Barn Door

This post will be short and sweet as I’ve been a bit of a stress ball this past week or so. Between packing up the kids for a short weekend trip and helping to run the book fair at Myla’s preschool, there’s been some extra to-do’s on my plate causing my anxiety to rise… also resulting in a little extra flowing of the wine. Because face it, packing the kids up to go anywhere, even for a short trip takes just as many days as the trip is long. And trying to help run a book fair for the first time ever is a bit mind boggling especially when you still have mommy-brain.

Anyways, back to it… I wanted to share with you a simple project, so simple that all it took was three steps… well, ok, maybe four. Rewind a little first… I’m always in search of items to hang on our walls. As I’ve mentioned in the past, our new house has a lot of wall space compared to our last house… along with high ceilings and even some cathedral ceilings. Finding pictures or decor that is big enough to fill the space and not look awkward can be quite a task. Which is why, when I came across this ‘barn door’ at the Elephant’s Trunk, I thought it would be perfect and had to have it. For what I believe was a measly $17 dollars, I took this big hunk of wood home. After some Briwax (1), a nail hammered into the center (2), an old, white berry wreath I had sitting around (3) and screwing in a really nifty wall mount bracket for super heavy objects (4)... I had a pretty interesting piece of work on my wall that fits in with the rest of my rustic decor that I’m trying to fill my home with. This may quite possibly be one of my most favorite finds at the flea market when comparing design, uniqueness and price.

Coffee Talk Table Piece

On another Sunday adventure to the Elephant’s Trunk, I found an old soda crate unlike others I had seen there before. What drew me towards this one in particular was the grayish-blue hue to the wood. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m going to do with the piece I buy, but I know I must have it because I like something about it. In this case, it was the color. Plus, when it comes to old soda crates, there are a million DIY ideas out there, so I knew it wouldn’t be wasted. When deciding what I would finally do with it, I thought I’d make a centerpiece for my coffee table in the family room. The room is currently decorated in natural browns and grays with hits of bluish-turquoise and a toned-down lime green. I knew this piece would fit. 

Finished piece

I brought it home and cleaned it up - just had to figure out what to fill it with. One of the inside boards was broken so there was a double wide spot. I had seen a lot of books at “The Trunk” and thought it would be a nice idea to find some books with titles that “struck a cord” with me to fill that space. It took me a few trips to find the fours book in there. I also didn’t want to spend a lot as it was purely for decoration - not collecting purposes - so that made it a little more difficult. I searched for ones with titles that would represent each one of us… Me, Justin, Myla and Maddox - the inside content didn’t matter. 

The first book I found was “The Rainbow”… for Maddox, my rainbow baby. The next I found was “Eat and Be Healthy” - I thought it was appropriate for both me and Justin, but I leaned towards Justin on this one. After we started dating, he decided to begin eating a vegetarian diet when at home with me, and with that his health improved too. Next, I found “The World’s Best Poetry” - which I felt fit me and my never ending search for beauty in the world. And finally, I found “The City’s Perils”… for Myla. Ha! Our spirited, strong-willed, overly dramatic, crazy, hysterical, imaginative, little princess, tom-boy whose always on the move and upside-down. What other title could fit this little girl, who calls herself “Dangerous”, more appropriately? One day she may hit me for saying that. The best part, the books look good as a grouping.

Make sure to add felt feet to any piece that could potentially scratch your furniture - this piece has metal banding that wraps underneath the box.

Finally, I bought some old glass milk bottles from The Glass Guy at The Trunk and filled them with interesting moss and dried/wood flowers. I finished off the piece with four candles I picked up for a great price at Homegoods. To add some holiday spirit this past Christmas, I added some artificial poinsettias… and again, like my dining room table centerpiece, I forgot to get photos. Oops... next Christmas.

First Flea Market Find

Almost two years ago, about the time I was first pregnant with Maddox, a good friend of mine and her mother introduced me to the local flea market called The Elephant’s Trunk. I had wanted to check it out for many, many years, so I'm not sure why it took me this long to finally go. It was always a passing thought and I never made it a priority on my weekend schedule - but with their convincing, I was game... and it turned into my new weekly routine. It was also a nice break for some "me" time which up until this point, I never really took any, at least on a consistent basis. I looked forward to going each weekend (and when it got rained out, I was always totally bummed). The flea market is the perfect place to find a starting point for all sorts of DIY projects - and I've been known to get ahead of myself with purchasing stuff faster than I was able to work on them. But, we had also been living in our new house for several months by this point and I needed more decor to fill our space... at least I had a good excuse to go a little crazy. 

Anyways, one of my first project ideas was a new centerpiece on my dining room table. On our first trip, we found the perfect wood box - an old wood tool caddy of sorts - and at a pretty good price. It certainly helps to go with “flea market veterans” who also happen to be good negotiators. (My quiet/shy nature certainly doesn't help me in this arena). We also found some old mason jars from “the glass guy” who is there every weekend and specializes in... you guessed it - all sorts of old glass bottles and jars. The mason jars I found had glass lids and metal hinges and I bought them in two sizes which I planned to place inside the box. I brought home those pieces and got to work. 

Finished centerpiece

I started by using Briwax on the wooden box. Briwax is amazing - it brings out all the natural patina and color of the antiqued wood and gives it a natural sheen - the more you buff, the glossier it will get. Briwax comes in a variety colors/shades too so even if you wanted to darken a piece, it’s possible using this wax. 

Next, I wanted to figure out a way to put candles in the mason jars to keep them elevated and peeking above the rim instead of placing them on the bottom where they would be hidden once I added the moss and flowers I had in mind. I decided to use some heavy gauge metal wire we had in the basement and experimented a bit to make these little “candle holders” that wrapped around the edges of the mason jars. They keep the candles elevated at just the right height. As you can see, I bent the wire to make a platform for the candle, and then little arms that wrapped around the top of the jar. 

Supplies: Heavy Gauge Wire, Mason Jar, Wire Cutters, Pliers and Candle

Steps to make elevated candle platform

Finally, I used moss and artificial flowers and berries to fill in around the jars. By using moss as a filler, I made sure not to add any extra weight to the piece so it can easily be picked up and moved when setting out food on the table. The wood caddy alone is quite heavy and once adding the mason jars, I didn’t want it much heavier. As for the holidays this year, I switched out the white and cream flowers and berries for red ones to make it more festive. Only thing… I forgot to get some pictures. Maybe next Christmas I’ll update this post with new photos.

The Coolest Party in Town

…Is a FROZEN birthday party of course.

Sometimes I look back at the things I do and say, “Yup, I’m kind of crazy”. I’ve told myself time and again to give myself a break especially with birthday parties - kids appreciate store bought items just as much as homemade and it’s a lot less stressful and time consuming. But once my mind gets going and an idea starts branching out, I just can’t “let it go”.

I was 36 weeks pregnant when I threw Myla her third birthday party. I chose to hold it a few weeks early because Maddox was scheduled to arrive the day before her actual birthday, not leaving much wriggle room. As I mentioned in my last post, he had other plans and arrived early, which made me that much more thankful we chose to hold the party when we did. 

This year, I let Myla choose her party theme (as compared to the trains and owls I chose for the last two). It’s no surprise she chose the ever popular Frozen theme. What I should have done, being 9 months pregnant, was to buy all the Frozen theme decor at the party store and buy a cake. But do I allow myself to do this? Nope, of course not. After all, I enjoy doing this stuff. But seriously, I probably should have been relaxing with my feet up. 

I did, however, allow myself to consult Pinterest to fill in the gaps where my fatigued pregnant brain couldn’t. And, as much as I love Elsa and Anna - I didn’t want the party to focus on princesses. There was going to be three times as many boys than girls at her party and I know that Olaf would be the most popular character among all the kids. In addition to Olaf, a general "frozen/snowy" theme was my focus.

Unlike previous birthday party posts, I’ve put EVERYTHING into a single post, so it’s long. For easier searching, here’s what I’ll be sharing below: Activities, Favors, Food & Drink, Dessert, as well as the Invite and Thank You card designs.

Activities

Three is probably the earliest age kids look for, or maybe can handle, organized activities in a party setting. Two may work as well, but you’d probably end up with a lot of kids looking dumbfounded or refusing to participate - or maybe that was just my child. So, I figured I would plan just enough to have some organized fun before I let them run rampant from the sugar overload they were about to receive.

I planned two crafts and a slightly free-for-all snowball toss with Olaf. The first craft is the ever-popular “Build a Snowman” with marshmallows (jumbo, regular and mini), mini pretzels, caramel candy corn (I think these look more like carrots than the regular ones), and chocolate chips. I supplied edible markers and candy eyes to complete the face and made up bags of Royal Icing (aka gingerbread house frosting) to glue the snowmen together. This way it was completely edible. Even though the kids received some guidance on how to assemble them, they really used their own creativity to come up with some of the best (and funniest) looking snowmen I’ve seen - check ‘em out. Then, they got to devour their little creations.

The second craft actually came completely from my pregnant brain (I even impressed myself). Since Christmas was soon to follow, I thought making a snowflake ornament would be a fun project that most of the kids would be able to admire on their tree the following month. I put together bags with the following art supplies: popsicle sticks, pom poms, ribbon, and snowflake felt stickers. The kids then assembled them using Tacky Glue (this glue works much better than regular Elmers or glue sticks). 

And finally, I created a “Snowball Toss with Olaf” game. I had some leftover plywood (from the fabric-backed bookshelf I made) and used that to paint a huge Olaf. My original plan was to do Marshmallow instead - you know, the mean snowman Elsa created at the North Mountain - but he’s kind of scary and not so much fun for 3 year olds. I cut out the large circle for the balls to pass through and secured the board on a stand made from scrap wood. I bought a bag of styrofoam balls to be used as the snowballs - they were light weight, looked like snow, and I figured could always be recycled into a future project. We let this game kind of be a free-for-all and let the kids play with it as they saw fit. It turned out to be quite popular - after all, what three year old doesn’t like to throw things?

Favors

This year we didn’t take on such a large project like the wood trains Justin built last year… but this year’s favor was still pretty time consuming as a lot of experimenting went into it. Frozen Glitter Slime!!!! I tried a bunch of different recipes I found online and even messed with some of those to find something I liked. My only regret is that it didn’t last as long as the one experiment I did using regular white Elmer’s glue (instead of the clear), but the clear glue gave me the effect I was looking for. Unfortunately some batches got stickier/runnier than others within a few weeks. All that’s needed to fix it and bring back it’s perfect consistency is a little Borax and water solution - see recipe for ratio

Anyways, I found the clear 8oz PET jars and lids at the best price from Nature’s Garden. I created my own circular Olaf 'labels', cut them out and used Mod Podge to glue them and coat them on the lids.

In addition to the Frozen Glitter Slime, I assembled little bags of Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses since Olaf loves hugs… and the kisses (Cookies 'n' Cream flavor) came in the perfect blue wrapping. I also created the Thank You tags which I tied onto each baggie.

Food & Drink

At the party we served lunch which allowed us to tie the theme right into the menu - this is where I used Pinterest for some of the menu item names. For the kids’ sandwiches, I used a snowflake cookie cutter (kept it simple for the kids with a choice of cheese or peanut butter & jelly). You can also view the recipes for the Frozen Waters Punch aka "Tiffany Punch" (please excuse the photoshopped picture below, I forgot to snap a photo with punch in it - also, instead of a 1:1 ratio, I used less lemonade to keep it bluer) and the Troll Stones, which were Lentil ‘Meat’balls served in a mushroom thyme gravy which everyone couldn’t get enough of. (Tasted like Thanksgiving - yum!). I also made water bottle labels to carry the theme through.

Dessert

Hello sugar overload!!! I might have gone a little crazy here. To start, I made a “smash cake” of sorts decorated with sugar snowflakes found on Amazon. I also made cupcakes which I find easier to serve to a large group than having to slice and plate cake. I also made Jello Jigglers for Kristoff’s Ice, chocolate dipped strawberries for Frozen Hearts, and chocolate dipped pretzel rods for the Frozen Wands. For the dipping chocolate, I used Candy Melts, available at Michaels, Jo-Ann, party stores and I believe even Walmart. They already come pre-colored - just pick your sprinkles to decorate. I found using the microwave to melt them was extremely easy. I suggest using a tall pint glass for melting the chocolate and dipping the pretzels. (A shallow bowl worked better for the strawberries.) After dipping the pretzels and decorating with sprinkles, just lay on wax paper. Once cooled, package them in sealed plastic bags until ready to serve. As for the strawberries, store them in the fridge.

Invite and Thank You

I kept the invite simple sticking with a snowflake theme. Simply printed it on white cardstock, and used colored cardstock on the back. For the Thank You card, I kept it even simpler (no colored card stock) and made it like a notecard without a fold.

And finally…

In addition to some of the store bought decorations I did buy, I drew an Olaf to put by our fireplace where we stacked the birthday gifts. Maybe my “fire” looks a little cheesy, but Myla loved it as well as the rest of her “frozens birthday”, as she said. And that’s all that really matters. Overall, I was so happy to see Myla enjoying her party and her friends… and so happy that Maddox decided to wait another few weeks before making his appearance. I got a little bit of time to rest after all that work. 

Later that evening... Queen Myla got her cake.

Fabric-Backed Bookcase

Now that we have a baby boy on the way, I decided it was time to re-do Myla’s room - giving her a “big girl” room - since we need the crib and other furniture for the nursery. Myla, super-lucky girl that she is, inherited my bedroom furniture from my young teen years. It’s a beautiful, white, vintage-country-esqe style. It’s much like what you see advertised for young girls and teens in Pottery Barn. (Glad I had such good taste so many years ago… wink, wink). It’s in pretty good shape and sure to grow with her throughout the years… which is exactly why I finally decided to finish her unfinished bookcase. 

Finished bookcase.

I actually got this bookcase years and years ago… it’s made its way through my many apartments and different rooms throughout our old house before it landed in her nursery. Since I knew the nursery was only going to last a few years, I decided to hold off painting it until now.

I thought it would look best if I painted it to match the furniture - PLUS I wanted to add a splash of color to her room. But, I didn’t want to paint the bookcase itself with a ‘pop’ color, but instead add a color backing to it that would be visible when viewing it from the front. And, I wanted to make sure that I could always change out that ‘pop’ of color if Myla decides that she wants to re-do her room down the road.

I started by filling in the screw holes on the bookcase with wood filler and painting the entire bookcase with a primer. I followed that up with two coats of paint that I matched to the furniture (an off-white, slightly creamy color) and finished it off with a spray clear, gloss coat. (Don't worry, I used the spray finish outside and wore a respirator to protect the lil' bub in my tum - it's probably a good idea to wear one even if you're not pregnant... those fumes were wicked). 

For the backing, I picked up some fabric that matched some colors in the quilt for her bed. A bright pink with polka dots seemed like the perfect fabric to not only add a ‘pop’ of color, but also some fun, to her room. Next, I went to the hardware store and bought a sheet of plywood which I had them cut down to size (slightly smaller than the actual width of the bookcase and long enough to cover the openings in the bookcase). 

Once I brought it home and tested it against the bookcase, I cut the fabric a bit bigger than the board. I mixed together Modge Podge and water (about a 1:1 ratio) so it looked like milk. I used a large, old paintbrush and spread it over the entire piece of wood. Then I carefully laid the fabric down on top, making sure there were no wrinkles or creases in the fabric. Once set in place, I brushed another layer of the Modge Podge mixture on top of the fabric making sure it soaked completely through. Once dry, I applied one more layer of the Modge Podge mixture. 

After I let that dry overnight, I used a piece of sandpaper to rub along the edge just enough to break the fabric fibers, while slightly tugging on the hanging fabric, leaving a perfect edge around the board. After that, it was simply a matter of laying the bookcase down, positioning the backer board (nailing in diagonal corners first to make sure it was square) and then nailing around the rest about every 6-8 inches. 

What I love about doing a bookcase this way, is that I can always pull the backer board off and apply a new fabric color on a new piece of plywood without ruining the painted part of the bookcase. I loved this bookcase so much that I just ordered one (although shorter) for baby boy’s nursery (from Wood Bin in Brookfield, CT). I will once again wait until his “big boy” room to finish it to match the furniture we buy for him then.

I also used the same fabric to make simple curtains for her windows (hung with tension rods - I love the wide molding too much to cover it). I still have extra fabric which I plan on using to make a few toss pillows or covering some frames for some artwork we created. We’ll see how far I can stretch the leftover fabric. 

Metamorphosis

This project is somewhat of a repeat but I wanted to share it for two reasons: 1. I used different materials and 2. The design is a fun idea for a height chart - so please steal it for your little one. 

When a friend was having her third child and the girls threw her a mini-shower, one thing she requested was artwork for the baby's room. I figured I could paint something but also make it multipurpose - like a height chart.

The Height Chart I made for Myla was made using a thick piece of pine with rounded edges that we hung with simple metal brackets. Since this new height chart was a gift, I was hoping to make it not as heavy and hopefully allow it to be hung easily with mirror clips (that’s how my mommy friend hung hers  - she is who I originally got the idea for the project from). 

I went to Home Depot and talked to an employee about how big I wanted to make it. We finally decided on a certain type of ply wood that would work with mirror clips. Since it came in huge sheets, he was able to cut several pieces out for me (I foresee giving more height charts as gifts in the future). Having them cut it at the store also made it much easier to get the pieces home. And since I had to pay for the full sheet anyways - might as well get some craft supplies going.

After a bit of sanding it was ready for painting. I didn’t know what the theme of Baby Rachel’s room was, so I thought a general girly design would work. I went to Michaels to buy the name letters along with the flower and butterfly shapes - which would add some fun dimension to the piece. Then it hit me… the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly would perfectly represent growth and change. Unlike Myla’s height chart, I actually painted in measurements, every 6 inches, so a simple tick mark with age would most likely work well. They just needed to get the height correct when fastening it to the wall.

Masked and Painted Ikea Table

I had been keeping an eye out for a table and chair set for Myla ever since she was an infant. There are many cute sets out there… and many pricey ones too. Since I know how well young kids take care of their belongings, I figured finding an inexpensive set was the way to go - I just had to find one that didn’t look cheesy. Lucky me, I have a friend who took an Ikea table and chair set, painted it and shared her idea with me. I loved it! But of course I wanted to make it my own and started thinking what else I could add. 

I love the look of natural wood and wanted to somehow mask a design that would allow the wood to show through the paint (perhaps this is coming from my days of designing bike graphics and paint masks). Anyways, I went to Michaels and found this stencil film that you can use to make your own stencils and masks. It has a paper back lining to draw your design on and once you cut it out (Xacto knife worked just fine), you can then peel off the paper to reveal an adhesive backing - which stuck perfectly to the wood. I chose to do a three star design and used my favorite See-Thru ruler to draw it out. I used carbon paper to repeat the pattern four times - 2 sets for the table and 2 sets for the chairs. Once I cut everything out, I also decided to use the leftover stars from the inside of the outlined stars.

I began by spray painting chalkboard paint on the table top which my friend did as well. I tried spraying the reverse side thinking I could always flip it around if I didn’t like it. But silly me didn’t have it on a totally flat surface and as the paint sprayed, some black specks found their way underneath. (Lesson learned - although I haven’t tried the Magic Eraser on it yet. Hmmm.) 

Then, I primed all the wood pieces, as the table comes in true Ikea style: unassembled. Gave it two coats of bright green paint - which Myla chose from a pile of paint chips. (A darker color would show a better contrast where the stars were masked). After it completely dried, I used an Xacto knife to make a little cut in the paint along the masking and lifted it up to remove it. If you try this, make sure the paint is completely dry. Finally, we assembled all the pieces.

Myla hasn’t used the chalkboard top yet.. she’s been mostly using her table to serve tea and lunch. And the best part... she loves it!

TableStencil_TableDetail.png

Choo-Choo Myla is Turning 2 (Part 4)

What an emotional past week it’s been and what an amazing outpouring of love I’ve received from family and friends. Although I was hesitant to publish last week’s journal post, I’m happy that I did. It’s opened the door for conversation and has helped me begin to heal. But most importantly, it’s helped me get back to my little pumpkin, Myla. And now while my little one naps, I have this blog to occupy my mind. I have been so excited to share this last post with you… so here it goes.

Decorations!!! 

In addition to the streamers, balloons, and shiny spirals hung around the house, we made a giant balloon “chandelier”. Since we have cathedral ceilings in our family room and foyer, I didn’t want helium balloons flying around as it would probably take awhile to get those things to come down. So we tied a bunch of balloons together (with a napkin ring), threw some line from the balcony railing above, over the fan and tied the balloons up in mid air. It was a great way to fill the large open space with some festive fun… and it’s something I’ll probably do again as it can work for any party theme. Although I think we could have used more balloons and maybe had a bunch of curled ribbon hanging down - but hey, this was a good start.

I also made a train themed “Happy Birthday” banner to match the invitations. I found a pack of card stock with 5 different shades of pink at Michaels. Here’s a helpful hint: If you enjoy making paper crafts, or even sewing and making your own patterns, there’s a really cool ruler that cuts down on your time measuring. It’s a “see-through dressmakers” ruler as seen below. Instead of marking a certain distance at two points and connecting the dots, you can easily line this ruler up along one of the lines (up to 2” wide) and draw a line. I have this ruler from my fashion design classes and I’ve found a million uses for it during all types of crafting. It’s definitely my go-to ruler.

For a fun little centerpiece, I created a Peppermint “Coal” Train. I bought the white mini loaf pans at Michaels and added some pink “wheels”, cut a track from the pink card stock, used a wooden train (made by Justin… more on that later), and made “coal” candy. I used the recipe from Martha Stewart which was super easy - but here you can find it with pictures I took and a few helpful hints if you've never made candy before. This “coal” would be a great Christmas treat too!

Another idea for the train would be to add a pretzel “log” car, animal (cracker) car, etc.

Favors!!!

As I just mentioned, Justin made a bunch of wooden trains for the kids. I absolutely adore how he had to get in on the craftiness… and I’m pretty sure he one-up’ed me here - they came out amazing!!! We thought about having the kids paint them as an activity to do during the party… but the thought of 10 toddlers/kids with paint inside the house made me freak out a little bit. So we figured the kids can just play with them as is, or paint them when they get home. Instead, we opted for a coloring station with crayons and 6 different train-themed pictures to color. I had also planned on making a “Pin-the-Caboose on the Train” game and/or a “Create-a-Train” felt board as an additional activity… but alas, time got the best of me. 

In addition to the handmade trains, all the little engineers received an engineer cap, bandana, and train whistle. I had planned on painting and personalizing all the train whistles and adding a little flower to the caps for the girls, but again… there just isn’t enough time in the day. Perhaps I need to hire a party planning crew next year.

Cake (& Cookies)!!!

I had this vision of re-creating the train on the invite for the cake. And in grand “Tricia-planning” style, I winged it the day before the party, crossing my fingers, hoping it would all come together. In the past, I admit, I used boxed cake mix and frosting… but this time, I wanted to make everything from scratch. While researching train cakes in general, I came across a train cake pan from Williams-Sonoma which had a recipe for both cake and frosting. I figured if it held up well to a molded pan that it would work for what I had planned. I made the recipe 2 and half times. Twice to fill up a 9 x 13 pan, to make a layered cake, and the last half recipe was to make 4 regular size cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes. The cake held up incredibly well - it didn’t rise and bubble up high in the middle and really kept it’s height after being stacked with frosting in-between. I didn’t even have to trim the tops to make it sit level. Excellent and DELICIOUS recipe!!!

After stacking the two 9 x 13 cakes, I cut around the smoke stack. Since I’m not well trained in cake making, I opted for a simpler design than the invite and left a straight smoke stack. I was worried about trying to frost it later. I had a bit of trouble frosting that area, but learned later that I should have filled a frosting bag and ran it up and down the side instead of trying to use just the frosting knife. Lesson learned! I used the 4 large cupcakes for the wheels and the mini cupcakes for the smoke. For the large cupcakes, I cut rings from the butter boxes and covered with a cupcake wrapper upside-down and placed them underneath so they ended up the same height as the train itself.

Because this cake was a unique size, I had Justin cut a piece of wood to place it on. To give the board some color, I wrapped it in pink wrapping paper and then used wide parchment paper to cover it. A hint of pink showed through the parchment to compliment the cake and cupcakes.

And finally… a few days prior to the party, my mother, Myla and I made butter cookie. It was a recipe from my Grandmother - making it a special activity for us all. We used a train cookie cutter to make over 100 cookies!!! We decorated them in pink, silver and white. And there was plenty to send everyone home with some. But have no fear if you ate some - We kept the cookies Myla made to the side as she had to sample and smash most of what she touched.

Choo-Choo Myla is Turning 2 (Part 3)

Train Table Re-do: This is one project that I can admit I'm a little crazy for undertaking. We were handed down a used train table from my nephew and niece. The top boards were in bad condition (one almost completely destroyed by being left outside in the rain), the table frame had marker lines scribbled on it, and a rail on each drawer had gone missing. Fixing up the frame wasn't that big of a project. Justin tightened all the screws, built new drawer rails, added some drawer stoppers and I used the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean up the table. (I swear that Magic Eraser is the perfect cleaning tool for my OCD).

Justin picked up some new MDF boards for the table top. Instead of cutting three pieces like the original, we cut two - by doing so, we only had to buy two pieces of MDF board saving some money. However, we had to add some extra blocks for support around the inside of the frame to make sure the table top wouldn't tip inwards when pressure was applied. Simple enough so far.

Then it came time to paint the table top. I thought about painting a simple green top with some trees and a river - but why not go design-crazy instead? I know kids use train tables for more than just their trains… they use it for puzzles, building legos, etc, so I decided on a fun design that wouldn't hinder the imagination but would also work with the train set.

I began by finding a little inspiration from The Land of Nod. They had some Nordic/Folky type images that were really cute on their website. (Alright, I almost pretty much copied some of them, but used the rest as inspiration for the majority of my design). I ended up spending THREE hours drawing out the sketch on paper which I cut to the length of the MDF boards. This is when I should have known I was undertaking a project much bigger than originally anticipated. 

Once I finished the drawing, I started painting the boards. I taped off the boards where I would paint solid green - I didn't really need a hard line here just yet, but I was going to be painting a light blue on the edge and didn't want to have trouble covering the green. After painting the green, I removed the tape and painted the light blue. Once dry, I taped out a one inch line between the green and blue where I painted the gray (with a little imagination, this gray could be a little road).

Once completely dry, I removed the tape and got ready to transfer my design onto the boards. I used some carbon transfer paper which made the task really easy. 

Then came the hard part. If it took me three hours to do the original design… how many hours would it take to paint it? More than FIFTEEN hours of painting (three naps and several evenings later). I still need to spray a clear coat on it which will hopefully add some protection. I also planned on repainting all the little trains and cars that came with the train set - but I've decided that can wait… and perhaps wait indefinitely. 

I absolutely adore how it came out but I can't believe I spent so much time on it. Hopefully Myla appreciates it and doesn't decide to scribble all over it on day one. Not only will this serve as a birthday present, but it'll be a fun activity for the kids at the birthday party - all the little engineers can "chugga-chugga" the trains around. 

Here are some close-up views of the little town.

Measuring Myla

Oh my, Myla… look at you grow. It still blows my mind how much a baby grows during the first year of life. Myla grew more than 9 inches and more than tripled her birth weight by her first birthday. Now as she is approaching 2 years old, she has already grown another 4+ inches. And one day… it's going to be hard to look back and remember just how tiny she was - it's already quite difficult to remember how I cradled her in one arm.

Although we have a little book from the pediatrician's office with Myla's stats - which will always be a nice keepsake, it's not very visual for helping to remember our tiny tot… which is why I wanted to make Myla her very own Height Chart. A special place to mark her height every year on her birthday. Sure, a wall or doorway works too - but what happens if we want to paint or remodel or even end up moving? Making Myla her very own height chart will make sure we have those little tick marks forever - and maybe one day she can measure her own children against it as they grow. I'm sure they'd get a kick out of comparing heights.

I got the idea of making this project from one of my mommy friends. She created one for another baby for the "Babies First Birthday" I wrote about last week. She used a thinner piece of material than the wood I chose - but I knew this was a chance for Justin to get involved in my project again. He used the router to add a curved edge. We attached simple brackets to the back of our piece, whereas my mommy friend was able to use mirror hanging clips.

Since Myla's room is based on the Skip Hop treetop friends theme, I painted a tree along the one side (figure it's a cute image to mark her height on and solid enough of a background to write her age and height). I called upon Justin again for this project when I drew an owl and bird on a piece of wood and asked him to cut them out with the power tools. After a good sanding and painting, they came out perfect - and I love the added dimension along with the letters of her name. After painting the rest of the board, I used wood glue to attach the pieces to the board (and they've held up great to Myla's tugging and pulling). We then attached the brackets to the back at top. And just like the letters above her bed, I attached the pink bows at top AFTER hanging (to hide the brackets in this case as they aren't very pretty).

Here are some detailed pics including the "bark" pattern I added with the brown-tinted glitter paint, the labeled tick marks done with silver sharpie marker, and the brackets we attached to the back. The only thing I might have changed looking back now, is that maybe I should have stuck with a more neutral theme as she will soon be outgrowing her Owl nursery… and moving on to her toddler room… Oh my, Myla, please don't grow so fast… I want you to stay tiny for quite a while longer.

Baby Steps

Crawling to standing to walking to climbing… such exciting yet saddening milestones as we watch our babies gain their ever growing independence... and need mommy just a little bit less.

At this time last year, 17 other mommies and I planned a combined First Birthday Party for our little ones. I recently wrote about the party hats we each made for our baby (I made Myla an Owl Party Hat) and along with that we each picked a name of another baby in the group for whom we would buy a present for (I picked Colten). I couldn't really decide on something to buy so I chose to make a present instead.

Since all our little babies were about to walk if they weren't already, I thought a personalized step stool would be a great gift and something that would grow with him. Plus, I knew I always wanted to make one for Myla and this would serve as a good practice run. Since this project involved power tools for cutting the wood, I knew I would have to ask Justin for help and it was a great excuse to get creative with my hubby. We found some ideas online as a place to begin and we worked together to design how we would put it together. Justin even suggested to use his router to curve the outside edges which was an excellent design idea (I just love when he gets creative). After assembling the step stool, except for the hinged lid, and giving it a good sanding - I began thinking of themes and drafting designs. I decided on Race Cars. What little boy doesn't love cars? Plus, it's a theme that will grow with him for the next several years as he uses it at the sink, climbing into bed, or helping mom in the kitchen.

I really wish I had taken more photos during the process and of course, a better "finished" photo (please excuse the photoshopped background - my messy table didn't make a good backdrop). Anyways, here's a few helpful hints for a design like this. 

  • I used red acrylic paint with a foam brush and really worked it into the wood. I even rubbed with a towel so a little bit of the wood grain would be seen through it - almost like a stain. I used Martha Stewart's paint from Michaels - it's really some of the best acrylic craft paint I've come across.
  • I used painter's tape to mask off and create the lines down the center top/front and for the checkered pattern on the sides - although only for the white part. I used a ruler to mark off the black squares and carefully painted with a flat, square brush. I also continued the double white lines on the under side of the lid to add some interest when the lid was opened.
  • I traced the circles for the number using a few different round objects and carefully painted them making sure to also cover the pencil lines I traced.
  • I printed out Colten's name and the Number "1" on my printer (after choosing a racing font). Once I had the size just right, I flipped the paper over and outlined it pressing hard with a pencil. Then I flipped it back over and taped it into position on the stool and outlined again on the right side. This allowed the pencil marks on the back to transfer to the stool. Then, I removed the paper and carefully painted it - the same flat, square brush I used for the checkered pattern worked perfectly for this font.
  • I gave the entire stool two coats of a clear spray finish to help protect the paint.

We finished the stool off by attaching the lid with two hinges and I placed very small felt pads on the front corners so when the lid slammed down (as I can picture any toddler wanting to do) it would help protect the stool itself, as well as mommy's and daddy's ears.

And just for fun, here is a picture of our 18 babies all lined up as we sang Happy Birthday! Still can't believe we managed to get a few pictures like this.

Having many other creative mommy friends, it turned out I wasn't the only one to make a gift for another baby at the party. That other handmade gift gave me creative inspiration to make one for Myla - and I figured Justin would get a chance to use his router again. I'll blog about that in a future post… as well as Myla's step stool.