Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reading with the Kids: Favorite New Books

In our family, summer means more time for reading...at bedtime, on hot summer afternoons, at bookstores and libraries.  I never discourage my daughters' literary habits...unless they are reading to stall tooth-brushing or vegetable-eating.  ;-)

My seven-year-old, a strong independent reader, is currently on a mystery binge.  She's already plowed through our vintage Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden collection.  She also loves her American Girl doll, Caroline, and especially the accompanying book series.  She's eager for more American Girl mysteries like this one:

My innately stylish four-year-old was immediately drawn to this Audrey Hepburn picture book, beautifully written by Margaret Cardillo and illustrated by Julie Denos:

And my toddler continues her obsession with Jennifer Adams' BabyLit.  We now own the entire collection, including these new favorites:

We're super excited for the BabyLit releases of Anna Karenina and Sherlock Holmes in September!

What are your kids reading this summer?

(Sharing with Real Family Fun)

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Pretty Paper Drawer Liners

After finishing my chalk paint transformation of a nursery dresser into an office console table, I wanted to ensure the interior would be lovely and functional as well.  The drawers are constructed with dovetail joinery and are solid maple; they are beautiful and need to be protected.  Plus, I absolutely love using pretty paper any way I can -- see, for example, how I used wrapping paper to cover ugly laminate desk tops in my girls' playroom and a bedroom.

So, I visited my local Paper Source and purchased four sheets of gorgeous handmade paper.  Each sheet measured about 20x30 and cost about $4; those four sheets were sufficient to line a total of six drawers and three shelves in both my console table and office desk. I chose colors and patterns that would play well with the Annie Sloan Aubusson Blue I used on the console, as well as the Benjamin Moore Stone Harbor Gray on my office walls, and the yellow, gray, and blue fabric in my window treatment.

I then gathered my supplies --- clear contact paper, a paper cutter, a measuring tape, and poster tape --- and got to work.  

After measuring each drawer and shelf, I cut the contact paper to size, sealed it to the decorative paper, and then cut the decorative paper to fit.  I then affixed each liner to the drawer with a few pieces of removable poster tape, so that I can safely change the liners without damaging the wood.  And that's it!

Drawers are now ready to be filled with stationery and office supplies, and my new home office is one step closer to being organized!

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chalk Paint Tray Transformation

Now that I've got the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint bug, I've been surveying my house for other things that need makeovers.  The first to catch my eye --- this uninspired wood serving tray that adds function to my living room ottoman:

Purchased from Pottery Barn on clearance eight years ago, this tray had seen better days, and in my new lighter, brighter living room, the dark wood tone didn't work anymore.

So, one 25-minute episode of Sofia The First later, the tray was transformed with a single coat of Aubusson Blue and clear wax.  With no need to sand or prime, this ASCP project was so quick that the kids didn't even have time to ask for a sippy cup refill.  ;)  And it was a perfect use of some of the leftover paint from my office console project.

Most importantly, it adds some subtle color to my living room and mimics the blues in the ottoman fabric and art accents throughout the room.

How have you used chalk paint?  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

85 Days of Summer: Writing Prompts for My Daughter

So, we're two weeks into summer, and my seven-year-old is already bored.  This, despite a fun summer agenda which includes various day camps, playdates, beach and city vacations, overnights at her grandparents, cooking and crafting, trips to the park, to the zoo, to the museums....you get the picture.  It's not boring 'round these parts, but you wouldn't know it based on her whining.

Fortunately, the girl loves to write; this may ultimately prove her gift.  She can journal all day long, providing she has some inspiration.  Thus, my remedy for her unsubstantiated allegations of boredom?  Eighty-five writing prompts, one for each day of our summer.  Each prompt is typed, printed on pink cardstock, individually cut and folded, and placed into a glass apothecary jar which sits on her bedroom desk.  So pretty, so inspirational, so curative of complaining.

Just in case your child is also stricken with "There's nothing to do!" I am sharing our writing topics here.  I devised them specifically for my curious seven-year-old girl and her interests, but most would apply to any elementary-aged child.  Some prompts are silly; some are serious; some require introspection; others require imagination. I hope you find some or all of them useful!

Happy Summer Parenting!

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chalk Paint Makeover: From Changing Table to Office Console

This post should be titled, "If I can do it, anyone can."

I'm talking about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  And how, after finally jumping on the bandwagon everyone else joined two years ago, it changed my attitude about painting.  Which was previously bad. Really bad.  Like covered-head-to-toe-in-paint-and-crying-in-Home-Depot-bad.

I had resigned myself to a life of having to pay other people to paint for me.  Or a life of goodwilling or craigslisting furniture in finishes I could no longer use. A life of spending too much money on too little character.

Things have changed.  Why?  Because my new home office needed more storage.  And my babies have grown up and out of their nursery furniture.  And consequently, an unused, beautifully constructed, solid maple dresser and changing table sat in my garage for eleven months.  I had paid a pretty penny for it initially and couldn't bear to part with it.  It was "good furniture."  But it was also finished in a "rubbed ebony" stain that complemented nothing else in my new house.  So, it sat and gathered dust.

Finally, inspiration struck, measurements were taken, and I realized that the dresser/changing table would fit perfectly in my new office and provide much needed storage for stationery and office supplies.  It just needed new paint.

A trip to my local Annie Sloan stockist, Jamie Figari, and I was sold.  Jamie gave me practical tips and sold me my chosen Duck Egg Blue paint, clear wax, and wax brush.  With an additional trip to the hardware store for some Purdy paint brushes, sanding blocks, and a drop cloth, I was ready to begin.

Since my achilles heel is impatience, working with Annie Sloan paint was appealing from the start.  After a light sanding and cleaning to remove debris, I got to paint!  No priming or prep necessary.  And because the paint is low-VOC, I could paint indoors, which is a huge bonus when you are living in Texas in the summer.

After setting my children up with ipads educational puzzles and games, I got to work.  By the time I finished the first coat, initial sections had dried and were ready for a second coat.  I let the paint dry overnight, and after another light sanding, I applied a thin layer of the clear wax and buffed with a lint-free towel.  The result:

But alas, although Duck Egg Blue is a lovely color, I wasn't quite sure it worked in my office space, especially with the area rug.  It read greener than I wanted and still looked like nursery furniture.  So, I stared at the piece for about three weeks before making another trip to the stockist and choosing Aubusson Blue, a deep blue grey, instead.

One short afternoon's work later, this is the final result, with Restoration Hardware's Traditional Clear Glass Knobs:

I used only one coat of Aubusson Blue and sanded a bit so the distressing shows bits of the Duck Egg Blue underneath.  Although it is difficult to tell in the pictures because of the room's current poor lighting, the overall effect is of a peacock blue.  And the new hardware is really sparkly!  I lined the drawers and shelves with beautiful handmade paper, and now I'm thrilled with the look.  I can't wait to accessorize and start using this essential component of my home office.  I look forward to sharing my office reveal soon!

How have you used ASCP to transform furniture?

Sharing with Shabby Creek Cottage, Savvy Southern Style, House of Hepworths, DIY By Design, The Charm of Home, Serenity Now, French Country Cottage, Tatertots and Jello, I Heart Naptime, Six Sisters Stuff, Under the Table and Dreaming, Between Naps on the Porch, Homemaker on a Dime, Making the World Cuter, Start at Home, and My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party

My middle daughter turned four recently, and her heart's desire was a Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party.  Because I was also planning her big sister's Aloha/Summer Splash Party for the same weekend, I needed to keep things simple but berry sweet.

We quickly settled on a kids' cooking party at Foodie Kids, one of our regular haunts.  The Foodie Kids proprietors are so lovely and personalize every child's experience there.  And we were lucky enough to host our party in their new store, which is charming and beautiful:

These cute vintage strawberry printable invitations from hellolovedesigns set the tone for the party:

I ordered personalized aprons for each party guest from Lisa at The Stitch Boutique.  Lisa happens to be a local Austin mama and provided super-fast turnaround and fabulous customer service.  The girls loved their aprons!

I also drew inspiration from the sophisticated Strawberry Shortcake party styled by Kiki's List.  Based on her vendor recommendations, I ordered favor boxes from Simple Tastes and wooden bead strawberry necklaces from UK Sparkle.

The birthday girl donned a strawberry print dress from Gymboree and a darling Strawberry Shortcake necklace from Queeny Belle Frills:

Little sister wore a strawberry dress, too: 

The party commenced with each child decorating her own chef's hat.

Each girl then made a strawberry and pink marshmallow wand, strawberry lemonade, a pink pizza, and a cupcake with a Strawberry Shortcake fondant topper.

After eating, clean-up, and a sweet happy birthday song, the party was done!  Sweet, simple, and super easy!

(Planning a child's birthday party? Check out our Woodland Fairy, Sugar Plum Fairy, Winter Wonderland, Luau, Silhouettes, Butterflies, and Bubbles Balls and Balloons parties for inspiration and vendor recommendations!)

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