Backyard upgrade: part 1 of many

The weekend before last, Matt bought some cedar wood chips. A lot of wood chips. A truck came, and after Matt sawed a couple of branches off a tree in the front yard to accommodate the dump truck as its front rose about 20 feet in the air, deposited this pile into our driveway:

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Matt had warned me about this, and I had warned him back that he better have a solid plan to get the driveway cleared quickly. If we park our car on the street, we have to move it from one side to the other twice a day or it could get towed, so having the driveway obstructed is not cool. And I have to give him credit. The pile arrived on Saturday morning, and by Sunday evening there was a major dent in it. But on Monday Matt got sick and then had some work obligations in the later part of the week, so progress stopped. By the following Saturday evening, the car was back in the driveway so it wasn’t too bad.

Here’s where it went:

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But I’m getting a little ahead. Rewind to the previous day. Sorry the picture below is terrible. I took it through a smudged window with a baby on my hip. Matt did his best to level the ground, put in juniper edging, and covered the area with hardware cloth to prevent grass from growing up through the wood chips.

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And then:

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And one week later, it was all done and Emmett and I were out testing his new rain boots in a light drizzle. I think he really likes the wood chips. It’s like a big playground.

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This is part of a bigger plan for the back yard. I won’t reveal any more right now. I thought it would be good to provide some evidence that we are still working on the house. 

-Kelly

Quick and dirty DIYs: sewing for baby edition

Lately I’ve been doing a little bit of sewing, which makes me happy.  I have a medium-sized sewing project to share with you when it’s finished, which will be soon I hope.  In the meantime, I’ve done a couple of super quick “sewing” projects.  I say “sewing” because technically I did very little sewing on one and no sewing on the other, but they involve fabric and sewing tools.  

I mentioned in a post about our diaper changing station that when we are at home, instead of disposable wipes, we use cloth ones wet with plain water and stored in our wipe warmer.  Trial and error showed us which materials we like best for wipes.  My favorite cloth wipes are ones I cut from an old pair of sweatpants, even though they roll up in the dryer.  Next best are terry cloth.  The worst are ones I cut from old T shirts; they’re just too thin.  I don’t have any more sweatpants lying around, but I do have more baby towels than we can possibly use, thanks to gifts, hand-me-downs, and freecycle.  There were a couple of towels received via freecycle bags-‘o-baby-stuff that had seen better days, so I cut one up into washcloths.  It only took a couple minutes using my rotary cutter and mat.  6 inches by about 4.5 inches fit nicely into the wipe warmer.  Bam, done.  Always nice to accomplish something so quickly.  We’ve been using these for over a month and the edges don’t fray, so there’s no need to finish them.

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Next up, some strap protectors for the Ergo carrier.  We really like the Ergo.  Emmett likes it too.  Like any baby, everything that comes near his mouth immediately goes in and gets all slobbery.  See the wet spot on the strap:

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The Ergo can be washed, but they recommend against washing it a lot.  Hence the existence of "sucking pads" on Amazon, "drool catchers" on Etsy, and a variety of similar products available to purchase online for around $20.  That seems a little expensive for something I could make in 5 minutes, albeit not as attractive, but still quite functional.  I have a whole pile of Bumkins prefold cloth diapers that I use for burp cloths and mainly to catch the milk that always seems to dribble out the corner of Emmett’s mouth when he nurses.  I thought one of these cut in half would be perfect.  So I cut it, sewed a zigzag along the cut edges, and used iron-on velcro patches.  Bam, done.  

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They work very well, except one of the velcro patches didn’t adhere completely so I’ll have to iron it on again.  The same thing could be done to make another set to use as strap covers for the car seat.  I don’t worry about it for short trips, but on longer trips I’m always trying to tuck the sides of Emmett’s bib between his neck and the straps so they don’t cut in too much.  Maybe I’ll go ahead and do that when I fix the other one.

Next up, I took a freecycled minky baby blanket with some ink stains on one corner, and made a quick cover for the diaper changing pad. I just draped the blanket over the pad, pinned corner darts where it seemed appropriate, and sewed it. It’s not perfect, but it took about 10 minutes and cost $0. It actually stays on the changing pad pretty well just with a few darts around the edges and no elastic.

I love mini projects that are quick and easy.  It’s nice to get the finished result right away and move on.  Sometimes when I’ve been feeling stuck or overwhelmed, just getting something - anything - DONE gives me enough momentum to tackle something bigger.  I’ll show you the bigger project soon!

-Kelly

I built this queen sized bed frame last March amid a flurry of pre-baby’s-arrival (Emmett) projects.  

Total cost approx. $125.

Kelly’s criteria: (1) replace a bare-bones steel bed frame that wasn’t attractive or stationary, (2) not make the top of the bed be too high, and (3) be solid.

Matt’s criteria: (1) give us more storage (underneath the bed), (2) cost less than an IKEA bed, and (3) not take too long to build (like <8 hours).

Materials: dimensional 4x6”, 2x4”, 1x4”, and 1x10” lumber; lag bolts, washers, various screws, framing nails, and finish nails; felt with adhesive (for underneath legs to prevent scratching the floor)

Tools: Framing nail gun/compressor (I also used a hammer which easily could have been used instead of the nail gun), compound saw, drill, and driver-drill

Key Features: component design for ease of assembly and possible dis-assembly; stout legs recessed from bed edge; **IMHO the legs/support system are slick.

—Matt

Diaper changing station

The last DIY project we completed before Emmett was born, and the first one after he was born, both relate to diapering.  Matt wanted to install ceiling lights and a ventilation fan in the kitchen, but I insisted that he do the diaper changing station first.  People kept telling us that first babies are usually a week late, so we both thought we had an extra week of baby-free time to get things done.  Even so, I was anxious to have the diaper changing station finished and squared away.  It’s a good thing we didn’t delay; Matt finished the changing station on Sunday and I went into labor on Tuesday morning - the day before my due date.  Here’s what I looked like that weekend, and needless to say I was not into doing hard physical labor at this point.  Matt did all the work on this project himself, with input from me.

Three years ago we bought a kitchen base cabinet at the RE Store for $40, thinking we would use it in the kitchen.  It stayed in the garage, and now finally we had the perfect place for it.  We also had a piece of countertop left over from the kitchen.  Matt sanded it, painted the wood parts (outside and some drawers) semi-gloss white, and spray painted the metal drawers with the metallic paint we had left over from the failed ceiling fan medallion debacle.

He also had to patch the drywall in the nook where our oil furnace used to reside before we replaced it with our gas fireplace.  There were holes in the wall from the furnace exhaust and from some electrical work we did.  The floor needed some work too.

After patching the drywall, Matt installed the cabinet, countertop, and self-stick vinyl tiles left over from the bathroom floor.

So yeah, the drywall still needs a little work and obviously it needs to be painted too.  We’ll get to that when we can.  In the meantime, we tried to spruce up the space a little with two colorful souvenirs my parents gave us from different trips: an embroidered bird from Costa Rica and a string of butterflies from Cambodia.  We also have the countertop stocked with the essentials: wipes, diapers, washcloths, changing pad, and small pail for disposable diapers.  Nearby on the floor is our cloth diaper pail.  We’re using both types of diapers right now but will try to switch to all cloth soon.

The quickie DIY I did after Emmett was born was to crudely cut up some old t-shirts to make more cloth wipes.

Along with some other baby wash cloths we received as gifts, I stack them in a Munchkin wipe warmer (also a gift) and pour enough water over them to saturate all the cloths.  The warmer is meant to use with disposable wipes, but it works great with our cloth wipes too.  They come out nice and warm, which makes diaper changes a little more pleasant for everyone.

In the drawers, I keep other supplies on hand: a small selection of baby clothes in case a change is needed; cloth and disposable diapers; burp cloths; extra diaper pail liners; and other stuff like rash cream and a digital thermometer.

Although it still needs a little work, our diaper changing station has been a huge help to us.  It’s the right height so we don’t get backaches.  It’s in a central location but not in the way, while taking advantage of space that was not being well used before.  And all the essential supplies are at our fingertips.  We’re so glad Matt finished it (to the point of being usable, not to the point of being pretty) before we brought Emmett home.  

-Kelly

Bedding giveaway from Bedding Style ($250 value)

This giveaway is closed.  The winner, as chosen by random.org, is comment #2, Eva!  Congratulations Eva!  Please email me at diynotblog@gmail.com to redeem your prize!

Over the past few months, we’ve done a lot of work on our second bedroom, which functions as Matt’s office by day (he does most of his work from home) and the guest bedroom as needed.  Together we put in new electrical outlets and an ethernet jack, spruced up the ceiling fan, patched holes in the walls, and installed new window blinds.  Matt trimmed the window, replaced the baseboards, painted the walls and trim, built a desk, and created a shelf above two Ikea wardrobes closed with curtains.  But whenever guests came, we were stuck making up the bed with bedding that doesn’t quite go with the room.  That’s why we were excited when Bedding Style contacted us. 

Bedding Style is celebrating 7 years in business and wants to spread the love by giving one lucky blog reader a free designer bedding set. If you haven’t visited Bedding Style, you should take a look. They carry a large variety of high quality brand name bedding as well as bathroom accessories and they have great prices and customer service. Check out the bedding they sent to us for review:

We love this Asian Lily bedding by Perry Ellis and we think it looks great with the other colors in the room: light blue walls, white desk and trim, wood floor and blinds, and the curtains on the wardrobes. I also love that it’s 100% cotton, machine washable, and made to last.

To Enter: 1) Visit Bedding Style and pick a favorite item, then name it in a comment. If you are unable to leave a comment, send us an email at diynotblog@gmail.com. 2) For a second chance to win, Follow @BeddingStyle on Twitter or Like Bedding Style on Facebook with a link to this giveaway and mention @BeddingStyle or http://facebook.com/beddingstyle in your post. One random winner will win a bedding set worth up to $250 from Bedding Style. Contest ends Monday, June 25, 2012. Good luck!

-Kelly

Semi-built-in entertainment unit

Some of our projects are planned for a long time, while others happen spontaneously.  We’ve been thinking about how to better store our TV- and stereo-related electronics for months if not years.  When we finally got a flat screen TV last year and mounted it above the fireplace, we freecycled our old entertainment unit and temporarily placed the various boxes on a sewing table + wooden box combo right next to it.  Not attractive at all.  

About 6 weeks ago, we were doing some wiring work.  The outlet next to the fireplace was still on an old circuit that was not grounded, so we actually had all that stuff plugged in to a heavy duty extension cord.  We were upgrading the outlet to a new circuit, and since we were already messing around in that wall it seemed like possibly the time to cut a big hole in it and put in some recessed shelves.  Matt and I discussed the possibilities for a couple of hours, and we just couldn’t agree on the design.  I wanted a floor-to-ceiling set of shelves recessed into the wall with integrated electrical outlets and ethernet jacks, all made to look seamless with the mantel.  Matt wanted sort of a nook recessed into the wall, but not floor-to-ceiling, instead it would be smaller and at the height of the TV, with all the outlets and ethernet jacks on the other side of the wall and accessible through some holes.  I hope that makes sense.  Anyway, we wanted different things, either of which would have taken a lot of work to do.  We hadn’t budgeted the time to do it, and since one of us wouldn’t have been happy with either solution, we decided to do nothing at the time.  We just put in a new double outlet.  And we felt great about our decision.  Sometimes it’s best to wait and see how we feel later than to dive in when we’re not 100% sure it’s what we want.

Then last weekend, we were trying to clear some space in our bedroom for things like a crib and large bins full of baby gear.  We had this Ikea shelving unit that I guess we originally purchased for extra clothes storage, but we had just been keeping random things on it and decided this was not a good use of space in the bedroom.  Matt had the genius idea of making it our entertainment unit.  Luckily, the dimensions were just perfect.  He cut some holes in the back for easy access to cables, attached some 2x4s to anchor it to the wall (and again, give a little room to access the cables, and had all our stuff moved in a jiffy. 

He also got the big speakers up off the floor - and attached them to their shelves with screws so they can’t fall on us in an earthquake.  Here’s the “after” shot again so you don’t have to scroll up.

Doesn’t it look great?  (Yes everything is still awaiting a coat of paint, but for now I don’t care.)  I love it.  So much easier than our various ideas for recessed shelves.  We originally thought that recessing the shelves was necessary for traffic flow to the hallway, but this doesn’t block it at all.  In fact, there is more room now than there was before with our makeshift solution.  It’s functional and looks good.  

-Kelly

p.s. I freecycled the old sewing table, having never used it for its intended purpose and decided that we don’t have the room for it.

39 weeks

One week until my official due date!  The belly is huge but it’s surprisingly not causing me many problems.  I still feel great (so lucky!) and am staying active.  My only issues are swollen ankles (not cute), a bit of heartburn, and occasionally bumping into things because I don’t realize just how far my belly extends.  Baby is moving around but I can tell he’s running out of room in there so he can’t do the big dramatic alien-looking movements anymore.  Now we just have to wait and see when the big day comes.

We had a fun and productive weekend.  On Saturday Matt put in his last big day as volunteer coordinator / jack-of-all-trades at the P-patch paths project.  At home, I enjoyed some phone time with my mom and sister, did laundry, cleaned, organized the pantry and closets… I guess it was the late pregnancy nesting impulse.  I also trained the dogs.  We’re working on loose leash walking (still - but improving nicely!) and creating positive associations with nail clippers (currently I can’t cut Sonny’s nails, so we’re working up to it by first getting treats for being calm and not moving when the clippers come near his feet).  In the evening we stopped by our friends’ house for a visit and to pick up more baby supplies.  The house is getting crowded with all this baby gear, despite our organizational efforts.  It’s just a lot of stuff.  We need to move some things to the garage.

 

On Sunday we had brunch with friends and then Matt spent some time organizing the garage and working on our diaper changing station.  I hope he can finish it before the baby arrives.  We also managed to clear up some space in our bedroom by getting rid of a large filing cabinet and small TV.  We freecycled both and they were picked up on Monday.  Then we took the dogs to the park, where for the first time this spring we let them swim in Lake Washington.  They had a great time.

On the way home we stopped at the P-patch so I could see all the amazing progress, and a fellow gardener snapped the top photo of the whole family in the orchard.  We ended the day with doggie baths.  They are so clean and soft now.  Ready to meet their new brother!

-Kelly

38 weeks

Wow!  9 months always seemed like such a long time, and May was months away… but now it’s here!  We are ready for our baby’s arrival whenever he decides to make his entrance into the world.  There are still things on my various lists (work, baby, house) that I would like to cross off before that, but none of them is critical.  I did have a little bit of anxiety the other night as I was trying to fall asleep - not paying attention to the Rainbow Relaxation (hypnobirthing) recording I usually play at bedtime - but I reminded myself that the important things are already taken care of and I’ll just keep working on the rest and will have to be satisfied with that however it goes.  A small sampling of list items are: narrow down list of names for the baby, get more diapers, (Matt) build diaper changing station in “the nook” (closet-like area in our hallway where the old oil furnace used to be before we switched to a natural gas fireplace as our heating source), install ceiling lights in the kitchen and hallways, install ventilation fan in the kitchen… OK some of these sound important, but we can get by without them just fine if need be.  If we have 2+ weeks, all the better - I believe we can get everything done.  I’m not going to stress about it.  

We have accomplished the important things:

  • childbirth/breastfeeding/newborn class & ongoing hypnobirthing practice at home
  • read some good books about birth, breastfeeding, newborns
  • BabySafe class (preventing common accidents, infant CPR)
  • car seat installation checked
  • accumulated plenty of baby clothes and gear, at least to get started
  • rearranged house to accommodate baby (switched our bedroom to the big one so there’s enough room for us and baby, moved Matt’s home work space into the other bedroom - which involved some electrical and home networking upgrades to that room, plus painting and other improvements)
  • made arrangements for the dogs to be cared for while we’re at the hospital
  • two meetings with our doula
  • birth plan on file with midwives
  • preregistered at hospital childbirth center
  • chose a pediatrician
  • wrapped up my biggest and most important projects at work, including training my replacement (I’m taking 3 months off)

Even the dogs are excited.  Actually, I am very curious what they think.  I believe they know that I am pregnant, as dogs gather a lot of information by scent and can easily determine the reproductive status of another dog.  Some dogs can even detect cancer in people by scent, and service dogs can tell when a diabetic’s blood glucose levels are dropping or when an epileptic person is about to have a seizure. Anyway, I have no doubt they know, but they haven’t changed their behavior around me.  Our vet is pregnant too, and she said her dog seems to be more protective of her.  What will they think when we bring home a new baby?  They have some experience with babies and they’re both well behaved, so I’m not worried about it.  I also bought them some new toys and treats which they will get when the baby arrives so they have positive associations right away, and we’ll continue that type of training - treats and good things appear when baby is around, especially when they are calm.

-Kelly

Weekend in photos

Organizing baby gear (before/during chaos shot).  [Also sneak preview of the re-do of our smaller bedroom… Matt just built that desk to go between the wardrobes.  We will share details later.]  We have so much!  Generous gifts and hand-me-downs from friends and family put us a long way toward being prepared.  For the rest, can I mention again how much I love freecycle?  I’ve gotten a bunch of baby clothes, a glider-style rocking chair, crib (which we then re-freecycled after deciding to use a hand-me-down from our friends), and some baby toys and accessories.  And whenever we don’t need something anymore, someone who will use it whisks it away within a few days!  We don’t even have to leave the house.  So great.

Baby laundry.  This kid has more laundry than I do and he’s not even born yet!  I saw a glimpse of my future and it looks like laundry is going to be a major activity.

Dog park.  Sorry it’s blurry, but it was almost dusk.  On the plus side, we practically had the whole place to ourselves.  With fewer distractions, the dogs got a chance to run really fast.

Sonny’s circus dog impression.

Ball fetching time!

Matt cuts a hole for a new light switch.  Safety first!  Glasses, earplugs, gloves, dust mask, and vacuuming up the dust with one hand while using the Fein tool to cut with the other.

Consulting my go-to book on wiring and starting to plan out the new lighting circuit.  With huge belly and Maxy-dog companion.

Matt turning an Ikea shelving unit that used to live in our bedroom into an entertainment unit for the living room.  Sneak preview - more details on this spontaneous project to come.

And that’s a peek into our weekend.  The weather was great most of the time, so we enjoyed some meals cooked on the grill and eaten in the back yard.  We also watched Superbad after I discovered that our local library branch actually has some movies I’d like to watch.  I will be checking out some more.

-Kelly

RIP tree

Last week I took this picture of our house from across the street.  I wanted a photo of the yard with all its springy greenness.  Take a look at the tree planted in the parking strip directly in front of our house.  It looks good, right?  Had I known this would be our last picture of the house with the tree intact, I would have waited for Matt to finish cleaning the window so his butt wouldn’t be in the shot.

Monday morning:  We were both working from home.  Worky-work, tap-tap-tap on our keyboards.  It was a sunny day and a bit windy, but not too crazy.

1:00 pm:  CRACK!  Both of us, in different rooms, look out the front window and see half our 30-foot tall tree fall into the street.  Luckily no one was driving by at the moment.

1:00 - 1:30 pm:  Matt calls an arborist and the city.  The part of the tree that fell is blocking two lanes of our four-lane street.  Fortunately traffic is light this time of day.  Some guy pulls over in his pickup truck and tries to drag the fallen half of the tree out of the street and direct traffic.  Matt goes outside and tells him to knock it off as 1) he’s on our property and the rest of the tree could fall on this guy; 2) professionals are on their way to deal with it; 3) people can figure out how to drive around an obstruction in the road.

1:30 pm:  The arborists arrive.  Within 15 minutes they cut up the fallen part of the tree into pieces small enough to move onto the parking strip.

1:45 pm:  Someone arrives from the city (SDOT) and takes some pictures of the tree.  We find out it is lucky the arborist came to move the fallen tree, since for some reason the city doesn’t seem to have anyone available to do anything about there being a large obstruction on a major city street.  She tells Matt that the tree is on the city tree inventory, that pear trees (we didn’t even know it was a pear tree - it doesn’t fruit but it flowers every year) its size tend to randomly fall apart like this, and that the city will pay the arborist to cut down the rest of the tree.  

2:00 pm:  Matt gets a quote from the arborist to chip the branches and stump and to prune the other two big trees in our yard after they’ve removed the damaged tree. 

3:00 pm:  The arborist shows up to cut down the remaining half a tree and put the whole thing through the wood chipper.  It takes less than 30 minutes.

3:30 pm:  The tree has been reduced to a pile of wood chips in the driveway.  The arborist leaves.  They will come back another day to grind the stump and prune our other trees.  Matt starts moving wheelbarrows full of wood chips and quickly spreads it onto various planting beds in the front and back yard.  Silver lining: he’d been talking for months about how he needed some wood chips.

4:30 pm:  There is virtually no sign that there was ever a beautiful 30-foot tree in the parking strip in front of our house.  It has disappeared completely.  Our view is so different now.  The view of our house from the street will never be the same.  Our across-the-street neighbor commented about how it was such a nice tree.  We are sad.  Now we need to get a new tree.

Lesson:  Don’t put off tree maintenance.  We’ve been talking about having the trees looked at and pruned (by an arborist, as opposed to by Matt who only vaguely knows what he’s doing) for the last two years.  It seems unlikely this tree would have been saved, but it could have been removed more safely and at a better time for planting a new one.  We are lucky that no one got hurt and there was no property damage.

-Kelly