Courtyard: Before, Concept & After

12/31/2012

The week before last, we had a load of 5 tons of gravel delivered to our courtyard. Jason graciously spent most of a Friday spreading about 3.5 tons. (The rest will be used somewhere else.) I was so tired so walking through the mud to get to the lovely paver stone path Jason made up to our front door steps…and mainly tired of Lucy getting her paws muddy. We’re taking our landscaping one step at a time but there are a few big things we wanted to tackle ASAP. The courtyard is a high priority to me because it’s the front entrance, the first impression of our house, and we’re expecting a lot of guests in the first weeks and months in our new house. When I looked at the pictures I took of the courtyard, I realized it came out really, really close to my Photoshop rendering!

Before:

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Rendering:

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After:

myMCMlife.com - courtyard at Christmas 2012

I love how the windows reflect the sky.

We’re going to add a short fence and gate between the corner of the garage and the concrete wall to enclose all 4 sides and make it a true courtyard. Here’s the mock up I sent to our contractor, based on the fence we designed and built for our last house.We ultimately decided to keep this element out of the construction budget. Jason and I will build this, hopefully in January.  The opening is only 12′ across so it’ll be so easy compared to a whole fence. And maybe will inspire us to add some privacy fencing around the backyard later in 2013.

mockup


Phone Photo Friday

12/28/2012

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We tried out our chalkboard wall in the den/playroom on Christmas Eve. It went really well for about 5 minutes before Ali decided to try eating the chalk.

Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!


Our 1st Christmas at Home

12/27/2012

Ready for Christmas picture overload? OK, here we go!

Our niece Eliza came over to play on Christmas Eve.

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In case it’s not obvious, these girls have a blast together.

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Jason was so awesome and made my family’s traditional Christmas Eve Swedish meatballs while Ginger and I chased the little girls around the house and visited before the rest of the family got there.

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These two can empty a toy box in less than a minute.

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Who me?

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After the house got quiet, it was time for this mama to pack up the stockings.

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This one is for Lucy:

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For Jason (not pictured: pack of underwear. You’re welcome.)

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For Alianna. She’s an awesome gift receiver. Equally excited about the socks and the owl stickers.

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For me; yes I stuff a stocking for myself. (not pictured: pack of underwear. You’re welcome.)

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On Christmas morning I woke up around 9 but Jason and Ali slept until closer to 10. I made a little treat for Ali and I and she learned a new word: cocoa.

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Round 1: stockings and Ali’s presents from Mom and Dad.

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In addition to the stocking littles, Ali gets three gifts from us. (Side note: Jason and I gave each other a house for Christmas. And I recently got a new camera and he got a new computer; both for our work. Merry Christmas to each other!)

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Good morning! It’s Christmas!

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Something to play with: Mind of My Own by Frances England.

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Something to Read: The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler

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Something to Wear: “seaspray” Converse low tops

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New car from Grandma and Grandpa

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Yogurt as a finger food?

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We got to FaceTime with my brother’s family in PA. My parents were there for Christmas. My sister’s family was driving there at the time so we didn’t get to see them.

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Eli got a tractor!

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Jason got some egg poachers in his stocking we he tried them out for our breakfast.

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After morning nap she had a bath and got all dressed up for the rest of Christmas day.

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Sometimes “Where’s Ali?” is the only way I can get her to turn towards the camera but this is the facial response I get.

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Round 2 of opening presents. She got some great stuff from her aunts and uncles (my siblings in PA).

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This Leap Frog Phonics toy seemed to be Ali’s favorite of the day.

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Hmm, I might be realizing where Ali gets her “Ooooh!” face from.

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Jason’s parents, brother, sister-in-law and niece spent the afternoon and evening with us. There were lots more presents, little girls running around playing with new toys, and a delicious dinner of ham, chicken, brussel sprouts, roasted beets, macaroni and cheese, rolls, berry delight, pumpkin pie…mmmm…I’m getting hungry again. I didn’t take many pictures during all that fun but after dinner I took these.

My handsome husband:

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Ali checking out one of her new shirts.

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The FP Little People airplane was a big hit.

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Daniel and Ginger

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Daniel, Ginger and Eliza

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Papa showing Ali how to use Nana’s Nook

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Tongue out in concentration? That’s new!

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Jason’s parents: Papa and Nana

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We had a wonderful Christmas. I hope you did too!

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Instagram House Tour

12/26/2012

I love the Instagram community. It’s got to be my favorite iPhone app. A couple of my MCM followers requested an IG house tour so I’m obliging little by little, as rooms are decent enough to share. Since it might be awhile before I’m ready for any kind of more substantial (finished/decorated) house tour with real camera photos, I figured I’d share them here, too.

Kitchen

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Dining Room

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Master Bathroom

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Living Room

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What I’m now calling my work room (tri-purpose: office, craft, laundry)

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This room is also tri-purpose: Den/Playroom/Guestroom … sort of. It pretty much just looks like a playroom for now. One day it might become a bedroom. I’m trying to confuse you… is it working? Let’s just call this the den:

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Hall bathroom

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Master bedroom (we’re shopping for furniture)

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Jason’s studio

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The future kids room has become kind of a catch-all. It’s the only room we have left to unpack and clean up. Besides hanging art everywhere else and coming up with some storage solutions in my office and the garage, we’re settled!

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Are you all sick of seeing photos of our house yet?


Merry Christmas!

12/25/2012

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Thanks for being readers and friends. Merry Christmas from our family to yours!


Merry Christmas Eve

12/24/2012

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Eve. We’re planning on our traditional Swedish meatballs and then I have a surprise gift tucked away with new PJs for all, a Christmas movie, popcorn and hot cocoa. I’m hoping to start a new Christmas eve tradition. Here are some photos from our last couple weeks of Christmas preparations.

I was excited to have this little elf to help me with cookie making this year.

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She loves pushing Dizzy all around the house.

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Ali helped me make the raspberry thumbprint cookies so she got to enjoy one of them fresh from the oven.

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And a peanut butter blossom, too, because what the heck. It’s Christmas. I decided she should get to eat way too many cookies like the rest of us.

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Sugar cookie cut-outs in the oven.

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Next year we’re going to get a traditional green tree for all of these fun and sentimental ornaments. This year to keep them safe I made a wall “tree” with command hooks and ribbon.

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We’ve been using the fireplace a lot so I was afraid to hang the stockings too close to the fire.

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This works!

 

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Our tree can’t support Christmas lights but it’s so sparkly when the sunlight shines on it that it glows!

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Ali woke up on Saturday morning, pointed to her head and said “hat.” She wore her Santa hat most of the day.

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I call this “scowl face.” I was trying really hard to get her to do it the other day so I could capture it in a photo but now she seems to think this is THE face to make for every photo. Haha!

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Merry Christmas Y’all!


Phone Photo Friday

12/21/2012

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I let my jewelry obsessed daughter wear one of my necklaces the other day. I think Ali’s expression says it all!

Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!


ReAbide

12/20/2012

There has been a theme resonating through our lives for the past year or two… restoration. Actually, it’s been longer than that. When we bought our 1954 ranch nearly 6 years ago, we started collecting vintage furniture and accessories to match the era of our home. Jason and I enjoy a good vintage store or antique mall but more for looking than buying. We prefer the treasure hunts through yard sales, thrift stores and estate sales. We like sifting through junk and finding diamonds in the rough. They often don’t look like diamonds until they’ve had a little TLC. That’s where the restoration theme first started ringing. It was almost two years ago that Jason and I started talking about becoming foster parents. When God gave me a vision of “the room” — a mix of new and old pieces carefully selected, each with a story, coming together to make a beautiful space — I started to connect the dots. Foster care is all about restoration, too: restoring love, restoring trust, restoring health, restoring family, restoring hope. Out of the steady hum of restoration ReAbide was born.

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In short it’s a new business, Jason and I are starting. I have a full vision for 3 parts of ReAbide but for this season in our lives, only part 1 is unfurling: New Life for Quality Vintage Furnishings. Giving old furnishings a second (third, fourth…) chance at a new home. If you’ve been reading this blog more than a month, you know that Jason and I have quite a collection of vintage, mid-century modern furniture and accessories. Jason is a lamp fanatic… I think I’ve seen at least 12 since we’ve started unpacking. Since we have more than we need for ourselves and also because friends have started commissioning us for find things for them, we decided to start reselling some of our furnishing through private sales.

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The second facet of ReAbide Furnishings is home staging. We love putting rooms together and we love real estate — home staging with mid-century modern and modern furniture was a natural progression of things. Many of the pieces we’ll use for home staging will also be available for purchase. We’re just starting out in this facet. We have a good friend who is a real estate guru and we were able to add a few of our items into the mix at a house he recently renovated. We were hoping to have whole finished rooms to reveal but he had already hired another home stager who scrambled our pieces in with hers. I did take a few progress shots while we were bringing in our collection, before it was all rearranged by the other stager and before we had brought in a dining table or rugs. Quick snaps with my phone but I’m glad I got them; better than nothing.

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I’d be honored if you would check out ReAbide.com and like the brand new ReAbide on Facebook!


Christmas Gift Ideas for a 17-month-old Girl

12/19/2012

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…or at least this one specific 17-month-old (in 2 days) little girl I know.

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We adopted a new tradition last year of giving three gifts: something to wear, something to play with and something to read. (Can you call something a tradition if you’ve only done it once before?) I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I LOVE Amazon.com. They sell just about everything and it’s easy to find items with free shipping. I did 40% of my Christmas shopping in less than an hour this year. The other 50% will be at Target and 10% random places. Rabbit trail… Here’s what I ordered our little punkin for this year.

Something to Read:

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler, David Lee Csicsko

 

This book was recommended to me somewhere along the way. It’s a simple book but helpful to start talking about different skin colors whenever Ali starts to notice that we’re all a little different in skin color.

Something to Wear:

CONVERSE Kids’ All Star Ox Tod (Sea Spray 4.0 M)

My baby has small feet! She’s still between a size 3 and a size 4. We only have a couple of options that still fit in the size 3s and only a couple size 4s. These seem like they’ll be quite versatile in a neutral olive green. (The color I got is now sold out so no picture of it.)

Something to Play With:

Frances England’s Mind Of My Own

Ali loves music and pushing buttons so turning on her CD player is one of her favorite things to do everyday. We’ve been enjoying this album a lot on Spotify the past couple of months but I wanted to get her the physical disc so she can play it in her room, the living room, the silver bullet, wherever.

I’m also planning starting a new tradition this year of a Christmas Eve family gift of hot cocoa, a Christmas movie, new PJs and popcorn. And I always end up buying a wad of small things for our stockings: socks, chapstick, underwear, toothbrushes, candy, stickers.

I’m not the least bit concerned about Ali not getting any new toys from us this year. For one, she just got a bunch of “new” toys when we unpacked all of our boxes from storage and for two, her extended family will inevitably shower her with way too many wonderful gifts. 😉 With that in mind, here are some things I put on her Amazon wishlist.

At Ali’s 18-month Half Birthday, I’m planning a little celebration and to introduce her to a potty seat and the concept of potty training. She’s been very curious about the whole process lately. After reading lots of reviews, I decided on this seat:

Prince Lionheart weePOD Basix, Berry Blue

And this book:

Potty (Leslie Patricelli board books)

Because she’s so cute when we ask “What does a cow say?” and she answers, “Mmmmmm…” a bouncy, ride-on cow:

Trumpette Howdy Bouncy Rubber Cow, White

I had the awesome choking hazard FP Little People house, hospital and vacation travel set when I was growing up. (Shh…don’t tell the child-safe police that they’re sitting out at Grandma’s house!). Now they have these short and stubby Little People. I think Ali would like this house:

Fisher-Price Little People Happy Sounds Home

And the airplane, too. She’s good at hearing and spotting airplanes and we plan on taking her on her second plane trip next year. Plus, her daddy frequently travels by airplane for work so Ali’s very familiar with the airport.

Fisher-Price Little People Lil’ Movers Airplane

Ali is pretty into anything with wheels lately. She has a little matchbox car from a cereal box that she LOVES! I’m a big fan of Green Toys (like her tea set) so I put this pink and purple dump truck on her list:

Green Toys Dump Truck, Pink

Ali has a couple of small chairs but not a child-size table. I think it would be great to have one in our playroom for coloring and Play-Doh and other activities. This IKEA one would be an option.

IKEA Children’s Kids Table & 2 Chairs Set Furniture

When Grandma asked her what she wants for Christmas this year, she said “Baby,” so I have a feel she might be getting something like this:

Little Mommy Scrub A Dub Dub Baby Doll – New 2012 Version

Ali’s plastic-coated catcher bibs have been getting really worn out. I think I’ll throw a few more up on her wish list in case any relatives still needs ideas. 😉

Bumkins 3 Pack Waterproof SuperBib, Girl G14

Bumkins 3 Pack Waterproof SuperBib


Letting Go

12/18/2012

“Hug your baby tight when you get home,” a well-meaning friend suggested on Friday afternoon, hours after the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Hill Elementary School.

At some point every parent will come to a point when she realizes she doesn’t own her child, the child is not an extension of her but an independent creature and as a parent it’s impossible to protect our babies from every danger in the world. There is a risk of putting our children on such a high pedestal that we make them idols, treasured above the Life-Giver Himself. Abraham was guilty of such and God pushed him to the extreme to force first-born Isaac out of the god status Abraham had put him in. Let him go and entrust him to Me, or I will take him away.

As painful as it was, I’m thankful for the experience we had of almost losing Ali over a year ago in a bizarre placement battle through DCS. When we thought we had lost her, I buckled under the incredible pain. I broke for her, thinking she was about to lose her family a second time and her second chance of growing up with a father. I had no choice but to let go of my maternal grip of her… she was not mine. She did not belong to any person. She belongs to Creator Father God.

By a miracle, she was placed back into our arms and we walked out of courtroom with custody, dumbfounded. We let go of her because we had to, and God saw fit to give her back to us. I pray that I never forget that she is not MINE. I don’t own her. I’m entrusted with the responsibility and incredible blessing of being her mother. My love for her is deep and wide and it goes on forever. Everyday is a gift and tomorrow should never be taken for granted.

I will hug her a little tighter. Snuggle a little longer. And then I’ll let her go, take a deep breath, and trust the One who made her.

My heart is broken for the families in Newtown, CT who lost their loved ones. I’m praying specifically for the families of two of the children that God brought to my attention. Reading through the names of the victims, the name Olivia caught my eye, and then Benjamin. One of my best friends has two precious children named Olivia and Ben (who are thankfully safe and well) and when I thought about them, my heart crumbled. So, everyday I’m lifting up the Engel and Wheeler families as they’re walking through this dark and horrible tragedy. May the Prince of Peace, the Comforter, wrap them up in His arms this week and in the days to come.