DIY Slate Blackboard Countertops – Install

When we embarked on the DIY blackboard slate countertop project we had a general idea of how to do it, but in the end had to make a bunch of decisions, trial and error, research and pure guts.

Step 1: Cleaning the slate

These blackboards were from the 1940s, and had been glued to the wall with who-knows-what adhesive back in the day. Then at some point they had white boards glued on top of them! In other words, a TON of stuff to remove. You can read more about that process here

Step 2: Building the understructure

Just like a tile countertop, we needed to build up a structure for the slate to attach to. This was pretty straightforward (especially after doing the brick fireplace the same way). A sandwich of ¾” plywood, backerboard attached with thinset and screws, and then taping any seams. This flat, level surface then gave us the template for the slate. We took the opportunity to make the new surfaces a half inch further offset from the cabinets below giving the counters a bit more surface area and a more attractive overhang.

The best part of making our our counters is we could experiment as we went, and truly get it exactly how we wanted. If we had ordered them, we may not have been able to look ahead as far to see how we wanted it.

Step 3: Cutting and Installation

We used a borrowed diamond stone cutting saw (like a mini circular saw with a water attachment) to cut the slate. Matt would measure out the pieces we needed, set them up on sawhorses in the driveway and cut away. He scored guide lines with a metal scraper since drawing them on would wash off with the hose water from the saw. He also learned that using a guide was critical. We used a combination of a standard clamp guide from Harbor Freight, and some old trim clamped on with c-clamps to ensure a straight cut. This step required LOTS of patience and attention to detail. There were certain pieces we had picked out for particular areas due to the grain in the stone, so we only had one shot.

Installing the slate was just like large format tile. We used large format thinset and a wide notched trowel. There were some great resources online demonstrating the importance of how you  lay down the thinset and how it impacts the strength of your floor/counters etc.

We set the slate with as minimal of grout lines as possible, starting with the edge pieces. This would ensure that the top pieces would overlap perfectly to create the counter edge. Clamping them in place was critical to ensure they would not slide as the thinset set up.

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Look of pure relief when the island piece was finally  installed. This one had a super unique grain patter  and was a complex series of angles to get it cut just right.

 

Once the sides were installed and cured, we could move on to the top pieces.

Step 4: Finishing

After experimenting with some trial pieces, we decided to slightly sand a bevel into the leading edge of the counters. This smoothed out the look of the stone and also should reduce chipping in the future. To achieve this, we used a belt sander to take off a fine bit of slate. It made all the difference in taking this project to a pro level. Some we sanded once they were set, some we did before.

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Step 5: Sealing

After reading up on options, we decided to just finish our counters with mineral oil. And well, honestly have not done that yet. We still plan to, but they are performing so well just as they are.

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By doing this project ourselves we save a TON of money, got the material we wanted (dark, solid, natural stone), saved materials from the landfill and truly achieved a unique one of a kind feature for our home. We still have a pile of leftover slate so we may do this again for an outdoor kitchen…

Questions? We would be happy to answer them!

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Four Month Sleep Regression and the Hype Curve of the Zipadee Zip

Our smiley little love turned 4 months old! She shared her first real laugh that evening to celebrate…and then was engulfed with the four month sleep regression. She went from waking 2x per night to eat, to waking every.single.hour. Oy!

We were happily nursing to sleep and feeding on demand, but I know that she was not hungry at each of these wake ups. In fact, she had pulled plenty of 5-6 hour stretches, and a few 8 hour ones. So it was time to really focus in on getting some good sleep patterns in place.

I tore through a sleep book to brush up on ideas and schedules for some gentle sleep training, and on night 3 of this bad sleep trend we gave it a shot. Nursing to sleep? No more. It was time to try putting her down “drowsy but awake”. I also decided to retire the swaddle since she was fighting her arms when we put her in it. With the endless sleep-helping-jammies rotation we decided to try the Zipadee Zip.

Our sweet little starfish took 12 minutes to fall asleep on night 1. She was happy and content looking at her newly freed arms and hands, and only slightly fussed. Success! I was high on the idea that I might finally get back some normal sleep.

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Well…not so much. That first night was still pretty sporadic and LOTS of waking up. Lots of getting up to pop in the pacifier. And then she would conk out for another hour. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Cue the Hype curve. This is totally accurate.

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Last night was night 2 with the new routine. And I am thrilled to report that it is going better! 9 minutes, zero crying, and she slept for some 2-3 hour stretches and only ate once. Much happier baby (and parents!) in the morning! Phew. On the slope of enlightenment? Let’s hope so.

I know we still have a long way to go, but a solid bedtime routine, new freedom from jammies, and putting herself to bed have been really helpful as we move into this new phase of life with our little love. And extra bonus: last night was the first time Matt and I ate dinner together, alone, upstairs while she had already gone to bed. HUGE WIN!

Coconut Milk Vanilla Ice Cream (Dairy Free!)

I am on week two of trying no diary. Of course it is fall and that means apple crisp…which is not complete without a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The pints of alternative ice creams at the grocery store were a) too expensive, and b) just not really what I was going for, so I made my own based on my traditional dairy ice cream base, swapping milk and cream for coconut milk!

Verdict: it tasted like frozen coconut cream pie. Heaven! On it’s own it was very coconutty, but when paired with apple crisp resonated pretty true, rich vanilla. I have made a chocolate version that is excellent too.

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Coconut Vanilla “Ice Cream”

  • 4 cups full fat coconut milk (we use Thai brand Aroy-D cartons from our local Asian market)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks

METHOD

In saucepan, heat HALF the coconut milk with sugar, arrowroot powder, and salt until heated through, stirring or whisking constantly (not boiling). Temper egg yolks with some of the hot mixture, and add to pot. Continue cooking until the consistency is of thin pudding. Add in vanilla extract and remaining 2 cups of coconut milk.

At this point I choose to pour the ice cream mix through a mesh strainer to remove any lumps, but this is optional .

Cool ice cream base in the fridge until cold, overnight is ideal. Churn in ice cream maker for ~20 minutes or until done. Freeze in containers for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yoo Too Nursing Bra Review – 6 months later

You may recall my search for a maternity and nursing bra, and my initial satisfaction with the Yoo Too bra (particularly since it felt most like a normal bra!). Fast forward to today, living with a 3 month old back to work. How is it going?

I love this bra, especially since I found how to fix the one flaw I had with it while pregnant.

When I wore this bra during pregnancy it fit, but felt wide and made things a little less shapely than I wanted. The ladies were a little oblong and pointy…but sideways. It was comfortable but not really super duper flattering. Particularly compared to the picture that got me hooked on Instagram (you know, the tan model with perfect boobies…) The low neckline made up for it though and it was my go to.

Since wearing it more nursing, I have also been washing it a lot more. One day one of the pads fell worked itself loose in the wash…and so I took it out. HUGE DIFFERENCE!! Instant perk up for these nursing boobies and the bra became even more comfortable! After living in tank tops and dreading wearing bras regularly for work, this was a game changer. I cannot recommend enough just taking those pads out. The bra is modestly lined and the support is still there with the sewn soft cups. Awesome awesome bra.

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Our Life with Cloth Diapers

After we committed to cloth on day 9 of Oakleigh’s life, we have never once looked back or regretted our decision. Cloth is so so easy once you have a routine…and the avoided waste…unbelievable. We have done a week long vacation, multiple overnight trips, and had success 100% in cloth. It took a little planning, and bringing along our own laundry soap, but I am happy to report that is working!

After researching all the options (and there are a TON of them!) we opted for the simple, basic diapering approach of prefolds and covers. We liked that these diapers were a natural fiber (100% cotton), uncomplicated, space efficient and just easy. The website greenmountiandiapers.com was a huge source of information and was where we ended up purchasing our diapers as well.

Two months before Oakleigh arrived, I ordered diapers and covers, and started the prep process. You have to wash these natural fiber diapers 7-9 times to get their absorbency optimized, so I was happy I had done the prep work ahead of her birth! Our first attempt with prefolds was not very skilled, and we were happy we had the workhorses as backup. Look how cute and tiny she was!

We started with:

  • 2 dozen newborn Cloth-eez prefolds (orange)
  • 4 newborn workhorse diapers (these are basically Cloth-eez prefolds that have been modified with elastic for a fitted diaper…we learned these are great in the car and for overnight)
  • 2 dozen cloth wipes (we just use plain water and these to wipe)
  • 4 covers (1 blueberry brand newborn size, the rest were size 1 Thirsties covers)
  • 1 dozen small prefolds (yellow)

This pretty much got us through the first two months. Around the two month mark the diapers were getting pretty small and we sized up to the smalls (yellow) and added another dozen prefolds and 10 workhorses in that size. We knew we were doing lots of overnight trips at this point and the extra workhorses were worth it to keep blowouts to a minimum on long car rides. The newborn cover no longer fits but the other Size 1s will still be going for a few more months.

Note on covers: we love the Thirsties covers! We also trued a Romperooz cover but it leaked where the tag was sewn onto the bum. The only issue we have had with Thirsties is staining on the inner leg gusset from poop. Most of the Thirsties covers have white elastic piping on the legs and this is a poor design from a user perspective. So when we ordered two more we opted for a designs with colored piping and these are now our go tos.

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Our wash routine is every other day (ideal) but we can stretch it to 3 days with this size stash. We wash on hot with biokleen liquid detergent, add an extra rinse cycle and dry for two cycles in the dryer. Zero problems with smell and they are squeaky clean every time! (this was a primary driver of us choosing natural cotton diapers rather than synthetic)

A sale prompted me to buy our next set, mediums. She is going through fewer diapers per day, and so I opted for 2 dozen medium prefolds (was seriously considering just one but decided we preferred the ability to stretch our laundry days), 6 workhorses and a dozen doublers. I am curious about adding Cloth-eez doublers for nighttime to hold her longer as she is sleeping longer stretches. I have heard good things and figured it was worth trying. Building this stash has been a bit of an investment, but the costs are up front, and we only seen a minimal bump in our utility bills from the extra loads of laundry. Plus we plan to use it on more than one kiddo, and as a friend said, we will have rags and cloths for life!

Have questions about our experience? I am happy to share! Cloth diapering has been a huge win for our family (and the planet) and I would love to get more families onboard.

***Our #1 resource with great information and products (no sponsorship…just a hardy recommendation from our experience!): www.greenmountiandiapers.com

Week 13: Transition Back to Work

Holy cow…our little Oak is already 13 weeks old! We have had some great adventures (first trip to grandparents, week at the WA coast), survived the first 8 weeks of her life without a functional kitchen (!), harvested nearly 100 pounds of tomatoes from the garden, attended two weddings, cleaned up the remodel multiple times, and had countless afternoons filled with tears, smiles, and everything in between. So where are we now?

This is a big transition period for our little family. I am back at work and Matt is home full time juggling baby and remodel. We have tweaked our routine daily and are still settling on what works the best. So far nothing has been missed, everyone is getting a decent amount of sleep, and we are generally pretty happy. The 5:30 alarm clock has been a shock to my system after three months of sleeping as long as Oakleigh and I wanted to, but we have developed a good bedtime routine where we are all (usually) in bed by 9:00. We set up our guest room and cleaned the main floor bathroom so I have space to get ready in and let the rest of the house sleep. I get up, shower, dress, pump and then get out the door.

We also have been focusing our energy on SPECIFIC projects and steps for getting the house wrapped up. Generally speaking, we are at finishes: trim, paint and tile. Huge right? Countertops are on, demo is done, the heavy “construction” is behind us. We did a massive dump run a few weeks back that gave us a TON of floorspace back, as well as a sense of normalcy that things are getting done. On Saturday morning, Matt and I sat down to talk through each remaining step to totally get the kitchen done. We don’t have time to waste repeating steps or doing the same thing multiple times, so this plan helps us focus. We are also calling in some backup from grandmas to watch Oakleigh so we can tag team the house.

Speaking of our little love, she is AMAZING. We are totally smitten with her, and love watching her grow and change everyday. Her main tricks these days are looking at her right hand/arm (she has not figured out she has a left one yet…), ahh—goo coos, big gummy grins and lots of feet kicking. She loves to look at trees and the cats, and standing is WAY cooler than sitting or laying down. This lady has places to go! (ahem…remodel needs to get done before the moving is actually happening!!!)

Going back to work has been hard…and good…and a lot of logistics. I am beyond grateful that Matt can be home to take care of Oakleigh. He has the best time just being daddy. And I enjoy my job and feel very supported and appreciated with my returning role. Early mornings, pumping, milk management, more pumping, not forgetting stuff, reengaging my work brain, pumping, catching the ferry on time, and still more pumping are just the pieces that will take some time to adjust to. And I miss my baby! It feels pretty unnatural to be away from her, and I try not to dwell on it or I will end up in tears. Again…so grateful she is home with Matt! I am also only commuting 3 days per week so I still get far more time with her than many working moms do!

Every day is just so different. But those gummy grins make every single hard moment worth it.

Our First Week(ish) As Three

We were home from the birth center by 10:00 the evening of our little Oakleigh’s birth, and faced the reality of settling in as a family of three. Since she arrived 12 days early, the house and closet nursery in our room was not really in the status where we anticipated it being when she came home, but oh well…it would just have to work!

Her space was clean and tidy, with a bassinet, changing table, set up ready to go…but we also had piles of laundry to fold, random packages and packaging stuffed into corners, the shower needed to be scrubbed…and that was just our room! Upstairs the kitchen was in full on demo mid-remodel, with no sink or stove. And piles of dirty dishes that we had not yet gotten to (easy to procrastinate on those when the bathtub is how you are washing them…ugh!). But that was home and we were in it as a family of three.

The first night we had the go ahead from our midwife to just let her sleep till she woke up hungry. Thank goodness, because I was totally exhausted. Having only slept for maybe 45 minutes the night prior to her birth I really needed sleep. Matt needed sleep too, but was more alert and kept checking on her throughout the night. Being so new, she was moving a lot of fluid through her system still and he did not want her to choke.

By morning we were slightly more rested and started our first real day of our first week. Waking her up to eat every two hours (midwife’s instructions for the first two weeks), changing diapers, Matt making sure we were fed, and trying to rest as much as possible. Our midwife Shari came by later that afternoon for her first house visit, weighed little Oakleigh (she lost 10oz) and gave us some instructions to get her some sunshine to help with a blush of jaundice. Then we were back on our own.

A rollercoaster of hormones, sleep deprivation, and a learning curve gave us some really high highs and some really low lows, but we slowly figured out a system that worked. We decided that it was pointless for both Matt and I to lose so much sleep, so he would sleep through the night while I tended to Oakleigh. This would give him more energy to take care of us throughout the day while I could rest. By day 5 he was back to the remodel!

By the end of the first week she and I had breastfeeding down. I feel super lucky because I know that is not everyone’s experience. Feeding every two hours during the day (and every three at night) has become our routine…except of course when she decides it is time to cluster feed! A few times there have been 3 hours straight when I am nursing this little piggy! Those get really exhausting.

My dream of being at the lake for the 4th of July, huge belly in a swimsuit, well, that did not happen. Instead we had a picnic dinner in the back yard followed by a night of diapers and boobies…and could not have been more happy.

This little girl is truly an easy baby so far. She sleeps easily and in her bassinet, giving us space to catch up on our sleep. She eats well and has helped my milk come in…and is fattening up and growing! Her sharky jammies are already too small! Pretty sure today is her last day to be in them (12 days old). We also mastered cloth diapers! We went through a package and a half of disposables, and came to the point where we either needed to buy more, or suck it up and try the cloth stash that I had washed and folded a few weeks prior. So we gave it a go and have not looked back!

Daddy loves to sing songs to her, making up lyrics to all sorts of tunes. And a favorite way to calm her down is listing off all the things that she will get to try someday. Flavors of ice cream, fruits, dairy products, Italian dishes…you name it. She is super cuddly and adorable and we are so so in love.

Grandparents have visited, and helped get the house back on track and in order. Dishes are done, the kitchen is making progress, grass is mowed, and we have our new grill finally put together! Friends and family have been delivering us food which is so so appreciated, particularly when we have limited cooking capacity right now!

And now we have made it to her due date! July 11…oh little Oakleigh Elaine, we are so happy that we have had you in our arms these past 12 days already!