A Door.

Doors are one of Bitsy’s favorite things. Cabinet doors, closet doors, entry doors, lift-the-flap book “doors,” the girl loves to open and close them. She also pronounces every letter in the word and always uses the article “ah d-o-o-r.”

Bitsy’s door obsession may have rubbed off on me, because I’ve been working on some door makeovers for the front of our house.

When we were deciding to buy our house, we really liked the front door color.  It was sort of a dark mauve-y purple.

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Front of the house, pre-updates.

The rail on the front stops was not stained when we moved in, but needed to be.  We chose a dark mahogany stain.  I loved the color, but didn’t love the way it looked next to the mauve-y purple-y paint on the door.  I decided I wanted a truer, deeper purple.  I mean, if we are going to have a purple front door let’s have a PURPLE front door. Go big or go home, my friends! I picked up a bunch of paint chips on a recent trip to Lowe’s and, after Bitsy checked them out, I taped them to the door.

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Carefully considering paint colors.

We looked at the door with the chips at various points throughout the day to see how the different colors looked as the light changed.  Chris and I immediately agreed on an Allen & Roth color named Symphony.  Bitsy agreed too, she just can’t say Symphony quite yet.

She decided to go down super early for a nap today, and then took a SUPER long nap (WIN!).  I was able to get the door prepped and painted while she slept.  I did a quick second coat and put the fixtures back on once Chris was home from work.

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That is a purple door!

A relatively simple and inexpensive change, but I love it! I like having a front door that makes a statement.  Also, it makes it easy to give directions to our house.  “The house on the corner with the purple door” is pretty easy to find!

I’ve also been working on the entry door to the garage all summer.  It had 70+ years worth of paint that I stripped off. Then I stained it, sealed it with polyurethane, replaced a broken window pane and replaced the hardware.  I have to fix up the door frame a bit before I install the “new” door, But, trust me, it looks GOOD! I’m super excited about it!  Follow me on instagram at @JLosWorld to see the progress!

Keeping Busy!

This has been a tough week for me.  I’ll share more on specifics later.  I have been working hard to stay very, very busy to keep my mind off of the not so great things this week.

Here are some things I’ve worked on:

Ok, technically this was last week, but I still like it a lot! My parents took some old windows out at their house and I snagged them for repurposing.  I painted it and modge-podged some free printables I found onto some of the windows, then  I attached 4 hooks for bath towels.  I hung it on the wall of our bathroom with 4 L-brackets so it wouldn’t budge.  It adds some personality to our sort of blah bathroom!

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Bitsy’s Auntie Emily handed down this dresser to her.  Emily got it as an infant and has used it since.  She got some well deserved new furniture and gave this dresser to Bitsy.  After a few years of regular use, it was not in the best condition.  I decided to update it and turn it into a dress-up station for the playroom.  I cut out the interior drawer hardware (except for the bottom drawer) and painted the entire thing.  I chose a deep purple for the outside of the dresser, bright yellow for the inside, and a pop of pink on the sides of the drawers.  I sprayed the old gold drawer pulls a glossy black.  The drawer holds dress-up accessories and, once I buy a tension rod for it, the main part will hold bigger dress up pieces on hangers.

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Once I brought the dress up station into the playroom, I had to do some rearranging.  I moved out the toys that Bitsy has outgrown and moved around the things she does play with. I tried to group like toys together, ie. the kitchen, dolls and other “playing house” toys in one part, Little People and toy animals together, and a cozy reading nook.  I also tried to keep most things within her reach so she could choose what to play with.  She’s spent quite a bit of time in her playroom since this change, so I think she likes it! 

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 The total cost for all of these projects was under $20!  The only things I had to purchase were the hooks on the repurposed window and a tension rod for the dress-up station!

In addition to these projects, I’ve been cleaning and organizing a ton.  Our den has been sorely neglected, so I’ve been working on making it a more user friendly space.  I’ve also been cleaning and storing clothing and toys that Bitsy has outgrown. Unfortunately, I know that cold weather is inevitable.  I’ve also got some weatherproofing on my to-do list in hopes that our energy costs will be even lower this year! 

The first week of September is not my favorite (at least not when I’m unemployed).  These projects have been perfect to distract me and keep my mind off of the not-so-great things going on!

Playroom Transformation part 1

 

When we bought our house, I knew that the downstairs bedroom would become Bitsy’s playroom.  I wanted her to have a space for her toys and books that was NOT in my living room.  The previous owner’s son had used the 
room as his bedroom.  He was a teenager and it showed in the condition of the room.  The walls were dark orange and covered in holes.

 

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Dark orange walls…not good! This is after spackling, you can see some of the places where I had to repair holes.

 

 

Throughout the winter, the room was a catch-all.  It was a disaster.  I told Chris that I wanted it to be at least painted before Bitsy’s first birthday.  It didn’t need to be completely finished, but the orange had to be gone.  We spent a lot of time organizing things to clear out the room.  Then we had to really scrub before it could be painted.  Apparently, the young man who used to occupy the room was a smoker.  There was a fine (and gross!) film on the walls and ceilings that we had to wipe down.  One Sunday, Chris devoted the day to painting over the gross orange.

 

tada! we had an extra gallon of the grey that we used throughout the first floor.  what a relief to have grey instead of orange!

tada! we had an extra gallon of the grey that we used throughout the first floor. what a relief to have grey instead of orange!

 

Even just that simple color change made a huge difference.  There are great windows in the room but it still felt really dark with the dark color.  The neutral grey brightened things way up.

I was so happy that the orange was gone, but I still had big plans for the walls.  I had all sorts of ideas for a custom mural and bookshelf.  A few days later, I began to tackle the mural during naptime.

More on that later though!

Cleaning Hacks TU/TD

My alma mater’s newspaper, The Heights, has a regular column called Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down.  The column serves as a commentary on campus and Boston life.  It has been far too long since I spent time in Boston, and I had to miss my 5 year reunion last weekend.  BUT, I have been quite domestic lately.  So, here’s my TU/TD on cleaning hacks that I’ve tried recently.

Thumbs Up:

  • Shower Cleaner: I got this idea from a Mommy facebook group I’m in and I LOVE it. .  I fill a dish washing wand with 1/2 blue dawn dishsoap and 1/2 white vinegar.  It stays in the shower and every couple of days during my shower I swish it over all of the walls of the shower and the rinse it off.  It is super easy and very effective.  Plus, as an added bonus, it’s an excuse to take a little bit longer in the shower!
  • Carpet/Upholstery Cleaner: 1 part Borax + 1 part Baking Soda + a few drops Lavender essential oil + a few drops Peppermint essential oil…mix and store in a tupperware.  Sprinkle on carpet/rug/cushions, let sit for a few minutes and then vacuum it up.  Smells great, removes any yucky odors, and the combination of scents wards off pests. Win!
  • Homemade “Febreeze”: Empty Febreeze bottle + a few spoonfuls of above carpet cleaner + a few tsps of liquid fabric softener + water to fill the bottle. Shake it up and BAM, homemade and super cheap febreeze! 
  • Dollar store: the dollar store has become my go to for cheap cleaning supplies. Not everything is cheaper than the “big box” stores, but some essentials are.  In general I have found things like glass cleaner and dishsoap are a better buy.  Sponges and handsoap are generally not cheaper.  Most dollar stores carry some name brands and take coupons too!  
  • Cleaning schedule: It sounds ridiculous and a little OCD. Making a cleaning schedule has saved our sanity though.  WIth both of us working and with a 1 year old, keeping the house clean is tough.  Scheduling certain things for certain days has helped us immensely.  So important to take into account your family’s schedule, needs and strengths…but so helpful! 

Thumbs Down:

  • Homemade dryer sheets: I found (and tried) a few variations of this, but I wasn’t happy with any of them.  The basic premise is 1 part vinegar + 1 part hair conditioner + 2 parts water in a plastic container.  Add 3 sponges that are cut in half (so 6 pieces) to the liquid mixture. Squeeze some of the excess liquid out of the sponge and toss it into the dryer like you would a dryer sheet.  The sponges can be put back in the liquid afterwards and reused over and over.  Sounds great, but it wasn’t.  No matter what combination of scents and measurements I used I was not happy with the results.  The clothes came out super static-y and smelling like vinegar.  So disappointing! 
  • Dishwasher detergent: Again, tried a bunch of variations but wasn’t happy with any! Basic premise is Borax + Washing Soda + something acidic (ie lemishine or even lemonade kool-aid).  No matter the combination the dishes came out so cloudy. Always coated with a nasty film.  Again, major bummer.  
  • Laundry detergent: The detergent worked great, but it was a little too much work to be worth it for me.  There are recipes all over Pinterest. That are effective, just a little too labor intensive for this working Mama.  

With the dryer sheets, dishwasher detergent, and laundry detergent I think it is probably is better to scout out sale and coupon combinations to stock up when prices are super cheap.  

So there are some cleaning hacks I’ve tried recently.  What have you tried and liked?

 

Bitsy’s First Birthday–Safari Themed Birthday Party

 

 

 

Bitsy’s first birthday party was last weekend.  We had a ton of fun.  We decided to have the party at 3 o’clock–safely after both of her naps so she would be well rested.  We just served light snacks and cupcakes to a small crowd (about 15 people) of our family.    Her favorite toys are a variety of giraffes, monkeys and other safari animals so we did a safari theme for the party.

Over the past couple of months I have been checking sales at Target, Walmart, the Dollar Store and Price Chopper to pick up food and decorations.  Those bargains combined with things we already had helped to make the party budget friendly.  The biggest expense was the food, but even that wasn’t terrible.  We stuck with snacks that would keep and we would eat if there were leftovers.  I also decided to go with cupcakes rather than a big sheet cake.  Since I am gluten free I didn’t want to have a giant cake leftover in the house.  About half of the two dozen cupcakes were eaten at the party and most of the rest were sent home with our guests.

Here are some pictures from the day:

 

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I found these adorable 1st Birthday animal plates and napkins on clearance at Walmart. I displayed plastic cutlery and some of the plates in a picnic basket we already had. I thought it looked like something one might take on safari.

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Trail Mix in a safari animal bucket that was on Easter clearance at Target.

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These cheetah buckets were on clearance too. I took index cards and wrote safari themed names for the snacks.

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Who doesn’t love ants on a log?

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I framed up this super cute scrapbook paper to make a sign to show people where all the drinks were.

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We had iced tea with lemon ice cubes, lemonade with frozen strawberries, water and soda. Easy peasy!

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Bitsy’s Auntie Em is a phenomenal baker. We kept the flavors simple since it was Bitsy’s first time eating cake. Just vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. She had giraffe spots and zebra or tiger stripes to the frosting. I found small plastic safari animals that she used as toppers as well.

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We moved her booster seat from a regular chair to one of our breakfast bar stools and decorated it to make a throne fit for a first bite of cake.

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The three of us ready to party!

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She had a blast hamming it up for all of our guests!

 

Bookcases

As soon as we moved into our house in October I knew I wanted built-in bookcases to flank our fireplace in the living room.  I priced custom built ones and nearly puked at the price.  Then I looked at Ikea.  They were in our price range, but I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of all of the composite materials instead of wood.  I did a sketch of what I wanted and showed my dad.  He was planning something similar for his living room.  He said if I paid for the materials, he would help me build custom ones.  Chris and I got some Lowe’s gift cards for Christmas; we decided to use them for bookcase materials.  My dad and I got to work in January.

It was a ton of work–many early mornings on weekends.  It was totally worth it though.  We now have custom, childproof bookcases that hold books, pictures, electronics and other odds and ends.

I’m just going to post a bunch of pictures about the process.  If you’re not into posts with tons of pictures, I suggest coming back another day.  Otherwise, enjoy!

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A before shot, wires everywhere and cheap walmart bookcases. Notice the precarious cable box and blu-ray player balanced on books on top of another walmart bookcase….oh and right next to the baby’s toys. NOT SAFE!

When I mentioned how precarious the current setup was, and how Bitsy was starting to pull up, my dad immediately jumped to high gear to get the shelves done.  “If it is for my Bitsy’s safety, then we’ll do it!” He loves his granddaughter so much, melts my heart!

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My dad in Lowes. We spent THREE HOURS there one Saturday; finalizing plans, sketching, and ultimately buying the supplies.

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We used kitchen cabinets for the base of the bookcases. I wanted the bottom half to have doors so it would be safer for Bitsy and it could hide tv/cable/internet wiring. I primed and painted them during the week using the same white paint we used for all the trim in the living room.
***that nasty orange color was there when we moved in. it is getting painted over ASAP. I cannot stand it!

During the week while I was painting at my house, my dad built the shelf parts at his house.  We decided to put standards in so that the shelves would be adjustable.  Chris and I decided that we wanted beadboard in the back instead of just the wall.  This allowed for additional support straps to be put in behind the beadboard.

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On the weekend we put the bookcases together.

The shelves are attached to the floor, the wall behind and the wall next to them.  My dad said that if we were to get a tornado, the shelves wouldn’t go anywhere!  He also used a spade bit to drill a hole in the side of the shelf at the same level as the wires coming from the tv over the fireplace.   He used the same bit to do holes in the lower two shelves and down through the cabinet.  There are outlets on the wall in the cabinet part.  Before we put the cabinets in, we cut holes for the outlets.  The wires go down the back of the shelves and into the cabinet.  I love not having to see them!

Once the shelves were completely installed, we trimmed them out with moulding.  All of the edges are trimmed up to give them a nice finished look.  We used a nail gun, then filled in the holes with wood putty before priming and painting.  My dad’s catchphrase is “putty and paint make up for the carpenter I ain’t!” Totally true, the shelves are far from perfect, but the putty and paint hide the flaws!

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When everything was put together all that was left to do was paint!

We did one coat of primer and two coats of paint.  I have to admit, we splurge on paint.  I used to use cheaper paint, but it always ended up costing more time and money because I had to touch up, or use more…just not worth it.  Now I always go to Village Paint in Scotia.  Yes, it does cost more.  But it is so worth it!  The staff is amazingly helpful and the product is high quality (and no, they aren’t paying me to say so!).

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The finished product!

TaDa!  The finished bookcases!  Once the white paint was dry, I touched up the grey on the walls.  I also put the hardware on the doors of the cabinets.  We already had all of the decor on the shelves and the mantle; I just looked around on pinterest to get inspiration to stage them.  They were finished just a couple of weeks before Valentine’s day, so that’s why there are so many hearts! When Chris came home from work and saw the finished product for the first time, he was very impressed.  He said “Look at all those books…it actually makes us look smart!”  Ha!

Updates

Welp, it’s been a while since I’ve written.  We have had a ton of stuff going on.  

We’ve closed on and moved into our house.  We have done a ton of projects throughout the house.  I’m going to try to feature some of them.  I have step by step pictures for some, and just before and after for others.  I’ve been amazed at how much we have been able to do by ourselves (with help from my super generous and talented dad).  

We have been working very hard on saving money.  We’ve been cutting costs by doing a ton of diy and bargain hunting.  I’ve been making many of my own cleaning supplies and modifying recipes to save money.  By searching pinterest, doing a lot of reading of magazines, books and blogs I’ve been able to find many new ways to save.  

Saving has been complicated by some health issues I’ve had.  What my doctor and I thought were some post-partum issues were not going away, and in fact were worsening.  I saw specialist after specialist and had every test in the book done.  No one could figure out what was going on and one specialist wanted to do surgery to relieve some of my discomfort.  I was desperate for non-surgical options and a friend suggested trying to cut out gluten.  I went totally gluten free in December, and it has been a life changer.  Symptoms I have had for years are gone.  Going gluten- free is not easy, but I’ve been learning tips and tricks!  

Bitsy is 9 months old now!  9 months means crawling and pulling up, 4 teeth and 4 more on the way, eating big girl meals with Mommy and Daddy and just being very busy all the time!  She is going to start daycare very soon because our work schedules are changing.  

 This is all just a preview of what has been going on.  I am going to start writing more.  I’m hoping to put some tutorials, tips and tricks up and updates on life with the Laurenzos!