Thursday, August 22, 2019

The House That Love Built Series Four Before and After

The Before And After Photos and A Few Final Thoughts 

Hello everyone and welcome back to the fourth and final installment of my series, "The House That Love Built." I hope you have enjoyed the three previous posts in which I have given you a behind the scenes look at our sixteen year renovation project on our current home. Along the way, I have shared construction images, favorite spaces and told a few tales about our adventures in this house. I even gave you a little history of where we lived before moving into this house. Today's post will be a bit of a review (teacher talk) in which I show you before/after photos and talk a little bit in general about the concept of sweat equity. Hope you enjoy!

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom After

At this point, I'll pause the pics for a bit and talk a little about the sweat equity concept. Have you heard of that term? The first I heard of it was back in the 1980's while watching the "This Old House" series on PBS. Bob Vila, Norm Abram and the rest of the This Old House cast would take an old home and show the viewers how they could do the DIY work in order to renovate the house. By doing many of the restoration jobs themselves, the home owner could save a lot of money and, therefore, have more of an investment in their home. My husband and I have applied this idea of sweat equity to all three houses we have owned. We did as much of the work on each house as we could, learning a lot along the way. I think sweat equity is an interesting concept in today's "gotta have it now" world. This concept takes hard work, the ability to learn and, most importantly, the ability to wait on something being completed. Sweat equity does not produce fast results. But, it does produce projects done by yourself with fewer costs and gives so much pride in the completed project! Naturally, each person must make up their own mind about how much DIY work they are willing to do and how much they wish to hire out to others. I have to admit that, on my own, I most likely would not have done the amount of sweat equity work as we have done together as a couple. My husband enjoys this type of work and not everyone does. There are also certain jobs with house renovation that need to have licensed people doing the work for safety such as electricians and plumbers. It's very important to do DIY home projects safely and to also know the permits that are required in your area. 

Craft/Guest Room Before

Craft/Guest Room After

In the end, sweat equity can be a satisfying way to achieve your home renovation. I know that the Mr. and I feel true ownership of our home because of the countless hours of work that have gone into transforming this house into a home. It hasn't been easy along the way, but we both know that it has been worth it! 

Thanks so much for going on this "memories of renovation" journey with me in these last four posts. Next week I'll be back to styling life with you as I share a recent craft project and on Wednesday, August 28th, be sure to stop by for another Match Made In Seven international blogger's post. I think you will get a kick out of this month's theme!

If you missed the previous posts to The House That Love Built:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Nature Photography At The Arboretum

How I Did Nature Photography

On a very hot day yesterday, I walked around the North Carolina Arboretum, camera in hand snapping photos of amazingly beautiful flowers, plants and butterflies. I have been working to improve my photography skills this past year and I'll share a couple of hints with you. 

I am not a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination. My husband is an excellent photographer, however, and shares tips with me. Plus, just from doing four years of blogging with my little camera, I have picked up a few tried and true things I think about when doing photography. 

First off, I look for interesting features that catch the eye-things like the water dancing upward  in this water fountain. I shot this picture with the sun behind me which made for a clearer picture. Having people in the background gives some scale and interest to the photo as well.

Notice how this picture of the same water fountain looks different. The dancing water is not as crisp because the sun is in front of me. There is more of a shadowy effect which brings out the swirls in the water. I wanted to highlight the mountains in this pic, but the swirls in the water seem to stand out more. For me, photography is still often trial and error.

I also like to zoom in on points of interest. Here, I am zooming in on the beautiful butterfly while making sure leave greenery and flowers around the butterfly for framing. Framing the main point of the picture is important.

I also try to follow the rule of thirds. My main focus in this picture is the tree trunk filled with lichens. I centered on the tree trunk and tried to have one third green on either side. 

Depending on what you are trying to capture in your photo the rule of thirds may not work. In this photo I wanted to highlight the kinked tree trunk as well as the dramatic drape of the pines. 

This picture shows a variety of heights which is interesting. I decided to zoom in on the pink flower you see in the upper right. Look at the next picture to see the zoom effect. 

Wow, you can really see the intricate details of the petals can't you?!  I also got a little bit of bokeh which is always exciting for me. Bokeh is when the background of a picture is blurry with the main focus of the picture being crystal clear. I do not use a camera that has changeable lens like my husband's. My camera is digital-a Sony Cyber Shot. It does have different settings I can use by turning the setting dial which is a nice feature for a little camera. I was using "Superior Auto" for these pictures.

These plants reminded me of Florida. The angle I shot at shows one behind the other giving a little depth to the picture.

This is an example of a not so good picture. I love the color of these flowers but, unfortunately, the wood stick on the left and the metal something (not sure what it is) on the right take away from the pretty flowers. Oh well. Not framed well.

Good bokeh here focusing on the bumblebee on the pink flowers.

And, finally, finding a cluster of objects such as these three flower containers together provides an interesting picture with the variety of colors and foliage! 

Hot as it was, I enjoyed walking around the arboretum and looking at nature through my camera lens. I hope you enjoyed walking with me and, perhaps, I gave you a helpful hint or two about taking pictures. If you already knew all of this, I hope you enjoyed the photos!  Do you like taking nature pictures? Hope you'll leave me a comment. I love hearing from my readers. 

*All photography in this post by Debbie Ross

Until Next Time,

Monday, August 19, 2019

The House That Love Built Series Part Three

A Little History and Currently

Hey Everyone and welcome to Part Three of my series about our 16+ year renovation of our home. It has been quite the journey and if you have read Part One and Part Two you have seen several finished areas of our home. Today, I will share our current renovation project, take a look back at our previous homes and share my thoughts on house renovation in general. I hope you enjoy! 

The pic you see above was taken as my husband was removing the walls in our dining room. This is our current reno project and I am happy to say that, for the most part, it is coming to a close. Isn't this lovely? This is what house renovation looks like when you are living in the house at the same time as the renovation is going on. For much of the sixteen years that we have lived in this house there have been similar projects going on within our home. I will be honest in saying that living in a house while such extreme renovation is happening is not easy! I'm not trying to be over-dramatic at all when I say that the smile you see on my face in the above picture was my attempt to give a lighthearted approach to what I was feeling inside which was, "here we go again!!" I am a person who really does not like disarray and confusion going on around me. Renovation of a home is the epitome of disarray and confusion because walls get knocked down, furniture is moved and has to be put someplace else in the house not to mention trying to live without particular areas in your house (like the kitchen) being able to be used. And, don't even get me started on the dust that is made!! In the end the renovations are worth it, but going through them can cause even the hardiest soul to cry a tear or two! At this point, some of you may be asking yourself why on earth we have lived through almost 36 years of home renovations? To that I can only reply's a little thing called life. Let's go back in time and look at a little history shall we? 


Welcome to 1985

This is our very first house that we purchased in 1985. I'm taking pictures of pictures to show these to you so forgive the quality, which wasn't great to start with. This first home was a tremendous 950 square foot two bedroom one bath house with a good sized yard on a quiet little street. This is what it looked like soon after we moved in and that's the Mr. standing in front of the house. We never even thought we could afford to buy a house so we were thrilled and I thought we were moving into a castle!! The house had good bones with pine knot panelling inside and a wall sized stone fireplace that I absolutely loved! We wanted to do some painting, add carpeting and make it look like ours. 

When we sold the house seven years later this is what it looked like. During our time in this house we had both returned to school to change careers; me to get elementary teaching certification and the Mr. to get high school math certification after leaving a career in architecture. In addition we had done extensive painting inside and outside of the house, added attic stairs, renovated a back room into a dining room, refinished the hard wood floors and carpeted two rooms. I cried when we moved from our lovely little cottage. But, it was time to move on.

Welcome to 1992

This is the house we moved to from our little cottage. Sixteen hundred square feet upstairs and downstairs with a carport attached that opened directly into the kitchen. Talk about space! I remember that on the day we moved in I was putting things away and I told the Mr. that I felt like I had moved into Barbie's Dream House! This house had about 2/3 of an acre of property with a nice yard in back that climbed a hillside and had a stone wall along the edge of the property. However, it was located on a busy street with a double line on a downhill meaning lots of traffic going by most of the time as people entered and exited this very busy neighborhood. Our mailbox was run into numerous times by people speeding too fast and there were other things that, over the years, made us realize that, perhaps, this wasn't our forever house. 

This is what the house looked like when we moved ten years later. It looks pretty much the same on the outside except you can see the bowed picture window we installed and trees we planted but, inside the house, we did extensive renovations. The kitchen was redone with new countertops, painted cabinetry, new appliances and an eating bar built by my husband. He installed wood parquet flooring, redid both bathrooms and painted throughout the house. We created a family room in the basement and he built a basement storage closet. At the same time that all this renovation was happening, I earned a Master's Degree in Elementary Education and both the Mr. and I went through the process of earning National Board Certification for teaching which is no easy feat. Plus, we were teaching full time, playing in music groups, being with family and living life. And, yes, I cried the day we moved. But, it was time to move on.

Welcome To Moving Day 2002

Ah yes, moving day sixteen years ago. How well I remember that day. This is the living room of our current house a few days after we moved in. Boxes and furniture everywhere. As you can see my husband had already knocked down the wall shelf I told you about that was black, orange and gold. You can look through to the hallway where wood is leaning against the walls. Remember I said earlier that I don't like disarray? But, I digress. Let's get back to our move-in day. 

We moved in at Thanksgiving of 2002. I remember we were packing our previous house up and ended up eating turkey sandwiches at Subway for our Thanksgiving meal. The Mr. had rented a truck to move our things the following morning and we had some friends who had agreed to help us. What we didn't expect was that the next morning, as I was following behind the Mr. as he drove the truck to our new house, that I saw smoke billowing out of the back of the moving truck. The truck was malfunctioning and had to be pulled over on the interstate where my husband ended up stuck. Our friends came to the rescue and the truck had to be unpacked on the side of the interstate with our belongings put in their pick-up trucks to be brought to our new house. On top of this snafu, there were several other things that happened that day. We were on a time crunch to be out of our old house as the new owners showed up with their moving truck before we were finished moving out! The fact that our moving truck had broken down had put us behind schedule and we were moving things out of our old house while the new owners were moving things in! My husband had also contracted to play with his brass quintet for a downtown festival that evening which started off the holiday season city-wide and as time got closer for him to leave to go play we realized all of the "moving" we still had to do. We had imagined that things would go much more quickly than what was happening!

We finally got things moved into our "new" house and the Mr. rushed off to play the concert while a friend and I tried to get the bedroom in some semblance of order for sleeping. (Picture above with the mirror). We had decided to sleep in the second bedroom rather than the master bedroom and I wanted to vacuum the floor. So, I plugged in the vacuum, turned it on and......flames shot out of the wall. At that point, I had absolutely had enough for one day and my friend took pity on me and took me out for a rest and a well deserved meal. That, my friends, was our move-in day. It's a day that I will never forget! 

The picture you see above was what our kitchen looked like originally. I mentioned in Part One that I was not a happy camper moving into this house. Move in day did not help me to feel better. The house had no working heating system as the boiler system was defunct and there were massive issues to be dealt with. But, what this house did have going for it was good bones, gorgeous acres of property and one determined husband and wife team who knew that this house could be made into a home. We got busy right away.

The Years of Current House Renovation 2002-2019

There's no way that I can show you pictures of all that has been done to this house in the last 16 years. But, I can tell you that it has been practically rebuilt from the inside out and that it is a project that has been ongoing these last sixteen years. The first thing we did was to install a new heating system and all new windows followed soon after. 

Inside walls were re-painted which also involved repairing areas of rot, removing drywall, wallpaper and wainscoting and fixing ceilings where shelving had been removed. A licensed electrician checked out all of the electrical wiring in the house. 

My husband totally gutted the kitchen area back to the studs and installed new drywall, repairing years of damage. This is the area where our stove, sink and countertop now stand. 

And this is where our eating bar, round dining table and desk are located now. 

And this is what our master bedroom looked like when we moved in before the walls were redone. And so on it has gone. In addition to all these renovations, though, other things were also happening in our lives which added to the time it has taken to redo our present home. You know, that thing called life? Since we have lived here, we both continued teaching full time, playing in music groups and being with family. The Mr. also decided to earn his Master's Degree in math and then he ended up having triple bypass heart surgery. We certainly didn't see that one coming! He recovered well and we both went on to re-new our National Board Teaching certification which was not easy the second time around either! In the meantime, I retired and now the Mr. has retired as of this July. And....we are still renovating!

Our Current Renovation Project

Remember the first picture I showed you on this post of our dining room? Well, this is what it is looking like now...

Fresh, newly painted drywall and baseboard. This is the same corner I am standing in with a smile in the first pic at the top of this post. As we speak, the furniture is going back into place. I can't wait to show you the totally completed room!

So, a few final thoughts for this post. I hope that if any of you dear readers are going through renovation projects of your own, that you will take heart and be encouraged by reading my series. Renovating a house is hard, people! Moving to new houses is also hard! And, it doesn't always happen overnight...or even in a few weeks....or months....or, even....years. Patience and understanding is key when going through these times, especially when "life" can get in the way! Which brings me to how I contribute to our house renovation projects. You may have noticed that I speak a lot about what the Mr. is doing. What is Debbie doing? Well, I call myself the "gopher" for our reno projects. I do a little bit of everything including, but not limited to, holding ladders, supporting wood pieces being nailed or cut, cleaning up messes, carrying drywall pieces out to the truck to go to the dump, cooking meals, bringing water, fetching tools, participating in endless conversations about how projects should be completed and, most of all, being PATIENT. And, oh yeah...avoiding flames when they shoot out of the wall....and there was that time I was in the basement bailing water while the Mr. rushed to the hardware store to get a new pump for the sump pump. Since then, we have had the basement floor dug up and an underground drain system put in. But, that's a story for another day! 

The point I am making in this series, is that I have truly loved every house we have lived in over the years. We worked hard to make each home its own unique place. Each house holds a special place in my heart. And, I love the house we live in now. There has been a whole lot of living happening in each place we have called "home." I have cried when I had to leave each of our homes and go to another. We both feel that this house is our "forever home" and we have no plans to move. But, if that should ever happen, I know I will cry on the day I move from here. That's just the way I roll. 

I hope you will join me for the final entry in this series (Part Four) in which I hope to show you some before/after photos and reflect on the whole idea of putting sweat equity into a house. Hope you will take time to leave a comment and if you are doing any renovation or other type projects in your home I would love to hear about them!

Until Next Time,

Friday, August 16, 2019

Designer Jeans for Less Styled Three Ways

Styling Wide Leg Cropped Jeans

(Not a gifted or sponsored post. All writing/opinions are my own.)

Hey everyone!  I thought I would take a little break from sharing my 16 year house reno story and give you a little "Fashion Friday" today! I'll be back next week with more on the house renovation, though, so if you missed Part I and Part II be sure to check those out, OK?! Now, let's talk designer jeans. 

Have you heard of the brand Seven7 in jeans wear? I hadn't until I came across this pair of cropped wide leg jeans on the clearance rack at Stein Mart. They were my size and marked down an additional 30% off over the clearance price so I half-heartedly decided to bring them home and try them on for size. I'm so glad I did! I love these jeans, found them a comfy and stylish fit and decided to style them three ways for you today. 

It's funny because I really haven't been much of a fan of the frayed hem and distressed look type jeans, but this frayed hem is more subtle and I like the wide leg look as well. This first styling I'm showing you is with a bold color top and comfy sandals. The cute tie belt came with the jeans and is removable. 

Here, you can see the slit in the leg of the jean. These jeans are extremely well made. The material is incredibly soft!

Now, let's look at a more polished look. White blouse, a bold blue necklace and blue wedge shoes take the look up a notch. 

After I brought these jeans home and found out how much I like them I decided to search online for other pairs. The Seven7 site came up and I started browsing and "Whoa!!" I couldn't believe the prices I was seeing! Prices from $69-$200+ were coming up and I have to tell you, friends, I have never paid those kinds of prices for jeans! I continued searching and did see much lower prices listed at places like Kohl's and Macy's. I will whisper how much I paid at Stein Mart in your ear....($20!!).   Yeah, I think I got a bargain, too. 

These jeans have a really nice structure to them that is kind of making me re-think about higher end jeans. Maybe they do provide a better fit. What do you ladies think? 

For my third styling, I decided to go for the untucked look. I used the belt for a hairband and added some comfy Skecher Goga Mat shoes. 

I like this relaxed style and, as I write this post, I am still wearing this look. I'm not trying to sell jeans but I will provide the link to these jeans in case you are interested. If you search the site you will see a variety of jeans and other clothing by Seven7. 

So tell me, which styling did you like best? Have you worn Seven7 jeans before? Do you like cropped and/or frayed hem jeans? Hope you will leave me a comment and let me know. I love hearing from you! Also, bonus points if you can name the one item I was wearing that remained consistent in all three stylings (besides the jeans and belt)!

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The House That Love Built Part Two

Our Renovated Bedrooms and Baths

Hello and welcome back to Part Two of my series about how we have done a 16 year renovation to our home! In part one, I gave a little history of how we came to be in this house and the extensive renovations it has needed. I also shared our living room and kitchen with you in Part One. Today's post will show a couple of our bedrooms and a couple of our bathrooms. The pic you see above is our master bedroom. You know I love blue and so does the Mr. so we have chosen to keep our bedroom more of a blue space rather than emphasizing the lodge look. We did continue the lodge look with the ceiling fan which features wooden paddles and an elk and pine tree motif along the sides. We also did a similar theme with the bedside lamps.

The shades are quite similar to the shades on the kitchen lights. While I like these shades, they are a little annoying as the leather strips tend to want to come loose along the edges. 

We use rugs throughout the house over our wood floors and we opted for a blue and tan one in the bedroom which coordinates well with the window toppers and the bed quilt. We typically get our rugs from places like Home Depot and/or Lowes. Keeping them fairly inexpensive means they can be replaced if need be, especially if you have pets. Two certain little cats like to sharpen their claws on the rugs from time to time! Amazingly, these rugs hold up to this extremely well. 

We bought this armoire several years ago as an unfinished piece and the Mr. finished it. It matches the other bedroom furniture. The mirror next to it is my "skinny mirror." I call it that because the angle it sits at makes me look more slender. Everyone needs a skinny mirror!

We have two chest of drawers that originally belonged to my husband's grandfather and they were among the first pieces we owned after we got married. My husband refinished them as they were in rough condition. 

You may recognize the heart shaped pillows I sewed awhile back. And, there will always be a pile of books next to my side of the bed! Actually, there are books in every room in our house. 

When we moved in there was very old and ugly beige carpet throughout the house which we removed to let the wood floors shine. We were removing floor staples for weeks on end because they were everywhere holding down the carpet! The bedroom walls were a sort of orange-pink color and the master bath had a baby blue sink and blue and white tiles above a blue tub. Part of the tiles were missing and there were NO electrical outlets in either of the bathrooms. That made for a fun time trying to dry your hair!

This is the master bath now. We went with green Silestone counter tops and maple cabinetry. This room was another "gut back to the studs" by my husband. He built the little nooks you see next to the sink area. I really like that unique touch to the master bath! He installed the cabinets himself and tiled the floor. His favorite job in this room, though, was getting to bust out the old blue tub. He and a friend went to town with sledgehammers and had a ball! They, of course, researched how to do it safely. 

Rather than a tub, we added a walk-in shower which is wonderful to have, especially as we age. The swirls of tan and creme in the shower match the walls and cabinetry well. The master bedroom and bath are not incredibly feminine rooms since they are shared areas for the Mr. and me. We both enjoy the wood features and the Silestone countertop in the master bath and the calm oasis of blue in the bedroom. Of course this oasis was not calm years ago on the night the bat came down the living room fireplace and proceeded to fly in circles above our bed while I hunkered under the covers. The Mr. came to the rescue and caught the bat in a towel and tossed it out the bedroom window! Luckily, years later, this is just a humorous memory now and we joke about the night "Bart the Bat" got into the house!

Now, let's take a peek into a second bedroom and one of my favorite rooms in the house!

This room is a "Debbie room" and it houses a lot of things that I love. It is my craft room, my reading library and my music room. I house some of my clothing and accessories here and I have recently moved my mother's old Singer treadle sewing machine into this room. I love to be in this room as it is cozy and comfortable. The green couch is a sofa bed in case we have overnight guests, so this room also serves as a guest room if needed. But 99% of the time, it is "my space" to enjoy! A favorite feature in this room are the white wall bookshelves the Mr. built for me! Cassie and Garden also like looking out the window, so we have a cushion set up at window height for them. That may be replaced by a cat window seat in the future. 

When we moved into the house we actually used this room as our bedroom while working on other parts of the house. The walls were a drab brown and the wind would whistle through the old windows sending an icy chill into the room. Now the room is light and bright and I love seeing the sun shine through the windows!

The Mr. teases me and says I am "Debbiefying" the space as I add things I love to the walls in the room. Some of these items are my own creations! 

Another room that I have added some of my own Debbie touches too has been our second bath/guest bath. I loved adding lots of blue and white beachy themed items to this room. The serenity sign above the cabinet is a favorite touch. 

Love the seashell rug on top of the tile my husband installed.

It was so much fun working on adding just the right touches to this cabinet shelf.

When we moved in, this bathroom was sort of a drab brown with striped brown wallpaper. UGLY!!!!  No outlets and an oversize sink cabinet that you had to walk around carefully to keep from bumping into it. The Mr. gutted the room back to the studs and started over. My only regret in this room is I chose to go, at the time, with ready made cabinets from either Lowes or Home Depot (can't remember which) rather than the higher quality cabinets we have in our other bathrooms. But, I was in a hurry to have a room finished and I would have had to wait for the other cabinets! A girl can only take so much waiting on construction and I dearly wanted to have this bathroom completed and looking decent! 

I absolutely love the tile the Mr. installed in the tub/shower area and the accent tile along the top is beautiful. We did keep the original tub in this bathroom. You may have noticed that we went with shower curtains in our bathrooms rather than shower doors. We debated this quite a bit. We had shower doors in our previous two houses and, honestly, I think it's easier to deal with shower curtains than doors. I can easily wash shower curtains in the washer and replace them economically when needed. Shower doors can be a pain to keep clean. Others may disagree, and that's OK, but we're sticking with shower curtains for now.

As I close out this second post in the series of our house renovation I'll share a few personal thoughts. As an introvert who blogs, I am always debating on my posts as to whether or not I am oversharing. Whether I am styling an outfit, writing a devotion or, like now, opening portions of my home to my readers, I must admit to feeling a bit vulnerable. My home is my "safe place" and I want to take care in sharing and opening it up for criticism. I realize that my decor may not be your cup of tea, but it is ours. And, as I said in the first post, we live in a home and not a museum, so my rooms may not fit your idea of picture perfect blog decor. I'm not apologizing by the way, just explaining that I believe that all types of homes are worthy of being shared and enjoyed. 

Speaking of enjoyment, I hope you will take a moment to share what you are enjoying so far in this series. And I would love for you to share favorite parts of your homes! Is there a room or space or picture or object in your home that you especially love? Let me know about it, OK?!  And, I hope that you will join me for Part Three of this series, in which I will share come current renovation that is happening and I will also share how I contribute to the renovation projects as well as the "fun" story of our move-in day sixteen years ago. Hope to see you then!

Until Next Time,