Thursday, January 18, 2018

DIY- Painted Tile Floor

Back in November, I posted a picture of our new and improved mudroom floor slyly saying somethings along the lines of "sneak peak, coming soon!",  and then I never actually shared anything more than that. The real reason for the delay, was that the actual  labor of this project so depleted me, that when it was finished I barely had enough energy to pull off any preparation for the holidays, much less a tutorial. Now a couple months out, I would say that while it was a TON of work, I think it would be a lot less if I did it a second time (now that I've learned some painful lessons). I'm so happy with the results and am already considering doing it again for one of our bathrooms.
First off, why would anyone paint tile? Aside from the fact that the tile was pretty ugly, replacing it was not high on our priorities (kitchen and bathrooms before mudroom, yes?).  So the main draw here was budget. This cost me well under $100, and I don't have to hate our mudroom while I wait for our budget to allow for me to buy the tile of my dreams. Who knows, I'm so happy with it right now I might never replace it. Here is what our tile used to look like (I apologize in advance for some of the bad pictures, but I painted any time my kids were sleeping):
As you can see it has that "always dirty" look that everyone loved a while back because it hides the dirt. The tiles are also not lined up very well and there were a few cracked tiles. We still have those issues, but they are more camouflaged now. The first thing we did was caulk the gaps between the tile and the wall because they were significant. Then I cleaned the floor meticulously (and I hate to say I forgot to sand it, but I would do this next time). Then I painted the whole floor white with a garage floor paint. This is where I hit my first set of problems. 
The first problem was that the paint was not going on very well. No matter how many coats I did it was blotchy (this could be because I forgot to sand OR because of the paint, we will never know). This was solved by using a white chalk paint.  The second problem was that the vision I had with the stencil was the inverse of what I had painted the floor. I should have painted the floor grey, and gone over with a white stencil. Because I was so committed to my vision, I started over (to be sure, after a good venting session with Connor) and painted the entire floor with a grey chalk paint. I found this tutorial extremely helpful and painted the grout lines with a brush and the tiles with a roller. The good news about chalk paint is that it dries very fast. The bad news is that once you start using it, you don't want anyone walking on the floor until you are finished putting the sealant on it, because it scuffs very easily. 
Then I used my custom stencil (Cutting Edge Stencils has the best customer service, they made the stencil for me to fit my exact tile size... an odd 11 5/8 inches I believe it was, and they even made the pattern a smaller scale for me), and I started doing the middle tiles in no apparent order, just so I wouldn't mess it up the wet paint with my knees and feet. 
Once I was left with just the border tiles, I started stenciling those tiles (starting with the largest), and cutting my stencil down as needed. 
After that, I went in and painted the grout lines white, to make it look neater and brighter. Then came the exhausting part of the project where I got on my hands and knees with a tiny paint brush, and I fixed any blemishes/mistakes from when I was stenciling. Because my pattern was a smaller scale, there were a lot more of these, so I spent a lot of time on this part.
In the final step, I painted on four coats of a garage sealant with a roller. I could not be happier with the results, the mud room went from being a space that was only functional (and a bit embarrassing as an entryway) to one of our favorite rooms.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Getting organized: starting with the toys

Over the years, I have received a lot of questions about how I organize/store our kids toys.  In general, we tend to lean towards a more minimal approach with toys......and a small house only encourages this lifestyle. We are also fortunate to have family and friends who understand that if they buy our girls a huge automated toy, we literally have no where to put it. I realize that's not the case for everyone, but I do believe that before figuring out how to store toys, it's best to start with what should be donated (or thrown away in some cases). The very minute after I feel like I have a handle on the amount of toys we've accumulated, I'm back to scratching my head saying "how did we get here again?", so I do not have a perfect handle on things in case you're wondering. But the truth is, the less toys you have, the less storage issues you will have. 
Though the girls may have fewer toys than the average kid with a playroom, I'm quick to assure visitors who ask "where are all your toys??" that they are just very well hidden through the house. In a 1300 sq. ft. house it's equally important to me for us adults to enjoy our living room and for the girls to have access to what they love. The living room can quickly become a disaster with blocks and doll accessories strewn about, but at the end of the day when it's all picked up......we don't have to see all the toys, and that does a lot for me. So where do we hide them you ask? Here are some of my favorite solutions:

(left to right)
1. This adorable laundry bag is perfect for storing dress-ups and other "make believe toys".
2. We have a similar credenza in our living room, and rather than being filled with dvds, it stores their magnatiles, lacing cards, and puzzles.
3. vintage crates are the best for storing books (as well as arts and crafts)
4. I love these indestructible baskets. I store the girls dolls and stuffed animals in similar ones, and have been known to stuff the ugly ones in the bottom.
5.This little zip up bag is great for all those small pieces like doll accessories. I like that it's flimsy, so I can also stuff it in one of the above baskets.
6. This woven ottoman is amazing. You could use it as a side table or an ottoman, but it literally fits my girls toy farm, a horse stable, and tons of animal figurines with room to spare.
7. We have a similar storage bench in our sun room that we bought from Ikea our first year of marriage, and while it's seen better days- it is an amazing place to store toys while also providing seating.
8. We use this basket as a laundry hamper, but it would also be a great option for toy storage.
9. This skinny Ikea cabinet (intended for shoe storage) takes up basically no space and would be great way to store arts and crafts.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The In-Between

It's that time of year where everyone is talking about goals, calendars, and planners. This year, my focus is a little less on goals and a little more around the idea of "the in-between". Though I first heard this term on one of the podcasts I regularly listen to, I have been having conversations around the subject for years. So what is "the in-between"? It's the space between "all or nothing". It's working with what you have, whether it's time, skills, or money. Years ago, Connor first noticed my tendency to either workout for a full 45 minute minimum or not at all. If I couldn't get abs,cardio, and weights in, it wasn't worth it. As I type it out, that sounds crazy.....but the truth is I can still be like that on a much smaller scale. These days it looks like "10 minutes for a workout? Not worth it."

It's not just my fitness regimen that has been affected by this "all or nothing" mentality. It can touch all areas of life, such as: reading, meditation, cooking, traveling, health, sleep, friendships/relationships, etc.  We say "she and I will never be best friends", so we don't invest in that relationship, or "I only have 30 minutes, that's not enough time for a nap" when simply closing our eyes help. We pad the "all or nothing" mentality with phrases like "it doesn't make sense", "it's not worth it", or "it's not practical". 

While there are many areas I want to work on in this area, there are some areas in my life where we definitely live in the "in-between" and I can vouch for it's life giving components.  Those areas can bring about an eye-roll from folks ("so impractical!" they say) who don't understand, and that's ok. One area that we live this way is with our travel. We frequently do long day trips (up to 3hrs away) to meet up with friends or just to check out a cool destination we've been wanting to see. If we waited to make every day trip into a weekend trip, we would miss out on a lot. When we come back from one of those day trips, sure we are tired- but our hearts are full because of the adventure we had or the friends we saw.....worth it.
(pic from a day trip to Vermont this fall)
 I'm the same with interior design. Can't afford tile right now? I'll paint it. It also sometimes means designing a room halfway and waiting for budget to allow me to finish it (instead of not starting at all). While I want to make sure my house is safe for my kids and it's designed with them in mind, like any designer, I also am willing to put in extra work so that I can enjoy it too, knowing full well it could get ruined. The truth is, we would all cringe if a child took scissors to a couch or rug, no matter what- so why not buy one that you love (within a reasonable price point of course), knowing in the back of your mind it could get ruined. Meanwhile, you live there....spend years there, and that well designed space brings life and joy. 
(I hate that dining room lighting, but this is me living in the in-between - a half designed room)

So what is so important about the in-between? In short- it gives life. Before you label something as "impractical", stop for a second and consider if that thing could bring a lot of joy to your life. If it does, maybe it's worth it.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 Favorites

It's snowing/sleeting in Boston, and like most of you- the gifts are bought, the fridge is full, and I've transitioned to cozy clothes, completely satisfied to not leave the house for a few days. Any other homebodies out there? I love this time of year. I don't often get a chance to catch up on blogs these days, but you're going to bet that I will be doing a ton of reading from books to online articles this weekend. I thought I would share my highlights of 2017 with you- from my favorite moments to my favorites podcasts and beauty finds. Merry Christmas, and see you in 2018!
Probably the biggest highlight from 2017,  buying our 112yr. old house.

Having our home featured on Homepolish Magazine:

Instead of buying bread, I  started making it from scratch every week , and haven't looked back since. This is the easiest recipe you will find. 

2017 Beauty Finds:

  • Caudalie Beauty Elixir- After raving about it to me for months, one of my friends bought this for me last Christmas, and I have been a faithful follower ever since. I put it on right after I moisturize and my face feels so fresh and amazing and ready for makeup.
  • Ok, so I didn't discover it this year, but it's still worthy of mention because it's made such a difference for me. This is my favorite body scrub during these dry frankincense. My skin is so soft after I use it.
  • NYX soft matte lip cream - this is my "lipstick on the go", it applies so smoothly. I'm not without the color Stockholm- it's my natural lip color, and makes me look polished in a pinch.
  • IT cosmetics CC cream foundation - This might be my favorite beauty buy from the whole year ( I use shade "light"). It's the only foundation I have ever used where I can see a notable difference in my makeup. I only dab a little on my (usually rosy) cheeks and a couple other spots, and then use my watered down beauty blender to keep it light and minimal. 
  • Glossier Cloud Paint- As one who naturally has rosy cheeks, I have steered clear of any form of blush until now. I love this stuff. It's easy to apply, and with my beauty blender it gives a "barely there" look. I like "beam" for summer and "dusk" for winter months.
  • Glossier Boy Brow- Not to jump on the Glossier band wagon or anything, but this is another product that I'm really loving. I love the subtle texture it adds (more realistic looking than any other brow product I've used) to my thinner brows, and the color is spot on. The Blonde color does not have any red in it thankfully which is always my issue with brow products.

New(er)-to-me Instagram accounts to follow:

I've really scaled back on the number of people I follow, but these are new(er)-to-me follows that made the cut: 
  • Mathilde Lacombe- This French lady is so chic, and does a lot of makeup tutorials in her IG stories. The catch? It's all in French. I like her because she has great taste, has a similar complexion to myself (helpful with makeup tutorials), and gives great tips like white eye liner on the lower lash line (genius!)
  • theannaedit- makes me laugh, her style sense if very similar to mine, and (I mention her later in this post) basically I want to be best friends with her.
  • Jessica Anteby - makes me laugh
  • Jessannkirby- love her take on New England style.
  • Gaby Burger - I love her mixture of edgy and classic styles. I think I may have been following her longer than a year? 

Podcasts I discovered this year:

  • "Off the Camera with Sam Jones" - interviews with actors/directors/people in the movie industry. Why do I love it? It's easy to see successful people and to make the assumption that their path didn't include failures or that they didn't second guess themselves. If you're a creative, you will love this podcast....and you will realize we are all in it together. Ps. I especially loved the episode with Jeff Daniels.
  • "The Simple Show"- All about slow living, simple pleasures, and what that looks like to different people.
  • "How I built This" - Popular for good reason, if you haven't checked it out already- you need to.
  • "The Shauna Niequist Podcast" - Interviews that will inspire and teach you something new.

Favorite Books from 2017

I kept to my goal of 12 books this year, I really tried to narrow it down (because I really loved them all!), but here are my favorites from the year:

  • "The Curated Closet" by Anuschka Rees- Helped me to not only purge from my closet, but also more clearly define my style. I can't say enough about this book.
  • "Chasing Slow" by Erin Loechner- Most interesting memoire, and so many good take aways.
  •  "I thought it was just me (but it wasn't)" by Brene Brown - I know everyone is jumping on the Brene Brown wagon these days, but I literally was taking notes and am still referring back to them. 
  • "The Four Tendencies" by Gretchen Rubin- Not the most grabby title, but this is such an interesting book on how different people are wired to respond to expectations. It's changed my outlook so much in how I see myself (and my failures and successes) as well as those close to me. Another one I want to keep around to refer back to. 

Blogs I started following in 2017

  • The Anna Edit- Ok. My friend introduced me to her blog about a year ago, and I have been unapologetically obsessed since. I love her makeup tutorials, any and all of her product recommendations, her sense of humor and personality, and her capsule wardrobe. My only regret is that we can't be best friends in real life.
  • The Vault Files - I love Gaby's effortless everyday style as well as workout looks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Homemade hot chocolate and Marshmallows

In Decembers past, I have quickly burnt out over too much on the calendar, too much on my list, and too much sugar. This year I tried a different approach: I made a conscious list of the "memory making essentials" that were really important to me and my family. This includes a few activities and foods that I don't want to miss out on. Everything else can go. This has really helped me to not feel bad about having to say no- whether it's to activities or events we are invited to, or rich foods that aren't on my list. At the very top of that list though, is our December first tradition. We started the tradition of decorating the tree and house on December first years ago when Connor and I were newlyweds, and about five years ago we added in homemade hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows to the mix and have not looked back. The hot chocolate is good, but the real winner is the combination of the two, with the homemade marshmallows melting inside. If I'm going to give myself one pass on sugar, this would be it.....not just because it's amazing (I have only had one hot chocolate from a gourmet chocolate shop that rivals it), but because of the memories surrounding it.
 Ps. This tastes best with board games or a christmas movie.

Creamy Hot Cocoa
-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 pinch salt
-1/3 cup boiling water
- 3 1/2 cups of milk
-3/4 tsp. vanilla
-1/2 cup half & half (only if you are omitting the marshmallows)

*Combine cocoa, sugar, & salt. Blend in boiling water. Bring mixture to a boil while stirring. Simmer for 2 min (still stirring). Stir in milk until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into 4 mugs. (add cream if not using marshmallows)

Homemade Marshmallows  (via Smitten Kitchen)
- 3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (2 TBLSp. + 2 1/2 tsp)
- 1 cup cold water, divided
-2 cups sugar
-1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp. salt
-2 large egg whites
-1Tblsp. vanilla (or mint/almond extract, but I prefer vanilla)
-1/4 cup powdered sugar

* Oil Bottom of a 13x9 pan and dust with powdered sugar. In a large saucepan cook sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup of cold water, & salt over low heat (stirring) until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil mixture (stirring) until candy thermometer reads 240 degrees F (takes about 12 minutes). Remove from heat and pour over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. Beat the mixture on high until white & thick and has tripled in volume (6 minutes for a standing mixer and 10 minutes for a hand held). In a operate bowl (with clean beaters), beat egg whites until stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until combined. Pour into the baking pan. Sift 1/4 cup of powdered sugar on top. Chill until firm (3hrs- 1 day). Use cookie cutters for shapes, or cut into 1 in. cubes. Last up to 1 week in cool room temp.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Advent Calendar

Until this year, I haven't officially done an advent calendar with my family. Fall is a busy time for my us with lots of visitors, and there's something about going from  halloween costumes, to menu planning for Thanksgiving, to birthday planning for my daughter, to getting ready for Christmas. By the time December rolls around, I'm just tired and this is one of those things that usually slips through the cracks. This year I decided to do an "activity" advent (in the loosest sense). I've filled it with simple things like "reading the Christmas story" and "watching 'White Christmas' ", and a few bigger activities that we are already planning on doing. There's something about having it written down that is fun and exciting for the girls. In an effort to not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of this season,  I also reserve the right to rearrange and substitute as necessary. Feeling exhausted? Maybe today's activity is to watch a "Elf" instead of going ice skating.  Here are some of the things we are doing:

1. decorate the tree & house
2. drink hot chocolate & play board games
3. watch White Christmas
4. make cookies for the neighbors
5. go to the Nutcracker ballet (a favorite tradition every year)
6. watch Elf
7. pick out a toy to donate to a child
8. decorate christmas cookies with friends (already on the calendar)
9. read The Nutcracker
10. make christmas ornaments
11. leave something special in the mailboxfor the mailman
12. watch Miracle on 34th Street
13. make gingerbread houses
14. eat santa pancakes
15. make a gift box for a child in need
16. make gingersnap cookies
17. make paper snowflakes
18. choose nonperishable items for a food drive
19. go to the christmas tree lighting downtown
20. go ice skating
21. visit NYC and see the Christmas tree and lights (we are already doing this)
22.make paper chains (my girls were obsessed with this last year)
23. watch A Charlie Brown Christmas
24. Read The Christmas Story

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

With Thanksgiving around the corner

If you're like me, you had the sudden realization that Thanksgiving is next week (and you're hosting!).  I've compiled a few things to get you in the holiday mood, whether you are up for a project or prefer to keep things simple.

DIY paint splattered napkins OR these are adorable (link):

DIY wooden chargers OR these are pretty:

Love these DIY place cards OR these are darling:


5 simple table design tips for the person who would rather be meal planning
I made this homemade stuffing last year and had requests for it again
12 tips to help you be a good host over the holidays
Not this year, but I'm dying for some matte black dishes
9 healthy holiday eating strategies
Along those lines- apple chutney & brie puff pastry pockets