Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Laundry Room Redo

I was inspired by YHL's Pinterest Challenge to finally write up a project that we finished a few weeks ago. This was my inspiration for our laundry area:

Ha ha... it looks nothing like this. But, it was inspiring! I love the apron sink and the granite counter tops. Unfortunately, our laundry isn't even in a room. It's just a little closet off of our kitchen (with no space for a sink or counter top). We hadn't made any updates to it since we moved in, when it had a couple of particle-board shelves and a poor paint job. This isn't quite a before photo, but almost (we'd already taken the shelves out... they were disgusting!):

We had already decided that we wanted to hang some cabinets instead of shelves, but had a very limited budget. Enter the Habitat for Humanity ReStore! We picked up these three doorless cabinets for $10 total:

We painted the walls and the cabinets white, which really cleaned up the space. Unsurprisingly, the cats loved the open shelving.

To finish it off, I added pull-out baskets to the top cabinets and sewed a little skirt for the bottom cabinet. We keep our detergent, bleach, and softener in there, so it's nicely hidden out of sight. The top baskets hold additional laundry stuff, plus painting supplies. We love extra storage space!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall & Weddings

Apologies for the lack of posts; October has been insanely busy for us. We celebrated three weddings, though! First up was Lici and Andy, who got married Oct. 9 in St. Charles, Illinois, in an outdoor ceremony right on the Fox River. Their reception was in this awesome old hotel:
Next up was Katie and Mike in Wausau, Wisconsin, on Oct. 15. (Unfortunately I missed this one; Adam was there.) The whole Posse gang was reunited! The reception was held in a ski lodge, and sounded amazing.
Last but not least, Anne and Brian got married on Oct. 16 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Adam missed this one; we had to split up to make it to all of them!) The wedding and reception were at a deer reserve in the middle of town; gorgeous!
Luckily, we had great weather for all of our weddings, but now it's starting to get cold and rainy. But all the leaves have changed here and we have this gorgeous tree in our front yard (the picture doesn't fully capture how yellow it is!):
And finally, below you have our 2011 Halloween costumes: Where's Waldo and Wenda (yes, that's her name; I had to look it up!) Hope you're enjoying fall as much as we are! 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Who Needs Missoni?

As you may have heard, earlier this week lots of people went crazy for Target's new Missoni line. I am a fan of the chevron patterns that have been so popular lately, and had already decided to use this fabric to make my own curtains for our office. Thanks to an awesome sale, I scored four yards for $35 and created these on Wednesday/Thursday night:

I looove how bright and sunny they look in our office (which until this week has been lacking window treatments completely). I've also got some lime green and gray going on in there... not sure how it'll all look in the end, but hopefully bright and playful and fun (not boring and office-y)!

They did require me to break out the sewing machine, but I'm really a novice, so there was just basic stitching involved. Here's a look at both panels (and the side of our neighbor's house): 

I'd definitely say I prefer them to these Missoni curtains (which are arguably hideous for $40 each). And, of course, sold out.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Front Door Paint Job

I got the biggest item already checked off my list for this weekend. On Friday, I painted our front door to match our new shutters. As you may remember from that post, the door was really ugly:

Here it is now with the new paint job:

It's not amazing (it's still a plain, six-panel door), but it does make a big difference on our little house. If you too need to paint a door (or anything else...) here are my tips from this project: 

1. For six-panel doors, it's always good to follow the directions (like Pretty Handy Girl's, here) instead of just painting the whole thing in a random order like I tried to do on the first coat. Things start to dry out of order and you risk pulling up partially dried paint otherwise (super hot weather made this even worse!).

2. Always read the product's instructions before you use it. I was using a Pittsburg Paint exterior product that was supposed to have "paint and primer in one." I read it in the store; it said it was OK for metal. No problem! Then, when I re-read it immediately before using it, it said to "prime metal surfaces with the appropriate primer before using." Oh. That brings us to tip #3...

3. Have lots and lots of tools/paint/brushes/stuff in your house. Seriously, deciding to prime the door at the last minute was no big deal, because I own at least four different types of primer. Yeah, I might have a problem. I ended up using a spray-on oil-based primer, which was awesome — it was easy and I didn't have to clean any brushes!

Probably the most hilarious part of this project was deciding how to take the door off to paint it, since I wanted to lay it flat across sawhorses in the garage while I worked. Leaving a gaping hole in the front of our house for 8 hours was a problem due to bugs, weather, cats, etc., and we currently have no storm door. We ended up taking the door off the back of the garage to put in its place, since it was 100+ degrees yesterday and I needed to keep the AC going. It was exactly the same size and color, so I'm not sure our neighbors even noticed. The hinges were on the wrong side, though, so we just pushed a recliner up against it (from the inside of the house) to hold it up. Somehow, it worked wonderfully!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Contact Paper Window

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this idea and got super excited. We have a door off our kitchen that leads to our backyard and deck. It's a pretty ugly door and it unfortunately faces our neighbor's deck (as does our deck). Frequently I have found myself looking right out our window at our neighbors grilling on their deck whenever I'm doing laundry or getting something out of the pantry. There's really no privacy, even when you are in the house. The window had cheap blinds when we moved in, but the cats soon disassembled them (and they were especially ugly to begin with) so we didn't replace them. So when I saw that I could potentially change this door for just a $6 roll of contact paper, I was thrilled!

Here is the door before, with the view off our deck and into our neighbors' yards:

That is two properties — our next door neighbor's with the light blue deck and the next house over with a red deck. Yikes! 
I followed the instructions (linked above) and cut out many, many, many shapes from contact paper. I ended up splitting up this project over several days so I wouldn't get burned out/have carpal tunnel from the scissors. I only bought one roll of contact paper (it's actually "clear" but shows up frosted on the window). I probably used about half of it. Here's the after photo:

And here's a close-up photo of the pattern: 

I love it! It looks stylish, gives us tons more privacy than we had before, lets in light, and only cost $6. 

Up next is the front door. I'm almost done painting it (coat two is currently drying in the garage!) and it looks awesome. I think it's the nicest paint job I've done yet. Which is great, as it's right on the front of the house and hard to miss ;)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Front Yard Makeover

This weekend we got lots of work done! In the front yard, we put up new house numbers over our garage door and added shutters on our front kitchen window. It's looking a lot different (to us) than when we first bought the house.

Here's a photo from right before we closed on our house, in September 2009:

And here it is today, August 2011:
 The shutters, exterior lights, trellises for the clematises, and house numbers really make a difference for us. The shutters were surprisingly easy to install. We followed the directions and had them up in under 15 minutes. Super easy!

I have a four-day weekend for Labor Day next weekend, since my company gives us Friday off as well as Monday (awesome!). This means I have lots and lots of plans... we'll see how many get finished. Number one on the priority list, though, is painting the front door — the same dark green color as the shutters. We already bought the paint, so I'm all set! We originally had a screen door on the front door too, but it was damaged beyond repair in a big storm this spring. But once we took it off, we realized how ugly and in need of TLC the front door was.
It probably wouldn't hurt to upgrade our welcome mat, either!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Installing Our Last Door!

Here it is: our brand new guest room door!

Today we installed our last (new) door! We've been working on this project for over a year, starting with the bathroom door in early 2010. We still had two to go and were able to wrap them up over the last two weekends. Now our office and guest room also have matching six-panel white doors:

On the right, you can see the non-paneled door to our linen closet, which we painted last week after finally finding the correct paint color. We are planning to paint all of the similar closet doors to match instead of tearing them all out, since most of them are not in terrible shape, and it will save money over buying new ones. Here's what they currently look like (this is our kitchen pantry door):

Next, we'll be painting all of the trim white to match! I'm excited for this part (I like to paint stuff), especially since I think we will see a big impact for a low cost.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer Fun

It's already starting to feel like fall--the last two days have been in the upper 70s instead of the 90s! But we're still wrapping up our super busy summer. We headed up to Rockford on July 23 for Art and Becky's wedding, where Adam reunited with the Posse:

Adam then went to Madison for a few days for a work-related seminar, while I hung out in Roscoe. After that, we headed up to Three Lakes, Wis., for some vacation time with his family. Now we're finally back home and not planning on traveling any time soon... this summer has worn us out. Luckily, other people seem to be traveling in our direction (Anne and Brian, Becky and Sam)!! Which is always super exciting. 

On the home improvement front, we've been stalled for some time due to travel and financial constraints. But now that we're back for a while--and since we've had a long break--we're excited to get started on some more projects. We have two more bedroom doors to install (we've been at this point for... approximately a year. Oops. See our first door installation here). We probably would have had them done by now, but when we went to Menards this weekend, they were sold out of the ones we needed! Instead, we spent last weekend buying paint that matches our existing doors so that we can make the trim the same color. We're also going to try painting some of the doors we don't want to replace: our linen closet, pantry, and entry closet doors.

We're using Pittsburg Paint for these, since that was the brand that the pre-painted doors came with. It matched wonderfully (even though it wasn't exactly the same), so we went with it. Seems to be working so far: 

We did prime before we painted, although we just went with a water-based primer... we decided that the doors weren't "real" wood (they're hollow and plywood-y feeling. Yes, that's the technical term.), so we just winged it with water-based primer, since it's soooo much easier to deal with. The bleed-through hasn't been bad so far (sometimes you can still see wood-colored stains through the paint, unless you use an oil-based product), so I am hoping that it will stay that way. I just finished the final coat of paint on that door, which is for the linen closet, so I am hoping we can put it up tomorrow and see how it looks!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Back from Vacation

Last week we returned home from our awesome vacation in the Florida Keys. We had a blast! We visited Key Largo, Marathon/the Middle Keys, and of course, Key West. Here we are at mile marker 0, the start of U.S. Highway 1:

If you didn't already see our Facebook album of photos, check out the Shutterfly album I made below (I got it free after writing a TripAdvisor review--yay!).

Click here to view this photo book larger

This month is very busy for us! We'll be attending Adam's cousin's high school graduation party, Art's wedding, and then heading up to Wisconsin to see Adam's parents for a few days.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer Projects

Even though it's not officially summer until Tuesday, it's felt like summertime for forever here! And one fun part of summer... is garage sales. Last weekend, while Adam was in Wisconsin Dells for Art's bachelor party, I hit up several sales in Bloomington. I started at 8 am but had to cut myself off by 10:30 -- I had already bought way too much!

Last weekend's treasures:

Of course, most of these things are stuff I plan to paint/redo in some way. Except for that bowl. And the vase, which is for our office -- we're currently redoing it, and I'm adding in lots of lime green. We spent yesterday painting the office (changing it from a yellowy-tan to gray). Which means we've now painted every room in the house except the bathroom. All in good time ;)

Here is the vase in its new home (a sneak peek of the still-in-progress office):

Of course, the moment we put up that IKEA Lack shelf (and even before it was fully installed), Jack had claimed it as his new favorite spot. Now we've just got to finish moving EVERYthing back into the office that we had to move out in order to paint it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Happy anniversary!

Adam and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary today. I can't believe it, but we've already been married three years! We're going out to dinner tonight to celebrate.

Happy anniversary!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Picture frames and cabin trip

When we first moved in, I put up these five pictures: Us, friends, and cats. But since then, it's really looked a little sparse.

Inspired by YHL's gallery of frames project, I started collecting frames from garage and thrift sales. I bought several at a "barn" sale in Bloomington earlier this spring, and spray painted them black to match our existing frames (with feline assistance, of course):

No before picture for those--but they were all ugly to start with, so much better now!

We took a trip to visit my parents' cabin in northern Wisconsin over Memorial Day weekend, and stopped at a few garage sales while we were up there. I picked up even more frames there (although I forgot them in Roscoe), so I'll be painting them soon. Eventually I'd like to cover the whole wall.

Our trip up north was fun--great weather, Friday night fish fry, went out on the boat, and rode the ATVs! Here's the view from the front yard:

And Adam on the dock:

We spent a lot of time playing with our digital SLR camera. We got it as a wedding present from Adam's parents and have been using it for the past three years, but are just now figuring out how to change the more advanced settings. It was pretty fun to see what you can actually do, but we've still got a lot to learn.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Coffee table refinishing

We've been busy with lots of projects lately, so I'm going to start doing more posts to keep up!

I recently decided to refinish the top of our coffee table. The cats had scratched it up pretty badly, and since we often eat on it (instead of our kitchen table), it had suffered a lot of abuse. Here's what it looked like before, courtesy of a December 2009 posting, when we had first started painting our walls:

I decided to go with a black stain for the top instead of trying to match the existing color. I chose Minwax ebony stain, and then used Minwax fast-drying polyurethane in satin for the topcoat (I actually did three coats on this, since I had only done two on the kitchen table and later wished I had all three). Here it is in the garage, waiting to come in:

It's nice to have it back in the family room now. We'll see how it holds up to kitty claws... Meanwhile, outside, the clematises that I planted last spring are really taking off this year:

It's really exciting to see everything I planted last year come back even stronger and healthier this year!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Easter!

Sunday was Easter, and we hosted both of our families at our house, which was a blast! Lots of food, fun, and installing exterior lights. A future Easter tradition? (I don't think so...)

We had several pounds of leftover ham, but it was delicious, so I'm not complaining! Adam and I have been eating it for lunch every day at work. Mmmm...

In the interest of sharing a few more favorite recipes, our menu included the following:

Fig-and-Orange-Glazed Ham
Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes
Almond Green Beans
Arugula Salad
Pasta Salad
Grilled Zucchini and Squash
Deviled Eggs
Strawberry Shortcakes
Chocolate Trifle

After we finished eating, Adam and the dads went outside to install two exterior lights on either side of our garage door. We also needed to replace the light right outside our front door -- we had a big storm earlier this month, and our (former) storm door got pulled open in the wind, smashed into the light, and was completely broken. We're super grateful to our parents for helping us out with the new lights!

The new lights on the garage look like this:

And the front view with all three lights:

It's hard to photograph... looks way better in person!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

DIY Chandelier

We've been thinking for some time about replacing the light over our kitchen table. The one that came with our house was fine, but was more of a ceiling mount deal (below) than the chandelier you might expect over the main dining area in the house.

We had looked somewhat for a new light, but hadn't seen anything too exciting. I decided it would be fun to try and redo one that I found at our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I am in looove with ours... cheap house-ish stuff! So cool! It's like a thrift store for your house. My plan: buy a light fixture with a shape I liked, then paint it whatever color we wanted. We picked out this gold one:

We picked out RustOleum Dark Bronze Hammered spray paint for this project. We used the black color, same brand, for our patio set and really liked it. I hung the light from the garage ceiling so I could spray it from all sides. I was going for an "oil rubbed bronze" look, but got more of a gray instead. Actually though, I really like it -- it doesn't match everything else in our house, which makes it look unique.

But, to skip back a step, we had never hung a chandelier before. It took us a few minutes to figure out how to shorten the length; basically, remove the chain links you don't want (they aren't solid, so you can pry them apart with pliers), and then pull the cord up and trim it. Here's Adam in action with the pliers:

But, the very, very best part was the PRICE. Everything at ReStore is used (and generally donated), so it is very inexpensive. This light had been there for a while, so it was marked down to $7.50. The spray paint was about $6.50. So total cost for this lamp: $14! Amazing. Because of that, we ended up splurging on the light bulbs. I wasn't sure what kind I wanted (it came with a couple different, non-matching bulbs, but we didn't like any of them). Then we saw these at Lowe's and had to have them! They were almost $4 apiece, so that brought our total light fixture cost up to $34... still not bad!

One thing we should have considered: since this hangs over the kitchen table, the cats can reach it. And Jack loves swatting it... uh oh.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Readers, so many apologies for our lack of posts last month (and so far this month...) !

We have lots of projects on hold at the moment for two financial reasons: we owed lots and lots of money on our taxes this year (boooooo) and are saving up for a trip to the Florida Keys in June (yay!!!).

That said, I have lots of ideas running around my head, and it probably won't be long before one comes bursting out despite budgetary constraints. I'm hoping to paint both of our dressers black this spring/summer, so that'll probably be my next project, once the weather improves enough that paint will dry while furniture is in the garage.

My current "project": cooking lots of bad-for-you food. Like desserts. Like on a daily basis. Probably a bad idea with an upcoming vacation that involves bathing suits...

Links are below if you'd like to try some out yourself.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie: Soooo good, if you love peanut butter
Chocolate Trifle: I made this for tonight, so haven't tried it yet--but looks promising!
Too Much Chocolate Cake: This is my go-to cake. Super rich.
Raspberry Crisp: You can use any fruit for this; I made the same recipe with peaches. Delish.

Challenging (for me, at least):
Lemon Meringue Pie: Have you heard the story about how we traded a lemon pie for our kitchen table? It was this one.
Apple Pie along with homemade crust: I hate dealing with dough (rolling it, etc.), but this pie rocks.
Cheesecake: Still perfecting my technique, but I made a fairly successful one this month!

Note on AllRecipes recipes: Read the reviewer comments at the bottom of the page (at least the first five). There are usually some recommended changes that make the recipe much, much better than as written.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ceiling fan switcheroo

On Friday night, we found ourselves at Home Depot picking up a few things (this is usually where we are on Friday night). We happened to walk by the fans, and decided that this weekend might be a good time to finally update our master bedroom ceiling fan. It had these can-type lights that blocked off lots of light, so it made the room really, really dark. Adam had installed a ceiling fan once before at his grandma's house, so we were confident we could do it!

Here, we've already removed the old fan and Adam is about to open the box with the new fan (which we got from Menard's... Home Depot didn't have a huge selection of fans, we discovered.)

The wiring was a challenge, since one of us (me!) had to hold up the fan above our heads, while the other (Adam) had to do all the electrical work. Here it is completed--with much more light than before!

We decided that the fan we took down should go to replace this ugly one in the guest bedroom. It has tacky gold accents, and people who've stayed in our guest room complained that it made a loud wobbly noise:

This was a bigger challenge, because we didn't have directions for installing this fan. And two of the screws that held it up in the other bedroom didn't work here, which frustrated us to no end... But finally, finally, we got it up and working!

Up next: replacing two more interior doors? Painting the bathroom? Decorating the office? Starting the trim? So many options...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More painting!

Saturday morning, we got up and decided that it would be a good idea to paint our guest bedroom. This is why:

Formerly a child's bedroom, it was all decked out in dark blue and bright orange (not sure if he was a Bears fan or an Illinois fan...) We weren't sure what color to go with, but ended up going with "Chocolate Froth" from Behr. It's definitely a lot more neutral than before:

We've now painted almost every wall in our house. Still up: the bathroom and the office, both of which are OK colors. But I think we'll still paint them :) No more orange walls left, though! Whew.