Crafts & How-Tos

You guys know how much I love a project. It doesn’t even have to technically be my project — I’m willing to help with any kind of makeover or DIY. So when my dear friend Cynthia (you may remember her as the mastermind behind the annual tea party and my “Once upon a time”-themed baby shower) decided to redecorate her sons’ room, I was excited to help out any way I could.

And when she found out I was looking for projects to blog about, she immediately asked me to assist her in painting a lacquered wood and laminate bookshelf for the room. Naturally, I was game.

I’ve painted a few pieces of furniture in my time, so fortunately I already had most of the materials we needed on-hand. Here’s how we handled this mixed-materials piece.

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Step one: Clean your piece of furniture thoroughly. The majority of the bookshelf was wood with a thin lacquer, but the back panel was a laminate.

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Step two: Sand it down. We started with a medium grit sandpaper, and then followed up with a fine grit. You don’t need to go crazy; just go over each section for about five seconds to remove the shiny finish and smooth out any divots or nicks from previous use. For the laminate, we just needed to provide a bit of roughness for the primer to stick to, so we primarily used the fine grit sand paper.

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This photo gives you an idea what the sanded wood should look like. Not unlike your T-zone, you don’t want any shininess remaining.

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Step three: Wipe the whole piece down with a damp rag. You could also use turpentine or something stronger, but, honestly, a wrung-out washcloth will do the trick to remove any grit or dust. Let dry completely (should only take a few minutes).
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Step four: Time to prime. Or you could save time like we did and use a paint+primer. Either way, you should end up doing 2-3 thin coats.

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We used a small mohair roller for the flat areas. For the first coat, you should also use a small angled brush or foam brush to coat the corners and get between any grooves in the wood.

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Don’t worry about the evenness too much, that’s what subsequent coats are for. And don’t glop on too much paint, even though it’s tempting. Thin, even coats are the key to a smooth finish and faster drying times.

Step five: Repeat step four up to two more times. Really, it shouldn’t take more than three coats to cover the wood/laminate evenly. If you do end up with any bumps or drips, use your fine sandpaper to smooth them out before the next coat. Let dry completely in a cool, dry environment for 24 hours before putting anything on the surface.

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Didn’t it turn out great? The boys’ new beds, desk, and shelves are white, so this bookshelf ties in perfectly with the new look.

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If you’re worried about any remaining tackiness on surfaces where you will put books or other heavy items, you can also seal the paint with a water-based polycrylic. In this case, though, it wasn’t needed.

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Go, Cynthia! You are the coolest mom.

Side note: How much fun is it decorating rooms for kids? They get all the coolest stuff.

What have you been working on lately?

I’ll admit, when I first got pregnant, I didn’t really think I would travel all that much after the baby was born. Well, at least not for the first year or so.

It’s not that I thought I would suddenly stop wanting to see new places — I just wasn’t keen on schlepping eight million baby accoutrements onto a plane or across the country.

Then I was reminded that babies fly free for only the first two years of their life (and so does their carseat and stroller and apparently all the carry-on liquids you want). And after that, we would have to start budgeting for flights for three. On one full-time salary and one work-at-home-mom salary.

HAHAHAHAHA.

Needless to say, I now don’t really think we will travel all that much (at least by plane) after the baby turns two. Well, at least not until she’s old enough to remember where we go.

The point is, we’re trying to get our free flights’ worth while we can. So as our fifth wedding anniversary approached, Joey and I started making plans to visit the place where we got engaged.

Now, those of you keeping score at home may remember that I actually got engaged in Vancouver, so WHY AM I TALKING ABOUT SEATTLE? Well, if you were a true long-time reader, you would also remember that the vacance d’engagement* began and ended with a few days in Seattle, whereupon it became one of my favorite cities. So simmer down.

*not a real French term.

The point is, we began our anniversary trip in Seattle as well. We only spent a couple of days there, but I thought it might be helpful to share our favorite spots (new and old) that are also baby friendly, in case you are considering a trip with a little one.

NOTE: I am not calling this “The most original list of things to do in Seattle.” These are simply mom-tried-and-true places where you won’t feel out-of-place or unwelcome when you stroll in wearing a Baby Bjorn. Just wanted to clear that up before someone gets all snarky and superior in the comments. It’s Seattle; I know you’re hipper than I am.

We begin our adventure with dinner on our first night after touching down around 5:30 p.m….

Get dinner at…Ba Bar.
Vietnamese street food gets an upscale twist in this cozy haunt. The food is fresh with Pacific Northwest ingredients, the drinks are fresh-as-heck versions of your favorite classics, and the atmosphere is noisy enough to accommodate a fussy, jet-lagged baby while still intimate enough to make you feel like a cool mom out with her friends.

After dinner, go to bed. It’s after midnight your time. (Probably.) The next day…

Get breakfast at…Top Pot.
I’ll be honest, this is not where we got breakfast. We got breakfast at this place called Ludi’s that Yelp told us was really good. But, I’ll be honest, Yelp and I are on tenuous terms after that recommendation. Because it was fine, but not somewhere I would recommend for a vacation breakfast. You know what I WILL recommend? Doughnuts. And maple bars. And other magical breakfast confections you can find at Top Pot. Go there. And, for the love of sucrose, get something with sprinkles and take an adorable Instagram photo with your baby.

Then wander…Pike Place Market.
Yes of COURSE it’s cliche, but hear me out: The market is a fantastic place for babies. They can be as loud as they want (a local fishmonger is guaranteed to be louder), there are tons of things to look at, and you will never find someone more fascinated by the gum wall than an ankle-biter.

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Get lunch at…Matt’s in the Market.
To me, a trip to Seattle without a stop at Matt’s is sacrilege, so there’s no way it wasn’t going to end up on this list. Fortunately for you, trusting reader, it really and truly is a good place to take a baby. (Who knew??) It’s got a buzzy atmosphere that won’t be broken up by a few tiny shrieks (noticing a pattern here?), and the waitstaff is pleasantly patient with littler guests. There are also a ton of windows, which is a plus if you’ve got a baby who needs lots of things to look at or she gets bored and cries. Speaking hypothetically. The one flaw? No changing tables in the bathroom. (What’s up with that, Matt’s?) But there is a counter where they put the hand towels where you can set up shop without too much fuss.

Then visit the…Seattle Great Wheel.
Relax, I’m not recommending you take your baby on to some wobbly wheel of doom. The Great Wheel really is pretty great, with each seat actually being a little pod/room that you can get all to yourself if you want. The ride around lasts about 15 serenely quiet minutes, perfect for sneaking in a nursing session or a nap. And the views can’t be beat.

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And while you’re there, head left to the…Seattle Aquarium.
Um, hi. Why did no one tell me how perfect aquariums are for babies? Here I was, all like, “Babies can’t appreciate science.” When, in reality, they don’t have to. (And, actually, they probably can.) All they have to appreciate is looking at cool stuff. And aquariums are PACKED with cool stuff. They are already designed for kids, so everything from running to touching to getting raucous is actually ENCOURAGED in most areas. The Vivster could not have been more charmed by every single creature she met. Still not convinced? Consider this: Those giant walls of fish? They look exactly like TV screens, meaning your baby’s eyes will be drawn to it like a magnet. Except your mom group isn’t going to secretly judge you for letting your kid stare at one for an hour. Everyone wins.

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Get coffee (and charge your phone) at…Seattle Coffee Works.
Honestly, you can get coffee anywhere. This is Seattle — it’s all pretty decent. I’m only including this particular spot because it also had outlets and bench seating where, if you spread a blanket, a particularly obliging baby could spread our and catch a few Z’s. This is not true of every coffee outlet. (Lookin’ at you, Starbucks across the street.) And if your baby won’t sleep here, grab a latte, plop the kiddo in a baby sling or carrier, and hit up a few shops on 5th avenue (Seattle-version). If your kid is anything like mine, she’ll be out like a light in no time.

Then grab dinner at…Local 360 Cafe & Bar.
When you first walk into this place, it won’t scream “baby-friendly” to you. (That would wake the babies. YUK YUK YUK.) The main floor is all bar and tiny tables packed pretty close to their neighbors. But never fear! There’s a whole second story, where somehow all the noise seems to blend into a pleasant hum of conversation (even if your baby’s contribution to that hum is just a lot of whining). Plus, the wait staff LOVES babies. At least, everyone we encountered did — and nothing makes you feel more comfortable than that. Plus, the actual food? To. Die. Do not skip dessert.

Now, go home and put that baby to bed. You’re both jet lagged, remember?

The next morning, get brunch at…Six Seven Restaurant at the Edgewater Hotel.
I know you probably didn’t actually sleep in (you have a baby), but let’s call this breakfast “brunch” just so you feel like a semblance of your pre-baby self, shall we? This gorgeous hotel might feel a bit formal for an infant, but if you book an earlier reservation (we started around 9:30 a.m.) you’ll avoid a rush of people looking for an adults-only meal in favor for a mostly empty dining room and spectacular views you can enjoy sans judgy eyes. Tip: Order any egg specialty with crab in it, feed your kid a squeezy pack, and high-five your fellow adult for scoring a grown-up meal. After breakfast, take a jaunt along the coast to work off the food and get you all some fresh air before you head out.

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So, technically that’s two days, right? Feel free to mix and match the recommendations to fit your own timeline.

Did I miss your favorite baby-friendly place? Share it in the comments. And happy trails!

I love when I promise you guys a post about a certain topic and am actually able to deliver in a reasonable amount of time. You know, instead of cowering around here in shame, avoiding eye contact because I know, I KNOW, you guys.

On a not totally unrelated note, I’m ready to share pictures of Vivian’s nursery! (Can you believe it? Remember 2011 Justine and her empty promises of apartment posts? She was a real flake.)

A while back, I shared the plan for what I wanted to do in our tiny back bedroom, and in general, I didn’t stray too far from that original vision. First, the photos:

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Let’s talk details. The first big decision I made about the room was the crib I wanted. I knew I wanted something white and modern that could easily be reused in the future if we had another baby, regardless if it was a boy or a girl. My parents generously offered to purchase this adorable model. If, for whatever reason we don’t have a second tot or we wait a while longer, this crib also converts into a toddler bed so Vivi can get plenty of use out of it. Plus, I LOVE that extra storage drawer for her sheets and the FIVE handmade blankets she has been lovingly given so far.

The first actual purchase I made for her room, though, was this super soft shag rug. Our entire apartment is floored with tile, which while cool in the summer, I imagine will be a little chilly in the colder months. The rug is fluffy and cozy as can be, and I can totally imagine Vivi crawling around on it when she’s a bit older.

Next, I was pretty thrilled to find this mid-century modern dresser on Craigslist after MONTHS of searching. As I said, the room itself is pretty small, so it took a while to find something within my budget that was also the perfect size for the space. This one has been impeccably maintained, and it provides tons of needed storage for the room.

The leaning bookshelf and rolling cart from IKEA were both items we had previously, meaning they didn’t cost a penny to add to the room. Dontcha love that? And considering one of Vivi’s showers was book-themed, it was nice to have a place to display her new library.

The picture frames were all mostly repurposed from other rooms in the apartment or given to me by friends who were doing their own clean-outs. I filled those with some of our maternity pictures and this and this from Etsy. Obviously I have a couple baby stock photos to replace once our actual baby arrives, but you get the idea of how it will look. I was also excited to be able to display the flower crowns my sister-in-law made for our gender reveal party — they match everything perfectly. I also added this light-blocking curtain from Target — in hopes of creating an environment where Vivi will just love to sleep.

Finally, those peonies on the wall. I was inspired to do some kind of flower mural by pictures I spotted on Pinterest, but I have to admit I was pretty nervous when it came time to put paint to wall. I am not really much of an artist (pretty much all of my flowers look like the ones you’re looking at), and I’d never done anything on this scale before. When I painted the first layer, they mostly just looked like coral-y blobs, and I was convinced I had ruined everything. Then I started to even everything out, sort of the way I would pastels or even watercolor paints, and slowly the actual flowers took shape. Adding the stems also really helped to ground the whole thing and keep it from looking too floaty and girlie. Now that everything is in place, I’m glad I went for it and think they give the whole room a lot of character.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how the whole thing turned out. The room has a really cozy vibe when you first walk in, which, again, will hopefully be helpful in convincing our little lady to learn to sleep through the night quickly. (Are you sensing a pattern here?)

A couple of caveats before I can officially call the room DONE: I’m still waiting on the arrival of our mint glider. That should arrive by September 9th, though, so never fear. I’m planning to put it where you currently see Vivi’s swing chair. (Her chair, by the way? SO COOL. I can control it from my phone. It’s amazing.) I’m also waiting on this bear print that will most likely end up over the dresser somewhere, and this pillow to prop up in the glider.

It’s kind of incredible what a sense of relief I have now that the nursery is baby-ready. (I also spent the weekend packing our hospital bags, so that’s probably giving me a sense of ease as well.) Considering the little lady could make her appearance any time in the next 2-4 weeks (eek!), it’s nice knowing I can check off these huge to-dos. I can’t wait to bring her home!

My heart is so full after this weekend. I try to make myself pause from time to time to really take in all the good things in my life and appreciate how fortunate I am, and it’s weekends like this that make that almost too easy to do.

On Sunday, we had a little gender reveal party to find out if our bub is a boy or a girl. I wanted to keep the event small, and had originally planned to hold it in our new apartment, but ultimately had to move it to my in-laws’ backyard due to the water damage at our place. Here’s a little recap of how the party went down — plus the ultimate reveal!

And bear with me…this one has a lot of photos.

My dear friend Michelle and sister-in-law Kelly were HUGE helps to me in planning the party. Kelly helped by creating an adorable Polaroid-inspired photo booth:

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Delicious red velvet cake pops for the dessert table:

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And these amazing flower crowns:

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Seriously, can we get a close-up of those?

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These were all random ideas I had seen variations of online, and I sent them to her hoping she could create something similar. The results totally exceeded my expectations — thank you again, Kelly!

Michelle also had what you might call an important job: creating the reveal confetti poppers! I had seen a similar idea online, but purchasing the poppers pre-made would have cost me literal appendages. Knowing Michelle is pretty dang crafty, I entrusted her to putting the poppers together. And MAN OH MAN did they turn out amazing!

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She also created these adorable bow and bow tie pins for everyone to wear to declare their baby guesses. She used pink and mint construction paper and outlined them with gold marker before gluing each to a clothespin.

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Team Girl!


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Team Boy!

Michelle also made these delicious pink lemonade cupcakes (with surprise centers) to enjoy after the announcement. Joey may have eaten three of them — they were so dang good.

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For the rest of the refreshments, we served a chicken apple sausage pasta, burgers, and a big salad. The drinks were themed (of course); a Baby Blue Punch with Malibu and a Pink Arnold Palmer for those of us who can’t drink. (It was still pretty delish, if I do say so myself!)

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But what am I boring you with party details for? Let’s get to the good stuff!

For the actual reveal, we gathered everyone around Joey and me, including my parents who FaceTime’d in on Joey’s laptop.

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Then there wasn’t anything left to do but pop!

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And it’s a GIRL! Even though I had suspected our confetti might be pink, it wasn’t until I actually saw it that everything became real. Joey and I can’t wait to meet our daughter in less than four months!

Thank you again to everyone who helped make this party a success — we are so happy we got to share the moment with you. And to our little girl: Honey bun, we can’t wait to meet you!

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When it comes to decor, I’m pretty sure it’s mostly a giant game of one step forward, two steps back. In most cases, new ideas just beget other new ideas, adding to your already never-ending to-do list. And in some cases, just when you think you’re getting close to finishing that to-do list, something comes along to throw a big, fat fly in the ointment.

Oh, am I being vague again? I’ll elaborate.

This weekend, the person who lives two floors above us flooded their apartment. The apartment above us was also flooded. We were spared the brunt of the water damage, but we do have three lovely nipple-shaped pockets of water on our ceiling right now. Two of them broke through and mostly drained out, but there is still visible damage. Fortunately, our landlord is taking care of it (supposedly today), but it still puts a (literally) damper on my plans to have finished the living room this weekend.

But we’re close, people. So close.

And while I have to throw in the actual towel to sop up the mess for now, there are little signs of progress throughout the apartment. Like this fun little craft I completed a couple weeks ago.

It’s no secret that I love gold details. And since our office area is usually the corner of our home I struggle to make look put together, I thought it would be a nice touch to add some gold details. And rather than spend any money on any new chotchkies or whatever, I broke out some spray primer and spray paint I already had on hand to dress up the drawer pull and my cheap plastic push-pins.

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To paint the push-pins, I stuck each of them through a piece of scrap cardboard and primed. This step is key — most metallic spray paints I’ve used won’t stick to naked plastic. Let dry for a couple of hours in the sun.

gold push pin DIYNext, it was time to go for the gold. This painting portion actually took about four steps/coats because the pushpins are such a weird shape. I have to spray from each side as well as the top to make sure all the rainbow-bright colors were completely covered up. Then I let them dry for a full 25 hours outside to cure any stickiness.

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Ta-da! I love the finished result — it makes the whole bulletin board look more pulled together.

I used the same technique to paint the drawer pull, and it also turned out nicely. (It’s just hard to take an inspiring photo of a drawer pull.)

So there you have it — the easiest little decor DIY ever.

What is everyone else working on?

Landscape

Mean muggin.

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with Craigslist, but I am. I’m apparently so taken with the online marketplace that I write about it on this very blog — quite frequently.

But while I’ve discussed how to be good at Craigslist, what I hate about Craigslist, and how to NOT rent an apartment on Craigslist, there’s one aspect of buying and selling that I have no yet addressed: the art of the Craigslist negotiation.

Fortunately for all of you (right?), I’ve garnered many a cautionary in my many years of buying and selling, and now I’m going to share them with you. Here are a few signs you might not be so good at Craigslist negotiating.

1. You seem to think this is Macy*s.
Listen, I get it. You paid hundreds of dollars for that [insert name of furniture/appliance/etc.]. It hurts your heart — and bank account — to even think about selling it for half what you paid for it. But you know what? You are not a department store. I did not drive to your establishment, park in your sprawling parking complex, and brave a stroll through your perfume department to get to this [furniture/appliance/etc.], whereupon I then bought it brand new out of a box. I found it on a semi-shady, over-grown garage sale website. After you had used it for a couple of years. So, alas, you cannot sell it to me for what you paid for it.

There’s nothing worse than a Craigslist seller who won’t budge on their listing price. This is why I always list at least $10 higher than what I ultimately want to get for the item — that way, I can negotiate without feeling too great of a loss. Any time I encounter a seller who won’t drop at least $10 from their price, I immediately move on. Stop acting offended and remember where we are right now.

2. You think you have Jedi mind control.
There are few things more annoying than a buyer trying to trick you into a low-ball offer. When you email me and just say, “What will you sell this to me for?”, my immediate mental response is to send you a “Let Me Google That For You”-type response where I just re-send you the original ad. Howsabout we start at that number, huh pal?

As I just said, I have no issues with haggling. I encourage it, in fact. But you have to at least make me a real offer. You’re not going to fool me into giving my best and final right off the bat. This ain’t my first rodeo, cowboy.

3. You take the low-ball offer to a subterranean level.
I feel like I should repeat the fact that I am not above bargaining. I expect you to reply to my ad with an offer. What really irks me? An offer that is 50 percent or less than what I listed for.

Come on, guys. Be respectful. If I really didn’t care how much I sold it for, I would just drop it in the free section to be done with it. I make a habit of offering at least 75 percent of whatever it was originally listed for, in expectation that the seller will come back closer to 80-85 percent. The only exception is if something is already priced super low — then I might just offer whatever it’s listed for (because I’m not a psychopath).

There’s nothing more annoying than listing something for $80 and getting an offer for $30. Like, what do you think this is? And stop acting wide-eyed and shocked when I say “no, thanks.”

I feel like I may have exhausted my Craigslist tips at this point, but I’m sure there are more great ideas out there. What are your best buying and selling secrets?

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