Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our new normal

A phrase that my neuropsychologist threw around a lot after my traumatic brain injury (TBI), was "the new normal." The idea is that life will never be the same as it was, but it will settle into it's own new routine. In a much happier way, we are settling into our new normal in our new house as we figure out how things work, or, in a few cases, don't

The unpacking process has slowed down considerably now that Niels is back to work and I am spending my days building train tracks, making Lego towers and snuggling a cute little boy, in addition to the regular home business.

On Friday, I had another treatment for my chronic headaches. It involved about 20 injections around my head. Unfortunately, a couple of the needles hit nerves and bruised me up a bit, and caused a pretty bad headache over the weekend. Today I started to feel better, but had a dentist appointment to get a few cavities filled. For someone with light and noise sensitivity, this is a pretty miserable thing.

So, unpacking is slow. But here's a little snapshot of what's been going on the last few days.

We bought this bamboo dog dish...

...because this little cutie will be joining our family. Our son has named him Toby Thomas de Jong, after two of his favorite trains.

It has been nearly a year since we lost our sweet Bailey (March 4). A friend from Michigan who knew Bailey and how much I loved her was looking for homes for her dog's last litter. She asked me if I was ready for a new dog to love, and suddenly, I was.

D is adjusting well to the second move in two months. What a relief. He LOVES having lots of room to build his tracks.

He has also enjoyed three playdates (so far) with The Friends. Our neighborhood has a weekly playdate with the other kids on the street. We're hosting next week! I LOVE our street!

Another thing I love about our neighbor is the sidewalks. D and I have been taking daily "treasure walks." Since I am feeling better (generally speaking), I'm slowing starting to work on my fitness goals again. I am so happy to be back in a neighborhood with sidewalks. D loves to push his stroller and watch for airplanes.

It's pretty awesome to start your day with sites like this:
I've REALLY enjoyed cooking in my new dream kitchen. The cooktop is particularly awesome. The microwave will hopefully be fixed later this week. We bought a dent and scratch and it doesn't close properly, so it won't start. The repairman had to order a few new parts to fix it. We don't use the microwave a lot, so it hasn't cramped our meals at all.

In fact, I'm finally able to join the cooking club some friends started several months ago. I offered to host on Wednesday. How's that for motivation to unpack?! Fortunately, I've recruited some help. D loves the central vacuum.

I've got almost everything where I want it in the kitchen. I still have to work on the command center, so there are no pictures of that part of the kitchen below!

In general, even with boxes strewn all around, we are too busy feeling at home to get our home unpacked. However, sometimes we simply marvel at it. Especially how the light hits the south-side of the house. It creates works of art like this...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Project of the day: toddler robe rack

Unpacking is slow going. I'm really battling fatigue, which I suppose is to be expected after any move, but combine that with my TBI and weaning off one med, preparing for another, and getting treatment for my chronic headaches today makes this girl one very tired, but happy camper. 

This morning started very early, with D in our bed at 4am. Fortunately, he fell asleep again (with us) and slept til 6:45am, which was when I needed to get up for my neuro appointment. Yawn...

After I was done, I stopped at Target (yet again) to pick up some shower curtain hooks for today's project: a robe rack for D.

When D's bathroom was finished, he had a robe rack like this:

D doesn't use bath towels yet. He uses hooded robes for now. Since we are still waiting for the shelves in his linen closet, I was trying to think of how I could hang up all the robes that were bunched in a ball in the bottom of the closet. I didn't really want to put a permanent low robe hook in the wall.

I saw these at Target, and thought they would do the trick.

I picked these because they were hooks, not rings, so there would be something to which the robe could attach. Also because they were cheaper than other options, at $6.99.

I can't find the exact ones I bought on Target's website, but they look like this, in chrome:
Modern Home Powder Coated Bronze Shower Hooks.
I also liked these:

And if D were with me, we probably would have gone with these:
It took all of thirty seconds to put the hooks on the towel bar and hang up his robes. The great thing is that now they are low enough of D to reach himself.
I love easy fixes!

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

HERS Score and Energy Star level

We just got our HERS score and Energy Star levels back and they are better than what we had anticipated. Our home engery rater (George Trappe of Residential Energy Services) just emailed us the prelimenary result of the tests they conducted last Friday.

Conducting the blower door test.
Our house already exceeds the new July 2012 Energy Star 3.0 standard (current EnergyStar standard is the 2.5) and the HERS score came back as a 41, which means our house is almost 60% more efficient than a minimum code house leading to a projected energy cost savings of almost $2300/yr as compared to a minimum code house.

HERS Score chart

What's even more remarkable is that this score was achieved without using geothermal heating or solar assistance, both of which had to be eliminated due to budget constraints. It shows that with putting some extra money in quality construction (in this case the ICF walls by an experienced ICF crew) can generate significant energy savings.

If later on we want to switch to geothermal or add solar power we can still do that and reduce our energy cost even further, while it is virtually impossible (read: expensive) to redo the building envelop at at a later stage...

In about two weeks we should get our official certifications but we wanted to share the prelim results as a testimony to the quality construction of our house.

Thank you, Charis Homes!

Personalizing the Pantry Door

After more than a year of living in a de-personalized home. I cannot wait to start making our house feel like home. 

Several weeks ago I ordered a few vinyl art wall decor from Uppercase Living. As soon as I knew I'd have a frosted glass pantry door, I knew I wanted to put "eet smakelijk" on it. "Eet smakelijk" is a Dutch phrase which is roughly the equivalent of "bon appetit." It seems rather fitting for our Dutch family.

Now that the kitchen and pantry is mostly unpacked, I decided to take advantage of Niels' last day at home to apply the art. 

First, the before:

Now to the project. First step: place the art where you want it, preferably level. Mark the edges  with a pencil, or in this case a dry erase marker, so you can easily line up the paper.

Next, tape the top so it doesn't move.

Then, flip it up and remove the backing.

Make sure not to touch the letters once the backing is removed.

Carefully lay the paper back down.

Use the applicator or credit card to smooth out the film.
Pay close attention to the letters and smooth any air pockets.

Carefully remove the top layer, by pulling it away from the vinyl slowly, at a 45 degree angle.

If the letters don't adhere to the surface, use the applicator or credit card to hold down the vinyl as you peel the paper. When you're done wipe away the dry erase marks.

And done!

Close up.

Peek from the right.

Peek from the left.

***updated February 26, 2012***

In case you're curious, here's a quick peek inside. I'm still unpacking, so you'll have to be patient for the big reveal. Oh and pray I find my label maker!

As a little background, here's the pantry from our old house:

And this was my much smaller pantry for the last two months in our apartment:

Now, on with the tour...
Full size freezer because we buy our meat in bulk. This is after we purchased 40# of chicken breast, 10# of ground beef and several pounds of roasts and sausages. Plenty of room left for veggies and extra bulk goods!
Next to the frig is the first of three pieces of an espresso furniture set I bought on clearance. I liked the different size cubbies, and especially the wire racks for potatoes and onions.
I keep most of my bulk foods in the same green lidded containers from Target that I had in my Pinterest-popular pantry in our old house. The right side was neater until I pilfered the white tubs for the freezer.
The other two furniture pieces make up my appliance shelf. I can keep all my smaller appliances at waist level, and bring them to the kitchen as needed. I love the drawers and I'm still working out how to use the other shelves.
I'm using the drawers for canned and glass items.
If you missed the pre-move-in kitchen tour, you can read about it here.

We're saving our pennies and catching our breath for a few months. In the summer we'll have Joe Yoder, who did our kitchen, make built-in shelves for the pantry that look something like this.

It'll be nice to live with the current set up for awhile to see what I like and what I might want to change. I know I like the drawers, so I'll likely add a few of those to the bottom part. I like how the upper shelves are more shallow and go all the way to the ceiling, and the lower part has space for my appliance shelf. I may have Joe stain the top of the appliance shelf espresso to go with the kitchen, and leave the rest white or natural to keep the room light. Stay tuned...

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I Heart Organizing * Mums Make Lists

Monday, February 20, 2012

Moving In

The unpacking has slowed down. We are one tired family.

After a rough first night, our son is sleeping great again. We think he's finally feeling settled again after two moves in two months. He loves having his friends over. Yesterday a friend came over with her daughter and the two of them were so cute at the dining table sharing a cooking by taking a bite and passing it back and forth.

D already has two more play dates set up this week with the neighbor boys. We are so blessed to have found this street.

Niels was home today supervising the DirectTV installation (Sprout for D and NFL Sunday Ticket for us!). There was some drilling involved.

I spent a good portion of the afternoon out, first catching up with my neurologist, and then making a donation to Target and Kohls. Now that I'm home, Niels has driven back to the apartment for the third and final attempt to retrieve everything from the old apartment. We have also learned Niels does not appreciate this exercise in TBI-empathy! He'll laugh about it eventually...

Yesterday I make our first dinner at home. Since I was still in the midst of unpacking, I made an old standby: Italian chicken in the crockpot. I forgot about the rice until our stomachs were rumbling so the inaugural dish on the cooktop was instant brown rice. And wow. What a difference a new stove makes. It took less than 3 minutes for the water to boil. I love this cooktop! It was an older model display, so we got a great deal, AND it is already my favorite cooktop/stove ever!

 Firing up the cooktop!
 Pretty lights.

Dinner is served!

As far as progress, I've made more headway with unpacking. There are definitely fewer boxes on the counters.

I made a little more progress on the pantry.

And today's bit of inspiration was using tension rods to make dividers in my spice drawer:

We are really enjoying the kitchen. In addition to the over all look, we especially love the insta-hot. I think we've each had about six cups of tea already. 

Niels has made great progress on his office yesterday, and set up the in-law suite. We are now ready for guests!

I look at this pile of boxes to recycle and think we must be almost done.

 And then I see what we have left to do.
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