Thursday, March 31, 2011


When we first moved into the house there was really no landscaping. We had two Forsythias on the opposite side from the street, one large bush in the front yard, and a few stumpy things that looked like they may have been bushes at one time.

The back yard involved a pile of old bricks, various random items under the porch, a few broken pavers, and spotty grass.

We were on assignment in Seattle when Dave received the offer to move to Charleston and we only had about three weeks in Alabama to get the house ready to sell before we had to leave. Our big plan originally was to renovate the interior of the house and then focus on the outside. Since we were still finishing up our interior renovation, we had very little time to do anything to the outside. In addition, our HVAC unit completely kicked the dust just before we came back to Alabama so we had the major expense of replacing it. I made a desperate trip to Greenleaf Nursery in Decatur to see if we could get some sort of landscaping plan for our yard. My plan was to give them a description of our lot and ask for as many (low maintenance) plants as we could get for $500. We only had a week until our move date at that point and I knew our money would barely get us anything. Instead of laughing at me (which I was expecting), the guys at the nursery were incredibly kind. One of the men offered to come to our house on his way to Cullman later the same day and look at our yard. The next morning he called me with a plan. 

He recommended boxwoods for the back of the house under the bedroom windows on the left (sorry for the horrible photos), some evergreen bushes under the kitchen/dining room windows on the right, and pine mulch.

Here you can see the boxwoods in the back, the two forsythias that we already had, and the wonderful new HVAC unit. The white box on the side of the house is a Rinnai tankless water heater. If it were not for Dave and our daughter, it would probably be the love of my life. :-)

We also put some sort of spriggy grass around the back porch.

Our large single shrub that used to be in the front of the house was perfect for hiding the new HVAC unit from the front view.

The single bush in front of the left window was replaced with pink azaleas. 

I can't say enough good things about the guys who helped us with our outdoor project. They were so kind and I have no doubt that what they did was instrumental in helping our house sell so quickly. They gave us some major discounts and free delivery. While I know we didn't exactly achieve a landscaping paradise, for the money and time we had to work on it, our yard went from looking like a vacant lot to looking like a yard. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


After being sent to Seattle for seven months on a temporary work assignment for my husband, we returned to Alabama. We had a little less than a month before we were moving to South Carolina and about three weeks before our daughter's first birthday. We planned to throw a big birthday party in our yard with our family and friends the weekend before leaving. The party was a chance to say goodbye to our wonderful friends, celebrate our daughter's birth, and have an open house after (almost) completing the remodel.

Stting in anticipation of her big day while we make the food for the party:

Our parents came down from North Carolina to celebrate. Here is Dave's mom:

The living room set up for guests:

Cupcakes from Publix, homemade chocolate cake, and homemade German Chocolate Cake.

So....we're big fans of chocolate.

I bought the cupcake stand from Crate and Barrel in Seattle for a friend's baby shower. I love it.

My parents and Dave's mom helping get ready.

Curried chicken salad, lime and pepper tuna salad, croissants, and Hobby Lobby plates.

She liked her cupcake.

We rented tables and chairs and set them up in the back yard (though I can't seem to find any photos of that part of the yard at the party). It was a perfect day and wasn't unbearably hot for August in Alabama. Kids played on the tree swing, people looked through photos of our baby's first year and our house renovation, and we got to spend some wonderful time with friends. 

It was bittersweet since we knew we were leaving in a few days and this would be our last time to see many of our friends, and the last time we could have them in our home. However, God blessed us with great weather and everything went perfectly. I am so grateful for the sweet people who loved our baby girl while she was in my belly and during the first year of her life and for their being a part of our celebration!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kittens Part 2: Happy Ending

After the last incredibly sad kitten post I'm glad I can say that our second litter was completely healthy. Smokey started meowing loudly while I was in the shower (go figure) getting ready for work. It was April 15, 2008. I sat on the bathroom floor with her for a while but nothing seemed to be happening and I had to go to work. All day at work I was thinking I might come home to kittens but when I got back there was just Smokey. She started meowing loudly and kept going between me and the bathroom. I followed her in there, sat on the floor and she laid down in my lap.  Within a few minutes she was having a kitten. When the first one came out she began cleaning it and I had a hard time getting a good look at it. When she was all clean I saw her: a little black kitten covered in fur and moving! I was so excited. After her Smokey had four orange tabbies and one gray striped kitten. I read online later that some cats prefer to deliver their kittens alone but some want to have someone with them. They even have the ability to stop their labor until they are comfortable with the place they are or their company. I seriously think Smokey purposely waited until I got home to have her kittens.

Dave loved them.

I loved them.

There was lots of cuteness...

...and kitten soccer.

They helped us research for the renovation...

...and we taught them to use the litter box.

We found homes for them but decided to keep the little kitten that was born in my lap and named her Cocoa...

...and she appears in many of our renovation photos.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kittens Part 1

Warning: This story is sad but was part of our house remodeling story. Since this blog is intended to help us chronicle the experience I thought I would include it. It does have a happy ending in the next post.

Our wonderful friends who housed us during our bathroom remodel had received two kittens as birthday gifts for their daughters the year before. When we were at the house I began noticing that they seemed to be getting a little plump. I told my friend that I thought they were pregnant and offered to keep them at our house until they had their kittens. Since they were outdoor cats we were afraid the coyotes would get the kittens. I wasn't too paranoid about two outdoor cats living in our house since it was pretty much torn apart at that point and the only room that had been renovated was the bathroom. Princess and Smokey made themselves right at home and seemed to enjoy getting fatter and lounging around our house. 

We weren't sure when they would have their kittens but one day Princess started meowing loudly at me while I was taking my morning shower. I got out of the shower and camped out beside her while she went into labor.  She had miscarried one kitten already but we could feel that the others were still alive in her belly and had read this could happen.

After a while of being in labor she had two of the tiniest kittens I had ever seen. One was black and one was a calico. We named them Midnight and Dixie.

We knew they were very small and they seemed to have trouble nursing. They could barely move around or hold their heads up but they did scoot up close to their mother and try to nurse.

Princess began ignoring them and we decided we would have to bottle feed them of they were going to stay alive. We took them to the vet and got the right formula. We found out that they were premature and didn't have enough fur to regulate their own body temperature so we kept them in a box with a heating pad which we monitored religiously to make sure it was at the right temperature. I took them to work with me and fed them every two hours. We barely slept at all for three days because we were feeding them through the night and making sure they were ok. 

Sadly, after three days they slipped away. Midnight was in my hands when he stopped breathing and I burst into tears. A couple hours later Dave brought Dixie over to me and said that she was gone too. Neither of us are particularly big animal people but to see life slip away like that in your own hands is heartbreaking. We just cried and tried to reassure each other that we had done all we could and that they knew they were loved. 

We put a piece of their blanket in a box that our checks had come in and laid them together in the box. Dave made a little cross for them in the back yard. 

Over the next week Princess had four more stillborn kittens that were about twice the size of our little premies. Needless to say I was pretty nervous about Smokey having kittens and wasn't sure if we could go through another experience like this one. Luckily that is a much happier story and one I'll share on the next post. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Master Bedroom?

We didn't finish our master bedroom before we moved. We put it on the back burner and it pretty much contained our mattress set and leftover hand-me-down furniture. However, we did do some work to it so I thought I would post about it.

When we moved in, we didn't particularly like the extremely rough plaster walls but we thought we might be able to live with them.

The main wall that troubled us was this one. It was covered with bead board that bulged in the middle and was the only wall with crown moulding. We decided to take it down to investigate and found that the bead board was concealing a large hole in the plaster from an old stove vent. Since we were going to replace that wall we went ahead with gutting the whole room. This is where our house project took the sharp turn from replacing only the bathroom walls to replacing all of the walls.

The house had hardwoods throughout which had been badly refinished in the living/dining rooms and covered with carpet in the hallway and bedrooms. The carpet in the hallway was also covering an old floor furnace which felt like it was about to fall through every time you stepped on that area. We took up the carpet and planned to refinish the old hardwoods. However, we decided there were too many damaged places in the house for us to salvage them. Every single room in the house has significant damage to the floor joists, sill, and flooring (although we made that call after I had already spent hours using chemical stripper on our bedroom floors and making myself sick from the fumes on several occasions). Oh well, you live you learn. After doing some research and figuring out we wanted to go with BLC's pre-finished solid hickory (Cottage grade), Dave went to work.

Before Dave put down the hardwoods he had to fix some major issues under the flooring. Some of the subfloor had to be replaced and he had to make a temporary wall structure to remove some of the wood under the wall and replace it as well.

 Some joists were no longer connected to the sill due to rot and were badly in need of repair.

Once all the walls and floors were finished we could tackle the closets. The closets in both bedrooms were decent sizes (especially for the age of the house) but the tiny doors didn't allow them to be efficiently used. 

 We decided to take out part of the wall and add French doors (left).

We added a closet system and made the space much more useful.

Though it would have been nice to complete the bedroom renovation it was just nice to have a real bedroom to sleep in during my pregnancy. We were previously sleeping in the other bedroom with our second mattress and box spring propped against the wall, boxes everywhere, our clothes in piles, and barely enough walking space to get to the bed. I think it's good to go through times like that to make us thankful for the times we do have order and comfort.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Front Door

I thought I'd let Dave post about installing our new front door since he was the one who installed it:

In the process of replacing our front door, we learned a lot of helpful information. For one, if you're getting a custom door from Lowes or Home Depot, there are close to a dozen options of how to get your door. A few that I can remember that we should have paid closer attention to:

- Jamb width: Given that our house was older and had larger studs and thick plaster, we should have measured the entire thickness because it's not a "normal" thickness.
- Height: Seems like a no-brainer...the door below looks "normal," but as you'll see, our new "normal" 6'8" door is missing a few inches.
- Hardware finish: We got the standard finish but later decided to do oil-rubbed bronze hardware

The good news is that the door you order is total customizable for all of these features and more. It pays to do your homework upfront and make sure you order the right door for your space. One last comment I'll pass on from a Lowes salesman that I thought was valuable: "People come in all the time and spend a lot of money ordering fancy french doors that are fiberglass and rot-proof, but they don't spend the extra 5% to get vinyl jambs." Look into vinyl jambs because over the years the water running down your front door and collecting in your jambs will rot it out.

So anyways, on to the pictures. Below is the original door, which was nice, but had multiple non-functioning locks and the door was starting to come apart. Looking back it would have been nice to fix it up, but at the time it seemed easier to replace it...oh the ignorance...

There used to be a storm door and there was aluminum siding applied over the old wood siding, so the jamb area was a mess with all kinds of layers and overlapping materials.

Yep, three locks.

Super-wide jamb.

Old door out, new door propped into place. Looks nice; it's still daylight outside, right? Didn't get this one all the way in until after midnight (in February).

Rachel is holding up the door. Notice how the new door was significantly shorter. The old door was probably a 7' door.

It took a lot of shimming and trimming, but we got the door in there all right.

I cleaned up the exterior trim a lot.

Finally it was finished on a cold February night.

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