DIY: Lego Table

My children have just recently started to play legos.  Paddy got some duplo blocks for his birthday and in September I discovered a box of Patrick’s legos from when he was a boy and the kids immediately started to play with them.  Like most moms, I have a love/hate relationship with legos.  I love the time and creativity children use when playing with them, but I hate “the dump.”  I got very tired of constantly picking up and stepping on legos in Bridget’s room so I decided we should move them to the basement playroom, so if they get dumped, I don’t need to pick them up immediately.

Our neighbors have this really cool lego table.  It is now $120, but when I priced it out a month ago it was$160, and I just did not want to spend that much on a lego table because while my kids enjoy playing legos, they are not lego crazy.  I figured there must be some sort of DIY table out there, given that it is just more or less baseplates glued to a table.  I found this great one from skip to my lou.  We bought the kritter table instead of the lack from Ikea, and used liquid nails instead of spray adhesive, which also was much easier.

We did a slightly different layout too, making roads down the middle, which neatly divides the table into four different building areas, so everyone can have their own space with boundaries.

The final cost of the project was $60.  The baseplates are pretty expensive and they were $35 alone.  We bought a more”expensive” table by Ikea standards, which upped the cost and the liquid nails was $5.  The big downside is it does not have the nifty storage that the other table had.  It wasn’t that difficult to make if you are a marginally crafty person, but again is it worth another $60 to get the drawers and not have to do it yourself – maybe.  Paddy totally noticed it did not have the drawers and asked where they were.  I think I may make or buy some mesh drawstring bags that I could attach to the side of the table for storage, but for now we have the bin that dumps.


For those we love that live far away, my children in their Halloween costumes:

BTW- Paddy refused to wear his adorable rocket ship costume on Halloween so we put an Argentina soccer jersey on him and went with it.
Bridget lost her ninja mask at zooboo because she kept taking it on and off and refused to wear her ninja weapons on Halloween, she was a peace loving ninja.



fall yumminess

I am loving this beautiful fall we are having, and I am finding myself making the two below recipes multiple times each week.

The Chai recipe comes from a dear friend from Oak Park and I love how my kitchen smells when I make it.

Chai recipe

4-5 cinnamon sticks (each 3″), broken
1 vanilla bean, split in half or 2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 whole nutmeg, coarsely chopped
6-8 cardamom pods (1 teaspoon whole seeds may be used)
3 whole star anise, roughly broken
2-4 tablespoons finely shredded ginger (I use 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
3 black peppercorns, bruised
3 whole cloves
pinch of sea salt
6 cups filtered water

place all ingredients in a stockpot and bring to a boil

reduce heat to low and simmer for 25-30 minutes. strain through a fine strainer or sieve. If there is a lot of sediment try straining through a strainer or sieve lined with cheesecloth.  The brew may be simmered longer to reduce volume and concentrate flavor.

Note: the spices may be used again for a second batch, reducing the water by half

Makes 1 quart

Chai Tea

2 cups chai spice concentrate
2 tea bags (green, white or black tea)
2 Tablespoons honey
2 cups milk of your choice

In a saucepan, bring the chai spice concentrate to a boil and turn off heat.  Steep the tea bags in the concentrate for 3-5 minutes.

Remove tea bags and squeeze out any liquid into the tea. Stir in honey to taste, add milk.  Warm over medium-low heat until piping hot.

caramel sauce

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream

in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 1/3  cup water over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Using a pastry brush, coat the walls of the saucepan with water to melt any sugar on the sides.  Increase the heat to high and cook, undisturbed, until amber-colored, about 5 minutes.  (I let it cook longer until it is more burnt, for more of a burnt caramel taste).

wearing oven mitts, slowly stir in 2 tbsp cream, 1 at a time. Using a wooden spoon, stir the remaining cream into the caramel.  Cook, stirring over low heat until combined, about 3 minutes.

This recipe goes great with freshly picked apples.  Apple picking is on of my favorite fall family traditions.  Our orchard of choice is Stuckey’s (which is where my parents took me when I was a child).  We also plan on checking out Tuttle’s this year after I run the Indianapolis mini marathon at Fort Ben in two weeks. . .

backyard camping

I am not a camper.  The few times we went camping as a family were very painful. I told Patrick early on in our marriage that the closest he will get me to camping is to stay at a hotel where the door opens to the outside. My husband, however, has fond memories of it as a child and promised Bridget that they would backyard camp this summer.  He woke up Friday morning and informed her (not me) that they would do it that night.  You don’t mention something like that to a four-year old and not keep your promise. Because we don’t have a backyard we set up “camp” at my parent’s house who fortunately live on 10 acres with woods, a creek and plenty of firewood.

Patrick proved to be a first rate camp-fire builder and it was the first time in years that I have had a smore!

Unfortunately he did not build the benches as well, and I sat down and broke the board clear through!

The best thing about camping out in the backyard, is that around 11 pm, when you realize that your four-year old is not going to actually sleep in the tent, you can take her inside and put her to bed.

OTHER NEWS: My baby turned two at the end of June. Here are a couple of pictures from his party.

I made his shirt and pants out of a very cute Japanese transportation print.

and now the after!

Our kitchen remodel took an amazing 38 days from start to finish (that includes weekends!)  This is pretty amazing considering some of the stories I have heard about it taking months and months and because it was a complete gut!

The finished product

This was our first major home renovation project and I learned a lot going through the process.  It was challenging enough to make all of the decisions about one room, I don’t think I could ever build a custom home, because I would not be able to make the decisions about design, lighting, floring, etc. for an entire home.

I wanted a slate floor, but my contractor convinced me this porcelain tile that looked like slate was more durable and easier to care for.  I also wanted Carrara marble and was told it was too difficult to care for with small children, so we went with a white and gray granite (cashmere white.)

We chose white shaker style cabinets.  The one thing I changed my mind on after the installation, was the flat front drawers – I think it is too plain, so we reordered shaker style drawer fronts that will be installed in a few weeks along with the cup pull hardware (which is why the drawers are missing their hardware in the photo.)

I love my white cast iron enamel Kohler apron front “farm sink.”

My contractor also suggested doing the window ledges in granite and I love it!

We choose a simple white subway tile backsplash with a dove gray grout.  I LOVE my new 6 burner 36″  pro- range.  Notice it even has a window with a light!  After cooking on a  cheap electric range for a year, I am so happy to have gas again!

The window seat is already a favorite!  We are planning on having a table made to fit in the eat in space, using the bench as part of the seating.  I wanted a TV in the kitchen, so Patrick bought the biggest one possible for the space.







The wine cabinet sits where a big butcher block and our trash cans were.  Our trash cans are now hidden in the island –  another favorite feature!

Our fridge and microwave are where the old built-in used to be.  We were also able to gain about 16″ of space by moving the wall back, which really made the kitchen feel bigger.  The cabinet on the left is a pantry with pull-outs and under microwave is a little catch-all space.  The DVD and cable box are hidden in the cabinet above the microwave.

The view from when you enter from the mud-room.  I love the school-house pendants we got from Rejuvenation. They are period appropriate to when the house was built in the 30’s.  We painted the walls a light gray called Icicle from Sherwin-Williams.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures, but better yet please come visit it in person!

a new kitchen, but first the old

When we bought our home we purchased it with the intent to replace the kitchen.  We looked at several homes with beautiful expensive kitchens, but they were not what we would have done.  We had the kitchen designer out during our home inspection last August to begin to draw up plans, but it took many months to finalize plans, determine budget,  purchase appliances, and select light fixtures, flooring, paint, granite, etc.

We began demolition on June 1st.  Below are the before pictures and the many reasons, why the kitchen had to go. . .

  • The cabinets are hung low (notice the lovely bulkhead above them) so that my kitchen aid mixer and coffee maker do not fit underneath.
  • There are only two ugly pendant lights to light the entire kitchen
  • The entire kitchen ran on two electric circuits, so that every time I used the microwave and something else the fuse would blow!
  • There were only three outlets in the entire kitchen, one of them looked like it was in the movie, “A Christmas Story.”
  • Notice the lovely electric (I prefer gas) Hot Point range that does not even have a window in it.
  • The cabinets were at least 50 years old and did not work that well
  • There were two different wood floors in the kitchen, neither in great shape
  • The walls were plaster and had no insulation. My dishes were well chilled in the winter!
  • The only redeeming factor were these beatufiul lead glass built-ins (we saved  glass), but they made the entire kitchen awkward and stuck out too far. 
  • The area under the built ins, was also low and had no outlet, making it a junk collecting space because it could not be effectively used as kitchen work space.

  • There is an eat in space, that we are keeping, but building a bench seat by the window, ditching the mini-blinds and putting in a large TV where the artwork is.
  • There was an awkward “L” shaped counter that stuck out and carved up the entire space, complete with bulk head above (that served no function!)

So far we are surviving the experience of not having a kitchen for a month well.  We have the microwave, fridge and toaster oven in the dining room and we are eating at my mom’s for dinner most nights.  I feel a little off kilter because the kitchen is the hub of the home and where we hang out the most, but  I am thankful for this problem of luxury.  New pictures of the finished kitchen should hopefully be coming at the end of next week. . .

Flag Fun

Everything is in bloom and it is so beautiful!  Here is a  fun, easy, quick craft you can do during an April Shower.

Party flags

I made these originally to help decorate for my son’s first birthday party, but have since made several versions.  Some for a bridal shower, some for playroom decorations and I am currently making Easter flags to hang up Easter morning.  There are several ways to make these.

  1. Make a triangle template to use.  I make mine out of felt so it is very durable, but any paper or cardboard would work. The dimensions of my template are 7-1/2″ across the top of the triangle and 9″ long from the top to the point.
  2. Cut out your flags out of various fun printed fabric (the quilting cotton section of the fabric store is a great place to find inexpensive cute prints).  This is also a great project to use larger scraps.  I find 3-5 different fabrics work well, but you could also just use two fabrics and alternate them for a more simple look.
  3. I use pinking shears and cut out the triangles two at a time (wrong sides together).  You can  use regular scissors, and cut them out right sides together if you want a more finished look.
  4. If you cut them out as I did with the right side out (wrong sides together), sew all the way around the two triangles, attaching them together.  If you chose to cut them out right sides together, leave an opening at the top so that you can turn them right-side out.  Your finished product would look like these on Etsy.
  5. You can also use pinking shears, cut the flags out individually, and not sew the triangles all.  If you choose to do this, the flags will be one sided, which work fine if hung against a wall, but would not be the prettiest if they were hung so you could see both sides.  I used this technique when I was in a big hurry and just using them for a one-time party decoration.
  6. After your flags are all assembled you need to string them together.  I usually use extra wide double fold bias tape to “string” the flags.  I sandwich nine flags in between the fold and use a straight stitch to attach them. Remember to leave room at the ends to tie the flags.
  7. If you want to make a longer strand of flags, as I did in the picture above, I buy a spool of grosgrain ribbon and add flags until it is the length I desire.

These are some I made for our basement playroom








These are some I made for a shower and added felt letters










and here are my kids after their first trip to Disney World last week

Jell-O Jigglers

Lately, we have been doing a lot of craft kits in the afternoons.  They are great to have around, but not nearly as fun or creative as a craft you make up or have to gather your own supplies for. You could consider this idea a recipe or a craft, I am pretty sure it is both. . .

Jell-O is one of those items we always seem to have on hand, even though we rarely make it and my kids don’t even really enjoy eating it.

I discovered a few boxes in my pantry recently and was inspired to make jigglers with my children.  In a former life I worked for Kraft Foods in their test kitchens and had the privilege of taking “Jell-O 101” class.

It is an easy recipe for the kids to help open the boxes, dump and mix- although you need to be careful with boiling water.  We also love the intense smell that the Jell-O has.  We used strawberry and it smells just like a Strawberry Shortcake doll!

By far the most fun is letting the children choose the cookie cutters and press them into the firm, but jiggly Jell-O. We had friends over when we cut the jigglers out.  They loved playing with them and it made quite a sticky mess.


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