Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Anxiety

It seems that Christmas is just around the corner, and with that pressure you are sure to feel anxious. I know this to be true of myself, so I went ahead and ordered Christmas cards from Tiny Prints and Shutterfly a couple weeks ago. They are having great deals, 40% off my purchase and free shipping. 

Just to get ahead of the madness, last week I selected all my kids' Christmas gifts from Restoration Hardware. I know that may seem like a strange place for children's Christmas gifts, but I did find everything I needed and the prices are just RIGHT.  I love a unique and funny gift too, so I felt pretty satisfied with all my choices. 

HERE are MY top 10 from RH

I know myself, and without a little prep work and getting ahead of the holidays, I can feel so anxious.  So, getting to my list early makes a happier and more stress-free holiday season.

What are your tricks?


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kitchen Redo: RearRange

When we bought this house, our kitchen was already a great size, with plenty of cabinet space and decent appliances.  We often laugh that when looking at this place I famously said something about how we could move right into it as it was... which was true!  It's just that it had so much potential that we couldn't resist a few improvements in the end:)  One thing we didn't love about the kitchen was the layout.  The cabinets formed an L shape, which pinned the refrigerator in the corner and created a phalanx of cabinetry on the long side.  The bad lighting, cheap looking oak color, mass of cabinets and lack of variation all, as Jady pointed out, made the whole place feel a bit like an office break room.  

So we decided to close off the doorway in the photo above, leaving us with extra wall space and the ability to pull the refrigerator around the corner to create a U shaped layout.  We also decided we needed to replace the worn parquet floor as well as add under cabinet lighting and a permanent island in the center of the space.  I'm feeling overwhelmed just thinking about how much we decided to do!  To help me visualize and decide if what we were planning was even possible, I whipped out some graph paper and a tape measure to sketch the new layout.  The goal here was in order to save money to use all of our old cabinets and not to buy new ones, except to make the island base.

In this shot you can really get an idea of the fan shaped, textured ceilings that covered the whole house.  This point was really the calm before the storm... the new recessed lights had been installed, which instantly improved the feel of the room, but the ceilings hadn't yet been sanded, the floor hadn't been replaced, and the cabinets had not been rearranged or painted (little did I know it would take me months to finish painting!).

What really pushed me over the edge into committing to the new layout was finding our new stove.  The one that came with the house was alright, a good basic model, but since we were rearranging I started looking at possible upgrades, maybe something a tiny bit bigger than the standard 30".  In a way a larger range could help to save us money by filling up space we would otherwise need to fill with new cabinets (at least that what we're telling ourselves:)).  I searched all kinds of sources online, hoping to find a professional style range without breaking the bank.  That's when I found it-- a huge beast, for sale on eBay somewhere in Vermont, at about 1/3 of the price of a new one.  After getting quotes for shipping all 800 pounds of it freight to KY, we placed our bid and were SO excited to win!  I'm obsessed with this range, and using it makes cooking even more fun.  All in all, this was definitely an unnecessary splurge, but a worthwhile one.

More details to come!



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Children's Christmas Cards

Last week we began working on our Christmas cards. Like most projects I work on, Sophia always wants to be involved. So, I thought up a quick and easy Christmas card project for S. You only need 3 items; pastels, colored tape, and card stock. I love drawing outside the lines when it comes to kids, so these Christmas cards are sure to endear any recipient. 

These Christmas cards were so simple to make and Sophia loved making a tree out of taped triangles. What fun kids projects do you have up your sleeve? 



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Faking a Built in Refrigerator: Before & After

I did it!  After *months* of painting the kitchen cabinets, they are finally finished!!  This was a long, slow process, mostly because I kept getting distracted by other, more fun projects along the way, I'll admit:)  The painters who gave me an estimate for this job suggested that I use oil based primer and paint to help prevent scratches and chipping in such a high use area, which meant longer drying times, messy cleanups and plenty of fumes-- but I'm happy with the result.

We have spent a lot of our remodeling energies in this room, which houses both the kitchen and our small den/TV area (with the built in bookshelves-- check out that post here).  Since here is where we spend most of our time, we wanted to make it a space where we could really enjoy lounging, cooking, and entertaining. There are so many projects that I'm excited to show you from this room!! For now I'll choose just one or two...

Here is a before photo of the space how it was when we bought the house.  One change we knew we wanted to make right away was to paint the heavily grained, oak kitchen cabinets to lighten up the room.  The original light fixtures, two huge hanging circle things, were woefully inadequate for the size of the kitchen, so the whole place felt dark and dated.  Thankfully I didn't mind the rubbed bronze drawer pulls and knobs that came with the kitchen, so we were able to save money by reusing them.  Every little bit helps!

We changed the layout of the cabinets around (more on that later) to free the refrigerator from its tight corner spot.  In an ideal world we could have had the wall bumped out behind it to create a counter depth look while preserving the full storage space of a full sized appliance, but that wasn't in the cards for several structural and budgetary reasons:)  So we set out to try to create the look of a counter depth by encasing it in plywood frame and bringing the upper cabinet forward, flush with the refrigerator door.  

Stay tuned for more before & after photos of the kitchen (my favorite kind of post!)



Monday, November 26, 2012

Ease in Monday....

We made it through Thanksgiving! Another year of feeding our community, church services, and our own family dinner. What did we eat for Thanksgiving you asked??? This year we made reservations at Peel here in NYC, which I would highly recommend if you are in the Manhattan. Now, if you're like most, as soon as Thanksgiving comes to an end you immediately start feeling the pressure of the next round of holidays. I am already anxious for the party I am hosting this season. In order to deal with it, I have begun planning the settings for the church Christmas party and our personal cocktail parties. 

HERE are a few inspiration decor pieces from RH.

When you are overwhelmed I find it relaxing to surf the web for inspiration images to re-energize yourself. I love the settings below and know exactly where to pick up the birch placemats.  You can see I am going to be headed for a minimal look meets cozy. 

I will be making these little ornaments for my guests-- aren't these beautiful?  Hint: I may just use cotton. 

 I say EASE into December and all the celebrating you have ahead of yourself!



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Sweaters & Kid Friendly Decor

It is Tuesday, and there is still time to get some family friendly decor together & pick up one of my top five Thanksgiving sweaters. Last week the kids and I needed an after school project. So, we decided we would decorate our door. I simply took scrap paper, a little Martha Stewart glitter paint, and my favorite robin's egg blue tape. Together the kids and I made our very plain door a little festive. 

I simply cut out our letters and Sophia & H painted them with glitter paint.  Our project took just an afternoon and the kids had a fabulous time.

Are you wondering what your going to wear to grandmother's house on Turkey Day?  Well, if your like me and LOVE a good sweater you will fall in love with these Madewell and J Crew choices. How to choose? 

J Crew


 My personal FAVORITE (don't check the price tag)

Don't you just love the mix of patterns?!  

Happy Thanksgiving!!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Living Room Fireplace: Before & After

Most of the projects we have been working on around the house since we moved in have been "necessary" by some stretch of the imagination.  The carpet needed to be replaced, the work on the kitchen has improved the flow and usability of the space, and adding another bathroom upstairs will justify itself next week when Jady's family comes to town!  But every now and then you just *want* something, and you want it bad, even when it won't count in your "needs" list.  For me, this was a living room fireplace.  

Here's an old photo of the living room from when the house was on the market.  It's a lovely, simple square room with a big window to the front of the house and wide openings to the hall and the dining room.  Before we moved in, my mother mentioned once in an off-handed comment that it would be if there had been a fireplace in that room, but I thought, oh well.  You either have one or you don't.  Right?  

After researching this very question, I found out that you can actually build a fireplace from scratch to use with vent free gas logs (the type you use if your chimney is blocked or smokes)-- no bricks, pipes or chimney required.  Still, I assumed that this type of project would remain relegated to my wish list with so many practical projects still to be finished.  The thing is, I couldn't stop thinking about how wonderful it would be to have a fireplace in that spot in the living room.  I always feel that, especially for a formal living room, even just the existence of a fireplace even without the fire makes a room feel cozier, more intimate.  Visually it would help give the space a focal point, some order and symmetry.  And most of all, I started remembering our long, cold winters in Pennsylvania and how much we loved sitting by the fire then.

After weeks of trying to put the idea out of my mind, I was clearly losing the battle when I came home with this mantelpiece from Habitat for Humanity's store, "just in case!"  I told myself I would sell it again if we didn't go through with the fireplace construction.  

My parents, who could sense I was pining for a fireplace, surprised us with the announcement that they wanted to help with the project as a housewarming/Christmas present to the both of us.  How amazing is that?!  They are so thoughtful and generous, and without them we probably would have taken the sensible route and never had a fireplace to cozy up to.

First we had the simple wall framed out and drywalled to prepare for the fireplace surround to be installed.  Then we primed and painted the walls and installed the mantel, making sure to follow the safety specifications to keep from burning the place down.  

And here it is!! It's still definitely a work in progress, since we need to extend the mantel's legs to the floor with blocks and come up with some kind of hearth in the floor to complete the look.  But how amazing is it that we're sipping our coffee by the fire now??  It looks like it's always been there.  

Happy Monday!  Can you believe Thanksgiving is just three days away?  



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