Matt took last week off of work to get some things done around the house. His big project? Re-doing the front steps.
Our existing steps were ugly, wonky, and starting to decay. Matt already replaced one of the boards that was starting to fall apart, but the steps really needed to be completely replaced. Apart from lacking in structural integrity, the steps were also ugly and badly proportioned.
Matt texts me a photo of the demo work…an giant gaping hole in the front of our house. Awesome. He also called me just before I left work asking me to pick up 80lbs of sand on my way home. He was apparently too dirty to go to Menards, but me picking up a couple bags of sand, covered in dirty rain water, in my work clothes was no problem. #bitter
Matt finished digging out the base and leveling the existing pavers. Once he had a level base, he was able to build new (and level!) supports.
We have stringers! And a tread! Woot Woot!
Apparently lattice is a bitch to cut if you’re not cutting on a 45 degree angle, but I think he did a pretty good job!
Matt waited for me to have free time to do the risers. They needed to be ripped down to the correct height and it’s much easier to have two people when running long pieces of wood through our table saw.
We still need to add railings, but I think it’s looking pretty good so far! My dream plan is to extend it width-wise as well (the sides of the top step line up with the edges of the windows), but we would need to pour a new concrete pad to really make that worth it. You can also see our walkway isn’t as wide as the steps, which we’re dealing with for now. Someday down the the road it would be nice to redo the walkway and make a better base for the steps. Unfortunately we have more pressing spendy updates before we get around to that. Very few people have money to do All the Things, and that’s ok, just figure out what your priorities are and work from there.
A few nights ago Matt commented to me that our house has too much flat-pack and not enough vintage.
The very next day, I found this beauty on the side of the road.
I literally did a double take as I drove by, but continued on to pick up my son from daycare. We swung by on the way back home for some Mommy-Son bonding time (read: he cried while I muscled this thing into my minuscule car and drove a block with my trunk open #safetyFirst). The drawers need some repair and the whole thing needs refinishing, but it’s all completely doable and I even have a spot for it in our living room.
On Saturday I had a friend visiting from out of town, so naturally we went to the cluster of antique/vintage stores. Outside of one was a shabby looking MCM desk that was clearly in the process of being rehabbed. All the repair/refinshing work was stuff I could do, so I scored this puppy for $40!
One of the drawer fronts needs to be re-glued, the damaged edging needs to be pried off and replaced, and the whole thing needs to be stripped and re-stained. Someone must have refinished it at one point and did a TERRIBLE job with the stain. It’s splotchy and streaky and horrible, which means it just needs to come off. I’m currently planning a dark stain with white drawer fronts, I just need to figure out what hardware I want on the drawers…possibly cup pulls, we’ll see.
I also (still) have my bank of vintage post office boxes. I love these SO much, I’m just unsure how I really want to finish them.
They also got some paint on them while I was working on another project. I tried to wipe it off right away and failed, so now it just looks like a bird crapped on it. Classy.
On top of all of that, I have a vintage sewing machine table. The machine is fabulous, but it’s built into the table which was causing space issues in our study layout. I bought a new sewing machine and this one is going to my mom. If I get in a serious refinishing groove, I’d like to try and strip and re-stain this as well… especially since I’m responsible for the black paint. We all make poor life choices at some time or another….
So with all of that, this is the current state of our front porch:
Please don’t report me to Hoarders…
In the past I’ve done refinishing work out here because the space is well ventilated and enclosed (plus, the carpet’s crap so I don’t have much guilt if I drip something and it misses the dropcloth). Unfortunately, I don’t want this to be a working space with Wesley crawling around because there’s too many dangerous things a baby can get into in a refinishing project. I’m probably going to end up setting up shop in our garage and trying to get everything done before it snows.
In semi-related news, I passed a furniture refinishing and repair place that’s hiring. Not gonna lie, I’m really tempted to apply just so I can put “stripper” on my resume. Unfortunately they’re only hiring part-time. Still might be worth it if I could get an employee discount on reupholstering my couch….
Hey hey hey! We have a new headboard! Did you think you had lost me to baby posts? Yeah… hopefully those will be slowing down and I’ll be focusing more on the house again. If you are interested in some down-to-earth baby talk, I finally did something with my Twitter account. Yup, I’m officially a Twit.
And our new sconces? How cute are they???
We seriously haven’t had a headboard since we moved into this house, so it’s been really nice to finally get this project out of the way. And yes, this was all custom-made and not terribly difficult. If you can use a miter saw and staple gun without losing a hand, this is for you!
Staple gun (+ 1/4″ staples)–an electric staple gun is totally worth it!
Because we didn’t take our headboard all the way to the floor, we measured from the top of our bed frame (without the mattress) to our desired height. We cut 8 1x6s to this measurement.
I used spray adhesive to adhere 2 layers of batting to each board. The adhesive will help prevent your base layers from shifting, but isn’t necessary. I rough-cut the batting first, then trimmed it to size after gluing it down.
Cut your third layer of batting a few inches longer on each side–you’ll need enough to wrap around the board and staple down. Cut your fabric about the same size.
Lay your fabric on the ground right-side down. Layer your batting, and then your board (fabric side down).
Oh hey, look! I finally remembered to take some pictures! I blame mom-brain (it’s a convenient excuse for everything).
I also cut out the corners of the batting to de-bulk when I got to wrapping the ends.
Starting from the center, staple the batting and fabric to the back of the board. You’ll want to pull the fabric snug, but not super-tight. Work your way around the board, alternating sides.
Once all your board are wrapped you’ll need to attach them all together. Cut a 1×2 a few inches shorter than the entire width of the boards. Use a convenient stretch of baseboard to keep the top of your boards lined up evenly (because of our shoe molding, I put an extra board in front of our baseboards). Recruit a helper to pull the boards tightly together as you screw the 1×2 into them. Depending on how you choose to mount the headboard, you may opt to do more rows of 1x2s, but we were attaching some additional boards.
After the panels were secured together, we measured, cut, and attached the frame. First I dry-fit everything to check that everything was cut right. Then I attached the corners together with L-shaped plates. The frame then slipped around the panels and got attached to each board with straight plates.
We added a 2×6 along the bottom to give us an area to screw our bed frame directly into the head board. Our bed was constantly inching forward on our hardwood floors so we wanted to put a stop to that. Only about half of the 2×6 overlaps the headboard, the remaining overhang fills the gap between our bed frame and the wall. If you have less-chunky baseboards, you may not not need a 2″ board here. Just measure the gap between your bed frame and the wall when your frame is pushed up as close as it will go.
At this point, some of you may be wondering why one of the boards of the frame appears to be painted on the back side. This is because my husband–the math major–forgot how angles work.
Matt: I probably shouldn’t have bothered getting the pre-primed boards. I still had to prime one of them again anyway.
Matt: Because after cutting the first the side piece you need to flip it over to cut the angle for the opposite side.
Me: Or you could just reverse the saw.
Matt: No no, because see, this side needs to be angled this way so to get the opposite angle on the other side you need to flip the board over and…. oh… well I feel stupid now.
The picture above also show the cleat on the back of the baseboard. Cleats are a great way to mount heavy objects on a wall–the length helps distribute weight while allowing you to hit multiple studs. If you have a table saw, they’re also super easy to make.
We chose to mount half of the cleat on the back of the headboard first and then measure for the correct height for the corresponding wall
I don’t have a lot of specific guidance for lining up each half of the cleat other than measure. Measure lots. And make chalk mark for guides. It probably easier if your headboard rests on the ground, but ours rests on the top of our bed frame (because we just like to be difficult here).
FYI: That’s not a phone resting on the cleat, it’s just one of the 50 million awkwardly placed outlets in the room. Matt removed the outlets, capped the wires, and put a solid plate over the electrical boxes.
So to recap: The headboard is attached to both the wall and the bed frame. It’s secured to the wall with a French Cleat, and bolted to the frame using a spacer.
Awesome diagram, no? One of these days I’d like to install Windows XP on my old (Windows 7) laptop so I can install my copy of AutoCAD again…but that’s a lot of work. #lazygirl
So yay! We have a headboard! And new sconces! Our bedroom is actually starting to come together! I have one wall left to paint (that I won’t be able to fully finish until we take out the window AC unit). I have an area rug ready to go (I just don’t want to put it down until I’m done painting). The biggest element I’m missing at the moment is a pair of nightstands. The dressers aren’t really working there, especially with a lower bed frame…but hey, we’re getting close to done!
One year ago (ok, a year + a week since I’m behind) this precious little peanut was born.
This past year as simultaneously flown by and taken forever and my little peanut is now a little munchkin who wants to investigate everything and is already trying to eat us out of house and home.
He’s not walking yet, but getting pretty close. His top 2 teeth are just starting to come in too so pretty soon he’ll really start to resemble a chipmunk (he’s already mastered stuffing his cheeks full of food). Probably his biggest achievement this last month has been discovering that he can put objects into bins rather than just dump them out everywhere. Last night I watched him happily pick up all his blocks and put them back in their box before bed (I’m under no illusions that this will last).
This lucky guy got not one, not two, but THREE Birthday celebrations!
For his main party, I fully admit to losing my shit a little bit. I made a balloon garland (meant to do 2, but I ran out of time and balloons #pinterestmomfail). I made tassels. I spray painted dollar store animal figures. And after all of that everyone ended up hanging out outside because the weather was glorious and the kids had a splash table and bubbles. I didn’t take tons of pictures because i spent more time enjoying the party itself. #momwin
Moral of the story is, it’s ok to lose your shit. It’s a first birthday and a big milestone. But if you play it simple (and dare I say, sane?) that’s cool too! Baby won’t care and none of your friends will judge you (and if they do, get better friends, seriously).
Second moral of the story: if there is any chance you’ll be spending time outside, clean off your Garden Chair of Solitude and make sure you have an outdoor or folding table. I quickly grabbed the coffee table from the porch so we could move the food nearby. Our backyard is still a mess, so I hadn’t really planned to be out there the whole time, but it worked!
His second party piggy-backed on my Grammie’s 90th birthday. His birthday is the day before hers and we had a big family reunion in Maine. We got to see tons of relatives we don’t usually see and spent the day before his birthday traveling for 12 straight hours (drive to a park-n-ride, shuttle to the airport, fly to Boston, wait for baggage, bus to the rental cars, drive out of Boston,* continue driving to Maine**). During my Grammie’s party all the July birthdays got a special shot-out and bonus cupcakes (because apparently there are loads of us–myself included).
After Maine, we drove back to Massachusetts (with a stop in the White Mountains of New Hampshire) to visit Matt’s Grammie. We also went over to Matt’s uncle’s and they had a surprise party for Wesley. Kiddo got pretty spoiled by all his relatives!
I don’t know where they got this smash cake from, but it was seriously the perfect size. I got his main birthday cake from our local grocery store chain (Lunds & Byerlys) and they include a free smash cake for a first birthday*** but, as you can see from the earlier pictures, it’s frickin huge (7 inches) for a little baby. I almost wish I had just gotten a jumbo cupcake instead (but hey, it’s hard to argue with free****).
*City motto: Fuck GPS
**Matt kept describing it as “Northern Maine,” it wasn’t even the northern half of the state….but possibly the northern end of the populated half of Maine.
***Lots of places apparently do this, so if you’re planning a first birthday party just ask around (I know Hyvee does and I’ve heard Target does).
****Part of it being free was that there were no custom options (which I can’t really argue with because, free). It originally had balloons and a 1 on the top, but since I had a cake topper I wanted to use, I just carefully scraped them off. Matt thought I was nuts, but it wasn’t my first cake surgery,***** so I more or less knew what I was doing.
*****I worked food service in a nursing home in high school and college, and got called done to one of the party rooms one day because the cake ordered for a resident’s birthday had her name misspelled. I was elected to fix it–no pressure. Thanks to our annual Pig Roast, I can also craft 3D pigs out of frosting like a goddamn pro.
Matt and I don’t always see eye to eye on decor. For one, he has this weird obsession with themes. Personally, I think the vast majority of themed rooms are poorly executed, but I do love touches of bizarre and whimsical.
So when I found this rug, I wasn’t terribly surprised that he had some objections. One of them being that he didn’t think it “went with the room” (“the room” being our study/guest room/everything room… that hasn’t gotten a formal design plan yet…).
Matt: We’d need to replace the album covers with a… thingy… a wheel.
Me: A wheel?
Matt: Yeah, a ship’s wheel. And an anchor. And you’d need to get. a peg leg.
Me: Me? Why me?
Matt: Because you’re the one who wants the rug!
I still really want to find a place in my house for this rug…
Wesley the Crusher is now 11 months old! He’s 24lbs, has 2 teeth (and is working on 2 more), and has almost discovered his knees. He still mostly drags himself around like a walrus, but occasionally we see him move a few feet on all fours. He’s pulling himself up on everything, whether it’s stable or not, and super curious. Luckily for the cats he’s also (gradually) getting more gentle with them.
Poor little guy also just got his first significant illness. He’s had a few colds, and a mild case of croup, but this time he has something that’s really taken a tole on him. It’s pretty scary for the parents when your baby’s temperature climbs to 105, but our pediatrician said that babies tend to run a little hotter, so while it’s definitely a significant fever, it’s not an oh-my-god-my-baby-is-dying fever. The doctor thinks it might be Hand Foot and Mouth since he had a couple red spots on his feet. The spots haven’t spread at all though, so who knows. Either way, he’s doing MUCH better today, but still exhausted.
Traveling With Baby
Over Memorial Day we took Wesley on his first plane trip, fittingly enough, to North Carolina. It was actually a great choice for a first flight because it was 1) fairly short (2 hours in the air), 2) a direct flight, and 3) we were visiting family and they had a bunch of extra baby gear so there was less big stuff we had to lug. We’ll be doing a more intense trip later in the summer, but after this one I’m feeling pretty optimistic.
We got the Summer Infant 3D Lite stroller a couple months ago. Our travel system stroller was way too bulky to be convenient and we knew we’d be navigating airports in the near future. You can get super-cheap umbrella strollers, but the 3D Lite had some great features without being super pricey. We’ve been using it as our everyday stroller, but it small/light enough to work well in airports too.
1) It’s tall enough for parents. This is a common complaint when I was reading reviews of umbrella strollers–unless you’re super-petite the handles tend to be uncomfortably low. This does mean that it’s larger than a lot of other umbrella stroller and it barely fits in the trunk of my Chevy Sonic…but it does fit and all the other features make it totally worth it.
2) Storage! The 3D Lite has a generous basket underneath which I find to be incredibly useful.
4) Sun shade. While it won’t protect your baby from everything, it’s better than nothing for sure!
5) Recline options. The 3D Lite has multiple recline options, and can go almost horizontal, which is awesome if you need some nap time on the go.
Other useful things:
Sticky place mats for eating out (these are way classier, but personally I couldn’t justify the price difference for something that’s designed to be spilled on and thrown out)
Sippy cup/bottle tethers (If your cups have handles, you can just use toy tethers, but ones like these have a non-slip grip designed for bottles)
First aid kit (I already keep one in my diaper bag with some bandaids, and neosporin, for trips I add hyrdrocortisone, a thermometer, and infant Tylenol)
Alcohol wipes (good for cleaning off baby utensils on the go)
Gate check bag(s) (for stroller/car seat). This one worked ok for our stroller, but already has a small rip. At some point I may just take it apart to use as a pattern and make my own.
Mini bottle of dish soap
Travel bottle brush (we use the Como Tomo bottles which have a really wide neck so we didn’t need this, but depending on your bottle style it might be useful)
Depending on where you’re located, this won’t always be an option. If you have the option to fly non-stop DO IT. There will be fewer pressure changes for baby, and less hassle of hauling all your crap around an airport.
Condense your Baggage
When it was just me and Matt flying, we’d travel with 2 carry-on suitcases + my purse. Easy-peasy. This time around we knew we were going to have to check luggage. We had 1 medium-sized suitcase we packed for everyone (rather than individual suitcases for each traveler). This not only cut down on baggage fees, but allowed us more free hands. Just keep in mind, airlines tend to charge an extra fee if your bag exceeds a certain weight so if you pack heavy, weigh your bag and check policies beforehand.
In addition to our checked bag, I also packed an emergency carry-on suitcase. This was basically the everything-goes-wrong-and-holy-shit-now-it’s-the-zombie-apocalypse bag. I had a couple changes of clothes for Wesley (in addition to the back-up outfits in my diaper bag), one change of clothes for me and Matt (because babies tend to poop on you at the most inconvenient times), a 2 day supply of diapers, and extra formula.* Once we checked our bag we were left with one carry-on suitcase, a diaper bag, my purse, and a stroller. Strollers and car seats are typically exempt from baggage limits, but always check your airline’s policies.
You Don’t Need it All
If you’re going to visit family/friends, check with them ahead of time to see if they have (or can borrow) larger baby items–car seat, pack-n-play, highchair/booster. If you’re not, check with your rental car company to see if they also rent car seats, and check with your hotel to see if they provide cribs. Even if things cost a bit extra, it may be worth your sanity to not have to lug EVERYTHING around with you.
If you do need to Bring All the Things, you may want to invest in some travel-specific gear (which may not be worth it unless you’re a frequent traveler). The Cosco Scenera seems to be a popular choice for travel since it’s FAA rated (so you can use it on the plane), it’s lightweight (about 10lbs), and fairly easy to install. You can also get things that let you strap the car seat to your luggage, or convert it into a stroller. If you think you’ll need a highchair (like if you’re staying in an Air BNB, or with non-baby family/friends), I’m personally eying this one for our next trip. It’s inexpensive, condenses pretty darn flat, and still provides a boost to get baby at the right table height.
*Which promptly got my bag flagged by security because I was traveling with a large box of powder. They just had to run some magic swab over the box and we were good to go.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know we just got back from (almost) a week in Raleigh, NC. Matt’s brother lives out there so we decided to take a relaxing Memorial Day vacation. Crazily enough it was also cooler in NC than in MN so we lucked out and beat the crazy 100 degree heat wave in St Paul.
It wasn’t the world’s most exciting vacation, but it was relaxing which is possibly even better. Wesley got to spend some time with his cousins (ages 6 and 3) and had a blast. Matt and I got to chill poolside with Moscow Mules,* so it was really a win-win.
Wesley got to go “swimming” (read: floating) for the first time. He was a little concerned at first, then fell asleep in his float.
We saw a Balloon Fest sans balloons (too windy).
Walks were had.
Barbecue was eaten.
Museums were explored.
And I was massively jealous of all the magnolia trees.
*Ok, that was really just me and the in-laws. Matt is pretty convinced that the only mixed drink worth having is a G&T.
First of all, Happy Mothers Day to all the mother, grandmothers, step-mothers, and mothers-to-be out there. You are all AMAZING.
A lot has happened in the last month! Our little chunker has continued to grow and finally has teeth (2, with more on the way)! And is mobile! He’s not exactly “crawling,” but he is dragging himself across the floor with determination.* One of the daycare teachers compared him to a seal. We’re not quite sure if he will ever actually discover he has knees or not. He’s also (just in the last few days) figured out how to sit up on his own. He’ll be on his belly, push himself onto his hands, walk his back legs forward so his butt is way up in the air, then tip it to one side and push off with his hands so he’ll fall back and hopefully land on his bum. It’s quite the production but he does seem to be getting slighting more efficient at that at least.
A while back I did a round-up of my favorite IKEA staples. Now here’s another for the parents.
I love these bibs! Compact, wipeable, machine washable (air dry), and dirt cheap. Even our daycare uses these. We have some Bumpkins bibs too and while the crumb-catcher pocket is nice, these ones are a great travel backup since I don’t have to worry about losing them.
This is just an IKEA classic! The moose is pretty darn cute on it’s own, but this sheep hack for it? There are no other words than “totes adorbs.” If you’re feeling nerdy and creative I think you could totally hack it into a unicorn or dragon too.
I never had a giant wooden train set growing up, but I loved playing with the ones set up at stores. The LILLABO series makes the tracks much more affordable (although the trains themselves are a little boring). Although they advertise as being compatible with other big-name sets (Brio, Thomas, etc), my research tells me the tracks themselves don’t fit perfectly with other brands. The takeaway is save on the tracks, but splurge on the trains.
IKEA is awesome for kids rugs because most of them are inexpensive enough that your kid can destroy them and no harm, no foul. The have a couple cool play-mat options too.
Spring has finally sprung in MN! One thing people say about the more Northern states is that it’s really nice to have four seasons… what they don’t say is that the four seasons happen all in one week and the rest of the year is half freezing cold and half boiling hot.
We’re reasonably confident that we won’t be getting any more snow, so I started to make some progress on the garden. Last time I talk about about my plans for the back yard, but I actually started with our front yard (probably because it was the smallest section).
We just recently got gutters so I was able to tackle the planting beds in the front of the house.
My first step was marking out the desired shape of the bed and clearing out the grass on the planting side. Then I picked up some inexpensive plastic edging so I could prevent the grass from encroaching again. The edging isn’t too hard to install, but I do recommend letting letting it sit in the sun for a couple hours to soften a bit (it says to do so in the instructions, but I didn’t because I’m impatient). Having a mallet to drive in the stakes is very useful as well (I could get them most of the way by hand, but needed a mallet to finish it).
While I was picking up the edging, I also raided the plant section. The selection wasn’t what I was hoping for (but then, it’s been a looooong winter). I knew I wanted to get a large-ish bush for the corner of the house. I was thinking forsythia, but settled on a Purple Leaf Sand Cherry. Not only does it flower, it also has lovely red-purple leaves so it will add color for most of the year.
Now that I had the red bush, I wanted a few other things for color that wouldn’t clash horribly. I settled on Eureka Bronze Leaf Begonia (annual–purpley leaves, white flowers), Chelsey Coral mums (annual–coral-pink flowers), Vista Red and White Salvia (white to pinkish-red flowers), Wine and Roses Gladiolus (pinky/purple/burgundy flowers), and some Snow-in-Summer (ground-cover, silvery green leaves, white flowers). I already had some white hydrangeas; they’re still in their early stages but they should fill out nicely against the house over time.
I planned by layout by separating the individual plantings and placing them before actually digging any holes. This helps you get a better idea of the final look… especially if you’re like me and can’t visualize gardening to save your life. I’ve been watching a couple gardening shows on Netflix and the best advice (for me anyway) was to not think about it as gardening, but to think about it as an art installation, or (in my case) a design-build project. I pay attention to the light requirements and the estimated heights and then I rely on the basic design principals in the same way I would for an interior project.
And then I cross my fingers and pray nothing dies off immediately.
I did manage to get everything dug in this weekend. Like I mentioned earlier, I still need to thin out of the lilies on the left and I have a sedum I want to migrate, but after all the other work I was spent.
It doesn’t look like much yet. Over time I plan to work in more perennials, but I’d like to see how the more dominant plants fill over time before I make more permanent additions.
Matt has plans to re-build the front steps, probably some time this summer, which should also increase our curb appeal. I’m also anxiously awaiting the day we decide to repaint/reside the house–getting rid of the drab brown should drastically increase our curb appeal!
I’m on the hunt for some shade-loving plants for the right side of the house. My quickie online research shows that hydrangeas are shade tolerant, I’m not sure if they’d like quite as much shade as exists under our pine tree (which is less “shade” and more “complete absence of light”). I also need some red/purple/pinky shade plants to balance out some of the color. Any plant-savvy people out there with suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them!