September 21, 2010

Battling the What Ifs and the Should Haves

It's been three years since we moved to Utah from Miami. Three years. And yes, we are still battling the "what ifs" and the "should haves" and the "moving fever." You see, we are nomads at heart. The world calls to us to see it's beauty, experience it's differences, delight in it's ever-expanding cultural grandeur. Most of the time, it isn't enough for us to simply travel somewhere and spend a week there (though that is usually what we resort to). Something really magical happens when you put down roots somewhere - not deep roots necessarily, I'm not talking about making a home for your grandchildren here. No I'm talking about setting down your suitcase, unloading your skivvies into the top drawer of the dresser that you have packed half-way across the world in your over-full Penske truck, and pulling out your old, chipped mug that you picked up on your very first trip to British Columbia and sitting down at the kitchen table to just take it all in. You are now a local.  It might be for a few months and it might be for a year or two, but in an instant you are rooted to that place in a way that you would never be if you were viewing this place as merely a "visitor." It's a change in the way you view a place. You now have neighbors, you are part of this place, it's heartbeat, it's breath. It's different. It's wonderful, and we crave that in our lives.

The downside for us to this desire to live anywhere and everywhere else sets in right about the time we have lived somewhere for a few years. We start to think "what if" we moved to France, or we "should have" taken that job and moved to New Hampshire when we had the chance. Then "moving fever" sets in hard and we find ourselves perusing real estate web sites for Ireland at three in the morning. It's a sickness. We will admit that much to ourselves, but shhhh...we don't like to say it out loud. Don't get me wrong, we love where we currently live. It's just that.... finding contentment and peace with where we are (geographically speaking that is) is something we battle every year. (Do I sound certifiably insane yet?)

Are you still with me? Here is where I am going with this: Just when we start going crazy with the possibilities of this destination or that foreign country, September arrives in Utah and we become content with our choice to move here. We spent Sunday on a beautiful drive through the mountains around Salt Lake Valley. With each turn we were oohing and aahing. Each rotation of our tires bringing us closer to yet another beautiful rust-colored canyon more beautiful than the last. Each tree and leaf becoming more and more spectacular. Looking around, we realized that sometimes you have to stop thinking about the green grass on the other side of the fence and really live in the moment. Be happy where you are. Grow where you are planted. Afterall, we are experiencing a world that not everyone gets to see. Until now...

Pull out your old chipped mug and have a seat. You just became a local (for a few minutes).

September 8, 2010

A Dresser for Our Sweet Potato

Work is progressing on the kitchen but we can't help but be excited for the next project: the nursery! We told ourselves that we would wait to start buying 'baby stuff' until we had the kitchen wrapped up. Well... we may have already purchased two items for the nursery... unintentionally. (I use the word 'may' because it sounds passive, less concrete and keeps us from looking like suckers who can't pass up a cute dresser when they happen on one - which we totally are) Here is how the conversation generally starts:

"Hey, you want to go down to Home Again and see what they have?"

"Sure, but we aren't ready to buy anything."

"No, we'll just look, that way when we are ready we will know what's out there."

Of course "looking" leads to buying because we have been finding exactly what we want for less than half the price we thought we were going to pay and we. just. can't. walk. away. Which is why this beauty is now residing in our living room (along with almost everything else we own thanks to the kitchen remodel that seems to be spreading it's capacity for destruction to other unsuspecting parts of the cottage)...

Oh my, I can hardly wait to start on the nursery! Isn't this dresser absolute perfection? The best part is, I don't have to do anything to it! I kept seeing some old dressers that I loved but they all needed a paint job and new knobs, which I was willing to do, but with all the construction in these parts, I knew that it might be pushed to the back burner (aka, finished when our sweet potato turns three!) Then we happened upon this one and it was love at first sight!

p.s. For those of you here in the Salt Lake Valley, we found this at our favorite home furnishing store called "Home Again." They sell mostly consignment (though not your run-of-the-mill, it-isn't-worth-a second-look consignment junk) and also have some awesome vintage pieces as well as some architectural salvage. Check it out - - - wait, on second thought, don't. I don't want you buying all the stuff I want!

September 7, 2010

It's Electric!

I realized I am way too deep in the remodeling process when my husband says to me:

 "I need to go pick up some new strippers to finish that three-way," 

and I respond with 

"Hold on, I'll grab my purse." 

Seriously, no smart ass comment from me? Yep we are definitely in the thick of it. Call it wiring tunnel vision. And lest you googled something else and you landed here on accident, let me clarify...

The new strippers. (I promise that is what they're called!) Mr's most used tool at the moment. 

A handy reference guide we picked up ten years ago on our first project. While it is a tad simplistic, it is good for someone just starting their first electrical wiring project. (They also published one for plumbing that is good too!)

We still hire an Electrician to do the "big" stuff like connect the main power to the line, but Mr. does most of the running of the wire inside the house. After so many years of doing this (and following the Electrician around like a puppy asking a million questions), he pretty much knows the ropes. He does, though, still reference the above page every time he wires a three-way switch. What is she talking about? A three-way switch is what happens when you have two switches that power one light source. For example, in our kitchen we have switches on either side that will turn on the overhead lights no matter what door you come in. Apparently it's complicated. Thus the book. 

And speaking of our kitchen, Mr. has been hard at work rewiring the whole house (it's a long story), moving walls, and other general awesomeness.  Here's the progress so far...

Looking towards the back door. We are widening the doorway and putting in a small railing above the stairs. 

Mr. removed the old fire-hazard/wiring to make room for the pretty new yellow wiring. Too bad no one will see all his hard work underneath the sheetrock. 

Looking from the side door into the kitchen towards the sink area. 

Oh blessed day! While Mr. was in Mississippi on business, the sheetrock crew came in and worked their magic! It is starting to look like an actual room again!

I know I promised to show you the plan, and I of these days. But for now, here is a sneak peak of what we are working on next....

Any guesses on what we are doing with the beadboard?

(For the before shots of the kitchen you can go here. )

August 19, 2010

Kitchen Inspiration

The best part of any renovation is the planning: measuring, drawing, dreaming, looking for inspiration photos, and finally shopping. No matter what stage of the renovation we happen to be at, we are always in the market for some inspiration, and we have been known to completely alter plans if we happen upon something really great that needs to be incorporated into the design. So here is a little sampling of beautiful little nuggets that are keeping us motivated to finish. Each one of these photos has an element or two that we plan on weaving into the final kitchen. Can you guess which ones?

Southern Living

SchappacherWhite Ltd. via

Amoroso Design

Wendy Possard

Mueller Nicholls Cabinets

Jessica Helgerson

Mueller Nicholls Cabinets

Christian Rice Architects

The Kitchen Studio of Glen Ellyn

Rebekah Zaveloff, KitchenLab & Design in a

Denyse Rinfret via Traditional Home

House Beautiful

Michelle Dunker

Beautiful Kitchens

Amoroso Design

August 15, 2010

House of Chaos

There is nothing like news of a pregnancy to really throw your well laid plans of a remodel into hyper-drive. Yes, those two crossed lines on that obscene white stick looked order (which previously reigned supreme in our household) right in the eyes and gave it the bird. Now our sad little cottage more resembles a fun house: left is right, up is down, the living room is now the kitchen, there are giant, curious holes where once a wall stood, the mirror is even spewing back horrid, skewed images of me (oh wait that is just the pregnancy wreaking havoc on my body!)

We realize that this behavior may seem shockingly abnormal to those whose first instinct is to clean, organize, and feather their nest for their new little hatchling. Oh, in a perfect world. And yes, part of our remodeling plans do include a nursery, but to be honest my very first thought when looking at that confirmation of our unexpected fertility was: We really need a dishwasher! So Mr. promptly ordered a 30 yard dumpster and took a sledgehammer to the pink formica that we inherited with our little old cottage. What a good guy.

It won't be as easy as a little kitchen remodel though. No, those of you who have been crazy enough to attempt this sort of thing know that one thing inevitably always leads to another. So remodeling the kitchen also means that we get to rewire the whole house (long story), new flooring on the main floor of the whole house, new paint throughout, new molding throughout, new, new, new (whew my head is spinning). And  though we may wake up next week and wonder if this has all been one big terrible mistake, for now we are excited (or is that just the delirium from sucking in all this plaster dust? That's Mr. not me, I'm safely ensconced in our plaster-dust-free bedroom watching old re-runs of Kingdom - oh I do love Stephen Fry!) and fired up for our new

Later I'll share with you the plan, but for now here are the before pics...

(Above)This is what the kitchen looked like on our last walk through right before we signed our names on the dotted line. And yes, we agreed to an all pink kitchen. That's pink cabinets, pink countertop, pink walls, pink ceiling, pink drapes, and ... pink carpet. Shocking, but true. 

The breakfast nook before we moved in.

View from the breakfast nook before we moved in. 

(Abov) This is what the kitchen has looked like for the last two and half years. When we moved in we knew we would eventually rip out the kitchen, but we felt it was important to live in the space for a while to really figure out what worked and what didn't.  So we did what we could to make it livable for the interim: painted the cabinets white, the walls a light beachy sand color, spray painted the old knobs black, and removed the pink carpet (seriously, who installs carpet in their kitchen??!!) 

View of the breakfast nook.

(Above) In this pic you can see the remnants of the bathroom remodel. See where that lovely unpainted drywall is? That used to be a closet that opened up on this side. We closed it off and opened it up on the other side to create more space in our small bathroom (you can see it here). You can also catch a tiny glimpse of the new full light wood door we installed last year. 

View from the hallway. 

View from the dining room. Remember when we redid the dining room and I told you that wall that you see in the foreground was coming out? Well...

It's gone! Along with everything else! It only took Mr. (by himself!) a few days...and all is primed for the transformation.

Stay tuned for a full play-by-play. I know... I know... I've been absent from the blog world for a while (blame it on the baby) but now I am hoping that I am beyond all the pregnancy yuckiness and into the "blissful trimester" so I'll be around to bore you with all the gory details!

The next step? Plumbing and electrical...

June 19, 2010

Italian Inspiration: The Cinque Terre

I have been crazy busy at work lately, and the weather has been less than cooperative, so the house projects are slow going. We have some big plans for our home in the very near future, but until then, I thought I would share a little more inspiration from our recent travels. 

The Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera coast, is the unreal, can't-be-imitated, hard-to-find combination of lush green rolling hills, stone terraced vineyards, craggy rugged cliffs, bluest-of-blue water, ancient hill towns, smiling, siesta-loving locals, and fresh off the vine lemons the size of grapefruit. 

The five towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and for good reason. Each tiny town is full of wonder: colorful houses built into the steep hillsides, cobblestone streets zig-zagging past old dry-stack stone walls, farmers plucking sun-ripened grapes, olives, and bright green basil straight from the vine, the air filled with the aroma of fresh made pesto mingled with salted sea air. 

A hiking trail connects the five cities and winds it's way along the oceans edge, providing the hiker with breath-taking views of a landscape that has changed little in over five hundred years. The Cinque Terre stays with you long after you leave, and seems like merely a dream when you have gone.  Next time, we'll wise up and put it last on the agenda because to be honest, after the spectacular beauty found here, everything else just seems bland. (Sorry Florence, we know you are a great city with amazing sites of your own, but you just can't compete with the likes of the Cinque Terre. It really wasn't our fault that your Duomo, with the marble-covered facade, left us cold. Blame it on the Cinque Terre!) 


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