Friday, July 24, 2009

Hot Happening Here

Salt Lake City does a thing they call "Pioneer Days" on July 24th each year. I had been told the holiday is celebrated with more gusto than Independence Day.

That made me raise my eyebrows a bit...but what can you do. The folks around here are proud of their ancestors who came to Salt Lake in 1849...many of them pushing or pulling a large handcart with all their worldly good from the East all the way to here.

The first group arrived on July 24, and the last leg of their journey is often undertaken again by youths who are the descendants of those pioneers. They don the clothing of the era, and learn what it was like to trudge along in heat often rising into the 100's in the valleys.

Let me just go on record as saying that I am glad my ancestors had the good sense to wait to come until could arrive by train...a couple of decades later.

Like I said, it is a big deal here, with most people off work today, and parade routes clogging down town, floats floating through not parade route streets after the parade is over, and fireworks and concerts galore planned for this evening.

Two days ago I popped into a local supermarket and saw the flyers above. Note what they are promoting.

Pioneer Days!

And Hawaiian Days!

(Maybe some Hawaiian pioneers paddled across the Pacific while the other pioneers were doing their thing with their handcarts. I really have no idea...but think the marketing department should stick to one celebration "days" at a time.)

It has been HOT, Hotter, HOTTEST the last two days, with temperatures at 100 degrees holding steady through the day and into the evening.
The smart thing to do would be to head home, go downstairs into the cool sunroom and curl up with a book after work.
But no...I decided that after my short workday yesterday I would finally take a moment and explore the rose gardens that I pass every day on my drive to work.
The garden is two city blocks long, with roses in the middle stretch and seasonal blooms on the edges.

The sole advantage of visiting the garden on a hot day: Extraordinary fragrance. The roses and the petunias were pouring their perfume in to the faint breeze like I had never experienced before.

I was dripping with sweat, the flowers were nearly dripping with scent.

It really is a treat to drive by this company's campus every morning. I always want to stop and enjoy...but I'm just about always running late...
So I promised and promised myself I would visit some time on the way home.
It is important to keep your promises, even those promises you make to yourself.
What I didn't know was that along the edges of the buildings were AMAZING zinnias in bloom!

With cooperative coordinating butterflies no less.

The grasshoppper was kind of cute too...although they are really better suited for seagull snacks.

I took a few pictures of the roses, and they were OK, but it was the zinnias that really took my breath away.
Flowers within flowers...
Petals with a secret second color....

Corals that I am lusting after...a bouquet of this variety would look perfect in my bedroom.

The front door to the company. Isn't it cool? Corporate art rocks....

Speckled zinnias...a new idea to me!
And stripes too!

Precision petals, unwinding perfectly.

If you asked me today or yesterday, I'd swear zinnias are my favorite flowers.

Especially the huge ones like this one.
The single daisy like zinnias don't do much for me, but intermixed with the big ones they look great.

At this point I was starting to feel a little woozie from the heat, rose fragrances, and vibrant zinnia colors. I started back to my car, mostly to get some air conditioning. If Laura had been with me, we probably would have taken a dip in this fountain on the side of the building.
Or maybe even the big fountain in front of the building.

She is fearless...which sometimes is just another way of saying "crazy, but fun."

Right next to the fountain was a nice sports car parked with its top down beneath a huge tree.
Now maybe it is just me, but I think that really is crazy.
Every heard of birds sitting in trees on hot days?
Ever noticed what happens to thing beneath the birds sitting in the trees on hot days?
If you haven't before, you might be in for a learning experience when you get back to your car....

An alley that would make a Southern Plantation owner proud.
The shade was most welcome!
Across the way I could see Mt. Olympus being shadowed by passing clouds.
The tallest of the little nubs in the distance is where I call home.
Fifteen minutes later and I was there.

My garden had scent and color to offer too: My first EVER Stargazer lily had bloomed!
I am SO excited!

Inside the house I did some tidying up. B. came home and then we headed back to the same street that the rose garden was on.

I have to say I am so thankful for air conditioning, especially in my car.

Notice anything different?
I'm not surprised.
Look again. IS a little different.
Still going with white exterior and tan interior though.
This makes three of that color combinations in a row!
(First picture: My old Toyota 4Runner. Second Picture my "new" 2006 Subaru Forester. With handy dandy all wheel drive and heated seats for when the seasons change and air conditioning will no longer be needed!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Before and After: The Downstairs Sunroom


The "sun room" which I had hoped would eventually hold my white glass front book cases, and white Ikea Ektorp couch and chair and ottoman.

I knew that I wasn't to be found on the deck, at the kitchen table or by the upstairs fireplace, I would be hanging out in this room.

I liked the white bead board, didn't like the dark paint trim around the old metal HUGE sliding glass door. It had the same olive green carpet as the family room, with a faded spot in front of the sliding door.

We used the room as our bedroom for about a month and a half. It was a wonderful bedroom! We loved waking up to a garden view, seeing the mountain glowing by moonlight in the distance at night. Loved it so much we considered making it our permanent bedroom...but the fact that room could hold a bed...a queen sized one at that, and that was all made us reconsider. There wasn't even a closet in the room, although there apparently had been at one time.

Overhead light in the sunroom before.


As seen from the patio: A new double paned slider and window has been added, a new (vintage) overhead light and new carpet and paint. That all that was done to the room in terms of renovation.....

A vintage diffuser was found replaced the former boring round one.

The plan to use the glass fronted book cases and my white sofa and chair didn't fly: the room wasn't tall enough for the book cases. The white sofa and chair were put in the room while this other set was used in the upstairs living room for awhile.

Can you believe it didn't automatically occur to us that THIS was the room for this couch and chair?

We decided it would also be our "bird" room: All our bird paintings and prints were hung in this room which is just prime for garden bird watching. The print above the chair is of four Canada geese. We liked the image of four, since we were a family of four when we purchased the print years ago.

The ruddy duck print was purchased long ago as a nod to us as a couple. Ruddies mate for life, and our last name is what is used to describe an immature waterfowl.

Naturally that fact influenced our decision when it came to collect art.

I'm still fighting the bland wall color via adding bright toned pillow accents. Painting the room a gentle pale teal shade is being considered...I have a thumbs down on the idea from Laura, and a "maybe someday" vote from Bernie. For now the room is soothing and serene just as it is.

My roll top desk, a print of two California quails, a water color of ducks in flight and two ceramic quail decorated the other walls.
Oh and Tiggie too. He is always very decorative.

I'd like to not have any silk plants in the house, but the one on the side chair isn't too bad. There were boxes and boxes and BOXES of silk plants to get rid off after moving here. They looked great in Texas...and not so good here. Thankfully Laura was able to use a lot of them in her new place in San Diego.
The roll top is the third desk in the house. With a lap top computer, I just really don't need desks anymore...bills are paid on line, I usually email or call instead of write...I suppose in a few more generations people will wonder what desks were used for long ago.

The (messy) patio view out the slider. The wheelbarrow and wooden box are part of a project in progress. it is time to get real. The truth: We have this ratty old cat tree in this room too. The cats appreciate being able to look at the pictures of birds and being able to watch the birds outside between naps.

We call it the area the sun room (and when you have fourteen rooms in your house it starts getting hard to remember what you decided to call some of them...) but really it should be called the nap room.

Bernie tends to fall asleep in here on weekend afternoons, and I have the same tendency. Snoring cats are better than sleeping pills to deal with bouts of wakefulness!

(Special note to Hal: Tiggie and the sofa are waiting for you to come and take a nap here soon!)

The view from the family room. The small weaving was a pre-engagement gift to Bernie that I made in my first Textile Design (aka Weaving) class. It was made on a simple frame loom.

I actually wound up taking three semesters of weaving. My parent's who were paying my out-of-state tuition were less than thrilled I think.

Me: Expert on weaving.
Big deal...ever see a job listing for a weaving expert?

The little picture facing it is a needlepoint (cross stitch?) picture of a tiger that my mom made for Jeff. The kids both went to a Christian elementary school that had selected a tiger as their mascot. He wound up with a nice collection of stuffed tigers because of that.

I wound up keeping the stitchery for now.

You can see the tiger better in the next picture.

Notice that the door jam is unfinished? It didn't come that way....Bernie had to pull the door jam off in order to make the opening big enough to get the family room furniture into the room.
Yes...the green family room furniture was bought in Texas. Everything is bigger in Texas. And clearly too big for a 50's style Utah house.

Bernie plans to do some electrical wiring in that area and will refinish the door jam when that is done. No hurry...the doorless doorway works fine without the door jam (smirk.)

Eventually we want to get a french door for the doorway, so the room could be used as an overflow guest room if needed.

Another view from outside to orient you: the window above the slider is the guest room window that looks out at the tree.

A few other items in the room: Our faces painted on rocks (done by a woman in Houston) sit on the wide windowsill.
We both have on our hats in the portraits!

On the floor (for now) is a collection of vacation memorabilia: Drift wood from Alaska, a worn conch shell from Grand Cayman Island, a chunk of "gold" rock from a river in Georgia in an area where our family once owned Cherokee land, and a brick from the plantation in Maryland that was build by Bernie's ancestors in the late 1600's. The house, named Resurrection Manor finally burned down in the early 1900's. The foundation and basement area can still be found in the woods near Johns Hopkins University.

Eventually I hope to have the items put in all in a glass case end table top along with some other small treasures.

I am loving the room, it is perfect just the way it is. It is cool in the summer, and the scented garden breezes blow through the screen door. In the fall I will watch the golden leaves swirl down upon the patio, and in the winter the white turns the view into magic.

It is still true what I said when I first posted pictures of the room...if you don't find me on the deck, or in the kitchen pop out, you will probably find me in this room, on the phone, talking to family and friends, and wishing they were here in the room with me instead.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Before and After: Downstairs Family Room


When I first saw this room there was a upright piano against one wall and a lone office chair. The entire area seemed dark and forbidding.

I visited the house several times before we decided to buy it, and each time I would almost recoil at going downstairs. The blinding white paint atop a blackish chocolate brown running into a golden yellow only made the room even less appealing to me.

The carpeting was a olive green, and faded in places.

Jeff, Bernie and Rachel LOVED the three sided fireplace on first sight.
I wasn't so sure about it, or anything else in the room for that matter.

The two white cubes overhead seemed to offer little light. Thankfully it was a walk-out basement, with the exits visible from this room, otherwise I'm sure I could not have handled being in it at all.
Right off the end of the staircase was another dark basement room, with a single small window up high. That room had a wild graphic of Bob Marley, and the two rooms seemed to be in a conspiracy together to be a place where no good was likely to have been done.

Soon afterwards I discovered that under the white and blackish paint was real wood paneling...knotty pine paneling to be exact.
I decided it would be a snap to strip the wood and change the room into a true '50's style "rec" room, with homey honey wood tone creating a natural feeling, and a cozy place to enjoy a winter day with the family enjoying sports on TV and a roaring fire.

Stripping the wood was NOT a snap after all; all the stripping products I tried would not work at temperatures under 50 degrees, and they also required good ventilation while using as well.

Since opening the window for ventilation immediately let all the heat out of the room while I was working in January, I couldn't keep the room temperature above 50 while the outside temperature was near freezing.

The stripping pictured above was the end result of several full days of work. Call me a quitter if you want. I knew when I was beaten and when it was time to give up.

We had scheduled new carpet to be delivered, and so we hurriedly painted the wood a totally neutral color.

Our furniture was still in Houston, and I had no way of selecting a paint color to harmonize well with our furniture for sure, so I defaulted to a rather blah beige, with a bolder blah beige for the trim work. Think of band-aid beige and you will be close.

Blah as it was, it was a real improvement over the white and black duo tones of before!
Up came the old olive colored carpet, and a shuffle board court was revealed!

So cool, so 50's, so fun...yet the fun could only be imagined now: the 1954 basement had been finished with asbestos tiles. The only safe thing to do was to cover up the shuffle board court again with new carpeting to prevent the asbestos from being scuffed and becoming airborne.

(Our next door neighbor had just finished scraping his basement clear of the same kind of tiles, tossing them into piles and then carting them out by hand about a year ago. Upon learning that the tiles had been asbestos, he merrily exclaimed "I'm a dead man!" He is an absolute kick to be with and has all the best building tools and gadgets that any man could want. Isn't that what everyone really needs in a neighbor? A sense of humor and good tools. Perfect!)

Back to our story: So in went beige carpet with flecks of green and rust that I hoped would work with our furniture.

The single windowed room looked much brighter with new carpeting, that was for sure.

It seemed much bigger too!
We moved our apartment furniture in (an IKEA couch, a borrowed recliner, a folding card table and two chairs) and settled in downstairs to wait for upstairs to be finished and for our furniture to arrive.

For all of February and much of March, this room was where we lived. It wasn't an easy time. Every spare moment was spent painting somewhere in the house. With a refrigerator in the garage, and no place to cook, we ate simply and got through each day dreaming of when all this renovation would be done.


Our furniture arrived at last.
I'm really not crazy about the paint color, but family wide opinion holds that the overall effect is quite relaxing. To liven the place up a bit, I switched out the matching toned couch pillows for a brighter collection.

It seemed quite odd to have such massive furniture in a space with such a low ceiling after having it all in a 12ft tall room for years.

But it works. I put the mirror that formerly was in our bedroom above the couch to reflect the light coming in from the sunroom.

The old hunting print at the foot of the stairs had been in my parents home for years.

Later Mom gave them to me, and now they fill the space at the foot of the stairs perfectly.

It took several tries to get the furniture arrangement to work. I wanted the couch to face the fireplace square on.

From the couch you can also get a glimpse outside through the sliding glass door in the sunroom.
Bernie wanted to make sure he could sit comfortably in his big chair and see the television easily. The enormous coffee table had to take on a new role if it was to stay in the room...and so for now it holds up the TV.

Above the TV are several collages that Bernie created to record our family raising years.

The single window gives us a view of our neighbor's roses and also of passing cats. The area between our houses seems to be a major cat thoroughfare. Thank heaven for the wide windowsill where our cats can monitor all this feline traffic!

(The ground outside is actually only about two feet below the windows base.)

Once we decided our former kitchen chairs were too formal for our upstairs area, they either had to go or fit in down here. I've set up a small game table between the chairs that can provide extra seating if needed.

The room will never be very bright, but I had a sea of lamps to use from our huge living room in Houston.

After a few thinks and re-thinks we got the former office furniture settled in downstairs. We had intended to sell the set, but it was easier to move it in (with a LOT of help from Laura) than to deal with moving it to a consignment shop or answering calls from potential buyers.

In the end the office furniture actually looks pretty good down there! A bit more formal that we'd like, but what the hey, it holds our paper files and whatnots in style.

And what is that on the fireplace?
I thought you'd never ask.
It is an assignment from an Advanced Textile Design course I took as part of my Home Ec. degree at Oregon State University (GO BEAVERS!) over 33 years ago.
I wove the piece using a pheasant skin as inspiration, and demonstrated design, surface texture and color placement using advanced weaving techniques. It hung up once for evaluation and then was never hung again.
As I was milling through boxes I came across it, and hungry for yet more color in the room, I patted the woolen piece onto the bricks, where it stuck neatly and securely, like flannel upon flannel.
It will be easy to lift off when we want to have colorful crackling fire come autumn.
But for now, Bernie and I both are enjoying having it around.
It is different, unexpected, and brings me back good college memories.
(If you click on the picture you can also get a good view of the unusual brick and mortar color combination. It was another reason why I hesitated to paint the room a more interesting color!)
The downstairs room is warm in winter and cool in summer, being deeply insulated in the earth. Bernie enjoys retreating down there to enjoy watching TV, and we both agree the fireplace is very nice to have crackling while we snuggle together on the couch.
Ultimately the room could hold many more people than our living room; yet the one time when that option would have been useful, no one was inclined to leave the party crush upstairs.
Still, I can imagine having friends and family using this room, and perhaps one day several generations will be found enjoying an evening of food, games and good conversation together in this room.
In the meantime, it is a room I don't use too much, much preferring to be outside or in a room with a better view.
For a basement room though, I think the room really turned out quite well.
But I'm still on the hunt for better overhead lights.
PS: A big HAPPY 31st Birthday Laura! You don't look a day over, um, 20something?
I love you more with each passing year, and am so glad that you are my daughter!
I wonder what new adventure are in store for you this coming year of your life.
Whatever they be, may you always be BLESSED!