Archive for the ‘For the Home’ Category

When we moved from our apartment to our home, we more than doubled the square footage. The trade off was closet space. We have one major closet, the one in the master bedroom. It’s huge. So huge, in fact, that I fit a desk in it and now have a crafting nook. A desk. In the closet. Along the narrow wall. Yet we have no entryway closet, no linen closet, no mud room storage. It’s a good thing we live in a temperate climate because our coat closet is barely wide enough for a door.

My mission right now is to find a way to organize everything so it doesn’t look like a preschool exploded in our home. Because, quite frankly, that’s a generous description of our home.

Getting rid of some media clutter

First up, is getting rid of those DVDs. Right now I have a 2 ft, by 3 ft by 1 ft stack of DVDs in the entrance way. I’m leaning towards Vudu’s DVD to Digital service. Basically you prove you own the DVD, and they sell you a digital copy for cheap. We have, by my estimate, around 300 DVDs. We’re unlikely to ever watch them, but I hate to part with things that are still functional, especially those still in the shrink wrap.

Yes, I realize I’m being somewhat irrational. Or at least not frugal. Those DVDs are a sunk cost, and it’s silly to throw more money at the problem, but it will make me feel better and I can donate the physical copies. I’ve convinced myself that by converting it to digital we’ll be more likely to actually watch them, and they’ll take up less space.

Speaking of DVDs, do you know it’s 2016 and Domingo and I still don’t own a device capable of playing a BluRay? We learned that (and fixed that) this weekend.

Those shoes!

Shoes. Shoes all over the floor. And not just our current ones but the ones Nicole & Alexis just grew out of. No entrance way closet means no shoe rack. This is another case of large space, no storage. We have a large enough wall that we can fit a storage bench.

I’d like to find something comfortable to sit on while taking off your shoes that has storage to hold said shoes. This isn’t the best solution, as we usually come in through the garage and not the entrance way, but it’ll beat leaving shoes strewn about the floor.

Toys, Toys and More Toys!

Finally we need to come up with a storage idea for the toys. What I really need is a way to easily separate and store the toys for both kids. There have been a few toys that Alexis would have enjoyed, but were buried and not unearthed until she had out grown them. We’re also now collecting quite a few sets of toys with multiple parts, (e.g. building blocks, puzzles, magnets, etc), which work best when you know where all the parts are. I had been using individual draw string bags, but they become difficult to see through and we tend to forget about some beloved toys that way. I suspect a toy purge is in order.

After not finding anything to my taste, I’ve decided to 3D print our ‘New Home 2015’ ornament. I found an on demand printing company, so all I need to do is create a CAD file. The design will be a key, with the bow resembling our house. Kind of like this. My intuition is that it will be a fairly easy first 3D project, since it’s mostly a 2D design with beveling.

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of mixing 3d printing with my ornaments. I have a lot of ornaments. Some are pretty durable, others not. I have back up copies of all the important milestone representations: new home, just married, babies first Christmas, etc. But it would be really nice to back them all up in electronic form. Electronic files require less storage space than physical copies, and I could create as many copies as I need. No more purchasing spares because something might break.

I thought surely this must be a violation of some law. After all, I cannot create a digital copy of a DVD to store as backup – and that’s an electronic medium to start with! It doesn’t seem ethical to buy an item and make copies, if I would have otherwise bought two. I did some digging and at least in terms of trademark law, it’s fine as long as my copies or electronic files are never exposed to potential consumers, it seems I’d be safe. Copyright law is another matter. This use case may fall under fair use, but given how new 3D printing is, there isn’t a lot of case law on it.

Some companies are embrace 3D printing. Hasbro did with it’s My Little Pony brand, and they similarly have large fan base of collectors. They benefit from a licencing fee, without much fear that it will damper interest in their original merchandise. After all die hard collectors will still want the original. Lego, too, is considering allowing users to print their own blocks. Maybe Hallmark will fallow suit. Then again, if my experience with their keepsake club website is any indication, Hallmark is less technologically savvy. We’ll just have to wait what happens.

nest

Domingo and I have this notion of turning our home into a smart home. We’ve been thinking about it ever since I started playing with Hue. So before I left Google I wanted to take advantage of my employee discount and purchase a pair of nest thermostats. During the check out process, Nest wanted me to confirm our HVAC system was compatible with their thermostats. Trouble was, our offer had only just been accepted. We were a month away from closing, and days away from leaving Google and my discount. I decided to chance it.

That wasn’t a good gamble on my part.

Two weeks after taking ownership of the home I took the old thermostats off the wall to discover there was no way to power the one for the upstairs zone. I brought someone out who confirmed my fears. Nest was simply not compatible with our dual zone system. I asked if it made sense to update the dual zone system. He said it would cost thousands of dollars, definitely not worth it for a thermostat, even a cool one like the nest. Wait for the old one to die, was his advice.

Waiting for it to die took 2 months and 6 days apparently.

I got the distinct impression he thought the death of our zoning system would take longer.

Unfortunately it wasn’t just our zoning system knocking on death’s door. The AC and heater were being brought down with it. That was not a fun discovery, but if there’s a bright side to this rain cloud, it’s that I got to use my nest after all.

June 20, 2015

Handy

“Is your husband handy?” was the question posed to me in the middle of Home Depot this afternoon while I was talking to the sales associate about flooring. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she figured I must be since I was the one standing there with the shopping cart full of goodies. That unspoken “also” was clearly implied.

Here’s my project list for the new home:

Flooring
Flooring is my primary issue with our new home, from the carpeting to the linoleum. The former owners had a small dog. As a pet owner myself I recognize the tall tale signs of animal tummy troubles in the carpet. It happens. Even without the spots, the carpet is also super old and the padding has no more give. In the laundry room the linoleum is stained, ripped and coming up.

I’m sure I’ll be hiring a contractor for this one.

Painting
The only thing holding me back from carpeting the upstairs right away is the painting. Our closets are, umm, interesting colors. Nicki’s closet is Orange, Alexis’ is deep blue and ours is a kind of pinkish Mauve. The purple in Alexis’ room also needs to go. It’s too dark and absorbs too much light making it difficult to take photos in it. (I’m sure as a six month old she doesn’t care what color her room is, so Mommy gets to pick and mommy likes neutral, light colors.) Since I’m doing her room, I figured I’d do Nicole’s as well. For the rest of the house I plan to leave the colors the same. I think I’d like to paint the kitchen green instead of blue, but the current paint job looks pretty good, so it’s on my ‘some-day’ list.

The painting I was thinking of attempting myself. At least I figure I cannot make it worse. If I hire a professional it will cost the same, whether or not I tried to paint first myself.

I also purchased some touch up paint for the master, hallway and office. Everyone keeps telling me I can’t match paint. I disbelieve. I am hopeful. Again, I figure it can’t hurt to try.

Blinds
Most of the house has wood blinds, but there are still aluminum blinds in the kitchen, master and master bath. The kitchen and master bedroom blinds are in good shape, but old. The master bathroom blinds, on the other hand, were in horrible condition. They were badly bent and the valance had fallen half off of one of them.

I replaced the master bath blinds with faux wood ones. It ended up being super easy once I got the old mounts off. They had been painted to the wall with three coats of paint, and remained quite affixed, even after the mounting screws were removed. I want to replace the rest of the aluminum ones as well, but I need to find the right sizes first. I also want to see if I can match the kitchen blinds to the family room blinds.

Fans
The fan in Alexis’ room is in sad shape. The blades are actually ripped. The fans in Nicki’s room and the playroom are also not in fabulous shape, but if I’m going to replace one I will probably replace them all.

I am scarred to do anything electrical myself.

June 2, 2015

Coming Together

Despite all that effort getting organized, it’s clear packing is going to take longer that our previous moves. Between the two kids there’s we often lack set of free hands unpack boxes during the day, and we can’t work much at night for fear of disturbing their sleep. Still, it is nice to have a few boxes that can go right into storage in our garage or in the storage space under the stairs. I shutter to think how far behind we’d be had I not spent the time organizing before our move.

Slow and steady is the goal. Thankfully the one thing I can always do at night is shop, and look for deals!

dressup
Nicki exploring her dress up clothes.
A coat rack from target. It was on clearance sale since our local target is reducing the home section to make more room for seasonal gifts. Win for me! It comes in 3 sections, I put together two, skipping the middle so it would be the perfect toddler height for dress up clothes. Double win.

One of the big areas we’re lacking in right now is furniture. We purged most of our previous stuff in the move to Sunnyvale. I miss our end tables. I wasn’t super found of them, so I’m surprised to hear myself say that. What I am found of is not spending money. It also turns out I’m super picky.

Our first thought on the furniture front was to buy ‘nice’ things to match our ‘nice’ new home, but I’ve since changed my mind. My new goal is stuff-that-will-survive-the-kids. If our new kitchen table makes it to Alexis’ fourth birthday I will be thrilled.

This week I ordered 2 dressers, 3 desks, a dinning room table and chairs. Still to go: a curio/tv stand of some kind, computer chairs, and a place to sit in the family room. Call me crazy, but I’m actually looking forward to assembling the furniture while the kids are at daycare! Now if only I could motivate myself to unpack during that time.

This place doesn’t feel like home yet. I’m hoping once we’re out of boxes that changes.

January 13, 2015

Framing Ideas

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

The bloom has come off the rose of our apartment. To keep from feeling completely cramped and closed in, I’ve taken to thinking of our next home – the place we hope to start look for in a few months and ideally like to live for a few decades – and imaging how I’d like to decorate it.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’d like to frame and hang photos.

Watercolors

Ever since I discovered the waterlouge app I have been in love with the idea of a water color photo print. I’ve been playing with various photos to see what works best and have decided on a beach photo for the girls’ future bathroom.

nickiwatercolor
Nicole (14 months) while visiting relatives in Florida

Of course the photo I will actually use will have both girls in it. Luckily for me there’s a nice beach near by. Watch out Alexis, we’ll be making a visit as soon as you learn to sit!

The one potential hiccup is the humidity. High humidity plus rapid changes in temperature equals condensation, which can get into the frame and damage the photo. I’ve read some home improvement websites that say don’t worry about it, and others that advocate specialized frames. I’d like to save myself the time and cost of reprinting the photo, especially if I end up wanting a print larger than what can be done with a home printer. I got this specialized water resistent frame during a price drop as an experiment. We’re still a few months (at least) from buying, so in the mean time I’ll hang the above photo in our bathroom and see if it suffers any water damage.

watercolors
Test frame up. Love the look of watercolors on resume paper. It looks like an actual watercoloring!

Teddy Bear Shelf

I was recently going over old photos and rediscovered this one of Nicki, taken right around the time she turned two.

nickibear

There’s nothing special about the bear. I can’t even remember where I got it (other than a vague feeling it was once my moms). Yet when I was looking for a stuffed animal for Alexis’ newborn photos, I serendipitously grabbed the same bear. Wouldn’t it be nice to have two photos, one of each of the girls, with the same toy, and the toy itself preserved for posterity?

bearshelf
The Concept

Although I already have photos of Alexis and the bear, I’m thinking about taking a few more with the bear towards camera and Alexis turned away like the above photo (though not the same pose!). Maybe when when she’s around one. I like the idea of Nicole being older in her photo than Alexis in hers, and that way if we have a third child I can extend the concept to include him/her. I’ll be out of luck if we have four or more, but if we have four or more I’m sure I’ll never be able to keep up with these kinds of photos anyway!

The only question is where to put something like this. The laundry room? The guest bed room? (I’m not sure if we’ll have a guestroom, but I allow myself to splurge on a huge house complete with a craftroom, finished basement, and tons and tons of closet space.)

November 11, 2014

Creating a Battery Chart

Lily’s death is hitting me harder than I anticipated. It was easy enough to stay distracted over the weekend, but now that I’m home alone on maternity leave I keep thinking about my kitty. In an effort to stay distracted, I’m throwing myself into my nesting projects.

Over the weekend Nicole brought the phone from her play kitchen to me complaining that it was “broken”! The phone was still working, but the sound had faded. I expected the batteries were nearly drained from frequent use. Turns out they were starting to corrode! Back in our costco days we had stocked up on what seemed like a life time supply of batteries. That was over half a decade ago. The ones in the phone were just passing the expiration date. Thankfully I had removed the batteries from all of Nicole’s baby toys since inactivity is the fastest path to corrosion. But her current toys? I knew we had used batteries from those same costco giant packs, and now viewed them as ticking corrosion time bombs. So today I opened up every single battery powered toy to check. Fortunately no other batteries were starting to corrode, but I did through out some near expired ones. I know, so not frugal of me. Better than than lose the toy, though.

Since I didn’t want to go through this exercise every year, I decided to make a chart.

batterychart

Now I know approximately how many batteries are close to expiring. I can sort by date & type to get a sense of how many batteries I’ll need to stock my box with. Or at least a minimum count. I still expect that most batteries will be drained long before they reach their expiration.

I have been a busy little bee preparing the house for Ziggy’s arrival, and with an eye to our move this coming spring / summer. There are a few things that just aren’t working out and I’m looking to fix.

Fans

The first is our fans. Before Nicki was born Domingo and I wanted to get a fan to help circulate the air. We stumbled upon the Vodnado which seemed awesome. It was specially designed to circulate the air by directing an air funnel at the wall and having it disperse throughout the room. As a result, the air gets circulated evenly and you don’t need to be sitting right in front of the fan to feel it’s effects. We wanted to reduce the chances of SIDs, but not chill the baby, so it seemed perfect. Additionally it was a heavy duty fan with a five year warranty. We got one for the master bedroom and were so happy with it we purchased two more for the other bedrooms.

Within a year the fan in Nicki’s nursery went kablooey. It was our fault. We kept the fan on the dresser with the humidifier. The fan had apparently sucked in enough moisture over the past months to rust. We had no idea until the motor gave out and set off the fire alarm, in Nicki’s room, at eleven o’clock at night. That’s when we learned that babies can apparently sleep through fire alarms. She woke up just as we had managed to get that dang thing turned off. We replaced the fan and moved the humidifier.

The fan in the master bedroom started going a few months later. It used to make an even hum as it ran all night. Now it sounds like too much dust has collected in the motor, and it made an uneven sound as the motor started to struggle. We swapped out the bedroom fan for the office fan. Another year later, the same problem is occurring.

The fans do an excellent job at circulating the air, I’m just not eager to have to replace them every year. Thankfully we still have on fan we can use when Ziggy arrives to help reduce the SIDs risk, but I’d really like a more permanent solution. I like my circulated air.

I’m seriously considering one of those dyson fans. I am not sure if they will live longer, but they are quieter and safer for small kids since they’re bladeless.

A High Chair/Booster

Last year I posted about how I grew to dislike our high chair. We replaced the high chair with a booster seat in February, which was easier to clean but not perfect. Food manages to collect between the booster and the chair. The chair actually looks pretty gross now, despite repeated cleanings.

Thankfully the dinning room set was already slated to be demolished before we moved. I managed to break a chair when assembling it the first day it arrived. A few days later my mom was visiting and broke a rung on a second chair. That was six years ago. Ever since then it’s been held together with a combination of wood glue and masking tape. It’s now also scratched to hell.

When we move I’m thinking about getting a high chair like they have in restaurants – those that resemble a single block of wood that can be cleaned with a wash cloth. Why are high chairs and boosters always so difficult to clean?

October 13, 2014

Lighting Solutions

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

Nicki had her first nightmare recently. At least we assumed that’s what it was. She woke up in the middle of the night and, while not distressed, insisted we not leave her side. Domingo (who is the best dad ever in my ever so slightly biased opinion) very graciously stayed with her until she fell asleep again. The next night she cried hysterically whenever we tried to leave the room. An hour after she was supposed to be asleep, I offered to leave the door open and the bathroom light on. That finally did it.

Leaving the door open with the bathroom light on just wasn’t a viable long term option. Not when you’re in a small apartment. That means no laundry, no dishes, no anything that causes noises after the little one goes to sleep. It was time to get a proper night light, and stat!

We ended up selecting Philip’s HUE Living Colors Minnie & Mickey Mouse. What I liked about HUE:

  • It’s a LED, which means it doesn’t burn hot. If Nicki decides to play with it in the middle of the night I don’t worry that she’ll burn herself.
  • It sits on a desk. A night light that plugs directly into an outlet might be too tempting for a toddler whose no longer contained in a crib to play with.
  • She’s already infatuated with HUE. And probably more important, she’s experienced with HUE. She’s used to requesting colors and us being able to change them immediately. She loves it, and we thought she’d love to have one of her own, even if it didn’t work out as a night light.

Alas, even with rush shipping we were still at least one night time away from using the HUE mickey mouse light. For a stop gap I sent Domingo to Target to pick up a tap light. (Seriously, best dad ever.) Tap lights are battery powered LEDs, so they also have the benefit of being cool and unlikely to encourage playing with outlets. You tap them to turn them on, hence the name. Since Tap lights are meant to be more lighting solutions for areas where plugging in a lamp is infesable, Domingo really wasn’t sure which ones would function well as night lights. He ended up getting one of each kind target had, figuring we’d find use for them.

And did we ever! You know how I keep complaining about the lack of light by the washer and dryer?

taplight
Problem Solved!

I am so annoyed at myself that I didn’t think of this sooner. A $5 tap light solved the problem I’ve been having for over a year.

We also put one by the flashlights and by the batteries. Where I grew up we’d lose power at least once a year. If it wasn’t thunderstorms it was snow storms. We’ve had enough power outages to know the time when you’re most likely to notice your flash light needs new batteries is right after you lose power and need your flash light. Having a tap light near your flashlights/batteries adds one extra layer of redundancy.

Alas, both tap lights and HUE ended up being too bright for a night light as is. But they are low powered LEDs. That means I can restrict the light without fear of what ever they’re confined in getting too hot as to be a fire hazard. My choice? An empty diaper box.

huenightlight
I know, I know. I’m cheap. Next time I have an order to make on Amazon, I’ll get a fabric box.

The light stays mostly confined to the box, and isn’t so over overpoweringly bright as to keep Nicki up. She loves the new night light. When I plugged it in the first time I got an enthusiastic “Thank you, Mommy!” It seems to be working. So far, she hasn’t seemed afraid to go to bed.

Our biggest clutter concern right now are the toys. I’ve been pretty ruthless about purging Domingo and my belongings we no longer use/need, but Nicoles’? Not so much. It also doesn’t help that we, like all parents, like to spoil our child. I think most of what we own these days are toys! We needed to get these painful tripping hazards off the floor, and stat!

Stuffed Toy Organizer

stuffedanimalstorage

A pop up laundry basket is an awesome storage device for stuffed animals. It takes up less space than those traditional stuffed animal bags, at about a forth the cost, making it perfect for small apartments.

You can still use the bag of stuffed animals as a seat. Nicki can attest to that.

Puzzle Bag

puzzlestorage

Once you lose a puzzle piece, the puzzle is effectively worthless. No kid is going to want to play with a puzzle for which they first have to hunt down all the pieces. A puzzle shelf wouldn’t cut it, as we have different brands of puzzles and no shelf would easily hold them all. We also didn’t want to limit the number of puzzles we own to what fits on a shelf, since puzzles are great learning toys.

It turns out mesh laundry bags for delicates are a near perfect fit, perhaps erring on the side of being too big. You can easily see through them so you know which puzzle you’re getting out of the box. Bonus? They’re only about $1.50 a pop.

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