Wednesday, July 27, 2011

painting my office!

My vision board, recently completed and updated, adjacent to my newly painted denim blue office wall. Copyright (c) 2011 Wendee Holtcamp

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”

- Henry Ward Beecher

I have been thinking about painting my plain white office for some time. As a writer, it was a pretty uninspiring place to write. I feel very blessed to have a home office, but besides having too many file cabinets (three), the white walls simply did not inspire me. So for some time, I have thought about what I could do to change it up. But the story goes back a bit further than this...

My daughter has been wanting to paint her room for at least 5 or 6 years now (it was a bright pastel yellow because it was a baby nursery for the people who owned the house before). I always told her no, I'm too busy to do that right now, maybe "one day." And so for this past Christmas, I gave her a present that said I would paint her room. About three months ago, we went to Lowe's and looked at paint and actually picked two colors out for her, and while there, I looked at paint swatches for my office. That's where the ball starting rolling...

I researched a bit on feng shui, thinking maybe having a certain color would help inspire me or bring more prosperity (not that I really "believe" in this, but you never know - I do know that colors have an effect on one's mood - I just am not so sure about feng shui but it is interesting to read about). One of the colors that stuck out in my mind was an eggplant/ aubergine color which is supposed to attract prosperity. So I decided on either that or a deep/slate blue. Doug had some time to help me paint Savannah's bedroom with the paint we had, and while doing that (photos at the end), we talked about what color to paint my office. I told him about the eggplant idea, and he says, "Barney! You are going to paint your room Barney color?!" (He has a funny sense of humor and was joking when he said it, but he still was not thinking it was going to fly). Well...

That completely deflated my balloon about that idea. Even though the color I had in mind is totally different from Barney's shade, I think every time I would have looked at the walls I'd think of Barney, and that would just not do! I'm done with Barney - and have been since my kids were little (I love you, you love me, we're a happy fanily, with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you... oh dear).

Like I said, I am not that into feng shui or anything, and I have no idea what side of the house my office faces or is located on or anything but if you're interested, apparently dark blue evokes the energy of deep calm and serenity. The page says it should be used sparingly in the home office (or, at least the south, northwest, and west areas of it) but alas it is now all over my office! It also says that one of the best combinations is deep blue and white which brings the energy of unlimited sky and happiness to one's home. Amen to that! And I have to say, I am in absolute LOVE with my office! But it took a while to get here, because my "first draft" as you will I did not care for. So with that, here are the photos and story along with it! Although honestly it was very hard to get the photos to actually capture either the texture or the actual shade, you can get the basic picture. Let me know what you think!

The original plan was to match the wall to the color on my blue Converse. I liked the washed blue look but I really like this shade. I found a Waverly Classics signature color at Lowe's called Boat Blue. Do you think it matches the shoes?Doug has been so helpful and sweet. Doesnt he look cute painting? Another shot of him helping me out.
So we finished in a few hours, and when I stood back and looked at it (mind you I hadn't yet taken out the plastic drop cloths, or put the electric things back on the wall, or put the furniture back) what do you think I thought? ... I didn't like it!! Something was off. It was just TOO dark. It is actually not lighter toward the bottom of the room - that is just the lighting of the photo.So I took a day off from painting, and the next day, took my son to an Astro's baseball game at Minute Maid Park with his friend. He had gotten two free tickets from being on A honor roll. Yay Sam!
We were in the highest section, and of course the boys wanted to sit in the absolute tip top row (even though our seats were a bit lower - it didn't matter because the stadium wasn't full at all). It was fun, and the Astro's actually won against the Nationals. So the next day, I decided to head back to Lowe's after doing some online research. It was getting a bit stressful because I had SO much work to do other than repainting my office, but I knew I just HAD to get it done while the drop cloths were all over and my furniture was pulled away from the walls. I found this page at the Ralph Lauren website about creating a denim-like striated wall. It had online flash-video instructions and looked pretty straightforward. Unfortunately the nearest Ralph Lauren store was downtown so I decided to see if I could find my own version from Lowe's (Their paint people are very helpful!)
I found a brochure about lime washing and color washing. I couldn't really tell the difference, so even though the lady at Lowe's recommended color washing, stubborn me thought lime washing seemed better. So I bought that and tried it in one inconspicuous area but it was all white and didn't look good at all. Sigh. So I brought it back and decided to try color wash (actually it was at this stage that I started researching online and discovered the Ralph Lauren denim technique). Anyway so with the color wash, you actually tint it. It is thinner and more transparent than paint but you have to pick a color for it. The color "one shade up" from Boat Blue I didn't care for, so I went around and found one I did like - it was called... Denim (Eddie Bauer Home). No joke. I didn't even look at the name at first. So I took a can home and got to work. Doug was busy doing some stuff so I did it myself, with Sam as my trusty helper. It didn't take as long as putting the original layer on because it's thin and spreads more easily. When it goes on, it looks greyish but it dries bluer/darker. In fact, the blue underneath really came through a lot more than I expected.It dries very fast so you paint sections with the roller, and then the technique part is that you take a stiff-bristled brush (in this case, I used a wallpaper-smoother which worked great and was only $3) and you first go one direction and then another to create a criss-cross pattern sort of like on a pair of weathered jeans. I first went up and down, and then across.
Here you can just see a side by side comparison of the color-washed wall compared with the original brighter and darker blue. I definitely like the color-washed look way better!! I should add that although I did striate the wall, it's not super obvious from afar. And it does not really look like the denim of the Ralph Lauren video but I still absolutely love it!
And although this isn't the best photo, it was the best I could get (all these are from my phone...). After I finished, I took out the drop cloths, moved my desk into a new location in the corner next to the window (before it was facing a wall - not good for feng shui apparently) and got rid of enough files (recycling) that I could actually eliminate one of my three file cabinets! The result is a more spacious office and I absolutely LOVE the new look!! I am thrilled! Also although it looks like there is a bit of red on the wall on the top left, that is just an effect of the photo because the sun was pouring through.To backtrack a bit, here is a photo of Doug helping me paint my daughter's room. You can see the yellow color underneath, and the turquoise blue that she chose. She actually chose 2 colors because we were going to paint alternate walls or do something, but it turns out she has a strangely shaped room with 5 walls and we could not figure out how to do it so it wouldn't look weird (and I want to sell my house in a few years so I can move so I didn't want something turning out really bizarre).My kitty found a spot under the plastic! She has such personality. Every single new thing in the house, she must "claim" by sitting in or on it. Or in this case, under!
The completed room! Looks great huh!
And it even goes great with her comforter. And with that, I will say goodnight!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Houston fun: Kemah, the Menil, and Miller Outdoor Theater

A "Hippie Hibiscus" my lovely friend Trish got me for my birthday! A beauty aye!

Hi friends! I wanted to post an update of some of the latest happenings in the Holtcamp homestead. It is turning out to be a busy, busy summer. I can't believe it's halfway over. Whew, life is such a twirling, whirling super-fast merry-go-round, but I can't complain - life is good. It is (sad face) my second to last summer with my daughter and just three left with my son so I'm trying to do some things with them here and there to make good memories.

In a couple of weeks I'm taking the kiddos to California for almost 2 weeks. We fly in and out of Los Angeles and we will stay with my friend Paige (who I stay with every time I fly through L.A. en route somewhere overseas). I met Paige when I lived in Pasadena (CA) before moving to Houston. My ex-husband was a postdoc at Caltech, and my son was born there - at home! So then we will all drive up to the San Francisco/Bay Area too. We will camp two nights near the Sonoma Coast, and will also visit Stanford, UCSF and a couple other universities. Before then, I am flying to Chicago for the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) annual conference - Science-Faith Synergy. It will be my first one!

As I mentioned, I'm doing some work for the organization - which I love! If you are at all interested in science and faith issues, please check them out, and become a member even. Christianity Today Magazine just had a cover story that highlighted the work of prominent member Francis Collins, head of the National Institute of Health (NIH) and former head of the Human Genome Project, and which came out of a past ASA conference. The article is quite groundbreaking of a topic to be covered in Christianity Today! It's called The Search for the Historical Adam: The center of the evolution debate has shifted from asking whether we came from earlier animals to whether we could have come from one man and one woman.

Tuesday I'm taking Sam and his friend to the Astro's baseball game. I'm not a baseball fan (and the Astro's aren't exactly a hot team right now) but he got two free tickets from being on honor roll so I figured, why not? We have been before. It's kind of fun. We have nosebleed seats! Other than that, I am doing another Query Challenge on Freelance Success, have boatloads of work for the ASA to do, and have painted my previously uninspiring office a slate/denim blue (and plan to "lime wash" it for texture). I also painted my daughter's room - a gift I got her for Christmas and didn't get around to until last week! I'll post some photos this week. On to my photos...

Savannah is designing a blog header and template for a new blog I'm starting called Wandering Home, which has gone through some changes but I will make the big reveal very soon! What do you think of the header so far? I love it! I took all those photos by the way. :) Originally I was going to do a blog focusing on trying to find a new place to live after I leave Houston and my kids leave the nest but the concept has evolved to be more of a blog about faith - and it will have some of the "finding my next home" in there as well. But I have a lot of thoughts on faith, life, parenting, living, science, wisdom... and I want to share.I mentioned previously that my mom and stepdad Skip came to visit last month and we spent the day exploring Houston a bit. First we went to the Menil Collection - which I'd never visited despite living in Houston now for so many years. Unfortunately I didn't get a lot of good photos (you can't take any inside the museum itself) but here are a few. This is on the grounds outside. There are a lot of old live oaks. If you don't know, the Menil is a world famous private collection of art. In addition to the main art collection, it includes the famous Rothko Chapel and Byzantine Fresco museum and chapel. Everything is within a few blocks. I wrote about all these places we visited with my parental units in the AOL Houston Travel Guide (no byline) - check out my overview of the Best Things To Do in Houston.These are the doors to the Byzantine Fresco. Inside it was gorgeous! I wasn't so impressed with the Rothko Chapel, which just had several ginormous black and deep purple modern art paintings by the world-famous Mark Rothko.
After we finished exploring the Menil, we spotted this Sugarbaby's cupcake place and had to stop. Seeing Savannah taking pictures is a very common sight!We ate at Ruggles Green, which I covered in the AOL Houston Travel Guide - Top 10 Restaurants - but I'd never eaten there (I have eaten at the original Ruggles, which is amazing!) I highlighted several green, local, sustainable eateries since Houston has a hip, hopping restaurant scene! Oh wait, we actually ate lunch here, and then ate dinner at the Black Walnut Cafe in Rice Village for dinner.

I shot this photo of my mom and stepdad Skip at Miller Outdoor Theater, where we went next for the free Saturday night Houston Symphony performance of West Side Story. They have free concerts, plays, ballet, and other things during half of the year and you bring a blanket and hang out on the hill. They also have some covered seats but I've hung out on the hill both times I have been.Sam got some Bucky Balls at Urban Outfitters in Rice Village. They're totally cool! They are magnetized balls that you can create all kinds of things with. My mom shot this photo which is why it has the date... but it shows a snowflake Sam made. We put them as earrings and they are such strong magnets, it actually HURTS!
The next morning (Father's Day) we ate at IHOP and then my folks went back to Dallas and my kiddos spent the rest of the day with their dad.
This past Tuesday, we went to the Kemah Boardwalk to celebrate my birthday (right near the Johnson Space Center). First we went to RED Sushi which I'd searched out online and it got great reviews. It looked really hip and modern inside but... drum roll... it SUCKED. The service was terrible, and then Savi ordered a chocolate lava cake that sounded (and was) so good. UNTIL we discovered not one but two areas with green mold on the cake. Yep. Ugh. Makes me sick just thinking about it. The manager was really cool and comped our meal but sheesh, moldy cake? Nastygrams. There were not a lot of people in there when we first arrived but the service was really slow, and they kept messing up the order and really, I just do not recommend it (even though the manager said, please don't judge us by the moldy cake -- ha ha -- come back and try us again. I probably won't).

Sam loves having his photo taken. He he. Afterwards we went to the KSBJ/NGEN Boomin by the Bay free outdoor concerts every Tuesday in July. But not before Savannah shot a photo of the sun setting over Clear Lake (part of Galveston Bay)
It was soooo crowded you couldn't even walk. It was like Mardi Gras. Almost a bit much. First Jamie Grace opened (she sings a song I love with TobyMac, one of our favorite Christian rock bands who we have seen twice in concert). She was followed by the main act, LeCrae. I wasn't familiar with his work but checked out some of it online and liked t a lot, along with his story. However we left about 15 minutes into his set, and walked to the rides at the boardwalk because some of the kids' friends were over there and we got tickets (courtesy of Kemah Marketing/PR peeps).Me and Savi!
Sam isn't a big fan of roller coasters and rides (neither of my kids are daredevils!) so this was a big deal for him to get on the Aviator with his friend Ian. He survived but didn't go again!
I love this shot! It's the Aviator spinning around. I'm not a big daredevil either and I didn't go on this one though I think I would now. I went on a small drop ride a couple times but that was it! The Boardwalk has a roller coaster, an upside down boat ride and a big drop and other things but holy moly I do not like those things at all! We rode the Carousel a couple times. This is Sam's & Savannah's style of ride - ha ha! I'll end with the Jamie Grace Youtube vid of her song Hold Me (with TobyMac) - great song!!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Birthday celebrations!

This picture absolutely melts my heart. Ever since I moved to Houston in 1997 (holy moly that's a long time ago) I have taken the kids to Moorhead's Blueberry Farm every summer and we have picked them and eaten as many as we could from the bush and taken the rest home. This is actually the 2nd year of picking - 1999 - or gosh maybe it was even 2000. Look at my beautiful babies! They are teenagers now! We went there a couple weeks ago and I now have a freezer full of blueberries (as well as fresh blueberry crisp, blueberries & cream cupcakes and fruit salads already baked/made and consumed). I didn't get pics of the kids because they were inside the bushes (see below) and it was hard to get a photo with the lighting. But I have blueberry pickin' pics and stories from 2009 - Yer Face, 2007 - blueberries and Gawad Kalinga, and 2005 - blueberries, kids and the hippie generation.
My friend Elise is inside the blueberry bush! Elise is the President of Astrodome Studios - aiming to turn the architectural wonder that is the Astrodome into a film studio.
This is this year's crop we picked! Well this is my bucket and Elise's I think - my kids had two smaller buckets also. Notice she picked the unripe red ones because she's a newbie... ha ha. I gave her a hard time.
And here's a photo of the blueberries & cream gluten-free cupcakes I baked. I found this recipe at Elena's Pantry blog. It seemed like a lot of oil to flour... I didn't use coconut flour but instead used rice flour and coconut oil instead of grapeseed oil. I made a couple of batches and the first batch I used all coconut oil (1/2 cup as it says) but coconut oil is sort of solid-like at room temp so I think it ended up being more volume of oil than the recipe should have had and they were pretty greasy albeit delicious and coconutty! The second time I used less oil overall and a bit of butter and a bit of coconut oil. Those were not as tasty but still good, especially once topped with (organic) whipping cream and blueberries. Anyway it was a fun experiment. I saw some coconut oil at the store the other day but it was expensive and seemed high in fat content for flour. Anyway the cupcakes were for...drum roll please...
... a birthday celebration! Mine! And my good friend Elise! We are Moonchildren, Cancerians, water babies... children of July! I hosted an I Dont Want to Grow Up party at my house for us! A great excuse to get my favorite girl-power people together! This is Eileen, Lynn, me, Trish and Georgia!
Forgive the photo quality - some of these, this one included, were taken from my phone. This is me, Jessica (who owns Joyfolie - adorable baby shoes and soon-to-be-adult shoes) and Georgia.
Another pic of us girls, with Jessica at the right end this time!
Talking, laughing and eating! Do you like my pink knit cap? I got it at a thrift store in Oregon!
Some of the things I made for the party -counterclockwise from left - roasted veggies (onions, peppers, blue potatoes, carrots with olive oil), coconut-mango salsa with chips, blueberry crisp, white bean pesto salad (I sort of made up the recipe), and toasted quinoa, corn & avocado salad (OMG I am now obsessed with toasted quinoa - it is soooooo freaking delicious!) I will post the recipe soon along with another good one - fennel-white bean soup.
My sister from another mother is making the face I have made since I was a wee one!
Oh and I should add that part of the "I don't want to grow up" party theme was to pop bubble wrap!
Hanging around the kitchen table! My lovely friend Stef is in this pic too - sitting on the left by Eileen - and Mary is next to Elise.
Elise, me and Georgia. I was standing up tall to make myself taller than Elise who had super high heels on! Later in the evening we played the game "things" which is super fun (my friend Nikki introduced me when I was visiting her in Dallas) and it's similar to Balderdash, if you've ever played that.
Beebopping in the kitchen! Eileen, Lynn and I.
Create a mug! I bought one of these for each of the birthday girls for the past couple months - me, Elise, Lynn and Eileen & had everyone sign and then you bake them in the oven to make it permanent. They're at Starbuck's if you want your own! :)
Lynn at Tammy's 4th of July/Eileen's surprise party Monday. I love this photo of her! It's a bit fuzzy and dark because it's a phone pic but still...that is Lake Houston in the background and you can tell how dry it has been here because there is normally not a "beach" at all!! That is due to the extremely low water.
Elise & I at Tammy's on the 4th of July. And with that, I bid adieu! I love my friends soooo much!