the “Be Free” Challenge is over!

I can’t believe it’s been thirty days! To celebrate my challenge I decided to group together a few pictures of our accomplishments. We didn’t do 30 projects but we did twenty something and I feel really good about that! We are twenty something projects closer to our dream home and our pockets didn’t take a hit for it. At the beginning of the challenge I made a list of everything I could think of that we could do using materials we had already purchased or inherited. I crossed the items off as we went feeling so good about taking care of those “we really ought to do something about that but I will walk past it 1000 times and pretend it’s not there” items.

(this gallery is something new for me so I’m still figuring it out myself…if you click on an image it opens a slideshow type of deal where the pictures are bigger. I haven’t figured out how to link the picture to the post yet but …baby steps..)

There were some little things we took care of that didn’t make the blog either a) because they were so boring or b) I ran out of time.

Paint peg board
Add chalkboard to peg board area
Add chicken wire fencing
Paint those glass jugs
Repair or cover up hole around breaker box
Repair area around fire place
Painting chandelier
Hang chandelier (And rearrange the whole living room)
Hang foyer light from last house
Hang half door—use hinges from closet doors?
Get that dang wheel barrow off the porch
Pull up the weeds in my mulch bed
Get dead Christmas lights out of terrarium thing
Make something with my corks
Get rid of the Christmas candy by the front door
Rechannel dryer vent
Clean out radiator bench and find home?
Press and fold all of our fabric napkins and make a home for them
Paint pantry doors & use hardware I bought 10 years ago
Paint outlet covers in mancave
Cut back branches hanging over drive
Transplant some ivy
Cleaning out freezer
Reroute things in mancave so tv area looks cleaner

We still have a list that long we didn’t even get to.

I’m really proud of us for taking care of the details. Like I talked about in this post, projects are icing on the cake to jobs worked during the day and chores we have to take care of. So while you may only see 20 something projects (tiny to pretty big) know that each one has a layer of laundry, cutting the grass, dishes, accounting, dog parenting, traveling, and cleaning on top of it. It shall be called the life layer.

I’m so excited to share what the future holds. Here is a hint. It involves this:


And this:


There are certain things in life that make me feel like I’m living in the lap of luxury… Bath and Body Works foam handsoaps, my husband, and a china cabinet for shoes. 🙂

Silverside vs. Topside

Well, we have finally (5 months later) managed to cover the giant hole we put in our wall right before Christmas.



You see, we tried to do a little rewiring and install some new breakers right before Christmas. Let me paint that picture for you…it was nearly 1am and the bathroom light switch down the hall was causing the Christmas garland lights to blink on and off in the living room. The kitchen lights were turning on the upstairs lights and blowing 8 bulbs at once while they were at it. Luckily, we figured it out and all is right with the electricity around these parts. However, we left the scene of that crime unfinished and exposed because we are still too scarred by that day/night to relive it. So for now, we cover the mess until sanity over this breaker box returns. Lose the battle, win the war has become a common motto of mine.

I talked about in this post how I started some homemade art a while back. I let that cow graze around on the dining room floor for a couple of weeks and decided today was enough…she was going on the wall.



I’m not sure what to think. I think I might love it? Blake loves it. It’s industrial? But maybe still a tiny bit charming? I think it kind of goes with the pulley light system we have over the island.


PS: see that sweet piece of milk glass on the “command center”? A sweet family friend gave that to us and we just love it. We keep our candy in there and it’s really just become one of those special things that so makes our house feel like a home.

Blake hung this for us and I might as well tell you about our method of heavy hanging with plaster walls. Step 1: use a magnet to try and find a nail in a stud. Blake tied a small magnet to a piece of dental floss and gently swung it back and forth. The magnet somehow, even through plaster, will grab hold where there is a nail. Now, sometimes we find that our house is held together with rainbows and unicorn poop magic and somehow along a whole surface there won’t be a single nail. So fun. Times like these resort to Step 2: drill small holes back and forth until you hit a stud (this is not a joke…we drilled more than 20 holes in our ceiling trying to find a joist to hang that pulley on)

This is just simply hung on two nails for easy lift off when the breakers need to be accessed.

It’s sort of cool how you can really see the wood grain through the paint!


The good news is…if I decide I don’t like it then all I’ve outed myself is some paint. This was just scrap plywood (not even paint grade) found in the basement. The best part is that I’ve learned all the cuts of a cow…that is all we need to do, right? just learn yourself something new everyday.

Portico Problems

I’m blogging in the morning, from my bed, with coffee…this is the first time I have tried this and I think I might love it.

What is beige and beige and more beige? Our house. Check it out.


Since we moved in it’s really been all about the inside but now that it’s getting warm out we are finding ourselves looking at the outside of the house more and more. All of the rain the past few weeks also had Blake really worried about a rotten section of window casing. Leaks are one of those things that just straight up will never get better on their own. If you have a leak and you aren’t doing anything about it you might as well be burning money. So. While we were at replacing a section of the casing we decided to just paint the trim white and see what it would look like. We would have to have paint color matched anyway so rolling with white primer was just an obvious “let’s just see” step.



And guess what? We love it! (how BAD is that mulchy weedy armpit of the house!?!…embarrassing…I’m figuring it out this weekend)

We are going to try and paint at least the windows on the front in the next week so that is exciting. Next up on my agenda is some shrubs. Apparently the last owner used to have tons of shrubs and it looked nice and then they just ripped everything out…makes perfect sense (?) My Dad got me hooked on this app called “iscapes” where you can add landscaping to a picture of your yard. I love things like this. I think because I’m a dreamer and it helps me convey my dreams to Blake in pictures. Here we are looking much more “lush”


Then I took things into paint and added the white trim. If you sort of pull it away from your face and cross your eyes it looks really good, no?


The “scales” on the front porch thing have really been a sore subject. They.just.don’t.go. and I really hate it for you if you think they do…if you want them we will mail them all to you 

Anyways, I searched around forever to try and find examples of enclosed portico’s like this one. There is probably a real name for this but I couldn’t find it….I also couldn’t find a single other picture of something like this. Since we moved in Blake and I have been talking about opening this up and pouring more of a staircase…the house looks top heavy on the stairs to me now. Here are some pictures I’m taking a lot of inspiration from now.

And I love the half pergola to the right of the entrance in this one. I would love to see this come out over this little area and have a flagstone patio situation with a couple of seats?

See how this triangle part is trimmed out here? Love that.

We love the stoop/stairs in this one

Of course this isn’t on the immediate radar but a girl can dream right? I mean, the descaling will happen this summer. Planting shrubs will happen this week (and don’t worry, I’m still on the Be Free Challenge! …you can really find any type of plant you want on craigslist…free as long as you did it up!)

I think that Blake was perhaps tired of trying to keep up with my musings as I walked around the house babbling about the scale of this or that. He gave in and used part of his itunes giftcard (that he won in a LIMBO competition!!) to buy me a photoshop app for the ipad. I’m really, really excited about that but right now it all looks like a foreign language so I have to figure out how to use it. I think it will revolutionize my communication with others.

If you have seen a picture of an enclosed situation like ours done well I would love to see a picture!!!

slowing down and cleaning up!


Confession. Numbering my be free challenge days is not “freeing” at all. I need less to think about, not more, so from here on out I’m just not numbering them. Cool I’m glad we can all agree on that 🙂

Ok, let me catch you up to speed. We’ve been stumbling along our little project list so I will now introduce you to the past few things we have done which include a chalkboard, chicken wire, a wheel barrow, and a car alternator…not free…but also not for the house. Ah-ha! Still in the game.

Before all that I came across a post today that nearly made me cry. I read Manhattan Nest and Daniel (foul mouthed and all) has to be one of the best writers I have come across. The way he interprets life is so inspiring. Anyways, he took in a dog off the street, Linus. Here is a link to the whole story but if you a) don’t have time b) don’t want to read the salty language here is a recap. Linus walked into Daniels life looking like this:


Daniel took him in at 10 years old and a mouth full of rotten teeth. Daniel had just won $5,000 dollars for a decorating contest and he used it to spare this dog and let him live out life the best way he could. What Daniel did I think few people would do. Here is Linus after:


Today is Linus’ “birthday” (here is a link to this one, no foul language today and I recommend the read) and this paragraph just caused such a swell in my heart for Lola.

“But Linus lives thoroughly in the moment. He moves quickly when he feels excited, but most of the time he moves at a pace not much faster than a crawl. Fresh flowers, discarded food scraps on the sidewalk, the fragrant aroma of someone else’s pee——these are all things Linus feels obligated to stop and appreciate fully, with every ounce of his attention. He greets each discovery anew, as if it’s the most fascinating and enticing thing he’s ever encountered. Absent any schedule to keep or goals to fulfill, Linus is left only with what’s in front of him, here and now. He’s the one that literally makes us slow down, take long pauses, and remember that maybe everything doesn’t have to happen so fast. Maybe time will just wait for us a little longer than we thought it could. Maybe we have all the time we need.”

Blake and I constantly find humor in how slow Lola is. She walks through the house at a turtle speed and always looks like she is walking on thin ice. She walks as if every step might be the one that finally causes the floor to fall through. We have no clue why she does it but it’s just so different from Finley. He bounces around the house in such a way that you can hear him move from anywhere in the house. Constantly charging around to the next best thing…meanwhile Lola is somewhere in a corner or under a table just soaking everything in. We’ve tried to get Lola to “come out of her shell” but this made me realize that we probably ought to just let her be.

I digress,

Here we talked about how we tidied up the peg board area going down to the basement. Now that it’s clean I don’t mind looking up when I come home from work and go into the house. I had Blake saw off a piece of that giant chalkboard I made and we hung it here. It’s just a sweet place to leave a little message or leave a reminder for yourself.


Secondly, whoever said white dogs can’t jump lied. Finley can just be sitting and out of nowhere leap out of the rock wall in the back. Blake and I just couldn’t bring ourselves to buy 2 more rows of pavers (34 pavers times 2 rows=68 pavers times probably $5 each….umm, NO.) So, we settled for some good old chicken wire or “poultry netting” as they class it up in the store to say so they can charge you more. Anyways, we lifted all of the pavers on the top row and rolled the wire our to leave about 6 inches hanging over into the yard…giving Fin a “ceiling”.


This was tough work. That’s 50 feet and there were scary bugs under some of the pavers. I had my bug killing boots on.


The worst part is that Fin came up to tell us we hadn’t done enough…sweet of him to let us know, right?


We realized we had to get the wire to tilt up and for whatever reason that changed the game for him. He doesn’t like it and won’t even try to get near it.


The best part is that you really can’t see this…it was a discreet and cost effective way to keep our furkid contained (no one likes getting that phone call that says “Hi, are you the owner of Finley? He’s in my yard…..”

Confession. Haha and I can’t wait to tell all of you this. Mostly because we have people tell us a lot “wow you guys just get so much stuff done!”. When we moved in we found a huge wheel barrow on the back patio filled to the brim with chips of concrete.


I haven’t posted about the mess on our back patio. I might do that tomorrow along with an entry form you can all fill out to submit us to HGTV for help. Until a few days ago that wheel barrow hadn’t been touched. It has two flat tires and 250lbs of mess. y’all. Y’ALL. While blake mowed the yard one day I lifted all those chips out, by hand, put them into like 35 walmart bags, prayed they wouldn’t bust, carried them down the stairs (one by one) and hauled them to the recycling center. I could start a workout class at our house. Saturday classes only…for free. Just show up 🙂 so that was free, and not that exciting for you but it’s a big deal to me. And I hope it makes you all feel better that it took us 8 months to deal with the wheel barrow. worst part…the wheel barrow is still there…but it’s empty. ha! feel better about your nagging projects now?

Blake’s old mustang is the best. He had to change the alternator Saturday and so I was lucky enough to catch a ride to the auto part store with him. And then he took me to Hardee’s. it was love….I even had a coupon for a 99 cent gravy biscuit. That Charlie Sheen, is winning. I just like to ride around in it.



There is this unspoken camaraderie between him and other classic car drivers. That sweet thumbs up they give you at an intersection makes me feel proud. It makes me feel like we are connecting to someone else in the world over the love of restoration…I suppose that’s pretty much what this blog is too.

Here’s a hint about what’s been going on the past two days.


I can’t wait to share. Newsflash, this wasn’t free  but it had to be done. Blake doesn’t feel “the challenge” is a good enough reason to ignore rotting wood…so practical, that one.

Longest post ever…anyone asleep yet? 🙂 good. go love on your “Linus” ps: Linus doesn’t have to be a dog…just that one person/thing that makes you stop and smell the roses.

“Be Free” Challenge Days 11-14

guess what? ….it’s STILL raining.


Last night I asked Blake if we should build an ark to be on the safe side. I would hate to end up like the unicorns…


So, let me introduce you to our fireplace before. Whoever tiled this before really didn’t do a bad job they just quit prematurely and then I think they must have taken apart some of the trim and never really put it back together.


See the gap between the tile and the floor? It was an uneven gap on both sides.




See the trim? Shotty.



Blake and I have had this on our to fix list since we moved in. well…if I am honest I’ve not been hurried about fixing it because I had something more “me” in mind. I envisioned our living room looking like this:


Fig tree and all. See, the thing about a staged living room for a magazine is that I’m convinced they only happen in some swanky magazine editor’s apartment where they are never actually home. There isn’t ever going to be a time when I just go out and buy every single thing for a whole room at one time. Therefore, one will never dream up this look over a span of 10 year furniture collection. I can think of one time that would happen and that would be if your house burned down and that would be horrific and unimaginable and I wouldn’t go buy this I would try and fashion the things I missed out of my tears. So. Here we are.

We decided to grout in some of the gap, lay trim around the tile and caulk with caulk the color of the grout. We also decided to firm up the trim with our best friend liquid nails and caulk and paint.




That grout may look a little bright but we decided after the dogs spends 5 minutes laying there it will “dirty” up to the same color as the other grout 🙂 doggie diy. This probably took, collectively (because of drying time), 1 hour. I had that “why didn’t I just do this sooner” feeling. I love the fireplace now and I’m not going to touch it again for at least 10 years. Unless I win the lottery (which is pretty much impossible because we don’t even try)…then maybe we’ll get all fancy pants up in here and marble the thing out.

Next we did a little streamlining in the man cave by figuring out this mess. When we moved in we were just so desparate for TV that we didn’t care how things looked. Yeah I thought I would have that cleaned up in a week….oops. We’ve been living with this medusa inspired look for 8 months. Cute, I know.


Blake drilled a hole over into the shelves next to the mantle and ran everything through there.

Look how pretty!


Lastly, we hung a new light. It’s an old light really. It was the only thing from our first house that I said I couldn’t live without. In the other “section” of the kitchen we just had this plastic fluorescent situation…it was fine…if you like a flickering nightmare every time you turn on the light and unflattering light while you fold the laundry….



When we took the old light down we also discovered that this ceiling color was previously orange…oh my word… anyways, here is the light we hung.



Charming isn’t she?

Look at how the light plays on the walls and ceilings! It’s rather magical in person. While Blake was hanging that I rearranged some of the counter top shenanigans in the kitchen and made myself a little “command center”. I love it.



So there you have it. Use what you have. Love what you have. Love on those who give you what you have.

“Be Free” Challenge Day 10

All I want for Christmas is 8 quarts of black paint. I’d like 1 each month until then please and thank you. Why you ask? Oh because I have every intention of painting our interior doors black.

Go ahead…cringe it out. Stand up and shake it out if you must. I know you want to …for some reason people think that black and paint shouldn’t go in a sentence together. Oh but I do…I think they should go right next to each other and then doors (or anything really?) should follow.

Do you need me to show you some pictures? Ok good I hoped you would say yes because I didn’t want to have to force them onto an unwilling viewer:

1-black doors source

before and after source

door bath coll source

triple 2 sources 1 2 3

triple sources 1 2 3

See. There isn’t one of those you can tell me doesn’t look uh-maze-ing. More distinguished. More regal. More mysterious. More depth and drama and handsomeness. …yes a door can be handsome. It’s like a tall drink of water at the end of a hallway. It says “my owner cares about me” like a “my kid made the honor roll” bumper stickers only “my doors reached their full potential”.

Anyways, I’ve already started my crusade around the house. See exhibit below:


Pantry doors. ….well let me back up…when we moved in there were no pantry doors. We stared at our mess from down the hall for probably 4 months before I discovered this set of closet doors in the house fit perfectly would work if my husband spent 2 hours chiseling out the hinges.


So we’ve had these white doors there for a few months. It’s great…I don’t have to stare at my mess anymore. However I have had to stare at a pair of doors that needed some TLC (see old paint/splotches of some weird muddyish looking finger prints/missing chunks of paint that the top, etc)

I even bought new hardware for these doors probably 3 months ago. Well, last night I decided I was going to make a change. I grabbed the quart of black paint I had and put two coats on these beauties (after filling in spackle holes, buffing the thing for a couple minutes, and then washing).

The paint went on incredibly well. The doors look MUCH better and silky smooth and now when I walk by I reach out and touch them.



See from down the hall? It looks like things keep going…like there is more to be had than just a blunt end into the pantry.



Still cringing? That’s ok I guess I won’t sneak into your house in the middle of the night and paint your doors black too. The good news is…it’s just paint, ya’ll! Don’t ever be afraid to try something. My mom always said “don’t do anything you can’t come back from”….you can come back from black paint so I went for it…and I LOVE it so I’m going to keep going for it.

Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for my wallet, I can’t go out and buy gallons of black paint because it’s the be free challenge so I’ve registered for every paint giveaway google could come up with. If I win one within this 30 days it’s on! if not, I’ll resort to buying 1 quart per month until it’s done….that’s like $10 a month aka one box of k-cups.
Black doors > coffee.

if that wasn’t enough to convince you please go here and read this post about what will happen to your life if you paint your doors black. HUH-larious! (but probably true, no?)

“Be Free” Challenge Day 8

We hung the chandelier I bought here and painted here!

This was a complete and total if you give a mouse a cookie scenario except for the “if you give a Katie a chandelier”. I love a good chandelier y’all. This one was just a little tough because it was smack in the center of this room so it felt off center from what we had been considering the “sitting area”. I went into panic mode and thought that bringing nearly every chair we own into the living room would somehow help. WRONG.


Chaos ensued. I played musical chairs for a while and realized having 18 chairs around our coffee table looked ridiculous. While Blake was at crossfit I did some crossfit of my own and took our sectional apart. I moved the chaise lounge out into the living room as my anchor piece. Once I had this (that was no easy feat!) the rest just seemed to fall into place.


I pulled from all over the house but made sure not to rob Peter to pay Paul. It’s counter productive to make one room look finished when you leave another room looking wrecked.


I’m very pleased with the living room now. It looks complete and on purpose.

I like the way the chandelier looks in the big mirror too…see the shadow cast on the other wall? Sweet.


And in case you are wondering why we only put in 4 lightbulbs….it requires 8 but sunglasses are almost needed at 4 so we want to hook the switch up on a dimmer before full bulbage.

In case you are wondering about the man cave it looks better too! I just moved the other half of the couch against the wall and moved the chair and a half in there. The room looks much bigger now! I’ll share that some other time.

It’s crazy to look back at before anything was moved in!