Breaking up with the Castle

Update: I wrote this Friday as I was packing and cleaning. Today we arrived in St Louis, and we spend the day here tomorrow. Then Wednesday it is on to Denver!

It’s been a crazy three weeks. Cray-zy. With a capital, bolded C. Sorting, packing, selling, giving away, grabbing coffee with a friend, and another, and another. More selling. An epic moving sale. Lunch with our pastor. Dropping my kids off somewhere almost every day for at least a few hours of baby/toddler-free productivity. I miss my kids. My house is in controlled chaos, and so empty it’s starting to echo. We’re one day out from our next adventure.

When we told people we were moving, one of the first questions everyone asked was “what about the Castle?” People know how much we’ve loved and used this house, and made it ours. I would have sold the castle if we needed to, but thankfully we didn’t need to. Sweet friends of ours will be renting from us – a match so perfect it couldn’t have come from anywhere but God. They have a little boy and a little girl and were looking for more space and a place to be outside. They’re excited to live in a big house, and we’re excited that the castle will be filled with another sweet family.

Breaking up is hard to do though. I’ve barely (surprisingly) struggled with letting go of all the stuff that filled our attic, closets, dressers and basement. I’ve enjoyed making money from the sale, finding new homes for things, and thinking about our fresh start. But when we got to the point where we are undoing the things I’ve done to make this castle home,  well that’s been hard. The paintings and pictures are coming off the walls. The projects are getting stored away or given away. The gallery wall is coming down. We’re even leaving a lot for our renters, but it’s still hard. It’s hard to undo all that work, and love, you know?

Today I’m touching up paint, filling holes and scrubbing bathrooms. I’m polishing the mantel and the woodwork for the last time. I’m wiping tiny hand prints off windows and doors. And it’s therapeutic in a way. I’m saying goodbye to my house, the place we’ve rescued from the ugly, brought our babies home to, filled with laughter and love and people. We always said if we owned a home we would use it for God, by hosting people, loving people and welcoming them in. I think we have done our very best to accomplish that goal. I’m excited for the next adventure, but I’m taking today to say farewell to my house.


Posted in 2014, denver | Leave a comment

Denver or Bust!

You know how sometimes you have a dream, one that you talk about only on date night, or late at night in bed, or maybe you just quietly journal it and keep it in a safe place? Well that’s how my dream of moving has been, for years. And that all changed last Thursday.

Friends, we are moving to Denver, Colorado. In fifteen days. I have just over two weeks left to pack up our house, find renters, host the Most Epic Garage Sale ever, pack our van with as much as it will hold, say goodbye to family and friends, and head out on our new adventure.

I am so excited. Beyond thrilled. Growing up in Spain infused me with traveler’s blood, with a bit of wanderlust, if you will. I’ve settled here in Rochester and learned to be content, but it’s just not in our blood (Lover lived in Spain as a kid too, remember?) to stay in one place forever. We’re ready to explore some new places.

There is lots to tell about how we arrived at this (seemingly out of the blue) decision. There’s not time to type it all out now, but I will say this – we took a year after Keilana was born to rest as a family. We stepped back from all of our commitments and responsibilities, and spent the year discussing what the future held for us, and how we wanted to proceed over the next few years. We spent a lot of time in prayer, had countless conversations, and waited (im)patiently for God to give us direction. Last week was Keilana’s first birthday and in true God fashion, the new job offer came in on Thursday, her actual birthday, ten minutes before midnight. God is nothing if not punctual! :)

So that’s what’s keeping us busy for the next few weeks. Overall I’d say we are very excited and looking forward to the move, with the occasional panic attack thrown in for good measure. :) Even with all of the stuff I’ve gotten rid of in the last three years, we still have all.the. things. So figuring out what’s staying, going and being sold is keeping me busy. I’ll be popping in here and there for updates as we pack up our life and head west! Pray for me!


Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

You Never See the Hard Days {NYC Trip}

I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but things got busy and I never got around to publishing it. Enjoy!

We spent last week in New York City. The City is a magical place chock full of scrumptious eateries, gorgeous architecture, shopping for miles, and the wonder that is Central Park. It is also, we discovered, a very difficult place to travel to with two little ones.

We arrived Sunday evening to our hotel with our luggage, the baby in the carrier, and a sick toddler in the stroller. The hotel was tiny, even by Manhattan’s standards, and I was already tired after 6 hours in the car, a half an hour on the Metro and a few blocks walk to the hotel. We asked the friendly guy at the front desk (Miguel) for a crib, and, after a blank look, he said “Oh, I am sorry! We do not have cribs. But, we have a 3/4 size cot, would that work for you?” Well, no, since my ten month old has no concept of tall furniture,and loves to nose dive off of everything, no it will not work for us. We requested a room with two doubles, and figured that Keilana could sleep on blankets on the floor.

So we headed upstairs to our room with two double beds. Except that it was a room with one king bed. After looking at each other and sighing, Lover headed back downstairs to get us the right room. Seconds after he left, Miguel calls the room. “Hello?” I say, trying not to sound irritated. “Ah yes, ma’am, so I know that you said you wanted a king size bed (we didn’t) but if you would like, I could put you in a room with two doubles if that would work better for you. (Yes, that’s why we requested that)”. So I say, yes, my husband is on his way down to get things worked out. And (this is my favorite part) Miguel says, “well, actually, ma’am, if you want to just come on down too, that would be best.” And so, still nicely, but less nicely, I say “well, actually I can’t do that because I have both my kids with me (one is a baby, remember? the one that needed a crib?) and all of our luggage so I cannot just “come on down”. In fact, there are very few situations in life right now where I can “just” do anything. My husband will be down in a minute.” And then I took a deep breath.

We got our room with two doubles. There was about a foot of space on each side on the beds, and a generous three feet at the end of the beds where the desk, TV and armoire were crowded in. We dumped our luggage and headed out for dinner. When we came back, I looked around the lobby/breakfast room and realized I didn’t see any highchairs for the kids. I asked Miguel if they had any. His response? “Well, ma’am, ah…high chairs? Well our highest chairs are the bar height stools there along the wall…” I think my face must have been scary, because at this point he trailed off. “For children,” I clarified, trying not to growl. “highchairs. Not stools.” “Oh, no, so sorry ma’am. We just have chairs.”

On the elevator ride up to our room, Lover and I just laughed. What else can you do? We tried to make the best of the situation. We put sick little Javi to bed in one of the double beds, made a bed out of blankets on the floor for Keilana, and jockeyed for enough space for two grown people in our double bed exactly one foot away from Javi’s bed. Have I mentioned that I am claustrophobic?

What followed was one of the worst nights sleep I’ve had in years. Keilana hated the floor, and woke up just about every hour that night. Javi had coughing spasms throughout the night, exacerbated by the ancient ventilation blowing years of dust into the room. At one point in the night I sat in bed, wedged next to Lover, nursing Keilana for the hundredth time, listening to my toddler cough uncontrollably, and prayed desperately for God to help me make it through till morning.

We did. And we made it through each long, hot day and five tiring sleepless nights. Because my toddler with normally boundless energy was sick,  he constantly asked to ride in the stroller. This meant if I went out during the day, I had Keilana in the carrier. Hot, sweaty and heavy. The first two nights when we went out all together, to get dinner and walk around the city, it started to rain. Monday night, luckily, we were only three blocks from the hotel. Tuesday night, however, we were up on 60th st, right next to Central Park, and it was pouring. There wasn’t anyway around the rain, so we bought an umbrella for Lover who was carrying KK and proceeded to walk the fifteen blocks back in pouring rain. Fun times.

Tuesday night, as we walked, and walked, and walked in the rain, and I got progressively more soaked, I started making a list of things I was thankful for. It was not cold. Javi and Keilana were having the time of their lives in the rain. I was wearing sandals, not flip flops, so walking was easier. I would never, after this trip, have to stay in this hotel, ever again. And on and on. It made the rain a little easier to deal with.

It was one of the hardest trips we’ve ever taken. Keilana and Lover both got sick after a few days there, and I’m pretty sure I did too, but I was too busy taking care of everyone else to really stop and examine myself. :) But at some point in that first day or two, I remembered one of my favorite quotes:

You never see the hard days in a photo album, but those are what get you from one happy picture to the next. 

And so I took pictures. Lots of them. Of anything that caught my eye. Of my kids being adorable. Of stunning buildings. Of New York’s quirkiness. I’ll be able to look back on these pictures and although I’ll know that it was a hard week, I’ll just have the happy pictures to remember it by. I shared a lot of those pictures on Instagram and Facebook, and apparently my strategy worked because a friend commented “so jealous of you in NYC! Looks like a good time!” and I just chuckled.


Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

Keilana’s Room {Little Girl’s Room}

Eleven months after little Peanut made us a family of four, I’m ready to say her room is done. I think it counts that I’m getting it done by her first birthday, right? Right? :) To be fair to me, we had family staying in her room right up until she was born, so although I did my best to shop ahead for the big stuff (rugs, bed, blackout shades) I really couldn’t get started on her room until after she was born. And then we all know that there isn’t exactly a whole lot of time to work on things like decorating and fluffing and floofing with a toddler and a newborn, am I right? So, although we got some big stuff done right off the bat like painting the walls and sewing curtains with my mom, the rest of the room evolved slowly with a lot of trial and error. But, eleven months later, we have a room that looks like this.

I kind of love it. It’s fun and bright and full of life, but still sophisticated enough for grownups. The bones of the room are neutral, (making it easy to swap rooms in the future should the need arise) but there are lots and lots of fun girly touches to make it appropriate for our little sweet pea. So let’s talk inspiration. I knew that I wanted a gray and white room with splashes of bright color. I was heavily inspired (can one be heavily inspired?) by this nursery from View Along the Way. I loved those patterned curtains and pops of color in an otherwise quiet and calming room. I also loved that chandelier, but unfortunately this room has no overhead lighting, nor does it have tall enough ceilings. Oh well.

Back when this room was a guest room, I painted the wall that the little butterflies are on three times – from white to lavender to a soft gray. (Valspar’s Urban Sunrise) It’s a beautiful gray, but like most grays it can be tricky, the color changes throughout the day and depending on what tones you pair it with. Then we painted the wall that the bright curtains are on in the same gray. And by we, I mean our friend Zachary painted it one sunny day in October when he was on break from college. Thanks Zachary! I took that opportunity to re spackle and sand some gouges on that wall that had been bugging me for a couple of years. While those walls will never be smooth unless skim coated, they’re much better than they were. Also, can we just stop for a minute and admire that beautiful bedroom door? With the tarnished brass doorknob. Glorious.The upstairs doors are one of my favorite things in the house. Okay. Back to the subject du jour. We had initially planned on just doing a floor bed for Keilana once she outgrew the swing, like we did for Javi. Keilana, however, thought that was a terrible and terrifying idea and lobbied hard for a crib to call her own. And we complied. You’re welcome, baby girl. It’s the Hensvik crib in white from IKEA, and so far we love it. It’s solid and beautiful and KK loves it too. I often come in to get her from her naps and find her with both legs through the bars, swinging away without a care in the world.

I tried a million and one things on that wall above the floor bed, and ultimately decided on these little paper butterfly cutouts in colors that show up in the curtains around the room. I may come up with a better idea at some point, but for now it gives that wall a little interest for very little moolah.

So one of my favorite ways to decorate a room is to find an inspiration fabric that I base all my other decisions off of. I knew I wanted a bright, colorful fabric that made this light filled room very cheery for the curtains. One day, when I was great with child, I made the trek to JoAnn fabrics (my least favorite store. truly.) and spent a good long while examining every fabric they had on the rack. Lover is my witness. We both liked this fabric, called Spring is in the Air, or something like that. I purchased five yards of it that day, and my mom helped me sew it into full, happy curtains for this one window. Then, a few weeks later, I went back to that accursed place to buy more for the other two windows, the little desk area, a few throw pillows and the back of the quilt that my mom was making for Keilana. And – there was no more of it. Whomp whomp. So I had bright and happy curtains, on ONE window, and could not for the life of me find a fabric that coordinated for the other stuff in the room. Argh. I’ll get back to that story in a minute.

Hanging in the corner next to the closet is a little birdcage I purchased at the Christmas Tree shops. My thought was to put little lights inside to make this a nightlight, but that turned out to be very distracting for Sweet Pea. So instead I was on the lookout for a fun little bird, and I found this orange beauty and his purple brother at a Goodwill in Schaumberg, IL. As far as I can tell they are Talavera pottery birds from Mexico. My mom brought back a very similar one for my grandma years ago when she took a missions trip there, and I’ve always loved that bird. So I was very excited to find my very own, albeit in Illinois! I found the chunky white curtain rod at a garage sale last summer for five dollars. Not too shabby!

That big white basket was a mislabeled Goodwill find (here in Rochester) that I only paid four dollars for. It’s awesomely huge and holds all of KK’s blankets. That Goodwill trip was one of those awesome thrifting adventures where you find absolute gold for pennies. My favorite kind of trip. The pink and white blanket was crocheted by my aunt for Keilana, and it’s beautiful. All of the blankets that my kids have, with the exception of three flannel blankets that I made when I was pregnant with Javi, have been gifts from someone. So sweet.

Let’s pop over to the other side of the room now.  I knew I wanted to do an eclectic little collection of frames and such on this wall from the beginning. Again, trial and error. I think I hung things three or four times, editing and switching and waiting for inspiration until I settled on this. Here’s a closer look.

It’s fun and girly, right? Also, apparently it was four o clock when I took these photos. Good to know. The canvas in the top left was one of the first things I made for this room. One evening, while I was nursing Keilana and rocking her to sleep, she was having a terrible bout of reflux and was fighting me something fierce. This Shakespeare quote came to mind “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” She had such a terrible time with silent reflux, but she is one of the most determined little babies I have ever seen. It took months to really kick the reflux, but once she did, girlfriend has been thriving. :0) So, the canvas. I painted it pink, traced the quote on and filled it in with silver sharpie, and dipped a pencil eraser in different paints to make the dots. Easy peasy.

The little rocking horse was mine as a kid, a craft that my mom and I did together. It used to be green, white and red, but I repainted into an “Appaloosa” when I was about ten. I found it up in a box in the attic when I was purging, and it goes perfectly here. The clock is from Target, just a pretty silver one they had for about six dollars I think.

My friend jen and I went thrifting when we visited her back in February, which is where I found the little butterflies. They were that brassy look that was so popular in the seventies? Sixties? But a little silver spray paint fixed that. And that awesome frame? Also from my epic trip where I found the big white basket and some other gems. You might be thinking that I painted those watercolor roses. And you’re… wrong! This was one of the cool things we found in the house, up in the attic. Apparently it was an art project and Michael got an A+ for his efforts! The painting was quite a bit bigger, but this was my favorite part, so I cut it up and framed this part. The frame is ridiculously heavy, so it’s held up on the wall with four screws thru some of those scrolly bits. Oh, and I’d really like to replace that light with something that works better in the room, but I’m holding out for something that I really love since this one is just fine, and SOO much better than the original monstrosity that we replaced when we made this room a guest room.

When you walk into the room, this is what you see; the closet/builtin dresser/window seat/desk area. That whole long wall is just one huge builtin. I love the function of it, but it does make placement of everything else in the room a little tricky. But – it’s great for storage! Let’s talk about the dresser first. Back in the day, this whole area was honey stained pine. I painted everything white except for the drawers which were black when we first redid the room. I loved the contrast.  But the black wasn’t working for a little girl’s room, so I repainted the drawers in the same gray as the walls, with one caveat. Our downstairs bathroom is the same color, but in a very durable kitchen and bath paint. I used that paint on these drawers, knowing they get a lot of wear and tear. I painted these about 10 months ago, and they’re holding up great.

The white painted top needs… something to keep everything from marking it up. I need to do some research on a protective top coat. Or maybe just keep repainting it every year or so. Anyways, the drawers are nice and deep, and hold lots of adorable baby clothes. I lined the drawers with some drawer liner paper that I found at Goodwill. Are you sensing a theme? I love Goodwill. The paper is lightly scented and I love the luxurious feel of lined drawers! :) I need to do my own!

So above the dresser there used to be two panels, one on either side of a large mirror, that were carpeted. Yes carpeted. We removed the carpet and painted the drywall behind it black for the guest room. But I knew I wanted something nicer this time, and so we tried to fill those spots in with wood. Long story short, that didn’t work out, and in the process we broke the mirror that was there. So – plan B, I covered the whole little nook in a white and silver wrapping paper and hung some little mirrors from the Christmas Tree Shops and some teal butterflies I bought at JoAnns (on one of my trips back there looking for more fabric).  The paper is just stuck up with scotch tape while I decide whether or not I like it. (I think I do, so I need to ModPodge it on permanently) I have a few more ideas for this little spot above the dresser, and I am watching for a much bigger, much more awesome mirror. I’ll know it when I find it. I painted that little pink basket (it was just an old one I had in the attic, and it holds all the random crap that always ends up in babies’ rooms. :) It’s nice to have a place to put everything.

The little turquoise basket on the left is thrifted, and full of tiny hats and shoes. I’ve always loved baby shoes, but tiny baby girl shoes? Oh.Em.Gee. LOVE. Peanut has had the same sized feet for eleven months now, so she’s barely been able to wear any of her adorable shoes. But, her feet are finally growing, so we’ve been debuting some of her other cuteness. Also? Peanut has serious opinions (at one year minus three days) on WHICH shoes she wants to wear at any given time. I feel unprepared for the ensuing years. :)

This blue vase was also in the guest room, but the pink flowers make it fit in. This little lion rattle is a current favorite of Keilana’s, she goes to sleep with it for almost every nap and bedtime. It’s the perfect size for her little hands, and was a sweet gift from our friends in Spain. From this angle you can see that the builtin lights over the dresser jut out almost as deep as the dresser itself. I have a few ideas to make that whole piece look prettier and more intentional and they *may* involve brackets. :) Don’t tell Lover.

Next up? Changing table and the door to the attic. This used to be a builtin desk (there was also one in Javi’s room) but the desktop was the perfect size for a changing pad, and those shelves were put to use for jewelry, headbands and butt cream. :) The K’s were a happy accident, KK is what we call Keilana on a regular basis, and I had planned to put one K up here and another on the little gallery wall, but then when I saw them together I realized they were perfect. :) They were purple, so I modpodged pink glitter paper onto them. The little animals are her favorite thing to play with and give kisses to during her many diaper changes, and the silver bucket (from Target’s Dollar spot a few years ago) holds headbands. She will often ask to wear one, and then looks at herself in the mirror and claps. Such a little princess.

When the previous owners redid this room, they apparently removed a wall that blocked off this whole little area, along with the door that accessed the attic. They moved the door perpendicular to where it had been, and painted it black. I painted it white a few months ago, and that and the mirror right there next to the window bounce so much light around this room. I love how bright and happy her room is. The only irony is that she still sleeps so much that the shades are usually drawn in here to make it darker! You can also see that I made (in Nester fashion, i.e. with safety pins) a skirt for the desk to hide dirty laundry, outgrown clothes, garbage and, in this picture, the diaper pail. Oh! And you can also see the rugs we used, they are the old version of the Laborg rug from IKEA. We used two for the floor space in here. I need to find a better way of keeping them from slipping all over the floor though!

OK, to the left of the dresser we have the window seat and the closet. When this was a guest room I made a cushion for this seat and the one in our room. But my toddler’s favorite thing to do was always pull those down and throw them on the floor, so I gave that up as a lost cause for the time being. The curtains were reused from the office turned nursery, and the pelmets are made from this tutorial. It’s SO easy, you buy foam board, cut it to size, wrap it in fabric attached whichever way you want, and hang. Half an hour tops for each one. The fabric.  Oh the fabric. I told you that when I went back to JoAnn’s I couldnt find more of that fabric. I asked at Customer Service and they told me “It’s out of stock. We have no plans to restock it. And there are no stores within a hundred miles that have any left.” To say I was annoyed would be an understatement. I brought home no less than three other fabric trying to find something to coordinate. Each one of them was truly awful. I was desolate and may or may not have cried tears of frustration. In the end, Lover came to my rescue and found me this Michael Miller Park fabric at and saved the day. The colors are all in the same color family, and it even brings in the turquoise and purple that I wanted to incorporate. It goes really well, and because it is on an opposite wall, everything meshes without being matchy matchy. #winning

The closet is full of adorable dresses. And, can I say that, while dressing a girl is significantly more challenging than dressing a boy, the variety and cuteness of a girl’s wardrobe just kills me. Love it. If she wasn’t crawling through the mud and the muck every day this summer, I’d have her in dresses all the time. :-)

I knew all along that I wanted a pretty decent sized canavas on one wall that I would paint for Keilana. One of my deepest desires for her is that she grows up with a strong body image, that she feels and knows she is beautiful, and that she is not swayed by society’s twisted ideals of what a woman should look like. She is beautiful and she is beautiful to me. So I sing it to her at night, and I put it above her bed, in the hopes that she will grow up believing it.

I pulled the colors from the curtains, and copied some of the flowers to tie it all together. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, especially that blue flower. It’s my favorite. This was the painting I talked about back in this post! It took forever but it looks great now, and it goes so well with the rest of the room. And that’s it! The whole room! It’s taken a while but I’m really happy with how it has all come together in the end. We love our baby girl, and hopefully she’ll love her happy little room for years to come. :)



Posted in decorating, guest room, house tour | 2 Comments

Friday Favs Vol. 21


Favorite Moment of the Week: We hit up some garage sales on Friday morning. At one of them I found a vintage Fisher Price house, complete with tractor and little people. Javi was completely enamored with it and played with it in his car seat throughout the morning. At one point he got stuck and couldn’t get the tractor out. He yelled out “Mommy, I need help!” I replied, “I’m driving right now Javi, I can’t help you. You can do it. Use your brain.” He paused to deliberate this for a long moment, and then replied “Mommy, I need a BRAIN!”

What Javi is doing: Finally, taking an interest in coloring. Sadly, this interest only applies to any surface EXCEPT paper. Using all sorts of new words and complex sentences. Continuing to mix up pronouns hilariously  – he routinely says “Mommy, I want to carry you!”

What Keilana is doing: Peanut started walking holding onto our hands this week! She also points to everything she wants and has a hysterical growl. She loves playing with the little stuffed animals during diaper changes, and pitches a fit if Daddy forgets to give her a good night kiss!

And some fun internet traveling:

* Some beautiful pictures of motherhood, showing just how little has changed over the last five decades.

* 20 encouraging scriptures for moms. Yes, please.

*We made this Grilled Marinated Chicken with Mom’s Barley Salad a few weeks ago, and I could NOT stop eating it. I’ve been obsessing over making it again. Can’t wait!

That’s all for now. Have a lovely weekend!



Posted in friday favs, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adding a HVAC vent in the Dining Room

OK, so this project is not terribly interesting. But I like to document the things we do to improve Wendhurst, and sometimes that is adding beauty, and sometimes that is adding function. This would fall under function.

Our dining room has not had a heat vent since we bought the house. It has a cold air return, but no heat. And although the kitchen directly adjacent does have a vent, it is blocked by the chimney that runs right through the middle of the house, thereby directing all the heat into the kitchen and none into the frigid dining room. And we live in Upstate NY, the land of freezing cold winters, and we frequently entertain. In the dining room. And it was cold. So yeah, this was kind of a necessary improvement.

Now the interesting thing to note here, is that this room previously had heat. How do we know this? Well there was a patched part of the floor, and a patched part of the duct directly beneath said floor. So we knew this would, potentially, be a very straightforward project. I say that with some trepidation, because all projects have the ability to morph into something insanely complex and frustrating. But (spoiler alert) this one was easy!

Basically, our process was as follows: measure the length of ducting we would need, and figure out how many elbows we would need as well (one). Make a trip to Home Depot to purchase said ducting, elbow, joint that would attach to the main duct and a heater vent.

Once home, remove the wood panel in the dining room, and cut out a hole that would fit a heating vent with a drill and a reciprocating saw. (A jigsaw would have been easier, but we don’t have one) Replace wood panel in floor, now with a hole. Then cuddle with the babies on the bed in the basement (thereby keeping them safe) while Lover assembles the ducting and attaches it. Marvel at the fact that this man can do anything he sets his mind to. Take a picture.

Install the vent in the floor in the dining room. By install, I mean, drop into place and make sure it lines up with the ducting beneath.

Hit the new ducting with a quick coat of white spray paint so that it blends in a bit with the painted basement ceiling. Make a mental note to add more coats of paint in the summer when we will not die of fumes. (Get on that Jenny!)

Breathe a sigh of relief, enjoy your toasty warm dining room, and invite guests over without fear of them contracting pneumonia while they eat. Blog about it. Easy peasy.

And yes, we did this project before we bought the new buffet. And I am just getting around to blogging about it. You’re welcome.




Posted in dining room, DIY | Leave a comment

The Van that Led to the Buffet that Led to the Shopping Spree…

So we found the perfect buffet for the dining room. Wait, let me back up. In February, in the dead of winter, when we thought the longest winter would never, ever, EVER end, we started browsing Craigslist looking for vans. We’ve debated owning a van for years, basically since owning Wendhurst Castle. Our constant DIY projects, and occasional large furniture purchases were always unecessarily complicated by the annoying “but how do we get it home?” question. And then we would have the endless debate – do we ask again to borrow a friend’s large vehicle? Rent a truck? Tie it precariously to the top of the Saturn?

Anyways, since no one else was willing to brave to cold to look at this van, we got a killer deal on a used Grand Caravan. And although I still hate a little the fact that I drive a van, since February we have driven over 4,500 miles, hauled home mattresses, dressers, a couch, plywood, countless 2x4s, a 20ft ladder, borrowed folding tables… In summary, we are getting every  penny’s worth out of our van.

OK, back on subject. One sunny, and cold day in April, I was browsing Craigslist, and saw this beauty.

We’ve gone back and forth for years on what would work best for this skinny little part of the dining room. It needed to have lots of storage and an ample top (that’s what he said) that would be used for all our entertaining. I wanted something that wouldn’t require a ton of work, since my life is not terribly conducive to taking on new projects these days. Not that I’m usually stopped by that reality, but on this particular day, I was slightly saner.

Anyways, I showed Lover, he loved it too, and at $125, the price was right. I emailed, and a very nice guy named Adam called me back almost immediately. He said we could come see it whenever. Then I was struck by what I’ve deemed “Craigslist Panic” Have you ever experienced it? It’s when you’ve found something so awesome that you must immediately go to purchase it, driven by the fear that someone else will beat you to it. So we loaded the kids in the van, and hightailed our way out to Hilton.

Luckily, no one else beat us out there, and the very friendly Adam told us that he had received this dresser from his in-laws who, apparently, live to makeover furniture found on the side of the road. Sadly for them, this dresser didn’t fit in either of their houses. Happily for me, he was willing to sell it to us! I asked him if he was flexible on the price (knowing that I’d pay full price if he wasn’t) I offered $120 and he agreed, and then proceeded to help Lover load it in the van.

When I went to pay him, he said, oh what the heck, how about just $115? Why sure, I’ll pay you less! :) Oh, and by the way, the base is painted with Miss Mustard Seed chalk paint, how great is that? The color is fantastic. Anyways, we paid him, grabbed the kids and made our way out to our very full van. As we loaded the kids in their carseats he came out to us again and said “I’m a terrible negotiator. Here’s another $5 back” :) So for $110 this practically perfect dresser was ours.

There are so many little details on here that I love. There is so much character! How darling are those little rosettes? The handles are spraypainted and are wearing off pretty quickly on the drawers we use a lot, so at some point they’ll need to be redone. Hurray for more spraypainting! :)

Anyways, it works much better storage and size wise than the little dresser we had there before. And it looks a lot better in the background of pictures too.

Oh and the drawers! HaveI mentioned how much I love drawers?? It has EIGHT drawers. #itsabeautifulthing And two of them are completely empty, and two others are not even half full. Sounds like this girl needs to go shopping! :) How lucky for me that I am writing this from New York City, shopping mecca of the world?? Homegoods, here I come!



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A Facelift (no not for me)

You know what’s really encouraging? To dig back through the pictures of our house circa 2009. It’s so easy to focus on all of the current projects and future plans for this little castle, and forget just how far it has come in just a few short years. A perfect example of what I am saying is our garage. Our property is long and narrow, with a little two car garage situated at the back right corner of the property. Our driveway is about 200 feet long from the curb to the garage doors.

Because of this fact, and the fact that we live in the Land of Snow, we don’t use the garage to park our cars. We tried that the first winter we lived here. After hours (literally!) of shoveling we realized the error of our ways and from that day forward we have always parked up by the house. The garage houses all of our outdoor stuff in the right bay, and there is a workshop in the left bay.  When we purchased the house, the garage was in pretty sad condition. Peeling paint, untreated paneling, missing windows. Yuck.

In this picture, in which you can also see my dad and youngest brother hard at work tearing out yet another strange garden bed, you can see that apparently  we parked the car in there at least once. If I remember correctly, my Intrepid fit in that garage by the skin of its chinny chin chin, and we abandoned the idea shortly thereafter.

Also! You can see the old front door propped up against the fence. So glad we replaced that door asap. That was a great project too.

So the first project was safety, i.e. replacing the broken window panes. The broken windows sure did come in handy if you forgot the garage door opener though. For the longest time (six months? a year?) we kept a stick leaning up against the garage and used that to reach in through the broken window to hit the garage door button. Truly. We were those rednecks.

I love that the garage has these big windows. It adds some interest to the big old panels. No, it may not be the safest, but I’ll take less safety over ugly blank doors any day. So, the window panes were replaced.

Now to do something about those ugly paint colors. What was it with these people and that horrid shade of orange, anyway? Prepare yourself for the power of paint. Ready?  Ta da! We went with the same trim color as on the house, and the same bright, happy yellow that graces the back deck and entryway on the house. I love it. Also, not pictured, we replaced the lower right hand side of the left bay with new paneling, since it was rotting away into nothingness. Some of the trim is still in pretty rough shape, but it’s looking so much better now with a few coats of paint.

Also, please pardon the pile of garden junk in these pictures. I guess I was too lazy to sweep that up? I think I was pregnant when I took these pictures last summer. Yeah, I’m sure that’s what it was. :) Anyways, the view from my kitchen window has improved substantially, thanks to a couple gallons of paint, two window panes and some new rot-free paneling. So.Much.Better.

But, lest you think that we are super people who have finished every possible project in this house, here’s the side of the garage that faces the neighbors.

That’s gonna need a lot more paint. :)


Posted in 2014, before and after, garage | Leave a comment

Spiffing up the Kitchen

Someday, we will totally renovate the kitchen. I think :) But that day is off in the very distant future, so in the meantime we’ve done some very affordable changes to improve the look and feel of the kitchen. I mean, we use this room many, many times a day, and its a hardworking part of our house. So it’s worth the money to make the room a little more aesthetically pleasing, fresh and comfortable in the meantime.

I tend to want to wait to share rooms until they are 100% done. Which means that I dont really share them, because I struggle with saying that a room is done. Even once we’ve fixed things up, painted, brought in furniture, etc, there are always things that I want to tweak, fix up, improve, etc. One of my favorite blogs is the The Nesting Place, and her mantra of “It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful” has really been speaking to me lately. So in the spirit of un-perfection, here’s what our kitchen looks like today. :)

Just kidding. That’s what it looked like when we bought the house. It’s so…woodsy, right? I’ve been slowly painting the cabinets, starting with all of the lower cabinets. My goal is to just get them painted, so I haven’t worried about using super duper durable paints. I’ve just used what I have on hand – Kilz Primer and some white semi gloss paint. They look a million times better, in my personal opinion.

A few weekends ago, we replaced the cracked, peeling and very, very stained linoleum floor in here. We found stick on vinyl tiles that were made in long strips to look a bit like hardwood floors. We banged out removing the old floor, cleaning and patching the linoleum underneath and laying the new floor in a weekend. I was so proud of us. Now we’re working on new baseboards, which, although only primed so far, are a significant improvement over the industrial vinyl “baseboards” that were there before.

Stick-on tiles aren’t the most durable long term solution, but I love how much they improved this room in the short term. And I love that Keilana (and Javi) can crawl around on a nice, clean, pretty floor. Hello beautiful!

I’ve painted all the trim in here, and its made a big difference. We also had that big window replaced last summer, which is some of the best money we’ve ever spent. Having a window that does not leak and opens completely, with a screen? Now that’s luxury living. :)

So obviously, next up is painting the upper cabinets. I’m excited to get that done, as it seems like each time that something gets painted, this room gets brighter and nicer. Still, even with only half the cabinets painted, I’m loving how much better everything looks.

We replaced the faucet last summer. It is the height of luxury: it’s high enough to fit big pots under, pulls out to fill up things on the counter or rinse out the sink, and has a sprayer which I just discovered works wonders for cleaning chunks of food off of little baby bibs. I love it. And yes, those are snowflake Christmas lights still hanging in the window. ;)

There isn’t a ton of counter space on this side of the kitchen, which is why I love the glass cooktop. It allows us just a little bit more space for cutting and prepping and chopping. Plus, it is hands down one of my favorite things to clean. I know, I’m weird. :)

This corner is quite cluttered right now. It’s a hardworking part of the kitchen (although just about every corner is in this little kitchen) but it’s also up out of reach of the kids, so those shelves and the top of the fridge get loaded with things that need to stay out of the reach of little fingers.

Most of our dry goods hang out on these shelves, along with the radio, some miscellaneous stuff, cook books, the sugary treats basket and a box of cereal that doesn’t fit in the cabinet. Randomness. :) I’ll address that all at some point. I think someday we are going to fill this wall with builtin shelves to maximize the storage on this side.

That crown molding is going to be a pain to paint. I actually asked Lover if it made sense to take it all down, and put up prepainted new crown. He assured me that it didn’t. :) Someday we want to take out that tall cabinet, and the chimney that runs behind it, and widen that doorway to almost twice the size. That will hopefully help with the bottleneck that a 24inch doorway into the kitchen always creates.

So that’s where we are with the kitchen. A new window and faucet, some clean, uncracked floors, and a lot of white paint. It’s a significant improvement, wouldn’t you agree?


Posted in 2014, kitchen | 1 Comment

This cake is the bomb {Tiramisu Layer Cake}

Do people still say “the bomb” anymore? Probably not. Oh well, I’ve never been trendy, and it’s too late to start now! :) Perhaps this week, as you plan out what you will do for Easter, you are thinking about what to serve for dessert. And if you are, let me humbly suggest this masterpiece of a cake.  I found it on, where I’ve found most of my favorite recipes by searching through their five star ratings.

I first made this delight a few years ago for Mother’s Day, when tasked to bring “an amazing dessert”. This cake delivered. My mother-in-law talked about it for months afterwards!

This cake has all of the elements to be a blockbuster success: mascarpone cheese, coffee, Kahlua, heavy cream, more Kahlua… so very, very good. :)

I’m not a food blogger, so I didn’t do that cool step-by-step picture thing. I’ve tried that before, but I always forget after step 6 or 7, throw it all together, and then barely remember to take a photo of the final product. So. Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients: (don’t be scared by the long list. A lot of the items are repeated. Also? This is one of the recipes where you shouldn’t skimp or substitute. Go with the good stuff.)

1 (18.25 ounce) package moist white cake
1 tsp. instant coffee powder
1/4 c. brewed coffee (I use French vanilla coffee for this and it’s divine.)
1 Tbsp. Kahlua

1 (8oz) container of mascarpone cheese
1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 Tbsp. Kahlua

2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 Tbsp. Kahlua

2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 (1 oz)square of semi sweetened chocolate.


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9 inch cake pans.
  2. Prepare your cake mix according to the directions. Divide 2/3 of the batter between 2 pans, and then stir the instant coffee into the remaining batter. Pour into last pan.
  3. Bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack until completely cool. Combine your brewed coffee and 1 Tbsp of the Kahlua, set aside.
  4. For the filling: In a small bowl, with mixer on low, combine mascarpone, 1/2 c. confec. sugar and 2 Tbsp. of Kahlua; beat just until it gets smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  5. For the Frosting: In a medium bowl, beat cream, 1/4 c. of confec. sugar and 2 Tbsp of Kahlua with mixer on med-high until stiff. This will take about 10 minutes. Fold 1/2 cup of this cream mixture into the filling.
  6. To assemble: Place one plain layer cake on a plate. Poke holes in cake with a skewer, about an inch apart. Pour one third of the reserved coffee mixture over cake, then spread with half the filling mixture. Top with coffee flavored cake, repeat holes and pour another third of the coffee mixture over this layer. Spread with remaining filling. Top with remaining cake layer, poke holes, pour rest of coffee mixture over the top. Spread top and sides of cake with frosting. Place cocoa in a sieve and lightly dust the top of the cake. Shave chocolate square into curls and garnish top of cake. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

I know it seems like a lot of work. It will take a while, but if you make the filling and the frosting while the cakes are baking, it really cuts down on the length of time. And because you can’t taste something through a computer screen, you’ll just have to trust me that it’s that good. Worth the time and the extra ingredients. I am now considering making this on Saturday for our family brunch. :)



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