Monday, February 28, 2011

And....the After!

And in the 3-part series on "What Were We Thinking?" of our home post construction!  I missed a bunch of areas, I will follow up with more pictures in another post.


Built in's off of the kitchen...
Bathroom seen in the 'old house' photos/current extra bathroom...

Guest Bedroom (Former master bedroom)
Stairs to the Master Bedroom...

Living Room After...

Kitchen (part of the addition, not a portion of the old house)....

 Main Floor Half Bathroom...

Stairs down to mudroom, gym and garage...

Living Room...
My apologies, these are not the best photos in the world. We had a bit of a camera incident in Aruba and are now without one. We hope to have a new camera soon and I will post more photos. If you care.  But I think it's fun to see other people's houses.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

As promised...the before

I have mentioned that our house was a 'fixer upper', but I don't think I ever showed pictures of what it looked like before. It was a mess. And yes, we could have purchased a nice, finished, normal house, like normal people...but I have never been known to do anything the easy way.

So instead, I present you with our lovely abode, pre construction....

The "Foyer"...

The Kitchen...
The Only Bathroom...
The Living Room...
The Laundry Room...
The Back Yard...
But it's in a GREAT neighborhood! That was our starting point. And, as mentioned, our amazing builder Tom Sicora, who we have sadly just lost, walked into this home and was full of ideas of what we could do with this place. I was energized by the process, and the vision, and Jeremy was scared sh*&less.

And so you see...when you start here, and pour your heart and soul into something, flowers in a field will just not do. Cows and hot dogs seem much more appropriate.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Decorating 101

Now that we are all settled into our new house, physically, it seems appropriate that we now take a turn at making it look like a home, rather than a house. Sure, all of the plates have found their final resting place in the cupboards (for this week), and the sheets have nested quite well into their linen closet, but at some point, you do have to look around and address the complete lack of decoration. I guess.

We worked with a wonderful builder to create our home this past year, who, very sadly, passed away at a young age last week. It was a tough week, losing someone to whom we respected and had grown quite close. However, I think it gave me the final kick in the pants that I need to give this house the attention that it deserves. Tom built a beautiful home for us, now we need to make it look the best it possibly can.

This was a home we all built with vision. Tomorrow I will post some 'before' pictures, but this house was in tough shape. Built in 1947 it was largely neglected for the past 10 years of its life. Windows were rotting, toilets did not work, the kitchen was essentially nonexistent, and the home needed some desperate help.  We renovated the home, doubled it in size and restored its original character.(I use the term character lightly as I do recognize this was a post war home and therefore character is a relative term) The home was built in 1947, and I thought in some ways it should pay homage to 1947. Minus the shag carpeting and mint green appliances.

Well maybe more like pay homage by bringing in the good elements (clean lines, simple style) and upgrading it with all the beauties of 2011 (glass bead wallpaper, Brazilian walnut flooring and mudrooms). We retained and accentuated the crisp lines of facade of the house, and maintained the flow of the home, while improving it...SIGNIFICANTLY.

And now, on to the decorating. As I mentioned, this home was built with a phenomenal amount of vision, spirit and energy, and it feels like a disservice to stick a picture of a field with flowers on the wall. (Again, if you think this sounds cheesy...wait until I post the before pictures tomorrow. You will understand what I mean about vision).  However, that has left me a bit paralyzed in the world of decorating. We do not have an enormous budget, as it turns out, it's somewhat expensive to renovate a house :-). But, that does not mean we cannot make a big impact.

We have been searching high and low for artwork for our home. I tried the snobby approach, "Well I don't want to just buy any old artwork, I want to collect things in our travels". Well that works well if you enjoy stark walls for years and years until you get to those places, but in the real world, we can't jet off to Zimbabwe and Italy to search the street markets for artwork. I mean, maybe you can. I guess I shouldn't' judge. But if you do go there...bring me something cool to hang on my wall! Because I'll be at home, searching TJ Maxx/Home Goods for artwork!

And so we search. And find pictures of flowers in a field. Or abstract lines on a canvas, which looks somewhat pixeley, like they have actually photocopied a piece of art and stretched it on a canvas. That is not going to work.

And so, after several hours, and tens of stores, I finally drag a giant metal picture of a cow over to Jeremy. A breakdown ensues and I cry out something in regards to hating all of the flowers in a field and the only thing I like is the metal cow.

Jeremy looks at me, and starts to laugh. He stops for just long enough to say, "Okay, you know what, why not just find art that make us laugh? If random flowers in a field seem impersonal, why not just go with what will make us smile each day? What is the point of art if you buy it just because it looks good on the wall?"
Shocked, I look back at him, "Really? You really think we should put this giant metal cow on our wall instead of those flowers in a field that everyone else seems to like so much?"
"Yes, yes I do" he responds. "But is there another one, because just one will be too small"
"Well, kindof, there's a similar one that has a giant hot dog on it" I reply, meekly.
"Perfect - the cow and the Frank!" he responds.
And this is why I married him. Because he appreciates that sometimes, you just have to put a gigantic metal cow, and a gigantic metal hot dog on your wall. Because in the end, you are respecting a home by decorating it with things you love, and things that make you smile. In a tasteful, 1947 homage, respectful of Tom, happy and delightful way.

So here's my point after all of that rambling, if you have things hanging on your wall that neither make you smile, nor make you happy, take them down. This is your home, it should reflect who you are. And if you are not flowers in a field, why would you stick them on your wall?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Novice Homeowners

My husband and I have been dorm/apartment/condo dwellers for a very long time, and therefore, this whole home maintenance thing is all new to us. And yes...I do work in property management for a living, but it is different when you can just "Call the right guys to fix the problem". And I have a lot of those guys. But now, when its my house, and my money, and my space, it's different. We have to attempt to fix things ourselves. Attempt.

For example: we have had a somewhat makeshift dog potty area in our back yard all winter. Due to a summer and fall full of construction, our house has very little grass. The snow fell shortly after construction was completed, and we no longer saw the sad state of our yard. Hidden amidst 8000 feet of snow until Spring.

So, we have been taking the dogs out on the side of the house to an area we have covered with mulch as there is no grass. This worked well all winter as the ground was frozen and everything stayed firmly in place.

Well this past weekend...temperatures skyrocketed from -25 degrees up to 40 degrees. This left us with a soupy backyard, doggy doo doo mess.

And so...on the eve of Valentines day, my valentine took me to Home Depot to find a solution. (We also had dinner and a lovely evening...and then on to Home Depot to solve the soupy, poopy mess)

We wandered the aisles looking for something we could put down that would allow the dogs to walk and pee, as well as remain clean and dry.

Astro-turf? No, as the ground continues to thaw, the turf will sink and fill with mud.

Plywood? Nope, slivers

Outdoor rug? Quite expensive considering it will be used for pee

Gigantic piece of rigid foam insulation? YES!
We will take one of those. Jeremy carried this gigantic piece of insulation, approximately 7 times the size of himself, through the Home Depot store to the cash register. We pay, and walk out the store, knocking down two displays as we go with this enormous board in tow.
We arrive at the car, ready to place our purchase in the vehicle. Problem. Gigantic piece of foam is too large for the car. We both look at the foam, look at the car, look at the foam, look at the car. We consider walking it home as we live quite close, and decide, nope, it is too cold, we are driving this thing home.

However, it is 8:55 and Home Depot closes at 9:00pm.
Jeremy looks at me and takes off running, shouting: "I've got to go and get some twine"
And then I am left, standing next to a giant piece of foam board, in the parking lot of Home Depot, alone, staring in the distance at this...
That tiny spec in the doorway is Jeremy, running like crazy to find twine before they close.

He returns, and explains that he could not find twine in the time allowed, so he bought Duct Tape. Yes, duct tape. We are going to tape this foam on to our brand new car. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
So we Duct Tape the gigantic piece of foam to the car, not considering the aerodynamics of such a plan.
As it turns out a gigantic piece of foam, taped on to your car, on a windy evening, leads to some problems in transport. I spend the next 10 minutes of the car ride home hanging out the window of the car, desperately trying to keep this piece of foam from flying off the car and onto some unsuspecting person behind us, who cannot figure out why we purchased a big piece of foam. Just 1 piece of foam.

10 minutes and several breaks(due to frozen fingers trying to hold foam to the car) later we arrive home, quite proud of our MacGyver like ways. We wrangle the enormous piece of foam into our house, and out the back door to its resting place in the doggy doo doo area. We set it down, the size is perfect.

Jeremy leases up the puppy, Stanley, and takes him out to test our our plan. Stan pees, and Jeremy starts to scream.
I run over, and he looks at me and says, "Did you ever consider that insulation is waterproof and that is why it is insulation?" as the pee dribbles around atop the insulation like a river running towards his shoes.

Woops. Guess we have a bit more learning to do in the Homeowner category.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Things that I love

Tis Valentines Day (in case you missed the memo). I love this valentines day for kids. Some of my favorite memories include decorating shoeboxes full of hearts and stickers and putting them out on my desk...eagerly waiting for my classmates to fill them with cards. Well mostly eager for them to fill it with candy. But the cards are what I'm supposed to say.

But I just don't think valentines day is just for "lovers". So in honor of valentines are some people I love...

Clearly...this guy
These girls...pretty much my heart and soul
This freaking awesome family

As you know...I really love these two creatures
These two...most amazing friends ever. Ever.

And the one in pink's baby....who I love like crazy.

These two...we like them a lot
This family right here (this is my niece when she was 2 months old with her mom, my sister in law. Super old pic, but I had to share because it is just so sweet...and it's Valentines day. The day for sweet things)

And many others...but those are all the pictures I can find at this moment.

Happy Valentines to all! You don't need to have a significant other to have a Valentine! Just look around. They're all around you.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just a little arts and crafts time

My poor dear husband is so patient. I have already repainted 3 rooms in our house within the 3 months we have lived there, and have found a craft project required for almost every square inch of the house. And this one was no exception.

On the lower level of our new house, just off of the garage, we have a lovely mudroom. I love this area for its sheer practicality - coat hooks, cubbies, bins, and boot storage. All very important things for a Minnesota winter. Or really anytime for that matter. However, it was a bit bland looking. The carpenters built a wonderful bench and shelves, but it lacks a certain amount of pizazz.

So the first project...make a cushion for the bench. Nobody likes to sit on a hard wooden bench to put on their shoes. (keep in mind that one rarely sees this bench because it is permanently covered with crap) But regardless, that bench needed a cushion.

However, it was a bit of an odd size and shape, prohibiting me from purchasing a standard bench cushion. So...I plotted, thought, and strategized - how could I craft a cushion for this bench?

I plotted, thought and strategized about this at 8pm on a -20 degree winter night. And by about 8:30 pm I had a plan!
Jeremy looks at me and says, "You do not think we are going to go out right now to buy the materials for this, do you?"
I reply, "Well no...we don't have to, but you know, it sure would make me happy" (guilt, guilt, guilt)

With a coy smile I stand there, he grumbles, grabs his keys and off we go to the craft store!

We purchase a large piece of foam, and found a quilting fabric that we liked, and thought would add some color to the space.

We took it home. Jeremy looks at me as if to say, "We are not going to complete this project now, this can wait for another day, right?"
And so I start cutting on my own. Fearing I will injure myself, which I likely would have done, my dear husband got out the Wusthof kitchen knives and cut the foam into the size and shape required for the bench. (Thank you to the wedding gift giver, who gave us those knives. They do amazing things with a giant piece of foam)
Now at this point, I did get tired, and decided to save the cover for another day.
But when it was time, I measured cut and sewed what was essentially a duvet cover for the foam. It was really quite easy. I secured it shut with Velcro, because that gave me some room to tighten it more or less depending on the fit.

And voila!
Our boring bench has a lovely cushion!  Now I think I should paint those cubbies a more interesting color - thoughts??? This room still needs some more excitement. But we're getting there.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Superbowl

So I don't really like football. Truth is I don't totally understand the rules. And no, I really don't care to learn either. But I love the spirit of things, and I love the parties! And I love the food!

My bff, Stacy, who was born in Green Bay was having a party. But Stacy is a hardcore Packers fan. And by hard core I mean her blood is green and gold. And so when she invited me to her party, I poitely declined, knowing that I would talk all the way through the game, asking questions, complaining that I was bored, or tryign to dink around in the kitchen. Which would drive everyone totally insane. Dad, who knows me very well, sent my sister over to my house with a cookie decorating kit, knowing I would need a side activity if I choose to "watch" the game at home. Smart Man.

So while everyone else cheered on the Packers and the Steelers, I decoated cookies. And tried really, really hard to care about football. Ultimately failing to care.

But produced some lovely cookies!
Congratulations Packers. I am only happy you won because it means that Stacy is happy. But otherwise I really don't care. I care much more about the lovely, aforementioned cookies.

There is always an occasion to decorate a cookie. Always.

Friday, February 4, 2011


So we have lived in our new house for 2 1/2 months.

Clearly this means it's time for a change.

I must paint the walls.

If you're confused, just keep in mind I have ADD. Like serious, affecting every portion of my life ADD. ADD that even filters in to my choice of paint colors.

So it's time to change.

I picked up a few paint samples (most specialty paint stores will custom mix any paint in a tiny $2 size to paint on your wall and try a few options).

I went home, and in between stirring dinner on the stove, letting the dogs out to go the bathroom, and getting the puppy ready for 'Puppy Kindergarden' - I painted the samples up on the wall.

The first was a lovely blue color, Benjamin Moore Beach Glass. It is a beatiful, spa like green/blue/grey. I love the color, but it wasn't right for that particular wall. I open up sample number two and my lovely husband Jeremy looks inside the tiny tin.
"Uh, Kara...what is the name of that paint color?" He asks
"Wasabi!" I proudly proclaim as I begin painting it on the wall

"Uh, Kara...if that color was named 'mucus', would you have bought it?" He replies
I quickly gaze from the tiny tin, up to the wall, and back to the tiny tin. Okay, so maybe I did kind-of buy it because it was called Wasabi. Maybe like 30% of the reason. Okay, okay, so it was like 70% of the reason. But seriously, with a name like Wasabi, how can you not buy it!?!?  

And did look like I had painted a giant goober on the wall.

But then it dried, and became a lovely color. So as of this evening....we will be sporting one sweet mucus colored wall.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So we went to Aruba

Why? Because this weather in Minnesota stinks. says that today the temperature is, "0 degrees, feels like -15"

And that is why we went to Aruba.

No, I am not going to tell you all the stories of the days laying at the beach reading books, or the afternoon sail and snorkel cruise, or the wonderful dinners we had. Nope, because you would likely want to punch me in the face while you sit in the cold weather in (Chicago, New York, Minnesota,) or wherever you might be.

However, I must share one little story.

We went to Aruba with some of our closest friends, Sam and Rachel. We rented a palapa for the week, which is little shaded palm umbrella thingey. It allowed us to have our own little space, with 4 chairs, reserved for us every day, with our name on a little placard. (Though they got my name a bit confused and for a week was called, "Frank Kara".)  It also meant that most of the people around us at our palapa, had rented theirs for the week as well. So we got to know our neighbors.

Not the get to know you in the traditional sense of the phrase. Not the handshake, exchange names and pleasantries sort of way.

Rather, we go to know them in the voyeuristic, listen and watch kind of way.

For example, the gentleman in the palapa in front of us, whose placard said "Renato" was an older man. An older man who spoke Spanish. An older man, who spoke Spanish and wore a yellow Speedo. Everyday. He would arrive in his full khaki outfit, khaki shorts, shirt, and khaki loafers. Greet the wait staff, and disrobe from his Khaki, expose his yellow Speedo, and sit in his chair. For hours. No book. No music. Just sit.

He was clearly well known on the Island, or the owner of the hotel, or something like that because they treated Renato like a king. Literally. 5 men would arrive to help him situate his chair and make sure his towels were just right. Nobody fluffed my towel. WTF. So that was palapa neighbor #1.

Palapa neighbors #2 were a group of older people (in their 70's) who were from the East Cost. New Jersey I predict. They were loud and opinionated. If they wanted a towel, it was "GET ME A TOWEL". If they were deciding if they should eat, it was, "LUNCH...IS IT LUNCHTIME? I'M HUNGRY. DO YOU THINK THEY HAVE GRAPEFRUIT? I WANT A GRAPEFRUIT." The entire beach was aware of their lunch plans.

And on the first day, they visited happy hour. Well, the husbands visited happy hour, delivering drinks to their wives, who sat on their behinds and gave orders. And while I am peacefully laying on my chair, under our Palapa, reading my book, zoned out to the world, I hear, as though we are in a rock concert, and so one must speak in the loudest voice possible to be heard...


Stunned, I whip my head over to our neighbors, fall out of my chair, and  and begin to laugh hysterically. Rachel, Sam and Jeremy begin to laugh, as they too heard the woman, but each chose a much more appropriate reaction as compared to my head whipping and chair falling.

Yes, she was referring to how she wanted her drink prepared. No, that was not what I thought when I fell out of my chair.

We also visited a donkey preserve. I have a video of that. I'll post it soon. Pretty hilarious. But seriously, there is a pamphlet for a place called, "Donkey Preserve" - you know you have to go.