Friday, April 27, 2012

A River House screen porch makeover in my mind

Last weekend, we spent some time unwinding with our friends The Volks in Wimberley at our family's River House for a few days.  

Just leaving the Austin city limits for the Texas hill country is a relaxing drive.  We didn't grab a lot of photos, which is a sign of a good trip ;), but here are a few:

 {Me & Meredith chatting and having a little R&R on the swing enjoying the day}

Things were a little different than the last time we had some River House time with the Volks.  My kids, Iris and Sam are 5 and 3.  Their kiddos, Noah and Max are 3 1/2 and 9 months old.  Our last trip was March 2009, three years ago, and it looked like this:

 {Iris - 2 1/2, Mike, me, and Sam 3 months old}

 {Me and my little man.  This photo melts my heart.  I know, I'm a weepy mom!}

 {Kurt and his little man, Noah, 9 months old.
Noah is the same age here as Max is this trip!}

And here we all are on the River House screened in porch, enjoying the day and our babies.
I pretty much make over the River House a million times in my mind every time we are there.  I would keep all the kitch fun elements that make it the rustic retreat it is while creating an updated, casual modern day River House.

The porch is pretty amazing just for the view of the trees peaking up from the Blanco River and cliffs below.  Most things have been there since um, 1975 when I was one and the River House was "born" including a single day bed which gets a lot of grown men naps, old tackle, fishing poles and random gear and a heap of inner tubes.  

{image via The Design Traveler}

I love everything about this bedroom porch.  What a dream to wake up there.  It's simple and the gas stove with built in log bin and tree planter are exactly what keeps it rustic and modern.  This is really kind of my dream for the River House.

{Scott Newkirk's house in Sullivan County, NY}

Simple, relaxing and fun.  I like the middle bench which turns the beds into couches and becomes a great coffee table.  The slatted bench doesn't add weight to the room and keeps the focus on the wilderness around.

 {image from Poteet Architects San Antonio, TX}

I loved this screened porch addition and the fact that it has it's own little porch.  The simple design, fun lighting (indoor and outside bulbs) and landscaping are exactly what I would love to see for the River House.  

{design by Ken Fulk, House Beautiful}

Another possibility, moving the indoors outdoors to create a dining room on the porch would be dreamy too.  Our reunions always consist of people getting their plates and taking a chair out to the patio to eat so, why not provide a great dining area to start?  Love the mismatched rustic, and modern elements of this porch dining area.

Do you fancy any of these?  I'd love to hear your ideas of the perfect vacation screened in porch design.  I know we could ALL use a big dose of relaxation and how fun to incorporate it into the spaces we have.  Have a great weekend and RELAX!

Garden as a museum

The last two days have left me giddy for gardens made for exploring.   Community gardens give me the same pitter patter as museums.  Self expression and beauty there for all.

Yesterday, Iris and I had our first Mom daughter date ever at Eastside Cafe.  These are the moments with her that I just live for.  

{Iris & me, plates practically licked clean!}
We couldn't help but visit their garden, oh...about 4 times!  All visits instigated by Iris of course, but once I walked through the garden, something blood pressure just seemed to drop, I was able to breathe deeper, take in the smell of nature, and really see all the amazing creatures the garden allures in, namely butterflies and birds tweeting to their sweet delight. 

My friend Shelby is out of town for several months and asked me to check in on her plot at Deep Eddy Community Garden.  

{Shelby and her beautiful family Memrie, Saylor,
Charles, and Tye with my little Sam as an infant}

Little did she know this is my secret DREAM!!!!  I lived near this community garden for 9 years and fantasized about my life growing amazing bounty behind the fence overlooking Lake Austin (sorry, it's kind of like Tootie Mears.  I'll always think of Ladybird Lake as Lake Austin).   Mind you, I'm not really Martha Stewart in the garden, I just wish I was.
There are currently more than 30 garden plots of various sizes with the largest being 20 x 20.  Because of the central location and wonderful river bottom sandy loam soil there is a very long waiting list to obtain a garden plot at Deep Eddy.  Some of the gardeners have been actively gardening at Deep Eddy since it was started 30 YEARS AGO....really.  I think Shelby waited 2 years to get in.  THAT is dedication.

{Iris at our first visit to Shelby's Deep Eddy plot}

So, today I made my second visit to my foster garden.  I got butterflies as I opened the gate and had the entire garden to myself.  YES!  I felt a little like I was trespassing but, I loved perusing the plots and seeing each gardeners personality.  Just seeing your food is pretty amazing AND I got to bring home two beautiful artichokes.  Can't wait to prepare them and enjoy!

Here are photos from my visit today.  Excuse the quality from my ancient iphone.

Shelby's plot
Shelby's artichokes
Swiss chard



Friday, April 20, 2012

Instant yard art

We went to Iris's friend Stella's birthday party earlier this year and spied the BEST idea for hours of artistic expression minus ANY worry about fuss or mess AND instant yard art:  outdoor murals. 

Let's just be blunt.  The back of most wooden fences are hideous.  Why not create something fun for the entire family and all friends, that dresses up the backyard?  We created four of these across the back of our yard.  You can do as many as you have room for.  

This is one of the easiest DIY projects.  Seriously.

The idea is inexpensive and simple:
1.  Get cheap plywood sheets from the hardware store
2.  Paint them with a white flat exterior paint
3.  Screw them to the back horizontal 2X4's of your wooden fence
4.  Buy Tempera kid brushes (around $9) and paint (around $5 for 16 oz. bottles) in as 
     many colors as you like and a bevy of paintbrushes.  We got ours from Jerry's Artarama

5.  Let your kiddos go to town

6.  When you want new art, repaint the canvas white, and you are ready for another 

Here's the final product:

And, here's the final product with Repunzel and Batman ;)

Monday, April 16, 2012

To die for beet salad

Oh my Gaaawwd!  I have been in the mood all day long for my favorite salad.  By favorite, I mean FAVORITE.  

My friend Rachel Khoury suggested it to me after we had a delectable, to die for salad almost just like it at East Side Cafe last summer.  

By the way, East Side Cafe is one of my favorite Austin restaurants.  It's in a cozy 40's bungalow that has four different rooms so, it just feels comfortable and nostalgic and perfect for great conversation.

My favorite part of East Side Cafe is exploring the garden with Iris and Sam.  I've taken them there since they were babies on strolls.  I like them to see where the food they eat actually comes from.  They have a 3/4 acre garden behind the restaurant.  All of the fresh food and produce they grow, they use in the restaurant's recipes.  They also have a chicken farm (where the chickens run free and happy with plenty of room) and use the eggs for their French toast for weekend brunch - YUM!  Believe makes a big difference.

And...I know, I know, our fam is doing the plant based diet.  But people, it's a process.  I consider some eggs and some cheese kind of like a special occasion dessert.  So, it's got to be extra special.  

So, for my FAVORITE salad, I usually omit the melt in your mouth goat cheese.  But, tonight was different.  It's political season and my husband just started his crazy work schedule which means Mom Mel is ON.  My kids were actually amazingly well behaved all night, even getting special mani/pedis and foot/leg massages (even Sam) as an award for their good behavior until RIGHT before bed when Iris went into full on drama girl breakdown about whether she would ruin her nails in her sleep.  So, finally 1 hour later at 9:30, Momma made her salad.

This is a recipe from for Beet and Goat Salad.  I make it a little differently than they do.  I don't boil the beets, I roast them.  And, I don't add nearly as much olive oil (theirs calls for 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil).  I do 1 tablespoon. 

For a VERY healthy, very vegan salad simply omit olive oil from the dressing and omit goat cheese.


  • 4 medium beets - scrubbed, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 (10 ounce) package mixed baby salad greens (I also use arugula and like it too)
  • 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces goat cheese (it should say REALLY GOOD goat cheese - splurge!)


  1. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and roast in the oven on 400 for 35-40 minutes.
  2. While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Heat until warm and starting to toast, then stir in the maple syrup. Cook and stir until evenly coated, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make the dressing.
  4. Place a large helping of baby greens onto each of four salad plates, divide candied walnuts equally and sprinkle over the greens. Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing.  
{And, here is my dinner!!! I tried to savor it bite by bite, 
but I was starving so, I pretty much inhaled it :0}

By the way, Andy Cohen just made the best remark about Kelsey Grammer's first tattoo with his new wife Katey's name, "We don't need to see your gramp stamp."  I SOOOO AGREE Andy!  Love Andy Cohen.  Don't hate me for it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Unexpected Treat

There are some days in life that you get an unexpected treat.  My friend and vegan cooking enthusiast Courtenay surprised me with a big treat; She had an extra CSA box (community sponsored agriculture) from Greenling and gave it to our family.  SWEET!

A CSA box is a box of fresh veggies from local farms.   FREE farm fresh food.  When does that happen in life?  
I've used Greenling before and love them.  They come in handy when my husband, who is a filmmaker is in crunch time working 24-7.  You order online and NEVER have to leave your house.  Your groceries just show up perfectly packed every week, pretty much all organic and comparable to Whole Foods prices.  You cannot beat it when you are solo with little ones and you'd rather be in a Vietnamese torture camp than brave the grocery store solo with them.

So, I had a personal drop off from Courtenay. Lucky me!!!  You should check out her blog here if you are looking for super healthy vegan recipes and ideas.  She is a cooking machine!

The fun of the CSA box is that you have NO idea what to expect.  I carefully pulled apart the contents of the box.  Lettuce...yep...broccoli...recognize those.  Big leafy stuff???  Huh?  So, I text Court.  Oh yeah, collard greens.  Duh!!!  I blame it on overworked, overtired mommy brain.  I HAVE actually made a recipe with collard greens since my new plant based switch after Christmas.  And, then, something else... sorrel.  Scuze me...sorrel?  

Here it is:

It tastes very lemony.  So okay, I just figure, let's chop it up, stick it in a salad to go with our soy cheese pizza.  So, I mixed it in with the lettuce (2 box items used), added a roma tomato, purple onion, red bell pepper, cucumber, toasted almonds, and a little pepper with a vinaigrette and voila!

EVEN the kids ate it!  And, believe it or not Amy's soy cheese pizza is actually pretty tasty.  NOBODY has complained and my husband and kids are really picky eaters. The item on the right is eggplant parmesan with vegan parmesan (and it actually tastes pretty good too).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Yellow just makes you feel HAPPY!

I never loved the color yellow growing up, but I really have fallen in love with yellow ever since I met the little toot below whose favorite color since she was about 1 has been yellow. Four years later, it is STILL yellow. 

 {Iris for her 2nd birthday}

I think she's onto something.  Maybe it's spring, but I've been longing for fresh, cheery yellow.  If this doesn't put you in the yellow mood my friend, I don't know what will.

{Images from Benjamin D. Hong}

Welcome to my obsession with designer Benjamin D. Hong and it all started once I saw my DREAM kitchen.  I love it, I love it, I love it.  I've always loved a booth but never loved the look of a booth.  I love that this booth is clean lined & modern, but warm with the yellow ikat pillows.  Is it possible to be gorgeous and practical?  Thank you Benjamin D, it is!  I love the storage below and, yes I KNOW it is literal but I even love the deer hoofed white bench. I almost never like stools, but these are the pop of yellow the room needs.  The sphere pendant and ample windows make the bright, cheery kitchen.

{Vase wallpaper from Clarence House inspired by a David Hicks design  
image from isabellaandmaxrooms}

This is how a pretty but sterile white kitchen is taken up, oh....about 5 notches with just the wallpaper.  The roman shades finish the look.

I'm kind of in love with the high gloss chevron floors, rectangle image system, dark mustard yellow chairs and white table.  The chairs are the pop the room demands. The floor makes the room seem like it goes on a million years....reminds me of the Queen in Alice in Wonderland.  FANTASTIC!

{image from Emily A Clark}

Navy, blue, and....coral?  It works, and I like it.  I really like that it's not too matchy matchy.

{image from Marcus Design Inc}

 L-O-V-E.  Art, antiques, modern tub & stool with the retro subway tile = win!  It's the floor that I adore.

{image from Houzz}

This baby room makes me so happy.  I love the chevron yellow curtains, perfectly simple quilt, rocker, and pouf.  It just seems like the perfect room to get a great nap in.  I do think it's missing a white Flokati rug like this:

 {image from Design Sponge}

{image from House and Home}

I don't have a craft room.  Heck, I don't even have a laundry room.  But if I did, I would want it to be just like this one.  Love the natural woven rug which takes up almost the whole space and the hot pink accents.  Look at those great shelves and storage boxes, pencil holders, and frosted glass shelves.  I am not a fan of frosted glass normally, but I really like it here.

The weather today is gorgeous - not too hot, not too warm, with just a little wind in the right places.  Feels just like a nice, cheery pop of...yellow.  Enjoy!  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Collections of Keepsakes

I never thought of myself as someone who loved collections but, as my Pinterest hobby has grown ( KNOW yours has too), I realize how fond I am of collections of keepsakes that knock on nostalgia's door.

{image from The Lettered Cottage}

Coo-coo clocks.  They are practically synonymous with my memories of my Papaw.  The coo-coo clock is still in my Omie's living room.  I can still see him setting it.  It was one of those little chores you could tell he immensely enjoyed, just like telling us stories of his Native American heritage.  I think he was 1/16 Native American ;) but, he loved the idea of that heritage just like his coo-coo clock.

{image from limilee}

Now this I really love.  It's like a comfy, cozy room and it's completely because of the photo collection and the way they are hung.  The panoramic photos just feel like you could soak up the details of who the people are, what the life they were living was like, and where they are for days on end.  The photos warm the room.  Without them, to me, the space would feel sterile.

{image from Vignette Design}

Doesn't this make you just want to curl up and take a long nap in what must be great flannel bedding?  I love the plaid collection, and yes, I think in this case it can be called a collection... from floor, to bed, to the wall covering.  But, the stacked suitcase collection is what pulls the bedroom together for me.  I like the idea that the stacked suitcases making up the nightstand might have special collections inside each one too.

{image from Illustrator Paula Mill's house on Design Sponge}

You will never go wrong with a well placed, well thought out artwork collection with pieces that are meaningful to you and your loved ones.  And this one, with the lighting just off center, the 50's pink dinette table and scalloped chairs makes for a dreamy scene to me.

Southwestern throws.  They are warm, cozy, and the best kind of collection; one everyone can use when visiting at a friend's home for those great visits with hour long discussions about life.  

{image from House to Home}

To me, this space is perfection.  I've been on the look for clocks lately, and it seems they've found all of the best ones.  I love the size, color, and different feel of each of these.  The typography art, round little lights in the fixture, and the number chairs create one cohesive room that just feels relaxing and fun.

 {image from Vignette Design}

 Glorious, wonderful, curl up and read them books make this space.  What better collection is there?  From the reclaimed wood ceiling, to the sepia tone of all of these old, old books to the artwork on the wall with the crisp white bedding, sheer perfection. This room would be the top of my list for where to spend a rainy day.

{image from Crush Culdesac}

I'm in love with the combination of these plates and the way they are hung around this curio sideboard.  You know there are special momentos hidden away in the sideboard too.  Mixing new, fun plates with those handed down is a great way to honor your family memories and mix and match the new and old.