House TalkN is a fun lookiloo at houses, houses, houses. It will answer pressing questions like, "When folks build a McMansion on a small lot, what are they compensating for?" or "Was the real estate agent drunk when they staged this house?" or "Why don't the Smiths' ever leave their drapes open when I am on a harmless walk-by?"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Meet My New Sponsor!

This here is a fancy schmancy sponsored post!
I am excited to introduce you to my new sponsor, 
When Ali contacted me, I hesitated to schedule a meeting. I mean, my wardrobe is...uh...lacking.
I have several fantastic pieces...from ten years ago. I love them because they have been with me through four pregnancy explosions, endured record amounts of spit-up, and they are comfortable. 
(Comfortable is code for ratty and stretched out!)
Ali's shop is lovely and full of gorgeous pieces.
Here is a lookiloo:

Jewelry, TOO!

Ali didn't wrinkle her nose at my "vintage" clothing and she even let me play with the merchandise! 
Stay tuned because Ali is going to give me a makeover for my first ever blogging conference this summer! 
Read more ...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

HouseTalkN With Amy Armstrong

I am excited to kickoff the new series "HouseTalkN With..." - a lookiloo at how local movers and shakers live. While we all enjoy the aesthetics of homes, what really counts is how we live in them. I have teamed up with fellow house nut and journalist, Julie Wurth, to explore how local folks make their houses a home. 

When my good friend Kerry asked if I wanted to collaborate on a series of blog posts about notable people and their houses, I had two responses:
1. YES!!! Because I am addicted to houses, and so is she. And she is quite the fun magnet.
2. Hysterical laughter. Because as I may have mentioned a jillion times, my house isn't exactly magazine-worthy.
You might describe it as "comfortable." "Relaxed." "Kid-friendly." Or, if you are one of those mean girls, "cluttered" or "a mess."

When we decided to kick off this series with the clever and talented Amy Armstrong, my intimidation level rose just a smidge.
Amy is what we call "a force." It was her determination that made Larkin's Place a reality, the YMCA's wonderful new recreational facility for children with special needs, named for her beautiful daughter Larkin, 6. She also is mom to a teen-age son and 2-year-old twins, and her quick wit makes her a favorite among Champaign-Urbana's bloggers and "Twitterati" (@Momologist).
So I figured her house would be one of those perfectly organized showplaces that put me to shame.
Turns out Amy's house is also kid-friendly, in an uncluttered sort of way, and not intimidating at all.
Walk into the foyer of her spacious contemporary brick home in Champaign's Robeson Meadows, and you see a comfortable, kid-style living room to your right, and a dining-room-turned-playroom to your left.
A chaise and two plush animal chairs make up the prime seating in the living room, where Larkin loves to watch her favorite DVDs (they've gone through six copies of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"). The windows are curtainless, so Larkin can enjoy the wide-open view. The artwork? Framed drawings by son Chase during his primary-school years.
In the dining room, the Empire-style mahogany table that once seated eight has given way to a pint-sized kitchen, Little People and toys, toys, toys. The buffet serves as a bookcase and toy repository. The "Mardi Gras" chandelier (she swears the pop of purple, amber and blue is "gorgeous") is in storage in the basement.
Amy shrugs: "It just doesn't work right now. One day I'll bring it back."
Her favorite family photos still line the walls of the dining room and the rest of the house. An oversized black-and-white wedding candid of Amy and Andy. Portraits of Larkin with her older brother, or the twins. Collages of the kids everywhere.
Amy read somewhere that the best way to instill self-esteem in children is to wrap your home with pictures of them at different ages.

A framed poem about children hangs in one entrance to the kitchen: "I never saw it coming," it begins. "Their love - their souls as big as the moon - the way their laughter fills up every part of my heart...."
The house is organized for children, and particularly Larkin, who has both Down syndrome and a seizure disorder known as Lennox-Gaustaut syndrome.

Gates are positioned to block off the kitchen, if needed. In the doorway between the kitchen and family room, a bar holds a swing used as therapy for Larkin. The back-and-forth motion that has soothed many an infant also helps her with communication and spatial orientation. The minute Larkin gets in, she starts talking or smiling.
Larkin's favorite snacks - pretzels and Cheetos - are kept in a central spot in the kitchen island, so she knows where they are and can sign "more" or "eat."
"She has to indicate what she wants, but I make it easy for her to communicate," Amy says. "The way the house is set up, it allows her to self-advocate."
But the house has plenty of adult touches, too. Like the ornate painted chest in the hallway. Or the giant man-cave-like TV above the family room fireplace, which magically appeared when Amy and the girls were vacationing in Florida. Andy thought maybe she wouldn't notice.
Nearly the entire downstairs has been remodeled since the Armstrongs bought the house in 2003. They ripped out the cream carpets (with a mauve border, no less) and put in hardwood floors. They pried off the gold sponge-painted fireplace surround to find slate underneath. They gutted the kitchen down to the studs and installed custom hickory cabinets and tile floors. The "before" pictures, Amy says, are "horrifying."
"We went for materials that would keep Larkin safe but still be pretty and functional," Amy says.
The only area left to tackle is the master bathroom, which retains its '80s vibe with white laminate cabinets and a giant whirlpool tub.
Surprisingly, much of the house has a neutral palette, with pops of color.

safety trumps purdy
Amy manages to balance family life while keeping up with current research and news.
All while keeping a sense of humor...

"Children with disabilities need a soothing environment," she says, describing her style as "imperfections mixed with fun."
She's happy that her house can just as easily accommodate 10 kids for a party or a few friends relaxing over a glass of wine.

Read more ...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A House Tour- AND, It's For Sale!

There seems to be a big ole house swap going on in our neighborhood. Neighbors buying neighbor's homes, neighbors buying homes for their parents to live closer to family life and in this case, a neighbor is building a new home just a hop, skip and jump away.
Living in our neighborhood means walking our kiddos to school together, playing at Clark Park together, cooking out together and celebrating life's milestones together. 
This home is the best of all worlds. It has the old-town charm of glass doorknobs and wood floors but has the updated perks of new windows, an updated kitchen and remodeled baths. 
I am excited to share a lookiloo into this fantastic family home!

The Living Room...

New windows...
The dining room...
The natural lighting in this home is fantastic...

The kitchen is so spacious, light and airy!

You don't often find pantry space like this in older homes...

A designer powder room...

1205 W Charles St, Champaign, IL 61821
The sitting room that leads to the master bedroom...

The master bedroom...

The master bath...

Here is what the agent had to say:
Exceptional Clark Park residence with open living room, charming family room and a breakfast room with vaulted ceilings. Numerous improvements including: new roof (2008), new baths, Pella windows (2009) in most of home. In 2010 new garage interior, floor, front porch, landscaping and driveway. All new kitchen appliances fridge, dishwasher, range with double ovens, abundant corian counters and a wall of pantrys. Playroom (21.6 x 12.9)in basement and tremendous storage available. Master suite features sitting room, custom shower with skylight and walk-in closet. Laundry is conveniently located in first floor designer powder room. Wood deck (19.6 x 17). Move right in and enjoy all the updated amenities this 
great home has to offer. Minutes from all the fun and activities offered at Clark Park.

For more information, click here.
Read more ...

An Announcement, A Funny and 50 Bucks.

One of the greatest perks of blogging is the community of awesome women that I have met. Not only are they supportive and encouraging and smart, but most importantly (in my world, "funny" trumps almost everything) - they are funny!
So, when My Life and Kid's Anna asked me to be a  "community leader" with a group of other FABULOUS bloggers, I was thrilled. (Check out Finding The Funny)
We are going to be talking smack about all topics that are on our minds- from weddings and babies and homes to careers and writing and social media! Here is the best part- WE WANT YOU! Join the conversation HERE and enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Read more ...