Late last year, we put a call out on Instagram to make sure that we continue to deliver posts, tutorials, photos and videos that are truly helpful – and hopefully entertaining? – for our incredible community of readers and viewers. We can’t thank you all enough for your feedback! We heard you and have already taken some big steps and made backend upgrades (with many more to come) that will keep the site loading as quickly as possible while looking and functioning exactly as we intend. We also appreciate the encouragement and input on the type of things you’d like to see from us moving forward. Again, thank you all for chiming in and making sure we deliver the best possible experience for you. We simply couldn’t do what we do without all of you here.
Of course, beyond making changes to our digital space, our heads are swirling with ideas for those physical spaces, too – and hopefully some more opportunities to help out our friends and family. 2019, we have big plans for you! In no particular order, here’s a Greatest Hits list of the things we’d like to complete this year:
1| Tackle a bathroom (or two?)
inspiration via Anna Bode
Want to know a somewhat embarrassing secret? We’ve lived in our Chicago home for 5 1/2 years and still haven’t even touched the bathroom on our first floor. Sure, it’s been scrubbed top to bottom to get it clean and usable, but folks – it’s rough. Everything works (mostly) as it should, but it’s in dire need of attention. We don’t speak of it much, but you can see it in this old house tour (starting at 2:38), and it looks exactly the same. That gaudy gold mirror you see? It’s covering up a patch of drywall that was ripped out when we tore down the old medicine cabinet!
2019 will be the year that all of that changes. The current floorpan is less than ideal, but now’s the time to make it right. Do we push the back wall a few feet into the workshop to open things up? Do we shoehorn a shower into the existing floor plan? This will likely end up as Lucy’s bathroom down the road, but it will remain the only bathroom on the first floor, so it needs to stay functional for guests and general use. Decisions, decisions. One thing we do know is that we cannot wait to break ground! It’s likely going to need to rebuilt from the studs.
Oh, and while we’re on the bathroom subject, 2019 just might be the year that we officially gut the only bathroom at Tree House… We’re going to have our hands full in the best way!
2| Spend more project-free time at Tree House
Speaking of Tree House, we’re finally to a point where we can truly enjoy the space as it is, and we intend to do a lot of that. The house is far from ‘done’ but the master bedroom, guest bedroom, and the sleeping loft are, for the most part, complete. The kitchen and mudroom are wrapped up and we’ve found the coziest couch of all time. What more do we need?
Whether we’re spending time in Lakeside by ourselves or with friends or family, we have a blast. We surround ourselves with people (and usually dogs) that we love, good food, and tasty libations and we can relax almost instantly. We plan to do more of this. Much more. And we can’t wait.
3| Help others realize their space’s potential
Remember when we mentioned that we’d like to find more opportunities to help out friends and family with projects this year? Well, we meant it! We’ve found ourselves in a unique position with some pretty amazing partners and lots of ways to help others realize the potential of their homes. We loved making over Catherine & Allen’s laundry room and helping with Joe & Kara’s living room in 2018! One of the things we like most about lending a hand in different spaces is that we get to adapt to various styles and spaces that are different from our own. We can push ourselves to create something that might be different that what we’d do in our own home, like the playful room above (we still love this makeover!). Plus, the reveals for our friends are incredibly fun for us! We’d be incredibly grateful for the opportunity to take things even further this year, maybe even with one or some of you?
4| Try something completely foreign to us
We have a handful of wishful ideas that fall pretty far outside the box for us (a book, product line or designing for retail?), but we’d love nothing more than to work on a project or two that really pushes us beyond what we’re used to. Whether this happens professionally or personally, we’re allowing ourselves to open up to the possibility. Any possibility. If we say this out loud, will it come? Let’s get uncomfortable!
5| Take our first proper family vacation with Lucy
We’d love for 2019 to be the year that we hit the road (or sky?) for our first week-ish-long family vacation as a trio. Lucy took her first few steps this past weekend (we had never seen her squeal with so much delight!), so she’ll be full-on walking soon, and out little nugget loves the sights and sounds of new adventures. Should we go hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains where I spent countless vacations growing up? Should we fly to the beach and splash in the ocean together for the first time? Kim has never been to Maine. Or Austin. Or Colorado. I’ve never been to New Orleans. Neither of us have been to Charleston. Every one of these cities are on our long list of places we’d like to visit together. We’d love any and all feedback about traveling with a toddler! We realize that most of these options won’t result in much of a vacation for us, but we’re big fans of adventure around here. For those of you that have made these trips with a wobbly little one, are there places you swear by? We’d love your input!
6| Design & build a gathering space for meals. This one’s for you, Tree House!
The sad state of our Tree House dining room
Meals at Tree House have happened around a flimsy plastic folding table for as long as we’ve owned the home. We’ve had plans swirling in our brains for a simple, clean, built-in corner banquette since we first toured the house, and 2019 will be the year that we take things up a notch and stash the folding table in the shed for a looong while. One of our favorite Chicago restaurants has some beautiful built-in seating that we’ve been pulling strong inspiration from. And with any luck, the table will be built from a slab from the huge Silver Maple that inspired Tree House’s name, but sadly had to be removed and milled this year. We’re chomping at the bit for this one!
What About You?
What’s on your list of goals for 2019? More travel? More relaxation? A promotion? Renovations? Regardless of your goals, we’d love to hear about what gets you up in the morning and what keeps you going. How do you motivate yourself to stick to your plan for the year? We’re in this together!
Psssst: For our 2018 wrap-up post, have a look here!
Regarding vacations, I second the Blue Ridge Mountains! My family (with two little ones, boys aged 3.5 and 8 months) lives in Boone, NC, and I am entirely convinced it is the most magical place to spend your childhood, especially in the summer. Fresh air; hikes that are exciting but not too arduous for little legs; the Blue Ridge Parkway for gorgeous drives (good for encouraging naps if your kid sleeps in the car); creeks for splashing and searching for salamanders; swimming holes galore; and, at this elevation, totally comfortable summer temps, low humidity, AND next to no mosquitoes! Some great towns to visit in the area too (Boone, Asheville, or Waynesville are my favorites), but mostly come for the outside. I bet Lucy would love it!!
Ok, now I want to go to the Blue Ridge Parkway. :)
Ahhh, thank you!
I went to app! Boone is so great!
This post has provided great inspiration for our family to set our own goals in 2019! Thank you guys so much for all of the ideas and concrete examples of ways to improve our home. I’m looking to swap out all of our door hardware because of your garden apartment post on the subject. And we will definitely have to try the restaurant you mentioned. P.S. If you’re really looking for candidates (raised hand emoji!) for DIY reno projects, I’m looking to recreate a playroom for our sweet baby girl in a Ravenswood 2-flat! (Kidding, but not really kidding)
Meg, thank you! Love hearing this. We’ve been thinking of swapping the hardware in our Chicago home as well, especially seeing how huge of a difference quality hardware made in the garden. So glad to hear this!
You have a big year planned!
Regarding travel, Maine is high on my list too! With a little one, I vote for somewhere like the beach or the mountains where Lucy can run, play, and get tired. If she’s a reliable nap-on-the-go kiddo, it would be fun to go somewhere where you could include fun-for-adult activities like museums or galleries while she sleeps in the stroller. Regardless, my advice is to keep your expectations low, and you won’t be disappointed. LOL That’s terrible advice, right? What I really mean is to not over plan the activities.
Hahaha. I like your way of thinking.
Just a small recommendation on a trip to New Orleans, don’t go in the summer. As a lifelong resident of south Louisiana, the best time to visit is during the spring and fall. It may still be warmer than your northern climate, but it’s tolerable. Love your blog!
Oh, that is so true, thank you for the tip!
Not related to anything, but what kind of shoes/booties is Lucy wearing? And more importantly, DOES SHE KEEP THEM ON? I live in the Midwest and my 10 month old is an expert at footwear removal. Which is fine in the house, less so when it’s 30 degrees outside and all of a sudden she’s in Target mysteriously missing footwear.
Hahaha, she LOVES taking them off, but we still really like them! We have a few colors, and I think she’s more fascinated by the sound of the velcro than anything. But even though she likes to play with the strap, we’ve never lost a single bootie! These are the ones we have.
Great vacation ideas! We have brought our kids almost everywhere we have gone over the past 12 years and it has (generally) still been fun for us. Watching your kids enjoy a new experience is just as good as experiencing things yourself. Charleston is amazing and the barrier islands provide great opportunities for ocean fun. Acadia is another great option – we haven’t been in 10 years but want to go back for sure!
Hot tub room makeover in the Nati!
Someone near and hopefully dear needs to renovate a lower level room where the hot tub is being removed.
The Blue Ridge Parkway suggestions are good ones. It’s a beautiful trip. And Acadia has so much to offer. It might be fun to revisit the Smokies, hopefully you have good memories of those trips.
Tips for traveling with a toddler:
1.) Your accommodations are more important than ever. With a toddler, you will will have 3-4hrs of extra time to kill “at home” while they sleep. If there is only one room, you may be hanging out in the dark, or in the hallway while the kid sleeps. A place with multiple spaces to enjoy, and outdoor space is worth every penny.
2.) Consider staying with friends. We love staying with friends now more than ever. Staying up playing games, having movie nights, talking, and relaxing is a great change of pace from the more usual nights in together. Depending on the duration of your stay, you can also trade watching the kids for the evening to get a nice dinner in too.
3.) If you stay at an airBnB or with friends, ask if they can provide stroller, highchair, pack and play, etc. Not lugging around all the stuff is amazing. Often people can borrow these things from friends or family.
4.) Simple set-up long range video monitor. We have a wifi camera at home and getting a simple video monitor for travel was a game changer for us. We wondered if it was worth the expense. It 100% was.
THANK YOU! I wouldn’t have even thought of the first tip in (if in a hotel), so this is all amazing. Thank you, thank you.
As a tip- my brother-in-law and his wife do this when they travel with their little kid (which is a LOT). When they stay in hotels and the kid goes to sleep, one adult calls the other on their phone. They leave one phone next to the kid in the hotel room, and take the other one down to the hotel bar while they relax and have a drink and some snacks.
If their kid makes a noise or needs to be attended to- they can hear it, just as easily as if they were using a baby monitor (which likely wouldn’t be able to handle the distance from hotel room to the bar).
If you have any specific questions about traveling with a toddler, let me know! Our girl is just over 2 and has been on 26 flights – including three trips to Europe! – and we travel a lot with her to see family and go on adventures. I’m solo traveling with her for our first big trip this spring! We personally prefer flying to driving with a toddler, but it all depends on you. Happy to chat more here or on Insta.
We mostly did trips close to home ie a few hours drive with our toddler. Easier to bring a pack n play for sleeping in since ours required morning and afternoon naps until about 20 months and then a 2-4 hr afternoon nap until 5.
We then picked cabins or small house B&B’s. We went to San Antonio for a long weekend and stayed in a small guest house in the historic district. It was nice we could sit on the porch or watch TV or nap on the sofa while she napped in the bedroom. Made the trip much better when she got enough sleep. We also rented cabins in state parks or near parks or small cities so we could go explore and then easily get back to the cabin for nap time.
Our first long trip was when she was 4 months from turning 4. We flew to Tennessee and did a road trip from there through Kentucky (visiting friends), visited DC and lastly NYC before flying from there. We rented a mini-van for the driving and it was worth doing as we were stuck in traffic in the Lincoln tunnel and our kid is needing to go potty. I was able to crawl into the back and dig through our bags for a pull-up (she still used those at night for back-up) and then get it on her. She managed to hold it, but it was so nice and convenient. We also drove during her nap times to time things well. Even used the minivan to make a flat nap space one day while we were in a park without napping facilities and an overtired kid who didn’t want to sleep in the car seat. We moved her once asleep, but until then we sat in a picnic area just talking and let her have her tantrum while laying down and going to sleep next to us in the mini-van. We could see and hear her, but she wasn’t distracted by us.
In the big cities like DC we rented a stroller so we did adult museums while she napped in the stroller.
Oh and she always flew in her car seat so we never had any fuss or anything while flying.
When she was almost 3 I flew by myself with her to Europe to visit my family and she was a great traveler. I put the Britax Car seat on a Britax cart and that was my stroller. We ended up having over 48 hrs of travel time due to snow delays, cancelled flights etc. before we made it to our destination and she was great during that whole time when placed in the car seat. I let her out during layovers and stuff, but when we needed to go somewhere in a hurry or be in line she sat strapped in the car seat. I also found empty areas at the airports or a play ground where she was able to run around and explore and not bother others. I did use wipes to clean her off after the playgrounds though as I didn’t want her to get sick from the germ factory that they can be.
You. Are. The. Best.
YESSSS so ready to see what you guys will do with that tiny bathroom on the first floor. Our master looks to be about the same size, except our teeny tiny corner shower is a cave of maroon tile that we whack our elbows in every time we try to use it. Even if you wind up expanding the floor plan, I can’t wait to see how you pull off such a small space!
We are SO ready!!
Our daughter is about 6 weeks younger than Lucy- we can’t wait to see where you go!
We’ve flown 4 round trips with her thus far- biggest tip is brings snacks and then double that. Water or paci for ears on the way up and the way down. And do NOT fly close to bedtime, whatever you do. We treat the travel day as part of the vacation- get to the airport early, have a drink, find a quiet corner for her to get her wiggles out. We find she flies better that way. We have had excellent luck flying Southwest with her as well. Free bags is a HUGE help with the inevitable baby junk you haul.
I second the motion to avoid the south in the summer. As an almost 8 year north Florida resident- it is hot, buggy, rainy, and miserable. Skip New Orleans and Charleston May through late September.
We’re looking into taking a trip up to Vermont/Rhode Island this summer. Looks to be a good mix of city, ocean, hiking, and breweries. All within 2 hour drives.
I absolutely love New Orleans, Austin, and Charleston but they are sweltering HOT and humid in summer months! Colorado/Ashville area/Maine (my fave!!) would be more perfect (temp wise) during summer months. We also love all of the beaches along 30A in Florida (Rosemary, Blue Mountain, Grayton) as well as St George Island/Apalachicola area … so quaint, delicious food, beautiful beaches!! Enjoy! xx
We took our 2 year old to Portland, Maine this September and had the absolute best time. She loved the ferry ride to Peaks Island and scooting around the island in a golf cart. Maine wildlife park was the perfect size for her. We got to see moose and other animals but it wasn’t overwhelming size wise and was nicely shaded. The LL Bean flagship in Freeport had tons of places for her to climb and explore. Allagash brewery was a fun visit for the whole family and there were at least 5 little kids there while we were. The food is delicious and getting around is easy. The very best part is how welcoming people are of families. It was an amazing trip. We also stayed a couple days at Inn by the Sea which had a pool and beach access and a huge lawn with beautiful gardens to explore. The staff was incredible. I second the suggestion of getting a room with a seating area so you can enjoy nap time and bedtime. Exploring with a little one is exhausting but so very rewarding.
I forgot to add that we went to a beer garden in Portland called Novare Res and we were the only family with kids there. Our 2 year old walked to the middle of the deck and danced for a solid minute. When she stopped, 75% of the people there started clapping and cheering for her. It was magical and so kind and typified our experience in Maine.
I should have read your comment before posting. So glad you live Portland. Novare Res is awesome!
All the toddler travel tips are great! A few more:
– If you fly and now that she is a walker, be the last to board so she can run out as much energy as possible! Also, if she drinks regular milk, buy that in the airport before you board. In our experience, airlines inconsistently have milk on flights—they usually don’t.
– Charleston would be amazing! Spending some time in the city and then heading to the beach for a few days. New Orleans is also very kid-friendly!
– I second (or third) the recommendation to stay in AirBnBs. It’s so nice to have a refrigerator for breakfast and snacks. It’s also a huge bonus when they have a washer and dryer, which means you can pack less and just wash mid-trip.
For travel with a toddler, I definitely recommend AirBNB. We did it for two weeks in Italy with Maple and it helped immensely.
I love Maine and New Hampshire, and I’d you’re in the White Mountains, I have an amazing midcentury vintage shop with the sweetest owners who I would recommend you visit :) it’s in Littleton, NH.
Acadia National Park in Maine is perfect, hiking, driving, whale watching. Just beautiful, Charleston in the winter or spring is magical, TN with the national park…another treasure. The list is endless for wonderful trips with Lucy. Enjoy! Can’t wait to see more Reno on the blog!
Come to Colorado! The mountains are lovely, and there’s something for everyone here. There’s usually cheap flights through Frontier from Ohare to Denver. :)
If you’re looking to tackle ANOTHER bathroom while helping out friends we’ve got one that needs some love! ;) Also, great minds think alike … Maine is on our (very) short list for our anniversary trip this year! Happy 2019!
We took our 2.5 year old on a road trip from Detroit to Louisville and Asheville. We rented Airbnb’s in both cities (West Asheville and Historic Old Louisville). Lots of kid friendly things to do, great food/drinks and access to outdoor activities in both cities!
I vote for Maine. Specifically Portland. First, they have an airport you can fly right in, amazing food including lots of seafood. There is the Portland Children’s Museum, a cute little train ride along the Eastern Prom, take a ferry ride to Peaks Island (just off the coast) and rent bikes to explore, Portland Sea Dogs games, lobster everywhere, really great beer/breweries and so much more. That’s just Portland. LL Bean headquarters is 25 minutes away and Freeport is super cute with lots of shops. The Seacoast of NH and all the beaches are about an hour drive away (Portsmouth is a magical town) and Boston is less than 2 hours from Portland. There is also plenty of hiking, beaches and outdoor stuff. I live about an hour from Portland and would move there in a heartbeat if the right house came along.
Ugh. Way to go autofill with using my full name ?
Haha, fixed that for ya! And THANK YOU! We sadly had to miss a family wedding in Portland ME last year, and we were SO bummed. Maybe this is the year!
When we flew for the first time with our son, another mom gave us the advice to buy him a seat and install his car seat in the seat. He’s five now and he’s never once asked to get out of his seat and he associates it with a car ride and not an option. Even now at five years old we carry his seat onto the plane. It also saves us from the concern of the car seat not making it to our final destination or being beat up as it’s loaded on and off the plane!
Oh, such a great tip!
The beach! Any beach, but we took our son to Huntington Beach just before his second birthday last summer & he was beside himself playing in the sand but also watching the ocean – I think we may have a future surfer on our hands. ?. It’s free, you can come & go as you wish/need to, & it wore him out. And while we were in SoCal, we drove up to Disneyland, which he also had a blast at. He doesn’t watch enough tv/movies to know who most of the characters were, but he still enjoyed himself & got to ride almost everything, & since he had no expectations, we didn’t feel like we had to do it all! (Huge line at Peter Pan? Skipped it.). It was a long flight from Chicago, but he got to watch one movie, I packed him a “multi course” lunch that took up about half an hour to eat (sandwich, pretzels, strawberries), & brought an admittedly slightly heavy book with lots of stories in it, which for the long flight was completely worth it! Also, I second everyone who says you MUST be in a space, be it a hotel suite or Air BnB, that has at least two rooms! Happy travels!
I second everything Gina said. I have traveled to several U.S. destinations with my 1.5 yo and the best trips involved having a second space for him to sleep. Also, beaches are the best for little ones because they are so happy just sitting in the sand for so long. Maybe to have a shorter flight you could go to Florida? Great beaches and Disney!
Oh and P.S. – If it is a long flight (like my NY to CA trip), don’t feel bad about pacing the aisle. Q high-fived strangers up and down the aisle the ENTIRE flight (the passengers instigated the high-fiving… he was just happy walking back and forth). It got his energy out and kept him from kicking/crying, so I think the other passengers were happier too?
Oh, & PS on Disneyland – if you want to go on things that Lucy can’t go on, they have this amazing feature where one parent can ride, then they give you a ‘fast pass’ for your spouse to go on right after you & you hand off your child. I’m a roller coaster junkie & my husband & I both got to ride the three they have with no problem. I imagine most amusement parks have this now too. Brilliant!
We have a 3 and a 5 year old and our favorite vacations are places you live! Chicago and the Indiana Dunes. Chicago is only 2 hours away by Amtrak which is nice with kiddos because now you have two sets of hands vs. someone driving. We recently did St Louis which has a nice variety of hiking, parks, and museums. We have only flown once, my husband has a work trip to Seattle. It was a great place, my youngest was a 1year and 4months and the flights were not fun at all.
Hahaha, we love where we live so much. :D
My goals are a new job (final interview Friday!), and moving into a 100+ year old apartment (which I am for submitting for any possible project help). Excited to see you guys tackle things!
Aaaahhh, good luck to you! ??
So much of what people said above, especially having separate spaces wherever you stay if possible!
Two things we also do with our only child: (1) plane rides have as much screen time as desired (although NOT if it’s an overnight flight) we have pretty strict limits at home, but a 10 hour flight…pull out the iPad and headphones! We also have special candy for during take-off and landing (once they get to solid food). (2) playground every day. This was less of an issue when she was younger, but as she got older (age 3+?) play time with other kids was really important, not just child-friendly outdoorsy activities, but really time to interact on a playground/children’s section of a museum/park/etc When we were off in a rather remote area for a week, and then got back into town, she refused to leave the first playground we visited despite the pouring, freezing-cold rain, even without other children present.
As adults I wouldn’t have expected playgrounds to be a great place to include on the tourist trek but playgrounds tend to be off the beaten path, can be really fun designs, and can spark conversations with locals which can then lead to great ideas of other stuff to do, etc…
The playground advice makes so much sense! Can’t thank you enough for this.
St. Louis is a great place for little kids – zoo, city museum, magic house, the Hill area for Italian food.
I’m new to your blog and enjoying it! We are tackling a kitchen and putting up some walls this year. I’m happy to see what y’all have done. Thanks for posting.