Today, He Turned 3.

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Dear Colin,

Today, you celebrated your third birthday.

You woke up, speaking in soft tones to your “doggies”- a whole gang consisting of your birthday present, which was a “fash wite fwend!!” dog, your two, no, three Ikea doggies, and your original “gog.” I am not sure what you were saying to them, but your tone was gentle and sweet.

When you caught me snooping, you flashed the biggest, sweetest smile, and greeted me with a cheerful “Hi, Mommy!”  While it may be your birthday today, that was a wonderful present.

You insisted on sitting in a puddle while Fenway took his morning walk around the yard and then refused to come inside. You threw me your best Beyonce hand wave and declared, “No Ganks!!!”  When you had had enough alone time, you asked me to come look at your “flip flops” which turned out to be your wet footprints all over the kitchen floor. “Wow! Iss cool!” That is one of your favorite phrases these days-  there are so many cool things in your little world.

While I dressed Jack you talked to him all about your new Optimus Prime transformer figurine- your “Transfighter.”  You found a pacifier on the floor and handed it over to him, ‘Here you go!”  You are a very sweet older brother.  You are quick to lend a hand and when you get a little overexcited, you are quick to apologize with a “Sowwy!”

Today, you jumped off furniture yelling “Cannonball” and “Superman!” When I reminded you we don’t jump on (or off) the furniture because you get hurt,  you quickly apologized, “Sowwy! Iss fun, mommy!”

You negotiated your nap time. At first, it was out of the question. Another “no ganks!” Then, books were required. As I asked for a kiss goodnight, you realized that perhaps a glass of water would seal the deal. And then, of course, you found an invisible injury, which required a band aid. Superman or Batman? “MatMan!!”

When you woke, you asked for “bounce house.”  You seem to think that Mommy can magically conjure large superhero bounce houses to appear in our backyard.  Most days, I wish I could.

We played blocks and puzzles. We flew your new Batman Lego helicopter and we made sure the Joker was hanging from the ladder. He fought Optimus Prime.  You had a dance party using the tunes on Jack’s bouncer and then tickled your brother. You asked for tickles. “No! No tickles!” Tickles?” I obliged.

You asked to go in the car, so we could go to school. I told you school wasn’t open yet. “Mommy open school?” Again, most days I wish I could.

Instead, you grabbed your Avengers lunch box and informed me you were off to school. “Ok. Bye!” “Oh, I’ll miss you Colin.” “Miss you!”  You shut the dining room door behind you, and then pushed right back through, “Hiiiii! What you doing, mommy?”

You “called” Daddy on the phone and had a very long conversation with him. I’m not sure what he said, but you gave him a lovely baritone voice. Very manly.

The electrician came by and you made sure to show off your new birthday presents. You are friendly to most strangers, especially with the number of contractors we have come to the house, always greeting them with a “Hi, Guys!”  Luckily, they indulge your limited but very verbose “conversational” skills.

The day over, we snuggled in your boat bed and read your new books from your birthday party. Then you read to me: “I got fifteen amals, fwendly tame, Give each one a special name. Cat name BOB!” Dog name BOB!” SimonJamesAragsFIRD!”

You kissed me goodnight, and I asked you if you like being three years old.

In your little voice, you whispered, “Yeah. Lub you mommy.”

Love you much, Colin Michael. Love you much.

Calling All Superheroes! [Colin Turns 3]

My little guy is about to turn 3. Sometimes I can’t believe it. Other times, I feel like he should be 21 and moving out of the house already. But for now, I have to remind myself, he will only be little once, and I need to take advantage of that time to throw him birthday parties he has no say in whatsoever.

That doesn’t mean I disregard his hobbies and affinities. And this guy? Loves himself a superhero. Naturally, this year’s birthday party had to center around Superheroes and all their accompanying greatness.  Of course, this decision was made months ago, and as mothers of toddlers know, their tastes can be fickle. I was so pleased when as of Friday afternoon, my kiddo still loved all things caped, masked and lycra’d.

First thing on Saturday, the moon bounce arrived. I thought about doing a moon bounce on a whim, and when I discovered a local company carried this beauty, I called and put it on hold. Did I mention that was three months ago? The answer to your question is no, I don’t actually have that much free time. I’m just crazy.

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May I just put out my non-expert opinion that moon bounces are an absolute must for all parties going forward?  I mean, sure, I barely saw the birthday boy during the whole party, but he and his little friends loved it so much.  Also?  Any kid all hyped up on sugar will tire themselves out so badly that they are sure to hit the sack early that night. Win Win all around.

Anyway, I’m a bad blogger, but a good (ish) hostess because though I barely got any photos after setting up, I *was* dressed by the time the first guests rolled in.

 

Elements of a Superhero Party:

First things first. A Justice League Moon Bounce sure doesn’t hurt:

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Each little guest got their own cape, made by my own two hands. Which means it was janky. But it did the job.

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Since I have no functioning kitchen, I ordered in all food, save for some PB&J’s for the kids, which my mother in law helpfully made and cut with a star shaped cookie cutter.  We had “Super Heroes” (subs) and “Faster than a Speeding Bullet” finger sandwiches  and a choice of salads for the adults. I also ordered the cake topper and cupcakes from a local baker, who does amazing work.  I’ll be pretending I don’t have a working kitchen going forward when doing parties. It made prep a bit easier.

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Though I knew the moon bounce would be a draw, I had no idea just how big of one.  In case, I had a station for each kid to “Create a Secret Identity” with a mask kit I bought at Target this past summer for $5. About halfway through the party, I managed to convince a couple of the kids to head over to the deck and make one.  Soon enough, we had a whole bunch of masked superheroes running around!

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Each guest also got to choose a “Super Power”: these were candies I ordered from Oriental Trading- swirl pops, I labeled “Hypno Pops”, Rock Candy or “Red Kryptonite” and of course, a superpower ring- Ring Pops. Colin chose a green one, not knowing it was a lollipop, and called it his Green Lantern ring. He wore it the entire party.  He looked a little shocked when he saw the other guests eating their rings.

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It was a great day. I’d even go so far as to call it “Super.”

Yeah, I did it.

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The Flooring Is In. [Wood Porcelain Tile]

And on the 104th day (yes, I did the math) the Lord said, “Let there be flooring.”

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And may I just thank Him for that?

Of course, I’ll go ahead and thank myself as well, because DAMNNNNNNN. That’s some fiiiiine looking floor!  I mean, once it’s grouted and cleaned up and finished, it’s gonna be fiiiine. This is just a little sneak peek.

If you are interested in using a porcelain wood tile product, I’ll go ahead and prematurely recommend, based on looks alone. Price ain’t too bad either. These are just in-stock Marazzi Montagna tiles from Home Depot in “Gunstock.”

We chose to do tile after our contractor pointed out (correctly) that after a flood ruined our wood floors, we were seriously delusional to consider wood again. I mean, God forbid we should have any water issues again, our insurance would *totally* drop us. However, I just don’t love a tile floor in the kitchen. We’ve always had wood. I have a hard time wrapping my head around tile.  Don’t get me wrong. Tile floors can be absolutely gorgeous. But for me? This whole entire house has wood floors. Some of them are even painted. Granted, they don’t match up very well, they are scratched and dulled as all get out, but still. They’re wood. I wanted the continuity. I wanted wood.

Then I saw this tile at Home Depot. I was all, “SAY WHAT NOW?” I purchased a sample piece and then promptly shoved it into the face of anyone who came through our front door, frantically asking, “WHAT DO YOU THINK?!?!!”  Luckily, I got the thumbs up from all queried.

So with my wood vs. tile dilemma solved, I began the obsessive compulsive google/Gardenweb internet forum/ Houzz research phase of the project. Obviously, I had nothing but time on my hands since this renovation didn’t want to begin, ever.  Anyway. One thing I didn’t realize I needed to know was that you want your tile to be laid like wood. I know. What? What does that even mean? Just lay it on the floor already! I’m tired of stepping on exposed nails and needing tetanus shots!!!  Ahem. Well, the point is, wood comes in random lengths. Tile does not. So you want your tile installers to lay the tile as if it does come in random lengths. Otherwise you get a very uniform (and artificial) look to your tile.  Kinda beside the point, right?

That being said, even though I discussed this with our tile installer, and he agreed, I found that three rows in, he was installing the tile in an “H” joint line– meaning the joints were lining up every other row. Apparently, this is not the proper way to install it if you want it to look like wood (thank goodness I had previously read that judgey and overly critical forum discussion in my obsessive late night porcelain wood tile research!). I just asked him if he could place it in a staggered pattern going forward- or in his words- “more crazy?”-  “yes, please”- and I think it looks great.  PS- I love how I use the term “H” joint like I have any clue what I’m talking about. Everything I know I learned on the internet.

Another thing I learned was that the smaller the grout line, the more your wood-look tile will look like, well, wood, and not wood-look tile.  If you look at old hardwood floors, you notice that the joint lines are darker than the flooring itself, so if you want to mimic this look with the tile as well, you should use a darker grout.  We (I am generously including Kase in these design decisions, but you can go ahead and read the “we” as “I”) asked for a 1/16″ grout line using the darkest brown grout we could find off the shelves. This was Mapei’s  “Chocolate” brown grout, which can be found at Lowes.  Similar dark grout can be found at Home Depot- but the “Sable” color was out of stock at our store and I’m impatient.  If you prefer a more contemporary look, go with a bigger grout line and lighter grout for added contrast.

The only issue we ran into was the transition between rooms.  Three different types of “wood” all meeting up- the wood tile, the old wood transition which was a honey oak plank, and the 100 year old 3 inch hardwoods in the family room. Wood floor party!  But no thanks.  I decided we’ll just bite the bullet and use a marble transition, rather than try to match up the old wood transition piece.  Since we’ll have the marble countertops, I figured what the heck. It will all tie in. Plus we have a pretty substantial door frame leading into the kitchen, and I think it will help to highlight the entryway. Well, that’s my story anyway. I’m sticking to it. And crossing my fingers. If you’ve got a better idea, lay it on me. Floor pun intended.

PS- If you edit this post about 30 times, the word “floor” starts to look really, really, weird. Seriously, read this 30 times. See what I mean?

One Year Later….

It was one year ago this week that Kase and I broke away from our vacation in Maine, and headed down to Massachusetts for our home inspection.  Hard to believe, one year later, we’re here, in the midst of a kitchen renovation, and still coming up with crazy ideas about what we could do to this house one day.

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A year ago, we were on pins and needles as we followed around the home inspector, repeatedly asking him, “is that a problem? What does that mean?” and our personal favorite, “Okay, if we were your kids, would you let us buy this house?” When he told us that our house, built in 1820, was in better shape structurally than many new builds he inspected, we breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, he hedged that by telling us that we’d be working on this house for the life of our loan, but hey, it was a good house.

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When we wrote our offer, we had a whole list of things that would need to get done.  This kitchen disaster was most certainly not on that list. In fact, most of the stuff we’ve done this past year was not anywhere near that list. That’s homeownership for you. You really have no idea until you’re in it.

So for my own sake, I wanted to list all the home improvement projects we’ve taken on this year, because, well, it ain’t too shabby. Nor is it cheap:

1. Removed wood burning stove from family room fireplace.

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2. Reglazed tubs.

3. Replaced green carpet in master bedroom. Replaced runner on front stairs.

3. Painted entire interior.

4. Removed rotted tree in front of yard, along with scrub pines blocking side patio.

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5. Rebuilt stacked stone wall in side yard.

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6. Bought snowblower. Got money’s worth during blizzard of 2013.

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7. Bought riding mower. Got money’s worth during Summer 2013.

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8. Seeded large holes left by tree removal previous Fall.

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9. Removed small pine trees randomly planted at edge of front lawn.

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10. Seeded remainder of lawn.

11. Dug out and planted (tiny!!!) hedgerow of boxwoods and (tinier!) hydrangea in front of house.

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12. Installed white fence along driveway.

13. Enclosed entire yard with green wire fencing to keep the dog and kids in.

14. Installed new liner for pool. Filled pool with a truck full of water. Bought “Bebot” – robotic pool cleaner. Worked on pool. Enjoyed pool.

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15. Installed new garage door to replace old and possibly original (but broken) carriage doors.

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16. Started Kitchen and Butler’s Pantry Renovation. Bathroom renovation in progress.

17. Removed “Vegetable Garden” smack dab in the middle of the backyard. I’ve got a black thumb and it just made me feel badly about myself. Will plan to re-seed later in summer.

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18. Cleared out scary space under barn- lots of old wood, an old dishwasher, and lots of old junk. This is the only item that was on our list back in August ’13. We had asked the owner to take care of it. Oh well.

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19. Installed central A/C. AND THANK GOD.

20. Installed ADT alarm system.

We’ve still got a ways to go. That front shutter fell off the house last fall. It just splintered into a million pieces. So we’ve got to replace that at some point. We’ve got big ideas to re-clapboard the front of the house and screen in the side patio space. We have so many plans for the long term, it’s fun and kind of depressing to think about. But for the first year? I think we’ve accomplished a lot.

We do love this house. And we are so happy that a spur of the moment glance online, a Friday evening drive 20 miles west, and a quick Saturday viewing of a house led us here. It just goes to show: Some of our most impulsive decisions turn out for the best.

We’ve Got Drywall, Y’all!

I never understood when people going through a renovation would complain about “the dust- all that dust!” Well, I believe we’ve officially entered that stage of the renovation, because…..THE DUST! ALL THAT DUST!

On Saturday, I finally got a spurt of energy (okay, let’s call it dog hair induced motivation) to clean the house. Part of me has given into Kase’s theory on cleaning- it’s just gonna get dirty again, so why bother? But it had gotten too bad for my OCD, so even though our entire kitchen is in boxes taking up our dining room, I decided to clean the house. Oh, I Swiffered swept. Then I wet Swiffered. Then I Swiffer dusted. Then I actually vaccuumed. I’m telling ya. I was on a roll.

And not even 20 minutes later, I wondered what was wrong with my eyesight because everything looked…..gray.

Genius over here decided to clean while drywall was being installed. Doh.

The good news is that we’ve got drywall, y’all! The kitchen is starting to resemble a real room again. And even with all those wires and open plugs, it’s not nearly as scary to walk Colin through the room to the deck. Still, he has mastered jumping from the family room to the area rug we placed down on the subfloor.  We’re adjusting!

photo-48 This wall was framed out so that we can recess our fridge. That’s 6 inches of pure counter depth fridge goodness.

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You can still see remnants of our painter’s tape outline of the cabinets we’ll be installing. We decided that for storage purposes we can’t completely get rid of the right side wall cabinets, but we are doing away with uppers almost completely in the kitchen. Hopefully it will allow the room to retain that open feeling we currently have…..without any cabinets. Or floors. Or paint.

Next up, FLOORS!!!! How decadent.

The Plumbing Rough In [Where Dreams Go to Die]

I woke up bright and early yesterday morning, all set to meet with the plumber and discuss our grand plans for the kitchen, but most importantly, the pantry. It was like the boring adult equivalent of Santa coming. I’ll be getting a working pantry! Oh happy day!

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The beauty of an old house is it is old. By which I mean, it has a certain character that some homes lack. The downside to an older home? It has outdated….everything. If you want to do something simple like replace a sink, you are talking major work. It seems everything costs a lot more than you expect. And even what your contractor expects.

You see, our sink in the butler’s pantry didn’t vent. Hence, it wasn’t to code. This is plumbing speak for “expensive to fix” and “in some cases, like yours, impossible”. Nowadays, indoor plumbing requires venting- this helps to rid your pipes of sewer gas, essentially. So far as I understood the plumber, anyway.  Basically, it’s a health issue. This is how I got Kase to agree to demolish the pantry.  Safety issues trump all else in our house.

Our contractor gave us an estimate for this work, and it was pricey, but the pantry was a must for us, so we scrimped in other areas and made room in the budget.

And then? With a simple shake of his head, the plumber basically killed all of my dreams of double dishwashers and farmhouse sinks and most importantly- the wine fridge. Well, technically, we talked it up, down and all around, we walked the perimeter of the property, we spelunked into the scary basement,  but the bottom line was the same. If money were no object, my dream pantry was completely feasible. Unfortunately, we are made of …..not money. It was like a bad episode of “Love It or List It” and I was Hilary, learning from that awful contractor Eddie that my plan was too expensive and too much work. Stupid dream killer Eddie.

I had demolished a perfectly charming, albeit dysfunctional, pantry. Now, I had this:

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No bueno. This is the moment in the renovation when you ask yourself “Hmmm, have we made a mistake?” And Kase responds, “What are you talking about, “we?””

So with that, I rebooted the old computer (who am I kidding, it’s always on), contacted our kitchen designer who just happened to come by the day before to finalize our plans, and explained that I would be reworking the plan. Again. And he didn’t have to worry about those pesky 24 inch deep cabinets anymore.

I’ve planned out the stupid kitchen in so many configurations I can’t see straight anymore. I just hope it looks semi-decent by the time it actually goes in.  Honestly, it’s like “Cabinets? Do we need those? Are you sure? What about the refrigerator?”

In the end, I realize that this is a total first world problem. And it’s not even a problem. It’s a setback. On a lifelong monthslong dream, but still. Just a setback.  I have to look at the silver lining. It’s not a total wash. I am getting back all that cabinet storage I was sacrificing. And I’ll be gaining more counter space since we’ll no longer have a sink eating up the dedicated space. All that electrical that went in already will actually accommodate some appliances which we can hide in the cabinetry. And I didn’t have to get rid of my wine fridge, which may be the only thing pulling me through this. But, still.

I’ll be mourning my second dishwasher for a little while longer.  Your condolences are appreciated. 😉

Dexter? Is that you?

Here is the current state of our kitchen renovation:

photo-39It’s like a scene out of Dexter. Plastic sheeting everywhere.

It also seems as if the scope of the project keeps growing and growing. When we thought about how the floors in the butler’s pantry would be replaced, we questioned whether or not we should tackle the pantry at the same time. We have some cabinets in there, but the base cabinets were basically mice condos before we moved in. They have a ton of pipes running through them, so the shelving that is available isn’t really useful. We did take advantage of the counter space as well as the upper cabinets. However, the upper glass cabinets were like most of the shelving in this house- very short and very shallow. Again, not as useful as it could be, but charming as all get out.

When the kitchen was demolished, we started using the sink in the pantry for doing dishes. We quickly realized its non-vented plumbing was a problem.

I mean, doesn’t your sink look like this when it’s supposed to be draining? And this was after an entire bottle of Drano.

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Sorry about that. Should have warned you. It’s not so bad. Mostly just formula diluted in water. But still. I finally got it down- I could wash about 6 bottles before overflowing the sink.

We had discussed replacing the old sink with a plumber when we had moved in, but he had told us it was a big job, and unless we were planning on doing a major reno, we might want to forget it for the time being, and just use the sink as little as possible. Well, here we are, doing a major reno. If we could find extra money in the budget, we agreed perhaps we should just tackle it all at once and be done with it.

And so, I worked my horrible math skills with the help of Excel and found some money to add to the scope of work. Goodbye charm……

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Hello…disastrous.

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Also? That water pipe just meandering along the floor there?  That stupid pipe was the entire reason I decided to tackle the pantry. And I thought that would be the biggest hiccup. Ha. Gotta love old houses.

The plan is to get that plumbing up to code and rebuild cabinetry in here that can house more than just teacups. We’ve decided to replace our current (almost brand new) dishwasher with an integrated paneled dishwasher in the kitchen to better match our new cabinetry, so we’ll be using our extra dishwasher in here. We got this idea from our neighbors- it seems like a luxury, but really, if you can do it, it almost becomes a necessity. If you’re lazy. Like me. For instance, it will be awesome after having dinner parties. Rather than having a whole stack of dirty dishes that don’t make the first round, we can just load em up in the pantry and wake up to clean dishes. This also appeals to the inherent lazy slob in me who hates unloading the dishwasher. It’s just like putting away laundry. Why can’t it just get done by itself? I did everything else!

In the meantime, I’ll be here, enjoying my antique clawfoot tub.

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What a cliche. Let me tell you: Doing dishes  hunched over this tub is not making me want that extra dishwasher any less.

PS- I contacted a few architectural salvage shops about coming to remove and take away the old cabinets rather than having our GC take a sledgehammer to them. The cabinets were super charming and constructed really well. They couldn’t get to us in time, but recommended we have our GC take them out and they would swing by in the following week to pick them up. Well, the cabinets didn’t make it. They were installed so well they basically had to be ripped out piece by piece. However, if you’ve got an old house and special pieces you no longer have a use for, I totally suggest calling up a salvage shop.

What I Want For The New Kitchen

Guys, just go on ahead and get in line behind Kase. He’s the first one who is over hearing me blab on and on about the kitchen. Besides, no one cares about subfloor and insulation and drywall. Let’s just get to the good stuff already.

I’ve got a pretty moodboard. And everyone loves a moodboard. Well, maybe not my husband. Or my contractor. Both of whom roll their eyes a little too much for my liking. I just wish renovations were as simple as making up a moodboard.

So here it is, “My One Day Hopefully Soon (and please Jesus before Colin’s birthday party) Dream Kitchen”

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I’m still hemming and hawing over pretty much every aspect of this plan- the appliances, the hardware, the drawer fronts, etc. So really, this moodboard is more for me to visualize what I *think* I want, and seeing that *yes* this is pretty much what I envision. We don’t want too modern, or too country.  We’ve got an old house- I want to respect that and work it in but not get too carried away.

So we’re doing cabinets with a simple shaker frame. We’ll top it off with a nice marble countertop. And yes, I KNOW ALL ABOUT HOW SCARY MARBLE IS. I’M STILL DOING IT. Sorry. Too many contractors. Too many opinions.  Subway tile was my only choice for a backsplash and I love it paired with an oyster gray grout, which skews warmer with its taupey undertones. And if you know me, you know I love me some taupe and gray, so all bets are off when you combine the two. I’ve already bought the faucet and have an option for the sink, but may use the sink in the butler’s pantry instead. I need to find some hardware for the drawers, something similar to the pull above, but obviously larger.  I love the crystal knob and see that on the upper cabinets along the back wall.  The “wood” floor is actually a porcelain tile. I was set on matching our existing hardwood in the family room until we started using our pool and tracking water all over the exposed subfloor. Then I realized our contractor was on to something when he suggested tile. We’ll need some new dining chairs (though I have plans to do a built in bench for one side of the table) and I found these “Colin” chairs on Ballard Designs. Kismet. The pendant light is the light we currently have in the kitchen, and I think in this scenario it really works.

Mixing the old with the new, the classic with the contemporary. And by god, I think it might just work.

What do you think?

Let the Renovations Begin!

You’ll recall on the 1st of May, our upstairs and main bathroom flooded our kitchen.

Here we are, July 10th, and I can finally say that the renovation will begin on Monday.

Too bad the demo happened two weeks ago. D’oh.

Here are some “befores”. Sadly, we never got a chance to take a real photo of the kitchen before it was ruined. It was one of the only rooms that didn’t require a before and after. I actually liked it well enough. Essentially we had a galley/ L- shape kitchen.

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After we realized we would be demolishing the kitchen and rebuilding back from the studs, we started to think about moving things around. For one, I realized that the former owner must have been a lefty. Dishwasher to the left of the sink, prep space to the left of the stove- you get the idea. Another thing that got on my nerves was the placement of the (not counter-depth) fridge.  It jutted out and was very visible from the family room.  Colin repeatedly ran into it. (I realize that’s not saying much- he pretty much runs into everything.) You also couldn’t pass through if the fridge was opened. It pretty much acted as a gateway to the rest of the kitchen from the family room.  Lastly, and in my opinion, the worst feature: it fell right underneath where the lower ceiling and vaulted ceiling meet. That pinged my OCD bad. Again, had our bathroom not flooded, Kase and I would have just continued on our merry way, purchasing new appliances as they conked out, bumping into the fridge, not being able to pass through the kitchen if said fridge was being opened, etc. You know, just kept everything as is. Considering it was remodeled in the 90’s, the owner had chosen traditional and classic features. I’ve definitely seen worse!

Early on,I decided on a couple of things that put into motion my grand plan: Considering the amount of pasta we boil, I really need an induction stove (boils water in less than 90 seconds! The cooktop stays almost completely cool to the touch! No toddler burn victims!) and I really need to recess my fridge (No more toddler concussions!)

Voila. An idea was born.

You don’t need gas for induction cooking. Therefore, I was no longer married to the previous location of our cooktop since I didn’t need a gas line. Switching the locations of the stove and fridge solves all the problems. I could move the the new stove to the exterior wall where the fridge previously was, taking advantage of the (slightly) vaulted ceiling for a range hood. Along the other wall, we could build a false frame for the cabinets 6″ from the existing framing, which would allow for the fridge to recess the 6 inches required to achieve the counter depth appearance. I’m no good at the maths, so this was quite the triumph for me. I shall credit hours of watching HGTV for this feat. Just switching those two things would make a huge difference. So I got to floorplanning.

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But first, they demo’d:

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I texted Kase this photo and was all, “Huh. Look how much more open it looks without upper cabinets. The ceiling doesn’t look as menacingly decapitating. Maybe we should lose those.” He actually agreed. Good man.

And then they continued the demo:

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And I texted Kase and was all, “Oh! Look at how wide the kitchen is without those side cabinets! Let’s lose those. Oh, and maybe let’s knock down that wall a little so you can see the bottom of the stairs! It will open up the space so much!!!” And he was all ”             ”  because he was at his job, doing, you know, work, and isn’t attached to his iPhone just waiting for his wife to text him incessantly about the stupid kitchen he doesn’t want to talk about anymore. Even though it hasn’t even started. Also: my texts sometimes cause budgetary concerns.

And then it looked like this. And I actually thought, “Wow. Our kitchen isn’t as small as I thought!” And then “MOLD!”

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And then. It looked like this. For the last two weeks. Sadsies. And tetanus.

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Whoa. Yeah, totally losing those side cabs. 🙂

Before and After [The Playroom]

As I was going through my phone for my photo dump post, I realized that I was showing the playroom, which is one of my favorite rooms in the house, and just one of the many that underwent a makeover. Or make under, as the case may be for this house. And as I await the “After” of my kitchen “Before” I realized I have quite a few befores and afters already in my phone. Just never got around to sharing.

Originally, this room was a point of contention between me and Kase. I wanted a cozy den and he wanted the entire children’s section of Ikea. I am not joking. We met somewhere in the middle.

The previous owner of our home really worked hard to restore a lot of the finishes and furnishings to what might have originally been in the house. She even removed the drywall ceiling and exposed the original hand cut beams of the house- on one of the beams, there is a signature and the date 1830. Very cool, and it’s one of my favorite features of the house.  Along with this attention to historical rehabilitation, she filled her home with carefully chosen antiques and historical pieces.

To her, I send my deepest apologies. We have two young kids. Ain’t nobody got time for the Brimfield Antique show (though I won’t lie- I wish I did. Anyone care to babysit?). All I have time for these days is IKEA, and I can’t even handle that anymore with two kids in tow. The thing of it is- kids are kids. They mess stuff up. Like, they draw on your newly painted walls. What are you gonna do?  So for now, we jammed it full of IKEA shelves, a train table, and lots and lots and lots of toys and called it a day.

That being said, I do see this room as a nice den or office once the kids are older- especially because this room is off to the front of the house, so I can be watching my HGTV shows (“Dude, does your mom ever stop watching that channel?”) in the family room at the back of the house while the boys play violent video games away from any adult supervision. Oh man. I can’t wait for that day.

For now? We need a playroom. (“Does anyone really need a playroom??” said the person with (obviously) no kids. To which I answer, “Would you want to live in the middle of  a Toys R Us forever and ever? Didn’t think so.”) I, the OCD neat freak I can be, need a room where my kids can play and when they are done, I can shove all the ugly craps away and pretend they don’t exist. The toys, that is. Not my kids. I like them. And they are the most adorable and special humans on earth. Obviously.

The beauty of this room is it is off at the front of the house and has two doors that close it off- one from the front hall and one from the dining room. And just like that- voila! Crap is gone!  It also works well for when we have dinner parties- we can easily supervise (or listen for, generally, while we drink) the kids in the adjoining room. There is a door that leads to an outside patio as well, so once we get our little yard on that side of the house fenced off, we can install a playset and use that door for direct access. The ultimate plan will be to screen in and cover the patio and then, once again, we adults can drink in peace while the children tackle each other in the yard. Always thinking, I am!

So here it is, in all it’s glory- the former-finest-antiques-money-can-buy-formal sitting room- turned- the-IKEA-threw-up-and-and-had-babies- playroom:

Before:

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When we moved in, we got to work. We removed the window treatments, turned off the gas fireplace and painted.

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After:

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Finally found a spot for my ruler growth chart. Only took me a year…

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We’ve got a tv set up across from the couch here, for when the kids want to watch TV or movies- it works really well for us. The TV sits on top of a (shocker!) Expedit bookcase which holds, wait for it, MORE TOYS! Can you believe it!  Naturally, Colin and I spend most of our time on the tiny 3X5 Urban Outfitters rug, squeezed in between the couch and bookcase, all cramped like, building blocks in that tiny space because it’s not like he has a entire playroom in which to play. Oh wait.

So there you have it. A How To on turning your expensively and finely furnished formal sitting room into a crap hole. Feel free to pin that. Still my favorite room in the house, though.

Right here. Right now.

This is called a photo dump.  It’s a little cray cray around here right now. We’re potty training. We’re demolishing a kitchen. We’re installing a fence. We got a new garage door.  Oh, and I use the term “we” loosely, as Kase was away for work for part of the week. As he put it this morning, “You’ve got a lot going on here!”

Yes, we do.

Colin, Jack and I went to check out appliances for the renovation. That was fun. Kinda. Not really.

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After two months, and two wrong orders, we finally had our new (automatic!) garage door installed to replace our old (sliding) barn doors. I’ll miss the character of the black barn doors, but they were in pretty bad shape and not entirely functional. Also, they were extremely poor at keeping animals out. I’ve kept them, as well as the original track, just in case I can re-use them somewhere in our house. I am loving the new automatic door with its pretty snug cottage hardware. The security factor is nice, too.

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The fence guys are also here this week. Another contract that was signed over two months ago, before we knew what we had in store with the kitchen. All coming home to roost at once.

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And today, the kitchen demo begins. Bye old kitchen. Hi, refrigerator in the family room.

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Which means, we’ve relocated our daily activities to the playroom. Including potty training. Yay.

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(rocket garland gifted to Colin by my pal, Mary. Isn’t is AWESOME?!)photo-15

So that’s where we are. Exciting, but overwhelming, too. Happy weekend!

Send help. Or salty snacks and juice. Whatever.

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So we’re potty training.

I know. It came as a surprise to me too.

I knew I wanted to potty train Colin this summer just because it was summer and we had time. I had friends who told me to do the three day potty training method because it worked, so I had plans to read up and then perhaps over 4th of July, tackle the whole deal with Kase by my side.

I had the new superhero underwear. I would carefully choose bribes incentives the week before and we would talk up that potty! Er, all four of them! (Yes, we have two Baby Bjorn stand alone toilets, and then one Spiderman toilet ring and one Cars toilet ring. Options, as Rachel Zoe would say.) I would be ready to tackle the toddler and the toilet.

That is, until Kase decided to tackle it without me. To be fair, he just thought it would be cute for Colin to try and use the potty and wear his new underwear. And he got Cols so enthused about the idea that I turned to him and said, “So I guess we’re potty training, then?”

That was when my husband looked at me like I had eight heads.

“What do you mean?”

So yeah, we’re off to a great start.

Actually, we kind of are. You see, it turns out my son’s stubborness extends to potty training as well. His bull headed-ness knows no bounds. The first day, well half day, really, he had one accident. And we were outside eating, so no problem. Yesterday? My son went from 8am until 2pm without an accident. Mind you, he also never used the potty. But no accidents! We asked him if he needed to use the potty every 30 minutes, and he would politely tell us, “No ganks!” and well, that was perhaps accurate.  But I will tell you, that boy took a 3 hour nap and filled that diaper as soon as we put him down. Never said he wasn’t smart.

As I type this morning? He is still sleeping. I really think he is milking all his time in his diaper- he knows when he comes downstairs he’ll be stripped naked and forced to refrain from going to the bathroom until nap time. Not really, of course, but I think that is how he is viewing this whole exercise.

And it’s not like he doesn’t have incentives. He’s got a mini light saber filled with M&Ms winking at him, enticing him, “Use the potty!” He insists on putting it within eye-sight when he is on his potty, almost like a focus object women in labor use. He clutched the box of cupcakes and lamented how much he wanted one. And we told him gently, “You can! Those are your special cupcakes for when you use the potty!” After which, he looked at them like they were, well, potty deposits.

So please. Send help. Send salty snacks and juice. No need to send M&Ms. I got those. Just please, send me help. I clearly don’t know what I’m doing.

Summer School [Write Your Name Worksheets]

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As Colin and I watched yet another episode of Fraggle Rock, I came to the conclusion that perhaps I used school as a crutch this past year. Now that school is out for summer, I better get back at it. Teaching my child, and better parenting in general, that is.

Colin and I were coloring yesterday and I decided to write out his name in block letters and let him trace it. He loved it. We said the letters together and he felt so proud when he traced his letters. He is by no means close to signing his John Hancock to anything, but it got me thinking that maybe I could make our own “worksheets” and have him practice tracing his name. Practice makes perfect!

I just opened an Excel spreadsheet, chose the Arial Bold font and then chose the outline option for my letters so that he could trace inside of them. I decided to do both upper case and lower case versions of his name, but I might also write out the alphabet in upper and lower cases as well for practice. Any other ideas for me? I’m dumb.

A quick 15 copies later, and Colin was screaming for his “Warheets! Yesssss!”

It’s a simple enough project to mock up and it amuses Colin for a solid 20.  Which around here is pretty major. Now what to do with the remaining 12 hours of my day? Any ideas?

End of the Year Teacher Appreciation Card

Today is Colin’s last day of school. God help me. Summer is upon us.

This is the first year Colin has gone to “school.”  And yes, I do consider it school based on the fact that there is tuition, he goes for about 15 minutes a week, and he knows one more language than I currently do. And, no, that language is not gibberish. So, let’s make that two more languages than I speak.

We love love love his school. We love his teachers and the wonderful staff there. They all know Colin by name and they *like* him, which means a lot for a parent. Especially a parent of Colin. Colin is *spirited*- he is definitely his own person- enthusiastic and wild, stubborn and very smart. They know him and all his quirks- both the good and bad.  His teachers have infinite patience with him and they have definitely made some very positive changes in him this year. Sure, some of that comes with age, but it also comes with excellent (and very very patient!) educators.

So with that being said, I was at a loss for an end of the year “gift” for his teachers.  So naturally, I googled it.  And the one thing I read over and over again was that teachers appreciate being told they are wonderful, just not with a mug that reads “World’s Greatest Teacher.”  I was tempted by the “World’s Goodest Teacher” mug, but the whole anti-mug sentiment was clear.

Considering home-made goodies, or even store bought cupcakes? Something, perhaps, like this? [God, I love Parks & Rec]

Treat Yo Self

Don’t.  I mean, yes, Treat Yo Self (always!), but don’t give baked goods. At least, that’s what I read on the internet. And everything on the internet is gospel.

No, teachers appreciate being told, literally, that they are wonderful. With words. On a card. Not a mug. Or cupcakes. No matter how rad those cupcakes are.  So Colin and I went the simple route with a personalized card made by the main man himself.

We took a little trip to Paper Source (sadsies, Shannon wasn’t with me this time) and picked up a set of enclosure cards, a pack of plain white cards, green envelopes, and a “merci” stamp and stamp pad. [Colin attends a French language pre-school, so “merci” was not only cute but appropriate.] With our supplies in hand, we got to appreciatin’!

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Basically, you need paper and crayons or markers or stickers, or what have you. For those of you with preschoolers- stamps are where it’s at. Get some. Let ’em at it.

We picked up a little gift card to enclose with our note as a little something extra- it took everything in me not to attach a note: “Treat Yo Self!!”

Or whatever the equivalent is, in French. 😉

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Here’s to a great summer, everyone. KIT! Friends Forever! LOL!

Good Luck High Fives

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Two years ago, my mother in law and I walked down Boylston Street, pushing a 7 month old Colin in a stroller, as we watched the last participants of the Boston Marathon cross the finish line in front of Marathon Sports.

I had tears in my eyes. Here it was, 6pm, and they were still coming in. No fanfare, save for those of us still milling around. No tape to cross, no banners. The barricades were down. Business returned to normal. And yet, no matter.  They were going to finish. It was a real testament to the human spirit.

Yesterday, Kase and I took our two children to watch the start of the race. One of the fun benefits of our new town is that we host the start of the Marathon. Year after year, residents open their homes to host runners from all over the world. We even hosted a co-worker of Kase’s who was running in the race for the fourth time. I wanted my boys to have this experience- to stand among the crowd, feel the overwhelming positive energy of both the spectators and the runners.

My boys. We had no qualms about bringing our two small boys to the start line of such a momentous event.  I am sure other parents felt the same way. This was an event that celebrates the human spirit. The inherent goodness of people. That no matter what heat one participates in, whether in a wheelchair or as an Elite runner, they are celebrating their good health, their ability. Their gift. Runners recognize that no matter the reason behind that bib number, they are able to do something many of us cannot. They do it for themselves or charity. Some run alone and some run literally tied to another person, guiding them for 26.2 miles.

And for those who can’t run? We watch. We cheer. We smile like fools as thousands of athletes run by. We stand for hours on the streets of our communities and cheer for family. For friends. For complete strangers.  We cheer for their determination, for their spirit.

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What I will remember from yesterday morning is the sheer number of people lining the streets of our small, quiet town. I will remember watching runners stretch on front lawns and mingle with their families as they got ready to join their corrals. I will remember the police officers who entertained Colin by revving their motorcycle engines and offering him a seat on their vehicles.  Who, quite possibly, became some of the first responders later that day. I will remember the young woman we spoke to, who was going to “hop in” to the race, to join her friend in the third heat. For fun. I will remember the race volunteers, hoisting bags full of discarded clothes into charity trucks.  I will remember the scores of children lining the street, including my own son, handing out high fives to the runners as they went by, “for good luck.” I will remember how he smiled and laughed, and how they did the same in return.

It was a magical experience.

And next year? We will do it again.

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