My Son is One! A Nautical First Birthday Party

THIS MONTH marks the end of my first year of motherhood!  I can’t believe my son is already one year old.  Time really does fly.  I wanted to share a few details from his first birthday party.  And by first I mean the first of his TWO parties!  His second party hasn’t happened yet, but I’m assuming since it’s the bigger party that I will be running around like a crazy person and not thinking about taking blog-worthy photos.

Speaking of blog-worthy photos, my camera lens was smeared with something on the day of party #1.  I’m not sure if it was icing, butter, breast milk or a delicious combination of the three, but the schmear made for fuzzy pictures.  This kind of ticked me off at first.  Upon further reflection, however, I decided the fuzzy pictures are quite apropos considering I haven’t slept in a year and most things I see nowadays are just a little furry around the edges.  An unplanned and artistic expression of my sleep deprivation.  Enjoy!

Nautical First Birthday Party

I made a banner by attaching various red, white and blue cardstock to jute twine.  The craft store has so many patterns of cardstock, and I went with stripes, herringbone and, of course, anchors!

I used a stencil to trace and then cut out the letters. All. By. Hand. Either I’m a crafting, rock star, party-planning mom, or an idiot.  You decide.  And if your assessment is the latter, please refrain from sharing in the comments :)

Nautical First Birthday Party

I made my own smash cake using organic chocolate cake and vanilla frosting mix.  A few drops of blue food coloring gave the vanilla frosting a pretty teal hue.  I baked the cake according to the package instructions and then cut out little rounds with a sharp knife using a 16 oz formula can as a template.  The formula can was the perfect size to make a tiny, three layer cake!  And, I finally found a use for one of my many free formula samples!

The cake is topped off with a simple grocery store candle and a mini bunting I created using paper straws, teal ribbon and scraps of cardstock.

Nautical First Birthday Party

Red and white paper straws and more cardstock became “sails” for my little blue cupcakes.  Swedish fish, simple blue solo cups, framed photos and some flowers rounded out the little nautical birthday tableaux.

Nautical First Birthday Party

I also decorated the wall behind his high chair.  A cluster of balloons attached to some twisted paper garland tied off with lots of curling ribbon made a super simple backdrop for photos.  I made a textured “one” sign by gluing teal ribbon to a piece of cardstock I cut in half.

There you have it! Our simple, red, white and blue, nautical birthday party (#1)!  I’m going to use all of these decorations at party #2, so if you are coming this weekend try to act surprised ;)

Oh, and in case you were wondering, he wouldn’t eat the cake.  I’m sure the first of many glorious dishes I will slave over only to be met with the stank eye.  Oy!



Family Room Revamp

I KNOW! I’ve been extremely reticent about the goings-on in these-here-parts recently.  But I promise it’s because I’m a super mommy neglecting her blogging duties and not because I’m a total lazy ass.  To be perfectly honest, I think I’m plagued by adult-onset ADHD triggered by the over abundance of oxytocin and prolactin surging through my body.  I have at least a half-dozen unfinished projects staring at me with earnest eyes saying “Pick me, pick me!” every day.  My MO has been to ignore these pleas in favor of starting new projects that are oblivious to my apathetic attitude toward achieving domestic bliss.

So, in celebration of my newfound hyperactivity – while I have a stencil project in the foyer started, a new rug in the master bedroom I haven’t told you about, a vanity without hardware or the perfect chair and two other projects from my New Year’s Resolution list that I haven’t even started - I’d like to talk to you about WALLPAPER removal!


Yes, the ivy has gone away.  The shot below is the front room in my house that I decided should be a playroom for my son.  It actually had two patterns of wallpaper, but the ivy was the uglier of the two so it got a spot on the wallpaper X list.

When my son started to ignore his bazillion brightly colored toys in favor of tearing off and eating loose pieces of wallpaper, I decided it was time to get rid of it.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

WARNING: If you have a lot of wallpaper in your house and are looking for an efficient way to remove it, what you are about to read may disturb you.  This is NOT a tutorial on wallpaper removal.  There are better methods out there.  What you are about to read is a result of my desperation to remove the wallpaper without having to buy any new gadgets or liquid removers, or to leave the house in order to buy said items.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

So last week I started to peel the white, crackle wallpaper down.  It came off in big lovely sheets, leaving behind only a trace of the sticky backing where the wallpaper glue had been applied.  A quick spray with a fabric softener/hot water solution and I also was able to peel the sticky backing off with ease.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram then you know this was not the case with the ivy wallpaper.


I was able to peel the patterned part of the ivy paper off in one inch square pieces.  Then what was left of the sticky backing required not one spray, but two or three soaking sprays, before it would budge.  I had to use a plastic spackle tool to scrape the backing paper from the wall, even though it was thoroughly saturated two or three times.  After all of this, a lot of the wallpaper was still stuck to the walls.

This was taking way too long.  The ivy wallpaper, which covered one of the four walls in the room, was taking longer to remove than the other three walls combined.  My son was getting restless.  He could tell I was distressed and exhausted, so he began to help by splashing his hands in the fabric softener that soaked the walls.  When he realized he wasn’t being all that helpful, he admitted defeat by licking the fabric softener off the walls and climbing up behind me on the step ladder.  Needless to say, I’m really glad I chose to forgo using fabric softener on his clothes because of all those horrible toxins that would certainly cause his skin to burst instantly into flames upon contact….Did I mention how much I love those Heart Felt dryer balls?

Embrace My Space: Family Room

With all of the licking of fabric softener going on, I decided to switch to a white vinegar/hot water solution instead.  Although this didn’t make things go much faster, the switch to white vinegar did make me feel better about my son’s continued viability.  I plugged away until I got about 85% of the ivy removed.  My husband finished the rest when he got home from work.  Teamwork, rah!

The next morning I scrubbed the walls with all my might to get rid of the excess glue so the walls were ready for my painter to slather on a few coats of this gorgeous green.  Have I mentioned I love my painter?  I love her because she’s fast, perfect and a lady!  I love her even more so because she has a daughter who will sometimes come over to play with my son while she paints so I have time to myself to thoughtfully ignore all of my unfinished projects in favor of drinking Kombucha while I surf Pinterest for 1st birthday party decoration ideas.  But the reason I love her most of all…because she PAINTS, so I don’t have to!!  And she resurrects nasty trim and beat crown molding like a F&*K*%^ boss.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

The paint is called Covington Blue by Benjamin Moore.  It’s green, of course.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

Despite the overcast day here, I managed to capture a shot that is true to the color.  I absolutely love it.  It’s similar to the color in my son’s nursery, but just a bit darker and more sophisticated.

We are going to put a TV on this wall between the windows.  I’m thinking I’d like a media cabinet with lots of low storage for the baby’s toys.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

On the opposite wall will be a new sectional-ish sofa I picked out from Crate & Barrel.  It will take 8-10 weeks for the custom sofa to be delivered so I will talk more about my thoughts on picking this particular sofa on another day since I have a lot of time to kill between now and when the sofa actually arrives (maybe I will finish the foyer stencil by then?).

Embrace My Space: Family Room

Before I ordered the sofa, I used blue painters’ tape to mark off its footprint.  This is a really helpful trick to help visualize furniture in your space.  The worst thing you can do is customize furniture and find out it doesn’t fit quite right (Say it with me now: non-re-fund-able.). The depth of a piece always throws me; so even if you know a piece will fit lengthwise, using this trick will avoid headaches with a piece that would end up overwhelming or obstructing the walkways through your space because it’s too deep.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

This is the only area of our first floor that we can barricade with baby gates.  As a stay at home mom, it’s really nice to know the baby is confined to a safe area without having to have my eyes on him every single second of the day.  My sanity and my bladder give thanks to the almighty baby gate.  When I’m all done this space is going to be the perfect place for my son to play and for the rest of the family to relax.

And have I mentioned how great this color looks off of the foyer?! So delish.  No, your eyes do not deceive you; yes, the ceiling is green as well.  It’s called Italian Ice Green by Benjamin Moore.  I love a painted ceiling, don’t you?

Embrace My Space: Family Room

I have to get drapery panels, window hardware, end tables, ottomans, an area rug, a media unit and lots of clever storage pieces.  We are also installing overhead lights.   If I continue with my current blogging schedule, I’m sure I wont find the time to talk to you about any of my shopping.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  I promise I will show you the room when it’s done!

I think I will focus on the rug first.  Black & white graphic pattern or something colorful?

Happy Friday!

Oh, look, a squirrel!





Laundry Day Giveaway!

HAPPY MONDAY, my friends!  This week I’m talking about dirty laundry.  You may recall that earlier this year I gave my laundry room an upgrade by painting it a cheery orange, hanging some functional artwork, installing a custom shelving unit and hanging canvas laundry bags.  I know it’s Monday and laundry is probably one of the most boring things in the world to read about, but there’s a giveaway at the end of this post so keep on keepin’ on!

Embrace My Space: Laundry DaysNot only were those new shelves begging for organization, but my laundry products themselves were really in need of a facelift.

Embrace My Space: Laundry

Since becoming a mom I’ve think about (and do) laundry more than ever.  Not only do I need to get things ‘really clean’ (i.e., removing poop stains), but what I actually use to clean my baby’s stuff is definitely a concern for me.  I’m not cool with detergents or fabric softeners leaving harsh residues on my boy’s soft skin.  Early this year I began looking into more natural ways to launder his clothing, blankets and sheets.  Rather than use special detergent just for his stuff, I began a quest to become a one-detergent household.  I will talk to you more about what detergent I selected on another day.  Just know that no matter what detergent I tried I noticed a common denominator: everything felt just a little bit stiff when it came out of the dryer.  My towels were the worst.  Pure crunchiness.

I’ve long since abandoned liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets.  After working at Restoration Hardware for a year, I broke down and bought a few RH Turkish cotton towels.  These towels are nice and they are, as far as towels go, pretty darn expensive.  We always advised our customers not to use fabric softeners on the towels because softeners leave a residue on the towels that reduces their absorbency over time.  When I bought my towels I decided to ditch the fabric softener on my towels only.  Then when I became a mom I read somewhere that fabric softeners also shouldn’t be used on baby clothes because they can reduce effectiveness of flame retardency and contain chemicals/fragrances that can irritate baby’s skin.  Since fabric softeners (and also detergents) leave residue behind that can build up on your stuff even when you aren’t throwing them in with a particular load, once I had the baby I just ditched the darn things completely!

But, what about the stiffness and the crunch?  I have hard water and a water softener so there’s a whole lotta factors impacting my laundry routine.  I’ve tried a few methods to help soften up my towels (the good ol’ vinegar and baking soda trick) and clothing, but the best solution I’ve found to date are dryer balls.

Embrace My Space: Laundry

There are many brands on the market and I chose to purchase a set of four Heart Felt Dryer Balls to give this natural softening method a try.  Heart Felt is a New Zealand-based company that makes its dryer balls out of densely felted New Zealand wool.  Dryer balls work by gently moving between your wet laundry in the dryer allowing the hot air to circulate better and dry your laundry up to 30-50% faster.  The movement of the dryer balls also serves as a natural fabric softener so there’s no need to use dryer sheets or liquid fabric softener to achieve softness.

Embrace My Space: Laundry

The dryer balls absorb water from your wet laundry while in the dryer so they are typically wet when you take out your load.  I store my dryer balls in a metal basket so they can air out when I’m not using them.   Adding a drop or two of essential oil (I use lavender or clean cotton scent) to the balls before placing them in the dryer gives your clothing that wonderful, fresh from the dryer scent that you’re likely used to if you use dryer sheets.  I keep my essential oils in the laundry room in a little glass candle holder right next to my balls.

As you can imagine, the balls bounce around in the dryer when you’re drying a load.  I don’t notice any noise when I’m doing a large load of towels or sheets, but if I’m drying only a few things I can hear the balls bouncing around in the dryer.  If your laundry room is in your basement you probably wouldn’t notice the noise.  My laundry room is on the second floor so I can hear them when I’m sitting below in my living room.

Embrace My Space: Laundry

My laundry has gotten remarkably softer since I started using these.  As I said, I have hard water and even though we have a water softener I believe there is still mineral buildup causing my clothing to feel stiff.  I notice a huge difference in the softness of my son’s clothing and diapers in particular.  For a while his sleepers were feeling really stiff and icky.  Now they are back to that softness they had when they were brand new.  My towels are also noticeably softer, although they still don’t have that brand new fluffiness I crave.  I’m hoping that over time these dryer balls will beat my towels into submission.

While I haven’t done extensive testing of the reduction in dry time, I will say that my clothing does dry faster using the dryer balls.  I’m just not sure it’s 50% faster!  My biggest stumbling block with significantly reducing dry time is likely the fact that most loads of laundry I do are extra-extra-extra large.  I have an HE machine with an enormous drum and no agitator so I tend to overstuff the washing machine.  Drying smaller loads of laundry would probably make a huge difference!  I use cloth diapers and that is where I see the biggest difference in dry time because those are relatively small dryer loads.  I could also try using more dryer balls.  Right now I only have four, but I think having six or eight for larger loads of laundry would work wonders for the dry time.

Yesterday I did a load of white towels as an experiment (4 towels, 4 hand towels and 2 wash cloths).  Without the dryer balls it took my towels 70 minutes on low to dry.  With the dryer balls the same load took 60 minutes on low to dry.  Not a huge difference, but definitely faster!  Drying at medium heat might make a difference as well, but I try to dry on low because I’ve heard that also helps eliminate crunchiness.  Since I purchased these for the purpose of softening my laundry (which is definitely working!) any reduction in dry time that I’m seeing is an added bonus.

Embrace My Space: Laundry

One of the very best things about these dryer balls is that they are reusable so there is no waste or harsh chemicals involved.  Perfect for anyone looking to live a greener life.  They also come in a beautiful organic cotton bag, which is great if you’d like to give them for a baby shower or house warming gift!  I personally will be giving these to all my new mom friends because, as a new mom myself, I know how much more time is spent on laundry after the addition of a little one!

These things are awesome!  Don’t believe that a couple of felt balls could make your laundry softer?  Then try them out for yourself!  The kind folks over at Heart Felt have graciously agreed to give away a set of four dryer balls to two lucky winners.  If you’d like to try them out for yourself please enter the giveaway below!  If you aren’t lucky enough to win, you can purchase your own set to try out here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The giveaway is open now and ends at midnight on Saturday.  I will notify the winners via email next week!  Good luck everyone!