Office Re-Design

Now that I've finished refinishing the office desk, we're finally able to get that giant plastic desk out!

Ok, so the big desk does have advantages: storage, desktop space, etc.  But in the small office it just took up so much space!  Here it is:

See?  It's huge.  Plus the TV was way too high to be comfortable from the sofa.  So we moved out the large desk and replaced it with the desk that I refinished and a hand-me-down TV stand from Matt's parents that we used in our apartment.  I think it looks loads better.

We still have some trim to put up, and the closet door, but I think the room looks so much bigger with 2 smaller pieces of furniture vs. one large one.


Painting a Desk

I have never painted or refinished furniture before.  I always admired people who did, but I was scared that I would mess it up or something. 

So I bought a cheap wood desk ($12) from Craigslist.  Then I bought some primer and paint and new harware and got to work! 

Craigslist Desk

I used two coats of Zinsser oil-based primer, which is meant to cover without needing to sand the furniture first.

Primed desk.

Then I followed up with tthree coats of Behr Hi-Gloss in Jet Stream, which is dark gray.  I did a final coat with a polyurathane finish on the top to make it really shiny.  Add some new hardware and voila, new-looking desk!

Now we can finally send the massive desk that we've been using back into Craigslist land for some lucky new owner. 


Up-Coming Projects

Since we finally finished the shed, which was our (well, Matt's) main summer project, I thought I'd give you a look at what we have coming up.  In no particular order:

1. paint and refinish the stairs

2. finish the trim in the upstairs

3. finally finish our master bedroom and start sleeping there!

4. refinish the office desk and complete the office

5. build built-in shelves in the family room

6. re-do the powder room

It doesn't seem like that much, but some of the things will be time-consuming.  Hopefully we'll stay motivated and on track through the winter!


BBQ Vegetarian Chili

So I normally don't post recipes, but today is world vegetarian day!  I've been a vegetarian for 9 years, so I thought I would share one of my favorite recipes today.

I love barbeque.  I know, that's super weird since I don't eat meat, but I love the smokey and tangy flavors of BBQ sauce.  So I make my own recipes!  I started making this about a year ago and it's one of my favorite cold-weather comfort foods.

2 portabella mushroom caps
1 red pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 white onion
1 jalapeno pepper
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
BBQ sauce (I love Wegman's Memphis style)
Olive Oil

Start by chopping the onion and browning it in a pan with a little olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes. 

Then chop the portabellas, tomatoes, red pepper and jalapeno.  Add them to the pan, and turn the heat to medium-low.  Keep them on the heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.  Then add the black beans, making sure they're thoroughly rinsed and drained.  Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Then I add the BBQ sauce and chopped cilantro.  I like Wegman's brand BBQ sauce - it even says "vegan" on the bottle :) 

Simmer on low heat for 10 more minutes.  I like to add a little bit of cheddar to the top.  Yum!


Back in the Backyard

It's been a couple of months since we finished the french drain in the backyard, but that doesn't mean we've been ignoring it.  Matt has been working on building a shed! 

Since we don't have a garage, we've been using the laundry/mechanical room as storage for yard supplies and the lawnmower.  It has been incredibly annoying to drag the lawnmower in and out of the house every time we need to use it. 

We bought a 12' by 8' shed, which came in pre-built sections.  It was delivered in our driveway on a pallet.  Matt has spent several weekends (and weekday evenings) working on it, and it's finally finished (ok, not quite finished, but useable)!

In case you forgot, here's how the backyard looked when we got the house:
There was also a toilet behind the playhouse that we didn't see until we moved in.
 Here is the yard with the shed:

There is still some trim to put up, and there are shutters and planters for the windows, but it's currently functional! 

I'm so happy that we have a place to put all of our outdoor equipment and tools.  And now we can finally clear out the family room and start getting to work on that!


Dining Room Buffet

So we actually have had this buffet for a while, but I haven't posted about it, so I'll do it now. 

A few months ago I bought an Axium Buffet from Overstock.com.  I had been looking for a dark, modern-looking buffet, and this was it.

I read the reviews and the most common complaint was that it took a while to put together (most people said 4-5 hours).  I'm actually one of the weird people who love putting furniture together, so this didn't deter me. 

It arrived about a week after I ordered it in 3 very large boxes.  It came in about 200 pieces, including hardware.  No problem!  I gathered the tools I needed and got to work. 

It took me about 4 hours overall to assemble.  I did it 95% myself, but Matt had to help me lift some pieces when it started to get too heavy.

I love how it looks, and it's held up really well for the past few months.  I still need to figure out exactly what's going to go on top of it, but I'm not in a hurry.  


Laundry Room Organization

Since we've had the house we've been focusing on the upper and main levels.  We use the downstairs, but it's more of a storage space for the time being.  Especially the laundry/mechanical room. 

Now I'm not proud of this, but here is what my laundry room looked like this afternoon. 

We were able to move some stuff, like the lawnmower, into the shed (more on that soon).

Yes, our laundry supplies were kept in an old Yuengling box.

More old beer boxes :)

So yea, we've basically been throwing stuff in the laundry room and trying to forget about it.  I finally realized today that this can't go on, when it took me 15 minutes to find the paint I was looking for.

So we went to Target and picked up a 5 level wire storage shelf for $39.  It was kind of annoying to put together with only one person, but I managed. 

Once the shelves were installed all I had to do was put everything on it!  It actually didn't take as long as I thought it would, and I was able to consolidate a lot of stuff and get rid of some stuff.  The whole process took me about 2 hours, and the laundry room looks soooo much better!  We were able to move the laundry detergent off of the dryer, so now there's actually space to fold laundry.  And it will be way easier to find what we're looking for when it's all right in front of you. 

Matt is happy with the final result, too.  I think he thought I was a little nuts for starting this project on a Sunday night, but I'm happy that I did it.  There's actually a good amount of space in the laundry room, and now it doesn't feel as claustrophobic.  Yay for organization!


New Years Goals Update

Since the year is (more than!) half over, I thought I would look back at my New Year's goals, which I posted at the beginning of the year, and see how I've been doing.

1. Finish the upper level of our house.  This includes finishing the master half bath, trimming the hallway, office, guest bedroom, finishing the master bedroom, and installing closet doors in all rooms.  Not done yet, but we're working on it!

2.  Blog more.  This is pretty arbitrary, but I'd like to post more often and consistently this year.  I'll try for 5 posts per month. hahahahaha.  no.

3. Work out at least 150 times this year.  I've been going to the gym 3-5 times a week in the past few months, so I just want to keep that up. I actually did really good with counting my workouts for the first few months!  Then I stopped.  I think I was around 90 workouts when I stopped counting (at the beginning of May), but I've still been going to the gym.  I even registered for a half marathon!  My training schedule is pretty intense, and I have 108 scheduled workouts between July and November, so I am definitely on track to meet this goal.

4. To pay off the rest of Matt's car.  We should be able to pay it off by July, which will be 2 years early.  Then we can start putting more money towards our family room! Done!  We paid it off in March.

5. To get my LC certification.  I need to get it for work, and I am eligable this summer.  I hope to take the exam next fall. I submitted my application, and recently saw that the registration fee was taken from my bank account.  The exam is Nov 4th, and hopefully I'll know how I did before the end of the year!

6.  To do three speeches for Toastmasters.  I joined Toastmasters about a year ago, and have only completed my first speech.  I'd also like to start performing more leadership roles, since most of the times I just go to meetings and sit there.  I would like to have done every leadership role once by the end of the year.  I did speeches in March, May and June.  I don't have any more scheduled right now, but I'll probably do a couple more before the end of the year.  I also have participated in 2 new leadership roles this year, and I still have 3 to go before I've done all of them.

7.  Take control of the yard.  We didn't really do much in the way of gardening or anything last year, except for maintaining what was already there.  This spring I want to start gardening more.  I also want to start planting vegetables and herbs that we can use. Kind of.  I wanted to get rid of the strip in the front yard, but didn't get around to it this year.  We did dig the french drain in the backyard, and we're working on getting the shed put together.  I also planted an herb garden on the side of the house with basil, mint, chives, oregano and cilantro. 

Overall I think I'm doing pretty well with my goals so far!  It's making me think that maybe next year I should challenge myself more! 


The Epic Story of How Rain Ruins Lives (or at least ruins weekend fun)

A few months ago, it rained.  And then it stopped raining. 

Several days after it had stopped raining, Matt and I noticed that there was still standing water in our backyard.  It just wasn't going away.  We live at the bottom of a hill in our neighborhood, and there is a stormwater drain in between our property and our next door neighbors.  Basically, all of the water runs through our backyard before it gets to the drain.

Except that it wasn't getting to the drain, and it was not soaking into the ground. 

We came up with a plan to dig a drain across the backyard so that the water would have somewhere to go, and we wouldn't get giant puddles in our backyard for a week after a heavy rain. 

Our plan was to dig across the backyard, and around the giant trees, without having to cut all of the roots, and then filling the ditch with rocks and covering it with new topsoil.  Because of the roots, we were unable to use a pipe that you would typically use in a french drain, so instead we wrapped the rocks with garden fabric to keep the dirt from getting everywhere. 

We originally thought we would be able to get this finished in a weekend (when will I ever learn that house projects always take 3x longer than anticipated?).  It ended up taking about 3 weeks.

Here are some progress shots:

The yard pre-ditch.

French Drain Burrito!

We put up a fence to keep the dogs out since we're trying to grow grass.

Also, we discovered that Kiwi LOVES to dig.  We already knew that she was a digger (we never caught her in the act, but there was evidence in our yard).  She would absolutely freak out and start digging wherever we were.  She was actually really helpful!

Jules, on the other hand, does not care for digging.  She just wandered around the yard and looked pretty while we worked.

So that is the story of the drain.  We currently have that part of the yard blocked off from the dogs so the grass can grow without them running all over it.  When that grass grows we will block off another portion of the yard and grow grass there, and hopefully we'll eventually have a full, lush lawn!


Master Bedroom Update

Now that we've installed the toilet and it's no longer sitting on the bedroom floor, we were able to lay down the rug and set up the bed frame.  We bought the Simple bed frame and Window headboard from West Elm.  The headboard and bed frame were both on sale, and we got them for $665 total.  The rug was called "Stepping Stones" and we bought it from RugsUSA.  We were so happy with our living room rug that we took the plunge and ordered another one!  The rug was also on sale for 75% off, so the total came to $157 for a 8'x10' rug.

And most importantly, the dogs approve :)

We're really happy with how our bedroom is turning out.  Now that the bathroom is almost finished, we're working more on the bedroom.  We still have some trim to finish, but pretty soon we can start looking for a new mattress!  Hopefully we'll be able to move into the master bedroom in the next few months.


I Installed a Toilet! And other plumbing news.

I'm very excited about this.  I installed the toilet in the master bedroom mostly by myself (Matt had to help me guide the toilet onto the bolts).  I didn't take any "during" photos, because it was basically a gross hole in the floor, but here are some photos of the finished toilet, in all it's porcelain glory:

No leaks or anything!
 We also got the vanity installed!  Well, Matt did most of the work, but it came out really great!  Here it is:

We ended up using a vanity with a 12" base, and 18" at the widest point where the sink sticks out.  Since the room is so small the narrow vanity gives us some extra room, while still providing storage and a large sink basin. 

All we need is a door, the hardware and some touch-up paint and the bathroom will be finished! I can't wait!