Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Decorating the Family Room

A couple weeks ago, Havenly sent me (and everyone else on their mailing list) a 20% discount code for design services. I had been thinking of giving them a try for a while because I've wasted far too much time agonizing over furniture catalogs without finding the motivation to move forward. The discount was the final little push I needed.

My goal is to update my current furnishings--a sofa, coffee table, wingback chair and media cabinet that I selected for my first apartment. My existing furniture has served me well over the years, but is very well worn after 13 years and six moves.

To start the process, I shared pictures of my family room and the floor plan, and my budget with the Havenly designer and asked for a new look with contemporary touches in a neutral palette with blue accents.

Within a week, the Havenly designer pulled together the two concepts below. These concepts are considered rough drafts. It's now up to me to rate the items the designer selected and provide feedback. (Helpfully, Havenly provides the price and source for each item in each concept.) Next, the designer will finalize one of the concepts and provide an updated rendering/floorplan.

It's been a fun experience so far. What do you think of the concepts Havenly pulled together? Specifically, do you think anyone would ever use the little poufs under the coffee table in the second concept? I see similar items in catalogs and have always wondered if they're functional.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Plans

Last week, I had to remove my favorite tree from my backyard. The builder put the tree--an oak--in an impossibly cramped spot right next to the fence. As a sapling it was just perfect. It provided shade on hot days and some privacy from the prying eyes of a neighbor who built his house within one foot of our property line. After a short period of time, its limbs extended within inches of my house and my neighbors. That's when I call the tree trimmer, who delivered the bad news--the tree needed to come out sooner rather than later to avoid all sorts of property damage. In disbelief, I arranged for a second and third opinion, but everyone agreed.

The tree trimmers removed the whole tree in just 13 minutes.

I'm surprisingly sentimental about the whole thing and am researching smaller trees for the space. (Any suggestions?) In the meanwhile, my partial shade vegetable garden now has to contend with full sun. We'll see if the butternut squash and pumpkin I've planned for fall can withstand the Texas summer.

First cucumber from my vegetable garden.
Summer is a time when work in practice area tends to slow while clients and bankers take time to vacation. While I don't have a big trip planned, I have some projects at home keeping me busy. Besides the ongoing effort to repaint the interior of the house, I'm looking forward to properly furnishing and decorating the great room (basically, the big-to-me room that includes the kitchen, family and dining rooms). The thirteen year old furniture that I picked out for my first apartment has been serving me well, but I've been saving up to make this area of the house more comfortable for guests with a little help from the folks over at Havenly, who sent me a discount code I couldn't refuse earlier this month. This is a project I've been dreaming of for years and it's such a treat to have the resources to do it (in large part because of the firm's decision to match Cravath).

Also this summer, I'm looking forward to spending time at the gym's outdoor pool, my first visit to the Deep Eddy Pool, 4th of July with friends, a few more minor league baseball games in Round Rock, and C's 13th birthday. This is the most "simple" my life has been in a long time and it's really, truly great.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Growing Yukon Gold Potatoes in Central Texas

Yukon Gold Potatoes went from my
garden soil to mashed potatoes on the
dinner table in approximately 20 minutes.

My tiny veggie patch, now in its second year, continues to be a lot of fun. This spring I added Yukon Gold Potatoes and cucumbers to the mix. (More on cucumbers later.)  

The potatoes were very low maintenance and a lot of fun to grow. I sowed the potato seed in late January in potato grow bags, buying into the hype that periodically rolling up the edges of the bag and adding soil would increase yield. The bag method did not increase yield, but it sure made digging up the potatoes in mid-May easy. 

Digging up the potatoes felt a bit like searching for buried treasure. Brushing away soil to reveal the first golden lump brought on a rush excitement. The above photo shows part of my harvest. Note the wee potato babes at the bottom of the column!

Friends attempting veggie gardens for the first time often ask what I'd recommend they try growing with their kids. 
  • Potatoes are ace for the experience of digging them up and because they make for dreamy mashed potatoes--a food I remember loving as a kid. 
  • Other kid friendly favorites that should be started at this time of year in Central Texas include butternut squash (I grow Butterbush--a more compact variety) and sugar pumpkins. Both sprout quickly--within 2-4 days--rewarding impatient first-time gardeners. Both make for good eating. As an added bonus, there's something very fun about growing your own Halloween pumpkin or bringing a pumpkin pie to family Thanksgiving made from pumpkins from your own garden. 
One more plug for potato grow bags: they make growing potatoes on an apartment balcony or in a very small backyard with poor soil conditions possible. Give it a try!