Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our Bathroom Makeover

Aside from a few finishing touches, we have finally completed our makeover for the bathroom - the smallest room in the house, yet one which made the top of my "cons" list when we first toured this place: "ugly bathroom", I wrote, underlined!

In the four months we've lived here, I've been hit with a strong dose of reality about how long it actually takes to complete DIY projects when you have three young children.  It takes forever.  We have to work on things in little snatches.  After you factor in the prep-time, clean-up time, and inevitable four or five trips back to the hardware store for stuff you forgot....you get just the tiniest window of time to actually work on something before the kids are up from naps or it's so late at night that you can barely keep your eyes open.

So the bathroom took us four months, working in tiny bits at a time.  But it's DONE, and I can finally show some pictures!  I handled the "design" elements: I came up with the plans, and did the purchasing and the painting.  Tom did the "grunt work": plumbing, electrical, construction.

Here's approximately what it looked like when we first moved in [this was the photo in the real estate listing]:

It just felt like a dingy earth-tone cave.  The first day in the house, I took down the previous owner's ugly tan shower curtain, and those terrible green mini-blinds.

We lived for a while with this temporary set-up:

My antique wash basin was in the alcove mainly as a spot to hold all of our toothbrushes and other daily toiletry items.  Because the bathroom had no medicine cabinet.  Just a big hole in the wall behind the mirror where a cabinet had once been.

There was a flimsy little shelf above the sink to put things on, but I really wanted to hide all our things away away - not only for aesthetics, but for practical reasons.  For months, Stella was stealing people's toothbrushes or contact cases, and leaving them all over the house.

Walls: Two-tone. Beige/tan on one side of the room and earthy green on the other
Trim: Either matched wall color (in some places) or was off-white (around the door)
Behind the sink: Black mirror, outlet cover, and scones (which were dim and created shadows across my face when I tried to put on makeup). 
Storage: Bamboo shelf on wall - no medicine cabinet
Fixtures: Gold faucets, toilet paper holder, towel bars, etc.

What we did:
Walls" Light blue walls with one teal accent wall
Trim: Painted true white, along with inside of the door and the ceiling
Behind the sink: White "shabby chic-esque" mirror, outlet cover, and lighting fixture (mounted overhead).  Storage: Medicine cabinet behind mirror.
Fixtures: Switched to silver.  We put in a brushed steel faucet and TP holder.  I spray-painted the towel bars silver, and left the shower fixtures alone (for now).

Some Solutions
Figuring out how to put in a medicine cabinet was the trickiest part.  There was a hole already cut in the wall, but the previous cabinet must have been a weird size.  I scoured stores and the internet trying to find a replacement to fit, but none existed.  We realized we would have to just find one we liked (that could only be *slightly* bigger, since we were limited by the location of a joist), and cut a bigger hole. 

exposed lathe board, because we have plaster walls
I got in my head that I would like a shabby-chic sort of mirror....but without the "shabby."  What I mean is, an elaborate white frame without the intentional "distressed" look.  I found plenty of mirrors like this, but not a single one that was on a medicine cabinet.  Medicine cabinets - especially ones that embed in the wall - are completely and utterly out of style right now, it seems. 

Then one day we were at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store,  and I found an old medicine cabinet with just a solid steel door on the front, no mirror.  Bingo!  It cost $5.49.  Back home, I pulled out the gold-framed mirror that the previous owner had left in a closet - a perfect fit! 

(it does have shelves, but they were removed in this picture).  Also, I wish we had the budget to replace the ugly brown tile.  It's not linoleum.  Someone actually paid good money for ugly ceramic tile that looks like linoleum.

A can of white spray paint for the mirror, and a tube of Liquid Nails to glue them together...and we had an instant "shabby" chic medicine cabinet!

Over the span of several weeks, Tom then made a huge mess of the bathroom by cutting open the walls, moving around some boards, re-wiring the lights and outlet, and other such skilled tasks that I don't know how to do.

I repainted the cabinet doors white and teal, and replaced the brass hardware with silver.

And I trimmed down some old flowered curtains to fit the window

Before-and-After Comparisons

above the sink

above the toilet

view from doorway

Approximate costs
Paint - walls,ceiling, trim: $50
Spray paint - towel bar, mirror, outlet cover: $5
Light fixture: $23
TP holder: $20
Knobs and handles: $12
Faucet: $80
Dry wall and various supplies: $35
Medicine cabinet: $5.50
Mirror, curtains, beach glass: Already owned

Phew....that was a long, complex post!  Are people interested in this level of detail in the future, or should I just post one picture as we finish each project?

Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 40)

It seems that my drastic paring down of my Facebook friends to only those people I'm actually real friends with (or at least want to be real friends with) has kept me in a nice little bubble regarding various (often annoying or infuriating) aspects of modern culture.  For example, despite hearing about it for almost a month, I didn't actually see a single "ice bucket challenge" video on my newsfeed until just this week.  And who posted it?  My 60-year-old father.

On Tuesday, I made the effort to wake up really early at a reasonable hour, for once, and got myself and the three kids to daily Mass across the street.  I had mentioned to Sly that we were going, so he went to his room and picked out "church clothes" - pants with a belt, a dress shirt, and a bowtie.  I told him that I was alright with him not dressing up, since it wasn't a Sunday Mass.  But he insisted.  I've gotta hand it to him, he realized how inconsistent my rule was - I mean, Mass is Mass. 

All the daily Mass folk (a.k.a. retirees) were tickled by his outfit, and complimented him left and right.  So I'm betting he'll be choosing to dress up again in the future.  Suits me fine.  Little boys in bow ties are adorable.

All the homeschooling bloggers are busy writing posts about starting up the new schoolyear.  I keep seeing recommendations for curriculum, and the occasional suggestions for keeping yourself sane amidst the chaos and/or malaise that's in store for you in a few months.

Despite the advice I've heard so many times about not starting to homeschool a pre-school age kid unless they're begging for it....I've decided to dip my toes into the water with Sly.  We're testing out the oft-praised Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Sly loves books so much, and already spends hours poring over the pages.  He has many books memorized verbatim, and "reads" them to me or Stella.  He's dying to learn to read for real.  His verbal skills are pretty high, so I think he might be ready.  According to my mother-in-law, Tom "taught himself to read" at age four.  So this might not be too crazy.  Plus, it's just fifteen minutes a day.  Still plenty of time for playing and being a kid.

We've only made it through two days, but so far, so good.  If I realize we need to take a break from it down the road, no big deal!


Speaking of books, we made a couple good discoveries at the children's library this week.  Books that were so enjoyable, I'm considering getting copies of our own.

The first one is Nest, by Jorey Hurley.

The story is quite simple, with just one word per page ("nest", "hatch").  This makes it appropriate for toddlers, but pre-schoolers will enjoy it as well because of the sweet story about the little robin growing up from egg to adult.  It's a sort of introduction to life cycle or the "circle of life".  The illustrations are very "clean" and appealing.  Because the author shares just one word about each picture, it left plenty of room for discussion with my kids about what was happening on each page.

Tom reading the kids a totally different book (also a good one, though)

The other one is Train, by Elisha Cooper.

It follows five different types of trains as they travel through or across the US.  The author did a wonderful job capturing all the sights, sounds, and moods of the various experiences and landscapes.  The drawings are rich with lots of details to discuss.

But you don't have to take my word for it [anyone get the reference?!].  Keep an eye out for them both if you stop at your local library!

Why is it so impossible to find dresses that have sleeves these days?  I'm not even talking about long sleeves (that is truly impossible to find - why?  It makes so much sense for the winter).  I mean dresses with any sleeves at all that cover the shoulders. 

Strapless, spaghetti-strap, halter-top, etc. dresses tend to be unflattering on people.  Or at least on myself.  And aside from the potential immodesty issues with many of them, there's the fact that they aren't seasonally appropriate three-quarters of the year!  If I have to layer a shirt under a dress, or a cardigan or shrug over it to be warm and/or modest, then seriously, what's the point?  Why can't they just make a one-piece garment that functions on its own?!

I did a Google search just now for "dresses with sleeves" and the first result was Modcloth.  It's nice that you're able to narrow down their selection by that indicator.  I do like Modcloth, but it's like a black hole for me every time I get onto their site.  Their selection is massive, and I feel like I can never get through it all.

Stella loved her birthday gift, as expected.  We had a little mini birthday celebration on her actual birthday, and gave her our gifts.  The "big" party is this weekend, though.

 She's happy to wear her little Ergo carrier with dolls or stuffed animals, on her front or back.

Yes, I know babies aren't supposed to face out on an Ergo.  But it's just a stuffed bear :-)

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Monday, August 18, 2014

Quilting Inspiration - Embrace the Ordinary (Vol. 2)

Yesterday during Mass, I was standing back in the narthex holding a cranky toddler, and I found myself staring down at the tiled floor and admiring the designs the tile-layers had created. 

I know, I should have been attempting to hear what was going on in the church.  Instead, my mind began to wander as I thought about ways to translate the design to a different medium.  I was thinking how one of the tiled sections in particular might be a good starting point for a quilt I've been toying with the idea of making.  We have a bunch of no-longer used flannel receiving blankets sitting around (three kids in, I've discovered the wonderful Aden + Anais blankets, and I'm never going back!).  I'm thinking that instead of getting rid of the old blankets, maybe I could turn them into a cute baby quilt for someone.

When Mass was over, I grabbed my (new birthday gift from Tom!) camera, and snapped a picture of the floor.

Since I'm still very new to quilting, though, I'm not sure how well previously-used fabrics turn out in a quilt.  The blankets have probably shrunk as much as they're going to, so I don't think I'd get that nice puckered look in my finished quilt.  Anyone have experience with this?

Thanks to Gina and Theresa for hosting Embrace the Ordinary

Friday, August 15, 2014

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 39)

August is a big birthday month for our family.  We have my birthday (today), then Stella's birthday tomorrow, and Sly's ten days later.  I wish we were all more spread out throughout the year, so we could celebrate each person better.  It's hard to make the time and effort to throw each of us our own shindig.  And we can't ask Tom's parents and sister to drive out to us two weeks in a row for the kids' parties.  So for as long as I can get away with it, Sly and Stella will continue having combined birthday parties.  So far, no complaints from them!

I admire the fun themed birthday parties some parents throw for their kids - which seem to get increasingly creative and elaborate each year (or maybe it's just the Pinterest effect).  They're fun, kids enjoy them (I think?), and some parents mothers really get a thrill out of planning them.

I find myself somewhere in the middle, though.  It can turn into more stress than its worth, at least if the kids aren't old enough to really appreciate it.  When Sly turned one he had a rubber ducky-themed party, and when he turned three and Stella turned one, they got a Beatrix Potter party (the in-between year was when Stella was just born, so Sly's birthday just got tacked onto Stella's baptism party).  So I decided that unless one of the kids is really itching for a particular party theme, I'm just going to make things easier on myself, and not do one.  I asked Sly what he wanted at his party.  He said, "cake, balloons, and party hats."  Just Good old-fashioned birthday stuff.  And you know what?  That's plenty to make a kid completely happy!

 So the kids' "theme" this year is going to be just that: "Good old-fashioned birthday"!

It will be easy on me, yet still festive.  Colored balloons, two cakes, ice cream, party hats, party blowers, plastic tablecloths, paper plates, maybe pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey (?!).  It will be so uncommon that it will seem like a novel idea, right? 

Anyways, the kids are only turning four and two years old, so it doesn't really matter.  They'll love it no matter what.

Myself, on the other hand, will be turning the big 3-0.  Yikes.  I haven't given much thought to the fact of rolling over another decade.  But something tells me my thirties will fly by much more quickly than my twenties, which seemed to last an eternity.

So do you want to see what we're giving Stella for her birthday?  Because I'm so excited about it!  It's an Ergo doll carrier.  It's even the same fabric as my real Ergo that I use to carry Linus (and Stella herself, sometimes, when she really needs to settle down). 

I have visions of us going out in public with me wearing Linus, and Stella wearing her doll in her little matching carrier....and the crowds just fainting away from the adorable-ness....

I have finally found a foolproof way to make vegetables taste delicious (and not just palatable).  I grew up with a very limited veggie selection.  Pretty much just green beans, peas, and corn (which is really a grain anyways).  I've tried for years to expand my palate and get myself to like more vegetables.  But it's hard to develop the taste for some of them.  I'm fine with most things if they're cooked into a soup, stew, or casserole.  But most days, a big ol pile of soggy (i.e. boiled or steamed) veggies as a "side dish" is just not appetizing to me. 

But I've discovered roasting them.  I just cut up some veggies (whatever I have in the house - beans, broccoli, onions, brussels sprouts, peppers, mushrooms, etc.), mix them with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and spices of my choosing.  Then I stick them in a 450° oven for 15-20 minutes.  Absolutely amazing every time!

The trays of vegetables are in the background.  The vat of olive oil and the pound and a half of bacon were for another portion of the deliciously fatty meal I was cooking ;-)

I found this down in the basement the other day.  Just in case I wasn't sure who it was that transferred most of the cat's food to the water dish, the culprit helpfully left some evidence at the scene of the crime...

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Simple Celebration for the Assumption

I'm re-posting this from last year, in case anyone is looking for some simple ideas for celebrating the upcoming Feast of the Assumption.  So far, this is really the one feast day (aside from Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter) that I've really managed to turn into an ongoing family tradition.  Everyone who gives advice about celebrating Catholic feast days in your family (Maria von Trapp, Mary Reed Newland, Auntie Leila, Kendra, Haley, etc.) suggests just starting with a few, and building as you go.  So that's about where I am!

From 2013

The Feast of the Assumption celebrates the day Mary was taken into Heaven, body and soul.  It's a Holy Day of obligation for Catholics, and one of the most (the most?) important Marian feasts in the calendar.  It also happens to be my birthday, which means it's a day especially close to my heart.*

I decided to host an Assumption party/playdate for some of the moms from the Catholic moms group I'm in.  Here's a peek at how we celebrated:
I noticed after cleaning everything up and uploading photos that one of my children placed a lovely fingerprint right on the lens.  Excuse all these blurry photos.

According to several of my books, the Assumption has been traditionally a harvest festival, when people would bring fresh fruits, herbs and flowers to the church to be blessed.  This is also connected with a sweet old legend which Maria Von Trapp writes about in her book:

When Mary the Mother of Jesus felt that her end was drawing near, she sent her guardian angel to summon the Apostles, who had gone out into the world to preach the Gospel of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.  When they received the summons, they came in a great hurry and were just in time to witness the happy death of their dear Mother.  Everyone had come except Thomas.  He was three days late.  When he heard that the Blessed Mother had been resting in the tomb for days, he cried bitterly and pled with the Apostles to open the tomb once more and let him glance at the beloved features.  The other Apostles yielded to his plea, but as they opened the tomb, they found it filled with flowers, which gave out a heavenly scent.  On the place where they had laid the body there was only the shroud left – the body had been bourne up to heaven by the angels, where it was joined by the holy soul of the Mother of God.  According to the legend, all the flowers and herbs on earth had lost their scent after Adam and Eve committed the first sin in the Garden of Eden.  On the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, however, the flowers were given back their scent and the herbs their power to heal.
Lavender-lemon cookies, cut into tulip shape (to work in the herbs and flowers theme)
"Heavenly punch" (cheesy, I know)
Cookie dough pretzel bites (just because I saw them on Pinterest and they looked amazing)
Fresh fruit salad (nectarines, strawberries, red grapes, blueberries)

Just a simple shortbread recipe with (blessed) lavender and lemon zest mixed in
It looked more appetizing before the ice cream "clouds" melted all over the place
very yummy!
Dark pink roses (no significance to the color - I just thought they were pretty)
A statue of Mary surrounded by cotton batting "clouds"


Activities for the kids [forgot to get pics]
Assumption coloring page
This cute craft from Catholicmom.com

Favors [forgot to get pics]
I sent the moms home with a few sprigs of blessed lavender tied with a white ribbon


Anyways, if anyone else is celebrating the Assumption today, I'd love to hear what you did!  (and link me up, if you write about it on your blog).  Happy Assumption Day!

*It wasn't always.  When I was a kid, I got SO MAD every year that I was forced  to go to church on my birthday, of all days!