We have running water again

The new sink

Our kitchen was gutted on September 26. For the past three months, we've been using the wash tub in the basement or the bathroom upstairs when we needed water.

Well... NO MORE!!

More Progress on Renovating our 1950s Ranch Kitchen

Kitchen renovation before and after
What the kitchen looked like after we took possession of the house
and how it looked yesterday, December 7, 2015.
We've accomplished a lot. It's just taken longer than expected. But isn't that the way of every renovation project? Don't they always take longer than expected? What do you think of the changes so far? I'm absolutely loving the yellow color I selected for the cabinets.

Before and progress on renovating our 1950's ranch

Cabinets being installed

Yesterday, I promised an update, so here I am with an update on our progress. Normally, I would share "Before & After" pictures. But problem with that is, even though we've done a lot, it is seems like there are still a few little things that still need to be done in every single room. So no room is ready for an "After" picture.  That's why all my "Before & After" pictures this time are "Before & Progress" pictures.

Anway, here's just a little peek at what we've done so far.

Our 1950's ranch gets new flooring

Oak hardwood

When we bought our 1950s ranch, we thought it had hardwood floors everywhere except for the addition, and that we'd be able to refinish the floors and just add hardwood to match in the addition. Easy. Relatively inexpensive.

That's what we thought...

A week of renovating our 1950's ranch

Working Vacation

We finally got to the point where Jim just couldn't continue doing work in the house piece piece after work. So he took the whole week off, and we're getting so much done. Here's some pictures of our progress so far...

Opening the wall between the dining and living rooms

Working hard

We made a huge step forward in the renovation of our 1950s ranch this week. We finally opened up the wall between our living room and our dining room giving the whole house a more open concept. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!!

1950's Ranch kitchen renovation plan

plan rendering

When we first looked at our new house, we thought we loved the kitchen. The cabinets looked in great shape and they go all the way to the ceiling making them look custom. In fact, everyone who has seen the house since we bought it has thought the cabinets are great.

The window awnings come down

Front of the house

Some changes are so simple yet so significant, that you wonder why you didn't do them sooner. Taking down the window awnings at our new house is one of those changes. After my post last week about priming the family room and needing to see how the sunlight played in the house to choose colors, I asked Jim to take them down this weekend.

Remodeling a 1950's ranch

Family Room fireplace

Remodeling our new home is in full swing, and we've been working like crazy. (Well, except for this week, because my car has been in the shop and Jim has been out of town, so I couldn't get over to the new house, but that's a whole nother story.)  We still don't have approval to remove the load bearing wall between the dining and living rooms, but we're moving ahead with the other changes we want to make, and the list is long.

The wait is over! We bought a house!

Our new house

Last month I shared that I had a secret I was itching to share, but that you'd have to wait to find out what it was. Now I can tell you!!

Drum roll please...   We bought a new house!!

3 Things You Need to Know to Hire the Right Designer

3 Things to Hire the right Interior Desiger

A friend of mine from another state recently bought a new home with her husband and hired an interior designer to make their home beautiful. Unfortunately, after the designer left, Kelly was devastated.  Their house didn't reflect her or her husband's tastes at all.

Here's a snippet of her email...
Why don't designers listen?
I feel her pain. This can be very frustrating, not mention, expensive. It's not completely surprising though given what people think happens when they hire a design professional.

Here's what a lot of people think happens... The designer comes in, looks at your house, asks a few question, and shows you a beautiful design plan. Since the designer is a professional, you do everything you're told, and in the end you have that exciting "WOW" moment, when you open the door to your beautifully decorated house and love absolutely everything!  Roll the credits...

Wake up!  This is not HGTV.  It doesn't work like that. It would be nice if it did, but it doesn't.

Fabric and Paint Chips
Fabric and Paint Chips for a house I'm currently designing spread out on my table.
Here's reality. Hiring the right interior designer will save you money and give you a beautiful home you love. It's true that hiring a professional designer can be intimidating, because, well, they are a professional, but don't get hung up on that. Keep the following things in mind when selecting a designer, and it will be a little easier.

1.  Every designer has her own style and design philosophy. Make sure you look at their website and portfolio to see if their style appeals to you and is similar to your own sense of style.  Don't get caught up in all the gorgeous images of beautiful rooms. A designer can be extremely talented and have a beautiful sense of style, but if that style doesn't speak to you somehow on a personal level, if you don't see yourself living in the rooms, you haven't found the right designer for you.

2.  The right designer will listen and take the time to understand your style and tastes. The designer wants you to be happy with their work (that's how we get referrals), so it behooves them to take the extra time to learn about you. If it doesn't feel as though the designer is listening to you or is pushing a style you can't relate to, then you probably haven't found the right designer. 

3.  Designers will do their best to give you a beautiful design plan that you'll hopefully love for many years. Their job is to help you pull your own ideas together and make them better, or lead you in a different direction that will work for you that hadn't occurred to you. But don't be afraid to tell your designer that you don't like an idea they've presented. The right designer will not force anything on you.

You might be wondering what happened with Kelly and her kitchen.  Well, her story actually has a happy ending.  Fortunately, Kelly and her husband bought wood cabinets and had them painted rather buying MDF, so they'll be able to have them repainted when they can afford it. In the meantime, she's making her kitchen work with some suggestions I gave her. 
Mood Board created to incorporate color in a white kitchen
KettleStoolUtensil CrockRugFabric
I found an inexpensive red, teal and green fabric that I knew she would like, and she fell in love with it.  It suits her quirky retro bold style (her words, not mine), and she's going to sew some curtains out of it to hang in her kitchen. Plus, I put together an inspiration board for her using the fabric, and now she's excited about her kitchen again. She loves all the colors. She's even talking about keeping some of the white cabinets and painting the lowers teal or red. Added bonus, her husband is also happier and not grumbling about the cost of the designer any more.

Last bit of advice!

Remember:  Just because a designer is a professional, that doesn't mean you have to accept their ideas as gospel. If you accept a design plan you don't really like just because the designer is a professional, you're not going to be happy, so speak up. Designing a home with a professional is a partnership. They need your input in order to make you happy.

So how will you know if you've found the right designer?

You'll know you've found the right designer when you feel you're being listened to, you're not afraid to speak up, and you get an "ahhhh, I could live there" feeling when looking at her design plan.

What has your experience been with Interior Designers?  Feel free to share any tips you have!

Now Coming Directly to Your Email

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I've got a secret

Something BIG is going on here. I wish I could tell you what it is, but right now Jim thinks we should keep it quiet.  Rest assured, I will be sharing my news with you as soon as Jim gives me the okay.

Here's a hint, but don't tell Jim!!

Kitchen Inspiration Board
Inspiration Board
Showing isn't quite the same as telling...

Anyway, there is more to the secret than this, but my lips are sealed.  For now.

Wish us luck!!!

Embracing something about myself

For years, I've been hiding a secret about myself.  I started getting gray hair when I was 21, and ever since then I have been coloring it.  I've had many different colors... light brown, dark brown, mahogany, red, and black.  My natural pre-gray color was dark brown, almost black, so most of the time I went back to that.

Anyway, one of the reasons I selected "Embrace" as my word of the year is because I've decided to stop coloring my hair and embrace my the gray.  I just got tired of coloring it every three weeks! So December 14th was the last time I colored it.
Embracing the Gray
Progression from January through May 2015.
Surprisingly, it's been relatively easy to adjust to the difference.  I'm lucky that my gray is closer to white and very sparkly.  Plus, it doesn't hurt that Jim likes it.

I think the hardest thing to get used to has been cutting my hair. I cut it to a short bob and then to a pixie to get rid of the artificial color.  Surprisingly, I actually get people stopping me in the stores to compliment me on my hair. That used to happen once in a while when I colored my hair, but not nearly as often as it happens now.

I love the style of my hair in the picture to the left, but I knew I'd feel ugly if I tried to maintain that while growing it out. Plus, keeping that length would have made the growing out stage take a lot longer.  But I do plan on growing it back to that style once all the artificial color is gone, which I think will be in another month or so.
Feeling good
Feeling good about how I look!
There have been some wonderful side effects to giving up the bottle... My hair and my scalp are healthier. I actually think my hair is growing faster and coming in thicker. I don't think all those chemicals every three weeks to cover the gray was doing my hair any good.

So that's me right now.  I'm Embracing the gray and feeling sassy!

Have you done anything bold recently?

The great debate... Placemats or Tablecloths? Which are better?

Making a table look beautiful is an art, and there are lots of ways to do it.  Two of the most common ways is to use a tablecloth or placemats.  Which is better really depends on the look you want and even the kind of table you have.  Either option can make a dining room look fantastic and stylish or dated and dowdy.

Personally, I like using both, but with our current table, a tablecloth isn't really an option... keep reading to find out why.

When we had our round oak table, I loved using tablecloths.  They gave the table, and the whole room, a soft romantic look.  A table can look beautiful with a tablecloth when it's done right. I'm not a fan of plain white tablecloths, because they look a little too "banquet hall" to me in a home. A tablecloth has to have some kind of detail to elevate it from utilitarian.

Table with Tablecloth
Beautiful table with a tablecloth
Here's our old oak table with a beautiful tablecloth I bought at the Linen Store in Nassau, Bahamas, many years ago. It's a crisp white and makes everything look pretty.  Even so, I did add some additional layers...a pale green napkin and two smaller placemats to give it a little more interest.

Table Setting
Table setting with china from the 1940s.
The china is one of my four sets... Yes, I'm nuts for china. I love being able to mix and match these two patterns from the 1940s.

Our "new" rectangular mahogany table fits the space we have for dining so much better than the round one did, but I miss how pretty the round one looked with the tablecloth.  The truth is, as much as I love my current dining set, I think it looks a little dowdy with a tablecloth because of the Duncan Phyfe style chairs.

Make a formal table more casual
Pretty placemats give formal table a casual look.
Our current table looks much better with placemats. The placemats don't hide the beauty of the mahogany wood. It definitely has a more formal look, which is downplayed with placemats. A tablecloth looks out of place in our tiny little house, because it would be over the top formal.  Plus, a tablecloth hides all the detail of the table, which makes it look plain and unappealing.

Informal Place Setting
Mixing different pieces on a placemat.
One thing I've enjoyed with this table is being able to use lots of different styles of placemats.  I've learned, however, that I do not like the square or round ones that I would sometimes use on our round table. They are just the wrong shape.

Round placements with a round table.
Table topper with round placemats
This shows how the round placemats looked on the round table. The table topper was a nice addition to the table, because it didn't get in the way when you wanted to sit down.  Some people don't think you should use tablecloths and placemats together, but I disagree...when done right, it can look very charming.

Formal Placemats.
Another more formal look with placemats.

We've actually donated these wood placemats, because the color clashed with the table and they slid around too much.  But I loved the look of the gold plates with the black and white napkins.

As you can see, you can get lots of different looks with tablecloths and with placemats.  You can get a formal look both ways just by the dinnerware you use.

Square Placemats
Pretty in pink with square placemats
Which do you prefer?  Tablecloth or Placemats?  Or do you prefer something else?  Share in the comments!

New Blog updated with some Old Posts

An empty blog is a boring blog.  It's an indisputable fact.  And, unfortunately, since being forced to start a new blog, my blog is empty.  I don't want a boring blog!!   That's why I've decided to transfer some of the posts from my old blog over to this one.  These will mostly be posts about things we done to our house.  It just seems a shame to have to lose all the work I did on the old blog.

Lampshade DIY
Old lamp, New look...  New blog, Old post
Today I added Before & After: Making over a LampshadeOff-Center Window in the Bedroom, Craigslist Finds Update Kitchen, Kitchen Renovation...The Blinds are GONE, and many more. Since they aren't new posts, I'm going to keep the original dates on the posts.

At first I thought I'd add a couple every week, but once I got started moving posts, it just seemed easier to to all of them at once. An added bonus to doing them all at once is I didn't accidently end up with duplicates.

The posts that didn't get moved over here need to be reworked.  I really want to find a way to bring back my "Inspiration" posts.  If I can work it out, those will most likely become a monthly feature, as they'll involve a lot of work.

Our Pets are Children

Here is some cuteness overload pictures to fill in while I work on getting some great content on my blog.  It's a little daunting going from a blog that had a ton of content to having to start over, but it will be worth it.  I promise!

We don't have any human children. Our pets are our children.  This is what I tell people when they say pets aren't kids:

Jasper sleeping
Jasper, our baby boy, sound asleep
My pets are my children. They rely on me for everything in their lives. I get up with them when they're sick, and I take them to the doctor and nurse them back to health. I worry about their safety and their happiness. When they make a mess, I clean it up. I am constantly picking up their toys, because they still haven't learned to pick up after themselves. They still haven't learned to speak, so I have to guess what they need when they cry, and pray that I guess right.

Tia looking over her shoulder
Tia, our baby girl, looking over her shoulder.
My pets are my children. They forgive me when I make mistakes. They wait patiently when I go away, and they're always happy when I return. They want to be close to me. Which means I cannot have privacy in the bathroom. And when I'm on the phone, that's always the time when they need or want something. There is no such thing as private time with my husband (their dad), because they are always wherever we are when we're home. And let's not forget that we have to get a babysitter for them when we go on vacation, because they cannot stay home by themselves, and they never will be able to.

Jasper in a box
What is it about cats and boxes.  Jasper just loves them!
My pets are my children.  They will never outgrow the baby stage of life, and they will never buy me a Mother's Day card. They will never grow up and become independent. They won't ask to borrow the car. They won't go to college, and get married or give me grandchildren. They'll never have a chance to become President or even get a job. Instead, they will always rely on me to provide everything they need for the rest of their lives.

Tia fast asleep
Tia stretching while asleep.
My pets are my children. I celebrate their accomplishments, I laugh at their antics, and I worry about their well being. Like every other parent, I often find myself questioning whether I'm doing a good enough job taking care of them. But I know, that when I adopted them, that they became my responsibility and I cannot give up because it's too hard. I chose to bring them into my life and my heart, they didn't choose me.

Now, doesn't this sound just like having children?

What about you?  Are your pets your children?  What things do you do that make you feel like a pet-mom or pet-dad?

Vacation with Mom

Last month, my mom and I went on a week-long vacation to the Bahamas just the two of us.  We stayed with family, which made it very affordable and actually very relaxing.  This is something I've wanted to do with my mom for a very long time, and I'm so glad we got a chance to do it.

My said she told some of her friends about going on vacation with me, and some people she didn't know commented that they didn't think that sounded like very much fun for me. Well, I'm here to tell you, I had a fantastic time going on vacation with my mom!  She's my best friend, so why wouldn't I have a good time with her?

Rain in the Bahamas
View from the patio of the rain on our first day.
Our first night in Nassau, we just relaxed with my Bahamian family.  Alice made lobster for us that was sooooo delicious. My mouth waters just thinking about it.  It was raining the first day, so it was nice to just hang out and adjust to the hotter weather.  They live on the canals in Coral Harbour, so from their back patio, you can see the boat owned by one of their neighbors.

The next day we went shopping on Bay Street. My niece helped me pick out gifts for Jim, and we had ice cream. So much fun! Until then, I hadn't had the opportunity to spend much time with her, but I quickly became her favorite aunt from Michigan. After we finished shopping we headed for Arawak for some crack conch.  Yum!

Bahamian Food
Looks yummy!  Crack conch, Macaroni, Beans & Rice and Plantain. 
One of my favorite things about the Bahamas is the food, and trust me, I ate a lot of it while we were there.

Saturday, Mom and spent the day shopping just the two of us.  Mom loves to shop. I think she would have shopped every single day.  But she made a mistake when she packed to go to Nassau... She used her smallest suitcase and filled it completely. I'm not sure why she did that, because she knew she was going to be bringing things home.  In the end, she ended up buying another suitcase to bring home all her treasures.

My beautiful mother
My beautiful mother.
Mom has lost a lot of weight, and she got a ton of compliments when I posted this picture of her on Facebook.  She's not on Facebook, so I had to read them all to her.  This was taken after we had lunch while shopping. It's on a balcony overlooking Bay Street. I think she looks fantastic.

More food
More food! 
We also got to go to my nephew Jake's birthday party.  Lots of food again, and all of it brought back so many wonderful memories. I can't even tell you how many times I went back for more!

Me and Mom
Me and Mom
I love this picture of the two of us on the beach with Atlantis Hotel in the background. I'm glad Alice suggested stopping there to take a picture.

Mom and I had such a great time! I can't wait to do it again.  Maybe next time we'll take a cruise together.  She's been on several cruises before, but I haven't, so that would be fun to do together.

This is just the highlights from our trip. I have a lot more pictures of some gorgeous scenery that I'll post later.

Do you like to go on vacations with your mom?  Where's the best place you've ever gone with her?


Starting Fresh


I know everything looks empty here, and there's a reason for that.  I've kind of been forced into starting fresh.

A copyright troll is trying to extort money from me for using an image on my blog that I embedded from Houzz.  They claim, although they have provided no proof, that they own the image and that I have to pay them a licensing fee for the time it was on my blog.  Well, according to terms of usage, which is agreed to by everyone who participates and posts to Houzz, images posted to their site are allowed to be used on the web without compensation, which means they waived being able to be compensated for the use of that image when they posted it to Houzz. And believe me, I read those terms of usage over and over to make sure I understood them.

Bahamian Flowers
From my recent trip to the Bahamas

After so research, I found  out these 'copyright trolls' make quite a bit of money by seeding the internet with pictures and then pouncing on unsuspecting bloggers who have used the images in good faith...which is what I did when I used the image from Houzz.  Unfortunately, they can make life miserable for a blogger even when the blogger hasn't done anything wrong, and they have put quite a few small business out of business by their unscrupulous means of making money.  The particular one that contacted me operates under no less than six different names, all doing the same thing, from the same address--something that legitimate companies with good reputations don't have to do.

That said, although I'm quite certain that I didn't do anything wrong, I've decided to start fresh with a new blog that does not contain any pictures from sources other than myself and from people I have personally received permission to use or that are verifiably public domain. I'm just not willing to give the copyright trolls any more opportunity to make my life difficult, which is the reason for the fresh start.

Truth be told, I'm now kind of excited to be starting fresh. I plan to recreate many of the posts I had on my old blog, but with a fresh new take on them.  I'll also be looking at adding some new features to the blog and to my website.

Sometimes things happen for a reason. I think this happened to me to help jump start my creativity and my business. I can look at it as a negative or a positive, and I'm choosing to make it a positive.

Let me know if there are any features you like to see, and wish me luck!!


UPDATE:  Houzz contacted the company that accused me of copyright infringement and asked that they follow the terms of agreement and procedures set out in those terms in regards to copyright infringement. Basically, they told the company I shouldn't have been the one contacted, so I feel much better.

MORE INFO:  Laurel Bern had the same thing happen to her. She wrote a wonderful post about her situation and goes into how the Fair Use provision of Copyright Law applies to most Bloggers... Of course, Fair Use is decided on a case by case basis, which can make it difficult. Know this, most of the Copyright Troll will not actually go to the extent of actually suing you if they contact you. They are banking on the chance that you will just pay what they ask, even though they don't provide any proof that their claim in valid.  Unless you are sued and get a letter from a real judge from a court of law, you do not have to pay.

UPDATE: Since it was my use of an image that caused me to start a new blog, I wanted to share this graphic I found regarding whether an image can be used or not. It's very informative, but not exhaustive in covering every situation. It is best to always ask permission, but there are some instances when fair use does qualify the use of an image. It should also be noted that if the image is used on a blog or a website used to earn income, that does not automatically disqualify fair use. I still stand by my contention that my use of the photo that I was contacted about did fall in the boundaries of Fair Use, as I was using it as a teaching/information aid, and not using it to promote my own services or work.

Great infographic from the Visual Communication Guy

Update:  I was contacted by a reader who shared another wonderful reference for copyright law. This one includes information about UK copyright laws, which are different than here in the United States. It's definitely worth checking out.  It's call The Ultimate Student Guide to Images.

Before & After: Making over a Lampshade

For a long time I've wanted to share my new lampshades I made with you, but for one reason or another, I just haven't done it.

About three years ago, I did a lampshade makeover that I shared on my old blog, and it was really very easy to do. I loved the brown fabric I used before on them, but since changing the paint color, the curtains and the furniture in the living room, the color of the shades just seemed a little off. They were just too dark for lighter, brighter room. So I decided to redo them again.

Selecting Fabric
I used clothes pins to hold the fabric swatch to the lampshade to see if I liked it.
Here you can see where I was trying out the new fabric to see if I liked it. You can't see it in the picture, but there are four little yellow dots where each diamond connects. On the back side of the fabric there are yellow strings that go across the center of the diamonds to add those four yellow dots. Since I didn't want stripes showing when the light was on, I cut off all of these strings. That was probably the hardest part of the whole project!

Anyway...  Here's what they look like now! They're much more subdued than the brown ones. They kind of blend in with the wall color, which actually makes the room feel bigger.

How they look now.
Ta-da! A brand new look!
I thought it might be fun to show you the progression of how much these lamps have changed. Looking at the progression, I still love the brown shades, but they just didn't work in the room after I repainted.  But the nice thing is, if I get tired of the new look, I can always change them again. Although, I don't image that will happen until I redecorate again.

Small Moments:  Old Lampshade New Look
Oh how they've changed!
I hated these lamps when I first moved into Jim's house. They were chunky and ugly, and at the time, they had mismatched shades on them. (I should have taken pictures of them with the wrong shades!) When I found matching blue drum shades at Goodwill for $3 each, which would go with Jim's ugly blue recliner, I snatched them up, because lampshades are soooo expensive!

There are instructions all over the internet for covering lampshades, so I'm not going to go into the process. I just wanted to share the new look with you.

Another view of the lamps.
Another view.
Considering how expensive lampshades are, I could have spent hundreds of dollars getting new. But I still haven't spent even $100, even though I've changed the look twice! Well worth the effort!

Have you ever done anything like this?  I'd love to see the results!

Word of the Year 2015

Once again, my word for 2015 was so clear that I didn't have to struggle at all to find it.  It revealed itself in November when I was redecorating our bedroom.

Last year, my word was FOCUS, which was completely appropriate. I had several things in my life that I needed to focus on. But now, I need to embrace whatever 2015 has to offer.

That's why my word for the year is EMBRACE.

Small Moments: Word of the Year
There are going to be a lot of changes in my life this year, and I know I'm going to have to learn how to embrace both the things that are changing and the things that will remain the same. When it comes to change, we can embrace it or we can fight it. I'm choosing to embrace it this year.

But change is not the only thing I'm going to embrace.  I'm also going to embrace the relationships in my life, especially my marriage. We just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary, and we both realize that together we need to embrace the things that are important to us in our marriage.

What about you?  Have you found your "word of the year" yet?