Friday, March 29, 2013

We're building a new home!

When we moved to Austin, Texas almost 4 years ago from Southern California we weren't sure if it was a short-term or long-term adventure.   Mostly we wanted change from our current situation.  And we needed to get equity out of an investment home we had purchased in the Austin area.  So, we moved into the investment home and started a new life for our little family.

And turns out, we love it here.
Texas is a wonderful place.  You've got beautiful country land mixed with really fun cities. It's super affordable.  There's tons to do (and eat).  And Austin in particular is a very friendly, active, outdoorsy, artsy, musical, football-y, political, and just a cool, chill environment.  If you've never visited you must.  And wave hello!
In summary, Austin won.  We're staying a bit longer.
So we decided it was time to upgrade from our starter home investment and tackle a new, larger adventure: Land and a custom home.

Now coming from California, "land" means about 5,000-8,000 square feet of property space.   To texans we're talking 20 acres.  I needed an in-between.  
And last year we found this lovely property, 1.5 acres (still more than I'll get used to), in a normal neighborhood with neighbors around and kids down the street.  Yay!
...because I need an environment where I can still sort of hear people and wave/chat in passing.  And this neighborhood has plenty of friendly folks who have already come out to introduce themselves when we're there.  And the property is loaded with trees!....and it's on a slope, so it has interesting dimension (which isn't so common in flat Texas).  Plus, it's on the end of a cul-de-sac (which Owen referred to today as the "sac a dull").  We loved it the first time we saw it.  And Casey's parents loved it when we shared it with them.
 And we spent the next 4 months thinking about it.
 And thinking about it. 
 And just thinking about it some more.
 And then we bought it!
And now we're gonna build a house on that land!  Well, we've hired sometime to build our house on that land.  A custom, one-of-a-kind home with just the particular items we love (within budget)(that darn budget).   The land isn't as lush as it was in the summer.
But there are still plenty of trees, prickly pear (for Owen to whack down with a stick), there are some crazy but cool looking weeds, and all sorts of dirt for kids to get lost in fun.
From the back of the property looking toward the street, you sort of get a feel for the slope and property distance.
So with the land purchased, we've moved on to the design stage.

Now if it were entirely up to me, the exterior would be either gray/white craftsman style,
 a modern farmhouse or East Coast shingled beauty,
 or maybe a gorgeous beach home/cottage with wood siding:
But if you live in Texas you know that people here are big on the Texas Stone look.  It's pretty and I think it's cool to use materials from your local surroundings (photo source, source),
But it's just not me and not my favorite when you're a person who loves gray, white, and pops of color.  But according to our neighborhood rules the exterior house facade must include some stone masonry.  So....I'm finding ways to incorporate my style/colors with the stone look and I think it's gonna be fun (photo source).  The Interior of course can be whatever we want.
We hired the local Austin builder, Lake Hills to create our vision.  And one of their designers Felicia did a wonderful job listening to our ideas, creating a plan, and inserting ideas she thought we would like.

Casey even came up with a rough initial plan to share with her, using  That site it cool!  And I'm impressed with how much of his original plan we actually stuck with (as far as room location)
The design process was an interesting collaboration.  And after many meetings, tweaks, and reworkings we love what Felicia did.  Here's a peek at the Front Exterior:
And another look at the back:
My two favorite parts of the home are the back porch/upper deck with all those railings (I sort of get my beach house!....only 4 hours from the ocean).

And check out that fun room in the top right corner below....the Studio!  It won't just be a workspace for me but more of a creative room for the whole family.  Because I've realized in our current home that when I'm sewing, we all seem to find each other.  Next thing I know Lucy's sitting at the computer table next to me drawing, Owen's playing with Star Wars legos on the floor nearby.  And we're all in our creative spaces but we like to be near each other.  So I hope this large open room is where we do homework and art projects and everything in between. 
So what's next?  We're ready to break ground!

And we're also working on the interior design of the home.  I'm actually meeting with our designer Donna this morning to finalize the bathrooms, great room, and other details.  It's a bit overwhelming to conceptualize the look of the entire house when the sky is the limit (or rather, the budget is the limit).  Sometimes I actually wish I was limited to 5 options for the kitchen....then it would be easier to make up my mind.  But a HUGE thank you to Pinterest for making home design so much easier!
I opened another Pinterest account under the name MADE House--until we decide on a more exciting name for our home---so I can keep track of all our likes, wants, and ideas (you'll find my personal pinterest account here).  So if you'd like to see what we've got it mind, follow along!

And I'd love your input on a few items:
• I really want the back porch railings to be painted white wood but we live in an environment that requires a lot upkeep on that....probably an annual paint job.  Am I crazy?  Another option is white-painted wrought-iron railing which would have zero upkeep but it's just not as cozy to me.  And synthetic/composite railings are way too pricey.  Any ideas/input?
• I'm looking for a cool chandelier for the front entry and love this one that's been floating around blogland.  But um, it's $4000. Haah.  Any cool/unique chandeliers you've found?
• Wood burning fireplace vs. gas?  I want wood, he wants gas.  We're prob doing wood but would love your thoughts.
• Any fun, cool, great websites you recommend?  Please leave them in the comments!  I enjoy new sites for furniture, rugs, lights, and accent pieces.

These city kids are going to learn a thing or two about having more space (me included).....which at this point means playing with sticks and dirt.   Owen's dreamland.
We're in for an adventure and feel very thankful we're able to try it out.  Living in California we never imagined this idea of land and space and building a custom design.  But Texas has allowed us some great opportunities and we feel blessed. Our home is your home! the virtual sense.  So come on over and enjoy the photo adventure with us.

Have a wonderful weekend.
I'll update you when we break ground, very soon!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Our friends gave us fresh eggs from their chickens this week, and I couldn't stop taking pictures of them. They're gorgeous.  They have little freckles!
They're almost too pretty to eat.
I suppose if I had fresh eggs every day I'd be used to the rich brown and pale, pale blue shades.
But since this is my first time having something other than white (Haah!  Such a city girl.  A city girl who's also never thought to actually buy farm fresh eggs from the store, duh)...well, these beauties were the perfect models for 2pm lighting in my house.
Owen loved them too.
And couldn't keep his hands off. 
I went in the other room to get my camera and came back to find two eggs missing, and Owen crouched on the floor, nesting. "I'm getting ready to lay some eggs.  Look!  Orange and blue!" (he insists they are not brown eggs, but orange)
Either way, they're beautifully fun.
And just as cute as our little Easter egg from last year.
I can't believe this was really Clara.  So small and such dark hair.
The only question is...what to make with the pretty fresh eggs?  Probably this or this or maybe this.  Or maybe just a simple scrambled to get the full flavor effect. Or maybe I'll just keep taking pictures of them.

And if your house is like mine with an assortment of the plastic kind laying around..... 

Remember not to throw them out when Easter is over ! you can do this.
Have a eggcellen shakin day.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bunny and Carrot Cupcake Toppers

This weekend we had an early Easter celebration with friends and I was asked to bring dessert. Heaven.  In my world, we'd just skip dinner all together and move on to the treats.  I guess if there are carrots involved it's sort of like dinner?
Glad we're on the same page.

So I started with my mom's Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Frosting recipe, which also makes about 22-24 cupcakes.  Follow the recipe in the link and bake them for about 18 mins.
 While the cupcakes bake, I grabbed simple items from around the house and got crafty.
Who doesn't love a festive cupcake topper?!

Okay, pretty self-explanatory but here are some tips....
• Use a crayon to color the carrot circle stickers (you can also use orange stickers but I sorta like how the crayon makes it look grainy)
• Use three yarn strings for the carrots, sandwich them between two orange stickers, squeeze together, and cut the sides in an angle, like a carrot.
• Use a Sharpie or marker for bunny faces
• Cut each yarn ear about 2 1/2 -2 3/4 inches long.
• Make tan bunnies, black, whatever!
NOTE: some finished toppers pulled apart a bit from the bulky yarn in the middle. But overall they worked well and I just squeezed them together again before our party.
 That's some easy gardening.
The kids wandered in while I was cutting and wanted to make bunnies too.  So I let them draw their own and loved what they did.
Bunnies and Carrots!
Chomp, chomp.
 When the cupcakes were cooled and frosted we stuck in the Toppers.
Ready for the party!
And in case you're wondering what happened to those pretty orange cupcake liners I started with?....
I realized after pouring batter into all the cups that I'd forgotten to add the mil.
So I squeezed the batter from every cup and had to go with the silver liners instead.   No big deal but seriously how cute were those orange ones??
 Happy Easter!