Blog updates

Montana Prairie Tales has a new look and few new structural improvements! Please have a look around and let me know if anything is broken or not working for you. I have updated the About Me page and Blogroll. Other additions include a little Instagram teaser on the sidebar, threaded commenting, a "like" button on each post, and a Pinterest button rollover on each photo. I have eliminated the Feng Shui Friday section, but you can still access those posts through the Feng Shui Friday category link in the sidebar at right.  Also gone—His Tales. It was pretty clear Tom wasn't going to be able to keep up his end of the bargain with regular posts. Don't worry, he is still invited to post here when he has the urge and we will still try to update the site with farm-related information. It will just be under the main Blog heading.

I think that covers it. I will be back very soon with a meatier post. Thanks for following!

Happy Birthday, Eva!

Here is a bit of colorful cheer to brighten the front page of my neglected blog...

Can you believe our princess is four?

I can hardly believe it myself, especially since this also marks the 4-year anniversary of our big move to Montana.

 

Four big happy years that we never would have imagined in a million years, but would never give back.


Eva just finished her first year of preschool, and since then has asked every day without fail, "Mom, do I have school today?" She should be good and ready to back in September. 

Here are a few thousand more photos I snapped of her the other day. Sorry, I couldn't narrow them down any further. Mamma's prerogative.

 

Front yard landscaping—the plantings

To refer back to the plan/layout and before photos, click here.

I am no gardener, and I've learned what I do know by trial and error. I do know this much about what I want: it must be low maintenance and survive on infrequent watering. I like native plants and like a variety of colors and textures in the foliage. I seem to like purple flowers, especially alliums. And judging by the collage below, I like both random naturalized planting and structured rows. I'm not sure how I will combine that all into a cohesive look, but I'm going to try. 

Sources, clockwise from top left: 1. Europa Concorci  2. Houzz  3. Houzz  4. Feldman Architecture via Desire to Inspire  5. unknown (This along the shop maybe?)  6. Houzz   7. Houzz (I'll take the pool!)

I have had good luck so far with a few things—grasses, Russian sage, purple salvia, some seedums (although the bunnies like them), and thyme. I plan to transplant some native yucca that grow along the river beds locally. Any other suggestions?

 

Now let's talk about my terraced concrete planting beds and rock garden for a minute. Last summer they were growing in nicely:

But they aren't feeling cohesive enough for me. I think I need to take a lot of it out and start over. I might end up with fewer flowers in the terraced beds and opt for a cleaner look with lots of the same types of plants, like this:


Sources, clockwise from top left: 1. Houzz  2. Houzz  3. Jeffrey Gordon Smith via Desire to Inspire  4. Houzz

That wraps it up for my landscaping plan posts. Now all we have left is to work work work. I will try to keep you updated on our progress! Be patient with us, though. Outdoor projects are hard to accomplish because farm work comes first!

 

Front yard landscaping—the fence and pergola

Hi! I hope you aren't bored with landscaping posts yet, because I'm back this week to share a little more of my yard inspiration. Today it is all about the fence and pergola.

To refer back to the plan/layout and before photos, click here.

I have no trouble imagining a new beautiful fence in our yard. Building it will be the hard part. Fortunately it isn't a huge area. I'd love to have a fancy gate like some of those shown here, but as long as it is easy to operate, I'll take it. I do know that I want horizontal fence slats. Easier to climb, yes, but it will be nice and tall so at least our dogs won't be able to climb it. (I hope.)

Sources: Clockwise from upper left: 1. DWR via Gardenista  2. Houzz  3. Houzz  4. Houzz  5. Houzz  6. Life of an Architect

Beautiful, right? Can you see it in our little courtyard between our house and shop? Instead of this?

Anything would be a drastic improvement.

The other thing I hope to add is not completely necessary for function but absolutely necessary for aesthetics—the pergola. Don't you agree? This isn't just your average pergola, either. It must have a mix of wood and metal and be lovely and modern. Here ya go:

Sources, clockwise from top: 1. Houzz  2. Houzz  3. Houzz

Drool. Now if we can just execute...  Anyone in need of a summer job? :)

Front yard landscaping—the hard-scaping

To refer back to the plan/layout and before photos, click here.

The major drive behind redoing these our two small front yards is to reduce lawn area and watering. These spaces will be much more usable to us as outdoor rooms for lounging and dining. (Don't worry, we have plenty of lawn for the kids elsewhere.) Now if we could just do something about the mosquitoes...

I really like a permeable hard scape for function, but mostly for form. I think this looks great with our midcentury modern style. It allows you to break up a mass of concrete area with texture and plantings, not to mention allowing for proper drainage. 

Here is my patio inspiration:

Clockwise from left: 1. unknown  2. Houzz; I want my pavers to be a bit larger than shown here. 3. Houzz; This is one of my favorites to illustrate the patio edged by plantings. 4. Houzz; This is probably way more beautiful and elaborate than I will be able to achieve, but I love this. I like how they have mixed rock and mulch areas. 5. Houzz  6. Houzz  7. Houzz; This is the best example I have of what I want the concrete to look like in the courtyard area, leading back to the fence. My plants won't be this lush or my fence this fancy, I'm sure.  

I'm anxious to get to this part of the project because our dirt yard is soon going to = a weed yard!

Front yard landscaping—the deck

To refer back to the plan/layout and before photos, click here.

Improving the deck is a pretty major element in improving our curb appeal, not to mention our safety. Our current deck has given many a sliver, and the railing consists of weather-warped and wobbly 2 x 4s that would do nothing to contain a child. We added some hog wire for safety, but it isn't pretty. 

From the beginning I have envisioned a cable railing. Preserving the view is paramount so I don't want anything with heavy stiles. Here is my inspiration:

Sources: Clockwise from top left: 1. Houzz; obviously we would need more cable than this for safety, but the idea is that you can see through it! 2. Houzz  3. eBay  4. n fiore on flikr  5. Czuba Steel Works  6. Houzz

My preference is to have metal posts, but I don't mind a little wood either. Our basement railing turned out great, but I think my dad hopes to DIY this one to save some money. We are probably going to use composite material for the decking, but I'm open to using redwood. What are your thoughts?

 

Front yard landscaping—the plan

Here comes the fun part. 

Bear in mind, I am not a landscape designer. I drew these plans in Illustrator so they are pretty basic. I'll explain.

The first drawing is for the patio part of the yard (to give you a visual):

1. First, we need to add footings for the deck and pergola, then prep the space for pavers. I'd like to do a mix of poured concrete squares (about 5'x5') and smaller concrete pavers with gravel in between. Surrounding this will be planting area. (I'll share inspiration photos later).

2. The deck would keep the same footprint, but it will extend a little further to go underneath the new patio door. Instead of the stairs coming off the end as it did before, they will go straight out onto the patio. On the south of side of the house we will use the existing deck frame, but the entire deck will be resurfaced. My dad wants to use composite decking. I wouldn't be opposed to using redwood, though I know it would be more maintenance. The whole deck will then get a new railing, which it desperately needs anyway!

3. I definitely want a pergola over the top to define the space. We might not get to this right away, but I know it will look sooo amazing. We will need to add the footings for it now.  

4. The concrete terrace beds will stay, but I would like to replant some of them. More on this later.

 

Next is the courtyard area:

1. There is an existing concrete pad next to the garage on the left side that may or may not stay. (It is a handy place to store bikes and things, but it might sort of interfere with the design??) And as I mentioned in the previous post, the fireplace may or may not stay. I then want to do more concrete pads that meander back to the gate. They will also have gravel in between. They would be wide enough to set up a few chairs and use this as patio space also.

2. A new better-looking fence, of course! Our backyard is fenced (mostly chainlink, but still really nice to have for our pets) so we definitely need a gate here. The fence also masks the propane tanks that sit behind it, so I'd like to keep it at least 6' tall.

3. As of now we are planning to leave the big evergreen tree. I'd like to add another smaller (pretty) flowering fruit tree, but we would put it out away from the shop wall and power line. The rest would be small low-water-use plantings and gravel/mulch beds.

Front yard landscaping—what we're starting with

Spring seeding season has begun around here, so it will be a few weeks before we have any time to work on outdoor house projects. Until then, I am trying to get myself excited and motivated for the work involved. I thought I would share my plans with you, and since I have a lot to share, I'm going to spread it out over a series of posts. I welcome your suggestions and feedback!

If you need a refresher on what we are working with, here are some posts about yard projects we've done to date:

Our farm house—on the outside (August 2010);  Yard progress (June 2011);  Paint your front door (October 2011);  Don't try this at home (putting in our rock staircase, October 2011);  Landscaping project update (lower yard finished, November 2011)

Here's what we started with:

So far, we have replaced the front door, roof and gutters. I also painted the exterior sconces. This past fall we were able to keep one of our harvest hired hands (Jake) on for a little longer and he and I worked together to paint almost all of the trim on the house. (What a job!) 

Jake also used a grinder to get all the ugly chipped blue paint off of the concrete steps. So here is my first question for you. Should I leave the front steps as-is (nice and simple) or dress them up by staining and sealing them? What would look more modern?  I definitely have some other work to do to dress things up: a new doormat, new planters, and possibly a bench. Now it more closely resembles the original colors.

The areas we plan to tackle now are the two small front/side yards. We have the yard to the left of the front door (I'll call this the patio) and the yard between the house and shop (I'll call this the courtyard). Previously they were both planted into grass, but because we often have water shortages, they haven't been watered consistently and they had turned into weed/dirt patches. It was a hassle to mow them. 

This is the patio side before:

(From the opposite angle) This is the patio side today:

We plan to leave the existing concrete border/planters, even though they are a bit rough in places. Last fall we removed this side of the deck (the entire deck needs to re-decked, and it desperately needs a new railing.) This side will be rebuilt altogether because we intend to put a patio door in place of the window (that is why that window trim is still blue). The deck will wrap around and extend all the way under the door.

We also excavated all the grass/dirt out. Tom installed PVC drainage pipes to extend the gutter drainage. Next steps will be to build this back up with a gravel base and install hard-scaping (more on that later).

 

Now for the courtyard side: 

This isn't the best photo to show this, but most of the plants here were grossly overgrown. There was a tree that was cut back (again and again) to avoid growing into the power line, a couple of dead junipers, and somewhere back there a rickety fence and a fireplace. (Yes! An outdoor fireplace!)

Today it looks like this:

We excavated this out very odd-shaped yard to prep for hard-scaping also. We removed all of the overgrown bushes and trees. (The evergreen is probably too close to the house and maybe should have been taken out also, but for now we just limbed up the bottom. Now you can see the (partially dismantled) fence and that fireplace!

The fireplace was built by my uncle years ago, but we don't use it for a couple of reasons. The firebox is set too far forward so the smoke doesn't ventilate out the chimney as intended. Instead it just comes out the front into your face. Secondly, it sits pretty close to the house, and obviously that tree is in the way. 

So, here is my second question. Should we keep the fireplace? If we want to actually use it as a fireplace it will probably need to be moved and modified. We might be able to add some sort of hood extension that would help it ventilate properly. We could move it to the other side closer to the shop, but our propane tanks sit behind that fence. Or, we could leave it where it is and plant flowers in it. I do like it, but maybe it doesn't fit with my modern vision? 

Coming up—I'll show you what that vision is.

a few new things

Happy Monday, my friends. It is a glorious and sunny day outside and I should be out enjoying it for a change. Too much computer work to catch up on today. 

Since I'd rather do anything other than book work I will procrastinate and share a few of my winter acquisitions instead. 

Last fall I shared this photo on Instagram. I had been saving for a while to purchase a rug for our living room, and I had narrowed my options down to this shag carpet (that I would have bound into a 9 x 12 rug). I was deliberating on a color and looking for advice. I was leaning toward one of the medium green/grays shown. You see, I didn't want to make a wrong decision since it would cost me approximately $1200 to have it made. Ouch.

Around this time, Sam's Club was offering some shag rugs in their store. You know, Sam's Club! The store everyone turns to first for their decorating needs, right? Ha. I had seen the rugs there and had dismissed them as an option because the colors werent' quite perfect. They were also 8 x 10, when 9 x 12 seemed more ideal for my space. Nevertheless, the price tag ($250) made me take a second look.

I brought a gray rug home with me, but it was too steel-colored. Too cold for this room. I went back and purchased the light cream rug to try instead. And, well, it stayed! 

I was pretty sure the light color would be a bad decision, but since it is out of the way of main traffic areas, it seems like it is going to be okay (excepting any accidental spills come it's way). For less than a quarter of the cost, I decided it was worth the risk. 

The cozy factor of this rug is the best. And it does a great job of anchoring the space and absorbing sound.

The 8 x 10 size seems to work okay. I just put the front legs of all my furniture over the rug. I also kept my cowhide rug in the room and layered it underneath.

I thought I would point out that I just love the function of the u-shape furniture layout in this room. The room is fairly large, but instead of hugging the walls the furniture floats in the middle, focused around the central ottoman. At New Year's time we had company over and all gathered around the ottoman to play games. There is plenty of seating, but a few sat on the cushy new rug as well.

Some of my furniture in this room is getting a little tired. The couch style is dated and no longer my taste, and the finish on the leather is peeling (odd!). The ottoman is showing a lot of wear too. At some point I would love to update... but I am going to be patient and look for the right things. (I couldn't commit and ended up missing out on this Craig's list sectional. I did get bids to reupholster and they were $1600–$2200, not including the cost of about 25 yards of fabric.) At least for now I am happy with how this room has evolved, and especially with how it functions.

Back in the hallway I added another new element—these stainless picture rails from Crate and Barrel

I had a bunch of gallery frames from our house in Utah to display. It was fun to get them out again, but since we moved right before Eva was born, I definitely need to update them all to include her!

The hallway where they are displayed leads to two of the girls' rooms and bathroom. This is a good shot to show you what the doors look like in my house. They are inexpensive hollow core doors that I really want to replace. I keep debating whether or not to paint them and update the hardware—or if it is really worth the work. Maybe we will get around to replacing them first! (The cool light fixture was $6 from the Habitat for Humanity Restore).

And back to the topic of rugs, I encountered this awesome Nate Berkus rug on clearance at Target recently. (Sorry, it's no longer available!) I wanted it to work in my bathroom, but it was the wrong shape. I then tried it in the kitchen—and while it looked awesome, I knew I wouldn't be able to tolerate it. It didn't stay put well enough (even with a rug pad) and this area sees WAY too much traffic and food. It had to go back to the store, but not before I shot a photo of just how perfect it looked.

So there you have it; a few of the smaller tweaks we made to our house this winter. Now with the nicer weather my thoughts are turning to outdoor projects. My next post(s) will tell you all about it!

Utah getaway

Tom and I had really been wanting to get away before the spring farm work kicked into high gear, so we finally decided to combine a little fun with a business trip and drive to Utah for a few days. We left the kids with my Mom and Dad.

Driving without kids for a change is liberating! We stopped along the freeway at the Calf-A for some yummy lunch. It's a cute little spot in an old school house. Once we got there we stayed a couple of nights downtown and enjoyed the views. 

 

The morning after we arrived we were pulling our car out of Marriott parking and the attendant suggested we might want to get a car wash. Ha. Yes, well, we had gotten a car wash only a week before but the next day it had snowed and rained. So, we took his advice and found the closest car wash which was one where you leave your car to be washed and go inside to pay.

When I got to the cashier she said "Was that your SUV that just pulled in?" 

"Well, yes".

"What HAPPENED?"

Uh, normal life on gravel roads in the middle of Montana, I guess! Made me laugh. Welcome to the city.

 

Tom had lunch with his old coworkers, and I had lunch with some favorite besties:

Of course we made a point to visit some of our favorite restaurants: Red Iguana, Pawit's Royale Thai, Cheesecake Factory, Zupas, and Rumbi. We each gained at least 5 pounds on this trip, I'm sure.

Like I said, this was part business trip, and we did a LOT of shopping. This isn't the first time we've filled up a car with (mostly) Ikea merch, but this time it was mostly for clients. At this point we were wondering if we would have room for our suitcases!

We stayed two more nights in our old 'hood at our old neighbor's house. (No photos- ack!) We had a game night with them, just like old times. On the way out we did a little "drive-by-shooting" of our old house.

When we got back home my neighbor texted to say that their was a new for-sale sign in front of our old house and were we sure we wouldn't just want to move back? :) 

I did manage to buy a couple of things for myself, of course. We had a chance to visit the infamous HomeGoods store, which came to Utah about the time we moved. I wouldn't mind having one of these near home to frequent. Anyway, this cushy flokati rug was just too good to pass up. 

 

We could have used a few more days, but we were glad for the days we had. The weather was balmy and warm, and we returned home to Arctic cold. Brrr. 

Eva's room

Thank you ever so much for your nice comments about our bath renovation last week! Just for that, I have another before and after post for you!

We completed this project in just over a week. We didn't do any major design back flips or murals in this room though. Like I said before, our goals became a little more practical, and a clean canvas is a great place to start. 

We already had everything just as it is—we just scraped and textured the ceiling, patched and repainted the walls, put in new flooring, and replaced all the trimwork—then moved it all back in. Oh- we did add a new light fixture and rug. 

My before photo was taken back when this room functioned more as a nursery and Eva was still in a crib, but you can see that everything was VERY blue. The carpet was original, and we were pretty anxious to get it out of her room because Eva was suffering from what we thought might be dust allergies.

Here is an even earlier before photo—back before we moved into the house. Pink and blue!

The built-ins used to have doors in the lower portion, but they were difficult to slide open. We removed them to make the shelves more functional for toy storage.

 

And after—whew! Relief from all that blue. And this is a north facing room!

The room still needs window treatments. I have white linen and all the supplies to sew roman shades.

Her bed is a Craig's list find from quite awhile back, though I never blogged about it. I was saving it for this post! I love LOVE both girls' antique beds!

The shelves took for-ever to paint. I lost track of how many coats it took to cover the blue with white. 

But they sure are great for storage!

The mirror was a prop I purchased for a photo I styled at my former job. I always loved it so I was able to buy it back from the photo department a couple of years after I left!

Simple, clean, and fit for a princess. One more room completed!

SOURCES:

  • flooring: Ikea Tundra in white
  • bed: vintage
  • quilt: Land of Nod, no longer available
  • bench: Land of Nod, no longer available
  • mirror: vintage
  • school chairs: vintage
  • Chandelier: Ikea Kristaller
  • Rug: Home Decorators Collection, Cozy Shag Rug in Hot Pink
  • Closet curtain: custum sewed by moi
  • Mirror in shelves: Ikea
  • Artwork: Etsy, prints from Tiny Fawn
  • suitcases: vintage
  • Paint colors: Walls–Benjamin Moore Silver Sage, Trim—Behr Powdered Snow

 

 

Buy this

If mid century is your thing and you live in the Great Falls area, here is a beauty listed today.

While it lasts: http://greatfalls.craigslist.org/fuo/4375330393.html

Bathroom reveal

I had grandiose plans for this bathroom at one point, including adding a walk-in shower and a clawfoot tub. I even purchased an old tub to refurbish. But 4 years into our renovations we are feeling a bit burnt out—or more practical. Either way, I decided to edit my plans to just a tub/shower combo and keeping everything in the same locations. I was going for FINISHED. We had a list of other projects to tackle once this was complete, so FINISHED seemed like a worthy goal.

(For previous posts about this project and to see my inspiration pics, go here, here, and here.)

I will list the sources at the bottom of this post.

I searched high and low but could not find a vanity that lived up to my inspiration and expectations. It took a bit of arm twisting, but I was able to talk my Dad into building it. (I found a builder on Etsy as a backup option, but doing it ourselves definitely saved us money). I chose this insanely gorgeous walnut for the project, and we went for a mid century design that resembled a piece of freestanding furniture. (I would have loved to use an actual vintage dresser, but it would have been a challenge to find a piece that met our size specifications. My search over the past 2 years yielded no options.) I gave my dad a rough design, and he helped me refine it. My dad did all the construction and I did the staining and finishing. It turned out just like I'd hoped!

We built the mirror to match, and saved even more money. 

The light over the vanity was one I had seen ages ago and loved. They were sold out online, but I ended up calling multiple stores and tracked down one of the last ones in stock. When it arrived I was surpised by how big it was... but the store had done me a special favor tracking it down and it didn't seem like a good idea to send it back! The inside is gold, so I carried those gold/brass touches throughout.

We kept the existing ceiling fixtures, although we shifted one so they would be lined up. The spacing was odd before. I adore these lights, and love that we were able to keep something from the old bathroom.

We had several boxes of tile left over from our kitchen/dining/entry/laundry spaces. We calculated it to be exactly what we needed for the bathroom, so we ordered one extra box to be on the safe side. In the end we had one box left over. Go figure. :)

Here are the juicy side-by-side before and afters:

The observant will notice a few structural differences: We removed the soffits above the tub and sink. We expanded the width of the wall between to accommodate the niches in the shower wall. The wall heat register is gone, replaced by a floor vent (we put in forced air heat throughout the house). 

Not exactly the same view here—sorry. The new shower is very light and bright. We chose simple 6x8 white tiles from Home Depot. Cheap and classic. We chose to stack them rather than stagger them subway style for a more contemporary look. 

Sorry- this view is shot at a different angle also, but I wanted to show you how we replaced the doors on the built-in shelves. Dad built these out of the walnut as well.

 

This before photo of the vanity is after we affectionately bid adieu to the red shag carpet and installed a cheap piece of sheet vinyl to tide us by.  And you may wonder—what could possibly be wrong with this delicious brown 70s tile and brown shampoo sink? If you are crying a tear over their demise, let me assure you they were past their prime. The tile was staring to fall off the front of the vanity, the sink and shower faucets leaked (horribly). Okay, we could have kept the shampoo sink, but I think it was time for a new look.

These shower niches were my brain child. I wanted something to look at other than a blank shower wall since you see this spot first when you walk in the room. Also, I like to keep things off the tub ledge. I think it was worth it, even though it added some challenge to the tile-laying process.

I had a small obsession with finding pretty shampoo/conditioner, but I couldn't seem to find any that fit the design scheme like I wanted. I was able to purchase the empty amber plastic bottles from Specialty bottles, and then I searched for some white vinyl lettering to label them with. I had trouble find the perfect letters, so when I saw these gold letters I thought- perfect! More gold! Tom thinks they look mail boxes now. Whatever. 


I had a couple of unused white frames on hand, so I scoured Etsy for some art to put in them. I ended up falling for these little watercolor dresses from Mary Catherine Starr, who did a "dress-a-day for 100 days" project. These are two of her originals. I thought it would bring a bit of femininity to the space since it is used primarily by our girls. 


We actually ended up replacing the toilet also. The old one was still pretty new—an expensive wall mount toilet with a power flush feature that scared the kids. I think it scared a few grown-ups too with it's sonic flush. Luckily we were able to access the plumbing through a closet in the basement and move the sewer pipe in order to put in a standard toilet. 


The faucets are fun and modern, but I'm finding the chrome shows. every. spot. The countertop is cut from a Quartz remnant I found in a local stone yard.

Finally, I added one last piece of art. I found this perfect frame on clearance at Target, so I just added a gold mat I found in my stash and a sweet photo of Sarah shot by talented Darla of rozephotography.com.

 

SOURCES:

 

 

 

 

I would buy this

Hello blog readers! That is, if there are any of you left. I am hoping so because I am planning a bit of a blog blitz to catch up. As I write this, I am downloading "after" photos from my camera of our bathroom renovation to share with you. Soon! 

Until then, I felt compelled to share a few Craig's list treasures with you—since I can't justify buying them myself. Even in our small little town of Great Falls we have a few things great things pop up. And far less purchasing competition. If you don't live around here, well, maybe you'll be inspired to find a few treasures of your own somewhere else.

 

First up, this vintage green sofa.

 

I like the low arms and tufted cushions. It's difficult to tell, but if it has a skirt, I would remove it to reveal more of the legs. Not bad for $75, if the upholstery is in decent condition.

Green Vintage sofa, $75. Here, while it lasts.

 

Next up, I am completely tempted by this sectional:

Yes, obviously it would have to be reupholstered in some crazy amazing fabric. The ad says you could get it done for $30 yard plus fabric, but I'm not sure about that. I was recently quoted more than double that for a chair I looked into having done. Should I be shopping around? What do you pay in your area? There would be a ton of yardage here and it would cost a fortune even at $30, but not nearly what it would cost to buy a piece this size new. 

I think this scale of this could be amazing in my living room, but I'm not 100% sure the look is right. It might be a little too much retro with my orange chairs, even in a different fabric. What do you think? I am ALL for retro pieces, but I do think they look best mixed with a little modern also.

70's sectional, $200.

I have a thing for antique beds (both Eva and Sarah have them), and if I had a boy I would buy one like this and paint it a fun, bright color. 

Vintage steel full-sized bed frame, $120.

winter projects

If you've been around me or followed this blog for very long you know that this time of year means one thing—house projects. And I'm past due with a project update. I get caught up in the remodeling chaos and put off posting in hopes that a finished project, a clean house, and a tidy little "before and after" post are just right around the corner. But I realize this blog would be a lot more interesting if I would show you a little in-progress reality along the way. 

Have I even told you what we are working on? 

After we finished Sarah's room in October, we had a stretch of good weather and mostly worked on outdoor farm projects. We also tore up our deck and side yards to start on some patio work... just before the snowy weather moved in. Now we have mud yards. That's how we roll. Instead we moved inside and gutted our upstairs bathroom—right before we had a whole string of company. Again, that's how we roll. It wasn't that having one less bathroom was such a big deal. It's this:

Construction supplies—everywhere.

 

Drywall dust...everywhere.

Laundry and dishes pile up. Blogs are ignored. But hey—things are getting DONE!

If you come see us right now our house will be a disaster and you might be handed a paintbrush. Consider this your warning.

We tore out the tub, all the tile, and the soffits above the tub and sink. (And by we I mean Tom.) Rather than just scraping the popcorn from the ceiling and retexturing, Tom and Dad installed new sheetrock on the ceiling so we could do a completely smooth finish.

 

This is a couple of phone snaps of the tiling progress. We had quite a bit of tile left from our kitchen/hallway, so I ordered one more box to make sure we would have enough. Now that we are done we have one box left. Go figure.


Here my dad is holding our backsplash tile next to a Quartz remnant we found to use for the counter top.

Since I couldn't find the perfect vanity, I talked Dad into building one. It was extra work but we saved a bunch of money. And just wait until you see it. This photo was snapped when I was working on staining and finishing the drawers and drawer fronts.

I now have a fully functional bathroom that doesn't leak at every faucet and is at least 100 times less ugly. It isn't done yet however—the finishing touches are taking the most time. Because we like to start new projects before we finish the old ones (who else does this?), the guys are now working full time on a unit in my parent's four-plex. The tenant moved out before the holidays, and the unit needed some updates. (Some updates = gutting the entire unit and starting over, basically). Time is of the essence because they want to make sure it is rentable before spring farm work kicks into gear. 

Therefore, my house projects are taking second fiddle (cue big sigh) and I expect you to feel very sorry for me. I kid. But you will have to be patient while we chip away at the last few details in our spare and rare time. We have a mirror and backsplash to install, some new cupboard doors to build and install, and trim to caulk and paint. 

In any case, THIS...

...is a thing of the past!

Note: You might enjoy this post of the bathroom before, this post of a few small improvements we made, and my Pinterest board full of inspiration we used for the new design.

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from our house to yours! It's hard to believe that tomorrow is a new year. With it will come many new adventures, I'm sure. I've never been much of a resolution maker, but I've dubbed 2014 as the year of photos. I want to get caught up on my photo books and get all of our family movies organized and recorded to DVD. It is an easy project to move to the back burner, but hopefully if I can keep the goal in mind everyday it will be easier to make it a priority. 

What are your goals for the new year? I'd love to hear! 

everything old was brand new once

I recently came across some photos of our house while it was being built. It is so much fun to see these photos and imagine the excitement my grandparents would have experienced as they watched it progress. I know our house really isn't that old by many standards (it was built in 1971-72), but it is older than me!

The shop was built before the house was built. You know. Farmer priorities.

This next picture is funny to me. The house isn't yet finished and there is already a garden out back! (Even though the old house is right down the road.)


The builders and my Grandmpa—presumably celebrating a job finished in the new kitchen!

I love this next photo also. This furniture followed them over from their old house, but it really fit this atomic ranch. I'm not sure when my Grandma upgraded her furniture, but her next choices were much more Victorian in style.

With spring came the landscaping projects, and apparently a new color camera.

Tom was quick to point out the yellow tractor that is still being put to use on the farm today. (Dad says it isn't exactly new here, either.)

Mixing concrete for the terraced flower beds.

And these next photos must be from the next winter. There aren't any big trees around the house yet. It's fun to see the house when it was brown. It is back to it's original color again! (Well, most of it.)

The new garage door looks just like the old one. Especially today with all the snow piled out front.

These photos are taken in our backyard where they apparently flooded an area for ice skating. Sweet!

And here someone is about to bite the dust:

We started to tackle some exterior updates this fall, but we didn't get very far before the cold weather hit. As I mentioned, we have painted all the blue trim back to brown. We tore down half of the deck and have plans to redeck the rest and update the railing. I'd love to show you our plans—and when we finally have a chance to see them through it will be fun to have these true "before" photos to compare to!

pies and pottery

Happy Monday everyone—hope you had a happy Thanksgiving! We hosted dinner at our house again this year. It is definitely my favorite holiday to cook for. Typically I delegate the pie duty to others since I have one boring glass pie dish in my drawer. 

But this year, when the team at my favorite pottery studio, Mountain Arts Pottery in Bozeman, Montana contacted me to see if I would like to help promote them for the holidays in trade for some product, I immediately thought. . . "pie dish"! 

What their marketing help didn't realize was that I was already well stocked with their pottery and that I would happily say nice things about them all day for nothing in return (shhh :). 

Dave and Jenny, the owners of Mountains Arts, happen to be cousins to my father-in-law. They are also some of the most generous and kind people I know. I've had their pottery on their Christmas list for years. Currently my count includes a gravy boat, a gorgeous red batter bowl and whisk, a pasta bowl, and their amazing coffee mugs. (The beautiful casserole dish at the top of this post belongs to my mom, who also owns several pieces.)

The mugs are the favorites at our house.

 

I have had one for years that they gave me as a college graduation gift. When it accidentally met my tile floor a year ago, Tom immediately ordered a replacement to give me for my birthday. At one point we bought one for him, too. They are a generous size, which is great for these coffee lovers, but for me the best thing is the large handle. They are much easier to hold than most coffee cups. 

The pie dish they sent is beautiful. I requested the charcoal red river color that matches my pasta and batter bowls. I decided to make this Meyer lemon pie from Smitten Kitchen and it turned out pretty good for this pie novice if I say so myself!

The prettiest part is the red river of glaze running through the bottom of the dish.

If you live in the area, I highly recommend you stop by their shop in Bozeman to see all of their pieces. It is on your way to Bozeman from Yellowstone park if you are visiting from there! While you're at it you must order a cinnamon roll and cup of coffee from the Coffee Pot Bakery Cafe that they run along side their pottery business. Melt-in-your-mouth amazing. 

If you can't afford that luxury, at least take a minute and check out what they have available on their website, www.mtartspottery.com. They have gift certificates too! I've noticed a huge push in the blogging world to buy independent, and this is a fantastic option. I promise—a gift of pottery will disappoint no one, and its often a great gift for that particularly difficult person to buy for. Even the men in your life will love a coffee mug like this.

Stay warm out there!

Benny

Yikes. I have a lot to catch you up on.

Let's start with a pooch update.

Why would you care about our pooch? Well, we've had an interesting turn of events. You might remember almost a year ago when we bought the girls their first puppy for Christmas

And then, eight months later I shared the bad news of his untimely end.

By now you might have guessed that we have a new puppy, even though we said we were done with that business. What you don't know was how serendipitous it all was.

About a month after Ben died I got a text from my cousin/closest neighbor.

"Guess who's pregnant? ........Molly!" (Their dog.)

Considering our distance from neighbors, there was only one logical explanation to this. We were rather naive in missing why our eight-month old puppy might occasionally like to visit the neighbors. Yep, daddy had to be Ben. He had left a little gift for all of us.

Of course, then we had no choice but to plan on welcoming a little Ben puppy back into our lives. It was just meant to be.

Tom decided we would pick a boy and name him Benson (Ben's son)! Molly (an English lab) had 7 beautiful golden.... girls. All 7 of them. Just Tom's luck. (Ha!) Their was no doubt they came from Ben. They definitely had a mix of Molly's light short hair and Ben's longer red hair. A great mix.

We attempted to pick the most mellow of them to bring home, and in the tradition of Ben's we named her "Benny".

 

It gets better. Tom's dad took one of her sisters and named her Benadine. (What? You think we might be taking this Ben thing a little too far?) Tom's sister has a Golden in London and they named her Benita. After a history of about 7 male Golden Retrievers named Ben, we now have 3 females in the family.


Even though we really had absolutely no choice in the matter and had to take one of these puppies, we really couldn't have asked for a better puppy. We adore her. She still has plenty of energy, but in general has been easier than Ben was. (It's because she's a girl. Don't tell Tom I said that.)


For a while I wasn't sure if a puppy was really news I was excited to share. But now that she has been with us for a few weeks I can happily say we are very happy to have her. But now I'm curious. In your experience, are girl dogs more calm than boy dogs?

 

a new business venture

I've had a little something up my sleeve for awhile now, and I'm excited—and a little nervous—to finally shout it from the rooftops. 

Since our move from Utah 3 years ago I have really enjoyed taking a break from working and focusing instead on settling in to our new life on the farm, staying home to raise our little Eva, and working on our home remodeling project. 

Though our house projects are nowhere near complete, now that Eva is going to preschool it seems like a great time to ease back into the workforce. (Not that staying at home is any less work—I've definitely learned that! Cheers to the hard-working-stay-at-home-mom workforce!) In any case, I have missed designing and am anxious to take on a few projects for others.


Although I will always love doing Graphic Design and intend to keep doing so, this time I am really excited to add interior design to my repertoire, and maybe even some photography! (I am not a professional photographer—I've worked with enough amazing photographers to know my limitations, but I do enjoy doing creative photography projects and can hold my own.)

From a young age I have had a huge passion for interiors. It was only because our in-state colleges had dropped their Interior Design programs that I decided to branch out into Graphic Design instead. I have no regrets, and I believe my Graphic Design training was great for both disciplines. Since I have moved back to Montana it has been the Interior Design opportunities that have fallen into to my lap, so I am just embracing the chance to do what I have always loved! 

My portfolio mostly consists of projects in my house at this time, as well as few display rooms I designed while working at Stampin' Up! I hope that will soon change, however, as I have been hired by my first client to help remodel her entire house. We have been working on this project for several months and I hope to be able to show you more as we near completion by the end of the year!

I hope you will take the time to check out my website www.joellynclarkdesigns.com, and recommend me to your friends!