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Showing posts from August, 2013

The Case of the Stripes

Let it never be said that my kids are not creatively dressed when they leave the house. This one enjoys stripes.

Instagram Exhibit Gets an Update

I'm totally addicted to Instagram. Last fall, I sent for prints on a bunch of my favorites and hung them on the wall clothes-line style. It was DIY cool and I liked it. I mentioned it here.

But once I painted the dining room, I wanted to try something new. I had found this grey felt bulletin board at the Crate & Barrel outlet months ago (choosing it because it was eventually going to match the grey walls). So I lined a few of the pictures on this, instead.

Same idea of temporary exhibit that I can change out anytime. But with a little more sophistication.

Jessica's Day of Unemployment

Yesterday I celebrated a milestone -- my last day at a job I've held since first moving to Illinois. Overall, it was a great experience and they were generous to give me a summer of part-time hours. We had a great summer.

But, I got a new job. One that I hope will be more fulfilling and able to keep a better work-life balance. And it starts on Monday.

So today, is my one and only day of unemployment.

I packed the kids off to school and pondered what to do. I had two options: Indulge in all my vices like reading, binge watching TV shows, playing in the garden. Or, Option 2: Run errands, tackle to-do lists and generally get some things done.

Oh ... how I wish I was the type to be able to take Option 1. But I'm not. So errands it was.

Here's a few things I accomplished.

1. Replace my New Jersey drivers license with one from Illinois. I've lived here for nearly two years, so it's well-past time. I rocked the quiz, so mission accomplished. And a much better picture.


Back to School

This week was the first week back to school for my girls. 
They were both pretty excited to meet the teachers and start a new schedule. With my new job starting next week, I'm also looking forward to a little more structure in our lives. Happy but busy week getting everything where they needed to be. 

Going Chevron

To continue the cool/energetic/modern chevron theme I've got going in the dining room, I found grey chevron contact paper on Amazon not too long ago. I wasn't sure where I'd use it, but I knew I'd find multiple uses.

And I did.

I had two pine magazine boxes I snagged at Ikea sitting around. So, one afternoon, I covered them with the contact paper. In about 20 minutes.

I thought they came out pretty well.

More chevron-ed project to come, don't worry.

The Slanted Wall - Taking Suggestions

Now that I've done the dining room/sitting room all gray, I'm now obsessing over this slanted wall. It divides the sitting room with the foyer.

Should it be:
-- Gray, so it belongs to the sitting room?
-- White, so it belongs to the foyer which will eventually be white?
-- Navy Blue, which is the official "accent wall color" on this floor?


New Pillows With a Flap

Bobbi, my brother's crafty girlfriend, showed me how to make throw pillows with a little flap in the back last time she came to visit.

Putting together the pillow this way saves you from the dreaded whip stitch at the end -- and makes it easy to toss the cover in the wash when the kids decide to eat snacks on them. She is brilliant.
Of course, I had to try the new technique for myself soon after.

I mentioned before that I got the salvage end of a yard of this ADORABLE fabric at the Loomcraft outlet and lobbied for a cheep price because it was dirty (as if it was dragged through the warehouse a few times.) She gave it to me for $3.50/yard! Makes the cutest pillow, no?

I love learning new stuff!

The Wrong Chair

You guys, this one is the wrong chair.

With my dining room looking so lovely, I'm getting motivated to settle on some perfect chairs. The table was a total steal at Restoration Outlet, and is so pretty, but it's not useful unless I have chairs.

Do I go with a steel chair? Painted wood? Stay with white? Find upholstered?

The Restoration Outlet didn't have dining chairs that appealed to us or were priced just too high. So I've been on the hunt.

I found these white steel chairs on Amazon and they looked perfect. They're called "Stella" and the description mentioned they are "classic French bistro chairs." Ohlala!! 
I ordered one to test ... and I'm sad to say: it's the wrong chair. 
Perfect color, great style, pretty comfy but way too low for the table. (Is the table higher than usual? Or are the chairs low?)

So I am going to send it back (though, I wish I could find an excuse to keep it) and will continue the hunt. 

Related posts:

Read more…

Starting New in September

With the new school year underway and a new full-time job for me starting at the end of the month, I'm beginning to think of new schedules and strategies.

I know, I know ... you think, what do I have to improve on? But life isn't perfect in Illinois and there is a lot of refinements that need to be made.

There are two, in particular, that I'm focused on.

1. Our morning routine is a mess. I did it sorta on purpose, as it's the summer and my schedule was flexible, no school bus runs and only a loosy-goosey camp schedule to keep. Because of this, the kids head to camp with unbrushed hair, outfits that don't match ... and they don't so much "walk" out of the door as pushed and prodded -- with me running in several times to reclaim something forgotten in the haste.

No more!

The school year means more routine. I got a "Star Chart" for morning and evening routines -- to help remind all of us (me included) to brush hair in the morning, brush teeth a…

5 Reasons to Love Autumn

As much as I love summer, and I absolutely do, there are a few things that happen in the fall that eases re-entry into cold, chilly and awful weather. And since I'm into making lists lately, I'll give you a top 5 list. (You're welcome!)

1. Back to school - the return to a more regular schedule. Especially this summer, because I only worked part time. Not that I'm complaining, but it all felt a bit surreal. I'm back to full time this fall and so are the kids. And in our neck of the woods, school starts in late August. We're ready to roll. 
2. School supply shopping. I have fond memories of all the supplies my Mom would buy, especially when all five of us were in school. I remember the smells of new paper and delights of choosing my supplies -- fueling my optimism for the year ahead. I get the same feeling when picking through folders and #2 pencils for my second-grader. Happy new beginnings. 
3. School clothes shopping. Because I'll take any reason to shop and …

I Love You Amazon!

I'm often reminded of how much I can't live without my account. It's every working mom's best friend.

It's because of my account, and Prime subscriptions, that I only need a monthly trip, if that, to Target. Less errands makes me a happy Mom.

I've got subscription services set up for paper towels, laundry soap and dish washer liquid. And I buy them in bulk, so I only have to think about it every few months.

I have a bunch of wish lists created for new books and stuff that catches my eye, to look at later. And a list of Holiday Gifts -- which is especially helpful when the kids find a toy they MUST HAVE. I scan the barcode into my Amazon iPhone app and the toy is added to their list. Works every time! (I'll decide later if I'll really buy it.)

The two-day free shipping through Prime insures that gifts get where they need to go quickly -- like on time for my nieces birthday or that I get snorkels delivered the day before our trip to Aruba. 

The Finished Gray Living Room

Here's the "After" pictures of our gray living room (or sitting room, whatever you want to call it). It now matches brilliantly with dining room. Hooray!

We spent some time last night arranging the album covers and considering adding a row on top. I haven't a clue how I'll decorate over the long sofa with those two awkward windows -- but I'll have fun testing things out.

What do you think?

Related Post:
See Before pictures of the living room

Happy and Warm Aruba Pictures

This evening I'm reviewing the pictures we took while on our Aruba vacation. We only ventured out with the camera a few times, being too concerned with it in hot, sandy, wet, humid weather, to keep it out with us all the time.

Our strategy is, we pick three or four venues during the week, drag the camera bag down and take turns snapping artsy-fartsy photos of the girls. There are over 400 total pics!

Overall, the pictures seem to prove that Aruba is indeed "One Happy Island," as their motto suggests.

Because this trip includes my in-laws, I'll set out to create a little photo book of everyone together to send to my mother-in-law as a memento. So, that's my next task. Wish me luck!

Living Room Goes Gray, Too

This weekend it was the living room's* turn to go gray. But since I had Friday off, I decided to (uncharacteristically) get it done early.

This room was super easy, compared to the adjoining dining room. It's just two walls, with two small windows to work around. Within 6 hours I had the first and second coats complete, and was cleaning up.

Motivated mostly by putting all the paint supplies away-away, and by not ruining a perfectly lovely weekend with the task, I overcame my minor summer-cold (sniffle, sniffle) symptoms and got to work.

Only one week left before we're all in full-time work/school schedules and my glorious project time is whittled down to precious weekends.

This concludes my summer wall-painting projects. There are other painting tasks on my list, but not walls... Although, I'm now considering adding a navy accent wall in this part of the house. Hmm... 
*Brief Aside: What do people call this room? Is "living room" appropriate? "Sitting r…

So Long Summer?!

With our fall soccer season starting this week and school underway next Wednesday -- I can't believe the summer is coming to an end. I was school supply shopping this morning, for pete's sake!

I'm not ready to say good bye to this fantastic summer. Working part-time this summer (first part time hours ever!) has given me so much extra time with the kiddos and to tackle projects in the house and in the backyard. And to keep up with this blog.

The weather has been good and we've done a lot of fun activities -- exploring more of this new state we're still not completely used to.

Fall, already? No way.

Dining Room - Pretty in Gray

I ended up finishing the dining room around noon today and I'm pretty pleased with the results. No spills on the carpet -- so my worst fears were not realized -- and not too many mistakes on the trim. And the color is very warm and classy. The curtains and white furniture look especially nice.

I'm mostly pleased I have another room ticked off my "Kill the Beige" list, which continues to be my overall motivation to paint. But, of course, there's more work to be done. The columns, which I painted white a few weeks ago, need to be finished and the window ledge needs a fresh coat of white.

Then there's the sitting room, connected to this dining room, that needs the gray treatment. I hope to tackle it over the weekend, since I have all the tools out and handy. I'm also thinking about bringing in a navy blue accent wall on this side of the room. Exciting!

See the high, square windows in these rooms? What would you think of small, chevron valences along the top?…

The Dining Room Goes Gray

This weekend I decided, almost reluctantly, to paint the dining room.

Months ago, I painted three different colors in big swaths (see here). And I finally decided I've been looking at them for TOO long. It was time to act.

For those following along at home, I'm going with Benjamin Moore's "Ozark Shadows" but got it in a Behr paint-and-primer eggshell -- to continue with the theme of testing out every brand of paint.

As this is my, oh I don't know, NINTH room that I'm painting, I'm pretty confident in my ability. I'm finding my thoughts follow a similar path. (1. excitement. 2. Why didn't a hire someone?! 3. This is going to look awesome! 4. Do I really like this color? 5. I love it. 6. This is fun. 7. I love love love this. Then, I'm done.)

There are a few unique challenges in the dining room:

The ceilings are super tall. So a ladder, and the setting aside of my fear of heights, is necessary.The 8-foot dining table, buffet and liquor cabine…

With a Little Distance...

With a week spent away from home and work -- and all the hectic day-to-day minutia, I'm coming home with some BIG IDEAS! The kind of ideas normally called "Resolutions" -- for pete's sake.

This isn't unusual. I come home with this renewed vigor to start fresh. My house looks different. I have a clearer view of what I want to accomplish. New priorities and a better sense of direction. I'm inspired. Ready to start.

To be honest, this good feeling doesn't last very long. This new beginning feeling of awe is replaced, or stamped out, by the normal daily tasks and there's no point to fight against that tide. But before that clarity is all gone, I'm on a mission TODAY.

Aruba and Island Living

Just spent the last week in the lovely island of Aruba.

This is the second time we were invited with a large group -- my husband's side -- to hang out and we've had a pretty good time both years.

This trip, the kids are 7 and 4, so there was less life-guarding at the pool and beach. My two nieces were there, so the four girls filled the resort with squeals and giggles for 7 days.

We made some great restaurant choices, too, so the meals were outstanding. Lots of fresh fish for the adults while the girls lived on child's-sized pasta for dinner -- which is better than the fried food every night.

Overall, a hectic but fun week. Someday, we'll actually get to relax on beach vacations. Someday....

When we arrived home last night, we found a very clean house, thanks to the cleaning service who came during the week, and the driveway freshly seal-coated. My Mom has always been a champion of "coming home to a clean house" but this took that to a whole other level. It …

Taking Summer for Granted

Sadly, I'm getting to the point in the summer where I'm taking for granted how warm and lovely it is outside.

In the Spring, I danced a jig every morning I didn't have to pull on coats, hats and mittens on the kids.

Now, it's August and I just wander outside (shoes optional) without thinking about the cold weather that just a few weeks away.

Aww ... summer.

MY Late Night Talk Show

I don't often stay up late. I am not a night owl ... and never was. But occasionally I catch a late night talk show and I hate them. And then I fall asleep.

If I ever get a job running my own late night talk show (which could happen) I will obliterate the format. That first 20 minutes of the host telling bad jokes? Gone.

The Late Night with Jessica Show starts with the guest.

In the first five minutes -- before the first commercial break, even -- out comes my first movie-star guest. I will ask smart questions and allow the person ample time to speak, trying not to rudely interrupt. I will show a much longer clip of the movie/show he/she is promoting and talk about the other actors in the film, the story or the director. I'm not James Lipton, but I would certainly like to hear the guests talk for more than 4 minutes, especially after sitting through 20 minutes of commercials and a horribly bad monologue. What's the point? I'm half asleep, anyway.

Later, I might set up …

The Grass Plan

There's a spot in my landscaping that is completely weeded over. It stretches between two rows of trees and I assume the original landscaper has some grand plan for the area but the plantings either failed or lost out to the weeds.

It's in the back of the lot and I've come up with a plan for it. Simply: Grass.

I could add some shrubs and mulch, but that's costly and there's already too much mulch area in the backyard to maintain. And adding grass makes the space useful for the kids -- for hiding and making forts, no doubt.

Because it's August, there's not much I can do with it. But come early September and I'm going to cover the area with heavy layer of newspaper to kill the weeds. Then, I'll add dirt over it and sod (or grass seed, if I'm feeling pinched for cash). The newspaper will eventually compost and feed the grass and hopefully keep some of the weeds from coming back.

That's my grand plan, anyway. In the meantime, save your newspaper…

Summer Sidewalk Masterpieces

I'm practically a professional sidewalk chalk artist. Can I put that on my resume?

Top 10 Reason to Start Holiday Shopping in August

It's July, so of course I'm starting to think about the holidays.

Yes. The holidays.

I've found that starting early really makes a difference when December madness hits. How, you ask? Well...

Here's my TOP 10 Reasons to start buying holiday gifts in August:

1. My Thinking is Clearer. By the time November rolls around my mind is cluttered with planning, travel, last minute ideas and holiday cards. This is on top of the normally insane family-stuff. So, do I really need another stresser?

2. The malls are Way-Less Crowded. And you're likely looking for an indoor activity to do on really HOT day, anyway. Take your time and peruse the racks -- no one else is holiday gift shopping.

3. Sales. There are great sales on bright, colorful, summery things. And the back-to-school stuff is always an easy win for kids (box of crayons!). Think about it, it's the end of Q3 and stores want to move stuff to bring in new Fall/Winter/Holiday stuff. Take advantage.

4. More Money in the B…