Kristy and Christiana’s Friday Guide to the Royal Wedding Couch-gate

I mean, who over the age of 30 hasn’t thought, at least once, that  “All Prince Harry or William has to do is meet me. We’ll fall in love, and I’ll be a real PRINCESS”?  We know as sure as there are biscuits at tea that we have. We all watched them grow up and witnessed the loss of their incredible Mother, Princess Di. We all fell in love with them and wanted to be there for them in those moments. It never mattered which one, we were in it for the long haul. We just KNEW that one of them would fall in love with an American girl. Knew it, knew it, knew it. (We were always on team Harry, for the record.)

Meghan and Harry

And boy, DID HE! Meghan Markle…(“Marks”, can we call her Marks? I think so.) I mean look, even we are in love with her! Not only is she eloquent and beautifully spirited, she’s also a badass brave advocate for women! She’s INCREDIBLE! Annie said it best, “our only problem with her being princess, is that SHE CAN’T RUN FOR PRESIDENT!” Come onnnnn Marks. Killing us.

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Windsor Castle, the Royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire and the 2018 Royal Wedding venue

So ladies and gents, it is upon us. The world-wide shattering of hearts that shall happen this Saturday at midday in Windsor. The last single royal gets hitched, and simulatensouly crushes all our hopes and dreams of Kristy Wright, Princess of Wales. (cause we know all of you were rooting me on)

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The official invites, image via HuffPost (since ours was misplaced)

Something clearly went awry and our invites were seemingly lost in the mail. So what shall we do to celebrate? Well, Christiana and I will be waking promptly at 4am to make a pitcher of mimosas, strap on obnoxiously large hats, partake in scones and crumpets, and roll that live wedding coverage. Who are we kidding, we have kids, we’ll probably be up anyway because…what is sleep? And how can we even be mad? He’s marrying the freaking MARKS!

Sound like your bag? Well hold on to your crumpets, people. Here’s what you need to know to get your princess on TOMORROW MORNING. Call your friends. Buy bubbles and OJ. Premake (or buy) your scones, crumpets, and whatever other British breakfast tickles your fancy.  We want to support having tea, but at 4 am, let’s be real. We’ll be fumbling for our coffee. Sorry, Harry.

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Coverage begins at 4am Eastern time. (Sorry, you guys on the west coast are screwed.) Guests arrive from 9:30-11 London time and Prince Hot Ginger (“PHG” if you feel me) arrives at 11:30 (6:30 am eastern), so you best be watching by then. The ceremony starts at noon, followed by the carriage ride around Windsor from 1-2. Husbands, get on board. This is like the longest and classiest tailgate ever, just deal.

We’re rolling out these blueberry scones per Sally’s Baking Addiction and attempting these crumpets from the Beeb. (Thats the BBC for the layperson). Also, it’s been reported that the queen mother has a glass of Champagne every day, so I feel obliged to include some bubbly mimosas in this royal feast. You know, for Liz.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images, Town and Country Magazine

Royal protocol also dictates hats for you ladies. (I don’t care if you are still in your pajamas. Look, I don’t make the rules!) Don’t you remember all the crazy hats that turned up at Will and Kate’s wedding?! (Like “nooooo Beatrice and Eugenie!”) The hats were really almost more famous than the swath of international celebs. Learn more about appropriate headwear in this video from the Washington Post.

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Speaking of celebs, be prepared to keep your eyes peeled for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (AKA Will and Kate – new parents to baby #3, woop!), the Beckhams, Elton John and maybe even the Clooneys.  So put on your hat, pour yourself a good pot of coffee, serve your warm crumpets and have yourself a merry Royal Wedding Couch-gate. We’re all rooting for you Marks! Cheerio!

P.S. Follow us on twitter @lockerstolittles for a photo recap of said couch-gate.

 

18835945_10103938084553859_8628446883750688728_nKristy is a married mom of 2, doula, massage therapist, and dedicated crossfitter with a passion of healing the human body and mind in Virginia, and closet anglophile. She co-wrote this with Christiana, the unofficial authority on all things Royal.

 

At Home With Christiana: Moving with Littles Part I, Ease the Transition

This post began largely in response to a reader’s request for tips on moving with young children, and grew out of the fact that I am on the verge of a move with our three kids, aged 6 and under.  Moving with three kids 6 and under?!   Me:  Ha, Ha, Ha. Easy.  I’m fine, everything’s fine … (sob, sob, sob).

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Annie and I have both lead a rather nomadic lifestyle – with a combined 10 moves between us – since having kids. Along the way, we’ve learned a few helpful pointers. As the military spouse/gypsy mom here, I’m spearheading this topic, but Annie will chime in with some tips as well.

This is by no means an inclusive list of everything you have to do in order to move. In fact, there are A LOT of little administrative items you’ll need to take care of that aren’t included here. Think: change of address, homeowners/renters insurance, utility shut-off/on, updating information with your financial institutions, researching schools, etc. We’ll tackle all of this stuff and more in a later post. Today is all about perhaps the most critical factor for our families each time we find ourselves on the verge of another relocation: easing the transition for the kids.

First, Communication

Talk the talk

Start the conversation about moving with your kids early. And don’t be discouraged if the first conversation doesn’t go so well. Even us adults are typically pretty stressed about the idea of so much change, but the more you talk about it, the more you comfortable you become. And no matter what, sometimes we just feel like this:

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… And that’s okay too. Let your kids know that it’s not only okay, but totally normal to feel nervous, or even a little scared about moving. If you’ve moved before, it can be helpful to share happy or silly stories from previous moves. And even more importantly, listen to their concerns. It is much easier to address a specific fear than fear in general! If you can identify something in particular that your child is nervous about, then you may be able to fix it pretty easily.

For example, after talking with our 5-year-old about our upcoming move, we discovered he was mainly upset about moving because he thought WE were leaving, but all of our stuff was staying put. Once we explained that everything (including most importantly his bed and his toys) is coming with us, he was on board! Of course, not all fears will be this easy to dispel, but you never know when a simple conversation might save the day.

photo of father and daughter running at the park

…and walk the walk

Kids are also really perceptive, so if you and your partner are stressed and anxious about your upcoming move, your kids will be too. Likewise, if you can be (or at least pretend really well to be) calm, positive, or even excited about your move, the feelings will be contagious. Emphasize out loud all the things you are looking forward to with this move.

Your kids are watching, listening, understanding and learning more than you suspect, from a younger age than you would imagine. Use this to your advantage.

Second, Organization

Declutter

Annie chiming in here. If at all humanly possible, at least 1 month in advance of moving, make a decluttering plan. There are several options for strategizing this. What has been most effective in our household might not be the best for you – bottom line is you do YOU! Be ruthless in getting rid of things. Saving an old coffee mug because you *might* glue the handle back on at some point? Nope, you’re moving, ain’t nobody got time for that sh*t when you’re moving a family. TOSS IT.  Kids’ organic wooden blocks that are cute but they never ever play with? NOPE. Donate to another family’s cute nursery.

Our family has been most successful with the Konmari method. Basically in this one you take on one category  of household item at a time rather than a room. For example, you start with clothes. Allllllll the clothes – get out those winter clothes you packed away, your box of skinny pants you’re waiting to get back into, those old dresses you’re saving and go through them ALL together. Then, you pick up each item and decide if it “sparks joy”. Do you really love it? Do you want to wear it right now? Or are you keeping it for some other reason. If you love it, keep it. If you don’t – toss/sell/donate! On to the next category.

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We are a spare, organized household to begin with and got rid of 3 TRUCKLOADS of stuff this way. There’s a great free printable at Making Lemonade Blog that I’ve posted up when we are in this stage. If you have a little time ahead, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo herself is amazing motivation to get going.

STORAGE BINS: Kids have a lot of STUFF. Stock up on these essentials to get it under wraps!

ALL the storage bins. Whether you are moving yourself, or you have a professional moving company, putting as much as you can into labeled storage bins pre-emptively can save boatloads of unpacking time at your destination.

When you find some bins that work for you, buy more than you think you need. Maybe I am still holding onto a vision of my young backpacking self, but I ALWAYS grossly underestimate the amount of stuff we have. There’s no such thing as too many. I know, for some reason these plastic storage bins are so dang expensive. I have no answers on why. However if you find some you like, or are lucky enough to find some on sale (this is something of a unicorn event, they’re never on sale) BUY them. And BUY MORE than you think you need. You want as many of the same size as possible so they stack well (both full and empty) in storage.  A clutter of bins that won’t stack wastes a ton of attic/garage space. Annie says her go to are these Ikea Samla boxes which are relatively cheap. 

You’ll want a variety of sizes – some extra large for light things like extra blankets and pillows, some small ones for things like toiletries and medicines. But mostly, lots and lots and LOTS of medium ones (about 6 gallon size). These are not-too-heavy when packed with toys and clothes and not-too-small to be useful. Oh and … Clear!!! Only the clear ones! Otherwise someone will take a label off and you’ll have no clue what’s in that bin at the bottom of a stack. It seems obvious but…why do they even make any storage things that aren’t clear??

Labeling: Colored Tape

Color code your sh*%!!  Seriously.  I am not a hyper-organized-crazy-person, but this is worth it. Before boxes are removed, slap a piece of tape on it that corresponds with the room you’ll want it placed in when you arrive at your new home. You may not will not have time to write an informative description on your boxes and the moving company will inevitably label them incorrectly or vaguely (like the 500 boxes of ours labeled “decor” including our trash cans!). OR if you’re moving yourself tape just makes a much more time-efficient way of labeling than the old magic marker. We have found this simple trick reduces our “we-don’t-know-if this belongs in the attic or the living room” box pile immensely and makes for faster unloading. No need to stop and decipher the scribbled labels on the box!! Slap whatever color you choose on that box and get those babies delivered to the actual room they belong. The first time. BOOM!

 

Also, They make duct tape in a billion different designs  these days and there are some great ones for kids available through Amazon. Again – buy MORE than you think you need – leftover tape makes for great craft fun later. Let the kids have fun picking out the design or color they want to label their boxes and let them have at it. This allows kids to feel like they can help, have a job, and you might not be asked 800 times a day “is this my box?”. Win. The kiddos feel secure that all of their belongings will be in the right place, and have fun spotting their “Superman” boxes at you new house too. 😊

Looking ahead

As early as you can, start a DO NOT PACK list. These are the things you will bring with you directly. Keep the list taped up on the fridge or somewhere you can jot down items as they come to you. Here are a few of my basics to get you started:

  • Important documents: Passports, birth certs, social security cards, and other important travel documents
  • Pens/paper
  • First aid kit and Medicines – bandaids, allergy meds, kids tylenol to name a few.
  • Trip itinerary
  • Phones, Tablets, Laptops, and ALL the chargers
  • Kids’ favorite comfort object(s) such as blanket, stuffed animal, book, etc.
  • Tape, scissors, pocket knife
  • Wine corkscrew/bottle opener (you’re moving with kids. I’m not even going to
    explain further)

Make a second list of UNPACK FIRST items – the things you’ll want out of the moving truck and unpacked FIRST. Think: Sheets, pillows, blankets, paper towels, toilet paper, hand soap, shower items, towels, coffee maker, laundry detergent… you know, the essentials. Again, post up so you can add as the days go by.

Finally, Moving Time

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Packing the truck

If at all possible, have a trusted babysitter or family member do something fun with the kids on the day you load the truck. It’s stressful enough to get the whole house fully packed up without worrying that your kiddo is going to find a stray box-cutter or be trampled under someone moving the couch. Make sure they’re there when the action gets started so they know what’s going on and then whisk them away to be distracted.

Set aside your DO NOT PACK items somewhere safe (where movers or anyone trying to be “helpful” will not accidentally pack them up). Also pack separately the things from the UNPACK FIRST list with very clear labels and set aside to be packed LAST into the truck so they come off first.

Plane relocation

If you’re headed to your new home by plane and your stuff won’t get there for a bit, you’ll need to plan your packing differently than if your car and moving truck are going with you. If you’re likely to beat your household stuff, you’ll want to pack a LOT of extra stuff to keep the kids feeling secure on the trip. This list will vary depending on where you’re staying when you arrive – your new empty home vs hotel vs family or friend’s home. Factor that in!

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CARRY-ON: Assume checked luggage will be lost and just be prepared to schlep an obscene amount of stuff through the airport.

  • Clothes: An extra 2 outfits for each child and 1 for yourself. Diapers: enough for 2 days.
  • SNACKS. All the snacks. Hungry children are not happy children. Formula for 2 days if your baby is still taking it.
  • Entertainment: A handful of their favorite toys and books. Bonus points for getting a new book and toy as a ‘moving present’ to make it more exciting. Good time to ignore screen time limits 😀
  • The kid’s usual cups: especially if they’re little and have a favorite sippie cup.
  • Car seats and stroller if applicable (gate check).
  •  Toiletries: their usual bath soap, lotion, diaper cream, toothbrush and toothpaste, some baby tylenol and motrin and any other meds you use on a regular basis. Everything you can bring to avoid a late-night trip to the store. Make sure you include at least 2 days supply of any prescription medications YOU are taking.
  • Important documents (see above list)

CHECKED LUGGAGE:

  • More clothes than you think you need. Moving trucks are OFTEN late by a few days and access to laundry might be variable. I basically double the number of days I expect for this.
  • A whole bed set up – the child’s preferred blanket, pillow, stuffed animals, white noise maker, night light, etc… All the stuff that makes bedtime consistent.
  • More snacks!
  • Don’t bother with extra diapers – you can buy when you get there.
  • Your own toiletries and medications. ALL prescription medications. Whatever over-the-counters you take on a regular basis.

Car relocation

If you’re moving by car and the moving truck is going with you or will arrive at about the same time, strategy is a little different. You basically put all of the above (plus all the pet supplies – bed, food, bowls) jam-packed into your car.

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If you have the opportunity to make the trip to your new home into a fun outing it also gives the kids something to get excited about (Please, don’t overthink this or create more stress trying to orchestrate a highly scheduled vacation in concert with a move.). Depending on the kids’ ages, this can simply be a night at a hotel with a swimming pool and Oreo cookies. You want a little something to look forward to along the way, and it can distract from the stress of the ultimate relocation.

And no matter how you get there… bring the love.

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Talk to your loved ones about planning visits at your new home so your children are reminded that leaving heir house definitely does NOT mean leaving their loved ones, family and friends alike. Make lots of video, FaceTime and Skype calls if visits aren’t an option.

Other helpful resources

There are a lot of great books out there that can be reassuring for your little ones struggling to with the concept of moving, or the idea of leaving friends behind. A favorite of ours is A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. Also check out Sesame Street’s interactive The Big Moving Adventure App (geared specifically for military families, aimed at ages 2-5).

Change can be good

Moving your family, especially while your children are young, presents many challenges. But at the end of the day, a lot of good things can come from this kind of change. Your family often becomes even closer, and your kids grow more resilient. You are exposed to new places and adventures and learn how to support each other along the way.  So, communicate, organize, love each other, and enjoy the ride! (Or at least try to, if you can see over your luggage.) Cheers!

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Home with Christiana: The Wine Files, XL

Welcome to the first installment in what will be a recurring series here called the The Wine Files, because my friends think I’m classy (or lush) enough to write about wine and have asked me to do so. So here we are.pexels-photo-290316.jpeg

Installment One is kicking off in a big way, literally, by focusing strictly on 1.5 Liter bottles of wine. Also known as Magnum, XL, or Granny wines. (You know, the big bottles in the section you used to think only grannies shopped in?? Yep, those.)   

While these larger bottles tend to have a bad rep here in the States, they are not only perfectly normal across the pond, but they are also really dang convenient. Because you never know when you might have unexpected company or an epic series of your children’s complete meltdowns culminating in a first-world crisis. (No judgment. We’ve all been there.)

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Not pictured: Me, actually trying to shop.

Also worth noting is the fact that bringing multiple small children to the store is an adventure anyway, but bringing them through a decent wine shop is a downright crusade. Yes, I know. Booze is definitely an area where bigger is typically not better. I get that. But I also get wine. And I get parenting. And somedays you just feel like…

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So in this phase of life, if you have the opportunity to grab one good bottle of wine that is actually two good bottles of wine, then I’m saying bigger actually can be better. Because less work and more wine = victory in my book. 

“Fave Four” Wines, XL style

Without further adieu, here are my four favorite red and white 1.5 Liter wines. All of these are solid, not-your- average grocery store picks to suit any budget-conscious-fancy-preschool-tuition-paying parent or gourmand alike. No granny panties required.

My Fave Four Reds

 

Name Price* (@1.5L) Description Suggested Pairings LtoL Rating
D’Autrefois Pinot Noir $21.99 Elegant, Cherry, Raspberry, Vanilla, Medium bodied Anything with fresh herbs. Grilled poultry; fish; herbed focaccia.  4/5
Ruffino Chianti $14.79 Juicy, Cherry, Plum, Floral Pizza; Pasta. Any Italian food, period.  4/5
Titus $109.99 Complex, Black Currant, Oak, Chocolate, Full bodied Filet Mignon! Prime Rib! Go big or go home. 5/5
Pierre Henri Cotes du Rhone Villages Signargues $29.99 Rich, Blackberry, Cherry, Spice, Medium bodied Charcuterie;  Lamb; Roasted anything; Chocolate.  Life.  5/5
*Prices may vary depending on location and availability. These are local prices currently available near me.

Pinot Noir

  1. D’Autrefois Pinot Noir

This Pinot Noir is a great value from an acclaimed winery in Burgundy, France. A very drinkable, light red French table wine with a crisp finish. A good summer red when full-bodied wines can be too heavy. Chill slightly and enjoy.

  1. Pierre Henri Cotes du Rhone Villages SignarguesSignargues

This Grenache/Syrah Blend from Cote du Rhone, France is one of my all-time favorite red wines. So the fact that it comes in a 1.5L size is really worth cheering about. With a fruity yet spicy finish, it goes with just about everything. Really. Everything. 

Ruffino

  1. Ruffino Chianti

Nicely balanced Chianti taste that’s not too dry and finishes with just the right amount of tart cherry. This is a great value wine, considering you’re getting two bottles for less than $15. Cheap Chiantis can be disastrous, but this is a nice, safe pick from an established vineyard that makes more high-end reserve Chiantis as well.

Titus

4. Titus Cabernet Sauvignon

This Napa Cabernet is liquid gold. Yes $100+ is a lot to spend on wine, but keep in mind this is getting you TWO full bottles in one and many comparable Cabs sell for more than twice this price. Titus is a deep red, fruity and full-bodied wine that doesn’t disappoint. Great for holiday meals and special occasions.

My Fave Four Whites

 

Name Price (@1.5L) Description Suggested Pairings LtoL Rating
Bougrier “V” Vouvray $24.99 Elegant, Peach, Medium-bodied Cheese; Fruit 5/5
Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio $12.99 Crisp green apple, mineral,  Seafood; Asian/spicy dishes 5/5
DeBaune Connoissuer White $14.99 Fresh, Apple, Honey, Light-bodied Appetizers; Chicken and fresh seafood dishes 4/5
La Vostra Prosecco $19.99 Sparkling, Crisp, Apple, Honeysuckle Brunch; Appetizers; Celebrations! 5/5

Vouvray

  1. Bougrier “V” Vouvray
  2. A quintessential summer wine, this Vouvray from France’s Loire Valley is light and refreshing on a hot day without being too sweet. Tastes great by the pool, or with your feet in the kiddie pool pretending. Perfect with a cheese plate and fresh fruit.mezza
    1. Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio

    This Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy’s Dolomite mountains is my go-to white. An excellent pairing with seafood, spicy dishes (particularly Asian flavors), or really, with just about about any sunny day. You cannot beat the price for such a versatile white. A good all-around “porch-pounder” as they say down here in the south. 

    DeBaune white

  3. 3. DeBaune Connoisseur White A great French table wine, that blends just the right amount of peach and honeysuckle. Relaxed varietal that tastes far more expensive than it is. Great with appetizers and fresh seafood. La Vostra
  4. 4. La Vostra Prosecco Because, brunch. And if your friends are anything like my friends, there’s no point in bringing a small bottle of bubbles for those mimosas. This prosecco is not too sweet, and not too dry and is the perfect brunch guest in it’s pretty pink bottle. A fantastic value.  

That’s all folks! I hope you find something here that you love, you want, and maybe even need. Be sure to follow us so you don’t miss out on further installments in The Wine Files. Requests welcome.

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Until next time… cheers!

 

  1. fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

At Home with Christiana: Grout redemption!

As a follow up to my earlier backsplash post (more on that here if you missed it), I want to highlight a quick fix for what can be a frustrating aspect of a backsplash project, or of tile anywhere for that matter. Grout. Like the constantly dingy-looking, never comes clean, “I think it used to be white but now it’s just gross” grout.

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You can fudge up grout color in a project, or you can simply inherit some yucky stuff with your house. Either way, I. HEAR. YOU. And I am here to help you fix it! Once and for all. In one afternoon. (Don’t worry, this is not a “magic” cleaning method involving a tootbrush and too much of your time. Whole lotta nope.) Welcome to your grout redemption!!

Let me explain how I got to this point. We had awesome marble basket-weave tile floors installed in our hall bath, which is primarily used by our kids, buuut is also frequently used by guests since it is located in our front hall. (Basically, it is not a room you can just close the door and pretend doesn’t exist.) We chose light gray grout for the installation based on the package color sample. Which looked great. Until it dried. And our “light gray” grout was in fact not gray at all but… drumroll please… white. Womp, womp. Who wants to clean white grout in a kids’ bathroom? That’s right, no one. We weren’t pumped, we didn’t get the contrast we wanted from gray grout, but okaaaay we thought, it’s not awful. (Not yet.)

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Noooo! We white-grouted our bathroom floor!

Buuuut, fast forward through potty training two little boys, 1,000 grimy kid (and dog) baths, and SURPRISE! The grout was no longer an okay white-ish color. In fact, it never looked clean, and most of the time was a shade of icky beige which made our very recently installed floors look old and dingy. SHOOT.

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These guys make a mess?! No way…

After I discovered became obsessed with DeLorean Gray grout and used it on pretty much all of our other projects, I had a hard time refraining from adult tantrums about our bathroom floor situation. I actually contemplated re-grouting the whole floor until I figured out that for starters, it would entail chipping old grout out of approximately 5 million tiny joints with an itty bitty diamond coated blade. Uhhh no. 

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Fade-Resistant and available in something like 40+ colors. This stuff is legit!

I had pretty much given up when I stumbled upon Grout Renew during an early morning hardware store run. And praise to all the high powers it was available in Delorian Gray. For less than $20. Um, excuse me. Whaaaat?  I was pretty sure that it was too good to be true and most likely wouldn’t work, but what the heck did I have to lose?

So, that afternoon, my husband I found ourselves with a napping baby and two fairly distracted children and decided to give it a shot.  Per the package, you simply apply the solution evenly to all of your grout joints with a toothbrush, wait 30-60 minutes and wipe off. Easy peasy, right??

Actually yes, with one caveat.  Work in small sections and work quickly. Make sure you wipe your tile before the solution dries, which happened way faster than we expected.  DO NOT ATTEMPT this project when your children are only fairly distracted and might want a snack, OR when a certain baby might wake from nap time early. (Say, our whole lives right now.) Set your timer for 30 minutes and attach it to your person. Getting distracted and missing your clean-up time can derail this project in a major way and leave you with our pretty little situation below. But don’t worry, even that can be fixed.

 

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Dang nap time sabotage!

While scary, even the holy-crap-there-is-dry-grout-paint-everywhere situation was not unsolvable! Just way more difficult than it needed to be. (Luckily you have us to try out the more difficult route for you. You’re welcome!) But really, just a lot of extra scraping with One of these multi-tools (which I recommend everyone have on hand for clean up after any and all paint, tile, adhesive, anything projects), and the tiles cleaned up perfectly.  No more icky yellowish-white grout! Instead, perfect, easy-to-clean gray. Fist pump.

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After Grout Renew: Clean and gray!

In sum, use this stuff! Just don’t don’t make the same mistake we did.   (Unless of course you want to skip your arm workout and scrub tiles instead…) Here’s to happy grout!

 

At Home with Christiana: In search of spring break sanity

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If you’re like me and you live somewhere that the weather is slightly less than spring-y (ahem, thanks ENTIRE east coast) you may be about midway through your kids’ spring break and about to go insane. Or maybe you went crazy on Monday… no judgment.

Either way, today was rainy, my boys were bored, and I needed like 5 seconds to shower without someone hanging from a light fixture. Enter … custom Star Wars coloring sheets!! And quiet boys. Like off-and-on quiet and sustained interest for HOURS. This is not something that comes easily in a household with a three year-old that yells “SMASH!” before beginning most tasks, and a five year-old whom his pre-K teachers dubbed “not an art guy”.

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Even little sister can dig it.

I know this may seem like a common sense idea, but it took me five years to think of it, so I’m going on the assumption that some of you haven’t tried this yet either. Basically, take a book that involves whatever your kids are interested in  obsessed with at the moment (For my boys it happens to be Star Wars despite the fact that they have seen zero Star Wars films, gee thanks Disney marketing!). Ask them to pick out some favorite characters, scenes, vehicles, etc. Trace said character, scene, or vehicle with a pencil (because if you’re like me you’ll have to erase the fingers that don’t line up a few times — why are the hands ALWAYS wonky?!) Label it, or have your kiddo write a caption for the image if they want. You don’t have to be artistic, or even creative, this is seriously just tracing. Trust me, I don’t craft!

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Traced sheets ready for copying

Once you have a traced original that all parties can agree on (you know you better make sure you get Elsa’s dress right! Good luck with R2-D2’s buttons…) take your traced original over to your printer/copier and show the kids how it can scan the image and print out copies magic coloring sheets!  As a bonus, if you let the kids make the copies, they get a major kick out of pressing the buttons on a machine they’re usually not allowed to touch.  Thats it. Literally.  Just be prepared that they will want to make approximately 500 copies. Each.

This super simple activity is free, improves fine motor skills, encourages creativity, and reinforces color and reading comprehension. And gives a parent enough time for a mimosa. I mean shower. BOOM! Happy (un)Spring Break!

Custom Coloring Sheet Supplies:

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  • Printer paper
  • Favorite kids books
  • Pencil
  • Printer/Copier
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
  • Optional: Mimosa

At Home with Christiana: Back-splash Low Down

Installing a tile back-splash is one of the first projects we took on early into our reno days, and I think it’s a great place for beginners to start. It’s fairly quick, fairly simple, and provides almost instant gratification. WIN! This post may seem long at first glance, but don’t be intimidated – EVERYONE can do this in ONE. WEEKEND. This post contains a complete shopping list of all the materials you need to get started, along with step-by-instructions to get you a back-splash-beautiful kitchen in just two days.  

**Recommendations and opinions are all my own, no sponsors.**
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Our first DIY backsplash in progress. If we can do it- you can!

Before you get started, A couple of things to note:

  1. The budget and difficulty of this project can vary greatly based on the type of tile that you select. 
  2. Soapbox moment: a back-splash is best when it complements without overpowering the kitchen. From my real estate experience, if a buyer leaves a house and all they talk about is the back-splash, it’s always for the wrong reasons. Please no tile ocean motifs, unless you plan on never moving, like ever.

STEP ONE: SELECT YOUR MATERIAL

If you’ve already picked your tile, great! Measure twice three times to make sure you buy enough material, then add at least 10% to account for mistakes or faulty tiles and skip to STEP TWO!

If you’re still on the fence about what to use, allow me to introduce some of my back-splash favorites, ranked in order from the easiest to most time consuming material. All of these looks are equally timeless and beautiful… the hard part is choosing which one you like best.

(1) White subway tile: Beginners rejoice! White subway tile is a classic beauty that installs with ease. No patterns to match, super durable, easy to clean, and a look that never goes out of style. Need I say more? Well, I will, because it gets better. You can install this tile without using tile grout spacers, since the tiles have nifty ridges built into the side which will give you 1/16 grout lines without any extra work. Boom! This tile is also great for beginners to work with because it can be easily cut with a manual snap tile-cutter as opposed to the pricier and more complicated wet saw required for larger tile and natural stone projects. I have an indiscreet obsession with white subway tile that has earned it a place in many of our renovated spaces.  

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Our white subway tile-clad kitchen.

Subway tile also comes in a variety of styles like the cool, modern bevel; and sizes such as the popular mini subway sheet mosaic. Trim pieces, such as bullnose tiles, are available to use if you will have exposed ends of your backsplash to give it that “finished” look.

Best for: Beginners, budget, classic style, messy cooks (like me)

(2) Encaustic or ceramic imitation: Equally stunning and costly, genuine encaustic or hand panted cement tile, is famous for it’s bold and beautiful patterns.  Lucky for us, there are some great ceramic encaustic-style look-alikes on the market these days. These tiles are popping up ALL OVER design sites right now, but with roots pre-dating the 16th century, this historical look is anything but a trend.

 

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Minton encaustic tiles, US Capitol, installed in 1856!

While ceramic encaustic-style tiles are not quite a hand painted piece of history, they are pretty, budget-friendly and easy to work with. I’ve ranked these as more complicated than subway tiles for two reasons. First, the tiles are generally larger in size and thus require a wet saw.  Second, these tiles ALWAYS, ALWAYS require a design plan. Patterned tiles must be arranged thoughtfully to achieve the desired pattern and overall effect. Even if you want your tiles to appear ‘random’ you need to make sure you don’t group tiles of one type together. Also if the spacing or alignment is off AT ALL at any point, it will be very noticeable because the patterns will not line up correctly.  In short, layout your project before you begin, use tile spacers and check your level lines and you’ll LOVE the result. I have personally installed the extremely affordable black vintage Merola tiles and the Faventia ceramic blue shown below, and I love the look, price, and durability they provide without sacrificing style!

Best for: Beginners, statement look, global style

(3) Marble: There really is nothing like the natural beauty of marble, which is available in several varieties, colors, and price-points. And don’t believe the “you can’t have marble if you have kids” nonsense! I have now maintained beautifully resilient marble in two heavily used kitchens and two constantly used bathrooms (including bathroom floors with potty-training boys… if you know what I’m getting at). And LOOK AT IT. So. pretty.

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Carrara marble mosaic. 

If marble is prepped and handled correctly it will weather your kitchen for longer than you can live in it. I promise. Let’s not forget there are actual buildings made out of marble that have been sitting there looking gorgeous for centuries. When installing marble, I suggest three additional steps for function and aesthetic.

  1. First, it is critical to inspect and sort the tiles to remove any chipped, cracked, or discolored pieces before you get started. When working with any natural material, some tiles will crack. Natural stone is much more prone to chip and crack than man-made materials such as porcelain or ceramic. Color and movement can (and likely will) vary greatly between natural stone tiles, and marble is no exception. Be familiar with the return policy of your retailer as you will likely have a number of tiles you won’t want to use.  
  2. Second, seal the marble according to directions on your marble/tile sealant of choice BEFORE you install it. Grout and adhesive can stain porous stone if it is not sealed correctly. Allow tile to rest for the prescribed time before proceeding with your project.
  3. Third, arrange the marble tiles to achieve your desired color and movement in a template BEFORE you begin to install any of them. This holds true for sheet mosaics as well as individual tiles. (TIP: Use painters tape to attach guides on each corner of your layout such as Top L, Top R, Bottom L, Bottom R. Particularly if you’re not working alone, orientation can be easily confused. You’ll be glad you did, just trust me on this one). At this point, you’ve already taken the time to seal your pretty stone, so don’t fung it up by installing all the dark tiles together in one “blob” under your cabinet!  DON’T DO IT. This step can be time consuming but is so worth it, and is often the difference between a professional or amateur looking result.

Best for: Patient beginners or experienced DIYers, adding luxury to a space, natural beauty

STEP TWO: GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES

Once you’ve selected your tile, there are a few more supplies you need to purchase before you get started.

(1) Tile saw: You can use a manual snap cutter for most small ceramic or porcelain tiles. (like pretty white subway tiles! Woot!) For larger tiles or natural stone, you’ll need a wet tile saw. Wet saws range in price anywhere from $100 for a basic saw to $1000 and up for contractor grade standing wet saws. Depending on the complexity and frequency of your projects, different tools will best suit your needs. We have used this pretty basic $189 Ridgid for several years now and it’s withstood all of our projects pretty well. You can also rent tools from hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes if you’re not in the market to buy.

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(2) Adhesive: If you are installing a backsplash in your already finished kitchen, you are likely installing over drywall or plaster. (This makes for easy tiling, hooray!) My favorite adhesive for the job is this pre-mixed mastic. It comes off the shelf in a premixed, resealable tub so there is no messy mixing and no rush to finish the job if you have to take several breaks to say… pick up certain rascals from soccer practice. Available at most hardware stores. 

(3) Trowel: You will need a trowel to spread your adhesive, and for wall tiles up to 8″ you’re looking for a 1/4″ square notch like this one

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If you selected any of the recommended tiles, I’ve included my favorite coordinating grout colors here. For both subway tile and marble installs, I love this perfect not-too-light-not-too-dark Delorean Grey color. I advise against white in almost all situations, but particularly in one where you will be potentially splattering your red wine and bolognese in the vicinity of this grout. With blue encaustic-style tile install I love this Italian Stone color by Stainmaster, and this charcoal grout by Maipei is perfect with bold black patterned tiles.

(4) Grout: Grout comes in two varieties, sanded and unsanded, and is available in a mind-numbing selection of colors. Backsplashes are typically installed with narrow grout joints, meaning grout lines of 1/8 inch or less. In this case, unsanded grout will get the job done. (Sanded grout is required for flooring projects and wall installs with grout lines greater than 1/8 inch wide.) You can buy grout in a pre-mixed tub, or for a bit less money you can buy it as a powder and mix it yourself. Grout can be mixed by hand if you don’t mind putting some muscle into it, or a mixing attachment like this can be purchased for your drill, if you have one. The drill option saves time and sweat, which is always nice.

 

(TIP: Once you select the grout for your project, please please take a picture of the package in case it gets discarded by an unassuming spouse (not that this ever happens…) or gets too gunked up to be read clearly. Take my word for it, there are too many brands and too many colors at too many different stores to simply go back out for more of “that grey-ish” grout when and if you run out.) 

 

 

(5) Caulk & Caulk Gun – You’ll need caulk to seal up the seams between your counter and cabinets or shelves. It is available in colors to match grout, or clear is always a safe bet. A caulk gun is used to press the caulk out of the tube and apply it along thin seams. You won’t be able to use the caulk without one! Enjoy a reason to make lots of Caulk jokes. 

(6) Grout float: Buy more than one of these if you want someone to help you grout! 

(7) Grout sponge:– Same as above!

(8) Tile spacers: (if needed) As mentioned above in the case for subway tile, no spacers are required for subway tile install with 1/16” grout lines. However, almost EVERY OTHER project needs tile spacers. These little guys keep your tiles evenly spaced, and your grout lines straight. I suggest 1/8” for backsplash install. These come in a few styles, but my favorite is this plastic type with a stabilizing ring.

(9) Tile nippers (optional) – I would suggest these if you’re going to work with ceramic or porcelain as they can help you make a small notches in tile if required to accommodate an outlet or cabinet. Skip them for marble or natural tile, as they tend to crack natural material too easily.

(10) Bucket (optional): For rinsing  your grout sponge. If you’ve got an old bowl lying around you can use that too!

(11) Level: For drawing a reliable center line and sanity-checking those grout joints.

(12) Measuring Tape: You’ll need to measure tiles to cut and fit accurately along walls, around outlets, and under cabinets.

(13) Grout sealer (optional): If you don’t heed my warnings against white grout, help me help you, and seal it. Application is easy with something like this

STEP THREE: PREP!

Yep, the boring, but oh-so-important step everyone wants to skip. DON’T!!  I promise, backsplash prep is really not too involved, and it pays dividends.

(1)  Clean up! Ensure the wall for tile install is clean and flat. Bumps will make tile uneven and adhesive doesn’t stick well to dust and dirt. Wipe off that kitchen grease behind the stove! I see you! A simple multi-surface cleaner is fine. Dry the area before tiling. Remove any electrical outlet covers in your tiling area. Move your range forward and out of the way. Now is also the time to clean and/or seal your tile if necessary (Marble people, I’m looking at you.)

(2) Measure and Layout: Measure the wall area for install and, if desired, create your backsplash tile layout on a table or floor area nearby. (TIP: DO NOT do this on the counter. While it might seem convenient, it will be super annoying when you accidentally glop adhesive on it!) This step is especially critical if you selected a natural stone or patterned tile (see STEP ONE above).

(3) Select and mark your starting point. Depending on your kitchen layout and the surface to be tiled, your starting point may vary. However it’s important to note that the best place to start your backslpash is usually NOT along one wall or the other. If you have a focal point on your soon-to-be-backsplashed wall, use this as your guide. For instance, often the center of the cooktop, pot filler or vent hood is a good place to start. Mark the direct center of the focal point, and draw your center line using a level or straight edge starting at just above your countertop. This is where you will center your first tile. You will always complete the bottom row of tile first so tiles can rest on the counter, and then, each other.  Otherwise, tile will sag – gravity is a thingIf there is no counter surface behind your range for your first row of tile to rest on, you can either (a) screw a ledger board into the wall to support your backsplash tile. A ledger board can be any scrap piece of wood (as long as it’s straight!) screwed directly to the wall in line with your countertop height to maintain a level bottom tile line; OR (b) run your tile to the floor for easy wipe-down cleaning behind your range. Up to you!

(4) Set up your saw. For a manual snap cutter, this pretty much just involves getting it out of the garage (yay!). But a wet saw requires a power source (think extension cords) and cool water. Follow the instructions on your saw for proper set up, please! If you grabbed tile nippers, it’s good to have those on hand too. You don’t want to be searching for tools while your adhesive dries.

STEP FOUR: START TILING!!

Yes! The fun part!! You’re here!!! Pop open that adhesive like a bottle of bubbles and get this show on the road! 

(1) Spread your adhesive. Using your trowel, dip into that adhesive! Using the notched side of the trowel, spread your adhesive across the wall from your starting point to create a “striped” look across the wall surface. It doesn’t have to be thick, just enough to ensure full coverage of the tile. Make sure your center line is still visible before you get too carried away, and drumroll please… Press your first tile firmly into the adhesive, centered on your starting point, and place a tile spacer under the tile so it doesn’t rest directly on the counter. (You’ll caulk that space at the end of the job.)  YES! A tile is on your wall!! Do your happy dance and continue by applying more adhesive in small sections just large enough to apply a few tiles at a time so the adhesive doesn’t dry before you get the tile up. Place a tile spacer between each tile as needed, to ensure proper spacing.

(2) Cut tiles to fit. You’ll hopefully get through at least most of one row before you have to cut a tile to fit around an outlet, wall, or cabinet. When you reach the end of your first row, if you can’t fit a whole tile, simply measure the remaining space (accounting for your grout lines), measure and mark on your tile, and cut the tile to fit with your manual snapper or wet saw by following the tool’s instructions. (TIP: If adhesive starts to gunk up your trowel, you can use water to rinse with a sponge in a utility sink, bucket, or bowl.)

Keep at it until you’ve filled up every last inch of that backsplash! If you’re using trim pieces, don’t forget to place your bullnose tiles at the exposed edges. Now revel in your beautiful tile!!! (And go to bed.) Wait 24 hours before you move to STEP FIVE.

STEP FIVE: GROUT

Alright, by now you have a legit looking kitchen with a fancy tile backsplash. Time to fill in all the perfectly straight and evenly spaced (because you DID that! Woot!) tiny little joints with grout. Wait at least 24 hours after tiling before grouting your new beautiful backsplash. Get your grouting tools out: Float, sponge, bucket of water, and rags.

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Our freshly-installed DIY Carrara marble backsplash.

(1) Mix grout per instructions on the bag to a toothpaste or peanut butter consistency, or open your pre-mixed grout.

(2) Remove all of your tile spacers and bag them up for your next project! (TIP: Label the bag with the spacer width, so they don’t get mixed up with others as you take on more of these exciting tile projects. Yep, see what I did there?)

(3) Scoop grout with grout flout and apply over the tile at a 45 degree angle, working evenly into the grout lines between tiles.

(4) Fill your bucket or bowl with water and grab your sponge. Wait 10 minutes.

(5) Use a damp sponge to remove excess grout from your tiles. There will still be residue, called a “haze” left on your tiles. This is NORMAL. Don’t try to get it all of right now. (Wait 2 hours. See next step!)

(6) After your initial tile-wiping, wait 2 hours. Use a slightly damp, clean sponge or rag and wipe remaining haze from your tiles, and celebrate. YOU. DID. IT.

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STEP SIX: FINISHING TOUCHES

Let’s be real – you are pretty much done-zo. Hopefully you are loving your result and can get this baby over the finish line with a little caulk.

(1)  Wait until tile is completely dry and use caulk to seal in the gaps below the tile and above the countertop, as well anywhere cabinets meet your backsplash. Caulk gives flexibility for material expansion and won’t crack easily. 

(2) Wait 7 days after tiling and sponge on a grout sealer, if you like!

(3) Fill previously mentioned wine glass, have friends over and impress them with your swanky new backsplash. Your kitchen value just went up and so did your DIY street cred. BOOM!

CHEERS until next time!

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Adventures of a Renaissance Mommy: Introducing Christiana!

Last but not least, I am Christiana, and I’ll be rounding out the DIY, home design, and real estate corner of this blog, which will be sprinkled (most likely erratically) with legal expertise, wanderlust, wellness, style, and my attempts at child-rearing philosophy (which mostly equates to embrace the crazy). A little bit of everything!  

I’m an attorney and a former Realtor, currently working as a full time at-home momma to three kids aged 5 and under, and wife to a Navy pilot. I love old houses and dirty jobs (no, not the diaper kind, but we have those here a lot right now too), and I spend my non-existent free time attempting DIY projects at the home we currently share with the tribe of monkeys we call our children. Think a slightly chaotic, less-than-polished HGTV show with naked toddlers and you’re just about there.

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Little Man Loves Demo Day!

I got here in kind of a roundabout way. I graduated from college and went straight to law school with a serious “Save the World” complex and a passion for Civil Rights. That’s all you need, right?! I focused on International Law and Human Rights and arranged to spend a year of my legal studies abroad in Japan, right around the same time my soon-to-be fiancé was stationed there flying for the Navy. I mean… fate, seriously? Gotchya.

I graduated from law school and joined a Big Four accounting firm in Tokyo. Fiancé became dear husband and we spent our dreamy newlywed years living in Japan and exploring Asia.  In short, I was living the life I had pretty much always envisioned for myself.

Graduate degree, check. Great job, check. Globetrotting, check. Fab husband, check. (Well, aside from saving the world. Which it turns out was not a paying job I was offered at graduation. Hmm. Still #lifegoals)

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And then don’t you know it, the universe threw change at me. My husband got orders back to the ol’ US of A and I was faced with the decision to either remain in Japan alone, or … go home. So, home we went. Because despite really enjoying our great ex-pat lifestyle, I had a sneaking suspicion that something was still missing. That something turned out to in fact be 3 little people, a fluffy dog, an old house or two, and complete madness. But more on that later. 

Back stateside, I seized the opportunity to try something new, and decided to try my hand at Real Estate. It involves a good deal of legal concepts and I’ve always not so-secretly loved architecture and design, so it clicked. At around the same time, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby and we threw ourselves headfirst into renovating our recently purchased 100+ year old home with literally NO experience. (You will see that a lack of sanity is a recurring theme here).  It was messy, hectic, and definitely not always pretty (a respirator with work gloves and maternity pants is oh so fetching).

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But it was through these experiences that I realized how much I really love to design, reinvent, and restore spaces.  And with a LOT of trial and error and research (and plenty of YouTube tutorials… woot!) we actually got kind of good at this DIY thing.

Fast forward through two more moves, two more beautiful babies, deployments and homecomings, and the dust is just beginning to settle on yet another home renovation. And… you guessed it, we are already planning our next move! Sigh. I can’t say that being a military spouse makes anything easy, but it does keep things exciting…

View More: http://taraliebeckphotography.pass.us/homecoming123
Welcoming daddy home from deployment (Photo courtesy of Tara Liebeck Photography)

Right, so this leads me to… why this blog? I will be the first to admit that I am a technology hermit. An old soul. I like to write with a pen and paper, thankyouverymuch. So, blogging is not something I was naturally drawn to. However, I do love the idea of spreading the friendship and wisdom and hilarity I have been so privileged to enjoy with these three exceptional women.

And hey, with my gypsy lifestyle sometimes long-distance support is all you’ve got.  My hope is that in sharing this sometimes often utterly humiliating stage of our lives and mixing it all up with our diverse and ongoing passions in life, we just might bring a little bit of laughter, comfort, joy (or who knows, maybe even inspiration!) to another household.

When the universe, and maybe even more importantly, my best friends come knocking…  “I’m in.” So, here’s to finding the joy in the everyday, in postponed or reimagined careers, in wonky old house projects, in broken bones (more on that later), and in actual spilled milk. I hope you’ll join us in our journey of friendship and growth as we embrace the crazy and surrender to the chaos. Here we go! Cheers!

IMG_5058Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.