Building Our Nest

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One year. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve held the keys to my first ever home. A place, a space, a nook that belongs to me. No more leases, no more landlords, no more restrictions. A property that’s all mine.

Owning had been a dream of mine for years but something that always seemed just out of reach. No matter how much I planned and saved I couldn’t scrap enough together. So when my parents offered to have us move in to save money for a nest egg I eagerly said “yes.”

After six months of saving and house hunting I found a beautiful condo nestled on a quiet street just outside of Chicago proper. It had everything I could dream of: vintage charm, solid bones, ample parking, and was within walking distance of public transit, a playground, beach, shops, cafés and a library. And the best part? A view of the lake! I could envision August running up and down the shore, scurrying off to the beach or running around the park with newfound friends. It was my dream come true.

The unit was just big enough for our little family and just under my budget. The night of the viewing was the night I made an offer. I couldn’t risk it getting away from me. After a fervent prayer and a couple of calls – my offer was pitched and by the next day – accepted.

The building, which August refers to as “the castle,” is a historic landmark built in the roaring 20s. A large collection of units are strung together across three floors and two courtyards along the lakefront. Our block is bookended by a park, complete with playground, and a beach. The listing for my unit described it as “the perfect site for your vacation home.” Except ours would be a 365 day home. Perfect.

Once the keys were mine I jumped into action. I started to measure, plot and plan. First we sanded, caulked and painted. We decided on a neutral cool palette to offset the elaborate moulding and to highlight the tall ceilings. We refreshed the fireplace and upgraded hardware and light fixtures. We completely demolished and rebuilt the kitchen on our own – transforming a crowded, outdated space into a bright, cheery gathering place for cooking and eating. We collected furniture from a variety of places: some vintage, some rehabbed and some fresh from Ikea. Oh IKEA – I do love you.

One of the joys of owning our home is knowing we’ll be here for some time – which means we can customize furniture for our unique layout without fear of having to do it all over again in just a year or two. Knowing that we’re rooting down means busting out all my favorite DIY tricks.

I’ve repainted furniture, like a pair of heavy wooden chairs that I scored for $18 at Salvation Army and then smothered in matte mint paint. I jerry rigged two ball baskets by spray painting them gold, then flipping them over and attaching wooden tops to create bedside tables.

We’ve put up some of David’s smaller paintings and popped family photos into mismatched frames in a hallway. We threw some chalkboard paint onto August’s walls in the shape of mountains and glow in the dark stars onto the ceiling. We also created a painting nook on one side of his bedroom with a wall-mounted paper dispenser so he can create on a whim. I inverted jewelry boxes to display David’s fossil collection and drilled them straight into the wall. We’ve done so so much more as owners than we could ever do as renters. And the most beautiful part? It’s ours, it’s all ours, so we can do even more.

I’d describe the overall feel of our place as hygge meets modern vintage – with a dash of whimsy. Our gray palette is cheered up with bits of bold color. There are many wood pieces we’ve left raw to add a bit of coziness to an otherwise cool-toned space. Many of the accent pieces were foraged from thrift stores, hobby shops and a handful were purchased new from World Market and Target (I’m looking at you animal busts). We’ve filled empty nooks with velvety cushions and lush green plants. We added geometric accents like mirrors and candle holders as well as pops of color in unexpected places.

A splash of paint here, some new hardware there, and we’ve transformed our 1927-built home into our very own. And we’re not done yet! We have some new projects planned for the coming year (wallpapering, refinishing the windows, glazing the tub, adding barnyard doors) and can’t wait to roll up our sleeves to get them started. What an amazing blessing to have this beautiful space that we can call our own.

Happy anniversary to our nest!

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A Very Confetti Birthday

I have a 4 year old. Repeat. I have a 4 year old! There is a child in my house who is potty trained, can speak in full sentences, knows how to operate light machinery and can recite the planets to me in order. 4 years old!

Hitting this milestone was a cause for celebration. With August sharing his birthday with an epic holiday (cough Valentine’s Day cough) we knew we’d have to plan early. So way back in December I asked August, “What kind of birthday would you like?” I was expecting an answer along the lines of dinosaurs, legos, robots, animals or space. But not August. He’s always thinking a bit outside the box and of that I’m always proud. “Confetti” he replied. Really? I had to ask him a second time to make sure I understood. “Confetti?” He nodded yes. Alright then! Confetti it would be!

As soon as he confirmed his vision I started collecting goodies for the party. There were tons of New Year’s Eve decorations on store shelves and lots of sparkly colorful knick knacks that would lend themselves to our little celebration. I already have an arsenal of party decor that I reuse from event to event – so that was on the docket too. My kitchen cabinets are loaded with colorful cake stands, bright plates, customizable message banners, fun paper straws and colorful napkins. Perfect! I also knew I had a sizable stack of construction paper that I could tap for a homemade element. I ended up cutting out hundreds of confetti circles and sewing through them with my machine. Voila! Instant party decor.

When planning food for kid parties handhelds are always best. The goal is to keep things nice and simple so the kids can self serve, leaving the adults to have a chance to connect.  Trader Joe’s is always my go-to for party food. The prices are great, the products are delicious AND there are no creepy chemicals lurking about. That’s right! No synthetic additives, gmos or high fructose nonsense.Even the color additives are natural. I’ll take beet and carrot derived hues over red 40 any day! The final party spread included organic low-sugar juice for the kids, coffee, sparkling water and hard cider for the adults, fresh jumbo pretzels, cheese sticks and wheels, cheddar popcorn, peanut butter banana shish kabobs (thanks Pinterest!), grapes, a vegan veggie platter, and of course, cake. The best part? The cake, also from Trader Joes, was covered in confetti sprinkles. Love!

So there you have it. Our take on a very confetti birthday. Happy birthday little August!

2018 in Review: Changes

Driving down a familiar road made me think about where I was exactly one year ago. It’s really amazing how much can change in 365 days.

In January of 2018 my heart was shattered. My dear Peanut succumbed to prostate cancer, I was still separated from my husband, and I found myself living back with my folks driving 4 hours a day just to get to work. Everything in life seemed to be regressing instead of moving forward. I found myself at the bottom of a valley. Wasn’t I supposed to be doing better by now? Why did I keep moving backwards? Why did things continue to unravel around me? But God had a plan and His timing is always good.

So there I was, living with my parents, running a marathon on weekdays and spending each weekend in an emotional coma. I was burying myself in books, music and prayer just to get through the day. I didn’t know what road I was on, which direction it led, and who was on it with me. But God knew. In the last 12 months the most extraordinary things have happened to completely transform the trajectory of my life. What a difference a year makes!

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Here are just a few of the highlights.


Spring: Home Sweet Home

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I had always dreamed of owning my own place. A nook that was all mine, to do with as I pleased. No landlord, no lease, just property. A place where I could nest, without restraints, that I knew could be mine for however long I’d like. It’s the American dream after all.

Despite the horrendous 4 hour commute, living with my parents afforded me the one thing I could never seem to gather up: a down payment. No matter how much I penny pinched over the years it was just never enough. But living back home gave me the financial space I needed to get my affairs in order, read up on the process, and then finally dive in. And that’s how in March of 2018 I became a first time homeowner.

We now live in a gorgeous vintage condo in Evanston on the shores of Lake Michigan. Literally on the lakefront. I can hear the waves crashing as I sit here and type. We are in a quiet nook with a beautiful park on one side of the block and a beach on the other. We have ample parking, amenities at our finger tips, and neighbors so sweet they can give you cavities. We often feel like we’re living in a vacation resort or perhaps even dreaming. And who would have guessed one year ago that we’d be living in this amazing place!? God knew.


Summer: So You Think You’re a Spring Chicken

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I wouldn’t describe myself as old, but let’s face it, my body can’t do the same things it used to. And when I say same things I mean mundane tasks, like bending down, lifting and twisting, and hard core manual labor. So perhaps I should have known better than to push my limits during my DIY kitchen renovation. Those Home and Garden shows make it look so easy. And so does my dad. So after 2 months of moving, gutting, installing and decorating, my body gave out. Kaput. I bent down one day and couldn’t straighten back up. I was in excruciating pain, losing consciousness, and paralyzed from my chest down. What in the world?!

Why on earth is this a highlight of 2018? Let me explain.

I spent a day in the hospital, a week on bed rest, 6 weeks with limited mobility, and 3 months of physical therapy. A multitude of tests, including an MRI, discovered that I had a herniated disc, spinal infection, and a cyst at the base of my spine. Lovely. Tangent: Are you familiar with how MRIs work? Your electrons are temporarily polarized. Seriously, go look it up! Science is awesome.

Anyway. Getting those kind of test results is kind of freaky. But you know what? Though I was scared, I didn’t panic. After the journey of the last couple of years I knew better than to go into full alarm mode. “God’s got this.” And then, on top of learning that my resolve was stronger than I had realized, another amazing thing happened: I fell in love again.

Being bound to a bed for a week, with a toddler in the home, is an adventure, but one that’s not quite as frightening when your beau swoops in and saves the day. David and I were not living together at this point, but he dropped everything to come and tend to me, August, and my household. He took care of me, from head to toe, and with such tender affection that I found myself feeling butterflies I didn’t know were still there. I never stopped loving him, and we were already in the process of reconciling, but something about that week made me fall deeper in love than ever before. Sigh. Imagine: He’s cooking, cleaning, taking you to the ER, picking up your prescriptions, wiping your bottom, bathing you, and catching you while fainting…it’s like a true Victorian romance. Except I didn’t die of consumption. Turns out the cyst is benign, I don’t have a spinal infection, I do have a herniated disc (which is a-okay when compared to the other options!). Who’d have thought? God knew. And now I’m madly in love to top things off! Which brings me to…


Fall: A Marriage Restored

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Just over two years ago my marriage imploded. Suddenly, sharply, and without warning. I shared parts of the story here. After our formal separation I became a single mom and embarked on a journey that would change my life forever. Day by day my character was being refined in ways I never imagined. I was an incredibly independent, stubborn and prideful (ouch!) person. Walking this path softened my edges. I learned to accept help from others. I began to treasure relationships I had previously taken for granted. I became more patient, empathetic, and slower to speak and judge. While I was learning to be kinder a miraculous thing happened. I found that someone else was changing too: David.

In the winter of 2017 sparks were flying and there was a glimmer of hope for our marriage. Many many months later we would find ourselves officially dating again, in counseling, and on a path to restore our family. And all that hard work has paid off. We’ve learned more about ourselves, and each other, than we ever thought possible. Drawing back the curtain has allowed us to openly address our flaws, offer forgiveness, and lay a stronger foundation for our relationship. We love and appreciate each other like never before. Truly! And even though we were technically still married over these last 2 years we’ve decided to start from scratch. We want a complete do over. So David proposed. A full on down on his knees “Will you marry me?” proposal. Swoon. And, of course, I said “Yes!” A marriage restored, see? Who would have known?! God knew.


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As I look back at 2018 I am filled with overflowing gratitude. I would never have imagined that I’d have so much to celebrate in such a short period of time. I’m so thankful to my parents for opening their home to me for a season. It can’t be easy to go from empty nesting to having a strong willed adult child moving in with her toddler, dog, cat and foster bird in tow. I’m also grateful to my friends who helped me keep my head above water though some dark times and to my church family for letting me serve, worship, pray and seek their wisdom and support over and over again. And, of course, I’m thankful for David for embarking on this journey with me for a second time.

I am overflowing with joy and thanksgiving for all the amazing things God has accomplished in the last 365 days.

Happy New Year!

The Big T-W-O!

Oh my goodness – when did it happen?! When was I suddenly the mother of a full-fledged toddler?!

This past Valentine’s Day we crossed the milestone. August turned the big T-W-O! My little bundle, my baby boy, is now a floor stomping, bug poking, soil slinging mini man. He’s independent, fiery, curious, and addicted to routines. Thankfully, his tantrums are few, and his appetite is still big, so I’m clinging on to those two baby hold overs for as long as possible. His vocabulary is expanding in an exponential rate as are his physical capabilities. I’m telling you – mini man. Mini man.

To celebrate his passage into this new phase of life I hosted a small shin dig in his honor. As I’m quickly learning with this stage, less is more. Instead of busting out all stops for a big hoopla of a party, I planned an intimate breakfast bash with family, friends, and some of his toddler buddies. “Keep it simple sweetie” – definitely the way to go.

For the decorations I stayed away from a true theme and instead pulled together some basics in a variety of colors and textures. I also fell in love with a gold “Yay” Mylar balloon I found at Target – so threw in a few more metallic elements to bring it all together. Add a few bright floral bouquets and a smattering of wooden animal figurines and wallah! My apartment was birthday party ready!

For the food spread I, again, kept things simple. I filled up a cutting board with a variety of cheeses, including the standard brie and blue, both of which August promptly took whopping bites from. See my Instagram for video proof. I filled several bowls with berries, yogurts and granola, and set out jams and other condiments for spicing things up. Putting my collection of cake stands to work, I piled up mini omelettes, freshly baked mini croissants as well as towers of silver dollar pancakes skewered with berry kabobs. Do you see a pattern yet? Mini, mini, mini. One thing that was full sized was August’s birthday cake: A delightful chocolate ganache that we purchased from Whole Foods which I then topped with fresh cut flowers, a wooden animal figurine, a sparkler, and of course, two candles. For drinks I also kept things minimal and served orange juice, french pressed coffee, and organic milk boxes for the kiddos. The food was definitely a huge hit!

As seems customary at kid parties, I had an activity planned, but in the hub-bub of guests, food, and toddler antics, there was no opportunity to introduce it. Aka, I totally forgot. Oops! I had bought the supplies to have the kids make their very own seed bombs which they could “plant” somewhere in their neighborhood. Since I have the wildflower seeds and peat rarin to go – I may host a spring themed play date to give the littles a chance to get their hands dirty while teaching them some horticulture basics. But I digress.

730 days old. Quite the milestone and so glad we had a chance to properly celebrate. Now to start plans for Easter!

 

August Year One

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It’s been twelve months since the birth of Augustine.

Twelve months since we learned to swaddle, sway, and sweet talk. Twelve months of changing diapers, sorting toys, and counting sheep. Twelve months of learning the ropes, building up confidence, and settling into parenthood. Twelve months of prayers, patience, giggles, and dreams. Twelve months of learning to love deeper, higher, and without limits.

It’s been twelve months since our lives changed forever, and for the better, which is why we’re celebrating our first twelve months as the mom and dad of Augustine.

Happy birthday to our little jelly bean!

Maggie Daley Park

Our little jelly belly turned eight months earlier this month. Crazy how time flies, right?! Besides hitting a new age, our little man sprouted his first two teeth, said da-da, and started to crawl. And all in just a week! These  developmental leaps were a sudden wake up call that his infant days are fleeting.

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After this realization a rush of sentimentalism washed over me, prompting me to schedule some time off for a staycation with the boys. I wanted a handful of days where I could slow down, spend time with August and his dad, and soak up the season.

One of the highlights of our recent stint of hometown tourism was a visit to the new Maggie Daley park. Continue reading

Introducing August!

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This past Valentine’s Day was life-changing.

At 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning David and I welcomed our son Augustine Krupinski Downs into the world. Born six days after his due date, we were thrilled that the anticipation of meeting this little man was finally over. Here’s the story of how he came to be a Valentine’s babe. Continue reading