Tuesday, January 30, 2018


It's only been almost TWO years since I wrote anything in this space. I miss it - miss writing and the process of thinking about what to write which makes me think about what is important in our lives. Just wanted to say a quick hi and that I have intentions of writing again. 😁 So, hey long lost friends. Hope we can get reunited again quickly. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hart House 1 - Renovation: All you need is a little vision

When we looked at the house we bought for the first time, our real estate agent said, "Now you need to have some vision for this one." Ha, it needed a lot of vision.
Note the wagon wheel light fixture! Am going to attach it to the deck for Simon to "drive." 
Overall the house was in great condition for being almost 50 years old - can't go wrong with good bones. We were only going to buy the house if we could knock down some walls and make a good open space, otherwise it was super boxy and dark.
Before we even purchased the house, we got a contractor to give us quotes on how much everything would cost - had to have accurate estimates on everything that we would have done. We were planning on:

-knocking down 2 walls
-completely gutting the kitchen
-installing new cabinets/counters/backsplash, and appliances
-sanding and refinishing the floors
-scraping all the wallpaper that was in like every room
-painting all the green molding, doors, shutters white {EVERYTHING was so green}
-painting all the wooden paneling

We bought this house way below our projected house buying budget, got a renovation loan, and at the end of the day our mortgage and loan will be wrapped into one nice little payment. I would do this again in a heart-beat. Obviously organizing kid-care was more work since our kids are little - but with lots of help from Tom, and both of our moms, we were able to make it work. 

{click on the link above}

What I learned from this renovation:

    1. Seriously, the most important part is having a contractor who is prompt and actually does what he says he's going to do. We LOVE our contractor and would use him again in a heart-beat. He was responsive, did a good job, and was pleasant to work with {because he did what he said he would do!}. AND if you have a good contractor, then he's likely to hire good subcontractors. A job well done by all, and everyone is happy. 

     2. When you have little kids, something like this is much harder to do. Those little people still need to be cared for.

     3. If I could do it all again, I would do it like we did it - knocking out all the renovations while we were living in a rental. I canNOT imagine living in a house and trying to do all that we did with little people around. 

     4. Caulk is the key to making things look good. Our house is almost 50 years old, and it honestly looks like a 'new construction' - and I attribute that to caulk. It gave our house a real face-lift as it filled all those little cracks. 
{click on the link above}

What I would do differently:
- While we LOVE our counters, if I could do it again, I would take the time to drive out and pick out my slab. I just didn't have time to do that. 

-I would get a bigger sink. Many people get smaller sinks because they need the counter space, we weren't in need of more counter space, so I wish we'd gotten a bigger one.

- I would think through more details when taking out our renovation loan. Didn't think about including knobs for the cabinets. And a expenditure we added later was can lights ($$$) - now was the time to do all those things, but that money came straight out of pocket. 

Paint: All paint colors are Benjamin Moore
  • Dining Room & Living Room: Ben Moore Revere Pewter
  • Kitchen: Wedgewood Gray {a fancy name for blue}
  • Hallway and Foyer I mixed Revere pewter and Classic Gray because I wanted a blend of the two
  • Bedrooms: Healing Aloe {I LOOOOVE this color, takes on a blue/green/gray depending on light}
  • Master: Quiet Moments
  • Bathrooms: Classic Gray
  • Trim, doors, shutters: White Dove

What I learned about painting with a professional Painter:
  • You only cut-in the section or wall that you're going to paint immediately, as opposed to cutting in a whole room at a time. Otherwise paint will dry and not look even... so only do a wall first....
  • Primer is your friend. I knew I was going to have to prime because of the wallpaper, but I learned that when you patch a lot of holes, it's important to prime because the 'mud' {patched spots} and walls will absorb paint differently. So when you prime, everything will absorb the paint evenly - giving your a more even paint look. 
  • While it's more work, it's better to prime everything and then buy paint without primer. Paints with primers in them just don't have the same chemical composition as just primer, and then you'll use less actual color paint.
  • I've never painted with high quality paint before until this house reno {I usually just used Walmart paint or Lowe's paint}, and boy can you tell a difference between high quality paint. It does make a difference.
  • If you don't know whether paint is latex or oil, TEST it to be sure. ALL of the trim in our house was oil, and had I not primed it with oil based primer, the paint would have bubbled and dripped after a while. 
This is what happens when you try to paint latex on oil based paint - I though I didn't have to prime one of the rooms because the paint was light enough, so we tested it on the inside of a closet door. 

I probably spent at least 60 hours scraping wallpaper. Thankfully all the walls were plaster, so it was almost impossible to damage the walls during the removal process. What was difficult though was that EVERY room's wallpaper removed differently, even if it was the same wallpaper, but in a different room. So each time I began removing wallpaper, I would have to figure out how to remove it in that room. 
After removing the wallpaper, it was removing ALL the glue. Such a yucky job.
After removing wallpaper, glue, patching holes {and there were so many}, sanding those spots, we used 20 gallons of white paint to prime and spray trim. So much paint y'all. 
I did all the trim priming myself {with some help from college students}, and then I am SO thankful I got over myself and realized that I could not actually paint all this myself. We hired a friend from church {who's a professional painter} to spray all the doors/trim/shutters the final coats of paint. While it cost us a little bit of money, the sprayed trim 1. looks better than if I'd painted it all with a paint brush and 2. saved me weeks, months, maybe even a year of painting. SO WORTH IT. 

And we really didn't mind hiring someone to help paint since we probably saved close to almost $10,000 just by doing all the wallpaper removal, hole patching, sanding, priming, painting ourselves. Someone quoted us $7,000 just for 3 rooms because there was just so.much.wallpaper.

Our counters are Brazilian Kashmir White granite - love the lighter counters. 

Cabinets are white shaker style. LOVE them. We used Southern Cabinetry in Greenville, NC. It really was great working with those guys. They did quality work and promptly responded when we had questions. 

All of our appliances are whirlpool and I love them all so far in the 2 weeks we've lived here.

Floors are red-oak. Thankful that we were able to re-do them; they were in bad shape. Originally we wanted to get rid of the parquet in the kitchen and living room, but it would have cost $5,000 extra to change those to slatted hardwoods.... so we decided to keep them and put that money in the kitchen instead. 
I didn't love any of these options. Deciding on the floor color was way more stressful than I anticipated; it was the only decision in this process that gave me heart-palpitations. Originally I wanted dark floors, but then when I polled the masses, everyone loved dark - but almost everyone who actually HAS dark floors had some complaint about them. I didn't really want Golden Oak {standard hardwood color}, because it has a tendency to turn yellow/orange after a while. So our sweet flooring people mixed a color for us: it's 4 parts golden oak and 1 part provincial. I LOVE IT. 
Here you can see the difference between the old parquet color and the new color - feel like the light really brightens it!

My favorite view: 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Buying our first house

Oh y'all. This has been a process - a journey - whatever you want to call it. I'm sharing mainly since this is the main spot where I record our big life events - and details get fuzzy when you don't write them down.

We started looking around for fun and then it got serious quickly when we found a house in our price range in the neighborhood we wanted. We put in our first offer on Oct 31st! {and yes - that's almost SIX months ago! - from when we bought the house - that was 2 months ago}

It's not our dream house per say, but a house with some good bones that will meet our needs for the current and nearish future. What makes it appealing is where it's located - most of the houses in the neighborhood are worth hundreds of thousands more and maybe even a million or so more... and we snagged this little house for a great deal.... a steal really {the house is terribly outdated, not that huge of a house, but big enough for us 1,700 sq ft but we LOVE the area and it has a fabulous yard - something we really value}. We are under the impression that we should be able to sell it quickly because of location and might even make some money off of it after renovations.

Since Tom is in ministry, and we don't know how long we'll be in Greenville {even though we LOVE it here} - we wanted to buy a house in an area where we could sell it quickly. Like my dad said and probably your dad said, "There are 3 things to consider when buying a house: Location. Location. Location.}

So our closing date kept getting pushed back because we were also trying to get a renovation loan along with our mortgage - it would be wrapped in one payment a month - but that meant that before we closed we had to make every single decision about what we planned to do with the renovation - every item had to be priced - for example I had to have a price estimate on paint {bc i'm going to do all the painting} - even had to get an estimate for how much I was going to spend on painter's tape. What a process because we had no clue. Had never bought a house nor done a major renovation. 

Not to mention decisions about an entire kitchen renovation and knocking down 2 walls - in a house that we don't even live in - had to have all of those decisions made in order for the loan to be approved. 

So that took a while.... and then our contractors kept flaking out on us.... so that extended the time because the renovation loan had to be approved with the contractor who was going to do the work. 

Yawn....... that brings us to march 4th - the day before our final closing date - we had everything ready to go. Planned for both of our moms to be here for spring break so that we could take down the wallpaper in every single room and paint every door, molding, and wall {because it's all green!}

Well.... day before closing we get an email saying that the seller is not ready to sell because they still owe 16K on the house for whatever reason.. and they're not ready to close. They had had 4 {FOUR} months to get their stuff together!

And to complicate things-  the lady selling the house is in a nursing home and a lawyer is the one making all the decisions for her.... We had gotten almost zero information from them in the 2 weeks after our 'initial' closing date.  We had to pay to extend our mortgage/renovation interest rate. 

Since they were in breech of contract, Tom went to talk to a real estate lawyer to see what our options were. We didn't want to sue them if they didn't have any money and really we didn't want the lady's quality of care to be compromised.

Tom talked to the real estate lawyer and he assured Tom that the seller’s lawyer is not sleazy and that he probably really is trying to figure it out. We heard that the lawyer applied for a loan to cover the 16K. Signed a new contract and included an addendum that said they owed us any money that we'd spent on the house {inspections, loan stuff}. So they applied for a loan to have everything covered. 

Well, they didn't get the loan and we learned that the deal was a mess because they had taken out a reversed mortgage on the house and basically owed more on the house than the agreed selling price. Both real estate agents had agreed to forgo their pay so that we could get he house. We were told that if we wanted the house we'd have to put in an extra $6,000 cash which would need to come from our pockets since we would have to completely rework the mortgage for it to be taken from our mortgage. We were prepared to do that since we really wanted this house.

But then the lawyer said he was going to the bank to apply for a load. Wait?! Didn't he already try to do that?? Yes. We're still fuzzy on why he applied for a loan, was rejected, and then said he was going to apply for one again. So we were told that we would hear Monday. Which turned into the next week monday. Which turned into Tuesday, which turned into later in the week, which turned into the next week Monday. UGH. So frustrating. 

It is so hard to wait for something when the outcome cannot be controlled by us - when we're completely dependent on others to make big life changing decisions for us. {No matter the circumstance - this is HARD. Waiting is hard.} So they were rejected yet another loan, but they were given a cash advance {whatever that is.

So fast forward to last Thursday, {April 15thish} Tom finally meets the lawyer at his office {mind you he's been calling this lawyer almost daily for the last month and a half}. We find out that all we'd need to add is $2,000 - which would basically go to cover the lady's debt from the reversed mortgage. 

Friday we hear that we're able to close on Monday and that we won't need to pay any extra money. HOW? We don't know. Not going to ask those questions at this point. 

Finally we close on Monday. {April 20th} We're praising God for this blessing and His hand in all of this. This has been such a process. We kept our eyes open for other potential houses that popped up, but none were in the areas that we wanted - and a lot of the houses were too big. After thinking about space and the space we needed versus wanted, we really started loving the idea of a 'smaller' house. Less house = less stuff. I also LOVED that this is a single story. I'm so tired of having to go up and down the stairs for everything. And the heart attacks with little kids is too much for me to handle. Ragan is up the stairs in a flash and has no way of coming down yet {other than just falling!} And it just seemed that whenever I needed something, it was on the other level. 

What I've learned about buying a house:
1) It's complicated {or at least this situation was terribly complicated}
2) It's not your house until you've signed a million papers and you have keys in your hand
3) Not to buy anything for a new house until you actually own the house - thankfully we didn't. I would be sitting with a million paint cans in my living room or appliances without the guarantee that the house would actually be ours {even if it is under contract}.
4) That a seller can actually break a contract without any penalty {they would just have to give you what you've put into the house in terms of due diligence, earnest money and inspection fees}.  

Next post: renovation before and afters. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

it's spring and idols

I'm blogging for the sole fact that it's finally spring and I the last post {from over a month ago} includes photos of snow and ice and honestly, it's spring. Let's move on. 
 I used to think that I'm a cool weather-kinda girl..... but as I get older, I realize that I'm more of an 80 degree weather kinda girl. Especially having little kids - I love being able to go outside. Simon on the other hand gets offended by a breeze and doesn't like when the sun is burning him - he is after-all the fairest-skinned of our crew. Ragan on the other hand looks like she has a tan, even though she's never had one in her life. 
Not much is going on here - we're waiting to purchase a house. Closing keeps getting delayed and I haven't shared news about us moving in because, well, we don't own a house. It's quite a story and one surely that should be shared.... but don't want to bore you with the Queen Anne Saga {Queen Anne is the road the house is on} until it's our house and our story to tell. Presently we're waiting to find out if the owners can get a loan to cover 16K they still owe on the house - found that out the day before what was supposed to be our final closing date. We put in our first offer on October 31st. Let that sink in - this has turned into a saga indeed {we've extended the closing ourselves quite a few times as well because we're planning to do renovations before moving in}. We have been reassured by many that buying a house shouldn't be and hardly ever is this complicated; however, ours is a story of complication and now just waiting. And let's be honest - waiting is the worst. 
I've been leading an RUF girl's Bible study on Tim Keller's book Counterfeit Gods. It's been really great. It has made me realize that we all struggle to solely love and worship God wholly. Our hearts tend to worship other things - and things often valued by our culture. Often the things we spend the most time doing and thinking about/obsessing about or striving to do are our idols. They're fairly easy to identify. The problem with worshipping anything other than God is that we will always be left feeling unfulfilled; we worship created things instead of the Creator. This study has also reminded me how important it is to constantly, actively give God our heart. Sometimes it happens naturally, but usually it doesn't.  
While I've been a mom not for almost three years {3!!?}, I'm still settling into this role. Being a stay at home mom is something I never imagined myself doing. However, I'm convinced that this is the best place for me at the moment and my kids. There are days that I really would love to ship them off to a boarding school, but most days I really love being home with them and being the one who gets to teach them everything. It's a privilege I try not to take for granted. 

Today is also Ann's birthday - I am thankful that she is my mother-in-law. She loves me and my family well. We miss her terribly and are thankful that we get to see her every couple of months. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ice Day 2015

We DO NOT miss the cold St. Louis weather; I feel like I'm just struggling with the cold here in NC. I don't like the cold and wouldn't consider myself one to enjoy playing in the snow and ice. It's just cold. Not much fun usually. Just cold and really cold. So I had low expectations when we suited everyone up to go see the white-outdoors. 
 I really love ice covered trees. They are so beautiful, so that's why I braved the cold. 
 Simon enjoyed his first legit ice pop. 
 Ragan, as usual, was just happy to be with us. 
She's a trooper this girl.  
 And then our sweet neighbors saw that we were walking around outside and offered their snow-tubes for us to use. I probably would have said, "we're ok but thanks" if I'd been the one they asked. But they asked Tom, and he never turns down anything fun. 
 And it WAS fun. So much fun. Maybe because Simon was having so much fun. He is a very cautious 2 year old - never one for adventure. But somehow Tom convinced him to sled, and he loved it. 

 Simon even ventured down our "hill" on his own. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Hey y'all. I miss this space. I don't have anything profound to say or super interesting to share, but wanted to let you know that I miss blogging. This has been a major year of adjustments for us. New job. New town. About to buy a house. 2nd baby {which was a much harder adjustment than I was expected}. New Friends. Lots of changes. 

Will leave you with a cute pic of my loves {even if it is out of focus}. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

addresses and missing people

I've been addressing Christmas cards for the last few hours. I've had several trial and errors with Ragan taking a nap, and finally, after the 3rd attempt, she's taking a nap. That baby girl is tired and she needs to sleep. She keeps throwing me for a loop. I'm still trying to figure her out and learn who she is.... I just can't quite put my finger on her yet. 

Back to addressing cards.....there's a sense of nostalgia in writing all of these addresses. I miss each person/couple/family for a different reason. Miss people because I don't quite know who they are {but maybe Tom does} and long for time to get to know them, or I address one to family who we wish we lived closer because it's hard missing them and little life events we can't always celebrate.... and then there are all my friends from college who are spread all over America.... or friends from the time I taught in Atlanta... or friends from when I lived in Greenville, SC and went to grad school.... or friends from Auburn where Tom was an intern.... or friends from St. Louis while Tom went to seminary...... and then there are the new friends in NC who we are still getting to know and don't miss, because we see them. 

In all these addressings of envelopes.... I am missing my friends and remembering how difficult it was moving each time. It's always hard to make new friends, to have to expose who you really are in order to go deeper in relationships. Building community is hard.... I know. This is the 5th state I've moved to in the past 7 years. While we are still finding and building our community here in NC, we are thankful that the Lord has continuously blessed us with community {mainly through the church} in every season of our life. We have seen Him be faithful in the past, so we have no reason to doubt that He will do the same for us here in NC. 

So if you're reading this, and you're far away from us: know that you're missed and loved.