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Once upon a time, we threw a Halloween party in our basement because it was just that scary.

The Backstory:

So, many moons ago we tore down the old early 1970s paneling, insulation, and drop ceiling in our basement in order to have cracks in our foundation repaired and get the space waterproofed. Then we had what we thought was a fairly do-able goal of laying down some floating vinyl flooring, slapping some paint on the walls, putting up some track lighting and creating a useable unfinished basement hang-out space. I blogged about these plans way back in fall of 2013. Memories!

But then, after successfully having the cracks fixed and the brick repaired, we attempted to put our plans into motion and, after one seriously frustrating Thanksgiving weekend that depressed me so much I didn’t even document it, we realized that we were in way past our skill level. I won’t go into the boring details, but we came to the conclusion that, whatever we decided to do with this space, it was going to have to be hired out to professionals.

We got some quotes to have handyman folks do what we were originally planning. The quotes were fairly reasonable, but it was still a chunk of money and, since our long-term goal has always been to have the basement properly finished at some point anyway, we came to the decision that it would be best to wait and save up and just do what we really wanted in one big go. Two years later, we’ve finally squirreled away enough cash, have hired a contractor, and are officially having our full basement renovation started this week.

Here now begins my documentation of our biggest house project yet.

Project Overview

As a reminder, this is what the basement originally looked like shortly after we bought our house:

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Things We’ve Already Done Down Here Since Moving In:

  • Replaced the last 1940s window with new glass block
  • Replaced the original exterior walk-out door (new one is pictured)
  • Replaced the electrical panel and brought all wiring up to code
  • Replaced the 40 year old furnace with high efficiency model
  • Removed moldy insulation and faux-wood paneling from 1972
  • Removed drop ceiling and florescent lighting
  • Repaired brick damaged from decades of seepage
  • Patched cracks in foundation
  • Added waterproofing membrane along exterior of foundation

What this has left us with is an empty and ugly but waterproof and up-to-code box of a basement:

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This is great as we’re no longer stressed out every time it rains, but it’s also just this giant space that, aside from storage and laundry, we do nothing with. The goal of this renovation project is make that space a lot more useable and enjoyable for us.

With this renovation, we’ll be dividing our little empty box into three main spaces: the rec room, the bathroom, and the utility area.

The Rec Room

The rec room is where we’re putting the most attention (and $) in this project. In addition to having a good space for parties (our initial main goal), we’re really hoping to make this space work as a true family room for us. We spend the bulk of our time in our living room/dining room right now. That’s where we do all our tv/movie watching, entertaining, playing with the dog, and where we both do most of our work as well. However, despite the fact that this room is gorgeous during the day (I never get tired of the sunlight streaming in through our bay window), it’s also kind of a frustrating space. It’s small, for one thing, but it’s also a miserably cold place to spend so much time during the winter. What ends up happening is that we run electric space heaters in there constantly just to try and make it more tolerable (also: blankets!), or one or the both of us ends up holing up in the much warmer bedroom. As our only all-purpose year-round gathering space, the living room/dining room kinda sucks.

So, with that in mind, we decided to go for broke (within budgetary reason) and make the rec room more than just a party space but also a genuine family room where we can be cozy and hang out together comfortably all year round.

Our plans for our new rec room include:

  • Insulated walls (the only ones in our house!)
  • Fully finished walls and ceiling with drywall, recessed lighting, and trim
  • New faux-wood vinyl resilient floating floors
  • An awesome tv/movie watching space (we’re moving our beloved sectional sofa down there and will be upgrading to a substantially bigger tv and wiring in properly for our sound system)
  • A gas fireplace (!!!)
  • A space for a table and chairs to eat at/work at/sit around and shoot the shit at
  • A wet bar for serving drinks/food and to basically act as the hub of all our parties
  • Space to move around (This room will essentially be the same size as our current dining room, living room, master bedroom, and front hall combined! Party time!)

The Bathroom

One of my main long term goals for finishing the basement was to give us a second bathroom in this house. Since there’s only two of us, having just one bathroom in the house hasn’t really been that big a deal. It is a small bathroom, though, and when we do throw parties, it’s been a bit of an annoyance to only have the one. So a half-bath in the basement was high on my list of plans. In talking to the various contractors, though, it turns out that the price difference to have them do a half bath versus having them do a 3/4 or full bath was really not much in the grand scheme of things. Since I think adding the second bath is the main part of this project we’re likely to see any return on, I jumped for the idea of a 3/4 or full bath.

Aside from the convenience factor, I’m really just thrilled to actually get to plan a bathroom from scratch. While I’m fond of our small, pink and maroon 1947 bathroom, I’m really hoping to use this opportunity to design a bath that makes up for some of the frustrating limitations of the existing bathroom (like the lack of storage, lack of counter space for putting on make-up, etc.)

I’m going to go into more detail about this in a later post, but for now our plans for the new bathroom include:

  • Fully finished (insulated) walls and ceiling with recessed lighting and trim
  • New faux wood vinyl resilient floating floors
  • An exhaust fan! (first bathroom in our house to have one!!!!)
  • Vanity, toilet, shower (nothing crazy fancy but some nice middle-of-the-road options)
  • Room for good counter space
  • Spacious walk-in shower
  • A recessed light in the shower (this is so stupidly important to me–no more shaving my legs in dim lighting)
  • A decent linen closet

The Utility Area

The last space in the project is what we’re calling “the utility area” but is really going to perform a number of functions. First of all, as our super-creative name for it implies, this space will contain all of our utility items like the furnace, the water heater, the electrical box, etc. Not glamorous, but certainly necessary. This space also contains our laundry area and utility sink. It also contains our work bench and tool area. It also contains our treadmill and treadmill-viewing TV. It’s also the space where we store a ton of stuff, from paint cans to all our extra paper towels and toilet paper. Last but not least, this space has also been serving for the last two winters as our mud room. Since our main door opens directly into our tiny kitchen, this leaves us no space for boots our coats or wet things in the winter. As a solution, we’ve been coming into the house through the basement walk-in where we’ve set up coat and shoe racks and a little bench to sit on. This has actually been working out surprisingly well, so we definitely want to keep this function of the space and, hopefully, make it work even better. Clearly, though, this space is going to be the true workhorse area of our house.

Despite so many important functions, though, we’ve decided (for a number of reasons) not to fully finish this space. We are, however, going to be doing some reconfiguring and sprucing up to make the space a lot nicer and even more functional for our needs. The main things that are going to happen to this space include:

  • New flooring
  • New lighting
  • Cleaned up and freshly painted walls (down the road we may put up beadboard paneling to make it feel more finished)
  • Reconfiguring the laundry set-up so that the washer and dryer are now side by side (the current set-up on opposite walls is not the end of the world, but it’s annoying and a terrible use of space)
  • Demolishing the gross (and gigantic) leaky/moldy/stained/crumbly old concrete utility sink and replacing it with an unexciting but clean and functional (and more proportionally-sized) laundry sink
  • Building in a proper coat closet for our “mud room” area
  • Replacing the sagging and water-damaged wood storage shelves with a combination of enclosed closet storage and steel open shelving

So there we go: an overview of what we’re hoping to accomplish with this project. Over the next six weeks, I hope to document the process as well as to talk through some of our decision-making and design process. Let’s hope it goes better than the last time we set out to improve the basement!

2014 Year in Review

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So, I’ve been away from blogging for quite some time, but Spring is upon us and I’m feeling like dusting this old thing off and catching up with the dumb happenings with my house and my sewing and whatnot. I also felt bad when I realized I that I never did a ‘Year in Review’ for 2014–a tradition I’d otherwise kept up with for ten years! I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. Better late than never.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

Completed a book manuscript. Wrote almost 200,000 words of fiction. Learned how to grout tile. Went to the emergency room (twice!)

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My resolutions for last year: get a new full-time teaching position, complete my manuscript, complete the Singing in the Rain quilt, complete my professional webpage, and make some serious headway on my fiction.

I’m actually pretty pleased with myself, looking at that list. Aside from my Singing in the Rain quilt (which will apparently never be finished) and my professional webpage (which I lost interest in once I was fully employed again), I did all of this. I’m now working full-time, not in one position but in two and I couldn’t be happier with both positions–they’re completely different from each other but both allow me to do stuff that I love. I actually gave up another job I was working on top of these–that was certainly a first. I went from being unemployed to being over-employed to now being ‘just right’ employed, and I couldn’t be happier. I also completed my manuscript (!!!) and did indeed make serious headway on writing fiction. I wrote more fiction this year than I have in the past ten years, no joke. Woo for 2014!

It’s a little late in the year to be making resolutions for 2015, I suppose, but I’ll keep up tradition and give it a shot. Things I would like to accomplish this year: complete revisions on the manuscript (we’re in that phase now), complete this current fiction project I’m working on plus complete the first draft of the next one as well, complete the remodel on the basement, actually buckle down and do the master bedroom, hang some damn pictures in the house and, heck, why not, finish the Singing in the Rain quilt.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Several friends had babies this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

We were very, very lucky in 2014 and had no deaths.

5. What places did you visit?

This was not a year for traveling (2015 will be very different). Just how it shakes out, I guess. I don’t believe we traveled anywhere farther than Rockford to visit the in-laws.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Good health. My arthritis got really bad in 2014 and then seemed to aggravate some other health issues as well. I ended up pretty sick for the back half of the year. I’m on some new meds now which seem to be helping a lot, though they make me incredibly tired all the time. More energy would be nice for 2015 too.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I completed a major fiction project on my birthday. That was pretty phenomenal considering how few fiction projects I’ve actually ever completed in my life.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Completing the book manuscript. Also, writing all that fiction. 2014 was the year I became a writer again.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I interviewed for an amazing job and ended up losing out to an internal candidate. It turned out to be for the best in the long run, but at the time I found out I wasn’t getting the job, I was devastated. Like I said, though, things worked out. I’m now so glad I didn’t get the job!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Quite a bit, actually! Not a good year, health-wise.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

We paid to have phase two of our kitchen done and it was, by far, some of the best money we’ve ever spent. I’m so, so, so happy every time I use our kitchen now. The guy who did the work for us was great, too. In terms of stuff we bought, I also gotta say I’m really pleased with our new sectional sofa from Ikea. It works so much better for our living room set up than the old sofa/loveseat combo we had cobbled together. Ooh! I also really love our new storm doors. It’s the little things, man.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

It’s always Chop. I seriously won the lottery with that guy.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The news was full of folks who made me appalled and depressed. It always is.

14. Where did most of your money go?

House stuff. The kitchen actually wasn’t that bad (less than $2,000 for the new cabinets and the labor and finishing work), but it all adds up. We replaced both the front and back storm doors and did not go cheap which I think was the right decision. We also shelled out some bucks to reglaze the bathtub and freshen up the tub-surround grout. Money well spent but still money spent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Getting the kitchen finished. After almost three years living with it half-done, it was incredibly satisfying to finally see all the parts in place.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

“Unbelievers” by Vampire Weekend.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?

happier

ii. thinner or fatter?

thinner

iii. richer or poorer?

richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Work on the house. We did a big chunk of stuff this summer, then just let it languish through the whole school year since we were both so busy/pretty tired. Looking forward to getting back to work on our poor wee house this summer.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Screwing around online. This was my answer last year, and it will probably always be my answer. Alas.

20. How did you spend Christmas and NYE?

Christmas morning at the in-laws, Christmas evening at my aunt’s house, then my family came over for gift-exchange afterward. Same as last year. Looking forward to hopefully shaking up that tradition come Christmas 2015 when we (fingers crossed) have the basement renovation finished and will be hosting for both sides of the family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?

I fell in love with my jobs. Seriously, I feel for the first time that I’m in the exact right work situation for me. I love it.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

I watched Shameless, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, The Americans, and finally caught up with the rest of the planet on Breaking Bad.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. How nice is that?

24. What was the best book you read?

I was blown away by “From Hell” by Alan Moore.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I got really into that one album by Vampire Weekend and listened to it pretty obsessively all spring.

26. What was your greatest culinary discovery?

Became obsessed with this little Thai place that serves an amazing strip steak called an angry tiger. I find myself craving it periodically.

27. What did you want and get?

A full-time job. It ended up being two half-time jobs, but I couldn’t be happier. I love doing both so much. I also wanted a completed kitchen and finally got it. I feel very, very lucky this year.

28. What did you want and not get?

I would’ve liked to have completed more work on the house. I also was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t grow my flower garden again in 2014 due to a combination of worsening arthritis and a beagle who likes to dig. That genuinely bummed me out.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

Loved-loved-loved Whiplash.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 34. It was a low-key year. Chop got me a bathtub reglazing, which was the best gift ever, and we had my family over for dinner. Low-key birthdays are nice.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Better health. I spent the whole second half of this year feeling terrible much of the time.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Teaching clothes and pajamas. Almost zero in-between. Put on my teaching clothes in the morning, switch into pajamas the minute I got home. I should probably try to shake things up a little more in 2015.

33. What kept you sane?

Writing and teaching. I felt awful physically, but writing and teaching and doing work I love and sharing it with other people was immensely satisfying this year. It did a lot to distract me from feeling bad and help me focus on how lucky I am in a lot of other areas of my life.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Can’t really think of anyone for this.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Honestly, I spent the majority of this year in a writing bubble. It was a year of sticking my head in the ground like an ostrich when it came to political issues.

36. Who did you miss?

My sister and some of my close friends. I fell out of touch with a lot of people this year. Whenever I get busy, I let this happen, and I hate it.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

I made a handful of really awesome writing friends this year. I also met some truly amazing students. So many lovely people in 2014.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Doing work you love, whether it’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to be wanting to do or aiming to do, or not, is rewarding in a way that checking off all the proper boxes in life can never be.

A Couple Links of Late

interiorThings are at a momentary standstill on the kitchen front (waiting to have the electrical done then we can have the new cabinets put in), so I thought I’d share a couple links to stuff I’ve been enjoying lately.

To start, this Pinterest page of paintings of house interiors from all eras is so, so cool. I love looking at historical interiors and disappearing into a fantasy of what it must have been like to occupy those spaces during those times. And so many gorgeous paintings! There’s even a nice representation of more contemporary work with a similar feel. So much awesome. I’ve kept the tab open for days while working on my current writing project and have enjoyed taking breaks to slip momentarily into these different worlds.

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Next, this retro-style kitchen remodel featured at Retro Renovation is so very sweet. Maybe I’m biased because of my little 1940s house, but I adore the fact that when it came time to remodel her dark 1970s kitchen, this homeowner decided to recreate a kitchen with 1940s flair. You just don’t see the 40s represented that much. Looking at this cheery, sunny little kitchen, that’s such a shame. Bring back happy 1940s style! This has also made me seriously consider going Formica/laminate if we ever have to replace our countertops down the line. So cute, colorful, and practical. Also, I totally want to put in one of those greenhouse windows over our sink when we finally save up to replace the windows.

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Lastly, wanna buy a legit mansion for less than $300,000? My nerdy hobby of scrolling through real estate listings of places I’m never likely to live (in this case, Harvard, IL) landed recently on this ridiculously awesome 1920s mansion that even comes complete with its own carriage house. The main staircase and the dining room are particular favorites. It’s in surprisingly good shape too, though I think the updated kitchen sticks out as being not at all akin to the rest of the gorgeous 1920s style (hate when people do that sort of thing). Anyway, Chop and I briefly came up with an amusing fantasy life wherein we retire to this mansion and become hermits, surrounded by 40 beagles (the proper amount for a true estate). The idea keeps making me laugh.

Kitchen Extras

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Along with all the great big plans to finish the kitchen in Phase II, I’ve also got some smaller changes in mind that I’m hoping to finally implement as well. The first of those is the lighting situation.

The current main light in the kitchen came with the house. It’s fairly inoffensive and in another situation I probably would like it fine, but it doesn’t work at all in this space. For one thing, it’s a chandelier. The set up for the original kitchen had this space designated for a small table and chairs, so a chandelier made sense. Now that we have an island, though, it’s sort of dumb. It’s also crooked and we’ve never managed to make it un-crooked. This, combined with the fact that the light fixture is a far more modern style than the rest of the lights in the house leads me to believe this was a quick fix bought on clearance when the previous owners were putting the house on the market. It’s also hung too low (when tall folks come over they’re constantly bumping their heads on it) which we could easily fix if we wanted to keep it here, but what we really need is a proper island light.IMG_1614

I’ve been looking for a while and I think I’ve finally settled on a good island light fixture to replace the chandelier, this guy from Home Depot.island light

I love the style and think it will work really well with our cottage-y kitchen. It’s also priced pretty well, as far as these things go (lighting is so expensive!). And there’s a matching light that could go over the sink:sink light

Our current over-the-sink light is the 1940s version of a recessed light. It’s fine and I don’t mind if it stays (though I still need to remove the paint that got on it during Phase I), but I’m tempted to make it all match. This fancy new guy is also just a damn cute light. I think it would look adorable over the sink.

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In addition to swapping out light fixtures, we’re also hoping to replace our screen door. It was pretty old and crappy to begin with, but following the addition of Busby to our household, it now looks like this:

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Uggh. So embarrassing. Rather than buy another storm door that’s just going to end up looking like that one again, we’re thinking we’re going to work with Busby instead of against him. That means this dorkiness:stormdoorIt could be worse. And damn if that won’t be the answer to all our storm door/letting the dog in/out problems. I’m actually really looking forward to it. So is Busby, I hope.

The last bit of updating I wanted to do with the kitchen involves the window covering situation. If you recall from the top of this post, the big window in the kitchen had a set of plain white curtains hung high and wide like so:

IMG_1613This was only ever intended to be a temporary solution (the curtains were leftover from an old apartment). When the new cabinets come on that wall where the bookcase currently is, the curtain rod is going to be in the way (If I’ve measured correctly, the new cabinets should end just before the trim of the actual window). So, I took a cue from my little dishtowel cafe curtains over the sink. Remember these guys?

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I decided to do a similar turquoise gingham cafe curtain set-up (the window looks out onto our porch and we’re seldom walking around naked in our kitchen, so privacy’s not a huge concern here). I felt like 1/4″ check would look too busy with such a big window, so I decided to try and find a bigger check. I ended up scoring a nice turquoise 1″ check in a machine washable poly-cotton blend on Ebay. The material was a little slippery and hard to work with, but I managed to cut and sew two nice, full cafe curtains for the space. I think they’re actually far more appropriate curtains for a cottage kitchen window:

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They also stay nicely within the frame of the window, so no more worries about the new cabinets hitting the curtain hardware. Now we just need to remove the last bit of old hardware from the curtain rod and patch and paint the holes.

So, there’s some of the little stuff that’s hopefully on the way in Phase II. Not terribly exciting, but very satisfying.

 

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I’ve had the kitchen reno divided for a while into a Phase I and a Phase II. Phase I you’ve already seen, though it still obviously requires some finishing touches. We never got around to them originally and have since lumped them over into the “Things That Will Happen During Phase II” category. These include the following:

  • Add deco trim to the bottom of the cabinets and attach the end pieces that are still hanging out in their boxes in our upstairs hallway. This will make the cabinets look much more finished and much less “we put these in as fast as possible before we moved in.”
  • Put under-cabinet lighting in.
  • Trim out the top of the cabinets so they look more complete and so the corner of the soffit matches better. We’re hiring out for Phase II, so I’m hoping the kitchen guys can work some clever miracle here. You have no idea how much this has been driving me crazy.

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  • Build in three small, open shelves in the space between the corner cabinet and the window. These are basically just to fill the odd space between the corner cabinet and the window over the sink. I’m way too excited about the possibility of putting a couple little decorative objects on them, though. The kitchen otherwise doesn’t have any spare space for that sort of thing.
  • Put in a cabinet over the fridge. We went back and forth on whether we wanted one. I’m now leaning firmly toward yes. I’ll be damned if I don’t maximize every inch of available storage space in this kitchen.

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  • Build in something in the awkward space between the fridge and the wall. One idea is wine bottle storage because what else can you realistically put in such a tight space? Another idea is to put a fintorp bar and some big hooks back there so we can hang our reusable grocery bags, Busby’s leash, and other miscellaneous stuff. Really don’t know and am hoping that the kitchen guys can come up with something cool.

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  • Attach the toe kicks properly. Our toe kicks are cut all wrong and sitting at odd angles because they’re not actually attached. This is super-embarrassing.
  • Add in some additional support around the dishwasher. We did not do this right when we put in the dishwasher originally. We plan to slide the dishwasher out, fix the situation, and slide it back in. Hopefully it’s as easy as that.
  • Put in our backsplash. We’re going classic white subway tile with white grout. It’s my favorite look and (bonus) is about as affordable as it gets.

The big part of Phase II, though, involves adding our long-awaited cabinets to the other side of the room. This was always part of the plan, but we didn’t execute it during Phase I because of budget reasons and also because I wanted to live with the space for a bit and make sure adding cabinets to that side of the room wouldn’t make everything too tight. We put a bookshelf there that’s approximately the same depth that cabinets would be and have lived quite well with it for the past two years, so putting in permanent cabinetry in that spot is now a go. Here’s what it looks like currently (photo obviously unstyled):

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And here’s a sketchy ipad rendering by yours truly (don’t judge my skills with a stylus!) of what the plan looks like for the same space (window to the left, entry to the kitchen to the right):

My Notes, page 40

The base cabinets are half the depth of standard base cabinets (12″ deep vs. 24″ deep), which puts them at exactly one inch deeper than the book shelf and plant stand we currently have in that space. Basically, they’re wall cabinets with feet on them. You’re limited to what you can store in them because of the shallow depth but, for a situation like ours, it’s an awesome solution. It’s basically like we’re going to get eight more upper cabinets worth of storage. Makes a huge difference in our teeny-weeny kitchen and we still have the regular-depth base cabinetry on the other side of the kitchen to fit our appliances into and store larger items.

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I’m super-pumped about the big tall cabinet on the left side. It’s 24″wide by 12″deep by 80″ tall. It’s going to make terrific storage for my oversized canisters of flour and baking supplies (currently stored in our 11″ deep Billy bookshelf that’s going to be replaced by these cabinets), as well as our crock pot, rice cooker, hand mixer, etc. I’ve seriously been daydreaming and making fanciful lists of all the things I’m going to store there.

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Another thing I’ve been daydreaming about: glass-front cabinets. For whatever reason, I have always, always wanted glass-front cabinets in my someday kitchen. I didn’t go with glass fronts on the cabinets for Phase I in part because I was worried about grease by the stove (same reason I will never do open shelving next to a stove) and in part because the items we were storing were not going to be attractive enough for it–busy coffee mugs, spices, stacked up casserole dishes, etc, and they were going to be stacked in the cabinets in a non-aesthetically pleasing fashion. Now that we can spread out our storage, that’s much less of a problem. We’re going to have plenty of closed storage with our existing cabinets + the new base cabinets and tall cabinet. All my prettiest kitchen items (my nice glassware, colorful cereal bowls, fancy Le Crueset teapot) are going to be re-homed behind the glass cabinet doors. I cannot wait to do this.

Another part about this bank of cabinetry that I’m really excited is the little cut-away formed between the two base cabinets. We can’t cover that space because of the hvac vent and it’s cost-prohibitive to move it, so I came up with what I hope will be a workable solution. Basically, we leave 15″ of space between the two 15″ wide base cabinets. The bottom of the space is left open for the vent (and Busby’s water dish) and then we build in a fixed shelf in the upper portion for cookbook storage. I don’t have a massive collection of cookbooks, but this would be plenty of space to shelve the ones I have with room for a few more down the road. I think this is a decent solution to otherwise wasted space and will also help to make the open space between the base cabinets appear more intentional and less like a gap.

And last and probably least, one thing I’m digging about this plan is that, due to the window we have to leave a space of a few inches between the cabinets and the corner by the window where the two walls meet. What to do with this space? Why, mount a hook and hang your pretty aprons that totally match with your vintage and turquoise kitchen color scheme. Currently, they’re hanging on a hook inside the pantry closet which is slightly annoying to get to (being that our pantry is not actually in the kitchen). It’s also annoying because I think they’re too pretty to be hanging out inside a dark closet. Now I have a solution that is both functional (easy, immediate access to aprons!) and attractive (show off my pretty aprons!) and makes sure that there isn’t an inch of space wasted. Sweet.

Also sweet? Little vintage ceramic pig’s head apron hooks:

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I’ve seen these turn up several times on Etsy but never bought one because I didn’t have any place for it. Now you better believe I’m going to be snatching one up for my little apron corner.

So, yup. That’s the big plan for Phase II. We’re going to place our order for the cabinets at Ikea at the end of the week and I could not be more excited. Can’t wait to finally finish my little kitchen!

Pink Lemonade Baby Quilt

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Long time no post. It was a lousy couple of months and I’ll just leave it at that. Anyway, just finished a quilt for my cousin’s new baby and I thought I’d post about that. Not a bad way to return.

Here’s the quilt front:IMG_1601

I used Elizabeth Hartman’s Nine-Patch Lattice Baby Quilt Pattern which was super-easy to follow. The fabrics are mostly from the Acacia collection by Tula Pink (love the intricate details and animal/plant themes of Tula Pink’s fabrics) with one fabric from Valori Wells (don’t remember the name) thrown in from my stash to add a bit more pink. The solid is Kona Cotton in Celery. I think it’s kind of an unusual color combination, but I ended up loving it so much.

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The combo of the coral/melon binding fabric with the yellowy-green solid fabric is my favorite part–it reminds me of pink lemonade. It’s surprisingly hard to find gender-neutral fabric collections for babies that aren’t all pastels or faded colors. I think this ended up being an awesome alternative to the usual choices.

Here’s the quilt back:IMG_1604

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Although the construction/piecing of the quilt went off without a hitch, the actual quilting was a nightmare. My walking foot broke part-way through and I just didn’t have the money to spend on a new one. Quilting with just a regular foot did not go well at all. I ended up tearing out more stitching than I kept in. Eventually, I decided to try finishing the quilting by hand (my first time doing that on anything) and it actually came out okay. It definitely looks amateur/handmade, but I was surprised to find that I didn’t mind the look. I think it’s kind of sweet on a baby quilt to have some very handmade-looking touches. I used a coral pink colored thread and again really liked the effect of that against all the other colors.

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In the end it’s definitely not a perfect quilt, but I’m pretty okay with how it turned out. I’m shipping it off to Norway tomorrow (where my cousin lives) and will probably never see it again. So sad. But hopefully baby and mom will enjoy it and get some use out of it. For all the stress that was quilting this tiny little thing, I’m already thinking about my next baby quilt I want to make for a friend. I think it’s like birthing babies in that way–the joy of the final result makes you forget all the pain of delivering it!

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2013 in Review

newyearsresolutions

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Defended a dissertation. Signed a book contract. Housetrained a dog. Worked with woodstain.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My resolutions for last year: Complete my dissertation. Defend my dissertation. Graduate! Finish my Singing in the Rain quilt. Grow some vegetables in the garden. Make more clothes. Keep up with my work-out routine. Paint the bathroom, bedroom, and living room.

I did indeed complete my dissertation, defend it, and graduate. I still have not finished quilting my Singing in the Rain quilt because quilting on a tiny home machine is really frustrating. I did grow some vegetables in the garden, including cherry tomatoes and zucchini, but mice ate all my zucchini. Flowers were much more successful. I did not make any more clothes this year, unfortunately. I also was not great at keeping up the work-out routine, though I was swimming pretty regularly before the pool closed for the holiday break, so there’s that. We also did paint the bathroom, though not the bedrooms or living room. Oh, well.

For this year I want to accomplish the following: get a new full-time teaching position, complete my manuscript, complete the Singing in the Rain quilt (I’m so close it’s ridiculous), complete my professional webpage, and make some serious headway on my fiction. I also think I’m going to do a separate post on goals for the house.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, but a whole bunch of folks are currently pregnant. 2014 will be a bumper baby year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Chop lost both his grandparents and his cousin this year. That was awful.

5. What places did you visit?

I went to Ann Arbor for what will likely be the last time ever. We also had a great, great weekend trip to Galena in October for my birthday. It was incredibly beautiful and I hope to remember it forever.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

Steady employment. State budget cuts mean that a lot of the courses I usually teach have been axed. It sucks. So does job-hunting. I really want to get to a place where I don’t have to worry about either for a bit.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

May 15th. Defended my dissertation.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Successfully defending my dissertation and graduating with my Ph.D.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not yet finding a more permanent teaching position.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I got diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. So far it hasn’t been too bad and I am extremely grateful for this.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A new roof. Seriously, it makes me so happy every time I drive up the street and see it. Also nice that our bedroom ceiling no longer leaks every time it rains.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Chop, as always. He is the most patient and kind person who ever lived.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

My own. I’m pretty frustrated with myself as this year winds down.

14. Where did most of your money go?

New roof, new furnace, new dog

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Finishing grad school! Getting a dog! Teaching a really, really awesome group of students.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

“100” by Brandi Carlisle

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?

about the same

ii. thinner or fatter?

thinner

iii. richer or poorer?

poorer. but we have a roof and a furnace and all that jazz.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Screwing around online, watching terrible television on netflix

20. How did you spend Christmas and NYE?

Christmas morning we went to Rockford to visit Chop’s family. Christmas evening my family gathered at my aunt’s house, then my parents and sister came to our place afterward.  New Year’s Eve Chop and I stayed in, ordered pizza (as is our tradition) and watched a marathon of Burns & Allen.

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?

I love my dog more than I would have thought possible.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Stuff I really enjoyed this year was Girls, Mad Men, and Boardwalk Empire. Chop made me watch the entirety of The West Wing and I despised it. I also started watching American Horror Story over Christmas break and have been enjoying its sheer batshittery.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don’t.

24. What was the best book you read?

I really enjoyed “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Really loved Brandi Carlisle’s new album. Also Jake Bugg and Lorde.

26. What was your greatest culinary discovery?

Hmm. I started making this really awesome balsamic vinegar beef thing in the crock pot. Also made some killer peanutbutter cookies that will be adding to my annual Christmas cookie baking extravaganza.

27. What did you want and get?

A completed dissertation and a puppy.

28. What did you want and not get?

A stable job.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

I don’t know that I had an absolute favorite but I really enjoyed Side Effects and found Silent House pretty clever for the most part. It was a netflix-y year for me and movies.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 33. For my actual birthday I just worked and had a normal day, but the weekend after Chop took me to Galena. Galena in October is the prettiest place on Earth. I’m hoping to make October trips up there a tradition.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Stable job.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

I got really into wrap dresses. I also wear dog-hair-covered yoga pants way too much these days.

33. What kept you sane?

Swimming and gardening. I was also so pleased to have my desire to write fiction come back toward the end of the year. I spent a lot of October-December writing again, which was wonderful. I felt like I found myself again. Teaching, too, is great for keeping your mind alive. My students inspire me in a lot ways, as corny as that sounds.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Can’t really think of anyone for this.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

The government shut-down was crap. On the brighter side, we finally got gay marriage in Illinois. Embarrassingly late is better than never, I guess.

36. Who did you miss?

I miss my friends I used to talk about writing with.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

Can I say my students? I had some great students this year.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

If you just keep plugging away, things have a way of getting done.
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