March 31, 2021

Summer School

It has been so hard for me to rest my hands! I've been trying to do as little as possible with my hands because my carpal tunnel syndrome flared up--and now I'm so antsy. At first, I thought, "This will be great! I can sit around for a couple of days without feeling guilty, reading my book, watching TV, etc." But just a few hours in, I was itching to go work on something.

I'd already finished painting the TV console and coffee table, but I still hadn't painted the drawer pulls, so I couldn't put the hardware back on the tables. I bought spray paint for those and every couple of hours yesterday, I went out to the garage to put a light coat on them, then turn them over, repeat. That didn't really bother my hands.

Today, I put the hardware back on the drawers for the coffee table, and I love how it looks! Restoring it took much longer than I expected it to (and it was a LOT more work) but I think it's worth it. I want to give the paint another day or two to cure before moving it into the house. Here is a before and after of the coffee table:

I'll post more pictures once we bring them in the house.

Last year, I was going through some papers and came across financial records from when I went to college. I went to Eastern Michigan University for two years, declaring psychology as my major. I had no idea what I planned to do with a degree in psychology, and after two years, I moved back home and started going to community college. I was accepted into a Dietetics program but I changed my mind about that. I took some health classes, thinking about nursing--but knew I didn't really want to do that, either.

Finally, after three years of college with no idea what I was going to do, I quit. Jerry and I had just gotten married and I was working as an assistant manager at Curves. I got pregnant a couple of months after getting married, and family life took over.

I never regretted not finishing school. And I still don't. There isn't a different career path that I'd wished I'd taken; I am happy with the way things turned out.

Anyway, I found the financial records and it made me curious about my grades and the classes I'd taken, and stuff like that. It was so long ago that I don't even remember anymore! I pulled up my records online and I noticed that after all of my credits from the university transferred to the community college, I was only two credits away from an associates degree.

Even though I have no need for a degree, it seemed kind of silly to be just two credit hours away from one. So, I decided to look into taking a class this year and finish the degree. I even added that to my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old List 2.0

Jerry told me recently about a program that was recently passed in Michigan that allows people 25 years and older, who don't have a degree, to go to community college tuition-free. It includes both new students and returning students. The only caveat is that you have to enroll at least half-time (six credit hours) per semester.

I only need two credit hours, but if the state is going to pay for my tuition, I might as well take another class to hit the six credit hours needed. It's actually cheaper for me to take two classes, even after paying for my books.

I registered for two classes: Mental Health and Lifespan Psychology (Psychology of Aging). I'm sure not a single person reading this will be surprised by my choices!

I have to buy the books, but the total for those is only $130. I already have one of the required books for Mental Health--interestingly, it's a memoir of a woman with bipolar disorder. I think I'm going to like the class ;)  While it would be kind of fun to go back into a classroom, both of the classes are done online. At least I don't have to be the random old lady in the room sitting apart from all the spring chickens ;)

I'm hoping that the tuition grant will go through before the tuition is due, otherwise I may have to wait until fall. I qualified for the grant and I started the whole process yesterday; the website said I should be good to go for summer classes, so we'll see. The classes start on May 10.

I'm kind of excited about it--even though I'm only taking these for "fun", I'm super interested in all things psychology; it'll be fun to learn more about it, and read and write about it.

March 30, 2021

Transformation Tuesday #20

I have a few fun Transformation Tuesday submissions to share today. I hate to always sound like I am begging you to please send me transformation photos, but... I am begging you to please send me transformation photos ;)  I really want to continue this weekly series! So remember, even if you think the drawer you just organized or your dog's new haircut or the sweater you repurposed isn't interesting enough to share, I promise you it is.

To submit a transformation, just email a before photo and an after photo to me at: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. Include a description of the transformation, your name/location and what you like to do for fun. I'd love to see your pics!

Okay, here goes--these are some good ones...

I do a lot of cooking and baking and had a lot of trouble keeping spices organized.  Every so often I’d organize them but soon enough they would be back in a jumble.

I saw this method of organizing them on Instagram and knew this could work for me since I didn’t want them on a traditional rack on my counter.   The jars are from IKEA and have flat sides enabling them to lie down flat in the drawer.

- Diane

I wish I could take credit for this, but it was actually my crafty daughter, Sadie, that transformed this side table from a chipped ugly eyesore to the cute “marble”-topped table that brightens the whole room. All it took was a $9 roll of contact paper and patience.

- Rikilynn, a fellow Michigander

My husband had this enormous project to take care of. He hired a crew of Amish men to help him. They are awesome workers. So talented and ambitious.
- Karen

Diane, the spice drawer looks so nice--and so much easier to find what you're looking for! I had my spices so organized after I remodeled the kitchen, but they are a mess again. I love the flat jars--I could use those to organize all sorts of things.

Rikilynn, please tell your daughter that she is so talented! The table looks amazing. I can't believe that's contact paper! (I love the cat blanket, too--it looks like little Duck)

Karen, holy smokes! What a huge difference. It looks brand new--and I love the color. That's awesome your husband hired a crew of Amish men to help. They did a fantastic job!

Thank you so much for sharing your transformations :)

March 29, 2021

April Book Pick and Carpal Tunnel Flare-Up

First, I completely forgot to pick a winner for the 'West With Giraffes' Kindle book giveaway! I totally spaced out I guess. But I used to pick a winner today, and that is... Christie H. I just sent you an email to confirm the email address to send the book. So sorry that it took so long!

Speaking of books, it's almost April, which means it's almost time to start my April read-athon book. (You can read about the year-long read-athon I'm doing here--it's a 'Friends' theme.) 

Last month, I had to read a book with an animal in it, and because of that, I discovered what became one of my top three favorite books of all time: West With Giraffes (Amazon affiliate link). The prompt for April is:

Chandler: "Could I BE more excited?"  - Read a highly anticipated book.

When I looked through the prompts for the year, I knew which book I was going to save for April. I bought it in the fall, and I was so excited to read it, but it's a LONG book--900+ pages--and I was waiting for a good time to dive in. As you may know, my most favorite book is 'The Pillars of the Earth' by Ken Follett. I've read the trilogy twice, which is saying a lot--I'm a slow reader, and those books are about 1,000 pages each.

Well, Follett wrote a prequel to 'The Pillars of the Earth' and it was released last fall. I don't normally buy books (I like to borrow them from the library) but I bought it right away. It's called 'The Evening and the Morning'

Because it's such a long book, I actually started reading it yesterday to make sure I finish it before the end of April. I decided to aim for 5% per day (the Kindle Paperwhite shows your progress in the book by percentage, so it's easy to keep track that way). And today, I actually read 15% because I already really like it.

By the way, if you've never read 'The Pillars of the Earth', you may want to check it out. I would NEVER have picked out that book by reading the description--the only reason I read it back in the day was because Oprah raved about it so much. It's a historical fiction book, and history was always been my least favorite subject in school. I usually got C's and D's in history classes!

'The Pillars' takes place in the 1100's. I think the thing I love most about the book is visualizing what life was like for people back in that time period. The book description makes it sound like it's all about religion, politics, and history, but if that was the case, I wouldn't have wasted my time reading it.

It's a very detailed story, taking place over many years, about several lives that intertwine; it's full of romance, drama, action, suspense, comedy... you name it. (It's a bit graphic at times, so if you're concerned about that, you may want to read spoilers about it before reading the book.)

Anyway, I loved 'The Pillars' so much that I read the sequel, and then I read the trilogy last year, and now I've started the prequel. 

Today, I spent a lot of time reading because I vowed that I was going to rest. My carpal tunnel has flared up BIG TIME and it's completely miserable. I feel like I can't catch a break lately! I got a nasty blister and had to quit going for walks to let it heal, so I started riding my bike instead. Then I injured my knee pretty badly, so I had to quit biking. Then I picked up a project to work on while my knee healed--refinishing a TV console and coffee table--and now my carpal tunnel is telling me no.

The carpal tunnel syndrome started a few years ago when I was working on remodeling the house. I spent a ton of time scraping the texture off of the ceiling, mudding the drywall, sanding the heck out of it, priming, and painting. I did this stuff every single day for MONTHS.

Then I started having problems with my hands and wrists. I went to a chiropractor, which didn't help. Physical therapy, which only helped a little. And a neurologist, who diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome. He gave me a prescription for a wrist splint (the pain was mainly in my right hand) and said he could do cortisone injections. I declined because I have had a couple of bad experiences with cortisone (it makes my mood go completely crazy). I would love to get carpal tunnel surgery, but he made it sound like he wouldn't consider that until I try the cortisone first. 

After the last few nights I've had, I'm going to find a different doctor and try again. I really didn't like the neurologist I saw--he made me feel very rushed and it didn't seem like he was listening to me at all.

The pain at night is the worst. I wake up in excruciating pain several times a night. I am not one to exaggerate pain--I know the pain scale well. I've given birth twice, I've shattered my jaw and had two surgeries on it, I've had skin removal surgery... those topped out at a 9 on the 1-10 pain scale. You know what is a 10? This carpal tunnel syndrome!

During the day, it's mostly just annoying rather than painful. But at night? It feels like my arm is on fire while simultaneously being stabbed all over and having my fingernails ripped off. It comes in waves, much like contractions during childbirth. I can feel the intensity rising until it peaks and then it slowly backs down. I end up writhing and pacing and crying and moaning... I'm sure it sounds like I'm giving birth!

When I get up in the morning (I've been getting up before 5:00 the last few days because the pain flares up the most when I'm in bed) my hands are super swollen. Jerry was kind of freaked out when he saw how swollen my hands were today. That's why I said I was going to rest my arms. I'm finished with painting the furniture (which is what caused my carpal tunnel to flare up again), and just have to put it back together and get it in the house. I think next week I'm going to try walking and see how my knee feels. I'd love to start the Couch to 5K again. And I'm going to have to rest my hands for a while.

Estelle's certainly not complaining--she loves sitting on my lap ;)

At least I have a good book to read! If I end up loving it, I'll do a giveaway for a copy of 'The Evening and the Morning' (or if you've not yet read 'The Pillars of the Earth', you could choose that instead). But I'll write about that when I finish the book. Now, I'm going to try to go to bed early and hopefully get some sleep tonight.

March 28, 2021

Affirmators! Week 6: Joy

Affirmators! are cards with positive affirmations written on them. My friend John sent me a deck of them and I've been drawing one from the deck each Sunday. I hang it on my bathroom mirror to keep it in the front of my mind and try to work on that topic through the week. That's what this Affirmators! post series is about.

Last week my Affirmators! card was "Playfulness" and I worked on being more playful in general throughout the week. I really like that these affirmation cards actually DO make me more aware of my attitude, and I thought about the Playfulness card frequently.

A couple of funny stories:

Jerry had read my blog post about Playfulness and he really liked that I was going to work on being more playful. The next evening, I was playing Best Fiends on my iPad and he sat down next to me. He jokingly hovered his finger over the power button on my iPad and looked at me with a grin like he was going to turn it off while I was mid-level.

I immediately wanted to say, "No! Don't do it!" but then I knew he was testing me--pushing my buttons to see if I would be light-hearted about it ("playful") or get mad. So, I smiled sweetly and said, "Go ahead".

Jerry got a look of doubt on his face and I could almost SEE the gears working in his head--he wanted to push the power button but wasn't sure what my reaction would be. I said (in a nice, calm voice), "I dare you. Push it! See what happens." (I wouldn't be mad if he did... but I wanted to kind of push him back to see if he would actually do it.)

He hesitated some more, and then sighed and sat back. He said, "I can't do it. I'm scared of you."

Hahaha! I guess I really do need to be more playful ;)

After my sunglasses were stolen from my car a few weeks ago, we ended up buying security cameras. Jerry really wanted them and I finally caved. I always feel uncomfortable at people's houses when they have security cameras, or even when I just walk past someone's house that has them. It feels like people are watching me. So I always resisted buying them for our house.

Jerry gets an alert on his phone when the cameras turn on (motion activated). Last night before bed, I was letting Joey outside at around midnight. I had the idea to do something "playful" and I grabbed a flashlight and stood on the porch. I faced the nearest camera and then held the flashlight under my chin up toward my face. Then I waved my arms around and pretended like I was screaming, and then made a goofy face. I wasn't sure if Jerry would watch it (he was at work) but since it was midnight and there was an alert, I figured he would.

I turned to go inside and when I opened the door, Phoebe ran outside. (Our cats are strictly indoor cats, but Phoebe would sell her soul to be able to go outside freely. We have foxes and coyotes and predatory birds and other things that could hurt her right across the street--so if she sneaks out, we go after her until we can catch her.)

I yelled, "Damnit Phoebe!!" and ran after her. Joey got all excited and started coming with me, which only made Phoebe go farther. I yelled, "Joey, no! Go on!" and then was chasing after Phoebe. I finally got her (not before she ate enough grass to throw up when she came inside) and I texted Jerry to see if he saw the whole charade. It was then that I learned the cameras actually have sound and not just video! 

So, when I was making goofy faces at the camera, I'd only pretended to scream (thinking that the video was silent) but then I was swearing while running around chasing after the pets in the yard. Hahaha, the joke was definitely on me.

As a whole, I think I did good with this affirmation through the week. Jerry said he noticed that I wasn't letting little things get to me as much. At the very least, I made an effort. And I plan to continue with it, being more playful whenever I can.

Now, on to this week's card...

To enjoy something, I simply need to add joy to it. Joy is like butter--I can put it on anything and it'll make it way better. Today, I will add joy to everything, really slather it on. Today, I am the Orville Redenbacher of joy. And life's popcorn is about to get it.

This one is very fun! Except if I had the ability to add joy to everything, I totally would have done it by now. I wish that I could just "think happy thoughts" and be happy all the time. I can't control my emotions, unfortunately.

Jerry and I use the simple phrase, "Throw strikes!" regarding trying to control something you have no control of. We started using this phrase because it drives us both CRAZY when we are at the kids' baseball games and the coach or parents yell to the pitcher, "Throw strikes!" ...because what do they think the pitcher is *trying* to do?!

For example, if Jerry is nervous about something, I might say, "Don't be nervous. Throw strikes!" It's kind of like saying that I know he's nervous and I wish I could help, but there isn't anything I can say that will make him not be nervous.

Adding joy to everything is like throwing strikes. I'm always *trying* to be happy and feel joy. But whether I actually feel that way or not is the umpire's call.

This week, I'm going to lump this card in with last week's card... I'm going to look for ways to be more playful and while I'm at it, I'll try to sprinkle some joy here and there ;)

March 27, 2021


I feel a little guilty that I've been mostly choosing the recipes from the heritage cookbooks that are for baked goods rather than actual meals. I'll try to branch out next week and do a savory meal. It's funny, because I usually stay far away from baking--I'm terrible at it! Interestingly, a lot of the heritage recipes are for baked goods and written by women; the recipes for meat and main dishes are frequently written by men.

I noticed that raisins are very common ingredient in cookies, cakes, and quick breads. I don't love raisins, but I'll eat them and sometimes they taste good in certain recipes. These "cookies" sounded interesting because you boil raisins in water and then use some of the cooking water for the cookies. (I put "cookies" in quotes because these are actually cookie bars--I think they are named Spread Cookies because you "spread" out the dough instead of dropping them on a cookie sheet.)

A note about oleo...

This word reminds me of my grandma (if she was alive, she'd be 106 now--she was born in 1914). My mom taught me when I was young that "oleo" was margarine. I used to think it was a funny old-fashioned word.

I never use margarine. I don't want to call myself a "snob" about it, but I definitely prefer butter. However, in my grandma's and my mom's generations, "oleo" was very common. When I was debating this recipe, I looked up the history of margarine and it was pretty interesting!

In a (large) nutshell: The words "oleo" and "margarine" actually come from one word: "oleomargarine". It was invented in 1869 as a cheap alternative to butter. Originally, it was made of beef fat and skimmed milk; shortly after, the process of hydrogenation (turning vegetable oils into solid fat) came to be. In the early 1930's, there was a shortage of animal fat due to the Great Depression and margarine (hydrogenated oil) became a popular, cheap alternative to butter. This explains why "oleo" or "margarine" is a common ingredient in recipes from the late 1800's through, well, rather recently.

I only bring this up because my only "rule" about cooking/baking the heritage recipes is that I must follow the recipe exactly as written. So, I bought margarine for the first time in probably a decade or more in order to make this recipe. (You could certainly make this with butter; I only used the margarine to follow the recipe as-written.)

As usual, I will write out the recipe exactly as it is shown in the heritage cookbook, and following that, I'll write my notes to clarify.

This recipe for Spread Cookies was submitted to the Rockwood, Michigan Area Historical Society by Darlene Beaudrie in memory of Irene Smith, a kindergarten teacher in South Rockwood in the 1940's. (I tried to find information about her, but I could not--Smith isn't exactly an uncommon last name!)

In the printer-friendly version below, I've rewritten the recipe just for clarity.

Here is a printer friendly version!

Spread Cookies (see notes after recipe)


1/4 c. shortening
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. soda
1 c. nutmeats, chopped
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. raisin water
1 c. (boiled slightly) raisins
1-3/4 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt


Cream shortening, sugar and eggs. Drain water from raisins and save 1 cup. Add soda to water. Add rest of ingredients. Mix. Spread a thin layer on a greased brownie tin. Bake at 350 F. While warm place on icing of 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons oleo, 2 tablespoon shortening mixed well; add 1 teaspoon vanilla and a small amount of milk. Mix well.

My notes:

I think that listing "soda" and "baking soda" was a typo. I used 1 tsp. of baking soda total.

Nutmeats are just nuts (without the shell).

About the raisins/raisin water: I understood it to mean boil the raisins in some water, then set aside 1 cup of boiled raisins. Use 1/2 c. of the water that was used to boil them. I added a scant 1 cup of raisins (knowing they would plump up) to about 1 cup of water on the stove and brought it to a boil. Then I reduced the heat to a simmer for about 3-4 minutes, and separated the raisins and the liquid (keeping only 1/2 cup of the liquid).

I first creamed the shortening, sugar, and eggs, like it says. I prepared the raisins like I described above. I added the baking soda to the raisin water (the water was still very hot--not sure if that mattered!). Then I added the raisin water plus the rest of the ingredients (except for the raisins and nuts) to the bowl with the sugar mixture. I beat it into a thick batter, and then I folded in the raisins and nuts.

The reason these are called "spread cookies" is because they aren't single cookies on a sheet. They are more like cookie bars.

I wasn't sure what size pan to use to bake it. At first, I prepped an 8x8 pan, because that is a typical "brownie-sized" pan. The recipe says to spread it in a thin layer, but after I prepared the batter, there was way too much for a thin layer. So, I used a 9x13 pan and that worked out well.

The recipe doesn't specify how long to bake them, so I started with 10 minutes and then checked them here and there. They ended up baking for 16 minutes, and this is how they looked when I pulled them out:

For the icing: I beat the oleo (margarine), shortening, and vanilla to combine and then I added powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating until smooth each time. I added a little milk when it got too thick--in all, I used about 3 Tbsp. milk. This is the consistency I ended up with:

It says to spread the icing while the cookies/bars are warm (not hot), so I let them sit for about 15 minutes after pulling out of the oven before adding the icing.

These Spread Cookies are SO GOOD. I honestly didn't think I'd like them very much because raisins are a key ingredient, but these remind me very much of carrot cake. The texture is somewhere between a cookie and a cake. The frosting is very sweet, making this really rich (even for me) so just a small piece is satisfying. 

This is a recipe that I'll definitely make again!

March 26, 2021

Friday Night Photos

I thought for sure that I didn't have any photos on my camera roll to post tonight. This week hasn't been very eventful, but I managed to take a picture of a few random things!

When I went to Sherwin-Williams to buy paint for the furniture, I parked the car and grabbed my purse, then started to put on my mask. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I could see someone staring at me from the car next to me. I turned to look, and sure enough, he was staring. Hahaha!

Luke turned four years old this month, and I thought it would be fun to get him an ant farm. We had one when my kids were little, and we all loved it. I bought it and was waiting for the ants to come in the mail. I was never given a shipment notification or anything about the ants, and Jerry grabbed the mail on his way to work (at 5 PM). There was an envelope addressed to me, so he didn't open it. The next morning, he brought the mail inside and the envelope looked pretty mysterious. I opened it and nearly dropped it because I was startled to see a little vial of ants inside the envelope!

I felt bad that they'd been in the envelope in Jerry's car all night, so I felt like we should get the ant farm set up right away. To be cautious, I set the farm in the (empty) bathtub while I attempted to move the ants from the vial into the farm. (Ask my dad why it's important to contain the ants when transferring! Haha, when I was a kid, the fire ants got all over my bedroom because I tried to do it myself.)

I'm glad I used the bathtub, because one of them crawled out of the vial and started to run up the vial toward my fingers. I panicked and moved too quickly and half of the ants from the vial wound up in the bathtub. I used a wooden skewer to pick them up (by letting them crawl onto it--not stabbing them! Ha), one by one, and put them into the farm.

It's been three days and I still haven't brought it to Luke. Just in case we end up keeping it, I bought him a different gift ;)

I came across this "blanket rack" on Facebook Marketplace, and I thought it was such a great idea to save space. I have so much scrap wood that I could make a couple of these (for towels and/or blankets) really easily. Going on my "to make" list.

I spent SO much time today prepping dinner, but it was very worth it to make Chipotle-style chicken burrito bowls. I'm not a fan of raw tomatoes or cilantro, but somehow, I really like the pico de gallo. 

Duck was lying on my bed like bloated roadkill. His legs were stuck out in all directions. (I usually make my bed first thing in the morning, but any cat owner knows that you don't get to choose when you make your bed ;)

I saw this meme and it made me laugh--it's absolutely true!

I was watching Dirty Jobs and I think this was an episode with pigs (or maybe chicks?) and Phoebe was very interested. She sat in front of the TV like that for about five minutes, watching the show with me.

I had a dentist appointment a few days ago and I saw this hanging in the waiting room. I really liked it and it gave me the idea to make something similar for my bedroom. We have a wall in our bedroom that really needs a picture; it's very bare. I am going to build a frame--like pictured below--and then instead of the little square art pieces, I'll get a bunch of square photos printed.

I can glue and Mod Podge them onto thin pieces of wood and then attach those to the frame. I have no room in the garage to work on it until I'm done painting the furniture, though. I got most of the first coat of paint done; the project should take maybe three more days total. 

The seeds I planted are starting to grow... a little. But they aren't lasting even two days at a time because Duck keeps pulling them out! I only planted basil and bell peppers and I was so excited when I saw they were growing. I keep them on top of the fridge so they are in direct sunlight under the skylight in the kitchen.

Well, Duck jumps on top of the fridge and grabs them with his teeth, breaking them. That's why I have little toothpicks in there--I was hoping they would poke him in the nose when he tries to grab the seedlings, but they haven't deterred him. I only have a couple of seedlings left. I have no idea where else I can put them to keep the cats away. If you have ideas to keep the cats away, please let me know!

Have a great weekend! xo

March 25, 2021

On This Day: March 25

A couple of weeks ago I didn't have anything to write, and I decided to post some pictures that were taken on that day in previous years. It was fun to see what was going on back then! I don't really have anything new to write, so I'm going to throwback to this day (March 25) in years past (at least as far as my photos go back)...

This was taken in 2005, when Noah was eight months old. It's so hard to imagine a house with just one baby and one pet! (We had Chandler at the time.) Noah was 18 months old when Eli was born, so the house wasn't this quiet for TOO long ;)

I don't have any pictures on March 25 from 2006-2010, unfortunately! But here is one from 2011... Noah used to get a magazine from LEGO in the mail and kids submit photos of them with things they built out of LEGOs. Noah asked me to take his picture to send to the magazine. So sweet!

This is a race photo from the Rock CF Half Marathon in 2012. My gait looks terrible here, haha. This was the first and only race I've ever worn headphones. I didn't like wearing them because I didn't get to chat with people on the course. Even if I don't talk to other people, I at least like to listen to what's going on.

A post-race photo with my friends. Left to right: me, Alicia, Andrea, Jessica, Stephanie, and Renee.

I ran the half in 2:02:57, which was a PR for me at the time. My previous best was 2:10:40, so it was a big jump down.

In 2013, this was Noah's "special day". I used to let the kids have a "special day" once per school year. They could each play hooky from school and choose something fun to do with me--just the two of us. Usually we would go out to eat and go to a movie or bowling. On this day, we went bowling, then lunch at Red Robin, and then ice cream at DQ. I miss doing special days with them. Now, if I suggest missing school, Noah tells me all the reasons he can't do that if he wants to get into the nursing program at school! Haha, he's a good kid.

At the bowling alley for Noah's "special day".

Jerry and I went to see Divergent in 2014. It was later this evening that I called Mark's nephew to let him know we were going to visit the following day, and Mark's nephew told me that Mark didn't have much longer to live--the hospice nurse was there and there wasn't time for me to go up and see him. He passed away a few hours later, in the early morning of March 26. (Here is Mark's story if you're not familiar.) Can you believe it's been seven years since Mark died? 

This is Eli playing with Luke in 2018. Luke had just turned a year old and he LOVED Eli. Thankfully, Eli is great with kids and he loved playing with Luke just as much (he still does). I miss when Eli was really into his hairstyle! This is the blond that was left after the blue faded.

This was in 2019--I just finished a four-day bathroom makeover. I'd removed the popcorn ceiling, taped and mudded the drywall seams, painted, made a new countertop, replaced the door, painted the cabinets, and Jerry installed new flooring. You can see the details and before photos on this post.

This was fun! I may make this a regular "Throwback Thursday" type of post (at least when I don't have much to write about).

March 24, 2021

Furniture Restoration Progress

I have been WAY too eager for spring, basically ever since fall turned into winter. Being home all last year definitely took its toll mentally. It was great during the spring and summer when I was working on giving the garage a major makeover, but when the weather got cold, doing projects outside was no longer fun.

My favorite thing to do in the warmer months is to work on a project in the garage with all the doors open so that the breeze comes through (and the squirrels can come and beg for their walnuts--when they see me in there, they come and watch me until I notice them and give them a nut). I listen to podcasts while I work and it feels almost therapeutic. It's just not the same in the winter with all the doors closed.

A few months ago, I set up my sewing stuff in there to get it out of my house--it takes up a lot of room!--and I love that it will add some more variety to the projects I can work on in the garage. I've been practicing a lot with my serger and I am definitely getting the hang of it now. I still have a lot to learn, but I really like it.

Currently, I am working on restoring the Pottery Barn furniture I bought from Facebook Marketplace. (I bought a TV console and a coffee table for $100.) It is a big project! I thought it would only take me a four days--sand on day one, prime on day two, paint first coat on day three, and paint second coat on day four--but I've been working on it daily since Saturday and I only just finished priming it today.

The sanding took much longer than I thought it would. I probably did a much more thorough job than I needed to, but I didn't want to skimp on the sanding. There were a lot of nicks in the coffee table so I sanded those out. I also cleaned everything with TSP to remove any shine.

This is what it looked like before and then after I removed the doors and drawers and sanded the heck out of it. 

Hey, in DIY things tend to look worse before they look better ;) 

I wasted a whole day on Monday when I started to apply the prime coat. I used Kilz for oil-based paint (which I've used a lot before--on furniture, doors, and trim) and it seemed "off" to me. I couldn't remember the texture being that thick when I used it in the house and it was actually difficult to apply because it was so thick (this was an unopened gallon, not the one I used in the house).

The directions said not to add any paint thinner. The brush strokes were really noticeable and it seemed like there were little chunks in the primer. (I enhanced the contrast in this picture to give a better visual--you can see the brush strokes are really bad and it looks kind of "chunky".)

After priming most of the console, I knew the primer had to be bad. It definitely didn't look like that when I used it in the house (nor was it that hard to apply). So, I had to sand all of that down from the console to get rid of the brush stroke texture.

I bought a new gallon of Kilz and sure enough, it was much thinner when I opened it up. I'm not sure what happened to the previous gallon, but I know it wasn't from storage. (I store the paint in the house because remember when I left several gallons of paint in the garage in the winter and I had to throw it all out? Ugh, expensive lesson.)

Yesterday, I was finally able to really start priming everything. The console and the coffee table are pretty big--the coffee table has three large drawers and the console has four (plus two doors). I love the drawers on the coffee table because they are two-sided--you can pull them out from either direction. I felt like I would never get done priming! Every time I thought I was done, I realized that I'd missed the side of a drawer or the inside of one leg or something like that.

I bought a gallon of "Spare White" oil-based paint from Sherwin-Williams (the same paint I used for all of the trim in the house). I would love to use some color, but I don't think there are any colors that would work well for those pieces of furniture in my living room. So, tomorrow I'm going to try to get the first coat of paint on all of the pieces.

I don't love the drawer pulls, but they are recessed pulls and that means I have to replace with them with the same type. I looked for some online, and they are SO expensive--it would cost me more to buy the pulls than I spent on the two pieces of furniture! (When removing hardware, it wasn't until I got to this last drawer that I remembered to take a "before" photo of the pulls. I don't like the little holder for a label, so I'm not going to put those back on.)

In other news, my knee is not okay yet. I'm super bummed. It doesn't hurt, but it gets really tight sometimes. And the worst part is the sound it makes when I bend it--a crunching sound with a squeak like you would hear if you stretched out a balloon. Because it's not painful, I'm tempted to exercise on it (maybe just riding my bike for a while so I'm not putting weight on it). The tightness and the sound it makes concern me, though--I really should just make an appointment with an orthopedist to be sure.

The timing of the injury was a big disappointment because I had been so excited to do the Couch to 5K plan and to continue my five miles a day streak. I was in a really good mental place when it comes to exercise. And then I injured it in the most ironic way--I was working on my bike gears in the garage when I knelt right on a screwdriver handle.

I miss going for walks (and I know Joey misses Roomba!) but strangely, I feel totally okay mentally. I haven't been hard on myself at all about not exercising while my knee heals. And I've been really happy lately. Of course, whenever I feel happy, I question whether I'm just hypomanic. Hypomania is so clear in retrospect, but not so much in the present. I haven't been obsessively cleaning or working on a project non-stop, though, so I think maybe I'm just happy :) 

March 23, 2021

Transformation Tuesday #19: A splash of paint!

Thank you so much for the last-minute submissions for Transformation Tuesday! As you know, I love this series (and I know many of you do, too) so please keep them coming (see bottom of the post for details to submit).

After going through all of these, I realized that the main topic was paint--it's amazing what a splash of paint can do to completely transform a room or a piece of furniture. If you don't have the money to update the look of a room, a single gallon of paint in the right places can do wonders. And it feels so good when you love the new look :)

Here are some fun transformations involving paint for this Transformation Tuesday...

I finally decided to update the master bathroom in our house, since it was the last room on our main floor that we hadn't painted since we bought our house a few years ago.  We put the new sink faucet in a couple of months ago..., then I painted the walls, the shower doors (with metallic spray paint), the countertops (with a marble countertop kit) and the cabinets.  I got a new mirror and hardware and my husband installed a new vanity light. (I don't do electric!)  It feels like a brand new room for under $500!

- Jen

This is my fiancĂ©'s pool/guest bathroom that I took on as a project. I was trying to do this as cheaply as possible, so mainly I used paint to change the look of the bathroom. Blue and green are my favorite colors, so you can definitely see my influence here! I purchased a new rug, and found the pictures and shower curtain in a thrift store. I repurposed the plant and the white shelf that we already owned.  I also replaced the blind on the pool door. Next will be to replace that ugly yellow plastic sheeting on the overhead light! 

Eileen, Florida, DIY'er

We were excited to open our saloon on the lower level of our old school building a year ago, but COVID struck. It's still not open but we did a lot of work on the original kitchen that the kids used a looooong time ago.

-Karen, antique mall owner

It all started with a black mirror. I loved the mirror above the dining room buffet, but it didn't look quite right with all the brown on the buffet.  I decided to paint some of the trim in black milk paint and I loved the way it turned out, Of course I had to paint the trim on the table next.  And, finally, the chairs also needed to be painted to look like they belonged.  I do love the final outcome, but I am really tired of painting and applying top coats!

- Cheryl

Project: Bedroom "refresh" for a [interior design] client--this was a very large room, with a wall of sliders onto a porch with an ocean view(!) but I'm only using the bed-wall in this before/after

Process: Visit, talk to client about goals (in this case "cozier" "place to draw/paint" "place to read in afternoon", find out client priorities (client had been struggling with paint color for a couple of years before she hired me), ask about things that needed to stay (in this case, a 1980s burgundy leather chair/ottoman, built-in bedside drawers, etc)

I spent about 2.5 hours on site, talking, measuring, taking pictures, thinking about what else in the home might be moved to be used in the bedroom, honing paint colors.

What I Delivered:  an overall look and "plan" including specific instructions for paint, detailed photos of items to be purchased, right down to the duvet cover and dog bed. the rug was something the client already owned and loved, so I suggested re-locating it to bedroom, and I pulled the accent wall color from it.

In a more involved re-fresh, I'd visit several times (to confirm palette, talk to contractors if necessary, bring samples of window treatments, etc)-- but this project was smaller so that the client could implement changes as time and budget permitted.

One of my favorite things is to incorporate vintage or second-hand items if possible, and if the client is open to it--it's more environmentally kind and almost always less expensive, but it can take longer. in this case, the client was open to a vintage Kevi chair that I supplied. The Kevi chair was designed in Denmark in 1958 as the first adjustable/ergonomic work chair, and it is still being made for over $600! (it's very comfortable--I considered keeping it myself)

- Amy, New England, passionate designer with a love for vintage and secondhand stuff

Thank you so much for sharing your fun projects! 

Jen, the update on your bathroom is amazing--and I can't believe how inexpensive it was. (Is that paint color Argos by Sherwin-Williams, by any chance? It looks identical to the gray throughout most of my house.) I love the color you chose for the vanity!

Eileen, that bathroom is exactly what I mean when I say how much paint can transform something. That wall color is perfect! You did a great budget-friendly makeover. (Also, I've had the song "Come On, Eileen" stuck in my head while I worked on this entire post, haha)

Karen, that looks like so much work! But I am fascinated that you are using an old school building for a saloon...did I read that right? What a fun project. I'd love to see more pics!

Cheryl, your post made me laugh because I know that train of thought SO well ;) You did an amazing job--the buffet is gorgeous! I am terrible at envisioning brown and black together--but your furniture looks like it's from a design catalogue. Love it.

Amy, thanks so much for sharing the process of designing for a client! That would be a super fun job (unfortunately, I definitely don't have the "design eye" for rooms... I just change things out by trial and error, haha). I'm sure your client was thrilled with the new look!

If any of you have a fun transformation (it doesn't have to be DIY... just any sort of before and after) that you'd like to share, I'd be thrilled to post it on a Transformation Tuesday post! Just email a before photo and an after photo to me at: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. Include a description of the transformation, your name, location, and what you like to do (whatever you feel comfortable sharing).

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