Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reis's Kitchen

Remember this picture? I mentioned last month that one of the projects I was working on was a play kitchen for my son Reis. Well I did manage to finish it in time for his first birthday party. See the result below:

Cost breakdown:
Original buffet: $40
Wood, hardware, burner knobs, hinges: $60
Paint: Free
Cork burners: Free
Sink: dog dish - $10
Faucet: From Habitat for Humanity's Restore - $5

Total: $115

This didn't end up being as "cheap" as I thought it would be. What hurt me the most was not having any scrap wood around. But in the end, I realized that the fact that I had made it for Reis with my own two hands was much more valuable.

We already have some renovations planned. A magnetic strip to hold his little spoons and spatulas, a rack inside the oven and a hook for a little apron.

Here is the little man in action.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Projects in the Works

Though it may look like it....we haven't just been hanging out around here! =) We've been busy with a couple projects here and there.

Project #1: I'm trying to build a "kitchen" for Reis for his first birthday which is quickly approaching on June 23. Building your own play kitchen has been all the rage the past year. Just take a look on Ohdeedoh and you can see all sorts of home made kitchens for little kiddos. We got this little buffet from one of our favorite antique malls. Stay tuned to see the transformation. I'm making good progress but still have quite a bit to do before the big party in a couple weeks.

Project #2: I've been painting the Master Bedroom and Bathroom. The existing wallcolor in the bedroom was a horrible pinky color and even worse the walls were SUPER dirty. Gross. The bathroom walls were plain old white and the cabinets were a horrible 80s wood grain. Both the bedroom and bathroom walls were painted with Sherwin Williams, Downing Sand. I love this color! It is a great mix of warm gray and khaki. The bathroom cabinets are painted with Martha Stewart, Molasses. The new hardware is from Home Depot. In the somewhat near future I would like to add new window treatments and making my own headboard. I think I'm going to make you wait for complete "after" photos until I get the windows and headboard done.

Project #3: Reis is on the move! Climbing stairs, exploring every nook and cranny of the house and learning to walk with the aid of furniture, fingers and toys.

Due to budgeting constraints I'm going to be focusing on painting for awhile. After that hopefully I can move on to actually buying some of these light fixtures I keep talking about.

Other projects in the works are: painting the shutters, hanging yet MORE baby gates (who picked a multi-level!), a book rack for Reis's room and deciding on artwork for some empty walls.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Search for Exterior Sconces

House projects were stalled for awhile around here because everything takes three times as long when I have my little one in tow and I just didn't have three times the energy. But then I had to host my book club last week and I think it ignited a new abundance of energy and motivation in me. I absolutely LOATHE the thought of people seeing my space in a state of disarray. It made me so uncomfortable to think that my friends were coming over to see a house that did not look the way I wanted it too.

Another source of motivation is Reis's quickly approaching 1st birthday party. Again, it is an event where people will be coming to see the house for the first time and I have high expectations for how I want my house to look. I can't help it. It is an obsession.

This has led to a LOT of time on the laptop searching for light fixtures. Why light fixtures you ask? I'm not sure. No, I take that back, this is how it started.

Last week I gave our mailbox a facelift. We had bought some house numbers from Home Depot, similar to what you see above, but in black. Originally we had wanted to mount them under a light fixture near our front door but that meant drilling through brick and in the end we decided against it. So the only other reasonable place for the new numbers was on our mailbox post near the street. Besides, the existing numbers were old, ugly and rusted and the mailbox was painted a terrible red to match the shutters on the house (which will also be updated soon!).

So I painted the post gray to match the siding, mounted the new floating numbers and painted the mailbox black. It looks great and I should post a picture but Andrew is paranoid about me posting a picture of our address on the internet so alas you will have to use your imagination.

Once the mailbox looked made the rest of the house look like crap. Sad, but true.

The quick and dirty updates that would make the most difference in making the house look as great as the mailbox are painting the shutters and getting new light fixtures. This is what lead to me obsessing about light fixtures, the search for exterior wall sconces.

This is my favorite, Quoizel Ontario. I really need it in the medium or large size...but I can't even really afford the small size at over $100. Drool.... I love it.

So then I found this one at Lowes. Not as fabulous as the first but somewhat similar. The angled back plate on this one makes me hesitate. While it will compliment the angled frame on the garage....I actually hate the angled frame on the garage and don't really want to compliement it at all. However... at $30 it is hard not to at least consider it.

My second favorite option is this beauty. Again, it is on the expensive side, but not as bad as the Quoizel and it is also a bit larger in size. Right now...this is the front runner.

And to cover all my bases....I am also thinking about these two. I have always liked this style of fixture. Some call it "seaside", some call it "harbor", it is a classic yet a little bit industrial. Can you guess which one is "high" and which one is "low"?

Option 1 = $30, Option 2 = $129 Crazy right!? Keep in mind that I need at least 2 of these fixtures since I have two on the front of the house. I also have a third fixture on the back of the house but it wouldn't absolutely have to match. I can not in my right mind spend $400 on outdoor sconces!

So weigh in...which do you think is the right balance of modern and classic? What says suburban modern farmhouse to you?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cascadilla Farm

One of the things that we were most looking forward to in our new home was a better gardening space. Back in the city Andrew struggled for three years trying to grow food in a heavily shaded yard with a LARGE population of grey squirrels. Shade and squirrels do not equal high yields, they mostly equal a very frustrated husband.

So when we were looking for a new house a large, sunny backyard was a requirement. This house had it and Andrew wasted no time getting the garden started. Our house already had a small garden plot in the backyard. The problem was that it hadn't been used in over 15 years! It was over grown with grass, weeds and a small tree. Week 1 Grannie Apple helped us get out all of the existing plants. I wish I had a picture but I tend to always forget the "before" pictures.

Week 2 Andrew went to visit our new friend Justin at Yellowtree Farm who had been growing starters for us. We borrowed a tiller and Andrew's Dad helped get the plot ready. Then in went the plants!

We have onions, broccoli, peppers, cucumbers, celery, basil, thyme, salad greens, oregano, and several varieties of tomatoes. So far so good. Other than a couple bunnies and a major infestation of crabgrass the garden is growing great. Most weekdays we can find Reis and I in the backyard weeding or hooking up the soaking hose. We can already see some tomatoes and have used the oregano a few times. We are looking forward to a summer full of homegrown veggies!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Inspired Movies

So I'm over the couch dilemma. The consensus seems to be that my $12 garage sale chair has no business in my den anyway. I still have faith that I will give it a new life someday with some fabulous new upholstery but it will have to live somewhere else in the house. Maybe the guest room.

In the meantime we have been breaking in the new couch by watching some movies, three of which are worth noting:

First is No Impact Man. Colin Beavan and his family decide to try and live an entire year with as little impact on the environment as possible. I had heard of Colin's blog when he first started it back in 2006 and I had assumed that he and his wife were already crunchy eco-loving folks who just decided to do better for the earth. But I was wrong. What makes this film/story really interesting is Colin's wife Michelle. Michelle was addicted to reality tv, retail shopping and coffee. She was a consumer in every sense of the word. Michelle is what makes this story more REAL. She started the no-impact journey from the point where most people would start it....not knowing anything about what it means to have no impact on the environment and not being all to excited to go there. The happy ending though is that Michelle does go there and finds that she is happier for it. She was a consumer transformed and to me that says a lot. Give the movie a try. It is entertaining regardless of what you learn or don't learn at the end but I bet you will come away from it thinking about how you live your life.

Second on the list is Food Inc. I had heard a lot about this movie but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I use the word "enjoyed" loosely because most of the information you learn in this film is extremely disturbing. I like to consider myself fairly educated on the topic of where my food comes from and fairly proactive about making good choices when it comes to what I eat. However, this film reminded me how quickly I fall back into old, BAD habits and gives me a renewed commitment to changing them. Our country's relationship with food is beyond distorted. If there was one thing that you could do to improve the life of yourself, your friends, your family and the environment, it would be to understand what you are eating. I challenge you to watch this movie and make the commitment to change one thing about the way you eat.

Thirdly is DIRT! The Movie. This little gem we stumbled on by accident browsing the channels one evening. It was a really interesting look at the importance of dirt which includes food, shelter, water, and climate. I can't really remember the last time I sat down and THOUGHT about dirt (probably college geology class) but this movie made me THINK. Dirt is part of the foundation of our environment. Take the time to learn about your relationship with dirt.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's Here...

The New Couch.

Ok...who can tell me the first problem with this couch?

Scale. Do you see it?

Do you see how the chair looks like it belongs in a dollhouse!?

What was I thinking!!??

In my effort to get as much length as possible and to make sure my husband was comfortable...I think I may have under estimated what the "LARGE" version of this couch would look like. This could be a serious issue. When it first arrived I thought I was going to throw up I was so upset with myself.

Secondly...they put the wrong fabric on the pillows. Actually, the right fabric in the wrong colorway. But this one isn't so bad. Instead of just yellow and gray it has blue, green and orange. I tend to lean to green and blue anyway but part of me was looking for a change. We are also one pillow short. Let's see what they offer me as a solution when I call.

Lastly, and this is no surprise, but I hate it with the carpet. The carpet is a cool gray and the sofa is a warm taupe. It is tolerable but definitely not my ideal. My ideal is to put in hardwood and an area rug but the timeline for that is probably way off.

Can't wait for someone to come over and give me a second opinion.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The day we "officially" moved into the new house we also got our first visitor. Grannie Apple arrived the same day we moved the very last of our belongings. While I knew she was here to help, obviously her first priority was to see her only grandson. Really that was most of the help I needed. Someone to keep Reis occupied and safe while I ran around with my head cut off. Grannie Apple did an excellent job at spending time with Reis but also managed to give me a hand. Somehow she managed to organize our kitchen without using the kitchen! Brilliant! She also helped me prime the cabinets...and had a good laugh when I couldn't find my underwear on day 4.

Our next visitors were Grandma Bea, Grandpa Mark and Aunt Ruthie. With three extra set of hands available we got the chance to tackle a fair amount of projects: deep cleaned master bath, kitchen stuff actually put away into my kitchen, sanding, priming and painting cabinets, hanging old windows, getting on the roof, visiting the attic and working on some more of Reis's room. Best of all, Bea, Ruthie and Reis shared lots of belly laughs.

On a lower note....our "little black cat" Della is not adjusting to the move so well..... She has barely eaten since we moved in (two and a half weeks ago) and she is very thin and weak. She was very sick in Feb/March so I was afraid that this was going to happen. She is off to the doctor this afternoon but I'm prepared for the worst. I just don't want to see her feeling terrible anymore. She isn't the cat I knew back in December at our old house. I have to say that this makes the move bitter sweet. I was really hoping Della would enjoy being here but I guess it just wasn't meant to be. We love you little black cat.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kitchen Revealed

KITCHEN BEFORE: Behold the beauty that is 80s woodgrain with tarnished, brassy, tacky hardware.

IN PROCESS: Removing the cabinet doors, drawer fronts, nasty contact paper and hardware.

Sanding, priming and painting production line in the garage.

KITCHEN AFTER: Color is Sherwin Williams Prairie Grass. Satin nickel hardware from Home Depot.

I'm pretty happy with the results. I have to admit that I am curious what a little darker color would look like. Depending on the light in the kitchen sometimes it just doesn't seem like there is enough contrast between the cabinets and the awful backsplash and the cheap laminate countertop.

I'm also disappointed that I didn't get to take down the cabinets on each side of the sink and replace them with open shelving. Unfortunately the way that the backsplash tile is installed would make it difficult to get the look I want and right now it just doesn't seem worth it.

Overall, I achieved the result I wanted. I can definitely live with this kitchen for a few years, hopefully until I can afford new cabinets. Big thanks to Grannie Apple, Grandma Bea and Aunt Ruthie for all their help!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 4 looked like this...

We officially moved in last Saturday. This is what the house looked like Tuesday. Scary right? This was also the day that I almost sat on the floor and cried because I couldn't find my underwear. I thought I had done a good job of labeling all of our boxes...but apparently not!

It's been one full week in the house. Here are some discoveries...
  • A broken flower pot, salad spinner, cuisinart coffee maker and ironing board.
  • Our washing machine is flooding its soap dispenser.
  • A male carpenter bee is hovering over the middle of our deck looking for love.
  • It takes three trips to Home Depot to install one baby gate.
  • Nine month old babies can crawl very fast.
  • It's good to have a petite cat who can squeeze around baby gates.
  • I might be terrible at selecting paint colors.
  • I never would have survived this week without Grannie Apple.
Things are slowly...SLOWLY coming together. The priority at the moment is finishing up the kitchen cabinets. They need one more coat of paint before we can actually unpack all of our kitchen stuff. Andrew will be SO relieved.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Only one room in this house had wallpaper but it happened to be the room that I wanted for my son Reis who is 9 months old. Moving a 9 month old from one house to another can mess up his sleep schedule....and I don't like a baby who won't sleep. So, in an effort to make this transition as easy as possible I was determined to have Reis's room striped, primed and painted before we moved in.

We started on Saturday morning with help from some friends, one to watch Reis and another to help with the wallpaper (thanks friends!). We went with the mostly-cheap strategy of purchasing a wallpaper solution from Home Depot. Everything started out fine. The initial layer of vinyl came off with little effort and the next layer of paper adhesive came off with a little more elbow grease....but then things got interesting.

After several days of studying the walls in this room I have determined it's decorating history. The room started out with the bottom half of the walls painted a bright shade of purple and some kind of wallpaper border. It appears that at some point someone started to strip the wallpaper border by striping the vinyl layer but didn't finish the job by striping the paper adhesive layer. Instead the painted the bottom half of the walls a bright neon blue...including painting right over the wallpaper border paper adhesive. This bedroom's third life included a striped wallpaper and yet another wallpaper border. That paper adhesive with the blue paint on it was not fun to remove!!! We spent ALL day striping that stupid border. My arms and back are sore and my knees have carpet burn. Oh what I will do for design!

So the room is striped and the walls are clean. Tomorrow I vacuum, sand and prime. Friday I paint. Saturday we move in. We are cutting it close but I think we can do it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Sofa

So I went to the house this morning and taped out the dimensions of the sofa we were thinking of getting. I wanted to make sure it would fit and i needed to decide which side I wanted the chaise. It's a good thing too because I flipped the chaise from where I thought I had wanted it. Originally I was going to put it on the left against the corner of the room but I decided to put it on the right. This way I have room for an end table on each side. While I think the size is a good fit, I do have to say I am still a little worried that it might feel too big. I just really wanted to make sure that it was comfortable for Andrew. The last sofa we bought was just way too small for him. I didn't want to make that mistake again so I erred on the side of going larger.

Since the sofa was on sale, we went over and put in our order today. However, the cost is giving me an ulcer...this sofa better last us 30 years! Part of the reason we decided on this sofa from Bassett was because we got to customize the size, arm style, leg style, cushions, fabric and we get a lifetime warranty on the frame and seat cushions.

The bottom fabric is for the sofa, the top fabric for the pillows. Selecting the fabric was a nightmare. I tend to select colors that have yellow undertones and unfortunately our new house has a LOT of red undertones. The room that this new sofa is going in has gray carpet with faux slate porcelain tile. I hate the gray carpet. Hate it. Awful. Ultimately I think I would want wood in the foyer and family room. The tile is freezing right now and hardwood would just warm up the space SO MUCH! I'm just praying that my fabric selection for the sofa will play nice with the gray carpet for as long as it needs to.

And since stressing over extremely expensive sofas isn't enough to keep me busy, here are some more foyer pendant options... Do you have a new favorite?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's ours!

We closed on the house Friday morning, complete with celebratory Dunkin Donuts breakfast (it just arrived in St. Louis a couple weeks ago....and for east coasters...this is big news!). We headed right over to the house so we could look around, sit on the floor, and contemplate what we had gotten ourselves into.

Since it had been awhile since I had seen the house the first thing that I noticed was that the dimensions in my head were all WRONG! Real estate photos tend to be distorted so I was thinking the living room and the master bath were about twice and long as they are in reality...bummer. Also the vaulted ceiling was not really as high as I remembered. Other discoveries...the old windows on the back of the house which have fake muntins, the muntins are between the panes of glass and can not be removed. Currently they are faded or disintegrating.... lovely. I have also found an outlet that doesn't work and one toliet that has a very weak flush...welcome home!

Saturday and Sunday were spent striping wallpaper. This went pretty quickly...until we realized there was some kind of second layer of wallpaper that had been painted over. Now we are stuck trying to figure out if we can get away without stripping this weird second layer. No home improvement goes unpunished.

We squeezed in some sofa shopping this weekend too. First we went to Bassett and are considering an option that would look like this...
We also stopped at Crate and Barrel and fell in love with the Axis sectional....we could afford the sofa with chaise but we really want the corner sectional.

Considering our budget is nonexistent it will probably be a sofa with I just need to decide which one and what fabric. Decision, decisions!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Andrew just got back from the walkthrough and everything looks good. The house is clean and ready for us to move in! His one and only comment was that he can't wait to change the light fixture in the foyer (see above) and he hoped that I was planning something "cool" for that spot. I'm not sure if these will meet his definition of "cool" but this is what I have been thinking about.

My first thought was this bentwood pendant by a Danish/Costa Rican artist named Hennig Dyes. I've been coveting this fixture for several years but never had the right place for it. Now it appears I have lost my chance, a quick Google search informed me that Dyes has retired and his fixtures are no longer available.... serious bummer! So I had to start fresh.

First I came across these two fixtures which are very similar. I like the feel of the black iron but also the leafy natural patterns.

I also thought this fixture from Ballard Designs might be an option. It has a more traditional feel than I usually go for but it is still clean and simple. My plan would be to modify the glass a bit to give it some more character and to hide the bulb. I hate having to stare at a naked bulb.

So give me some feedback. What do you think? Do you have a favorite or should I keep looking?