Happy 4th of July!

Hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July!  
Happy Birthday America!

Jim moved our flag bracket out to the front of our porch tonight.  I'll take a picture once we get the holes filled and painted where the bracket was previously.  Of course, the bracket broke so we'll be looking for a new one after the 4th - hopefully I can catch a good sale!

Here's a picture of our front door decoration which is an adorable patriotic crab that I bought at Michael's about 8 years ago!  I always get a load of compliments on it.  It's pretty much my only July 4th decor item with the exception of a few flags.

We're getting geared up for our big neighborhood BBQ tonight complete with a fun fireworks display where the husbands try hard [not] to set themselves on fire - such fun!

Have a fun, safe holiday!


Let it flow! New kitchen faucet

Unfortunately, the old kitchen faucet took a turn for the worse this week forcing us to break down and buy a new one.  The "old" one was less than a year old but I have not had time to figure out if there's some sort of warranty.  It was leaking like crazy and would not stay tight on the base.  So frustrating!  Fortunately we paid almost nothing for it during the Expo Design Center going out of business sale last year so I don't feel like it was a huge investment lost. 

I knew I wanted something in almost exactly the same style but made by a reputable company.  I quickly found exactly what I was looking for on Faucet Direct.  It's a Kohler so you can be pretty sure it's going to last for more than a year.  In case you are looking for it, it's a Model # K-691

Picture via Faucet Direct
It was about 3 times the price of our last faucet but you can see the construction is fantastic.  The faucet installed perfectly in about 15 minutes (took longer to remove the old one actually).  Here's the beloved hubby lying under the sink installing it.

And here's the final product -

We have polished chrome accents in our bathrooms and kitchen so this goes along perfectly with that theme, but there are about 6 finish options for this model.  I also love the pull-out sprayer and it's really clean look.  Hopefully it will hold up for the long haul!


Is it Art or a...

About 5 years ago, my wonderful friend Sara got me a great wall calendar by Linnea Designs for Christmas.  I love how you think of it as art before thinking of it as a calendar AND you can change it every month for a seasonal look.  Ever since then I have bought one for myself.

Image via Linnea Designs

This year though, I waited too long and they were sold out!!  I've learned my lesson though so I'll order early again this year (like maybe today).

But, I found a great replacement with the Abacus Gallery calendar thanks to a tip from my neighbor Meghan.  Although I think I like the Linnea Designs version a bit better, this is certainly a beautiful calendar which has a great New England theme (I'm originally from upstate New York).  

Image via Abacus Gallery

We hang ours in a simple black frame in the eating area of our kitchen just below the clock (a fantastic Target find!).  It would also be great if you had a dedicated office or in a mudroom.  

Functional art!


Exterior Update: Bye Bye Brass Ugliness

It took a while, but I finally convinced Jim that we should remove the HIDEOUS brass light fixtures from the front of our house.  We had the new black hanging fixture under the little front porch (very inexpensive from Lowe's and possibly temporary if I find something I like a lot more), but those 1970s rusty brass fixtures just had to go.

This is the best picture I could find of these ugly things.

So, when my dad was here for a weekend (he LOVES projects thankfully), I turned him loose on those hideous fixtures.  They were so disgusting and rusty that they went straight to the trash (very unusual for yard sale selling me).  Of course, that left some wholes in the house with scary wires hanging out.  My dad actually surmised that the wiring was pretty dangerous and had been done in a very amateur way - particularly on the right where the previous owners likely added the second light at some point.  We covered the holes and scary wiring with some plain metal electrical covers (required by building code) sprayed black.

Better, but the black made them stand out too much especially with the other black accents.  I then convinced Jim to take them down and spray paint them a flat brown so they blend better with the front of the house.

Sooo much better!

Now we just need to get our flag up for the 4th!


Making the Pantry Work Double Time: Kitchen Organization!

Although I love the super clean look of the stainless fridge, there are definitely times when I wish I could just put a note or picture up there.  I do use the small strip between the cabinet and the front which is magnetic.  It's a great place for an invitation and my son's fridge game.

But, ever since we moved in last fall, I had been looking for a place to stick a bulletin board.  The kitchen island had become a landing point for so many things (including small but important pieces of paper) and I was getting really tired of it.  I was inspired when I read this post from my friends over at Young House Love (thanks Sherry and John!).  As soon as I read about their cabinet cork board I started thinking about cabinets that we could use.  We are a bit limited in possibilities because we mostly have glass cabinets on top (except the 2 over the microwave and fridge), and we don't really have any lower cabinets which are large enough (and mostly we have drawers).  The pantry became the obvious choice because we keep our cereal and all of our other dry and non-perishable staples in there - so we open it ALL the time but especially in the morning when we most often need reminders.

With the location chosen, I got some cork tiles and a small dry erase board at Target.  It was important that anything we attached stayed within the side rails of the door because the drawers are nearly flush with the inset doors.  Cutting the cork board to fit within the rails was really easy with a sheetrock knife (a boxcutter would work too). 
 I also lucked out finding this small dry erase board which fit into the space almost perfectly. 

To attach the board and tiles, I wanted to be sure they were removable just in case I ever decide to take them down or replace them with something else.  I decided to use the Command adhesive strips because they are strong but they come off easily when you need them to. 
Then I started cutting and attaching the pieces to the cabinet door.  The whole project took less than an hour...
And here's the final result!
I added some yellow and white thumbtacks that I already had laying around.  Hopefully this will help solve the island clutter problem.  I'll let you know.

Where do you keep your family's important reminders?   


And the Britt Neal CD Giveway Winners Are...

Congratulations to our TWO winners in the Britt Neal CD Giveaway -  jroyce36 and Carol Shogren!  We know you'll really enjoy your CDs!

If you are in Maryland, Virginia, or North Carolina, check her out in concert this summer during her Red, Blonde and Blues Summer Tour with the Kirsten Thien Band.  We're looking forward to checking out the show at St. Elmo's on July 7th!  For the full schedule, click here.

You can also download her music on Amazon by clicking here.

Congratulations again to our winners!

More Alternative Headboard Ideas

After posting about my new guest room headboard last week, I found some additional ideas for DIY headboards.  My brother and sister-in-law made the below headboard in their guestroom.  It goes almost all the way up to the ceiling to give the feeling of additional ceiling height.  I love that they can change out the wreath, and the red is a great accent color.  

Here are a few other great DIY headboard ideas.  I think this wallpaper headboard is really interesting although I would have considered framing it.

A super easy alternative headboard is a stencil painted on the wall.  Here's a great example with only minimally contrasting paint.  A great idea for apartment dwellers who don't want to mount a heavy piece on the wall.

I hope these give you a few more ideas of how to dress up your bed or guest bed!

To see the step by step for our DIY headboard in our basement guest room, check it out here:  Part I and Part II.


Crowning Glory: Adding Crown Molding in our Kitchen and Family Room

When we renovated our house last year, we had initially planned to do quite a lot of the finish work ourselves, but as time wore on, we decided to have our builder do most of it.  We did leave a few projects such as our family room fireplace mantle and the crown molding in the kitchen and family room (both part of the new addition). 

After Jim finished the new built-in bookcase in the family room, it was time to move onto the crown molding which would help tie it into the rest of the room.  The crown would also help unite the kitchen and family room with a more cohesive feeling.

When our kitchen cabinets were installed, I realized that the space above them was larger than I wanted it to be.  I wanted the cabinets to go to the ceiling (or close) and just have enough room for crown.  They were about 3 or for 4 inches further down than I thought.  We decided to fill the space with crown molding instead of leaving a space between the crown molding and the ceiling.

WARNING - Crown molding could be one of the most frustrating DIY projects you may encounter.  There were definitely some touch and go moments when Jim was installing our crown molding.  My best advice is to stand back and not offer too much in the way of "help" as this may be hazardous to your health and possibly your marriage!

Fortunately, my dad had given Jim a nifty crown molding jig for Christmas (check it out here) so that helped out a lot.  Once we figured out the correct angle for mounting the molding against the wall and ceiling, cutting the miter joints with the jig went fairly quickly.  The pneumatic nailer is also a lifesaver for this project.  This was definitely a multi-day project with several evenings thrown in but the result was worth it!

Above the kitchen cabinets, Jim mounted a filler strip around the top of each cabinet flush with the front.

Then, the crown molding piece was mounted to the filler strip and ceiling.  Unfortunately for Jim, there were more than 15 cuts in the kitchen alone!  He powered through and I was able to help on filling nails with putty.

Then we painted the molding and the filler strip the same white as the cabinets.  Remember, there are as many shades of white as there are shades of blue so just picking off the color wheel is going to be a real guessing game.  I brought one of the doors to my local Benjamin Moore store and they matched it with their computer.  The color is very close and not noticeably different.
Here are some pictures of the adjoining family room with the molding up.

I am so pleased with the result and think it was well worth the heartburn (well, Jim's heartburn!).  Please feel free to share/vent about your own crown molding hardships!

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Stepping on Up: The Skinny on Step Stools

I'm a tad bit vertically challenged (5'2") so step stools are just a part of my every day life.  To maximize every space in our kitchen, we chose to have cabinets to the ceiling so I often have difficulty reaching even the second highest shelf without some vertical assistance.  Then throw in changing light bulbs and the occasional cleaning expedition... In come the step stools.

We have loads of them in the house both for me and for the kids (our 4 year old and her friends).  Fortunately I have found a plethora of great stools for various purposes throughout the house which I thought would be helpful to share.

In the first floor powder room, the kids need a step stool to reach the sink.  This one works particularly well because it folds up really small and easily slides between the sink vanity and the wall.  It's plastic so it's lightweight so it won't easily scratch the floor or vanity, but it's also very sturdy for such a small stool.  I love how skinny it is when it folds.  I'm thinking about picking up a second one for our master bedroom closet.

We use this stool for all things in the kitchen (or anywhere else on the first floor) and it neatly hides in the hold everything closet in the kitchen.

Polder 90401-91H 2-Step Mini-Stool
This Baby Bjorn stool is the stool du jour in the upstairs hall bath that my daughter uses.  We previously used a taller step stool which Jim made but that's been retired for now.  This one doesn't slip and the black and white matches the color scheme in there. 

BABYBJĂ–RN Safe Step - White

My mom found this one at a yard sale for a few dollars.  Of course, she couldn't pass it up because of the name!  She painted the stool white but the letters were already painted.  Elizabeth LOVES this stool and uses it to climb into her bed.
For bigger jobs (like painting) we pull out a bigger stool with a handle to grab onto.  We got ours when we first moved into this house and it has gotten a lot of use and love over the past 8 years!  That would be a great house warming gift for a new homeowner if you have a party to go to!
Polder LDR-6102 2-Step Designer Step Stool with Rail, Argento Silver

Of course, if you are a handy homeowner, it's hard to live without a good step ladder.  Aluminum ladders are lightweight but sturdy.  Great for big jobs like changing out light fixtures or installing crown molding.

So, that's the lowdown on stepping up on a step stool or ladder!


Dog Days of Summer: Dining Upgrade for Angus!

We've had our beloved pooch, Angus (a 60 lb pointer/lab mix - we think), for just over 5 years.  The poor dog is sorely neglected and probably appreciates our many vacations because the dog sitters walk him frequently!  Angus drinks a lot of water all day long so I set out to get him a larger bowl so I wouldn't have to refill it 3+ times per day.  I was also hoping for a new food bowl since his old metal bowl is permanently dirty and doesn't fit on the tray where we keep his water. 

I really like ceramic bowls because they are easier to clean than the metal variety.  There is nothing wrong with his old bowl so we'll use it on the back porch for outside doggie refreshment on 90 degree days. 

When I struck out at the big box pet stores, I decided to head to my old favorites - HomeGoods and Marshalls to find a solution.  I stumbled on these white souffle dishes.  Although I had been hoping for a color or pattern, I decided to go for it when I saw the prices - less than $12 for both! 
The larger one is for water and holds quite a bit more than his original green bowl.  The smaller one works well for his vittles.  Because they are dishwasher safe, they'll both get more frequent thorough cleanings.  Also the flat, wide bottom makes it much harder (but not impossible) for my trouble-making 1 year old to tip over!  Added bonus - both fit on the white plastic tray we've been using for the water bowl for years which helps keep the floors dry.

I'm so glad Angus was able to get in on the remodeling, redecorating action!  I'd love to hear about any unusual solutions that you've come up with or seen for pet food and water bowls!