Cottage: Memorial Weekend

Once again, I feel like I am a little tardy with this update, but better late than never right?  Over Memorial Day Weekend we were back in Michigan working on the cottage and were able to get A LOT accomplished while still having time to enjoy visiting with friends and family.

Mark and Dad finished installing the pine boards on the “main” wall in the living room.  Then Mark and I went back and forth approximately 753 times on whether to leave it natural or white wash…finally landed on natural.  This wood is too pretty to mess with, so we’ll just add a light satin coat of poly to protect it.

We reached a big milestone….PAINT!  All of the walls, with the exception of the bathroom were primed and then painted.  VERY. EXCITING. STUFF.  For the living room and kitchen we chose Shark Loop by Valspar.  The bedroom and the bathroom are on the small side so we wanted to keep those two lighter and selected Ghost Ship.

Even though we decided to keep the pine wood natural in the living room, we decided to white wash the pine boards for the bedroom ceiling to help keep it light and bright.  I put on one coat of Minwax White Wash Pickling which will also be followed by a light poly coat to seal.

Last, but not least, I had a little help from this cutie touching up some of the exterior img_8920paint on the block foundation.  She is a very good helper and I’ll take any excuse I can get to hang out with her.

Our next scheduled trip is in July, at which time we’ll be able to stay for an entire week for our vacation.

Stay Tuned!

Cottage: Onward!

FINALLY over Easter weekend were back in Michigan to work on our cottage after what felt like a long hiatus for the two of us.  In addition to Mom & Dad, we were fortunate enough to have some extra help from our friends, Stephanie & Aaron.

We ended up dividing & conquering between our cottage and our cousin’s that is also undergoing the renovation process.  At our cottage the drywall was taped and mudded, then we started installing the pine boards on the main wall, which will eventually go on the ceiling as well. It is ironic how much effort goes into making something like that look random, but it will be BEAUTIFUL!


 While we all  worked, Ruby hunted moles…everyone has their talents

Another important step was nailing down some selections…which  can feel like the hardest part.  Looking at samples from a distance isn’t nearly the same as testing them on site with the light, flooring choice (For the love of cork), etc.  After trying a few finishes on the pine boards, and painting a couple of color swatches…we have winners!… Now I just have to avoid the paint section at Lowe’s so I don’t begin to second guess myself.


In addition to working, we were able to spend time with family & friends we don’t get to see often enough, a reminder of why we are doing this.  As usual, Mom outdid herself keeping everyone fed (Remember this? Mom, The Gracious Hostess)  We even had time at the end of the day to enjoy a few beers and s’mores around the first bonfire of the year for all of us.

Good company & good times all around!

Special Guest: Mom, The Family Gardener

Last week was typical March week, snowy and windy but with sun and 50s over the weekend. For the past month or so every warm and sunny day makes me eager for Spring gardening.  I’m Jeanette, Becky’s mom, and six weeks or so ago we talked about me doing a guest post for By The Poole.  Becky and I are alike in many ways, we definitely share an organizing gene, but my love of playing in the dirt and making  things grow seems to be a mine alone.

I’m not an authority on gardening.  Although I have several books on gardening and toolssubscribe to Better Homes and Gardens for the plant section, for the most part I rely on the information on the back of seed packets and the plastic stakes in potted plants.   As a matter of fact most of what you need to know to successfully grow a plant is there.  Packets and stakes tell you when to plant, how deep, how tall the plant will grow, whether it needs a sunny or shady location, when you can expect it to bloom (or be ready to pick for vegetables), how much water it needs, what kind of soil is best and even a picture of what it will look like.

While I pay attention to that information, I also believe growing plants is a bit like raising children: Try something, if it works do it again, if not do something different and don’t expect the same thing to work for all of them.  My brother once bought a house with flowers all around it and decided he didn’t want all of those flowers;  another time my tools 2husband, Fred, and I had the chance to get a number of plants that were being removed from a construction site .  There were no instructions either time, so I just brought them home and put them in the ground, watched to see how they did and later moved the ones that didn’t seem to like where I put them at first.   Plants are pretty forgiving if you pay attention and will sort of tell you when something is wrong—plants that need to be in the shade will look burned and droopy in the direct sun and sun lovers get spindly in the shade.  I lose a few every now and then but most plants want to grow and make the best of where they are planted even if it’s not ideal.

Before I move on, I should explain the two main kinds of plants. Annuals just grow for one season.  Most vegetables and often the most colorful flower are annuals.  Annuals are grown from seeds or found in fairly inexpensive trays or flats at garden centers.   gardening 1Perennials can be grown from seed but are more often purchased by the pot or shared by a friend who divides a clump that has grown too big and unless there is a problem they grow from year to year often spreading into larger clumps.  I like to have some of each in my garden.  I rely on the perennials and bulbs I’ve planted in the past to get my garden started then add annuals a tray or a flat at a time for splashes of color as time permits.  A mixture of the two as well as mixing vegetables and flowers can result in a pretty and interesting garden and some plants do double duty.  One year I was given some okra someone had started from seeds and while I’m not a fan of okra it had beautiful flowers.

Some of my favorite sun loving annuals are zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, nasturtiums, asters and sunflowers. I always buy a few different kinds of impatiens and begonias for the shady areas.   The backbones of my perennials are shade loving hostas in a large variety of leaf colors and patterns,  and sun lovers including stella d’oro lilies (these are the yellow lilies you see in the landscaping at many fast food restaurants), black eyed susans, daisies and balloon flowers.  I also have some chrysanthemums for fall color.

If, like me, you just can’t wait until it’s really time to plant most things, buy a flat or pot of pansies as soon as you see them in the garden centers and put them by the door you use the most often.  They are so cheerful and can stand the cooler temperatures that come, particularly at night, in early spring.    Books, blogs, and websites abound to answer your question and help you get started, but nothing beats a walk through a garden center to get you in the gardening mood.  Happy gardening!











Spring Desk Decor

Spring is officially here, even if the past couple days haven’t felt like it.  However, I decided it was still the perfect time to refresh my desk space in honor of the season change.  I spend the better part of 8 hours a day Mon-Fri at my desk, why not make it pretty?  Amidst the computer stuff, paperwork, files, & office supplies it is nice to be able to look over and see my own personal “nook” with the following items…img_8624

  • Cute framed print  from Target (only $3!)
  • Photo collage of  me & Mark from Shutterfly
  • Two small succulents in geometric containers
  • Sweet Magnolia scented soy candle (also from Target)
  • Stress Relief hand sanitizer from B&BW
  • Dionis Blue Ridge Wildflower hand cream
  • Fun, printed tissue box (generic brand)

In the future I plan on changing out a few of the items from time to time to reflect the seasons…or whenever I get bored with it.

Do you get to personalize your workspace? What are your favorite items to have at your desk?

Cottage: Behind the Scenes

It am a little overdue on a Cottage update, other than my recent post (For the love of cork) about our flooring choice, which I think counts as half credit.img_8633

Mark & I  haven’t been back up there to work since last fall but there has been plenty of planning on our end and other things going on behind the scenes so to speak.  Dad has been handling getting all utilities squared away and last month we passed our mechanical inspection!  New furnace, new wiring, new plumbing, propane tank connected…how’s that for progress!?

Also, last weekend Dad picked up the beautiful pine boards pictured below from a local Amish man he has worked with on past projects.   These will be finished with a white wash and installed instead of drywall on our ceilings and one large accent wall in the living room…this is one of the elements for the Cottage I am most excited about.

Mark & I will be headed up there over Easter weekend and we can’t wait to get our hands dirty again.  Between Mark changing jobs, my surgery, Holidays, and life in general we have missed working on the cottage these last few months and are ready to get back to it!

Plated: Second Helping

Our cooking adventure with Plated continues…missed our last post?  You can check it out here Plated : Dinner for Two   Honestly, we have not had a meal yet that we truly hated, they all fall between some level of like and LOVE.  Mark and I ask each other regularly, “Would we pay for this meal in a restaurant?” If yes, then we know we have a winner.  We  bumped up from 2 meals a week to 3.  We still feel the same way about our previous pros/cons but are firmly planted on the pro side.  I am impressed with how much Mark and I are both learning in this process…but the most impressive part? We have not ruined A SINGLE MEAL! Sure there have been a few minor slip-ups (and some burned garlic) along the way but overall it has been a huge success for us. Still trying to figure out if we can attribute this to our abilities in the kitchen or just how foolproof this is.

Here are some of the meals we have made since our last post

Disclaimer: the following photos may provoke feelings of hunger

Chicken Taco Salad with Crispy Tortillas & Avocado Dressing

Buffalo Chicken Pizza with Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Cheesy Beef Empanadas with Salsa Roja

Turkey Spinach Burgers with Creamy Aoli and Carrot Fries

Beef Lo Mein with Snow Peas and Scallions


*This is not a promotion or endorsement for Plated, just our honest opinion.  BUT, if you are interested more information, their website is:*

For the love of cork

When I tell people that we have decided on cork flooring for our cottage (with the exception of the bathroom), the reaction has been a mixed bag…something along the lines of “like a cork board?” Not quite. Cork flooring has evolved and is available in a variety of sizes, colors & patterns.  Yes, you can still get a very basic cork that does resemble a bulletin board but that is by no means the only option.  It may not seem like conventional flooring choice for some people, but I like the look and I have done my homework.

Here are the main reasons we are choosing cork (aside from the fact I think it is pretty)…

Affordability: Price is very competitive compared to other wood products.  Our selection is $2.99 sq/ft before the contractor & promotional discounts through my employer

Naturally resistant to mold, mildew & termites: THIS IS A BIG ONE, especially since the cottage will not be used full-time  BONUS: More hypoallergenic than carpet or other wood products

Durability/Comfort:  Certain amount of natural cushion, ability to “bounce back” minor dents and scratches, which may be less noticeable due to the texture of the product, also provides sound & temperature insulation

Sustainability: ZERO trees are cut down to manufacture cork flooring, the product is made from the bark of cork trees.  There is also minimal waste/emission in the manufacturing of cork flooring

I am under no illusion that cork is the “perfect” floor because that just doesn’t exist, there are drawbacks.  Just like any other natural or engineered wood product, cork is susceptible to swelling/buckling when exposed to too much moisture or standing water.  Also, when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time, the color of cork flooring can fade.

Below are some photos (courtesy of Lowes) of the flooring we have selected.  It is a natural, light to medium variegated tone  As is usually the case, I think it looks better in person but I digress…


Have you or would you ever consider cork flooring?




Simple Sweet & Salty Snack

Who doesn’t love a good alliteration? Or more importantly a good snack?

In honor of this sweetest of days, I am sharing this quick recipe.  Many of you have probably had something similar to this before.  I have heard it referred to as “reindeer food” or even called “white trash” snack mix, but I’m open to new suggestions.  I recently made this to take to our friends’ house for Super Bowl and extra for Mark & I to share at work and munch on at home.  I used Valentine M&Ms but it can be tailored to any occasion…Christmas, July 4th, Halloween…

Honestly, it is crazy how simple (and good) this is.

img_8463Measurements don’t have to be exact, but for 1 batch you will need approximately:

  • 1 1/2 cups Rice Chex
  • 2 cups pretzel sticks
  • 1 package M&M’s (10-12oz bag)
  • 1 package vanilla CandiQuik/Almond Bark
  • 1 cup Cocktail Peanuts

There are plenty of variations or ways to customize if you so choose: Add Cheerios, use pretzel twists instead of sticks, etc.

  • Combine all ingredients, except CandiQuick in a large bowl.
  •  Melt the CandiQuick in the microwave according to package directions
  • Pour over other ingredients in large bowl & stir to coat
  • Spread mixture out on parchment paper to cool & dry
  • Break into pieces & store in air-tight containers



Sending you lots of love,





Design Home App

Do you have a favorite game/app on your phone? Maybe it is Candy Crush, Farmville, Words With Friends or Clash of Clans? Perhaps those aren’t quite your style.  I recently came across Design Home which is basically an interior design/decorating app in a game format…and I am seriously hooked!

Design Home is available for both apple & android phones, here is a brief description from the app store…

Love home decorating? Play Design Home! If you daydream about designing beautiful, unique interiors for your many fantastic homes, you can now bring your design dreams to life in this visually stunning 3D experience. Join millions of design and home decor lovers to discover, shop items you love, style gorgeous rooms and get recognized for your creativity!

In Design Home, you can express your unique design style by using furniture and decor items from real, high-end brands to design beautiful, photo-realistic interiors. You can even discover and vote on new looks and styles created by other players and win exclusive in-game prizes for the designs that you have created.

Download Design Home now and start crafting the beautiful rooms of your dreams!

Why do I love it? It is entertaining, plain and simple.  A fun way to pass the time while in line at the grocery store, in the waiting room, or just downtime.  It also gives me a chance to be creative with different design styles.  Every day offers new challenges, prizes, etc. It has also been a good tool to practice with budget, scale, color & balance all while still having the feel of a game.

Here are some of my own favorite & highest scoring designs

Day Trip

This is somewhat of a departure from my typical posts but on a whim this past Saturday we decided to take a road trip up to Fort Wayne for the day.  Mark was originally scheduled to work but didn’t have to so we decided to take advantage of an unexpected day together with no plans. Usually on a day like this we might end up going to Indianapolis but were in the mood for something different.   We had previously been to a concert in Fort Wayne, and driven through a few times, but never really had a chance to explore.

We spent the day driving around, did a little walking and shopping downtown and stopped for some delicious pizza  (shocking right?) for lunch.  One of our stops of the day was the History Center, which ended up being a pleasant surprise.  It was full of exhibits and artifacts from the Fort Wayne area and the entire of Indiana.  It was informational and interesting, but what also caught my eye was the detail of the building itself.

This stained glass was magnificent.  I loved the carpet that ran through the halls and up the stairs.  I was disappointed when I realized that my picture didn’t capture end of the banister because the detail was impressive.

The ceiling and the lights in the chamber meeting room were stunning.  The giant copper chandelier was like nothing I have ever seen, and it was HUGE!  Also, there were charming copper sconces spaced around the perimeter of the entire room.  I would love to see it at night all lit up.

Our last stop before heading home was Two EE’s winery where we enjoyed a tasting and then a glass on there enclosed (and heated) patio.  It was the perfect relaxing end to our day and we already plan on going back when the weather is warmer.


If you’re ever going to be in the area, check out more info here: