Harper’s birth story

On February 21st I was 27 weeks, 3 days pregnant. It had been a blissfully easy, healthy pregnancy. No morning sickness. Good energy levels. My OB sung my praises for eating right and keeping up with my regular exercise routine. I was truly enjoying being pregnant this second time around. I woke up that morning around 5am concerned that I hadn’t felt the baby move all night. I started counting kicks, and finally felt a series of kicks from 6-6:30am. I dismissed my concern as being a neurotic pregnant woman, and got up and got ready for work.

We had a lunch meeting with one of our contact lens reps that day. At lunch I started noticing a lack of fetal movement again. I called my OB’s office and was seen that afternoon at 3:15pm. They performed a fetal non-stress test. Everything came out normal. The baby was moving again, I wasn’t having any contractions, and I was due back for my 28 week visit in five days. Not much could happen before then, right? Wrong.

That evening at 7:04pm I started having contractions. They were brief at first, but each contraction became progressively longer and more intense. They started happening every 5 minutes. Then they were every 3. After about 20 minutes, I called my OB’s office again and spoke to the doctor on call. She said it was “probably nothing” but she would go ahead and meet me at the hospital where they would likely give me something to “calm my uterus down.” Blake was concerned. I rarely complain about how I feel, so he knew something was up. We called our neighbor to come stay with Noah (who was already in bed) and Blake drove me to Parker Adventist Hospital. The trip there only took about 15 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. My contractions were coming every few minutes and getting stronger and more intense. Something was wrong. This wasn’t normal, and we were both nervous.We got to the hospital just before 8pm. Blake dropped me off at the door, and I checked in while he parked the car. I was shown to a triage room to gown up and leave a urine sample. By the time I got out of the bathroom Blake was already in the room waiting. His belt had just broken and he was trying to see if he could fix it. He couldn’t.

A few minutes later, a nurse came in. She wanted to swab my cervix to do a fetal fibronectin lab. She went to swab my cervix, but couldn’t find it. She hustled out of the room, and the OB came in with her a few moments later. The OB took a look and then her expression turned grim. “Oh, man. You’re already 7cm dilated,” she said. “Can you stop the labor?” I asked. “We’ll do what we can to slow it down,” she assured me. I tried to hold back tears. “Will my baby be ok?” The OB looked uncertain and said, “We’re going to do what we can to help.” This was not the answer I wanted to hear. My thoughts quickly turned to what the future was going to look like for our family. Would we be able to handle the loss of this child? And if this baby lived, would she be normal? Visions of a special needs child in a wheelchair flashed through my mind. “Oh God. Please let everything be ok,” I prayed silently but fervently. When I could finally bring myself to look at Blake, it broke my heart. His face was white. He looked as frightened as I felt. “Call my mom. Ask her to pray,” I told him.

From that point forward it was a blur. There was a nurse giving me a steroid shot in my backside. “This is to speed up the baby’s lung development,” they told me. They inverted my bed so my head was below my feet to take the pressure of my cervix. Then they put an IV line in and inserted a catheter (an empty bladder puts less pressure on the uterus). They gave me magnesium (“To protect the baby’s brain”) and antibiotics (since I tested positive for Group B Strep in my last pregnancy) intravenously. They dimmed the lights to help me relax. They offered me an epidural at some point in there. “Will it slow down my labor?” I asked. “No, not at this point,” they replied. So I declined it, thinking to myself, “If for some reason this baby doesn’t make it, I want to feel the pain of birth before I feel the pain of loss.” For about 20 minutes my contractions lessened in intensity and came less frequently. This all had happened while we were still in the triage room. My OB sat by the bed and told me that if I were to deliver sometime in the next four days, my baby would have to be transferred to the NICU at University hospital. Parker didn’t take babies younger than 28 weeks. She noted that my contractions had let up and wondered if I could be transferred to University. I told her there wouldn’t be enough time. My contractions started picking up again. This time they were incredibly painful. I told my OB and the nurses, they had me roll onto my left side to help me relax. Blake had been holding my hand for quite sometime at this point, and gave it a reassuring squeeze. They tried talking me through it, but then I felt the baby moving down the birth canal. “The baby’s coming! I can feel her coming!” I told everyone.

When the doctor felt the baby’s head, she knew I was serious. A team of about eight nurses seemed to appear out of thin air. Because we were still in the triage room, they had to roll me down the hall to a delivery room. I was feeling the need to push but they instructed me to wait. They got my bed in position and dimmed the lights again. They had no sooner brought my bed up (I was still inverted) and got my feet into the stirrups when I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I gave one big push, and out came the baby. Harper Elizabeth was born at 10:04pm, completely contained in her amniotic sac. We would later learn that this was very rare, especially in a natural birth (“The first time I’ve seen it in my 13 years of practice,” a neonatal nurse practitioner told us). To be born inside the unbroken amniotic sac is called an en caul birth. Throughout history in many cultures, being born en caul was a sign that the child was destined for greatness.

Harper cried when she was born. I took this as a sign that she would be ok. I didn’t even get to see her up close for several minutes. As soon as she was born, they whisked her away and started working on her. She weighed 1163 grams (2lb 9oz) and was 15 inches long. A nurse came and asked for Blake’s cell phone to snap a picture before she was intubated. Her APGAR score at birth was 6, and at five minutes it was 8. This was remarkable, as she wasn’t intubated until 7 minutes of life. They say Denver babies never make a perfect 10 due to the altitude.

2-21-14 Harper's first picture

After some time, they rolled Harper’s bassinet over to my bedside. “Would you like to touch her? You can touch her before we take her to the NICU,” a nurse offered. I reached over and touched her tiny little hand. Blake touched her too. Blake went with her to the NICU, at my insistence. Suddenly the room was empty and quiet. The room was dark, as no one had turned the lights back up, and I was just sitting there alone and scared. I was too numb to cry or truly feel the depth of all the emotions in my heart at that moment. I suddenly had a case of shivers, even though I wasn’t cold. I was still in shock.

At some point during the whole process Blake had managed to notify our family, some of our church friends, and our workplaces. Blake’s parents were already on their way to take care of Noah and relieve our neighbor. My parents were coming first thing next morning (they had just driven back to Steamboat from Denver earlier that day). My friend Grace had texted to ask if everything was ok. I called her back and told her what happened. As soon as she found out Harper was being transferred and Blake was going with her, she told me she was coming to stay with me that night. I didn’t want to inconvenience my dear friend (who happened to be 9 months pregnant at that time), and insisted I was fine to be alone. But I wasn’t. I didn’t know it at the time, but I really needed her that night. It was the scariest night of my life, and I’m so glad she was there.

After awhile, maybe 30 minutes or so, a nurse came in to get me cleaned up. Blake came back as well. I found it surprisingly easy to walk to the bathroom without an epidural. She got me changed, and took me in a wheelchair to the NICU with Blake. They wheeled me up to Harper’s bedside. I got to touch her again and look at her tiny little body beneath all the tubes and wires. The neonatologist came and talked to us. He mentioned surfactant and a ventilator and said some other things I was too shell-shocked to remember. The nurse who wheeled me in offered to take me to my room, but I wanted to wait until the transport team came for Harper. I didn’t know if that would be the last time I would get to see my baby girl.

2-21-14 seeing Harper in Parker NICU 2-21-14 Harper Parker NICU

After about half an hour, they took me to my room where Grace was waiting for me. Blake got Harper’s birth certificate paperwork filled out while we waited for Harper to be transferred.

2-22-14 birth certificate 2

Eventually the transport team stopped by my room so I could say one last goodbye to her through the plastic box, and then they were off. Blake also left to head to University and make sure Harper would be ok. By this time it was about 1:00am. I asked for a pump. There was little to do besides wait to be discharged. And pump. Grace and I talked, and she comforted me with stories of preemies she knew about who were now happy and healthy children. She told me that Harper’s weight was promising and that a recent lecture she had attended had said babies with a weight like Harper’s were very unlikely to develop retinopathy of prematurity. We tried to get some sleep, but I was texting Blake and pumping and ended up getting very little rest. Bless Grace’s heart, she parked her 37-weeks pregnant self on the terribly uncomfortable sleeper sofa and was a reassuring presence to me all night. She even brought me snacks, slippers, and a robe.

2-22-14 waiting to be discharged

The next morning my OB came back in to check on me. She could tell I was anxious to get out of there and see my baby, so she got my discharge paperwork started. Grace and I ordered breakfast. Blake was back at the NICU seeing Harper, but was coming to pick me up afterward. A lady came by to do a hearing screening and looked confused. “Where’s the baby?” she asked. She looked embarrassed and murmured something apologetic after I explained what happened. Grace spent all morning on the telephone hunting down a Medela Symphony pump for me. Blake came and gave us an update on Harper. They were able to take her off her ventilator and transition her to CPAP. She got a second dose of surfactant that morning. She was on a 9-1-5 care schedule, and we would be able to make it to her 1:00 cares after being discharged. Finally, around 11:00am the nurse was ready to walk us out.

Being discharged from the hospital without a baby was difficult. I had somehow managed to keep it together up until that point, but when we started walking down the hall to leave, I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face. Not two years prior, I was leaving that same hospital with a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Now walking out without my new daughter, feeling so uncertain about her future, just reminded me of how different the situation was this time.  The grief hit me like a ton of bricks.

Thus began our 60 day NICU journey, which is another story in itself. They never did find a reason for my preterm labor. The pathology labs on my placenta and umbilical cord, and a post-partum ultrasound showed nothing abnormal. All I can say is that we had an amazing support system throughout all of this. I don’t know what we would have done without everyone’s kindness and prayers. God was faithful to see us through this difficult time and keep our baby girl healthy. It’s still too fresh in my memory to look back on this time without stirring up some raw emotions, but one day I will be able to share this story with Harper about her dramatic entry into the world and her remarkable start in life, and we will marvel at how far she’s come.





Now begins our new adventure. The start of life at home for Harper. Tomorrow we get to bring our baby girl home after 60 days in the NICU. Even though she will be home in our arms a month earlier than her due date, it has been two months too long. All at once we are feeling impatient to get her home, but unprepared to have her home. It’s a complex mix of emotions. We have been waiting for this moment for what seems like a lifetime (her lifetime at least), and yet now that it’s happening we don’t feel quite ready. After seeing a highly trained team of neonatologists, NICU nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists give round the clock medical care to our baby, who are we to take her home?

It feels like a graduation. It’s a moment we’ve been eagerly awaiting for so long, but now that it’s here we feel nervous, excited, and sad. Nervous about what happens next. Nervous about Harper’s future and our skills as parents. Excited for the moment we’ve been longing for since our daughter was born. Excited to finally be at home with both our kids instead of having to split our time between them. Excited to get on with life and leave this frightening experience behind us. Sad to leave behind the nurses and therapists that became part of our daily life. Sad that things are changing just when we got used to them. Sad that this isn’t the jubilant homecoming of the healthy full term baby we had expected, but instead bringing home a baby with fragile lungs and immune system who will still need to be on oxygen for several weeks.

These thoughts have been running through our minds the past few days. Slowly, the anxiety is melting away and being replaced by eager anticipation. A friend of mine posted a quote on Facebook the day I went into labor. It stuck with me.

“Sometimes the happiest ending isn’t the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are.” – Shauna Niequist

This may not be the ending we had imagined for ourselves when we found out we were expecting baby #2, but it’s a beautiful ending nonetheless. God has been at work in our lives and in our hearts throughout this journey. This has been a humbling experience that has truly taught us to put our daughter’s life in his hands. We can look forward to tomorrow with peace in our hearts.



Spring mantel decor

I decided to give our mantel décor a major overhaul, and I’m super happy with how it turned out!

spring mantel decor

The lovely weathered window and wreath came from my sister-in-law, Melissa. She gave me a salvaged window from her old home in Arkansas, and the burlap rag wreath was something she made and let me have. I added a new chevron burlap bow.

burlap rag wreath on old window

burlap rag wreath on old window 2

I found the bird cage on Amazon, but it came in an ugly orange brown color. I spray painted it white and filled it with some decorative white vase filler balls from Target. I see this changing with the seasons. For Easter I may fill it with eggs, and for fall I may fill it with little pumpkins, etc.

The silhouette was a DIY project. The white oval frame is from Ikea, and the easel is something I picked up awhile ago from Michaels. I framed a piece of burlap, and traced Noah’s silhouette onto a piece of scrapbook paper, which I just stuck to the burlap with double sided tape.

The letter B is a chipboard letter that I modpodged scrapbook paper and ribbon onto awhile back.

mantel bird cage and diy silhouette

I had some books lying around that I recovered in butcher paper or brown polka dot wrapping paper.

The watering can was from my mom – she bought it for me when we were shopping at Ikea one day. The white flowers [I think they are fake zinnias] came from Walmart.

The candlestick was something I already head. It was originally black, but I spray painted it white and put a blue pillar candle on it.

The white ceramic bird is from Target, and the brown sphere/orb is from the garden section at Joann’s.

mantel watering can zinnias white candlestick ceramic bird wicker sphere

I’m planning on further updating the living room with new pillows and refinishing the coffee table. In the meantime, I’m still mustering up the motivation to finish the kitchen curtains.

Spicy Saltine Cracker Recipe

Here’s an easy recipe from my mother-in-law. If you like salty, spicy snacks, then you should give it a try! It takes less than ten minutes to prepare and tastes delicious. I like it with iced tea as an afternoon snack, but it would be a good party appetizer as well.

spicy cracker 2

1 1/2 c canola oil {don’t substitute}

1 pkg dry Original Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix

3 T crushed red pepper flakes

1 t cayenne pepper

1 box saltine crackers

Mix first four ingredients and let stand for 15 minutes. Lay crackers on cookie sheets {for this step I placed them in 9×11 casserole dishes}. Drizzle mixture over crackers. Toss lightly to cover with spice mixture. Let stand until oil has been absorbed. Enjoy!

spicy crackers 1

Painting our kitchen cabinets

At long last, operation sexy kitchen is underway. And it’s been a slooow, labor-intensive process. At no point have we really enjoyed any of the work involved, but we are motivated to make our kitchen look less builder-basic and more beautiful. Before I get too wordy about the whole process, here are the before and after shots.

This is the kitchen before we bought the house. It had blue walls and oak cabinets.


Then we painted the walls Behr’s Hazy Sage and painted the range hood black.

Kitchen: Progress

And here it is now after painting the cabinets Benjamin Moore’s Snowfall White, spray painting the hinges ORB, and replacing the brass handles with new Lowe’s hardware.

suddenly inspired: how to paint oak kitchen cabinets

To launch this journey, we first removed all the hardware from the cabinets. This included hinges, baby proofing locks, and handles. We saved all the hardware we planned on using again in a plastic container, but we will be donating the brass handles to have a new life somewhere else.

removing old hardware

old brass hardware

hinges removed

Since we were replacing the cabinet door handles with knobs, we needed to fill in one hole on each door with wood filler. We applied a dab of Elmers Carpentry Wood Filler to the surface of the hole, then smushed it down with a putty knife, scraping it to smooth it out.

elmers wood filler

filling holes

After the wood filler had dried about half an hour, we then used 220 grit sand paper on a sanding block to smooth over the filled in holes. We then used an old t-shirt to wipe down the cabinet doors and frames {all surfaces that would be getting painted} with Klean Strip Sander Deglosser.


Next, we taped off the floors and inside the cabinet frames with tape. I like to cut in by hand with an angled brush, but any spot I couldn’t get to cleanly, I taped off. We also moved things that were in the way out of the cabinets, but we didn’t empty them all the way out since this would have made our kitchen impossible to get around in.

We then primed one side of the doors and all the cabinet frames with Zinsser oil-based primer. We used a high density small foam roller, and any place the roller couldn’t get to we used a 2″ angled brush. My favorite brand of brush for cutting in is the Wooster shortcut. It has a short, soft handle which makes it easy to control the strokes. It’s perfect for cutting in by hand, especially when painting walls. It’s also about $6, making it much less expensive than other brands of brushes. You can find it at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

brush and roller

If possible, set every door on top of something to give you easy access to painting the edges {think paint can, coffee can, shoe box, etc}.

cabinets on cans

This primer is rather thick and goopy, and dries fairly quickly. The key is to work as quickly as possible, and apply as thin and even a coat as possible. Don’t be discouraged if there is a paint glob or drip that dries before you can smooth it over. This can be sanded later. Also, it is acceptable to prime in the fetal position. At this point we had been working about 5 hours and I was exhausted and overwhelmed.

priming cabinet bases

After the primer dried {we waited a day, but the label says it will dry in an hour}I used my sanding block with 220 grit sand paper to very lightly sand any uneven surfaces on the cabinet doors or faces. Like I mentioned earlier, the primer is glue-like in consistency, so getting smooth coats was nearly impossible. The sanding was nice to even things out.

sanding cabinet

After sanding things down, we wiped the cabinets down with a damp rag to remove the dust.  We flipped the doors over and repeated the priming, sanding, and wiping. After that, it was *finally* time to start painting them! Now if you were concerned about having perfectly smooth cabinets without any wood grain texture showing through, you may want to apply a second {even a third} coat of primer, with a light sand in between coats. However, painted wood grain texture doesn’t bother us a bit, so we stuck with just one coat of primer. The paint we chose was Benjamin Moore Advance in Snowfall White. It was recommended due to it’s extended open time {takes longer to dry, so makes it easier to paint even coats} and good leveling {smooth without brush strokes}. I have to say that after painting the bathroom cabinets with Behr paint it has seemed to scratch off or get dings in it fairly easily. We have already had to touch up some spots. We are much more impressed with the durable finish of the Benjamin Moore Advance. We used the same type of high density small foam roller to apply paint to all the major surfaces of the cabinets, again using a 2″ brush for hard to reach angles {I used a new brush for this, just to make sure the bristles were in good shape}.

benjamin moore

We waited a full day between applying coats. The label recommended waiting at least 16 hours between coats. It took three thin coats of paint to give us the coverage we needed. We painted the cabinet frames and the back side of the cabinet doors first, then flipped the doors over and painted three coats on the front side. That’s nearly a week of painting cabinet doors. We did the drawers last, just because we ran out of space in our garage. Ugh.

Meanwhile, we also painted our brass hinges. Since we were replacing the brass handles with oil-rubbed bronze knobs and handles, we decided to spray paint the hinges to match. This saved us from buying 58 hinges. Fifty eight. Whew! I used the same method that we used when we painted our doorknobs and hinges previously. Basically, we rubbed the hinges with steel wool, deglossed, layed them on cardboard and sprayed thin, even coats of Rustoleum’s Universal Surfaces in oil-rubbed bronze. It took about three to four light coats, with a half hour drying time between coats. Once that had dried a full day, we sprayed on three thin layers of Deft semi-gloss clear coat, again waiting 30 minutes between coats. The hinges did need to be flipped over to get to all the surfaces with the spray paint.


brass hinges

orb hinges

After we were done painting everything, we waited a full 3 days to wait to apply hardware and rehang the doors and drawers. The hardware is from Lowe’s. This is what our kitchen looks like now:


The other night we rented The Amazing Spiderman, which as it turns out, was not at all amazing. As a result, I had time during the movie to make the EAT letters over the stove using mod podge, MDF letters, and scrapbook paper. It was a fun, easy, and inexpensive little project that added some much needed color to the space.

eat letters over kitchen stove

We have more work to do in the kitchen. In the near future we plan on updating the window treatments, making a drum shade for the pendant light in the breakfast nook, possibly repainting the table and chairs in the nook, hanging some art, and adding some crown molding to our cabinets. I’ve even thought about distressing or glazing the cabinets. Blake is itching to get rid of that unsightly fluorescent light box and install some recessed can lights. But for now, we are going to sit back and enjoy our white cabinets.

I heard a French saying on House Hunters International the other day, “petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid,” which means little by little the bird builds its nest. It’s a lesson in patience for life’s gradual processes, but in the case of our “nest” it is my new motto. Little by little!

Frame gallery in the entryway

Our entryway used to look like this: Entryway: in progress

It was ok, but the space was lacking personality. I didn’t like the rug, or the big blank wall adjacent to the door.

Now it looks like this {pardon the baby photobomb}:

small entryway coat rack hooks frame gallery console table chevron rug

We made some minor improvements, starting with a new rug. I found this chevron rug from Overstock. It’s an indoor-outdoor rug, so when it gets dirty we can just hose it down. Practical and cute.

chevron rug entryway chevron rug

We also changed up the mirror over the console table. I wanted something non-square to soften up all the squares and rectangles we have in our house. I nabbed this one from Target using my birthday money last month. threshold round wood mirror mirror We also DIY-ed a coat rack to give our guests a place to hang their coats. coat rack for small entryway I gathered some picture frames I had been slowly accumulating and made the space above the coat rack into a gallery wall. I hung everything up when Noah was napping one afternoon using the handy paint stirrer method. The thing I love the most about gallery walls is that they are easy to change up. You can swap out art or add/switch out frames as needed to suit your tastes. Also, they are a relatively inexpensive way to decorate a large wall space. Since pretty much all of the art in this gallery was printed at home or DIY-ed, the cost was only for the frames. I’m loving the mixed and matched look of this frame gallery. It’s more casual and less intentional than the other galleries we have in our home {see the nursery here and the living room here}. This welcome sign was a fun DIY craft I did with my sister-in-law, Melissa. We bought the chipboard welcome letters and used mod-podge, paint, distressing ink, and scrapbook paper to make it pretty. We ended up staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish it, but it was worth it! And after that Melissa became a mod-podge addict. The possiblities are endless. I actually used 3m command adhesive strips to hang this bad boy up. welcome sign This is my favorite piece of art. Real art, as it is a watercolor that my mom painted for me for my birthday. She is a talented artist in many different areas {pottery, painting, music} and I am excited to have this painting be the focal point of the collage. It was irregularly sized, about 9×12, and I didn’t want to cut off any of the picture with smaller 8×10 frame. I found this frame at Ikea and will probably have a mat cut for it later. mom watercolor This 4×4 wood frame hails from Target’s Threshold collection. I scooped it up a few months ago with a coupon. I printed a map of Manhattan, KS to frame in it. Blake and I both went to college there and since it’s where we met, fell in love, and got engaged,  it will always be a special place to us. manhattan map framed Here is another Target Threshold frame. The picture is of Blake and I in Lucerne, Switzerland on our backpacking trip to Europe in the summer of 2010. I had that photo in a different 4×4 frame, but decided it would look better in this white frame. However, I’ll probably replace it with a picture of Noah as soon as I get one printed. lucerne pic This is a 12×12 white frame from Target. I originally had it in Noah’s nursery, but decided to move it down here. I didn’t have any art for it, so I did a quick google search for “free printable art.” I found this cute heart here. It comes in different sizes and colors, but I printed the 8×10 in chalkboard. Since it wasn’t big enough to fill the frame, I cut it into an 8″ square, and layered it on top of some scrapbook paper to give it a matted effect. love heart Here is yet another Target frame. I found the bible verse art {Joshua 24:15} at The Flourishing Abode. It came in different colors, and there were a lot of other verses to choose from. I picked this one because I love the verse, and the color scheme complimented the rest of the gallery. The original download was larger than the size I needed, so I resized it in photoshop. as for me and my house pic

This frame was one we’ve had on hand for ages. I wanted to have something optometric up there, but couldn’t find anything online. I quickly whipped up this “See the good in all things” art in photoshop.see the good

This bird is a free printable from the website www.tagxedo.com. It’s a pretty cool site that allows you to make tons of different shapes using any words of your choice. You can customize the colors as well. I used this site to make a whale for Noah’s nursery. This was the last frame I had to fill, so I made this cute little bird. I’m not completely in love with it though, so I could see this changing in the future. The frame is a small Ikea Ribba frame that I had on hand. It was originally wood toned, but I painted it navy blue using Martha Stewart craft paint. I used the 3m command adhesive strips to hang this one up. tagxedo birdIt’s feeling a lot cheerier in the entryway now. There are a few more changes I would like to make that should be pretty easy. More to come!

Update with some FAQ’s:
To see how we built the coat rack see this post. I have heard that not all Lowes have the oil rubbed bronze hooks in stock, but they can also be found here on Amazon.
Also, the paint color is Behr’s Aged Beige from Home Depot in a flat finish.

entryway hooks gallery rug

Building a coat rack for the entryway

Our entryway needed a place to hang coats and bags. We have a coat closet, but the vacuum cleaner, brooms and mop live there, and they frown upon being displaced when we have guests coming over. Also, we’ve had a lot of guests come and forget their coats on the way out because they are hidden in the closet. Because the entryway is so narrow, a free-standing coat rack is out of the question.


We decided to make a built in coat rack to the wall adjacent to the door. It was big and empty and could use a little visual interest. We built it ourselves using a 1×6 board and some hooks. Blake cut the board to length {about 70″} using a miter saw and routed the edges with a simple chamfer edge. Then we primed it with Zinsser oil-based primer {left over from our bathroom cabinet makeover} and painted it with a few coats of Behr semi-gloss in Moon Rise {left over from painting our trim}. Then Blake hung the board on the wall with wood screws, making sure to anchor it into the studs and counter sinking the screws so they wouldn’t stick out.

finding studs

counter sunk screw

After the board was securely fastened to the wall, we filled in the screw holes with wood filler, let it dry, sanded it smooth, and did some touch up painting. The last step was to add the hooks. We went with six hooks in an oil rubbed bronze finish, evenly spaced. Six looked best – not too crowded but not to sparse. There is about 12 inches between each hook.

coat rack close up

Here is the finished product:

coat rack for small entryway

I also added a frame gallery on a whim. I’m addicted to frame galleries. This is the third one in my house, but there’s just no stopping me. The art is still a work in progress, but at least there is something to give visual interest now. I’ll be back with more details about the frames and art work.

Dining room table makeover

Back when we found our dining room table on Craigslist, we were just so excited to find an affordable pedestal table for our square dining room, we were willing to overlook some flaws.craigslist dining table

We were never fans of the table top, because of the grooves in it. They were just little valleys for crumbs to fall into.  The other thing we didn’t love about it was that it was 54″ {we had wanted at least 60″} and it was strangely orange…like Lindsay Lohan. The color wasn’t a big deal because we knew we could refinish it, but the size and grooviness {in this case, not a compliment} was something to be dealt with. In fact, it was so much an issue that I started searching for new dining room tables on Craigslist.

Then something serendipitous happened. I found a table with a 60″ wood top. Because it had an ugly metal base, it was listed at a mere $40. The top was the perfect size and grooveless-ness that we needed. So we decided to buy it! Then it sat in our garage all but forgotten for three months while we were busy with other things. Such is life.

At long last we decided to refinish both the new table top and the old table base to darker walnut color. After my previous table refinishing disaster mishap, involving the minwax polyshades, I was a bit leary. A friend had recommended I use General Finishes gel stain. She had done an oak desk in the java color and loved the results. I did some more research, and found tons of other bloggers raving about how easy it was to use.

Here’s what we used:

  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser
  • Gloves {rubber or latex}
  • General Finishes gel stain {we used Antique Walnut}
  • General Finishes Arm R Seal top coat {we used semi-gloss, but satin is great also}
  • Cotton rags
  • Foam brush

general finishes gel stain and top coat

First Blake removed the pedestal from the table top and transported everything to the garage. The table top was attached to the pedestal base with a square piece of wood. That square piece screwed into both the pedestal and the top. He removed this from the old top, and secured it to the new top.

Removing pedestal from table top

Securing pedestal attachment to new table top

Next up, we sanded the table down with 220 grit sand paper. We used a pad sander for the table top, but we did the base by hand. Then we wiped it down with deglosser and let it dry. We then applied the first coat of gel stain by rubbing it into the wood with a rag. I couldn’t believe how smooth and smudge free this stain was. It went on like a liquidy shoe polish, we just had to rub it around for a thin, even coat.

general finishes gel stain

The first coat didn’t make much of an impact. We waited a full 24 hours before applying the second coat. To get the desired shade, we ended up doing 3 coats on the pedestal base, 4 coats on the top, then three coats of semigloss clear coat {waiting a full day between all coats}. I let it sit in the garage an additional three days after the final coat of sealant to off-gas. As a result, our table sat in our garage nearly two weeks. Because Blake was away on business most of this time, I ended up scrambling to do much of it myself while Noah napped. It was an easy project though!

staining the table pedestal

We applied the clear coat with a foam brush. I wanted it to be a little glossy so I could wipe it off fairly easily. However, if I were doing a dresser or other piece of furniture, I would definitely go with a satin clear coat instead of semigloss. Some blogs recommend sanding with a fine grit between top coats, but I skipped that step {interpret: I was too lazy}.

Here is the re-finished table:

general finishes gel stain antique walnut

general finishes gel stain antique walnut

DSC_0913And here is the before image, to save you from scrolling:

craigslist dining table

Not bad right? The new 60″ table top feels huge compared to the old 54″ one. No more grooves, and no more orangey glow. Now to finally get some artwork up and perhaps find some new chairs.

DIY burlap garland for the mantel

It was time to freshen up the mantel a bit for spring. I had some oversize wine bottles I bummed off my in-laws that I wanted to use. I liked the shape and size of them. I found some floral stems for $2.50 apiece at Michaels, and bought six {three for each bottle}. I put the stem-filled bottles up on the mantel, but it was missing a certain “je ne sais quoi…”

DSC_0927…So then I made a burlap garland. Actually, then I began intently searching Pinterest for some inspiration until I came across this tutorial at A to Zebra Celebrations. I decided to give it a try. I followed the instructions fairly closely but improvised a bit. Since I already had the twine and bought the burlap at Joanne’s with a coupon, the whole project cost under $5 and only took about ten minutes to complete. Well, technically it cost $20 if you count the $15 I spent on the floral stems. {Scroll to bottom for tutorial}


DIY burlap garland swag DSC_0933Blake said it looked like a bunch of bath puffs strung together, but I like it anyway. He’s just jealous of my mad skills.

After I finished the garland, I hung it on the mantel, only to decide the bottles looked a bit too plain. I wrapped some jute twine around the necks of the bottles to add some more natural texture.DSC_0927

I’ve been wanting to change up the mirror over the mantel. Right now it is a mirror I found at Ross for under $40, but I would like to replace it with a large round mirror. The living room is full of square/rectangular shapes and lines. A round mirror would soften things up. We also are going to add some more molding to the mantel to spruce it up a bit. It’s a work in progress!

Burlap Garland Tutorial


***For a 5 foot garland

  • ~45 feet of 6″ wide burlap garland {I went through one and a half 30 foot rolls. I bought it in the floral section of the craft store, but you can find it here at Amazon as well}
  • jute twine
  • tapestry needle {I used size 16}
  • scissors

DSC_0928 (2) copy

DSC_0926 (3)


  • Measure your jute twine to the length you want your garland to be. Be sure to leave enough on the ends for hanging purposes.
  • Thread your tapestry needle with the twine, only pull about 2 inches or so through the eye of the needle. Tie a fairly large knot in the end of the twine where you want the burlap garland to begin{the end not threaded through the needle}. I left about 6 inches excess from the end of the twine to the knot to allow some room to hang the garland.
  • Start making large basic stitches through the center of the strip of the burlap {beginning at the end of the burlap}. After every five or so stitches, gently “scrunch” the burlap down the twine.


  • Continue stitching and scrunching until you reach your desired length. As I got more fabric on the twine, I just held it vertically to let the fabric “settle” instead of scrunching it. You can make the burlap as loose or as tight as you wish.


  • When you are done, tie a knot in the twine to hold the burlap in place. Remember to leave enough excess on the twine to hang the garland {I left about 6″ at each end}. You can kind of rotate the burlap ruffles a bit and “primp” it to make it more pretty once it’s hung.

DSC_0926*Update: I also used this same burlap to make a wreath. Happy crafting!

Noah’s Nursery Reveal

The nursery has been 85% finished for quite some time, but I’ve been wanting to add a few finishing touches before sharing it with everyone. You know, preferably before Noah graduates high school. The final touches involved hanging shelves and installing bamboo blinds, which with my dad’s help finally got done today *happy dance*. So without further ado, here is the room I lovingly decorated and put together for my little guy.

Here is the view from the door when you first walk in. The curtains are the Lenda style from Ikea. I sewed on the navy blue stripes with fabric from Joanne’s. The bamboo blinds are from Home Depot and really work well to darken the room for naptime. The art collage over the crib was something I had a lot of fun putting together. The crib was purchased with my Christmas bonus money the year before last (while I was still pregnant). I’m sad that since we lowered the crib mattress, the navy and white polka dot crib skirt I made had to be removed. Right now the drawer beneath the crib holds extra blankets and bedding. The chocolate faux-leather ottoman beneath the window was a steal from Ross {I’m thinking it was only about $40} and although it is currently empty, it will be used for extra storage eventually. The faux-sheepskin is from Ikea.

baby boy modern nursery navy blue white striped curtains, white wood crib, art collage over crib, sheepskin flotaki, chocolate ottoman, denim dorel slipcover rocking chair, gray walls

The changing table/dresser is immediately to the left of the door. It was a Craigslist find of yore. I love the mid-century lines and the way the white and wood ties in with the crib. It was a bit small for our master bedroom, but it is the perfect size for the nursery. {We’ve since replaced it with a larger Hemnes dresser from Ikea in our room.} The scrapbook paper mobile hanging above the changing pad was something I made awhile back to give Noah something to look at while he gets his diaper changed.

baby boy nursery, mid century dresser, ikea eckby shelves, scrapbook paper mobile, globe owl framed art, gray walls

We are currently only use four drawers out of the six. The top left holds pajamas and socks. The top right holds Noah’s cloth diapers. The middle left drawer has all his pants and jeans. The middle right drawer holds onesies. All the rest of his clothes are hanging in the closet.
DSC_0910 copy

The closet is on the wall adjacent to the door on the right. I hung a homemade bunting to add some color. All his shirts and sweaters are hanging up. The white baskets on the upper shelf hold shoes, burp cloths, extra bibs, etc. The left side of the closet is still pretty empty, but there is a plastic set of drawers that holds extra disposable diapers and wipes.

baby boy nursery closet, colorful DIY fabric bunting

The rocking chair in the corner was a birthday gift from my parents. It has a durable denim slipcover. I love it! The adorable owl pillow was a birthday gift from a sweet friend. The lamb skin was a baby shower gift from my mother-in-law. It’s specially made for babies and is machine washable. Noah enjoys it.
baby boy nursery - navy blue white striped curtains, bamboo blinds, colorful fabric bunting over closet, denim blue slipcover dorel rocking chair, yellow chevron owl pillow, faux leather chocolate ottoman

Here is the view standing in front of the window looking toward the changing table. The diaper pail and trashcan tuck in nicely beneath the shelves.


The shelves to the right of the dresser are from Ikea. I chose the Eckby style because I loved the nickel finish on the brackets, and the shelves could be cut to length to fit the space perfectly.

The top shelf holds storage boxes {Kassett from Ikea} to hold cards and mementos. The globe is there because I have always loved globes, but also because I want Noah to know the world is a small place. I don’t want him to be afraid of travel and new experiences. Also, I really suck at geography and I want my child to have a better understanding of the lay of the land. Seriously…up until a few months ago I thought the state of Maine was a peninsula {Blake tells me I shouldn’t admit that publicly}. And don’t ask me where the state of Wisconsin is. I’m really not sure.

The middle shelf has a picture of my Papa Lou; the frame was a gift one of my co-workers gave me. Papa Lou hated that picture because he said he looked like a “sloppy sailor,” but I have always loved it. He had a successful Navy career {surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, among many other accomplishments} and retired as a Commander. He passed away three years ago, but my family and I will always be proud of his service. The cute little “NOAH” train was a Christmas gift from Blake’s Uncle Mike and Aunt Roberta. The white resin owl statue is from Home Goods.

The basket on the bottom shelf holds some books. There is a white shadow box frame that has a piece of framed scrapbook paper until I can find something better to go in it. There is also a Broncos piggy bank. We want Noah to be a saver. And a Broncos fan {that’s a given}.

baby boy nursery shelves - vintage photo frame, modern globe

Here’s a few more gratuitous shots:
DSC_0908art collage over crib close up NOAH letters



All in all, I’m pretty happy with how the nursery turned out. There are still a few things I want to add, like some hooks on the wall to the right of the closet for holding a little backpack and jackets. But for now I’m very happy with how it looks!

Source List:
Wall color – Silver Screen by Behr from Home Depot
Bamboo blinds – Home Depot
Curtains – Lenda from Ikea (navy blue stripes sewn on)
Floor Flotaki (sheepskin) – Ikea
Crib – Walmart
Dresser – Craigslist
Changing pad and cover – Babies R Us
Mirror over changing table – Ikea
Shelves – Eckby from Ikea
Globe – Amazon
Broncos piggy bank – our local Walmart
Rocking chair and slipcover – Dorel from Walmart
Owl pillow – Etsy store whimsysweetwhimsy
Picture frames over crib – assorted frames from Target
NOAH letters over crib – hand painted by a family member
Clock – not sure, already had
Lamp – not sure, already had