Monday, December 15, 2014

Welcome Home, Drew!

Keeping up with the blog has been really difficult for the last four months for a very important reason:

Last December, Drew enlisted in the National Guard and began attending once-a-month weekend drill exercises here in Arlington while he waited to be sent off to Basic Training. On the morning of this past August 4th, I dropped Drew off at the airport and we began a four-month adventure. He would have a week and a half of in-processing, followed by ten weeks of Basic Training, followed by six weeks of Advanced Individual Training. I would be trying to stay busy at home and keep our house from falling apart.

It was so tough to write posts for the blog because I did not want to announce that he was gone. I felt like that would have been the equivalent of standing on the roof shouting, “Hello, creepy people of the Internet! The man of the house is away from home! Come on over!” Maybe I am paranoid, but better safe than sorry, I guess. I will share more about my experience in later posts, but for now I will spoil the ending by announcing that my incredible husband is now home again, he is an Army National Guard Cavalry Scout (Hooah!), and our house is still standing (Victory!).

You may have seen some of the projects I did around the house while he was gone; I finished the pantry and I recently painted the fireplace. I also cleaned up after that huge storm. I didn’t want to change TOO much before Drew returned, but I had one more trick up my sleeve prior to his homecoming. I got an elfa shelving coupon at work and I originally planned on redoing my craft closet because it is an atrocious mess. After I got that closet designed, I decided to see what it would cost to redo Drew’s closet. In a moment of TOTAL SELFLESSNESS and pure WIFELY AWESOMENESS, I splurged and purchased Drew’s closet and am saving the craft closet for a later time.

The shelving in Drew’s closet was broken and wobbly and I didn’t want him to have to come home to such a junky space. I had so much fun with the demolition of the shelving, patching a giant gash in the wall, painting the walls, and installing the shelving that I pretty much designed myself. When I open his closet door I feel proud and accomplished and, quite frankly, a little impressed. I learned in the last four months that I am capable of much more than I would have previously given myself credit for. I would never have attempted something like this on my own before Drew left. Drew taught me a lot about basic drywall construction when we did the pantry and I was trained on elfa design and installation in August, so the actual tasks themselves weren’t all that daunting to me anymore. Having the motivation and the drive and the ability to do these things was awesome.


Demolition! How does someone even get a gash that large into the wall? The only explanation I can come up with is that someone must have dragged the pole that hung across there against the drywall during installation.
It's not perfect, but I think I patched that hole up pretty well!

Shelving installed!

Lower half

Plenty of room for accessories!

Upper half


Pain-in-the-butt-to-install-hook-rack #1

Pain-in-the-butt-to-install-hook-rack #2 


On a more profound level, I had not fully realized just how great Drew has been for me until he left. For three years he has done nothing but build me up, and although I have always noticed and appreciated that about him, I finally got a chance to deeply feel the impact he has had on me. I think I exuded a new level of confidence that my family and friends noticed; I hope it came across as happiness and joy (and not arrogance). Amazingly, even though he was away, Drew still made me believe in myself and I think this project was a great way to wrap up my time at home alone before leaving to retrieve him. Drew loves his new closet and all I have left to say is, “Welcome home!”

Disclaimer: I do work for The Container Store, however, I receive no benefit for talking about my job or the store's products on this blog. All opinions expressed on this blog are my own and not those of The Container Store or any of its employees.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Fireplace Facelift

It has been over a month since The Big Storm rolled through here. There are still some big branches in the backyard that need to be cut up and bundled and put out by the curb, but that will get done one of these days. The time I spent cleaning up the yard filled up my house work quota for a while, but in the last couple of weeks I have been feeling the urge to get some more projects done around here.

From the moment I first stepped foot in our house, one of the things that bothered me the most was the paint color on the walls in the first floor living spaces. And it isn't just the fact that it is an epically boring shade of khaki, but that it was indiscriminately painted on everything that wasn't the ceiling. Did the built in cabinets really need to match the walls? Were you really too lazy to paint the doors a different color than the walls? Did the fireplace really need to blend in to the terribly painted wood paneling in the family room? Yuck.

Where is the fireplace? I can't see it because someone painted it the same color as the walls.

As Drew and I prepared to buy the house we daydreamed about our future there, inspiring Drew to take a picture from the listing and transform it through Photo Shop to show me how wonderful the room would look with the changes I envisioned. Personally, I think the white fireplace, which is NOT the same color as the walls (can I get a "DUH!"?), makes the room look taller and more open and is a great focal point. Hopefully someday we can make that flooring happen, too.

Oh, the magic that is Photo Shop!
So, after months of procrastination, I decided that having a whole day off of work was a sign that I was supposed to paint the fireplace today. One of my former coworkers coached me by telling me that if the existing paint came off with nail polish remover that it was acrylic based and I would be good to go painting over it without primer. I used paint with primer already in it anyway, but it was nice to not have to do too much extra prep work. I cleaned the brick really well, taped off the edges (which I realized I didn't do so well after I removed the tape. Oops! I am choosing to blame the yucky wood panel walls), and got to work!



Dear fireplace, I am going to let you dry for a few days and then I am going to decorate you for Christmas and you are going to be GORGEOUS! Love, Angie

What do you think?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Big Storm

Loooong time, no blogging. In the last month and a half I stained a bookshelf, got some great training at work, took a trip to visit my nieces and Sister-in-law in San Antonio, celebrated my birthday by buying a pair of cowgirl boots, went to the wedding of one of my best friends in Maryland, got more great training at work, and began attending the young adult group at my church. I also learned how to crochet, and I am a wee bit addicted. You can understand, then, how I may have been distracted and slacking in the blogging department.

Not much has changed around the house since I finished the pantry, until recently, and it wasn’t by choice. Maybe you heard about the big storm that came through Texas? If not, let me just tell you that it was one of the scariest storms I have ever experienced because it came on so fast and it was so strong. A college campus a mile from my house lost half of the roof on a huge building. One of my coworkers has a flag pole in her front yard - it was bent in half. Basically, I expected to see a tornado coming towards my house. We were without power for 64 hours which, although it was a totally new experience for me, really wasn't bad, it was just unexpected.

Spoiler alert; the house is just fine, but some of our tree branches didn’t fare as well. I have spent many hours in the last week raking the yard and braking down tree limbs and branches. 23 garbage bags later, the yard is almost clear. Anyway, as I went into potential survival mode that afternoon, about a thousand thoughts ran through my mind. I tried to replicate them in real-time style and, for your entertainment, here they are:

Last Thursday afternoon I was upstairs, being all crafty, when the wind picked up out of nowhere, swirling leaves all around the house. In the few remaining moments I had with the Internet, I checked the weather reports: severe thunderstorm, hail, wind, and possible tornadoes. My favorite!

When it pours down rain here, our driveway turns into rapids that rip dirt, grass, and plants out of our yard.

Add caption

Electricity? Forget about it. It was out within minutes of the storms arrival. Being someone who loves weather updates during storms, I was not happy about this.

“Dear God, please don’t let anything happen to the house while Drew isn't here. Or to me.”

Text Daddy, because he is even more obsessed with weather reports than I am.

“I really need to get that weather emergency box together, with our radios that get weather reports. Where is the only cheap flashlight that we own? Found it. Whew!”

It was the first time in my life that I really thought there might be a tornado in my midst. The wind tore down tree limbs and dropped them in the backyard, only feet away from the house.

The backyard aftermath

“Do I feel like going out there to get the car into the garage with the door that needs to be opened and closed manually? Probably not. The hail isn’t that big. Thank goodness.”

Grab purse, grab water bottles. Go to the bathroom. Grab dog. Head to pantry, put snacks into purse and leave it there, just in case. It’s kind of awesome that the pantry is the “safe room.” We need more snacks.

“It has been so long since I have experienced a power outage . . . MANY years . . . if we ever lose the ability to generate and distribute electricity, life is not gonna be fun.”

When you lose electricity, you eat canned tuna for dinner and you prepare it by candlelight. Very classy.

Walk laps inside the house, look out every window and pray the storm stays under control. Hold my friend's shaking dog, tell him it will be okay, it calms me down, too. Wipe rain water off the stove because, yes, it rained so hard that it rained through the exhaust fan vent.

The wind died down, the tiny hail melted, and eventually the pouring rain turned to a drizzle and then gave way to gorgeous sunshine. I thanked God and high-fived the dog because hey, we don’t have power and I don’t know what I am going to do about the small jungle that fell into my backyard, but we are alright and it could have been so much worse.

I can't begin to express how lucky we are that the branches only fell on the grass. They all missed power lines, the house, and the grill.
"I 'get' to clean up this mess!" (It was actually great exercise.)

I couldn't let those branches sit there without giving them a photo shoot first.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

I love living in Arlington. We are right in between Dallas and Fort Worth and all the amazing opportunities and entertainment they have to offer. One benefit of living in the Metroplex is having double the fun from which to choose; two zoos, two botanical gardens, more museums than you can count, sports teams galore, and every very small town has its own festival or trademark event that they promote throughout the year. Everyone wants to attract attention and attendees, so often times things are free or admission prices are reduced! Yay for us!

In January, Drew and I checked out the Dallas Zoo during "Penguin Days" (not sure why I didn't write a post about it). Since January and February are cooler months and people are less likely to think of spending a day at the zoo, tickets are only $5.00! It was a great visit and the weather was perfect on the day we went. At the other end of the spectrum, August is quite hot and so the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens hosts Dollar Days. So, for $14.16, my friend and I were able to pay for parking, admission, and two smoothies!

We arrived early on the last Saturday of the event, expecting the place to be packed; it was busy, but not as crowded as I anticipated. The sky was cloudy and the air was a bit humid, but the fog burned off and the sun was blazing by the time we left. We only planned to stay for about two hours, but we could have been there all day! If you like walking slowly and taking macro photos, the arboretum is the place to be. I can't wait to take Drew - he'll go camera crazy! Plus, the plants are all labeled, which will make him very happy, because he believes it should be the law to display the names of flowers and plants in public places. We'll have to go back to research what types of flowers to plant come springtime. Part of me wishes I had brought one of my fancier cameras with me, but I am honestly astounded at how well my pocket-sized point and shoot performed. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures I took!

This butterfly bush was covered with bees! I think the trick to avoiding bees and wasps at home will be to have lots of flowers. Those insects didn't even care that we were there.

These purple gnomes are just like the ones in our front yard. I am glad that ours look as good as the arboretum's!

There are 4 conditions that make spiders an acceptable part of my life. 1) They must be outside, 2) They must be far away from my house, 3) They must be small and cute, 4) They must pose for pictures.

The only thing missing from this pond was frogs on the lily pads.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Dream Pantry!!!!!!

How do you like this little teaser?

Disclaimer: My reasons for posting these pictures of my pantry are selfish. I want everyone to be jealous of the gorgeous space I have created, but, I also want you to know that it is POSSIBLE and DOABLE and not even all that bad to take on a challenge like this one. Go for it!

Have you ever imagined something in your head and then made it come into real life existence? It has happened to me before with the peg people that I have painted and some of the sewing projects I have completed. I have also experienced the imagination-to-reality phenomenon with some of the lessons I planned for my students. What a great feeling it is to take an idea and make it come to life! The biggest project I have ever dreamed up is now a REAL THING thanks to some amazing teamwork on the part of my husband and me and some of our supporters (namely, Kayla and Mom and Dad). Not to brag (except that I am actually bragging), but what you are about to witness is the epic transformation of a sad, disgusting room under the stairs into a beautiful and sunshiny pantry.

The moment that we first toured the house that is now our home, before we even closed on it, the wheels in my head were already turning- "What am I going to do about that pantry?" Here is what I had to work with:

This space had so much potential, but it was being used very inefficiently. Plus it smelled so bad, I couldn't imagine putting food in there.

I found some inspiration on Pinterest and, because I know Drew is scared of colorful walls, I even did a mock-up of my dream pantry in PowerPoint. Now, just to clarify, when I call this my dream pantry, I quite literally had dreams about black and white tile floors and yellow walls. Knowing that the pantry would be behind a closed door, my wonderful husband accepted my dream and let me run with it. We were a great team throughout the process and I learned a lot. I wasn't really happy that it took two and half months to wrap it all up, but the feeling of success, however delayed, is gratifying.

The inspiration for my dream pantry!

I know this is super nerdy, but I had a lot of fun making this.

The first thing we had to do was demolish the foul, nasty, gross room under the stairs. The cats had peed in there, the carpet was straight up yucky, and the shelves were super duper lame. I was surprised at how fun demo was and how quickly we did it. We even had time to make a run to the dump that afternoon. At this point I was thinking I would have a pantry in no time at all. Um, not so much.
Buh-bye, you filthy walls!

There was so much hair and dust and fur in these walls . . . icky!!!!!!!

Drew liked having the opportunity to admire the construction of the house. We might not like every small detail left by previous owners, but the bones of this place are solid; they stood up to the test of Drew climbing all over them.

Over the next few weeks, Drew worked on hanging new drywall. When he initially told me he wanted to replace the drywall, he assured me that it would be an easy project. Well, I have learned that just because a project is easy, it is not necessarily quickly completed. Cutting, taping, mudding, sanding, repeating. I'll admit that at times I was frustrated when other projects around the house took precedence over my pantry, but having a working HVAC is important, too, so I just had suck it up buttercup.
This is what properly puckered drywall screws look like. I did at least one of these! Probably the one on the right.

Drywall mud is so cool! I think it looks like nougat, but it just wouldn't taste the same.

We were terribly busy during the month of July, and not much work got done in the pantry or elsewhere in the house. The most important thing we did was design our shelving! It's the most important part of the pantry, and I was most eager to get that detail all squared away. 

SO EXCITING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Once we had a few moments of spare time, we laid down the beautiful black and white tile floor. The process of laying the tiles was much faster than I imagined it would be. The worst part was cleaning the grout off of the tiles.

The spacers hanging out amongst the tiles reminded me of a chess game.

And THEN, thanks to a fantastic friend who gave me a Lowe's gift card, I was able to paint the walls! The paint color I chose is called Fuzzy Navel by Olympic and it is an intense yellow. Note to all DIY-ers: even if you buy paint with primer in it, PRIME YOUR DRYWALL. I painted one wall with five coats of paint before I sent Drew to get primer before I continued with the rest. Painting in such a small space was a nice workout, too; I did a lot of squats without even realizing it as I made floor to ceiling paint strokes with my roller.

Black and white tiles and yellow walls! I can hardly stand it, it is so beautiful!

When the walls had dried, I decided to tackle the tile baseboard on my own. My mindset was positive at the start, ready to breeze right through it. It was all good until I had to break one of the tiles to make it fit the empty space on the wall. Drew had shown me how to score and break ceramic tiles when we did the floor tile. He made it look as easy as snapping a chocolate chip cookie in half. I felt like I was trying to break a diamond in my hands, leaving me feeling defeated and helpless. Many tears were shed. And not the cute kind, where you can still talk and function as you cry. These were the ugly you-know-you-are-crying-for-a-stupid-reason-but-you-haven't-cried-in-a-while-and-it-feels-sort-of-good-so-you-just-go-with-it-because-what-is-the-point-in-stopping-now?-and-then-you-start-laughing-because-you-are-crying-and-then-you-start-crying-again-because-you-are-so-frustrated kind of tears. After I was done with that special moment, I pulled up my big girl pants and tried again. If I am nothing else when I set out to do something, I am persistent. A YouTube video saved my frazzled nerves and I gave it another go, this time with success! I bought five extra tiles for the parts that would need to be cut, and I returned three of them to Home Depot, so that makes me feel proud.

Bringing out the big guns for this project. Please make sure you know all the tricks to using a caulk gun BEFORE you do your project. My hands still hurt because I didn't take the time to learn the helpful tips first.

The key to breaking the tile cleanly was to place something thin underneath the scored line. The video I watched recommended a wire hanger. Since I don't have any of those, I used a metal skewer. I still had to stand on the tiles to break them, but it actually worked, and that is all that mattered to me.
Dear small tile, You were a pain in the butt to create, and although I am happy that you exist, if you were a person walking down the street, I would have to try really hard to not punch you in the face. Love, Angie

Everything happened really quickly after I had the tiles placed on the wall. Grouting and caulking were a breeze, and then I was ready to install the shelves! Drew and my Dad did an incredible job of installing the top tracks that provide the horizontal support for the shelves. Normally, a design doesn't have more than one track to support the same shelves across both, but in the case of our oddly shaped pantry, we were rebels. When I placed a level on each shelf today, it was darn near perfect, and I love them so much for doing the one part of the installation that intimidated me the most.

And now, are you ready to see my picture perfect dream pantry?! Honestly, my only regret is that these pictures don't truly convey how beautiful it is. So, if you need to see it in real life, come by for a visit. :)

Shelving that makes sense!

I think this picture gives the best representation of the wall color.

There is so much space in this pantry that I don't even have it all filled up yet!
The magazine files that are holding my cookbooks are yellow on the inside, just like my walls!

Keep Calm and Cook On

Thus far, I have a green kitchen and a yellow pantry. What's next?! I am thinking a blue laundry room sounds good.