Friday, February 5, 2016

Room Reveal... New Bathroom!

 One of our big projects this winter has been to give our main bathroom a much-needed face lift. I've hated this bathroom since I bought this house nearly 9 years ago, but since it was mainly a cosmetic issue, it ended up pretty low on the priority list.

When I first moved in, the bathroom had 1960's aqua-blue tiles on the lower half of the walls, with hideous pink and blue sponge painting on the upper half of the walls. Really. Ugly. To make it tolerable while we waited to fully renovate, I painted over the tile and sponge painting, which was definitely an improvement. But in my desire to escape the onslaught of pink and blue, I went a little ~too~ neutral, so for 8 years we've lived with this very bland and boring bathroom. We definitely needed to do something with this space. Here are some "Before" pics...
Before. ~yawn~

Before, with the aqua tile painted beige

Before. Note the broken drawer in the vanity, and the sink that
is off-center from the mirror. This off-center sink drove
me MAD for almost 9 years. Seriously. Who does that!? 

This project was finally kick-started due to a plumbing problem we had in the fall, which required our plumber to cut a big hole in the wall. We figured since the demolition was already started, we might as well go all the way. 
So it begins... 

We pried all the old tiles off the walls, and pulled out the old vanity and mirror...




Next, we had a carpenter come in to install bead board, trim and baseboards. We thought about doing this ourselves, but worried it was beyond our skill set, so we decided it was best to call in a professional. We're very glad we did. Nothing in our old home is square, so we'd have probably made a mess of things.


Once the carpenter finished, we painted the walls green and the bead board and trim a creamy white. After years of boring beige, it was fun to get a little color in here.



After we put in new light fixtures and the plumber installed the new sink, we were ready for the final touches on our new bathroom!



(**Drumroll.... **)


Ta-da!





Shower curtain, from Target,
which inspired our color scheme. 



Found this fun reproduction antique TP holder
on Ebay... it says "London Paper Co"

Old ladder to hold towels, and a cute little
sign I found in a clearance bin. I think
"I will be Grateful for this day" is a great
message for us all to look at as we wash
up each morning and prepare for our day 

Shelves made from a stack of old crates to
hold necessities like wash cloths, Qtips,
cotton balls, epsom salts, etc.

The wood boxes under the sink hold
cleaning supplies, while the big jar
 holds assorted handmade soaps.

I'm really happy with how this room turned out. It suits our casual style, and feels like it "fits" much better in our 1890's house. Since we reused much of what was there already (tub, toilet and tile floor were all left as-is) we were able to get this done pretty cheap.

So here's something... this renovation is a milestone of sorts. It took nearly 9 years, but we've finally redone every room in the house... this bathroom was the last one. But now, some of the rooms we did early on are starting to look a bit ragged again... nothing too major, but definitely needing a little patching and repainting. When I bought my first house, someone told me that your home is never really "done"... there is always something else that comes up. They weren't kidding!

But all that can wait for the time being. We're taking a little breather on home projects, now that the bathroom is finished. We're enjoying a nice "snow day" today, and after the weekend we'll be getting ready for Maple Sugaring Season! I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

January Highlights, "Sneak Peaks" and Big Plans...

I remember writing up my New Year's Intentions post, on New Year's Eve, just so excited to see what January 1 would have in store for us. Well, turns out January had SO much in store, I was far too busy living my life to write about it! Here were some highlights:

1. We finished up a deeee-lightful Winter Break, and got back into our full roster of activities, classes, etc. Homeschooling four active kids between the ages of 11 and 17 is always an adventure ;)

2. We've been getting my middle boy ready for SCHOOL! Yup, after homeschooling for his whole life, he's decided he wants to try high school next year... so, we've been spending lots of time perusing literature, attending orientations, parent nights and info sessions and meeting with guidance counselors. Exciting stuff! I think this will be a positive experience for him.
"Sneak Peak" at my
new bathroom! Full
reveal coming soon!

3. We've been renovating the bathroom. It's nearly finished, and there will be a "Room Reveal" post coming soon, with Before and After pics!

Meanwhile... we've also been enjoying some other nice winter-time diversions, such as cookie-baking, winter walks, hot chocolate and lattes, reading, crafting, ice-skating... typical January-type stuff.

But now... it's FEBRUARY... which means it's time to start thinking ahead to What's Next. In our case, that means we're going to start preparing to tap the trees for Maple Sugaring, and we're going to start planning this year's garden and ordering seeds.

The First Day of SPRING is less than 7 weeks away!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Intentions, 2016

Well, well, well... somehow, 2015 has slipped right by, and a New Year is upon us! 2015 was a pretty great year for us! I can't wait to see what's in store for 2016.

Like many others, this is the time of year when I take a look at how my life is going, and take stock of things I'm struggling with, goals I want to accomplish, successes, failures, etc. I sit down each year and make a list of "Intentions" for the New Year. These are different than Resolutions, which seem a bit too "all or nothing" for me. You can see my past posts on Intentions by following the links here: New Years Intentions

In looking back at last year's list, I found I made GREAT progress on a couple of things, but zero progress on a couple more. That's life, I guess. But overall, my life definitely moved forward in wonderful, positive ways in 2015, so that is something I feel pretty good about. My health is much improved this year. I've been trying hard to work on patience and gratitude. And most notable: I've tried lots of things I've always wanted to do (like maple sugaring, beekeeping and soap making!) I'm hoping to continue moving forward, growing, improving, and enjoying life in 2016!

So... on to this year's list:

1. More Art. This was on last year's list, and... it really never happened. Life is busy, there was a lot going on, and once again, Art fell by the wayside. So... I'm going to try again this year! More Art!

2. Continue my journey toward good health. While I've made good progress on this one, I still have lots of room for improvement. So, I will continue to try to make caring for my body with good nutrition and exercise a priority in 2016.

3. Stick to a budget, and start saving something each month. This is ALWAYS a tough one, and I know we're not alone in this. I'm hoping that we'll be able to stick to our budget at least mostly, make it possible to start contributing to saving for the future, which is something we've not been so good at in the past.

4. Daily Journaling. This is something I've been wanting to do for a while, but just haven't been able to motivate myself. I was recently given the gift of one of those cool "daily prompt"-type journals from a good friend, which is just the kick I needed to get started. I'm going to start that book tomorrow, and plan to work on a "Gratitude Journal" as well.

5. Spend more time being a Fun Mom. I always wanted to be a Fun Mom, and when my kids were little, I think I was, at least most of the time. We were always off on adventures, doing fun things together. As they got older, life got in the way, and I feel like I got too wrapped up in daily survival to focus on having fun. This has gotten better since I quit my job in 2014, but now that they're (almost) all teenagers, I realize I've missed out on a lot. My youngest recently reminded me that we never play games anymore. He's right. We don't. That needs to change. Our oldest boy will be leaving the nest this summer, and my middle boy will be giving up homeschooling to attend High School next school year, so I really want to make the most of the rest of the time I have with them this year.

So that's it for my list of New Year's Intentions for this year. Now I'm going to go spend this New Year's Eve with my family... eating pizza, watching The Hudsucker Proxy and playing games until 2015 comes to a close.

May you all have a peaceful, joyous, love-filled, and very Happy New Year.




Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Holiday Wrap Up, 2015!

Winter Solstice window

After much merriment over the last few weeks, the Holiday Season is finally winding down. It's been a good one for us! I hope it was for you, too. Since last post, we've enjoyed a Solstice Feast, Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day!

Our Solstice celebration was last Tuesday... we were joined by my sister and her fiance, and we all enjoyed a lovely candle-lit evening, filled with good food, and good company.

We roasted chestnuts over an open fire... 



Traditional Solstice ice lanterns.. though, with
temps in the 50's, they didn't last very long! 



The table is set... ready for the feast... 



Christmas Eve and Christmas were also spent here at home. Christmas is a quiet, casual affair for us. We enjoyed having a couple of visitors, Skyped with my parents in Florida, and were very grateful for some quiet family time. We wrapped up Christmas Day as we always do, with take-out Chinese and a Christmas movie (this year, Elf!) 

As of now, We're currently in Christmas Recovery Mode. I'm clearing up the Christmas Clutter, and getting our home back to "normal." I am also savoring the remains of Winter Break before the kids' classes and activities start up again next week. It's nice to have some time to catch up on things here at home, and to have a little "downtime." 

Next post, I'll be talking about New Year's Intentions, as well as some fun new stuff I'm planning for the New Year!  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Savoring the Season...

There's a lot to love about the month of December. We've spent the first half of this month winding down from Autumn and gearing up for the coming Winter. We've been "Decking the Halls" and making our home cozy for the long, dark nights. We've been enjoying some of our favorite traditions, such as trimming our tree, making decorations and special gifts, going to parties, attending our town's "Holiday Stroll" event... and there have been holiday concerts, and we saw a wonderful production of A Christmas Carol! There are always so many great things happening this time of year. We always make it a point to cut back on regular Homeschool stuff in December, to give us more time to focus on these special activities and traditions.
Our living room, decked out for the season. 

This year's handmade wreath... one of my favorite traditions.

So we've been keeping ourselves happily busy with all of these fun December activities. But we've also devoted a good deal of our time this month to doing our daily "good deed" picked from our
 "Acts of Kindness" Tree. The kids and I have been enjoying giving back in small ways (like donating to our local food bank, buying poinsettias for the nursing home, baking cookies for our librarians, paying for someone's coffee) and in bigger ways, like organizing a coat and blanket drive for the homeless in our area. It makes me crazy proud as a Mama when I see my kids getting excited and enthusiastic about giving and helping others. For me, it's personal in a different way... I've been on the receiving end of SO much kindness and assistance during the years when things were really rough for us, so it's really important for me to Pay it Forward now that I'm able to. 

The next few days will be spent preparing for our Solstice Feast! We've got lots to do! Making ice lanterns, finishing up the menu planning, decorating, baking, etc. This is my favorite celebration of the season! I love embracing and celebrating the Earth's cycles. I'm one of those people who really lives by the seasons. Our routines, the way we eat and the activities we engage in all change and flow with the seasons. I find immense amounts of comfort in this. It makes me feel connected to something greater than myself. The Winter Solstice is particularly meaningful to me. I love marking the time when the days begin to get longer again, minute by minute, each day. I love thinking about how our ancestors have celebrated the Return of the Light for thousands of years. This dark, cozy time of year is a time of reflection, appreciation and togetherness.  

“Winter is the time for comfort,

for good food and warmth, 

for the touch of a friendly hand 

and for a talk beside the fire:

 it is the time for home.”

                                                          ~Edith Sitwell




Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our Thanksgiving Weekend, and Family Holiday Projects...

We are currently on our second day of  "back to business" after a really great long weekend/mini-staycation for the Thanksgiving holiday! It was great to have a few days to renew, recharge, and reconnect. The first three months of the school year have been an absolute blur, so this downtime was much needed. The Man was home from work this week, and we took most of the week off from our homeschool stuff, so we were able to really slow down and savor the holiday.

We hosted Thanksgiving here, but it was a small group... Myself, The Man, three of the five kids, and my wonderful cousin (who is more like a sister to me!) A big change from previous years was that, having the week mostly-off, I was able to actually enjoy the preparations for the holiday, without feeling stressed and rushed... I'm pretty sure that's the first time that's ever happened! We spent Monday and Tuesday cleaning, decorating and shopping. Tuesday night, we baked up all the desserts. Wednesday, I prepped most of the rest of the food (and finished in time for a date with The Man in the evening!)Thursday morning there was nothing left to do but set the table, put things in the oven, and put the finishing touches on the meal. 

Speaking of the meal... everyone always asks what we have for our Vegan Thanksgiving. This year, our main dish was, in fact, the ol' vegan standby, Tofurky! This is actually only the second time in nearly 30 years of vegetarianism that I've served Tofurky (last year was the first time!) but... the family likes it, and it's easier than the labor-intensive lentil loaves and such I've made in the past, so I was happy to oblige and make it again this year. Here's our full menu:

Appetizers

Crudite with dip
Cashew Cheese, pepper jam and crackers

Dinner

Autumn shredded kale salad
(with cranberries, pecans and apple cider vinaigrette)
Pumpkin Soup
Tofurky
 Roasted sweet potatoes and onions
Apple-cranberry stuffing
Balsamic roasted squash and brussels sprouts
Mashed potatoes
Corn
Cranberry sauce
Rolls 

Desserts

Pumpkin pie
Apple Tart
Molasses cookies
Spiced Cider
Tea

Next to the food, my other favorite tradition for Thanksgiving is the little "Thankful craft" we do every year... Starting about a week before the holiday, I leave out some paper leaves and markers, and throughout the week we all write down things we're Thankful for. We hang these leaves into a garland, and it just makes me so happy to see it hanging up as a reminder of all the good stuff we've got going on in our lives. 


A few of our Blessings


The garland, hanging on the mantle.

Speaking of seasonal crafts and projects... Today is December 1! (Seriously... can you believe it?!) so it's time for another favorite family project for this time of year... our Acts of Kindness Tree. (You can read more about that tradition in this post from last year) During our nice relaxing weekend, I got our tree ready, and later this morning we will be starting our first Act of Kindness. While I do think it's important to always be looking out for each other, and helping each other out all year long, it's really fun to have this little tree that reminds us to "step it up" during the holiday season, and do at least one kind thing for someone else every single day. 
Preparing... 

This year's Acts of Kindness tree
I've tried to work on reducing our obligations for the month of December, so that we can have a little bit more time to embrace the season, and do all the things we love to do this time of year. We'll spend more time in service to others, more time connecting as a family and more time making our home cozy for the long, cold winter ahead. 

Next post, I'll be sharing our seasonal decorating, which we'll be starting later this week.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Finding Gratitude in Unexpected Places

I'm taking a tea break, in the midst of this busy morning, and reflecting on the importance of Gratitude. Sometimes when we're rushing around, tending to all the STUFF life throws at us every single day, trying to stay on top of everything we're responsible for, it can be hard to take a moment to stop, take a breath, and remember how Blessed and lucky we are. The chaos happening in the world right now really has me thinking about this even more than usual. I'm sitting here, going over my "to do" list for today, and while I grumble to myself about having to do this stuff, I'm realizing that each of the tasks before me is a Blessing in disguise.

1. Driving my kids to classes and activities, helping with schoolwork, etc... I'm so lucky to have a beautiful family, and so grateful that we've been able to arrange our lives so that I can be with them full time, homeschooling them, caring for them, providing them with what they need. I don't always do it well, but I'm thankful that I'm given the chance to try again, everyday, to do my best for them.

2. Housework... I have a warm, comfortable home, filled with busy, active children. I complain a lot about how much work it is to maintain my home and care for the people in it... but really, I'm SO lucky to have a nice house in a safe neighborhood. So many in the world do not. Again, I am Grateful.

3. Food Prep... Every parent knows the struggle of getting dinner on the table every night, as well as other meals, but... I'm Thankful that I'm able to provide healthy, wholesome meals for my family every day.

4. Community Service... There have been periods of time where we have really struggled, financially, and have not had much extra to share. Those have been hard times. Today, we'll be participating in a project to provide Care Packages to troops overseas, who are not with their families during the holiday season. I'm Grateful that I currently have enough resources that I can share a little bit with others.

5. Doctor appointment... I have an appointment today, because I am Blessed with good medical coverage, so that I can stay healthy, and get the care I need when I'm not.

6. Laundry... It's never-ending with a family this size, but yes, I'm even Grateful for laundry. It means that my family has plenty of warm clothing to keep them comfortable as the weather is getting colder.

Several studies have shown that people who regularly express Gratitude are happier than those who do not. This really makes a lot of sense to me! When I stop and take time to remind myself of all the good things I have in my life, and to share gratitude with the ones I love, I feel happier. This is something that I would like to make a daily habit, especially when those "poor me" feelings we all get from time to time come creeping in. I'm giving myself a Gratitude Challenge... each day I plan to write down some things I'm thankful for, and to express my Gratitude to my loved ones each day for the good they bring into my life. Will you join me in this challenge?