Before & After: All Fenced In

Last time I blogged, I rambled about the mundane tasks that go along with homeownership, but our list of to-do’s didn’t stop there. We had been ignoring our weed-filled brick path for months, so we finally set aside a Saturday to deal with it.

This meant lifting all of the bricks, putting down weed killer, chiseling bricks that didn’t fit the edges, and filling the gaps with sand.

When Pete took charge chiseling, I weeded, trimmed the bushes, and spray painted the lattice he built for the front of our house.

Then after that, around 6 p.m., we realized we had one last fence to remove in preparation for our new fence install. This bad boy:

About 5 hours later, this happened (doesn’t he look thrilled?):

Except it was still dark out, so we had to take an “after” shot of the concrete post in the morning. Our neighbors, who were having a birthday party in their backyard at the time, cheered us on as we finally pulled the fence post out in a state of exhausted hysteria. We thought that was the worst of it, since the other two posts we dug up weren’t so bad, but there was another post just like this one. So that’s what we ended up doing with our weeknights.

I think it was all worth it, since now we can take Betty White outside with the utmost laziness. Plus it just looks prettier.

Here are a ton of “after” shots of the yard with the fence. Harold, our lawn gnome, quickly got used to his new digs.

I felt the need to document Betty White’s first fenced-in bathroom break, but left out the photos of her going #2 (you’re welcome).

We’re pretty smitten with how good our backyard smells right now with all of the fresh cedar. It’s kind of crazy that we’ll be getting hitched back there in a little over a month.

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Then + Now: Our Houseaversary

One year ago today, Pete and I signed the papers at a very stressful house settlement—one which we nearly walked away from. Despite some oversights by our realtor that made our first few months as homeowners pretty anxiety-ridden, it was all worth it in the end. We couldn’t be happier to have spent the past year removing rooms and rooms full of wallpaper, filling as many brown yard bags as humanly possible, and making the most of spray paint.

In less than four months, we’ll be exchanging vows in our own backyard, the only place that seemed appropriate to formalize our commitment to each other. Every time I shuffle in the kitchen to stuff my face, I am taken back to the evening when Pete got down on one knee in our home. The house isn’t perfect by any means—the ceiling cracks after a coat of fresh paint, the basement floods, and the grass is filled with weeds—but neither are we. I’m really excited for what the next year will bring and I hope to have just as many before & after photos to share this time next year.

For now, here’s a glance at the original real estate photos vs some semi-recent shots of our latest improvements.

The sunroom hasn’t changed much, but we just made it a bit more cozy for now.
The living room is probably the most dramatic change after we painted the fireplace, wood paneling, wood trim, and door (not to mention the previously yellowed, smoke-stained ceiling).
Removing the curtains and wallpaper in the dining room did a lot to open up the space and make it more airy.
The bunny wallpaper and linoleum floors in the kitchen killed. me. We made a quick fix with some spackling, coats of paint, peel and stick b&w tiles, and painted cabinets.
We’ve hung curtains since the photo (right) was taken, but it’s still less of an eyesore than before when it was covered with even more stained bunny wallpaper.
The photo (right) is a poor representation of our pet room from when we first moved in, but it can give you an idea of the lack of Thomas Kinkade wallpaper.
The upstairs guest bedroom still has a long way to go—those hollow wood closet doors need some love, the antiquated a/c unit needs to be removed, the furniture needs to be spray painted—but it’s still better than before.
The upstairs bathroom is a tough one to photograph without falling off the toilet, but we removed the stained butterfly wallpaper and replaced it with coats of grey paint to keep things simple.
Our old friend, the concrete death pool, now houses a fire pit until we can afford to update our patio.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the mini-tour! Happy 1st houseaversary, Pete. I look forward to celebrating Cinco de Mayo-style tonight by making tacos on our grill.

Remember That Time Easter Happened?

I know Easter was forever ago, but I wanted to share some photos, just in case you didn’t get your fill of pastels and candy.

One of my favorite holiday memories is drawing white crayon designs on eggs and dyeing them as obnoxiously bright as possible. Pete and I still keep the tradition alive, taking turns using the bendy wire egg holder to decorate a half dozen each.

This Easter was a special one for me, since my parents and Grandma (and their dog Whiskey) decided to visit us from Delaware. My family is big on surprises, so when my parents asked if they thought my brother (Ken) and his wife (Stacey) could also visit from NYC, I said they were busy that weekend (lies!). Ken and I knew we wanted to surprise them with their visit, so we planned a big scheme upon our parents’ arrival.

We hid 50 plastic eggs all around the house in preparation of their visit. The plan was for us to welcome my parents and Grandma inside, while Ken and Stacey hid upstairs. Pete and I planned to distract my parents with an outdoor Easter egg hunt, while Ken and Stacey would sneak back downstairs to hide in the sunroom. This plan also involved them wrapping pink lights around each other, to make it extra festive. Because Ken just happens to own pink Easter lights.

There were a few kinks in our plan, one of them being my family arriving with a car sick dog that needed a bath immediately. We also didn’t fully consider the fact that Ken and Stacey would have to haul ass past a very startled Grandma, who was watching our parents search for eggs outside through the kitchen window. Needless to say, she didn’t have a heart attack, but she was very, very surprised/terrified to see Ken and Stacey stampeding through the kitchen to head for the front sunroom.

Little did Ken realize that they didn’t have to rush, since Pete and I led my parents on a search for plastic eggs outside for a good 10 minutes. When my parents finally opened the front door to search for more eggs inside, they were completely shocked and turned into blubbery messes. It was awesome.

Of course it wouldn’t be Easter without my dad insting on having an Easter egg hunt of his own, so he had all of us kids search for metallic, money-filled eggs in the backyard. Stacey was a total champ and knew all of the typical hiding spots, like under the grill cover.

Ken decided to take it upon himself to climb the tree and do his best impression of a demented Easter bunny. Yet another shining example of how I just might be the normal one in my family.

Lets pretend like this family photo isn’t totally awful (it was taken under our green patio umbrella, so everyone looks slightly seasick, and by everyone I mean me).

There were an abundance of unfortunate bunny face photos taken that day, all of which will hopefully be framed at my parents’ house in the near future.

In non-bunny news, our foster dog Donald Sutherland has been happy in his new home for a couple of weeks now. I’ll admit, I miss the little wart-butt a ton. He’s been visiting fellow seniors like himself during the day since his new mom is an activities director in a nursing home.

I’m going to attempt to be a bit more timely about my upcoming posts, since this one was uber belated. I’ve just been swamped between work, weekend shoots, wedding planning, yard work and nursing a very sick bunny. What’s new with you guys?

Under the Magnolia Tree

Since we purchased our house last May, we never really got to see our magnolia tree during its bloom, so watching the transformation over the past few weeks has been really lovely. The flowering season has come and gone over a short amount of time, leaving our grass sprinkled with pink pedals (which are so slippery, I’ve almost fallen on them a handful of times).

Our yard looked like it was straight out of a Monet painting for a while there, so I snapped some shots of the flowers during their full bloom. Pete even encouraged me to make a flower angel one Sunday afternoon, and I obliged (scroll to the very end to mock me in all my flower angel glory).


At the end of the day, it was a bit of a flower angel fail, but I’m fine with it. Next up, our dogwood tree will be blooming come mid-May. I’ll be sure to share photos of that as well since I’m not-so-secretly a sucker for all things pink and pretty.

Revisiting the Guest Room: Before & After

Our upstairs has been seriously neglected since we moved in this past summer, so Pete and I decided to give the guest room some much-needed attention this past month. We’ve tackled a ton of house revamping, but we have barely touched the second floor, so we set a goal for ourselves to remove the wallpaper and paint the walls by the time my parents visited (last weekend).

Here’s a peek of what we were dealing with before, and below is a glimpse of what the bedroom looks now, with Artesian Well by Martha Stewart and a shit ton of paisley. We aren’t really paisley people (in this photo, Pete is obviously the ginger and I’m Cameron from Modern Family), but perhaps our future guests will be. I spray painted the previous owner’s headboard bright yellow and we’ll be adding other bright yellow accents to tie the room together. Right now it’s way too matchy-matchy, but I’m hoping we can tone it down if we bring in some more neutrals and nix the ginormous lamp for something more metallic (I wish we could find the darn receipt from Home Goods so we could return it!).

Betty White approves of the changes we made, but we still have a lot of work to do to make it homey (like artwork on the walls and thrifty decor).

Here’s a photo of the room when we moved in, complete with the previous owner’s canopy, curtains, VCR, and stained mattress.

We have to figure out what to do with the antiquated air conditioning unit, which has a nice family of very opinionated birds living in it. We’re thinking we’ll have to turn it into a small window…not sure what other choice we’ll have. The furniture we inherited from the previous owner is a frightening shade of yellowed white, so we have a lot of spray painting in our future once the weather warms up. The closet could also use some white paint since the sad, hollow wood doors seriously bum us out.

For those of you who have a good eye for detail, you’ll notice we haven’t touched the wood paneling in the hallway since it was half-primed when we moved in. I guess that’s next on our list. I’m not sure what to do about the ceiling tiles (how difficult is it to replace ceiling tiles?), but I did appreciate the break from having to paint the ceiling with several coats of white.

Betty White was being very contemplative when I shot this in the bedroom mirror like a total sneak. She thinks we overdid it with the matching and the paisley, but she has faith that we can make it look better with a little love.

Tackling our last wallpapered room was tiresome, but it’s satisfying to know we can pack away the wallpaper steamer—unless we get incredibly ambitious and remove the wallpaper in our closets (yes, our closets).

Is anyone else guilty of making a room too match-y?

Happy Birthday, Pete: Our 2011 Year in Review!

Happy birthday, poops. Hope your 25th is just as good, if not better than your 24th. I still feel like a cougar, irregardless.

I know how much you love those “year in review” posts, so I thought it might be nice to highlight some of my favorite “before and after” projects we tackled together around the house in 2011. Can’t wait to see what we’ll be saying this time next year about our DIY accomplishments. Also can’t wait to be your Mrs. (Just sayin’.)

Let’s start with the outside, where two huge trees and endless hedges were blocking the view of our house, making us drive past it nearly every time (not that I don’t still do that). I think it looks a lot prettier now that you can actually see our front yard, where we hope to have raised beds once Spring rolls around.

Then there’s this situation, which I still have to resolve by laying my bricks straighter since I was rushing (Pete did a good job with his).

Tada! The brick paths looking a lot less sad

Our sunroom was looking a little unfortunate when we first moved in, since we used it mostly to store lawn equipment and trash bags. I think it’s looking a lot cozier these days:

The Rocking chair revamp might be one of my favorite furniture makeovers from this past year…I love seeing it so bright and cheerful on our sunroom porch.

Here’s a look at our living room when had our first walk-through of the house. I instantly wanted to paint the fireplace white, and although most of my family thought I was crazy for it, I think it turned out pretty nice:

I still can’t believe how much painting we tackled the month before moving in, I wish I still had that kind of energy now.

The dining room used to be a bit of a downer, but with a little love from the wallpaper steamer and a fresh coat of paint, it’s looking better already:

Mmm, yellow.

Remember how smoke-stained our kitchen looked when we had our first walk-through? It looks so much better now without that bunny wallpaper, the new checkered floors we installed, and the white painted cabinets, all of which we did on our own within the first few months of moving in.

This one is lacking a “before” photo, but here’s a glimpse at the chalkboard door in our kitchen, which we try to always update with a weekly menu to avoid endless “what do YOU want for dinner?” ramblings.

This is what our office/critter room looked like when we first moved in. Eek. It’s still a work in progress, and I keep forgetting to take a photo since we’ve added a desk and organized things, but here’s a look at the lack of wallpaper and avocado paint job:

That’s Willie Nelson, our pet bunny. You can’t tell from this photo, but there’s also two other bunnies (Applesauce and Cadbury) and a chinchilla (Maude) nearby.

Here’s our bedroom when we first moved in…we even inherited these curtains from the previous owner. We haven’t taken a recent photo of our bedroom with our new curtains and artwork, but here’s a look at the freshly-painted walls:

Yay, mustard and grey accents galore!

The upstairs bathroom before & after is a pretty simple one as of right now, but it still makes me happy not to see those butterflies when I shower.

These are just some of my favorite before & after photos from the past six months of living in our first house together. I can’t wait to spruce up the yard to make it nice for our wedding and to see how we change the upstairs, since we’ve barely touched it. Anyway, I hope you have an amazing 25th birthday and consider myself the luckiest for being able to share it with you.

A Belated Christmas Roundup!

My very first Schuster family Christmas was filled with all sorts of goodies, including the famous monkey bread, which makes Pete and the rest of his siblings make this face:

I tried to get him to take a normal photo with the two of us, but he insisted on making a crazy weird expression. I still love him, anyway.

I love these Vaillancourt Folk Art decorations…how fabulous is that super proud polar bear?

I could definitely get used to the delicious Mimosas, quiche and frittata yums every other year (we swap between our families for the holidays).

To give you a speedy summary of some of our gifts, I’d like to start with Betty White’s new chair pillow, which she is currently sleeping on.  Another favorite is the vintage map Pete got me for above our couch…I am a lucky lady.

Stocking stuffers are usually my favorite part, and I lucked out with new tights, slippers, and socks (is it sad I get excited over new socks?).

This fellow was a gift from my parents, who even drove the 2+ hours to drop it off the week before Christmas. When he’s not busy haunting the visions of passersby, he’s petting his dog, who I’ve named Norman (almost every stuffed animal in our house has this same name).

Pete got me this canning kit and book, and we can’t wait to get started on making jams and pickled foods. We’re going to can our own homemade jam for our wedding, so we’re looking forward to testing it out. I also got Pete some much-needed homebrewing supplies, so we’re also going to be making our own beer for the big day.

Pete’s parents gifted us with a handmade tray/bowl from Italy, where they vacationed this summer…it makes me excited for when we’ll honeymoon there in 2013. The flowers on the right are from the ginger for our anniversary…n’aw.

We also got this adorable welcome mat from Pete’s parents, which goes with our house’s bright & cheerful color scheme really well. I gave Pete these Northern & Southern Hemisphere prints by Brainstorm Print & Design, which he had been crushing on at the Holiday Art Star Craft Bazaar.

I treated myself to this vintage picture frame to showcase the boy’s proposal in our bedroom. It makes me smile lots.

That just about sums up our Christmas adventures and some of our presents…how was everyone else’s holiday?