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?"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Unlikely Superhero

If you know me at all, you know that I often find myself in ... er, compromising positions. 
Like, the time I was naked at the YMCA. Or, that unfortunate breastfeeding incident. Then, there is always my list of horrors.
All of these moments ran through my head as I found myself chasing a dog down the busiest street on the planet. An unlikely hero came to my rescue. 
I'm telling all about it In The Powder Room today.
As usual, I found myself asking, "HOW DID I GET HERE?"

Raising my glass to the superhero that came to my rescue!

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Goodbye, Varicose Veins!

I gained almost 80 pounds with my fourth bundle of joy. I had gained between 70 and 75 pounds with each of the first three. I became the human rubber band. 
With the finale baby, however, I got more than a bundle of joy at the end. I had a pregnancy souvenir known as varicose veins.
I remembered that my own mother had always worn slacks or long skirts, never shorts. I apparently come from a long line of vein exploders. 
I followed suit and stocked my closet with slacks and long skirts. Fearing that a full body wetsuit at the pool would bring great shame to my children, I opted for the oh, so fashionable sarong. 
If someone was cursed lucky enough to catch a glimpse of my leg, they would say, "OH, NO! What happened to your leg?" or the under 5 crowd would exclaim, "Is there a snake in your leg?"
When my moffice-mate, Jill, heard about my snake leg, she interrogated me about why, for the love of chocolate, had I not had them removed? 
I gave her my best arguments. I am a big ole scaredy cat of going to the doctor. (Remember the mammogram mafia?) It would cost me an arm and a leg (get it? a leg?). She played her trump card. Her husband happens to be a doctor and happens to do this exact procedure. She plotted an ambush and her husband shot down answered all of my questions.
Dr. Youse had me on the schedule before I could say "I am just too busy ironing my slacks."
Here is the process as it played out on my iphone. To distract myself, I took pictures and texted my pals updates. 

Text #1: Would it be wrong if I trim my toenails while I wait?

Text #2: Look! An IV of vodka!

Text #3: They gave me an Ativan. I don't think it's working.

Text #4: Get a good look at that beast because it is on it's way out!

Text #5: Jeremy (I mean "Dr. Youse") is using a sharpie on my leg. I'm getting the giggles and battling the urge to shout "Dr. Youse is in the house!"

Text #6: I think the Ativan is working.

Text #7: He is removing my veins and I am feeling groovy.

Text #8: They are so nice! I even got a hawt new pair of tights! 

Text #9: This is going to build up my street cred, huh?


TEXT #10: I'm showing my legs for the first time since "Friends" was a hit show.

Do not let the name of this procedure - Microstab Phlebectomy- scare you. The only regret that I have is that I did not do it sooner. For Christmas, I have asked for shorts.

To learn more about Dr. Youse, click here.
To learn more about Christie Clinic, click here.
To learn more about Dr. Youse and his lovely and persuasive wife, click here.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

HouseTalkN With Kevin & Mary Hambly

I am excited to share another feature from the 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. 
                                                                                                                                            Photo credit: Mike Koon
The Hambly home is one of those that makes you want to plunk a "For Sale" sign in your front yard and yell, "Where do I sign?"
It meets all the items on the checklist for old-house lovers (porch, fireplace, woodwork) who want every convenience of a modern house (four bedrooms, two-car garage) - and then some. Like a gorgeous renovated kitchen. And one of those mudrooms straight out of Pottery Barn.
Of course, it didn't look exactly like this in 2004, when Kevin and Mary Hambly moved in. He is better known as the coach who took the University of Illinois volleyball team to the national championship game last year, and she is a former star volleyball player for the Illini.
Wallpaper covered every inch of the house when they bought it. The downstairs kitchen was about the size of a butler's pantry, boxed in by a maze of closets and mechanicals.
"It was terrible," Mary says.
But the charm and overall layout won them over, and the couple has spent the last few years turning it into the perfect family house.
It wasn't easy.
"This was my first house, and Kevin is definitely a Renaissance man but he is definitely not handy," Mary says.
She assured Kevin they could take off all the wallpaper themselves - "not knowing 100-year-old houses don't have drywall." They spent six months pulling down the wallpaper from the first floor in between hectic work schedules, then gave up and hired someone else to do the second floor.

Walk into the living room now and you get an immediate feel for the old and new - and the Hamblys' style. Traditional, but with contemporary touches: the white couch, a serene shade of gray on the walls, and pops of red-orange in the classic-print pillows and upholstery.
They chose the wall color first, knowing they wanted black and white photos on the walls. They replaced their "ugly sectional" with grown-up furniture from These Four Walls in Monticello. Kevin got his leather chair, and the store's designer helped them choose the rest.

Old houses weren't exactly made for flat-screen TVs, Mary says, but they found a layout that works. The family spends lots of time together in the room.
The sofa flanks the fireplace and provides good movie-watching. The coffee table is converted  to a game table for frequent Uno matches - "We're big board-game players," Mary says. A comfy upholstered chair on the other side of the hearth is where Mary likes to curl up with her daughters to read a book.

"I wanted my chair by the fireplace. I love to snuggle up by the fire," she says. The painting is from Checkered Moon and the stool from Ballard Designs, but almost all the accessories, including the matching mercury lamps, are T.J.Maxx finds.
The room isn't fussy, and has an airy feel - plus the mandatory circle for the couple's young girls, Quinn, 6 and Mara, 4 to run around.
"It is open for an older house," she says. "We got the best of both worlds."
The dining table is new but looks like reclaimed wood. Behind it, sage green paint provides a neutral backdrop for the kids' artwork on a wall under the divided light-windows.

The kitchen renovation was more complicated. The original tiny kitchen was separated from the dining room by two closets and a wall housing a chimney, dumbwaiter and laundry chute. Mary's father, a retired contractor, has assured them they could renovate but the potential cost was "enormous," she says.

In June 2007, Mary's brother (Contractor and builder, Pat Coleman) announced that he and a friend were taking two weeks off to re-do the Hambly kitchen. Mary and Kevin joined in for the demo, ripping out walls and opening up the space into one large room.
The updated result maintains the feel of the old house. The cabinets are cream with a brown glaze, blending with the stone tile backsplash and brown quartz countertops. Where the wall once stood, two graceful metal and glass pendants hang above an expansive island where the kids can climb up for a snack or homework. 
Just off the kitchen is a former back porch that was enclosed and converted to a mudroom every mom would love - beadboard walls, benches with storage underneath, open shelves with baskets for the kids' belongings.
"Seriously, this is my favorite part of the house," Mary says. 

Behind the dining room is the girls' playroom, which is being "transitioned" to an office/music room/den. It also could be a fourth bedroom or guest suite, with a full bath attached. The Hamblys hope to put in French doors that would open to the wraparound back deck.
Part of Kevin's vast guitar collection is already in the room, but the rest is upstairs in the sunroom off the master bedroom, where he spends hours playing alone or with the kids. The girls have their own guitars for the family rock band, The Robins, with Maura as lead singer. Kevin comes from a musical family and even played in garage bands as a teen.
"This is definitely what makes the stress peel off," Mary says.
The room also sports an olive-green velour chair that Kevin bought at a thrift store on their first date in Rochester, Minnesota. Mary was playing for a professional volleyball team, Kevin was the assistant coach, and they frequented thrift stores as they explored the city together.
The couple's next project is an upstairs bathroom makeover, scheduled for January.
Down the hall is a guest bedroom and the girls' bedroom, done in green and pink with white bunk beds. Tulip appliques that look like hand-painted flowers cover one wall.
Mary remembers coming up the stairs on her first tour and seeing the angled walls, sloped ceilings and the huge tree outside the girls' window. It felt, she says, "like a treehouse."

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

All That Glitters...

*I'm trying to get in the holiday spirit by looking at last year's posts...

Well...I made it two weeks before changing up my holiday tablescape. Some kind of record in these parts. 
Here was the first tablescape of the season:

Feeling like a slacker, I changed things up today! Take a lookiloo...

I went a tad wild with white Christmas lights...on the table, on the tree, on the buffet...on the children...

Are you a "one shot" holiday decorator or do you change it up as you go?

Link Par-taaay at:
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Humble Pie For Thanksgiving

Meet me In The Powder Room today to hear about the first Thanksgiving that I spent with my husband's family. 
I knew that I was about to meet the people that my husband adored most in the world. What if they hated me? What if I hated them? 
It was a whirlwind of practical jokes (theirs), humble pie (mine), and strong personalities (ours).
Do you have any "first holidays together" shenanigans to share?

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Make A Joyful Noise...Wordless Wednesday

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