Pixie Dust and Mickey Mail

We recently spent five days and four nights on the Disney Dream and it was just as magically memorable as you can imagine. Though we planned our trip about a month before we set sail, we were too late to join a Fish Extender group. You can read more about Fish Extenders in the post I wrote for the DCL Blog but a quick summary is these are small gifts from family to family that people put in a bag or tiered hanging box outside of your stateroom on the fish (hence Fish Extender) or seahorse depending on which side of the ship you are on.

Here’s ours:

(Somehow I forgot to take a picture of it outside our stateroom.)

Even though we were too late to join an official Fish Extender Group, we found about 16 families to Pixie Dust. Pixie Dust is just like a Fish Extender only surprise and with less obligation. I liked the ability to add some surprises and not feel like I needed to have something specific to each family member.

We ended up creating some ship cheat sheets, personalized postcards and small items for the children like silly face glow sticks, coloring books and silly bands.

These are the ship cheat sheets:
These are the postcards:

The first day we arrived on the ship we spent about an hour delivering our gifts, which our daughter affectionately named Mickey Mail. It was a great way to begin learning our way around and see the ship.

For the next four days, our daughter checked every time we came back to our room and before we left to see if she had received any Mickey Mail of her own. She was thrilled with everything she received and particularly appreciated a Princess Sophia playdoh set and an Elena of Avalor hooded towel.

I highly recommend participating in a Fish Extender or at least finding a Pixie Dust group if you’re planning on a Disney Cruise.

We also made some really fun magnets for the second cruise we took. Including some personalized ones for those in our Fish Extender group with their favorite characters.

p.s. If you’d like to purchase the Dream Cheat Sheet or the personalized postcards, let us know!


Dining Room updates

This project is taking quite a bit longer than originally anticipated.

Here’s what it looked like before we moved in:
Ashford dining @ Ashford diningWe decided we hated the chair rail, so we started removing it. Luckily, I discovered that the original installer never caulked the underside so removing it was pretty easy with a paint scraper and a hammer for leverage. We were really thrilled the day it all went out to the trash.
IMG_5081 IMG_5080 But then, not so great things happened and the paint above the chair rail started bubbling and peeling. In the worst place, this happened:
IMG_5215 IMG_5214After consulting with the following people: my dad, the amazingly wonderful contractor who does great things and the internet, I have learned it looks worse than it is and it’s very much repairable. (Thanks YouTube!) Apparently, it is officially torn drywall brown paper.

So what we will be doing to repair it is the following:

  1. sand it down to the best of our ability using a hand sander
  2. applying peel bond (or something similar) with a roller
  3. Drywall/sheetrock repair “mud”
  4. then paint

This all means it will take a lot longer than one weekend to get this done.

Count of rooms left to paint: 4 (not including the basement)
Count of rooms we have paint for: 4 (but we aren’t completely settled on one, so really 3 and an extra gallon)

Wish us luck!

Make your office look and feel more organized in a matter of minutes


Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question,“what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

Whether you work from home or in an office, taking a few moments to straighten up your workspace can make you feel more productive. 


Get Filing
You already knew this, but sorting all of your paperwork out properly is vital. It might seem like a huge, unmanageable task initially, but once you get started things really won’t seem so bad. Get it organized once and for all and then just keep on top of it as you go. Organize your files by year and date or alphabetically – whatever works for you, just make sure to keep the same system. A good filing system means you won’t have to dig through mountains of papers to find what you need. 

Sort your stationery
You probably have a whole pile of post-it notes, notepads, pens and pencils on your desk. Probably only a small portion of those still work. Go through and test each pen, throwing away the duds as you go. If by some kind of miracle they all work, then you need to cut down to your favorite pens, the ones you reach for over and over. Dutifully place the surplus pens back in the stationery cupboard for someone else or donate them to a local school. 

Organize useless possessions
Some people’s desks are awash with photo frames, ID cards, food wrappers, perhaps a cactus or two and almost definitely a few greeting cards. First of all: stop setting your ID card or office keys on your desk. Leaving it there is the reason you keep locking yourself out of the office. Find a way to keep this attached to you at all times – Lanyards USA Home Page has a plethora of options. As for the greeting cards, file the ones that you want to keep and recycle the others. Similarly, there should be no food or trash on your desk, ever. That’s why you have a waste basket!

Do a spot of spring cleaning
It’s so easy to pass on coughs and colds at work that it’s essential to keep your personal space as clean and as possible. Even if it doesn’t look it, your desk is probably in need of a clean. Desks – and everything piled up on them – are breeding grounds for germs and dust. If you eat at your desk the chances are a fair few food crumbs are scattered around the place too. Using your favorite wipes (I’m partial to the Clorox ones) wipe down your desk once a week. Use screen safe wipes and wipe your computer screen and laptop at the same time.


Updated Hall Bath

Our hall bathroom was the same color as every other room in our house: GREY. But not just grey, super flat, super grey grey. I like grey when it is more of a blue-grey tone or a nice green-grey, but this color is just very basic and boring and never looked clean. That color plus, a sink that didn’t really fit the space made it hard to like that room. It felt small. So we decided to do something about it while my parents were visiting recently. A quick trip to the local Lowes and we had a new vanity and sink, paint and paint supplies, a new light fixture and faucet to completely update the bathroom.

before hall bath

The first step was ripping out the sink, which turned out to be liquid nails-ed into the wall and floor.IMG_0230 2Removing the sink left us with a hole in the wall that needed to be patched.IMG_0227

Before we patched the hole, we checked to make sure the new sink would fit and drained the toilet tank.
Then my dad and I used a spackle putty that went on pink, but dried white. It took nearly an entire small container of the putty. Some general tips: when spackling use the putty knife to push it in and then using a “sunshine shape” from the middle to spread it out.

After we were done applying the putty to the wall, my dad showed me how to smooth it out with a damp washcloth. My grandmother came up with that trick and it really does make a difference in the finished texture.
IMG_8894 Metal putty knives are way better than plastic paint knives. Ideally, you’re looking for a thin 3 inch or so for a giant hole, like the one  our sink left. With all that patch work it took a really long time to dry.


After the patch completely dried and the toilet tank was empty, we took the toilet tank off to make ladder maneuvering and painting easier. If you’re not sure how to take the tank off, run a quick google search. It isn’t as scary as it seems.

IMG_0231 IMG_3335

Add a washcloth under the connection line just in case. IMG_7547

Voila! The tank is gone! As you can see we were the first people to remove the tank for painting and honestly hadn’t noticed, so if you choose not to remove it, no one will probably notice. IMG_3294

See? Room for the ladder!IMG_9073

Now comes the least fun part of painting, taping and prepping the walls. We started with sanding since we needed to sand down the patch any way. We used a hand sander and a fine grit sand paper.

We cut the sandpaper into quarters, which fit the sander perfectly.IMG_0244
Then we started sanding.IMG_1569 2

Once the walls were sanded to smooth (er) and wiped with a damp rag, we started taping. I find taping the ceiling worth it, but since my parents have lots of experience at painting, they didn’t need to (goals!).


Tape tip: Use your fingernail to get the tape in between the baseboards and the wall. When you get the tape try to go from corner to corner with one long piece.

Now, start edging.
IMG_1552As you can see we picked a coral color, which is less orange in person, I promise. It really brightened up the room. After edging, paint the entire room with a roller, some people like the thin rollers, I like the larger ones go with whatever makes you happy. Tip: don’t be stingy with the paint on the roller or the brush. You don’t necessarily want to glop it on, but it’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little. Also, be sure to paint in a W motion so you overlap the stripes.

Two coats later and you can hardly see the grey. You can see it even when the paint dries. Obviously, we opted not to paint where the new vanity is going since no one will notice it.

Now for the vanity and sink installation.

Finished project!

We still need to replace the outlets with white, but it looks so much better and with the new sink and vanity, there’s more room and a bit of storage. I couldn’t be happier!.IMG_4712

More Painting Hacks

Slowly but surely, J and I are making our house ours. When we moved in last October, the ENTIRE house was this awful shade of grey. It’s almost like the previous owners watched a bit too much HGTV and decided that what all 14 rooms and bathrooms needed was one color. But instead of picking a grey that would make the spaces look clean and fresh and emphasize the size of the rooms and the great windows, they chose an awful flat dirty grey that made everything feel gross. It made the (painted) white baseboards look dingy and dirtier than they were.

Here’s what the sitting room looked like before we moved in.
before sitting room

The photo “quality” actually makes this space look not terrible, but in person, it was dark and dirty. The room lacks an overhead light, but during the day (once the hideous vertical blinds were out!) has fantastic light from the two windows. J and I spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect blue for this room to match the formal, yet inviting vibe we wanted it to have. Plus, while we both like blue, I tended to go more toward a true navy and J tended to go more cobalt. Ultimately we settled on Empire Fleet Blue from Valspar.

Empire Fleet Blue

On our test swatches, it looked pretty dark, so J was a bit skeptical about how it would make the room feel. We left the squares up on the grey walls for about four months before our favorite local hardware store had a buy one get one free on premium paint sale. That was the push to just try it. As I wrote about here, we figure out some pretty great taping hacks. One more time, splurge and get the good Frog tape. It’s absolutely worth it!

The additional hack we used to protect our wood floors for this room was paper bags and boxes. Our paper bag collection bordered on hoarding so I was happy to get rid of them this way.

We found if you opened the bags like you would if you were covering a school textbook (high school memories!) but left the bottom flaps, you could cover more space and give your baseboards extra protection.


Then just make sure you tape the bags together and tape them to the wall. This method works particularly well for corners.

Then we further protected the floors by adding a super cheap plastic drop cloth, or feel free to use a plastic party tablecloth if you have one on hand, and then old sheets to keep from slipping and sticking to the drop cloth. IMG_4663

While all of these photos are at night, if you can avoid it don’t paint at night. With a toddler, we couldn’t avoid it and just painted after she went to sleep in the evenings. One coat covered really well, but there were a few places that needed a second coat, so every wall got another coat the next night.

IMG_4664We let the paint dry overnight before adding the furniture back to the room.

In all it took three night to get this room painted and put back together. IMG_4695

I couldn’t be happier with the end result. I love the color. It isn’t too dark, which makes J happy. IMG_4694

Here’s what it looks like in overcast daylight:

IMG_4701 The blue is a lot lighter in person and daylight as you can tell.

Now for the next project, removing the improperly installed chair rail in the dining room. IMG_4697