the bathroom, the final reveal (for now).

So, wanna see pictures of the completed bathroom?

It's really hard to get good pictures in here. I don't know enough about cameras and photography to fix it, but in person it's really bright and white, and the blue on the upper half of the walls is a perfect aqua color.

I'm sure I'll keep tweaking things over time. I might build a new frame for the mirror, and I'd like to include more wall art and accessories. I need to add something to the window for privacy, either a window film or blinds of some kind, and I'd like some robe or towel hooks. If I can find a great deal, I'd love to replace the existing toilet and sink with something white (not an off-white/almond/biscuit color) and maybe even add a vanity cabinet. And the linen closet still needs to be finished - remove the contact paper from the shelves and paint them, paint the door, add everything back and organize it all.

At least for the moment though, I'm calling it done! At least once I get the window screen up.

melted crayon art.

I told Jacob a few weeks after I bought my house that one day, we were going to get together and make art. It took longer than I planned to get it scheduled, mostly since my house felt so torn up between remodeling the bathroom and building the desk.

We talked a while ago about some of the things we wanted to try, and this was one that Jacob was really excited about:

Our version turned out a bit different, though I think if we had spent more time on it, we could have made the melted crayons fill up the canvas a bit more. But we're happy with the way it looks!

We even signed it, just like real artists:

The process for making this is pretty straightforward and really inexpensive. We just hot-glued crayons along the top of a piece of canvas, then used a hair dryer to melt them until they dripped down the way we wanted them to. I already had the canvas, so the only out-of-pocket cost was for the crayons ($4.99 for a 64-pack at Michaels).

art day.

One of my goals for the year is to create art with Jacob. He loves to draw and enjoys painting on the rare occasions he does it, and I think it's important to encourage that in him. And because I know how much time I've wasted getting caught up in perfectionism, it's also important to me to encourage him that it doesn't have to be perfect.

My plans for this past weekend changed at the last minute, and since Jacob was free, I picked him for an art day at Aunt Kristy's house. We worked on a couple of different projects - this was Jacob's abstract art. He says he likes abstract art because it doesn't have to look good.

He started out using a brush, but soon decided finger painting was more fun (I agree). And if it was fun with fingers, why not with your whole hand? We also talked about using his elbow, but he decided it would be kind of difficult to wash the paint off his elbow.

(please ignore the paint samples on the walls in the background - I'm not using any of them)

Originally, I wanted to try adding letter stickers to a canvas, then painting over it, then removing the stickers to see the word in the negative image. But, I couldn't find the stickers - so stenciling was the next best option. Jake chose the word LOVE.

Notice the YouTube playlist in the background and the remains of a Chick-Fil-A milkshake on the table. These were very important.

I wish I had a picture of the finished project. I tried arguing that I should keep it, because I bought the supplies, and because I wanted his first piece of abstract art to hang in my house. He insisted that he wanted to hang it in his room, but he promised me that one day when he is famous (for anything), he would give it back. Then he said that if he was famous for something that paid a lot of money, he would buy me a glass case for it.

the desk.

So, I might not have mentioned this before, but I built a desk.

From scratch. By myself.

(ignore the half-painted room in the background)

I love so many things about it. I love how it fits just perfect in this corner (which of course, it does, because I built it to fit there). I love the color and finish on it. I love having my workspace right here in the living room.

But my favorite part? It's that I made it myself.

Originally, I planned to buy a desk to fit in this space. I did a ton of searching online - checking out expensive options and cheaper alternatives, but I still couldn't find something that really fit what I was looking for. So, I checked out, and chose to use the plan for the Tryde coffee table, with just a few modifications (I made it taller and a bit deeper).

I have to be honest here - though I have wanted to try my hand at making a piece of furniture for a while, I was still pretty intimidated by the project. I talked to my dad, and while he was able to give me some advice, I still had so many questions. I studied the plan over and over, changing the measurements to fit the dimensions I want and triple-checking my changes. I bought the lumber and laid everything out in my living room. Then I hesitated.

One of my college professors told me once that the reason we procrastinate is really because we're afraid, and I've never forgotten that. Sometimes, you just need to jump in and do the thing that scares you - especially when your head knows that this is a silly thing for your heart to be afraid of. As soon as I realized that I was hesitating out of fear, I made up my mind to just start and I got up and drilled my first pilot hole.

It was slow going at first, though things started to move a bit faster when I borrowed my dad's (much better) drill and stopped using mine. I bought myself a speed load drill and drive kit, which might be one of the most useful things I've spent money on in the last few months. I took it one step at a time, and when I had questions, I called Dad or asked my brother Jon to stop by on his way home from work. And within a few weeks, working on it an hour here and an hour there, it was done!

new 2012 recipes, part 1.

One of the goals that I consistently set each year is to try several new recipes. Here is the first set for 2012:

I made a couple of changes to this recipe, just to suit my taste and what I had on hand - I eliminated the eggs, changed the spices a bit, and used ricotta instead of cottage cheese. It was pretty easy to put together, especially since I cooked the chicken earlier in the day in the oven. I like the idea of stuffed manicotti better than a lasagna made with similar ingredients, because they are already portioned. The leftovers were good, too, and I had enough for a few lunches, plus dinner with Mom. I'm definitely making this again.

Good! But the leftovers - not so much. I do think this is probably one of the only new recipes that I will try this year, that both my dad and brother would enjoy, so I might save it as something to make for them, when I wouldn't be counting on the leftovers.

Crockpot Beef and Broccoli

This was a bit different than most things I cook, mostly because I don't use red meat all that often and even then, it's usually hamburger. But it was good and I'd like to try it again, though next time I think I would add more teriyaki sauce, because it seemed a little thin.

These seem kind of weird, I know, but they were really good. I used ground chicken, and skipped the taco sauce (instead just adding a bit more salsa). I also used 2% milk cheddar, instead of the cheddar and monterey jack combo, and just eyeballed how much I wanted.

The only thing about this recipe is that it took quite a bit of time, since you need to cook the taco meat and the shells, then assemble and bake it. It used a lot of pots and dishes, which is something I'm a bit more sensitive to without the use of a dishwasher. All in all, it was tasty enough that I will probably make it again, but not often.

Also good, though I have to be honest that if I'm using my crockpot, I'd really rather not have to do a lot of prep work (notice a theme here?). This recipe didn't require a lot, but there is a little bit of sauteing and cooking in a pan at the beginning. And since I already seem to have so many similar recipes, I'm not sure I will make this again.

happy st patrick's day.

In honor of St Patrick's Day, I thought I would share my favorite Irish blessing:

May those who love us, love us;
and those who don't love us, may God turn their hearts;
and if He doesn't turn their hearts,
may he turn their ankles so we'll know them by their limping.

Ah, Ireland. Someday I'll see it in person.

office space inspiration

I've been thinking about office spaces lately, since I'm almost ready to move my work set-up from my dining room table in its more permanent place in the living room. The desk I built is done and just waiting to be moved into place, and then I'll take photos and write up a post just about that.

In the meantime, I've been collecting some ideas on Pinterest. These are some of my favorites.

One thing I know I want is a big inspiration board on the wall above the desk. I love the idea of using something unique, like a crib spring:

If I can't find something like that, there is a old corkboard in the basement (left by the previous homeowners) that's pretty beat up, but should work. I'm thinking of painting the cork or covering it in fabric, then adding a chunky frame. Something kind of like this:

[Source via Pinterest

I use a desktop computer and two monitors for work, plus the accompanying mouse and keyboard. I love the idea of using something like this to help hide the cords:

[Source: Pinterest

In addition to the monitors that will sit on top the desk, I'm also looking for something that can corral random papers (until they are properly dealt with or filed) and a few office supplies. Maybe a tray like one of these two:

There are lots of other ideas rattling around in my head, too - ways to store chargers and other cords, a designated place for laptops (due to work, I have several). In the meantime, though - I'm just looking forward to setting up the desk and getting my dining room table back.

words to remember #1: on living life well.

I love quotes. I love the way I can read something that encourages me, gives me perspective, just seems to capture what I'm thinking better than I can. I've been collecting them in some form or another for the last twenty years, and Pinterest is one of my new favorite places to find them.

So, I thought I would share some of my favorites here over the next few weeks. This is one of my favorites:

making decisions.

Did you know that researchers have discovered that the mental work of making decision after decision actually wears you out and erodes your willpower? It's called decision fatigue. Essentially, the idea is that we only have so much mental energy for self-discipline, and the more decisions you have to make, the more likely you are to just accept the default or easiest answer. (Read more in last year's New York Times article, Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?).

I mention this because I am tired of making decisions about the bathroom. Hopefully we're nearly at the end of them. I honestly cannot imagine how much mental energy it takes to actually design and build a house, from scratch - just this little room is wearing me out!

At the end of this month, my family is going on a group vacation. I think that one of my goals just might be to make all of the necessary decisions ahead of time, so that I don't have to make any while we're there. Because right now that sounds like a best kind of vacation to me.

So, the bathroom. The ceiling and walls are primed and painted, and just need a few touch-ups here and there. Chris grouted the floor and shower surround today, and Dad is helping me install the beadboard on Monday. I'll paint it sometime later this week (hopefully Tuesday), then Chris will be back to install the door and window casings, put the toilet and pedestal sink back in the room, and attach all of the plumbing and lighting fixtures. After that, I'll install and paint the trim for the beadboard, and then accessorize. Or maybe just hang a shower curtain and call it done for now.

On the plus side, I finally got a clear picture of exactly what I want the beadboard trim to look like. Mom, Dad and I went to dinner tonight, and while we were waiting for our food, I pointed to the wall and said, I want the trim to look like this. One more decision made.


Goals are good. So are deadlines.

My friends Kelly and Victor are coming to visit for the weekend, in two weeks. Technically, less than two weeks.

Which means that I have two weeks to finish the bathroom (at least enough that we can shower in there, rather than having to go to my parents' house), get my work stuff moved off of my dining room table and onto my desk, and clean up the second bedroom at least enough so there's room for their air mattress. Oh, and get the bedroom doors hung, rather than laying on the floor in my bedroom. Plus they might appreciate some kind of blinds on the window, for privacy.

Thank goodness I have friends who understand that this whole place is a work in progress and have pretty low expectations.

kitchen paint.

I've decided that if I wait to take pictures of my kitchen until it is completely clean with no dishes in the sink - I will never take pictures of my kitchen. So, I finally finished replacing the last of the switches and outlets in the kitchen, and I'm calling it done. For now.

As a reminder, here's what it looked like during the home inspection.

And here it is now:

There are lots of things I'd still like to do in this room (of course) (paint the trim, replace the light fixture, add some hooks and organization, create a recycling center, and more) but those will happen later. For now, I'm just glad that the orange is gone!

bathroom renovation update.

Things have been progressing on the bathroom renovation. My contractor is almost done with part one - demo, installing the bathtub and tile, and installing drywall. As a reminder, here is what we started with:

On day 2 (last week), the bathroom looked like this:

Chris still needs to grout the walls and floor (that will happen this weekend), but in the meantime, I can get started on my part. I'll be painting the walls and ceiling, then adding beadboard along the bottom half of the wall. Already it looks so much bigger! Here is what it looks like today:

We're getting there!