Kids’ bedroom redo: sleeping for 6!

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redoBy Elle

I know, it’s been waaaay too long between posts, mainly because of elderly parent care (which has dramatically impacted our home renovation progress) but also because I can’t find it in my heart right now to write about fashion when the events of the world, particularly the state of our environment, are weighing so heavily on me. I’ve obviously sidelined the fashion posts, for now anyway, but I will post home renovation news as we have it.

We’ve wanted for some time to create a large sleeping space for most, if not all, of the grandkids (7 in total) when they visit, which luckily is fairly often. The kids’ room had been outfitted with one queen-sized bed and a toddler bed, which could comfortably accommodate no more than four kids. Bunk beds seemed like the right answer so because the room is large enough, we bought twin-over-full bunks, which allow us to sleep up to six people. (The youngest is less than a year, so she still uses an infant bed.)

We had a few “to-do’s” to prepare for the bed install:

  • We patched and painted the room, which had been the color of raspberry sherbet (see photo below) — not horrible but we were eager for a full refresh.
  • To avoid any accidental decapitations, we removed the traditional ceiling fan/light (see photo below) and replaced it with an enclosed fan/light.
  • We repainted all the trim, window/door frames and doors in White Dove by Benjamin Moore.
Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

Photo of kids’ bedroom when prior owners lived in the house.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

Original fan that we removed to avoid accidental decapitations.

Choosing a paint color always feels so serious. I knew I wanted a color in the lilac family, so I chose three options to test. It’s so important to test the colors using large brushstrokes on different walls, and to look at them during different times of day.  In the kids’ room, Gentle Violet turned out to be too pink; Stardust Evening looked too purple; but Brushed Lavender looked just right. We opted for Valspar Signature (no VOC) paint.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

On the left wall, you can see our paint color test. Gentle Violet is on the far left, Stardust Evening is in the middle and Brushed Lavender is on the right.

The bed install was fairly easy and straightforward but because we wanted symmetry with the ladders (and didn’t want a ladder close to the ceiling fan/light in any case), we had to do some deconstruction and reconstruction to the bed on the left.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

The beds are from Wayfair: Viv & Rae Pierre twin over fulls. We reconstructed the bed on the left so that the ladder would sit on the left rather than the right.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

The enclosed fan/LED light combo is from Stile Anderson.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

The L-shaped room is ideal for a reading nook.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

Voila! I’m not keen on the style, size and color of the armchair, but it’s one I’ve had forever and am keeping until I come across another more to my liking.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

I bought the handmade stuffed bunny during my recent trip to Poland for the littlest of my granddaughters, whom I call córeczka, which means little baby girl in Polish.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

I still haven’t settled on quilts or blankets for the beds, but I’m leaning toward lightweight white quilts for a clean, uniform look.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

We’ll probably fasten the two beds together and trim them out so that they look like one large construct.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

We generally paint our ceilings the same color as the walls to give the space a larger feel. The ceiling tends to “disappear” when it’s the same color as the walls.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

In this photo, you can see a portion of our baseboard heater cover, which we painted hammered silver.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion kids' bedroom redo

So far no one has fallen out of a top bunk, knock wood. That said, one of the grandkids is a boy, and if anyone is to come sailing out of a top bunk, I fully expect it to be him. Sigh.

Secret to a flat belly

By Elle

Talking about diet isn’t entirely related to fashion, but it falls into the periphery, and since I stumbled upon an immensely helpful approach to losing weight (or maintaining a healthy weight), I thought I should share it with you.

As a 40-year vegetarian (who’s now mostly vegan), I’ve not struggled terribly with weight, but once I hit my 50s, I noticed I was sprouting a little meno pot, a pesky pot belly that mushrooms once you hit menopause and that no amount of planks will faze. Ugh.

My lifetime approach to maintaining a healthy weight has always revolved around simply leading a healthy lifestyle. I don’t diet. I never have. Diet, to me, is a four-letter word. But, of course, one can eat healthy foods and still gain weight if the quantity is off.

So I managed my weight with a calories in/calories out equation. I view my calories in/calories out much the same way I manage my household budget, just replacing the idea of dollars with calories. For example, I have a daily budget of 1,200 calories. Once I reach that amount, I stop eating. Of course, monitoring calories is difficult and you often have to rely on guesstimation — and that naturally equates to underestimation — which is why I keep my daily budget low, at 1,200. I know there are days that I definitely exceed that number. But for essentially all my life, this approach has worked just fine.

Until the arrival of meno pot.

Because I work in healthcare, I’m hyper aware of (and hyper interested in) the connection between lifestyle choices, wellness and chronic disease. I work with amazing people who are on the forefront of wellness and lifestyle medicine, and it was through their work that I first heard about the benefits of intermittent fasting. Aha!

I started intermittent fasting about six weeks ago, and I am seeing the results. Here’s my technique: During the week, I eat only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., giving me an eight-hour window to eat.  If I’m not hungry at 10 a.m., I wait until I am hungry, usually by 11 a.m. or so. On weekends, my eating window narrows by two hours, opening at noon and closing at 6 p.m.  I’m strict about the hours because, just like calories in/calories out, I know there will be times — dinner with friends, usually — when my window will need to stay open longer. So whenever I can control my eating window, I do.

Within the parameters of intermittent fasting, I still follow my calories in/calories out approach. Obviously, if you scarf down a plate of pancakes, a large pizza, a sheet cake and three pies within a six-hour window, you will not see positive results!

There are many ways to intermittent fast. Some people eat only every other day. Others fast for a few days and eat for a few days. I think using the daily window approach is an easy way to start, and you can build from there if you wish.

From what I understand, intermittent fasting burns fat, improves insulin resistance and increases longevity. Read more about it in this article from Cleveland Clinic.

Another benefit of intermittent fasting is that it’s easier on your digestive system. Giving your system a break for 16 hours or more allows it to rest and recover from the hard work of digesting food. If you have digestive issues, intermittent fasting may help you.

Here’s another tip I learned from Dr. Michael Roizen, which you can find in his new book What to Eat When: A Strategic Plan to Improve Your Health and Life Through Food: eat your carbs before 2 p.m.  Definitely good advice that I’m trying to follow.

Now, with all that said, I just discovered that Mama Santa’s restaurant in Little Italy now offers their drop-dead delicious pizza with a gluten-free crust (I’m gluten-free). I was there the other day with one of my granddaughters, enjoying a plate of G-F pasta (yes, after 2 p.m. but before 6 p.m.!), when I commented that I was waiting for them to make gluten-free pizza. The gentleman looked at me with surprise and said, “We do!
We use a gluten-free artisan bread, and it’s really good!”

I’m pretty sure I squealed with delight. I thought about ordering an onion pizza to go, but knew that I would eat a slice or two on the way home — you have to enjoy it while it’s still hot and who could resist Mama Santa’s onion pizza anyway. Instead, I said, “OK, I’ll be back soon.”

Two days later, true to my word, I picked up my G-F onion pizza (light cheese, since they don’t offer vegan cheese — yet) and ate half of it immediately, enjoying every single savory bite.

I’m not sure how Mama Santa’s onion pizzas are going to affect my new, flatter belly, but I do know that I’ll probably be picking one up weekly, at least for awhile.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this information helps you. If you are interested in intermittent fasting, be sure to read up on it because (1) I’m not an expert and (2) it’s not right for everyone (e.g., diabetics, pregnant/nursing women).

I have to run — my noontime window is open!



How to survive frigid temperature while making colorful ice balls!

By Elle

colored ice ballsDespite having lived my entire life in Northeast Ohio, I’ve never been a snow bunny, preferring to cozy up inside with a mug of steaming tea than go sledding or build a snowman on wintry days.  Now that I’ve reached mid-life though, I’m more tolerant of cold temps. During winters of late, I can’t ride in the car with a coat on, I keep the thermostat in the bedroom set at a brisk 62, and I often dream of sleeping on a slab of ice.

That said, the temps this coming week will put even my tolerance to the test. Luckily I just bought a new down coat from Lands’ End (still on sale!) that is rated for -40° to -9° Fahrenheit. I can comfortably wear it outdoors, but the moment I step inside I’m ripping it off like it’s going to consume me alive — because it will.

Lands' End Women's Stretch Long Down Coat

Here’s what I love most about this coat:

  • snug knit cuffs that keep the wind at bay
  • adjustable hood that really works
  • faux fur lining that helps give it the warmest rating
  • removable faux fur on the hood (important for washing the coat)

Because I’m on the petite side, the coat falls to a little below my mid-thigh.

I’ve long been a fan of down outerwear, owning several down coats. I swear by them. Most down coats are rated warm, warmer and warmest, so you can buy the right coat for the right conditions and the right activities, such as making colorful ice balls for the yard!

During the first polar vortex a few years ago, Arkady and my granddaughter Brenna, then about 8, made ice balls using balloons and food coloring. They made about 10 balls and scattered them around the front yard. The temps were frigid for about a week, so the balls naturally lasted that long. Here’s a quick tutorial, the only difference being that Arkady peeled the balloons off the ice balls after they were frozen solid.

colored ice balls

More recently, my 5-year-old granddaughter, Rosie, hunted for magic fairy ice gems (aka colored ice balls) hidden in the woods at the Holden Arboretum. During the hunt, which was part of her Winter Nature Experience class, the kids filled tin buckets with the fairy ice gems, created with the help of magic dust from the trolls who live in the forest.

colored ice balls

There is something magical about spying brightly colored globes scattered across a monochromatic landscape, whether the globes are created in your kitchen or by a team of fairies and trolls.

colored ice balls

Fireplace reno project nears a close

By Elle

Oh, friends, it’s been a long time, I know. We’re awfully preoccupied with taking care of elderly family members right now, so thank you for your patience as we try to carve out time for blogging…and for finishing some of our long-abandoned home reno projects such as our fireplace.

The fireplace feels done enough to reveal photos. First, the before. When we ripped out the dining room carpeting and completely replaced the floor with hardwood, we also tore out the fireplace hearth, the bricks from which now live underneath our backyard patio extension, photos to come. (Recycle, reuse is our motto!)

We felt the hearth took up valuable real estate, and it was certainly a hazard for our many grandchildren, one of whom I miraculously saved once from a probable cracked skull as she careened, head first, toward the hearth’s sharp corner. So out it went.

We still wanted a hearth, just one that was flat, so we carved out a spot for it and installed the hardwood floor around it, which you can see on the left in the photo below.

We knew we wanted to update the brick somehow so we’d applied a limewash to it and didn’t love the outcome. Eventually, we just painted it with three shades of copper paint, and that did the trick.

While we were renovating the dining room, the empty fireplace made a great storage spot for all our tools and supplies!

Because the hearth extended about 16 inches up the face of the fireplace, we needed to deal with that mess. We tossed around several ideas and finally settled on facing it with the same porcelain tile we would use for the hearth.

For uniformity, we also lined the inside floor of the fireplace with the tile. We then installed a wall-mounted electric fireplace that offers flame, heat and Bluetooth capability so that we can play music from it. The sound quality is perfect for the room.

The porcelain tile has a metallic finish, which complements the copper color of and gives a modern feel to the traditional brick. One warning though: Although gorgeous, the tile is tricky to cut because of its metallic finish — they have a tendency to chip. Let’s just say it’s a good thing we bought extra.

What’s still undone? Grouting the tile, touching up some of the copper paint and replacing the wood trim around the brick.

I especially love how the metallic tile looks against the cherry and maple floor, and, best of all, no one can trip over or fall into it and get hurt! That said, I’m updating this post to note that I’m not fully in love with the entire look. I feel like it’s what you’d get if a fireplace and a farmhouse sink mated. What do you think?

Although January is nearing a close, please accept our best wishes for a happy, healthy and magical New Year!

What’s the best beauty advice you received from your mom?

By Elle

Dear readers, I think this will be our last post for 2018. Between having the flu, which grabbed me by the shirt, threw me up against the wall and held me there for two weeks, and preparing for the winter holidays, I’m frankly exhausted.

So for the last post of the year, I was thinking it would be fun to share the best beauty advice you ever received from your mom (or other influential person in your life).

The advice I’ll share relates to external beauty, but obviously beauty emanates from within as well. In fact, one of my favorite quotes about beauty is from my beauty idol, the incomparable Audrey Hepburn:

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.”  ― Audrey Hepburn

So the best beauty advice I ever received from my mom is this: When I was about 16 or so, I recall my mom catching me furiously rubbing my eyes, a practice that sometimes just feels so good. Rubbing your eyes relieves tension and feels invigorating. It’s like a mini facial massage. I remember her telling me, though, that I should avoid rubbing my eyes, and especially the tender skin beneath my eyes, because it will contribute to wrinkles later.

Even though I was an unruly, sassy teenager, I took her advice to heart. Hell, I didn’t want wrinkles. So I adopted a new technique, which I still use today: I use my ring fingers (which apply the least pressure) to clean my eyes and the area beneath them, and routinely use olive oil or vitamin E oil on my face to keep my skin moisturized.  Been doing this now for about 40 years, with acceptable results, so thanks Mom.

I’m not sure how my daughters would answer this question, but I do recall often telling them that their body is a temple and they should treat it with great respect. I tried to teach them the difference between good food and bad, the importance of sleep and avoiding those things, such as smoking and drugs, that poison the body.  “Worship your temple,” I’d say. “It’s the only one you have.”

So what’s the best beauty advice you ever received? Please share the wisdom that was handed down to you. We’re eager to hear and learn something new!

PS: Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday and happy, healthy New Year.

Surprising use of men’s suits, and how shoes can signal divorce

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design fall hatBy Elle

I picked up this delightful fall hat, crafted from a man’s suit, at the Textile Arts Alliance Wearable Art Market in Cleveland recently.  Designer Julie Cognata ( repurposes clothing and fabric to create these affordable hats (mine cost $38), some of which are cleverly embellished with a man’s necktie around the brim. Because I’m more of a girly-girl, I chose a hat with a trio of knit flowers and some bling.

It may be funny to imagine this bold plaid pattern as a man’s suit today, but I’m a child of the 60s and I do recall men romping about in lively patterned knit suits. In fact, one of those men was the father of my good friend Lindy (not her real name).

Lindy’s parents were divorced, which, at the time, was unheard of, at least in our circles. Lindy’s mom, whom I rarely saw — I suspect now she was out working three jobs — had sole custody of their seven children.  For as long as I knew them, their house was a wreck, the refrigerator bare and the children unruly. Still, I loved spending the weekends there because the experience was so dramatically different from what my home life was like (thank you, Mom and Dad!).

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