We have been busy, busy, busy here at THE Farmhouse. Spring has brought Farmhouse projects, more work at our rental house, seed starting, broken bones, doctor appointments (yes! Matthew shattered his wrist!) birthday parties, LOTS of baby cows here at the farm, Easter and Spring Break! Most days it feels like we are adding to our “to-do” list faster than we can check things off – I know I can get a few Amens!
In the midst of our busy life, the occasional warm day we have had recently had me inspired to spruce up our porch. We had our annual Easter Egg Hunt with my husband’s family on the books and as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I still had my winter wreath on my front door… no joke. It’s April and our front door was adorn with a dried up boxwood wreath I made in December… I did not take a picture of it and you should be glad, it was bad.
I’m sure several of you have seen those ADORABLE gold metal hoop wreaths on Pinterest – I have pinned several. I figured it could be a easy, simple project for a QUICK update before we had 10 adults & 8 children (plus our family of 6!) over for an Egg Hunt in the front year.
A trip to Joann’s and $15 gave me all the supplies I needed to tackle the project.
-Fowers of choice – I spent about $10 for 5 faux flowers and some faux lambs ear
-Floral Wire – I had some but searched and searched and could not find it… I was pleased it was only $2 at Joanns!
-Wire cutters (I had these) Most needle-nose pliers have a flat spot on them for cutting wire.
-Ribbon or Hook of choice – I used some pink cloth trim I already had.
To start, I used small sections of floral wire to fix my green pieces (faux lambs ear) to the metal ring/hoop. I used wire cutters to trim off the bottom section some of each greenery/flower stem so the wreath wouldn’t be too bulky.
After I added all the greenery I wanted, I started on the flowers using the same method.
After I added the flower above, I went on to add 2 more large blossoms and 2 small “buds.” The whole thing took me about 15 mins! I grabbed a couple new boxwoods from Lowe’s ($15 a piece) and popped them into resin pots I already had. I LOVE BOXWOODS!! My porch had been pretty bare since I took down my Christmas decorations – for $45 my porch is spruced up but still looks simple – I LOVE simple when it comes to decorating. Less is more… unless it comes to lights & ornaments on a christmas tree – in that case, more is MORE fantastic!
I am very pleased with my spring porch update! The ORIGINAL door of THE Farmhouse is still hanging in there but it’s old, drafty and needs to be replaced. The house needs to a fresh coat of paint and eventually I want TWO lights on either side of my front door 🙂 UNTIL then my new spring wreath and fresh boxwoods are helping me enjoy our front porch yet another season. Also, the weather was a little dreary BUT our Egg Hunt went off without a hitch and another year was enjoyed by all.
My kids were on their fourth … maybe fifth snow day in a row this winter and I decided to tear my pantry apart. I love a good snow day just as much as my kids do. I love that a snow days means there are no school lunches to pack, no rushed breakfasts, no school outfit arguements and most of all we get the day together. I LOVE having my kids home with me. Yes, the kids fight… and yell… and even cry but when we are all home together I feel like I have all the pieces to my puzzle and that feels good. My kids had several snow days this winter. We enjoyed every one of them but after a few days of us all at home, I was getting the itch for a project. It drives my husband crazy but I thrive on having a “productive” day. IT IS NOT HEALTHY AT ALL, but I usually measure how great of a day I personally have by how much work I get done that day – I’m working on changing this but as of right now, this is how it works for me. SO in January we had been cooped up in the house for a few days just the kids and I, my husband Matthew was back at work, and that is when I decided to tear out our pantry…
THE Farmhouse’s current kitchen cabinets were made in the 60’s by my husband’s grandfather and a local man that made cabinets in the county at the time (I know he told us the man’s name at one point but I honestly can’t remember it) I do remember Matthew’s grandfather said the man had a cabinet shop and he helped the man complete the cabinets. I found this old picture of THE Farmhouse Kitchen from when we first moved in – notice the large bushes growing in front of the windows. This is how most of the downstairs windows were.
THE Farmhouse’s cabinets are great – they are plain, simple and wooden which I feel like makes them timeless, classic cabinets. Inside the cabinets, all the sections connect, meaning there are no dividers on the inside. All the cabinets (and their contents) run together on the inside, this is the only thing about the cabinets I can’t stand. The lack of dividers creates a bit of a mess inside, things sort of shift around, especially in the pantry section.
The pantry was three large doors (far right of the above picture) that all opened in the same direction (unlike a set of french doors). Above the main pantry space was another 3 smaller doors that worked the same way. The pantry was also pretty deep. The arrangement of the pantry often resulted in lost or overlooked items. I had been wanting to redo it for some time and the the fourth snow day in a row just seemed like the right time to start, so I grabbed a hammer and a small saw and started!
My husband got home when I had half the pantry torn out. We currently had a couple other projects half done so to keep him calm about me starting ANOTHER project, I told him the pantry project was all on me… even though I really didn’t know what I was doing yet. It took me about a week to tear all the existing doors and shelves out of the pantry. During this time, we were living with all our food/pantry items in laundry baskets in the kitchen… The situation was driving me crazy, driving the kids crazy and I know it was driving my husband crazy even though he never said anything about it.
Once I got the entire pantry area removed, I gave it all a coat of bright white paint. When we moved into THE Farmhouse, all the cabinets, trim and ceilings were painted a creamy off white color. I spent the first year we lived here painting all of it white. I never painted the back of the pantry (as you can see in pictures). To finally put a nice coat of white paint on the the pantry felt good.
At this point, I finally asked my husband for some help. I explained what I envisioned for shelving. My husband helped with the measuring, did the cutting and we started putting the shelves in – the fun part! I decided on three selves at the bottom that are the full width of the pantry space. Above the full width shelves, we did shelves that were only half the width of the space going all the way up to the ceiling. I figured out the distance I wanted my shelves spaced. We measured cereal boxes! No joke – one of the things I really wanted was to have cereal boxes that could fit upright – we had to lay them on their side in our old pantry.
For the shelves we used 2×12 yellow pine boards. The three bottom shelves (the ones full width are 2 boards). The boards are nailed into place resting on 1×2 inch wooden brackets nailed to the sides of the pantry. As it’s going together, the new pantry space is starting to look like a hutch, or piece of furniture built in to my cabinets and that is what I like the most about it!
When the shelves were done, I sanded them and stained them in a medium shade. I went with a stain we already had – Minwax Early American. We used this color on a built-in bench we have in our house and I really liked that it matched THE Farmhouse’s original stairs so I decided to use it again on the pantry. After the stain dried, I lightly sanded any rough patches one more time and then I decided I would wax the new shelves. I LOVE wood wax or waxing paste – I used this one. Wood Wax protects wood from moisture, it’s quicker than applying a polyurethane coat (the dry time is a fraction of the time) and it gives your finish product a dry looking finish that I really like. Wood Wax or Finishing Paste is not recommended for areas with heavy traffic but it’s perfect for projects like my pantry shelves.
To complete the look of the pantry we mounted glass doors on the front. We had a set of glass french doors that came from a house Matthew had done some work on years ago. We were able to cut them down to fit the pantry opening. My favorite part was that we were able to do an inset mount (flush mount) on the doors so it gives the pantry a clean built-in look. The doors were slightly shorter than the pantry space so we had to mount a header board at the top. I actually like the look the board at the top gives the pantry. The pantry truly looks like a hutch that was built in to our kitchen and was always there.
I can finally easily see and get to all of our pantry items. I have plenty of space for all our food as well as other pantry items (table cloths, crock pot, food scale, party dishes etc). I have baskets at the bottom for potatoes, granola bars, school lunch items, paper plates etc. Eventually I might get larger matching glass jars for all my baking items. We are now finding a new place for our trash can (we are going to do a pull out one in another location), I need to caulk the top board we added, give it another coat of paint and we are working on mounting a board at the bottom to take the kick plate out of all the kitchen cabinets. I am very pleased with the way we re-did the space and made it more functional. Another project is checked off our list for updating THE Farmhouse!
2018 is going to be our year for BIG things – if I say it out loud then it helps me make it happen. We have set some big goals. We came up with a new budget for the year. We are working hard to pay some things off. We are working hard to rent/sell a house. We are going to work hard on some Farmhouse projects… and the list goes on. Most of the goals we have set rest on the idea of us sticking to our budget. Without the budget, the rest of the goals just fall flat. The main way we are going to make our budget work (and stick to it) is by gaining control of our grocery bill, our largest monthly expense. This is something I have worked really hard on for a while now and we are slowly making progress. I could do a whole post on budgeting (I most likely will) but for right now the biggest tip I have is MEAL PLANNING. If you have a “number” you are trying to keep your monthly grocery expense under, I am not sure that can be done without meal planning. In addition to that, meal planning just keeps my life more organized and who would pass that up?
For as long as I can remember, I have planned seven dinners and gone grocery shopping once a week. New for 2018, I am planning our meals a month at a time and it has already made a huge difference. It takes me only 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes if I’m on Pinterest awhile. Now that I have “monthly meal planned” for a few months (I just filled in March’s Menu yesterday) I have learned a few things. When I meal plan for the month, instead of the week, I can see the bigger picture. The menu flows, staggers and stays interesting. There are several meals we have in heavy rotation – tired and true recipes we all enjoy. I fill those meals in FIRST on my monthly menu, skipping about a week before filling that same meal in again. “Salmon & Veggies” is one of our most go-to meals. I make sure it’s on the calendar about every 5-7 days. I just keep filling in the days with our regular go-to meals: spaghetti, steak & veggies etc.
Wednesday is always our busy night. I teach a 6pm Cycle class on Wednesdays, my kids had basketball practice on Wednesdays, and as soon as basketball ended one of my kids started staying after school on Wednesdays for another activity. For whatever reasons, it just seems to stay our crazy evening. We are often eating at 7pm on Wednesday nights. I like to rotate the same 2 easiest dinners on our busiest night. Those recipes are Easy Chicken Tacos and Grilled Cheese & Tomato Bisque. (Recipes at the bottom!!!)
Once I fill my Wednesdays in, I am usually left with a spot or two a week to fill in. I add some meatless meals because they tend to be cheaper meals, most people consume more animal protein than needed and it also helps mix things up. Blueberry pancakes, Quiche and homemade pizza are meatless meals our whole family enjoys.
I normally always end up with one random spot left so I fill it with a new recipe we have never tried (thank you Pinterest!). I normally seem to always have a recipe I have pinned that we have never actually tried so I use this as a chance to try those recipes. This helps keep things interesting and we might find a meal that becomes a new favorite. If you decide to try a new recipe, try to select once that has ingredients you either already have or already need to buy for another recipe. You can easily ruin a grocery budget trying new recipes with unusual ingredients that you may never need again.
The meal calendar stays on the fridge for everyone to see and we try really hard to not make any substitutions on meals. There has been several times I have called home at dinner time and Matthew says “I started cooking fish for dinner, it’s what was on the calendar…” If you are on the way home late, hungry, tired and you hear your spouse say that… talk about an amen moment!!! The kids also enjoy glancing at the Monthly Menu and saying things like “3 more nights and it is Homemade Pizza night!” – which is just adorable! When you start changing your meals around mid-week, you are setting your self up for needing to go to the store for something you do not have in the pantry. Once the meals are planned and you have shopped, do not make changes.
Once a week I go shopping (we occasionally have that break out mid-week shopping trip for a couple of things). I do my shopping once a week at Costco. Yes, I go to Costco once a week! We are a family of six… do you know how much fruit, granola bars, veggies & laundry detergent we go through!? I try to go straight to a smaller grocery store right after Costco (Kroger, Foodlion, etc.) to grab my list of things that Costco doesn’t have – my flour that Costco doesn’t carry, certain produce, etc.) I make my grocery list based on the Meal Calendar and I stick to it! I only need to buy the ingredients for the meals that week but I often grab a lot of stuff for the entire month my first week shopping. A Costco 3 pack of spaghetti sauce will be used for all the spaghetti dinners in a month. A salmon fillet big enough to cut into 4 pieces for the freezer will do for the month, etc. I find my “weekly grocery shopping/monthly meal planning” plan simple and something I easily make a weekly habit.
I photocopied all the sheets from a calendar before they had been written on and use them for my Monthly Menus but you can download a blank calendar here!
NOW for my two Easy Wednesday meals – both are Whole/Clean Meals. I know everyone has their own way of eating – Whole Food eating became our family’s way of eating 6 years ago (detailed post on that coming). The main idea behind our food lifestyle came from a blog I stumbled upon when trying to get healthier and lose some baby weight after our third child was born. 100 Days Of Real Food Blog has become very popular and I can not say enough good stuff about it! If you have never checked it out before, it is certainly worth a glance! The Tomato Bisque recipe I use comes from that blog. It is a family favorite paired with grilled cheeses for dunking. I can prepare the soup in 20 minutes (it simmers for up to 30 minutes) before I teach class and we can enjoy it when we get home with quick grilled cheese sandwiches (on whole wheat bread with white cheddar cheese). We just had this soup last night, I should have taken a picture. It sure was delicious!!!
Our second go-to Wednesday Meal is Easy Chicken Tacos. I came up with this recipe last year and it has been a life saver! It is one of those great crockpot meals where you just dump everything in.
Easy Crockpot Chicken Tacos
2 large chicken breast
1 can of drained black beans (I buy whatever brand has only beans, water & salt on the ingredients list)
2-3 tablespoon of your favorite taco seasoning – I make my own using this recipe. Store bought taco seasoning is loaded with junk – read the list of ingredients next time you’re in the store. If you can not pronounce something in it, why would you want to eat it?
8 ounces of your favorite salsa – I can my own
-Layer the ingredients in your crockpot (in the order they are listed) and cook on high for 4 hours (longer if set on low so if can cook while you are gone for the day). Once done, stir/chop everything together. When you stir it, the chicken will start to shred on its own but a few larger chunks may need to be chopped/shredded with a spoon or knife.
We enjoy this on large lettuce leaves as a wrap (roman lettuce) or with corn chips. There is salsa in the recipe but you can top it with more salsa, sour cream, cheese, avocado and any other of your favorite taco toppings.
I’m not big on change. I love familiar, comfortable places and I am not crazy about things that put me too far out of my comfort zone or get me even a little bit off my schedule. I know, I sound like a load of fun huh? I certainly LOVE to travel but I also prefer a night in at home, over a night out any day! I was unaware that I was rigid and set in my ways until I got older and slowly had this revelation about myself. My own mother was an organized mom who kept us kids on a schedule. My dad worked shift work when I was growing up, often the night shift and sometimes 7 days a week. This left my mom with 3 kids, a house, school schedules, meal times, bedtime routine and the other daily activities of life to deal with. I think schedules and routine is how my mom made her load doable. I find myself parenting similar to her – dinner is at a certain time, baths are at a certain time, bedtime and so on. When our schedule gets off, I’m usually the one that starts to melt down while my husband and kids are all smiles. I have lived in the same town my whole life. I take my kids to the same dentist and pediatrician I went to growing up. My parents built and moved into their house when I was one years old and besides my college dorm rooms, I lived in that same house until I got married.
When we got married we bought a brand new little rancher. It really is an adorable house! We lived there exactly 4 years to the week. As mentioned in previous post, there was an opportunity to move into THE Farmhouse and we quickly found renters for our house and were out in a flash – 3 weeks from the time we got the idea. To be honest, we were sort of figuring out how you even go about renting out a house after our renters had already moved in. We carried full home owners insurance coverage on it for a year or 2 before realized we only needed fire & dwelling… it was a learning experience for us and our tenants. We use an agent to rent our house now. We have had a few families move in and out and each situation has worked well.
The decision to move into THE Farmhouse and rent out our house might be one of the best decisions we have made for our family. The quick speed of it was most likely a blessing. With my husband and myself both slow to create big changes (it took me 8 years to start the blog…) we most likely would have talked ourselves out of moving if we had too long to think about it. We had a gut feeling, quickly acted on it and have received nothing but blessings from it. There have been times when I have been approached, often forced, to make changes and I have to take a moment to remind myself of our move to THE Farmhouse. I have to remind myself how if we had not taken a leap of faith we could have missed out on a lot. THE Farmhouse has given us more space, inside and outside the house, we live closer to family and we have the MOST amazing sunset view!
For the first time in 8 years we have no one in our rental house. Our last renters unexpectedly needed to move in the middle of their lease, this past December. The house now needs to be painted, cleaned, have the carpets replaced, a few repairs and the yard cleaned up. We have been doing all the work ourselves, you know with all of the extra time we have lying around… It has been a family effort for sure. We have been spending long Saturday afternoons and evenings over there. We pack up the family, food, paint supplies, a TV for the kids and some movies and head on over. By the end of the night the kids are over it and we are all ready to head home. For the most part they do fairly well with the situation and my husband and I are making some progress. I am even tempted to do a few small projects there to sort of update the house for the first time in 8 years. Some of our light fixtures are gold and I don’t mean in a cute trendy way…
The more time I spend over there the more I remember how great of a house it is. It has a cute floor plan and a great yard with a few fruit trees which have really grown and matured. We are starting to lean towards the idea of selling it. We bought our house in 2006, sort of the peak of the housing market. Shortly after we bought it, the market crashed. There was a time when we owed more on our rental house than it was worth. As we paid it down little by little, we owed less than it was worth but we certainly couldn’t sell it for what we bought it for. I think we might be coming out of that time though. Houses in our area seem to be selling and we are sort of debating if now is the time to unload it. Maybe our renters leaving us high and dry mid-lease is really a new door opening for us, you know another chance for change.
We have now created two list. We are currently working on the “What has to be done if we rent it” list. When we are done with that, we are going to pow-wow on our thoughts and then possibly tackle the “What has to be done to sell it” list.
I realize renting out your home (or even another home as investment property) is not an ideal situation for everyone. The entire process did worry me at first; I had heard horrible stories about renters tearing up houses, not paying rent and refusing to leave the property. Our little starter home was the biggest investment we had and we were entrusting it into other people’s hands. The truth is, if you can find good renters having a rental property can pay off. Depending on your loan specifics, rent money can often cover the cost of the home, if not more. We luckily have never had major damage to our rental property. Most of the work we have to complete now is cosmetic or normal wear and tear on a house that’s 12 years old.
We have plenty of projects that I want to tackle at THE Farmhouse and most are outside Even though I am already in spring mode, mother nature isn’t always cooperating with my plans. Our outside projects seemed to be getting pushed farther back due to cold or rainy weather. Lucky for me, my home-project-loving soul has been getting fulfillment from all the work at our rental house. I’m trying to keep the “average buyer” in mind. I’m personally not crazy about ceiling fans. I would rather just have a really great light fixture, even in a bedroom. I have to step back and think about what a person buying the house might think. It can be different when you are fixing up a house that’s not for you but still just as fun.
I can’t wait to post pictures when it is all done. I love a good before & after!
Who has rental houses? Any one else thinking now is a good time to sell? AND in all seriousness, how do you feel about ceiling fans!?
Almost 8 years ago my husband and I, along with our 2 oldest children, moved into my DREAM house. I had pined after the idea of living in this house for years. At the time it was a cream, 100 year-old, in need of some repairs farmhouse that had been in my husband’s family for 50 years. My mother-in-law had moved into the house when she was 4 and grew up there. My husband had lived in it a couple of times growing up (his dad was a builder and they moved a lot). It’s just a good house. It’s a house with roots. It’s THE Farmhouse, as my husband’s family affectionately calls it.
The first time I saw THE farmhouse was when my husband and I were dating. I remember us driving by it and my husband casually mentioned “that’s my grandparent’s farm…”. I remember saying something along the lines of “That!? Your grandparents live there!?” Let me stop you here. I’m not sure what you are envisioning but the house was not in it’s prime when I first saw it. Hundred year old wooden farmhouses can get away from you quickly. The house certainly needed some work but it still shined. I could envision what it looked like in it’s prime and I could certainly see what it’s potential was… even with green stuff growing on the cream paint, a pile of old furniture on the rotten front porch and azalea bushes so mature they were blocking most of the large farmhouse windows. My husband’s grandparents are ONE OF A KIND!!! Seriously, they deserve their own post detailing who they are. I will summarize them for the time being as “hard-working, God-fearing, 80 some year old, good-hearted humans who currently still farm.” They lived in THE farmhouse at the time but owned and worked on another farm also. They were for sure busy with bailing hay, feeding cows, fixing fences, repairing tractors etc. Updating THE Farmhouse was not on their “to do” list and rightfully so.
Shortly after my husband and I got married, my husband’s grandparents decided to build a smaller, brand-new house on their other farm down the road. THERE it was! We saw an opportunity to get in THE Farmhouse. Not too long after they moved, we quickly rented out our house… like really quickly. We had the idea, found renters, packed and were out in less than a month. July 2010, the week of our 4th wedding anniversary, we moved to THE Farmhouse with our 2 year old & 3 month old girls. I remember laying in bed our first night here and telling my husband “I can’t believe we actually live here!” That’s how magical I found this place and 8 years later, the feelings are only stronger.
Within the first week of living here I was on the phone with a close friend filling her in on all the craziness of moving, life with 2 kids, living out of boxes and just exactly how much work THE Farmhouse needed. She told me I should start a blog about the process of bringing a 100 year old house back to life with 2 small kids and an even smaller budget. Blogs were more rare at the time and life was busy. We were unpacking, figuring out how to rent our old house (without an agent), I was nursing one child, potty training the other and had just agreed to start watching my niece a few days a week – blogging was not as the top of my list and the idea itself exhausted me.
Fast forward 8 years later, 2 more kids, a couple of walls taken down, a wedding at THE Farmhouse and gallons and gallons of paint – I am kicking myself for not starting that blog! A digital look book for my kids. A journal of this adventure we have created. A place to share the obstacles we have faced while fixing up this house. A place to share the times we had an idea, saw it through and treasured the results. A place to hear feedback from those who have tackled that project already…
Fall 2012 – 2 years after we moved in, we FINALLY started to paint THE Farmhouse
We have checked large projects off our list and added new ones just as quickly. Not all of our projects are fun (think termites…) but all have been rewarding in some way (think wood floors).
I am a wife who married a part of her that she never knew was missing, a mom of 4 children, a group exercise instructor, a certified personal trainer, a self-taught gardener, a whole food eater who LOVES a good home project and lives in a house that is 108 years old. Here is my adventure…