Friday, March 28, 2014

Bits and pieces

Happy Friday, my friends! I hope you've all had a nice week. Our renovations have been chugging right along, though I've been fairly terrible about documenting any of it (hence this random, totally unrelated, but much more visually appealing pic of flowers!). Yesterday we had all of our new cabinets delivered, along with our dishwasher and stove. They were all piled into the kitchen when we left this morning, but I'm hoping that the base cabinets will be installed when I get home.

Since we opened up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, I knew that those rooms would be painted the same color. They're off of our living room, which is revere pewter, and I brought home silver mist (both Benjamin Moore). After painting the ceilings, I started cutting in with it last weekend, but immediately got nervous that it was too dark and similar in saturation to the revere pewter. This was, embarrassingly, keeping me up at night. Now that the cabinets are in, though, and I know how much white the rooms will have, I'm feeling better about it. AND, it's just paint, so I should really chill out. I definitely had less hemming and hawing about the floors/cabinets/counter tops, ha ha. (But if you'd like to weigh in, please feel free...)

Tomorrow is my baby shower, which I am so very excited for. Peter's staying home to work on laying down our new floors, which is a significantly worse way to spend a Saturday. Bits and pieces of incredibly sweet gifts for the baby from family and friends have trickled in this week, which is almost as fun as coming home to wedding gifts. We received one of those playmat thingies that are all crazy colors and flashy toys dangling from above. It's so easy for me to imagine a baby lying there, looking up at it, but it's still mind blowing to me that my baby will be using it shortly.

In other baby related news, I had a doctor's appointment yesterday and they think the baby might be breech. Of course, I've been furiously googling "how to tell breech baby" and "make breech baby flip." I have an ultrasound in two weeks to check, but that feels so very far away. I feel like I can't do much of anything, just in case the baby's in the right place now? (And of course, I know that breech isn't the end of the world by any means, and that the baby still has time to flip on its own, etc., etc.). I should probably go back to worrying about paint.

I thought this post would be a quick bullet list when I started off, but I guess I had a lot of sharing to do! The only other thing I wanted to tell you was that I finally started The Goldfinch, and gosh it's good so far (though I still believe it's fairly audacious to make any book this long).

Hope you all have wonderful springy weekends ahead!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Just beyond

A chilly weekend away in southern Maine at the end of March doesn't exactly scream "baby moon," but that's what we called it.

Over the last eight years, Peter and I have taken many, many trips - both big and small - together. Our first was to Williamsburg, Virginia about six months after we met. The town was all decked out for Christmas, and we bopped around eating and drinking and generally feeling extremely adult about the whole thing. That Sunday afternoon was drizzly and cold, but there was a promise of fireworks once it got dark enough, so Peter got a taste of how serious I am about pyrotechnics because we stayed on that town green until the bitter, celebratory end.

Then there were the weekends in New York, before we lived there. Weekends in D.C., after we lived there. Weekends in Boston, before we moved here for good. There were wedding celebrations in Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, North Carolina. Winter weekends skiing in the Berkshires, driving into the wilds of Canada, bopping down to Newport.

And big trips. Taking off for nearly a month to roam around Brazil, and then Hawaii. Week-long stays in Paris, and Charleston.

In the middle of our Brazil trip, which we took off on just days after getting engaged, we went to different beaches all the time, ate so much grilled meat, brought cards everywhere we went to play gin rummy because everyone around us seemed to be doing the same, and I remember one night, probably about halfway into the trip when Peter and I were out at bar where the floor was covered with a thick spread of sand underneath our feet, he said very casually, "It's so lucky that I get to spend all my days with you."

In celebration of these days together, when it is just an us, we ate fried sea food, and took a long walk by the steely grey water, perched as gracefully as possible atop bar stools, and toasted to this lovely, lucky life we have together, and to all the lovely, lucky things that await us, just beyond our line of sight.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Upstairs Bathroom Re-do

Last fall, I hatched a brilliant plan - we could give our upstairs bathroom a quick make-over during Christmas vacation!

(Ha. Ha, ha, ha.)

Initially, this space wasn't anywhere near the top of our priority list because, unlike almost every other room in the house, it functioned. Hideous, yes, but functional. But because we convinced ourselves that making this room a whole lot better would just involve a series of small upgrades that we could do ourselves, it moved rapidly up the list. Plus, it made me kind of depressed to imagine giving the baby baths in that putrid yellow tub. The pictures above are from when we first moved in (that's not my curtain - they kindly included it in the sale...).

The first order of business was the tile. Now, if we were planning to stay in this house for many years to come, or if our tile was in great shape (but was just an unfortunate color), we would have either saved up to totally re-do the tile, or had it professional re-glazed. But we decided a quick and easy fix was more than fine for our purposes, especially since the tile has some cracks - I think it was a somewhat poorly done DIY when it was initially put in.

I heard about tile paint in This Old House, and thought it might be worth a shot, even though it seemed almost too good to be true. Painting over ugly tiles for a bright white finish?! But as you can see below, it's pretty darn good! I buffed and cleaned the tiles one night and filled in all the cracks with caulk, and then Peter painted the finish on the tub tiles and around the floorboard tiles (I actually left the house in honor of our unborn baby's brain cells - this stuff was incredibly toxic smelling). Then - and this is the tricky part about using this product - we left the house for a week (it was Christmas to New Years) because the tile can't get wet for a few days.

After this, the series of updates runs together in my mind, but we painted the walls a really pretty pale blue, replaced the horrible track doors on the linen closet that were never on their tracks (this task nearly broke Peter because the frame was so far from being square it was crazy!), replaced the light over the vanity, took down the huge, glued on mirrors and replaced the one over the sink with a Home Goods find, and installed a new towel bar and toilet paper holder.

We lived with it with these updates for quite some time while we shopped for, ordered, and waited on a new granite vanity top and sink to come in. Earlier this month, we finally picked it up! Right before that, I painted the awful faux marble laminate vanity base with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I was very skeptical about this product, but it was amazing. It's strange stuff - very thick and matte - but the coverage was incredible. I did have to give it four very thin coats to effectively wipe out the marbling, but it was worth it.

The small narrow shelves to the left of the vanity had shudders that were falling off (this house is FULL of shuddered doors!). I took the measurements to Home Depot and they cut me new pieces of wood, and I bought some basic trim pieces to finish them off. I added the same new hinges and knobs to these that I used on the vanity.

The final-ish task was taking off the old vanity top and sink and replacing it. My parents were in town last weekend, so Peter took off the top and disconnected the water in the hopes of finishing the job when they were around so they could help lift it onto the vanity. The pipes were so old that they weren't standard sizes, and our new sink didn't line up exactly with these old pipes. Nightmare! After hours, Peter basically gave up called our plumber on Monday morning. The plumber assured him he was super close to finishing and gave excellent instructions, and he was able to finish the job.

I can't believe how much I've written about this bathroom update, and I know most of it wasn't exactly riveting. But I am incredibly proud of this project. My mom calls it the "painted everything" bathroom, which is fairly accurate, but it's also a place where we - and particularly Peter - did some things that we both would have happily left to professionals just a few months ago. With the electrical work, carpentry, and plumbing tasks, I feel like we made huge strides in our confidence to dive in and figure things out in this crazy old house.

And now, of course, I'm not at all depressed about giving the baby a bath in this pretty little room :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Loving Lately

I recently devoured this sweet little book in one day (it's a middle grade reader, so don't be too alarmed by my speed reading!). I now want to not only rescue a stray a dog, but also acquire a spunky old librarian friend, and host a candy and pickles party (let's not blame pregnancy for that one - those two foods sound good to me always).

I've never been a one-piece bath suit person (I have a long torso, and I always feel like they look a bit strange?) but this summer will fall just after I have the baby, so it might be time to take the plunge! This one from Garnet Hill is pretty and seems flattering. But how do you guys buy bathing suits online?! You have to reject so many before finding one that fits right - it's seems really hard! Related, I also need a cute cover up :)

When we were in California, we played Cards Against Humanity one night. We were all laughing so, so hard and kept putting off making dinner until later and later into the night (even though Sarah, Joel, and Peter had to explain the meaning of some of the cards to me and my parents - ha!). Super fun, but not for the easily offended.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Tomorrow we are taking a day long child birth class at the hospital (eeks!) and on Sunday I'm so thrilled that my mom is coming over to help with big some house projects. Cheers to a false sense of preparedness and projects!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Surviving a Kitchen Re-model without Living on Take-Out

We are two and a half weeks into our renovations, which means we've also survived for two and half weeks without a real kitchen! This was one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of the remodel for me, so I thought I'd share a few tips.

The first is that if you can do your remodel during the warmer months of the year, it will make your life a bit easier so that you can grill or throw together quick no-cook meals. I'm hoping that over the next few weeks, we'll be able to grill a bit, too (the giant snow flakes currently swirling around outside might suggest otherwise, but I'm going to maintain my delusions).

Our cooking set-up relies heavily on our slow cooker and microwave - two gadgets I didn't use at all before this. I know many people use their slow cookers all the time, but I have trouble working out the timing of it. Why are so many recipes 4-6 hours long? If I had a fancy slower cooker with a timer, this wouldn't be an issue, but alas, I stole this one from my mom and I think it's probably 20 years old. To work around this, I've been focusing on recipes that require 8-10 hours, or just 2 hours, so that I can either start in the morning before I leave for work or throw it together immediately when I get home around 5:00 p.m.

These are a few of my favorites so far:

I've had a few failures, too, including this slow cooker mac and cheese (totally gluey). To round out these meals, I bought frozen pre-cooked rice, brown rice, and quinoa at Trader Joes, as well as some of their frozen risotto, gnocchi, and Indian meals for nights when a 2 hour slow cooked dinner isn't going to cut it. These actually remind me of the early days dating Peter, when we made these kinds of things all the time (and thought they were delicious! ha). 

The worst thing about the remodel is the lack of a sink. Our accessible bathroom is upstairs, so we do all our dishes there (and obviously have to go there to wash hands, fill up a water glass, etc.). Every night, we fill a giant water pitcher and bring that downstairs, which helps with a bit with the back and forth, and I've started using some disposable plates and bowls, though I feel kind of guilty about it. To minimize dishes, I've stopped making salads and simply through extra vegetables (fresh or frozen) into the grain when it's microwaving or near the end of a slow-cooked dish, like peas, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kale, or arugula (which I treat like spinach). 

I think that's everything I've learned so far, which looks long, but is admittedly not that revolutionary! If I'm missing something genius that made your kitchen renovation more bearable, please let me know! I've still got at least 3-4 more weeks of this...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Which Way to the Bulb Show

Last weekend we went to the annual Smith College Spring Bulb Show. We used to go most years when I was growing up, but I don't think I've been for at least 10 years! It was such a great way to spend a warm, late winter afternoon. 

The first room is stuffed to the brim with flowering trees, tulips, and daffodils, and the smell is intoxicating. 

Doesn't this all feel so happy and bright?

This is the last weekend of the show, if you're in the area and are looking for a cold weather antidote!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Down to the Studs

Our house is looking really crazy these days. We're 2 1/2 weeks into the renovation, and it's basically on schedule so far (I am furiously knocking on wood now that I've typed that!). 

The kitchen and dining room had the carpeting and flooring removed, and were taken down the studs so that the ceilings could reveal what was causing our upstairs to sag. It turns out that there wasn't a load bearing wall for that entire half of the house, which was, of course, causing the drop. Three big beams were added to the ceiling, and now the floor on the second level is flatter and the house is a lot more secure. It was a sad discovery, though. We were kind of hoping that the cause was just old age and there wouldn't be anything we could do about it :)

The electrician has come to set up all the new outlets and lights in the kitchen, a gas line was added for a new stove (I am so excited to go back to gas! Cooking with electric is kind of terrible), the stack pipe, which used to be in the middle of our kitchen counter (!), was moved further back into the wall, and the wall between the dining room and kitchen was opened up. So much progress! By early next week, we should have the new plaster up on the walls and ceiling.

Here are some things keeping Peter up at night:

  • Installing a new engineered hardwood floor throughout the first floor with me, his soon-to-be 33 weeks pregnant wife 
  • Installing the new sink, super heavy counter top, and faucet to the bathroom upstairs 
  • Keeping my somewhat grandiose time frame of when everything could/should be done in check
I would be kept awake by these things, too, if only I wasn't so tired each night when my head hit the pillow. Last night I did have a dream about taking down paneling and peeling wallpaper, though, so the renovation is successfully haunting me in my sleep. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Mysteries

Peter was a fat baby. His neck morphed into his shoulders in the most delicious way, and he looks like he had trouble propping himself up with all that head weight. I was the skinniest - all limbs, no fat, and also quite orange, thanks to my obsession with pureed squash and carrots. We keep saying we're hoping for a nice average sized one, but there's also a selfish desire to see ourselves more fully in the baby. Not a combination, but a big pudgy baby, or one that's long and all stretched that either of us could point to and say, "Yes, I was just like that."

I get irrationally annoyed by other people's hiccups, but I feel just as bad when I have them myself. Now the baby gets them, and I'm certainly not annoyed, but I wonder if it's driving itself crazy in there with all those rhythmic jerks that go on for long stretches in the middle of the night. No water to sip, no giant breaths of air to gulp and hold inside until they pass.

Most nights before falling asleep, I have a giant hypnic jerk that shakes the bed. Most days, and sometimes multiple times a day, my whole belly moves in a quick spastic shudder. I wonder if the baby has inherited this trait and if I can see it - even now - in that magical space between wakefulness and dreams.

There are so many other mysteries, but they are too big to even wonder about. Will this person be a reader? Will they love the beach? Will they be quick to laugh, or tell great stories, or make us insane by only eating orange food? It's too much - too exciting, too terrifying - to realize that we'll soon start the long exploration hoping to uncover who this person is.
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