Kitchen Remodel Before, During & After

Well goodness gracious.  Jason and I just finished installing the last outlet covers for the kitchen and it felt like a huge sigh of relief!  The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of crazy hard work and dedication. But we have a completed kitchen, yay! And we've been able to host larger groups of friends and family and that has made the project well worth it.


From this perspective, there were two rooms; to the left a small and narrow dining nook and on the right, a laundry room.  We removed the walls for the laundry room, moved the plumbing a little bit over, kept the laundry room closets for our pantry and added an engineered header to support the roofline and upstairs.  The header was a big project, one that took a large portion of our budget, but it was the most important!  Dayn at Martin Timberworks did the work and left his trademark screw plugs. 

I designed the prep table to be some sort of potting table/ prep table. My hope was for it to be in white oak, however, I learned something new... apparently white oak is on the east coast and red oak is on the west, so if you're on the west coast, you'll pay a pretty penny for white, and if you're on the east coast, it's pretty expensive to buy red.  So we settled with red and I had to stain it with a gray based stain in order to tone down the oranginess of it. I really do love the grain that it brings into an otherwise low contrast room. As of now the table serves as the smoothie bar, the kids' sink, and a place to put drinks when people come over. To give you a size perspective, the table is 8 ft long.  This room is really large, but it's hard to get a feel for it based off of pictures.

The lights over the prep table are from Lamps Plus (although they're not available any longer), sink and faucet are from Signature Hardware --their faucets are super hardy, but reasonably priced compared to similar styles. I didn't want all of my hardware, faucets and lighting to match in finish, but I wanted it to look like it was pieced together over time. Try to ignore the unfinished plumbing under the sink. As with most of this entire project, the finishing pieces have to be custom ordered. (Eye roll!!)


Here is a before photo. The laundry room wasn't captured, however, but you'll get an idea of the dining nook.  I have really sweet memories of my boys knocking down that wall. It was the first wall to come down. The not so sweet memories are of all of us tearing down the drywall of the entire room for my Mother's Day present!


I'm just going to say it... the photos above raise my blood pressure a bit! We had fun, though. It was exhausting and exhilerating at the same time!


This wall was originally a built-in pantry and where the fridge was located. Because we were using the pantries in the laundry room, we didn't need them. It was the only place where I could put a gas range without spending the entire budget on moving a gas line.  It makes the "cooking triangle" a little bit more stretched out than I'd hoped, but it works. Having an island between the range and sink help a lot as well.  I researched several brands of ranges and ultimately chose the AGA Elise Dual Fuel Range.  Some of the comparative brands offered a grill plate on the top, rather than larger burners, and I knew we'd rarely use the grill pan in comparison to needing the space for larger pots and pans. I have no regrets. This stove is a workhorse! We have been using it non-stop since purchasing it and have all grown in our culinary skills!  It really is the perfect marriage of simple yet offers many functions. The grill drawer is used daily for broiling toast or grilling veggies. I can't recommend it enough! 


The second post above was another wall.  Here, there was a narrow doorway into the dining room.  The kitchen technically only had one window above the sink, and since the kitchen is the heart of our home, I knew I would struggle with having so little natural light.  We decided to take the entire wall down, which of, or course, required another engineered post and header to bare the weight of the roofline and upstairs.  All kitchen and dining hardware is from Top Knobs and I chose a variety of styles all in the finish "German Bronze".


Above is the before shot of the built-in pantry and fridge. That's the wall that the range is now against and we have removed the doorway and wall to the right completely.


I added a little broom closet to the left of the fridge last minute. Because we didn't know what structural changes we were going to have to deal with, I had literally a week to make a plan and start executing.  A week is very short to make a ton of decisions! I'm glad I was able to sneak in this little closet because we use it daily!


This is the opposite view of the kitchen.  I wrestled back and forth with having oak cabinetry, I really wanted oak but this portion of the kitchen (between the two headers) gets the least amount of natural light and I knew I'd have to keep things bright in order to maintain a cheery space.  Plus, cost was an issue. I ultimately decided to go with a standard shaker cabinet from a local cabinet maker. I was very pleased with his work and the cost was close to what we'd pay for boxes from a store!

I also struggled with choosing the right color as I didn't want just another white kitchen. I had about thirty swatches of greys and greiges and everything in between. In the end, I knew my senses could not handle color, so I went safe.  I chose Swiss Coffee through Benjamin Moore for all of the cabinets and trim and used Simply White for the walls. It is so soothing within this space! And after having added the butcher block on the island, that created enough contrast for me. 

I am still undecided on backsplash and may just stay that way for a while.  Originally I was going to do V-groove boards, but last minute I decided against it and am just going to let the kitchen decide for me over time.  So now we have a rail all the way around the kitchen, without a shelf or V-groove board underneath. :)

Sconces above the sink are Amazon! I think they were $13 each. For the sink, I wanted something a little bit different from just your standard farm sink, so I chose the Highpoint Collection Double Lip Sink from Overstock and mounted it above the countertop for some variation in dimension.  Since the appliances are integrated, I needed a little bit of dimension. Speaking of appliances... we went with the Fisher & Paykel Integrated French Door fridge and freezer. I really wanted the integrated look but spending $8k was not an option. This was the only brand I found that offered an affordable model. It took a little while for my cabinet maker to figure out the paneling, but aside from that, it has been a great addition.  For the dishwasher, we chose Fisher & Paykel Double Dish Drawer dishwasher as it fits our family perfectly. We don't have more than one set of dishes, so we often hand wash after each meal. Once I learned we were wasting more water handwashing than a single load would use in one of the drawers, I was sold. :)  This has been an amazing addition to our kitchen and I have a clean sink constantly because of its ease and efficiency. Win! We went through Monark Home to get the appliances because I heard their customer service was brilliant and it was!  The installers were very professional and even came back the next day when I couldn't figure out the buttons (there are only like four or five, so this was embarrassing)!


Above is the before of this side of the kitchen...again, the left wall was taken down and replaced by a post & header.  The original kitchen itself was charming and true to the style of the farmhouse, but I wanted the liiiiiight! A big renovation for a little bit of natural light! 


I battled back and forth with going with marble again or choosing something more durable. Because this move was about hospitality for us, we really wanted everything to cater towards durability and having a home that could handle masses of people and the wear and tear of children.  Ultimately, I decided to go with Caesarstone quartz.  I read up on the durability of the product and was delighted with the idea that a guest or a husband, for that matter, could simply cut a lemon on the countertop and there would be no etching.


I ended up choosing "Cloudburst Concrete" because it just felt soothing.  Jeff over at Sierra Stone, a local company fabricated them and installed them. I was so glad I chose him as he has a top-of-the-line equipment, which made cutting the detailed grooves around the posts very easy. He did a beautiful job and was so professional to work with. He even let Carter and I watch the fabrication process, which was fascinating and we both learned a lot!


Here's a full view of the kitchen side of the room. The island was a Mother's Day gift (along with a full day of demolition!). I had found it on Craigslist and it was actually a shop table with drawers. It was green and I sanded it down about four different times. Ideally, I'd like an oak island a little longer and skinnier with seating all on one side (the other side of the island looks exactly the same and has two stools as well), but cost-wise, this was the smartest thing for us to do. We bought butcher block from Lumber Liquidators and our friend Bobby helped glue it and add an oak trim around the perimeter. I've never had an island in any home we've ever owned, and I am finding out that it truly is the place where people hang out!

For flooring, this room and the twins' room are the only two spaces that didn't have original wood floors.  This room had a slab and because of previous flooring disasters on slab, I opted, yet again, for something durable.  After a ton of research, I went with Coretec Vinyl Planks in Calypso Oak. These have a cork underlay, which helps with sound, softness, and temperature, but are 100% waterproof and will not expand or contract.  I am very happy with them and anyone who walks in the kitchen immediately asks, "Are these white oak floors?" So I think they've done a great job an

The middle image is of the wall that was removed, you can see all the way back through the laundry room. The left image is of my very strong brother and step dad that came and helped us from time to time. The right image is of the headers being put in and an open space at once!


Now for the other side of the room!  This is the view from our living area into the kitchen/ dining.  Walls in the living area are "Classic Gray" from Benjamin Moore.  I had to drive a few hours for the V-groove paneling from Trimac Panel. It's hard to come by! Ideally, I would have love to do wood planks, but again, cost was an issue, so the paneling worked out great. Plus, it was so easy to hang and paint!


The dining/ school space!  This home is much larger than our last, and there are a few options for a school room, but to be honest, I miss hanging out around the table working together.  When I saw these windows and the beautiful view outside of them, I just knew that we would make this space work. We were originally going to leave the joists exposed, however, the noise of upstairs was just too much. Also, it was very rustic and the whole house is so classic, adding a rustic and industrial vibe felt awkward. So, alas, a very drywalled room. :) 

The furniture piece to the left came with the house, it was just in the living room (before pict below). I knew it would make for a great homeschool cabinet as it is massive. I had our cabinet maker add doors on the top to conceal some of the mess, we caulked the heck out of it, and then painted it the same color as the cabinets (Swiss Coffee) so that it would be cohesive with the kitchen.


We added a small little window to the right of the cabinet.  The big windows are original so they do not open and we needed air flow from the front of the house to the back. I found the window at Restore and had a friend install it in exchange for a family photo session. You get desperate in times like these and your survival mode comes out. ;)


The table is custom built by a friend's dad (support your local furniture maker!!).  We needed a larger table for the space and after eyeing an Ikea table, I just couldn't spend that amount on a piece of veneer.  Anyway, he was able to build the table and bench for nearly the same cost as the Ikea table and bench I was looking at, except it's in oak like my prep table. :)  I had been searching for months for the right chairs. I wanted something mid century, but it couldn't be too modern as the house just can't carry that style, so I found these on Craigslist and it was a small little miracle we were able to get them first.  Carter and I drove 2.5 hrs each way to get them, but I am so pleased we did. 


Hanging pendants are from Lamps Plus.


Jason's one and only opinion/ suggestion for this entire project was to add a door to the garage for entry.  Since we moved our laundry to the garage, this was a very wise decision. He is such a good man. Can you believe he only had one opinion this entire time? He basically gave me the money and followed my timeline and requests and just did whatever he was assigned to do--even if that meant creating a tent in a newly painted kitchen to trench through concrete. When everything came together towards the end (cabinets, countertops, appliances), he walked in and said, "Oh, so this is our kitchen?! Ha. So good. I think that's why we were able to do this with minimal tears and tension. He is a very good man. Thanks, babe, for your amazing attitude!


The before picture. Guys, there were up to six layers of flooring underneath this carpet in places; I guess that's a given with the home's age (built in 1864), but man, so many layers!!


That's it, folks!  I feel like I have sourced almost everything, but if you have any other questions, feel free to ask.  Companies that are live linked have either donated or offered discounts for their products in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for following us on our crazy journey!

Our Fifth Homeschool Year!

Part of me feels as if we've homeschooled for the past ten years, and the other part of me can still remember vivid details of our first week homeschooling. I keep telling those who ask that homeschooling is no different than parenting, and from that perspective, I feel it rings true. :)

These smokey phone images were taken from an outing with my kids and have nothing to do with this post. :)

These smokey phone images were taken from an outing with my kids and have nothing to do with this post. :)

I wanted to share a little bit about our year last year as well as some of our plans for the upcoming year just in case you find either or both helpful. I had written out my expectations for each child (a very limited list!) in my school year post last year and I am so happy to report that we were able to meet those expectations!  See, friends, when you set them low enough, you can accomplish them! If interested in our last year expectations, that post is here. If you're hoping for a new school year list, alas, that hasn't happened. But based off of my blogging twice in one month, it just might in the near future.

Last Year & This Coming Year: Fun stuff first!


The twins quickly learned how to read using "Reading Lessons Through Literature." I'm not sure this simple program is for everyone, but having learned how to read through the Spalding approach, this fit my understanding of phonics, yet kept teaching a little more simple, which is just my style!  We will continue to go through the book (it moves very quickly, so I used spelling lists from "Spelling by Hand" in between lists which elongated the process). I also used Spelling by Hand when teaching CVC words (Consonant, Vowel, Consonant). Their tactile approach is what helped the twins learn to blend sounds.  Teaching them to read was an absolute joy slash science experiment as they are pretty much exactly the same developmentally!



Carter (grade 6) had his first year of high school math! He did an online class through HSLDA Academy. This was a great experience for him.  I was a little bit hesitant as he skipped both 7th and 8th grade math, but he seemed to know all the prerequisites in order to take the class, so we went for it. It challenged him and confirmed for him that he does, indeed, love math. He ended the course with a 99%--go Carter boy! We have enrolled Carter for a second year through HSLDA and he will be doing Algebra 2! THIS HAS BEEN A GREAT DECISION in our homeschooling journey. Carter is so capable and academic, yet he does best when he's left to teaching himself or having someone other than his mother teach him. :)  We have been able to separate this subject from our relationship and have both benefited greatly because of it. Mamas, do not feel like you need to do it all on your own. Each child is different and I am learning that it is just fine to source out subjects for the sake of relationship.

Scarlett and Everett (grades 2 & 4) continued on through Math Mammoth for their grade level. We were going to start the next grade this summer, but decided to take an official summer break starting in July.  It's been nice. I like this curriculum. It's cost efficient and doesn't bore the children.  Both Lu and Everett do not enjoy math as much as Carter, but I feel that it at least keeps their interest. We skip through some common core stuff on occasion, but for the most part, they plow through.  The twins will be starting year 1 Math Mammoth this year--so the younger four will all be using Math Mammoth. To think that I paid $50 for all six years of it! That's been a good investment. ;)

I started the twins (kinder) with fun games and puzzles, paying attention to their developmental cues.  By mid year, they were begging for "Mad Minutes" (these are timed drills for math fact memorization).  They have worked through basic principles of addition and subtraction and have even started doing multiplication and division. They are the best little students and learners! They want to do everything their siblings do.  Math Mammoth starts at Grade 1 and I wanted to wait until they could read and do their math independently, so they'll be starting this year.  To keep them busy towards the end of last year, we used the workbooks, "Math in Focus: Singapore 1A"--as Singapore is known to be similar to Math Mammoth.


This was the first year we have ever done spelling aside from working with phonics.  Carter never needed spelling, so we bypassed it for him, but both Lu and Everett both showed that despite the amount of copywork they did, some words just didn't "stick" with them.  Therefore, we went through "Sequential Spelling" in small intervals throughout the year. I saw a lot of improvement in simple words as they introduce a few spelling rules such as doubling consonants and dropping the "e" when adding an "ing" throughout the lessons--they also have weekly homophones, which taught the children to ask, "which one?" when being dictated a word such as "meat". Having the two work together on the same level created a little healthy competition throughout, which made the process short and fun for everyone. 



All of the kids read the reading list that I required last year as well as their own picks from the library.  We had a meeting the other day because I was curious what their favorite read alouds were.  I wanted to share some of them with you because they were just too delightful not to share! These are in no particular order.  We read many other books, but the following list was agreed upon as our past year's favorites:

  • Swiss Family Robinson (my personal favorite and probably my most inspirational parenting book)
  • Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine
  • Cheaper by the Dozen (my second favorite--I totally related to the dad and his quest for efficiency!)
  • Wonder
  • Holes (this was the twins' favorite as they learned words like "butt head" in it)
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Caddie Woodlawn
  • Rascal
  • My Friend Flicka
  • Misty of Chincoteague
  • Brighty of the Grand Canyon
  • The Railway Children

I wish I would have kept a running list of our favorite picture books because we had quite a few new ones we were introduced to through the library. Maybe next year. :)


Grammar & Writing:

We continued on with our notebooking, which took the place of both subjects.  The kids are fantastic at narrating verbally and through our homemade approach (covered in my Notebooking Manual), but when checking their free write books, I noticed that their grammar could use some help. I am not planning on teaching formal grammar until Everett is in at least 7th or 8th grade, where I will then teach the four younger kids grammar all at the same time in a block form. I honestly don't think any of them are developmentally ready for parts of speech and diagraming, but I do believe that they need help with capitalization, punctuation, and sentence combining.  This year, I will be introducing "Daily Grams" to both Lu and Everett. I will have the twins participate to see if anything clicks for them, but they will not be working in a workbook.

Carter will be starting another HSLDA class, Foundations in Writing.  I am planning to take it with him. :) This will be a guinea pig situation as he has not had any formal grammar. This will be a true test to see if he needed it prior!  I'll be sure to report back if so. I do know, according to the syllabus, that they will be covering diagrams and sentence types, etc. I think he's at a great age developmentally to be able to understand the concept of diagraming, so I am hoping that with their brief review of parts of speech, he'll be able to stride through. If he's okay with me sharing his experience at the end of the year, I'll be sure to do so.


This past year we took advantage of homeschooling and went on a lot of trips and had beautiful experiences!  Some of them included road trips to Mammoth Lakes, San Francisco, and Utah. We hiked, we ate new foods, and tried new things.  This is why I work! It's so fulfilling for me to be able to expose my kids to as many environments and people as possible. There is still so much to do and see, but we are going to continue to keep experiences a large part of our homeschool. It can't be measured academically, but I am confident in the value of them, so I keep working, and we keep going. :) Until the Lord asks us to do otherwise.


By far, the most memorable subjects studies were the two blocks that we moved through, the Biomes Study and the Africa Study. We organically move through other smaller studies all throughout the year, but there's something about diving in head first and dwelling there that makes a huge impact.  We have plans to do the same this year.  Our first subject will be art, and I am REALLY looking forward to it, because I don't believe I have personally ever dug deep into art appreciation. All of my children are interested in various forms of art, so I can predict this will be a fun one for us!


Last Year & This Coming Year: The Hard Stuff.

I discussed homeschool burnout on my last homeschooling post (which was probably a year ago). It's a real thing. Through my quiet time, I have learned that for me, it's more about an attitude and a mindset.

I truly believe that some moms experience burnout because they are literally investing everything into their children and forgetting to take time to invest in themselves.  I know wonderful, selfless people like that. But I am not one of them. :)  If you are amazingly selfless, I highly encourage you to read Gretchen Rubin's The Four Tendencies--this was a life changing book for me! And my guess is that you are an Obliger. ;)

I have no excuse for burnout, because I do invest in myself. I set boundaries with my own children and friends so that I am sure to have some quiet time daily, and that I get my run in and my work done. I don't struggle with giving them my all and forgetting about myself. My struggle is with giving God my all. In the past year, I have learned that I can double up on reading the Bible and running--there's an amazing app called the Daily Audio Bible.  What a way to be efficient! Bible and run at the same time! While a good portion of God's word was able to make it into my mind and through some of my thoughts, it just wasn't the same as sitting at the table and reading his love letters and instruction to me. My need for efficiency ended up depleting me of nourishment.

For the past few weeks I have been asking him why I am not looking forward to this upcoming year (thankfully, things are changing attitude-wise there!), but he gently let me know that I am not investing in him. This year, he is calling me to a quieter year.  Two of my close friends who were in my small homeschooling circle are sending their kids to school this year and I really grieved and wrestled with that (not for them, but for me and my kids)... I had a pity party and asked him why he has called us to this task when it can be so hard and lonely at times. He gently gave me the following instructions that I am going to share with you. Perhaps you can use them:

  • Rest in His Leading:
    • Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Being still for me will look like an actual quiet time, not just hearing His words while running. :)
    • Exodus 14:14 says, "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
  • Seek Him and Know Him:
    • I don't need to grieve my friends, because he's my friend. He will fulfill those needs if I give them to him. Philipeans 4:6 says, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
  • Create a Biblical World View:
    • went through a strange year last year, questioning if I was over spiritualizing things with my kids. I didn't like quoting scripture as a way to discipline or talk through things, because I was afraid of creating a religious environment. He has assured me lately that "for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45) Bam.
    • He also reminded me of our homeschool vision, and the verse he had given us at the beginning of our journey: "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds, tie them as a sign on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, speaking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:19.
    • And also, he reminded me of the verse of our family vision: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (That pretty much sums up a Biblical world view!)
  • Guard my Heart:
    • atthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light."  This was the kicker for me.  I just sat and cried as he gently reminded me of five treasures who need a mom with clear vision. With clear ears to hear from the Lord.  
    • So many times in my homeschooling journey when I didn't know what to do, if I was in the Lord, seeking him, he would often tell me. Down to little things like introducing spelling. He is so good and he wants to be that close to me. Yet, at times, I cram him into an app and give him 30 minutes of my day while I multi-task. You'd think I'd learn by now! One thing he wants from me this year is to guard my heart from distractions. I am working on a plan to where I can still bring in some income so that we can experience, but also simplify my own extra things. That's going to look like less speaking engagements, less work outside the home, more time with my family, and more time on my knees. I am truly excited for clear vision. I believe if I can keep my eyes clear and my heart guarded, I will be able to avoid burnout.  But just like the grammar experiment, I'll let you know how that pans out! :)
  • Gather my Harvest and Remember my Storehouse!
    • In scripture, farming terms and allegories are used throughout and the Lord was reminding me of my storehouse. He told me to reread my Getting Started Manual.  This was a manual I developed out of the abundance of three beautiful school years.  It was based off of trial and error, following his voice for our family, and understanding what it means to swim upstream and at times be counter culture. 
    • The heart of the manual was to help other moms figure this out as well for their own families. But at the time of writing it, my heart was on fire for the purpose of homeschooling. I was experiencing harvest and wanted to share the process of pruning to get there.  He reminded me of that time. He said that by writing about it, I had created a storehouse that I can always go back to and experience the harvest.  So I did. I reread it perhaps four to five times and I learned something new each time. Haha! This is hilarious and humbling to say.  But, this past season, the past six months of moving then renovating our home has almost erased the beauty of homeschool for me. It took me to a place of depletion, so that everything was clouded by decision fatigue and lack of inspiration. But he's working on me and I'm getting there! :)
    • This is not a sales pitch. If anything, it's to encourage you to document your time of harvest so that in times of depletion, you have something stored to pull you out! :)

If you're still reading, you deserve a metal. :)  I just wanted to share my heart out there, and encourage anyone who is not looking forward to the new year to spend some time being still, and possibly work on an attitude adjustment. And if you're one of those amazing moms that is depleted because you have forgotten to care for yourself, take time to care for yourself! We must give our children a healthy and whole mother, one who has clear vision.  Investing in yourself and investing in your relationship with the Lord may help with that! :)

Oh, and for history's sake... the word the Lord gave me this year was GROWTH. No surprise there!  The past years have been: PEACE, DISCIPLINE, BOLD, and TIME. I can honestly say each word has had a true meaning every single year. Cheers to growth, friends!