Archive for February, 2014

An Easy Handmade Nursery Mobile

Wanna see a pregnant lady in a crib? Boom, there it is.

Yes, this is a story all about how my life got twist turned upside down I made our little man a mobile. It’s kinda rustic (it’s made from a manzanita branch) and kinda modern (there are fun circles in a bunch of colors and sizes that hang down at different lengths) and most of all it makes me smile. Is it weird that hanging this actually made me feel more ready to have the little guy in my arms? Like “OK, the mobile’s up – now the baby party can start.”

Much like the mobile I made for Clara’s room (that one was comprised of little floral orbs made from wire, faux flowers, and glue)…

… this one was pretty simple to put together. Clara even helped!

First I dragged my decorative manzanita branch out of the storage room (what? everyone doesn’t have a decorative manzanita branch standing by? well, that needs to be remedied). It was sold by West Elm a few years ago, so it has been bleached and debarked and it’s nice and solid – so there’s no worry of anything flaking off like old bark and falling into the crib. I thought leaving it this raw color would be a nice counterpart to the colorful round disks I wanted to add. As for the dangly strands, I had two paper banners from Target that I picked up for $2.18 on clearance a few months ago without any earthly idea of what I’d eventually use them for.

Once the mobile idea popped into my head, well, they seemed perfect. Except of course they were colors/patterns that didn’t really fit into the nursery scheme thus far. But it wasn’t anything a little craft paint couldn’t solve. So I laid them out on a few old cereal boxes from our recycling bin and Clara had fun helping me paint them. They needed two coats to cover those patterns underneath, but it was pretty easy to get done – even with a wiggly three year old assistant. Mostly it was one of those we-both-hold-the-brush-so-we-don’t-get-paint-all-over-the-strings projects, but she has a lot of pride over the mobile she made for “her baby” and it was a fun thing to do with her.

While those freshly painted circles were drying, I realized they probably wouldn’t be enough to fill out the entire branch (even if I snipped them into smaller 25″ strands). So I broke out some white embroidery floss and decorative paper. Using a few round items around the house I traced multiple versions of three similarly sized circles to the ones in the pre-made banners onto craft paper in similar colors to the paint I used. For the smallest circles I used the base of the craft paint that was still out on the table, the middle ones were from tracing the bottom of another slightly larger bottle I had, and the biggest circles were from the base of a small cup. Then I just cut them out, making sure I had an even number of each.

The even number was important since I used them to sandwich my white embroidery string with some Aleen’s Tacky Glue. Just pressing them together over the string after dabbing them with some glue dots seemed to do the trick, and I spaced them by eye, using the spacing of the Target banners as my guide (those were around two inches apart).

I made each strand around 25″ long, just like the pre-made banners that I had snipped apart to make sections of that length. When everything was dry, it was time to tie them firmly onto the branch at different increments for a nice dangly effect. I hung the branch over the back of two chairs so there was room for my strands to dangle while I tied them on, and I just randomly spaced them so they were all slightly different widths from each other.

At this point Clara was over the project and happily putting stickers on the window nearby (that’s a really nice look from the curb, by the way), but Burger did mosey on over for a peek as I went.

On the topic of hanging things over a crib, we’re definitely paranoid with a side of neurotic. For example, in Clara’s nursery we hung a mirror over her crib, but we actually drilled directly through the frame in multiple places to secure that thing to the wall so tightly that even John couldn’t yank it off the wall – even though it was out of Clara’s actual reach.

So although this mobile weighs a fraction of a pound, we relied on three heavy duty brass plated plant hooks (they each support 10+ lbs and have extra long screws so we could be sure they were either hitting a ceiling beam – two of them did – or a heavy duty anchor that we added) along with extra strong fishing wire that’s almost invisible, so it looks like it’s floating. We just knotted the fishing wire to the branch in three spots that needed some support (both ends and the triangular middle branch area) and connected them to the plant hooks that we secured to the ceiling, directly above those points. And that’s how this pregnant lady found herself chilling in a crib.

I really loved this way of hanging it since it’ll always be out of baby’s reach (this method makes it really easy raise if we ever think it’s within grabbing distance – although once the baby is more mobile we’ll drop the mattress so it’ll be even further away).

It’s amazing how much sweeter the crib feels now. Like it’s saying “bring on the baby!”

Once we got it hanging there was a split second where I wished it was a little bigger, just to fill up that wall more, but it’s almost three feet wide and around 16″ deep and 25″ long, so if it was any bigger the function of it might hinder us since it’s a real-life 3-D object that’s hanging there (we feared we’d hit our heads on it every time we leaned into the crib if it were much bigger). So after staring at it for a while I’ve come to peace with its size.

John actually ordered two samples of Spoonflower wallpaper that he thinks could be fun to further fill out that wall between the built-ins (a complete surprise to me!) so maybe we’ll end up layering in some sort of interesting color or backdrop behind the mobile. It takes 12 business days to arrive, so I can’t wait to get it. Might be a total “nope that would look crazy” moment, or something that we’re both enamored with, so we’ll keep you posted. We’ve also talked about some sort of accent color with paint, just between those two built-ins, so we’re definitely open to seeing where this thing goes.

Either way, it’s pretty cool to see a room that used to look like this…

… looking more like this these days.

As for what’s left on the list in here, there are just a few outstanding items.

It’s nice to be in the home stretch! Both for this pregnancy (I’m still having morning sickness at 33 weeks) and for the room. Most of all we’re just excited to meet the little guy who’s doing the macarena in my tummy right now. I think he’s a very good dancer.

Oh and since a few readers have passed along an awesome tip about making sure to look at a mobile from below to check that it’s interesting from that point of view, here’s what the bun will see when he glances up. Little spinning slices of color and a nice branchy background. Although I don’t think his eyes will focus that high up for a little while…

I contemplated adding something facing him to the bottom of each strand (ex: a small animal-shaped piece of paper that would look flat from the side, but read easily from his in-the-crib perspective) but since his bedding has elephants marching all over it, I wondered if it might be more soothing to just see some dancing disks. We’re definitely open to evolving this little creation as he grows though. So if he’s really into some sort of creature (remember how much Clara got into worms and dragons?) I can work those in later. Just don’t want to stimulate him too much since it’s a spot for sleep.

And just because it might be more fun to see a grown man lying in a crib than a pregnant lady standing in one, there’s this:

Is anyone else making mobiles? Or putting the last few touches on a different room that you’ve been working on? What about hanging out in cribs? I’m telling you, it’s kind of a good time.



Our Favorite Richmond Virginia Activities, Shops, & Eats

Exactly eight years ago today, Sherry and I picked up and moved from NYC to Richmond, VA together. Apart from the towns that we grew up in, neither of us have ever lived any place longer – and it’s the only hometown that Clara has ever known. So we thought it would be fun to commemorate this date – and this city that we love. Especially since you guys ask us plenty of “when in Rome Richmond” questions – the biggest one being “what thrift/discount stores should I hit up when I pass through?”


Three years ago we celebrated our 5th anniversary by sharing a quick post about our “Five Richmond Top Fives” – but that only mentioned two thrift shops – and we’ve definitely found other haunts, activities, and eateries since then. So we thought a more thorough guide was in order… complete with an interactive map and an itinerary (you know me – I love a good graphic).

And since Richmond was recently named The Best River Town in America and one of Frommer’s Top Destinations for 2014 (only one of three in the US, the others being Palm Springs and Hawaii!), well, we figured our eighth anniversary was the perfect occasion to break things down for you guys.

With the help of modern technology (i.e. Google) we’ve embedded an interactive map with a dozen of our favorite thrift and discount stores in Richmond (green dots), along with some other suggested spots for eating (blue dots), or otherwise having-a-good-time spots (red dots). You can click any of the dots below for more info on each one of them – including a description from us about what you’ll find, some tips about when they’re closed, etc. Note: if you can’t see the map, try clicking here.

And here’s a hypothetical itinerary. It doesn’t include all of the eating options or any of the red dots (those are other fun activities outside of shopping/thrifting) but if you click those dots on the map you’ll get more info on each of those.

Let’s hit the road, shall we? Assuming you’re starting somewhere near the city center, you can head either clockwise or counter-clockwise around the map – we’ll do the latter in this post. Either way, you might want to fuel up at Sugar Shack Donuts or Dixie Donuts (pictured) before you start shopping (check out Sugar Shack’s FB page for secret free donut deals like “recite an ode to your donut”). Most thrift stores don’t open ’til 9 or 10am, so you’ve got time to enjoy it. Oh and many are closed on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays – so try to avoid those days if you want to cram the most in.

Our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore is our go-to spot for donating, and is usually a good shot at finding building materials and fixtures. If you’re more in the market for furniture and accessory finds, you might want to start at Diversity Thrift. We got lots of stuff there over the years, including the glass and metal table in our first house’s living/dining room (we still have it in the garage with a plan for tweaking it for our back porch someday).

Next head north on nearby I-95 to Lakeside Avenue which has a few thrift and antique spots, most notably Consignment Connection. It’s got tons of little rooms full of things, and is sort of a mix between an antique shop and a thrift store. It’s where Sherry found her beloved whale globe.

If you want the inspiration and tools for revamping your thrifted finds – or just want to buy something that has already been made over, make the short trek up I-95 to Ashland and swing by Thrill of the Hunt which has great upcycled furniture.

On your way back, don’t miss Class and Trash for lots of vintage and shabby chic stuff, including tons of metal signs and letters. We try to stop in a few times a season since there’s always a lot of stuff (both big and small) to see. If you’ve haven’t already needed a lunch break, you could pop down to the Short Pump area for a burger. We love Burgerworks for a casual but filling one built to your liking (I always get a fried egg on top). Burger Bach, a New Zealand-style gastropub, is also nearby for a foodie-r experience (it’s really good, but you might have a bit of a wait).

You may just need to go nap and call it a day by this point, but if not – head south on I-288 toward the river. Wait, but slip through HOPE Thrift on your way. It’s the newest store on our radar and we know we’re bound to find something cool there soon. Once you hit Midlothian Turnpike, you’ve entered our main drag of thrift stores. You can start small at RAL Reuse, which we love because it supports the Richmond Animal League. And also because its near one of our favorite cafes, Urban Farmhouse. Even if you’re not hungry, stop in for a coffee/tea and some pretty amazing design inspiration. There’s also a location downtown if you don’t have time to spare.

Further down the road is a Salvation Army Family Center, which is one of the more furniture-heavy thrift stores that we’ve been into locally. If that’s not really what you’re looking for, you can skip it and head straight for The Decorating Outlet. It’s not technically a thrift store, but it’s too full of deals to leave off the list. We get tons of lights there, but we’ve also scored rugs and furniture there too – including our crazy discounted kitchen table.

By the time you get to this part of the route, it means you’re nearing our #1 go-to spot for thrifted furniture: Love of Jesus Thrift Store on Midlothian. They’ve got tons of furniture, and we scored a bunch of stuff for our book there – including this dresser that we painted in a gradient back in 2012 (and still use in our bedroom today). Across the street is Family Thrift Center, which used to just be a convenience (i.e. pity) stop, but we just found this $9.98 headboard for the showhouse there, so it’s a new favorite.

If you still have time (admittedly, doubtful) – Caravati’s is also worth a stop. It’s an architectural salvage place so prices are much higher than thrift stores, but there are such cool sights that make it worth the detour. And once all the stores are closed, hit up the Proper Pie Company for dinner and dessert (yup, they’ve got savory and sweet pies) – along with one last dose of vintage decor inspiration.

Admittedly it’s probably a bit ambitious to cram all of this into just one day, especially if you like to take your time perusing like Sherry does (or take your time eating like I do). But maybe that just means you’ll need to stay the weekend. Or move here entirely. You know, either one works.

Now what about you guys? What are the best thrifting spots in your town? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a city-by-city database of them somewhere with user rated reviews and a “print me a map” feature so you’d know where to go when you get to a new place? Somebody get on that. Or does it already exist and we’re the last ones to know?