Milestones from 2014, Resolutions for 2015


Is it just me or does every year go by faster than the last? This one flew by but the ride was pretty great – thanks in large part to the resolutions I set last year to “become a morning person” and to start this blog. I mean, realistically speaking, it’s gonna take years for me to naturally jump out of bed before the sun is up, but working towards that goal has certainly had an impact. Most days in 2014 started 3 WHOLE HOURS before I had to be in the office – this from the girl who would usually sleep until the last… possible… minute... (“and there went my bus”). All that new-found time allowed me to design, write, edit, craft, and photograph for the blog – which was far more rewarding than extra ZZZs. Getting to interact with y'all has been nothing short of wonderful, so THANK YOU for reading and asking questions and sharing your opinions and experiences! You've made this year truly special.

Since last New Year's goals turned out so great, this year I’m setting bloggy goals, house goals, career goals, physical goals, emotional goals, financial goals … you name it, I’m goalin’ it. Who says we should settle for just one?! 

But before I go dreaming up my ideal 2015 I wanna take a moment to look back and appreciate what Eli & I accomplished in 2014. I'm always thinking about the next thing and what still needs to be done, and I often forget that we've come a long way already in just one year. So, without further ado, the biggest house changes in 2014:

1. We painted the kitchen cabinets

This was by far the biggest project we tackled, and Eli got it all on video to share with you guys.  

2. We refinished the floors

As suspected, our sexy dark floors totally transform the look of the house.

3. We wallpapered the powder room

The bold geometric pattern puts the “POW!” in powder room. Naw mean? And this room gets bonus points for being the first one finished!

4. We built a headboard and grown-up bedframe

We graduated from Ikea Hacks to West Elm Hacks, y'all. I upholstered a headboard to look pretty damn close to this one from WE, and Eli found a *free* WE platform bed frame on Craigslist that he converted to hold our box spring

5. We created a breakfast nook in the laundry room

It’s easy to forget that this time last year the laundry room was just for laundry. Now it's my go-to spot for eating breakfast, enjoying a cup of coffee, and writing my next blog post.

6. We stained and sealed the deck

Step 1 for "Pimp my Porch" completed, with a video to boot. Summer soirees here we come. 

7. We installed a medicine cabinet

And found a window inside the wall…which still has made me wondering what else is behind these walls. I mean, hellooooooo, there could be treasure!!! But for now I'm content just to have the toothbrushes hidden. 


Well that was a fun little victory lap! I usually just collapse at the finish line. Here I was feeling like we are sooo farrrr from finished, but we really are so much closer than we were! Eli is doing a celebratory dance cuz he thinks that means we're done. We're certainly not, but every project is forward progress. To steal a cliché from the blogosphere – transforming a home is a marathon not a sprint. How many more running analogies do you think I can fit in one post?

So what’s in store for next year? Hopefully a lot of really spectacular, awesome, highly superlative things. I think we can accomplish even more than last year by planning things out a little better, but my top 5 priorities are: 

1. A living room refresh: Our Ikea loveseats' days are numbered. I'm shopping for sofas and chairs as we speak and devising a plan to add closed storage to the built-ins. 

2. Light fixtures: I've got a few great ones that have been laying around for months – it's time to hang them already!

3. Natural light: Before buying a row house I didn’t fully appreciate the value of windows and sunlight – silly me. The lack of light has been my nemesis! This year I want to get new exterior doors with windows, and I want to open up the skylight that was mysteriously covered by a previous owner. 

4. Tricking out the guest room:  It's more like "the junk room" right now – it's embarrassing. We need to build a proper bed (with storage!), configure the office, and *brownie points* if I can make it work as a studio for blog photos, too.

5. Back yard reno: Last spring & summer were not so productive in the yard department. This year I want to get serious about making it more useful and beautiful. 

That should keep us busy for a little while, yeah? :) What are you guys hoping to accomplish in the 2015? Anyone else setting multiple goals? 

My favorite home projects from 2014

Holiday Gift Guide for the DIYer

Got someone on your shopping list who loves crafting & DIY projects? Or maybe that person is you, in which case you should share this gift guide with your friends & family immediately! If they're anything like me, they haven't started shopping yet and could use some ideas. All of the items on this list are either things I have & love or don't have & want, in all cases I think any die-hard or aspiring DIYer would appreciate them. 

In my family, we stick to Secret-Santa-style giving, so I only have 1 person to shop for, and I'm legally prohibited from spending more than $50. Yes, LEGALLY – the Secret Santa Police fly in on reindeer and tie you up with tinsel if you go over budget or spill the beans about who you're buying for. As a result, I think of potential gifts in terms of cost...what can I get for less than $20 or $50 or $100 (if you aren't in the Santa Police jurisdiction)? I've organized my list by those guidelines and did my best to provide links to these products on Amazon so Amazon Prime members can take advantage of free 2-day shipping. Most of the other items are available in big box stores, so you can run out and grab 'em if you don't want to gamble with shipping. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments! Anything you would have included that I missed? 


1. Moleskine Notebook, Dotted – $15.88 (Amazon)
I was gifted a couple Moleskines for my birthday and love having them in my bag so I can scribble down thoughts & project ideas. They come in different colors and options, but the dotted pages are particularly great for sketching floor plans and building projects. 

2. Messy Washi Set – $16 (A Beautiful Mess Blog Shop)
Push pins are so passé – the cool kids use washi tape to put their ideas & pictures on the wall. A quick pinterest search will pull up tons of other creative uses for it too… Washi comes in countless colors, sizes and patterns, but this set of 4 designed by the sister duo at A Beautiful Mess is really adorable. This is one of the few items that I'm unsure of in terms of shipping, so check that out before you get your heart totally set. 

3. Nate Berkus Gold Shears – $16.99 (Target)
Cutting hundreds of isosceles triangles for a garland is way more fun when your scissors are blingin'. These puppies are so cute, you’ll wanna leave 'em on your desk instead of in your junk drawer.

Now that I have an entire wall of shelving I am all about hardcover books, so I included 4, count ‘em, FOUR books this holiday season that I’d love to have and read. Prices vary between hardcover, paperback, kindle, and audio cds, but they’re all $20 or less and eligible for Amazon Prime.

4. The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir  by Dee Williams (Amazon)
The story of a woman who built an 84-square-foot house from the ground up by herself in the Pacific Northwest. Um, helloooo! Woman power!  I fantasize about designing & building a house some day & I love the tiny house movement, so this one is a no-brainer.

5. Young House Love by John & Sherry Petersik (Amazon)
I can’t believe I don’t have this book yet... YHL was the blog that inspired me to start recording my home adventures (thank you Sharon for turning me onto them). Their book is chock-full of fun, budget-friendly ideas for DIYers of all skill levels.

6. The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman (Amazon)
The founding editor-in-chief of domino magazine, aka the Rosetta Stone of home styling, shares her secrets for creating a relaxed, stylish and comfortable home. She's all about decorating your home to fit your lifestyle, not the other way around.

7. The Handbuilt Home by Ana White (Amazon)
I am so inspired by Ana White – this lady can build anything! Her book has 34 build-it-yourself furniture guides and the information you need to know so you can become a master woodworker too. You know what they say about giving a man a fish and teaching him to fish.  Her blog is also a great resource for anyone looking to build some designer-looking pieces. 


1. Apollo 53-Piece Tool Kit – $27.49 (Target)
I bought the smaller version of this toolkit years ago and still use it almost every day. This larger version looks better to me because it has a level, needle-nose pliers, and some other things that I have but can never find at the bottom of my tool drawer. Perfect for people who don't have a lot of space to store tools because most of what you need can live harmoniously in one container.

2. Lap Loom – $32.01 (Photo by Urban Outfitters, but Amazon is cheaper) 
I don't have a lap loom but I wish I did! This is perfect for making those wall weavings that have been all the rage lately. 

3. Craftsman Circular Saw – $29.99 (Sears)
Such a useful tool – we have this model and love it! We used it to cut our built-in shelves, our office desk, & the West Elm knock-off headboard, to name a few. (I promise I will post about the shelves & the desk soon)


1. Bosch Jigsaw – $99 (Amazon)
Jigsaws are useful if you need to cut out shapes or cut along a curve (headboards & side tables come to mind). This is your detail saw... good for someone who wants to get into more advanced DIY projects & already has the basics. 

2. DeWalt Orbital Hand Sander – $59 (Max Tool)
Y'all know how I feel about the orbital sander by now. It's way more powerful than the Black & Decker Mouse sander AND it's dust collection bag works well. If you've got a mega-dust situation on your hands, you can also attach it to a mini-vac.  

3. Bosch Drill – **$119** (CPO Tools)
OK, so this one is cheating. It's not under $100, but it is by far the most useful tool a gal (or guy) could have. You'd just need a 16% off deal to be in the clear, and I have a feeling lots of retailers are still running holiday sales! The Secret Santa Police don't have rules against coupons, friends. When Eli insisted on getting this drill I thought, "how could this possibly be that much better than the drill we have? A drill is a drill, right?" WRONG. This drill/driver is wayyyyyyy better. It's more powerful and the battery lasts longer, so it works when we need it to.

4. Skillshare 1-Year Membership – $8/month or $96/year (Skillshare)
Who doesn't love the gift of knowledge? Skillshare seems like a very cool platform for learning new skills, and you don't have to commit to a year to sign up. 

5. Brother Sewing Machine – $69.99 (Target)
I've loved sewing since I was a little girl watching my mom make dresses for all her girls. I've been meaning to get my old machine repaired, but it may be more economical to just get a new one. This would come in handy for making pillowcases, bedskirts, curtains, name it. 

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention GIFT CARDS. Gift cards get a bad rap, but I think the freedom is great. What avid DIYer wouldn't want free $$$ to Home Depot, Lowes, JoAnns, Michaels or Amazon?? And they can fit any budget :) 

I hope this guide was useful. Let me and other readers know in the comments if I missed something!

Happy Holidays!!! 

Decorating Our Small House for the Holidays

Last year I almost skipped holiday decorating altogether, but at the last minute I had a crisis of conscience & ran to Walmart to get the last $3 garland they had. Before you go labeling me a grinch, please know that I love Christmas and festive decor! It’s just that December tends to be a crazy month at work and I’m not around enough to decorate or enjoy said decorations. Nothing like spreadsheets and javascript to get you in the Christmas spirit, eh? But this year is different. I’m taking back the holidays and I'll be damned if my house isn't Merry and Bright! 

Fake presents, fake snow and ornaments make for a cute Christmassy vignette

To be honest, it doesn’t take a whole lot to make our small house feel festive – a little goes a long way in close quarters. The hard part is not going overboard and also passing up all the cute stuff in stores (“Must…resist…ironic…dancing…Santa…”). Without a garage, basement, attic, or spare closet, we've got to be very deliberate and thoughtful about what gets coveted storage space. Things we only use a few weeks of the year aren’t on the top of the list, so I set some ground rules to keep myself in check. All holiday decor must be either A) very small, B) fresh/disposable, C) useful year-round or D) so cheap & simple to make that I won’t feel bad throwing it away in January.

The first order of business is that of The Tree and where to put it. In our first apartment we spent a good 3 hours rearranging the furniture to accommodate 1 modestly-sized tree, and it ultimately involved nixing our dining table. (No lie!) I really wasn't in the mood for that escapade, and I really love the dining table we have now, so I asked myself, "can we put a tree ON the table??" Yes. Done. Next question! 

A mini Christmas tree on the dining table does the trick when you don't have space for a full-size tree

Sure, it’s pint-sized but it’s cheery all the same. By some crazy luck, it was totally free at the Home Depot. It didn’t have a barcode, it was closing time, and it was really cold outside where we found it, so the store manager flashed the deuces and said “PEACE!... Merry Christmas!” Which translates to, "Please take this and leave so I can go home." No problem! Thank you!

I slipped its tin base into a winter hat for a cozier look and trimmed it with cranberry garland that I strung onto dental floss and itty bitty pompoms made from red & white twine. Perfect? No, but it's cute, simple, and practically free. So that's what we call a win win win in my book.

I created ornaments for our mini tree out of twine, dental floss and cranberries. 

A tree on the table would look accidental without some festive place settings to elevate it. I fell in love with these beaded chargers at Target and had to have them...they're versatile enough to use throughout the winter, and I can store them on top of the kitchen cabinets the rest of the year. (Please remind me that I put them there when I can't find 'em next year) The small gold bowls are another Target find (are you sensing a trend?), and I plan to use them all year round. They've already come in handy a few times in the week that I've had 'em! I did resist the urge to buy new holiday napkins and instead topped the ones that I already had with sprigs of pine to make them feel special.

My holiday place settings are made up of a beaded charger and gold bowl from Target, cloth napkins from World Market and a sprig of pine.  

Since our tree is clearly not the "showstopper", something else needed to be (because every show must be stopped!). This year that great honor goes to the living room shelves! They've got everything you'd want in a Christmas tree, really – height, lights, greenery, baubles, tchotchkes and presents. What more could you ask for?! ;) 


I first saw these "fairy lights" on Young House Love and ordered them on Amazon – 33 ft for $13 (that's about a quarter of the price you'd pay at Anthropologie, FYI). They’re tiny LEDs on a simple wire, which means they’re energy efficient, cool to the touch, super light weight, and easy to hang. It took 2 strands (66 ft total) and 1 pack of 3M Command decorating clips to do the trick.  Speaking of tricks, command hooks are magical. I used a slightly larger pair to hang the stockings under the TV. Here's a look at them with the lights off.

3M Command hooks save the day! Their decorator clips are perfect for stringing lights. 
3M Command hooks save the day! They're small decorating clips are great for hanging stockings.

That's enough of that, turn the lights back on! I love them!! They remind me of the icing on a ginger bread house. They remind Eli of an airplane aisle. Tomato, tomato.

Built in shelves can stand in for a Christmas tree and mantle

Each compartment of the shelving got its own colorful little Christmas vignette, which was equal parts fun & intimidating to style. I rearranged and repurposed what I had, and added a few new small things. 


How fun is that nutcracker on the right? We used to have lots of traditional ones in my house growing up – they were sentimental because my sisters & I danced in the Nutcracker ballet for years and years and years. It only seemed fitting that I get my own, and Target had so many cute ones to choose from. I couldn’t settle on just one – Oops!


The “presents” are empty boxes I wrapped, because Lord knows I haven’t gotten around to Christmas shopping yet. My California sea lion is moonlighting as Santa’s helper these days… I used floral wire and Scotch tape to help him balance that tiny present on his nose. 


This photo of storm trooper legos making sprinkle angels never fails to make me smile. I finally bought it from a local photographer after months of eying it at Eastern Market. The gold baseball player is a Denard Span bobble-head that they were giving out at a Washington Nationals game. He was originally red, blue, green and flesh-toned, but I spray-painted him gold to up his baller status. I think Denard would approve. 

Just because we don’t have a big tree doesn’t mean we can’t have ornaments. I filled a wooden bowl with them along with some pine needles to spread Christmas cheer to my coffee table... coffee tables are people, too! (errrr... moving on!) 

Ornaments in a bowl can make any corner festive

Pillowcases are an easy way to freshen up the sofa from season to season. This reddish pillow ties in nicely with the Christmas decor, but come spring time I can slip it into a new pillowcase and have a totally different vibe.

Small space holiday decor

I bought this wreath (and the other greenery you see sprinkled around) at our local tree stand. I wanted it to feel slightly Nordic, whimsical and minimalistic... so naturally I tied on small pompoms (AKA cotton balls torn into thirds) with floral wire.

Key to cozy holiday decor: Layers and simple wreaths
Cotton balls attached with floral wire give a whimsical touch to a basic wreath

The star is back! To my guests who poked fun at me hanging this from the smoke detector for the last year, you'll be happy to know that it's now hanging from a command hook :)  

The staircase was begging to get in on the fun too, and I was very reluctant because I feared our freshly refinished rails would get covered in sap. But then I said, "Aw, what the hell?! It's Christmas time!" So up went the fresh pine garland, the cranberries I strung onto floss, and the little white trees from Target. I mean, why settle for one garland when you can have 3?! I would have made a 4th one out of popcorn, too, but I knew that wouldn't last an hour with Eli around.

Our Christmassy stairwell

Be on the lookout for a "How to remove tree sap" post in a few weeks ;)

The string I used to tie up the garland bothers me a little... I would love for it all to just magically float in place with no hanging mechanisms at all, but I'm not bothered enough to hire any witchdoctors. Plus, imperfection is charming. (right???)

Our Christmassy stairwell, featuring pine, cranberries and white yarn Christmas tree garland.
Cranberries strung on dental floss are a fun pop of color against the greenery

And that's a wrap! Thank god I set those ground rules for myself at the beginning, cuz things coulda gotten real crazy around here. The majority of our decorations are fresh, thrifty and disposable, and the rest are either useful year round or small enough to fit in our stockings when it's all said and done. So, mission accomplished! Let the celebrations begin!