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Another Day Out with Thomas

We first met up with Thomas, the cheeky blue engine, two years ago. We missed it last year because we spent the summer up in Wisconsin while we waited to move into our new house, but we went again this weekend. I don’t know if you know this, but carrying a big rock to meet Sir Topham Hatt? It’s a thing.

Meeting Sir Topham Hatt

Thomas travels around North America through the spring and summer, and the event is held near Chicago each year at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL. It’s a cool place, with an impressive collection of “rolling stock” (locomotives and cars). Eleanor and August are still afraid of the biggest engines, but the smaller, friendlier ones are much less imposing.

Horse-Drawn Railroad Car
Old Railway Signs
Checking Out the Old Trains
IL Railway Museum

The kids got temporary tattoos, played with train tables, and climbed on a giant sand mound. Not sure how that last one was train-related, but they enjoyed it.

Thomas Activities
Sandy Sand

And of course, there was the obligatory Thomas train ride.

Thomas Ride

The kids waved at him and thanked him for the ride every time we saw him puff by. My goofy little cuties.

Rockin' Out!

Three Easy Wallpaper Projects

I flew out to New York a couple of weeks ago to film a segment at the Meredith studio for Better TV. (I went to six cities over the course of a month while in my third trimester, so I’m glad to be done with traveling for a while!) I shared a few wallpaper project ideas for the video below — ways to use it besides on your walls — using the allen + roth line from Lowe’s.

Filming with Better TV

1

Decoupaged Letters

We spelled out “LOVE” to give the basic idea in the video above, but I think it’s the kind of project that would be great for personalizing a nursery or kid’s room (either with their name spelled out in full, or just their first initial).

Materials Needed: metallic brocade wallpaper • water and a small brush (to activate paste) • scissors • craft letters

Instructions: Place a letter face down on your wallpaper, trace the shape, cut it out, and set aside. Next, begin covering the sides of your letter — a little water will activate the glue on the paper’s backing. (If using paper that isn’t prepasted, Mod Podge works well for this project.) Long strips of paper are fine for straight sides, but smaller pieces work well for curves. After all of the sides have been covered, affix the top piece and smooth into place.

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2

Drawer Liners

Lined drawers are always a nice touch, right? You could use adhesive paper made for drawers of course, but wallpaper comes in so many more colors and patterns. Lined shelves, in a closet or otherwise, are another opportunity for customization. And if the wallpaper has a nonwoven backing like the allen + roth line does, it’s easy to remove if you ever want to change the style.

Materials Needed: striped wallpaper • water and a small brush (to activate paste) • scissors and/or razor blade • metal ruler or other straight edge • drawers or shelves

Instructions: (Pretty sure you can figure this one out without instructions, but here goes!) Cut a piece of wallpaper to the size of your drawer or shelf. Activate the paste on the back of your wallpaper by applying water with a brush, and place the paper in your drawer. Smooth, then trim edges with a razor.

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3

Bookcase Update

We used grasscloth to add texture and change the color of the back of a bookcase, but obviously you can use any style you like, depending on the look you’re going for. And that bookshelf? Truly a quick and easy project. We had actually started with a white bookshelf on set and the grasscloth looked great on the back of it, but it wasn’t reading well on camera. In a very quick, very last minute switcheroo, we swapped out the white bookshelf for a black one instead. I think it took all of 15 minutes from start to finish!

Materials Needed: grasscloth wallpaperwallpaper paste • razor blade • metal ruler or other straight edge • bookcase

Instructions: Remove the backing from your bookcase if possible. Trace it onto your wallpaper and cut out. If the back of your bookcase can not be removed, measure and cut a piece of wallpaper to size. Activate the paste on your wallpaper by applying water with a brush, and place the paper on the back of your bookcase. Smooth, then trim edges with a razor.

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Come Say Hello

Remember, I’ll be at my local Lowe’s this Saturday, offering one-on-one design consultations and doing another fun project with wallpaper that you can make and take with you! RSVP to PublicRelations@Lowes.com to make sure you’ve got a spot.

Style Saturday Invitation

Trying Out a New Way to Cook for the Family

I had never heard of Blue Apron before seeing it on some of the blogs that I read, but it sounded good and I was certainly up for trying it out. My friends here hadn’t heard of it either, but when I was in New York, I mentioned it to a couple of people and they knew all about it. Apparently it’s a big thing out there already? And it is available for free shipping nationwide to over 80% of the country, so chances are good that you’re in one of their delivery zones. So far we’ve tried one week of the service (three meals), and everything we’ve cooked has been great!

Blue Apron Ingredients

Brandon does more of the cooking than I do, but we were both in the kitchen to make our first dish: Filipino-Style Beef Picadillo. (Because duh, one of us had to hold the camera. How do food bloggers do this on the regular?) The recipes are designed by chefs to be delicious and good for you, and you can choose portions for two, four, or six people. The meals are $9.99 per serving with free shipping and we went with the four servings size, but they’re generous so we had leftovers for lunch from each recipe.

Preparing Ingredients from Blue Apron

Brandon, Cooking

There is a lot of packaging, which is understandable — the boxes are packed to keep things cold during shipping so the food stays fresh. Everything arrived in perfect condition though, even potentially squishable foods like the tomatoes. The ingredients are sent in just the right amounts, so you have everything you need all planned out for you with no trip to the grocery store and you don’t end up with random bottles of stuff you’ll never use entirely. (Like the giant bottle of fish sauce that has been sitting in our house, mocking us for not finding more uses for it.)

Cooking

Cooking

By the way… ever wonder how multiple pots and pans fit on our antique stove? Answer: not very well. The left half is wood-burning, so only the right half with gas burners is functional as cooking space. It’s a challenge. The stove looks cool, but it’s pretty apparent that cooking technology has changed a lot since 1918.

Cooking on an Antique Stove

Even with our ancient stove, we do make almost all of our meals at home. We fall into ruts though, making the same meals over and over again, so it’s nice that Blue Apron helps us learn new recipes and lets us try out new foods. (I’d never had chayote squash before using it in this beef dish.)

Blue Apron Filipino-Style Beef Picadillo

The meals are really good, and the kids liked them too. We even garnished for presentation, which we usually don’t do. So you know. Fancy.

Kid-Approved Dinner

I’m glad we got the chance to try the service because we’re looking forward to using Blue Apron again, for sure. There’s no commitment; you can sign up and get a week’s delivery, then skip or cancel at any time. I think it could be particularly useful for us when baby number three arrives, so we won’t have to do the meal planning and shopping.

If you’d like to give it a go too, Blue Apron is offering two free meals with your first order to the first 50 readers that sign up.

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