Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall Mantel 2014

I've made major progress on the kitchen and will share some pics soon.

But in the meantime, we've moved into a new season and that means a new mantel.  Or at least a new mantelscape.  

(Yes, I made up that term and I like it.)

Here is last year's mantelscape.  Mighty pr'ty it was, too, if I do say so myself.  It required lots of input from Facebook friends, but came out rather well.

This year, I decided to start with a clean slate.  I removed the brass doors and scrubbed everything down.  

I still have the doors just in case we find that we have unwanted visitors and want to replace them.

I mean winter drafts, not Santa!

I replaced the grate and arranged some logs on it, then set to work on the mantel.

I pulled things from all over the house and arranged and re-arranged until I came up with this.

This morning, I looked at it again and was dissatisfied.  The big white basket just wasn't right.  It needed something to break it up, but the mantel isn't wide enough to accomodate another layer, so "Bye bye basket!"

Here is what I have up there now and I like it better.  I think.  

What do you think?  

Does it need something more? Something less?  Something different?  Something borrowed?  Something blue?

Wait.  Sorry.  That's for weddings.  

Anyway, what do you think?

Monday, August 25, 2014


Phase 1 of this kitchen makeover has lasted way too long.  It involved removing doors, stripping old polyurethane, cleaning, and buying supplies.  Unfortunately each of these also involved days - sometimes many days - of  waiting for my schedule to clear so I could move on to the next step.

Well, today was the day.  With boring - albeit necessary - prep work done, we moved on to Phase 2.  

Here is my lovely assistant working on Coat 1.

Even after one coat, I could see that the white was really going to lighten up the space- a major factor in my decision to go ahead with this crazy idea.

This is what it looks like after two coats.  

I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  It's not as forgiving and wonderful as everyone says.  My brush strokes are very obvious (and, yes, I used the natural bristle brush recommended.  Actually I felt like the brush strokes became less obvious on the small section where I switched to an evil synthetic bristle brush.).  

I watched yet another tutorial on YouTube and this one explained why my brushstrokes are so obvious - I have a harder, non-porous surface to paint on, whereas an untreated board would soak up the paint and make for a smoother surface.  Fair enough, but still kind of disappointing to me after all the glowing praise I've heard for this "miracle" paint.

I'm hoping that a third coat will make everything wonderful.   

The white cabinets definitely are going to transform the look of my dark, little kitchen, and I'm still hopeful that the chalk paint and wax will come through for me and I'll have the updated white cupboards 
I'm hoping for!

Next up: Phase 3 - waxing and waiting

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kitchen Makeover in the Making

When we picked out this house, I said it was "the perfect" house.

What John heard was, "This is Anne's dream house.  She is entirely content with it.  She will feel no need to change any of it.  She will not concoct strange and frightening ideas of changing anything because it. is. perfect."

Oh, foolish man.

What I really meant was that the house has a great lay-out, plenty of room for our large family, updated features, many pleasing aspects.

I also meant that it has room for the kinds of improvements that fall within my fairly limited range of diy abilities.  Namely, paint.

At the moment, I have the kitchen and the master bedroom in my sights.  These are the two rooms wherein I spend a majority of my time, so their deficiencies, such as they are, are constantly before me.

In an attempt to deny the need for paint, I took one of the kitchen cupboard doors and stripped it of the shiny polyurothane.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?) this also took off bits of the dark wood stain, thus making is impossible for me to simply seal it again and be done.

So, I am taking the plunge.  Paint.

I know the risks.  I know the potential hazards.  Truly.  You don't have to tell me.

Don't quote me the price when I haven't got the time.  Not entirely sure what that means, but it seems to fit.

I have done my due diligence: read tutorials, tips, and tirades; compared and contrasted; weighed the options, and...  

Annie Sloan chalk paint seems to be the best.  Many bloggers and pinners swear by it and seem to get excellent results.  

What I need to decide now, though, is color.

Here is how the kitchen looks now.

Should I do all white?  White on top and something dark on the lower cabinets?  Lighter and darker shades of the same color?  Something darker on both?

Here are the available colors:

Paris Grey on top and Paloma on the bottom, or...Old Ochre on top and Duck Egg Blue on the bottom, or...Old White on top and French Linen on the bottom, or...all in Versaille, or...

I'm stuck. 

I know some of you have excellent taste in these things, so I'm looking for your help!  What do you think?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

End of July

Two weeks ago, we drove down to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for our first FAC Retreat.

FAC stands for Faithful Adoption Consultants.  This company works with adoptive families and adoption agencies and facilitates matches for their clients.  Two years ago, we were one of their clients; they helped to get our profile book into the hands of Evie's birth mom, and then they prayed for, encouraged, and advised us all the way through the process of adoption and beyond.

One of the perks of being an FAC family is the on-going support from Courtney and Jessica, but also from the other adoptive families who are former clients.  This annual retreat is one way to help and encourage each other, particularly as adoptive families.  

This picture is of Courtney, founder of FAC, and Jessica, the other consultant and the one who worked with us a lot on Evie's adoption, and some of the kids they have helped to adopt.

It was a fun weekend and we all made new friends and rejoiced in the blessing of adoption. 

The weekend was also exhausting with long days at the pool, late nights out, and long drives there and back.

Monday after we got back, Johanna and I were both under the weather so the boys were supposed to watch out for Evie.  This is what happens when the boys are left in charge - Evie gets into an entire loaf of bread and brings it up to my bedroom.  She occasionally took a bite from one armful or another so I guess they weren't feeding her enough, either.

See the dog back there, too?  She's supposed to stay downstairs in the family room.  At least she was cleaning up behind Evie.


This is where I start singing, "Let it go...Let it go..."

One day won't harm anyone, I suppose.  Thankfully, the next day Johanna and I were back up and around so order was restored.  More or less.

This is just Evie being silly.

So is this.

Evie is quite the kisser, now.  She loves to give out kisses and hugs and we are all happy to return them.  

There's a lot of love around here. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fleeting Days of Summer

This summer is just flying by!

It's much better than last summer, in that all of our busy-ness is fun - meaning, not moving from Minnesota to Pennsylvania- but, still, it's busy, and busy days go fast!

Right after school was out, the three oldest kids went to Beaver Falls to participate in a musical theater camp at Geneva for two weeks.  They had a blast!

Will and Micah also participated in sports camps at the same time, so that kept them out of trouble.  Mostly.

John, Johanna, Sam, Evie, and I went to the final performance and the next day we all went on westward, first to Columbus, OH, then to Green Bay, WI, via Vandalia, OH.  

While we were visiting brother Jeff and his family in Green Bay, we visited Great-Grandma L.  She is 97 now, and sharp as a tac.

Evie and Grandma charmed each other.

Then, on to St. Paul, MN, aka "home."

We packed four days with as much friend time as we could manage!  Not a moment was wasted!  The kids all had sleep overs, nearly every night; we had a church picnic one evening; dinners, lunches, breakfasts, and brunches at every turn; even a fellowship lunch at church on Sunday.  We stayed with Pat and Katie, so whatever time we had at "home" we were catching up and enjoying time with them. 

We came home worn out (add 23 hours of driving to all that talking, and that's what happens), but refreshed by the kind of sweet fellowship which only comes from hanging out with close friends. 

So thankful for friends and family across the country, and time to spend with them, even if only for short amounts of time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

One Year

One year ago today we were arriving at our new house, heart-sick, road-weary, and miserable.  The heat, humidity and almost-constant rain; broken a/c; boxes everywhere; grit and grime of the former owners' 25 year residence; unfamiliar smells and sights; and complete lack of knowledge of the area only contributed to the misery.  

We were strangers in a strange land.  

We spent the first night all camped out in the family room because it has a small wall unit a/c.  

Not as much fun as it sounds.  

Bodies were lined up side-by-side on the floor or draped over couches left by the previous owners, heads propped up with favorite pillows, a desperate attempt at familiarity and comfort.  

Despite the small comfort of being all together, no one slept well.

Over the next days, we got the a/c fixed and started to sort out boxes.

Sorting out this new life was harder.  Where do we go for groceries?  Why do none of these streets go in a straight line?  Where should we go to church?  When will we be comfortable here?  Will we ever be comfortable here?  Will it ever feel like home?

Home for us was 20 hours and a million miles away.

And yet, the Lord knew.

Even as we planned our move in the months before, I had told the kids and tried to convince myself that God was already there, in Philadelphia, and He knew.  He knew all about our church, our school, our friends, our grocery stores, our neighborhood.  He knew how we would struggle and how many tears we would cry, where we would fit, who would help us and who would befriend us. 

He knew that a year later it would feel more like home, even if we still long sometimes for our friends and church family in Minnesota and miss the Midwestern pace of life.

He knew.

I am so thankful for our new church, our school, our neighborhood.

(Edited to add that John's work community has been very welcoming to us as well, and that has been so helpful.)

I still haven't found a favorite grocery store within easy driving distance,but I must be content with church, school, and neighborhood, I suppose. 

Thank you, Lord, for your provision, your promises, and your peace.  You led us out from a green pasture, through a deep and treacherous valley, and into another wide and pleasant place, never leaving or forsaking us.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


John's job requires a lot of travel, and usually he gallivants around the country while I stay home and keep the home fires burning.  And that's okay.  We knew that's what the job would require.

A few weeks ago, though, I had the opportunity to travel with John for a week to Alberta, Canada.

We flew into Edmonton and, just to get the kinks out, walked around the city a little bit.  More than we intended to, actually, since construction and bridges got in our way, but it turned out okay as we got this view of the city at the end of our walk.

And as you can see we had gorgeous weather to be walking.

The next day, we headed for the mountains.

I have long wanted to see the Canadian Rockies and they did not disappoint.  

I'm not going to make a comparison between the American and Canadian Rockies because it's pointless.  They are both absolutely stunning and I could spend endless amounts of time in either.  

This is Castle Mountain.  

I think the name comes from the fact that it looks a little bit like a castle, but I'm just guessing here.

And then...Lake Louise!

(I was here 42 years ago, but being in utero my view was limited.)

I was disappointed that there was still so much ice on the lake and we couldn't see the famous blue-green color of midsummer, but it was still gorgeous.

We walked the path around the lake until snow blocked our way.  

(We couldn't go up the the Lake Agnes Tea Room because of snow.)

This might give you some sense of scale.

It really wasn't as cold as it looks.  With the sun shining, we were plenty warm with a single, long-sleeved layer.  Another hiker did the walk in shorts and flip-flops!

We took a different route back toward Banff and stopped for many a scenic overlook.  I never get tired of looking at the mountains.

Pictures are wonderful, but they cannot capture the pure mountain air or the rich pine smell which are just as much a part of the experience as the visual.

That night we stayed in Banff and ate on the rooftop patio of The Rose and Crown, surrounded by mountain views on all sides.  In the square below, a bagpiper played all the greatest hits for bagpipe.  I can't even remember what I had to eat, but that meal was a little bit of heaven for me.

From Banff we went on to Airdrie and back to "work" for John, but that was our mini-vacation in the Canadian Rockies.