Monday, December 23, 2013

We Wish You A Merry Ice Storm

It's that time of year.  My stress level is to the max and I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  Merry Christmas!

While knee-deep in the chaos, we had our very first winter concert at the big boys' school.  Last year the concert was cancelled due to the teacher strike.  So our baptism was this year.  By fire.  Almost literally.  It was a super long line up to mad-dash rush into the gymnasium that was a thousand degrees. 

But it was all worth it.

"Tuppens A Bag..."

Grade two, tallest in the class, hates to sing.  My heart burst.

Then winter break began so we got out of dodge. 

New Berlin, WI

AKA: the frozen tundra.  My homeland.  A 10 hr drive. 

We do it for the Neuens Family Christmas party on my mom's side.  She's one of six kids that still all get together for the holiday.  Of course, most of the siblings are grandparents now and the offspring is exponential.  My husband has been to 10 of these and still has no idea who some people are.

Me & G Playing Bingo

The highlight of the party is Bingo.  Everyone plays.  First winner picks a grab bag from the middle, opens and displays "prize" (unless you consider a frying pan from goodwill a score).  Second winner can swipe the prize or pick new.  And on and on until the popular prize has changed hands 20 times, grab bags are gone and my kids are in tears over prizes they hate.  Merry Christmas!!

Best Prize

Somehow my dad scored the best prize this year.  I don't know how he did it, but nobody swiped his garbage bag filled with pre-buttered theater popcorn.  (Courtesy of my cousin who works at the local movie theater ;) )

The next day, we headed down to my brother's house for the second half of our holiday vacation.  He got his Christmas present early, but I managed to borrow it for a few minutes.

"Ok, glass..."

I am not tech-y.  Nor am I much of an early adopter.  But Google Glass got me.

"How Do I Do This?"

It got my old man, too.  He took a few videos by voice command and winked a few pictures.  The future is here!!!

And then we snapped back into reality with news of an ice storm back home.

Uh Oh

We love our neighbors.  We were quickly informed of a branch that fell from the tree on the right of this picture.  It's a tree we don't own, but prune regularly for safety.  It hit the porch roof and caught the edge of the eavestrough on the way down...

...and landed on the wires that run from the street to our home.

Which ripped the mast that holds those wires right off the house.  We still have power (thankfully) but the situation is dangerous.  I think Steve's words were, "There's nothing more exciting than home ownership."

Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Update On The Veneer Dresser

Less than two weeks until Christmas.  I'm so unprepared and have less than 5% of my shopping done.  Perfect time to get on that dresser!

But it must be done.  The boys have been living out of bins on the floor for over a month now.  So, finishing the dresser will be like a Christmas gift to them.  And to Steve, too, who can't stand the chaotic mess in their well as the staining/painting/sealing mess in the basement.  Plus, being able to spend kid-free time doing the dresser is like a Christmas gift to me.  I love it.

It's Christmas all around!

We last left off with sanding the dresser on the porch and not knowing what will happen.  The top was so badly marked up.  So the plan was to stain and see what happened...

Ready To Go

We brought it into the basement and propped it up on a few canned goods. Whatever works.

I used a pre-stain conditioner and chose a darker (not darkest) stain.  We used this product in a similar color on our basement stairs a few years ago, so I already trusted it.


The conditioner REALLY brought out the blotches.  Awesome.  So I stained.

One coat.  The sides looked good, but the top?  Horrible.  Not working.

Here's where I almost painted the whole damn thing.  I pinterested.  I shared with my husband.  I tried to make myself believe that I liked the completely painted look better than the stained/painted look that was my inspiration.  But I couldn't.

So I decided to give it one more go with the darkest stain I could find. 

It worked.  IT WORKED!  Two coats of "Ebony" stain and I was in love.  The blotches were gone.  The wood grain looked normal.  So. Happy.

"Light" Stain
Ebony Stain

 And then the dresser sat for weeks.  With these...

Drawers & Legs

Busy?  Fatigue?  Holidays?  A little bit of all that.  Until this past weekend when my husband had enough.  And took the kids.

I did my homework and the biggest caution was to brush it on LIGHTLY and avoid BUBBLES.  Paper thin.  Ok, I can do that.  Then this happened.

BUBBLES.  Those millions of bumps are bubbles.  I used two different brushes.  I stopped dipping the brush at all and just spread it out tissue paper thin.  Nope.  Still bubbles.

So this is what it looked like when I thinned it out as best I could and finally put down the brush (and crossed my fingers).

Really?  All this hard work and it's going to come down to this?  A billion miniscule bubbles that I can't get rid of?  

Then this happened.

PHEW.  I almost kissed it.  But no touching for 4-6 hours. 

So, instead I got to work on the drawers.

I follow Lindsay's blog and she highly recommends Benjamin Moore Advance paint for furniture.  Say no more.  I do as I'm told.

It rolled on thick and a little bumpier than an orange peel.  But before I was finished with the second drawer, the first looked so much better.  The paint has a self-leveling element, so thank goodness I didn't go back and re-roll it.  Restraint!

Here's where I've left off.

Waiting for polyurethane, paint and stain (on the legs) to dry.  And more coats to come.  Then pulls to drill.

I think she's gonna turn out just fine...Merry Christmas to me!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

House Tour: The Pantry

The Pantry.  There are so many things to say about this little 4' x 4' square of awesomeness.  It's another piece of the tetris puzzle in the kitchen.  It's the smallest space with the highest function.  It has the best light fixture.

And it was the running joke of the renovation.  I was so excited about these 16 square feet.  So much, that everyone said who cares about the rest of the house...we'll find Meg hanging out in her beloved pantry 24/7.

So what if I am!?

You would spend all day in here, too, if your before and after was this.

Before (Move In)
After (Today)

(Excuse the blue tarp over the deck furniture - that's our fancy winterizing)

Not the best view of the pantry in the distance, but it matches the before shot.  Let's have a better look close up, shall we?

My Home

16 square feet.  That's all she is.  And I love her.

Since there's really only one before and after shot, I decided to share a little something else.  Here's a picture show of her coming to life.  

Wrong Cabinet
Right Cabinet + Shelves
Countertop + Sink + Faucet + Backsplash
Light Fixture

I'd have to say those open shelves are my favorite part of my favorite space.  Now that I have them, I TOTALLY get why people put them in their kitchen.  We didn't want them for our open concept kitchen space, but in here they're perfect. 

Other pantry faves that are perfect?

Now You See It
Now You Don't

It's a barn door.  And it's magic.  It's saved me from that feeling of "what if I don't want to see what's on that open shelving?"  I can close it if company comes.  Or I can hide from kids.

We put in a sink.  Because when do you not need a sink?  In all honesty, the plumbing was there between the bathroom above and the main stack below.  So...why not?

And we still have storage below.  All the coffee storage a girl could want.

More storage on the right, too.  Empties on the bottom and disorganization above.

Lighting under the shelves.  It's functional...and purdy at night.

There's my fave.  It makes me smile every time I look at it.  Simple yet beautiful in a modern not modern way.  And it's on a dimmer.  Score!

So, there she is.  The smallest, hardest working spot in the house.

And if you need me, you'll know where to find me...

Resource list (in case you're wondering where we found things)
Light Fixture - Davey Lighting, Well Pendant
Countertop - Caesarstone "Pure White"
Faucet - La Torre
Sink - Blanco Radius Bar Sink
Backsplash - Stone Tile (white gloss ceramic, 10x60cm)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Is For Kids

I didn't get it before.  Then I had kids.  And now I do.  But it's not just for's about, around, inside, throughout, important, meaningful and magical because of them. 

So why not let them do it their way?  Exactly.

Let me present our Christmas decorations as put up by the kids with daddy supervising...

This picture showed up on my phone while out having coffee with friends.  It made me smile...because they're not fighting!

I had no say in anything and I love it all. 

Tree in the Livingroom

First Christmas in the new/old house.  Where to put the tree?  We considered the basement, but this spot in the livingroom won out because we'd actually see it. 

When you walk in the house, this is the view.  I love that it fits next to the niche.

That's Jolly.  He's our Elf On The Shelf.  This is his 3rd season with us.  Every November, we have a discussion about whether he's going to come back for another Christmas.  The boys hope he will and are amazed that he does. 

At the time of these pictures, he found a spot under the star Jake made.  Today he's in the plant.

Jolly's View

 We haven't really figured out how to decorate the rest of the house. 

Like that little photobomber?  He likes the snowflake pillows.  Mostly on the floor.

To keep it real, here's the rest of the area.  Christmas bin still out.  Boxes of Christmas cards waiting to be written.  Random Christmas candle holders.  And chocolate advent calendars.  They were free at Loblaw's.  I may or may not have bought them anyway because that's the kind of Christmas we have here...kid and chocolate driven. 

I did have a hand in one thing, though...

New door = no holes.  I just couldn't bring myself to put a nail in it.  Not this year.  Maybe not next year.  Ever? 

So long as Dollarama bows and 3M command strips exist, I may never need to. 

It's the best $2.00 I've spent this holiday so far.  Unless you count the money spent on ingredients for brown sugar cookies...

I am not a baker.  Or a cook.  My kitchen magic consists mostly of grilled cheese, guacamole and quesadillas.  Oh, can I make a mean quesadilla...

But there is no such thing as a Christmas Quesadilla.  Nor were there pre-made sugar cookies at the grocery store that day.  So now I can add a fourth item to my list of things I can make from scratch.  If scratch includes bread and tortillas.

Still with me?

Good.  Cause these are some damn good cookies.

If you consider good meaning let's start decorating well after bedtime.  At least these kids do.

Every personality came out in the decorating.

This was an unplanned candy cane.  He's my lucky kid. 

This was the world's most scrutinized-over candy cane.  He's my tunnel vision kid.

This cookie was not finished until it had the exact amount of stars on it as predetermined by its creator.  He's the my-way-or-the-highway kid. 

Some call it toddler.  I know toddlers.  This is George. 

In the end, overdue bedtime or not, they all had fun decorating the cookies.  And fun is what happens at Christmas. 

Because in this house...Christmas really is for kids.