Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Our Easy Home Project

A few weeks ago, I got an unexpected email from the contractor who had been in charge of rehabing our house.

"We never installed pulls in your kitchen, so pick some out from Lowe's or Home Depot and we'll buy them and then put them in for you. Also, we found your crown molding that was ordered with your kitchen. Would you like that?"

Say what? We'll glad take the crown molding (there's a family work day in our future!) and I'll happily choose some hardware! Dan and I picked out some pulls, and wallah! Kitchen upgrade.

Here's what our kitchen looked like without the pulls.

And after!

I'll keep you posted for the transformation when we add crown molding. A lot more work on Dan's part -- and his dad's -- but I'm sure it will add even more to our cute kitchen.

(Funny side story about this. Dan was worried that the contractor would mess up installing the cabinet pulls. We really would have no way to make them fix any mistakes, as this was done pretty much out of the goodness of his heart. But Dan decided that he'd trust them to install them correctly, and anyways, had no time to tackle this project himself. After first directing the installer away from the bathrooms (which could also use pulls, but weren't part of this project), Dan caught the guy nearly drilling in the wrong side of the door front! Dan was very chill about it -- "You're not going to drill there, right? It opens on the other side." -- and the installer was very gracious -- "I'm so glad you caught that!" -- but I couldn't help but laughing. Dan's fears were nearly realized.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Dan and I just started our birthing class this week. I'm 36 weeks pregnant and there are a total of 4 class sessions, so we are cutting it pretty close, but it's when we could fit it in -- and when they could fit us in! We learned about the signs that labor was approaching. Nesting, occuring 1-2 days before the onset of labor, was listed. Dan has attributed my flurry of activity around the house to nesting, but I'm pretty sure that this is just general preparedness, my way of getting my head around the fact that we'll have a baby in our arms, soon! But yet, since there are some bird elements in this nursery, I can still call it nesting.

The nursery has been the most planned room in our house, by far. It is one of two rooms that are painted, the guest room being the other. Choosing the color alone took many paint swatches. I wanted to do the room in a light blue-green with pink and coral accents, but I was had difficulty finding the correct shade in the blue family. I finally tore a picture of a tiffany blue journal from a magazine, brought it to the store, and matched it up at Lowe's, and lo and behold, I was in the very palest of the greens! (I still think it is blue, but I'm no expert.) Dan's parents helped us paint when they came out in July and brought the crib for us to use as well.

Next up, I snagged cute curtains at Gabriel Brothers for less than $20. Then, inspired by their cheery colors, I repainting a cabinet formerly used for kitchen storage a nice bright green. I giggled along to Tina Fey's Bossy Pants while sanding, priming, and painting it. Then, I regretted my decision. Oh, not about Bossy Pants, although it is decidedly difficult to chuckle while painting with a full bladder. The regret was about the very bright green. After moaning to my sister about it for several days on the phone, I decided to wait and see if the other things in the room toned it down.

Here's how the nursery looks now, to the best of my photography abilities. On the left, we have the dresser (purchased from Ikea) with a changing pad on top. There's enough space for wipes up there as well, as well as whatever else we want handy. The green cabinet has more diapering supplies, both cloth and disposable, extra crib sheets, and swaddling sacks. Above the dresser is her special shelf, which I had when I was a girl. Her crib is on the right, with clothing for the months and years ahead stored underneath. (I might want to come up with a way of concealing it better, but plastic tubs are so convenient!)

Items on the special shelf include knick knacks from when I was a girl, Dan's embroidered birth announcement, a cross stitch one of his aunts made him, and various bird houses. We'll switch things out as other items become special. Also, notice the little horse on the changing pad. Of course it won't end up there, but we love it. Dan's mom, sister, sister-in-law, and nieces bought it for the newest addition to the family while at the beach! Dan has declared that THIS will be her stuffed animal. 

Across from the changing area, we have the crib and the mobile my sister and I made! Also, we have the quilt my grandma created, which goes perfectly with our color scheme. And yes, the boppy is in the crib. It won't stay there, don't worry. 

For a few more details, we've got polka dot sheets (and pink and flowered!) and a sweet dust ruffle with a little purple ribbon running around the edge. The dust ruffle came from my friend Mary, when I was helping them pack up to move (weep, weep!). She had several in her basement, still in their original Pottery Barn packaging, and I fell in love. She told me I could take one, and I've been hiding it my closet ever since, hoping to have a little girl. Look who got her wish! 

The bird mobile was a blast to make. Joanna and I found the pattern for birds on Pinterest, and we sewed and stuffed them while hanging out in New York a few weeks ago. The actual construction of the mobile was done by Dan the Man, who used fishing line to suspend it above the crib. The bunting was a shower decoration crafted by Joanna, and the wall art were Goodwill frames that found new life in our nursery. (First I decided to spray paint them all pink, then decided it was too much pop!, and consequently painted three of them gray.) They are filled with fabric left over from the bird mobile, some of the deconstructed bunting, and a quote from the internet. The sweet giraffe stool (currently the home of a plant) is from Dan's sister, too. I love it!

A nursery would not be complete without a chair of some sort. Dan's sister spotted this one on a mother's group garage sale, sat in it for us, and declared it super comfy. We both agree. We both like to sit there and pray for our little one in these weeks leading up to her arrival. We've a library to the left, thanks to the shower attendees, and a basket filled with blankets, burp cloths, and a baby carrier plopped on top. Other baby stuff is stashed behind the chair. I know her arrival is imminent, but I don't care to clutter our downstairs in these last few weeks of pre-baby-ness. (Who am I kidding? We have her stroller and car seat parked in our dining room.) In any case, that's where some extra stuff is stashed right now. 

So the nursery is pretty much set! I need to wash all her clothes and cut off tags, and perhaps organize her dressers a bit better. The only other thing is something I have a question about is... lighting! There is an overhead light/fan combo that I was thinking about putting on a dimmer switch. Let me rephrase: There is an overhead light/fan combo that I was thinking about asking Dan to convert to a dimmer switch. But for night time diaper changing and feedings, does anyone have advice for a lighting source? Will a bright night light do, that I can switch off and on? A small lamp? Or just put the overhead lights on dim? Advice, please!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Outdoor Project

We bought a house. This house is pretty fantastic, no thanks to us. It just came that way. However, it did not come with landscaping. No trees. No flowers. A few pieces of grass and lots of weeds were included.

Here we are, homeowners! Notice the blank slate the outdoors presents us with.

Our very first addition to our curb appeal came from Dan's mom, who dug up a few plants from her garden to bring us. We had no garden beds dug at that point in time, so we stuck them in a pot and watered them from time to time.

Next up, my mom volunteered to come out over Labor Day weekend with plants in tow. She has beautiful gardens that needed some thinning out, so she graciously offered her assistance. We hatched this plan very soon after we moved in, and every one knew that I'd be very pregnant by this point in time, so perhaps not a whole lot of help. Fortunately, Dan is the bomb-diggity when it comes to outdoor work. (Pun, get it? Bomb-DIGitty.) He also arranged for his friend to drop off 2+ cubic yards of mulch so our beds would look finished and for the overall health of our plants.

Here Dan is, starting to work on the very rocky soil by our deck. (All of the soil, in fact, was incredibly compacted and rocky.)

Now, to throw a wrench in our plans, my little sister had to go and get a job the Tuesday before Labor Day in a spot a few hours from my parents' house. The world was thrown into an uproar, and various family members helped her find an apartment, move her things, and set up her classroom in a few short days. Accordingly, our plans were rearranged. (No worries, Jo!) Instead of my parents visiting over Labor Day weekend, they came the next. It gave Dan a few extra days to get the garden beds dug to his (and my!) liking. I did helpful things like sort through the rocks he turned up. This was a multiple evening chore. He must have spent 10 hours working just to get the beds ready.

Mom and Dad arrived late Friday night, and Saturday morning we got to work! It was cool and rainy, which is very unusual for the summer we've been having, but perfect for planting. We laid out things, rearranged a bit, and stuck them in the ground, even taking the plants my mother-in-law brought from the pots and replanting them in the ground. We have a dogwood planted out front, which you can see below (far right), and I can't wait to see it bloom next spring!

The end results?

It is amazing how a few plants can change the house from being plopped on a lot to being loved. I've been instructed to water daily until the plants are well established, and I can proudly say that I've done it... for 2 days. I'll stick with it until the baby comes. Then it's Dan's job for a few weeks!

I'm positive that there will be some more changes to come in our landscaping over the next few years. We'd like to grow something on the trellises attached to the top of the fence (we needed some more privacy on our deck) -- maybe clematis or roses or trumpet vines. I hope to plant a couple of trees out back, too, to provide some shade. Oh, and a veggie garden next year. But for now, I am satisfied with the major changes these plants made to our curb appeal! Thanks Dad, Mom, and Dan for all of your hard work!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Gaining Confidence

I don't know how I missed out on confidence in doing simple household tasks. Oh, I'm not talking about baking bread or frosting a cake. Those things I love to do! (You do not need a bread maker, by the way, to make bread.) I am not even talking about things like scrubbing grout or wiping off walls. I suspect I'm not a very good housekeeper, but I can do it. It is just a question of forcing myself to get it done.

No, I am talking about things like hanging pictures, washing the outside of double hung windows that flip into the house, using a cordless drills, gardening, and even painting. Somehow I missed out on the training that prepares one for those tasks. My sister somehow was trained, as I learned when she visited me in Wisconsin, several years ago. She and my mom are the masters of home improvement around 175 Water Street. My dad has many admirable skills, but the desire to complete home repairs is not one of them. So anyways, Joanna and mom are the experts, a bond that was forged after I left for college, I think.

My liberal arts education did not offer a course in basic home skills, a course obviously lacking if you are seeking your MRS degree. Or perhaps, the MRS degree provides a husband, who, in theory, would be capable of doing some of these things. And living in on-campus housing wasn't exactly a place to hone these skills as an independent young adult, either. There is a reason I know how to bake bread but not use a cordless drill! I think the fine for a hole in the wall was instant death by RA, who just happened to be my roommate.

So somehow, I graduated from college and got married without learning these skills. And then marrying Dan just let me piggyback on his skills. Mr. Handy, he just knew how to do those things, even the chores that he despises. In our first apartment in Belfast, he hung the pictures on the walls and led the painting of our room a horrible color called asparagus. (The choice of the paint was the fault of both of us. It was an atrocious color!) He amazes me anew every so often with his competence with power tools. I have tons of respect for his capabilities in this area! He worked in a nursery in high school, so he has way more knowledge of gardening than I, and it probably goes without saying that he can use a cordless drill. (He can even do caulking and plumbing and basic electrical wiring! The list could go on and on.)

Since our first apartment, we've moved a couple of times, but each time I've managed to get someone else to do the moving-in items that I haven't been confident to attempt on my own. But with this move, we are home owners. I don't have to stress about a landlord yelling at me for messing something up. I'm also home all day long, which Dan is not. Surprisingly, he doesn't always feel like helping me nest after a full day of work. Weird, right?

So, I'm preparing myself for the challenge. Part of me is yelling "GIRL POWER," but that's really kind of lame. Women everywhere have had to hang up their own pictures on the walls and figure out how to flip the windows inside to wash them (way easier than dragging a ladder outside to wash them if you don't have the flip kind of windows). These are just life skills, at least for someone who cares about their living environment. Sometimes I choose to believe that some people are just handy -- Dan, his sister Kristy, who will tackle anything (dryer broken? I can fix that!), my sister. And sometimes I get overwhelmed by the scads of information available on the internet. (Just look up washing windows if you want to read a million opinions on how to get it done.)

But today, I refused to sit around sulking while Dan enjoyed a well-deserved morning of mountain biking. I grabbed the hammer and the picture hanging kit, the measuring tape and the five frames I wanted to hang in the nursery, laid them out, and jumped in. You know what? Five frames are hanging neatly above the glider. Only one picture had to be readjusted. And I am one step closer to being more competent around the house.

Here's to trying something you aren't confident in! It just might turn out better than you think.