Most of us can look around our home and get a sense of what we love, decor wise. Maybe there is a lot of grey with peacock blue accents. Or maybe you’re a yellow kind of a family. Perhaps there are bookshelves nearly fainting with the weight of your books, and baskets hiding all of your plastic, lit up, talking toys. You could be a bring the outside in decorator, or your black thumb may discourage that design concept altogether. And maybe, if you’re anything like Andrea, you own three blue floral couches.
I love that fact about her so much, I think it should be on her calling cards.
But it’s true, isn’t it? All that surrounds you tells the rest of us a whole lot about you. It may surprise us at first – three blue floral couches?! – or it may make perfect sense once we get to know you a little better. In Andrea’s case, it makes perfect sense. In fact, I think she should own four. Please welcome the very lovely Drea, everyone!
Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here!
A: Our family is very much into anything food based, creative and art based, and plant based. I mean plant-based in the gardening, farm, botanical garden sense, but it also applies to the fact that my daughter and I eat a plant-based diet.
My husband, Alex, is a chef, and I wrote a family cookbook that’s to be published next year, and our daughter, Marlowe, gets so mad at us if we turn down her help in the kitchen. My husband graduated with an art degree. I went to school for Marine Affairs, but pretty much only took art courses when I realized how intensely uninterested I was in cargo boats!
And as for Marlowe? She says she’s going to be a fashion designer and live alone in New York city, which is funny to everyone considering how little effort I put into style and fashion. But hey, the girl has dreams!
When we’re not cooking or eating, we like to spend our time at markets or gardens. And now that the weather is almost cooling off here in south Florida, we’re spending our time back in our garden doing garden DIY after DIY project to make our backyard space not only capable of feeding us, but also (hopefully!) outdoor party ready. We also have two dogs: a very old man, Jerry the Dog Garcia (he’s 14) and Waylon “dum dum” Jennings, the puppy.
Q: How did this house become your home?
A: A SHORT SALE! Oh, thank goodness for short sales. Six months of waiting surely paid off for this space. I can’t say it enough, but if you’re in any sort of position to purchase a home, it’s worth the investment. Even a small, charming home is better than a large, fancy rental.
I had two or three offers turned down before I found this house on an accidental turn one day. I put my offer in and after three or four months of waiting, I had pretty much given up and packed my daughter for a temporary move to Hawaii. Two months later, I returned back to south Florida. With fear in my head and in my voice, I asked my realtor, “What do you think about the home? Will it happen? What should I do?” and he told me, “Yeah, at this point it’s probably best you start looking for other options.”
Forty five minutes later I received a call from my realtor excitedly proclaiming, “YOU MUST BE PSYCHIC! They JUST called me! You got the house!” And just like that, I was moving out of our rental moving in to our major fixer-upper with my daughter. A few months later, my now husband joined us. It was all absolutely worth the wait.
Q: Tell us why you love the place you live.
A: South Florida is unlike anywhere else in this country. Honestly, most of the time, when I look at other blogs, I feel like my life is just so very opposite to everyone else’s. Our summer is our hibernation period and our winter is our time to escape into the sun-shining outdoors. We many not have seasons or be very up-to-date in trends, but we have mangoes, avocados, and starfruit ten feet out our door.
It’s a bit more expensive and crowded just south of us in Miami, but West Palm Beach is highly affordable and a really easy town to live in as a family. I like our palm trees everywhere, our ocean down the street, and the thick humid air that hits you in the face when you step outside the airport, and back into our warm climate. We could maybe see ourselves living outside of the states one day, but here in the US?, there’s nowhere else I would consider home. We really love it here, and it fits us better than anywhere else.
Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? What are the must-haves in your home that make you crazy happy every time you catch sight of them? (Besides your family, of course!)
A: I like things to be pleasing, comfortable, and have just a touch of tropical whimsy and color. Does that make sense?
I feel like I have two very opposing sides to my personality, and my home meets the larger half: not very serious, very colorful, and slightly off-beat. On top of all the colors and patterns, I think the thing that people notice most is my love for all things floral.
I’ve now had five floral couches in my lifetime. I currently have three blue floral couches in my home. THREE! When I asked my mom if that was excessive, she said, “No. Some people only have brown leather couches in their home. You just happen to have blue floral.” She’s right.
While my things and style has only gotten more refined, my tastes and aesthetic has always been the same: colors, patterns, plants/florals, and fun.
Q: Your home isn’t just pretty; it seems to work hard, too. Do you think about utility when you’re designing a space to share with your family? How, specifically?
A: We absolutely think about a utility aspect in design. Not only do we lean more towards arts and creativity, but my husband and I (and our daughter, too) have a strong belief that things function best when organized.
Even in our kitchen, we don’t believe in uni-tasker appliances. We look at everything in a way that can be multifunctional. We want a beautiful yard we can spend time in, but that can also grow our food. Shelves that not only hold our most-loved items, but also store our usable, maybe not as pretty items. A guest room that can double as a work room and art room.
In our heads, it just makes sense to maximize the things we already have. We don’t need a bigger space; we just need to be smart with the space we have.
Q: You’ve chronicled your life along the way on your blog; where you began is so far away from where you seem to be now. Tell us how you’ve changed, and why you’ve loved blogging through it all. What has your blog added to your life?
A: I can very openly say, I think I’ve become a better person somewhere along the way. Not necessarily because of my blog – although I do write constantly about my struggle for balance or my undeniable shyness with strangers, and I feel like those are things I’ve been working on this whole time. And while I’m nowhere near perfect, I have gotten better with my self struggles.
I’ve always been incredibly open on my space. And I’ve always felt that if you can’t be open and honest, then you’re doing something wrong. I’ve shared struggles with single motherhood, with my husband, with self doubts and fears, and I’ve found connections, support, and friendships through it. I can look back at something and say “Wow, that was tough, but here I am now!” and be grateful for every rocky step it took to get me where I am.
My blog has given me the chance to not only support my daughter, but spend time with her. It has also given me an intense creative outlet. I’m not good at long projects – I’m moody with things like that – so blogging matches my personality perfectly. It allows me the opportunity to change, and changes with me. Blogging has also brought me incredible friendships, connections, and opportunities, both for me and my family.
I don’t love every aspect of the internet and blogging, but I wouldn’t trade it, either. I’m lucky to be able to just live my life honestly, and document it after.
Q: You’ve written a cookbook! Tell us all about what led you to this project, and where you’re hoping it will take you next.
A: Yes! I did! I mean, it’s still in that whole editing process. I’ve had it in my mind for about two or three years now that I would love to one day publish a cookbook. Am I a master chef? Totally not. But I think I am a flavor wizard when it comes to a lot of things. And not only that, I’m good at making healthy and/or vegan food approachable.
I do love living off plants, but I in no way believe you have to be pushy or militant to inspire others to do so, too. I wanted to be a good example of that. Alex loves pork, and it’s a running joke that whenever we go out, I order a vegetable dish and he orders a duck entree. But I know he never feels like he’s missing out at home…and I know that, because he would tell me!
Just because something doesn’t have meat doesn’t mean it’s not filling or satisfying; there are lots of ways to please the masses without adding mock-meats to the menu. And I’m excited to show that. It’s all about real food, comforting food, not completely healthy food…approachable food that happens to skip the animals.
I’m not sure where I want to take it next. I have a few more ideas for books, some food based and some not. But I’m not in any rush to accomplish that anytime soon. I like to dabble in everything. I like to explore.
Right now, I just finished up planning a two week retreat to Northern India. The trip focuses on artisans and handicraft making, daily yoga, sight-seeing (of course), the Holi festival, and a big chunk of it revolves around food between markets, and private cooking lessons in restaurants and homes, too. So I guess I see myself potentially doing more of that.
This current trip, set for spring 2015, is pretty much booked, I think we’re opening up two more spaces this week, but I am hoping to follow this current trip with one even more heavily revolving around food and family – from farms to markets – and growing to cooking. And if I could someday combine it all together? Even better.
Q: What do you hope your daughter remembers from this very moment in her childhood in this very house? And what do you hope she conveniently forgets?!
A: I hope Marlowe remembers and loves all our special moments. From french fry dates, to staying up a little bit later than usual, to all our ridiculous art projects. From the very beginning, she’s had special places to create and let her imagination run wild, and I hope she grows up to remember that.
I was never, ever allowed to hang anything on the walls in my childhood home, so it’s pretty much a given that I will happily hand her tape to stick her artwork (almost) anywhere she pleases.
It’s sort of amusing to me sitting here now, but I can’t think of one thing I hope she forgets. She’s got it pretty good. I hope she remembers it all.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own child?
A: Honestly? Art projects. Sometimes I let out a big moan when she’s asking for her eighth art project of the day, but at the same time, it’s been one of my most favorite parts. I love arts and crafts and having an art obsessed little girl has given me a million more excuses to make time for coloring.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: I wish someone had told me…oh, I’m having a hard time finishing this sentence. Really, I don’t think there has been anything that has caught me off guard or been shocking in this whole parenting game. I think going into motherhood as a single mother was really good for me. That’s not to say any of us should hope to be single mothers! But it brought an extra uncertainty in how my life would play out as a parent.
It also forced me to be even more resilient with a lot of things. From the get-go it challenged me to embrace the belief that life could very easily go in all unexpected directions, and I would have to be okay with it.
In life, with parenting or otherwise, you have to sort of be prepared for anything: good and bad. To expect anything will almost always lead to let-downs, so you have to just move forward into the unexpected, with a positive perspective, hoping for the best. I’m good with the “should have’s” and I’m grateful for all the nice surprises we’ve had along the way.
Thank you, Andrea! I have to say, I’m most inspired by your attention to utility among the beautiful. I think your words bear repeating: “We don’t believe in uni-tasker appliances. We look at everything in a way that can be multifunctional. We want a beautiful yard we can spend time in, but that can also grow our food. Shelves that not only hold our most-loved items, but also store our usable, maybe not as pretty items. A guest room that can double as a work room and art room. In our heads, it just makes sense to maximize the things we already have. We don’t need a bigger space; we just need to be smart with the space we have.” Yes to all.
I’m excited to read Drea’s cookbook; she makes living off plants sound kind of romantic! Especially if such a lifestyle still includes french fry dates. For those of you who are vegetarian or vegan, do you ever miss a food that you’ve eliminated from your diet? Do you ever “cheat,” and is that even the right term? I love to hear about your lifestyles!