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Creating a Playroom & Mudroom

21 Dec

We are smack dab in the middle of an exciting project at 12 Oaks— creating a playroom and mudroom from what was a weird den/office.

This is what the room was looking like before we started. We hardly ever used it and it is basically the last room in the house we haven’t renovated.


We had a desk in one corner (that we never use), and Kate had some toys in there, and that is about it.


The fireplace takes up half of the room, it’s dangerous for little ones and would need to be re-done anyway, so we decided to cover it up (GASP!) Some may think that is a crime but it just didn’t work for our family and our needs. We still have a much nicer fireplace in our living room, and could always open it back up down the line if we wanted to.

Here’s the other side of the room, the door to the garage is on the right, the laundry room and powder room are in the center, and the doorway on the left leads to the kitchen. So this room was basically a pass through as we came in the house and took off our shoes, coats, brought in groceries, etc.


We decided to put up a wall here to make a nice mudroom off of the garage, and then it closes off the playroom to make a cozy little room for Kate to play in.

So first things first we cleaned out the room, ripped out the fireplace and removed the paneling from the walls.


We were happy to find drywall (unfinished) behind the paneling, so we only had to hire drywallers to finish it rather than hang new stuff too.

Next Ben built the wall….

Then we had an electrician come in to add some can lights in the new mudroom, center the light in the playroom, and add some outlets. Then Ben hung drywall on the new wall and over the old fireplace.

Next we had the drywallers come in to tape and finish the drywall. And then Ben primed all the walls.

Unfortunately we also had to re-do the hardwood floors because of the old fireplace hearth that left a big hole in the floor. So the flooring guys patched the hole, sanded all of them back, and re-stained them to match the rest of the house. You can’t even tell the fireplace was there.

Here’s how the mudroom is shaping up so far.

We are building floor to ceiling cabinets in here, but it is already so much better! Ben threw together a hook rail so we can hang all our stuff as soon as we come in the door.

Here is some of my inspiration for the mudroom cabinets. I cannot wait!


We’ve already painted the playroom and have started putting it all back together, so I hope to share a finished reveal before the end of the year.

Gift ideas for 2 year olds

23 Nov

It’s that wonderful, albeit stressful, time of year again. Time to find gifts for our loved ones, ones that they will hopefully use and enjoy. I’ve been gathering gift ideas for our 21 month old daughter, Kate, so I thought I would share them to help anyone who needs ideas for 1.5-2 year olds.

Here are a few things that we plan to get our almost 2-year old daughter this year:

  1. Rody Horse. Kate gravitates to this bouncy horse toy everytime she see it at someone’s house. We’ve bought this as gifts for some other friends and family members and it is always a hit. It comes in a bunch of colors but I like the teal one best.
  2. 51k4mZ2geML._SL1010_Play Tool Set. Kate is always interested in all of the various projects we have going on around the house and wants to help, so I think a tool set like this Black & Decker one would be perfect. Girls can be handy too.
  3. 91LG66BOJyL._SL1500_Learning Tower. Cooking while trying to entertain a toddler can be a challenge so we’d love to get Kate a learning tower so she can be a part of the action. Amazon sells this one, which I heard will be $50 off for Black Friday. Though I think we will probably build our own using Ana White’s plan. There’s also a popular Ikea hack using an Ikea step stool, which looks so simple but it doesn’t fold flat like the Ana White one does.
  4. 716VY5TmfVL._SL1500_Bilibo. This thing is one of the most talked about toys on the internet. Kids can use it to rock in, spin in, hide under, sit on, tote with, and peek through. I think this could entertain Kate for years to come.
  5. 71hT84ez3VL._SL1500_3-in-1 scooter. Kate loves ride-on toys and bikes. At daycare they say she is a bit of a daredevil on the bikes, lol. I think she would love this scooter toy that adjusts as they get older.
  6. 61o97+BFaiL._SX522_Bath toy spout. This bath toy looks like a lot of fun and Kate hasn’t gotten any new bath toys since she was a baby so I think it is time to spice things up.
  7. 4122VpR61hL-2Toy Broom & Dustpan. Kate loves to try and help us clean and will try and push a gigantic shop broom. This inexpensive toy broom set should be a hit.
  8. 61lVMZ58skL._SL1500_Play teepee. Our big project for the winter is to convert our den into a play room for Kate. I think this teepee from Land of Nod would work perfectly in there to give her a little private escape to read and what not.
  9. a-teepee-to-call-your-own-gold-metallicChrismas PJs and a book. I started a tradition last year where she gets Christmas PJs and a Christmas story on Christmas Eve to wear and read the night before Christmas. Then she has cute PJs on the next morning when she opens her presents and I take a million photos. These Christmas PJs from Old Navy are cute and festive, and for a book I’m thinking The Polar Express. Last year it was How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  10. cn10159213Elf of the Shelf. Not so much a gift, but we just purchased an Elf of the Shelf to do with Kate this year. I’m looking forward to having fun putting the elf in funny places each night after she goes to bed. Pinterest has some hilarious ideas. I also didn’t realize the elf came in different genders and eye colors so of course we got the brown eyed girl one. elf on shelf

Lastly, if you are like me and do 90% of your shopping online, you should definitely sign up for Ebates if you haven’t already. It’s a site that gives you a percentage back on every online purchase you make. Almost every major retailer is on there. And you don’t have to remember to shop through Ebates if you install the plug in so it pops up every time you visit a retailer that offers an Ebates reward. I signed up a couple months ago and already have earned over $50 in cash back. They send you a check every quarter. So simple.

Happy shopping everyone!

Cute as a Button 1st Birthday Party

26 Feb

We celebrated Kate’s 1st birthday with a “Cute as a Button” themed party over the weekend. It turned out even better than I had hoped! Here’s a look at the decorations.


The main feature was the streamer backdrop. At 15+ feet wide, it was a labor of love. To make it, I followed this tutorial and used about 16 rolls of streamers in peach, pink, ivory and seafoam green from The doily garland that drapes in front of the streamers is made from two different sized paper doilies that are folded over and glued onto twine. Hanging on the front of the table is a burlap bunting which we painted “one” on and added pink buttons on the side pieces.


On the “sweets” table was two bunches of baby’s breath in light blue mason jars, a cardboard “K” decorated with glittery paper, a framed picture of Kate, some books, a candle, homemade pink chocolate-dipped marshmallows, strawberries and pretzels, plates, napkins (from Target), and grocery store bought cupcakes decorated with homemade candy buttons.


The candy buttons I made using Wilton’s Candy Melt and this button candy mold. Everyone asked if they were real buttons.


I made a tissue paper tassel garland for her high chair using this tutorial.


Her smash cake I made using this tutorial. The rose decoration was surprisingly easy, you just make circles!


I made this button garland by cutting out circles from scrapbook paper and punching out four holes in the middle. Then I strung twine through each of the holes and together.

IMG_5470We made far too many paper buttons, so I stuck them to the fridge, too.


I also strung up her monthly photos above the fireplace using twine and clothespins.

IMG_5364For Kate’s special birthday outfit I purchased this gold glitter “one” onesie and this peachy-pink tutu and headband, all from Etsy. She looked so adorable.


You can see the busy board that we made for her in that photo. It has all kinds of fun trinkets on it including a desk bell, a light switch, a door knocker, an LED tap light, a door stop, a door bell, a few different types of locks, and a couple other misc items. So far, the bell is the big draw. I also made her a personalized board book with photos of her family members like this one.

Here’s a closer look at the busy board.


And lastly, here are the “Cute as a button” invitations that I ordered from Etsy.


The party was a huge success and I am so sad it’s over. I loved planning and working on everything for my special girl. She’s not going to remember it, but I know I always will.

Favorite Newborn Products (Or How We Survived the Last 12 Weeks)

8 May

No one warns you just how challenging having a newborn is. Maybe they do, and you just don’t listen. The past 12 weeks have been full of lots of trial and error. Luckily, we had a few successes along the way.

With my maternity leave coming to a close, I thought I would share our favorite products that helped us survive so far. Here are the Top 10….

1) Amazon Prime


I feel like Amazon Prime was made for new moms. Since it’s so hard to get out of the house, it was a godsend to have pretty much any baby product arrive at your door step with free 2-day shipping. The UPS man was here most days. If you are pregnant or have a newborn, this is a must have. The $99/yr. subscription has paid for itself a million times over. We watch movies/tv shows on it too.

2) Exercise Ball


We brought a Gold’s Gym exercise ball to the hospital to help with labor. But what it really came in handy for was bouncing on while holding Kate. It was the only thing that would soothe her. She’s been hooked ever since. We even bought two of these—one for upstairs and one for downstairs. We have spent many a hours bouncing on this thing. The weighted bottom helps you not tip over helpful for those wee hours of the morning.

3) MamaRoo


You can imagine how bouncing on a ball for hours can get tiring. The closest thing we could find to simulate that was the MamaRoo Bouncer, or “egg” as we like to call it. This thing is awe-some. It has several settings such as “car ride” and “ocean wave,” but Kate’s favorite is called kangaroo. It also plays white noise or you can hook up your iPod/iPhone to play music. Definitely worth the investment and really not that much more expensive than your traditional swing. I also have to give the manufacturer, 4Moms, props, as our swing started to squeak and they shipped us out a new base within two days. So far so good.

4) Boppy Lounger


After every feeding, I prop Kate up in her boppy lounger for some play time and tummy time. She loves it. We first just laid her on a blanket but its nice to have her more upright. We also use it for tummy time. It’s machine washable, too.

5) BOB Stroller

bob stroller

We are really happy with our BOB Revolution stroller. It has maneuvered great down our gravel driveway and on non-paved paths at the forest preserve. Kate loves to go “off-roading” with it in the grass and bumpy areas. While a little pricey at full retail, we purchased it via Amazon’s warehouse deal program as an “open box.” I was nervous for it to arrive but everything was 100% new and in its original packaging. If there was an open box, I couldn’t tell.

6) Sleep Sheep On-The-Go

Sleep Sheep

Kate used to hate riding in her car seat until we started using the Sleep Sheep On-The-Go. It plays white noise like waves and rain. Now we use it any time she rides in the car or stroller. The only problem is it shuts off after 45 minutes. I’ve had to pull over to the side of the road to turn it back on after she started crying because it turned off.

7) Rockabye Baby Pandora Station

rockabye baby

Not so much a product, but we listen to the Pandora station called Rockabye Baby all the time. Rockabye Baby are popular songs by artists like Michael Jackson, U2, Journey and Aerosmith put to lullabies. Kate is a huge fan and we have fun guessing the song titles. We play Pandora through our Sonos system. We also have the paid version of Pandora ($3.99/month) so no ads. Totally worth it!

8) Swaddles

Woombie swaddle

Our two favorite swaddle blankets are the Miracle Blanket and the Woombie. We wrap Kate in a swaddle at bedtime and for every nap. These two products make it so easy. Recently she started wiggling out of the Miracle Blanket no matter how tight Ben got it, so the Woombie is great since there’s no way to get out of it because its zippered. When we transition out of the swaddle, I plan to try out Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit.

9) Aden + Anais Burpy Bibs

burpy bib

These burpy bibs from Aden + Anais rock. Soft, lightweight, and full coverage to protect your clothes. They are huge compared to any others. We have three one for the diaper bag, one for upstairs and one for downstairs.

10) Carter’s Zippered Sleep-n-Plays

sleep n play

Kate has lived in Carter’s zippered sleep-n-plays around the house. A one piece zippered outfit makes dressing and changing her quick and easy. Plus they are really affordable, the patterns are really cute and the quality is great. I personally believe all sleep-n-plays should be zippered. Who wants to fumble with all those snaps, especially in the middle of the night?

While every baby is different, those are the things that have made our lives easier and Kate happier. What are your favorite products for newborns? Anything you wish was invented back when you had little ones?


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