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!



If you ever wanted insight into why projects take us so dang long, here it is:

So this fail has been awhile in the making. Let me start this story from the very beginning.

Once upon a time I painted the old fish tank base Conner’s Lakefront. I bought the paint and painted it all in the same day. It looked beautiful. Brett comes home, pops in the laundry room and say “oh, we are keeping that?” I responded with a “heh?” which is like “huh?” only with some attitude and a strong implication that what you said was likely incorrect and you’d be ill advised to not reconsider your previous remark. Brett then says “Wow, I love the color!”

Pretty much sums up our marriage.

I’m fairly certain we talked about painting the cabinet some shade of blue. And I even looked back through the blog posts so I could prove that we had, but well when I talked about painting it I already had. You know how you always think if you had a record or video of things you could just prove yourself right all day long? Turns out it is better to claim being right and have your husband agree than to really go to all the hassle of actually being right, because as it turns out it can be difficult to prove (or you could actually be wrong- the horror).

But yeah, from that moment on the cabinet has been a series of pickles.


Let’s start with the counter top.


I’ll remind you it was a random remnant- unfinished edges, laminate, green, and a weird back splash part. It also was significantly bigger than the base and unattached.

Step 1: The plan was to cut off the back part. Basically everything to the left of the blue tape in the picture. This time we borrowed Brett’s brother’s circular saw. It’s like getting a babysitter, you’ve got to space out who you ask for stuff all the time. Now maybe it was a perfectly lovely circular saw and we just haven’t done much with that particular tool before, but it sure seemed like a deathtrap. The kind of tool that makes you think about how good your sewing skills are (you know in case you need to make custom 3-4 fingered gloves).

So no one lost a finger which honestly seemed almost shocking with how much it was kicking back, like a shotgun, except it’s not a gun. So no real surprise the cut was on the laissez faire side of straight.

But we decided to march on full steam ahead.

Step 2: Cover the counter-top with the fake marble contact paper. Let me just say it was obnoxious. Getting the air bubbles out was not at all satisfying like stomping on the ones that come when you get things shipped to your house. Nope. It was really tedious and then we would randomly catch the bubble in a weird way and get a tiny rip.

But we powered through. Only then to see that the seam was going to be very obvious and meticulous is not exactly our MO.


We had a moment of feeling like we should probably keep going even though we weren’t going to like the final product. But then I held up our spare roll to the wall and then I noticed it made our walls look kinda dingy.


It’s harder to see here, but in person it was kinda meh. Because the contact paper was so bright wight the slightly warm white of the walls looked dirty.

Step 3: Scrap the top and replace with wood. I was totally inspired by this kitchen countertop . So Brett called one day as I was driving home from work saying he was stopping at Lowes and what were the measurements we needed? I guessed best I could remember. We leave it sitting in the living room for a few days and then eventually we got enough steam to carry it back to the laundry room.

Guess what? It’s a 1/2 inch too short.

So where does this leave us? With the wood back sitting in our living room. Why didn’t we return it? Because now we have come up with maybe the stupidest idea of all. This blog post is turning into a bookend. Remember when Brett was surprised I had painted the cabinet in the first place? Well it’s because it really doesn’t fit the space. It never has, but the room was also orange, so there were other more pressing concerns.

Here is the Birdseye view. See how it is weirdly long and sticks out, halfway covering the little nook where we want to make built ins?


Yeah so now we are going to somehow slice the cabinet to make it smaller… This time hopefully not with the circular saw of death.


Fails thus Far

I’ve been MIA for a bit because both the boys had strep. The fun kind where one has it and finally gets better only for the other one to get it. Pretty much my favorite way to do any kind of illness – never ending- who can’t get on board with that!

But we are finally healthy and pretending it is spring!


After recouping we decided to finally get back on the laundry room train.

Now in your worldview there might be a right way and wrong way to do things. For me there is another way that just seems like less of a hassle and gets the ball moving faster. It’s not wrong perse, it’s actually a very good option for right now. Could it lead to significantly more work down the road? Sure, but could I get lucky? You never know.

In college my roommate and I would talk about being kind to our future selves. You know, writing that 8 page paper I desperately didn’t want to, so that future Brittany could live her life free from the suffering of a looming paper deadline. I didn’t often choose future Brittany. It turns out I love current Brittany much more and I am kinda a jerk and could care less about the crap I am setting her up for tomorrow. (Pretty sure there is real science to back this up. Case in point)

So that being said, after I did the initial coat of white on the planks I was feeling good. It wasn’t until I took pictures that I realized just how much orange was peeking through between the boards. Was this avoidable? Sure. I could have painted the walls before putting the planks up, but I hope you are catching the theme by now, it seemed like an unnecessary hassle at the time.

That left us with the now much more laborious task of getting paint into all the tiny cracks. Lucky for me, my two brothers who live close by, they have an insane amount of tools. We borrowed a small paint sprayer to spray in between all of the boards.


We sprayed at ridiculously close range, maybe 1-2 inches away. I don’t know if it was because it was a little sprayer or not a huge amount of paint coming out, but it did not gunk up the seams between the boards like I thought it would. It was still a decent amount of work, but manageable.

I also caulked all the seams. And every. single. nail. hole. Which is satisfying to see, but takes close to forever. I’ll throw some side by sides up here so I can feel accomplished.


Pretend you can tell. The left is the before ( I know- you already knew that. Because how could you not know) the right is the after. Again I still need to clean out some excess paint in between the boards, but the caulking- amazing right?!

Now for another side by side. This time of the cracks between the planks.


This you can actually tell right?

I also finished up the final coat covering all the boards last night.

Well friends – until next time – when you can see the latest fail. Don’t worry there will be marginal improvement so you don’t have to leave feeling sad. Like in Anne of Green Gables: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Except for the part where we already screwed up something else, but haven’t fixed it yet.


Skipping ahead

So if you remember from the last post we are focusing our energies on this part of the laundry room first. It is the more “finished” of the two parts since it has complete walls (now), a ceiling and flooring.

laundry room first leg.jpg

DSC_0156Nevermind that the flooring is hodge-podged together with a solid pebble inspired linoleum covering the whole room and parts of the floor (only the parts deemed fancy enough) have a grayish peel and stick linoleum tile on top. Though of course there are some parts of the floor that refuse to be tamed and are just bare chunks of concrete sticking out. So wild. So free.


The ceiling on the other hand has a surplus of wires and massive holes. If that doesn’t sound like your dream ceiling, did I mention it is popcorn too?!

So we will used “finished” in a some-attempts-were-made sense, instead of how you might traditionally consider a room finished space with things like complete ceilings and solid floors.

While we fully intend to fix the floors and the ceiling, it also just sounds like a lot of work right now… and we just finished a lot of work with the plywood planks… so instead I am focusing on how to make it pretty and functional! Hands down this is what I love to dream up and what actually makes me go through the work involved with projects. In addition to making things more visually appealing, my second love is making the room’s organization so much more functional. While I hate cleaning I do sort of love organizing.

So first in the pretty-it-up process is painting the boards white (Alabaster to be more specific).


I’ve only done one coat so far. I decided to paint it before filling in all the little nail holes with caulk to be sure I actually cared enough to fill them in.


Yup the holes need filling, but at least I didn’t waste my time filling them all in, only to find out I don’t actually care and did all sorts of work unnecessarily. You might also notice some orange peeking through on some of the bigger spaces between boards. When I do my next coat I’m going to hopefully rid the walls of any evidence of orange. I think I might end up needing to run a razor blade between some cracks too as you can see on the picture on the right.

The other thing I’m dreaming up is adding two very special antiques. They are from my Aunt Janet who passed a few years back. She was a collector of old things and a true kindred spirit with an incredibly kind heart. She was the kind of person who I had to be careful not to say I liked anything in her house too enthusiastically because the next time I saw her she’d have it set by the door for me to take home. So I’ve had these two antiques just sitting on storage racks until I finally got to working on the laundry room.


First up this beautiful old brass iron.


Next up is this hand crank that is just lovely. I especially love the warmth of the wood in the white space. Now I just need to find the perfect spot for them. And to find the perfect way to hold them on the wall because they are hefty.

Next up I am dreaming of maximizing organization. In this little nook I am thinking we could use these bins from Ikea for our toys currently out of rotation. We already have these in the garage for storage and I love them. They are super sturdy and a little flexible. And biggest bonus of all is that they come in at 22 7/8 inches wide and our little nook is 23 inches wide! And don’t worry about imagining it because I mocked it up in Paint for you.


Hopefully next time the little bits of orange hanging on will be a distant memory,,,


Plywood Planks for the Win

Where did I last leave you? Oh yes, with plans to put up plywood planks on the walls. I remember being excited, thinking it wouldn’t be that much work… Pretty sure I had some exclamation points about horizontal boards! It’s a good thing I consistently underestimate the time or effort things take because it turns out I actually don’t love doing work and would probably never attempt things if I were more of a project realist.

We started out this leg of the project with the serious fun of emptying out all the crap: Gorilla racks, storage bins, miscellaneous baby gear that I can’t quite part with. I am constantly fluctuating between being 70 percent sure I am done having babies and holding a baby on my chest and needing another baby right this second. You know normal mom sap and memories tied to all the things that I desperately put my babies in so they might sleep just a little. Or the things that contained them so I could consider eating something other than microwave popcorn for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Anyone else? Why popcorn? Such a complete meal, so nutrient dense, so convenient)

Back on track. Short version: We cleared out the stuff.

Let me show you just how wackjob our “walls” were before starting the project. But this time in black and white because I. can. not. handle. having. orange. in. one. more. post.

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This first wall had a massive pipe sticking out of it, some random wires and a soffit to contend with. We started with this wall since it was the trickiest to deal with and we wanted to be fresh. Brett did a little blocking with 2x4s to give us something to attach boards to.

Next up was this beaut.


A scrappy wall to be sure. The site of the former fish tank and you’ll never believe this: random scraps of drywall we found around, just will-nilly put up. Did we put up drywall we had cut holes out of for another project? Of course we did. We always strive to make another area of our house dingy while fixing up another. And do we succeed? Nine times out of ten? You bet.

Not to be left out was this pocket door which really had no wall at all. The guy who lived here before us ran thousands of each type of cord in the world, through every wall and ceiling. Kinda like how people hide money under mattresses- same thing just with cords- and no money- or real point…

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So a couple things that made the shiplap slightly more complicated…

  1. We had guys at Home Depot rip the plywood into 4 inch planks. Apparently they only get paid enough to cut them in a range of 3.75 inches to 4.25 inches. I mean clearly I am not one that doesn’t love a close enough, but it made them a real doozy to line up in places
  2. The 1/4 inch thick plywood was also a bit loosey goosey, as some boards were much thicker
  3. The lack of things to secure the planks to, you know because of holes in the wall or missing walls
  4. Lack of skills, never stopped us before, but we did buy an air compressor and nail gun, so that should count for something

But we powered through and actually managed to mostly make it work.

Here is a close up of a penny that we used for spacing. In the tutorial that we used as inspiration, she secured all the boards with liquid nails on the back. We ended up just shooting them with 1 1/4 inch nails which holds the board in place just fine. The perk was we were able to pry a board off if necessary and we could just nail in a space where there was actually a wall behind the plank.


Here are the walls completely clad in the plywood boards. It looks a little trippy with all the wood- not yet painted, but still a serious improvement from the orange.


You can see we still have cords to secure. We also left space on the bottom since we plan to redo the flooring and wanted to have some wiggle room for a subfloor.

Look how many fun nook and crannies! The shear number of cuts might have stolen a small portion of our sanity… The picture on the left is our non functional laundry chute. It’s boarded up upstairs in the hallway and from the bottom.  Now imagine yourself turning clockwise and the picture on the top left was the old fish tank wall with the halfhearted sheet rock. Then the picture on the bottom right is the pocket door wall with the door closed.

I made up a little floor plan so you can see what the layout is like. I actually made it in an online tool to get the walls to the correct scale before I put in Paint to make it what I wanted.

laundry room labeled

For reference the back stairs are on the left and actually angle up over the washer and dryer. The walls with black on them are the walls we clad in the plywood. We are focusing on this part of the laundry room first.

Lots yet to do, but everyday it is turning into a little less of an eyesore.

De-nastifying the laundry room (you know making it not so nasty)

The walls in the laundry room in addition to being ugly are also really wonky. They have  some weird type of textured drywall. Not textured like orange peel, but more like the section of wall next to my brother’s bunk bed growing up. If no one had disgusting brothers and am not sure what I’m talking about, imagine being too lazy to get a kleenex. For your entire childhood. And imagine having a wall conveniently located next to your bed. Good luck getting that mental picture out of your head. If you are wondering if his hygiene has improved… it has marginally, enough to find a wife, so that’s something.

The walls also have some massive holes and unfinished drywall. So really the walls need significantly more love than I cared to give them. Mudding and taping and really anything drywall is the pits. In the middle of our 9 month master bath reno, we ended up having someone do the drywall and the place went from feeling hopeless to having real walls! All that to say neither Brett nor I like doing drywall or really have even passable skills.

So what then? Horizontal boards! I found this awesome Shiplap Tutorial that uses thin boards that make it not only significantly cheaper, but also much easier to secure than traditional shiplap. Of course the Home Depots around here don’t carry the Bender board she used (basically MDF boards), but we were able to find a good alternative. We bought a few 4×8 sheets of plywood 1/4 inch thick and had them cut it into 4 inch wide planks.

Here is the inspiration picture of the planks:


So no real shock here, but for colors I am avoiding any orange in the new laundry room design. Even seemingly innocent colors like coral, which may be unfairly judged since it is part pink, is just too risky.

I landed on Sherwin Williams ‘Alabaster’ for all of the walls/boards. It is a really great warm white that doesn’t read sad in spaces with no natural light. We used it in our master bath and I love it. For a warm white it does not have any yellow undertones, making it a really lovely white.

Of course I do want some color so I picked ‘Connor’s Lakefront’ for the old fish tank base/cabinet. I was originally thinking  navy, but then it just seemed too dark in an already kinda dark space. Did I get all the paint I would need from a sample can? Why of course I did!


I usually gravitate towards any and every combination of blue green, so I thought for once I’d go with more of a true blue color. It’s bright and lively, but rich enough to anchor the cabinet.

If you don’t recall this is the lovely fish tank base/cabinet in need of some TLC. Inside of it we store all our paint cans, stains and miscellaneous crap that the kids hide in there. And the top of course we use to fold laundry on.


I already painted the base cabinet. Shocking I know. I’m actually moving semi-quickly for once. When the paint was still wet it looked a little bit electric (like the perfect color for a roller rink). It was hard to determine if the color just clashed horribly with the still very orange walls or if it was just going to be the wrong color. It turned out drying much darker and I quite like it…except for all the parts I went back and touched up. I didn’t feel like stirring my sample paint can so I gave it a few half-hearted shakes. Turns out I should have given it some hearty stirs since you can clearly see a different shade of the color everywhere I touched up.

Bummer. See kids, being lazily optimistic does not always pan out. In fact you can often save a few seconds and hassle only to make much more work for yourself down the road.

Lesson likely not learned.

So after the cabinet was painted the laminate countertop started to look a wee bit ugly. The previous owners had just found a random laminate countertop remnant and just set it on top. It’s perfectly functional, just sort of a bad fake green granite. I found this cheap contact paper on Amazon that I plan to cover the laminate countertop with when it arrives.

That’s all for now I’ll show you some progress just as soon as we make some!