Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Universe, are you listening?

Because I really, really need a break here. No more sick kiddos, no more family drama, no more financial problems. I have so much goodness in my life, and I am truly grateful for it. But right now, things are really stressing me out. I need to feel like smiling instead of crying. I'm not asking for 100% happiness in my life, but right now, I just want the scales to tip back toward "happy."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On Staying Home

I just read a blog post that was kind of disparaging to working moms, and it got me feeling, well, not really riled up, but just sad. I hate that so much of this parenting thing is a competition and full of judgment. I know I'm occasionally guilty of it myself, but I try to be mindful that what works for some familes might not work for others, and that we're all doing our best, trying to raise happy, healthy kids.
If my maternity leave taught me anything, it was that I would really enjoy being a stay at home mom. I was raised by one, and kind of always assumed I would be one. But I'm not. I'm the breadwinner in our family. My husband's career post-college have been very up and down, and he went back to school a couple of years ago to change career-tracks. I basically knew what I wanted to be when I grew up at the tender age of nine, and haven't really strayed much from that. I went from writing Babysitter Club knock-offs at nine to producing my own pretend newspaper at 10 to being the editor of the high school newspaper to a BA in journalism to an internship in publishing to a full-time job in book publishing to my current job as an editor/writer/account executive. So, needless to say that my steadfastness has meant I am eons ahead of my husband on my career path. At the age of 30 I have more than 10 years of work experience in my field.
Anyway, I'm getting a little off topic here. People on this blog post I was reading said that they heard women say they "wished they could be SAHMs" while sitting on their designer couch with their brand new cell phone and fancy purse. And yeah, maybe those women exist. Or maybe those women make more than their partners and have to be the ones to work, or maybe they just like working and are saying the wish they could stay at home to make you feel better. And I'd imagine most of th time the work vs. stay at home thing does not come down to "either put the kid in daycare and buy lattes, or sacrafice my fancy coffee, start shopping at thrift stores and I can stay home." No amount of penny pinching on those little things would allow me to stay home. I have a mortgage and student loans to pay, groceries to buy, and we need things like health care and insurance. Only one person jumped in on this post to say that maybe the answer to why a woman might work instead of stay at home is far more complicated than they think. Everyone else was chiming in with, "I agree!" "I worked at a daycare and I would NEVER be able to leave my kids at one" etc, etc. It really annoyed me. And yet, I remember very clearly thinking the same thing about a woman I worked across the hall from about 7 years ago. She drove a brand new Honda Element and was always dressed impeccably, and was super cute when she was pregnant. Then she came back to work three months later, and put up a darling picture of a baby and went on being trendy and stylish with new things. A lot of times, when I sit working at my desk and looking at Sebastian's picture next to my monitor, I feel like such a jerk for being so judgmental of that woman.
So yeah, being a stay at home mom would be great, because my kid is pretty darn awesome, and I love nothing more than spending time with him. But it's not my reality. So I make the most of every single second I have with him, soaking up his giggles and sweetness. I teach him things and support him in learning. I provide for him. And I make sure he's well cared for during the day. I'm so lucky that I've been able to rely on family members - my fantastic sister-in-law and my wonderful dad - to watch him. So he's not missing out on his mommy... he's gaining valuable relationships with his darling auntie and his beloved "pop pop." I love my kid. I'm his mom.

Homemade Playmat: Ready for Christmas

I completed the train table last weekend! I'm so very excited about this present, and I really hope Sebastian likes it. It was actually really easy and cheap to put together - a little time consuming, but easy. I made all the roads, trees, houses and the school house out of felt, and I glued it with craft glue to the larger piece of felt. I attached velcro to the back of the playmat and squares of velcro to the table.
And oh yes, the table! We painted two coats of chalkboard paint to the top of the table. It looks really nice, and hopefully will be durable.
My little guy is just starting to get really into coloring and playing with his trains, so I think this will be a great present. There's a shelf underneath which will house a couple of plastic bins to store extra trains and cars, and a smaller one to hold chalk.
I can't wait to see his face on Christmas morning, and I'm hopeful that this will look really cute in our playroom. It's the last thing we needed to make the playroom complete. After the dining room serve as a playroom for a couple of months, I have to say it was one of the best moves we've made in revamping our condo to fit our needs better. Sebastian plays in there every day and night. He can pull out his bins of toys, shoot hoops, play the keyboard, read books in the chair and soon, play trains or color on his chalkboard. It's nice to have this area right in front of the kitchen, so I can cook while I keep an eye on him, and it's also nice not having to play in front of the TV (now that he can turn it on himself, if we play out in the living room play time quickly devolves into a TV battle). I haven't really missed having a formal dining room, either. We kept our dining room table in storage, so at Thanksgiving we pulled it out, put the green chair in the living room, and were able to host a big, fancy dinner. All other nights we eat in the kitchen, and that works fine for us.
Now that I've finally completed the train table, I have my eye on making him a play kitchen for his birthday this spring!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moving Forward

I started this blog back in March for a few reasons. I was experiencing major real estate envy of my many friends who were buying super cute, single family homes while I was stuck in an underwater condo. I was feeling inertia about my space - not sure what else I wanted to do with it, decorating/renovating wise. The negative feelings I had about our "investment" were clouding the feelings I had for the condo as a "home." I decided a blog would help me work out those jealousies while spurring me into action on some projects. I would say it's been a pretty successful venture! I found the more positive I felt about the house, the more likely I was to do some of the stuff I was neglecting, which then caused me to be even more positive about the house, etc. I would say it's been a long time since I've felt down on the place I call home. Instead, I have positive, cozy feelings of being settled.
Which leads me to two major milestones: One, I just read the latest post on www.younghouselove.com, which features the new house the bloggers have purchased. A few months ago, I'd be way jealous of that massive, open space they get to work with (and the fact that they've now owned two great houses). Instead, I just feel happy for them, and excited to see how they rennovate their bathrooms, because I really hope to do ours soon too.
Second, we got some majorly positive feedback from a friend who hadn't been over in a long time. I think the last time he was at our house was in May, so we had painted our fireplace white, but hadn't changed anything else. He was amazed at our transformation, and was gushing about how much more open everything was. The new furniture (our low profile sectional that replaced two bulky couches), the dining room to playroom transformation and the mudroom makeover have really had a big impact. It's a little hard for me to see since we did a little bit at a time, and I live there every day, but it was so nice to hear that I achieved my goal of opening up our sort of awkward living room/dining room/entry way.
I look forward to what 2011 will bring for our house and this blog. Some of the things I'd love to tackle next year are spiffing up our kitchen cabinets and baseboards (we painted them almost five years ago, and they could use some touching up), addressing our carpets (do we need new carpet? Just a good deep cleaning?) and of course, the hideous bathroom. We'll also celebrate our 5th anniversary as homeowners in April! It will then be the place I've called home the longest in my entire life. I think that'll be a really neat feeling.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snowed In

This was the scene outside of my condo Saturday, as one of the biggest blizzards in Minnesota blew through. I have lived here since 1995, so I missed the big '91 blizzard my friends love to reminisce about. This was by far the biggest snow fall I've ever seen - it just kept coming down, and was blowing everywhere. I could barely see the parking lot of the other building that my windows face.
We were holed up at home anyway, since Sebastian came down with hand, foot and mouth disease (which is the worst illness ever. There was nothing we could do for the poor, miserable baby). It's very contagious, so he's not allowed to be around any other children for 7-10 days. But being trapped in a blizzard with a sick child is tough, because I was constantly in fear of him taking a turn for the worse, and us being completely stuck and unable to go to the doctor. Thankfully, he was feeling much better by Sunday. He went from doing nothing but watching cartoons and eating Popsicles on Saturday to running around the house, playing basketball, trains, dancing and eating everything in sight on Sunday. It was a welcome sigh of relief for all of us.
Here's how our snowy weekend progressed.
Friday I arrived home from my lovely work Christmas party to the news that Sebastian had H/F/M. So instead of going to our friend's house for dinner, we stayed in and made a quick pasta camped out on the couch watching Elmo in Grouchland. A quick aside - dealing with our first major illness showed me how important it is to be flexible. I'm pretty strict on sugar, television and fast food, but he had all of that this week. A Happy Meal was what I could think of in a pinch that would be fast and he might eat? Bring it on. His mouth hurts so much that he can't eat solids? Sugary Popsicles and juice it is! Too lethargic to do anything but whine in pain? Maybe some Elmo will help! Hah. When you have a sick child, you have to do what you have to do.
Anyway, Friday night we ushered him off to bed, but he woke up at 10:30. We got him back down. Then he woke again at midnight, screaming bloody murder. I made a tearful call to the nurse line while Matt tried walking him around the house. Nothing worked, so he finally turned on some Martha Speaks on our Netflix. He watched a few minutes of the talking dog, then fell asleep in our arms. So we got out the blankets, and all dozed on the sofa. He woke every couple hours, and we'd dose him with some pain meds, or he'd climb across to the other person and fall asleep on top of us. We woke up creaky and not very well rested.
Saturday we tried to keep him happy with a regiment of books, cartoons and low-key games. While we took turns taking care of Sebastian, we read books, did laundry and cleaned the house. It was nice in a way having all commitments erased, and having nothing to do but nest and watch the snow fall. I also enjoyed checking my friend's Facebook accounts and seeing staggering photos of their snowfall. It was a nice way not to feel isolated.
Our groceries were dwindling, so I made pancakes, bacon and eggs for dinner. Sebastian was feeling a little better by this time, so he actually ate a little and let me play with him. He took a bath, and then Matt and I put him to bed and watched The Office Christmas episode with mugs of cocoa.
I really love the simple, slowed-down life that we had this weekend. It's what I strive for, but often don't accomplish because we always seem to have a lot going on during the week. It was nice just getting to completely opt out of everything, with no guilt. 
Now the snow is cleared, and I'm back at work, but I know we'll be telling Sebastian for years to come about the big blizzard that struck when he was home sick.
Also, in keeping with the theme of my blog, this time of year I love, love, LOVE being a condo/townhouse owner. I stayed in my PJs all day and didn't leave the house. The next morning, a lovely band of bobcats and snowplows decsended on my driveway and cleared away all the snow.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I'm not sure my family is adjusting to winter very well this year. Perhaps it's because we were so lucky with the weather this year: it didn't snow one time in March (I was so very happy about that, because March is my most hated month here in Minnesota), the summer was great, and the fall was unseasonably long and warm. We were taking walks and playing at the park almost every day from March until early November this year. And then winter hit, and we're just not coping. It's dark outside when I get home; my commute has gone from 15 minutes to 30-40... and last Friday in the midst of a snowstorm it took me an hour and 45 minutes to get home; we've all been sick multiple times; and daylight saving time really did us in.
Here was the scene in my house yesterday. We had 30 minutes to eat dinner and get to ECFE class. Sebastian was cranky, so when I walked in the door Matt was heating tomato soup with the little guy on his hip. We sat down, Sebastian insisting on being at the table instead of in his high chair. He took a spoonful of his soup, and poured it right on my pants. I told him "no," which set off a crying meltdown for 10 minutes. He finally ate some soup, we all changed, and then rushed to class, leaving the kitchen a tornado of dirty dishes, food containers and soup stains.
Every year we seem to go through this, this period of adjustment. Once the winter comes and days go by without sunshine, it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to get anything done. And once the chores are done, the stories have been read, and the little one is off to dreamland, we feel like empty shells who just want to veg on the couch and crash into bed. I miss the spontaniety of summer... the post-dinner walks and sunsets at the playground. We're cooped up indoors and while our little home is cozy, life just seems to be frantic and off balance.
Something needs to change around here. I just haven't quite figured out what yet.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Playmat Progress

After multiple nights of being too tired to do anything after Sebastian went to bed, I finally seized the moment tonight and started working on the train table play mat. I made a school house, a house and a little pond. They're so cute! I'm totally having fun with this project.

Would This Work?

I hate our shower. Hate, hate, hate it. If I had known that it would be completely impossible to clean, I probably would have passed on our condo. But when we toured the house, I just thought that the owners just hadn't cleaned it in awhile. The shower had super short doors that fell off the track all the time, a plastic shower tray that is discolored yellow, a big, ugly metal grab bar, and grout that is stained with mold. I've scrubbed a million times with all kinds of different cleaners but to no avail. It remains as ugly and as dirty-looking as always.

We want to change it, more than anything else in our house right now. But I'm not sure we can afford the cost and time of a complete tear down. We're worried we're going to find some unsavory things under the walls and floor.

In my dream world, I'd like to tear down the tile, pull out the tray, replace it with white subway tile that goes to the ceiling, new shower doors that are taller, and a shiny new plastic tray in white. And a new faucet as well.

But maybe a stop-gap measure until we're a little better off would be to regrout the tile, take out the grab bar, and epoxy paint the tray? Would painting it work? A few sites I am seeing say yes, but it seems laborious.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Handmade Holiday

I've been turning my crafty attention from house projects to Christmas presents. 'Tis the season after all! Awhile back, when we were busy converting our dining room into a play room, I posted about my intentions to turn an old coffee table into a train table for my son. That's still the plan, but of course, I now have grander ideas for the table.
I was inspired by this post of an amazing, home made playmat on this blog:
Seriously, it is about the cutest thing I've ever seen. She also says it took her 50 hours to complete, and I have absolutely no sewing skills myself, but I breezed over those facts.
My plan now is to paint the top of the table with chalkboard paint, adhere velcro strips to the edges, and create a removable play mat with trees, roads, rivers and buildings out of felt. It will be a multipurpose table that my son can play with cars or trains on the top, then take it off and use it for a drawing table. I am super excited about it. I've already bought the felt, my mother-in-law had some extra chalkboard paint that she gave us, so this will not only be a handmade, thoughtful present for Sebastian, but it will be cheap too! If it turns out well, the gift will have saved us about $70! (A train table would cost us around $80, an easel would be $25ish and so far all I've spent is $10 on felt!)
I will be using an Ikea Lack coffee table instead of the honey oak table with a drawer we also have in storage. One, Matt's not too keen on painting the nicer, more expensive table with chalkboard paint. And two, we put the table in the playroom, and it's much bigger and more square than I remember. The Ikea table has dimensions more similar to a commercial train table. Plus, if we ruin it, it was on a $25 table. It has a shelf underneath that will be good for storing trains and chalk.
I am really, really excited. Some of my favorite memories of gifts were of the more homemade persuasion. My dad made my brother a wrestling ring for his WWF toys when he was little, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. They once gave me a room makeover including a homemade book shelf and curtains, and I still remember walking into my bedroom and seeing it transformed. I hope Sebastian will be as excited as I am!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mission: Accomplished!

We did it! I finished up the closet-to-mudroom transformation, and I have to say I am totally loving it. I may have to take a better picture later, because this really doesn't do it justice. But, as other working parents I'm sure understand, I had to work on this after my son went to bed, so my excited photographing took place at 9 pm, when the lighting wasn't very good. So here's the breakdown on what we did, how long it took and how much it cost.
We started by purging out the closet, probably the longest part of the process. We had twice as many coats in the closet before, but several were ones we never wear. Same with the shoes. We donated a bunch, and pared it down to just a few. This took us a couple weeks, because cleaning the closet isn't the most fun chore. Cost: Free.
Then I shopped for storage. I wanted a basket for shoes, but nothing in the stores was catching my eye. Then I hit up a thrift store, and found a big wicker basket (at right) for $5.99. It was perfect! I also wanted three storage bins for the top shelf of the closet to store reusable shopping bags and seasonal items. After much hunting (storage bins are so expensive! Most I liked were $20 a piece!) I found these on clearance at Target for $6.98. They're dark brown and have a rim of green, which matches the green paint color. What a happy accident! The shopping took a couple weeks too. Cost: $26.93
The closet was obviously in need of paint, and originally I'd planned to color match the fabric we used to reupholster our arm chair. When I went into the store to do that, I found mistinted paint was free! I found a green that was close enough, and snapped it up. Once I put it on the walls, I really loved it. It's more sage than it looked on the swatch, but it really works and is nice and soothing. I also found a mistinted off white to use to paint the bench. It took me about two or three days to paint the closet. I also had to paint the baseboards and inside trim. Thankfully, I had leftover trim paint. Cost: $9.99 for brushes, rollers and supplies. The free paint really helped!
I wanted to include a small bench to sit and put on shoes. We had this end table sitting in our bedroom closet that used to serve as a night stand. It was oak and had a gass top. I removed the glass and painted it off-white. I took a piece of foam I had leftover from another project and used the glass as a template to make a seat cushion. I took some leftover black and white toile fabric from when I made our kitchen curtains, wrapped the foam and pinned it together. It took one evening to do the whole thing. I listened to election results as I painted, and then I spent about 10 minutes making the cushion. Cost: Completely free!
A mudroom obviously requires a place to hang coats. The closet originally had a bar for hanging stuff. I took that down, left the shelf up, and then installed a coat rack we bought at Ikea for $9.99. The closet had one hook installed on the top right side, and I added two more hooks ($4.99 at Ikea for a pack of two) - one at the same level as the hook on the right side, which I am using to hang my purse and diaper bag, and another I hung on a small part of the wall at kiddie hight, so my son can hang up his coat himself. This took one night. Cost: $14.98.
So there you have it. We have a really functional entry way now, and it only cost us a grand total of $52! I am so excited. It's clean, it looks nice, and my husband is actually hanging up his coat now. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This Is Where We Used to Live: Part 10

I've made it to the end of my look back at all the places I've lived. I left a couple out, from when I was a baby and really don't remember them aside from seeing photos. But as you can see, I have called a lot of places home. Some have been great, some not so much, but all remind me of a very specific time in my life.
The last apartment is no exception. And sadly, most of the memories I have of this apartment are bad ones. This was not a good place to live, and looking back, I don't know why we stayed here two years. I think part of it was because we were sick of moving and didn't want to move again until we were ready to buy. And partially because we were stubborn and didn't want to give up on the place we'd made so comfortable and very much ours. As you can see above, we finally had a digital camera and took photos of the apartment. It's fun to look back and see how our style has evolved, and what things we still have in place in our current home. But I look at these photos and feel kind of bittersweet. It looks like such a nice, tidy, happy home for a couple in their mid-twenties. And everything good that happened here seems tainted by how poorly it ended.
Here is the long, sordid story. Which begins happily enough.
We found this little apartment in St. Paul that was as big as our suburban place, but $150 cheaper. There wasn't an in suite laundry, and there was one less bathroom, but otherwise it was comparable. It was a little more dated, but at the time we found that charming. There were nice, mature trees on the lot, which was also appealing to us, since we'd spent two years in the tiny-treed, brand new suburbs. We imagined a leafy, city life up on the third floor. Soon after we moved in, two of our best friends signed a lease for an apartment downstairs. We got a second cat, a spunky orange kitten named Taco. We got married and had a beautiful wedding and honeymoon. Things were going well.
We had two neighbors, a single mom and her 10-year-old daughter. They were okay at first, albeit a tad intrusive. On the day we moved in the girl darted into our living room and started aggressively hugging Nutmeg. At first, things were pretty good. Every once in awhile we'd hear the little girl tantruming, and sometimes they would knock on our shared living room wall if we played music in the apartment... even if it wasn't very loud. We heard them fighting in the hallways, the mom suggesting the girl do something, her whining, "Nooo, I'm not gooiingg tooooo," followed by a shriek. But whatever. We loved having our friends in the same apartment building; we'd pad down there in our slippers to watch 24 and Lost and make dinner together. If we had a party, or they did, we wouldn't have to worry about driving. It was wonderful. I'd never lived in a dorm before and it made me think this is what it might kind of be like. So, we signed the next year's lease. And then about two weeks later, things started to get worse.
The noise had usually been during the day and early evening, but it started to get later and later, like 11 pm to 1 or 2 in the morning. The kid would shriek, howl, and there was always pounding on the walls, sometimes so hard it would shake our walls. We got fed up and called the landlords. The mother denied things were as bad as we described, saying that she had never had a problem in the eight years she'd lived in that apartment. She also would say things like, "I'm not the one making the noise, it's her!" about the kid. It kept getting worse and worse. So we kept calling. The landlords kept bringing the problem to the neighbors, and nothing happened. One day, Matt lost his job. I was home by myself, totally stressed out, and listening to some music. It was around 7 at night. They started pounding on our wall because of the music, and then the mom came to our door. I threw it open and yelled at her to stop pounding on my wall, and slammed the door in her face. Then called the landlord. At this point, they decided to have a neighbor "mediation" session, held in the teeny fitness room. It was super awkward. Basically, we told them that we would try and be understanding that children have tantrums, but that if there was pounding on the walls after 10 pm, we'd call the landlords. We had two quiet days before they started again.
It's a little fuzzy now, but I'm pretty sure the first time I called the landlords after the mediation session was like declaring neighbor war. Now everytime we made a peep in our apartment, such as watching a movie or playing music, they'd call to complain about us. Once two of our friends left our apartment at about 10 pm after a night of playing SCRABBLE and the little girl was outside waiting, and said, "you're not supposed to have parties. We're telling." OMG, it was so, so awful. It got to the point where I'd look out my peep hole before leaving, just to make sure they were there. Once I sat in the parking lot and pretended to have a conversation on my cell so I could avoid them as they came outside. The little girl would call me a bitch and ugly as I tried to enter the building, while the mother sat by doing absolutely nothing. They started harrassing our friends who lived in the building too. I felt like a prisoner in my own home.
While all this was going on, we were busy paying down debt, saving money and working toward buying a place. We had the set back of Matt losing his job, but he thankfully found one soon after, and the plan was back on. It couldn't come fast enough, because things started to get even worse.
One night, the noise was going on full force, lounder than it had ever been, and the child was yelling "help me!" which was startling. Before we had the chance to decide "landlords or cops?" the decision was made for us. The new people who had moved in right below our neighbors called the police. There were several more incidents after this, which we began tape recording and showing to the landlords. The people downstairs started calling the cops continually. It finally worked, and the neighbors were handed their eviction notice. As they moved out, we were barely even there, because we'd already closed on our condo and were over at the new place, painting.  
We were only ever able to enjoy two or three weeks Chris and Julia free. Once we moved our stuff over to the condo, painted in its rainbow of colors, light fixtures chosen by us, everything in place just as we wanted it, we let out a sigh of relief. It was blissfully quiet.

This Is Where We Used to Live: Part 9

I hope you're not getting bored indulging my trips down memory lane. I have to say that this exercise has been very good for me. Remembering the good things about the places I've called home, imperfect as many of them were, helps put into perspective how cherished my current home is to me. For one main reason: It's mine. It may not be much, and yes, we overpaid on it. But I couldn't go back to renting again, and I won't give up our little condo until we are able to make the leap into single-family-homeownership.
There are only two more places I lived before the condo. Both were with my husband, and both were rental apartments.
We decided to live together while riding the city bus to school together our senior year in college. I think I actually asked him. I'd been looking at apartments in the suburb that I was working in. I had gotten an internship at a publishing company my junior year, and then they asked me back for winter break my senior year and I never left. So I basically already knew where I would start my career after college long in advance of graduation (which was really, really nice). Anyway, the rents in that suburb and surrounding areas weren't terrible, but weren't exactly financially feasible for a single person. And there was no way I was getting roommates again. Things with the boyfriend were going very well. We'd stayed together happily all through college, and I was pretty sure that marriage wasn't far into the future. I asked him to be my roomie, and he accepted. We spent a couple months plotting where to live and visiting apartments together, which was fun.
We found the place we chose by putting in all our wish list requirements into a rental website and seeing what came up. We wanted a place that took cats, had two bedrooms, AC, a dishwasher, a deck or patio, a swimming pool, and a washer and dryer in the unit. It may have only been this apartment complex that matched all those criteria in our price range. It was a little far out, but only a 10 minute drive from my work. We signed a lease and moved in June of 2002.
We lived in this apartment for two years. It had a lot of things going for it: it was spacious, very neutral, and the master bedroom was huge. It had a walk in closet, on suite bathroom and a nice view of a little pond. There was a great big laundry room. And a dishwasher! Oh man, how I loved having a dishwasher. My boyfriend-now-husband proved to be a great roommate. Sure, there were squabbles as we tried to figure out the division of labor and the ups and downs of cohabitation, but living together really solidified our relationship. I don't think I'd ever been happier. We got a little kitten that we named Nutmeg, and she was a wild one. We had a ton of parties - a dinner party for new year's eve where I cooked lasagna for 20 people and sat them at two different tables with mismatched plates. A Halloween party where we actually had a neighbor come and talk to us about the noise and people danced (danced!) in our living room. And my 23rd birthday party where we announced our engagement. We planned most of our wedding living in this apartment, and decided for some reason to add moving to the already stressful time of wedding planning and moved out in the summer of '04.
While we actually liked the suburb we lived in - it was very walkable and we lived right by a restaurant, movie theater, book store and Target - we were soo far from everything else. If we wanted to go into the city to see a play, half an hour. To go to a concert, half an hour. Visit friends, half an hour. Add that to the fact that Matt had gotten a new job that was a horrendous commute, we decided to find an apartment in the city.
We'd also grown tired of some aspects of the apartment. The management company was super intrusive. We'd lived there two years and gone through about four of five "annual inspections." The inspections were meant to uncover maintenance issues before they started, but all that had ever happened was we got a written warning about having a wind chime on our deck. The kitchen was growing smaller as I learned how to cook better, and I hated our kitchen counters, which soaked up every stain and were impossible to keep clean. And I really wanted a second cat, which our apartment didn't allow. So we decided to move on.
But every once in awhile we make a special trip down to this suburb, and I always feel very at home there. It's where we started our life together, and where we became official, bill-paying, job-having adults.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Making Progress

I did a lot this weekend for the mudroom. In between trick or treating, brunching and dinner with friends we found time to paint the baseboards, paint the walls, hang the coat rack and basically set up the entire mudroom.
I'm going to take the door down tonight, and touch up the trim paint where the hinges were. Then all I have to do is paint the bench, decide on the floor issue, and we are DONE! And, because I like being done with projects, I might leave the floor as is for now and figure out what to do later. The carpet doesn't look that bad.
Pictures to come soon!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mission: Possible?

My latest project (obsession?) is turning our front entry closet into a mudroom. I had an idea in my head, and then hunted around online to find the two photos above that are serving as my inspiration. One of the photos (number two) is from www.younghouselove.com, one of my favorite blogs, so I'm surprised I'd never seen it before.
The reasons we need a mudroom are simple: we live in Minnesota and in the winter it's muddy! Taking off your coats and boots in our teeny entry is difficult, and now that we have the little one, we need to sit down to help him put on his shoes. I hate how occasionally we track in dirt onto the carpet because the entry is so small. We have a decent sized entry closet (not quite as wide as these, but close), and up until now it was just a bunch of coats hung on a bar, and tons and tons of shoes piled high on the floor where they're hard to find. I think taking the door down, painting the inside and putting up a coat rack will make it look really nice and be useful to boot (hah, shoe pun!).
My deadline for this project: November 6. We're having a small dinner party with four grown-ups and two kids. All of whom will have coats and shoes that need storing! It'd be so nice to have this new system up and running by the time they come for dinner, and it'll be the perfect opportunity to show it off.
Here's what's done so far:
-I've cleaned the closet of any unused coats and shoes, and donated them all to charity.
-I bought three storage bins (one for reusable grocery bags, one for mittens and scarves, and the other for miscellany).
-I scored a huge wicker basket to store shoes for only $5.99 at a thrift shop. I was going to paint it white, but I think the natural wicker color will work well with the color scheme we've chosen.
-I picked up free, mistinted paint for the walls in a minty green.
-I painted the door trim.
Here's what still needs to be done:
-I need to paint the baseboards.
-Need to paint the walls.
-Need to paint the end table that we are going to turn into a bench.
-Need to purchase a cushion for that bench.
-Need to address the flooring situation. The entry has wood laminate, and the closet is carpeted. And not very well, since a kitty got stuck in there once and scratched it up. I think for now the plan is to tear out the carpet, paint the subfloor white, cover most of it in a cute rug, and eventually buy the same wood from Ikea and extend the flooring into the closet.
Between now and November 6 I have approximately two naptimes and eight bedtimes I can work through.
Can it be done?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Is Where We Used to Live: Part 7

Through the trees in this picture is the first place I lived in on my own. It was the upper floor of a duplex in St. Paul, not too far from the University of Minnesota campus where I went to school. I lived at home my first year in college, because during the 90s there was a housing shortage on campus that caused it to be VERY difficult to get into a dorm. A friend of mine spent a good portion of his first semester in a hotel. My husband lived in a study lounge with six other students. The vacancy rate near campus was something like 1%. It was a real problem, so I just opted out my first year. Things loosened up a bit my second year, but it was still very hard to get an apartment. I found this place a ways from school, but on a direct bus line, so still convenient. I answered an ad in the school newspaper from a girl looking for a roommate to share this apartment. Her father was the landlord, and lived in the unit downstairs. They were extremely nice people, and we all clicked. I think my parents felt really good about the father being downstairs, so they happily helped me pay my whopping $350 rent.
The house was built in the early 1900s. My apartment was located in the back up a rickety staircase. When you went inside, you immediately went up another set of stairs, carpeted in white berber. There was a white wood railing I found really charming. The house had been made into a duplex in the 70s, so some of it was dated and not in a good way: cheap wood doors and trim, cheap linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom. But there were some areas where the period details were intact - there was an attic door with a glass door knob, there were intricately detailed, silver radiators in the two bedrooms and living room, and there was a big bay window in the living room.
I lived in this apartment for the rest of my college career. The rent was cheap, the landlord was awesome and it just felt homey to me. I had four roommates here: my first roommate, who was very sweet, but shy; my second who was terrible and we had a big fight and she moved out; the third, my cousin, whom at the time was one of my best friends, but living together basically destroyed that friendship; and the fourth, a friend whom I really enjoyed living with, but in the years since our time as roommates we've had a falling out, and don't talk anymore. Living with roommates taught me one very important lesson: I am not cut out for living with roommates!
Decor wise, well, it was college. I might actually have some photos of my college apartment I could dig up, scan and post, but this was pre-digital cameras. The living room was very beige. I had a beige futon, mismatched wood tables, an old tv with rabbit ears, and two chairs that came with the apartment (mauve armchairs, I believe). By the time I moved out, I'd added some decorative touches, but they were still very college-y (Gustav Klimt posters and loads of candles). My blue chair came to live with me at this apartment. My bedroom was dorm-like: twin sized bed, book case, desk and computer. On a whim one day I painted the wall my bed was against bright yellow and painted some canvases from Michael's other pastels and hung them above the bed. It looked okay, but not as cool as I'd envisioned. Our kitchen was big, but very cut off from the rest of the apartment. It was on one end, near my roommate's room and bathroom, while the living room was at the front of the apartment. It seemed like a bedroom that had been converted to a kitchen. There was a wallpaper border of fruit around the room, and very little counter space. It was really big, though, so we had a dining room table in there with chairs I got at a garage sale and painted a super shiny blue and yellow. I was going for shabby chic, but it kind of just looked shabby.
I learned to cook in this apartment. I was really into Iron Chef and Digsmagazine.com at the time, and just sort of tried recipes until I learned how to cook. The first meal I ever made there was a can of Campbell's broccoli cheese soup, and one of the last was homemade pork dumplings. We held many a potsticker party in that kitchen.
I moved out of the apartment to go live with Matt after we graduated. I saw the landlord about six months ago at a local restaurant, and I kind of hid from him. I feel like I was a bad tenant when I lived there, and I wish I hadn't done a lot of the things I did in that apartment. I removed wallpaper from the bathroom without asking if it was okay (granted, it was falling down, but still! It wasn't my bathroom!), I painted without asking, I spilled blue oil based paint from those stupid blue dining chairs on the carpet and it never came out, I inflicted two terrible, non-paying roommates on him, and my cousin got a cat without telling him and we kept it. God, it's no wonder he sold the house soon after I moved out. He probably never wanted to rent to college kids again!
Still, living in this place was a great experience. I learned a lot about myself, and had some really fun, college times there.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting the Most Out of My Space

If someone were to ask me what the number one reason to buy a house was, I would unequivocally say "for a yard." I am slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that I will live in this condo for a long time. And I'm mostly okay with that, especially as we are improving the space to better suit our needs. But the one thing we can't fix is that we don't have a yard. And I so, so wish we did.
But this weekend I hung out at a dear friend's townhome, and we spent the entire evening outside on her small concrete patio, which was kind of eye-opening. It's not really that I'm craving a yard, per se, but I want to have outdoor space I will actually use.
Our set up is a deck off the living room, accessible via sliding glass doors. So right there is problem number 1: I hate tracking dirt into the living room, so going outside is kind of a pain. The deck is 6 feet wide by 9.5 feet long. Problem number 2: It's a skinny, narrow, awkward space. There are huge pine trees that are dying (and our frustrating association can't/won't do anything about it), leading us to problem number 3: There are pine needles everywhere. Our current furniture set up is as follows: an old, rickety glider that we inherited from the old downstairs neighbors when they sold, some long planters, a couple really dirty candle holders, a couple small tables that hold more planters and a chimena that is crumbling and that we never use. It's blah.
My friend's set up was not any more interesting than ours, but she uses the space so much better. It was a small concerete patio off her front door, which she'd adorned with a few potted plants. She had an outdoor loveseat and an outdoor chair in an L shape. From the garage she brought out a very small, portable fire table like this one: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?MC=1&SKU=17137840&RN=124& It was only 15" high and fueled by propane, but sitting out there on a chilly fall night with a couple of beers and some marshmallows on fondue forks we created the atmosophere of a much larger bonfire in a much larger backyard.
It's completely silly and frivolous in a way to be thinking about our outdoor space in late October. I think we had our last nice weekend, so I won't be hosting any mini-bonfires on my deck anytime soon. However, I figure if I come up with a plan for the deck now, we can implement it in the spring and actually have a spring, summer and fall where we spend time outside.
Here's what I'm thinking:
-We need nicer outdoor furniture. The guys that live downstairs use their deck a ton, and it's really nice out there. They have wicker furniture and a string of mini lanterns that lines the railing. It's clean and comfortable looking. If their deck, which is exactly the same as ours, just one floor down, can look that nice, so can ours. I think we need to ditch the massive glider and get a loveseat and chair and maybe a little table.
-We need something for Sebastian to do outside. We tried to put a kiddie pool out there this summer, but it filled up the whole deck and it was a pain to fill it with water (we had to take multiple pitchers from the kitchen). Maybe this sandbox (if it would fit): http://www.amazon.com/Step-7220KR-Naturally-Playful-Sandbox/dp/B00005U8TE or this if an actual sandbox is too big: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009F4YR6/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B00005U8TE&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1J19T1VD37AE7WFC1Z9V
-Less is more: we need to ditch all the outdoor tschokes I have - ceramic birdhouse, mosaic globe that is supposed to be solar powered but hasn't worked in years, broken Christmas lights, dirty candle holders, chiminea. I'm thinking just furniture, a couple of planters and the sandbox. Right now our deck is cluttered and dirty and leaves and needles get trapped under furniture, inside candle holders, etc.
-Rules be damned: We're not supposed to grill, and to be fair, that makes sense. The decks are not far from the house, and it seems like a fire hazard to have such a big open flame. But there is an electrical outlet, so I want one of these (an electric grill): http://www.amazon.com/Meco-Deluxe-Electric-Grill-Satin/dp/B0007XXNSQ/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1288038189&sr=8-4 And, yes, technically we probably shouldn't have a mini-fire bowl like my friend does, BUT our association basically doesn't care about anything. (That can be good when you want to do something against the bylaws, bad when you want them to you know, actually fix things.) The flame of the firebowl wasn't that much higher than a candle. We're in the back so no one would even really see it. So it's a must-have for next year.
This blog has really helped me. A lot of times, when I would visit a "nicer" home than my own, I'd get jealous and annoyed. Now it just spurs me into action. The best way to cure the house-blues is to try and make my current home nicer. Then I'm able to just sit back and eat a tasty s'more and have some nice conversation, all the while plotting how I can totally recreate this at home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Days Stretching Into Weeks

I have NOT been good about my Apartment Therapy Cure. Week 2 is still unfinished, and I started it three weeks ago. I don't know why I'm losing steam - I still have a few projects in mind and I have made some progress, but nothing's finished. Our bedroom closet is cleaner, things feel a little more organized and calm, and perhaps that was all I needed to feel content? I'm not sure what it is, exactly, but I have just felt less inclined to do projects and less inclined to write about them.
However, I have done a few things to the condo the past three weeks, which I will list here. Maybe this will help me kick it into gear?
-Purchased storage totes for the master bedroom closet, did a big purge and got things more organized. It's not perfect yet, but the difference between the photo a few entries back and what it looks like now is astounding. I will try and snap a picture this weekend for comparison.
-Purchased a coat rack for the entry closet that we're going to turn into a "mudroom." Am starting to amass storage baskets. I found one huge one to be used for shoes at a thrift store, but baskets are super expensive, so this may be slow going. I don't really want to spend $20 a piece at Target or Ikea.
-I bought new lamps yesterday for the masterbedroom. One of our lamps broke, and sadly, they don't carry that style any more at Ikea, so I replaced both of them. Thankfully, they were on clearance for $8.50 a piece, so I got a great deal. They are brushed nickel with teal shades, which adds a fun punch of color to the orange room.
Hah, most of my list has been shopping related. This weeked, though, I will gather a batch of things to take to Goodwill, and give the house a nice deep clean. The weather is turning colder (finally! It's been the warmest fall ever!) and we're starting to cozy up at home more. I want to feel like our house works for us during the long winter we'll be spending indoors.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Apartment Therapy Cure: Week 2

Well, week 2 of the Apartment Therapy Cure has actually spanned two weeks, but who's counting? At least we're finally making some progress on the tasks assigned after spending a whirlwind weekend at my little brother's wedding (Congrats, F!).
Last night, I started tackling the biggest task of week 2, deep cleaning the kitchen. I cleaned out all the drawers near the stove, organized the utensils, wiped down the drawers and put down new contact paper. It looks so neat and organized, and the best part is, I scored some extra storage space by throwing away a bunch of broken things (and the four, yes four, boxes of birthday candles we were storing in the utensil drawer). I'm going to replace some of our dishtowels and oven mitts, since they've seen better days. I fell in love with the one pictured above from Crate and Barrel while shopping for another wedding we're attending this weekend. Tonight or tomorrow, I'm going to tackle the cutlery and knife drawers. Then, the cabinets. Most are actually okay, and won't take a lot of work, but there's this one cabinet next to the bar stools on the other side of the peninsula that is b.a.d. It stores our wok and then other "necessities" such as a ceramic panda, a sake set, old phone books and leaf shaped pancake molds. I think we'll be amassing quite the donation for Goodwill when we clean that out.
The house is getting messier before it gets more organized, but I am loving the process. Maybe it's a lot of "woo," but I really feel more connected to our home and am feeling better about our cozy condo.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Good Day

Today I've gotten a big compliment at work, and then I was at Hirschfield's to pick up some paint chips for a project we're going to tackle, and they had mistinted paint for FREE! I was super excited and snapped up two gallons. One was very similar to the color I had in mind, and I got a white as well.
Then, just now, a co-worker of mind gave me 25 pairs of nearly new shoes in my size from her mother-in-law.
It's a day of freebies!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Airing My Dirty Laundry

Week one of the Apartment Therapy Cure is over. We did pretty good! I made me list of repairs, we bought fresh flowers, I vacuumed and mopped (almost) all the floors, and I took one thing out of my house.

What was that one thing? It was actually many things. I purged some old clothes out of my closet.

Our master bedroom closet is going to be one of the biggest things I want to tackle for the cure. Because it is... horrifying.

Did I really just post this on the internet?

Hopefully before my eight weeks are up, I will have some inspiring after shots to show you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Organizing Small Things

Awhile ago we tackled this CD organization project. As you can see, we had way too many CDs, all cluttering up valuable storage space (they were in our storage room in a rubbermaid tote).

Of course, we could have gotten rid of them all together, since we have an iPod, and all our music is stored on our external hard drive. But it's hard to part with something you spent so much money on, and what if something happened and we lost all our music? It's unlikely, but it would be awful! So, we sought out storage options that would let us keep the CDs and liner notes, but ditch the jewel cases.

Here's what we came up with:

And, since this industrial style metal case with sleeves for the CDs actually didn't fit our entire collection, we got a small media storage box to fit the rest:

I found cute paper clips with tabs on them in the office section at Target, which I used to alphabetize the CDs.

The result is a clean looking storage solution that takes up very little space.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Autumn!

Our wedding anniversary is in the fall.

My first nature table. Ceramic leaf plates, a candle, a wooden bowl with rocks, pine cones and leaves, anniversary cards, and fresh flowers (part of the Apartment Therapy cure)

Back to Basics

I've been kind of stressed out this week. It's mostly because I'm not feeling well. I got slammed hard with an icky cold Monday night, and I'm still straining to talk and coughing like crazy on Friday. When I feel run down, everything just seems hard. Especially when it comes to homemaking - cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, organizing, budgeting and caring for the little one are daunting tasks. But, I'm starting to feel on the mend, so that's a good thing.
I think this week, because I was feeling so tired and overwhelmed, I let a lot of things slide. I know Sebastian watched a lot of TV and didn't eat the healthiest. I had actually wanted to adhere to the AAP recommendation of no TV at all until 2, but it's been hard. I don't turn it on for him, but my husband does, and so does my dad, who watches him during the day. I am also struggling with the food thing - I haven't eaten the best this week at all, I've had way more sugar than I should, and I know Sebastian's eaten a lot of hot dogs for lunch, and I even caved and gave him some watered down juice at a wedding last weekend.
I need to start walking the walk: I have these ideals in my head of what our home life should be (time outside, homemade food, limited media, free play time), but a lot of times I succumb to TV and processed food because it's easier, and when your energy is low, easy is good. Also, I have a tough time being confident in a lot of my decisions, particularly when it comes to parenting (but also sometimes nutrition). I have a tendency to let people talk me out of things that I want to do, and I allow them to make me feel silly in my convictions. That, of course, isn't something I can solve overnight, but this weekend I'm going to challenge myself to step it up and get my family back to basics. We're going to eat simple, healthy meals and stay away from the TV. I'm excited!

Small Steps

I tend to get ahead of myself, um, a lot. It can be really easy for me to have a goal in mind, and get really frustrated when I can't accomplish it RIGHT NOW. When it comes to my desire to sell our condo and move to a single family home, I need to start with the small steps. Even if we weren't so underwater, now would not be the time for us to do this. First, we need to get some debts paid off. Then we need to save for a down payment.
So I am trying to step back and look at the small steps we need to take to make the big dream of having a "forever" home happen. First things first, a budget. I've looked at our budget, and we actually should be doing much better than we are. We're over spending on frivolous stuff like eating out and Target trips. Once we get our budget under control we're going to roll all those extra pennies into paying down our debt.
I feel motivated, and like we can do this.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First day of Autumn

Today is the first day of Autumn, and it definitely feels like it in these parts. Outside my window there's a tree beginning to turn a rich gold, and rain is pouring down the window. It's cold and snuggly. I'm not feeling the best today, but am at work. I'm about to go make some peppermint tea and watch the rain fall for a bit.
This is the first year that I've been planning a nature table, so I will have photos of that soon. Tonight, if I have the energy, I'm going to put out our fall wreathe on the front door, set out the fall placemats and linens, and cook something warm and hearty to celebrate the first day of my favorite season.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's Important

With a week and a half until my brother's wedding, and extended family drama brewing, I can't help but reflect on what's important to me. My little family of three makes me so very happy. I love nothing more than spending time with the wonderful man I married and this funny and silly and sweet little boy we are raising. I want to have a close family, but I'll admit, I have basically no blue-print for such a thing. My immediate family is close: I talk to my mom every day on the phone, my dad is babysitting Sebastian at least a few times a week while we work, and while I don't see him as often as I'd like, I get along well with my brother. But our extended family is another story. They all live out of state, don't talk to us too often, and more often than not, bring the drama. Like right now, with my brother's wedding so close, all of them chose to ignore the invitations, not RSVP, and then disapoint him by not coming. It's a shame really; I know that compared to his fiancee's huge, tight-knit family, he feels let down and alone.
Way, way in the future I hope there's no question that Sebastian's uncles and aunties would make it to his wedding, and that he has some cousins to grow up with, and some siblings too. But, of course, you just never know. So in addition to trying to cultivate a happy, close family, we're also choosing some surrogate "family" as well, in the form of our dear, close friends and their kids. I felt so lucky to have this "family" over the weekend as we attended our lovely friends C. and M's wedding. There was lots of joy, happiness, and about 15 toddlers tearing up the dance floor.
We can't always choose our family, but we can choose the way we treat people and the way we want to live.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Is Where We Used to Live: Part 6

This is the last house that I lived in with my parents and brother before moving out on my own. I'm no boomerang kid - I moved out at 19 and never looked back (although I do love my family... just not living with them!)
It was 1996, and the housing market was pretty calm in the Twin Cities. There was definitely not a housing boom yet, so homes were affordable, but loans a little harder to get and interest rates a little higher. But buying a home during that time period was a much more financially savvy move than renting, and so after renting the townhome for a year, my parents embarked on the journey to become homeowners. This story is kind of hard for me to tell. Perhaps it's why I have so many issues regarding homeownership.
I didn't help them search for a house, which is something that makes me kind of sad. I was 16 and dating my first boyfriend, so I was off spending time with him, or my friends, and couldn't be bothered to help my parents house hunt. They chose this little 1950s ranch with a huge walkout basement. I recently asked my mom why she picked this house, and she said because of the big finished basement and the laundry chute from the upper floor bathroom to the laundry room downstairs (that WAS really cool!). The house had two small bedrooms upstairs, one bathroom, and a very outdated kitchen, dining and living room. Downstairs was a bedroom, bathroom and laundry. There was a huge backyard. A lot about the house was really pretty - hardwood floors in my room and my parent's, vintage tile in the bathroom. Two fireplaces. A built hutch in in the dining roomThere was a lot that needed help - there was super old rust-colored shag carpet in the living room and hallway, old appliances, bad wallpaper. It could have eventually been a beautiful home. In fact, it is one now (it was on the market a few years ago, and the real estate listings showed that the next owners had completely revamped the kitchen and ripped out the bad carpet to expose the hardwoods underneath.
Unfortunately, my parents ran into some financial troubles about two years after buying the house, and weren't able to fix it up, or to keep the home. After my brother and I moved out, they moved into a downtown rental apartment. They're actually much happier now, and say that owning a home was not for them. But it still makes me sad sometimes that the one house they owned in all their lives they couldn't hang on to. They lived there just a little bit longer than all the houses we rented growing up.
I actually live really close to this house now, and drive by it fairly often. It seems like a family with young children lives there, and that makes me happy. My family was going through such a rough time during the years that they lived at this house that I find I can't think about it too much.

Stop Waiting

I was reading a simple living blog, and there was a post about someone wishing they could live in the country and garden, craft, etc. This other person responded in the comments, and I just loved what she said, so I am posting it here, mostly for a reminder for myself.
For 3 years I have put off 'simple living' because I am in the city and felt like "as soon as I get my dream cottage I will learn knitting, quilting, baking etc" Well a year ago I decided that I wasn't content because I was 'waiting' to move on. So I decided I am going to live like this is the house I will be in forever. I planted a small garden, filled all my flower pots with herbs or other vegetables. I made a small shelf to keep my fabric and craft supplies on and keep them readily available. I pulled out the cookbooks and taught myself how to bake bread, grind wheat and make healthy meals. I have taken the small amount of earth that I do have and I give it 100% of my attention. I gather my kids around me at night and read to them. I homeschool and make use of the flowergardens to capture bugs and learn about nature. I am living like I am exactly where I want to be forever and it has made all the difference. Make the home you have now your safe haven. Surround yourself with things you love. If you want to learn how to bake bread, buy some bread pans and display them. If you want to quilt, get a small basket and put some fat quarters in it, ready to go. I have found that the most simple things bring me the most satisfaction and my life is different now. I am content and happy and have MADE my house a peaceful place to be full of my own touches and love. Good luck to you! Don't wait for the things you love, surround yourself with them now. Put a planter on the window, get a knitting basket next to your favorite chair. Quilt a pillow to keep on your couch or chair. It worked for me!
I'm sure that some day we'll have a little house with a yard to call our own. In the meantime, I'm never going to be happy in the moment if I keep wishing away the home I do have. I needed this reminder to stop waiting, and start living.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Apartment Therapy

Over the weekend I read Apartment Therapy, and I am a total convert. I've been looking at the blog for a couple of years now, but never really knew what "The Cure" was. Now I am so glad I finally got around to reading the book. It's exactly what I've been needing in my life (which sounds a little dramatic, but it's true!) I am going to be starting my 8-week home cure next weekend, and am really excited. As I read through the book, I realized I've been doing a lot of this stuff lately with my blog-inspired home redecorating, mostly trying to address the problem areas in my house and revamp the space for better flow and functionality. A lot has changed and improved in my home, thanks to this blog. Having it inspired me to repaint the fireplace, makeover our bedroom, get a new couch and turn the dining room into a playroom. So I feel like I have a relatively good start on the Cure, and on decorating in general. I don't think I'll spend a lot of time on the finding your style aspects of the Cure, but I am really excited to organize, do a deep clean, purge out some unnecessary stuff, and set up a landing strip by the front door. And buy fresh flowers every week! I can't wait for that.
Mostly, I need Apartment Therapy for the therapy aspect of things. I have been way too negative about my house the past year or so. I need to make peace with my condo as it is, and not constantly think about the future, and whether we will be able to sell it ever and move to a house. If I could sell right now, I'm not even sure I would, so I need to table those thoughts for the time being. AT seems to say that if you do The Cure, your attitude about your living space will change, you'll feel lighter, happier, and even sleep better. I'll be embarking on this journey in hopes that it will cure my negative thoughts about condo living.
I'll post my progress as I go along, as well as my insights into the book.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Playroom - Mostly Done!

We've been slowly working on the playroom, and I'm ready to actually start calling it the playroom. According to my little inspiration board, I wanted to:
-Recover the blue chair
-Buy the gray Ikea rug
-Use the Expedit bookcase as toy and game storage, instead of a dining hutch
-Turn an old coffee table into a train table.
We've accomplished everything but the train table, which we're starting to think would be a nice Christmas present for S.
I really like what we've done with the room! I love, love, love the new blue chair (it's actually kind of grayish green now, but it will forever be the blue chair). We have a nice little LED candle on one of the shelves that I really like to turn on, settle into the chair and read. Sebastian now has lots of toy storage, and we had room to get him a little basketball hoop. Matt can have his keyboard out for practicing his choir music. It's way more functional.
Every once in awhile, I turn to put something on the dining room table and realize it's gone, but otherwise, this is really working for us.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This Is Where We Used to Live: Part 4

The next place we moved to was the great state of Minnesota. I've blogged about how wonderful this move was for me: I met some of my best friends and my husband here, I went to a great high school, enjoyed college and got a decent job right out of school. Minnesota is my home, and I would never move back to California. That said, the first place we lived wasn't our favorite. In the early-mid 90s in Minnesota, homes were dirt cheap and rentals expensive and hard to find. We were completely shocked that hardly anyone rented in Minnesota, and that a single family home to rent was near impossible to find. That's why we ended up in this rental townhome (these have since turned into owned townhomes).
It was my first real experience with communal living. We'd lived in an apartment when I was a baby, but all my memories up until this point were of houses. There was a lot to like about the townhouse - it was multi-level, so you came in on the ground floor and could either go downstairs to a walkout basement (completely novel to us Californians), or go up a level to the living room, dining room and kitchen. Another level up were me and my brother's rooms and a bathroom. Up another flight of stairs and you were in the master. It was kind of neat to have all those stairs, especially when we were used to living in one-level ranches. There were two big decks - one on the main level and a smaller one off my parent's bedroom. There were some neat woods behind the townhouses, but I don't remember spending much time outside at all. For one, we moved in the dead of winter (a huge shock) and two, my brother and I were at the ages when hanging out with friends and exploring the wonders of dial-up internet took precedence over playing outside.
My parents liked how new the townhouse was, but didn't like having neighbors so close. The kids next door would leave their toys right in the entry way of our house, and you could hear lots of noise coming from next door. My brother and I would knock on the wall when they got too loud, which in hindsight was kind of rude. We had a communal pool, which was nice, but overall, these townhouses were seen as "trashy" by kids at school, who claimed that this perfectly fine suburban neighborhood was "the ghetto." I think there was a real stigma to renting in Minnesota, especially during that period of time in the housing market.
I had a nice bedroom with a bright sunny window. There's a really serene picture I have somewhere of my room with the light streaming in onto a pale yellow quilt and my sleeping kitty (and now dearly departed) Rex. I had my first real boyfriend at this house, and received my first kiss on the doorstep. My best friend to this day lived just down the block in an apartment complex, and we'd go swimming at her pool and spend summer days making our Empire Records website.
I find it interesting that you can now buy a townhouse in this development. I'm sure that happened during the housing boom. My mom scoffed when she heard this, and said, "who would want to own one of those?" It was a decent place to live for a year or two, but it always felt temporary.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Random Thoughts

It was a wonderful long weekend. Made even longer by a power outage at work that caused everyone to have to go home. I have to say, it was one of the greatest days ever. Somehow, summer had gotten the memo that school was now in session, and the weather swiftly changed to autumn in a day. It was blustery, cold and rainy. I love days like that, and hated having to get out of bed. But I did, only to discover that half our office was without power. I had a computer, so I logged in and started working. Then went and got some coffee down the street because the coffeemaker was without power (the horror!). Got back, was working some more and then there was a loud boom, and everything went pitch black. Maintenance came by and said a transformer had blown, and we'd be without power all day. Four day weekend! I sped home, and Sebastian was napping. I relieved the sitter (my wonderful dad), and had lunch and blogged. I spent the rest of my day catching up on laundry and playing with my son indoors while it rained softly outside.
It was the perfect mix of fun and domesticity this weekend. We saw many friends and relatives from out of town, hit up the state fair, played in the pool in Wisconsin, ate out a lot, but also cleaned the refrigerator (and my, what a difference it makes!), recovered our chair (see my last post), went for walks and cozied up on the couch watching Mad Men.
Yes, I think every weekend should be four days long.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Reupholstering the Blue Chair

Well, we did it! We tackled the blue chair this weekend, and I have to say I love the results. I can't take too much credit, because I was mostly just a helper in this project. I have a tendency to be a "finisher," which means I get things done... but not always in the right way. Matt's the opposite. He won't start a project unless he can do it right. We frustrate each other, but I think we're a pretty good team. Especially on this one, since we got the project done, and did it right.

Vinyl blue chair: Before

We took the dust guard off the bottom of the chair, and unbolted the arms. This gave us room to wrap the fabric pieces around each individual part of the chair (arms, seat and back) and then staple at the bottom. It worked much better than my original plan, which was to slipcover. It ended up looking much more tailored.

The chair was super gross in between the cushions. Whomever had the chair before me must have had a Kraft cheese and crackers obsession, as I found a bunch of those little red sticks. Shudder.

We added a small piece of foam over the cushion that we had leftover from another project. It covered up the rip in the vinyl, and made it cushier to sit on.

Basically, we wrapped the arms entirely, and stapled along the bottom. Then we wrapped the seat in fabric, and stapled on three sides (tucking it in as far as we could on the fourth side, the center of the chair). On the back we tucked in the middle, then wrapped the fabric around and stapled underneath. I may go back and sew a stitch or two to secure the back piece of fabric to the arms.

The project took about three hours, and an extra trip to JoAnn's for more fabric. We used about 4 yards, and have quite a few scraps leftover to make a couple throw pillows for the couch. We spent about $60, so 10 times the cost of the chair itself (a garage sale find), but not a bad price for a custom arm chair.

I now have my cozy little reading chair. Except the cats won't leave it alone. :) I am so happy that we transformed one of my favorite pieces of furniture, and hopefully have given it a whole new lease on life. I had this chair in my living room since I moved out on my own 11 years ago. I love the clean lines and the retro styling, but it had seen better days. Now it is softer and cozier, and perfect for our playroom.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sebastian's Room

The photos I have in our house tour post were from awhile ago - we didn't even have a crib mattress in yet, and no baby yet either! Here's what we've done with the room since that photo was taken.

For Sebastian's birthday this year we made a couple of tweaks to turn his room from a nursery to a toddler's bedroom. We added the airplane and hot air balloon decals from Etsy seller Design Your Space.

We moved the letters that spelled out "cozy" that was originally over the changing table to this wall. He was standing up, pulling off the letters and throwing them during every diaper change. Ahh, the things that change once your baby becomes mobile. We got a Closet Maid bookcase from Target (before we were using a tall bookshelf we already owned placed on its side. It worked okay, but took up a lot of space and was kind of an eye sore). Sebastian kept mistaking the Chinese lantern we hung from his ceiling for a "balloon" so we turned it into one.

I think it's a really sweet room, filled with lots of homemade touches: we painted the clouds, the ABC animal paintings and the "cozy" letters, and made the curtains and the hot air balloon. It's fun, sweet and cozy, just like the little boy who sleeps there.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Favorite Jeans

Today I'm wearing my favorite pair of jeans. I spent $75 on them a couple of years ago... an amount that I had never spent on jeans before. I'm usually an Old Navy clearance kind of gal. Anyway, I was shopping with two coworkers, and one talked me into splurging. Because I bought them at a higher end shop, I could have them hemmed for free, and since I'm short, that was a nice bonus. I love these jeans. Somehow, I managed to wear them all through my pregnancy - belted before I was showing, then no belt, then slung a little lower under my belly. I actually was wearing them the day I went into labor. I still wear them now - they've been good post pregnancy pants too, going back over the belly, and now they're belted again. They're soft and really worn in spots, and there are a few stains on the legs from where Sebastian has decided to set a piece of food or wipe his jammy hands. They fit well and are cozy and just make me happy wearing them.
It's really cold outside today - I think in the 50s. I'm happy to be wearing my cozy jeans and drinking a mug of peppermint tea, and counting down the hours till I can go home and start the three day weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Corners of My Home


I just took a very late lunch break to hit up the farmer's market I just discovered happens every Thursday from 3-7 at a park near my work. It was teensy, about five stands, but felt just the right size. Lately the city farmer's market has been so, so crowded that it's hard to just get in and get what I need. I bought some delicious looking zucchini, tomatoes, green peppers and two squashes - butternut and spaghetti. On the meal plan for the week is fried zucchini, stuffed peppers, tacos with fresh salsa, butternut squash mac and cheese, and meatballs with spaghetti squash. We're going to eat well this week.
I'm really looking forward to the long weekend. I remember last year I felt really balanced after labor day. It was the perfect mix of time spent at home with my little family, time with extended family, time with friends, organization projects and relaxation time. I hope we can do the same this year.

This Is Where We Used to Live: Part 4

This was our last house in California, and probably my favorite house we ever lived in. I think it was my parent's favorite too. We lived here for around a year and a half. It was all of eighth grade and around half of ninth, before we moved to Minnesota. It's funny, looking at these grainy images on Google Maps, that so far most of the houses I've profiled have looked really similar on the outside. I'm sad that I can't get an image of the Bakersfield house, but there's no street view option. Anyway, I remember them all as really different looking.
This one wasn't much to look at on the outside, but was really charming on the inside. I remember the day we drove past it, before my parents had toured it or signed a lease. We parked and got out and peered in the windows, and I was completely in love with what I could see. There were two bedrooms - one powder pink and one powder blue. There was a really leafy yard with a big deck and a little playhouse in a tree. There was a garden trellis covered in ivy that hid a small concrete patio. There wasn't a lot of grass in this yard, but it was sweet. Inside was a small living room and a fireplace that had a cute little country scene painted over the mantle. The kitchen had an eat in area, and a breakfast bar, and of course there was that pink bedroom. I may have had to rent my whole life, but I finally had a room with some color on the walls!
I'm sad we didn't live here longer, and that by the time we moved here I was a teen and didn't really play anymore, so I never much took advantage of that playhouse. Still, this was the site of my first serious crush, who lived around the block from me. We would sometimes walk home from school together, and I would think that meant he obviously loved me. I had my first boy/girl party in this house for Christmas, and he was the only boy who showed up. My brother went to his first concert while we lived here, and we spent a lot of time doing things like playing pogs, listening to Weezer and watching My So Called Life. I remember walking around the block to another friends house, and walking home to find my brother crying in the street the day Kurt Cobain died. All my memories here are very nineties.
I really liked this house, but I didn't particularly like this time in my life. When I started high school, I was having a tough time with my friends. One of my best friends got a boyfriend and had frozen me out, spending all her time with him. I can't say that when I found out we were moving to Minnesota that I was sad. I was ready to move on. Still, this was a darling little house.