Sep 17, 2015

Organizing Little Toys

Oliver is at the age now where he is starting to have a few small toy collections that he loves. If one of the toys is missing - he knows it - so we've been trying different ways to keep everything together. The small green tubs in the playroom, while small, were still too big. Most of our baskets were too big. Oliver's frog felt Easter basket worked for a time, but all the heavy use wore out the handle.

Now we're trying canvas CD baskets from Target. They look nice on shelves, they have handles so Oliver can easily carry them around, and they are the perfect size for keeping smaller toy collections together. Another plus is that they are inexpensive compared to other storage options!

They are just the right size for little toy cars and planes...

Finding the right storage for different toys is hard! While I love our IKEA system in the playroom, it's too small for big toys and too big for keeping tiny toys organized. I'm hoping these will be a good interim solution for his collections.

Sep 14, 2015

From Seattle

When I went to Seattle back in July, I didn't bring home a lot of souvenirs, but I have a soft spot for vintage postcards.  I meant to share these a lot sooner!

I think these would pair nicely with the ones we brought home from Cape Cod last summer. I'm picturing a small photo wall area with several vintage style travel postcards from places we've been... I just need a few more cards and a spot to hang them...

I also picked up this wooden french bulldog from the Molly Moon's ice cream shop, their mascot is a french bulldog and the ice cream is amazing (lemon blueberry... salted caramel...  strawberry balsamic . It's a mini wooden Georgia!

Sep 5, 2015

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Happy Labor Day Weekend! It's officially the end of Summer, the kids are back in school and the pool is now closed. We had such a great Summer this year, it's really fun having a kid who is now old enough to do so many things! The pool, the beach, the zoo, the city... dinners alfresco at local restaurants and playing around our neighborhood - it's been very idyllic.

I'm sad that it's over - I will miss the long warm evenings with lots of light, the smell of chlorine and the sense of nostalgic freedom that summer brings. Everything already feels different - the garden is waning, the trees are already changing (mostly due to a major drought we're having), the light is different and it gets dark early... it might still be hot out but Oliver has already picked out his Halloween costume and is asking for Christmas movies.

So here's the official tally on our Summer To Do List:

Fun things:

1. Go to the beach 3+ more times before September
2. Continue to use our local zoo membership and go once a month
3. Once the pool opens in July, go to the pool at least 2x times per week 
4. "Host" a neighborhood wide water balloon fight for the kids with sprinklers and water balloons
5. Take Oliver out for an ice cream cone (we did this more than once!)
6. Have dinner alfresco on the patio under the globe lights

Making things:

1. Homemade ice cream and popsicles
2. Fresh salsa, gazpacho and marinara with tomatoes from the garden
3. Refrigerator pickles with cucumbers from the garden
4. While the flower cutting bed in the garden is blooming, keep fresh flowers in the house 


Must do:
Repair and seal the driveway. 
Repair the porch with a contractor. 
Finish reorganizing the garage.

Nice to have done:
Put crown molding up in our master bedroom
Refinish the master bedroom nightstands
Clean up and organize the basement again
Finish the lights in the basement
Finish the outlets in the basement
And once the electrical is done, clean up the tools in the basement

Fun things - we did almost everything on our list, though we never quite got around to the epic water balloon fight with the kids, it was harder than I thought to coordinate vacation schedules and make sure everyone was around. On the other hand, we pretty much lived at the pool which was just as awesome.

Making Things - I made almost everything I had hoped to make, most things more than once. I discovered the best chocolate ice cream recipe in the world and will share it soon. The house has been full of fresh flowers and I'll continue that until they plants die. The only thing I didn't make was marinara, we just never had the giant surplus of tomatoes required.

Projects - Obviously we've been bad about projects lately, I wish there were more hours in the day. The porch is fixed and repainted, the driveway is repaired and sealed. We still have to do the garage reorganization before it gets too cold out, but it will actually be easier when it's not 93 degrees. The basement progress is slowly creeping forward and we do have nice new nightstands in our bedroom, so those are good things!

Next for us is organizing the garage, finishing the basement electrical, and starting to clean up the garden and yard for winter.  And of course when we're not doing that we'll be doing the fun Fall stuff  like apple picking, pumpkin picking and Halloween!

Sep 4, 2015

Busted Waterworks

I've always like our garden watering setup... until it fell apart! First our giant 100 ft hose broke. One minute it was fine, just sending water from our house to the garden behind the garage... and then BAM! I heard a loud pop and there was a geyser shooting a stream of water 20 feet into the air and into my neighbor's backyard. One day after, the hose nozzle for our regular shorter (50 ft) hose (the one we use to water the rest of the flowers and pots) busted and started spraying water everywhere from 10 different spots. The next day the faucet splitter started leaking. Seriously! When it rains it pours.

While I knew it wouldn't stop the leak, but I put yellow duct tape on the hose. It still lets out a lot of water but at least now it's into the grass instead of into the air and neighbor's yard.

I think the hose and splitter were 4 years old, though the hose nozzle was still fairly new. I'm sure if we had bought nicer they would have lasted longer, but they are so expensive. Plus our water is so hard here I don't want to bother with fancy nozzles and faucets because they will get ruined anyway.

We did go ahead and bought a new (inexpensive) hose nozzle because I consider that essential for watering. We looked at Home Depot at faucet splitters too but they didn't have one we liked because it was the end of the season... Now I'm debating what to do with our hose. Do we replace it? And if we do, now or in the spring? Or do we try our luck with silicone tape? I've heard it doesn't last long but it would buy us more time. I've heard really good things about sugru, but it seems a little expensive for repairing a hose? We should probably just buy a new one...

Aug 26, 2015

Driveway Sealed

One thing we can finally check off our Summer Project To-Do List is the driveway. Or at least the front half of the driveway, which is the half that absolutely needed to get done. Last winter was brutal and the freezing and refreezing with the weight of the cars caused several bumps and valleys, a lot of cracks and one really big crumbling dip that was so bad Mike had to fill it with a bag of asphalt. We also had new driveway poured at the end of our driveway last Fall when the had the new curbing installed and I read that it needs to cure for a few months and then be sealed (and since the driveway didn't go in until October, there was no way to seal it before winter last year).

We finally had a few days that were cool enough to make the job bearable with no rain in the forecast, so it was finally time to get it done. Lots of prep work, 3 big cans of sealant and 1 bag of asphalt later, the driveway is in much better shape. In the pictures below the big asphalt patch is still drying. I actually kind of like sealing the driveway, it's very zen for me like one of those Japanese gardens with the sand and the rake.

The backyard half of the driveway is actually in good shape. There's one crack that needs to be filled, but that's it. We could spend the time and money doing the whole driveway, but we can worry about that next year. Yes there is an ugly new-to-old sealant seam right behind where the driveway gate is, but no one is going to notice that because the gate looks terrible anyway and draws all the attention. The fencing we bought from Home Depot just a few years ago is already rotting away and needs to be replaced (even with the stain! I'm so annoyed!), and the broken posts look terrible. It's on our list for the Fall... with so many other things!

Aug 24, 2015

August Garden

Our garden is looking August shabby. It's been worse other years, but last year and our first year were just so much better. The powdery mildew and blight have been brutal this year.

We've had a lot of delicious tomatoes this summer - not as many as last year, but better than other years.  I can say it's been a medium harvest... Enough for everyday use, a few to share, but not enough to make big pots of tomato sauce. Olive likes to pick them and put them in the basket or eat the big ones like an apple - it's so cute.

The blight has really done a number on the tomato plants. They have no green leaves on the bottom two thirds of the plants and lots of stringy stalks.

The powdery mildew has done a number on the cucumber vines and melon vines. I've had a ton of cucumbers, but the vines have been sickly and wilting. We've also had a lot of melons too, despite mildew and poor vine health - planting the seeds early indoors has made such a difference in produce.

The flowers are doing really well, better than anything else. The dahlias are prolific with dark red, light purple and yellow blooms. As always there are tons of zinnias (even one growing in the pathway!). The sunflower is still growing... I think we might get one in September?

I'm treating myself to a lot of bouquets in the house - there's always fresh flowers! 

Beans, Carrots and Herbs
The herbs are doing well - this has been a great year for oregano, basil and thyme. They are all huge and happy. The pole beans have also been out of control, prolific. We've had so many green beans it's ridiculous. I don't think we've ever had so many before!

It's also a great year for carrots - they are much bigger in August than other years. We're already picking them and in the past they usually aren't ready before late September/early October. Oliver loves carrots, so these are particularly fun and exciting for him - he loves to pull them out of the ground and wash them by himself in the sink. Then I wash them again and cook them.

Overall it's been a very good year for the garden, despite the mildew and blight we've had a ton of fruits and veggies. It's so much fun to pick our own food and it's been so great with Oliver. 

Fruit, Trees and Pots
The fig trees have grown so tall! The brown turkey fig is almost 7 feet tall, despite the fact that it froze almost to the ground last winter.  It's also covered in little figs. The Chicago Hardy fig is really full and growing taller, no figs yet but that should happen next year (it takes 3 years).

In the pots I have a ton of peppers and the lemon and lime trees are doing well, dotted with little lemons and limes. This late in the season all the berries are over (the last few blackberries have been eaten by the birds).

Aug 20, 2015

Sectional Window Shopping

First and foremost - I’m not actively shopping for a sectional right now. This post is purely window shopping/theoretical/allowing me to get my thoughts down to help make a decision down the road. The (very expensive) porch repairs ate our living room seating budget and then some. However, I have sofas on my mind these days - probably because two of my neighbors in identical houses are couch shopping and we are at the point where our current couch is starting to feel really cramped. Oliver is super active, jumping and climbing on everything everywhere and he’s on the couch, off the couch, in his little chair, climbing back on the couch, climbing on me, sitting on the couch, and jumping off again. My small windows of time to actually sit on the couch and relax have been reduced to becoming the human buffer between him and Georgia to keep them from irritating each other (Georgia doesn’t want to get kicked or hit by accident and Oliver hates being growled at). Mike avoids the couch all together and sits in the chair because there’s never enough room on the couch.

Our living room is small and it’s a weird shape and almost no wall space thanks to the doorways, radiators, stairs and front door. While someday we might change the layout (remove a doorway or move a door), that’s not in the cards right now. And with the front door in the middle of the room, we can’t get a normal sectional or even a wider couch to face the TV because we wouldn’t be able to open the front door. Even if we moved the TV to the other side of the room with the bookcases, the narrow room and front door will still limit the couch size. So our options are very limited.

I don’t want to spend a lot of money because dogs and small kids ruin furniture. Someday we’ll get nicer stuff, but what we need right now is a 5-10 year sectional to get us through the dog nails, sticky fingers, grape juice spilling, possible vomiting, marker wielding messy years. The most important thing is the size - it HAS to fit our small awkward space, an L shape but one side has to be short and still have a back so we can face the TV (no chaise lounges). The other important factors are durability/maintaining the couch and of course price. Currently there are 3 I have my eye on - unfortunately none of them are perfect but they could work.

1. West Elm Henry 3-Piece Sectional with wedge

  • The size is perfect, it’s as large as we could reasonably fit so we really maximize the seating in the space we have
  • The wedge in the corner makes the corner seat usable for sitting
  • I love the design of this couch, it’s beautiful in every way
  • We can get the sofa done in a huge range of fabrics and colors
  • The couch is really comfortable
  • It’s West Elm so you know it’s good quality and should hold up well
  • Removable cushions could at least be flipped in a staining incident or removed for cleaning up a mess emergency

  • It’s expensive, even on sale. It’s still way cheaper than a lot of other sectionals out there, but I’m worried that it’s too expensive, too precious/high quality for where we are right now
  • On top of the steep price, West Elm has high delivery fees (like $300+) and full sales tax
  • No removable cover. When we choose a fabric we’ll have to choose between hiding stains or hiding Georgia’s dog fur. Plus I need help on what the most durable fabrics are (that’s anything but microfiber or faux suede)
  • Not a flexible design - we have to commit to the layout of the sectional when we buy it

2. IKEA Friheten Sofa

  • This sofa is really compact and wouldn’t overwhelm the room
  • If we added extra cushions it would feel like a full sectional
  • The beige color would hide Georgia’s fur really well, the light gray fairly well
  • It’s a sleeper sofa, which could be fun for kid sleepovers or a family movie night
  • Hidden extra storage in the chaise piece
  • The setup is flexible so we could always swap the layout
  • The price is amazing, even if it was ruined somehow we could buy another and it would still be less than either other option.
  • Flat $59 delivery and the store is in a half-sales-tax zone

  • The sofa doesn’t have arms, which makes it less cozy for curling up
  • The cover is not removable at all. The beige or light gray color will stain easily. I don’t even think we could flip the bottom cushion if something bad happened
  • It kind of looks like a cheaper apartment sofa
  • We sat on this at the store and it was not that comfortable. It might just need breaking in (which Oliver is perfect for), but I’m not totally sure I’d love relaxing on it

3. IKEA Karlstad

This would actually be an Ikea hack that I saw a friend of mine do in her awkward living room space - they bought the 2+3 corner sofa and a Karlstad chair (unfortunately you can’t buy the pieces individually) and put then chair where the 2 piece couch would go instead. This gave them a perfectly sized sectional and a separate love seat. We could do this in our living room with the loveseat and the chair together and then use the leftover 3-seater couch in the playroom or sell it on Craig’s list.

  • A great size for the room once we cobble it together
  • Removeable covers and the dark gray cover is washable. WASHABLE!
  • We’d have an extra couch leftover for the playroom or craigslist
  • The setup is flexible - we could always swap the layout of the sectional
  • We know this couch holds up well and is really comfy once it’s broken in
  • The price, even with the chair add-on is half the price of West Elm
  • Flat $59 delivery and the store is in a half-sales-tax zone

  • The hassle of “hacking” an Ikea couch and dealing with the extra piece
  • The light legs will have to be stained or painted so they don’t clash with everything else
  • The removable cover in dark gray will show Georgia’s dog fur like crazy, but the light gray cover they sell is dry-clean only. They used to have beige, but not anymore
  • The back is a little low and might not work with our console table behind the sofa
  • It’s out of stock at a lot of stores, which makes me worry that it’s actually being discontinued even though it’s still online and on their app

So that's what we are thinking about these days when we sit in our living room. Should we get a new couch? When could we get a new couch? What new couch would be best fit? Depending on the day I lean towards something different - one day I think we should get something quality that will last longer and the next I want the cheapest one possible because Oliver and Georgia are so destructive. Or maybe if we keep waiting the perfect couch will come into existence and be the right size with removable washable covers in beige or gray that isn't going to break my budget. Fingers crossed...

Aug 13, 2015


I love summers like this. It's been hot, but it's a dry heat where a quick splash in the sprinkler cools everyone right off. A little time in the pool goes from refreshing to chilly (and turns Oliver into a shivering popsicle). Once the sun starts to go down the evenings are breezy and cool. There's been so much sunshine and blue sky.

I didn't realize how quiet evenings in July were until we reached August. Every afternoon and evening there's an outdoor serenade from all the crickets. It's lovely. I never realized how much I missed it until it was back.

The butterfly bush in the mailbox garden is attracting so many butterflies! Sometimes I see 4 or 5 swallowtail butterflies fluttering around it.

We finally had some rain the past couple days, after almost a month of solid drought. Not only did we finally get a break from watering and moving the sprinkler around constantly, we also had a huge rainbow over our house, it was so beautiful.

I'm like a 5 year old girl when it comes to rainbows, they make me giddy with excitement. IT'S A RAINBOW! A REAL RAINBOW! OVER OUR HOUSE! It's not science, IT'S MAGIC!

I know all I've been doing all summer is making excuses for not blogging much. We've been busy, just not with a lot of house stuff. Even though I'm done with traveling, the days are just flying by. Work, freelance, trips to the pool, the beach, family and friends... it's been a lot of fun, but it definitely doesn't make for a lot of good blog content. To be honest most of the time I can't even keep the house clean these days. Since we finished the porch, the only thing I've really done is clean up the basement (in between trips outside to move the sprinkler of course because everything is so dry!).

Believe it or not, this is actually pretty good shape now - some tubs, toys and things to go back into the crawl space, the rest of the mess is tools and electrical stuff. One of these days we're hoping to a break from yard work so Mike can finish the outlets down there. Then we'll get the last of this put away, but for now we can safely walk down there again without stubbing our toes or knocking a pile of something over.

On the plus side, the garden has finally kicked into high gear. It doesn't even fit in my big colander.

A rainbow of heirloom tomatoes (pink, red, orange, yellow green, purple!), cucumbers, peppers, blackberries and musk melons (which taste like cantaloupe). Not shown is the giant pile of green beans that came in next.

We've also had fresh flowers in the house from the garden at all times. When one bouquet wilts I just go outside and pick more.

We haven't forgotten about the driveway or garage either...  I keep checking the weather and my calendar, it's a challenge to find a day where it's not too hot, no chance of thunderstorms and I don't have a hundred meetings and to-dos. It just needs to happen before Labor Day right? 

Aug 6, 2015

The Painted Porch

The new porch posts are painted, the railings are repainted, and I’ve caulked the gaps… The porch looks really good now! Paint makes a really big difference - it’s impossible to tell in the photos but the posts no longer look like plastic. Once they are painted they look like wood - everything really blends now!

Mike also oiled the porch floor with a few coats of teak oil - it always makes the wood look so dark and lovely.

Originally I was planning on painting the left side against the house and give the concrete a fresh coat of white paint too (it needs it…), but I ran out of white exterior paint. We have a ton of gray porch and floor paint, so the gray side got a fresh coat of gray. I don’t love it because they don’t match, but it looks better than it did before - at least this is clean. When I get another can of exterior we can start repainting the foundation and I can think about repainting this side white to blend into the house.

It's a work in progress... there's always so much to do and so little time!