Category Archives: Home Improvement

Renewing Me

I’m in one of those seasons where all the planets align, the things stack up and despite my best efforts I’m totally over committed. It’s frustrating since I’ve been very intentional this year (it is my word for the  year after all) about where I choose to spend my time and energy. I’ve been selective about what I commit to and turned away opportunities. And yet, I find myself, right now, in an icky place. It seems everywhere I turn someone wants a piece of me.

I think some of it is a convergence activities ramping up in anticipation of school starting, end of summer rush, work commitments and a thriving photography business. Right now I am coordinating a family reunion, lead on two major programs at work, preparing for the back to school rush and editing thousands of photos from recent shoots. It’s all good stuff and I’m glad for each of them. It’s just unfortunate that they all come to a head in a months time. There isn’t much breathing room.

Which leads to the feeling of everyone wanting a piece of me. I can manage it for a while, taking things in stride, making decisions on the fly and putting out fires (although I would really rather they not erupt to begin with). But then I reach the tipping point. When I know I need to step away or I might be incredibly, obnoxiously, inappropriate to the next person who asks me for something. Thank goodness I can usually feel this total loss of filter coming on!

I felt it last week. Dreaming of a vacation I can’t take – because I don’t have the cash {2 words: Disney vacation and College tuition. Ok that was 4, but you get it.} or the time. There simply isn’t a time to get away.

So I booked my own mental vacation.

Yesterday I spent the entire day working in my yard. Like from 8 am to 8 pm. And boy can I feel it today! I’m walking like a 90-year-old woman with arthritis; pain with every step. And it feels amazing! There is something about working til your bones are weary. About focusing on one thing and one thing only. Tuning out the rhetoric, the demands, the requests and to do lists. Just doing physical labor. Today I can tackle my projects with a renewed energy and a much better attitude. I’m ready to give things the attention and care they need.

Taking a little time for me, a break from all the demands, even if it was for hard physical labor, renewed me. And my yard looks amazing! It should after 19 bags of mulch, 8 new plants, 12 hours and 1880 pounds of rock moved. Enjoy some pictures of the fruits of my labor.


Those rocks are so much heavier than they appear!DSC_0525-001

They may look random, but it’s really hard to make things look random!DSC_0534-001

Really it is. DSC_0507-002

I now have wild raspberry. I think that’s a good thing.DSC_0510-002

Why, yes we are ISU fans!DSC_0530-001

A combo of nursery plants and splits from others – my favorite way to get and give plants!DSC_0512-002

The wall is still holding up a year later. Guess we did that right so far. DSC_0516-002

Finally got the front beds mulched. Looks so much more finished this way. DSC_0518-002

Coral Belles are my friend!DSC_0520-002

And a couple shots of some great foliage. Love the intensity of the colors. DSC_0521-002

I am definitely partial to the deep purple, but love the contrast of the bright green.DSC_0524-002   And I ended the day with a fire in the pit. Peace.


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Filed under Health, Home Improvement, Intention


I made my first Craig’s List purchase  a month ago. Middle Son went with me to check it out. It is a really solid piece of furniture! So he and the seller loaded it in our van, I paid the man and we headed home. I have to say I was a bit creeped out by the idea of going to a stranger’s house to buy something. But we survived just fine.

I had been searching for a while for something to use in my dining room. I had a shelf I had purchased and painted when we first moved into this house. It worked, but all the shelves were open and I really wanted a cleaner look; something with doors or drawers. I’ve seen some great repurposed mid-century hutches that I really like, but I have this awesome mantel on the wall. So I really needed a sideboard rather than a hutch.

I knew I wanted to paint it, although when I stripped it I did hesitate for a minute. The wood looked so good! But I already have two shades of wood with my floor and table. I don’t want to throw another in the mix. So on went the primer.

As a side note, I found a great no-odor stripper that I could use in the house. Good thing since it was getting cold outside.

We picked a yellow a few shades darker than our living room. It was actually paint I already had and it really pops against the red-orange walls.

I really  love how it turned out!

I love the clean lines.

Since it was such a simple design, I added quirk with the drawer pulls.

Each drawer has a different pull.

Love them all! And the best part of the whole thing?

Ok, there are two best parts.

  1. I only spent $100 on the entire project! Perfect for a frugal girl like me:).
  2. I started and finished this project in the same month! {I would have been done more quickly, but I had a weekend out-of-town for work in the middle.} I never finish a project that quickly!

I also have lots of free space in the hall closet where I used to keep many of the things that are now in my sideboard.

Yay for upcycled furniture! Yay for storage space! Yay for finished projects! And Yay for getting to be creative!


Filed under Home Improvement


I’ve been drooling over the mantels I’ve seen on Pinterest. I just love the options they give for decorating. There are so many cute ideas and I wanted one of my own. We have a fire-place in the family room that I love, but we really don’t hang out there very often. I needed a place for seasonal decor in my dining room. Two needs (ok, wants); one solution. I thought about searching flea markets for the perfect one – an old one to repurpose. But, then graduation was fast approaching and I wanted it done before that. I knew who to call.

I sent 3 pictures and some dimensions to my dad along with a request from his only daughter. Please, Dad, can you make me one of these…before graduation?

He had a few questions.

And then when they came to visit, I had a mantel! I just needed to do the finish paint. Dad had put a base coat of flat latex in dark brown over the whole mantel. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of it in process or painted brown. I was, after all, trying to complete a ridiculously long to-do-before-graduation list. I didn’t even take any pictures in the process. I did the painting between finishing the concrete patio and laying the sod. I had a narrow window of time to get it done. I painted it on Thursday and the party was Saturday! Thank goodness, the technique I found on Pinterest worked BEAUTIFULLY!

Thanks to Ann at Make the Best of Things for the great information and ideas on painting with Elmer’s glue. It was so fun to do! I tried it out first on a stool I had base painted forever ago. I laid the glue on thick, really thick, then painted over it. I’m glad I tried it out on this first, because I didn’t like the effect I got. It was more streaky than crackled. I read through Ann’s notes again and decided to water the glue down for a second try. That was the key!

For my finished product I watered the glue down – about 2 parts glue to 1 part water – and brushed that on the mantel a section at a time. I did the top, then the crown moulding, then the straight parts, then the bottom. I was working outside and it was a pretty windy day. I pretty much put the paint over the glue as soon as I finished the glue coat. Then I watched it work. And it worked great! As the paint and glue dry, it crackles and looks aged.

I couldn’t be happier with the finished product! It is exactly what I pictured. How often does that happen!! And it was hung on the wall and decorated before the graduation party! Yay!


Filed under Creativity, Decor, Home Improvement


We’ve got plenty! One of the many projects on our “before graduation” list is a new deck and patio. We are well on our way and have a plan to get it done in plenty of time. Let’s just hope it isn’t the old “best laid plans.” The retaining wall was built over spring break. Now we are on to the deck. Hubby has been digging holes. Every night after work he comes home and digs, and digs, and digs.

The first hole was the hardest. It looked like it would be right over the main power line to the house. That meant digging very carefully. Like with a hand trowel.

The hole has to be 16″ in diameter 36″ deep.

Dug with a hand trowel. It took a LONG time. But the careful digging paid off when Hubby came across the conduit with the power line inside. Lucky us it was right on the very edge of the hole. Dodged a bullet on that one!

After finding that he was good to go on the other three holes. They were much easier to dig with a shovel and post hole digger! Duh.

Do you know how deep a 36″ deep hole is?

That’s my 6′ tall hubby in the hole. And this is the pile of dirt left behind.


Our yard is full of roots from a huge white maple. Like huge roots. Like 4″ in diameter. I thought I took pictures before they cut the biggest one out, but apparently I was so in awe I forgot to snap a pic. So here it is out of the hole. Crazy I say.

Right smack through the middle of the first hole. But it’s out! And the hole inspector is coming today!


I hope he likes our work. Then we pour concrete this afternoon. Oh my!

Should be fun?! Right?

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Filed under Home Improvement

Senior Year – Life in Fast Forward

Wow! Where did March go? In fact, where did February go? I feel like someone pushed the fast forward button on our lives and we are whizzing at break neck speed. It’s all a blur – only able to see snipits at a time. By the time I’ve figured out what I’m seeing, we’re on to the next event. I knew this year would go by fast, but honestly I had no idea. The fall semester seemed like any other year. I think it lulled me into a false sense of security. Spring semester has gone super fast!

It seems like once WPA hit there is no slowing down. And now we are into the home stretch with party planning, elementary school reunions, spring concerts, and finals. The calendar is filling quickly. It doesn’t help that this is a notoriously busy time of year at work and this year there are lots of staffing changes to manage as well. Throw in tennis season and a few doctors appointments for the boys and you have a highly scheduled life.

Fortunately, a friend shared her graduation timeline with me last fall. I spent some time then looking it over and thinking about what we will need to do. We have a plan and we’re ticking through it now. Tops on our list has been work in the backyard. It’s going super slowly, but we did make progress over spring break.

Three boys worked really hard! (And so did Hubby & I)

They dug this seriously long trench. And hauled lots of dirt!

Then we leveled it out and put down paver sand and the first row of blocks for our retaining wall. I was the one putting the blocks in place; carefully adjusting each one, turning the level both ways to make sure I created a perfect base for the wall. It was tedious. And not very comfortable sitting in there …there is a good reason there are no pictures of that part!

Our contractor friend who is helping us with the rest of our project came over when we had the first row on. He looked at my handiwork…and proceeded to step on the back of the blocks to make them tilt backwards! Apparently they need a little lean in them. All that leveling….for naught. The bright side? We only had one level in – can you imagine if the whole wall was built. We may have had a mutiny on our hands!

With our solid footing we moved on to the rest of the wall.

*Some boys definitely worked harder than others. I’m not mentioning any names, just sayin’ a picture’s worth a thousand words.

Coming together quite nicely.

That may or may not be a supervisor’s chair.

Contemplating the work.

You know I had to include one pic with a fun perspective!

Next it’s on to the deck and patio! And we have 36 days until the graduation party…no problem…

Live in the moment, let go of the ideal, keep it simple and laugh.

It’s all good and we are blessed.


Filed under Home Improvement

Project Graduation Preparation – Senior Year

Well, it finally happened. I knew it would. Frankly I couldn’t figure out why it hadn’t already. I had a bit of a panic attack this week. I was looking at the calendar for spring and planning some weekend activities trying to be realistic about what I could do. Then I started to count and realized how little time there is between now and graduation.

Less than 4 months!

Mind you I’m not freaking out about him graduating {yet!}. I’m freaking out about all the things we were going to do around the house that we haven’t even started. Or – if you know me- we’ve started but not finished. The good news {for me} is this happened during a week when Hubby was home on vacation! I gave him a short list. Short as in less than 100 items long:).

We hit the ground running. Crown moulding in the family room, living room, dining room and kitchen. Strip wallpaper and paint in the dining room and kitchen. Replace the handle on the door to the garage. Fix the cable on the overhead garage door. And on, and on.

Hubby and Oldest Son started on the crown moulding. That stuff could destroy a marriage! Do you have any idea how much geometry is involved in putting up crown moulding? I may have mentioned, math is not my subject. Everything is at angles! It’s yucky! I walked away from that project. I’d like to say I’m practicing letting go of control. Really, I just don’t understand! Oldest Son is in heaven on this one. He has figured out the degree of every angle he’s cutting. It’s pretty cute actually. Love that kid. Hubby is dusting off his geometry skills too. It’s been a few years:).

I spent the weekend painting. I LOVE to paint. Not being sarcastic at all. It’s therapy. There is nothing like transforming a room with a can of paint. I have a brush I love – don’t make me paint without it.

And no one else is allowed to use it. They mess up the bristles and don’t clean it out well enough. Then I have crusty paint in it. Not cool!

And I picked up this super cool paint cup. Just the right size for when I’m cutting in.

And it has a cool magnet on the side to hook my paint brush on.

So cool! The only thing missing is a place to hang my rag for wiping up messes.

I love cutting in around the trim, with my awesome brush. I don’t tape anything. That makes me crazy. I hate spending hours prepping to do the job that takes me no time at all. I painted the whole kitchen in 90 minutes. No taping involved! How fun is that ! It’s therapy – only way cheaper!

Stripping the wallpaper in the dining room did not go quite as quickly. Fortunately this is paper we put up ourselves so we sized it properly. It’s still a pain to take off. Thanks goodness it was only up to the chair rail. It took most of Saturday to get it off. Then we painted like crazy people. But I am excited to say….it’s done! 

We just put on the last of the switch plates and outlet covers. Done. And I LOVE the color!

Can you tell I took this pic when the paint was still wet? So anxious! The paint is Valspar – from Lowe’s. We used their paint and primer in one and loved it! We were able to get by with just two coats. The color is Brick Facade. Kind of orange, with touch of red. Love it! And so happy to have it done. Check one thing off of the long, long list.

Just a little more crown moulding, shoe moulding and hanging some things on the newly painted walls and the inside could be done!

And then there is the back yard. It’s a huge eye sore! I wish Backyard Crashers or someone else from TLC or HGTV would come make it lovely. It really needs help. As soon as we finish inside we’ll tackle the nightmare that is our backyard.

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Filed under Home Improvement, Senior Year

Summer of Plumbers

One of our kids needs to become a plumber. That’s all there is to it. We’re on our 3rd plumbing related incident of the summer. Today’s has been the most frustrating.

The first is the shower that won’t quit leaking. Three of us have tried to tighten the screw in the hot water knob to no avail. It appears fixed…for a minute. Then the dripping begins a gain. And each time I think it drips a little harder afterwards. I shudder to think what our water bill will be this month!

The second was a leaking gasket between the stool and tank in our bathroom. I discovered this one when I stepped on the wet bathroom rug. It took some investigation to figure out what was going on. Then I discovered the floor tiles were mushy. Thank goodness they are the peel and stick kind so an easy fix. For now there is a bowl under the leak until we can take it all apart and replace the rubber washers. I think that will fix it anyway. I hope.

Last night when I reached in the ice maker for some ice, my hand hit a solid cube. Apparently the ice maker is just making water. The tub that catches the ice was full of water that had frozen. But not before it ran over the edge and onto the bottom shelf of the freezer. Fortunately, the freezer is still freezing. So we cleaned it out and turned off the icemaker and went to bed. When Oldest Son came home I had him double check it. Thank goodness for that!

The water was flowing at a steady stream out of the ice maker and the tub was full and flowing onto the bottom of the freezer again. So, at midnight we emptied the upstairs freezer and put everything in the chest freezer downstairs. Oldest Son shut the valve to the ice maker and we put two tubs under there just to be sure. And we went to bed.

This morning we woke to water running from the freezer and all over the floor! Such a mess. Clearly the shut off valve is worn out. So now we have a valve to replace and an ice maker to fix.

Which takes me back to the need for one of our sons to be a plumber. And it would probably be good if one was a mechanic as well. We could probably save a fortune in repair costs with just those two!

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Filed under Frugal living, Home Improvement, Money