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Intentional Front Porch Living

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Table of Contents
Intentional Front Porch Living
Highlands’ Cul-de-sac Culture
Kathryn Dean, Kirk Park
How to Attract a Neighbor
By Sarah Lally Brown, Two Slides Park

 

cover-4Intentional Front Porch Living

New friends and neighbors are everywhere!

Whether you are attracting neighbors or finding yourself embraced by them on a regular basis like those in a TV sitcom, Issaquah Highlands is very neighborly, by design. With the predominance of homes designed with front porches engaging the street or surveying a community park, we Highlanders find it very easy to meet and get to know our neighbors.

Intentional Front Porch Living is all about taking our home design and leveraging it for our benefit, be it to make friends, encourage our kids to meet new people, or to assure our neighborhoods’ safety. Two of our resident volunteer columnists, Sarah Lally Brown and Kathryn Dean, capture the spirit perfectly on the following pages, as do photos of various front porches in Issaquah Highlands.


Highlands’ Cul-de-sac Culture
Kathryn Dean, Kirk Park

“It’s Pleasantville.” “Oh my word, you’ve moved to Mayberry!” – Things my friends said to me when they first visited our home in the Highlands.

Dean May 2016 Marquette

On sunny days the adults typically bring out a beverage and convene in a sunny driveway while the kids play. Eventually these afternoons turn into a potluck style gathering and our alley parties begin. – Jennifer Hoffman

I grew up in northern Indiana. My first address was Rural Route 8. Not even a house number, just my name, Rural Route 8, Columbia City, IN. We had fields, swamps, woods, lakes, and lots of space. My husband grew up in Eastern Washington where the common house lot in a subdivision was still measured in partial acres rather than square feet. So to end up in a neighborhood where you could almost pass things back and forth between houses through open windows was not what we expected.

Dean May 2016 sidewalk

Sidewalk art on Mulberry Street.

Kids are the best socializers, and it didn’t take long for our kids to have engage a neighborhood crew – especially our kindergartner. She’s an eighth grader now and I’ll still find her hanging out on the grassy slope outside our house with various neighbor-friends.  Our youngest, Lizzie, was born after we moved in and is the MOST social of our four. She has introduced us to parents of playmates, or random neighbors who happen to walk their dog past our house.  One of our neighbors affectionately calls her “the Mayor.”

We moved to the neighborhood in 2006 when our church, Alathia, was meeting at Blakely Hall. My husband started the church in 2005 and we felt very strongly about it being a “community church” and us being part of the community. With three small children, we fell in love with our house on Mulberry because of the shared green space out front. At the time, it seemed the closeness of the houses would be challenging and take some getting used to. What we didn’t realize was how much we would love it.

Dean May 2016 Deans

Danielle Casey, Neiman Rittenhouse, Kathryn Dean enjoy a neighborly evening on the lawn between the homes in a typical Issaquah Highlands neighborhood.

Many a summer night you’ll find several couples on lawn chairs in our shared green space around a fire pit enjoying each other’s company and the happy sounds of children playing.

A few years ago, I started watching Cougartown. You know…that show with Courtney Cox that is basically a more grown-up version of Friends. Several couples live on a cul-de-sac in Florida that feels like a commune. I found the premise pretty ridiculous. Who just walks into a neighbor’s house and gets their own coffee? Or has spontaneous happy hours with friends by walking across the street with a glass of wine? Well, after ten years in this neighborhood, I’ve realized it’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Even as I write this I’m receiving text invitations for a glass of wine on the porch and a neighbor just walked in with glass in hand trying hard to distract me.

In talking with other neighbors, I’ve learned that our experience is not unique. Highlands neighborhoods, especially when the sun comes out, often turn into one big block party. Some happen in shared green spaces, some families congregate in allies or parks.

Jennifer Hoffman had similar misgivings about the closeness of the houses, but realized the uniqueness of the neighborhood even before their house was finished as she made friends with another couple in the design rooms of DR Horton. After they settled in, young children forced her outside and to nearby parks where she met other parents with kids the same age. As the kids grew and required less supervision, they could play in the alley behind the house.

Many a summer night you’ll find several couples on lawn chairs in our shared green space around a fire pit enjoying each other’s company and the happysounds of children playing.

Jennifer says of these times, “On sunny days the adults typically bring out a beverage and convene in a sunny driveway while the kids play. Eventually these afternoons turn into a potluck style gathering and our alley parties begin. Rarely are they planned—they typically just evolve from kids outside, a few “thirsty” parents, and not wanting the fun to end. One of our favorite aspects of living here is definitely the alley parties, and the lifelong friends we’ve made!”

Dean May 2016 Ward

Molly and Jason Maybell, Jennifer and Damian Hoffman and Sean and Patty Ward – “lifelong friends”.

Jennifer’s neighbor, Sylwia Bulik, moved to the neighborhood in 2012 and quickly assimilated to community living.  “We soon discovered that it was common practice on warm weekend nights to just bring out a field chair, some wine and snacks, and set up shop in front of someone’s house to hang out and talk. We’d often start fire pits for marshmallows, and have the kids run around well into the evening while the adults sat around and talked.”

Another neighbor, Molly Maybell, says, “The families we share our alley with have become some of our best friends. Not only do our three boys have a built-in play group right out our back door, but we spend holidays together, we travel together, and most importantly, we get to support each other through this journey of parenthood! Our alley has become a vital part of our village and we feel so thankful to live here.”

In 2006, I had no idea what “Urban Village” even meant, but ten years in the Highlands has shown me that intentional front porch living


 

 

How to Attract a Neighbor
By Sarah Lally Brown, Two Slides Park

FEATURE OR LG Garden Bunny v2Look around you. Neighbors are everywhere. Many migrate indoors through the cold winter season (and some even travel to different climes altogether) but once Spring gets underway in Issaquah even the most novice neighbor-spotter can check basic types off of their list. If you’ve never tried your hand at neighbor-spotting, start simple. Strollers can slow a neighbor down to a speed where you can not only observe them passing by your house, you also have plenty of time to say hello. If their outerwear includes sunglasses, headphones, and running shoes, it may be best to stick to a gentle wave or smile.

Don’t just stick to your own habitat. Binoculars aren’t necessary for a casual stroll. Start by heading to the end of your street, turning left, and walking until you can turn right. You may find yourself in a part of the Highlands you have never seen. Perfect conditions for spotting neighbors! If your dog is interested by the dog that is approaching on the sidewalk then congratulations, you’ve done it! Your neighbor will almost always be compelled to stop and talk while your pets carry on their own conversation. Keep varying your path and find a good spot to watch a sunset. Many others may be attracted to the same place. In this manner you can observe a much wider variety of neighbors, including the elusive parachute-guy-who-landed-in-the-vacant-lot, and friends who are out for a walk while discussing a book they are all reading.Attract a Neighbor

One of the best ways to observe neighbors is to actually attract them. It is surprisingly easy. An unusual hanging basket of fuchsia plants on your front porch can be a conversation starter. Trees with beautiful spring flowers also can slow a passing neighbor enough for you to start a conversation. At our house, we employ a three-pronged approach of sidewalk chalk, scooters, and popsicles for sharing. Drawings all over the driveway or sidewalk can alert passers-by that you are artistic fun people and they may want to pass by your house another time. In our case you can tell that members of our household are well-versed in Nexo Knights and Pokemon. We also often have a racetrack sketched out that can be traversed by scooter, feet, or a very nimble bicycle. The scooters enable us to pace neighbors as they walk by so that a conversation can be carried on while, let’s say, a dog strains at a leash eager to continue his journey. Popsicles are an absolute must on hot days and we always keep extras on hand for new friends.

And that is how you do it. Now that the days are getting longer and more beautiful, look around you. New friends are everywhere.