Monday, April 11, 2016

Almost Ready

At this point, a professional cleaning service has spruced up the interior (thank you, Mom!). This is a very big deal for a busy landscape designer in spring and a mother of four young kids, and allows us to concentrate on other things. 
Like doorknobs. All the exterior ones have been replaced. As you can see, there's still a lot of sprucing up to do on the exterior. The siding is white, so the doors shall NOT remain white forever. Must think of a color palette for this house...

The old fridge was moved down to the basement Saturday, thanks to my beefy brother and husband, where it will serve as overflow food storage. I look forward to being able to fit big bags of apples in there from the local orchard. I heard the apples at your grocery store were picked 11 months before you bought them. Eleven months!! 

This is the beautiful new faucet my Jason installed in the kitchen. We found it on Amazon. I love that enameled cast iron sink. 
And here's the new kids'/guest bath faucet he installed. Nothing fancy, but inexpensive at Home Depot and a world of improvement from the old leaky brass one.

 I know this photo should get "worst photo on the internet award," but it's the only one I managed to get before the new carpet went in. You can tell how much moisture was in the house before we put in a dehumidifier! So this was dark hunter green carpet, and it was horribly dirty looking. Hubby said no. 
Here is the new carpet! I'm looking forward to painting the walls. 
Here's the new carpet in the closet. I'm also looking forward to tiling the adjoining bathroom floor. But those are post-move-in projects. 

So now all that remains is to replace two interior doors, and set a date to move! I can't wait to show you the rest of the house. Until next time!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

We Bought a House

Two Friday's ago, we closed on a house in Asheville. It was an amazing deal, a foreclosure, and the location and size were perfect for us. 

It's a brick -- I mean, the shape of it is like a boring shoe box. Cut into a wooded slope, there are 5+ doors but no clear "front door." The upper level has two bedrooms, two baths, a tiny corner kitchen, and an equally small dining/living space the kitchen opens to. Five hundred square feet of carpeted open family room space is located downstairs, as well as a garage. 

I'm excited to rip out the bar downstairs and rework it into a kitchen island. I'm excited to shine the beautiful hickory floors upstairs. I'm looking forward to updating all the builder-grade 90's cabinetry and hardware in as frugal and smart a way as I can find. There has already been a lot of Pinterest-ing, as you can imagine. 

Already Jason has replaced this broken toilet...
with a low cost, efficient one:
See how dirty it is in there? It looks like the baseboards were never dusted. And he found far worse behind the fridge:
And in the fridge?
Woof. So we decided perhaps we didn't need to be consuming ice and water from this unit. We found:
It's being delivered today. Hard to beat that deal! And I've always wanted a French door fridge, since my brother and sister-in-law got theirs. I feel like we're being spoiled with all the amazing deals and gifts and details that are coming with this house. 
Not that kind of gift (note to self: don't just clean out drawers when moving, but also look behind and under them). But really great gifts are being given, like my mom gifting us a professional house cleaning. That is every mother's love language, and she knows it! Having the bathrooms professionally cleaned is a special relief. 

That's about all for now. Many more repairs are in the works, and we hope to be able to move in over the next few weeks. I'll post some prettier photos of the house soon, and try to share our projects as we complete them. Here's to spring and new beginnings!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

3 Steps to Transform Your Space on the Cheap

1. Caulk

Caulk is the most overlooked and inexpensive tool I know of. If you have an old house but the wood is good (not rotten), you will be shocked at what a few tubes of paintable caulk can do. Fill any cracks along baseboards, between trim, on edges of cabinets, and in corners. If you're a DIYer installing built-ins, trim, or cabinetry, you'll need it to finish your project before painting. Below is a cabinet corner before and after caulk.

I like the Alex caulk by DAP at Home Depot or Lowes which is about $3/tube, but use whatever you can find as long as it's paintable and fast-drying. Buy 3 or 4 tubes at a time if you're working on an entire house; you'll make use of it eventually, but it stinks to run out in the middle of a project. I like white more than clear so I can easily see where I put it after it dries (I'm going to paint over it anyway). We've brought some old, nail-hole-filled, cracked, dog-chewed, misaligned trim back to life in houses we've bought, and all with caulk and a coat of paint. Below is a baseboard before and after caulk.

To apply a caulk line like a pro, start with a tube opened with a clean angled cut off the tip, and load it into your caulk gun. Run a sparing line of caulk along a crack/crevice, and use a finger to swipe down the length of it in one smooth motion. If you didn't apply enough, you can always add another line of caulk and repeat. If you apply too much, you'll quickly have a (water soluble) mess on your hands - but nothing soap and water can't clean off your skin and tools. Just wear old painting clothes.  Practice makes perfect!

2. Paint

At around $30 for a bucket of good quality paint, you can completely transform and renew a room. Here's an example of a bathroom completely transformed with paint (and some peel-n-stick floor tiles and curtains).

I usually avoid bright or intense colors in smaller spaces, unless there's wainscoting, and even then, I tend to err on the neutral side because you can always add color through fabrics, furniture, and accessories.  And here's the rule: if you can clearly see it is blue or green or orange on the paint samples rack, it's going to be 10x more blue/green/orange on a wall. I promise.  It will never be more gray on the walls than it is on the paint sample card.

Here's another example of how enormous an effect paint can have on a space. At each step in the process of renovating this kitchen, paint played a big part. I loved that blue...I loved it with the warmth of the wood cabinets.

Choose a color you love, then ask yourself, "Is this a wall color, or an accent color?" Wall colors take more effort to change than accents like upholstery, framed art, or painted wood furniture. And they affect your space with far more ferocity than a smaller item of the same color would.  The blue color in this kitchen made the space feel eclectic, cozy, and artsy. The light gray in the next photo made it feel more light, clean, and probably appealed to a wider audience (which is why we painted it gray when we sold it). 
Once you decide your chosen color belongs on your walls, go 2-3 steps more gray with it. Then take several choices home as paint samples, tape them to your walls in the rooms you mean to paint, and live with them for a few days before deciding. It might be more time than you expected to spend in preparation to paint, but you'll be glad to avoid having to start over. Don't skimp on the brush, unless you're painting something heavily textured like old metal scrollwork. I love my 2" angled tapered Zibra brush, and it's lasted through painting many rooms. It'll cut a line cleaner than any paint tape could give you, with way less trouble. I don't use tape anymore - use a practiced, smooth motion, a quality angled brush, and clean up any overpaint on glass with a razor. Where two colors meet, always paint the darker paint last, as it'll only take one coat to cover any overpaint from the other color. If you're unsure whether you'll be painting over oil or water-based, use the rubbing alcohol and cotton swab method. If it's latex paint, it'll come off on the cotton swab. If you're going to use a water-based paint, which dries faster and has less fumes, you'll need to prime first if the swab is clean (which means oil-based paints were used).

3. Fabric

Fabric adds color, pattern, and texture. It softens and warms a place. One gal who knows this well is The Nester, a.k.a. Myquillyn. Please take a look at her site (click on either photo below too) - it is a wealth of smart decorating knowledge.
Can you believe that's a drafty addition to their barn? Look at that soft, inviting bed and the sheep skin rug.
Can you believe that's inside the barn?? She achieved this cozy look with fabric - curtains, upholstered furniture, bedding, rug, pouf, and pillows.

Fabric can be added as slipcovers, rugs (they're textiles too!), simple drapes, bedding pillows, to the back of bookshelves, to the walls themselves...there are so many ways to add fabric. Layer rugs if you have multiples, like jute under woven, or cow hide over wool (if you are lucky enough to have a cow hide rug). Add a fake fur throw or a sheep skin. Layer bedding with a bedskirt, coverlet or quilt, throw or blanket, and coordinating sheets. Make your bed beckon to you. 

You don't have to overpay to make your space cozy. Some Walmart stores still sell fabric by the yard for around $3, and fabric stores have clearance racks. There's and Yard sale pillows can be recovered, and flat sheets or drop cloths can become curtains. Remember to hang your curtain rods (including shower rods) as close to the ceiling as you can, and as wide as you can, so when they are open you can allow ALL the light in through the window and not cover any of it except the window's trim on the side. This lengthens the space and makes the window seem bigger.

To make simple curtain panels (and some links to tutorials)...

With a flat sheet: snip the seams on the left and right of the thickest hem (usually goes at the top of the bed, where your face and hands are), leaving a tunnel to slide a curtain rod through.  Or use clip-on rings.  The Frugal Homemaker

With fabric by the yard: fold the raw edge twice and iron. Use fusible hem tape and an iron, a hot glue gun, or a sewing machine to secure. Fold one side's hem thick enough to fit a curtain rod through or use clip-on rings. Two Twenty One

With a drop cloth: choose a size appropriate for your window, and use clip-on rings. Alternately, cut a larger drop cloth in half to save money, and finish the raw edge with a seam or hot glue or fusible hem tape. Better Homes and Gardens (several tutorials on this one)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Hope Fulfilled is a Tree of Life

It's been three months since my last post, in which I reported being entirely lonely and weary of not belonging. While there are still days when I dwell on the people and places I miss, the hopelessness and loneliness are no more.

For one thing, one of the two things I've been praying for has been given to us: we have a house under contract. What a relief! So many things about it are better than I could have expected, and it will be another fixer-upper (though it needs far less updating than the last).  But what this house means is what is most important:

1) We now know where we will be settling down. It's 35 minutes away from where we are now, so a renewed sense of hope about my other prayer - finding community and friends - will soon be answered. Also, it means that I will be too busy with repairs and homemaking and exploring our new neighborhood to slip into the "depths of despair" as easily as before.
2) One of my two desires has been extravagantly fulfilled. This gives me renewed hope that the other will be fulfilled, regardless of how or where. My trust is strengthened. I am resolved to make it through.
I've also made a few friends, though we haven't had many opportunities to visit. One is an artist, and she is encouraging me to make art again, though I doubt I'll find too much time for that in the near future. But she has piqued my interest in art again, and so I've found my old photos of the work I did over 10 years ago, and uploaded it to a portfolio blog of sorts.  Maybe I'll be able to add to that.

Right now, I'm planning out our new house and helping to prepare the house we've been staying in for sale. Painting, caulking, cleaning, and removing an old screen front door. I've also planted more bulbs here. This Spring will bring new and exciting beauty both at this temporary residence, where we've put in some landscaping, and at our new house, where we have no idea what lies dormant beneath the surface because we're buying in the dead of winter.

Winter here is lovely. The sun hides most of the time, but sometimes there's snow. And spring is just around the corner.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I Just Want to Belong

Not too long ago, life was busy and full and good, and I decided nobody needed to hear the ramblings of my heart, so I changed this from my personal blog to a "home improvement and gardening" blog. I told myself I was narrowing the scope, focusing on my target readers, simplifying. There really wasn't time for pouring out my heart, what with the patter of little feet in the unfinished house and each week filled to the brim with time spent sharing food and time with friends. It was easy to feel the love of Father God then, tangibly. But things are different today, and I must air the thoughts that churn in my heart.

I guess this isn't purely a home and garden blog anymore.

My husband was made an offer at a company back in NC, where he would be appreciated and respected as never before by an employer. I didn't want to go. I knew immediately, long before the offer was made, that things were about to change, but how do you say no to your spouse getting the offer of a lifetime? You can't, not for the promise of the familiar.  Things change whether you stay or go. I dreaded the change. I clung to spaces while friends carried on nearby, in the foyer at church or a friend's kitchen, unable to process that I might never stand there again. I measured faces in my gaze, and little hands in mine, and my ears memorized sweet voices and laughter. We said so many goodbyes. I'm not good at holding back now. I tried to be mysterious and immeasurable when I was younger, but once you are known and loved as you are, it's hard to go back to keeping safe spaces in between. Those spaces are cold and empty. You must tell people how you feel about them. You must say "I love you" and "you're a faithful friend" out loud, and you must say it now, while you can.

So we moved. And now we've been here for four months, in the town where I mostly grew up, and everything has changed. Life goes on, but I feel like I'm on a raft, floating out to sea, and no ships will take me in. My husband has his work relationships, but I have only the chaos of children at home. We did the math, realizing we found our community in Texas a little more than 4 months after moving there. I know it's not been long and we could find our new community any day now, but couldn't we also not? We've visited churches (and I hate visiting churches, especially dragging the kids to a new children's church every week), but no one here does what we were so used to - sharing life together. People here are mountain folk - they are good at being self-sufficient (or at least that might be one factor). But we are used to being needy and sharing everything. Greeting someone at church on Sunday is not sharing life with them, as friendly and genuine as the greeting might be.

Sharing life is taking a woman's small children for a couple of hours so she can go to the doctor. It's helping them move into a new house, and making sure their bed is made so they have a place to sleep the first night. It's sending a care package with your husband on his lunch break because someone's got a fever and 4 kids to care for. It's taking a walk on their street and being invited in for an impromptu visit. It's loving their kids and their parents as much as you love them. It's sharing food with them a couple of times a week. It's getting boxes of produce and plants and baby clothes and homemade gifts at church for no particular reason. It's being cared for, no matter what.

There are no stay at home moms just a couple of minutes away here that I know. There are no home groups open to families with small children at church. There is an aching in my heart that feels keenly the absence of a love that amounted to more than just the individuals and our interactions.

But, thankfully, there is still Jesus, his creation, and his church. There are family members my children get to see often now, and there is free babysitting (hallelujah). There are just a couple of friends from my youth who are here and (thank God) still like me, and long-time friends a few hours away that always feel like home. But it's so different. I have so much to give, but no place to put roots. Here's hoping those who sow in tears will reap with joy this side of Heaven.

I just want to belong.

Monday, August 17, 2015

First Project in NC

We moved to the mountains of NC almost a month ago, and are staying in a home owned by family for now. We've been slow to begin projects beautifying this house because ... well, we moved from TX to NC with four little kids! I'm just going to say that's reason enough for a pause. But back to the project. 

We chose to first address the narrow flower bed in front of the house, because 
1) it's good to be outdoors
2) gardening is my favorite thing to do, and 
3) it will add curb appeal with very little effort. 

Here's a before:

And after:

And another before:

And after:

We planted mostly perennials because I wanted an English cottage style - wildly colorful. There are blue asters, blue rug juniper, cool pink dianthus, hot pink dwarf echinacea, variegated heuchera, and some herbs and purple kale for me to cook with. We chose a cool palette (with the exception of a yellow rudbeckia) because the house's exterior is very warm. I can't wait to see how this bed fills in next spring!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Texas House Before and Afters Part 2

Here are more photos of the house's transformation. It's been really enjoyable being able to see the plans we had for our home come to life, though it is to become someone else's home. I feel more confident in my tastes and style decisions for a house. Now if I could do the same for my personal style...

Today we'll go through the rest of the main house, and include a few back yard and apartment photos too. Enjoy!

Den Before:
Now Master Bedroom:
Bedroom 1 Before:
Bedroom 2 Before:
Back Yard Before:
Apartment Before:
Isn't it amazing what some paint and tiles can do? This whole renovation was so inexpensive there at the end, and I'll have to write at some future juncture about why that worked out so well for us.

Well, that's it for now, friends and family!  All too soon we'll be leaving many of you to join many others of you. Now if I can deal with the grief of leaving such a loving community, I'll finally become excited about the adventure our family is on, and try to post some photos of the new place for you. Much love to you all!