Toy Organization in the Family Room

The other day I had a little mom date with a friend after the babies were asleep (the dads stayed with the kids) and we went shopping at Daiso, a Japanese discount store that’s pretty common in Orange County (there are 3 that I know of). Yes, because that’s where we go for fun now. To a Japanese dollar store! I picked up these three cute little bins for $1.50 each.


I don’t know if Daiso stores are common in the rest of the country, but I love them! They have so many cute items, many of them are much nicer than what you would get at a regular dollar store, and everything is $1.50 unless otherwise indicated. Cute little food containers, Japanese-style bowls and plates, adorable stationery, and pretty much every functional molded plastic item you could imagine. I also got a pair of baby chopsticks for Baby Brownie, a pinwheel, and a few Japanese drinks (cans of green tea were $1)…


I had kind of been wondering for a while about what to do with the short cubbies in the Expedit media unit in the family room. We don’t have a whole lot of electronic components, just a blue-ray player, so I wanted to fill up the rest of the space with toy storage so Baby Brownie could reach. These bins were perfect for storing small toys and balls that would otherwise get lost in her big toy bins.


In the left bin, I store a few diapers and a small package of wipes for when I need to change the baby on the go. Like when she’s playing and she’s got a full diaper and she refuses to have her diaper changed in her room because she doesn’t want to stop playing. She will literally run away and hide! At least now I don’t have to drag her kicking and screaming back to her room.


In the tray on the right I have her peg puzzles stored as well as her magnetic drawing board and some sticker books. It helps to have them right there at eye level. Baby Brownie can see them and get them out herself and play independently. The baskets also hide the unsightly cords from the TV. I’m still figuring out what to do on the top shelf to hide the cords. The blue-ray player does get quite hot so I don’t want to put anything on top of it.

So now the family room is a little bit more organized. This room is pretty much Baby Brownie’s playroom so it’s nice to have it be a bit easier for her to access her toys.

How to Entertain a Toddler on the Plane

I’m not gonna lie. Flying with a toddler isn’t fun. Especially when you haven’t bought a seat for her (Baby Brownie is 1.5 years old) and your husband isn’t with you. BUT(!) I am grateful that I thought ahead and prepared lots of activities for my daughter to go through to keep her entertained and out of trouble. If you’re planning a trip with an active toddler, here’s what I found worked best with my little girl.

1. Stickers!

Baby Brownie’s at the age where stickers are fascinating. I brought books full of stickers of all sorts. She loved peeling them off the paper, sticking them on herself and on me, as well as on everything else she could reach. We played a game where I would say a body part and she’d try to put a sticker on it.

drawing board

2. Magnetic Drawing Board

Baby Brownie loved it when I pulled out a magnetic drawing board for her to play with (the one I have is not in color, and it’s by Lakeshore, but you get the picture). She quickly grasped how to draw with the stylus and pull the tab to erase her scribbles. When she was bored of scribbling with it, I drew shapes, animals, and flowers for her, which kept her occupied for a while. My magnetic board was lightweight, so perfect for the plane.

felt board house

3. Felt Board

The DIY felt board I made before we left was a big hit! My girl loved the face side best — putting eyes, nose, and mouth on the face. She made some pretty interesting Picasso-esque faces =). When she was done playing, she had a blast putting every piece, one by one, back into the plastic zipper bag.

ikea finger puppets

4. Finger Puppets

The inexpensive finger puppets from IKEA are perfect for the plane — they’re small, lightweight, interesting, and cuddly. We sang “Old Macdonald” with them, and Baby Brownie practiced putting them on her fingers. They were also a fun item for her to take out of and put in a plastic bag while we practiced counting. When it was time to nap, I put Baby Brownie in the Ergo and rocked her while she clutched one of the little animals.

5. Books

A few light, thin, paper books occupied my toddler for a little while. Leave the board books at home; they’re too heavy!

mr potato head

6. Small Toys

We found a mini Mr. Potato Head(R) at Dollarama in Canada (although it was $3), and it was surprisingly fun for Baby Brownie. She loved concentrating on sticking the arms and legs into the right holes. If you have a little toy like this that your toddler hasn’t played with yet, save it to give to her on the plane so that it will be fresh and interesting.

my first songs

7. Iphone Apps

Yes, I resorted to the Iphone. Even though all the other toys occupied her for much of the ride, sometimes I just needed a break from the constant interaction and teary toddler meltdowns. Hello, electronic babysitter.

The best app I found for my 1.5 year old was this one called “My First Songs” by Ringzero. It has a bunch of catchy songs like “Old Macdonald”, “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”, “B-I-N-G-O” with amazing 3D animations. The animations are really cute and the song arrangements are catchy. There’s even a little game where you tap to the rhythm of the music, so it would be great for older kids too. It’s $2.99, which is well worth it, but you can download the “lite” version for free. I also had a few free Fisher-Price apps on there but “My First Songs” definitely kept her entertained the longest.

8. Ice Cubes

My husband suggested that I add this as an update because it really did entertain my daughter for at least half an hour. We asked the flight attendant for a cup of ice cubes and my daughter had fun taking the ice cubes out of one cup and putting them into another. It’s the simple things…

Have you traveled with your toddler? What worked best to keep him/her occupied?

Back in Action!

Hi folks,

Sorry for being MIA for the past couple of weeks. I flew to Toronto with my toddler and the hubster joined us a week later. It’s been two weeks of family, friends, and eating. It was fun, and tiring, and I’m still working on cleaning up the two suitcases that basically exploded in my house (haha). I’ll have a post up soon on how it was traveling with our 1.5 year old (it wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing is easy with a toddler) and a few souvenirs I picked up on the trip. But first I have to dig the camera out wherever it is. So bear with me, ok? I appreciate your patience =).



DIY Travel Felt Board

My toddler and I are planning a trip to see my folks in Toronto pretty soon. It’s about a 5 hour flight, but we have a layover in Chicago for about an hour and a half. I’m thinking, the layover is probably a good thing so Baby Brownie can run around and work out her excess energy. But I’m still dreading the flight.

Now that she loves to run around and play, Baby Brownie can’t sit still for long…especially not in my lap (we didn’t buy her a seat). And she loves to get into trouble and play with stuff she shouldn’t be messing with. Other moms I’ve talked to say to bring lots and lots of activities to keep her busy, so I’ve been putting together a bag full of travel activities. New toys, crayons, stickers, books… and I saw this awesome idea for a DIY felt board so I made one to bring along.

diy travel felt board

I got this idea from a friend who got it from a blog but I can’t for the life of me find that blog again!!! So I’m very very sorry if I stole your idea. Just let me know and I’ll give you the credit!

Also, this felt board is NO SEW, which makes it really easy.


Various colors of craft felt, including at least two (2) 8.5 x 11″ pieces.
Fabric glue

felt board stuffing

I decided to stuff my felt board with batting to stiffen it a little but still keep it soft and plush and foldable. I just cut a rectangle of polyester batting a little smaller than my two 8.5 x 11″ pieces of felt, sandwiched it between the felt, and glued the edges of the felt with a bead of fabric glue.

felt board house

The rest was super simple. I just cut out some triangles, rectangles, and squares to make a house. I cut out other shapes to make a sun, moon, star, cloud, and tree. The components of the tree and the sun are glued together to make it easier for my daughter to recognize. The grass is glued down too. Everything else is loose so she can place them wherever she wants. When I have time I want to make a little cat and dog too.

felt board face bald

For the other side of the felt board I cut out a head shape (yes it’s silly-looking, but Baby Brownie doesn’t care) and eyes, nose, mouth, and eyebrows. The components of the eyes are glued together.

felt board face

Also, this silly bowl haircut. When I have time I’m going to make other versions of mouth, eyes, hair (maybe with yarn glued on) so she can change it up.

Everything fits really nicely into a large freezer bag, and it’s lightweight so it’s ideal for bringing traveling. You can make all sorts of scenes…your imagination’s the limit! I might also make a barnyard scene with animals, although animals are quite a bit harder to cut out than simple geometric shapes.

Any tips for traveling with toddlers? Any must-bring toys? Any advice would be appreciated!

(Under $100) Flush Mount Lights That Aren’t Ugly

The ceilings in our 70’s-era tract home are just under 8 feet. So one of the challenges we’ve discovered in renovating is that we have had to replace a lot of flush-mount ceiling light fixtures. Specifically, a lot of brass ‘boob’ lamps. Kinda like these, but imagine them in shiny 90’s brass:

boob lamps

Why is it so hard to find flush mount ceiling lights that aren’t ugly???

In my search for flush mount lighting I’ve been dismayed at the lack of cute flush mount fixtures out there. Almost everything is a boob or a version of a boob, and most of them look dated and/or boring. That, or they cost several hundred dollars. Hmm…under $100 is more my cup of tea. So I thought I’d bring together some of the fixtures I’ve been considering in case any of you are looking for cute flush mounts on a budget too.

So here we go — stylish flush mount ceiling fixtures under $100!

flush mount light fixtures collage

1. World Imports Schoolhouse Semi-Flush Fixture (Amazon,$49.06): Schoolhouse style lights are classic and are really trendy right now, and luckily they’re not expensive. This one is available from Amazon but I’ve seen it at Home Depot too. It would look totally cute with a couple stripes painted on (perhaps with nail polish, a la Little Green Notebook).

2. Hampton Bay Edgemoor Semi-Flush Mount (Home Depot, $89.97): This may be technically a semi-flush mount but it seems pretty close to flush, so this might work in a space where you’re tight on clearance. I’ve seen this at Home Depot in person, and the black finish looks a little cheap, but I think the Moroccan trellis shade would look awesome if you could spray paint it a warm antique brass.

3. Hampton Bay Oxnard Nickel Flush Mount (Home Depot, $44.97): I love how this light can look clean and modern in the original brushed nickel finish, but imagine it spray painted a vintagey brass (I know, I have a problem) or even oil-rubbed bronze? Suddenly it would look totally vintage steam-punk. Check out how The Hunted Interior transformed hers.

4. Vanadin Flush Mount (IKEA, $39.99): I was so excited when I saw this new fixture at IKEA, and at such a great price too! I picked one up for our front entry. It has a great vintage-modern look with its white glass shade — almost like vintage milk glass reinterpreted into a lamp. It’s a little blah with the white base but I plan on painting that…you guessed it — vintage brass.

5. allen + roth Castine Outdoor Flush Mount (Lowe’s, $79.98): Who says you can only use exterior lights indoors? For some reason outdoor flush mounts have more variety — you’re not just stuck with endless variations on the boob lamp. Plus, the more industrial look is in now. I love the seeded glass and oil-rubbed bronze finish on this one.

6. Simple Classic Pendant (West Elm, $69): I think these simple white round lights would look awesome in a midcentury modern-style home, especially in a series. They totally have a Saarinen tulip table vibe.

So if you’ve been discouraged because you’ve been looking for a flush mount fixture for your low ceiling, there are some stylish options out there! Don’t settle; go out and get yourself one!

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