Friday, March 25, 2016

An art gallery

I finally accomplished a project that I have been planning for well over a year. I actually bought some of the supplies just before we moved into this house last year but they've been sitting around waiting for the art room to be ready.

Have I explained the 'art room' ever? It's technically meant to be the formal dining room in our house but the dining area in the kitchen is so large that I can't ever see a need to have a formal dining space. Partly because I'm lazy and don't want to drag my food all over creation just to eat in a fancy room. Partly because we are too large of a family to have two rooms for the same purpose. That's just silly. I currently have two full size dining tables in the kitchen with room for stools at the counter and the girls' backpacks hanging. There's no need for a whole other room. There is obviously a need for me to build a larger dining table to remedy the two tables situation but that's going to require me to wake up in the mood to build a table. Hasn't happened yet folks. Someday. I have the building plans pinned so it will happen. I should probably build a bed for the child who sleeps on a mattress on the floor first. I have priorities.

So we have what we call the art room. Others might see it more as a craft room. It's where we keep my sewing table and supplies which doubles as my desk for filing, the kids' easel, their coloring and art supplies, a couch for reading, and the toy box/ottoman that was never being utilized in the living room. I figure what better thing to put on the wall in the art room than an art gallery.
 I'll link to my inspiration post below in case you want another take on the project but the short and simple is that I bought the clipboards in a set of 24, used a tape measure and level, tried hanging them by nails and realized that was not going to work, then I hung them all using 3M picture Velcro thingies.

I started with just the clipboards to the right of the thermostat but quickly realized that it looked silly and totally unbalanced so I decided to cover the whole wall.

I love this art gallery! There are plenty of spots for all four girls to hang their works and I can very easily rotate things out as they present me with new work. My older girls go to an arts magnate school so I get to change out the art quite often even when I'm being picky about what I put up. You'll also see that I put up a few snapshots of the kids at first as fillers but those will probably get replaced with original art soon.
How do you display scribbles in your home? Do you have any simple projects that have been sitting around for a year waiting for something to fall together? I needed to paint the art room before I could put up the clipboards. Before I could paint I had to find the budget to buy paint. Before I could check the budget for paint I had to remove the hideous wallpaper border that was gracing this room. If you give a mouse a cookie amiright?

I've been busy working on other things around the house so hopefully I'll be back soon to share some of those updates. It just always seems like I have to do 90 things before I can go back and finish the first item and obviously I can't just clean everything up and put my tools away if I'm still in the middle of a project. Even if I'm in the middle of twelve projects and don't finish any of them for several months. My poor poor husband.

Inspiration here: Baby Rabies

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

This slab wants to come live with us

We watch a lot of home improvement shows. We hate some of the people on them but we watch anyways, maybe because we love to hate them. On these shows they always visit different specialty stores and shops that look beautiful and it makes the whole process seem glamorous and streamlined. Obviously there is some movie magic going on because that it not how the process works at all. I would love if the process worked like that just for one little project but things are always more difficult than you expect and there are always delays and setbacks and supremely unhelpful people along the way. Ce la vie!

Last week we got the chance to visit the stone yard and check out our slab o' granite. I expected it to be like on tv where they have tons of slabs to choose from and you pick the one with the veining and inclusions that you like best. Sadly, we learned that that isn't the case. Sad panda. But the people we worked with were very helpful and knowledgeable and really helped me stop freaking out about the counter business. We met in the showroom area where they had an island with each of the finished edges they offer and our guy made sure we wanted to stick with the edge we had chosen. He said that he was the last stop to change our minds on anything so we should make sure to check everything out and ask questions. We were very happy with our choice of a half bullnose edge. The saleswoman at Lowes had told us that a full bullnose has some drawbacks when you spill anything that goes off the edge as it will follow the full bullnose around and drip more on the cupboards where the half bullnose drips straight down. That's something I never would have thought about but, especially with four children in the house, it's a little thing that can save a lot of hassle down the road. I actually waffled for a little while because I liked the look of the square edge but I remembered how often I have to clean cemented on cereal off the edges of the counter and decided that more of a curve was only going to help me out. Neither of us liked the look of the Ogee edge. I feel like it would look best in a fancy powder room maybe. It definitely didn't fit my goal of more clean lines in the kitchen.

Our guy then took us back into the warehouse where they did have awesome rows of stone. Unfortunately, in the color that we had chosen, they only had two pieces of granite available and those were going to be the two we were getting. He explained that when they order a bunch of slabs they all come from the same rock and basically all look exactly the same so even if there were more slabs, there wouldn't be any big differences for us to choose from anyways. But the whole point of the trip was to see it up close and full size to make sure that what we saw on a the little 3 inch square at the store was truly what we wanted. And it was definitely everything we could have hoped for. It's a beautiful shade of gray with some red in it that keeps it from feeling too cold. I cannot WAIT to see it in my kitchen. 6 more sleeps!

I would have loved to take the time to look at each kind of stone they had and just drool over everything but obviously that wasn't necessary so back to business.

After we confirmed that we liked the stone, he showed us the layout of our counter and how they would cut each piece and where the seems would lay. M had seen this at the store when he went to sign the final contracts but it was nice to envision it a little better laid out on the stone. We also went back into his office to seen what their seems generally look like and talk about care and upkeep of our granite.

We were told that the color that we chose, Moon White, tends to be more porous than darker colors so the sealer they apply may not last as long. Usually they recommend resealing in 5-7 years but he said we may start to see signs closer to 3-5 years and then we'd want to seal it again. He explained that the sealer seeps into the stone and after that much time it is no longer sitting on top, protecting the surface, but sitting a few millimeters into the stone so you can get water spots and have the risk of staining at that point. He also told us that anything acidic is going to damage the finish so I can't use my standard vinegar water to clean my counters anymore. Womp womp. My crunchy little heart is sad but I'm going to do some research to see what green cleaners I can use instead. He said that there are tons of products out there made specifically for granite so it's not going to be too spendy or difficult, just not as cheap a plain old vinegar. He also said the if we did see any stains we could try to clean them by making a paste of peroxide and flour and letting it set on the stain for a little while with plastic wrap covering it. And finally, we were told that we can use a razor scraper blade to get rough spots off. There are a few spots at our old house that I should probably go back and scrape smooth one of these days. I should also give the renters a heads up about having to seal the granite over there eventually. Hopefully we'll get at least another couple years before we have to do that but I should probably put it on their radar.

Alright. So. We looked at our granite. We learned how to take care of it. We spent too much money at Sam's Club. We ate sub-par pizza at a chain buffet place. And then we stopped into a furniture consignment shop to browse and it got my head spinning with ideas for the some of our problem areas. There's no money to solve these problems but I have lots of ideas. Isn't that always the case though?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Package the second

Shall we go back to opening my mail? Yes, yes we shall. To go along with my beautiful sink I bought it some bling. My sink that has been taken from me. My sad sad lonely sink sitting in a box somewhere not being loved.

Did you guess that it was a faucet? I'm actually really unsure about this little beauty. I love it's curves and the way she feels in my hand. I love all the things I've heard about her. But just dry fitting it into a sink on my floor hopefully doesn't do it justice.

It has a pull down sprayer with a button on the back of the spray head that switches it from the normal output to a more spread out spray. I've wanted a faucet like this for awhile but can't say that I know anyone that has one that I could really test out so this is one of those things that SEEMS like a good idea but could really go either way. When I set it up like this I didn't tighten the faucet to the sink fully, mostly because I put the collar piece on backwards and was not about to go to the effort to switch it around, so it was a little wobbly and I was struggling to get a picture taken with it upright. I was also having problems getting the sprayer head to stay up where it belonged. I'm really hoping this has something to do with it not being fully installed and not having water in the lines. I'm really hoping. 

I wanted to buy a faucet with a magnetic docking system but they are a little more expensive and didn't fit the budget we were trying to stick to. If this sprayer head doesn't stay docked and becomes a nuisance, like many reviewers on other faucets complain, then I'll definitely push to spend a little more the next time. But I spent so much time comparing prices and trying to figure out from awful photos online which one was truly the prettiest that I really hope this gal works out for us. Honestly, for some reason, when you are looking at faucets for the kitchen and bathroom there is a big difference in style between the less expensive options and the options that come when you drop some more money.

I don't find that to be the case with most things in the world. Yes, I drool over expensive light fixtures and clothing and appliances but I also find that there are plenty of beautiful items in lower price ranges too. Maybe I was just being overly picky in my search for sink fixtures but it seemed like every faucet had something wrong with it. I didn't like the handle on one and the curve of the neck on another and so many things just seemed a little off. This faucet that I ended up with flares out at the head just a little less elegantly than I'd like but really, in the grand scheme of my kitchen, I don't think that's going to end up being a deal breaker.

I'm so excited and anxious to get my new counters installed! I feel like something terrible is going to happen and we'll have spent all this money and end up hating it. I'm not sure why I feel that way. Does everyone feel like that during a big renovation? I've never had this anxious feeling before but every other project has been something I've done myself or something my dad has been mostly in charge of so I know that there's always the option to change things in the middle of the project. I've always had a measure of control over every aspect of a project. Even when I'm building something and I'm not entirely sure that it's going to turn out perfectly, I don't get this feeling because I figure I only have myself to blame for the mistakes I see in the end. Bleh, I just want it all done already so I can stop feeling so anxious and so I can have a pretty new kitchen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Counters are a-coming

Today was counter templating day. We've done a lot of renovations to our various homes and I've been privy to my parents building their last two homes so I've seen plenty of trades go in and out but this is a process I've never been a part of. We ordered our counter tops through Lowes and the first part of the process was to choose the stone, choose the edge style, and pay for the labor and materials based on the estimated square footage that I gave them. We choose a granite counter top after several trips to the store, some internet research, and being absolutely certain we were going to purchase quartz. This is becoming a theme in this kitchen. I hope this all turns out for the best and we never feel like we're settling for less than what we wanted! We had granite in our last house and loved it. The only reason we had decided against it was reading about how it should be sealed every year. We hadn't had problems with our old counter but I wanted something maintenance free. While we were discussing this choice with the sales woman, she told us that their granite has a 20 year warranty on the sealer. It took us approximately 12 seconds of looking at the prices difference and the sample stones and we were sold on granite once again.

We were super pumped to learn that the granite we liked, that she pulled out of a drawer like it was a super special secret option, was from a local counter place in the nearest city. Which means we get to go there and look at all the slabs and choose the actual one they will cut our counters from. Just like on HGTV! Have you ever gone to a stone warehouse? Did you just fall in love with every piece you saw?

This templating process was the second step in getting our counters. A guy from the counter company came out with special tools to take precise measurements, make a diagram, and take my preeeecious sink away with him. See, their company has templates for sinks from most of the larger companies and while they have them for Swan products, my sink is maybe from a new line they haven't seen yet. He said that normally they just say they can't cut out the sink in these cases (WHAT?! What do people do in that instance? I mean, I guess buy a new sink?) but that because they normally do Swan products, he was given permission to bring the whole kit and caboodle back with him. I tried just offering him the paper template they had sent but he took my new beautiful baby. He says they'll bring it back when they install the counters.

The whole thing took almost two hours and after he had left I realized that I had completely forgotten to ask him to include a new window sill. Ack! My brain raced as I tried to think what the best solution was. Maybe I should call him. Maybe when we go to choose the slab we could just give them the measurements. Thank goodness I had the sense to look out at my driveway to see him sitting in his car still. Whoop! I took a minute to screw up my little courage and ran out in the rain to beg him to come back in. He told me that he usually asks about sills so at least I'm not the only one who forgot. Thankfully he didn't have to adjust his template at all. He just wrote down the measurements and said it wouldn't be a problem. Whew!

Now we wait for them to figure out the actual size based on their measurements and then they'll reconcile that with the amount we paid and we either pay more or get a refund. I'm willing to bet that people almost never get a refund but I would love for that to be the case! We'll be digging in the couch cushions to find any additional sheckles to cover this project. But I'm so excited to have new counters. We chose a stone called Moon White. It's mostly gray with some white and some red spotted through it. Of course the stone sample was a 4x4in square so I'm terrified we'll see it in full and decide we hate it. I'll take pictures when we go to the stone yard.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mail day

It's been awhile. How've you been? How are things? And your family?

We have a lot of exciting changes going on around our house and it finally feels like I can be excited instead of overwhelmed by this house. We closed on our current house, Hilltop Manor, almost exactly one year ago and it has been wonderful and stressful and exhausting and fun. I'm hoping to catch you up on what I've done so far and where we still need to update things but today I thought I'd share my mail with you! I got some super fun packages and I can't wait to see everything come together.

Of course I had to open the largest box first and inside was my preeeecious. It's basically exactly what I said I didn't want and I lurve it so much! I wanted something colored, maybe even black as a strong accent against the rest of our light colored kitchen. I was looking at composite granite. Our current sink is white porcelin or enamel and I hate it with a passion. It stains easily and gets scratched by silverware. We had decided on a black tectonite sink from Lowes that was around $150 because the composite granite sink was closer to $250 and we are stingy and they looked exactly the same. However, when the time came to actually purchase our items, the sink we had decided upon had been discontinued and there were no options outside of stainless available in the same price range. Our goal had been to buy everything we could through Lowes at the same time to take advantage of special financing but we couldn't pull the trigger on a sink we hadn't researched that was twice as much as we had been expecting to spend.

All of that turned out to be a blessing because I went home and researched my little heart out and stumbled upon this lovely sink at Jet. It's a Swanstone sink, which is something that sounded vaguely familiar but wasn't something I could place in my jumbled brain. I read their website. I read reviews. I googled. And I learned that this was what I had been looking for. Something that is heat resistant so I can put hot pans directly into the sink and keep them out of reach of little hands when I'm no longer in the kitchen. Something that is drop/impact resistant so that my little helpers aren't as likely to damage it throwing dishes into the sink. Something that doesn't stain or scratch. According to their website and can clean it with bleach and I can scrub it with anything short of a metal scrub pad and it's even resistant to acetone. We'll see how long it takes for my carelessness to damage this sink. I'm not gonna lie, I am not awesome at taking care of my things. I like to set hot pans down without putting down a trivet. I put everything in the dishwasher. That's just how I roll and I know I'm not going to change any time soon so we're planning our new kitchen to withstand my horrid treatment.

I've been told by my 7 year old that this is a long blog. I guess that means you get to see what was in my other packages another time. Until then here's a picture that little B demanded I take when she saw that I had my big camera out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Before we even begin

We talk as if the purchase of the new house is a foregone conclusion but, as in all real estate transactions, we do need to be prepared for things to go south and fall apart. The fat lady has not sung until we have left the closing with keys in hand. I think that's what leads to the most frustration during the home buying process, knowing that there's always a chance you could lose all of the things you've been dreaming about. But let's move on like that isn't in the back of our minds shall we?

I have lists. Oh boy do I have lists! I also have Pinterest boards and flooring samples and pictures on my phone. But the first list is of all the things that need to be addressed before we make the big move. We'll have to slowly start taking things over to entertain the kiddos while I work on the house but that is just a drop in the bucket. If the bucket were the size of a double garage packed full of our stuff that we packed for staging. No joke. Our garage has become my Monica's closet.

So here's the list in no particular order:
  • pull carpet
  • paint baseboards
  • replace outlets with gcfi inside & out
  • epoxy garage floor
  • remove insulation above water heater to dry and replace
  • get bids for electrical work
  • get exterminator estimates for quarterly service
  • place stick down linoleum tiles under sinks
  • cover one junction box and add another in the attic
  • replace kitchen light fixture (M would hit his head on the current one)
  • get plumber to repair tub assembly
  • replace exterior knobs and locks
  • price, select, and schedule new carpet
  • buy microwave
  • install baby gates at top and bottom of stairs
Anyone else feeling like this is going to take me a little longer than the two weeks I'm shooting for? Ugh!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Our home inspection rundown

Home inspections. I absolutely recommend getting a professional inspection done at any property that you are thinking of purchasing. If you are a general contractor or home builder then I can see how you might be qualified to do your own home inspection and I'll let you off the hook. Anyone else would be foolish not to get another experienced pair of eyes looking at every detail. You might be the best DIY handyman or handywoman out there but you are emotionally invested in this purchase. You are picturing the end result of paint and finishes and, if this is the home you plan to live in, your stuff in certain places. You're going to miss things. I've gone through this process 5 times and I always miss things.

During our home inspection there weren't many things that came up that we were unaware of but the few things our inspector found were totally worth spending the money to know about. The thing that concerned me most was a water leak that has obviously been an issue for awhile. We knew something was going on due to the hole in the ceiling below the second floor bathroom but the inspector was able to confirm that it wasn't going to be too major to get the tub assembly fixed. There is also a lot of questionable electrical work happening but only one actual super dangerous spot that needs to be addressed asap. He did point out that there is some shifting happening with the chimney that needs to be watched and is something we may not have seen until it was a much bigger problem. He also checked the air flow and heat in each room and suggested that we have an HVAC specialist come out to look at the master bedroom vents. The problem with these vents is that they run through the concrete slab and truly could become a big ole mess if we have to do too much to them. Thankfully it is just the two vents in the master and we aren't too scared of the implications.

Beyond those items there are lots of little cosmetic things like holes in drywall and missing trim and a leaky sink sprayer. We learned from the neighbor that the pool definitely needs a new liner which is not a small expense but is something we can do after we have sold our current house because obviously the pool is a luxury that we can live without for however long we need to.

We haven't gotten a hard closing date from our closing company yet, which is an endless source of annoyance, but we do have deadline to meet in order to close within 45 days of HUD signing our contract. If we cannot close on time, we will need to apply for an extension and pay $375 for the honor of waiting longer to get our new house. Can you tell I'm not thrilled by that idea? It makes me so angry. That money doesn't pay for anything. It doesn't go towards closing costs or the purchase price. Just light it on fire and kick it around. I will be one irate lady if it comes down to that because we have done everything we need to do within hours of it being requested and we are just sitting around waiting on the closing company to do their work. We know that market in our area is rreeeaalllyy slow right now so it's not like they are swamped with closings so it feels like someone is sitting with it on their desk with a post it note to work on it at the last possible second. I'm sure that's not true and I'm just a bitter wench.

Okay, next time for real is the big listy loo of things that need to happen before we move into the house. Do you work for a closing company? Can you explain to me why it takes so long and why they can't tell us when it's going to happen? Our deadline is less than two weeks away and we're getting very antsy. I keep hoping they'll call and tell us we can close tomorrow. That would be lovely my friends.

P.S. I'm posting this without proof reading because my eyeballs are getting blurry and I'm going to bed now. Please grant me grace on any typos and/or poor structure. I do my best.