Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thrift Store Finds

This afternoon I got to indulge in one of my favorite past-times - thrift store shopping!

My thrift store options are pretty limited, but we do have one store that I always seem to find great stuff at; too bad it's also the one with the highest prices. But I remind myself that the money goes to charity and I still regularly find amazing deals, I just keep in mind that certain departments or types of items are way overpriced and try not to let the thrill of thrifting cause me to throw those overpriced items into my cart. Today I found some silver trays priced at $19.99 and a Gap toddler dress for $12.99! Seriously? If I had $20 to drop on a tray the first place I would shop would NOT be the local thrift store. What happened to $2.99?

Anyway. . .

I also found some affordable things that DID make it into my cart. And just before I headed to the front to check out, a lovely lady approached me and said "Excuse me, do you want my coupon? I didn't find anything I wanted today." I can imagine what she thought when she saw me standing there browsing the women's jeans while rolling my cart back and forth with one hand as Emma fussed in her carseat and I tried to balance a mountain of clothes, VHS kids movies, a pair of Cinderella shoes for Brook, and some random decor items that were draped over the handle. I had my diaper bag over one shoulder and I was clutching my keys with the same hand that was rocking the cart because I am a chronic key loser and I've learned that when I am out shopping the safest bet is to keep them in my hand at all times. I can imagine what a stressed out mess I must have looked like and she was probably taking pity on me!

The coupon was for 30% off my entire purchase which was a nice surprise! I was very grateful for the lovely stranger who made my day.

Brook needed some bottoms for summer, and I found a pair of capris, a pair of Old Navy shorts and an Old Navy jean skirt. With the coupon, these all came to just over $8!

I also found a Gap sundress for Brook and a tiny white Baby Gap top for Emma that looks like it has never been worn

With the discount these were only $4.88!

I also got the above mentioned plastic princess shoes, and 5 VHS movies. Yes, I admit I still have a VHS player! I keep it in the daycare for our movie days - the kids love watching classic Disney movies and I can pick them up for around a dollar each which makes me happy! 

I also got this embroidery hoop which I plan on making something crafty with to add to Brook's wall collage above her bed. I will share a post when it's completed!

A Saturday afternoon spent browsing my favorite store was the perfect way to kick off my weekend! The only thing that could make it better would be some time to get crafty and finish some DIY projects - hopefully tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chalkboard Paint Tips

Chalkboards are a big thing in the DIY world lately, largely due to Pinterest and the fact that most paint brands now carry cans of chalkboard paint; some brands like Benjamin Moore are even tinting them every colour in their paint line!

I've made a lot of chalkboards, and a few friends have asked me why their homemade chalkboards didn't turn out like mine, or why the writing doesn't seem to erase fully. They blame it on being a homemade chalkboard but really it's just that they didn't know a few tips and tricks of working with chalkboard paint. If done correctly, a homemade chalkboard looks and works just as well as one from a store!

Here are my top tips for DIY'ing with chalkboard paint.

1. Stir carefully.

Chalkboard paint can "break" just like a delicate sauce you cook on the stovetop. There is no need for vigirous shaking or stirring, just gently stir with a paint stir stick until it looks smooth.

2. Prep your surface.

If your surface is not smooth, your chalkboard won't be either. If you are painting a chalkboard wall I recommend you give it a light sanding and wipe with a damp cloth before painting. If you are wanting to create a chalkboard, choose a surface that is perfectly smooth. I like to use thin sheets of hardboard that are finished on one side, but I have also painted on glass (perfect for making chalkboard frames because you can just paint the glass insert in a photo frame).

3. Just like regular paint, it's better to do several thin coats than one thick, gloppy coat.

I find using a dense foam roller is the best way to avoid visible lines and get the smoothest finish. Chalkboard paint is thicker than most paint, so it's very easy to over apply it. I like to do 3-4 very thin coats for a nice smooth finish, making long straight strokes with the foam roller rather than just rolling it on all willy nilly or in the "W" shape that is recommended when using regular paint.

3. Resist the urge to try it out right away.

Give your new chalkboard at least 2 days to fully cure before whipping out the chalk

4. Season your surface

The first thing you should do when your chalkboard is ready to use, is to rub a piece of chalk all over the surface. Wipe it off with a dry cloth, and you are left with a slightly dirty looking chalkboard. NOW it's ready to decorate! If you draw or write on a freshly painted chalkboard surface without seasoning it first, you will always see what you first created no matter how many times you erase it. Chalkboard paint is dimpled and textured like the pores on your face. Filling them all in evenly with chalk dust ensures that your surface will always look even and future creations will wipe off easily.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tried It Tuesday - Polishing Brass

A few months ago I picked up an old dresser, complete with brass plated hardware that I knew would be beautiful, once it got shined up a little.

I know I could have bought some brass polish and be done with it, but the DIY'er in me wanted to see if I could polish it up with something I already had on hand, rather than buying a big container of Brasso that I would have no further use for.

So, Pinterest to the rescue.

After removing the hardware, I tried soaking it in lemon juice and then scrubbing with a soft cloth.

No change. Or if there was, it wasn't noticable to me.

Next up - a paste made from vinegar, salt, and flour.

I mixed it all up together according to the directions, and slathered it all over the hardware.

 30 minutes later, I washed them off and they didn't look any different.

Now I was getting frustrated.

I decided to wing it and pulled out some S.O.S. pads I had kicking around under the sink.  I was nervous it might scratch the finish, but honestly it was already scratched and even worn completely off in some places ( which is fine with me ) so I figured I had nothing to lose.

It worked! A quick scrub with the S.O.S. pad and a rinse under some warm water and they were shiny once more! They still have a worn look to them, as they are only brass plated and the finish has worn off in spots and is still dark in all of the grooves - perfect for a shabby chic lover like me!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Baby Essentials

I hesitated to call this list "Essentials", because what is essential to one person may not be for someone else. In fact, I found that some of my favorite things when Brooklyn was a baby have been all but ignored this time around. Different babies = different needs. For example when Brook was a baby, I loved the sleepers that had the little fold-over sleeves because she was forever scratching herself with her long fingernails. Emma hasn't even needed a single clipping of her nails yet, and has never scratched herself so I've only folded her hands into the little sleeves a few times, usually at night when her hands get cold because she hates having them swaddled.

So consider this a roundup of my favorite items for the newborn stage - you decide for yourself which ones are essential or not!

1. Receiving blankets/burp cloths.

When I was pregnant with Brooklyn, my mom sewed us about a dozen huge receiving blankets, and she made us another set when Emma was born! On any given day, you will find these strewn all about the house; we use them for E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

 - To tuck under her chin when she eats; she's a messy eater and gets milk all over her clothes otherwise

 - To lay over my shoulder when I burp her, or when she's sick and her nose is running. Keeps my clothes clean :)

 - We have a receiving blanket rolled up inside her carseat. The infant head support is still too large for her, so this helps fill in the gap and makes sure she fits nice and snug inside.

 - We also use a second receiving blanket to tuck her into her carseat. She tends to be quite warm, and using a heavy blanket means that she just gets overheated and fussy.

 - When Brooklyn was a baby, her lamp was too bright and we used to drape a receiving blanket over the shade for middle of the night diaper changes. Not sure I'd recommend that, as it could be a fire hazard but in our sleep deprivation it seemed to do the trick.

 - I also lay one down on her change pad if I expect that it's going to be a particularly messy diaper change. We have two removable change pad covers that are washable, but it seems like in those first few weeks we were spending more time changing and washing those covers and they were rarely ever on the change pad for diaper changes because they were always in the wash. A receiving blanket is easy to lay down first and much easier in my opinion to toss in the wash. Keeps my fancy covers clean and looking cute :)

 - Who needs expensive swaddle blankets? Ask the nurse at the hospital to give you a quick tutorial on how to get a tight wrap, and a receiving blanket works quite nicely.

 - The large receiving blankets make perfect nursing covers!

 I could go on all day, but let's just say we find them very useful and I would recommend having a lot of them, especially the really large ones.

2. Cloth wipes.


Even if you choose not to use cloth diapers, having a few cloth wipes on hand is a really good idea. If baby gets a diaper rash, a soft damp cloth is so much gentler on their sore bottom than a chemical filled, scented cold disposable wipe.

I have also learned that they get the job done so much faster. One cloth wipe ( I just use baby washcloths, but any soft material cut into squares will work) can do the job of 3 or 4 disposable wipes. They really do clean up messes much faster and easier!

3. Fisher Price Cradle N Swing

We have most of the typical baby gear . . . a vibrating bouncy chair, a jolly jumper, a bumbo chair, a playmat. But the place where both my girls have spent the most time is definitely this swing. In fact, the first two weeks Emma slept in her swing all night long. She seemed to need to be snuggled, and if she wasn't in our arms she would just cry. Laying her down, even swaddled, in a flat bassinet or crib just wasn't cutting it for her. Our swing is contoured on the sides and has an infant head support, so she feels like she is being held when she lays in it. Those first weeks when she was so teeny and new, the swing seemed to be the only place she felt safe. Everywhere else she would throw up her little arms in alarm as if she felt like she were falling.

I love this swing specifically because it plugs in. Swings that only run on batteries can cost a lot of money if you are constantly needing to buy replacements, as most of them use 4 D batteries at one time! We love that we don't have to keep purchasing batteries, but we have the option to use batteries if we need to (it's great when the power goes out!) I also love that it has the option to swing in two different directions and it comes with tons of options for sound effects and music.

4. A sling or wrap.

I have a Peanut Shell  classic sling and I highly recommend it simply because it's easy. No tying and wrapping, no adjusting of any straps or anything. Just fold it in half, slip it on and baby goes right inside. Easy peasy.

 When you have a new baby you will find yourself saying things like "I can never get anything done around here" and "I didn't get anything done today".

 Well, this sling is how you get "anything done".

 Even at her fussiest, I can pop Emma in here and she calms right down. I also really like that I can get in my snuggle time and watch her WHILE I get things done; sometimes I feel guilty if she lays in her swing for too long because she's all alone. The sling lets me have my hands free but we are still getting in some good bonding time as well. Win win!

5.Gumdrops pacifiers


Brooklyn wasn't too picky with her pacifiers; we had several different styles and she took anything. Emma was much more particular. We had bought a package of these and she used them a few times during her first few weeks. I bought another package of Gerber pacifiers that had a contoured nipple and she would choke and gag whenever we offered her one. I tried a Nuk, and she had the same reaction. Instant gagging and choking. Back to the rounded Gumdrop pacifier, and she latched on happily. They are the clear winner for this little girl!

6. Live Clean Baby products


I've tried it all, from Burt's Bees to fancy organic lines to Aveeno to Johnson's. And this stuff beats them all hands down. It's super gentle, smells great - SO MANY baby products smell like great grandma's perfume, why is that? and is natural. Best of all, it's very inexpensive - I get mine at Walmart and it's reguarly on sale too!

7. A good stroller

When Brook was born, we were given a hand me down travel system. It was fine, honestly, but I really wanted a stroller with big tires. Our little town has a lot of rough curbs and big pot holes and I also did a lot of walking on gravel and muddy roads and the travel system really struggled. It was also gosh darn ugly to boot. When a neighborhood cat decided to start peeing on it, that was the end for me. I could not get the cat pee smell out, so we bought a used sit and stand stroller. I loved it, but again it had tiny wheels and was so long that it was really awkward to steer, especially in the mall or a store.

I also had a double jogger stroller that was given to me 3rd or 4th hand. Last summer I finally just sold all three strollers, and bought a used Phil and Teds E3 with a doubles kit. It was almost $400 used, which seemed so silly to me for a stroller. But honestly, it was worth it. Every time I use it, I say "Thank GOD we finally have a good stroller." What a difference in how it pushes and steers!

I've talked to several other moms who have had similar experiences. They wasted hundreds of dollars buying different strollers trying to save money but never finding a good one. Then finally they bite the bullet and splurged on a high end stroller. In the long run, it would have been cheaper to just buy a high end stroller to begin with!

I highly recommend splurging on a good stroller, whether it is Phil and Ted's or not. I am a huge fan of buying used and making do with what you have, and with all the other baby gear (play pen, high chair, jolly jumper, toys, and clothes) aside from carseats. I still say that you get the most bang for your buck by purchasing gently used. But don't waste your breath on that $80 bargain stroller from Walmart - find a high end stroller on Craigslist or Kijiji and get it! You won't regret it, and you can re-sell it down the road for a good portion of what you paid for it.

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