Our Family Unit
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  • November25th

    dollhouse big-1

    As promised in the BEFORE Post, this is the reveal of Jessie’s newly renovated collapsible dollhouse!  After many hours of sanding, cutting, glueing, wall papering, painting, sewing, mod podging (and more mod podging)…it’s finished!


    When she woke up that morning, we had it on the coffee table for her to come and discover.  Watching her excitement was so much fun…I’d do anything for that dimpled smile!


    She immediately identified everyone and dove into a make-believe story.


    Nothing like breathing life into a 30 year old toy…so worth it!


    And now for the Grand Tour…


    The front yard and entryway, complete with lawn and welcome mat.


    You enter into a black, red and white living room…I love so many things about this room.  The fun art, the text on the wall, the leather couch and the shiny black floor…all the things I could never swing in my own house, but are perfect for the dollhouse.


    I added our own family portrait and a frame wall similar to the one in our real house to the dining room.  Kyle did a great job with the table and chairs.


    The final room on the 1st floor is the kitchen.  Initially, I started to do this room super trendy and sophisticated.  Then I remembered it was for a 3yo, who doesn’t care about Houzz trends, and so settled on bright and fun instead.


    Upstairs is the bedroom for the kids.  They share, just like in real life.  I wanted it to be playful and bright, and not totally girly.


    The “master” is across from the kids’ room and houses the 2nd fireplace.  Woody wanted to know why I put a fireplace in that room if our bedroom didn’t have one…I told Kyle in a not-so-subtle way that maybe for the sake of the dollhouse realism, we should get one.  :)


    I had so much fun picking out the Rubber Ducky art for the bathroom!

    dollhouse playroom-1

    And, of course, we needed a Playroom/Schoolroom.  Happy Birthday, Jessie.  I know you’re enjoying it, and I hope that when you’re grown, you have as many fond memories with the dollhouse as I do.

  • November22nd

    dollhouse big-2

    When I was somewhere around 4 or 5, my great-grandfather gave me a dollhouse.  I have so many fond memories of this dollhouse…literally hours and hours of play.  I remember decorating it with my mom, the furniture she’d made from Kleenex boxes upholstered to match our own family’s furniture, the various dollhouse accessories and, most of all, having my Barbies live here (despite the fact that they had to crawl through the 6″ doorways).

    With Jessie’s third birthday approaching, Kyle and I started talking gifts and dollhouses, of course, came up.  I loved the idea, it would be *perfect*!  I remembered how much fun I’d had with mine…I knew she would enjoy one, too.  But what I didn’t love were the price tags!  On the cheap end, a wooden dollhouse is pushing $200 (not including furniture and dolls!)  And then, once we got it, what the heck was I supposed to do with another giant toy in the house??  The more I thought about it, the more the sad reality sunk in…a new wooden dollhouse was completely implausible, illogical, and irresponsible.

    After a few days of moping around the house like a three year old (I don’t know where she gets it!), it came to me…what if my old dollhouse was still around??  I called my mom and thankfully, my parents had had the forethought and patience (and storage room) to hang onto it for the last three decades.  It was time for the renovations to begin…


    Now, the most brilliant thing about this dollhouse design is that it’s totally collapsible!  It’s approximately a 24″ cube when assembled, but flattens out to a 24″ x 24″ x 2″ square that can be slid under any bed or pushed to the back of any closet when my little Diva changes interests.

    When my dad shipped it to me, I was actually giddy with excitement.  It was all I could do to wait until Jessie had gone to bed before putting it together.  Here it is, in all it’s mid-80′s glamour!  After giving Kyle the grand tour forcing him to relive all my childhood memories, we started talking about how to renovate it to make it personal to Jessie.


    To say I *flung* myself into decorator mode, would be a bit of an understatement.  I pulled out mountains of scrapbook paper and fabric scraps and started a new “Dollhouse” board on Pinterest.  I even had a notebook with sketches…I know, I’m insane.  BUT I WAS GETTING TO RELIVE ONE OF MY GREATEST CHILDHOOD MEMORIES, who wouldn’t be excited??

    dollhouse designing

    I eventually settled on a 1/12 scale which means every inch in the dollhouse is equivalent to a foot in real life.  My hope is that going with one of the most common scales for “play” dollhouses will make decorating and finding accessories easier in the future.  After deciding scale, Kyle straightened up the edges and raised the height of the doorways to 7″.  Then I went to work with sanding, paint and Mod Podge.

    BEFORE and AFTER of the two floors and roof.

    dollhouse floors

    Walls BEFORE:

    dollhouse walls before

    Walls AFTER:

    dollhouse walls after

    I used only the scrapbook paper and fabric that I had on hand.  For all the 2D furniture, art and landscaping; I Googled images and then scaled them to the appropriate size in Photoshop.  After that, it was just a matter of printing the images and cutting them out.  Admittedly, the Mod Podge took a few attempts to get right.  The first wall had A LOT of bubbling and I ended up having to redo it.  The trick was doing 3 to 4 very thin coats, allowing for plenty of drying time in between.

    I requisitioned Kyle’s nights for making most of the furniture.  Didn’t he do an incredibly awesome job??  We used the tutorial from Blue Dinosaurs as a starting point and then scaled things up or down to fit our purposes.  I opted for the kitchen appliances to be blocks of wood, as opposed to having doors that open and close, in hopes that we’d be re-gluing things less often.  Then I just freehanded the paint and sewed a few cushions.


    The bathroom accessories were a gift from Marmie & Grandpa Dan.  Neither Kyle nor I wanted to tackle them but we couldn’t do without as ‘going potty’ is such a big deal to a three year old.  :)


    There were only two *actual* purchases for this project…the baby accessories that I just happened to find new at a local second-hand swap for kid stuff…


    and the dolls themselves.  I am SO pleased with these Once Upon a Tree House dolls.  For one, they don’t look entirely creepy…which I was beginning to think was a prerequisite for dollhouse families.  Secondly, I was able to pick and choose my family members…meaning that if I have more than 2 kids and no grandparent living with us or if mom and dad don’t look identical, I can still make it fit our family.  Lastly, they are completely moldable/moveable which makes the creative play go so much further!



    I can’t wait to show you how it turned out and the big reveal to Jessie on her birthday!  Stay tuned next week for the final unveiling.  ;)


  • June21st

    My sister, Megan, got engaged at Christmas (yeah!) and asked me to be Maid of Honor (yahoo!) but really, since I’m married, the official title was Matron of Honor (boo!).  The job came with lots of fun, but one of the best was planning her Bachelorette Party.  Megan loves a good party, but isn’t exactly a “party girl”.  I asked if she wanted the weekend in Vegas, complete with strippers, drinking games and bail postings…but she declined.  Instead, we wanted to celebrate HER with friends, good food, and lots of laughter.  So this is what I came up with for a clean and classy (ok, just clean) bachelorette party.

    For the Menu:

    Bachelorette Party-3

    Bachelorette Party-4

    Although technically a Chef by trade, Megan loves designing and making her own clothes.  So I thought what better way to celebrate her than by having a ‘Project Runway’ style party.


     Have you heard of an “Ugly Dress Party” where you wear your ugliest dress, most likely some 1980′s prom dress with puffed sleeves?  I liked the idea, but wanted it more “wedding-y”.  I decided instead to supply the ugly dresses (old wedding dresses from the thrift store) and let the guests reinvent them for prizes.

    I picked five categories:

    • Most Creative
    • Most Sexy
    • Most White Trash
    • Most Romantic
    • Most Vegas

    Then provided all kinds of supplies to help make the alterations.  Things like beads, fringe, feather boas, glittery stickers, iron on rhinestones and jewels, sticky letters, lace, ribbon and more.  The tools were things like scissors, an iron, hot glue guns and safety pins – afterall we only had about 90 minutes to redesign!

    Bachelorette Party-5

    We ended up splitting into 4 teams, leaving the tiniest thigh-high dress as-is and designating it the sexiest!  Then we went to work…cutting off sleeves, raising hemlines, and adding bling.

    While we designed, we played a couple clean games that I’d found on Pinterest and modified to fit Megan.  The first was a He Said/She Said game.  I designed the below in Photoshop and handed them out at the beginning of the night.  After everyone made their guesses, I gave the answers and whoever had the most correct got a door prize.

    He Said She Said copy

    The second game was Bachelorette Jeapordy (original idea found here).  There were 5 categories

    • Ric’s Early Years
    • Know Your In-Laws
    • By the Numbers
    • Tainted Love
    • His Favorite Things

    with 5 questions in each category.  I emailed Ric ahead of time to get his answers and then wrote each question on a card and put it in an envelope.  The night of the party, I divided the 25 envelopes among the guests.  Megan would call out a question… “Know Your In-Laws for 300″ …and the person holding that envelope would read the question.  If Megan got it right, she picked a door prize; but if she got it wrong, the reader picked a door prize.  Ric, I promised Megan that I’d tell you she knew them all!  ;)  

    Bachelorette Party-2

    Bachelorette Party-1

     Here’s the list of questions I used…

    The Early Years
    1. What was his first car?
    2. What was his high school mascot?
    3. At what age did he get chicken pox?
    4. What was his first word?
    5. Where was his first job?

    Know Your In-Laws
    1. What is your future mother-in-law’s maiden name?
    2. When is his sister’s birthday?
    3. Does his family have any nicknames for him?
    4. How did his parent’s meet?
    5. Your new last name is from what ethnic origin?

    By the Numbers
    1. What is his zip code?
    2. What are the last four digits of his social security number?
    3. How many broken bones has he had?
    4. What is his dress shirt size?
    5. What year does his driver’s license expire?

    Tainted Love
    1. What is the name of his first girlfriend?
    2. At what age was his first kiss?
    3. Who is his celebrity crush?
    4. What was the date (month and day) that you met?
    5. Who was his craziest girlfriend?

    His Favorite Things
    1. What is his dream car?
    2. Where in the world does he MOST want to visit?
    3. What is his favorite type of food?
    4. What is his favorite band/musical artist?
    5. What is his favorite thing about the bride?

    After the games and second helpings on food, it was time for the fashion show.  We had Megan wear the dresses and then each team presented the dress and described their inspiration and process.  

     Most Creative

    This one had a back story…destination wedding gone wrong, it somehow included a fight with bird.

    Bachelorette Party-6

    Most White Trash

    This was nicknamed the Mullet Dress, because it was all business in the front….

    Bachelorette Party-7

    …and PARTY in the back.

    Bachelorette Party-8

    Most Romantic

    They turned this cap-sleeved dress into an asymmetric sweat heart neckline and decorated the original cape, too.

    Bachelorette Party-9

    Most Vegas

    When you add beaded fringe, glitter pasties and the groom’s name on your butt; you’ve got to be ready for Vegas!

    Bachelorette Party-10 Bachelorette Party-11

     The overall winner was the Most Romantic and Megan wore that dress during the rehearsal.  I’m sure the grandparents were a little confused when they saw it, but Megan was a great sport about it!

    After the fashion show, we enjoyed more food, opened gifts, and passed out favors (mini sewing kits).  It was a great night celebrating a beautiful bride.  So much creativity, so many laughs and other than a few compromising photos…totally clean!

    Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches

    3/4 pound diced or shredded cooked chicken (about 1 1/2 cups)
    1/3 cup mayonnaise
    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons curry powder
    1/3 cup raisins
    1/3 cup slivered almonds or roasted, unsalted pistachios
    8 slices whole wheat bread or 4 8-inch round pita breads
    4 large lettuce leaves, torn in half or shredded

    Mix together chicken, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, curry powder, raisins, and nuts. Make four sandwiches, dividing chicken mixture evenly among them and topping each with lettuce.

    Serves 4

  • March1st

    Burlap Chalkboard-1

    This DIY gift  I loved so much, I kept one for myself…Stenciled Burlap Placemats and Chalkboard Coasters.  It’s super easy and contributed to my secret goal to incorporate burlap into every room in the house!

    I bought some burlap at JoAnn’s and cut it down to 13″ x 17″, an inch wider and longer than I wanted my finished placemat to be.  I followed this great tutorial for how to cut burlap in a straight line, and it saved me so much frustration!  Then I hand washed the rectangles to get rid of that weird burlap smell and soften their texture just a bit.  After ironing them flat again, I did a straight stitch around the edges, 1/2″ from the border, to keep them from fraying.  Then I purposely frayed the edges up to the stitching, just to give them a more unified look.

    Burlap Chalkboard-3

    At this point, they were ready to be stenciled.  I used my Silhouette to cut the stencils for my words.  By cutting out the word, rather than the letters, I didn’t have to worry about messing up the kerning when I stenciled.  For once, having very old craft paint was a huge win.  My black paint had been left over from my mom’s stash and I’m pretty sure it was purchased somewhere around 1987.  It was thick and clumpy, but it worked perfectly to give me very crisp letters.  The paint didn’t bleed out from under the stencil edge at all.

    Burlap Chalkboard-5

    I love chalkboard paint!  If we didn’t rent our house, I’d probably cover the entire kitchen in chalkboard paint.  For this project though, I limited myself to just the coasters.  I purchased the cheap tiles at Home Depot (16 cents each) and glued a piece of black felt to the bottom of each with a hot glue gun.  Then I gave each coaster two coats of chalkboard paint.

    I wanted each coaster to have a toasting phrase and originally planned to stencil that too.  But the font was too small and thin for that to work well, so I ended up tracing my stencil in pencil and then painting it free-hand.  Despite my shaky hand, I liked how they turned out.

    Burlap Chalkboard-6

    I’m so glad I kept one set for myself.  They’re my favorite way to set the table!

    Burlap Chalkboard-4