Posts tagged home

Decking the Halls

This is our first holiday season in our new house and I am beyond thrilled about it!  We never had much space to decorate in our townhouse because our main living area functioned as our living room, media room, play room and entertaining space.  It was jam-packed with furniture which left little room for holiday decor, though we did manage to squeeze a real live tree in there every year!

Anyway, with a whole house to decorate this year, I was in my glory.   I tried not to go overboard in hopes to keep it simple and not break the bank.  I am beyond happy with how it has all turned out.  It’s cheery, bright, and most importantly, kid friendly!  It all feels so festive and celebrating the holidays feels extra special this year.

Here is a glimpse into our home all decked out for the holidays.

These oversized ornaments are hanging in our bow window in the living room.

And here is our mantel all dressed up.

After some hesitation, I bit the bullet on the Potter Barn embroidered stockings.  They were offering free embroidery and shipping so I couldn’t resist.  They first ones they sent I had to send back because the stitching was horrible and one of the stockings had a different color thread.  I’m very happy with them now, the second time around.

My favorite part of the mantel is the little gold light up trees that I found at the Christmas Tree Shop for $2.99 each.  They’re so simple yet so pretty.

And last, but certainly not least, is our tree!

We’ve started a new family tradition of cutting down our own at a tree farm.  I’ve had a real tree all my life and I vow to never have an artificial one.  Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without the smell of a fresh tree in the house and tiny pine needles all over the place!  I really love our tree this year.  It stands high, goes right up to the ceiling and is just a beauty.  It’s full of white lights and colorful ornaments.  There is no theme to it.  The ornaments are all shapes and sizes, some home made and some store bought.  The girls helped us decorate it and I like them to feel like it’s their tree too, not just a decoration.

I’d love to see (or hear) how you’ve decorated hour home for the holidays.  Do you have any special traditions in decorating?  Do you prefer a real or artificial tree?

How Keurig Changed My Life

Have you ever seen a product and though, “Sure that’s cool, but I’d never need it.”?  Well, that is how I felt about the Keurig coffee brewers when they became uber popular about three years ago.  They definitely seemed cool, modern, and life simplifying but I never really thought that I needed one.  Funny thing is, that Christmas, my mom bought Scott and I one.  I was pretty excited about it but still had my reservations.  We’d always been traditional coffee pot brewing people and already had a pretty sweet coffee maker with programmable features.  I didn’t realize on that day just how much the Keurig brewer would change my life.

Scott and I latched on to it pretty quickly.  We loved the ease of it and the ability to brew just a single cup of coffee whenever we wanted in the “flavor” of our choice.  I had always been a French Vanilla lover while he preferred Hazelnut (gag!).  But with the traditional coffee maker we always just brewed regular coffee and then sometimes added a flavored creamer. The Keurig changed all that.  It pretty much changed our lifestyle in terms of home coffee brewing.  We used to prepare our coffee maker the night before by measuring the coffee and water and setting the programmable timer to have it brewing as we were waking up.  Now we simply choose our preferred blend, pop in the KCup, and within 60 seconds, we have a fresh cup of coffee.  Now that is genius!

You can imagine our heartache when this morning Scott went to brew his morning commute tumbler of coffee and the Keurig did not work.  It was as if a part of us had died.  We both just looked at each other not knowing what to do.  Then we fumbled with the machine to try to get it going.  We refilled the water reservoir, changed the KCup, unplugged and replugged in the machine, powered it on and off… nothing worked!  We felt truly defeated.  With no other coffee option in the house, Scott left empty handed.

After being out for the morning, I came home determined to get the Keurig working again.  I searched Google for help and consulted the owner’s manual, but nothing has worked.  I called Keurig and they really were not much help either.  I was told that the machine is out of warranty and that I really don’t have any options.  Someone is supposed to call me back and I was told that they may offer me a discount on a new brewer but seeing as it’s an “older” machine, it may just be done.  So is that it?  Three years out of the coffee maker and time to buy a new one?  I was hoping that we’d get more life out of it.

Now I sit here, unable to have my afternoon coffee fix, wondering what to do.  Should we buy a new Keurig or go back to the old days of brewing coffee in our traditional coffee maker.  We’ll likely go back to the old coffee pot for the time being as a new Keurig just isn’t in the budget right now.  It’s definitely not going to be easy!  I might cry.

Hall Closet Makeover

We have a good sized closet in our main hallway.  It’s pretty much been unused since we moved in, mostly because we moved in during nicer weather and didn’t have big coats, hats, gloves, boots, etc to put in there.  Instead, it has become home to some very random things like mops, Pledge, light bulbs, grocery bags and our fire extinguisher.

(click to enlarge)

With the colder weather creeping up on us, I know that we are going to need to use this closet for it’s intended purpose rather than as a catch-all.  So, I decided to tackle it.  It was a very spur-of-the-moment decision.  I took some quick measurements, grabbed the girls, and drove to Lowe’s to buy some supplies.  There were a few things that I definitely wanted to accomplish with the project and the rest just fell into place.  First, since the closet is over a stairway, the floor is slanted upward which means you can’t really put much on the floor of the closet (but somehow that didn’t really seem to stop the clutter from gathering there!).  Then there was the abundance of grocery bags (aka toxic waste-smelling diaper disposal bags).  Even though we use reusable shopping bags 90% of the time, we still seem to end up with tons of these plastic bags.  So, I was determined to find an answer to this problem.  And finally, how do I make the closet not look so cluttered?  I know, I know, it IS a closet after all, but I just hated looking at all of the crap!

Here is how it turned out:

I am completely thrilled with it.  I installed a shelf near the bottom of the closet.  It can be used for shoes or whatever.  I put a small bin on it so the kids can put things away at their own level (ie hats, gloves, scarves).  I put two larger bins on the top shelf.  One of them has the light bulbs and other miscellaneous stuff in it.  The other is empty for now, but will hold Scott’s and my hats, gloves and scarves this winter.  I was able to eliminate two of the mops from the closet.  One was the Swiffer Wet Jet, which we no longer use (we replaced it with a Shark Steam Mop seen in the picture).  The other one was an old school sponge mop that somehow made it’s way to the new house even though we never used it at the condo.

But, I know the biggest question on everyone’s mind right now is “What did she do with all of those grocery bags?!?”  Pretty sweet, huh?!  I’ve seen these type of bag holder/dispenser things before but for some reason never bought one.  Of course today when I was on the hunt for one, it took me forever to find it.  It’s stuck on the right hand wall inside the closet with some adhesive backing (or you could have used screws).  The box says it holds 30 bags but I was able to get at least 45 in there (yes, I was counting!).  I’m very happy about it.

So, I ended up spending about $40 at Lowe’s on the shelf, hardware, bins and the grocery bag holder.  I know it probably seems silly that I’m so excited about a closet makeover, but I know it’s going to make our lives so much easier once we’re wearing heavy coats and winter accessories.

Our new Family Room!

Our new house was built in 1969.  So even though it’s new to us, it’s not actually new.  Many of the rooms need updating but overall, our house is perfect and exactly what we wanted.  We have an awesome neighborhood.  In a given day I probably see 3 cars pass by my house, and they belong to people who live on our street.  Our yard is private and very shaded with natural boundaries, no fences.  There is plenty of room inside for all of us and all of our stuff but not too much space that it’s a nuisance to keep clean.  I’ve already showed you some of our yard (we own a half acre) which is probably my favorite part of owning a house but I’m excited to show off some of the inside as well.

When we bought the house, it appeared that the family room had not been updated, remodeled, renovated since the house was built. It had dark paneling, a tile drop ceiling, very poor lighting and a dingy indoor/outdoor type carpet.  Here is what it looked like:

click image to enlarge

We knew that this would be a room that we would spend a lot of time in as a family, especially during the cold winter months when we wouldn’t be spending as much time outside.  So, this was one of the very first projects that we decided to tackle.  We had big visions for the space and knew that we wanted to maximize the square footage as much as possible.  We found a contractor on and got started right away.  Here is what the project entailed:

  • remove paneling, ceiling, carpet
  • install new windows in front of room, close in rear windows
  • rip out built in cabinets and move wall back to gain square footage
  • install drywall for the walls and ceiling
  • install 8 recessed lights on dimmers
  • install new trim, baseboards and doors
  • install new carpet
  • paint!!  We did this ourselves to save on costs.

I am beyond thrilled with the finished product.  The contractor was here for full days (usually 8am til around 6 or 7pm) and it took him about two and a half weeks to do all of the work.  He was a one man show and did a phenomenal job!  We’re in the process of furnishing the space which will be our family room/TV room/playroom.  The entertainment area is set up and the couch and main furniture is in.  Now it’s time to get some pictures on the walls and dress the windows (this could take a while).  So, without further ado, here are the after, unfurnished, undecorated pictures of the room:

I promise to share more pictures once we get the  finishing touches in.  We’re already enjoying the space and loving every minute of it.  I can’t believe how big it is.  The girls have so much room to play and we have a little home theater set up on one side.  Scott is thrilled to have his surround sound system set up and our TV and couch look perfect here.  I know we’re going to spend a lot of time in our new family room.  Couldn’t be happier!

It shouldn’t be sew hard.

Why is it so hard to find decent curtains and valances? We have a lot more windows in our new house than we did in our townhouse. And it’s just different here so I don’t want to just put up some of the old ones we had. We found so great sheers for pretty cheap for Brinley’s room and I love the way they look.

Nora only has one window in her room so I decided to try my hand at sewing, and made her valance out of her crib skirt. With the style of the crib that she has, the skirt barely showed through anyway. Since her bedding set came with it, I figured I could cut it up and try to sew a valance. If it came out horrible, then the only thing I’d really have lost was the time it took me to make it. So, I called up my mom to see if she still had her sewing machine kicking around (she used to make lots of stuff back in the day, including dresses for my sister and I). I was in luck, she still had it.

Last week I busted it out and went to work. I haven’t touched a sewing machine since 8th grade Home Economics class. However, by some miracle, it all came back to me. I even remembered how to refill and empty bobbin! This was a pretty easy project though because most of the hems were already sewn since it was a crib skirt. I just cut off the longest sides of the skirt and sort of overlapped them and made a rod pocket. A few pins and stitches later and ta-dah! I had made a valance! It’s nothing fancy or special but it does the job and cost me nothing. It doesn’t bunch up as much as I would have liked since the window is really big and the length of fabric wasn’t very long, but I like it and I’m happy with how it turned out. (I will put up some pictures once things are finalized in the room.)

So now I’m left with a double window in the dining room, a bathroom window, a kitchen window and a door that are still left bare. I know I’m putting too much pressure on myself since we just moved in a little over two weeks ago, but I just can’t stand the sight of it looking so unfinished. I reused the scarf valance thing we had over our living room window in the townhouse in our bay window in our new living room and I hate the way it looks, it’s not long enough. So that will be replaced too at some point. It works for now.

For some reason though, I am just having terrible luck finding anything that I like. I’ve looked at Target, WalMart, JC Penny, Bed Bath & Beyond,, Sears and just about everywhere that I can think of that sells curtains and valances. I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, but they don’t have to be super cheap either. It just seems like all I can find for kitchens is stuff with fat chefs, wine bottles, or fruit on them. If I had more time (and patience – since I totally sucked at making a straight line) I’d sew some more myself but it would be easier for me to just buy them (and I’ know they’d look nicer).

So, help me out here. Where can I find some decent window treatments without breaking the bank?

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