It’s All In The Details

The days are getting longer here, and our lists are getting shorter.  We’ve finished all of our big inside projects, so we’re putting up trim, hanging lights, touching up paint and other little stuff like that.  Our big projects now are all outside ones.  You could call it Project-Make-It-Not-Look-Like-Hillbillys-Live-Here or something like that.  Basically, the yard wasn’t great to start with, and now that we’ve spent a year remodeling, it looks even worse.  Our “yard” and “driveway” are basically mud.  And we have giant, classy piles of dirt everywhere from where we dug the forms for our sidewalks and patio area.  Anyway, here’s a little of what we’ve been working on:

 Installing Ceiling Light

Nathan installed this light the other day.  I almost forgot we needed one here, I had gotten so used to the little rubber-coated wire sticking out of the ceiling.  I salvaged this light from my mom’s house when she was having a new one put up.  So, cost of this little project: FREE!

Installing Ceiling Light

Installing Ceiling Light


And there it is!

 Ignore the mess in the background.  The porch is our official room to do our messy work in.  Wait, who am I kidding?  Our whole house is like this!

Cheap Cabinets from Home Depot, Painted with Martha Stewart's "Cement Gray"

I worked in the laundry room on Saturday to cover up that really awful color purple I had in there.  The color itself wasn’t bad…it could have been cute in a kid’s room, but it really clashed with the color I painted the cabinets.  This wall color is “Misty Moonstone” by Sherwin Williams, but the actual paint is a cheap kind from Lowe’s….much cheaper.


Here you can see the contrast between old- left side, and new- right side.

Left side= much better.

Also, even though it took forever to tape off the ceiling, it was totally worth it.  I am the worst at trimming- I mysteriously develop a hand tremor when I try- and I end up getting frustrated and having Nathan come do it for me.


Here it is with the new color!  Someday I’ll actually put stuff in the cabinets, but for right now, it’s all on the countertop.


I realized after I took this picture that I forgot to brush around the outlet.  Oops.


That little cubby was a PAIN to paint.  Good thing I had my little helper, Isaac, with me on Saturday!  He could actually fit inside that cubby and paint!


He also got a little  bucketload of paint on his head.  We just got the clippers out and cut it, cause there was no way that was coming out anytime soon.



I painted the hallway from the kitchen to the bathroom (open door) and laundry room (closed door) the other morning before I left.  Nathan was working last night on getting all of that trimmed, and he’s almost done!


Nathan hung both of the mirrors and the lights in the bathroom the other night.  And look at that door trim on the left!  It makes me so excited!



A little taste of DIY-real-life remodeling: You have to be an acrobat to get around the bathroom.


The landing now has a light fixture instead of a lonely lightbulb hanging down.


The upstairs bathroom has an outlet instead of a giant, empty metal box in the wall.


And I talked Nathan into taking the boring ceiling light down that used to be in our bedroom, putting it in the laundry room, and putting this light in the bedroom.  Much better!


And it makes waking up in the morning super exciting, because when you turn the light on, it makes ALL OF THAT on the ceiling!


Our bricks steps were finished on Monday!  This was something Nathan helped with, but we actually hired a guy to do most of it, because we don’t really know much about laying bricks, and we’ve had a few other projects going.  And, you can also see from this picture that I wasn’t lying about our yard being a literal mud pit!




I’ll Be Happy When I Make You Mine {Our Engagement}


Do you see that ring nestled in the rose?  Do you see roses?  Yes?  Well, I didn’t three years ago when Nathan was attempting to propose.


Nathan and I, along with his two sisters, went ring shopping at the beginning of January ’10.  We had a great time and I tried on all sorts of rings at something like 5 different stores.  Nathan ended up going shopping again a week later with his mom, which is when they found the ring he ended up buying.  From the start he loved the marquee cut, and I wanted a wedding band that wrapped around the engagement ring, since I have short fingers and not a lot of room for two rings to be stacked.

I knew he had the ring for about a month, and I was sure EVERY TIME I saw him for a whole month that THIS was when we were going to get engaged.  Yes, it was a lot of pressure for me to have great clothes, hair and makeup for a whole month when I was sure that THIS had to be the night, and everybody was going to be taking pictures, etc.

Three weeks went by and I was jumpy the whole time.  My friend would check my hand every time we had a class together, and we would wonder what in the world was taking him so long.  Even Valentine’s Day came and went, and we weren’t engaged.  (Actually, he meant to propose on Valentine’s, but he forgot the ring at his apartment when he came home for the weekend!)

So, a week after Valentine’s Day, it was Saturday, and I was on my way home from college for the weekend.  I slept in a little, ran some errands, and got home around lunch time.  I even actually thought, “Ooooh, maybe Nathan will be there when I get home and he will surprise me!”  But when I pulled in the driveway, his car wasn’t there, so I didn’t think anything more about it.


I went in the house with my cello and my bags.  I sat down at the kitchen island and chatted with my parents and little siblings.  My mom was really  adamant that I needed to go put my stuff away because it was right in the doorway, which I thought was weird, but she was just trying to get me to go to my bedroom.  I went back to my bedroom and put it away.  I noticed that there was a laptop sitting on a chest in my room and it was playing Jack Johnson music.  I glanced at it and decided my sister must have borrowed my grandpa’s laptop, because it was the same brand as the one he had.  I left the room and went back to the kitchen to eat lunch.

My parents didn’t seem any different from usual, but I found out that they were really worried about what was going on…did I reject Nathan or something?  You see, the laptop was Nathan’s, it was playing one of our favorite Jack Johnson songs, and I didn’t look at it long enough to see that there was a slideshow of pictures of us together playing.  I totally missed the roses sitting on my bed, and the ring sitting inside.

I got a call from Nathan right about when I was going to eat lunch.  He was acting really weird, and doing everything he could to get me to go back to my room again.  “Surely,” he must have been thinking, “she can’t miss it twice!”  He finally convinced me that I should go play him a song on cello, since he knew my cello was in my room.  I thought this was a very strange request, and I was not at all excited to do it, but he wouldn’t relent.

I went into my room to get my cello, and before I could miss it again, Nathan stepped out of the adjacent bedroom.  I couldn’t figure out what he was doing there until all of the sudden, I noticed the flowers, the music and the laptop slideshow.  I still didn’t see the ring in the flowers- I’m not making this up- Nathan had to pick it up and show me before he got down on one knee and proposed.


Chocolate Pie + Coconut Whipped Cream

I made this new recipe for chocolate pie the other day, and it turned out way different than I expected.  Instead of being a pudding consistency, it was almost like a gooey brownie.  It. Was. So. Good.


2 cups white sugar

5 Tablespoons cocoa powder

1/4 cup flour

1 12-oz can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup butter


First, I took a refrigerated crust and pressed it into the 9-inch pie pan.


In a medium saucepan, I stirred together the sugar, flour, and cocoa.


Then, I whisked in the can of evaporated milk.


Before turning on the heat, I added the egg yolks and butter.  It’s really important to mix this all together before turning on the heat and keep whisking constantly to keep chunks of egg from forming.  I know this from experience-Chunky Egg Pie, anyone?


I cooked and stirred just until all the butter had melted.


Finally, I poured the filling into the pie crust and baked it at 350 for 35 minutes, until the pie wasn’t “wobbly” when I shook it.


I wanted to try something a little different from my usual whipped cream, and I keep seeing stuff pop up on Pinterest about Coconut Milk Whipped Cream.  It was a great replacement for whipped cream, and Nathan really liked it, but I can’t say I will make it again.

All I did was open a can of coconut milk- the milk was separated into thick “cream” and some watery liquid.  I drained the liquid and put the thick cream into a bowl.  I whipped it for about 3 minutes with a tablespoon of sugar and a splash of vanilla.


All You Need Is Love {Our Valentine’s Day}


We love Valentine’s Day in this house!  I know it’s kind of a made-up holiday, but hey, a day to remind the people you love how special they are sounds like a good idea to me!  We traditionally start our Valentines morning with a special breakfast.  Every year that we’ve been married the time this breakfast has to start gets earlier and earlier.  I guess that means we’re growing up.  I set my alarm for 5:30 to make this breakfast since Nathan’s out the door by 6:50, but let’s be real, I actually got up at 5:55.


It’s not exactly a “pretty” breakfast, but it’s exactly what Nathan loves, and that’s the point, right?  He calls pancakes, waffles, French toast and muffins “a waste”.  I think he means, “it has no meat”.  So, we had breakfast burritos.  These are so easy, I pulled them together in about 10 minutes.  I browned and drained a roll of sausage, then scrambled 6 eggs and cooked them on low with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese, a splash of milk and a chopped tomato.  I had the idea to add the tomato at the last minute, but since we didn’t have one, I just picked out all the diced tomatoes from a salad leftover from the night before.  Very classy.  When that was all done, I just rolled about 1/4 cup of filling up like a burrito in the tortilla.  I think there was enough filling for about 8 burritos.

Pink Valentines Roses

I came home from teaching last night about 9 pm to find these beautiful pale pink roses and a long handwritten note from Nathan.  I cleared off the usual coffee table decorations to make room for the flowers so I can look at them this afternoon when I have students at home.

Pink Valentine Roses


On a different note, I enjoyed shopping my closet this week to pair together some new outfits from stuff I already own.  Shannon at Our Storybook Blog calls these sorts of posts “Modest Frugal Fashion”.  I couldn’t name it better!

I like to dress up to teach my students, and by “dress up”, I mean look put together.  I wear dark jeans, a nice shirt or sweater and cute shoes most of the time.  I teach little kids in their homes, so while I enjoy showing them respect by dressing up a little, more formal clothes aren’t always practical or necessary.  In the summertime, I go almost exclusively to dresses and skirts, which I love. With cold Illinois winters, I sometimes have trouble pulling together dresses this time of year.  And even though I like feeling a little more dressed up, I’m too cheap  to go out and buy lots of new things we have to stick to our budget and be grown up so we have money for boring things like electricity and insurance and an emergency fund.

Thus, shopping in my own closet.  I think this outfit turned out pretty well.  Please excuse the Myspace-style photos of myself.

Frugal Fashion

(Real Life Remodeling: That bin of clothes in the background is my “closet” right now while our real closets are out of commission.)

Dress: TJ Max, 3 years ago.  I’ve had it a long time, but hardly worn it.  I bought it in the summer (it’s sleeveless), but it never really worked as a summer dress.  I like it this way much better.

Sweater: Target (they still have them, in lots of colors) for $19.99

Belt: Several years ago at Maurices

Leopard Flats: Target in January, on clearance for $7

Frugal Fashion

The Downstairs Bathroom – Our Progress So Far


Our bathroom started out as a graffiti-covered, wood paneled, low-ceilinged, weird, old-porch-converted-to-bedroom.  Classy.

Since we started working on this room, Nathan:

-put in the new window

-tore out the paneling

-tore out plaster and lathe

-tore out the old ceiling

-tore out the flooring

-tore out the old wall, making the bathroom bigger and the laundry room smaller

-framed in the new walls, doorway, angled hallway, shower, and vaulted ceiling

-hung drywall, taped the seams, mudded the seams, sanded the seams

-ran new wiring, added a bunch of outlets and added ceiling lights

-put in all new plumbing

-painted, which turned out to be the wrong color, so we have to repaint

-laid tile on the floor

-spent a week fitting the shower walls with a waterproofing material and laying the pan and curb for the shower floor

-laid tile in the shower

-grouted the tile in the shower and on the floors

-installed the bathroom cabinets (well, the cabinet maker did this)

-installed the faucets

-installed the toilet

-connected all the plumbing so the toilet and faucets work!


This is the shower when it was framed in and partly drywalled.  Look how much taller that ceiling is  now!


Toilet corner!

Yes, we know it is right next to the window.  It is at the back of the house, and blinds will be going over it pronto.  The original plan was for this to be the laundry room.  You were going to have to walk through the bathroom to get to the laundry, which was not ideal.  We just couldn’t figure out a way to have a hallway without wasting a bunch of space from the already fairly small rooms.  But then, Nathan came up with our angled hallway, and then the bathroom could be back here, which was great.  Downside: we had already installed the giant laundry room window, and it wasn’t going anywhere.


View of the shower, toilet corner, and raised ceiling.



In this picture, Nathan is kneeling on the shower pan and spreading a cement-like material on it.  After that, he covered it with an orange cloth-like material that waterproofs the shower.  He also did the exact same thing for the walls, I just don’t have any pictures of it.  I am SO glad I didn’t have to do this job.  It looked frustrating.  He had to thinly spread the cement stuff, attach the orange waterproof material, make sure the cement material was a uniform thickness, and squeeze all the air bubbles out from under the orange material.



Wow!  Suddenly everything started to come together!  Nathan and some friends laid the cement board and then the tile in three weekends.  When I measured to order the tile, there was actually more on the walls of the shower than the whole bathroom floor.  And, that angled seat was a real treat to tile.


I found these vanities at Pottery Barn and loved them, but wasn’t sure about the quality, i.e.- how much I was paying for the Pottery Barn label.  So, our cabinet maker recreated them.  I LOVE them, and we are so excited to have counter space after the past nine months of sharing one tiny pedestal sink in our upstairs bathroom.


I promise that underneath all that grime from the wet saw, the tile is really pretty.  I love the rectangular shaped tile that Nathan picked.



After we clean up the bathroom, we have to install the shower heads, wire up the rest of the outlets (Nathan did a few of them last night), install the ceiling lights, put in the door, and trim.  We’re getting so close!  I’ll keep you updated as we make progress over the next couple weeks.

Orange and Aqua Baby Shower


My cousin is having a baby boy in June.  We are so excited and in several weeks, I’ll be throwing a shower for her with my sisters, mom and a cousin.  I wanted to do something that was a little different than the traditional baby blue thing.  When I found these invitations, I knew we should go with aqua and orange.   Even the back of the invitation is orange with white polka dots.  I love all the papers, ribbons and labels in the pictures above that add festivity to every little detail!  I’m thinking of pretty orange punch, paper straws and cute cupcake toppers.  I can’t wait to share pictures on here of what we come up with at the shower in March.


I’m not a huge fan of shower games…so many times they are just awkward, especially if there are a lot of people at the shower who don’t know each other.  I found a few ideas on Pinterest that I think will be fun, and a couple that will be a sweet keepsake for the baby book.  I plan on using Adobe Illustrator to create my own game papers that go along with the orange/aqua theme.


Take A Guess– Kind of like The Price Is Right, but for baby items.


Baby Shower Bingo


Keepsakes for the Baby Book:

Guess Baby’s Stats– Guess the name, weight, length, birth date, hair color, eye color, etc.


Wishes for Baby– my favorite!  How sweet will it be for the baby to look back and see how many people loved him and cared for him even before he was born!

wishes for baby

Laundry Room Update

When we bought our house, an old porch off the kitchen had been converted to a bathroom and a bedroom.  The decorating style, as you can see was “retro-graffiti”.  The bathroom, pictured below, was so small that I’m pretty sure that if you sat on the toilet (it was disgusting, so I never did), your knees would touch the sink cabinet in front of you.


Notice the vinyl-crackle wall covering.  It goes well with the gold-fleck “marble” countertop.


I’ve looked at my to-do lists and timelines for fixing up the house from back when this picture was taken.  No wonder I look so positive and happy.  I thought we could finish the house in about 6 months.  Ha.


This ceiling really came in handy for all those times when we wanted to play upside-down chess and checkers.



Here’s the closet and window in the bedroom that’s now the laundry room.



This is part of the same bedroom.  It had a weird partial wall that divided the room in half.  Wow, the renters that lived in this house before we bought it really liked to paint the walls.  Just wait until you see the spare bedroom pictures.


Unfortunately the hard drive on our 18-month-old computer crashed in December, so I lost so many of our remodeling pictures.  The picture above is from the kitchen, not the laundry/bathroom, but it gives you an idea of what the room looked like after we tore out all the plaster.

Nathan rewired the rooms, moved a couple walls around, and put in all new plumbing.  After that, we hung drywall and finished it.  I say “we” loosely.  I sanded the drywall.  Nathan did the rest.


Here’s the drywall all hung and mudded.  We were so proud of our beautiful white, gray and clean walls.


 We patched the old plank floors where it needed and screwed down the boards all over the place before laying cement board.


That dark gray stuff is mortar that goes under the cement board to help level-out the floor.  You’ll notice that the ceiling here is much higher than the original checker-board ceiling.  Nathan vaulted the ceiling and took out the big window in the laundry room.


I was going for a lavender-tinted white color and the paint turned out to be baby-nursery lavender.  Really, this picture doesn’t do it justice.  It’s really bright.  I’m repainting this today a gray-blue color.


Two Fridays ago, we got these cabinets at Home Depot.  They started out as unfinished wood and then I painted them with a couple coats of “Cement Gray” from Martha Stewart Paints.  I love the color of the cabinets but not so in love with the cement gray/baby lavender combo.  You’ll notice in this picture that the tile is laid and grouted!


The joy of old houses: weird little places like the tiny cubby at the end of the cabinets.  I think it’s going to become our spot for stashing the broom and mop.


Nathan and his cousin Drake worked on installing the laundry room counter top on Saturday night.  It’s black with a tiny grey fleck.  Our bargain hunting got us 7′ of countertop and cabinets for right about $450!


Our joy over our bargain was short lived when we discovered that the counter top fit like this.  If you’ve ever remodeled a house, you know the nightmares you have about mis-measuring for a non-refundable item.  This was a nightmare come true.  Honestly, I measured correctly, but the walls in this old house aren’t square, so we had trouble getting the countertop to sit against that left wall.


Our options were to waste a bunch of money and get a different counter top, or sacrifice our new, beautiful drywall and shove that top in there.  Yep, we went with the second option.

100_1833Look at all that clothes folding space we’re going to have!

After I repaint, we have plumbing to finish for the sink, finish the electrical by installing the outlets, light switch and ceiling light.  Then, it’s installing the door, floor trim and door trim.  Once that’s painted, we have some storage items to hang on the walls, and then we’re done!