"Oh my cow!"  The blending of phrases I heard after Carson shot the already mounted deer head hanging on our wall with his Nerf gun. What a good reminder that someone is listening to expressions I say, and quickly catching on. 


"Mom, I forgot my phone number!"  When he realized he left is toy phone at home.


He was near tears and frantically tugging at my leg when I hit the power button on our vacuum. As the swirl of the brush began to slow and the roar of the machine died down, I leaned to his level, asking what had happened to make him this upset.

Mooooom," he wailed, his voice quivering, "my puppies! You swept them up!"

We fished around in the canister, looking for those furry, imaginary friends, and surprisingly found them, tucked in against the hair balls and dust bunnies. Carson said they were okay, then I asked him their names. We decided on Selena and Fredrick. 

They were with us the rest of the day, chasing me as I finished vacuuming, nearly getting swept up again. Nipping at my heels while I put away the freshly laundered and neatly folded baby clothes. Somehow they managed to ride along to town too, where grocery shopping and banking and a trip to the car wash were all in order.

We were half way home when I heard it again, that quivering and desperate voice... "We forgot the puppies at the post office! Mooooom, you've got to turn around!"

Those puppies don't even chew on things, yet they were about to exasperate me. 

I reached over, my hand grasping thin air in my diaper bag, and... Tada! There they were, the two naughty puppies Carson thought he had forgotten.

"Silly puppies..." he cooed, when I handed Fredrick and Selena back to him. "You were playing hide and go seek."  It was relief that swept over me. We wouldn't need to alert the Sheriff or the Dog Pound... Our lost imaginary friends had been found.


Without fail, if I make email (oatmeal) for breakfast, at least one person will request thirds. And if we go to Oak Leaf Cafe for a treat, at least one person will ask for a cookie with brain-kills. (Sprinkles.)


The Fixer-Upper House on the Fixer-Upper Hill

In the past week I've had three different people ask if I've been taking before and after photos of projects we've been working on around our house, mentioning that I need to record them.

I haven't done the best job at getting good photos - so angles and lighting won't be great. But nonetheless, I am going to post them.

Sometimes, when projects take long, and not all is done at once, it can seem as though not much as changed. It's really good for me to pull the old photos out, to remember what our place use to be and to see how far we've come.

I wouldn't have saw the potential in this place had Herm and I been house shopping together. It was a run down and overgrown property. The house smelled of stale smoke, cigarette burned carpets telling its tale. There was still food in the fridge, a fridge that was set to 55* F for over a year. The place was filthy, and felt like the inside of an icebox, with the flooring, walls, and ceiling all in various shades of white or cream. (Even the kitchen counter tops and cabinets blended in, their beige-yellow tones adding no favor.)

But it was because of this house, and Herm's dream of moving to New York, that our paths crossed. The weekend we first met was the weekend Herm had closing on the place, the mortgage now in his name.

Our story happened fast, within 13 months we went from complete strangers to lovers, now married and figuring out what life would look like together.

Every weekend during our first year of marriage was spent on house projects, on cleaning up the yard, building shelving in the closets, painting and repainting. We were broke, to put it bluntly, so the projects were small, we did what we could, when we could.

Over time our savings grew, as did the budget for each project. Herm is a carpenter, so he has the knowledge and the tools needed for almost everything we did. And if you give me a paint brush or drop me off at a thrift-store I can run with it...

Now, over four years later, the transformation is amazing -- and as we dream, our project list keeps on growing, even after so many things have already been checked off.

We're even dreaming about the next fixer upper we could flip together... but until then, we'll keep on creating and painting and thrifting to make this house even more of a home. (I'm currently searching for a large oriental rug, a leather or velvet sofa and two accent chairs, an antique bench and a cow hide rug... so, fellow thrifters, feel free to be on the lookout for me!)

As you can see, the house really lacked depth and texture and warmth. When Herm first bought the place, his family blessed him greatly by coming to New York for a long weekend of scrubbing and painting and making the place livable. I've heard horror stories of what was scraped up around the toilet and of the grease coated liberally on the kitchen stove. 

They painted the main living area, and shampooed the carpets. That helped some with the stale smoke smell, though on cold, damp days the odor still managed to seep out of the walls...

The Kitchen:

This was the kitchen before Herm's family came to clean and paint...

And this was after his family spent the weekend painting.

Then he married me, lover of all things neutral, so the entire place was repainted again. I also painted the cabinets and counter tops with a specialty paint from Rustoleum. Because money was tight at the time, I didn't want to spend on adding subway tile for the back-splash, so my talented sister painted the wall to look like it.

Eventually I took two cabinets doors off, so that I would be able to display cups and dishes. And most recently, we replaced all of the flooring in our house with this laminate wood floor. Good-bye ugly linoleum, later disgusting carpet!

The Dining Room:

This was right after we got married.

And this was taken today. As you can see, new paint color, new flooring, as well as a new table, butchers block bar, and bar stools -- all handmade by Herm! We are planning to change the lighting in here, make a bench for the table, and find new chairs too. 

The Living Room:

When it was still a mancave...

We built a fake fire place at one point. But later moved that, along with the TV screen down to our cold, damp, unfinished basement. Out of sight, and out of mind! Best decision ever, if you ask me. My husband doesn't really agree... yet.

I rearrange furniture as though it were a hobby. So the living room has boasted many different layouts. We also added a wood stove, which is our main source of heat. The photo above was taken shortly before we tore out that gross carpet I keep mentioning.

And this is the living room, currently

The Bathroom:

Wooden seat, awful cabinets, and a RUG by the toilet. Excuse me while I go throw up.

Not a great after photo, but it's ten times better. Just trust me. 

The Bedrooms:

Ours, above. Carson's below.

My sister, Kate, painted the mural.

And that's it. At least for today.



16. Read a Classic by Jane Austen

I've never given them much of a chance. In my mind books by Jane Austen seemed frivolous and dull and overly feminine, completely not my style. But, as has been the case for a lot of things I had completely written off before actually trying it -- it truly wasn't that bad.

I don't know exactly what made me add reading a classic by her to my 25 Before 26 list. Perhaps it was because several people who I greatly admire recently had been talking about her work, or maybe it was because I knew it would be a challenge for me, something that I needed to overcome. I love reading, but I really haven't delved into many classics, so why not start?

I picked up Pride and Prejudice, a large print, well worn copy, from my library to take along on a weekend trip we were taking to the mountains. My husband's family owns a cabin in rural Pennsylvania. Every year, right after Thanksgiving, we make the trip down there for the opening week of buck season. While Herm and the rest of the guys spend most of their time out in the woods, the ladies and kids stay back at the cabin. Carson and Brooklyn were both very entertained by their cousins, and I got to spend hours curled up near the wood stove, attempting to follow along to a book that was written in Old English, while lots of noise and chaos and conversations were happening around me. 

I didn't hate the book but neither did I love it. 

I've seen snippets of the movie, so I felt like I knew the general story line. And it was sort of what I figured it would be -- prim and proper and a bit stuffy. But there was something about the story, even though it was written in Old English, which is rather difficult to understand, that made me want to keep on going, to know what else would happen. And, before the week was up, I had completely finished the novel.

I might borrow the movie now, to see if that would make me appreciate the book a bit more. 

I'm glad I did read it, but at this point, I don't think I'll be laboring over the rest of Austen's work.

To give you an idea what old English is like, watch this version of a classic children's story.

What about you: Do you enjoy a good classic? What's your favorite title?


That Last Minute Gift Guide

It's ironic, me creating a gift guide, for, as I've mentioned before, I am the worst at gifting. I think some people are naturals at it, always find the perfect thing for each and every person on their list. I, however, am not that person. I over think it; wanting the person the gift is intended for, to love the item and find it useful; and I penny-pinch, hard --I don't have a chance, I was born into a Mennonite family of German heritage, and both Mennonites and Germans are known for being stingy frugal-- which becomes frustrating too, because high quality gifts often aren't cheap.

But this season I'm trying to loosen up a bit, not over thinking it, and, without breaking the budget of course, learn to be okay spending a bit more to give quality.

So here are a few simple ideas that I think would make lovely gifts for any person in your life. If you're like me, never knowing what to give, maybe you will find this list useful too.

For the ladies:
Hammered Circle Earrings // fashionABLE  *I own these and LOVE them!
The Broken Way // Ann Voskamp *currently reading this
Commissioned Art Work // Esther Weaver  *she's cool
Fringed Crescent Necklace // Noonday Collection *on my wishlist

For the kiddos:
Wooden Sling Shot // Etsy
Curious George Treasury Collection
Wooden Camera // Etsy

For the men:
Shawl Neck Sweater // AE
 Leather Billfold // Parker and Clay
Granite Drink Dispenser 

What about you: do you have any fun gift ideas, link them in the comments below!