Thursday, April 30, 2015

Teacher appreciation week is coming

I was ready to take on the basement play area today, but I realized I am way behind on preparations for next week's Teacher Appreciation celebration. My co-chair and I are responsible for 4 days of fun treats and one festive Cinco De Mayo luncheon. I'm working on the sweet Mexican flower centerpieces and yards and yards and yards of bunting. I will post from my phone along the way and be back to the basement the following week!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Basement Part 4: Justa' Swingin'

I'm down in the basement again to show you our seating area. This seating area needs no introduction because it is already famous. Okay, it is only famous among second and fourth graders at my kids' school because I am the only mom cool enough stupid enough to allow swings in the house. But still, I'll take it.

The first shot is taken from the dining area I featured here. In the second photo I am standing in the toy area, which I hope to clean-up and photograph tomorrow.

The chairs are from Ikea. I know I sound like a broken record. I don't have anything from Ikea in the main part of our house, but I love it as an affordable, stylish option in the basement. I love it so much that, when Ikea finally opens here in the Fall, I will definitely be spreading the Ikea love through the house. If you are wondering if it is a good idea to buy swings for inside, however, I would probably say, "no!" We have had definite damage to the wall and several swing-related injuries to play-date guests. My girls know the rules (one foot on the ground at all times), but it is hard for visitors. On the upside, I did get serious fun mom points by including them in our basement, and I do love to sit in the chairs myself!

My upstairs is decorated in a pretty safe, formal way. I loved playing with pattern here in the pillows, ottomans and the indoor/outdoor rug. I needed a BIG rug that was okay for kids to eat and drink on (its their space after all). This one from fit the bill beautifully.

The buttery-soft-oh-my-goodness-too-nice-for-the-basement-couch was a find at a high-end modern furniture store. They had hail damage and had to clear the showroom floor to fix their roof ASAP. I snapped it up for about 1/4 of its actual value. Its so comfortable and big enough to seat a ton of little tushies!

The girls and I made the "art" by stretching fabric over a canvas frame. The mirror is just a bunch of craft sticks glued to a small mirror and painted gray.

Finally, to keep it real, here are a few pictures with the kids "science cart" in place. They use it as their lab for all of their experiments, and I just roll it out of the way for company. I love that my girls love tech-y science stuff as much as their American Girls and Barbies:

My plan is to turn around and shoot the play area, our American Girl hide-out and toy storage for the next post. It may take some "styling" to be camera-ready ;)!

No Minimalist Here

Basement Part 3

I am back with another post about our basement.

From this angle you can see that the dinning/game table is just to the left of the little seating area I showed you in the theater post here and that door leads to the WC, discussed here. We went back and forth about building out a full kitchen, partial kitchen, wet sink, or dry bar. As you can see we went with the dry bar option and added a beverage fridge, which is just right for soft drinks and a few adult beverages when we entertain. Since we do have a wet bar with wine fridge upstairs, this fridge is mostly PG (and honestly mostly empty)! The buffet is just big enough for a food display when we host a casual party down there.

This table was one of my first adult purchases. It was originally a light blonde wood. My husband knocked on this table (I guess to see if it was real) and complimented me on it when he dropped me home on our very first date. It since has been a desk and sustained a big scratch. After that it was red on top and I added the gray and beige chevron a few years back (now that the chevron fad is petering out, I may change it).

The casual table is paired with the most beautiful antique Hickory Chair chairs from Mr 31-derful's grandmother. They really match my dinning set, but in my opinion they are too ornate when they are together. I just love them juxtaposed with the casual table here, though, and I swoon over that curved nailhead.

I put that Ikea light fixture together myself for a steal and then splurged a bit on the small buffet, which was made by the Amish in nearby Southern Illinois. Here is a close up of the accent wall, which merges my two colors of gray and beige (you may recall most of my house is beige but I really wanted that gray look down here).

The floors are stained concrete. They were originally a laminate that was made to match the look of the real hardwood we have through the rest of the house. Long story, but sufficed to say that after a flood we needed a new more water-resistant choice. Though we worried they would be too cold and hard, I wish I had these floors from the beginning. We warm the space with throw rugs and I love the ease of cleaning.

The back wall of this dinning spot features two paintings that a friend and I did. Mine is a cotton boll--I would love to collect cotton paintings as a nod to my hometown in Memphis, but I haven't found any cotton art that resonates with me yet so I made my own.....

From here you can see a sneak peek into the basement seating area. I'll show that soon--y'all come back!

No Minimalist Here

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stop and make this Spinach

I now interupt my basement programming to bring you your dinner!

Here is a funny thing: I live in St Louis, which is famous for Italian food. We have an entire sector of our city devoted to it. None of these compare in my mind, however, to Pete and Sam's in Memphis, Tennessee.  They have great Italian food mixed with Memphis flare, including their world famous barbecue pizza. When I think of the one thing you should eat in my hometown, it isn't the ribs at the Rendezvous or the fried chicken at Gus'.  It isn't even that famous peanut butter, banana and bacon concoction.  It is the spinach at Pete and Sam's (aka the ultimate comfort food)!  Here is how you make it:

Take a large amount of evoo (two good turns of the pan). Add a large amount of fresh garlic and two bags of washed spinach. Cover it and let it wilt.  Crack three eggs inside:

Now turn it down nice and low and stir until those eggs look like a soft custard:

Add liberal amounts of parmesean cheese and stir.  Heat until melted.

Here is an official recipe using frozen spinach but I like the fresh.

Mine was a little egg-y this time. I should have used less egg to my spinach, but it was still awesome. Eat it hot with crusty Italian bread and maybe a side of pasta. Of course you could enjoy it for breakfast but I swear this is the stuff of dinners!

Image via

Friday, April 24, 2015

Basement Part Two: the WC

When we finished the basement, it was important to me that it have a full bath. The addition of a powder room was an obvious choice, but we Mr. 31-derful was unsure about the bath/shower. We went for it. I can tell you that three years later, no one has ever used the shower, but I still don't regret it one bit. I know that as my girls get older that the basement is going to become their sleepover spot. I also know two other things 1) teenage girls won't leave the house until they are showered and ready, and 2) I don't want the girls' guests to have to walk up two flights in their jammies to shower (because by then I hope my kids are no longer using my main floor master bath as their primary shower, but that is a story for another day).

When we moved here in 2007, I painted almost every room a uniform beige with fabric accents in orange and lime (very Crate and Barrel). By the time we did the basement in 2012, I was ready for gray and whitewashed woods (very Restoration). I did want the basement to be cohesive with the rest of the house, so most of it is painted in my signature beige with the "fee-ater" and bath in gray. I searched for wallpaper and accessories that married the gray and beige. I lucked out with this shower curtain:

The light is beautiful in there and the basement is well-lit, but I have a very hard time capturing it in the basement.

I chose middle of the road Moen fixtures in here because I was not sure if, or when, they would be used. I actually love the look of them:

Because everything upstairs is very clean-lined and I wanted something softer here, I opted for this sweet sink and vanity from Home Decorators (we have an outlet here and I got it for a steal). The mirror was a find at my beloved Homegoods, and I got the crown from Kirkland's for $5! I love it; it is like seeing yourself in a crown every time you look in the mirror!

I "splurged" a little to have a toto toilet to match the rest of the ones throughout the house. The floor tile is actually really nice too, but I needed so little of it that it wasn't a big line item in the budget.

Though it isn't used much yet, I am happy we opted to add this full bath to the basement. I'll be back with more of the basement this week!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Basement Part One: "The Fee-ater" (or where I watch Downton....)

I have now shown not one, but two, throwback posts featuring our (then) unfinished basement. I am fast forwarding to present day to show you the basement, which is quite possibly the most used part of our house! This is so funny to me as a girl from Memphis. The water table is too high for basements there, and so I never understood St. Louis's fascination with the things. I was even kind of scared of the basements in our first two houses. Oh boy, do I get it now!!

As you walk down the stairs, the house transitions from a formal space to a family area. This is our kids' art gallery. We let them "curate" their work here, taking away things when it is too full (which it pretty much is now). Directly in front of the stairs is a small seating area:

I am going to post about everything to the left side of this seating over the next few days (play area, seating, dining and bathroom). To the right, we have double doors to the unfinished area (which definitely warrants its own very special episode of Hoarders for party supplies). To the right of the stairs we also have our media room, which was dubbed the "fee-ater" by the baby before she could say her "th." The name sort of stuck. True story: when we were finishing the basement my husband convinced me to go for the theater so that I could watch Downton Abbey in its full glory. Only I would build a media room to watch free Public television!

Let's go to the movies, shall we?

We opted not to go with theater chairs, instead opting for couches with recliners on both ends. Better snuggling which is the point, though we may rethink that when the girls are older with guests. We added our own cinematic flair with throw pillows and what I thought were theater-ish sconces from Ikea. I thought it was a perfect, affordable option for a basement space.

The little ladies got their own spots (we dyed their old Pottery Barn Anywhere Chairs to match the gray room), and they love to snuggle under these Matilda Jane blankies! Speaking of recycled Pottery Barn items, we transformed our old bar cart into a popcorn cart. I would love to keep it stocked with candy boxes for effect. Truthfully, I tried it, but the candy sat there so long it went stale. Since I don't want to force my kids to eat candy, we just stick with good ole' popcorn!

Here is the room from the front view.

We love spending time in here as well as playing in the rest of the basement. I'll be back to show some of that tomorrow. Y'all come back now, ya' here?!

No Minimalist Here

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fun Throwback: Teacher's Birthday Ice Cream Party

After I failed to take a picture if the hen and chick cake, I wondered if I took one when big sis was in second grade. No such luck, but I found a sweet little classroom surprise from around the same time for her teacher's birthday. On the teacher preference form, which the PTO asks teachers to fill out at the beginning of the year, she said she loved spending time with her family, entertaining, and ICE CREAM. Another super important thing to know is that her classroom theme was owls and she loved to use owl puns for everything. We decided to put together an "owl" cream party in a box for her (all the goodies she need to throw an ice cream social for her family). And you know our little owls wanted in on the action, so the room moms also threw an owls cream social in the room too, which was a surprise for the teacher. Though technically not a room mom that year, I was in charge of the gift and making soda jerk hats for the surprise:

To make the soda jerk hats, simply cut strips of paper length-wise. I printed on mine first. Regular paper was barely long enough for little second grade heads, so use legal paper if you want these for big kids or adults:

Accordion fold a piece of tissue paper of the same length as your strips:

Now take your tissue and add double-sided tape to the sides and ends:

Affix the tisse to your strips. Now get a cute model and have her wear your hat:

Imagine a sea full of smiling second grade soda jerks surprising their teacher in these. It was presh!

Update- A's teacher snapped a pic of the cake and sent them as a thumbnail in her email about the study unit today. They were in a super cute coup we made from an amazon box, but we have no evidence of it! Anyhow, here are Mama Hen and her chicks:
I used instructions found on Better Homes and Gardens

Test Treats

Don't judge (seriously, Julie, if you are going to judge stop reading now)! I really try not to go over board. I do. I do, but sometimes I fail. Okay, I fail a lot! You don't even know how much I fail because I am so busy actually going overboard that I don't have time to write about all my overboard-goings. Take today, I didn't even take a picture of the precious hen and chick cake I felt compelled to make my kid's teacher. The eggs arrived for the lifecycle unit! The EGGS! That is like the super bowl of 2nd grade y'all.... but I did noticed I was the only one who acknowledged in cake. Okay, I have a problem. But just hear me out.

Last year, when the big girl was in 3rd grade, she was nervous about her first standardized tests. I learned that the school does some fun things to make the test week seem more approachable and that there are things called "test treats." I didn't make that up (google it)! You know I had to get in on that. So I made these for every kid in the class:
Above was the Friday before, and it read "see ya' Monday, Smartypants!" Then each day was a different treat:

Our standardized test is called the MAP.

Gotta' have your number 2's!

Did you know that gum is proven to help kids concentrate on tests? I didn't make that up; so they needed gum.

I actually intended to stop there, but a funny thing happened. The teacher thought I was providing snacks and publicly thanked me for it, so I sort of needed to do snacks also. I made these berry baskets with a note "you are doing berry well". Suddenly every parent wanted in! The great news was I didn't have to do the rest of the snacks (but I did help them with cute stickers: "don't go bananas, you are doing great!," "orange you glad its half way finished?," and "you are o-FISH-ally finished!" (goldfish).

It was fun and she aced the tests so this year I am not doing a thing!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Throwback Science Soiree

I am chugging along with my family photo reorganization and have come to July 2011. Can I get an amen?! That month this little scientist turned 6 and celebrated it all Mad-Scientist-style! Guests were ushered into the house, past a few beakers of chemicals and down into the laboratory!

Our basement was then unfinished (one day I will catch up to 2012 and reveal it as a finished space). I thought the exposed beams and wire made it look tech-y and cool. Here it is all set-up and black-lit before the guests arrived:

I let the kids "sign into the lab" by writing on boards I attached to the wall. If you know my kid parties at all, you know that I also had an activity to entertain the guests until everyone else arrived. We went with a simply coloring activity:

Before the party, the birthday girl and I crafted chemical models that hung from the ceiling:

When enough guests arrived, we began the show from Mad Science. I cannot praise this company enough for the interactive and informative science show. The kids were enthralled for nearly two hours watching and doing science experiments:

After the show, we added the optional slime making as a favor and enjoyed the most delicious cake with a lab cart full of custom-labeled H2O:

Finally we sent each guest home with a favor bag of things they needed for simple science experiments. I got simple ideas from the internet and gave them each a pipette and beaker to conduct some experiments of their own. The tags match invitations I made using my beloved Mountain Cow and Silhouette:

I loved that my sweet girl wanted this party instead of a princess theme since I was all-Disneyed out from her little sisters Tiana party that year!

No Minimalist Here