December 17, 2014

The Anatomy of a Holiday Card

Each year for our holiday card, I try to think of something just a little unique.  I want our annual snap shot not only to convey how we looked, but a little bit of what we were like.  Some of my favorite moments of 2014 have been watching the boys read together on the daybed I built in Boden's Nursery, so I decided this year to take that simple nightly ritual and add a Christmas book, Christmas jammies and some holiday decor.  Basically I tempted the holiday card Gods by making the assumption that this would be easy.  But I lived to tell the tale.

I started by adding a string of white lights.  Except I didn't have white wire I had green, which looked terrible.  At least my model looks good.

So I added a piece of garland that I had on hand.  How the heck did the giraffe print get in the photo?

Sheepskin to the rescue.  Now to hide the wire better and get them to read together.  Someone thinks that he's doing a great job.

So I took another dozen photos saying, "Ignore Mommy, just read the book." It was exhausting work.

In the end I think Ryder was getting really concerned with all the red on orange in this room.  Clearly.

So we took a little break and set up a new location.  This is where I screwed up big time and made the ultimate mom mistake- I offered candy for performance.  A little bit of sugar with my kiddos goes a long way.  Things got out of hand.

So I kissed my little sugar fends and called it a night.  No point in taking the merry out of Christmas by forcing an uptight holiday card.  I wanted this to be a snap shot of this moment in our lives after all, and this was certainly us.  Looking through the camera, I had one keeper.

 I created the card with Tiny Prints with a design from their foil stamped collection.

I love how the foil sort of jumps off the page from the soft brushed matte image.  This shot really slows how the light makes these card glitter.

 We have a really big family and I'm grateful that we have a lot of friends we send cards to as well.  But do you know what's not fun about sending 100 holiday cards?  Addressing them.  So once again I borrowed this great idea from Design Finch for these wrap around holiday mailing labels.  I created a new design that matched the back of my cards, imported in all my contacts and printed them onto full sheet sticker.

And used my little paper cutter to cut them all out. The Hubs watched, because he was "helping."

The sticker then wraps around the envelop placing the address on the front, and the return address on the back.  

Which left us with a little family assembly line of stuffing, sealing, address stickering and stamping. Because it's Christmas and we're going to send merry little Christmas card whether you like it or not!

But it was merry actually.  It went really quicklyRyder pointed out the names that he recognized, and we told him about the people he didn't know.  I personally made a wish to spend more time with all these great people in 2015.  And the whole thing is another great memory to add to my kid's lists of holiday magic.  We chop down our own tree, we make and send holiday cards to our friends, we make and decorate Christmas cookies and go to Christmas plays.  Hopefully someday they'll look back on all of it as a fun and magical time of year. 

December 5, 2014

The Not So Fun Stuff

Looking back, 2014 has been an incredible year at our Cabin Up North.  We went from a 2 bedroom to a 3 bedroom, a front entry, a new deck, new flooring throughout, a nearly new kitchen... the change is pretty amazing. But all that doesn't even give you guys a full picture of the work we've accomplished.  As most homeowners know, any renovation combines the fun decor and layout stuff, with the not so fun fixes and upgrades to utility and performance.  So lest you guys think we were lazy and could have gotten much more accomplished this year, here's a list of the not so fun projects we also took on Up North this year.

Our little cabin comes with a 3 foot crawl space underneath, which can be accessed through a trap door in the linen closet.

Unfortunately, this little space looked as though it was treated like a dumping ground for decades.  The space was full of dozens of old pallets, broken insulation, and just trash.  This is actually a "during" photo, that doesn't give you a full picture of how gross this space really was.

Gross and dangerous, as who wants all that flammable trash hiding in piles under their house? So for 2 or 3 solid weekends we devoted to trash removal (more than 15 huge bags!) and clean up.  Which left us with this.

But the point wasn't just to clean up.  There was little-to-no insulation in this space, allowing all the cold air and moisture to raise through the ceiling, making for a really cold cabin floor.  So Super Dad started by covering the floors with a moisture barrier:

And then we had a company come in and spray the walls with insulation.

The change will be pretty massive in our heating bill, but not as fun, as say, new duvets or decor. 

We did the same No Fun Work up in the attic.  Although I spent time up in that godforsaken attic nearly every weekend we visited the cabin this year, I somehow didn't come back with a single photo. No photographic evidence to prove that we installed venting shoots into the eves and then covered the entire attic with new bats of insulation.  You'll just have to take my word for it.  It was expensive, time consuming process, and it was no fun.

The next no fun project was the boiler covers.  Our cabin has boiler heat, which is really efficient, but the old, cream colored heating element covers were rusty, stained and a huge eye sore once we put in the crisp new white trim and new floors.  We started by removing them all and hosing them down.

Next I had to sand them all down by hand to remove the rust, years of paint drops and dirt.

And finally, I lined them all up and gave them about 7 coats of crisp white spray paint.
This is a before picture, obviously.
But life isn't fair, and some parts of the covers can't be removed from the wall without cutting copper pipes, so some weekend this winter I'll need to spend a little more time painting the rest of the covers, as evidence below.

But check out that color difference already- huh?
The last of our not-so-fun projects was the gutters.  The new configuration of the deck left us with this awkward gutter scenario.

Not only was the placement bad, but these babies were in rough shape.

It wasn't cheap, but my parents invested in nice, new leaf guard gutters, which not only look shinny white and great, but should prevent us from having to climb the roof each weekend to
scoop out thousands of leaves.

So there's our little insight into where the time and money goes when you're working on a big reno.  We're lucky that my Dad has really concerned himself with things that we can do for the long term health of the cabin.  Maybe he doesn't trust my decision making to invest in insulation when I want to buy pillows, (wise man), but he's making sure that for generations to come this cabin is as self sufficient and maintenance free as it can be.  Which means I can buy more pillows.  You know, the important stuff.