Monday, December 5, 2011

Enjoying A Slower, More Meaningful Christmas Season

You probably could have guessed this, but in the past the Christmas season hasn't always flowed very well for me. Don't get me wrong, I've always made it all come together-some how, some way (like most things in my life). Yet, it usually came at a price (like loosing lots of sleep, or not having time to make cookies w/the kids in order to clean the house for company, etc...). And, it always seemed to happen at the very last minute with me running around like a crazy lady charged up on a combination of pure adrenaline and guilt-afterall, my efforts were responsible for building memories for my children!

But this year is different.

With a new found appreciation for a slower, more meaningful life, I started thinking about my vision of Christmas much earlier than I ever would have before. I found inspiration from one of my most loved go to resources, Simple Mom, with her Plan Your Peaceful Christmas series. I began prioritizing certain aspects of Christmas and nixing others. So far, I'm actually feeling ahead, and because of it I've had the time to plan for lots of fun holiday activities, as well as new traditions. It's made such a huge difference-even this early in I just need to keep this rythm flowing!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Slow Home Living Room: Update!

I know, I know, I've been gone for way too long- again. As ashamed as I am to admit this, one of my biggest faults is failure to follow through with all of my many good intentions! Potential New Year's goal- I'd say so.

Moving on... I do have a few updates on some of the changes we've made to our living room to help the room better reflect the slow home principles. I'm so pleased to say that all of them were fairly simple, and cost effective changes, and required very little time and effort to complete! It was just a matter of making it happen.

My goals for this room included the following:
  • install curtain tie backs
  • consider re-arranging furniture
  • make use of extra (wasted) wall space so as to enhance it and utilize it! (add decor?)
  • fix hole in wall
  • arrange all wires so they're not seen
  • install an outlet in the floor underneath of the couch to prevent the lamp cord from stretching across the floor to an outlet in the wall. (husband can do this!)
  • Add cushions to antique wooden chairs to make extra seating more comfortable 
Here is one of the before photos:

And the After:

You can see that the changes here weren't monumental by any means, but they are enough to make a difference. I installed curtain holders on the walls so I could hold back the curtains properly, without having to twist them up and tuck them behind one of the shutters. 

 I also found these fantastic large cushions at a local consignment store. The colors on the fabric match our living room decor perfectly, and they are super comfortable to lean against, which now gives function to these once hard back wooden chairs.

Remember that ugly hole in the wall? In the above photo, you can see that we finally installed a proper box for the speaker wires...however, I still need to patch up the wall along the side.

And that awful lamp cord that ran across the floor...

Well, we installed one of these under the couch, giving us a floor outlet in the center of the room, directly underneath of the couch.

Now we are able to plug in our lamp, and not have to worry about that awful cord running across the floor!

Oh, and when Pete got to work on this project (remember he's an electrical engineer) we discovered something really cool, something that made his work all that much easier- directly under the place on this floor where we planned to install the floor outlet, there is another electrical outlet on the ceiling of our garage. Go figure.

That's when it all clicked-literally. All of the time we've lived in this house, we could never find an outlet that connects to the third light switch on this panel. Now we know. The builder of this home apparently planned to install a floor outlet, but just never got around to making it happen. I'm happy to say that the lamp in the center of our room can now be turned on and off with this switch perfectly! 

As for all that wasted wall space? Unfortunately, I still haven't come up with a solution yet.... Any ideas? Suggestions?

I'd love to hang some large artwork, and would even love to get to work on creating a few pieces of my own artwork to hang...but you know how that goes-my intentions sometimes tend to be a bit too grand. One of these days I'll make it happen!  

In the meanwhile, we've really been enjoying our first cool weather garden! It's been so nice to not have to buy certain produce such as salad greens, beans, and sugar snap peas.

I'm looking forward to expanding the garden next year to include a larger variety of things.

Over the next few weeks (because as you can probably already tell, I've kind of nixed the whole let's get it all done in just 12 weeks idea) I'll be working on the playroom/office/creative space of our house, as well as the kid's rooms. I'm looking forward to it, and am once again feeling inspired!

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Expansion into Slow Living

amazing what happens when you slow sown

This week while I spent some time researching more about the slow home movement, I discovered my search leading me to a variety of other types of "slow" focused concepts. The more I learn and process, the more I realize that this personal endeavor of mine is becoming so much more to me than just a challenge to create a slow home. It's expanding to include a shift toward a slower way of life.

In my opinion, this approach isn't about slowing down so much that a person ends up on the sidelines of life, but rather that he or she takes the time to truly consider the impact, as well as the potential effects, resulting from the choices we make throughout life.

I find it comforting to know that there are people out there, lots of them, in fact, who live wholeheartedly within the realm of slow living philosophies. Among them are mothers and fathers, doctors, teachers, writers, builders, and more. They all see the incredible benefits of slowing down a variety of situations within their lives, whether it be the design and efficiency of their home, their family's hectic schedule and weekly activities, how they spend their money, or even the way they celebrate holidays and other life experiences altogether.

I'm moved by the results of their efforts, and can't help but find inspiration in their willingness to share their own personal beliefs and experiences about slow living, even if it's met with doubt or disbelief. It works for them, and it appears that is simply enough, that is the reward.

I want that.

Two months ago, I began this challenge in an effort to live a more mindful, purposeful life. I love the idea that this is a continual process, one that will constantly shift, and evolve with all of the twists and turns in my life. Yet, what I'm finally realizing more than anything, is that the philosophies of slow living are not representative of some momentary cultural trend- instead they're designed to shape and direct our daily intentions and actions toward creating a higher level of sustainability, as well as more meaningful life experiences.

And that my friends is my two cents for the day!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My 401st Post!!!!!!!!

Wow, I almost forgot to make note of my reaching the 400th post written here on Kate's Musings!

Although I have issues committing (there have been a few times when I've stayed a way a bit too long) I LOVE this space!!! I published my first post on April 15, 2008, in an attempt to create a personal space in which I could pursue my creativity and share my opinions, ramblings, adventures, quests, challenges, achievements, photos, and all around love of LIFE.

I think I've managed to do a bit of that since then, and wrote about it here: The Evolution of Me.

It wasn't long before I wrote about my passion for green living expanding and growing, and as I adjusted to my new role as a parent, I realized that it was now my responsibility to teach my children about protecting the Earth and their environment, as well as their own health.

I wrote about the crazy adventures associated with our moves...from Dublin, GA to Columbia, SC....and then from SC to Birmingham, AL and all of the temporary living in between:

And then there are all of my efforts to capture parenting experiences and so many amazing moments shared with my children, such as this, A reminder of Innocence, and this, A letter to Nate on his 5th Birthday, and this, The Little Things.

Most recently, this blog has shifted gears to focus on slow home living...and I love it. It's a true reflection of where I am in life right now...making desperate, yet, whole hearted efforts to create a home that is both nurturing for my family and efficient enough to help us enjoy more of life, rather than wasting precious time and energy. I'm excited to add to Kate's Musings this area in which I can reflect and document my research, findings, challenges and successes regarding my Slow Home Challenge.

I am not perfect, and I have made lots (and lots) of mistakes throughout my 37 years. I'm a little bit out there, a little bit bold, and a whole lot passionate about way too many things. Yet, here I can be myself, no matter what. I can sit at the keyboard and just see where my mind directs my fingertips...What better a way to grow and learn then by creating a space where one can document and explore all of the possibility surrounding personal experiences?

I love that I have so many friends and family who take the time from their busy routines to stop by and visit here...I hope you'll see my life spread out here for another 400 posts!

Slow Home Challenge: The Living Room

My Living Room

According to the Slow Home Studio, all living spaces (indoor and out) in a slow home should have a natural focal point, access to good amount of daylight, and should also be able to accommodate a variety of uses- without wasted space.

I have mixed feelings about my living room as it is in it's present state. Some aspects of it meet the slow home philosophy, and then there are others that definitely do not.

The rectangular shape of the room works well, and provides enough space to accommodate plenty of room for furniture and playing, as well as a clear, walkable pathway in and out of the room. I believe the TV should NOT be the focal point of this room, so we arranged the couch to face the fireplace. Yet, because we do have the TV in here, it's nearly impossible for multiple people to sit on the couch and enjoy a show without having both their head and body facing different focal points. A bit of a challenge...

It's almost impossible to open the plantation shutters in this room- 3 out of 4 have no wall on which to rest, and have to protrude straight out like an open door.

The floor to ceiling windows should provide enough natural lighting, but because they face the North West of the house, we don't get a whole lot of daylight in here until late afternoon. I have a love/hate relationship with the wooden plantation shutters-they're gorgeous, and help provide extra insulation, not to mention privacy. Yet, they're a nightmare to dust, and in in many rooms of the house, if I want to open them all of the way up, there is simply no where for them to go except straight outward, where they block a walking path, or are even a bit dangerous!

While I'm discussing the windows, I may as well point out these lovely curtains. The previous homeowner left these with the house- for which I'm incredibly grateful. They're well made with a heavier, darker colored fabric, that helps serve as both an additional heating and cooling method. Yet, in order to allow any amount of natural lighting into this room, I need to do this weird twisting thing to the curtains and tuck them behind the shutters. It's really way more work than is needed...The funny thing is that I know all I have to do is install some proper tie backs to make them entirely more efficient, to save more of my time, and to prevent further wear and tear.

My husband is a bit of a gadget/technology geek. As an electrical engineer, he's really quite handy when it comes to anything regarding installing new devices, equipment, computers, etc...but as you can see, his priorities don't often include creating a much more aesthetically pleasing presentation of all the wiring that accompanies such technology. We'll be working on that.

More unappealing wires- not to mention it's a complete safety hazard!

And on that note...yes, what you see in the photo above is an actual hole in the wall. It's been there for about two years now. That is high on the priority list this week!

This a big room. Strangely, it's not because of the actual floor space, but rather the height from floor to ceiling. I see it as wasted space (in fact, if someone wanted, they could build another room upstairs above this space!). But since it's not going anywhere, I may as well find a way to enhance it, to use it, to do...something with it! And of course, I plan to tackle a little bit of the decor while I'm at it.

My goals for this room:
  • install curtain tie backs
  • consider re-arranging furniture
  • make use of extra (wasted)  wall space so as to enhance it and utilize it! (add decor?)
  • fix hole in wall
  • arrange all wires so they're not seen
  • install an outlet in the floor underneath of the couch to prevent the lamp cord from stretching across the floor to an outlet in the wall. (husband can do this!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Falling Off the Wagon

I am here today to get myself back on track with my Slow Home Challenge! I'll admit, I'm kind of ashamed at my having "fallen off the wagon" so to speak over the last two weeks as far as posting updates etc... (head hung low here)...but I am human, and therefore I make mistakes, lots of them....

The challenge is still going really well though- I've been postponing sharing updates here mostly because I am still waiting on a few bigger changes to be completed. I need to learn to just be open and honest about it all-not avoid relaying my experiences here. Just another lesson learned.

A while ago I mentioned that I had the chance to interview John Brown, founder of the Slow Home Movement! I wrote an article about him and the concept, and earlier this week it was published on My Green Birmingham...check it out here-
The Slow Home: Design to Enhance Sustainability and Quality of Life

Otherwise, I plan to resume Slow Home efforts and updates at the start of next week-when I'll write my 400th post-Woohoo!!!! Right now however, the weather is cool and rainy, and I'm off to end this week by enjoying some couch time reading with Juliana...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Slow Home Challenge Week Four: The Master Bedroom

Due to an expansion of LIFE events last week, I had to postpone any further work on Week Four of my Slow Home Challenge: The Master Bedroom to this week. I'm excited to get to this work on this room in particular because I really want to create a space that is truly a haven at the end of the day. Right now, it's not awful to walk into, but I know it can reflect the slow home philosophies so much more.

This is what the room looks like now:

This week I'll be working to create a slower, more intentional space in my bedroom. The room provides plenty of space, pleasant architecture, and lots of natural lighting.

Yet, as you can inability to organize well, and to properly arrange furniture and other decor, has left this room feeling a bit void of life, not to mention being a place of comfort and tranquility at the end of a long day.

In my continual effort to KEEP IT REAL here, you can see that I have issues with finding proper places for everything in my home...this week I'll be tackling THAT pile too...

Here's what I do like about the room however:

The few personal effects (a photo from a visit to Kylemore Abbey in Ireland; seashells from my honeymoon, and the sweet footprint of one of my babes).

Some framed artwork created by Juliana.

And this view...I know it may be a bit hard to see well, but I've always liked the transition and diversity in architecture from the bedroom ceiling through the doorway to the hallway and beyond.

Here's to loads of achievement this week! What elements of your bedroom will you be "slowing" down?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gaining Perspective

Yeah, yeah, I know, only four weeks into my Slow Home Challenge, and I'm already slacking off...well, technically, I'm not really slacking off in terms of the actual challenge, just from taking the time to post about it here. This week has offered up some more of life's unpredictability, and my head is spinning as I'm faced with exploring alternative paths. I'm tired, and on days like this, I'm truly finding myself appreciating all that I hope to gain through a slower way of life.

Hopefully the next few days will provide me with some fresh perspective, and some much needed inspiration!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Slow Home Challenge Week Three Results: Laundry Room/Pantry

I used to loath my laundry room/pantry space...As the "catch all" room of the house, rarely was it ever organized or tidy. When we'd have company over, I used to make sure everything we'd need from the pantry was already out on the kitchen counters, just to prevent the chance of my guests seeing the unpleasantness of it all.  

But now...things are different! Week three of my slow home challenge had me tackle the laundry room and pantry, and I am super excited about the results! I told you it was going to be a tough one for me, and it definitely was. This particular space in my home really proved to be a true test to my dedication in this challenge (it took a lot more time than I would have liked to get it to where I was content). Yet, at the same time, it also gave me a great opportunity to dig deep, to really try and harness my inner creativity so that I could create a room that was efficient, designed well, and easy on the eyes as well.  I used to thank God that there was a door I could keep I'm thinking of removing it altogether. 

Without further ado...The Before and After photos:

The Laundry Room...


Ack! I'll admit I'm a little embarrassed to even post these pictures, but hopefully my doing so evoke
the kind of ohhhs and awes I'm hoping for when you see the next photo!



Ta da!!!

A bit better, wouldn't you say?! Of course, I am slightly biased, but to me it is a gazillion times better. Ahhhh, I'm just going to sit and stare at it for a minute. Go on, scroll back up again to see the uglyness it USED to be. Not too shabby, eh?

In addition to providing better organization, I also added some decor to the room to help give it a more personal feel, and to help it feel like another "room" in the house, not just an ugly utility room. I found an old, weathered, long piece of wood in our garage that now fits nicely along the top of the washer and dryer. I placed some glass jars, shells, etc... upon it for display. I also hung some nature inspired art I'd put together last year: simply framed, dried ferns.

I ditched (not litteraly) the stacking blue (and pink for Jules, of course) buckets where we stored the kid's shoes, cleaning cloths, and vegetable bin, and traded it in for this old wooden crate. I stole it from my own kitchen. Yup, sure did, and I think it serves a much better purpose here.

I can't even tell you how good it feels to walk into this room now, and have all of that wonderful floor space. Before, most of the time we'd find ourselves having to make a path way through all of the kitchen laundry on the floor, the large bag of dog food, and all of the other random "stuff." It was a nightmare to try and bring the laundry basket in here to start a load, I'd literally have NO place to set it down. Now, I feel that the floor space in this room is truly representative of the slow home principle that encourages "clear, unobstructed circulation" throughout the home's overall pathway. 

Ugh...Remember this?

I shifted the washer and dryer a few inches to the left so that I could have more room for brooms and mops, etc...and also for the recycling bin that used to practically block half of the room's entry. As much as I'd really like to have some fancy, shmancy cabinets above the washer and dryer, it's just not in our budget right now, so instead I improvised, and added these curtains-which I made from material I had on hand.

I moved this chaulk board from a wall in the kitchen where it was hardley ever used, except as another place to display the kid's artwork. Now, it's become a fun place to jot down pantry items that need restocking.

I installed brackets in the ceiling and hung the curtain rod from heavy ribbon. I think down the road I might swap the ribbon out for some type of lighting chain. It felt really good to "shop" in my own home, using what I already had available, rather than going out and buying more stuff.

In order to better utilize all of that wall space above the washer and dryer, I stacked a few bins on the shelf and transferred all of my cleaning cloths here. It's also nice that I can hide all of those unsightly cleaning supplies behind the curtain.

This is one of the two items I purchased for the remodeling of this room (Ross, $4.99). I really needed a place (besides the floor) where I could toss damp kitchen towels and cloth napkins from each meal. This basket is coated, so any moisture won't ruin the wood, and it's size is just right for its intended purpose.

And the Pantry....

Before: The unsightly and unorganized mess. And remember that hanging mesh thing, that upon further consideration I discovered to serve little if any purpose? Now gone.

Ta da!!
Cleaning out the pantry and re-organizing it, was quite the project, but I'm so glad I did it. Sadly, I discovered that my disorganization in here was causing us to be wasteful as well...Dry goods that were returned to the pantry in haste, were often not closed properly or stored well, and therefore ended up being disposed of before necessary.

I also added two good sized storage bins to utilize all of that wasted space on the floor of the pantry. The top one is now a great place to keep the kid's snacks for school and so on. They love being able to go in a choose whatever they'd like, and I like that they are now better able to help pack their own lunches. The other item I purchased is that small wire rack that is seen hanging from the lower left pantry shelf. Now we can easily access foil and such, without having to search endlessly for it through a sea of cracker boxes.

So there you have it. I have to say that so far, tackeling the laundry room in my slow home challenge has given me the greatest satisfaction. I feel great about the changes I made, and truly feel that now, the overall room is a much better reflection of a slow home space. It's efficient, walkable, and although it serves several purposes, it now does so in a truly beneficial way.

Simply put, I love it.

If you're following along and partaking in this challenge on your own, how did your laundry room/pantry do-over turn out? I'd love to hear about it!