a little before and after.

We have been living in our house, officially, four years, as of Memorial Day weekend. Crazy how fast time goes! (And how many colors I have painted the walls in that amount of time…I’m still debating colors, actually.)

I do think that it’s completely satisfying to see how much things really have changed since we moved in. So…here are a few pictures from the real estate listing and what the rooms are looking like now. Pretty wild.

The Family Room

The family room – this is the deep gray wall color that I have a love/hate relationship with. :) I love it when I’m home in the evenings – it’s a great, cozy color. But on the weekends, it’s a little dark. We still need to get curtains for the east window and the candle holder (on the floor on the right) is now up on the fireplace. And the glass lamp on the left has been replaced by the match to the other lamp.

If you are wondering what it looks like normally, add a gazillion toys on the rug and there you go. :)

The Dining Room

This photo is really dark, but the color is fantastic. Kind of a rusty red. :) I would love to have a photo display on the wall. I’m picking some photos from one of our trips to Nepal – just need to get them printed and up!

The dining table is glass and is MUCH larger than it looks. It’s 60″ across, so we can easily seat ten people! Oh, and I highly recommend leather chairs for in your dining room, especially if you have kids. So easy to clean up!

The Living Room / Office

This is the living room side – the office side is too messy.

This room is still pretty mis-mashy. My hubby would love a sectional in here and maybe a bar set-up. Then, I’ll move this sofa up to the family room.

Taking down the panelling was one of the first things we did when we moved in. (Before we moved in, actually!) We were lucky in that it was drywalled behind it, so we just needed to mud and sand the walls. Maybe at some point we will lay some slate tile in here. But that will be a huge, MESSY job. (Not to mention tough!) So we’ll probably never do it. :)

I’m also planning to paint the double doors black – I painted them white, so I can do that.

Jayan’s Room

There wasn’t pictures in the listing of the bedrooms, so I’ll add a few pics of Jayan’s room. We haven’t bothered to take apart the crib since he was a baby here. Whoops. My mom made the quilt for him and I love having it displayed. She also painted the wall and did the trellis stenciling with painters’ tape – I had saw a nursery on HGTV’s site that had something similar and copied it. I love it.

And you can see that I need another coat or two of paint on the door. I’m okay with things being in-progress. :)

The twin beds and the dresser were my mother’s uncles’ set from back in the 1940’s. There are cut-outs of oak leaves on the headboards and footboards. I painted the side table – it used to be an el cheapo maple nightstand from Target. The tiger on the wall was from my bedroom when I was a kid.

Anyway. I’ll post other progress shots at some point – once I remember to take pictures AND upload them. My current project is the hallway – it’s mostly painted the same gray from the family room – but I haven’t finished it because it’s super dark up there, now! So, I’m rethinking the color.

More paint! Whoo.

nosy neighbor.

I’m becoming a nosy neighbor.

The home across the street from us recently sold. (My “across the street” is relative, as we’re on the inside of a circle – we have, like, four houses that I would classify as “across the street.”) Anyway. It was on the market for four months or so – probably overpriced, as my neighbor Nancy speculated – and sold about a month ago.

The old neighbors, we never saw. They were snowbirds, spending their winters somewhere down south and we never saw them when they came back during the summer. In fact, the only times we even knew they were there was because a few times per summer, their driveway and the street would be filled with cars, because their kids were home with their kids to use the pool in the backyard.

(Nearly all of the houses in our neighborhood had an in-ground pool at some point. Did I mention that? Ours never did – most of the pools are filled in, now, so people can have more lawn, even though our lots are all in-range of a half-acre.)

Anyway. I mention my nosiness, because my theory is that the new neighbors aren’t really new neighbors, at all. I’m thinking that they bought the house cheap and are gutting it to resell. A flip.

There is a dumpster outside, now. In the past week, there have been several days where there are ten-plus cars at the house. And there has been a “decorating/painting/handyman service” car there a bunch of days, too. Last night, someone was chipping away at brick. Or, that’s what I was speculating by what I could hear from where I was at.

There’s too many trees in our neighborhood. I can only see so much.

So, maybe they’re just ambitious and are hiring out their renovations before moving in. Or they have lots of friends and family to help?

Or…my thought, that a bunch of people bought into the house and are going to do the work and then split the profits however many ways when they find a new buyer.

We’re in a pretty nice neighborhood – quiet, for sure. I guess I’ll just need to keep my eyes and ears open, until I actually meet people to find out what’s happening.

The listing agent for the property actually lives a few houses away, at the end of the circle. (Their yard, by the way, is pristine – I am so jealous.) I like that an agent would refer people to their own neighborhood – plus, that the neighbor would give business to another neighbor. I heard that the people who bought the house have two kids, but I haven’t seen any kids, yet. The backyard is almost all pool, so if it were me, I’d look at filling that in, if I was moving in with little ones.

But…I’m still thinking it’s a flip. I guess we will find out. I suppose, if they sell higher, it will help my property value. :)

what’s been going on.

I started painting our uppermost hallway. I carried the Behr – Amazon Stone from the living room – I think it’s because the lighting isn’t great and maybe a little because I’m not completely done, but it’s looking really dark. I didn’t think that I would mind – hallways are already dark with little natural light, but it does have an overhead lamp, which our living room has none, so I’m surprised it’s so dark.

And, of course, this makes me rethink things.

Since I have the paint already, I’m just going to continue and hope that it “lightens up” like my dark paint tends to do once I have a full wall painted out. I do really like how cozy it makes our north-facing living room feel – much better than the original off-white did, so maybe I’ll feel similar about the hallway.

I have had good luck with thrifting.

I found a pretty sparkly wreath (this style) at Unique Thrift Store in Burnsville last Friday. It’s a golden color and quite big – at least 24″ across. Much better priced than, say, during the holiday season. :) Jayan was with me, so he took home a bunch of construction toys. Unique has very cheap toy prices (like 65-80 cents a toy), so we were lucky, there. He was only good because he would have something new to take home.

It was raining as we left, so we ran through the parking lot, splashing in puddles, to get to our car. We were soaked. But such good deals.

I went to Goodwill yesterday and found the twin to my beloved terra cotta lamp. I bought the first lamp at Unique in January (I think) and found this one five months later. The finish on the base is slightly different (more of a matte finish versus the original), and the harp is a little taller, so I might need to switch that out, but it’s pretty close. Thrilled that I found it. Yay for a matched set.

I also found a large octagonal-shaped mirror at Goodwill. It’s an old-gold color. I hung it  on the stairwell wall off the entry. It fills the space well and looks so good! Thrilled.

And…we finally hung our metal candle holder / wall sculpture on the fireplace. I had found this candle holder on Craigslist – I’ve been admiring it at Pottery Barn’s website for close to three years, but couldn’t justify the price and shipping. Fifty dollars and a short drive and it was mine – plus a full set of candles thrown in. Can’t get better than that! Now, I’m itching to add a mantel – thinking about reclaimed wood from an old railroad tie?

I’ll add pictures once I can wrestle my phone away from Jayan. :)

brave new girl.

I have a love/hate relationship with the name of this blog.

I had another blog way WAY back with the same username. And since most usernames are already taken that I would want to use, and, at the time I registered this account (I believe in 2006?), this was available, I set it up. And that was that.

But, is this really accurate?

Am I brave? Um, no. I’m the most risk-adverse person ever. Ask my husband. He’ll tell you. :) Yes, I’ve done some travelling, but majority is with someone else there.

Originally written 5/9/13, published in March 2016.

just talking about the weather.

Sometimes it’s easier to talk about the weather.

It’s commonplace in Minnesota. I haven’t lived anywhere else (at least not for long, outside of business and personal travel), so I’m not sure if it’s the same everywhere else. Probably is.

Anyway. It was in the mid-seventies this weekend. We are supposed to get snow, again, overnight. It is such an odd spring. Kind of like winter just doesn’t want to let go.

The snow is nearly gone from our yard – remaining just in-front of the rock garden in the front yard, where the shadow of the house falls. (Our home faces north, so our snow is some of the last in the neighborhood to finally go.)  I have been looking forward to it being all the way gone – hopefully the colder temperatures won’t kill the grass off. It was finally starting to green up.

It was nice to have the warmer weather over the weekend. Felt so good to open the casements and feel the breeze flow through the house. Be able to walk outside without a jacket – without shoes, even.

Jayan found our abandoned snow rake from earlier in the week and had great fun pushing it around the yard. He was pretty fast. He said he was “pushing the leaves.” (Half the oaks lose their leaves in the fall and the other half in the spring, so there were lots of leaves to push around.) He circled the house, barefoot – just he and the snow rake. He lapped the house several times until he finally quit, wet with sweat, feet filthy.

But, he had a good time. And had really good exercise, especially considering we live on a hilly lot. :)

I keep checking on the hostas I planted last fall to see if they come back. I hope so. I planted a row of them to flank our house in the area where we just can’t grow grass last fall, just to see how they would do.

Our house is on the inside of a circle, so like Kate at Retro Ranch Revamp alluded with her own yard, it’s kind of like having two front yards. The problem? Is that our side yard is sadly neglected and doesn’t get good light, either, so we’re pretty clueless as to what to do with it. (Not a very welcoming front yard!)

So, I debate filling the whole area with hostas. I love them – they love shade. Maybe it will be a win win? Plus, less mowing, especially on the hillside. The neighbor boys like to play in our trees, there – I would hate to plant hostas around the trees, only to have them trampled. Benefits to having a fence, but our neighborhood is decidedly “fence free,” at least for us on the “inner circle” and I wouldn’t want to be the first one to add it.

I suppose I can add the hostas to the side yard, anyway. See what happens. Worry about it afterwards?

Looking forward to doing lots more landscaping this year. (And hopefully painting our house! I have been looking at color combinations for three years! It drives my husband nuts. :)) Our house has no landscaping whatsoever in the front yard and just looks a little sad. A few colorful planters and some actual plants in our beds will help! We were thinking that some hydrangeas would look good in-front of our house. We need something, put it that way.

I wish I wasn’t garden clueless. This summer will be good to actually go to the greenhouse and ask for recommendations.

Once it stops snowing, anyway.

waking up, again.

It is absolutely beautiful outside, today. It was yesterday, too.

So hard to believe that there were six inches of snow on the ground Tuesday morning. I took a picture of it that morning, through my car window, as I was pulling out of my driveway. My best girlfriend from work, Beth, told me she did the same. As did quite a few others.

My girlfriend Maria told me over breakfast Saturday that that morning, she was digging her car out, alongside a neighbor in her building who was not happy at all to be moving snow. “I took on her energy,” she told me, as she sipped her coffee. “I started out okay, but by the time I started driving, I was so cranky and bitter!”

But then, she went on, traffic slowed to a stop. She was livid. But it gave her time to look and really see – she said just at that moment, light poured through the snow covered trees and it was just spectacular. She felt lucky to have seen that and it changed her whole outlook.

The past few days have been in the high seventies. (Welcome to Minnesota.) I think the late snow has helped so many people appreciate the spring weather so much more-so. It’s like the whole neighborhood is waking up after hibernating over the winter – I spent 40 minutes Friday evening chatting with my next-door neighbor Nancy, who I hadn’t talked with since probably last November, before the snow fell.

There is a new house up for sale down the block and I heard that the nice two-story house across from us will be going up for sale in the next few weeks. The house across from us that just sold is slowly being moved out of – I heard that a family is moving in with two children. It will be nice to have more kids around.

Hopefully the people that move in take care of their houses – there are a few houses at the entrance to our neighborhood that just aren’t maintained well from the curb and because it’s at the entrance to the neighborhood, you can’t see how nice of a neighborhood ours is until you drive in further. (By the say, is there a nice way to tell your neighbor, “If you’re hoping that someone will take your junk off your hands, it helps to put a FREE sign on it”?)

So here’s hoping.

My husband and his cousin took Jayan to the driving range this afternoon. (Jayan loves golf and hitting balls.) He should enjoy it, provided he is patient enough to let someone else swing. :) It’s good for them to do things on their own, every once in a while.

I have my own cousin’s funeral tomorrow. He passed away at 41 following esophageal cancer. He was an amazing man and was a great example as to the impact that a positive outlook and an outward energy can bring to others. I am saddened by the loss of a wonderful individual, but am happy in that his downturn was relatively short in comparison to all of the living he did in the past seven months since his cancer was deemed terminal. He truly lived without regrets – something that I think we all can strive to do in our lives, however long or short.

split-personality.

(Have I used this title before? Possibly. Oh, well.)

So. My house has a bit of an identity crisis. Or, maybe I am.

We live in a 1960’s split-level. I would tend to say that it’s mid-century modern, but someone else would probably say it’s not, so there’s that. :) It has a fairly open layout for its day – from where I sit right now, I can see three levels of house – a beamed ceiling and a cool double-sided fireplace separates the kitchen/dining room from what we are currently using as a family room. The kitchen also has an indoor charcoal grill, although I haven’t used it. :)

I had wanted to live in a two-story Colonial. Wait. No. I had wanted to live in a bungalow – then, for several reasons, we decided to look further out of the city, in the suburbs and I changed my wish list to a colonial-style house.

I did not want to look at split-levels at all. At all, at all.

We bought our house in the summer of 2009 – which was the summer of the $8,000 tax rebate that did not have to be repaid. When we started looking in February, we were seeing houses that had not had showings since November or October – but after looking for a few months, the market was saturated with buyers and with inventory all at once.

What that meant for us? Is that the “good houses” went super fast. And the rest? We muddled through.

We ultimately decided that the two story was out of budget. And the other houses that we were seeing were…well, pretty awful.

So, we opened up to seeing split-levels.

This was the first split-level we saw. It was our wall of brick and the beams that sold me on this house. Then, the potential for a fourth bedroom? We could really see the potential and the layout was really great.

Once we finally got the house (after losing it, once – I think I told that story?), and moved in, we took down the paneling in the lower level, painted the first two colors we found that we could agree on – sans trying out the color at all – and it was just…okay.

My first foray into paint was our front doors. We have a set of double doors that I painted a brick/clay red on the outside and white on the inside. The red? Oh, LOVE. I was hooked.

And I started painting trim.

I do like the white trim, but…I kind of regret covering it up. And that I kept going.

I wonder, now, in hindsight, if I had painted with more saturated colors to begin with, rather than the washed-out blah colors I had used, if the wood trim would have looked okay?

Baseboards wouldn’t be that hard to bring back or replace – but the windows. That would be tougher.

I had rationalized when I did it that we’d eventually be replacing the windows, anyway. (Which is true!) But I hadn’t actually thought that at some point I would start to like the trim.

So. For now, anyway, I have stopped painting the trim until I can figure out what I want to do.

What I would really like is to have a cohesive whole-house design. But I’m struggling which way to go. I keep trying to go more traditional, but is that really my style? Is that me?

When we moved into this house, my mom kept saying how much this house was like me. And it’s true, after we lost this house, I compared every single house we saw to it and they didn’t compare. The things that I loved were the beams and the fireplace with pretty brick that went all the way to the ceiling.

But when we moved in, the very things that I liked were some of the things I found hard to work around.

The fireplace, mainly.

At the time, everyone on the blog circut was doing washed out cottage-style rooms. (Kind of like now, but in taupe, instead of gray.)

And I had the worst time tying in my orangy brick fireplace. My mom mentioned more than once that I could always paint it. I’m glad that I didn’t. Although I didn’t love the orange, I couldn’t just paint out the one thing that I couldn’t get out of my head after we saw this house.

So, after trying to work against our fireplace, I decided to work with it.

Originally written 4/21/13, published in March 2016.

paradise by the dashboard light.

We sat on the floor, stocking feet stretched out, long and lean. Backs against the bunk bed mattress. There was another set of bunks across from us; the space between the beds were narrow, so much so that our feet tucked in the space under the other bed.

We were more friends than we were romantic, although at the time, I had tried to see otherwise.

I remember the beds were unmade. My mom was always insistent that we make our beds at home, but there were nine kids here, so maybe it was tougher to stay on top of. I wouldn’t have made my own bed, had my mom not nagged on me.

My mom would have been pissed if she knew I was in his bedroom, but his mom, she didn’t mind.

The recording was warm – records were always so much warmer feeling than cassettes or CD’s. His car had an 8-track player, something that I gave him a hard time about. I could never catch a record at the right place to listen to the beginning of a song – skipping into mid-lyric. But he could catch this one perfect.

It was a single – we listened to it over and over.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

He told me how when he was younger, how much his mom loved this song.

I was seventeen and thought I knew so much, but I really didn’t. So much of life that I had been sheltered from.

I could never understand how something like that could happen to a little kid. I still can’t.

He was eight when he came to live with this family, who later went on to adopt him and his brother. A foster family had joined their seven-person household just shortly after I had gotten to know him,expanding their household to eleven – their house was always chaos.

But, at this moment, things were calm. The record played, warm and scratchy, filling the spaces where there were no words. We talked about finishing school and what would happen next year, once he graduated. He had wanted to be a graphic designer one day, but he told me what he really wanted was to find his mom. Now that he was eighteen, he could.

He was so young, at the time everything happened, that he didn’t remember the town where she lived, but that there was a grandfather who stayed with them. While he was around, things were okay. But then, he went away, and everything changed.

His mom’s troubles with alcohol and drugs; a boyfriend who didn’t want other men’s kids around.

Beatings. Being burned with an iron and boiling water.

Trying to protect his mom, but not being able to. Being a pain in the ass, so the he would take the brunt of the boyfriend’s anger, versus his mom or his little brother.

He was seven.

“If I saw him walking down the street, I would kill him,” he confided to me, in the deeper voice he still hadn’t quite grown into. “I wouldn’t even think twice about it.”

One of the foster brothers broke in. Flopped on one of the lower bunks. Teased me about something I can’t remember, anymore. They rough housed. I played awkward, although I was used to this sort of thing, having lots of younger brothers, myself.

It was enough to cut the tension.

Things were normal, again.

I have not seen him, now, for seventeen plus years. We stayed in-touch for a while, but once I was not interested in a relationship, anymore, it got weird.

There was too much need, there and, cruel as it was, I had moved on and wasn’t interested in helping a broken person, anymore.

He did find his mom and moved in with her for a time. I can’t imagine that it went well, but at least he now knew.

How hard would it be to have this one dream and to find out the dream you had wasn’t what you thought it would be?

I heard from my mom, a few years later, that he had been arrested for breaking into a house. It was reported in our small town newspaper. That’s how she found out.

The police report had said there was nothing taken – the house was empty for the winter and that he had broken in through a sliding door. He was inside when someone came by to check on the house.

His car was found broken down not far from there.

He was homeless. His car broke down. He needed a warm place to stay.

It was like hearing about a random person, not someone I used to spend time with. Not someone I knew.

I wonder from time to time whether he is okay. Whether he was sucked into the habits that his mom had – the drugs, the alcohol. I wonder if he is still broken, like he was, or if he finally was able to find some sort of stability.

I wonder, but I don’t want to know, at the same time. It’s an awful way to be – to care, but to not care.

But that’s how it feels. Numb. Like I had known of him, but hadn’t known him at all. Not really.

Never at all.