Let's get Insulated

If  you live in an old house, you probably know that cold air some how finds its way through any crack or cranny possible. Old houses (especially larger ones), are just not insulated the way newer homes tend to be. Although our house is very small (or minimal, as we say), we find energy bills to be surprisingly high in during the colder and warmer months. We have also found that one side of our house stays fairly temperate, while the other side (the side with our bedroom on it) is always either freezing or rain forest hot.

So....backtracking just a bit....when we re-tiled our beloved tile shower (remember, the shower of problems  from a while back?), we discovered that there was absolutely no insulation on one side of the house. When our fabulous tile guy came in for the shower overhaul, he noticed this issue through the opening he had to make in the bathroom ceiling.

To make a long story very short...we decided that we had to insulate our house (which we have just now gotten around to doing). Not only were we freezing in the winter time and sweating in the summer time, but we were spending money cooling and heating a house that was not holding up its end of the bargain. After some careful research, we (ok, Chris) found that this little insulation problem could be easily fixed in a one afternoon DIY session. Lowe's we go.....

Chris  found a great deal on "green insulation," which as far as I understand, basically means a bunch of recycled paper crap that has been chopped up and compressed into a big block.

< See exhibit A-recycled paper insulation crap.

He also rented an insulation blower. Now...when I say insulation blower, I mean a huge metal thing with a big hose that makes lots of noise. See exhibit B, below:

Now, Chris had drafted a very well thought out plan outlining how we were going to blow the insulation throughout the attic of the house, forever solving our heating and cooling problems for a very reasonable financial investment. I, being the supportive wife that I am, agreed to this venture, blessing it whole-heartedly and moving along on my merry way.

Until I got drafted to help.

Once we got the blower situation and all the insulation in place, we realized that this was most certainly a two person job. I, being that same loving supportive wife that I was in the paragraph above, hesitantly agreed to help in the insulation placement escapade. Chris carefully explained how the blower worked and when to replace the recycled paper crap, how to carefully feed the blocks of recycled paper crap through the blower, etc.  He climbed into the attic, with the insulation hose in tow and once situated, gave me the green light to turn the machine on.

What you see here is a photo of the rented blower, the mound of recycled paper crap and my adoring husband. What you do not see is my Taliban-inspired get up, complete with face and head covering, as I was sure the paper crap particles would fly into the air, suffocating me and leaving me dead on the porch, covered in gray recycled crap powder. (note: I was a little overly-cautious. There was a significant amount of dust...but nothing warranting the safety precautions I had in place).

Once the machine was turned on, it began slowly moving recycled crap matter up the hose. I could see some material moving, but not very much. I had expected the machine to pull the material quickly, and that I would have to work to get the next block of insulation unwrapped and broken up to feed it through. For whatever reason, however, this did not happen. After about 10 minutes, I felt my cell phone vibrate with a call from Chris (from the attic, mind you). The blower was so loud that we had planned to communicate from attic to porch, via cell phone. I turned off the machine to hear him, only to find that no insulation had been coming out of the hose on his end.

So there we were, me in my Taliban-insulating costume and Chris trapped in the attic with a non-working insulation hose and dozens of blocks of recycled paper insulation crap to spread throughout the house. The machine was not working. It was a failure. What were we to do?

Hire it done. That's what we were to do.

We took the darn blower back to Lowe's, along with the blocks of paper recycled reclaimed green insulation crap and got our money back. Apparently, the machine we got a hold of was just a lemon. This process should have worked and should have been successful. The good news for us, however, is that we found a company that was able to come out and insulate the attic for about the same cost as it would have been to complete the job ourselves. Moral to the story: some things just aren't worth getting trapped in the attic with a stopped up insulation hose and a wife stuck on the porch in a Taliban-outfit and a thin layer of gray dust in her hair.

Insulation is a great thing. We are already noticing a difference in our climate de casa (that was supposed to read: climate of our house, in Spanish.) and we are looking forward to seeing our next power bill. If you do ever decide to insulate your own home, make sure you get a good machine. Also make sure you have help and face masks for all parties involved.

the end.


Would you like a table or a booth?

Another "secret" to living in a small home and maximizing the space you have: You need creative nooks, crannies, seating and storage. Now, we have done some pretty creative things in our home but I personally think this is the most creative.  We recently installed a restaurant-style booth in our kitchen.  Our floor plan is originally intended to include two bedrooms, a kitchen, laundry, living space and two full baths.  Because we don't have children, we turned our second "bedroom" into a dining room. Look for a post about the dining room later. It is a work in progress.

We use our dining room for when guests come over, in addition to storage for my saddles, our china, the wine rack ( of the wine racks), and Thomas' bed time kennel. Since we moved into the house, we have had a small dinette in the kitchen, just big enough for the two of us.

In an attempt to be more creative with the space, and partly just to see if it would work, I decided I wanted a booth. My sweet husband  gladly accepted the challenge and we started shopping.

If you have ever priced booths (not that it's a normal thing to shop for), you know they are pretty expensive. Wood is also expensive. Luckily, we have a wonderful "wood guy" from Hawkinsville that Chris found on Craigslist who hooked us up with some awesome wood for this project. We truly are the Craigslist King and Queen. Don't worry...I am perpetually watching over my shoulder for the Craigslist Lifetime movies here.

So...enter booth building phase. After finding the wood for the table top, we needed benches. Rather than build them from scratch, we decided to repurpose some old church pews from a nearby church.  The pews had been sitting outside behind the church for months. We inquired about them and made a donation to purchase them.  Chris refinished them and behold...the beginnings of our restaurant booth!

Now...the booth is not perfect. It is shorter than a normal table (because of the pews), but with some decorative looks just right in our kitchen.

The Birth of the Booth    Here is where we ate before we came up with the booth idea. This is a cute little dinette we picked up for about $150 when we first got our house. It has lived a good life and has served its purpose. We have recently re-purposed her to fill another role in the house. 
Stage 1: The Seats
We knew that we would want seats for our booth that were comfortable, functional and unique. We also knew that we would have to some how fit a strict bill for length and height in order to make them fit in the kitchen. Luckily (and through divine intervention, no doubt), we happened upon some old church pews at a neighborhood church. Two pews had, for whatever reason, been removed from the sanctuary and were sitting out behind the church. We inquired as to the fate of the pews and, through the generosity and good nature of the church staff (you know who you are...thank you!), we were able to make a more than reasonable donation in exchange for the pews.  The pews are VERY old and when we got them, had old green upholstery stapled to them. Chris removed the upholstery, cleaned up and sanded the pews and voila!

Stage 2: The Table

Once we got one of the pews situated and attached to the wall, we had to figure out what to do about a table. This is where our new friend from Craigslist enters the picture. With a little help from our new woodworking friend, Chris as able to build the table for the booth himself. He then attached the table to the wall, placing three hinges at the back, and a temporary leg underneath. After the table was placed, the staining party began. Because the pews and the table wood were different in grain, the stain absorbed into each surface differently. I kind of like the variation though. A few quarts of stain and some polyurethane later and there we have it...finished wood.

Stage 3: The Finishing Touches
Once we got everything refurbished, built and attached, it was time to accessorize. Now, we all know that old fashioned church pews are not designed to be comfy, especially without the fabulous upholstery that normally adorns them. In order to make our pews-turned booth seats comfortable to sit in, we needed cushions of some description. Of course, I was tasked with tracking down this essential piece of the puzzle. 

I considered making the cushions, which would probably run anywhere from $5-$10 per yard of fabric, plus the filler, but I then came to my senses. If you have ever shopped for decorative pillows, you know they can be pricey and often very disappointing when actually used for comfort. After a long search, I finally found four pillows that would do the trick.  
The next step in the booth building process required us to shed some light on the situation, literally. We decided that to complete the restaurant experience in our kitchen, we needed a suitable light fixture. Behold: our Apple-bee's lamp. This fixture completed the look and is sure to illuminate our table for "eatin' good in the neighborhood, for years to come". We picked the beauty up at a local charity auction and hired an electrician to install it (we don't do electrical's a bad idea.). 

The final, final touch to conclude a most laborious task to date? Adding a bovine wall, of course. We added cow prints, created by an artist from Sanibel Island, Florida. I just can't resist good cow art. 

And there we go...a perfect table for two.


Our Minimal Mansion...on Vacation

Every year for my entire life, my family has taken a one week vacation to Fort Myers, Florida. Fort Myers is a special place for our family not just because we visit every year, but because we own a home there. Now, let me clarify, by "home" we are not talking about a beach house with a stocked mini bar and pool boy; no, we are talking about an early 1900's home that has been in my family for over four generations.

As you can imagine, the house has character. Within the house, there are four apartments, two of which my family rents out. One of the apartments is recently vacant, which we have decided to keep for our family to use. The last apartment has always been reserved for our family vacations and in past years has made a perfect spring break headquarters for countless college girls.

So why are we including a tidbit about our vacation in the MM blog, you ask? It's quite simple, really; we have a love for historic homes. Each year, my father takes a one-two week "vacation" down to Fort Myers. He spends well over half his trip working on the house. Anyone who owns a home knows that houses require your full dedication to maintain, especially when they are aged. Whether it is replacing screens, patching up walls or re-doing floors, the grand old Fort Myers house demands our family's full attention, vacation or not.

This year, Chris and I  wanted to help out as much as possible with the house. We love it and we want to do our part in helping preserve it for the next generation (the pig and the shih tzu, of course). While Chris was busy replacing ceiling tiles and monitoring a leaking pipe, I decided to give the bathroom of the recently vacated apartment a little face lift.

The canvas I had to work with was quite dismal; it had been occupied by a single guy (no offense guys), so it was completely void of color and actually kind of "blah".  In addition, the bathroom also faced several challenges that come with any old house; chipping paint, old wallpaper in various places and nail holes that are likely decades old.

Here are a few pictures of where we started with the bathroom project:

You can see how I felt there was a need for a change here.

so....a couple quarts of paint and one trip to the flea market later:

And there you have it....and afternoon of cleaning, painting and sprucing and it looks a little more comfortable than before. It isn't grand or luxurious but it will do. As we continue to slowly rehab and preserve the Fort Myers house, I am sure that this will be further updated. 

Moral to the story: a fresh coat of paint and a few accessories and you just might have yourself a decent looking powder room. 

Old homes require work and attention but they return your love ten fold; this house has a story (lots in fact) and more character than any beach bungalow with a mini bar and a pool boy. It is our little "minimal mansion" away from the Minimal Mansion.


Serious DIY-Mode

If you're a homeowner (or even a very invested home-renter), you know home improvements and projects never really end. By the time you are happy with a room, a chair, a paint color, a rug or a flower bed, you have either already changed your mind OR something has broken and needs to be fixed.

Over the past couple of months, we have been in serious DIY mode (well, we always kind of are but this time it is REALLY serious). You have not heard from us in a while because we are currently in the middle of several major home improvement undertakings. Now, I do not want to spoil the outcomes of some of these projects by posting prematurely so,  this post is just to inform you that yes, we are still alive and no, we have not moved out of the mansion. Our current projects have not only kept us very busy but have also provided us with several new adventures and as always, a few lessons learned.

Stay tuned for what are sure to be either delightful or disastrous DIY adventures at the "mansion"....

The day I discovered stainless steel spray paint...

Today will forever go down in history as the day I met what is sure to be a lifelong friend, stainless steel spray paint. We met on the paint aisle in Michael's craft store and it was love at first site. I was originally in the market for regular metallic silver spray paint, which I had planned to use for several pending projects around the house. The stainless steel captured my heart though, and walked me down the paint aisle all the way to the register.

Not only did the stainless steel woo me from the beginning, but my new friend at the cash register ("Chrystal," I believe?) gave me a teacher's discount, on top of my 40% off coupon. Today was a good day.

So the spray paint and I came home and got to work immediately. I had intended to embellish some old bottles (and re purpose them into vases, etc.), as well as a couple of lamps. I started with a wine bottle and a Crown Royal bottle, just to test out the paint.

I figured it would look pretty good, but had no idea how real it would look once dry. The paint was super easy to apply (made only one mistake) and once dry, really did look like stainless steel! Needless to say, I am addicted. I am suddenly finding myself wanting to paint everything stainless steel!

Not sure how I am going to finish these. I feel the need to add something else (not sure what yet) to a couple of the bottles (namely, the Crown bottles) to make them less recognizable as adult beverage containers. 

There you have it, folks: MY version of recycling!


A Two Hour Investment for a Lifetime of Sweet Memories (Poetic, right?)

I am by nature, a very sentimental person; not with everything though, just in regards to things that really matter.  As a result, I still have every single wedding card Chris and I received (two years ago).  I stashed each one away in a box, along with the leftover programs, save the dates and wedding invitations. I also have a few 'Amy and Chris, November 6, 2010' cocktail napkins and some match books.

So...what can you possibly do with dozens and dozens of wedding cards?

Collage them!

Now, before I go any further let me say this: I did NOT get this idea from Pinterest. This one is all mine!

I started with a large frame from Michael's. You could use any size. We chose an 18"X24" poster frame. The next step was actually the hard part; I pulled out ALL the wedding cards and one by one, decided which ones would fit into the frame. Honestly, I would have included every single one if I could have. Unfortunately, however, this was intended to be a framed collage, not an entire wall mural. The rest of the (unused) cards are still being saved in the original wedding paraphernalia box.

Once the cards were arranged to my liking, I began placing them carefully on the board. I just used the blank side of the poster insert (the paper that comes inside the frame), but you could do it any way you'd like. I also added black and white scrapbook paper into the blank spots of the frame, covering the cardboard of the backing. I secured the pictures with Scotch brand adhesive pads (the little squares with the double backing), and scotch tape. I centered all the cards around a photos, program from our wedding ceremony, an invite and RSVP card, a cocktail napkin, and a newspaper from our wedding day (I used photos and paper to cover some of the front page headlines from that day...economic recession=major wedding collage buzz kill).

I completed the collage by printing out copies of the lyrics to our first dance and cutting the lyrics into random strips. I arranged the strips throughout the collage to give the frame the finishing touch.

Once the collage was framed, I used a metallic silver paint pen to draw small hearts on the glass of the frame, making the collage look more three-dimensional.

< Cards and wedding "stuff" in frame. I have been planning this project for about a year now. Looking through all of these cards evoked so many great memories. Nothing could possibly make you feel more loved than to re-read 100+ cards from those you hold dearest, each offering blessings and words of wisdom.

Funny...only took me about two hours. Procrastination at its finest, people.

And here's a close-up:

Now I just have to figure out where to hang this thing...


Update on the tragic tale about the Washing Machine(s)

After our long journey through appliance shopping hell, we have finally settled with a brand new, fully functioning washing machine. It is a ge and we did get it from Lowe's. When we returned the "lemon" that Lowe's sold us from the scratch and dent section, they were very apologetic. They happily took the washer back and refunded our money.

They also gave us a great deal on a new washer (see Washer #4 below).

Now Washer #4 has settled in nicely in our laundry room and is washing away as quickly as it can. I do not miss the singing, chiming and beeping of the old fancy washer. This one is very standard, with turn knobs and nothing digital. True, this whole situation could have been avoided if we had just gone to Lowe's and purchased a new washer to begin with but that just isn't our style. We like the adventure and, eventually the humility that comes with owning a house and trying to make it a home.

Moral to this story: Yay, Lowe's!

Now, I have to go. I have LOTS of laundry to catch up on.



Because I saw it on Pinterest....

Ok...I'll be the first to admit that I enjoy Pinterest BUT I am NOT obsessed with it, by any means. I think most of us use it as a mindless escape from whatever it is we are supposed to be doing. I try never to "re-pin" anything that I won't actually use, do, buy, copy or laugh again at. With that said...

So I saw this thing on Pinterest a few months back. It was a wall (in an entryway, I think), that someone decorated with framed fabric remnants. I am a BIG fan of photo walls; in fact, we currently have several photo walls in our home. I liked the idea of the fabric though because it seemed easy, cheap and unique (my three primary requirements for just about everything). Wal-mart I go (side note: I absolutely HATE Wal-mart). I wanted to use this project for the master bedroom because I thought it might add a little color to the wall, without overwhelming the relaxing blue/green/grey theme we already had.

So a few fabric scraps and a 8 cheap-o frames later....

 Fabric scraps from Walmart. 
I spent about $3.00 on these babies.

And there you have it!

Easy, right? Total cost: about $30.00, for eight frames. If we get sick of the fabric, I can always change it out or re-purpose the frames for another use. Not bad for a quick fix, if I say so myself.


An Unfortunate Tale About the Washing Machine(s)...

Once upon a time... a nice young couple purchased a brand new washing machine for their "new" home. It was an overly fancy but reasonably priced "high efficiency" model with lots of buttons and a song and dance to indicate a finished wash cycle. We shall call this washing machine Washing Machine #1.

Eighteen Months after the purchase of said washing machine, the machine began offering an error message. It was fancy enough to communicate that it was broken, but not fancy enough to actually repair itself. To make matters worse, the machine was exactly six months out of warranty. The sweet young couple talked to it, encouraged it and tried to be patient with it. Unfortunately, however, the washing machine eventually bit the big one and, if there is any justice in this world, will burn forever in appliance hell. Sorry...the wound is still a little fresh.

    <This washer is currently sitting on my front porch (I know...super classy). I invite anyone who's interested in a "fixer upper" to come and steal it. You'd be doing us a favor. is where the story really begins. The nice young couple (you probably know them), began talking about buying a new washing machine. As the laundry began to pile up, the need for a washer grew greater and greater. Chris (1/2 of the nice young couple), decided it would be a good idea to try a local used appliance dealer, as recommended by a close friend. Amy (me, obviously), did not think this was a good let it be documented in cyber space history forever.

Chris brought home what seemed to be a great deal.  A $200 "gently" used washer was hauled home, brought into the house, and plugged up. We shall call the great deal Washing Machine #2. .Chris began running a small load of "test" clothes and soon discovered that the great deal was actually a lemon. The "gently used" washer, in fact, had a crack and did not quite all.

Not that I would ever say"I told you so," but this was quite ironic.

So, after a long household debate about whether or not to return the washer for a refund, or try to get another "good deal," in exchange...the refund team won.

The nice young couple then decided to head to good ole' American Lowe's...where prices are guaranteed and products are too.

Or so we thought...

We, being the thrifty folks we are, decided to buy a washer from the Lowe's "Scratch and Dent" section. We found an awesome deal on a brand new washing machine and were happy to haul it home after all of 15 minutes of shopping. We drove home, completely satisfied with our thriftiness and eager to make a dent in the accumulation of dirty laundry as soon as possible. We'll call this purchase Washing Machine #3 (that's right....#3).

We carried the new (Lowe's) washing machine into the house, placed it in the same space the first and second washer had been, and eagerly plugged it in. Much to our chagrin, nothing happened. We stared at the washing machine like it was about to say something. We could not believe our luck with something that should be so simple.

So back to the truck we go; we loaded the washer back onto the truck and headed back toward Lowe's.

Our neighbor, Chris and Marcie loading the Lowe's washing machine BACK onto the truck,
after its initial failure to launch.
We raced to get to the other side of town before the store closed. It was 9:30PM and we knew that at 10:00PM, our scratch and dent specialists would be turning out the lights and closing the doors. About half way to the store, I had a thought; I asked Chris if he had actually turned on the water before trying the washing machine. He paused. You see....we have made this mistake before, but with a dishwasher (we'll save that story for a later post). After a five minute discussion, we decided to turn around and head back home to try the same (Lowe's) washer again. We convinced ourselves that the washer must have some sort of sensor that prevents it from actually turning on, until the valve for the water is actually turned on and allowing water to the machine. We figured, obviously, this is mechanism which is designed to prevent the washing machine from burning up from being run without water (I reiterate...we have seen this show before, only with a dishwasher).

So we race back home, Lowe's washing machine still in tow. Chris and I unload the washing machine, carry it back inside, plug it back in and this time, turn on the water connected to the machine. No dice. We still have a non-functioning washing machine.

Needless to say, this story is not yet over. Chris will be returning the Lowe's washing machine today. I wanted to go ahead and post this story, though because I can already tell you how it will end. We will end up buying a full-price washing machine from a trustworthy store. We may try Lowe's again; it will all depend on how they handle the fact that they sold us a lemon to begin with. We will lovingly call the new washing machine Washing Machine #4, even though there should never be a washing machine #4, especially for a nice young couple that has lived in their house only two years.

Moral to the story, homeowners: Don't cheap out on things that matter. If its an appliance and you need it (like a washing machine), do your research, find something with a good warranty and buy a good machine.

Our first washing machine was, we thought, a great washing machine. It was a Maytag. It is the second Maytag product we've had a problem with (the first was the infamous dishwasher). I am not endorsing any specific brand, but we do seem to have rotten luck with Maytag and will not be purchasing another Maytag as long as we can avoid it.

Yet another lesson learned at the "mansion". Let's just hope we can wash clothes again before the week's out. I am not a washboard in the river kind of girl....


A place to hide stuff...

Every home has a junk room/drawer/closet/box...don't even try to tell me you don't have one. If you live in an old home, you know how strange some of the closet situations can be. Many people (back in the "day) had free-standing wardrobes, instead of closets. Well...let me tell you...this girl needs some closet space.

When we purchased our home, the guest bathroom had two "nooks" for storage. Both included built-in wood shelving and were exposed, with no door. We actually really liked the open storage and I had planned to make the bathroom a regular little pottery-barn style spa, complete with stacks of fresh, white hotel towels, bath salts and other luxurious bath-time items.

Then life happened. We realized we have lots of crap. Too much crap, in fact, to haul up to the attic; too much to hide under the bed; too much to find any true solution other than to make a closet.

So, my luxurious organizational dreams were crushed and replaced with two matching doors on the largest of the bathroom "nooks". Now, here is a photo of what it looked like before we added the doors...and here is what it looks like now. I am NOT going to post a photo of these doors open for fear that an avalanche will overpower me from the stacks of "crap" being stored. One of these days, I will organize this closet but until now, it is reserved as the junk closet; everyone has one, after all.

<Here is a photo of the "closet" before we added doors. You cannot see the shelving from this angle but, there are wood shelves mounted to the wall on both ends of the space. As you can see, this does not utilize the space to its full potential.

*Side note: We have also replaced the floor tile since purchasing our home. The tile we now have is much larger and is a lighter color. See more recent photo below. order to hide all the "stuff" the two of us had accumulated, we decided to add the doors and make an actual closet. My goal is to one day make this a wonderfully organized linen closet. For now though, it is a hiding place for all sorts of randomness.
In order to make the doors just the right size, and make them functional, we decided to go with a double-door set up. Chris found a deal on an accordion door, which is supposed to open on tracks. Instead of using the accordion feature, we decided to just put hinges on the outside of the frame and make two doors that open to the outside of the room. Chris added knobs and inexpensive and relatively easy fix for our storage conundrum. These could easily be removed at a later date, if we decide to revert back to the original set up or do something else with the space.
*Fair Warning: If you ever visit our home and decide to try to open this door, you will risk the possibility of being crushed by multiple falling objects. Open at your own risk.

We used the second "nook" in the bathroom as shelving for other stuff, including bath items for guests, towels, etc. It is not quite the Pottery Barn style luxury I had envisioned, but it is functional and doesn't look half bad. I am still trying to think of cute/creative ways to use this space so let me know if you have any ideas. This story is to be continued...

The Yellow that Kept Me up at Night...

Before we purchased the mansion, it had previously been under contract with another buyer. The person who intended to purchase it had painted each room prior to our seeing the house. He painted all four main rooms (+ the mega-foyer), as well as both bathrooms.  We actually really liked the bold colors he had chosen from the very beginning.

As we began to live in the house though, something just was not right. The foyer, living room, dining room and guest bath were all painted a sunshine yellow. Now, if you know paint colors (not claiming that I do), you know yellow to have multiple personalities. The same shade of yellow will look different in each room, depending on the number of windows, etc. in that room. I should take an opportunity here to disclose the fact that I, Amy Abel-Kiker, am a lover of bold colors in the home. I am immediately attracted to anything that is non-traditional and "happy". As a result, our house is a quilt of bright florals, abstract cow paintings (yes...cows. We'll get to that later), and mixed up prints. There...glad I got that out in the open.

Back to the yellow...
The yellow in the foyer, bathroom and dining room were fine. I was and currently am satisfied with the state of the yellow. It is happy, welcoming, attractive and versatile. In the living room, however, it gave me nightmares. Perhaps it is because I chose a red and brown theme to go with it, which I was not willing to negotiate on. More importantly though, the yellow was not conducive to relaxation. The living room is where I like to relax. It is where I like to clip my coupons on Sunday mornings, watch the news and drink my coffee. SO the yellow had to either go or we had to tone it down with something else.

I knew that "something else" would have to be brown. Not sure just had to be. SO, I thought about painting the ceiling brown. After toiling with paint swatches for a month or two, I realized that painting the ceiling would not only be risky, but it would also be physically difficult. I was pretty sure that if I asked Chris to paint the ceiling with me, we would probably want to kill each other by the end of it.

So...enter "Behr: Mocha Latte," stage left.

I tell you all of this to tell you something more important: painting is hard. Painting with a dark color is harder. Painting with a dark color in a crazy sunshine yellow room, decorated in horses, cows and books though, will save the day. So many people tried to tell me that painting the room dark brown would make it look smaller, too dark, etc. etc.. I didn't listen (surprise, surprise) and I am so glad that I didn't. The high ceilings and extra tall windows in the room + the fire place and other nooks really made the brown "work".

Here are the before and after photos. I can now sleep soundly knowing that the yellow has been laid to rest behind a subtle, cozy color that has TOTALLY changed the feel of the room.  Disclaimer: I take pictures with my phone. They are sub-par. Use your imagination to determine what these photos would look like, if I took them with a real camera.  :-)

Forgive the photo: it seems to be the only one I can find of the room when it was yellow. We have re-arranged almost everything since this photo was taken, but you get the idea. This is from April 2011. We also only kept the red blanket on the sofa for Thomas to snuggle up in. The pig, as you will learn, basically runs the mansion.

<And here is a photo of our fun little built-in living room nook, during what we call the "yellow period".

<Same living room nook, but post-"Mocha Latte". See...don't you feel more relaxed already?

We also changed the color surrounding the fire place from a burgundy color (same color on all 4 fire places in the house), to a darker brown.

Moral to the story: Don't be afraid of paint. We painted this room ourselves, and took a risk with the dark color. Paint is not permanent (even though it is a pain to deal with).


A Shower of Problems...

One of the primary selling points of our little house was the huge custom tile shower. Now, please don't misunderstand, the shower itself was wonderful. What was not wonderful, however, was some of the small mistakes that were made during its installation that later lead to BIG PROBLEMS. Any homeowner knows that whether you own a new home or a really old one, you are going to have issues. Even if Frank Lloyd Wright designed it himself, something will go wrong. While the shower was beautiful and functional upon our moving into the house, there was a small leak underneath the tile that lead to months of excavation and eventually, a full-on shower rebuild. I am by no means calling out the builders of our home...this kind of problem could happen to anyone and it is not necessarily their fault. The reason we are including this story in our posts is that through our tile shower journey, we learned a great deal about tile and how it should be installed. We also learned quite a bit about the different options available for custom showers. Home improvement nerds, get ready to enjoy:

This is what our beautiful tile shower looked like when we bought the house. It's pretty great, right?

Well...this is what it looked like after we realized that a tiny leak was leading to major saturation. Tile lovers beware...this can happen to anyone. Make sure if you tile anything that will get wet (i.e. a shower), it is sealed like a submarine. My Dad, who is a professional contractor, has always said that "water is an immediate enemy to any structure". Well, Dad was right.
A tiny bit of water leaked into the floor of the shower, underneath the tile and here is what happened underneath, despite my obsessive cleaning habits.

I will spare you any further details about the nastiness found underneath our tile. The takeaway from this post is....if you suspect a leak in a tile shower, take care of it ASAP. Just the tiniest bit of water leaking underneath your tile will lead to major issues and, as you can see, gross mold and fungus-y types of things. No matter how much you think you're cleaning your tile shower, it will never be clean underneath the tile is water is trapped. Had we not fixed this when we did, the water would have destroyed the pine floor in our bathroom. Whew...that was a close one!

We took the the lemon that life gave us with the shower leak and made some brand new, custom shower lemonade. We chose new tile and re-designed the shower to include a ledge (for easier leg shaving) and a recessed soap shelf.  We did not actually install the tile ourselves. After our experience with the leak, we decided this was better left to a pro.

Here are some photos of the finished product. It does look similar to the original, but there are a few major differences. 

<------Interior of tile shower.

So, the moral to the story is this: Problems arise with any house and not EVERYTHING can or should be DIY'd. We learned so much about tile, water damage and plumbing in general through this experience. 

The Birth and Life of the "nook"

For those who live in small homes, you know how valuable additional storage can be. For those who live in historic homes, you know even more! Historic homes often have strange layouts; nooks and crannies that seem to make no sense. Truthfully, each nook and cranny had a purpose at one time. Most historic homes are really quilted together with decades of additions, subtractions, mistakes and successes. 

Our historic home has a huge foyer. The foyer is large enough that it could be a room all on its own. Rather than waste this space as simply a pretty entryway, I decided that we needed something attractive and functional to help utilize the space. comes what we lovingly refer to as "the nook".  The nook idea sprang from an article I found in Better Homes and Gardens (cliche', I know).  Here is the page I tore out of the January 2012 issue:

And here is our version:

The nook is probably one of my favorite interior features of our house. Chris cut all the wood and painted it outside, assembled it and then brought it in. Theoretically, the nook is 'built in' to the wall but it can be removed.  We then painted the wall behind the nook, (Behr: "Mocha Latte") to match the color of our living room. The hooks are just plain 'ole hooks from Hobby Lobby. The trim came from Lowes.

The bench is a refinished, sealed piece of wood we found at an antique mall. It was not intended to necessarily be used for a bench. It was just unfinished wood with some bark still left on it. The bench is one of my favorite things about the nook. It is both beautiful and functional. I find myself perching on the bench often to put on my shoes in the morning.

Here is the finished (and functional) nook. You will often find our pets modeling for you in our posts.

The nook has become home to our boots, hats, books and umbrellas. It is sort of a catch-all for busy lives. Everyone needs a space like this in their home.

The nook really is like a little
mini mud room
...but prettier.----->

All in all, the nook was a pretty budget-friendly project. The wood for the bench was a lucky antique store find, refinished to look pretty. The wood for the rest of the project was a little costly, but certainly not as costly as it would have been to purchase something like this.  The most expensive part of the project was the edging for the shelves and the decorative additions to the sides of the book. This is certainly not something that we had to add to it, but it did make all the difference in the way it looked in the end. This is a project, like all of our projects, that we didn't actually have instructions or a plan for from the beginning. This is something we found a concept for, adjusted, and built after drawing it out.


Backyard Farmin'

Besides the fact that we live with a pig (Thomas, not Chris...hardy, har, har), nothing about our yard lends itself to gardening....

or does it?

Once we got the building and the pig pen straightened out (and cleaned the debris out of the yard), we were able to add beautiful raised beds. One bed is made of cedar and the other is stacked stone. Now, I do not grow things. I have a cactus that is still alive after two months and we are quite happy together. Chris is the gardener. He has planted herbs, tomatoes, strawberries and all kinds of other delicious things.

The Cedar Bed: home to strawberries and other yummy things.


The Compost Bin, made of recycled pallets. This bin is home to anything organic that Thomas won't eat.