Finishing Up

** Side Story: I was inspired to write this post because sister had a post she started in our shared document called “Procrastination.” The title was the only thing written. Procrastination indeed.

It seems that the cycle of DIY in my house goes something like this:

  1. plan to start a project, buy all materials we think we need
  2. wait at least one month before actually starting the project
  3. start project, realize it isn’t as hard or complicated as we thought
  4. complete project to point where life isn’t impacted by project being unfinished
  5. wait 3-6 months, think about completing project
  6. actually complete project at some distant future point.

It’s a system that is well practiced here. We routinely get excited about a project and buy all the materials, and then let them sit in the basement until we actually get around to starting the project. We also routinely omit completely or forget about the finishing step. Which is why a lot of my ongoing projects are never “finished.”

Well, I’ve had about enough, and it starts in the Kitchen.


Our kitchen was a great renovation. It took a considerably short period of time, we were able to get the things we needed complete and we now have plenty of room in the kitchen for all of our things. But technically, it’s still unfinished. We’ve been using the “unfinished” kitchen for several months now, and I’ve decided to FINALLY cross the last things off the list.

Unfinished detail #1: our backsplash.

So this is my bad. When Andrew and I went to install the backsplash, I never really thought about how to finish the ends. So it ended up looking like this. FOR ALL ETERNITY.


The tile we used didn’t have a special finishing piece that we could buy, and I wasn’t crazy about the other options (wood trim, metal stripping). NOTE TO SELF: only consider tile you can find finishing pieces to in the future. At one point we did buy metal stripping, it’s still in the basement. The most difficult parts about this project are the vertical sides that don’t end in a corner. these ended up having those crooked little half circles. Clearly we need to finish the backsplash better.

After hemming and hawing for what feels like for-ev-er (and in fact has been 9 months), I decided to just use strips of the tile itself to finish off the edges. I thought that the top edge of the tile looked the most clean, so I cut strips and glued them in place. There were 4 places I needed to fix. Instead of going through the laborious process of removing and replacing tile, I just added a new strip on the vertical spots with some caulk adhesive. There was one spot that needed to have the tiles popped off. I then used a premixed grout to fill in the spots that needed it.




 Then I simply taped and caulked. I did have some trouble keeping the caulk off of the round tiles, but it really was just a test in patience. Protip: using a we paper towel is extremely helpful.


You can see all the places that needed finishing in this panorama:


 In all, finishing up the tile took MAYBE 2 full hours spaced out into 20 minute intervals over 3 days. Totally do-able, and completely shameful that I didn’t get to it sooner.





Unfinished detail #2: Baseboards. Well, one baseboard in particular. We had to cut this particular baseboard shorter because of the drawer cabinets. I prepped and sanded the wall, and then NOTHING. Unpainted portion of wall for 9 months. It wasn’t even that bad, and only took 20 minutes of actual time to caulk and paint the baseboard and wall. What a slacker. Also, no pictures because baseboards are boring, and the aforementioned slacking.

So that’s it. The kitchen reno is complete. It only took an entire year, nbd.

P.S. The kitchen renovation does not include the back door (seen in the panorama picture), which I was never part of the original plan and this way, I can call the kitchen project officially complete!


Adventures in Upholstering

Before I go into all the upholstering I’ve been doing, I have a very important announcement about a new addition to my family.

We got a cat. His name is Bubba, and he’s awesome. Here are some pictures to prove how awesome he is.


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OK, on to other things….

I like to think that I’m a relatively talented person in the fabric and sewing department. I mean, I have a degree in Fashion Design, for christsakes. But for all my ample talents, I’ve never tried my hand at upholstery. So I gave it a try (over several weeks, spanning different levels of difficulty), and here are the results in order of difficulty.

Project One: I’ve had this chair for a few years. It was my grandmother’s. Generally I love my grandmother’s slightly offbeat sense of decor, but the seat of this chair just wasn’t doing it for me.


So I started by ripping off the faded pink fabric. Side note: I highly recommend buying one of those staple remover jobbies. It makes the job a hell of a lot easier.


under the pink fabric, I found this:


WHAT?!? How many mother-effing layers of fabric are on this thing!?! Also, what is that? Is that a TOWEL!?!?!


At this point, I sort of just threw my hands up. The green fabric and the towel (*shudder*) was tacked down with little baby nails, and I didn’t feel like ripping off a whole other layer of fabric… and a gross towel. So I just used the green fabric as my base point and put new fabric over it. I chose a blue and black buffalo check that I had in my stash.

Covering a seat is pretty easy:

  1. remove seat, rip off old fabric
  2. iron new fabric
  3. staple

Here is the final result.

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Project 2:


Inspired by the success of project one, I bought these chairs from my new favorite internet space, Everything but the House ( The chairs are a good size, and have really cool detailing on the back. However the seats came from some terrible hellhole of fabric from the past. So it had to go.


I had some fabric in my stash that would work, but not enough of it to cover all 4 of the chairs, so I decided to mix and match. This is a flat weave poly with a water resistant coating on it, so I’m hoping that it’s easy to wipe down and care for, etc. (Update: so far so good). These cushions had a little bit more detail (sides and piping) that would require some sewing.

My process was slightly different for this project:

  1. remove seat from chair in order to measure out for new pattern
  2. determine that I didn’t want to stop watching Gilmore Girls, meaning that I didn’t actually want to do any sewing.
  3. decide not to rip off old fabric, and not care about silly details like piping or cushion sides.
  4. iron, cover, staple.





So yeah, I got a little lazy and decided to just cover the whole thing instead of making the pattern and piping. Now that I think of it, I might not have had enough fabric to make the piping. Anyway, the piping that is covered can’t be felt when sitting on the chairs, and they look pretty baller, AND I was able to watch Gilmore Girls whilst crafting, so that’s always a plus.

Project 3:


This office chair was another great find from Everything but the House. I like the brushed chrome accents and the short back, AND the fact that it doesn’t look like a corporate drone chair. But the fabric, youch. What was it about this green fabric in the ‘60s-‘70s? Did it hypnotize people into thinking it was stylish?


I started ripping the fabric off. I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be an easy peasy job like covering a chair seat, but I soldiered on. I was prepared for the sewing and the gluing, but not the sheer amount of hulking strength I needed to get out all the staples. This was before I bought the staple getter outer, and the flat head screwdriver was NOT cutting it. I also broke a seam ripper on this chair.




The basic process goes like this:

  1. remove staples (this actually took me 3 days)
  2. rip apart seams with seam ripper
  3. iron new fabric and add interfacing. I only used interfacing on a few pattern pieces to be sure the fabric would be stable.
  4. lay old pattern pieces on new fabric. I used a black stretchy corduroy, and a red and black buffalo check flannel.
  5. sew pieces together that need to be sewn. In this case that’s the arms, the side panels on the chair, etc.
  6. start stapling

Now it’s a fabulous new chair!







I also made a pillow out of some left over blue buffalo check from project 1.

Bonus round: In case you were wondering what my grandmother’s off beat sense of decor means, see the below photos of these bad boys. This is my inheritance. I chose these things, so I suppose I share the off beat sensibility.

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Baby Got Back (Yard)

After many weeks away from the blog, I am back! You know how sometimes life just speeds by? Well, that’s what has happened and I have neglected the poor little blog that I love.

Sometimes a hiatus spurs a brilliant idea, so The Judge and I are starting a little series called Baby Got Back to get us back in the swing of blogging on a more regular basis. I was supposed to have the first post, since I had the intro written, but sometimes little sisters can also be brats. 

For once, I am going to be sharing a house update! This never happens. Not because I am lazy, or don’t have any ideas, it’s mostly because:

1) I need a little motivation sometimes

2) I don’t have a whole lotta DIY knowhow and

3) I need more money to execute awesome ideas.

The backyard has been a thorn in our side since we moved in: it seemed like there was just so much to do back there, and we didn’t know where to begin, or what would actually bring us the best use of the space. We wanted to extend our current hillbilly porch (hillbilly because it looks like there should be a couch sitting on it and we keep a lot of crap out there) further out into the yard, get rid of the grass by putting a deck or patio there and also extend the yard by utilizing the roof of the garage somehow (either as a seating area, living roof, or something besides a giant black rectangle). About 3 years or so ago, my lovely aunt, Marlene, called and said she had a bunch of paver bricks she wanted to get rid of since she was going to replace her paver patio with a stamped concrete patio. Dan and I went out and picked them up, put them on a skid and stored them at my parent’s office for the next 3 years…

Fast forward to May, 2014: My neighbor, Michael Lakoff- a.k.a. motivator, The Best Neighbor Ever and foreman for this yard project, has been talking to me about doing something to my yard since he moved next door about 2 years ago. He is seriously a freaking machine: Michael owns the landscaping business Sun + Rain. When I mentioned that I had a skid of paver bricks waiting for such a project, all he said was, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Well, I think I was just waiting for Michael. It’s pretty crazy, but we got the patio graded, base down, sand down and leveled AND laid all the bricks in ONE DAY. I was doing a serious happy dance.

I totally thought this was going to be a lot more difficult than it was, but I guess when you have someone that really knows what they’re doing, and people who are willing to help you, it makes a HUGE difference. The day before we started grading the yard, Dan got all of the stepping stones out of the grass.The pics below are also serving as our “before” photos, since we didn’t take any- you get the idea, though! You can also see the pile of bricks donated by my Aunt.

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My dad used the tiller we rented to get all of the grass turned over so that it made for a nice loose surface that we could easily level out. And after it was all tilled up:

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The next day, we got to work. Michael brought over a 2×4 and 3 PVC pipes for leveling the sand. First, we raked all the dirt that had been tilled up to start making room for the paver base. Paver base is actually pretty dope stuff; it’s like sand and gravel together, but once you lay it down, it becomes hard and helps prevent all of your pavers from sinking into the ground like they would if you only used sand. After we got all the base down, we raked it out, then tamped it down with a bunch of our feet.

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All the while, my mom and grandmother are watching and drinking Bloody Mary’s.


Then came the sand. Michael set up the pipes, we dumped sand out, spread it around and then ran the 2×4 over it all to level it out. See how pretty and smooth it is?

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Once that was all done, we started laying bricks. At this point, I was on a high because I was just going to be happy if we got the base and the sand leveled out, but to actually get the bricks going was the best feeling. I think you can see it in my face:


We chose a basket weave pattern because it was pretty easy to do without having to make a bunch of cuts and was more interesting than the Jack on Jack pattern.

You can see our pattern a bit better in this pic:


Literally it was about 2:30 PM and we were sweeping the sand into the cracks. It was glorious. We had a LEGIT patio. We have spent more time outside in our yard than we ever have before; it’s probably the best project we’ve ever done.


We had some other things to do as well, like move our rock wall up and around the patio to make it more stable, and build some steps into what we’re calling the lower garden. I came home from work one day, and it looked like this (thanks to Michael, of course):


Then, we added some soil, edging (which you can’t see in the pic, cause it’s under the pavers) and plants and, voila!

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There’s still a lot of work to do, but it looks pretty good, right!?!

Baby Got Back (Staircase)

Ok, so here it is. I know you’ve been holding your breath to see the final result of the back staircase, but first, let’s take a trip down memory lane. When Andrew and I first moved our house, one of the first things we started to tackle was the back staircase. Being dark and dirty was the least of our problems. The floor was covered in carpet, 3 different linoleum patterns (wearing through to the wood in some places, doubled up and covered with carpet in others), and each step had a metal strip covering the edge. It was fucking awful.


The wood at the bottom of this staircase was covered in gross yellow carpet.

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You can see the multitude of fun patterns we were dealing with here.

It look us like, 6 months to rip everything up. That is 32 steps (not including the basement steps) and 5 landings of linoleum, pulling out upwards of 10 headless nails per step, and removing each strip (each having about 10 additional nails each). Finally, the moment came when every last bit of linoleum was removed from the steps and landings, including the black goo that covered the landing on the 2nd floor. That moment was glorious, but it was the middle of winter and that means that we wouldn’t be able to finish any wood until the weather was suitable to opening doors and windows. Suffocation is not the way I wanted to finish the floors.

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Note the goo.

Fast forward a few months to find Andrew trying and failing to sand the steps with both a pad sander and an orbital sander. We broke down and bought a belt sander. Pro tip: the belt sander works the best. Sanding was a huge ordeal. It involved the shop vac, all 3 of our sanders, earplugs, face masks and many, many extension cords. It was dusty, but mostly loud and it took us maybe 1.5 weeks total to sand everything. Please note we decided to start this project when our kitchen was only 1/2 finished. We are not the smartest raccoons.

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Andrew sanded most of the stairs, but I did get in on the action.


The shop vac looked like this.




During this point I decided that we were no longer going to paint everything white with a dark stain on the treads. Instead Pinterest convinced me to paint everything black. I read somewhere on the internet that black risers were a common thing in old homes as it hides scuffs better on steps that are skinny. Since our stairs are really narrow and constantly have people going up and down them, it seemed fitting.

This is my pin-spiration


So we went back to Lowes to pick out a new stain color. We chose a red/orange stain called Gunstock (Minwax), because it would look the best with the black trim we were planning. I started staining.

Y’all, it was really red.

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But I soldiered on. It was still really, really red. I started to get a little nervous.

The next day I opened up the back door to the massacre scene from Carey. The floors were super red. Like pigs blood in buckets red.



Wait… more blood


Fortunately, by this time in our homeowning process, Andrew and I have adopted a mantra. It goes like this: not everything has to be fucking perfect. So I moved on and we began to prep for polyurethane. I cleaned everything really well and started to poly. The first coat went on great, but once it dried, we were concerned that the steps still felt like wood and not like glossy, protected wood.

Here’s Andrew applying some polyurethane


So the recommended 2nd coat went on. It went on thick. Like as thick as you can apply this viscous liquid. I was super proud of myself. The steps looked fantastic, but after the 18-24 hour drying time was up, the floors were still tacky. After 72 hours, the floors were “dry” but if I walked on the steps I would leave sock prints. Oops. Fortunately (?) it was so thick and not dry that any prints left would sort of melt back into place by itself. I was strongly reminded of Gloppy from Candy Land.


This is what our floor was like.

Later we learned that many thin coats are the recommended way to apply polyurethane. 3 coats probably would have been fine for us, and would have dried 2 weeks faster.

Reminder: It doesn’t have to be fucking perfect.

So I started to prime the risers, trim and bannisters with the grey tinted primer, leaving many toe prints along the way. The crazy Carrie Red started to not look so crazy. It actually started to look awesome. Like really awesome.


So awesome that we questioned whether the black was going to be too dark; alas the paint was already bought, so again I soldiered on. The priming and 1st coat of paint went on really slowly. I had to paint EVERYTHING with a brush, and I mean EVERYTHING including the beadboard bannister/walls. Side note: I now hate beadboard and it sucks to paint. At least with the 2nd coat of paint I could roll those portions.



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Here is the finished product (so far). The only thing left is adding the quarter round trim along the baseboards on the landings. It’s necessary as there are some large gaps between the floor and the baseboards, but it isn’t as noticeable now that everything is black.

P.S. Kristene is going to be super mad that I posted this before her. She has a whole intro written already for a “Baby Got Back” series. Just pretend that she posted first. I’ve got shit to do this week and I wanted to get this posted before I forgot. Sorry, sister. Love you.


So Many Things Are Happening

This is going to be a looooong post. Sorry, not sorry.

Maybe it’s the warm weather, but it seems like at this point every year we get a little over our heads in the project department. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fabulous to get shit done around the house and make things pretty, but it seems like we’ve been moving non-stop on projects since April. So without further ado, here’s a list of what’s been happening:

1) The kitchen: Oh yes, the kitchen is still not complete. You heard that right, folks. Still. Not. Complete.

We put up a backsplash. We chose a tile that I didn’t think would be too difficult to cut and looked good with the countertops.



Look at the optimism here:


Neither one of us had ever tiled anything (I know, super surprising). So I of course thought that it would be no big deal. You guys, it’s kind of a big deal. Firstly, there are the giant, scary warnings all over the grout packaging that says horrifying things like “DO NOT GET ON SKIN, CONTAINS IRRITANTS” and “DO NOT INHALE.” Of course the first things that happened when opening the package was dust inhalation. Then, once mixed the grout is generally smeared all over everything, including skin, but you don’t want to stop for fear that everything is going to dry too quickly. So it was a frantic afternoon of putting up tile with the Drewid.


This small corner section took us 3 hours.

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That was over 3 weeks ago, and we’ve had zero progress since then. It’s not our fault though!! We are still waiting on new cabinet fronts from the cabinet supplier/installer. It has literally taken longer to get in the replacement fronts than re doing the entire kitchen. You could say that I’m pretty upset about it.

In the meantime, we are using our kitchen fully, but there are still many drawers and cabinets that have no handle because they are not the final cabinet front. Sigh. Here is what’s left to do in the kitchen:

⇒ Caulk backsplash (we had to special order the caulk to match the grout, but we do have it in our possession now)

⇒ Put all switchplates back

⇒ Add fronts to pantry shelves (we now have a nail gun, so this should be done soon!)
⇒ New cabinet fronts (waiting on cabinet people)

⇒ Fill in nail holes in cabinets (also waiting on cabinet people)

⇒ Add all cabinet pulls (WAITING ON CABINET PEOPLE!!)

⇒ Also there is still a wall I haven’t painted. I should probably get on that.

2) If the kitchen wasn’t enough, we decided that it would be a good idea to finally finish the back staircase. Andrew and I started this almost as soon as we moved in last year, and it’s been an eyesore on going project ever since. I’m REALLY glad though that we waited so long. If we had finished this project earlier, the steps would have been stained dark with white trim. I realized that since we have such narrow steps white trim would have gotten dirty quite easily. Also, I had the basement steps to look at. After less than a year, the white risers were starting to get scuffed. So I changed my mind, and now we are in the final stages of completion. These steps are a post all by themselves (including an explanation of what happens when you apply polyurethane too thick. spoiler alert, it takes 3 weeks to dry), so I’ll just post a little before and progress photo for now, with a complete post coming soon.




PROGRESS (These steps are stained, poly’d and primed!)


Here’s what’s left to do:

⇒ 1 more coat of paint

⇒ adding quarter round to the landings

3) Our yard! I hate yardwork. It is literally the worst punishment ever. The only thing I really like doing is growing our herbs and veggies in the “food plot.” It’s about all I can care for without making me want to curl into a ball and hide from all the spiders. Who am I kidding,I want to hide from all the spiders all the time. Largely, we’ve hired out the work to be done this season, but there are still some unfinished things that need attention…. shit, this probably deserves a post of its own too.

Look, I grew some radishes this year!

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4) Uh, closets. Yeah. We decided that now was the time to build closets. Our last apartment was about the same size as our current place (3 bed, 1 bath). BUT, there was significantly more storage space in our previous place. In total, we lost 4 closets in our move (5 if you count the pantry closet that we changed to open shelving in our kitchen reno). Luckily, we gained a basement that wasn’t terrifying to go into, so we called it a win. Unfortunately, after living here for an entire year, the 4 closet loss was felt. There is no place to store coats, linens, or a vacuum cleaner. We’ve made do by adding storage furniture, but finally decided to convert the useless hallway into 2 closets. It’s going to be epic. Look, we’ve already started to fill the house with drywall and build things!


So that’s what’s going on for now. Sister and I are both working on more posts so we don’t have a long MIA stretch again.


Weekend Kitchen Update and an Encounter with Wildlife

The next step in our kitchen adventure was to tear out the entire kitchen to get ready for the cabinet install. Now, the installation technically won’t happen until Monday (fingers crossed), but we needed to get the room cleared so Andrew and our neighbor can run some new electrical lines, which is happening last weekend (yes, last weekend is as “real time” as you are going to get).

So the plan was to clear the room on Friday and get the house in a sort of organized state so when our friends showed up on Saturday we would be ready to go. That was the plan. It didn’t happen. Andrew and I drank too much on Friday and ended up being blobs on the couch. I was so clumsy that I managed to crack an egg and miss the pan. 


We’ve been really into whiskey lately, and it’s troubling because I can get plastered off of only one. I will drink two though, because they are delicious. sigh. Anyway, Saturday morning we scrambled to get everything out of the kitchen (which we did, and in record time). Then help arrived.

Ok, so technically help arrived before we finished emptying the kitchen, but there really wasn’t much left. It was fine. Our friends, Pat and Jesus, have recently gone through their own kitchen transformation, so they were very knowledgeable about how to take everything down and get it out in a timely manner. I hung around for maybe 45 minutes, and then had to jet off to my Saturday class, but by the time I came home, the cabinets were out, they had been donated and the boys had celebrated with Indian food. It was like magic.  





And, in case you didn’t believe me, a shot of the indian food:


The rest of the day was spent running an electrical line for the fridge, and adding an outlet for the microwave. Andrew and I added the last line for the garbage disposal (or dishwasher? I don’t know), on Sunday.


The next day was just me and Andrew working on things. We cleaned the floor of the kitchen, because it was nasty and covered with the corpses of 1,000,000 ants. I don’t have a photo for you, you’ll just have to imagine. 

We loaded up the van for the second time on Sunday and took all the construction trash that had been in our basement to a dumpster. We opened the dumpster and lo and behold:

(this is a video of Andrew asking what to do about the RACCOON IN THE DUMPSTER).


A raccoon.

I’m terrified of raccoons.

A raccoon that was stuck in the dumpster. We had to carefully place some of the longer scrap pieces of trim that we had on one side of the dumpster so the poor thing could climb out. I’m sure that if it wasn’t already starving and/or sleepy he would have been a mean mother f**ker.  

Kitchen-gate 2014

In an attempt to keep up with what is going on in our kitchen at all times, I’ll be posting mini updates in as close to real time as possible. Last week, we had someone come out to rip out our pantry and make it into an acceptable space for the refrigerator to move to. It was 2 days of work:



Day 1:


Day 2:


this is what is left over in our basement:



And as a result of “losing” our pantry, all of our pantry things ended up in the dining room:


Please note the maple syrup and the salsa were placed within easy reaching distance #priorities. 

Side note: we are painting the area and running the electric ourselves, so this refrigerator alcove is not ready to have the ‘fridge moved just yet. More on that to come.

Also, just because this is real life, here is where we are storing all of the extra stuff we bought until they are ready to be installed (hell yeah living room storage).   You are seeing a sink, faucet, garbage disposal and microwave. 



Needless to say, there is shit everywhere and our house looks like a bomb went off, but PROGRESSSSSSS.