Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas decorations!

Guys, I really love Christmas. I try not to decorate before Thanksgiving, because Christmas festivities have their time and place. And I can pretty easily manage to put off Christmas music until after December 1st. 

But, still. I love Christmas. 

Richard is such a gem, and not only puts up with the excessive Christmas decorations, he even helps put them up! 

And now that I'm ready to take them all down, I'll post pictures! 

Not pictured in this post (or anywhere since I didn't take any pictures) -- the candle lights in each of the front windows. I meant to get an exterior picture of the house since those lights just made it look so festive and inviting! Oh well, next year. 

Every year, we get a fresh tree. Nothing beats the smell of a fresh, pine Christmas tree. I have such fond childhood memories of picking out a tree with my family on the say after Thanksgiving each year. My sisters and I would race around trying to find the best one, and we would point any comical-looking ones along the way. And our favorite was always the comically large ones. "Dad, let's get this 22-foot tree!"

Of course, a close up of one of the Clemson ornaments. 

The last couple of years, I've added a second tree -- a little, artificial one just for my silver bells. My grandmother (Gumbie) bought each of us three girls a silver bell each Christmas for the first 21 years of our lives. We each had our own style of bell, and I ended up with a beautiful collection of silver sleigh bells. I love the legacy of the bells, and I really like having a separate, small tree instead of including them on the big tree. 

Silver bells!

My very first one -- 1987.

The view from the kitchen

... and our previously posted picture of the mantel -- baby stocking and all. :)

The dining room table with the decorative table-runner layout

These little guys were a lifesaver this year. You just plug these into the outlets, then plug the lights into these, and voila! They become remote-controlled lights! This made it so we could quickly turn on and off the lights on both trees and both garlands (kitchen and dining room). Love them! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

And then there were three...

Well, four if you count Lola. 

That's right! We're expecting!

I'm due June 29, and we couldn't be more excited. We've been praying for Baby S everyday, and we can't wait to meet our precious little one!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finally Painting the Guest Room

I've maybe mentioned before that we try to have only one room at a time that has an assortment of squares of paint options on the walls. 

The guest room has been that room for a quite a while now. 

Because it's a west-facing room and it gets plenty of afternoon sunlight, I was thinking that we could go with a darker color in there. I liked the idea of a navy (Martha Stewart Plumage) or a darkish, true gray. We ruled out the navy and dark green options because we already have a dark teal room. The trouble was in finding the gray.

I scoured blogs and Pinterest to find rooms that looked like what I was looking for. Rooms like these: 

However, when I painted the swatches that matched the specific paint colors from the above pictures, I wasn't happy with any of them. 

We first painted just the three swatches on the bottom left (Martha Stewart Plumage, Benjamin Moore Newburg Green, and Behr Amazon Stone). This was really just to see if we wanted to go in a navy direction or a gray direction. We picked the gray route, and decided to find a more true gray since Amazon Stone leans towards the brown side a bit. (Fascinating, I know). 

So, since I know that picking paint colors from a paint swatch is tricky (and not a talent of mine), and I know that grays are particularly tricky, I hit up Pinterest again to see what colors worked for other people. We picked three grays and ruled one out immediately. So we added Benjamin Moore Thunder and Sherwin Williams Requisite Gray to the bottom row. 

so. many. squares.

Nope. Still not what I was looking for. I was ready to accept defeat and just pick one of the already painted options instead of trying to find another color. Enter Richard. (Actually, he was already in the picture since he painted the second round of options.) He offered to go to Home Depot and just. pick. a. gray. My eyes narrowed in obvious skepticism. I explained that picking paint colors from a paint swatch is tricky and that selecting grays are particularly tricky. 

He, of course, came back with three perfect gray options in varying shades. I picked the middle one, Glidden Seal Gray, and it is exactly what I was looking for! I mean, how great is this Richard guy?

All eight options (that made it onto the walls) plus a very spoiled puppy. 

Another section with only six of the options -- just to give a feel for how many squared were painted on the walls. 


He also painted the closet while he was at it. He used Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray which is our downstairs color that we already knew we loved. 

The lovely completed closet!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Camping Adventures

We love to camp. One of our wedding gifts (via our REI registry) was an awesome, three-season tent (thanks, Auntie C!). We've camped all over VA and some in WV. It was on a camping trip, one year after we'd met, that we decided to give dating a chance. We try to make a camping trip every spring and every fall. 

And this year, we decided to bring Lola and see if she also loves camping. 

We went to Bear Creek Lake State Park, and we really liked it. It's about an hour from Richmond, so it's one that we'll definitely use again for a Friday - Sunday camping trip since we can leave after work and still get there in a decent amount of time. The camping area was nice, and since it wasn't packed, we actually had an empty site on either side of us. They also have lakeside spots that don't have water and electrical hookup, which would be a good fit for us. 

The weather was perfect -- crisp and cold but sunny and bright. It got pretty cold at night, but we made sure to bring plenty of extra blankets, and we both have good sleeping bags. Plus we had Lola. She's pretty warm. 

Campfire food! I did all of the chopping before we left since it was too cold to expect good knife skills. 

Richard enjoying that campfire peppers-onions-and-sausage dinner.

The trusty camp stove and tasty scrambled eggs

My favorite tree!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fireplace Makeover

The fireplace is finished!

Since we moved in (1.5 years ago), I'd been eyeballing the brick fireplace and thinking about how permanent any changes would be. I'd thought about whitewashing, full-out painting, building out over top of it, and various other things. Whitewashing was always my go-to plan for it, but I worried about whether or not we would love it. And if you're doing something as permanent as painting brick, it needs to be a love it situation. 

I'd looked on Pinterest and read through tutorials. I imagined what it would look like. I considered and reconsidered. And then I finally decided that the brick would be whitewashed. I would whitewash. Decision made. 

Of course, once we decided on that, I wanted to get going right away. Buuuut, our chimney was in need of some repair, and we thought it best to wait until that was done. Then we could rip out the old fireplace screen and start from there. Three weeks ago, the chimney was finally all finished and cleaned up. 

Another part of the fireplace that we talked about changing was the mantle. It was a lovely, solid, nice, wooden mantle. Nothing was wrong with it. But we wanted to change it anyway. I thought about painting it (probably white or maybe a contrasting color like the back of the bookshelves), but Richard just decided that he would build a new, better one. And so he did. 

Mantle demo!

The first thing I did after the brick was free of the mantle was wipe down the entire surface. I used warm, soapy water and a microfiber cloth (that way the rough surface didn't pick it apart). I would have said our fireplace was pretty clean, but after looking at that water -- it was disgusting. Lots of red brick dust, too. 

Trusty sop vac and a bowl of gross, red, brick water -- oh, and the test-fitting of the brand new, custom made mantle!

I used a basic white, interior paint and mixed it with water in a 1:1 ratio. I made sure to lay down a drop cloth, and I had a full roll of paper towels on hand. The watery paint mixture is super drippy, so you have to make sure the paint brush isn't too soaked and then still be ready to catch any errant drips. 

While watching the Clemson game, of course. GO TIGERS!

In this last picture (that one ^ up there), you can see where I decided to switch strategies. On the first seven rows, I did the paint-and-dab technique. I painted it on one brick and then immediately dabbed the whole brick with a paper towel. After making it through those rows and seeing whitewash soaked into the bricks, I decided it wasn't nearly white enough. In the picture above, the right section of the top seven rows is what it looked like after painting and dabbing and soaking in and drying. It looked like it hadn't even been painted. 

So, I switched to doing the paint-and-don't-dab method. All of the bricks below the seventh brick line were done that way. That achieved a just-barely-white-dusted look that I LOVED. But the top seven rows didn't match. Womp womp. I decided to go back over the first rows with same paint-and-dab attack and maybe the two thin layers would equal out to match the bottom three quarters. 

Nope. The top left section of bricks shows how that worked out. Once it soaked in, the discrepancy wasn't that stark, but it was still noticeable. 

See? The difference between the top seven rows and the rest of the fireplace was definitely noticeable. 

We decided our best bet was to use a more diluted mixture and do a second coat on the bottom section. So, I used a 1:2 ratio of paint to water. That worked out beautifully, and you can no longer tell that I switched techniques in the middle of whitewashing. 

The finished fireplace! Well, almost, we need to put trim on the sides of the bookshelves, and the mantle-styling is clearly not done, and it won't always have the "Trick or Treat" banner. And we need to get a screen. This is the one I've had my eye on for quite some time now. 

And, being that it is now my favorite month of the year, we had to decorate accordingly. We went and picked out our perfect pumpkins and then carved them up. 

They were all marked with Sharpie to show the price of each pumpkin, but some rubbing alcohol took care of that quickly. BUT, it did leave a big mark on the rag, so make sure you use one that you don't care much about. 

Three dolla pumpkin!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Closet Shelving

Two closet-shelf tales for the price of one! 

Part I: The Paint and Shoe Shelves

We've been doing a lot of painting recently, so we've acquired a lot of paint. We have been storing it in one of our downstairs closets where we also keep some coats and general house supplies (light bulbs, paper towels, etc.). With all of the newly-acquired paint cans, we quickly filled the floor of the closet and started stacking them. 

Richard, being the oh-so-handy problem solver that he is, whipped up some shelves to install in an adjacent closet to better store the paint. This is also the closet where we currently store our most-used shoes, so he made sure to make room for those when building the shelves. 

Oh yeah, and we keep the water heater in there. And an assortment of mops/Swiffers and other cleaning supplies.

Closet 1: before

Closet 2: before

Closet 1: grainy "during" picture

Closet 1: after

Closet 2: after -- you can see the floor!

Part II: The Guest Room Closet Shelves

The closet in our first guest room (we call it that because it's the only one that is actually outfitted for hosting guests, and it'll be the first one finished), is a unique closet. It houses the door to the walk up attic, so one half of the wall space is unusable. The other half came with the flimsiest shelf and closet rod ever. Richard tested out the strength of the shelf by putting pressure down on the edge of it and up flipped the other side of the shelf. Turns out it was two boards just resting on brackets -- no anchoring down of any kind. 

So, Richard decided to take down the shoddy shelf and build new ones. He re-designed the layout of the closet shelving to make it more useful. He added a second, lower shelf and two closet rods instead of the original, small one. 

A whole bunch of slats for the two shelves. 

Framing out the L-shaped shelf

Looks like an L-shaped shelf! I spy another L-named thing in the background. 

After a coat of clear protectant -- you can't really tell, but it is a bit shinier. They have a nice "finished" look.

The upgraded shelving! You can see the closet was originally purple (good closet color). This is after Richard patched the walls but before the closet painting. We still need to do that.

So, there is still some work to be done on both closets. We need to get the guest room closet (and the rest of the room) finished soon! Emmy moves in in two months!