11.09.2014

The End of Maternity Leave

Tomorrow will be a very difficult day.  It's my first day back to work since my son was born.

Before I go on, I'd like to acknowledge that "very difficult" is completely relative.  I'm fortunate to have a job, and fortunate that the most difficult thing I can think of right now is leaving my two children in the loving care of their paternity-leave-blessed-father while I return to a job outside the home that I don't hate.  I know that to some, this sadness will seem indulgent.  I realize there are many who are searching desperately for a job, and many who may have a job, but no reliable childcare.  Through those filters, I can see that I should only feel grateful.  But right now, in my un-filtered perspective, I feel sad.

I've been through this before, when I had to go back to work after my daughter was born.  It was terrible then and it's terrible now.  I know that moms need little breaks away and time to themselves.  But that's different from going back to work, outside of the home, after a new little baby is born.  He's nearly 13 weeks old, and I've never been away from him for more than 2 hours.  And I've only been away from him for 2 hours once, when my cousin babysat the kids while P and I went out for a speed date, literally down the street.

I'm fortunate that my husband gets 12 weeks of paternity leave.  I know he loves both A & E.  I know he is a great dad.  He's a better dad than lots of dads.  He's engaged, very loving, very playful.  He cooks, he cleans (yes, really!).

But I also worry that he doesn't get just how much work it is to be home with two kids.  I realize part of this feeling may be coming from a place of feeling unappreciated for the work I've been doing.  But a lot of it is genuine concern that he will be overwhelmed.  I have been repeating over and over to him how important it is that E get closely supervised tummy time, stick to his nap schedule, etc.  He's reassured me many times that all will be well, but I still just worry.  It's a lesson for me in letting go of control.  But the thing is, I'm not good at letting go of control, and I'm especially bad when it's about something like my kids' day to day lives.

Then there's the terrible feeling of sadness just because I'm away from my babies, no matter who they are with.  I want to be with them.  I want them to be with me.  I don't want them to be with someone else, no matter how competent and capable they are, no matter whether it's their own father.  And this probably is also a major reason that I am "worried" about them home with daddy.  It's more that I want them to be with me instead.  It's a terrible guilt feeling, really.  Not guilty like I will get caught by the mommy police.  Guilty like I feel I am doing them a disservice by not being with them.

Let me be clearer.  Our family's financial situation requires that I work outside the home.  In addition, I do get a lot of great things from my job.  I use my brain in ways that I don't use it while I'm home with my babies.  (I also will point out here that when I am home with my babies, I use my brain in amazing ways that I don't use it while I am at work outside the home.)  I have great work relationships that are very fulfilling.  I enjoy my job.  I am excited by the possibility of growth in my career.  I am proud that I am able to contribute to the financial well being of my family.  All of these things are great.  I am grateful for my job, my career, my opportunities.

But I love my babies.  It's more than a catch 22, more than a double edged sword.  It's nearly unexplainable.  It's so unique for each mother that I almost don't even want to attempt to explain it.  Sometimes I'm happy, sometimes I'm sad.  Sometimes I think I'm sad, but I'm happy and sometimes I think I'm happy, but I'm sad.

I don't know how much (if any) of it is fueled by feelings of external expectations.  How much of it is fueled by the expectation that I should want to be "fulfilled outside the home"?  How much is fueled by the expectation that I should want to be home with my babies?  Sometimes I feel that none of these feelings are from external expectations and sometimes I feel that most of them are.

What I know is that I enjoy being with my children.  I enjoy spending my day-to-day with them.  I like that they will have memories of everyday, mundane activities with me.

What I know is that it is extremely difficult, and emotionally and physically taxing, to be home with them.  And I rarely feel that others acknowledge how difficult it is.  People say, "Oh yeah, that's hard!" but do they realize that it really is?  It's so much constant work that part of me is looking forward to the break that I'll get by going back to a rather demanding job.

What I know is that is is incredibly rewarding and wonderful to be with my children.

The point is not really whether I feel sad, happy, depressed, anxious, excited, energized or even confused.  The point is that I feel all of these things.

I know there's a perpetual debate about who is the better mom: the stay at home mom or the work outside the home mom.  That debate sometimes trickles into outright war territory.  But as I prepare to go back to work tomorrow and I prepare to learn again to navigate my own path, I have hope that all moms can find support in each other.  I hope that all moms can acknowledge, even if they themselves don't have mixed feelings about their particular choice (or lack thereof), that other moms are doing their best for their children, too.  Sometimes that includes doing things that we don't necessarily want to do, whether it's staying home when we really want to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or going to work outside the home when we really want to be home with our children.

I've been struggling to narrow the scope of this blog, and I think that I've finally figured it out.  I'm trying to figure out how to be the best mom that I can be.  For me, it's by being the healthiest mom I can be.  Not just physically, but mentally as well.  It starts with making the absolute best of whatever we have.  I'll continue to blog about our home (making it the homey-ist I can), our DIY projects (making the best of our resources for our home), our diet (making the best of food), our money (making the best of our finances) and our journey as a family (making the best of our time together).  I'll also be adding posts about how I personally am balancing my roles, as well as how I'm creating a healthy work-life balance.  It's all tied together.  And who knows... maybe one day I'll be writing a post about how wonderful it is that I've found a way to be able to spend the majority of my time with my children!  One can hope!

So, today is the last day of my maternity leave, and tomorrow begins the balancing act again.  I hope that by documenting it all here, I will gain a little more insight into our own lives.  And maybe I'll start to better appreciate for myself just how much work it really is to be a real mom.

Have you struggled with these feelings?  Any advice?  Leave it in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna

Whole 30 (but not really) - days 7, 8 and 9

Well, it's gone fairly well!

I haven't noticed anything super dramatic as far as mood or energy.  I have a little bit more energy, but nothing out of this world amazing.  The most surprising thing so far is that I actually do like the food.  We definitely do not feel like we are on a "diet," and this is absolutely a lifestyle that we can adopt.  So that's good, I guess.

I do with that I had gotten my blood work done to start with so that I could see whether there were any dramatic changes in that area.

Here's our food for the last few days:

Day 7 (Friday)

Breakfast
Sausage, eggs, bell pepper

Lunch
Tuna (bell peppers, salt, avocado, olive, dill pickles), over Romaine lettuce, some olives on the side

Dinner
Crockpot chicken, roasted veggies

Day 8 (Saturday)

Breakfast
Sweet potatoes, over medium eggs, sausage (so so so yummy!!)

Lunch
Crockpot chicken, left over mashed sweet potatoes

Dinner
Sausage and roasted butternut squash, avocado (not the best dinner, wasn't even that filling or yummy)

Day 9 (Sunday)

Breakfast
Over medium eggs, sausage

Lunch
Tuna (bell peppers, salt, avocado, olive, dill pickles), over lettuce, some olives on the side

Dinner
Home made carnitas, bell pepper strips, left over mashed sweet potatoes, a little guacamole

Tomorrow, I go back to work (more on that in a separate post).  I've already made my lunch and will have to work very hard to resist temptations.  At least while I'm home, I can avoid putting myself in tempting positions.  That and I can snap at someone (like my sister) if they offer me something I'm not wanting to eat because of the plan we're on (like delicious snack sized Kit Kats).  At work, I have to stay nice and polite and civil AND refuse the yummy snack.  Might be difficult.

But I have to remember that Friday is just around the corner, and we'll be in Disneyland, and I'll be testing my willpower in not-so-strict circumstances.  :)

TTFN,
Alanna

11.06.2014

Whole 30 (not really) - Days 4, 5 & 6

Day 4 wasn't bad, Day 5 wasn't terrible either.  I still haven't had any unbearable cravings.  But I also know that this is only for 2 weeks, so maybe that's why?

In the It Starts With Food book, they talk about some foods that are technically allowed during the Whole30, but that they suggest avoiding because the foods trigger emotionally unhealthy responses.  Well, I found some of those foods for myself.

As we were walking through Costco, I came across their dried fruit aisle.  My downfall.  I checked the labels and only bought the fruits that didn't have added sugar.  We bought some dried granny smith apples (yum, seriously) and some dried mango (OMG yum).  While our daughter loves these snack and they are healthy alternatives (compared to what she might otherwise eat), these are not good Whole30 snacks for our house.  Specifically, they are not good Whole30 snacks for the mom in our house because I cannot control myself and eat way too much of it.  So, note to self that I will not be purchasing these in the future OR if I do purchase them, I will remind myself they are not approved for my Whole30.

Now for the foods:

Day 4

Breakfast

Sausage, eggs, bell peppers, avocado

Lunch

Tuna (tuna, avocado, olives, onions, pickles, bell pepper) on lettuce

Dinner

Tacos!  (without the best parts: no tortillas, no cheese, no sour cream) Ground beef, seasoning, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, bell peppers

Snack

Mangoes, dried apples


Day 5

Breakfast

Sausage, eggs, bell peppers, avocado

Lunch

Left over tacos: ground beef, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, bell peppers

Dinner

Turkey meatballs (homemade) and oven roasted veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes; Patrick had some broccoli)

Snack

Mangoes, dried apples

Day 6

Breakfast

Sausage, eggs, bell peppers, avocado

Lunch

Left over turkey meatballs, guacamole, veggies

Dinner

Baked chicken (olive oil, salt, seasoning, lime); mashed sweet potatoes (ghee and salt)

Snack

Mangoes, dried apples  (MUST STOP!!)

So tomorrow is Day 7.  I feel really proud of ourselves for getting as far as we have without any slips or cheating.  Yay, us!  (But I would really like a mud pie, some creme brulee and perhaps a mojito-- or two.)

TTFN,
Alanna

11.03.2014

Whole 30 (but not really) - Day 3

We still haven't hit the wall of wanting to physically harm everything around us.  So far, this has been pretty handleable.  I had worse cravings today, but nothing terribly difficult.  I really want some Halloween candy and a coke Icee.

I will say that if I didn't have Patrick doing this with me, it would be quite a bit more difficult.  The fact that he's doing it (and doing so so well!) is really encouraging for me.

Now today's food!

Breakfast

Eggs, chicken apple sausage, bell peppers

Lunch

Tuna salad (tuna, avocado, French's mustard, pickles, sliced olives, bell peppers, almonds) on romaine lettuce, grapes

Snacks (overdid the snacks today, so will have to work a bit harder tomorrow)

Banana, raspberries, grapes, almonds

Dinner

Crock pot chuck roast with onions and carrots, grapes

The dinner wasn't that big of a hit.  It tasted good, but not great.  We won't be making it again.

Overall, I'm feeling a bit better than I felt before.  My skin inflammation on my shoulders has gotten a tiny bit better.  My skin seems nicer.  I haven't noticed any major spikes in energy, but those could be around the corner.  We'll see!

TTFN,
Alanna

11.02.2014

Whole30 (but not really) - Day 2

Today wasn't much more difficult than yesterday, but I did think a lot more about the foods that I wish I could be eating (youu whooo, Halloween candy!).  I'd like to eat some Oreos or a Snickers, but I am not going to cheat.  I'm only doing the 14 days, like I've said multiple times, so I have to be able to do it.

As I write this, I do have a bit of a headache, which may be from the lack of sugar, but I can't say for sure.

I've nearly finished It All Starts with Food.  I like it.  It's helpful and does explain the reasoning behind the rules for the Whole30.

Here was today's menu:

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs with Aidells sausage (chicken apple), orange bell pepper (hey... if it ain't broke...)

Lunch

Leftovers from last night's dinner (chicken) with cut up raw orange bell pepper

Snack

Now, I'm not supposed to be snacking, but I am feeling a little hungry between meals.  Hopefully it goes away.  The book says that means I need to add a little bit more fat to the meals.  I'll try that tomorrow.  At any rate, my snacks: handful almonds, few black olives, 1/4 apple with some almond butter.

Dinner

Leftover chicken from last night, roasted veggies (sweet potato and brussels sprouts)


I feel pretty good.  Some of that is probably from eating well and some of it is from being proud that I've been able to stick to this.  I know it's only 2 days so far, but I'll take any little victory I can get!

TTFN,
Alanna

11.01.2014

Whole30 (but not really) - Day 1

This blog is meant to be where I document various aspects of our lives: parenting our awesome kids, home-ifying (you know, making a house a home) our house, the balance between being a full-time work outside the home mom and being a Mom.  Basically, where I document what I'm doing to make my life the best it can be.

In that spirit, I decided to revisit the Paleo lifestyle.  I lived the Paleo lifestyle, or a version of it, over 5 years ago and felt great.  I had energy, my weight loss was seriously effortless, I felt great.  But then I fell back in to old patterns and habits, and I'm back to square one.  Well, square something, at least.  I also have since had two kids, and the pregnancies left some stuff behind.  (Very minimal stuff, though.  Most of it is not pregnancy related.  That's just a cop out for me, I guess.)  

We decided we would get back into the Paleo lifestyle, starting with a Whole30.   Go to the Whole30 website to get all of the details, but the main idea is a solid 30 days of eating cleanly, no grains, no rice.  Eat vegetables, high quality meats and some fruit.  No cheating, no slip-ups, no cheat days, no excuses.  For 30 days.

I know myself fairly well.  I would not be able to do this through Thanksgiving.  Or Christmas.  That's just setting myself up for failure.  But we want to do it.  So we decided we'd start our 30 days on January 2.  That gives us the best chance for success.

In November, Patrick will run a race in Disneyland.  We will also probably see some of our friends while we're down there.  I know that for me, the 30 days can't overlap with that trip, either.  I won't succeed.  So we're doing a Whole14 until then.  (There are varying opinions on a shortened Whole30.  I don't really care about the opinion that it shouldn't be done unless you're doing it full throttle.  I get it, but I don't care.  I'm doing it this way for now and will ultimately do a Whole30 later on.)

All of that to say that today was Day 1 for us.  It went well, and I feel pretty energized for the rest of these 2 weeks.  Here's what we ate and how it went:

Breakfast

Two eggs, scrambled with white onion, yellow bell pepper and Aidells Chicken Apple Sausage, black coffee.

Lunch

Avocado tuna: 1 avocado, partially scooped out.  Use the scooped out avocado as the fat in your tuna salad, which is one can of tuna, the avocado, orange bell peppers, white onion, some salt and pepper and some black olive.  Prepare the tuna and scoop back into the remaining avocado.  Eat from the avocado.  Yummy.

Snack

Dry roasted almonds, black olives

Dinner

A variation on the Balsamic Chicken recipe found here.  We used stewed tomatoes instead of diced and used Avocado oil instead of EVOO.  It turned out great, but it was a different dish.  We'll try it again as the real recipe.  Our toddler loved the chicken recipe.  (She'll be eating the same things we eat during this two weeks, as always, but we also will supplement her meals with grains as appropriate.  Though, in reality, she tends to eat the Paleo way on her own: eating just the chicken from her tacos and just the meat from her sandwiches!)

Roasted carrots and sweet potato.  This was a huge hit!

As far as the feelings of today: I wanted to cheat, and so did Patrick.  But we didn't cheat.  And you can only imagine how difficult this was with some Halloween candy staring at us.  (We had a few pieces of Halloween candy on the counter this morning, left over from last night.  We hid it away before the end of the day so we wouldn't be tempted.  Other than that, we followed the advice to rid the pantry of tempting foods.  We sent all of the yummy food from last night's party home with our guests.  :(  )

Even though I wanted to cheat, I didn't feel like I was depriving myself of anything today, really.  I mean, I would have normally eaten a TON of candy, and I didn't do that, so I was holding myself back.  But I didn't feel miserable and I didn't feel like it was deprivation.  It felt more like exerting control.  But apparently, according to the timeline, this feeling won't last.

No headaches.  No super strong cravings.  Overall, a good experience and good day today.

Oh!  We did take before pictures and we did weigh ourselves.  Considering that the pictures are in our underwear so that we can really see our bodies, those pictures won't be posted here.  And considering that 10 years in, I still haven't ever told Patrick my weight, that won't be posted here, either.  But for documenting purposes, I'll say I weigh X.  Then if I lose any, for example, 10 pounds, it will be X-10.  If I gain (what?!), it will be X+10.

Just so I don't get called out by the Whole30 community, I want to be sure to point out the following:
  • I'm not really doing the Whole30 since I'm not committing to 30 days.  I get it.
  • I also should be sleeping more.
  • I am reading It Starts with Food, which I purchased through Amazon.
Have you done a Whole30 yet?  Did you like it?  How'd you feel?  Any tips?  Please leave them in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna

10.30.2014

It Must Be Worth It to be Worth It

I've always wanted to be a Mom.  Other girls wanted to be a doctor, a scientist, a business woman.  I wanted to be a Mom.

After college, I left my job at my grandparents' pet hospital to start a job as a clerk typist, telling myself it was just temporary until I got a real job that used my degree.

Two years later, I was promoted to eligibility worker.  I didn't enjoy my work, but it was a decent and stable income.  Not everyone can love their job, I told myself, and at least I was lucky enough to have a job.

We got married a few years later and decided we'd try to have a baby right away because, "Who knows how long it will take?"  But it didn't take long.  We married in September, decided in November that we would have a baby whenever it happened, and found out I was pregnant in December.

I knew I would have to continue working even after we had the baby.  I know.  I know.  "I thought you said you wanted to be a Mom!"  We lived in San Francisco, and if we wanted to ever move from our tiny one bedroom apartment, or be able to afford groceries, I had to keep my job, no matter how sad that made me.  And I reminded myself again how lucky I was to have a job, and that if I couldn't be a stay at home mom, then did it really matter what I did?  It was all the same since none of it meant I could be with my baby.

The day after I went to my first prenatal appointment, I started looking for a different job.  This was really happening, and we needed more money!

I applied to any position that paid even one penny more than my current position paid.  Five months later, I was terrified on day one of my new job, certain that I was not going to be able to do the work.  I was sure that somehow I had tricked the interview panel into choosing me and that I was going to fail miserably.

But I didn't fail.  I kind of even enjoyed it.  I worked for 6 weeks before leaving on maternity leave (a story for another time).

When my baby was 12 weeks old, and it was time to go back to work, I was very sad... more like depressed.  It just seemed so unnatural.  How could I be expected to leave my little tiny baby??

I reminded myself that I needed to go to work because I needed (along with my husband) to provide for our new little family.

Luckily for me, I worked for people (women who were mothers themselves!) that understood the difficulty of those first few weeks back at work.  They were supportive and helped me through the transition.  But I still was sad about not being able to be home with my baby, not being able to be the Mom I had wanted to be since I was little.  I started asking other mothers for advice.  "How did you do it?  What made it easier?  Did anything make it easier?  Did you hate yourself?  DO you hate yourself?"

And I found that all of them, even the women who didn't want to be stay at home moms like I did, had a hard time going back to work after their babies were born.  It was hard for everyone, and that was normal.  Yay!

I was speaking to our director one day, telling her I sometimes found it hard to be at work when I really wanted to be with my baby.  She sympathized and said she often felt the same way.  I was taken aback because she was so great at her job and seemed to be a natural "business woman," so I asked her how she did it.

She said, "I realized after having kids that I can't just have a job to have a job.  The income can't be the only factor for my job because money alone isn't enough to justify being away from my kids.  It must be worth it to be worth it.  I need to have a job that fills needs other that just financial ones."

It was an hallelujah moment for me.  She didn't explain why she needed to work outside of the home or to make herself feel better for doing it.  She accepted it as her reality and figured out how to make that reality something that helped her, rather than something she was working against.

With that in mind, I couldn't help but try for new projects at work and seek out promotive opportunities.  If I was going to have to be away from my kids anyways, why not put all of my effort into it and make it worth it?  It helped!  I got special assignments and was assigned to various extra projects and ultimately got a promotion!

Then I got pregnant again.  I just had my second baby 11 weeks ago.  So now, as I get ready to go back to work, and I find myself kissing both of my babies and crying to myself about how little time I'll see them during the day and all of the little things I'll be missing out on, I repeat her words over and over.

I'm still not someone who would keep working outside the home even it wasn't financially necessary.  I'm still someone who, when we can afford it, will be home with my kids as much as possible.  (And someone who knows this may never be the case.)  But as long as my reality is that I must work outside the home, I will make sure that I have a job that fills other needs.  I will put all of my work energy into making sure that my job is the best it can be, that I'm doing the best work that I can do, and that I'm getting the most out of it.  It must be worth it to be worth it.


TTFN,
Alanna

10.29.2014

Paternity Leave!

It's been nearly a week since my last posting.  Nothing especially busy was happening in our house... the week just got away from me.  :)

Patrick's first day of 12 weeks of paternity leave was Tuesday of this week.  We have about 2 weeks of overlap between his first day and my last day of maternity leave.  I go back the week after next.  The idea was that we would have this overlap so that he could observe our daily routine and the transition would be seamless for the kids.

During the last few months of my pregnancy, I started to hate lots of things.  Sleeping, peeing, walking, sitting, heartburn.  One of the things I really hated was hearing things like this at work: "Not too much longer until your vacation, eh?"  I wanted to hit everyone who said this.  (It came in different forms, including, "Won't you be happy to get a break?" and "I wish I could take a 12 week vacation!")

So Patrick has learned that referring to time home with two small kids as a vacation is not nice.  It's not even really safe, actually.

Even though he knows that, he still has a whole list of all of the things that he is going to get done while he is home with the kids.  And these are big things, not just things like organizing the hall closet.

These two days, it's been less "Daddy's home with us!" and more, "Daddy's home, but so is Mommy, so Mommy will be the go-to parent."  He's found time to do all of the things that he wants to do: mow the front yard, mow the back yard, do some line trimming, sand and re-stain the dining room table...

So we've decided that this week will be like a week that we both happen to have off, and next week will be the week where he shadows us while we go about our regular day.  We'll see how that goes.  I'll report back with how next week turns out, and I'll be sure to periodically provide updates on his 12 weeks home with the babies.

To be totally clear, Patrick's a great dad -- actually the best dad I know -- so I know he will do a great job.  I'm fortunate that he is a hands-on father, that he changes diapers, puts Avelynn down for naps, is receptive to feedback and does lots (most?) of the house chores.  But I just don't think he realizes how much work it really is to be home with the two kids.  This will be a great chance for both of us to appreciate the other a little bit more.

I know I'm not the only one who feels sometimes like he just doesn't get how much work it really is to be with the babies.  Have you dealt with this?  What did you do to help it be clearer to your partner that you're not just sitting at home, eating bon bons?  Let me know in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna

10.23.2014

Hanging Dishes Without Ugly Wires!

After we painted the dining room and re-did the hutch, two things became obvious:
  1. We needed to do more, design-wise, in the dining room.  I know that I want to put some large wall art on the full blank wall, but I wasn't sure what to do with the hutch wall.  Extra shelves on either side?  Would that look weird?  What would I put on them?  What about above the hutch?
  2. We needed to scale back the amount of things on display in the hutch.  It was just too crowded before.  But this also meant that I didn't get to display all of the pretty, and sentimentally valuable, dishes I have.



Turns out, both of these problems have the same solution: hang the dishes on the wall.

I don't personally like the dish hanging wires like these:

Plate Hanging Wire, Amazon

I mean, I would use them in a different setting, maybe.  But I didn't really want the hooks around the edges of my dishes.

After some research, I found the perfect alternative: Disc Plate Hangers.

I did quite a bit of price research and the best deal I found was at dischangers.com.  I ordered a few of the first three sizes.  (The shipping was free!)  They arrived quickly, and I can happily report: they are so so easy to use (I mean, my toddler even helped me), and the results are awesome too.  Here's how we did it.



I knew that the first dishes I wanted to try this with were some colored dessert dishes I got from my great grandmother.  When I got them, there were 6 dishes, but one broke during our move to this house, so I only have five now.  (The one that broke was purple.)

You'll need:


  • Disc Hangers in the appropriate size
  • Dishes to hang
  • Something to clean the dishes (I used a little vinegar and cotton balls)
  • A little bit of water
  • Nails
  • A hammer
  • Measuring tape and pencil (optional)

Step 1
Clean your dish and dry completely.

Step 2
Use your finger to rub some water on the back side of the disc hanger.  This activates the glue.  (That's my toddler helping me out.)



Step 3
Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes until it becomes tacky.



Step 4
Apply the disc to the back of your dish.  Be sure to consider the orientation of the dish when hung.  I wanted these dishes to have one of the flutes at the top, so I attached the disc accordingly.  Push the disc firmly against the dish, pushing out any air bubbles.  Let sit overnight for the glue to set.



Step 5
Figure out where you want the dishes to hang.  I measured so that the dishes would be spaced evenly.  Mark the wall for the nails.



Step 6
Hang (hammer?) the nails.  (This step took a little longer than it should have because Patrick kept stopping to watch Tuesday night's World Series game and cheer for the Giants.  If I had him do this on Wednesday night instead, it may have gone faster.)  A little note here: I am fully capable of putting nails in a wall.  I am also kind of a control freak.  So in order for us to work together on projects, he does the hammering after I've measured and marked.  




Step 7
Hang your dishes!



This was a super easy project.  Anyone can do it.  As you can tell, I'm starting with the super easy projects, hoping to build our confidence so we can move on and up to slightly more difficult ones.

I know it still looks bare.  We've only done one little set of dishes and plan to hang more colored bowls above the hutch and some plates along the sides.  I'll post as soon as those are done.

I love the way it looks.  I can't wait for the other plates and dishes to go up.  It's a nice change from canvas art or framed pictures.

What do you think?  Do you like it?  Does it look too "old lady"?  Let me know in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna

Free shipping on all Target orders! (For a limited time)

Just a quick post:

I've mentioned quite a few times that I order online from Target on a fairly (embarrassingly) regular schedule.  Most of my orders are over $50, so I get free shipping.  However, there have been times when I've held off on ordering until I can fill my cart to the $50 minimum.

But for a limited time, there's no minimum for FREE SHIPPING from Target.com.

In addition to that savings, there are these other deals going on:

15% off select items, coupon code SNOOZE

Up to 65% off on Home items from 10/26/2014 to 11/1/2014

TTFN,
Alanna

10.22.2014

No-Spend Week



Uh... because we're addicted?

We are on a no-spend week.  We haven't officially done anything like this before.

We don't have a lot of debt weighing us down at all, but we decided to do it for a few reasons:
  1. We want to be completely 100% debt free.
  2. We need to use up what we have in our pantry so it doesn't all expire.
  3. We (I) need to be sure that we are thoughtfully considering our purchases before just buying things.
  4. We (P) want to see how the small little daily purchases add up.
So no-spend periods may become a regular thing around here.  Sad face.

For us, a no-spend period means we won't spend money on anything other than the essentials: gas, necessary groceries and essentials (doctor co-pays, parking costs at work, bridge toll).  No eating out at a restaurant or getting take out because we're tired.  No "oh that's so cute and it's on sale" purchases.  No "I'll just grab a coffee.  It's only $2.00."

Thing is, it's turning out that no-spend periods are a lot like diets.  Ask me what I want for dinner, and I can't think of anything exciting.  But the second I decide I'm going to go on a diet, my brain becomes a mealtime genius and thinks of all kinds of meals I'd love to have but "can't."

However, this is a bit easier than a diet.  And the forced "reflection" time is rather helpful.  I tend to have impulsive ideas of things I want to do, and this self imposed restriction is helping me to think all the way through a plan before jumping into it.

So, for this no-spend week, I'll just have to post the "things I find that I really want but can't buy right now because we made a commitment."

The projects that are flooding into my mind now that I can't buy anything:

Frame the free 16 x 20 print from Shutterfly
  • Buy a 20 x 24 frame (Michael's?  Wayfair?)
  • Buy a mat
  • Print additional Avelynn and Everett photos in black and white to hang as mini gallery above new chair

Re-print pictures from gallery frames above fireplace
  • Scan the pictures that aren't yet digitalized
  • Make a new album on Shutterfly for these photos
  • Change all to black and white
  • Print in appropriate sizes
  • Change the colored backdrop for both frames (gray?)

Hang pink bowls above colored bowls, hang pictures on side of hutch
  • Buy additional plate hanger discs
  • Swap out the small one for a larger one on the yellowish bowl
  • Decide placement of side plates
  • Mark holes for pink bowl nails (remember future crown molding)
  • Mark holes for side plates

GG Bridge picture(s) for dining room wall (Black and white)
  • Ask Brother-in-law for a panoramic shot of GG Bridge
  • Print three wood prints OR three poster size OR one large poster size to frame and hang

Print wood panel gifts for Grandparents at Walgreen's

Christmas DIY gifts

  • What projects are we doing
  • Who will get what
  • Supplies we need
  • Source the supplies for lowest price

Choose and prep our Christmas cards
  • Recipient List
  • Get family pictures
  • Print family pictures
  • Choose card and get ready to purchase

Chevron panel wall in Dining Room

Change the small closet in laundry room to a desk

  • Measure space
  • Source supplies
  • Create a plan
  • Fabric and rod to cover storage shelves
  • Where to move the wood table?
  • Where to put the printer? (Under our bed??)

Well, that's about it for now.  Not a thrilling post, but a good brain dump so it's a success all the same.

Have you ever declared a no-spend week?  Or month?  Any tips?  Let me know in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna


10.21.2014

Shutterfly: 40% off everything! (Coupon Code)

You know I love Shutterfly!

Just a quick note to remind everyone that Shutterfly is having a 40% off everything sale.  Use coupon code EARLY40.  And don't forget you get free shipping on orders of $39 or more.

Hurry!  This sale ends Tuesday October 28!

TTFN,
Alanna

Extra! Extra! Anthropologie Sale on Sale (coupon code)

Anthropologie is having a sale on its sale items!  Extra 25% off sale items with coupon code EXTRAEXTRA.

Here are few things that I think would make great gifts.




Glazed Terracotta Bakeware, Blue, Turquoise or White, $12.95 - $69.95 (with coupon: $9.71 - $54.46)


Wishing Globe Stemware, $6.95 each (with coupon: $5.22 - you could get set of 4 for around $21!)

At any rate, I've only shown the items that I would buy for myself or as a gift.  There are lots more available, and with the coupon code, they're quite a bit more affordable!

Will you be buying anything during this sale?  Let me know in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna





10.20.2014

Reupholstering our couch: What?! Huh?!

Here's our couch:



As I've mentioned before, my best friend and I found our current couch on the street.  Literally.  Well, I guess we literally found it on the sidewalk.  But you get the picture.

If we could afford a new couch today, we'd probably go for one of these:

PB Comfort Roll Arm Slipcovered 3-piece L-shaped corner sectional, Silver Taupe, $4,049

West Elm Henry 3-piece L-shaped Sectional, Linen Weave Platinum, $2,897

Z Gallerie Phoenix Sectional, $2,496

Room & Board Easton sectional in Dawson, $3,697

I'd love a sectional.  I'd love for it to be gray or blue or teal.  I'd prefer not to get the basic brown or beige.  My favorite is the Room & Board sectional.  But we can't afford any new couch, and with two little kids we aren't really in a situation to get a new couch even if we could afford it, so these things don't matter except for future reference.

At any rate, our current couch is not in the best of shape.  We can't buy a new one, so that leaves essentially two options: live with it as it is now (yucky) or reupholster it (scary).

I've been reading up on reupholstering and while it's still scary, it's not as terrifying as I originally thought.  Here are just some of the posts from other blogs that I've been using to encourage myself and convince myself that it's possible:

Do It Yourself Divas




All of these, and other posts, say that DIY upholstery takes time and effort, but is doable.

They also are pretty clear that DIY upholstery is only relatively inexpensive, not actually inexpensive.  In other words, it saves money over professional upholstery or buying a new couch, but it can easily run into the few hundred dollar price range or more.

Add to the mix that, as you know (or can read about here), we are on a 14 day no-spend (self) challenge.  So we won't be doing this project in the next couple weeks.

In fact, I don't even have a particular time line in mind.  I do know that it's something we want to do.  I also have an idea of the upholstery fabric we want to use.  It's either this one:

Signature Series Erase-Heather Moon, reg $39.99, sale $19.99 at Joann.com

Or this one (which is my favorite):

Home Decor Upholstery Fabric-Waverly Akira in Sky, reg $49.00, sale $24.99 at Joann.com

I'm referring to this chart to determine how much fabric we need:

Upholstery Yardage Chart, courtesy of Apartment Therapy

According to this chart, we need 11 yards.  So I would probably buy 12 yards.

If I buy it at 50% off (current price), plus the additional 20% off with a coupon, it would come to around $275 (including shipping and tax).  

Plus the other supplies (tack strips, nails?, staples, staple gun).  So this is definitely a project that will come down the line.  However, if I can commit to a fabric, then I can keep an eye on it and purchase the fabric when it gets to a lower price, or when I get a better coupon.

What do you think?  Any suggestions for DIY reupholstery?  Thoughts about the fabric choice with the rest of the room?  Do you think it's even worth it, or should I just stick it out with the couch we have and wait (potentially many years) to get a new couch?

Or, do you know of a fabric very similar to the blue one up there, but that's significantly less expensive?  :)

Let me know in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna

10.19.2014

Gifts under $30

I said it just last week, but the holidays are quickly approaching.  Gift buying is pretty hard for me.  Most years, I don't start my shopping until well into December and end up way overspending because I have to get something, anything.

This year, like I've mentioned a couple times, we're going to do a lot of DIY gifts.  But not everyone on our list can get a DIY gift.  For those people, and because I love to "window" shop, I'm compiling an ongoing list of gifts under $30, $50 or $100.  This particular post is gifts ender $30.  I once heard that the best gifts to give are ones you would want to receive, so all of these items are ones that I would want, too.  :)

Joss & Main has quite a few pieces of art in their Stop & Stare event that would make great gifts for the holidays.  Many of them are under $100.  Here's just a sample of the ones that I would buy for myself or as a gift, but you could always check out the site yourself to see ones you might like.


Jardin de Giverny by Monet, $29.95 for 12x18; $44.95 for 18x26; $84.95 for 26x40

These frames from Target are a great deal.  I bought some for our house.  They come 5 in a pack and all for less than $20!  I bought both the Grey and the Weathered Grey.  The Grey looks great.  I returned the Weathered Grey to Target because they looked cheap.  They also have black, distressed black and I think white.  You could give the set to one person or you could print pictures or free online printables for each frame and you'd have 5 separate gifts.  That's around $5 per gift if you print the printables at Kinko's/FedEx for less than a dollar.  That's a steal!

5 piece Weathered Frame Set, Target, $16.99
I have this pillow from Target.  My mom got two for me for me for my birthday and I loved them so much that I bought two more for myself.  They're really beautiful and a good deal at around $25 each.

Threshold Embroidered Floral Pillow - cool, Target, $24.99



Lori Picture Frame in Silver, Joss & Main, $20.95

This print is on special at West Elm right now, plus free shipping:

Holstee Poster - Manifesto, West Elm, $28 special (reg $36)

If you know someone into DIY, these glass knobs may be a great gift!  They're normally $12 each, but on sale for $4 each (and free shipping)!  We bought some in Eggplant for our DIY curtain rod (which I'll post about in the next little while).
Clift Glass Knob, Pottery Barn, special $4 (reg $12)

If you know someone who loves to entertain, these are kind of neat for parties:


Driftwood Lantern, Pottery Barn (only the small is available and it's $29.99, reg $69.99)
Lit shell orb, Pottery Barn, $19.99 for small, $29.99 for medium or large (reg. $49.50 - $79) - free shipping, too!

Grateful Greeting Tray, ModCloth, $6.99 (reg $9.99)

If you live near a Walgreen's (or even if you don't... they ship), then remember to check their photo department for great gift deals.  Through November 1, the printed wood panels are on sale for 50% off, (coupon code: PANELDEAL).  We gave an 8x10 to my grandma for her birthday this week, and she loved it.  We are probably going to give one to each set of grandparents for Christmas.  At $10 per item for 8x10 (reg $19.99, but 50% off with coupon), you really can't beat it.

Photo printed on wood panel, Walgreen's, 8x10 for $9.99 after coupon

Those are just some of the things I might be buying for Christmas gifts this year.  I'll continue to post as I find more.  

Have you found a great gift for under $30?  Share it in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna

p.s. Remember that some of these are on sale or require a coupon code.  If you see a different price, please let me know so I can update this post.

Halloween Party: Invitations (Shutterfly coupon codes!)

Halloween really is just around the corner.  Avelynn is two, so it's the first Halloween where she will be even remotely interested in dressing up.

Last year, she was Pebbles.  You know, from The Flintstones?  The entire time we were trick or treating, everyone kept asking if she was the girl from The Croods.  What the heck?

My mom made her animal print costume.  I made the bone for her hair (cut from cardboard and taped to a hair clip).  The animal fur vest is a real vest she got for her 1 year old birthday.  We tried to get her to use a jack o lantern candy holder, but she insisted on using her purse.  The hot pink leggings were from Walmart (sorry, Dad).  We took her trick or treating in the Sea Cliff neighborhood right around the corner from our then apartment:

Seriously the most awesome gal

This year, she's going to be Elsa.  She just started getting into watching movies.  My coworker gave us Frozen before I left on maternity leave, and Avelynn loves it.

The point of this, other than to be able to post a picture of the most adorable kid, is to share the invitation we made for our Halloween party and to share a Shutterfly coupon code that you can use right now!  It expires Sunday (today).

Anyhow, she dressed up in her Elsa costume and was so cute that I decided we had to make an invitation to Halloween.  Of course, we already invited her aunts and uncles and grandparents and great grandma to Halloween, but the awesome picture meant we had a reason to make formal invitations, which I did at Shutterfly.com.  I love these invitations:

Batty Bash Halloween party invitation, Shutterfly

And right now, Shutterfly has some great deals happening.  Through Sunday, they're having a sale where you can get $10 off any order of $10 or more.  Use coupon code 10DOLLARS.  If you're a new customer, this sale is valid through Monday and you should use code 10OFF10.

Will you be having a get together for Halloween?  Will you use this code to get invitations?  Let me know in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna


(p.s. Shutterfly is also having another great sale: get 10 free cards!  Use Promo Code GREETINGS.  This sale expires Monday.  You don't have to be a new customer to take advantage of this great deal.  It's a wonderful way to test out any holiday cards you're thinking of, too!  I know I'll be using it.  I'll post here when I know what I'll order with it!)

10.17.2014

Updated Living Room (a work in progress)

My chair from Joss & Main arrived!  It's totally beautiful.  I love it.  I realized as I was gushing to Patrick about this chair that it's the first piece of real furniture I've purchased.  I mean, non-IKEA furniture.  IKEA furniture counts, but somehow it feels different.

It's lovely and it's comfortable and it totally helps tie our room together better.  It doesn't finish the room, but it helps tie it together.

Here are the "kind of before" pictures again (also can be seen here):





It's been quite the busy week for our living room: new curtain rod (DIY), curtains (Target), storage bench (Amazon) and chair (Joss & Main).  And those new additions prompted some light furniture rearranging.  I spent probably an hour the other night just looking around the freshly cleaned and rearranged room, really happy with the progress:







I wish I had taken a picture before we even painted.  Oh well.  Just trust me that it looks so so much better now.  Like a real family really lives here.  Not only that, but we can now seat more than just four or five people in our living room.  I used to sit on the floor if we had more than a few people over, but with the new bench and the chair, that won't be happening again.

Of course, this isn't really "after" because there's quite a bit that still needs to happen.  So these are really "middle" pictures, but that's okay.  I still love it so much more.


New mini seating area/Chair in the corner

The small side table used to be protecting everyone from accidentally stepping through a floor vent.  That floor vent is now protected by the couch, so the side table moved to accompany the new chair.  I know it's not ideal (different colored wood, too close to the other piece), but it works for now.  The small light used to be on the right side of the fireplace.  This is the only light controlled by a wall switch.  The other two are manually turned on.  I'd still like to put some pictures near this chair on the window side wall.


Window

I'll be posting more about the window covering, including the DIY curtain rod, in a later post.  The point is, it's easy and awesome and we'll probably do them for every single window in our house (11 windows).


Fireplace wall

The bench got added to the right side of the fireplace and the small side table/drawers to the left side.  I really want to put an antique desk from Patrick's grandmother on the left side, but he's feeling claustrophobic (more about that later), so I've promised no new or more furniture for a while.  I mean, a while could mean a couple weeks, a couple months.  That's okay.  I'm happy with this for now.  Though I do hope to paint that piece (the drawers) in the next couple weeks.  I think I'll paint it the same as the hutch.  You'll also notice that the mantle is clutter-free.  I had some other frames and pieces up there, but they now have a new home.  I'm still thinking about changing out all of the pictures in the frames to the same pictures as right now, but all black and white.  I also moved that table lamp to this new home.  It used to live next to the bookcase.


Seating Area

I moved the couch back toward the wall, but not totally against it.  I shifted everything a little more toward the television wall because Patrick enjoys sitting in the big chair and looking out to the backyard.  The newly added curtains kind of obstructed that view, so I moved the chair.  That meant I had to move the couch, too.  I like it.

I moved our floor lamp from next to the television.  It's now next to the bookcase.


TV wall

Nothing changed here.  I don't like this wall being so blank, but it's a marriage compromise, so I can live with it.

The kid space:
Still crowded because it has such important pieces as the Mickey couch and the Mama-Roo. 

Like I mentioned, this is not "done."  We still have quite a bit to do, like something better with that ugly fireplace surround, the crown molding, replacing the floors, a few more pieces of decor on the walls, new (or new to us) furniture that is more intentional, and some other minor changes.

But overall, this room looks so so much better and feels so much more welcoming.  I can't wait to have more people over so we can use all of our new seating!

I love it so far!  What do you think?  If this was your house, what would your next project in this room be?  Any suggested changes to the room configuration?  Let me know in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna