Sunday, July 31, 2011

The $126 Kitchen Makeover

Okay, so maybe that's a stretch - but it's funny how one little rug can make my cabinets, mismatched appliances and crazy laminate countertop look a million times better. Yes, it really ties the room together.

Note the bad baby trying to burn the house down
If it looks this good now, imagine how it will look in my beautiful, freshly painted white, green or possibly blue kitchen. 

It's Official
I was promoted to Creative Director on Friday! If you thought I was bossy before...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Crap I Love – The Trader Joe’s Version

If you’ve ever been to Trader Joe’s, then you probably love yourself some Trader Joe’s. Good organic and healthy foods at reasonable/cheap prices, what’s not to love? Even my dad is a convert. When he visits we’re lucky if he stays two hours, but he always makes time to run over to TJ’s to stock up on coffee. I've never had the coffee (I hear it's good!) but these are my top 10 picks for what to plop in your cart if you find yourself squeezing down the tiny aisles of a Trader Joe’s in the near future.

1.     Tuscan White Bean Hummus. There are tons of different kinds of hummus in the TJs fridge, but I like this one the most. It’s smooth and creamy and scrumdelicious on flavored pita chips, of which they also have a buttload.
2.     Brown Sugar and Maple Instant Oatmeal. The best little breakfast you can throw into your handbag before you run out the door. If your office has those little individual creamers, dump one on top. Just like mom used to make!
3.     Fettucinni Alfredo. My kids adore this pasta, which cooks up in just a few minutes. Have a salad or something for lunch, and some veggies on the side, because this is a lot of carbs and cream.
5.     Dark Chocolate Almonds. Almost as good, but way healthier.
6.     Cream Organic Tomato Soup. I always try to have a few of these in my pantry. Hands-down the best soup to dip your grilled cheese or paninis into. It's mmm-mmm better than that other crap.
7.     Organic Maple Syrup. You are a grown up. You should not be eating fake syrup out of a jar shaped like a lady. Time to spring for the real stuff.
8.     Steamed & Peeled Baby Beets. Roasting beets in the oven is so easy a caveman could do it. Drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper, wrap them in foil and stick them in a 350 oven for about an hour. But you don’t always have time for roasting them at home, or sometimes you can’t bear the idea of turning on your oven because it’s 96 degrees outside, so this is a pretty good alternative. It’s one million times better than canned beets. Just don’t.
9.     Mixed Greens Salad with Cranberries, Blue Cheese and Candied Pecans. Who says you don't make friends with salad? In case you can't tell by the name, this salad kit kicks the booty of the fresh express salad kits in the regular grocery store and is fancy enough to serve to unsuspecting dinner guests. Chop a green apple up and toss it on top to further the illusion.
10.  Chocolate Croissants. Let rise overnight, bake, and try not to eat all 4 by yourself. Or, eat all 4 yourself and then don't eat anything else for 2 days. Totally worth it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2 Kewl 4 U

What family game night looks like with two teenagers:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Oh So Quiet

We had a weekend of enforced peace and quiet, thanks to Comcast crapping out for 4 days. On one hand it was nice not to have the distractions of the internet and TV pulling my attention away from the kiddos. On the other hand, I missed the news. And the phone. And email. And being able to find a plum tart recipe that didn't require me to squint at my husband's iPhone until my eyes crossed (but the plum tart was AWESOME, thanks Ina!). It was a huge relief to wake up this morning and have the cable back on. Hello, 21st century, I've missed you.

On the home front, we're STILL trying to co-ordinate with the dude who was supposed to buy our stinkin hot tub. Having no phone didn't help efforts, nor did the fact that he's very strange. But he has 1 week to come get the damn thing before I put it back on Craigslist and keep his deposit. I have been trying to get that thing out of here since MAY and it's almost fricking AUGUST. I'm very close to throwing it in the alley, or giving it to the junkers next door. If I didn't think they would plop it down in their backyard and use it to hold spare tools, laundry and garbage, I would do it.

On the work front I have very exciting news that I can't share with anyone until next week, but trust me, it's good. I've also got a work trip coming up tomorrow to glamorous Appleton Wisconsin. Try not to be jealous. It's my first night away from my little buddy, which makes me sad. But I'm not gonna lie, it will be lovely to sleep all night long in a clean quiet hotel room. You know you're a parent when you actually look forward to business trips because it means you can sleep.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's Cooking

Saturday marks one year exactly since we closed on our house. And our kitchen still looks like this. Womp womp.

I'm actually glad we haven't done anything yet, because in retrospect all the ideas I had before were dumb and ugly. After 12 months of mulling it over, I have decided the following:
  1. All white kitchens are a huge snooze
  2. I'm over turquoise
  3. I'm over gray
  4. Mama wants a nice countertop
  5. I hate stainless steel but might get it anyway
After an entire year you might think I have some idea of what color to paint the cabinets and walls. But you would be wrong. So I did the one thing you can always do if you're stuck on a decorating problem. It's fail-safe, foolproof, Decorating 101: buy a rug and build the room around that. Yay, it works for kitchens too!

A few days ago I found a pretty runner at Anthro on sale for half price. I ordered it online so fingers crossed that it won't be hideous or too big. Now it's mothereffing moodboard time!

Kitchen #1
I never in a million years considered painting the cabinets green but then I saw this girl's blog. Swoon! I like the soapstone but I think a marbley-Silestone would be pretty too. In this scenario we would leave the hutch black (much to my husband's relief - he does NOT want to paint that monster) and paint the walls a creamy white. The light is a pretty glass chandy from Z Gallerie THAT SOLD OUT YESTERDAY. Crap.

Kitchen #2
Okay, turquoise is out, but I'm still a sucker for cool watery blue-greens. White cabs, soapstone counters and a pretty chandelier from Z Gallerie that you can actually purchase. Look at the inspiration kitchen, don't you want to go there every day?

Kitchen #3
Gold silestone counters, glass tile backsplash, light green hutch? Interesting. But will this warmer scheme work with our existing island? What would I do for appliances? Am I obsessed with Z Gallerie lighting? (HINT: Yes)

Kitchen #4
The hutch is black again, the backsplash is marble subway tiles, and the light looks like an atom. This probably involves the least amount of change and would be the easiest to execute ourselves. May be a teensy bit boring.

I think at the moment I am leaning towards 2 and 3. Any favorites?

Do You Speak Dolphin?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Elliot at 8 Months

At 8 months, Elliot is starting to look more like a little kid and less like a baby guy.

He laughs and smiles all the time now, with his two big bottom teeth poking out. I love that goofy grin. His dimples are really starting to show. He makes all kinds of funny noises: squeaks, squeals and peeps. We call them his R2D2 noises. The baby gates have gone up, since he's been crawling like a pro for the past 3 weeks. This Friday, he went up all the stairs to our bedroom (I was behind him of course). His babysitter says he let go of the table and stood for several seconds this week. The dogs have learned to get the hell out of the way when he's coming. He understands "no," and the little "uh-uh!" noise Caesar taught us to use on the dogs? Also works for babies. When we go to the store, Elliot can ride in the cart now. He's getting too big for his infant carseat, so we're upgrading him to to a convertible car seat this month. He loves when you sing to him and tries to "sing" along. He eats 3 meals a day, plus 6-7 oz formula bottles every 4 or 4 1/2 hours. He's a biter. He has been known to to grab my face and gnaw on my chin. Ow. He can eat teething biscuits and things cut into small pieces, and loves puffs. He also loves his paci - a little too much. This month we went swimming for the first time and to the museum for the first time. Elliot didn't seem particularly thrilled by either, but he likes water play time - when we fill a few cake pans with cool water and let him spill it all over the porch. He is fascinated with opening drawers and cabinets, and has a minor obsession with the small silver trashcan in our bathroom. TV doesn't interest him in the least.

We've FINALLY started getting somewhere with sleep. After 8 months of frequent night waking and midnight bottles, we were both at our breaking point. We needed sleep - and so did he. So we reluctantly decided to try the cry it out method. Um, can you say MIRACLE? For the past couple of weeks he's been sleeping from about 8:30PM - 6AM. Maybe one wake up in the night where he cries for 2-3 minutes before he lays himself back down and goes to sleep. No more bottles, no more waking up fussy every few hours. Cue the sound of angels singing! Truly, I'm starting to feel human again. And the baby is happier and less cranky all day long, because he's getting the sleep he needs. His nap schedule is like clockwork too: a 1-2 hour nap at 9:30 and a 1-2 hour nap at 2:30. Our awesome babysitter has been terrific about getting him into a routine. She's really wonderful, he loves her and I am so happy he has her to go to every day. It's the best daycare situation I could have hoped for.

It's been a pretty good month!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Phone Home

The obsession with DIY silhouettes continues: I feel I must have this somewhere in Elliot's nursery.

Courtesy of

Weekend project?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Horsing Around

There's a store near my office that sells very expensive beds. Their logo is a running horse, and for a long time I've admired the simple silhouetted running horse that hangs on the wall of their showroom. So we decided to take a crack at a budget-friendly DIY version to add a little sumthin-sumthin to the big blank wall in our living room. In our last apartment, we had a hummingbird painted on the wall, and it looked cute but I wanted a little more dimension this time, so we decided to try cutting the silhouette out of wood. I found a piece of clipart on the internet and away we went.

yay, free!

We started with a sheet of hardboard, $13 at Home Depot, and we had them cut it into a 3x4 foot piece. Thicker plywood was my original thought, but with all the cuts and angles we'd need to do, the hardwood would be easier and chip less. Josh brought home the projector from work and hung the hardboard on the garage wall, to project the horse image onto it.

Then we drew out the outline on the board.

Josh used the jigsaw and dremel to cut out the horse and sand the edges smooth. This sounds simple but took a couple of hours in a hot garage. Good thing he's a Manly Man and can take it.

Olivia and I primed and painted the horse with a few coats of flat white Behr paint (small sample size jar, $3).

To hang it, our first thought was just to screw it directly to the wall. But because the hardboard is so thin, mounting it flush to the wall was a little underwhelming. Might as well just paint the thing right on the wall at that point. I love the dramatic shadows created when it was popped off the wall a little bit, so Josh cut up a 1x2 and glued pieces of it to the back.

Oops. They were a little too long originally and you could see them from the sides, so he sawed the ends off to make them a bit shorter. He was only a little mad when I asked him to do this.

Finally, he located two studs on the wall and sent drywall screws through the whole dern thing. We filled in the holes left by the screws, and sanded it smooth. Tomorrow we'll prime the spackle and add one final touch up layer of paint, for a perfectly smooth surface.

Isn't she GORGEOUS?! Just exactly what I had in my mind. Yay for patient, projector-toting, heat-tolerant, jigsaw-operating husbands!

Smells Like Brilliance

The new commercials from Febreze are straight up amazing. They take real people on the street, blindfold them, then send them into nasty-ass rooms that have just been Febreezed. Well done, Grey NY.

Watch all the ads on their FB page here.

Febreze Breathe Happy Smell Experiment - Watch more Funny Videos

Ad nerds, read the article in NY Times.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

If I Had a Million Dollars

Sometimes I like to play a little game called "If We Won the Lotto (But, Damn, We Don't Buy Tickets)" in which I look at houses I could never in my wildest dreams afford, and try to decide which one I would prefer to live in. Please note: if I really won the lottery I would hot-foot it the hell out of Chicago, and buy myself a gorgeous horse farm in the blue hills of Kentucky, plus a beach house in the Florida keys, or maybe a small Caribbean island. But it's a fun game when you're too poor for even a gallon of paint to slap on your kitchen cabinets.

In Chicago, a million bucks doesn't go as far as you think... so these houses aren't mansions, but they are pretty fricking nice.

1. 1828 W Larchmont
This old gal was built in 1888 but has been modernized within an inch of her life. Please take a moment to ponder how many Cadillacs you could park in that RIDICULOUS master bathroom shower. It's in our old neighborhood, which I love, not too far from Liv's new school and within walking distance of Dylan's. Irrelevant, however, since I will be free to chauffeur them anywhere they please in my cute lil silver Cayenne. Ah, lotto life is swell.

2. 4148 N Rockwell

Normally I'm not a fan of new construction, because I think it looks predictably cookie-cutter, with all the charm of a white plastic bag. But look at the natural light! And it's right along the river, which, while it stinks to high heaven, looks quite lovely and rivery.

3. 4443 N. Mozart
Now we're talking. This pretty little sapphire gem is totally my speed. I love all the old details, like the original wood moldings and leaded stained glass windows. I would paint the walls in saturated jewel tones to play up all the drama, and do a mix of sleek modern and cool vintage furniture. Did you see that glamorous kitchen, with the miles of marble? I want to go to there. This house is only about 9 blocks from our house, but it might as well be in another world. Ravenswood Manor is hands down my favorite neighborhood in the city.

Wait a minute. Did we win the lottery, or did we win the lottery? Let's get out the checkbook, baby.

Stevensville, MI - $3,850,000. Nine acres and Lake Michigan frontage. Sure, the taxes are $23K a year. But every nouveau riche lotto winner needs a little lake getaway with a gym and a sauna. We've earned it.

NOT ON THE LIST: this really weird but almost kind of cool Frank Lloyd Wright for $280K

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bad Baby

Today on FB one of my friends sent out a plea for other parents to tell her how you can stop a baby from standing up in the bathtub. As you can see, I did not offer any advice.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Reality Check

When you're expecting a baby and decorating the nursery, you have all kinds of ideas that sound great in theory but don't quite pan out once you add a real-life, squirmy, squalling baby to the picture.

One of those ideas for me was the vintage bentwood rocker. It looked great...

But Josh wasn't comfortable in it at all. And the low arms made it difficult to bottle feed a baby. So we swapped it with the less lovely but more practical armchair from our room, which is comfier for everybody.

Another thing that didn't work out the way that I planned was going without a bumper in the crib.

For safety reasons, I didn't want to use one... but as soon as he started sleeping in the crib, I knew we were going to have to find a way to keep his lil arms and legs from going through the bars. At Babies 'R Us (possibly my least favorite place on the planet) we found a breathable mesh bumper.

Is it beautiful? No. Does it work? Like a charm.

Another thing I didn't consider was the west-facing nursery windows.

The evening light and sunsets are beautiful... but it gets hot as Hades and stays light long after Elliot's early bedtime. There are blinds built into the french doors but they don't block enough heat or light. The solution is not elegant but it had to be done.

Call it College Dorm Chic. Just slightly classier than tinfoil plastered to the windows... which I have also done in a kid's room before. Hey, desperate times, desperate measures. Also, don't underestimate how much a mom wants her kids to sleep. Here I sewed three small ribbon loops to a wool blanket and Josh tapped small picture hangers into the top of the door frame, for a temporary window cover that goes up at naptime and bedtime.

For fun, here is what my living room looks like on an average day.

Eh, perfection is over rated anyway.