Octonauts Halloween!


I love Halloween. When I was a kid it was my absolute favorite holiday. My mom made all of our costumes and my dad always took us trick-or-treating. We lived in a wonderful Halloween neighborhood; there were kids everywhere and people drove in from other parts of town. We would stay out as late as there were porch lights on, and my dad always wanted to cover just one more block before calling it a night. I got a little bit sad when I realized that I was starting to get too old to trick-or-treat (not because it was uncool, but because lots of people seemed to frown on teens coming to their doors), so that first year that I stayed home we decked the front yard out in a graveyard with spooky lights and music and I sat under a pine tree in a witches costume to hand out candy. It was awesome.

When I became a mom I was determined to continue the homemade costume tradition, even though every year I get in a little over my head and end up in tears at least once from the pressure that I put on myself to get it just right. This year Jonah is really into the show Octonauts, and he wanted to be Captain Barnacles (“the boss” according to Jonah). Since it was a hit last year we decided we’d keep all three kids on theme (I’m sure they won’t be into that forever, so may as well do it while we can). Originally Jonah suggested that both Jude and Vivi should be vegimals but it was tough to find costume ideas on Pinterest. We ultimately decided that one of them ought to be something simpler, so Jude became Peso the medic penguin and Vivi was Tunip, the only vegimal in our crew.

There were lots of pictures of good Captain Barnacles costumes on Pinterest, and even though Jonah and Jude each started with a sweatsuit, there was a surprising amount of work involved.



I struggled quite a bit with the collar shape. For some reason I could not figure out what shape to cut in order to get it to lay correctly. My mom wisely suggested that it should just start with a circle, and then be trimmed down. That worked brilliantly. Please forgive the bad lighting in all of these photos – it’s because we worked on these at roughly 10 p.m. every night.

And for the record, rotary cutters are amazing. We’re lucky to be living with my parents right now because my mom has oodles of sewing supplies, including a sewing machine (which I do not have) that she graciously used to do all of the machine sewing for all of these costumes. I did a fair amount of hand sewing as well, but she really made this happen.


We used this pattern for the hoods for both Barnacles and Tunip. We just didn’t use fur and didn’t line them, but seeing how quickly my mom whipped through the second one once she knew the pattern kind of makes me want to ask her to make all of the kids warm furry animal hoods just for winter fun. We actually used a sort of fuzzy white fleece, and I bought way more than we needed (because I’m not really all that good at this and knew I’d need wiggle room). It was my mom’s brilliant idea to dye the remainder of the white fleece yellow, using turmeric, and use it for Vivi’s costume. We did two rounds of hot water and turmeric to achieve this color (leaving in a bucket overnight), and were really pleased with how it turned out.

I referred to this costume boot tutorial in order to make Barnacles’s boots. Jonah almost wouldn’t wear the before we went out tonight (he claimed that they were supposed to have the Octonauts logo on them, but they didn’t) and I basically told him that he had no choice. I was getting a photo at the very least. Fortunately he decided to keep them on all night.

The hats for the boys were kind of free-hand based on the shape I thought they should have, and initially I really wasn’t happy with the height of the one I made for Barnacles. It felt too extreme, but once I got the Octonauts logo on I felt much better about it. I printed out a logo and put white felt on top of it and attempted to trace. I definitely threw away two drawings before figuring out that I needed to just free hand the legs (they were turning out like ghosts with no legs when I tried to trace such tiny parts with a felt-tipped pen). We ended up having to hand stitch the stripes on because the fabric glue wouldn’t hold on such a small piece, and my mom hand sewed them onto the hoods for the boys.


There were virtually no pictures of Tunip costumes online, and the only one that we found looked super involved. I wasn’t sure that V would wear a hood floppy enough to have the face on it, so I decided just a few days before Halloween that maybe it should go on her belly anyway. Tunip’s facial features are actually pretty low, so that seemed like the right solution. My mom lined the little suit so that we could stuff it with batting. Initially Vivi hated wearing it (I’m sure it felt weird) but the candy won her over pretty quickly.


The costumes even survived a costume parade at preschool this morning, which was a huge fear of mine. I was sure they’d destroy them before we could do any trick-or-treating, but it all turned out just fine. Since I knew that the kids were supposed to bring them to school, I probably hand-sewed things that I would have otherwise glued, and I think that was the right move. I’m really pleased with how these turned out and even more pleased with our first Halloween in Michigan. Our experience tonight was exactly the way I remember Halloween feeling when I was a kid, and it was so special to share that with them. I kept asking the kids “Are you having fun? Do you like Halloween?” and even Vivi kept saying “yeah!”


Flooring – Nearly There

Things are getting very close, and I’m more than ready for the construction zone to transform back into a home. The carpet went in yesterday and the wood floors are finished in both the living room and kitchen. The great room floor is in progress and we hope that it will wrap up by the middle of next week.

We planned to move in most of our stuff from the garage (where it’s all been living since early August) into the house this weekend even though things are still under construction. That’s proving to be more challenging than we’d anticipated, however, because the two rooms that would be most convenient to house boxes while we sort through them are essentially off-limits due to tools and what not being strewn about. I was also surprised to find myself feeling completely overwhelmed by having all of our stuff back. Despite the challenges of living out of suitcases in someone else’s home for three months, there was something freeing about having so little stuff to worry about. Suddenly we’re opening boxes and trying to decide where to put things and it all just feels like way too much. I’m terrified of throwing things together in a haphazard way and never achieving a higher level of organization than we were capable of in a two bedroom apartment. I’m trying to just breathe through the anxiety and trust that it will all work out, just as it has so far.

Here are a few photos from today. Even though the kitchen floor is also finished, I didn’t take a photo because there were tools and all kinds of renovation nonsense all over every surface of the room. I love this wood flooring so much and I can’t wait to see it in the great room.


We have the same greige(ish) carpeting in all three bedrooms, and a different style of carpet (a bit better for high traffic) in the basement, but in a very similar shade.


I think that the cafe shutters in the boys’ room are probably coming down. We debated, but they just make it so dark and they don’t add a lot. Plus I think the beds will be too high for them to function.


I’m really loving the color in our room, especially with the carpet. I can’t believe that I was so unsure about this one.


I’m obsessed with the new half bath floor. Obviously this isn’t anywhere close to finished, but the floor gets me excited to complete the project.


The basement looks so different without the pink shag (the carpet is greige, but the weird lights and pine walls give it an odd cast). Jonah was playing down here after unpacking some toys today and it made me so happy that the kids have a playroom.


More to come when the rest is complete!

Home Projects Underway

We’re one week into the renovations and we could not be more excited about this house. I truly feel like everything is falling into place in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. Going into this I kept telling people that the house needed so much cosmetic work; that we would have to live with bad countertops and outdated bathrooms for who knows how long. But even my feelings on all of that (and some of the circumstances) have changed.

Paint is SO transformative. Once the salmon pink started disappearing it started to feel like an entirely different house. Even the main bathroom, when painted white (eliminating roughly five different wall colors in one room) looks pretty nice! The retro tile hardly bothers me anymore. I even ordered a new pink toilet seat today so that we can work with the bathroom rather than against it. The red oak flooring looks amazing (the living room is almost finished, the kitchen and great room happen next week hopefully), and the carpet goes into the bedrooms and the basement next Friday.

While he was pulling up the tile in the kitchen and great room, our flooring guy asked if we wanted him to take it up in the half bath as well, since we have a dumpster anyway. We waffled because we didn’t intend to do anything with the half bath yet, but pulling up the tile in the adjoining room led us to believe that there might have been a leak at some point and we wanted to investigate. Not only that, but we didn’t love that tile to begin with and there was a chance that there was something more interesting underneath. When my dad looked at it he told us that he could put tile down for us in a day or two, and that the tile and grout wouldn’t be terribly expensive, so we decided to ditch the old tiles. There wasn’t anything but subfloor underneath, but we did find the toilet leak (which we had repaired) and now somehow we’ve  found ourselves in a whole half-bath renovation that we had no intention of beginning.


We decided that we wanted to go with a mosaic tile of some sort, so my dad brought these home and we chose the honeycomb on the bottom right. Initially we thought that we would just redo the floors and leave the rest until a later date, but Kristin decided that she was willing to pull down the wallpaper. My dad pulled out the toilet and pedestal sink and took down the mirror and medicine cabinet, and also got all of the wallpaper removal supplies earlier today and asked our painter how to get started taking it down. Before he could talk him through it, however, a handyman showed up and needed my dad to show him some projects around the property so he told the painter that it would have to wait until tomorrow. When my dad returned 20-30 minutes later the wallpaper was gone! The painter told him that it was our housewarming gift. We can hardly believe it. We still need to scrub the paste off of the walls, but the tough part is over.

Here’s a photo of the bathroom before everything was torn out, just for reference.


Next week my dad is going to put up beadboard, we’ll change out the faucet and toilet seat, and put the toilet and sink back in. At some point soon Kristin or I will paint with some paint we didn’t end up using in the kitchen. We may even change out the sconces over the sink. Then today we discussed the possibility of removing the old window over the toilet. That wall used to be an exterior wall before the great room addition went on, and they left the window for some reason. I love having natural light there, but the window with the sash does make the whole project look a little bit unfinished and weird. You can see right into the bathroom from the great room, so there are cheap blinds on the window which don’t add anything at all (well, besides privacy). Today my dad suggested that we could remove the window, drywall part of the bottom, and add a transom at the top to bring in light but take the window above eye level. We love that idea so we’re going to explore it this weekend. Expect some “after” pictures in a few weeks.

On to the things that are even further along. The bedrooms look amazing with new paint. The green in the boys’ room is pretty bright (Benjamin Moore Cedar Green) but I think that it’s going to look fun and playful with their Hanna Andersson bedding. Kristin chose the blue for our bedroom (Benjamin Moore Mozart Blue) after we went back and forth for a long time. I worried that it was just too dark, but finally conceded because she’s never chosen her bedroom paint color before and I have. Honestly, I think it’s going to be beautiful. And Vivi’s room is such a pale peach (Benjamin Moore Peach Cooler) that you barely notice the color, but I think that it’s great in a tiny bedroom.




The great room is completely transformed by paint. We went with a super popular neutral for all of our connected common spaces (Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter) and we love it. When it was recommended to us I initially worried because I’m not a big fan of greige. I prefer a true grey over a beige any day, but to my surprise it looks pretty grey in our space, and I really like it. I’m realizing now that I don’t have a good picture of it besides the wall next to the blue, so I’ll share more another time, but just know that three of the four walls in this room are grey. The big wall that separates the great room from the kitchen is a very dramatic dark blue (Benjamin Moore Hidden Sapphire) and we both love it.


Oh, and initially we’d planned to paint the kitchen this sort of medium teal called Azure Water. I’d been unsure about it all along, even when I bought it, but Kristin felt great about it so I went with it hoping that I’d be pleasantly surprised. When we were over earlier in the week, I was talking my mom through some of the colors and she told me that she thought that, from the great room, seeing three different paint colors (grey, dark blue, and the kitchen teal) would really chop up the space in a negative way. We made a snap decision to stick with Revere Pewter in the kitchen and we’re both so glad that we did.


Now that the salmon pink is gone, I hardly even mind the outdated, mismatched countertops. It all just looks much better. Now we may use Azure Water (since we already bought it) in the half bath above the white beadboard. I think that it will make a lot more sense in there.

And then there’s the living room. That room is also Revere Pewter, and we decided to paint the limestone fireplace (because it just didn’t have much pop) Amherst Grey from Benjamin Moore’s classics line. We really like it. I’d like to paint or change out those fireplace doors at some point, but that’s for the future.


The floors in this room are almost finished, and we love them so much. They’re prefinished red oak in a natural/satin finish from Infinity Wood Floors.


That used to be carpet! I love this SO MUCH MORE.

We cannot wait to move in, but to be honest I’m kind of loving the experience of watching it evolve day by day. We couldn’t be happier with our crew, and my dad has put in so many hours of free labor on top of what everyone else has done. Oh, he also took apart one of the kitchen cabinets to prepare for our dishwasher, which is crucial.


Did I mention that they found parkay flooring under the tile in the kitchen? That led to a big debate about the elevation of rooms (they aren’t all the same) but we sorted it out. The afternoon that Brett (our flooring guy) called to ask if I could come over to the house to look at a few things, and walked me through a few oddities that I needed to make big decisions on, there was a distinct moment in which I almost started to laugh because I was sure that this was an episode of House Hunters Renovation. Don’t they all have that “uh, we didn’t expect this so now what do you want us to do?” moment? Fortunately this one didn’t cost us thousands and wasn’t too agonizing, it just slowed the work down for a bit.

We had to decide whether to pull out the parkay that the tile had been laid on top of, or just to go over it again. The matter was complicated by the fact that the toe kick in the kitchen is weirdly low, and would be even lower if we put flooring down on top. No matter what we chose there would be an elevation change from one room to another, it was just a matter of where we wanted it to be. Initially Kristin and I thought that they ought to take it all down to the subfloor, but then they did a core sample in the former eat-in-kitchen. They found old linoleum under the plywood, which my dad suspects could be asbestos based. If we pulled it out and that proved to be true we’d be in an abatement situation, which obviously no one wants. We ultimately decided to leave the floor undisturbed and just go over top again. There’s probably a good reason that they did that fifteen years ago.

The paint should wrap up on Monday and we hope that the flooring will be finished by next Friday (fingers crossed). We have our sights set on the weekend of the 29th to move in, but we’re keeping an open mind just in case things take longer than expected.

Looking for the “before” pictures? They’re here.

Finally Almost Home

We closed on the house this week! The brown house is finally ours (well the bank’s, but you know what I mean). When Monday morning came I could hardly believe that the day had arrived, and then somehow the waiting that took place between Monday at 10:00 a.m. and Wednesday evening (when we actually took possession) felt like the longest three days ever. It might have been the most agonizing wait of this entire process.

We decided that we should have a pizza picnic at the house on Wednesday night, so we took the kids over in the pouring rain and celebrated while sitting on the floor of the great room. The waiting wasn’t 100% over because the movers ended up leaving a few of her items behind and her cleaning lady was still there, but we didn’t care – we were home.


Kristin kept saying again and again “I love this house,” and we’ve talked a lot about how it’s not huge, but it’s just right for us. I think that it’s going to be full of truly useable space, which was really important to me in our house search.

On Thursday our paint was delivered, and this morning I went over after dropping the kids at school so that I could take some “before” pictures. Our flooring arrived this afternoon and the flooring guys are already tearing up the old flooring, which is incredibly exciting. Our painter starts on Monday morning, and we’re desperately hoping to be in before Halloween, but we’ll see how all of these projects unfold.

So here are a whole bunch of “before” pictures (click to expand the gallery). I don’t have a wide angle lens I’m afraid, so apologies for the chopped off corners of rooms. Stay tuned for changes!

Two months in (and change)

At the end of September I realized that we’ve been in Michigan for two months now and while that doesn’t feel like very much time in some respects, it feels like an eternity since we left New York. Things feel so different now than they did in the beginning.

When we first arrived, the countdown to getting into our own home felt impossibly long, and now we’re just five days from closing. For the last week or so I’ve been doing all of the new homeowner things which, in practice, involve waiting on hold for an agent and standing in line at city hall, but have honestly felt somewhat thrilling. Driving home after switching the water service into our name the other day, I looked around me and felt SO good about being able to call Kalamazoo ours. All of the wonderful, charming things about this town, along with all of the frustrating things and all of the boring or regressive things that make me miss New York, it’s still all ours; it’s our home now, and we feel more committed to it and proud of that than I ever could have imagined. If anyone had asked me a year ago if I was sure that we would feel certain about this decision being right this quickly, I would have crumbled with uncertainty and indecision. When we chose Kalamazoo we knew that intellectually it was the right move right now, but we weren’t at all sure that the emotion would follow as quickly. But on so many occasions in the last couple of weeks, even Kristin (who was far less sure than I was) has said to me “I’m so glad that we moved here.”

The kids seem so happy in their new school. Jonah tells me every morning that he’s glad that it’s a school day. K and I love all of the teachers there, and they truly seem to care for our kids and enjoy having them there. I worried so much about what a “big” center would be like, and that it might be impersonal with a rotating cast of staff, but some of these teachers have been there for twenty years, and a couple of the people who founded it forty years ago are still involved. I love dropping the kids off each morning, something I rarely got to do in New York, and I find myself lingering a bit not because I’m concerned but because I like stealing a few extra glimpses of their school lives and chatting with their teachers. They really seem to be blooming with so many new experiences and opportunities throughout each day. The school really puts an emphasis on independence, and we’re seeing that in the kids.

I’m adjusting surprisingly well to working from home full-time. I miss my colleagues tremendously, but it’s not as lonely as I’d worried it would be. I do miss our friends a great deal, and I think that’s probably going to show up even more once we finally move into our own house since we’ve imagined what it will be like to have friends over in a space that’s large enough to do so. I suppose friendships are the one area of my life that I’ve neglected almost completely over the last couple of months. We’ve seen one set of friends exactly once, and another set twice, and I think that’s it. We’ve just done so little reaching out. Kristin has made some effort to make new friends, but I’ve been dragging my feet and we’ve fought about it on at least one occasion. I guess I just miss my New York friends; I didn’t have to overthink everything when I was with them, I was comfortable and knew what to expect and it was easy and joyful. With new people I’m either disinterested or socially anxious, and it takes me forever to get to that effortless hangout place. I prefer to make friends accidentally, organically, but of course that’s impossible when you work from home and are terrible at making an effort. I’m sure that some part of this is also because we’re not in our own home, so inviting people over isn’t really a thing right now.

There are many more things on my getting-settled wish list that are still unfinished (most of them not yet begun) but I’m feeling rather hopeful about where things are headed.

Fall Agrotainment at Gull Meadow Farms

I just realized the other day that we’ve been in Kalamazoo for two months now (and a few days) and I should probably take some time to reflect on how we’re feeling about it now. [Sidebar: when writing that sentence it was surprisingly challenging not to use some sort of jargon from work like “zoom out” or “step back”]. Anyway, I’ll do that in a subsequent post.

For now, let’s just share the requisite fall agrotainment kid photos. We headed out to a popular local apple orchard this morning (although if someone asked, I’d have to tell them that it’s way more agrotourism than it is real orchard, but maybe I’m wrong about that, and anyway that’s why most people show up, so who cares). Oh actually, it was the same place where this happened, but in that instance we were only there at night when none of the attractions were open. We met a colleague of K’s with her partner and some neighbors of theirs, had some amazing doughnuts, and then paid for our all-inclusive wristbands and headed for the kid zone. This place definitely had the widest variety of attractions of any pumpkin patch / apple orchard we’ve visited. Also, it had so many offerings that even though it was busy on a sunny, warm October weekend we didn’t have to wait in line for anything. I guess that’s just Michigan, and it’s awesome.

First up were the bouncy pillows. The twins weren’t really into it, but I thought it was way cooler than a bouncy castle because it was huge and you could run from one end to the other. They had one for kids under 36″ and another for the big kids, and adults were welcome.


Next we checked out the corn crib, and getting the kids to leave it involved threats and lots of whining. They would have been there till dark. Is this a new thing at orchards this year? Because I’ve never heard of it until this year but friends of ours just did it in New York. Regardless, it’s amazing.



I love how you can see the cinnamon sugar on his mouth from the doughnuts


Jonah rode a steel drum train pulled by a tractor, which he clearly loved. We didn’t send the twins because there weren’t seatbelts and we weren’t confident that one of them wouldn’t try to climb out while it was moving (and it was a true loop around the property, unsupervised).


Then came the obstacle course, which Jonah did eight or so times. The funny part was that on his last couple of times he really dragged out the rope climb at the end, turning on the drama and pretending to struggle (after he’d whipped up the hill the previous six times).


The twins needed a little help with the course.


The we fed some goats, and everyone loved it. They couldn’t get enough (goat food).


A family tractor train ride, pig races, and a trip down a giant slide wrapped up the day.



I just realized that I don’t have a single photo of the kids in a pumpkin patch. There was so much going on that it didn’t even occur to me until now. I guess that means that the transformation from agriculture to full-scale carnival is now complete. It makes me a little sad to be honest, but the kids love this stuff so much.