Our 2010: The Year Of Painting

This year was a whirlwind!  Just looking at the projects we accomplished this year makes me feel like lying on the couch and vegetating!  Most days I look around our new-to-us house and feel like nothing is finished yet, not one room feels complete.  But the beauty of photography (even my sub-par photography!) is seeing the dramatic changes already.  Just reviewing what we've done makes me excited for the year ahead and all the projects that will ultimately make this house our home.

2010 projects were all about the power of paint.  Here are a few of my favorite changes:

Our last master bedroom:
Our previous house refused to sell in this terrible economy, to the tune of 18 months on the market!  When I ran out of closets to organize and junk to get rid of, I painted our bedroom from chocolate brown to sandy white, and the very next day we got two offers!!!  {Just for the record I loved the room both ways!}

Our new house was covered in various shades of peach paint.....the walls, the trim, the bathroom vanity, even the brick on the family room fireplace (hence, the "Peach Pit").  There was also an abundance of orange-y woodwork that needed freshening up.
Within 24 hours of owning the house I became a painting maniac.

The family room....

The living room..........

Seanie's Room......

Hannah's Room......

The foyer.....

I've actually painted every room in the house except for the master bathroom, the kid's bathroom, and the mudroom, which is part of our garage and is going to get a major makover this spring.  The kitchen will also be getting a facelift until we can afford to tear the whole thing out and put in our dream kitchen (thats on the 5 year plan!)

When I look back I'm fired up about how far our house has come in the past few months.  Now that the foundation has been laid, it's time to bring some style into the house!

Moving to a smaller, older home could have been a difficult transition, but inspiration came to us in the form of DIY and home decor blogs
Just seeing other's fabulous before-and-after projects made us truly excited at the prospect of finding a diamond in the rough and transforming it into everything we want in a home.  While we have a long way to go, we're pouring our blood, sweat and tears into this house more than any other we've lived in.  We're changing it's look and feel, making it more functional for our family, and giving a builder's basic colonial some character.  We are learning new skills and putting to work talents that we have been blessed with, and the fruits of our labor are so gratifying. 

I'm so grateful to all of you, bloggers, readers, friends and family, who have given us ideas and support since beginning this journey. 
for visiting Shine Your Light and making this process fun,
for your lovely comments and feedback,
and for your friendship in 2010!

*May you have a blessed and healthy year ahead!*

The Lettered Cottage


A Calendar For A New Year Ahead

Can you believe it's almost time to welcome in 2011?

 First Night - Boston/photo via boston.com

I, for one, am very excited for the promise a new year holds.  Like any other year, 2010 had it's happy times and hard ones too.  I look forward to the joys of the future with gratitude in my heart for the many ways I am blessed - including having you in my life through this humble little blog!

I am inspired daily by the talents and generosity that are shared in blogland.  While you are mulling over all the great projects and to-dos you want to accomplish in the coming year, check out this free, downloadable, chic and snazzy 12-month calendar from Elle at SWITCHEROOm.  I keep my calendar on my computer, but also need to have one on my bulletin board because I am so visual - if an important event is not right in front of me I might completely forget it.  Look how cute Elle's designs are!
To download, all you have to do is follow Elle's blog
Hop on over to check it out and enter the new year all organized and ready to tackle lots of fun projects!  Thanks for this great download, Elle!

I love hearing from you! {Comments welcome!}


Graham Cracker "Gingerbread" Houses

Hi everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

We spent time with friends and family, and now I am enjoying the serenity of not having to get anything done for the big event.  The kids are all happily occupied with fun surprises from Santa, snow is gently falling outside my window, and I am savoring my coffee while catching up on blog reading.  Blissful!
These little buddies get together for gingerbread house making every year.  We squeezed it in before Christmas, but now I'm sorry because I think this would make a really fun afternoon to spend together over Christmas vacation.   Next year I am definitely proposing that we save this fun and messy activity for AFTER the holidays! 

Look at these unique and beautiful works of art!  I see 6 future architects and home designers here!
If you haven't made them this year with your kiddos, try this {lazy} method.

Mix up the sugar "glue" that holds the pieces together. 
>>To make royal icing properly, beat 1 lb. confectionary sugar, 3 large egg whites and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar for 7-10 minutes until very thick.  Place into bag for piping and keep covered or it will harden too quickly.
>>To make royal icing improperly - for kids who like to lick their fingers while building their houses - just mix together 1 lb. confectionary sugar with a bit of water until it is the consistency of toothpaste.  Add the water slowly, starting with 3 tablespoons, as it requires very little.  If the consistency is too thin, add more sugar. 

Be creative in what you decorate with.
Use graham crackers for the walls. Rummage through your pantry for any foods that might make a fun house.  Stale licorice - perfect!  Leftover candy from Halloween that no one likes - great!  Cereal is always fun, especially Frosted Mini-Wheats that make great roof tiles with snow already on them.  Coconut makes great snow.  Popcorn is fun to use also.  Of course, we did buy some candy and turned a blind eye while the kids ate half and used the rest to decorate with - isn't that part of the fun??

We gave each child a baggy half-filled with icing, snipped off a very small corner, and showed them how to squeeze the icing out.  They glued the bottom of the graham cracker "walls" to their paper plate.  The kids had creative freedom to design and construct any shape they wanted and it was quite funny trying to get the structures to stay up!  After building the structure, we let them set for a few minutes before decorating.
{Tip:  buy individual-sized milk or juice cartons, have the kids consume the contents and then glue the graham crackers right to the box.  This is very useful for little ones.)

Landscape your little house.
I quickly whipped up a batch of Rice Krispy Treats (using the recipe on the box) and colored it green to use as Christmas trees along with the gingerbread houses.  Simply add green food coloring to the melted butter & marshmallows before adding the Rice Krispies.  Turn out the marshmallow-coated cereal onto wax paper and using a spatula, divide into pieces.  When cooled slightly, spray your hands with Pam (to make handling the cereal easier), and then let each child form the Rice Krispy treats into the shape of bushes or evergreen trees and decorate with icing and candies if desired.  The RKTs also make great wreaths for the houses.  The kids loved this step.

Here are the architects with their masterpieces - a happy memory of a fun afternoon - and bellies full of sweet treats! 
Do something that makes you smile today!

I love hearing from you! {Comments welcome!}


Christmas Home Tour

Come on in to share some holiday cheer! 
Would you like a cup of tea, a glass of wine?

This little fake tree is for our most special ornaments.......
I gave the first pewter ornament to Mark in 1995 when we were dating for only a month. 
We both knew it was the beginning.  :)
Every year since then I have given Mark an ornament that symbolizes something in our lives:
We were married in 1997....
1998 was the year for Mark to golf as much as humanly possible - because we had our first baby on the way...
In 2000 our little one became two....
In 2002 two became three...
And in 2006 the master of furryness became part of our family!
Some day I hope the pewter ornaments will cover every inch of our big tree, representing all the years and milestones with my crazy, cherished little family.

Speaking of the big tree, this jolly old soul made it's way into the corner of the family room, decorated by some fabulous tree designers aged 12, 10 and 8:

The door into the house from the garage that everyone comes through (to my horror - because it's always a disaster area of jackets, shoes and backpacks flung far and wide) got a little Christmas cheer as well.
{I love my vinyl chalkboard that my lovely friend B gave me.  It's peelable and I use it to write welcome messages on it for all the neighborhood younguns who cross that threshold daily.  I think B got it at Homegoods or Marshalls so keep your eye out!  That crazy sassy sparkly wreath is from Target two or three years ago.  It is pure happiness.}

A little "vintage" mixed in with my kid's decorations.......
{Photo above is me around age 8 or 9 - that jacket was SWEET - it had a belt and I loved it!}

Come on into the living room - this is the space that doubles as my "office".  I'm into a serene palette of white, silver and a little gold so I kept the Christmas decorating in here simple for a little stress-free zone for Mama.  I used what I had already and added some of our ornaments to shells and pinecones for a little sparkle, a little nature,
a whole lotta ahhhhhh.

My mother gave us this nativity scene for our first married Christmas and I treasure it.  I have to keep it near me because in this house objects such as a football or the odd pillow might fly through the air at a moment's notice.  Since this photo below was taken Seanie rearranged it for the 13th time so that everyone, including the animals, are all looking at the bed of hay patiently waiting
{PS would you say that little tree is a bit out of scale?  Let's call it a bush.}

Last year I covered an old frame in Mod Podge and dipped it into a paper plate of glitter, then printed out a verse from Joy to the World.  The little frame sits alongside the Nativy scene, reminding our family of the real reason for the season.

I have found that simple little touches are all we need to make the house feel fun and festive for the Christmas season.  In our kitchen, the only holiday decoration is this little Santa (keeping my newest batch of homemade vanilla extract company while it brews.)

In the kid's playroom I hung all the photo cards we've sent out over the years.  I love to see how my own kids have changed from one year to the next. 

We also have our paperwhites growing in this sunny room (my rosemary plant from the summer is holding on for dear life.)
The first one just bloomed today!

All my kids made these burlap handprints wreaths in kindergarten that year after year I hang on their bedroom doors {yes, that's my son's bedroom door - he has no privacy.  Good thing he's only 8.}
Wouldn't this make a great gift for grandparents? 

Nothing brings more Christmas cheer to our home than the cards we receive.  I love staying in touch with friends and family this way, and seeing how children have grown from one year to the next! 

Christmastime in our new home.....
....we are blessed.

Even the pup is enjoying the tree!

May you have a joyous Christmas with your own family and friends, and a healthy and happy year ahead.
Thanks for visiting Shine Your Light today!

And thank you to my friend Rene at Cottage and Vine, who is hosting a Christmas Tour of Homes today!
{Click on this link below to take the tour!}

Cottage and Vine

I love hearing from you! {Comments welcome!}


Our Foyer

Hi friends!  The crazy thing about all the cosmetic makeovers in our new house is that there was so much to do that we don't often stop to reflect on where this house was five months ago.  It was never in bad shape; I keep reminding myself how blessed we were to find a house that didn't have one bit of ugly wallpaper!
Like every room in the house, the foyer has been a work in progress.  The trim was mixed - the front door and casing was painted a pale peachy-yellow, and the remainder was varnished wood.  The stairs were carpeted but had been abused by the previous owner's pets.  {Apparently they ran amuck throughout the house because the upstairs carpets were in horrific shape also!  Lovely.}  The foyer turned into a bigger project than I had imagined when we decided to pull up the runner ourselves and paint the risers and spindles.  What a job that was, but I am so thrilled with the results!

In the spring we plan on sanding and restaining the railings a very dark ebony, and maybe the treads too - I can't wait!  In the meantime I present to you our foyer's before and afters (phase I).

This is the foyer before we took ownership.  It's not awful - I actually like the color on the accent wall; it just made the room rather dark, and the room overall just needed updating.
Below:  so much brighter today!
The morning light streams through the windows, creating a cheerful spot for the kids to sit and put on their shoes before running out the door for the bus. 

Remember when I handpainted this design from Emily at Jones Design Company?

 I painted this little wicker dresser, formerly found in my babies' nursery, and gave it new life in the foyer.  I added a glass top and splurged on knew knobs from Anthropologie.  I love the punch of black in my neutral house and the non-brassy gold.

The stairs before and then in process - already looking 100x better! Any wood that was painted was first lightly sanded and then primed with oil-based Kilz. Despite the fact that I loathe using oil-based products (they smell horrid and are a beast to clean up) Kilz hides stains and is a MUST for helping the paint to adhere, especially in a high-traffic area. Don't skip this step if you are painting wood!

{I was so eager to take photos of the after I forgot to take the paint can out of the shot - forgive me.}

 The view from the kitchen towards the front door - which I painted black:

I took this before photo below after I started painting the trim around the door, but imagine the whole casing, door and wall all painted that beigey-peachy-yellowy color.  The pictures don't do it justice.  In real life it was blecky-looking.  (I just made that up but I think it expresses the color perfectly.  Say it out loud.  BLECK!!)  We still have to change out all that lovely brass hardware down the road.

This little light was a bug collector - yuck - and the shiny brass had to go.  I replaced it with an outdoor light from Lowes (only $40!  Not bad for lighting!) and love it.  I know not all of you are fans of outdoor lighting indoors, but I LOVE it!  Look at the seeded glass and the way it casts a star-shape across the ceiling! 

And last but not least - just this week I found this little *washable* rug at Marshall's for only $20!  It doesn't hide all of the ugly, outdated tile, but it is a huge improvement I think.  Isn't she cute?

When all the painting was finally done, Seanie and I had some fun taking action photos, jumping off the bottom step and trying to capture each other in air.  I love this one of Sean - look at his glasses and that face!

Seanie couldn't get me mid-air (although I made lots of attempts!) but he did capture me modeling my lovely cutting edge painting fashions - hot, don't you think? :)  As my neighbors know, this is seriously how I go out in public every day.  Yeah.  I'm a fashion emergency.  Whatever.

Thanks for visiting me and touring my foyer!  While we still have work ahead of us (phase II), including sanding and revarnishing the treads, restaining the railings, adding some interesting moulding, and changing out the brass hardware (or spraypainting it like my friend Kristin did at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia)  this room is already feeling a lot more like us and our style. 
What a difference a little paint can make!

Have a happy day!