Kids Table in Chalk Paint (or “I May Have an Addiction”)

Guys.  I think I might have a problem.

Before

Before… A little kiddo-sized table and chairs in a dull shade of brick red. Found on the roadside!

After!

After! Two coats of Rustoleum’s Chalked Paint in Chiffon Cream. Bright and fresh and happy!

Two chalk paint projects in less than a week!  Am I forming an unhealthy pattern of furniture restoration here?  I’ve never done this many paint-related projects in this short of time…

I found this adorable kid size table and chairs on the roadside (no kidding) and it sat in my garage for over a year.  I pulled it out this past summer and put it in our homeschool space.  The girls enjoyed having a “new” table and chairs, but I did not enjoy the color.  After much discussion about what color it should be (“mommy, can it be hot pink with purple and teal dots?”) I managed to sell this color to the girls by calling it “Vanilla Chiffon Cream.”

One of the chairs had some significant damage that I had to repair first…

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Actually, this is what happens when mommy sits down on a chair she has no business sitting in.  We’ll file this under “ways to destroy your perceived body image and self-esteem.”

For this project, I used a different chalk-style paint:  Rustoleum’s Chalked in Chiffon Cream.  A note about this paint:  it was thicker and more difficult to apply than the other chalk paint I used last week.  I also ended up using about half the can, where last week I only used about one-fourth… and even though I achieved the “buttery” chalk-finish feel, this paint dried with a little rougher finish.

So the winner so far is the Kilz Chalk Style Decorative Paint!  Even though I really like the color of the Rustoleum (it’s a creamy white with yellow undertones), for practicality purposes the Kilz definitely comes out on top for being the easiest to apply, using the least amount of paint, and having the smoothest finish.

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And, my girls are quite pleased with their bright, updated homeschool work area.

The table and chairs update inspired me to clean out and reorganize our homeschool space and here are some views of that effort (I don’t have “before” pictures… I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop to take pictures of the overstuffed mess that existed before):

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Our little family “library” – as we affectionately call it – serves as our homeschool space for the time being. The bottom shelf of our bookcase is dedicated to homeschool supplies happily homed in hot pink containers. The rest is a mashup of all our other books, journals, magazines, cookbooks, odds, ends…

I’ll probably write a more detailed post about our homeschool space and how we use it, but for now, you see that brown Hepplewhite-style dresser in the corner?  Yeah, I’m eyeballing that for my next chalk-paint adventure.  Stay tuned and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Antique Dresser Revival

My love affair with chalk paint continues.

I have this antique dresser that I use by my front door to collect mail and it has been in serious need of a makeover. When my grandmother got a hold of it some 50 years ago, it was raw, unfinished wood. She put a coat of poly on it and called it a day. Over the years it has yellowed to a tangerine shade that has no business being in my house. When I inherited it about 7 years ago, I had no time on my hands to refinish it so we just used it as is.

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And that big white shelf thing on top? Well, that was just an improvisation from another piece of furniture I received from my sister in law.

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And, in case you didn’t notice, the hardware was…

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So, in light of the fact that I have zero time or tolerance for prep work and I just really needed a project to get my hands moving again, I chose chalk paint for this revival.

Why chalk style paint? Because it requires little to no prep, it’s pretty much foolproof, cleans up easily, has virtually no odor, and dries very fast. It also leaves a silky, smooth, buttery finish on whatever you slap it on.

Here were my tools, all purchased from my local Walmart:

Kilz Brand Chalk Style Paint in Platinum Ring, Mainstays Shower Liner, and a couple of super-cheap chip brushes. A note on paintbrushes: for some reason, chalk paint applies much better with cheaper brushes. Don’t ask me why. These brushes were 97 cents and $1.23 respectively. The shower liner was also under a dollar. The quart of paint was just under $20, but I only used about 1/4 of the can for the entire project, so I have plenty left over for more projects.

So, here we go! The process was super simple:

  1. Move dresser away from wall and wipe down.
  2. Put shower liner under dresser to protect the floor.
  3. Pull drawers out and set them aside.
  4. Remove hardware.
  5. Slap some paint on the dresser.
  6. Let dry.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6.

Seriously, I slopped the paint on, let it dry, slopped another coat on and was done. Start to finish took about 3 hours, but that includes some drying time and time to deal with the hardware. And I think it turned out pretty great…

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I also painted the white shelf thing because I knew I’d be using it and I wanted the whole piece to have a cohesive look. I can always take it off later.

And, as for the hardware, I tried cleaning it up but that didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, so I opted to spray it with some “chrome” metallic paint I had hanging out in my basement.

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They didn’t turn out quite as “chromy” as I was thinking, but I really like the finish anyway. It’s almost like a soft, brushed chrome.

That’s going to be a thing now. Soft Chrome. You heard it here first!

And so, the moral of the story is: chalk paint is fantastic. I didn’t sand or prep anything. All the nicks and scratches are virtually gone and the finish is buttery soft. This lovely shade of gray has a blue undertone and works really well with the other sand and blue tones in the room.

Here it is all prettied up:

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I’ll definitely be chalk-painting again!

Winter Decorating

‘Tis the season for taking down the holiday decorations, right?  Unless, you’re like me and enjoy embracing the icy hues of winter.  After all, it can be a dark, dreary time of year, and sometimes taking down the decorations just makes it all the more depressing… but that doesn’t have to be the case inside of your home.  Here are a few examples of easy, bright, wintry decorating ideas from my own home that can easily stay up until St. Patrick’s Day!

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White lights intertwine with sparkly white garland in the window, while ornaments perch in and around some sedum I saved in a terra cotta pot from this summer.  Icy shades of silver, white, and teal are perfectly suited for wintertime and don’t necessarily scream “Christmas.”  The wreath hangs in the window all year and I just change out the accessories on it.

Here is a daytime view of the same window.  My family room has a “beachy” theme and these colors work well even through the holidays.

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In the living room, a giant Chinese dough bowl holds an assortment of wintry picks, ornaments, and my absolute favorite: a large glittered pinecone.  This year, my goal was to decorate without any red, so the transition from Christmas decorations to Winter decorations that could stay up after the holidays would be easy.

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Some views in the daylight:

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As you can see, the dough bowl is very large, but to achieve the same look you don’t need the exact same thing.  Instead, you could use an elongated basket, wooden box, or ceramic planter.

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I really love this pinecone.

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Happy Winter!

Autumn Catch Up

You may wonder where I’ve been since February.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe you don’t know where you’ve been since February.

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Since my February 2014, I’ve packed up 11 years worth of personal belongings, moved said personal belongings to a new house (which is actually an old, historic house), unpacked and organized said belongings into a cohesive, functioning, household – all while still working, mothering, wife-ing, social-life-ing, and generally being alive.

This does not include the unforeseen, and oft aggravating, projects that a new/old house blindsides you with – because, you know, old houses.

Lots of cool things have happened, as well as some not-so-cool, but one thing that is literally cool is the fact that it is now Autumn in New Jersey and that means things like this:

She's growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

She’s growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

It's apple picking time!

It’s apple picking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

I'm getting back to taking cool pictures again.

I’m getting back to taking cool pictures again.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can't stop photographing.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can’t stop photographing.

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And MOPS started up again for the year!

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking.  Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking. Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

In addition to it being an awesome autumn, summer was full of all sorts of goodness, too.  Lots of trips to the beach, our annual family trip to New Hampshire, and the highlight of my summer:  my sweet little nephew, DJ, was born!  He looks just like my brother.  And my sister-in-law.  It’s funny how one person can look just like, well, two.

And I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but I get starting to feel all the feelings in Autumn and well – that gets me thinking – which then makes me want to blog.

So, I’m back!  Stay tuned… there’s over 800 photos on my phone right now, along with 22 different recipes I want to share, a zillion things to say about learning and education, and copious, gratuitous photos of my new digs that I’m pretty proud of.

How to Entertain Your Toddler for 25 Cents

Oh, Target. You thoughtful, retail sweetheart, you. My find in your One Spot section has helped me to hit the Toddler Jackpot: stickers.

My daughter not only loves stickers, but she also loves smiley faces, so these really hit the… (ahem) target.

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Just one sheet of these stickers (available as 4 sheets for $1) has entertained my daughter for hours. Yes, really – hours.

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Sure, my house is now covered in little, colorful, smiley face stickers.

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But how could I put a stop to this?

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She’s so happy, and I’m so happy that she’s entertained…

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And, I’ve discovered that the stickers are easily removed… thank goodness…

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Plus, every time I see those little stickers, I’m reminded of her – and her cute, quickly-fleeting, toddlerhood.

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And that’s worth much, much more than 25 cents.

Finding My Place (part deux)

Since the day I decided to venture out on my own and buy a house 11 years ago (and subsequently marry the realtor), I’ve had this deep-rooted desire to sincerely connect with a small town community.  I’m pretty sure it stems from having moved so much as a child, but whatever the case, I’ve always wanted it.  I had this idea that it would be charming to walk downtown to the deli, or bakery, or antique store – and they’d know me by name when I walked in (and naturally, a small bell would chime as the door to their shop opened).  I would feel connected to those people in a very small-town kind of way – the kind of way where they would ask how my husband was doing, if I was going to grow my heirloom tomatoes this year, and if my cat – Leroy – was still afraid of the vacuum.

Of course, at the time, I had no husband, I’ve never grown heirloom tomatoes, and cats are well – cats.

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But I still moved into said Small Town and started patronizing the local businesses.  At first, all things were rosy and rainbowed, set against the scenic river backdrop.  My old, tiny home’s walls thick with possibility, promise, and just a little lead paint.  But in time, as I restored my home and attempted to make new connections, the dream of living in “pleasantville” started to fade.  To my dismay, many of the downtown shops I liked so much closed as the real estate market took it’s historic nose dive in 2008.  In addition, I wasn’t always able to find the things I needed downtown and (admittedly) the Big Box Stores started to win when it came to furnishing my home and, well, eating.  But, it was still a small town with nice people, adorable homes, a scenic river, and that charming small-town vibe, complete with 4th of July parades and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies.

And so, we stayed and persevered, and fixed up this little home, and trudged through the toughest financial times we’ve ever faced.

After 11 years here, I’m happy to report that business downtown has been on the uptick recently and real estate is getting better.  At the same time, though, I’ve not connected in the way I really wanted to with my community, and I’m feeling sad about this.  My husband and I have often waxed sentimental over the fact that we’ll miss this place when we move.  Unfortunately, that means leaving my current small town – because there really aren’t any homes for sale in my town right now that will suit our needs.

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And so, in the hope of attempting to atone for the sin of not fully connecting with my current small town, I’m hoping to start over  – I want to truly connect with the next town in which we live.  I’ve been getting excited about what new people, events, places, and adventures I’ll be having soon.  Luckily, we’ve found a great home in a nice, small town (that unfortunately doesn’t offer as much “downtown” as my current town, but it’ll work nonetheless – there is, afterall, an antique store, thrift shop, deli, flower shop, pizza place, quilt store, and watering hole… what else do we need?).

There are a plethora of positive aspects to this move – but there are also some things that make me a little sad.  While I’m ridiculously excited to be making this move, to a new town, where I can fulfill my wish to start over, make new connections, and find my place – all while learning from, and respecting, the place I’m leaving – I realize that I will inevitably miss my current community.

Especially the river.  I’m really going to miss the river.

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But, when everything pans out with this new house, I’m sure I’ll get distracted by the many new adventures I’ll be having, along with all the DIY/Restoration/Decorating things on the horizon, too… it is, afterall, an old, historic home in need of some love.  Fifteen rooms’ worth of love, to be exact.

All of which will make excellent blog fodder!

Wish me luck.

Finding My Place (part one)

There are stirrings afoot in my life – a new home is on the horizon and a big part of me doesn’t yet want to get too excited.  I suppose that particular part of myself is the part that is frightened that things may still go awry – but I keep hoping beyond hope – quiet, but hard, in the back of my mind, mostly when no one is looking, or when it’s just me and my daughter at nursing time – that this is finally IT.  It is finally happening…

we are moving to a new house!  After 11 years – about 6 years longer than I ever thought – we are moving on.

This has me feeling so many different things – aside from the hesitation that it isn’t quite real yet.  Many of the people who know me outside of the “internets” understand what I must be feeling these days.  They know how long my husband and I have wanted a new home and the reasons for why it has taken so long.

But what these folks may not know, is the deep connection I have with the notion of “home” and why my anxiety about this move is sky-high.

I blame my parents.

As a child, my home was a place of solace, joy, and wonderful memories.  I realize this isn’t true for everyone – so please do not misplace my expression of gratitude as bragging.  My parents made our home truly homey… even though we moved 8 times over the course of my childhood – up and down the east coast, with a stint in Texas – wherever I laid my head, it was home and I was safe, warm, secure, and loved.  For that, I am truly thankful.

Plus, my mom always did a good job decorating.

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So, it’s no wonder that when the time came for me to set up my own home, I had placed very high expectations on myself to make it just as homey as my childhood.  And the anticipation of waiting for things to be Final and Real for this next move has me on the edge of a salty blade… coupled with all the other *normal* stuff of life (parenting, working, etc.), sprinkled with packing and packing and more packing – I’m just really fun to be around these days.

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When you’ve wanted something so much, for so long – it heightens the emotions associated with waiting – and you find yourself singing the chorus from Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.”  At least that’s what I do.

And, I just keep focusing on Jeremiah 29:11

Plus, the idea of “home” for me goes beyond a place to live.  It is the place where we make a life.  It goes without saying that “home” is a safe place, but for me, I place a lot of emphasis on the importance of my home in how I live my life.

Within the sacred walls of my home, I have relationships with the people in my life absolutely closest to me.  We make and share meals together, we celebrate holidays, and we are at our most vulnerable – we bathe, dress, sleep, laugh, and cry – and in my particular case, give birth – in our home.

So, for me – it’s more than a structure where we “make memories.”  It’s where life is – and because of that importance, I cherish it.  I cherish the space by keeping it clean and organized, by decorating it beautifully and making it comfortable, by fixing things when they break and improving things when they need it.

Home is my life.

And while I have enjoyed living in the tiny space we currently call home (and I will miss it someday), I also realize that, like in life, we grow out of things – and in this case, it’s our tiny home.  And that is okay.

So, I’m waiting, hoping, packing, parenting, working, packing, waiting, hoping, packing, and on and on and on.  And I’m getting to the end of what has been the longest 30 days of my life – as we are scheduled to settle on the new house next week.

Seriously, I was more relaxed waiting to give birth to my first child.

But wait, there’s more!

Tomorrow we’ll talk about all the stuff I’m feeling about moving to a new community.

Stay tuned.

‘Tis the Season

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Just when I started to think I had to “do it all” this year because it’s “Baby’s First Christmas” … and we’ve gotta Make ALL the Memories (!) (oh-my-God-it’s-snowing-put-on-the-snow-gear-where’s-the-camera-get-outside-right-now-don’t-slip-and-maim-yourself-let’s-get-this-done-before-naptime-wait-her-hat-doesn’t-fit-oh-gawd-the-dogs-just-tracked-in-a-crapton-of-snow-c’mon-let’s-make-memories-yayyyyy) …and inevitably I’ve started to get just a little nervous/anxious/worked up/loud/Leona Helmsley about it…

I read this:

To The Mamas of Littles During the Holidays

It is just what I needed to read – and if you’re a mom of little ones, you need to read this, too.

Now, all is right with the universe, there are sugarplums dancing, and my feet are up with wine in my hand.  Because, I’m not going to go batcrap crazy this year and push myself so far that I miss it.

I don’t want to miss it.

“It” being the most important parts of Christmas – those moments with family and friends, specifically, my husband and daughter.  And I don’t need to festoon each moment with something from Pinterest.

I started on my simple Christmas journey a few weeks ago when I decided that not every single Christmas decoration I own has to be displayed this year (including the craptastic 6 foot tree that I still have from college that fell over last year and broke some of my favorite ornaments, sending me – at the time pregnant, emotional – into a complete “I Hate Christmas” tailspin).

No, I don’t have to go overboard to be overjoyed.  A few twinkly lights here and there, a handful of small Christmas trees, a wreath, some music.  There will always be music.

It’s going to be a beautiful Christmas, because we are just going to be.

Tiny Joys

A couple of days ago, I found joy in my toilet.

Now, stay with me on this… I promise it gets better.

Since my 11 month old daughter can’t be left unattended when I visit the loo, I usually take her in with me, especially if my husband isn’t around.  Honeybean sits on the floor and plays with her bath toys while I do my thing.  It works.

Well, the other day, she observed me flushing the toilet.

It was over.

She quickly toddled over and started pulling on the silver handle that makes the potty go woosh.  Three times later, I had to put a stop to it (afterall, it’s our only toilet and if it breaks we’re literally up the proverbial poo creek).

But in that moment – in the bathroom, on an ordinary day – there was joy.  There was a little girl discovering something brand new.  Something so completely mundane, I barely even notice it.  But, to my daughter, it is a New Thing.  And with each new wooshy-pull on the silver toilet handle, a little-girl smile with two tiny teeth.

You just can’t buy, manufacture, or invent this stuff.

There is joy everywhere – if I choose to see it.  In every little conversation she has with her stuffed animals, every time she points a chubby finger at something she sees, every time she waves and says “bye”, even with every screech and scream.  There is joy.

I’ve always been big on “little things,” because they really do matter – they add up – and I’ll admit that for a short while now, I’ve lost sight of how important those little things are.  I’ve been in The Blur – but now, with the Christmas season upon us, I get into that warm, fuzzy, hot-chocolately, snowy, deck-the-hallsy mood and I can see clearly again.

I can see the joy again.

The trick is to keep seeing it.  After the snow melts, the decorations are boxed, and the Christmas carols fade.

I think that will be one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

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Keep seeing the tiny joys.