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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Family Table

My great-grandmother Florence was an amazing hostess.  We would go to her home and she would put out these beautifully organized lunches, everything set out just so.  In my memory, the table that we ate at was huge.  It had a glass top.  When Florence passed away, her dining room table became mine.  It went with me to my first adult apartment and spent several years at my parents house until it came to live with Justin and I at our home.

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Tell me what you really think of the table, dear.

The finish was perfectly fine, but it felt like it just kind of blended into the rest of the floor around it.  The legs were pretty beat up, too.

I saw this pin on how to create a driftwood finish on wood.  They used a product from Driftwood DIY from here.  I bought the kit with the intention of trying it out on the dining room table and if it worked beautifully, as I knew it would, I had other projects in mind too.  I suffer greatly from “it will work out -itis” and have a concurrent diagnosis of “buy it now because you might need it someday syndrome” as well.  If I didn’t love to throw stuff out, we would certainly be living in a hoarding situation.

The first thing I had to do was drag the table out to the garage as it would need to be stripped.  The woman in the tutorial stripped her table inside her house.  I’m going to assume she does not have dogs or a toddler.

I used a citrus based stripper.  It was as non-toxic as such a thing could be, but did come with warnings about avoiding getting it on your skin because it would burn.  Don’t do what I did, but I applied the stuff while wearing flip-flops and was just fine.  You do want to wear gloves though.  Even I didn’t skip that step.

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After letting the citrus stuff work its magic and spending what felt like several hours scrapping off something, I ended up with…tada!   A table that was exactly the same color as when I started except for some of the gunk on the legs came off.  Boo says I! Boo!  In retrospect, I’m not sure exactly what I thought was going to happen.  Perhaps that it would be restored to its virgin wood status?  Oh well.  Moving on, I wiped everything down with mineral spirits (to which Justin said “ohhh spooky”) and sanded off any leftover citrus gunk in preparation for applying the driftwood finish.

Again, had I put any real critical thinking skills into this project, I would have quickly surmised that since the stripping process did not yield the same light-colored wood as the woman in the tutorial, how would I end up with the same results.

I prepared the packet of driftwood stain as instructed and lightly brushed it on.  The website said that I should see a graying occur fairly quickly, as in twenty minutes or so with the color deepening over a twenty-four hour period.

So 20 minutes in, it looked like this:

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I like how the garage looks like a sad kid holding cell.

The next fifteen times I opened the garage door to look at it, it still looked just like that.  The legs that I spent hours scrapping gunk out of were back to looking dark.  The top went from very orange to a brown orange.  This is where I decided it was a good time to go out for drinks.  Drinks make everything better.

I had officially taken what was a perfectly reasonable family heirloom and done this.  For about a half an hour on Sunday, I thought about how to create a worthwhile story of how the table, that I swore on the family bible to keep forever, managed to be the only thing stolen from our house in an odd robbery.

This is probably a good time to mention that I’ve been over the shabby chic chalkboard painted furniture with the edges sanded down thing for a while now.  It is just so overdone and those pieces really seem to dictate the style of a space in a very, very specific way.  I see a shabby chic piece of furniture and I expect to see your stack of Domino magazines and a bunch of clutter that you call decor, too.

Since I couldn’t in good conscience arrange to off the table and it is Thanksgiving week and we needed it anyway, I pulled out some gray paint from when I thought I might repaint our entire house, added some water and slopped it on.  It was my only choice.

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Immediately after I applied the paint, I went back with a clean rag and wiped off the excess, making sure that the wood grain was visible underneath.  I went back over everything with sandpaper, pulling up some of the paint to give the top a more weathered look.  Honestly, I felt like a failure at this point.  You know how when you are doing a project and you have such great expectations of how it will turn out and at the end of hours and hours of work, it just is nowhere near where you wanted it to be?  I can’t be the only one who has ever felt that way.  I let the table dry and because I just wanted it all to be over, I had Justin help me carry it back into the house.

It will do for now.  I will in all likelihood add a layer of white paint just to give it a little more depth.  At night, the color almost looks blue and Justin swears that it looks purple to him.

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So, I’m sorry ghost of Great Grandma Florence.  They can’t all be winners.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Kate

A Fall Tradition

In our house, we tackle our biggest projects in the Fall.  Last year it was parenting and Hurricane Sandy damage.  The year before, the kitchen project that nearly killed me (hyperbole, it was only 20+ stitches to the face).  Wood floors, appliances, hot water heaters and furnaces, it all seems like the short, dark days bring out the project manager side of us.

Labor Day weekend we took a quick trip to Florida to visit my gorgeous sister-in-law, Kate and her family.  We returned to find water coming through the ceiling into our kitchen.  Not ideal.  The  upstairs bathroom that was ugly but functional had gone rogue.

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Justin and I had always envisioned eventually re-doing the master bathroom, but not so much the year after we had a kid and were committed to some seriously crazy daycare costs.  After weighing the pros and cons of dealing with the immediate issue only or a full-scale demo and remodel, we chose the latter.  Our thought process was that if not now, when.  As parents, probably never.  There will always be something else more important to save for.

My husband is on to me.  I bet he wishes that I were more of a candy crush fan versus ardent Pinterest groupie.  He knows that gleam in my eye when I’m quietly scrolling through all the home decor pins means nothing good for him.  He isn’t wrong.

My original plan for the bathroom was white subway tile as far as the eye could see, or in this case, floor to ceiling in a new tub-free standing shower area, paired with a tileable shower pan with a gray hex tile and some beautiful frameless glass doors.  Finish that off with a new white vanity and eco-toilet and call it a day.  I even started a Pinterest board just for the project.

With the contractor hired (About the House LLC of Milford, CT – cannot say enough about how great they are), we were ready to pull the trigger on a massive purchase of white subway tile when Justin said, “Are you sure you want to do white subway tile?”  Well, I thought I was sure.  Those were all the pictures I had pinned, I whined in my head.  It seemed pretty timeless.  Everyone else was jumping off that bridge.

“Are you sure…”

With my designing ego a little bruised, I went back to the Pinterest boards searching.  I didn’t know for what exactly, except that it had to pass the “are you sure” test.  When I am in project mode, I have laser, unrelenting (read: annnnnnooooying) focus.  Ideas fly a mile a minute, emails with links to this and that and how about combining this look with these floor tiles are drafted and sent.  Back before we had the flood that started all of this mess, Justin had once expressed interest in having wood-walled bathroom, like all of those great beach house outside showers.  Real wood wouldn’t work inside, but ceramic tile with wood grain look to it might.  I was off.  We live across the street from the Long Island sound, and because we are in a condo, we can’t have our own outdoor shower oasis, why not recreate that same look and feeling inside.

With those parameters in place, we tried to create a room that captured that “on vacation, just coming back from the beach on a beautiful summer day and standing in that refreshing outdoor shower washing off all the sand” feeling.

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We picked Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue for the walls, which shifts from green to light blue, depending on the lighting, a classic white vanity with a light gray granite counter top (an homage to the kitchen), wood plank ceramic tile from floor to ceiling and instead of a tileable shower pan, a solid white one that had a pebble-like detail etched into the base of it.  The shower door, Allen + Roth, 3/4 inch glass, was an absolute steal from Lowe’s, so much so that I won’t tell you the price so that you can think it was much more expensive than it is.

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Now all that is left is adding some useful accessories.  While it would not have been our top choice for a fall project, I am glad that fate forced our hands to get it done.

-Kate

Before our daughter Audrey was born, I was a bit of a clothing hound. I love finding good deals and cool vintage pieces that no one else has. I’ve never been comfortable spending big $$$ on one item, so I’ve built my current wardrobe with a lot of sale pieces, mixed and matched from Target, Old Navy, JCrew, the Loft, my former go-to, the Talbots outlet and of course, Etsy’s vintage clothing sellers. Just how much did I love my clothes pre-kid? During Hurricane Irene, I evacuated my closet to an interior room of the house for safe keeping.

Something happened after I had Audrey. I found that I was much more interested in getting her all dressed up and less so in making myself look presentable. Whatever I wore to work had to be “nursing and pumping friendly”, which was limiting. It took me a while to move past bulky sweaters and whatever pants didn’t have baby spit up on them. Wrinkled, too? Oh well. I would feel great until I dropped the fabulously dressed Audrey off at daycare and looked down at myself. How was I okay leaving the house looking like this?

It was time to get back into my closet and put in some effort towards how I looked.

Now, for any other nursing/pumping moms out there, we all know that there are “nursing friendly” clothes available. They have odd flaps to be able to pull out what you need. They are made of a mystery stretchy fabric that is supposed to be kind to your postpartum body, but ironically seems to do a better job of highlighting muffin tops. You can buy an arsenal of shelf tank tops that reduce you to an unsupported uniboob. Not a good look.

The most important bit of advice that I would give to any new mom who is going to be nursing and pumping: buy some real, quality bras at a boutique where they fit you for them.

What I have found to work really well is layering. My biggest daily fear from pumping at work is getting walked in on by a coworker (HAHA, just kidding, modesty went out the window after the 3rd hour of pushing). Layering works to keep you warm and most importantly, provides ease of access. Seriously, if your day job is anything like mine, you want to get in, get out and back to your desk before anyone notices you were gone.

Now, onto the outfits:

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This is a pretty basic, go-to outfit for me. I’m wearing a JCrew denim pencil skirt, a Loft top with a Loft short sleeve sweater and of course, my hippie shoes because high heels and carrying a car seat – not happening. What you don’t see in this picture is the Old Navy stretch tank underneath. They are KEY. I buy them in bulk in every color available. They don’t lose their shape during the day and I’ve worn them as maternity tanks to now. I can easily get myself set up for pumping while not exposing my entire post baby stomach.

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I don’t know that I could get my husband on board with this but I believe that you really can’t have enough chambray shirts in different shades of blue. They are so versatile and cute. Here I am wearing a Tommy Hilfiger chambray shirt (a TJ Maxx find), a gold skirt with pockets from the Talbots outlet, a Chewbeads necklace and bracelet, some assorted mixed metal bangles and of course, an Old Navy stretch tank underneath (not pictured). Also not pictured, my other leg. I’m still trying to figure this whole selfie in a mirror thing out.

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This is a vintage orange paisley dress I picked up at the English Building Market in New Haven, CT with a gold belt from the Talbots outlet, a Navy Chewbeads bracelet with my standard assorted metal bangles and not pictured, you guessed it, an Old Navy tank. You might not think a dress could work for pumping unless you are into hiking that sucker up and over your head. However, this dress zippers in the back!

And my last outfit to show you:

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Old Navy stripped pencil skirt (stretchy!) with an Old Navy short sleeve sweater, H&M brown belt with an H&M coral scarf tied to be infinity looking, plus my usual bracelets and a tank.

There you go, ladies! You too can still look stylish while you are doing pumping/nursing!

-Kate

Spring has finally arrived!  My birthday is at the end of March and I cannot remember it being this cold this late in the year ever.  Thankfully, the emergence of some really nice weather in New England, was timed perfectly with my first Mommy night away.

When I met Justin, I didn’t realize that he came with a pretty impressive friend circle.  Luckily, I’ve become close with his girlfriends from college and for the second year in a row, I’ve been invited to join them on their yearly girl’s weekend.  Last year we went to the Norwich Inn and Spa.  I was pretty pregnant, so my fun was limited to a pregnancy massage and a nap.  This year, since no one was expecting, we headed to Long Island, New York to check out their wine trail.

The best way (and most fun) way to get from Connecticut to Long Island is by ferry.

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Who doesn’t love taking a boat?

We were booked for one night at the Cliffside Resort, a beautiful condo complex overlooking the Long Island Sound.  I pulled out google maps to see what part of Connecticut I was looking at from our room and it is directly across from Old Saybrook (former home of Katherine Hepburn).  The brightly colored Adirondack chairs on the lawn must be a lovely spot to watch the sunset, cocktail in hand during the summer time.

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Early April is still the off-season, so we had the place almost exclusively to ourselves.  We can be a bit loud, so this was not a bad thing.

We didn’t spend much time in our hotel room before we headed off to hit the wine trail.  My favorite stop by far was Sparkling Pointe.  They only make sparkling wines.  Yum!

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The ambiance was perfect too.  Perhaps too perfect, because I came home wanting to repaint our entire house the same lovely gray they had on their walls.  I also came home coveting the Michael Kors gold watch, but that is a story for another day.

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Just one of the amazing perks of the weekend was getting to spend time with the amazing, Robyn of A Modest Life.

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If you are in the Boston area and looking for a stylist/personal shopper, you could not possibly do better.  After all the wineries, we had a stopover on the beach for a sunset cocktail, some rock picking and an impromptu photo shoot.

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The next morning came faster than a mommy looking to catch up on oft missed sleep would have wanted, but I was ready to hit the road bright and early, so bright and early in fact, that I managed to catch the sunrise over the water.

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All in all, it was the perfect getaway with the perfect group!

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-Kate

There is an agreement that one has to sign when they decide to pursue adulthood in New England.   It will be very hot in the summertime and it will be a cold, snowy mess in the winter.  If you don’t like it, you are free to move to the promised land, aka San Diego, but otherwise, you kind of just have to shush your mouth and deal.

I’ve got serious ants in my pants for some outside time.  It has been way too long since our beach looked more like this:

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and less like this:

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I’ve tried to think of all the fun, warm weather stuff that is just around the corner and remembered that I never told you about my beautiful sister-in-law’s bridal shower last summer.

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I was the hostess and as such, got full and complete control over decorating.  I LOVE party planning.   Love it.  For Katy’s (that’s my sil) shower, I actually started collecting stuff for decorating months beforehand.  It was like curating an art show, each little piece was thoughtfully selected.  The party was held at our beachfront club house, so I stuck with the beachy chic theme for the event.  I stalked e-bay for beach glass colored tulle and was rewarded with a football fields amount.  I created a Pinterest board just for ideas.   I had visions of sheer curtains floating over the guests heads with beautiful tulle twisting around everything in an ethereal dream scape.  Had I known that the tulle would end up being a total nightmare and the ephemeral feel would turn slightly weird and dangerous because the hand weights we had to hold it in place kept crashing down to where people would be standing later, I would have stepped away from the e-bay auction.  It was a learning moment and in the eleventh hour, we scrapped the sheer overhead curtains for safety’s sake.

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I made sure to incorporate a lot of what I already had on hand so that I could put more of the budget towards the food [and booze].  I busted out my army of blue mason jars and hung starfish from them with twine.   I had bought a ridiculous amount of starfish off of the internet and when they arrived, they completely freaked our dogs, Piper and Neuman, out.  I wasn’t expecting that, so they got several days of freebreeze and fresh air before they came back into the house, the starfish that is, not the dogs.

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I stuck the starfish into my giant Ikea lanterns around tall pillar candles.

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Lemon sugar cookies in the shape of starfish and sailboats with gold sprinkles were baked and packaged up for favors with pretty, beachy colored ribbon and some chocolate kisses.

One of my absolute favorite parts of the party were the floral arrangements.  Thankfully, the party was right smack in the middle of peak hydrangea season.  We had giant clusters of the most beautiful deep purples and blues.  My kitchen looked like a jungle for a few hours while I wrangled everything into containers.  Since our neighbors sometimes pop in here to read this, I feel it is important to mention that no neighborhood hydrangea were hurt in the making of this blog post and/or party.

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I thought it would be a lovely idea to feature pictures from the bride’s childhood on the beautiful stone fireplace in the room.

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I enlisted the help of my mother-in-law and grand-mother-in-law to provide pictures which I then put into frames and put all over the fireplace.  I was also able to incorporate the flowers, lanterns, and that silly tulle and some of the living dead starfish too.

After:

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It was a rainy night outside, but inside it turned into a great evening celebrating the marriage of my amazing sister in law.

I have a feeling that before we know it, the beach will be back to looking like this again too.

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I can’t wait!

-Kate

Tweak Tweak

You know how you should never tempt fate without knocking wood?   Saying that I thought we were just about done with the dining room, well, that was just silly on my part.   From here on out, I will accept that the house is always evolving and changing with us.

So, when last we spoke, Justin and I were lovingly debating whether the back wall in the dinning room needed anything else.

I smugly said no.  I was wrong.

Joann Fabrics was having an excellent sale this past weekend and I was there picking up fabric for a side project I will soon be sharing with you.  Justin and Audrey came with me and when I let Justin out of my sight for a few minutes, he came back with a literal arm load of picture frames, all 1/2 off.  That man of mine sure can spot a bargain!

 

So much for the bead and batten board.  I have to say though, I think I like this better.

-Kate

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