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Updated Front Landscaping

Another one of our projects in quarantine regarded our front landscaping.

Here is a picture of the front of the house on the day we moved in:


Since then, everything died.

I was not blessed with a gardener's skill, unfortunately. With that said though, Nick and I still value curb appeal. It just now required extremely low maintenance plants that were forgiving and easy.

So one afternoon, armed with $183 in new plants from our local garden center, Landen eagerly used our tractor to rip out the two dead bushes. We added new lanterns to the beds, and planted flowers. Landen was a huge help.


OUR NEW LANDSCAPING


We planted a trio of day lillies in place of the dead shrubs.


Four hibiscus were planted in the longer bed. A pair of bright pink ones bloom beneath the guest room window.


And the new lanterns we installed, which are incredibly bright. We have them set on a timer.





Bye, Bye Beige!

Let's start at the beginning.

On the day we moved in, the walls in the kitchen and along the back of the living room where a boring, textured beige. You've seen this picture quite a few times by now:



We slowly began updating to suit our style and preferences.

New flush mount here ...


New cabinet and drawer pulls there ...


Oh, what's that you see? A deep moody blue was sampled next.


NEW ACCENT COLOR

One of the projects we tackled during quarantine involved a lot of paint. That beige had to go!

First up, the back wall with our big, beautiful picture windows received a few coats of that deep, moody blue.




I didn't realize how big of a pain in the ass it would be to paint an eggshell sheen over that textured, beige Ralph Lauren color. We used rollers with 3/4" nap, and painted long strokes from the floor to the ceiling after edging. The rollers had to be fully saturated with paint, and the new strokes had to overlap the old in order to ensure an even sheen. It was tedious work. But, I also absolutely refused to skim coat. In the end though, I loved the result.

The rest of the walls in the kitchen and garage entry were painted a basic gray. This combination worked well with the colors in our new tile floor.

AN ORGANIZED CLOSET

Remember what the goofy closet looked like before?


After we installed the pull-out drawer for the bins in the pantry and removed the pocket door, I put a fresh coat of gray paint inside the closet as well.



Our most-used coats will hang here, eventually. We bought a Command hook for the broom, and the shelf holds a basket for Nick's shoe shine supplies, and our 'social distance' masks, gloves and wipes for the pandemic. Madelyn is considered high-risk, so we did what was necessary to keep her healthy. I like how simple and straightforward it is. I'm still trying to figure out a system for storing and drying our winter clothing when the season Minnesota is famous for comes to town.

I don't dare show the floor of the closet since it's piled with our shoes. Here's a picture of my new runner, which I LOVE, instead -

(I found it at Home Goods.)

NEW LIGHTING

And finally, we updated the rest of the lighting in the kitchen, dinette, living room and entry space. I love Edison bulbs, and we found lights in a finish that matches the cabinet and drawer pulls.

This light hangs above the runner in the entry.


This spot quickly became my favorite in the entire house. I adore how nicely the door and windows frame the woods that surround our property, and that blue ties it all together. It makes our deck look all the more inviting too.


This pendant hangs above the sink. You can also see the new gray paint color.


We replaced the boring old ceiling fan, ensuring the new one had lights!


It was nice to have these projects to work on while we stayed safely at home.

The Pantry, Reconfigured

As previously stated, the 90s are alive and well, at least in the aesthetic of our home.

Very little of it aligns with my taste, so while I've been eager to begin putting my stamp on things, I made sure to sit with everything for a while. I wanted to get a "feel" for the house, the layout and the surrounding area. Since everything here was functional, I wasn't in any rush.

Now, I believe there is always a better way to utilize space, and we recently reconfigured one of ours.

The kitchen has a lot of storage.

'BEFORE' WITH COMPACTOR


In the nearly two years we've lived here, we've never once used the garbage compactor installed within the pantry wall to the left in the above image. 


To the left of the desk is a narrow "galley" with a small closet on one end and garage access on the other. Up to this point, our garbage and recycling bins were kept in that closet. A pocket door closed off the space, making it feel claustrophobic. We had to enter the house single file.




We decided to remove the garbage compactor and install a pull-out drawer for the bins.


I painted the interior and the new shelf bottom, leaving the final installation up to the men. We also tore out the pocket door and removed a large portion of the wall, which really opened up the space.

'AFTER' WITHOUT COMPACTOR


This reconfiguration flows so much better for us, for our needs, and with how we live in our home.

Tile Install and Other Updates

Dear Diary,
When it comes to projects, it's imperative to prepare and budget for the unexpected.

You just never know what you'll discover when you rip out flooring that is 25 years old.

THE BEFORE


TILE INSTALL

I hated the square, Miami Vice-looking tile in our kitchen. We discovered that, when the home was built, concrete was poured as a base. It was an insanely labor-intensive process to remove, during which I reassured everyone that I loved the new tile I had picked out!


The pattern in this tile reminded me of the waves on nearby Lake Marion. There is a mix of blues, grays and browns that flows with our hardwoods and the direction I wish to see the design go.


Someday we'll update the appliances ...

NEW DOOR

We also discovered a rotten subfloor because the door that leads out to our deck was improperly sealed. A new door was purchased and repairs were made. It was an added expense of approximately $2,500 but it had to be done.


We ordered a lot of take-out during this time. I like that the windows and the new door are cohesive in size and shape. Natural light floods this part of the house. I could go on and list all of the other things I long to update, but like the appliances, it'll come in due time.

UPDATED LIGHT FIXTURE

Lastly, I want you to look at the spaceship-looking light over cooking area of the kitchen. I hated that damn thing, and when it was turned on it made this humming sound as though it were summoning the mother ship.


We sent it packing, and refreshed the space with this.


It ties in with the updated drawer and cabinet pulls.

Quick Cabinet Refresh

Dear Diary,
I never thought I'd come to the strong defense of hardwood cabinets.

But here we are. (In fact, I kind of love them in this house!)

Still, I wanted to find a way to pull them out of the early 90s and into this current century.

THE OLD PULLS


There was no coming to their defense. I'm fairly certain they're original to the home's 1994 construction and design choices, and I don't have anything nice to say about them.

I wanted something simple yet substantial. I wanted something that was current yet would withstand passing trends. With this house, I'm leaning towards darker finishes to complement the moodiness of the hardwoods, and the first step came in the form of 3" bar pulls.


We found a really good deal on them at Menards (forward our mail here please), and purchased 7 boxes for less than $175 plus an $80 mail-in rebate. I spent two days switching them out and polishing the cabinets. Polishing brought out the wood grain, which made the hardware really stand out.

The kitchen, hall cabinets, guest bathroom and master bath received this upgrade. I was so excited that such a simple change could have such an impact on the look and feel of the spaces.

THE NEW PULLS


The hinges were also updated.

As you can see in the pictures above, the hinges were that same faded brass color that seemed to age the woodwork. The darker hinges changed that aesthetic for the better.



I'm currently searching for new doorknobs, light switches and outlet covers to match.

It's also inspired us to upate our home in other ways ...

To be continued.

The Symbolic Sighting of a Pair of Swans

Across the street from my house is a pond.

We see it best from our driveway.

One day, I was performing some menial tasks. We had lost track of what day in quarantine we were on. The kids were still reeling from the sudden end to their 3rd and 7th grade school years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I was working from home. Life as we knew it had come to a screeching halt. We were struggling to make sense of it, while still trying to navigate our way through the uncertainty.

Keeping busy with menial tasks helped.

As I approached the end of my driveway, I glanced over at the pond. And there, I saw a pair of massive Trumpeter Swans.


I was in awe, as I don't think I've ever seen swans outside of a zoo or nature preserve.


And then, there they were. Across the street. As though I was meant to see them.


Why is NOW the first time I'm observing a pair of swans in the surrounding landscape of my home?

As it turns out, swans symbolize the 'awakening of the power of self', and the 'development of intuitive abilities'. They are 'messengers of faith' and 'transformation', not to mention 'purity', 'grace', 'tranquility' and 'union'. There was a reason why I was to see them when I did - they brought me reassurances.

These past few weeks were chock full of unknowns, and I relied heavily on what felt right in my gut to forge on. How will my children talk about this upheaval when they reflect back on it? Will they recall the many treats we baked and home-cooked meals we made? Will they remember the increase of time we had together, since home was now also school and an office? Will they recall the marathon Xbox sessions, or the cats behaving like dum-dums since they're not accustomed to their humans being around so much? Will they complain about how lacking our Internet speed is? I wonder if they will talk about how important it is to have hope and an enduring faith, that though life has been completely transformed, the union of our little family of four strengthened in its bond.

Life now will be defined as "Before Covid" and "After Covid".

From my perspective, Covid-19 made me see how much of my pre-quarantine life I needed to dismantle before I can start anew. The things that no longer serve me will be left in the past. I will begin with what I know, what I am certain of; and use it for the foundation to build upon for the next chapter. Did a simple sighting of a pair of giant swans in a pond foretell this clarity?


I don't know.

I do know, however, if I had been subconsciously seeking some sort of sign, then surely the symbolism and happenstance of a pair of Trumpeter Swans that brought me this revelation, is it.

I may not know what tomorrow is going to bring, but I know I have faith that it will get better. I just have to be true to myself and trust my intuition as we continue to weave our way through this.

Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother 40 whacks
And when she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41

Everyone know this rhyme, and everyone knows this crime.


See What I Have Done is Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel, and a gripping triumph. It’s a thought-provoking fictional retelling of the infamous unsolved double murder, and is a testament to the limitations of criminal investigations of the 1890s.

I remain convinced Lizzie Borden killed her father and step-mother for their fortune, and am even further convinced that the all-male jury severely underestimated her.

Is a woman truly incapable of such brutality? 

What this story does, is paint a picture of motive. Lizzie and her sister, Emma, grew up in one fucked up household filled with abuse of all kinds. The double murder of Andrew and Abby Borden was not the first in the family – another relative drowned her two young daughters before slitting her own throat. 

To help Lizzie and Emma, their uncle (their deceased mother’s brother) hired a “fixer” to set Andrew straight. Someone beat him to it though – as in, he was hacked to death.

This novel doesn’t close the case, but it does provide insight into how an environment can influence one’s actions. It recalls a crime that lives in infamy while wondering if there is more to the story than what lies in plain sight.