(Long Overdue) Kitchen Upgrade: Adding a Microwave

We moved into our house in July 2011, and for the next year and a half, we lived without a microwave.

It sounds like kind of a long time, right? Especially since there was really no good reason for it. It wasn’t like we had some kind of philosophical objection to microwaves, or to adding new appliances — we had the dishwasher installed before we even moved in, after all. And while we’re definitely not rich or anything, it’s not like we couldn’t afford a microwave, since as far as kitchen appliances go they’re not the most expensive.

Overall, I guess it boiled down to procrastination and indecision. Since our kitchen has a fairly limited supply of counter space, for the longest time we were thinking our best bet would be to install one of those over-the-range ones:

Range Top Microwave Selection

But in addition to being more expensive, an over-the-range microwave would mean extra work to install, and it seemed like there was barely enough clearance to fit one in without removing the cabinets above our current range hood — and the more time that went by, the more attractive the simpler little set-them-on-the-counter variety began to look:

Microwave Selection In Store

Until finally, last month, we finally pulled the trigger and brought home a shiny new microwave of our very own — just a simple GE Mid-Size microwave in stainless steel. To avoid taking up any valuable counter space, we put it on the other side of the kitchen, where it now lives on a wheely cart we found in the basement:

Microwave On Cart

Definitely not much to look at — that entire side of the kitchen is kind of a big clutter repository at the moment — but it has potential to be transformed to eventually include a proper microwave nook, and maybe a pantry and/or some shelves or cabinets to add to our kitchen’s storage capabilities.

As for us, so far we’ve been very happy with our newest kitchen appliance. We use it at least three times a day, all while asking ourselves, “how did we survive for so long without one of these things?”

What about you guys — does your kitchen currently have a microwave? How often do you use it, and how long do you think you could last without it?

A Day At The Field Museum

Last Saturday, we packed up the stroller and took a little trip to the Field Museum in downtown Chicago. It’s been a while since we’ve been there — not since before Lillian was born — and now that she’s walking we thought it would be fun to revisit this place. Here’s a fancy shot of Sue the T-Rex that I posted on Instagram the day we were there:

Sue The T-Rex (Instagram)

Lillian was toddling around everywhere, and she actually seemed to kind of enjoy looking at some of the displays (for two seconds, at least, before getting distracted by something else!) Here she is looking at a glass case with some fishes:

Toddler At The Museum

The above display was in a long carpeted hallway with not much foot traffic due to being on the lower level, and I think Lillian would have been content to just toddle up and down that hallway all day long, even if there were no displays in it at all. (Based on my own hazy memories of childhood, big expansive carpeted places are the awesomest thing ever when you’re little.)

She actually seemed pretty interested in the exhibits involving animals though. The Field Museum has a lot of taxidermy birds and animals in various realistic poses, and Lillian would get excited and point at them as we went by. Here’s a shot of Joe lifting her up to let her get a better look at the groundhog display:

Pointing At Groundhogs

Other displays were already at just the right hight for a toddler. Here she is saying hi to a coyote:

Toddler and Coyote

Another thing that seemed pretty toddler-friendly was the hall of birds. In addition to a huge variety of birds on display with all kinds of bird-related information, they also had these buttons at about knee height that when you press them, a recording of the bird’s call would play.

Toddler In Bird Exhibit

Lillian could easily reach them from the stroller (since by then she had probably toddled the equivalent of several blocks and needed a break), and she seemed to really enjoy pressing these buttons and hearing the bird sounds.

Toddler Pressing Buttons

And while we were at the museum, we wanted to get a photo of all three of us with Sue the T-Rex, just to continue the little tradition Joe and I started way back when we were dating (you can see the first two installments here). This is the first one where Lillian makes an appearance, though unfortunately Sue’s head got mostly chopped off:

Whole Family With T-Rex

Anyway, that’s the story of our trip to the Field Museum as told in pictures!

What about you guys — anyone gone to any interesting museums lately? Are there any museum attractions you’ve seen that seem particularly interesting or well suited to toddlers?

When Summer Starts In February

During the course of our weekend errands, we thought it would be a good idea to pick up a couple more pairs of mittens for Lillian — the ones we had were okay, but it seemed like we were always misplacing them and ending up with mismatched pairs, and a few were starting to look worse for wear after being used all winter. So, we decided to grab some when we went into Babies R Us for a couple of things.

When we walked into the store, we were greeted by an interesting sight: rack after rack of sundresses and swimsuits. I joked about this a little as we were walking in — a bit early to have those out in February, wasn’t it? We went about our shopping, picking up the other supplies we needed, and then started looking for the mittens. Only, we couldn’t seem to find any.

The clothing selection in Babies R Us on February 17, 2013.

The clothing selection in Babies R Us on February 17, 2013.

After searching around the store for a bit, we finally decided to ask an employee about the mittens. But she apologized and informed us that they didn’t have any in stock. Because they were out of season.

For anyone who may be reading from a different region or hemisphere — here in Chicago, selling swimwear in February while claiming mittens are out of season seems to be getting it exactly backwards. They’re forecasting the temperature to be in the twenties for most of this week, and last year, we were still wearing light jackets well into the latter half of April. If we can start dressing Lillian in sundresses and swimsuits three months from now, I’ll consider it a lucky thing.

I guess that’s just the silly way the clothing industry works, though, and the episode was a reminder of how badly out of sync the fashion calendar is with the one the rest of the world uses.

To any current or former parents of babies or toddlers, how far in advance do/did you typically shop for your child’s clothing for the summer? Our experience with Lillian has been to buy clothes about a day in advance of when we expert her to start wearing it, but maybe we’re in the minority with that.

Toddler Art, Valentine’s Day Edition

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! In honor of this fluffy heart-filled holiday, I want to share a quick post about what Lillian has been up to in art class lately.

Last week, toward the end of a work day, I was pleasantly surprised to look at my phone and find this picture from Lillian’s daycare. It shows her in the midst of a Valentine’s Day craft project, complete with some washable purple marker on her chinny-chin-chin:

Toddler Coloring Valentine

From what I can gather, the activity was more geared toward the older kids, but I’m told that Lillian went over to the table and sat down in a chair all on her own to join in. She picked out two different markers to color with — it looks like a purple one and a thinner lighter blue one — and sat like a big kid for the full duration of the activity, diligently scribbling away on her cut-out paper heart.

Later that day I got to see the masterpiece in person when I picked her up. The hearts had all been punched with holes and were hanging from the ceiling, so I asked to see the one Lillian made, and snapped this photo of it with one hand while holding an excitedly-chattering Lillian in the other. Just look at these lovely scribbles!

Toddler's Valentine Heart

I have to admit, I had one of those emotional “she’s growing up” moments at this whole thing. Two seconds ago she was a tiny helpless little baby, and now she’s sitting in art class coloring with markers. Time is just going by too fast!

Living Room Update: Let There Be Light!

When I last left off blogging about the living room, we had just added the giant lighthouse painting to the wall above the sofa, and were considering what else we could do to bring more light and balance to that side of the room. A few developments have happened since then, as the photo below shows — we added a big “console table” of sorts behind the sofa, and brought in a couple of typical table lamps for some much-needed light:

Sofa Console Shelf

I put “console table” in quotes above because it isn’t exactly a table, but rather a cheap 1 x 10 foot piece of wood that I sanded, stained, and mounted to the wall using some standard shelf brackets drilled into the studs. It’s quite sturdy, and it seemed like a good solution since the setup of the room means that there’s no way you can see it from the sides to know that it’s a hollow sham underneath.

The lamps themselves were found on Craigslist, a matching set for $20 — which seemed like a pretty good price for two large-ish ceramic lamps in good condition. They shades they originally came with were a little old and grungy-looking though, so we ended up replacing those with new ones from Lowe’s, which added about $15 onto the price of each lamp.

As far as the style of the lamps, they’re a sandy color with sort of a marble-y pattern and gold stripes. They seem to fit in well enough with the room, though I’m not sure I’m 100% in love with their look — in person the texture has a tendency to look dull and dingy for some reason. Here’s a closeup of the base of one of the lamps:

Ceramic Lamp Closeup

But on the plus side, at only $25 apiece it wouldn’t feel like the end of the world if we decide to give them some kind of makeover down the road — maybe painting them in a fresh color or pattern? — or even replacing them with something else entirely.

For now, though, the difference they’ve made in the living room is huge — it feels so much brighter and warmer and homier in there now. For a fun before and after, here’s the living room as it looked in the last update about it:

The painting as seen in our living room.

And here’s what it looks like now* with the lamps:

Sectional Sofa with Lamps & Painting

* Confession: A lot of tidying happened before snapping the above photo. For a more realistic glimpse of the amount of toys and whatnot that usually clutter the living room, check out this post.

Overall this room has come a long way, but at the same time, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Here’s the tentative to-do list for the living room:

  • Finish decorating the walls – While the lamps made a nice difference, the current arrangement still feels weirdly like it’s missing something — and not just due to the empty wall to the left. Right now I’m thinking maybe move the painting to the empty wall, and put some kind of organic / asymmetrical arrangement between the lamps? And maybe either paint some kind of accent wall, or if we’re feeling really ambitious, try out something like this project to add some texture and interest.
  • Find a better rug – Currently we’ve got a pale-colored tone-on-tone one in there, and while it’s really nice to have some kind of rug for Lillian to play on and whatnot, it doesn’t feel like the right size (it’s a 5×8 rug and just barely fills up the rectangle space made by the sectional sofa). Plus the color (or lack thereof) just feels a bit off in the room. And it has a way of easily looking dirty due to its paleness (which we only realized after living with it for a while). Overall it seems like something bigger and darker would be a nice upgrade for this space.
  • Sit on the sofa cushions more evenly – This one’s kind of silly, but you can see in the progression of photos above how the rightmost cushion just keeps getting saggier and saggier due to someone always sitting there while the middle ones go unused. Unfortunately the cushions aren’t removable to just switch them, so it will take a lot of hard sitting work to fix this problem. (Or maybe just a few carefully-placed throw pillows.)

So anyway, that’s the story of what’s been going on with the living room lately, and some thoughts on what might be nice to do to it down the road. Do any of the decorating gurus out there have any ideas or suggestions for this room going forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!