Suburban Oasis

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I’m pretty obsessed with my backyard. After 10 years of apartment living, I didn’t realize how much I missed having a private outside space. Additionally, having a fenced in yard is such a luxury with a dog; now we can just open the sliding the door instead of having to walk him first thing in the morning and right before bed. Finally, at the end of the day, it’s the perfect place to escape with a crossword puzzle and a glass of wine (yes – I’m an old lady).  Continue reading

Curb Appeal Upgrade

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Given that we don’t spend a lot of time in our front yard, it was not a huge priority on our upgrade list when we first moved into our house. However, as we made more improvements inside, we became more bothered by the shabby exterior; we felt like it gave the impression that we didn’t care about our house (obvious lie)! We finally decided to move on enhancing our curb appeal because, after three harsh New England winters, our wooden steps were literally about to fall off our house.

We priced out several different options: pressure treated wood, composite wood (Trex), Polyurethane (Frypon), and stonework. From the start, we were leaning away from natural wood; we assumed (correctly) that this would be the cheapest option but would require upkeep (painting) and eventually it would have to be replaced again. We also assumed that composite wood or a synthetic material would be a reasonable middle price-point for us, and that masonry/stonework would be out of reach. To our surprise, the quote for the Frypon porch was nearly $20,000 (almost as much as our kitchen renovation), whereas the stonework was about half that amount. Of course, there was quite a bit of variability in the estimates from the two masons we contacted. We chose Atlantic Masonry and we highly recommend them.

Although it took a couple weeks for them to get started, these guys were here from 7am to 5pm over the course of a week. To best match the foundation of our house, along with the retaining wall, we went with Boston Blend for the stone veneer on our stairs. Granite was used for the steps and we chose complimentary paving stones from Genest. The one issue with the construction process was that Atlantic Masonry, while able to provide the wrought iron railing, could not help us with porch columns. Installing the columns was such a small job, we couldn’t really find a contractor to do it for us. So, Jason did it himself (with my help and close supervision, of course). We used our car jack (for changing a tire) to raise up the porch dormer that was being supported by one of the old wooden columns; then we slid the new, fiberglass ones in place. I’m making it sound easy, but it was really challenging  – I almost lost a finger (no, Jason, I’m not being dramatic).

Another issue with the exterior of our house is that our gray siding is really faded. Instead of choosing to replace all the siding, we decided to paint our shutters a bright coral and to paint our doors a glossy black. For a fleeting moment, we contemplated doing this work ourselves and then promptly hired a handyman. To complete the look, Jason replaced our ancient screen door with a new Anderson storm door; they advertise easy installation in as little as 45-minutes and I’m here to tell you that this time estimate is a complete lie. Finally, we got some sweet new shrubs and a flagpole.

Three Wonderful Years, Three Wonderful Parties

I can’t believe my baby girl just turned three! Although I spent the week prior to her party freaking out a little about how many people were coming (around 33!), I am really grateful for the community we’ve built. It was wonderful to see our friends so generously celebrate our daughter, and to watch her develop relationships with friends of her own. Today, I reflect on three years of Fiona and three (not-quite Pinterest worthy) parties.

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Half-Bath Renovation

IMG_4611One of the biggest quality of life upgrades associated with our new home is having two bathrooms. This may have led us to overlook our half bath’s less charming features when we were making our offer. Specifically, the sconce above the mirror was hanging down by its wiring, the sink drain vent pipe was routed through the medicine cabinet (and covered in duct tape!?), and our terra cotta tiles weren’t terra cotta at all – the burnt orange finish was printed on them such that you could see the little pixels when looking closely. We also learned, during our first winter, that the bathroom was not insulated – at all (hello frozen pipes). ISlqm5r0osbzeb1000000000

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Now We’re Cooking with Gas: Kitchen Remodel

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The kitchen in our new home won the award for “worst room,” though our downstairs bathroom definitely gave it a run for its money. Sure, it gives off a cute, cottage vibe in the professional real estate photos (see below), but the microwave was not functioning, the stove was electric, and the fridge continued to give off an odor that could only be described as “rotting compost” no matter how many times we scrubbed it. The kitchen’s worst offense, though, was its lack of dishwasher. Also, it was yellow.

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Our Beautiful, Uncomfortable Living Room

One of the first goals in our new house was to create a beautiful, inviting living space for relaxing after work. We largely succeeded in designing a room that comfortably seats no more than two people.  This was perfect for newlyweds, but add two kids (plus visiting grandparents and uncles) and we’re all lined up stiffly on the couch trying not to touch elbows or dragging in hard metal dining chairs from the next room. So, although we love how our living room looks, it’s no longer meeting our needs. In the post that follows, I’ll be describing the elements of this room as they currently are, but we’ll definitely  be updating again soon!10854204_916985741254_3575514399292671596_o

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Homeowners!

We bought a house… house before pic….. almost four years ago (yes, it’s been awhile since I posted here). While the house was mostly structurally sound, there were many cosmetic upgrades we wanted to execute – like immediately. As we were walking up to the front door for the first time as homeowners, we met one of our new neighbors who dispensed the following advice: “You don’t have to do it all at once.” Maybe the paint cans in our hands gave us away. We promptly ignored her suggestion and got to work. Click below for “before” pictures of our house (courtesy of Zillow), along with a really awesome photos of our front yard getting dug up for new sewer pipes on Christmas Eve (hey – I said the place was mostly structurally sound). Continue reading

Fabric Envelopes

Happy Valentine’s Day! IMG_2418

Since my blogging career has been on hiatus, I needed an easy low-cost (in terms of time) craft to get me back on track. Fabric envelopes featured in the February’s Martha Stewart Living were perfect! The only thing I had to purchase was Valentine’s Day appropriate fabric as I had the other supplies (decoupage finish, paintbrush, waxed paper, paper envelope, and skirt hanger) on hand. Continue reading

New England Summer = Lobster Roll

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Its become a tradition in our house to kick off Summer with a Memorial Day trip to Yankee Lobster for what Yelp reviewers consider the best fresh lobster rolls in Boston. However, what was once a rare treat for me has become a more frequent (read: expensive) craving; I think I am on my third lobster roll of the season, having enjoyed #2 at Sullivan’s on Castle Island and #3 in the Ikea Cafeteria (obviously lowering my standards). I figured it was time to learn how to make them myself… Continue reading