Baby Girl Nurseries

Since we found out we’re having a girl at the ultrasound last month (read more about that experience here), I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the girliest nurseries I’ve found so far while browsing the internets. While many nursery designs could plausibly work for either gender, I think the following rooms are sufficiently pink and frilly that they practically scream “baby girl” at the top of their lungs.

For instance, this first example was created for a baby girl named Juliet — her name was apparently the inspiration for the design. The room was intended to be elegant and romantic, with old-fashioned furniture and even some Shakespeare thrown into the mix. With everything in soft pink and white, there’s no denying that the end result has a very feminine look:

“Juliet” nursery in pale pink and white. Image from here.

This next example took sort of a “pink meets jungle” approach: the jungle creatures above the crib were the starting point for the room design, which expanded to include the pink walls with polka dots and the various geometric furnishings. On a whole the room has a modern and not-so-traditional look, but it still comes across very girl-appropriate:

Pink nursery with polka dots and jungle creatures. Image from here.

Speaking of polka dots, this next example may have gone a little overboard with them. In an attempt to create something fun and cheerful that would work for their baby daughter well into the toddler and childhood phase, the parents they covered the walls with polka dot decals in bright, saturated colors — but once again all the pink everywhere keeps it looking very girly:

Pink nursery with multicolored dots on the walls. Image from here.

This next example took a slightly different approach: instead of painting all of the walls pink, they opted for a soft gray accented by one wall of pink wallpaper in a vintage pattern. (That combination of modern and vintage carries throughout the room — just compare the style of the crib and dresser to the lamp, chandelier, and photo frame on the wall to the left.) But despite the few “grown-up” touches, all of the pink in the wallpaper, curtains, and accessories definitely keep it looking fit for a baby girl:

Pink and gray nursery. Image from here.

Continuing with the pink and gray theme, this next example took a similar approach, painting the walls in shades of gray and white, this time without including any pink wallpaper. But the pink butterflies and trees on the walls, as well as the other pink decorations and accessories, balance things out to result in a decidedly girly space:

Nursery with gray walls and butterfly decorations. Image from here.

This last example involves a complete absence of pink: apparently the mother loved lavender, and the father vetoed that aforementioned stereotypical girl color. But even by itself lavender comes across as pretty feminine, and with the addition of floral fabric in the crib bedding and changing table — as well as the flower decorations on the wall and the little butterfly mobile — the end result is a charming and fitting nursery for a baby girl:

Lavender nursery. Image from here.

Anyway, having looked at all of these examples, and put some thought into it, we’re probably going to end up doing something completely different. As I mentioned in this post, our unexpectedly-acquired rocking lion has been inspiring us to pursue a jungle-slash-wildlife sort of theme, which will probably fall into a much more gender-neutral category than any of these examples. (Plus, due to some concerns expressed in this post, we’re probably going to avoid painting any walls pink anyway.)

That being said, it would be nice to add some little girly touches to whatever nursery setup we eventually end up going with — and some little pink or purple flowers and butterflies should fit right in with a theme inspired by jungle animals and wildlife. But I’m curious — does anyone know of any great examples of mostly-gender-neutral nurseries with some small feminine details mixed in? By all means feel free to share a link in the comments!

Neighborhood Block Party & Nursery Beginnings

On Saturday, Joe and I got to attend our first-ever neighborhood block party. We got the notification flyer before even moving in and didn’t know quite what to expect, but it turned out to be quite an experience.

Early in the morning, our neighbors roped off the ends of the street with American flags and biohazard tape — whatever was lying around, I guess! I wish I’d taken a picture of this, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to snap any photos the entire day. But there was loads of food and refreshments, inflatable pools and water balloons for the neighborhood kids, and even a professional DJ who came by to play music in the evening.

And it was a wonderful opportunity for us to meet some of the neighbors. Not all of the households on the street turned out for the block party, but everyone who did was extremely welcoming and friendly. Joe and I appear to be one of the youngest families on a block full of middle-aged folks and retired people with grandkids, and everyone seems excited about the prospect of a new baby on the block — already we’ve gotten a bunch of offers for babysitting, and we hear there’s even one woman across the street who runs a small daycare service out of her home.

We also got to see the inside of a few of the other houses, including our neighbors who recently remodeled their kitchen — and since the layout of their house is almost identical to ours, this was pretty inspiring for what we could eventually do way down the road. Here’s the gist of what they did, applied to the floor plan from our virtual house tour:

Potential future kitchen remodel?

They actually knocked down a brick wall and then expanded their kitchen into what used to be an enclosed back porch, making it big enough to accommodate a giant luxurious island with several barstools. No doubt a very expensive and complicated project, but it was really interesting to see that something like this could be (and had been) done on a house very similar to ours.

Anyway, the block party also featured a raffle with various prizes — kids’ toys, bowling tickets, jars of candy, etc. We ended up coming home with this adorable rocking lion for the nursery:

Rocking lion for the nursery.

We didn’t actually have the winning raffle ticket, though — our neighbor’s son down the street was the one who won it. He’s a pretty amazing 12-year-old who reads at his grade level despite having down syndrome, and is generally just a great kid to be around. After winning the rocking lion, he graciously decided that he wanted us to have it for the baby.

Currently, the rocking lion is the first and only thing we have for the nursery, and even though it’ll be a year or two before Baby Hart is old enough to play with it, it might be fun to use it as a jumping-off-point for a decorating theme. Maybe zoo animals, or a jungle safari sort of thing.

Of course, we should probably start focusing on the “important” stuff for the nursery, like getting a crib and all that. It’s hard to believe that there’s only 15 weeks to go with this pregnancy, and we’ve barely gotten started!

Chicago Heat Wave

Over the past few days, temperatures have been soaring to record highs here in the Windy City. Both today and yesterday, it made it up to over 100 degrees — and according to the Chicago Tribune, this is the worst heat wave our city has seen since way back in 1995.

It’s times like these that I’m extremely grateful to be spending most of my days in an extremely well-air-conditioned downtown office. Since I work a full-time schedule and pack my lunch from home, I get to completely avoid the worst of the midday heat… though I have to feel sorry for any of my miserable, sweaty coworkers who come in to work at 1:00 in the afternoon, or venture outside at lunchtime for a sandwich.

But sitting at my desk, the only real indicaton of the sweltering outside temperature comes from the weather forecast widget on my computer:

My weather widget as seen this afternoon.

All this isn’t to say that I haven’t noticed the heat, though… Unfortunately, it’s still been well into the 80’s and 90’s for my commute to and from work. And I can’t say it’s been the most comfortable thing, what with being all heavy and pregnant right now.

It’s interesting how attuned to this people on the steet have been. On a number of occasions, random strangers have stopped and told me to be careful, drink lots of water, and hurry back inside as quickly as possible.

I even had a rather lengthy conversation with an older lady yesterday while waiting for the elevator up from the subway. (The elevator is supposed to be there to make it wheelchair-accessible, but stairs are on that list of things I feel less and less like doing these days.) Anyway, she glanced at my belly and said, “I bet you’re not enjoying this heat.”

“No, not really,” I answered. (Probably a bit of an understatement.) She went on to tell me about how her pregnancy with her second baby had spanned the summer months, and how she would hide inside every day until the sun went down. Then she asked, “Is this your first one?”

“Yeah,” I answered.

“Oh. I won’t scare you, then.” And she didn’t say anything else after that. Which was probably a bit more worrisome than whatever she could have told me.

Anyway, that’s my story of what happens when you talk to strangers in the subway.

Refinishing the Floors

Aside from installing a dishwasher, the one other thing we wanted to do before moving into the house was to have the floors refinished — because they kind of needed it, and because common sense and everyone we talked to seemed pretty adamant that refinishing floors is a much, much bigger hassle once all your furniture and stuff’s been moved in.

At first, I was a little worried that trying to get this done would delay moving in by some ridiculous length of time — what if, for some reason, our contractor wasn’t able to start and/or finish the job in a timely manner? But by lunchtime on the Tuesday before we moved in, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the floors had already been completely sanded bare:

The living room floor, sanded bare.

One of the floor guys brought three little sample-sized stain cans and applied them to a small section of the bare floor so we could pick a color. We had the idea that we didn’t want anything too dark or too yellow, but beyond that we didn’t really have a specific color in mind. Here’s what the three color samples looked like:

Stain color samples on the freshly-sanded floor.

The cans aren’t really visible in this picture, but I (mostly) remembered what the colors were called, and thanks to the magic of the internet I was able to easily find the following via a Google Shopping search. The cans are in the same order as the samples above:

From left to right: Dark Walnut, Special Walnut, and Early American.

Anyway, we ended up picking the middle one — the Dark Walnut just looked a little too dark, and the Early American came across as a little too yellowy, but the Special Walnut seemed just about right.

Unfortunately I don’t have have a good “before” pic of the living room floor to show it looking old and worn out, but here’s what it looked like after being freshly refinished:

The living room floor after refinishing.

And now for some fun before-and-after shots of the other rooms. First in line is the dining room: in addition to looking generally worn out, the floor had some discoloration and stains from what looked like paint cans (???) being left out. (The following two pictures were taken from the doorway into the kitchen.)

The dining room floor before refinishing.

The dining room floor after refinishing.

I think the stain color we picked ended up being a pretty close match to what was there before, but it still made a pretty dramatic difference.

Next up is the front bedroom, which had some interesting wear patterns that almost seem to form a path to the closet:

The front bedroom floors before refinishing.

The front bedroom floors after refinishing.

And finally the rear bedroom, which also had some visible wear patterns:

The back bedroom floors before refinishing.

The back bedroom floors after refinishing.

I have to say I really enjoyed taking these before-and-after photos — it’s just fun to see so many years of wear and tear turn into what looks like brand-new flooring.

As an added bonus, our floor guy provided that impossible service trifecta thought to exist only in myth: good, fast, and cheap. (Normally they say you get to pick only two.) But our floors look beautiful, they were finished in three days, and we ended up paying only about $1.65 per square foot — not bad considering that, according to the internet, the average cost of professional floor refinishing is somewhere in the range of $2.00 to $5.00 per square foot.

Anyway, that’s the story of refinishing our floors, which I’d say was the biggest “big thing” that we did before moving in. And we’ve been slowly making progress on the little things, although I’m sad to say that more than two weeks after moving in, we still have boxes to unpack. (On the plus side, we’ve gotten all of the “important stuff” unpacked and organized by now, and most of the remaining boxes just contain books and bric-a-brac that serve little purpose on a day-to-day basis… but it’ll be a good day when we’re 100% past the post-move-in chaos phase.)

Kitchen Upgrade, Phase 1: The Dishwasher

One really nice thing about the apartment we’d lived in for the past few years was the kitchen, which was recently built and included new cabinets, new countertops, and a bunch of shiny modern appliances — including, of course, a dishwasher.

There are a lot of good things to be said about dishwashers: they tend to use less water than doing the dishes by hand, so they’re good from an environmental perspective. And the high temperatures get your dishes cleaner than doing them by hand, so they’re good from a health and sanitation perspective. But it would be hard to deny that the biggest thing, for us at least, is the convenience factor: it just takes a lot more time and energy to keep a tidy kitchen and cook meals at home every night without a robot slave to wash your dishes.

So acquiring and installing a dishwasher was towards the top of our priority list of things we wanted to do before, or soon after, moving in to the new house. Luckily the kitchen had plenty of space to accommodate one to the left of the sink, as this photo from the virtual house tour shows:

The kitchen.

But since there wasn’t an opening there, or the required water or electrical hookups, we had to hire a guy to remove one of the lower cabinets and then install everything. The timing actually worked out really well, though, and we had a dishwasher installed and working within a day or so after we moved in. Here’s what the kitchen looks like now:

The kitchen after installing the dishwasher.

Right now it looks kind of like a shiny silver spaceship landed in the middle of the 1960’s, but I’m sure that will change down the road once we replace the old energy-inefficient fridge and such. Oh, and you’ll also notice the new wall color in the above photo — we repainted the orangey-brown walls a lighter color, since they just felt a little too dark for our smallish kitchen space.

Anyway, purchasing the dishwasher turned out to be kind of a frustrating experience. We started shopping around the weekend before we moved in, and eventually decided on one from Lowe’s — it seemed like a good value for the price, plus Lowe’s offered free delivery whereas other stores like Best Buy would have tacked on an extra charge. And an added bonus: the sales lady kindly informed us that they were having a 15% off sale on the 4th of July weekend, so we delayed the purchase for a few days to take advantage of it.

But when that big sale weekend actually came, an interesting thing happened: the price of that dishwasher had mysteriously gone up by exactly 15%, so that with the sale, the price was the same as it would have been before. It was hard to decide whether this was funny or just sleazy and dishonest.

For what it’s worth, the sales guys gave some non-committal explanation about how the dishwasher must’ve been on special the previous weekend, and I didn’t press the issue too much. But it definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth when retailers pull this kind of thing.

Aside from that though, everything went smoothly — the dishwasher has been doing its job well, and it feels good to have a big thing crossed off of the house to-do list.

But speaking of that to-do list, wow, there’s a lot of work to do. We’ve been making progress slowly but surely — expect more updates on what’s been going on with the house since moving day in a future blog post!