Playroom for a Big Brother

Over the summer we started to really put some thought into how we'd use the rooms in our house now that we've gained some extra space, but also added an unexpected space-taker to the mix.

When we first moved into the family room I sectioned off a 5' area behind the sectional couch as a play space for M. But I found that the toys migrated quickly and even though he was putting them away when he was finished, I was still staring at toys from every spot in the open kitchen/family/dining room.

So I decided to move toys up to his bedroom. Which meant M needed a new bedroom with more space. I let him choose which room he wanted and he chose the former guestroom, which happens to be the largest of the three non-master bedrooms upstairs. He made a few bold requests for his room and I went with it. He likes having his toys upstairs and it's working our fairly well. We didn't really play inside all that much this summer and he prefers to do "real" stuff when we're inside like vacuuming and washing dishes. Or harassing the dog.

But his big toys like kitchen and easel were still in the family room. And that wasn't working for me. So I decided the office sun room needed to become a dedicated playroom where all the toys could live and the door could be shut. Most importantly, however, the room felt like the perfect spot for a  chair where I could sit and nurse the baby for a gazillion hours a day while M plays, draws, builds, etc. but I wouldn't feel compelled to clean up at the end of the day when I could be sleeping instead.

Making the office into a playroom meant our office, including all my sewing stuff needed to move elsewhere. Because M's former nursery was the smallest of the upstairs bedrooms and had a tiny closet, I decided that it would become the office and our old bedroom the new baby's nursery. When we moved M to the former upstairs guestroom, we had put the queen sized mattress in the former nursery. So one weekend while M and I were away, S moved (magically squeezed) the queen sized bed to the basement guest room, moved the full sized bed from the guestroom to storage until we give it to M next Spring, and moved all the office furniture and gear upstairs. Alone. And he managed to do it all without damaging any walls, ceilings, furniture, or floors. Magic.

So that's the long story of how we arrived at a dedicated playroom in the former office sun room. Now for the good stuff.

Open the closed door and come on in!
To the right of the door when you walk in, which is visible from the living room, we have one of the four flokati rugs we took from S's grandparents house when they moved earlier this year. They were a bear to wash, but are so cozy now. This one sections off the perfect spot to sit and nurse the baby. I painted an Ikea Poang chair that S picked up on the curb with Annie Sloane chalk paint and instead of making a new cushion, bought one since the cost of materials was more than the cost of a new one. The to-do list needed a few shortcuts. X that off.

Some of M's blocks live in the 3-sprouts racoon bin next to the chair and the rest are in the family room under the couch in a under-the-bed storage drawer.

We took the small dresser from the basement guestroom, which no longer fit with the bigger bed down there, and made it into a train table. It's not really big enough for the largest train creations, but it works. 

As you enter to the left of the door we moved the triangle shelf from the living room, which was always a clutter collector, and made open storage for that week's current rotation of toys. We still have a three-bin rotation, but at any given time two of the bins are out: one in here and one in M's room. The third is packed away.

His little kitchen is nestled in the corner. All of his play food is out all of the time now. I'm big and tired and just couldn't keep up with play food rotation too.

His easel is in the opposite corner - this week it's on the white board side, but we switch it up to paper or chalk board fairly frequently.

Instead of using another rug on this side of the room, we put down a hand-me-down foam alphabet mat. M loves finding his "special" letters - M and X.

His little table and chairs that Grandpa made, which I also painted with chalk paint using small sample pot colors of M's choosing, fit perfectly under the windows across from his toy shelf.

And for the ultimate kid friendly decoration, we hung Ikea Dignitet curtain wires around the perimeter of the room so M's preschool artwork could become our window valances. He loves it!

M loves his playroom and it's proven to be well worth the effort to create the space. We have the middle school-aged twins who live across the street come to play with M a couple of times a week to give me (ahem, my giant aching belly) a break. The past few times they've come it has either been raining or M didn't want to go to the park. So they've locked themselves in the playroom and for two hours I hear nothing but shrieks of laughter while I'm in the other room cleaning. Plus, now when I'm making dinner, M is no longer underfoot with a dozen ankle breakers in the kitchen, he's in his playroom happily playing choochoos or trucks.

I never thought we'd have a playroom in this house, but I have to admit, it's just about the best thing ever!

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This Happened

I’ve been absent for a little while now. Two trimesters to be exact.

Yep, that happened.

I wish I could say it’s all sunshine and roses, but when you’re very firmly one and done, a surprise like this is a lot to swallow. But that’s how life works and thankfully Mother Nature gives mothers several months to work through the “OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH TWO KIDS AT HOME, GET ME BACK TO WORK NOW!” emotions ;)

Just getting through the day hasn’t been the only challenge, of course. On the house-front we found out I was pregnant right around the time when our shady contractor apparently decided his sub-standard workers had lost him enough money on this job and walked away. He left us with enough outstanding work that, if done by someone else will cost 6-7x’s as much as remains outstanding on our contract. He and his lawyer then refused to follow the dispute provisions in our contract, so we were left having to hire a lawyer of our own (I have no construction law experience so it was way outside my comfort zone.) And if you’ve ever been here before, you know that nothing moves quickly once you get lawyers involved. We’re in month 14 of what was supposed to be a four month project and I can honestly say that on most days - or rather middle of the nights - I wish we’d moved far, far, far away instead.

But, we’re here and through total exhaustion unlike anything in my pregnancy with Little M, I’m trudging away trying to make our house a beautiful home again. Little M and I have been working together for the past several months to make him a big boy room out of our former upstairs guest room. All I can say is that the boy loves orange. We decided to stick the queen sized bed from the guest room into his former nursery and were shocked when it fit – it’s a cozy space, but it fits. So baby #2 will get our old bedroom. S and his dad built a closet because we removed the existing one to create the hallway to our new master. It needs another good sanding and then the walls and doors will be ready for paint. My painting days are limited, so someone had better be taking a few staycation days in the near future of he’s going to be on a ladder with a roller in hand!

Little M and I spent several weeks at my parents’ house in Maine recently where I was able to sew curtains for the new nursery, sheets for both rooms, and lots of little details for Little M’s room. We also did lots of hiking, swimming and playing, and ate lots of blueberries.

Our to-do list is a mile long and full of mundane phone calls, appointments, and other total time-sucks. And laundry. We've got lots of laundry and unpacking to do. Most of all I’m just eager to start pulling things together, maybe install a few door knobs and light fixtures. Maybe even write a few blog posts to go with all the photos stockpiled on my computer. So basically I could really use two solid child-free weeks right now!

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Huge Giveaway from Bedding Style!

Happy spring! It is spring, right? It was 36 when I woke up this morning, which is much cooler than normal here. But today I finally tore myself away from the flannel sheets and gave our bed a little spring update with new bedding sent to us from Bedding Style.

They have so many options; it was a tough choice. I took over a week to decide and finally settled on Marimekko's Muru sheet set, which has a tiny taupe polka dot design. At first I wanted Marimekko's Ajo Pink sheet set, but someone wasn't so keen on hot pink sheets. To satisfy my hot pink craving, Bedding Style also sent me Tommy Hilfiger's hot pink Preppy Ikat pillow. Little M says "wow!"

You guys, these sheets are amazing! I'm in love. I've always had good sheets, I hate scratchy, but these ones are so soft they feel like silk. The pockets are super deep so the fitted sheet fits over our deep mattress and feather bed with no problem. I couldn't resist taking a nap when Little M was asleep today. I'm not missing the flannel at all. I don't think I'm ever going to take these sheets off our bed. If I didn't have a toddler, I wouldn't be getting out of bed tomorrow morning. I'm so in love with these sheets.

Bedding Style wants to give one of our readers' bedrooms a spring update too with a $200 bedding giveaway. Is that not the best thing you've read all day? Two hundred dollars in new bedding! You can get your own heavenly sheets too! Enter using Rafflecopter, below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was given the bedding described in this post by Bedding Style.com. All opinions are purely my own. I truly love these sheets.

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You guys, we have exterior lights! This is huge, this means we’re back in business and this project may actually finish sometime soon. (Knock on wood!) I’m so excited to share the front porch light with you since it’s something that’s been sitting in its box in my office for months.

Lamps Plus contacted me a few months ago and asked if we’d like to choose one of their lamps for our home. It was right at the time when the carpenters were building the barrel roll feature on our front porch and we were searching for the perfect hanging light. The timing couldn’t have been better – or so we thought! We took measurements and stood on a ladder under the bare wire hanging from the ceiling and decided on their Nautington 14” Outdoor Hanging Lantern.

And then snow started to fly. Weekly. No one was working outside and the temporary bulb the electrician put in so we’d have light for trick-or-treaters became our de-facto porch light. Fast forward to this week when it was, you guessed it, snowing, and the electrician showed up to install the exterior lights and fans. Woohoo!

We would have done this whole install ourselves, but it requires stringing new wires from the switches at the front door to the outside. That’s no small feat when you consider that there’s an exterior brick will and a big area of concrete block above the front door. The electrician had hoped to string his wires when the front door was replaced, but discovered he’d need to cut holes in the walls and ceiling in the living room to get everything though. We did not want to mess with what he’d started. So as much as we wanted this light in back in November when Lamps Plus sent it to us, we had to wait for the pros to do it.

And it was worth the wait!

I love the seeded glass shade, which is something we’ve used several places inside. You can really only see it when you’re up close, but I like the detail.

We decided on ORB, which matches the two fans that went up yesterday too. We’d used satin in the past for exterior fixtures, but with the new dark doors and the dark decking, we decided ORB was the way to go.

I’m loving the way our new light pulls the exterior together. Thank you Lamps Plus!

Disclaimer: Lamps Plus provided us with the exterior light. All opinions and reviews are our own.

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Quinoa, Squash, Sausage & Porcini Mushroom Risotto

Tonight's dinner was all about using what was in the fridge. I cooked three squashes last week that had been fall decorations. FALL decorations. They were from our CSA but were so cool looking that they sat on our mantle for a month and then in the fridge for several more. Squash last forever uncooked, but the cooked squash in the fridge needed to be used today or tossed. We had squash and black bean burritos last week that were really good, so I decided to try a different rice and squash recipe tonight. But when I opened the pantry and saw a big, new bag of quinoa in front of me, I decided to whip up a risotto with quinoa instead of rice. It was delicious!
This "risotto" isn't really risotto at all since it isn't made with rice, but the quinoa is cooked like a risotto, adding just a bit of broth at a time and letting it absorb before adding a bit more. The sausage can be omitted and vegetable broth used in place of the chicken broth, if you'd prefer a vegetarian option. Husbands can pick out mushrooms.

Quinoa, Squash, Sausage & Porcini Mushroom Risotto
~3 generous servings 

3 sweet Italian turkey sausages (approx. 1/2 pound)
1 c. chopped porcini mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1t. olive oil
2 c. squash, cooked and mashed (I used a variety of three squashes including butternut - any squash except spaghetti squash will do)
2 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 c. quinoa, rinsed
1 t. dried, rubbed sage
1/4 t. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

 1. In a medium saucepan, cook sausage, onions and garlic in the olive oil. Crumble the sausage with a fork as it cooks

2. Add mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes

3. Stir in quinoa, sage and pepper flakes, cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly

4. Add just enough broth to cover quinoa. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the broth is absorbed, then add more to just cover quinoa again. Repeat until all broth has been added

5. When all of the broth is absorbed and quinoa is tender, stir in squash and cook until warmed through

6. Remove from heat, add parmesan, mix to combine

Serve warm with freshly grated parmesan cheese on top

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Favorite Belgian Waffles

I didn't discover Belgian waffles until college - and it was in the later years at that. We didn't have a waffle maker in my house growing up and I don't think I ever ordered one at a restaurant. In my college dining hall on Saturday mornings they rolled out the Belgian waffle makers for breakfast. I went to Saturday breakfast exactly once in four years. And I had a waffle.

It was good.

I've tried different waffle recipes here and there. My brother and sister-in-law claim to have the best yeast recipe for waffles, but it requires sitting overnight. I've never tried it. However, this recipe is my favorite non-yeast waffle recipe. It has the perfect amount of crisp on the outside and it's soft inside. It freezes really well - just a quick zap to defrost and a few minutes in the toaster and it's ready for syrup.

Maple syrup season is just around the corner, so I think we're going to be seeing a lot more of these in our mornings in the near future. Mmmmmm

This recipe makes about a dozen squares in my waffle maker. I double it to have plenty of leftovers for the freezer.

Favorite Belgian Waffles

1 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
1/2 c. cornstarch
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. milk
6 T butter, melted
1 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
2 T sugar

Heat waffle iron
Warm oven to 200 degrees

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and baking soda

2. In a small bowl combine buttermilk, milk, melted butter, vanilla and egg yolks

3. In a small bow beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in sugar and continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form

4. In a small bowl, beat the egg white almost to soft peaks. Sprinkle in the sugar and continue to beat until the peaks are firm and glossy

5. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in egg whites until incorporated

6. Scoop batter into the hot waffle iron and cook until the waffle is crispy and golden, don't overcook. Repeat

7. Arranged waffles in the warm oven in a single layer (do not stack) to keep warm until serving

To freeze, cool waffles completely, freeze in a single layer then transfer to freezer bags. To thaw, defrost in microwave for 20 seconds, then toast for a few minutes until crispy again.


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My Mud Room Dream

Over a year ago this whole project began with my wish for a mudroom. I just didn't want shoes and coats in the dining room anymore. That totally ballooned into the awesome two story space we have now after we met with a few contractors who told us the big cost is in the foundation and to just go as big as we could for the best return on our investment (and I definitely eked a few more feet out since S initially wanted to go 10 feet wide and we got 16!) While the cost comparison may hold true in this market, but I'm not sure how true that rings in other parts of the country.

Today, while we're struggling to get the project as a whole finished, our dream mudroom is complete. And dare I say, it's worth the struggle?! At least it has been so far.

The front ~10 feet of the addition is dedicated to the mudroom, powder room and pantry. It's essentially all of the space that sticks out from the front of the original house, plus a few feet.
When we designed the space I asked the architect to make the hallways in the entry as narrow as possible, while still being within the normal range. I wanted to make the coat closet as wide as possible - it's eight feet wide - and jam as much storage into the space as possible. Now that we're in here, the open area and hallways feel very spacious and all the doors swing open very wide.

I began drawing sketches of mudroom cubby storage areas on the architect's plans. But I didn't really have a solid idea of how I wanted it to work until the drywall went up a few months ago. I knew I wanted hanging space below with cubbies for bins above. Initially I thought three cubbies to the left of the window would work best, but once we got in there I saw that doing so would leave a lot of wasted space to the right of the window. So we changed gears and decided to sketch out two sets of two cubbies facing each other. Since the window isn't centered in the mudroom area I added a deep bench with storage underneath to the left cubbies. Since having at 32" wide bench on the left gave us plenty of seating, we decided to make the right hand cubby unit shorter, sitting on the floor instead of on a bench. So the right side is essentially the "little guy" side and the left is the adult side.

When I finally had our ideas on paper, I handed them over to my father in law, who set to work bringing my vision to life. He and S were supposed to work on them together, but a scheduling issue and a snow storm left him doing everything except final assembly himself. Including all the painting! We owe him. Big time.

Everything is secured directly to the wall and the unit on the left is attached to the base bench too. The bottom of the bench is the wood floor, but the backs of the units are plywood so that we'd have solid wood to attach our hooks anywhere without worrying about finding studs.

We went back and forth on hook options, bought at least 50 and returned them all. We didn't want to spend more than $5 per hook and S wanted a double hook so he could hang a coat and a hat on each. We found a bent railroad nail hook that I loved, but it was out of stock until April. There was a similar hook on etsy but they were nearly $10 per hook. I searched etsy and the rainbow of colors available in different hooks caught my eye...and started a rainbow hook obsession. One seller had dock cleats available in a rainbow of colors, but they were right around $6 each. Plus, when hung vertically they only provided space to hang either a coat or a hat.

I was completely sold on rainbow hooks. All eight hooks - two for each cubby - had to be a different, bright color. So we priced out traditional coat hooks and eight cans of spray paint. But I kept going back to the chunky dock cleat look. Plus, I thought the paint would adhere better to their rough surface than to the smooth surface of a traditional hook. Then S suggested we use the cleats and do three hooks in the two taller cubbies - one on each side and one in the back - but stick with two in the shorter units just to keep costs down. So ten boat cleats it was. We ordered 4" cleats from West Marine and bought ten different cans of spray paint, plus one can of self-etching primer from the hardware store. The total cost for each hook was just over $5 after factoring in coupons and other discounts. Adding two hooks means we went just about $10 over budget. Can we call that close enough? Plus now we have 10 cans of brightly colored spray paint for other fun projects down the road. Like more hooks.

S devised a painting board for me so I could paint all the hooks and screws at once and quickly bring them back inside so they could dry in the warm air. On the first warm day when it was in the 40's, I took my boat cleat board out to the yard and go to work. The first day was just a priming day, but on day 2 I managed to get three coats of spray paint on the hooks throughout the day. All with plenty of drying time in between and without getting spray paint on myself, a curious little boy, or a dog. I did manage to give the grass quite a festive touch though.

We gave the hooks 48 hours to fully cure and then set to work choosing which hook would go where. I let Little M choose his hooks first: boo and rrrrred. S wanted blue and gold and I wanted the hot pink. The rest we arranged to equally space out the pink hooks, just in case the next family in this house has a bunch of boys or girls - we don't need any fights over who gets the "girl" cubby and we certainly don't want renters moving the hooks. So S got blue, gold and light pink. I got periwinkle, hot pink and bright green. Feeney got purple and orange. To figure out a hanging height we just took one of S's frequently worn jackets, adjusted it so it looked right and used that as the height for all the hooks.

I'm so in love with the cubbies. M loves hanging his coat on his "hoo" and points out all the other "hoo" every time he does so. They're a great way to work on colors!

I have several woven felt baskets to use above the taller, wider cubbies, but they don't fit as well on the right. So for now on the right I'm using inexpensive folding baskets that I got from Target years ago. I'm planning to either sew new cloth baskets to fit or make covers for the Target baskets. But first I need to finish sewing the rest of the nursery gift for my friend, Suz!

On the wall opposite the cubbies we have our eight foot long coat closet. Eight feet! We used to have two!

I knew I wanted to use this closet for coats and for out-of-rotation toys, so we had to make sure to use the space as efficiently as possible. I have several long coats, but not enough to fill eight feet of closet. So we decided to add a second hanging rod on the right at a height that would be high enough off the floor for my shorter jackets and low enough so S's jackets could still hang above it. After hanging all our coats and jackets we had plenty of room up top for all of S's and my coats so we're just using the lower rod for M's coats. We added a shelf above the rod and stuck a few small, lesser used things like M's car DVD player on there under our coats.

Over on the left S and I made shelves from leftover cabinet grade plywood from the dumpster that we cut to fit Little M's 3 Sprout animal toy bins.

They're over-sized shelves and we figure that they're are a good size for sports equipment later on, so they're not just useful for these specific toy bins. I love that all his toys that aren't in his little play area in the family room are stored in one, out-of-sight spot. On the top shelf I have his box of art supplies and under the lower shelf is just enough space to tuck his shoes, which he's outgrowing way too quickly! I love having a place for everything; it's such a treat. This mud room makes me feel so fortunate :)

We bought a new waterhog entry mat from LLBean to cover more of the floor space and preserve the wood floors. It's six feet long, which is just about the minimum length we need to swing the door in, let the dog in and swing the door shut without dog paws touching floors. Our old mat that used to cover the entire space in front of the side door when it entered into the kitchen is smaller than the footprint between the two cubby units! That mat used to seem so big, but it's dwarfed by the new six foot long mat. 

This area is quickly becoming my favorite spot in the house. There's a place for everything and it's totally out of sight. I love not having anything but place mats on the dining room table - even Feeney's puppy dog tail hook has a new home that's not our dining room anymore. The only thing that will make it better is having the powder room so I can take a quick peek in the mirror before heading out or wash my hands quickly after walking the dog, but that will get finished eventually. And it will be like Christmas all over again.

What elements would you have in your dream mud room? 

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Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Happy Valentine's Day! We're all home for snow day #2 this week, but our snowfamily from yesterday is melting fast on this sunny, 45 degree day.
Sledding this morning was done without hats and jackets, just snowpants and mittens! And all that exercise was definitely needed after this morning's special Valentine's breakfast: dark chocolate, chocolate chip pancakes. Whole wheat and dark chocolate means they're healthy, right? Next time you're looking for a special breakfast, I highly recommend trying these pancakes out. No syrup needed; they were so good.

This recipe makes a big batch of pancakes, which I love because they freeze so well. A couple of these pancakes from the freezer would make any old Monday a special day. However, if you're freezer is stocked chock-full already, the recipe can easily be halved.

Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Pancakes
makes ~24 pancakes

2 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
1/3 c. sugar
4 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. dark chocolate cocoa powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3-4 T. butter, melted
2 1/2 c. milk
1 c. mini chocolate chips, plus more for serving
powdered sugar for serving

Heat a griddle pan while you prepare the batter

1. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients

2. In a small bowl, whisk together wet ingredients

3. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well to remove any lumps

4. Stir in chocolate chips

5. Cook pancakes on a hot griddle, flipping when bubbles form

To serve sprinkle with powdered sugar and extra mini chocolate chips, enjoy!

Did you serve up anything special for Valentine's Day this morning?

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Tutorial: Add Custom Trim to a Breathable Crib Bumpers

Back when I sewed everything for Little M's nursery, I added custom trim to the breathable bumpers for his cradle to match his sheets.

I'm working on a nursery set for a good friend who is having her second baby. Her first daughter's nursery is very pink, including pink breathable bumpers. Because they're not finding out the sex of the baby I decided to surprise her with a set of white breathable bumpers, customized to match the red and aqua nursery set, just in case #2 is a boy. (Surprise, Suzanne)

This tutorial will show you how to add custom trim to breathable bumpers without requiring any time consuming seam ripping.

How to Add Custom Trim to Breathable Crib Bumpers

Step 1: Make Bias Tape
For the standard breathable bumpers, which have 1" wide satin trim, you'll need strips that are 4.5" wide.  

I've tried several bias tape methods and find them all a little tedious, but there are several out there. Dana's at Dana Made It is a good one - just follow the steps through making a continuous strip, but no farther for this project.

Once you have your continuous 4.5" wide strip, fold it in half lengthwise and press.

Starting at the edge of the velcro on the inside of the bumper, pin the side of the strip with the two raw edges so they just overlap the stitching on the satin trim. The strip of trim should be facing down, away from the top of the satin. At the edge of the velcro, fold the end of the strip under to create a finished edge. Make sure you keep the bumper's ties out of the way of your sewing machine.

With a very narrow seam allowance, a little less than 1/4" - I just eyeballed it, went very slowly, and used a seam allowance just shy of 1/4" - stitch the raw edges to the bumper trying to stitch directly on top of the stitching on the stain trim as best you can. Leave room to fold the end under when you near the other edge of the velcro.

Fold the trim up, concealing the raw edge you just stitched down, and press.

Continue to fold, covering the stain trim entirely and press to the front of the bumper. The bottom edge of the trim in the front should be ever so slightly longer than the back at this point.

Using a very narrow seam, stitch as close to the edge of the trim as possible down the entire length of the bumper. If you can move your needle over, move it to the far edge so you can get the seam close to the edge. I have a blindstitch foot for my sewing machine that I use for projects like this.

Repeat for the bottom trim and on the second bumper piece.

For this project I only trimmed the tops of the bumpers. On the cradle project I trimmed all the edges. Either way it's an easy way to add a super cute, custom touch to your nursery!

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A New Facade

Last month, month seven of our four month project, we saw three solid work days. And on those three days we got a porch with crisp white railings. What a difference a porch makes!

We chose Trex decking in Lava Rock, which is one their colors that has some shading that makes it look a bit more natural. I love it.

One one of those three work days the front and side doors were stained (handles and knobs are still just temporary.) We chose Minwax's gel stain in hickory. The first coat went on very light and I was a little concerned it wasn't going to "go" as well with the decking as our sample had (we did a sample on pine and the doors are Therma-Tru Classic Craft fiberglass doors.) But coat #2 darkened up a bit and on our own we did a third coat last weekend. Rookie tip - wear gloves when using stain. I think I may do a fourth if we get another warm day before the painters come to seal them. But they're looking closer to what I envisioned now.

I'd love to use the same stain for the beadboard ceiling, but the gel stain doesn't get into the grooves very well and Minwax doesn't have "hickory" in their regular stain. We'll probably do a few tests in the spring on scrap beadboard. There's no rush on the ceiling since I agreed to stain it myself if the contractor upgraded from paint-grade to stain-grade beadboard wood.

The oh-so welcoming bare bulb above the front door is just waiting for the lantern-style entry light that lamps.com so generously gave us a few months ago. I can't believe it has taken so long for the electrician to come back! I cannot wait to show you guys the light we chose. It's easy enough for us to hang on our own, but we're trying not to step on toes unless we really have to. So we wait.

At the back entry, which is really our main entry since it leads to the new mudroom, we have a new stoop with steps to the entry walk, patio, and out onto the lawn. It's exactly as I envisioned it when we were working with the architect last year.

Disregard the ropes and stakes - we were trying to grow grass in the late fall and the ropes are our feeble attempt to keep the dog and boy off the new grass.

The side and front doors are the same door and the same color, but they look different. From what I can gather, one had stain applied with a rag and the other with a brush (applied by two different people at the same time.) I think the brush must have put more stain on so the front door is darker. I found that the gel stain was easier to work with when using a rag when I did my coat though, so I think it's just a preference thing. Hopefully we can get the back door a little darker.

I think the porch and especially the railings tie the addition together with the sunroom well. I was a little concerned that the brick portion of the house wasn't blending well with the addition, but I think all that white on the porch breaks up the brick nicely. I feel like it's coming together and I'm hoping the shutters on the addition will bring it all together even more. I'm glad we went with the four window option and not the two.

So that's where things stand today. No one has been inside in a long time, but things are coming together really nicely as we slowly unpack and spread out. I can't wait to show you our new mudroom and all the work that's gone on in there!

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We Moved in for Christmas

I didn't realize I hadn't published a blog post in nearly two months until I went to write this one. I  don't think I've sit down in nearly two months either. So let me sit down and bring you all up to speed on the never-ending project. Because we're well into the seventh month of a project that was supposed to last four, but definitely not longer than six according to our contract. Fair warning, this post is full of crummy iPhone photos. Phone photos are just too quick and easy to resist!

Even though we're not near finished, we moved into our new space in time for Christmas and had our final professional cleaning on Christmas Eve. We just called it. So no there's no more labels on the windows, the baseboards aren't covered with plaster dust and my kitchen sink is gleaming. 'Cause when the cleaners come they do something magical that makes the sink shine.

But let's back up a little bit. Back in mid-November our order for siding was finally located. The original framing and siding crew was fired-ish (from what I understand it was a mutual parting) and the second company "bought" our order. They had it delivered and got all the siding and trim up, excluding the porch, in one day. It was a super eventful and exciting day.

Early the next morning they all came back and did a little caulking and then left the porch trim guy to work alone. He's not done yet. The porch is kind of a train wreck. I've been selling some stuff here and there on my local mom's network and I always have to warn people in advance to be careful and that the random pieces of plywood are not screwed down and are not level. It's like the most unsafe balance challenge ever for our balance beam obsessed two year old.

Our boy has currently lived through renovations for over 1/4 of his life. When the door open he hollers "hola!" to the Spanish-speaking guys who have been greeting him with "hola" for months too.

Over the past two months we also got interior doors and trim. The last bit of trim went in just after Christmas. There are no door knobs yet, but we've chosen them. Glass to match the rest of the house. The doors were all delivered with ORB hinges and as much as I like the look, they don't match the existing so they'll be corrected to satin, eventually. I hope. All the trim and doors are painted with BM's Advance in white satin finish, which is what I used on the majority of the trim as I repainted it over the past few years.

Speaking of paint, one of the coolest things that happened recently is that I discovered the perfect light gray paint for the walls. If you recall, we used BM's Iced Cube Silver when we first moved in, but it looks blue in many lights. I ended up putting a request for gray paint out on my local mom's listserv and borrowed upwards of 35 cans of paint. I put swatches all over the walls, marked the names and returned the cans.
Even with all those colors I still bought four samples from the BM color wheels I borrowed from my MIL. The winner for the great room was Benjamin Moore Graytint, 1600. It's a light gray that looks gray in all lights. It's gray, nothing else, just light gray. A perfect light gray. I LOVE it!

I love Graytint so much that we decided to use it in the family room, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom and master bath. In the bedroom we did an accent wall in Gray 2121-10, which is the very dark gray that we used for the accent wall in the living room.

Then, to tie things together we also used Gray under the chair rail in the dining room - the space where I agonized over grays a few years ago.

We went with Gray Cashmere 2138-60, a gray-ish green, inside the pantry and all the closets except for mine. We use a slightly darker gray with a hint of green color in the powder room (I can't remember the color and I can't even get in there since the painters decided to use it as their storage room) and used Ocean Air 2123-50 again in Little M's bathroom with Seafoam 2123-60 on the ceiling. In our old bedroom our contractor refused to paint all four walls since they only "touched" three. Since the walls were just a can of oops paint, we tried to find the closest match. I chose Harbor Gray AC-25, which was close by not the same. I love it and would definitely use it elsewhere if I ever have the chance. For now I'll just be using the leftover can to paint the fourth wall.

Last but not least, in my closet, after much deliberation, I chose Pink Peony 2078-70, which looked like a lovely blush pink perfect for a "her's" closet. OMG you guys, it was insane. It was more neon than blush. Think Pepto Bismol.

I couldn't handle it. I repainted it myself with the lightest of light lavenders that I could find. So now it looks gray. So much for making it more "hers", but at least it's better than baby girl's nursery gone wrong.

Just before Thanksgiving, while S was overseas, Little M and I packed up and stayed with S's parents while a cabinet, a wall in the kitchen, and one of the two doorways leading to the basement were removed.

We were supposed to be back in time to make pies Wednesday night, but they weren't finished, of course. So Little M and I came back anyway and after hours of cleaning, I made pies late into the night with plastic sheeting hanging down all around me.

Right after Thanksgiving S came home for a couple days and then went to Hawaii. Once again Little M and I hunkered down at S's parents' house for several days while our new floors were finished. I found an old email from our home's previous owners and was able to contact them, which was very cool, but sadly no one remembered the color stain they'd used when they finished the floors four years ago. We tried dozens of colors, but ended up using a custom mix of 50/50 English Chestnut and Red Oak with a satin finish. It's pretty close. Close enough.

A few days after the floors were finished, my parents arrived for Little M's birthday. At this point the house was most definitely supposed to be finished. At this point we started to most definitely get very, very frustrated. So we sent Little M to daycare, went to Ikea, and bought the sectional sofa we'd planned to buy for months now. And we claimed our space.

S put up our Christmas tree before leaving for another trip.

Right. Smack. Dab. In. The. Middle. Of. The. Addition.

Then my mom and I kicked it into high gear and helped us move into the new space. We cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. Then we moved furniture and carpets and toys and little play kitchens. We dug our dining room table out from where it was buried in our old bedroom and viola, we had a home.

We went from this:

To this:

So we threw and impromptu second birthday party for my favorite little boy and invited his favorite people. He had a blast. And his cake was covered with "happy" aka happy Halloween candy, his favorite.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I met with designers at the Container Store to design Elfa systems for our master closets. I finalized the designs and then price compared all the materials against Home Depot's Closetmaid systems, which we've always used in the past. I compared HD's price minus a 10% military discount v. the Container Store's 30% off Elfa sale. The two came very close, but the Container Store was the clear winner. They do ALL THE CUTS FOR YOU! Everything. You just place your order and then pick it up a few hours later. And by pick up, I mean you pull up and they load it into your car. The only issue was that the Elfa sale didn't start until Christmas Eve. So we waited. We're getting good at that.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen our two new base cabinets were installed - both have three big drawers, which is awesome! Then two days before Christmas the granite was installed. Our budget forced us to match the existing granite, which I've never loved, but the price was right. And honestly, I like it just fine. The new slab is less yellow than the old, so it just looks a little better. It overhangs by 12" on two sides, which gives us room for four stools. We only own two, but who's counting?

The counter top came in just in time for us to use the new peninsula to lay out our Christmas breakfast.Yummmmmm

While we were waiting on the Elfa sale we also moved into our bedroom, despite bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling and master bathroom drama that deserves its own post. Then at 2am on Christmas Eve, a mere two hours after the Elfa sale began, I placed our closet orders. We picked up "his" and "her" at 11am and by 3pm our closets were installed. S's clothes were hanging in no time. Mostly because he'd stored them all on hangers at his parents' when his closet was demo'd last summer. My clothes were all in boxes in the attic where I put them a gazillion years ago when I was pregnant. Now I'm faced with the unpleasant task of trying everything on and getting rid of what will never fit again. Ugh.

But at least I have an ENORMOUS space to hang them all. I swoon every time I walk in there. And not 'cause the bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling blind me.

On Christmas we came downstairs to our stockings, hung by the chimney with care
 and a huge choo-choo set under the tree in our new family room.
It was such a great Christmas - M really got it, especially since we'd talked about "the baby" and Santa for a month leading up to the big day.

Very little has happened since Christmas even though there's still so much left to do. The new space is wonderful and I'm so happy to have it, but wow. Just wow. I wish we'd chosen someone else. Who were those references I so diligently called? Apparently I didn't ask the right questions. For now I'm moving into our new spaces slowly but surely, ignoring the "warnings" that the county won't be pleased that we've moved in already, and trying my best to overlook the ever growing list of stuff that's still left to do. Slowly but surely...

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