Category Archives: DIY projects

House Progress: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As promised, I’m back one more time to explain a little more of the crazy process of building an addition/remodeling most of the existing house!

There is so much I could say that it’s hard to pare down to a few highlights. A quick backstory on the timing of the addition: We found out we were (surprise!) pregnant with Ingrid right after Jonathan quit his social work job to begin counseling full-time. I experienced some major anxiety about how things would work out since we were already strapped for money and bursting at the seams in our two-bedroom home. Anyway, we looked into moving or adding a small master on the back of the house at that time, and found we literally had no options except to sit tight. Turns out you have to have 18 months of self-employment income before you can qualify for a loan. And a part-time nursing career amazingly isn’t enough to qualify either. ūüôā So we waited to do anything. And you know what? It was fine. For all the fretting, it worked alright. (Like most of the world and previous generations would tell you.)

Fast forward 18 months (remember that requirement?) and we had WAY more options than I would dare hope for in the Fall of 2014. This was primarily because home values had been skyrocketing in our area, so our little house had appreciated tons in the 5 years we’d owned it. Once we realized we had some options while adding even more value to our house, we decided we should try and tackle all the things that would make us want to move in the foreseeable future, as I mentioned in the previous post. So, it became a mammoth project. In short, God is good. And patience is a virtue. (Even if you’re being strong-armed into said virtue, I guess!)

So, in May of 2016 we packed boxed and moved half of our house into the other half of our house. I cannot believe this, but I have no pictures of what our living room and (old) master bedroom looked like lined with furniture and piled high with boxes. It was tight. We moved out for about 7 weeks, staying a good portion of that time 10 minutes away at Jonathan’s parents’ (Thank you, Dave and Becky!!), which afforded us the ability to check in at the house at least daily.

You see, we subcontracted this mess out, making it all the more crucial to live/not live at our house while we were gone. We decided to subcontract it out because we needed to make the biggest bang for our buck (as you know by now, we were trying to do A LOT–with a little, comparatively). A quick word on that, for those considering something like this: First, we didn’t know how insanely hard it would be to subcontract. None, really. And I really don’t think our expectations were very high. But still. Turns out you can put a price on sanity–it’s called a contractor. Secondly, we had my dad at our side. A retired civil engineer with all kinds of commercial construction experience and connections, we COULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS PROJECT WITHOUT HIM. He may have the been the wind in our sails that convinced us we could do such a crazy endeavor ;), but he was also so committed to helping us succeed that he spent countless hours showing up at our house, making calls on our behalf, doing the heavy lifting when things fell through (which they inevitably do!), and giving a compassionate ear when we cried about how hard it was. It was funny to look through pictures, because there were a million of him walking through the frame, just being there at every turn. My dad deserves a medal. We are eternally grateful!

The last picture is of Jonathan and my dad using a hammer drill under the crawl space to create an opening between the existing crawl space and the new one. In case you were wondering ūüėČ

Okay, so back to the process. One of the best/worst parts was the kitchen. We designed an Ikea kitchen with a local company called ModerNash. We put so much time and energy into planning the thing, then they went and got everything for us, and we were ready to go. Except our assembly guys flaked. We were¬†highly motivated to keep the project moving forward and the next guys who could get it done were like 3 weeks later. So, in a moment of complete insanity, we decided to assemble and install the cabinets ourselves. My mother-in-law came with us late one night (while my FIL stayed with the kids) to help us get our heads around Ikea assembly, and we began to chip away at it. It took weeks. So many late nights, heading there after work and kids were in bed. We didn’t have lights wired yet, so we strategically plugged lamps around the space.

Ikea is wonderful. But if you know anything about them, you know nothing comes assembled. We received about 90 boxes for our kitchen. This picture is at the halfway point or so, but you can see some of our method for organization as we assembled:

Then, came the counters, which were acacia butcher block we bought from SouthEastern Salvage. This is after installation and before we oiled them the first time. Look at the pride in my eyes. And fatigue.

I have all kinds of thoughts about wood counters, but the long and short of it is we love them. Reach out if you have questions!

The kitchen was seriously too much on top of work and kids. It was crazy. I was genuinely worried I would lose my mind, but we did it! (And saved some much needed dollars, so…) As I said, we were motivated to keep the project moving because our life is a bit nuts without all this, so we needed to get back to “normal” ASAP. From start to finish (passing final codes inspection, anyway) we did this thing in 6 months.

Our kids were champs. We arguably had them in so many questionable situations. But, no trips to the ER! They became pretty accustomed to dangerous things around at any given point and didn’t bother things.

After 7 weeks out, we moved back into the house (definitely before most people would think it was a good idea). We had no microwave, hot water heater, stove, running water in the kitchen. But a good bit of that was in shape within a few days! Liam was starting kindergarten in the middle of everything, and it was so important to me that he be back in the house for his security and adjustment. He did a lot better than I did.

Jonathan and I moved our mattress into the living room (around all the boxes) and slept there for the 3 months following. We joked we had a studio apartment whenever people would walk in the front door. This is the only picture I have, really, that proves we were there. You can see our built-ins in the reflection of the mirror.

And here is the kids’ new temporary set up after we moved back in (before the carpet was installed in Liam’s new room).

To make matters more fun, the entire family got head lice (first timers!) within the first few weeks of Liam starting school. People, we did not have a washer hooked up (for months, but this timing was painful)! That kind of stress makes you cry and laugh, cry and laugh.

We went back and forth about the material for the exterior of the addition and finally landed on brick. It’s not an exact match, but it’s not too bad. Several people have asked how we found matching brick. Yeah! And it doesn’t hurt that it’s in the back of the house.

Spring 2016

Spring 2017

This is a gigantic post, but one more strange thing we learned: natural materials are some of the hardest to get rid of. We probably rented five 10 cubic yard dumpsters for everything, but we we got down to sand, gravel, dirt, rocks–we couldn’t get rid of it! Nobody accepts/wants that stuff! Explain that one to me! That meant we had a hobbit hill in our back yard for a l-o-n-g time.

In all, we probably had at least a dozen people from craigslist and such take dirt. I am sure that dirt multiplied. We offered a contractor doing work down the street with a bob cat free top soil and he wanted $500 to take it. What?! So, we kept offering it to people with pickups and shovels. The following spring, it was smaller, but still there, just staring me down. I hated that dirt pile.

I am happy to report that by this summer, we had a (somewhat) level back yard! Things are looking pretty normal here these days. Even though we still have caulking and painting trim to be done here and there. Homeownership is a work in progress, though, am I right?

Phew, I’m tired again just writing about it! We may very well have lost a few years off our lives, but we are so grateful to have the opportunity to make our house so much more of what we wanted and needed. It takes a village, and we certainly have a good one. We love this house. Our blood, sweat, and tears are in this place!


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House Progress: The Mother Lode, Part 2

As promised, here are the pictures from our addition. We turned our 2 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom into a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with this addition. The addition is not terribly large (less than 500 square feet) but it consists of two bedrooms: the master and an office, a small laundry room, a master bathroom, and a hallway that includes a small amount of mudroom space. We aimed to make efficient use of space and not build something that feels totally different from the small spaces of our 1940s house. We also had building challenges with our weird property lines and set backs, but that’s another story for another time. Once we got into some real planning for this endeavor, we realized it was important to tackle everything that would make us consider moving in the foreseeable future. We feel like we accomplished that.

There is so much I want to explain about this whole process, but I’ll have to think more on what exactly to include (I feel like we could write a book!).

So, without further ado…


This is a progression of the master bedroom end of the addition looking into the house.




The office






The Laundry room. Almost not worth showing and the room looks crooked, but we still haven’t done much in there…yet.

The Master bedroom.




Our heavenly master bath.




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House Progress: The Mother Lode, Part 1

Last year we tackled an ambitious project. A very ambitious project. We pretty much re-invented our house. Much of the existing house was renovated. And then we added a sizable addition. All the while life continued on. We knew it would be a tough and draining endeavor, but we underestimated just how tough and draining. One year later, though, we can say it was totally worth it. And we never want to do it again!

One day I’ll get around to posting about the process. For now, pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. In fact, this post will come in two parts. Part 1: the existing house. Part 2: the addition.




Spring 2016                              Summer 2017

Spring 2016                            Summer 2017



Spring 2016                                Summer 2017




Spring 2016                               Summer 2017

Spring 2016                                Summer 2017



Spring 2016                                Summer 2017



Spring 2016                                    Summer 2017

Spring 2016                                Summer 2017




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Door Drama: Part Three

It’s been a long time since I wrote about any progress to our front door, and any of you who’ve kept up with this blog for a while may have thought we’d forgotten to finish our ¬†“plan”. (I assure you, I had not!)

But…the time has finally come!

I’m really excited about this post because, not only was it a heck-of-a-lot more work than anything we’ve tackled before, it has also¬†really helped to update the exterior of our home.

Okay, so if you’ll remember, here’s how our front entry looked June of 2012:


We painted the doorway white some time shortly after that and then attached shutters in July of 2013:

Fast forward another year, and here we are!IMG_0753


The process began months (or, really a year or two) earlier with plans for our roofed pergola. I cannot stress this step in the process enough. Sometimes it felt like we were beating a dead horse, but since we were (are) amateurs, it was critical in minimizing our stress once we entered the building phase. We talked about what each of us was envisioning. We researched ideas and sketched out our plans. We tried to anticipate what problems we could face. We priced lumber and supplies online. We talked with people in our lives who knew how to build. We made an exhaustive list for our Lowe’s trip.IMG_0967

Then, we set a date to build and recruited some help. This came in the form of my brother-in-law who helped with the manual labor (my dad threw out his back days earlier but still graciously managed to come and help out for a while), my in-laws who brought lunch and helped with just about anything else we needed, and my mom who kept the chilluns so we could actually focus and get stuff done. The hubs and I were talking about how DIYers get all the glory for rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty, but (in our experience) it takes a village to get the job done. We’re so grateful to everyone who helped us out!

The first step was to tear out the old awning, see what was left underneath, and power wash the area before we built over it again.IMG_0696

As in true DIY form, we did experience a few hiccups in our plan. The biggest one was the way we attached our posts to the concrete slab. We unsuccessfully tried a couple of frustrating methods before using L brackets and bits designed to drill into concrete.IMG_0721

The second most frustrating step was the way our corrugated steel bowed. IMG_0730

Even when we drilled it to the pergola while pulling it taut, the front bowed. We remedying it by attaching 1×2 pieces in between each rafter. In the end, we like the look better than without it.IMG_0755



One of the hardest parts about the project both in planning and in execution was building around that little corner. It was a pain because that affected the 3 inch slope on the last rafter. Let me tell you, math is an important skill in building!IMG_0751

Because we used pressure treated wood, we have to wait a while until we can stain it. But the plan is to stain it the same color as the shutters and then paint the concrete gray.

August 2011:DSCN0512


July 2014:


We had many moments of frustration, but we knew that we’d feel pride once we were finished. And we do. One of the areas where I feel most accomplished is in anticipating the cost and sticking to our budget. We built this puppy (including the painting and staining that have yet to be completed) for right around $250.¬†IMG_0755



One thing is for sure: it was a learning experience. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s still standing! ūüôā


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DIY Scrapbook Paper Wreath

As much as I have enjoyed the winter wreath that graced our door the last 5 months, the warming weather reminded me that is was time for something springier.





The problem was, there are a lot of [spring time] wreaths I’m not crazy about. So when I came across this one, I thought I’d try it out. I bought a metal wreath (at Hobby Lobby for 2 or 3 bucks), 5 sheets of scrapbook paper (at 50 cents per sheet), and 1 piece of felt (to make the flowers). We’re not talking much money here. At that cost, I figured it was worth the experiment, even if it didn’t go well.


I cut a leaf template from a piece of cardboard (a toothpaste box, if you must know) and then traced it about 60 times on to the scrapbook sheets. Then, I overlapped them all the way around with hot glue until the metal was completely covered. It looked alright, but pretty boring and flat.


The one that inspired me used scalloped scissors. I didn’t have any–neither did my neighbor–and I didn’t want to buy any, so I folded each piece in half to create some dimension. I grouped them in pairs and fanned them on top of the existing leaves.


Muuuuch better.


I played around with a couple of ideas for flowers. These are made from circles cut from felt (about the size of a quarter), then cut in half and hot glued into funnel shapes. I think I need a few more on there (maybe a total of 5). One day, I’ll get to that. In the mean time, I’m pretty happy with it. ¬†The purple is nice, but I think yellow would’ve been really cute, too. Overall, worth my effort, I think!


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Mud Room Space

As promised, I’m back with the improvements we’ve made to our den by the back door! For Christmas, we received a hat rack and shoe bench we’d been eyeing at IKEA¬†from Jonathan’s parents.

If you’ll remember, here’s how sad our entryway was before:


Needless to say, it didn’t take long before we were assembling those babies! And here’s how she looks:


*Note the increasingly permanent set up for our modem and router on Jonathan’s box drum


DSCN0884I’m so pleased with how it has matured the space. We really thought about making our own coat rack from a pallet, and I’m glad we didn’t. This will be something that will last us (maybe even go with us to our next house).


One thing is  for sure, this room has come a long way since we moved in 2.5 years ago!

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Homemade Kid Clothes

My kids are incredibly blessed to have such talented grandmothers. Since Christmas, Liam and Ellis have been enjoying several things made for them.

DSC01511First is oh-so-cute tutu that Omi made for the girl. (not pictured: matching cousin Genevieve)

m c 2

Ellis was also fortunate enough to receive such a fun little skirt from her Mimi (not pictured: matching cousins Sierra and Lily)


The boy was so excited to get his very own Batman cape (made by Omi) and matching mask (made by his wonderful aunt Merrill). Batman doesn’t smile when he’s got so much crime to fight, of course.

christmas card 4Luckily for us, it’s ¬†become a tradition for my ¬†mom to make matching Christmas jammies for all of ¬†her grandchildren. Currently, there are 8 kids (the 3 not pictured-Maggie, Ben, and Tobias- are in Burundi).

With talent like that from both lines, I think it’s safe to say it runs in the family! Thank you, Omi and Mimi!

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