Guess Who’s Back?

Hello old friends! Obviously it has been awhile.  Life got a little crazy in 2014 and this blog got left by the wayside.  And THEN, I got an e-mail from WordPress a few weeks back telling me that nearly 300 of you had checked out my blog in the past year even though I hadn’t written a single word.  YOU GUYS.  I didn’t know you cared.

So in the spirit of a new year and new goals I will be creating new entries on the blog, with a slightly new look.

One of the biggest challenges I faced in writing this blog was the desire to show you a picture perfect ending.  This time around I will be breaking up projects and showing the progress as I go – in other words the way it REALLY is.  I also intend to write about the hits and misses of each project with a “WHAT I LOVED” and “WHAT I LEARNED” section at the end of each project.

THANK YOU for being interested in our little corner of the world.  I hope you enjoy!


Organized Chaos

In a home such as ours, I have come to accept the fact that organized chaos is the best I can hope for.  Not that I wouldn’t love to have one of those pantries with everything stored in clear glass containers neatly labeled with their contents (and if you have a pantry like that I bow down to you.  And ask that you come to my house.  Seriously) but it is just not gonna happen any time soon.  So I instead satisfy myself with small organizing projects that ensure all of our items have a home.    We tackled one such project this past weekend by working on the oldest boy’s closet.

The starting place on any organizing project big or small is determining what your needs are in the space.  Sometimes that means living with the chaos for a while and then figuring out how to organize it.  That is exactly what we did when the boy moved into his room.  The closet in his bedroom is deeper than average, but not particularly large.  Given that he had been so patient waiting for his room to be finished and our check writing hand had been getting quite a work-out, we looked for closet options that were quick and cheap – and ended up with a pretty basic configuration of one hanging rod with a shelf above it.  We added two short shelving units on the ground to corral all of his stuff.


Pretty impressive, huh?

I should also say that I hate clutter so I expect our closets to function for lots of storage.  I just love being able to close a door and hide all the stuff that we have!  And  my 11-year-old son loves stuff.  He has a sentimental attachment to everything, and likes to be able to see all his treasures.  So fast forward about six months.  It was clear his closet wasn’t working, but it was also clear what we needed to do to make it work – easily accessible and visible storage, with a designated spot for each item.  It needed a place to display some treasures.  Oh, and we could lose a lot of hanging space (the kid owns about 3 dress shirts).

We looked at all kinds of cubby systems and build-your-own closets but nothing seemed quite right.  The cubbies were too flimsy, and the closet systems were too involved (and expensive!) for our needs.

But I have found when in doubt, go to Ikea. Two of the Billy bookcases in the 15 inch width came home with me.  It took the hubby and myself about an hour to put the two of them together.  They are “notched” on the back at the bottom to allow for the baseboard, which means they sit flush against the wall.  Not much installation was required but because of their height we did anchor them to the wall with the provided hardware.  Finally we reinstalled the original brackets and clothes rack.  The shelf was also re-used, but we cut it down to fit between the two bookcases.  I spent another hour labeling shelves (with my new label maker!) and putting things away.  We also added in some of my son’s favorite posters.

So the re-organized closet looks like this:

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I love that Ikea pretty much has everything – I can even buy extra shelves for my bookcase, which is exactly what I will be doing at my next trip – because there are still LOTS of legos to display!  I also like that products like the Billy bookcase have been around forever, so the odds are good that if our needs change again we can add or reconfigure pieces to get  more function out of the boy’s tiny space.

How do you organize your closets?

Gettin’ our drink (bar) on!

The Hubs and I do a lot of DIY work, but I wouldn’t say most of our projects are mutually exciting.  Often times the project we are working on is a bigger priority for one of us more so than the other.  So when a project comes along that is truly a collaborative effort it is a special treat!  One night recently as we watched TV, the Hubs said, “I want to get an old sink and make an outdoor cooler with it.”  I think most people would probably put the brakes on an idea like that but since we ride the crazy train together I immediately got on the computer to show him a idea that had been idling in the back of my head. I had pinned this potting bench months ago.  At the time I wasn’t entirely sure why (because let’s be honest, I don’t do enough potting to actually have a potting bench) except I liked it.  But when I heard “old sink” I knew that this potting bench could easily be converted to an outdoor drink station. And luckily when the hubs saw my inspiration he loved the idea too! So we decided to make a potting bench/drink bar/outdoor cooler.  Have I mentioned we like multi-functional pieces?!

After studying the original bloggers step-by-step instructions (which are actually pretty simple) we decided to make a few modifications for our project.  Working with a specific space in mind we measured twice to get a perfect fit (our completed drink station measures 48 inches wide, 28 inches deep and about 5 feet tall).  We also added additional 2×4’s to the countertop frame to ensure that the sink was well supported – we didn’t want the 1×4 countertop to bow over time, and we added casters as the original blogger mentioned how HEAVY her potting bench is.




Additional supports added for the sink and the bottom shelf, and the back board added


Adding locking casters makes our drink station moveable when needed


Almost finished!

To take it from potting bench to drink bar we simply cut a hole in the top and dropped in the sink (we didn’t bother to clip or even caulk it in place – the counter is made from outdoor grade materials so water shouldn’t be a big deal).  Our sink was a $15.00 find from our local ReStore.  Then a trip to our local Home Depot yielded some PVC plumbing pipe, drain and strainer kits so we could hook everything up.  We picture using the sink mostly as a cooler filled with ice, and so we wanted to be able to drain it easily.   The PVC is attached to some flexible hosing so we can just drain melting ice directly into the yard.  Three cheers for going green!


We added a narrow upper shelf to hold glasses

Lastly we added the “jewelry” – three nickel hooks on one side of the counter for hanging ice tongs and a dish towel,  and a bottle opener to the front.  And behold:

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The entire project took about 6 hours, and that includes two trips to the hardware store.  The hubs constructed the frame one evening and did the rest of the construction the following afternoon.  Then all that was left was to test it out.  I can report that it DOES keep beverages icy cold, but I guess we were enjoying them too much to take pictures!

We are considering adding a faucet that could be hooked up to the garden hose to add even more function to our little project.  It would be a nice place for outdoor hand washing or giving garden vegetables a “once-over” before bringing them inside.  We have also considered adding a small outdoor fridge to the bottom shelf.

For a couple of DIY dorks like us, this project was really a hat trick – it is an attention getter (our friends and family are begging for invites to hang in our backyard now!), it was easy, and it was CHEAP.  The entire project cost under $150.  Here is the budget breakdown:

Lumber: $60.00 (2×4’s, 1×4’s, and a 6 foot fence panel)

Sink: $15.00

Plumbing Supplies: $20.00

Casters: $24.00

Hooks: $9.00

Bottle Opener: $7.00

Total Cost: $135.00

So we definitely feel like we got a lot of bang for our buck.  The backyard has been our new favorite hang-out, especially because the drink station is sitting on our new patio/deck combo!!!! But more on that to come…

Grunge is Dead!

And my husband (who by the way looked just like Eddy Vedder back in the day)  is the one who killed it!  But for those of you who are now crying into your flannel, do not fear! I am not talking about the 1990’s musical type of grunge, but rather the type that had settled comfortably into our 60-year-old brick exterior.

I haven’t shared many exterior pics of the house with you, and said “grunge” is the main reason why.  Although we have made many upgrades outside the feature that stood out to me the most when I pulled into my driveway was the dirty, dingy brick.


When we moved in


After the old landscaping was removed


And the dirty brick as it remained for a year

So finally last week the Hubs pulled out a pressure washer and tackled that grunge.

I should mention that many experts recommend NOT power washing brick – if the pressure is too high you run the risk of damaging the mortar.  However in this circumstance we were fairly confident that a pressure washer had never been used on our exterior so we didn’t feel giving it a once over every 60 years or so was excessive.

Power washing can also remove paint, especially if it is chipped or peeling.  But since we are planning on painting the siding and trim on our house in the next month and will be scraping anyway we weren’t worried about that either.  So all that was left was to fire it up and let the dirt fly!


The pressure washer we used is gas-powered, so we just had to gas it up, hook it to our exterior hose, turn on the water and push the starter.  And the dirt literally got washed away!


As you can see the difference it made was pretty remarkable!  I have never been a big fan of our orangey brick but it turns out that cleaning off the grunge actually changed the color of the brick – turning it into a more subtle and pleasing camel color.  Still not what I would have picked, but much prettier!

The window ledges were not as easy to clean.  They were badly mildewed, covered in moss and have a rough texture.  I used a bleach cleaner and scrub brush prior to the Hubs coming by with the washer but we were still not able to get them looking like new.  There was however a noticeable and vast improvement so I guess we will take what we can get!


For a couple of hours of dirty and wet work we got our home looking much spiffier than before and moved one step closer to the finish line on our outdoor work.


Home Sweet Home!

Projects, projects, projects.

A lot of people assume we are constantly working on a project.  And we are, but mostly because we typically don’t finish a project before starting a new one.  So as of tonight my house looks like this:


and this:


and this:


and this:


I won’t even SHOW you pictures of the interior  because when I am in project mode I pretty much ignore everything else.  So it’s fair to say we are a MESS inside and out!

Of course this many projects happening at the same time is extreme but I do like to have at least a couple of things in the works at any time.  For me, being able to move back and forth between two projects keeps me motivated to finish – especially if one of the projects is a long-term or intensive project.  For example, freshening up some Adirondack chairs with a coat of paint keeps me from being discouraged that our backyard patio/deck combo is still unfinished.  It can also allow us to take a break and regroup if things aren’t going the way we planned on a project, which is what happened when we needed to change our original plans for the pergola.

So I hope to have completed updates on some of these projects for you within the next few days, but what about you?  How do you get motivated to start a project? And more importantly how do you get motivated to finish a project?

Treed Off

I do not shy away from undertaking controversial design projects (I have painted our kitchen cabinets black, tiled with actual pennies, and painted hardwood floors ) but we recently did something that was unintentionally controversial. We cut down some trees.

I didn’t realize that some people think you should NEVER, EVER cut down trees (unless they are diseased). And I understand that trees offer many benefits to our property and to our environment as a whole. But let me take a moment to defend our decision to remove these particular trees.

When we purchased our home, the property included 9 trees. Five of those were nice large established trees. The remaining trees (one in the front yard and three in the back) were newer smaller trees. According to my neighbor, these trees were added to replace older trees that had died. Not much attention was paid to the type of tree or where they should be planted. One of these “new” trees was in the front yard right next to the foundation and had to be removed to allow for grading.


All of the front landscaping, including this tree had to be removed.


After removal

The three remaining back yard trees were the ones we recently had removed. We decided to remove them to help our yard function better for our family. Two of the trees were in the middle of our yard – making the kids’ favorite activities like baseball, football and soccer impossible – and the other was a crab apple tree that constantly dropped tiny hard apples that caused me to regularly turn my ankle.

The two trees that are still part of our backyard are larger and closer to the house so we still have lots of shady area. More importantly we now have space for our kids to really use the backyard. So although by many people’s definition I am a “tree hugger”, I had no problem giving these three the ax (pun intended) to make our life a little bit better. And we have both an indoor wood burning fireplace and an outdoor fire pit so those trees were chopped into firewood that will be used.

Now our family is loving our transforming outdoor space.  We have already had an intense tee ball game, and our oldest is planning a football game for him and some friends.

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Stay tuned for more outdoor changes!

There is No Time Like the Party

I come from a long line of DIYers, and I learned quite early that the absolute best time to start a new project is right before you have company. I have many memories of my entire family picking up paint brushes or hammers to finish a kitchen makeover or repainting the house before a party. There was even the one time when my grandpa decided to lay new sod two days before my aunt’s wedding!

Because there is no time like a party, and we are about 2 weeks away from our nearly annual 3rd of July Party (I say nearly annual because in our 12 years of marriage we have skipped two years; (1) the time I was 37 weeks pregnant, and (2) last year when our house was still in major construction mode) we have a list of projects to complete before we throw open the door to our guests. Originally, these were our “to do’s”

1. Complete the kitchen by adding moulding to the cabinetry
2. Build an enclosed pergola complete with gate
3. Add a patio
4. Build a fire pit
5.Remove some trees from the backyard
6. Add a deck
7. Build out a bench and hooks in our coat nook
8. Finish our oldest son’s headboard project

As life happens you have to just go with the flow. Some of the things we thought we would get finished aren’t going to get finished. Some of the things we thought wouldn’t be done before our party are going to get done. And some new projects have piqued our interest and taken priority. So our modified “to do” list looks like this:

1. Complete the kitchen by adding moulding to the cabinetry
2. Build a pergola (enclosing it and adding the gate will be added in a later phase)
3. Add a patio
4. Remove some trees from the backyard
5. Add a deck (we were afraid rainy weather would delay this, but our builder says he will fit us in and have it finished!)
6. Exterior paint (a friend and the Hubs are doing this, and the end of June works best for their schedules, so it will be done earlier than we thought)
7. Build an outdoor drink bar


A few of these trees are already gone!

We are pretty confident that our new “to do” list will get “ta done” (in fact ***spoiler alert*** a few of these things are already done) before the party but we are always open to making changes as needed. Here is a before pic of our backyard, but I am hoping to really soon unveil a rockin’ outdoor party space in its place!

What has been your most ambitious undertaking before welcoming guests?