Thursday, September 1, 2016

My Lil' Pony Rainbow Dash Cross Stitch

One of my friends' daughters is having a My Little Pony themed birthday party, so I thought this would make a fun gift for her!

Colors used:

  • Extra-Light Blue
  • Medium-Light Blue
  • Bold dark blue
  • Bright Red
  • Bright Orange
  • Yellow
  • Lime Green
  • White
  • Black
  • Fuschia

Fabric used:

  • 14-count Almond-colored Aida

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Advice for Guest Bedrooms and Hosting Guests

After commenting myself on this WaPo Live Chat, I decided to better organize my thoughts and write this post based on my recent experience staying with family out-of-state. This advice is particularly applicable if some of your houseguests will be children.
  1. Air Mattresses - If you have one, make sure they it does not have a slow leak by testing it over the course of 3+ days before your guests arrive. No one wants to wake up on top of a deflated air mattress.
  2. Wardrobes and Dressers - If you have one in your guests' quarters, make sure it is completely empty. If it's full, it just takes up space where your guests are going to want to put their luggage.
  3. Infants and Sleep - Have your guests bring their pack-and-play from home, or have one on hand yourself. They are relatively inexpensive and easily fold up for travel or when not in use.
  4. Kids and Sleep - Consider investing in a cot that can be folded up when not in use. Alternatively, if the child is age five or under, you could use an inexpensive crib mattress that can be placed on the floor, and stowed under a bed when not in use. As a third option, consider a twin bed or a twin air mattress. A fourth option would be pull-out chair or sofa, though that would be the most expensive of these options.
  5. Fans - Especially if you do not have a ceiling fan, consider placing a fan in the room. Guests like being able to control the temperature of their room, and some also enjoy the white noise and / or air flow that a fan can provide.
  6. Hooks - Consider installing hooks that your guests can hang their bath towels (or wet swimsuits) on. Install the hooks in either in the bedroom or in the guests' bedroom, depending on where you have space. These hooks could also be useful for winter coats and sweaters when the weather changes.
  7. Simple, Layered Bedding - Opinions will vary widely on this, but personally I prefer doing only a fitted sheet (no top sheet), one to two bed pillows per guest (no throw pillows and no bed skirt), a freshly laundered duvet (as opposed to a comforter or quilt), and a folded blanket at the foot of the bed (or stowed nearby). The absence of a top sheet and throw pillows will make it easier for your guests to easily make their bed in the morning (cramped spaces always look better with a freshly made bed). The absence of a bed skirt will make it easier to spot guests’ items that have inadvertently rolled under the bed. Further, both throw pillows and a bed skirt can collect dust which may irritate some guests' allergies. A duvet is easily machine-washable (unlike a comforter or quilt which may be too large or heavy to launder at home, and bulky to store when not in use). The addition of a blanket will help guests if using a duvet is too warm or not warm enough (depending on if the blanket is used instead of, or in addition to, the duvet).
  8. Room-Darkening Curtains - Consider installing light-blocking curtains or blinds - some guests may not care, but others cannot sleep with mere sheers on the windows.
  9. Waste Basket - Provide a small, freshly-emptied waste basket.
  10. Limit Occasional-Use Furniture - Unless you have a lot of space in your guest bedroom, do not provide a large-scale reading chair because guests can always read elsewhere (e.g.: in bed, in your living room, or in a smaller chair). Also, try to choose smaller-scale furniture for your guest bedroom which will allow for maximum flexibility in terms of how guests use your space. For example, if you are going to include a reading chair, consider choosing one without arms. Note that all too often, a guest bedroom can become a dumping ground for furniture that should be discarded (or placed in storage), rather than merely relocated / relegated to the guest bedroom. Personally, I’d prefer a small bench (to sit on when putting on my shoes) or a folding luggage stand (to place my suitcase upon) over having a chair in a guest bedroom.
  11. Toiletries - Consider providing travel-sized toiletries for your guests. Just the basics will do, and just one of each product is sufficient (shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, and a sealed travel-sized pack of Kleenex). Also, you may want to provide a couple of other new items too in case your guests forget to pack theirs (a fresh toothbrush and razor are sufficient).
  12. Electronics - Consider providing a power strip (and / or a USB outlet) near the bed, and a sign with the Wi-Fi network name and password information (blank templates are available online for free, or you could make your own).
  13. Water - Leave some bottled water (two bottles is sufficient) on the nightstand - it’s much hard to inadvertently knock over than a carafe.
  14. A Small Refrigerator - If an only if you have sufficient money and space to purchase and keep one, consider having a small fridge in the room that can be plugged in whenever you plan to have guests. It’s great to have for storing anything your guests need to keep cold: milk (for kids or babies), orange juice for the morning, or leftovers.
In addition to the items above, I wanted to add a note regarding communicating your feelings to your guests. If you have a problem with something your guests are doing (lifestyle, etiquette, habits, or anything else), consider bringing it up as soon as possible - waiting until the end of the trip gives your guests no time to adjust their behavior, nor does it provide them any time to make alternative lodging arrangements for the duration of their trip if the behavior cannot be helped. Any group of people living together is going to eventually hit bumps in the road, and stewing about it helps no one. Keep your tone constructive rather than adversarial, and keep your comments as focused to the specific issue(s) at hand.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Two-and-Half Years Old Kiddo Update

Eating a chocolate-chip cookie

A. His Schedule – He is not a morning person, and is frequently very drowsy and cranky when we wake him. If he’s good about getting ready in the morning, then he gets to watch one TV show on Amazon Prime before “school” (daycare). He only takes one nap per day. His bedtime is around 8:30 p.m.

B. His Size – Although he used to be a larger kid for his age, currently he’s smaller than average. His height is 35.25” (37th percentile) and his weight is 29 lbs. 1 oz. (42nd percentile). He’s currently wearing size “3T” – shirts in that size fit him but pants in that same size are a little bit long.

C. His Personality – He’s bossy, stubborn, opinionated, and he thinks he’s funny. Sometimes he’s quite the tiny tyrant. However, he also has a sweet side. I can’t tell you how thoughtfully he asked me the other day “Mom, [are] you happy?”

D. His Favorite Things
Activities – He likes coloring, playing with Play-Doh, reading (either being read to, or pretending to read himself), and running. He also loves sticks and trying to use them like swords.
Animal – He still loves cats (domestic, cheetahs, tigers, etc.).
Book – I don't think he has a favorite book right now. He was very into “Green Eggs and Ham” for a while.
Food – He likes chocolate milk and cookies best (when we let him have those things). Other things he likes (which unfortunately are also sweet) are Pop Tarts, muffins, and candy.
Security Item – He still loves his green, fuzzy blanket.
Toy – He loves a set of gel pens that we got him, although I know that is not a toy per se. He also likes building with blocks (wood ones or MegaBloks) and coloring on his Doodle Pad (magnetic drawing board, similar).
TV Show – Thundercats is his current favorite, but he still likes Daniel Tiger’sNeighborhood.

E. His Development
Speaking – He can speak quite a lot now. His teachers are concerned that sometimes the words he says are hard to hear, but so far I haven’t been concerned myself. He’s using four- and five-word sentences, so I think he’s doing just fine.
Drawing – He recently learned how to draw a circle – his circles look more like ovals, but it’s a big step forward from just drawing lines.
Music – He’s starting to be able to sing the ABCs song – he makes a lot of mistakes of course.
Potty Training – Although we’ve been trying to train him for about a year, he is finally starting to really get it, and to choose wearing underwear and using the toilet regularly over wearing Pull-Ups or diapers.


F. Surprises – It’s still amazing to me how fond he is of his younger brother. You’d think he’d be jealous of the attention that Ted gets, but he’s not.

G. The Best Things – Sometimes the best thing is just the way he smiles. Other times, it’s seeing him get interested in something that I’m interested in (like drawing).

Nine-Month Bear Update

Excited about food

I know I usually do these posts every six months, but baby Bear is just changing so fast that I thought I’d do a nine-month post.

A. His Schedule – He gets up at about 6:30 a.m. every day, takes two naps on average (one in the morning and one in the early afternoon), and then goes to sleep at about 8 p.m.

B. His Size – Bear is smaller than average boys his age. He is 27.25 inches tall (17th percentile) and 19 lb. 9 oz. (55th percentile). I think that he is smaller now than our older son was at this age because baby Bear is being fed breastmilk (as well as solids) whereas our older son was being fed formula (as well as solids) at this age. In any case, baby Bear looks adorable in his size "9 Month" clothes (at this age, his older brother was wearing size "18 Month" clothes).

C. His Personality – Bear is a very happy baby, and a pleasure to be around. He’s very cuddly and has a warm, affectionate personality.

D. His Favorite Things – Right now he is obsessed with our cat. He loves to try to follow the cat around, even though the cat will usually just hop over the baby gate and leave Bear behind.

He loves milk

E. His Development – He can say “Mama” and “Dada” right now, but I don’t think he knows what those words mean. He also likes to communicate via grunting (usually if he needs something) and/or high-pitched squeals of joy. He can laugh, and loves laughing when his older brother plays with him. He can crawl very swiftly. He can stand by pulling up on things (furniture, for example), and he can let go of the support item with one of his hands. Up until very recently, he had no teeth. He sprouted his first tooth just after turning nine months old.

F. Surprises – One of the biggest surprises for me is how much of an “easy baby” Bear is. He’s really a blessing.

G. The Best Things – My favorite thing to do is to hold Bear right before he falls asleep. He looks so peaceful and content.

Bear right before he falls asleep

H. Things I’m Doing Differently This Time Around – I’ve said it once but I’ll say it again – baby Bear doesn’t use a pacifier. If he’s feeling sad, I’ll pick him up and talk to him, but I won’t offer him a pacifier. I’m hoping his future dentist will thank me for this. Also, we’re reading to Bear less frequently than we read to our older son when he was at this age. I'd like to read to Bear more – it’s just that there’s usually a lot going on (e.g. potty-training our older son), and for his part Bear doesn’t seem too interested when we do read to him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Six-Month Bear Update

Why I’m Writing This Update
Since I did a six-month update for my first child, and then did one about every six months after that, I would like to continue this habit for my second son, Bear. Plus, according to this website's stats, people tend to like these types of posts!

The biggest surprise right now is how relatively easy it seems (to me) for us to take care of Bear. I don't know if it's actually easier, or if it just seems easier because it's our second time around. Another surprise for me is that I'm still waking up in the Middle of the Night (MOTN) to pump - if I don't do a MOTN pump, then my breastmilk supply goes down (even though the baby is sound asleep during the MOTN). I'm also surprised and really thankful that I'm still producing milk and making enough to exclusively breastfeed!

The Best Things
Baby Bear sleeps well at night, but then again his big brother has always been a pretty good sleeper too. Also, baby Bear is usually happy! He's always been a relatively happy baby. Bear makes me wonder if some people are born naturally hardwired to be generally happier. One more of the Best Things about right now is that Bear seems to genuinely like me - with our first son it is harder to tell.

The Worst Thing
Breastfeeding is still a challenge (read more above under Surprises), but I am very proud that I have earned my "Silver Boobies Award" (it's what you say when you've been able to breastfeed for six months)! So I guess what I'm saying is that my Worst Thing isn't actually that bad.

What’s Different This Time Around
Baby Bear is a lot lighter and smaller at this age than his older brother was at this age - Bear is in the 51st percentile for height but only the 26th percentile for weight. I can't believe that baby Bear is wearing size six month clothes right now (his brother was wearing size 12 month at this age if I remember correctly). Bear's smaller size makes it a lot easier for us to tote him around in his carseat carrier. And Bear still has no teeth (I think his brother had at least four teeth at this age)! I think having a big toothless grin makes babies look super cute / cuddly.  What else is different? Well, I've been taking less photos of both children than I used to when there was just one of them (and printing / displaying less); I'm not sure why. Also, we haven't started Bear on baby food yet (we started our first son on baby food at about five and half months old)*. Also, we have more stuff (toys and laundry) than before - toddler toys are enormous, plus we now have toys and clothes for two kids instead of just one. Also, my body hasn't gotten back to its pre-Bear shape yet, but I think it's because of breastfeeding, because I have less time and energy, and need to eat more calories and drink more fluids, due to pumping / breastfeeding.

*Update: My husband just started baby Bear on quinoa cereal (Bear hates it).

What’s the Same
I'm still doing a lot of cross stitch as my creative outlet. It's easy to do on the couch after the kiddos are asleep.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Toddler Bedroom Update

You may remember that I redid my son's bedroom in November. I have since added a new toddler sheet set from Land of Nod that my son got as a Christmas gift.

Monday, January 11, 2016

5-Day Do-Over: My Dining Room (and it took me MONTHS)

The After Photo
This didn't have to take me months, but it did. I had a baby, and my priorities changed during the "newborn" period.  Now that I have finally finished the room, here is how it went. I didn't do all of these steps exactly in order, but you get the idea. Note that I previously did this for my living room (see that post for more info.).

The Before Photo:
We subsequently replaced the tired rug, sold the console table, repainted, and cleaned
The end of the first day
The furniture was rearranged, and this is the new rug (based on people's comments, I moved the table closer towards the center of the room later on)
The console table is gone; the art is still the same
Another shot of the same thing; note the relatively small and dark art on the walls and the different objects on the table
A close-up of the old art
Notice the blue kitchen cabinets, which were subsequently painted white, and that I'm experimenting by trying different artwork on the walls
This was the photo that convinced me to change the railing (behind the table / in the background) to a half-wall - it's just a lot of bars to have in one room given the obligatory baby-gate to the kitchen (in the foreground)
The baby that changed everything
It got messy
Once we repainted the walls a calmer blue-gray color, the autumn colors outside really popped
Notice the white kitchen cabinets, and the kitchen walls were repainted gray (before they were a buttery color)
Obligatory cute kids photo
The after photo!
The after photo, zoomed out so you can see the half-wall
A close-up of the items on our table
Another photo of the half-wall
A significantly zoomed out shot
A close-up of the new artwork

"Day" 1
  • Pick a room: I chose our dining room.
  • List all of the decorative items in the room: I had several photographs on the walls and also several smaller framed photographs on the desk (photos of horses, rams, reindeer, and an owl), as well as a cat postcard, and a green placemat that was serving as a small table runner.
  • Of the above items, which do not seem to fit in: The ram photograph and the black horses photograph didn't seem to fit in the most (they didn't convey the airy, spacious feeling I was going for).

"Day" 2
  • What categories* of decorative items are there too many of: I had way too many realistic photographs - I needed more variety in my artwork.
  • Remove a few of those: Okay, so I removed all of the photos. Maybe I went overboard?
  • Look around the house for some items with more variety to add to the room: I added sculptural items via the Korean wedding ducks, and I added a tray (at first I added the colorful circles tray, but later I swapped that out for a wooden turkey-shaped board). I tried adding a candle too but my toddler promptly destroyed it by trying to eat it.
*Categories could be: pillows, textiles, photos, prints, trays, vases, bowls, etc.

"Day" 3
  • What items can be removed because they are not beautiful, useful, or meaningful: I feel like this is sort of a repeat/reincarnation of Day 2, but in addition to the photos I removed on Day 2, I removed the "desk" (or was it a buffet table, a sofa table, or a console table? whatever it was, it now lives happily in someone else's home), and I removed the extra chair. I also added a faux cowhide storage ottoman because the room lacked upholstered pieces.

"Day" 4
  • Instead of buying things, create a "wish list" of items you would like to add to the room and gradually add those items over the next few months: I wanted a new highchair for the kiddo, a pony wall (also called a knee wall) instead of the metal railing, and to repaint the room - these last two things actually happened! I replaced the rug because it was old and stained, but I did that before I got to the Day 4 step.

"Day" 5
  • Write down the colors in the room currently: The room had light brown, white/ivory, and blue-green.
  • Choose a fresh accent color to add to the room and add it in at least three places: I chose maraschino cherry and added it in the framed print on the wall and the tablecloth - I guess the bill on one of the ducks is also red so that's three!
  • Remove a color (optional): I removed some of the brown (thanks to the artwork swap) and I also removed all of the blue-green thanks to a new ivory rug and new steely-gray wall paint (the new wall paint harmonizes with the gray and dark blue in the adjacent living room).

  • There is a lot of overlap between Day 2 and Day 3, which are the steps when things are added and removed based on their decor category (Day 2) and their use/meaning/purpose/sentimentality (Day 3). Although things are also taken away and added on Day 5, at that point it's based on color and seems like a clearly separate idea.
  • I posted a midway photo of the room to people and their main suggestions were: the art is too small (agreed), lower and center the chandelier, add a table cloth (done), and change the upholstery fabric on the dining chairs. Lowering/centering the chandelier sounds like a simple thing, but it's not - first we'd have to remove links from its chain to do it right, and second, it is impossible to actually center the chandelier over the table (because the table would then be too close to the kitchen), which I feel is less noticeable if the chandelier is way up high. However, I did move the table so that the chandelier is closer to being centered than it was. I would still like to change the upholstery on the chairs someday (if we still have them), but it's not a priority for me.
  • I'm most happy with the change in paint color (it feels so fresh and sophisticated now), the half-wall, and moving the ottoman here (which frees up a lot of space in our master bedroom). The half-wall was a game-changer because it's better at holding up our baby gate (which is on the other side of it), it's a nice place to put things temporarily, and nothing "falls downstairs" under the railing anymore.

Note: Because I lost my paper files thanks to a rambunctious cat and a spilled Brita pitcher, I can't quite remember everything that happened.

I made an infographic because everyone loves infographics!

The existing table and chairs are from CraigsList. The existing chandelier is from Lowes. The new tablecloth is from Home Goods. The turkey cutting board is from Etsy. The Korean wedding ducks were a gift. The curtains are from JCPenney. The new rug is from World Market, although the fibers aren't strong so I wouldn't recommend it. The new art print and frame are from ArtCrate. The ottoman is from Overstock.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My (new) New Year's Resolutions

Here are my 2016 New Year's Resolutions:

  1. Play with my kids - easier said than done when things like cleaning, cooking, errands, etc. get in the way
  2. Go to the beach this summer - go at least once
  3. Do more yoga and/or take a yoga class at the new gym near my office
  4. Finally organize my paper files

And here is how it's going so far:

  1. Is it weird that I find it difficult to enjoy playing with my kids when their toys are not organized?
  2. Maybe I should preemptively book a hotel room?
  3. I should probably figure out how much those classes cost right?
  4. I filed 2.5 of the 3 boxes of paper files I needed to go through - hooray!

Image Credit for the paper blower above: Free clip art from