Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Tale of Two Christmas Trees

It was never our intention to be a two-tree house. Sure, we knew that a nice big tree would look lovely in our front, street-facing window. But it wasn't exactly high on the priority list. The "real" tree, the tree we'd chop down ourselves and celebrate Christmas morning under, would be in the den, off of the kitchen. And so it was, last year, on our first Christmas in the Big Yellow House. All was right with the world. For a few weeks, anyway.

On December 22, 2007, a Saturday, we were frantically preparing for our family's Christmas party. I don't remember exactly what I was doing, but rest assured it involved last minute cooking, cleaning, gift wrapping, kid bathing and a whole lot of last minute hurrying, in general. Earlier in the month I had purchased a beautiful, big, white poinsettia plant from Home Depot. As I do most years, I tweaked it to my liking, decorating it with whatever sparkle-y holiday fare from Michael's struck my fancy, and used it for a kitchen table centerpiece. In my maniacal gift wrapping, child dressing craze, I had forgotten to return the poinsettia to its place of honor on the table, which had become wrapping paper central, and so it sat on the corner of our kitchen counter for the night, while we were out partying it up with 40 of our closest relatives and Mr. Claus himself.

When we returned home, I brought the little guys up to bed. One had fallen asleep in the car and the other required some slight coaxing and "rocking chairing" to return him to his previous state of slumber. Mike headed into the kitchen to do some post-frenzy clean up. When I came downstairs a good half hour later, a found Mike frantically wiping down all flat surfaces in the kitchen, with a look of disgust, mixed with...."I don't flippin' believe this"on his face. Mike turned to look at me and the first words out of his mouth were, "Thank God you didn't get here first." What? Did I miss something? Mike's eyes were darting all around the room as he told me what he walked in on....

He had begun clearing off the kitchen table when something caught his eye.....a web. A spider web. Between the pendant lights over the kitchen table. A spider web with spiders ON IT. Many spiders. MANY MANY MANY spiders. all the size of a "." Then, another web, from the pendant lamp to the very top of the poinsettia plant. The poinsettia plant, covered in mini-webs. And then, as his eyes followed the plant to the lights, the lights to the ceiling, an entire ARMY of them. Marching in line, all the way down the center of the living room. Some had paused at the ceiling fan, creating yet more webs and others had moved the Christmas tree. Thousands and thousands of tiny, brand new baby spiders. Calling our Christmas tree their new home. About 48 hours before Santa's due arrival.

It took hours to clean up the disaster. All in all, the spiders had made it over twenty feet away from their nest. All the while fanning out in different directions. The tree had to be bagged and thrown out. The same fate awaited the garland that had decorated the cabinet tops. And the damn poinsettia plant, that I had had my hands in and out of so many times while intricately positioning my decorations, that got the boot right out the back door. The poor kids woke up to a scene straight out of the Grinch. Someone had stolen Christmas! We called Home Depot first thing the next morning.

I listened while Mike explained what had happened. Yes, we bought a poinsettia plant from your store, yes it housed a nest of unhatched baby spiders. Yes, the spiders hatched in our house and infested our living room, kitchen and ALL of our Christmas decorations. Yes, we still have the plant (for evidence, just in case). Yes, we'll be right down.

As soon as we got to Home Depot, the woman behind the customer service counter called the manager we had talked to on the phone. He came down, found out who we were, shuddered just a little bit and said, "Give them whatever they want."

Now, I like to think we didn't abuse the situation, though I do believe we deserved to abuse it. We picked out some garlands to replace the ones we had to toss and then it was time to grab a replacement Christmas tree. Of course, Mike had already told the manager, in no uncertain terms, that his wife would NOT be allowing anything further from the Home Depot gardens into the house. So naturally, we went with an artificial tree.

And you better believe we picked out the biggest, most expensive one they had. It looks perfect in our front window ;)

So, we are now a two-tree family. One artificial and one real. It's been very nice having the two trees. One more for "show" and the other for all the usual, sentimental reasons.

We are also now a strictly artificial poinsettia family. But really, can you blame us?

Wishing you all a wonderful, spider-free Holiday Season! See you in '09!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Now How Do I Explain This to the Neighbors?

When Mike and I were house-shopping, we had a list of the usual criteria to fill, for the most part.

In or close to our hometown? Check.

Big enough to grow into? Check.

Historic charm? Check.

Affordable? Check. Kinda.

Yard big enough to house a hockey rink? Check.

Yes, that really was one of the things my husband took into consideration when buying the house. Normally, I would've given him some grief over such a thing, but the words "three shower-head shower" worked a strange kind of magic on me. And so I caved, with visions of future hour-long showers dancing in my head.

I guess it's only a minor technicality that the shower still isn't finished. The hockey rink, however, is moving right along. Just in time. I'm sure Mike and the boys will get much use out of the rink this Winter. Actually, I'm not sure the boys have much of a say in the matter, especially since our college plans for them are "hockey scholarship." I'm only kind of kidding. Besides, isn't "Finn Granara" is great pro hockey name? See, that's what I thought!

Can you believe they sell kits to do this? Hockey fans must be especially die-hard. Mike still has to add the liner and fill it with water, but here it is so far, in all it's glory - our very own hockey rink:

He's so crazy. But that's why I love him.

Friday, November 14, 2008

You Gotta Love That

Thermostat set at 63 and the house a balmy 70 degrees.

Sometimes that Mike really knows what he's talking about! I have to admit, when he first started babbling about some cellar-dwelling, wood burning stove-type thing that could heat the house, I had my doubts. But the man pulled it off. Screw you, Keyspan.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh Crap.

Tagged!?! I'm not so sure I can come up with 8 random facts about myself (sad, isn't it?). I'm also not so sure I even know 8 other bloggers well enough to tag them (also sad). But here goes anyway, because I really like Jen and she's the one who tagged me :)

1. I am a HUGE Lost fan and am counting the days til January 21st!

2. Mike and I were high school sweethearts and started dating at the ripe old age of 16. There was a five year relationship hiatus in there somewhere, but obviously things worked out the way they were supposed to.

3. I gained 12 pounds during my last pregnancy and gave birth to an (almost) 9 lb baby. One of the few genetic traits I'm thankful for is the ease with which I have gone through my pregnancies.

4. I can moonwalk.

5. My husband lost his best friend five years ago. Cullen is (middle) named after him.

6. I fell in the "log ride" at Canobie Lake Park when I was six. Obviously, I survived.

7. Mike and I renovated our entire house via craigslist. You name it, we got it on craigslist. If anyone out there needs any reno on a budget tips, we're your guys.

8. I am a Tetris prodigy.

Okay, now I'm off to find 8 blogger friends...this might take a while.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tis (Almost) the Season

On Monday, when I left for work, there weren't any speakers in my kitchen ceiling. On Monday, when I got home from work, there were. Just like that. Magic.

Last year, when Mike was putting up new ceilings on the first floor, he wired the entire floor for in-ceiling speakers. We didn't actually have the speakers at the time, but he made a "map" of the wires, for when the time came. And the time came on Monday, with the purchase of the first set of speakers.

They still need to be painted out to match the white ceiling, but they aren't as terrible of an eyesore as I feared they'd be.

When we bought the house, there was a little broom closet in the kitchen that would be surviving the gut job, so Mike and I decided this would be a great place to house all the electronic components for our surround sound and ceiling speakers. I had an old set of bi-fold doors and a single door from that set ended up fitting the frame perfectly! No adjustments needed.

The door's frosted glass front ended up being a surprising bonus, as all of our remote controls work right through the door and that eliminates the need to open it. All of the unsightly electronics and wires are conveniently hidden. We still haven't decided if we should paint the door or not.

Although he won't admit it, the real reason Mike wanted ceiling speakers throughout the house is for Christmas music. Yes, that's right, he is going around cutting holes into our brand new ceilings and installing speakers in every room so we can listen to Christmas music throughout the entire first floor of the house. He's just one of those people who loves everything about Christmas. And most of the time, I love him for it. Our radios (house and car) have been tuned to the "Christmas music station" since they began playing (on November 1st!).

All in all, I think the speakers are a nice idea. At the very least, they'll make for nice ambiance during our first Christmas party in the Big Yellow House.

On another note, Cullen continues his run as Kid Most Likely to Give an Adult a Heart Attack. Honestly, the kid has zero sense of caution. On Monday night, while attempting to climb up the wrong side of a chair, the chair fell backward on top of him, hit him in the face, and caused his right canine tooth TO GO RIGHT THROUGH HIS UPPER LIP. Clear through to the other side. I've heard of this happening, but had never seen it and promptly proceeded to flip out until Mike assured me that there was nothing that could be done for it, and cleaning it would be enough.

To top THAT off, once Cullen had calmed down (which literally took five seconds - I was still breathing into a paper bag at this point) he went for some extra gross-out points by chugging a large bottle of ORANGE JUICE while every adult in the room simultaneous groaned and cringed. The kid didn't so much as bat an eyelash.

Oy. My heart can't take much more of this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mudroom, Interrupted

I have written (complained) before about the complete and utter lack of storage space in the Big Yellow House. Which, in a 3,000 sq. ft. house seems slightly ridiculous. Supposedly, the lack of storage is due to the fact that back in the day, say 1897, people didn't generally own 1,200 outfits and 500 pairs of shoes. Not that I do (although my husband will tell you otherwise). It just seems like I do - comparatively speaking.

The little mudroom off the kitchen was a part of the house that really sold me on the place. Not only is it conveniently located, but it's not too big and I've always liked the idea of using a back door entrance. Now, with two little boys who, I swear, secrete dirt from their pores, I like the idea even more.

Mike has created a really great plan for the mudroom, complete with custom Mike-made, bench, cubbies and coat hooks. I have been waiting with bated breath to have full access to and use of our new mudroom. Til then, we have coats on chairs, coats on doors, coats on coats. Seriously. They. Are. Everywhere. We need this mudroom like Gary Busey needs rehab.

We were full steam ahead on the project for the last couple of weeks, painting the room the ever-popular Monroe Bisque and hanging a (nice looking!) drop ceiling. We begrudgingly decided to go with a drop ceiling in the mudroom, as the second floor laundry will be directly above this space. You know, just in case. Mike got enough done for me to get these "sneak preview" pics in:

The true paint color kind of got lost in the rainy-day-8:00 AM light. In person, it looks nice and warm. We think the bead board is original to the house and Mike did a really great job patching it. And I have to admit, even I, the World's Biggest Drop Ceiling Hater, actually like the ceiling. Yep, things were lookin' pretty good!

Unfortunately, Mike has recently deemed himself "burnt out." He says he doesn't know why. Hmm, might have something to do with the renovating an entire house while working a full-time job while watching two dirt-secreting kids 32 hours a week. But I'm not a doctor.

Obviously, the important thing here is for Mike to rest and relax til he feels up to getting back to work. He doesn't seem to consider this an option and I gotta say, I get worried sometimes. Maybe some of you can talk some "take care of yourself!" sense into him?

Surely I can live in coat hell for another couple of weeks. It's a lot nicer than asbestos hell and lead paint hell.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Does Anyone Have $545,000 I Can Borrow? No?

This house is currently my #1 obsession...

It just came on the market in our hometown. A lot this size (28,000 sq. ft.) is practically unheard of in our city, never mind that the house itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for it's architecture. Ladies and gentleman, the George P. Fernald House or, as I like to call it, my future home:

What kind of person makes it to the tail end of a renovation that tested the every fiber of their being and immediately starts to daydream about another fixer-upper? I'm sick.

Funny story about the house, though:

On Saturday, my husband and I actually met the listing broker to get a look at the house (what can I say, I literally could not resist). At the last second, my son Cullen - the two-year old - asked if he could come with us. Sure.

So, we get over to the house and meet the broker in the foyer. I am immediately awestruck and in love. With the house, not the broker.

As we're introducing ourselves and making small talk, I feel something curious inside Cullen's pant leg (he's in my arms). While Mike talks with Mr. Broker, I discreetly peek inside Cullen's jeans, at the ankle, and see - his diaper!?! What the hell? How did that even HAPPEN?

To makes things even better (worse) he diaper is chock full of poop and pee. Yay! All I can think is, "Thank GOD this house smells like crap ALREADY."

Luckily, Mike decides to check out the cellar first. I follow him down there, pull the poopie diaper out of Cullen's pants, roll it up tightly, and tuck it into the waistband of my own jeans, under my shirt. At this point, I am willing to take desperate measures to conceal the incriminating evidence. So, we have a good laugh in the cellar, and go about looking at the house. I'm figuring since Cullen just pooped and peed, we should be good for at least a few minutes.

We continue touring the house, and it is every bit as gorgeous as I thought it would be. Of course, it is in need of MAJOR rehab, but that was to be expected. Hence the price (yes, $545,000.00 is a pretty good deal around here). I let Cullen run around on his own, within eye shot of course, and he even found a cool secret door here:

It opens to a closet in the next room.

All is well until we are ready to leave. Mike looks at Cullen and tries hard to stifle a laugh. Uh oh. That ain't good.

We say bye to Mr. Broker, get out to the porch and I say to Mike "What was that all about?" Still laughing, he points to Cullen, who now has a huge, telltale pee stain all over the front of his jeans.

I am SO embarrassed and worried that he got pee on the floor of the house somewhere. Luckily, after a quick check of his socks and shoes, I decide the pee has been contained in his pants. So, we hightail it home, clean the little guy up, and decide we probably aren't cut out for mansion livin' anyway.

Kid's lucky he's cute :)

Friday, October 24, 2008

As an Aside...

Why is it that when someone says, "She just had a baby, about three months ago" its perfectly acceptable. But when I say, "I just paid that bill, about three months ago" everyone acts like I'm crazy???

I'm just kidding. Mostly.

I've been thinking about the state of the economy a lot lately. My husband and I bought the big yellow house just as the market was beginning to turn, so we got a pretty fair deal. We were also lucky enough to have had equity in the property the day we bought it. Based on the size of the house and lot, we were able to qualify for an equity line right away - even after getting a high LTV first mortgage (we did NOT put 20%, or anything NEAR 20% down). So, even though things SUCK right now, and things especially SUCK for people stuck sinking staggering amounts of money into fixer-uppers, I guess it could be worse.

At work, we've been doing a LOT of bankruptcies. These aren't people who just went nuts with their credit cards (well, some of them are). For the most part, these are hardworking, home owning people who lost a job, or got sick, or had an ARM that they couldn't refinance. These are proud people who don't even want to tell me why they're calling. I want to tell them not to be embarrassed, that it's not their fault. But I don't, because I don't want to seem presumptuous or nosey.

In the face of all this, it's hard for me to blog about home decor. Often, it's even hard for me to read others' blogs on home decor. It feels excessive and frivolous when so many other people have "real" problems to worry about. Hence the complete and utter lack of posts lately.

After wrestling with this over the last few days, I've come to one huge, liberating, conclusion: There are always gonna be people who have "real" problems (and sometimes, I will even be one of them). There will always be economic hardship, violence, disease. And the best thing we can do for ourselves is cling to what makes us happy - family, friends, home, hobbies (including, dare I say it, decorating). If making your home beautiful makes you happy, why NOT do it? Right?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quick, Pointless Update

Here's my new chair (I got it for $140 at Jennifer Furniture in their clearance section - wooohoooooo!*):

And, the chair as modeled by Batman and Robin:

Here's my new mirror (I got it for $10 at a yard sale - wooohoooooo!*):

(I haven't quite mastered the art of getting myself out of the way for mirror shots.)

And, a close up of the mirror frame. This is one of those old, plaster mirrors. Very heavy. Very solid. Initially, I was gonna repaint it, but the chippy, old look of it has grown on me.

*Very little excites me more than a good bargain. Can you tell?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Piece by Piece

Seeing as we now have a house full of beautiful, original, hardwood floors, the project of the moment is area rugs...many of them.

Since the floors have been refinished, we've spent a LOT of time trying to decide what the heck to do for rugs. I've been leaning toward something solid or with a fairly plain print. Nothing too busy. I've been looking everywhere and either the color is wrong, the size is wrong, the pattern is wrong or the price wrong. Throughout this rug-searching mission, I have come to one ultimate realization: rugs are really friggin' expensive.

Area rugs for the living room, dining room and foyer could easily run over $2000. Oh, I could just see it: "Honey, we won't be eating dinner at all this month....but check my new dhurri!" Yeah, not gonna fly.

Desperate and at my wits end, I started flipping through the flor catalog that magically appears in my mailbox every so often. And I have to say, I'm impressed. The prices run the gamut, that's for sure, but several of the patterns I like best are only $9.99 per tile...

this one is called Finer Things and is currently my #1 choice:

this one is called Checkered Past:

and this one is called Twill Ride:

After some quick math, I realized I could get two rugs, both roughly 9' x 9', for about $700.00. This is great a for a lot of reasons, the top two being:

1. I'll end up with a square shaped rug, which would best fit the room, rather than settle for a standard rectangular rug.

2. The flor tiles give us the ability to replace any stained or damaged tiles, which, with two little boys in the house, is priceless.
So, it looks like we might be going with flor for the dining room and living room (not sure about the foyer yet).
All in all I think we're off to a good start.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A New Low?

Many of us decorating geeks have our favorite "movie houses" and find ourselves re-watching certain movies just for the eye candy (not the leading man-type eye candy). Some of us use these houses for inspiration, some try to emulate them completely and others just like to look at them. I've had my own "Top 5" movie houses list for a while. Does that sound pathetic? Guess it depends who you ask. Well anyway, here they are - in no specific order:

1. Somethings Gotta Give (duh)

2. The Door in the Floor (gorgeous house, gorgeous location, gorgeous, simple decor)

3. What Lies Beneath (again, gorgeous house, gorgeous location, gorgeous traditional decor)

4. Spanglish (seems like nothing matches and yet it all works)

5. The Holiday (BOTH HOUSES - so, technically, I guess this is a"Top 6" list)

Recently, I have seen a movie that I believe may be list-worthy. No, it's not the latest Nancy Meyers movie. And no, it's not Sex and the City either.

It's Flushed Away. As in, the animated children's movie about a rat who gets flushed down his own toilet. Yes, seriously. Is being jealous of a cartoon British couple unhealthy? Does it even matter? I'm already pathetic, after all.

Here are some stills from the movie. It's like the white-on-white toned paradise I've always dreamed of:

I love how the architecture is very traditional and the decor is semi-modern. I'm a sucker for a good mixture of modern and antique. It just looks so nice and clean.

Seeing dirt all over this beautiful white sofa makes my palms sweat.

I find myself pushing this movie on my kids just so I can watch it over and over again.

Why the hell did I just admit that?

All Apologies

Sorry for slacking...we have two sick kids right now (not too sick to wear their Batman capes while jumping off furniture, though).

Will be back with a new post tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


This door in our foyer leads to the World's Smallest Bathroom:
As it is such, my mother-in-law and I hatched a plan long ago to do something unique and unusual with the walls in the bathroom. Not only is the room tiny (meaning it can be painted/wallpapered/etc. for short money) but the door can always be closed on it anyway.

Well, a few weeks ago I was over on a message board and someone came in and posted that ferm living was having a HUGE sale on their wallpaper. $100 wallpaper for about $30 a roll. Needless to say I got over to the website as fast as I could type.
My initial thought was that ferm's wallpaper was a little too funky for my husband's taste. But, I simply COULD NOT RESIST such a bargain. And so I bought one roll, to cover the inside of a glass-front bookcase.

Well, wouldn't you know it - my husband ended up really liking the wallpaper (sometimes I don't give him enough credit!). So I figured I would need at least another roll (maybe two) to be able to do the bathroom and the bookcase. But yet again, I procrastinated all weekend and when I finally sat down to place my second order, THE ONE PATTERN I WANTED WAS SOLD OUT - OF COURSE. I swear, I think every other clearance pattern is still available except my lovely Kingflower pattern:

It's like the Pottery Barn chandelier fiasco all over again.

End rant.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Update Re: Salvation Army Chair

A few posts ago I wrote about the desk chair I picked up at Salvation Army...

I also wrote about wanting to paint it, but feeling guilty since it looked to be pretty old. Well, over the weekend I tried to find out more about the chair and started looking for any markings or stamps on it. Anything to help determine its age.

At first, the only thing I found were the numbers "1231" painted on the bottom of the chair. I was about to give up when I noticed a small plaque attached to the back of the seat. It reads: "Property of Defense Plant Corporation an Instrumentality of the United States Government."
Hmmm, maybe I shouldn't paint this?

From what I can gather from a few google searches, the Defense Plant Corporation was utilized during WWII to help manage the construction of plants used for the manufacture of boats, airplanes, etc. during the war. I can't find very much info on the Defense Plant Corp. at ALL. Anyone out there a history buff? Or happen to know anything about Defense Plant Corporation?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Making of an Au Pair Suite, Vol. III

This isn't exactly a perfect before and after post, as most of these pics aren't taken from the exact same angles, but you get the idea.

Here's the couch area "way before." Pretty much how it looked when we closed on the house, minus the cow border (you know that had to be the first thing to go):

And during construction, with some primer on the walls and the ceiling being scraped:

And, after:

And here's the "tv wall" during construction. It was important to use space efficiently in this small sitting area, so Mike made a built-in tv alcove above the stairs and opposite the couch:
Here's the finished tv alcove:

And a finished view of the bookcase next to the tv and the room leading into the bedroom:
The other side of the door to bedroom, in relation to the kitchen:
And a finished view of the kitchen:

So, all that's left to show of the au pair suite is the bedroom. It came out well, but not much was done in there as far as "construction." We refinished the floors, redid the ceiling and painted, but the basic shape of the room stayed the same. I will post some pics of that room in the next au pair suite installment.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hello Gorgeous!

I haven't been this happy (or this pleasantly surprised) since the Tom Brady "Tuck Rule" pass of '01.

More pics to come - just had to get these up.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What Lies Beneath


These floors have not seen the light of day in 50+ years! I have to say, they were worth waiting for...

Look. At. All. That. Dust. It's gonna take me weeks to get rid of all this dust. But again, I DON'T CARE! I HAVE FLOORS!!!

Another view during sanding...

I couldn't be happier with the results so far. There were areas of the floor that we couldn't clearly see before sanding and we thought there might be some damaged areas. But, so far so good! I cannot believe that these are hundred year old floors. They look brand new.

A ringing endorsement. We've used this company for every hardwood floor in the house and couldn't be happier with them. If you're in the Boston area, I highly recommend them.

More pics to follow.