Thursday, October 9, 2014

Finding the perfect shade of gray.

I'll start out by saying this:

I am a color person. 

I get it from my mother, who's dream job would be to name colors all day long.  Except that she has no vision when it comes to a color in a room.  Naming is pretty much where it ends for her.  I, on the other hand, could spend hours in Sherwin-Williams, touching all of the rainbow of swatches and deciding on the very perfect color for each and every room in my house.  

In the past, I have always spent the most of my time combing over swatches, choosing a sample or two to take home and paint onto the wall, and going from there.  Simple.  Easy.  

But my vision for a light gray for the living and dining room has proven ... difficult.  There are currently 12 shades of gray on the walls in that room.  Brian wanted me to keep adding to it as a nod to the book title.  But the overwhelming amount of options is already making me want to poke out my eyeballs.  

Admittedly, my biggest mistake was painting all of the samples over the peachy-beige on the walls instead of priming it first.  Lesson definitely learned.  Trying the shades on several walls was very helpful, as was studying all of the samples during various times of day.  Another helpful step?  Pouring over blog entries on choosing the perfect gray, like these from Ask AnnaLove, Pomegranate House, Stacy Risenmay,Pretty Handy Girl, Thistlewood Farms, and this one from Emily Henderson is helpful and hysterical.  

I tried a few shades from Sherwin-Williams and a few from Lowes.  All seemed like the perfect one on the paint chips, but once I got them onto the wall, while pretty, they just weren't what I was looking for.  When they seemed too light, too blue, too green, too beige, too purple ... I started mixing.  

To achieve shades that were darker/lighter/less blue/less green/etc, I used Valspar Summer Sparrow, Valspar Montpelier Ashlar Gray, and Valspar Java.  

I finally landed on Silverpointe or a slightly darker, less blue version of Silverpointe that I mixed myself.  While I LOVE Silverpointe, the final decision was for the custom mix.  Silverpointe will definitely end up somewhere else in our house, but I wanted something a tiny bit warmer for this room.  

I painted a little bit on the back of another paint swatch and will take it to Sherwin-Williams to see if I can find something similar or if they can work their color-matching magic.  

I have never in my life had such a hard time choosing a paint color!  But hopefully I'll be able to get some paint on the walls today!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pumpkin Pound Cake.

I am a big fat sucker for essentially anything involving pumpkin.  Literally.  Anything.

With the arrival of Fall(!!) and therefore all of the pumpkin recipes flying around Pinterest, I felt like trying a simple little recipe myself.  Pumpkin bread sounded delish and simple, so that's where I landed.

I have a recipe that I've tweaked and adapted from a few different recipes over the years.  As I gathered all of my essentials, I realized that I was going to have to adapt a little more.  I was missing a pretty crucial ingredient - cinnamon.  Then I realized that instead of packed pumpkin, I had a can of pumpkin pie mix.

Eh, what did I have to lose?  I went with it.

And it paid off.  Sooooooo scrumptious.  A little different than your average pumpkin bread, but moist and flavorful.  Actually, it ended up being a little more like a pound cake.

Yeah, we'll go with that.

What you'll need:

3 cups flour (whole wheat or all-purpose)
4.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup softened butter
3 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
1.5 cups canned pumpkin pie mix
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat softened butter until creamy.

Add brown sugar and beat at medium speed until well mixed.  I usually let it mix while I sift together the dry ingredients...

Sift flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl.  Set aside.

Add eggs to butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, and beat well in between.  This is why I love my stand mixer!

Then it's time for pumpkin!  Beat well.

Add the vanilla to the milk, then add to pumpkin mixture.

Next, add dry mixture.  Sometimes I alternate adding the two.  Sometimes I get lazy and just dump it all.

Grease two loaf pans (I use 8"x4") and pour batter into each pan.  Bake in 325 degree oven for about an hour.  I like to undercook them a tiny bit, because if there's anything I like better than pumpkin baked goods, it's undercooked pumpkin baked goods.

When they're done, cool them for half of an hour or so, then remove them from the pans and cool on the rack.

The tops edges are a tiny bit crunchy, almost caramelized.  The insides are dense and moist and absolutely delish.  And I sprinkled some powdered sugar on the tops for fun.  Love, love, love!

Pumpkin Pound Cake

3 cups flour (whole wheat or all-purpose)
4.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup softened butter
3 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
1.5 cups canned pumpkin pie mix
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat softened butter until creamy.  Add brown sugar and beat at medium speed until well mixed. Sift flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl.  Set aside.  Add eggs to butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, and beat well in between.  This is why I love my stand mixer!  Then it's time for pumpkin!  Beat well.  Add the vanilla to the milk, then add to pumpkin mixture.  Next, add dry mixture.  Sometimes I alternate adding the two.  Sometimes I get lazy and just dump it all.  Grease two loaf pans (I use 8"x4") and pour batter into each pan.  Bake in 325 degree oven for about an hour.

Linked up with:

30 Handmade Days
Creating Really Awesome Free Things

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mary & Martha Giveaway!

I just wanted to spread the word that I have a little giveaway running over on my Mary & Martha facebook page.  Up for grabs are two of my favorite items that Mary & Martha offer - the "Open Our Home" sign and a bag of Mary & Martha direct trade coffee.  Head on over to   to enter to win!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's raining in the basement! (Alternately titled: Painting bathroom counters.)

It all started one day when Brennan yelled up from the basement that it was raining.  Raining in the basement.

Apparently, the old shiny yellow brass faucets in both our half bath and the boys' bathroom swivel.  And swiveling faucets?  Apparently they are a toddler playground.  Because if you can swivel a faucet, you can make a waterfall off of the counter and onto the floor.  And turn the bathroom floor into a wading pool.  Which of course, makes it rain in the basement.  Now what about all of that doesn't sound FUN????

Hint:  All of it.  

So after it rained in the basement for the third time, I called Brian and told him that we were replacing the faucets, like YESTERDAY.  But while we had faucets off of the counters, we might as well paint the counters like I'd been planning, right?

Right.  The half bath counter was a beige marble-ish.  Not actually all that ugly, but it wasn't what I pictured for that room.  The boys' bathroom however was an especially horrid pinkish marble-ish material.  Maybe it wouldn't look so awful if the tub surround tile wasn't the same shade of mauve, which was just made worse by the weird shade of builder beige on the walls.  Blegh.

I had heard good things about Rustoleum's Tub & Tile paint, so I decided to go that direction.  First up, supplies:  Rustoleum Tub & Tile kit, 4-inch paint roller (& tray if desired), fine-bristled paint brush, Comet, sponge, Lime Away, abrasive sponge, tack cloth, 400-600 wet/dry sandpaper, bucket, and lots of elbow grease!

Remove your faucet and any old caulk from the counter.  Scrub the sink and counter with comet and a sponge and rinse well.  Then scrub with Lime-Away and an abrasive sponge; rinse well.  Next up, sanding.  Sanding is pretty important, as this is how you're going to get your surface nice and grabby for the paint.  I'll be honest, 400 grit sandpaper felt like I was just caressing the surface of the tile.  So I went rogue and grabbed some 320 from the garage.  The 320 felt like I was actually sanding something rather than giving the tile a vigorous rub down.

Sand sand sand til your arm feels like it might fall off, then wipe the surface completely clean with a tack cloth.  The sanding created a really fine white powder all over the surface, so I wiped with a damp cloth a few times, then wiped with a dry one.  Finally, I let the surface air dry a bit to be sure that it was completely dry.  Tape any surfaces that you might not want to get the tile paint onto (walls, vanity, etc).

Now it's time for some epoxy!  I'll admit that sometimes I'm not the best at following directions.  Sure I read on the box and from several websites that this stuff was stinky, but I wasn't prepared for just how stinky it actually is.  I now have no nosehairs left.   (Kidding.  Kind of.)  I mean, I had windows open and fans on and the kids were shipped off to Grammy's house for a sleepover, but I just kinda figured that needing a respirator was dramatic and that a little N95 mask would to the trick.  Um, no.  The scene went a little like this:  Kelli opens can of paint and can of activator.  Kelli's eyes begin to water.  Kelli realizes she's an idiot.  Kelli yells for Brian to go buy her a respirator.  Kelli thanks Jesus for making her buy a house that's 3 minutes from Lowes and 5 minutes from Home Depot.  Moral of the story?  Use a respirator.  You and your still existent nose hairs (and probably brain cells) will thank me later.

Painting the countertop is actually pretty easy.  The sink was a bit more tricky, but still not terrible.  The Rustoleum box recommends using a 4 inch roller with foam cover (or something with a very very low nap) and a very fine bristled brush for the edges.  I actually used a cheapo foam brush as well.

So, here's where you'll begin to see photos of the process of painting both sinks.  And you'll notice that one is nicely taped and carefully painted and that the other one is ... not.  We each started one sink and someone got kicked off of his project because **cough**PAINT BUBBLES**cough**.

First, I used the fine bristled brush to cut in around the edges of the counter.  I actually did the entire first coat with a brush instead of a roller.  I found it much easier to get a nice thin coat on with a brush.  On the other hand, Brian went straight for the roller.  No tape, no brush, just a nice, thick coat with a roller.  You know what happens when coats of paint are too thick?  Bubbles, my friends.  Bubbles.

I can't even.  By the time I saw it, they were half dry.  So, I let it dry, sanded the bubbles down, and went back for the brush!  Brush for the edges, roller for the rest.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

The trick with this stuff is not to get a super thick layer on there, but not too thin either.  Too thick = bubbles and drips.  Too thin = weird texture and marks.  I started with a thin layer and worked up from there.  We let each coat dry for about an hour before starting another coat.  The third coat was when I really started to get serious about texture.  Certain areas of the counter and sink were a bit more challenging to achieve a smooth finish - namely the corner behind the faucet and the bottom curve of the sink.  For behind the faucet and the tops of the pieces that crawl up the wall, I found that using the foam brush to kind of dab the paint on was pretty effective.  The sink just took a lot of smoothing with the roller.  Even the thinnest layer seemed to want to drip a bit. After awhile, we just called it good and decided to let it cure.

Same sink, I swear.  Just funky lighting.

Rustoleum recommends 24 hours of curing before touching the surface and 72 hours of curing before getting the surface wet.  After the third day, Brian installed the new faucets in both the half bath and the boys' bathroom.

Isn't she pretty???  And this guy ...

Handsome, yeah?  When I saw them I just drooled. And gushed. 

And I'm so hopelessly in love with the finished products that I don't mind the little bits of uneven texture here and there or the little drip mark in each sink.  They are barely noticeable unless you stand at the perfect angle and realllllly examine the whole thing.  And if anyone has that kind of time on their hands, they can feel free to critique my counters.  

For us, it was the perfect budget makeover for our 90s-tastic sinks!

Linked up at: My Fabuless Life,
      handmadehangoutparty     The Idea Room I was featured on Remodelaholic

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mood boards.

Making mood boards really helps me focus on a direction for a room.  It helps keep me focused and at the same time helps me feel brave enough to make choices that I would normally be afraid to make!  Mood boards also help me share my vision with Brian so that he is less likely question my choices along the way ... but let's be honest, he totally still does.  

So I thought I'd showcase my craptastic Photoshop skills and share a few mood boards that I've made lately.  First up, the boys' bathroom.  It was by far the most hideous room in the  house when we bought it.  Mauve countertop and bathtub tiles made the builder beige walls look fuschia.  And don't even get me started on the shiny brass loop light fixture or the cut glass sliding tub doors.  So since this is a small room, and particularly ugly, it's toward the top of my to-do list.  We're going with a vintage-ish nautical theme, splashed with some bright colors for the little boys.   Updates will include new light fixtures, new faucet, removing the tub doors and hanging a shower curtain instead, and fresh paint for the walls, the vanity, and even the vanity top and tub tile.  Progress is underway and it's already looking a million times better.  

Next up is the half bathroom downstairs.  I want to make this room girly.  It's my perfect opportunity to throw some pink into a room and I'm taking it!  I'm thinking blues and pinks, a light color on the walls, painting the vanity a dark navy, and embracing the fun navy chevron rug that's already in there.  It's actually a fairly big room for a half bath, so I'm not going to be afraid to go BOLD.

Last, but most definitely not least, is the Living/Dining Room.  It's all one long room, and up until recently it has been the playroom.  But Brian finally has the basement fairly kid-safe, so the toys migrated down there and I have an adult space again!  I'm planning a light gray for the walls and I already hung Ikea Ferle panels on 3 of the 4 windows that hang more in the Living Room space.  I've been contemplating going with something a little more daring for the big giant window in the back of the Dining Room, so I'm still stewing on it.  This room will also hold the giant dining table that Brian built for me last year, along with some vintage hand-me-down furniture we inherited from both Brian's grandma and my great-grandma.  

 Having a plan "down on paper" makes me feel so much better than when it's just in my head.  It's already feeling more like a home than just a house, even with just a few updates made.  And the process of transforming it can be described as nothing other than cathartic!

Friday, August 29, 2014

'Scaping the land.

We spent last weekend attempting to make the front of our house look a little less abandoned.  Since spring arrived, we've been so busy inside the house that we haven't had much time to devote to the outside.  The previous owners were avid gardeners and took many of their favorite plants with them when they moved.  Half empty beds and a vacant house made for incredibly overgrown landscaping, especially after a summer of neglect in favor of indoor projects.  So we finally decided to dedicate time to freshen up the outside!

First things first, we needed to clear out the front beds.  There were lots of basic perennials - hostas, lilies, irises, seedum, etc; and about a million bushes - arborvitae, Japanese maples, different evergreen bushes, and plenty of other things which I have zero clue as to what they are.  We trimmed back bushes, split and transplanted a bunch of the perennials, and cleared the weeds.

Neither of us have the greenest thumb, so we just kinda muddled through.  We also didn't want to put anything into the ground this year, so we worked with what we have.  Some of the bushes look pretty awful, so I trimmed as much of the dead branches off as I could, and we'll see what happens in the spring.

Next step, mulch.  We went with very cheap, very basic cypress mulch.  I wanted something that would provide a nice thick layer of weed protection and add a little more color, without breaking the bank.  It turned out nicer than I had imagined!

We love the outcome!

Friday, August 22, 2014

House tour, anyone?

Well hey there!  I'm alive!  And we own another house!  And we actually live in this one!

I thought I'd sit down for a bit and put together a quick tour of the place we now call home.  Actually, the boys consistently call it "our new house", even though we've lived here for 6 months.  I'm waiting for it to wear off, but not holding my breath!

There she is!  In all her pretty windows, gag-awful trim color glory!  Seriously, I HATE that trim color.  It actually burns my corneas to look at it for too long.  But lucky me, when the bank was getting it ready to sell, they painted right over quite a bit of rotting wood, so we  Brian will have to replace and repaint plenty of it anyway. 

These photos were all taken on our inspection day, so the house is nice and empty.  But I had the wrong lens on my camera, so I didn't get the best, widest angle photos.  Also, they're straight out of the camera, because ... well, just because.  You'll get the idea!

The Kitchen

We bought a fridge for that big gaping hole, moved the faux-green-marble topped island to the side of the room to open up the space a bit more, and added a kitchen table.  Everything else is really functional for now.  I have lots and lots of plans for this space, but they will have to wait for more cash-flow.  

The Living Room/Dining Room

The living/dining area is so full of gorgeous windows and light.  I love it!  For the first six months, this space functioned as a play room for the boys.  Now that the basement is coming along, we moved the toys down there and this space is pretty empty again.  Eventually it'll function as a sitting room and dining space, but since the dining room table is still holding a bunch of boxes in the garage, it might be a little while.

 The Family Room

The kitchen opens up to the family room, and the big windows and awesome light continue.  The high ceiling makes it feel bigger than it actually is, as does the giant mirror above the green-marble-and-shiny-brass gas fireplace.  That weird opening above the bookcase/open shelving is a little peek-through to the landing on the staircase.  I thought it was weird and kinda quirky at first, but honestly, it's insanely convenient to be able to check on the boys if I'm upstairs and they're downstairs.  We have lots of plans for this room too, mainly the fireplace wall - mirror down, stone (or something) up, chunky wood mantle, and of course Brian's dream of the TV mounted above the fireplace.  Again with the cash-flow situation!

 Stairway/Upstairs hallway


Upstairs, we don't really have a hallway as much as an ... open space?  It's actually one of the things I really love about the house.  The house is just very open and airy and full of light!  The 3 bedrooms and the boys' bathroom all open to this area, as well as a little balcony-thingy that's open to the second-story foyer.  And our awesome 90's chandelier.  Plans for that thing too.  Plans, plans, and more plans!  

The photos of the bedrooms and bathrooms are really just beige walls and 90's bath fixtures, so I'll spare you.  But as we carry out some of our many plans, I'll keep updating!