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Friday, September 25, 2015

Five Minutes

When we were in the house hunting stages, we set a rule that we weren't to be more than a half hour from town - where I work, where the stores are, where Chipotle is (priorities). When we saw this house online, and we saw it was 35 minutes away from all these things, we both took a second to think it through. We drew the line at 30 minutes for a reason, because if 35 minutes is okay, then what's stopping us from 40 or 45 minutes? What if we regret it once we live there for a year or two? What if the commute becomes a dealbreaker and we didn't even know it? I started to picture Cousin Vinny questioning me on the stand. Are you sure about that five minutes!? 

Photo courtesy of American Rhetoric

Clearly, we ignored all those concerns because here we are. While we've only been living here for a few months, not a few years, I can say with all certainty that I don't begrudge this commute at all, and I'm so grateful for that extra five minutes, every day, because of what it's given us. That extra five minutes gave us a deck that will host family gatherings and quiet dinners for two, total privacy, perfect views of sunrises, deer and turkey sightings, frogs climbing on our windows to say hello (well, to eat bugs, but in my head they say hello), a kitchen with a view of our friends and family as they pull in our driveway for visits, and walls that will house all our memories for many years to come. I'm so grateful for that five minutes. 





My commute to work every day isn't always sunshine and happiness. Sometimes, I get stuck behind a farming tractor going 30 in a 55 zone that doesn't want to let me pass and I drop a few profanities (True Life: Country Living). Sometimes I have to stop on the main road to let the truck carrying the town dirt out for his delivery. Sometimes, I'm late to work because of these things, even though I always leave early to account for all these occurrences. And sometimes these things happen when I just need to get to Home Depot because we need some random tool or gadget for a house project. and it takes twice as long to get there. But when it happens, I think of our deck, our dining room, our stupid vinyl-paneled walls that we can't wait to take down, our fireplace, the front door that always sticks and everything else that's ours. And I calm down, turn on the stereo, crack a smile, enjoy the scenery and start to sing to my favorite songs.

Hey lady, you got the love I need,

Maybe more than enough.
Oh darlin', darlin' darlin'... walk a while with me.
You've got so much ...

Best Zeppelin song ever.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kitchen Cabinets Before & After

We have finally put the very last door back on our cabinets, and seeing the actual, completed finished product in its entirety was pretty amazing. Josh and I still laugh about how we thought this project would be done in five days, and how it's now been almost three months since we started. But, it kind of made the end result even sweeter. While I don't have the best "before" photos because we took all the doors down before I was able to snap a picture, I still think the difference is pretty dramatic. Goodbye dark maple wood and brass hardware! Take a looksie:



And now, just after photos, because they're prettier to look at:




I can't even verbalize how happy I am with the results. I'm so glad we saved the money and just painted our cabinets versus having brand new ones installed. They're not perfect: some of them need a better patching job where old knob holes used to be, and some need some paint drips sanded down and touched-up. But, we did it ourselves. And I kind of what to kiss every little flaw that's visible because I know that they're all representations of the love that went into this project. 

With all that said, our kitchen is not quite done. In the near future, we plan to stain wood planks to put up as doorway trim, do something with the bathroom and pantry doors (which you conveniently can't see in these photos) and also paint the ceiling. With the doorway trim, I'm hoping to distress the wood to make it look reclaimed, and stain it in a slightly warm walnut-ish hue to tie in with the dining room, which opens directly to the kitchen and has a lot of warm pine in it. We also plan to paint the ceiling the same colors as the cabinets/walls, but I'm undecided on how I want to do the panel pieces on the ceiling that are currently oak. Do I stain them the same color as the door trim to mimic the look of wood beams? Do I just paint the squares grey and the trim panels white? I really don't know - which is kind of why this project hasn't gotten done yet. But now that the rest of the kitchen is a crisp white and calming grey, having the oak panels on the ceiling really stands out, and I'm itching to do something with those suckers. Same goes for the doors - I'm still trying to decide what I want to do with them, but I'm leaning towards staining them the same color as the trim as a "for now" solution until I get a better idea.

In the far off future (3 years or so I'm guessing) we plan to replace the countertops and change them out to a white-ish quartz with gray marbling to mimic Carrara marble, put in a white subway tile backsplash and a new porcelain farmhouse sink/faucet. I was hoping to, at the very least, put in the new backsplash within the year, but the countertops we currently have would make that difficult, so it would just makes more sense to wait until we put in the countertops and the sink since all three of them go hand in hand anyway.

And then ... THEN ... the kitchen will probably be done.

I say that now. I'm sure I think of 10 more projects I'll want to do after all that's done.

Next, I plan to share with you some open shelving we installed, and the huge difference it made in opening up our kitchen. Yay!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

When Josh Is Away, I Get To Play: My Husband-less Lifestyle

When Josh goes out of town for work, I tell people that I feel like a teenager whose parents are gone for the weekend. And while I'm a lot less fun than any 15-year-old, I fall into youthful habits that bring me back to my childhood (and also make me sound like a crazy person because I'm like, 32 years old).

Here's a recap of things I always do when Josh is gone:

Take extra time off at work. I'll cash in a sick day, or just make sure my schedule allows me to maximize time at home by myself. I love being married. I love my husband. My favorite thing in life is being his wife (and also, eating pizza). But, he works from home, which means if I'm home, he's home. I like that 98% of the time, but sometimes it's nice to have the whole house to myself and have conversations out loud with our dog without judgement. 



Mindlessly shop. Especially at Target, Sephora and craft stores. I'm usually a really fast shopper, or I order everything online. It's not often I like to slowly meander aisles of stores because I feel like there are so many other things I could be doing that are more productive. But for some reason, when I'm there by myself with no husband to go home to, I take my sweet, sweet time while out shopping. And I usually over-buy. And I kind of love it.


Eat like a seven-year-old. I break out the PB&J's, animal crackers and fruit gummie snacks. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because if I ate like this in front of Josh, I'd feel incredibly lame. But at home in my PJs by myself at one in the afternoon? Oh, it feels sooooo good.



Go to a fancy grocery store and get ridiculously over-priced treats. Josh is practical when it comes to shopping, and while I know I can always buy whatever groceries I want, he's rubbed off on me over the years, and I find myself making better, more budget-friendly choices. But, when he's out of town, I treat myself. This time around, I found these pumpkin cheese cracker things for $5 per box. So I basically go to Fresh Market and say, "Here, you take ten dollars, and you give me two things."


Side note: As much as I try to love expensive, fancy pants gourmet ice cream with like, normal food in them, I can't. I have a bite, and I'm like, "That's nice, but I can haz mint chip now?"



Watch stupid and non-stupid-but-they're-not-Josh's-favorite movies. I have a core collection of movies I pick from to watch when Josh isn't around. Some of them good (Penelope is one of my favorites - so whimsical with a great, fairy tale-like story). Some of them awful, but I can't stop watching them (Dirty Dancing. I carried a watermelon). And some of them really great (Fried Green Tomatoes. Towanda!). Sometimes, I'll watch three movies in a row and stuff my face with cheese puffs. Whatever.




Take long walks with Betty. Betty isn't really an "outdoor" dog. She likes to pee, poop, take a few extra steps outside to stretch her legs, and then come back to the couch to recover from that for the next six hours. But, I feel like her and I are in sync when it's just us women, and we both like some extra fresh air and quality time outside together. For Betty, a long walk is about 10-15 minutes, but still, I'll take it. And I really enjoy it. Especially now that we have all this land to explore. It's fun doing it with a fluffy white 7-pound dog by your side.



Go to lunch alone. This isn't necessarily something I only do when Josh is away, but it tends to happen regularly when I have alone time. I find something relaxing and liberating about eating lunch out in public without anyone's company. I never really go anywhere fancy with a wait staff, and I never bring anything to do or read, necessarily. Just clear my head, enjoy my own company and eat some noms.

For the record, I actually went to Whole Foods first, but they didn't have any vegetarian sandwiches that day, and I really wanted a sandwich. Since there was no other place to go for a sandwich where I was at the time, oh darn, I had to go to Five Guys. Believe it or not, I kind of love their veggie sandwich. And this is one of three sodas I get per year (and I only have about five sips and toss the rest because that's what I actually feel guilty about consuming - not the half pound of french fries).



Throw myself into an organizational or crafting project. Because it appears that I'm pretty lazy when Josh is gone, maybe a part of me feels a little guilty. Somehow, I always find myself knee-deep in a project while he's away. Last time, I designed our wedding album (five years after said wedding), and a couple of years back, I hand-made all our Christmas tags and gift embellishments (I had a lot of time that year because it was my wedding off-season). Because my life these days is one big project - I'm either working on something around the house or I'm working on something at, well, work - I kept my productivity minimal this time around. While out shopping, I found some really pretty photo albums (for half off!) that went so nicely with our living room decor, so I decided to go through all our old photos and organize them into the new albums. I also went through all our photos online and decided which photos we should have 4x6 prints of. Then, I pulled a Betty and retired to the couch for the rest of the day and considered myself productive-ish enough. Also, what is it about having actual photo albums to look through? It almost felt antiquated even thinking of making prints to put in an album. But sifting through photos on my laptop just isn't the same.



Stay up way past my bedtime and fall asleep to TV or movies. Normally I'm out by 11 or 11:30, and never fall asleep to the sound of TV. But here's the thing: I'm terrified of ghosts and I'm convinced that when Josh leaves, they're going to come after me. I wish I were kidding. So I have a harder time falling asleep when he's gone and I usually stay up much later than normal hoping I can fake out the ghosts and show them I'm not going to bed anytime soon (go haunt someone else, gosh!). I feel like if I look away from a computer screen for even a second, a stranger that's conveniently lacking blood flow or full opacity will appear around the corner, and I will either die of a heart attack or worse, have to deal with the fact that I saw a ghost. This was the first time I was home alone overnight in our super old, probably haunted, house way out in the country, but I think I did okay all things considered. I was definitely averaging a 1:30 am bedtime though, which is late for this old lady!

What do you like to do when you have your home to yourself? Get takeout every day? Online shop until 3 a.m.? Walk around naked eating a bowl of cereal? No judgement zone here, my friends. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Happy Kitchen Wall Collage: Etsy Artwork & Rustic Touches

One of the things I love about our kitchen is all the wall space. I think sometimes, it's easy for kitchens to feel less cozy and homey than the rest of the house, despite how much the space gets used for family gathering. Once our walls were painted, I was itching to start hanging things. Coming from the world's tiniest galley kitchen in our old apartment, however, I didn't have a lot of things to actually hang. So I turned to Etsy. I looked through some old photography prints I had favorited over the years, and also stumbled upon some illustration prints that made me happy just looking at them. I was never really a fan of illustrations as wall art - I've always been a straight-up photography kind of girl - but illustrations have really started to grow on me lately, and I ended up ordering some. The ones I ordered were all instant downloads for around $4-$5, and then getting them printed online and mailed to me only added about $1 each. So, creating a little wall gallery wouldn't be as expensive as I thought.

One morning while eating breakfast, I just got an image in my head (as per usual) for a little photo gallery on our wall that connects the kitchen, mudroom and dining room. I had been stuck on this space for a while because it needed to tie all three spaces together somehow, and I just decided to go with the idea that came to me. For this plan, I needed a rustic-y looking picture ledge, some illustrations, maybe a photo or two and a few frames. I also decided to incorporate a purchase I made over the summer from the Country Living Fair. Put all that together, and you get something like this:



You'll have to excuse the light switches that are currently naked. Our switch plate for that one is on order and not yet in our possession. And we're replacing the doorway moulding, so we kind of don't care that it presently has paint all over it. 

Because this is an area I pass by everyday when I leave the house and come back home for the day, I loved the idea of simple sayings I remind myself of every day: Be Kind & Be Happy. When I found the two bee illustrations on Etsy, I knew it was meant to, well ... bee. That pun was so, SO NOT intended. But anyway.



The photo of the clementines on the tree was one that I had been saving in my Etsy Favorites list for a few months, and I thought that it worked really well in the space. The rustic frame that houses it is an older purchase from my hoarding days that I found at Homegoods. Besides the fact that it's a beautiful photograph, I loved how warm the photo was, which ties nicely into our dining room which will eventually be painted a warm Tuscan peach color.



When I found the print of the succulent wreath surrounding the word Home, I realized it was exactly what I needed to finish off the gallery wall because the colors and overall design worked perfectly with the colors in our kitchen, and still worked with the dining room color palette. Plus, I just really liked it, so there's that.




The ledge was also an Etsy purchase, and the shop was so customizable that I was able to get it built at exactly 34 inches, which was the perfect length for this wall. Our plan is to use rustic-y or reclaimed wood for the moulding around our doorways in this space, so the ledge here will pair wonderfully with that once it's all done.



Finally, I found a home for this cute little mason jar wall art thing that I bought (for cheap!) at the Country Living Fair this past June. I know that mason jars are almost over-done these days, and some people are like, "Oh my gawwwwwd if I see one more rustic mason jar decoration I'm going to literally stab my eyeballs out!" but I still love them, and I can't deny that. I'm currently on the hunt for some fall-y faux leaves or flowers or something to put in there, and then I can change them out seasonally. I'm hoping that eventually, we'll have big gardens filled with flowers that I can pick and put in these guys every week, but that's still a ways away. For now, fake will have to suffice.

And that, my friends, is the happy little corner of our house that brightens my day, and always reminds me to bee happy, bee kind and appreciate my home.

Details of everything mentioned
White Frames: Pottery Barn*
Bee Kind Print: The Printable Planners
Bee Happy Print: JustABirdPrintables
Home Wreath Print: Moss and Twig
Clementine Print: JennDiGuglielmo

*I work for the Williams-Sonoma brand and received an employee discount on these items.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Mini Makeover For Our Entryway

Once our kitchen cabinets were painted, my next big-ish project was painting our entryway for a few different reasons.

First, we had boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes of picture frames that we desperately wanted to unpack to clear out space in our front room (currently acting as a storage facility for "stuff we can't deal with right now." A lot of the pictures and frames that are in those boxes will be going in our entryway, stairway landing and up our staircase.

Also, our entryway had been painted different shades of white and ivory over the years so the walls were about six different colors - not to mention the discoloration from age, as well as surface scratches. It needed a big hug. This is what parts of our entryway looked like before painting:



Lastly, the existing ceiling fan was just ... not good. I felt it was way too big and bulky for the space, and since our entryway doesn't get a lot of natural light, we needed to switch it out for a lighter, more airy light fixture that fit better. Here it is in all of its un-glory:

#thanksbutnothanks

Because of the age of this house, I quickly realized that sanding down everything, including the trim, would never get me a completely smooth surface. At first, this annoyed me a little, and then I realized - why would I want to sand away everything in this house that gives it character? I know that may seem strange to a lot of people because most of us strive for perfection in our homes. But I suppose I like things to be perfectly imperfect. I decided to sand down what came off easily and leave the rest as is. Once the paint went on, I was happy I did it that way. You can still see a LOT of little bumps and knicks in the trim, but I kind of like the character. The walls are nice and smooth, and the trim shows the true age of the house in a good way (I think).

This is what our trim looked like after a very light sand-down. 


And once the walls were painted, you could see just how bad it was.

Deciding on a wall paint color for the entryway was tricky because we wanted to carry the color into both our living spaces (which are directly off the entryway), up our stairway and through our upstairs hallway. So, the color we picked had to work in all these spaces with all different kinds of light. I had a color in my head of what I wanted, which was a light, warm beige. I felt that a cooler beige or taupe would be too modern for this house, and I just feel that warmth in colors, especially beiges, looks more cozy and inviting. In the end, after swatching a few samples all over the house, the winner was Bayshore Beige by Benjamin Moore. It was the only one we got that looked exactly how I wanted it to look in every single room. And ... AND ... it was the exact color I had been picturing in my head. When I'm able to make the random ideas in my head a reality, it's a pretty great thing.

We chose the Regal formula from Ben Moore, and it applied so well on the walls. Because our walls had a lot of dings and discoloration, we needed two coats, but no primer. I'm like, so, SO happy with how it came out. 

First, an overall before picture:




And now:

It's not the most dramatic makeover of all time, but it makes me pretty happy. Eventually, we'll paint our front door the same color as the trim (Bavarian Cream by Ben Moore), but there are other issues with that door we need to address before we slap any paint on it).


The light fixture is the Camilla Chandelier by Pottery Barn*. And it may be my favorite thing ever (until we hang the next new thing, and then that will become my new favorite thing ever).

She's so preeeeeeetty.




The wood sign with the destinations painted on it is from Salt & Light Designs on Etsy. It was what I gave Josh for our five-year wedding anniversary. All of the places listed on it have meaning to us from our first five years together. I'm not sure if it will always live here in the entryway, but for now, this is its home.

Also, I have a problem buying flower-shaped bowls and plates from Homegoods. There are two pictured above, but I've collected about four others. #sorrynotsorry

Painting around our stairway was a little tricky because of the carpeting (which we plan to get rid of at some point, just not right now). I read online the best way to paint around carpet is just to tape it down - it was as simple as that. I just pulled it taught to flatten the pile, wedged a spackle tool thingy between the tape and the wall to make sure the carpet was protected, and once I was done painting and lifted off the tape, the carpet bounced back up, covering any seams between the old paint and the new paint. 




The window in our stairway landing area is ... dramatic sigh ... challenging to work with. Bottom line is that it needs to be replaced and updated, but for now, I just decided to paint the moulding around it and leave the dark brown parts as is. 



As we go into fall and winter, we plan to start putting up our pictures and frames. But for now, we're celebrating this project being as done as it's going to be for the next few weeks/months. Josh is currently working hard to put up the last few kitchen cabinet doors so we can finally take the "after" pictures for a before and after. Yessssssssss.

*I work for the Williams-Sonoma brands and purchased these things with an employee discount.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Little Homey Touches I've Waited Years For

For the first six weeks or so, we felt like squatters in this house. Our kitchen cabinet project was eating up all our free time and energy, and we never really had a moment to unpack anything in any kind of official capacity. We would just take random things from random boxes as we needed them, so it didn't really start to feel like home until recently. When we finally started to officially unpack, the feeling of, "Oh hey, we actually live here!" set in, and things became even more real. For the past five years or so, we've been buying things here and there for this future house of ours, knowing that one day, we'd have the perfect place for them. In storage, I've had pillow covers I bought four years ago, but never was able to put out because I was waiting for the sofa (that we have now) for our future home. Other home decor things have been packed away for years, and part of me never thought I'd ever have a place for all of it, and a bigger part of me knew it would come together one day because I had meticulously planned out each purchase with a specific purpose in mind. The past few weeks, I've been very slowly unpacking the things I've been saving for our someday-home, and it's kind of weird and surreal to see them out - in our house - just as I pictured them in my head years ago. We've also been updating a few small things here and there that really have made this place feel like our home. Let's talk about 'em, shall we?


1. Switch plates - they're super boring to most people, but I had way too much fun picking these out. I think after you live in an apartment for years, and you have no desire to do much to the existing, often ugly, details because it's not really yours, things like this can be really exciting because it's such a small detail that you picked out that fits with your style. The house came with cheap, plastic, almond-colored switch plates that looked sad (like, I pictured them, frowning and giving me their best Ross Gellar depressed "hiiii" as I walked by). I don't even have a "before" photo of them because we took them out pretty fast. These bronze, leafy ones, though? I love. Our home is older and has a history that spans more than 150 years and while I didn't think I'd ever pick something like this, it just works, and I knew it as soon as I saw them. They just really make me happy. 


2. Switch plates continued. Once we painted the walls of our kitchen a very light gray, and with bright, white cabinets, the almond switch plates had to go because they were all you could focus on when you walked in (well, all I could focus on, Josh said they were fine). We found these wainecoating-y ones at Home Depot, and I was sold. Never mind that we don't have moulding around our doors - we have cute switch plates that match the paneling on our island! Score.


3. So, minor detail, but we have a little rug at our kitchen sink now. And I love it. It's all kinds of silly, but having a cute little rug over here just makes things so much more homey. This little guy was from Homegoods, and he was $13. I love the french-country cotton woven with the natural jute - it was meant for our kitchen. I'm considering buying a back-up in case this one gets ruined. 


4. Right before our one-year wedding anniversary, I bought these initial teacups from Anthropologie. I envisioned them lined up on our kitchen windowsill, surrounded by happy little flowers or plants. Years later, that vision is realized. And it definitely adds a little much-needed coziness to our kitchen.


5. What's up, chicken butt? Josh and I both love farm/all animals, and for the better part of the past two years, I've been favoriting farm animal photography prints on Etsy that we could use in our house someday. This one, by Lucy Snowe Photography, was destined for our kitchen shelves. 


6. I've had this sofa from Pottery Barn picked out for years. YEARS. We ordered it the day we closed on our house, and it was delivered toward the end of August. Before this sofa, we were living with the IKEA Ektorp sofa, which has a similar look, but infinitely less comfortable, and built for small people, not husbands who are 6'3", and not wives that like to take naps without a constant feeling of falling off said sofa. I saw the orange and taupe paisley pillows four years ago, and knew that they'd go perfectly with the sofa fabric I wanted, and I just bought them because they were on sale. Over the years, I started to collect more pillows and pillow covers, and while I was able to use some right away, most of them sat in storage until just now because our little Ektorp wasn't large enough for all of them. The day I took out that paisley pillow, and put it on the sofa with the crisp, white cotton pillow, navy blue ticking stripe pattern and our little Cape Cod pillow we got this year on vacation, it was perfect. We'll change them up for fall and the holiday season, but for now, I've fallen hard for this little arrangement. 


7. Once our entryway was painted (as you see here in the photo - post about that to come soon), we could finally - FINALLY- start to hang photos and such on the walls. Shortly after we moved, I had some Target coupons and Gift Cards to cash in, and I used a portion of them to buy these three window pane decorations. They're meant to display photos, but I kind of like them without anything in the glass, so we'll probably just keep them like this. I love how they add a rustic touch without being too country. And they were pretty inexpensive with my coupons! Score, again!