Tuesday, December 9, 2014

decking the sparse halls

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We’re preparing to move so the house is looking a little different than it usually does this time of year. The decorations were coming down out of the attic anyway, but I’d be lying if I said we hooked all those ornaments and carefully loaded the branches without a single thought of ‘should we really be doing this?’ Should we really decorate just to take it all down in two and a half weeks?

That indecision only lasted a minute or two. The answer is, Yes we should! In the midst of the chaos that is our home right now we needed this one room that still has a few familiar stuff hanging out on the walls. We needed cozy comforters still unpacked and a few beautiful things still on shelves. And we needed that tree in our home, to remind us to enjoy every minute that we are here.

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And Christmas wouldn’t feel complete without a project so before I packed up my glue gun, I grabbed some yarn and an old book and made a tree garland.

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A paper garland seemed like the perfect craft to get the kids involved in. Jonathan, being 6, thinks punching holes in book pages is the bomb. I’m thinking about putting a paper punch in his stocking this year. But then again… maybe not. 

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Once we had enough holes punched out, and most rescued from the floor, we folded them all in half.

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Then we took two pieces and glued the sides together at the fold.

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I attached the pieces to the string along the fold using hot glue. This is the part where I burned my fingers twenty times before I figured out how to keep them out of the way. This is also the part where the kids informed me I was on my own for the rest of the project.

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Once the glue dried I covered the string with the third paper piece. Glue it down and we’re done.

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Only ten more feet of garland to go!

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I think it made the tree this year.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

tree searching

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We are trying our very best to have December as usual around here, but squeezing all of our favorite traditions and activities in between cleaning out closets and dismantling furniture has been challenging. We have had to let a few things go, but we all agreed that decorating the house was a must this year. Any extra work it creates will be worth the two weeks we get to enjoy it. I could not commit to the two hour drive for our usual Christmas tree farm so we drove ten minutes into town and found a pre-cut “farm” on the corner. We didn’t get to cut our pick down, but the boys still played hide and seek between the trees and the air still smelled and pine, hot chocolate and friendly “Merry Christmas” greetings.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving to sooth the soul

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I was not ready for Thanksgiving to arrive this year. Just because it comes at the end of November and I am feeling decidedly iffy about all that December will entail this year. The dates have been set. Plans have been made. A few days before Christmas we will pack up our house and move in with my parents so that we can be close to Caleb’s new assignment.

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How are we all feeling about this? Well, there are mixed emotions for sure. Most days I go through the full rollercoaster. This is a big change for us and big changes are usually somewhat hard to swallow at first. At the end of the day I remember that this change means my husband will get to come home to his family every night. Pretty much anything is worth that.

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But I’m only human so most days I’m a little mournful of putting almost everything in storage and saying goodbye to this house and this town where we have raised two little boys, two little doggies and learned so much about love and life. Perhaps moving is easier when you know where you’re going to end up, but that is an unknown for us. We are fully reliant on God’s direction. The greatest adventure of all.

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So yes. I scrooged a bit about Thanksgiving… right up until we parked at the lake house and I got a whiff of golden light soaking through the trees and across the dining room table. It’s ridiculously hard to be anything but thankful with a view like that.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

kitchen improvements

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We’ve been focusing our efforts on the kitchen during the past few weeks. I had to dig up a photo from 2011 because that’s the last time I took one. We haven’t done much in here since painting the cabinets several years ago. That was a story all by itself. First the cabinets were taupe, and then they were blue, and then they were blue and white, and then they were less blue and more white. It was like the paint job that never ends. Luckily, I’ve been pretty happy with them since then.

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The only thing we really disliked about the kitchen was the brown and black matching laminate countertops and backsplash. They were dark and dingy. They hid dirt… and appliances. They were ultra durable, but not very fun to look at. We dubbed this area of the kitchen the “sea of laminate”. It was time for it to go.

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We started off by peeling up all the laminate from the backsplash and countertops. I encourage the boys to get involved in projects if it’s something they are interested in. Jonathan thinks demolition is God’s gift to mankind. If our projects involve tearing something up, he’s usually the first to volunteer.

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Our wood pile in the garage contained a handful of 12 foot long cypress boards that were given to us by some friends when they moved out of town. We’d used a little bit of the wood for small projects, but had been saving the majority of it to do something big. Turns out we had just enough boards to turn the cypress into a kitchen countertop. 

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We found a local cabinet maker who cut and planed the boards for us so they would fit together seamlessly. Then Caleb used wood glue and a plethora of clamps to hold the pieces together overnight. 

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We filled all small cracks and knots with wood filler and sanded the countertops for hours with 80, 180 and 220 grit sandpaper. Sanding is my least favorite part of projects. It gets everywhere. Ew.

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We didn’t originally plan to put a new sink in the kitchen, but it sort of made sense. The plumbing under our old sink was a disaster. The pipes were sloped wrong and one drain would bubble while the other sink was draining. I was determined to fix it and we decided to put in a deeper, single basin sink while we were at it.

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My philosophy for cutting holes in big important things (like countertops) is to measure ten times and only cut once. Or leave the measuring to Caleb while I look over his shoulder and second guess everything. I’m ultra helpful like that.

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More sanding.

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This is the larger section of countertops. We laid them upside down and dry fit them together to make sure the corners lined up nicely. Okay, I admit to being the doubtful one.

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The next thing we did was take a week and finish the tops with five coats of stain/poly and five more coats of straight polyurethane. I am notorious for rushing on finishes so I really had to sit on my hands and let each coat dry completely. The result was a smooth surface that beads water nicely.

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Once the finish had cured we attached the sink to the underside of the counter.

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There were particle board counters under the laminate we ripped out and we decided to leave them in and install the new counters over top of them. This would provide extra stability and keep us from having to do extra demolition. Caleb had to trim a lot of the particle board to make things fit correctly. That collection of dust on top of the dish washer? Super fun. We orchestrated this trim by setting the new counter in place and marking any spots that didn’t fit correctly. Caleb calls this a “MacGyver Installation”. Most of our projects include something harry like this. It eventually meant we were without a kitchen sink for 24 hours or so.

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When everything fit correctly we applied wood glue between the particle board and the cypress and clamped everything down.

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In the places that clamps wouldn’t work Caleb fashioned some makeshift wedges to keep the counter flat until the glue cured.

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While waiting for the counters to set we tackled the plumbing and reconnected the water.

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The kids were really happy to have running water in the kitchen again. I was happy to do dishes somewhere other than the bathtub.

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The following weekend we tiled the backsplash. I’m really digging subway tiles right now. They’re cheap, simple and they go with everything.

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Here’s photographic proof that I dress like a lumberjack while tiling.

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Compared to the other aspects of this kitchen, the backsplash went quickly. We grouted the next morning and caulked the seams to finish things out.

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Common sense tells me the kitchen isn’t larger, but it feels huge without the expanse of brown laminate. And the separation between backsplash and counter is wonderful. I no longer feel like dishes are being sucked into a dark abyss.

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