Vintage carnival playroom

When we were looking for our new house, one of our "musts" was either a finished basement or a lower price tag that would allow us to finish the basement in the new house. We ended up with the latter.
 coming down the stairs
bottom of the stairs, looking towards the kid's side

Finding someone to do the work was a lot harder than we expected. The bids were either out of our price range or the contractors did not want to do the project because it was too small of a job. We finally had a choice to make: Wait until we had more money after tax time or turn to Craigslist. If you know us, we don't "wait" well. So, Craiglist it was.

2 months later, it is finished. There were definitely several bumps along the way and a lot of the work was not up to our expectations, but we decided to just pay the man the (very low) price and send him on his way before he "completed" anything else. Along with Matt's dad, we finished the rest ourselves.

You know I love to decorate and having a coherent room theme helps me pull it all together. I wanted a gender-neutral scheme that was inspired by one of Larkyn's very favorite things: carousels. I branched out, including all kinds of carnival elements.

Like the rest of the house, I either ordered all items from Etsy or bought them at Michael's. There is a lot of blank space, leaving room for a lot more toys, more framed art (I have several photos of her on a carousel), a TV, maybe a small sofa, and a fun little space under the stairs. But for now, the kids are having fun on the carpet and playing with toys they haven't seen in a long time.

 After: Standing at the bottom of the stairs. The & sign is where the kitchen pipe was showing. The paint color is Copen Blue from Sherwin Williams (which I love).

 I put a tension rod for Larkyn's dress-up clothes (Santa is bringing more). Matt and Grandpa are going to build built-in shelving above the rod.

 Now I am standing by the dress-up clothes looking toward the area where you saw the furnace in the first photo. The door will be painted white. And to the far left, you see the area under the stairs. Right now, it is going to house toy rotation bins, but I want to make it a reading spot or playhouse.

 My two favorite items: The Vintage Carnival bunting is from Sugar Owl design on etsy. The ampersand sign is from Michael's and is battery powered. We know a TV will go on the wall one day, so we have an outlet ready.

 I made this sign with a white opaque marker on black foam board.

 Finally, a place for Larkyn's art!  I just strung a piece of twine onto the nails under each frame. The prints are from PaperPatchPrints.

 We reused this cube storage unit from our living room at the old house, replacing the black bins with muted yellow ones from Target (Circo). The carousel photo is from Libertad Leal.

 These are the craziest sized prints. I had my choice of 8x10 or 8x12 (true digital size). When I sized up for free, I didn't know 8x12 frames are about 3x more expensive than standard. Eventually, I'll Mod Podge them onto 2 canvases. I still love them though, from Carolyn Cochrane on etsy.

 Above the little table are 5x7 prints from The Vintage Remix. They are sold as tags, but she sized them up for me and I printed at Office Depot for about a dollar!  I email them my files and then just go pick them convenient.

The other side of the basement is Matt's mancave. It is not quite photo-ready, but with the playroom, adds 1/3 more living space to our house. I am so happy with the way it all turned out!

Thanksgiving + Black Friday

I always want to host Thanksgiving. It is not easy getting the house cleaned and doing a little food prep with the kids, but I have figured it out. Kind of.I started doing a lot of delegating and letting others bring as much food as they want!  This year, I only did the desserts (much more simplified than last year's cute but time intense individual servings!) and corn casserole...
The dutch apple pie was a so-so recipe from ("best ever" was a stretch) and the trifle is from here, only I used spice cake and added chopped pecans and liked it more than last year.

The kids got to play in the playroom, and then after that, I totally forgot to take pictures!  The rest of the night consisted of watching football, looking through Black Friday ads, and watching the kids go nuts. And of course, drinking Trader Joe's cider (you haven't had cider til you've had theirs). Word to the wise...mix it with spiced rum and top with whipped cream and caramel.

I arranged for my mother in law to come watch the kids this morning while I did a little Black Friday shopping. I have learned that if you avoid the early crowds (go after 7 AM), it really isn't too bad. I went with a list of things I wanted for the kids and only bought them if they were on sale. Here are some of my favorite deals...

$63.99 down from 79.99

$62.00 down from 83.99

$19.99 down from 39.99

$15 down from 24.99

$5 tees and fleeces, 50% off everything else

$19.99 down from 39.99

$10 (yes, I did buy one thing for me, but it was totally practical:)
Hope you and your families had a great Thanksgiving and that you got a head start on shopping. We have one less week this year until Christmas!

Christmas, party of 4

I absolutely love Christmas shopping. Ever since the says of going through the Lazarus Secret Santa Shop where kids could walk through with an employee to pick our parent presents from an assortment of delightfully tacky paperweights and mugs.

I probably won't get to actually shop on Black Friday, but I'd at least like to be ready with ideas for online shopping. Now that Larkyn has opinions about everything, I thought I'd get a feel for what she'd like from Santa this year...
"What kind of toys do you want Santa to bring you on Christmas?"
"red ones"
"No, like what are the names of the toys you like? What do you like at preschool?"
"The table with snacks on it"

So...I think it is up to Santa to decide what she is getting again this year. There are a few things she needs:

Brown Mary Janes and/or Black Mary Janes (we have had these twice and they are the BEST!)

More jegging/leggings, generally anything that fits perfectly with ZERO stiffness (jeans), loose fabric (sweatpants or yoga pants). Yes, this is a major issue.

a few more colors of solid color hairbows 

Something "big" to entertain her over the winter months:
-a doll house (which, I have come to the conclusion that I am so indecisive about this topic that I am going to go have to see them in person)

And a few of her faves we just have to throw in:
-a stocking full of fruit snacks and MMs
-more pretend food, probably from Cracker Barrel, who has the cutest selection!
-Play Doh and a simple tool set (NOT the asinine contraptions that break after 3.4 seconds)

Sweet little Rhys has lived without many toys and been fine with it. We honestly have every "must have" baby toy already from Larkyn's baby days. I really hate buying noisy hunks of plastic, so avoiding that will be a challenge.  But he does have a few needs...

More Carter's fleece PJs and long sleeve bodysuits. There are never enough of those.

More socks (where do they go!?)
"boy" books or just non-girly books

As for something he'd have fun with, it is hard to tell with an 8 month old:
-He likes the wheels on Larkyn's stroller, so possibly things with wheels
-He is not really interested in things that are battery-powered with lights and music
-He likes to go through toy baskets and just touch, chew, and explore all the random things in there. Maybe some sensory bins?

In his first stocking, he'd love:
-graham crackers
-Lil' bits cereal
-fruit and veggie pouches

Obviously, I can't write about gift ideas for Matt on here. I know he'd be happy if I just put cash in his stocking and there were no surprises, but that's not happening!

And me?  Oh I could easily name a million things every year. With the new house, there are so many things I actually do need!

winter hat...there are so many cute ones from The North Face, but I think the Bigsby is my favorite:

more white gallery frames to match ours for updated photos
plain photo albums to catch up with pics since Rhys was born

some sort of lamp(s) for our bedroom (I am in love with these but hope they go on sale! $$!)
a clock since we don't have the time on our cable box anymore
medium antique bronze pocketwatch clock
And not necessarily things I "need", but fun nonetheless, right?

a haircut is a little like a vacation these days

I could walk into Francesca's and buy it all. These are some of my current obsessions...
 hello, rose quartz pendant
and hi there, Letica Oval

I'd love some good baby boy gift ideas (and grown man ideas, while you're at it:) Hope you have fun Christmas shopping this year!

8 months old!

Just like that, my baby is 3/4 of a year old. It doesn't seem like that is possible. He is still just as snuggly, smiley, and wide-eyed. He still makes people stop mid-conversation to talk to him instead of me (which is OK I guess:)

New skills?
Rhys is on the move and loves pulling himself into the kitchen. It is time to keep the floor a lot cleaner and baby-proof everything! He sits up pretty well and loves feeding himself with his hands (he tries the spoon himself, but usually gags)

Hungry man...
He reaches out to grab everything we eat, and sometimes he just finds something he loves. Recently, it has been a cob of corn, a toasted bagel, and yogurt. We tried eggs, but he just spits them out. I am trying to make sure he has a REALLY full belly so that he will sleep better.

What's up with the sleep?
Seriously, every time I write this monthly update, his sleep changes. I feel very lucky that he goes to bed very easily and doesn't keep us up crying. But, he still wakes up about 3 times per night, so this mama isn't getting uninterrupted sleep. Again. It's OK...I absolutely love this stage of childhood so I somehow see past it.

I am looking forward to the holidays with him and seeing his interests come to life. So far, he seems into Peppa Pig when she is on TV, the wheels of Larkyn's doll stroller, and just picking up and sorting through items he finds in the toy basket. PS- 31 has always been my favorite number, but that picture brings new meaning to it. I just love him to pieces.


Two years ago, I was going to bed excited about what the next day would bring. I was getting married and no one knew except our very immediate family and a friend. It was going to be warm and sunny and I was excited that I could wear my sleeveless, short dress 5 days before Thanksgiving!

We didn't want the hubbub of who to invite (although I did make 6 invitations because my addiction is stationery) and did not want to spend the money on a big celebration at all, so we kept it all under wraps until I shared this picture with the world that night.

The day was simple, exciting, typical in all the ways that embody our relationship...

Our colors were taken from the sweetest little red and black Christmas dress I bought for Larkyn. The focus was a peaceful setting that didn't need decorated (Hocking Hills) and accented by my love, flowers!  My mom made my bouquet out of the most exquisite red flowers and berries, and our food was a small catered meal from our favorite grocery store. We got in home to watch the Nascar championship, and that was that.

Two years later, we have a new house and a new baby. It is a good thing we celebrated with dinner and relaxing over the weekend, because on 11.18.14, instead of record highs, it is supposed to hit record lows outside. Our celebrating will be that I made him a lunch, that we are here for each other and that we made it through another day. Life does not get any easier, but it gets better. We have so much, and it is fitting that our anniversary is at Thanksgiving.

Matt, for you and for this life, I am thankful:) 

Why are we here?

This morning, I walked into a conversation between two coworkers; one was saying how young and in-shape the other was looking lately. I totally agreed. Walking away with the compliment-giving coworker, she told me that she was turning 60 this weekend, which was really hard to believe. I was being sincere, and I told her that I never would have guessed she was 60. She said that comment would get her through the day, and walked away happily. She said "Hey, we should do this all day long and everyone would be happy!"

It wasn't hard. Aren't we here on this earth to make a difference--a positive difference? That is what I signed up for. And I'm farrrrr from perfect, but I try. And when I fail, I dwell on it and regret not saying things or saying things that did hurt people even years later. Words and actions matter and they shape other people.

It is easy to ignore the things we should point out. Easy to see that your partner looks great all cleaned up but continue with whatever else you are doing. Easy to see that the student who is always misbehaving is finally sitting still and not knocking people off their chairs, but do we stop to point it out often enough?

Even worse are the people who not only don't build us up, but take every breath in order to say the things that will make others feel insecure, silly, inept, ugly, in the way, and ultimately hopeless. They are waiting for you to make a mistake that they can enjoy, to cut loose so they can make fun of you, and to cut you down when they see you enjoying yourself.  Where did they learn this? How were they allowed to treat people this way for so many years? Do they make it all the way through life enjoying the pain they cause others or do they ultimately figure it out? I've read that we are supposed to be kindest to these people because they need it the most. Talk about exhausting.

As my children are growing, they are hearing the way others speak. They are picking things up here and there. A mean phrase here, a hurtful tone of voice there. I wish I could surround them in a bubble of hearing only nice things so that they become nice people. It will kill me if my kids are not kind-hearted.

Between work and parenting, I am using every drop of energy to be a good role model of how we treat others. I am shaping people to be good citizens and it is hard. I am on my toes every minute with Larkyn, praising her when she does something positive and TRYING WITH ALL MY MIGHT to be the most boring person ever when she is doing something to get a reaction out of me (a technique recently explained to me by our school counselor). It is sometimes painful for us all to listen to the 25th "news report" of the morning, but we all try our best to show respect to our little friend who is talking about his or her loose tooth for the 3rd time this week. Because the minute you show someone you don't care what they have to say, those feelings creep in. They don't matter.

Every time we open our mouths, we have a choice.  It is hard work. It is worthwhile work.

Just a little random thought on a Friday night. Now, off you go...go change some lives.

10 on 10

Are you proud of me for remembering, Julie?  I almost did it on November 9th, which was a much more interesting day than the 10th. But the point is to record a normal day, we go!

I start my day with this little guy and his bottle. I set my alarm for 6:45, but he always wakes up right around then too. I never miss my GMA, even if it is interrupted 500 times.

Next it is my turn for a drink!  In an effort to save a bit of cash, I am trying to make most of my coffee drinks at home. Nothing beats McDonald's iced coffee, but this will do for a few days of the week

Next up is this little cereal monster. She is side-eyeing Henry Hugglemonster on Disney Jr. and she is NOT as happy as Rhys is to be awake. They get to stay home with daddy on Mondays, so our morning is infinitely more relaxed.

After getting everyone dressed and heading to work, it's time to get some activities ready for the week!  In addition to math work and writing each day, we will be talking about Veterans Day and American symbols this week.

I hated my lunch today. I was supposed to have lasagna I made last night, but then the cat was caught eating out of the pan after dinner....oh what a glam life.

After a quick run to Kroger for dinner ingredients, I was greeted by some hilarious pictures of our family. Maybe these will be our Christmas cards. Matt added the hat and ears, but the rest is all her!

Helping me make "little teeny tiny pizzas" that were fun but neither of us liked, really. So Matt ate almost all of them. Oh well. And she was wearing an adorable dress today, but I had her change into a nightgown with this proximity to pizza sauce!

I happened to catch a glimpse of our maple outside of the kitchen window. The picture doesn't capture just how bright it was tonight in the sunset. It was so pretty!

We ended the night with dessert, a shared bowl of Lucky Charms. Hope you had a good one!


My mom has the kids for a few hours of much needed housework (and I am squeezing in a little blog time too!)  Thanks Nana:)  I thought I'd make it short and sweet, kind of a catch-up on everything at once...

Excited about our basement finally coming together. Although we definitely learned a "you get what you pay for" lesson, it serves its function and I can't WAIT to decorate it.

Proud of myself for ordering our Christmas cards last week. After last year's debacle with Christmas Eve Christmas cards, there was no way I was missing them this year. PS- Tiny Prints is the best. Their designs, their customer service, their coupons. I have been so impressed with my experience working with them for Rhys' announcements and these cards.

Thinking about Christmas gifts. Definitely a dollhouse for Larkyn. After a few nights of research, I'm thinking this one or this one. Thoughts?  I hate that the first one is pink and plastic. But it is durable and kids seem to love it. And I have no idea what to get Rhys. Once we empty our storage room, he will have a ton of Larkyn's old toys. Any one year old boy ideas?  Really all he needs is clothes and snacks. This boy loves his Mum-mums and graham crackers.

So glad that Crock Pot season is back! I am aware that I could use it at any time, but who wants to eat hot potato soup in July?  Fall/Winter is the only time when I feel like we eat good dinners because the Crock Pot cooks it all!  My favorites are all on my dinner board. What are you making this week?

Relieved that Kindergarten testing is over! Of course, it is time to start assessing for report cards, but the new (horrendous) state test we gave from September-November 1st is finally OVER!

Annoyed with fleas. I'll leave it at that. A certain feline has made our lives much more complicated by bringing his little friends inside.

Working on playroom decor! I was too excited to wait, so I used paint tape to hang up some of the stuff where I want it. Of course, all the toy organization costs money, so I am having to pace myself. Sneak peek is from Vintageremix.

Next weekend is our anniversary weekend. We are going low key this year by staying in town and going out to (a quiet) dinner. Can't wait!

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