Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wallpaper Dillema

I'm sure I have mentioned this before, but we're still working on the kitchen.  We have the back splash and counter tops attached and the shelves above the sink hung.  Now, it's time to think about wallpaper.  Now, the paper that is currently there isn't bad, but it is a bit dated, and curling up at the edges.  I tried pulling it off the wall, but quickly found that the previous owners papered directly onto the drywall.  (sigh)  What a royal mess that is going to be to remove without having to replace all the drywall!

So after some "pinning", and thinking, I decided on  my final options.  RECIPES!  Many years ago, my mom, sister and I wallpapered a wall in my brother's room with comic pages.  Glue on the wall, smooth out the comic, then another layer of watered down glue on top of that.  Why can't I do the same with recipes?

So, now I'm on the hunt for handwritten recipes from friends and family members.  Just this wall is getting the treatment, but there is a lot of space that needs to be covered.  I can't tell you how excited I am!  Don't worry, pictures will come as the project gets underway!!  In the meantime, send me your favorite recipe, handwritten of course.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Oh the joys of having new counter tops.  After many months of mixing, pouring, and grinding, we finally have the sink counters done.  This book... was our inspiration for getting the work done.  A debt of gratitude to Mr. Cheng for guiding us along on this journey.

The tops were done in 3 pieces.  Aaron is cleaning up the spillage from the 2 smaller parts.  One over the garbage, and one that goes along the back of the sink.  We used Quikcrete 5000 for our base, and quikcrete dye (charcoal) for the color.  We added 1 bottle of dye per bag of mix, mostly for the ease of measuring, to tet the dark color we were after.

Once dry, we put them in place, just to make sure they would work.  I used Cheng's sealer to make sure we wouldn't get any stains on them until we would be ready to grind them and put them permanently in place.

We knew we wanted our backsplash to be 18 inches high.  We just weren't sure if we should do it in 3 pieces like the counter, or one big piece.  I also wanted something with a little more character than a large piece of crete.  I have a love of leaves.  I have several wall hangings of just pressed leaves in a frame.  Why not try to incorporate that in the backsplash somehow?

I walked around the farm gathering leaves from various trees.  Ones that would make a great impression, and also ones that would be easy to identify.  I found walnut tree fronds, oak & maple leaves and also some from our newly planted fruit trees.  I put them in my press, and made sure they were nice and flat and dry.

Now, the fun.  Aaron's brother, Eric came  over and helped us with our decision.  One large piece to put behind our sink.  While the boys prepped the mold, I prepped the leaves.  Some things we had to consider with the leaves were 1) how to release the leaf from the concrete and 2) how to keep the leaf stuck to the base of the mold, so it wouldn't float up into the concrete.

We tried spraying the leaf with clear acrylic spray.  We had also used a spray adhesive to hold the leaf down in the mold.

As you can see, the leaf released easily from the mold, but not so much from the concrete.  But, look at that detail!  The veins stand out so nicely!!

I tried ironing the leaves with waxed paper, but the wax wasn't transferring to the leaf like I wanted.  Next, I tried petroleum jelly.  I smeared the stuff on to the bottom side of the leaf and along the stem.  A nice thin layer, of course, we didn't want to interfere with the vein details.

Now, the adhesive.  I was going to use the same spray that we had used before, but, of course, the can was empty.  (sigh)  Also, it didn't do a very good job keeping the stem tacked down.  Since we were putting silicone caulk along the edges and seams of the frame, we decided just to smear that on the opposite side of the leaf.  Ahh... everything seems to be working.

I took the leaves out the barn where my husband and his brother were busy finishing up the mold.  They had constructed a template out of luan (or 1/4 inch plywood) to  make sure the holes for the electrical and pipes were all in perfect order.  Everything in place, we waxed the MDF, laid down the selected leaves, and prayed that it would work.

We poured the concrete mix, and then waited.  That's the hardest part of the whole process.  (besides carrying it, that is.)  When we finally got to unmold it, we were pleased with what we found.  Not so much detail with veins, but still, a nice shape and I'm pleased.

We managed to bring the HUGE block up the house, and also the other pieces from inside the house.  Aaron spent the better part of his day spreading grout over the little bubbles and then grinding them off to get a nice smooth and shiny surface.  I wish I would have gotten a picture of Aaron in his wet suit.

All done.  We spread the concrete sealer over all 4 parts, and let it set.  Aaron found his caulk gun, and time to install.  The countertop pieces fit perfectly.  Glued them down and got ready to get the back splash in.  160 pounds  of crete was used, and it's approximately 6 feet long.  I wished we could have convinced Eric to come back to help with this part.

Things were a little tighter with the backsplash.  The holes were all in perfect placement, but, the boys forgot to scribe their template to the wall.  That made it a little tighter than we planned.  Aaron did a little scraping and chipping of the drywall, and we got it to fit.  At long last, and backsplash to be proud of.

All that is needed now, is the faucet back in place, the electrical fastened down, and all the seams caulked to keep water from leaking in between.

And here is the final picture.  The leaf prints stand out and everything is smooth and shiny.  It is waiting for a 2nd coat of sealer and wax.  I couldn't be happier with the final product.  The back splashes around the rest of the kitchen won't be as elaborate and only 6 inches tall.  I don't think my back could take carrying this back in again.

New window in the kitchen!

It's been a while since I've been around, but wanted to tell you about the progress we've been making on our kitchen. It's been slow, but OH, so much fun! What wonders we have discovered.

First, I'll start with the window. The original window is 2 1/2 feet wide by 7 feet tall. BIG window in a kitchen. Also, the bottom half was covered by cabinets, keeping the kitchen pretty dark. Being that it is an original with to the house, it was a single pain, and very leaky, too.  See where the trim stops?  That's where the cabinets sat.  A lot of wasted light, if you ask me.


So we tore the cabinets out that were blocking the window (basically everything to the left of my stove. As we are digging them out, we found the floor had been built up at least an 1 1/2 inches. Many layers of linoleum flooring and the final being subfloor and a Pergo laminate.  It is funny that instead of tearing it out, they would just layer on top. I suppose that is why ceilings were so high?

We also found more layers of wallpaper. I counted 7 layers, each one on top of the old layer. Also, a hole in the floor where a sink or a toilet possible could have sat so many years ago.

Finally, Aaron got the window out, the old trim wood, and had it stripped, right down to the brick. Now, time to get the new window in. After much cursing and holding the tounge just right, he and my oldest son, Matthew, got it fit in the hole. It didn't take much more to finish up the trim, and clean up the mess.

Now, we have a leak proof window that will let in a lot of sunlight. It will also help highlight the work we had done on the sink... on the opposite wall, but that will be in my next blog.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kitchen sink and dishwasher

We finally got started on putting the sink in.  This was a blank wall that we decided to use as the new sink and dishwasher location.  First thing, tear off the plaster so Aaron can put plumbing and electrical in.  New outlets for the dishwasher and disposal.  Move the light switch for the existing light.  We also needed to move the phone line.

I didn't get a picture of the wallpaper that had been collecting in the wall over the years, but there was some beautiful designs there.  It would have been fun to see this house develop over the years.  We were also confused why the lathe only goes up 1/2 way on the left hand side of the wall.  It's been replaced by drywall.  Our theory is that the original stairway to the 2nd floor was on the opposite side of that wall.  The drywall starts about where there would have been a landing.  

With all the new outlets in place, we were ready for the backer board. I know we should have used drywall, but plywood is what we had on hand so we could finish what we started.  We cut the big hole out for the plumbing rather than trying to put the pipes through the plywood.  Eventually, that square will be put back in.

Moving the cabinets and dishwasher into place.  Things are starting to look real!
Aaron loves this kind of plumbing.  I can't say that I blame him.  No stinky PVC glue, or expensive copper to deal with.  Soon, the whole house will be filled with the plastic tubing. 

The faucet installed.  Water connected, and it works!  Next step is work  on the countertops and backsplash.  Concrete is purchased, and waiting to be mixed and poured.  I'm getting really anxious to have this done!  Really excited, though, to be this far.  And it is before the tomatoes HAVE to be done.  My canning pot is sitting there, getting ready.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Finding wallpaper

 We're finaly getting some work done in the kitchen.  We purchased an above range microwave to replace the old-timer one that came with the house.  There had just a light and vent above the stove, so that meant we had to do a little bit of moving and sawing through the brick on the outside to move the vent up to accomodate the microwave.  It also meant that we would need to start taking old cabinets down and putting new ones up.

A real pretty french wallpaper was hiding behind those cabinets.  No, I don't think I would want it in my kitchen today, but I do like the green.

Aaron started cutting the wall out for the new vent.  Looks like a big hole, but it got all filled in.
Fortunately, Aaron had the boxes built and an idea of how he wanted to hang the microwave.  With some figiting, and holding on for dear life, we finally got it hung.  The box on the right was just a bit bigger than we were thinking, so we had to take the next cupboard down. 

Look closely at the paper we found behind the stove.  That was hiding behind the backsplash.  YIKES!    I can't imagine cooking in a kitchen that wild. 

Now, to get the shelves in the boxes.  Everything that was in the original cabinets is sitting in tubs on my dining room floor.  Aaron has the next few days off from work, so hopefully we'll get that done.  Hopefully we can get the plumbing done for the new dishwasher and sink, too, so I won't have to mop the floor after every load of dishes.  :)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kids in the summer

At our house, we have a lot of perennial gardens.  They are filled with lilies, primrose, black eyed Susan's, purple cornflowers, and lots of other things that I haven't identified.  What we're missing is a place to plant the kids' favorite flowers... the annual garden!

So, I took Sydney with me to flower shop.  We picked out petunias (tuna flowers), marigolds, and pansies.  All in shades of purple and orange.  Now, where to plant them??

When the electricians came, we moved the park bench that was in the front of the house and the bricks that it was sitting on.  This left a sunken dirt spot in the middle of the yard.  Matthew spotted it, and said "why not here Mom?"

It's a shady spot, but will work nicely for what they had planned.  So, they went to work digging and stuffing.  In the end, they ended up with a pretty garden.  I can't wait until they flowers grow out and fill in the spaces.  They are very proud of their little spot!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kitchen update...

I believe I posted before on how we purchased the dishwasher and microwave for our new kitchen.  Lately, we spoke with a cabinet maker, and had a quote done for having custom cabinets made.  STICKER SHOCK is an understatement.  So, we decided to do it ourselves.

With Aaron traveling to Brazil every few weeks, this job isn't going to get done as soon as I would like it. 

That doesn't mean I am going to stop shopping and finding those magic items I want.  It may actually be better this way, so we can make the purchases without going broke.  One of those magic items is my sink.  If we had to purchase all at once, I would have had to settle for a cheap, boring stainless steel sink.  Don't get me wrong, they are nice, but not in my DREAM kitchen.  :)  So, I found a beauitful FIRECLAY sink.  It was a few more dollars than the stainless steel, but in my opinion, worth every penny.  What do you think?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Little Cedar Berry Farms

The original idea for the name of our farm, was to have a PYO strawberry farm.  After studying and thinking, we decided that having a small orchard would be more fun for us.  We ordered trees, bushes, and vines online, and started digging when they arrived.

So far, we have catawba grapes, elderberries, pears, peaches, tart cherries, cranberries, apples, crabapples, and blueberries planted.  To help the watering, we drilled a hole about 2 inches from the bottom in a 5 gallon bucket, and placed one beside each tree.  Then, just fill the bucket, and move to the next tree.  It really is quite the site to see.

Here's the pear trees right after we got them in the ground. 
Potatoes and onions springing up nicely.

Our catawba grapes

Rows and rows of buckets?  Don't worry, there is a tree or shrub next to each of those buckets.

An early spring then the late frost has done some damage to all our little trees.  The established trees all bloomed early, too, and I'm afraid we won't have much of a harvest from them them year.  Cross your fingers that we at least get something!

Getting POWER!

OK, so we're not actually getting power, but changing the way it comes to the house.  Yesterday, MidAmerica came out to change the pole that sends it to the house. 

It really was quite the site as they pulled the old, dilapidated post out of the ground, drilled the new hole, and placed the new shiny post into the ground.  The electricity to the house never flickered once.

As you can see, Sawyer was enjoying watching the men work.  Hopefully, he has as much fun today, as today is when the BIG work happens.   MidAmerica will be burying the cable that comes from the bright, shiny new pole to the house, and then we have an electrician coming to bury it from the house to the barn and garage.  Oh can hardly wait!  No electricity for the rest of the day, and possibly tomorrow, too.

In the meantime, I keep knitting.  I'm so enjoying the socks.  I have a fire red pair on the needles right now.  Matthew claimed them as his.  I think if I bound them off right now (not even to the heel yet) he would be happy.

No kitchen yet.  We've talked with a cabinet maker, and was told "all or nothing" as for building goes.  We were planning just one at a time, to keep the debt low, but with that attitude, I guess we'll go to Menard's and buy stock cabinets!  I am studying how to do concrete countertops though.  That would be a DREAM!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


My new passion is knitting. I also found knitting socks to be fun and rewarding. I have been using a technique called "Magic Loop." and also knitting 2 at a time on that loop. It is rewarding, because I end up with 2 identical socks and I don't have to fight with those nasty Double Pointed Needles. (they are only nasty to me!)
Here is the latest pair I knitted for my mother in law. The pattern is called "Graphic" from Toe Up--Two at a Time by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn the magic loop method. These socks are made with Paton's Kroy FX sock yarn, with a color called "Clover" They are big on me, so I'm hoping they will fit Pam. She said her feet are a bit larger than mine. Keep your--toes--crossed. :)

Mr. Bathroom: Welcome to 2012...

Remember the '70's? Everything was bright, psychodellic. Glass bunches of grapes sat on every coffee table in America.
Our bathroom was modeled in the 70's I posted earlier the newspaper and carpet we found when we stripped the floor up and laid new tiles down. Now, it's time for the walls. Bright orange and yellow flowers sparkle and make the room look so dated.
I got out the primer paint and started covering those orange and yellow flowers. Oh, so white, but looking so much calmer. Today, I dropped the baby off at the babysitters so I could work undisturbed. I visited my favorite paint store (Sherwin Williams) and brought home a can of bathroom suitable paint in the color "Queen Anne's Lace." It took me over an hour to "cut in" all the corners, but already it was looking better. Then, another hour later, I had a very soft green wall and ceiling.
I have a darker color green that I plan on using on the woodwork and cabinet. I think I'll wait until Aaron gets back from his trip--or next week when the kids are home for spring break. That will take a bit more work, as there is 12 layers of paint, and I'm sure there is lead paint involved somewhere.
At least I can shower in peace now, and not feel that I should be putting on my go go boots. :) Oh, and the globe light will eventually have to go, too. That's next on my list of bathroom stuff to do.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

HOUSE Pictures

Finally, at least one photo of our home. Loving this house, and all it has to offer. Sure, there are some things that need to be fixed or replaced, but it's good enough to call home.

This summer is going to be a busy one. I have several fruit trees, grape vines, and berry bushes on order. So on top of the garden, and remodeling the house kitchen, and building a canning one (in the barn) we are going to barely have time to breathe.

Speaking of kitchen remodel. I have my new dishwasher and microwave sitting on my back porch waiting for us to get started. I'm having a lot of fun dreaming and sketching what we are going to do.

back yard

Our back yard. Soon to be the home to several fruit trees. I have North Star cherries, elderberries, cranberries, pear trees and grapevines on order. We're trying hard to figure out how to water them clear out in the boonies. Currently, we're on the lookout for 5 gal. buckets to water them. 50 gal. barrels to store rain water in, and mulch, LOTS of mulch to keep them moist once planted.

The barn

Aaron's been busy creating his workshop. He plans on building it out in the barn. Every spare minute that he has, he is out there working. He took out the stabled areas and put up beams to open the space up. On the floor, he filled in the "drain hole" meant for the milking cows, with concrete.
The last 2 weekends we made a trip to our favorite store "RESTORE" in Mason City. This is a not-for-profit store where items are donated and proceeds go toward Habitat for Humanity. We found 3 doors that came from a school in Mason and 8 qualtiy double hung windows there to put into the barn. Also, some fixed windows that we are planning to use in a wall separating his workshop from my kitchenette in the barn, too.
Aaron got busy doing windows. He took out the little 12 inch windows that were there, and put in two of the large double hungs that we purchased. It brightened up the space so well. He plans to put two more on the other side of that ladder, and 4 windows in the loft. The sooner he gets this workshop finished, the sooner I'll get my kitchens (yes, that's plural!)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Found more pictures

Still haven't found the picture of the outside of the house yet. I may just have to go take new ones. I want to do that anyway, now that we have new windows in the front. Oh, they are so pretty!
I did find some of the bathroom work that we had done. When we first moved in, the family before us had carpet in their bathroom, can you believe that? CARPET! The bathtub was also
falling apart, and leaking into the kitchen below. So, a trip to Menard's was in order.
We picked out a very pretty fiber glass tub with surround. Also, a very good quality vinyl tile flooring, whose name escapes me now.
So, let the games begin. We started tearing the carpet up and found 2 layers of linoleum underneath. Below that we found newspaper dating back to 1952. Did you know you could buy 4 brand new Firestone tires for less than $10!
After the flooring was removed, Aaron and I tried every which way to get the old tub out of it's area. Finally, he just took the sawsall and cut it into pieces. The kids and could haul those smaller chunks down the stairs to outside easier that way.
Now, for the fun part. Installing the tub. The floor has a horrible slant to it, so just putting it into the hole wasn't an option. Besides, the cabinet was in the way, so just slipping it into place wasn't an option. It took a lot of work, in and out, lifting and swearing, but eventually, we found "level" and got the tub installed. After that, it was a piece of cake. the surround went in easily, but it exends out further than the wall on the left hand side of the tub. (sigh) Oh well, that we can cut off and hide with trim.
The hard part is done. The sink and counter will stay. I have the paint picked out, just not purchased yet, to cover the lovely yellow and green flowers on the walls. (oh, so 70's!) Then, the bathroom with be almost close to done. YEAH!

Well, now that I know what to blog about...

We purhased our house on May 31, 2011. I will add pictures of the house later, when I get a chance, as my computer crashed that had all those photos on it. I haven't transferred them to my new laptop just yet.
The good news is, it's a wonderful home. We have 12 acres of land to play on, the back end is bordered by the Little Cedar Creek. Being here for the last 8 months has been a lot of fun for all of us.
We started the summer building a garden and planning what we are going to do. We have a good sturdy barn, that Aaron wants to make into a workshop, with a play loft on the 2nd floor. The detached garage will be going away, with a pole building replacing it, and the kitchen needs a makeover from head to toe. So, that is what my blog is going to be about. The trials and tribulations of rebuilding a house.
Since Thanksgiving 2011, Aaron has been working in the barn. He has removed the stable areas and posts. We made a visit to our favorite home shopping center ("Restore" in Mason City, IA) and found several old school doors to use on the interior. We also found double hung windows to put up on the 2nd floor, so we can watch the view from up there. Plans are also to put in a bathroom and kitchenette. This will be where I get to do my canning in the summer time. (YEAH!)
Minor little updates have happened, too. Sawyer and I pulled all the ghastly wall paper off from the stairway to upstairs. Now we have bare plaster to stare at, but it will get painted over soon. We are also discussing kitchen plans, and have started buying replacement appliances... a dishwasher and microwave to start.
Today, is window day. We purchased double hung windows from Sears home improvement, and are having them installed today. The gentlemen doing the work are very meticulous about what they are doing, and clean and vacuum after every nail is removed. I'm very impressed so far. The new windows change the look and feel of the room, too. What truely amazes me, is, it's 47 degrees in Feb. that they are doing this. LOVE that part of it!
That's it for today. As soon as we close on the other house (date 2/23) we can start purchasing fruit trees to cover the back yard. Looking forward to have hugs harvests of cherries, plums, and apples, along with the other garden harvests.