The Dollhouse Remade

A few years ago, I posted about my dollhouse.  When I was about Evelyn’s age, I got a dollhouse for Christmas.  Despite the fact that it’s not in it’s pristine original condition, I have been hanging onto it for roughly 35 years.  I can’t even believe I am typing that number.  Makes my head want to explode.  Anyway, I always imagined that one day, I would refurbish it and give it to my own child. Since Evelyn is almost 4, I decided that I have been procrastinating long enough.  This will be the year that I give her my dollhouse.

I started ordering the furniture long before I started working on the house itself.  I chose some sturdy wooden furniture made by Hape.  I wanted the pieces to be durable and appropriate for a preschooler’s hands.  Sure, I love the elaborate dollhouses with delicate Victorian style furniture, but I wanted her to be able to really play with this.

I think I had originally planned to take my time and work on it slowly.  Yeeeaaahhh, that didn’t happen. I am a master procrastinator.  I started working on it approximately one month ago.  I removed the wallpaper and discovered that the walls are a little rough.  I bought some wood filler to try to smooth out the texture of the wood a bit, but soon discovered that working in the tiny spaces was challenging and I didn’t have enough time or patience to bother with it.  So, I just started painting.

At one point, I invited Evelyn to help me work on it.  I showed her how to dip her paintbrush just so to prevent drips from getting on the carpet. Even though we had a moment when she came close to tears after she accidentally started painting the floor instead of the walls, we mostly worked side by side and just chatted about our work.  I told her how I had received the dollhouse when I was her age and that I had been saving it just for her for 35 years.  I told her how I was going to paint the walls to make it look like our house and she started to verbally plan out the rooms.  She even wanted to add a toilet to the basement, just like we have.  I knew that I had made the right decision to invite her to help when she told me, “I love helping you, mom.”  All the dreams and plans I had for this dollhouse were right there in that little statement.

So basically, I just painted all the walls, reattached the borders around the windows and doorways, and gave the exterior a good coat of paint.  The dollhouse used to have a balcony and a staircase. The opening where the staircase used to be left a huge hole in the floor, so I got the idea to cover the hole with carpet to make better use of the space.  Now, I am not so sure that I like the look of the thick carpet, so I might eventually try to rebuild a staircase and try some different materials for the carpet.  I would also love to try to rebuild the balcony someday, but for now the master bedroom has a big doorway to nowhere.

Once I finally got everything painted and felt like I was close to being finished, I started looking at dollhouse tutorials on Pinterest.  That opened a huge can of worms.  The possibilities are endless and I had no idea.  After seeing some of the beautiful dollhouses out there, I am almost embarrassed to post pictures of my own.  I decided that I just had to at least add some wallpaper and some little artwork on the wall.  Eventually, I would also love to make some curtains and add some other little touches.  I imagine this is something that Evelyn and I can do together for as long as she is interested.

It’s not perfect.  I wish I would have started working on it sooner and done a little research ahead of time, but I know she will love playing with it and we can make changes to it as often as we want.  I was already looking for tutorials on how to make a little Christmas tree!

The pictures are a little dark…it’s hard to get in all those little corners, but without further ado…

the Dollhouse

That room at the top was my nemesis last night when I was trying to wallpaper it at the eleventh hour.  I could not get the paper to stick.  I will eventually have to pull it out and start over.  Maybe we’ll turn it into a nursery or a game room.

The living room…

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The dining room….  I think this one is my favorite.

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The kitchen….   I had a blast picking out little pictures to hang on the walls.

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The bathroom was one of my biggest challenges.  It’s the narrowest room in the house and the furniture doesn’t fit very well.  We probably could make do with just the tub and no shower, but the set came with both.

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The kids’ room…

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The parents’ room…

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I think it’s safe to say my girl loved it.  Now, I wonder who’s going to play with it more??

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Staining a Bathroom Cabinet

***This post contains affiliate links, which means that I can earn a small commission if you click a link and purchase the item.  Using these links for your purchase does not impact the price of the item.***

Phase one of my bathroom makeover is complete!  I finally finished staining the vanity cabinet, which has gone from this dated honey oak….

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…to this much more tolerable espresso finish.

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I’m still having a hard time believing that I actually did this and that it turned out so nice.  It was so easy…just a little bit time consuming since I had to put on so many coats and then wait for them to dry.  So, how did I do it?  I’m glad you asked.

First, I gathered the following items:

  •  Java Gel Stain by General Finishes I bought the 1/2 pint and that would work even for a much bigger cabinet.  A little goes a long way!
  • A few tube socks
  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Some painter’s pyramids
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Screwdriver
  • 1/2 pint of polyurethane
  • A foam brush

You will want to start by prepping the cabinet.  I put painter’s tape on the walls to protect them from stain and I didn’t worry about protecting the carpet because I am going to rip it out anyway.  I removed the hardware from the door and drawers and removed them from the rest of the cabinet.  Then, I lightly sanded every surface.  You don’t have to go crazy here, you just want to scuff up the surface a bit so that the stain can adhere to the wood.  Once everything is sanded, wipe it down with a damp rag to remove any dust, dirt, or grime on the surface.

Now, you’re ready for the stain.  I got the idea to do this from another blog called Monica Wants It and you can find it by clicking here.  I found her tutorial on Pinterest and she recommends using tube socks instead of a brush to apply the stain.  We always have a few stray socks around here that are missing a mate, so I didn’t have to look far to find some.  I put a glove on my right hand (to protect it from the stain) and then covered it with a sock.  Then I just dipped the sock into the stain and started applying it to the cabinet.  Once you start applying, you will begin to see how much you need.  Start out with a very small dab and then smear it around to see how much coverage you will get.  That will help you gauge how much to use.  Be careful to smooth out any globs.  I used the painter’s pyramids here to prop up the door and drawers after I applied the first coat.  The first coat looked a bit streaky and weird, but in my opinion, it was already a huge improvement from where I started.

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First coat

So, I let the first coat dry for about 24 hours and applied the second coat the next evening.

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Second coat

I think you could probably apply the third coat in another 24 hours, but I didn’t have the opportunity to work on it again until the weekend, so it dried for about 4 days before I applied the final coat.

Once I had the third coat on, I probably could have added another coat to make it really nice and dark like many of the other photos I have seen online, but I kind of liked the subtle variations in color and being able to still see the wood grain a bit.

Once you have achieved the color you want, let the stain dry for several days before you seal it with the polyurethane.  Life got a little busy around here, so I didn’t have an opportunity to work on it for a few weeks.  I finally was able to apply a few coats of polyurethane.  The tutorial I followed suggested that you can continue to use a sock to apply the polyurethane, but I decided to use a foam brush.  This seemed to work fine and I didn’t have any trouble.  Again, just be careful to smooth out any drippy spots.

Finally, once the polyurethane dried (about 24 hours), I was able to add some new hardware and reattach the door and drawers.  So, here’s the official before and after.  What do you think?

Cabinet Makeover  I love the update!  Michael likes it so much that he wants me to do the same in our downstairs bathroom.  I’m not sure I’m that ambitious.  One project at a time please.

planning a bathroom makeover

Ever since we moved into our house almost 3 years ago, I have wanted to redo the upstairs bathroom.  But, I was pregnant at the time, and then came the newborn phase and well, I’ve just never moved forward with my plans.

Lately, I’ve had the itch to make the changes.  Or maybe I just can’t stand the sight of it anymore.  Yeah, that’s probably closer to the truth.  Regardless, I went out to Lowe’s today to pick up the stuff I would need to complete 3 projects.  I figure if the stuff is here waiting for me, I will be more likely to actually do it!

So here’s a lovely comparison photo.  The top is my bathroom as it was when we first moved in.  I’d venture to say that it looks even worse now.  Little by little, I have picked off the wallpaper around the tub and the rest of the border.  You probably can’t tell, but there is carpet on the floor…yuck…and the accents are a hodge podge of colors and textures.  It’s subtle in this picture, but the wallpaper and carpet have hideous flecks of pink and aqua green.

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Inspiration photo by Peter Chen

The bottom picture is my inspiration.  We don’t have a lot of money for this makeover so I won’t be changing out the vanity or anything like that.  My work will be mainly cosmetic and, as I mentioned, I have 3 projects in mind.  I’ve been gathering up some inspiration around the net and here are some other things I have in mind:

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  1. I am planning to stain the existing cabinet a dark expresso color, following this tutorial from Monica Wants It.
  2. I like the idea of using mason jars for storage, sort of like this design from The DIY Playbook.
  3. I really can’t wait to rip out all the carpet and replace it with vinyl tiles, following this tutorial from Courtney over at Project Courtney.
  4. This is the color scheme I have in mind.  I am planning to paint the walls and I’m thinking a calming shade of blue.  Our walls are “tile” on the bottom half and I put that in quotations because I don’t think they are real tile (unless it is just hiding under layers of paint).  I think it’s some kind of a laminate or paneling that looks like tile.  Anyway, I am going to keep that white and the wall above the “tile” will be blue.
  5. I’m not 100% sure what I want to do with the small window yet, but I like the light, airy feel of this simple clothespin curtain by Julie Carlson of Remodelista.

I’m thinking that I can do all of this for around $200, and I’ve already purchased most of the supplies I will need, so now it’s just a matter of getting started!

Stay tuned…

caring for curls

Recently, while I was out of town for a family event, I was approached by a woman who asked me what I do to make my hair look the way it does.  It wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question, and I always stumble over how to respond because a.) I assume most people will think I am crazy when I tell them how I style my hair, and b.)  it could potentially take a very long time to explain.  I have blogged about my hair-care process before, but it’s been awhile since I’ve talked or thought much about it.  It’s kind of just become part of my daily grind.  So, if I’m going to share my methods with her (via facebook and this blog) I figured I’d better update my routine and break it down as simply as I can.  All of this can sound very complicated and time-consuming (and I did spend a lot of time researching different methods and trying out different products), but once you figure out what works best for you, it becomes pretty quick and easy.  So, I’ve compiled some simple steps and rules to follow for taking care of curly hair.

Stop “washing” your hair.  This probably sounds kind of gross to some people, but shampoo contains harsh detergents that strip all of the natural oil off of your hair, making it dry.  One of the reasons that hair becomes frizzy in humid conditions is because it’s seeking moisture and the little strands just start “reaching” out for some hydration.  Hair that is already well-hydrated is less likely to fuzz out.  I use conditioner and the friction from my fingertips to massage my scalp and then rinse it well with warm water.  If my hair starts to feel dull or gets build-up on it, I mix a little baking soda into some conditioner to make a paste and massage it into my scalp, leave it on for a few minutes and rinse.

Boycott silicones.  Silicones can coat your hair, build-up, and weigh it down…and they are found in just about every hair care product out there, including all the ones that claim to tame the frizz.  You have to really check the ingredients on the conditioner you buy.  The most popular silicone you’ll see is dimethicone, but any ingredient ending in -cone can be an offender.  My absolute favorite silicone-free conditioner is Giovanni’s Tea Tree Triple Treat, but right now I’m just using good old Suave Naturals Coconut.  I’ve also used Tresemme Naturals and L’oreal Eversleek.

conditioner

Learn how to plop (or plunk).  Plopping (aka plunking) has made a drastic difference in my hair.  Basically, you use a towel to place your hair in a permanent scrunch and leave it for several minutes (I leave it while I’m getting dressed and putting on my makeup).  It’s really hard to explain how to do it, but you can find tons of tutorials on YouTube.  Styling my hair upside down is also really helpful in creating a little lift at the roots.  In the shower, I rinse out my conditioner with my head upside down and then scrunch my curls while it’s still sopping wet before plopping it.

Throw away your combs and brushes.  I never use a comb or brush on my hair.  I only use my fingers to detangle while my hair is wet and coated with conditioner and once it’s dry…don’t touch your hair!  Well, except maybe to fluff it a little to give it some body.  I flip my head upside down and scrunch it up toward my scalp to give it a little volume after it’s dried, but I never run my fingers through it.

Flax Seed Gel.  I posted my recipe pretty recently, so click here to get it.  If you are a visual learner like me there are lots of tutorials on youtube for making this awesome styling product.  I love this stuff because it’s so cheap to make, but also because it’s not sticky.  There is nothing worse than touching your hair (I know, I told you not to do that, didn’t I?) and then having sticky hands.  The product gets on everything…your steering wheel, keyboard at work, telephone, blech…I hate that.  With flax seed gel, that doesn’t happen.  You also won’t have “the wet look” or crunchy hair, which I also hate.  Your hair might feel a little stiff after it dries, but you can soften it up by giving it a light scrunch.

Ditch the blow dryer.  Ok, this is not a requirement, but I just prefer to let my hair dry naturally.  I find that blow drying (even with a diffuser) makes my hair frizzier.  But, a lot of curlies use a blow dryer with a diffuser and have great success, so I guess it’s just a personal preference.

Well, that’s about it.  It seems a little complicated, but it’s really very easy and it takes me only a few minutes to style my hair, which is so important to me since I have an 18-month-old toddling around.  Her hair is curly too, by the way, and I apply some of the same principles to styling her hair.  So here’s the result. (Sorry for the bad lighting, bathroom self-portrait):

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yard sales, banana muffins and other weekend miscellany

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Look at this face…isn’t she fab?  I love this kid.  We had such a gorgeous weekend here.  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  I have been so lazy with my camera lately, resorting to using my iPhone about 99.9% of the time.  So, I pulled out the DSLR for some practice.  Funny, she actually looked at the camera with intrigue and when I told her to smile and say “cheese” she actually did.  She’s so used to seeing my phone that I think she secretly protests when I try to catch her on film and I can’t even get her to look at it.  But this strange piece of equipment…what is it??  She stared at me and tried to grab it a few times.

This weekend kicked of yard sale season and our neighborhood has its community yard sales.  Oh, how I would have loved to open up shop and get rid of the many bins of baby items that are taking over our lives, but we’re hanging onto things until we have another little one.  I’m not normally a huge fan of yard sales.  I hate fighting the crowds and dealing with the heat, but this weekend was perfect.  The weather was gorgeous and since all the yard sales were taking place in our neighborhood, we just put Evelyn in the backpack carrier and set out on foot.

Michael actually got a jump start on Friday while I was at work and he found several great items.  You’ve gotta start out early or all the good stuff will be gone.  He was really looking for some outdoor toys for Evelyn, like a Little Tykes slide or other similar pieces, but we didn’t really come across any of those.  Oh well, maybe next time.

Shopping yard sales for baby and kid’s stuff is particularly fruitful, since babies and little kids tend to grow out of things very quickly and they don’t have much time to really wear things out.  A lot of people also receive items as gifts that they are never able to use, so it’s easy to find things that are barely or never used.  It amazes me that people spend the kind of money that they do on new clothes, shoes and toys for kids.  Yard sale and thrift store shopping is kind of a no-brainer for me.  It’s greener and way less expensive than shopping the malls.

So, here’s the loot…

Mini Recliner for Evelyn
Mini Recliner for Evelyn
Crayola Art Easel
Crayola Art Easel
Michael picked this out.
Michael picked this out.
Evelyn had a blast playing in it....just before promptly pulling it from the ceiling.
Evelyn had a blast playing in it….just before promptly pulling it from the ceiling.
In addition to these, I also picked up 3 hats, 3 pair of pajamas, a pair of jeans, another pair of shorts, and a July 4th outfit from Old Navy.
In addition to these, I also picked up 3 hats, 3 pair of pajamas, a pair of jeans, another pair of shorts, and a July 4th outfit from Old Navy.
Boots!!
Boots!!
Little Tikes toy chest for outdoor toys
Little Tikes toy chest for outdoor toys

I got all of this for about $35!!!!  It makes me sad to think that I recently cashed in a $50 Target gift card and only got 2 pairs of shoes, a bathing suit, and 2 pairs of pajamas for Evelyn.

I spent most of Sunday in the kitchen, making all kinds of grain-free, sugar-free goodies.  Michael and I have been really trying to stick with our diet and cut way back on the cheating.  I made yet another batch of these awesome grain-free banana muffins.
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I feel pretty confident sharing this recipe.  I started making these from a recipe I found online, but I tweaked it and changed it so many times that it really feels like my own.  Evelyn loves these.  She calls them “cake”.  If this is her idea of cake, that’s just fine by me…no sugar, no gluten…just a yummy snack.

Grain-Free Banana Muffins

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Mash the bananas and mix all the wet ingredients together.  I like to use a hand mixer.  I usually put the coconut oil in the microwave for about 30 seconds to bring it to liquid form before adding it to the eggs and bananas.

Sift the dry ingredients into the batter and stir to combine.  Scoop the batter into a muffin pan lined with paper liners.  The batter doesn’t rise much, so you can fill them a bit more than you would with regular muffins.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Well, it seems that spring is finally here.  Evelyn even enjoyed her first popsicle of the season.

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Have a great week!!

i made it: wool longies

If you’re not familiar with cloth diapering, you’ve probably never heard of longies.  But, don’t stop reading, because even if you don’t use cloth diapers, these pants are super-cute and cozy and super easy to put together if you have some basic sewing skills.  Oh, and they can be worn over disposables too. 🙂

Wool longies can be used as a diaper cover over flats, prefolds, and fitteds.  Wool is naturally water repellent and anti-bacterial, so it prevents leaks and can be used over and over without being washed, as long as it’s not soiled.  It’s also breathable, so it’s great in summer or winter for keeping baby’s bum dry and rash-free.  The problem with commercial wool covers is that they can be really expensive ($30-$70 each).  You can find some great and reasonably priced upcycled covers on Etsy or, if you know how to sew, you can make your own using an old wool sweater.

I hit up the local thrift stores to see what I could find.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything really colorful or pretty, but I picked up a few sweaters anyway for around $5 each.  I decided to start with this one, which Michael threatened to put on and change his shoes a la Mr. Rogers.  Won’t you be my neighbor?

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You’ve gotta look for 100% wool and lambswool or merino wool is ideal because it’s soft.  If the tag says DRY CLEAN ONLY, you’ve got a winner.  Oh, and it’s best to get a pretty large sweater because of the next step…

Before I could cut them up and start sewing, I had to felt them by machine washing them in warm water and throwing them in the dryer.  This will probably shrink the wool significantly and it kind of brings the fibers in tighter and thickens the wool a bit.

Once the wool is felted, I just used a pair of Evelyn’s pants as a template following this tutorial at Life Alaskan Style (no, I don’t have the patience or sewing expertise to make a tutorial of my own).  The sleeves became the legs and then I just added a waistband by using the sweater’s existing waistband.  I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out, considering this was my first try.  The waistband tends to stretch out after a wear or two, so I might alter them a bit by adding some elastic.

Once I completed the pants, I had to lanolize them to make them water resistant.  Here’s a great tutorial for lanolizing.  If you’re not planning to use them as a diaper cover, you can skip this step.

So far, they’re working really well.  I’m using them over fitted diapers at night time.  And they look pretty cute, don’t you think?

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Want to learn more about cloth diapering?  It’s not what it used to be!  Looking for great deals on cloth? Click the link below!

The Dollhouse

No, I’m not talking about a really crappy TV series on Fox.  I’m talking about an actual dollhouse.

I have a dollhouse.  I got it as a gift when I was 2 or 3 years old from my grandmother.  Someone she knew made it by hand and my mother even contributed wallpaper so that it could be completed to look like the house I lived in at the time.  My dollhouse has been through a lot over the years.  It suffered at the hands of my younger siblings and then spent many years hiding away in attics. It lived in my grandparent’s attic for many years when I lived in tiny apartments and had nowhere to store it. Even though it is now badly tattered and worn, I haven’t been able to bring myself to get rid of it.  I’ve always had this dream of fixing it up and giving it to my own daughter.

Even when I began to give up on the idea of having children of my own, I kept it around.  I told myself I might have a niece one day…or maybe I’d just fix it up for myself and keep it on display.  It might have made a nice hobby for me in my later years.

But now that Evelyn is here, I have a purpose for it.  So, I brought it out of the attic today and I am going to start my planning.  I am going to take my time, so that it is ready for Evelyn when she is 5 years old or so.   I’ve been checking out online miniatures stores and wow…dollhouse furniture is really expensive.  But, like I said, time is on my side.  I’ve got plenty of time before she is old enough to really play with it, so where do I begin?  I’m thinking about starting with the roof, then giving it a paint job and adding flooring.  We’ll see how things go.  It will be fun to take pictures of the progress as I go…

For now, the state of my poor, neglected dollhouse:

 There used to be a balcony on the front.

 The wallpaper is oh-so-70s style, but for some reason, I like it.  And yet, I will probably paint over it.

 The staircase is missing too.