Friday, December 27, 2013

Awesome Garage Progress

Project Awesome Garage is progressing, albeit a little slower than I was hoping. It looks like we'll be done mid-January instead of before Christmas like I wanted.

But nevertheless, things are moving forward. The insulation is in, the new garage door and opener are in, and the laminate floor is in. Now we're just waiting on the cabinets. My cabinet guy says early January. This excites me greatly. Here are a few photos of the progress.

That's a lot of insulation....
 ... and it has to go up one roll at a time.
 I got pretty friendly with the staple gun and ladder.
Just be sure you look up when climbing the ladder, lest you nail your head on the garage door. Ouch!

And here's the new laminate floor. The mud room unit will be placed between the two doors. They're being painted Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter. I picked it solely based upon Pinterest's love affair with the color. 
The floor is great. Already picking up the dirt from the garage, though. Some indoor/outdoor rugs will be in our future.

Next step is installing the mudroom unit, and then covering up the insulation with drywall, or may some kind of pegboard system. Exciting stuff.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Project Awesome Garage

I love our house. It's a great fit for us and certainly has enough space for us. And while there are a few small things I'd fix, I'm generally really happy with it. There is, however, one thing that must change. We need a mud room.

We have a small coat closet by the front door, but we seldom come through there. We typically enter through the garage door into the kitchen and there is no room there for all the winter coats, hats, scarves, boots, etc. that accumulate. Despite multiple command hooks hanging everywhere, everything ends up on the kitchen floor and is constantly in the way.

Time to initiate Project Awesome Garage. Our goal is to create a mudroom-like space in the garage to contain all the clutter. We don't have room to add a finished room with walls, but we do have a blank wall connecting the kitchen and back doors where we can add some much-needed storage.

Before we can do that - we need to take care of a few more things out there. As you can see, the garage is a cold, damp, crowded mess. And this photo is after an initial clean up!

 The project has four major steps.

1. Insulate the garage. Only one of the four walls of the garage adjoins the house, leaving three walls of uninsulated shiver-inducing plywood. If we're going to add a space to put on and store coats, it needs to be at least 32 degrees at all times. We're hoping some added insulation will also keep the fourth bedroom (directly above the garage) from being so cold in the winter.
2. Update the garage door and opener. The old garage door was dented, uninsulated, unreliable and incredibly noisy. Combine that with two light sleepers and a husband who leaves for work early, and everyone is up before the sun. We need something quieter and warmer. (Oh yeah, and one that goes up and down when it should!)

3. Add a new floor to the mud room area. The current concrete floor is cold, damp and not very pretty. We want something that creates a room-like space in the corner of the garage where the mud room will go. (Between the back garage door and the kitchen door.)

4. Install a custom-made bench, shelving unit and hooks. This needs enough storage for all our stuff, a bench and hooks low enough for the kids to use, and a plenty of floor space for things like boots and shoes.

We're making great progress, and I'll go into more detail in some future posts. I'm hopeful we'll have everything done by Christmas!

K for Kate!

Remember the yarn-wrapped letters I did for my friends' daughters Naomi and Lucy? Well, Lucy now has a sister named Katherine! So, here is a K for Kate!

Here it is in process...

And here's the finished product. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

3-2-1 Contact!

As our oldest daughter gets older, our schedules have become busier and busier. We've noticed she responds better (and behaves better) when she has a good sense of what's coming. She is a kid who hates surprises and is pretty slow to adjust to new environments and routines.

With a lot of new stuff coming up this school year (Jr. Preschool! Swimming! Puggles!), we thought it would be helpful if we put up a big calendar where everyone in the family could see the planned activities for the week.

We have a big pantry cabinet in the kitchen that has a long tall exposed side. Until now, we had some of those 3M command hooks hanging there for coats and backpacks, with a shoe bin below. We moved the hooks over to clear the way for a huge calendar.

After exploring quite a few options, I found some chalkboard ConTact paper at Amazon and decided to write out our own calendar. The reviews were decent and it seemed cheaper and easier than chalkboard paint, so I decided to give it a whirl.

This stuff is great. It comes on a roll like typical contact paper that you would use to line cabinets and drawers. It's as simple as peel and stick. (Although it can be a little unwieldy at times, so having a buddy during the sticking process may be a good idea.) My cabinets are wider than the 18" roll, so I had to piece it together.

I read a couple reviews online that suggested using a nylon pan scraper to help ensure there were no bubbles. I had one lying around from a Pampered Chef party. Worked like a charm.

It was difficult to measure everything so precisely, and the product does stretch/shift a little, so I cut it a little big and planned for some overlap. I used an X-acto knife to clean up the edges where needed.

Once it was all done, I seasoned it like you would a regular chalkboard. Just cover the whole thing in chalk and wipe it off. I have no idea why this works, but it does.

This little project took a little less than two rolls, about 30 minutes and about $16. Although the chalk ink markers are a little expensive, they make everything stand out nice and bright and are harder for a curious 2-year-old to wipe off. (They wipe away easily with a damp rag.) Time to brush up on my hand-lettering skills.

So far, we're having fun with it. Putting the schedule in a place where everyone can see it is helping make sure we're all on the same page. I'm thinking of putting more ConTact paper on the opposite cabinet for a grocery list, and possibly some on the kitchen door for reminder notes. I sense an addiction coming on...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Celebrate Good Times

It seems like there's always something to celebrate around here. Last month, I spent an afternoon with one of Ben's cousins, making her birthday cake with her and teaching her some decorating tricks. She asked for a teal cake with purple polka dots. Here's where we ended up!

After a disastrous failed attempt at making fondant and gum paste flowers, I used candy wafers to make the flowers. Just melt some wafers in the microwave (follow the instructions on the bag, and DON'T add any other liquid!) and dip a plastic spoon back into the bowl to coat it with melted candy. Don't get any candy anywhere else on the spoon. Put the spoon in the fridge (candy side up) for a few minutes to harden the candy, and then slowly peel it off. Expect that about half of them will break - so be patient!

I used regular plastic spoons for the flowers on the sides, and a larger serving spoon for the flower on the top. (I think it came from the dollar store.)

I used some additional melted candy and extra buttercream as a glue to hold the petals together. I finished them with some aerosol food coloring - although the color didn't absorb as well as I would have liked.

The cake looked so pretty all lit up, and I think the birthday girl was happy with it too!

Also, a few months back, Ben and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary. 10 years! Wow, time flies. Anyway, since the idea of taking two small children to Hallmark grips me with fear, I made Ben a card.

Actually, I made him two cards. I couldn't decide. Here's the other.

I used to come up with the numbers. Don't forget to account for all those leap years!

And finally, check out this canvas that Janet made for her husband for Father's Day with hand prints from their three boys. Isn't it great?

Staying Dry

Remember back in March how I mentioned that our basement always seems to be wet? And that I was sick of it?  Things were getting so bad around here, that we had the wet vac on standby in the basement every time it rained, just in case.

Well, in June, our basement took on some water yet again. And again it was a silly, pointless sump pump failer. Another late night workout with the vac. Hey, at least it's good cardio.

Well, this time we decided we weren't going to mess around. We walked past the pallet of the cheap-o sump pumps at Lowe's, and headed straight for the mother of all sump pumps. Ladies, and gentlemen, I give you the extremely expensive, yet extremely effective Basement Watchdog. Because you can't put a price tag on keeping the junk in your basement dry.

Backup pump, backup battery - this thing has it all. And after a couple of serious rain storms, including the return of the lake in the back of the yard and some nice little marble sized hail, the basement is still dry.

Hooray! I remain optimistic that this will fix things. Although I did buy a couple of water sensors for the basement floor. Just in case.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Garden Goodness

Remember a couple months ago when the garden looked like this?

Well, today it looks like this!


Lots of growing going on around these parts. The organic garden soil mix I used in the new containers has been great. I'm always amazed at how fast everything grows.

In the other corner, here's the blackberry bush, which also gets bigger every year.

Because of this year's mild summer, it hasn't been that tough to keep up with everything. My tomatoes are stuck at green, and my blackberries are stuck at red. E and I walk to the garden every day to see what's ripe and it has been a great lesson in patience.

I have harvested a few cucumbers and some dill for pickles...

Some delicious green beans...

And some of that lemon balm for shortbread cookies.

I've also picked a few handfuls of blackberries, but they usually don't make it out of the backyard. Yum yum!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July! We're celebrating here by going bed early. Exciting, I know. But we had an early morning and we have a couple other parties coming up this long holiday weekend.

Check out the fun wreath I made for the front door. Cost about $13 in supplies with enough to make another. I used a straw wreath (keep the plastic wrap on!), some yarn, scotch tape and pre-cut wood stars that E painted white for me. Easy, but a little time consuming to wrap the yarn. The idea came from a few of the flag wreaths and tutorials floating around Pinterest.

Hope you have a fun and festive Independence Day!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cutie Pie Kiddos... and Designing with Clutter in Mind

Remember those photos I mounted last weekend? I got around to putting them up a couple days ago. Honestly they would have sat around a lot longer, but I was worried that some little fingers would mess them up. Nothing like your own sticky kids to motivate you to get things done!

So here they are. Aren't they beautiful? I love how they turned out. You know what else I love? Having the talented photographer Holly Isaacson as my sister-in-law. Seriously I wonder how she accomplishes all that she does, and still has time to take such beautiful photos and run an awesome art blog and still raise three fantastic kids. 

When I put up the frames up above Jonas' changing table in his nursery, I used the toothpaste method I found on Pinterest. A complete and total disaster. Not only did I get toothpaste everywhere (except where it needed to be), but it took me hours to get those photos just right.

This time around, I simply put up paper that matched the frame size (12x12 scrapbook paper) and arranged it how I liked it. Stuck a few nails through the paper that matched the hangars on the frame and we were done. It still took a bit of time with a ruler but overall SO MUCH EASIER.

Now here's the thing about design that really gets to me. When you see all those pretty photos on blogs and in magazines, the rooms are clearly staged. Stylists come in and arrange things just so and then nobody breathes or moves until the picture is perfect. The truth is no one lives like that. There is no way that anyone (at least anyone with kids) has a room that is that clean and that perfect for more than five minutes. And all those crystal or ceramic vases and bowls that are placed all around? Those wouldn't survive a day around here. As much as I hate it, clutter is a way of life. It just piles up.

So as I stared at the paper on the wall, I thought to myself that the photos should be lower. They look too high up and unevenly placed for the space. But then I remembered (actually, I tripped on) all the clutter I had moved to the floor.

If I don't live my life picture perfect like a magazine, why should I place the photos that way? So I decided to hang them with future clutter in mind. That way, when the clutter piles up like it inevitably will, the photos won't be hidden and won't serve as another reminder about how chaotic my life has become. None of us need one more thing staring us down and telling us we don't have our act together. The kids do that for me all on their own. Ha!

So higher up they went, and then the clutter got added back in. (I will confess that I did put some of it away.) Maybe I'm desensitized, but now I kind of like the clutter and how it looks all together. And in reality it's the way I live. It's why I have an office chair around my dining room table, why my coffee table is completely out of reach of the couch and why the vacuum doesn't have a permanent home and yet never gets used. Because it works for us.

That's why I love these photos so much. They remind me of what's important in life. So here's to you, cutie pie kiddos. I love you lots and I hope I always remember that you are everything I hoped for and more. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Windows, Windows, Windows

Last weekend I finished and Tom hung up the new valances in the bonus room. When we moved in seven years ago, there were some craaaazy window treatments that came with the house. At the time, I was thrilled just to have something covering all the windows, but I was soon completely unimpressed with the orange corduroy roman shades and heavy gold drapes.  

I updated the downstairs treatments fairly quickly, but it has taken a while to get to the rest of the house. Lately it seems like we've been going crazy for windows. The new bonus room valances are made from the fabric I got on mega clearance at JoAnn's last year year and the inside of the side pleats are leftover scraps from the headboard project. All done for less than $20. Score!

I made a similar valance for the kitchen with some fun fabric from Hawthorne Threads. It has a cute baking theme and the aqua stripe along the bottom matches my KitchenAid. The inside of the pleat is a sunny yellow polka dot. It's the kind of pattern that makes me smile when I look at it. I may make something similar for the sliding glass door.

And finally, I've been helping my awesome friend Janet with some window treatments for her house, including new valances for her family room and also a valance for her son's room. For these we used the simple method of stapling the fabric to boards and using hem tape on the bottom. They mount to the wall with simple L brackets. Only minimal sewing - and that was just to seam two pieces together to span her large window.

Lots of impact for not a lot of money. My kind of project!