Levi’s Room: The Final Chapter

In some ways it seems silly to post the reveal photos, what with the basically 3D renderings I showed last time.

But alas we finished! It only took a little over a month, but his room was sleep-able all but 1 night while painting, and the hallway was only littered with miscellaneous stuff pushed out of his room, at perfect shin whacking height, for 2-3 weeks tops. So given all that, I’d call this a wild success.

Here is a look at the bed wall. If the antlers look slightly off centered, it’s because they are. The bed got moved out slightly when we were putting curtains up and it was not budging one tiny bit as a I attempted to repeatedly heave it back towards the window. The bed frame is a real bear. I shouldn’t complain because we found it free in our attic after a year or two of living here, but it is metal and has these amazing metal bars that poke out about 8 inches beyond the end of the bed. You can only imagine how Brett and I laugh and laugh as we’ve racked our shins on it over the years. But I digress, it looks pretty!


Over his little nightstand stool is a Harry Potter quote. “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” I found it on Etsy and got it despite the fact that Levi can’t read yet.

Here is another angle, facing the window. Funny story about the curtains. Target was having a 30% off sale on curtains and I was a bit undecided on what I wanted. So I bought a bazillion dollars worth of curtains, so I could make sure whatever I liked I bought on sale. Guess which curtain I could only buy one of because they were conveniently out of stock? This really isn’t that hard… it’s the one I ended up liking and choosing. (You saw that coming I hope.) So of course when it came back in stock the sale was only half as good, but the blow was softened by returning a crap tone of curtains and getting my money back.


I originally intended to paint the whole window white (not the glass, hopefully obliviously), but then Brett being the thinker he is, asked how I was going to do that in the winter. You see I never even considered that. I would likely have just painted the windows while closed, only to never haven them open again. So then I decided I’d just paint the trim around the window. It looks kinda dopey. I’m going to write here that in the spring I’ll paint the whole thing, but you and I both know I won’t. Chances are it will stay this way until we replace the window, which needs doing, but again likely won’t happen for some time. Do I think painting part of it white makes the whole thing look a bit ridiculous and it would have been better left all wood? Sure. But I had already gotten white paint all over the trim while painting the walls, so the hassle factor was definitely up there.


I found these adorable wood circle hooks from CB2 and hung his adventurer explorer stuff left over from his former room. I thought it added a bit of whimsy to what is now a pretty clean/slightly more sparse room. I wanted to incorporate some of the things he loves best of all in his room: Harry Potter, How to Train your Dragon, and Pokemon. Pokemon didn’t get any artwork, but Levi always leaves his decks of Pokemon cards littered all over the floor, so it seemed to be fairly represented.


Here is a hot tip for having your kid help you decorate his room. For picking out art, I treated it like having a toddler; show him all pre-approved options and then let him pick whatever one he wants! Levi mostly didn’t care, but liked being involved. Gideon on the other hand was very concerned and I quote: “Will Levi’s room be more beautiful than mine?” So I have solemnly sworn to make sure his room is equally beautiful.

This is Toothless from Dragon Riders, the Netflix show, based off the How to Train your Dragon Movies. Levis is stoked about the third movie coming out soon! I’ll bet you didn’t even notice the plant or dragon though, because you were so distracted by how beautifully caulked that chair rail is! Caulking is real bear, but I do think it helps make the room look more polished and complete. I did it for all the baseboards too which never had the nail holes filled in or the tops caulked. (I mostly just added that in because it took forever. I know full well you don’t care, but it’s my blog, so tough luck.)


To the left is Levi’s closet which we converted half of into a little reading nook. I got this great leather chair from World Market that I have been loving forever on a Black Friday sale. The bookcase is from my mom which really helped jump start the whole room change.


Behind the door we added back some hooks that had previously been in the closet. Levi owns exactly 2 clothes that requiring hanging up, so for now we will just hang them behind the door. Assuming he ever grows tired of exclusively wearing comfy pants and T-shirts we can adapt the closet to work.


I picked up this old mail sorter in Holland, Michigan a few years back. Levi and I just picked out a bunch of pictures of him and his friends and family, so he can display them on there. But for now just a few essentials. I know what you are thinking. I went on and on about having bricks in a kids room was a dumb idea. Yes a whip is significant more dumb. He got it from his grandpa and loves to set up traps with it. So far no injuries to report.


Levi was home sick with a fever the better part of this past week, meaning I finally got around to cleaning up and taking some pictures of the finished space on Thursday. Brett and I finished the closet shelves moments ago, but I didn’t feel like taking pictures again, so use your imagination and picture two more equal shelves built above the one shown. We used Lowe’s project boards and I stained the shelves using a natural stain, to keep them nice and light.  We have a laundry hamper on the floor, and then those wood crates you can get from Michael’s or wherever, holding too small or too big clothes. We will probably throw pillows up on very top shelf.


All together I am really happy with it. Levi wants the back of his door painted a fun color, but he is still waffling between yellow and turquoise. I’ll post a picture when he decides and I’ve painted it. The only other update down the road would be getting a trundle bed. I think it would work really nice for sleepovers and what not, but that may be a ways down the road!

Not sure what our next project will be, but don’t worry when I know, you’ll know.




Levi’s Room: The Continuing Story

I’m pretty sure I left off with: I was almost done painting… I lied.

Well really it was more of a hopeful truth that I was telling myself. But to no one’s surprise, but my own, the room took an awful lot of paint to cover that dreadful green. I am a chronic under-estimator of work and effort something will take, which leads me to be terribly ambitious and excited right out of the gate. It also leads to pretty quickly being annoyed at how long something takes or how annoying it is to do. But, luckily I seem to forget about the massive dose of reality that always comes part way through projects. It’s like having a baby, there is that terribly sucky part, the actual having of the baby, but then you get this beautiful creation and forget about all that other stuff. (Except that you really don’t forget completely, and doing house projects is pretty much nothing like having a baby, but I was trying to make the analogy work. Kids are > than finished spaces, except for when they ruin any nice thing you ever had, then it’s a bit of a toss up)

Back to painting. I decided I really wanted to do two different colors on the top and bottom of the wall and add in a chair rail to break up the two colors. I was originally thinking of doing some kind of board and batten on the bottom or maybe some type of picture moulding. Then I went down a rabbit trail of cool wall treatments. Here were a few of my favorites: 12, 3 (can’t find the actual link- just found on pinterest), 4

18 Ways to Make Wood Paneling Modern

Wall paneling in black | P | Matt Black Walls with Carrara Marble Desk - Joseph Dirand Farrow & Ball's 'Downpipe' is one of my favourite colours looks fabulous with bright colours and here with soft dusky tearose pinks.  Tiles designed by Ann Louise Roswald for the Cast Iron Bath Company

Of course they are mostly dark moody wall treatments and I was planning on painting the bottom half a warm white. I couldn’t quite figure out how to translate some of the whole wall looks into just a half wall. Ultimately I couldn’t decide what I wanted and since I wasn’t that committed to any of them, in addition to it seeming like a lot more work, we ended up just going with a chair rail.

pretty simple diy wainscotting using picture frame molding. already have these materials in the garage--would just need to measure and cut!We may still add some picture moulding down the road, like this one, but we wanted to get Levi’s room back together much quicker than our usual project timeline, so we landed on just the chair rail for now. I’m pretty sure that is the exact one we grabbed from Home Depot.

Funny thing about measurements. We usually have Brett do all the measuring. Something about accuracy…. But for whatever reason I measured how much chair rail we would need for the room and we cut the lengths at the store, plus a few spare inches here and there. When we were putting it up in the room and making the angle cuts, we were being so careful not to waste any and end up short on boards. Turns out I actually measured halfway decent, but didn’t do a great job marking inches versus feet. We thought we’d have only a few inches to spare, only to find ourselves on our last cut with a spare 7 feet. Whoops. At least we didn’t have to go back to buy more!

The bottom half of the wall we painted Alabaster, a warm white that we’ve used in both the laundry room and our master bathroom. It works really well in a space that doesn’t get lots of bright light. The big reason I went white for the bottom half of the room was because of all the dark wood furniture. I figured the white would brighten up the whole space and help the wood feel pretty and not just dark.

For the top half Levi and I agreed on a  pretty shade of blue/green: Benjamin Moore Newburg Green.

Here was the inspiration picture for the two colors. Ignore that it’s a bathroom, we don’t have any intention of tiling or adding a sink 😉

Boy Bathroom with Peacock Blue Wall Paint Color

I’ll say the color reads more of a navy in the space when it is dark out, but I like it all the same.

Here is the master plan for finishing out the space.


img_20181202_180933688.jpgI hope you weren’t expecting anything fancy. I’m not much for making things 3D (the chair likely won’t be suspended in air), but hopefully you get the gist. We are taking half the closet and making a little reading nook, right next to the bookcase I got from my mom. There was a crappy closet thing in there that had just about no function, so we will be building shelves similar to the ones we added in the laundry room on the left side of the closet.

Here are two of the other walls:


img_20181202_180947628.jpgI know you are sensing my art skills are out of your league. But trust me when I tell you, you need a pencil, paper and a non-existent art skill set.

The final wall not represented in the master plan has the bed against it and a window. I’m sorry if that is making it impossible to envision the room.

At this point we just have a few things to finish up and I’ll show you the finished space next!

Levi’s Room: The Origin Story

You know how all these movies are coming out with prequels or origin stories? To know this room you have to know where it came from. Who knows maybe I’ll even put these posts in perfectly random order like Star Wars. Who cares about sequence or being able to refer to them in any kind of way that makes sense. (Disclaimer I really know very little about Star Wars, so I am not sure why I led with this, but I swear origin story comes from that…)

Okay moving on.

When we bought the house this room was painted a truly awful shade of green. It was our guest bedroom and the place we stored stuff we didn’t really need or want, but were to lazy to do anything about, until I got pregnant with Gideon. Then it needed to get ready for Levi to move into.

So I decided to do what any half-brained person would do.

Make a chevron pattern.

I don’t know if you remember they were totally cool in 2014. That may not be entirely true, I think they were cool earlier and I was a little late to this chevron train, but don’t worry I hopped on.

You see I didn’t feel like going through the hassle of painting the whole room, so instead I decided to keep the horrible green and paint a terribly complicated chevron pattern. A pattern so fun that I used multiple rolls of painter’s tape and a cardboard template. (Geometry is hard and chevrons are not kind to the non-angle loving persons).

So here is the room on move in day. What a beaut. Did I mention the former homeowners painted all the trim white in the house, except in this room. You see they only had one kid, so alas they never got around to it.


Here it is after the chevron was added, that completely distracts from the green color (except for when it doesn’t because sometimes it won’t. I’m sad to say that bang ups and hangups can happen to you – You know Dr. Seuss’s  Oh The Places You’ll Go, perfect for any life moment). The picture above is much more representative of the true color.


Clearly the adorable two year distracts from the green, but I never thought for a single day that the green wasn’t at least a little vomit inducing.

So apart from the green color, there were other parts of the room I didn’t love. I originally had the bed in the middle of the room, not entirely sure why, but when we moved it next to the wall to allow for some play space, the antlers stayed hung weirdly over nothing..

Then I got a free giftcard and bought a shelf for no good reason and decided we should totally put it in Levi’s room. I dunno, it always seemed busy and heavy in an already dark room. He lucked into our nice dresser that didn’t fit anywhere in the master bedroom.

And yes I made Levi take a picture in every part of his new room. We were pitching it pretty hard- how fun it was going to be to get a brother and move to a new room!


Then there were a few parts of his room that while cute, were 100% not functional. There was a tee-pee that fell down everyday, mostly because I just tied some ropes together, draped a drop cloth over it and had no clue how to actually make it able to withstand even the slightest touch. It was a constant source of annoyance, paired with relative disinterest from the kiddos.

There was also this great small table I got from a garage sale for 3 bucks. It had a map that was probably originally modge-podged on that was coming off, but looked kind of cool. Here is where this also gets stupid. In order for it to work as a bookshelf, I would prop all the books up and then get them to stay upright with bricks because there were no sides to the shelf on the table. I painted the bricks to look like books (quite cost effective bookends really). I’m not sure what exactly I thought would happen, but my neat book display was vandalized nearly every day, but also there was the added bonus of my two year old trying to hurt himself with bricks that some crazy lady put in his room. Who puts bricks in their kid’s room and then hopes they don’t hurt themselves?! If you are considering this, I’d say kids come up with their own bad ideas with alarming frequency, no need to introduce any unnecessary danger in the name of bookends that double as weapons.


I don’t know about you, but whenever winter hits I always get this strong need to either re-do a room or rearrange some furniture. I am completely willing to live with a nonsensical furniture arrangement just for the sake of changing it up. Ask my poor roomie from college about when we slept head to head and ended up stealing each other’s pillows or when we had to crawl under a bed to get to the bathroom.

This project started very much the same. One afternoon, about a week ago, I was annoyed that our books were all over the place. So I called my mom to see if they had a bookcase they didn’t want anymore. Sure enough they did! It had books on it, but my mom said, no she really didn’t want it and she would clean them all off so I could pick it up that afternoon.

That of course snowballed into deciding I should really re-do the whole thing. So I cleared everything out into the hallway and started unscrewing things and patching holes. I figured in case I was feeling lazy in a few days the white Spackle on the wall would inspire me to paint.

It worked because we are just about done painting now. I’ll show you my plans and progress soon!



Outside Updates

Well folks it’s been awhile.

What have we been up to… well really what haven’t we been up to. We did not seed or sod the yard, by fall it was quite the jungle of weeds and rocks. And as no real surprise to anyone we did not build the pergola, at this point we are pretty committed to spring. Not sure if you noticed, but it snowed and that pretty much ends the whole outside project front.

We did finally tackle reattaching the fence post and gate they removed when putting in the patio, after seriously considering not. But, after having a friend’s dog stop by for a visit we realized we were only about 5 feet short of having an entirely fenced in backyard. We also already owned the needed fence portion and already had concrete in the shed to set the post. So despite a strong push for lazy we got around to putting it back. I don’t have any pictures of that, but imagine a fence post attached to a gate and it looking exactly like it did before. (Although, we did almost put the rotting post back in because we seriously didn’t want to venture to Home Depot, but alas we are trying to be the kind of people who we don’t hate a year later and bought a new post.)

We also worked on the kiddos fort a fair bit this summer/fall. We painted it a beautiful dark blue/green/black color. It’s a very sneaky color that changes with the light. I really wanted it to be dark so that it would blend into the bushes and be hardly noticeable as you approach the house. It totally worked because we had my old college roomie’s family come for a backyard dinner and they asked where the fort was because they completely missed it as they approached the house.

We let the kiddos help for approximately 8 seconds before they were bored, but not before they got paint all over themselves, accidentally dropped their paint cups and fussed about the mosquitoes. See how into they are, how closely they are paying attention to the work?

The color we landed on was Benjamin Moore Salamander and it is pretty magical. Now that the leaves have mostly fallen off, it is more visible of course, but she’s a beaut so I don’t mind one bit. It also looks good with our blue house, since they aren’t too far apart.

Image result for salamander benjamin moore

In this picture it reads more blue, but all the same, I love it! I also love how there is random crap strewn about. This is the only semi recent fort picture I have though so it will have to do.

We also finally painted the roof as the threat of winter loomed. We landed on this liquid rubber waterproof sealant . It can be used for ponding water, so we are hoping it holds up for our fort. We did two coats, I’m sure three or four would have been better, but we would have needed another can and neither of us really wanted to paint it anymore. Brett did the bulk of the roof while I did the bulk of the fort painting. I’m more or less prone to being unintentionally dangerous, so Brett was a more natural choice for the roof.

Gideon got some rock climbing holds for the steep side of the roof for his birthday. He spent the better part of the summer asking when we were going to put them on. We spent the better part of the summer not painting the roof and saying we needed to do that first. At this point even Gideon stopped asking so it must be hopeless until spring!

I still want to add some pretty molding details and some fun elements inside the fort next year. After that I will take some pretty pictures and share them with you and maybe we will actually call that project done.

So with that we are moving our projects inside. I am right in the thick of redoing Levi’s room right now. I’ll catch you up on what I am up to and where I am heading with it next!


Patio: Part 2

Whoops. Sorry to leave you on such a cliff hanger only to find my way back here slightly shy of a month later… I had mediocre intentions and then we went on a two week vacation and, well, we are living up to the promise of making things take forever. Even the part where other people did all the labor and I am just supposed to document it. Now I leave you with no doubts on just how long we can drag projects out.

As a side note if you are wondering if you should visit the Pacific Northwest:

I mean, I’d say if you hate all things pretty and the outdoors, I’d skip it. But, if that doesn’t describe you, you’ll probably love it.

Now back to the patio! If you completely forgot what the backyard looked like before, or what the first few days of work looked like you can check that out here.

Day 4 got us one more stone step and some more height on the retaining walls.


Day 5: We got our 5th and final stone step and the brick pavers made it into the backyard! A big part of the work done was grading our backyard so when it rains or someone dumps a kiddie pool out, the water doesn’t all rush into the sun room (sounds oddly specific… ). That is one of the major reasons we were happy to hire it out and make sure everything was done right.


For anyone local the company was Brandt Pavers. The guy that quoted us also does the work and was very approachable with anything we asked about. He had a main guy who worked with him and a handful of teenagers for manual labor. Teenagers are good for that kind of thing, just ask my brother Dave. When he was a strapping lad, all we had to do was say “Hey Dave, I bet you can’t_______” and Dave would jump all over it. Sometimes it was useful things like move that wicked heavy rock, other times it was just for pure enjoyment, telling him that his little brother just did some insane number of pull-ups and that we bet he couldn’t beat him. Dave would dig deep and nearly always managed to prove us wrong, though he must have known his little brother who wore husky pants and was adverse to most forms of activity would never have managed 20+ pull-ups, but, and I’m circling back to my point now, teenagers: lots of energy and a high need to prove themselves = excellent manual labor.

And circling all the way back, we would totally recommend the guy who did the patio. Our next door neighbors got a quote for a retaining wall in their backyard from them, while they were working on our backyard. Which was a fantastic turn of events, because it lead to my neighbor showing me all around her house. Does anyone else love a good house tour? There is something so fascinating to me about seeing inside people’s houses. I love to see the layout, how they decorate, how they may also hate cleaning… We have been neighbors for six years and have always been friendly, but never really much more than a “Hiya neighbor” or the occasional help with snow removal or them asking “did you really mean to leave your garage door open last night?”. It might be because they are our parent’s age, but regardless I was cheesed. I promised I’d show them around when our patio was done. Still need to get on that, kinda seems like it would require some cleaning…

Day 6/7: It was kinda rainy on what they had hoped would be the final day, so it got a touch muddy, but they laid most of the pavers and just had to finish a few brick edges and add the special sand on top that keeps everything in place on the final day.

And what does it look like now?

Here is the view from the sun room:


These two pictures below are of the largest part of the patio, where we will have some kind of seating and eventually build our pergola overhead. If you notice the holes, that is where the pergola will attach to the footings. My gem of a brother, pointed out to me that it is already not square, luckily for us, we knew we had no real shot at square, it just takes too much precision and want-to.


Here is a look at it from another angle. I know my father-in-law was concerned from my Paint rendering that there would be no grass in the backyard, despite my explanations that drawing to scale means nothing to me.




The funny thing is we can now sit on our patio and look out onto the great dirt flats. Except it is already turning into the great weed propagator flats. Weeds are tricky like that. No need to plant, they just arrive. Now if only I could convince the Japanese beetles to only eat the weeds…

We had some friends over for dinner last night and I was feeling inspired to make the space more usable and pretty in the interim. So I conned Brett into some twinkle lights and we pulled out the sawhorses, threw some plywood on top to make a functional table, and added some pretties.



Can’t complain at all.

I’ll walk you though next time our plans for finishing off the space. But for now our bank account needs a breather and let’s be honest we aren’t building that pergola anytime soon…

The Patio: Part 1

When I last left you we were on the brink of getting a patio. Spoiler: we have one now.  In order for you to  living vicariously through the whole process I will break it down day by day. This whole shebang took 6 days, and I am going to walk you through day 1-3, so buckle up.

Day 1- You can see our nice post holes covered in case of rain. The back hill completely flattened out and the wooden steps removed, but they are covered with the trap so you will have to imagine dirt that looks like it recently had steps on it.

Brett worked from home this day, because we were down a vehicle, but it was also a major perk that he could be there for the first day. Except that Brett felt weird about snapping me updates of people working throughout the day, so it was hardly even worthwhile. It’s not exactly like the workers could call the cops for a peeping tom, we live here, not that we wouldn’t still be creepy, but also not exactly illegal….I’m just saying I was pretty jazzed that my backyard dreams were happening and I only got one picture at work and it was mostly of my kitchen window. For Pete’s sake, up the creep factor at least slightly, Brett.


Day 2- Our backyard is a bit of a doozy to get any equipment in and out of, so they actually took off part of the fence.


They dug out around the sunroom so that they could regrade the yard to flow away from the sunroom, have sufficent space for stone steps and get set up for the retaining wall.

New dirt mounds from the excess dirt. The patio was dug down and gravel placed.

So first thing in the morning on day 2 we got a bit of a curveball thrown our way. Now originally we were going to put in the concrete in the holes we dug for the pergola posts before the paver guys ever came, but then we were really unsure of what height everything would land at and didn’t want concrete sticking up or the concrete too far down. So we had just the holes dug and cardboard tubes placed when they came.

The contractor tells Brett that they want to do brick right up to the posts so it will look seamless. Great I totally want things pretty too. But the flip side of that was the concrete needed to be done by the next day. (To be fair it was what we had originally agreed we woudl do, since the pergola is our project we are taking on) That left Brett renting a truck from Home Depot after work to bring home 24 bags of concrete. Did you know concrete bags weigh 80 pounds a piece? Let me save you the hassle of calculating, we got 1,920 pounds of concrete. Don’t worry the fun didn’t stop there, we needed to unload these bags, get them in the back and then actually do the work of mixing and setting the concrete in the holes.

Lucky for us we had a series of fortunate events.

First- Brett conned two friends to help. Matt and Brad, who now whenever they hear “what are you up to tonight?” will always have an answer at the ready, so as to avoid this very thing ever again.

Second- The guys working on the patio were still here when Brett got back with the concrete and they 1-fork lifted the nearly ton of concrete out of the truck and 2- let us use their powered wheelbarrow thing.


This meant Matt, Brad and I (Brett was returning the truck), just had to somehow manage to lift the bags from the pallet into the muck-truck and get them to the backyard. I used every muscle hugging/balancing/back lifting to do my part.

Matt did the driving of the muck-truck to the backyard pretty expertly given that our yard has hills and slopes in every direction.  He also really had to manhandle the thing to drive it, which was quite amusing to watch except for when getting a little too cute and trying to turn while driving and got somewhat close to tipping the 800 pound load. But at 2/3 the mass of me, he managed it far better than I could have hoped to.

Third Perk- my brother Josh happens to have a cement mixer, that we were able to pick up and borrow (Now if you have been reading this blog for any length of time and are wondering is there any tool/equipment that guy doesn’t own? So far no. He has a massive shop, filled with all the things. It’s like having a vacation house minus the destination and the vacation.)

We did all the concrete, my mom put the boys to bed and we all celebrated with a drink.

Whoa that was a long day 2. Moving on.

Day 3- The backyard is full of equipment and they started  the retaining wall along the fence.

Here is the start of the other retaining wall and steps to the sunroom.

And here is picture of the kiddos, who clearly have no problem checking out the work being done. Gideon wanted a better view so he grabbed himself a stool to see better. See Brett, the kid’s know how to creep.


As soon as I get around to compiling the rest of the pictures I’ll get us from day 4 to patio! Until next time.




Our Backyard Transformation Starts Tomorrow!

I could kind of see getting used to this… I get to dream things up, plan them out, pick things out and then someone else does the work! I will say though I am slightly nervous about not being able to make every tiny decision and we will be at work during the day.

So in order to get ready for the guys to work on the backyard, we had a couple of things we had to take care of first.

  1. Dig holes for the pergola footings
  2. Get rid of the long tube of wires
  3. Clear all the miscellaneous crap out of the backyard

How wrong could things really go?

So for task #1 we decided to rent a 2 man auger which we had experience using back when we did our fort footings. We decided to get Brett’s dad to help out again since unsurprisingly after zero time spent working out in the last year I am equally as strong as last time (not really at all). And besides there is nothing quite as fun as doing something dangerous without the skills or strength to do so with the person you love and would likely blame anything that could potential go wrong on.

But before the digging of the holes there was the marking of the holes. Now I’ll say that I am a terrific eyeball-er and a mediocre measure-er. The tricky part was Brett’s dad was really set on everything being square… not exactly our strong suit. I really wanted to just build a rectangle out of 2x4s and mark the corners for holes, but we didn’t have long enough boards. So instead we had to do math. Which I don’t know about you but nothing makes Brett and I crankier than doing math, except for doing math together.

So we made some attempts at measuring to make sure everything was the same distance from the house, but that was complicated by the transition from the house to the shed. Then we tried measuring off the fence, but that proved tricky too. So after a short break to remember that we loved each other, which turned into a sort of necessary longer break because the remembering was harder than we anticipated… We found a video that explained how to make sure everything was square. So we placed the pegs where we thought they should go and then did the 3-4-5 method from the video to make sure we had right angles.


You can maybe barely see the white string between the wood pegs. But what you can really see is all the wisteria that will look so pretty from this pergola once we actually build it.

We got it marked out Friday night so Brett and his dad could dig the holes the next morning. I love that we pinpoint this perfect spot that is square and then the idea is to dig these massive holes, supposedly with the spot we marked in the center. So they started bright and early on Saturday with the auger, but unluckily for them they found a random chunk of concrete quite a ways down, some rather large rocks and an auger that really wasn’t feeling it.

The upside was we got all our money back for renting the junky auger, but the downside was it meant digging by hand, but I didn’t actually do any of that, so I can’t say that it was really so much different or worse.


Task #2 Get rid of the wires.

Now if you are just catching up with us we once had a non functioning hot tub in our backyard (broken since we bought the house, presumably before because a rotten hot tub cover was composting in the bottom of the tub. It was also weirdly small like a bath with two of your very very close friends. We took it out last summer when we ripped out the splintery rotting deck it was built into). Now this tube of wires was just barely under the grass hanging out until now. We had flipped the breaker to the hot tub sometime ago, so we assumed the wires were dead. But to be safe Brett had capped all the wires poking out of the ground by the fence, away from the house.

Turns out the wires were still live. Whoops. How did Brett figure this out? Well he initially had a safe idea and bought one of those live wire tester things, but it got left in the van (the van that decided to crap out when I was in the left lane of 94 on my way home, the van that is now at the shop. Now in case you have never been married, or maybe you are just a very nice non-blaming spouse you may not understand this, but as I am driving and the van feels like it is sputtering, I call Brett. Do I call and ask “do you know what might be going on on?” No. Of course not. I say “did you put E85 in the van?!” Because I may have no clue what is going on, but I already know who is likely at fault. I’ll give you a clue. It’s not me. In case you are wondering, no he did not screw it up, some spring in the engine that isn’t supposed to break, did.)

Alas, Brett is without a wire tester, so he touches two wires together, they make a bright light and a popping sound. So we flip a few more breakers, do the same very safe test of touching potentially live wires together, this time without issue. Brett then cuts all the wires, is still alive, and caps them once again right at the point they enter the house. We will have to sort that out later, but task #2 is complete and everyone is alive!


Levi desperately wanted to see how deep the holes were, about the size of him it turns out.

And finally task #3: Clear all the miscellaneous crap out of the backyard, which should have been the most simple of all….

So we had Gideon’s third birthday party today and filled up our new inflatable pool from Menards. It just so happens to be much larger than any pool we’ve ever had before. The kids had a blast. Gideon thoroughly enjoyed his “birthday themed” party he requested. This evening I go to dump the pool out, not giving it much thought at all. I deflate one of the three rings and water starts pouring out as it deflates. Except it rushes out with so much gusto it pours right down the wood steps, soon to be taken out, and into our sunroom, which we really intend on keeping. I yell for Brett, who is as my mother taught me to answer the phone as a kid, “indisposed”. So I tell Levi to get his dad and tell him to come outside ASAP, since I am now stuck holding the pool, trying to make sure no more water escapes. Levi casually looks and says he can’t find him. The kid’s a real sleuth.

The moral of the story is we can make any seemingly benign task far more difficult than it ever should be.

And just like that we are all ready for work to begin tomorrow!

The Backyard Makeover is about to Begin

With the much anticipated arrival of spring we are finally making our way outdoors! Every year I make the kiddos take a picture in front of this bush. My app I downloaded last fall said it was a service berry, but I really have no clue. It was a little late in the season when I decided I wanted to identify every plant in our yard. I may have waited until all the leaves fell off and then the app was surprisingly not that good at guessing what things were.

It’s the first thing that flowers every spring and it makes me all kinds of happy. Here is  this year:


What kind of mother would I be if I didn’t force the kids to enjoy the things I do. See they love it, you can see how they are just about tearing up with delight over the years.

Now that I’ve gotten completely distracted, the purpose of this post is actually to show you our backyard plans. Now if you were with me back in July I detailed the plans in this post. The inspiration is the same, but the layout has been altered, along with some of the details

So originally we were thinking this kind of configuration. The patio was going to go where the last splintery, rotten deck had been. It seemed cozy in the corner and I think because something had been there I was kind of stuck on the idea of replacing it.


Luckily for me, winter was long and I had lots of time to think through what would be the best use of space. One of the things I kept thinking about was how the design above didn’t really connect the three doors- the shed, the backdoor of the house and the sun room door. It also left the grass area in an L shape without lots of room to play a game of soccer or lawn games. Now granted our backyard will never be huge, but at the end of the day I want it to be a space we can enjoy as a family.

So as soon as it warmed up ever so slightly, the kiddos and I ventured out to the backyard so I could make tracks in the snow to outline my new layout idea for the patio.

So here is the new mock-up. It is oriented the same way as the one before, just much more zoomed in. It looks very much like a whale when I look at it now.

patio with adds and labels

The bulk of the patio is on the left with it transitioning to more of a path to the new steps down to the sunroom. When I am thinking through something this big and permanent I like to think of how the space will be used and what I would want to fill the space.

Major changes/perks:

  1. Connects the shed, house and sunroom
  2. The patio path will cover the always dead grass next to the house
  3. The final holdout of rotten wood will be ripped out an replaced with stone steps
  4. More connected grass for playing

Let me show you some real shots of the backyard so you can see its current state.


The amount of labor was really beginning to add up. Not only was there the significant amount of digging down for the patio base, there was the removing of a giant dirt hill, and the removal of the wood steps. All of that labor was only to lay the ground work, not to actually make it pretty.

Shoutout to my co-worker John who thoroughly convinced me to hire the job out after describing in detail the unbelievable amount of backbreaking work that building a patio entails. The other major bummer for our backyard is that there is no way to get any kind of big equipment in to lighten the load. Just lots of manual labor and long wheelbarrow routes. I told Brett we should at least get some quotes and then see if after getting them we feel motivated to do it ourselves.

Yup. Still not motivated, despite the cost.

Here you can see the current wood steps running the length of the sun room. These are coming out. They are mostly rotted since they were built right on top the dirt. We will carry the existing retaining wall over to where the new steps in front to the door will be.


Here is the view from inside the sunroom. The new steps will instead be 36 inches wide. You can sort of see the spray painted line for the new path and patio. The patio will go up to the retaining wall on the right of the picture. That wall will come out, so it will hopefully be a seamless transition from the patio to the new flat grass.


This is the retaining wall that is coming out. A new retaining wall will follow the fence line to hold back the neighbor’s dirt from our new flattened out hill.


Here is one final view from the shed door, looking towards the sun room.


Here are the materials we picked out:

  • Holland Pavers: Fieldstone- I really wanted classic pavers, since they always look good and age beautifully. I just couldn’t get on the stamped concrete train because it can go wrong in so many ways and it just doesn’t have the same feel.
  • Diamond Retaining Wall in Desert Tan- except a beefier block and flat front. Brett felt strongly about the flat front and I didn’t really care/couldn’t really figure out what he was talking about. When we were picking things out I told the guy helping us we were looking for affordable and not too fancy. When I asked him how much a stacked stone retaining wall was he simply told me ” Oh it’s fancy.”
  • Chilton stone step- now this was reasonably fancy. It was just so pretty I couldn’t pass it up and it wasn’t that much more than the concrete steps made to look like stone.



We absolutely cannot wait for them to get started. The guy we hired thought they’d be able to start the beginning of June and that the whole thing would take 4-5 days. Both parts of that seem kinda bonkers. If we were doing this ourselves we likely would need a number of more weeks to gear up for it and then just a few short years to actually complete it.

I’ll keep you in the loop as things get going!


Laundry Room Wrap Up

So unlike a finished project, this is a wrap up. It’s where you don’t really see an end in sight, but you’ve got to get your room back together and you decide to be practical and realistic and look back at your historical likelihood of being done any time soon and realize vacuuming the sawdust could help.

Let me show you the last two things we finished up:

First up the built in shelf nook. Now I don’t want to brag, but one of my friends, and I quote, stated that I have “truly legendary MS Paint skills.” Let me show you a side by side of the Paint mock-up next to the real life version. Don’t feel bad if you can’t tell which is which:

This is like a cereal box quiz: You can find the answer at the bottom of the post.

Making the shelves was actually fairly simple. We used 1 x 2 boards and screwed them into the wall, trying to hit studs to make them sturdy. We measured to make sure there was enough space between shelves for the bins to easily fit with some toys sticking out. We also wanted the first shelf to be high enough so we could neatly tuck our wood step stool underneath.

For the actual shelf we used the same wood (called project board from Lowe’s) that we used for the cabinet top. Here are a few steps we did that I would highly recommend skipping.

  1. Buy a wonky board because its the only one they’ve got at the Lowe’s on Brett’s way home from work
  2. Decide it’s not so bad
  3. Cut all the shelves out of it
  4. Realize it really does look wonky, but know that it’s much too late to return
  5. Finally make up your mind that, yeah you should really buy a new one
  6. Remember the reason you never shop at Lowe’s is because it is no where near your house
  7. Drag your kids to Lowe’s on the same evening that you attempted to go to Teddy Bear Park only to find out it wasn’t open for the season yet, but to make up for it you took them to another less cool park, where they only got to play for 5 minutes, because the newly potty trained 2 year old says he has to go potty- and not the kind that can be done on a tree trunk, then both kids take turns ramming the cart into things/each other and melting down while you really just want to buy a single board that isn’t crazy warped.


So when I stained the base cabinet top I used Minwax Early American as the stain color. I also used wood conditioner for the first time ever. I had heard it was a good idea for light woods in order to evenly soak up the stain. It turns out that the wood conditioner made quite the difference because for the shelf supports I decided just to stain them without first using the wood conditioner. It turned out terrible. It was a real dark brown, which was exactly what I did not want. (Cue memories of all the dark wood in the basement that was fake distressed with hammering dings and screw indents)

So again another step to skip: Start staining the shelf supports and realize you hate the color, carry on full steam ahead. After finishing, decide that you truly hate it and sand them all down.

You can see that dark brown in the corners in the picture above.

But alas I got it all stained, we put the shelves in, which was a bit of a doozy of course since nothing is straight, but we made it work, cheating the front so it is straight, even if it leaves a bit of a gap in the back.


The other storage solution that I finished up today was organizing the bins for the gorilla rack. Last weekend I sprayed the gorilla rack matte black to go with some of the other hits of black in the space. I also bought all the same color bins like a crazy person. We actually own loads of storage bins, but I have them filled with baby clothes/things, which I happily lend out, but can’t quite manage to give away completely.

I did decide though that I would only use this rack for useful storage that I need more often, like hand me downs for Gideon from Levi. Whatever leftover space would be for toys that are out of rotation.

Beautiful right? Now in my dream world, would I have found bins that exactly matched the cabinet? Of course, but they don’t exist. Also here is a hot tip, if you paint chalkboard paint on bins it won’t stay, but little sticker labels did the trick.

So we are calling it good for now. Are there still significant holes in the ceiling? Sure. Is the flooring still hodgepodge with patches of concrete poking through? Well of course. Did I not get to put all the pretty things up? Sadly yes.

I’ll show you the last of the odds and ends that will eventually make the laundry room complete.

Image result for ikea hektarTarkett® Vibe Sheet Vinyl 12 Ft Wide

This pretty light is from Ikea. I bought it already on a whim, not sure where exactly it will land yet. The floor is a vinyl from Menards that looks like a nice a neutral, but not tacky or dopey- like most that I looked at.

leaning edge matte black wall hook.AUGUST

The black hook is from CB2 and will look awesome next to the new matte black clothes hanger. Brett bought me the print on the right from Jenny’s Print Shop for Mother’s day. (So maybe I actually ordered it, but it was on Mother’s Day, so might as well be a present)

Bari Natural Fiber Rug - Safavieh® : TargetNorth Rustico / Lighthouse / Shanty / Prince Edward Island /

The rug is from Target and could make a nice runner next to the washer and dryer, but I haven’t bought it yet, because I am a bit undecided. The picture on the right is from Prince Edward Island along the shore. I grew up watching the movies with my dad and  the two of us are finally taking a father daughter trip there together in late summer. You could say we are kindred spirits. I thought this print above the folding table just might fill me with nostalgia and warm happy thoughts.

So with that our basement is less of a disaster zone after a number of months and we are switching gears to outside.

We’ve got big plans including a patio (done by someone other than us!), a pergola, and picking back up with the fort! Stay tuned folks.






Answer: The one on the left is the mock up. The one on the right is the real deal.

How to cut a cabinet and put it back together without it looking terrible.

Here’s to hoping you never need to know how to do this. But in the off chance you find yourself in a similar situation, of a too long cabinet, let me walk you through how to skinny it up!

Let me start this with, make sure the thing you are hoping to size down is free. Under no circumstances would I take a saw to something that cost any amount of money, no matter how small. You want to have your worst case scenario be that the thing you were hoping to keep is now conveniently into two much more manageable pieces to bring to the dump…

So when I last left you…a month ago… I had no idea how we were actually going to shorten the length of the cabinet. My folks came over one evening and wanted to see all the progress on the laundry room. I’m not really sure a whole lot of progress had really taken place, but they oohed and ahhed at everything. My dad is really quite a jolly fellow. (He gets a ‘kick out of’ life. When we go to plays and the production is over he is so excited that, with huge grin on his face, he’ll clap overhead, loudly, with no sense of rhythm, because rhythm simply must take a backseat to his joy and delight.) He gets all excited as I show him how the cracks no longer have paint between them. If you are ever doing any renovation invite him over, he loves to see projects and you are left thinking, boy it really could be spectacular.

So anyways, as I am showing him the awkwardly long cabinet and how we want it shorter, he suggests cutting out the middle. After thinking about it for zero seconds I tell him that’s a terrible idea. Brett overhears and thinks it’s a killer idea and they start talking through how much sense it makes to leave the finished ends intact. So like any good kid after criticizing an idea, I of course do exactly as he suggested.

So we laid it on its side and sliced it with our new circular saw.


We started with the 2x4s in the front, then did the back, and finally sliced the base support.


Then we shoved it together and had a cabinet door that was now much too big for the tiny opening.


So we sliced that down too, to make a little tiny door, for tiny hands, or for tiny things.


Good thing I painted it first right? So as you can see there were some gaps and things that needed to be shoved back together.

We screwed in some metal doohickies (that looks ridiculous typed, how does it not feel ridiculous to say when it looks so wacky?) In real life I guess they are called mending plates. We added 4 of those to secure the two cut ends together. Surprisingly it got the two sides very close together, unlike my abs after 2 babies, which haven’t seen or spoken to each other in some years.

We also added a piece of wood to the base to hold it together. Let me remind you we use this to store paint cans, so it didn’t need to be spectacular, just functional and not an eyesore.

So we left it like that for a number of weeks and only in the last week did I finally get around to staining the top and doing the final repainting of the cabinet. Part of the problem was I wanted to stain the top outside, so as not to stink up my house. Stain needs it to be 50 degrees. Minnesota felt the need to have a blizzard.In April. So I felt the need to wait for some decent weather, since Minnesota had already made me go back on my word about not shoveling in April. This time the line was drawn, no staining would happen until I could do it outside.

Remember this from two weeks ago? Too soon?

This is the wood top attached to the cabinet. I knew I wanted the wood top to have more of a sturdy presence, to look more like a butcher block, so we cheated the system and added some skinny 1/4 inch trim to fake it.DSC_0215

See how it looks a bit more solid now? DSC_0218

Major perk of not caring about the flooring, is it makes for very easy (sloppy) painting. Which, let’s be honest, is really the only kind of painting I do, so it’s nice when I’m not also ruining things.DSC_0221

From the top you can see the slight change from the solid wood piece to the trim, but I am really happy with it overall.


Our cabinet is nice and proportional now to the wall. You really can’t see the split on the bottom at all. It could be worthwhile for me to caulk the seam once more on the top and paint over it again, but it could also be more work too…

We’ve got a couple more things to finish/show you in the laundry room before we put the project on a bit of a hiatus. we are going to make it functional again and save the flooring, lighting and ceiling for a few month down the road. With spring finally coming we are switching gears to some outside projects!