One Bookshelf Three Ways

You might remember back in September when I shared our new living room bookshelf with you. The process of ordering the Sauder Barrister Lane bookcase and putting it together was a breeze. We love this bookshelf and I can’t tell you how many compliments I’ve received on both the piece of furniture and the placement of it in our living room.

But, if you’ve been around for any length of time, you probably know that I just can’t leave well enough alone. I love to rearrange furniture (our family room is currently a mess as I figure out another furniture layout for our sectional…), and this bookshelf was no exception. One Bookcase 3 Ways

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Happy Halloween 2014

halloween card

Just stopping in quickly to show the kids’ costumes this year – Thomas, in true Thomas fashion decided last November 1st he was going to be a skunk this year, and Nell has an obsession with “Gagas” (Penguins), so Pete needed to get in on the black and white animal theme! Have a safe and fun Halloween, everyone!

 

Halloween Costumes Collage

Our Fall Porch: 2014

Oh the difference a year can make. Last year I was making do with what we had – a faded brown house, to be exact and a front door color that didn’t help the house’s cause. Since painting in March, I’ve had so much fun playing with the outside curb appeal. We had our big Ash trees trimmed and treated in May. Our Crabapples will be trimmed this winter. I planted hydrangeas under the garage window and am excited for the day that they are big and beautiful (I was over at our friends’ house the other day in our old neighborhood and was mourning my old hydrangeas, but then I reminded myself that they started out small and dinky, too). B pulled out a Juniper shrub and we’re slowly but surely figuring out what to plant there. So, curb appeal is a process, but we’re making headway. Here’s our front porch this Fall:

Adirondack Chairs Front Porch

That table is new. Don’t worry, I didn’t shop during “No Shopping October”. I was headed out to run some errands while my mom was over the other day and drove by my favorite front porch on the way out of the neighborhood for Fall inspiration…and their neighbors had furniture out by the curb with a “FREE” sign on it. I saw this great rustic table and threw it in the back of my car as fast as I could…with a line of cars behind me waiting to get their hands on the pile. Sorry folks, this table is mine. I immediately thought of my porch when I saw it (possibly because I was out looking for porch inspiration) and it works perfectly to separate the two adirondack chairs since I didn’t want a low side table between them.  So that’s my free table story.

Fall Porch 2014 Chair

Funny story: Since we moved here a year and a half ago almost, we’ve had lots, and I do mean LOTS, of people go to the house two doors down from us before coming to our house. My friend and her kids came by for dinner last night because we were both husband-less for the evening. As they pulled up to our house, her daughter – who had knocked on the wrong door with her dad before – said, “Mom, this is not Miss Emily’s house.” Annie said, “Yes it is. This is definitely her house. Remember how we always say you know you’re at Miss Emily’s if there are pillows on the chairs on the porch? Look at her pillows.” Funny the things people know you for. Back to the porch:

My fall yarn wreath and the witch is in sign…there’s nothing new here, but I love it every year so I just stick with what works.

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Fall Wreath and Adirondack Chairs

So that’s our porch this Fall. A year makes a big difference – here it was last year. Definitely feels more like us this year. I love the ability to look back and see things evolve.

No Shopping October

In January, our family did our first “No Spending Month“, and it was fantastic – really made me step back and think about our money spending habits. I committed to doing it again. I decided July was a good month -  but I couldn’t actually do a “No Spending Month” – we had a vacation planned and Peter’s Baptism (while not a huge shindig, we normally don’t account for food and drinks for a party in our normal monthly budget). But I really needed to reel in my spending. So I took a long look at the last couple months and realized I needed to do a No Shopping Month instead of a No Spending Month. I’d just bought all three children new summer wardrobes, and on the tails of my Whole30 success, I did a wee bit of new wardrobe shopping for myself. And that was warranted, but I needed to check my online shopping habits before they got out of control. And No Shopping July was a success. Here’s why: We really don’t go overboard in the eating out or grocery shopping department. I don’t buy a lot of prepackaged snacks that generally send a grocery budget out of control – I mostly shop the perimeter of the grocery store and buy only what’s on the list for meals for the week. When we do eat out, it’s a celebration, not a daily occurrence, so it’s not like that was out of control. But a quick $50 online Gap purchase adds up when you’re making three a week.

So, with the kids’ Fall and winter wardrobes pretty well setup, my own wardrobe feeling meh but workable for Fall (not to mention three “killing time before we pick T up at school” Target trips a week over the last two weeks…that I honestly can’t tell you what I bought during) I figured it was now or never on my next No Shopping Month. Specifically, this means no impulse buying for myself or for Nell. Boy clothes, while adorable, just don’t have the same “BUY IT NOW” effect on me as toddler girl clothes do. I need to buy two black sweat suits and some felt for Tom and Nell’s Halloween costumes (because homemade sweatsuit costumes are my jam), but the weekly budget can absorb those costs.

So, that’s my October Challenge: No [Unnecessary] Shopping. I will buy Peter and Nell diapers this month because they’re both almost out. I will buy those two $10 sweatsuits for Halloween. And we’ll buy groceries and household items that we run out of. But otherwise, no shopping. No recreational Target trips, no wardrobe additions, no Pumpkin Spice Lattes (they’re not Whole30 anyway). And hopefully we’ll end October with a little extra in our savings account. How are your budgets going? Anyone want to join me in my No Shopping (except for Halloween costumes) challenge?

Favorite Toys For 4 Year Old Boys

Every year after the kids’ birthdays, I post about the toys they are loving. When I first found out I was pregnant with Thomas five years ago, I was determined to keep plastic and baby stuff to a minimum. Well…that is laughable now. BUT, I do try to limit the toys to things that are truly loved and (when possible) higher quality toys that will last through all of our children. When possible, we gift experiences and time rather than things to our children, but sometimes, you just need an idea of what to get a kid. So, that’s why I do these lists.

We really struggled when Thomas’s birthday came around this year with what to get him because he had a lot of the “big” gifts that we would normally have gotten him for his fourth birthday already – hand-me-downs from friends, etc. We ended up getting him a new bike helmet, a new swimsuit and towel, and a Fisher Price doctor kit (not on the list below, but he and Nell love it, so maybe it should be). Not exactly a “big” birthday, but some years are like that. I try to remind myself that not every birthday needs to be some big production and that gifts are such a small part of a birthday experience. So when it came time for me to put together a list of things Thomas has loved over the last few months, I struggled. So finally, I just asked him what his favorite toys were and we put together this list (as always, these are just regular old links and not affiliate links, so click away!). Disclaimer: Thomas loves to be outside playing and is obsessed with sports – playing them and analyzing them – so if you’re kid is not a sports fan, this list is probably not going to help you out.

 

4 Year Old Toys

1. Sports Guys. We gave Thomas Football Guys for Christmas last year and it was a hit. He plays with them every single day. So, for his birthday, he asked my parents for Baseball Guys and Hockey Guys. And those are equally as loved. I step over sports fields all day long, and I’ve just accepted it as a way of life.

2. Going along with the Football Guys, Thomas also got these mini NFL football helmets last year for Christmas. They don’t get put away during football season, and every weekend Thomas sets up the teams that are playing that week. This weekend with much of the NFL on a bye week, he lined them up across our entire family room in rank order of his first favorite team (Broncos, obviously) to his least favorite team (the Seahawks).

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3. Fisher Price Triple Hit Baseball.  This was a favorite for the whole neighborhood this last Spring and Summer…Thomas calls it his Pitching Machine. It’s a lot of fun – we use it simply for pitching and not as a tee, though you can do both.

4. Nothing new here, Plasma Cars continue to top our list. They are just so fun – kids and adults love them. T got his for his second birthday and it’s a coveted toy by many kids who come over to play.

5. Gears. One non-sports oriented toy on the list. This has been really fun, T likes to build lots of different gear designs, and it’s something to make him think differently, which we like. B is an engineer, and though Thomas does not seem particularly engineering geared, which is just fine, we do like to have a couple things around to encourage him to look at things differently.

6. 12″ Bike with the training wheels discarded for transitioning from a Strider (link is to a similar bike – the one I was planning on purchasing before we received one as a hand-me-down). Thomas was ready to pass his Strider bike down to Nell by the time he was 3.5. I was still going to hold off until his birthday, but after doing a ton of research about what bike to move kids to after a Strider without much help, I finally just asked my friend whose twin boys never used training wheels. Her answer, “An inexpensive 12 inch bike, just take the training wheels off. I bought ours at a consignment sale and the boys are done with them, you can have one.”  This was the best advice ever (and the hand-me-down was great, too). Thomas will be ready for a bigger bike by the time he’s 5, so I’m glad I didn’t invest a lot of money in a 12″, but I think it was really important to keep Thomas on the small frame (Strider’s are about the size of a 12″ bike) for him to get used to pedaling. It took a couple days of working on balancing the heavier bike in the street and he was off and pedaling about a month before his 4th birthday – and thinking he was the king of the road.

So that’s what Thomas is loving these days in the toy department. He also loves all kinds of books and someday I’ll get together a roundup of our favorites, but honestly, his favorite reading material is a Fantasy Football magazine my dad gave to him. Weird. I know.

A few more past toy posts:

Toys for 1 Year Old Girls

Toys for 12 – 18 month Old Girls

Toys for 2 Year Old Boys

Toys for 3 Year Old Boys

Our Favorite Games

Updates

Sometimes it’s been so long between posts that it’s awkward to just dive back into posting.  So, here’s a random update post to get everyone up to speed:

Thomas started Pre-K three weeks ago. He’s at the same preschool he went to last year, but up from two mornings a week to three mornings a week this year. So many people in our area are putting their 4 year olds in 4 or 5 day a week Pre-K, and I just…can’t. I would send him only two mornings a week if that were an option. I’m not the least bit worried that my kid is missing out on something academic in Pre-K, but I am worried that my time with this boy is dwindling. Next year is Kindergarten – B and I are constantly debating the merits of redshirting our June babies for Kindergarten (a decision we’ll make for each child individually and based on the whole child), but even if Thomas goes to our local elementary school for kindergarten at 6 instead of 5, he’ll be in Kindergarten at his preschool next year. Which means I have 11 months left to cram in as much library, zoo, and play time as I possibly can before he’s in school 5 days a week. It goes too fast. Tooo fast.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 2.21.07 PM On that note, Nell is not in preschool. So many people in our area are putting their two year olds in preschool and I just…can’t. Noticing a theme here? Ha. I joke that Nell needs as much home influence as she can get before we send her out into the big wide world (true), but really I just like having my kids here with me (I will be the first to say I don’t know if I would look at this differently if we hadn’t been through what we’d been through with daycare when Thomas was an infant. But I have deep trust issues, now. Deep. And I don’t want my kids out of my eyesight until they can speak to me in full, clear sentences with details about everything that goes on wherever they are). However, because she is in her big brother’s shadow for so many things, I signed her up for a mom-tot gymnastics class at our local rec center. I don’t do generally do classes with toddlers because they’re…toddlers. Thomas took private swim lessons this summer and Nell signed herself up. Truly, Tom’s lesson was over, and Nell went over to the teacher and said, “I ready for my yesson, Miss Megan. I practicing my foats.” So she signed herself up basically, but normally, I wouldn’t put my 2 year old in swim lessons – she’ll learn to swim, she doesn’t have to learn at 2. However, gymanstics was something I thought Nell would enjoy, it was cheap, gave us something to do together but also something to do that’s just hers, and it only lasts for a month. And this girl? Thinks she invented gymnastics. Or “Mastics”, as she calls it. Day one, Nell was strutting her stuff. And the little boys in her class were following her around and Nell? Was. Not. Having. It. She wanted them out of her space. “I no want you follow me,” she would say to them. Oh that girl of mine. We talk to her a lot about having a kind and inclusive heart. But also? Totally okay with her doing her own thing, and not wanting people in her space. Keep it up Nell. Especially when you’re 16. Mmkay?
Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 2.21.19 PM Peter is 6 months old. Those 6 months flew by, but dragged on all the same. A colicky baby until well after 3 months, combined with severe reflux, weight gain issues, and general avoidance of sleep. It hasn’t been the easiest 6 months of my life. But he’s turning a corner. He’s sitting up, which I forgot until he started what a game changer sitting is. He’s seeing a chiropractor for his reflux, and showing improvement (he’s also just getting older). He’s eating solid foods – that kid loves himself some solids. He screams if you are not constantly providing him with food (we’ve always done a hybrid purees/solids thing for food with our babies…we introduce solids between 4-5 months due to both B’s and my allergies and skin issues and research that indicates earlier introduction might be better, so soft foods and purees at that point, but now that Peter’s 6 months, he’s doing well with regular food – potato wedges, avocado slices, chicken, etc). He’s just now at the point where he can pick something up off his tray and get it to his mouth himself, and when he’s more consistent with that, I think this baby is going to be hilarious to watch eat. Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 2.21.13 PM B started a new job on Monday. The new job is such a great opportunity for him – gets him using some of the business skills he gleaned in his Master’s program and just gives him a new group of people to work with daily. Sometimes, you just need a change. But, with this new job comes a less cushy schedule than before (he used to get home by 3:30 every day) and a decent amount of travel. So, we’re figuring it out. We know it will all work out, but it’s definitely an adjustment. An adjustment we always knew would come someday, but an adjustment nonetheless. Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 2.22.57 PM And finally, at the end of August, Shannon of Bottle Pop Party (the artist formerly known as Shannanigans) came to visit me. We had a blast drinking lots of wine, touring the state of Colorado and talking about how we were really good (and by good I only mean regular) bloggers when we had 8-5 desk jobs. Ha. It was a great week with my friend and my kids adored her. Next time we’re doing family vacays though, because Thomas and Nell really want to see “Gauge” again.
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House Tour: A New Bookshelf for our Urban Cottage Living Room

Our Living Room has changed so many times I can’t even keep track in the 15 months we’ve lived in our house. Part of the reason for that is that we were working with what we had from our old house, not wanting to buy anything new until we had an idea of how we used the room. Shortly after Peter was born, I moved the room around to accommodate a bookshelf next to the sofa, and I really liked having storage and height in the room. But, the bookshelf that we bought for our old office didn’t really fit our current style. I have always called our style “urban cottage”, and at least for us, that translates to slipcovered, easy-care upholstered furniture, a mix of wood, painted wood and metal and an airy vibe with the occasional pop of color. I think if I lived by the ocean, I’d embrace coastal with my whole heart, but since I’m in land-locked Colorado, a little urban cottagey-farmhouse works best.

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Do More Knowing Your Child Is Safe: The Ayden Video Monitor (and a giveaway!)

I recently had the opportunity to try out the new Levana Ayden baby video monitor…and it’s awesome. Click through to read my review of the monitor and to enter for a chance to win one of three baby monitors Levana is giving away! [Read more...]

Painting Oak Grain Cabinets

 

Painting Honey Oak Cabinets

Well, the kitchen cabinets are done.  I would say I’ll never paint cabinets again, but I’ve got two bathrooms full of honey oak so that would be a lie. It was a process. A labor of love. And far from perfect. But they’re painted, and it’s been a game changer for the overall feeling of our house.

Let’s review: When we bought the house, the kitchen was sage green, the island was chocolate brown, and the cabinets were orange honey oak that blended into the hardwood floors. Taste is so personal, but let’s just say this wasn’t ours. But the layout was good, and we knew the potential of paint. After painting our cabinets in our last house, we knew the impact that white cabinets could have. We like bright and cottagey, so painted works well for us. Don’t get me wrong, I can totally appreciate beautiful, warm wood cabinets, too. But these builder grade orange oak monstrosities weren’t working for us.

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Six days after we moved in, we hired painters to paint our two story family room and when they said they could paint the kitchen walls for an extra $50, we told them to do it. Could I have painted the kitchen myself? Yes. But time is money and I wanted the sage and brown out as fast as possible. B and I agreed we’d paint the cabinets during our first summer in the house. And then we found out Peter was on his way, which put a halt to my involvement in painting. Any painting that happened in our house over the next 9 months was either hired out or done by my mom and mother-in-law while the kids and I were out of dodge of the fumes (even the no-VOC paint we use can add some VOCs in the tinting process, and the fumes are very obvious to me while pregnant, so we just play it safe). Anyway, the gray paint made a difference and helped the entire house flow much better, but we still couldn’t wait to get rid of the honey oak cabinets.

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So, with Peter’s baptism scheduled for July 12th, I decided to start this project at the end of June. We were leaving on vacation in the middle of July, so I knew it was now or never for getting this project done this summer. We used Benjamin Moore Advance paint in Simply White. I primed with Zinsser BIN Shellac Primer to help prevent the heavy oak grain on our cabinets from bleeding through the paint, and followed up with a coat of Kilz on each side of each cabinet, as well. With anywhere from 4 hours to a full day drying time with these three products, it was a process. I started on the island, then moved to the upper cabinets and then the lower cabinets. We finished installing the cabinet doors and drawer pulls the night before Peter’s Baptism, but had to order knobs for the doors after coming up empty on the style we wanted in stores nearby.

Painted Kitchen Cabinets

I will say that despite my best efforts, the wood grain still shows. And I’ve accepted this – it is what it is. I was hoping for a factory finish, but with the heaviness of the grain on our doors, I was living in la-la land. But, they’re painted, and they no longer blend into the floors, and I love my white cabinets.

Painted Cabinets

The next order of business in here is to do some form of woodwork on the island that faces out to cover up the drywall. I haven’t decided what style I want here, yet, though, so that’s a ways off.

Painted Oak Cabinets

So, that’s our kitchen. I didn’t love our backsplash originally, but now that the cabinets are white, it brings out the lighter tones in the stone backsplash and I actually like it. Eventually we’ll replace the countertops and the sink – B hates our sink. I knew he didn’t love it, but I wasn’t aware of how much until he confessed to me over our anniversary dinner that he dislikes our asymmetrical kitchen sink more than our carpeted master bathroom…and let me tell you, he has strong words for our carpeted bathroom. So, that’s the latest in our house adventures – we’re just making it a little more our style every day.

Toys for 2 Year Old Girls

It’s that time of year – my big kids had birthdays a couple months ago, so I can tell you what they’re loving now that we’re a few months into their new ages. Let’s start with Nell because finding things for Thomas was tough this year! No affiliate links, just sharing what we love, so click away!

 

2 year old toys

Nell is a baby doll girl. And when it comes to baby dolls, you have to go Corolle. Ok, you don’t have to, but they’re my favorite. They’ve been around forever – my two favorite babies were Corolle babies, and Nell plays with mine. My aunt bought Nell her first Corolle baby, and for her birthday, we got Nell a Corolle doll that is water safe. The body is soft, not hard like you’d expect, and my water loving girl loves giving her baby a bath. But, this is also Nell’s go-to baby right now for just general play. I’m telling you, Corolle dolls are the best.

 

Doll stroller. Most doll strollers don’t have front swivel wheels, which makes them a pain to take anywhere, and especially to push around the house. We bought a Graco one for Nell this winter and it just didn’t cut it for our circle floor plan – so for her birthday, I found this only slightly pink stroller on sale on Amazon (I think I paid $20 for it) and it’s been a hit. Note: The Amazon reviews aren’t great because someone thought this was a Maclaren stroller. It is made to look like a Maclaren, and we’ve loved it. Sometimes reviews are helpful, sometimes – like this time – they’re not.

Play kitchen. Santa brought this play kitchen to Nell in December. Santa specifically picked this one because it’s gender neutral since Nell had a big brother (at the time just one, but I was hugely pregnant with Peter and didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl – good choice Santa since we’re now a male dominated household). Honestly, Thomas loves playing here just as much as Nell.  Santa did leave B and I a note letting us know that it was a bear to put together, so keep that in mind should you be thinking of asking Santa for one for your little one this year…give Santa lots of extra time.

Play kitchen food. This is what I tell eveyrone to get Nell when they ask for ideas – play kitchen food and accessories. My favorite food is by Learning Resources – these healthy baskets are great because the baskets store the food, but the kids also like playing grocery store. My aunt got Nell this Farmers Market set from Learning Resources for her birthday, and it’s a hit. The kids play market and grocery store – and love it.

And I didn’t even move the water table off the picture from last year’s round-up, because it continues to be a favorite (Nell’s 1st birthday gift). I cannot tell you how many cups of morning coffee I’ve finished before 10am because of the water table. We use it outside Spring – Fall. I store it in the garage, but bring it inside every few weeks in the winter for the kids to play with like a sensory table. I bought ours at Costco for Nell’s 1st birthday – and they tend to carry a new one every year, but buy early, because they sell out by June!

So, that’s what Nell’s loving these days. What about your kids? I’ll get Thomas’s post together soon…if I can figure out what to put on it!

Here are my past toy posts:

Toys for 1 Year Old Girls

Toys for 12 – 18 month Old Girls

Toys for 2 Year Old Boys

Toys for 3 Year Old Boys

Our Favorite Games