H54F: Sneak Peak

Ok, so I’ve been a little MIA lately… sorry!  Busy couple weeks at home and this past weekend we did a few BIG projects in the back yard!  So much to share, and never enough time.  So, to wrap up our week, here’s 5 hints on our recent projects… can you guess what they are?…





…. full details to come next week!  We’re off to Baltimore for the long weekend to visit friends… which just means I’ll have even more pictures to share when we come back!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

***join the H54F link up party with Lauren***

The {Big} Tax Refund Renovation

It’s that time of year.  Unfortunately, this year’s tax return looks NOTHING like last year’s.  Our refund last year was  5 digits long.  We had enough to pay off a student loan, credit card debt, put into Avery’s college fund, oh yeah, and build a deck!

This year, it was two.  Yep, two digits long.  This year we got a whopping $31 back.  But because we had to pay federal, and got back from the state, we put that on our credit card since our points were getting up there, and we’ll be getting a cash back reward of $25.  So our grand total after our 2012 taxes were filed, is $56.

Now, that’s much better than owing  which we thought we would need to.  But we found some papers we were missing and thankfully we didn’t have to pay.  After last year’s giant refund, we were planning on using our refund to pay off debt and do some home renovations, like last year.  Well, $56 sure won’t fund a big project like a deck, so we’ll have to get creative with this one.

Speaking of the deck, we never finished it.  We still have to put a set of stairs on the other side of the back stoop down to the deck, so we don’t have to walk around on the grass to get to it.


Our building permit is good for a year (I think), so I mentioned it to my Dad that we need to finish it by end of May, and could he help?  When he was here visiting last weekend, he took measurements and was going to cut pieces for the stairs and bring them down next time.  When I found out we were going to get a measly tax refund, I called him and asked if the stairs would cost $31 or less, and he said yes.  The advantages of having a carpenter for a father. (LOVE YOU DADDY) Free labor, and he sometimes buys the supplies without letting me pay.  Especially in this case.

So there you go, our BIG plans for our BIG tax refund… a set of stairs – although I don’t know if you can technically call them stairs when there will probably be only 2-3 steps. Either way – looking forward to building the stairs with Dad next month….

Did you get a big tax refund?  How are you spending it?

Mud ‘Room’ Remodel: the AFTER photos!

Let’s continue where we left off yesterday: Our mud ‘room’ remodel, part two.  After gathering all my ideas, and making a sketch, we went to work.  First, shopping for supplies.  Dad estimated $100, and we weren’t off by too much:

  • 2x8x16 lumber (with knots)
  • gallon of paint
  • decorative trim molding
  • roller, paint, & pan kit
  • BIN spray (for the knots)
  • coat/hat hooks (x9)
  • Total: $143

We went with lumber that had knots because it was much cheaper, and a $5 can of BIN spray would keep the knots from bleeding through.  It took me a few minutes to pick a color or paint…. going on a whim, I picked something from the ideas Vinay suggested, “blue, green, dark.”  And to add a little finish to the wood panel that would hold the hooks, I picked a $3 piece of trim molding.  We would have stayed closer to the ‘budget’ had the darn hooks not been so expensive! They were $3.50 a pop, and I decided instead of just a coat hook per cubby, I added hat/scarf hooks, so just the hooks were $32+.  But I think it was well worth it.

With all the supplies, we went to work!  I painted the room (two coats!), while Grampy (with a little help from Avery), made the built-in.





(yes, that’s a fishing pole….Grampy still needs to educate Avery on what are construction tools)

After building the frame, we painted it white (2 coats), and then installed it on the wall, added the hooks, and I put up a few of our jackets & coats for good measure.  I still have to  pick out some baskets and decor, but here’s the progress/AFTER photos:





The entire project was complete in a weekend, for under $150, and with the labor of 2(and a half if you count Avery) people.  And we only had one goof up.  We cut a piece of wood incorrectly, and had to go back and buy another piece of wood, no biggie.  But reflecting on the project, the majority of the work was painting.  Of ALL the rooms in our house, this one has the tallest ceiling.  Five foot nothing me had quite a fun time getting those high walls…but thanks to a cool ladder we have that you can adjust to go on stairs, I was able to reach!  But man, did the painting take FOREVER!  I even got paint on my knees, and how did that happen, because I was wearing pants!

Now, as for functionality, we’ve had a couple weeks to test this out, and man has it worked wonders.  Luckily it was installed just before the blizzard came, so we had a place to store all our winter gear without having to trek into the house.  Talk about good timing!  I’m still itching to go shopping for some baskets, and we found a great picture to put up on the shelf that has been sitting in the office for the past year and a half.  In time I’ll pick at it and post some updated photos!  Right now some ideas I have for the room are…

  • Add a design or text to the two steps into the kitchen.  Maybe ‘welcome & Home’ 
  • wallpaper behind the coat cubbies
  • baskets for the highest cubbies
  • padding material to go under in shoe cubbies so the wet ones don’t stain the wood
  • a key holder
  • paint the (maroon) basement stair risers white
  • find a new home for the paint/supplies on the lower shelf down the stairs
  • What to do with that high top shelf ??? The fire extinguisher looks lonely up there

And we’ll end with some good ‘ol Before & After:

IMG_2985 IMG_3008

IMG_2987 IMG_3007

IMG_2986 IMG_3006

What do you think of the transformation?  Any suggestions for some finishing touches?

Mud ‘Room’ Remodel: Design Phase

It’s a bit of a stretch to claim we even have a mudroom.  Our back door off the kitchen (which we use as our main entry) leads into this 3′ x 3′ landing. Turn right, and there’s stairs down to the basement. Go straight and take 3 steps up to the kitchen.  Very odd arrangement,  yes.  Coming into the house, carrying my 23 pound toddler, his backpack, my lunch bag, and the keys is quite a circus show.

This is the view of the landing from the basement, door on the left, kitchen up the steps to the right.


Shoes, bags, brooms, everything piles up and creates quite a hazzard for the next person walking into the house.


And there are these lovely shelves that are loaded with misc paints, sanding paper, cat litter (we don’t have a cat, WTF is the from?!), and dog biscuits… for when our doggy friends visit.  But really, I bet we could find a better home for these random items.


And did you note the YELLOW?  This house was ALL yellow, I swear the owners before us really had a yellow complex.  This is the last yellow room in the house, and I was on a mission to get rid of this last bit of it!


Once we’ve trudged thru the landing without falling down the stairs, we have to walk through the kitchen to the dining room where I proceed to dump everything (not Avery – he is gently placed on his feet) on the floor, which means I just tracked my dirty shoes through two rooms of the house.  And then all the stuff is thrown on the table, coats on the backs of chairs and boots on this little stand that is obviously not serving its purpose.


See, when we bought this house, we made a few sacrifices, one being a coat closet or storage area near our main entry.  So what to do?  We made due with our dinky shoe rack.. and it’s sufficed up until two weeks ago.  On a whim, I decided our next project would be to turn our dinky  cozy entry landing area into a glorified mud ‘room’.  Yeah, you’re thinking I’m crazy because, heck, when does 9 square foot ever qualify as a ‘room’???  Well, you have to get creative…

And by creative, I mean steal pin a bunch of ideas on Pinterest, and pull ideas from each pin to design our new mud ‘room’. (photo credits)

I love the idea of creating a built in along the wall with all the crap (grocery bags, broom, mop, etc) : cubbies for shoes and hooks for coats and bags.  Now, logistically, the depth of the wall before the door frames on either side is only 6-10″, so I wasn’t about to make drawers and even making a shoe cubby would be a challenge, because Vinay’s shoes are almost a foot long.  But if I made the cubbies big enough, we could put them in at an angle. And I LOVE the baskets with everyone’s first letter.  That made me think, with the size of that wall, I could design 3 different sections for each of us: one long cubby for a jacket with a hook, and smaller ones for baskets of mittens & hats, and low cubbies for shoes.

Running full-throttle with my zillions of ideas, I proceeded to measure the room and draw up a sketch of the built in I wanted to build.  I even measured our shoes and jackets to make sure the cubby sizes made sense, and that the height of the cubbies were within reach for short little me:

built in mudroom sketch

Correction, my Dad was going to build it – we have this deal for everything… I design it, he builds it!  So with a few quick emails back and forth about it, we had a design and a weekend for him to help make my idea come to life!  I had a few small decisions still to make, but I knew I wanted to paint the wood white like all the other trim in the house, and paint the room something NOT YELLOW… but minor details that I could decide along the way.

As with all household projects, I had to count my pennies and make sure we could afford a room remodel.  Dad estimated it would be around $100 for all the supplies.  Of course the labor was free 🙂  I checked with the hubs, and he was OK with that (We have a small house fund we contribute to weekly that we pull from when we do house projects), so we had a green light and went to work!

Tune in tomorrow for the building & painting phases & the AFTER PICTURES!

Do you have a mud ‘room’, or maybe a closet by your front door?  Where do you store all your boots, shoes, backpacks, hats, and lunchboxes?

DIY Holiday Gifts

I’ve been waiting until after the holidays to share three projects we (Avery & I) made in December for holiday gifts.  Now that (almost) everyone has received their gifts, I can share how I made them…

Footprint Socks

  • Supplies: 3 pair of socks, fabric paint, feet
  • Cost: $6 for the socks, already had the paint, and we used Avery’s feet(also free!)
  • Time: 45 min (with a toddler, that’s pretty quick! Deni, this may qualify as on of your ‘you can accomplish this before you effing head explodes projects!)
  • Tips: Follow this with a bath (for the foot), wear clothes you don’t mind getting paint on, and do it on a floor you can wipe up the paint (not carpet!)

I sat (with Avery in my lap) on the floor, painted his foot, pressed it on the sock (laying on the floor in front of me), wiped off Avery’s foot.  He ran around while I put the sock out of reach to dry and added his name/initials and year.  Repeat.




The three pair of socks went to Erin, Aunt Sarah, & Great Aunt Candy.


  • Supplies: 1 fitness shirt, scissors, tape, fabric paint, sponge, exacto knife, printer & computer
  • Cost: $7 for the shirt (it was super on sale!!!), I had all the other supplies
  • Time: 1-3 hours (It took me 3 because I had to use a knife since I couldn’t find my exacto kit, so it took FOREVER to cut out the text)
  • Tips: Do this project without kiddos around – I did it after Avery was in bed for the night.  It requires concentration so you don’t mess it up.

#1 print the ZUMBA text & symbol in different sizes.  #2 cut it out.  #3 tape it to the shirt.  #4 use a sponge to apply the paint

#5 let dry (I did steps 1-5 one evening, let dry overnight, did the next steps the next day).  #6 cut out the slits (you can do this on the sleeves or the back, etc.
#7 cut out the neckline
#8 try it on (this is essential, lol, and fun!) I was able to determine the size the slits needed to be


#9 carefully stretch out the pieces from the slits. it makes the material tighten and not looked like someone just took a scissor to a shirt.

I would include a picture of Erin wearing the shirt, but after I gave it to her, she lost it!!!  I know, how rude! LOL.  I’m sure she’ll find it 🙂

Handprint Tree

I have to confess, I got this idea from Pinterest.  So I can’t take full credit.  But I loved the idea, so we had to make TWO.  One for my parents, and one for my MIL (who actually hasn’t got hers yet, eek…so hopefully she doesn’t see this!).

  • Supplies: printer & computer (with a paint program), fabric paint, paper, picture frame, scissors
  • Cost: $5-$15 for the picture frame, I had all the other supplies
  • Time: 1 hour 30 min to make the tree & 30 for the handprints
  • Tips: Follow this with a bath or intense hand washing, and wear clothes you don’t mind getting paint on

#1 Find a picture of a tree without leaves online, save it.  Open in a ‘paint’ program.  Add name/text under the tree (you could do a handprint from each family member and write the family name & year), print on 8-1/2 x 11 paper.  #2 tape the paper to a table (so it doesn’t move around) #3 paint a hand, push on paper for handprint.  #4 Repeat until desired amount of prints (you can use different colors like we did) #5 let dry.  #6 put into picture frame (you may need to cut down to frame size)
Did gift any DIY projects this holiday?

That’s a Wrap

This weekend I was on a mission… we finished 99% of our holiday shopping by Saturday at noon and everything was wrapped by Sunday night.  Done and done!

Yes, our dining room did look like a tornado of elves  came thru…


but why keep things all neat and tidy while I was wrapping this and Avery was helping me make the mess…unraveling the ribbon… or tape?  Oh dear.  I should have thought about that one.  He loves pulling the tape out of the dispenser.  Maybe it’s the cool sound it makes, or that it’s sticky, but whatever it is… he was entertained for a bit…

I thought it was great.  Hilarious.  That was until… I ran out of tape.  I just had to push the ‘pause’ button on my wrapping spree and grab some more tape after I hit the gym that night (yep…I went to the gym Saturday night… I ran 1.5 miles Rachel…and could have kept going! )

So with only one minor setback, everything was wrapped and tucked neatly under our adorable REAL Christmas tree.


Do you notice how TOP HEAVY our tree is now?  All the lower ornaments had to move north, because Avery just loved taking them off the tree and tried to throw put them back on.  Yah, it may look a muck, but we love it.

Vinay even sat down with me and helped wrap Avery’s stocking stuffers.  Now the 1% of stuff we have left includes each others stocking stuffers, I have to pick one gift up at the mall (it had to get engraved), pick up a bottle of wine, etc… just minor little things.  We’re off to VT for the holiday on Saturday morning so although you’re thinking ‘man, she’s way ahead of the game’ … I’m not really cuz I need it all wrapped and packed up by Friday night.

Speaking of the holiday… we had brunch with friends Sunday and Avery opened three gifts.  He did pretty well opening them.  I ripped a piece of paper and then he’s pull it off.  But as soon as he saw the gift, he forgot about the wrapping and just started playing with it, while still half wrapped.

He went home with a new cell phone (so many he won’t play with ours?), set of adorable clothes, and a saxophone!


I’m so glad we decided only to do stocking stuffers for Avery this year.. he’s gonna get so many gifts…he’d rather play with everyday objects more than toys anyways.   He played with the Sax for about 15 seconds then he was done with that and played under their dining room table, using it like a jungle gym.  I swear, get him a laundry basket or Tupperware and he’d be a happy kid.

What’s under the tree for your little ones this year?

Weekend Warriors

Our Neighbors think we’re slave drivers.  They’ve seen my parents come and go many weekends – to gut & remodel our kitchen, build a deck, and install curtain rods.  One day the guy yelled from across the street, “Putting you to work again?  What’s next, a pool?!”  Funny thing was, the next time they came, they brought Avery’s blow up pool!

All joking aside, my parents have been down to help us with SO much on our house.  I have no idea what we’d do without them.  This past weekend was no exception.  We installed this, hung that, cleaned and organized… accomplished everything AND MORE on our to-do list.

Our weekend started on Friday night.  Avery was very excited for Grammy and Grampy’s arrival and watched for them out the window…
Saturday started early.  Grammy had breakfast with Avery while Grampy helped me get groceries.  Then I was off to Zumba+Kickboxing with Erin (so sore!).  When I came back I tackled the basement with Dad.  It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate when you have a basement to store stuff.  When we were done, we had thrown out boxes, had a pile of donations, and everything was organized in aisles.


Then Vinay & Dad put a light fixture in the living room.  Our living room never had a ceiling light – weird…and annoying.  We have a floor lamp, but Avery loves to shake it, so for many reasons, we were looking forward to this day.  Putting in a light isn’t as easy as it seems – it involved cutting a hole in the wall for the light switch…


…which quickly turned into two holes!  We needed to run the wires from the basement up thru the wall and when we cut the first hole, we found fireproofing in the wall (a horizontal piece of wood between the studs in the wall), so we had to get under that to get the wire up… but that’s OK – nothing we can’t patch up.


I mostly watched this project…and Dad and Vinay were like lighting… putting in the switch…


… then the ceiling electrical box…

… hung the light…

and ta-da!

Avery was pretty fond of it!  He loves lights.  And man was it a world of difference in that room now that we have light!

Then it was time to install the toddler gate.  We had a gate … but Avery used it more of a climbing wall, so it was time to upgrade. So Grampy went to work…with a little helper…

It’s never too early to introduce power tools, right?

About 10 seconds after this picture, Avery threw the drill down the stairs… Grampy laughed, “Good thing it’s a Black & Decker!’

Now the gate swings open and is easier for us to get in and out and there aren’t any horizontal bars for Avery to climb on.
Saturday night we took a break from housework and had some friends over for dinner.
Sunday it was back to work… we FINALLY hung picture frames in the living room. I laid them out on the floor (to decide the order they’d be hung)
and my Dad hung them… ta da!
I spent Sunday morning on a baking spree… I made blueberry muffins, keish, and granola bars (all for Avery).
While I was busy in the kitchen, Avery played with Grammy and Grampy. They took the dogs for a walk…
Grampy Tickled Avery…
Grammy joined Avery for a phone call…
Grammy took Avery for a ride…

Oh and I can’t forget their main reason for coming down… Dad refinished our radiator covers and installed them (bolted them to the wall so Avery can’t move them).  Here’s the one in the living room under the window…
And when they left… our living room looked like this!

Yes, the picture frames still need pictures in them (minor detail!) and I’m sure you caught a glimpse of the new curtain in the dining room…oh and see our new couch!?

What do you do when your parents come to town?  Do you relax, sight-see, or knock lots of items off your to-do list?