Sunday, September 27, 2015

Home Projects: Fireplace Remodel

Since moving into our home, Tony and I have been wanting to give the fireplace a facelift. Although the Texas weather creates only has a few days per year requiring of its use, we enjoy the ambiance of a fire to remind us of our colder roots.

Unfortunately, two main qualities for our fireplace resulted in it fondly acquiring the title of the "black hole" of the house since our move-in.

(1) The builder's choice of the "riptide tile" effect: Continuing the floor tiles up the wall stripped this gem of any real design benefits.

(2) The floating fire hole: maybe it is a Texas thing, but growing up in New York a real fireplace needs a decent hearth. This element particularly solidified the space's nickname.

Over Labor Day weekend, we decided to finally tackle this project! We are by no means do-it-yourself experts. But, with the help of advice from a friendly local fireplace company and a little bit of internet research, we did pretty darn well with the remodel!

Tony and I enjoyed designing the project together. We chose Desert Quartz Ledgestone as the stonework, which reminds us of the local stone in San Antonio. The slabs came in pre-glued panels that made installation easy. Tony became quite the expert with a table tile wet saw, and by the end was even cutting tiny custom pieces to fill around the key insert!

Tile mastic served easy to use and kept the tiles sturdily stuck to the wall.  The hearth served to be more of a design challenge. Most of the internet instruction sites utilize preexisting brick hearths in the reface process. We had to build our own using cinderblocks and Quikcrete. Mitte Gray tiles, gray grout, and surrounding ledgestone completed the custom hearth.

Leon was a great little helper along the way.  Although he spent a large portion of the time sampling every Mickey Mouse show on Netflix, he did help carry some of the stones and watching Daddy through the window as he cut the stones. He particularly liked modeling in the before pictures saying "Leon cheese."

Despite our planning, there were a few bumps in the road.

We didn't expect the demolition for the tiles to result in ripping off large chunks of the drywall. That obstacle was met with a late-night trip to Home Depot. But, I taught Tony (through my excellent internet search skills) how to successfully replace sections of drywall. That may come in handy in the future for occasional drywall accidents that come with having children.

Also, when we purchased the Quick-Setting Quikrete, we didn't read closely to see that the cement set in FIVE MINUTES! After the first cinderblock, we learned that this aspect resulted in more rubble than actual mortar. However, we adapted to the challenge and mixed a separate sample of cement for each block. Luckily, there were only 7 in total and they were sturdy and level after an overnight!

When we reached the top portion of the fireplace, I had not accounted for the effects of gravity. Luckily, our friend Erik was visiting that day and provided an extra set of hands! We improvised in support structuring by using a piece of leftover drywall to support the center.

After letting the area set for a week, we ended up with this masterpiece!

Although Tony initially placed this project on the "Hire-Out" list, I am happy that I could persuade him to make this project our own... even with a few hiccups along the way.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's a....

Call it mother's instinct or plain good luck, but I am now 2 for 2! With Leon and this little one, my gender wagers at the 10-week mark have proven correct! Tony says I am just a good guesser. But, I know my expert predictions come from a keen analysis of my belly shape, pattern of morning sickness, and the nature of my cravings. (In all fairness, I have to admit the odds are pretty good at 50/50). But, without further adieu, baby number 2 is a...


I have to rub it in that Tony was completely convinced this one would be a girl. I think he was just hoping to buy into the 50/50 odds to make up for guessing wrong on the first one too!

We are so excited to welcome another baby boy into the household. Now, we can "boy-out" Leon's room, which he will someday share with his little brother. I am now sufficiently outnumbered by males, with everyone including the dog holding boy status. But, it is a situation I am pleased to be in.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Number 2

Today, I am 22 weeks. This pregnancy has been flying by, as my body grows in all its familiar places. 

With my first, everything was new and exciting. Time seemed to freeze at each small milestone. I changed from a woman into a mother. It was a special moment, experiencing so many new things with a growing Leon over those 9 months. 

But, there is also something special to be said about the second time. With this baby, there is a familiarity that I couldn't have with Leon. I rang in the 2nd trimester with leg cramps I knew all too well. My morning sickness cut out at the expected 10 weeks. I recognized without a doubt the popcorn butterflies of those first little kicks.  I find some comfort knowing my body can stretch even more without breaking and that a part of the fridge should be reserved solely for Lunchables Pizzas.

It is not to say that this time is without differences.  My baby belly arrived sooner, to include an outie belly button making its debut at the end of 1st trimester.  I am pleased to learn that my stomach can tolerate salads and the smell of Tony's morning coffee this time. I have learned balancing pregnancy with a 2-year-old is not for the faint of heart; an active little boy (and his fur-partner-in-crime) won't slow down for a tired mommy. 

This child will not have the same opportunities for "firsts" as Leon has had. But, that too will be beautiful. There will be space for sharing and learning in a less rocky sea because of those completed firsts. I look forward to welcoming the "seconds!"

Saturday, May 31, 2014

For the Love of Bubbles

There is wonderment that comes with watching a boy and his dog grow together. Joy comes from the simple things, something that I at times forgot before becoming a mother.

This week, Leon and Sawyer have been enjoying the sunny Texas afternoons in the best way possible: with bubbles.

For Leon's first birthday, Papa and Lola sent him an automatic bubble machine.

Needless to say, it has been thoroughly enjoyed by Sawyer as much as Leon

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Ultimate Puzzle Box

Every year, my sisters and I anxiously awaited opening our special puzzle boxes.  Granddad would spend months designing and creating them, revealing his masterpieces to us on Christmas morning.  Throughout the year, he bounced ideas off of Grandmom, his greatest cheerleader and tester.  Carefully, he handmade and assembled each box.  Elm, oak, and cedar, selected from trees on their property, composed each box.  Magnetic apparatuses and trick openings fooled even us seasoned puzzle solvers.

Granddad always seemed to one-up himself year after year.  On December 25th, my sisters and I would compete to see which one of us could get to the hidden enclosed money prize the fastest... winning bragging rights for the rest of the year.  After we started dating, Tony also joined in on the game.  Granddad would get such a kick out of our excitement and struggles with his unique inventions.

Granddad passed away earlier this year.  It saddens me to know there will not be anymore puzzle boxes to add to my collection... that this chapter in my life has come to an end.  The holidays will be a bit less cheery.  This will be the first year he won't be at the Christmas table.  I will miss our competitions, and marveling at Granddad's newest designs.

Last month, Tony and I received a special gift from my grandparents' estate: a set of unique lounge chairs.  They were quite possibly Granddad's favorite possessions.  My mom recounts that Granddad saved up to buy 4 of these Eames Lounge Chairs in the 1950's.  For many years, they were the only furniture filling my grandparents' living room.  Fitting to Granddad, their design was one-of-a-kind: the perfect marriage of comfort and ingenuity. As a kid, I appreciated their unparalleled smooth turning capability as I spun around in them for hours.  And as an adult, I cherish them as a reminder of my special grandparents.

It was quite a process, moving these 80-pound chairs from NY to TX.  Each had to be disassembled, packed into large boxes, shipped across country (thanks, Mom and Dad!!), and later reassembled. Tony and I spent a weekend putting them together.  As we aligned shock mounts, heavy glides, and back stand-offs to wooden and metal frames, we discussed memories of my grandparents.  Tony and I recalled many college weekends, traveling to Binghamton to share good food and conversation with Grandmom and Granddad in these chairs.  We remembered Christmases.

After many hours, with the rust-red leather cleaned and the aged wood oiled, we finally sat down in our comfy new additions.

And, Tony remarked: It would only be fitting that your Granddad's final gift to us would be the ultimate puzzle box.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Welcome to the 70's?

When I lived in Buffalo, my friend Heather introduced me to HGTV.  At the time, I didn't appreciate how potentially addictive this channel can be.  During my maternity leave, HGTV provided a backdrop to the sizable amount of time I spent on the couch feeding Leon.  Decorating isn't something that really comes easily for me, but I would like to think that I am a work in progress.  I've tried to apply a little of what I have learned to my house.

Through my "decorating studies," I discovered my style actually has a name... "rustic chic."

Using the tricks of the trade, I enjoyed hunting for bargains online, at flea markets, and local shops.  But, I won't lie... a couple of the purchases were a total bust... for instance, the 70% off throw rug that I had to send back after it didn't quite come as pictured below.

The advertised "tera brown" color scheme arrived looking more like the 1970's had puked all over it... complete with lime green accents against a convict-orange back drop.

However, I would like to think at least a couple decorating wins can be found in the mix (if you can ignore the smattering of baby toys).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Battle for Sleep

There are certain fears shared between most expecting parents.  Common favorites include apocolypse-rivalring diaper blow-outs, projectile spit-ups, and fussy eaters.  However, quite possibly the most dreaded... 

... the sleepless baby.

Leon has many great qualities.  He is a generally happy, healthy, and mild-tempered baby.  In many ways, we have been incredibly blessed.  However, when it comes to sleep...

...there is much to be desired.

Leon has yet to sleep through the night. We have been waging (and losing) the Battle for Sleep since day 1.  The moment we think we are making some strides on the sleep front, Leon throws us a curve ball.

Over his first month, he declared a sleep strike on every proposed option.  He rejected his crib, pack and play, and finally bassinet.  No amount of swaddling, rocking, or soothing could convince this child that these were places of rest.  He had no problem loudly announcing his disapproval to the entire neighborhood.

Although there has been much improvement since then, Leon still will not go more than a 3-4 hour stretch without waking up.  A horde of helpers have gotten involved to offer possible theories about his sleep resistance. Offered theories include room temperature, fan speed, diaper size, security object, room location, noises... alignment of the stars.  But, when it comes down to it...

... my son just likes to eat more than sleep.

We have discovered 2 saving graces to fight the food vs sleep battle, hoping to lull Leon into believing shut-eye is better than (multiple) midnight snacks:

(1) The Swing: Although Leon still will wake up every few hours, he loves his swing.  Daily naps have been much improved.  This child loves motion... maybe because it distracts him from his emptying belly

(2) The Taco:

My friend, Cassie, introduced me to this wonder.  Fisher Price's Rock and Play sleeper.  It is shaped similarly to his swing, giving him that swaddled feeling. Like a taco, it easily folds up.  We have brought this everywhere with us, particularly when visiting friends, as our go-to portable sleeper.  We have kept this in our room, where he has at least somewhat maintained the same sleeping schedule. Again, although not sleeping through the night his schedule looks more like this...

Sleep at 8PM with awakenings at 10PM, 12AM, 3AM, and 5AM


Sleep at 8PM with awakenings at 9PM, 9:30PM, 10PM, 10:15PM, 10:30PM, 11:30PM, 11:45PM, 12AM, 12:15AM, 12:45AM, 1AM, 1:30AM, 2:30AM, 2:45AM, 3AM, 3:15AM, 3:45AM, 4AM, 4:30AM, 5AM

Literally, these have been our two saving graces in the fog of the battle for sleep.

However, this week, the game has again changed...

... and we have an escape artist on our hands.

This weekend marked our transition to the crib, which somehow has been going better for the first time around.  Fewer tears (from mommy as well as Leon).  And, I am getting the funny feeling that he may even be starting to like the crib.

Although the nightly awakenings haven't changed much yet, I think (fingers crossed) the tides may be turning.  For now, the score is Mommy 0.5 vs Leon 137.5