Category Archives: Tips & Tools

My Vegetable Garden

Finished Garden

Moving from the city to the suburbs was a big transition, but one of the things I was most excited about moving to a house with a big yard was being able to plant my own vegetable garden.

Luckily we had a blank canvas with plenty of sun behind our garage the perfect size for some garden beds. It was all dirt and weeds, but with a lot of work (raking, bringing in dirt), and some help from my husband and step dad, I now have a beautiful area to plant vegetables.

IMG_3710

 

Here is H with my stepdad “helping” rake and fill in the beds.

First we raked all of the dirt up and got rid of the weeds and leveled out the surface. Then my handy guys built two raised beds with 2x4s. We then put weed cloth down in the beds and around them, filled the beds with top soil and laid more weed cloth on top of that. I then cut holes in the weed cloth wherever I wanted to plant my seeds or vegetables and dug a few inches down with a trowel. I planted them, then covered the weed cloth once again, this time with Miracle Gro.

H and Garden

 

Here are the two beds planted with the weed cloth. We still had to put the weed cloth and mulch down around them on the ground.

In the back of the beds, we left some space for plants that spread out and would do better outside of a bed like melons or pumpkins.

For my tomatoes, I used twigs from my hydrangea bush (that I cut back) and made these tee pees as trellises. With some water and care, we are excited and hopeful that we will have green beans, zucchini, squash, bell peppers, lettuce, onions, melons, tomatoes, and cucumbers. 

A DIY Reversible Cover for My Sewing Machine

Finished Sewing Machine CoverI, like many other moms out there, rarely get to do anything just for me anymore. And I’m fine with that, but when I had a few spare minutes this weekend I decided to tackle a project I’ve been wanting to make for a while — a reversible cover for my sewing machine.

It may not be the most glamorous project, but it’s been on my list of things to do for a while now, and I need it so my sewing machine doesn’t get dusty.

I have a lot of extra fabric lying around so I decided to use some of that plus some ribbon I also had on hand. One tip I give any crafter or mom in general is to always have ribbon on hand. You can use it for projects like these, to wrap gifts, hang frames, decorate just about anything, and it’s just pretty.

Sewing Machine Cover Materials

Materials
Sewing machine
Thread
Two types of fabric (roughly 1/2 yard of each)
Measuring tape
Ribbon (48″ of ribbon)
Fabric Scissors
Pins
Iron (optional)

Instructions
1. Start by measuring your sewing machine to see how much fabric you’ll need leaving room for a 1/4″ seam allowance. I used 28 1/2″x16 1/2″ (if you have a directional fabric, be sure to cut it the way you want it to run when it’s finished). Cut accordingly.
2. Cut four pieces of ribbon measuring 12 inches each.
3. Put the two pieces of fabric right sides together. About 5″ from the top and bottom of the your fabric take the four pieces of ribbon you cut and pin them with the ends facing inwards.

Ribbon on Sewing Machine CoverSewn Sewing Machine Cover
Top: the ribbon inside of the sewn cover. Bottom: When you flip it right side out, the ribbon will be where it should in order to tie the cover.

4. Sew 1/4″ seam all the way around the fabric leaving a 5″ opening for turning it right side out.
5. Trim the corners and turn right side out. Press down with the iron. Then top stitch all the way around to finish.
6. Slip over your sewing machine and tie with ribbons to secure.

A Multimedia Arrangement on a Wall

We recently finished redecorating our dining room and the main wall behind our dining room table was blank and boring.

To make it the focal point of the room I decided to do a collage of artwork, but I wanted to do something slightly different from the other spaces in my house. So I spent a lot of time gathering items in different shapes, textures, and sizes.

Dining Room 5

I started with one large piece of artwork that I had purchased awhile ago. Then I found four smaller pictures I thought would go well in the dining room that were food related (I got these on Etsy.com). I incorporated an old wood letter I had in our apartment, but I felt I still needed one or two more unique items.

Because it’s the dining room I decided to search for vintage platters and plates on Etsy.com and came up with some classic pieces for not much money (under $20 each).

To mix everything together and hang it so it looked just right, I drew a plan on paper before we hammered one nail. This way there are no holes in the wall that don’t need to be there and you can draw and redraw as many times as you want.

Drawing

This is what my final plan looked like drawn out.

Tips for Mixing and Matching: 

1. I think this kind of wall is all about scale and texture so getting a mix of items is key.

2. The items you should choose should have one common theme, whether it be one color that unites them or a subject matter. Mine all have black tying them together.

3. Get more than you plan to hang, because you can always take it back.

4. Draw twice, nail once. You don’t want to have holes in your wall that you don’t need.

5. Leave space on your wall to add to your mix in the future. My two other plans were very uniformed and didn’t leave much room to add-on in the future, which is why I went with this plan. There is still plenty of space on either side to add more down the line.

Easter Ideas for My Toddler

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Easter and Halloween are really hard for parents of toddlers. They can’t have all the candy that is out there (nor would you want them to), and small trinkets are still out of the question, so what do you fill their Easter basket with that’s fun, not too expensive, and that they can actually have?

This year I struggled with this concept, but it came to me the other day. I love a good theme, and this year I decided to do a themed-basket for H.

Thomas Easter Basket

I started with the basket. I use the same basket every year, that has his name embroidered on it. I got it from Pottery Barn Kids. (I also do the same thing for my nieces and nephew – I buy a really nice basket and reuse it every year).

Conductor Dress Up Uniform

H has been really into pretending lately so I decided to get him some stories about his favorite “characters” like firemen, train conductors, etc. and then get him dress up clothes to go along with these ideas so he can play along.

I have hooks that I’m going to hang in his playroom where we can store the outfits and grow his collection over time. That way he can imagine he is whoever he wants to be from day-to-day.

Thomas Train Track

I also got him a Thomas book for his Leap Frog Jr. Reader, Thomas stickers, and a Thomas Take n’ Play set that he can fold up and travel with.

Thomas Book

What ideas and gifts are you filling your little ones’ baskets with?

Traveling with a Toddler

Quite awhile back when H was really little (still snuggling in my arms and not moving around) I wrote a post about traveling with a baby.

We have since traveled with H quite a bit, but the biggest (and longest) trip we’ve ever gone on is coming up. We’ll be going to Hawaii, which for us is a 10 hour trip on the plane.

I still stand by everything I said in that original post, with a few additions. We’re now dealing with a toddler, who is much more active, opinionated, and then there is the whole temper tantrum thing.

My Tips for Traveling with a Toddler

1. Send anything you can ahead of time. This includes toys, books, any clothes you don’t need immediately, snacks, your stuff, whatever you can ship, do it.
2. Bring baggies of fun. Fill each bag with a different activity and snack. That way you can easily pull one out at a time to keep your little one occupied in the sky.
3. Bring on the technology. I’m not a huge proponent of screen time for little ones, but trust me, H is. He loves any electronic! So bring on the iPad, iPhone, Android, portable DVD player, whatever you have and load it up with games, apps, books, movies, etc.
4. Pack the snacks. Bring whatever you can in terms of snacks, etc. H loves the fruit and veggie or apple sauce pouches, so I pack a lot of those, but you can also bring cut up veggies, crackers, puffs, etc. Wait until you get to the airport to buy yogurt, fruit, and string cheese.
5. Let him run around (with supervision of course). Tire him out before you get on the plane, but then also on the plane. No one can sit still (nor should they) for a long flight and that especially goes for your toddler.
6. Let him run around on the plane too. I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t sit still for 10 hours, so how can I expect a toddler to?
7. If you can, get him his own seat. This will allow him to have his own space and more importantly, you to have your own space. Plus, you won’t have to worry about checking a car seat.
8. Keep him on his schedule as best as you can. That means during the flight he should sleep when he normally sleeps, eat when he normally eats, etc.
9. Rent whatever you can when you get there. We will be renting a stroller, a wagon, as well as a tent for the beach for H. There is no sense packing this stuff if they have it where you’re going. Call ahead.
10. That goes for a crib or pack and play too, but bring your own sheets and blankets.
11. And if you’re traveling across time zones, plan ahead. A few days before you leave start pushing his bed time back 1/2 hour every night. It will make the transition less hectic for everyone. Do the same thing on the way back, but move his bed time up.

One Bathroom Done, Several More Rooms to Go

As I mentioned back in November, we moved to a house in Connecticut. It has been one of the best and hardest projects of my life thus far.

We thought we would start off with a few small projects, and what I quickly learned is that nothing is a small project when you’re dealing with a 100-year-old colonial home. What we thought was a small bathroom leak became a gut job with new plumbing, flooring, vanity, sink, toilet, and fixtures.

Bathroom 1

This was the bathroom when we moved in.

Toilet in Bathroom

This is the bathroom now.

I wanted a clean, classic design so we went with Truly Taupe walls and left the wainscoting on the bottom, just gave it a fresh coat of white paint. Then I chose a black and white mosaic tile for the floor, a modern black vanity, and new, eco-friendly toilet both from Home Depot. All of the finishing details are chrome, also from Home Depot.

As my husband will tell you, the tile was not fun. The room has two entrances and was crooked from both angles so lining up the black diamonds was a challenge. Plus, the tiles had no net backing on them so each one basically had to be laid individually.

Side View of Bathroom This is the side entrance to the bathroom and another view of the floor.

Print in Bathroom

I had bought this print several months back after seeing it in a cafe in NYC. I knew it would be a great addition to a bathroom in our new house and remind us of where we came from. It is from Mr. Boddington’s Studio.

Next up, I’ll show you what we did to the dining room. Photos to come…

My Top Organizing Tips

I have been paid to organize several apartments and homes. It’s something I enjoy doing and have never really thought of it as a job, so getting paid has just been icing on the cake.

I’m constantly trying to reorganize or come up with new ways to keep my stuff from becoming clutter. I think this comes from having lived in such small spaces in NYC for so long.

The new year is always a good time for many to reorganize (or organize) a space or spaces in their homes so I decided to put together a list of my favorite organizing tips.

1. Keep the clutter under control. Only keep things in your home that you really love or need.

2. Pare down (and often). Go through your house, room-by-room from time-to-time (I try to do this quarterly) and make a box for donations and things you can get rid of, then actually get rid of them.

3. Have a place for everything. If it doesn’t have a place that it consistently gets put away in, either make one for that item or get rid of it.

Toy Organization

4. All of these rules go for your kid’s stuff too. Just because they’re kids and they have a lot of stuff, doesn’t mean it can’t be organized. Invest in toy bins, shelving, etc. to keep their clutter in check just like you do yours. No, it may not stay that way all the time, but you’ll have peace of mind that there is a place for everything to go.

5. Store things away and switch things up with the seasons. This goes for toys, seasonal decor items, throw pillows and blankets, even tchotchkes. This will keep your home in order, but it’s also fun to “shop” your own attic or basement to switch out older items with “newer” items you haven’t used or seen in a while.

6. When in doubt, get rid of it. If you have to think about it too much, that means you aren’t attached to it and you don’t use it enough.

7. One junk drawer leads to another, which leads to another. Don’t start with one if you can help it.

8. Get creative. Don’t want to spend a lot of money on bins, shelves, etc.? Use molding as bookshelves. They’re both decorative and useful. Cover moving or shipping boxes with fabric or decorative paper to make them look nicer. And check out IKEA, they have great, inexpensive solutions for storing everything. Some of my favorite items come from here. Here is a bigger list of all of my must-have organization products.

9. Set realistic expectations and you’re more likely to stick to them. Your home does not need to be clean and organized ALL the time. Give yourself a break during busy times, but make sure you set aside some time every week to go through the house or at least a couple of rooms and tidy up.

Darcy Miller's Office

10. Use decorative, uniform boxes. If you do have clutter that you can’t seem to find a place for but you really need those items, store them in uniform boxes. Buy extras when you first purchase them so you don’t run out. I love how my friend Darcy created this wall of boxes and magazine holders in her office at home.

Kevin Sharkey's Office

11. Organize books on shelves by color. This is a trick that Kevin Sharkey taught me when I worked with him. His office is beautiful decorated and a big feature in it is his large bookcase that is color-coordinated.

My Favorite Organizing Products

With the New Year comes all sorts of resolutions. I usually never keep mine, but one thing I like to keep in mind and strive for all year round is staying organized.

Since we moved into a new house, I thought of this as a chance to hit the reset button. We got rid of a ton of stuff before we moved so we didn’t have to pack things we don’t need or use.

And now I’m going room by room to set up new organizational systems or implement old ones that worked. Here are some of my favorite products to make organizing even easier:

Grey Bins from Land of Nod – These are my go-to storage bins. They work great for kids stuff or other items like blankets and throw pillows, and they look good enough to leave them anywhere in my house. Unfortunately, they no longer carry them, but any bin that you can find on Etsy.com or at the Container Store that looks good in your living room is a good bin to have.

photo (3)

Trofast Storage System

Trofast Storage System for toys from IKEA – They’re easy for H to open and close and keep numerous toys tidy. I like to stick with the white bins only (I think it gives it a cleaner look).

Striped Cubes

Striped Cubes from Land of Nod – These stylish, yet still kid-like bins are pliable making it easy for kids to get things in and out of them, while not crushing the box or hurting themselves. You also won’t mind if your little one starts dragging them across the floor.

Deskstructure Desk Organizer   See Jane Work

Deskstructure Desk Organizer from See Jane Work – There is always a lot of clutter on desks (at least on mine). Keeping it in check is a challenge, but one that can have a lot of style. I’m getting ready to re-do my office in our new house so I’ve been checking out desk accessories and loved this one.

Skyline Bookends   See Jane Work

Skyline Bookends – Also from See Jane Work are these great bookends. I think bookends can keep books nice and tidy on a flat surface, while also styling your desk or table.

Build Your Own   Daily System Components   Espresso stain   Pottery Barn

Office Accessories from Pottery Barn – I love how these units work together. They may be a bit pricier than the others on this list, but they’re so worth it and you can pick and choose what pieces you need and make them work together in an entryway, kitchen, or office.

Large Rectangle Lacquer Trays   west elm

Lacquered Trays from West Elm – I LOVE these trays! They now come in square as well. I use them in my kitchen, bathrooms, and in my living room on my fabric ottoman. They keep clutter (like remotes and coasters) in check and are modern and beautiful as well.

LaqueredRectangularBoxLg_x

Lacquered Boxes from Container Store – I think the colors of these boxes are great for any vanity, bathroom, or dresser (which is where I have mine in several sizes). I keep all of my jewelry in these as they are an inexpensive and stylish alternative to a traditional jewelry box.

EXPEDIT Shelving unit on casters   IKEA

Expedit Shelves from IKEA – For books, I think these shelves are the best. They’re inexpensive, but hefty enough to look expensive. Plus they come in different sizes, colors, and you can flip it on its side and add casters to make a bench.

Our Family Yearbook

Now that H is one-year-old, I decided to pull all of the photos that we had taken of him over the first year and put them into a book.

Yerabook

I used to be a big scrapbooker. I would probably still be a big scrapbooker if I had the time, but something had to go once we got busy with our little guy. Now, instead of doing a traditional scrapbook with decals, letters, and all of the time that goes into putting them together, I put together digital books on Shutterfly.com.

Inside of Yearbook

It still takes a bit of time, but it is significantly less than I used to spend on scrapbooks and just as rewarding. And I love that you can choose from hundreds of different themes. I used chalkboard chic theme, which looks like chalk on a chalkboard, but also has a vintage flair.

Putting together the book takes even less time if you keep on top of uploading your photos. I try to upload photos to the site every month. Take it one step further, and create those pages while the photos are fresh in your mind and it will take you less time in the end.

I also love that over the years all of the books will match and serve as an anthology, plus they’ll look nice on my shelf because they’re uniform.

We took so many photos the first year that we ended up doing two books: 0-6 months and 7-12 months.

How do you keep and share memories of your family?

Tackling the First Haircut

The day had finally come! It was time for H’s first haircut.

haircut 1

Looking at this photo, he was in definite need of a haircut and a nap.

Deciding on a style for your little one is a big responsibility. Sure, it may not take the same priority as let’s say feeding him or nurturing him, but it is something that will stick with him for the rest of his life. So I did not take the first haircut lightly.

haircut 2H has very curly hair, which he got from his dad, and for which I have no idea how to take care of. It had started to get long enough that it was forming knots, which I would painstakingly comb out after every bath (not fun for either H or I).

So I felt it was time to take him for his first haircut. I was tempted to trim it myself, but I have seen some of those outcomes on other children, and I did not want that fate to fall upon my little one. So I made an appointment at a kids-only salon called Cozy Cuts on the Upper Westside.

haircut 3

It was adorable! He got to pick his own chair, he chose the red jeep, they had a bunch of fun distractions such as bubbles, DVDs, video games for older kids, and toys galore. The stylist was fabulous and really knew her stuff.

final haircut

It was just a trim (I’m not quite ready to lose those curls yet), but it was a great experience for both H and I. The best piece of advice I can give is to stay calm yourself, so your little one also stays as calm as possible, and to take the extra time to find a salon that specializes in kids.