home tour: part iii, the great outdoors

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hello and happy Thursday to you!

I'm finally getting around to posting little snippets of our new house.  Today I'm showing off our outdoor living areas out back!  (We also have a front porch but that's a post for another day.)

When we bought this piece of lakefront property, we knew it would be essential to have plenty of deck and patio areas so we could really enjoy it.  I think we definitely accomplished that.  So much so that figuring out a furniture arrangement (and actually getting furniture that doesn't break the bank) is proving to be a challenge.  But here's where it stands right now!

The upper deck is 12' wide and approximately 60' long.  We splurged on composite decking and I'm here to tell you: it's worth every penny.  We walk around barefoot out here with no worries of splinters or rough boards.  It's nice.

The vaulted windows above are in the living room and the door at the far end leads into our master bedroom.

The view of the other direction shows our (too small) dining table and grill.  We have been doing a ton of grilling and it's so nice to throw something on the grill and sit out here and enjoy time together.  The windows in this direction are all in the kitchen.

We love hanging out in these chairs after S2 is in bed, so the patio heater comes in handy on chillier nights!

Obviously this furniture and placement is what we've put out here for the short-term, but we have goals to really get this deck to be a functional space this summer.  It might take all summer to get it there, but we'll do it!

Here are the plans:

The grill will stay where it is, S1 is going to DIY an outdoor dining table, we'll add a couple of adirondack chairs, and we'll DIY a sectional.  Add a few plants and I think we'll have a fun space!

While we're out back, let's take a look at the lower patio (which we've done absolutely nothing to at this point, but we'll get there eventually).

The stairs from the deck down to the patio have riser lights which is fantastic at night.

The area down here is really pretty with the stone and cedar columns and the brick that we splurged on (it's an oversized style which added some $$, but well worth it).  I don't have a definitive direction down here but I know I want some swings, a hammock and lots of seating and play space for S2.

The garage doors leads into S1's tool bench area and just general basement-type storage.  The bikes are in here.  The lawn mower would be in here if it hadn't bit the dust, etc.

Right now the view includes lots of red dirt, but our landscaper started this week (hallelujah), so it won't be red dirt for much longer.

The flat area below is where S2's swingset will be.  The landscaping/yard is a whole post by itself, which I will be sure to share as soon as we have grass! :)

I can't wait to share more as we work on our outdoor areas!

home tour: part ii, the master

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hello and happy Wednesday to you!  I'm back with a long overdue continuation of our new home tour!  Today I'm focusing on our master bedroom, bathroom and closet.

I haven't done any decorating in here other than hanging the curtains and shades.  We have all the same furniture that was in our last house, although I've been on the hunt for an upholstered headboard   to replace the square lines of this one.  Although truth be told, I do love this bed and it's very craftsman which fits with the style of our house, but I prefer a little bit of a softer look in the bedroom.

This door leads out to the deck.  The curtains are on a track system so they close by pulling a string over on the right side.  They were the biggest splurge decorating-wise that we've made on this house so far, from Regal Drapes, fabric name is Serenity.

Wall color: PPG "Blue By You"

One thing I will mention about building a house is just how many decisions have to be made.  Take the below photo of the entrance to our bathroom for example... The silhouette of the crown molding?  Decision.  The trim around the doors and windows?  Decision.  The size of the can lights?  Decision.  Placement of the alarm system keypad?  Decision.  Exact locations of every single outlet and switch? Decisions, decisions, decisions. :)

All good and fun decisions, mind you, but toward the end it's almost like I don't even care, just put it wherever you think is best. :)

We spend a lot of time in the master bathroom, so function was a number one priority for me.  There are still some things I want to add to make it work even better for us (a vanity stool and a clock between the mirrors, to name two), but I'm pretty darn happy with the way it turned out.

cabinets: hargenrader custom woodcraft // faucets: delta cassidy in venetian bronze // mirrors: local flea market (see them in our last house here) // sconces: lightingdirect.com // wall color: PPG "Sky Diving"

tile: florida tile "tides" in sea salt

shower enclosure, towel bars and robe hook: lake norman glass and custom closets

shower heads: delta (but I'm sorry - I don't remember which style!)

toilet: american standard // sidenote here: before I had made a single decision about anything in the house, I knew I wanted skirted toilets.  In fact, we bought all of our toilets before we even broke ground!  They were on sale at Lowe's and I forget the circumstances but I think they were being discontinued?  At any rate, we had 5 toilets sitting in S1's uncle's basement for 6 months or so - ha!  One is still sitting in the box downstairs for the future half bath down there.  The idea of all our toilets not matching made me a little twitchy, hence the purchase of the extra toilet with no immediate plans to use it.  If you click on the product link up there, you can see the toilet from the side - no "exposed" pipes to dust.  My heart is full. :)

Between the shower and toilet is the entrance to our closet.  One of the builders we met with tried to talk us out of pocket doors, but there was no talking me out of them.  I puffy heart pocket doors, always have.

closet system: lake norman glass and custom closets

Originally, we had planned to have an island in the closet, but in the end, there wasn't really enough space for one so we had to compromise with the shoe shelves in front of the window.  Ideally, there wouldn't be this large of a window in a closet, but it's on the front of the house, so there was really no getting around it, for the sake of the exterior elevation.  It is nice to have some natural light in here though.

Sorry, I didn't really "stage" the closet - this is how it always looks (albeit fewer pairs of jeans strewn on the floor).

Getting the entire vanity in a photo is nearly impossible.  I stood on the back of the tub to get this one!  I almost forgot - our granite color is andino white.

Looking at the photo above, it reminds me of the funny things I was fairly insistent on and the things I couldn't really care less about.  I knew I wanted: skirted toilets, 5 panel doors, square molding and a farmhouse sink in the kitchen.  Things I didn't give much thought: the appliances (S1 picked them out), the wood flooring (we went with what the builder had quoted and just put a coat of semi-gloss poly on it - no stain), closet systems (hindsight: I should have informed the installers that I'm short because I can't quite reach the upper bar in most of the closets).

I still have lots of spaces to show you guys.  Soon, I promise!


Monday, April 11, 2016

The week before last, we went up north to visit my brother, who lives in Connecticut, a short train ride from NYC.  I didn't bring my "good" camera so the following shots are the best I got with my phone but I just love them.

S2 was such a trooper (most of the time), and we had a great (short!) trip.

I love hearing her say "Uncle Jamey."  It's so cute.

It was kinda chilly and rainy while we were there, so we came prepared with rain jackets.  S2 lost this one somewhere (I think at the train station) on the second day, which was a major bummer!  Especially because she has matching rain boots and now no jacket to match them.  Sad.

Grand Central Station is a favorite of mine.  I just love the history and the ceiling and the moldings and the lighting and the clock and the stairs and basically everything.

We got a new stroller for the trip because our other one is really too large to fit in the car with all the luggage too (yes, we drove! yes, we're crazy!) and I have to say that this one is a winner.  It's the Summer Infant 3D Lite Convenience stroller.  S2 actually enjoyed sitting in it which, if you know our girl, is a small miracle.

There's that lighting and those moldings!

I knew when planning the trip that we needed to do something that would entertain our girl and hopefully wear her out so she would take a nap while we were doing other things.  I have to say that the Children's Museum of Manhattan fit the bill perfectly!  It's 5 stories of all kinds of fun things, but driving in all the vehicles was her favorite...

Those are just the three I got pictures of!  There were at least 4 or 5 more that she had to try out too.

When she wasn't driving, she was sliding down a big tongue approximately 1,283 times.

Or trying to climb in things that weren't really meant to be climbed into.

After we left the museum and strapped her back into her stroller, it took about 5 minutes before she was passed out.  Luckily, it turned out to be a pretty nice afternoon, so we ended up walking through Central Park.  We won't talk about the two times we got lost and couldn't find our way out.  It was fun nonetheless.

After Central Park, we rode the subway down to Times Square, and took a minute to have a snack. :)

We had dinner in Times Square, then caught the train back to our hotel.  It was a long day and we were all exhausted!

The next morning, we went to the 9/11 Memorial.  It was a sobering experience and one I won't soon forget.  About halfway through the exhibits, I had to stop reading the plaques and descriptions because it was just too much.  I'll never forget where I was when I heard (11th grade Spanish class with SeƱor Richardson) and it was good to finally get to visit the memorial.  My friends and I took a trip to NYC in 2007 and visited Ground Zero, and I remember it was all roped off still and there was really nothing in its place.  Crazy.

Going back to S2's lost raincoat, she got a replacement from BabyGap (this one for 40% off) and it's too too cute.  I'm a sucker for a baby in a yellow rain slicker. :)

So that's pretty much our trip in a nutshell.  It's getting a little bit easier to travel with her but I can't wait until she's a little older and we can do even more fun things.

building a mix-n-match (capsule) wardrobe for kids.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I have a different kind of post for you today, woo hoo!

It's the time of year when I start thinking about summer, and more specifically, summer clothes.  Since S2 can't wear anything that she wore last summer (those darn kids and their growing!), she'll have to get a whole new wardrobe, and it has to be budget-friendly.

When I was doing some online shopping for her recently, it dawned on me that I have a very deliberate mindset when it comes to kids clothes.  With each piece of clothing I come across, I ask myself three things:

1) Does this fit in my budget?
2) Is this piece versatile?
3) Is this piece practical?

Only you can answer the budget question.  For me, I don't spend more than $10 on a single item.  That tends to vary though - I wouldn't spend more than $6 on a "basic," and I'll spend as much as $20-$25 on a dress.  In general though, most of her clothes fall in the $10 range.

As far as versatility, we'll get to that in a minute.

For the practicality question, that will depend on your lifestyle, whether your child is in daycare, school, stays at home, how rough they are on clothes, etc.  S2 is in daycare, so I shop with daycare in mind, which means she wears almost exclusively separates.  You won't see any dresses or rompers in this post because they aren't practical.  Now, that's not to say that she doesn't have plenty of dresses and she's been known to sport a romper or two, but generally, those aren't things that I buy for her - she has grandparents, aunts and uncles who love to buy girl clothes (thankfully), so she's not deprived of "girly" things by any means.

Asking myself these three questions leads to what I call a mix-n-match wardrobe.  Have you heard the term capsule wardrobe?  It's all the rage in women's fashion.  This is pretty much like that, but I'm terming it "mix-n-match" because I think that more accurately describes the process for kids.

All of the items below are things that I've recently purchased for S2, with the exception of the white/gold pants and the shoes.  This isn't meant to portray an entire wardrobe for your child, but rather the process behind choosing articles of clothing and how they all fit together to create a comprehensive wardrobe.  That being said, I created 14 outfits from 13 articles of clothing and there are many more combinations than that!  Also, boy moms, this process totally applies to you as well, but since I have a girl, this post features girl clothes.

So, here are the 4 rules for building a mix-n-match wardrobe for your child:

Okay, let's talk about Rule #1 for a second.  This goes back to my 2nd question, above.  Don't buy a pair of flowery shorts that only matches that one coral tank top.  Your child will not get enough use out of said pair of flowery shorts to justify the purchase.  Each item that you bring into your home should be multipurpose.  A good rule of thumb is that for every flowery pair of shorts you buy, your child should have 3 tops to wear with them.

Onto Rule #2.  It would be easy to buy a bunch of cheap, solid-colored tees or tanks but then your child's wardrobe would be so basic and lack the cute factor.  So, when you're out shopping, look for what makes a piece special.  Sure, it's a navy blue t-shirt, but that white bow at the collar takes it up a notch.  See what I mean...

I think Rule #3 speaks for itself - solids and neutrals go a long way to making a wardrobe mix-n-match.

BUT, the counterpoint to Rule #3 is Rule #4 - mix in a few prints!  An ideal solid-to-print ratio is roughly 75-25.  You need those few special pieces to mix in to make a wardrobe interesting.  The caveat to this is, remember Rule #1 when choosing prints - don't forget that each piece has to have 3 items that match it.

Okay, now that you know the rules, let's get to mixing and matching!  We're working with 7 tops and 6 bottoms, but like I mentioned previously, I chose these items just to illustrate the process, and they do not necessarily represent an entire wardrobe.  Also, note that I'm focusing on summer clothes, but it's the same idea for winter!

1 // 2 // 3 // 4
5 // 6 // 7
8 // 9 // 10
11 // 12 // 13

I mentioned that these are all items that I've recently bought for S2.  (Except the white/gold pants which I included to illustrate another print, but do not fit my practicality question - they are WHITE and S2's playground at school is RED DIRT. Need I say more?)  In case you didn't click on the product links, they are all from Carter's/Osh Kosh.

I don't shop Carter's/Osh Kosh frequently because there's not a brick-and-mortar store near me, which makes returns more cumbersome.  However, the deals were worth it and I didn't expect needing to return anything this time so I went for it.  I got the above 12 items for about $116, but also qualified for $20 in Rewards to be used on a future purchase of any amount, i.e. no minimum $ amount, and 3% cash back through Top Cash Back.   So, while $116 was a lot for me, if you take into account that I got $3.50 cash back and $20 in rewards, the average price per item was only $7.70.  This also included a 25% off $40 or more promotion.  The MSRP for all the items totaled to $244, or an average of $20 per piece.  I include that last piece of info about the MSRP for your reference but take it with a grain of salt.  Retailers can list their MSRP at whatever they want, but when do you ever see an item at Carter's or Osh Kosh that isn't below a big 30% off sign?  Noticing the MSRP is a tricky proposition because it makes you think you're getting a great deal, but if you're still paying $10 for a t-shirt, even if it's 50% off, that's not a great deal.

As you can probably tell from the above analysis, I do not buy anything at full price (does anyone?), so I wait until there's a good sale or a lot of items on clearance or extra cash back on Top Cash Back or Ebates, or some kind of special promotion that makes me click over from my e-mail to the site.  Speaking of which, the best deals on kids clothes are online.  For example, Old Navy and OldNavy.com are run as separate entities - Old Navy will not honor a sale that OldNavy.com is running, and OldNavy.com almost always has a 40% off entire purchase sale, which is hard to find in the store.  AND if you spend $50+, you get free shipping.  So, I'll add things to my online cart every now and then, and when there's a 40% off sale AND I have more than $50 of merchandise in my cart, that's when I'll make the purchase.

Okay, now that you have a little insight into the budget side of things, let's get to outfit-making!

Each article of clothing has its own number, so refer to the links above if you want to shop any of the items.

So that's it, an easy, budget-friendly mix-n-match kids wardrobe.  13 pieces, 14 outfits, and DONE.

I would love to hear your thoughts on shopping for kids!  Is budget your main concern?  Or maybe cuteness?  Quality?  Are you brand loyal or will you shop wherever there's a deal?