Dear Readers, today I'm introducing a new feature that I've given the corniest name ever: Those Darndest Days. My hope is that Those Darndest Days will be interviews of women in different stages of life, while all celebrating one: childhood. 

The first interview is from my friend Kathryn of DesigningAround. Kathryn's blog has been one of my favorites for about a year now in part because of her witty writing, surprisingly not all that common in a design blog. This post will probably get you laughing.

Those of you who are not living in the perfect house will enjoy her take on working, or I should say, designing around obstacles.

Please introduce yourself to us!

Hi! I’m Kathryn, a mom to two ridiculously imaginative kids (a 10 year-old daughter with SPD and 6 year-old son, who we homeschool).

I work full time as the Education Director for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (although I’m super lucky to have a flex schedule that allows me to work partly from home). In between everything else I blog about home renovations, furniture rearranging, parenting, homemaking and whatever else strikes my fancy.

I like Cadbury crème eggs (so I’m very happy right now), read voraciously (anything but westerns or horror) and have a serious aversion to clutter. I’d like to be crafty, but am completely lacking in the necessary patience, love gardening in the spring and generally start ignoring it in July and am a pretty good baker.

I have degrees in English Literature and Dance and used to think I’d go back for a Ph.D., but that’s looking less and less appealing.

I read far too many blogs and need to exercise more. And by more I pretty much mean at all.

Goodness, this is getting confessional 

What is your earliest memory?

I don’t really have any memories that I know are real till I was four or five. I remember coming in for breakfast, with my blankie (which I kept for a long time) and seeing my family already up. I remember laying over the side of the couch, so my head was upside down, staring at the patterns in our orange shag rug (yep) and the light from our front door.

And I remember putting sheets over our backyard swing set and playing gypsy fortune teller with my sister, smashing up sunflower seeds to make pretend food mash for the elves and trying to dig up our dead fish to see how they were decomposing (my mother cleverly moved the grave markers once she caught on to that activity). 

What important experiences have you wanted for your children? 

We live in a very urban area, very different from where my husband and I grew up (although he spent a lot of time in San Francisco). We try to find ways for them to still have an outdoor childhood, where they ride bikes and run around to everyone else’s house.

I also think that providing space for imaginative play and creativity is very important, so I make sure there aren’t too many scheduled activities and lots of open materials and spaces in the house that they can engage in open-ended imaginative play.

At some point, we’d like to spend time traveling with them, but that budget has been taken up by various therapies and schooling.

What is the best lesson your parents taught you?

My parents were very encouraging, I always felt supported when trying new things. I think it’s one of the reasons we decided to buy this house, despite having very little DIY knowledge. 

What is the best lesson your children have taught you?

Ha! Patience. They’re still teaching me that. I’m not very good.

Have you ever worried about having inadequacies as a parent? How have you overcome that?

Every day. Who doesn’t? I worry about managing my daughter’s anxiety and impending teen-dom, raising her to be self-confident, articulate and capable. Having the strength to let her be herself, with all her quirks that make no sense to me.

And I worry about my son, are we doing enough with the homeschooling, what else does he need, does he have enough friends? 

What helps you get through hard days?

Alcohol? Seriously though, taking some space. Giving myself permission to hand a child an iPad for a moment or allow myself a time out. Or to go ahead and order dinner even if there’s enough food in the fridge because I’m tired. Venting on facebook.

How do you handle remodeling with kids in the house? 

In bits and pieces. My children are older now, so it’s much easier. When we started my daughter was 18 months. We moved in, ripped off all the crumbling plaster and took out the kitchen. Looking back I have no idea how we did it. We were younger.

As your children grow, what do you already miss the most?

I miss the park. Which I never thought I’d say. I miss randomly connecting with other parents, there’s much more pass-by as they get older and you drop them off places instead.

And of course I miss snuggles, when I could pick them up easily. There are still plenty of snuggles, but they’re big and wiggly now.

How do you wish that your kids' childhood was more like yours? 

I wish they had more freedom, more wilderness, more exploration. More frogs. 

And how do you wish that your childhood had been more like your kids?

We have amazing museums and zoos at our fingertips in Chicago. They are such an everyday part of our lives. There are a lot more kids here too, we had to drive everywhere, there are a good 30 kids within 3 blocks here.
What do you hope you are teaching your children? 

To be themselves, always. To be creative. To value learning. To be kind. To like good food. To seek out new adventures. I’m probably just teaching them sarcasm though. 

What do you love most about your kids?

Who they are. They are smart, crazy, creative little creatures who astonish me every day. Although there are certainly days when I like them best asleep.

I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did! Thanks, Kat! 

P.S. That's a drill team picture of Kat, NOT marching band.  Knowing she worked for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago should've tipped me off ...


Last time I did a post on the whole kitchen, it looked something like this:

kitchen before progress
kitchen before progress

And before I show you what it looks like now, I want you to know that these are PROGRESS shots. This kitchen is no where near finished.

Basically, what I'm trying to say, is that everything you see wrong in these pictures; everything that you think is "off" -- will be fixed.

Now that you're properly prepared, here you go -- the kitchen now:

turquoise kitchen after progress concrete cement countertops

Don't worry. I know about those off-center plates and the nicks in the island -- maybe we should have the kids park their ride-on toys somewhere else?

I've thought a lot about why most kitchen makeovers don't speak to me. I'm not interested in white cabinets or subway tiles or marble countertops or any of that stuff. I mean, common! What's wrong with me?? Because there's no denying that they're beautiful. It's just not what I see myself living in.

I think that part of it is that most people want a kitchen that is clean (pristine?), calm, soothing, even luxurious. These are all good things, but what I want is a kitchen that's fun, homey, different, unpretentious and yes, even kitschy.

And no, I don't know why I want that, but I think that's exactly what we have here.

turquoise kitchen after progress concrete cement countertops
turquoise kitchen after progress concrete cement countertops

I shot this dark picture straight into the window just so I could show you the light that I salvaged from the original master bedroom and spray painted.

Big glass orb with a fun pattern? That's exactly the kind of thing that I like, but it looked tiny in the bedroom and giant (as it should) over the sink.

turquoise kitchen after progress concrete light cement countertops

This shot showcases the wall of wallpaper, and also every sore thumb in the room: the laundry room (that is so ugly, I put a sheet over it), the plywood counter on the island, the desk and chair that need a makeover, the disco ball hanging from the ceiling fan (wait, that might stay in some form), and the duct-taped door to the basement.

turquoise kitchen wallpaper after progress concrete cement countertops

Maybe you can imagine the duct-taped door replaced with a new one with a window and painted to match the cabinets and the back door?

turquoise kitchen door after progress concrete cement countertops

No, it's not perfect, but it's a far cry from what we started with. (P.S. That's the old dining room you're seeing on the right.)

kitchen before progress

Thanks, Apartment Therapy for posting our dining table
My favorite comment: Ummmm....can we see a picture of the husband? #dreamman

Also, those of you who've had trouble commenting -- I think it's fixed (Thanks, Woo!). I'm considering writing a post about it in the future. Title: Linkwithin Exposed (dunh, dunh, dunh!)

Another thing, I'll be introducing a new feature this afternoon. Stay tuned.

And just one more thing, someone found my blog yesterday by googling "worst kids rooms." Thanks.

Curious where this house is headed next? Click here to subscribe to this blog!




little girl lederhosen instagram

You've probably already heard about the freeze in the midwest, and let me tell you, it was piercing.

We knew our house was drafty, but with the temperatures in the negatives, the leaks from outside were really noticeable. It was like walking through ice water every time we walked past the front door. At the end of the second day, I finally tacked up a heavy blanket over it.

Anyway, we're out of that now, and are truly enjoying our days in the 20s and 30s. Hopefully, those were our coldest days of the winter.

The plus side (which I do appreciate) is that we'll have much fewer bugs in the spring since the ground froze so deep.

little girl pajamas dad instagram

Wednesday evening, I was calmly informed that Woo's app was done.

On Saturday evening, it was finally submitted, but don't congratulate us, we're not happy about it.

Woo is "100% sure" that it's going to be rejected, and he also discovered a problem that works now, but won't work when Apple updates stuff.

As I'm writing this Woo discovered my Christmas present from someone at church..."Only the BIGGEST corn bag anyone has seen or made!!! Let's bust it open, and eat it! We need the food!"

It looks to be about 12"x18".

kids making train car truck with chairs instagram

I used to think that Ruby and Herbie were such good friends because they were so close in age, but now I think it's just Ruby, since she seems to be building a similar bond with Moses (who is also pretty close to her in age, I guess).

One night after dinner we heard Ruby tinkering in the kitchen and discovered that she had cleared absolutely everything off the table. I was probably spared a heart attack since I didn't actually have to watch her carry all the dishes to the dishwasher. Instead I could just be thrilled that she'd been so helpful.

Just when I'd decided to look again for a local preschool for Ruby, I learned that the new kids in Herbie's nursery had been flashing gang signs (!?!) along with being violent, etc. No wonder the class was in an uproar.

Also, Herbie's new favorite word is "dangerous."
"No, Dad! I'm not hilarious. That's dangerous!"  
"Ruby, don't look at that book! That's dangerous!"  
"Ruby, I don't want you to wear my socks! They're dangerous!" 
Apparently, the serious nature of "dangerous" has gone over his head. At least he knows it's something negative.

little boy and girl siblings lederhosen instagram

Herbie requested the lederhosen today for church, which he wore to the amusement and delight of many.

baby boy smiling instagram

Moses stood by himself, for short amounts of time, twice this week. He seems to be on track to be our earliest walker. He's experimenting a lot with sounds right now. A lot of "mmmm, mma, mmomms" and "daaa, daaa, daaads" as well as lots of random buzzes and squeaks.

He continues to be an excellent and good natured baby. The easiest we've ever had.


PAST BLASTS are weekly emails I wrote to family and friends over the past 5 years. Pictures are current with the email, but have been added at a later date.




Day By Day

Monday: Woo springs for the Nest. This is the kind of stuff Woo's dreams are made of. I never thought I'd be that into a thermostat, but I have to admit it's pretty nice.  Plus, I'm happy to get rid of the ugly old one proped up by a pen.

old thermostat instagramnest thermostat man baby girl instagram

Jury's still out as to whether the plate (painted) or the patched wall behind it would look worse, so we're living with an unpainted plate for now. 

Herbie goes to school alone.

little boy snow instagram

Ruby carries over her late night/early morning sneaking from last week, and starts the morning very, very tired -- to the point of not being able to function. We send her back to bed, and she naps until 11. (I think we've gotten the problem solved *cross fingers*. She's been much better since then.)

little girl looking in mirror instagram

Woo does a dramatic, impassioned reading of an email he got from Olga of Russia. Which gives him a great, new app idea ... great enough to actually write?

Tuesday: Archie and I get a baby shower. Archie gets swooned over and basks in praise for falling asleep while just sitting in someone's lap.

baby boy sleeping instagram

Wednesday: Linus tries on Archie's new clothes. 

little boy long hair smiling instagramlittle boy long hair smiling instagram
little boy long hair smiling instagramlittle boy long hair smiling instagram

Moses and Penelope also try, but Moses is too big (for us to allow it), and Penelope is too little (to have any success).

baby girl instagram

Thursday: Moses and I show up an hour early to Herbie's class Valentines party. We sit and watch Herbie's class, which Moses loves. (Herbie loves it too.) 

little boy classroom instagram

Except that going out to recess terrifies Moses. "A big kid won't let me go down the slide!!" Bad experience last time, I guess. 

Woo plays a romantic mix: Sergio Mendes, Cat Stevens, Bob Marley, Burt Bacharach, Josh Rouse, Johnny Cash, The Cure, Air Supply (for romantics who want a good laugh) -- every song that I loved 10 years ago, and still do. I guess I'm getting old.

Friday: After some laundering Archie finally gets to try on his own new clothes

baby boy chevron instagram

Tummy time is a big hit. As usual.

baby boy crying chevron instagram

How was your week?


Past Blast: Time with Mom


little boy skuut balance bike instagram

Herbie had a rough morning one day this week, so Woo, Ruby and Moses took off for the pool, and Herbie and I stayed home to do some chores and then walk to the grocery store to pick up a few things.

I don't normally think of having three kids as hard, but, WOW! One kid is EASY!

I felt like we could go anywhere and do anything. Herbie loves doing chores anyway, but we got a lot done, and had a good time together.

Unfortunately, Herbie had too much fun, because he suggested that we do the same thing the next day while everyone else went to the pool again.

little girl car seat making face instagram

Ruby and I also had a visiting teaching appointment this week. Ruby was thrilled. Herbie and Moses were distraught. We had to hurriedly escape through the front door before a screaming Herbie and Moses could slip out with us. Ruby and I were both tired, which meant that I wanted to sit on the couch and do nothing, and she wanted to move everywhere and touch everything.

We did not have a good time.

When we got back, everything was peace and calm. "Did you guys have fun?" "Yeah. You?" "Sure," but when Herbie said his prayer, it became clear that Ruby and I had gotten the short end of the stick. 

"And Dad and me and Moses went for a walk, and we went to the cemetery, and we talked to the dog, and we threw rocks down the big hole, and we..."

Ruby looked up at me, and I shrugged apologetically. She may not be so excited to go with me next time.

little boy cemetery tombstone instagram

I got tired of dilly-dallying around Moses and the potty this week, and decided to give it my full court press. He seems to have all the pieces, but is just not getting them all together, when it counts. I think I'll go strong for one more week, and if he doesn't get it together, back off until he's 17 months, and try again.

He's picking up more words, which no one but his own mother would understand, and he spends a lot of his time sitting on the couch and looking at board books (which I love). 

Woo's had better weeks. Partially, in part, because of me. (First trimester with Linus.) It's started to get to him that I've "gone from super-mom to average-mom," which is kind of a compliment, but it's true that I just can't seem to keep on top of anything right now.

He's had to endure meals that revolve around my cravings... beef, tomatoes, lots of salt. Last night I served cold cereal and fruit. The kids were ecstatic. Woo wisely said nothing.

I figure I'm allowed to do it once in my life.

The house is not very clean... I've let the laundry pile up... I think we're both glad that I should be feeling better in just a couple of weeks.


PAST BLASTS are weekly emails I wrote to family and friends over the past 5 years. Pictures are current with the email, but have been added at a later date.