The Built Ins

When we were house hunting, almost every house we saw had a room we weren’t sure what we would do with. We didn’t really  need a “living room” and a “family room.” We also knew we wanted a basement if we could find it, and many times a basement doubles as a living room, and Tucker just doesn’t need his own sitting room, so what could we do with that third TV/hang out space? Two rooms on the same level of the house that served the TV/hanging out purpose was actually #1 on my Do Not Want list. As I think back, I think we only saw one house that met that criteria, and that house missed the mark on many things we did want. So I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to a) get creative or b) have a room we just weren’t going to use.

One thing I was definitely looking for was more storage. We did (finally) get rid of a lot when we moved. But we own a lot of books and things we might not read any time soon, but we definitely want to keep. So we (with some help from Pinterest) came up with the solution to build our very own custom built in bookshelves. Big, relatively-permanent project? Let’s do this! (Thankfully we have lots of family with expertise and tools, both of which we borrowed a lot. This project would have gone much less smoothly and, most importantly, been a lot less fun, without our wonderful families there with us!)

I got the inspiration from this tutorial, though I did not by any means follow it. Nor am I making this a tutorial because Paul and I are not experts on building built in bookshelves.

In that tutorial the people started with unfinished upper kitchen cabinets. I wanted to start with unfinished base cabinets because a) I wanted as much storage as possible, b) we had plenty of room for them and c) that eliminated the step of framing out the bottom. But mostly a.

We ended up getting ours at Home Depot. Lowe’s, Home Depot and Menard’s all carry pretty much the same thing. In the end, Home Depot’s were the cheapest to start with and they were on sale. In the end we paid just under $300 for all 3.

The experts at work

The dogs ... hard at work ...


The counter for the cabinets was a bit of a challenge. No matter how we figured it, we’d have to piece something together. We weren’t going to be able to find a piece of wood large enough to cover the whole thing. In the end we got three poplar planks (we also used poplar for the facing) and Paul used the Kreg system (more on that later) to attach them all to each other and then he sanded and sanded and sanded and sanded … until it looked like one piece of wood!

The Counter

The benefit of building these before moving in was that the great room could be a painting room ... and the front room ... and the garage ...

The benefit of building these before moving in was that the great room could be a painting room … and the front room … and the garage …

We also decided on MDF for our shelving. The plan all along was to paint the whole thing white. MDF is already smooth and ready to paint, it’s going to be straight and level, it was strong enough for what we needed and the price was good. We used a Kreg system to attach the shelves to the uprights using pocket holes on the bottom and wood glue, which we puttied in and painted over – no screws showing! The Kreg ran us about $100, but it was worth every single cent, even if we never use it again. It was easy to use and made the project look professional.

More experts hard at work

More experts hard at work

Building the ShelvesHere it is with the poplar facing:

Plus FacingThen we painted every last inch of all of it! Once it all had a few good coats, we put it all together!

DSCN1560The next step was to touch up the paint, fill in some gaps with wood fill, and caulk all along the walls. We also installed crown molding around the top and baseboard around the bottom to match the baseboard in the existing room.

And voila!

Tucker likes to spend his afternoons in the library, sleeping in the sun.

Tucker likes to spend his afternoons in the library, sleeping in the sun.

We have hardware that needs to be installed on the drawers and doors, and we also have sconces that will illuminate the front of the shelves. The sconces involve getting an electrician out, so we’re letting funds recoup a bit before tackling that step of the process. Not to mention the fact that the arrangement of things on the shelves will be a work in progress for, well, ever.

Want to see my thoughts as they progressed through the project? Check out my Pinterest board here.

Everything turned out great in the end, but we ended up with a few, um, situations. Like ourfacing for the top being about 1/4 an inch short, and crown molding being installed at the wrong angle. In the end, we love them. They serve the purposes we need and they make that room a great introduction to our home.


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Home Sweet Home

As many of you know, Paul and I recently purchased our first home and moved!

Here is just a quick photo tour of the house, pre-move in. Our House

Sorry that picture is so tiny. I yoinked it from the realtor’s website and, well, right now it’s snowy and cold and I don’t want to go take a new one! The house is essentially one big circle. The tour will be given clockwise. So, imagine you came in the front door and then went to your left.

DSCN1504This is the front room of the house (See the front door in the upper left corner?) This room got a biiiig makeover. More on that later.

DSCN1505The hallway (on the right) leads to the three bedrooms and one of the bathrooms.

This bathroom is down the hallway to the right, affectionately called the “blue bathroom.”

Blue Bathroom

Across from the blue bathroom is the blue room/craft room /Spider Man room.

The blue roomDon’t anyone dare for a second think this is a Cubs room! Just don’t do it! This is my new craft room. I ditched the red curtain, but the Spidey lightswitch plate is still there. Maybe it will grow on me?

At the end of the hallway is the pink room.

Guest Room

What? You don’t looooove the mauve carpet? New carpet or refinishing the hardwoods (we hope are) underneath is a project for the “someday” list. This is our new guest room.

Down the hall to the right you will find the master.

Master from hallwayThe forest green wall would be a lovely bluish grey now, except, when I was taping off to paint I realized that there is evil wallpaper underneath the paint. Damn. So, being who we are, we have to “do it right,” if you will. So the wallpaper needs to come down before the paint can go up. That will happen sometime soon, but for now we are focusing on unpacking and a few other projects.

Master from bathroomThis view is of the master bathroom from the master bedroom.

DSCN1515This is the view of the master bathroom from the bedroom. As you can see, it has two doors, which is what makes the house a big ole’ circle. (The walls are less lime than they look here.)

DSCN1516View from the hallway looking through the master bath to the master bedroom. Someday that floor tile will probably go away and become lovely white penny tile with grey grout (same for the blue bath). Another thing for the “someday” list. And the tile baseboard (yes, that’s painted tile) will become unpainted (if we’re lucky) or painted a different color (if we’re reasonable.)

If you look at the photo two above this (bathroom picture minus toilet) you will see that hallway leads into the kitchen/great room. On the right in that hallway you will find the laundry closet. (I don’t know if it qualifies as a “room” persay.)

Laundry ClosetThis room has taken great strides since we moved in. More on that later.

When you leave the short hallway from the master bath to the great room, the kitchen is in the corner of the room directly to your right.

KitchenSquare footage wise, I think this is a bit smaller than our old kitchen, but the storage is much greater. Also, brand new no-one-has-grossed-up fridge! Yes! Gas stove and mounted microwave/hood are also on the “someday” list.

And now for what is probably our favorite part of this home. The greatroom!



This view is actually from the doorway that goes between the the front room and great room. The breakfast bar/kitchen are to the left. This room. is. huge. So what did we do the first weekend we owned the house? We bought a sectional couch. An L-shaped sectional that is approximately 8′ in one direction and 10 in the other. Want to come over? We will have a place for you to sit (couch tentatively expected to be delivered between April 9 and 11)! You can see some of the deck and the .33 acre yard through the patio doors on the left.

Also, another of the great features (I’m definitely not biased) of this home is out that door. The Monon Trail is an Indianapolis park that extends about 10.4 miles from downtown all the way up to Carmel (northern suburb) but it joins with a couple of other paths as well. What used to be a rail corridor is now a trail used by approximately 4,000 people each day (according to Wikipedia.) And we have a gate in our back fence that opens onto a small stair that leads right to it. We can hope on our bikes and take a 15-minute bike trip to our favorite Broad Ripple restaurants. We can walk up to the ice cream shop just a few blocks north. We can people watch (oh yes, the Monon attracts all types.)

If you want an idea of how important the Monon is to this city, take this example. Today we (like many other regions) are supposed to get 6 to 10 inches of snow (to quote my dear friend Amanda, go home March, you’re drunk.). A salt truck drove by this afternoon. On the Monon. Later in the day when it was raining ice pellets? Runners, joggers, bicyclists and one odd man in a trench coat went by. And we are so excited to have it at our back door. Now we just need summer (or, at the very least, spring) to show up so we can enjoy it in all it’s glory …


Anyway, Monon gush over. Back to the great room. Our office space is in the upper right corner of this photo. The garage door is also immediately to the right. That door in the middle of the photo leads to stairs which lead to the basement. Most of this room and a small, finished basement were added on in 2001.

I forgot to take a picture of the basement. It’s pretty much a finished room with a storage closet and a small sump pump/radon system closet. It also has theater-style lighting. Ooo. Ahh.

Since I have taken these photos we have moved all of our stuff in and jumped into some projects. I’ll try to be a bit better about keeping up the blog. 🙂 Cause I know you’re all dying to know!







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Seafood Stew, Game of Thrones Style

Paul and I are both reading the (amazing) series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Mr. Martin frequently talks about the food the characters eat in details. One that seems to occur frequently is a rich stew served in hollowed out trenchers of yesterday’s bread. (Are you hungry yet? I am.) They also talk a lot about the fish stew. Being a lover of all seafood (at least everything I have tried.) I thought that the newly cool temperatures and an unexpected Friday at home were the perfect excuse to make a big pot of seafood stew.

I did a little research on the recipe, looking at my usual go-tos, like my America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, a soup specific cookbook I got Paul as a gift eons ago, and the FoodNetwork website.

In the end I chose the recipe that I knew all along I’d probably end up using. (Although a curried salmon soup recipe from the soup cookbook gave it a run for it’s money. That one is definitely on my list.)

I went with the Thick Seafood Stew from Inn at the Crossroads, a website dedicated to creating the recipes for some of the foods mentioned in the books. They even have a cookbook out! We don’t have it, but someday we will, I don’t doubt.

I was going to use my breadmaker but Paul and I decided it was a special meal and we should just go all out and actually make bread from scratch with our own four hands, so that’s what we did. The night before we made some bread bowls:

I made a 1.5 batch because, well, it just worked out that the amount of ingredients I had made it silly not to just make a bigger back. The first step is actually making your own fish broth. All this involves is boiling a piece of fish for about 10 minutes. While that is boiling, you fry up some bacon, then fry your onion and potatoes in the pan with the bacon. (The recipe doesn’t actually tell you what to do with the onion. This seems like the most logical step.)

After the potatoes have cooked for about five minutes, you add the fish broth and the rest of your fish to the pot. I used cod and swai, which is a type of catfish.

Let that “burble” (their word) for about 10 minutes, then you add cream, evaporated milk, salt and pepper, crab meat and whole mussels. I used imitation crab meat and frozen whole mussels, both of which worked quite well.  I have cooked fresh mussels before and they are delicious, but it didn’t seem like it was worth the trip across town to get live mussels for a stew that would be simmering for much longer than is needed to cook live mussels. You simmer the whole pot for about an hour and then it is ready to enjoy! While it simmered we baked our bread bowls. We used the Classic French Bread recipe from Peter Reinhart’s artisan breads every day, which is a fantastic book for someone who has no experience baking bread.

We served it in our bread bowls and garnished it with lots and lots of fresh cracked black pepper!

Both recipes we used are delicious and I definitely recommend them!

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My Library Card Catalog Placeholder

Ok, so I told you we didn’t leave Midland empty handed, and that is definitely true! While we didn’t find a library card catalog, some of you may have cleverly spotted something similar in one of yesterdays photos…

Printers cabinet – I also love printer’s cabinets but definitely don’t have enough tiny stuff to fill up one of those. This one was reasonable priced because it was missing a few drawers. I’m not an antiques connoisseur by any means, but there weren’t many things that I balked at the cost of (except that monkey lamp). They may have been expensive, but I could see the value.

Do you see it?

How about now?

I decided this cute little drawer could hold off my desire for a library card catalog, so home it came! For a mere $24.07.

I am not really sure what “special trips” means or what tiny things special trips involve…also, I was having a really hard time getting my camera to take an image where the text was sharp. Bah.

Now, I could have just filled it up as it was, but I thought it might be nice to have some dividers for tiny things and some bright colors, too. So I worked on it for a while, and here is my new storage:

With a pop of color

It isn’t quite filled up yet, but I’m sure I’ll find a few more things to put in there as I work in my craft room.

As of now there are some stamps, some weaving supplies, some tiny clothespins…and lots of happy color!

Owl bookends approve

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Midland Arts and Antiques

Midland Arts and Antiques is a place I’ve been wanting to check out for a while, but for some reason haven’t made it there yet. Greer and I went on a double mission. I have been wanting a library card catalog for a very long time. These are often very expensive, and I am very far from the $600 these popular pieces of furniture usually bring nowadays. I spent most of the end of last week super excited because I bid on one on ebay with a less traditional shape and whose starting bid (and bid until the last hour of it’s auction) was only $20. It would have taken a 3 hour drive to get it home, but Greer and I planned a Sunday road trip adventure and it was nothing but excitement. Until the last hour of the auction, that is, when someone outbid me. I’m not sure how high they bid, but at the last minute I upped my top bid from $50 to $75 and that wasn’t enough. Someday I’ll have one, when they are less popular and I have an income that is large enough to support furniture purchase that are more than $50.  🙂 Oh, and Greer was looking for a bed side table, something that was solid wood that she could either use as is or refinish to match her (adorable) white bedroom with bright pops of color.

We didn’t find Greer’s table or my library card catalog (persay) but we did see some awesome (and occasionally scary) stuff.

Such as:

Scary exhibit A: There is another clown face on the other side. So weird.

Strange Exhibit A: This monkey lamp can be yours for only $350! Really?

Printers cabinet – I also love printer’s cabinets but definitely don’t have enough tiny stuff to fill up one of those. This one was reasonable priced because it was missing a few drawers. I’m not an antiques connoisseur by any means, but there weren’t many things that I balked at the cost of (except that monkey lamp). They may have been expensive, but I could see the value.

Any manner of outdated furniture

Any manner of outdated furniture


So many lamps

Bunnies (After I took this photo a woman took the little one like she thought she needed to make sure I didn’t take it first. One persons oddity…Although in hindsight they might have looked pretty awesome spray painted yellow…hmm…)

Creepy Exhibit B: I have no words for this one.

Right before we found this creeper Greer was like “Hey! You want a really old clarinet?” So I looked at it. Yep. Exact same one I own. Nice.

Giant table legs! Cause, you know. Why not?

There was every manner of neat, outdated, odd (table legs with no table? marble countertops with no cabinet?) and amazing item there. At the end, it was a little overwhelming. The place is two whole floors of a huge factory that used to make sashes and doors. We both felt like, if nothing else, it held a wealth of inspiration.

All in all, a really neat place and definitely a place I know I’ll be returning to!

But have no fear! We didn’t leave empty handed! More on that tomorrow…

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What’s on the needles?

I have been doing a fair amount of knitting, but most of it was for a gift so I couldn’t tell you yet!

Our dear friends Frances and Jackson are expecting their first baby, well, any day now. Now, I just can’t let anyone I love have their first child without getting at least a stitch or two of knitting. I really enjoyed these projects!

The first gift I made was a baby bunting using this pattern, which I actually found using Pinterest! (For knitters and crocheters, the pattern is also available on Ravelry as Top Down Baby Bunting by Amanda Lilley. Also listed in my projects. For those of you who aren’t hip to Ravelry, it’s sort of like Facebook or Pinterest but specifically for yarn crafters.)

I absolutely loved this pattern. I used Berocco Vintage Chunky yarn, which was also lovely to work with.

The next pattern was something I actually sort of went looking for. I had seen something similar and knew that Frances and Jackson were fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, and it turns out Totoro was Frances’ favorite as a kid! This is the main character from Totoro:

Sorry the picture quality is so bad. For reasons no one can know, I took this with my cell phone instead of my camera … and for those of you who haven’t experienced Hayao Miyazaki, I highly recommend any of his films! and I forgot in my original posting to include the pattern!

The last project did involve a needle, though not of the knitting variety. I whipped up this cute little onesie for baby to wear when he feels like getting a little dressed up:

I’ve been saving up a few things to post in a new Etsy shop soon, and you can expect to see a few more baby tie onesies there!

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Jalapeno Poppers, BRBP Style

One of our favorite restaurants in Indianapolis is Broad Ripple Brewpub. They have great food, great beer and are a great place to take groups. Their menu holds an appealing variety and their specials change weekly. One of their specials are jalapeno poppers. When we ordered them the first time, I was expecting a pretty conventional popper. What came out were halved jalapenos in a delicious cheesy sauce. I attempted to recreate those poppers.

The first time I made them I just put a little block of cream cheese in each jalapeno half. The second time I made them I mixed freshly chopped garlic with cream cheese and filled the halves with that.

The next step is covering the jalapenos with shredded cheese. I use mozzarella and freshly shredded Cabot sharp cheddar and any other shredded cheese hanging out in the fridge. This batch includes shredded Mexican cheese blend. If you didn’t put garlic in the cream cheese, sprinkle a little garlic powder on now.

The final step is to bake them. I bake them at around 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and I like to let it get a little brown and crunchy around the edges, about 15 to 20 minutes.

We do jalapeno poppers several ways, but these so far are my favorite!

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Happy Fourth! Stay cool with some homemade hard lemonade

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday and tried to stay cool! I found this great recipe that was a hit at the party we went to. It’s super easy, and perfect for any summer party! Enjoy!


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 cups ice
  • 4 ounces vanilla vodka
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (I used bottled RealLemon)
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rings
  • 1 lime, sliced into rings


In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a simmer. Cook until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool.

Fill pitcher with ice. Stir in simple syrup, vodka, juice, lemon and lime slices.

I used this recipe: with a couple of modifications. For example, I bought a bottle of vanilla vodka rather than buying a bottle of plain vodka for the same price and a $12 vanilla bean. I also tripled the recipe, which made just under two gallons. I used two limes instead of one and one really huge lemon.

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Cutesy Coasters

I really love the coasters that look like they fell off a wall in some Tuscan kitchen, but haven’t been able to find them anywhere to buy, and if I do they want way more money than I am willing to pay for them. So to Pinterest I went! There are a ton of tutorials on making your own coasters using ceramic tiles. I kind of took a little bit from each one, and here’s what I came up with!

I got ceramic coasters from Lowe’s. They were 18 cents apiece, and I got 10.

I really was trying to find some scrapbook paper with more of a painted, Tuscan feel, but I wasn’t having much luck. Then I found this cute polka dotted paper that came in all the colors I have in my living room. I kind of still have my eye out for something more intricate, but for now these are cute!

My first step was cutting the paper to the right size. I wanted a white border to show around, so I cut the squares about 1/4″ shorter than the length and width of the tile.

I decided to do two coasters in each color.

My  next step was to paint a thing layer of Mod Podge onto the coaster and place the paper in the center. I then painted a thin layer of Mod Podge over the scrapbook paper. I let those get good and dry.

Drying coasters! The two that aren’t polka dotted were my practice round. I just used scrapbook paper I already had in my craft room. The coasters are in the craft room now, too.

As you can see in the picture, I did get some bubbling and buckling in the paper when it was damp from the Mod Podge. This mostly went away when it was completely dry.

The last step was to seal them with some clear spray paint. I used something that was rated for outdoor as well so it would be water proof. I put on about 4 coats I think. Most tutorials say one or two, but I wanted a glossier look than one or two coats gave me. I stopped at four because I didn’t want the paint to start to look yellow.

Spray painting the coasters, I used Rustoleum clear glossy paint

After the paint was dry I let them air out for a couple of days on the back porch and then I glued felt squares to each corner on the bottom to keep it from scratching the table.

They turned out pretty well, but we’ve been using them for a little while and there are a couple of things I unhappy with. They really are better for hot drinks because they do not absorb any of the water. The water tends to puddle on them, and one of them seems to be losing some of its paint because of that. Also, some of the bubbles in the paper that I had spray painted down have popped back up. This project is something I may revisit (or maybe just give up on!) in the future, but I definitely can’t complain when you look at the price!

Ten white ceramic tiles from Lowe’s: $1.80

One can of clear Rustoleum: $3.50

Four sheets of scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby: $2.50

One sheet of felt: Already had, but about $1 at most craft stores


Ten super fun coasters!


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Teacher Wreath – Craftsmas 2011 Project 3

I had a hard time deciding what to get my lovely sister-in-law, Emily, for Christmas. It ranged from something to do with crochet (she crochets, I knit, we are both extremely challenged in the others’ craft) to a Fiestaware butter dish (something she mentioned wanting). I even tried to find their wedding registry (she got married in July) to buy something they didn’t get, but they were nowhere to be found. Then I thought of a cute project my mom made for my teacher cousin Amanda – a wreath decorated with school supplies.

First step: Fluff the wreath

Emily teaches preschool right now, so I went with pretty basic stuff. Crayons, erasers, pencils. This could easily be adapted for someone who teaches another subject. Paint brushes and pastels for an art teacher, sheet music for the band director, etc.

I started out with a blank wreath from Wal-Mart. I decided I wanted to put a tiny chalkboard on it with her name, and searched high and low for one. In the end, I didn’t find a tiny chalkboard, but realized that I already had all the makings for one. I used a piece of black cardstock, outlined it in popsicle sticks and wrote her name on it with a white out pen (Ok. Mom wrote it.)

Then we just started laying the school supplies on the wreath. When we were happy with the placement, we secured them with copious amounts of hot glue.


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