Sep 26, 2012

On the Road Again {or, vacation round 2}

So we bid farewell to Navarre Beach after Hurricane Isaac (literally) drove us away from our vacation last month (more on our woefully-short beach trip here). Since we had to evacuate by 8:00 am, we hit the road at about the worst possible time for a toddler. Max had just woken up, and then we said, "Hey, dude, how about we chill in the car for eight hours?"

Twelve hours and many stops later we made it home, spent a day regrouping and calling around for last-minute deals, and then drove another 3 hours and 45 minutes to end up here:

The Smokey Mountains! We found a cabin in North Carolina, between the two teeny mountain towns of Maggie Valley and Waynesville. (About an hour east of Gatlinburg, for you Tennesseans.) I should go ahead and warn you, the rest of this post includes LOTS of photos of the rest of our vacation :)

It took me a good day or two to decompress from the misadventures of vacation round one, but luckily we'd booked five nights here. And there was a hot tub. And Max napped really well, giving Ben and I two to three hours each day to sit around on the balcony and watch the "smoke" roll over the mountains. We hopped into the hot tub every night after Max went to sleep, and dedicated one night to roasting s'mores in the fire pit outside the cabin :)

There was lots of porch sitting, swinging and nature-viewing.

There was hiking and creek-stomping. I love how Max looks like such a determined little hiker in this photo!

One afternoon we drove into Asheville (about 40 minutes away). Ben was dying to try out Wedge Brewing Company, a funky brewery situated on the river in an industrial/up-and-coming part of the city. He was a fan. And there was a food truck, so what more do you really need?

Then we headed into downtown Asheville and wound up at the Laughing Seed Cafe, an awesome vegetarian restaurant, for dinner. And go figure, Asheville being the super cool town it is, the cafe was connected to another brewery where Ben could get more local microbrews. And of course we couldn't leave Asheville without visiting the famous drum circle (love those hippies!). Max was totally entranced. For those who don't know, on Saturday evenings in Asheville, there is basically a free-for-all with anybody who wants to bang their drums, dance, and generally have a good time. There were glow sticks and people of all ages enjoying the scene ... it kind of felt like old times at Bonnaroo (more on our Bonnaroo adventures here).

The next day we took a terrifying drive up a one-lane unpaved mountain road to see several herds of elk up close. Apparently they used to flourish in this area until they were over-hunted, and recently quite a few were re-released back into the mountains. Ok, so I may have a phobia about driving along cliffs and anything remotely steep, but I swear this drive was death-defying (by we, I mean Ben was driving. I was too busy cowering into my seat, holding my breath, and going into panic mode anytime we encountered another vehicle on the road.) In the end, we were rewarded with lots of elk, out for an evening graze in the mountain meadows. Max thought it was pretty amazing, and we also explored some buildings from the original settlement that was up on the mountain, so all in all it was a great way to spend an evening.

Max also had a blast rolling his truck down the steep mountain road outside our cabin. I have to admit ... Max wasn't the only one having a blast!

After getting thoroughly relaxed and immersed in the mellow mountain culture, it was time to head home. I never expected to go to the mountains and the beach in the span of one week-long vacation, but hey - life would be really dull of everything always went as planned!

Sep 17, 2012

Our Much-too-short Beach Trip

Ok, so I promised more details about our vacation ... we had booked a full week at a condo in Navarre Beach, Florida, and were soooo excited. Before parenthood, Ben and I took several trips a year, but that's just not feasible these days. Which is fine, because family time at our awesome new house with our awesome little dude is the priority now.

So this year, we had put all our eggs into one big beach basket. And it was more than a little disappointing when Hurricane Isaac chased us away after two days! Yup. We faced a mandatory evacuation, though the teeny Gulf island was barely touched by Isaac in the end.

BUT ... those two days were glorious! We had sunshine and waves and seafood and perfect sunsets. Ben's parents joined us, and Max had so much fun with his "Gamma" and "Gampa." The condo owner we rented from via (Vacation Rentals by Owner - our favorite way to book lodging!) was incredibly kind about the whole ordeal, refunding the days we couldn't use and offering us a discount to come try again next summer. Which me might do. Navarre Beach was beautiful! And very mellow and somewhat undiscovered, which is something I like in a vacation destination :)

I took a photo of the trunk all packed up because I'm a nerd - and for some reason I really enjoy packing trunks. It's like a life-sized puzzle, and I'm pretty good at it. We managed to fit all of our clothes, beach toys, baby gear, dog gear and a boogie board and wagon.

As for the road trip itself, I'd been collecting goodies for Max for a couple weeks leading up to the eight-hour drive. I have fond memories of my mom always stocking her purse with a few small toys and coloring books when we traveled as kids. She would pull one thing out at a time, very carefully spaced for maximum entertainment value, and we were always so excited to see what she'd brought! One of the things that entertained Max for the longest was this interactive board book I snagged at a consignment sale.

And sweet Bosco took the other side of the backseat. He is such a road warrior.

We finally made it, and when we woke up the next morning, we bee-lined for the beach. Our condo overlooked the sound (the side of the island that faced inland), and we were about a five-minute walk to the "real" beach. (Hence the wagon, which worked great to transport Max and beach towels alike!) Max has been in a phase where he doesn't really like to get dirty, so he was skeptical of the sand. And in awe of the waves crashing in. For the first morning he mostly hung out on the beach towel while the rest of us tried to gently introduce him to the ocean and sand! (I guess he forgot how much he loved all this stuff last summer, which I blogged about here!)

Max started warming to the idea of sand when Grandpa showed him how to build castles...

Here's our balcony view of the sound. We sat out here every morning and evening and we definitely took advantage of that pool!

On our second morning, I was up early and took Bosco for a stroll on the beach of the sound, just steps outside of our condo.

On day two, Max got more comfortable with the sand, digging and playing with shells. If we'd been able to stay one more day, I'm sure he'd have fallen in love with the beach all over again!

When we found out we'd likely be evacuated, we decided to go out in style, and drove about 40 minutes to Destin, FL, for dinner at a charming little dockside seafood place. 

But first we watched as some of our neighbors (locals) in the condo building boarded up their windows in preparation for the storm. Later that night, they had what they called a "hurricane party." There were some serious shenanigans going on, with families and friends partying loudly on their balconies, and even shooting off fireworks from the dock! It was a sight to see!

And THEN, we put ourselves into a state of denial and had a blast for our last night.

Ben and I attempted (we really did try hard) to get a family portrait with the sunset and the ocean ... but some things are just not meant to be, especially when they involve a very wiggly 21-month-old and a precarious dock with no railings!

We evacuated by 8:30 the next morning, but don't worry - our vacation didn't end there. We managed to come up with another plan, since it would be such a shame to waste a full week that Ben had off of work. Stay tuned for more on that ... :)

Sep 11, 2012

Big Reveal : the Den

I've dropped lots of hints, and showed off corners here and there, but never have I been brave enough to show you our den in its entirety (with furnishings). Until now. Feast your eyes (Max did some pretty awesome photo-bombing!) ... and prepare to offer me advice, because I am befuddled by this space. Check out this post and this post to see how far we've come, though! Fresh walls and floors = huge improvement.

Even though its vaulted ceilings with wood beams, wood-burning fireplace and brick built-ins were some of my favorite features when we bought our house, decorating this room has proved to be maddening very hard. Read more about my den struggles and inspirations here.

After moving some furniture around last week and hanging a new picture on the wall, I decided I finally could see things moving in a positive direction. I realized that maybe if I keep plugging away, I'll eventually find a way to love this room.

One thing I love right now? This new teal map art, which was snagged from One Kings Lane for just $25, and it's handmade! That frame will get an upgrade one of these days, but the art makes me happy, so I wanted to get it up on the wall to enjoy, no matter how cheapo the frame.

The sofa and chair are screaming for some bright, happy, graphic pillows with blues and aquas to better match my overall color scheme. And I'm realizing that you may be seeing that huge hutch for the first time. We inherited it with the house, and it's been an awesome place to store linens, fine china and wine glasses. One day it will get the diy treatment {a few coats of paint and new hardware should modernize it right up}. And of course that fan has to go. It's moving to the top of the priority list!

The rug, which was inherited from my grandparents, really cozies up this large room, and I pulled that white chair out of Max's room. I like that it defines the sitting area from the walk-through area (which leads from the hallway to the kitchen). The coffee table has been hiding out in the basement ever since we moved in. But after I designated the living room as Max's play room, I decided to go ahead and fill in the floor space I'd previously left empty for toddler play. That table's been with us for a while; Ben and I found it at the Nashville Flea Market years ago (maybe eight years?!) for the first place we ever rented together, before we were married - and crazier yet, before we adopted Bosco!

I'd like to get a proper media stand for the TV - a wide one that would fill the space better. I'm picturing a sort of French blue buffet stand for some reason. Something kind of like this, but wider:

image via Vintage Ground blog

And of course, I'm still strongly leaning toward painting that brick fireplace. There's just so darn much of it that it's overwhelming in person. And really dark. Which does nothing to help the lack of natural sunlight in this room.

All those tweaks aside, I've been enjoying my time in the den. The lack of natural sunlight actually makes it an excellent movie-watching room, and the brick feels super cozy at night. This room is where we huddle under a blanket with Max to read bedtime stories, where Ben and I snuggle up to chat and unwind after Max goes to bed, and where Bosco is allowed to climb onto the couch and snuggle right along with us ... so I suppose in the end, the den is actually fulfilling its job pretty darn well.

Sep 6, 2012

lighting up a room

I've been on a blogging hiatus of late, since we snuck off for a little family vacation last week! Our vacation was more of an adventure than we'd anticipated, but it all worked out in the end. I'll fill you guys in on the details soon!

In the meantime, I thought it was high time I showed you a project I did a while back - as in, before I even started this blog. Here's a hint ...

Take a peek at that white chandelier over the breakfast table ... it didn't always look that way! In fact, it started off a little more like this (my apologies for the photo, it was the best I could find!):

It's hard to tell, but it was white porcelain with flowers painted onto it in pinks and greens and blues and golds. It was ornate and was probably very trendy when it was installed ... but it just wasn't doing it for us. One night when Ben's mom was hanging out at our house, she suggested taking off those dangling flowers ... so we plucked those off first. A few days later I realized I could unscrew all of the extra curly-cue looking pieces. And once I stripped this poor chandelier down, it had a nice, classic shape to it.

So I decided that before spending money on a new light fixture, I'd try painting this little lady. I had Ben help me take it out of the ceiling, hung it from a cord under our carport, and sprayed away - first with a little primer, then with a few coats of a matte white spray paint. I went right over the chain too. My inspiration? Etsy seller SimplySalvage, who made this gorgeous white-painted chandelier and wrapped the light switches with twine.

Here's a close-up of my own version (using burlap instead of twine since I had it on hand):

My chandelier had plastic covers around the base of each light bulb, so I was able to pop those right off and wrap a little burlap around each one. It was so simple - I used painters tape to secure the burlap, and pointed the seam inward so it's not visible. I was thrilled with my chandelier redo!

Isn't it an improvement?

There was just one problem ... after Ben and I had quite the struggle to hang the "new" chandelier back up, we realized a few of the bulbs needed replacing. So we replaced them. We turned on the lights. And sparks flew. Litereally, sparks flew and several of the bulbs blew out. Scared of electricution, we put a big piece of red tape over the light switch, effectively blacking out our breakfast room. That was months ago. Maybe as many as six months ago if I'm going to be honest...

We figured our electrician could fix the problem easily, but now we're leaning toward just buying a new light fixture. Perhaps this little lady has seen her day. I've thought about a classic barn light like these beauties from Barn Light Electric, or maybe a basket light similar to the styles shown in this blog post over at My Life in the Burbs.