guest room before after

I’m mostly German, but my husband has Scandinavian in his blood, and as I began looking around at ideas for our guest room, I kept coming back to the simple, clean lines and white, with touches of red that I found online. Here’s the board I started.

It was such an antidote to the conglomeration of leftovers that had been put in there.guest room from hallway

You know how it is. You have a room. It needs stuff. So you grab what you have and throw it together. There’s no shame in that – that’s life!

But after several years of beige walls and mismatched furniture, it was time for a change.

Here’s the BEFORE tour.

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Doesn’t exactly scream, “welcome to our house! relax!”

So I went to work.

First, time to lose the beige walls. I went for Nano White from the Home Decorators paint collection at the Home Depot.


Since I was doing this room on a budget, I found a headboard on Craigslist. It was bad 60’s brown, fake wood, and the perfect candidate to paint a nice semi-gloss black.


I knew the room needed help in the lighting department. I love the look of wall sconces, so I chose almost-black, swing-arm, plug-in sconcesIMG_7544 IMG_7547 IMG_7576

For the remaining furniture, besides the bed, I shopped from around the house, or bought second-hand. I used an old pair of end tables that used to be in my living room two houses ago, as the nightstands. As luck would have it, they were already black.IMG_7594 IMG_7597

The antique dresser was handed down from my husband’s aunt and uncle. The mirror used to be in our dining room, in our last house.

I picked up the vintage wood luggage rack at a flea market for about $20, and found a small bench at the World’s Longest Yard Sale for $6. Both needed a makeover to fit into the black, white, and red color scheme.guest room bench in progress

I picked up the great suzani fabric from Online Fabric Store a while back, and had enough to make the two curtain panels as well as cover the small bench seat.

curtain panel fixed

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I gave the mismatched picture frames a cohesive coat of black paint. and got some black curtain tiebacks.

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For the bedding, I reused a plain white quilt I had. I found some red striped sheets at HomeGoods, as well as the map throw pillow. I used a needle and thread to add a small heart over our hometown. IMG_7580 IMG_7585The grain sack pillows were a find from the Country Living fair in Columbus, OH, last year. (Highly recommend going sometime – great stuff!) I also found a red throw blanket on clearance at Pottery Barn.


The bed skirt I found at Target on clearance, and it was about an inch or so too long, so it was bunching up on the floor. I put it on the bed, and pinned to where it needed to be hemmed, then did a simple straight stitch all the way around with my sewing machine. IMG_7569 IMG_7581

Now for the finishing touches.  I had a piece of reclaimed lumber that someone had given me. IMG_7542I painted a little message for our guests on it, added a sawtooth hanger to the back and hung it up. I also grabbed a set of wall hooks from the home improvement store, so people have somewhere to hang their purse, hat, keys, whatever. I hung both over the painted luggage rack. guest room wall hooks

guest room corner

Also from the Country Living fair, came this adorable little tin with a chalkboard inside. I put our wi-fi info on it and hung it up.IMG_7549

The walls still needed a little something so I pulled out a great, neutral boat pic that I’ve had forever, and hung it opposite the bed.IMG_7583

OK…Are you ready for the AFTER tour? Let’s do it!guest room tour1

guest room tour2

guest room tour3

guest room tour4

guest room tour5

guest room tour6

guest room tour7

guest room tour8

One last word on pulling this room together. Picking out lighting, bedding, decorative touches, and fabric took me over a year, easily. Did I get frustrated that making this room over was taking SO LONG? Sometimes. But I live in the real world. I do what I can, when I can, with as much DIY and fiscal sense as I can. That’s how we roll. It’s easy to go online and see a reveal post, and think the process is faster or easier for other people. Making things better, making them beautiful takes time, money, and energy. What combination of those things it takes will be a little different for everyone.  I’ve learned to be OK with that.

guest room before collage

guest room after collage

We’ve had several friends and family members stay here since the makeover, and all have slept well. So I’m calling the room a success.   :-) Thanks so much for stopping by!

guest room before after






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top5tipsmanaginghomeprojectAs I typed this, a couple of really nice guys were hammering away right outside my back door, where a cute little enclosed back porch used to be.  We had some great family dinners out there.

Back porch

Right off the back porch was a nice little yard,Caroline Backyard

where so many games of catch and tag and whiffle ball have been played, that I lost count.IMG_7943 IMG_7957 IMG_7959 IMG_7962 IMG_7975

It’s where my kids have celebrated birthdays and caught lightning bugs and picked up several thousand walnuts from the tree we have.

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So why did my husband and I agree to trade all that in for a huge construction project, piles of dirt and debris, and months of noise and disruption? We may have an illness… this is the third house we’ve owned, and the third one onto which we’ve built an addition.

The surprise, perhaps, is that we honestly don’t regret any of them.

IMG_7065Our current house is situated on an old street in a great neighborhood with a great school district.  We wrote offers on four houses in the district before we got this one.  It’s a great house overall, and for the most part we live very well in it. But. Last winter was very snowy and very, very cold and we really tired of scraping our cars off.  We have no garage.  One of the joys of buying an old house. (This was taken from our front porch.)


My finished basement houses our family room.  Since I left TV news and started my own business, our finished basement also houses my projects, furniture pieces I’m working on. (Dad, too.)IMG_6535 Other people’s stuff. My stuff. Lots of stuff. Did I mention the stuff? I do my best to keep them moving and cull the stuff from time to time but it is the nature of the beast when you do what I do.

The bottom line is this.  Our main level just cannot accommodate a nice, big TV room where our whole family, plus friends or grandparents, can hang out and enjoy each other.  Our front door opens right into this:  IMG_1430

It has a lovely fireplace and built-in shelves where we love to sit and read, where the kids play, where my in-laws have happy hour when they come to visit.  It’s a great little gathering room.   I decided early on that we would not put a TV in there at all.  We listen to the radio, we read, we nap.  But we don’t watch TV in there.  And that’s how we like it.

So when last winter hit it was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.  We started asking around for contractors.  Turned out a good friend whom I’ve known forever is a contractor, and that he was just the guy for the job.  But then we hemmed and hawed about spending the money.  It’s a lot of money. So how did we decide to add on?

Here were all the PROs about doing this project:

Would give us much needed storage space for our cars and other outdoor equipment.

Would make our lives easier (having an attached garage is of course not a necessity.  It is a luxury.)

Would give us the opportunity to put a family room on top of the garage, freeing up the basement for my work.

Even with the significant investment, we would not have a house that was too expensive for reasonable resale value.  We didn’t want to price ourselves out of the market.  We talked with the agent we used to buy the house, and she reinforced this for us.

Here are the CONs.

Cost. It is a big investment.  There’s just no getting around that. But there are ways to mitigate.  I’ll expand on that…

We’d have to lose a great old tree in order to get the driveway back to the new garage. (I will just tell you, before you send me hate mail, that I hated losing that tree. We love our trees. If there was any other way to do this, we wouldn’t have taken that tree down. Sniff.)

IMG_3711Noise and disturbance to us and our neighbors.  We try to be as considerate as possible, but construction is loud and messy and our property sits in close proximity to three others. We of course took all that into consideration.IMG_4319

Our back yard would shrink.  We thought long and hard about doing this addition, and what size it should be.

Time and energy. Think you’re just going to hire some people, write checks, and be done with it?  Not so much.  I’ll go into this more in a minute.

In the end, the PROs outweighed the CONs.  We have moved several times as a family and have no desire to do it again any time soon.  So that meant that if this project was really something that was important to us, we should do it.

Now, there may be something you noticed that was missing from our list.  Did you catch it?

I did not list resale value under the PROs.  It was not a mistake.

IMG_3908Could an attached two-car garage in a desirable school district be valuable for resale?  Possibly.  Can anyone, anywhere accurately predict the real estate market, or what a specific buyer would be willing to pay for our house at some point in the future?


The answer, no matter what anyone wants you to believe is NO. THEY CAN’T.

I say this to underline the fact that as unbelievable as it may be to some, we forced ourselves not to factor possible resale value into our decision, as much as possible.  We are choosing carefully how we spend our money on this project, keeping costs in check while still maintaining quality, so that we do what’s best for us and our family, without compromising our financial security.  In short, we are building this addition for US.

IMG_4156With all that said, here are my own personal insights on keeping costs down and keeping sanity in check while adding onto a house:



 1. Get opinions, and then get more.

One contractor may have a good idea for how to accomplish what you want.  But the fourth contractor you talk to may have the BEST idea.  Ask around.  Ask friends who have built houses or added on, what they like best about their home and what they would have done differently.

2. Be honest about your finances.IMG_4503

DO NOT depend on some future sale of your house for your financial security.  If you are a professional house flipper, then that’s your prerogative.  Otherwise, be honest with yourself and your significant other. How are you going to finance the project? How will it affect your day to day budget? What about future investments that you may be taking money away from – college, retirement, vacations? We sought out a financial advisor before we ever turned our first shovel of dirt.

IMG_4514(TIP: When you’re planning your project, watch out for what is and what is not included in the cost.  Your contractor’s proposal may be right in line with your budget.  BUT… I bet you it doesn’t include furnishing and decorating your new space.  If your yard will be disturbed, do you know how much it will cost to landscape and replant your property? What about the amount of money you’ll be paying each month to heat/cool/clean/maintain the rooms?)

3. Be honest about your time.IMG_4515

You will have to spend time meeting with your contractor, and sometimes their subcontractors.  You will be asked to make choices about what you want, which will require research on your part. Prepare to get lost in the rabbit holes of Pinterest, Houzz, and Hometalk, as well as the aisles of several home improvement stores searching for information and inspiration. You’ll want to make sure the space you end up with is what you really want.  That doesn’t just happen.  If you don’t know what you want, you’re likely to get it.  

IMG_4578Take a brutally honest look at your lifestyle and your schedule. Do you have time – or are you willing to make time – to be on top of this project and do it well?

IMG_45284. Expect the Unexpected.

Watch home shows on TV for about 2 minutes and you’ll soon realize that every time there’s something unexpected that turns up in a home buying/renovating/addition project, the people look shocked.  Puh-leeeeese.  I’ll save you the drama.  IMG_4162Here’s the deal – once you turn a shovel, open a wall, or pull off a piece of roof, just EXPECT that something crazy/wrong/old/leaky/asbestos-ridden will be in there.  It just will.  If by some miracle it’s not, and you never have the knock at your door from a contractor with that look on his face, then get down on your knees, thank your lucky stars, and go buy a lottery ticket because your house is a freak of nature.

And do not tell me about it. :-)

The rest of you, have a bottle of wine in your pantry and some wiggle room in your budget, because IT WILL HAPPEN. Now you can just rest easy and wait for it, and it will roll off your back like water off a duck.  Chances are, it’s really not the end of the world.IMG_4596


With each of our projects, I’ve learned something.  Something about how space can be used, when walls are necessary vs. when they’re not, and the kinds of things that can really make a space sing.  Do not be afraid to question what your contractor is doing, why he is putting something where he’s putting it, or if it might be better off put somewhere else.  I have memories of these kinds of things from each home.  In the first one, our contractor was working on our master closet and had HVAC ducts and plumbing running up and down one end of the closet.  He was going to just wall them off, effectively decreasing the square footage in there.  I asked him if I could have the space in between them back – about 2 feet wide by a foot deep or so.  He asked me why I’d want that – we ended up putting shelves in that space from almost floor to ceiling and it housed all kind of shoes, etc.  I’m awfully glad I asked.  He had not thought of it because although he was an awesome contractor, he probably does not care where his shoes are stored in his closet.

And I am also a “storage space” hoarder.  (Case in point below: that time when Dad and I ripped out a friend’s only bathroom and gave it a much needed overhaul, complete with – you guessed it – built in shelves snuggled in around water pipes.)  You can read that here.  :-)


In planning this addition, the original plan was to build stairs in the new garage, up into the existing house.  But we soon realized that the stairs were going to eat into our space in there, which we really didn’t want, and couldn’t spare. Instead, I asked if it would be possible to cut a doorway from the garage (which is being built at basement level), through our existing foundation, into our existing basement, and use the stairs we already have, thus eliminating the need to build a new stairwell.  It is going to cost a minimal amount more, but it will be so much better, in my opinion! I’ll be turning my small craft room into the mudroom, which is fine because I’m gaining the whole rest of the basement as workspace.

I hope this post has been helpful.  I’d love to hear about how other families think through these things, too.



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TwoToneDresserCollageA family friend recently brought me a dresser, and as soon as I laid eyes on it, I knew it was something special.

It had beautiful wood veneer top and drawer fronts, the original brass hardware,


gorgeous turned legs in front, and just a very special sense about it.  But.  It was TIRED.   The veneer on the drawers was chipped in places.  The legs were scratched and scuffed all over.

The top was exhausted.


Believe it or not, I really feel like the furniture I work on tells me what should be done. No, I’m not hearing voices, and yes, sometimes in the process I have to go back and readjust or redo some parts because either I or the client wants something a bit different.Ginger'sDresserVeneerBefore

But most of the time, each piece, with its own edges and angles, corners and carvings, details and designs, sort of begs for a color, a stain, sanding, distressing, and whatever other treatments or effects will bring out the kind of beauty that will most resonate with its owner.

I felt the body of this dresser would look great in black, to show off those legs, and contrast against the wood grain which we would revive on the top and drawer fronts.  My go-to paint, when someone wants black, is Plaster Paint Company’s Black Tie.  I wrote to them quite a while ago, interested in the paint.  They sent me a can.  I used it on a couple projects and liked it enough to go buy another.  gingerdresserplasterpaint

Now, I keep it in my stash.  It is very opaque, and has always worked for me. It does have a very plaster-y, dry, chalk-y finish to it so you have to put a topcoat/sealer on, and I’ve used both Minwax Polycrylic as well as various waxes to seal it. If you’re looking for a great black, I’d suggest giving it a try.  I even had a question about waxing it the first time, and decided to email the Plaster Paint Co. and ask for advice.  She got right back to me and I was able to finish the piece. :-)

Now, back to the dresser.

gingerdressercornercat I took my Ryobi Corner Cat to the veneer top, and carefully sanded it down to bare wood.


I chose a Minwax stain (Early American) for the top to match the lighter wood of the drawer detail.



Here’s a great pic to show you – the top of the dresser is the only part that I re-stained.  The drawers are several different tones of veneer and all blend gorgeously together.  Far too pretty to paint over, which is why we chose to do the body of the dresser in black and show off all this beautiful wood grain. (the furniture told me to do that. :-)gingerdresserwoodI used a Minwax stain stick to fill in chipped areas of the darker veneer on the drawers.gingerveneerrepair

Then I cleaned the drawer fronts up well, and gave the entire thing a couple coats of semi-gloss Minwax Polycrylic.



I used Brasso to clean up the pulls, which in all honesty took a long time just because of the nooks and crannies on these.  I used cotton swabs and toothpicks to clean them up.  Painstaking but SO worth it.

That bright, ornate pop of brass is just stunning!

There is also a mirror, which we did in black, and which the owner may or may not use with this piece.

I was grateful for the chance to work on such a piece of craftsmanship as this.  gingertopviewfinished

As you can see, it took very little actual “updating” to get this lovely antique into great shape, and ready for its next several decades.gingerdresserlegsfinished

You might also be able to see, I wasn’t able to rid this piece of every single one of its “flaws.”  And that’s OK.  It has a story to tell.  It’s not new.  And it doesn’t need to be perfect to be beautiful.  gingerdresserfinal
Its owner will give this piece a home in a place where they are working to get a fresh start in life. I think this piece is the perfect symbol of how, even though things are not how you want them to be, there is beauty to be found, with some effort and a little faith.
I hope this thing of beauty brings them a little happiness every time they see it.

I know it did for me.


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Hi friends!

Spring has sprung!!!!
We might be a little too excited about it here. My 5 year old announced on the way to the car this morning that she was so happy “it’s summer!” :-) 

Today I want to share a recent home update I took on.  I have been slowly revamping our living room. We have an older, bungalow style home, without a foyer. Our front door opens right into our living room. 

And the wall where our couch sits is the first thing people see when they come to our home.  I had been given a beautiful, large art print which we enjoyed for a while, but I thought it was time for a refresh, and I wanted the space to really speak to us and who we are.

Over several months, I’ve been collecting items for this gallery. And it just needed one final trip to the home decor/craft store to pick up the last few things to really pull it together and finish it.
It took me a whole day to hang everything. But now that it’s complete, I wanted to share how I went about collecting the items, what I looked for, and what I ended up using.

I numbered the things on my wall, and I’ll explain each item and why I chose to include it.

Here we go!

1. Portrait of my kids, from a couple of years ago. I love this picture. And it’s a close up, which means it’s a good option for something at the top of the wall. It shows up from far away. 

2. A print of a geological map of the part of Minnesota where my Father-In-Law was born and raised. I believe I searched eBay for this. It’s a link to our family’s past, something that’s important for us to pass on to our kids.  And it’s an easy way to get Papa Mike to start telling stories about when he was young. :-) 

3. Snapshot of the hotel where my husband and I stayed on our trip to Florence, Italy.  It was the most amazing trip of my life, and we went to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Super special.
I put it in a frame with a fancy kind of design on it. I bought two of the exact same frames, for continuity. The next one is used in item 7. I bought them at Hobby Lobby.

4. Plaster-type round empty frame.  I picked this up at Hobby Lobby also. I wasn’t totally sure how I was going to incorporate it.  I like it because it’s got great texture and is a nice round shape, to break up all the squares and rectangles on the wall.  I ended up using it as a backdrop to hang a small letter T in front of it.  

The letters all came from Hobby Lobby. The black T is a metal piece that hangs from a ribbon.  I hung the frame first, then put a nail right above it to hang the letter. I just played with the things I had bought until I came up with a combination I liked. 

5. Subway art I made myself, with special attractions and things that are unique to this area, where I grew up.  Anyone can do this.  I used a wall hanging that I bought at the thrift store, painted black, and then painted on the words I wanted with white craft paint, freehand. You could stencil words, or make a collage online on a site like

6. Photo of me, my two sisters and my mom, all with our wedding rings on our hand, the day my youngest sister got married.  Very very special to me, and a pretty shot, too. The flowers and hands soften up a wall with a lot of black and white on it. It’s a square shape, and kind of smaller, which I liked. My sister gave it to me framed.

7. Another snapshot from our trip to Italy, the day we went out into wine country. Best. Day. Ever. The frame matches the frame in number 3.

8. 3-D letters that are my first initial, an ampersand sign, and my husband’s first initial. 

9. Picture of our first dance. We’ve had this for, well, over ten years now. I believe in keeping your wedding photos out – it’s the basis for who we are as a family! It’s in a slightly distressed black frame and basic white mat.

10. Original oil painting on canvas, in an old wood frame. This was a gift from a family member, and it also reminds us of Italy.  It brings some color and texture to the gallery. Important to break up the monotone colors.

11. Print of the State of Kentucky, that I got from one of the daily-deals-type sites. I bought it months ago and have just been holding onto it. It’s in an old gold-tone frame with scroll designs on it, that came from the thrift store…again, months ago.  You might not think to put a frame like this in with all the black ones. I think it keeps it all fresh and adds to the eclectic vibe I wanted.

12. 3-D letter T, that is covered with burlap on the front. There are three letter T’s in this grouping. I wasn’t sure if I was going to use them all together, but I grabbed them, and played with it until I liked it.  If you shop somewhere you can return things, I say in this kind of case, buy them, and if you don’t like them, return them.  You never know what you might like up on the wall.

13. Photograph of the Calatrava, the unique and beautiful waterfront building in Milwaukee that houses the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Matt’s parents live in Milwaukee and this is one of their very favorite places to go.  Matt and I also met in Milwaukee :-) I bought it on Etsy and framed it in a clean, dark wood frame with a white mat.  To be honest, I can’t really explain why I chose a brown frame over a black.  I like the tone of the wood, and we have a lot of brown in the house (hardwood floors, leather chair across from this gallery wall) and I think it helps the wall tie in with all that.
I’d highly suggest looking on places like Etsy for art photography from places that are special to you. There are some wonderful options out there, and you can support local artists. Our print came matted for $18.

14. Pair of horseshoe shaped wall hooks. Or at least that’s what I think they are. :-) I found these at my favorite thrift store, maybe a year ago. I grabbed them as soon as I saw them.  We live in Kentucky and this is horse country! I have no idea where they came from, but they spoke to me. They’re black metal, and they really make a statement, I think. No one has the same pair, that I know of yet!

15. Portrait of my kids from a couple of years ago. I love this picture, that a good friend took. 

16. DIY letter T art with a chevron background. I made this from an old wall hanging we had, that I was done with. Painted it and put our initial in the middle. Free!

17. Portrait of our family. It was taken the same session as the photo in number 15.


There you have it.

Here is what I learned in putting this wall together.

First – start collecting. The more variety of places you can look, the better, thrift shops, yard sales, online, department stores, craft and hobby stores… just keep your eyes open for something that speaks to you. If you like it, grab it.

Second – include some variety into the grouping.  Texture, color, size, shape, medium (i.e. photograph, painting, etc.) This is what keeps the eye interested and moving around the wall.

Third – eclectic doesn’t have to mean scatter-brained or completely haphazard, and if you have a little Type A in you, “eclectic” might stress you out a little. Don’t let it. You don’t have to have one of every kind of frame there is. Repeating a choice is a way to keep the collection feeling cohesive.

Fourth – symmetry. This is just personal preference. There are plenty of ways to arrange your wall. But if you are anxious about how it might turn out, or you prefer a more calm aesthetic, instead of a really random, mismatched group of things, it is perfectly OK to arrange the gallery in a symmetrical fashion. 

If you look at how I laid things out, you can see there is a general balance from one side to another. To that end, a simple way to organize the pieces is to align the pieces in some way.

The three pieces I have in the center of this wall are all about the same width (this was just dumb luck but you could certainly plan it that way. They form a nice, neat column from top to bottom.

The middle row of frames is all aligned with the bottom of my subway art. Everything else sort of filled itself in from there.

After months of collecting, and hours of shopping, planning, and hanging, I finally have a focal feature in the room where people enter my home. It’s unique. It’s eye-catching. It’s US.  And it was SO worth it!

Hope this inspires you.
Let me know if you do a gallery wall of your own!


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For Christmas last year, I decided to do something a little out of the ordinary for my two nieces and my two kids. The four cousins are separated by many miles, and they love when they get to spend time together. Saying their goodbyes at the ends of visits are hard.

As someone who used to write for a living, I love the written word. I hatched a plan.

They were ages 7-11 and were all reading and writing on their own, and I wanted to put together a gift that would keep them all close in spirit, even when they were back home in their own states.IMG_2255

So I started the Write Back Soon Club, and “enrolled” all four.IMG_2284

Here’s how it works.IMG_2247IMG_2245

I put together a box for each child. After searching around, I found these stationery kits. Personalized letterhead lined paper and envelopes printed with the child’s return address on them. Almost a year later, I can say they’ve worked out great. (I don’t get paid to say this. I just like them and they were a great value.)

IMG_2243I bought a sheet of fun postage stamps for each child.

IMG_2241I added a new pen

IMG_2244and some decorative rubber stamps and an ink pad. Stickers would work, too.

I found a couple of books about correspondence and gave one to each set of siblings to share. (here’s one, and another.)IMG_2246IMG_2240

I thought through the list of friends and family members who live away from the kids that I thought the kids would be most likely to write to, typed up their names and mailing addresses, printed one for each kid and laminated it.

Last, I typed up a Welcome Letter. This is important!IMG_2249

Here’s what it reads:

“Welcome to the Write Back Soon Club! You are now a member of a very special club. In this box are all the tools you will need to write a great letter, mail it, and (hopefully) get letters in return!

Long before there were phones, tv’s, iPads, or computers (and even before there were cars, planes, and trains,) people sent each other letters to keep in touch when they could not be together. Some people think letter writing is a lost art, but you are about to show them they’re wrong.

Letters are special for many reasons. Anyone can write a letter, even kids. You don’t have to have your parents’ permission, or ask to borrow their phone or use a computer. You can sit down, and write to someone you’re thinking of without very much – if any – help.  Letters are a way to connect with someone. You get to share what you’re thinking and ask about them.

When someone gets a letter in the mail, they will probably be excited! It’s not a bill they have to pay, or junk mail, or the newspaper. A letter was written just for them, and they can read it over and over and feel happy that you sent it.  Years from now, that person might even keep letters you sent them, and it could be interesting to go back and read what you wrote. It’s a little like a time capsule!

Here are the very simple directions for writing letters as part of the Write Back Soon Club:

  1. Think of something you want to TELL. It could be how you’re feeling that day, about what you’re learning in school, something great that happened to you, or even something that’s making you sad or bothering you. Just make sure you TELL the reader something about YOU.
  2. ASK them something about themselves. What have they done lately that’s interesting? Have they taken any trips? Are they learning a new hobby? It could just be as simple as ASKING them how they are doing. ASKING is as important as TELLING. It lets the reader know you want to find out more about them, not just share about you.
  3. End your letter however you like. Your books might help with this. You could write, “Love, Penelope” or “Your friend, Brady” but make sure after you end your letter and sign your name that you add “WRITE BACK SOON!” This will let the person know you are hoping to get a letter in return. Sometimes people forget, or get too busy to return your letter. That’s OK. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep writing. They’ll love reading your letters even if they can’t or don’t write back (but we hope they do!)

Enjoy this gift. If you run out of paper or stamps, you can ask for more and we will get them. Most of all, remember how fortunate you are to have people in your lives to write letters to, and be thankful for them. Just like we are thankful for each of you.

Lots of love, Anne & Matt”

IMG_2256I had the cousins all open their gifts at the same time, and I asked them to take turns reading the letter out loud. We all listened. I may have gotten a little misty eyed. It was a pretty great moment.

My fear, though, was that

1. They’d openly roll their eyes, shove it back under the tree, and move on to something more exciting. (they didn’t.)

2. Even worse, it would sit and collect dust all year. (much to my surprise, it hasn’t. They haven’t written every week or even every month by any means. But it’s October and my daughter just got two letters from her cousins this week. Heart = bursting.)

Their faces when they see they’ve gotten a letter in the mail? So happy!IMG_2338  IMG_2342 IMG_2343

If you have kids in your life who you think would like this, I say go for it. If you can’t set up two or more kids to write to each other, you could get yourself a box and become their pen pal. Send them jokes. Ask about their friends. Tell them stories about when they were little. I bet over time, you’ll convert them to a letter writer. Even if they don’t grow up loving to write letters, they’ll have a box full of memories they can reopen when they’re having a bad day, and you will have sent a message that they are loved, and worth spending time on. IMG_2250

That’s a pretty great gift.

Write Back Soon,


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wall organizer

Hello! I wanted to share one of those short and sweet projects that I asked my Dad to build.

We’d designed and built some wall organizers to hold papers, files, and keys.


He used various pieces of plywood, and simple trim. I added the hooks from the home improvement store.

Then we got a request for a custom organizer for a teen girl’s room. She needed a place to pin up photos in addition to a place for papers and keys.

We got the dimensions, and Dad used the same basic principles to construct this.

My memory has failed to recall exactly which Minwax stain I used here – I believe it was Dark Walnut. I’ve used that shade on lots of things before and I really like it. I may have also used a coat of Red Mahogany. I finished it with water-based Polycrylic in satin finish, two coats. Dries in a snap.

Then I added dark cork tiles, which I cut using a craft knife, and simply glued in place. They weren’t as wide as I needed, so I butted two tiles up next to one another and it worked out just fine.


Once the stain and poly were dry, I stenciled the girl’s name on.






The customer was thrilled with how this turned out, and so was I!

I love the richness that dark wood brings to a space.  plain wall organizer

Thanks for stopping by!


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ThanksgivingcollageIt’s that time of year.  The Halloween costumes are put away.  The frost is on the pumpkins (ugh). It’s nearly Turkey Time.  And while all the stuffing is seasoned and the cranberries are cooked, there are probably some younger ones who need something besides screen time to do.

Here are some ideas I think are great:

1. If you’re reading this while there’s still time to get to the store, I recommend grabbing one of these paper table covers from Walmart.
For $1.97 you can give your kiddos permission to write and color all over their table.  Love it!


2. I like to promote an attitude of gratitude, and there’s no better time for that than Thanksgiving! Depending on the age of your children, there are a million ways you can get them thinking thankful thoughts.  A simple construction paper craft could do it, so I mocked up a little handprint turkey napkin ring. Super easy.

IMG_4553.JPGYou can use brown grocery bags if you don’t have construction paper. Trace a hand. Cut out four “feathers” and each feather gets one thing the person is thankful for.

I cut out a little piece for the neck too. Kids can use a glue stick to attach it all together. Then glue a little band of paper on the back of the hand and tape closed around the guest’s napkin.

Each person can read what they are thankful for before everyone opens their napkins to eat!



OR – If you have kids who are old enough to responsibly handle an iPhone or iPad, and prefer a digital option, have them act as a reporter and take the gadget around to use as a video camera, and “interview” guests about what they are grateful for, and why.  (Need some prompts? Try these: “What was your best moment this year?” “Who is your favorite person to share good news with?” “What has made you smile most recently?”  “How has someone made your life better?”  They can review their recordings and write up a story on what they found.  Let them report back to you on their findings before Grace is said at the table.

3. Take time to remember those who protect our freedom.  Veterans Day is also in November, so your kids may have just learned about that in school.  Have them take it a step further, and write a letter to a member of the military serving overseas.  An organization called Operation Gratitude is collecting them this year, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to make one and get it sent. Here’s the details and makes sure to read the guidelines: Operation Gratitude.  When you have some ready, send them to:


17330 Victory Boulevard

Van Nuys, CA 91406

UPDATE: Some chapters of the American Red Cross are collecting cards, too!


If you are local to Cincinnati, you can send your cards to the chapter here at

2111 Dana Ave.

Cincinnati, OH 45207

Just please remember the guidelines! Cards do not need envelopes. And glitter is a no-no.  Don’t send personal contact information. Just a cheerful, sincere card addressed “Dear Service member” or similar.

Have younger kids work with older kids, or with another  grown-up. They can share a little about themselves, and most of all share a message that they are being thought of, appreciated, and kept close in thoughts at a time when the service member is probably far from home and loved ones. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for children to work on their spelling, grammar, penmanship, AND gratitude to me!

I hope you and your loved ones have a most wonderful holiday.

Let me know if any of these little tips work around your table.





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Hey everyone!
Hope you all had a great week. I am in the midst of training for a half marathon in a few weeks and I had my 8 mile run today. Oh. Dear.
I am exhausted and my whole body hurts so I am writing this post from my couch with a glass of wine.

So to distract myself from the ache in my muscles let’s talk furniture!
I had some fun working on these chairs for a great client this week.




She has fantastic taste and decided on a wide navy striped fabric from Premier Prints for the upholstery, and an espresso stain on the wood.

Once I took the backs off, she and I both decided we liked the chairs better with no back cushion! So we left it off. (We’re crazy like that.)

Wowsers, what a difference!



Love these. Love how simple and striking they are. Minwax Polyshades is your friend, people!

Now how about some great CL finds this week? Let’s go.

1. This hall tree is amazing. So gorgeous!! Hooks, umbrella stand, marble and mirror and it’s $50!


A vintage piece like this is a one stop shop method for adding charm, character, and function to your entry.

Source: Decor Arts Now

Source: Decor Arts Now (and be sure to read the post attached to this picture for excellent tips on making a new construction home look “old.” I’ve pinned it myself for future reference!)

2. Have you seen any projects that have gone for the card-catalog look? Lots of small drawers with that cool label holder hardware on them?

D Lawless Hardware Label Holder

(Btw, D. Lawless Hardware is an excellent source for label holders. I met the founder’s grandson at the 2014 Haven Conference, and what a cool company!)

My friend Bee from Windgate Lane did this one. Adorable, right?!


That look is totally attainable. You just have to look for the right piece of furniture. Which is what I found on Craigslist this week!

This dresser.

IMG_4094.JPGPut three of those label holders on the three spaces across the top, and maybe some matching cup pulls on the bottom two doors.D Lawless Hardware Cup Pull

This piece would make a perfect “card catalog” entry table for a mere $25!Craigslist Hall Table

Give family members their own drawer to stash their stuff.  Again, add some of those label holders and you are good to go (although I really like the dark stain on the body of this one on Etsy)!

Card Catalog Foyer Table via Etsy

And this cool side table is practically screaming. “Someone please make me a card catalog!”  Can you hear it? Yeah you can! $40!

Craigslist Side Table with Tiny Drawers


3. I love campaign furniture. It has those metal – brass if you’re lucky – pieces on the front of it, at the corners.

Here’s a great set for the right space. Maybe a boy’s room?Campaign Desk and Hutch

Campaign Dresser

And here’s a smaller piece, too.

Campaign Nightstand

Gorgeous, no?!

That’s it for this week. Have a lovely one, friends!



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Hey friends!

I’m still getting this place Fall-ified.

(What? It’s totally a word.)

This project was one of those happy accidents. I had a faux pumpkin – the plastic foam kind that are for sale at craft stores this time of year.

faux pumpkin I sat it on my craft table and when I sat down and started to work on another project, I looked up and saw my can of Minwax Polyshades sitting there. Bingo!

polyshades on pumpkinThis project is as simple as one coat of Espresso Gloss Polyshades on a faux pumpkin. Polyshades is a fantastic product, by the way, and I’m not being paid to say that.

liquor cabinet with polyshadesI’ve used it on several pieces of furniture now and just love it. It’s polyurethane that has a stain mixed right in.

blue poly chairIt’s a one stop shop for giving wood a new look. Love it. Comes in Satin finish too :-)

So poly that pumpkin. Go for it!

poly on pumpkin 2

Once it’s dry, you can embellish it if you want. I had a package of silver toned furniture nails that I got from Lowe’s. They are $1.30 for a pack of 25.  pumpkin studs

You can lay them out on the table to get an idea of what design you want to use. fall studs

Press them into place on your shiny new pumpkin and get ready to wow the neighbors!

fall pumpkin

I absolutely love the way this turned out.

stained pumpkin doneGlam and pretty and totally customizable.

stained studded pumpkinI think they’d make great hostess gifts or teacher gifts!



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Welcome fall with a simple, pretty project. Read on to see how I did mine!

Hey there!

Fall is in the air and I’m here today to share a very inexpensive way to add a little autumnal flair to your home, with things easily accessible and easy on the wallet.

Coffee can and a thrifted shirt make for an inexpensive decorative touch

Coffee can and a thrifted shirt make for an inexpensive decorative touch

My first stop was my favorite thrift store. Hit the boys or the men’s department and find a good fall-ish shirt. I picked up a rusty orange colored button down with a little stain on the front pocket, for $2.99.

Then I scooted over to the Dollar Tree. I grabbed a few of their faux flowers and leaves on stems. $1.00 each. At home, I had waiting for me a hot glue gun (although you could use craft glue, or whatever alternative you have that works), a roll of twine, and an empty coffee can.

Check to see how much fabric you'll need to cover your can

Check to see how much fabric you’ll need to cover your can

I got a rough estimate of the size of the can I was going to cover and I cut a panel from the back of the shirt that would be plenty big enough to cover it.

fall centerpiece cut fabricCut a strip a couple of inches taller than the can so you can wrap the fabric over the top and secure it inside the can, as well as fold it underneath and secure there. I peeled off the coffee label first.

fall centerpiece glue edge

Turn over the edge of the fabric where you want to start covering the can and glue it down to prevent fraying.

fall centerpiece cover canThen just start working your way around the can, gluing and pressing the fabric down as you go.

fall centerpiece can insideWhen you get to the end, leave enough fabric so that you can fold the edge over and secure it like you did the beginning, to prevent fraying.

fall centerpiece almost coveredOnce the can is covered, wrap the twine around the can and glue in back to secure.

fall centerpiece wrap twine

Tie a bow in front and glue underneath it.fall centerpiece twine bow

Arrange the stems of leaves and flowers inside and you’re done!

fall centerpiece complete

And keep your eyes peeled at the thrift store for some brass items to warm up your fall mantel.  fall centerpiece mantel done

These candlesticks (and $1 glittered pumpkins, also from the Dollar Tree) did the trick for me.

fall centerpiece mantel

Happy Fall!


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Hi friends!

It’s been way too long since I did a good Craigslist post and there are some really great finds out there (on the Cincinnati site) right now!  I’ve even picked one or two up myself.

So without further ado, here are some fab pieces you should consider scooping up if you’re in the market for any furniture!

1. How about a $10 bookcase?

Look at how cute I'd be with some paint! :-)

Look at how cute I’d be with some paint! :-)

This one reminds me of a sweet little  number that Land of Nod sells.  Even on sale the cute one from LoN is $250!! I mean come on…..jenny-lind-bookcase-azure

You too could have the look, for a whole lot less moolah.  This is an easy target for spray painting too.  Repeat after me, “Spindles and paintbrushes don’t mix.”  Good. Now go grab it before I do.  Perfect for a kids room or playroom.

2. I love scrolling through the cute dress-up storage that people have made , like this “Dress Up Headquarters” posted over at A Turtle’s Life for Me!

Dress Up HQ via A Turtle's Life for Me

Dress Up HQ via A Turtle’s Life for Me

And this little cabinet would be just perfect, don’t you think?

Craigslist Dress-Up Dresser

It is only $10!  What if you took out the bottom drawer, and made that area a little shoe shelf, then used the drawer to hang necklaces on the wall?

Etsy jewelry display drawer


3. This is a unique find, and for the right kid, would be a TOTAL score! I love this little wood workbench.

Kids Wood Workbench on Craigslist

Kids Wood Workbench on Craigslist

My head just swims with all the fun ways you could paint it and accessorize it, like this posted over on Ana White’s fabulous site.

Kids Workbench

I think I’d stain the legs, too, and then paint the pegboard in the back with their name… like “Sam’s Workshop.”  Add some hooks for hardhats and the like, and a bin for scrap wood pieces from Grandpa’s shop.  Waa laa. Boy. Heaven.  And the Craigslist version is only $15!! You couldn’t make it that cheap. Score!

4.  Some of the things I love buying most secondhand are storage and organization pieces. I love storage – who doesn’t? But I hate paying a lot for it.  Pieces like this one are so super versatile.Craigslist Wood Shelves

Mudroom. Closet. Foyer. Bedroom. Laundry room.  Anywhere. It is wood, has shelves and cubbies, and is $20!

Looks an awful lot like the beginnings of this fabulous entry organizer from Better Homes & Gardens, huh?

BHG Entry Organization

Or, if the open space at the top isn’t working for you, add another board across the top and increase the storage even more.  Aren’t the cubbies on the sides perfect looking for small bags/purses or shoes? What about books? Toys? Arts and crafts supplies.  Love it.

5. Last but not least is this charming display shelf/bookcase/etagere.

Craigslist Etagere

I just love it. Think it looks too dark and heavy? Think again.

Somerset Bay St. Bart's Etagere

This one from Somerset Bay will set you back $2000. For reals.

Save your money. You can paint this $35 Craigslist find. And then go on vacation. :-)

Thank you so much for reading. Have a suggestion or something you’d like to see on these posts? Let me know in the comments! I just love to hear from you.

Have a wonderful day!



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