Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Weekend Play: Sweet Shop Set-up

The Christmas tree is gone, so back out came the grocery store playset along with the progress from the dark corner project.  I love how the space seems so sunlit now.

Is it just me or does it look so much more inviting to play than this?
But it was time to change it up!  So while Ladybug Girl was napping, I set up the new pretend play theme of a sweet shop:

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Dark Corner Project

There's a big corner of the house that is always in a shadow, and it sucks the cheer right out of me.  It's my new WIP (*work-in-progress) this year and I've called it...

This is what it looked like when we moved in.  I loved the architectural detail on the ceiling, whatever it's called.

If I were gutsier I would have done some wild idea to play with those shingles in our 70s-style bar area, but my father in law would disown me.  No emotional bank account yet!

Back then I wasn't so brave, and just desperately needed to modernize the look.  This was just plywood  attached horizontally and brown paint in between each board:

The area is made to be the dining room, so when we moved in we inherited a big table for that space.  But since we're still a small family we didn't really use it much.  Except for a workspace area like this:

Even though it's morning, it's so dark in this corner that the night time lights are always on.
And if you're noticing all the robots, now you know that love of play is from both sides of Ladybug Girl's parents.
I think it's both the lack of use + lack of sunlight = gloomy.

Ladybug Girl does her play away from the dark corner, nearer to where the sun hits the other side of the house.

It was obvious that things weren't working when Ladybug Girl started her toddler years.  More and more we started using the area like this:

For a long time, this garage-sale playhouse find was squished into the dining area

One side gloomy, the other sunny
I knew the big dining area was just wasted space.  So I cut down its huge footprint and used a hand-me-down outdoor cafe table until I find the perfect-sized round table:

Also moved it to the sunny side of the house.
But still, the space was just way too dark to be a proper play area.

Last year we also changed the jalousie windows to modernize the place even more.  And with the outside duplex wall being more visible, I even tried to cheat a little green life in an attempt to brighten up the view.

No, huh?   I think fake plants will be my answer eventually (like here)

Which finally brings me to how ugly it got during my home purge over the Christmas holidays.  I even lost the 'view' due to the construction going on next door.

This is really as bad as it gets
When January rolled around, I knew I had to get busy on it.  Awesome Guy took pity and investigated a solution to install large picture windows on the wall.  Even my dad-in-law got involved and looked for old blueprints of the house to see if the foundation would be sound.  It wouldn't.

So that left DIY-ing to the rescue.  Here's a little progress so far based on the solutions I researched on:

1.  Too much brown/wood makes a room depressing and dull.

White paint is instantly bright and wonderful.
Click here to see what the grills look like from the outside.

What it looked like before painting.
Notice the robot displays were trimmed down to two stands, which is a small miracle in itself.

2.  Contrary to common-sense that more overhead lighting would do the trick, it's actually uplighting that gives the illusion of a brighter space by bouncing up light to the ceiling.

By golly, I think that does work - even though those aren't even floor lamps

I had the fading brown sofa slipcovered white I few weeks later.

Now the finishing touches like filling in the glass stands, putting some green life and art, finding the perfect table and linens will probably take me another... oh... one year or so.  Such is the life of a DIY corporate mom.

At least it's serviceable now, and I love that all it took was rearranged furniture.

It even got used today with some family coming over for lunch.

Although I have to suffer through Awesome Guy's hirits when he catches me moving furniture.

Him: "It's like a movie!"
Me: "What is?"
Him: "The Never Ending Story!"
Me: (amused silence)
Him: "You know, because --"
Me: "I get it."

Have I ever mentioned that the man knows me a little too well?

Follow the dark corner project progress here.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Leave-Behind: DIY Word-Making Tray

One of the ingenious tools that I discovered from Montessori is the moveable alphabet.  Here's how a DIY-version became a fun leave-behind activity for Ladybug Girl to do while I'm at work. 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

My Buckets of Fake Plants

I love my buckets of fake plants.  Decor judges do your worst.  It's supposed to be one of the most horrible things you could do in the rules of home decor.

I don't care.  You would go fake too if you spent nearly four years trying to put some green life in this:

This spot is a brick wall on our garage.  My sister gave me those decor boxes when we moved in and I spray-painted them white myself then.  I had them hung high so that they would be a welcoming sight from the gate when our car pulls up.    I wanted that spot to greet me "welcome home!  love, your plants".

Unfortunately they never held any living thing for long.

I found those fake lemongrass-y things two years ago in Rustan's Flower Shop and bought them out.  They were horribly expensive but didn't look too fake.  Worth it.

Especially when I had so much fun in the last two years with them:

Christmas buckets from Rustan's

The buckets held mini Christmas trees last year

Halloween buckets.  I painted those pumpkin lanterns four years ago and they are still amazingly intact.

Awesome Guy found the buckets in Pioneer Supermarket for 130 pesos each.  I love them!

And today they are as healthy as ever:

Pretty aluminum plant pots from Ikea, and a long awaited makeover of the grills on top

I'm still trying to crack Project Green (the real deal) inside the house, because we need some healthy air inside.  But for this spot, I love this practical solution.

Now when I pull up the car to the driveway, that spot says "outsmarted us, you modern thinking woman! love, your plants".  And it's just the warm fuzzy feeling I need.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Play Ball! Weekend

With her growing confidence in her gross motor skills, Ladybug Girl has been building up her muscle memory : climbing, balancing and jumping every chance she gets.  

She has renewed love for Gymboree with these new skills.
(Kids are so advanced these days - that giant little boy with her is four too!)
So with adding to her muscle memory in mind, I rigged up some beginner ball play in our garage area a few weekends ago:

Our trusty beach ball tied to a long piece of ribbon = BASEBALL

And she is holding a long carton tube that used to hold wrapping paper = BAT

The other end of the ribbon is tied to this, which is stuck to the ceiling = ANCHOR
We also swung it between ourselves to catch = TIMING AND AIM

Then she started jumping to whack the ball = COORDINATION

The right thunk sound teaches her to hit with more force = AUDIO LEARNING
Then as usual she thought of another balancing game = JUST FOR FUN

And now I'm going to need to buy some shorts because our pictures are getting a little embarrassing, sweetheart.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Leave Behind Tray: 3D Life Cycles

This toy set went on half-off sale in Toys R Us many months ago, and it was perfect because we were reading about butterfly life cycles:
I think this marked down to Php 180 pesos and it had all of the stages from egg to butterfly.  You can find similar ones on Amazon too.
It was nearly a perfect match to her book!  (National Bookstore, less than Php 100)

After we went through the book and matched it with the toy figures, I put together a leave-behind tray on her playroom shelves while I'm at the office.  Leave-behind trays are my thing.  Can you guess what these 'answer spaces' are?

They're Play-Doh lids.  I never throw them but I never know what do with them.

But look how perfect.  Whee.
I'm not going to lie : this was around four months ago when I was an eager-beaver wannabe Montessori mom.  I've since realized how some things are just not sustainable in terms of pre-work.  This is one of them.  

It was super fun to think of, but I've yet to do it again.  (Maybe if she didn't tire of things too easily...?)  I mean, I used a LABEL MAKER, and all.  Over.  I'm trying to keep it much more simple now.

But oh, how satisfying it was to come home to a sight like that one up there.  There's a frog life cycle set too I remember...

Somebody stop me.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Our Slow-DIY Home

I think the perfect words to describe keeping a home is: it is a stressful joy. We moved into our 300 sqm bungalow six years ago, through generous permission to to live in the same place where Awesome Guy grew up.  It's been a time-consuming project to play house ever since.

This is the foyer area when we moved in
Compared to this house, my family lived in a shoebox!  I grew up in a house less than half this size, in a family of 5 daughters and one bathroom.  It was kalat and chaos, and fights and fun.  It's funny now how our talk about fashion and music has turned into home decor and organization.

But having a home this size is definitely like a forever-project to me : we simply don't have enough time or money to call it finished.  Ok, those and decisiveness.  I'm always changing things up to find what works best.
This is what that same area looks like today.  See the paper bags?  That's the next project: lighting.  We're always in the middle of something or another.

We settled into a pattern of having one major home improvement per year, but that throws everything back into "temporary" decor.
Two years back we had one wall of windows turned into a doorway.  That's 'foreman' Awesome Guy striking a pose.
It looked like this when we moved in (I can't find a more recent one before the renovation)
And this was the small side area of the home, which we turned into a laundry washing area.
Here's the 'after' : it's now a functional place for play.
This year, it's our closets makeover, which still looks like we just dumped things back.  Nothing in this house is finished yet.  By finished, I mean I want everything to be organized and functional according to our lives everyday.

Everything just needs to earn it's place.  I feel strange doing pretentious decor vignettes, like so:

I simply can't make room for breakable white statues.  But I did buy this side table probably because it was merchandised so well.  Photo from Bungalow 300.  

Having Ladybug Girl in our lives means needs change constantly around the house.  For example, I love creating play spaces.  It's a no-brainer for me to choose to make room for a pretend play area vs. a large unused dining room:

Oh wait, I did that already.
And then reading blogs and pinterest inevitably inspires me to make things pretty, not just functional.  Add those to the long list of home projects, which I've named just like my projects at work.

This is Project Green:
My peg for bringing some successful green life inside.  I've killed maybe P2,000 worth of plants already. 
Judging from how this post has gotten all over the place, I think you get the idea.  Awesome Guy rolls his eyes at me, and asks me if I even have an end-goal in mind.  So I think I'll make him read this post.

But then he'll smirk and tell me I love it anyway.

And the man knows me well.  Because I do.

Monday, 11 February 2013

After-Work Valentine Project: Air-Dry Hearts

Determined to make up for a lack of Christmas play with Ladybug Girl, I came home after work a few weeks ago and mustered up some energy for a more elaborate floor time activity with her.  

This one activity lasted three days, so we always had something ready to do together after I got home from work.  Bonus.