Coffee Art or Memo Board?

Coffee Art or Memo Board?

At the end of this post I mentioned that I had a few more burlap projects up my sleeve. Today I share with you my new kitchen bulletin board! 

  
Let’s back up a little bit, shall we? I haven’t really shown this wall (it’s directly across from Rosie’s bedroom door) because for a long while it looked like this: 

  
The previous owner is to blame for the damaged wall. She hung baskets there for produce. She took the baskets and left boards with hooks sticking out still screwed (and possibly glued?) to the wall. They were hell to remove and I obviously still need to actually patch the wall there. 

I fantasize daily about removing that wall when we save enough money to remodel our kitchen. My solution in the meantime was/is to make it functional. Originally I slapped up a white board and a few fabric covered cork tiles that I already had so we could post information. 

I quit using the whiteboard around the beginning of June and the clutter was beginning to drive me crazy. That’s when I started to brainstorm some ideas about a more functional memo board. 

Back in May, Shane and I spent a weekend on Kauai for a friend’s wedding. It’s always a treat to visit Kauai since it’s absolutely gorgeous and I get to listen to Shane relive his high school days. It’s also where we honeymooned. 

While there, I insisted on stopping at the Kauai Coffee Estate. They are my favorite coffee and we also visited during our honeymoon. 

Cozy with the coffee trees as a newlywed

  
 This time, after a guided tour, we left with several bags of coffee and a couple burlap coffee bags. They have a different design for each year. They were sold out of the 2009 bags (the year we got married). We went home with a 2008 (the year we met) and a 2013 bag (we liked the design). I just had to figure out what I was going to do with the bags. 

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One project idea I had was to do a bulletin board for the kitchen. The project finally came to fruition last month after I snagged a faded cork board for 5 bucks at a garage sale. It was the perfect size for the coffee bag. 

I cut the bag down the middle of the back and then used a seam ripper to pull out the bottom seam. I could’ve used the seam ripper to do the side seam of the bag too, but it would’ve resulted in an off-center design on the board as there wasn’t enough fabric to wrap it that way. It did result in a slightly wonky right side of the board because of the thickness at the seam, but oh well. I actually like that it is imperfect. 

Next, I centered the image and lined up the fabric on top of the cork board. Using plain thumb tacks I picked up at Home Depot for about $1.58, I pinned the burlap to the board along the edges of its aluminum frame. 

Once I finished with my “nailhead” trim, I trimmed the excess fabric on all sides. Pulling the burlap taut, I then wrapped it around the edges of the frame and secured with hot glue on the back. 

I then just nailed right through the board to attach it to the wall. 

  
I took the opportunity to clean up some of the old notes and things we had pinned up. After all, I don’t want to completely obscure the coffee art! I totally need to get on repairing that wall already. 

If you ever find yourself on Kauai, I highly recommend stopping by for a tour at the Kauai Coffee Estate! They do carry some Kauai Coffee at major retailers now if you want to sample. I know they have it at Costco, Harris Teeter for my Virginia friends, and Safeway. They just started selling it at Target here in the last few months. Not sponsored, Kauai Coffee is just my favorite and I’m a little obsessed. 

Another picture of Kauai coffee trees before you go!

  

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Tristan’s Big 1!

I can hardly believe I’m now a mother of a one-year-old! The past year has absolutely flown by (except for when I was up all night, then those seconds, minutes and hours simply dragged).

Sleeplessness aside, it’s been a pretty fun journey and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next!

This was me just over a year ago:

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Then meeting our little man for the first time:

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It’s wild that he’s grown and changed so much since then. I think Shane and I have grown and changed right along with him over the past year.

To celebrate his first birthday we had a party in the park with as many of our family and friends that could make it. A great time was had by all!

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My boys are so handsome!

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Cake!

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Happy Birthday Tristan!

Weekend Happiness

An exciting and super fun three-day weekend is coming to a close here in Washington, DC. We did not take part in the Inauguration festivities, but they afforded us some extra time together as a family. Since the Capitol was closed to visitors all weekend and I chose not to work at the Inauguration today, we had an unprecedented three consecutive days to hang out and do “regular” things. I can’t tell you how thrilled we were to be strolling down the aisles of Lowes on Saturday morning. If we could’ve had weekends with more than one day together the past two years, there’s no telling what we could’ve accomplished on our home over the past two years. More about our DIY adventures soon, but here’s a hint:

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We had a fantastic afternoon on Sunday to celebrate Shane’s birthday. By his request, we headed for Capitol Hill to a local game store, Labyrinth to pick out a birthday gift. We ended up with this game. Oh my gosh! We’ve been having so much fun playing this game! We took it out of the package while we waited for our dinner at We the Pizza and we’ve been playing it nonstop since.

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We capped off our evening with milkshakes at Good Stuff Eatery. To our surprise, they now offer a free milkshake on your birthday! We even played one more round of Guillotine once we got home.

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I’m not really quite sure how to put into words exactly how much fun the three of us had yesterday, but it was a really great day!

We wrapped up our weekend quite nicely today by hanging out in our pajamas with pancakes for breakfast while we watched the Inauguration on tv. Shane and I were able to participate in the historic inauguration four years ago, but this year we were more than happy to watch from our family room while we played with our son.

What did you all do with your long weekend?

Pizzelles – A Christmas Tradition

Christmas isn’t Christmas for me until I can smell pizzelles baking.  The Italian cookies have been a family tradition for as long as I can remember.  When I was younger, my brother and I always looked forward to the day on Christmas break when our mom would bring out the pizzelle iron and we’d spend a few hours making cookies while watching a holiday movie.  The recipe turned out dozens and dozens of cookies that we would stack in containers after they cooled on the kitchen table.

I’ve always noticed the absence of the cookies during the few Christmases that we’ve skipped the pizzelles for one reason or another.  My mom was even so kind as to bring pizzelles to Hawaii the year Shane and I got married just two days after Christmas.  You can imagine, I was completely thrilled last year when I received my very own pizzelle iron as a gift from my mom.  I’m only bummed that it took me nearly a year to use it!

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After emailing my grandma for the family pizzelle recipe, I mixed up a batch of dough.  Wow – I couldn’t believe how quickly the smell of the anise and lemon extracts brought me back to my childhood!

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It was fun to think about how I will get to continue this family tradition with Tristan and future bambino(s).  Tristan wasn’t all that interested yet, but one day he’ll be begging to lick the spatula instead of his socks.

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At least I got to enjoy the delicious cookies!

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I’m super excited – the booklet that came with my pizzelle iron had several more recipes I want to try including Orange Rum Pizzelles and Chocolate Pizzelles!  I just might become that crazy pizzelle lady!

Making pizzelles this weekend was one of those simple pleasures that brought back so many special memories of Christmas as a child.  I’ll file this under Simplifying Christmas.  For more Christmas posts, check out the patchwork stockings I made last year and our meaningful Christmas decorations.

Show Me the Fluff! Our Decision to Cloth Diaper

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You may or may not be aware that Shane and I have decided to cloth diaper Tristan. It was a decision we made well in advance of his arrival and thoroughly researched. These are not your mother’s cloth diapers – no folding or pins required! Our decision was based heavily on what we see as a budget-friendly option. We also love that cloth diapers are environmentally friendly and not filled with chemicals that irritate Tristan’s skin. What’s more, since there are no moisture-wicking chemicals, babies who wear cloth diapers tend to potty-train quickly as they are able to understand what wetness feels like.

We received different reactions from different people when sharing our decision. Some are more supportive, others just curious to see how it works and still others just think cloth diapers are gross. I thought I would share our experience so far.

I first became interested in cloth diapering after seeing John and Sherry from YoungHouseLove use them on their daughter. Cloth diapers have come a long way and are styled like a disposable, but are in fact reusable. There are a number of different cloth diapering systems available that range from traditional Gerber flat cloth diapers, to hybrids with a reusable cover and disposable insert to all-in-ones (AiOs) with no removable parts. Diapers are available in a range of materials from organic cotton to synthetic microfiber to wool. You can choose to use a service that picks up your dirty diapers and drops off laundered diapers or you can wash them at home. What works best for us may not necessarily work best for your family, but many options exist if you’re interested in cloth diapering.

That being said, I spent months researching all about cloth diapers. I read up on several websites such as Cotton Babies and obsessively followed the cloth diapering message board on BabyCenter. The message boards were probably my best resource as I was able to learn about the different problems faced by other cloth diapering mamas and how they are solved. The CD Mamas were not shy about providing honest reviews of cloth diapers and related products. Once I had a deeper understanding of the different types of cloth diapers and the pros and cons of each, I was prepared to choose a system that I believed would work for us.

I wanted to work exclusively with one-size All-in-Ones (AiOs) that would grow with our baby and last through multiple children. I always like getting the most bang for my buck. I also thought they would be the easiest to use for both me and my husband and also for family or babysitters. We created a universal registry on Amazon and added a few different brands of AiOs to see what we might get. General cloth diapering advice is to not sink all your money into just one type of diaper. They fit uniquely as each baby is different and you may need varying levels of absorbency (overnight, for example) that you can’t necessarily get from a single style of diaper. We received a couple GroVia AiOs and a couple BumGenius pocket-style diapers. Since we wanted at least 12 diapers, we had to decide what else we wanted to purchase. I had read many fantastic reviews of BumGenius products and I really wanted to stock up on a few styles of their diapers. When it came time to order online, they had a sale I simply couldn’t pass up and I ended up purchasing all BumGenius 4.0 pocket diapers.

What exactly is a pocket diaper? It consists of a waterproof outer cover with soft fabric on the inside, which is what touches your baby’s skin. The absorbent piece is inserted in a pocket in the diaper cover. For our BumGenius 4.0s the insert is made of microfiber, but you could easily replace it with an insert of your material of choice. We opted for snaps over Velcro as we read they hold up to repeated laundering and last longer without replacement.

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What’s also really great about pocket diapers is that you can customize the absorbency by doubling up inserts for overnight or by using different materials. The downside to pockets, however, is that you have to stuff them after you wash. We don’t mind doing so as we usually just do it while watching tv, but it can be a pain if you’re in a rush and don’t have a diaper ready to go. This just comes down to personal preference and how much prep you want for your diapers.

We have been cloth diapering now for just about a month and we absolutely love it! We had to wait until Tristan fit into his one-size diapers. Seems counterintuitive, I know, but they are rated for babies 8-35+ lbs. With his skinny legs, we had to wait until we were sure no unpleasant surprises would sneak out the leg openings. (Tristan still doesn’t fit in his GroVia diapers, but should soon). We could have invested in newborn-sized cloth diapers, but I thought it a shaky investment with the baby’s size unknown before birth. So for the first month and a half we used disposables. I admit, after using the disposables, I was nervous to transition to the cloth. What if it was a complete disaster?! Luckily, we are thrilled with our decision. It took a few days to adjust and get a new system under our belts, but we couldn’t be happier.

I’m sure you’re wondering how we deal with the yuck and wash the diapers ourselves. Diapers that are just wet are the easiest. Once the diaper is off the baby, I use a wipe to remove the insert from the pocket, wrap it lightly in the cover and deposit in the wetbag (we use PlanetWise wetbags in place of a diaper pail). The used wipes go in a separate, smaller wetbag since we use disposable wipes. I’ve toyed with the idea of switching to cloth wipes, but can’t quite seem to sell it to Shane. I should also note, we’re planning on purchasing a small lidded trash can for the nursery for the used wipes as the second wetbag just isn’t working for us.

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For diapers that are soiled, the general premise is the same, but we also get to use our BumGenius Diaper Sprayer. The link explains in depth, but it hooks up to the toilet and you spray the solid stuff into the toilet and flush it away. We then remove the insert and put the used diaper into the wetbag.

For when we are out and about, we have a couple small wetbags we keep in our diaper bag to stash used diapers until we get home.

Once we are down to just one or two diapers, we wash the rest. This consists of emptying the wetbag into the washing machine and throwing the empty wetbag in as well. We then use a scoop of BumGenius detergent, although any dye, perfume and enzyme-free detergent would work. It’s very important to avoid additives when you wash the diapers as they have an adverse effect on the absorbency of the diapers and could irritate your baby’s skin. We wash the load on hot and do an extra rinse on cold to remove all the detergent. Then the inserts and wetbags go into the dryer and the covers are hung to dry. Once a month, we add 1/4 cup of bleach to the load.

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Some times there’s a little yellowish stain left behind on the inside of the covers, but an hour in the sun bleaches it right out. What’s nice is that the covers dry pretty quickly without going into the dryer, which would certainly wear them out faster. We then stuff the diapers and are left with a cheerful stack of clean diapers for the next day.

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We have 13 diapers in rotation, not counting the two GroVia diapers that don’t yet fit, and do laundry a little less than once a day. However, Tristan started daycare this week, so that has changed a bit. Most daycares, including ours, won’t use cloth diapers, so he is in ‘sposies during the week. Luckily, his daycare provides diapers and wipes, so we are only forced to purchase enough disposable diapers to put him in one each morning before we drop him off. We prefer to do our laundry with as full of a load as possible. However, with him in ‘sposies at daycare, we still have to wash our cloth at least every other day to avoid a build up of ammonia. Since we’ve only had 3 days in daycare so far, I can’t speak too much about how that will affect our current system.

Some argue that our increased water usage for laundry isn’t very environmentally friendly, but I was doing more laundry when Tristan was in disposables having to wash his clothes and sheets after multiple blow-outs and leaks. We have not had a single blow-out while using cloth. So far, the increase in our water bill has been negligible.

I love our cloth diapers for their leak-free protection and they’re just so darn cute! I like to dress Tristan in just a t-shirt to show off his colorful diapers. How can you resist?

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We made it using cloth diapers 24/7 for a month, and I don’t regret our decision one bit! If we made it through that, it should only get easier from here on out since we don’t have cloth to wash from daycare. In fact, I look forward to continuing to cloth diaper Tristan and any future children we have.

Let’s hear your thoughts! Anyone else a CDing mama or papa out there? What works for you? Are you just surprised by how much cloth diapers have advanced? Any questions for me? I love talking about all things cloth diaper related!

Shopping the Express Lane

Since joining the ranks of mommy hood, I’ve had to learn how to do everyday things faster, one-handed and/or differently. Otherwise, I would never manage to shower, eat or get out the door. It’s like my own version of the Olympics. Instead of “faster, higher, stronger” my new motto is “faster, one-handed, holding baby.” My new status at least gave me an opportunity to re-evaluate how I do things, including my grocery shopping.

I already consider myself a highly successful online shopper for clothes and other merchandise. (I love Target’s Daily Deals, Etsy, and of course Amazon). Why wasn’t I getting my groceries online? Grocery delivery services like Peapod and their service fees are too much of a stretch for my budget. I had seen customers picking up their groceries at my beloved Harris Teeter, but thought that the surcharge would be too expensive, so I never investigated further.

Let’s talk about Harris Teeter, for a moment. Shane and I are obsessed with our grocery store. We will seriously talk anybody’s ear off about how much we love our grocery store of choice. I’ve only heard other people talk about Wegman’s the way Shane and I talk about Harris Teeter. (Apparently a Wegman’s will be opening close to home soon, and I’m pretty excited). Periodically, we will shop at another store to save money or because it’s a little bit closer to where we live and we always end up disappointed. Not only are we thrilled with the Teet’s (I’m sure we’re the only people who refer to it as such) produce, we loooove their meat counter. It’s always the meat that leaves something to be desired at other stores. I also can’t say enough for the genuine customer service we experience at Harris Teeter. I’ve never once had a negative experience with one of their employees in 3 1/2ish years of shopping there. I chalk it up to the company’s southern roots (they were founded in North Carolina) and hold their employees to a higher standard. Now that my Ode to Harris Teeter is off my chest, back to the express lane…

I get weekly emails from Harris Teeter letting me know which items I regularly buy are on sale that week. Several weeks ago, they mentioned that their Express Lane shopping was just $1.95 all summer long. I initially ignored it, but after a frustrating and difficult outing to Safeway with Tristan in tow, I thought it deserved a second look.

I honestly didn’t believe I could shop online and pick up my groceries for just $1.95, but after reading all the fine print, I thought it was worth a shot. Normally, the service fee is $4.95 each time and they even waive the fee for your initial Express Lane purchase, so I had nothing to lose. It took some time to search out the items I usually buy, but I was able to save them to a Favorites list on my account for quicker shopping next time. I placed my order and selected a time slot for pick up.

To get our groceries, all we had to do was pull our car in the Express Lane in front of the store. We gave our name and a few minutes later an employee arrived with a cart and loaded our groceries in the back of the car. They then swiped our credit card right there and we were on our way. The pick up was smooth considering the surprise thunderstorm and the screaming baby in the back seat. The only hiccup was once we were at home unloading the groceries, we realized we had somebody else’s bag in addition to our order. I called the store and they said to keep it since we already had it, so we acquired some bonus items.

We have since used the Express Lane service two more times and I absolutely love it! For me, nothing beats shopping online. The added bonus is I can see what’s on sale and plan my meals accordingly. I’m thinking this will help us stay on budget since we can be more deliberate when it comes to menu planning for the week (especially with child care costs coming our way soon!) I also love as a mother that I don’t even have to get out of the car. Outings just aren’t as simple as they used to be, and I don’t mind not having to soothe a fussy baby in the grocery store. Using Express Lane should give us more time together to have fun as a family instead of having to take care of one more errand to run – especially as I prepare to return to work.

To answer a couple questions I’m sure you have:
What if they’re out of stock of something you order?
You can provide directions for them to substitute something specific, allow them to generally substitute with a comparable item or to not substitute at all. In fact, the employee who fulfills your order calls you when it’s complete and let’s you know if they had to make any changes and ask what action you would like them to take.

Can you use coupons?
Yes. You simply bring your coupons for the items you purchased when you pick up your order. They then credit your account and apply that amount on your next order.

isn’t $4.95 per order a bit much for weekly shopping?
Yes, I think so too, although I’m very willing to pay for the convenience. Once the summer promotion price of $1.95 per order ends, I’m planning on signing up for their monthly plan: $9.95/month all-you-can-shop. That will allow me to keep the convenience without breaking the bank.

I’m very excited they are developing an app to allow you to shop and place your Express Lane orders from your phone or mobile device. That will certainly add to the convenience factor!

I highly recommend Harris Teeter and Express Lane Shopping to anyone lucky enough to live in the 8 states and District of Columbia with Harris Teeter.

I should note that these opinions are entirely my own, and I am not paid by Harris Teeter in anyway – I’m just a girl obsessed with her grocery store.

Anyone else with comparable grocery store obsessions? Anyone else competing in the new mom Olympics? Are you a new mom with a handy time-saving trick up your sleeve?

It’s a Boy!

It turns out my Big Nursery Reveal post was done just in time! Last Saturday after I completed the post and updated my blog theme and header, Shane and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. He snapped this last picture of me pregnant on that walk:

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Once we got home and sat down to dinner around 8pm, labor started. My contractions were about 10 minutes apart and pretty painless. We finished dinner, watched some tv and decided to head to bed to rest up around 11. I was hoping to get a good night’s rest before the big day (Shane too after working all day on Saturday), but Baby Hanley had other things in mind. I woke up at 2am Sunday to go to the bathroom. When I got back into bed, I realized my contractions were coming kind of frequently and were a bit more painful. I spent 30 minutes timing them and realized they were already 3 minutes apart and lasting a full minute each.

I woke up Shane and told him it was time. After we called the doctor and the doula and got our bags loaded in the car, it was after 4am and we were on our way!

Thank God it was 4am on a Sunday and we didn’t have to deal with typical DC traffic. We still somehow managed to hit nearly every traffic light on the way to the hospital. Nobody ever told me coping with contractions in the car would be so difficult! I was the crazy lady moaning with the window down while we were next to the same car at every one of those stoplights.

We finally arrived at the hospital about 4:45am, but they wouldn’t admit me until 7am. I had to walk the hallway and labor in triage for two hours before I was at a full 4cm dilated. I’m just glad they didn’t send me home!

We had a full day ahead of us, anxiously anticipating Baby Hanley’s arrival. At 8:31pm on May 20, Shane was able to finally announce, “It’s a boy!”

I can’t believe it’s already been a full week since we welcomed little Tristan into the world! As to be expected, it’s been an adjustment to the Hanley household, but we’re all doing well. Even Portia and Lily seem to love him already.

Here’s a taste of Tristan’s first week of life:

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It’s been a blessed week!