updating our ugly 80’s powder room

this is the best “before” photo I have (I’m terrible about taking photos since I often just spontaneously jump into a project!)  Check out the groovy oak toilet seat too!

Our powder room lies  nestled in the walk through laundry area off of our garage.  With three Sprouts, you can imagine how frequently this wee bathroom is accessed!  We have aspirations to paint it just to freshen it up, but recently we jumped at the opportunity to have the fixtures replaced (have I mentioned that I have the most awesome father-in-law ever?).  Continue reading

cool kid murals on our (exterior!) walls

Harry Potter on the walls

I’ve always been a fan of open ended play for our Sprouts.  Kids really are happier when left with their imaginations and a few “unformed” items (think sticks, rocks, cardboard boxes, etc.) with which to create rather than “formed” playthings created by adults. Despite the best of adult intentions, these leave less room for imaginative play for the kiddo because the formed plaything, based on an adult’s imagination, guides the child’s play instead of the child being the one driving the bus.  Does that make sense?   This is why we have never, for example, erected things like wooden play castles in our yards (we’ve moved a lot) when the Sprouts were younger.  Of course, the “formed” items gain companies millions of dollars so they are everywhere and the marketers know how to grab a child’s attention so that they think they want that latest toy or gadget.   The fun doesn’t usually last for long though.  In addition, as parents, most of us think that we want things that look Pinterest worthy.  Cardboard boxes and the like don’t necessarily make the cut.

Along those lines, sidewalk chalk is a great and inexpensive “unformed” tool for kids.  Our Sprouts are a bit older now, but my two youngest still tend to enjoy creating with chalk if we give them time and space.  They had a blast yesterday drawing on the walls of the house (stucco starts next week!) and on the deck!  Below are some of their perfectly imperfect creations.

The metal trim is going up slowly but surely.  Its a tedious process because the pieces have to be carefully cut and applied.  The great thing is that we won’t ever have to paint the trim again and the metal won’t react to our extreme variations in temperature throughout the year like wood does.  I’m really pleased with the color as its more neutralized.  The old trim was brown with a good amount of red in it, which made the house look even more dated since reds aren’t really in fashion these days.    The crew is also tackling the rotten parts of the white fiber board, hacking off the bad parts and replacing them with plywood to prep for the stucco guys next week.

our English Tudor remodel: prep work


Embarking on an exterior remodel is a lot like painting a room in that the tedious prep work is what seems to take the most time.  Its not exactly what you’d call the glamorous side of the project!  The crew has been meticulously pulling off our gutters and the old rotting boards at our roof line and applying fresh new wood so that the metal for the soffit and fascia will have a solid surface to which it can adhere.  They’ve been braving temps in the high 90s as well as the cold front that came through (and along it the 55-60 mph winds).  Work actually ceased when the high winds came through because the area at the back of the house is like a tunnel and it was too dangerous for them to be up on the ladders working. Continue reading

a delightful hideous mess


Our curb appeal went from bad to worse these past two days as the crew started ripping off the Tudor style boards.  Most of it was rotting and beneath the boards was even more yuck.  Its really a delightful hideous mess!  It was suddenly obvious where the 1980s contractor cut corners, so there is going to be a bit more prep work than originally anticipated.   Isn’t that always the case with remodeling?

Here is the house right before the crew began working:


I guess it doesn’t really look so bad until you get up close and personal.  A lot of work was completed on Day 1: Continue reading



Most building projects don’t go as planned, do they?   Whether its a DIY project or one professionally orchestrated, there is always at least one glitch.  We hit our first one at the end of the first day.  Thankfully it was only a minor inconvenience.  The crew was clearing away old cables and wires attached to the back of the house.  Stuff that hasn’t been used for at least a decade.  They accidentally snipped one good one though, so we didn’t have internet access until yesterday afternoon.  We enjoyed a spontaneous computer and WiFi fast for twenty four hours!

our English Tudor remodel is about to begin!


It is really amazing to me that we have lived in this 1980s English Tudor for over four years.  How did that happen? Oh yeah.  We have three Sprouts that keep us on our toes.  Fun times to be sure!

When we purchased the house, it already had holes and rips in it.  The exterior is basically some sort of textured particle board that some genius thought would be an economical solution to stucco.  So, we have a lovely patch on the front of the house that is peeling and then several holes and rips on mostly the back side.  The silver lining on this dark cloud is that we’ve had a great backdrop for some rockin’ Halloween parties the past few years!  And, over all, the house does have a lot of charm despite its current disheveled appearance.  Continue reading

renew your grout on a shoestring budget


We’ve lived in this 1980s Tudor style house for several years now and the grout on the main level continues to be my nemesis.  The tile covers the entryway, kitchen, dining area, laundry room, and powder room.  It was disgusting when we first moved in and I buckled down to clean it with vinegar and baking soda back then.  It worked and looked so much better!  However, the grout needed resealing.  If we had an unlimited budget, I’d replace it to be sure.  But since that is not a reality, I’ve continued to clean it periodically with the baking soda and vinegar, Bar Keeper’s Friend, and a host of other cleaning methods.  I even got a steam mop in hopes of making the process easier.  It didn’t.  The main problem is that the kitchen gets disgusting fairly quickly.  We cook a lot and its a main traffic area as well.

Thankfully, I stumbled across Grout Renew recently.  For about $13 a bottle, this stuff is amazing!  Its a polyblend that renews the grout and acts as a sealant.  The process is a bit laborious but well worth the time.  I used a short bristled craft paint brush instead of their recommended toothbrush application because the craft brush gave me more control.  And, after painting each grout line, I used a piece of toilet paper and quickly wiped the excess that oozed on the tile itself.  The polyblend dries more rapidly than I’d anticipated and wiping the excess as you go is a lot easier than scraping the dried polyblend with your fingernail later on!

the powder room floor before Grout Renew
the powder room floor before Grout Renew


here you can compare the old dirty grout lines with the fresh Grout Renew lines
here you can compare the old dirty grout lines with the fresh Grout Renew lines

The Grout Renew comes in several colorways.  I’d recommend picking two or three that you think may work.  You can always return what you don’t use.  And, instead of buying the recommended grout cleaner, I used a more economical and eco-friendly solution that I use on furniture before painting it: two parts Dawn dish detergent, two part warm water, and one part white vinegar.  It works like a charm.

I’m super pleased with our results.  It makes the floor look cleaner, brighter, and newer.  I haven’t steam mopped it yet, though.  I’m trusting that Grout Renew will tolerate that well too.

the grout lines above the blue painter's tape have been treated, the lines below are the original grout lines
the grout lines above the blue painter’s tape have been treated, the lines below are the original grout lines