Our Sunroom Currently

I thought today I’d show you our sunroom as it is right now, which is mostly unfurnished. We decided it would be best to wait to do any kind of furnishing until all our main living rooms are finished because we need this sunroom to act as a holding room as we move things out of each room we’re working on. The fact that we can close the doors also goes a long way in protecting everything in there from the inevitable inches of dust that get generated as we delve into each new project. Right now, this room has a few spots for sitting, a few spots for storage, and a whole lot of open floor space which the kids have claimed as their favorite play place.

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Just to refresh our memories, here is how this room looked the day we moved in.

 

This room took two and a half months of work, which included stripping the wallpaper, patching the walls and ceiling, a coat of primer and paint and voila!

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We have a little bit of seating…

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Plenty of storage with the piece below and the bench and ottomans all open up for more storage as well.

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With a 4.5-year old, 3-year old, and 6-month old, having the open floor space has been perfect for us. We often find ourselves all hanging out on the rug playing a board game, building with blocks, playing with cars and trucks, or reading books. We unintentionally made it appealing as a play room in many ways which is great because we now have a room that we’re all truly enjoying.

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You can see my sunroom inspiration post here.

I’m excited to get going on the dining room next. We’ve already made some progress in there and once a few tedious fixes get done, the rest of the room should go quickly and I’ll have that to share before the holidays!

Fireplace Makeover

I really didn’t like the fireplace in this house. It was so dark and old and dirty and it made the whole room feel dark and old and dirty. It was bothering me a lot, so during naps one day I got out the can of primer and got to work.

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Just the primer coat made such a difference that I was motivated to keep going and by the next day, the final paint coat was dry. I wanted to add planking above the fireplace to carry it up to the ceiling. I always like when a fireplace appears to go from floor to ceiling, using any type of material to achieve that look. Planking is by far the most budget friendly option, so that’s what we went with. We made a trip to a lumber yard over the weekend and finished the whole project from start to finish in a couple days.

The day we moved in, our fireplace looked like this:

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Three days and less than $20 in lumber later:

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The wallpaper on this wall is gone…. almost. I knew I was adding the planking so I didn’t remove it all. It’s still up there behind the wood – hehe. Prior to painting the brick, I thought I would want to re-stain the mantle darker, but I really like it as is against the white so I’m leaving it alone.

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Another project checked off the list!

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Backyard Stories

Our backyard is going to require multiple posts because in some ways it is lovely and just right, like the mature trees casting shade all summer long and the pretty flowers that seem to fade only to have another color pop up somewhere else soon after. But in other ways it is a monster. Actually there is only one monster and it is our hole of a pool, but that’s not the topic of this post. It will be a later topic so just wait to see how that adventure is going – insert wry laugh and probably an eye roll too, ha. Today we are talking about the other side of our backyard, the one we call “The Small Yard”. The small yard is where the previous owners planted a continuously flowering paradise. It started off with this cherry tree at the first hint of Spring earlier this year. img_4014

It continued with lilacs, azaleas, day lilies, hydrangea, hostas, and the mystery of what’s to come in the Fall. There was really nothing wrong with this space a chain saw and some pruning shears couldn’t easily fix, but I started to notice something. We had a long driveway that we didn’t use and a barn “garage” that was built to house two 1960’s model cars and would never be able to hold our cars. Now, pardon the results of our chainsaw and pruning shears in the pic below, but we had this whole big space that wasn’t used.

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I stood in the driveway staring at this space one morning, and then again later in the day, and made my husband stare at it when he got home as I explained my idea. He loved it – win!- and 2 hours later he had given us a completely different and much more usable space.

See that fence to the right in the pic above? It’s gone. Well, relocated would be more accurate. We moved it so standing in that same spot now looks like this:

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So while we used to see this when we walked into our backyard,

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Now we see this,

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I don’t know about you, but I also see a pergola and a fireplace 😉 ….in due time.

Now that our “small yard” isn’t so small anymore, we have changed a few other plans we originally had for the inside of the house, like where we might add a powder room. And we opened up the possibility of bringing main floor laundry into our lives.

I said in my post about our kitchen refresh that I don’t like to make big design decisions until I have lived in the space and seen just how our family uses it, or doesn’t use it, so I can create a plan based on our needs. Determining the best uses of the space we have to work with for us is so important because our homes are ultimately a place for making memories with our family and I can see this space becoming a place that holds many family memories.

Kitchen Refresh

Our very first projects on this house included painting the bedrooms and overhauling the kitchen as simply as we could. We needed a functional kitchen, which it wasn’t, on a small budget and tight timeline. I wouldn’t say we remodeled the kitchen, more like refreshed what was already there. I don’t like to make big design decisions before actually living in a space, so we kept things very simple and will update as we live here. Or maybe we will redo the whole thing at some point, but for now, we like it enough with the little refresh we did. I didn’t take any pictures of the kitchen in it’s authentic original state, so here are a few in process.

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The tiles were falling off and the counter was intentionally slanted toward the sink – so strange!

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Installing a new (level) counter. 

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The breakfast area. The paneling was originally darker. It had already been sanded in this photo, but not the portion just above the window so you can see how dark it started out.

This kitchen had a lot going for it. It is a good size and there are some great windows and natural light in this room. The picture window looks out onto the backyard which is a nice view since the previous owner’s wife was an avid gardener.

We didn’t have a large budget and we also had limited time, so we had to make decisions on what was most important to us and the functionality of this space for our family’s daily life. Our main goals for this phase were to center the stove under the hood, bring the refrigerator into the kitchen (you can see in the above photo, it was in the breakfast area), replace the counters, and paint the cabinets.

Before I show the results, you have to be told, these are not recent photos. They were taken before we had unloaded our moving truck hence the empty and undecorated room in the pictures you are about to see. Someday I will get some more better photos to show you, but for now, here is our kitchen refresh.

The cabinets are built in and original to the house, and while that’s a fun aspect to this home’s history, they were a looming limitation for us for a few weeks. They are not today’s “standard” size cabinets, which means a standard countertop won’t fit, a standard sink won’t fit, a standard dishwasher won’t fit….. Determining how to handle them was the longest phase of this project. We contemplated keeping them, replacing them, keeping them, keeping some of them, replacing them and ended on keeping them. We needed a functioning kitchen and didn’t have the time to replace them. We figured out how to work around their limiting aspects with some creativity and a little bit of divine intervention. We managed to raise and extend the countertops out a full inch by having amazing contractors (pictured in the “before” photos, who are my husband and father-in-law). The height was important to my tall husband and the extended depth was important for installing a sink. We will get to the sink soon.

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Cabinet drawers and doors are still waiting to be painted.

I found a 20″ x 20″ grey tile for the counters from Home Depot. It has subtle movement and pattern which is what I enjoyed most about the granite I chose for our previous home.

 

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The sink was the most impossible part of this project. Even after extending the counters an inch, they still weren’t quite deep enough for a standard sink, but ordering a custom sink would cost hundreds and went against our goals for simple and inexpensive. So, my plan was to pray and scour the unwanted. I took the kids to a Habitat For Humanity ReStore store and had to borrow a tape measure because of all things, I forgot mine. I went back to the sinks and there it was amongst the rusty old unwanted: a brand new, in the box, the right size, and $65 sink I had been praying for!

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I promise we’ve since removed the caulk from the counters!

The original placement of the refrigerator was awkward and we knew right away it was something we wanted to change. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the way this side of the kitchen looked originally but you can see part of it in the “before” breakfast area picture which is the third picture in this post. It was a wall of upper cabinets and lowers with a counter beneath them. We tore out the lower cabinets and cut the uppers in half to remove the left half and make space for the fridge. My husband put a piece of plywood and some cove trim to close off the remaining upper cabinet and another piece of plywood above the refrigerator to create a ceiling the same level as the existing drop ceiling. We haven’t put anything permanent in place of that cream cabinet because we may open up that wall all the way up to the refrigerator in the future.

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While we’re on the photo of the cabinet, let me show you the unpainted inside.

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The wallpaper has lost it’s surprise effect at this point. Just assume any type of improvement I do on this house involves wallpaper somewhere in the room. I didn’t remove it in this case. I just painted right over all those flowers and it worked out fine.

Once the refrigerator was moved from the left side of the breakfast area to the right side of the kitchen we had a great big space to set our folding-leaf table and chairs. The island is something we already had that happened to be a perfect fit in this space and we love the extra workspace it gives us.

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We have a lot we would like to do in this room still – like take down the drop ceilings and update the flooring – but for now it is “good enough” and we’re happy with the improvements we’ve made. Adding layers of decorating will go a long way as well, but with all the wallpaper around here at the moment, I can’t commit to when that might happen. One of the things I am very happy about is our decision to keep the cabinets. We may change them in the future but I feel good knowing we preserved them because whoever built them put so much time and effort into them 88 years ago and they are still beautiful and useful.

Sunroom Inspiration

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Cortney Bishop Design via House of Turquoise

I just love that daybed swing, don’t you? As I’m dreaming of our finished sunroom, I’m thinking about how I want it to feel. The ambience of a room is my favorite feature of a room. Aside from being an inviting and comfortable place to spend time, I’ve written down a few feelings I want to create in this space.

  1. Happiness – I want this space to instantly be a mood lifter. Bright and beautiful.
  2. Laid-back – I envision a comfy place to curl up with a book or take a nap.
  3. Worn – I don’t want it to look too shiny and new. I think a bit of a worn look evokes a more welcoming feeling. You don’t feel like you have to be perfectly neat when a space has a well-loved and used vibe and this is a space I really want our family and guests to gravitate toward.

Since we don’t have central A/C, we want to be mindful of our furniture selections. We are finding the MDF and “less expensive” pieces we own aren’t doing well with the extra humidity in the air. We are leaning toward a mix of wood and rattan or wicker pieces for this room. We live in a river front community and many of the homes in the area are beachy cottages so we feel like rattan and/or wicker will fit right in and hold up well.

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Cottonwood Interiors

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Claire Brody Designs

It may take us longer to complete the room with better, and therefore pricier, pieces but furniture is something we can keep for a long time and it’s worth investing in as opposed to replacing every few years. Having patience is the more difficult part, for me anyway. So, for now I will keep on dreaming of that day bed swing.

Sunroom Update

Once we moved into this house, we found we spent most of our time in 2 places, the screened back porch and the sunroom. Both were bright and breezy, or had the potential to be in our minds.

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Sunroom

Initially, I was planning on redoing the living room first, and started on it, but after discovering how much time we spent in our sunroom, I switched gears. Also, I have a 4 month old who is nearly crawling and needs a safe place to spend time in during the day. Preferably a space where old crumbling wallpaper doesn’t spontaneously detach from the wall and leave tiny pieces to eat off the floor – ugh. With a smaller space to tackle than the living room and the fact that it can be closed off from the rest of the house, the sunroom started calling me away from my work on the living room.

Have you ever stripped wallpaper? I never had and I researched the “best ways” and the “easiest ways”. I tried steam first. Although it is heralded as a great technique by many people, that didn’t work at all in my case. Maybe it’s the fact that this paper is so old, but it just wouldn’t budge with the steam. So my husband bought me some Dif and a 7-in-1 paint tool and that was the magic combination for this particular wallpaper. Am I talking as though I have a relationship with the wallpaper because I sort of feel like I am and I sort of feel like I do. Anyway, about 6 weeks later, I had clean white beautiful plaster walls. I had never seen bare plaster before. It really does have a certain beauty to it. I can see why some people want their walls to look like they are plaster even if they’re not.

If you follow along on Instagram, you saw the below picture of my bare walls. That was an exciting day!

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Last week, I put a coat of oil-base primer on the whole room and painted test colors on the walls! I’m so excited to be at the painting phase. It’s such a sweet reward after so much work.

Next up, I’ll share some of my sunroom inspiration.

Old House Tour

Hi! Ready for picture overload? I’ll just quickly introduce our new old house and then let you scroll …and scroll and scroll hehe. We bought a 1928 Four Square with some Craftsman features that hasn’t been touched since before 1978. We know this because the former owner told us his wife loved the house the way it was the first time she walked through it and wouldn’t let him do anything to it. We don’t know how long it had been since it was updated before this sweet old man bought it but we do know we can sum up the decor in here as “wallpaper” and “old”. It has 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom and a large basement and attic. There is also a barn. A beautiful red barn with real sliding barn doors. I think that was what I fell most in love with. Ok, on to the pictures! Note: these were all taken before we moved in when the only work we had done was paint the trim white and paint the bedrooms.

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Living Room

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Sunroom

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Dining Room

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Screen Room

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Bathroom

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Kids’ Bedroom

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Master Bedroom

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Guest Bedroom

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Attic

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Kitchen

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Pool aka The Black Hole but most often referred to as The Hole and the back of the barn

Lots to do, huh? We’ve been working hard for 2 months now and have a few updates finished. I’ll post again later this week with an update to our favorite room.

How We Came To Live In Jersey

Now that we’ve been here 9 months, bought a house, moved in, and “settled” a bit, let me back up and explain how it all happened. First of all, we weren’t intending to make this move. We were headed to Chicago for my husband’s job. In January of 2015 we listed our house intending to move to Chicagoland, but 7 months later our house still hadn’t sold – we hadn’t even had an offer – and we had just found out we were pregnant with our third baby. A few days after the positive pregnancy test, I got up the courage to tell my husband I didn’t want to go to Chicago. In fact, what I wanted would require him to quit his job. I felt that our growing family needed the support of extended family. That narrowed our options quite a bit from our first big move out to Illinois, in which we somewhat randomly chose from the contiguous 48. We could either move to Florida or New Jersey. Neither of us was too keen on “going back home”. We both had a been-there-done-that,-let’s-do-something-new feeling, so we agreed to each think about it. We re-listed our house in Sept with a new realtor and it sold THE VERY FIRST DAY. Now, we really had to make a decision. We had 6 weeks to pack our 2300 sq ft house, secure new housing, and most importantly decide, literally, which direction we would go. New Jersey won because we both strongly felt Chicago was the worst of the 3 choices for our family and I couldn’t bear losing the seasons when I had finally gotten to experience them and after only 3 years, I hadn’t had enough. I may never get enough of the excitement of changing seasons and changing activities around the seasons. I don’t feel like my husband was at all upset to lose out on 90 degrees 365 days a year either, so off we were!

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The largest moving truck we could find.

 

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Saying goodbye to Forest Park, St. Louis. They were so little 9 months ago!

In spite of the difficulties moving and resettling can bring, we are so pleased with our decision.  It has been the best thing for us right now.

My 30 Minute Gym Workout

I love lifting weights. There is something so satisfying in it. I always feel good when I’m finished, like I accomplished something worthwhile even though all I did was pick things up and put them down. Even though I do that all day long with a 30lb boy and an 18lb girl, I just really love going to the gym.

I haven’t had much experience with public gyms. Most of my gym workouts were during private team sessions, but I have been a member of a local gym for nearly a year now and it didn’t take me long to realize I may have been breaking some kind of unwritten rule. It seems that most females steer clear of the weights, opting for the cardio side of the room. It’s quite amusing to me to observe the distinct line between the seemingly “male side” and “female side”. It’s even more amusing when I enter into the “wrong” zone. I have been an athlete and in athletic circles most of my life and most of the girls I knew lifted weights. It is a new experience to feel out of place where I have always felt comfortable as a result of the strange looks I get upon entering the weight side of the the gym. (Is this only in the gym I go to or is this universal in public gyms?). The guys stop all their idle chit-chat and the women glance over curiously and I end up feeling quite self-conscious so I ended up trying to get in and get out pretty quickly. It wasn’t a conscious decision initially; I just wanted to be done so I could leave, but it resulted in a nice workout routine that I have stuck with.

I like it because it is challenging, it keeps me constantly busy, it works my entire body, and it only takes 30 minutes.

I will not be sharing photos of these exercises as there is a plethora of pictures of people who enjoy posting themselves working out all over the internet so if you need a reference for any of these exercises, I’m positive you can easily find great examples ;-).

Shoulders, Arms, and Back

6 rep max each with free weights:

Arnold Press

Single-Arm Lateral Raise (do one arm, then the other)

Standing Rear Deltoid Flys

1 minute rest: do 6-8 pull ups (I hate wandering around a gym between sets)

Continue with 6 rep max weights:

Palms-In Shoulder Press

Upright Row

Lying Rear Deltoid Raise

1 minute rest: do 6-8 pull ups

Rotator Cuff [being a former swimmer, I am a stickler about healthy shoulders]:

Grab a set of dumbbells less than 5 lbs. (I use 2 lbs), find a bench and lie on your stomach. This is a lot like the YMCA dance, only horizontally. You will make a Y with your arms and body, keeping arms in line with your body and parallel with the ground. Then you will make a T shape, then an I shape which means you will be in a streamline position (swimming term!). Y,T,I = 1 rep. Do 2 sets, 10reps each.

Legs, Butt, and Abs

10 reps Box Jumps (10 up and 10 down)

(Grab a Bosu ball, a kettle bell, and a mat).

Single Leg Squat on Bosu ball (10 reps on one leg, then the other)

6-8 rep max     Wide stance squat (on the ground) with kettle bell.

Hit the mat and do some crunches. I mix this up often but always work lower, oblique, and upper muscles in that order. Examples:

25 hip raises with knees at 90 degrees (lower)

25 with knees at 90 degrees, legs resting together on the mat to my right, then to my left (oblique)

25 in sit-up position, touching left elbow to right knee, then switching (oblique)

25 with legs straight out (upper)

50 bicycle (oblique)

2 x 30 seconds of “6 Inches” (lower) [Lay flat on back, place hands palm down between your hips and the mat. Lift legs 6″ off the ground and kick like you are swimming for your life]

2 x 10 Jackknife (all) [laying on back with legs straight and arms straight overhead resting on the floor, simultaneously raise arms and legs until your toes and finger tips meet in a near pike position, then lower to floor. Your sacrum will be your pivot point. Vary speed and length of time holding the position]

Repeat entire leg and ab set one time.

I don’t do all of that ab work in one workout. I mix it up and choose a few for each muscle group. Lastly, I do some flattening work. All those crunches can actually make you wider from a side view because you are growing muscle or in my case, also been pregnant a few times. So to help keep my belly button and my spine close friends I finish by lying on the mat and drawing my muscles into my spine as closely as I can. Pretend you are trying to touch your belly button to your spine. This will look to everyone else like you are resting, but you are actually doing deep muscle work. I hold for as long as I can and repeat 10-15 times. If you have been doing crunches and haven’t been getting the results you hoped for or you’ve still got the baby pouch, skip the crunches and do these instead. All day long. When you walk from the parking lot to the grocery store. When you wash dishes at the kitchen sink. Anytime you can. Nobody will ever know you’re doing it and you’ll be getting a flatter belly by the day.

One ab exercise I never do is a standard crunch with knees bent in the typical sit-up position because it uses leg muscles more than abdominal muscles.

There you have it! My 30 minute mommy-friendly, work-friendly, busy-life friendly gym routine. And it doesn’t even have to be done in a gym. It could be done in your basement or garage or your living room with a few easily stored and simple equipment purchases. All you would need to start is 2 pairs of dumbbells, a wooden box (easily buildable), door frame pull-up bar, Bosu ball, and a kettle bell.

Disclaimer: I am an exercise physiologist and not a doctor. Please consult your personal physician before beginning this or any exercise program.

The Easiest DIY I’ve Ever Done and Fall Nesting

Last week I decided to paint a curbside furniture find that we’ve been using for over a year. I’ve even had the paint sitting on a shelf for awhile. I don’t know why I haven’t done it earlier. Around here it seems we’re really good at starting projects and then not finishing them right away. We get distracted with beginning another project once the one we’re working on is at a resting point and then it may take a long time before we get back to do the finishing touches. That’s the way homes evolve I guess. At least it’s the way ours evolves. Anyway, my painting project only lasted about 30 mins but it inspired me to start changing things up in the rest of the house.

photo 2Changing out my collection of seasonal watercolor “Essentials” is one of my favorite things. (Jones Design Co.)

Something about it officially being Fall made me feel I needed to do some nesting and cozying around the house in anticipation of our lives changing to welcome in cooler days and nights. I think the kids’ play room is the only room I have left alone.

photo 1The kids and I have been enjoying collecting a lot of pine cones and acorns.

It was fun and chaos all at once. In the middle of this I decided our bookcase in the living room needed a banner. I’ve seen a lot of them online and they always catch my eye as looking festive and a bit whimsical.

I don’t store much in the crafting supply area. I usually plan ahead and buy just what I need, so my spur of the moment decision that I had to hang a banner right now potentially presented a problem. Luckily, I had cream resume paper, thread and needle, and 5 minutes. Here’s how I made my cute and super fast banner.

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I chose a font called Marker Felt and made the letters the size I wanted. I wanted my pennants to be between 2 and 3 inches long. I free-handed the pennant outline on the back of the paper around all the letters and cut them out. Then I used a needle to poke holes near the two top corners of each letter. I threaded my needle with black thread and then threaded the letters through, cut the thread, hang and you’re finished!

 

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I think I will be making many of these as the months and seasons change. I will probably use black and white baker’s twine to thread them in the future or maybe some jute twine, but this was such an easy way to make a fun statement with simple things I had on hand. I am already anticipating my Thanksgiving version saying, “Grace and Gratitude.” I think that would be such a great reminder of the fall season to have in my living room where we tend to hang out the most.

I also added an entryway drop spot. I have been wanting to do this for a long time and finally did it (sense of accomplishment).

 

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It isn’t too interesting looking yet but I had to start somewhere and adding meaningful objects and frames over time is the fun of decorating. I didn’t want it to be a permanent thing as we are constantly evolving our home’s usefulness to suit us as our needs change so I just stuck up some 3M hooks. Nothing fancy, but it works just fine and it’s so nice walking in the front door and having a place to hang our coats, scarves, and hats and come winter it’ll be nice to have a place to sit down to pull off our boots. We bought wood and have a plan in mind to build a small table to add to this spot. I’ll post about it when it’s ready. And I will be on the lookout to add some pretty things to the wall so that little deer isn’t so lonely looking.

I figure I should show the furniture piece that started the frenzy of rearranging.

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I found it abandoned on the side of the road and in perfect condition. I think there must have been something additional sitting on top of it originally because there was just ugly fiber board on the top.

 

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Sean put some planks on it and it sat that way for a year while the paint sat on a shelf 5 feet away. The main reason I didn’t paint it is our huge TV sits on it and that seemed like too big a thing to have to move out of the way. Perceived limitations.

 

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 The paint color is Valspar London Coach.

I feel this TV needs an explanation as most of you know we don’t watch much television. The thing is, it looked much much smaller in the store, on the wall, with other larger TV’s around. We had an inkling it was a bit larger than we thought after we bought it and were trying to put it in the car to drive it home. As it turns out, I’m happy we bought it as it is in my classroom space and it works great for showing HypnoBirthing videos during classes. So that’s it for my little update. What have you been doing recently?