Monday, March 31, 2008

Wall Collage for the Dining Room Wall

Our dining room is rather blah. One thing I would like to do in there is a photo collage similar to the ones pictured below.

I have a collection of old family wedding photos going back to Nate & my great grandparents from our wedding that I think would be a cool addition.

First we have to remove our doorbell "decoration" that is smack dab in the middle of the dining room wall. (See brown box with gold chime things coming down in the picture below, it looks to be almost touching the equally hideous chandelier)

Why anyone would do this is beyond me, but once we figure out how to remove that, my picture wall will be able to be more of a reality! Great directions on how to do a DIY wall collage can be found on the DesignformuLA blog

Pictures from PointClickHome, HGTV Decorating Cents Website, and DesignformuLA blog.

Mrs. Tautge's Chocolate Chip Cookies

On top of everything else that we did this past weekend, we made cookies. Well, we made dough, ate a lot of it, and then made cookies with what was left over. This recipe is from the mom of one of Nate's high school buddies. They are yummy cookies, if you can get over the fact that they contain Crisco.

1 stick of butter
1/2 cup Crisco
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups chocolate chips (BTW the ghiradelli dark chocolate chips are YUM-O)

Mix together and bake cookies at 375 degrees.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

No More Spindles Part 2: The Stainmaster

After removing the posts, we were left with unstained areas where the posts were, as the picture above shows. A trip to Lowe's last night at 8:30 (yes, we are lame-os and spent our Saturday evening at Lowe's, but running into the H's was a sign that we aren't the only home improvement obsessed people this weekend!..but I digress...), so back to Lowe's. We went to pick out a stain to match the wood. Luckily there were some wood samples there to compare to, and we ended up picking English Oak.

We started sanding the ledge this morning. Here is a pic of Nate in action.

After sanding down the ledge, we stained it and voila! The stain was a perfect match!

We need to finish the ledge off with a coat of polyurethane, but need to let the stain dry for 24 hours.

The other projects we tackled this weekend will be featured for the remainder of the week. We were QUITE busy!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

No More Spindles!

Today we went home improvement CRAZY. Apparently our hiatus was too long! Nate got out the saw and went to work on the spindles that separate our living room and dining room. Here is a before picture (with the previous owners' curtains, etc):

Here is Nate cutting into #1:

Here is one of the spindles removed:

Almost down...


Nate had to spackle the ceiling a few times, and we still need to paint over that and then sand and restain the remaining wood but it is amazing how much more open the house feels!

I would love to actually get rid of the existing half wall, but that would be a bit more of a project than we could do right now becuase of the fact that heating ductwork and electrical outlets would have to be re-routed. But for now, I am happy as I have been waiting for the 70s spindles to be down before we even closed on the place!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Fabric Headboards to Match the Curtains...Oh My!

How pretty is this room at the Pelham Hotel in London?

I have toyed with the idea of making a fabric covered headboard for our twin bed in the office. Constance on Color Correction certainly made it look easy! And matching curtains?! I may just go on another crafting spree...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It took Martha 30 years...

I recently read that it took Martha Stewart 30 years to transform her classic New England home into what it is today. I am hoping our own home makeover does not take as long! :)

Deal of the Week: The cushion

After a few weeks hiatus on home improvement, my husband exclaimed, "I'm itching to start doing another project." We decided to go to Marshall's Home Goods store last night to see if we could find the following:
a) a mirror for the foyer
b) a rug for our bedroom
c) shoes for me (ha ha ha - j/k).

Of course, at these types of places, you always find what you are NOT looking for. In our case, we found a few possibilities for a mirror and no rugs BUT we did find a cushion for our bench in the foyer. The wood on the top of the bench looks like it has some water spots on it, so we though a cushion on top would both disguise those as well as jazz up the room. Our original plan was to make one, but this turned out to be a little more costly than we thought, due to the fact that the heavy duty padding alone is around $40 per yard!

Lo and behold, we found a cushion at Marshall's for $29.99! Funny enough, we have been drawn to this nautical-type stripe when looking at fabric and curtains, as pottery barn has similar curtains that I have wanted for eons. We were a little wary about mixing cushion stripes with the wall stripes, but i think the scale difference actually works. Now we just have to find that mirror and get some curtains!

No Cushion (you can sort of see where the top of the bench has a big light spot on it):

With Cushion:

Cushion gets a close-up:

Up next: The pantry gets a facelift!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Oooh ooh ooh, Little China Girl"

We finally have ordered our china. My family members gave us a gift certificate for our wedding to get a good start on a set of china due to the fact that we did not pick out a pattern beforehand - too many choices! I would have loved to have gotten a set handed down to me, but am glad and prefer that most of my china-holding family members are still young, healthy and here with us.

That said, we finally picked out and ordered a bunch of china. We decided on the Blanc Sur Blanc style from Vera Wang Wedgwood (pictured above). It is pretty simple (like everything else we have) and hopefully fairly timeless. It is a bit hard to see in the picture but there is some white on white detail next to the platinum border. Comment from Vera: "I am forever experimenting with white. The marriage of different white provides depth, dimension and texture without the distraction of color." Comment from Amy: "Now we have to get a white kitchen so it will match" Ha ha ha. I like the idea of getting decorated chargers from other sets to change it up a bit.

Despite the fact that many people consider china a useless extravagance, I really wanted it because my family used china on special occasions and it was always really fun. We knew the meal was bigtime if mom brought out the blue floral plates and gravy boat. (For some reason, we LOVED the gravy boat!)

So a big THANK YOU to my family members for getting us started on our own set! We look forward to adding to it as the years go on!

Monday, March 24, 2008

2nd Snowiest Winter and all We Get is a Ruined Mailbox?

The snowstorm of Good Friday was CRAZY - 12.4 inches of very heavy snow. The mailman did not even come! And, our mailbox was damaged by the snow plow. We made it through all of the past 5 months without a scrape on it while our neighbors were having theirs uprooted left & right. Argh! To top it off, Amy's NCAA bracket is down the drain. Will spring ever arrive?!?!?

We are now ranked #2 in the Milwaukee's Snowiest Winters List:

1 109.8 1885-86
2 96.0 2007-2008
3 94.2 1897-98
4 93.3 1959-60
5 83.2 1973-74
6 82.9 1978-79
7 82.6 1903-04
8 81.9 1993-94
9 80.8 1922-23
10 80.7 1977-78
11 79.7 1951-52
12 78.7 1917-18
13 78.6 1950-51
14 74.2 1935-36
15 74.1 1886-87
16 74.0 1964-65
17 73.3 1925-26
18 72.6 1896-97
19 71.0 1904-05
20 69.8 1961-62

Only 13.8 more to go to break the record!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Do Not Try this At Home...Yet

I always start with the best of intentions. Sometimes things work out, and sometimes they most definitely do not.

I wanted to make a lemon meringue pie for Easter dinner as I know it is a dessert my entire family really likes. Well, given that my experience with pies is not exactly varsity level, I should have been a little more wary with this one. One of Martha Stewart's recipes called this a "whimsical pie". Hmmm...maybe that should have been my first clue.

I started with the crust. Pie crust in the past has been challenging for me, mostly because I am not very patient. Martha's pate brisee recipe directs one to use a food processor. WELL, this is THE trick. The pie crust was fantastic.

Next came the filling. I followed the directions to a T, which involved a LOT of whisking, and even had success tempering my egg yolks. YAY! It seemed fairly thick so I filled my pie shell, put it in the fridge and went to bed.

EARLY (as in 6 AM) this morning, I awoke to make my meringue. This was the part I was most comfortable with, since I have done it a million times. And, the meringue peaks were high and stiff. I put it on top of the custard (which appeared to have set) and broiled it to perfection, resulting in the picture above.

Then we got in the car.

Ladies (and the one possible gentleman that may read this), do not attempt to make a lemon meringue pie from scratch for the first time if you have to travel over an hour to your destination. As it turned out, the pie did not set all the way so I had plastic bags from my back seat on my lap and had to hold the pie, altering the balance to match the terrain and prevent spillage. It was a disaster, but I let my in-laws and husband talk me into the SLIGHT possibility it would reset if put back in the fridge.

Well, it did not. When we finally arrived at my family Easter, i wanted to just throw it away. BUT, my brother said, "I don't care how it looks, I want to eat it." Famous last words. Nate attempted to cut into it, but what was really needed was a ladle for the lemony liquid! (No, I am not kidding) God bless my brother, my sister's boyfriend and my husband for each eating an entire piece of that pie for me. Or rather, the lemon soup with a side of crust & meringue.

The crust & meringue were GREAT and the flavor of the lemon inside was yummy. Now if I could just get it to set...My mom thinks that Martha's directions are not right when it comes to the cook time so I will be retrying this recipe. If it works for me the 2nd time, I will post it.

In the meantime, I hope this made you laugh, because we all had a great many laugh about the pie :)

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 21, 2008

House Beautiful Kitchen of the Month

Can I have it?? Pretty please?? Right down to the white subway tile and farmhouse sink...

All photographs from House Beautiful Magazine.

Spring HAD Sprung in Merida was sunny, beautiful and at least 80 degrees each day. Yesterday, being my first full day back in WI was a lovely 44 degrees, perfect for running outside, boosting my hopes for spring.

Then I woke up this morning.

We are in the midst of a winter storm warning!!!!!!!! ARGH! Total snow accumulation is suppossedly 8-10 inches.

We have also officially broken into the Top 5 snowiest winters on record.

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bon Voyage!

There will be a brief break in posts as I am off to sunny Merida Mexico until next Wednesday for work. Nate will be manning the home base while I am gone, and perhaps tackling some projects without me.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Nate!

This is a picture from our honeymoon in Costa Rica. We found it hilarious that you could buy a can of rum & coke in the local store!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White Kitchen

I have alluded to our kitchen remodel, and while we have not moved beyond shopping around for countertop and sink options, we hopefully will move towards actual work late spring/summer.

What are we planning? I have always loved the look of white kitchens. Actually, i love the look of entire white houses, but I am not that careful and that option is just not practical if you are planning on having children! So a white kitchen it is. I not-so-secretly love the kitchen that Ina Garten cooks in the show Barefoot contessa - white cabinets, black countertops, and a bit of green. We already have the green paint covered.

We are planning on sanding and painting the cabinets that we already have because they are custom made for the space and in good condition. Then we need to replace our peeling-apart white gross laminate countertops with a darker countertop. I would love a subway tiled backsplash, new hardware and a new tile floor as well, but baby steps...

Here are some thoughts from HGTV on white kitchens:

-Designer Jim Sandell explains that white is timeless and transcends style. It is the perfect background color for almost any other color. White is also easier to keep clean because dirt is so visible. [Hello! I love "timeless" and "transcends style"!]

-The turn to white kitchens came during the Victorian period when homeowners began to spend more time in the kitchen. The materials available at the time also lent themselves to white, such as the porcelain for tiles and sinks, and milk-based paints for cabinetry.

-White works well for small kitchens because it is light and bright and makes the space appear larger. [THIS DEFINITELY APPLIES TO US!!]

-In a contemporary kitchen, white helps create shadows and contrasts that emphasize planes and surfaces.

-Lighting helps give definition and character to a white kitchen since white is so reflective. It can seem warm or cold, depending on the natural or man-made light source.

-White is the best color for re-sale since it is like a blank sheet of paper for prospective buyers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Giving the Windows some Treatment

Yay! We finally found some curtains for the guest bedroom that fit in with the girly theme I have going on in there! The picture above doesn't really show the embroidery detail on them so here is my attempt at a close up:

I also whipped up this valance with the leftover fabric from our table runner. I ran into a few more problems with this sewing project, but still it turned out and is a vast improvement over the herbal curtains that were gifted to us from the previous owners.
Previous fabric:

And my new and improved curtain that holds the new color combo for our kitchen remodel coming Summer 2008 (fingers crossed).

The fabric reminds me of one of the papers I used in our wedding invitations - which must mean I am a black damask fan :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

So, Now I Sew?!

I received my sewing machine yesterday! Thank you to BB (soon to be BK) for the home delivery! It came in this LOVELY tapestry bag:

We went to Jo-Ann Fabrics twice - the first time we got there and looked at each other saying, "Did you measure the window?", "No, Did you?", "No". So..we went back home and measured the windows and the table. We found some fabric for the curtains in the clearance section (of course, what did you expect?!), but there wasn't quite enough of it on the bolt so we are still on the lookout for that. We did get some fabric to make a table runner.

And so began the adventure...I think my husband finally felt he could snap some sneaky pictures of me, a la the wearing shorts to chop ice picture".

And finally...Voila! Our custom made table runner!

Now, I realize that this was by no means a difficult project, but it was nice to start somewhere!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Six months down...

Happy 6 month anniversary to us! (ok, really not until tomorrow)

We are very excited because we just reserved a room at the Delafield Hotel for our one-year anniversary. (again, really one year and 6 days b/c they were already booked on our actual date!) We had our reception here and stayed here on our wedding night. When we got back from our honeymoon, our wedding coordinator there sent us a gift certificate for a free night on our anniversary! woohoo!

I highly recommend this place for any romantic getaway. The hotel is small (32 rooms) and upscale with a very old-world feel. The restaurant is fantastic, and the jazz piano player in the bar at night is fun. The Kohler showers and tubs are amazing and let's be honest, the little mini Aveda products don't hurt :) Because I can't resist, here is a picture of Nate's brother & cousin checking out our room:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New Real Simple Blogs

Great. As if the list of blogs I regularly check wasn't long enough, Real Simple has to go and make one.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Bible

Thank you BB (soon to be BK) & JS for this birthday treat! Gotta have my Martha!

Floor Plans

Here are some floor plans that my non-architecture background self made of our house. The room measurements are also in the plans.

Floor 1 - This is fairly accurate, although I'm not sure about the stairways!

Floor 2 - I am certain that this does not accurately reflect the cape cod architecture with dormers and slanted ceilings, etc. But basically on floor two, the second floor is over the front half of the house. We eventually would maybe "shed out" the back portion to make a bigger bathroom and closets in each of the rooms.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Grand Foyer - The 100th Post!

Thank you CD for the upgrade in naming this room the "Foyer". Calling it the foyer just makes me laugh.

Anyway, here is Nate putting the finishing touches on the foyer walls last night:

And me enjoying a fine glass of wine watching him, as it should be - right ladies?! (for the record the skin on my fingertips is cracked from doing all of the taping):

And here is a view of the final paint job:

A sneak peak of the "BEFORE":

The whole process is photo-documented here.

We still have some things that are needed in this room: Rug, Curtains, Something for the wall over the bench, cushion for the bench, new light fixture, new floor. But the biggest pain in the butt is done! (I think).

Monday, March 3, 2008

"We're Havin' A Heat Wave...A Tropical Heat Wave"

Ok..HAD a heat wave. Yesterday. 48 degrees. My husband decided to wear shorts to chop ice at the end of our driveway. DISCLAIMER UPDATE: So Nate did not put on shorts specifically to go outside. The shorts were what he was wearing to paint and he decided not to change when he went outside to assess the ice situation.

Today = wintry mix + 29 degrees. And so begins another "spring" in the midwest.

The Nest?

Did someone get this for me as a gift? I started getting this magazine and know I did not subscribe. I may have signed up for a free trial once upon a time, but am not sure. This is a sign that I sign up for way too many free samples and have way too many magazine subscriptions!