Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Next Basement Room

We've been finishing our basement for almost 2 years now. Two years ago in March, I started work on the first room. We really needed another bedroom. Lincoln was gone for a few days for work, so I enlisted the help of my cousin and her handy husband and we began construction. In anticipation of the start of the project, I had been saving some cash to put toward materials. I had something like $200 or $300. Not a lot of money, but when you do the work yourself (or have your handy cousin-in-law do it), it's just the cost of materials. I was able to get the 2x4s for framing the walls, electrical supplies, drywall, nails for the nail gun (which I think was my greatest cost!), screws for the drywall, and a building permit. It's been two years, there may have been more. So about a year later, we had the first room complete. (Actually, we still don't have closet doors in, the outlet spacers in, and a couple pieces of trim up.)

Next we focused on closing off the hallway, so the girls wouldn't feel like they were sleeping out in the unfinished basement. We've been plugging away at that, very slowly.

Along the way, we also began some work on the next bedroom. We had my cousin-in-law come over and frame up a closet for us.

A few months later, Lincoln put a heat run in.

When my parents came to visit over the summer, we hung the drywall ceiling. This got us excited and motivated. We thought.

Work halted for a while, and then this past fall we hired a friend to come put in another window in the room. One of the concerns about this room was that there was not enough square inches of window compared to square footage of the room for it to pass code as a bedroom. We really wanted to be able to sell this home as a 5 bedroom someday and we had a new construction window sitting in our basement, (apparently left over from construction of the home- it's been here since we bought the house), so we decided to install it. Installing a window was a bit intimidating for us. It's not hard, but it is precise.

The window looks out on our garden. Our garden that is a frozen tundra currently.

This winter we began work on drywalling the walls. We switched our focus to the hallway again, hoping to close off the unheated part of the basement with winter upon us.

We have insulated the wall in the unheated portion of the basement and our door we ordered is in and just waiting for us to pick it up and install it. Once that is in, we will return to this room. I am SO excited to get this done!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Electrical Spacers

Despite the lack of posting going here this week, I am actually getting lots of stuff done. I have hung all the chair rail in the dining area and I am now in the process of installing a beadboard backsplash in the kitchen. This is a project that I started about 2(!) years ago. I bought beadboard planking and began cutting it into backsplash lengths. I was excited about the project and anxious to see the result. But then I looked around the kitchen at the nine outlets I would have to cut around and I got intimidated. I didn't know what to do about the outlets. I knew that even if I got energetic and went ahead and made all those cuts with my jigsaw, I still didn't know how to get them flush with the new wallcovering. So my pieces of beadboard sat in my garage for months and months. They narrowly escaped being thrown out by my husband on more than one garage cleaning/purging. Then, about a year ago, I heard about electrical spacers. Basically, all I knew was that these little doohickies could be installed behind the outlet to bring it flush with the new wall. So I went in search of them. Let me save you a lot of wandering and searching time by telling you to just ask someone where the electrical outlet spacers are. Trust me. Even when I know exactly what they look like and what I'm looking for, I usually need to get an employee to point them out to me. I purchased some about a year ago, knowing I needed some for the girls' bedroom, my kitchen island (where I had previously installed beadboard and simply cut around the outlet cover), and my kitchen backsplash. But here's the kicker. I was still intimidated to try using them because I didn't know exactly how they worked. Let me just say that this was weird for me. I am generally not intimidated by home improvement projects. I have installed many light fixtures, pulled and reinstalled a few toilets, tiled floors and backsplashes, hung crown moulding, installed hardwood floors, hung wallpaper, installed sinks, changed faucets, hung mudded and taped drywall, installed heating ductwork, etc etc. But these intimidated me. Go figure. When my mom/hero/electrician was here last summer, I asked her if she would help me install them in my kitchen island outlet. We made sure the power was shut off to it and pulled the outlet cover off. At this point we realized this was much simpler than we had thought. So, to avoid anyone else feeling like I did about these puppies, I took some pictures of the process as I installed some during my backsplash project yesterday and created a little tutorial.

1. Remove your outlet cover by unscrewing the center screw. Set aside. This is what you'll see:

2. Loosen the screws at the top and bottom of the outlet. They have a little washer that will prevent them from coming out completely. This is good, because you don't want to expose any wires.

3. Grab your bag of spacers that the helpful employee helped you locate at your local hardware store. In the bag you will find strips of spacers.

4. You will need to determine how many spacers you will need to bring the outlet flush to your new wall. For me, it was three. Twist to tear off the appropriate amount.

5. Now, fold them together to get your determined thickness. They have little holes and posts that snap into each other, although sometimes not very neatly. That's OK. You will need two for each outlet, one for each screw.

6. Insert the spacer behind the main body of the outlet, onto the screw.

7. Repeat with the other screw. In this picture you can see a little better the u-shaped opening on the spacer allowing you to snap it onto the screw without completely removing the screw.

8. Because I didn't have this piece cut yet, I don't have a picture of the new wall here, but you should install your new wallcovering now so that the little metal lips at the top and bottom of the outlet can rest on top of it, just like they did on the wall before (see top picture). Then, tighten the screws, securing the outlet to the new wall.

*Edit- I finished this area this morning, so here is a picture of the outlet resting against the new wall.

9. Replace the outlet cover and you're done!

Go ahead and shut off the breaker to your outlet(s) before beginning to avoid any electrocution mishaps. I did not, but better safe than sorry when working with electricity.

Really, so very simple and incredibly useful!

Home Stories A2Z

Friday, January 13, 2012

Updates and a Sneak Peek

Remember I said I would have some great after pictures for you? Well, let's start in the basement. I spent the morning cleaning and organizing and moving stuff around. Although it is still a lot of stuff, I did haul out a couple bags of clothes to go to Goodwill, along with a few other items. I went through the kids' clothes that were in storage and pulled out lots of things they can be wearing now. I finally got all the Christmas stuff consolidated and packed away properly. I also consolidated Kennedy's stuff down into a laundry basket. I put all the building supplies in one corner and, the best part, cleared the pathway to my food storage and freezer.

(You are seeing the backs of our Christmas caroler decorations. I finally brought them in since we were experiencing a heat wave. I have to store them with their backs to the door so they don't creep the kids out. I must admit, it can be a bit unnerving to walk into the basement, flick on the light, and see four people staring at you.)

Last night Lincoln and I (mostly Lincoln) got the entire wall insulated. Now we're just waiting on that door order to process so we can close this section off.

Another after picture I took was of the weather. Remember the day I took Jesse to the park?

24 hours later it looked like this around here:

I'm not complaining. It IS January, after all.

Today (like most days, honestly) my bed is unmade and piled with laundry. I just walked in to find the dog there:

That's her idea of a great way to spend a winter's day.

The other project I have been working on is something I'm pretty excited about: A face lift for our dining area. This has been in the works for a while. Back in the fall when I painted the trim, I painted the bottom portion of the walls in the dining area in the same white, intending to install chair rail. Considering our open floor plan, I thought the chair rail would be nice to kind of set the dining area apart. The thing that has held the process up was choosing a paint color for the top portion of the wall. I finally took the plunge with the Glidden color, Polished Limestone. I LOVE it! It is light and bright during the day, a little more warm at night. It is similar in tone to the other grays in the house, but leans a little toward green. I painted yesterday and today I am cutting chair rail. Unfortunately I need one more piece of chair rail, so this project probably won't be done today. But as promised, a sneak peek!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Scary Basement Pictures

I worked hard this morning. Our never ending basement project has come to a point where we are thisclose to having the unfinished portion closed off from the rest of the basement. We have ordered a prehung door for the doorway, and yesterday I picked up some insulation. We plan to insulate the entire interior wall between the unfinished basement and the finished portion. Not only will it help keep things warmer, but it will also help keep the noise from the furnace and the water softener down a bit.

My project today was to clear, clean, and organize the storage space so that we can get to the wall to hang insulation. I know I can't possibly be the only one with a dumping ground, right? Right? Let me lay it out for you. Clothes. Lots of clothes. Furniture. Furniture that is waiting to be used, furniture that is junk but I have no way to get rid of until junk day. Patio furniture being stored for the winter. Building materials. Holiday decoration bins completely unorganized. Lots of stuff from Kennedy's room, waiting for her new room to be completed. And I'm not gonna lie. An occasional dog turd here or there. She's mostly house trained, but from time to time she will sneak down there and poo. It seems like there is always another dried out nugget showing up down there. Hopefully a door will put a stop to her secret potty habits.


So when things have to go to storage, and especially if I send them down with the kids, they usually just get chucked in here. It was really out of control. So I moved stuff around, consolidated, organized, swept, threw stuff away, picked up dog poo nuggets, etc.

Around noon I stopped to have lunch. I took the dog out to go potty and discovered that the weather was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was warm and the breeze was minimal. I decided the basement could wait. After lunch Jesse and I went to the park to soak up some sunshine and get some fresh air in our lungs. Before we left I opened some windows so the house could get fresh air in its lungs as well. We were lucky that some of our friends were there too. Jesse ran around and I parked my BEhind in the SUNshine.

January in Wisconsin?! What?

The tree I was sitting under had huge buds on it- in January. That can't be good.

So I've decided that tonight I'm only posting before pictures, because I think I'm going to get some great afters tomorrow.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Playing Cat and Mouse

A little bit different kind of post tonight, but this IS called Pieces of Molly, and my kids/family are definitely pieces of me. Tonight for Family Home Evening we played Cat and Mouse. This is a game my parents played with us when we were little. My kids LOVE this game so I thought I'd take a couple pictures as we were playing and share them here because chances are the kids in your life will like to play this too.

So it's a simple concept. Two people play at a time. Both players put on a blindfold and begin at each end of the table.

You'll want to play at a large dining room table. One player is the cat, the other is the mouse. The cat is trying to catch the mouse, by moving around the table. Both players must keep both hands on the table in front of them at all times. It's important to be quiet and try to listen for the other player.

The great thing about this game (besides not requiring special equipment) is that it is as much fun to watch as it is to play.

We do a rotation so that each person plays two times in a row, the first time they are the cat, the second the mouse, then they rotate out.

Don't worry, because you're in stealth mode, it is rare to have any collisions. Usually your hands meet before anything else, or maybe your shoulders. That's why it's important to follow the rule about keeping your hands on the table.

Go play this with your kids! I promise you will all be giggling!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Drop Cloth Chairs

See my beautiful chairs?

OK, so in that state they are a bit dated. Perhaps the gold velour upholstery is not exactly my cup of tea and the dark wood is a bit...dark. But I love the caning and the shape of these chairs. I spotted them for sale by the side of the road. I stopped and knocked on the door to find out the price but alas, no one was home. Fearing that someone might grab them before me, I left a note on the door with my name and number. Later that day I got a call from the owner. It was an older lady (maybe late 60s) and she was so very sweet. She started in telling me that they had belonged to her mother and that she had purchased them about 4 or 5 years before for $200 a piece. She explained the sturdiness and quality of the construction. All I was hearing were the red flags flapping in the breeze. I just knew she was going to be asking at LEAST $100 for the pair, so I was shocked when she told me she would take $40 for the pair. I grabbed some cash and headed right over.

When I pulled up the husband was out front. He came over with a big smile on his face, shook my hand like I was an old friend, introduced himself, and called toward the open door to let his wife know I had arrived. She came out looking so delighted that I was there. In fact, I thought she might hug me. We all chatted for a while about how long we had lived in the area, our families, the weather. I absolutely loved them. I can't even describe what a delightful experience it was. They were thrilled to know that the chairs were going to a family with lots of kids. The husband was so helpful, in such a gentlemanly way, with loading them in my SUV. And they obviously adored each other. Seriously, the most pleasant couple I have maybe EVER met. They live just across a field from our house. I was very concerned later in the summer to see an ambulance at their house. I wish I knew why it was there. I sure hope they are both OK. I love that I have this little connection with them, a little piece of their sweet and positive energy, a little glimpse into their lives. I'll probably never meet them again, unfortunately, but they truly made my day and left a lasting impression.

So- here is the first chair completed. I must confess, I am still in the process of pulling the second one apart. It was actually a more complex process then I thought it would be, and the staple pulling is never fun.

I put rosettes at the corners. The original plan was to go all the way across the top with them. Opinions? Should I still do that? I still think I might.

Obviously, I painted the frame in an off-white, and I used a drop cloth for the upholstery. I was too lazy to do the tufting. Actually I liked it that way, but I may make an attempt at the tufting with the second one, just to see if I like that better. But I don't like the thought of pulling the other one apart again if I DO like it better.

Here's what it looks like in the room.

Hopefully soon(ish) I'll have the other one done! I have lots of projects I'd like to get done before our annual Valentine's Day party. I guess I had better get busy!

I'm linking up to Meet Me Monday

Friday, January 6, 2012

Living Room Shuffle

So the folks in my home are a bit under the weather. My nose is getting a bit tender from wiping and I'm getting sick of hearing myself sniffle. I can't imagine how everyone around me must feel about it. But none of us are just flat out sick...yet. I fear I may be down and out this weekend. Maybe it will just improve from here. Here's hoping.

On Wednesday I had the carpets cleaned. The guy was scheduled to come at 9:00 am, so as soon as the kids left for school I started moving furniture out of the way. I emptied the living room of everything but the piano, moved all the toys in the boys' room onto their beds, and cleared the family room as best I could. Then I quickly vacuumed through each room. I made sure the bathroom was tidied up in case he got a glimpse in there, and then I proceeded to clean up breakfast and tidy the kitchen. By this time I had worked up quite a sweat. It was after 9 at this point, so I finished up what I was working on and decided to take a break and check Facebook. When it was almost 10 and he still wasn't here, I decided to give them a call. Turns out, in the process of switching over from the 2011 appointment book to the new 2012 one, my appointment did not get transferred. I really did not want to put all the furniture back and do it all over again another day, so I reluctantly took a time slot later in the day for about an hour before my kids were due home from school. Not ideal. Five kids, wet carpet. None of this is really relevant to this post, except to tell you that they were so sweet and apologetic. They gave me a big discount on the cleaning and even let me use the big fans for drying the carpet overnight. What IS relevant, is that having all the furniture moved out of the room meant that it was very easy to put everything back in a different place. I think that's really the key with rearranging furniture: take everything out and start with a clean slate.

A week ago my living room looked like this:

Today it looks like this:

We are loving the new furniture arrangement. I pulled in the lamp from the guest room, put the curtains back up, pulled the throw pillows back out, and shuffled shuffled shuffled.

A few months ago I painted the room in the two tones of gray and painted the trim white. Now I'm agonizing over what color to paint the stairway and the hallway. (And the dining room too, for that matter.)

The living room, kitchen, dining room area used to all be a neutral tan-ish color. There was so much beige/wood tones/tan going on in this house it made me crazy: carpet, cabinets, walls, piano, furniture, trim. So I don't want to turn around and just paint everything gray now. Suggestions? I have a whole palette of neutral, lighter colors picked out. I think any of them would work, actually. But I'm finding it hard to commit. I actually think it's easier to work with stronger colors, but I'm loving how the lighter colors brighten the place up.

Linking up to Feathered Nest Friday

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Food Storage Solution

In my wanderings around blogland I see so many beautiful images of pretty pantries peppered with eye-popping paper, perfect parcels, and pleasant paned doors. I think about how fun it would be to organize and beautify my OWN pantry closet. Then I remember that I don't HAVE a pantry and I get sad. But only for a minute because #1 I have PLENTY of spaces that need organizing and beautifying and #2 I have something even better than a rinky-dink pantry closet. I have a pantry ROOM. It may not be pretty, but it is absolutely a hidden, unassuming gem in this home. It is down in the basement, so another big benefit is the extra exercise I get running up and down the stairs, especially when I'm putting away groceries.

So here it is; a concrete storage room.

Not beautiful to look at, but very functional. The shelving came from Costco. These are super heavy duty. I think each shelf can hold up to 400 pounds. Um yeah. They are also very easy to assemble. No screwing, they just slide and lock together. The only tool you'll need is a rubber mallet to tap them into place. I believe they were $60 each? I need to buy at least two more, and maybe another for the garage.

So let's talk logistics. I know it doesn't sound very convenient to store all our pantry items in the basement...a looong walk from the kitchen, but it works pretty well. I do keep some items in my kitchen cupboards. I have a cabinet and a drawer with spice type items, a corner cupboard with cereal, bread, and school lunch supplies, a cabinet with pastas and one can each of commonly used items like soups, corn, peanut butter etc. I also have two cabinets designated as baking supplies areas. I keep a large Tupperware container of flour and one of sugar there. I keep all the baking staples (baking soda, baking powder, salt, vanilla, powdered sugar, brown sugar, oils, cocoa etc) there.

In the basement I store my home canned items (tomatoes, pickles, grape juice, jams, salsas, carrots, green beans, relishes, applesauce, tomato sauce, etc), bulk items (wheat, additional flour, beans, sugars, oats, rice etc), extra pantry items (cereal, granola bars, cups of fruit, olives, soups, lemon juice, salt, ketchup, etc), bulk paper goods, toiletries and cleaning supplies (toothpaste, toilet paper, Clorox wipes, Ziploc bags, paper towels, shampoo, toilet bowl cleaner, etc), and my canning supplies. I also keep my coolers down here. Our potato bin is down here where it is dark and cool as well.

(Those are Hubbard squash in there with what is left of the potatoes we grew this year. They were given to me by some friends. I need to process them...)
So basically, I stock my kitchen cabinets from my storage room in the basement. It works well.

Another benefit of having the food stored down there is that I can kind of ration the food in the kitchen a bit. The kids do NOT like to go down to that section of the basement, so I can store things down there that I don't want them to get into. Believe me, with 5 kids who are apparently always STARVING, this is handy. As you may have noticed in the picture, I also have water stored down there. I try to refill beverage containers with water and keep them down there. It never hurts to store water if you have the space. I need to get a shelf for the water. (I also need a shelf for our sleeping bags and camping gear that are heaped at one end.)

Just a few steps away, just outside the doorway of this storage room, is our chest freezer. When my Mom was here visiting this past summer she installed an outlet in this corner for me. I had envisioned a freezer in this spot when we first moved in. I eventually got the freezer, but it was another couple years before I had it settled into its permanent home.

I love having this space for storage (and as a great tornado shelter) and I love seeing my shelves fill up- especially with items I have grown and canned myself.

So that's my concrete pantry--and I love it!

Linking up: