Winter took a while to get here in Maryland but when she finally arrived she had to make up for lost time. Hello Winter… we have a long term love-hate relationship going on.
John and I decided to work on the inside of the house during the cold months. We poked around and did some itty bitty things that I love- like backpack cubbies in our bookshelf. Why didn’t we think of that before??
We also got to painting the bedrooms. Some of the bedrooms went through a 2nd round of paint. Does anyone else repaint their bedrooms on the regular? Clarification: Does anyone else convince their husband to repaint their bedrooms on the regular? What can I say- John is awesome. Sorry for the grainy pictures to follow. I have to dust off the DSLR. I’m lazy and I love the convenience of whipping out my iPhone from my back pocket for a quick pic. First world problem I suppose.
Olivia’s room Before
Olivia’s Room After
The Master Bedroom Before
Master Bedroom After
John and I did an upholstered grey headboard together as our Christmas present to each other. Total cost for materials was $50.
I can’t wait to put in the beadboard ceiling!
…and now grab your sunglasses because Emma’s room might make your eyes water. Little Emma picked out this bright, bold color and it could not be more fitting for this kid.
Happy New Years everyone! Our first project of the new year, is a new bench to go at the end of our bed. It’s another furniture flip- a $30 coffee table from a second hand store. It’ll be a nice spot to set pillows when we are going to bed. I am guilty of occasionally throwing the decorative pillows on the floor.
While John teaches Emma how to use a small kreg jig, I made my go to muffin recipe. Way back in 2015, I promised to email a handful of people this recipe. Sorry I never got that email out guys! Scroll down for the recipe on the bottom of this post.
While eating muffins and watching Emma and John work on the bench, I jotted down a list of things I’d like to focus on in 2016. I’m calling this my focus list. I don’t usually make resolutions because I think they are hard to keep. Instead, I made this list and brainstormed ways I could make daily adjustments within my life. A few things that made it on My Focus List:
Be more decisive. Practice saying NO personally and professionally
Simplify, slow down, purge
Delegate more to the kids and allow them to assist in more daily tasks
Plan regular family dates and couple dates
Carve out some “me” time
Part of these daily changes are really hard for me, like the “me” time. I have this ridiculous guilt that creeps up on me if I don’t share that time with others. The me time is always there- I think I just don’t allow myself to utilize it. I give that time away.
My reflections were briefly interrupted when Emma tripped and crashed into the corner of the bench she was working on. Olivia enjoyed eating the frozen peas off of her head. There’s always time to stop and kiss booboos.
Sorry for the grainy iPhone pictures!
We are blessed and grateful. Have a wonderful 2016! I’ll post pictures of the new bench soon ( :
Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Walnut Muffins:
1 c flour
1 1/4 c quick oats
1 can pumpkin
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c applesauce
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c milk
cinnamon and pumpkin spice
Top with dark chocolate chips and walnuts. I use the large muffin tins and bake for 18 minutes in a 400 degree oven. You probably only have to do 12-15 if using the smaller muffins pans.
For the past two years, John and I have been focusing more and more on decluttering. So for Christmas this year, we tried to think of ways we could cut down on random crap clutter with the kids. Jocelyn was open to having a mini room makeover as her Christmas gift with a theme of her choice. It took Jocelyn less than two seconds to pick a Harry Potter theme for her magical room transformation. Hold onto your broomstick because your inner nerd is going to freak.
Here is her room before Christmas…
We had so much fun brainstorming for her bedroom and it was so special planning it together. Here is the magical transformation for our little Harry Potter Fan:
Jocelyn chose the Sherwin Williams color Alpaca for the walls. A DIY firebolt is suspended above her dresser with fishing line. It cost zero dollars- and might be my favorite thing in the room. I made this out of a crape myrtle branch from the backyard and dead herbs from the garden. Hehe… Herbology in all its fine glory. Wingardium Leviosa! … Um, don’t judge. Embrace your inner nerd, mmmkay?
For her desk, we surrounded a quidditch poster with special pages from an old copy of the first book. We had Lowes cut a piece of Plexiglass for us to set on top of everything. They cut it for free!
A Hogwarts Admission Letter was a special touch. You can find the link for a free template here.
Quills, parchment paper, and a $4 gold Owl from Homegoods are perched on top.
The collage was an assortment of free printables from various sources. I’ll do my best to link to all of these amazing people out there that shared their art and made our little girl SO happy! Scroll down for links. The frames were only $2 each from AC Moore! Here’s a closer look:
Thank you Amazon for this amazing Gryffindor Throw! You can find it here.
Remote Control Candles. What?? Were these made for a HP fan?!?! No, probably not. BUT THEY’RE PERFECTION. We hung them from a cross stitch hoop spray painted gold. You can purchase them here.Lumos!
I painted a piece of wood that we had laying around and plopped it down next to Hedwig.
We had this shelf in Olivia’s room that we didn’t need after we re-did her space. It is the perfect little wand shelf. Her time turner and snitch live here as well.
We covered her chair cushion with the fabric of her choice and made a pillow out of the extra fabric.
I used a T-shirt transfer on the pillow for the spell.
Jocelyn stuck wall decals on her closet doors, which can be purchased here.
The trunk is from Homegoods and I used a T-shirt transfer to iron on the Hogwarts crest. Santa brought her this for her room, filled with the Hogwarts library, the throw and an owl.
The duvet cover was only $26! Unfortunately, we were sent a King size one instead of a full- so we are sending this one back and getting a replacement. The colors are spot on though!
Magic really happened right here in this room- the look on Jocelyn’s face was magical. She enjoys her space so much! I was blown away when I handed her a paper and pencil and told her to write down her brainstorming list of what she would have in her room with the Harry Potter theme. She fired away with so many awesome ideas- such a fluid transfer of creativity from her mind to her paper. Kids don’t need Pinterest for inspiration- they are full of their own. Truly inspiring to design a space with your kid. It’s funny how simple things that my kids do are so meaningful to me. Too deep? “Riddikulus” maybe… see what I did there? Thanks for stopping by!
When we moved into the house, we had plans to paint the kitchen cabinets and replace the countertops for an easy kitchen facelift. After living in the house for a couple of weeks, we noticed lots of water damage on the inside of the oak and particle board cabinets that we initially missed. We should have checked inside every cabinet! We didn’t want to put hard work into cabinets that were not in great shape. I also wanted all-wood cabinets since we are hard on our stuff! We decided to do our own DIY Renovation.
There was also a giant peninsula separating the kitchen from the dining space that made traffic flow difficult. See it up there?? You can’t miss it! The peninsula was the sole reason it took me one second too long to stop Olivia from dumping the dog’s water bowl onto the floor in fits of sweet giggles. There was so much spilled water. That kid would here the “clink” of the dog’s stainless steel water bowl and come crawling as fast as her chubby little legs could propel her forward.
The countertop was great for food prep but just became the dumping ground for junk. The location of the peninsula also didn’t leave enough space to float the dining table in the middle of the dining space, so the table had to be pushed up against the wall. It wasn’t a functional space.
We started by removing the strange patch of green carpet in the dining area. John and I assumed that there would be more hardwood flooring under it. We weren’t so lucky. There was only plywood under the space. We installed a bamboo floor, which we will call Floor Number 1. The story here is that John said, “Amanda, are you absolutely sure that you want to keep this wall? We need to be absolutely sure before we put the floor in.” I assured him,”Yes, I’m positive,” and then changed my mind a couple of months later, which resulted in installing Floor Number 2. I’ll get there ( :
On Christmas Eve, John and I decided to peak inside The Great Wall to see what was inside. We got a little carried away when the kids went to bed and started tearing apart The Great Wall. We didn’t have much of a plan here. Our thought process was more like, “wouldn’t it be cool to see the Christmas tree from the kitchen?!” We can be slightly impulsive sometimes. We even wrapped our tree in saran wrap!
Saran Wrap Christmas Tree
Once the Great Wall was out, the peninsula stuck out even more like a sore thumb. John and I went back and forth about the layout. If we took out the peninsula, we would sacrifice counter space and cabinet space but we would gain more walking space and achieve a layout that would be more integral with our new open concept layout. For us, more counter and cabinet space meant more junk.
Our open space was much more valuable to us for how we live. We starting hacking apart the peninsula. Sorry for the dark pictures, we are moonlight DIYers. If you want to get your kids to be able to sleep through anything, get them accustomed to the sounds of power tools at night as early as possible.
We made up for the lost cabinet space from the peninsula with bookshelves in our dining area. One of them houses our Pyrex and more cookware. The floating shelves in the dining area are from Ikea.
(View from Kitchen into the dining area)
(same spot in the kitchen)
We removed the rest of the cabinets, backsplash, and smashed the ceramic tile. We had open space! I started referring to the demo space as the ghetto with the holes in the walls and electrical hanging from the ceiling. Luckily, the kids didn’t seem phased by the demolition. We made a fancy bridge out of extra plywood for them to walk across.
When they woke up Christmas morning and asked, “Where’d the wall go? Why is half of our kitchen gone?” We told them that we wanted to open up the space and they shrugged their shoulders and kept it moving. We hung the cabinets before John installed Floor Number 2. We chose laminate since our budget was a little tight (this was our second floor after all) and because we are hard on our floors.
John and I chose a light quartzite material for our countertops and here is a huge tip that saved us money on our kitchen renovation. We used a prefab kitchen island that came with a top to cut down on the cost of countertop material. We could splurge on a small area of countertop and get the aesthetic feel that we wanted to achieve with a whitish grey counter, warmed by the wood top of the prefab island. The island was $500 and it was totally worth it. We purchased it from Amazon here.
I’m a great stud finder… Hey there, stud…
We modified a standard 24″ base cabinet to install the same farmhouse apron sink from IKEA that we used in our first kitchen remodel.
We ran into a big hiccup when the countertop installers put in the wrong slab! It was the same type of material but NOT the one we chose in the show room. It was very zebra-ish and it made me hyperventilate a little bit.
We called the company and they said “OOPS no problem,” and hurried back to put the right slab on. Their customer service was excellent. Phew.
AH yes! I was so happy that I may have drooled a little bit. I gently wiped it down Mr. Miagi style. Wax on, wax off… true love.
I decided to tackle the glass tile backsplash myself and purchased a small wet saw for $50 off of Amazon. If you need one, you can purchase it here. It is incredibly easy if you do a little planning and measuring ahead of time. I started the backsplash after the kids went to bed and finished around 1 am. The tile is from Home Depot and it’s called Arctic Ice. It’s a beautiful seafoam green/aqua color.
Future plans in the kitchen include new lighting and a beadboard ceiling. We also plan on painting the inside of our glass cabinets. The kitchen stools were only $16 from Bed, Bath and Beyond. I got them on sale and with the 20% off coupon! The price was so great that I felt like a stole them. One of my favorite things about the kitchen is this little spice cabinet in the awkward space between my sink and stove.
Having an open concept space brought the family closer together. For the first year we were in the home, we pretty much lived in the basement. Removing that huge wall gave us plenty of space to play together without feeling like we were on top of each other. It felt as though we could finally spread out upstairs and fill every space in our home with love and laughter.
This space is a reflection of our family- casual, bright, and open. We could have settled on the kitchen we had but we wouldn’t have enjoyed the space as much as we do now. We are going to be in this house for a while and the $5000 investment will give back to us on a daily basis. Doing dishes is fun now!… Totally kidding.
John and I recently had our X shaped gravel walkway taken out. We installed a budget friendly DIY concrete walkway with the Quikrete Walk Maker and couldn’t be happier with the results:
I came to really hate that gravel. If I wanted to run outside really quickly to get something out of the car, I’d avoid the gravel all together and walk in the grass. Shoes are for excursions greater than 5 minutes in my opinion. When we bought the home, we thought it would be simple to dig out the gravel. Once we got to it, we found out that there was a concrete sidewalk under the gravel that was in terrible shape. You can see the blasted sidewalk and the gravel path here:
I came across this funny little clip of the kids digging out the gravel. Click the link for a good chuckle.
The ornamental grasses are out and you can see the glory of the 70s here.
A paving company dug out the rock, sidewalks, and part of our driveway out. There was a ton of debris! John told me he could do this by himself in one day. He’s an optimist. What a guy.
While this grading/excavating was underway, we were changing out our shutters and adding the window boxes. Don’t they make a huge difference?!
Already so much better! Between the gravel and the dirt, I’ll take the dirt any day! The workers sent some strange looks my way as I giddily walked up and down the dirt path. I resisted the urge to lay down and make dirt angels in the center of the “X.”
Two dump trucks worth of dirt later… a lot of our neighbors walked by at this point to figure out what the heck we were doing. The best way to meet all of your neighbors is to tear out your entire front yard and turn it into the Sahara. You can see the giant homes being built in the field next to us. Hopefully we don’t scare away the potential buyers. We have been known to hug the chain link fence and scream, “They have kids!!!” if a family comes through to look at the first house that went in.
After our excitement over dirt began to subside, we realized we needed something to walk on. We decided on paver stones and began making a list of materials to pick up at Home Depot and Lowes. We were getting all excited again until we realized that this project was far more expensive than we anticipated, a little over $1,000. We said “Good bye plan A,” and moved onto Plan B, which was to google a cheaper option. Plan B evolved into installing a DIY concrete paver walkway with the Quikrete Walk Maker. We ordered it from Amazon here.
We decided on Plan B with the Quikrete Walk Maker for a number of reasons:
Concrete is super cheap.
We wouldn’t have to worry about labor costs.
We didn’t need to purchase gravel/sand mix to level since concrete adheres and bonds to its surface.
Less grading was required, since the mold could be shimmed.
We could do sections at different times, since the mold is a 2×2 ft square.
To use the concrete mold, you rake the ground a little bit to level and create a good bonding surface. We eventually added some landscaping fabric underneath to prevent weeds from creeping up. Then, you lay the mold on the ground, mix your concrete and pour it in. We mixed ours with a shovel in a wheelbarrow. I found adding a bit of extra water allowed for a smoother finish with the masonry trowel. We used 60 lb bags of concrete because they were on sale but this particular mold does require 80 lb of concrete per mold. Emma was helping out when we experimented with the first one. There’s our trusty living room lamp!
John added a bit of concrete dye in each mold so they would be a little bit more grey instead of white. The newer sections stay dark for about a day and then start to lighten like the other sections.
We worked a lot at night after the kids went to bed. John and I got into a good routine. He would mix the concrete in the wheelbarrow while I used the trowel to smooth the surface. While it dried, we drank wine. That part was an essential step in the process. I’d let the mold sit for 5-6 minutes before pulling the mold. Having two people really made the job much easier.
Every day, we would add another 6-8 sections.
The kids put the leftover concrete to good use. With some tiles, buttons, and shells they made me beautiful stepping stones.
Then one night, I randomly painted our front door an aqua color. I had the paint color matched to Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue.
As we got closer to finishing, we stamped a little bit of love into the walkway. This is my favorite. Whenever Olivia walks past the handprints, she stops to put her hand in her handprint.
After all the concrete was dry, we added polymeric sand to fill in the cracks. Polymeric sand bonds and hardens after you wet it and is the same material that you use to fill in between actual paver stones.We used Scotts EZ Seed to fill in around our new walkway and stood back to take it in. No more gravel!
Here is a closer look at the walkway. We get tons of compliments on it and a lot of people can’t tell it’s concrete unless we tell them! The handprints give them a clue. The materials cost about $250. Had we not added the dye, it would have been even cheaper! So worth our concrete-mixing blistered hands!
We inherited a pallet tiki bar from the previous homeowners. It was kind of a beast. The wood was splintery and the tile top was chipped and cracked. It was kind of fun so we decided to keep it. We just needed to give it some life.
We spray painted some planters that were also left at the house and spray painted the pallets a caribbean blue. We used deck paint to secure the wood floor a bit. I added some shells and tiki signs. We added a new wood top and some posts for a bamboo reed “roof” structure. The material is actually bamboo fencing.
Still working the frame for the bamboo reed roof. We ran into some issues attaching it to the back of the shed.
We cut some bamboo down that was growing in the field next to us and tied it to the frame.
We decided to take a break to play with the kids and eat dinner. After the kids went to bed, we came back out for some more tiki time with our trusty living room lamp. One of these days we will buy a spotlight.
I added a patio mat made of recycled plastic to allow water to run through. Some Christmas lights added nice ambiance to the space.
John and Jocelyn drinking at the bar… frappuccinos of course.
We have since added some fishnets and solar lights. I forgot to take an updated picture before we packed everything away for the season. John’s parents gave us some tiki masks from their honeymoon as they are downsizing and moving to the beach. We are so excited to add them to our little oasis behind the garage next Spring! The kids actually use this space more than we do. In between pool time, they love to eat lunch and dinner at the bar on warm, sunny days. I’m missing the summer already ( :
When we first came through this home, the fireplace stuck out like a sore thumb. I’m also not a stone fireplace kind of girl so the brass hit me extra hard. At our old house, we just had a candle burning mantle so this was a big step up though!
We decided to paint to get rid of the brass. Some fireplace frames can be unscrewed but ours could not. We used Rustoleum High Heat Paint. It is oil based. Note that the directions specify not to do two coats. It is so tempting but don’t do it! I tested a little spot and it got all splotchy. Just lay it on nice and thick.
The mantle was a yellowish oak and didn’t fit into our color scheme so we painted it white. We have plans to eventually add a heavier duty piece of wood there.
The fireplace facelift made a huge difference! I change my mind, I AM a stone fireplace kind of girl. It’s cozy and inviting and the perfect place to roast marshmallows.
My coffee table dilemma was a little bit ridiculous. I went back and forth about what I wanted for a lonnnng time. It had to be beautiful and cheap and able to take a beating.
Just realized how ‘Fifty Shades’ that sounded.
I thought about making some plans to have John build me one but it would have been pretty straight legged and safe, a hodgepodge of leftover project wood from the shed. Sounds beautiful, am I right?
on one of my thrift store run throughs, I stumbled upon this glorious piece here for $25:
It was too high and too country against our new IKEA sectional but I liked how the turned legs toned down the squareness of the table. So we took off the legs and measured how much we wanted off from the bottom. We decided we wanted a plank top so we took that height difference into consideration when deciding upon the new height of the table. John hacked them off accordingly.
YAY- a slightly lower than usual coffee table height as we are in the pre-plank top state.
John sanded it up a bit to get the primer to adhere.
Primed and painted with some leftover paint that we had in the basement. The paint is Valspar from Lowes. The color is Benjamin Moore White Dove in a semigloss finish.
We got our boards ready at approximate lengths of 30″x30.” It’s ok if the boards are a little bit off at this point. We glued the board on and then drew a straight edge on all sides. John straightened out the edges with a jigsaw and then we screwed/nailed into the boards from the bottom so that the nails would not show through. You could drill right into the top of the planks for a more rustic finish if you wanted.
Then we stained the top with a beautiful grey stain. I am kind of tempted to re-stain everything we own in this finish. As much as I love this color, don’t be surprised to see my kids sporting new “Weathered Grey” T-dye T-shirts in a few weeks.
Here’s the stain we used:
Here is a photo of the neglected mess that accumulated while we worked on our new coffee table! That’s ok though-it was totally worth it. What do you think?
We moved into our current home just over a year ago now. When the house came on the market, it had everything on our wish list- the schools, yard, four bedrooms, storage, potential to create an open floor plan… the list was a little long. The only problem with the house was that it was UGLY. Really ugly. I distinctly remember the first time Jocelyn came with us to see the property and her face of disgust. For the first 5 months we lived in the house, Jocelyn referred to our home as “the ugly house.” We worked really hard and eventually the term phased out. “The ugly house” eventually transitioned into a home.
Our current house is a four bedroom 1970s rancher. We had large 8 ft ornamental grasses in the garden bed and a giant X shaped gravel walkway. X marks the spot. Some how the “ugly house” caught our attention. It sits on a little over half an acre, which is just enough space for chickens- which was on the wish list too. Free range chickens should always be on the home buying wish list ( :
I’ll begin at the fancy chain link fence in the front yard that has yet to come down (that’s a Spring 2016 project). Past the chain link fence, we hired someone to replace our pothole ridden concrete driveway. The driveway was something I never even noticed. I walked around the house talking about all the different spots where I could put a chicken coop and never even glanced at the driveway. So many scraped knees later, we finally replaced it with an asphalt driveway.
Then, we attempted to dig out the gravel walkway ourselves. John offered to give the kids $5 for each row of gravel. Each row was probably 25ft+. The kids excitedly used snow shovels to get up as much of the gravel as possible. They seemed to enjoy themselves and had no idea that they were being subjected to child labor. We wised up and had the driveway paving crew take it out for us.
While we waited on the walkway to be removed, John hacked out the pampass grasses and we planted flowering perennials that were hard to kill, supposedly. I only lost a few here and there. I’m working on it though! We took out all of the plastic pavers lining the garden bed and replaced it with salvaged bricks that our new neighbor gave us.
After the rock walkway was excavated, we poured a concrete walkway using a concrete mold that looked like pavers. It took a lot of time but was SO worth it. We saved so much money going this route. The entire walkway cost about $250, including concrete mix, concrete dye, polymeric sand and masonry tools. It was like icing a cake folks and I’m confident that anyone can do it if you’re in need of a walkway. Around the same time we were pouring concrete, we replaced our burgundy shutters with black ones, painted the exterior bricks, spray painted our outdated fixtures, and John built me some custom window boxes.
John and I added board and batten to our entryway, which is open to the living room and kitchen. I placed the kids “coming home” baby outfits over the board and batten so that I can see their coming home outfits every time I come home. It makes me smile whenever I walk through the door.
Our first project inside involved replacing our carpets to get rid of a foul animal smell that went unnoticed during our visits and walkthrough. I’d love to know what product they used to mask that stink! A mama could really use that in the house after I give the kids bran muffins or sweet potatoes if you know what I mean?
After: (Phase 1 – Before taking down the wall)
After: (Phase 2 – After taking down the wall – still in progress)
We knocked down the wall between the living room and kitchen and did a budget DIY kitchen renovation. Floating shelves were placed between our beloved huge bookshelves. One houses backpacks and the other houses Pyrex and cookware.
We focused on the interior first to help get the kids more comfortable in their new bedrooms. We painted a little here and there and got some area rugs. The last year has really been a blur as we jumped around from project to project with no rhyme or reason. The first two weeks we agreed to take it slow and go room by room. Not our style. Who were we kidding?
In the basement, we tore out a huge Ravens purple ice block bar. Not sure what that it? It’s this monster below. We carpeted over 3/4 of the basement and left ceramic tile in the 1/4 area near the basement door. I was happy to see the green carpet go!
We needed lots of room for toys and crafts so the big purple monster had to go. Our craft space is over the ceramic tile for easy cleanups and we have the kids come in from the pool over the tile to let the water run off a bit. John and I created an art wall to showcase some of the masterpieces made here.
After: Where the big purple monster use to live
Before: (Green carpet)
After: (In progress)
We did a lot of our outdoor projects during the Spring and Summer while the weather was warm. Now that it’s getting colder, we are moving back inside to do some projects, like refurbishing outdated furniture and decorating for fall.
Our project list takes us into the next 3 years at a minimum and we’d love to share our journey with you. Many friends have asked us, where do you get the energy to do these projects and how do you find the time? We spend very little time thinking about reasons why we don’t have time and a lot of time just getting it done! It brings us joy to DIY and the ultimate goal in life is to fill our lives with joy. We are blessed and grateful. Thank you for visiting our blog!
Our entryway was a little tight on space. I swooned over images of open foyers with strategically decorated entryway tables. Our entryway had enough space to come in and take a sharp turn left or right… or if you missed your sharp turn you’re headed for the dining table. We looked for ways to make this little space more welcoming. We had an old brass boob light that was original to the house, linoleum flooring in the hallway, wrought iron railing, and saggy, dirty carpet on the stairs.
Naturally, we thought to paint the stairs black and white and put peel and stick tiles in the hallway. These were our baby steps… like the “oh snap the baby is tripping and falling down face first” kind of baby steps. Crash and burn. We stepped back and looked at our hard work and wondered… what happened??
Then I accidentally stepped in it and we had a good laugh. My good mood was back and we got to thinking about all that leftover paint we had in the garage. John mixed together white, gray, black, and turquoise. Which led us to a pretty shade of a pale minty aqua-ish color.
BAM. Suddenly I liked the contrast with the iron railing. I made carpet tiles out of sisal runners intended to construct cat climbing structures. I got a 25 ft roll for about $13.00. I had some outdoor fabric leftover from another project and hot glued it to the edges to make carpet treads to prevent the kids from slipping around. We updated the light fixture, installed laminate and painted the hallway.
Ahhh The light, airy, welcoming feeling. I think it is so important to create an entry space that reflects how you want your home to feel.