the one in the laundry room ...

because i'd be much happier working with this overhead ...

(as awesome as the aqua is ... mightn't the red one look better with the washer and dryer?)

and outside our side door is this beautiful little light in galivanized steel, but quite honestly the shade is too small. i'd rather gift this light to someone else and put something more substantial in its place ... like, say, nearly the same light but about 4-6" bigger and a color. because, why not?


probably the first thing i would change if i could, though, would be the ceiling fan in the basement guest room. we hadn't planned on putting a ceiling fan in there, but then my mom mentioned what a nice thing it would be, and since that is "her" room anyway, we agreed. so we have a cheap, ugly, afterthought fan in there ...

but wouldn't this be much lovelier? in an aged nickel finish?



if you are interested in entering (though, why would you? ahem.) here are the official rules ...

How to Enter:
  1. Look around online at Barn Light Electric and pick lights you’d love to own
  2. Feature your lighting picks on your personal blog, and link to the lights if you can!
  3. Copy/Paste these rules at the bottom of your blog article so others can enter
  4. Once your personal article is up, you must email your blog link to be qualified to win. The contest ends Monday, July 2nd, 2012
  5. Don’t have a blog? Find out how you can enter by reading the Official Rules


may the odds be ever in my your favor.

details & resources - basement

sorry for the delay ... i got sidetracked by a little thing called "last day of school." somehow this, back in september ...

became this, a mere nine months later ...

henry grew about 4", got braces, learned some tough lessons about grades and putting in effort, made some great new friends, got some peach fuzz on his upper lip, joined the swim team and is a natural, has gone from "never played a musical instrument in his life" to "exceeds proficiency" on the trombone, became one with sarcasm and smart assery, and is generally turning into a teenager before our very eyes.

harper also grew a few inches, lost four teeth - three of which have grown in (the one she knocked out of her face when she fell off the monkey bars ... not so much), did a great job in first grade, has no patience for learning to read but earned the "best sportsmanship" award (and the "perfect attendance" award, which she received first thing in the morning on the last full day of school, then ten minutes later ended up back at home with strep), learned to ride a two-wheeled bike, made some great new friends, tried soccer, wants desperately to join the swim team in the fall, shows a strong musical inclination, is full of sass and moodiness, and is turning into a big girl before our very eyes.

in september, i had to drive them to school from the old house. last week, they walked out the door to the corner and got on the bus with their friends.

and now that they've been home for five days (two of which were a weekend), i can safely say that i'm eager for september to return.

sooo ... let's finish this house business. here's the basement, which, like the other spaces in the house but to a greater extent, is even less finished and was less staged for photos. unlike the other rooms, i was rather over the taking of photos, so they are a bit less enthusiastic. the basement is also the most ... suburban. it doesn't really have that farmhouseness to it that squeaks into the other areas. give it time ... i'll change things here and there.

most of the basement is painted benjamin moore's classic gray. you can totally see where the white changes to gray at the corner of the stairway. (sarcasm. that's where henry gets it.) lights going down the stairs are the same as the lights going up - barn light electric's atomic cage light. i really need to start hanging some art.

first thing you see at the bottom of the stairs is a door with an unearthly glow coming from under it. open that door, and what should be a boring, cement-floored utility and mechanicals room has been overrun by a rack, servers, lights, noises, and geekery.

and behind that is more geekery, attached to the wall.

so that's awesome.

walking into the main part of the basement, you'll find, basically, the contents of our old house, transplanted. the sectional from the old basement is now the sectional in the new basement. our old dining room table and ceiling light (again, ikea) is now our game table. and the $10 desk i picked up from a yard sale in college is doing inadequate duty as a media console for marc's new tv. we haven't yet figured out what we want for that job, or how to pay for it until the other house sells, so right now "inadequate" is as good as it gets.

we desperately need bookshelves. all those boxes against the wall behind the couch? books. we know we want to build something, and that something will likely involve the reclaimed barn boards that i found on craigslist, but we haven't worked out the details yet. maybe someday.

the game-ish area ... there is also a wet bar, which is sort of funny because we aren't exactly "wet bar" kind of people.

but it was the one "what if we move"/resale scenario we opted to add, because a basement wet bar seems to be the ubiquitous "granite/stainless steel" "house hunters"-like requirement of minnesota.

and if we were going to have a wet bar, it was going to be "us." so ... another stainless steel counter top. our misstep, however, was building it around a small dorm-type fridge, thinking it would hold nothing more than drinks and maybe a hunk of cheese for my pre-bedtime cheese&triscuits ritual. when we moved in, we realized a) how stupid that fridge looks floating in the space left for it, and b) how cheap and noisy the fridge is. luckily, the cabinet guy *was* thinking ahead, and he built the fridge space standard for a wet bar fridge. so at some point, we'll craigslist the fridge (never used ... anyone want it?) and install a wine/beverage cooler. however, the wet bar is a mighty fine place for a coffee maker; lucky thing my mom bought us one as a housewarming gift because she wants to make herself coffee first thing in the morning when she visits without having to go to the kitchen and potentially wake people up. so technically, it's her coffee maker. but i get to use it.

resource-wise: cabinets are knotty alder ... knobs are through the cabinet guy so i don't have a source for those - sorry; they're awesome ... mirror is really old pottery barn ... faucet is danze parma

and did you notice the bare windows of the sliding door? i still haven't found replacement curtains. so the lovely west elm rod remains bare to this day.


anyway, leaving this area, there's a bathroom ...


the one room is the whole house where i've managed to hang art? the basement bathroom. i know.

this room is painted simply white, like the rest of the house. white subway tile and a pretty border with a mix of light blue glass and some white and gray marble 1" x 1" tile. the towel bar/hand towel ring/tp holder in this room as the same as the ones in the main level bathroom ... moen inspirations. i got a serious deal on them through amazon ... they cost us about $30 a room for each set of three pieces. nice. the mirror in this room is from ikea (it's an illness, really), which i painted with silver martha stewart paint from home depot. marc hung it one weekend when i wasn't home ... and it's about 4" too high. never send a 6"4" man to hang a mirror for regular people to use. i'll make him fix it someday. the light in here is quoizel quinton. i'm not in love with it. it doesn't put out enough light, it's too small ... it will be swapped out someday. maybe about the time we move that mirror down a bit.

just past the bathroom is my mom's room the guest room. again - completely furnished with stuff from the old house.

the dresser was in our dining room, and the bed was in our "master" ... my dad made it for us based on the pottery barn stratton bed, and i found baskets at ikea. (shocker.) when we moved into this house and i started planning the guest room, i decided the bed needed a makeover, and painted it charcoaly navy blue - dutch licorice from valspar.

bedding - sheets are from target, quilt is from pottery barn, duvet is old, discontinued restoration hardware (remember when they sold color?), accent pillows are all ikea.

the last room in the basement - and of this tour - is marc's office. one reason that i haven't fretted over much in the basement other than the guest room is that it's pretty much marc's domain. i essentially made him a deal: i would let him make the decisions about his office and the tv room and i wouldn't  say a word. both of those spaces are more for function than anything else, so i let it go. i didn't get involved when he and the wiring guy wired a speaker right next to the window, making it impossible for me to ever hang curtains. i didn't get terribly involved in the wall sconces in that room, though they are another set of lights i would love to remove someday and replace. (i mean seriously, how cool would these be??) i haven't gotten involved with any part of his office, which has turned out to be - as tim gunn would say - a lot of look. but he built it custom for his needs, it works for him and he likes it.

the walls in this room are the most color of anywhere in the house - benjamin moore winter lake. marc is definitely a blue guy, and the smokier, the better. let's see how much ikea we can spot in this room: varde island pilfered away from me? check. varde wall cupboard and it's undermount lighting? check. lockers? check. stainless steel desk tops? check. he built the u-shaped desk himself, with 4x4s and lots of brackets, and the stainless table tops were the perfect size to finish it off. those super cool vent-type lights he picked out and mounted in the corners? not enough light. so lighted shelves from ikea? check. and they are dual purpose: he then has a place to put his collection of how amazingly geeky smart he is, and how good he is at his job.

i'm a really good girl and won't let his styling bother me. it's his space. i won't touch it.

i think that's actually it. we made it through all three floors ... upper and main floors, in case you missed them. if there is anything i didn't hit on that you want to know, please feel free to leave a comment and i'll get back to you.

this whole build was truly a labor of love. mcdonald construction is amazing to work with, we appreciate their flexibility when it came to the things we customized, and if we weren't already in a nearly perfect house we would build again with them in a heartbeat. the architect, teresa, is a genius, and she took my vision and made it come to life better than i ever imagined. diana, our sales agent, is such a wonderful person and was with us every step of the way, and we hate that she's moving to california. tracey at che bella, who helped with some design decisions and totally got me and my vision. everyone we worked with was amazing, and the whole project was near flawless. we love our house, and don't plan to leave for a very long time. unless we win the lottery, then all bets are off.