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Well, here we go!  I can’t believe that I’m 34 weeks pregnant and we’re only now getting around to working on the nursery.  I guess second kids really are different.  Between work, pregnancy and chasing a toddler around, I just haven’t had the energy to face the big task of furnishing and decorating another room.  But Nugget is coming… in six weeks or less.  The possibility that it could be less feels very real – at this time in my last pregnancy, Peanut was already three weeks out of the oven.  I hope he stays in until March, but in any event, things are not going to get less crazy around here, so we really needed to get going on this project.

When we bought the house, we already knew to expect an addition to the family, so we thought carefully about which room would become Nugget’s little space.  We chose a bedroom for him and then proceeded to use it as a dumping ground for all kinds of random stuff.  Behold:

Nursery Before

Just keeping it real.  Pretty bad, right?  And that’s actually not a true before – that’s after I’d gone through and thrown a bunch of things away, and started organizing bath products into the green bins along the wall.  Anyway, now you can see why the whole idea was so exhausting to me.

Enter hubby.  He spent a few hours clearing out the mess and this was the result:

Empty Nursery

Ahhhh – much better!  Ready for paint and… furniture?  Yeah, about that.  I’ve shown you the first tracks.  Now, for the setbacks.  Back in December, I ordered nursery furniture for Nugget, from Land of Nod.  Hubby and I decided to go with Land of Nod because we had been so impressed with the quality, service and speed of delivery when we furnished Peanut’s nursery back in 2012.  2015?  Not so much.

After more than a month went by without a call to schedule delivery, I called Land of Nod’s customer service to ask about the status.  I was told that the furniture I’d ordered was not actually available for delivery to the East Coast.  When I asked why I hadn’t been notified that there was a problem with my order, I was just told, “Oh, yes, we see no attempt at contact was made.”  They then told me that they might be able to shift some of the order to a different warehouse and then do a long-distance shipment to my area, but it was going to take a long time – even if the furniture could be found (and there was no guarantee we’d even get that far) it wouldn’t be available for shipment until March.  Guess who else is being shipped in March (if he waits that long)?  Yeah, that’s right.  We checked our credit card statement and learned that we’d actually been charged for this order – before the furniture was delivered – and then credited a partial refund with no explanation or even identification of the piece we were being refunded for.

The next day, hubby got a cryptic voicemail message telling him that one of the pieces of furniture we ordered had been located.  Which one?  We’d have to guess.  I called customer service again and asked which piece was available and when we might expect it and was told in no uncertain terms that none of the furniture we wanted would be delivered, ever.  The customer service representative also seemed pretty annoyed that I wasn’t more sympathetic to the frustration she was feeling.  Well, sorry, lady.  But I’m pregnant, I’ve got a baby coming within the next six weeks, I ordered this furniture over a month ago, you’ve charged me for it with apparently no intention of actually delivering it… but yeah.  I’m sorry this is frustrating for you.  At that point, I requested that she cancel my order and refund any amounts I have been charged and not yet credited back.  I got a bit more attitude delivered my way, and the deed was done.

So, there we were – back to the drawing board.  Nugget has a crib (he’s inheriting Peanut’s, since she’s ready to move on to big girl sleeping arrangements) but nothing else.  Hopefully, that will change soon.  Hubby and I scrambled to put together a furniture order from Pottery Barn Kids, and I placed the order over the phone so I could get multiple assurances that the furniture I wanted was available and would actually be delivered.  I’m told that it is, and it will.  Whew – that was a little exhale.  I’ll breathe even easier when I get those long-awaited calls to schedule delivery.

So, with that, the task list remaining before Nugget takes up residence:

  • Paint the walls and trim, remove the broken mirrored closet door and install a fresh white closet door.  (We’ve actually hired someone for this task, since the closet door replacement has proven to be more complicated than we’d like, and we don’t have spare time to devote to a painting task anyway.  We called back the master painter/renovator who scraped our popcorn ceilings before we moved into this house, because we were so impressed with the speed and quality of his work.  Good to know someone like that!)
  • Receive the furniture delivery (crossing fingers and toes and eyes) and move the crib into the nursery.
  • Frame and hang art piece (I ordered an archival quality print from the same artist who did the print in Peanut’s room).
  • Set up book and toy storage and lighting.
  • Hang wall decal over the crib (I’ve ordered a cute one from the same Etsy artist who did the print) and order and hang Nugget’s wall letters (once he officially has a name, which he doesn’t yet).
  • Set up Nugget’s crib and fill the dresser with his little clothes, diapers, blankies and bibs.

If this isn’t all done by the time Nugget comes home, I’m fine with that.  Babies have survived for hundreds of years without perfectly decorated nurseries filled with Land of Nod  Pottery Barn furniture.  All he really needs is food, shelter, warm clothes and love, and he’s certainly going to have all of that from the moment he takes his first breath.  But I’m hoping that he’ll stay put long enough to let us get more done than Peanut did in her nursery!

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This post has been a long time in the works, and I can’t even tell you how happy I am to share the news that I am going home.  No, not to Old Dominion.  To a new home!  After months of searching, countless houses visited, four rejected offers, and umpteen sleepless nights, we’ve finally bought a house.  We closed on Wednesday, we’re having some work done this week and next, and we plan to move in by the end of the month.

The house is outside the city, which makes us very happy.  Our experiment in urban living over the past year has taught us that we are not city people.  True, I loved living in Foggy Bottom for my first two years of law school, and we lived in some fairly urban parts of Arlington (although, as a hilarious rule, Arlington thinks it’s more urban than it actually is) but for where we are in our lives now, the city just doesn’t work.  We hoped that our walkable urban Buffalo neighborhood would be kid-friendly, but it hasn’t been – even with the playground just a few blocks away, the constant noise and the confined spaces have been tough on little Peanut.  As they have on all of us.  I’ve been getting progressively more down on our house, our neighborhood, and our urban environment in general, and I’m ready for wide-open spaces and friendly neighbors.

So we’re moving to the country.  I won’t say exactly where, but I will say that we lucked into finding a house in a lovely rural area that somehow also manages a decent commute.  We won’t have to spend much more time in the car than we do now, fighting city traffic.  And we’ll have several acres for Peanut to explore, a pool where she can learn to swim, a fabulous kitchen where I can enjoy baking again, and a big, rambling house with great bones that’s just waiting for our updates and personal touches.

I can’t wait.  I can’t wait to wake up to birdsong instead of sirens.  To run down country roads and stargaze in our backyard under velvety skies unmarred by city lights.  To float in the pool in our private backyard all summer, and snowshoe around the nearby town park all winter.  To plant an herb garden and grow tomatoes in the abundant light.  To drink my tea in the mornings on the cozy back porch (maybe we’ll get a swing!).  To experience “years of painterly skies at dawn,” a line from The Cloister Walk – a book I recently finished – that perfectly sums up the gifts I hope country life will give our family.

I’ve never lived in a rural area before.  I grew up a suburban kid and have bounced back and forth from suburb to city to suburb to city.  This is a new departure for us and we think it’s going to be great.

I can’t wait to go home!

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We may not live in Virginia anymore, but the state will always have a very special place in my heart.  It was my home for almost nine years (I spent two years living in D.C. before moving to the Commonwealth), and it was the site of so many special things that happened to me in that time.  I came home to my first married nest in Arlington.  I got the news that I was going to be a mother in Alexandria.  My baby’s first (scary, yes, but also magical) weeks were spent in Fairfax.  My years in Virginia were the happiest of my life, and I will always, always treasure the memories I have from that time.

My house is full of Virginia and always will be.  I have paintings by Virginia artists hanging on my walls.  I have photographs of special places – some personal, family photos and some professional – scattered about.  I sip tea from a handmade mug I bought at the Torpedo Factory, and I season my food with salts and spices from my favorite shop on King Street.  Before we left, while we were soaking in the magic that is northern Virginia, hubby and I went on a Christmas ornament-buying spree, because we knew that our Buffalo tree had to reflect our love for our adopted state.  Here are our new additions:

Starting with the top… can you believe that until now, we didn’t have a tree topper?  We just never found one that we liked.  But I wanted this one as soon as I saw it – almost a year before we actually picked it up.  This white dove is a replica of the tip of the weathervane atop Mount Vernon.  You’ll notice it isn’t actually sitting on the very tippy-top of the tree.  It’s so well-made (read: heavy) that the top branch droops if we try to place the tree topper on it.  So it’s nestled in the uppermost branches instead, and I think it looks pretty darn good there.

VA ornaments 7

If you’ve been to Mount Vernon at Christmas time, you know the story of the Christmas camel.  Every year, George Washington used to procure a camel to entertain his step-children and grandchildren at Christmas.  They still carry on the tradition today, and a camel lives on the Mount Vernon estate and entertains the visitors all through the Christmas season.  For the past few years, it’s been a spirited little guy named Aladdin.  Here’s our own Aladdin:

VA ornaments 6

Another Mount Vernon Christmas tradition is the rendering of a huge gingerbread mansion inside the visitors’ center.  All year, there is a tiny, perfect, scale dollhouse representing the mansion just where the guests enter the property, but at Christmas, it’s all about gingerbread!  The gingerbread mansion is so impressive and we always loved checking it out.  There were plenty of Mount Vernon ornaments to choose from, but I knew I wanted this one, which gives a nod to the gingerbread version:

VA ornaments 8

If you know me “IRL,” you have probably heard about my obsession with Presidential china.  (Someday, I’ll tell you all about the time I toured the White House and wowed the Secret Service with my vast knowledge of different administrations’ china patterns.)  The first time I actually saw most Presidential china in person, it was at a special exhibition at Mount Vernon.  (If it seems like we were there a lot, it’s because we lived two miles from the estate.)  Even without the special exhibition, though, Mount Vernon is a mecca for a Presidential china-loving gal.  I always loved checking out the various china patterns that George and Martha collected, including some “protest” china (you’ll see what I mean), their personal china, and finally the Washington Presidential china.  There’s plenty to see in the Museum and Education Center, and I knew I needed Washington china on my tree.  There were miniature plates and cups, but this tea lover wanted the tiny teapots:

VA ornaments 1

VA ornaments 4

VA ornaments 5

VA ornaments 3

Finally, lest it seem like we only care about Mount Vernon, I have one more ornament to share.  Another one of our stops just before leaving was to the gift shop at Christ Church, our church in Old Town Alexandria, where we picked up a few items by which to remember that special place, where we spent many happy Sundays and where Peanut was baptized.  We grabbed a black and white photo of the historic building (George Washington was a member!) and a copy of the members’ cookbook, complete with little snippets of church history and members’ favorite graces.  And we grabbed this ornament, which I will probably hang up in my kitchen after the holiday season ends:

VA ornaments 2

And there we have it!  Our new ornaments for this year.  Every time I walk past the tree, one of them catches my eye and I smile, thinking of beautiful Alexandria, where my heart will always be at home.

Any special ornaments on your tree this year?  Any that weren’t there last year?

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Well, friends, here it is: the long-awaited final chapter of Peanut’s nursery decorating saga.  (Long-awaited by ME, in any event.)

Let’s see… when we left off, we had cleared out the space, painted the walls a happy yellow shade, had a panic attack and a corresponding flurry of activity, and made an indecent number of trips to Home Depot.  And after this flurry of activity (a substantial portion of which was done during naptimes or feeding times – i.e. hubby would do a project while I fed Peanut, or vice versa – once Peanut came home from the hospital), we’ve got ourselves a sunny, cheery space for baby girl.  It’s the first room in the house that I actually consider “done” (the rest of the place has a long way to go before it goes from builder bland to personal and meaningful) and I think it’s currently my favorite room.  So let’s get to it, yeah?

Above you see the view from the door.  Peanut’s crib stands against the far wall, under a decal of tulips from Pottery Barn Kids.  I had grand plans of hanging a frame collage on that wall, a la Young House Love in their nursery, but I realized two things: (1) I have neither the time, nor the energy, to track down enough coordinating frames and DIY meaningful art; and (2) I don’t trust myself to anchor the frames to the wall securely enough for them to go over the crib.  So one evening, when I was sick of being greeted by a blank wall whenever I walked into Peanut’s room, yet was completely exhausted and unable to deal with the idea of doing anything more strenuous than slapping some stickers on the wall, I decided to look for a decal.  While I was planning the nursery, I firmly rejected the idea of decals: they were cop-outs, I told myself, and tacky to boot.  But when, in my state of near-zombie exhaustion, I finally caved, I was shocked to find some really adorable decals at not-outrageous prices.  I actually had a hard time deciding what to get, but I settled on the tulips because they fit perfectly in with my loose “handmade flower garden” theme for Peanut’s room.

Peanut’s other major wall art piece hangs between her two windows.  (Incidentally, the window treatments are the Pretty Pleats curtains from Land of Nod, the baby and kids’ arm of Crate & Barrel, and the curtain rods are from Home Depot.  We pull the blinds down to darken the room a bit, but we don’t use blackout curtains.  I know some parents swear by them, but in the NICU they cautioned us not to make the room too dark or quiet, since Peanut had gotten used to light and activity.)

The print, of a little girl reading a story to a group of bunnies, was the starting point for the nursery aesthetic.  It is from Trafalgars Square, an Etsy seller, and my heart melted the moment I saw it.  Isn’t it adorable?  Under the windows are two pink rope bins from Land of Nod; one holds Peanut’s receiving blankets and afghans, and the other is a landing spot for her cuddly toys.

Let’s take a closer look at Peanut’s bed and sitting area.  Her bedding is “Puzzle Patch” from Land of Nod.  I love the crazy quit, with its adorable pinks, yellows and greens, and the sheets that go with it.  The crib skirt is “Pretty Pleats” – like the curtains.  (Full disclosure: the quilt usually doesn’t hang over the side of the crib like that.  I “styled” it to look pretty for the photograph.  It’s dangerous to have anything in the crib but a fitted sheet – and mattress pad – and baby.  Safety first!  The quilt usually hangs over the back of Peanut’s upholstered rocker – which is from Pottery Barn Kids – and Clochette hangs out in one of Peanut’s toy bins.  She wanted to come say hi to the blog, though.)

The floor lamp in the corner is from Land of Nod – I love the pink shade and the sweet birds – and so is the crib.  The side table is from Pottery Barn Kids and makes a good landing spot for a bottle when hubby or I comes upstairs to feed and rock Peanut.  It’s also the resting place for Peanut’s AngelCare monitor.

Here’s a picture you’ve seen already!  Peanut’s dresser (which is from Land of Nod, although I replaced the pulls with blank matte knobs from Home Depot) holds her tiny clothes as well as burp cloths, bibs, swaddling blankets and sheets, pump accessories, extra diapers and wipes.  On top of the dresser is the changing mat, which hubby bolted tightly to the back of the dresser for added security (but we’ll be able to remove it when Peanut is a big girl, and no one will ever see the holes, since they’re facing the wall).  I also picked up a couple of pink baskets from the Container Store, which keep diapers and baby care supplies within easy reach for me.  And there’s a cute little Plan Toys sheep hanging out there too, just waiting for the day when Peanut is old enough to play with him (when she’s two or so).

And above the dresser, just in case we ever forget Peanut’s name (we’re pretty sleep-deprived) we hung her wall letters.  We got them from Pottery Barn Kids, but it’s plenty easy to find them in other stores too, or even to paint your own if you have the time and skill (I don’t).

 

One thing I really wanted to do was hang some of Peanut’s little dresses from hooks on her doors.  I was originally eyeing some patchwork bird hooks, but at the last minute these flower hooks (again, from Pottery Barn Kids) captured my heart.  The dresses are from Cherokee Baby – I got them at Target – and the hangers were her Nana’s.  One hook hangs on Peanut’s closet door and the other on the door to her room; both face into the room.

I think this is my favorite part (of course) – the book storage!  I had my heart set on wall ledges and found these at Land of Nod.  They don’t hold many books, but that’s okay – they’re more for display than anything else.  The bulk of the book storage is on the Library Cart, also from Land of Nod.  I am ridiculously in love with this thing.  Not only does it add great functional storage… but, well… you know how I feel about libraries.  The top shelf holds Peanut’s books (and the Dragonstone Castle from Haba, which I love), and on the bottom shelf, two pink tin cubes are devoted to more toy storage.  The elephant chair was a gift from Peanut’s Grandma (it was supposed to be a baby shower gift, but Peanut showed up ten days before my baby shower and all festivities were cancelled) – I can just see her sitting in it to look at her books when she’s a toddler!

So, there you have it: a bright, happy garden of a little girl’s room, with sweet touches and plenty of function.  My new favorite room in the house!

And they all lived happily ever after.

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Q: Who needs three trips to Home Depot in order to complete one simple, inexpensive dresser upgrade?

A: A NICU mom.

I wanted a little contrast in Peanut’s room – it was a lot of white and pastels – so I decided to bring in a touch of black here and there to ground things out.  I hung simple black curtain rods to contrast with the white curtains (Peanut loves to stare at the high contrast area between the curtain rod and the curtains – bonus) and decided that it would be a fun, easy upgrade if I switched the white wooden pulls on Peanut’s white dresser for matte black ones.  So I took myself off to Home Depot, thinking I’d pick up the pulls, install them in ten minutes or less, and have a cool “custom” dresser to show for my minimal efforts.

Ha.

Home Depot Trip #1: Scoped out the pulls, picked a design I liked and purchased six pulls – one for each of the six drawers.

Womp Womp: Realized that there are two pulls on each drawer, for a total of twelve, not six.

Home Depot Trip #2: Purchased six more pulls from the same bin.

Womp Womp: One of the pulls was mistakenly dropped into the wrong bin and didn’t match the rest.  Partly my fault (I didn’t check them closely enough when I was grabbing six more pulls to buy) and partly just unfortunate circumstances (the pull being in the wrong bin to begin with).

Home Depot Trip #3: Return the wrong pull and pick up the right one.

Win!

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You know that English World War II slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On”?  I love that slogan.  (I even have a bookmark with it.)  But I also like the silly adaptations that some artists and companies have come out with.  For instance, “Keep Calm and Put the Kettle On” or “Keep Calm and Bake On” – I’ve been considering adding a print with one of those slogans to my kitchen.  And recently in Kramerbooks I happened upon a journal with the slogan “Now Panic and Freak Out.”  It cracks me up.  Except for when it hits a little too close to home.

I was making steady progress on Peanut’s room.  I had…

  • Cleared the clutter from the baby’s room
  • Painted the walls a bright, happy yellow
  • Purchased some furniture (a dresser and crib, plus crib mattress)
  • Purchased Peanut’s bedding and a few art and decor items (not nearly everything, but a start)
  • Sent her big art piece off for framing

And then this happened…

I was getting kind of worried about getting everything done by my October 20th due date.  And then the universe threw me a gigantic curve ball, in the form of a baby who showed up two months early.  Suddenly, decorating the nursery wasn’t the top item on my agenda anymore.  Hubby and did what we could do in the evenings, but we were pretty drained after the long days in the NICU.

Here’s the blitz of activity starting just before Peanut’s arrival:

  • Hubby put the crib together (such a typical “Dad” thing to do, right?).  We ordered our crib, dresser, and most of the decorative elements from Land of Nod, the baby and kids’ arm of Crate & Barrel.  And… WOW.  They’re not paying or perking me to say this (like I’m important enough, ha) and we paid for everything we got from Land of Nod ourselves, so I really mean it when I tell you we’ve been insanely impressed with them.  Beautiful pieces, great quality, fast and professional delivery, AND they sent us an Aden + Anais muslin swaddling blanket as a “thank you” for buying our crib from them!  Well played, Land of Nod, well played.
  • Peanut’s rocking chair arrived from Pottery Barn Kids – it’s purrrrrrty.
  • I ordered curtains, book and toy storage, and various decorative elements and then piled them in the corner of the room.
  • We stocked up on diapers, wipes, baby bath products and first aid items so that we were ready to take care of Peanut when she came home from the hospital.
  • A couple of hubby’s very kind coworkers picked up Peanut’s big art piece from the frame shop, where it had languished for weeks because they called me to tell me it was ready on the day I was put on bed rest, four days before Peanut’s untimely arrival.
  • Washed Peanut’s linens and made her bed (and you’ll get pics soon – wait until you see her bedding, it’s so stinking cute I even wish it came in grown-up sizes).
  • Washed and put away all of Peanut’s adorable tiny little outfits – she wore a few of her preemie t-shirts in the hospital, but the rest (and newborn-sized clothes that people have bought for her to grow into) got laundered and put away to wait for her to come home.
  • Installed book ledges and put away toys.
  • Installed curtain rods and hung curtains.
  • Set up her toiletries and diapering station for easy middle-of-the-night access.
  • Hung Peanut’s big print between her windows, wall letters over her dresser and flower hooks on her doors, and slapped some decals above her crib (not my original plan, but let’s be honest, hardly anything has gone according to my original plan with this kid).

The first few weeks after she was born were a whirlwind of figuring out the NICU, and hubby and I were both completely wiped out at the end of each day.  We’ve got a better handle on things now – I think – and Peanut’s nursery ended up being very close to ready (only missing a couple of decorative items) in time for her homecoming.  And the fact that it’s not impeccably decorated to my exacting standards?  Meh.  I know that all babies need is food, shelter, clean diapers on their butts, and lots and lots of love – and Peanut has all of that in spades.  The rest is just gravy.  I have one small project to share with you, and then the final nursery tour to follow…

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When we moved into this house, the entire place was painted the same color, which I not-so-fondly call “Builder Beige.”  Getting rid of the beige and bringing in wall colors that I liked was a top priority… so important that I painted the dining room and downstairs bathroom and then stalled out.  Yep, I’m slow.  And while I am still holding out hopes for getting paint on the living room walls before baby arrives, first things first: the baby’s room needed a coat of paint (if only to cover up the scuffs left on the wall by the movers who exuberantly removed the last owners’ furniture), and there was a loudly ticking clock called MY DUE DATE, which will be here before we know it.  So hubby and I decided to get down to business.

Before buying paint, we did a fair amount of research to find zero-VOC paint that we could feel good about putting in our baby’s room.  Although the rest of the house is getting low-VOC (but not zero-VOC) paint, we wanted the nursery to be as free of nasty chemicals as we could possibly make it.  After shopping around, we decided to go with the Natura line from Benjamin Moore.

We traipsed down to our local hardware store and picked out a happy, warm sunshiney yellow color that I think will look perfect with Peanut’s bedding and other decor (which you’ll see in a future post – promise).  Natura is available in any Benjamin Moore colorway – you’re not restricted to certain tints, which I love – and we went with a colorway called “Wildflowers,” from the Classic Collection.

It’s quite bright on the walls, but I think it will look gorgeous with Peanut’s crisp white furniture and drapes, and her sweet vintage-inspired bedding and decor items.  I can’t wait to see the room start to come together.  It’s practically all decorated in my mind, and I’m excited to turn my vision for a bright, happy little girl’s room into reality.

Here’s a bonus shot of Peanut’s handsome, hardworking Daddy, who did all the priming and the painting himself.  (Even though the primer and paint were both zero-VOC, he still didn’t want me climbing ladders or crawling around on the floor, so he took over cutting-in duties too.  I was banished to lurk in the doorway with my camera.)  Methinks he’s destined to be a great dad.  Lucky Peanut!

We’ve come a long way from the clutter-fest that the room started out as, but we have a long way to go.  Next up: assembling the crib and moving the furniture in, and then I can start decorating – wahoo!

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