Thursday, June 2, 2011

I stink at resolutions.

This is me, doing my best "Oops, sorry I suck at resolutions" face. It is now apparent that I suck at making appropriate faces, too.

So there. I said it. I stink at resolutions. I started this blog with the intention of doing a post at least twice a week. I was doing great for a few weeks. Then, the strangest thing happened. I turned into a perfectionist and became overwhelmed. Wait...that's not strange. That's typical me

I am an "all or nothing" kind of person to the core and I HATE it. Just like my banner says, I'm trying to find a happy medium. In every part of my life, I jump in full force. So, when the first of the year came around, I took on everything. I started this blog (every post was supposed to be super informative), I set out to lose 40+ pounds, decided to not only lose that weight, but to become a runner (I have hated running all my life), started eating "clean," started doing a "365 photo project" on  Facebook, etc. etc. 

I was doing great those first few weeks. My blog was entertaining and informative, I bought a treadmill and started jogging, went completely gung-ho with eating clean, took a picture pretty much every day and posted it on FB as part of my "365 project" and felt insanely productive. Then came life. Kids got sick, I got writer's block, day-to-day chores and responsibilities started piling up until I just got completely overwhelmed and decided something had to go. Since I wasn't willing to give up on my health/weight loss journey, I dropped blogging (with all intentions of picking it back up whenever I had the chance) and Project 365. I will be totally honest in saying that I have no intentions of picking up the photo project. I was so crazy about each picture having perfect little captions that I drove myself insane every day with it. Sounds weird, I know. I mean, it only took about 20 minutes a day. But, I dreaded those 20 minutes all day and it's my personal opinion that we all have plenty to dread. Why do something like that if you don't enjoy it?

I am happy to report that I have lost 27 pounds since then. I even surpassed my expectations of myself and ran in a Warrior Dash, which is a 3 mile obstacle course/mud run. I now have some strange leg injury and hope that I can get that all fixed up and be back on the course to becoming a runner very soon. I would love to run in a few 5ks & 10ks, then a 1/2 marathon, with the ultimate goal of running a marathon one day. I ate "clean" successfully for a couple of months, but then fell off that wagon. I'm trying to get back on, but with the mindset that it really is ok to "cheat" occasionally. My "baby" Bug turned 1, Bean had her big Spring dance recital, we took her to an Imagination Movers concert, we got a "new" (to us) minivan, and a new nephew was born. Now, here I am, finally addressing the "lost" blog. I do plan on hopping back on board with the blog. I just won't be stressing myself out over it. 

So, there ya go. If any of you have thought twice about where I've been, there's your answer. I'm excited to get back to it. I have some reviews and giveaways for some awesome natural products coming up, so stay "tuned" for those! Hopefully it won't be too long. :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bleach Smeach! Natural Alternatives to Bleach

"No273 13 Oct 2009 Sneeze", user mcfarlandmo, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

Flu season is in full swing and boy, is it a doozie this year! I can't tell you how many people I know who have had the flu recently. I have to be honest, too. As much as I promote natural cleaners, I have had to fight the urge to grab some...uh...word that rhymes with Schmorox...disinfecting wipes or spray. I can't stand the thought of anyone in my little family having the flu. We dealt with Bean being hospitalized with H1N1 in August 2009 after a trip to Disney World and it shook me to my core. I'd venture to say there's nothing more scary than watching your child lie on a hospital bed, barely breathing. She's been sick - very sick - before. But, I will admit that I cried the first night we were there because I honestly did not know if she would survive that illness. It was horrible. I was 7 weeks pregnant and also dealt with the fear of what the preventative medication I was taking was going to do to my unborn child, since I had to take it. Anyway, I will also freely admit that I went home and used nasty, non-natural disinfecting wipes on everything as soon as we left the hospital. I wish I had known then what I know now. But, as parents, there's a point where you don't care if what you're using is natural...if it's a life and death situation, give me the blue and white bottle of chlorine bleach, right?! Wrong.

I'm not going to make a huge post on the harmful side effects of bleach; a small amount of research will yield scores of information for you. In short, chlorine bleach releases dioxin, furans and other organochlorines into the air. It can cause sore throats, coughs, wheezing, shortness of breath, fluid in the lungs, and studies have shown a relationship between dioxin exposure and cancer, birth defects, and developmental/reproductive disorders. Not to mention, 25,000 children a year in the United States experience an accident involving bleach, such as ingestion, and it is the most common household chemical involved in poisonings. Chlorine  (also known as sodium hypochlorite or hypochlorite) is found in many household cleaners and products, such as: automatic dishwashing detergents, chlorine bleach, chlorinated disinfectant cleaners, mildew removers, toilet bowl cleaners, and bleached paper products. The EPA says that using bleached coffee filters alone can result in a lifetime exposure to dioxin that “exceeds acceptable levels”. Choose instead unbleached coffee filters, facial tissue, toilet paper, etc. Dishwashers are the worst culprits, releasing chemicals in a steamy mist when the door is opened after washing. In a clothes washer, chlorine mixes with the dirt in clothes to generate airborne, toxic chlorinated organic chemicals. Chlorine-free dishwashing detergents are readily available (In fact, I'll be doing a review and giveaway of a few great chlorine-free automatic dishwashing detergents in the next few weeks!).

Ok, off that soapbox. I've found some great, safe, natural alternatives to uses for bleach. If you have a bleach use and can't find the natural alternative here, let me know. I love a challenge!

  •  Disinfecting Germs: Keep white vinegar in a spray bottle & 3% hydrogen peroxide in another. (The bottle containing the hydrogen peroxide should be opaque, as it will degrade in a clear bottle). Spray contaminated surfaces with the vinegar then follow with peroxide. This combination has been shown to be as effective as chlorine bleach, killing 99% of bacteria.
  • Cotton Stain Removal/Whitening: The SUN! Yes, it's true. The sun is God's own alternative to bleach in the washing machine. Wash as usual (throw in a little vinegar with the wash to help remove residues), then dry in the sun. I once took some very stained cloth diapers of Bug's, hung them out to dry in the sun, and in 20 minutes, they were 100% stain free. No kidding. Cross my heart. Try works!
  • Spot Treating Stains: Lemon juice an option for non-protein stains. Blood (or any other protein stain) should be removed by flooding with cold water. Grass stains can be removed with alcohol, with eucalyptus oil being another alternative. And a good soak in soapy water should remove most other stains. And this doesn't just apply to whites, either.
  • Removing Mold & Mildew: Vinegar
  • Disinfecting Toilets: Frequent "swishing and swiping" (see this post for more on that) will keep staining at bay. For disinfecting purposes, straight vinegar or vinegar with a few drops of tea tree oil works, too. Bac-Out is also a great alternative. 
  • Disinfecting Bottles, Toys, etc.: Soak a cloth in vinegar and lemon juice, then wipe down other toys. Make up a spray bottle of vinegar, few drops of tea tree oil and few drops of lavendar essential oil - this makes an antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal spray. Put bottles, pacifiers, nipples, etc. in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes. For stuffed animals, put them in a pillowcase and wash them on cold with your (non-chlorine) detergent and vinegar, then air dry or tumble dry without heat. 
Ok, that's all I can think of that I might use bleach for, haha! Of course, there are also store bought natural alternatives to bleach as well. For other recipes (such as mold removers, etc) check out this post. Stay healthy!

Sources Cited:,-the-Cons-and-the-Natural-Alternatives&id=4741274

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bean-isms (Volume 1)

There are no two ways about it: children are hilarious. Bean is certainly no exception! She says and does the most random funny things! I have been trying to figure out how to organize some of the quotes she comes up with, and I think I am just going to start off with this post and then entitle all of her posts "Bean-isms." This is mostly for myself, as I'm bad at writing this stuff down to put in her baby book. She keeps me laughing (and crying)! Here are a few of my favorites from lately...

After being asked by someone if she'd rather have a Dora or SpongeBob sticker, Bean says (in a very concerned voice), "Well, my mommy says she doesn't really like for me to watch SpongeBob. So, I think we better just do Dora today, ok?"

Bug decided that she liked it better when Bean fed her baby food. At dinner time, Bean begged to feed Bug again, so I cleaned up the dishes while she did it. Afterward, she says, "Mommy, I just apreshate (appreciate) you. That's why I love to feed Bug because it's fun and it helps you and you can finish doing everything you have to do."

While I was reading from the Bible, Bean says, "Mommy, I would like you to read to me about childbirth. I will go change my clothes, then you read to me about childbirth and Mary had a little lamb." 

Bean (refusing to take a nap and screaming and crying until I finally told her that she was absolutely NOT getting up until she could stop screaming): "Thanks a lot, Mommy. You woke up Bug. If you hadn't been fussing at me, she would not have wake-did up!" Hahahaha! Funny part was that Bug had been up for quite some time.

Hubs left the iPod on the sofa. Bug started messing with it, of course. Bean runs over and grabs the iPod out of Bug's hands and puts her hands on her hips, exclaiming, "Mommy! You see what happens when you just leave your stuff laying around ?!" When I told her that I didn't do it, she marched across the house to let Hubs know that he should NOT leave his iPod on the couch.

Me (reading Joel 1:2 out loud while the kids played): "Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?..."
Bean (interrupting me): "No, nothing like that ever happened in my days!"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mommy, There's Another Baby in Your Belly!

Hubs and me in June 2009 -  I want to fit in this dress again.

Um. No, sweetheart. There's no baby in Mommy's belly. Those are just "leftovers" from your baby sister...and all the ice cream and decaf mochas I've been consuming lately.

Ok, so maybe Bean's innocent little comment is a little comical. But, it's also a good little tush kicker! I am finally ready (and able) to try and get this mommy body back in shape. You see, Bug's had a hard time gaining weight. She has refused solids for the most part, until last week. Since I've been her sole source of nutrition, I needed to let all the calories I was eating make breastmilk. Exercising to lose weight would have used up some of the calories I was taking in and, since I've had some milk supply issues, I decided that Bug getting that good breastmilk was more important than my own vanity. Well, about a week or so ago, she suddenly decided that she wanted to eat solids! She's still nursing (and I don't plan on weaning her until she's two if all goes well, but that's a whole other post...), but I'm no longer her sole source of nutrition. You know how women are told that they will lose all the weight easily because they're breastfeeding? Yeah, so not my case. With Bean, I held onto a large portion of the baby weight until she started eating solids. Then, I dropped all but about 12-15 pounds. The last little bit would not come off until I completely weaned her. Then, it fell off without even trying within a couple months. By 18 months, I was at my pre-pregnancy weight. All that said, I am well aware that I may work hard to lose this weight and not be able to lose it all until I wean her. I'm ok with that. 

I want to feel good.

For real. I've struggled with weight all my life. Of course I want to fit into my size 8 jeans! But, I am really trying to get to a place mentally where that is not my only driving force. I have been very tired and sore lately. My knees pop every time I bend down. I get out of breath just walking through a store. I've had enough! 

I don't want food to be an idol.

Through research (for this blog post, actually), I came across a forum about weight loss. Some of the women on there began talking about how food becomes an idol. One of them said, "I have been taught that anything that replaces God is an idol." BING! Light bulb totally went off. I use food for everything: comfort, pleasure, stress relief, anger management, etc. I should be turning to God for all of those things! I have never thought of food as an idol before, but it is. It so is!! Not only is food an idol, but so is this obsession I tend to get when it comes to weight loss. I am going to try to be very conscious this time and not become obsessed. 

So, what's my plan? I have started eating clean this week, thanks to Jess over at IROCKSOWHAT and her blog post about weight loss (thanks also to my friend, Jennifer at The Classic Crafter, for directing me to Jess's blog). The "diet" is not really a "diet" for me, really. As cliche' as it sounds, I really want it to be a lifestyle change. Basically, if man made it, I won't be eating it. Now, of course, I am not going to be so completely obsessed that I never indulge, but I really want to stick to this as much as possible. I'm gluten intolerant, so of course I'll be eating gluten free on top of this. I am being very aware of my calorie intake so I don't jeopardize my milk production and taking in lots of good protein and complex carbs. I will also be eating 5-6 small-moderate meals a day instead of 3 huge meals. I am proud to report that I have stuck to this for 5 full days. Ok, so it's not that big of a deal. But, it's something! It's a beginning. 

On top of eating clean, I have started preparing to run in a 10k (6.1 miles) with Hubs in July! I am so not a runner. I mean, I have pretty much flat feet and despise the thought of running with everything in me. I have always preferred an elliptical machine at the gym. BUT, I've never seen an overweight avid runner. Have you? Yeah, didn't think so. We bought a treadmill and I've done the first two workouts in week one of the Couch-to-5k running plan! I ran/walked for 2 miles. I felt INCREDIBLE afterward! I have struggled with wondering how in the world I would exercise with two babies around. They are constantly under my feet and crying at me. You know how I knew I was truly ready to commit to this? I decided that I don't care how I have to do it. I'm going to do it. I think that's the key...lose the excuses.

I won't say what my weight loss goal is in poundage. However, it's about the amount of a three year old, ha! But, honestly, I just want to run in the 10k in July and feel great by then. If I have those two things, I'm sure the weight will come eventually.

So, Bean's comment kicked me into gear. You know what I'm hoping will keep me accountable? Posting my plans on a blog for everyone to see. Yeah...that should do it. To all of you wanting to lose weight, jump in and join me! I triple dog dare you. Now you HAVE to do it. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Look, Ma! I'm Flying!

 My sink all's amazing how much of a difference it really makes!

Are you suffering from CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome)? Do you find that you're so overwhelmed by day to day chores that you don't have the time or energy to get your home really organized and deep-down clean (like I know we all want our homes to be)? When it comes to home organization, I just have to rave about  Flylady's home organization system! I love having a clean home, but find myself often getting behind. I have so many things on my daily "to-do" list that a lot of times, the little things (cleaning baseboards) and the big things (sweeping/mopping) just pile up. Don't even get me started on the laundry. I loathe doing laundry! Anyway, I was first introduced to the Flylady system when I was pregnant with Bean. I have done the program off and on, but I'm hoping to stay "on" from here on out! Even Hubs makes the comment, "You're doing Flylady, aren't you?" I guess the fact that the house is clean and I'm not running around like a chicken with its head cut off is pretty indicative of Flylady to him. He is the King of loving a clean home. He's awesome, though...he is great about helping if I get too far behind on stuff.

I have tweaked Flylady's system and made it work for me. The main things I do are the Daily Routines and Home "Zones." One of Flylady's main "BabySteps" is to shine your sink. She has a theory that a clean and shiny sink leads to a clean home. It really is amazing how keeping your sink shiny helps keep you motivated! My whole house seems a little bit cleaner when my sink is shiny! I do tweak her "recipe" a little bit, though. Instead of bleach, I use vinegar (yes, another use for vinegar!). Another principle of her program is doing a load of laundry every day. This has saved my sanity! In fact, my daily routine pretty much keeps me from pulling my hair out most days.

I am going to keep this a short post, as there's no use in me going into mass detail about Flylady's system when she's already done that fabulously on her website. I also highly recommend her book, Sink Reflections (Flylady's real name is Marla Cilley). For those of you who are like me and get overwhelmed by her website and the wealth of information it holds, the book is wonderful. I will add another, more detailed, Flylady blog post if anyone would like to see exactly what my "control journal" (the journal that I keep all of my routines, etc. in) consists of. I just wanted to share with you all the magic that is Flylady in hopes that it helps someone else get out of the cleaning rut they might be in. It has been a lifesaver and makes it so much more pleasant to keep home. It really is different than any other systems I've tried and consistently works to keep our home running smoothly. In fact, the ONLY time I feel like our home is running smoothly is when I'm  using her system. Cruise on over to her site and, if you feel so inclined, get started "flying!"

Friday, January 14, 2011

Homemade Household Cleaning (No Gas Mask Required)

"2", user Matthew Yaktine, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial

You know how "they" say that when you have a child, everything changes? They weren't kidding. I've always been more inclined to go with more "natural" products, but I was a stickler about my non-natural cleaning supplies. I had used some of the store bought natural stuff and it never seemed to do a good job of really getting my house clean. If it didn't come in an aerosol can and require a face mask, it just wasn't good enough. Oh, how Bean changed that thought process! After she was born, I started becoming more and more interested in finding natural alternatives to...everything. But, my research was put into high gear when we discovered that she had eczema and food allergies. Her eczema got so bad that she would scratch her chest until it bled (she was 5 months old). After reading scores of books and scouring loads of websites, I decided that chemical cleaners were one of the first things that had to go. I won't go into detail about everything I found here (it'd take me days just to cite all of the books and websites I read), but I highly suggest you read up on it. Burns, infertility, cancer, asthma, eczema, nausea, vomiting, ear infections, and headaches are just a few of the nasty side effects of chemical laden household cleaners. Also, guess what? If Bean or Bug ever managed to get into my cleaning supplies, they'd come out alright. Ok...stepping of that soap box (for now). 

I've been making 90% of my own household cleaners since Bean was about 5 months old (2007).  Before I dish out the recipes, I must tell you how much I love vinegar and tea tree oil. I love them like Napoleon loves his Chap Stick. For real. I will save some space on here and just send you here for some info on how great vinegar is and here for a gazillion uses (ok, 1001 to be exact) for vinegar. It's great for not only cleaning, but also for keeping you healthy. I use plain white vinegar for cleaning, but I have been known to throw back a shot of apple cider vinegar when I get a head cold. It's "stout" to say the least, but I always feel better much quicker! I know some people say they can't stand the smell of vinegar, but it really does dissipate very quickly and after a while, you come to associate the smell with cleanliness (like my whole family does now). Hey, a pickled house smells better than a fake lemon-y house, right?? Even my oh-so-skeptical husband now much prefers natural cleaning supplies to the chemical stuff. Here is a great source for uses of tea tree oil. Got a toe fungus? How about dandruff? Mold? Acne? Tea tree is a great remedy for all of those! 
Here are some of my favorite recipes. I've found these on random websites that I don't remember and I've tried to find the websites to cite the authors, but haven't been successful. Just know I didn't create most of these. :)

Mopping Solution for non-hardwood floors (this one was tweaked by me a bit)
-1 gallon very hot (boiling if you want) water
-2 squirts of Castile soap
-15 drops Orange essential oil (optional)
-8 drops lemon essential oil (optional)
-1 cup vinegar (do NOT use straight vinegar with tile can eat away at it, so I've read. But, diluted this much it works just fine on my tile)
-20 drops tea tree oil (TTO)

All Purpose Cleaner
-1 tsp Borax (optional honestly...I've used it without and it works fine)
-2 tbsp vinegar
-1-2 squirts Castile soap
-15-20 drops TTO
*Put all ingredients in a spray bottle and fill the rest of the way with water. Voila! Best. All. Purpose. Cleaner. EVER. Smells great, is antibacterial, and is gentle on surfaces. Straight vinegar works awesome for disinfecting, but I never use it on my countertops anymore (it ate off the protective layer and now my countertops get stained super easy) and I've heard it's not good for granite, either. This spray can work on those surfaces beautifully though!

Furniture Polish (By the way, my very favorite thing to use for dusting is just a microfiber cloth! This polish works great for when you've already dusted and just want a shine on your wood furniture.)

-Equal parts lemon juice and olive oil

Window/Glass Cleaner
-white vinegar (I don't dilute it at all...seems streaky if I dilute it)
*Old burp cloths seem to work the best for me with cleaning windows

Drain Unclogger (I tweaked this one, too, and it works better than ANY store bought drain unclogger I've ever tried)
-bamboo skewers (LOL! That's what I usually have on hand, but you can use anything that would be good for cleaning a drain with...they even sell things in the store for this, but I like to just grab random things, ha)
-1/2 cup baking soda
-boiling water
*Use the skewers to clean out anything that might be blocking the drain (in our case, it's ALWAYS my hair)
*Pour baking soda down drain
*Pour vinegar down drain
*Immediately throw a towel over the "volcano" that is coming out of the drain. You want to trap the chemical reaction inside the slow drain and let as little of it out as possible.
*Let stand for 20 minutes. While it's standing, boil a couple gallons of water.
*After 20 minutes, remove towel from drain. Slowly Pour one gallon of boiling water down drain. If it's still not clear, repeat the process until it's clear. You don't have to do the skewer part again, though.

Grout Cleaner
-3 cups baking soda
-1 cup warm water
*Mix baking soda and water into a paste and scrub grout with a toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly.

Rust Stains:
-Full strength vinegar; let stand until rust disappears.

Mold Killer #1
-2 tsp tea tree oil
-2 cups water
*Combine in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and spray on problem areas. Do not rinse. Makes about 2 cups, lasts indefinitely. We had horrible mold issues on our windows and bathroom and this killed it all and smells so awesome.

Mold Killer #2 (odorless)
-20 drops grapefruit seed extract
-2 cups water
*Combine in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and spray on problem areas. Do not rinse. Makes about 2 cups, lasts indefinitely.

Mold Killer #3 (my favorite)
-Straight vinegar reportedly kills 82% of mold. Pour some white distilled vinegar straight into a spray bottle, spray on the moldy area, and let set without rinsing. You can add essential oils for a more mellow scent.
Hardwood Floor Cleaner
-straight white vinegar
*Use a sponge mop. Spray vinegar directly onto floor and mop. Kills germs like no other! However, if you have a protective sealer on your hardwoods, I'd dilute the vinegar to 1/2 vinegar 1/2 water because straight vinegar can eat through the sealer.

Powder Laundry Detergent for Cloth Diapers & Clothes
This recipe comes from Amanda over at The Eco-Friendly Family and I love it!

For a huge batch (you'll need a 5 gallon bucket)
3 Boxes Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55 oz each)
2 Boxes 20 Mule Team Borax (76 oz each)
1 Large Tub OxiClean (96 oz)
My wash routine is like this:
Cold short wash with 1 tbsp laundry detergent
Long hot wash with 2 tbsp laundry detergent with extra rinse
Short warm rinse with a cup of vinegar

For a smaller batch, she recommends using:
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1/2 cup of oxiclean

What I do is make the large batch. I then divide it in half. One bucket is for cloth diapers. To the other bucket, I grate up 12 bars of soap and mix in and that's for our clothes. However, I've used it without the bars on clothes and it works just fine. You can use Fels Naptha soap, Ivory, Zote, or even Castile bar soap. I used Ivory last time but I think my skin didn't like it. I'm going to try the castile this time around.

These are my very favorite recipes, but if you're looking for other homemade/natural household cleaners, this is a great website.

I have to say that I absolutely LOVE Method brand cleaning products. Their "Wood for Good" line is my favorite. I love the almond scent! I use their hardwood floor cleaner weekly, then do a vinegar mop once a month (most of our house is hardwood, so that much vinegar is a really strong -eye watering- scent to use more than once a month). I also love the Wood for Good furniture polish. Another Method favorite is their shower spray.  Seventh Generation also makes natural disinfecting wipes that I love. Speaking of disinfectants,  CleanWell hand sanitizer is fantastic! There's a pretty cool back story behind CleanWell that I love, too. Another great product is Biokleen Bac-Out. It is a fabulous toilet cleaner and just a general bacteria killing all purpose cleaner. It removed stains from my old toilet that even bleach (which I loathe) couldn't get rid of.

Ok, so that's my "now I can breathe again, love my vinegar, saving my family loads of money and protecting the planet" tangent.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

But, Mom! I Told You I Don't Want a Play Kitchen!

This is Betty.

I have a bad habit. I mean a really bad habit. Brilliant ideas come to me at the worst times. Take this adorable little play kitchen. Betty was a vision that didn't appear in my head until, oh, Thanksgiving. I had decided I wanted to get the girls a play kitchen for Christmas and I wanted a wooden one for them. You know, so it would last a long time. And because the wooden ones were sooo much cuter than the plastic ones (I'm well aware that I'm not supposed to begin a sentence with "and," but it's my blog and I'll be grammatically incorrect if I want to). I had actually tried to convince Bean that a play kitchen is what she wanted for her 3rd birthday. After all, whenever we went to the home of a child with a play kitchen, that's all she wanted to play with! But, she begged for a Barbie Jeep instead. Yeah, she wanted a Barbie Jeep and ended up riding it maybe five times. It worked out for the better in the end, though. Bean refused to ride that Jeep, so I asked her if I could give it away. She enthusiastically told me to just give it away. So, I sold that Jeep and used that money to buy pretty much everything we needed to create little Miss Betty. 

Right around Thanksgiving, I stumbled across "DIY Play Kitchens" in several places online. From play kitchens made out of Ikea furniture to cutie pie kitchens made from nightstands like this one, I was in creative Heaven. Then, I stumbled upon this website (scroll down to the one made by Blue Eyed Yonder....she's my very favorite). It was all over after that; the wheels started turning. (By the way, if you're at all interested in learning to build anything yourself, I highly recommend you check out Ana White's entire's awesome! I can't wait to venture out and try to make some things with her instructions.) Oh, and I can't forget Ohdeedoh! They had a whole slew of play kitchens that provided loads of inspiration! Why spend $200+ on a wooden play kitchen when I can build one myself?! Myself. Yes, that was the original plan. We'll get back to that in a minute. Instead of buying and building from scratch, I decided to do the "green" thing and find an unloved piece of wooden furniture somewhere and just make a kitchen out of it. So, what did I do? Why, I begged Hubs to drive me around for days on end until I could find the perfect piece of unloved furniture, of course! We spent several days (and WAY too much gas...yeah, that's not really green, is it?) driving until we finally ended up in Greenville, South Carolina one Sunday. At our very last thrift store, I ran in ten minutes before they were to close. 

And there she was. 

I don't know what Betty was in her previous life. But, I knew the second I saw her that she was going to be my babies' play kitchen. She cost us $20 and was made from very solid wood. To make her even sweeter, there was this note on the back:  

25 years ago, Betty was a gift made for a little girl (ok, so maybe she wasn't little, but in my mind, she was a cute little girl with blonde ringlets and blue eyes...) by her sweet daddy for Christmas. How precious is it that she was about to be transformed for a couple of sweet little girls for Christmas by their parents?! Betty had a sweet destiny.

Remember when I said before that I was going to do this project myself? Yeah, I quickly realized I was in over my head. Determined as I am, I didn't want to ask for help. But, B, being the sweet husband that he is, jumped in and saved me. He really is the best. This project could not have been done without him. In fact, I bet Betty would have ended up in a landfill somewhere eventually if B hadn't helped me rescue her.

So, right after Thanksgiving, the work began. I drew out a plan of exactly what I wanted - a retro 1950s style, sassy little kitchen. Stripping paint and knocking out sections were the first jobs. Thankfully, Grandma G and Meme were our lifesavers and helped us with the girls so we could work. 
 Stripping paint on a very, very cold evening
B nailing the new divider in that separates the oven and under-sink compartment

So, why do I complain about not having free time when I obviously have plenty of it? I mean, we had enough time to build a play kitchen, so we must have too much time on our hands, right? You see, that is the big misconception. My grand plans of projects and ideas don't usually take into account the fact that we really don't have the time to see them through. But, the "best" ones keep me awake at night until I finally can't avoid them any longer. Did I mention that B is also a full time student at night? That meant that our work time was confined to the evenings when he wasn't in school and weekends. We spent every free moment (and I mean every free moment) between Thanksgiving and Christmas working on our project. We even hid it in the basement of Meme's house (that's B's grandmother) during the annual C Family Christmas Weekend (the weekend before Christmas) and worked on it during "down times." We also left it at my mother-in-law's (Grandma G) house for a few weeks and worked on it as we could (mostly painting) there. She would keep the kids for us while we worked in the garage. Not only that, but she ended up painting some for us when we weren't there, too! Speaking of paint, I spent about 30 minutes in Lowe's hemming and hawing over what color green/teal to choose. I knew I wanted it to be a green/blue color because I wanted any future children of ours, even boys (if we ever have any boys, ha) to be able to play with it. The little sink skirt is velcroed on, so all I have to do is remove it and put a more gender neutral fabric on. Anyway, Grandma G and B's step-dad, Papa G, were so helpful through all of this. Papa G is a general contractor, so he helped B learn how to use a router and things like that.

In the last few days, my biggest "job" was to find all the little finishing accessories. I found mirrors at a Dollar Store to use for the "window" ($4). My sweet and precious friend, Holly, made the little sink skirt and window valance for me (I can do a lot of things, but sewing is not my forte. Maybe I will fix that later, but I definitely couldn't figure it out in the amount of time I had). They totally pulled the piece together! The fabric cost me about $10 total, if I remember correctly. She also went with me to Hobby Lobby, where I found the adorable little knobs that were used for the oven.($6 total for all 4 knobs). as well as the shelf that hangs on the back ($6). My living room coasters got some black paint slapped on them and painted dowels on top to bring them to life as gas stove burners ($.50 for the dowel). We found perfect hardware for the refrigerator and oven doors at Ace Hardware and Lowe's ($15 for all 3). We used a dog bowl for the sink  ($3) and found the faucet at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store ($6 for all 3 pieces). We put an LED push light in the oven ($1 - we bought a 4-pack for $4). Between paint and other miscellaneous items (chalkboard on side, oven rack, etc.), we probably spent an additional $25. For just the kitchen itself and without the accessories I bought for it, we definitely came in under $100. Not too shabby! It's solid wood and built to last a loooong time. I hope to watch my grandbabies play with it in many, many years. :)

 I fell in love with this little wooden mixer! It's made by Kidkraft. I happened to have a $20 e-gift card to Target, so I only paid a couple of dollars for it. Score!
 Close up of the sink skirt Holly sewed for me.
 Inside the fridge/freezer. All the wooden play food is made by Melissa and Doug.

 This little teapot is very breakable, but it was $3 at TJ Maxx and oh-so-cute! It hasn't been broken yet...knock on wood.

On Christmas Eve, we stayed up pretty late just putting the finishing touches on it. I could hardly sleep I was so excited. However, I told Hubs weeks before that I just knew what Bean would say. I told him I'd just about put money on her saying, "I didn't ask for a play kitchen!" You see, Bean is three and brutally honest. Even more than that, she just has a firecracker of a personality. She kept going back and forth for months. One day she'd say, "I want a play kitchen." Then, when I'd ask her if she still wanted one, she would reply, "No! I want [insert random 'made in China' toy here]!" In the few weeks before Christmas, she had made up her mind that she did not want a play kitchen. Well, fast forward to Christmas morning. Bean walks in the living room and immediately spots all the goodies that Santa brought for her (they were on the couch, which was across the living room from Betty). She spent a good 5 minutes ooh-ing and aah-ing over all of that before she noticed the play kitchen. We actually captured her on video saying, "But, Mom! I told you I didn't want a play kitchen!" Hubs and I laughed hysterically because we knew she would say that. But, in typical Bean fashion, she changed her mind as soon as she saw her little sister playing with it. We captured this lovely picture about 15 minutes later...

So, there you have it. That's the {very long} story behind Betty and how she was brought back to life. I couldn't be any more happy with how she turned out. Big, HUGE thanks to Hubs, Grandma G, Papa G, and Meme for helping us out on so many occasions! My little dream would never have come to fruition without all of your help.