Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Originally written on 10.20.2011


Anyone else totally remember that commercial? Yeah, well I can't stop watching it.

We had our 7 week ultrasound earlier, and the technician gave us the shock of our lives:

Two babies. Two little, squishy blobs on the screen. Two flickering heartbeats. And the sight of THESE two (above, the twins) made THIS two (us, the parents) absolutely melt.

Hence, why I have been watching the above commercial non-stop.

I'm still on the inside of 24 hours since getting the news, and I'm still in quite a bit of shock. There are many things that make me go "Ahh! How are we going to do this?!" See: working, traveling, sleeping, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, paying for college, going anywhere, doing anything, etc etc...

But then there's also the fact that it's going to be amazing. And so much fun.

See also, a million other hilarious and adorable twin videos on YouTube.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

thirteen weeks.

Even before I got pregnant, I knew I really wanted to document those 40 weeks somehow through journaling/pictures. Found this idea here. I'm going to try to do this every couple of weeks or so.

Oh, and check out the other pictures we've taken so far: here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Two Beautiful Lines

Do you remember how when we were travelling a bunch last year, this blog was mainly centered around documenting those adventures? And then we bought a house, and all of our posts suddenly were about those projects? Well, now we have a new project :) And since we are officially "out" now, I can share a few posts that were written months ago!

Originally written on 10.11.2011


Ten days ago, we found out I am pregnant.

I've had ten days for this wonderful news to sink in and I'm still somewhat in shock. Or maybe I'm just holding my breath. I'm finding the first trimester to be very terrifying. I should be almost 6 weeks along now, but I'm in that limbo stage where I haven't started feeling pregnant yet. I don't really have many symptoms, definitely no morning sickness at this point. And, I haven't seen our baby yet, since an ultrasound isn't usually don't for a few more weeks. So, the only thing I have to go by is this picture above. I'm putting my faith in this one little plastic pee stick. Ok, more like five plastic pee sticks...

At some point, I'm going to exhale and be overwhelmed with joy. Right now, it all feels too good to be true.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I've Been Pinspired

Yep, that's right - I'm going to express my deep and unwavering affection for Pinterest again. But don't worry, I'm not going to go on and on about how amazing it is or how you need to sign up right now or how I didn't know what love was until I found Pinterest. No, I'm just going to get down to it. The past few weekends I have been a busy little bee with a few projects I found on said website.

Maps of each of the places we've lived, cut into hearts & framed!

original link

A pretty fall wreath adorned with DIY'd fabric rosettes!

original link

I made a sunburst mirror out of wood shims, hot glue, a mirror, and some wooden floral rings! More on this later (maybe?)

original link

And a dry-erase board out of a picture frame and some scrapbook paper!

original link

Alright, back to work for this little bee!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Somebody Slap Me...

...If I ever nonchalantly talk about refinishing a piece of wood furniture again! I refinished an old outdoor bench a few weeks ago, and I just about lost it. I've done it before, but apparently I forgot how painstaking and time-consuming the process is. I felt like Squints from The Sandlot: "All the sanding & staining, staining & SANDING! And varnishing! I can't take this no more!"

Here's said bench before and after:

And here it is on our porch with a new bench cushion I bought at WalMart:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Take THAT, Pottery Barn

I love Pottery Barn. 99% of the items sold at Pottery Barn could all be on my Oprah-esque favorite things list. However, I would never actually purchase 99% of the items sold at Pottery Barn because they are ridiculously expensive. Examples? This, these, this, and this. I could go on, really.

But my favorite thing I think I've ever seen at Pottery Barn was this light. And it's only a measly four-HUNDRED-dollars! (gulp) Or, that's how I tried to rationalize the cost to myself and my husband, but it was a no-go for this hobo. So sad too, because I knew it would look gorgeous in our dining room.

But then! I found THIS on PINTEREST (proof that something like this could be DIY'd):

link from Kara Paisley Designs

And a few great tutorials (here and here) on how to make your own pendant or chandelier lights with mason jars! I was sold. And I eventually convinced Aaron to be in on it too (it really was QUITE the project).

Here's what we ended up with. We are so happy. And tired (did I mention yet that it was a lot of work?) I've got all the details below for those whose hearts also ache for that much-too-expensive PB light.

Here's the cost breakdown:

$   6.97 - pint-sized mason jars (all the quart-sized ones were given to me!)
$   4.34 - mason jar lids with bands
$ 22.20 - lamp wire
$ 34.44 - sockets
$   3.98 - wire nuts
$ 11.88 - lightbulbs
$   8.48 - spray paint
$ 12.00 - wood for base
$   4.50 - clamps for wires

$ 108.79 TOTAL (WIN!!)

We are thrilled with the results. And thrilled to actually have LIGHT in our dining room. Now, we really have no excuse for eating dinner in the living room.

Anywho, for those who are interested in the "how-to", read on!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A DIY Victory

Three years ago, I bought these pictures for $5 each at an auction:

I don't even have to ask, I know some of you are giving semi-creepy, white Jesus & Mary a nervous, eye-brow-raised look. My husband gave me that same look when I showed him what I bought, "What in the world are you going to do with THOSE?!" To which I replied, "I have no idea! But I like them!"

I hung onto these and moved them from apartment to apartment to house for the past 3 years, and then I finally had an idea! I found this idea on Pinterest (WHAT-you're-not-on-Pinterest?!):

originally from Felt & Wire Shop.

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Home, New Fears

Last summer, when we first got Ellie (and she was the cutest. puppy. ever.), we quickly found out that she was afraid of going down stairs. She would go up them just fine, but if you wanted her to get down the stairs, you had to carry her. Since you HAD to go down the stairs in our old apartment to get outside, this meant a lot of Aaron & Heather carrying the puppy down the stairs so she could go potty. This was fine while she was a little thing, but by about 5 months we got more aggressive about getting her to go down the steps. By herself.

It didn't take long until she was running up and down, up and down, up and down the steps, using her newly-discovered skills.

And then her world got turned upside-down a little bit when we moved into this house. Among the hundreds of different things she's had to adjust to, the stairs in our new house (since they are over 100 years old!) are very different than the ones she was used to. The steps are very steep and the treads are pretty short. And to throw another curveball in there, they make a left turn at the very bottom, so it's not just a straight-shot anymore.

Eventually, she got over this too. But there were several instances where she found herself upstairs, unsure about how to get down them, and very panicked.

And then I realized this house doesn't just present new fears for the dog - for us too! After a few big storms recently brought trees down in our yard, I find myself terrified during thunderstorms now. In fact, there's a whole list of things that I never thought about before that now have me laying awake at night: carbon monoxide, lead paint, smoke detectors (& fire extinguishers), our home's stone foundation, etc etc! Some of these are mostly irrational (hey, we had a home inspection and they think the foundation is fine!) and some are just quick fixes (just go buy a fire extinguisher already!)

But I can't help but worry. This is my life now.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Two Fridays ago, Aaron & I got a letter in the mail from our bank that said they had been notified that our home insurance had been canceled (and we had so many days to replace the coverage, etc). Neither of us had intentionally canceled the coverage, so this was news to us. Great, add that to the constantly-growing list of things to do. But the insurance company's office does not open again til Monday morning, guess we'll have to wait.

Fast forward to 7am Monday morning of last week.

As many of you probably experienced, there was a big storm that tore through Wisconsin & Illinois early last week. Trees were uprooted, power lines were down, counties declared emergencies, etc. Close to 1 million people lost power in the Chicago area alone.

Aaron and I were still sleeping when we heard it. CRACK! Followed by CRASH! Both of us leaped out of bed and started running around, "Where did that come from? What was it? Did it hit the house?"

A very large, very heavy branch of a tree in our front yard had fallen toward the house. Ahem, our currently-UNINSURED house. Somehow though, it did not actually fall ON the house. The very tip of the last branch is actually just-touching the siding of the house.

How lucky could we be that this storm wreaks havoc on the greater Milwaukee/Chicago area, our home insurance is temporarily up in the air (Murphy's Law, anyone?), and the worst that happens is one segment of our fence has to be put back together?

Very lucky.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Home | Appliances

We have lived in our house for 1 month! Can you believe it? Sometimes I look around and think, "What the heck have we been doing for a month?! We still have so much to do!" But then I remember that we didn't have running water one month ago. And we didn't have painted rooms. And all the rooms were empty. And we didn't have a garden (more on that later). We did all that within the last month. Even though we were gone several weekends! So, I'm going to pat myself on the back now. (And thank both sets of our parents for all their help!)

Another thing we didn't have? Appliances. Boom. Check it out:


We are still needing a dishwasher. And a clothes washer. And a clothes dryer. One step at a time!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Home | Flora

We have so many beautiful flowers right now that are blooming. These were all already here when we moved in. I did not actually do the work to grow these, I am just basking in the glory that is my new yard!


Bleeding Heart



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Return of the Prince

A good friend of mine once told me that she thought of my cat, Carl, as a prince. She said there was something about the way he walks and acts that reminds her of a prince. At first, I thought she was out of her mind (sorry, you know who you are, haha!), but then I started to realize that she was kinda right. He is a beautiful cat, yet definitely upholds an air of prince-like-snobbery about him. He is oh-so-sassy and demanding. And spoiled. He IS a prince. My prince.

For those of you that don't know, Carl has been living somewhere else for the past 7 months. Shortly after we moved into our apartment, we got a note on our door saying that he was being a nuisance to some of our neighbors and that we are not allowed to let our cat outside of our apartment. Though this was an perfectly fair request, we just couldn't comply. Carl is totally unhappy when he has to be indoors for more than 8 hrs, let alone 8 months until we got a house. So after trying to keep him inside for a few weeks and realizing that it just wasn't going to work, we made other arrangements. Aaron's parents, Matt & Joy, graciously offered to take him in temporarily until we found a place of our own.

It was hard to let him go (for half a year!), but I was very thankful that we had someone to take care of him for us. And, his temporary home was quite a vacation for him - he had several acres in the country to roam/hunt on, which he loves.

When they came up this weekend to help us work on the house, they also brought Carl with them. He is home. And somewhat cranky - we have to keep him inside for at least a week before we can let him out again since cats get disoriented when they move locations. I am happy. Ellie is oblivious that there is a cat somewhere in the house. She will figure it out soon.

Here are a few pictures from a homecoming photoshoot with my somewhat-camera-shy-yet-sassy cat:

Carl always blinks when I have the flash on

"Stop. Taking. Pictures."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Home | Bye Bye Bathroom

On our first real weekend working at the house, we had two goals:

1) Paint as many rooms as possible before we start moving in furniture.
2) Get the water turned on.

Our house has not been lived in for 2.5 years, meaning the water has not been turned on for 2.5 years, and the house has been through TWO winters with cold, empty pipes. The house was winterized by the bank at some point, but we weren't able to turn on the water for our inspection so this was our biggest uncertainty left.

The weekend rolled around and it was time to test it out. My parents were here helping for the weekend, which was such a blessing. Had my Dad not been here when all hell the pipes broke, Aaron and I wouldn't have known what to do - we would have either had to hire a plumber (and probably would have funded his child's college education) OR we probably would have just given up/laid on the floor and cried.

When we first went to turn on the water, we were stupidly optimistic: "It looks like the previous owners really took care of this place, and the bank did have it winterized so we should be OK". I'm realizing that saying or even thinking something like that is just asking for trouble. We had a few people scattered throughout the house to listen and watch for rushing water. Almost immediately after the valve was first turned on, several of us were shouting "STOP! TURN IT OFF" from our various lookout spots.

The most horrifying moment was when I stood in the doorway of our guest bedroom on the first floor and watched copious amounts of water rushing through fresh cracks in the ceiling. (OK, this might be a tad dramatic for how much water was actually coming through, but ANY amount of water coming through the ceiling is quite alarming!) I kind of wish I had a picture of this, but again, it was horrifying. My first thought was definitely not "I should be documenting this".

We would later find out that there were SIX burst pipes scattered amongst the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom. As the day progressed, we (Dad & Aaron) found & fixed said broken pipes by tearing out sections of the bathroom. And the optimism faded. Every time a pipe was fixed, we would anxiously turn the water on again. And every time, our hopefulness was crushed by a newly-discovered leak that was just a little further down the pipe.

The offending pipes

Demolition, no more tub

There is a bathtub in our bedroom!

So that's the story of our unplanned bathroom demolition. It took a full day of pipe-fixin', water-testin', and installin' things (can you tell that I didn't do any of the work?), but we eventually had working, not-leaking pipes. And a brand-spankin' new water heater + kitchen sink installed. And one less bathroom. But it's alright because we had planned to re-do that bathroom at some point since it was pretty outdated and lacked a shower. Now, we are just bumping up the timeline on that renovation by a few years! The good news is that we will get to make our bathroom exactly how we want it :) yay for the silver-lining.

BTW - Our theory is that all of this happened because the plumbers who winterized the pipes way back when didn't put enough anti-freeze in the pipes to last TWO winters. In their defense, it's probably not that common for a foreclosure to sit on the market for quite that long.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Home | Paint

Wow, has it really been 2 weeks since I last posted anything?! WE'VE BEEN BUSY! Sorry, will be better now that we have internet in the new house (where we spend all of our free time lately) and things are starting to get settled :)

Last weekend, my Mom and I tackled the new house like painting fiends. We got through 4 rooms over 4 days!

It took me SO long to actually pick out colors, but here's what we ended up going with. We did end up going with Behr paint for all the rooms, and at Home Depot they just matched the paint to the Martha Living colors! So great! I didn't know that until after I had spent a good 30 min trying to find the Behr colors closest to the ones I already decided on. Doh!

So here are the before & after pictures of a few of the rooms. First, our bright and spacious dining room got the "Lemongrass" color:

The living room got "Ice Folly'd":

The office got "Fledgling", in stripes! Any The Lettered Cottage readers recognize my inspiration for this room? :)

I don't have a before picture of the master bedroom (shame on me!), but here is the after of the walls in "Silver Screen":

This house is starting to feel like ours now. I would say it seems like it's about 25% our home.

We've been working again all this weekend and this time Aaron's parents came up to help us. We've been making a lot of progress, and I will share more pictures soon. I know some people (ahem, Sarah) are anxious to see how it's all coming along! :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Birthday Fit for a Dog

Today, we officially became dog owners (graduated from puppy owners)! Isn't she sweet?

Ellie turned 1 and we made a bit of a fuss - not a lot, just did a few special things. First, we took her over to our new house for the first time and let her run around in the fenced yard while we cleaned the gutters. She really loved it.

It was such a beautiful day.

We came back later in the evening and gave her a few birthday presents: a new purple bandana and a rawhide bone bigger than her head.

"Heyy, it's my birfday!"

"Is this all for me?"

Yes, it's a bit silly to celebrate a dog's birthday, but until we have some baby birthdays to celebrate, we'll keep doing it! hehe :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Garden Plans

We close on our new house on Monday, and our home improvement plan-making is in full swing, including plans for our first real fruit & vegetable garden! Even though we've lived in apartments, the past few years we've maintained a few potted vegetables, but we are planning to step it up a few notches in our new place.

We've been talking about this garden for a long time now, and we are asking ourselves a few questions to decide what to plant.
1) What do we eat most often right now? Green beans, peppers, lettuce, spinach, onions, and basil.
2) What could we grow that will store well? Berries (jam!), tomatoes-onions-jalapenos-cilantro (salsa!), and potatoes.
Once we came up with our list of plants, we started our research on how much spacing/sunlight each will need as well as what plants grow well in the same bed. Then we mapped it all out and MS-Paint'd our plan so we could share it with all of you!

Tentatively, we are going to build two raised beds next to our driveway that are 20' x 4' each, with a 4' walkway in between. On the east end of the garden area, there is a partially shady spot near one of our trees (that's what the big ol' gray circle on the map is all about).

 1 Potatoes  6 Kale 11 Jalapenos 16 Basil
 2 Beans (Bush)  7 Lettuce 12 Strawberries 17 Cilantro
 3 Asparagus  8 Spinach 13 Blackberries 18 Oregano
 4 Tomatoes  9 Onions 14 Raspberries 19 Parsley
 5 Cucumbers 10 Bell Peppers 15 Blueberries

We don't want to overdo it this first year and have half our garden go to waste, so we're probably not going to plant as much as we have in our plan. For example, we will probably only plant one row of green beans but leave some space in case we decide to do a few more rows for next year. Oh, and we've already missed the planting season for some of these, so those won't actually make an appearance until next year.

Also, have I mentioned that we've never done this before? I think we'll both be happy as long as our garden isn't an utter failure.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Garbage Challenge Strategies

Alright, we're in our second month of what we've been calling "The Garbage Challenge", and we're starting to put to use some of the strategies that will (fingers crossed) help us reduce our total waste.

1) Get paperless statements.
2) Use rags instead of paper towels. My paper towel usage is quite embarrassing.
3) Pay attention to packaging.
4) Reuse produce bags.
5) COMPOST. We will post again on this later once we are moved into our house and using an actual outdoor composter. We're still trying to decide what kind of composter is best...

In the interim, we are just using a small bin with a tight lid to hold our food scraps.
6) Eat more whole foods. Including foods we will grow in our own backyard this summer! (hopefully)

We also want to find a way to opt-out of junk mailings, since they make up about 50% of the mail we get and they always go straight to the trash. Haven't figured this out yet though.

And here are some things we already do:

1) Reusable grocery bags.
2) Never buy bottled water. And if we have to, we refill them as many times as we can before recycling them.
3) Save and reuse gift bags/tissue paper.
4) Recycling. I hate to admit it, but I was once a non-recycler.

So, that's the plan! We'll see soon if it's actually working.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ellie Monster Turns One

My puppy girl is going to be a year old in a few weeks. How has time passed that quickly?!

So I was thinking the other day about all the ways she has helped me prepare for being a parent someday. Here's the rundown on the things she has forced taught me to have:

Patience. Some people can internalize their frustration and let it out constructively after they have calmed down. I am not one of those people. When I get super frustrated, I basically explode with emotion. There is throwing and crying and cursing and gnashing of teeth. I can't even count the number of times that I have gotten to this point while puppy training. People warned me when we were first talking about getting a dog that it was a lot of work. It's so true.

Over the last 12 months I have severely improved my ability to stay calm and collected in the face of total disobedience. My dog doesn't really have an "I didn't do it" look, but I've definitely gotten the "Yeah, so what if I ate the memory card for the camera, what are you gonna do about it" face from her. There is, quite possibly, nothing more composure-shattering than when your animal, who knows better, intentionally ignores/spites you. I'm sure it's at least 1,000 times more difficult when your opponent is a same-language-speaking, tiny human.

Selflessness. The times when Ellie has needed me most, always seemed to be around 3am on a week night. The event was usually something like an upset stomach (surely caused by eating something she wasn't supposed to) that resulted in her vomiting, etc in her kennel. Which then required one of us to get up and clean her/the kennel/the carpet, do a load of laundry so she has a fresh pillow/towels to sleep on, and rub her belly until she falls asleep. Who doesn't want to sacrifice hours of precious sleep for that? Oh, me.

In those moments though, I could feel just how much she loves me. It's really pretty great to have someone or something that just needs you like that. Once I could get past the frustration (see #Patience), I actually kinda treasured these moments.

A more relaxed attitude. Having a perfectly neat home (even for a moment), with no random plastic shrapnel strewn about is a thing of the past. Treasured home decor pieces and picture frames now all have at-least-slightly-chewed corners. Being on time happens less often because, sometimes, the dog just does not understand that you have somewhere to be and she would rather watch the birds in the trees than go #2 for you.

But it's all good. I absolutely love and adore her.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Buffet Table Refinished

So you remember about a week ago when I posted about the great table we found at Goodwill? Well, we got to work right away on refinishing it and I'm excited to show you how it turned out! Here's the before/after shot!

I am in love with it! Here's the process w/ pictures...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's the Little Things...

We will be closing on our first home in less than 3 weeks, and we are beyond excited! Aaron and I have been busy making plans and doing research. We're also becoming frequent "just looking" visitors at Home Depot because we can't actually start the work/making purchases until we have the keys!

I did, however, make one purely-for-fun purchase out of excitement/anticipation. I was catching up on posts from All Things Thrifty when I ran across these great custom address stamps!

They're from Paper Cafe, and I couldn't help myself, I just had to get one. After much consideration and debate, I did eventually decide on a design. Here's the one I ended up going with:

So it's just a fun, little thing, but I can't wait til I get to actually use it. And have a permanent address again! I have moved 11 times in the last decade! Hopefully we will only move once (maybe twice) in the next one :)
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