Kale Walnut Salad with Homemade Cranberry Dressing

On this Thanksgiving Eve I should be elbow deep in canned pumpkin or green bean casserole. Instead, I’m still thinking about the yummy kale salad we made last night and planning on noshing on the leftovers for dinner. (Don’t worry – there’s plenty of time for pumpkin pie tomorrow!)

I stumbled on this recipe a couple months ago and knew it needed to be in our regular salad rotation. We recently had a kale salad at a friends house and my entire family ate it right up. This recipe has a cranberry dressing, which is a favorite of my husband’s and one of the few salad dressings my children will even consider.

This salad comes together very quickly and is a nice variation to the boring iceberg (and more nutrtious, too!).  You can vary it up with different cheeses; don’t feel bound to the blue cheese I had on-hand (I know some of you aren’t a fan). You could swap it out for goat cheese or even gorgonzola and this salad would still be delish.  Feel free to do the same with the nuts. The original recipe calls for almonds but, again, I had walnuts on-hand so I went with those. Either works!

This salad would be a perfect pair for that leftover turkey you will be enjoying the day after Thanksgiving. The cranberry dressing is light but the kale is hearty and satisfying. So go ahead and make it this weekend and let me know what you think. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Kale Cranberry Salad | Homegrown Happiness

INGREDIENTS

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dried cranberries

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

juice and zest of half a lemon

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1 bunch kale, chopped

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup blue cheese

DIRECTIONS

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Be sure watch the garlic closely so it does not burn. Then add cranberries, red wine vinegar, honey, lemon juice and zest, and mix to combine. Finally, add in salt and pepper and remove from heat.

In a large bowl, toss the kale with the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Massage the oil into the kale to softened the leaves. Add in the cranberry dressing and mix well. Top with the crumbled blue cheese.

 

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cookies

OK, don’t get mad but I jumped the gun on pumpkin. I’m so excited for one of my favorite fall flavors that I went ahead and made my first recipe of the year. But I had very good reason. I’m talking about Pumpkin Gingerbread Cookies that will put your favorite cookie to shame.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cookies - Homegrown Happiness

You see it all started a few days ago we had plans to go to an outdoor concert with friends. I knew I wanted to make cookies to share because they would be easy to eat at a picnic and very transportable. I ran across this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod and they instantly sounded delicious. Something other than the standby chocolate chip or peanut butter yet easy enough for the kids to help (my son especially liked rolling the dough in the sugar).

I was pleasantly surprised with how well they turned out. I haven’t been obsessed with a cookie in quite a while. (In all honesty I would not consider myself a cookie person.) They are so soft and chewy from the pumpkin and the gingerbread flavor got two thumbs up from my toughest critics: my kids. Roll them in sugar to top it all off for a sweet surprise. Plus, the recipe made enough for us to share with neighbors the next day.

Here’s an extra tip from this recipe: don’t leave out the molasses. I’ve learned from baking with pumpkin several different ways that molasses always enhances the flavor. 

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cookies - Homegrown Happiness

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cookies

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup for rolling the cookies

1/2 cup of canned pumpkin

1/4 cup of molasses

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the pumpkin, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix until well blended.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour. (I chilled mine overnight which was fine, too.)

3. When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl. Roll balls of dough in sugar until well coated and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until cookies look cracked. The cookies will still be soft, which is what you want. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a 2-3 minutes after removing them from the oven, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

From Mauve to Marvelous | Dining Room Makeover

Have you ever had a decorating project in your head for so long you finally just jump in head first because you can’t wait any longer?

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That was me and my dining room. You see, my dining room was one of the few rooms in our new home that I knew immediately what I wanted to do.  We had a good-sized room with gorgeous hardwood floors and large windows that gave wonderful natural light. However, on top of that we had lots of mauve. I don’t do mauve. Luckily it was only on half the walls (below the chair rail).

My vision included keeping the chair rail, adding navy blue, plus some awesome wainscoting wall frames. Let’s get started.

1. The first job was to paint the trim. Most people know we are slowly painting the trim throughout our house as we paint the room. There was already white trim in this room but it wasn’t the same white as the rest of the white trim in the house <sigh>.  We have three windows in this room so the trim was no small job.

2. The second step was to prime below the chair rail. Bye, bye mauve. This was the basic primer we’ve been using on the trim throughout the house (Sherwin Williams). Once one coat of primer was on we painted one coat of the basic white on top.

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3. My husband started looking at the framing project and we were prepared to cut our own wall frames. We were surprised to find that Lowe’s sells pre-cut wall frames that were going to work perfectly for our project. They came in three width sizes (18″, 14″, and 7″) and we calculated our wall dimensions based on those.

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4. Once the wall frames went up the room really started to come together. We did notice, however, that because the wall wasn’t perfectly flat we had to fill some of the gaps with caulk. It wasn’t necessary to go all around all the frames, but we found the most glaring spaces and fixed those. We then painted one final coat of white over the frames and the wall.

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5. I purchased a grey wall primer from Sherwin Williams (#4) because I knew it was going to be difficult to cover the white with navy blue.

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5. The navy blue (Sherwin Williams Naval) was the final step. It took two full coats and a serious touch-up session (plus don’t forget the grey primer) to cover all the white.  Add a new rug and we were in business. I absolutely love the contrast of the navy against the white.

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As people have come over and seen our new dining room almost everyone has asked where we got our new furniture. Here’s our secret: aside from an area rug, we didn’t buy  ANYTHING for the room. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do, am I right?

Banana Pumpkin Muffins

What do you do with your bananas that are about to go bad? I usually try to whip together banana bread but it doesn’t always get done. Recently I froze the bananas whole thinking I would have time in the coming weeks to make bread.

Wrong. The frozen bananas just ended up taking up valuable space in my small freezer and I eventually had to pitch them.

This time around I knew I had time and just needed to decide which recipe to use. A few months ago I made a Nutella Banana Bread which was OK (sounds much better than it actually was). I was planning on making a standard recipe when I ran across this Banana Pumpkin Bread. I had canned pumpkin in my pantry PLUS it calls for plain yogurt which I also had on hand. Score! The only thing I added to the recipe was a bit of pumpkin pie spice, which I thought would pair nicely with the other flavors. I also ditched the whole wheat flour and used all white flour.

We were having a playdate at our house this morning so if all went well I was hoping to be able to serve this to our friends. Not only did the bread turn out well, but the kiddos ate it all. I decided to make  another batch this afternoon for muffins (had to use up the rest of the bananas, right?).

Banana Pumpkin Muffins - Homegrown Happiness

BANANA PUMPKIN MUFFINS

Yield: 1 loaf or 12-16 muffins

Ingredients

1 cup smashed ripe banana (2-3)

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/3 cup plain yogurt

5 Tbsp butter, melted

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup unbleached flour

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the bananas, pumpkin, yogurt, butter, and eggs and mix at medium speed until well blended. Add sugar and mix until well combined.

3. In a bowl combine the flour, flaxseed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly add this to the banana mixture until just blended.

4. Spoon the batter into a loaf or muffin pan. For muffins bake for 14-17 minutes. For bread bake for 45-55 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. After 10 minutes remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

 

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is Real

At the time I thought I could be depressed. I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed. I was snapping at my kids. I wasn’t talking to friends. I couldn’t even enjoy a meal with my family because the thought of food was overwhelming. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself…

On July 5, 2014 our lives changed forever. Again. This was the date my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our third child. The day before my husband and I had ran a 4-mile race through our town in honor of the 4th of July. I felt great. We had just moved into our home six weeks prior and the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays! We celebrated and enjoyed our time with friends and family. We didn’t know that the next few weeks, and ultimately months, would be some of the hardest of of our life.

I was 5 weeks pregnant when we got the good news. Around 6-7 weeks I started feeling nauseous and by 8 weeks I was vomiting regularly. Though, from what I remember, it was manageable. At 9 weeks I remember a dramatic change for the worse. Vomiting was coming several times a day and I just kept hoping that it would be different this time. I finally caved and asked for nausea medication from my doctor. I kept telling myself that I was only 9 weeks and MAYBE this means that I’m going to be done with the hyperemesis early. Maybe even done at the end of my first trimester? Foolish girl.

When I would get out of bed I would get a quick breakfast (cereal, bagel, or fruit) and head straight for the couch. At this point any excursion of energy and I was sick. Mind you my threshold of excursion was extremely low. Unloading the dishwasher was too much (never mind the smell of food at the sink!).

I was becoming completely hopeless.

Needless to say my first trimester came and went. Week 12…week 13…week 14. Repeated daily vomiting continued. On my worst days I was sick 7-8 times day. Good days it was only once or twice. Medication treatment continued, though it didn’t really work. I was trying everything though nothing was working. Ginger chews (yeah right). Sea bands (waste of money). Essential oils (worked for a minute). And every time a nice person would suggest I “try lemon” I had to politely smile, knowing well that I was beyond that.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) had set it. I will be honest that I was never officially diagnosed with this condition, mainly because I didn’t meat the “official” requirements. I never lost a lot of weight, though I didn’t gain weight until I was 35 weeks. However, despite not having the official diagnosis I fully believe that I suffered from HG my entire pregnancy.

Needless to say, it continued past my first trimester. I remember clearly having a change at week 22. It got worse. Much worse. There were days that I could not pull myself out of bed without vomiting. Any movement whatsoever (even while lying down) would trigger my stomach to turnover and for me to rush to the bathroom. The car was the worst and I had to make sure I had a plastic bag in my car every time I went somewhere. Driving to preschool drop-off became quite an endeavor.

It was around this time that I had my first visit to the triage unit of the hospital. I had not kept anything down for 24 hours. I ended up being there several hours and by the time I got home I was still nauseous, just not dehydrated.

There was nothing they could do.

It was about this time that I started a second nausea medication. By adding this medication I was now able to get out of bed (most days) but I was now dependent on yet another med. As much as I hated this I knew I had to function. Laying in bed every day was not an option.

Weeks went by and soon I was taking a nausea pill every three hours. And still vomiting.

I finally gave in and talked to my OB. She ordered the Zofran pump to be delivered to my home. I’ve talked to others with this condition who rejoiced when they got their pump. I didn’t. I felt like I was losing. I felt like HG was winning the battle for my life.

I didn’t want the pump. I didn’t want to need the pump.

I just wanted it all to GO AWAY.

This is when my depression really set in. Winter had come, the holidays were approaching, and I wasn’t socializing at all. I was barely talking to my family. At one point I looked at my maternity clothes in my closet and realized they were all black or grey. That’s when I knew that I was low. But I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a way to pull myself out.

In addition to my depression was my constant worry about this little baby. Is he/she getting enough nutrition? Is he/she growing OK? How are these nausea medications affecting the baby? It was one worry after another.

Despite what I was feeling emotionally I still had to try and get my body back in working order. I could feel my esophagus was sore from the vomiting and I didn’t know if my body could handle much more.

I had to try and do what I could, even if it wasn’t as much as I wanted.

The pump got delivered when I was 26 weeks pregnant. We’d come so far but still had a long way to go. The Zofran pump started helping right away. The nausea never went away but I was functioning and didn’t have to take a pill every 3 hours. This was considered progress.

The worst part about the pump was the side effects (I won’t bother you with those). At 34 weeks I ditched the pump. The side effects seemed to be getting worse and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel of mu pregnancy. My thought process:

At 39 weeks the doctor is willing to schedule an induction. That’s 5 weeks to go!! And there’s always the possibility that the baby could come earlier (37 weeks is full term!).

All of these thoughts were the positive vibes I had to constantly feed myself to keep going…you’re almost there!!

35 weeks pregnant

35 weeks pregnant

Thankfully, my positive thoughts came true and our little girl came on her own at exactly 39 weeks! I couldn’t believe my nightmare (i.e. pregnancy) was over and we had a healthy, beautiful baby. Our love for her was overflowing!

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My nausea still lingered some, though not much. Eating at the hospital was difficult only because my stomach didn’t recognize the food. During my pregnancy I had stuck with a fairly bland, predictable diet (fruits, raw vegetables, oatmeal, eggs) so anything outside that comfort zone tended to churn my stomach. However, though the nausea in the hospital was so minor that I didn’t really mind.

By a week postpartum I was back to a regular diet and even enjoying some extra treats like ice cream and cake at my husband’s birthday (I earned it, didn’t I?). A few weeks later I had some wine and I could safely say I was “back to normal”.

I write this post for one reason: to help others who are afflicted with this condition. If you are pregnant and it seems like more than morning sickness (I can’t stand that term), than it probably is. Talk to your doctor, though be prepared that some physicians don’t recognize this condition and don’t know how to treat it.

You must be your own advocate. Find what works for you (i.e. what medications you can stand, what foods you can eat) and stick with it. And know that if a food sounds good today it might make you vomit tomorrow. I had a lot of foods turn on me throughout my pregnancy (I’m looking at you eggs!). And please reach out! I am happy to talk to anyone who thinks they might be going through this. Leave a comment on this post and I will be happy to respond.

Talk to your significant other and help them understand how you’re feeling. I am so thankful that my husband was there the entire time. I could not have survived without him. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. I swallowed my pride, asked for help, and was overwhelmed with the number of people willing to lend a hand. To this day I’m thankful for them and they hold a special place in my heart.

If you know someone who just can’t get over the nausea associated with pregnancy please help them. Take their family a meal. Offer to clean their house or pick up their kids from school. Be patient with them and if they seem distant know that this is the reason. Reaching out with a simple hug or “how are you doing?” can make more of a difference that you know.

And finally, if you are so inclined, please help us educate professionals and treat this condition. It can only get better with your help. Donate to the Hyperemesis Education & Research (HER) Foundation today.

Welcome, Kate!

It’s been a little over a month since our world was turned upside down. On March 5, 2015 we welcomed Katherine Jane Achterberg into the world. We were thrilled to learn that we were now parents to a sweet little girl. As parents of two active boys we knew right away that things were about to take a dramatic turn.

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Kate weighed in at 7 pounds, 8 ounces and was born in the late afternoon at 3:58 pm. I was in such shock that we had a girl I didn’t quite believe my husband when he first shared the news. Seriously? What are we to do with a girl? And most importantly…she has nothing to wear! For the first 24 hours I was in disbelief that the precious girl next to my hospital bed was actually ours.

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This last month has been perfectly blissful. Yes, there’s less sleep. (But let’s be honest, who was sleeping anyways?) Yes, we are learning to juggle new things and are changing diapers for the first time in a year and half. BUT… we have a gorgeous baby girl who brings us joy every day. Every. Single. Day. And watching her brothers play with her and watch over her only adds to our enjoyment.

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The months leading up to Kate’s arrival were more than difficult. Our close friends and family know how trying my pregnancies are and she was no different. I have been mentally writing a blog post about my pregnancy for some time now but haven’t yet typed it out. I need to roll over the events, how they played out, how I felt, and how it affected my family. In the end everything worked out and pregnancy is obviously only temporary, yet I know that those 9 months had an affect on the relationships in my life. I’m hoping to write about this soon and share it publicly. Until then, let’s just enjoy Kate a little bit more.

Welcome to the world, little girl. You couldn’t be more loved.

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Hope, Gratitude, & Anticipation

I haven’t posted in such a long time, but there is good reason. I think this baby in my belly is trying to kill me. OK, not really. This baby is actually quite innocent. It’s my body’s reaction to this baby that I could do without. Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a nasty disease that is fighting my body tooth and nail. I am at 24 1/2 weeks and still experience nausea and vomiting on an almost daily basis with no sign of it letting up.

I don’t want this to be a complaining post or a “woe-is-me” tyraid. We are thankful for this pregnancy. I know that there are women in this world who would trade places with me in a minute just for the chance to have their own child. I know this and I remind myself of it everyday. Believe me when I say we are thankful.

“You have a healthy baby”, I tell myself.

“You can do this”, I whisper in my head.

When I’m vomiting in the bathroom for the fifth time that day I MUST remind myself that this is temporary and it’s all for this blessing that God has given us.

Some days it’s easier to do this than others. Honestly, it would be easier to wallow. I would like to not get out of bed some days. When I’ve been sick two times before breakfast, knowing that there is no way I’m keeping anything down that day, I would rather crawl into a hole and let someone else take care of my family. At least for the next 24 hours.

But I can’t. So I get out of bed, put on my robe, and make my way downstairs to prepare food (ahhhh!) for my sweet children who don’t quite understand why Mommy is sick all the time.

I was texting with a friend this morning and she said “you’re not yourself”. This almost brought tears to my eyes because she was one of the few people (with the exception of my husband and close family) who came out and said what I was really feeling. I am not myself. I responded with “I turned into this tired, pukey, depressed shadow of myself.” That was hard to admit but was so very true. I’m thankful to have friends that recognize that this isn’t me. I am not myself. This disease has turned me into someone I don’t like and I pray every day for March 12th to get here soon.

Today has been a good day which is why I’m able to write this post. I always keep hope that these symptoms will ease up soon and give me more and more good days. Hope, gratitude, anticipation for this baby’s arrival. These are the things that get me through until tomorrow.

 

Searching For Progress

Progress. Slow, slow progress. You may have heard about our little announcement recently.

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Naturally, we are very excited about our new addition. However, this pregnancy has been a true challenge for me as well as my family.  I have a condition in which my nausea is unbearable and, at times, makes it difficult for me to function. Princess Kate was recently diagnosed with this same condition and my heart truly goes out to her. Currently, I’m doing fairly well as long as I follow a strict medication regimen. However, my energy is still low and moments of severe nausea can kick in at any time.

This condition is so unfortunate because it robs me of the ability to keep up with the day-to-day of our house. Some days, if the dishes get done I’m proud. Thus, the progress on settling into new home has been sllllooowwww.

But, with the help of a wonderful husband and dear mother we’ve made some small progress. Recently my mom came over and helped paint our living room. Painting has been a priority for us since every room in our home when we bought it was beige or a yucky yellowish-beige. Bleh.

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So, I knew that getting something fresh and new would help brighten up our space. I went neutral with the living room and relied on one of my favorite Sherwin Williams colors: Perfect Greige. It really is perfect! We used it in our last house as our neutral and I fell it love. It’s a great version of a traditional grey and seems to go with everything.

My mom was wonderful in coming in and getting started. I, of course, got exhausted at a certain point and has to stop. My husband stepped in and finished the project that night so I woke up to a freshly painted living room (isn’t he great?). I think it turned out pretty great.

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Like I said, progress has been slow. But, I’m learning to indulge in the small victories that we are able to accomplish. I’ve had more better days recently and am hoping to celebrate fall by completing more projects on my list. Hubby planted my mums for me last weekend, which have really gotten me excited for the season! I expect that our next project will be landscaping – my, oh, my is it in desperate need!

Easy Breezy

We had a contractor out at the house last week. He was fixing odds and ends that the inspector had noticed before we bought the house. Unfortunately, he wasn’t doing anything fun in my book (a new screen in one of the kid’s rooms, various electrical jobs, and work in the crawlspace mostly).

He did set up a electrical outlet in the screened in porch and wired the ceiling for a ceiling fan. Yeah! When he was done it looked something like this.

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So…this past weekend it was time to fill the hole and get a fan. We needed an outdoor fan (obviously) AND it needed a remote so that we could control the light and the fan separately. Turns out, this combination is very hard to find. After leaving Lowe’s in disappointment we headed to Menard’s where we found an outdoor fan we liked. My husband chose to install the remote feature himself, mostly because there weren’t a lot of options otherwise.

I’m very thankful that my husband is so handy! Otherwise we would have wound up with an outdoor remote controlled fan that, quite frankly, wasn’t very attractive. And we all know that that’s the most important part, right? By the end of the day on Sunday we had a new fan installed on our porch thanks to my husband’s hard work. Good job, hubby.

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We are very excited to enjoy the newest addition to our porch during the upcoming 4th of July holiday. I think all we need now is some sparkly party lights.

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Fireplace Makeover

I got an itch last week. As we have begun spending more and more time in our house I kept looking at our very ugly fireplace. Ugh. The dark brown brick with brown bookcase and woodwork was making me feel, well, dull. Because the wood on the bookcases is gorgeous and still in wonderful condition I’m hesitant about painting it. Therefore that left one solution: paint the fireplace.

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Of course, I began on Pinterest. I had to know how hard this was going to be. Am I in over my head? When my husband looks at me with his skeptic scowl should I listen to him and forget the whole thing? How much is this going to cost?!

After some extensive research, and a trusty YouTube video, I felt confident that this would be great. And I wasn’t going to paint. I was going to whitewash the brick. So what’s a whitewash? (I didn’t know either). Basically, you water down the paint which creates a thinner coat than a traditional paint. Here are the steps I took:

1. Clean the fireplace. I found a stiff bristled brush and rubbed it firmly against the brick. You will be amazed at the dirt that comes off! Just make sure it’s a strong brush, otherwise the brick will tear through your cleaning tool.

2. Bought the standard Extra White paint from Sherwin Williams. This is in the basic white collection and is used often on trims, doors, etc. The Sherwin Williams associate confirmed for me that I didn’t need a high quality paint since I was watering it down. I also didn’t need to worry too much about what shade of shade — this was the easiest paint selection I’ve ever done!

3. At home I watered down my 1 quart of paint with 1.5 quarts of water. I was originally going to stick to a 1:1 ratio of paint to water, however remember my scowling husband? I figured I would go light with the paint in case it didn’t work. A thinner coat would be easier to fix if I hated it. You can always add but it’s hard to take away.

4. I painted my first cost covering each brick and all the mortar. After applying the paint to the brick I would wipe away the excess with an old t-shirt.

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5. After I finished the first coat I could tell that it was looking good but would need more. I added a second coat but only put in on the brick (not the mortar) and still wiped it away with the old t-shirt. By the time I was done the brick had two coats and the mortar only one.

To say that I’m please with the outcome is an understatement. It’s amazing how much better it looks! Now I just want to keep painting everything else in this old house! The only thing it still needs is a screen or new doors. I’ve considered spray painting the old doors, but I don’t think paint can help much — the style is so outdated! (I was going to wait to reveal the project until we get a new screen but couldn’t wait any longer.)

FIREPLACE AFTER

What do you think? Have you done this project or something similar? My doubtful husband ended up loving it (even though he hasn’t exactly said that out loud yet…). I do have to give him a huge pat on the back for his weekend project, but you will have to read the next blog post to hear about that.