Monday, July 30, 2012


Well, call me Nancy Botwin, 'cause this stuff is growin'!

Ok, so it's just basil for my indoor herb wall, but I think I'll get myself an iced latte to celebrate.  : )

I did find some potted herbs for $1 each at Detroit's Eastern Market on Saturday, but they're not looking so good since I repotted them (in buckets that are too small) and left them on the deck (without watering again in the last two days).  You can see why I'm surprised by this development in my herb bucket!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lunch Al Fresco

After getting home from running some errands on Friday morning, I took Sophie out of her car seat and sent her to our deck where she always waits for Michael and me to join her.  When we got to her, she was sitting in this chair giggling away, proud of herself for sneaking back there and climbing up on her own.   The weather was right, so I took that as a cue to eat lunch outside. It's one of my favorite summer activities, and seeing how well the kids fit in these chairs now, I can't believe I waited so long!

I serve the kids a lot of tortilla roll-ups.  Friday's had slices of fresh avacado and cheese.

Above is a garage sale find from our morning adventure (the color in the photo below is more accurate).  I paid the $10 that's there on the sticker.  With two toddlers nearing lunch and nap time alternating between trying to break free from holding my hand and clinging for dear life to my legs, I was in no position to barter.  For a little set like that, that's not too ridiculous, right?  I really love them, and after browsing similar melamine pieces on ebay, I feel a little better about what I paid.  

Both kids, as is typical, unrolled their tortillas, ate just the cheese slices, and then requested more.  Instead of a thin slice of muenster, I put a thicker slice of provolone in on the second round.  Michael wasn't thrilled with the change, as you can see above. 

Here he is saying "Cheese!" but not in the happy picture-taking way, despite the word doing its job and creating a fake smile.  It was actually a warning that a bite of provolone was about to be spit onto his plate!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mini Muralists

I've had this idea of rolling out some dollar store craft paper and having the kids color on it for a while.  I took advantage of having no dining table for the time being and set it all up as Michael and Sophie finished their dinner on Thursday.  They were "All done!" very quickly with their meal. This kept them both happily occupied for over half an hour.  In toddler time that's like four days.

I kept a wet paper towel handy for slip-ups with the marker, but there were only a handful.  (Michael declares dirty hands, dropped crackers, and coloring goofs as "a MESS" whenever they occur.  He has such a tone of disgust.  I wonder where he gets that desire for neatness...)

Love the feet!  And the trim.  Keep it coming, hubby!

They do this kind of thing at the child care center during the year quite a bit, all revolving around some weekly theme like farm animals or a season.  I considered trying to make this sort of educational but decided to keep it just for fun.  We identify shapes and practice the alphabet and counting quite a bit, so they shouldn't fall too far behind this summer. :P

The finished product left a big empty space in the middle as the kids stuck to coloring the edges.  It would make a cute border for a sign one day.

Sophie liked coloring her colors.  : )

" What you doing, My-Ko?"

I'm sure Mike will point out to that Michael seems in all of these pictures to be coloring with his left hand like his left-handed daddy.  But look, they're clearly both ambidextrous!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Music for Dining

Mike has been hard at work installing the baseboards and crown molding in the kitchen, but until he finishes I don't feel it's time to show the kitchen as a whole.  It's the last part of the fix-up project, so I can be patient (but the cabinets look AWESOME and I'm dying to share!).

For now I'll just present my most recent project.

Seeing the kitchen floor and cabinet project as an opportunity to play with the decor, I decided to bring in some vintage elements that reflect the time when the home was built, which was 1959.  Those details include a record player I rescued from a school junk pile (ok, that might be exaggerating--it was on a "take me" table in the library), records from the 1950's and 1960's that I bought at a couple of garage sales for $1 or so each (Frank Sinatra came from my other set of grandparents), and a sunburst clock that I saw at Home Goods for $40.  I went back after lusting for it for a couple of weeks, a good sign that I won't regret the splurge.  I'll share that later on, too.

Like the cabinet door menu board, part of this wall was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, a wall herb garden by Michelle at Ten June.  I knew I wanted a similar design with the herbs in buckets on the wall, but I also wanted to hang some of my record jackets in frames in a graphic grid.  It took me a while to work out how to blend the two, but I am very happy with the end result. 

Sadly, this late in the season it's tough to find potted herbs, so I'm attempting to grow some from seeds.  To make the photo more interesting I cut some flowers from a rose-of-sharon in my backyard.  Pretty, no?  I'll keep you posted if my thumb turns out to be somewhat green after all and some herbs do sprout, but I'm not holding my breath.  Perhaps the buckets will end up little vases until next spring when I can buy some herbs ready to pot?

I was so exicted to find the above record at a garage sale! 
Perfect for a mid-century modern inspired dining area, no?

I think of the woman on the jacket above as Betty Draper modeling before she met Don.

The first records I found for this project included a couple of children's albums.  I considered saving them for big boy and big girl rooms of the future but decided to show our kitchen's kid-friendliness with the one above and "Peter and the Wolf" below.  I think he's my favorite.

I've played all of the albums for Michael and Sophie along with others that I bought in consideration for this wall.  They've gotten pretty accustomed to eating their Cheerios serenaded by vinyl.  They now request "sussic" (music) or "round-and-round" as they get into their seats for a meal.  I played some Doris Day the other afternoon and Sophie exclaimed "Beast!" thinking it was music from Beauty and the Beast.  Sure, babe, it's Beast.  ; )

While I didn't want the wall to be an homage to pop culture, I had to include a couple of icons.

I've picked up several 1960's Christmas records as well to switch out over the holidays.  Part of me can't wait!  I wonder if I'll have herbs by then...

The pots are from Michael's craft store, but I could only find one white one.  The others were an aqua color that I thought might look cool, but I ended up spray painting them all when I did the frames (they were black originally).  I hung them by stringing picture wire from the handles and hanging them on picture hooks.

Price breakdown for the wall:

Records - $7
Frames - $45 ($7.50 each during a 50% off clearance at Hobby Lobby)
Buckets - $3
Herbs - $5 (seed packets for $1 each and a bag of potting soil for $2 on clearance)
Spray Paint - $5

Total - $65

While the price isn't impressively inexpensive, I figure a wall hanging of that size from Home Goods or somewhere similar would be roughly the same without the character and potential function.  And I just like it, so it was worth it to me!

So there's another glimpse at a kitchen detail.  As you can see, there is no trim on the walls in the photo above.  Part of me likes the clean lines, but I think the architectural detail will be nice as well.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Zou Bisou Bisou, Zoo Be Zoo Be Zoo

I'm nuts about Mad Men and have enjoyed hearing "Zou Bisou Bisou" on the radio since the song was featured pretty lustily in the season premiere back in March. Even happier are Michael and Sophie who request more and more and more of this song. They gasp when they first hear it, giggle, and now even sing along and spontaneously sing it while playing. Thank goodness for Sirius allowing me to replay it in the car again and again and again...and again.  I sometimes show the kids  this YouTube video--Jessica Pare's little dance number is a tad too hot for their eyes!

I'm pretty sure the kids don't know French. Therefore, they probably believe the song is about the zoo, like the Detroit Zoo where we went on Saturday.

Zou bisou bisou...
...zou bisou bisou...
Zou bisou bisou, zou bisou, zou bisou
mon Dieu qu'ils sont doux!

The highlight of this trip, as it tyically is, was the Arctic Ring of Life exhibit. We always love seeing the polar bears swim around and over us in the "tunnel," and on this visit one seal seemed to really enjoy getting almost close enough for us to tickle his belly.

Mike told this fella he was sorry to hear about the split from Heidi Clum, but that as they say, one day you're in, the next day you're out.  I'm not sure what's worse--that he said it, or that I found it pretty funny...or that I even went so far as to share it here.

Sophie the Prairie Dog
This was the first visit during which we actually crawled down into the prairie dog windows to give Michael and Sophie a lift and a view. Claustrophobic and uncomfortable for us, good times for them!
Michael the Prairie Dog
Another first was feeding the giraffes! In visits past, we were pretty sure it would just freak our kids out. This time, they seemed ready.

Sophie feeding a giraffe (she got a little nervous at the last moment but was cool with her daddy's help)!

Michael's turn! He was so excited and proud of himself!

See some more multiple adventures Capri+3--it's Multiples Monday!

multiples monday with capri +3

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cabinet Door Menu Board

Inspired by The Naptime Decorator and The Real Housewives of Idaho's menu boards, I repurposed our extra cabinet door into a chalkboard for our weekly meal planning.

Mike and I have planned our weekly menus for years to help us make our grocery lists and have done so on paper like you see in the photo below.  We plan with lunches in mind to use leftovers as much as possible, which has gotten a little more complicated with a couple more mouths to feed.  : )  We'll still discuss the lunch aspect of our menu plan, but the board will only show the meals that we're actually making (or not making in the case of carry-out, parties, and so on) for dinner. 

Mike removed this cabinet door when we first moved in to make room for our dishwasher (the house didn't have one).  You might recall that we used this door to see how many coats of gel stain we would want on our cabinets. 

I sanded (especially the gel stain lines) and then spray painted the "frame" of the door.  I intended to apply chalkboard vinyl to the inside, but unfortunately the vinyl I had on hand wasn't quite big enough.  Instead I used a Michael's 40% off coupon on some Martha Stewart chalkboard paint.  (In the future I might try  Liz@Naptime Decorator's tip of mixing one part paint with two parts of Plaster of Paris to make my own.  She uses it for all furniture makeovers, she likes it so much. You have to apply a wipe-off wax afterwards for regular furniture.)

I'm not sure why I bothered with the painter's tape.  It usually just pisses me off, and this time was no exception.  I'm sure I could do more to prevent the bleeding and peeling of paint, but I think I should just be careful with the edges to begin with.  I'll have to touch up a little either way.

The letters are Thickers that I found at Hobby Lobby.  They reminded me of the long, skinny letters on a local elementary school (very mid-century) with the addition of some clunky serifs.  I've fantasized about stealing some letters off the school to make a sign with my own name.  Yes, I do lust after a typeface.

Here's the sign adorned with the glorious handwriting that 10+ years as a teacher has produced.  Yep, it looks the same as it did in third grade.  Hopefully it's endearing to my poor students.  :P  While we wrap up the kitchen fix-up, you can see our menus tend to be pretty carry-out heavy.  Mmm, Buddy's tonight!

Stay tuned for the full kitchen reveal, with this menu board and other details in place, which should be in the next week or so.

Update: Did I seriously think it would only be a week or so at that point?  Boy, oh boy.  When will I learn?  :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Garth and Kat

Do you know those Garth and Kat routines from SNL's Weekend Update?  It's Kristin Wiig and Fred Armisen as "America's musical duo" singing holiday songs that they're making up on the fly in bad hair and holiday vests.  It's all very improv and cracks me up. 

Michael and Sophie love to sing.  Many afternoons they let me know they're awake from their naps by singing "Twinkle Twinkle" together from their cribs like adorable jailbirds, often at the top of their lungs and with a wild crescendo before they applaud themselves.  Lately they've taken to songwriting as well, Garth and Kat style. 

I can't tell you how many times Michael's enthusiastic goofiness has reminded me of Chris Farley.  These two are destined for Rockafeller Center.

Monday, July 16, 2012

DIY Mercury Glass Lamps

Supplies and Rough Price Breakdown:

Two used clear glass lamps $25
Two drum lamp shades $26
Krylon Looking Glass paint $8 ($12 with a coupon)
Burlap $5
3M spray adhesive (already had)
Black spray paint for the bases $5
= roughly $35 per lamp

On Pinterest a while back I was intrigued by this Better Homes and Gardens tip of turning regular glassware into faux mercury glass by spritzing it with water and spray painting with Krylon Looking Glass spray paint.  I filed that idea away (and repinned it).

We've been in need of new living room lamps since the kids became mobile.  Both of the table lamps on either end of our couch have taken nosedives and chipped.  I'm kind of a thrift store junky and have had my eye out for some that could be given a new life with spray paint for this purpose.  There was a set I kind of liked, enough to go back a week or so later, but they got away.

Mike and I recently popped into a Salvation Army store (in the spare time between finishing dinner and our movie time on our anniversary date night--aren't we fancy?), and I spotted a pair of these:

Ok, so you have already seen them sitting in my living room, so obviously I bought them, but I didn't that day.  They were marked $19.99 each, and knowing I can get lamps at Home Goods for 29.99 each (I'd already been hunting), it didn't make sense to spend forty for the pair.  Add in $30 for two new shades, and I wouldn't have even broken even.  I thought of talking to a manager, but we had a movie to get to, so I decided to think on it.

Back to Home Goods I went later that week.  I bought two of these:

and we lived with them with the tags (the red one is because my mom pointed out a ding in the shade and got me 10% off).  I still love the wood bases and the burlap drum shades, but with our black end tables and dark wood floor, it was all just too dark.  I saw that what we needed was a little sparkle. 

Having seen some mercury glass lamps at Home Goods for $40 each, and knowing that Pottery Barn sells them for $260 each, I once again planned to return to Salvation Army for a pair of lamps I should have just bought in the first place. 

Luckily, they were still there.  I tracked down a manager and asked for a better price on the lamps. With $25 for the pair as my goal, the manager took a look at the tags and told me she could do $24.99 for the set.  What a sucker.  I would have given her another penny.  : )

I then bought two lampshades for $12.99 each and a can of the wrong spray paint (I'll explain) at a little hardware store.

Above is what I had at that point, two clear glass lamps with brass bases and plain white drum shades.  I actually enjoyed this look for a little while and considered scrapping the mercury glass look for a day or so.  I would have just gone for another color for the base and the pole inside.  I hadn't returned the wooden lamps yet and tried out their shades with the glass ones.

Yup.  I liked it.

Looking back at the Better Homes and Gardens tip, I saw that the paint had to be Krylon Looking Glass paint.  I had bought the only silvery metallic paint that the little hardware store I popped into had--Rustoleum Chrome.  I Googled again to see if it mattered, and luckly Anna @ Take the Side Street, informed me that it did.  Following her advice I printed up a 40% off coupon for Hobby Lobby, and hit the road as soon as Mike got home from work. 

According to, mercury glass is "clear glass which is mold-blown into double-walled shapes. The glass is then coated on the inside with a liquid silver nitrate solution." Although West Elm, Home Goods, and various faux finishing tutorials seem to be all about the antiquing splotches, I felt I didn't have to go all overboard with that part of the look, that spraying the paint on the inside of the glass is really the key. 

I practiced my technique on an old vase and then followed the Better Homes and Garden tip by spritzing the inside of the lamps with water (after totally disassembling, of course) and spraying light coats of the Krylon Looking Glass paint.  I repeated that process a few times, letting the paint and water dry in between coats (about an hour).

I didn't go crazy with the water, and the splotches are really only noticable up close.  Perhaps I should have left more spaces totally clear?  Maybe I'll go back in and dab it with some vinegar later on...

Watching the paint dry actually was amusing.  That Looking Glass stuff really looks like it's turning to silver, unlike other spray paint that looks like, well, spray paint.


I covered the lampshades with burlap from Home Depot (something like $5 for an enormous roll).  To do so I rolled out the burlap, measured by rolling a lampshade down it twice since I wanted two layers, and cut that length.  The width of the fabric was well over double the height of the shades, so I folded the burlap in half and cut it into two strips, one for each shade.   I sprayed each shade with 3M spray adhesive and rolled it onto the burlap, smoothing out any bubbles or folds.  I trimmed the burlap to about an inch past the edges of the shade and used a glue gun on the inside.  Later I plan to add some white electrical tape to make it look a little nicer in there--I did my best, but it is burlap.  Sorry I didn't take pictures of that process.  There's only so much time to get this kind of thing done during naptime!

Now, these are obviously breakable, but the lamps we had before were tall and skinny.  I'm confident these will be more stable than the previous ones and should survive.  The kids aren't nearly as destructive as they were when they were cruising along furniture and learning to walk!

I enjoyed working with the Krylon Looking Glass paint and the burlap and suspect my fall and Christmas decorating will incorporate a little of both.

Like Anna @ Take the Side Street, I did not receive anything for promoting Krylon's paint but would not object a free can or two if anyone with that power stumbles onto this blog.  ; )

It's been a bit of a craftapalooza around here with all the kitchen projects (stay tuned), but I started and finished this one in time to share it with Katie @ Walks Like Rain for her delayed Pinterest Challenge tomorrow.  She was inspired by the Pinterest Challenge hosted by Young House Love and Bower Power that ended last Tuesday.  (I saw they're still accepting links, so I think I'll share this with YHL as well!)  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Maintaining My Buzz

When Michael and Sophie were babies, life was HARD, full of the hardest work I've ever done.  That 19 credit hour semester while working part time in college?  Piece of cake in comparison.  First year of teaching, living totally on my own, instructing at-risk youth in an alternative high school? A flippin' breeze. 

Despite the sleep deprivation and the many other challenges in those earliest days, I was also experiencing the most intense joy of my life.  I ached to be able to hold both babies more, in a constant dance of feedings and changings and soothing and naps, jealous of other moms able to dish out all their adoration on one baby.  But in those exact instances, not in some mental argument with myself, I would think of my boy, my girl, and feel overwhelmed by my good fortune, that I got them here safely, that my son and daughter are here.  The joy was so powerful that I honestly wondered at times if instead of post-partum depression I might have developed some abnormal post-partum euphoria.  Perhaps all that marathon breastfeeding released the hormonal good stuff.  Then I would shrug, a little Nirvana coming to mind.  "I think I'm just happy." 

It's actually now as the kids are older and some scary changes are approaching (potty training, big kid beds, separate rooms), and our house is shrinking around us, and I'm trying to navigate this life with goals that sometimes feel unreachable that I find I'm losing my buzz a bit.  It takes more effort in life's stressful moments--a rocky bedtime, an argument with Mike--to center myself and dust the day's dust off the joy. 

Of course I don't expect to go through life in a gleeful daze of motherhood bliss.  I just know things go out of focus at times, that I slip deeper into stress and frustration than I did when my kids were babies, and I have to make a stronger effort to get perspective and right myself again.

I'd like to say that it's in those initial moments, before I overreact to a misplaced coupon or a cat under my feet, that I get a handle on myself.  But it's usually after I've cried or yelled that the Goethe quote I read as I trained to become a teacher comes to me.  "I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather."  True in the classroom, true in the home (and I believe it to be true in the grander sense that Goethe surely intended).

I can't choose for naps at Grandma's to go like we planned, but I can choose to roll with it if they don't.  Will bedtime and tomorrow's nap likely suffer a little as a result of overtiredness?  Yep.  But getting all pissy instead won't change that.  Might as well make mild weather.

I can't choose for my house's value to rebound before Michael and Sophie need separate rooms or start kindergarten or before having another child is no longer a possibility (although the housing market will not make that decision for us).  Nor can I choose for asking prices and interest rates to stay low until we have a down payment, find the right house, and have our ducks in a row to rent this bad boy out. 

But in the meantime I can try to be grateful for this house, to enjoy the floors that we refinished, the kitchen we're prettying up, and all evidence of Michael and Sophie (even the push toy scuff marks on that refinished floor).  They have added a dimension to this home that no amount of square footage could ever reach.  The rest will work itself out--with some more overthinking to be done on my part--but it will.

I look at Sophie and Michael now...

...and I marvel at how they've grown over these short two years, at their senses of humor, their moments of genuine compassion. 

The other day I looked back at old blog posts and watched a video of the babies resting in their Boppys, Sophie fussing with that squeaky baby voice as she drifted to sleep, Michael smiling and cooing in a conversation with me. I'm struck as I look at old videos and pictures at how it doesn't feel as though those babies are gone but that the intricate details of the Michael and Sophie I know now just hadn't fully surfaced.  The Sophie and Michael they'll be when they're third graders and middle schoolers and teenagers...they're on their way, but these two-year-olds aren't going anywhere.

It's like that chapter in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  "What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight..." 

In the same way that I see Sophie's newborn doll face in her giggling, baby-toothed toddler grin and in the same way Michael's round noggin honestly still feels to me like it did when it rested in my pelvis, like those babies that I will always know my children to be, I know my overwhelming cup-runneth-over joy is still in me...even when it's time to make dinner and the dishwasher is full and dirty and when Mike has to work late on bath night.

It's just probably going to take a few deep breaths, some spirited rounds of "If You're Happy and You Know It," and certainly another cup of coffee to help me remember.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't tell Sophie

Psst!  Check out Sophie's barrette.  She's had it in for hours.   She has no idea. ; )

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