Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Only have time for a super quick post, but I just had to share the posts that the amazing Meryl and Chris of Picardy Project wrote about their visit with us. First of all, these people are so fun, friendly, hilarious and easy to talk to - I seriously felt like I'd known them for ages. We did our best at convincing them to move to Michigan ("check out our house prices compared to the Bay Area!") but I'm not sure we were successful - they'd have to leave a pretty awesome house of their own. That said, it was SO fun to get to meet these two in person, and I hope we'll get together again someday!

But enough rambling - check out our awesome new backsplash! Here are the Renovation Roadtrip posts at Tinkernation and Bob Vila. I've finished the grouting and it looks even more completely stupendous now. I'll be back soon with finished photos, whenever Brandon finishes sealing the tiles so we can reinstall the outlet covers (ahem) (I did the first pass with the sealer, but it was a bit stinky and we don't want Cletus developing a habit).

In other news, we have an (almost) finished nursery! I know, bad blogger... we've been doing tons of little projects and I've been totally failing to post about them. I'll try to get things all caught up before this blog turns into a baby picture repository (in less than three months?!).

Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm in!

Hello from lovely Vancouver! I am in the middle of a conference, and actually giving my talk in an hour, so I’m going to make this one quick. Remember how I was just bragging about how my friends are talented and awesome? Well it turns out that this applies even to my friends who I haven’t officially met yet. I am SO excited to let you all know that we’ll be part of the cross-country Renovation Road Trip that my blog buddies Meryl and Chris from Picardy Project will be undertaking in October! Their trip is being sponsored by Tinkernation and the plan is for Meryl and Chris to visit five blogger’s houses in two weeks, helping with projects for a day at each of the stops. I am really not sure how I snuck in with this awesome crowd, which also includes 86-n It, DIY Diva, Russet Street Reno, and Just a girl with a hammer. I’m sort of like the high school nerd who gets an invite to the post-prom party because she's been friends with the popular girl since they were babies. But I DON’T CARE, I’M GOING TO THE PARTY! Haha.

Check out Meryl’s amazing blog to see some of the fantastic work she and Chris have done on their house, and you’ll understand why I’m soooo excited to have them helping around Turtle House for a day. I am hoping – hoping! – that we can finally tackle tiling the backsplash behind the stove, since (a) they are tiling wizards, and (b) the paint behind there already  has an oddly-shaped blotch from some mysterious mishap  - be glad I’m not at home, or you know I’d share a photo. And no one likes mystery-stain photos.

OK, seriously gotta go practice my talk (send me lucky thoughts at 2pm Pacific Time!) but I just want to thank Meryl and Chris for including me on this awesome adventure trip - can't wait to meet you guys!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My friends are talented and awesome

Do you guys remember my friend Corey and his amazing Turtle House painting? Well, in the spirit of nursery-related news and bragging about how awesome my friends are, I had to share my latest art acquisition. These four panels (each about 10"x10") were featured in a show Corey did in Columbus.

But sorry to the poor suckas who saw them at the show, because THEY WERE ALREADY SOLD. That's right, I got an inside line on the awesomeness that is these paintings and I snapped them up right quick. When I first saw them, I thought "must go in nursery!!!!" (with four exclamation points). Then I immediately started to feel bad, like I shouldn't put them up there because then no one will ever see them, and maybe they should be somewhere on the main floor of the house to be properly appreciated? But won't Cletus love them, and wouldn't they be such a perfect accompaniment to snuggling and reading Darwin at bedtime??

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

(Cletus, apologies in advance for sealing your fate as a complete and total nerd. Middle school is gonna be rough.)

So, you guys all have to pinky-swear promise that when you come over after Cletus is here, you'll be all "OH CAN I PLEASE SEE THE NURSERY" even if you think mobile's a city in Alabama and cribs is a show on MTV. Because then I won't feel bad about wasting these super awesome pieces of art on a tiny human who is going to spend the vast majority of his/her time sleeping, eating, pooping, and admiring the amazingness that is having TOES attached to your FOOT. OMG.

(I mean, I am also glad to have toes.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vanity, thy name is DONE

Remember, waaaayyy loooong agooo, I bought a cheap Craigslist dresser with plans to refinish it and turn it into our master bathroom vanity? Well, it has sat at about 80% completion for, oh, the last six months or so. We got the drawers in, but they lacked a certain je-ne-sais-quoi... namely, they didn't like to OPEN or CLOSE. Call me high maintenance, but I feel like that's an essential component of drawer-ness. After our frustration level escalated from side-eye to angry glare to outright cussing, we (Brandon) decided it might be time to do something about it. And so we were back to this. Sigh.

Oh, plus this.

Yep, that's the entire contents of the vanity, spread across the floor for extra easy access. Ten points if you can spot the dozen or so pee tests I took before I believed I was actually pregnant. And yes, I saved them...? I'm gonna go ahead and blame the hormones.

One of the big problems with the drawers was the bottoms, which appeared to be made out of what I'll call "fancy cardboard." It had started to warp and fall apart, and in fact completely collapsed out of one of the large bottom drawers.

Brandon ripped them all out, and replaced them with plywood - they are MUCH more sturdy and less likely to randomly give out and dump toothpaste, deodorant, and contact solution into the void below the vanity.

Along with reinforcing the drawers, Brandon took off all of the metal drawer slides, as they were the source of our INFERNAL DRAWER-FAIL ANGRRRRR. He decided to just yank them, and put wood supports into the frame of the dresser to support the drawers (should have photo'd these, but I forgot). He also took care of the last two "finishing touches" - installing the baseboard that I'd stained and poly'd way back when to cover the gap at the bottom of the vanity, and picking up some hinges so we could attach the door front that covers the middle set of drawers. To save you some scrolling, here's where we sat a few days ago...

...and here we are now!

Suddenly it looks like a nice, substantial piece of furniture, rather than a repurposed Craigslist dresser. I love it! Big props to B for his hard work on finishing up this project; we all know if it were left up to me it might never zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzsnore

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Well well, what have we here?

Dang, it's been so long since I've posted that Blogger went and completely changed the layout of the "new post" screen... I feel so disoriented... where am I? Who are you? And what's with all this paint on the wall?

This is the upstairs spare room, a.k.a. snake-and-guitar room, a.k.a. random junk room, a.k.a.... nursery?!?! Yep, the rumors are true, I am officially parasitized.

But ain't it cute? I mean, except in that top right pic, that is some straight-up alien sh!t right there.

Cletus The Fetus will be arriving (and most likely renamed) on or around January 22, 2013. We are going to find out the sex (hopefully in early September, if Cletus cooperates), but we are definitely forgoing the pink-or-blue color selection for the nursery. In fact, B ruled out the blues in the pic above (L to R: Crystal Blue, Tranquil Blue, and Icy Blue, all Benjamin Moore and all left over from our frenetic whole-house paint selections last year) on the grounds that JUST IN CASE Cletus is a boy, he can't have a blue nursery, too gender-normative thankyouverymuch.

I love green in theory, but we have so much greeny-yellow (Summer Lime) going on everywhere else in the house that all of the greens looked a little clashy from the hallway. So call me crazy, but orange it is. I have a somewhat long-standing obsession with partiality to orange home decor, so this isn't really that shocking. That said, I also don't want a color that will glow in the dark (I hear getting babies to sleep at night is recommended if possible), and a couple of these were just too bright.

Nacho Cheese (L) (I REALLY REALLY WANTED TO BE ABLE TO SAY I PAINTED THE NURSERY "NACHO CHEESE"... SOB) and Sweet Orange (R). These colors do not look as psychadelic in real life as they do in this crappy cell-phone picture, but they were still pretty bright (and would probably be overwhelming in larger quantities).

These are the colors one shade lighter than each of the ones mentioned above - Yellow Haze (L) and Morning Sunshine (R). I think something in this ballpark will work better given the very tall expanse of wall we have going on in this room. They look pretty washed-out here (again, crappy cell phone photos, sorry, have been meaning to buy camera batteries for ~2 months) but in real life they are still bright and cheerful without being ker-azy.

I really thought Morning Sunshine would be the winner based on the paint chip (OK, and the name), but in person it's a little banana-y, and I wanted creamsicle. If that makes sense. Humor me, I'm pregnant. So anyway, I think Yellow Haze is the one, despite having the least cool name

And so ends today's poorly-illustrated tale of paint selections and knocked-up-edness, and proof that YES I still know how to type, it's just so haaaaaard to fit in between eating pickles and taking naps.

Oh, plus I owe you all an update to the dining room table saga that you probably don't recall from three months ago. And when I say "saga," I mean that the current "table" is still a discarded door (complete with knob, for extra class) perched on two sawhorses. Because we're fancy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

After months of obsessing...

...I finally ordered a dining room table and chairs! As a reminder, this has been the pitiful state of our dining room for an embarrassingly long period of time...

Actually, it's even worse now - we moved the too-small table out to the porch, and replaced it with an old door on two sawhorses. Avec doorknob and hinges, for extra classiness. Wish I were kidding.

I've always pictured a big, rustic-but-not-too-log-cabin-ish farmhouse table, with a bench on the side closest to the kitchen, and Parsons chairs on the side closest to the window and the ends. We even had a little road trip adventure to look at some options. Well, things got really strange the other day when I was doing yet another Google search to see if I could find the table of my dreams... and I came across this picture on a website listing.

It's perfect! It's stunning! It's... strangely familiar?? That's because it turns out it was, literally, the second thing I ever pinned on Pinterest. And here it was, for sale!! Of course I emailed right away, and this beauty should be arriving in 2-4 weeks. In an even stranger coincidence, the seller was actually in South Carolina - but has family right outside Detroit, and so they're bringing the table when they visit (!).

So that left the question of chairs. I had been considering these Parsons chairs with a fun, bold floral pattern.

But the more I thought about it, the more I questioned whether these would work. First of all, I worried that the pattern might just be too busy. I was also nervous about ordering them online, since the colors might be different in real life - and in fact, many of the reviews hinted that the light color was closer to cream/khaki, which I didn't think would work as well. I was also worried about the brown clashing with all the other browns we have going on (beams, counter, table)... so I was really iffy on these, and decided to consider solid color instead. So the obvious choice would seem to be brown, but again, see issues with brown above. Hmmmmmm. After much thought (and squinting at the dining room), I decided the safest and most complementary choice would actually be a pretty bold one... red!

Yep, red leather Parsons chairs - am I crazy?? I think these are gorgeous, and I'm hoping they'll work with the brown table and our paint colors (the color in the background of the picture above is actually pretty similar to our dining room color). Plus they had terrific reviews on Overstock (4.9 out of 5.0 with 75 reviews!). As an added bonus, they were even less expensive than the patterned ones!

As an aside, some people who know me may be surprised that my vegetarian self bought leather chairs. Here was my reasoning. More and more, the arguments I find most compelling for my own vegetarianism have to do with the efficiency of using resources - and much of the time, leather is a byproduct of the meat industry. I also think these will hold up forever, so they'll be efficient in that they won't end up in a landfill a few years down the road. Finally, I try whenever possible to use natural (ideally local) products - I've always tried to do this, but definitely with big purchases I am making an effort to avoid plastic and other synthetic, petroleum-based materials. These things are all playing into my definition of "green" and how it fits into my life and decision-making right now. So all that rambling is to say: here's to many years of locally (backyard!) grown meals at the new dining room table!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Then this happened

So this is what I came home to this evening...

Yep, Brandon had had enough of the complete chaos surrounding our house, and rented this baby for the next week. See ya, dirt cliffs of insanity. It was nice knowing you, giant mound of busted concrete block. Don't let the door hit ya, crazy pile of driveway gravel. He's only had it a few hours and I can't believe what he's already cranked out! Don't worry, we got a bunch of "before" pics, so I'll post again in the next few days with a progress update. Which will most likely include me learning to operate that beastie, because I mean... that looks like fun.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The man behind the curtain

No, he's not the wizard of Oz, but you do have to be some sort of wizard to take a house from this... this...

...while sticking to the timeline and the budget, and dealing with crazy clients talking about barn wood floors and jellyfish chandeliers without even batting an eye. I've had a lot of questions about who the mysterious GC is that has been running the show here, but I wanted to make sure to get his permission before using his name on the blog. Now that everything is said and done and we are beyond thrilled with the results, I want to give a huge shout-out to Jeff Clark of Giraffe Design Build.

The man behind the curtain stove

Jeff was a pleasure to work with. He's a true professional who did things right and didn't cut corners - something would bother him and he would fix it before we even noticed it. Moreover, he's an honest and ethical person who we came to trust and just genuinely like. I miss chatting with Jeff now that he's not stopping by anymore to take care of the punch list!

Other people we heart:

Of course I have already mentioned Steven Varnum of Caddis Design, the house genius who drew up the plans for Turtle House. Steven is an absolute gem. If you live in SE Michigan and need some design work done, I give him my highest recommendation times a skazillion billion. Just scroll up and look at those before and after pictures again, people.

We also had interior design help from Mandi Wise at Oyl Design, Ltd. Mandi has a great eye and picked up on our style/aesthetic tastes before we were even aware of them. She was a huge help with light fixtures and paint colors in particular, and if it weren't for budget constraints I would still be paying Mandi just so I could hang out with her at the paint store because she's rad.

There were other subcontractors we were impressed with, but many don't have a web presence so I can't provide links. In particular, we loved working with our carpenters, electrician (Jeff Grubbs at Jaaco Electric), and painters (Al Ayala and team). The flooring installers (David and Rick at Lakeland Hardwood Floors) deserve special mention for taking our insane pile of barnwood flooring and basically turning it into a work of art. Not to mention being super nice guys. If anyone reading is local and wants contact info for these folks, hit me up!

(This post has been sitting in "Drafts" for ages and is looong overdue!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Black hole

Nearly a month without a post! I only have two words of explanation (and they aren't "black hole")... FIELD SEASON! This is what I'm up to for the foreseeable future:

Actually that is an old pic from a summer field season. I am currently much more bundled up (it's March in Michigan after all, even if it is unseasonably warm). But see how happy I am in a swamp? I know, I'm not right in the head.

Gratuitous yet adorable salamander photo from yesterday:

Hopefully back to report more progress on house projects once I rinse off the mud. Until then, happy spring!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

And the little one said "roll over"

Let's just say you could fit a LOT of little monkeys in our bed... which finally arrived yesterday! We ordered this bed from Naked Furniture in Ann Arbor, and it took FOREVER to get here. As in, we ordered it December 10. We were told at the time that it should be ready in 5-6 weeks. So after 7 weeks with no news, I called... and was told it would be another 7-10 days. So after two more weeks, I called again... and was told it would be another week. Seriously?! The delay was extra annoying because we've had boxes of clothes shoved in our closets all this time, since the storage bed doubles as our dressers. It turned out some component of the bed was back-ordered - but it would have been nice to get a call informing us of this fact, instead of calling and calling and having no idea if the thing would ever actually show up. That said, it took so long that we just about have the credit card charge paid off, ha!

Oh plus, it's amazing.

I can't tell if I just got used to the "mattress on the floor" set-up, or if it really is ridiculously enormous... Now I walk into our room and it's WHOA BED in my face.

We spent a bunch of time yesterday getting the boxes of clothes unpacked into the drawers, but I figured no one really wanted to see photos of my sock drawer. We also mounted the bedside lamp/tables that I posted about a while back.

I think they look great on either side of the "window." Which, by the way, allows me to pop my head up in the morning and do some bird-watching from bed. This morning I spied some common mergansers by our dock.

Here's the other side of the room, where we've stashed a rocking chair that actually belongs to my sister. We still need to get a proper cushion for the little window seat between the closets.

Anyone who has known me for at least 25+ years will recognize the pair sitting in the window... Tigger and Erica! You can tell by the level of bedraggled-ness how much I loved these two as a kid.

And speaking of cute pairs, here's a gratuitous shot of the boys. Elmo apparently thinks the carpet is just as comfy as his bed...

...However, they both agree that we clearly need to order some Doggy Steps so they can enjoy that ridiculously large bed.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Road trips and dining room tables

What, those two things don't automatically go together in your mind? Just us? Haha.

I gave a talk yesterday morning at a conference way up north. (Being in Michigan, I have a state-mandated requirement to illustrate this by showing you my hand and pointing to my middle finger middle knuckle.) Brandon came along, and since we were kinda close to Traverse City (pinky fingernail... "close" was relative), we thought we'd head over there to check out dining room tables at Woodland Creek Furniture. I mentioned them in a previous post about our ongoing quest to be real grown-ups with dining room furniture. Specifically, I'd seen this barn wood farmhouse table that I was dying to check out in person.

Well we did check it out, and unfortunately I have to say... I wasn't in love. In person it is MUCH more rustic than it looks here - which maybe I should have guessed from the rest of the Woodland Creek website (seriously, check it out). They have very neat stuff, but it's much more log-cabin than our style, which definitely blends rustic with some more contemporary elements. I just wasn't sure that it would work with some of the other things we have going on in the space. </pretendingtobeaninteriordesigner>

Anyway, happily,Woodland Creek has an associated company/showroom for us non-log-cabin-dwellers. Hooray! It is called Ur Houzz and it was full of many things I wanted to buy. There were two potential tables, and I should have taken photos because I can't find a good representative photo on their site. The first one was another farmhouse style, made from reclaimed wood, and painted with a distressed finish (in whatever color you want!). This is the top, but I'd just get simple square legs instead of the trellis style:

(Photo from Ur Houzz)

Actually now that I look at that again, it may not really be the same at all - because I think the ones we saw had much wider planks on top. Blog fail! Anyway, this of course set my head to spinning about colors... I hadn't even considered a painted table as a possibility, but these were really beautiful. I'm pretty sure I woke up out of a dead sleep on the way home, snapped my head around to look all bug-eyed at Brandon (who was driving), and said "OMIGOD THE TABLE COULD BE PLUM." To Brandon's credit, he kept driving and didn't look at me like I was a psychopath.

The other possibility - which has been floating around in our heads since the beginning - would be a slab table. I just think these are ridiculously gorgeous. My main concern is that we already have so many different types of wood going on, with the floor, beams, counter... would it be too much? Oh also they are like a million dollars.

(Photo from Ur Houzz)

But seriously.

And just to add to the confusion, here is one additional possibility that my BFF Craig found for me on his list. This is an unfinished farmhouse table made by Amish Chic Furniture (I know, awesome).

(From the Amish Chic Furniture Photobucket site)

This particular one is sold, but they can build another one in a couple weeks and finish it however we'd want - and it is significantly less $$$ than any of the other options. In a sad little twist, their warehouse is about two and a half hours away from here in a town we drove through yesterday. But of course we didn't know that at the time. Sigh.

Here are a couple more photos of their tables that other people have bought - a natural finish, and a darker stain.

(Both photos from the Amish Chic Furniture Photobucket site.)

Super pretty, right? Not reclaimed wood (at least I don't think so), but local, so that's a plus.

I am still thinking that in any case I'd like to get a bench for one side, and then Parsons chairs for the other side and the ends. I'm still in love with these, but trying to decide on a table before I commit to ordering them...

(Photo from

So what do you guys think? Painted farmhouse table? Or a dark stain to match the beams, counter, and chair legs? Or scrap the farmhouse table altogether and go with a slab? Decisions! As a reminder, here's what we're working with now... so any of these would be an exponential improvement.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Oh deer!

In the backyard this a.m... Don't tell Brandon, he's already worried enough about his as-yet-hypothetical garden!

I know they're wildly overpopulated and ecologically disastrous, but they're still darn purdy.