My four sons completed an entire school year as virtual learners and I made it through an entire year of teaching preschool in-person. I absolutely never want to experience teaching and learning during a pandemic – or any other crisis – ever again but I think we made it as successful as possible. The boys also had some opportunities that may not have been available to them in a regular year – such as participating in online film festivals and attending conferences. I think we can all agree, however, that this year was incredibly exhausting and that we were glad to get to the end of the school year.
We had another birthday to celebrate since I last wrote a personal blog post. Our youngest son turned 12 at the end of May. We were lucky to have some lovely weather which enabled us to celebrate with an outdoor activity. I would call this crazy golf but it is apparently known as mini golf around here. Thanks to some childhood experiences, I find crazy golf makes me feel stressed and anxious so I chose to spectate rather than actively participate. The course was fun, well-designed, and had an appropriate level of challenge for kids spanning the ages of my brood. The 15 and 12 year olds even managed to achieve a hole-in-one each. Everyone indulged in delicious milkshakes at the end of the course.
Over a year of being largely stuck at home meant our tired and shabby family living room was really starting to annoy us so our Spring project was refreshing that room. You can see what the previous makeover of this room like in a previous blog post. We did not undertake any major DIY but we replaced the carpet – as we still had the carpet installed by the previous owners, one that was really getting worn and grotty – and bought new sofas. The whole room now feels much lighter while still being cozy. I have more DIY and home organization projects to undertake over the summer break – things I could not get around to while everyone was learning and working from home – but my first big jobs are turning all of our rooms back to domestic spaces. The makeshift classrooms descended into chaotic rats’ nests towards the end of the school year and I am more than ready to transition them back and reclaim them.
I am trying to get back into the habit of making regular time for art. It was absolutely impossible in the last couple of months, however, as my schedule was ridiculously difficult to navigate. I would have needed to clone myself to make it work smoothly. I, therefore, continued with my Post-It note habit, still taking inspiration from the movies my kids have been loving. These two examples both happen to be from Japanese movies, ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Hara-Kiri’.
Two of our kids are moving on to new places in their education. Our 14 year old is now done with Middle School and will be heading off to High School in September. He has been learning to cook over the past few months and especially enjoys getting up on weekend mornings to make chocolate chip pancakes for him and his brothers. He is also really into digital art now.
The big milestone is that our oldest son graduated from High School. This was a whole new experience for us as people as well as parents. My husband attended an international school so he did not have the American version of graduating. There were no festivities for me when I left school. My “milestone” was simply leaving my last school exam. I snapped my pencil in half and walked home. No celebration of any kind. The whole graduation thing was actually pretty overwhelming. Despite opting out of lots of “side missions”, there was an awful lot to keep on top of and process. Every time I thought I had a handle on what was required, I would realize there was another piece of critical information I was missing or something I did not understand. There was so much assumed knowledge in communications about graduation with no accommodations for we ignorant immigrant parents. Keeping on top of all the moving parts was actually quite a slog. Even the evening itself did not pass off without a few glitches but we (just) made it in time and had a lovely time marking the conclusion to our son’s school career.
We have been like the Three Bears trying to find a feature chair for our library corner in order to finish the makeover of our more formal living room: we wanted a chair with some personality and visual interest but those we had found were either too expensive or were not comfy enough or looked too rigid, lacking the cosy feel we were aiming for. We had put our active questing on hiatus and figured we would resume our search at some point and would maybe stumble across something appropriate in the interim.
Last weekend, we were perambulating around Costco with the four kids in tow and, somewhere between buying enough toilet roll to build a wall and a huge sack of basmati, we wandered past one of the furniture aisles and spotted a chair that looked like it was worth investigating. The kids wasted no time in giving it a test run and discovered it was a recliner chair. We had not even considered a recliner chair for our library corner but I instantly liked the idea. It was comfy, had a high enough back to support the neck and head, had sturdy arm rests and was sturdy enough to make a visual statement in that area of our living room.
We bought it. We are now all enjoying having a really comfy spot to park ourselves for quiet activities.
As I explained in a previous post about gradually making over our home, our house dates from 1970. Home owners of the 1970s appear to have had a fondness for wood panelling and our new home was no exception. When we moved in, the family living room was very dark and felt small because all four walls were dark wood panelling. That was not for us: we wanted the room to feel light and spacious. Part of our aim in redecorating the house, however, is to maintain some of the original features.
In the case of the family living room, two of the walls were lined with storage cabinets. On the window wall, there are cupboards with lattice work doors. One of the cupboards was designed to house a television set. The opposite wall – which also serves as a corridor between the formal living room and the kitchen – is lined with almost full height, deep cupboards. The central two doors of the four open up to reveal a cocktail cabinet. How awesome is that? When we came to view the house, I was instantly smitten by the idea of having my very own cocktail cabinet. I was won over by that particular original feature. Of course, the reality is that what I actually store in there is baking equipment, salad bowls and serving platters. But some day I will fill it with ingredients for cocktails. As a family of six, storage was important to us when we were looking for a house to buy in America. I was sold on this house partly because of all the good quality, sturdy storage available throughout the house. So all the cupboards in the family living room had to stay.
That decision taken, we knew we had a few different surface types to deal with. We decided to paint directly onto the wood panelling and cupboard doors in order to unify them while also retaining the original features and the textures they provided. We went for a very pale stone paint in order to make the room as light as possible.
The before photos were taken once we had been living here a few months so we had already purchased new sofas and the media unit. The photos still illustrate what the walls and cupboards looks like, however.
These are the after photos. The room is much lighter as a result of the painting and, therefore, looks more spacious. We have also been able to personalise the space by having a gallery of our art work – half of which is by me – on the sofa wall and objects we have collected over the decades displayed on the media unit.
We still have a couple of projects left to attend to in this room: the walls have speakers built into them and the fronts of those speakers are brown so we would like to replace that brown mesh with something lighter; there is a copper plant trough beneath the window which we have a plan for but which we have not gotten around to yet; and the oriental style handles on the cabinet doors need to be replaced with something more contemporary and less stabby.
We bought our new house last August and have been chipping away since then at making over the house. It is none too easy to redecorate as busy parents of four kids, especially with Mr Pict working long hours. It has also taken us a bit of time to purchase all of the furniture we needed. When we emigrated from Scotland, the only furniture we shipped was a dining table and chairs, a coffee table, a roll top desk and two pull-out chair beds.
Our house dates from 1970 and retains all of its original features, fixtures and fittings with the exception of the kitchen which is from the 1990s. We found many of those original features appealing when we viewed the house, they added character and charm, but we also knew we would have to update the house a lot and make it more functional for modern life and more “us”. Initially we made a start on almost every room – and some rooms need a lot more work than others – but that was too chaotic an approach for the time we could regularly commit to DIY. We, therefore, narrowed our focus to the public rooms.
The formal living room was in good condition. The original hardwood floor and fireplace were features we wanted to retain. I quickly grew to like the 1970s fabric of the main curtains. We quickly ditched the net curtains and roller blinds, however. The net curtains were so brittle that the fabric broke to pieces as I folded them. There was also a wooden panel with grass wallpaper attached to one wall, where a piano had once stood.
This is what the room looked like when we had been living here a few months, a view of each end of the room:
The walls needed filled and repainted. We chose a light but warm pale sand colour and hung a mirror above the fireplace to bounce light around the room. The mirror also made the fireplace more of a feature since it does not have a mantelpiece. Then it was just a case of filling the room with new furniture, getting our trinkets and objects out on display and hanging some of our collection of art work on the wall. At the front end of the room, we created a little music corner to house all of the guitars and a library area for all of our non-fiction books. We will eventually replace the Ikea chairs for something with more character and personality but they are comfy and do the job so that is not a high priority. We also want to replace some of the lamps but again that is not a high priority right now.