Friday, March 28, 2014

Project Recap

So I didn’t blog for almost three whole years. That’s sort of astounding to me, because it doesn't feel at all like it was that long. Time flies so amazingly fast. Obviously a lot happened personally, but we did do some tweaks to our house as well. Here’s what’s changed.

Please excuse the horrendous mish-mash of photos. I took some of these last night, while the kids slept. Others I grabbed off of Facebook from when we first completed different projects. It's really hard when the only time I have to work on this blog is when the kids are asleep!


I didn't clean this up much. This is after the kids have gone to bed, but before spring decluttering.
The blue chair that we reupholstered here didn’t hold up to the cats or kids. We passed it along on Craigslist to someone who was very excited about revinyling it, and bought ourselves a chair from Ikea. That also isn’t holding up well to the cats.

We swapped out the homemade train table with a regular train table. It’s not that the homemade one wasn’t adorable or didn’t hold up, but it wasn’t big enough for the more elaborate tracks Sebastian wanted to make. So we got a larger surface that’s more conducive to playing, even if it’s not quite as cute.
We ditched the Ikea rug. Matt never liked it, and I finally had to admit he was right. It wasn’t good in the space for a variety of reasons.

We added more baskets and bins for storage, and a whole heck of a lot more toys.

Oh, we also swapped out the light fixture for a flush mount fixture, so Matt would stop banging his head into the chandelier. The chandelier moved to the kitchen.


We made one of our biggest improvements to the kitchen: we put in a back splash. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the white subway tile so much. We went with an accent tile in the center as well, to harken back to our original concept for this kitchen - we’d always wanted black and white checked floors. I’m glad we went with the wood laminate instead, though, as I really think the black and white floors would be too busy and juvenile.

Oh, we also swapped out our old table for my inlaw’s oak pedestal table. I like the more solid feeling of it, although with a high chair it feels a little cramped in the breakfast nook.

Living room
Not much has changed here. A new lamp, new pillows, and a couple new throws have been added to the mix. I might swap out the fluffy white pillows and all the cable knits in the spring, though. These feel awfully wintry to me.
Instagram filters make even my living room look hipster.

I’m also attempting not to kill this adorable succulent.

Laundry Room
I never blogged about this laundry room before, but we got a new furnace! And it’s not avocado green! Spending such a huge chunk of change on something completely un-fun prompted us to try and organize the chaos in this yucky little room. We got some wire shelf organizers to corral cleaning products, some hooks to hang paper and plastic bags, the ironing board, and spring-hooks to hang up all the mops and brooms. 

Oh! And I also found a great idea on Pinterest. I hung up one of those cheap $1 plastic bag holders from Ikea on the wall and am using it to store wrapping paper. 

It's still not super pretty, but it is a little more organized and functional. I will blog about this room in more detail once I'm done fixing it up a bit. 

Organizing makes me want to clean!

This photo makes me want to get a cuter ironing
board cover, even though I never iron.


My last post was about the gallery wall. We still love it, and still add to it often. Here’s what it looks like now.
On the other side of this narrow hall, we swapped out the bifold, dark wood doors, for a curtain. When we went to Ikea last week with this project in mind, I immediately began to scope out the white curtains. But Matt wanted something with color. I’ve been leaning more toward neutrals for a while now, but he still really likes bold color. So, on this one, I gave in. It’s growing on me.  Another post will outline this closet and what we’re using it for soon.

Boys’ Room
Obviously, our biggest change in this room is that we added another person! To accommodate him, we moved Sebastian to an Ikea Kura bed (that eventually both kids will sleep in) and turned the toddler bed back into a crib. 

Then, we took down the doors to their closet and made a little book nook and storage area. I seriously love it. I don’t know what it is about closet doors, but I don’t like them! Once I take the doors down to a closet, suddenly, the room opens up and things seem so much cleaner and easier to organize. The upper shelves are a great place to store bins of out of season clothes and Sebastian’s outgrown clothes for Malcolm to grow into. And with the amount of books these two have, we needed an additional bookcase.
This photo is from before Malcolm arrived. We decided this arrangement of the crib didn't work. Updated photos when I have a moment when they are awake. 

Our Room

Perhaps this was one of our biggest changes? After a lot of back and forth, we finally decided to repaint the master bedroom. The orange just was not doing it for me anymore. I wanted something airier and lighter. I obsessed over this room on ApartmentTherapy for months, and grabbed a sample pot of the color featured, Benjamin Moore Harbor Gray. I put it on the walls, and it looked nothing at all like the photo. After grabbing billions of gray/blue paint chips, my friend Amy pulled up the Benjamin Moore website and the AT inspiration photo side-by-side and in five minutes picked the perfect color: Benjamin Moore Iced Slate. I wanted something that was gray with a strong hint of blue, and this was perfect. In some light it is a true gray, in others very much a pale blue, and other times looks a little periwinkle. It looks fabulous with the white trim and cream comforter, curtains, and book wreath. The whole room is definitely more traditional and maybe even a little country, but it is soothing and more grown up, and I just love it.

Master Bathroom

Once we repainted the bedroom, I decided we needed to repaint the master bath to better coordinate. It was once painted a tan called “Puppy Paws.” Now it is painted Sherwin Williams “Sensible Hue.” If there’s a better metaphor for how my taste has grown up and calmed down since we first bought this condo in our mid-twenties, I’m not sure what it is. The Sensible Hue has a little more green added to it. I basically wanted the green counterpart to the blue bedroom - something gray with a hint of green. It’s a touch darker than I originally wanted, but I actually got this paint for $5 as a mistint, and the guy at Sherwin Williams was awesome, so I won’t complain. We also bought a framed mirror for this room, and we repainted the grout in our shower. This room looks way less builder basic than it did last year, and while I still would love to gut it, it’s a much more pleasant place to be.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Two Kids in One Condo

So, the biggest thing that has changed since I last kept this blog is that we have another kid! It’s weird for me to look back at my old posts, because Sebastian was so little... he was about the same age as Malcolm is now! Now instead of this blog being the story of a couple raising our toddler in a condo, it’s about us living with two busy boys, ages 1 and almost 5 in a condo.

We didn’t let our housing situation affect our family planning. Originally, we always thought that the condo would be where we lived as young newlyweds, and then we’d trade up when we decided to start family. But then the market tanked in 2008, just when we were starting to think about kids. So, we decided that while perhaps not how we’d originally planned, the condo would be a lovely place to have a baby. Then maybe we could move when he was a preschooler, we told ourselves, before having our second child. You know the saying: life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. The whole moving thing just kept getting put off and put off. We’re still underwater, we’ve had more than a few financial setbacks that kept us from saving for another down payment, and maybe to some extent inertia kicked in. But we still wanted another child, so when the timing was right with everything else, we went for it.

It might not be how we planned it, but we are so happy with how it’s turning out. Malcolm is such a funny little guy. He was a mellow baby, and then suddenly got his sea legs and started tearing around the house at only 9 months old. Now he’s a little over a year and doing all those super cute young toddler things - babbling with inflection and purpose, following simple directions, pointing at everything, dancing, giving hugs and kisses. Sebastian has turned into quite the big brother as well. While he is sometimes annoyed at Malcolm for taking his toys, it seems like their favorite thing to do is wrestle around and give each other “love attacks” like two rambunctious puppies. It’s pretty fantastic.

This little starter home of ours has stretched to accommodate our now-nuclear family as best it can. I can’t say it’s been entirely easy­­–some things are awesome about small space living with two kids and some things less so. But here are some thoughts about how it’s working out for us so far:

Sharing a room actually made sleep better. My number one fear when contemplating living in this small, two bedroom condo with two kids was how were we ever going to get any sleep? We had Malcolm in our room in a Pack n’ Play bassinet until he was 5 months old. Once he started sitting up, we knew it was time to move him into the crib in what was to become the boys’ shared bedroom. But I was a little terrified. Sebastian has always been a bit of a night owl, preferring to bring toys to bed to play with, to sing songs, to call out to Mommy and Daddy for some more water or a snack. Was he going to wake the baby? And of course Malcolm was still getting up many times a night at that stage. Would the baby wake up Sebastian? But, for better or worse, we decided to go for it, and it has been so wonderful. Sebastian realized he needed to actually be quiet at night, so a lot of that nighttime silliness just stopped. It was kind of like magic. Now he’s realized that he can grab the baby monitor to “page us” when he wants something, but still: he’s whispering, he’s being respectful of Malcolm’s sleep, and he’s now falling asleep more easily. And Malcolm’s sleep improved a little bit when we moved him to the crib as well. It was great getting our bedroom back, and there’s something very sweet and almost old fashioned about the two of them sleeping peacefully together in their shared room.

Toys. So many toys.This is where we are struggling. I look back at this post of our playroom when we first converted it from a dining room, and I don’t know whether to laugh or weep. There were hardly any toys! So much open space! We still stored our glassware on the Expedit! The toys are taking over. The whole Expedit is devoted to toys, and we still don’t have enough room. There are toys spilling out from behind the leather chair. There are toys under the train table. There are toys in the adjacent bookshelf. There’s a toy closet in our hallway. There are toys in the boys’ room. I thought we had it under control, we had just done a huge toy purge in the fall, but lately I feel completely overtaken by toys (Christmas with two kids and a first birthday will do that I suppose).  I’m trying to get a system that will allow the kids to help clean up more easily on their own, and that will keep my sanity intact. Toy storage is definitely a work in progress. One thing I keep reminding myself of is that it could always be worse. I think overall, people realize our space limitations and don’t give us as many toys.

Condos can actually be great with small children. Hands down the best part of condo living for me is not having to shovel snow. Winter of 2012/2013 was snowy, and we had a teeny tiny newborn. It was so nice getting to hibernate inside and not worry about who was going to go clear the driveway and sidewalk while we were exhausted with a new baby. This year it has been bitterly cold and Sebastian’s first year of preschool has brought home many illnesses. It’s been nice to just let someone else deal with the snow when we’re too busy or sick or tired. And while the thing I personally hate most about condo living is not having my own yard, last year, Sebastian, Malcolm, and I spent a ton of time outside – using sidewalk chalk on our driveway, exploring the yard behind our condo buildings, and playing with the neighbor kids on our nice, safe cul de sac. I think I finally just embraced our house, and used the outdoor space we do have, instead of wishing for private outdoor space we don’t.

Safety and peace of mind. This might not apply to everyone living in a condo, but ours is all one level. That means no stairs to baby proof. This is a good thing for me, as kids and stairs freak me the heck out. The small size means the kids are always in ear shot, and I can get to them in a flash. I don’t worry as much about their safety in our house because I’ve been able to baby proof (cabinet locks and furniture straps) and then let them explore without having to hover as much. I may need to hover a little more though, judging from how many things Malcolm has dunked in the toilet lately...

Small spaces=more time. Living in a small house has its advantages. Mainly, what I lack in space I make up for in time. It doesn’t take as much time to clean up our small space. I can vacuum nearly the whole house from one outlet. We can clean it from top to bottom in a couple of hours. My husband likes to tease me that it can go from being what I call a “disaster” to clean and cozy in 20 minutes. And, as I mentioned before, not having to spend time on outdoor maintenance means we can spend more time playing with these little guys.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


This article went viral back in the fall, and is about how millennials’ reality of their lives, jobs, homes, careers, and families aren’t living up to their expectations, and how that causes them to be distressed and unhappy. This article was fairly problematic for a number of reasons, and I don’t even really identify myself as a millennial (I’m one of those people in between Gen X and Gen Y, or as Slate put it, in Generation Catalano). But I still thought of it this morning when I received an email from my mother-in-law that contained part two of the life story of my husband’s grandparents.

My husband’s grandparents are really wonderful people. I don’t have any living grandparents myself, as they all died when I was fairly young. When I first began dating Matt, they swooped in and gave me so much love, always greeting me with kind words and a warm hug. They have been married 60 years, and I really admire their love for one another and their eight children. I hope Matt and I are still that happy in 60 years, although I do not hope we have eight kids!

As I read through the story they are typing out for posterity and sending to all the children and grandchildren, I was really struck by how much of their early life seemed like a struggle. In 1957 they had 3 kids under 4 with another on the way, they were living in a two bedroom basement apartment, and were having trouble finding enough money to get groceries. There are several points in the story where they borrowed money from family to move to a better house, or to make ends meet. In contrast, I don’t think that Matt’s parents struggled quite as much financially. I know that things were obviously tighter when they were young, but they moved to Minnesota and purchased a townhouse, lived in it for five years and then purchased the house where they still live now, in a very nice suburb. Matt’s dad has always worked for the same company, and they have had a nice, solid middle-class life.

Thinking of Matt’s grandparents’ early life vs. his parents’ early life and then where we at in our life, is what led me to remember the Huffington Post article. I wonder if some of our discontent over where we are in our life right now is because of expectations. We saw where our parents, the Baby Boomers, were by the time they were in their mid-thirties, and we compare ourselves, and feel depressed that we’re not measuring up. Even though the economy has been much worse than it was for our parents. Wages have been stagnant for decades while the cost of living has skyrocketed. The job market, while getting better, still kind of sucks. But we still feel like we should be able to have what the generation previous did - a nice house in the suburbs, a solid job that paid decently and had job security, enough money to take a family vacation every year. Nothing outlandish, but just the life that we saw our parents have, the one that seemed easily attainable through hard work in school and college.

After I started this blog post, a friend posted this article from Salon on her Facebook post. I thought it was interesting, and wondering if Matt and I are in the midst of our own Generation X midlife crisis. We’re overall pretty happy in our day-to-day lives, but I guess we’re still... surprised, I guess?... that we’re struggling as much as we are. We thought we’d have it pretty good by 34. But when you take into account all we’ve gone through economically as a generation, the dot-com bust, 9/11, the housing market collapse, the great recession, the fact that we’re still standing is pretty incredible.

I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this, other than to serve as a reminder to myself that the prosperity that my parents’ generation experienced is probably never going to happen to me. Things are different now. But I also have to remind myself that we’re still so early in this “raising a family” stage of our life, and it’s okay to be struggling right now. My grandparents-in-law struggled. They borrowed money from family. They asked for help. They raised a bunch of kids in teeny houses. I know I definitely get frustrated and focus on the struggles without taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. The salon article says that Generation X is not exactly an optimistic bunch, and I know that I definitely have a tendency to worry that if I’m not meeting my goals now, I’m never going to. But if I can look back on my life like I know Matt’s grandparents must, and see how much fun I had with my kids, and how much love there was and continues to be in our family, than I think that will be enough. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Can't Have a House Blog

This phrase runs through my mind fairly often, mostly when the house is messy or a project didn’t turn out like I’d hoped, or I read critiques of other bloggers, who have way nicer homes than I do.

“I can’t have a house blog. Just look at that drip of paint on the tile.”

“I can’t have a house blog. Look at how many toys are shoved behind the chair.”

“I can’t have a house blog. Look at this shitty hem I just sewed into these curtains. That’s it, I’m using some hem tape.”

“I can’t have a house blog. My house is nothing special.”

My insecurity is probably the main reason I stopped blogging. There are so many DIY and decorating blogs out there, why would anyone want to read this one? I need to get over it. Maybe no one will read this blog, and that’s OK. Maybe someone will read this blog and think it sucks. That’s OK too. There are no rules when it comes to blogging, so who says I can’t have a house blog?

There are so many things I want to say about houses, the idea of home, my home, etc.

I think where I really got thrown off last time around was that I was trying to be something I was not. I was trying to post room re-dos and inspirational DIY projects, and sometimes I would succeed and other times I would fail, and those failures always made me question whether I should continue blogging. But that’s not all this blog is to me, or all I ever thought it would be when I started it. I wanted to explore small space living and its joys and challenges–not just those how to posts about making our living space work better for us, but also how I feel about being stuck in a bad investment, how I envy those who have bigger houses, how I get over these bad feelings and make our house into a home.

There’s more to home than perfectly styled bookcases and on-trend colors. There’s the story behind decorating choices, the interactions we all have when setting up and living in our houses. There’s the children we raise in a house and how they feel about it. The meals we cook, the people we host, the memories we make.

So yeah, my house isn’t really that special when it comes to its design. But I don’t care. I want to write about it anyway.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


When I was young, I wanted nothing more than to be a writer. I was always holed up in my bedroom, working on a story. More often than not, these stories were glorified fan fiction (ah, the amount of time I spent devising creative ways for the characters from Hey Dude to come hang out with the gals from the Babysitters Club), but they still gave me a creative outlet.
I went to school to be a journalist, which was not exactly the wisest move in the early 2000s. I pretty easily became an editor and at least worked with writing, even though I was not actually writing myself. A few years after being an assistant editor at a textbook company, I landed a marketing job where I got to write. I was in my mid-twenties, and professionally, those were some of my best years. Sure, the company produced glorified junk mail, but looking back, I really enjoyed doing that work, and wrote some pretty great articles. I made my next career move based on a variety of factors, many of them quite practical, but I miss writing those articles a whole lot.

I thought I’d be a novelist, or a journalist, or a ... something. But then I realized that while I’m a competent writer, I’m not a great one. I was perfectly suited for writing short marketing pieces, and helping spiff up an author’s bad writing, but not really good enough to publish something on my own. And I feel like I might have missed the boat on this blogging thing. There are people making oodles of money blogging about really fun subjects - their kids, or remodeling their houses, or trying out new recipes. But the blogging market is pretty saturated right now, and I just don’t have the resources to figure out how to take fantastic DSLR photos and photoshop on pithy sayings that will get them pinned and drive traffic back to my website. I don’t know much about SEO or keywords.

But here I am. I kept this housing blog for about 2 years from 2010 to 2011. I gained a few readers, and there’s even one of my DIY projects on Pinterest! But when I took my current job, my practical, stable job, I kind of felt the wind come out of my sails creatively, and I stopped blogging. Even though I actually had a lot of experiences with my house that would have been great blog fodder! There was my failed attempt at community gardening, a couple of room re-dos, and the angst over bringing home another baby to a tiny, two bedroom condo.

I feel the twinge to start over again, and so I am going to. I’m not sure what direction of this blog will take. I’m going to keep the core focus my home, as I think I have a somewhat unique perspective there (trying to raise a family in a small house, making the best of being underwater on our mortgage), but branch out to be a little more “lifestyle” (even though that category makes me twitch a little). I would like to explore simple living on a larger level, such as my feelings about working and parenting, schedules, consumerism, etc., family life, such as raising our two boys, my husband making the shift to be a stay at home dad, and probably some other random topics as well.

So, here we go! I hope you will join me on this new adventure of mine.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Joining the Gallery Wall Party

I spend a lot of time looking at design blogs. Like, a lot. So sometimes when I fall for something I see over and over, I wonder if it's too trendy. But then I remember that most of my friends and family don't log the same kinds of hours I do looking at different shades of gray, Ikat prints, white antlers, Moroccan poofs and Keep Calm and Carry On posters, and would probably hail me as totally original if I brought any of these items into my house.

So I decided to do a gallery wall.

 Yeah, they're kind of everywhere right now, but I don't care, I looove them. I decided to blatantly rip off  take my inspiration from Young House Love's gallery wall and go with all white frames. I'm glad I did, because I love the cohesive, light look, but turns out I'm not a great spray painter and some of them came out a bit drippy or bubbly. But you can't really tell now that they're on the wall, and I saved loads of money by stocking up on super cheap thrift store or clearance frames. I probably only spend $10 or so.

I laid out some different arrangements on the floor before putting it up, so the photo above is actually an earlier iteration, before I found a cute print at Target already framed for $4 of some antique keys on bright colored bands that I had to have. Some of the items we have in the gallery wall are:
-The "Hi I'm Art" print my husband bought for me on my 18th birthday, which is also the day we officially became a couple. Aww.
- An amazing pastel my mother in law did of Sebastian. That pic on the left of him looking into a pond... that's a pastel, not a photo. Incredible.
-Two prints we got on trips we took. One is a bird we bought in Canada, another is a print of Pike's Place Market from Seattle.
-Two frames have some cute fabric and wrapping paper. I thought the fabric one I did was kind of genius. I just grabbed some sample swatches of fancy Dwell fabrics I liked from JoAnn's and matted them. Free!
-There are three or four photos of Sebastian, as well as a photo of Matt and a photo of me as 2-year olds.
-For our wedding, nearly seven years ago, we had guests sign little cutouts of fall leaves in lieu of a traditional guestbook. I always wanted to do something with those, and I found a cute image of a tree, and I glued all the leaves overlapping one another on top.

So all in all, super personal, meaningful stuff.

It's pretty asymmetrical, but we did that on purpose, since we think this will be an evolving project. We already have a new image to frame and hang soon.

I can't express how much I love it. It just makes me happy.

I definitely don't mind following the crowd on this one.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making My House Fit My Life, Not My Life Fit My House

There are so many times I hear, "I'll put that up when we buy a house," or "we'll throw a party when we have more space," or "we can't have a baby until we move someplace larger," and it makes me feel sad. Our home is also small – 1200 square feet and only a sliver of deck space. No yard, no basement, and we share one wall with our next door neighbors and live above our downstairs neighbors. It's less than perfect in a lot of ways. But I'm 31 and living my life now. And I'm known for being impatient. I don't want to wait until I have a house to do things, like have children and throw them birthday parties. So we do the best we can with what we have. We make our house fit our life, and we don't change our life to fit our house.

This weekend we had Matt's family over for dinner to celebrate Father's Day. It was lovely, and we didn't need a bigger house to do it. We actually keep our old dining room table (the one we had before we made over the formal dining room into a play room) disassembled underneath our bed. When we're going to have a large dinner gathering, we just drag it out, put the legs on, and we're good to go. It takes about 10 minutes to do, and allows us to have these larger gatherings without having a place to keep a big dining room set permanently. I don't want to wait to sit around a big dining table sipping wine and eating grilled steaks, laughing with my in laws about what Matt and his sister were like as kids. I want to do these things, make these memories now.

I don't want to wait until we have a yard to plant flowers and herbs, and create a little outdoor living area. So we work with what we have – lots of containers and small furniture and a little electric grill. It's a little messy and cramped, but it's also welcoming and cozy.

We still have big parties at our house … my birthday party was a crazy gathering of 23 adults, four toddlers and two babies. It was pouring rain that day, so everyone circled around the peninsula in the kitchen, perched on the sectional, played with toddlers at the train table, nursed babies in the nursery, or sat on the floor eating pizza and drinking beer. It was loud and boisterous and fun. In theory, we totally don't have room for 29 people, but we did it anyway.

That's kind of how we operate. We just go for it and figure it will all work itself out. Because it usually does, and then we've had a lot of fun on the journey instead of waiting.