House Fixing


Papers Papers Everywhere!

I need to get organized!  Before Emily was born I started trying to get everything in order.  Unfortunately, I bit off more than I could chew – nesting gone wild!  I pulled out so much stuff, convinced I could get through it all and purge our house of every unnecessary item.  That great plan combine with Emily’s decision to come into this world a week early was a recipe for chaos…and I have been living in that chaos for 10 months now (yes, Emily is 10 months old today!).  Needless to say, it is driving me crazy!  The problem is my husband and I are both savers.  That combined with no time makes for a lot of mess.  I can’t even bring myself to show you what our home office has become.  We are in desperate need of purging and reorganization!  So I need an action plan (aka a list because I love lists and they make me feel better and in control).

I have very little spare time and my husband has even less with the demands of his job.  Every once in a while I have visions of getting a burst of energy and going on a cleaning rampage.  That never really happens, but just in case it does one of these days I asked my husband if there is any system to his piles of papers that cover every surface in our office (including the floor).  Sometimes there is organization within the chaos, and I don’t want to throw off his whole system.  So just in case my fantasy of a cleaning rampage comes to fruition, I wanted to see what the consequences would be if I cleaned up all of his mess in addition to mine.  I think I got a tentative nod from him that it would be okay.

Okay, back to the action plan.  Here is what we are dealing with: papers that need to be filed (I have gotten as far as creating a super organized filing system), papers that need to be recycled, papers that need to be shredded, old magazines, old newspapers, my craft supplies, and lots of random stuff.  The problem is the amount of time it takes to go through all of this stuff and determine what should be kept and what should be trashed.  To make it manageable, I think I need to break it up into small goals instead of waiting for my burst of energy (which lets face it, will never come because I am a crazy sleep-deprived mom who can’t drink coffee because then my baby gets wired from the breast milk).  Enough rambling.  Decision made (drumroll)…Quadrants!  I am going to separate the room into quadrants and focus on one quadrant at a time.  In addition, I will put all of my magazines together and go through them while I watch television at night (multitasking, what?!).


So here is the action plan/list:

  • Quadrant one: my area of the office
  • Quadrant two: the wall of storage
  • Quadrant three: the seating area
  • Quadrant four: my husband’s desk area
  • First clear off my crafting/sewing table (this will provide a work area to sort papers)
  • Get a bag for recycling and the shredder ready
  • Put away all crafting supplies
  • Sort papers into filing piles and recycle/shred any unnecessary stuff
  • Start a list of any organizational supplies we need to get for things that don’t have  a place yet.
  • File papers after each quadrant has been sorted.

We’ll see what I am left with after I tackle this list.  Fingers crossed that I can make some progress and bring sanity back to our home office.

Category : House Fixing | Miscellaneous | Blog

Let’s see what we have accomplished

  • Clear out all of our junk from the baby’s room – this is no small task.  I’m not sure how, but somehow we have managed to fill our entire house with stuff in 2 years.  We have 3 bedrooms upstairs in our house.  The plan is to make one a nursery and one a play room for now.  That means cleaning out 2 rooms!  Yikes!

So far we have the baby’s room cleared out and about half of the play room.

Tan Room

  • Tear out old closet system.  The old shelving in the closet was pretty dirty from the previous owners (we’re talking melted jolly rancher candy dirty), so it has to go.
  • Patch and paint the closet.
  • Put in new closet system (to hang all the super-cute baby clothes).

My husband worked very hard tearing out the existing closet shelves, sanding down the walls and painting them before we had the new closet system installed.  Here is the closet with the shelves torn out before sanding and painting:

Baby Closet Torn Down

And here is the new and drastically improved closet:

Finished Closet

The double hanging bars, drawers, and shelving have made the closet so much more efficient than before.  Plenty or space now for all the cute baby clothes.

  • Patch and Paint the ceiling and walls

Going Blue


  • Remove old ceiling fan and put up new ceiling fan.  Not all of the lights work on the old fan, plus it is pretty ugly – so out with the old and in with the new!  We decided to go with another ceiling fan because air circulation is supposed to help with SIDS when the baby is sleeping.

Out with the old…

Old Ceiling Fan

In with the new…

New Ceiling Fan

  • Get a dresser/changing table and crib.

Done.  We got a dresser/changing table used on craigslist and put a fresh coat of paint on them and bought the crib on

  • Build the crib.


  • Get an area rug.

Done.  Got a cotton rug on  I wanted to stick with natural materials for rugs to try to avoid off-gassing of chemicals.

  • Decorate walls with decals and artwork.

I wanted to add a personal touch to the room with some homemade art for the wall.  I went to Michael’s and picked out paper with different patterns and textures that would go with my color scheme, and I picked out a shadow box frame (super cheap thanks to those reliable weekly 40% off coupons).  Then I went to work with my scissors…

Owl Art Parts

Next I put the pieces together.

Daddy Owl

Sticking with the owl theme.  I wanted a family of owls to represent our new family so I added 2 more owls and branch.

Owl Family

And here it is in the baby’s room framed in the shadow box…

Owl Family in Shadow Box

Little did I know at the time that my brother-in-law was crafting a similar idea.  He used torn paper to create an amazing owl for the baby’s room.

Eric's Owl

I also knew I wanted to do some sort of wall decal for the room.  I found the perfect decal here: Trendy Peas

The decal came in several pieces and was super easy to put up:

First I cut the paper up into smaller pieces to make it more manageable to peal each piece off.

Wall Decal Step 1

Next I put up the tree:

Wall Decal Step 2Wall Decal Step 3

Then came the owls:

Wall Decal Step 4

And finally the leaves:

Wall Decal Step 5

  • Put up curtains.

The curtains are how the whole owl theme got started.  I fell in love with this super cute fabric and the owl theme was born.  I sewed the owl fabric with a panel of green at the bottom and green pompoms going between the two panels to make the curtains.

Curtain pompoms

And with that the room is complete.  So here it is again…Before

Tan Room


finished room

You may be wondering about the rose colored chair in the corner that does not fit in with the theme at all.  This was my grandmother’s chair that I got when she passed away, so for sentimental reasons I wanted to put it in the baby’s room.  I have thought about making a new cover for it, but the task intimidates me and there are other things that are higher on the priority list.  So it is staying the way it is for now.

Some details for your viewing pleasure…

Changing Table

Owl Knobs

Owls and Birds


I really wanted to get a bookcase for the room where the books face forward because it not only looks nice, but it allows children to really see the books and pick out what they want to read (or pull them all off the shelf one by one as has been done by several one-year-olds who have visited).  I got this one on

Category : Baby | Design | House Fixing | Blog

Making Progress

With only 1 month to go until our little baby arrives, we are feeling the pressure to get everything ready.

We have finished painting the room, and it so bright and cheerful now compared to what it was (dark tan).

Tan Room

Going Blue

We also had the new ceiling fan installed – nice improvement.

Old Ceiling Fan


New Ceiling Fan


You can also see the green color we painted on the ceiling in this picture.

While my husband has been busy painting, I have been refinishing the dresser knobs that came with the used dresser and bed stand that we bought.  Going with the owl theme, I found this stamp at Paper Source that I just couldn’t resist.  By the way, the problem with going with a popular theme is that there are a lot of things you can’t resist and your theme gets out of control very quickly.  Anyways, here is the stamp:

owl stamp

First I painted the knobs white (it took several coats to cover the original design). Then I stamped them with a permanent black ink and colored them in with stamp markers.  Finally, my husband sprayed them with a shiny clear lacquer.

Owl vs Original

Owl Stamp Knob

Finished Owl Knobs

Category : Baby | Design | House Fixing | Blog

Going with the Obvious…

I am not a good exerciser.  I prefer activities that involve sitting still – reading, quilting, painting…but I also know that staying active is important after 2 rounds of physical therapy for problems that have developed from sitting all day at work.  When the weather was nice, I walked about 1.5 miles a day, but that ended in November.  I definitely know that a gym membership is wasted money because I will never go.  Besides the fact that the sole purpose of going is to exercise, it just isn’t my scene to do that around lots of other people.  The best is when you get the guy lifting weights and letting out a huge grunt every time – entertaining, but also annoying. So we finally made the decision to take some extra space in our house and make a home gym.  It seems extravagant, but actually didn’t cost much more than a gym membership and will save money over time.

So here is the progress of the room…

When we first started, there were several electrical outlets in the room, but none of them worked (scary), and there was no light, so we had to bring light in with extension cords and a halogen work light.

This is what we started with.

Exercise Room 1

There was a closet on one side of the room that we decided to get rid of because it just took up too much space in the room.

Exercise Room 2

Progress on the closet…

Exercise Room 3

No more closet…

Exercise Room 4

The next steps were patching and priming the walls and the ceiling (I hate painting ceilings – nothing is worse for your back and your neck!).

Exercise Room 5

We chose a medium gray color to paint the walls (gray just felt right for a gym, although a cheerful bright color like yellow would have been fun too).

Exercise Room 6

Next we had to deal with the horrible concrete floors that you can see in some of the pictures above.  We decided to go with “Gorilla Mats” which are thick rubber mats used in animal stalls.  Each 4×6 foot mat weighed 100 pounds!  They were delivered on a pallet to our house, and carrying them in was lots of fun – although I can’t complain because my husband and brother-in-law did that part.  So the next step before the mats was putting down a vapor barrier.

Exercise Room 7

Then came the fun part of cutting the mats to fit.  Let’s just say that there were pieces of rubber everywhere and the smell was terrible!  Never Again!

Exercise Room 8

The whole process was a workout in and of itself, but we are so happy with the finished room!  It was a great way to utilize a dark and dingy space.  Speaking of dark, we had an electrician come in and fix the wiring so the outlets work (and now there aren’t loose wires in our walls), and we have recessed lighting in the ceiling.

Exercise Room 9

This is where the closet used to be.  We even had the electrician add an outlet high up on the wall for the tv.  It feels so over the top, but totally worth it.

Exercise Room 10

Now we just have to start using it.

Category : House Fixing | Blog


ikea instructions

We didn’t have a huge budget for furnishing our guest room, so it was off to Ikea.  We got really lucky with sales and scored a queen sized Malm bed for $100 (instead of $200).

Malm Bed

The existing closet in the guest room took up about a third of the entire room, and the doors were made from 2 sheets of very heavy plywood hung on a track.  It was almost impossible to slide the doors open and shut and the room was already very small, so the closet had to go.  But our guests would still need somewhere to hang their clothes.  Thus our second trip to a great Ikea sale.  This time we were able to get a wardrobe for $50 instead of $100.

Ikea Wardrobe

We didn’t like the original gray, plastic handles that came with the wardrobe, so we went to the hardware section of Ikea and picked out new brushed silver, metal handles to upgrade the overall look of the piece.

Ikea Wardrobe Pieces

Wardrobe Handles

We wanted to get to bedside tables, but found most options to be really expensive.  We wanted something unique and didn’t want the whole room to look like an Ikea show room.  That was when we returned to one of our favorite websites for unique, old pieces of furniture – Loft3f. He is based in Lynchburg, Virginia and occasionally makes deliveries up to DC.  We were in luck!  He had 2 chairs that would make great bedside tables:

Bedside Table Chairs

So now the guest room is furnished…

Guest Bed and Tables

Next comes the decorating!

Category : Design | House Fixing | Blog

Oh the Memories

Our Home on Day 1

We closed one year ago today on our house.  Thinking back over the past year several things come to mind.  The first memory that pops into my mind is the day after we finally closed on our house (Christmas Eve).  Because we ended up closing so late on the 23rd of December and many feet of snow prevented easy access to the house, we waited until the next day to enter the house as new home owners. I remember walking (or traipsing through snow) up to the front door, key in hand, turning the key in the lock and stepping into our home.  After everything we had been through to get this house, I felt like we were sneaking into the house.  It didn’t seem real that we should be allowed to just walk into this house without the supervision of our realtor.  The next thing I remember is walking around the house in disbelief.  Could this be real?  Did we really (finally) just buy this house?!

As reality began to sink in, so did the dirtiness of the house.  Then began what I like to refer to now as “The Great Cleaning”.  Armed with 2 boxes of latex gloves and an array of cleaning and painting supplies, we attacked the house.  Many people came to help us in the cleaning, painting, and fixing process, and we couldn’t have done it without them.

Title for Accomplishments 12 23 10

1st Year Accomplishments

title and

Feedin' the Squirrels

Here is a picture of our first meal in the house:

First Meal in New House

Meals have improved since then!  We have been able to open up our home and share good food and conversation with friends and family – a domestic diva’s dream.

A Good Thanksgiving Plate!

A Good Thanksgiving Plate!

All in all it has been a great first year!  We have gone from living in a house to a home.  No major surprises occurred in the first year, and things are steadily improving.  The coming year promises to be just as busy with home improvement projects as we strive to improve the basics of our home before really tackling the fun stuff – decorating!!!  Right now our furniture and decor shift as we work on different projects, but soon we hope to start establishing more permanent arrangements and pictures on the walls as we complete rooms.  Stay tuned for many exciting domestic adventures to come.

Category : House Fixing | House Hunting | Blog

My mini B&B

For me (and any domestic diva) it is very important to have a clean, comfortable place for guests to stay when they visit.  When I first started looking for a house to buy, one of my wish list items (that I didn’t think I would be able to get) was to have an extra room to devote to guests who came to stay with us.  After 5 years in a one bedroom apartment with guests sleeping in the living room, this was very important to me.  Luckily, the stars aligned and I got a house with a room and a bathroom I could designate for guests.  Unfortunately, they were far from guest ready when we moved in.

The first thing we did was remove the closet, which was taking up about 25% of the room and consisted of 2 huge piece of plywood on a sliding track.  The plywood was so heavy it was almost impossible to open and close the closet doors, and this is a small room, so reclaiming that space was very important. Sidenote: removing screws from a concrete floor should not be taken lightly. 2 screwdrivers, a pair of plyers, and one hacksaw later we were able to remove the closet track from the floor.  Here is the room before we started to work on it (after closet was removed):

Guest Room Before

Given the paint marks and holes left in the floor from removing the closet, the first thing we decided to do (after a fresh coat of paint) was to install a new floor.

We decided to go with a floating laminate floor.  First we had to put down a moisture barrier over the old floor since it was installed directly on the concrete.

Moisture Barrier

Then the floor went in.  It took about an hour to lay the first couple rows, but once we got the hang of it it went in much faster.

Floor Goes In

Coming soon…designing and setting up the room.

Category : Design | House Fixing | Blog

Pantry Reorganization!

There is a small pantry in my kitchen for which I am very thankful.  However, it has been getting more and more out of control lately.  Time for The Container Store! Yes, the store is a bit on the pricey side, but I love it.  It’s every perfectionist’s dream!  OK, back to the pantry.

So here is what I was working with:

Pantry Before Final

Total Chaos!

After picking up a few essential organizational items from The Container Store:


First I emptied the entire pantry and grouped like items. Spices, baking supplies, canned goods, etc.  Here is the final result once everything was categorized and put away:

Canned Goods

Baking Supplies

Pantry After

Now finding things is a snap.

Category : House Fixing | Miscellaneous | Blog

Our Ghetto Bathroom Becomes Not So Ghetto

Our hall bathroom left a lot to be desired when we moved into our house…

Sink Before

Toilet Before

Shower Before

The to do list for our house was pretty long when we moved in, so we needed to fix the bathroom without breaking the bank.  We looked into getting the tub and tiles reglazed, but that was going to be $1,000!  We decided the turquoise was not so bad and refocused our energy on the rest of the bathroom.  The bathroom had many holes in the walls, it was dirty, and it was multiple colors.  The wax seal under the toilet also had to be replaced.  We started with the wax seal, and when I say we I mean David.  We removed the toilet, cleaned it while it was in pieces, put a new wax seal in the floor, discovered the toilet was not sitting properly on the floor thanks to some ingenious work done by a previous resident, got creative to solve the problem, and put the toilet back.  Next came the many holes – 18 to be exact.  I have definitely had many opportunities to perfect my spackling and sanding skills since we moved into our house, and the hall bathroom has provided most of those opportunities so far.  Once the spackling was done, a round of cleaning needed to happen.  I washed the walls, vacuumed the dust from the sanding, cleaned the fan in the ceiling, replaced the heat vent (the original was not salvageable – see below).

yucky vent

Next came the priming and painting.  And finally, the finishing touches: towels bars (see my amazon store), a toilet paper holder (see my amazon store), a curved shower rod (Costco), a cabinet for storage (target), a mirror, and a picture my husband took in Vermont that we had printed on canvas.  Take a look…

Before and After patching, painting, and hanging

Shower Before and After

After all the hard work, the finished product (for now :-) )

After Bathroom

When it was all done, we spent a grand total of $257.35 for our bathroom makeover.

Paint, spackle, primer, wax seal, and sandpaper     $25

Shower rod     $20

Mirror     $20

Towel bar, toilet paper holder, and towel ring     $42.35

New vent cover     $10

Cabinet     $140.00

Category : House Fixing | Blog

We tackle the field of fixin’ with a lot of help from some very wise homeowners.

First of all, I have to give a huge THANK YOU to all of the friends and family who helped us make our new house a home!  Many hours and days of blood, sweat, and tears were put into our house by the wonderful people in our lives.  Thank you to my sister for all your help painting!  Thank you to my mom for scrubbing things no human should have to scrub! Thank you to my dad for giving me doors that actually close and helping me with the intricacies of drywall.  Thank you to my brothers-in-law for suffering through the re-insulation of our attic and a million other repairs!  And the biggest thank you goes to David (our fixit superhero) for fixing every little (and not so little) problem on our inspection list!  We could not have faced our new homeownership nearly as well without all of these people.

Now down to business.  I will share our weeklong marathon of home fixin’ over the next several blog postings.  This time we will start with the laundry room.

Laundry Room


Mold, leaks, a door that was too big to close, dirt, a floor with holes in it, no sink, and a dryer hose that was about 10 feet too long in a very small space.

Problem: Mold


Solution: Remove it

Drywall Removed

Put up new drywall. Here you can see the new mold resistant drywall going in on the left.

New Drywall

Problem: Leaks

When we moved in there were many leaky pipes in this house.  We got lucky because most of the leaks were easily resolved.  The laundry was impacted by leaks from the bathroom next door and the bathroom upstairs.

Solution: Seal and tighten the pipes.

The toilet above the laundry needed a new wax seal and the bathroom next door just needed the shower head to be tightened.  It is not the prettiest sight, but the leaks are no more.
Leaky Pipes

Problem: Large Door

The door to the laundry room wouldn’t close for two reasons.  First, it was bigger than the door frame.  Second, the dryer came out too far from the wall to allow the door to close.

Solution: Smaller Bifold Door

After weighing the options, we decided a bifold door was our best solution.  The challenges we ran into were the size of the door opening and the fact that it was not square.  The angles of the door opening made for some pretty tricky cuts when we were resizing the the opening to fit a standard door size. We also had to come up with some creative solutions to give the door a finished look since the door frame changed size so much from top to bottom.  Here is the final result:

New Laundry Room Door

Problem: No Sink

Solution: Add a sink

You can buy complete sink kits at home improvement stores.  It seemed easy enough, but it did take us a while to make all the pipe connections water tight and leak free.  The other issue is the pipe comes out farther than we would like and the legs weren’t long enough to reach the pipe connection in the wall.  We will save fixing these issue for another day.  For now we are just happy to have a sink in the laundry room.

Laundry Sink

Problem: Long Dryer Vent Hose

Solution: Cut it and Duct tape it

Our Laundry Room:


Laundry Room Before

After/In Progress:

Laundry Room

To Do:

Although we have come a long way from the moldy leaky mess, there is still a lot left to improve.  We want to finish the drywalling, put in a new floor, paint the door and new frame, paint the whole room, and just add a few more finishing touches.  Stay tuned for more home improvements…

Category : House Fixing | Blog