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?

Or, I Went To IKEA…So You Don’t Have To

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IKEA is a funny place. (As are the people who go there, but that is neither here nor there.)

On one hand, it’s everything I hate: crowds of people who lack spacial awareness that I have to tune out, a veritable warehouse of stuff you don’t need, a thousand temptations to spend money I don’t have, etc.

And yet.

And yet, I love IKEA. Not just like. LOVE. I want to enter a serious, committed relationship with IKEA. (Except we only go on dates every couple of months. But, honestly, it’s you, not me.)

I love perusing the aisles and imagining each new item styled in my home. I love dreaming up alternative uses and hacks for just about everything in the Marketplace. I love the perfectly constructed sample apartments with their incredible efficiency.

Actually, I also kind of hate those apartments. Because they make me realize just exactly how stupid every New York apartment is in reality. You’re telling me a 300-square-foot mockup is smarter and more livable than my 800-square-foot actual apartment? Awesome. Great. Thanks for the reminder.

MOVING ON.

The point is, I love almost everything about going to IKEA. It makes me feel invigorated. This is me after shopping at IKEA:

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No makeup; all glory. That is true joy, folks.

But I also recognize that IKEA is bonkers. And actually quite unenjoyable for most rational humans.

Which is why I’m here to help.

I recently visited IKEA with some friends (they needed wardrobe systems, I needed a table and some storage items). We all had very successful trips (I really killed it in the “As Is” section, to the tune of a table I’ve been wanting for TWO YEARS at a $60 discount), but the thing I am most proud of is that I actually managed to only buy things I need. That is very difficult to do in places like Target and IKEA. (As we all know.)

But even though I didn’t make any superfluous purchases, I did spot quite a few cool new items for spring that I thought I would share with you all so you can see what they look like in person…without actually having to go to IKEA. For the sake of time, I narrowed it down to my seven favorites.

Let’s begin!

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1. Skoval Wall Clock

You guys? This picture does not even do this clock justice (I know, totally defeating the point of this post). Five years ago, when Joey and I first got married, I was briefly obsessed with the idea of finding a clock for our kitchen wall. I eventually gave up the hunt because I couldn’t find anything with the right amount of charm, style, and je ne sais quoi. But if I had found this clock back then? It would be mine. I actually almost bought this one because I found one in the “As Is” section, but ultimately made the responsible adult choice of only buying things that were currently on my list. For now…

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2. Maryd Tray Table

Why, yes, IKEA is killing it in the minty green items for spring. Thank you for noticing. This sweet little tray table would be a perfect alternative to traditional TV dinner trays, or you could leave it out full time as a side table or night stand.

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3. Strandmon Wing Chair

If I had any need for any kind of accent chair/additional seating (and, of course, by “need” I mean “space”), I would buy one of these chairs immediately. They make such a statement — my friend Michelle and I literally had to stop to talk about them every time we saw one around the store, which was a lot because they work with almost every style of decor. If you want a chair packed with panache (or at least a place to sit that will get people talking), this is the one. Note: Seating experts (AKA, the aforementioned Michelle) did comment that the chairs were not exceptionally comfortable, but they were enveloping and supporting. We both agreed that over time they would most likely become more comfortable. Just wanted to be transparent.

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4. TOCKARP TV Unit

As you may know, space is at a premium in most big city apartments. This TV stand is tres petit (why does IKEA make me French? Je ne sais pas.) and quite stylish. I love mixed materials, and those metal legs with the wood base are speaking my language. (Which, again, is apparently French.)

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5. BILD Poster

Not going to lie, there’s a distinct possibility I will actually buy this poster. It’s SO COOL. And it’s the perfect mix of vintage and modern .And it matches my living room. So…that sounds like fate to me.

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6. DUKTIG Play Kitchen

This was my first time in IKEA as a mom, and BOY do you notice things you don’t notice pre-kids. Like this adorable play kitchen. (And a million adorable art tables with a billion adorable tiny chairs.) They also have a bunch of sets of play food and cakes and tea sets and cooking supplies. And Vivi loves watching me cook, so how much would she LOVE playing with her own kitchen? And I would paint it mint green with gold fixtures. AND I WILL DEFINITELY BUY THIS WHEN VIVI CAN WALK.

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7. SKURAR Noticeboard

When I first saw this little board, it was hanging in a super girly bedroom mock-up and I immediately thought, “Now THAT is a cool way to display jewelry.” Then I realized it was actually a pretty little bulletin board, but, honestly, if it were mine, I would TOTALLY use it to display jewelry. Who posts bulletins in their bedroom anyway, amiright?

So, there you have it. You know, telling you guys to buy things is almost as satisfying as buying them myself. This discovery could be a total budget saver for me.

Have you braved IKEA lately? What are you coveting? Are you also one of those freaks who loves the terror of IKEA?

I should clarify that this post does not officially count in “The New Plans for the Blog,” but I wanted to pop back in to say a few things.

For one, you guys. You’re great. I got a lot of nice comments and feedback from people who, apparently, like what I do on here even when I don’t. That was really nice to hear. Blogging is like throwing your thoughts into outer space sometimes, and anyone who has spent a lot of time talking to no one knows how disheartening speaking into a vacuum can be. You guys should really feel comfortable commenting whenever you want — I promise, I’m nice!

For another, I just wanted to let you know that I’m actually making good on my plans so far. Over the last two days, I’ve been compiling a list of posts I want to write in the next few months. Can you believe that? By dedicating an hour or so, I was able to plan out content for weeks at a time. I have no idea why I never did this before.

Oh, right, because I’m a doofus. Sorry about that.

I also decided that, in addition to improving the writing, I want to up my photography game as much as I can. I am by no means a professional photographer, but Joey has gotten me a really nice camera and a couple good lenses for our last couple anniversaries, and, gosh darn it, it’s time to put them to good use. So get ready for PHOTOS!

Anyway, there’s no need to get long-winded here. I just wanted to say, stay tuned!

That’s a question I ask myself a lot about this ol’ blog these days.

Are you ready for a mind-boggling fact? I’ve been writing this blog for seven and a half years. I didn’t even realize that until I went to check the starting year so I could tell you how long I’ve been writing it. Isn’t that insane?

To put it in perspective, I’ve been a month for seven months. The longest I’ve ever held a single job was a little over two years. The longest romantic relationship I’ve ever had (hey, babe) has been seven years. The longest I’ve ever lived the same residence was about nine years.

This blog is one of the biggest commitments of my life.

And yet…lately, my life has been really busy. I’m raising a baby and working almost every minute of the day, and at night I mostly just want to collapse and do nothing, but I usually have to catch up on work from the day. I’m tired. And more importantly, my brain is tired. It would be so easy to shut down this little site and call it a day.

And yet…I can never pull the trigger. And when I talk to friends who are just beginning to blog or thinking about starting their own, I feel a spark of excitement as I remember what blogging can be. It makes me want to start a blog all over again.

I started this blog out of a weird sense of obligation as a fledgling journalist. I kept it going as a creative outlet when my career wasn’t particularly creative. In a lot of ways, it is my diary, my record of wins, losses, and all the feelings.

The blog has brought me emotional connections with people all around the world, including a few now real-life friends. While it has never been a source of major income for me, it has brought me business connections and opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

And, to be honest, I don’t want to stop blogging.

I think the struggle I’m having is that I don’t feel like I’m blogging well these days. I have all these ideas of things I want to do, but I’m not making the time or effort to put them into action. And it’s not that I don’t think I have good excuses why it doesn’t happen — I just wonder if I put a little more effort into time management, if maybe, just maybe, I could do it all.

(Welcome to my brain’s constant chorus: I never think I’m doing enough.)

So here’s what I’m thinking: I want to publish three times a week. And to keep myself accountable, I’m assigning a category for each post. And to keep my passion for the post alive, each of those categories will be one of my favorite things:

Post one will be a recipe or DIY, post two will be a product review or style-related (whether personal or home), and the third post will be a story. Because stories are what started this blog, and stories will always be what it’s about. My plan is to start next week.

I’ll be real with you guys, I’m a little nervous to publish this post. I’m nervous to say I’m going to do something when it will be extremely obvious and open if I fail. I hate failing. And I hate failing publicly.

But, you know what? After seven and a half years, I think I still have a few stories left to tell.

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We need to talk about something. And, judging by the title of this post, I hope you recognize the seriousness.

You have to admit, that’s a pretty good title. Intrigue.

So, what is it? What is this thing so terrible, so insidious that no one even wants to let the words cross their lips lest they incur the wrath of the metropolitan gods?

The struggle that is getting packages delivered to NYC apartments.

I’m sorry? Did I just feel you roll your eyes when you read that sentence? Were you perhaps expecting something akin to this? Or THIS?

Well, while those things may be worse things about living in New York, I’m pretty sure that, when you mentioned to your college roommate who currently lives in a Brooklyn apartment with two roommates that you were thinking of moving to the East Coast, she or he kindly let you know about those particular realities.

What I’m better he or she did not mention? You can kiss that blind faith you’ve had in the postal system goodbye.

Listen. I’m not trying to knock postal workers. They have tough, tough jobs. Through rain, sleet, snow, and darkest night? That sounds brutal.

But the thing is…that is the oath, right? So…why do I feel like no one really takes it seriously?

Let me tell you a few things you are guaranteed to experience if you live in New York for at least a calendar year:

#1: You will never receive at least one package for no apparent reason.

And the real kicker will be that no one will be able to tell you what went wrong. And you may or may not ever get a free replacement. It will just be gone. Forever. AND YOU WILL BE HELPLESS.

#2: You will have at least one package stolen from you.

I freely admit that occurrence #2 could be the cause of occurrence #1.

You know why? Because people are TERRIBLE. I have a dear friend who has actually tried to go door-to-door in her building seeking out who the good-for-nothing thieves are, but her husband stops her every time. I mean, he’s probably right. (These are good-for-nothing thieves, after all…who knows what they’re capable of.) BUT STILL.

The truly annoying part is that you’ll call up your building management to complain, and they will essentially feed you their version of “there’s nothing we can do.” And as much as that infuriates you, in this case, it’s probably actually true.

Just kidding — it’s never actually true. They could make sure your broken vestibule door is repaired. They could install security cameras. They could provide you with secure mailboxes. But all of those things cost money, so they’re never going to happen.

#3: You will have packages “returned” on your behalf.

This has actually happened to be a couple of times in the last couple of months, so it’s a fresh wound. (Would I go so far as to call it the inspiration for this post because it happened this morning? Why, yes, I suppose I would.)

What happens is that, for whatever reason, the delivery service does not feel up to delivering your package. Maybe it was too heavy. Maybe they forgot to deliver it when they dropped off your other stuff, and now the thought of going all the way back to your apartment is just too much for them. We may never know. The point is, the shipper will make the judgment call that your good should just go back from whence they came. You won’t even know it happened until you receive the email confirmation of your return. At which point you will think, “That is curious. Because I never received a product to return. Hmmm…

If you’re lucky, the company who sent your product will have already issued a refund so you can reorder your item. If you’re only marginally lucky, you will still have to spend half an hour on the phone with no fewer than three customer service reps to get your item reordered and then have to wait a week to get it anyway. Hypothetically.

The point is, there are few things in day-to-day life that make you feel quite so helpless as trying (and failing) to get a package delivered to you in New York City. And once you’ve suffered any of these occurrences, you’ll place all your orders like someone eating salmon who has already choked on a fish bone: very carefully and with a hefty dose of suspicion and doubt.

I just thought you should know. In case no one has told you yet.

 

Recently, I had a small stress spiral.

I started to say I had a meltdown or panic attack or something equally dramatic, but, for one, I don’t want to make light of actual panic attacks and two, it wasn’t nearly so overt or overblown.

What happened was, I came to the sudden and almost paralyzing realization that I have a lot on my plate.

SURPRISE, self!

This probably should not have been as shocking as it was. I’ve got a husband, an almost-seven-month-old, three secular jobs, an apartment to take care of, spiritual responsibilities, friendships to maintain…it’s a lot. But, listen, we’ve all got our ways of dealing with stress. And if mine includes a healthy dose of denial, that’s my business.

And it probably didn’t help that I was coming off a week of vacation and a 24-hour flu, both of which rendered me exhausted and had set me back in terms of what I was able to accomplish on my to-do list. The point is, it all hit me hard and I ended up staying up until 2 a.m. one night catching up.

Because that’s how your brain works when you’re stressed: You’re so worried about being exhausted that you stay up late and get five hours of sleep. Perfect plan.

You’ll be pleased to know (unless you’re, I don’t know, a sadist) that I ultimately got it together. Everything on the list got done. And while I’m still feeling the effects of sleep deprivation a bit (you never really catch up, do you?), I’m a little less panicked about everything I’ve got going on.

It’s just…well, it’s hard being a work-at-home mom. There are days when, even though everything is getting crossed off, you’re just not doing anything all that well. There are days when writing deadlines get pushed back because I had to reschedule source interviews because Vivi didn’t take a nap as planned. There are days I find myself responding to emails one-handed while I play blocks with Viv with the other.

I would love to tell you I spend every single breastfeeding session staring lovingly into my daughter’s eyes, but, honestly, sometimes I’m posting a new photo on a brand’s Instagram account.

And sometimes I feel guilty about that. And others, I feel totally okay with it because it’s these jobs that mean I am home breastfeeding my daughter instead of pumping in an office somewhere so I can leave milk with the daycare attendants. Because I’m sure I would feel a whole other kind of guilt if that were the case.

Because the fact is, motherhood almost invariably means guilt about something.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the guilt and the responsibilities ever since my semi-all-nighter, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’m probably always going to feel bad about something. Even if I wasn’t working at all, I would most likely not always be 100 percent on as a mom. I would have tired days where I would be a lazy mom. I would have irritable days where I would be an impatient mom. I would have drained days where I would be a boring mom. But I think as long as I’m still being Vivi’s mom, I can make my peace with my imperfections.

And I have to remind myself that these are not new or unique feelings — every mom feels this way at some point about something. So…maybe I can just let it go. I can just keep doing, rather than let myself get caught up in the thinking.

Because I’m doing this. I’m being Vivi’s mom, and I’m working and taking care of my home and maintaining my relationships. If I’m doing it perfectly or not, I don’t know. (Probably not because, ya know, I’m not perfect. I know, I’m really sorry to shatter that charade.) But I don’t think perfection matters in this case. I’m doing my best, and my daughter is happy and healthy.

And that sounds pretty perfect to me.