From cottage to…farm??

What exactly constitutes a farm? Is it the presence of livestock? Multiple animals? Maybe the selling of goods? I honestly don’t know but these days I feel like I am living on one. I don’t even know how it happened. One day I was this single mom with no pets, and now? Well let’s start this past spring when my husband got a grand idea…

we got lulu

A new puppy! We had talked about it for a while because we wanted a pal for Ted. Teddy is an anxious little thing and would do well with company. But a new puppy during the school year? That is just asking for stress so I suggested we wait until summer. Before I knew it, Seth was sending me links to puppies he found online and was setting up an appointment for a same-day pick up! Basically as soon as I saw her picture I couldn’t refuse her so it was settled. We were getting a new pup, in March.

Turns out she is Ted’s cousin! We had no idea when we called to schedule the pick-up so it was a great surprise. She is half poodle, half Shih Tzu so she is a shih-poo. We wanted to name her Luna (after one of my favorite Harry Potter characters, what whaaat) but a few days after having her, I decided she was more of a Lulu. I can’t explain it, it’s a mom thing. The name has to fit! Seth is still making fun of me for changing her a name a few days in. Speaking of Seth…

Needless to say it was a sleepless few nights. Now it may have been the sleep deprivation but I was shocked with the tremendous guilt I felt bringing home a new pup. Teddy would hardly even look at me. He wouldn’t even take a treat from me! It was like he hated me for bringing home this rambunctious little thing that chased him non-stop. I may or may not have cried, like a freaking baby. I can only compare this to that feeling after you bring home your second baby and your first baby is like, mom wtf? I wouldn’t know what that is like but I saw it in a movie once. Within a week though, they were playing together. Wrestling, nipping, licking, um…hugging…as we told my nieces. They were finally getting along, and getting into trouble together…

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Now at 9 months old, Lulu is quite the mischievous pup. She is “mostly” potty trained, loves to chew on remotes and sheetrock and, well anything she isn’t supposed to, and is now twice the size of Ted.

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She is very smart, and absolutely loves to cuddle.

She certainly gives us a run for our money, which is why I think we must have been possessed when a mere month and a half later we decided to add to our home yet again. This time it wasn’t a puppy, it was…

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CHICKS!!! Okay, I know, you think we’re crazy. Our house is currently ripped apart, our yard is not anywhere near nice-looking after the septic overhaul from last summer, we have a brand new pup, and now we are getting chickens?!? Yes, we are apparently nuts.

Honestly, Seth and I have wanted chickens for a long time. We used to talk about it when we lived in our condo and dreamt about a day when we wouldn’t have HOA rules to prohibit us. So that fateful day when we went into Tractor Supply to get materials for the fence we were making ourselves (stay tuned for that blog post but just to give you a preview, don’t do this) we were in awe of the cuteness of the chicks. I know animal activists always say that you shouldn’t get chicks around Easter because it is impulsive and some folks just buy them because they are cute and have no intentions of keeping them as adults. But that definitely wasn’t our situation. So we walked out of the store with the fencing supplies, as well as 8 chicks and all of the food and accessories they would need to keep them safe and healthy.

For a the first few weeks they would need to stay inside under a heater lamp so there was time for us to figure out the whole coop thing, luckily. We shopped around online but 8 chickens need a lot of room and it was going to cost us a pretty penny to get a pre-made coop. Did I mention I am a school teacher? I don’t think taking a loan out against your retirement to cover the cost of a chicken coop is recommended. One day we went to my sister’s house and my brother-in-law offered up an old coop he had in the backyard. It needed a lot of work but it was a great start so we took him up on it. Seth lugged it home one day by himself and got to work.

The first step was taking the side-by-side doors off and turning them into horizontal hatches on the front of the coop. Next, he got sturdy outdoor material to cover up the remaining sides.

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Next, we needed to figure out how we were going to keep critters out from under the coop so that they wouldn’t get into the coop. Seth built a box that would fit perfectly around the legs of the coop. He covered it in chicken wire which fully wrapped around the sides of the box.

We had to decide where to put the coop and figured that because of the sun/shade ratio in the narrow path behind our house, it would be best to put it up there. Plus, then we could watch them while we do the dishes! There was already a garden bed with red rocks so we just used that as the perimeter and attached new 2x4s to fortify the base of the part that would eventually be the chicken run (the run is the part that is outside of the main coop where the chickens can roam around and get some space). Next, Seth had to crawl under the coop and attach chicken wire around the entire area under the coop. This would be an extension of the run. I think that this was Seth’s favorite part of the project. I mean, who doesn’t love being cramped up into a tight space for two hours putting millions of staples into wood while you sit on small sharp rocks? Sign me up!

Now that the main coop was fenced in, we needed to figure out what roof we would put on. We had a cheap piece of plywood on there now but needed to weather-proof it. Luckily a friend of ours from karate owns a roofing business and was able to hook us up with this roll-on shingle material. We used that to cover the entire top surface of the coop and the hatch to the egg-box.

The main coop was almost ready so Seth got started on building the frame for the run. We wanted to make it as tall as possible but still structurally sound. It took us two weeks of sporadically working on this to finally get it done.

Inside the coop we wanted to make sure the chickens had a place to perch that was easy to clean. I followed instructions I found on a blog about backyard chickens to make this perch with a dropboard underneath. It fit perfectly in the corner of the coop!

The inside of the coop was almost ready for the chicks! We just needed to add some material to the floor of the coop for them to use. We eventually replaced this with sand but at first we used pine chip bedding. The chicks loved their new coop.

Seth was able to finish up the netting on all of the walls of the run and install a screen door for us to easily access the coop. For the first few weeks we kept the vents and doors covered at night because it was a little cold. But the entire summer, all of the siding from the front of the coop has been removed as well as the vent spaces above the egg box. The chickens get lots of air, which is a good thing if you have ever smelled the inside of a coop…

For a while we didn’t have netting on top of the run because we couldn’t decide if we wanted to add solid roofing so that the area was covered in the winter. But the chickens started roosting in the pine trees above the run at night, and although it was funny it was a pain to get them down from there every night. So before we went on vacation we finished up the coop by adding mesh and netting to the top of the run.

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The chicks were growing so fast! They were losing their fuzz and getting their full feathers. They loved to huddle together to sleep at night and we had no issues with them pecking each other or getting too bored. From early on Ted took on a protective role with the chicks and wanted to see them all the time. Lulu on the other hand didn’t really understand that they weren’t toys to play with. So we had to keep a close eye on her.

The kids loved the chickens and would dare each other to try and pick them up. It really isn’t that hard so I am not sure why this was such a dare…but I didn’t ask. We are constantly amused with the way the chickens run. They seriously look like raptors. I have a theory that they used chickens with motion sensors on them to get the computer animation of the raptors correct in Jurassic Park.

Once the chicks got a little older, we started being able to let them out for a little bit at a time to roam the yard. I called these field trips. Lulu learned to be a little more respectful, and at this point the chickens chase her around too! It’s all in play so far so let’s just hope it stays that way. I think Ted might have gotten pecked because he seems to have developed a bit of a chicken phobia recently.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the chickens started plotting during their field trips and figured out how to hop the fence. We couldn’t believe it when we saw it the first time. We looked up ways to stop this and everyone said to clip their flight wings on one side. So we did that. And…this was the next day…

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Honestly they always stay close to home so it isn’t THAT big of a deal but they keep going over into our neighbors’ yard when we aren’t looking! Luckily our neighbors are awesome and super understanding. But either way, that just can’t happen! So we decided we needed to keep them in the run most of the day and only let them out when we are with them. To keep them occupied in there Seth installed some more awesome perches. We also give them extra treats in addition to their food, usually in the form of produce from my brother-in-laws garden that has started to split or get bug-infested. The chicks go CRAZY for a good tomato with a side of fruit flies.

We went away for the first two weeks of August and were fortunate enough to have an awesome house sitter for the pups and chicks. While we were gone, the chickens got to just the right age where they would start laying eggs. We were so anxious to get home and see! Low and behold, we got home and found eggs…IN THE EGG BOX! How did they know to go in there? That is so cool to me, I’m sorry.

At this point we have 5 of the chickens laying eggs, and we are patiently waiting for the other 3 to catch on. The eggs are delicious and once we get all the chickens laying, we will have plenty of eggs to give to friends and family. It is pretty awesome to be able to eat off of your own land, whether it is tomatoes from the garden (our garden really sucked this year but the 3 tomatoes we managed to grow were freaking delicious) or from your chickens. It made all the coop-building hell worth it!

We have lucked out with other animals trying to get into the coop. Knock on wood, (Lord knows we have plenty around here) we haven’t had any invasions yet. Unless you count this…

chipmunk in chick food

Now I know what you are thinking, awwww look at that little chipmunk. I will give you that, he’s cute. But I swear, if that is the chipmunk that decided to invade and live in our kitchen this past winter, then he is not cute, he is a jerk… a little devil that cost us several hundred dollars and a new dishwasher. So as far as I am concerned, his comfort level in stealing the chickens food is a declaration of war. Bring it on, Alvin.

At least the other animals on our “farm” are behaving for now…

According to Merriam-Webster, a farm is “an area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals, typically under the control of one owner or manager.” Okay so I guess that technically fits, in a small way. I mean calling our 3 tomatoes we got this year “crops” is a little overkill, but I think we will be able to grow some in the sunroom this winter (after it is not being used as our tool room). Does that count? We have five nice sized goldfish and koi in our pond, several frogs, two dogs and eight chickens so I think we got the animal part of the definition covered.

Plus, if you can sit outside and eat your fresh eggs while the chickens that provided them to you peck at your toes, I think that counts for something…

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Okay so it isn’t a farm, but it is definitely a far cry from where we were 13 months ago! And although our house is currently torn apart and our yard looks like a jungle most days, we are content with that.

Better run, I hear the chickens singing their egg song!

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Celebrating 1 Year

This past week marks ONE YEAR since we moved into your house!! It is hard to believe it has only been a year, yet at the same time it feels like just yesterday that we were setting up air mattresses in the new empty house! So we thought about it a little bit, what should we do to celebrate this momentous occasion? Go out to dinner? Get some drinks or see a movie? Nahhh… in typical Jesse & Seth fashion, we decided to wreck some sh*t. Let’s tear down the walls on the first floor, ya know, in our main living area that everyone who comes over will see! Why not?!

Truth is we set this crazy goal for ourselves (ok, I set it…) to have the first floor opened up by Christmas of this year. I said to Seth that I wanted our Christmas tree to have a place this year that wasn’t in the cold sunroom where nobody ever wanted to go in the dead of winter. The way our downstairs floor plan was set up was very segmented. It left us with two small living room areas, neither of which could fit more than 5 people comfortably. This proposed an even bigger problem in the winter because one of the living rooms contains the wood stove. So if we have that thing going, it gets incredibly hot in that room, but the warm air doesn’t circulate properly to the back of the house. So to remedy that, we have electric heaters in the back half of the house and those things have to crank all winter long, leaving us with a steep electric bill. To make matters even more interesting, we have an oil furnace with forced hot air but the thermostat for it is in the wood stove room… so it never really kicked on. If it did, you would get blasted with hot air for like 5 minutes and need to turn it back off before you melted. All together it was a very inefficient system, with potential for being totally efficient if the walls weren’t in the way! If the whole first floor was opened up, the wood stove could heat it all.

That can’t be too hard right? Just tear some walls down! Okay wait, let me explain that the bathroom is kind of in the middle of the layout and would need to be moved over to where the laundry room is currently. Well that’s okay because we just got the laundry room successfully moved upstairs last week! Woohoo! So that means we already have a hot and cold water hook-up and a drain in the area where we will want the new bathroom. All we need to do is tie into that for the sink and get a toilet in there. Hmmm. Looking at the pipes in the basement, we will need to drill a hole through the wooden sill holding up the house in order to put the toilet plumbing through. Somehow this is getting a little less “easy peasy” and a little more “does anyone know a good plumber?” But we don’t have the time to wait for the bathroom to be done before we start tearing these walls down. It is summer and I am home from work, we need to take advantage of this time!

So on one fateful Tuesday while Seth was at work, I decided it was time. Hand me the crowbar! Oh wait, hand me the camera first so I can show how nice I had the house decorated before I decided to ruin it…

The Stove Room:

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The…other…living room:

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Okay now that there is photographic evidence, hand me that sledge hammer.

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At the time we only had one air conditioner plugged in downstairs and I had to turn the fan off to eliminate the spreading of dust, so I apologize for the sweat-drenched look in the picture above. This is how my sister found me when the stopped over to see what I was up to. I must admit though, breaking down the walls was fun. It felt like that scene out of Fried Green Tomatoes where Kathy Bates finally takes control of her life and starts attacking the wall in her living room. It was awesome (and now I really want to go watch that movie).

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Seth got home late that night from work but we decided we had enough energy to tear down some more sheetrock and shelving. What we discovered in the process was of course, interesting. Similar to upstairs, the previous owner built a new wall every time he did an addition, instead of tying into the existing wall. So we have double walls to take down in a few places. We also found that behind the old sheetrock was old-style fiber board that needed to be taken down. It was like everything in the house came in twos. Two walls, two layers of wall material, what will be next?!

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We also uncovered the old exterior wall of the house, with its original shiplap. Can’t lie, I am pretty excited about that! I will be saving these boards and using them for something. I am thinking a coffee table ūüôā

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Of course that was just the beginning of the discoveries of this project. We also found: paneling on the INSIDE of one of the walls, a light sconce still attached to the inside of the wall, oh and a petrified mouse. Like literally mummified…

Even crazier than all of that was the weird space we found between two walls. Turns out that behind the built-in cabinets in the “other” living room there was a 12in gap before you hit the wall of the bathroom. It ran the entire length of the wall.

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Why on earth would there be this huge space?? If we had a nickel for every time we asked WHY in this house, we would be wealthy enough to pay someone else to do this work. There are no heating or cooling ducts in the space, no pipes to cover, just….nothingness. A loss of a few square feet of living space is what I think! At least we have the temporary wall already up for when we go to install the header where the bathroom wall is. Silver lining. Did I mention we are taking down load-bearing walls and need to install headers? Oops, minor detail…

Eventually it was time to determine which walls were in fact the load-bearing walls and which were okay to take down. After much deliberation and visits from my dad and brother-in-law (our go-to home improvement experts), we knew it was okay to take down the middle walls (both of them) between the two living rooms. Time for the handy sawzall and my earplugs.

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Even Ted can’t stand that loud sawzall. He was hiding anywhere he could!

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So do you remember earlier when I said there were two of everything in this house? I figured out what was next. Two ceilings. When we were cutting apart the ceiling to see the floor joists and to figure out which walls were okay to come down, we found that our stove room had two ceilings.

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Double the demo, double the fun? Ugh. At least we can finally get rid of that track lighting…

Once we got the two walls down, we could really tell how awesome the house is going to look with an open floor plan. It was exactly how we imagined. The only downside is that we will have vertical beams to navigate around so a sectional couch is probably out of the question. But it doesn’t matter, we will make it work!

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So next up on the agenda is finishing the bathroom upstairs so we can demo this one and installing two headers and four vertical beams. We picked up the lumber for the headers and beams yesterday from a sawmill 2 miles up the road, in the middle of nowhere. We had our neighbors over a few days ago to show them the progress of the house and they mentioned that the previous owner got the beams he used from the mill up the street. We decided that using the same mill to make the new beams would be pretty cool and keeping to the character of the house, not to mention it is supporting a local business. Win win.

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The only problem with these is that they are very heavy, so installing them is going to be tricky. We definitely can’t just do this one ourselves. We are thinking of inviting everyone over for dinner and then some manual labor, kind of like the Amish do when they raise a barn. Just less bonnets and more booze.

Hopefully this week we will get more work done on the shower upstairs. We are going to be away for the next two weeks so you will just have to wait what happens next with the downstairs demo. In the meantime, go watch Fried Green Tomatoes and ask yourselves if there are any surprises lurking behind YOUR walls.

 

Costs this week:

Demolition: FREE (except for the flat tire Seth had to fix when he ran over a nail in the driveway right before we filled the bed of the truck with massive amounts of old sheetrock and wood…)

Headers & Beams: $380

We named her Office

You know how they say that when a woman gives birth, afterward she sort of mentally blocks out the actual pushing of the baby because it is pretty traumatic? The memory of the pain kind of fades away. You remember that you were in pain, and a LOT of it, but not how it actually felt. Apparently this is very useful when tempted to procreate yet again. Otherwise, who the heck would sign up for that torture twice!? It makes sense though, in order to keep going, your mind forgets the bad stuff and focuses on the silver lining, the new baby in the case of the birth. Or in our case, the improvements we have made on the house. It wasn’t until I looked back at pictures of us sleeping in the closet/office that I remembered just how miserable that was. It is so easy to forget now since I have a nice new shiny office with pretty things in it. Let me show you ūüôā

So after we stopped sleeping in the office, we were basically just using it as storage because the upstairs was still torn apart. And by storage, I mean it was the room that collected all the crap that we didn’t know what to do with. It was a mess. And it wasn’t like we could just close it off and forget about it. The door to the bathroom is in the office, so we had to see it multiple times a day, and every person who dared visit our humble abode (or commode… hehe) saw it as well. It was an eyesore. So finally one weekend during the busy school year, we decided to take a stab at it. With not much of a plan, we decided that the first thing we had to do was get everything out, and then rearrange the odd floor plan.

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As you can see, there were built-in shelves on one side of the wall and perpendicular to that was a wall with randomly-placed kitchen style cabinets and a high counter-top that jutted out into the walkway to the room. We decided that we would keep the open shelving, but that the cabinets and countertop needed to go.

Getting the random kitchen furnishings out of there would surely free up some space to actually work, in said office.

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After we moved the cabinets and counter, we were so relieved. It was so much more open. Now the idea of sleeping in there wasn’t actually that bad! The downside was that I guess the previous owner didn’t move them when he refinished the floors so now there are marks haunting the floor where the cabinets once were. Whatever, easily ignored for now!

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We decided that we were going to make a desk in the middle of the room instead of along the perimeter. This way we could both sit and work facing each other and have our own little space. Plus, I am one of those weirdos who hates having my back to the doorway (like it literally gives me anxiety and a feeling of impending doom), so this way I could have my back to the wall and face the door. The problem was that with the built-in shelving and then chairs on either side of the desk, we would need to have a very narrow desk surface. A little bit of creativity and up-cycling, and we were able to turn an old handmade door from a closet upstairs into a desk! We just took off the hardware, put a coat of poly on, anchored it to the deep window sill, and propped up the other end with a hand-me-down file cabinet from my mama! Voila, a desk for two.

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While we were getting this done, we were also forging ahead with the bathroom & laundry room plumbing upstairs. We hired our brother-in-law for a day to come and get the plumbing for the upstairs shower and the washer set up. This unfortunately meant that we had to have some pipes sticking out of the ceiling in our office. Definitely not feng shui. So Seth got busy building a box around it. We would just hide those ugly pipes with some sheetrock and paint!

While seth was busy spackling and sanding (repeat, repeat, repeat), I had some fun ordering fabric to make a pretty cabinet door fabric-backing. Part of the built-in shelves had a big corner cabinet with an open door. I am not sure if there was glass there at one point but there wasn’t anymore and it was not ideal for storage. So I got online and ordered some fabric. Using command strips, I tightly adhered the fabric to the back of the door and now it not only looks pretty, but it hides anything we need to store!

I also had some fun using scrapbook paper, gold sharpies and gift labels to make our office storage supply boxes (plastic sterilite containers) look nicer. There are perfect sized cubby holes for them in the built-ins.

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Obviously I was going for a gold and white theme, but what you can’t see yet is the pretty wall color we picked out. I decided teals and blues would go perfectly with the gold and white, and accent the dark stained wood of the room rather nicely. Luckily my husband just has blind faith in my decorating and usually doesn’t even ask questions about it. I was really pleased with how everything was coming together but that filing cabinet… the wood…. it didn’t match! Can’t have that. So I decided to paint it using chalk paint. First, I sanded it and removed the hardware.

Then, I did a few coats of the paint, letting it dry fully in between. After that I reinstalled the gold hardware and it was good to go!

I know, I know… I kept you in suspense with the pretty paint color…

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Paint color is always hard to tell in photos but trust me, it’s nice! Next up were some decorations, and I admit, I had a little too much fun at hobby lobby with this. We decided the office would be the perfect place for my karate belt rack (still need to unpack all my belts, I swear I am a black belt) so between that and a few other pieces I already had in my collection, most of the wall space was taken up! I got a few blue/white/teal frames that I plan on putting some paintings in.

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My favorite part of the office though, without a doubt, is the open book shelf. Most people that have been to my house know that I like my little¬†tchotchkes (ňąCH√§CHk…ô,¬†noun,¬†a small object that is decorative rather than strictly functional; a trinket). And apparently displaying them randomly on a bookshelf is the new best thing (according to pinterest and the decorating magazines I see in the check-out line at Shop Rite). So this was pretty awesome for me, I admit.

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When all the hard work was done, we finally had a nice (and pretty) office. We could sit at the desk, look out the window at our yard, and get some work done. No longer did this room contain a beat up mattress and an entire wardrobe’s worth of clothes for two people. And we didn’t even have to be embarrassed to show people where the bathroom was anymore. So just like that, the memories of the cramped spaces, tears, and pushing each other out of the way to find underwear had faded away and we were able to admire our new, shiny baby. We named her Office.

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Costs this week:

I plead the 5th. But if there happens to be a spike in the stock value of home goods or hobby lobby, you’re welcome.

A Room of His Own

Welcome back to condo2cottage!! We took some time off because, well, I am a teacher and the school year doesn’t allow for much time to blog unfortunately (darn all those papers to grade and lessons to write). But I am so glad to be back! Just because I couldn’t write about it, doesn’t mean we weren’t extremely busy in the house. In fact, last week when I started compiling all the pictures from the last few months I was in shock with how much we have done. I had thought we spent the winter and spring just binge-watching Downton Abbey and The Good Wife. Turns out we were productive between episodes! We are coming up on a year in this house and man does it look different. And we haven’t even done much on the first floor…yet…

So one project we got MOSTLY done is Liam’s room. We still have some finishing touches to add (frames around the door, wall trim, etc.) but it is about 95% done. This room was originally demoed (like the rest of the second floor) because when we moved in, the room was segmented very oddly and super tiny. Here are the before photos (note the immense fish-lensing, you can imagine how small it actually felt):

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This was the entry way to the room. It had an oversized closet and a very narrow passageway.

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Our first step was to demo the closet and open up the passageway. We then installed the door to the bedroom at the front-end of the passageway instead of the back-end, thereby making that area part of the actual bedroom instead of just a weird hallway. The new room isn’t a perfect square shape, but the two areas are actually perfectly spaced for having a desk in one, and a bed in the other. We installed a pocket door to save even more space, and also re-sheetrocked the ceiling because it was pretty beat up.

Liam decided that he wanted to have a two-tone room, blue on the bottom and white on the top. Seth got busy drawing level lines across the whole room and taping it off. We will be putting up wall trim between the two colors, but I must admit he did a pretty good job keeping the paint in the lines.

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The back half of the room was not without more heavy duty work besides paint. We realized that we needed to have a closet in this room because we just ripped one out. So what we decided was that we were going to add a door to the closet that connects at the back of the house to Jordan’s room. So the boys would actually have a big adjoining closet. If need be, we will put up a divider later on, but for now it works out just great.

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After Seth painted, he installed the floor. This is the same flooring that we got for the rest of the upstairs (from that bargain place last summer). It looks great in all of the bedrooms. You may notice in this picture that there is this weird opening in the wall. Well, demo isn’t perfect and doesn’t always go as planned. Turns out the back half of this room was an addition, and the wall between the two parts of the room is a load-bearing wall as it was once an external wall of the house. So in other words, we won’t be tearing that sucker down. So what we decided to do instead was to make a “window” out of it to open up the space. We will frame it out nicely (eventually) and install nice shelves for some additional storage/decoration. Can’t wait to get that done, but we need to get the big things done first!

So while we were waiting to finish things up, we let Liam move his bed in there (he had been sleeping in Jordan’s room) and get his stuff set-up. He hadn’t had his own room in a few years so this was pretty exciting for him. His bed fit in perfectly, we got the TV wall mounted so he can see it from either half of the room, and he got to put up some nice zombie-themed wall decals.

This was definitely a smaller project in the grand scheme of things, but it had a big impact on Liam. In fact, he was so excited to have his own desk that he put an excessive amount of desk accessories on his Amazon wish list for Christmas and barely had any room left to actually do work on the desk!

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I look forward to being able to update this post with the finishing touches eventually. But for now, we are all sacrificing the finer things (like moulding…) to get the bigger projects done. At this point, both of our boys have their own rooms, and we aren’t sleeping in a closet anymore. And that folks, is a huge thing to check off the “want” list!

On to the next room…

The one with the stairs…

Twas the month before Christmas and all through the house, was the sound of Jesse cursing and crying to her spouse.

It was the morning after our first ice storm here in the new house. The trees were glistening, the air was crisp, icicles hung from the rock ledge over the fish pond, it was beautiful and serene. Then… I fell down the stairs and promptly turned into the dad from a Christmas Story when the furnace breaks…

Let me rewind. We had been discussing for a few days now how we really needed to do something about our outdoor stairs situation. We have two entry ways to the house, and both involved treacherous stairs. On the left side, we have a narrow wooden staircase where the rise was 9″ instead of the standard 7″. I know, that doesn’t sound like much. But when your body is conditioned to stepping up 7″ instead of 9″ for your entire life, you really notice the difference. It makes you much more likely to trip and fall, exactly what we want our guests to have to worry about. Oh and the second step from the bottom was broken in half (across the width of the stair). So not only did you have to step up steeper than normal, you had to make sure that you were stepping on the back half of the stair so as not to land on the broken part. This was really ideal for carrying groceries.

On the right side of the house was a stone staircase that originated in the driveway and delivered you to the paver patio on the side of the house. But it lacked a railing, and the stones it was made out of were all of varying heights, depths, widths…you get the idea. It was more of an ornamental staircase than a practical one. This wouldn’t have been an issue because when we bought the house, there was a nice stone driveway all the way to the right of the house that we used to be able to walk up, and even allowed us to park all the way up by the patio. But since¬†the new septic tank was buried literally in the middle of that driveway, it is now a grassy slope that we can’t park on. So we are forced to use the spiral stair death-trap (see below).

 

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I knew this was going to be an issue as soon as the driveway was taken out, but it didn’t really seem pressing until the winter started threatening us with ice and snow. My trips down the stone steps were already interesting in the morning, in my flats or booties carrying several bags with hot coffee in my hands. But now I would have to worry about doing that with ice covering them? Then there was the issue of several of our family members not being able to visit because they needed a better way to get into the house, one that wouldn’t require balancing acts or hyper-stretching the hamstrings to reach the next stair. This truly upset me and finally I broke down to Seth. He agreed that something needed to be done about it, and soon because we were going to be hosting Christmas Eve dinner and wouldn’t even be able to get our family up the stairs to the house.

So with us being complete geniuses, we decided to go out the morning after the first ice storm and survey the situation. We used the wooden¬†stairs and I followed behind Seth. I went down the first two steps very cautiously. ¬†Then the third. And then, silly me, I forgot about that 4th darn step being broken because it was covered in ice and I couldn’t see it. So I slipped down the steps, bashing my hip and back hard (oh and this was one week before my black belt test that I had been training for for 3 years so an injury might have sent me over the edge). Before I knew it I was crying, like a little baby! It was almost instantaneous.¬†Seth turned around and saw me laying on the icy stairs crying in pain. He came running over, and didn’t even laugh (which he later rubbed in because, well, he fell down the steps one time and I laughed …he says hysterically… and he won’t let me live it down). I cried that this was the last straw. We needed to do something about these stairs immediately. I angrily stood up and used my foot to bash in the broken part of the stair so all that was left was the non-broken part. It felt great, I can’t lie.

We started planning the new stairs and tried to figure out how we would widen the wooden platform on them while making them less steep. We had an idea but it would involve moving a post that was currently supporting our sunroom. Hmm, not the easiest but the other side of the house involved us digging out all of the rocks (more like boulders) in the cold, adding dirt, reshaping the slope, and building stairs out of something. That sounded more difficult than moving a post. But our consultants (dad and brother-in-law) convinced us that we weren’t savvy enough to move a support beam by ourselves (probably smart) and that we should go with the other option. So with merely two weeks until¬†Christmas at this point, Seth got to work.

First he had to rake out the beautiful ground cover that was next to the stairs. Then he had to painstakingly remove the gigantic boulders and find a new place to put them. He was left with a big dirt slope.

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Some of the rocks didn’t get moved yet and I was able to snap a picture of them. Pulling these out by hand could not have been too fun. Seth also found some¬†interesting bugs while he was playing in the dirt. We believe they were cicada larvae. Sorry to disturb ya, buddy! Go back to sleep for another 15 years or so!

We decided that the best way to build new stairs was to use garden timbers and create a 3 sided box. We spent an hour or so watching some youtube videos and doing lots of geometric calculations (see kids, you DO use it when you get older!) and then went out to Home Depot that same day and got all of the supplies. Seth then spent the next few very cold hours building the boxes in the back of the truck. I don’t deal well with temps that cold so all I was able to do was offer him moral support from the window and an occasional beer to keep him warm. Before long, he had built 13 sturdy and very heavy boxes, and the sun was setting.

The next few days, Seth enjoyed slightly less chilly temps while he¬†worked on installing the steps. He would shovel out the dirt underneath each step, place the box, put a rebar stake in it and then fill it back up with dirt. Then he would decide the angle of the next step on top of it and repeat. One issue he faced was that the entire slope was filled with small rocks. It was as if someone had dumped an entire field of rocks into one little area. Then we realized, well yea, we live on the side of a “mountain” so I guess that makes sense. Fun times. Because of work, I was only able to help with the last section of stairs. We used as much dirt as we could from our own property but eventually needed to get some extra.

Luckily, this small farm up the road has dirt for…dirt cheap! HA! I didn’t even do that one on purpose. We filled up the back of the truck with dirt and then mulch to lay along side the stairs so that the upcoming rain wouldn’t wash all of the loose dirt down into the driveway. We took turns shoveling and wheeling the dirt around to fill up all of the stairs. I was glad I could finally help!

Next, we raked out the dirt beds along side the stairs and mulched them. Then I tried as best as a could to make a somewhat flat surface at the top of the stairs out of some of the rocks we had pulled out of the slope. We will eventually replace these with pavers but for now, it is good enough.

After a few days, we had miraculously turned our scary stone stairs, into beautiful garden timber stairs!

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We still had several issues to work out, such as lighting and what to fill the stairs with. Because of some weird electrical issue that occurred a while back, we still had no power to the exterior front of the house, as well as in the sunroom, office (our old closet-room) ¬†and interior stairwell. So essentially at night, the outside of our house was pitch dark. And I mean DARK. There are no street lights out here, and essentially no white noise so once that sun goes down, you better hope the animals don’t see you before you see them. Okay, maybe that is just my scary imagination but¬†either way, we needed light! So we decided that the best bet would be to get two solar lanterns so that we didn’t have to worry about the wiring since that had been quite problematic for us. Seth installed the lanterns high towards the top of the staircase so they would provide light the whole way down. They work really well and we are very pleased with how they look!

We figured we were good to go for now until spring when we would fill in the stairs with pavers or stone. However, Christmas Eve rolled around and while we were busily preparing our luncheon, it¬†dawned on me that it had been pouring all night and the dirt that once filled the stairs was now mud and puddles. Our family was going to have to climb mud stairs to get into the house. Crap! This whole thing was to make it easier for our family to visit. So I turned on my best charm and asked Seth if he could just take a few of the pavers (that a friend of ours had given us for free) and at least make a little stepping stone on each step so that people could avoid the puddles. He wasn’t too happy with this request but while I cooked the chicken piccata and potatoes, he went out there and being an overachiever, he dug out each step and essentially filled the entire staircase with pavers. Woohoo!! No muddy feet for Christmas!!

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So even though these stairs are not yet done, they are damn near close and a vast improvement over what was already there. Thank goodness! I wish I could say I did more to help with this effort but Seth was truly the rockstar of this project by himself. It may have started with cursing, but it ended with with a beautiful staircase and lighting that would make The Christmas Story leg lamp jealous.

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Costs:

2 solar lanterns: $180

2 solar lanter posts: $102

Pavers: free!!!

Timbers & nails: $240

Rebar:  $10

Dirt & mulch: $60

TOTAL: $592 

Man vs. Wild … in the kitchen

Are you familiar with Bear Grylls popular show Man vs. Wild? We always loved that show in our house. In fact, when Jordan and my nephew were really young they used to request that we watch it and referred to it as “the dangers”. It is a great show! I think the appeal of it is the idea of man, going back to his indigenous roots and battling the elements of nature to find safety (not to mention, who doesn’t love the way he pronounces crevice and glacier). I have to say though, watching Bear defend against wildlife is much more entertaining than say, doing it yourself in your own house. You know how we figured that out? Well, it all started with a box of Jello Puddin’…

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Notice the little tuft of fur by the ripped opening.

I know what you are thinking. Big deal… a mouse got into your cabinet, it happens, especially when you buy an old house in the woods. ¬†Okay, so we were down one box of pudding. Nothing to cry over. Well then…

We were down an entire drawer of pudding (oh and don’t judge the amount of pudding we had, it was a phase). And one night we went to make tacos and saw that yet another drawer had been broken into, and the taco seasoning had been eaten. Taco seasoning?? What the heck. That mouse must be desperate to eat dry, spicy, orange dust. So we decided enough was enough and we set out two humane traps in the drawers and on the floor. We figured the mouse must be coming up from under the dishwasher and climbing behind the drawers to get in them. If we baited the humane traps with some yummy morsels, we should be able to catch this thing in no time.

The next day we were disappointed to find that the humane traps had not been successful, but at least nothing else had been broken into. Later on in the afternoon, I was sitting home with Ted (the pup) folding some laundry when all of a sudden Teddy started growling. He ran¬†into the kitchen and started sniffing around by the cabinets. Then we both jumped when we heard a loud sound coming from the drawers that had previously been violated. The sound was … alarming. It was as if a large, heavy piece of plastic¬†was being dragged back and forth in the drawer. It just kept moving around and Ted just stood there in front of the drawer, tilting his head back and forth with curiosity. I didn’t know what to do! It must be the mouse! It must have gotten into the humane trap and now it is banging the thing around in the drawer. I slowly made my way into the kitchen, with Ted shooting me a look as if to say, “watch out ma, I don’t know what the hell is in there but it ain’t right.” I grabbed my phone and started video taping. Why? Um, well I am not really sure. I guess I wanted evidence to show my husband in case the mouse attacked me and won. The thing is, it actually sounded way to big to be a mouse. But I thought, I must be crazy. So I went over and with my non-video-recording hand, I quickly ripped open the drawer. And what did I find?

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An empty bag of cornmeal. What the? This mouse that was just making all this racket in the drawer someone got away, and it also ate an ENTIRE BAG of cornmeal?!?! What kind of mouse are we talking about here? How fat is this mouse?! I was perplexed. I figured that it might be a good thing because the fatter he got, the more difficult it would be for him to move around.

Later that evening, Ted and I were watching TV when we heard the same loud sounds coming from the butler’s pantry right outside the kitchen. Now it sounded like a cable wire was being shaken around inside the drawer. Teddy and I stared at the drawer, not knowing what to do. I went over to investigate and the sound stopped. I gave up the search and went back to binge-watching Chopped. A few minutes later, it happened again! That’s it. This thing is taunting me. It is as if ever since we put the traps out, he is intentionally trying to mess with us. I called Seth and told him all about what was going on.¬†He said he planned on getting some less-humane traps for the little pest, and I begged him to let us give the humane traps a few more days to work.

A few days later Seth got home from work and brought in some groceries. We had been so excited because we got a bread maker and our crazy cool pantry actually has a built-in spot for a bread maker with a plug and everything. So Seth had picked up some flour for us and we made plans to make our first loaf of bread the next day. We went to bed and yet again hoped our humane traps would do their magic over night.

The next morning when we came downstairs, we discovered that we had forgotten to put the flour away the night before and had left it on the counter…

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Seriously?! Now this thing is interfering with our bread-making plans?! We were so pissed that we couldn’t make our bread (because obviously we need more carbs…) that we didn’t even realize how weird the placement of the rip was on the bag. Normally, mice eat food from the bottom up. They are, of course, small. If you notice in the picture, this had been attacked from the top of the bag. We sent the picture to some of our family members and they all agreed that this looked more like the work of another kind of animal. They suggested that it was perhaps a….rat……

rat-picture

A RAT?!?!?!?! IN MY KITCHEN!?!!? I couldn’t even consider this to be an option!!! You all know how I feel about rats (Reno. Week 4- It started with a Rat and ended with a mouse). I immediately pictured a rat standing on my counter on his hind legs feasting on the bag of flour and licking his chops. That can’t be right.

But it would make sense because the humane traps weren’t working and they would be too small for a rat to fit in. Oh my god, something has to happen. This thing needs to be taken care of. I finally gave in and told Seth it was okay to get the god-awful sticky traps that people swear by. We used them in the house I grew up in and I will never forget the day my mom was sitting on the couch and put her foot down and her shoe got stuck to the edge of the sticky trap that had been under the couch. When she pulled her shoe out, we saw that the sticky pad was not only stuck to her shoe, but also to a mouse!! Looking back it is hysterical, although at the time we all screamed like little girls.

So Seth set up the traps in one of the drawers that this guy had made his personal hangout. He strategically placed a tube of icing in between two traps that the rat-mouse had already helped himself to on a previous endeavor. This thing was going down!

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That night,¬†I woke up to Teddy growling and barking at the floor of our bedroom. This was the 3rd or 4th night in a row that he had been doing this and¬†we were not too thrilled about it. At first we thought he was going crazy. But then, I realized that he was growling at a sound he heard downstairs, not the bedroom floor. I listened and I heard a few loud bangs coming from the kitchen. I tapped (or smacked) Seth and told him to get up. He asked what was up and I said “someone is downstairs…or….”. We looked at each other and a smile stretched across Seth’s tired face. “THE MOUSE!” We ran downstairs like two kids on Christmas morning. We must have caught this thing!

….nope.

But mister mouse had in fact enjoyed our icing tube. He not only feasted on it, but he dragged the entire tube and a sticky trap OUT of the drawer all together. Ok, this is definitely not a mouse. Other hints that suggested we weren’t in mouse-town anymore were the new items¬†we found that had been snacked on…

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Hard plastic, heavy cardboard, oh and the particle board behind our cabinets.

We were in shock and felt helpless. One day I was staying late at work grading papers and the custodian, Woody, came in. He asked how things were going with our new house and I told him all was well, except for this little issue we are having with some sort of rodent. I told him all about it and he agreed it definitely wasn’t a mouse. When I described the hard plastic it had chewed through he suggested that perhaps it wasn’t a rat, but maybe a chipmunk.

A CHIPMUNK! Genius! Now I could have sworn I had posted about a chipmunk previously on this blog but I can’t seem to find it. All summer long we had one chipmunk that we would watch as he ran up and down the rock wall right on the other side of our kitchen window. He was so cute, and so fast! We would discuss how his movements were so quick that it was like they were happening in fast forward, and we would talk in slow-mo voices and ask each other if this is how he hears our speech since everything is in hyper-speed in his world (yes, we are weird). We only ever saw one, and boy¬†was he nice and plump by the end of the fall. It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps that little guy had somehow gotten in to the wall of the house and was now filling his belly with our baked goods…

…and our dishwasher insulation…

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…and some old¬†diet food that we kept on top of the fridge in a basket and he climbed up there and knocked it down behind the fridge to snack on.

Well if the diet food doesn’t kill him, we don’t know what will.

We figured it was time to get more traps. This thing was really starting to destroy our house!¬†We went out to Home Depot (of course) and got these rat traps that look like industrial size mouse traps. Most stores don’t sell “chipmunk traps” because let’s be real here, who the heck gets chipmunks in their house? And honestly, the idea of killing this thing upset me so much, but it¬†had to be done. So Seth set the traps up in the drawer in a way that we were sure Chippy could not escape. He put the infamous tube of icing in one corner, and literally surrounded it by traps on all sides. Sticky traps and industrial size rat traps. To get to the icing, the chipmunk would HAVE to cross at least one, if not all of these traps.

Days went by, and nothing. Perhaps he had moved on to some other poor cottage in the woods?

Late one night we heard loud sounds again coming from downstairs and Seth ran to see if we had caught the spawn of satan, I mean the chipmunk, and he actually got a glimpse of him! He saw the chipmunk run out from under the fridge and duck¬†right underneath the dishwasher and disappear. It was confirmed. Woody the custodian is a genius. We¬†stayed up for a while and held a stakeout but Chippy¬†didn’t show his little face again that night.

The next day while we were getting ready to cook dinner, I stepped into the pantry and had that really terrible feeling of stepping in a puddle with socks on. Ew. What the heck did I step in? I looked down and realized that half of the pantry floor was soaking wet!

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I called Seth frantically and we tried to figure out where the water was coming from. Seth looked as though a light bulb went off in his brain and he ran to the kitchen. He pulled the fridge out and we saw the water supply hose that goes to the ice maker spraying water like a firehouse! The hose had a tiny pinhole in it and must have been spraying for¬†most of the day while we were at work because it had soaked through the floor and into the pantry on the other side of the wall! Seth ran¬†downstairs the shut off the breaker for the fridge (ya know, so we didn’t electrocute ourselves) while I tried to hold off the firehouse by pinching my fingers, which didn’t work out too well. Finally we got the water supply turned off and we were able to step back and assess the damage. The whole area was drenched. We got out some beach towels and a big fan and started drying up the¬†floor. We realized that when little mister chipmunk had been messing around with his favorite diet-snacks behind the fridge, he somehow damaged the water line.

Oh and Ted helped where he could…

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It seems irrational to hate a chipmunk. I mean, they are adorable. But man, this thing was on my last nerve, which says a lot. Fool me once… oh forget it. This thing has fooled us like 10 times. We are definitely being manipulated by a woodland creature.

Time to bring out the big guns (not literally, to Seth’s dismay). Rat poison.

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So because it is poison and there is no way of telling if it has been effective, I unfortunately can not tell you if we have been successful in our war on chipmunk-terror. I hate to leave you in suspense. I can happily report that we have had no more water leaks, or food destruction, or loud sounds waking us up from a sound sleep. So *knock on wood* we assume the issue has been taken care of and that Chippy is swimmin’ with this fishes. But I guess, the world will never know.

The moral of the story is, if you ever find your house being vandalized by a chipmunk, good luck, prepare yourself for the long haul, and start with poison.

Oh but if anyone needs any rat traps or humane mouse traps, we have a plethora!

Highlights Reel- Autumn 2016

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Fall… our favorite time of the year. Cool crisp air, beautiful leaves and pumpkin spice everything (this year I discovered Ghiradelli has pumpkin spice chocolate..). We usually start off the Halloween season by going¬†to a local farm for pumpkin picking, hayrides and a corn maze. Unfortunately, this October¬†was a little hectic and we settled for just getting the pumpkins at a local farm stand. But we have enjoyed a few fall family traditions over the last several years and we were excited to bring them into our new home, despite our crazy schedules. First up was pumpkin carving! My stepdad, Bryan, is the master pumpkin carver, or so we like to call him. The truth is he just really enjoys carving with the kids and doesn’t mind pulling out the pumpkin guts that the boys usually complain about. We were able to host the carving this year and got great use of our outdoor patio space. This was one of those days that I was so relieved to have the patio. In our old condo, we would have had to sit in the grass or carve inside which is not nearly as fun when it comes to cleanup time.

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The kids came up with some great Jack-o-lanterns this year and carved them mostly themselves (which was scary…knives…kids….AH!). Liam was very proud of his “pumpkin puke” and the animals of the neighborhood sure appreciated it.

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Back when we lived in the condo we used to host Halloween for my sister’s family and my mom and stepdad. It worked out well because we lived in a development and the kids could go trick-or-treating there and then come back to our house for pizza and our traditional ghost cake (it’s devils food cake in the shape of a ghost with white frosting and it is fantastic). I was afraid that because we moved to the middle of the woods, we wouldn’t be hosting Halloween anymore. Luckily, we worked it out to where we went trick-or-treating in another development close by and then all came back to the house to celebrate afterwards. I love that we have a space that we can comfortably entertain in! We still have a lot of work to do in the house¬†and that can be super stressful but as long as our families can comfortably visit us, I can make peace with our crazy abode. Halloween 2016 was a success!

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Part of the reason we were so busy this fall was because we had a big family trip planned for Disney World (and Universal Studios) in early November. It was pretty insane, with 9 adults and 6 kids staying in one house and all going in different directions, but we had ¬†a blast. Our kids particularly loved Universal Studios and Seth and I totally nerded out in Harry Potter World. It was an expensive trip to say the least so it probably won’t be happening again for a long time but we are very lucky that we got to experience Disney with our kids for the first time!

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Disney also gave me some ideas for the house (because when you are renovating, you find inspiration everywhere). The curtains in our house were absolutely gorgeous and I decided I need that fabric in my life. My good friend Ariel found a similar pattern online so now I just need to think about what I want to do with it (pillows, curtains, so many options!). I also really loved a scarf display at a store in Disney Springs (Sugarboo & Co., awesome stuff but WHOA to those prices!) and thought it fit in really well with our bedroom and my massive scarf collection. I can’t afford your coasters, Sugarboo, but thanks for the free idea. Another inspiration was from the master suite¬†in the house we were staying in. Every room had a theme and the master suite was Frozen. The Frozen bathroom had a great color scheme and these beautiful chandeliers hanging over the double sinks. I decided that our¬†new bathroom would look awesome with fancy chandeliers (I’m not sure that I told Seth about this one yet so….surprise hunny!!).

When we got home¬†from Disney we needed to get back to work. A week out of state was great but man, we felt like the clock was ticking, especially since daylight savings time had hit and we were now in the dark by 4:30pm. We also felt set back because the trees decided to retaliate while we were gone and shed pretty much ALL of their leaves at once. Raking would have¬†been okay if they were in the yard but the majority of the leaves were on the patio and the stairs. It was time to purchase some heavy duty artillery to get this job done. Never in my life have a used a leaf blower but a nice lady at Home Depot helped me pick out a comfortable backpack kind that was fairly user friendly. I am not going to say I was “good” at leaf blowing but hey, there’s a learning curve for everything. By next fall I should be an expert (or maybe just much less terrible).

Our trip to Disney was also a shock to our system because¬†it was 80 degrees down in sunny Florida and pretty damn cold when we got back to NJ. Luckily we had a warm day before we left for vacation where we were able to convince the boys to help us stack up the cord of firewood we ordered. They were pretty miserable about it (seriously… kids used to do this crap all day! What the heck!) but we all worked together to get the job done.

We are now ready to bring on the next season in our new home, our very first winter in the woods! We have a few big projects to get done before it starts getting really nasty out, including redoing outdoor stairs and setting up better outdoor lighting. We also need to finish up Liam’s room and then get started on the bathroom and laundry room upstairs. So much to do, so little time!

Thanks for reading folks. Time to go snack on my pumpkin spice toast with pumpkin spice cream cheese… nom nom nom.

Even superheroes need breaks!

I might not be able to scale a wall or fly, or do anything that superheroes can do for that matter, but this home renovation has made us feel like freakin’¬†superheroes! We have been working ourselves nonstop and accomplishing huge tasks since July…well until a few weeks ago that is. We seemed to have hit a bit of a slow spot in our journey, and every time we go to beat ourselves up about it, we just need to remind ourselves that even superheroes need an occasional break!

In all fairness, we haven’t¬†completely fallen of the wagon. Seth has been working whenever possible to get Liam’s room¬†drywalled¬†and now spackled. The first coat of spackle is done in the majority of the room, and we should be able to get paint on the walls in the next week. Liam has been super patient, but we know he will be super happy when he finally gets his own room!

We also have been doing a lot of things to get our house ready for fall. We discovered that fallen leaves is not the biggest problem we will have in the fall, it will be these pesky pine needles! Holy crap, they blanket every inch outside, including the entire surface of the roof over our patio.¬†Hello fire hazard ūüė¶

I thought to myself as I was sweeping them up unsuccessfully that we should really invest in a leaf blower. The more I looked into it though, I realized that¬†leaf blowers won’t work well on pine needles because there is no surface area to lift them. So it looks like we will just be refining our techniques as we go here. Every day presents us with a new challenge, that is for sure! At least it will make good compost?

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Seth and I also used some of the last two weeks to take some time for ourselves and¬†our family. We even got to take a trip to beautiful Gettysburg for my stepbrother’s wedding! It was a lot of fun and we can’t wait to go back. The quaint little shops, the colorful leaves, the rich history… it was a breath of fresh air!

Back at home, the autumn has been beautiful so far. We had quite a warm spell last week (prolonging my desire for air conditioning in my classroom) and our lawn took full advantage of the heat. Look at the beautiful green grass! Yay!!! (this is what adulting is, right? celebrating grass?)

This week we¬†are back to cooler temps and that means time to get the wood stove crankin’! We are still trying to figure it out honestly, and have just ordered our first cord of wood for $200 to be delivered on Friday (I say that like I know what a cord is, but in reality I have no idea… am I even spelling that right?). Where do people find free firewood?! It’s been great so far because we have been using free wood and heating our house for free but we aren’t sure how cost effective it will be to pay for wood¬†versus paying for oil. Yet another thing¬†we will need to figure out¬†as we go! I think I need to make a graphic organizer or rubric to help us. At least we can enjoy the sites of fall while we calculate…

So for these superheroes, it has been a slow October. But we are recharging and getting ready to go full steam ahead again soon. ¬†We leave you with this shot I took up the road from our house. This, right here, is why we live where we live. This is what makes it all worth it. Wide open spaces (yup, totally signing Dixie Chicks in my head now), rolling hills, and bright¬†blue skies. Home, sweet, home ūüôā

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Reno. Week 8- When nature calls… hang up!

The calming sound of the wind rustling the leaves overhead, the smell from a wood burning stove in the air, the beautiful array of oranges and reds and yellows as you drive up the road to your house. Autumn is here, and it is fabulous. Seth and I love this time of the year, and we are excited to be here in our house for the change of the season. We are making great progress and finally got to sleep in our bedroom this week. We were so excited that it was seriously hard to fall asleep that first night! We felt like kids on Christmas Eve!

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I realized as I was laying in our room that I never got to show off pictures of our awesome bedroom ceiling. We decided to leave the beautiful tongue-and-groove ceiling open (it is fully insulated) and it makes for an open, airy feel to the room.

We also got¬†some of our clothes put away in the room, although we are going to wait to complete the shelving in the front closet until after Liam’s room is done. It took a whole day to get all of the boxes of fall and winter clothes out from the workshop across the street and put away upstairs. But at least now I can stop wearing flip flops to work.

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It felt great to finally be getting settled in the house. And apparently, we weren’t the only ones who want to be in the house. Mice and bugs and big ass spiders seem to think our place¬†looks cozy. I’d love to say that the theme of this week was work on the house, but in reality it has definitely been… unwelcome intruders.

It started off immediately after my last post when our dishwasher just suddenly stopped working. We figured it was an electrical problem because, well, everything else has been an electrical problem so it just made sense.¬†But the more we looked into it, the more we realized it was something else; it was turning on but wasn’t filling up with water. So while Seth instantly wanted to start¬†tearing the machine apart, I figured it would be best¬†to look up videos and tutorials on how to troubleshoot the problem (silly of me, I know…). We pulled the dishwasher out from under the counter top and were horrified with what we discovered. Poop… mouse poop… ALL OVER THE PLACE!

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We knew this wasn’t going to be pretty. It took a little while to get the dishwasher out from it’s spot (we actually had to do some impromptu wiring because it was hardwired right into the basement breaker through the floor and the wire didn’t have enough slack to let us pull the machine out… ugh!) but when we did, we discovered WAY MORE than poop. This mouse had decided to make a home for itself, a huge¬†nest, right under the dishwasher.

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Not going to lie, that freaked me out. I think mice are cute but their poop so close to my clean dishes and my food, not cool! We got the shop vac out and Seth took care of the nastiness. Hopefully, the mouse finds a new place to make a home, and not inside MY home.

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After an hour or so of pulling random hoses and plugs out of the dishwasher, we decided that we truly had no idea what we were doing and we needed to call a repair man. DIY only gets you so far sometimes. So for the rest of the week, our dishwasher remained out of commission.

A few days later, an appliance repair man came by and diagnosed our problem. A wire underneath the dishwasher had been mysteriously chewed through, most likely by an animal, he suggested. Hmm, I wonder what animal might have done that. Perhaps the one living in my kitchen!! Ugh, that’s it mouse… you now cost me money AND grossed me out. This means war.

I wish I could say the mouse was the only intruder this week, or that the dishwasher repair guy was the only professional we had to call in for help. But that would be a lie. After the first few nights sleeping upstairs we started noticing little winged ant-like bugs on our mattress when we went to lay down at night. Some were living, some were dead (probably squished by us in the middle of the night, a sad fate). We were afraid these were the dreaded carpenter ants mentioned in a previous post, although they were much smaller. We decided to call an exterminator (who I later found out was a parent of one of my students… I seriously hope my bras weren’t hanging out when he was inspecting the bedroom, awkward!) to have the situation properly assessed as we are definitely not bug experts. After I had the appointment scheduled, Seth mentioned that he had found¬†a second¬†good reason for¬†the exterminator to¬†come out. He mentioned it sheepishly and I instantly knew what he meant.

He must have found spiders.

Big spiders.

Wolf Spiders.

(google what they look like, I can’t even put a picture on my blog of one without making my own skin crawl)

Sure enough, he confessed that he had found two wolf spiders in our bathroom two days in a row¬†(and hadn’t told me yet because of the obvious freak out that would ensue). They were big, and one of them had been in the bathroom with me while I was brushing my teeth because Seth saw it on the floor right after I walked out. It had been in there… WITH ME. Oh this was so not okay. I mean, I don’t mind most bugs but certain kinds, and spiders (which, I know, are not classified as insects) are definitely NOT okay. I realize that we live in the woods now, and that it is common to have spiders come in the house during the early fall to seek warmth, but by no means do I plan on letting them stay. I had another pep talk with Ted, similar to the one we had about the rat, but he just blinked at me. Oh, exterminatorrrr! I have a jobbbb for youuu!!!

So at this point in the week we had been invaded by mice, ants and wolf spiders. It was shaping up to be an interesting week. Luckily, the weather was gorgeous for most of it and we could get some things done outside. Part of the deal when we moved into the house was that Jordan was going to get a basketball hoop. This has been all he’s wanted for years and we were never able to have one in our condo (association rules are rough). We obviously had to wait for the septic craziness to be over but finally, we were in the clear. After waiting 6 weeks for the hoop to come in (Dick’s sporting goods really needs to work on their customer service!!), we received it and Seth set¬†it up. Jordan hasn’t seen it yet, and I am pretty excited to see his reaction! ūüôā

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Even though the weather outside has been great during the day, the nights are getting pretty chilly. We decided it was time to get our wood burning stove checked out, and the oil-burning furnace as well. It is a good thing because the oil furnace downstairs was so clogged that we were very much in danger of a carbon monoxide issue! Dodged a bullet there (PSA to call your furnace guy, people!). We really wanted to try and avoid using the oil heat all together and just stick with the wood burning stove to heat the house. The previous owner said that’s basically all he used in the winter. How difficult can it be?? The first task¬†was getting the wood.

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Luckily the guy who came to clean the furnace told Seth that he is welcome to come by his house and take as much wood as he needs. We also have offers from my step-dad and another family friend. Free firewood=free heat… I am all about free!

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Plus it just looks so nice and cozy ūüôā

Turns out though, using a wood stove is not as easy as you might think. It is hard to get¬†it hot enough with kindling to get the flames really going, and if it is even a little bit colder inside than it is outside, the smoke doesn’t get pulled up the chimney as easily and you can smoke out your house (not that we know from experience or anything… who am I kidding, yes we do, it happened). It is also hard to control the amount of heat that comes off of it. The first night we had it going we were sweating watching tv and then woke up in the middle of the night freezing. So yea, this is going to take some getting used to. Any suggestions are welcome!!

Given all the craziness¬†this week, it has still been a good one. Seth¬†got some sheetrock done in Liam’s room and I moved over a lot of stuff from the workshop across the street. We have a wedding this weekend in Gettysburg so we will be taking a few days off of the reno-work but we will be back at it next week!¬†Ted will also be resting up for a few days because, well, that’s all he ever really does…

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We wanted to open up the blog for any questions our readers might have! We have gotten a few in person asking specifics about certain projects, or the layout of some rooms, so we realized that many of you might be wondering the same things! Let us know in the comments here or on Facebook if you have any certain questions you would like answered or topics you would like featured.

As always, thanks for reading and enjoy your first few weeks of this beautiful season ūüôā

Costs this week:

Furnace Guy: $125

Dishwasher Guy: $107

Exterminator (Hero): $125

Home Depot (sheetrock): $80

Total Costs this week: $437

Total Costs for Weeks 4-8: $2027

 

 

Reno. Week 7- Out of the closet!!!

I know, I know, it has been over a week since I last posted and you have been waiting on bated breath to find out the latest update. I apologize, my loyal fans. But trust me, it was totally worth the wait!

Week 7 start out kind of boring. Spackle, sand, spackle, sand, lose power, spackle, sand. The monotony was exhausting. Luckily,¬†my dad came up again on Monday to help Seth out while I was at work during the day. They got a lot of things cleaned up in the upstairs and on the back patio, and finished all the sheetrock in the master bedroom. My dad corrected my “bad spackle job” which I blame him for because he never showed me how to properly spackle and that’s in the Daddy’s Girl handbook.¬†Yes,¬†I am 29 and still blaming¬†my parents, but that’s how it goes right?

(Side note, I can’t begin to tell you how annoying it is that for the last 7 weeks I have been writing the word spackle in this blog and it spellchecks it EVERY TIME! Webster says it’s a word, WordPress. Get with the DIY times!)

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Spackle, sand, spackle, sand, spackle, sand.

 

Finally, days later, the majority of the sanding was done. Thank God for the vacuum attachment on the power sander or Seth would probably have a respiratory illness by now. There are still some spots that are pretty rough or need to be patched, but the important thing is that most of the dust was contained before we move our furniture and clothing upstairs.

Next up was painting. We had already picked out the color for our bedroom weeks ago, on a whim. We didn’t get any samples or anything, we just picked it out during one of our many trips to Home Depot (or Homey Deeps as we call it in our family thanks to my step-bro). It was called “White Lavender” by Behr. I was in love. I have always wanted a lavender room. It is such a calming color to me, and bedrooms should be just that! So Seth let me play interior designer and didn’t complain about the purple bedroom in his future. We decided to go with a standard¬†white for the closets since there will be white shelving in them and we want it to be as bright in there as possible (plus it is the cheapest paint and who needs fancy in a closet?!).

While we waited for some last minute spackle spots to dry in the master bedroom before we could finish painting (this damp, cool fall weather has made that challenging and we actually had to kick the heat on in the house), we got to work in the closets. Seth got the flooring down in the back closet and we picked out a shelving system that we hoped would work.

After a few hours and some missteps with directions, we had our shelving system in place! We will be adding another small shelf on each side wall but there is no rush to get that done. Finally,¬†Seth won’t have to sleep under my hanging clothes and I won’t accidentally drop them on his head in the morning when I am trying to get ready for work! Oh, and did I mention that at the very beginning of week 7, the power in our closet-room mysteriously went out? We have no idea why, and our electrician friend couldn’t figure it out in a short period of time. We opted to have him work on more of the upstairs stuff so we could just get the hell out of the closet-room once and for all. We can figure out the power situation some other time. So we have been charging phones in the bathroom at night, picking out clothes in the dark, and waiting even more impatiently to get into our new bedroom.

The back closet was starting to really look great. So of course that means something had to go wrong. When my dad was up, he decided to start working on framing out the shelves that we will have between the back closet and front closet. We couldn’t just make it one big closet because these are load bearing walls (there are actually 2 of them sandwiched next to each other). Instead we just have the two closets¬†connected with a doorway and we will have some open shelving on each side of the doorway. The problem is, which they figured out as soon as they started framing, the two walls are crooked. Surprise, surprise! They are much closer together on the bottom than they are on top. So that means that the top shelves are going to be a few inches wider than the bottom shelves, and that we have to figure out another way to frame this out because, this, just can’t fly…

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After we were satisfied with the back closet for now, Seth worked diligently to get the flooring done during the days that I was at work, and before he went in to work at karate. The poor guy is beat. But man, this room is really starting to shape up!

And that, folks, was why I wanted to wait to post to the blog! I didn’t want to leave the post like that, with a half done floor, when we were SO close! So instead I waited until today, when Seth finished the floor in our master bedroom. YAYAYAYAY!!!!! He even got the base moulding on and it looks flippin’ fantastic. I am completely thrilled! I wish I could put emojis on here!!

As soon as I got home from work today we got started moving our bed out of the closet downstairs and up into our¬†new master bedroom. We assembled our bed frame that we had built last year (it isn’t totally set up in the picture below but it is good enough to sleep on for now!) and carried our mattress upstairs. We decided that we are definitely going to be getting a new mattress soon but for now, who cares, we have a bed… in a room!

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I can’t WAIT to get this room decorated. We are trying to decide if we want to paint the “shiplap” wall or if we want to leave it the natural wood color. Hmm, decisions, decisions. Oh, but just picture the flowy drapes framing out the long glass window (once that’s in…thank God I have a good imagination). It is going to be fabulous.

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In all of the excitement, I realized that I never got a good picture of our closet-room. I realized it right as we were dragging the mattress out of is¬†and it was far too late to go back. So I decided to show you the closet-room anyway, without the mattress, messy clothes and all, with Ted and a standard pillow for size comparison. Our queen mattress literally¬†took up the entire floor. One day, this will be an office… and the memory of it as our bedroom will be long gone.

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So for the first time since we moved in July… we will be sleeping in a bedroom tonight. And that my friends, is a wonderful feeling. Big shout out to my husband for being such a rockstar and working so hard all day long. If he¬†wasn’t so dedicated, it easily could have taken us several more months to come this far. It has been¬†so much fun working along side him and as exhausted as we both are, we are so excited to see our house turning into a home that we are building together. And as if that weren’t sweet enough, our grass is starting to grow ūüôā

Week 7… one for the record books!

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Costs this week:

Home Depot #1 (dry wall materials, wood framing): $177

Home Depot #2 (paint, closet organizers, box fan): $190

Home Depot #3 (more paint, rollers, wood): $89

Home Depot #4 (WeMo light switch, doorknobs): $90

Home Depot #5 (paint stuff, drywall repair patches, more shelves, ceiling fan): $322

Total Costs this week: $868