When we got the official word on our move back to St. Louis, I immediately asked my friend Catrina if I could host a baby “sprinkle” for her. This being her second pregnancy, I thought a little party to give her lots of boy things (her daughter Claire is quite the girly-girl) would be in order.
I asked about her nursery theme and was downright shocked when she announced it was “Star Wars”. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Star Wars and think it is a great theme. But Catrina, being one of my most stylish friends, just didn’t strike me as the Yoda-Millenium-Falcon-Darth-Vader type of mama. Of course she is taking a more modern and tasteful take on the movies using a color pallet of kelly green, navy blue, and grey with character silhouettes and asterisk-like stars. SO cute.
Right of the bat, I thought designing the invitation would stump me. But all the sudden, as if my mouse were guided by a mysterious power (the Force?) this appeared on my screen…
I mimicked the opening story text of the movies and added in some Star Wars lingo to create a fun, thematic, yet not silly invitation…it even included light sabers! I was sure to include Catrina’s colors but wasn’t clued in to the asterisk stars at this point so I used regular ones. Aaron and Catrina loved it. I always feel like the invitation really kicks off the party, so from there on it was smooth sailing planning-wise.
I loved the Star Jedi Font I found on daFont.com so much—it really made sticking with a theme easy. I used my Silhouette Cameo to make some buntings and Star Wars character cut-outs. Decorations were minimal but fun.
I stuck the starts and cut-outs to paper lanters and placed a few fun Star Wars character prints around our screened in porch. We were so lucky with the weather…it stayed just cool enough to have the whole event outside.
Catrina and Claire arrived looking adorable as always. Eight months pregnant with a three year old and she makes it look so easy.
Luckily another friend, Lara, was my partner in co-host helping with the most important part…the food. As usual she prepared some incredible themed desserts—a “Star Cake”, “Green Light Sabers”, and “Red Velvet Crater Cookies”. I think my husband ate about six of those cookies.
Other food included popcorn snack bags, antipasta skewers, hot spinach artichoke dip, fig and goat cheese pitas, and southwest egg rolls. When in doubt, always make spinach artichoke dip. It never ceases to be the first plate scraped clean.
For refreshments, we served lemonade and easy-peasy champagne punch. A bottle of champagne, simple syrup, tripel sec, lemonade, a few frozen peach slices, mint leaves, and sliced citrus fruit. Let it chill for a couple hours and it’s a perfect summer sipper. For an even prettier presentation, freeze mint leaves and lemon slices in ice cubes a few days before.
And of course we needed fabulous table signs. They said things like “Skywalker Skewers” and “Degabah System Egg Rolls” and “Millenium Falcon Fig Pitas”. All that useless Star Wars knowledge just came rushing back to make this project a blast.
Then it was time to open some presents. Catrina got some incredibly cute stuff, all just perfect for her little guy. Mostly clothes, which was really the idea, and even a few Star Wars goodies for the nursery. Claire was a huge help, carrying presents and ripping paper between trips to the food table. She is such a party girl.
Finally, one of my favorite parts, was the party favor. I couldn’t resist ordering some green and blue macarons from Mila Sweets located in the nearby Whisk Bakery. I’ve been in love with these all-natural bits of heaven since discovering them at our weekly trips to the Tower Grove Farmers Market and thought they would look adorable all wrapped up in cellophane with a little thank you note attached. I’m all about edible favors.
It was a fun and relaxing afternoon spent with Catrina’s family and friends. I’m so glad she walked away with piles of baby gear (which was, after all, the goal) but I was even more excited to co-host this event for a friend who has done so much for me and my family. She’s the best mom and I’ve learned so much from her.
I can’t wait to meet her baby boy who should be arriving any day now! Hence the timing of this post…had to get it out before little man arrived.
Have you been to a Star Wars themed party or seen a Star Wars theme nursery? What was it like?
Also, if you like the invitation design, a similar one is for sale in my Etsy store.
You may also like:
While I was off spending some quality time with Erika, Jeff, and AJ, things were progressing in the kitchen.
This hood was quite possibly the most frustrating part of our little kitchen project here. Not the 90 s.f. of tile, ordering a range hood was the thing that kept me up at night. Go figure.
I never thought buying a hood would be an inexpensive feat, but I didn’t think it would completely break our budget either! Well, after weeks of research I was coming up with a minimum of $650 investment due to our ceiling issue. Since ours are 10 feet tall, it meant we’d need a chimney extension to reach them. I had trouble finding the extensions in the first place, THEN found out some of them were almost as much as the hoods! Puke.
But this one kept coming up on my searches.
Not possible, right? After seeing $350, $450, all the way up to $1500 home range hoods I was baffled by this offer on Amazon. How? Wha? And the most incredible part was the list of reviews. ALL good. I decided to email Z Line for help finding an extension as my searched weren’t coming up with one. I figured this would tell me something about their customer service.
Not more than a day later I got a response. A very helpful customer service person said they were all out of stock on the chimney extensions for this perticular hood, but would I consider buying the following at the same price? If so, they had an extension for it and would sending everything out the next day.
I about fell over. I liked the more expensive hood even more than the original one (it has a slightly different detail at the base) and it was clearly a nicer hood. AND the extension was only $99! About $200 cheaper than any other chimney extension I’d found elsewhere.
Z Line also recommended purchasing a couple charcoal filters since I planned to just recirculate air, not vent to the outside (something to consider when buying a hood…they are not all convertible like this one and drilling through a brick wall to do a vent is a significant project). At $20 for two, it was a good idea.
I immediately placed my order and two days later, enormous boxes arrived at my front door. Luckily our contractor arrived right after to help me haul them inside. We unpacked them and checked out the goods. This hood was a BEAST! So heavy John would not be able to mount it on his own. So he suggested we reinforce the wall before I completed tiling, to make sure this hood would be extra secure.
We measured 36″ above the stove (the manufacturer maximum recommended distance) and John cut a hold in the drywall to mount a 2×6 between the studs. It was all done in a matter of minutes…so glad I wasn’t in charge of this chore. We didn’t even clean up the wall, I just tiled right over.
It took John and Stu together to mount the hood over the weekend. They also ended up cutting down the chimney extension a little as it ended up being a tiny bit too tall (which required an inexpensive special saw blade to cut stainless steel). When I arrived home late Sunday night, Stu had the hood lights shining and the kitchen cleaned up…it was a glorious sight.
John said it was the nicest budget-friendly hood he’d ever seen. We can’t get over how substantial it is! The grates, filters that snap on inside, and there’s even a grease trap—no clue how that even works! And, if we change our minds in the future, we can vent the hood to the outside, though I don’t know why we would. This isn’t a professional kitchen!
Another very quick update we made, right next to the hood, is this beautiful faucet. It’s the same one we had at our Maplewood house but I forgot how awesome it is. Great water pressure, reaches the whole sink, and looks fantastic. It’s a knock off from Overstock, but you’d never know it.
So that’s our progress to date! I have lots of grouting to do…not looking forward to it. All I’ve done it the area behind the hood so we could get it hung and just that area made a huge mess and took forever. I think I’ll be taking advantage of the grandparent’s visit (starting tomorrow) to get the rest done. Stu promises to help but we shall see…
Lots of people are curious about how our custom floating shelves came together so I’ll be back with the deets as soon as I get the material list together. I can’t take any credit for them other than the idea, our contractor made them for us, which eliminated several failed attempts and ten trips to the hardware store (not to mention the inevitable heated words) that would have been involved had we mad them ourselves.
We’ve also got some pretty cool lighting to add in the room. Some will go under the floating shelves, the rest will be suspended between the stove wall and the opposite wall…think industrial and “bare”. I’ll also be changing some knobs, probably painting the island base, and of course working on the pops of color with curtains/shades, a piece of art or two, and arrangement of dishes (the dishes on the shelves are just temporarily placed to get them off my dining room table).
Let’s do another before and after…just for kicks
You maybe wondering where we stuck our microwave. See that hidden corner by the fridge? It’s back there. We bought a smaller one at Target after selling our over-the-stove guy. Since it’s stuck back on a section of counter we’d never use anyway, we don’t mind it being there. Maybe some day we’ll hide it in a cabinet.
You may also like:
This past weekend I left Ethan for only the second time in 2.5 years. It’s been as long since I’ve flown on a plane alone, no iPad blaring Cars or Toy Story or bag full of snacks to entertain the little man. (Note to self: The back of snacks would have come in handy.)
This time it was just me. Two hours of alone time on my way to Denver.
I got a coffee. I wore my headphones. I read my Kindle and worked on my laptop. While other parents wrestled with their babies and toddlers I sat in my own world reminiscing a little about what life without kids was like. The only difference? I missed Ethan the whole time.
But making the trip alone was all worth it to spend some quality time with this little guy and his mommy.
My friend Erika, who I’ve talked about countless times, and her new husband Jeff wasted no time in the baby-making department. They were pregnant just a month after they tied the knot and Alex Jeffery, or “AJ”, was born on the fifth of May. He’s a Cinco di Mayo baby! How fun are those parties going to be?
I was in love from the moment I peeked at him in his giant carseat. All curled up in a ball, fast asleep. I could not wait till he woke up.
And there started my new baby weekend. I forgot how fast the days go when they are segmented into three hour cycles.
Diaper change. Feed. Stare at him saying “He’s so cute!” about 100 times. Then back to sleep. Repeat.
How fast we forget the joys and challenges of being a new parent. Stress over schedules and weight gain (baby and mom) and having the right gear. As a mom, there’s the whole dilemma of figuring out where you fit in among the roles of primary caretaker, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and coworker…sometimes it seems like there is not much left over for oneself.
But as we went through these cycles Erika and I plenty of time to relax and talk. And eat. Living so far apart is tough so there’s always lots of catching up to do.
Watching my friends become parents is one of my favorite things, especially now that I’m one myself. I was always excite for friends having kids, but it wasn’t until Ethan arrived that I really understood what it meant to bring one of these little perfect creatures into the world. And seeing Erika and Jeff handle parenthood so gracefully was amazing. AJ is one lucky kiddo to have parents like them.
I was was lucky enough to be there for a few firsts. 1) Erika’s first time nursing in public. She handled it like a champ! 2) AJ’s first ride in the Moby Wrap. 3) A family outing to a local street fair near Denver University…it was packed, hot, and full of stumbling people but once we found the quiet area where about 15 parents were holding their babies, it was a fun experience.
Back at home Stu was spending his first Dad’s weekend with Ethan. They spent quite a bit of time at the park, had a “Dad Playdate” with some of Stu’s buddies and their kids, went for a run, had breakfast at our favorite local place, and even did some grocery shopping during which Ethan ran all over the store with a mini shopping cart. They had a blast.
It was very hard to say goodbye to AJ’s sweet face, knowing I probably won’t see him for a few months, maybe more. Wishing they were closer. But I’m also looking forward to the day AJ and Ethan can really interact. Ethan can show him all kinds of fun ways to get into trouble. They will be buddies for life!
You may also like:
The Pink Floyd song has been on repeat in my head as I slowly approached the end of my tiling journey. Even Ethan said, “Dad, look at the bricks mama made!”
I will admit, while frustrating at times, it has been really fun and VERY satisfying doing the tile portion of our kitchen renovation on my own.
When did I learn how to cut and lay tile? About four days ago. It’s super easy! Who knew? Yes, it does involve a power tool, for which I have a great
fear respect, but I sucked it up and learned how to use the tile saw…it wasn’t bad at all.
Since I was laying individual tiles, there were LOTS of cuts. Some took one try and bam, fit. Others took many many trips out to the saw, trimming off tiny slivers until I got the snug look I was going for. Some I literally pounded into place shouting “You are fitting!!!” Also, my pattern was a classic stagger causing issues every two minutes—especially around corners and in tiny spaces.
But with my handy pencil and speed square, I was up to the challenge.
I feel like a freaking rock star.
(But seriously, it’s not that hard)
My timing was limited so I had to plan. Nap time = cutting time. The saw is loud and I don’t want to piss off our new neighbors while they tried to enjoy the nice weather after work, so my 2 hours of nap time was when I did many many cuts, hoping my measurements (AKA eye-balling and pencil marking with a speed square) were accurate. I also had time during Ethan’s “school”, but that only worked out to about 2.5 hours twice this week when you add in pick up and drop off and getting some other things done around the house (booooring).
The biggest help in this project was Stu’s surprise Monday off. I hate to take any joy in office closings created by tornado damage (apparently there was quite a bit of damage by the airport last Friday night) but having free child care gave me about nine hours of tiling time, only stopping to hang out with Ethan for a bit here and there. Otherwise it was Daddy Day (or Tile Day).
There were a few sections that almost got me waving the white flag of surrender, but for the most part I moved along swiftly and feel like I used my tiles wisely. Nothing like getting two cuts out of one tile, finding what I needed in the scrap box, and finding an alternate purpose for a mis-cut tile. In the end I think I used a little over seven boxes of tile (around 90 square feet). Good thing white subway tile is only $22/box.
The injuries were kept to a minimum. I only electrocuted myself once when getting a little too friendly tiling around a plug. But really, what’s a kitchen project without dangerously exposed outlets? Stu was sure to remind me that, had my hands been wet, I may have died. Great. Thanks honey. (Note: try to shut down your outlets. Hopefully they aren’t hooked up to important things like the fridge like ours were.)
Once I got to the top of “The Wall”, utilizing the floating-shelves-of-steel (to be talked about in another post) became crucial for balancing myself all over the counter top, even leaning on them to catapult myself across the surface of the stove.
Something to check before beginning any tiling project? The height of the counter top backsplash. Our contractor noticed the different heights while mounting a board behind our stove (to support tile). It’s taller on the left side than the right side to accomodate the different heights of the windows. In three months of living here, we never noticed. Can you tell?
No? Just blinded by that GORGEOUS tile job? Understandable.
So, quick tip. I’m no expert, but I learned it and think it’s worth sharing. If you have several of the same cuts to make, for instance, at the very top of the entire length of your wall, you can measure one cut, make sure it fits, then cut the rest using a speed square on the saw. Line up your tested cut against the speed square, then remove the cut tile and put in a full tile. Your square will guide your tiles to the perfect cut so you can just zip through 10 tiles in like 3 minutes.
Did that make any sense?
One last tip: If in doubt, cut a little larger than your mark. You can always shave a little off. Even if that fourth walk back to the saw is painful, it will look great.
Putting in that last tile was absolutely exhilarating.
And I’m pretty happy with the finished (at least finished tile-wise) product.
Oh so open!
Oh so bright!
I can’t wait to add all my pretty dishes and pops of color.
Now I just have to grout. UGH. You may notice some grouting right around where the range hood will be mounted on Saturday morning by Stu and our contractor…it’s really heavy. Just that little bit of grout took forever and made a huge mess. Hate. Grouting. But it looks so good.
Here’s the hood, all covered up and waiting. Took me three weeks to find it and only two days to ship. Amazon, what did we do without you?
I won’t be here for the hanging because I’ll be hopping a flight to Denver tomorrow to visit my best friend Erika and her brand new little man AJ! It’s my first flight in 2.5 years without Ethan and I won’t lie…I’m pretty excited. But I’m most excited to snuggle with the cuteness.
So Monday will probably be a post all about AJ and his squishy little face, but after that I’m back to kitchen posts and will share the deets of those awesome floating shelves.
I just thank my lucky stars all our tiling required me to stand, as I finally found out yesterday that I officially have a herniated disc. Sweet. But doing this project didn’t hurt me in the least. It’s not till I sit or lay down that my butt and leg light on fire. Tuesday I will get an injection and hopefully start physical therapy, pain free. Fingers crossed I’ll be back to new soon.
So stay tuned for more kitchen (and baby) goodness!
You may also like:
Before we moved in, I described our new house as “very finished” and say that I had “little to do” project-wise…with the exception of the kitchen.
There was nothing wrong with the kitchen.
It had newer appliances, nice cabinetry, big windows, nice granite counter tops (our first!) and is a decent size. But…well it was ugly. Plus, the upper cabinets made me feel as if the room is closing in on me. Like the scene in Star Wars?
See for yourself.
The word that comes to mind is BROWN. And BORING.
Those cabinets made the room feel tiny. I wanted them gone so I purposely only used them for things I’d want to display on open shelving. To give it a try, I started by taking down the doors to open things up.
It’s imposible to tell from the pictures, but the missing doors made a huge difference. We loved having our every day dishes at an arms reach and occational pieces displayed higher up.
After talking about making changes for over three months, I decided to take advantage of our free child care (Stu’s mom was in town a couple weekends ago) and put some primer on the wall.
It felt soooooo good.
Seeing the difference just a little primer made to the room, Stu jumped into action fulfilling my wish of taking down those cabinets. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to second guess myself.
And then they were gone…
It only took four days to get the cabinets and microwave sold on Craiglist. Cha-ching!
Over the next few days we patched holes before I pulled out my trusty rollers, brushes, and our eight foot ladder. Surprisingly, cutting into the ceiling wasn’t that tough, I was just able to reach it from the second to last step of the ladder (eeeekk!).
I used the same color from our rental house, Moonshine from Benjamin Moore. It’s a gray, which is a very tough color to buy, so the fact that I’ve seen it used quite often online (especially on YHL) I knew it would be a winner. Just gray enough to make the white trim pop while still being bright and cheery. *Note, I do NOT recommend doing what YHL does and have the color matched in Olympic paint. Olympic coverage is not good…you’ll use twice as much.)
On the list after paint was:
- new white subway tile back splashes with gray grout
- new outlets and switches
- new outlet covers
- new faucet
- new range hood
- new countertop microwave to replace the over-the-stove one we took down
- build open shelving
- new lighting
- under shelf lighting
- replacing recessed windows with wood
- new flooring (?????? this is a big ?)
Stu got to work on the outlets and covers…he has done this in every house we’ve owned. What a HUGE difference it makes!! Why people buy these things in off-white is beyond me. White goes with everything. And looks so clean.
Our new faucet arrived a few days ago. It’s just gorgeous. Very similar to the one I bought for our Maplewood house and much better suited for actually reaching all areas of the kitchen sink. Plus we love the industrial look and feel.
With all the cabinets down, we had to start making some major decisions. I had some very specific ideas of what I wanted but wasn’t sure it would all work together. And of course I wanted to do it with our budget in mind. Hunting for an affordable range hood that would fit our 10′ ceilings alone was driving me crazy!
Since I’m such a visual person, and I had all this stuff floating around in my head, I put together a very quick (very crappy) photoshop job of what the kitchen could be. It started like this:
All the components were there, but something was missing. The tile just wasn’t going to look right.
Then I realized a) subway tile is really cheap and b) it would look amazing if the whole wall was covered with it. So I added a few layers and got this:
Tile to the top! We were sold.
I was nervous to dive into the more difficult projects but Stu urged me to get in touch with our contractor, John (who helped us do things like add a bathroom in our old house), to help get some of the big stuff done. I’m convinced John can do anything home related. His craftsmanship and attention to detail is unbelievable and he has every tool anyone could ever need. Which came in handy when he helped us take out all the old tile…by cutting it (and the drywall behind it) out of the wall. He has no fear. Ethan and I came home from the park to giant holes for a back splash, which John and Stu quickly covered up with new dry wall.
It was time to build shelves and tile.
Miraculously Home Depot had plenty of this gorgeous glazed white subway tile and we bought up bunch…like 80 square feet worth. Plus some bull nose for the trim areas and a HUGE tub of premixed adhesive.
I’m proud to report I have taken on the tiling duty with gusto–it’s almost done! No lie, it feels very good to do this part of the project myself. I’m using a saw people!!! Next week I’ll share photos and details of the tile and the “floating” shelves John whipped up.
In the meantime, things are very construction-zoney around here and I guess our porch is just going to continue as our “staging area”. Good thing its big…still plenty of room on the other side for evenings spent outside in the beautiful weather we’ve been having.
Man it feels good to work on a house again.
You may also like:
Though we were gone a mere eighteen months I feel like I have a whole new appreciation for the St. Louis food scene.
Did Virginia and DC have incredible food? Of course. But I can’t get over how… accessible the fabulous STL restaurants are. So many incredible options within minutes, no reservations required, and more often than not, they welcome your toddler with a high chair and lidded cup.
It’s been pretty effortless to explore the food options in our neighborhood and the surrounding areas. Some were long-time favs that exist just blocks from our front door…like Black Thorn pizza, City Diner, King & I, Basil Thai, and Cafe Natasha. All kid friendly, all frequent destinations. All really, really solid food.
City Diner: Pancakes don’t get better than this.
City Diner has my favorite-ever pancakes and I think Stu may have a full-on addiction to Black Thorn as he’s making up constant reasons to order take-out (“We’ve had a long day, let’s order pizza.” “Someone’s coming over? Let’s order pizza”) . Since it takes at least a hour to make their deep-dish, Chicago-style pies, living two blocks away makes for a very happy ordering situation.
A favorite since the week we moved in is Cafe Mochi…incredible sushi and fabulous outdoor seating. And SO kid friendly. Good thing, because my kid can put away a TON of sushi. Starting, of course, with miso soup, edamame, and baked green-lip mussels.
No joke, Ethan eats as many pieces as we do. Spicy White Tuna rolls, tuna nigiri, Godzilla roll, he doesn’t care. His little hand shoots out to the platter full of sushi as soon as it’s placed in front of us. The rest of the patio diners acting as his cheering section, laughs and smiles as they stare in amazement at his appetite for raw fish and his enthusiasm for the umami goodness.
We are SO proud.
But seriously, Cafe Mochi is delicious, kid friendly, and freakishly close to our house…a block walk. Dangerous.
Another frequent stop, just another block farther, is Gelateria del Leone (also known as The Gelateria) usually for their scrumptious coffee but also for the decadent gelato. Ethan LOVES sampling and picking out his flavor from the glass case of goodness. Something about that special plastic cup and flat “spoon” that makes the gelato feel so different from regular old ice cream.
The Shaved Duck is another top pick, just several blocks North East of us in Tower Grove East. Phenomenal, slow roasted BBQ, local beer selections, and pulled pork cheese fries that are worth every calorie.
Once a month we drive North to Cafe Ventana to meet up with other toddlers and their mommy counterparts for coffee and beignets. Plenty of room for the kids to play in a gorgeous patio setting…something we make an effort to attend.
If Stu’s addiction is Black Thorn pizza, mine is quickly becoming Sump Coffee. Just South East of us, in a neighborhood I’m not very familiar with, sits a corner shop roasting a mean coffee bean. We’re not used to the slowness of this place…paying AFTER you enjoy your cup of
coffee artwork. But it’s something I’d like to get used to.
Not un-kid-friendly, but there are definitely no kids running around this place. To-go is fine, but to-sit is better and that’s easier to do without the little one in tow. Which is never for me, until one day I went during nap time. Worth it just for the froth design.
My Tuesday morning stop is Pint Size Bakery. Not in our neighborhood but very close to Ethan’s school…so I pop in after drop-off. A latte and savory scone make the perfect start to a productive morning—usually spent on freelance work and Etsy order filling. The vanilla icing-stuffed cookies are a treat for pick-up. Ethan never complains when half is gone.
A couple times a week our minds are blown by local eatery—we’ve been having a blast trying new places and becoming regulars at others. Ethan is such a restaurant pro…I feel lucky to be able to take him on these adventures. Somehow I haven’t gained 100 pounds even though my work-out schedule has been greatly interrupted by my inability to move without pain…something I hope will be addressed in the next few days.
A whole other food world opens up on Saturdays (the Tower Grove farmers market) and one Friday a month (Food Truck Friday in Tower Grove Park) but those are whole other posts…for another day.
I think I could write about food every day…
What’s your favorite STL lunch stop? Place to take your kids?