The empty space in the room

I had a fluoroscopy today, which is basically a test where you don’t eat for a day, then you chug cement, then you get x-rays taken every 15 minutes over the course of several hours, then they use a strange paddle to smoosh your insides around to take even better pictures, and just when you think you’re going to puke, they tell you it’s time to go.  I’ve got several more tests like these in the next few weeks (all the things that end in SCOPY!) — all of which require fasting and cement mixtures and some of which add in sedation for the trifecta win!  All trying to see might have caused the volvulus, and what has been going on since.  Do I know how to have fun?

But since I feel like an absolute slug right now, it’s a good time for another back blog post!

When we first moved into this house in 2013, we did a lot of updates/remodels — most notably, the kitchen, the bathrooms, the basement, and the guest house. After that initial burst of GETALLTHETHINGSDONE, major updates slowed down, in part because, yanno, kids, life, work, etc., but also in part because the things we didn’t do right away were more often than not the things we were undecided on.  Things like the fence — when we first moved in, we had expected to fence a much larger portion of yard until we realized our property lines were wider and more complicated than that, and the change in plans led to so much indecision.  But the fence for the yard and the gates for the deck turned out to be such a wonderful change that really enhanced our quality of life outside around the house.  And things like the stairwell and the loft — we puzzled over solutions for that for years before realizing what we wanted to do to update the space and make it safer and more usable (and I do owe this blog some proper photos of that transformation at some point).

And, most recently, things like the big empty gap between our kitchen and dining room that just existed.  As you will recall, our kitchen looked like this when we moved in:

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We remodeled the kitchen, but kept it on the same (more or less) footprint as the old kitchen, which meant that we still had one annoying problem: the empty space between the kitchen and the dining room that was just useless.  (Also, I forgot what it looked like to see the wood railing! Wow, I don’t miss that!)

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We tried different solutions for the space over the years — a rug, the kids’ play table, that little sideboard, but nothing felt right.  I had one (spectacular, if I do say so myself) idea for the space, which would have only required a major remodel of the kitchen and some plumbing here and there to move the laundry but for WHATEVER REASON, G vetoed that.  So, luckily there was a second idea in place that I sketched to G in concept and he ran with and built himself.  And it turned out to be one of the most fabulous changes we have made to the house!

He redid the bar top and extended it into a full counter over the empty space.  More seating (cough, when we buy more bar stools, thanks IKEA for discontinuing these), space for appetizers and platters when we have folks over for dinner and meals, and an area for everyone to gather and have snacks while I cook that isn’t actually IN the kitchen.

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And since we were IKEA-ing, and G likes to wrap all projects into one, we also replaced those awful laundry doors with beautiful glass sliding doors.  And by “we,” I mean G. This was all his project.

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40 Fish

We were amped up for a snow day today, but alas, while the rest of the eastern seaboard got hit with a blizzard, southern MD and “areas on the coast” just got rain and wind.  Nell was very disappointed to wake up this morning to a non-snow day, but they did at least get a two hour school delay, so they enjoyed a lazy morning and breakfast at home as a small consolation.

We are snuggled up by the fire tonight, so it seemed a good time to catch up on another back blog post I have been meaning to write since, well, Christmas. Because G had a big surprise up his sleeve this year for Christmas — one that he kept even from me!  And I have been meaning to show it off.

You see in 2016, we had zero fish.  We were not a fish family.  And in 2017, we have 40 fish.  Yes, that’s right, 40.  Because for Christmas, G bought a massive fish tank for Guy’s new shark/surf/underwater big boy room.

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The tank is gorgeous. While it was a lot of work to get it up and running for the first month or so, it is doing so well now.  And it is a busy, bustling tank that is full of activity!  A picture from the early days before our fish collection had grown (and before Nell picked out the pineapple decoration that really does make the tank):

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While Nell started as the early fish feeder, Guy has taken over the job. He LOVES feeding the fish and watching them scurry around the tank for their food. And there are a lot of fish to feed!  The tank currently holds:

1 dalmation molly
3 yellow mollies
2 silver mollies
2 black and orange sailfish mollies (we call them cheetoh mollies)
5 glofish
1 yellow guppy who thinks he is a rockstar and hangs out with the male mollies
3 malibu sunset platy fish (we call them Mickey Mouse fish because of the design on their tail)
1 bristlenose pleco (my favorite!)
2 albino bristlenose plecos
2 spotted corydora catfish
1 emerald cory
1 panda cory (another favorite!)
2 albino corydoras
1 otocinclus catfish (dwarf sucker!)
2 black stripe neon tetras
9 small blue neon tetras
And also two snails, including a tiny zebra stripe one and a huge yellow one that hauls across the tank like a maniac.

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But wait, you’re thinking — that is only 38 fish.  Did you count? Really?  Yes, well that is because we now have a second tank.

You can’t have a freshwater tank and not a saltwater tank, right?

(Right?)

Meet Nemo and Stripey, our clown fish, and the reason that Nell handed over her freshwater fish feeding duties to Guy.  Because she feeds these guys in the saltwater reef tank.

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And they have quite a set of fishmates, from snails and hermit crabs, to this shrimp guy who scares me, to some worms that randomly come out of the rocks at feeding time before disappearing again and we pretend we don’t see them.

Seriously, I find the shrimp really terrifying — and it hangs upside down from the rock like a total creeper — but G loves it.

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There is also a gorgeous anemone that we got as a host for our clown fish, but they host in the corner of our tank near the filter head, so oh well for that.

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And G is slowly building up a bright, colorful collection of corals.

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I think this means we’re a fish family now.

Life Happenings: Stairs

We’ve been tackling projects around the house as we always do, but the largest one by far was our remodel of the stairs and loft.

Remember what it used to look like?  SO much oak.  A giant oak block taking up an entire section of our home, wrapping up in an oak railing around the loft that was outdated and unsafe.

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Since we moved in, we’ve had plans to redo this area, but we struggled to find the right solution that would complement the modern aesthetic we are somewhat aiming for in this house, that would make the upstairs a safer room for adventurous toddlers, and that would also be cost effective.

To simplify the project, we decided to keep the existing lines of the stairwell rather than start from scratch and decided to drywall the entire area, including the loft up to the ceiling.  For light and appearances, we added a large window in the loft.  The old carpet was removed from the stairs, the stairs were closed in, and G painted them in the final stages of the project.  The wood hand rails were replaced with metal, and a new pocket door was installed in the entrance to the loft, allowing the space to be completely closed off.

The result is a space that is clean, modern, and so much prettier than the old oak we had.  The upstairs is bigger now, as we are able to push furniture to the wall without worrying about toddlers leaping over the edges, in addition to more energy efficient and fairly soundproof when the door is closed.  Eventually, when the loft isn’t taken up with a train table and toddler art supplies, we will add in a two-sided fireplace between the bedroom and the loft to further connect the spaces and make it an extension of the master bedroom.

But for now, it’s perfect.  We are so pleased with how this project turned out!  These pictures really don’t do it justice, and I will take better ones to upload to the house tour tab one of these days, but I wanted to post a quick look at the finished results!

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Black Tie and Gray Paint

On Monday night, G and I got fancy for a special soiree — my organization’s annual gala, which this year honored Benjamin Netanyahu and packed 2,100 people into the National Building Museum for dinner, drinks, dancing, and Middle East policy discussion.  You can see AEI’s opening video and portions of the evening’s discussion here.

Here are some pics of our fanciness — pre-event, en route, and at the step and repeat before dinner.  It was a fun night out with G, even if it was a Monday!  And I wore red lipstick for the first time in my life, which I feel like is a bucket list type of thing.

20151109_152041 20151109_153147~2 151109_AEI_Dinner_224 (1)We had Wednesday off, and I took the opportunity to finish the kitchen set that I was repainting for Guy’s room.  Taping off circles with painters tape is its own kind of hell.  But after about a week of work, I finally finished, and I really love how it turned out.

Here’s a throwback to what it looked like three years ago when I bought it used off Craigslist for Nell:

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My inspiration was a gender- and decor-neutral update to match Guy’s room, and I used the current set being sold by Pottery Barn Kids (for $850!) as inspiration:

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The end result is a bright white and gray modern redo.  It looks like a brand new kitchen!

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Before and after — the lighting makes it hard to see, but the set went from off white to bright white before adding in the new color and the new curtains Mom made (wrinkles are all my fault, however).kitchen redo finished

Admittedly, it’s been a pretty tiring weekend for all of us with very wacky schedules from the late Monday night to the day off mid-week.  This weekend is definitely going to be spent catching up on sleep, laundry, and looking cute!

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This and That

Work has been busy and we’ve got a big week ahead of us, so we took an opportunity to enjoy the weekend with some downtime.  On Friday, we joined Nell and Guy’s teachers and other parents for a big dinner event while the kids hung out at daycare and played games and watched movies.  It was a fun night hanging out with our parent friends, and we won another week of daycare tuition in the parent competition, which I will never complain about!

On Saturday, we went out for breakfast and a couple errands, and then we just hung out and relaxed on a rainy day until dinnertime when our friends came over for the evening.  The kiddos had a blast and I think that, had they stayed all night, three of the four kiddos might have just stayed awake all night.  They were not interested in sleeping!

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We tried to be productive today.  We went through the garage and pulled out stuff to sell/get rid of before the holidays; G painted upstairs and did work in the house; and I got started on my PBK kitchen transformation.  First coat of white paint is on (including priming over the pink sections, which are going to be painted a different color), and it looks fantastic.  It looks like a new kitchen already, but I’ve got more to do!

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