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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovation, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

First baby expected April 2018!

12.27.2017

Best projects we did in 2017!

I often see recaps with a few awesome room redos or home upgrades people did in a year, but am totally intimidated to make something similar for us! We bought the Stanley 90's reno in October of 2016 and we did most of the big-impact projects in 2017 (once the walls were patched, paint was done, and flooring had arrived and we installed it). We touched every inch of that house, most of it in 2017. But I'll try to just hit the highlights!

Here goes. BEST projects I did in 2017!


Best Home Renovation Projects in 2017


January


Our bed! A Cragislist find and some painting skills learned from other projects led to this elegant four-poster.

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12.21.2017

What does your Christmas list say about you? And, what’s on my wishlist this year

Real talk for a minute, then the fun part.

I get anxiety about getting gifts. I have for a long time now, probably since I started buying things for myself and understanding money. I worry that unless I LOVE the gift, the person who gave it to me may have more than what I would have spent on it, or not found a good deal, or maybe will be hurt if I don't use it ALL the time.

Jason has helped me talk through this anxiety a lot but I still have a hard time making a Christmas list for myself. With my sort-of-minimalist goals (I don't want too much stuff in the house so I want it all to be stuff I really love) and anxiety about other people's budgets, I have a hard time coming up with general categories of things I'd like, and I feel weird asking for A specific bag or makeup thing or whatever. And, I usually buy myself whatever clothes or house things I want because they're on sale this time of year and I think through it and plan it out and buy them.

BUT I did make a short list of things I'd like this year, and I realized it probably says a lot about me. I was thinking it would just show my anxiety and difficulty having fun with gifts (I feel like I am a bummer sometimes), but I think it reflects where I am in my life right now too.


My Christmas Wishlist


I feel like I'm supposed to ask for just treat things, like the robes and bronzers and metallic headphones you see in gift guides. But I don't use or want most of those things. What do I want, really??? Practical things and very specific things I buy myself. So I'm proud that I came up with this list of things others could buy me!

(Also, Jason and my mom told me I can't ask for stuff for the baby. Darn, that would have been practical.)

  1. A treat: Soy candles that smell like trees. I bought a couple fir ones this season but have burned 1.5 of them and I'm in a candle phase now so I'd like some natural, not-too-sweet, plant-ey smelling ones to burn the next couple months. 
  2. Practical: A wide-angle lens for my full-frame camera that can take whole room shots. I struggled SO much with this at the Stanley 90's Reno and got so frustrated by my camera at the end. The recommended ones (I like this article) are $1,500 or $1,700 new... (and I cannot bring myself to spend that.) but I did some research for wide-angle lenses under $500 and I found this good option, also recommended by some articles, for a much more stomach-able price. 
  3. A treat that I got overwhelmed by and need help shopping for: Hearth & Hand Magnolia line from Target! I shared the most popular and my faves here but as I said there I really couldn't choose to buy much of it myself! Plus, we don't have our own place right now so nowhere to put it. But I do really like a lot of it. 
  4. Practical and a treat: Gift cards. I know they're impersonal, but they're sort of perfect for me because I can use and appreciate the full value the gifter shares with me, cause I can really think about my purchases and buy what I want. And, they're small and can be used later once we move into our next home! I think Home Goods and Target gift cards would be great because I can use them on home decor which I love and/or baby stuff later this year.

So, look at that. I made a list. (4 days before Christmas, but the point is I made it.) And I it's 50/50 practical things (cause I'm still me) and gift-ey treats! 

What's usually on your Christmas list? The same things every year, like cashmere and chocolate, or tech gadgets, or books? Or do you make a list of specific items and send your family links?

I wonder what kinds of Christmas list-making are most common! I also wonder what the mix of items says about you... are you practical or into luxury? Are you a homebody or adventurer? Give it some thought this year and it might make you feel more grateful for the gifts you want and get!

On my list this year:

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12.19.2017

Fair isle: The practical minimalist's ugly Christmas sweater alternative

I realized something this year. I went to the annual White Elephant-style mug swap some friends do, which is SO fun, and I read last-minute on the invite that it was also an ugly sweater party. I have one red patterned, not really ugly, sweater... but I thought back, and I've worn that to this same party at least once before. Last year I wore a red plaid shirt and black vest. In a hurry, I put on the same thing this year. No ugly sweater for me.

But I realized... I kind of want to get rid of that red sweater. It's like 5 years old, and kind of pilling, and I only wear it around the holidays. I don't have room in my sweater drawer for bulky sweaters I only wear once or twice a year and feel tired of.

I've never owned a true ugly Christmas sweater because I definitely don't want something I only wear once to a party. I don't consider myself a serious, capital letter, MINIMALIST, but I am practical and I do enjoy owning only the things I need or love.

But what's the alternative? I do like being festive for holiday parties! Even work. I realized what I really wanted before that Christmas mug swap was a really cute, chunky, cozy, navy fair isle sweater. Versatile but also festive!

I went to two stores but didn't find exactly what I wanted, and I don't like shopping in a rush anyway. So after the party I did some online shopping and found some great fair isle pattern sweaters!

I ordered one two!
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12.15.2017

Our beautiful, FAST holiday cards this year!

I have a new goal for next year--order my holiday cards on Thanksgiving weekend--but I've never been that early before. This year I just ordered them this week and thankfully it was fast!!

This post is in partnership with Minted, who provided our holiday cards this year.

How to order holiday cards--FAST


I do this every year, but oops--it's time to order holiday cards NOW and I haven't sat down yet to do it. This year we traded taking photos with our friends at the Christmas tree farm, so I had the photos first weekend of December.

I've got a routine down now--I love ordering from Minted, and it's super easy now to 1) pick a design, 2) get it finalized, and 3) place the order with ALL THE RETURN ADDRESSES ALREADY PRINTED on the envelopes!! It is the greatest thing.

First, we chose the photo we wanted to use. I liked one of the more normal ones, but Jason really wanted to share this goofy one--it's holiday wishes and baby announcement in one! Minted lets you see all their designs with your photo of choice so it's really easy to see which ones might work with your photo.

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12.13.2017

Fun, practical, affordable stocking stuffer gift guide 2017! For her, him, and anyone

Oops--I always forget about stocking stuffers. Chocolate bars are a tradition in my family, but it's fun to get a little creative and include a few thoughtful, personal small items. And a great opportunity to throw in your faves of the season for others to enjoy!

I did just that with this gift guide. There are fabulous mugs under $5, the coolest jewelry (all on sale right now), treat-yo-self items for men and women, and more!
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12.11.2017

21.5 week pregnancy update--and the bump

I've now made it past the halfway point and fully transitioned to maternity jeans and loose tops. Man, this process has been crazy and I'm celebrating that we've made it more than halfway by now!

I wanted to share this update at 20 weeks but we were in the end stages of selling the house and I didn't have a chance. But I figured, most first-time moms don't deliver at 40 weeks, anyway, so maybe I'm still right around halfway there. ;) And it turns out my updates are MUCH more interesting this week than they would have been a week or two ago!

I definitely started feeling better after my post-first-trimester update post and while I'm still not back to my normal self, I'm able to eat a lot more kinds of foods and I don't feel icky anywhere near as often. And, my energy levels are so much better and I'm able to work out a few days a week again, but shorter workouts.

Two big changes since that update. First, around week 17-18, I felt a kick. I think. I wasn't quite sure, what it was, but I felt more in the week following and now I feel them all the time! They are so special. It does sort of feel like gas, like I read it would, but not where you'd expect to feel that. Little taps, usually on the left side. I've tried to put Jason's hand on my belly when I feel them but he says he can't feel anything. Looking forward to when he can.

Second, the bump. While I've been wearing the hair elastic jeans buttonhole extender solution for quite a few weeks, months even, I didn't feel like I had a bump until just recently. I just felt bloated. When we took Christmas card photos with our friends at the tree farm the other day, my friend said I had to show it off!

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12.08.2017

Our simple holiday decor and my FAVORITE Christmas home item!

Last year at Christmastime our house was lacking flooring, art, furniture... oh, and our furnace was broken for most of that month. We did have a tree, but beyond that it wasn't very Christmassy! I really looked forward to when I could decorate our new home for Christmas, but that time never fully came because of the change of plans and move.

But I couldn't be totally robbed of it. I pulled out a very few of our Christmas decorations, my absolute favorites, and enjoyed them for several weeks before we moved!! I wanted to share my top few items with you, and the ONE holiday decor piece I am most excited about--and is so easy to bring with us in our temporary living situation, too!

Here's our family room with my few fave pieces in it. Just adding a red plaid throw, fair isle stockings, and an old-fashioned wooden nutracker made me so happy.
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12.06.2017

Why our first offer fell through

Real estate talk. Buying, fixing up, and selling the Stanley 90's Reno in about a year's time was a huge lesson for us in hard work, drywall repair, and real estate risk. We didn't intend to sell it so quickly; we thought we'd be there several years at least (read more about why we sold here) and weren't thinking about immediate profit. But, we were able to sell it to our advantage because:

  1. We bought it for way under appraised value because it was in such bad cosmetic shape!
  2. The market improved.
  3. We did a ton of cosmetic upgrades! It showed well.

We had a ton of initial interest and received 4 offers the first weekend it was on the market, 3 of them over the asking price. We accepted a very strong one and the buyer moved forward with inspections, etc. But that offer fell through, and rather than hide in shame, I thought I'd share why!

Our buyer was interested in our home as an investment property, not to live in herself. She had a huge down payment, about 75% of her offered price, and even wanted to buy a bunch of our furniture!

She had inspections done on the home. A few minor things, like a loose faucet and sticky windows, came up. We installed the faucet so we could fix that (oops). The windows are stick, yes... they are the original 90's aluminum ones that we didn't think it was worth it to replace in this type of home.

But, three BIG issues came up, too.
  1. The roof. The inspector said it was past its useful life. We knew the roof was old when we bought the house, but our inspection a year prior had said it had 3-5 years left. We did find a couple issues and we had them patched, but weren't ready to replace the roof yet. But here's where we went wrong:
    1. Well, I think our painters power-washed the moss off... I've heard multiple places that power-washing takes years off a roof. Not sure if that's always true, but it was for us. The inspector said the grit of the roof was gone and specs of it were in the gutters.
    2. We should have asked the previous seller for a roof certification. Sometimes banks will require this when a roof is on the older side, and a roof certifier comes out and can sometimes "certify" that the roof has 3-5 years of life left. Then he may cover it if the roof fails before then. Our agent didn't advise us about this when we bought, and I really wish we'd known to ask about it then.
  2. Water in the crawlspace. It's a pretty flat yard and has a standard crawlspace, which we've been in before (see these terrifying photos), but apparently something went wrong with the vents or the drain, maybe rodents, some dirt was covering a drain, some insulation was pulled down, there were signs of water in the crawlspace. This kind of thing is pretty standard around here, but I guess didn't come up in our inspection a year ago. I dunno. We got a quote for these repairs, about $3k. Not that bad and totally fixable by a drainage contractor.
  3. THE BIG ONE. Remember the awful DIY paint job the house had when we bought it? Well. Sounds like the previous owners also tried a DIY or super budget contractor job of re-siding the house a few years ago, as well. The siding is good Hardie Plank stuff, but was installed improperly.
    1. They used huge nails instead of tiny finish nails hidden under the overlapping pieces.
    2. The overlap of each piece is not consistent so some are at different angles.
    3. They didn't stagger the ends of each piece so there are a couple places where the joins (caulked) form a channel for water to run down.
    4. The windows aren't flashed property and the siding sticks out beyond the window trim in some places.
    5. With all of these issues, the contractor we talked to doubted that they used the right kind of moisture barrier, so the house could be rotting under the siding. 

You can't just fix those siding issues. When you remove it (up to $2k fees for disposal, by the way) it crumbles. You have to do all new. The quote we got from this very affordable contractor that works with our realtor was $13,000 to replace the siding. Plus $2,300 to paint it (again! We just had it painted!).

So. That was some bad news. And--the inspection report we got a year ago DID NOT address this siding issue.

So, we were quite sobered by the results of our buyer's inspection report. We got our realtor's favorite contractor our right away to give us some bids on repairs for the big items.

But before we could even go back to our buyer and offer a credit or to do some of the work, she decided it was too much to handle and walked away.

Luckily, we hadn't started packing yet! We debated doing the repairs and going back on the market in the spring, but I will be very pregnant then and we were so ready to move on at that point. We put the house back on the market, disclosing the issues and being up front with other agents about why the house was back on the market after a sale fail. We also raised the price $5k, since we'd received multiple offers at that price and knew we'd need a little extra cushion to credit a future buyer.

So, after the first weekend back on the market, we received another offer. Full price, first-time homebuyers aware of the issues. 

We moved forward with them and while we didn't see their inspection report, we understand the same issues came up. They asked for some repairs: HVAC servicing and fix some ducts in the crawlspace, repair the roof again (not replace, for some reason--sounds like it's time to me to replace it!), and re-side the whole house.

We didn't want to lose them, but I also didn't want to credit more than $10k! Or do the work before they moved in. It's winter; not a great time to re-side and paint a house. And I don't want to deal with it. But, of course they want the sale to go through, too. They were willing to accept a credit rather than ask us to do the work. We ended up negotiating a $14k credit off the listing price. More than I was hoping, but we still ended up comfortably in the end.

We closed yesterday. We hope the buyers love their new home!!!!!

Thought I'd end on a positive note. Here's our "after" tour again!


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12.04.2017

New or expecting mom gift guide--for MOM, not baby!

I'm an expecting mom for the first time this holiday season, and my first thought was to request gifts from our baby registry--but both Jason and my mom immediately said that wasn't right!! Christmas gifts this year for me should be for me, they said, not the baby. But I was a little stumped!

So I asked folks on my Instagram what they thought a new or expecting mom should get for Christmas... lots of good ideas! And a few things in common--pampering, luxury, comfort, pretty things for mom. And some sentimental things.

So I rounded up everyone's (and my) favorite ideas and compiled this gift guide of special things for new or expecting moms!

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