Friday, September 4, 2009


coming soon

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Crazy Like Me

Are you engaged in a similar project to update, enhance, or in any way improve your home?  If so, I want to add you to my community of crazies.  Add a comment here with your blog address or email me [wenderina at gmail dot com] your stories and I'll share them with glee.

Here are the crazies I know of so far -- and by the way, the size, depth and ambition of their projects seriously put mine to shame:

Out of the Ashes
Meet Lay....she's a self-proclaimed "overtired mother of 2 beautiful girls, and a step mother to another, temporarily retired as a automotive industry facilitator, settling into being a stay at home mom, wife and weekend farmer... About to embark on the challanges of being a first time homebuyer and a DIY renovator..."

House in Progress
Aaron and Jeannie have been at this a while...and they've made incredible progress.  They call their site Home Improvement...because it can't get any worse.  Check them out.

Cassity and her handy husband have a motto: reduce, reuse, recycle, re-purpose, remodel (try saying that 5 times fast)! They try to use old things in creative ways and reuse old building supplies in other projects. This is their THIRD project house. Check them out.

Renovation Therapy (aka iloveupstate)
Jean Martha is restoring a Greek Revival house built circa 1839 in upstate New York. She bought the house in response to a death in her family.  According to Jean, it was either start a HUGE project or lose her mind. She wisely opted to work through her grief with a sledgehammer. Check her out.

A Country Farmhouse
The bought an old farmhouse in the country and have been fixing it up ever since.  This home is the epitome of gracious living - while still feeling like real people live there.

WhisperWood Cottage

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Coming soon

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Welcome to the Yellow Cottage...we'll be installing color coordinated padding on the walls soon.

About Me.

I'm a workaholic 40 [cough] year old marketing executive by day (and too often by night).  For the past 20 years I've also been the lucky and loved wife of Kip (aka The Artist featured here) and while we are not parents, we are the keeper of two crazy and fuzzy kitties.  In December of 2002, Kip and I took the leap and left our maintenance free townhome to purchase a 1930's home and take on all the loving care it required. 

What a bloody mistake.

Anyway...a mortgage, home equity loan, and crashing housing market later...I've decided to take on some home improvement projects that bring value to our property, but more importantly bring comfort to our home and little pain to our bank balance.  I'm looking for work-life balance by transferring some of my time and attention to the homefront instead of the workforce.  And I'm also looking to increase my confidence at home since I have been historically domestically challenged.  No kidding, learning how to clean my oven with the broken self-cleaning feature nearly put me over the edge.

Oh, and did I mention I'm also a graduate student with a target graduation date of January 2011?  Yeah, those of you who know grad school know that also means I'll be doing the thesis dance and defense this year as well.


So anyway, now that you know I'm certifiable....let me tell you...

About the Project.
My home improvements can be characterized by two words - impulse or immobility. This blog? yes, it would be in the impulse world, but I'm a little tired of immobility. My hope is to find a path down the middle that allows me to arrest some of my HGTV envy and to increase the value of my home through thoughtful, creative, improvements.

Here's the simple, yet daunting plan.
  1. For one year, spend time every week in tackling home improvement projects. Some weeks may be research, some may be sketching and planning, some may be shopping, some may be all about the elbow grease.
  2. Record the entire experience right here -- the ups, the downs, the plans, the lessons learned, the fixes and foibles, the impulse and immobility.
  3. Try not to lose my sanity or my marriage in the process.
The most difficult thing was determining where to start. There are quite literally thousands of opportunities for projects in our tiny yellow cottage. Eventually, I just jumped in and started...literally from the bottom up.  Check out the "Basement" area first and go room by room with me.

But first, let me me tell you....

About the Yellow Cottage.
Our yellow cottage wasn't always yellow, and of course, wasn't always ours. We are only the 4th owner of this unique property, built in the 1930's. The original owner built this house when it was nearly the only structure for several miles, and all the property was owned by one family.

Over time, two additions were made to the original structure, like wings on an angel, they added a small narrow sun room (we call it the studio due to my husband's claim of the space for his own artist's den), and the larger addition of a 2nd garage, extended kitchen, 3rd bedroom, 1/2 bath and cedar closet. And with all of those additions, nearly doubling the first floor square footage, the house is no bigger than the average townhouse - about 1,600 square feet. Because the additions were likely done in the 50's, they also have a dated feel to them, not the modern open floor plan so popular today.

In 2002, the house was more like a peachy-tan stucco finish, with broken green shutters and crooked window boxes, an aluminum awning over the front door and many overgrown bushes. It also resides on a well-trafficked street making open windows in the summer a little less pleasant during the bus schedules.

But...with all its warts and shortcomings...we love it.

We actually bought the home from friends who were transferred out of the area. We had spent many a happy hour drinking wine by the stone fireplace, hanging by the pool, or cooking together in the kitchen. It is, as our friends said, a house of good karma. After touring the house with our friends (both engineers) who did their damnedest to take disclosure to a new level - even at times discouraging us from buying, we made a deal with a handshake and the house was soon ours.

As most home buyers do, we entered the house with energy - and though we loved it - we also knew it was a fixer-upper in some sense and were determined to make all those personal preference changes immediately. The first 6-12 months were a blur of projects. It was a combination of high cost and low-cost improvements. On the night we closed on the house in December of 2002, we braved blizzard-like conditions to use our key for the first time and with the light from a single overhead bulb, we ripped up old carpet in the downstairs bedroom and the master. In typical fashion - that rush was the precursor of many half-done projects. It gave us quick satisfaction, but we have yet to either re-finish those floors or re-carpet them. [A project I'd like to accomplish this year!]

After moving in and unpacking, we began painting rooms, adding crown moulding, arranging and re-arranging our furniture. We were stunned to realize that despite the fact that we had moved from a mid-sized townhouse, we couldn't fit all our living room furniture in the cottage. We tried everything, but eventually gifted one nearly new couch to friends to get it out of what was supposed to be our dining room.

The high-cost projects included one urgent roof tear-off and replacement, and then some aesthetic changes including a new patio, new windows, gutters, and siding (where we finally got the yellow color). After a couple of years and some concern about an increasing tilt to a retaining wall in back, we had a landscape company build a new retaining wall with a patio-block - which cost nearly as much as all the other projects combined. We also removed some old sickly trees [after some touchy negotiations with neighbors], added some built-in architectural features, and installed some new flooring in the kitchen.

I can quite determinedly say, we have certainly done our share, which I intend to tell the tales of to take full credit.

So join me and my little band of brothers (Kip and kitties) in my crazy 2010 project of sprucing up the Yellow Cottage.
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