Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Disappearing (Reappearing) Acts

It's been years (literally YEARS) since I've written anything on this blog despite my best intentions. I could come up with lots of excuses...IVF, having a baby, being sleep deprived, getting pregnant, having another baby...but really I just didn't have anything to say.

We did tons of projects in the house, but I found myself just wanting to get them done and not having any desire to draw out the process by documenting it for a blog. This is the point where I should apologize for deserting you, but I'm not going to. I would be lying to you and to myself and I don't believe in lying. I'm nothing if not brutally honest. I'm not sorry that I took the time to really LIVE the last two years. It's been a crazy ride. We went through IVF in order to become pregnant with Gus (which was a hard choice and worth every single minute of blood tests and injections) and then were surprised to learn that I was pregnant with Sofia without needing any reproductive intervention. Now we have two under two and a very active 7 year old. I'm insanely busy with navigating food allergies (Gus has 10), life with a baby (Sofia is 4 months old) and a toddler (Gus turned two a couple of weeks ago) and trying to be sure that Emma (our 7 year old) doesn't feel lost in the shuffle. I wouldn't trade a minute of it. I consider myself incredibly lucky that I am able to afford to be a stay at home mom.

But lately I have felt like maybe there is something that I want to say, maybe want to try to document a few of the projects we have going on, maybe I want to have somewhere to vent about how frustrating it can be just to logistically get Gus and Sofia in and out of the car- forget about in and out of a store!, maybe someone else will read what I have to say and feel a little less like they are the only one who feels like they are chasing their tail. Some weeks I'm sure that I'll have tons to say and some you may not hear from me at all. I'm not making promises this time around- not to you and not to myself- about how frequently I'll show up. But I am promising to always be authentic. If I'm taking time away from my husband and my kids, it won't be to waste your time reading a blog post about nothing just because I need to fill up some space and make some self imposed deadline.

I hope that you'll still join me on the ride...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Excuses.... (aka Our "Positive" Experience with IVF)

I know I've been away from the blog for ages... and I apologize. I've kept up with the projects and with my challenges for turning South Carolina into our home. Unfortunately, I haven't taken the extra time necessary to actually POST anything new. I'm sorry.

I figure the best way to apologize is to explain WHY I've been M.I.A.

Back in November 2011, I started the process of undergoing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). My husband and I had been trying for almost two years to give Emma a sibling and this was our last resort. It was not a decision that we came to lightly. To anyone who would attempt to take this opportunity to make a negative or unkind comment, feel free to post whatever you would like, but know that I will delete them immediately. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

I consider myself incredibly fortunate. First and foremost, because our medical insurance actually provides coverage for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). The amount of money that we were required to pay out of pocket was minimal. I actually cried while speaking to a customer service representative from the insurance company when I learned how comprehensive our coverage was. Secondly, because we were able to become pregnant on our first IVF cycle. I have friends who have spent thousands of dollars and considerable time and pain to undergo several cycles of IVF. Having gone through it, I honestly do not know how they had the strength to do it more than once. I would have been heartbroken.

We learned that the cycle was successful, and that I was pregnant, on December 23rd. Needless to say, it was a very Merry Christmas in our house. That being said, we were still very cautious and only told those people who were aware of the fact that we were undergoing IVF that we were pregnant until we were safely past 15 weeks.


It has been a relatively easy pregnancy thus far, with the exception of a pretty nasty case of hyperemesis gravidarum that lasted from Week 6 until Week 32.

I only have 3 1/2 weeks left and we are very excited to meet our new little man soon.

I promise that I will be posting more regularly.



Friday, November 11, 2011

Vegetable Garden Completed

The first time that I saw our house, I was really excited about the fact that there was a separate vegetable garden. At the same time, I knew that it would take a TON of work to get it into plant-able condition.



I don't actually have a before picture which shows the complete disaster that the garden was before we started working on it. The previous owners of our house had installed raised beds along the outside border of the garden, but they were only 12 inches wide. The fenced in area is 15 x 15 and less than a quarter of the space was used for planting beds. They had planted mint and blackberries directly into the planting beds- both of which are really invasive. If you want either in your garden, most experts recommend that you plant them in pots, not directly in the garden.

Last year, we attempted to work with what was already there since by the time we had a chance to get started on the garden it was already a little late in the spring. However, this year, I was determined to completely overhaul the garden.

We started by pulling out all of the beds that the previous owner had installed. Then we leveled out the ground and covered everything with landscape fabric. Next we installed three 4 x 4 cedar raised beds that I purchased from Home Depot for $29 each on sale. I filled the beds with a mix of garden soil, compost and peet moss.


Then I purchased 6 resin whiskey barrels to place around the garden with Tarragon, Oregano, Chives, Thyme, Sage and Mint. I filled these with the same mix of soil, compost and peet moss.

Next, we addressed the fence, which was in particularly rough shape. Just like everything else at our house, the previous owners had not done the necessary basic maintenance to keep the fence in peak shape. We decided that since we had stained the deck railings white, it might be nice to have the vegetable garden fence coordinate by staining it a solid white. First we needed to clean off years of dirt and mildew. We used Olympic Deck Cleaner that we purchased at Lowe's. It was super easy. All we did was spray it on and rinse it off with the hose. We used Behr Premium Solid Exterior Stain in Ultra Pure White on the fence since we still had some left over from the deck project.



We're really happy with how crisp the fence looks and how well it coordinates with the back deck. The back yard is really starting to look almost finished. 


After we finished with staining the fence, we filled the garden with 1 1/2 yards of pea gravel which we ordered from a local stone yard, Cason Building Supply. It ran us $180 including delivery charges, but it really completes the look of the garden. 


It's so nice to have another item checked off of the To  Do List.!! Luckily, the weather in South Carolina is so mild that we are able to grow veggie and herbs for most of the year. I've just planted seeds of mesclun lettuce, spinach, arugula and beets. 

I still have lots of room in my beds for winter veggies, so I'd love to hear your ideas for winter crops.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

FINALLY Organized!!

I need to make a confession...I am obsessed with being organized. I NEED to know EXACTLY where everything in my house is.

The one thing that I really dislike about our house is it's lack of a mud room. I wish that there was a place to put all of the forms that come home from school and where we could have a family calendar and grocery lists, but where they would not be seen by every guest coming into our house.

Our kitchen pantry is set back in a tiny hall through a doorway off of our kitchen. Tiny is an understatement...the space is only 50 inches wide x 40 inches deep. The kitchen pantry is to the right and to the left was a blank wall. (On a side note- the other side of the door that you see in this picture is our laundry room/ hallway to the garage.)



The previous owners of our house had hung a coat rack very low on the wall to the left of the pantry hallway. It was a great height for kids to hang their coats, and for me to hang my purse, but otherwise it was really kind of useless. That being said, we didn't do anything about changing the pantry hallway until the coat rack fell (probably because my purse was too heavy, but I will never admit that to Mike!) .

Once the rack fell, I needed to decide if I wanted to continue to leave that hallway as a waste of space or try to find a way to utilize it better. I'm not one to waste space- I like to actually USE every room that we have instead of leaving dedicated spaces that get used once or twice a year.

I started by filling the holes in the wall that were left by the falling coat rack and some other random nail holes that were in the wall.


I apologize for the poor quality pictures, but let's remember that this space is only 50 inches wide. I was literally standing in my pantry as I took this shot!

As you can see, I outlined the wall with painters tape. I knew that I wanted to paint the wall with Magnetic Primer so that I could move all of Emma's pictures and school notices off of the refrigerator and onto my new "Command Center". I still had some left over from a previous project so I only needed to purchase one small can of Rustoleum Magnetic Primer at Home Depot for $20.99.

Here's my advice for Magnetic Primer... do thin coats, but do a lot of them. I used 5 coats of the Rustoleum Magnetic Primer for my wall. I also recommend testing the magnetic-ness of the primer once its dry with the magnets that you plan to use to be sure that it is strong enough.

After the Magnetic Primer was thoroughly dry ( at least 24 hours), I coated the wall with 4 coats of Rustoleum Chalkboard Paint in Black. which I also got at HD for $24.99.


Again- Sorry for the not so great pics, but it has to be the most difficult thing in the house to photograph.

I am using the top of the wall to hold all of those random things that usually wind up on the fridge doors- like Emma's artwork and my measurement conversion magnet. Seriously, who wants to convert ounces to cups in their head- its just way too much work.

I have a row of days of the week magnets so that I can see at a glance what is going on that week. Otherwise, I inevitably remember that Emma has ballet lessons 10 minutes before we are supposed to be there. There's also a generous amount of space for a grocery list.

The entire bottom of the wall belongs to Emma. She already knows where in our miscellaneous kitchen drawer the chalk and eraser are kept and feels free to help herself. Its a great way to keep her occupied while I am trying to cook dinner.

I have to say- out of all of the improvements that we have made in the house lately- this is one of my favorites. It's been finished almost a week and has already been a big help.

Up next...the new vegetable garden!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pictures, Please and The Front Yard

We've been working out in front of the house every weekend for over a month. Things are FINALLY beginning to take shape! There has been a lot of digging, moving bushes and splitting of day lilies and liriope. The first owners of our house were great gardeners. We even have a separate fenced-in vegetable garden! We can tell from the things that they planted, trees from Ann Magnolias to kousa dogwoods, azaleas, and TONS of lilies and liriope. All of our neighbors have told us that our property used to be perfectly manicured and maintained.

Unfortunately, we purchased it from a second owner who basically did no yard maintenance or gardening for four years. Everything was badly overgrown and root bound. When you don't prune your bushes for 4 years, eventually your windows become covered and they start to crowd your house. The plants also don't thrive when they are so crowded because there is no space for air movement. Last spring, my ornamental trees and azaleas were packed so tightly together that they all had powdery mildew- a plant disease.

Some things have had to be sacrificed; others we are reusing elsewhere. We dug out the hedges that had been planted in front of the house. I need to be able to see outside my windows more than I wanted to try to save them. The azaleas in our side yard were planted back to back. We pulled out the second row of bushes and created a new planting bed on the other side of the house. We pulled up all of the lilies and liriope on the property and divided them. We wound up with enough lilies and liriope to create neat perennial borders throughout the front yard.

We also dug out all of our beds and increased their depth. I may need to spend more on mulch every year, but at least I won't have as much grass to mow or water. Or maybe I should say, my husband won't! (c: I think a small amount of lawn is a necessary evil when you have kids, but I really think it is a colossal waste of water.

Did I mention that we are doing all of the work ourselves? It has been a lot of work, but we really work pretty well together. Emma is always trying to help us with the most difficult task of the day. She's such a go getter! Never scared to lend a hand!

So, without further ado.... here's our yard. We still have quite a bit of work ahead of us- but I think its a a BIG improvement!

Shasta Daisies 

Day lilies and Variegated Liriope in front of azaleas moved from other side of house. The azaleas will need a couple of years to fill in. 


Ann Magnolia Tree with Day lilies and Variegated Liriope behind and around the tree. In front are some annuals (begonias). 

View from the driveway. Shasta Daisies, a Crete Myrtle tree and about a million Day lilies that have already bloomed. 


On the right side you can see my small gardenia bush which we just planted. It will take a few years, but it will eventually be balanced with the Ann Magnolia on the other side of the door. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Home Again

We spent the better part of the summer not in South Carolina. When we were home, I was pretty busy trying to keep Emma occupied while it was over 100 degrees out every day. Schools here run August - May because by Memorial Day weekend its already swimming weather. Now that Emma is settled into school , I thought I would give you a quick run down on what we have been up to since I last checked in.


We turned the July 4th long weekend into a mini-vacation and drove up to New York to visit our families. While we were there, Mike, Emma, my mom and I went to The Bronx Zoo for an afternoon. We usually get so caught up with visiting friends and family when we are in New York that we don't  take the time to do anything that Emma would consider really fun. We also thought it would be nice to do something that we can't do as a family in South Carolina. We have a zoo here, but its pretty tiny, so we figured The Bronx Zoo was an easy "must see". 

 
Even my mom got in on the excitement at the Zoo! 

Two weeks later my mom flew down to South Carolina to have some special time with Emma while Mike and I went on a MUCH NEEDED vacation. Before we left on our trip, my mom and I went fabric shopping for our living room and dining room. And while we were in LA soaking up the sun, my mom (have I told you how amazing she is!) had window seat cushions made for me out of the fabric that she and I had chosen AND had my coffee table professionally upholstered for me as an ottoman! I can't even explain to you how exciting it was to come home and see our living room finally starting  to take shape!



The window seats are from the Expedit line from  Ikea. We also purchased the doors and the baskets from Ikea. The baskets are available in a natural wood tone, but I painted them chocolate brown with spray paint    so they would better coordinate with our brown leather couch. The fabric was purchased from Tony's Fabrics which is off of Interstate 85 and SC Rte 101 in Greer, SC.  It's a giant fabric warehouse of upholstery  fabrics. This one was $6 a yard because they were having a sale. All in all we spent less than $200 per window seat (there is another one on the other side of the fireplace.) 


This coffee table was "inherited" from my parents when we moved. It's mission style and not really the look that we were going for, so I had plans to paint it the accent color of the room (sort of a pale gray blue) and upholster it myself. This was SO much easier. I am having to be much more careful with the sanding, priming and painting steps though so I don't do any damage to the upholstery. It's worth it! This fabric was also $6 a yard at Tony's. It's a tapestry sort of a fabric with lots of variation of color and texture so that it won't show any eventual stains. I did purchase plenty of extra fabric though- just in case. I've also generously coated the window seat cushions and the ottoman in Scotchguard. After all, I have a 4 year old- something is bound to get spilled!

Two weeks after we returned from LA, Emma and I tagged along on a business trip of Mike's to Charleston, SC. Mike only needed to work the mornings and Emma and I got to stay at The Charleston Place Hotel. It's to South's version of the Waldorf Astoria and, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. In a word ... WOW!

The day after we returned home from Charleston, Emma started school and we have been off and running since. 

I've already started on sanding the ottoman. We're having guests next weekend and I am determined to have it done before they arrive!




Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We Have a Dining Room!!!

When we moved to South Carolina, we had really bad movers who, in essence, destroyed or damaged almost every piece of furniture that we owned. Our kitchen table top was damaged beyond repair and our dining room table  (a hand-me-down from my grandmother) was literally split in two. So for the past year and a half our living room has looked something like this... 


That's right... a folding table and folding chairs... pretty pathetic. Everything in the house that was random and didn't really have a "home" yet was shoved in there so it was a big hodge podge.I used it more for Emma and I to do craft projects than anything else. 

Mike and I always assumed that down the line we would do something with the dining room, and we didn't really mind that it was a catch all... Except when people came to visit. When friends came by it was pretty darn embarrassing that the dining room looked more like a play room than anything else. Heck, our garage is more organized than the dining room was. The truth is neither of us could really justify spending a lot of money to deck out the dining room when it probably isn't going to get used but a few times a year. So it stayed empty... 

Until last week, when I found a gorgeous buffet piece on Craigslist for $50. That's right $50!!  I couldn't believe it and really I still don't. I told Mike that it was too good of a deal to pass up even if we didn't wind up doing the dining room for another year and a half. It's solid wood and in pristine condition except for one of the drawer knobs being a little loose. I plan to replace the knobs anyway. After Mike saw the buffet, we got to thinking- what if we could find some more amazing deals like that? So we spent the weekend scouring Craigslist and furnishing our dining room. 



We drove almost an hour into farm country to pick up a solid wood dining table with beautiful curve details and 6 Queen Anne chairs for $100. The chairs need to be recovered but that's nothing that a few yards of fabric can't fix. With the exception of some surface scratches on the table, the set is in excellent condition. Another amazing find! Oh, and the wood tones coordinate with the tones in the buffet, but not in a matchy- matchy sort of a way. 



But by far, the best deal of the weekend was the Thomasville china cabinet in PRISTINE condition for $200. We drove an hour and a half and into a National Forest to buy it from the nicest little old lady ever. She pointed out a scratch on the inside of one of the doors that I still can't find and I know where to look. 




We still need to paint the room, buy fabric and recover the chairs, make and hang window treatments, replace or alter rehab the chandelier and add a rug, but we are definitely moving in the right direction that's for sure! I think I'm most excited about finally having a place to put my china away. I love it when everything has a place!

Here's the best part... we've only spent $350!!! So, of course, now we are want to see how inexpensively we can finish the rest of the room. I'm shooting for $500 or under. Mike doesn't think we can do it- so, of course, I'm determined to prove him wrong. Wish me luck!

(BTW- You can see our in progress hallway update in these pics... I promise to tell you more about that as soon as its done!)