Bedding giveaway from Bedding Style ($250 value)

This giveaway is closed.  The winner, as chosen by, is comment #2, Eva!  Congratulations Eva!  Please email me at to redeem your prize!

Over the past few months, we’ve done a lot of work on our second bedroom, which functions as Matt’s office by day (he does most of his work from home) and the guest bedroom as needed.  Together we put in new electrical outlets and an ethernet jack, spruced up the ceiling fan, patched holes in the walls, and installed new window blinds.  Matt trimmed the window, replaced the baseboards, painted the walls and trim, built a desk, and created a shelf above two Ikea wardrobes closed with curtains.  But whenever guests came, we were stuck making up the bed with bedding that doesn’t quite go with the room.  That’s why we were excited when Bedding Style contacted us. 

Bedding Style is celebrating 7 years in business and wants to spread the love by giving one lucky blog reader a free designer bedding set. If you haven’t visited Bedding Style, you should take a look. They carry a large variety of high quality brand name bedding as well as bathroom accessories and they have great prices and customer service. Check out the bedding they sent to us for review:

We love this Asian Lily bedding by Perry Ellis and we think it looks great with the other colors in the room: light blue walls, white desk and trim, wood floor and blinds, and the curtains on the wardrobes. I also love that it’s 100% cotton, machine washable, and made to last.

To Enter: 1) Visit Bedding Style and pick a favorite item, then name it in a comment. If you are unable to leave a comment, send us an email at 2) For a second chance to win, Follow @BeddingStyle on Twitter or Like Bedding Style on Facebook with a link to this giveaway and mention @BeddingStyle or in your post. One random winner will win a bedding set worth up to $250 from Bedding Style. Contest ends Monday, June 25, 2012. Good luck!


“Five minute” ceiling fans: Part 2 (Success!)

In Part 1 of this story, I discuss how we ran the wires for a new circuit serving these ceiling fans and some unexpected trouble that forced us to cut a random hole in our bedroom wall.  Once the wires were all run, Matt had to add 2x6 supports between the joists in the attic and attach the new electrical boxes to them.  From underneath, it looked like this:

Then it was my turn to hit the attic and make up the remaining connections in a junction box.  Like so: (and then nail the junction box to the side of the joist, tuck all wires into the box, and put a cover on it)

I also had to install the switches, both of which presented issues.  In one bedroom, the space in the wall was shallower than normal due to a stud in the way, so I had to use a different electrical box and play around with shims to get it flush with the drywall.

In the other bedroom, the wall was deep enough but not wide enough to accommodate a double gang box (due to another stud!), so I had to use a double-rocker switch.  I actually like that better than the two separate switches.  Here’s what the switches look like in the two rooms:


The extra time it took us to decommission the old wiring, run the new wires and figure out what we were doing forced us to spread out the project over the course of more than one weekend.  And during that time, I started questioning whether those fans we had bought spontaneously were well suited for our space.  I thought that the 52” fan diameter was kind of big for our small bedrooms, but Matt was still liking them.  We inevitably needed to make a trip to Home Depot or Lowes for something or other.  I can’t remember which store it was, but at the front near the checkout lanes we spied a display of ceiling fan/light combos.  The model was not going to be carried anymore and they were on sale for $13 each.  Here is the exact model on Amazon for $80.  Score!  And most importantly, these fans met our criteria: a less huge fan blade diameter, option to install flush to the ceiling without the downrod (our ceilings are not that high), and it had reversible fan blades so we could choose light wood or dark wood color.  We scooped up two of these and later returned the $116/each “5 minute” Hunter fans which we had yet to even attempt installing aside from reading the instructions.

We ran into a few more issues along the way.  One was that we messed up the drywall when we pulled out the old electrical boxes, so we at first had to use some shims to make an even surface for the fan’s mounting brackets to push against.

We have been using the fans with these ugly shims sticking out the top for the past year and a half.  

Fast forward to now, we removed the entire fixture in one bedroom so we could paint the ceiling.  Now that the room is painted, we decided to use the opportunity to make some improvements to the fan.  One thing we did was upgrade the mounting situation.  The fan came with short screws that connected the mounting bracket to the metal electrical box, but we never really thought that was a great way to support it.  We had originally mounted it instead with longer screws that went all the way up into the 2x6 in the attic, but I still never felt 100% satisfied with that solution.  This time we replaced the screws with bolts that go all the way through the 2x6 so there is no way it can come loose over time.

We also purchased a ceiling medallion ($9 at Home Depot) to cover up the broken drywall and provide a flat surface for the mounting bracket and fan canopy to rest against.  The medallion was white, and we decide to try spray painting it to match the fan.

Installation of the canopy involves pushing it up against the ceiling and twisting it to catch on the screws sticking out of the mounting bracket.  We had a little trouble with that part, which we later fixed by adding a large washer and a small washer to the bolts above the mounting bracket.  It’s hard to explain, but it worked.  Unfortunately, we had completely destroyed the paint job on the medallion by then.

Matt was pretty sad.  Not about the medallion so much as just the installation not going well at this stage.  We had really hoped to be finished by this time.  We also realized there were two other problems with the medallion: the silver paint did not match as well as we’d hoped, and the small diameter (10”) was making things more difficult by not allowing enough room to get a screwdriver to the screws sticking out the sides of the mounting bracket.

So we stopped by HD and picked up this 16” medallion instead.  We did not attempt to paint it.  We just slapped it up on the ceiling, and with the help of those extra washers on the bolt, the rest of the installation went smoothly.

We had also recently purchased some new glass shades to replace the ones that came with the fans.  One of the original shades was broken right out of the box, and we’d been living with one exposed bulb on that fan.  Instead of replacing it with the same generic shade, we’ve been casually looking for a set of fancier ones for a long time.  A few weeks ago, we finally found one we love, and that there were actually 6 of them in stock!  Aren’t they gorgeous?

Finally, a happy end to the saga.  We are very happy with the way it turned out, despite all the trouble along the way.


Paint is finally being applied

We’ve only lived in the house 2 years + 9 months, and this is the first time any paint has been applied to a surface in the house.  Sure, we’ve cut a lot of holes in the walls, ripped out windows and removed sills and a mantel, but this is the first time we’re attempting to make the walls look better.  Ok, technically Matt did already put trim on all the new windows and the front door, but it’s only primed and not painted.  

Turns out things get a little tricky when there’s a funky texture on the wall and you have to patch a big hole in the drywall.  We think we found a good solution to that, which we’ll share when we can show the final result.  Stay tuned!


The house is painted!

After some back and forth about whether to DIY this one, we decided to hire someone to paint the house.  Matt seriously considered renting a sprayer and doing it himself (with some help from me), but we have been very busy lately and we knew it would be much quicker to have a pro paint it.  We are happy with that decision.  After getting several quotes, we chose a company that was highly recommended by a friend with reasonable prices.  They did it in two days.  Who knows how long it would have taken us to complete it.  Meanwhile, it is fall now, which means the days are shorter and the ones with good weather for painting are going to get fewer and farther between.  As you may know, we took some time to think about the color, too.  We finally decided to throw caution to the wind and go with our favorite color instead of one that would be safe (and maybe even a little boring, in our opinion).  We could not be happier with the results.  Are you ready for the big reveal?  Here it is:

And the back of the house:

The color is looking more blue on my computer screen.  It’s teal, and the color can look more green or more blue depending on the light.

I can hardly remember what the house used to look like.  Looking back at the progression, I realize how far we have come!

March 2010 (by this point, we had installed the new front door and Matt had added small planting beds to the front hard, but that’s about it):

Ugh, I hated that brick facade on the front so much!  And the paint color was just so blah.  The windows were pretty bad.  In some areas, the paint was in bad shape.

November 2010 (old siding removed, insulation added to exterior walls, new windows installed, housewrap - all DIY by Matt):

A few weeks ago - early September 2011 (new siding, new windows, window trim, more plants, and color swatches to help us decide on the color - all DIY):

Now - late September 2011 (new paint on everything, and you can see the fence and gate - DIY by Matt with help from Robert - in this photo):

We know our color decision was sort of a bold one.  With a few exceptions, most of the houses on our street are a very muted palette.  That’s a nice way of putting it.  I’d say most are drab.  Anyway, I was a little bit anxious when I first saw the finished results, but I no longer feel that way.  I think our house is the best looking one on the street.  Maybe we’ll start a trend.  

I decided that I really like the way the fence looks with the paint color.  I’d love to get a wood front door and garage doors.  If we decide that’s not in the budget, maybe I’ll attempt a faux wood paint job, but only if I can get it to look realistic.  I’ve seen a couple of blue houses with warm wood doors, like one of my inspiration houses below, and I think they look so sweet.

Well, readers, I’m dying to know what you think!


Living room before and “after”

These photos might be nominally referred to as “before and after,” but “after” is not an accurate description of where we are.  Let’s go with “in progress.”  

Fireplace Before:

Fireplace in progress:

Other living room Before:

Living room in progress:

Apologies for the bad lighting and overall messiness.  If you can overlook those, I think you’ll agree that the new floor plan (which we’ve been anticipating for well over a year) is much more open and makes the new fireplace the focal point of the room.

New features: 

  • Mantis fireplace insert (with new hearth).
  • Wall-mounted TV over the fireplace.  Also got cable after not having it for the past 2.5 years.  Which is proving to be a bit overwhelming for me.
  • New Ikea Manstad corner sofa (yes, both sofas would look better without blankets draped over them, and I have a solution in mind for that, but for now this is how we roll because we enjoy having dogs on the furniture)
  • Rearranged most of the furniture in the room and gave away or sold several items including the TV stand.
  • When guests enter through the front door, they are no longer funneled into an awkward area behind the couch.
  • More room to do workouts in the living room.
  • New yellow shelf above and to the left of the fireplace - our friend and former (sniff!) next door neighbor Robert built this for his house, which is identical to ours, and since it’s a custom shelf for a space that only exists in the houses on our street, he had no use for it when he moved.  It was black until Matt painted it yellow.
  • Dog crates are now under the wood table, where they fit perfectly.  We gave the chairs away, which was a little bit sad for me.  I got the table and set of 4 chairs at the Salvation Army in my hometown almost 10 years ago right before I moved into my first apartment after college.  I’ve used them in every home I’ve lived in as an adult.  The table was my desk for the past two years, but now that’s not possible with the dog crates underneath, so I’m using a folding table which you might catch a glimpse of (see my laptop in the last photo?)  Also note to self: get some folding chairs so people can sit down if we have a dinner party.
  • New Ikea Ektorp Bromma footstool with a tray on top replaced our coffee table.

Many more improvements are still on the To Do list, but we are feeling mighty fine about this batch of changes.  We are ready for fall and winter: we will be so cozy snuggled up on our couches with dogs and our fireplace keeping us warm.


Exterior paint color quandary

We’ve had three sample patches of paint on the front and back of our house for a couple of weeks now.  For a while I thought I was fine with choosing one of them, but then I decided I needed to see some other options.  I painted them onto the house today. They look so different in the bright sunlight vs. the shade.

Matt’s first reaction to the two bright ones was “beautiful colors, but not for the exterior of the house.”  I understand where he’s coming from, and part of me agrees, but the other part wonders why we can’t be bold and go for it.  They do look more like the inspiration houses I mentioned yesterday, but are my colors even brighter than that - too bright?  If we try to capture the cute, sweet vibe of these houses, will we overshoot the mark and end up with a clown house?  Eek!

I feel myself teetering on the edge of paralytic indecisiveness.  Must. not. fall. over.  We need to just pick one and get the house painted.  Why is it so difficult to choose a paint color?  Help!


Swedish furniture with a side of meatballs

On Saturday we went to Ikea.  We were shopping for several major things:

  • a sofa bed for guests (we got rid of our non-foldable futon bed in our guest room/office/storage room because we decided that it was taking up too much room for something that is used maybe 2% of the time) - highest priority because we have a guest coming to stay in a couple weeks
  • new furniture for the living room, though we’re still not completely decided on what configuration we want
  • various other things that we’ll consider buying later but wanted to look at, like a (better) bed for our room, wardrobes for our bedroom, foldable dining chairs, the list goes on

As usual, we spent almost 5 hours there.  I’d guess about 2 hours of that was in the sofa & sofa bed section.  We tried out every single sofa they had, many of them multiple times.  We went in with a great idea that I thought I was pretty slick for thinking up: we were going to get this Karlstad corner sofa for the living room

and this Karlstad sofa bed in the same color for the guest room.  I had read the assembly instructions for both carefully, and I am pretty confident you could make a couple of minor tweaks and substitute the sofa bed for the equivalent part of the corner sofa, leaving you with a corner sofa bed plus a regular sofa.  This would be great for us because if we ever needed to turn our guest room into something like a nursery, the living room could become the guest room without messing up our furniture configuration.  We sat on the sofa and we loved it.  Then we sat on the sofa bed and we did not love it at all.  It was so much less comfortable than the regular sofa!  We tried to like it, but it was just not working.  So we had to abandon the whole Karlstad-hacking plan, and ended up sitting on all the sofas and sofa beds trying to decide which would work for our situation and were actually comfortable. 

In the end, the only thing we bought for the living room was this Ektorp Bromma footstool.  This was a bit risky considering that we don’t know what we’re going to do with the rest of the living room furniture, but it was not too expensive and it’s already coming in handy.  It can be a footrest, a seat, or with a tray on top you can put drinks and food on it (we gave away our coffee table and are thinking about not replacing it).  It’s also nice to have a place to put blankets and throw pillows so the dogs don’t knock them onto the floor.

As for the sofa bed, we eventually settled on this Beddinge Resmo (the best mattress of the four available - you can really feel the difference and we want it to be comfy for our guests).  It is pretty good looking too.  Maybe we’ll paint the frame someday for an even better look. 

We like to stop in the cafeteria to regroup and re-energize in the middle of these long shopping trips.  Matt always gets the Swedish meatballs.  I had split pea soup.  On the way out we like to snag our favorite cookies.  I don’t even know what we were doing the rest of our time there.  We get caught up looking through all the departments; it’s fun to see what they have.

Finally we got home.  Somehow we still had some energy.  I put the footstool together in about 10 minutes and it’s great.  We got the sofa bed frame pieces out and started to put it together.  And then we noticed that instead of two opposite pieces of the side of the frame, our box came with two of the same pieces, making it impossible to continue.  Argh!  We have bought a lot of stuff from Ikea and I can’t recall ever missing even a little piece of hardware.  Oh well.  Matt called the next day, explained to them which piece it was, and they are sending us the right piece.  Fortunately, we should have it in plenty of time for our guest.

Now we have to figure out what furniture to get for the living room and how to arrange it all.  This stuff is always harder than I think and ends up taking forever.


Pruning scraps make pretty arrangements

Everything is blooming!  Despite my seasonal allergies, I love this time of year.  Matt has been a tree pruning maniac.  Yesterday, he cleaned up a tree that was encroaching on our all-important cable line (it’s our internet connection).  The offending tree happened to be covered with beautiful pink buds, so I took a few of the scraps and made a cheery arrangement.  Some of the flowers opened this morning.

Matt also pruned a holly tree and then moved it from the back yard, where it was in the way of the in-progress fence, to the front parking strip.  Who knows if it will survive.  He made a dry arrangement from holly and pieces from another tree.

On the subject of things blooming, we have some flowers on our tiny columnar apple tree!  It’s maybe 3.5 feet tall, but maybe we’ll get some little apples even this year.  Hopefully our yard will entice some bees to pollinate everything.

Spring is on!


DigginFood: An Edible Front Yard

I love DigginFood, a blog by a local gardener/cook/writer extraordinaire who is one of the weekly guests on the gardening show of our NPR station.  I keep suggesting to Matt that we get rid of all the grass in the front yard and plant an edible garden.  The grass doesn’t seem to serve any purpose, as we have a decent sized back yard that is quieter and more private, should we want to do anything that requires a patch of grass.  I also think it would make a statement and maybe even inspire some of the neighbors to start their own gardens.

We live on a fairly busy street, and Matt wonders whether pollution from traffic could contaminate the soil and be taken up by edible plants.  I know some people who may know something about this, as I have an MS in environmental health, which in case you were wondering is how the environment affects the health of people, not the health of the environment as the name seems to imply.  I could do some research to see if there are any studies on this, but I doubt there is anything that would be specific enough to tell whether it’s of concern to us.  The easiest and most straight forward thing to do would be to get our soil tested for heavy metals, which would be my biggest worry.  Particulates getting on the plants themselves should not matter much, assuming we wash our veggies (with soap).


I wonder if we could do something like this on the wall.  So pretty.

I wonder if we could do something like this on the wall.  So pretty.