Saturday, October 31, 2015

Eastern Caribbean Cruise: Part 1

It's been a long time in the making, but Dan and I finally took an extended KID-FREE vacation! Sorry for yelling, but I am really, really excited about it! We dropped Zahara off with her wonderful, loving grandparents and headed to the Eastern Caribbean for a week.

We went on a seven-night cruise with Royal Caribbean International. We've cruised with them before and always have great experiences. This time was no exception. The Independence of the Seas was beautiful with a fun promenade featuring an English pub, a wine bar, a pizzeria, a coffeehouse, and more. I really loved the attention that was paid to each little detail: the weathered "wood" floors in the pub; the wine-stained corks in the wine bar; and the vintage car were fun examples.

One of the things we love the most about cruises is meeting new people. We've actually made some really good friends through our dinner table (see our adventures with Jeff and Steph here and here). We were pretty disappointed the first few nights when no one showed up at our dinner table. Thankfully, we were able to switch tables for the last half of the cruise and got paired with some fantastic ladies. They were a huge part of what made this trip so fun!

Lauren, Caroline, Kristina, and Lisa at dinner

It was like Dan and I somehow reverted to our fun, pre-kid self. Not that we're not fun now, but on the cruise we went clubbing until 4 a.m. one night! Can you believe that??

On the sea days we made the most of our new-found free time by lounging, drinking, eating, and working out. Pure bliss!

We even surfed on the FlowRider. It was so much fun! Dan, Kristina, and I all managed to stay up. Click here to see my surfing video.

I'll be back with highlights from our stops in Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, and Saint Kitts.

Read about our other cruises here:
Baltic Cruise
Mediterranean Cruise 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Summer Highlights

Even though it's still 90 degrees outside, by most accounts summer is over. As usual, the summer went way too fast. Here are a few of our highlights:

Family Visits
Both sets of grandparents and one aunt came to visit us this summer! We missed Aunt Bradi, but are excited to see her in a few weeks.

The Beach exhibit at the National Building Museum

Rehoboth Beach
We celebrated my birthday this year at Rehoboth Beach. Zahara LOVED jumping in the waves and playing in the sand. It was such a perfect, relaxing weekend.

The capital of Maryland is only 45 minutes from our house, but we never seem to make it up there. We spent a day up there this summer though and it was fantastic! A boat ride around the bay, fresh blackberries from the farmer's market, and an ice cream to finish...what could be better?

Hanging Around DC
There are tons of fun things to do all around DC, including the National Zoo, the splash fountain in Silver Spring, and chilling at our friends' pool. you can see, it was a busy, fantastic summer. Bring on fall! We've already gone apple and pumpkin picking, so we're ready!

Friday, September 4, 2015

DIY Mirror Frame

I love our master bathroom. It's clean, airy and spacious. But, it was missing something. We have a huge builder-grade, wall-to-wall mirror. It bounces around tons of light, but I thought it would look nicer if it were framed. Frames for a mirror that size were cost prohibitive, and buying a new mirror seemed unnecessary, so I decided to make my own.

I used the last remaining days before I went back to work to make this happen. Luckily my friend Dani was on maternity leave and was game to help me out. We headed to Home Depot to gather supplies.

There are a lot of great tutorials online already, so I won't try and recreate one here. I followed Blue Cricket Design's tutorial pretty closely. I'll just add in a couple of pointers. First, I used pre-primed moulding. It costs a little bit more, but I liked the decorative elements and it saved me time.

I grabbed a twelve-foot piece and cut it down to size myself. It took a while--so long, in fact that a contractor who kept offering to help me managed to practically cut down an entire forest while I was still cutting my first piece. But, sometimes the pride that comes with doing it yourself is worth the extra time and muscle pains.

After what felt like hours in Home Depot waiting for help with paint (long story...short version is that the perfect brown paint is really, really hard to come by), we headed back to my house. We used Dani's miter saw to cut the moulding into 45 degree angles to form the frame.

We diverged from the tutorial a little bit in the next step because my mirror had big plastic clips that would prevent the frame from sitting flush against the mirror. We measured the clips and used Dani's Dremel tool to notch etches in the two sides of the frame. Sidenote: how amazing is Dani? Woodworking while baby wearing? That's a truly modern woman.*

After taking the wood upstairs to make sure the cuts were accurate and the pieces fit together, we started painting. I painted the backs and fronts of the wood so bare wood wouldn't reflect in the mirror once hung.

When all three coats were dry, it was time to hang the frame. Here's where things didn't go so well. We followed the directions in the tutorial and used liquid nails to hang the wood. All the pieces fit perfectly together, but the painters tape was not enough to keep them from sliding town.

In the morning I caulked and painted the corners to make the seams less noticeable.

I don't love how the corners turned out, but overall I'm pretty happy with the outcome. The whole project only cost around $50. The biggest expense was for moulding, which came in at $33. 

For not very much money, and a little bit of effort, the room looks so much more finished. Hooray for fun DIY activities with good friends!

* All safety precautions were taken to ensure the baby was not harmed in any way. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Zahara's New Play Kitchen

Dan and I were thinking about what to get Zahara for her second birthday, so naturally I turned to Pinterest for ideas. Play kitchens seemed to be popular, and having seen Zoey enthusiastically play with them at friends' houses, we knew it was the right choice for us.

At first I had all sorts of wild ideas about making a kitchen from old cabinets, or even from scraps of wood. Dan brought me to my senses and reminded me that I am no longer a spouse on sabbatical with endless free time. Instead, we decided to go for the middle ground between of store-bought and home-made: an IKEA hack.

IKEA sells a great play kitchen for a reasonable price. I loved the size and the various components, but I was not a fan of the look. I'm just not into that raw birch look.

Once again I turned to Pinterest to find examples of glammed-up IKEA Duktigs. I decided on white cabinets, a butcher-block counter, and a pop of color in the top bookshelves. I had a few of the supplies I needed, and gathered the rest at Home Depot.

Dan was out of town the week before Zahara's birthday, which meant I needed to work from home so I could do drop-offs and pick-ups for little Z. Since I wasn't spending two hours each day commuting, I actually had time during the day to work on this kitchen. It was perfect timing.

The first step in creating Zahara's custom kitchen was sanding all the raw pieces of wood with 150 grit sandpaper. I gave all sides a light sanding so that it would accept the paint more evenly.

I had a quart of paint color-matched to the IKEA white, using a recipe I found online. I gave each piece three very thin coats. After two coats I could still see a little bit of the raw wood peeking through, but after three it was perfect.

I used my leftover stain from the DIY ruler to make my butcher block. I love the warmth that the dark wood adds. Two coats were perfect to create this look.

After giving everything a few days to cure, Dan was home and it was time to assemble. We waited until the night before her birthday so she would wake up to a fun surprise. I know this sounds weird, but it's nights like these that really make me feel like a parent. Assembly didn't take too long, but staying up and putting together a surprise for the morning just feels like a classic play out of the parent playbook.

I mentioned before that I wanted to add a pop of color to the bookshelves. I waited until everything was assembled to measure out where to paint. Then I painted a couple of quick coats on what would become the two end cubbies.

We decked out the new kitchen with some adorable pots and pans and a 14-piece vegetable set, both from IKEA. Our friends helped stock the fridge with some play groceries (thanks Dani and Brian!).

I could not love this kitchen any more; it came out even better than I could have imagined. And for Zahara, it was love at first sight! It gives me such pleasure to watch her washing her veggies, making meals in her microwave, and cooking on the stove.