Wednesday, January 30, 2013

February BLUES

I love Michigan summers, the sunshine, the beach (YEAH Holland), boating, grilling, strawberry shortcake, bonfires... Just writing about summers in Michigan makes me smile.  But I hate February.

 Trygve Johnson--Hope College's Dean of the Chapel-- put it the best:
"No one looks good in February."

Truth.  After not seeing sunshine for a few months people are pasty, cold, and sometimes sweaty from the chore of putting on winter gear, removing winter gear, stuffing winter gloves in winter coat get the point.  Sweating in February may just be the worst part of the month.

I have noticed heading into February 2013, Trygve's theory applies to our small house, too.  February is not its month.

We normally pick a project and go for it! Full speed ahead! But for the past few months, rolling into February, we have had 17 projects planned and not finished ONE.

For example:

We purchased engineered hickory hardwood flooring--stunning:

but not installed:

and currently sitting in our basement.

We pulled off the quarter round in anticipation of ripping out old floors:

Yes, those are stubborn nails jutting out from the trim.

We bought a backsplash:

that cannot be installed until our new countertops are put in.

And the list goes on.

BUT, we do have one MAJOR plan to lay the engineered hickory hardwood in FEBRUARY--which carries some potential to lessen February angst.  So I will keep you posted...

February BLUES don't have to be contagious.  In fact, maybe if you had just ONE or two selected February projects--or a trip to the Caribbean-- February could be cheery, or even balmy.

So our February projects are going to be the new floor and the MUD room--before and after pictures to come.  Sadly, no trip to the Caribbean is in our immediate future.  Maybe next year.

What are your February plans?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

$3000 pie.

Fire alarm, baking, smoke = problem.  Bigger problem = not knowing if it is your oven or dishwasher producing said smoke.

Let me explain.  We bought this house and it had OLD appliances.  As in the oven thermometer literally hung from one of the wire racks INSIDE the oven.  The refrigerator had no ice maker, there was no microwave, and the dishwasher's prongs were charred.  Sad.

It was Saturday around 4:30 p.m., and my mother-in-law was coming for dinner.  She is a kind woman--not the type to run a finger over a mantle to check for dust--but her opinion still matters to me.  She was set to arrive at 5:00 p.m.  An apple pie was in the oven, smelling awesome, and sirloin steaks were ready to be grilled.

Then IT happened.  I'm upstairs and I hear the BEEPing of the fire alarm.  I come down and the kitchen is FULL of smoke.  Our house reeks, my pie is half-baked, yet burnt, and I'm angry.  Not a great way to start a nice dinner...

So, that was it.  New appliances were no longer a "wait and see how it goes" option.  Dilemma: it was not a great time to buy appliances, no special deals, no major discounts, no holiday sales.  Our only option was to have the stores bid against each other.

Quotes from Lowe's and Sears helped to lower the price and seal the deal on four stainless Whirlpool appliances--which Matt installed, so proud.  A shout-out to Lowe's here: GREAT warranties which saved us several HUNDRED dollars in comparison to other stores.

The next adventure involved connecting a water line from the refrigerator to the main cold water supply pipe.

Note, it is crucial to use a braided stainless steel water line when installing a self-tapping saddle valve. We first tried a copper line, but it kinked, leaked, and water was everywhere but flowing into the refrigerator.

Now we have ICE and according to Matt, $3,000 apple pie.  Life is good.

Monday, January 21, 2013

but for DREAMS

Humor me, and circle back to the 1960s for a moment.  When black men and white men were separated by hatred and fear.  When there were separate restaurants, bus seats, even bathrooms.  We all know the stories, the violence, the grief, the deaths caused by mere man's pride.

This day strikes my soul.  But for the courage of many men and women to change society's heart toward race and one another, my DREAMS would not exist today.

Just last Saturday, a dutch, completely caucasian woman, celebrated knowing Matt, dating Matt, and finally marrying Matt, a black man.

Without so many lives given willingly to stand up for what is right, my life would not exist.  At least, not the way it does in freedom today.  Freedom to choose who I socialize with, who I love, who I marry.

So how do I repay the debt that I owe? How can I say thank you for making my life more than a dream?  Thank you for creating a world that would welcome my marriage with Matt, let us buy a house together, have a family someday?

The debt isn't repayable, but part of the answer must lie in courage.  Courage to stand up for what is right, to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, to put others ahead of me.  Courage to dream that we can make a difference, together.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."  I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.  I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

MISSION: chocolate.

MISSION: chocolate.

One of this small house's biggest transformations involved the kitchen.

The DAY we moved in it was a WHITE-wash, fluorescent light, ANGRY orange combo:

One WEEK after we moved in the fluorescent was replaced by oil-rubbed bronze track lighting (from Lowe's, thanks Ryan!!), the 50's light above the sink was replaced by an Allen & Roth Mission Bronze Island Pendant light (also from Lowe's, thanks Ryan again!!) but the cabinets were still, WHITE-wash (slight progress):

WHITE-wash simply isn't in my preferred color pallet--unless it involves a crisp spring shirt, polo, or cardigan.  On a side note, as I'm going on about not liking white, we did choose to paint our kitchen Benjamin Moore's Elmira White, but only for the sake of contrast.

Our NON-white cabinet options included: buying new cabinets, painting old cabinets, or trying Rust-oleum:

We went for Rust-oleum and chose CHOCOLATE:

It was exciting, but totally nerve-wracking... What if we ruined our cabinets? Buying new cabinets was not in the BUDGET.

The hardest part was taking down the cabinet doors, removing the hardware, and keeping all of the small screws straight.

But the end result was well worth it:

(to the observant reader, you may have noticed our appliances changed from the beginning to the end of this post--but that story is for another day)

We then replaced the old silver hardware with simple oil-rubbed bronze hardware.  This pulled in the Allen & Roth Pendant light fixture and track lighting:

After all was said and done, the kitchen cabinets reminded me of my Gramsiebaby.  Gramps and her awesome abode--tucked in the woods off of New Holland Street--had DARK cabinets and it was home.

Here she is (and Gramps, too):

Yesterday was her birthday and a reminder of what a gift from God she is to this world.  She is funny--as in Betty White funny--theatrical, loving, and one of the best gift-givers I know.

We love you, Gramsiebaby!!!  Thanks for teaching me how to transform a small house into our home.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

small house BIG fail

$100 = Wallpaper, Porch Paint, and, well, a small house BIG fail.

When we moved in, our steps looked like this:

A WALL of old, stained carpet that almost touched your nose the moment you entered the house.  It was, gross.  New carpet was an option, but still it would simply be a NEW WALL of carpet inches from your nose when you entered through the front door.

A neighbor who knew we were trying to fix the wall of carpet issue found a pretty awesome idea by Martha Stewart:

So, we went for it!!  Ripping out the old carpet, we sanded down the steps for a smooth surface:

We chose a style of wallpaper that was highly textured, instead of patterned.  Our dining room chairs have a broad paisley-like pattern--the Napa Chair from Pottery Barn, slipcovered--and I did not want competing patterns too close together.  

Instead of laying wood on the stair treads, we tried porch paint--from the local hardware store tinted to Benajmin Moore's Stone color:


This is where we FAILED.  Porch paint may work wonderfully if you do not have a wheaten terrier who LOVES flying, literally, up and down the steps, sometimes even missing two or three of them...

So even though we ended up with this:

Porch Paint scratches... and not minor, you can barely see them, they probably aren't noticeable to anyone else scratches; but, BIG, LONG, "Stella running" scratches.  Now this may be okay for people who aren't meticulous or who dig the rustic look, but it didn't work for me.  Every time I walked up the steps it was an "UGH" moment. 

So although Martha Stewart's wallpaper idea totally rocks, our next project is to lay engineered hickory hardwood on the stair treads... 

Porch paint is a no-go for this little family.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

234 Miles

My car thermometer read 61 degrees today, January 12, 2013, in MICHIGAN!

Feeling a bit nostalgic, Stella and I took a walk down memory lane, past our first 800 square foot condo that we moved into the month Matt and I were married (yes, three years later we bought a house approximately two blocks from our first rented condo), and down the river walk that holds so many of our footsteps.

We have walked at least 234 miles around the beloved-Argo Pond in the past three years.  Footsteps full of defeat, sadness, joy, excitement, and anticipation of what the future would hold.

Three years ago, I never would have imagined that we would buy our first house here, in this neighborhood, but for the faithfulness of God.

Today we passed neighbors, new babies, elementary-age children, and elderly couples strolling down the river path, and I could not help but be excited for Spring.

We have plans to plant our first garden, finish landscaping, and continue fixing our house (if you have any garden tips, we would love to hear them as our present knowledge amounts to: seeds, shovel, spade, gardening gloves).

Spring smells new, it smells of hope.  What are you hoping for this year?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

WHITE to welcoming

“Home is not where you have to go but where you want to go; nor is it a place where you are sullenly admitted, but rather where you are welcomed – by the people, the walls, the tiles on the floor, the followers beside the door, the play of life, the very grass.”
― Scott Russell Sanders

So, on June 8, 2012, the small house became home.  And it was WHITE:

or ANGRY orange, pastel blue,  a touch of "limeish," plus retro fluorescent light fixtures:

But these were cosmetic, fixable things.  We were told 156 times during our home-buying process about "cosmetic fixes."  The salesman at Lowe's: "Oh, it's only a cosmetic fix." The Inspector: "It's only cosmetic, you aren't knocking out walls, or rewiring." Friends: "Oh, it's just cosmetic." But in reality, cosmetic fix or not, it still needs to be fixed.

So I scrubbed, Matt painted, scrubbed, painted, went to bed with sore arms, and scrubbed and painted some more.

Matt's brother changed 9 light fixtures in 1 day.  We were off, "fixing."

Fortunately, Benjamin Moore's Kingsport Gray and Elmira White (eggshell finish) worked to quickly warm up the vibe of the house.

However, choosing a third paint color posed problems.  For a time we had 5 colors painted on the walls of the upstairs bathroom, 5.  Stumped, I turned to Benjamin Moore's website:

which puts together color pallets such as: "goes great with..."; "similar colors"; and "more shades." After 5 prior paint color attempts, this was helpful.  We ended up with Peanut Shell.

So that was our first step toward making the small house our home, coupled with high hopes for our small house to be a place that was warm and a welcoming, a place where people wanted to simply "be" and spend time enjoying life together, home.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

THE house

This is the story of Matt, Sarah, and Stella's home-owning adventures: small house, big city.  

 Meet Matt, Sarah, and Stella (the ever-faithful and fully-spirited Wheaten Terror, er Terrier).
(Photo Credit to Meredith Allyn Photography)

One day, in the spring of 2012, Matt, Sarah, and Stella began looking at houses.  Old houses, new houses, city houses, country houses, large houses, and small houses.  One house stood out from all the others.  It was not the biggest house, the prettiest house, the nicest house, nor the most expensive house, but it was THE house based upon gut-instinct and instant attachment.  

So Matt, Sarah, and Stella, began driving by THE house on a daily basis and dreaming of all that it could be, all that it could do, and how it would become a part of their small family.

After deliberation combined with the frustration of buying a house, it was theirs.

And it needed WORK, lots of work, and love.  

So this is the story of the small house's progress, triumphs, failures, and everything in between.