Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Baby Furniture

A big part of our decision to switch from working on the office to working on the kid's room is that special order furniture often takes 8 - 10 weeks for delivery, and we're getting close to 10 weeks away. To make sure that the big furniture arrives before he does, we started out with some furniture shopping. All of these items count as big ticket items, so they need to be gender-neutral enough to work for Next Kid.

1. A chair
We generally understood that babies like to sit in moving chairs when they eat, but had no idea otherwise what to get. We assume that this will be a place we'll spend a lot of time, so we want something really comfortable that can hang around for a couple years.

We started looking at the options online at various stores and through craiglist. We quickly decided that we wanted something upholstered, since we plan to sit in this quite a bit and want to be comfortable. While secondhand is good for furniture - I think I draw the line at secondhand upholstered goods. I found an ad for a used chair with "no visible stains" that sort of creeped me out, so we decided it must be upholstered and new.

We went to visit some stores and sat in a few nice options. I discovered that I cannot get out of a rocking chair without slamming the bottom of the chair into the back of my heel. I also can't seem to rock a rocking chair without using my head - which not only looks ridiculous, but kind of hurts. So, next decision - we need a glider.

so many horrible chairs

Then, we realized that some chairs have really low backs, which prevent you from resting your head. Apparently my husband plans on being asleep while feeding the baby, so it's critical to him that he can rest his head - so next decision - it must be high enough to rest your head.

All of these discoveries eventually led us to this chair. It turned out to be on amazon, so we ordered it.

2. Pouf
It seems like it's critical that babies not only have comfy moving chairs, but foot rests. We didn't want to bother with an ottoman, some of which also move, because it seemed too expensive and too big for our little room. So instead we decided to get a pouf. We were a bit worried about the knit ones, knowing that our cats would love to sharpen their nails on something like that - and didn't want the leather ones that were all around $100. Then we found this guy, and clicked him on his way to us.

3. Crib
Babies sleep in cribs for some amount of time, until they grow big enough for toddler beds. Since the crib is a somewhat short-term item, we wanted to keep costs down on this purchase and get something adaptable to last for a couple stages. Crib safety standards have changed in recent years, so this was also an item that needed to be new. I googled around and found Lucie's List, a website that makes recommendations for baby items in a couple different budget levels. She recommended this one, as the mid-budget option, which will also transform into a toddler bed, day bed, and full size bed eventually. (not sure about the full-size bed, but we can keep the option open.). Seemed straightforward enough, so we clicked and sent it on its way to us.

4. Rug
Another important item to get is the rug. I'm new to this- but I understand that babies tend to be on the floor a lot, so it seems like we should have a rug up there. First condition - needs to be soft, not scratchy, so probably no wool. Second condition - should be at least 5' x 8', if not 6'x 9'. Third - it should be fluffy, not flat so if the kid falls on it, it doesn't hurt. Fourth - there must be some sort of pattern so that if you were playing with cars you could pretend to be driving on a road (this is more for me than the kid - I just love playing with cars on patterned rugs).  Fifth - it should be durable, able to get spilled on, easily cleaned, and relatively cheap. So, after lots of online searching, we finally narrowed it down to this guy. Ordered it.

So, ironically, we changed plans and started working on this room because we were worried we wouldn't get things done in time- largely because baby furniture has such a long delivery time, and instead, because amazon is amazing, our furniture showed up too quickly. We now have the opposite problem of having a lot of furniture here in boxes with nowhere to go yet. We are working on cleaning out the old office and prepping it to be the new kid's room- but aren't ready yet to put in all the new furniture. More on that soon. 

entryway fills with boxes as the furniture arrives too soon

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Kid's Room

We are working on the office, as planned, but we hit a bit of a snag. I'm getting a little nervous that we won't have time to finish the office before starting on the kid's room and be done in time- so we're going to switch gears and get started now.  Hopefully we can still finish both rooms by the big deadline. More on the office snag coming soon.
the current office

So, the kid's room. You already know that we are planning to use our current office as the kid's room. Thankfully, there isn't much in the way of renovating to do in here, so this should mostly just be a decorating project. I want to refinish the floors and touch up some paint, but otherwise things are pretty much ready to go. A couple of goals for the room:
  • Spend money on the things that will last, be thrifty on the temporary stuff.  I'm generally blown away with how much money we're going to have to spend for supplies/toys for the kid that will be useless in a few months. So, as much as possible, we want to avoid wasting money on the temporary stuff and try to invest wisely in the things that will hang around. I'm thinking that means an adjustable crib that turns into a bed, a nice dresser that can be used as a changing table, a decent rug, but cheap wall art and fabric.
  • Create a gender-neutral spot that works for Next Kid. Assuming there is a Next Kid, it could be a girl. So the things we invest in need to work for girl too. I'm picturing lots of gray and white and geometric designs. I'm not big on gender stereotypes, so we want to avoid sports themes and that sort of thing- but maybe some blue stuff that's cheap and can be replaced is ok.
  • Add lots of visual interest. I love the look of layered fabrics and a variety of textures, so I'm thinking I'm going to be spending some time with my sewing machine to make pillows, quilts, bedding, curtains, etc. This wouldn't be a blog if I didn't make some over-the-top crafty thing and it wouldn't be a kid's room if it weren't whimsical, so I'm picturing a hanging paper thing over the chair, maybe with fairy lights and twirly, dangly stuff. Also plan to turn to etsy for some help on this.
Here's my design plan:

  1. Variety of white, grey and blue fabrics
  2. Cool hanging mobile over the crib
  3. Basic, wooden convertible crib
  4. Papery hanging structure thing
  5. Geometric, neutral rug
  6. Fun wall art
  7. A poof for the feet
  8. comfy glider 
So, we're ready to get started pulling this all together. My hope is to really focus on this room intensely for 2-3 weeks, and then turn back to the new office. More soon. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Organizing our Recipes

As one small part of the office project, we are turning our efforts to our massive collection of recipes. Because we both like to cook and read magazines, we have amassed a lot of recipes from cookbooks, magazines, blogs and websites. All of the physical recipes are dumped in the current office, taking up lots of space while not getting a lot of use. Rather than just move them all to the new office, I wanted to take a moment to find a better organization system, so that we could store all of them in a single place and access them where and when we need them. Ideally, we could cut down on the amount of stuff that needs to be stored in the new office and gain better access to the stuff we have at the same time.

a box full of cookbooks currently just sits in the office

piles of recipes torn from magazines

Step 1. Find a new organization system.
I did a bit of googling around to find electronic ways to store recipes, and stumbled upon Pepperplate. It's a website and an app for our phones that allows us to upload, organize and access all of our recipes. It looked like it would be relatively easy to upload recipes from a variety of places, and would automatically format them to look the same. The part that I got really excited about was that it allows us to categorize each recipe, and then use those categories to search for recipes later. I've always wanted to separate recipes by season and by meal component, so we could find all of our summer dessert options or breakfast recipes. The search feature also searches through ingredient lists, allowing us to find all the recipes that use certain items- a great way to use up leftover ingredients. Because everything is stored in ye olde cloud, it means we can access all of our recipes wherever we go - including to the grocery store. So I was pretty stoked all around.

Step 2. Move all emailed recipes.
I started out with the easiest stuff. Whenever I find a recipe online, I tend to just copy the text into an email to myself. Over the last few years, I had accumulated maybe 100 recipes, so I started with them. Using the pepperplate website, I just copied and pasted the recipes into new entries. It maybe took me 1 hr.

Step 3. Upload the magazine recipes.
For the past few years, both the spouso and I have been collecting recipes from magazines. I just tear out the recipes I like and keep them in a binder/heap, while he likes to keep the entire magazine. Both approaches tended to result in piles of paper in the living room, which drive me crazy. I started out by scanning all of my torn-out recipes. I emailed them to myself, which resulted in my gmail account getting locked down for suspicious activity (oops). Then I began to crop each of the images, and tried to upload them into new recipes. This turned out to be a huge disaster, taking way too much time and effort. So instead, I used the scanned images to look up each of the recipes on their host magazine's website, and then imported from there. For most, once I found the recipe I could import with a single click from the pepperplate button that I installed on my browser's toolbar. For the ones that were from magazines that aren't supported by the app, I had to do some copying and pasting, but it still took only a minute per recipe. Thankfully I had some slow time at work, so I plowed through these during the day in my free time over a week or so.

screenshot of an upload- scanned image on the right, pepperplate on the left

Once I finally worked through that mess, I decided to take a different approach with the husband's numerous piles of magazines. For those, he flipped through and marked all the recipes he wanted to keep. Then, I looked up each recipe on the magazine's website, and uploaded directly. Thankfully, most of his magazines were supported by the new app, so that we could upload recipes with a single click. This still took forever, mostly because he had hundreds of magazines and insisted on keeping almost all of the recipes in each one.

a pile of magazines getting dogeared and uploaded

Once everything was uploaded, I went back through them all to add tags and categories, and make sure everything was saved correctly. Altogether, this process took a few solid, miserable hours stuck at my desk. (most tedious house-related project yet).

Step 4. Install a cookbook shelf.
Lastly, we decided to install a new shelf above the kitchen sink to store the cookbooks. We figure that if we see them more often, then we will use them more often. I very briefly considered uploading all the cookbooks to the site, but quickly decided not to bother. We just grabbed a 1x10, cut it to size, and gave it a quick paint job to protect the wood. Then we found the studs in the wall, screwed in some cheapie braces, and poof! It's not a super attractive option, but this kitchen is going to be renovated in a couple years anyway- we can find a better option then.

ugly but practical shelves in the kitchen

Step 5. Cook.
Once everything was uploaded, we had a grand total of 686 recipes. We celebrated by throwing out all the magazines, emails and clippings. Now that we can find everything, we can actually use them more often and start cooking. As an added side benefit (and the real reason we started this whole project in the first place) we don't need to move anything food-related into the new office, cutting down slightly on the stuff we need to find space for. Yay, small victories.

Fun facts: Because uploading the recipes was a bit of a pain, I tended to skip any recipe that was more than a bit difficult or not appetizing. Because I'm awfully pregnant now, I tended to add extra recipes for the things I'm craving and skip the recipes that sounded repulsive. Not surprisingly, this means that the vast majority of recipes are for desserts (14%) and hearty, winter meals (42%), while very few are for alcoholic drinks (4%)  or light, healthy meals (15%). With that in mind, I leave you with a screenshot of our chocolate recipes. I'm thinking about making this my computer's new wallpaper.

oh, sweet chocolate. i plan to make all of these.