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.  ;)


  • September23rd

    Not to put any pressure on, but only 6 more weeks until Halloween!  I don’t think Kyle and I planned as well as we could have…somehow we ended up with two birthdays and Halloween all in the same week!  That makes for one VERY exciting week around here, and one very busy mom.  :)  I’m trying to be better prepared this year though, and at least have the costumes figured out early.  Woody and Jessie have a plethora of costumes, thanks to the Dress Up Box, but we’re a little light on baby costumes around here.  Do you have any idea how expensive baby costumes are?  Even used ones are $20!  For 2 hours of fun on one night a year that he won’t even remember…

    I started looking around for an alternative and saw this cute idea for a DIY Sock Monkey costume here and decided to try  it.  She was a little more “professional” with hers, actually using a pattern for PJs.  This is my “down-and-dirty-done-in-an-afternoon” version.  You have to take into consideration that I am a s-l-o-w seamstress, not to mention, a little person interrupts approximately every 3 1/2 minutes.  A normal person could do this in less than an hour, I’m sure.

    sock monkey tutorial-11

    I started with three men’s sweaters from the thrift store, total cost $10.  I purposely chose the gray sweater to have a zipper, which then eliminated the need for me to sew one in down the road.

    sock monkey tutorial-1

    I laid out a current pair of PJs right on top of the gray sweater, and just cut around it, leaving everything from the neck to the arm cuff in tact.

    sock monkey tutorial-2

    I was left with this.  I just flipped it inside-out and sewed three seams.  From each arm cuff in and then down each leg, and then a u-shaped seem between the legs.  The giant man-sized zipper in front made the perfect closure, so like I said before, I didn’t have to put one in.

    sock monkey tutorial-3

    Next I took the white sweater and cut two strips from each arm.  These would turn into the hands and feet, but were way too wide left as is.

    sock monkey tutorial-4

    I just made a quick seem down the middle to narrow each one.

    sock monkey tutorial-5

    Then pinned each one to the sleeves and legs and attached.  Nothing pretty here, it’s for two hours of fun on one night of the year that he won’t remember.  :)

    sock monkey tutorial-7

    After they were attached, I shaped the excess and sewed it closed.  Bodysuit done!

    sock monkey tutorial-6

    For the hat, I didn’t want to bother with finishing edges, so I just used the hem of the shirt to be the hem for the hat.  I cut the two pieces directly from the bottom of the shirt.  This is all freehand, no need for patterns.  It’s for two hours of fun on one night of the year that he won’t even remember.

    sock monkey tutorial-8

    For the ears, I sketched a pattern on paper (so that they would be roughly symmetrical) and then cut four pieces from the remainder of the gray sweater.

    sock monkey tutorial-9

    I cut the sleeve of the red sweater into a few strips for “hair”, pinned everything together and sewed around the edge to close it up.  Voila!  Hat done!

    sock monkey tutorial-10

    For the scarf, I cut the bottom three inches off the read sweater, and just looped it around his neck, again letting the hem of the original sweater be the hem of the scarf.

    sock monkey tutorial-13

     And that was it!  So simple.  I am now the proud owner of the most cuddly sock monkey on the planet!  And we are ready to enjoy the two hours of fun on one night of the year, that he will OF COURSE remember, at least via pictures.

    sock monkey tutorial-12


  • August19th

    burlap roman shade-1

    I love the look of burlap, I hate the look of mini blinds.  Finally, I figured out how to solve both problems at once.

    burlap roman shade-2

    My mom helped me with a little DIY project that I had been procrastinating on when she visited in July.  A burlap roman shade to cover the mini blinds in our dining room.  I LOVE how it turned out, and since it was SO simple, I thought I’d share how to do it.

    If you rent your home, rather than own it; more than likely you are stuck with the standard mini blinds hung from every window in the house.  Now you could take them down and try to store them somewhere and rehang them when you leave, or you could try to talk to the landlord about installing something better, but you might want to try this option instead.  It keeps the mini blinds in tact, providing shade, privacy and a happy landlord…but it also makes the room feel much more homey and you can customize it to your decorating style.

    burlap roman shade-6

    I cut a piece of burlap to the size of my window, actually to the exact width and about 2″ longer, and ironed it flat.  See how to cut burlap in a straight line here.  Then I folded the top down approximately 2″ to give me a finished edge and used Wonder Under to hold the folded strip down.  I attached a strip of mounting tape to the back of that fold and then fastened the top of my curtain directly onto the mini blinds front facing panel.  This gave me a nice, straight, finished top.

    burlap roman shade-7

    Then we used a needle and thread to tie the burlap to the actual strings of the mini blind.  Once on each side and then again in the middle, making sure to carefully count how many slats were between each fold.  For my curtain, we tied it at the bottom and four additional times at equally spaced intervals.  We didn’t have to take the blinds down to do this, although I’m sure it looked a bit awkward as we tried to fit between the window and the shade looking for the needle in the burlap sack.

    burlap roman shade-3

    Doing it this way allows you to still use the mini blind just like before.  When it is down, it looks likes a curtain, but when the blind is pulled up, the burlap poofs out and folds like a Roman shade.  I especially like the look of the contrast between the curtain and the lace doily table runner.  (More on the jar of popsicle sticks later)

    This, {read with Rob Lowe’s voice} literally, could not be an easier curtain.  Tape, needle, thread, fabric – that’s it!