Our Kitchen Tile DIY

Our Kitchen Tile DIY

Let me just start this off by telling you what I have really learned today… This is the SECOND time I am writing this post, because I didn’t save my first one. Nooooooo! Horrible. 

Have you ever done something that you never expected to do in your life?  Pretty much every project in our home is turning out to be that “something” for me.  Sticking with the flooring theme, we decided to tile the kitchen floor.

When we purchased our home, the flooring in the kitchen was an avocado-green vinyl sheet flooring.  It was chipped in some areas and lifting up in others.


We had to do a lot of preparation for this project.  We started by pulling off the baseboards on the walls and scraping up the areas of the vinyl that were lifting up.  The floors in the kitchen were SO squeaky.  This happens when the subflooring begins to pull away from the floor joists, underneath.  We spent a lot of time going through the kitchen and finding those areas that were squeaky and screwing them back down to the floor joists.

We then measured the space and got the right amount of tile for the area.  We chose and 12 inch x 24 inch tile in a medium grey.  We planned to have 1/8 inch gaps between the tiles.  Prior to laying the tile, we measured and marked where all of our rows would go.

Next, we mixed the mortar and started laying the tile.  This proved to be time-consuming and a LOT of work.  We found that the most efficient way to lay the tile was to have Tyler measure and cut, while my sister, Maddy, and I laid the tile in place.  We used a level to make sure that all the tiles were level.  And we also used a lot of spacers so that we would have the correct amount of space between each tile and so that each tile would be straight.

In hind site, I would have been less messy.  Now, I can remember Tyler saying that I needed to be careful with the mortar, because I would have to clean it off.  It wasn’t until after the mortar had set that I tried to wipe off the excess.  It all came off easily enough with a little elbow grease.  But it would have been better if I wiped it off when it was still wet!

A few days later, we were ready to grout.  (You can grout sooner.  You can grout 24 hours after your tile has set. We just couldn’t do it sooner.)  We chose a light grey grout.  I love how clean the combination the medium grey tile and the light grey grout look.


The finished product was, honestly, the most satisfying part of the whole project.  The grout really makes your hard work look SO good.  And, surprisingly, it is very forgiving. This project was a LOT of work, but such a good beginner tile project.  I thought that the floor was a good place to start.  The next tile project we did was the shower walls, which proved to be a lot more challenging.  Especially, because we built an alcove into the wall of the shower.

Materials used: 





1/8 inch spacers

1/4 inch shims

1/2 square notch trowel

grout float

2 buckets, for mixing mortar and grout

power drill

grout mixing paddle


tile saw


5 Ways To Have Successful Air Travel With Kids

5 Ways To Have Successful Air Travel With Kids

Throughout our marriage, Tyler and I have always lived in a different state than our parents.  Over the years, that has meant lots of travel for us and for them!  As our family has grown, we have discovered that we work well together when we travel.  It hasn’t always been easy.   But with some fine-tuning we have almost perfected how we travel with our littles.  I’m going to share all my secrets to successful air travel with you!

1) It’s in the Bag… or Bags!

Honestly, this is what helps me be the most successful.  The key is to be prepared, but not so over prepared that you are bringing the whole nursery with you!  I plan on packing 2 bags.  The diaper bag and an activity bag.  That’s it.  My oldest son can bring 2 more items, but that just becomes more of a hassle.  Keeping track of 2 wild boys and 2 bags is the most I want to deal with at a time.  If I pack my 2 bags right I find that 99% of the time I have exactly what I need.

Diaper Bag

It boils down to the essentials for me here. I take what I absolutely need.  This doesn’t really deviate from my day to day diaper bag components.

-Diapers & Wipes: I always plan to have enough for my travel day, only.  I never pack diapers anymore.  They are too bulky and I can usually find them where ever I am going.

-Diaper Rash Cream

-Hand sanitizer

-Reusable Water bottles and/or sippys

-Children’s Motrin & dispenser: both of my boys can use it, obviously, go with whatever your doctor recommends

-Wallet, IDs, & Money

-Mom Headphones


-Snacks: We usually go for goldfish, fruit snacks, or fruit leather.  I like to have smaller grab-n-go snacks in here all the time.

-Adult Ibuprofen

Activity Bag

The activity bag is where we keep all of our kids’ entertainment. It is nice to keep things separate. We like to use little clear pouches to keep things organized inside this bag. We also keep an extra change of clothes for each kid and a small travel blanket in this bag.

Snacks: We keep our bigger snacks and treats in here.  M&Ms, cookies, chips, etc. are usually what we chose to pack.

Playing Cards: My boys love playing Go-Fish on teams.

-Kid Headphones

-Ipad or DVD player for watching movies

-Coloring books & Crayons

The following is a FREE DOWNLOAD: What to Pack for Air Travel with Kids

2) Let Them Stretch Out

I know by the time the flight is over, I can’t wait to stretch my legs.  It must be way worse for kids!  It is so much better if you can let your kids get their wiggles out.  If you have a layover, let them explore in the terminal.  I find that having only 2 bags also helps makes this possible.  If I don’t have a lot to carry, I am more likely to let the boys be more active.  If you have a long flight ahead of you, let them stand up and move, every hour or so. It helps keep the ants in their pants at bay.

3) Opt To Baby Carry

We have found that this, actually, works better for us than a stroller.  For years, we traveled with a stroller.  But, decided to baby wear so we could make an extremely close connecting flight and haven’t gone back.  We have found that if we have our oldest walk, he does better in flight.  By the time we get to our seats, he has stretched his legs and is ready to sit.  You also don’t have to deal with the hassle of getting your kid out of his stroller, closing the stroller, putting it on the conveyor belt, with the rest of your stuff, going through security, then putting everything back together again.  We use this baby carrier and LOVE it.  You can carry your baby from infant to toddler, in 6 different carry positions.  It is the absolute best.

4) Put Your Phone Away

This one can be so HARD.  If you are not using your phone to entertain your kid, put it away.  Your child needs your eyes and your attention.  If they feel like they don’t have to compete with your device, they will be SO much better off.  *I think this is a tip that could be extended beyond air travel, as well.*  I have also found that when I am distracted, and I can’t address their needs quickly, a tantrum may not be far behind.  You can always check your email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… later when your child isn’t being confined to a 4-square foot space.  Break the habit! You can do it!  You will thank me later, and so will the rest of the plane!

5) Give Yourself A Break

Kids are kids.  They have good days and bad days.  We are all doing our best.  Do what you can to prepare yourself and your child for a good flight.  Meet your kids basic needs, and they should be good.  If by chance they are having a tough day, give yourself a break.  Be patient with them, and don’t worry about what others think.  If your child is having a rough time, chances are, people aren’t thinking of how much you are inconveniencing them.  (There are a select few, that are special souls, who might be.) But the majority of people are not thinking that.  Most people are probably thinking, gosh I wish I could help them out.  Give love to your sweet kiddos, help them to sort out the issue, and go from there.

Successful air travel with kids is possible! Test out these tips and do some fine-tuning of your own to find what works best for you and your family. Do you have anything your family does to ensure successful air travel?

A Local’s Guide For Must-See Destinations in Southern California with Kids!

A Local’s Guide For Must-See Destinations in Southern California with Kids!

I grew up in Southern California.  I loved adventuring with my family to new places within our community.  When I got married, Tyler and I moved and have spent all of our married life away from California.

One of the best parts about living away from this beautiful state, is getting to come back and visit with our children.  I love being able to see the boys experience the things that I got to experience as a child.  It makes being a parent so magical.  Here is a list of our very favorite things to do as a family when we come to visit.

1) Disneyland


We love visiting Disneyland when we are in Southern California.  There is something for everyone in the family.  There are 2 parks to visit, Disneyland and California Adventure.  I love both.  We celebrated one of our sons’ birthdays this last trip and chose to stay on the Disneyland side for the whole day.  We went on almost every single ride in the park.  We left feeling accomplished and like it was totally worth every penny.  We all had a blast.  And were exhausted the next day.

Pro Tips:

Plan to go to the park(s) when you can have the next day off.  I’ve found that if I have at least one day between adventuring, my boys will have enough rest and we can avoid melt downs all together. Yay! Opt to bring a stroller, even if you don’t have kids who ride inside of them.  Strollers can help with holding bags while you are walking, extra waters, etc.  Leave your selfie sticks at home (they are not permitted in park). Get the Disneyland App.  You can get LIVE wait times for all you favorite rides, find out what rides have broken down, maps, showtimes, fastpass information, etc.  Honestly, using the app was the only way we got in as much as we did on our last trip. It is a free download, and truly invaluable.

2) Visit Parks

One of my favorite things to do with my boys, is to take them to parks.  This is, actually, not just limited to Southern California. We love visiting new places and checking out their parks.  Irvine, California has some of the BEST parks that we have been to. A few of our favorites are Adventure Playground and Treehouse Park.  We have always found parks in areas we are visiting by Googling them.  Usually, you can find useful information like if they have public restrooms, water fountains, seating, park times and see photos of the parks, as well.  The boys love to run and be free, and parks are always a good way to break-up a typical sight-seeing vacation.


Pro Tips:

Adventure Playground has lots of different areas to play in.  There is an amazing fort-like playset, sand, dirt and lots of trucks to play with, giant legos, and a water area.  Plan on getting dirty, they have a wash station when you leave.  There are bathrooms and a couple of volunteers manning a check-in desk, in case some kiddos decide to take off without their moms or dads.  There is one entrance in and out.   Bring sunscreen, water, snacks and/or lunch and some chairs to sit on (they have a few, but they get taken quickly.)

Treehouse Park is in the middle of a community.  I have heard that they are planning on closing the park off to the public.  I had no problems accessing it.  The giant tree house is accessible to play in.  It also provides a large shaded area for kids to play underneath.  There is a ton of space to run around.  There are 2 separate play areas in addition to the treehouse area.  On one side, there is a neat toddler area with swings and a tunnel to crawl through.  And on the other side, a large area for climbing.  Those areas are in the sun.  I would recommend putting sunscreen on your kids or going in the morning when it is cooler.  There is a water bottle filling station, a drinking fountain, picnic tables and bathrooms.

3) Tide Pools

There are several different places to visit tide pools along Southern California’s coast.  Visiting tide pools is not your average beach trip.  My boys love the tide pools.  It gives them a chance to see some sea life in their natural habitat.  Some of the tide pools we have enjoyed include:

Little Corona Del Mar Tide Pools| 3712 Ocean Blvd, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Crystal Cove State Park| 8471 Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Dana Point Tide Pools| 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629

Pro Tips:

Little Corona Del Mar has parking off the street since it is a residential area.  You have to walk down a steep hill to get to these tide pools.  There is a shower halfway up the hill with bathrooms located there.  There is a lifeguard stand, though I have never seen it occupied by a lifeguard.  Dana Point has a parking lot behind the Ocean Institute that has free parking.  There is also a restroom located next to this parking lot.  The tide pools are to the north of the Ocean Institute, down a set of stairs.  If you hike along the rocks until the end, there is a small sea cave, that is only accessible when it is low tide.  Crystal Cove requires a fee to park.  There are several different tide pools to see here, Reef Point, Rocky Bright, Pelican Point, North End Treasure Cove.  Before you go to any tide pools, wear a good pair of shoes that have thick soles and that you don’t mind getting wet.  Remember, to always check the status of the tide.  You want to go when the tide is low so that you can see as much sea life as possible.  And take your time looking!  Many of these sea creatures are camouflaged and you would never know they were there!  You may see shells moving about that are actually crabs or if you are lucky, a small octopus that blends in with the rocks!

4) MLB Baseball Games


Since Tyler and I have been married, we have never lived close to a city with a major league baseball team.  Which seems crazy to me, because I can remember going to games all the time when I was a girl.  I loved everything about them.  Aside from the actual game itself, the whole experience of being in a huge stadium was thrilling.  The smell of popcorn, the sounds of the crowds and snack vendors yelling out for treats like cotton candy, and doing the wave with the whole stadium.  We brought our boys to their first MLB game this summer. To say it was a hit, would be an understatement.  Both boys got caught up in the excitement and the cheering and the ICEEs.  There are a number of stadiums in Southern California.  Many offer “cheap seats” so you can catch a game for less than $20 a ticket, if you don’t mind sitting in the nosebleeds!

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Anaheim, CA

Dogers | Los Angeles, CA

Padres | San Diego, CA

Pro Tips:

We always buy tickets on the MLB website.  It is easy to navigate and we have found that if you look the game up ahead of time, some games will have promotional items given out free, have themed nights, fireworks or even outdoor movies after the games.  But be aware that if you go to a game on a promo night,  its going to be packed, because lets face it, who doesn’t love free swag?

5) Beaches

The beach is a MUST every trip we visit.  Southern California has some of the best beaches I have ever seen.  These beaches have the softest sand, perfect for strolling or lounging about in.  Some people hate sand, I have come to embrace it in my child-rearing years.  It ends up being more of a headache to try and avoid it, than not!  Another bonus, there are so many beaches to chose from! You could plan a whole vacation around visiting different beaches.  Some of our favorite beaches include: Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar (Big & Little), Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove, Moonlight Beach, and La Jolla.

Pro Tips:

There is SO much to do at any of these beaches… I will end up doing another blog post, dedicated to beaches!  Some of these beaches have parking lots that require fees, while others are off street parking.  It is best to look up ahead of time what is required so you can best be prepared.  Side note: Newport Beach has both off street parking, as well as parking lots.  You can pay at a machine for lot parking or you can pay from your phone with the Parkmobile App.  It is, honestly, the best way to go.  You can save all of your info in the app which makes for easy payments and you can even add time from your phone instead of having to go back to the lot to pay more money. I wish everywhere used the  Parkmobile App because it is SO easy and convenient. 

6) Museums & Missions


One of the my favorite things about California, is the richness of it’s history.  When I was a girl in elementary school, it was a requirement that we learn about the missions of California.  I love how unique the missions are to this state!  These missions, that stud the California coastline from top to bottom, were built by the Spanish in an attempt to convert Native Americans to Catholicism in the 18th century.  Now, most of these missions still hold masses on Sundays, have a museum and are open to visitors.  For more info about the California missions, visit here.


There are so many neat local museums to visit, as well.  My youngest son is extremely into airplanes right now and we found the coolest Air Museum behind John Wayne Airport.  The Lyon Air Museum has old, restored aircraft from WWII,  as well as some modern airplanes. The museum is in a hanger right off the tarmac.  There are planes to see inside and outside.  The best part is being, literally, RIGHT next to the airstrip at John Wayne and seeing all the planes take off.  It was easily the highlight for my little airplane fanatic.


Some other fun museums to visit:

Discovery Cube | Santa Ana, CA

The Children’s Museum | La Habra, CA

Pretend City | Irvine, CA

International Surfing Museum | Huntington Beach, CA

Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest | Newport Beach, CA

Surfing Heritage and Culture Center | San Clemente, CA

Balboa Park | San Diego, CAUSS Midway Museum | San Diego, CA

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum | San Diego, CA

San Diego Air & Space Museum | San Diego, CA

Pro Tips:

Look on Groupon before going to your museums to purchase tickets.  We have been able to get into many museums for half price this way, including the Lyon Air Museum.  Also look on the museums’ website.  Often times, especially during the summer months, you will see special events going on.

7) Local Shopping Places


I love to add shopping areas into our itinerary, especially in California.  The shopping is always good and newer developments truly seem to be destinations of entertainment.  You will often find movie theaters, game centers, and other exciting activities.  Some of our favorite places to go include:

Fashion Island | Newport Beach, CA

Irvine Spectrum Center | Irvine, CA

South Coast Plaza | Costa Mesa, CA

The Camp | Costa Mesa, CA

Seaport Village | San Diego, CA

Pro Tips:

Many of these shopping areas are outdoors.  Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and water.  In the summer months, it can get a bit warm.  Bring a light jacket for evenings in case it is cooler. The Irvine Spectrum also has a splash pad, so if you plan on letting the kiddos get wet, bring a towel and change of clothes.

8) Surf City Nights Certified Farmer’s Market

This is a farmers market that happens every Tuesday on Main Street in downtown Huntington Beach from 5-9 pm.  You will find tons of local goods including produce and baked goods.  There are a variety of food vendors to eat dinner at.  Our favorite are the Papusas, which are basically a Salvadoran tamale, but the ratio of masa dough to filling is way better and it comes with salsa, pickled veggies and sour cream.  I recommend the pork.  There are also restaurants to eat at.  Another food favorite are mini bundt cakes that are sold by a vendor called Dolce Monachelli.  Do yourself a favor and get the Italian Butter Rum Cake.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I dream of and drool for these things.  They have other flavors, as well, but the butter rum is the best.  Get there early they sell out fast! On top of the amazing food finds, you can find tons of entertainment for you and the kids.  There are live bands, petting zoos, face paintings, ballon artists and lets not forget about strolling down the beach on the other side of PCH.  Don’t miss out on this one, it is so much fun for the whole family.

Pro Tips:

Make sure to bring cash.  Most of the vendors do accept cards, but a few still don’t.  And its always fun to let the kiddos give the street performers tips for the awesome job they do!

I hope you all can go on some fun adventures and enjoy exploring California like a native Californian would!

New Digs

New Digs

I can  remember the night that I got the call from Tyler.  I picked up the phone and he said, “Jess, I got in.”  My initial response was, actually, to laugh.  He laughed, too.  He had gotten into one of the best schools in the nation.  How could we turn down this amazing opportunity???  We both knew that we couldn’t.  So we started prepping for the biggest move of our lives.

Our home needed a little bit of sprucing up.  We got to work.  We painted the house inside and out, updated our fireplace, got new carpet, staged our home and cleaned, cleaned, CLEANED. We put so much work into our little home in the last few months, I thought to myself, never again will I go so long without updating along the way.  I barely got to enjoy the beautiful changes that we had made.  Lessons learned from your first home.  And in a matter of months it was time.  We cried and cried some more and said goodbye to our little blue house.


When we started looking for homes in New York, the process proved difficult.  The market was slow and there were only a few candidates in our price range and in the right location.  We ended up settling on a 1960s split level home.  Let me tell you, it looked like it had not been touched since 1960.  Lime green carpet, panelling and vintage wallpaper galore, avocado and lime colored kitchen appliances.  I loved it and loathed it all at the same time.  We were going to have our hands full with this property.  But we were ready to get our hands dirty and put our hearts into it.  This was our beginning, our hello to our new blue house.

My wonderful father-in-law & our new little blue house



Hardwood Flooring Update

Hardwood Flooring Update

IMG_5842 When we first moved into the house, we knew that there would be a few projects that we needed to work on.  The floors in the bedrooms upstairs were the first on our very long list of To Do’s.  The floors are made of a hard wood peg oak.  Which I must admit, were one of my favorite things about this house when we did our walk through.  I could see the potential underneath the dirt and grime.  They had seen a lot of damage over the years.  They were discolored in areas where the sun had bleached the floors out and the varnish had been worn off in other areas so that the wood itself was being exposed.  So for the next few weeks we all camped out in the living and dining room until we could get the flooring finished.

Materials Needed:

  • Drum floor sander (rented at Home Depot)
  • Floor edger (rented at Home Depot)
  • Sand paper for both sanders (Grits of 60, 80, 120)
  • Shop Vac
  • Microfiber cloth mop
  • Stain of choice; we used
  • staining rags
  • Polyurethane
  • lambswool applicator (x2)
  • fans
  • wet sandpaper

This project was MESSY to say the least.  First off, you start sanding.  This process was intense!  My muscles ached by the end of the day.  The edger was so heavy and will take you for a ride if you don’t have a handle on it well enough.  Please note that it is noisy and sawdust gets every where! Wear protection for your ears, eyes and mouth!  *not pictured*  I wore a pair of Beats headphones to drown out the noise.


When you are sanding, you have to go over the whole flooring with 3 different grits of sandpaper.  You work from the smallest grit (60) to the largest grit (120).  This is done to create a smoother finish.  You also want to go with the grain of the wood.  It is harder to get a smoother finish if you go against the grain.


This is after using the edger with the 60 grit sand paper.  As you can see, the 60 grit does the job getting off all of the old varnish.  It was so exciting to see the wood underneath.  I knew that this project was going to be amazing.


Such a HUGE difference!  I actually truly loved the look of the flooring naked like this.  I almost chose to keep the flooring light.  We had a few spots in the other room that were discolored and would not do well with just a gloss.  Ultimately, we ended up choosing this stain, which I absolutely love. Also, don’t you love our master bedroom’s vintage watercolor wallpaper???

At this point, you want to clean.  Vacuum and mop with a DRY microfiber cloth.  Then vacuum and mop with a DRY microfiber cloth again.  I think we did this 5 or 6 times, just to make sure that all the saw dust was gone.  Any of the left over saw dust could create issues when you apply the stain.

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We started applying the stain at night, the lighting was not great.  After a few passes, we decided it would be better to stop.  We started again the next day.  We used the lambs wool applicator to apply the stain and then the staining cloths to wipe away the excess.  I didn’t want too dark of a stain.  The stain is supposed to cure for 24 hours before you try and apply any of the polyurethane.

Lastly, we applied the polyurethane.  It was SO stinky!  All of our windows were open and we had fans on trying to get all the smell out of the house.  We put the first coat of polyurethane on.  The first coat just lays down a good surface for you.  You let this coat cure, then come back in with wet sand paper and rub the surface smooth.  We used a bowl of water and a few drops of dish soap with our sand paper.  Once you sand the whole surface, you will have a bunch of cloudy white marks.  (It is supposed to look like that!)  Wipe the white away with a damp cloth, let dry and then you are good to apply your final coat of polyurethane.


Overall, I am pleased with the results.  I think that the flooring looks 1000 x better than when we moved in.  The flooring looks more cohesive and I love that you can see the grain in the wood, better than before.