Archive for the ‘The Homestead’ Category

I didn’t intend to put a lot of effort into the baby’s room, but we just moved into this house and this was my first chance to fully put together a room. Everything else is a coat of paint here, new door knobs there. But here I could take a boring empty (not to mention orange) room and transform it into something I love. I couldn’t resist.

Here is what it looked like when we moved in:

And here is what it looks like now:

The sunlight was drowning out the curtains, so here’s a look at those:

I made them!

Here are a few of my favorite details:

Canvas print of the fortune I got shortly before discovering I was pregnant. Ultrasound pictures. Last name initials.

Alphabet I embroidered inside frame I painted. Elephant hook.

Framed elephant print from Dad. Globe night light.

Elephant globe from Mom.

Dictionary prints in thrift store frames.

Paint swatch mobile.

Elephant mobile.

I had so much fun with this room, and I love how it turned out. Hopefully you do too!

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Pool pains

When we were house hunting, we were not in the market for a pool. But then we fell in love with this house, the one we bought, and ta da! It had a pool. I think our families were more excited than we were at this news. A pool in the family, finally! We were excited by the idea too, but mostly we saw work. And yep, it’s been nothing but so far. We never opened it – we moved in in August, so it didn’t make sense – and everything was fine. But then it became fall and it started to rain, and the pool cover sank, holding rain water and it was not cool.

After much research and a recommendation from the pool supply store, we had some family over last weekend to try to fix the problem.

Let’s just say: FAIL. It looked great for a few hours, then it rained again and now I think it’s worse than it was before.

At least my niece and nephew had fun…

The neighbors just threw a plastic tarp over theirs, weighed down with cinder blocks. It, too, is filling with rain water. But we inherited this nice pool cover with the house and I’d rather not ruin it because we don’t know what we’re doing. Alas, I think we’re giving up. Let the snow pile up in there. We have more important things to worry about!

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So, the house. This is becoming a (really crappy) home improvement blog, but that’s really all there is to write about these days. Our lives = house stuff, baby preparations and work. Here are a few things we accomplished recently:


When we moved in, the fireplace had one thin layer of white paint over what used to be very dark stained wood. I know it was a very dark stain because one whole side of of the fireplace was not painted at all. There are lots of weird unfinished paint projects around the house. When we moved in, we immediately painted the orange-y bricks dark grey, but left the rest of it alone. Finally, a couple weekends ago, Mike painted the white…whiter.

Taped and ready to go.

You can kind of see the poor paint job in this one.

Working hard.

When it was all painted, dried and cured, we decided to replace the giant clock with this giant mirror that we got free from Mike’s dad and stepmom. ¬†Eventually I want to paint the frame, and the giant clock will go on a wall somewhere. Here’s the fireplace now:


We still desperately need to winterize the pool, which mostly means we need to fix this mess:

Which has gotten so much worse since this picture. The pool cover is sinking in the middle and filling with rain (aka: swamp) water. But we haven’t dealt with that yet. However, we did winterize the porch a bit. We just hung up plastic sheeting to keep the weather out this winter.

(Yes, he’s using a wagon as a stepladder. Add stepladder to our shopping list…)

All done!

Exciting, I know.


Our living room is a hodge podge of furniture we got for free or very cheap. But the free coffee table (that matches the free end tables) was just too big for the space. And too visually heavy. So we traded it out for another table we had on hand (one that I had before we got together). I don’t have a good before picture, but you can see the larger table in this picture:

The new table feels much lighter and much more airy even though it is a darker wood.

I bought that tray at Marshall’s recently to help control the mess that usually occurs on the coffee table. No solution for the end tables yet though.


We have this set of four tall skinny shelving units that we came from Target some time ago. We’ve used them for a variety of things in their lifetime, but when moved into this house, three of them found their home in the baby’s room. I plan to use them for whatever – clothes, toys, supplies. I’ll see what naturally ends up there. We placed them under the window, in between the crib and the closet. They’re also not far from the changing table, so they could easily serve multiple purposes. Check them out in this picture:

I decided I wanted to cover the backs of these with colorful paper to brighten them up a bit. My approach to this room has basically been “lots of colors, lots of patterns” so I bought three kinds of fun scrapbook paper from Michael’s. They each started out like this:

Mike removed nails and replaced them where the backing was pulling off (these are not exactly top quality pieces of furniture!).

We removed the shelves, then I cut all the paper, and we used heavy-duty double stick tape to adhere them to the backing. Replaced the shelves, and voila!

(You can see I cut the first music note (top shelf) paper the wrong direction! But we only had three pieces, so there was no turning back. Good thing it doesn’t really bother us.)

Here are the three together, back in their spot under the window.

I can’t wait to fill them with fun baby stuff!

And that’s what we’ve been up to.

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We’ve made significant progress on the house over the last week. Now that I’m not working every evening, and Mike is working relatively normal hours, we had time to do a few things that have been nagging at us for weeks. First, we bought a wall shelf for above the desk. We had a box of office supplies that didn’t fit in the drawers and that we didn’t want on the desk surface to avoid the cluttered look. That box made me crazy. I tripped over and glared at it daily. Now all the junk from the box is neatly organized on a nice, deep shelf.

We intentionally hung it in against the corner, rather than centered over the desk, so we can hang a calendar or white board or cork board to the right of the shelf. We just haven’t done that yet. But isn’t it so clean and beautiful now?

Mike also finished painting the kitchen! Well, not finished entirely, but finished the walls. To refresh, it looked like this when we moved in:

Unfortunately that’s not a great picture because you can’t see how much of that awful blue abounded. The wall to the left was blue with a chair rail and awful brown paneling beneath. To the right was more blue wall with lots of cabinets.

Before we moved in, we taped the kitchen in anticipation of painting right away. It took awhile, but we eventually got one coat up on everything but the bulk heads, which were covered in old wallpaper glue. After several weeks, we finally dealt with the bulk heads. We, of course, means Mike, who scraped and sanded goo-goned the crap out of them, then added a coat of paint. So for awhile things looked like this:

We pulled the plastic down, but we had run out of paint and so never did a much-needed second coat. A couple weeks ago, we bought the paint on sale, but it wasn’t until this weekend that Mike was able to finish painting. Thank god it looks good and we can be done! This picture is actually after only the first coat, and I think it looks a lot richer with two coats, but you can get the idea (and I don’t have to get up to take a picture…):

From this angle you can also see the brown paneling (left) that we’ll eventually paint white, the orange-hued oak cabinets we’ll eventually paint, the ugly linoleum floor we’ll eventually replace, the missing trim we’ll eventually put up, and the appliances we’ll eventually replace. Eventually. Also, in the above photo, the bulk heads are still white, so picture those grey. The kitchen paint is from the same swatch card as the living room paint, so they’re from the same family, just different shades.

And finally…

We FINALLY finished painting the baby’s room! Do you want to do a celebratory dance with me? Go ahead, I’m doing mine right now. You guys, it was such a project. After over a month, we still weren’t done, so every evening this week we were up there doing something. Eventually we were able to tear off the painter’s tape, scrape the stray splatters off the floor, replace the outlet covers and the door, and put the furniture back in place. And then I cried. Tears of joy.

As you can see, we opted not to scrape the paint off the window panes right now. We’re just so over it, and the paint is on the outside, so we decided to live with it for now.

There’s still a lot to be done, but the rest is fun stuff. Hanging things on the walls, hanging curtains, putting clothes and diapers and other things away. I can actually enjoy this room now instead of feeling my heart race with anxiety every time I go near it. Thanks to Mike for all his hard work!

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We’re slowly making progress on this house. We have very little time to do anything, so it takes us weeks to do a job that should take a day, but we’re getting there. Over the weekend two of my sisters and my stepmom came over to help me organize the front room. I took this picture a couple weeks ago to show them what I walked into everyday when I came home:

I labeled this picture “Anxiety-inducing Room” and that’s what it was. After a stressful day at work and a long commute home, this is what I walked into, and every day it stressed me out. But I rarely had time to do anything about it, and when I did, I’d stand frozen in the middle of the room. Paralyzed by too much to do. Thank goodness for my girls, they helped me whip it into shape.

Still several projects we need to finish up (and why is the desk chair in the middle of the room…Mike??), but it’s SO much better. They also helped me do this by our front door:

While we were organizing inside, the kids were outside. Raking our front yard. They wanted a giant leaf pile, and we said sure, here are some rakes!

I’d say they did a pretty good job.

The baby’s room is still kicking our ass though. Mike slowly painted four coats on all the trim and baseboards, one hour at a time, whenever he could fit it in. Then he sanded all the walls to get rid of the bubbles that randomly popped up. And Sunday we spent several hours taping and painting. We had to use my little art brushes to paint over the white smudges from the trim paint. (Remember, we had to do that in order to cover all the layers of colorful paint caked in the creases.)

We also painted over all the little white and orange dots exposed from sanding the bubbles.

I’m not sure how well you can see it in this picture, but these little dots were everywhere. Some were quite large and needed to be covered with a smear of paint. All so that we can hopefully paint ONE more coat of mauve over the whole thing and be done.

I’m excited to finally take the tape down, remove the drop cloths, and move all the furniture back in so it will finally look like a nursery!

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The baby’s room. It is making me crazy.

We finished painting the walls awhile ago, and it looked great. But when we took the tape off, we realized just how awful the trim and baseboards looked. The previous painters did such a poor job of painting that everything was covered in multi-colored speckles and streaks.

This is just one corner, but imagine that all over every piece of window trim, door trim and baseboard. It was so ugly. So we thought, Let’s paint it all white! Oh us, we were so innocent back then. Our simple idea has become a disaster. No, a DISASTER!

Mike started the project while I was on a business trip for five days. He painted the ceiling, then took on the trim. But he didn’t tape the walls. Why? Well, the problem is that there is so much paint gunked into all the corners between the trim and walls (see photo above), that you can’t really tell where the wall ends and the trim begins. Had he taped, we would have found orange, blue and white paint still stuck visibly in those cracks when it was removed. So basically he had to slop on the paint, cracks and all. Meaning, there is now white paint on the beautiful Beguiling Mauve walls. Once we’re done painting the trim, we’ll have to to define the corners, then tape the trim and REPAINT the mauve!

So that’s the first problem. The second problem is that the white paint will not cover the stained wood. We did our research before starting, but still failed in execution. Mike sanded, but probably not nearly enough. And we failed to use primer first. So now, nearly two weeks later, he’s working on the fourth coat of paint. And it’s still not fully covering.

The third problem (yes there’s a third) is that out of nowhere, parts of the wall paint started bubbling. Little tiny bubbles spattered across the wall. The only thing we can determine is that somehow moisture (humidity?) got under the second coat of paint, and it just now decided to react. And the only solution Google has provided is to scrape off the bubbles, sand to wall to smoothness, and REPAINT!

I mean really. How much painting can one room require? I’m so over it. I can’t even walk past that room without feeling anxious, so Mike has completely taken over the project. He spends all his evenings meticulously painting trim. It’s no fun for either of us, and we’re not even close to being done with the painting in there.

Oh! One more thing. We decided not to paint the actual windows, just to see how it would look. It looks terrible. Not so much because they are stained wood windows surrounded by white trim (though that’s part of it), but because of this:

HUD paid to have the lead paint in the windows fixed. Which everyone (including our realtor) thought would mean replacing the windows. But instead they paid over $3,000 to have someone paint over the existing paint. A three-year-old, we presume. Because they did such a terrible job, there’s no way it was done by a professional company who accepts payment for this kind of work.

Unfortunately, we can’t get a hold of anybody who will help us fix this problem. It’s been a losing battle since the beginning, but we’ve refused to fix the problem ourselves because we hope someone will eventually take ownership of this crappy work and do something about it.

So now what’s happening is the white of the trim is picking up and emphasizing the white paint slopped onto the window panes. I don’t have a photo to share because, remember? I can’t go near that room without having an anxiety attack, let alone take any pictures of it. Just trust me, it looks bad. We’re either going to have to paint the windows, scrape the window panes (from the outside, on the second floor), or live with it.

I’m leaning toward living with it. At least until the baby is 12 or so. If we can get the trim and walls in decent shape, maybe I can stand to live with the ugly windows.


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We painted the baby’s room today! Well, it’s mostly painted. We’re so busy that it takes us several days to actually paint a room. A few days ago we taped the whole thing, then today we primed and painted the first coat before we had to take off to pick up my niece. Tomorrow we’ll do the second coat. But here’s a quick look at the progress so far:

The room started out bright orange. I love orange, but it just wasn’t right for the kind of room we have in mind. So we moved everything to middle of the room and started to prime.

Primed and ready to go!

We chose Sherwin Williams’ Beguiling Mauve. Not everyone supports the idea of using purple in what might end up being a baby boy’s room, but we both have pretty fluid ideas about genderized colors, and this greyish purple was the perfect backdrop for all the fun stuff we plan to put around the room and on the walls.

First coat done! See how different it looks in this picture compared to the one above it? It changes in different lights, as paints do, and who knows what it looks like on your monitor. But on mine, the “in progress” photo is maybe a little closer to real life than this first coat one. More mauve-y than lavender. We’ll see what happens with the second coat tomorrow.

We also want to repaint the ceiling. The people who painted before us did a terrible job – there are splotches of orange all over the ceiling. In fact, you can see the evolution of paint in this room all over the trim and baseboard. Does nobody tape? If you can’t cut in like a pro, use the damn tape people. Eventually we may paint the trim white, but for now it’s very colorful. We taped anyway – no sense adding to the problem.

So second coat tomorrow, ceiling later this week, then we can actually start decorating!

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We spend all spare time on the house since we moved in. So far it’s not overwhelming and mostly fun. We still have boxes and junk everywhere, and even though it immediately felt like home, we’re not settled yet. I know we don’t have to do everything right away, but I get hung up on ideas that I MUST get done or I can’t relax. I think I’m in full-on nesting mode, and with a new house, there’s a lot that needs to be…nested.

Last weekend we continued to paint the kitchen. It has been such a job because the previous owners had a wallpaper border that was not there when we moved in, but they left lots of glue residue behind that Mike had to dissolve and sand off. It’s still not done, but we’re taking a break because we couldn’t live with our kitchen like this anymore.

Here’s how the kitchen started:

We also finally painted the “master” bedroom. I had picked out a greenish grey color, but in the can it looked like really muddy grey. We decided to go for it anyway, and on the walls it actually looks like a light blue with grey undertones. The color is Valspar’s Woodlawn Sterling Blue. Duh, blue is in the name. Why am I surprised it looks blue? Turns out I love it though, especially with all the dark wood.

This one is a little more true to life:

It was just white before, so not a drastic change, but it classes up the joint.

(As a HUD home, this place didn’t come with any curtains, blinds or even curtain rods. We’re slowly working on that.)

Here it is before we moved in:

Last weekend we also put together the crib! My sister sold hers to me for a great price, and I was so eager to get it in the baby’s room so I could start to envision what the room might look like.

See that sticker on the bottom of the crib? It says INSIDE. Oopsies! We should probably fix that eventually.

Also, a few people have told us we should just keep the orange paint, and even though I love orange, it’s just not right for what I want to do in this room. Stay tuned to see what color paint we bought instead.

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Move-in day was amazing. Did you know we have the best family possible? I know lots of people have great families, but mine is definitely one of them. So many people showed up, and most of them stayed all day. The last didn’t leave until after 7:00. Who showed up?

My dad and stepmom and their two kids
My mom and stepdad
Mike’s dad
Mike’s mom
My sister Andrea, her husband and son
My sister Emily and her husband
My sister Kelli and her daughter
Mike’s brother

They moved our entire house over, and then helped us start unpacking. They got our whole kitchen unpacked, most of our bathroom stuff, and a variety of other things. We even set up our living room furniture, the desk, the dining area, and all of the beds. They even made the beds and set up a few decorative touches here and there. We haven’t figured out a way to thoroughly thank everyone. Other than POOL PARTY! Too bad we’re not opening the pool till next summer…

Anyway, when I last left off, we were midway through painting the living room. In the last few days before move-in, we finished that, painted some of the brick on our fireplace, painted a door, and started to paint in the kitchen. Here are some photos from move-in day.

Giant Moving Truck

All packed up!

Living room with new paint!

Remember what it looked like before?

Sitting room with fireplace (other side of living room).


The fireplace used to have reddish bricks with a random splotch of white paint. We painted them grey. The white part needs a new coat of paint still. You can see the before look here:


We started painting it grey (the same as the fireplace bricks), but we still need to do the bulk heads. And we’ll paint that brown paneling part on the left to be white. And eventually I want to paint the cabinets (despite several people discouraging me – I just really hate the wood cabinets). And down the road, new flooring and countertops.

Here’s the kitchen before the paint:

Moving on the multi-purpose “front room.”

Front room – entryway and dining area.

Front room – sitting area (plus lots of random junk – this was our drop zone)

Front room – desk area.

Half bath on main floor. What’s up with that paint?

Basement rec area. The rest of the basement is a large unfinished area we’ll use for storage and laundry.

Full bath upstairs.

Full bath, another view.

There are also four bedrooms upstairs. I don’t have any great photos, and mostly they’re just a big mess right now anyway. One is the guest room, which I’ll also use as my sewing/craft room. The second is a future nursery. The third is the room where I store all my clothes, and also where I’m sleeping until I can cure my ridiculous insomnia* and be a normal human again. The fourth is our room, where Mike sleeps and stores his clothes.

And that’s the house! Lots more to unpack and arrange, lots of painting to do, and eventually, lots of fun renovation projects. It has only been three nights, but we’ve settled in easily. Even our cats feel right at home. Oberon, in past moves, has hidden away for a couple days before venturing out. This time, within a few hours, he was exploring, lounging on the couch, and hissing at Lennie. All indicators he feels right at home!

*For the last several months, I’ve basically stopped sleeping. I toss and turn and kick and flail all night. I get up and read or find something else to do several times a night. I’m a mess, and sharing a room with another person only makes it worse. For me and him!

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Shades of Grey

We started our first painting project in the new house! First, we spent an entire Sunday, with some help from family, cleaning the whole place. We had planned to wait until we moved in to paint anything, but my mom and sister insisted we get at least one room done.

The living room has wood paneling that was painted a hideous puke brown. My guess is the former owners were trying to match the carpet, but my word it was ugly!

A closer look:

All the taping and cutting in and rolling took a long time despite the help we had, so we only got one coat up Tuesday night, and I haven’t uploaded pictures of the finished product yet, but you can start to see the difference it’s going to make. The room has small windows, both of which are covered by shade trees, so there’s a lack of natural light. The light grey really makes the room seem bigger and brighter. More photos soon!

That’s my sister and brother-in-law, they have been such rockstars for us lately.

I think I’m going to go with a lot of neutrals throughout the house. I love bold, fun colors, but I believe to pull it off, you have to really style the whole room. Our furniture is old and mismatched, and our house is always so…lived in. It just wouldn’t work to do anything too fun. I was showing my friend some paint swatches I had picked out, and she very observantly asked, “Are you painting any room anything other than grey?” Oops! I hadn’t planned on that, but I guess it’s true. In my mind, neutrals are either of the grey variety or the beige variety. Warm tones or cool tones, and apparently I’m a cool tone girl.

The other project we tackled right away was changing all the door locks and knobs. We bought a HUD home, so all the locks were keyed for HUD keys. Meaning a billion realtors around the state had keys to our house! The very day we closed, we bought all new locks and knobs, upgrading from horrible faux gold to something a little more stylish.

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