Faux Chalk Labels

If you are anything like me, once you are in the middle of a big DIY project, you have the urge to do a million little ones instead. Some call that procrastination, but I like to think of it as sanity-saving. After days weeks months of seeing little progress, it’s nice to switch gears and actually finish something. My mini-distraction for the week was making faux chalk labels.

Armed with my handy packing tape (I guess I share that affinity with the flippers who lived here before, although I use it strictly for crafts and packing, NOT patching window cracks) and some chalk paper and a white marker from Hobby Lobby, I was good to go. In twenty minutes, I had neatly labeled half the kitchen.

My daughter helpfully pointed out that it was silly to label see-through jars since, well, you could already see what was in them. As I reached for the marker and lunged for her forehead, she decided labeling the kitchen wasn’t such a terrible idea after all.

Shared at:

Blue Cricket Design and



The Basement Plan

Now that you’ve seen the shambled mess of our basement, I thought it was time to share the vision for the space!

First, I chose the tile, which is a gorgeous tumbled quartz. The 4×4 squares will go on the hearth. Of course I only ordered a sample – a year ago. Hopefully it’s still available online!

Tile for fireplace, board sample, and colors.Picking paint colors always takes me a long time, but we decided on two: one for the family room and one for the small playroom/office. It’s Winter Lake for the family room, the second blue from the top. The playroom/office will be Tiny Fawn, the first brownish color at the top. Although deciding on the type of flooring took a long time (tile, laminate, tile, laminate, laminate), choosing the laminate for the family room was easy. I fell in love with the Sonoma Cherry immediately. We snatched up some sale tile for the playroom/office. It’s not pictured here because, honestly, it’s boring… and buried under building supplies somewhere in our garage.

Next up was sketching the space. Truth be told, I compulsively produce drawings despite my nonexistent art skills. Imagine my irritation when my ever-practical husband demands dimensions. “Well look!” I tell him, holding my thumb and index finger in the classic measurement pose, “It’s about this much higher than it is wide.” When I wasn’t looking, he smuggled my masterpiece drawing of our fireplace mantle into AutoCad to create precise measurements. Snore.

Here’s what we came up with:

Drawings of the fireplace.I’m really happy with what we have planned. I’m just crossing my fingers that the finished space will somewhat resemble the one I have in my head.

The Proverbial Straw

One weekend last summer, we started demo on our basement. It seemed to be a remarkably quick and easy task. At the end of our last day of cleanup, I was perched on a ladder in the middle of the now barren family room, congratulating myself and my family on our hard labor and looking forward to rebuilding. My husband was across the room, removing the final piece of decorative crown molding at the top of the fireplace so he could take out the remaining studs on that wall. At first, I thought it was a product of tired eyes. Surely the brick fireplace couldn’t be swaying.

Fireplace before demo.

I rubbed my eyes and looked again – at the still swaying fireplace. Apparently, the only thing holding the floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace facade up was this:


DIY Rule #1: It always turns out to be a bigger project than you planned. Always.

Clearly, the existing fireplace was a safety hazard. So instead of being finished with demo, my husband started tearing down the old fireplace, brick by stinkin’ brick. Then he began making a new hearth with cement block. It was like a puzzle, only with really heavy pieces and much bending over.

Well yes, you may be thinking, that is a big job, but why on earth would it take a full year? That fireplace, my friends, was the straw. My husband wound up with two herniated discs in his back, which ultimately required back surgery. After a lengthy, do not lift more than 5 pounds or bend over recovery, his doctor gave him the green light to return to his old nemesis.

Here’s the fireplace now, ready to be tiled:

Fireplace ready to be tiled

Table Inspiration

I have been on the hunt for a new dining room table forever. Since we live in a split level, the dining room space has to bridge the living room, with its dark wood and chocolate fabrics, and the kitchen, with its all white cabinetry.

With so many beautiful pictures and ideas floating around the web, finding rooms and furniture to covet is easy.  A while ago, I ran across this picture and thought the table would be perfect:

Source: The Old White Cottage

Unfortunately, as is often the case, my tastes and my budget do not align. I found similar tables in furniture stores everywhere, but none of them were quite right. Most of them had a lighter stain on the tabletop than I wanted, and all of them were pricey. Then, one day, I spotted this little diamond-in-the-rough at our local Salvation Army.

Thrift store table - before.

Price Tag: $69.99 (Pretty steep price tag for a thrift store, I thought. Not that it stopped me from grabbing the tag and making a mad dash for the register, much to my husband’s horror delight.)

On my agenda this weekend is stripping and refinishing the table, while my husband toils away in our basement … and answers my endless questions.

     Do we have a sander?

     How long do I need to leave the stripper on?

     How bad are these fumes for my lungs?

     Can I start painting the legs while I wait?

Multi-tasking is a beautiful thing.

Out With the Old

Like any self-respecting DIY television junkie, I reacted to the mildewy smell of the basement carpet by advocating for a complete gutting of our basement. When my husband suggested simply removing the carpet and putting down new flooring, I stuttered. “But what about the black mold that is probably spreading inside the walls slowly,” cough, “destroying our health.”

F-i-n-e, he agreed. We could remove the bottom of the sheetrock. Just to see.

Partial removal of sheetrock in basement.

“But think of the foundation,” I urged him (after several more internet searches). “What if there is a giant crack? What if water is gushing in, right now, as we speak?”

Basement after demo.

My husband has become very good at sighing. And demolition.

The good news is we did not find black mold, and there were only a couple teensie-weensie cracks in an otherwise fantabulous foundation. However, we would have never discovered the real mildew-spawning culprit had we not pulled all the sheetrock and framing down, which gave us a clear view of the waterfall originating from the basement window. You know, the one previously inside the wall.

How To Flood A Basement in 4 Easy Steps

Okay, perhaps flood is too strong a word. But these four simple steps will ensure a soggy, musty basement for posterity!

Step 1: Build Concrete poured in window well.a two-story deck and set the support posts on top of the existing concrete patio. This way, the patio will sink on the side next to the basement window, channeling rainfall into your basement window well.

Step 2: Fill said basement window well with concrete. Yup, concrete. In fact, do it twice to make sure the concrete prevents water from entering the drainage tile and instead funnels it through the window, thus creating a trickling indoor water feature. Throw in a few treasures to reward the poor saps who have to rent a jackhammer to get the concrete out!

Step 3: To ensure that the water is only discovered by the musty carpet smell rather than, oh, by sight, sheetrock over the half oPicture of wall over basement window.f the basement window that is held together with packing tape. This way, the rainwater will flow, uninterrupted down the INSIDE of the wall and around the low spots beneath the carpet.

Step 4: Wall-to-wall carpeting. In the basement.

Disclaimer: In all fairness to the flippers who sold us this house, I’m pretty sure only Steps 3 and 4 were their doing. Still…

A House Story

Like so many other house stories of the past decade, ours begins with a flip. Only in our case, we were not the flippers. Instead, we inherited a flipped house. When we bought it four years ago, we were pleased that it was move-in ready. Although we knew we would have the standard decorating and “someday” updates, the house was cozy and clean.

And then came the projects. No matter how simple they begin, almost all of them quickly morph into much, much bigger projects. I like to think of them as the “omg what WERE they thinking?” projects. The “they” being the flippers, of course.

We get to experience all those cost saving strategies and short cuts heralded on flipping shows – up close. There are the treasures in the walls (no, that doesn’t count as recycling), weird patches (yes, you do need to sand the patches), and missing duct work (no, that’s not what they mean by blown-in insulation).

Then there is our basement odyssey, which began like so many other projects, with a simple plan to change out one little thing. We are quickly learning that in the world of home improvement, there is no such thing as changing out one little thing!