Okay, I’m almost late (but not a dollar short; more like 55 cents), but technically it’s still Friday. I’ve been inspired by my fantabulous friend Kelli at Fresh Scratch to jump onto the InstaFriday bandwagon lead by Jeannett at Life Rearranged.

This week’s challenge was to snap a shot of a thing that I love. This week, in particular, that was a breeze, because it was my birthday and my always amazing birthday gift-giving husband got me this necklace, which I adore:

The rest of my week was memorable not only because of my birthday celebration(s), but because Clare started preschool. Hold me.

I was surprised by a weekend full of fun activities, including fancy dinner out — alone with Michael, which never ever happens anymore — and breakfast from my favorite bakery.

We ate at the wondrous Waterstreet Cafe, where we started with this gorgeous (and scrumptious) antipasto. And it only got better from there, which I wouldn’t have believed possible.

The kids walked the babysitter home. This was Clare’s first time with a babysitter (when she wasn’t already in bed for the night). Complete success! Now I see more date nights in our future. Finally.

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? On Sunday I had to go to a local eatery to take photos for an article I’m writing. They set me up with their yummy Jake sandwich. Little did I know I’d get a second free lunch later in the week when writing about one of Olympia’s new food trucks.

We ate a little birthday torte on Sunday evening. Clare was very excited about it. Xander, my ultra-picky eater? Not so much.

Clare at her first day of preschool. She did great. Hung back, observed quietly, but had a good time.

Birthday flowers on Tuesday from my mom and stepdad! Gorgeous.

Tuesday night I got to head out with my lovely friends Emily and Kelli for weeknight, the kids are in bed so let’s let loose birthday cocktails. Why yes, that is an empty glass next to a full one. Indulgence, thy name is Turning 41.

Took both kids to the dentist on Thursday. Even when it goes well, it’s never, ever fun.

Waiting to leave for preschool on Friday. Fall weather is finally here. I couldn’t be happier.

Xander, my baseball-obsesssed almost 7-year-old turned our front porch into a bullpen. Really, I’m surprised it took him this long.


Wordless Wednesday

I love the Pioneer Woman. Who doesn’t? I credit her almost completely with my huge jump in photography and editing skills a couple years ago, when I started reading her tutorials and downloaded her free Photoshop actions.

She does a regular photography assignment contest, and I always find it inspiring. This week’s subject is mobile phone shots, which I’ve almost completely moved toward, ignoring my sad, lonely dSLR. I’ve been playing around with Instagram a lot, so grabbed a recent photo I thought was interesting enough to add to her Flickr group.

Sure enough, she liked it and included it with the first group of photos. Thanks so much, Ree!

We finally broke out the paint brushes again, over the 4th of July weekend, and got busy giving Clare’s blah room a bit more oomph.

Remember what it looked like before?

Very beige, like every other room here in Beigeland, save the downstairs powder room and Xander’s bedroom. This is the third room we’ve painted since moving in almost three years ago; we could really do with upping the painting pace.

Here’s what Clare’s room looks like now:

I’m not sure it has the same before-and-after punch that Xander’s room had, but it’s still a wonderful change and, like always, I’m so glad we did it — and wondering why it took us so long.

I was going for something similar to Clare’s nursery, in our old house. But I like the slightly softer shade we ended up with even better.

Now it’s time to get serious about painting our master bedroom, the guest room, and the living/dining/kitchen/family room spaces. We need to hire a professional to handle the living room, because of its vaulted ceilings, but the other rooms are totally do-it-yourselfable. (Yes, I made that word up.)

At the lethargic rate we’ve been going, all painting will be complete just before we’re ready to move out.

The husband doesn’t agree, but he would be wrong. Heh.

I saw these at Nicole Balch’s amazing blog Making it Lovely, and fell in love. Quirky, clever, and functional. And when I saw the price? Well, I purchased them for our powder room without hesitation.

The quality is amazing, a heavy porcelain with a white glaze. The male vase arrived with a slight hairline crack in it, and CB2 sent a replacement immediately without making me go through the hassle of returning the marred piece. (Anyone want a slightly dinged — barely noticeable, really — wall vase in the shape of a male symbol? No? You really need the couple to make the look complete.)

I always forget how fantastic it feels to do a little decorating. Even just a smidge. It inspires me to do more. Up next: Clare’s room will finally get some color.

Sometimes a total gut-job is the only thing to do.

Michael and Stacee Sledge bought their 1924 home in Bellingham, Washington, knowing they could spruce up most of the place with paint, elbow grease, and a little DIY creativity — the bones of the neglected bungalow were great.

But the kitchen had to go.

“It had one tiny bank of original cabinets, which were so shallow we couldn’t even fit our plates in them,” says Stacee. “And the only place to put the appliances was smack dab in the walkway between the living room and the rest of the house. It was really awkward.”

The couple bought the house — a dog in an otherwise perfect neighborhood — for a steal, leaving enough budget to hire a local kitchen designer and contractor to re-imagine the culinary space.

At the top of the couple’s wishlist? Keeping the design in line with the home’s history: simple lines, schoolhouse light fixtures, and modest materials, such as maple counter tops and eco-friendly Marmoleum floors. Their kitchen designer was invaluable at making the space both comfortable and efficient.

“Every detail was thought out, from large drawers instead of lower cabinets to a wall of storage that included shelves for our cookbooks. We didn’t spend all that much on the designer’s plans, but by far that was the best decision we made, because everything fell into place perfectly with her input. She changed the placement of the exterior door and windows, which made a huge difference in how everything else flowed — we never would have come up with that.”

Stacee’s favorite part of the new space?

“Besides how great it looks and works? Hands down, the kitchen sink. We ordered the largest, deepest, stainless steel sink we could afford. I never understood the appeal of the double sink. Our behemoth single-basin sink means washing even the largest stock pot is a breeze.”

Keeping busy

Oh, it is miserable out there today. Lashing rain and gusts of wind that threaten to knock out our power. Earlier it was raining while the sun glanced off the wet pavement; now it’s just gray and grim. And wet. Crazy weather.

But this website is supposed to be about what goes on under my roof, not on top of it. So, here’s an update.

I’ve pulled back almost entirely from the writing I was doing for Examiner because I landed a promising local gig. I’m writing for a new website (brand new, really, and still a bit rough, so I’m not ready to share the URL just yet) that wants to become a local resource for businesses and community events. The technical side of things is strong and the venture is already pulling in revenue, but it really needs polishing on the content side. That’s where I come in.

I’m slowly adding new content to the site: restaurant write-ups, profiles of local folks, that sort of thing. It’s not rocket science and it’s not my dream job, but there is potential and I’m hopeful. It’s fun to be involved in the very beginning of something, to watch it grow and (hopefully) become something much bigger. Time will tell.

I’d nearly forgotten how much I like the process of planning, interviewing, writing, and editing. It’s so satisfying to have something (else) to concentrate on, something that’s all mine. The kids have been great about giving me a little extra time to work here and there while they play nicely together (really!) and come up with intriguing pretend games to keep them busy.

Having said all that, I hope to continue writing about food here, as well as house projects (more painting, a new bed for our master bedroom, a big girl bed for Clare, some decorative touches here and there, and so on…), and maybe more about the day-to-day minutiae of our lives. I know the grandparents, at least, will appreciate that last one.