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Books, Toys, General Cuteness, and Narwhals

The bookcases in the nursery have officially been filled with board books, toys, stuffed animals, framed prints, and a few other random bobs and bits that I hope our little man will love feasting his eyes (and mouth?) upon. You know, in the case of those gummy blocks in the bottom right corner of this shot that Clara loved chomping on. Of course we still have a bunch of bigger toys, puzzles, and games that will probably get stored in baskets or some sort of cubby system in another area of the room, but it’s nice to have some fun kid stuff on the bookcases that’s easy to grab and gaze at.

This is the built-in to the left of the crib, which Clara helped me fill by offering up all of her baby books to “my baby” as she sweetly calls her brother on the way. She is well past the board book phase, so I was especially grateful that she wanted to hand them down as opposed to suddenly wanting to hoard them even though she doesn’t read them anymore. She even brought in a few of her stuffed animals that she thought he’d like (two gators and a monkey).

Obviously these shelves will evolve as he grows and we get more items just for him that are based on his interests, but I did grab a few boxes from Target, like the three-tone green one below. Just to store things like crayons, blocks, and other small-scale games that feel more organized when they’re corralled.

That crocheted cactus above makes me smile. Isn’t he cute? We bought three of them a while back at a holiday craft fair here in Richmond and I was so excited to break them out as some can’t-kill-it-if-I-try greenery for his room.

Here’s the bookcase to the right of the crib:

That three-toned tree was one of Clara’s favorite stacking toys when she was younger, so I was thrilled when she said she thought her baby would like it. She also dragged her blue crayon-truck out of a basket and said it was for the baby now (she’s more into markers these days, but the gesture was still pretty touching since she colored that herself a few years back).

She also picked out the mustached man-doll for him at a recent craft fair, so I lifted her up so she could do the honors of placing him on the shelf next to  a box of flashcards and a cute cloth covered photo album.

Another one of Clara’s “creations” for her brother’s space was this robot print that she colored a few years back (it used to hang here in our last house’s hallway). We were going through frames in the storage room together and she said “he’s going to like this one – can we use this one? I made it just for him.” Regardless of the fact that she colored it well before he was conceived, it’s the thought that counts, so onto the shelf it went. Along with a random teal oyster can that I found at an antique shop this summer (it feels like a cheeky nod to the whole barnacle nickname that Clara came up with this fall).

Besides going through old baby items and buying a few new things like those Target boxes, and the mustached man-doll, Clara and I also had fun making a little art project for the bun. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Norman The Narwhal. He’s FAR from a perfect specimen, but it was the sweetest project to do with Clara and I think I love him more for his handmade wonkiness than anything else. Dude has some serious character going on. So let’s file this under “made by a kid with a little help from mom for her baby brother.”

Here was our inspiration (which is nowhere near as wonky, and very charming indeed), and here’s how Clara and I had fun subbing in paper mache for a styrofoam ball, made the horn a different way, used buttons for eyes, etc.

1 & 2. First we picked up a small wooden craft plaque from JoAnn for around $3 with a coupon, and we had fun painting it white together.

3 & 4. Then we made waaaay too much paper mache (seriously, it was a comically large batch) by adding water to flour and stirring until it thickened up. Clara LOVED this part, hence the comically large batch. She kept wanting to add more water and more flour and “stir, stir, stir” things up.

5. Next we used some newspaper to make our narwhal face, which was essentially just sort of a rounded blob of paper squished up and covered with paper mache with a flat back so it could sit against the plaque. We used small strips of newspaper coated with paper mache over our ball of crunched up newsprint to get it as smooth as possible on the surface, but that’s sort of a relative term since it’s still quite a lumpy little face that he has.

6. We used an old wooden dowel that was about 5″ long to create the horn.

7 & 8. First I just wrapped it with painters tape (using more on one end than the other for that tapered shape). Then I covered that with yellow polka dot washi tape that I had on hand, just because polka dots are cute and our inspiration narwhal had some pattern going on with his horn. We used a coat of matte Mod Podge over the whole thing to keep the tape in place and protect it a bit more (Clara loves Mod Podge and calls it Pod Modge, which makes me think of Padma Lakshmi for some reason).

9 & 10. When the paper mache narwhal face was dry, Clara helped me paint it blue with craft paint. I also used Aileen’s Tacky Glue to secure a screw to the inside of the dowel of our horn, which we let dry for a nice long time.

11. Once our narwhal face was dry and the glue for our screw had cured up, we could screw it right in for that horned look. I even made a small pilot hole with our drill to get things started (Clara LOVES anything drill related, so this was a thrilling step for her as well).

Then we searched the house for some small round items to use as eyes, came up with some old pearl colored buttons, and drew a little smiling mouth with a sharpie as well as drawing some little black lines around the frame of the plaque. I did that while Clara watched and counted (she’d get to about 30 and then start over, which was pretty cute). And finally, we just used some black & white twine from the craft closet to create a little hanging device (one small picture nail easily holds this baby up).

Over the years I’ve been asked if I think obviously fake creations like these (or a ceramic ram head, or a cardboard deer head) might glorify the act of mounting an actual animal head. I’m sure everyone has different opinions about this (it’s such a highly personal thing) but I’ve thought about it for a while, and I don’t believe faux taxidermy makes any sort of pro-real-taxidermy statement. To me, it’s just like using faux sheepskins in our house instead of real ones, or how people might buy faux fur coats. Another example would be how animal rights activists like Stella McCartney will design things with faux leather (real leather = against her beliefs, but she’ll use the imitation to make a statement that there are great alternatives to the real thing).

Now I’m excited to start in on some other personality-adding details, like a pair of colorful curtains, and a large-scale mobile for over the crib. And of course we have a whole blank wall across from the crib to deal with, where we think we’ll add a cubby-type cabinet for toys with a changing table on top and our bike art hanging above it – along with a bold green closet door.

But going back to that “large scale mobile idea,” this is just some bad photoshop, but I have an old manzanita branch that I think could be fun with lots of colorful shapes hanging off of it at a ton of different lengths and depths.

So those are next on the list. What are you guys up to when it comes to bookcase-filling and art-making? Anyone else breaking out the paper mache? Clara kept trying to eat it, which was both comical and surprisingly ok (it is made from flour and water).

Psst- To see our nursery progress from the very beginning, here’s the planning and rug-buying post, the dresser-sourcing post, the wall and ceiling painting rundown, the first half of built-in building, the second half of the built-in project, and how we added crown molding and a homemade crib skirt.

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Taking Care Of Bid-ness

That’s me these days. At least I like to think it is. Checking off those tedious and lingering to-do list items that I’ve been meaning to do forever, and taking names. So how about a Friday smorgasbord post? The funny thing is that just a few days ago we got a comment that said “hey I miss your Dude Get On That Already updates – will those ever come back?” Do you guys remember those? Where I’d finally get around to tackling something that had been sitting around waiting to get done (usually just painting or hanging something) and I’d share a little update – like this wall plaque, this box, this coat hook, and this high chair? Well, the funny thing about that comment is that as I read it I was thinking… I have actually gotten on a few things. What has come over me? Is this nesting? Has my body been snatched? So here are those details…

#1: Ding dong, the dining room table is cleared. You might remember this recent house-tour video which revealed that our dining room and guest room were looking chaotic and cluttered (it’s pretty much a promise that when we work on one room, another room nearby pays the price). Here’s a still shot from that video to refresh your memory:

Well, I finally got my act together and found better spots for stuff. It really helped to get a bunch of the craft stuff that had collected there into my newly organized craft closet upstairs. And I tucked the decorative items into the two bottom cabinets in the living room where I store other vases and cloches and stuff like that. It’s nice to see the wood of the table again. (I won’t tell you how dusty it was before I wiped it down for this shot.)

A few folks asked if I thought I’d use this table as a workspace if it were clear since I admitted to using the kitchen table until we get the office whipped into two-people-can-work-there shape. But I’ve found that even with the dining table cleared off I still prefer the kitchen table. I think it’s because I can see Clara playing in the living room more easily from there (the dining room is a lot more isolated due to its layout). But it’s nice to know I can run in there if I want a little more solitude. And that we can actually host people for some fancier-than-the-kitchen-table dinner if we’d like to throw a Downton Abbey-ish ball sometime.

The bad news is that the kitchen counter still pretty much looks like this (minus the crockpot full o’ stew), thanks to our in-progress pantry re-org (everything’s painted, so we’re just waiting for it to dry so we can load in some nice new systems). Sigh. It’s a vicious cycle.

#2: I hemmed Clara’s comically long curtains. You can sort of see them in this picture below (I usually tried to just curl them under so it wasn’t as noticeable) – but they were about 6″ too long and although I liked the drapey affect, they were borderline sloppy with so much extra fabric going on at the end.

So last weekend while Clara played with her dollhouse in the middle of the room and we listened to some tunes, I got to work hemming them with some Heat N Bond hem tape. It probably took me about a half an hour to cut them all and then hem them (I still left them drapey, so they skim the floor a little for that casual vibe) and it feels so GOOD to have that done. Seriously, I’ve asked myself if there’s something wrong with me that hemmed curtains make me feel so accomplished – but I think it’s just one of those things that I thought a million times in the last eight months (“I should really hem those curtains” would pop into my head each week as I put away Clara’s laundry), so it feels great to finally check that box.

#3: The extra pieces of our sectional have been sent to greener pastures. Remember how our full Karlstad sectional didn’t fit in our cozier living room, so “honey, we shrunk the sofa“?

Well, the random extra pieces that we we haven’t been using (the corner piece and the loveseat-sized end) have just been sitting in our attic under a drop cloth for the last eight months. I even mentioned that we thought about craigslisting them, but “we just figured selling the corner and loveseat to a sofa that’s incomplete without another end piece that someone would have to purchase might fetch us $20 tops” so I said we’d rather hold onto them and see if we had a use for them in the future. It was a completely surprise when someone emailed us months later, and offered to buy them for $250! We hadn’t so much as looked at them at all in the past eight months, so… sold!

The funny thing is that it wasn’t a blog reader who wanted them. A woman was just googling around to locate these exact Karlstad pieces (they don’t sell them separately, so she thought she’d never find them) and came across our old post about storing those in the attic. She’s not from around here (lives in Florida, actually) but she had items in a storage unit in New Jersey that she was going to be driving down to Florida in her SUV, so on her way down she swung through Richmond and (miraculously) fit them all into the back. So now we’ve got an extra $250 in our pockets and Karl – er, well the unused portion of Karl – is living a sunnier life in St. Augustine!

 

#4: I donated/gave back/handed down/consigned a bunch of Clara’s old clothes. There were four large bins in this video that I explained were being sent in a bunch of directions (some items were being returned to sweet friends who loaned things to us, some were being donated, some were getting handed down to other prego friends and relatives, and I wanted to try consigning some things as well).

So after they sat there for months, I finally got around to donating and passing along everything I had set aside, and I trekked the leftovers to Once Upon A Child (a little secondhand baby store here in town) just to give it a try. Forty five minutes after dropping them off I returned to get a nice little check for $141!

There were a few things they didn’t end up taking, so I swung by another donation box on the way home with the extras, and finally that Corner O’ Bins in the living room is no more. The funny thing is that I dragged those downstairs from the storage room at around 18 weeks pregnant (in anticipation of finding out if this was another girl or a boy, so I could sort through everything). Which means they sat in that corner for over 10 weeks just waiting to be dealt with. Better late than never, right?

#5: Clara’s birdcages are no longer birdless. That’s right, I put a bird on it. Make that six. I noticed that West Elm was having a huge ornament sale about a month ago and they had these gorgeous little colorful birds on clearance.

So for $20 I got six of them, and when they arrived I reenacted Snow White and put them all over my arms used their clips or their ornament loops to make them cozy in Clara’s birdcages. A few of you guys noticed them in this picture on Instagram/Facebook, and I promised an update, so there you go.

I even added a little wood dowel to the grey birdcage since it didn’t have one and I wanted to create a spot for one to perch and another one to hang. You can just barely make it out in this shot (the cut off bird on the right is sitting on it, and the flying bird under that one is hanging from it). That’s what I get for trying to be artsy with my photography.

Clara’s favorite is this one right here. She named him Prince Sam Bluebird, and we say goodnight to him every evening.

And in other update news, our new washer came bright and early on Saturday morning (some of you guys have been asking about it, which is beyond sweet) and it’s a HUGE relief that it’s finally here. I now sing and occasionally pirouette while doing laundry. I’m sure that won’t last for more than a week, but it truly is one of those “you don’t know how good you have it until an appliance conks out on you and you live without it for a while and then the new one comes and it’s broken so you have to wait another week and a half” things.

So those are a few of those “I actually got on them!” updates, along with a little Washer Status Report. I still have a bunch more should-have-done-that-yesterday things bouncing around in my brain, so maybe I should set a future check-in date with you guys to force myself to attend to them. Wanna get stuff done with me? And then we can all reconvene and attempt to hold ourselves accountable to the internet at large? What’s your “gotta get on that” list looking like these days?

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As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by WifeInProgress by rentalrevival
by HomeComing
by lorigrams

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