July 12, 2011

a bathroom remodel

This bathroom is everybody's new favorite place to hang out in our house. It is the second bathroom remodel we've undertaken since we moved in. Before the remodel, it consisted of a large room with lots of unused space with a ridiculously narrow closet. Last year, in anticipation of June's arrival, Daniel knocked out a wall and turned the space into a nursery with the bathroom adjoining it. He created beautiful built-in closets along one wall in our bedroom to make up for the lack of a closet. The nursery turned out great and was finished just in time. The bathroom took us a year.

Since my husband does literally all the work himself I have no place to complain about the pace that it gets done. Of course, sometimes I nudge and try to 'project manage' to keep things going, but I realize he has a lot on his plate. And now that we have a baby, the work is even slower, making it all the more gratifying when it finally is done.

I am proud of myself for doing things on a tight budget. Just like our nursery which I decorated all for about $500 using flea market and garage sale finds, this bathroom was done on a similar budget using some items we salvaged from job sites and some we kept from the old bathroom.

I wanted the room to have a light, airy beach feel to it since it is always bathed in sunlight, the brightest room in our house. I went with mostly white --on the bead board as well as on the hard wood floors, the shower tile and the fixtures, and chose a light minty blue-green for the walls.

The great pedestal style bathtub was given to us by a friend in exchange for Daniel's time working on his house. All we had to do was paint it.

The sink was my favorite project. We had a pedestal sink from the old bathroom which could have worked and is usually a better choice for a small bathroom. But then we would have no storage for towels and supplies so the vanity seemed like a better choice. I think most bathroom vanities look bulky and boring so I thought I'd look for a piece of furniture that could be re-purposed. Daniel had brought home a nice oval sink and chrome and brass faucet from a job earlier in the year (people throw so much good stuff away!) and so all I had to do was find the piece.

I found it at the first place I looked - Gaslamp Antique Mall. Man, I love that place. If there is one area in which Nashville never disappoints, it's antiques. I knew it was perfect the moment I saw it and it happened to be on sale that day. It didn't even need painting, having already been given that 'distressed' look with white paint over black. A sturdy Ethan Allen buffet, I knew it could hold the sink with no problem. And the dimensions were just right.

Daniel easily cut a whole in the top for the sink to drop in, then the faucet and cut out the pieces on the side for the plumbing pipes. It was fun to watch it take shape. It took just a little bit of tweaking to make it the perfect vanity. I love how it looks in our little nautical bathroom.

I'm very happy with the way this little bathroom turned out. And it really is the new fun room of the house. Our house guest, Vlad, really likes it and so does June. Her bath time is one of her favorite parts of the day. And, after she goes to bed, I love to relax in my little dreamy white refuge. It may have been a long time in the works, but it was worth the wait.

July 5, 2011

a bang up holiday weekend

This weekend was the most fun weekend I've had in a long time. I did something I've never done before (participate in a neighborhood bike parade) and something I have not done in way too long: I went out to see live music and not just any live music, but the U2 concert at Vanderbilt stadium.

On Saturday night 45,000 fans convened on a hot and muggy Nashville night to see and hear a spectacle of greatness, talent and sincerity that left us practically skipping all the way home. For me, it was an extra special concert, as I've been a U2 fan for most of my life. Well, for as long as I remember being able to really love music. The band have been together now for 35 years which makes me feel really old.

I first saw them in concert in high school, though I followed them for long before that. I actually got to meet them when I was 17 and they were on tour and played in Las Vegas, where I am from. Through my dad's friendship with one well-connected man, my friend Erica and I got to deliver tickets for a boxing match, a gift from the concert promoter, to the band at their hotel (!!!). Imagine the excitement. It was a dream come true. Somewhere I have a photo of that meeting - my friend and I sandwiched between Bono and the Edge, looking every bit as nervous and elated as you would imagine two teenage girls meeting the famous rock stars of their dreams would look. I would post that photo if only I could find it.

We had not been planning to go on Sat., but I got a wild hair and decided to look for tickets on craigslist. I found them, we found a babysitter last-minute and off we went!

The concert was wonderful and special and Daniel and I had a really fun time. I loved the opener too: Florence and the Machine, an ethereal and stunning British woman in a long green chiffon costume who sang beautifully and skipped around the stage barefoot. I had heard only one of her songs before and knew she was a fashion icon so it was cool to see her perform live.

When U2 came on the stage Daniel joked, "Look at them - they're like Gods." And that's how it felt. They looked great too. Time has done nothing to diminish their god-like rock star status. Bono kept talking about how much they loved Nashville and how great it was to be playing here for the first time since 1981. It was also their 100th show on this "360 Tour." He sang a song that he wrote and performed with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer. And they played a lot of old hits as well as newer material. There were about 10 years in there when I was in grad school and not listening to much music and I lost track of them (around the time Zooropa came out). But since then, I've managed to catch one other U2 concert --in 2004 in Denver, in addition to the couple of times I saw them in the 80s-- but none was as great as this show. Maybe it's because, like the band, I am aging and living in a new phase of life, one that is amazing and beautiful, but which contains too few opportunities to rock out. And it was all so nostalgic for me. Hearing them perform "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "I Will Follow" and "In the Name of Love" will always tug at my heartstrings and remind me of my younger days.

Here are some photos from the show, not the best because shot from afar with my phone, but nonetheless they capture the drama and impact of the rocket ship stage framed by hundreds of very sophisticated moving video screens in a 360 degree ring above the stage. From this the concert was projected spliced with cutting edge video graphics and special effects, old footage of the band, and even recorded transmissions from Desmond Tutu and Gabrielle Gifford's astronaut husband from outer space telling us that "It's a Beautiful Day." Pretty cool.

It was all so spontaneous and that added to the fun of the evening. I am so glad I got that wild hair and that it all worked out so perfectly. I was meant to rekindle my love affair with U2 here in Nashville on this 4th of July weekend.

The other thing we did that was super fun was participate in this cute little bike parade that our neighbor Zella, age 6, organized.

I thought her poster was really cute, and the parade was even cuter. The kids all decorated their bikes and wagons and we took June along in the trailer behind my bike. Zella's dad and another neighbor blocked the traffic on our street at each end of the block and we all paraded down and back complete with accompanying drum and saxophone and a live Statue of Liberty. It was really very sweet and reminded me of what a great neighborhood we chose to live and raise our child in.

July 1, 2011

The Birthday Party

I wrote about how June's first birthday has made me reflect on the last year and how far we've come. Now for the party that marked that special occasion.

I wanted to throw a party that would be fitting of such an important occasion and although I realize a baby's first birthday is more meaningful to her parents than to her, I still wanted it to be a child's party. We invited about 30 people and as many of our friends with babies or kids that we could think of. There were probably about 10-12 kids crawling and playing at one time in the living room. June was in Heaven.

I found these pretty striped paper plates at Target and matching invitations and that became the color scheme of all the decorations. I added red, white and blue touches with stars which seemed appropriate given that it was the week before the 4th of July. I can see lots of red, white and blue parties and fireworks in her future.

I had lots of fun putting together little party favors using these popcorn boxes I found at Michael's to round out the all-American theme. I found the contents: little plastic sunglasses, rubber balls and wands, candy necklaces and party horns at the Dollar store.

I spent a good deal of time in the days before the party baking. I didn't want a pink princess theme but I did want to make desserts and goodies that were fit for a little princess. I had always wanted to make petit fours, those delicate little cakes that look so pretty and that I recently learned were born out of economy as bakers used up the discarded scraps from a larger cake to make the little bite-sized sweets. I used Martha Stewart's recipe and then threw out her icing and made my own.

The cake (a white cake with almond paste and a layer of jam in between, came out great but the icing was either too thin and didn't coat well, or the second batch was too thick and looked clunky. I decided that my pouring technique could use a little work and next time they will probably come out looking cleaner. But they still looked pretty, decorated with little pink and white sugar flowers or multi-colored sprinkles.

I also made marbled cream cheese brownies that I cut into small squares and madeleines which I always loved making when I worked at Marché.

Then I make these blackberry, mozzarella and basil, and straberry, mozzarella and mint skewers which looked really pretty and were a nice complement to the sweets.

A friend brought a huge fresh fruit platter and my mother-in-law brought chicken salad. And, my friend Heidi brought her delicious cake pops which everybody loved.

And for the birthday girl, I made her a yummy carrot cake, the same one I make for Daniel on his birthday and it is a favorite in our family. She seemed to like it. She loves veggies so I thought it would be a good way to introduce her to cake. I made a little 5-inch round cake for her and decorated it with cream cheese frosting and little frosting carrots with a leaf of parsley for the green.

It was really fun to see all of our friends and family there to celebrate June's first year. And she had a blast! She wore a party dress that belonged to my cousin who is 18 now and it looked so cute on her. It was sentimental for me because my mom bought that dress. And even though it was a little long, it did not stop her from crawling all over the place and walking all over with her 'lion' showing off for everyone.

She really seemed to enjoy the attention and revel in the party atmosphere. A girl after my own heart.

What a fun day! I will always remember June's first birthday and how much fun I had planning and putting together the party. I love throwing a good party and never need much of an excuse to bake, but it was particularly fun to do it for the first time for my little girl. I have a feeling there will be some great parties in our future.