For Kevin’s Birthday I got him a glass terrarium kit from Red Envelope.  It came with the container, dirt, plants & rocks needed to build a pretty little terrarium.

We enlisted Liam’s help to get it started.  First we spread a layer of rocks/gravel on the bottom of the container.  The container is not water tight so it does have to sit on something to protect the surface you put it on.


Next we added some charcoal pellets to the rocks

And then the layer of mossy stuff

After Liam stuck the spoon in the dirt and ate a tablespoon, it was time for Monkey to take his place as helper.

Dirt went in on top of the moss.

Next we unwrapped the cute little ferns & placed them randomly around in the dirt.

Monkey approved the placement.

Some lighter green moss went in around the plants.

And then a few little rocks for decoration.  We might add some people/animals to the scene at some point – like this – but for now it’s done!  Monkey approved.

It looks pretty cool as a centerpiece on our bar.  It’s been a couple months since we put it together and so far everything is still alive.

UPDATE: After another month or so – this thing is dead as a doornail!


Linked to The Style Sisters

Nursery – Rearranged

I rearranged Liam’s nursery and it has been much more functional now that he is a toddler.  Before the room felt a little cramped even though it’s the biggest bedroom in the house other than the master.   The glider was shoved in the corner between the crib & changing table and since he’s gotten taller this became a hazardous for Liam’s head.

After – I moved the chair to the opposite corner of the room & made space by moving the Expedit shelf to our master closet where it made a big improvement and moving his chest of drawers down a few feet.  I moved the art around a little as well – the Kings of Leon poster moved into the office.

Books are in 2 baskets on the floor next to the glider so he can easily pick out what he wants to read at bedtime.

Cute little flying piggy bank he was given by Kevin’s aunt.  We picked up the giraffe at FAO Schwarz in NYC on a trip before Liam was born.  The block letters were a gift from Liam’s cousin Eli.

We really don’t use Liam’s closet much since his clothes all fit into the dresser & there is a separate linen closet for the sheets and towels, so I just moved his few toys that we keep in his room (most are in the playroom & basement) to the floor of the closet.

Here is the attached bathroom.  Love the frog toy scoop.

I painted the whale after I saw the idea on Pinterest.

This cute graphic came from this Etsy shop to add a little color & life to the bathroom since we haven’t painted this room & don’t have plans to anytime soon.


Office Makeover

Our office finally got a makeover!  After over a year of working in an off-white bland box, I’m excited to get to work from home here:

Last time I shared the office – it looked like this.  Blah.  No color, ugly fan, brown blinds.

Since neither Kevin or I was too eager to paint above the stairs using a ladder scaffold like this:

We decided to bring in the pros again to paint the office.  We combined the project with wood rot repair & painting for most of our exterior windows & a few pieces of trim.   That was a big project & even though it doesn’t change the overall look of the house it was necessary for maintenance.  We used Greenwave Solutions again for this project & they did a great job and were easy to work with.

Back to the office…

The wall color is Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter (mixed by Sherwin Williams) and SW Snowbound for the trim (matches the rest of the house).    The color is hard to photograph accurately – it changes between grey & greige depending on the light but it goes well with the existing carpet & looks good from the kitchen.

Kevin and I also had an AWESOME time replacing the ceiling fan last Sunday.  It’s pretty cool for a fan & the black finish looks much better in the room than the old one but it was a PITA to install.  This room can get pretty warm in the summer with the light coming in from the windows & the warm air rising into the high ceilings in the foyer so a ceiling fan is a must.

We replaced the old brown blinds with white and it is a much lighter, fresher look with the new white trim.  Kevin had to install the blind on the left by crawling out of the right window, standing on the roof of the screen porch & reaching in the window with the drill to install the brackets.

I really like how the clocks turned out.  Many of the people who I work with regularly are outside the US so I thought it would be fun to give the office a global touch.   The clocks are from Ikea & I ordered the city name decals from Etsy.

The area over the bookcase looked lonely & this frame my dad gave me for a different project but fit perfectly so I filled with cute family pictures from the past year.

My chalkboard project has a fun story.   I bought the frame for $25 from a art auction at work.  The art department was disposing of a bunch of pieces so there was a silent auction on my floor one day and the proceeds went to United Way.  No one wanted this one so I got it cheap.

I painted the frame with one coat of SW Grand Canal from a sample.  There is still some gold peeking through that gives it a litttle texture/vintage look.  The inner trim piece the same color as the office walls.   I tried using chalkboard paint to paint over the camels but that didn’t work out – the board just bubbled up.  We went back to Home Depot to get a piece of hardboard to paint with chalk board paint & instead found a 2’x4′ sheet of chalkboard!  Score!  That saved several steps (& weeks).  The opening was exactly the width of the board so it only took one cut with the circular saw & it was done.  I dropped it in the frame, primed it with some chalk and hung it up.

Please excuse my kindergarten effort at art – chalk is hard to write with.  I’ve ordered a chalk mechanical pencil that I hope will be more successful.

Kevin got me this awesome level for my birthday that made hanging this & everything else in the office SOO easy.  It is around 3′ long & has 2 sliding “targets” that allow you to space where the nails need to go so it’s really easy to mark the spots & know they are level without trial & error.  If only the fan had been that easy…

Overall the office has come a long way from where we started.  I enjoyed my first work from home day there last week now that is no longer a boring off white box!


Linked to Between Naps on the Porch, Home Stories A to Z

Uncovering Hardwood

Our dining room has come a long way from the wallpaper & pink walls but the carpet in there was still bugging me.  There is just something a little icky about carpet in the dining room.  I knew we had hardwoods under the carpet (also in the playroom) but wasn’t sure what the condition of the floors was underneath all that carpet.  Here is the lovely carpet:

One corner of the carpet was loose, so I had pulled it back a few times to check out the floors and determine what kind of work would be required.  the floors seemed to be in pretty good shape in that corner so I thought we could pull up the carpet, patch any nail holes from the tack strips & install quarter round (toekick) trim.  The project seemed pretty doable so a couple weeks ago (between the snows) we dove in.

One night after Liam was in bed, we moved the furniture into the playroom and got started.

Here’s the last pic with carpet!

We pulled up the carpet starting in the corner that was already loose.  It was DUSTY!  We tried to roll it up as well as we could but that was difficult to do without scratching the walls.

Once we had it into a manageable pile/roll we just tossed it out the front door onto the sidewalk & went on to the padding.  The good news was that the padding was stapled mainly on the edges & only a couple rows down the middle of the floor.  We rolled it up in sections and threw it out the front door as well.

We were left with a pretty good looking floor…with a LOT of staples and a bunch of little sticky spots left from pieces of the padding.

The easiest way that we found to remove the staples was to gently slide a flat head screw driver under the staple to pry up one end and then remove the whole thing with pliers.

We only scraped the floor with the screw driver a couple times (oops!).  It took the 2 of us around 2 hours to remove the carpet, padding & all of the staples.  The staple holes were not noticeable so that was a big relief. We called it quits around 10:30 pm and blocked off the room so Liam & Mac wouldn’t hurt themselves on the tack strips.  Here it is at the end of work day night one.

I posted the carpet roll for free on Craigslist with the approximate measurements and had a response in under 30 minutes and a pick up in less than 2 hours.  I am glad that the carpet will go to good use for someone instead of being dumped in the landfill or paying by the pound to have it recycled.

The next day I vacuumed and then spent about 30 minutes giving the floor a good scrub with Murphy’s Oil Soap and the scrub brush end of the mop to scrub up the sticky spots left by the padding.  I was happy to find that there were only a couple big scratches in the floor and that the sticky padding spots had not stained the floor.  Here it is after one cleaning.

It took me around 1.5 hrs to remove the tack strips.  I cleaned the floor first because it was pretty gross sliding over the floor the night before with all those sticky spots.  Here are the tools I used to pry up the tack strips.

The technique that worked best was to gently slide a stiff 2″ flat tool (the one with the red & black handle that isn’t a screwdriver) under the tack strip between the nails and pull up on the handle to break the wood strips.  I sometimes used the small pry bar to make it a little faster.  I pried up a few feet of tack strip & then went back around to pull up the nails with a hammer.

After the tack strips were up it took me another 30 minutes for a 2nd cleaning.  So here’s where we had at the end of work day two (complete with a Mac photobomb).

I would like to try some Bona on the floors to see if they will get a little more shine back, but I will need to do the entry at the same time so I am saving that fun task for the future.

We took a family trip to Home Depot to get the supplies for adding the quarter round molding to the baseboards to cover up the gap between the floor.  We decided to get a nail gun to make the job easier.  On the advice of the guy at the store, we bought a Ryobi battery operated nail gun that uses the same batteries as our drill & other tools.  It doesn’t require a noisy compressor & the price point is more reasonable for occasional DIY jobs than the other nail guns.  This thing is FUN (& a little scary).

RyobiNailGunWe cut the pre-primed quarter round trim pieces down from 16′ to 8′ so it would (barely) fit in the car.  Next time (if there is a next time), I would be a little more strategic in the sizes that I cut at the store so there wasn’t as much cutting required  when we got home – but this stuff is cheap at less than 50 cents a linear foot.

Next came the cutting (while my parents played with Liam).  I don’t have a lot of pictures of that because 1) it’s not interesting and 2) it’s enough of a PITA without stopping to take pictures.   We labeled all the pieces with which wall they were for right after cutting to make it a little easier to install.  We did a dry fit and at the end of the day, all but one piece was cut correctly the first time.

But this piece took another 3 or 4 times to get the angle & length right.

Fast forward a week to the next weekend for the rest of the steps.  The painting was pretty quick since we already have left over trim paint.  I spread out all the pieces in the basement storage room on a plastic drop cloth and just gave them a quick coat in about half an hour.  Then came the fun part (the only fun part about trim) using the nail gun!  I read the instructions for the nail gun, which were surprisingly short, and we tested it out on a couple of scrap pieces of wood to make sure the pressure was right.

It only took about 15 minutes to nail in all the pieces.   I caulked the seams and called it finished for now.  There is still trim touch up that needs to happen but it is really very minor (and who goes around looking that closely at your trim anyway).  We also need to stain and install a transition piece in the threshold between the kitchen and dining room and fill a few nail holes but overall I’m very happy about having hardwoods instead of icky carpet in the dining room.  It is especially nice when you eat with a toddler whose idea of table manners is throwing food to the dog when he’s all done.

Here’s the before & after.  Yay for no more carpet!  I also got a couple more dining chairs from World Market to add to the set.  We usually end up with more than 6 people (including the kids) when we have people over so squeezing in a couple more chairs on the 8 foot table made sense (& the chairs were on mega sale  BONUS!)  WHY would anyone cover this up!!


After (obviously taken at a different time of day than the before):

I was featured on Remodelaholic

I party with Remodelaholic


2014 Project List

We accomplished a TON on the house in 2013 and I’ve been thinking about the projects that I want to do in 2014.  We aren’t planning any major renovations (e.g. kitchen/master bathroom) this year but do have several smaller projects on the list.  I reviewed our inspection report as well and while we’ve tackled the majority of the issues there are a few items that need to be added to the list.

Dining Room – The dining room is in great shape right now but the carpet still bugs me.  There are hardwoods under the carpet and I’ve pulled the carpet back in one corner to see what kind of shape they are in.  The hardwoods are finished in the same color as the entry so I don’t think this is a crazy project for us to DIY (IF no refinishing is required).

Office – The room is less cluttered after we moved the guitars to the basement but still needs a coat of paint on the walls & trim.  I’ve gotten some accessories since this picture was taken and have a project planed for the open wall space over the bench that I’m hoping to share soon.

Outside – There are several projects that need to be done outside this year.

1) Repairing wood rot – A contractor was supposed to do that before we moved in but he was a POS so we fired him before he finished the work.

2) Hopefully we can find someone to fix the front porch & install a new front door this year (details on why in the linked posts).

3) Pour a concrete patio under the screen porch – a task for Kevin &  my dad.  We got a quote on this that was high so my dad offered to help us with this DIY project as well.  Right now it is uneven dirt covered with pine straw.  We don’t have another spot for the grill or smoker so it would be nice if this area was a nice flat surface.

4) Install a new screen porch door (major procrastination here since we’ve had the door since Sept).

5) Possibly have someone rebuild the deck stairs so they are safe.

Basement – Hallway & Gym – Paint the trim & doors & possibly remove the last wallpaper in that is left in the house in the stairs & hallway. You can’t tell in the picture but the trim has yellowed and needs caulking in some spots so it would just look nicer with fresh coat of paint.   The hallway wallpaper was definitely the least offensive in the house but it is still wallpaper.  The trim & door painting would be a DIY job and I can’t think of many things less appealing than painting trim so we’ll see how far we make it on this project.

These are the projects that come to mind this year but there are lots of other “little” things that are also on the list (e.g. a few more new blinds for the upstairs guest rooms, new shower heads for a couple bathrooms, etc.).

And Now We Wait – Update

The bulbs we planted in November looked great this spring!  The daffodils came up in 2 phases and the tulips bloomed over about 3 weeks.  It added great spring color to the backyard.  I hope those daffodils come back again next year!  This may be the only year for tulips though since you have to dig them up and replant each year.

Back in November, we spent most of a cold Saturday planting around 100 tulips & 175 daffodils in the backyard.  Liam even got in on the work.  He “helped” rake & plant the bulbs & wore ear protection just like Kevin.  Here’s the pine straw island of the backyard that we hope will be covered in pretty flowers come Spring.

Kevin rented a one-man auger to dig the holes since it seemed easier than manual digging.  He was very sore for the next 2 days because that thing is a beast to use because it vibrates constantly and jerks hard when you hit a root.  He had loads of fun digging the almost 200 holes needed with this thing.

We lined the island with 2 rows of tulips and put randomly placed daffodils in the middle.  Liam and I fertilized & planted the bulbs after the holes were dug.

Hey!  This picture actually makes it look like Kevin was having fun with that thing!  HAHA!

Liam kept just throwing the bulbs in the holes so I made sure they were right side up so that all this work would be worth it.

And now we wait and hope the squirrels don’t chow down on too many of these before Spring.  The frustrating part about this much work is the lack of instant gratification…the “after” picture looks just like the “before”.

Oops! I didn’t take an “after” picture because I was feeding Liam lunch so the “before” will have to do.