Simple Nursery Art: A Collage Of Baby Shower Gift Cards

Aside from the silhouette mural we painted before she was born, the rest of the walls in Lillian’s nursery have stayed pretty much bare, and even now they could still use some livening up. But we did manage to pull off one simple little art project so far, and that’s the subject of today’s post:

Nursery Baby Shower Card Collage

It’s a simple white frame with a collage of the cards Lillian received before she was born. The idea was originally inspired by the one in the center with the yellow elephant, which seemed like such a perfect fit with the overall theme and colors of the room that we had to figure out some way to work it in with the decorating instead of having it sit in a drawer forgotten and/or lost forever.

The frame was found at Michael’s for $19, and making the collage was a breeze — I just spread out the cards on the board from the back of the frame and moved them around until I found an arrangement that seemed to look nice. Then, a little bit of green painter’s tape on the backs of the cards held them securely in place.

Baby Card Collage

Once it was all in the frame, I hung it on the wall to the left of the changing table. Originally I felt like it would be one of those boring, subdued, blends-in-with-the-background type decorations, but I’ve actually been surprised at how much Lillian has enjoyed it over the past few months since hanging it up — when carrying her over to the changing table, she’ll get all excited and start pointing at all the little ducks and the pink button and the various other shapes. So that’s an added bonus!

Baby Nursery Art

And that’s the story of what happened to our baby shower cards! It makes me happy that they got turned into a simple, inexpensive, sweetly meaningful little art piece that the baby herself seems very fond of. And as soon as it was hanging on the wall, it was a relief that the walls in the room weren’t completely bare anymore.

But speaking of which — I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the space above the changing table (aka the wall to the right of the collage frame in the photo above) since it’s still completely empty. Some potential ideas include:

  • Spelling out “Lillian” in colorful letters, or an alphabet arrangement
  • An arrangement of colorful paper butterfly cutouts (which would tie in with the mobile)
  • A small decorative shelf with some colorful toys or books on top
  • Some more white frames with various other pictures / prints / collages inside

Do you have a favorite when it comes to any of these, or perhaps another idea entirely? I would love to hear any thoughts or ideas in the comments!

  • The Fun In Functional

Nursery Furniture Upgrade: A Tiny Table for a Tiny Tot

In the last update about the nursery, I mentioned the metal side table in there and how we wanted to upgrade it to something a little less cold and clangy — and for today’s blog post, I’m happy to finally be able to share about the replacement! It’s an entirely different kind of table, and I think it’s a perfect fit for Lillian and the room in general. Here’s a quick peek at how the room looks with the new furniture addition:

Room With Toddler Table

As you can see from the photo above, it isn’t a side table at all, but rather a little white play table with four colorful chairs. (Only three made it into the picture above, but the fourth one is blue as you’ll see further down this post.) It was actually a gift to Lillian for her first birthday, sent by her Great Grandmama all the way down in Florida!

Lillian’s birthday was in October, but it admittedly took us a while to unpack and assemble the little table. When we finally got around to it a few weeks ago, Lillian even helped with putting it together! Though the helping mostly consisted of playing with the chair pieces that looked like a bunch of colorful blocks:

Toddler Assembling Furniture

In case anyone is wondering, the table is the Tot Tutors Bright Colors Table and Chairs Set, which you can see on the Toys R Us website here. As far as I know it’s one of the smallest tables of this variety, with the manufacturer’s recommended age listed as “birth – 6 years” — and the chairs are just about the perfect size for our newly toddling one year old. Here she is testing one of the chairs out right after assembling it:

Toddler Sitting In Chair

I think the colors of the chairs fit in really nicely with the pale green color scheme we’ve got going in the room, especially since it seems like many of the little toddler play table sets come painted in darker primary colors. These ones aren’t super bold, and yet they aren’t pale and subdued enough to call pastel either — they’re just light and bright and cheerful:

Toddler Table With Chairs

Lillian’s favorite thing to do with this table is move the chairs around. They slide super easily on our hardwood floors, and she has no problem pushing them all over the room:

Toddler Moving Chairs

And as for using it for its intended purpose — sitting in the chairs and interacting with something on the surface of the table? This may be a bit much to ask of the attention span at Lillian’s age, and so far she hasn’t spent more than one consecutive minute playing at the table before getting up to start moving the chairs around again. But here’s one photo I managed to capture of her playing with some colorful stacking toys while making her “I’m concentrating” face:

Toddler Concentrating On Puzzle

But there’ll be plenty of time for proper table activities as she gets older, and it’s wonderful that she has a little space for drawing and coloring, playing with Play-Doh, arts and crafts, and all sorts of other things as she gets older.

So that’s the scoop on the newest furniture addition to the nursery! Definitely a huge improvement over that (poorly chosen in retrospect) metal table we started out with in there. And speaking of the nursery, there are a number of other updates I’ve been meaning to post about that room involving art, window treatments, lighting, and storage — a lot has changed in there lately and I can’t wait to share about it on this blog. Stay tuned!

14 Month Milestone: Walking!

Quick side note: email subscriptions should be working again! In case you missed the last post or are wondering what’s going on, the announcement about the blog redesign and related technical hiccups can be found here.

When we were down in Florida over the holidays, Lillian was doing a lot of walking, always while holding onto either our hands or some solid stable object. In general she seemed to be steady enough on her feet, but just didn’t want to let go and walk on her own. But in just the past week or so, there’s been a lot of big exciting developments in the walking department!

It started with standing longer and longer without holding onto anything, and then a few tentative steps here and there. The first few days, we were too preoccupied with cheering her on to capture any photos or video, but early last week our childcare provider managed to capture this low-resolution camera video of some of Lillian’s early shaky steps:

It was kind of a funny story — she had no idea Lillian was starting to walk without holding onto things, and then looks up one day to see her standing there in the kitchen doorway. I can only imagine that it must have come as a bit of a shock!

Here’s another video I took in our living room this past weekend (ignore the toys and stuff scattered everywhere in the background, since sadly this is actually the “tidied up” version of our living room):

From a few shaky steps to toddling all the way across the living room — I can’t help feeling amazed at how much more adept and confident she’s gotten over the span of one short week. Way to go Lillian, and welcome to toddlerhood!

Shaky Toddler Steps

The Big Bloggy Makeover Of 2013!

I’ve been known to switch things up around here every so often when it comes to the design and layout of the blog — but I think this one takes the cake as the biggest makeover yet! It’s been almost a year since the last time I made any serious changes, so I guess I’m making up for lost time now. Because everything has gotten an update, from the design to the title itself.

Updating the title was an idea I’d been kicking around for a while. When I first started this blog back in 2011, one of the few things I knew was that I wanted to set it up with a self-hosted WordPress install, since I’m a code-monkey and love to tinker with things. So I searched for a domain that was still available, and settled on freestylehomelife.com, and really liked it for a while. But over time it began to feel stale, and something about it just didn’t quite seem to convey what the blog was about or how it got started.

The new title attempts to do that a little better, though a few quick notes on that are in order:

  • I’m aware of the irony of making this change when Lillian is already on the brink of not being a “baby” anymore. But even if she gets to be a preschooler or kindergartener with no younger siblings in sight, it still seems like a fitting title since it recalls to mind a big part of how this blog got started: talking about baby plans and preparations from the very beginning.
  • I really liked being able to work “bungalow” into the title as well, as opposed to the more generic reference to a home. Our 1920’s Chicago bungalow has so much personality, and it’s nice to have the title reflect a bit of that.

Despite the new look and new title, rest assured that it’s still the same blog with all the same content! The new design even has a lot of similarities to the old one in terms of the overall look and color scheme, though it’s generally been simplified and cleaned up a lot. Most of the fancy fonts have gone away in favor of more standard ones, and it should work pretty consistently in Internet Explorer going back to version 7. The header also got a makeover to hopefully make it easier to navigate around the site.

And now for a few quick technical notes on the domain switch:

  • I’ve set up 301 redirects, so all incoming links should still work and just be seamlessly redirected to the new domain. The same should apply to any bookmarks.
  • The RSS feed should continue working as before, so if you’ve subscribed you shouldn’t see any kind of disruption there.
  • I’m currently in the process of switching over the email subscriptions, but there may be some hiccups with that — I should have a better handle on that within a few days after this change.

On the technical side of things I’ve tried my best to make this one of those barely-even-noticeable changes, but if you see anything that looks broken or amiss around the site, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line using the contact form and I’ll look into it.

Anyway, that’s the scoop on the biggest makeover the blog has gotten since it started, and probably the biggest one it will ever get unless I really go crazy one of these days. I hope you all like it, and your regularly scheduled bloggings will resume shortly with a couple of “real” posts over the next few days!

Road Trip with a 14-Month-Old: Our Holiday Travels With A Toddler

I seem to have a bit of a mid-January tradition going here on this blog: belatedly writing about our holiday travels. Last year, we made the road trip down to Pensacola Florida to visit Joe’s side of the family when Lillian was only two months old (which you can read about here), and this year we made a similar trip for the holidays.

This time around my mom joined us for the trip, and we made the journey in her roomy SUV rather than our little cramped-in-the-backseat hybrid — gas was more expensive, but the added comfort and cargo space was well worth it. And like last year, we split the driving into two days again, stopping for the night in Nashville both ways.

A map showing the route from Chicago, IL to Penascola, FL.

We actually stayed in the exact same hotel both times because Mom forgot her coat in the room on the way down. They found it and held it for us, and luckily the weather was pretty nice in Florida (seventy degrees on Christmas!) and we were able to just pick up the coat a week later on our way back up to the icy north.

So how did traveling with a 14-month-old compare to traveling with a 2-month-old? I was a little concerned going in, since this would be the most time Lillian had spent in a car in a very long time (we hadn’t taken any long road trips with her since the previous Christmas). She’s long since outgrown the “sleep all the time” tendency she had at two months, and even when we’re driving around running errands she tends to only fall asleep at around nap time for an hour or so. Would she be inconsolably bored and fussy and miserable spending so long in the car seat?

Not knowing quite how that would play out, we made sure to bring a lot of toys and books for her to play with on the ride. Here’s a view of the backseat of the SUV loaded up with an overflowing basket of toys, various snacks and baby supplies, and a somewhat confused-looking Lillian:

Baby in Car with Toys

Having a bunch of different things to switch out as the hours went on seemed like a good strategy for keeping her calm and entertained, though in general she seemed to be a much easier traveler than we might’ve feared. Phew!

Another big difference this time around was the feeding frequency. At two months, Lillian was eating every three hours, and we needed to stop to feed her each time, since back then she seemed more likely to spit up an entire bottle if we tried to feed her in the car seat while driving. These days, she eats three meals a day at around the same time we do (with a snack or two thrown in the gaps between) and has no problem eating in a moving vehicle, so we could swing through a fast food place for a quick diaper change, and grab some food, and keep on going with all of us eating in the car.

But even though we could have gotten away with fewer quicker stops, we actually found ourselves wanting to go in and sit down and take our time eating, both for ourselves to rest a bit and to let Lillian move around. She’s getting to the point where she loves just walking around in circles while holding our hands, and was even standing completely on her own at an Arby’s on the way home:

A 14 month old standing in an Arby's restaurant.

She was so enthralled by something behind the counter that she stood without holding onto anything for a good 30 seconds. And then, like one of those cartoon characters that can keep running off a cliff without being affected by gravity until they look down, she noticed what was going on and plopped down into a sitting position.

Splitting the road trip into two days and staying in a motel halfway made things easier on Lillian as well, I think. We would arrive early enough in the evening to allow her some time to explore and play before her usual bedtime, so it wasn’t like she’d spent all of her waking hours in a car seat.

Baby In Hotel Room

I never noticed how many opportunities for mischief there are in a typical motel room. Everything was new and fascinating for Lillian, and we ran ourselves a little ragged trying to keep her from calling the front desk, turning the thermostat up to 90 degrees, pulling all of the tissues out of the dispenser beneath the sink, etc. We’ve probably spoiled ourselves a little with our various efforts at baby-proofing things at home, and it’s good to teach toddlers that some things aren’t for playing with, but it can be tiring.

A baby playing with the controls for a heating / air conditioning unit in a hotel room.

The experience made me wonder why more hotel chains haven’t designed and marketed “toddler rooms,” which would be just like normal hotel rooms except that all phones, wires, thermostat controls, etc. are mounted at least four feet off the floor. And at ground level, there’s all sorts of fascinating but non-functional knobs and compartments to get into, so mom and dad can relax a little after their long day of travel while the little one burns out all its energy exploring the place. Million dollar idea, I tell you.

Anyway, a post about our holiday travels wouldn’t be complete without some mention of what we did when we actually made it down there! For the duration of the trip, we stayed at Joe’s grandmama’s house. In addition to hosting the Christmas celebrations and providing rooms for the four of us Chicagoans to stay, Grandmama introduced us to a really fun TV show called The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency as well as the easiest and most delicious roast beef recipe I’ve ever tasted. I took a ton of photographs, but for this post I’ll include just a few highlights from the trip.

For instance, here’s Lillian opening a present (with my help) on Christmas Day:

Baby Opening Christmas Presents

It’s one of those fun “match the shapes to the holes in the box” toys, which she’s still getting the hang of, but she enjoys just opening the lid and putting the blocks in and taking them out.

Another fun present-related photo: Joe’s dad apparently went on a mission to find Lillian the biggest teddy bear he possibly could, and succeeded with this gigantic fellow that’s almost bigger than she is! Here she is flopping down on it like a giant bear-shaped pillow:

Baby With Giant Teddy Bear

The day after Christmas, we headed over to Panama City Beach with Joe’s family to check out this neat little amusement park called Pier Park Miracle Strip.

Miracle Strip - Pier Park (Sign)

It wasn’t crowded at all due to being the off season and a bit chilly that day, but all the rides were operating. There were no lines for anything (which was awesome), and I’m pretty sure it was the same one or two attendants running from ride to ride to operate them as needed.

Pier Park Miracle Strip

We rode the merry-go-round once with Lillian, but I think she’s a little too young to see the fun in these kinds of amusement park rides. Instead, she spent most of the time doing what’s apparently the most fun thing in the world right now: walking up and down the various paths in the amusement park.

Practicing Walking With Mommy

We took turns holding her hands and walking around, and occasionally sneaking off to go on a ride or two. Joe and I even managed to go on the tilt-a-whirl while Lillian hung out with her Grandpa.

Practicing Walking With Daddy

The light is kind of wacky in the picture above, but that gigantic pillow-looking thing behind Joe is actually a big inflatable jumping jack. It looked like so much fun, and after asking a bunch of questions to the attendant about whether a big fat adult would pop the thing, I eventually decided to go for it. Here’s a picture Joe snapped of me bouncing around on it like a dork:

An Adult On A Jumping Jack

I can’t even say how many years it’s been since I’ve jumped on one of these things. It was like reliving my childhood. Although I seem to recall having a lot more energy back in the day — after about two minutes I was ready to give it a rest!

The next day, we made a little visit to Joe’s uncle’s horse farm, which my mom (who loves horses) was really excited about. Lillian seemed to find it interesting as well — even though we’ve taken her to the regular zoo and the petting zoo at a pumpkin patch, I don’t think she’s ever been in such close proximity to such large animals before. Here’s a photo of Mom, Joe, and Lillian with one of the horses:

At The Horse Farm

Lillian would do this thing where she’d reach out toward the horses, then giggle excitedly and turn away. Here she is in the giggling and turning away phase:

Baby Giggle At Horse Farm

One other highlight of our holiday stay in Pensacola was the family meal we enjoyed at the Fish House, a fancy local seafood restaurant located right on the waterfront. It was neat how the rustic exterior was all decked out in ribbons and garland for the holidays:

Fish House Restaurant Sign

While we waited for our table, Lillian practiced her walking some more in the outdoor area overlooking the water while I hovered around taking pictures.

Walking Outside The Fish House

It didn’t matter where we were — anyplace new with room to toddle around was like the best place ever in Lillian’s eyes. And even in the span of our trip she seemed to get more adventurous, holding on with only one hand instead of two.

Toddler Walking Outside Fish House Restaurant (Pensacola, FL)

Anyway, that’s a glimpse of what we were up to during our holiday travels — probably the longest and most photo-filled post I’ve written yet! And now for a question: Do you think a hotel chain could make a fortune by cornering the “tired parents of toddlers” market? I’d be curious to hear any thoughts on this matter in the comments!