New and Improved Playroom

As many of you know, we moved to a new house in May. The house originally had two eating areas: a large but casual space off the kitchen and a formal dining room. I knew from the get-go that I wanted to convert the formal dining room into a playroom. It’s a great size and there is a large cased opening into the living room so it’s easy to keep an eye on what’s going on in there. It was the first room we decided to put some time and energy into updating since it gets used every single day and all the changes we wanted to make were cosmetic and pretty straightforward and budget-friendly. Today I’m going to share a bit about what we did to update the space for use in our daily lives.

Here’s what the space looked like when we first moved in:

Playroom 14Playroom 13

It didn’t exactly scream “fun room for kids to hang out” huh? I was itching to brighten the room up with paint, but it unfortunately wasn’t as easy as grabbing a brush. The previous homeowners had painted the walls with a textured paint (we think they may have mixed sand in with the paint to create a texture because it was very uneven on the walls). This made the walls look dingy even after they had been cleaned. Before we could paint, we needed to remove the texture. There were a few ways to go about this but we ended up just taking an oscillating sander and buffing the wall smooth.

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Justin testing out whether the sander would work for this project.

This process was very time-consuming and created a lot of dust. We had a bag attached to the sander to catch dust, windows open and box fans going to encourage the dust to go outside, and we blocked off the room as best we could but dust still ended up traveling into adjacent rooms. The process of sanding took a few days because we did it in short spurts to avoid inhaling lots of dust (we did wear masks to help) and to give our arms a break, as this was a workout for them! We also had to spend quite a bit of time on each section to get things as smooth as we wanted. It felt like forever but when we finally finished the walls looked so much better!

We washed down the walls to remove lingering dust, patched little dings and holes and then it was time to paint! Because the previous paint was so dark we first went over the walls with a layer of primer and then two coats of Benjamin Moore paint in Greyhound. We only painted three walls because my plan for the remaining wall was to use a fun accent wallpaper. We did put a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling because it also looked a little dingy, and this made the room feel much brighter.

For the wallpaper, I wanted something fun, a little whimsical, yet not too crazy bold. I bought three rolls of Magnolia Home wallpaper in Pick-Up Sticks in blue. It was the perfect choice, although hanging was a bit of a challenge. The wallpaper is prepasted and (theoretically) easy enough to hang – you just spray it with water, let the water absorb for a few minutes, and then press it to the wall. It doesn’t dry immediately so you have a chance to slide it around a bit and make sure it’s lined up the way you want. The problem for us was, even after all that sanding, our wall still wasn’t perfectly smooth. This created some wrinkling and made things stressful and incredibly frustrating for Justin and I. There were also a few places where we couldn’t get the seams to line up perfectly because it would have made the pattern crooked and created really noticeable wrinkling so we had small gaps. Our solution to this was to fill in the seam gaps with a white paint marker after the wall was dry, which did help to mask the gap. It’s not a flawless wall, but thankfully the pattern is subtle enough that it’s hardly noticeable at all, especially now with furniture and art on it.

The final thing we did was remove the old light fixture. We had replaced the flush mount that was in our master bedroom with a ceiling fan, so I just updated the flush mount with some black spray paint and we moved it down to the playroom. I would have loved a new light but we were trying to keep the room budget-friendly so for now this was a good solution.

The room was finally finished and it was time to move in furniture! Justin made a bookcase for toy storage loosely following these plans from Bless’er House. We bought inexpensive ready-to-assemble bookcases from a local company which he screwed together and used thin lattice board on the side fronts to create the look of a custom piece. I painted the shelves in Sherwin Williams Oceanus (the previous owners fixed up cars and they had a perfect paint room already set up in the garage) and Justin topped the whole thing off with a long plank of stained oak. He finished by nailing thin strips around the plank to give it the look of a chunky butcher block-style top which I LOVE.

I adore how the piece turned out, but there were many snags along the way. The shelves didn’t hold paint well and required many coats (and will need subsequent touch-ups). One shelf was slightly bigger than the other three (even though they were the same style from the same company) which created measurement nightmares. The top plank was initially cut a few centimeters too short so it required Justin to cut notches in the trim pieces he used on the side to make it look flush. There were just a lot of little logistical things and the project had more headaches than we anticipated. We’d probably never do it again, but I’m glad we did it this once because it works perfectly in the space!

We got a super inexpensive futon from Aldi (anyone else love Aldi??) and finished off the room with a few plants, a colorful gallery wall using frames and mirrors I already had, and an oversized alphabet print from a local company. And with that, the room is done!

Finished playroom 8Finished playroom 3Finished playroom 6Finished playroom 5Finished playroom 4Finished playroom 7Finished playroom 2

I’m absolutely thrilled with it!

I love that the room has gone from dingy to bright and airy. LJ plays in it everyday and I can testify that while it’s cute (in my opinion ha!) and decorated, it’s also very kid-friendly and functional in our daily lives. It was the perfect first room to tackle in making this house into our home and I’m so happy with how it turned out!

Playroom 14Finished playroom 1

I can’t wait to continue to transform rooms throughout the house!

 

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Final Baby Prep

10 days.

I can officially count down the days until baby comes on my fingers. Ahh!!

The nice thing about having to schedule a repeat c-section is that even if baby does decide to come early, there is a definite eviction date. Baby will no longer be in my belly after August 23 – I am just so excited to meet this little one!

I’ve shared before that it took quite a while for my nesting urges to kick in this time, but once they did, they really did. In the last two weeks, Justin and I have worked to transform an old dresser, paint the walls, set up a crib, and get some semblance of a nursery together. Whew! Now that we have the hospital bags ready and a little nursery, I feel as prepared as I can be for baby to arrive!

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I kept the nursery preparations very simple for baby #2 for three big reasons. First, we kept LJ in a bassinet in our room for the first 8 weeks and plan to do the same with this baby. Because of this, the nursery really isn’t going to get used for the first two months of baby’s life. Second, since we did not find out the gender, I didn’t want to do too much decorating in advance. Once baby comes, I’ll be able to customize it a little better and actually hang things on the wall. And third, all baby NEEDS right away is a source of food and a place to sleep. Once we had that covered, I decided not to stress too much about anything else.

Today I thought I’d just share a little glimpse into what we did for the simplified nursery.

Enjoy!

Baby #2’s Simplified Nursery

So up until about two weeks ago, the nursery still looked like this:

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Brown walls, random furniture, and an air mattress because we had been using it as an extra guest bedroom. It doesn’t exactly scream “welcome, baby!” does it? I had at least started to sort some of our newborn clothes though 😉

My #1 goal was to lighten up the room. I wanted something bright and airy, so after we primed the walls, for the first time in my life chose to paint walls white. Normally I’m not a fan of white walls, but since we didn’t know the gender, I decided to go this route this time. Eventually, I plan to make the wall behind the crib an accent wall of some kind. For now, simple, crisp, clean white will do.

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Next, I wanted to create a cute little dresser for the wall on the opposite side of the room to give a little color to the room. I found this fairly ugly dresser for $10 on Craigslist and knew I could transform it to just what I wanted. I enlisted Justin’s help (I was more of the visionary, he was more of the laborer ha!) and I’m so happy with how it turned out! We sanded it down, primed, two coats of paint (Sherwin Williams Green Tartan), and added some new hardware. Then Justin used dowel rods to create legs and give it a bit more height. I also had him add a stained board to the front because the piece of plywood that was there was very flimsy and cheap. Plus, I thought it gave a little more character. I love it now!

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Dresser: $10

New hardware: $18 total (including tax and shipping)

Paint: $13

Wood + dowel: $7

We had the primer, stain, and brushes already. So the total cost of this dresser was right under $50 total. Win!

A friend had an extra crib but it did not have the ability to adjust mattress height for a baby, so we put that crib in LJ’s room and moved his crib to the baby’s room. Another friend is done having babies and was ready to part with her glider. I added a simple piece of artwork that was previously in LJ’s nursery, hung blackout curtains in a shade of minty green that will complement pink or blue, and brought in our trusty sound machine and salt lamp for once baby is ready to sleep in the nursery. And done!

It’s definitely very simple, but I’m so happy we decided to freshen up the room and I cannot wait to see our little one in it so soon!

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes

Hi there!

Now that it finally feels like spring is here to STAY (mid-May and we’re just now getting to the point where we go a whole week without a night with temps below freezing!) I’ve got a fun DIY project to share!

Since Justin and I love being outdoors as much as possible and we hang out on our back deck frequently, I wanted to liven up the space with some flowers. That being said, I didn’t want to take away valuable floor space with potted plants (and, to be honest, I also don’t trust our puppies to leave potted plants alone just yet!) After brainstorming with Justin about ways to tweak window boxes to fit our needs, we decided it would just be easier (and cheaper) to just make something ourselves. I present to you:

DIY Pallet Flower BoxesNow, the directions might look a bit intimidating. Hopefully the pictures do a good job of conveying how simple this project really was! It fits right in with my requirements of easy, inexpensive, and functional!

DIY Pallet Window/Flower Box instructions

1- Get a pallet! We asked around at local businesses — several were more than willing to get rid of old pallets they had lying around. We also found some at the dumpster near Justin’s school.

2- Select the side of the pallet that you’d like to use. We actually decided to make two boxes so we used both ends of the pallet. Saw the end off to the size you want the box to be. For this step, Justin used a hand saw.DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com3- Using the remaining pallet (not the part you’re using as your flower box), remove one long board. Justin essentially just used a hammer to knock off a board running lengthwise. This will eventually form the bottom of the flower box.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com4-Before nailing the bottom board onto the flower box, seal all the wood with a sealant.  Justin went out to Lowe’s and bought a $4 aerosol can of exterior weatherproof sealant. He sprayed down every surface of the box and let it dry (he let it dry overnight but yours could be ready much sooner depending on temperature).

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com5- Once the sealant has totally dried, attach the long board you removed from the excess pallet to the bottom of your flower box. Justin used nails, but you could use screws if you’d like. He used two nails on each end and also at the post in the middle so there for a total of six nails attaching the bottom board.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comSidenote: If you’re concerned about everything lining up just right, consider taking a piece of sandpaper and running it along all the edges. We knew it was going to be outside and I was okay with a more “rustic” look so we didn’t sand it down.

6- Next, take a mesh lining (we used a cheap package of $4 fiberglass screening found at Lowe’s) and cut it to fit the inside of the box. This is to keep the potting soil from falling out of the cracks once you fill the box.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com7- Fit the mesh inside the box. At this point, you could actually attach the mesh to the box (with a staple gun or something of the like) but we did not. Once the potting soil is in the box, it will hold the mesh in place.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comThe rest of the directions will vary depending on how/where you want to hang your pallet box. We hung it from our deck railing so we needed to find sturdy hooks to hang the boxes. Since we couldn’t find any that worked, we made them!

8- We bought a $3 pack of L-shaped corner braces at Lowe’s (ours measured 2 1/2″x 5/8″) seen below.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com9- The next part is complicated. Justin measured our railing to see how wide the hook needed to be to fit over the rail and marked that spot on the corner brace.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comSee the little black mark? From the corner to the black mark is how wide our railing is. Justin needed to bend the remaining part of the brace to parallel the part sticking up in order to form a “hook.”

10- After carefully measuring, Justin then put the brace in a vice and gently hammered the brace until it was bent at the place he had marked.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comThe picture is hard to see, but the black mark is at the very top of the vice. Justin hammered down the part sticking up to parallel the part sticking towards the camera.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comFinished product!

11- Attach the hook to the pallet box. We used two hooks of the pallet box. Justin used 1/4″ screws to attach the hooks.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comEh-hem. Please excuse the puppy photobomb.

12- At this point, all that was left to do was hang it up on the railing and add some potting soil and flowers and voila!

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comI used a bunch of random flowers found at my local farmer’s market — I love all the vibrant colors! I’m hoping they continue to grow and fill out the box. And yes, I know our view is the best thing ever.

And that’s it! This project cost less than $15 (most of the nails and screws we already had) which was significantly less than window boxes we looked at and (in my opinion) much prettier than store-bought versions anyways! It was really pretty simple to put together and the fact that we were going for a “rustic” look made our margin for error much wider. 😉

I cannot end this post without giving a HUGE thank you to my super talented handy-man of a hubby! This project would not have happened without him — he did the bulk of the work and I’m so so pleased with how it turned out!

Have a great Tuesday!

 

Simple, Creative Flower Pot Gift

Yesterday was a pretty long day at school, and I found myself really missing my kiddos from my last teaching job. Before I got married and relocated, I taught elementary-aged students with multiple disabilities and absolutely loved it!! Those students became so dear to me and they will forever have a place in my heart. And thanks to my thoughtful and creative teaching assistant, they will also always have a place on my back deck!

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At the end of last year, my class surprised me with the BEST gift ever! My teaching assistants chipped in and bought me a large flower pot. Then they painted the rim blue for the sky and a border of green grass at the bottom. They had each child stick their hand in green paint (great feeling for these children who love sensory activities!) and press it onto the pot for flower stems. The students all got to choose the color they wanted to paint the flower centers and petals. Since all of my students had communication needs, they indicated their color choices either by eye gaze or using gestures.

Each flower center and petal was carefully made using the child’s thumbprints. And the cutest finishing touch was the little critters! Each student made a little thumbprint critter (i.e. ladybug, butterfly, ant) next to their flower. Adorable!!

I liked that they also wrote each student’s name on their flower so I will always know whose is whose. I really really loved this idea and thought it was such a creative and thoughtful gift! I also loved that it actually involved my students, who have more limitations with fine motor skills. This was the perfect craft to get them really involved and now I always have a piece of them with me even though I moved far away!

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The gift also included a Lowe’s gift card so I could purchase a pre-potted flower arrangement (my assistants know full well my complete LACK of a green thumb!) which was also a very thoughtful gesture. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with such wonderful people!

Week started out a little . . . wet

Oh Monday. How I didn’t miss you.

I am actually normally a very positive person who really tries to make the best of a Monday. However, all that positivity went out the window (literally) when, at 7 am, I walked out to my car in the pouring rain only to realize I left all four windows rolled down after taking Macie to the park yesterday. I had to attempt to keep my bottom dry by sitting on my stash of re-usable grocery bags in the car.

Not exactly the best way to start out a week, but at least it made me thankful to get to work and get out of my car!

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In the spirit of fall, I thought I would share a simple fall craft that I did last year with my students. My first two years of teaching, I taught students with multiple disabilities in an elementary school. My students had little to no fine motor skills, so I had to get creative in order to make sure they could all still participate in making crafts.  This simple Indian corn craft is perfect for students with developing fine motor skills! It’s also a good sensory activity; my students love the feel of dipping their fingers into the paint!

Indian Corn

You will need:

-yellow construction paper

-green construction paper

-brown, orange, and red finger paint

-small bowls or a plate for the finger paint

-glue (or you could use a gold brad if you want to make the leaves moveable)

-scissors

Instructions:

1. Cut the orange construction paper into the shape of a large oval. If the child has the fine motor skills, you can have him or her cut this paper after you draw a simple outline. I made my oval “bumpy” to look like the edge of an ear of corn.

2. Cut out two green leaves. I free-handed this step but if you are not comfortable with that, I’d suggest finding an outline online to trace and use as a template.

3. Here’s the fun part! Have the child dip their fingers into different colors of paint. (For some of my students with more limited abilities, I used a paint brush to apply paint to their fingertips.) Then they can make kernels all over their yellow ear of corn. They can do a pattern or just dot away until the ear is full of kernels!

4. Allow time for the paint to dry. After it’s dry, attach the leaves to the ear. I used glue to keep mine in place; however, I wish I had used a brad to attach the leaves so the students could have practiced pulling back the husk to reveal the corn!

This would also be a good lesson around Thanksgiving to teach about the first Thanksgiving and the help that the Native Americans gave to the Pilgrims in planting maize.

Enjoy!