Banquette Part Deux

I wrote a little while back about our kitchen banquette and how I still wanted to make a few changes – namely changing the chairs and table. We recently did both, and I feel like those small changes really improved the functionality of our little nook.

We swapped out our white too large table with a smaller dark oak one when I mentioned to my mom that I was on the lookout for a smaller table. Her kitchen also has a banquette but hers sits in a bay window and is larger than my space so she was wanting a larger table. Easy as that, we swapped tables and are both SOOO much happier. In my kitchen there is more room to slide into the banquette, even with the addition of chairs.

And oh yea, the chairs! I had already picked some out at World Market but I was holding off a little bit. I am a member of their rewards program and they usually send members a birthday discount. Since my birthday was coming up I decided to wait for my discount. The bad news was I almost waited too long! The day of my birthday I checked out the chairs online, and they were showing as no longer available. I wasn’t too concerned considering I had visited my local store just a week or so before and they had several chairs in stock. When I went later that night they had three (3!) chairs left. No plans to get anymore. And the ones left all had chips and/or dents.

IMG_2141Luckily the employee who helped me was willing to give me a discount on the scratch and dent chairs. And considering that I (1) LOVED them, and (2) have three boys who are going to scratch and dent them anyway, I decided to go for it. I think they look pretty great even with the dents.

IMG_2142And this picture isn’t a great shot of the banquette, but I wanted to include it so you could all see my cute pallet art I made for our weird long skinny wall.  It is a bump out to allow for the pantry.  When we removed the wallpaper we also found that this is where the doorbell is – they had removed the cover and wallpapered right over it!  This art covers it nicely.

So we are about to close the chapter on the banquette, with just one more potential project hanging out there. The table is a dark oak, and I can’t decide if I like that finish, or if I prefer the table white like the old one. So I am taking opinions, folks!

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Just Brickin’ It

One of the outdoor projects on our ‘to-do’ list was to add a brick border to our driveway.  The purpose was twofold – our loooong driveway is very narrow and occasionally folks will overlap a little into our yard.  This left a strip of mud in our yard where grass was supposed to be. Mud that always managed to find its way into the house!  We wanted to make the driveway wider without going to the trouble and expense of adding more concrete. We figured adding a border made of bricks would give a little more space to back out and hopefully save our yard in the process.  And of course it LOOKS pretty great too.

The Hubs did most of the labor on this project – from picking up the bricks to actually laying them out.  We decided on a neutral tan brick because we didn’t want too much contrast between the color of the drive and the brick.  We agreed on our pattern together.  Then he carefully began laying them out, paying attention to keeping it level.  The driveway itself was not perfectly plumb so he occasionally had to compensate by changing up the pattern.  It is barely noticeable to me so I doubt if anyone will ever notice.


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My husband’s face doesn’t really look like that – he’s just camera shy.

Lastly we added several layers of sand brushed over the tops of the bricks and into the crevices between the bricks to keep them from settling.  We put down some grass seed on the few bare spots that were still there after adding the bricks.  You will notice the driveway still doesn’t look perfect – there are large cracks in the concrete.  But since there is not any settling we plan to fill the gaps with a liquid crack filler and hopefully be able to live with it for a while before having to replace the entire driveway.  Today the border looks like it has always been there!  An easy and economical (our total was under $65 dollars) solution that actually looks great too.


My Best Idea Yet

Summer vacation has started at my house which means my kids are already uttering my very favorite sentences – “I’m bored.” and “I’m hungry.”  They are not big fans of my answer to the first complaint (which is usually to give them a chore) but I think I have come up with a solution to the second that can make all of us reasonably happy.  And it is truly the easiest thing I have ever done!

This morning around 10:00 I did this:

veggie tray

It took me about 3 minutes to slice up some red pepper (the baby carrots and snap peas were bagged and ready to go) and toss everything on a plate.  I set out some hummus and the tray in the middle of the kitchen table and collected my children.  I told them these healthy snacks were for them, I would leave it out all day and they were not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES to ask me for a snack or tell me they were hungry.

And it’s working!  They dug in right away and have continued to grab a carrot or pepper as they walk past.  Nobody asked me, “When do we get lunch?” and I haven’t had to explain for the billionth time why candy is NOT a snack.  I even snuck a few extra veggies into my diet today.

How do you other moms handle the “snack” trap?

Tears & Fears…Cookies help!

Today my oldest son “graduates” from his elementary school and after an all too brief summer break will be moving on to middle school.  He is excited, with only a tinge of nervousness.  I however am a wreck.  I have always thought of my oldest as so grown up but sending him off into the wild (’cause have you ever BEEN to a middle school?!) is a completely different scenario.

I kept myself from running off the rails the last few days by planning a fun little project for the last day of school. Cutting, stuffing, and curling distracted me from being a sentimental goofball. Another blog created this cute little printable that seemed fitting for my kids’ teachers.  The saying, “Thanks for making me one smart cookie” was especially appropriate for my child moving on from this school and so we decided to make one for each of the teachers who helped mold him into the awesome middle schooler he will be.  Every teacher with the exception of his kindergarten teacher are still teaching at the school, so it was nice to recognize all of them as well as the art, music, and PE teachers and the principal of the school.  And who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies?  


I just printed off the cards and cut them out.  My son wrote his name and “(Insert Elementary School Name Here) Class of 2013”.  We bagged giant chocolate chip cookies from our local bakery in clear cellophane bags, punched a hole in the corner of the card and tied the whole thing up with coordinating curling ribbon.


I helped the boy pass them out to his teachers this morning, and it was a bittersweet thing.  These teachers deserve SO MUCH thanks and they were all touched by his little gift.  It was also nice to spend a few moments with each of them who have watched him grow.


Happy Summer to all students and teachers out there!

To Do, Ta Da, Ta Done!

Considering I began this blog smack dab in the middle, I thought I would take a few hundred words to recap what we completed prior to this documentation and to write down our “to do’s” for the rest of this calendar year.

As I have mentioned before our home was not exactly a head turner when we purchased it.  It had been neglected for some years and therefore needed quite a bit of love.  Our plan of attack had three parts – necessary repairs, additions and renovations.

Basement before

Note the water on the floor? This was during a drought.

Repairs – These were items specifically mentioned in our structural engineers report and were necessary to make our house safe and liveable.  They included updating the electric,  installing a sump pump, re-grading the exterior, installing a French drain, replacing the basement windows, anchoring the basement walls and adding insulation.  As you can see most of the required repairs were due to water damage.  We live less than a mile from a creek and have a high water table.  Water is unable to get in through the solid concrete floor of a basement, and therefore rises up, pressing on the concrete blocks walls.  Over time that pressure can push the walls in and weakens the mortar leaving places for water to come in and can also collapse if ignored long enough.  Anchoring the walls pushes them back out to flush.  The French drain keeps water from building up in the walls and the sump pump pushes that collected water out and away from the house.  Re-grading the exterior keeps water from settling around the foundation and the new windows are well sealed to keep water from seeping in.  All of this work was completed by professionals.


Same view as above, today.

Additions – We really love the layout and large rooms in our 1700 sq foot ranch.  But it wasn’t quite large enough.  So we have finished another 900 sq feet in our basement that includes a 4th bedroom, large family room, bathroom and coat nook.  Nearly all this work was completed by professionals, but we did all the painting and installed flooring in the bathroom and hallway to cut costs.

Renovations – Given the extensive needs above we completed all of the cosmetic updates ourselves and on a small budget.  I will run this down room by room.

Entry Way – Replaced the floor with this penny tile

Hallway – Painted and installed new lighting

Living/Dining –  Painted, made new window treatments

Kitchen – New appliances, added additional storage and reused cabinetry, updated lighting and flooring.  Added new countertops, sinks and a backsplash.  Paint.  Made the banquette.

Powder room – Paint.  New mirror, sink and faucet and toilet.

Main bath – Replaced the floor, toilet, vanity and mirror.  Installed wainscoting and paint.  Added recessed lighting.  Reglazed old pink tub white.

All bedrooms – repainted and new lighting.

Most of our short (within this year) “to-do” list is exterior upgrades.  We were able to add some landscaping to the front last year and added a new mailbox, house numbers and lighting.  This summer we are repainting (the majority of the house is brick but we do have sided gables and of course trim.)   We also plan on adding an arbor and landscaping to the shady side of our house.  We are widening our driveway by adding a decorative brick border.   A deck and patio are in the works for the backyard as well as some much needed landscaping.  The deck and patio will be done by the pros but everything else we will DIY.  We are also hoping to add a fun surprise for the boys – perhaps a treehouse?!

Our interior projects are more manageable than before.  We want to dress up the fireplace by adding trim and a mantle.  We plan to add a built-in bench and hooks to our coat nook.  I also have a fun headboard project for our oldest son’s room.  Our kitchen cabinets would benefit from a fresh coat of paint and I am replacing the old hinges on them a little bit at a time.

Our long term “to do” list (anywhere from 1-7 years down the road) includes finishing two additional rooms in the basement – a craft room/second laundry room and a bonus room that can be used as a guest room.  I’d like to update our first floor laundry room with fresh paint, built -ins and new lighting.   We also plan on adding a small addition to the back of the house to expand our master bedroom and add an en suite.  At that time we may also renovate the kitchen and add a small hearth room to it.

So that is where we are.  Do any of you keep a running list of your “to do’s”?  Anyone out there looking forward to the weather FINALLY cooperating so you can get some outdoor projects completed?  Any favorite plants that you love to use in  your landscaping?

There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Except of course when there completely, totally is!  Just last week one of my other favorite blogs posted this photo as a potential “splurge” item.


Quite the looker, huh?

 I pretty much loved everything about it – except the price.  If I had an extra $460 burning a hole in my pocket I would likely be finding a way to spread that fairy dust a little in every room, rather than on one big beautiful chair.

And then over the weekend the most amazing thing happened.  My neighbor, who had bought new patio furniture, wanted to get rid of some wicker chairs and a settee she had previously used on her deck.  At first I resisted – I didn’t have room, not sure if I could make it work, etc. etc.  And then I saw which chair she wanted to gift.  THIS CHAIR.   And I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough!



Remarkably similar to that beauty from above, but perhaps even more awesome because it is a painted a light dusty aqua color which works wonderfully with the bedding and rug from our master bedroom.



Because this chair has been used outside it is a little worse for wear.  On the right arm one of the supports is broken and would be difficult to fix.  But considering that the chair in our bedroom rarely holds anything heavier than a load of clothes I think we can live with it.

I will likely be replacing the cushion, and given the cost of the chair (did I mention IT WAS FREE?!) I will probably splurge on one from Ballard Designs (where you can also find the original inspiration chair).  I love a mix of patterns so I am considering a stripe.  Or maybe burlap to match our homemade headboard?  Or a nice cream linen?  Decisions, decisions.

And in case you were wondering, I did find a spot for those other wicker pieces.  The settee is currently in our living room.  And the other chair (which is an adorable vintage chair with a POTTY SEAT hidden under the cushion) looks great in our littlest’s cowboy room.

What is your biggest splurge?  Or your biggest save?  Any of you have a hand me down that you absolutely love?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Banquette – Cheque!

Our kitchen banquette is finally finished, and I am so happy to show it off to all of you!  This project is one that really makes our house feel (close to!) complete.  That probably sounds silly.  After all, it is a small corner of our kitchen that we rarely eat meals at.  And we made it functional months ago by adding the benches (made with unfinished cabinetry)  Maybe this photo will explain why getting this project finished mattered so much to me.

View from the front door, the day we moved in

View from the front door, the day we moved in

Yup.  Anyone who enters our front door looks directly into our kitchen.  NOT our lovely living room or even our formal dining area but the messiest, craziest part of our house, the kitchen!  And staring at that unfinished banquette every time I entered the house made me even crazier than I normally am!  Now when I open the front door I am all smiles.


And the same view today

You saw a sneak peak of the fabric a few weeks back (the foam had been purchased months ago when I was able to snag it at 40% off).  It is a home decorator fabric purchased from a chain fabric store on sale for $7 a yard.  We used about 2 1/2 yards.   I had originally looked at an outdoor fabric or even a laminated fabric to make the cushions easy to clean but after several months of searching I could never find anything that seemed right.  So after falling in love with this fabric, we were able to make it work for a household with 3 messy boys by scotchguarding the fabric and adding Velcro closures on the back to make these cushion covers both removable and washable.

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Making the cushions was relatively easy but time consuming and tedious.  There was lots of measuring, ironing, measuring again, cutting and even more measuring.  Add in the occasional rethreading of the machine and bobbin meant actual sewing time on these bad boys was probably about 3 hours.  Total time on the project was closer to 15.  If you ask me it was totally worth it!

But of course my work is never done.  I am on the lookout for a slightly smaller table that would allow us to add one or two chairs to the table (the bench type seating works great for the kids but it is difficult for adults to slide in and out of).  I have my eye on these beauties that are actually outdoor dining chairs from World Market.

So are any of you tackling any sewing projects right now?  Ever used outdoor furniture inside?  What are the little things about your own house that send you over the edge?  Let me know!