Monday, November 28, 2016

DIY: Framing for the New Floor Plan - Building an In-law Apartment From Scratch

This part of the construction was the first big milestone. We pulled down every existing interior wall and did a final clean up (and another trip to the dump). Staring at a hollow shell was a little intimidating. This was the first (only, and last) point where Mr. Steady almost waivered. He looked around and said, "I guess we're building an apartment now."  It was also the first (of many) point where I almost lost it.  I burst into uncontrollable laughter - much like Tom Hanks in the movie Money Pit and threw my hands up. "Yep. Guess we're building an apartment."
 We started with a really precise floor plan. All the measurements had been adjusted on the Sweet Home 3D program after demo (More about that HERE). So, we printed the new layout and used it to mark out the new wall locations on the subfloor.
All there was left to do was put the new walls up! 
Enter: This little beauty...
This compressor has been a loyal friend to Mr. Steady through these renovation years. It is made by Porter Cable and we can testify to it's durability! It comes with a brad nailer, a finish nailer, and a staple gun. They have all been used and abused around here and are still going strong!  He uses them in the shop for product builds, in the house for trimwork....and when we started this project he purchased this other little beauty...


A framing nailer- this blessing was absent from our previous projects (all still in progress) and Mr. Steady said by comparison, it felt like these walls practically put themselves up. I'm sure it's all relative, but he had the whole apartment done in a day!


And just like that, it had rooms again!
We called our electrician in and he ran a subpanel off our main electrical panel (its wired for future independence, but we didn't have the budget to run a separate line now) . He also ran all the wiring for the outlets, switches, and recessed lighting (a necessity with 7,10" ceilings).
Then we paused from celebration to purchase insulation - A huge expense we were not planning on. Thankfully, Mr. Steady has a great relationship with the folks at the local lumberyard and we got "a deal". 
The insulation was stapled in to each cavity (Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching...) with the Porter Cable staple gun.  We were feeling productive and accomplished. We were starting to come to grips with the necessary expenses and were proud of the progress we made....

Then we took a look around.
Our shoulders drooped as we asked, "Why does it look just as bad as it did a few weeks ago?" 
And so goes the story of renovation.

This part of the process (the behind the walls part) was NEVER ENDING.  It's never fun spending money on things you will NEVER see. It's even less fun spending hours, days, and weeks putting them there yourself.  I hate to admit it, especially this early in the process, but with the thought of plumbing, gas lines, and other  "behind the scenes projects", I was already burnt out. Shameful, I know.

A possible contribution to my lack of perseverance was this little gal - still waking up several times a night to eat.  Not making's just a thought.
In the end, we did make one framing adjustment - a pass-through from the kitchen to the living room.  It let in a ton of light and we figured it would give my Mother in law a great view from the sink.


Well, it sure is weird being on this side of the project and looking back. I was so SURE it would never end.  Let this be a dose of hope for you. It DOES end. It WILL be awesome. You CAN do it.
Please leave your comments, questions, and thoughts below. Love to hear from you!

Don't miss the next installment of the In-Law Apartment series....Subscribe HERE or in the top right hand side of your screen - just below the stunning photo of your favorite author! =)

From our home to yours,

This post contains affiliate links.
To learn more, please click here.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Celebrating A Decade Of Gingerbread Houses - The Next 5 Years

 This post contains affiliate links.
In my previous post, "The First 5 Years", I started a timeline to display the baby steps that led to grand development in our gingerbread house making skills. What began as a creative bonding process for newly weds became a full blown family tradition. Years of fun (and shocking progress) finally brought us here....


First of all, please excuse my photography skills. I didn't seem to progress as drastically in that skill as I did in my gingerbread craft.
Well, as you can see, this year was a doozy! We deviated completely from the safety of using a gingerbread house kit and constructed our own.  With no engineering experience, we were both surprised to find our creations still standing after weeks of display and transport.
The building structures were made with graham crackers.  They held together so nicely we decided used them the following year.
This year we decided to share our love for gingerbread houses with our church family. I made 35 mini graham cracker houses, set up a decoration spread, and made a day of it.  The kids had a blast - everyone's turned out so differently.

Even our little Curious Cowgirl (age 2.5) made her own little masterpiece...
Poor Gingy.
The next few years were a little chaotic.  It wasn't until we moved to our new home here at Rehoboth Farm that we were able to pick up the piping bag again. And since we were still recovering from the Great Kitchen Debacle, we decided to play it safe...and small...and cheap.

Ta-da!  I know, they're pretty sad. We were exhausted, a little overwhelmed, and desperate for some sense of familiarity. We needed some gingerbread house making therapy. And these little guys were just the ticket. 
** 2016 **
This year we are ready to start fresh...we're well rested, have plenty of construction experience, and are excited about celebrating 10 years together...making messes, making trouble, making gingerbread houses...and making beautiful memories! 
The icing is on the table and the sprinkles are gonna fly!  I will post a link to this year's come-back creations HERE as soon as they are complete!
I hope you've enjoyed this photo timeline and the silly stories that accompanied it.  It has been a joy sharing these special times with you.  I'd love to hear your comments, questions, and ideas on gingerbread house making! 
From Our House to Yours,


Celebrating a Decade of Gingerbread Houses - The First 5 Years

This post contains affiliate links.
You know, looking back I guess Mr. Steady and I always had an interest in construction and design. So our recent renovation endeavors should really come as no surprise....although we started on a much smaller scale:
We decorated a gingerbread house (kit) together the first year we were married. We are about to celebrate our 10th anniversary (yay!). Although we haven't done our Gingerbread House Challenge every single year, we have tried to make it a family tradition and we are super excited to start on our 2016 masterpieces!

In celebration of a decade gone by, I'd like to share with you some of our favorite creations and why they are special.  I hope they are an inspiration to you and your family to begin a tradition of your own!

This is our very FIRST gingerbread house.
We started with a basic Wilton Kit. It came with the walls and roof, an icing pouch, and a variety of candy.  We thought we were pretty savvy to bring in additional materials (peppermint chocolate chips).  I know you are super impressed!  Haha! Looking back on this just cracks me up. We had only been married 2 weeks when we started - it was definitely a lesson in communication and collaboration. In the end we were both fairly disappointed with the result and vowed to make a competition out of it the following year so we could each "do our own style".
These sweet neighbors are the result of the vow from the previous year. Funny how "our own style" ended up looking so similar, but a vow is a vow.
We bought 2 Wilton Kits and started the challenge with a few rules:
1. We were each allowed to choose 1 decorating extra not included in the kit.
2. We won't tell our family/friends who made them and we'll hold a blind vote.
We were both finished in a few hours- racing to see who would create the better house.  We were also racing against the Houston weather - the candy was melting in the 80 degree humidity.
My house is on the left - a little over the top - like me!
Mr. Steady's house is the sensible house on the right - with the terribly warm snowman.



This year we brought our A-game! We started planning our design a few weeks in advance and were more than ready when the time came.  We purchased the gingerbread house kits just for the framework and scrapped all the candy decorations.  We purchased our replacement supplies at the dollar store - a meager investment for several evenings of bonding over the creative process.

In the end, Mr. Steady had a lot more vision than I did and took a bold step in branching out from the "typical" candy house. 
We tied in the blind vote, but I gave him the win out of respect for his courage and creativity.

This is when we knew we were hooked. We looked forward to the time of laughter and fun each year and knew we wanted to make it a family tradition.

This year was another collaboration. We had a 6 month old, just returned from a cross-country trip, and just didn't have the oomph to really go at it alone - so we joined efforts. 
We did, however, get a lot more resourceful in our choice of materials. Some friends of ours were cleaning out their pantry and found some expired items - they were offered to us for possible building materials. Stale crackers and sunflower seeds make great landscaping materials!
We also experimented a little by melting blue Jolly Ranchers down to make a pond and formed human figures from Starburst candies. As it turns out, Starburst doesn't really hold its shape in the Houston humidity. Glad we snapped these photos before they melted into colorful blobs!
We got it done and we had fun, but it was another confirmation that we really are better at "parallel play"....we needed our own house...our own ideas... a little bit of elbow room...and a baby that slept through the night.

 So....another vow:

Next year it was GAME ON!! 


 We started planning (secretly) our designs in January and didn't reveal our plans to each other until the fondant started flying.
*FYI: Fondant was this years gold mine! It's like play-dough for grown-ups (who make gingerbread houses like little kids....?) It's an annual staple now.
Anyway, this year we jumped from simply "decorating" to designing. We both started with the same kit pieces (roof and walls), cutting, adjusting, and adding to them to create an architectural design that was unique to our style. They turned out so drastically different, the original structure is hardly evident in the final products. 
Mr. Mint: I pulled the foundation corners in on the house for a more whimsical shape. I built up a "brick" crawlspace and porch with pillars and an overhang.  I also added a brick chimney protruding from the roof (not visible from this angle).
The Country Cottage: Mr. Steady turned his framework sideways, added a bay window and a full chimney stack (similar to his log cabin build a few years before) on the exterior wall.

Fondant was a big game changer - Mr. Mint and the garden veggies stayed fresh and perky for several weeks as we displayed and collected votes (I won by a landslide, by the way!). No effects from the humidity or fluctuating temperature. Awesome!
Well....that was the first 5 years of our Gingerbread House Tradition. Quite the learning curve, huh?

                                                      THE NEXT 5 YEARS OF FUN
 I would love to hear your comments, questions, and ideas. Do you have a gingerbread house tradition in your family? Would you like to start one? I'm also working on a HOW TO post for those of you just starting out.

From Our Home to Yours,

Friday, November 25, 2016

DIY: Demolition - Building an In-Law Apartment From Scratch

 After a winter's worth of brainstorming and designing, we finally created a new floor plan on Sweet Home 3D that we were ready to move forward with (more about that HERE). 
We waited for the weather to promise a steady warmth (and our tax return to arrive) and we packed up my in-laws (again!) and moved them out of the East Wing and in to the converted sun porch.
 We promised to complete their apartment before the season turned again. It gets MIGHTY cold in the porch room. (We took our turn out there during my second and third trimester).
Needless to say, we didn't have any time to waste.  We grabbed our hammers and geared up for Demo Day!
Everybody works around here - no matter how small or how bald.

We started with the easy stuff - shelves, doors, window treatments...

Then we let loose on a few walls...

 The place came apart on its own in some areas...and we found lots of surprises:

Surprise - the ceiling tiles are cardboard! Some of them had been eaten through by termites and just disintegrated in our hands.  The tiles that were still "in good condition" were ugly as all get out and were coming down!
Surprise - the insulation we were hoping to keep in tact was 1/4" thick...maybe an R value of .5? USELESS!
Surprise - the original exterior siding - lead paint and all!
No Photo Available.
Surprise - the carpet padding melted/disintegrated decades ago and now needs to be scraped from the subfloor with this beast:

 It's called a Goldblatt Floor Scraper. I'm pretty sure Mr.Steady picked it up at Lowe's.  It was insanely heavy, but it got the job done.  Something lighter with an exchangeable blade like our hand-held scraper might have been a better bet.

 Surprise - that's not sheetrock on the walls -it's 1/4" paneling!  A lot lighter to remove and dispose of, but that meant 1/4" lost around each room on the final design, so we had to keep that mind.
Just two days later (with some help from a young teenage body on loan from church) Mr. Steady had stripped the place clean! And after 5 trips to the dump and a pile of "possibly reusable materials" on the porch....we were staring at a hollow shell:

(FYI: that door leads to the garage which would be a crucial part of the final design, but we were still storing materials in there and couldn't begin the demo process out there yet).
All of the exterior walls were coming down and getting relocated, but we wanted to double check the ceiling rafters and the roof structure to be sure none of them were load bearing.
We started to get an idea of how the layout would work. In fact, after all that labor (and the sudden added cost of insulation) we decided to reconfigure the bedroom to save some time/money on moving the existing windows. Besides, we needed new calculations for the room size with the 1/5" sheetrock adjustment...... So, back to Sweet Home!
Don't miss the next installment of the In-Law Apartment series....Subscribe HERE (or scroll NE until you find the email subscription box just below the stunning photo of your favorite author! =)