Baby News: Announcement

I am in my 19th week now, just three more days until the halfway point.  If you had asked me a few weeks back, I would have told you that this was taking forever, but I can honestly say right now that I feel like it has flown by!!!  I turned a corner on the morning sickness this week as well, so I am feeling great and really starting to show now.  I know this is a DIY/decor/home-related blog, but I might start posting some weekly bump photos to keep my family in the loop on my progress.  Sorry for those of you that strictly read this for the trials and tribulations of homeownership.  I promise that we will get back into action with some projects very soon (in fact, we are planning on working on the yard this upcoming weekend, so I'll be blogging about that early next week).  In the meantime though, I have some important news to share.  Yesterday at our ultrasound appointment we found out that some exciting news about the pregnancy.............

photo credit: Pottery Barn Kids

And if you haven't already guessed by the inspiration photo above.......well........

It's a BOY!!!!

We would have been completely overjoyed either way, but we are really thrilled to be expecting a boy in August.  I have two older brothers and my husband is an older brother, so I suppose we both like the idea of our future kids having an older brother as well.  I must admit that I'm a little sad not to be able to buy beautiful dresses and hair accessories and such, but hopefully we will be blessed with a baby girl at some point in the future and I will get it out of my system them.  Until that time though, I am all fired up to start working on the nursery!!!

We are still going to try and keep it relatively gender neutral, but I have changed my mind a little on the wall color.  Instead of going with the silver sage color and adding in soft, calming accent colors, I am leaning more towards a light beige/grey color on the walls with navy, yellow, lime or teal green and some punches of orange.  I love the bedding in the photo above, but I'm not sure its exactly what I'm looking for.  I would really like to have one piece of fabric with a few bold colors in it and then work around that with beiges and whites to tone it down.  I think it will complement the cherry wood furniture nicely! 

But then again, who knows.  I could change my mind tomorrow and go a different route.  I think I will have a better handle on my plan once I can get some swatches and start piecing together a mood board for the room.  That always helps me put things into perspective.  For the moment, I am just going to continue walking on air and dreaming about what our baby boy is going to be like......

Can't wait to meet him!!

And of course, if any of you have had boys or are expecting boys in the near future, I would love to hear about your nursery designs or ideas (and about your experiences with them).  I am all ears people!!  I will take a photo of the room tomorrow morning if the light is good and show you what type of space we are dealing with.  Thanks guys!  Can't wait to hear about all of your ideas.


Oh Happy Day!

Top o' the mornin' to ya! 

Happy St. Patty's Day to everyone and a special shout out to my wonderful brother Michael Patrick Koutrobis (oh ya, I invoked the middle name....since it is kind of significant today) who is celebrating his 40th year of life today!!  YAY!  Happy Birthday big brother!  We are having a party for him on Saturday and I can't wait to celebrate with him (and the rest of the world since the last time I checked the evite was up to 120.....that's more than I had at my wedding!!!!)  Celebrating these days, though, involves drooling while watching everyone else drink beer (Blue Moon is especially hard for me....I liked it before but I am desperately craving it lately).  I guess I will just have to focus on the cake for this party!  Make way folks, I'll be in charge of the cutting this time!!  One for me, one for you......one for me, one for you!  Haha.  That is kind of the way that I go christmas shopping too!  I came home with a ton of bags one day and Brian thought I had finished buying all of the christmas gifts.  Oh no, honey, half of these are for me!!  Don't worry though, I got something for you too!!  Haha.  I am definitely exaggerating, but it is kind of hard not to buy things for yourself when you are finding such great deals for everyone else.  Tempting!!!

But back to the important message of the day......


You have always been more than a brother to me, you've been a friend....a role model, a psychiatrist and, most recently, a minister (at my wedding).  But the most important thing to me is that you have been there....always.  Like you said to me years ago when you moved out on your own, "I will always be just a phone call away."  And you kept that promise.  I can't tell you how comforting that has been in my life.  We have both changed so much as individuals over the years, but never once have we lost that special connection.  I am really lucky to have you in my life and I hope that you always remember that (today and every day)!  You are an amazing person. I have never met anyone else that can bring an entire room to tears with his poetry and then roaring with laughter minutes later.  You have a special gift for entertaining and I feel blessed to be in the audience......

I love you, bro!


Progress: To-Do List

We are already a few months into the new year and although I haven't made a lot of progress on my 2011 to-do list, I am SLOOOOWLY but surely checking things off here and there.  This past weekend, for example, my parents came down to spend some time with me and I immediately put them to work (nice daughter, huh?  At least I fed them dinner....haha).  Some of the items we tackled were so new that they weren't even on my original list, but they had been bothering me for the last month or so, so good ol' dad went to town.  Here are the projects that we accomplished on Sunday (and I use "we" in the loosest sense of the word since I did a lot of managing/overseeing the projects while they did the actual work).  I blame it on the pregnancy......

In no particular order:

Re-caulk the farm sink - Since the sink was installed in the summer, the caulking started to contract and separate a little in the cold weather this winter.  I didn't even notice it until recently when I bent down to get something out of one of the cabinets and was MORTIFIED that it looked so yucky.  Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it before we fixed it, but it only took my dad 5 minutes to squeeze a new bead of DAP Kitchen & Bath Silicone Sealant across the gap.  Easy peasy!!!  And since we already had some of the caulking lying around from other DIY projects, it was a $0 fix!  What is better than that?

Re-caulk the beadboard seams in the half bath - Similar to the situation with the farm sink, the beadboard was installed in the summer and over the course of this winter the boards (which come in 4' sections) started to contract and separate a bit.  It wasn't the end of the world, and again, I wish I had taken a picture before we fixed it, but it was definitely something that bothered me.  So, with a little more caulking, DAP Alex's Plus Paintable kind, to be exact, we filled in the gaps and made her look brand new again! 

Install knobs on the master bedroom closet doors - If you recall from my DIY Dirty Little Secrets post a while back, I had painted but kept putting off installing the closet doors in our master bedroom.  No one ever went in there, and I was so used to the open concept look that I just didn't bother to finish off the project.  Well....FINALLY, I bought some new satin nickel knobs at Home Depot ($2.39 each, so it was about $14 total) to match the knobs on our bedroom furniture.  The best part is that it only took 5 minutes to install them!!  I feel silly for having waited 6 months to do it now.  If you are reading this and are living with a half-done project, just suck it up and tackle it.  I didn't realize how much it had been bothering me to have the mess of my closet exposed until I had the doors up and it looked all neat and clean.  I INSTANTLY felt more calm.  It's amazing what a few minutes can do.  So, if you are hesitating, just DO IT!!  I promise you won't regret it!

Hem and hang master bedroom curtains - I bought the white Ritva curtains from IKEA back in the fall (maybe even summer) in hopes of hemming and putting them up when I did the dining room makeover, but no such luck.  Months and months and months went by and we lived our lives in a giant fishbowl.  Finally, and thanks to my amazing mom who did all of the ironing, we installed the curtains in the bedroom.  It looks so much more home-y and cozy in there.  Curtains make such a huge difference in a room.  And at $14.99/pair, it was a STEAL!!!  I used these curtains in my living room as well, and I plan to use them in the guest bedroom and nursery as well (although I would like to sew an accent piece of fabric down the sides of the curtains in the nursery to make it a little more colorful and playful).  These curtains are online now for $19.99/pair but they seem to go on sale quite often at the store, so next time you are browsing and see them on sale, grab them....you won't regret it!  I definitely looked at curtains from West Elm and Pottery Barn, but at the end of the day, I honestly feel that the quality of these IKEA curtains is comparable to either of those options and at more than half the price.  I TOTALLY recommend these!!!  They come in a few other colors as well, so you aren't limited to white curtains throughout your entire house either.  I believe they have a burnt orange color, a black one (which is a little bold, but if you pair it with light colored walls it could be a really nice contrast), chocolate brown and beige (which I might actually get for the guest bedroom).  So, bottom line.....go get these if you are not sure of what to buy for curtains.  Even if you only use them for a year or two until you save up for your "real" drapes, it is worth the price.  They are a heavy linen-feeling fabric (although I'm not 100% sure of the actual fabric it's made of).  Best deal out there!

Before we moved in...

Painted & decorated...but sans curtains...

All complete...sorry for the bad photos though....the light was really strong yesterday morning

Organize the basement:  As crazy as it sounds with a baby on the way, we are still thinking of finishing our basement in the next few months.  So, in anticipation of that big project, I thought it would be a good idea to go through some of the boxes downstairs (since I had my dad there to lift them for me) and see what we should keep and what we could afford to part with.  It still looks pretty messy down there but I got rid of a lot of boxes of misc. things that could just be thrown away or donated.  And a few of those boxes are also marked for a future yard sale.  The only thing left to do is move the couches and other furniture out of there and have the two refrigerators removed.  I have heard about a few different recycling programs for refrigerators, but most of them require you to have a participating enery provider (e.g., NStar).  Our provider doesn't participate so I'm looking into other options.  I have tried craigslist but no bites as of yet.  Maybe I will repost it again this spring and try one more time before we give up the fight.  If you know anyone in the Boston, MA area that needs a fridge, either a second one for a garage or a replacement one for their older model, I have a good working condition Amana one in that yellow-y color for sale!! 

Before we moved in....it was probably more organized at that point than it is now.  I forot to take a picture of the room this morning, but it looks pretty similar to this except for a few additional pieces of furniture laying around here and there

So that's it for the weekend project update.  Hopefully I will finish up cleaning out the basement in the next couple of weeks and can show you some before and afters before the REAL before and afters of the renovation!  Ok, my brain hurts from that sentence.  Happy Wednesday everyone!!


Lessons Learned: Kitchen Renovation

After doing a total recap post on my kitchen renovation back in January, I started thinking a lot about the renovation process in general.  There are some things that I would definitely do differently next time, but there are also a lot of things that I'm incredibly happy with, so I thought it would be helpful to share with you a short list of the things I learned during my kitchen renovation last year.

Lesson #1: Do Your Homework 

This was by far the most beneficial part of the renovation process, at least for me.  I scoured online forums for recommendations, read through countless kitchen magazines, and printed or cut out every inspiration photo I could find along the way.  I even checked out a hundred or more blogs that were going through the same thing, and listened to their tales of triumph or words of warning.  It may seem like information overload to you, but it was the only way that I could boil down exactly what I wanted out of my future kitchen.  It is the same way that I approach any big decision....see all possible options before I make my decision.  Granted, it takes a lot longer, but in the end, I know that I have done my due diligence and feel confident in my choices. 

The second part of the homework piece was to contact different contractors or vendors that I would potentially be working with (even though we did a lot of the work ourselves, we left some of the harder things to professions, like re-wiring and installing recessed lights).  It not only helped me to become acquainted with the cost of certain projects, but also helped broaden my perspective of what could be done in the space.  For instance, we were under the impression that we would have to keep some of the original baseboard heaters to maintain a decent temperature in the winter, which would mean that we couldn't put in a sliding glass door for access to a deck.  After meeting with a few different contractors, though, we learned that they could re-route the plumbing to some new kick-space heaters under the tall built-in cabinets in our mudroom area.  Brilliant!!!  It is worth all the effort just to know what all of your options are before you start to jump into the project.

And finally, although we ended up repurposing our old cabinets, I HIGHLY recommend meeting with 3-4 different kitchen design specialists (we went to two local places, as well as Lowe's and Home Depot for quotes) to see what your options are.  Our gut instinct was to rip out the old cabinets and start fresh, but the further along we got in the process, the more we realized that we could save a lot of money if we just had our original ones refinished since they were well-kept solid pine.  Although we may have wasted our time and the kitchen design specialists time by doing this, we wouldn't have known how much money we could save unless we did this.  I felt a little guilty not going with any of the new cabinets, but ultimately we did what was best for our budget.  So, bottom line, do as much research as possible before diving into a big renovation like this!

Lesson #2: To Save or to Splurge....that is the question?

Another important lesson I learned along the way was to categorize things into "must-haves" and "could-do-withouts".  I did this for my wedding and it really helped me prioritize what we wanted to spend money on and where we could afford to save a little.  For example, we aren't big cake people (I know, crazy right? We are more ice cream people) so we decided to forego a big fancy one and went with something simple (which is my motto anyway) and tasty.  Instead of paying $800 for the cake (which is what we were quoted on one of the fancy fondant decorated ones, we paid $250 or so and everyone was happy with it.  Since we saved a little money there, we decided to spend what we had originally budgeted on the centerpieces, which were important to me at the time (although now that I look back, they just died the next day anyway).....but long story short, we saved a little to spend a little. 

So when it came to our kitchen renovation, we applied the same concept.  Since we were able to save a lot of money on the cabinets.....we're talking $9,000 - $12,000 (depending on the brand and since we only spent about $1,800 on painting the old ones), we were able to go with the appliances we wanted (read more about that choice here).  Same situation goes for the kitchen island.  Since B was able to build it on his own (and we didn't have to pay the contractors $1,500 or more to do it) we went with the granite that we wanted (read more about that choice here).  It goes on and on like that, but at the end of the day, we stayed within our budget and still got all of the things that we really wanted out of our new kitchcen.

Lesson #3: Form over Function??

One of the best recommendations I received during my research on kitchens was to stow the microwave in the island.  At first, a lot of people thought I was CRAZY to put a microwave below eye level requiring you to bend down for access.  Honestly though, after almost 9 months of utilizing this, I have never once regretted it.  Even now that I'm pregnant and my back aches all the time, it doesn't bother me to lean over a little for a second and pop something in there.  Plus, for the number of times that we use a microwave in a weeks time, it is so nice to not have it taking up counterspace in my kitchen.  Some people may still disagree with me, and perhaps it is personal preference, but I can say without any reservations that it is the best thing since sliced bread!!  Hehe.

Another feature that we included in our island, which has been a TOTAL lifesaver is the pull-out double-barrel trash can!!  One of the kitchen design specialists recommended this to us, and B was able to make it happen on his own (by the way, I still need to get him to write a post about building the island and the farm sink supports, etc, etc.)  Having the trash hidden away is the second best thing since sliced bread.  We pull it out if we need to toss something, and its out of sight when we don't.  LOVE IT!  I think you will too!  So, if you are considering installing an island in your new kitchen, please consider this in your plans.  I can't remember how much it cost when we were thinking about buying the cabinets new, but it wasn't a lot different than the price of a regular door cabinet or a cabinet with a few drawers in it.  Highly, highly recommend this! 

Lesson #4: Farm Sinks

Even before we started planning the kitchen remodel, I knew that I wanted a farm sink.  I had seen this photo years ago and kept it on my computer until I was able to incorporate it in to my new home.....

It still makes me smile when I see it.  Weird, right?  But never the less, I knew I had to have it and we found a way to incorporate it into our design (even though B was cursing me as he spent hours trying to retrofit our current cabinet base to accommodate the 300 lb. monster).  Thanks, honey!!  I just love the look of it and the old rustic charm of it.  You can see it from every angle in the kitchen and it makes me happy every day when I see it.  Now that is money well spent, if I do say so myself!

But nothing that wonderful comes without a few setbacks.  First of all, it is not indestructible.  When my mom and I were cooking thanksgiving dinner together at my house this past year, we slid a pot over the edge of it and the silver came off on the porcelain.  EEK!!!  It is not the end of the world.  It's just a small scratch and I've read that you can remove it with toothpaste or some other product that is on the market.  Not a tragedy, but I wanted to be honest about the pros and cons.  I haven't seen any scratches on the inside of it even after piling pots and dishes and knives in there every day.  So, on the whole, it is very durable, just be careful with stainless steel pots and pans on the edges.....

Another thing about the farm sinks is that you will ABSOLUTELY need to get a faucet with a pull-down sprayer.  We chose the Delta Leland Faucet for this purpose and it was one of the best decisions we made.  Since the drain is typically on the left or right side of the sink, gunk may (although not always) gather in the opposite corner (and honestly it tends to happen more when I have a lot of dishes in the sink).  In that case, you want to be able to use the sprayer to clean the sides and the corners to get rid of the gunk.  This faucet has been a lifesaver.  And it has an aweseome magnetic feature in the head that ensures the pull-down sprayer will always go back up where it belongs....and most importantly....STAY THERE!!  You can check it out here.

Lesson #5: Flooring

We had a lot of conversations about what to do for floowing in the kitchen.....and I mean A LOT!  We also got a lot of opinions on the matter, interestingly enough.  Everyone seemed to want to give their two cents.....so after a while, we stopped telling people what we were thinking about or planning to do since it was ultimately our decision anyway!  I'm pretty sure that is why people keep their baby names secret until the child is born.....but I'm just guessing. 

So when it came to flooring, our first instinct was to do slate.  I had seen it in a number of photos with the white wood cabinets and thought it was a really nice contrast, especially since we were going to be using cool tones on the walls of the kitchen and dining room.  We picked out a nice dark grey-blue slate tile and fell in love.  But then we learned of the problems we might have in the future.  Our house was built in 1963-1964, so the flooring is not 100% even anymore.  With that being said, over time, the slate would eventually crack in those uneven areas and we would constantly be replacing tiles here and there.  Change of plans!!  We could have added support beams to the flooring through the basement (since its unfinished currently) but that would have been more money and more of a hassle.  No thank you!  So that also ruled out ceramic or porcelain tile.  Although it is a little less expensive than the slate, we would still have to keep replacing broken ones every once in a while....and that just didn't sound like a good idea.

So we moved on to a more durable surface; wood.  We already have wood throughout the rest of our house, so why not continue it all the way through?  Right?  Well, I was worried about having wood in a space that sees a decent amount of water (sink area, entryway, etc.), plus I thought it would be boring to have the same floor EVERYWHERE.  But ultimately, it was our best option.  I read a lot of mixed reviews online (and received some in person as well) on wood flooring in the kitchen, but decided to go with it anyway and face the music down the road if we had a bad experience. 

In the end though, it is the best thing we could have done.  It is so easy to clean, just wipe up spills as you normally would and sweep and mop them once a week or so.  They have seen A LOT of foot traffic over the last 6-9 months and they look none the worse for wear.  So despite what you read about online or hear about from your neighbors or relatives, wood is a GREAT option for your kitchen.  Not only are they durable, but I absolutely love the contrast of the warm color in the room and the fluidity of the flooring throughout the house.  It doesn't look boring at all, in my opinion, in fact I think it provides a really nice flow throughout the first floor.  Who knew?  So bottom line, don't worry if your first choice isn't available or it won't work in your space, there are so many options out there for flooring, you just have to keep looking.  And if you are considering wood flooring in your kitchen, I 100% recommend it (for whatever that's worth).


So....I think that's it for lessons learned at the moment.  I guess the moral of the story is that you won't always come out of a project with everything done EXACTLY the way that you originally wanted it, but if you work with the right people and do your homework you will be able to find something that works just as well for your space.  Just try to be flexible and keep in mind that not EVERYTHING has to be top of the line.  Save a little on the things that don't matter much to you so that you can splurge on your "must-haves".  It is totally worth it! 

If I think of any more lessons though, I will definitely add on here or update you in a new post.  I am always thinking about ways to improve on what we have done in the past and to share with you any knowledge we have gleaned from it all.  And of course, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.


Nursery Inspiration

Thanks for all of the congratulations, guys!  You are all so sweet.  We are super excited about our new addition and can't wait to share all of the projects and progress with you along the way. 

To be completely honest, the first thing that came to my mind after taking the 5th home pregnancy test (yes, I'm crazy, but I had to be sure....don't judge) was not how big my belly was going to get or the crazy cravings I would have, or even what sex the child might be.....it wasn't even close.  The first thing that came to my mind was NURSERY!  I ran upstairs to our now-office and just brainstormed.  I love projects, especially house projects (obviously - why else would I be blogging about it) and I can't tell you how excited I am to have a new room to make over. 

When we moved in and unpacked we always knew that the "office" would eventually be a nursery, but we didn't want to jinx it and start preparing for that too early, so we decorated it as an office.  Simple, basic, nothing too fancy, but it worked for us.  Now that it's real though, I can't wait to get the desk and chair out of there and start whipping the room into shape.  My gut instinct was to go with a light beige color on the walls with lots of white and cream fabrics and a few splashes of soft orange to break it up.  I still like that idea, but then I was browsing around HomeGoods (as I often do) and noticed a giclee print with sage greens and taupes and greys in it.  My inspiration instantly shifted gears.  I bought the print and its sitting in the future nursery, but I am just not 100% sure its exactly the look I am going for.  I definitely have some time, but any thoughts or suggestions or insights would be GREATLY appreciated.

In the meantime, though, and while I sit on the floor in the nursery day-dreaming, here are some inspiration photos that caught my eye as I browsed the internet over the last few months:

from Bower Power

from Restoration Hardware - Baby

from Restoration Hardware - Baby

from Serena and Lily

from Serena and Lily

from Becoming Mom

I love the calm, soothing, relaxing colors.  White furniture always draws me in during the inspiration phase, but since we are getting an AWESOME mahogany sleigh crib from my brother and sister-in-law (for FREE!!), I will have to dig up some more inspiration files like the first two (which are actually my favorite anyway).  I love what Katie did with her son's nursery over at Bower Power.  The wood slats make it look very rustic but still calming and gentle at the same time.  And the second one from Restoration Hardware is quite possibly my dream nursery room.  I love the upholstered chair and all the light streaming in from the windows.  The basket liner even matches everything else in the room.  The only thing I would change about it is to add in a pop of color somehow.  I may even consider throwing in a patterned rug or a striped bumper or crib skirt.  Who knows?  The options are endless....which is both a good and a bad thing.  I need to start narrowing it all down and really think about what I want this nursery to look like.  And more importantly, how I can make it gender-neutral enough (even though we are finding out the sex) so that it can accomodate a second child down the road. 

That's all I have in the folder for now, but I will keep you posted on any and all future inspiration that I find.  Until then though, I would love to hear about your thoughts on nursery design and decor. 

Have a great day!!