29 April 2013

A Happy Ending

Remember the failed framed house key project? I'm happy to share the happy ending to this story.

A few weekends ago, I had a redo, and I'm satisfied with the result. Specifically, I put my AAA membership to good use and picked up some new maps. I say maps because we moved so little distance that the old and new house maps may overlap. I loved how Misha's painted key turned out, so I decided to apply a few coats of basic black craft paint to my keys. Then I cut my maps, glued the keys, and hung them on the wall.

I intentionally put the keys to the left as the house location is on the right side of the map. And - don't worry - the key for our current house was the key when we moved in, but we have since changed all of the locks.

Have you ever done something crafty to commemorate a move?

26 April 2013

Valentine Color Block Quilt

I am so excited to share my most recent quilt. I wanted to incorporate a lot of grey and also bring in color for a special baby whose gender is unknown; I think I succeeded.

Its new owner is due to be born next month, and I can't wait to meet him or her. His/Her mom and I played together with our dolls on a regular basis for most of our childhoods, so it's very special for both of us to have real, live dolls born within a year of each other.

Do you like to create handmade gifts for new babies?

24 April 2013

Madeleine - Week 43

Madeleine continues to be busy and mobile. She has stood up alone a few times but sits down as soon as she realizes what she's doing. She's also become adventurous and today ate her first handful of dirt. May it be her last! I just love watching her explore her world and become more confident in socializing.

As the weather continues to get warmer and sunnier, I'm enjoying the transition into her spring and summer wardrobe. Of course!

22 April 2013

Grass Exploration

I wasn't planning a second post for today, but I just can't help but share some phone photos from the afternoon. After all, it is Earth Day, and this morning's post was about playing.

It all started when Madeleine and I ate our lunch in the sun on our patio. The sun was shining beautifully, and I was itching to get outside after Madeleine slept for nearly three hours.

This was pre-chili. It got a lot messier - promise!

After lunch, Madeleine wanted to explore her seat. Fair enough. She explored the heck out of it. Never mind that we were on the edge of our large lawn, she wanted to sit, stand, and check out her seat for 20 minutes, which is practically forever in baby time. At least I convinced her to get her bare piggies into the grass.

While she was checking out her seat, a couple of earthworms came up to check her out. I put one on her foot, and she was definitely curious. I let her pick it up, hoping I'd be able to intercept in time if she decided to eat it. She didn't - thankfully. She eventually put it down dropped it, and it slithered away.

"I dropped it, Mum."

Getting back to her seat exploration, she made some pretty funny faces for the camera.

Then...finally...she decided to crawl away into the grass. The first time, she only went about five yards; the second time, she ventured a bit farther.

Both times, she eventually crawled right back to me. Good girl.

I'd planned to take a walk this afternoon, but I think Madeleine got a lot more out of exploring her environment. While I'm usually a stick with the plan kind of girl, I'm glad we went with the flow today.

Serious Play and Minimal Toys

It's a bit cruel to talk about play on a Monday morning, but play is serious business. Play is sometimes thought to be synonymous with toys. While Madeleine has taken up virtually every millimeter of my heart, I try to keep her from taking up every last square foot of our house. So, I thought I'd share some toys and activities that help us play without overwhelming our space.

I found this list of toys for the first year, and I absolutely agree. Sigh. I wish I'd found this list about a year ago. At least I have some guidance for the next phase with her toddler list.

As Christie mentions, homemade toys should supplement the ones on the list. Even though I worry that my house is going to start looking like a recycling center, I find myself washing out a lot of containers and repurposing them. (How fitting for Earth Day!)

Potential rattles are everywhere. The ivory one below was an Edmonds Pavlova Magic container in its former life. I washed and dried it, put a dozen or so dried beans in it, and secured it with super glue. The white container below used to hold vitamins and now holds dry rice and beans; it has a childproof lid, so I didn't glue it shut. These are both great because they are safe for Madeleine with little to no supervision.

Empty baby food jars and spice containers have a lot of potential as well. Madeleine likes to see how these containers sound banging on things (not optimal for the glass jars) and rolling around. She also watches how the pompoms and feathers move around. This spice container has holes in the sub lid, so I can see it being used with pipe cleaners in the future. Because Madeleine may figure out how to open these lids, they require some supervision.

These empty puffs containers aren't getting a ton of action at the moment. I've tried to encourage experimenting with putting toys into them, but it has yet to stick. We do open and close the lids a few dozen times at a sitting to practice "open" and "closed" and "abre" and "cierra." The real reason I keep washing these guys is that I'm collecting a container of each flavor color for repurposing into a bowling set. Here's another idea of what to do with them for older children.

These large jingle bells are one of Madeleine's favorite toys and a leftover from the year I used bells as my primary Christmas decoration. I'm happy to have a use for some scrap ribbon, too.

Yep, this is a clear lid. The bottom of the yogurt container is floating around somewhere, but I don't think I've ever seen Madeleine play with it. The lid, on the other hand, gets played with regularly by both Madeleine and her friends.

Although I don't have a photo of it in action, a laundry basket with clean clothes or diapers is pretty popular around here. The basket seems to be the perfect height for Madeleine to pull up, and its smooth bottom makes it easy to push around the floor. While I love her walker cart, the laundry basket could almost do the same job if we didn't already have the cart.

Sometimes I want to do projects with Madeleine or introduce her to sensory play. My many pinned projects give me lots of options for making things with Madeleine. For sensory play ideas, I head over to Fun at Home with Kids. I recently discovered this blog, and it instantly became a favorite. The author's youngest is close in age to Madeleine, so many of her super easy sensory play ideas fit the bill. The activities she does with her older daughter give me a preview of what we'll be able to do in a year or two.

Let's not forget outside play. The last time the weather was reliably nice, Madeleine was just coming out of her fourth trimester, and I was only beginning to emerge from the postpartum and sleep deprivation fogs. I'm really excited to see what fun parks and outdoor activities we can find this spring and summer. So far, we love getting fresh air on regular walks and visits to the swings. Hopefully this swing will land on our porch or in our yard this summer.

So...how do you play? How do you keep the toys from taking over?

19 April 2013

Tulips and (Almost) Toddlers

Madeleine's weekly photo was late because we were out and about all day Wednesday, soaking up the most of the sunny day with our PEPS friends at the local tulip festival.

Although this is my eighth spring living in western Washington, I'd never been to the Skagit Tulip Festival. Being there reminded me of a few things: I no longer live April in fear of early May law school exams; spring and the promise of summer make rainy winters worth it; and having Madeleine along for the ride encourages me to get up and do things that I might otherwise put off. 

Enough talk - queue the photos!

Are these guys cute or what?!

Photo Credit: Kelly

Photo Credit: Kristen

Photo Credit: Erin

It was such a gorgeous day, and I so enjoyed spending it with my PEPS ladies and babies. In a week of horrible tragedy, Wednesday's outing was a nice reminder of how much I have in my life. 

18 April 2013

Madeleine - Week 42

Madeleine is moving. She crawls when she wants to get somewhere quickly and isn't afraid to pull up on just about anything. Over the last week, I've seen her doing more one-handed holds and getting more curious about moving while standing up. She is also well on her way to mastering walking behind her little walker cart.

Our sweet girl continues to be a good eater. This week, she had her first Chipotle soft taco, enjoyed the taste of lemon on pasta, and seemed to (mostly) enjoy salmon, ground buffalo, roasted red peppers, cannellini beans, and brussels sprouts with dill. 

I thought I heard Madeleine repeat "duck" when she was playing in the bath. There is certainly something clicking in the language center of her brain because this week she both responded appropriately to a question I asked in Spanish and started signing some things we haven't used in weeks. 

Madeleine has made big strides in the social department this week. After a few difficult visits to our gym's childcare, she finally had a tear-free visit yesterday. I noticed a difference in how much she socialized with the other kids in our mom/baby group as well. While I'm glad that she is attached to me, what a relief to see her more comfortable without me!

Finally, despite a day or two of teething, lots of drool, and a runny nose, Miss M is still toothless. I guess I'll just continue to enjoy that sweet toothless grin and appreciate that gnawing on her crib doesn't yet leave a mark. 

15 April 2013

Fireplace Facelift

Remember the painted fireplace? As we learned over this winter, the ugly brick wasn't our fireplace's only flaw. While it had been fitted with gas logs, the permanently opened dampers (as required for gas log fireplaces) let in a nasty draft when there was no fire and sucked up all the heat when there was. Therefore, an insert was the natural step to take the fireplace from drafty to toasty. In doing so, we gained some serious aesthetic improvement as well. 

Let's go back to the beginning. 

Then I painted it. 

Now it shines!

Our second fireplace underwent a slightly less dramatic facelift. 

Now that the fireplaces are looking their best, I need to figure out what to do with their mantels. Any suggestions?

12 April 2013

Making Our Laundry Room More Functional

When you move into a new house, there are typically things that you want to change to look better and things you want to change to work better. While we I have plenty of things in the former category, this one falls almost entirely into the latter. 

Our laundry room is galley style. When we moved in, there were upper and lower cabinets on the left side behind the door, a counter running across the far wall of the room, and the washer and dryer with upper cabinets on the right side of the room. This before photo mercifully leaves out the cheesy "Laundry Room: Loads of Fun" wall decal above the window.  


After living here a little while, it became clear that we needed to make some changes in the laundry room. 

Even though I'd hoped to make the older washer and dryer work, I couldn't live with a washer that went out of balance multiple times on every load...and had a service record of doing it for years. I did some research and ordered some new machines, which we had installed in reverse for better flow of laundry from the washer to dryer. That was the expensive but relatively easy part. 

I grew up without a dryer, and I still air dry about a quarter of our laundry. As it was, the only place to hang wet clothes was a rack on the back of the door, which didn't allow for much space between items if more than four or five items were hanging at once. Meanwhile, the counter across the back made the room feel small without lending much utility. These problems and this pin got me thinking about putting in rod in the space to the left of the machines. 


George graciously gave me a fair bit of his weekend time cutting out the back section of the counter, sanding down the new counter edge, and hanging the curtain rod that I picked out. I pulled out the previous owners' paint and touched up the walls and cabinet where the counter used to be. I was pleasantly surprised that the wall decal peeled right off with the help of my hairdryer. 

Now, the room feels a lot more spacious, we can more easily access the rear cabinet, and I have the vertical space I need for drying clothes and storing things like our step ladder and vacuum. While I was a bit concerned about losing half of the counter space, the remaining space has been plenty for my needs. Mission accomplished. 

How are you making your home work for you? 

10 April 2013

Madeleine - Week 41

Here is our busy girl, planning her next adventure:

08 April 2013

Indoor Tulip Bulbs

I have a mental list a mile long of projects I want to share with you. While I'm wrapping up some of the more involved ones, I thought I'd share this simple (and inexpensive) way to bring spring indoors.

I originally saw this pin, which planted (how punny) the idea in my head. When I was recently at the local home improvement store, I picked up some sad looking tulip bulbs for $1.87. Back at home, I pulled the bulbs out of their dry soil and put them in one of these $1.99 vases I picked up on my last trip to Ikea with some aquarium rocks I had leftover from an old bamboo shoot.

For less than $5 and little more than 5 minutes, spring is blooming in my living room.

What are you doing to bring spring to your home? If you're in the southern hemisphere, what are you doing to prepare for autumn?