Fa La La La La

If you’ve been reading for a while, then you’ll know that Corey and I get just a little, ahem, excited about decorating for Christmas. I was looking back at some of our old Christmas posts recently and laughed at how quickly our house went from just a few decorations to complete over-the-top insanity. And we aren’t slowing down anytime soon – we already added a few new items to our collection this year!

What can I say? I don’t decorate for any other season, so I figure I have permission to go all-out for Christmas.

We had a special challenge when we were decorating this year – a mobile baby! Jackson isn’t walking yet, but he’s crawling all over the place, pulling up on everything, and getting into EVERYTHING. So as we were decorating (and buying new decorations) we had to seriously consider what he would be messing with and how we could make sure he stayed safe.

We went ahead and decorated our tree as normal – by the time we did the rest of the house we had already had a tree up in our room for a few weeks and he had been really good about leaving it alone. He’s curious, and he’ll touch it/bat at the ornaments a bit, but he’s generally good about listening to us when we tell him to be gentle. We stuck to putting our breakable ornaments up high, but beyond that our tree looks just like it always does.

Our bookshelf was where I really had to get creative. Jackson loves to play with the items on the shelves and I generally keep a few toys for him on the bottom shelves so he has something safe to play with. I wanted the entire bookcase to be decorated for Christmas, but didn’t want to have to constantly be pulling him off of it. So, I put all of our cookie tins on the very bottom shelf (they’re pretty much indestructible and make a really loud, fun sound when you pull them off the shelf!) and put some soft, not-suepr breakable things on the second shelf. So far it’s worked great – he loves playing with the cookie tins and has pulled a few of the items off of the second shelf but has left the stuff towards the back (like the big candle) alone. We’ll see if he stays this good about it for the entire season, but I’m pleasantly surprised so far!

The dining room is mostly the same as it is every year, but this year I added a felt tree on the back of the fireplace – Jackson loves playing with it/pulling everything off of it. It’s really meant for slightly older kids who are actually interested in decorating it, but he enjoys it a lot now, and it will grow nicely with him over the years.

Jackson loves the tree in the kitchen – all of the ornaments that he can reach are totally safe for him to play with, and none of the ornaments on this tree are too precious, so we’re a little more lax about letting him play with it. He’s still super cautious and hasn’t really pulled anything off of it yet – he just loves to touch it! He’s also very curious about all of the items on the counters – the mini tree by our sink may be his favorite decoration in the whole house!

I’ve always been a gigantic fan of the entire Christmas season, and I absolutely love everything about it…and this year, with Jackson, there are no words for how much more special it is. I love watching him experience everything for the first time, and it makes me so much more excited for future years when he understands it all a bit more!

 

Refreshing Our Front Door

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, which you know I do pretty rarely, so I promise it’s a good one! I couldn’t pass this one up and I’m excited to share! 

I’m pretty hesitant to do sponsored posts around here. I know they can be annoying for readers (I read a ton of blogs myself, so I get it!) but I think they’re a great tool when they’re done well. I mean, who doesn’t love to learn about awesome new things? So, when I got an email about reviewing a Kwikset SmartCode 913, I was very intrigued. My sister has a similar lock on her front door (and has had it for years) and her family loves it…and I’ve always thought it was so cool.

As intrigued as I was about my sister’s lock, I never really thought we’d be interested in having one ourselves, until a couple of weeks ago. Corey and I carpool to work, which means that every day one of us ends up with the car and drops the other one off. Well, our car doesn’t require the key to be inserted in order to drive (it just has to be in the car with you) and I happen to have an extra car key in my purse. But no extra house key. So one day during the insanely hectic first week of school, I was rushing out of my classroom to pick up Corey and Jackson and I left the actual key ring (with the house key) laying on my desk at work. But, of course, I was still able to get home because I had the extra car key in my purse. So, when we got home and suddenly realized we didn’t have a key to get in the house, we weren’t pleased, to say the least. We managed to break into our house, but it was seriously inconvenient and would have been disastrous if we hadn’t been able to break in (we would have had to drive the 25 minutes back to my school, which isn’t fun with a tired, cranky, just-wants-to-be-home husband baby).

So needless to say, when I saw that email I knew we had to try it out.

I was also excited about this little project because I took it as a kick in the pants to get a few other things done to our front door that I’ve been itching to do for a while. Corey and I are pretty good about keeping the inside of our house looking clean, nice, and updated, but the outside? Not so much. We’re those neighbors with the constantly overgrown lawn and bushes, and no matter how hard we try to stay on top of it all we are constantly falling behind. So I decided that with this new lock, we were also going to upgrade a few things on the front of our house and make things look at least a little bit nicer out there. Because, really, when this is what you’re working with, it’s not that hard to make improvements:

Lovely. I absolutely love our yellow door but it was looking a bit worse for the wear (yellow is hard to keep clean!) and the porch light has driven me crazy since the day we moved in. Add to that the out-of-control bushes (not pictured, but trust me when I say you don’t want to see them) and the random crap we have laying around out there (I honestly have no idea why the gas can is there, but it’s been there at least a month!) and you’ve got the perfect formula for the ugliest front porch ever.

What I really wanted to do was re-paint the front door and trim, and completely re-do the flower bed in the front. But to be quite frank we have higher priorities in our house, like the fact that our bathroom is still in complete shambles. So I made myself keep the projects limited to things that could be completed in an afternoon, and for a minimal amount of money. On the agenda?

  • Cleaning the front door
  • Cleaning the porch
  • Putting away the gas can (why is it there??!)
  • Changing out the porch light
  • Changing out the doorbell button

There were a ton more things I would have liked to take on, but this was a good start. Corey worked on installing the new lock while I cleaned the door, and I was surprised at how quick the process was – he was done in about 20 minutes!

It was a very straightforward install, and thankfully the new lock matches our door handle pretty perfectly. The instructions were clear and easy to follow (though honestly, Corey barely even looked at them since it was all so basic) and I think the hardest part of the whole process was deciding what code we wanted to use. You can program up to 16 different codes (so you can have a master code that only you know, plus codes for different people who may need to get into your house), but we’ve only got one in for now.

We both held our breath a little when it was time to test it out, but it worked perfectly! I’m pretty excited to not have to fumble with a key every time we come home (it’s a pain when you’re holding a baby and a million other things), and locking the door is just the press of a button now. I love it! You can, of course, still use a regular key with it, but I’m looking forward to just keeping my key ring in my purse for now…between the car not needing me to insert the key and now the house not needing a key, I’m feeling pretty excited!

You can set it to automatically lock after 30 seconds, but we’ve got that function turned off for now – our door is old and clunky, and you have to press on it in order to get it to lock. So, when we eventually replace this door, we’ll probably use that…it’s an awesome function when you’ve got little ones running around!

We’ve only had the lock installed for a little over a week, but we’re big fans already. I feel pretty good about us continuing to like it long-term, since my sister is still using hers after quite a while!

As for the rest of the makeover? Well, it’s nothing drastic, but I think our entryway is looking a bit more taken care of. You saw the before, but did you notice that rusty, disgusting doorbell? I almost felt bad making people use it…

Now it’s nice and shiny and new. We need to caulk the edges still because it doesn’t fit exactly like the old one did, but it’s looking so much better now!

And, of course, we have the new lights. These probably made the biggest impact since they were replacing awful, rusted fixtures that were obviously from the ’80s. These new ones make a huge difference!

Overall I’m pretty thrilled with this little mini makeover! We obviously still have a long way to go (new paint on, um, everything, new plants in the beds out front, and a new door!) but this makes the whole thing a lot more tolerable in the meantime. And there are no words for how nice it is to not have to fight with a key when I’m getting home from work and trying to juggle carrying all of my stuff and Jackson – pressing those little buttons is so much easier!

Would you ever have a keyless entry for your house? Anyone else do any mini updates this weekend?

It’s Done!

Ahhh – it feels so nice to finally be rid of all of our carpet downstairs.

(Please excuse the baby paraphernalia. I live in a house with a 6-month old, so it’s inevitable. My house definitely does not look like a magazine with no baby toys floating around, so there’s no reason to pretend it does!)

We’ve been talking about doing this for forever and we finally got around to it a few weeks ago – for those of you who missed it when we did Jackson’s room or the dining room, we’re slowly going through the process of replacing the flooring throughout our house with this “luxury vinyl” flooring from Lowe’s. It looks surprisingly like actual hardwood but is really peel and stick vinyl. It’s incredibly affordable and easy to install, and it’s super durable (which is vital when you have three dogs and a 6-month old!)

We also switched up a few other things around the living room while we were at it. Hadley was not a fan of the new flooring (it’s slippery and she still has to learn how to walk on it) and so for the first few days after we installed it she hid upstairs all day long so she didn’t have to step on it. We finally decided to bring in the big rug from the garage as a temporary measure to make her happy and to make the floor a little softer for Jackson. Turns out, though, we love how it looks in here and it’ll probably stay for the foreseeable future. It’s super sort and feels good underfoot, and it’s a really easy to clean rug so it’s great for a high traffic area like the living room.


We also switched out some pillows and got a fiddle leaf fig (I’m determined not to kill this one!). We don’t love the ottoman in here now with the new rug…it feels a bit too formal and out of place, but we haven’t decided what we’ll do about that yet. The options are to get a different rug (which we aren’t sure about, since we really like this one) or replace the ottoman (which makes us sad, since we really like it and haven’t had it for that long). We’ll see where we land, but for now we’re just happy it’s looking so much better in here!

It makes me so happy to see consistent flooring again from one side of the house to the other – dealing with that carpet transition for the last few months hasn’t been fun…the house feels so much more cohesive, and it immediately felt so much cleaner!

We still want to bring this flooring into the kitchen, but that’ll be last on our list – we want to finish all of the upstairs first. The next step for now is to re-install baseboards in both of these rooms and to fix the fireplace – Corey accidentally knocked off one of the tiles on the wall when we were working on the flooring. We had already been planning on doing something to update the fireplace, anyways, it’s just a little higher on our priority list now!

Whew, it feels good to be done with this! Now we just need to take a breather for a few weeks and then muster up the energy to tackle the baseboards – it’s never a fun project, but it makes such a big difference in how finished the room looks!

What have you been working on in your home lately?

My Summer Bucket List

Every year right around this time, I like to write out a quick list of all the things I want to accomplish over the summer. Since Corey and I are both teachers, we have a ton of extra time over these next few months, and since Friday will be the last day of school (!!!!), it’s about time I get this list written, huh?!

In the past, I’ve been pretty awful about actually completing the items on the list (see 2012, 2013). Especially last summer, since I spent the whole two and a half months with morning (or, more accurately, all day) sickness and crazy pregnancy exhaustion. This year, I’m going to be as realistic as possible and hopefully that will mean I actually accomplish everything I want to! So, here’s the list:

1. Do something fun at least once a week.

We’re pretty good about getting out of the house during the summer, but we aren’t necessarily good about trying new and exciting things. Now that we have Jackson around, and he’s getting to the age where he’s a little more interested in actually doing things, I’d like to spend our summer trying to find things we can do as a family! There are a few good museums and botanical gardens around Austin that I think Jackson might enjoy, and the park is always a great option. Mainly, I just want us to get out of the house and enjoy our city this summer!

2. Work on our bathroom.

Hey, remember when we tore our bathroom completely apart, posted once about it, and then never mentioned it again? That was fun, right? Yeah, that bathroom looks exactly the same as it did when we started demo-ing it a few months ago. We’re going to put any actual work to the bathroom on hold for a while, but I’d like to at least get it re-insulated and get the walls back up. I’d also like to finish demo-ing it soon. If we can at least accomplish that much, I’ll be able to live with it for a while until we’re ready to start putting it back together!

3. Get Jackson napping in the crib.

I’ve mentioned that Jackson is an awesome nighttime sleeper. We lucked out there. But naps? They’re a mess. I almost always have to hold him to get him to take a good nap, and usually it requires some swaying, bouncing, or even walking around the block. And I’m over it. I love the cuddles, but I need at least a small piece of independence back – this summer, Jackson WILL learn how to nap in his crib!

4. Take a ton of pictures.

I’ve been pretty good about taking photos lately, and I want to keep it up! I always get to the end of the year and feel like I didn’t take nearly enough as I’m working on our yearbook, so this year I’m going to make sure that’s not a problem! I plan on having my camera with my just about everywhere I go this summer, so this one should be easy!

5. Do something to our house.

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been a while since we’ve made any sort of progress on the house. We’ve been focusing on other things, which has been good (and important!) but this summer I’d like to find a few cheap or free projects that we can do. I miss working on our home!

6. Spend time outside!

This is a goal of mine every summer, but I think it’s an important one! It’s hard to be motivated to get outside when it’s 105 degrees in the shade, but I love being out there and so does Jackson! We’re gonna have to keep him safe in the crazy heat, but I want to make sure we don’t spent the whole summer cooped up inside!

7. Be social!

Corey and I have a bad habit of hiding in our house and being totally anti-social when we have extended time off. I don’t want this to happen to us this year! Some of our really good friends just moved from being 4 hours away to only 2 hours away, so we’re going to try to meet up with them at least once or twice this summer. I also want to make sure we take advantage of other opportunities to hang out with our friends and family – it’s so easy to hole up and just be alone (we’re total homebodies!) but we always enjoy it when we actually spend time with other people.

8. Start exercising again.

I haven’t worked out at all since we had Jackson…and that’s unusual for me! I haven’t quite figured out how to handle the crazy “work full time while taking care of a baby AND squeezing in exercise” schedule yet, so I’ve been putting it off for this summer. I’m going to get back in the habit of doing some sort of exercise 4 or 5 times a week, then hopefully I’ll keep it up once school starts back up in the fall!

9. Declutter.

I’ve been working on getting some of the extra clutter out of our house for a while now, but we aren’t quite done yet. There are so many nooks and crannies in our house that are stuffed to the brim with crap and it’s just about time to get rid of it. I feel like we’re constantly bringing new stuff into the house but we aren’t always so good about getting rid of old stuff. Plus, if we can sell some of the random things we have floating around, we’ll have a bit of extra money to do something fun with!

10. Soak up this baby stage!


Jackson is at such a fun age right now, and I want to enjoy every second of it. I get frustrated with him when he won’t sleep or on fussy days, but I also know that I’ll miss this phase of his life once he’s bigger. Corey and I are so lucky to be able to have the next couple of months off of work to be with him, so I want to make sure we appreciate it and make the most of the time we’ve got!

Alright, that’s my list. I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to get them all done this summer, but I’m also pretty good at completely failing at these lists, so we’ll see what happens!

What’s on your summer bucket list?

Date Nights With Baby

I’ll be honest – Jackson is two months old and Corey and I have yet to go on an actual date since he was born.

Those of you with kids probably understand this. It’s almost impossible to find time to go anywhere without him, and quite frankly we aren’t super interested in leaving him alone with anyone else just yet. We’re hoping to go on a real date at some point this month, but over the past two months we have found other ways to set aside time for one another, and in the process we created a new tradition that we are kind of obsessed with.

Game night.

Corey and I have tried to have weekly at-home date nights for as long as we have been married, but over the last year or so they had kind of fallen off our radar. It wasn’t a big deal because we had plenty of time together, and never really felt like we were missing out. But! When Jackson came along we very quickly realized that we needed to start setting aside some specific time for one another again, and thus game nights were born.

Every Tuesday evening Corey grabs a Papa Murphy’s pizza and we eat that while we play some games. We don’t watch television, we don’t zone out at our computers – we just have some good quality time together. It’s a super fun way for us to connect and it’s way more fun than just watching television like we do most other nights.

We’ve gotten really into board games now, and are always on the lookout for new ones. We’ve learned some really unique games and have been introducing them to people we know so we now have lots of friends that will play with us! I still think that 1:1 dates that actually involve leaving the house are important (and our goal is to have at least one a month, starting this month!) but this is such a perfect way to connect a little more at home, and we’re hoping to keep it a tradition even as Jackson gets older. In a few years we’ll probably be playing Candy Land instead of our current repertoire, but we already get excited thinking about teaching Jackson all of our favorite games and having this as a tradition for the long haul.

How do you stay connected with your significant other when things get crazy?