May 25, 2013

Keepin' It Real

I have to let you in on a little secret.  Most of the time, our house is kind of messy.  And most of the time, we're not doing any home improvement upgrades.

Those photos you typically see posted on this blog?  They're usually taken when things look their best, like right after a deep clean or the clean-up from a project wraps up.  They're also usually taken in a short time span- we'll do one big project or several little ones over a three day weekend or a week when we happen to have the time and energy to do projects- and post about them quite a bit after they've occurred.

Steve and I love fixing up our home to make it a place we really like to be.  But there's a reason I've been averaging less than 5 blog posts a month during the school year.  We both work full time.  We have dogs that leave toys and hair (and the occasional other undesirable item) all over the house.  We get tired and don't always clean up after ourselves.  We help out our family and friends on the random evening and frequent weekend.  We attempt a social life.  We don't have kids, so I know that gives us more free time and less kid-created "tornado factor" than you parents out there.  Don't get me wrong, we're not entirely slobs when there's no cameras around.  And I know that different people feel comfortable with different levels of tidy/clean.  My version of "kind of messy" may look like your version of "really clean" or your version of "hazmat suits required for entry," and that's OK.  I merely intend to say that what you generally see on this blog is a representation of the best version of itself not our everyday life.  Reality means that I realize having my version of perfectly kept home, besides being an unwinnnable battle, is something that would not add value to my life or the lives of others.  I'm just fine with our house being kind of messy most of the time and squeezing in projects when we have the time, energy, and finances to do it.

Let me show you what I mean.  Call it Truth in Advertising.  The photos that follow were taken as I walked in the door from work on a Wednesday night.  The photos haven't been altered in any way.  What you'll see is completely typical of the usual state of our house (and some less than stellar photography).

The hallway.

Note the dog toy in the foreground, and the cable box waiting to be returned at some point.  It's been sitting unattended in the hallway for three days.  It's hard to tell in the photo but there are a dirty pair of flip flops stationed under the bench by the front door.  I'm supposed to put them in the bench cubby, but I'm usually too lazy and just leave them right where I step out of them.

The office.

Ah, the center of productivity.  On my side you can see two separate days worth of coffee cups, chocolate blueberries that I didn't bother to put away, a used paper towel and jello cup, a coupon book, receipts, hair ties, three half-eaten dog toys, and counting chips.  Steve's side features several soda cans and a dirty spoon.  The side table has one of Steve's fleece pullovers draped on it.  It's probably been there for about a week.  I spared you a close-up shot of the dust that has been accumulating since... maybe around spring break?

The kitchen.

Dirty things everywhere.  At least we managed to push in the chairs after dinner the night before.  All dirty dishes seen here (on the counter, in the sink, on the stove, on the coffee robot) have been left unattended for up to three days.  And FYI- after this picture was taken, two more days' worth of dirty dishes accumulated all over the counters and stove before they got cleared off and put in the dishwasher.  The plastic bags in the foreground and the clear bins against the far wall have been there for over a week- we can't figure out what to do with them now that we've had to replace our fridge (it died a slow and painful death).  Two days' worth of mail is languishing near the plastic bags.

Living Room.

The pillows are wonky, the blanket is in a weird spot. Other than looking a little disheveled, we're not doing too bad here.   Probably because we haven't watched any Netflix for about a week.

I didn't bother to take any pictures of our dining room, guest bathroom, or guest bedroom for the simple fact that unless we've had company over, none of those rooms get used regularly.  And since we don't have kids, things pretty much stay the way we leave them.

The bedroom.

I'm impressed that I bothered to straighten up the comforter a little before I left for work.  It was probably to give me room to sit on the foot board while I put my shoes on.  My PJs are in a heap on the floor.  So are a pair of jeans I wore four days ago.  Oops, is that bra on my nightstand?

The bedroom.

This actually looks better than normal.  Typically there's a stack of T-shirts waiting to be put away piled on Steve's highboy.  Here we only see the piles of clothes that were worn for the last three days.

The bathroom.

I tried to get a nice wide shot and spare you some detailed agony, people.  Towels are askew, rugs need to be washed.  On the counter you'll find cleaning products, two bottles of lotion, used tissues and soap, all of my makeup (some of which is spread out over the counters instead of in the wicker basket- and hidden under the sink- where it belongs), beard trimmings, long hairs that fell out of my hairbrush.  I didn't bother to photograph the toilet or shower, but neither have been cleaned  in about two weeks (yuck).

Obviously, my blog life is somewhat divergent from my real life.  And I'm so happy that's the case.  Although I think improving our home is fun and keeping it tidy is nice, our home is ultimately a tool to serve our needs and let us recharge enough to help serve the needs of others- not a showpiece.

Thanks for showing me a little grace for our imperfections.  Isn't life so much more pleasant when we try our best but still cut ourselves some slack?

May 21, 2013

Addressing the Mailbox

Sometimes I just get a bee in my bonnet.  I have looked for attractive replacements for our mailbox ever since we moved to Granite Falls almost two years ago.

The crew, loitering.

I have come to two main conclusions in that time.  One- mailboxes are expensive.  Too expensive to spring for when your existing mailbox is perfectly functional.  And Two- even if we had a pretty mailbox on a tidy post, it wouldn't be helped by the rusty mossy messes next to it.  Lipstick on a pig.  Even so, I was pretty tired of dragging my finger through this nastiness every time I needed to put the flag up.

Swamp thing.

And all of a sudden, I couldn't live with it looking like that anymore.  So I did what any sane person would do.

Nailed it.

I got a hammer and pulled that sucker off the post.  And gave it a bath in the kitchen sink.

Doesn't everyone bathe their mailbox?

Like I said, perfectly sane.  But hey, at least it looked better!


Then I decided, hey, why not try to clean the neighbors' mailboxes up a little?  So I went out to the road with a soapy rag and tried to wash some of the green gunk off our neighbors' mailboxes too (with mixed results, but at least I tried).  And I didn't stop there.  Just take a look at the craziness that ensues.

As long as we're in the kitchen, right?

Easiest ever.

But why would anyone wrap their mailbox flag with Press N Seal?  If you guessed "to spray paint the mailbox oil-rubbed bronze," give yourself a point!  I didn't even bother to sand it because I figured if the paint flaked off, it couldn't look worse than it already did out on the post, and there was no reason why I couldn't just sand it down and re-paint the dang thing.

Ready to roll.

I realize that I sound a little off my rocker (and I'm not going to argue the point), but here's where you see there's a method to my madness.

Sooooo much better!

Nice, right?  It doesn't look brand new, and in fact the nice paint job really makes the flag look faded, but it looks so much better than the moss-covered version that we had before.  And all for the very reasonable price of free-ninety-nine.  So I waited as long as my patience would allow (about an hour) and then decided to just risk messing up the paint so I could get it back on the post before the sun went down.  Lucky for me, a group of guys in my neighborhood were shooting the breeze in the middle of the road, so I had plenty of helpful supervision, if you definition of helpful supervision is rolling your eyes and chuckling at the girl taking pictures of her mailbox.

Thar she blows!

The last step was numbers.  I ordered some vinyl from an etsy shop called It's a Sticky Situation.  Two days later the vinyl arrived and we knew the guy from the local pizza place would never be confused about which house was ours again.

That's the one where the people who like pizza live.
Because I didn't bother to sand or prime the box, the adhesive from the vinyl did a little damage to the paint, but it's not terribly noticeable.  Not enough to bother repainting at least!

Lens flare- how very JJ Abrams of me.
It's a small thing, but I feel so much better for having done it.  

Much improved.

Sometimes a little bee in your bonnet isn't a bad thing, eh?

May 15, 2013

A McListerson of Our Own

Come August, we'll have been in this house for two years.  Have we made a ton of progress in that short amount of time?  Heck yes.  Have we done everything we want to do?  Uh, no.

Just like John & Sherry, we keep a list around of all the projects we'd like to accomplish around the house.  It's not comprehensive, and sometimes we change our minds about what stays and goes on this list, but having a running list of all the projects helps us with planning and budgeting.  It also serves as inspiration when we run out of steam on a project (like I have right now with the path and planters on the right side of the house.  It's hard to be motivated when it's raining cats and dogs).  And anything that's still in the "just an idea" phase rather than the "it's only a matter of time before we tackle it" phase will be followed by a question mark- something Steve and I need to wait and see on or talk more about.  Normally I update this list in a shared GoogleDocs file every few months, but I figured it might do just as well to stick the list out here on the blog.  So, here goes nothin'.


  • Eight million landscaping projects (Exhaustive details on our plans can be found here)
  • Chunk up the support post on the front porch
  • Put up house numbers, front and back
  • Replace broken screen doors outside dining room and master bedroom
  • Purchase window screens for all north & south facing windows
  • Prettify our mailbox
  • Find a more permanent solution for missing knobs on water spigots
  • Replace the fencing (hoping we've got a few more years before it starts disintegrating)
  • Build up the trim around windows and doors?
  • Plank the roof above the front porch?
  • Install a second porch light to add symmetry and safety?
  • Fix our driveway- concrete?  gravel?  asphalt?

Dining Room

  • Card Catalog-esque buffet for small appliances and table linens


  • Finish patching ceiling above pot rack
  • Replace dinged, stained, and sagging countertops
  • Fix ducting to heater vent
  • Finish recovering ruined shelves with contact paper
  • Add bins under sink for more better organization of sponges, scrapers, brushes, dish soap
  • Some kind of privacy solution for kitchen window? (revisit once landscaping is done)
  • Decorate above cabinets?

Living Room

  • Add seating in front of windows?  (We did it out of necessity at Easter, and I kind of liked it.)
  • Change stain on the Kentwood?  (I'm thinking less dark and more like weathered cedar.)
  • Change color of frames on the gallery wall?  (Again, I'm thinking less dark, but not sure what I'd like instead....)
  • Install can lights?  Maybe sconces?

Laundry Closet

  • Finish "hiding" the under-cabinet support bar and pipes
  • Add some fun artwork
  • Install a counter top?


  • Replace wire shelving in linen closet with real shelves
  • Add some character
    • Gallery on wall between guest bathroom and master bedroom to disguise switches, and plugs, and detectors oh my?
    • Two other large expanses of naked walls that need.... ???

Guest Bedroom

  • Add crown molding

Guest Bathroom

  • DONE!!


  • Add crown molding

Master Bedroom

  • Touch up crown molding

Master Bathroom

  • Touch up paint, trim
  • Frame out the mirror
  • Stain the vanity- espresso?


  • Organize, organize, organize
  • Paint the wall closest to the house
  • Put trim around the side door
  • Paint the door into the house black

This kind of listing actually makes things feel less overwhelming to me.  After all, look at all those rooms that only have one or two things left to do before they'll be done!  And holy cow, we actually have one room that is completely done.  It's just a tiny bathroom, but who cares, it's done!

Are you a list-maker?  Do you keep a giant lists of house projects too?