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Eating Outside: Toddler Solutions

04/17/2013

As soon as it was warm though, I enthusiastically moved Ali’s high chair outside. Food throwing is one of my biggest pet peeves with her lately. (The other is splashing in the bath tub and soaking the mama, in case you were wondering.) Eating outside provided a temporary reprieve. I didn’t change the rules but it allowed me to stay more relaxed while correcting her, rather than getting stressed out about a strawberry smacking the white wall or a green bean getting smashed onto the wood floors. And getting stressed out makes me more likely to lose my temper with my sweet little girl. I’m a work in progress, as is she.

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We’ve also been spending a lot of time outdoors in general. My favorites (during Ali’s nap time) are lounging in the hammock, occasionally joined by a dog…

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Walking around our property and picking up shards of glass (we started a jar for our collection about a month ago)…

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and spotting beautiful creations while I’m picking up glass…

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Ali likes to climb up the steps of the hot tub…

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swing and spin in her swing…

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And play in her giant sandbox…

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DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition)

04/16/2013

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Almost 2 years ago, Jason and I built a modern horizontal plank wood fence at our previous house to enclose our back garden. We used the same technique to build this fence and gate to make the fourth “wall” of our courtyard. There were two major differences. 1. We only had a 12′ spanse to build. 2. We had concrete walls on both sides.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

There was only 1 post hole to dig. Hooray! Jason used our trusty old post hole digger. (Jason and that post hole digger have made holes for 2 fences prior to this!) We were only making our fence 4-4.5′ tall so we used a 6′ 4×4 pressure-treated post. The post hole should be 2′ deep.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

After making sure it was level, we added a few braces to keep it in place before adding the dry concrete mix and water into the post hole. Jason also added a little concrete mix and water under the post.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Next we attached two 2x4s to the side of the house. The bottom piece was going into the concrete block foundation of the house.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Drilling screws into concrete is not easy! We used these pretty blue concrete screws.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Jason pre-drilled the holes for the screws. He opted to drill into the mortar to make it a little bit easier.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Once that was secure, Jason added a second, longer 2×4 along the house. This one should have been easier because it was only going through wood (the hardibacker siding, the corner beam in our garage and the shorter 2×4 below. We borrowed this powerful hammer drill from a friend (necessary for drilling into concrete) and it was so powerful it stripped our drill bits and one of the outdoor screw heads. It seems like there is always something that goes awry on a project like this. Thankfully, he was finally able to get it secured to the house with a combination of this drill, every star drill bit we own and our wimpy Ryobi drill. The screw that was stripped was cut off with a hack saw.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Another 2×4 was attached to the concrete block wall of the courtyard. Everything went smoothly with this one so I didn’t have time to take any photos.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I don’t know if it’s the correct carpentry term but we call the horizontal boards planks (as opposed to pickets on a vertical fence) and to differentiate between posts and planks. Adding the planks went every quickly since we’ve done this part many times before. We started at the bottom, putting the plank as close to the ground as possible and leveling it.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

We used 8′ untreated 1x4s. (Our last fence we used 1×3 ferring strips.) They’re cheap…around $1.20 a piece at Lowes. (Side note: in our experience Lowes has much better quality wood than Home Depot.) Jason used a nail gun to put four nails into each plank at the 4×4 post end and 3 nails into each plank at the 2×4 end. We work together doing this part and it moves rhythmically:

I position the plank into place.
Jason places the spacer between the planks.
Jason fires the nails into place.
I position the spacer at the other end of the plank.
Jason fires the nails into place.
Jason removes the spacer.
(Repeat.)
15x in this instance.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Anything sturdy and square can be used as a spacer. Since it was a fairly common question about our last fence project, I made a point of taking a picture. We used a plastic grout sample that was left at our house after construction. We have a bunch of them and it was quite convenient to have two so we could leave one at each end of the fence. They provided a gap of about 1/4″. It’s hard to see in the picture below because it’s brown…

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

We added another vertical 2×4 on the back side of the fence to keep the planks straighter. This 2×4 post is pressure treated but we didn’t put it into the ground. It’s only helping to keep the planks straight, not supporting the weight of the fence.We used the spacer again to make sure the gap between the planks was consistant. They’re often slightly bowed so we pushed and pulled to get them as straight as possible before nailing. Where the gap was too small, we used a pry bar to move the planks apart enough to fit the spacer.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Let’s step back and admire our work for a second. Ahh…

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Because we used 8′ planks, we made sure the space between the posts was slightly less than 8′. (If you’re building a fence with more than two posts, check out what we did here…I even have diagrams.)

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

We wanted the planks to be flush with the 4×4 post and we made a chalk line where they needed to be cut.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Jason used his circular saw for this. It’s a bit awkward, especially close to the ground. There may be a better way but this works for us.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I always insist on the safety glasses. I like how Jason tucks his pencil into his hat.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I didn’t do a very good job documenting the gate building process. (We started this project after Ali went down for her nap around 1pm on a Saturday and at this point 3 hours later, she was awake so she could “help” us.) We built a frame out of 2x4s just a bit (maybe 1″ both way) smaller than the opening for the gate. The extra 2x4s down the middle and diagonally (that I didn’t photograph here) help the gate stay square. We attached planks in the same way as the fence – starting first with the outside ends, using the spacer, and then the middle post, also using the spacer, using a pry bar as needed.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Once it was hung, I took a picture of the back side so you can see the two diagonal pieces of 2×4 we added. I’m sure there is a simple way to calculate those angles and cut them but we had a heck of a time and ended up just experimenting until we got some angles that worked. It was pretty amusing! Jason hung the gate with three hinges while I was inside with Ali so I didn’t get a picture of that process. How he did that himself, I have no idea!

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

He quickly stained the fence using deck stainer and sealer while Ali and I were having a snack. Just before dark, it was finished. Time to go out for dinner!

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

A couple days later, I took some finished pictures.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

A hook and eye (attached to the house) hold the gate open.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

A hinge door stopper (the same kind we used inside) keeps the gate from hitting the side of the house.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I love how the fence and gate make our courtyard feel so cozy and private. We can sit out here with the toddler and the dog and not have to worry about either wandering out toward the street. This is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots for lunch alfresco, afternoon tea, blowing bubbles for Ali, and evening chats. It’s going to be even more wonderful once the landscaping matures.

All of my posts related to “modern wood fence”

Modern Wood Fence —Finished! (at our previous house)

Enclosed Courtyard (intro to this post, including some before pictures.)


Ali Mae: Fashionista

04/15/2013

OK, the title is a little bit of an exaggeration. I have, however, started encouraging Ali to help pick out her outfits and I’m beyond excited about it! She doesn’t really care all that much. It’s mostly just fun to pull things out of the drawers and throw them. This is the first outfit she pulled…and truthfully, it was just based on whatever whatever she grabbed first.

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I added the rainbow socks in an attempt to pull together the pink, green and purple. Later that day, we had a hair accessory party. She pulled out what she wanted and I put it on her head. I think she was up to 9 headbands at one point.

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Then I discovered that she’s OK with hair clips now! Finally! I have so many cute ones made by kind friends and she’s always immediately pulled them out before. Maybe it’s because her hair is getting so long now. Or maybe it’s because she likes how they look. Regardless, I’m excited about all the new hair possibilities.

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Here’s Ali’s second self-selected outfit. I’m really proud of this one. She chose the jeans and the black tee shirt. I suggested the pink furry vest since it was a cool day, and she enthusiastically said “Yeah!” When I opened her sock drawer, she went straight for the leg warmers. And they happen to match with pink and black stripes! Good one, Ali. And she chose her hot pink Dora socks and the green and purple hair clip. Oh my heart. When Jason saw this picture, he said, “She’s so cool!”

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This outfit was all my doing. (We were in a hurry that morning so I picked it.) I love that she understands the concept of posing for pictures now. Right after I snap it, she runs over and says “Ali?” so she can see how it turned out.

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Jason has a hoodie that shrank. It was too small for me, even, so we let Ali try it out.

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Cuteness overload!

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Oh, and girl loves some eyewear! She’s always after my glasses, which she calls “See” because I have to keep reminding her that I need them to see. (In other words, give them back!)

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She can rock some sunglasses while we’re shopping, too.

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And one time she even found Daddy’s glasses and gave them a try.

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Oh, little girls are so much fun! I can’t wait until Ali starts dressing herself.

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Phone Photo Friday

04/12/2013

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


Before & After: Bookshelf

04/11/2013

From ugly, cheap bookshelf to cute, cheap bookshelf!

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While on the hunt for a dresser for the next kids’ room, I came across this little piece of junk bookshelf. It’s pressboard with a wood patterned laminate and it was dirty and wobbly. BUT… it was only $6.99 and I couldn’t resist! I’m on the lookout for bookshelves for the kids bedrooms, the den, my office…basically, I could use a lot of bookshelves in a lot of places.

My dear husband is the perfectionist when it comes to home projects. When I was in elementary school my mom bought me a poster of a kitten covered in paint that said “I’m not messy; I’m creative!” That pretty much sums up the way I do projects, which Jason can surely confirm. He also calls me the Swedish Chef as he’s cleaning up after me in the kitchen. All that to say, I painted the heck out of this thing. I was experimenting as I went. First I tried gray primer spray paint but it ran out. Then I tried flat black spray paint. (I’m a horrible spray painter, by the way.) That ran out too so I changed tactics and went with white ceiling paint for primer because we have a 5-gallon bucket of it in the garage. That worked. Then I painted it with the same quart of Glidden wall paint that I’ve used for the little nightstand dresser in Ali’s room and the recently purchased dresser. I figure maybe one day they’ll all end up in the same room. It took me 3 coats to cover this thing! Even after all my “primer” coats.

Before painting, I had added a few screws into the sides to try to stabilize it. They helped but I realized that it originally had a panel on the back, which would have helped the corners stay square. I came up with the idea of adding a piece of stained plywood to the back. We had the stain on hand. I used a rag to rub it onto the face and the edges of the plywood. When it was fairly dry (OK, not really…I was impatient…) I tacked it onto the back of the shelves with finishing nails. I really love how it turned out with the Granny Apple green and the American Walnut (color) wood. Oh, and the only thing I had to purchase was the plywood, which was around $10 and I had cut to size (from a 2’x4′ sheet) at the store. So this whole deal cost about $17.

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For now, it’s residing in the den. I needed a spot to put the DVD player so this room could start feeling more like a den and less like a playroom. I was also excited to have a spot to set up some of the awesome Barbie furniture my Granny made me. I could only fit about 1/4 of it on the shelf but that’s fine for now.

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Ali immediately said “House!” when she saw it and she’s pretty excited about these two mutilated “Darbies” from my childhood.

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The blonde has a broken neck and Ali is quite concerned about her head popping off. She brings it to me every time and says, “Oh no, Mama!” They’re both naked, missing one limb (from a dog attack) and have butchered haircuts. Based on how rough Ali plays with them, though, I think I’ll wait a year or two before buying her any new Darbies.

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Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse

04/10/2013

Jason and I built this birdhouse a few years ago. It used to hang from a dogwood tree in the back garden at our last home. We didn’t realize at the time that it had a major design flaw: it couldn’t be opened to clean it out. Apparently birds like to move in, build an intricate nest, and then move out. Eventually the bottom boards started to get loose so I decided to give it a little TLC a couple weeks ago. I took the bottom two pieces of 1×4 off and reattached them with hinges and a brace that can be unscrewed when I’m ready to clean it out again. I also added a little perch under the front door. All of these were just bits and pieces we had in the tool box. I was planning to hang it up in a tree but I wasn’t happy with how much it moved when the wind blew. I ended up nestling it in this bush along our back chain link fence.

Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse - myMCMlife.com Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse - myMCMlife.com Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse - myMCMlife.com Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse - myMCMlife.com

It was important to me that it was located where I could watch it from the living room. One morning while I was having a cup of tea, I spotted some little birds hopping around near the house and then one went it! I was so thrilled. There were two of these little birds and they ended filling it with twigs and making a nest.

Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse - myMCMlife.com Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse - myMCMlife.com

I’m glad I made it openable because these cute little birds have already moved on. This ugly black bird decided to investigate but passed. Either he was too big or unhappy that the previous tenants moved out and left all their furniture inside. I guess I need to do a little more Spring cleaning.

Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse - myMCMlife.com


Junior Landscaping Apprentice

04/09/2013

When Jason and I are doing yard work, Ali is either sleeping or helping. And by helping, I mean “helping.” Bless her heart, she wants so badly to be useful.

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I was planning on getting Ali a sandbox this summer and then I realized, hello! We have a whole courtyard full of crushed rocks. Welcome to the giant sandbox, darling.

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Look how she follows Jason around with her tiny shovel, trying to do exactly what he’s doing.

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Such a beautiful picture of parenting and discipline, isn’t it? She learns how to act by watching and imitating us. We lead by example and it’s her instinct to follow.

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It’s not forced. She could have been just playing in the rocks and that would have been fine. But she wanted to help Daddy. She wanted to do what Daddy was doing. She wants to be like Daddy.

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