Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Zahara's New Play Kitchen

Dan and I were thinking about what to get Zahara for her second birthday, so naturally I turned to Pinterest for ideas. Play kitchens seemed to be popular, and having seen Zoey enthusiastically play with them at friends' houses, we knew it was the right choice for us.

At first I had all sorts of wild ideas about making a kitchen from old cabinets, or even from scraps of wood. Dan brought me to my senses and reminded me that I am no longer a spouse on sabbatical with endless free time. Instead, we decided to go for the middle ground between of store-bought and home-made: an IKEA hack.

IKEA sells a great play kitchen for a reasonable price. I loved the size and the various components, but I was not a fan of the look. I'm just not into that raw birch look.

Once again I turned to Pinterest to find examples of glammed-up IKEA Duktigs. I decided on white cabinets, a butcher-block counter, and a pop of color in the top bookshelves. I had a few of the supplies I needed, and gathered the rest at Home Depot.

Dan was out of town the week before Zahara's birthday, which meant I needed to work from home so I could do drop-offs and pick-ups for little Z. Since I wasn't spending two hours each day commuting, I actually had time during the day to work on this kitchen. It was perfect timing.

The first step in creating Zahara's custom kitchen was sanding all the raw pieces of wood with 150 grit sandpaper. I gave all sides a light sanding so that it would accept the paint more evenly.

I had a quart of paint color-matched to the IKEA white, using a recipe I found online. I gave each piece three very thin coats. After two coats I could still see a little bit of the raw wood peeking through, but after three it was perfect.

I used my leftover stain from the DIY ruler to make my butcher block. I love the warmth that the dark wood adds. Two coats were perfect to create this look.

After giving everything a few days to cure, Dan was home and it was time to assemble. We waited until the night before her birthday so she would wake up to a fun surprise. I know this sounds weird, but it's nights like these that really make me feel like a parent. Assembly didn't take too long, but staying up and putting together a surprise for the morning just feels like a classic play out of the parent playbook.

I mentioned before that I wanted to add a pop of color to the bookshelves. I waited until everything was assembled to measure out where to paint. Then I painted a couple of quick coats on what would become the two end cubbies.

We decked out the new kitchen with some adorable pots and pans and a 14-piece vegetable set, both from IKEA. Our friends helped stock the fridge with some play groceries (thanks Dani and Brian!).

I could not love this kitchen any more; it came out even better than I could have imagined. And for Zahara, it was love at first sight! It gives me such pleasure to watch her washing her veggies, making meals in her microwave, and cooking on the stove.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Zahara's Second Birthday Party

I've heard from multiple sources that when planning a party for  a two-year-old, the mantra should be "keep in simple stupid." Toddlers are not known for their love of sharing, so inviting a host of babies into their space to play with their toys may not be the best idea. With that in mind, we planned a small barbecue at our local playground with just a few friends. It actually went pretty well!

A couple of things really helped: the tents and the water table. Zahara pretty much stayed at the water table the entire time. 

I have a tendency to go overboard with party planning, but I reigned myself in this year. I don't have nearly as much free time now that I'm working again, and I knew that time would be better spent elsewhere. I simply reused bunting I made for Dan's 30th birthday and for Zahara's first birthday. I think it still looked pretty festive.

I made cute little party favors from goodies we found a the Dollar Store. I used paint pens to draw a little elephant on each bag, and stuffed them with a couple of race cars, a squishy football and a box of chalk.  

We kept the food simple too: hot dogs and hamburgers and all the fixings. For dessert we ate rainbow cupcakes and watermelon.

Dan's parents and sister came in town to help celebrate. We extended the party for one more week when my parents came in town. Zahara is so lucky to have so many friends and family who love her.

Sure, there were a few tantrums, but overall, everyone seemed to have a great time. I can't believe my little baby is already 2. Happy birthday Zoey Jane!

Read about Zahara's other birthdays:
Zahara's First Birthday