Category Archives: The Renovation Journal



Over the winter I got antsy, better enough to want to improve the home I was stuck in all season, but not yet well enough to actually do much of anything about it.  I obsessively paged through stacks of decorating and renovation books from the library.  I think I was driving Steve crazy, coming to him with all of these little projects I wanted us to do.  He’s of the opinion that we should finish up the 3 or 4 very large projects that we’ve stalled out in the middle of before starting any additional projects, big or small.  Very reasonable and rational, but I think we all know that when it comes to projects, that’s just not the way I roll.  It got to the point where his response would just be a look.  Not quite the look, but a look for sure.

But spring is here now and I am well again.  After a few false starts, where all I managed was putting on my painting clothes and wearing them around the house for a while, I finally got back up on the ladder again.  Figuratively and literally.  As any petite home improver will tell you, the ladder is your most valuable tool.  Especially when your 5′ self is trying to paint an 11′ wall.



A little home improvement series for you…

Many changes happening here at the moment.  This is Steve’s current project.  When you live in an area where the warm season is short and very buggy, a screened in porch is a wonderful asset.  It’s one of the things that we really liked about this house when we first looked at it.  It’s a lovely feature, but in bad shape.  All of the paint is peeling.  All, all (!) of the screens have holes.  Many of them are just missing, as cleverly illustrated by our neighbor’s cat.  Some of the frames were somewhat intact.  Some were just completely missing, the pieces of some were gathered off of the lawn below.  All of the pictures here, with the exception of the last one, are from autumn, when we first went out to really assess what needed doing.  This is a big project.  There are around 30 screens that need refinishing, rebuilding or to be built from scratch.  I’m in charge of picking paint colors, subject to his approval and taping things off.  Otherwise this one has been pretty much all on him.


upstairs bath re-do, part I



This currently may well be my favorite space in the house.  Yes, the bathroom.  It’s just so calm and serene and (very important) everything is where it’s supposed to be.  No clutter.  Sun-shiny views of snow covered forests, offset by lush greenery inside.  Plus, unlike many of the other rooms in the house, it’s the right color.  While there may not be right and wrong colors in general, there are right and wrong colors for me and this one falls quite comfortably in the “right” category.

Paint Details:

Ceiling- Imagine .01

Doors and trim- Imagine .04

Walls- Water .02

All by Yolo Colorhouse.  The ceiling is a warm bright white.  The trim is a linen white that gives everything a classic, old-fashioned feel.  The wall color is extremely difficult to capture accurately, especially since it changes throughout the day, but it’s somewhere around the intersection of blue, green and grey; lovely and mellow and calm.

  The original exhaust fan in the bathroom was broken.  Since moisture and potential mold growth are a huge issue for us, replacing it was a high priority.  I finally settled on a Ventamatic NewVent light/vent combination fixture.  From their site; “The factory is 100 percent powered by wind generated power, 95 percent of all waste products are recycled and the packaging is of recycled cardboard.”  Sold.

Some other little fixes: we added in a towel bar and toilet paper holder.  I’m not really sure how the family of five living here before us didn’t have a towel bar, but there you go.  I didn’t want to spend the money to replace the light fixture above the sink, so I rigged it up to support a vintage tinted glass shade instead (a $6 investment).  A little basket from another part of the house corrals washcloths and hand towels.  Window wise I found the huge picture window, looking out over the woods, very peaceful, but the little one next to the sink faces the front yard and driveway.  I don’t even really think you can see into it from the outside.  But somehow from the inside, it felt less private then it should.  I liked the idea of these lacy window films, but worried about the safety of the materials used to make them and had no desire to pay $86 dollars to cover half of one small window.  One day I thought of some cotton lace I had leftover from another project.  With my tiny embroidery scissors I clipped the lace, following the edge of the pattern.  A little sewing, a bit of ribbon trim at the top (also from my stash) and a tension rod (less then $3), finished it off.  Much less expensive and perfectly safe.

  I’m still feeling a bit wish-washy about the plant holder.  I just made it a couple weekends ago and it doesn’t look quite how I pictured it, but I think it’s growing on me.

And what is that around our toilet you ask?  That, my friends, is our Squtty Potty.  Yeah, I actually typed those words together.  And I’m going to say more about it.  The way I see it, I have 3 young boys at home and a little girl who thinks that everything they say is brilliant, hysterical and well worth repeating.  In other words…I’m pretty much immune to any kind of embarrassment about potty talk.  And this is important, so someone has got to talk about it.  The theory goes, and this is supported by much scientific research, that human beings are meant to squat to eliminate.  It is amazing the number of problems that can be improved, prevented or cured with this one simple lifestyle modification.  Those of you who remember my Healing Home series, know that I am serious about creating a house the encourages health and wellness on all levels.  We have gut issues, there’s no getting around that.  Leaky gut, IBS, Celiac Disease, crazy food allergies, family history of stomach cancer, you name it.  I’m supposed to be going in for an assessment for possible Crohn’s Disease.  The combination of Elhers-Danlos and carrying/birthing lots of large babies means that I have all sorts of issues with prolapsed pelvic organs.  Not to mention the extra need to quickly and efficiently eliminate toxins from our bodies.  None of this is particularly pleasant to talk about, but there isn’t any way for other people to get help unless someone puts the information out there.  All of these things and more (hemorrhoids, anal fissures, constipation, colon cancer to name a few) can be helped or prevented with this one simple measure.  So, yeah, someone has got to say something because people are suffering and they don’t have to.  What’s more, we are raising generation after generation that are developing problems and in pain when they don’t have to be.  And I want more then that for my family.  Who knew I felt so passionately about such a thing?  Certainly not I.  Until I tried it.  And I can honestly say, it makes a big difference in our quality of life.  *Stepping off my strange soapbox now.*  For more information you can do your own searches on the web or check out the wealth of info on the Squatty Potty site.  For such a serious, yet taboo subject, those guys have quite the sense of humor.  Ours is the Squatty Tao Bamboo, which is actually on sale right now.  Call me crazy, but I actually like the way it looks in the room.  I think the bamboo adds an appealing, earthy element that breaks up all the white with a bit of warmth.  It’s a nice touch.  The kids all think it’s fabulous, as they no longer have to sit uncomfortably with dangling legs.  And it stays tucked out of the way, under the toilet for anyone who doesn’t wish to use it.

I think that about wraps up the bathroom tour.  Oh, except for Hector!  Hector the luna moth, named by Elijah (congrats to the .02% of you who actually got that joke).  That’s obviously an old picture, as we haven’t seen Hector in many months, but all summer long he took his daytime rest on our bathroom window.  I especially appreciated his efforts to color coordinate.

There is still a lot I want to do in this space.  A bit of custom built storage.  I might add some artwork, I might not.  There is still a vintage medicine cabinet up in the attic waiting to be fixed up and installed.  Steve wants to replace the floor some day but that is a long way down the line.  I’d love to replace the switch plates with something like this, but I’ve yet to find an excuse for spending nearly $30 on switch plates.  Steve is entirely convinced that there is no such excuse and so we live on with the plastic ones.  But it’s better.  Much better and time to move on to other more pressing projects.


our garden gate

I wanted the entrance way into a storybook garden.  It’s not perfect and it’s not done.  I’ve been struggling with perfectionist tendencies.  I keep putting off posting about things until they are “completely done”.  Only nothing ever seems to get completely done.  For one thing, projects and spaces are always evolving and for another, we’re just too darn busy!  Which means that we have to prioritize.  Which means that we almost always move on to something more important before all of the little details get taken care of.  I admit it.  I’m jealous of those people who can start a project and follow through down to the very last detail.  Sometimes I get down on myself feeling like it’s a lack of discipline or something that keeps us from never really finishing.  But the fact is, that’s not the case at all.  We’re just spread too thin, with too many commitments and responsibilities to work that way.  Like for this project I know that we have yet to install a handle or latch because it was more important that money go elsewhere.  I never finished setting the stones because there are only so many hours in the day, and the fall vegetable garden needed planting, if we were going to be able to harvest in time.  The gardens out front weren’t fixed up and the planters that I’ve dreamed up still remain in dream land because the strawberries needed weeding and side dressing, we had to build a new bed for the cantaloupes and dozens or hundreds of other little things that beat out “cleaning up and adding to the old flower beds” on my to-do list on any given day.  So those moments, here and there, where I grabbed a few weeds, were as far as I got.  But really now, how silly of me to dismiss this beautiful spot, because it’s not quite done yet?  We worked very hard, designing and building this gate and arbor.  And it’s lovely.  It makes me smile every time I enter the garden, even all unfinished as it is.

The details…

The design was our own.  The arbor was finished with Vermont Natural Coatings Polywhey Exterior Finish in ‘Acorn Brown‘.  The gate was finished with the same product in ‘Barn Red‘.


Some quick and easy DIY wall art…

We’re working on putting the finishing touches on Iain and Elijah’s room.  It’s not a large room for two people, so we’re trying to choose the things we put in there with care.  We want it to be fun and functional and oh, so many other things.  But in the end, we mostly want it to be a reflection of who they are at this point in their lives.  To suit their lives and their current loves.  I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far.  With one glaring exception.  There just wasn’t enough baseball!  What can I say?  My kids are the ones who show up for a casual pick-up game of baseball in full uniform, including cleats, having used face crayons for eye black.  They take it seriously!

We’re not really a poster sort of family.  At least not at the moment.  Who knows what will come in the future?  I’m not even sure that my kids realize that sort of thing exists.  I can see how a room could very quickly get completely covered by a zealous young fan.  But I’m not really sure that’s as relaxing or conducive to studying, reading, resting and the artistic endeavors that I feel should be the mainstays of time spent in this space.  So, apart from a framed team photo, how to represent that very large part of their life?  This is what I came up with…

It’s basically a fabric covered canvas.  You could easily use a canvas frame from the craft store.  Steve made mine from some scraps of wood.  I’d say it took less then 10 minutes.  And then I covered it with fabric.  This is an older Alexander Henry print called “Bases Loaded“.  I used just a fat quarter.  I did a serging stitch around the edges, which was probably unnecessary, then I wrapped and stretched it around the frame, kind of like wrapping a gift.  I folded under the serged edge and stapled everything in place using a staple gun.  Two of those little nail-on picture hanger things on the back and it was all done.

There are so many interesting fabrics around these days, so many of which look like works of art, all on their own.  I think I might have some fun with this.


growing room

First, a note about the “before” pictures.  The thing of it is…they disappeared.  I don’t know how.  I am absolutely certain that I took them.  Several somewhat blurry ones featured Little Rosebud in her new (at the time) birthday poncho, dancing around her future room, as well as some other clear and more serviceable ones.  Only, they don’t seem to exist anymore.  And I know I’m not just going crazy because the before pictures from this post, taken that same day, are missing as well.

Below is the only picture I could dig up, taken the first time we looked at the house.  You can also get a glimpse of it in the first photo of the post I linked to above.

And now:

Not done really, because the bed is just about the only thing in it, but a big change from what we started with.

The floor is a local wide plank white pine, finished with AFM Safecoat Naturals Oil Wax Finish.  The ceiling and trim have been painted with Yolo Colorhouse‘s Imagine .04.  The walls are Yolo’s Grain .01.

We made the executive decision that Màiri Rose should stay on the 1st floor with us, until we are ready to move up, but that Galen could move into his room whenever he pleased.

Only things haven’t quite worked out as planned.  Because, as it turns out, the four year old that was all ready to be a great big boy with his own room has grown into a 6 year old that isn’t real certain that he wants that room to be on an entirely different floor from mama.  He was very excited about the room being done in theory, but now that it’s actually done he’s feeling rather lonesome.  The other day he looked at me with a quivering lip and said, “if I want you to cuddle me, you have to do it through the vent!”  Oh dear.  I’m really not sure what the solution is on this one, as our bedroom, which will be right across from his some day, is no where near done.  I don’t know if we should take apart his bed and bring it all back down to the main living area where he never got any sleep, or take him into our room, with us, in a situation where no one will sleep, or what. And I also know that this isn’t really just about the room, but a whole bunch of changes for him in this crazy and sometimes scary business of growing up that’s leaving him feeling vulnerable.

He’s on the cusp of so many big things, things he’s been excited for and lusting after.  Things that define being big in his mind.  I can see that he’s panicking a little about whether or not he really is ready to leave the world of being little behind.  Growing up isn’t always easy.  Sometimes the internal struggle is heartbreaking to watch.  I hope that with time he learns that we’re in no rush and he needn’t be either.  That he can be our little boy as long as he likes and still have the advantages of growing older as well.  But he seems to innately know that he’s on a threshold of sorts and he feels it more acutely than my other children did.  All the Waldorf mamas out there are now nodding their heads sagely and saying, “Ah, the seven year change…”.  It’s curious and amazing and sometimes hard.  I don’t fuss about how to handle it (apart from the practical logistics) because I’m more than happy to give him whatever he seems to need.  The hard part is watching him grapple with his own personal journey and knowing that all I can do is sit back and watch and be there when called upon.  At the same time I know this is going to be an incredible catalyst for him and I’m really awed by the honor of getting to share this time with him.

The room is pretty anyway.  And it will be all ready and waiting for him when the time is right.


there now…

These were my thoughts, several weeks back now, as I set the last of this year’s additions in the orchard.  Our growing spaces are divided into three main sections.  There is the kitchen garden out back, a flower garden in progress in front of the house and further up, out by the road, the orchard.  Or at least what I’ve insisted on calling the orchard since before we moved in.  Even when the little field’s most prominent feature was a telephone pole.  And really not a whole lot has changed.  The few little twiggy things sticking up are still dwarfed by that pole and it will never be big enough to be what most people would consider an orchard, but setting that last plant in the ground, all felt right with the world.

They say the best time to put fruit trees in the ground is ten years ago.  The next best time is right now.  ‘Tis true and we did both.  The first four trees to go in the ground here are the ones to replace the trees that we planted at the old house for each of our children, with one extra, for the extra little person that never got her tree.  Which also means that for the first time in nearly three and a half years, there is no longer a placenta in my freezer.

Two cherry trees and two peach trees.  I’ve been playing it kind of fast and loose with both the definition “orchard” and the types of fruits planted there.  Along the side closest to the house there are rows of furrows planted out with 103 strawberry plants.  In the back I have a row of little snippets that I hope one day will be a lilac hedge.  Along the driveway there will be a high-bush blueberry hedge, currently seven little plants that I believe will fill in rapidly.  The first three in the row belonging to Little Rosebud and Goosey, who pooled their birthday money to buy them (completely and totally their own idea).   And the fourth side is bordered by the forest.

“It was a vision to develop slowly into fulfillment. Grandfather King was in no hurry.  He did not set his whole orchard out at once, for he wished it to grow with his life and history, and be bound up with all of good and joy that should come to his household.  So the morning after he had brought his young wife home they went together to the south meadow and planted their bridal trees.  These trees were no longer living; but they had been when father was a boy, and every spring bedecked themselves in blossom as delicately tinted as Elizabeth King’s face when she walked through the old south meadow in the morn of her life and love.

When a son was born to Abraham and Elizabeth a tree was planted in the orchard for him.  They had fourteen children in all, and each child had it’s ‘birth tree’.  Every family festival was commemorated in like fashion, and every beloved visitor who spent a night under their roof was expected to plant a tree in the orchard.  So it came to pass that every tree in it was a fair green monument to some love or delight of the vanished years.  And each grandchild had its tree, there, also, set out by grandfather when the tidings of it’s birth reached him; not always an apple tree-perhaps it was a plum, or cherry or pear.”

~except from “The Story Girl” by L.M. Montgomery

Yes, just right.  Next year Steve and I will set out some trees to commemorate 15 years of togetherness.  And each child that joins our dear little family shall have his or her tree as well.  With trees or bushes set out for other milestones, ones that I can’t even fathom and one that I can only dream of right now.  Fancy thinking of planting trees for grandchildren, while all my own little ones are still here at home with me!  Well, I guess I have time to make space for them anyhow.


full weekends

Last weekend started off with work on the house, followed by baseball.  My parents arrived for a brief visit on Sunday.  Upon flipping through her photos my mom remarked that in less then 24 hours she had pictures of the kids at the playground, singing in a concert and at the beach.  She said that it looked more like a week long visit.  That’s just the sort of steady clip we move along at this time of year.  And don’t worry, we fit in some more baseball before they left again.

The water at the pond is not warm enough for swimming yet (I don’t care what Galen says!), but it was a warm sun-shiny day, just right for a bit of sun bathing, sand castle making, and stone skipping, before heading off to the next activity.