Disclaimer: I'm not an expert. I only have our experiences to answer any questions regarding home renos.
If you've ever done renovations before and have input or maybe you have a question, feel free to chime in in the comments section. My experience is limited and probably different than yours, so please share :)

 It took you a while for you to find a house, are you happy with the one you purchased?

Yupp! There are things we love and things we don't, but at the end of the day we're so thankful we have a roof over our head and a house to make a home.

What was the most frustrating part of the house hunting process?

Uncertainty! It's such an emotional roller coaster where nothing is guaranteed until the keys are in your hands.

Any advice you would give to someone house hunting?

1) Be patient.
2) Understand the market that you are buying in, and educate yourself on the process.
3) Don't assume anything.
4) Ask a lot of questions.

You haven't given an official tour of the house, will we get one?

Great question! Truthfully, I haven't decided nor thought about it. I could at least give a good picture of the layout!

(As a side note: This blog was never intended to join the ranks of the "home reno" blog world, so I always struggle on what and how much to share. Do you really want to see how we spray painted hardware? Although it's fun to do, not so interesting to read about...)

Why did you redo everything right away?

We didn't. We only tackled the big stuff that would have been really difficult to do after we moved all of our things in: the floor, paint on walls and ceilings, kitchen, baseboards. Kyle also had one week off of work the week following our closing, so it was crunch time!

It quickly becomes a never-ending chain of events when you begin one project but try not to do another- it just doesn't happen. Too much of the structure of a home is connected and to do one project, you may as well do the next (in some cases.) Mix in there a family of experts and designers and you suddenly have a ambitious list to tackle.

There are still some lingering projects we may tackle down the road. For example, we haven't touched either of the full baths or the unfinished basement. (Kyle has his eye on that basement for a winter project, but I'm trying to tame the beast)

Why did you redo all of the floors?

Explained a bit here. But for the short version: The previous owners were smokers and the carpet hadn't been replaced since the home was built ('91). The other flooring was wood and linoleum. However, since the home has such an open layout, it didn't make sense to just do a portion of the floors since it would break up the flow of the home. So we did it in one swoop!

How did you choose the stacked stone for the fireplace? Why did you redo the fireplace?

This was more of a personal choice, and by no means a necessity. I really love stacked stone - the texture and look of it brings great new elements to a space. The previous brick was an orange/red color (see picture above) and we both loved the idea of redoing it somehow (whether that meant painting or resurfacing it). We ended up getting a great price on the stone, so we went for it!

Why did you redo the cabinets? (The first time...)

We didn't have to do redo the cabinets or any of the kitchen for that matter. However (as mentioned above), once you start one project..
We tackled the kitchen immediately because we knew it would be more difficult to do later on. Since we were putting in an island and needed a counter top for that, it saved us money to have the granite cut and transported all at one time, as opposed to separate trips Then, it was a snowball effect of painting the island, then painting the cabinets, putting in the backsplash (since taking out the previous countertop ruined the drywall), etc. This re-do was spread out over a few months, and we still have the finishing touches, like the cabinet hardware, to install.

Are you crazy?!


Would you suggest someone in your position (a spouse in residency) renovate a home?

Simply put, no. No, no and no.
I think our circumstance was a bit different in that we had a lot of family who are experts, which helped us a tremendous amount. We would had never considered renovating a home if we had to do it by ourselves (or if we lived in another location). It wouldn't have been realistic for our lives right now.

I will say, that even though we did have help, we are the ones who live there day to day and see the projects. Sometimes, even now, it can feel like we leave work and come home to work. After working a 18 hour shift, the last thing you want is to come home to manual labor.
Part of that is owning a home in general and knowing that there is always something to do, and some a result of loose ends.

Are you burned out?

Depends on the day :)
We both went through a "burn out" stage about two weeks in, right after spending 10 days straight on nothing but the home. I noticed I kept doing the same things over again, instead of actually getting things done. For example, I rearranged our pictures frames about 10 times, rather than just hanging them on the wall!

Currently, I'm back on the "let's make this our home" horse but it also just depends on what is going on in our lives and how much time we have. That's true for anyone. We tried to make it a priority to get away when we could, because sometimes the to-do list just felt overwhelming.

Did you get new furniture?

We did have furniture from our old house, however, some did get lost/broken in the move. The only room we didn't have any furniture for was the sunroom, which we've since outfitted. We've been couch shopping about 10 times for our living room, but we're in no hurry to decide.

Do you like all of the changes?

Yes, for the most part. We plan on changing a few paint colors that we were only crazy about on paper, but thankfully, that seems like child's play at this point. Painting is my new favorite hobby, dontcha know.

What is your favorite change?!

That's a tough question. I think it's a toss up between the kitchen island and the fireplace. The island has become our favorite spot to gather around, and provides so much more space for cooking! The fireplace is beautiful and is a central part to the entire open floor plan, since your eye is drawn to it immediately.

And I think the obvious answer would be the exterior (paint and landscaping), so it's a 3 way tie :)!

Was the renovation process what you expected?

Not even close. At the risk of sounding completely naive, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It's definitely one of those things that you cannot explain. You have to experience it. It's super stressful, yet fun, exciting and rewarding all at the same time. Sometimes you want to cry and pull your hair out, and other times you're jumping for joy that the end result looks awesome!
It costs a lot of money, you have to make multiple decisions at once and always be prepared for something to go wrong. Inevitability, something goes wrong. For planners like me, I found that rather annoying.
For Kyle, it all went pretty much like he expected it to go (he had worked for a construction company in the summers in high school, so he had a good idea of what we signed up for.)

We are house hunting and everything we like on the market needs a lot of work. What would be your checklist to know if it's a good choice for us?

Every situation is different, so I have no idea what would be a good decision for you. I only know what worked (and didn't) for us. That being said, I'd suggest thinking about the following:

1) Make sure you have the manpower and time to do it (emphasis on TIME). Even if you don't do it yourself, getting estimates, hiring contractors and arranging the work and times around your schedule is a lot of time in itself.

2) It doesn't have to be done at once, but consider if you want to live in a construction zone (that was a huge "no" for me, whereas other people wouldn't mind it at all). You could make a list of what your priorities are, and match that up to each home you see: would that require a lot of work? Would it be worth it? etc.

3) Have a clear idea of how much you want to spend and how much things actually cost. For example, you can get estimates from contractors before even putting an offer on the house, so you are aware and can prepare for the financial implications of renovations.

4)  Is this your forever home? Are you planning on living there for 5-10 years? Are you looking at it as an investment? Do you want to flip it? Those answers should all play into your decision.

How much have you spent for all of your renovations?  

This is surprisingly a commonly asked questioned. I never discuss finances on this blog. But, I will say that we were pretty adamant about being responsible with our money and what we've been given. We have found ourselves really challenged about putting more money into a house rather than giving it away to people or places that matter so much more. Since, at the end of the day, a house is just a thing. I'll be honest, sometimes it was hard to bite the bullet and say, "no," as this money could really be used elsewhere and have a bigger impact on the world, rather than just increase our comfort level. We're not saints, sometimes we did choose our comfort level. That whole discussion is for another day, so for now, here was our checklist whenever we did on a project:

1) Can we pay for it in cash? If the answer was no, we wouldn't do it. I realize there are a ton of credit card incentives, store promotions, etc out there that can be great! The bottom line being we refused to let renovations put us in debt. We would have done a lot more if we disregarded our first rule.

2) Will it increase the value of our home?

3) Will the area and our property support this upgrade? In other words, are the neighboring homes going to support or bring down our assumed increased value? What is the market doing in our city?

4) Would we be okay investing in xyz if it didn't provide us with a return if we were to sell the home? What is the value to us?  In the end, we want ourselves and others to enjoy our home, and that has tremendous value to us.

There's a balance between our "wants" vs. what the market and home supports vs. "needs" vs. what we like vs. if it matters.

Welp, there you go! Quite possibility the longest post of all time.
Feel free to add to the conversation :)

Last Saturday, I ran a 5k.
Today, my arms and legs still look like I won  was in a bar fight.
Nevertheless, the race was extraordinary and I can't wait to do it again!!

Last Christmas, our friends, Mark and Maggi, told us about this dream they had - to do an obstacle course that served families, children and athletes alike. It would bring together communities and give families a way to participate in something together, while being fun, challenging and entertaining: meet "The Great Unrace," otherwise known as The Rhino Challenge.
Their life has been dedicated to this race every since.
Every ounce of that dedication showed.

July 20th rolled around and all of the work they put into making this idea a reality was evident.
The race was INCREDIBLE!
The hills made the run challenging and the obstacles were creative (and gave me a run for my money -just picture me hanging off the top of the rock wall because I couldn't find my footing ;).
Children LOVED that they had obstacles "their size," while the adults could still get a great workout on the "big bear" versions at each stop. I sound like a marketing rep attempting to promote this, but I wouldn't bother writing about it if I didn't think it was worthy of the accolades.
I'm also just SUPER proud of them- making a dream a reality takes a lot of courage (and endurance!).

You can check out their website here, The Rhino Challenge, and start training on some hills for next year's race.

Every evening, we venture out to our garden and scope out the produce, with basket in hand. My grandpa gave us this basket specifically for carrying our produce from the garden to the house, and I have a soft spot in my heart for it.

For the past week, we've been picking loads of green beans and sugar snap peas from our first garden, our baby. They are growing like wildfire! And I must say, our sugar snap peas taste so much better than the ones we purchase from the store. 
They are also double the size. WIN!
The other plants are quickly catching up;  tomatoes and peppers should be ripe in the upcoming weeks, as well as some cabbage and lettuce. We've been keeping an eye on the potatoes and carrots, digging into the ground just a smidgen to check their progress. 
Does it get much better than giving you neighbors handfuls of green beans from your own garden? Well, maybe, but it's still fun!

 Our little seedlings are growing up.
Who gets sentimental about a garden? This girl- and definitely my husband!

Our first dish from the garden:

I'll share more after my bubble suit arrives in the mail and I can take pictures outside without getting attacked by mosquitoes. They are out to destroy me this year!

It feels like we are on the final stretch of this "let's just renovate our house" deal.
Sometimes I find myself wondering, "what on earth were we thinking," and other times you can find me getting really excited about a new project I just thought up.
Oh renovations, you play with my heart.
All in all, both Kyle and I are pretty happy that all of the BIG projects are finished. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted and we can just maintain, decorate more and settle in. It's ours.

Now that I've turned all mushy on you, let's turn back to the everlasting to-do list. Nothing on here is urgent, mostly loose ends that we'll be casually working on over the upcoming months. I just found a lot of joy in that statement.

Here we go:


 - Poly the cabinets
-  Install cabinet hardware
-  Paint the toekick

Half Bathroom:

- Replace vanity
- Install new mirror
- Install baseboards

Laundry Room:

- Install baseboards
- Frame the entryway nook 

Dining Room:

- Install lights, either recessive or a light fixture


- Decide on a color and paint the cedar walls (you don't know this yet, unless you follow me on instagram, but our sunroom has been furnished for a while and I just haven't posted it. I'm making it a point to get caught up soon :)


- Organize!


- Remove railing on front porch and replace with something much prettier :)
- Furnish/Decorate the front porch
- Paint the front door a color

This seems so underwhelming compared to the last updated to-do list.

I do have a few DIY projects up my sleeve, including (but not limited to ;) painting a storage bench, refurbishing a dresser, refurbishing our patio furniture and making a fabric headboard.
But, we shall see how far we get on those projects.

I feel like we have all the time in the world to take it slow now :)

Happy Monday, Friends! Hope you had a spectacular weekend. In between a wedding and a bachelorette party, Kyle and I got our hands dirty again and tended to our plants. Let's wrap up (for now) our outdoor adventures...

Updating, renovating or even doing one "quick" project on a house always results in learning something. Have you found that true for you too? I've learned that anytime I say "it can't be that bad," it becomes a direct welcome for something to bite me in the butt and leave me proclaiming surrender of, "why didn't I think of that!?" (or calling my dad for help!)

Landscaping was no different. Although the process was smooth- no major hiccups and the plants are currently thriving- it still stood the "renovation test" and taught us a lesson or two.

What we learned:

1) You need to consider how much time you want to spend on your landscaping throughout the year. Do you want high maintenance plants or mostly self-sufficient? This also plays into the forever question of annuals vs. perennials. (We opted for 100% perennials, and may or may not add in annuals next year if needed)

 2) The landscaping should accent the unique features of your home. For example, the three windows of our garage have limelight hydrangeas underneath them (they will grow a little higher than the bottom of the window), whereas the rest of that plant bed consists of boxwoods)

3) Small changes can make a HUGE difference. For instance, clearing our the plant bed in front of the home opened up that entire space and made it feel more welcoming when you come up the driveway. It's also 10x easier to mow that area!

4) How much do you want to water (or pay for water)? That may depend on if you have city water or you are on a well. We are on a well, but if we were on city we may not have planted so many hydrangea plants, as they require A LOT of watering and the bill would have been pretty ugly.

5) The diversity of plants should represent different blooming seasons, so that your yard will always have something in bloom throughout the year.

6) Landscaping is costly. There was some sticker shock involved. Out of all of the projects and updates in our home, this was the most expensive. They say that landscaping should cost 10% of your homes worth. YIKES, right?! We didn't go that far, but it gave us a good lens to look through.
You need to consider what would increase the value of our home. and how much of an investment you're willing to (or can) put into it. We're of the mindset that a home shouldn't put you in debt (besides a mortgage), so if can't put pay cash just forgo the project or make small changes (see #3). This is why we only stuck with one "phase" instead of doing the entire house.

7) It's easy to be resourceful! We didn't buy new sod when we took out the preexisting plant bed, we just used the sod that we took out when we created the tree rings. Then, we used the brick around the same bed to make a large firepit. Additionally, when the landscaping company took out a lot of our clay, we put it in areas around the foundation of the house that needed to be built up and slanted away from the house. All free! Free = Happy!

8) Landscaping is an art. Hiring professionals can come in handy- if only to get you pointed in the right direction.  Many companies will do consultations and that may be all you need. Although we opted to do things ourselves, we agreed that it was a GREAT decision to hire out.

9) Consider the amount of time that you'll have to wait for the plants to mature. Based off of that timeline, you can order the correct size and maturity of different plants.
We didn't want seeds, because we wanted to reap the benefits of what we were paying for. The plants have a lot of maturing to do, but we'll be able to enjoy them for the years that we are here rather than waiting five years for the first bloom.

10) Verify that wherever you purchase your plants from, you receive a warranty. A two year warranty with small plants is typical, whereas for trees it an be around five years. If the company would have planted everything for us, we would have kept a two year warranty. Since we opted to plant, we have a one year warranty (except for the trees, which are two).

11) Be realistic about what you can do yourself, and what you need to have hired out. I'll fully admit, this is a difficult one for us- sometimes it takes some convincing that we can't do it all. Thank goodness that convincing worked!
It really is a lot of manual labor which takes time. Time = hot commodity. You may not be able to remove the soil or sod, but you could plant all everything yourself. It will save money and sanity in the long run :)

 12) Trees go on sale in the Fall! We planned on putting some evergreens closer to the road to form a small barrier. Currently, you can't see our home from the road with all of the foliage, but in the Winter, all of that greenery goes away and we have less privacy. Instead of doing that now, we learned that it's perfectly okay to plant them in the Fall, and they always go on sale that time of year.

I can't tell you how relieved both Kyle and I feel that all of the major projects at the home are finished. Emphasis on "major." Now, all of the smaller, loose end ones seem less intimidating and somehow easier than moving mulch. The hunny-do-list is getting shorter by the day :)

Have you learned anything this spring and summer from planting season?! Please share!

I left off early this week having showed you how we decided to divvy up the landscaping work between do-it-ourselves and hiring out. Now, let's get to the good stuff!

There were a few plants that we knew we wanted: hydrangeas, boxwoods, and a redbud or dogwood.
I have an obsession with hydrangeas, boxwoods are hardy and easy to care for (and we love the look of them), and we wanted a pretty blooming tree - all pretty straight forward reasons. We didn't want a lot of high-maintenance plants, simply because we knew we didn't/don't have the time to take care of an entire yard full of plants that need daily love and care.

The main plants we ended up going with were two types of hydrangeas (annabelles and limelights), boxwoods and two types of roses (knockouts and and pink drift). For the larger trees, we used a Coral Bark Maple, one Redbud and globe spruce.

The biggest question was what to do with the front, focal point of the house. There are two random sewer hubs in the front yard that give me hives each time I mow. I'm positive that I'll run over them, ruin our mower and somehow be part of an episode where sewage explodes everywhere. Something that would only happen in a National Lampoons movie. Needless to say, not only were they a disaster waiting to happen (in my head, at least), they are an eye sore.

The solution proved to be the biggest project of the front of the house and dramatically changed the way it looks:
(see the large green caps on the lower right side of this picture?)

We made a large half circle that would cover them up. From the drawing, this spaced looked way too large for our liking. But, we learned that the rule of thumb is that it should only go out as far as the house is tall. Thankfully, we have a tall roof line due to vaulted ceilings, so it gave us some space to cover up the caps. It's so much easier to mow this area of the house now!
This bed inlcudes a huge row of Annabelle hydrangeas along the back (at the house), the large Red Bud in the front (centered by the four windows), 5 drift roses that become more like a ground cover, and six knock-our rose bushes.
One of my favorite things is walking down our hallway and seeing this Red Bud and all the flowers outside.

(It was a small coincidence that big kev matches half the plants!)

Since that picture was taken, we have planted more perennials on the edges to better define the circle. After hours at the store, we chose some colorful small flowers and more ground covers.

Connected to that, we put in a new plant bed to fill the empty wall that you would see walking up the sidewalk along the garage:

The little tree straight ahead is a Coral Bark Maple that turns a gorgeous red/orange color throughout the winter months, giving us a difference in color while most trees look drab. It's accompanied by some boxwoods, bluebells and astilbes (all of which do great in shaded areas.)
Along the garage, we did 12 boxwoods and under the windows, 4 limelight hydrangeas. I can't wait for those babies to bloom! They'll be a perfect compliment to the window design and bring more of a variety of color and height.

The last new area we had made was a little section at the beginning our sidewalk, where it connects to the driveway. I love this little globe spruce, and it seems so much more welcoming. Before, this space seemed like people wouldn't naturally use that sidewalk because it was narrow and unwelcoming. Now it feels so friendly and inviting!

Because of the crazy amounts of rain we've had, a lot of the plants have been sprouting like crazy! Everyone says that the first year of landscaping is rough, as it doesn't look finished. Then, it gets better over the years as the plants fill out. I'll admit that the the big section in front doesn't look quite complete yet, but as the roses spread and the ground covers grow, it'll be beautiful!
In the mean time, our hydrangeas are loving their new home!

As for the roses, they aren't loving us at the moment. We've pruned them a few times and have been spoiling them with special rose fertilizer. Maybe we need to start chatting with them daily.

There you have it, another HUGE project almost completed! (I never say "fully completed" these days, there always seems to be other things to do...including a large pile of mulch that is still in our driveway ;)

Can you believe that our little home used to look like this?

Amazing what some paint and plants will do!)
(and gracious family members :)

Fourth of July weekend means that the majority of the state of Michigan pack up their belongings and head "Up North." To Michiganders, this is a normal term but I realize after living out of state that it doesn't mean a lot to anyone else.
To me, it brings me back to some of my favorite memories; parasailing and jet skiing in Lake Michigan, relaxing days on the beach, eating too much at my dad's cabin, going on long walks just because, roasting marshmallows around the camp fire on the beach, putt-putt golf competitions, fishing in the 'big lake' and fileting up our catches for dinner, or just sitting around all day long snacking and napping (it's one of the only places where I can 1)sleep in and 2)take multiple naps per day)
It's been mine and siblings favorite places for years, but these days it's difficult for all of us to be at the same place together, let alone go to one of our most treasured. Last year, we met at my in-laws cabin (also just as wonderful- something about going "up north" in general just makes me giddy), but this year we made it back to Traverse City. Although time was short, it was well worth the drive.
We all doted on Hannah the entire time (my sister taught her how to skip rocks, which included picking it up and throwing it down with pure excitement!), enjoyed some Michigan vineyards and simply got to spend time together. With all three of us and our families living in different places, these times are rare and treasured.
And the icing on the cake? On my trek 'up north,' I spent some time with the in-laws for a few days. Talk about a family fun-filled weekend! Last year I attempted to water ski, and this year we tried paddleboarding. Happy to report that paddleboarding may be my new favorite hobby (and it's much easier than getting up on those skis!!).

 Although I adore my family, Maizy and I missed Kyle and I couldn't wait to get home. Due to a crazy call schedule, I hadn't seen the hubs in a week. My weekend ended with a romantic date in the hospital cafeteria. Complete with food trays and scrubs.

Hope you had a wonderful 4th of July Weekend!

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