Sunday, December 15, 2013

A front porch

I just looked at my last post date and it was June 9th.


I wish I could use the "too busy" card but I know that's one of the lamer excuses out there.

But I really do have some fun things to share that have happened during my lame six month hiatus from blogging.

Let me begin by saying that I love my house.

But certain parts of it have been making me wince for the past 7.5 years.

Take a look:

It's actually ironic that this "wince - causer" is also one of the main reasons we bought the house.

I'm a little nutso about front porches.

Here's why:

I spent my childhood in one.

I must have sat on that swing more than I would ever know how to put into text.

I sat there with my siblings, without my siblings, on hot days with popsicle juice running down my arms and off my elbows.  Even in the winter I remember sitting in my snowsuit over three perfect snow-covered rows, just looking out.

Out at our little cookie-cutter neighborhood.

I loved watching kids of all ages on their bikes, young mom's strolling along with their babies, cars pulling in and out of driveways, super cool tweens bopping along with their bright neon clothes and side pony tails who I wanted to be just like.

So after 11 years of looking out, it sure was hard not having that same set-up in the homes that followed.  If  "house-locked" is a term, that's how it felt.

I hope that nutshell-front-porch-history accurately explains why a front porch was a deal-breaker for me when the time came for Elon and I to pick out our first home. 

So two summers ago we realized that time was of the essence as we saw our porch's ever increasing slope southward.

And boy oh boy did this prospect send me head first into la la land with visions of the most beautiful front porches dancing around in my head.   

And because our house is a folk victorian built in approx. 1895, I wanted it to look like an original restoration of what might  have been. 

I was like a kid in a candy shop as I sat online seeking every visible option of railings, columns, floors, decorative moldings, etc…

As I drove, I drove with one eye on the road and one eye on every front porch that existed between my  every "A to B".  I have such an appreciation for people who restore their older homes, drawing attention to detail that was so skillfully crafted by those whose livelihood depended on their ability to work wood.

Like this gem:

If that isn't the funnest color scheme then I don't know what is.

I would have loved to have been walking by to watch as they painted all those little pink squares on with a little brush.

And some are just dripping with elegance:

And I loved the pretty lines of this one:

These pics are just a fraction of what I've drooled over I tell you.

I decided that in order to be custom and frugal at the same time I either needed to have an awesome railing system with simple straight columns or omit the rails and put my energy toward eye catching columns.  And by eye catching, I mean my eyes and anyone who gets delirious over the details of other homes like I do :)

The columns ended up winning out.  And it's funny how whatever you're in the market for, your eyes will then see.  My eyes switched from railings to columns in one fell swoop.

And after searching and searching, I finally I found them.

The ones.

Right there on the far right:

They're from a company called Pacific Columns out in California, but the only glitch was that they were $600 a piece and measured a whopping 15"x15" at the base.

So then began my obsession for these puppies to materialize at a much smaller scale.  And just like any obsession, they were all I could think about. And anyone within earshot got an earful about these columns, which made me so grateful for friends and family members who politely listened and cheered me on.

Luckily my step dad Jim made it into my airspace, which then of course entitled him to an earful of "column talk"….

…..because he just so happened to be the key, or vehicle in getting this dream of mine to come true.

He mentioned that a friend of his is a carpenter by hobby.

A very skilled one.

And I'll never forget the excitement that welled up inside me when Elon told me that we'd gotten an email from Jim saying that his friend Dwayne thought those columns would be a fun project.!

And man alive did he ever deliver.
When he and my mom and Jim drove them over, I could hardly contain my excitement!

They were perfect.
All the molding pieces were in a separate box to be "slid" on upon installation since we didn't know what the exact height measurement would be.

And let me tell you, I adored these puppies each and every time I pulled in and out of the garage.

So with all of the "design-choosing"of it all, there was one thing I knew for sure.  And that was that the porch ceiling would be painted blue.

This idea came to mind about four years ago when Elon and I were driving through all the beautiful coastal neighborhoods of Camden.  A lot of the homes sat up higher than the road, so as I looked up into their beautiful front porches I noticed that most of the ceilings were painted a nice sea glass blue-green, and I fell in love with that.  I thought it was just a "home by the ocean" thing but later as I googled it, I found out that it's an actual "thing" and I've noticed soooo many more blue porch ceilings everywhere I've gone since.

It turns out that it comes from down south, and was believed to keep evil spirits (haints) away.  They even have the term "haint blue" down there.  Another theory is that it keeps spiders from building webs up in the corners because they think it's open sky.  And then the third theory I found was that people wanted to imitate the blue sky so that even if it was overcast out, they could still sit under a blue "sky".  

I would choose the spider theory although I already know it doesn't ring true… I'll go ahead and claim my own theory that it's for houses by the sea, and because mine's in Maine, it's close enough :)

And picking the right shade of blue went from fun to agony, because decision making is not my strong suit.

So when I finally spotted it, I did what I had to:

And I love how it turned out (these are a bit out of order):

In fact as Elon and I were putting up that new light fixture, I got to take a peek at the original ceiling that the vinyl one now covers, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I found a white peeling layer of paint with a blue layer peeking through under that, as the original ceiling color that first adorned this porch pre-1900!!  And the similarity between both shades of blue, past and present, was uncanny.     
So the summer before last I started the project of staining the floor boards (yellow pine) the darkest stain I could find.

They went from this:

To this:

I know I make it look all quick and easy peasy but there were about 75 of those suckers that needed two coats front and back, and took two seasons for me to complete.  (This "motherhood" business really throws a monkey wrench into home projects ;) )

So I know I posted this as the "before" pic that had been making me wince since we moved in:

But it actually continued to get worse over the course of that last year as I got demolition-happy.


I just couldn't wait for this thing to go.

So then early one summer morning, we awoke to what sounded like someone taking an axe to our house.  We got up to find our dear brother in law, James, and sweet niece Katie going to town, ripping off the old floor boards. 
And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ecstatic about it!

We saw some interesting things during this phase.

Like this enormous slug:

And these super cool original square nails:
Yeah, it turns out the porch had sat there for over a century, never having been completely redone.  And from that perspective I'd say it held up pretty well.

Dad Firmage also joined in that day:

And then she was gone:
And catching a glimpse of her absence was pure therapy for me.

Over the next couple months or so, James would just show up and start working away, bit by bit.

Usually with Jackson in tow.

They made a great team.

And boy are we ever grateful for all the time and sweat they poured into building this thing for us.

All three of my kids enjoyed the excitement of it all.

It really was quite the work zone for a while:
And the Painting took me an eternity to finish since the only times I could really work on it were during Rachel's naps…..(which was also the time I needed to get everything else done like laundry, meal prep, etc…)

When it was finally time to pick up all that mess up there, we gave it a very thorough cleaning.
Which makes me sure of two things:

        1.  If I ever have a million bucks, the first thing I'm buying is a pressure washer.

I mean anything that is powerful enough to make squiggly designs in my "siding dirt" without me scrubbing or using any chemicals, is a must. have. one of these days.
           2.  Elon gets an "A" for effort.
Then, once it was cleaned, and put together, we brought the kids out and surprised them with the big reveal. (As you can see, it took us 'til sun-down to finally get to this point)

I also painted the front door yellow:
Which instantly gave the house a fun, "youthy" feel which I love, not to mention the major positive feedback from so many.

I also spray painted the mail box, which it reeeeallly needed.

And there you have it:

And we couldn't be happier with how it turned out.  

I was too out of "porch steam" to get all fall-festive, but we did do pumpkins which added a nice splash of orange:
Those dingy soffits up there will be changed out with nice white ones next summer when the porch roof gets done.

So here's to turning an eye sore, into eye candy.

Because really, let's not forget where we came from:

Now that's just painful.


And we can't even begin to express how grateful we are for all those who helped us in such magnificent ways.  It's truly humbling, and makes my eyes misty as I sit here and type while I reflect on it all.

What a blessing.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A pinch of this and a dash of that...

I'm having one of those moments where I know it's time to blog because so much is changing around here that I don't want slipping out of our memories.

Things we'd for sure forget ever happened if I didn't haul out my camera and snap that there moment in time.

Like just how fiercely Chandler clasped his matching-jammied teddy bear that night he was scared and came down to sleep on the couch.

Or how every time I poke my head into the playroom, Rachel is perched on her favorite chair with a book.  

Or how Hallie decided to do this when I told her to look at me and smile one Sunday afternoon when the sun in my living room was just right.

In fact that Sunday was dreamy for me. 

I allowed myself to sit back and really feel the joy that is mine.

And I'm sure glad I did because stopping to live in the moment treated me to this scene right here:
 And these ones:

Chan smushed himself into this wet-wipe box:
Then I wanted to snap one with his hat off, which I should have known would upset him, but it lead swiftly into something I would have missed... a concerned little sister who came rushing over to comfort her pouting hatless brother.

And after observing and assessing the situation she stood up and smacked his head with both hands just as fast as she could.

And I'm pretty sure she's the only person on the planet who Chandler would let get away with that kind of "comfort".

She's a little partial to boxes too.

Hallie is a bonafide book worm.
And I love it.

Last weekend Elon took her up to Bangor with him for an outdoor stake service project, and she came home with this present for me:
And they're still doing great :)

She also came home from said project elated because she had been interviewed by Fox news!  She had a tiny little portion that we all watched over and over again, but are sad that I can't seem to access the link again.  

And then one day recently, Rachel was ecstatic with the fact that she could fill Hallie's water bottle cap full of bite sized pieces of sandwich.

And I think the snot bubble is the icing on the cake.  

Chan's favorite outfit this past winter/fall are these navy blue sweats:
He actually asked me to take a picture of him making that silly face :)

Then the other night our niece Katie marched right on out of High School.

Which brought me right back to the primary room at church after having just moved to Maine 18 years ago.  As the prelude music was playing, a pregnant young mother was slowly walking up the isle and smiled at me. I don't remember much else except that I learned what a warm smile can do to a nervous soul, like my 11 year old one.

And if you're lucky, it will one day call you "sister- in- law" ;)

So how could this girl with wavy locks and awesome wedged shoes have possibly been that little baby inside that pregnant belly?
It's beyond me.

We sure had fun trying to keep our kids from running away and making loud noises during the ceremony.

But it was so fun to see her afterward in all her graduation glory.

The Dudley family is shrinking at a rapid rate :(

Which makes me happy I shot this one when I had the chance.

And even though I need to accept the fact that these kids are growing into exceptional adults, and are soaring into the arms of bright and noble futures, it still leaves me bitter.

Because I'm selfish like that.