Dollhouse: Hardwood floor tutorial

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I’d like to preface this post with two things, the first being that this is not for the faint hearted (or those who don’t like blisters) and second that I am supremely glad that the dollhouse was no larger than it was.

So lets get started!  Little Miss Owl’s dollhouse started out as a black shelf.  See part one.

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This.  An entirely unused shelf in our home.  I kid you not there was only a frame and two books inhabiting it.  It turned out to be about 390 square inches.  Not including the top part for the terrace.  I did not do hardwood in the bathroom we are going to paint our own faux tile.

First you start off with an ungodly amount of popsicle sticks. I used 50 for the living room alone which was 67 square inches.  Luckily my MIL had a box of popsicle sticks in her craft room that she wasn’t using and gifted them to me!  I ended up changing my plan of attack after the first room because I felt like it involved too many steps.

1. Stain the popsicle sticks!  I used the stain and poly top coat in one in the darkest color they have-Miniwax Bombay Mahogany (I had it leftover from staining my bathroom cabinets).  Don’t be afraid to go dark!

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2. Cut the rounded ends off…I used wire cutters which didn’t leave any rough edges or scratches which would have meant staining again.  You can see I used them for so long that the rubber grip is starting to come off.  Every finger on my left hand except for my thumb has a blister.  The things we do for our children…

3. Cut the sticks (yet again) into varying lengths and lay on a sheet of paper marked with the dimensions of the room.  Don’t worry if it’s not perfect.  I found that leaving the sticks a little longer allowed me to trim them so they were flush against the wall and didn’t leave gaps in case I cut badly.  As my grandpa would say, “Measure twice cut once.”  Or in this case measure long cut twice to fit.

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The goal is to have the floor look like an actual hardwood floor.  You can see little tiny pieces and longer full length ones.  It goes quickly.

4. Lay the floor.  Use wood glue and you don’t need too much.  I laid the floor from the left to right in each room.

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You can see that I numbered the pieces in this room.  I was bringing them from my MILs house and I didn’t want them to make more work for myself later.  Numbering them isn’t necessary if you are putting the sticks right onto the floor.

5. Stand back and admire your handwork!  But before you stand there too long cover with wax or parchment paper and then put something weighted on top of the wood to make sure that it doesn’t warp and dries flush against the floor.  You can even see the little corner of one of our weights sitting on the floor!

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While I enjoyed the project immensely…I’m not sure I would choose to do it again any time soon.  There is a lot of work involved but honestly it looks so much better than a modpodged paper floor and more hardwearing for a little one.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

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It turns out that Christmas is four months away and for me that means a couple of things.  First, start my searches for ideas for gifts and second, start the process for my homemade vanilla extract.

Last year I came across a brilliant idea for DIY/homemade gifts which included ‘brewing’ (i guess that’s what you call it) your own vanilla extract.  Something I didn’t even know that you could do on your own.  Turns out you can.  And to top it off it’s exceptionally easy as well as inexpensive.  For organic vanilla extract you are going to pay around $10.00 for good quality extract.  $10.00 for 4 ounces!  I mean hello!  White truffle oil is $16.00 for 12 ounces.

My extract costs me vodka ($8.00) and vanilla beans ($7.00).  That’s $15.00 for 750 ml or 25 ounces.  It turns out to be $0.60 and ounce.  So my 4 ounce bottle costs $2.40.  It’s an amazing money saver.  And it makes a great Christmas gift.

So here we go for the tutorial!

1. Vodka. A cheap vodka is perfectly fine.  Try and not go beyond 80 proof for this as it does not allow the vanilla to permeate the vodka as well.  You also need a brown or green tinted wine bottle for the extraction process.  Luckily I saved a couple this year.

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2. THE VANILLA! For a 750 ml bottle of extract you are going to need 9 vanilla beans.  I purchased mine at our local Vitamin Cottage for $2.33 for 3.  Not too bad.  Except that it turns out to be $116/lb!

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3. Using a cutting board, cut the beans lengthwise so that they are opened but not cut all the way through.  As if you were dissecting them.  I scrape out a little of the pulp so that it doesn’t build up too much in the bottle but you can also just leave it all there.  A matter of preference.

4.Next you can either cut the bean into pieces or leave them be.  I like cutting them in half because it allows them to move around the bottle freely.

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The pulp

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5.  Add to your clean and empty wine bottle.  Then add in the vodka.

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6. Be sure not to fill far beyond where the wrapped extends to.

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You can see that mine is just below the lowest part of the wrapper.  This is essential.  Cork the bottle firmly but not pushing it all the way in.  Just far enough that it’s secure.

Lastly…(my favorite part) the shaking.  After the bottle is corked shake vigorously so that the beans and the pulp are circulated through the vodka.  For the first week do this twice a day.  Once in the morning and once at night.  Place the bottle in a cool dark place, mine is in my pantry so that I don’t forget to shake it.  After the first week and for the next three weeks shake at least once a day.  For the second month a couple times a week will do.  Months three and four you can do it once a week.  For vanilla extract to properly mature it needs to ‘brew’ between four to six months.  Feel free to open the bottle whenever you want and just smell…this is the best part of the process.  Mostly I did it to brag to Mr. Wonderful about my amazing talents as a homemaker….yeah right.

When you are happy with the strength of the extract simply pour the extract through a coffee filter to filter out all of the pulp and place into jars!  You can click here for lovely printouts for gift tags.

Here are mine from last year!

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These bottles are from Michaels and hold around 3-4 ounces and they were only $1.20!  They even come with their own corks.  And believe me the women in my family were very happy with my little gift.  I still have some leftover in my own pantry.  I haven’t bought vanilla extract in a year.

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Aren’t they adorable!!

Dollhouse Sneak Peek

I worked most of the weekend doing little things for the dollhouse.  Ok…not most of the weekend.  Two naptimes.  Which basically translates into the weekend.

So the bed for the master bedroom…

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I’ll post a longer tutorial about what it took.

The bed for Little Miss Owl’s room…

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Her pillow!! I absolutely love this fabric!!

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The floor was numbered so that I knew what order to lay the pieces in.  Probably my best idea to date.

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The floor partially done!

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And the floor for Miss Owl’s room…

My MIL had the great idea of cutting popsicle sticks for the floor and then staining them.  The house will have an entire wood floor except for the bathroom.  It has turned out better than I have ever thought!

Right Brained, Left Brained…

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I ran across this image on the internet this week.  What really struck me was what happened when I did the little test to determine which side of my brain is dominant.  So here goes…

1. Right Ear: this I knew off the bat because I’m always listening at Little Miss Owl’s door to determine whether she’s up yet.

2. My left eye is stronger…I’ve gone shooting enough to also know this one.

3. Left handed

4. Right footed

5. So number five says mostly Ls is right brained and mostly R’s is left brained…there is now 1/2 and 1/2 option.

I told Mr. Wonderful this explains everything…I have no dominant brain!  I’m anxious to see everyone else’s!

Good Writing

I stumbled across a quote by Chris Patten that said, “Those of us who had a perfectly healthy childhood should be able to sue for deprivation of literary royalties.”

I happen to agree with Patten that suffering whether large or small is a prerequisite to good writing.  Good writing whether fiction or not draws upon our own emotions and our own experiences.  How are we to tell a story if we have not experienced, in some degree, that which we are writing about?  Every single teacher or professor I have ever had has always given the same advice ‘write about what you know and what you are passionate about, that’s where the best writing comes from.’

Good writing is infused with emotion that draws readers in…that makes them feel connected to characters, to the story.  In order to do that the emotion must be real, it must be authentic.  In an interview with J.K. Rowling she stated that she came up with the idea of dementors because of the deep depression she fell into after her mother’s death.  The reason that the description of the effects of dementors was so well written was because Rowling had felt that depression so deeply herself.

If our lives were perfect…if we felt no loss or pain or loneliness or heartache or unrequited love…what would make up our books?  What would we write about?  It is our trials and tribulations that make us who we are that shape our understanding and perspective of the world around us.  This is why there are so many authors…why there are so many love stories…why we can relate to the pain of others and feel it so deeply.

Good writing is born out of hardship, of pain, of loss…of desire to move on from our pain.

Little Sister

I love my youngest sister for so many different reasons.  One of the main reasons is the 80 year old person’s wisdom that she spouts.  With four girls in one family you’d think that they might be somewhat the same…turns out no.  We have as different personalities as we do tastes, dreams, bodies, and talents.  Joe (no this is not her real name-her middle name is Joelle hence the Joe) is the youngest.

While running to the store last night to get the exact brand of vanilla bean ice cream that our grandmother always served we arrived on the subject of body type and image.  She said something that really resonated with me, it was this, “Whenever I get down about my body I just think to myself ‘I can play an entire soccer game and be tired at the end but not dead.  Most people can’t do that.’  Then I stop feeling sorry for myself.”  Shockingly enough she had put my new mantra into words – “Stop focusing on what your body looks like and start focusing on what it can do.”

It’s the same thing with my stretch marks from pregnancy.  I can either view them as a horrible reason why I don’t feel comfortable in a bikini anymore or I can see them as mommy stripes-life long reminders of the time I carried and provided for my little girl.  They in no way detract from how much I can lift or how far I can run or in the love that my husband has for me.

So to my old-soul little sister…I love you.  Thanks for the reminder.

Motivation

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As most of you know I blog for the Daily Hiit as well.  You can find me here. It’s a great community of people who are dedicated both to fitness and to others.  And as a stay at home mom with a busy schedule the at home workouts are amazing.  This week we (the team of bloggers) all received and email about what exactly motivates us.  They asked for stories and quotes so that we can motivate and inspire others  even more.

Yesterday on the site I wrote about a very different view of motivation.  One that we all forget about.  Other people.  This week I gave an unexpected gift to a friend, taught my daughter to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and wrote a letter to Mr. Wonderful with a list of all his gifts and talents.  So in short I stopped focusing on myself and what was going to make ME happy and I focused on others.  Shockingly enough (or not so much) my own problems receded so much that I actually felt much lighter and more motivated in life.  There’s the old saying that love is the only thing that you can give and give away and never run out.

Last night I took Little Miss Owl to Jo-Anns to pick up scrapbook paper for the dollhouse walls and some fabric as well.  Shopping for her just made my day.  All I can think about is how her little face will light up on Christmas and how this dollhouse will be a staple of her childhood.  And as a good friend pointed out it’s great that I can take her along and still not spoil the surprise!

Dollhouse Part 2: Painting

Part 1: Blueprints

So after I spent over a week designing the dollhouse and figuring out the paint scheme it was time to actually paint what I could before the interior walls go in this weekend.

The entire shelf was sanded, primed, and then painted a nice white.  Little girls’ dollhouses should feel light and airy…and hey the little dolls live in Paris!

So here you have the master bedroom and Little Miss Owl’s bedroom painted as well as the terrace…I’m thinking a little bit of grass and some trees with a BBQ…it’s going to be fabulous.  I also picked up some little delights from Hobby Lobby…$4.00

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I actually separated the china hutch so that it could become both an entertainment center for the living room and a cabinet for the kitchen!  All it takes is an exacto knife and then a little bit of sanding for the rough parts.

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I also picked up some small wood frames that were primed and then painted rose gold which will make wonderful frames around the house!

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There’s some touchup thats needed in the Master…whoops.

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Dollhouse Part 1: The Blueprints

This has to be one of my absolutely favorite DIY projects.  I started with this…photo 1

An old bookcase that we had on hand that was seriously not being used for anything.  Just sitting in a nook by our kitchen.  A while ago Mr. Wonderful had painted it black because it’s original wood stain was neither pretty and nor did it match our other decor.  I think I just told Mr. Wonderful this was what I was going to use…and hey it was free!  There haven’t been many craigslists finds recently and you honestly can’t beat free.

So then one of the most exciting stages of the process…designing!  Which I love.  I wanted this dollhouse to be ‘liveable’ for a two and a half year old which meant that it needed DIY and repurposed furniture and decor.  Fortunately both those are much cheaper than all of the ‘normal’ dollhouse furniture in stores.

I also wanted the dollhouse to be eclectic as if the little inhabitants had taken what they could find to decorate their house.  And then while I was contemplating the windows it came to me…a little Parisian apartment.  Because they have to live somewhere…and every little girl loves Paris.

The original design. Ground floor: living room, entryway, and kitchen.  First floor: master bedroom, Little Miss Owl’s room.  On top is the terrace.

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My drawings aren’t all that great…but hey I’m the only one that has to go off these ‘blueprints.’

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I think this Christmas she will remember forever…

One of Those Days

Yesterday was one of those days…just off.  There was either something in the air or the water.

Little Miss Owl has this book…My No No No Day by Rebecca Patterson.  Which in a nutshell sums up our day.  I think I prayed for strength 20 times just to get through the day.

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But then again we all have those.  That’s what the mom says at the end of the book.  And the next day turns out to be phenomenal.

The good thing was we had a mommy and me date at the new Starbucks in our mall.  And that in and of itself made the day memorable.

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And we played in the sandbox.  Shocker alert…she actually put her toes in the sand and started walking on it.  Amazing.

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