I’m still here.

iy iy iy (I hope that’s how you write it out)! I have honestly never been so busy in my life. Between the move and the house and adjusting to being a part time single mommy, catching up with old friends and family, throwing a birthday party for Theo and celebrating Easter, I feel like I haven’t had a second to even breathe.

I’m breathing now. A little bit. Very quickly.

There’s so much that I want to write about and I barely know where to start but of course, I have to start with the house! Homeownership feels a lot like adding a new baby to the family. In the past three weeks I’ve felt excited, overwhelmed, in love, ill equipped, inadequate, overjoyed and have asked myself what have we done, more than once 😉

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We are not completely unpacked, which is pretty uncharacteristic of me, but we have done so much to change this little fixer upper for the better already. I feel like we’ve renovated the kitchen but Josh said that word was a little extreme. Either way, within the first week we painted, updated the light fixtures, upgraded and replaced the appliances, changed all of the hardware, removed all of the upper cabinets and replaced them with open shelves and a wine rack (essential), updated and switched out all of electrical outlets, SCRUBBED the filthy mess (this house turned out to be Christina Aguilera Dirty) and added bamboo shades. Basically the only thing we didn’t do were the floors and the countertops. Overall, I love it and I’m so proud of Josh for how much work he has done already. I helped of course, but Josh has really taken charge and has constantly reminded me that we can do almost everything ourselves.

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One thing I’ve already learned from owning a home is that just because we own it, doesn’t mean everything will work out the way I we had imagined it would. I guess I’ve always thought that I’d love our house so much more if I could do anything I want to it but the truth is there are limitations on what you can do with a space whether it’s a rental or not. There have been a few surprises, both positive and negative, but luckily the good and bad have balanced each other out pretty well (so far).

Remember when we first looked at the house and I complained about the terrible, painted tile that turned out being molded plaster? Well we painted it a high gloss white and I absolutely love it. It looks like pretty square tiles but still has the charm since it’s really plaster. It also looks fantastic because it’s only half of the wall and contrasts the sea foam sort of green that we painted the top half of the wall. On the other hand, I hate the stove we bought. It’s cute (stainless steel flattop) but it sucks at actually cooking. Ha! Form over function, right? But the refrigerator is fabulous (I bought the same one we had in Texas so I knew what we were getting), the ceiling fan is fabulous, the hardware is fabulous (and from Ikea!) and I still love the bamboo floors. Three weeks in and the kitchen is about 90% done already. We have one beam over the sink that needs to be painted and we plan to replace the countertops eventually but everything else is done.

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As for the rest of the house –

  • we’ve painted the dining room and hall way between the master bedroom and bathroom.
  • we’ve changed the light fixture in the dining area to the lantern that may be the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.
  • we’ve ORBed (oil rubbed bronze spray painted) half of the heating vents throughout the house. They used to be an ugly gold so rather than buy new covers, we just bought a $12 can of spray paint and made them look new.
  • we’ve updated half of the electrical outlets throughout the house.
  • we’ve updated the dining light switch to a fancy new dimmer switch.
  • we’ve ripped up every single inch of carpeting within these small 1200 square feet.

And all in less than 3 weeks time.

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Getting real with how I feel – it’s very strange. This house is exactly what I wanted. An easy, small fixer upper that mostly just needs cosmetic repairs. I want to do it myself, I want to learn as I go, I like the projects and I want this house to be a good investment. But something about this process just isn’t as rewarding as I had imagined. Basically it’s just this feeling of inadequacy. I see in my mind exactly what I want, we make it happen and then it’s not as good/nice/pretty as I had thought it would be. I’m not kidding myself – it’s not the house, it’s me – it’s my touch of OCD, perfectionism and insecurities. Either way, it’s a buzz kill.

I’m hoping that as we continue to make progress I’ll continue to fall in love with the house and it will start to feel more and more like our home. Since we have so many plans for this little cottage, I’m making a weekly list broken down into daily tasks (can you say Type A?) to help me visualize just how much we’re actually accomplishing in this big sea of projects.

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I’m excited to share everything as we keep chugging along as well as give an update on what it’s like to live separately from my husband for half of the week and an update on what it has been like moving back to our hometown after 7 years away. A lot of fun has also been being had and I’d love to document some of that so hopefully I find the time to pop in more often!

We’ll see…





House update and a kitchen sneak peek.

Even though it seems like things are moving in slow motion (at least for us) with this house buying process, it actually hasn’t even been two weeks since we signed on the dotted line. The truth is, we’re making progress everyday. We’ve had the inspection done, ordered our homeowners insurance, ordered the appraisal, filled out and signed what seems like ten million forms and invested lots of money already. We’re at the point where we’ve accomplished everything we possibly can until the appraisal comes through.

Speaking of the appraisal. Since we’re going with a VA loan, the house has to be approved for purchase through an appraisal done by the VA. We’ve done a ton of research on what the approval entails and honestly, we’re a little nervous about it. You see, the house has a few small problems that we knew about prior to making an offer and that we’re prepared to repair ourselves. Our only concern is that these problems could cause our appraisal to fall through leaving us at the mercy of the sellers who would either fix the issues or back out of the contract. The good news is that the odds are in our favor and there isn’t anything we can do about it anyway, so rather than dwell on what I can’t control I’m going to embrace positivity and excitement and share some of the ideas that we have for our little cottage.

Refinishing the hardwood floors throughout the downstairs is the very first thing we’re going to do (before we even move in). They’re the original floors and just have normal wear and tear so we called around and got quotes from flooring companies but ultimately decided just to do it ourselves. We also have to raise the stair railing in the upstairs before we move in. The first time we looked at the house I noticed that it seemed dangerously low and that was confirmed by the inspection. Apparently railings and banisters should be 36 inches high and ours doesn’t meet that requirement so we’re going to attempt to raise it ourselves. The next big upgrade we’re planning is installing central air but that won’t be done immediately – just by June 😉 But all of this is the boring stuff that I wish we didn’t have to spend money on so let’s talk about the fun upgrades.

I keep teasing Josh about phase one and phase two. Phase one is what I plan to do immediately and phase two are upgrades I have planned for later. Having phase two is essential for me because I change my mind a lot (ha! poor Josh) and because we need the time to save up the money for each phase two project. Besides lots of painting throughout the house, the kitchen is the main area I plan to semi reno right away and I have ten million pins and idea books on Pinterest and Houzz as inspiration. Without further ado, here’s the kitchen now via our inspection photos.

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First thing’s first. We need to get that fridge and stove matching the dishwasher. I’m hoping to buy new appliances right away but it honestly just depends on our other expenses. If everything goes as planned we will be able to as soon as we move in but it really comes down to Josh’s apartment/house situation. We have to make sure he’s taken care of before we make a pretty refrigerator our priority. Besides those obvious upgrades, what you can’t see from this picture is that half of the wall, from the baseboard to about the bottom of the freezer, is actually painted tile. I don’t understand why you’d blend the tile into the wall but I plan to strip it while praying that it’s beautiful underneath. If it isn’t pretty, clean, white tile I’m going to paint it white (phase one) and the rest of the dreary gray a nice pale blue, like this,

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Also similar to this picture, Josh and I are going to take out all of the top cabinets. They’re just not practical for us,  in size or location, so we’re taking them down and installing floating, open shelves like this,

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Another thing you don’t see in the inspection photo are the light fixtures. Directly above the sink is an ugly old-fashioned jar light and in the center of the room is a ceiling fan. We plan to switch out the jar light for a pendant light  and upgrade the fan with fixtures kind of like these,

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 9.45.25 AMThe last part of phase one is updating the cabinets. They look decent in the photo but actually, they’re finished with some kind of high gloss paint that isn’t my favorite. Josh really likes gray cabinets and since we’ll be getting rid of all of the gray paint throughout the rest of the room, we may go with darkening up the cabinets a bit. We’re also changing out the hardware for brushed nickel bin pulls and knobs kind of like this,

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So obviously, we like a bright, clean, farmhouse style kitchen which brings me to phase two. Eventually, we plan to change out the countertops for either quartz or butcher block, upgrade the sink to big, beautiful, ceramic white farmhouse sink and, depending upon what we do with the tile on the wall, either do a subway tile backsplash or bead board. I can’t wait to get started!

Asking for good thoughts, positive energy, crossed fingers and prayers as we wait for this appraisal! Eeekkk!

Our DIY headboard.

This weekend was filled with projects. We finished Ruby’s room, worked on a few small things and finally followed through with a bigger project that we’ve been talking about for a while. Building our own headboard! photo photo-83_zpse430da80.jpg

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big Young House Love fan and I was thrilled when, for my last birthday, Josh bought me a signed copy of their book. Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love. While flipping through, one of the projects really caught my eye -the DIY rustic headboard. At the time we had a very nice, full bedroom set but all of the pieces matched and I was just kind of over that look. I talked Josh into selling our bed on Craigslist the week before we moved to NY, with the intention of building our new headboard once we were settled. Four months later and we’ve finally tackled it!

We went to Home Depot and picked out the wood. We already had the stain so our total out of pocket cost was less than $15! Josh cut the wood to size and sanded it down to make it nice and smooth. He stained it with Minwax in Early American and let it dry.
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After it was dry, he laid all of the boards down on the floor (we used 1x3x8 cut down to 62 inches) and lined up the bracing boards. We used three to make sure the boards were totally secure. He screwed each board into the bracing boards and ten minutes later, it was done! To hang it, we screwed in heavy duty picture hanging hooks (for up to 90lbs).  photo picstitch-2_zps95fc875d.jpgLastly, Josh screwed anchors into the wall above our bed at the spots we measured for. We hung it and our gorgeous, rustic headboard was finished!

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 photo photo-82_zpsdc7f50fc.jpgJosh and I are by far not DIY people. I wouldn’t use the terms crafty or handy or anything even near those terms to describe us but this project was so easy and actually a lot of fun. We’re already scheming for our next one!

A house is not a home without curtains and some paint

One of my least favorite parts about moving so much is how hard it is to make random houses (especially military housing) feel like home. It’s not so much that the houses we’ve lived in don’t fit my standards, it’s more that I can’t make the houses fit my standards. Yes we can paint, lay down laminate flooring, change out light fixtures and so on, but before moving again everything must be changed back to how it was before we took residence. It’s annoying and frustrating to deal with when we have more important things (finding a new house, new schools, organizing the moving truck, packing, etc) to worry about.


Because of our multiple moves within this past year, it’s needless to say that Josh and I are completely burnt out with fixing up houses that don’t belong to us. We painted a substantial amount of our Cape May house which meant that we had to prime it all before we left. We were incredibly disappointed with the condition of our rental in Texas so once again, we painted nearly every room. Bathrooms, bedrooms, multiple living spaces, vaulted ceilings and all. We didn’t stop at painting either. We fixed doors, switched out light fixtures, changed shower heads, etc. Luckily, our landlord recognized that our contribution to her house was an upgrade so she didn’t make us change anything before we moved but moving back into Coast Guard housing meant a big house full of white walls and cheap fixtures all over again. While it is definitely still military housing, our current house in New York isn’t as bad as some that we’ve lived in. Usually, the walls are what I call “military white” – basically a flat, chalky white that gets dirty if you look at it. But these walls are a different color. Not a great color but they are at least closer to a cream and seem to wipe down better. I know painting isn’t hard labor but it is time consuming and, when you paint an entire house, costly. Josh and I agreed that this time around, we were just going to live with the white walls. But then last week I had a break down and couldn’t stand how cold our house feels. We downloaded this app (which is awesome) and sat together over coffee to pick out our paint colors. We decided to paint our bedroom first because we’re making a homemade headboard (I can’t wait to share this!)  and wanted to get painting out of the way before we began a new project. We headed to Home Depot, bought our supplies and came home to get started. Josh has developed a really good straight hand so he does the edging while I cut in with the roller. We have a very small room. Tiny actually and it still took us 4 hours. The next day, we agreed that we’re not painting another inch of this house. We’re beat. And over painting houses that don’t belong to us.


I can’t give up on trying to make this place a home though. I’ve decided that I’m going to upgrade this house with things we can take with us and hopefully use again in our next house. Light fixtures, rugs, curtains, etc. Of course this is costly too but hopefully we can get some good use out of it all. But spending money on items like this isn’t anything new anyway. Another downfall to moving so frequently is how much layout changes effect our belongings. In the past year, we’ve moved from a 1300 sq ft townhome to a 2300 sq ft two story house to a 1900 sq ft apartment. Obviously, our furniture can’t possibly properly fill all of these spaces equally. This means that we currently have a nearly bare dining room but enough accessories and small furniture pieces in storage to fill another house. This goes for random things too. Shower curtains, curtain rods, storage containers, etc. Sometimes my small kitchen appliances fit in my kitchen and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we have overhead lighting and sometimes we need extra lamps. It’s so frustrating.


Ruby’s new light 


She loves it. 

Over the past few years, decorating and homemaking have become a big hobby for me. Maybe that’s why this lifestyle drives me so crazy. I read several DIY blogs and constantly check out Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and store catalogs for ideas, but you can only go so far living in a space that you’ll be in for a very short period of time. I can’t wait until the day when I can paint a room and know it will be that color for as long as I like, or remodel a bathroom or do whatever the hell I want to do because it is my house and I will live there for more than the length of my husband’s billet. But until then, you can find me wiping the little kid handprints from my white walls.

Day 19: 5 favorite blogs

Over the past few years, I’ve become quite a loyal blog reader. There are 5 blogs that I read every day and a few others that I occasionally check into. I’ve already written about my favorite blogger and what I love about her blog so I’m only going to write about 4 others today.

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1. Kath Eats Real Food

This was the first blog that I started reading on a regular basis. As you can probably gather from the name, it’s a healthy lifestyle blog that used to focus on what Kath ate every day. Reading about someone else’s lunch sounds a little dull but seeing her meals and reading and recreating her recipes was inspiring. Plus, the blog wasn’t only about her meals. She posted about running, races, fitness, gardening, green cleaning, product reviews, organization, and so on. Readers got to follow her along as she went to school to become a registered dietician and also as she and her husband opened their own bakery. Most recently, she has taken a step back from her blog, only posting a few times a week versus the 3 times a day that she wrote when I began reading back in 2010, due to becoming a mommy. Her blog has taught me an innumerable amount of information including how to make kale chips (my husband appreciates this) and introduced me to several of my favorite household items such as Shaklee cleaning products.

2. Daily Garnish

Daily Garnish was the first blog I found through reading Kath. It is written by Emily Malone, a trained chef who develops vegetarian (and some vegan) recipes in her own kitchen and then blogs about them. She also recently became a mom (and is already expecting #2!) so her blog has also changed significantly since I became a reader. Being a mother myself, I appreciate the splash of baby related information that now appears within the food posts. Reading about the meals she feeds her vegetarian baby and the kind of chemical free detergent that she’s found works best on cloth diapers has been helpful in my daily life.

3. Young House Love

Young House Love is probably my favorite blog right now. It is equally entertaining, informational and dangerous (for me, at least). YHL is written by a married, 30 something couple who both work at home renovating their house and doing every type of DIY project you can imagine. It’s entertaining because John and Sherry are ridiculously happy and funny. It’s informational because they have tried, and shared, how to do everything from completely gutting and renovating a kitchen to painting furniture to building their own headboard (a project that Josh and I intend to try our own hand at next month) and beyond. It’s dangerous because it makes me want to renovate a house which can be problematic when you live in military housing. Ha! You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve already rearranged/redecorated this apartment. And we’ve only lived here for 45 days.

4. Eat, Live, Run

This one is another healthy lifestyle blog, which I’m sure you were able to figure out on your own. Written by Jenna Weber, a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, who went to culinary school not to become a chef, but rather with the intention of becoming a food writer. Cool, huh? Jenna recently became a published author after she incorporated her favorite recipes into her own autobiography.

Basically, most of the blogs I read are centered around the same thing but leave me with a different impact made. It’s pretty amazing what a page of writings by a stranger can give to you.