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House Update: 8 Months In

12 Mar

IMG_7640pardon the drill and the elephant ride-on toy

March has been surprisingly productive considering the energy drain I’ve felt as I enter my third trimester with Baby #2. Since we’re prepping for E’s second birthday at the end of the month, I’ve unofficially designated the party as a target date to have a lot of my “Pre-baby House To Dos” in place since I know I’ll be well into my third trimester come spring. And let’s be honest, once the weather starts to get warmer, it will be all-garden, all the time.

IMG_6324Testing out a thrifted lamp with a new white drum shade

Project: Paint the buffet

Refinishing the above buffet/sideboard from Brian’s paternal grandmother was a top priority since it’s always driven me insane to have so much wood on wood throughout our open downstairs living and dining rooms. It would be one thing if the pieces and flooring were similarly toned or if we had some decor and art layered in, but I’m still in a weird transitional place of not wanting to commit to window treatments and rugs and accessories until we figure out more of the “bones” — like function, layout, and “big pieces;” basically, the big ticket items that define spaces, like furniture and built ins.

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Just yesterday I was toying with the idea of moving the dining room table into the living room and transitioning the (unused) dining room into an office, since the dining room table serves as my work space most of the time. This would be a phase one example of what I was eventually envisioning as a built in dining area inspired by the picture above. Drooling over everything, from the color scheme to the gold chairs to the window treatments to that lighting. Holy moly. Perfection!

Anyways, I am really thrilled with how the buffet turned out and loved trying out a new technique for prepping it before refinishing (which I’ll detail in a future post). I still need to put a few coats of poly on it for protection and shine and choose hardware, but it’s not my priority right now. Refinishing it also gave me a nice kick in the pants to better organize what we store inside (now it holds my frequently used notebooks, office supplies and stationary) and how we use the limited space in our kitchen.

I don’t know if you noticed it, but the white utility rack just beside the buffet is a new addition we used to have in our old apartment’s kitchen. It became such an issue to run up and down the basement stairs to get various appliances and pots that we decided to just store them there for now while we figure out what a phase 1 kitchen renovation will look like and what our needs really are. Hint: Phase one will likely involve tearing down the wall between the kitchen and dining room and adding seating to an attached island.

Project: Basement Organization

We also tackled a quick organization of our basement which I don’t have any photos of but can report was worth every exhausting minute now that I finally know where to look for almost anything not in current rotation in our living space. This was largely prompted by my pregnancy and the urge to nest. It’s a real thing! I want easy access to all the baby stuff we’ve had packed away as Emilia outgrew things like her walkers and bouncy seat and my Type-A side gets such a thrill from the neatly labeled storage containers of “Nursing Supplies” and “Newborn Baby Books.”

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Project: Nursery Art

Speaking of nesting, I finally got Emilia’s Rifle Paper Co., calendar prints up above her crib. The tape on the art prints needs to be patted down regularly and I dream of eventually having them all custom-framed in a metallic gold, but for now, I’ll take just having something huge crossed off my to do list. Her nursery finally feels like it’s more pulled together, but the issue of the wildcard rug we impulsively purchased and planned to just work with still sticks out sorely color-wise against all the other patterns and colors I think. It’s also definitely too small for the space but I keep holding out for the eventual transition of this space from nursery to share little girl’s room. Once we have Emilia’s “big girl bed” in here along with the crib, the size of the rug might work better, or I might just sell it on Craigslist and put that money towards a rug I really love.

IMG_7515uncle “Teb” + E cleaning up her building blocks

How about that gorgeous more appropriately-sized mirror we also hung over Emilia’s dresser and changing pad? Another fabulous HomeGoods find for just $35. The color is totally wrong for the room as it stands right now, but as I dream up the next phase of this room as a combined nursery/toddler’s bedroom, I think that color may eventually work so it stays for now, as tempted as I am to coat it with a metallic gold paint. Please ignore the hideously jumbled up curtain mess going on by her crib. I never properly finished backing the curtains with light blocking fabric so we have a very makeshift system still in place involving dressmakers pins and — cringe — masking tape to rig the windows to be totally blacked out for nap time. I should probably add finding a more permanent solution to that to our to do list, huh?

IMG_6859the current state of our bathroom

Project: Shower Curtain Update

In another example of fabulous makeshifting, I pinned the wild floral fabric we’d been using as a bathroom curtain (as I debated whether I liked it for a future Roman shade) to the actual shower curtain and am kind of loving it so there it has remained for almost two weeks now. I think the window needs a dark, woven grass or bamboo type blind and we’ll need to swap in a darker bath mat to make it all work. In the above photo, that’s actually a dark slate DKNY bath towels I bought after we moved in and I decided that dark gray/black/slate accents needed to happen in the bathroom to make all that pink and black tile look more chic. Working? Who knows. But the bathroom continues to be one of the most fun challenges for this quirky, 1950’s Cape Cod style home of ours.

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Project: Use our fireplace + Redecorate the mantle

This wasn’t exactly a pressing “To Do,” but after enjoying our suite’s fireplace while we were in Maine and hearing chatters of this Danish concept of “hygge” all over social media lately, I was itching to recreate the cozy ambiance in our own home. We probably still need a good chimney cleaning, but our test run has persuaded me to move it to the top of our late summer “To Do” list so we can enjoy more cozy nights by the fire next fall and winter.

And related — once the buffet was fixed up, I’d always planned to relocate the antique Federal mirror I’d had over the mantle and needed something else to fill the space. We tried a few mirrors we had laying around before I thought to try this print we purchased a few years ago at an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It’s Melon Boats by John Singer Sargent and this picture doesn’t do justice to the vibrancy of the pigments. When I viewed the oil painting at the MFA, I couldn’t tear myself away. It was like being on the ocean. I normally avoid purchasing prints in favor of supporting artists by purchasing original work but I couldn’t pass this up. Now all it needs is a frame.

On the horizon for upcoming priority projects:

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Upcoming spring project: Our front stairs

The front stairs are one of the biggest eye sores of our home and one of the things I most want to tackle this spring as part of a front yard makeover. Luckily, I have a few talented stone masons in the family so this should be a fairly easily project once I decide on the materials I want. Those terrible bushes flanking the door need to be ripped out ASAP too but they’ll remain until I decide what they’ll be replaced with, so stay tuned.

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Upcoming spring project: The back patio

The back stairs are equally hideous, but less pressing since the back patio overshadows it in hideousness. I also envision the patio extending well past where it currently ends, reaching closer to the back of the garage for really expansive entertaining space. Some built in seating, planters and a fire pit or pizza oven would be fabulous too, but I don’t know how deep I want to dive with a baby on the way in early summer. I think a simple phase I patio makeover is in order, but again, stay tuned.

All in all, I’m really pleased with where things are headed and am excited to continue to layer in the more homey items as the weather gets warmer and the antique and thrift markets and fairs open up so I can really start to hunt for treasures to round out outfitting our first home.

Happy Halloween from Madeline

5 Nov

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I felt a little silly as we approached our neighbor’s house so Emilia could have her first trick-or-treating experience this year. For weeks, Brian and I worked on trying to get her to say just “treat” but the whole concept seemed a little over her head. There was also the Halloween candy she enjoyed for w-e-e-k-s ahead of time. I shudder to think of what her dentist will say. I figure, they’re just the baby teeth, right? But I think introducing the candy early was probably what saved the night.

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There was also the fact that she’d just been sewn into her Madeline costume which I slaved over for about a week and half prior to Halloween but finished as night fell, day-of. I winged the design, but based it on a similar style dress of Emilia’s that fit a little big so you can imagine the amount of cursing when the little shift dress I’d sewn barely fit over her head. The back had to be cut open a bit which I was able to conceal by cutting the cape a bit longer but the whole “homemade costume” fantasy I’d had was pretty much dust from the moment I used press-n-seal bonding glue as a shortcut to finish the red cape tie on Day 1 of Project-Homemade-Costume. Here’s hoping next year’s costume is easier to DIY than this one. I didn’t even attempt to track down a Madeline hat because I knew she probably wouldn’t want to wear it, which was smart in hindsight, though it would have been so cute for photos.

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Cut to the moment she saw the candy. Her eyes went wide as saucers and she basically dove into the candy bowl. We practically ran between houses with her after that. And if there was a family pet in the house, Emilia welcomed herself in for a meet and greet.

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We only toured our immediate neighborhood and met a few of the neighbors we’d not yet had a chance to connect with since we moved in, but it was such a fun time. Especially since Emilia’s Nana and her Aunt and godmother, Skylar, accompanied us.

5She was an absolute pro at knocking on doors and absolutely charming with everyone she met, smiling and waving and politely only taking ONE piece of candy despite absolutely barreling towards the candy like a maniac, and immediately depositing it into her little candy corn trick or treat bag from my mom. (She’s been obsessed with this bad since it first came into her hands — it’s been her near-constant accessory for the last month).
10So all in all, a really great night! The little munchkin enjoyed a few M&Ms but was in bed shortly after returning home for the night, a little after 7 PM. Then Brian and I watched the new Ghostbusters which was absolutely hilarious, before passing out in a sugar coma. I’m so excited for future years of trick-or-treating as she gets a little older and starts to have some sense of what it’s all about and what she wants to dress as.

I don’t imagine we’ll ever be totally into Halloween the way we are about Christmas and I can’t see us dressing up for a family costume, but I did toss around a Game of Thrones costume idea to Brian the other day with Emilia as the Khaleesi and some stuffed dragons, just for fun.

House Hunting, Update 3 — It’s Official

13 Jun

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It’s official: we’re homeowners!!! We closed on our first house last week!!! It was an anxiety-ridden whirlwind from the open house to the closing but we survived.  I can’t overstress how elated I felt being handed the keys as we left the closing; I wanted to scream I was so euphoric. We couldn’t stop smiling.

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We even got a sweet Disney keychain in the deal (score)

It was a long, hard road to home ownership for us but I can’t say I have any regrets because we benefitted from everything we learned. (It’s much easier to say that in hindsight!) All that heartache served a purpose: when we saw this house, we knew we had to move fast, submit a really strong offer since there was a lot of interest, and write a really good letter to the sellers.  I have to thank my mom for this last tip actually.

Throughout the home-buying process, she frequently reminded me that “You never know the motivation of the seller” and to basically assume nothing about what they are willing to take as far as price. Selling a home can be completely emotional or not at all. You never know. And she also reminded me that you get the house your meant to have, which is exactly how I feel about our new place compared to the two others we nearly called home.

We’ve gotten a LOT done in the 5 days since the closing, but before I recap where we are, here are a few pictures from the closing, final walkthrough and celebrations last week:

IMG_7677Much more closing paperwork than I anticipated

IMG_7661Brian and Emilia walking the yard during the final walkthrough before the closing

IMG_7684Emilia making herself at home in her new home – no pants here!

IMG_7728Picked up some celebratory Prosecco (+ Cabot’s sundaes) to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary AND first full day as homeowners

IMG_7727First priority — get my plants to my new garden

We returned to the house immediately following the closing and started to slap paint samples up on the walls, unload the window boxes I planted weeks ago so they’d be ready to go up ASAP, and unpack the box of “Helper Supplies” we put together filled with things like:

bottled water and snacks
hand soap
paper plates and napkins
a First Aid kit
Tylenol and Ibuprophen
Hand towels and rags
Trash bags
Scissors
An iPhone charger

Here’s a quick recap of the past few days:

My family stopped by shortly after for a walkthrough with my brother Kevin who’d not yet been through the house, and there were celebratory Starbucks’ Smore Frappuccios at some point — heavenly! We net two neighbors — Eileen and Nancy and Emilia admired every single dog that was walked in our new neighborhood from her perch, peering out the front screened door. At some point, I found time to paint the front door a gorgeous shade of blue by Benjamin Moore called: Spectra Blue. (Love how it turned out!!!)

My mom and I started to remove the 10,000 hostas  (really large, leafy plants) lining the garage to prepare the space for the garden that will be focal point for the coming summer. Brian and I met with one more floor guy who we loved, so we scrapped plans to have our families over to paint this past weekend, and had our oak floors refinished and stained. Don was nice enough to show we a few different stains since I could decide what I wanted and I absolutely love how they turned out.

Related to the floors: due to the timing of when we could be fit in for them, we ended up spending our first night in the new house a little sooner than we’d expected. We’d forgotten we had a Dave Matthew’s Band show on Friday night so it didn’t make sense to drive home to Watertown if we needed to be back at the house at 8 AM to let the floor crew in, so after a deep vacuuming session and some Swiffering, we just threw two twin mattresses on the dining room floor.  It was fun to sleep over in the new place before we made any drastic changes to it.

And today (Sunday) my mom and I managed to get the “focal point” part of the garden completely planted in about only four hours. I’m wiped, so so thrilled. It’s coming together! More to come. Stay tuned!