Wednesday, May 29, 2013

America's Rockin' Roller Coast. Rock On.

We just spent a spectacular weekend in Sandusky, Ohio with Ray's family. My mother-in-law turns 60 today (Happy Birthday!) and when asked what she'd like for her birthday, she replied that she wanted us all to be together. We originally expected a Maryland trip, but then got the idea to do something really fun and meet in the middle at Cedar Point Amusement Park.

If you've never lived in the Midwest, you probably aren't familiar with the allure. Just like Wisconsin Dells, no one in California had ever spoken about any amusement park other than Disneyland, Disneyworld, Knott's Berry Farm (owned by Cedar Point!), or Six Flags. It turns out that this mega coaster park is very well known among the Midwest locals. When mentioned that we planned to go there, every single person either professed their love of the park and/or gave their recommendations for the very best rides that are a must-do at the park. Just look at my last post! So many of you have a history at this place!

The main reason we chose this location for my mother-in-law's 60th birthday celebration was because 39 years ago while they were in college, she and my father-in-law spent a summer working at the park. They were dating at the time and as a summer job, they both worked there and spent that summer creating memories and falling in love. Pretty much adorable. My mother-in-law was a cocktail waitress (lounge is now an ice cream parlor!) and my father-in-law worked at concession stands in the park and at a steak restaurant called the Anchor Room as a food server (now a hibachi restaurant we ate dinner at one evening!). Both the cocktail lounge and the Anchor Room were located in Hotel Breakers, which is still a working hotel and dorm for college students assuming similar roles during their summer breaks. The dorms they both lived in are still standing as well, which was quite surprising for them. Ray's Aunt Ceil also worked there during the summer and was talked about often on the trip.
Hotel Breakers & rotunda dorms Kay stayed in while working there 
This entire park and surrounding town of Sandusky holds great memories for them, and we thought there would be no better way to celebrate a birthday and togetherness than to visit these places and relive some of their memories with them. It was great fun and we even rode some extreme coasters that were both at the park when they worked there and plenty of new ones.

On Friday, we took the 5-hour journey from Chicago > Sandusky, Ohio and met Benjamin's grandparents at the house we rented. It was such a cool place and really affordable if you have a group of 6-8 people to split the cost. If you're ever in the Sandusky area and looking to find a vacation home rental, send me an email. We cannot say enough great things about this place. It is actually a boathouse built on top of the guy's boat space! Not to be confused with a house boat-- we were not floating. There were 3 bedrooms, a full kitchen, a balcony with Lake Erie view, and a view of Cedar Point less than 2 miles away.

We spent some time that evening at Hotel Breakers and back at the hotel just relaxing. On Saturday, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend drove in from Baltimore and we had dinner at a local restaurant. My in-laws used to save their money and go there on date nights from the amusement park and order a lobster tail with drawn butter. They did the same this evening.

Just past Hotel Breakers is a beach, boardwalk, and Lake Erie.
The lobster tail date restaurant, The Brown Derby
Sunday was our big Cedar Point day! We arrived at the park opening and ran like teenagers to get on the "signature" coaster, Millennium Force. It was every bit as spectacular as we hoped it would be. We rode a number of other rides, but I did chicken out on Dragster because ohmyword. It shoots you straight up at 120 mph and the straight back down toward the ground? I'll reserve that for when Benjamin is older.
That thing in the right corner being cut off? That's a roller coaster! It shoots you up the parabola at 120 miles an hour (from 0 mph!) over the parabola top. Eek! And it has been stuck at the top before!
Some highlights include my in-laws, sister-in-law and her boyfriend going on Blue Streak, the oldest ride in the park that was there when they worked at the park. We also rode the sky tram that was also there 39 years ago. Four of us rode the new ride, The Gatekeeper while my in-laws walked around with a stroller-sleeping Benjamin. He slept 2.5 hours in that stroller! The Gatekeeper was different and the keyholes were most certainly wild, but otherwise I'd prefer Millennium with a shorter line and less pinball action on my brain. It was a bit rough for our taste.
Blue Streak, opened in 1964! Ray and I sat out because we don't do wooden coasters... too bumpy = headache inducing. 
On the train that goes around the park
A few Dad photos: one with dad's photo at 15 months & another at Cedar Point... such a cute one!
More Benjamin fun: loved the turkeys, riding on dad's shoulders and being read to by Dillon & Aunt Samantha
The sky tram that my father-in-law often took as he worked at a concession stand underneath the tram area. Benjamin was quite smitten with the Charlie Brown characters
The steak restaurant turned hibachi place we had dinner at & the two concession areas my father-in-law worked
More grandparent love: on a big wheel with Gramie & petting goats with Grandpa
The other three rides Benjamin went on with his parents. He was confused. 
I managed to ride a water ride by myself (literally. no one else was on my boat or any other around me!) and later took Ray and Dillon. I promised them I hardly got wet and of course this time, they turned on all the water features ensuring we were all at least 75% soaked at 6 p.m. Benjamin went on 5 rides but was definitely confused for the majority and preferred his moments in the petting zoos with goats and sheep, staring at the enormous turkey, and meeting Snoopy and Sally. Otherwise he was less than amused by the day's happenings. For dinner that evening, we ate at the restaurant that now sits in the same spot as my father-in-law's former serving restaurant. He appeared to be enjoying the day so much that he wanted to head back into the park after our big hibachi meal!
My very own boat water ride. I love a good log ride & this was their version. :)
Love at first sight.
Locked eyes. Clapped together. Hugged. What more could a 15-month old ask for?
It was a fantastic weekend and we're all sad it's over... but we already dream of planning more trips in the future with hopefully more children and possibly renting out the same or a similar house setup. Finally, from an outsider's perspective of a girl who grew up on the west coast and only recently heard of Cedar Point at all, I have to say that I enjoyed the rides, but other than the Dragster which still scares the living daylights out of me, I didn't find the park itself to be that extreme. But it sure was a whole lot of fun.
Wearing our Bazinga shirts (my mother-in-law bought us at the beginning of The Big Bang Theory season because we all love it, and Dillon being a trooper wearing a too-small shirt!). I'm also holding my kiddo back from falling off a chair. Ah, parenting.
Happy Birthday cookie cake! My favorite part was the Turkey Hill (a brand not carried in IL... sad!) ice cream: chocolate with peanut butter ribbons. Benjamin ate it by the handful!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just Some Little Things

I'm getting a lot done today. Already went to Benjamin's pediatrician checkup this morning, Super Target, the grocery store, did a load of laundry, mowed the lawn, cleaned, read 478 Dr. Seuss books, and organized recent pictures and uploaded them to our external hard drive. B's down for his afternoon nap and I'm even getting a blog post in. Man, I'm winning today!
That swingset in the back? Gone thanks to Freecycle. It needed to be stained and cleaned and was old. We just didn't have the energy or desire to fix it up. And the benefit of Freecycle is that someone else will use it, keep it out of the garbage, care for it, and we didn't have to do a thing except offer the guy a beer while he was doing all the hard work!

The mulch is still there and that will be our job. We'll be moving it to flowerbeds and turning that area to grass.

That tree poking out? Chopped. While beautiful, it was too close to the foundation. We also had the tree in the middle of our deck (another issue) trimmed and a crabapple tree from the front yard removed. We still have at least 10 mature trees in our yard, so we're still plenty shaded.

The deck is next. We're figuring out what needs to be done. Unfortunately, the state of our backyard is mayhem right now with that mulch area and the deck boards being pulled up to figure out if we'll:

- Use the current layout/foundation and just replace the old boards and re-stain (cheapest option)
- Overlay the current layout/foundation with synthetic wood boards that have less maintenance (expensive)
- Rip it out and start from scratch (also very expensive)

We're just not sure at this point, but we do know it needs some attention. It might take all summer, but we'll get things in order.
The little boy doesn't appear to be too little anymore! He is 31.5 inches tall, has a big noggin at the 80th percentile, and his weight has improved greatly. {I would like to take a moment to thank butter for its contribution...} The ped also talked us down from the smoothie platform and insisted we go about normal mealtimes and expect him to come around. Bootcamp is on. Baby is getting no more smoothies and must eat.
Our new-old white hook was hung last night (BY MY HUSBAND) in the laundry room and is already getting some use {you know, because I staged that sweatshirt there}. I think this will come in handy for many years. One can never have too many hooks in the laundry room.
I started packing up the car for our road trip to Sandusky, Ohio! We're meeting Ray's parents, sister and her boyfriend at a house we rented near Cedar Point Amusement Park. Ray's mom will be 60 at the end of May and as a celebration, we're all going to the amusement park she and Ray's dad worked at for a summer in college. They have some great memories there and we {kids + B} have never been. We're quite excited! We'll be going to a steakhouse they used to go for date nights after saving up their money they earned at the amusement park and just enjoying the park and our rental house for the weekend. I started buying up some snacks and things and have already filled this laundry basket.
I'm not sure if there are any couponers out there, but even if you're not, this one is fun and easy. I use an iPhone app called ibotta to save money. I've been using it a couple months and while I may only buy 4-5 things each month, I always just check it before I head to the grocery store and see if anything is in there I plan to buy. I bought one of those Evol burritos and other things. You shop like normal, scan your receipt and the barcode and they give you that money back via Paypal.

If you sign up and use it by buying/redeeming 5 products in the next two weeks, they'll give you $10. When I started using it, I got $5. I'm up to $17 in savings at this point. Kind of fun in case you're interested. I'm not sure if I get anything for referring, but I just learned about the $10 deal and thought I'd share. No coupons at the register, most importantly! I know a couple friends who also use the app and like it.

There's a little random post for you Thursday. Hope it's a good one. I'm really looking forward to this long weekend!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dresser #2: Mission Complete

I posted about our new dresser I bought on Craigslist and refinished. It replaced the dresser in this post. We had been using this dresser for many years and it matched nothing we owned. So when we cleared it out to use our new dresser, I decided to refinish it to make it more purposeful in our home. And since I already had the tools out and experience fresh in my memory, why not move on to the next piece? Also, I wanted to take advantage of the double naptimes we're still rocking (on most days) I fear are fleeting...

Benjamin is obviously still in the nursery and uses the dresser in there. But eventually, he will have his own room down the hall {eventually being whenever that happens... no, I'm not pregnant} with a bed already in there. That room, however, was lacking a matching dresser. With natural wood furniture, my intent was to strip the wood to natural and coat it with polycrylic. And then click my heels together at how fast and easy the project was compared to our first dresser project.

Sure. Except obviously that didn't happen. This was also meant to be a super cheap project because I really was just doing this as an additional piece and nothing we need to be using anytime soon. Too bad it didn't end up being cheap, either. Le sigh.

But it's done! Here's the timeline:

May 3: Swap dressers and move this one to the garage.
May 4-7: Take off hardware and casually apply paint stripper to areas and scrape.
May 8: Give up on paint strippers after spending over $20 on two kinds and resort to plan b-- painting it white. Sand 1/2 the dresser by hand.
May 9: Sand the rest of the dresser/drawers .
May 10: Clean the dresser really, really well using a wet t-shirt & Lysol Dual Action wipes
May 11: Apply 1 coat of primer.
May 12: Coat #1 of satin white paint applied.
May 13: Lightly sanded, quick wipedown & coat #2 of satin white paint applied.
May 14: Lightly sanded, quick wipedown & coat #3 of satin white paint applied.
May 15: Still not pleased that I can see splotchiness of the cherry wood on the sides. Buy two cans of white Rustoleum and spray paint the whole thing. Deal with a clogged can (delays, additional sanding, cursing) and realize I don't like the color and see splotchiness of white spray paint now instead of cherrywood. Lightly sand, quick clean up & apply coat #4 of satin white paint.
May 16: Apply two coats of polycrylic (with quick sand/wipedown in between) and my husband screwed in the knobs. He's been getting on my case for not giving him credit for work around here like cutting the trees. Move dresser upstairs. Done. For the last coat of poly, Benjamin proceeded to talk to himself in his crib for a solid hour (happily) while I finished the project. He decided two naps were not happening that day. I mean, why be easy when Mom is nearly done with a project?

Before & After
Sadly, the only photo I could find of that dresser before I took it apart and got down to business!
Estimated Costs:
Citristrip Quart Safe Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel: $10 Used only 1/4 of it before realizing I might need something stronger. Still consider it a wasted $10 as I don't plan to use it again anytime soon.
Klean-Strip Quart Chemical Premium Sprayer: $10 Same story as above. I know both work, but this project was just not having it. Another wasted $10 with tons of unused product left over.
Kilz Primer: Already owned-- really old can and super hard to apply because it was so thick!
Glidden white satin paint: $10 (used about 75% of this but consider it full cost)
Rustoleum spray paint: $6 total
Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Clear Gloss: Used leftovers from first dresser project and used no more than $2 worth.
Foam brushes & paintbrush: Used a few cheap ones and reused them each day. Probably $3 worth
Sandpaper: Used leftover sandpaper. For light sanding between I learned using a very fine sanding block is the way to go. You're only roughing it up barely to help the next layer adhere and also get rid of those paint bumps that are inevitable. And bonus, Dollar Tree sells them for $1/each 2-pack. Don't waste your money on these. I don't shop at the Dollar Tree often, but I do buy shipping supplies there and happened to see sanding blocks while I was grabbing packing supplies recently. Score! (add $1 here)
Lysol Wipes: Had them already

Total: About $42
I considered new knobs, but figured I'd try to keep the cost low. Also, if Benjamin uses this as a dresser eventually, chunky knobs work well for kids.

From the beginning to the end, I took some photos, but was far more ambitious in the beginning. Isn't that how it always goes. Zealous to start and then...bleh. Get. me. done. with. this. project. A few of those coats of paint were skipped, but here is what I salvaged from my camera.
Sanded & primed. In hindsight, it needed a better layer of primer. I was working with what I had, but yeah.
In addition to the dresser, I added in a mini project to refinish this wood hook that was hanging in the laundry room when we moved into our house. We have white cabinets in our laundry room and a large magnetic whiteboard, so there's lots of white. Since I had the white paint out... I went for it. We still have to get around to hanging that, but you get the idea here. A good place to hang a future backpack (!), some laundry items, bags, etc.
Knobs hanging and painted & hook getting a few coats of fresh paint to update the look
The front looks quite chic now! And in keeping things cheap, I kept the knob that has a piece out of it-- it's actually not accidentally broken but was made using knotty pine and the knot broke. It's so hard to tell now that it's white. 
It took awhile to figure out which drawers fit where, despite labeling them before we took them out. Problem was, we had moved this dresser so many times and never labeled them properly before. After musical chairs drawers, we finally found a good fit for them. Well-used dresser, but with a nice new facelift. I just wish I could brag about only spending like $4 on it or something. Ah. You win some, you lose some. It fits nicely in one of our bedrooms now and I'm thrilled it's over. Ha!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Post After the Advice Post

I'm so clever and creative these days. Hah. I blame it on using all my brain power to figure out ways to get Benjamin to eat. Also, reading Dr. Seuss books. Not that they're difficult, but using the brainpower to help me try and forget what I read on repeat so when the kiddo is sleeping, I won't be telling myself there is a zamp in the lamp, or a woset in the closet. But you know... sometimes I am quite certain there's a gertain in the curtain {from There's a Wocket in My Pocket for those unfamiliar}.

I'm sure the rest of you have your the kiddo's favorite books memorized, too. My mother-in-law and mom tell me that you never do forget those words...

... but this post... a big Thank you! Also, because a lot of you were here empathizing and gleaning advice yourselves, I wanted to have a list of things you might also have interest in trying from the comments you may have missed.

I haven't had that many comments in a long, long time. I definitely appreciated every last comment and only maybe considered deleting one of them. But didn't! ;) Can I write out some of my favorites and things we're definitely going to be trying here? Since you all took so much effort and time to help a sister out, it's time I provide a proper shout-out. Not a conclusive list, but definitely most of the ideas:

  • Letting him eat at his own pace: I admit that I sometimes want him to eat that 1/2 PBJ a lot faster to take advantage of non-naptime hours, so this was a great reminder.
  • Eating with other kids: Yes, yes, yes! Now... where can I find these kids? Just kidding. ;)
  • Dishing out only a little at a time: This throwing food thing often happens when too much is in front of him-- true. I hate wasting food, so it frustrates me. We often do this, but sometimes we don't and I need to keep this at the forefront.
  • Remembering that this is possibly just a phase: My friend Alison (a seasoned mama) is always telling me that we can handle things for a week or two. Just roll with things. And by the time you get used to it, things will change again! Oh, parenthood!
  • Load up on his biggest meal: Unfortunately we haven't had one of those in awhile, but it used to be breakfast.
  • Whole milk is loaded with good fat, so drinking his calories is okay: True. So true. Also, full-fat Greek yogurt (which I didn't even know existed until my mom bought it for us!) is loaded with calories from fat! Thank you Trader Joe's for that! And to think I was considering 2% milk. What was I even thinking. I'm close to giving him lard on a spoon here, people! 
  • Grazing is okay: Many adults (including myself) are grazers. Eating throughout the day and still sitting down for a small meal is okay...something I really need to consider if he's reaching for the food between mealtimes. Calories in, however I can get them!
  • Allow foods he wants: I struggle with this because I'd love for him to eat what we're having for dinner, but I was totally the kid who literally made my own dinner. As long as we all sat down to eat together, that was what mattered. Will think on this one...
  • Presentation matters to a toddler: No kidding! Not that I didn't think of it, but I did realize he sometimes will eat melted cheese but won't touch cold cheese. Or my PBJ on a stick trick? So much cooler than a regular sandwich. My mom recommended cool shapes. Seriously, something to think about. But do you think he'll tell me how he wants things? Hah. I wish.
  • Use yogurt as a staple to mask other foods: He still isn't great about feeding himself yogurt from a spoon as he's often more intrigued by the device and tends to spin it around and let it fall off, but I do think we'll have to do more yogurts!
  • Don't force the meat --kids don't always like it: True! We try meat, but since I'm vegetarian, I don't stress about it. Protein comes in many forms and as long as he's getting protein, that's my main concern. Lord knows he'll get his fill of red meat as he gets older and we all know it's not entirely healthy to eat much of that anyway!
  • Let him near me during preparation: I'm working on this. And hey! If he eats a bite or two while prepping (though my husband would lose a hand if he tried!), hooray! 
  • When the food throwing starts, remove the food: Yeah, sometimes we're a little late on this one, but it is a lesson that needs to be learned. We try to repeat, "If you don't want it, that's okay. Leave it on the table, but it is not okay to throw food."
  • Don't take things personally: Thanks. I seriously needed to hear this. It can be so frustrating a quite upsetting to me as a mom when I try my hardest to find things and prepare them so he'll like them... and he hates it. :/
  • Food textures can bother some kids: Kate, a parent or not, you have great advice! I assure you, I'd never condemn anyone for excellent advice as long as they experienced it firsthand. Especially people like me who have lost a child and longed to have that parenting experience because no one ever wanted to take advice from us... but that texture bit is so right on. B likes pasta (well, used to LOVE it, now tolerates it) but hates spaghetti! I really agree that texture matters. It's figuring out that the texture is the issue that can be challenging for me.
  • Start with something he wants for mealtime and then move on to other things: I seriously had never thought of this, but I do know that when I put fruit down and say... pasta... he'll eat every bit of fruit and then still just maybe touch the pasta after all the fruit is out of sight. I want to witness this in action!
  • Smoothies are causing the issue: Maybe? But what choice do I have when I really, really won't let him go without calories?
  • Don't stress about it-- he will eat if he's hungry: Yeah, maybe not my favorite advice as I touched on the fact that he is a small kiddo and I get the stink-eye if he loses weight. These small kids don't exactly give you the choice! I think only those with small fry kiddos (and maybe those who lost a kid and are already ultra-sensitive about how others perceive their parenting?) would understand?
  • Diapers are good indicators of consumption: Oftentimes, I can't quantify how much B actually ate because he eats it so. stinking. slow. But yeah, I guess sometimes he is eating more than I thought. Even if the 5 bites are not what I would deem an acceptable meal, I also need to keep in mind that he is getting nutrients and possibly at different times. I did start measuring things out so I can gauge though! I gave him 1/3 cup cereal yesterday & today. 
  • Some days he may eat more than others. That's okay: I do have a hard time with understanding this! Why? Because I can eat the same just about everyday. But kids... of course not. Why would it be that easy! 
  • Don't make it a power struggle: You are so right. If he sees our frustration, he'll feed off of it. I should have remembered this from my own childhood (and adolescence, right Mom?). I need to keep this in the forefront of our minds during mealtime and watch our own behaviors.
  • Cut the performances: What, no more Mamma Mia! at mealtimes? Can't say I'm sad or disagree. It shouldn't really be showtime, you're right. Should not be conditional... only out of fun.
  • Talk to him. And not just telling him to eat a bite: Ah, that's wise. Yes. I will do this!
  • Try a smoothie before the meal, not after: I love this advice, maybe the most of all! I know he needs nutrients and I can almost predict he won't eat much. But perhaps it will be less stressful on us all... and make it less of an expectation/prediction on his part. 
  • Don't coax him into taking each and every bite.: After reading that account of your (Emily) friend, I want nothing to do with that kind of parenting! It made me cringe and fear that it's who we are becoming. Honestly, I have dreaded mealtime for the past month because of B not eating so well. But I do refuse to continue this on for months or years! If he is a picky eater, that's one thing. However, we cannot allow mealtime to be a stressful time for everyone. I love food too much for that to be the case. Thanks so much for sharing this.
  • Allow him to feed us and himself to make things fun: B does enjoy this, though the majority still ends up in our mouths. Sigh.
  • Read the book French Kids Eat Everything: On the library list!
  • Make the foods cold, especially if you've got a teether: This is something I'd thought of, but didn't think that I could make things other than fruits cold... just never occurred to me that he might eat more PBJ if it's chilled a bit first. Yes, we love frozen grapes... one of the few things he'll eat willingly... the one time I want grapes to be fattening! Hah!
  • It's okay to supplement with smoothies: Adults love them (we do and eat them often!). Of course we hope not all of the foods are consumed this way, but to get those extra fruits and veggies otherwise shunned? Sure thing!
  • Try Stonyfield YoBaby Drinkable Yogurt--packs lots of fat calories in a small container: Funny thing... we tried them early on with B and didn't buy them again for some reason. I think it's because they're hard to find. Target here does carry them (score for sure!) and I will be buying some. Also, I'm all over that full-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Remember that these babies be crazy, yo!: So maybe I added that one. But really, who has them figured out, anyway?
These were just some of the many (!) ideas you guys had. Seriously, thank you. Some of the advice conflicts with other pieces of advice, but these were just listed to pick out some of the gems we'll try (together or independently). Now I'm off to help the husband on one of our many house projects while the kiddo naps. Did I mention we're working on going down to one nap soon here? I'm not sure I'm ready, you guys!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bedroom Remodel

Not the expert photographer here, but I wanted to share all we've done to our bedroom! We started changing things a bit at the beginning of March and finished things with the dresser. It took about two months to add things here and there. We love it! Our goal was to upgrade to a more hotel chic space, but somewhat on the cheap because we have been working and plan to work on more house projects that were going to cost plenty. But we really needed a haven of our own and now we definitely feel like that goal was accomplished.

As you head upstairs, you see our bedroom. The left shows the canvas we were working with when we moved in 3 years ago. That's their furniture and horrid wallpaper! We stripped the wallpaper our first summer here and the right is what you see now.
We may have stripped the wallpaper, but we didn't do much decorating or matching. We moved in with early marriage furniture (aka: college furniture) but upgraded to a King for our enormous master bedroom. Except, it was just a bed frame. Embarrassing to admit it, but our mattress and box spring were on the floor for many months! Getting a cheap metal bedframe was an upgrade, sadly.
This is from the former owners on the left and what it looked like when we moved in and removed the wallpaper on the right. Neither are up to the times. I was halfway through my pregnancy with Andrew on the right, hence the teddy bear and baby swing.
The old office and the new office. Well, hardly new as the furniture in there remained the same. The desk is Pottery Barn and the chairs, Ikea. Lamp is Pier 1 and the big chair, Target. But since none of these were part of the remodel, I won't go into price details on those...
Standing from the office, you see the bedroom from another view. And a closeup of our upholstered headboard.
More headboard love. It's such great quality. We paid less than $300 for it, delivered!
Nightstands are from World Market and the inspiration for our dresser. They have a mostly classic, but slight Mid-Century Modern feel to them. I was stressing about having to pay shipping for these and then it dawned on me... um... call the store! Our local one had 4 in stock and we drove on over and picked these bad boys up. No shipping costs and they were on sale! Lamps are from Ikea, as are the lampshades. Those are Benjamin's sleepsacks under there because we dress him in our bedroom at night. And, a big ol' bottle of hand sanitizer from his newborn days...
More views of the whole bed area... and while we're here, I'll mention the new duvet and faux down comforter we bought for our bed. I feel like the comforter is a bit short for a King, but it is comfortable. Faux because my husband is allergic to everything animal pretty much. True story: When we met, he would always tell me he had huge sneeze attacks when he'd wake up in the morning. When I tried to crack the code, I discovered he had a down comforter, yet he was allergic to cats. While not the same thing, one thing should be a somewhat indicator of the other that you might have a teensy intolerance to pet furs and feathers. Gone was the comforter and gone were the sneezes! Also, that brown comforter from way above? Yeah, that was the replacement. Let's just say DKNY made it look way nicer about SIX years ago. Way past its prime and we even used that thing as a wrap for our items in the cross-country move! Needed to be retired BIG time. {embarrassing}
The canvases were made after our wedding and are not part of the remodel, but they did get switched around.
Our curtain story is rather interesting. We have narrow, tall windows and normal panels are far too much fabric for us to use both panels. I got the idea to cut each panel in half and no-sew (though I briefly considered a sewing machine purchase) hem them. I also had to trim the bottom because they were too long, which resulted in a lot of ironing and curtain work. We planned to buy two packs (4 panels) but as it was, we only needed 3 panels if I planned to cut and use only one panel per window. each set is $50, so it would have set us back $100. Not bad considering the quality and darkness of these curtains, but we'd have so much leftover fabric we paid for and didn't use. We resigned to being fine with that, but our Ikea has an "as-is" area near the checkout with a large textiles pile you can rummage through. And whatdoyouknow! We found a single panel for just $10 of the exact same curtain. So instead of two packages for $100, we paid $60 for the three panels we needed. Score. Savings, 40%. I bought three sets of curtain holdbacks and we had the look we wanted.
Little "helper"
These frames are Pottery Barn circa 2004 or something. Since we were dating, I had the same pictures and cards in them! We've been married almost 5 years, folks. Time for a switcheroo. After spending what felt like hours and hours on Etsy and, I followed my husband's lead and found two pictures we took and printed them. I used mpix because they have both great quality, and would print a 10x10 square like I wanted. Originally I wanted to select art and nothing related to our kids, but I kept coming back to this photos of Andrew's bulb we planted with a friend just after his first birthday and just before Benjamin's arrival. It sprouted for the first time that spring, just after Benjamin was born. I chose that picture to represent Andrew and the bottom picture of Benjamin touching the Pacific Ocean for the first time to represent him. If we have another child, the top picture will remain and we'll find another photo of Benjamin and that sibling to add to the frame and replace the beach one.
A local Kmart was going out of business, so I ended up heading in to see if I could snag a deal on holdbacks. They had some, but the deals weren't to be had. However, I did pick up a Bali brown blind to replace a PINK light-filtering shade that was previously there for three years. So. much. better.
Back to the dresser which I detailed in a previous post. All in, the cost was about $200. 
African man found a new home upstairs now that Benjamin can reach him. We bought $1 sticky felt and attached it to the bottom of the dish, wood boxes, and African man's feet so they wouldn't scratch up the nice surface on our new dresser. Note to anyone interested in refinishing furniture dark and using a high gloss finish. Don't. Dust can be seen much easier.

Chambery Upholstered Headboard from Wayfair: About $280 (though now the price has increased!)
Werna Ikea Curtains: $50 + $10 panel from the As-Is area = $60
Ikea curtain rods, brackets, and finials: $9 per window
Going out of Business Kmart Bathroom Bali Blinds: $13
World Market Nightstands: $99 each, sale
Bran Lamp Bases from Ikea: $18 each
Jara Lamp Shades from Ikea: $15 each
Ivory Duvet & pillowcases from Overstock: Can't find it... but I think it was around $70
Down Alternative Comforter from Overstock: $40
Two King Size Beautyrest Pillows from Walmart: $15 each
Holdbacks from Menards: $8 each pair
Two 10x10 photos printed from mpix: $16 shipped
Sticky felt from Michaels: $1 each
Craigslist Dresser from my DIY refinishing project: $200

Total cost of remodel: $1,032 (though, prices above don't include taxes), so probably a bit more.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Foodie Resolution #14 of 52: Mexican Corn & Quinoa Salad & General Updates About Life

I'm what we call a huge failure when it comes to keeping this resolution. Fourteen measly recipes in 5 months? But, considering these are the least viewed of all my posts {sad posts about Andrew are always read & commented on heavily, just in case you were curious}, I don't think you're all too sad. But I do have a few loyalists and I'm pretty loyal to eating, so at least we've got that synchronized.

Dresser project #2 (aka: bane of my existence) will be done tomorrow if the weather doesn't dry the polycrylic faster than I can move my brush. I also owe you guys a bedroom makeover reveal and that's only being held back by my laziness to take photos and write out a blog. I blame the baby who walks over with approximately 241 books that he fully expects I read multiple times immediately.

Other things that have happened recently at Casa de Wilson: 2 trees got the ax. They were too close to the house. We chopped the majority ourselves and are having a tree guy come next week to stump grind them and pare down another tree. I freecycled our play yard/swingset and our yard looks so much bigger! They guy came and took it apart and hauled it away. The deck is getting a facelift soon and tons of yardwork has been done.

But right now? It's food time.

The other night I actually made a real dinner. One of the accompaniments was this salad that we really enjoyed. It just so happened I had the vegetables and ingredients all in my fridge. If there's one thing I hate, it's letting food spoil. So, I whipped this up and our bellies were pleased. I didn't add the jalapeno (because I used it all in my salsa... oops) or cotija because I didn't exactly have that obscure cheese just on hand, but the result was pretty spot-on. Raw corn just cut from the cob. True fact: Even with cooked or grilled corn on the cob, I cut it off the cob before eating it. I hate getting it stuck in my teeth and food on my face.

p.s. Thank you so much for the comments, suggestions, overall sympathy and empathy from my pathetic mama post about B's crappy eating habits. I really did learn some good gems of info. And for those who asked what my smoothie recipes are... I have none. Bananas, whole milk and peanut butter almost always make it in, otherwise the rest of the ingredients are a mixed bag. I fully intend to try some of those suggestions, so thanks. This is why blogging rocks so much. Complete strangers read and comment with their honest thoughts and we all help one another. I'd give you all a beer and have a toast if you weren't so... virtual.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The One Where I Seek Advice

I bet you're thinking it's about time. I have this parenting thing in the bag. She could learn a thing or two from me.

This is a rare thing. This whole advice-seeking post thing. I don't often seek the opinion or advice of others, mostly because I want to feel like I have it all together {which I undoubtedly do not}. In general posts about life, I've been known to delete comments from others giving advice when I either didn't like the advice they were dishing or the braggart way it was delivered. Or both.

But this time... well... similar rules apply. But I am seeking advice. However, I'm not seeking advice from those who have perfect poster children that eat everything on their plates and smile cheerfully at the dinner table. Because that's what Benjamin used to be like and now he's a devil child at the sight of his high chair. Seriously, he used to eat everything in sight. But if your kid is like mine and you've managed to find some things that work, please dish!

I just somehow convinced him to eat about 1/3 of a peanut butter, butter & jam sandwich and about 5 bites of cantaloupe by singing the Mamma Mia! song on repeat and making silly faces. Short of balancing on our heads, we do everything to get this kid to eat!

We go to great lengths... I'm telling you! This is a PBJ he refused to finish, so I balled it up on pretzel sticks. Lollipops. Yeah.
Over the weekend, we successfully fed him maybe two meals. And by feed, I mean trick him and shove a spoon in his mouth and hope he doesn't spit it out. The distractions of singing/dancing hopefully bring him to forget he's eating and swallow the darn bite. And the meals he won't eat? We make a smoothie at the culmination of the meal that he then sucks down at rapid speed. You know... because he's starving.

Let me lay some facts down here:
- It's important for us that he sits at a table and eats during mealtime. We're expecting him to sit politely in restaurants and eat when we do. This should not be a stretch and we don't want him having his own mealtime.
- We've tried another high chair or even sitting him on our laps. We were wondering if it had to do with an extreme hatred toward his specific high chair... but that doesn't appear to be the outlier.
- I've all but stopped giving him snacks because it makes mealtime even worse if he has food in between.
- He loves his milk still and usually sucks down half the cup before a meal is introduced. I've stopped giving him milk until he's done with his meal... but that hasn't helped either.
- All the foods he used to love and eat voraciously are being kicked to the curb. There is no safe food.
- It's important to us that he eats something. So while starving him to try and teach him a lesson that this is food time {dammit}, it won't be working wonders for keeping this kid on the weight-gaining scales. We have always had a small fry, remember. I mean, we go through a stick a butter a week on just Benjamin.
- He won't just refuse the food politely. He refuses, spit it out, shoves it off the table, and throws it.
- Perhaps a factor in why he is refusing could be that he is working on his second molar right now. And I hear they're a real b. But I swear he's been crazy-picky well before these stupid molars.
- Mealtimes usually start like this: we all sit down to eat with him, place food in front of him to feed himself. He refuses. We then give him utensils and occasionally we can get a bite or two down him based on the novelty of using a utensil. We then resort to trying to feed him ourselves with a fork. Refuses. Then he starts to throw food on the floor and cry. I push his high chair away from the table to mitigate the mess situation and use that as a moment away from the table so he knows that's not acceptable table behavior. Remove all food & resort to a smoothie.
- Smoothies include all kinds of goodies... a mixture of many of the following are usually on the regular menu: whole milk, oatmeal, flaxseed, banana, strawberry, peanut butter, spinach, apple, yogurt, avocado. And he sucks down at least 1-2 of them in just a few minutes.

That's the scoop. Any advice for a couple of novices on how to handle this? Perhaps it's a phase and I should just roll with the punches?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

On the C-List

I have a love-hate relationship with Craigslist. And Freecyle. And Bookoo.

For one, I love perusing for gems like my dresser and getting a deal. I just love a deal, you guys. It's like a drug. I get genuinely giddy when I know I scored something for less than it normally sells for. Like I just pulled one over on someone and came out the winner.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

I love it. It's fuel for my fire. So when I received a text from a friend about Mrs. Meyers soaps going on clearance at Target, I got totally jealous (despite having no less than 5 under my sink) and also replied immediately encouraging her to buy up a crapload. One can never hoard too much soap.

Back to Craigslist. I love the deals. I also love bartering people down. Like this week I bought a carpet steam cleaner (that I've since ammonia cleaned the crap out of) and she was asking $40. I had $40, but totally only offered her $35. She accepted.

I just emailed someone about a bike trailer they have for sale, and while I have the $60 they're charging, my limit for a used one was $50. So I offered $50. Let's hope I don't lose out on it because I'm being stingy. But it's a gamble and I love it.

But the hate part. Over the last week, I've posted two free items on these websites, only to have no-show after no-show of people who swore they were interested! Promised money even though they were free items! Said they'd come by that day!

But never showed. It's like I'm inconveniencing them. Finally, someone came and picked up the mirror (later than she promised, of course) that was matching to my recently refinished dresser. And they have the best stories. One lady had an intruder at her house and that's why she didn't show. Not that I don't believe her, but at the very least, just let me know within reasonable time.

I really feel like giving things away for free makes people crazy. They see the word free and all of a sudden? They have to stake their claim. It's like the freaking Gold Rush over here.

One guy I called back about giving away the mirror (mind you, I list our city name... use Google and find out if that is local to you!) told me that he "could find a use for it" and then proceeded to tell me he lives 50 miles away, round trip. I talked him out of it because that sounded silly for something you obviously don't need or really want!

And the swingset we have in our backyard that came with the house? Also free. Come and get it! Seven people were so excited (before I deleted the listing) and ONE showed up to check it out. She promised to return next week (ugh, the urgency of people!) to come get it. We'll see if that happens.

Monday, May 6, 2013

DIY Project Dresser: Mission Complete!

I did it! Not without sweat and almost a few tears, but it's done! My first furniture refinishing project I told you about a couple weeks ago.

Let me just first start by saying that perfectionists are not meant to refinish furniture. But I hand sewed a couple small basement curtains (really poor job, but whatevs) and I could care less about that finished product. But the dresser? Yeah, it needed to be pristine. Because it's not like we'll open and close it nonstop and bang stuff into it from here on out, right? 

Hah. Riiiiight.

Here's the nitty gritty.

April 3: Date purchased
April 6-13: California Trip #1
April 14-18: Take off old hardware, sand.
April 19: Wipe down entire dresser with a wet t-shirt & then Lysol Dual-Action Wipes
April 20: 1st coat of General Finishes Java Gel Stain
April 21: Day off
April 22: 2nd coat of gel stain
April 23: Day off
April 24: 3rd coat of gel stain
April 25-28: California Trip #2
April 29: 1st coat of polycrylic, light sand, cursing because I "lightly sanded" too hard & right through stain, reapply light coat of gel stain
April 30: 2nd coat of polycrylic
April 31: 3rd coat of polycrylic
May 1: Receive knobs, apply 3 coats of gel stain & 3 coats of polycrylic
May 3: Move upstairs and create a long scratch on the top...which meant more stain and more polycrylic

The dresser itself was an interesting find. We had been searching for a new dresser online but were having no luck finding one that was over 70 inches in length, not made of all wood composite, and reasonably priced. You would not believe how much dressers made of particle board are going for! We wanted a large one for our clothes and to fit along a large wall. This one was about 2 inches longer than we'd prefer at 76 inches, but mostly because of the detailing and not the actual dresser width. 

I saw this dresser and loved the Mid-Century Modern details on the drawers and knew it would be gorgeous. I decided against it because it was $250 and I'd have to do lots of work to get it up to our standards. And then... a week later I saw the price drop to half! We went to check it out and there was even a glass piece on the top to protect the wood. It was meticulously maintained by the previous owners. It was most likely $2,000 new and Thomasville brand. It came with a large mirror as well, but I got rid of that on Freecycle because we're not mirror-on-dresser people. Also, imagine how much more work that would be to refinish! 

And so it began. {For some reason because it's high gloss, it doesn't photograph as well as it looks. Trust me.}

Estimated Costs because I was horrible at keeping receipts:
Thomasville Oversized Dresser: $125 on Craigslist 
Delivery: $30 (I asked her if she knew anyone who could deliver... paid her son $30 to deliver it about 7 miles and unload into my garage. Cheaper than renting a truck and having to deal with the hassle!)
General Finishes Java Gel Stain: $20 (used about 60% of the quart, so about $12 used)
Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Clear Gloss: $14 (used about 20% of the quart-- plan to use on next dresser project, so worked to about $3 worth used)
Foam brushes & paintbrush: $13 
Sandpaper: Had a lot of this but bought a $6 pack as well. Will use the rest on dresser project #2.
Lysol Wipes: Had them already
New Amerock Brand Knobs: $7.41 from Ebay

Total: Just under $200

What I learned/would do differently if starting over from scratch:
- Calling Caroline saved me gobs of time. Her SIL told her that my dresser would look great with gel stain and to consult Pinterest because people were posting about updating their cabinets left and right. I was planning to sand to natural and then stain with regular stain! Oh, how I love gel stain now!
- Ebay for knobs was genius. 
- I'd choose a semi-gloss polycrylic instead of a clear gloss. I still love it, but it's a high gloss finish I didn't expect being so glossy.
- Sanding lightly after the first layer of poly is apparently difficult. Like, find the finest sand paper block and go as light as can be. Otherwise, you'll create a lot more work for yourself.
- When in doubt, buy more foam brushes. Turns out Target sells them for cheap!

Believe it or not, I've already started dresser project #2. It's the dresser we were using before our new fancy one moved in. Before I moved out of the house, I traded my bed to my parents for a spare dresser they had. It's tall and a cherrywood color. Basically, it's not pretty and matches nothing in our house. But it's real wood and I would like it to end up in Benjamin's eventual big boy room where the furniture is currently a light wood. This project involves stripping the old stain, sanding a ton, and coating in poly. Of course I only have one can and it's high gloss... so we'll see what decision I make on that one.