Useful Gear for Grandma’s House

Useful Gear for Grandma’s House

Being a Grandmother has been heartwarming and fun and a learning experience.  It’s been quite a few years since my own baby care days.   What’s interesting is I ask my Grandma friends for tips, just as I asked my Mom friends for ideas and advice back in the day.  We can always learn from those who go before, right?

One question that has come up, is there any gear I should have for my home?  I have found that  yes it is easier to have a few things at your house.  Parents don’t have to lug so much stuff around just to come over for dinner and your grandchildren adjust more quickly to your house if you have a few items they use again and again. Most of the gear I have acquired is second-hand.  I make sure it is as clean as possible (then clean it again at home) and  in good working order before purchasing.

The first item I bought  was a Pack ‘N Play.  This portable crib was recommended by one of my daughter’s friends, and we have used it quite a bit.  We started off sharing it, but she eventually bought her own because we used it that much.  I paid $30 and it has been worth every penny.  We set it up for short babysitting stints in the beginning, and now my granddaughter uses it for the occasional sleepover.

A stroller may not seem like a necessity, but when I saw this one at a thrift store for $20 I couldn’t pass it up.  As my granddaughters get older and I get to babysit more, it will be very useful for strolling around the neighborhood, or just sitting in while we blow bubbles in the backyard.

Your family or friends may still own some things from their baby raising days.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.  Luckily this  high chair that belonged to my husband’s family was still hanging around in a garage when I needed it.   It is a small folding high chair that will fit in a closet.  I will admit that it probably doesn’t adhere to today’s safety standards and we will never leave a baby in it unattended.  All of my children used it when we visited their grandmother and there were never any issues.  Obviously this is something you won’t need for awhile and there other options, such as seats that tie onto chairs.

Most importantly you need toys and books, and sooner than you think.  I had saved a few of my children’s toys, like the Fisher Price barn and animals and some dolls.  It’s a good idea to get them out before you think you need to so you can wash them or make any repairs.     Also, I saved most of our kids’ childhood books.  I recently brought them out to a bookshelf so they are more accessible.  Already my older granddaughter looks for her toys when she comes over to our house.

 

In my short Grandmother tenure (a year) these are things that I have found to be very handy to have at my house.  My motto is, the more convenient and fun it is, the more they will come!

A Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole

I know I have mentioned here that I am always looking for breakfast dishes that can be made in advance.  When I have houseguests, it always seems as if the morning slips by while we are talking and drinking coffee and I haven’t taken the time to feed anyone, because I’m having so much fun.  Also, truth be known, I’m not one to wake up all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  So, having a casserole and some muffins all ready to go is the best option for me.  My guests get fed and I can still visit with them and not miss any conversation.

Last week some friends were in town and I had an opportunity to try this casserole.  It’s a grits and smoked sausage recipe and I knew I would substitute cooked pork breakfast sausage for the smoked sausage.  I used a 16 oz. roll of pork breakfast sausage which I cooked and crumbled before adding in place of the smoked sausage.  It makes a large casserole, fills a 13×9 pan, easily feeding 8 to 10 people.  My guests loved it.  My husband loved the leftovers.  And, it can stay in the refrigerator up to 4 days before you cook it.  It hits all my must-haves.

Smoky Sausage-and-Grits Casserole

Photo: Alison Miksch; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

I also made Classic Bran Muffins, which can be made ahead and frozen.  Add peach slices and some juice and your guests will think they are at a fancy B&B.  Ha!

I also plan to take this casserole to the beach when we go on our family vacation in a few weeks.

What’s your plan for breakfast when you have guests?  Please share in the comments!

We Painted the Brick!

Painting the brick exterior of our home has been on my wish list since we bought our house.  Unfortunately, it was not on any list of  Mr. DB’s and since there were other priorities I didn’t push it.  Every now and then when we drove past a pretty painted brick house I would point it out to him.  His response usually mentioned “maintenance issues”.   There’s always maintenance I’d say, as if we just had to accept it as the cost of being homeowners.   Adding to my painted brick houses board on Pinterest only fueled my belief that our house would look so good if it were painted.

Here we have a picture from those early days.  The landscaping consisted solely of English ivy from one end to the other, giving the property a somewhat sinister, deserted look.  While we were getting used to having a mortgage, we had little money for major improvements.  But we could pull out the ivy ourselves, and we did.   Little by little we added new plantings – it’s still a work in progress.

You know that expression lipstick on a pig?  I guess I thought  I could disguise ugly brick with landscaping and black shutters.  Didn’t work.

In another attempt at improving the curb appeal we had a tree cut down in the front yard.  We hate to cut down trees.  But I knew it would make a difference in the landscaping.  I wrote about that here.

Now we have more lush plantings that give us the perfect setting to display the American flag.

These half-measures did not make me stop wanting to paint the house. In fact, I became more and more convinced that we really needed to do it and now. I had painters at the house on another job and while they were here I got an estimate for painting the house. Hmm, less than I thought.  The maintenance will not be a big issue.  I was able to reassure Tom and he started really noticing some other painted brick homes in our neighborhood.  Gradually, he came around.

The brick color is Gateway Gray and the trim is Snowbound, both by Sherwin Williams from their HGTV home collection.  Interestingly, getting Tom to agree to paint the house was the hard part.  We quickly came to agreement when we found this color.  I bought many samples and we painted them on the side of the house.  Once we saw Gateway Gray we both knew it was the one, not too dark, not too light, just right.

The painters fixed the facing around the front door and removed an old intercom from beside the door.

Full disclosure, Tom isn’t the only one who hesitates on unnecessary home improvements.  I have to talk myself into spending money on projects that are purely cosmetic.   Shouldn’t we put that money in our retirement fund, or, if I’m going to be frivolous,  maybe toward a trip to Paris?

There are no regrets here.  We love the way it turned out.  It was just the fix the house needed.

How do you feel about painting brick?

My Notables: Noteworthy Articles and Products

There are always a few articles or products that I find so interesting and helpful, I just have to share them.

I have finally found a sunscreen that doesn’t make my face feel greasy or look shiny.

In case you are out of ideas on how to keep your kids occupied, this post from Emily Henderson may come just in time.

I can’t wait to  use artichokes in my next floral arrangement based on  this tutorial.

Friends recently served roasted tomatoes on crostini and it was delicious.  Top with mozzarella and basil and your guests may fill up on the appetizer.

Could you cut your weekly waste down to a tiny jar?

I would love to know what you think.  Let me know in the comments.

Favorite Vases

I really love playing around with arranging flowers these days.  Around here there are several places you can buy about  a dozen stems quite inexpensively which means you can buy a couple of bunches.  I cringe to remember the days I bought a ready made bouquet and jammed it into a pitcher (my attempt at artfulness).  But I have evolved.  Now I have quite a few vases and other vessels for my arrangements and I would never, ever buy a mixed bouquet from the grocery store.

Every now and them I am so pleased with my creation I must snap a picture and save it.  Will I ever make it again?  It’s unlikely, but, let’s face it, a picture is the only way a floral arrangement can survive.  I thought I would share a few of my favorites.  Hopefully, you will look at them and think, why, anybody could do that.  Yes, exactly.

I’m always going on and on about alstroemeria and that’s because it is the perfect flower for anytime of year.  They come in every color, they last for over a week, they are beautiful and at our Safeway a big bouquet is $5!  What more could you ask for?

I save the vases from floral arrangements I have received, like this clear square vase above.  The height is just right for seeing over on a dining table and it holds a good sized arrangement.  This arrangement is composed of several bunches from Trader Joe’s, which has the least expensive flowers around.  But I have noticed they do not last as long as the Safeway flowers.  Still, if I’m buying them for a specific event they don’t have to last a long time.

 

Those little daisy like flowers are chamomile.  I was going for a summery, just picked on the side of the road feeling here and the little chamomile flowers gave it just that touch.  I found five glass containers at a thrift store and made five arrangements for my table.  Did you notice the white alstroemera?  All of these flowers were from Trader Joe’s.  TJ’s does have a wider assortment than the grocery store.

Simple is always in style of course.  Peonies in a white footed vase will always delight.

When I found this green vase I tried to talk myself out of buying it.  As you can see I lost the discussion and I’m glad.  The shape and the color of the vase were created just to display two pink hydrangeas.

Okay, I know this one didn’t require a lot of creativity.  It’s a classic to put hydrangeas in a blue and white bowl.

This little turquoise pitcher is another thrift store find that called my name.  Again, I have never been sorry that I succumbed to its call for I have used it again and again.

Well, I could go on and on but that is enough for now.  As you can see, the possibilities are endless and well worth the effort.  Flowers, whether from your garden or the grocery store,  add that blend of beauty and warmth we all strive for in our homes.

Have a great weekend!

Holiday Preparations

For some reason (am I forgetting something??) I have a little free time these days. But I know the pace will pick up so I decided to get some things done to make my holidays more stress-free.

I hate to admit it, but I am terrible about cleaning out my freezer on a regular schedule.   It has become somewhat of a mess with Mr. DB’s peppers taking up a lot of room, along with some random odds and ends I didn’t want to “waste”.  But I have gotten better at putting a date on the items I freeze which makes it easier to identify and toss old food.  I will probably make a vegetable soup this coming week to get rid of the little bits of frozen vegetables lurking around in the corners.  A good wipe down once it is cleaned out and I am ready to do some cooking and freezing!

Continue reading “Holiday Preparations”

8 TIPS FOR WORKING WITH A CONTRACTOR

The most important decision, after the decision to remodel your home, is which contractor to hire.

(1) Apart from the obvious considerations to make sure your contractor is licensed and bonded, you want to have a contractor that listens.  Some contractors think you are paying them for their design opinions.  It is important that a contractor pays attention when you talk about your intent, your desires.  I have had more than one occasion where the contractor had his own thoughts of what would look best.  Yeah, I’m not talking about the aspects of the job where they are the experts, some of them weigh in on design.

“Oh, I’d never use ceramic tile.  It must be real stone.”

“You’re going to put a chandelier in the bedroom?”


When I have a contractor come to give me an estimate, if he starts telling me what he would do without asking me what I want I know that he is not the guy for me.  I want the one who says what do you want to do in here?

(2)Ask about the workers who will be coming into your house.  I have always had good luck with the contractors who do not use sub-contractors.  They know their employees and trust them.  And you will want to know their hours.  I like to be showered and dressed when they arrive.

(3)References are important.  But reviews are helpful too.  I have found good contractors on Yelp.  I always read the reviews.  And I write reviews.

(4)Read and understand your contract carefully.  If there is anything you don’t understand, ask about it.  Remember if it isn’t on the contract, it is not included in the project.  If you forget to specify a niche in the shower wall, you won’t be getting one.

(5)Once hired, you will have a variety of workers in your house.  I wondered how to treat them, meaning should I offer them coffee or water, maybe even bake cookies occasionally? Even though you are not a hostess, it is good to have a big container of water and some cups for the workers, particularly when it is hot outside.  And showing a little appreciation with cookies might get you some extra mileage.  ‘Couldn’t hurt.

(6)Inevitably there are delays.  I find it hard to determine what caused the delay.  The contractor likes to blame it on their suppliers and it may be so.  I wonder if I am getting the full story.  I know contracting is an uncertain field and they have several jobs going at once.  They have to do this in order to survive.  So, unless it gets out of hand, I accept this is the way it is.

(7)Remember that you are the boss.  My first time using a contractor I thought of it as a collaborative relationship.  We want the same things right?  While the reputable contractors do want you to be satisfied, they also want to move the project along and get on to other jobs.  If something isn’t going the way you want it to, speak up quickly and decisively.  Stick to your guns. They will say things like, “that’s going to be expensive” (ask “how expensive”) or “that will throw off our deadline”.  Be firm, point to the contract.

(8) How payment is made is usually specified in the contract.  For my recent bathroom remodel I paid half of the total cost when we signed the contract, one fourth halfway through and the rest at the end.   For larger jobs lasting months there is a different structure, but the expectations should be clear for both sides.  And this protects everyone.

Here are some more good tips on renovating from BHG.



Copy short URL