Fashionista: Old Navy Peacoat

I’m totally in love with Kaylee’s new coat. It’s the Wool-Blend Empire Peacoat from Old Navy. The fabric is fairly soft, the pockets are real, and it’s even lined. The fit is just right too. I really like the details on the back, the buttons and pleats are a great touch. It should be warm enough to get her through all but the coldest winter days, assuming we layer properly. Highly recommended.

(these pictures were taken just before a branch fell down out of the tree on her head, leaving scratches across her forehead and under her eye. She took it like a trooper though, saying “I’m fine” right after it happened, but she looked like she got into a fight with wolverine for a few weeks afterward.)


A new couch: Ikea Ektorp in white!

We sold our living room set at the garage sale and have endured a very long, couchless week. I bought the old couches when i moved into my apartment 7 years ago. They were light cream microfiber, buttery in color and super soft to the touch; the epitome of single girl lifestyle. Over the years as I became a cat owner, a wife, and a mom, it became more and more difficult to keep them looking pretty. Once I found myself making daily spot treatments in an attempt to keep up I knew it was time to throw in the towel.

Kaylee  enjoyed all the extra open space while we were in between furniture, but by Monday we were more than ready for a trip to Ikea to pick out the replacement. I already knew exactly what I wanted, the Ektorp, it was just a matter of selling Scott on the idea, particularly the fact that I thought the white cover was the way to go. After reading numerous reviews I knew it was exactly what I was looking for, comfort and quality with the ability to strip the whole thing down ( or just one piece ) and bleach the hell out of it should disaster strike. Or, worst case scenario, buy a new cover for under $100 bucks. the only part I wasn’t sure of was if I wanted the chaise version or the standard couch.

The Ektorp was perfectly comfy in the store, firm with just enough give. Neither of us liked the chaise which was less practical for our space and would limit the ability to add more seating – something we still need to address in the future. However, it had the grey cover on it which looked very sharp and gave me second thoughts about the white slip. But, the nice thing about the Ektorp is I can buy a second cover in grey and change the whole look for $249( the grey cover is in the second tier price point ).

We also tried out the Hovas while we were there, which also has removable slips. It is much longer and deeper than the Ektorp with a softer seat. It was cozy, and a decent size for our space, but a little too big considering my feet didn’t touch the floor when I sat down ( I’m 5’6 ).

In the end we went with the Ektorp in Blekinge white ($350 for the couch frame plus $80 for the cover) and bought the matching ottoman (pictured above with a fresh milk stain, and yes, they do wash up nice) to get the benefits of a chaise without the commitment. In typical Ikea fashion, it was all crammed into a box that seamed way too small for the contents, assembly required. It took about 45 minutes to put it together, most of that time was spent shoving cushions into covers.

The frame is made of particle board, and is quite heavy. It came in three pieces, the main couch with the back and seat already connected together with hinges, and the arms which required 6 bolts to attach – the only assembly.

The cushions were all in individual vacuum sealed bags, but they plumped up as soon as the plastic was opened.

The cover came in a separate box, and was fairly easy to put on. Our biggest challenge was working around a spunky toddler who just could not wait to give the couch her seal of approval, cushions or not.

The couch showed us a few of its pros and cons by the end of the day. The first thing I noticed was that the cover is a fuzz magnet, and being white, it all shows up. We threw a few blankets over it to keep the cat hair at bay – although they have both turned up their noses at it for the moment. Also, within three hours we had our first spill, milk from a leaky sippy cup on the ottoman, which came right out with a squirt of oxy clean and a few rubs of damp cloth ( this always took considerably more time on microfiber ).

I don’t imagine I’ll be stripping it down and washing it any more than the bare minimum necessary to keep it clean. I am hopeful that will mean a couple of times a year at most, but it is so nice to know the option is there. We typically throw a sheet over it to divert the hair, and keep it company-ready.

our favorite toys: CIRKUSTÄLT circus tent

We brought this tent home with us from Ikea early last winter. Kaylee didn’t want anything to do with it for months. She would only go inside when being coerced into it and would never hang out for long. That was until her cousin visited a few weeks ago and the two of them had a grand time ‘playing circus’ which consisted of running through the house as fast as they could and charging into the tent until it toppled over, crashing into each other and giggling hysterically the entire time.

Now Kaylee has morphed her favorite game of chase to include hiding inside the tent. After a short period of time, if she is left unfound, she will pop out enthusiastically and yell ‘peek-a-boo’!!!

I have been trying to find ways to turn the living room into a family room and the tent  definitely adds a playroom quality to the space. It’s small enough that we’re not constantly tripping over it, but large enough that one of us can get inside with her. She likes to try to get all of the couch cushions inside then jump on top of them, or cuddle up inside with a favorite blanket while singing happy little songs to herself. The cats also really like it too. Cheza often naps inside the tent when Kaylee isn’t around to terrorize her.

Unfortunately it has not withstood the rigors of toddlerhood the way her other Ikea toys have. It is already starting to rip at the seams, probably because she refuses to duck when she enters, chosing instead to ram her forehead at the doorway until it finally gives way.

And, it probably would have held up much better had it not endured two rambunctious kiddos. I would still recommend it because it is cute,cheap, and doesn’t take up much space.

Product Info:
Cirkustalt Children’s Tent

crafts: pj pants

I was hoping to make a set of matching pj pants for us for xmas, I bought the fabric and everything, but I just ran out of time (and yeah, I am that big of a dork and I’m dragging my little family with me, but at least they’ll be cozy).

I did manage to make a pair for Kaylee, it is based on a pattern I found over at instructables. I used a pair of her stretch pants for the pattern, as advised in the directions, however the finished product turned out too big. Construction was fairly simple and I finished them up over a couple of weekends. I lost interest at the point where you cut and attach the elastic and had to come back to it later otherwise they could have been completed in a few hours.

They turned out OK. I think the waist is a bit high and the dots don’t quite match up – something I wasn’t anticipating and will pay closer attention to next time. I would also not add as much ‘allowance’ to the top and bottom as the instructions advised since they were really overly roomy for our short, skinny, baby.

Kaylee is a texture girl and instantly went gaga over these pants. I knew it would be a hit when she snuggled up with the fabric while I was cutting the pattern out. The only problem with fleece is that when I sent them through the wash they didn’t shrink, but man did they pill up. They look like they have been well loved already when she only wore them once. This is my first time working with fleece so I’m not sure if that is normal or not. I plan on making her a second pair, modifying based on what I learned this time around. Eventually I’ll get around to a pair for Scott and I too, maybe even in time for next xmas 🙂


Our favorite toys: Circo Play Kitchen

We got a call from Grandma and Grandpa while they were out shopping the other day. Target was having a sale on thier play kitchens, they assured us this one was a steal, and before we knew it they were at our door with box in hand. Kaylee has played with it practically every moment we have been home since we put it together.

I have been looking around for a wooden kitchen for a while now and this one is waaaay more pink than I wanted, in fact it’s even girly-er than this out of the box (we turned the backsplash pieces around to hide the cupcakes and hearts), but it’s hard to argue with free. It’s not plastic, and that is a huge bonus, but it’s not exactly wood either. The quality is fair, what I would expect from Circo – one of the pieces didn’t line up quite right and a hole wasn’t completely drilled. It is also pretty light with a high tip factor (it comes with anchors for the wall), but so far it hasn’t been too much of an issue considering Kaylee is still pretty small. It is a nice starting point, and I’m thinking I can always paint it later.

I’m looking forward to the all the potential craft projects from pot holders and aprons to felt play food. I think I’m as excited about this toy as she is 🙂 Her only complaint is that she can’t fit inside the cupboard like she can the one in the real kitchen, but I’m sure she’ll get over it.

Our favorite toys: fisher price stroller


Our daycare provider’s home is packed with pretend play toys. Kaylee’s favorite is the doll stroller which she rarely parts with during her time there. I picked one up from toys r us a few months ago – ours is the Precious Planet version but they have others as well –  so she could have her very own and it has been one of the best toy purchases ever. She plays with it daily. This version is a little pricey, but it has a wide wheel base and has never tipped over (it is even sturdy enough that she can go for the occasional ride in it herself!). It also has a lot of room for all her treasures. It acts more like a shopping cart at the moment, as she gathers bits and pieces from around the house while taking her toys for a stroll. In fact, more often than not, our stuff finds its way in there too. We often start our searches by digging through her stroller stash first now, especially if it is phones or keys that are ”lost’. She’s our little magpie.

Our Favorite Toys: Hoover vacuum

I picked up this cute little vacuum at a consignment sale this fall and tucked it away for the holidays. We gave it to her a little early and she’s been ‘vacuuming’ every day since…too bad it doesn’t actually work. It does make real vacuum sounds, lights up, and the attachments all come out and fit on the hose.

reviews: skip hop whale faucet cover

Once Kaylee was able to sit we moved her to the bathtub. At 6 months old, she was still pretty squirmy so we added a non-slip mat to the tub along with this skip hop Moby the Whale faucet cover. The whale has saved her poor little head more times than I can count. Love, love, love it. Plus it is super easy to clean, I just take it off and pop it into the dishwasher about once a month and have never had a problem with mold. And, it’s just so darn cute! Totally worth $10.

reviews: sears portrait studio

Why Sears portrait studio @ Gurnee Mills is totally lame…

We had been taking Kaylee to JC Penny portrait studio since she was 3 months old. To be honest, I had grown bored with their backdrops and our last experience there (a different studio than our usual) was not that great.

For Kaylee’s Christmas pictures this year I decided to change it up and book a session through Sears Portrait Studio. Setting up the appointment online was easy, and I was even able to book it for the next day. However, things fell apart quickly once we actually arrived at our session. There were two other familys there when we arrived, one getting their pictures taken and the other looking at pictures from their session. No one in line. We stood around (chased Kaylee around the store) for 15 minutes before someone came out and gave us a form to fill out – no greeting, straight to business. It took another 15 minutes before they were ready to move us to a room. We changed Kaylee into her outfit while the photographer prepped the room. Kaylee did pretty well, but didn’t really want to sit or stay in any poses for long. The photographer did manage to get her to smile but otherwise didn’t really seem ‘professional’. She changed backdrops a few times and added a box pop for seated shots, but nothing was offered that I had seen in their advertisements.

The photographer actually asked us to pose Kaylee on her belly for one of the shots…seriously? This kid is 15 months old – she doesn’t hold still for more than a few moments at a time and she really doesn’t take kindly to being ‘positioned’ either (unless dangling it’s upside down), let alone on her belly. What 15  month old does?

After the session was done we were asked to leave the room and met another staff member at the counter. She said it would take 20  minutes to process the pictures. 20 minutes…to process digital pictures? OK.

So we changed Kaylee back into her play clothes and wandered around the store. We ended up in the toy section where Kaylee found the ball bin and had fun taking all the balls out so Daddy could put them back in. Eventualy we made our way back to the studio and were

We liked 4 of the 16 pictures she took, not a very good ratio.   It took another 15-20 minutes to check-out. And we were told the prints wouldn’t arrive back in the store until December 9th, 2 weeks later.

I gave them a coupon which was not reflected on the receipt. I should have received a CD and a few sheets of discounted portraits from our favorite picture. Instead every sheet was 20 percent off with no sitting fee but I also did not get a CD. So I ended up paying more money for less product than at JC Penny. The pictures were posted to their website by the time we got back home, but they have a Sears logo all over them. I cleaned up the one shown above but didn’t bother with the rest – I’ll just scan them whenthey arrive to share online with friends and family. Completely irritating and unnecessary considering it’s  not like you can create a print from the tiny pictures they post online anyway so they aren’t going to lose any money.

They could easily improve their quality of service by reducing wait time; this would include more staff with specific roles instead of employees who are expected to take pictures and handle retail sales. They definitely need to reduce the wait time after the session too – 20 minutes is ridiculous, particularly when  you have a baby or toddler in tow. And, remove the pointless water marks from their online photo albums.

Ultimately, it was a waste of time and money. I plan on going back to JC Penny instead next time instead.

mostly homemade apple pie

Scott requested apple pie for Thanksgiving, so I took my first stab at it. I used Paula Deen’s Crunch Top Apple Pie recipe which was super simple with pre-made refridgerated pie crust. I used a mix of apples – granny smith, honeycrisp, braeburn, and golden delicious – and organic apple sauce. I’m not a big fruit pie fan, but I think it turned out pretty good and the family really liked it too. Next year I plan on working up the courage to make my own crust too.

It was gone before I thought to take an ‘after’ picture, but I assure you, it was a lovely golden brown color. The crunch topping was the best part and when I make it again I plan on doubling the crunch portion of the recipe.