a long long time ago…

It seems like forever since I last posted, which is probably because it has been (or since the end of September). So many things have happened since then but every time I think, “I’ll sit down and post on my blog,” I try so hard to get the perfect words, the best picture, the funniest retelling, and end up losing the desire to even sit down and write.

For our 5 year anniversary in October, we did a little celebrating in the form of getting the bathroom most of the way done – finally!

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A little bit later in the month, we celebrated an early Thanksgiving with the Man’s parents which also happened to be their anniversary. They happened to be down visiting us before they went to Puerto Rico to ride out the cold months, and we surprised them. It was lovely.

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Abby continues to be her usual crazy self, including an experiment in eating lemons while we were at work one day.

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I November I decided that I missed the ER and my ankle gave out as I stepped out my back door. Hello, fractures… (and this is a “healing” picture of it)

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And for Christmas, we had an amazing time with family (and tortured the dog, per usual).

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On this quiet, snowy day I figured I would just take a moment to say hello. I hope you’re well, I hope you’re safe as this storm takes over the east coast, and I hope you come back again next time I post.

 

cutting back

In the past few years since we’ve been in our house, I could count how many bottles of shampoo and conditioner I’ve bought on one hand. That’s because, like so many of us crazy women, I used to constantly buy the newest product to get the shiniest, healthiest, fullest hair.  Mostly, what I found out, was that very few of them helped at all. So gradually I switched to more natural products.  When we moved into the house and I unpacked everything into the linen closet, I decided I had to use every partially filled bottle I owned before I could buy anything else.  And actually, I’ve done pretty well! But this past weekend while putting away towels I decided to unearth the stash of what was left (along with two unused bottles of perfume I had hidden! Hello GAP… you haven’t made this perfume in how many years??? Still smells the same… )

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want one? or three?

No matter what I use, my hair doesn’t really seem any healthier or fuller, so I started researching the “no shampoo” method. There are so many recipes and combinations of things to try and conflicting opinions over what actually works that it is overwhelming.  Instead, in the past month I cut out conditioner which seemed to help a bit, and since last Thursday I haven’t used a blowdryer. I started researching more organic, non-sudsing products and finally purchase one and am trying it out. So far, so good, but I’m not going to disclose what it is just yet.

But the problem remains that I’m just not happy with my hair. I had been cutting it shorter and shorter, and then just got to busy to deal with it, so it’s now long enough again that I keep throwing it up in a clip or a pony tail so I don’t have to deal with it.

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the hair masterpiece for the day – clipped back

But on Saturday that will all change. Maybe I’m just a little stir crazy from all the snow and it’s seeped over into every aspect of my life. But I finally made an appointment to cut my hair. If I can’t restore my house right now, maybe I can at least restore my hair. With all the stress that I have on a regular basis, I’m eager to at least get rid of my hair issues and insecurities. We’ll see what I end up doing with it.

In the meantime, what do you do for your hair? Any miracle products? Want any of mine to try? No seriously… I’ll mail you the bottle!!! I hate wasting things! Give me your address!

 

 

stir crazy demo

I need to get myself a Harry Potter t-shirt that says “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good” and wear it on snow days. Because I go a little crazy. Cleaning, baking, crocheting, devouring shows on Netflix, and OH! DESTRUCTION!

The Man is at work on this fine, snowy day and if I were to email him right now it would probably go something like this:

“Dear Husband,

You know how I was asking what Dremel bits we own and you said I could go get a diamond bit at Home Depot for that little project I wanted to do of removing the tile toothbrush holder in the bathroom? Well…. I found a mallet and a screwdriver instead. Love you!  PS – Don’t come home early.”

Hehehehe….

So my mom got me a really pretty soap dispenser for our kitchen a year or so ago and I decided it would actually look really pretty in our main bathroom. So yesterday I brought it upstairs and the stupid tile toothbrush holder that is affixed to the wall was (keyword: was) totally too low for the dispenser to sit in a logical place and still be usable without being in the way.

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before

This morning, as I drank coffee, I googled “how to remove a ceramic toothbrush holder” and found a really helpful article on eHow Home. I asked the Man about the Dremel, and he said sure, we could buy a bit, it’s cheap, but not today because of that whole snow thing and he had to leave for work in less than 2 hours. Okay, not a problem.

So he goes to work, I reorganize my office and move my bookcases onto different walls (oh yeah, forgot to mention that! hehehehe…. that’s another post) and then I’m bored. I’m trying to quit smoking, so I need to keep myself really busy, so I decide screw the article, we’re gonna see what a mallet and a finely tipped screwdriver does. Yay! Great idea!

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totally sophisticated tools

For starters, you need safety equipment. So what I wore was a black Marine Corps hoodie, red/pink plaid flannel PJ pants from LL Bean, slippers, and my everyday glasses. You also need to assume you’re not going to be successful, so don’t bother taking pictures with your actual camera, just use your phone.

I closed the drain to the sink (I did read the article, just ignored a lot of it) and put a towel down so that any flying chunks wouldn’t damage the sink top. I then got the vacuum, closed the bathroom door, and began trying the utility knife. That did nothing to the grout, so I started working the screwdriver around the edge and pounding with the mallet very lightly.  The grout actually started coming away really easily. At only point, I got a whole CHUNK to come off and was really excited! So what did I do next? The next logical thing, of course.  I aimed with the mallet, turned my head, closed my eyes, and just SMASHED the holder.

About 3/4 of it came off and I jumped up and down like a 5 year old I was so excited. The whole process only took about 30 minutes. I vacuumed a lot in between so I could see where I was working. Of course, there was no tile behind the holder, so I was left with a bit of a hole.

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The DIYer in me took a step back and thought: “Hmmm…. I’m not going to replace this with another tile, but I don’t want a hole showing. So what do I have that I could artfully cover up the hole with?” TADA!!!!!!!!!!!

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It’s a frame I’ve had for FOREVER from Ikea, hung on a tiny little Command hook. I don’t think I’ll get rid of the tile soap dish, mostly because it’s convenient if you need to take off a pair of earrings or a ring before you shower, and it’s not in the way.

If you have a ceramic toothbrush holder you hate, my best advice is to be careful, go slowly, and just get rid of it. My mom has told me repeatedly, and in the mostly loving way possible, that sometimes I’m just a little bit too stupid to know when I shouldn’t try something, and I laugh every time knowing she is totally right. It may be a little change, but I couldn’t be happier. And I didn’t even break a finger or toe! Those slippers really are great for foot safety.

So what did you destroy this snow day? 🙂

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RIP, toothbrush holder

 

picture perfect

Considering how hot it has been, it’s been hard to bring myself to cook. But we’ve been making simple meals that don’t require standing over the stove too much.  Regardless of what we’ve been making, though, we’ve certainly been enjoying eating in our newly redone dining room.

My family and friends have been bugging me for an update on how it all went, and the stubborn blogger in me was waiting to get the “perfect pictures” of the room when the light is just right and you can truly appreciate how gorgeous it turned out. Well, I’m not waiting for that perfect shot anymore. I want to show you all how it looks!

When we first looked at the house, we knew we had a challenge on our hands but I was thrilled that the dining room was so big.

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realtors picture

The only problem was the floor. And the wallpaper. And the light fixture. And the radiator cover. So okay everything other than the size was a problem. But particularly the wallpaper.

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UGH. WHY?!

A few days after we moved in, a couple friends were helping us unpack and somehow we ended up stripping the wallpaper and scrubbing the walls with TSP.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe light fixture didn’t bother us too much until we realized what it did when you turned it on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATextured ceiling + beveled glass fixture = AWESOME light patterns cast on the room. OR HIDEOUS.

I would have been content to leave the room as is except for one small problem. On one of the walls, the previous owners had let their kids scrawl their names, phone numbers, and some well wishes (“have a nice f*($#n day”), and we could not get it to scrub off. So, with a house warming bbq a few days away, we hastily picked a paint color and got to work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATADA! We used Behr’s Happy Camper Green (which comes out really true to their website pics) and absolutely LOVED the paint color. Then we were able to find a new light fixture at Home Depot for $179 and it really changed the look of the room. The only problem was that once we redid the living room, we realized the green did NOT go with the rest of the first floor which were mostly gray undertone colors. But for almost two years we lived with it.

Gradually we added furniture in the room. And by new furniture I mean a child size chifferobe and chest with shelving that I rehabbed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoth the chifferobe and the dresser were made of pressed wood, but some heavy cleaning, light sanding, and half a dozen spray paint cans later, we had two very nice pieces.

P7030609This summer, with a week and change worth of vacation, I decided I was redoing and finally finishing off the dining room. First, I had a LOT of spackling to do, which we had neglected the first time around.

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The painting was easy. This time around we used Behr’s color Mountain Sage. I have to admit, though, that I had a gift card to Lowe’s so I decided to get the paint from there. With my color sample in hand, I got Valspar’s Ultra Interior Flat Enamel which is paint and primer in one, PLUS low VOC.  I was able to do two coats in the same day, a few hours apart, even though it was at least 80 degrees out and humid. I was ridiculously pleased with how thick the paint was, and as quickly and sloppily as I was working, it did not spatter at all. At $25 a gallon it was a bit more than some of the paint I’ve used, but WELL worth it in the long run.

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The only part of the room that was a pain was the wood work.  We have gorgeous dentil moulding around the ceiling and as our chair rail. The only problem? Dentil moulding was created as PUNISHMENT for people who have to paint it.  Now you all know that I’m psychotic and paint my woodwork in oil. What I learned the first time around doing the room was that you cannot paint the chair rail with a normal brush because it splatters and drips like crazy and you can’t get into the crevices. So this time?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, that is a paint brush that you would usually use for oil paint on canvas.  The chair rail took me at least two hours. See the X and hashes on the tape above? That’s how I kept my sanity and made sure I didn’t lose track of what dentil I was on. I COUNTED THEM. We have 382.

When all the tape was removed, it was time to dress the room. This definitely happened in stages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst I put everything back in and desperately wished there was a way to hide the hideous tile floor. So I turned to CraigsList. $70 later….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!!! I found a rug JUST large enough to cover the center of the room. It fits almost perfectly inside the white border tiles. I cannot tell you  how happy this makes me. Even though it darkens the room a little bit, it has also worked to dampen the horrible echo we always had. And now some glamour shots for your viewing pleasure!

The metal radiator cover was scored about 6 months ago for $40. Add two cans of spray paint and you have a gorgeous piece.

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It is dressed with a Limoges Bird of Paradise condiment dish, a bird and container from Michaels, a Lenox vase we received for our wedding, and a silver candy dish (devoid of its usual supply of M&Ms).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Limoges dish (also known as the Eden pattern) was scored for $15 at an estate sale and matches china that I have.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd yes, the flowers are fake which I have people ask me all the time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur “hutch” is dressed with a handmade bowl we received for our wedding that is personalized, some R mugs, a bird I bought during a trip we took for our first anniversary, a whiskey set from friends, our cake topper, and a few other sentimental items. While the display is nice, the drawers were a huge plus in the room as they house most of our linens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe refinished chifferobe houses more linens and entertaining pieces like wine glasses and serving trays. The paint crackled when it was drying (as I refinished it last fall which was a mistake because of the cool, humid nights) so some time this summer it will go out piece by piece to get a finish coat.  The red bird is also from Michaels. Can you sense a theme here?

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The wall that was so horribly uneven is now smoothed out and has photos I took in Ireland.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think one of the things that excited me the most about finishing the room was the harmony when you look from the dining room into the living room and see how the colors go together. (Please ignore the drop cloth on the floor in the living room!)  The fact that the rug goes with the valances my mom had treated me to when I had found the living room ones. They were purchased from Swags Galore and I would never buy valances without looking there first. Their prices are AMAZING.

Overall I’m just thrilled. The first few days, as I stumbled into the kitchen to get my coffee, I was overwhelmed by the difference that paint color can make. Before, when you walked into our dining room it said HI! I’M GREEN! and now it says Please come sit down and enjoy a savory meal.

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I hope you enjoyed seeing the dining room as much as I enjoy it. Every night as the gloaming approaches, I walk into my dining room and think this is why I do this. This was worth the wait. This is something good and safe and beautiful.

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and for my next trick…

Today officially marked the first day of my staycation and I couldn’t be more excited!!! Being an admission coordinator means that I’m pretty much “on” all the time. There are always questions, interviews, open houses, and applications waiting to be screened. So for the majority of the year, especially because the particular program I do admissions for just opened for the innaugural class, I was running around trying to figure out how to do my job, and pretty much neglecting any house projects I had wanted to do. But not now!

It’s our slow time so I’m on vacation until July 1! When I told some friends this, the first question they asked was “What’s the house project?” So without further ado…

TADA!

TADA!

I am finally doing the dining room! Now, some of you may ask “but… isn’t it done?” Well, my dear readers, the answer is… kinda. Within 48 hours of moving into the house a friend helped us strip the wallpaper in here. That taught us a few things. One, our walls are most definitely plaster. Two, holographic wallpaper from the 80s SUCKS. And three, if you allow your kids to write curses and their phone numbers on the plaster walls prior to hanging paper, the next owner will probably find it AND be unable to remove the writing, even with TSP. Solution? We painted right away.

We loved this color green when we first did the room. However, it later dawned on us that the base of this color is WAY too yellow for the rest of our house. In a lot of houses, it probably wouldn’t matter if one color strayed from the palette of the other rooms, but as we’re a center hall colonial, you can stand at our front door and see the hallway, living room, dining room, and upstairs hallway all at once.

I already primed all the woodwork, including the chair-rail-from-hell, so this room won’t take as long as a typical room in my house. I’m just hoping that I can get everything done in one week. And I can’t WAIT to share the results when we finish.

Wish me luck!

cheaper than therapy

I had a function for work today. On a Sunday. Now usually having to go to work on the weekend would bother me, but today was great.  It was an acceptance day for our new students, and they really seemed to gel. Typically, work stresses me out, drives me crazy, and occasionally makes me cry because I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. But the weather the past few days has been gorgeous and today was no exception. So with my 4 inch heels and new dress on, I went to work looking forward to seeing, in a way, the fruits of my labor. I screened these applications. I interviewed some of these people. I have talked to some of them on the phone more than a dozen times as they have navigated the application process. And now they are here, and real, and I helped that.

But on any given normal week, work stresses me out the same way it does half of my friends. This time of year, though, I have an outlet for my stress: the house, and particularly, the garden. So even though today went great, and it was utterly blissful to see all the students engage in conversation and share how excited they were, I decided to take out some leftover aggression on the front yard.

I’ve got a plan for the yard, you see. And part of it involved dealing with the two Alberta spruce bush/tree/monstrosities that are on either side of our front stairs. They didn’t do well last summer – the stress of a dry, hot season had browned out what are supposed to be evergreens. And as much as I had been hoping, the green is not coming back, and Alberta is like a crazy woman dropping her needles all over the place.

before, with tools of destruction at the ready

I’m tired of Alberta 1 & 2.  Alberta 1 (on the left) was all bushy and pretty and full in the front, but had caused the bush next to it to grow REALLY strange. And Alberta 2 (on the right) decided to die in the midsection. On top of that, they both have an unwieldy shape, the needles are quite prickly, and they don’t fit into my plan. Solution?

after... time elapsed approximately 2 hours

after… time elapsed approximately 2 hours

Me + handsaw + determination = AWESOME.

Please refrain from making fun of my lopsided daffodils – only half decided to bloom. And as a bonus I found a yucca plant growing underneath Alberta 1. So no daffodils yet, but an extra plant for no cost! Score!

So while some people run, or drink, or take a warm bath, chances are on a day when I’m stressed you’ll find me in the garden. Hacking something to pieces or pulling ivy.

I can’t wait to show everyone when the whole transformation is done.

new year, new room reveal

When we first looked at our home, one of the things that attracted us was the sheer size of the living room. The decor, however, was…. not us.

from the real estate listing

A year ago Thanksgiving, we started peeling wallpaper in the living room.  Needless to say, we were in over our heads.

Closeup, complete with grime from previous owners.

Closeup, complete with grime from previous owners.

Luna really didn’t mind the room, but I couldn’t stand the grimy, metallic wallpaper, even when we began setting up the room with our furniture.

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I tried everything from hot water, to a steamer, to fabric softener, to vinegar. NOTHING helped take this paper off. Long, sweaty hours over a period of months were spent dedicated to the frustration of getting the paper off. It was March before the room was even 3/4 of the way stripped.

Layer upon layer of wallpaper HELL.

Layer upon layer of wallpaper HELL.

That was when we hired a painter to do the ceiling.

I’ll be the first one to admit that painting a textured plaster ceiling is a pain but doable. In our case, though, we had a blackened stain about three feet in circumference right over the fireplace that we had no idea how to deal with. In the end, it was well worth it to leave it to the pro – a local painter recommended by our plumber – who not only treated the stain and made it disappear, but also leveled the texture where he could and caulked around any areas of the molding where it had separated.

Ceiling in progress.

The biggest challenge was the prep work. Washing the walls with TSP meant taking painstaking care in protecting the original wood floors, which was one of the few things both clean and in immaculate condition when we moved in the house. We ended up draping/taping down 4 mm. sheet plastic and left it down throughout the washing, sanding, caulking, and painting.

Surveying what lie before me in my sexy painting jeans.

The most frustrating part of the room was that once I got the paint on, I noticed that there were odd waves in the wall where the TV would be going. I contemplated just leaving it, but in the end, decided I wasn’t going to leave the room half done. So out came the spackle again.

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I like spackle!

When it came to picking the paint color, we were set. While we picked Behr’s Arctic Ocean, we had the paint mixed at MAB which was well worth it for the size of the room and the coverage we needed. At an estate sale last year we scored the beautiful rug that became our inspiration for just $100. The rest of the room was easy, too. The sofa was my grandmothers, the settee was a $20 score at an estate sale, the secretary $150 from an estate sale, and both radiator covers were purchased together for less than $100 at Philadelphia Salvage. They needed love, but I’ve become a pro at refinishing metal covers.

Just a little dirty...

Just a little dirty…

Add in my grandparents antique radio, and our existing TV and stand, and some art, and voila! Room! Well, almost.

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The goal was to have it done by this Thanksgiving when we were hosting the Man’s aunt, uncle and two cousins. There was some last minute touching up to do, but the cats were more than happy to help.

"This drop cloth was for us, right?"

“This drop cloth was for us, right?”

I sent my mom some preview pictures to see what she though, and what we realized immediately was that I needed valances. Desperately. I have never had much luck buying fabrics online. Instead of guessing, I ran down to my living room, took a picture and uploaded it to my computer. Using the “pop out” feature on the website I layered the two to see the effect. I highly recommend this method, as unscientific as it may be.

screenshot decorating

screenshot decorating

And it was done, and soon after decorated for Christmas. And we couldn’t be happier. Enjoy!

peacock prints: $12 at Michael's

peacock prints: $12 at Michael’s

Valances from swagsgalore.com: $34 per panel

Valances from swagsgalore.com: $34 per panel

stockings: $8 ea. at Target.

stockings: $8 ea. at Target.

Fireplace Candelabra: $79 at Crate&Barrell

Fireplace Candelabra: $79 at Crate & Barrel

radio, sofa, coffee table, and lamp table: grandmothers. map print: $20 at estate sale

radio, sofa, coffee table, and lamp table: grandmothers. map print: $20 at estate sale

secretary with antique books, purchased and already owned

secretary with antique books, purchased and already owned

A Merry Christmas & Happy New Year: priceless.

A Merry Christmas & Happy New Year: priceless.

I think this room has been one of the biggest transformations so far. We are still contemplating painting the fireplace white, but that can wait. While a year is a long time to renovate one room, I’m glad I took the time, and I think that the end product was worth it.

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