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Happy House-iversary!

posted by harlie in day-to-day, family, home

Welp, it’s been a full year since we moved into the house that made us homeowners.
12 months.
52 weeks.
365 days.
Lots and lots of hours, minutes and seconds.

After the craziness of the year, it definitely feels like home.  We love the community here. We’re still learning about the tri-city area, but we’ve definitely found some gems. Lil’Man and his dad have some favorite hiking trails. We have some go-to restaurants for different occasions. My husband and I love going to the local theater for date night (it’s an older theater with updated tech…win/win!). The playground at the local school is practically in our backyard and the larger town park is just a 15 minute bike ride or a 5 minute car ride. The local barber knows my guys and gives a treat to Lil’Man when he sits still for his haircut. We got family zoo memberships. The fire station is within walking distance of our house and Lil’Man has been to visit (what toddler doesn’t love firetrucks?). We’re recognized at the local hardware store and often I’m asked our our last project went.

Well, maybe that last one is an iffy-good thing, since we’re usually in there because something in the house needs updating or fixing. Little by little, we learned our house’s quirks and oddities while also changing things up and making our own mark here.  Painting walls, laying down rugs, hanging photos, playing with furniture arrangements…all the fun things you get to do when you move into a new home.  More importantly, we’ve done a lot to remove the weirdness and bad DIY that the previous owners inflicted on the house.  We haven’t gotten all of it by a far shot, but they were here for more than a decade, so there’s no way we could have fixed it all by now (not without the budget and labor force of a small country, anyhow).  So we have an abundance of home-improvement projects to look forward to in the years to come.

I don’t think we have a single room that I’d declare is anywhere near “complete” (a term I use loosely since I’ll eventually want to tweak even the nicest of rooms). In fact, some rooms still have MAJOR overhauls coming and we still have boxes of hardwood flooring for our stairs sitting in our family room. Which is annoying and absolutely my fault. I just need to call the contractor…ugh. Of course, non of that stops Lil’Man from racing me from the kitchen to his room (spoiler alert: he always wins) or our Little Lady from screaming in glee as she rolls around with her toys in the living room. They love snuggling in bed with us on the occasional Saturday morning and cozying up on the couch for storytime before bed. It’s obvious that the kids love our home and we love living in it with them. We’ve come such a long way from where we started.


Our main living area. Note the toys. In both photos. Usually they look like they exploded all over the room. We do tidy them up, but I don’t see any reason to hide them. Also, that fireplace is not only hideous (you really have to see it in person to appreciate it’s awfulness) improperly installed and a certified fire hazard (VERY bad DIY). We’ll be tearing that down and reworking the entire thing, hopefully sooner than later.


We’re planning on renovating the kitchen down the line, so we haven’t done much to it except paint and add shelves to the blank wall. Big honkin’ shelves. Thanks IKEA!


(I ran out of adorable candids to use for the before shots, so you’ll just have to settle for the realtor images from when we bought the house. Sorry!)


In the master, we mostly just painted and replaced the curtains (spider-egg remnants aren’t my thing). We think this might become Little Lady’s room down the line, so this can be the kids’ side of the house, but that’s another fairly big reno that will have to come after the kitchen reno.


Lil’Man’s room is still IP (gotta fix those curtains and work on the art), but he loves it and that’s what matters.


You can’t tell from this angle, but the dresser still isn’t done. Sorry grandparents! I promise I’ll finish it, Mom! We have to finish the lower drawers before she starts crawling anyhow. And the next ones up when she starts cruising. And probably the next before she’s walking.


Probably the most different room, since we’re using it differently than the previous owners. Who, by the way, never used that fireplace despite what that layout makes it look like. There was a mummified squirrel in the flue that fell out during our buyer walk through. *shudder*


Oh, and can’t forget the awful red laundry room. We still have a lot (A LOT) to do here, but at least the walls no longer look like they’re bleeding. By the way, that green tile? Apparently the previous owners felt they “coordinated” with the red walls.

So…yeah. There’s still a few rooms we haven’t touched, but slowly we’re making this house our home more to our liking. I just have to remember to enjoy it now and not keep thinking about the next project. So, I’m going to go look up cookie recipes with Lil’Man and see what he’d like to make this weekend. I think he’ll be into that.

† The zoo is not strictly in our city, but we’re pretty excited about it all the same. If you visit, we can take you to the zoo with us FOR FREE!  Really, we’ll take you to the zoo.

 
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Long time, No see

posted by harlie in day-to-day, family, home

Hello. I know it’s been forever since my last update. So sorry I’ve been gone so long. I know lots of bloggers not only keep blogging through the birth of their babies, but actually live blog their labor (yo, Bower Power!). I am, obviously, not one of those bloggers. However, I have been staying very busy. Of course, is any parent with a newborn not busy?

Well, don’t want to bury the lead, so let me introduce you to the newest member of our family:

Our Little Lady was born Feburary 12th. Labor with her was completely different than with Lil’ Man, but overall, I’d say it was easier. She is perfect in every way. Surprisingly she was born with medium brown hair and blue-grey eyes — my money would have been dark, dark brown hair and eyes, like her brother. Her hair is getting lighter, but her eyes are slowly turning brown. My family has mostly has babies born with dark eyes, so I’m kinda fascinated with her changing eye color. I love that they look like grey or blue in some light and brownish in others.

Her brother adores her. I’m a little worried he might smother her with love. Literally. Yeah…he can get a little rough or overbearing so we have to keep a close eye on them, but seeing how protective he is over her is really heart-warming.

Unfortunately, we have had some health problems in the past few months. Little Lady had croup and bronchiolitis when she was only about a month old. All of this, plus a possible posterior tongue tie, was hindering her ability to breastfeed and she had some problems with gaining weight (a huge deal when you’re talking about newborns). We spent sometime in the ER. She makes hospital gowns look adorable.

Then, Lil’ Man caught a cough and his asthma started to flare up. Both of my babies were sick. They both were so tired, they fell asleep just about anywhere.

Thankfully, everyone is much better now, but it was a rough couple of months.

During this time, we still tried to get some stuff done around the house. It was tough and sometimes I forget how much we’ve done. We have an awesome California King bed frame in our master bedroom, rearranged bookcases from room-to-room, swapped in new doorknobs through out the house, and reorganized our broom closet with hooks and elfa door shelves. We also had the upstairs rooms and our blood-red laundry room painted to a more soothing palette of blues and greys. Oh, and we were are in the middle of potty training. Whoo hoo!

We haven’t finished the nursery — we have a bassinet in our room still — but we are still making progress and there are lots of home projects throughout the house we’re working on. I don’t know how often I’ll be posting, but hopefully more often than now. As it is, I have to run because someone just woke up from her nap and is demanding to be changed and fed.

 
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Maternity leave

posted by harlie in day-to-day, home

So, I officially have started my maternity leave! In theory, maternity leave is supposed to be a time of relaxing and waiting for baby to arrive, but we have so much to do before that happens. I don’t know any mom who was able to kick back and read baby books while eating bonbons and sparkling apple juice (or ice cream and pickles…whatever your craving is today). It’s all about getting those last few things done before you have a new little person who needs you 24/7.

Monday
Happy MLK Jr. Day! It’s a holiday, which means Lil’Man’s daycare is closed. But it’s not a mandatory holiday, so the Mr has to go to work. So, really, my first day of leave is pretty unproductive, but I gotta say: Lil’Man was awesome. He’s in his terrible 2s stage and I was expecting a rough day, but he was great. I even took him out to eat lunch at his favorite place as a treat. The day was exhausting (most things are these days), but the Mr came home to a messy house — legos, throw pillows and laundry EVERYWHERE — but a pretty happy kid and mom.

Tuesday
This is when I started getting stuff done. The nursery is in dire straits — boxes everywhere, picture frames for the entire house stacked up along one whole wall, half the curtains draped over a bin full of wall paint samples, a new rug and pad rolled up and leaning in the corner, stacks of mail in need of sorting sitting on a console that needs to be moved the the family room…in general, it’s just a mess. On top of that, the room is missing some essentials: a crib mattress, a changing pad, and a diaper pail to list just a few things. So, a trip to Babies R Us was in order.

I was able to pick up most of the missing items. In an ideal world, Lil’Man would be potty trained and wouldn’t need his changing pad or diaper pail. But this isn’t an ideal world and we are in the midst of what looks to be a loooooong period of potty training. I know that some families manage to train their tot over one intense weekend (more or less), but not us. We are taking it a day at a time. He’s doing fine (he does better at school, where his friends are all training as well. Ah, peer pressure starts so early) but he’s not quite ready to ditch the diapers 100%.

Anyhow, we love the Diaper Genie we got for Lil’Man, so I got another. The changing pad we got him is great, but now that he’s so tall, he’s complaining about how short it is. I got a longer, 2-sided pad that I’m hoping he likes better. Then, we’ll swap the smaller one into his sister’s room. I also grabbed some crib sheets and a few cute newborn outfits that were on sale. Unfortunately, the scant selection of crib mattresses left something to be desired.

I really liked the organic mattress we’d gotten for Lil’Man and it’s held up really well. He’s still using it in his toddler bed and finds it suitable for his sleeping and jumping needs. I was pretty sure I knew the brand, but I wasn’t seeing it in the store anymore. I left without buying a mattress, but as soon as I got home, I checked Lil’Man’s bed. It was the brand I remembered (Stearns & Foster), but I also checked the manufacturer: Kolcraft. Turns out they make more than just S&F mattresses. I hopped on Amazon and found just the right mattress for my little girl: a Sealy mattress that was nearly identical to the S&F mattress, but for about 1/2 the price (more due to an Amazon discount rather than the actual retail). I ordered that, plus some NB diapers (because that was just another thing we were lacking).

Wednesday
I finally picked up a key piece of art for the nursery that I had decided to have professionally framed. I’ve used the company before to frame tons of stuff and never had a problem. For some reason, though, this print had gotten lost in the system. I sent it off and never heard from them — not even an invoice or bill, which had me particularly worried. I don’t know what happened, but after 2 months of speaking with them on the phone and meeting once with the owner face-to-face, they finally were able locate my print and get it framed beautifully.

After that, I spent the rest of the week keeping my prenatal appointments, attending daycare parent/teacher meetings, working on other projects around the house (like hanging some art in the kitchen and finally taking down the Christmas decorations) and running errands like returning a Nest thermostat (which the Mr had me buy on my way home when he mistakenly thought a contractor had broken ours), purchasing some hardware at OSH to update our doors, and buying ELFA for an organization project. I know that my two main goals are paramount, but there’s so much to do around our house that I can’t possibly ignore other little projects.

 
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No more school, no more books!

posted by harlie in family, home

I start my maternity leave this week, so I finally felt like I’ll have time to get a few things done around the house. Most of my energy is focused on two key goals:

1) Get the new nursery in good order. Now, this doesn’t mean decorate…I just want to get the sucker livable for our baby girl. Decorating and styling would be a bonus at this point. Since moving in, it’s become a dumping ground for every box, frame and piece of furniture we weren’t sure what to do with just yet. I have childproofed the door because I don’t think it’s safe for Lil’Man to wander in there by himself — it’s that bad.

2) Make the offices/spare bedrooms comfortable. The Mr and I are lucky enough to have two spare bedrooms downstairs that we use as our offices (or man/woman caves, depending on who you ask). This is where our parents will be staying when they come to visit the newest member of our family. Unfortunately, neither room is very welcoming right now. That needs to change ASAP. Arrival dates for the grandparents have been set, so we’re on a deadline.

There are a slew of other, smaller tasks I want to complete, but 80% of my efforts will probably go toward these two biggies.

The nursery feels, simultaneously, somewhat urgent and not. This is because I know that newborns couldn’t care less what color their walls are or if they have the perfect room layout as long as they are warm, dry, fed and generally loved. Plus, we’ve discovered during this winter that the nursery gets COLD at night. During the day, it’s fine, but nighttime temps get to near freezing and that room does not hold onto heat. We think it’s a combination of a few things: it’s above the garage (which is basically a big, empty, cold space), the ceiling above it needs better insulation, and the windows are old and just plain drafty. We’ll obviously have to fix all this, but we can’t afford to do all that anytime soon. So, we plan to have our little lady stay in our room for a while. Lil’Man wasn’t a fan of his bassinet, but we’re hoping that his sister is more tolerant of sleeping in one. Hopefully, by the time she outgrows the bassinet, it will be spring and her room will be more comfortable. All that said, the nursery is in dire need of attention. Most of the stuff in there belongs elsewhere in the house (or even, in a garage sale or donation drop-off). Besides, it would be nice to be able to put her down in her room during the day, even if it’s too cold at night.


As for the spare bedrooms, both are packed full of boxes. The Mr’s room is in slightly better shape — we’ve had our parents visit and stay in that bedroom soon after we moved in, so it wasn’t as bad to start with. It’s accumulated a few more boxes recently, but the Mr is working on organizing all that and I’m letting him do his thing. My office, on the other hand, is a disaster zone. I haven’t organized a darn thing since we moved in or even emptied any of the boxes that the movers placed in that room. In fact, I’ve tossed a few more boxes and bags in there over the past few months which have blocked off any pathway through the room that might have once existed (this is a photo from before that happened). And thanks to said movers, I now have a broken antique desk that I still need to fix. It’s always needed a bit of love, but now it’s currently sitting in a corner in pieces, looking completely forlorn. My once beautiful desk is now filling the room with a vibe of hopelessness. Not good.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this week is the start of a whirlwind effort to get these rooms in shape and the house, in general, in a good state. I’m also hoping that this wiggly little kid in my belly doesn’t decide to show up too early and throw off all our plans. Wish me luck!

 
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Oatmeal Chocolate-Cherry Cookies

posted by harlie in family, food

This past Christmas we visited the Mr’s family. That means tons of fun, food and general awesomeness. It was really great to see everyone, but especially to meet our new nephew who’s only 3 months old. Lil’Man in particular loved meeting him and we were thrilled to see how the two interacted. We still are teaching him to be gentle with his soon-to-arrive baby sister, but it was great to see that he showed a good deal of care around his little cousin.

Anyhow…I was going to talk about cookies and got distracted by the warm fuzzies of seeing tiny cousins together. They were truly adorable. I was so caught up watching them, I never thought to grab my camera. I’m kicking myself for that now, because, cuteness!

ETA: My sis-in-law took few pics of the cousins playing and watching cartoons while the Mr and I were on a movie date.

Right…cookies. Well, Lil’ Man’s Mimi makes some of the best Christmas cookies ever. Plus, the sheer variety of cookies she bakes for the holidays is astounding. It’s not as if she makes a base dough and then makes a few, slightly varied cookies. No, they are all completely different classes of cookies. She claims she cut back this year, but there were still about a dozen types of totally different cookies to choose from.

Usually Lil’Man’s favorite cookies involve chocolate and (as I was saying) he had quite the selection to choose from. Imagine my surprise when he repeatedly selected a cherry-studded cookie over chocolate chip! I was stunned, but pleasantly so. I love that my boy loves chocolate (especially given that the Mr is not a chocolate lover. Yeah, I don’t get it either) but I’m thrilled that he likes more than just the one flavor. Especially the fact that he likes sweet/tart flavors. Yay!

His Mimi also noticed that he loved the cherry cookies, so before we left, she offered to send us off with some of the dried cherries she had left over. I jumped at the chance to take some home. As soon as she offered, I had it in my head that I was going to make a chocolate-cherry bread, but after browsing through recipes, I decided to make cookies. The best bread recipe I found was a sourdough. It looked amazing and I love sourdough, but the Mr decidedly does not. And, quite frankly, I didn’t think that we could finish a whole loaf, what with my not wanting to overload the kiddo with sugar, the Mr not loving chocolate, and my current dietary restrictions. No need to waste deliciousness, so cookies won out.

Oatmeal Chocolate-Cherry Cookies

 
I saw a sign somewhere that said something like, “Cookies that look like chocolate chip but turn out to be raisin are the reason I have trust issues. ” That is totally me. Oatmeal Raisin being the most common impostor, I always promised myself I’d make my own Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. So, I made these. Turns out they just go above and beyond thanks to the tartness of the cherries. So yummy!
 

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick or instant oats)
1 cup dried cherries
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla and almond extracts.

Gradually add the dry mixture to the butter mixture just until combined. Avoid overmixing! Fold in oats, cherries, and chocolate. (I ran out of chocolate chunks and shored up my measuring cup with E.Guittard wafers…they worked just fine.)

Scoop tablespoon-sized balls of batter and drop onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until bottom edges are lightly browned. Cool on pans for a few minutes (they’ll be too soft to move for a bit), then move to a wire rack to cool completely (they’ll crisp up just a little if you wait).

My little man helped me make these (which mostly involved his watching the mixer and taste-testing along the way). He was Quality Control and sampled the chips and cherries before we added them to the dough. I was worried he might balk at the oatmeal, but he loves these cookies. So far the dough seems to freeze quite well which is a necessity in our house. I imagine that these would work well with any tart berry, so have fun experimenting!

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