Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the category “Around the House”

A Decade of Home Ownership

Today marks ten years of owning my home!

So much of life has changed in these 10 years: when I bought the house, I was young and in love, about to get engaged, and ready to start my life with someone. 10 years later, I have a significant other who has truly showed me the meaning of partnership and love, and we’re about to embark on a new chapter of our life together and expand our family. In a decade of living the house has seen a lot of life go through it and as the saying goes “if only the walls could talk.”

This image is taken from Google Streetview which apparently made its way through our neighborhood sometime last summer because the hosta plants on the front left are gone now ( in an effort to get rid of some invasive weeds, we killed them which is saying a lot for a hearty plant like hostas). The evergreen that I bought 10 years ago to cover up my gas meter on the front of my house grew pretty close to the house and rather tall so Q lopped off the top of it this past fall. It’s always funny to me to look at progression of trees and shrubs in pictures over the years to see how quickly things grow that you look at every day, but don’t ever really see their growth. That little evergreen was one of the first purchases for the house with my then-fiance/now ex-husband from Lowe’s (funny how we remember little details like that too!)

And of course, in 10 years, there have been numerous frustrations (a fire in the lot next door where we feared we would lost our house), lots of painting (fences, ceilings, walls), and various upgrades, but for the most part our little house has remained the same, a happy place for me during both the rough and happy moments of life. It’s not perfect- it’s 1930s bungalow style layout is limited with one tiny bathroom and 2 bedrooms, it’s close to the main road and can be loud, and we don’t love living in the town I grew up in as much as I used to (though to be fair, I never thought I’d stay, but things happen in life and you go with it).

It’ll always be the place where I learned who I was and took a stand for my own life in getting a divorce. It’s the place where Q told me he loved me for the first time, and where we’ll bring our little boy home to in June. It’s not our forever home, but it’ll always be my first house and a huge part of my life.

Lessons of The Fence

If you follow me over on Instagram, you may have seen a couple of posts over the past few weeks about my fence. It’s been a source of frustration and more than a few tears over the past month.

First, a bit of back story. I first painted this fence with my Dad on Columbus Day weekend 2009. It’s a pretty vivid memory, so much that I recall even what I wore ( gray long sleeve San Francisco t-shirt and brown work pants). It was just my Dad and I who did it together- I’m sure my then-fiance was off traveling somewhere for the weekend or something. I remember it because we talked about a ton of things and because we both complained about how painting a fence seemed like a thankless task.

When the fence started to peel over a year ago, I did NOT want to do it again. I think there should be some homeowner rule that if you do a project once, you shouldn’t have to do it again. I even priced out getting the fence done by someone, but because of humidity and schedules last summer, it never got done. The wet winter and fire next door to our house this past April helped to peel a lot of the paint, so much that it was definitely looking BAD by the start of the summer. I knew it had to be done and again I delayed for various reasons- weather, busy schedules, and so on.

A few weeks ago I found myself with a relatively free Sunday and got to scraping. But it was hot and I was mad to have to do it again. Doing it brought so many thoughts of my Dad and doing house projects with him back and a flood of emotions. I didn’t get very far and ended up a crying mess.


This weekend, I finally got my act together and finished scraping one side, I took it upon myself to get the rest of the supplies I needed for painting. Thanks to a few good podcasts and being stranded at home without a car while Q had dental work done, I got the lion’s share of the fence done. It still needs another coat, and I didn’t paint the adjacent side, but the lesson here is an evergreen one- the things you put off usually don’t take as long as you anticipate once you finally get them done.

Working on the fence I was thinking a lot about my Dad and how he often told me that often it was his father, my Grandpa, who was the one who pushed him to get house projects done. I miss the time we spent doing projects around the house together, though just as it was with his father, my Dad was the one who motivated me to get things done around the house. That makes my home  filled with memories of things we did together (or things he just did for me) for which I am eternally grateful.

It also makes me realize that, in the future, condo living is right for me!

Not How I Thought My Sunday Would Go

Sunday afternoon, the commercial building next door to my house was demolished by a big fire. Thankfully, we and the house are safe. We’ve got some smoke damage ( the professional cleaning people are currently in my attic and basement where the smoke was the worst), some charred grass and lots of soot/ash on the exterior, but no major damage. We are extremely lucky and so grateful to the firefighters from our town and surrounding areas who worked hard for hours to contain the five-alarm fire.

(the white house is mine)

If you’ve had a fire in your home, my heart goes out to you because the anxiety and fear we felt on Sunday evening and into Monday morning was heartwrenching and terrifying. The fire broke out about 5ish on Sunday, just as we were about to sit down to eat. I was so sure it was a small fire they would have under control shortly that when the police told us to leave the house, I left our dinner on the table since I thought we’d be right back. 4 hours later, they let us come into the house for 5 minutes to grab clothes as the house was too smoky to stay in Sunday night.

We slept at a family friend’s house on Sunday night that was only a street away from the house so we could be close in case things changed. When we left the corner near the house, the fire was mostly contained and they were bringing in some heavy machinery to get to the heart of the blaze. The building is a total loss and the building owner, plus 3 tenants, lost everything.

Now, as we deal with the cleaning and airing out, I never thought I’d be so thankful for smoke damage. The thought of what could have been makes me sick to my stomach. As we stood on the corner watching the blaze get bigger and the winds shifting, Q and I prayed for the safety of our house, but we knew that it was only stuff inside and that we were safe and together. I’m thankful we were home and that we were able to return to our home just a day later. There are a few scorched lawn and dried leaf areas on our property– if the wind changed, our house likely would have had much worse damage. So while the stress of insurance claims and washing almost everything in the house is frustrating, we’re counting our blessings and thanking our guardian angels and firefighters for the safety of us and the house.

Springtime Inspiration with iRazoo

This time of year, despite the busy-ness of my day job, has me antsy to open the windows, clear the air in the house, and get cleaning. Q and I are homebodies so after a season spent hunkering down and spending a lot of time at home, I get pretty excited to spring clean and declutter the house. This so-called spring in New England has not brought a ton of warm, sunny days for that, but all these rainy weekends provide ample time to linger over Pinterest looking for inspiration and taking part in iRazoo’s blog offerings of various tips, techniques, and ideas for getting the house in order. They also offer paid surveys which are great for me to pass the time while Q watches a movie I’m not interested in seeing.

This spring, the biggest effort for me has been trying to get our basement in order. It’s just about a completely finished basement ( minus the laundry and utilities area), so we’re lucky to have a whole space in the house that’s pretty much a blank slate. Q claimed an area of it for his workout zone long ago, but the rest of the space had become the holding area/dumping ground for various things– furniture we didn’t want to part with, extra household supplies, off-season clothing, random Little Man toys, and of course, LOTS of dust and spiders. Despite this, I was anxious to get it more organized and clean to have another space for our family to enjoy.

These are the built ins in my basement, before we filled them up!

Q’s workout area is located over here now too. 

We have moved furniture around, putting my desk down there from Little Man’s room and moving up a chest of drawers from basement into his room instead. I made a corner of the room just for the furniture and items to be donated ( and already made an appointment for them to be picked up!). We pushed some things against the wall, utilized the built-in shelves for various games, toys, books, and more. It’s not quite there yet so no reveal shots quite yet, but we’re well on the way to have a space that fits our needs– a place for Q to work out, a quiet place for me to write, and organization for the stuff of life.


Low Key Christmas Decorating

In the spirit of our low key Christmas, I’m keeping the Christmas decorations around the house pretty low key this year too. Even though we won’t have a big tree or lights outside, I’m still bringing out the things that mean the most to me at Christmas time. All year long, I like to decorate and surround myself with objects of meaning or interest and Christmas is no exception. I don’t tend to decorate for other holidays, though we have a few candle holders for Halloween and Thanksgiving, so Christmas is really the only holiday where I switch up our regular house decor.

I’m super allergic to Christmas trees so we can’t have any real greens around, so our door wreath and mantel pine are all fake, but I love using Christmas greens to decorate, so I’m pretty happy that the fake versions look just as nice!


At this point, with the exception of the front door, this is the only Christmas decor in the house. This weekend when we have Little Man, we’ll decorate a small tree, but won’t be putting out the big 6 footer because it involves moving a lot of furniture and making a fuss that honestly, I just don’t have in me this year. It’s not that I’m a Grinch, but I’m trying to enjoy the holiday season in the way I want, and moving around our stuff and having a large tree in our small house for only a few weeks is not my idea of a low key, relaxing holiday.

I’m very proud of our mantel decor because almost all the pieces displayed have some meaning, are heirloom/family pieces, or were gifts from loved ones. The wooden initial snowflakes on our stockings were made by my talented brother and sister in law. The sign in the plant was something my Dad loved. The ceramic nativity scene on  the top shelf of the built in bookshelves was at my grandma’s house until she moved.


Even the non-Christmas items have important connections to family or moments in time. The large plant behind the nativity is something my Dad kept alive in many different forms for decades and many cuttings, all from a plant my brother brought home when he was in elementary school. The silver tool chest on the first shelf belonged to my grandfather and when we were cleaning out my Grandma’s basement, Q thought it was really cool. Even the books are chosen with care to represent our interests as a family, subjects I love, or well-loved books like Little Women. Even the “K” letter has a story– it’s an original metal letter from an old movie theater marquee sign!

As I strategically chose items from the box of decorations this year, it only saddened me a bit that some of the items will remain in the box this year because there are only a few things that are newly purchased. I chose to put out the pieces that resonated with me and our family at this moment in time, and many of them are connections to my father. Even though he often complained the most about moving his plants and furniture around to fit the large tree in the living room, he hated leaving special ornaments in the box each year, thinking they’d feel left out or like the misfit toys from the Rudolph Christmas movie. I know that some day, maybe even next year, our Christmas celebrations may not be as low key or we may live in a bigger place to accommodate more decorations. I know our stockings will change as I want to make the three of us our own embroidered or needlepoint stockings, just like my mother did for my brother and I ( it will likely take me all year to do one!) As our family and traditions grow, so will our decorations!

Whatever holiday you celebrate and however over the top or understated your decorations are, I hope you enjoy your home in a festive way that makes your heart happy.


Product I Love: Evercare Fabric Shaver

I love sweaters. I hate how they pill up after just one or two wears. Same with knit pants on the inner thighs. I’ve spent more hours of my life trying to remove pills with razors and all the other random remedies out there. A few years ago, I was complaining to a coworker about this and she told me to get a motorized fabric shaver.

Life changed.

I purchased the Evercare Fabric Shaver from Target for under $10 maybe a year and a half ago, and it is quite possibly one of the best investments I’ve made- and so inexpensive!

I use it on my sweaters, pants, and everything in between. Removing the pills keeps my clothes looking fresh. As I’ve cut down on my shopping and clothes buying, it’s been a lifesaver in extending the life of my clothes. I even use it to take the pills off the couches! Seriously it’s an amazing little gadget. Even Good Housekeeping agrees!



This is an honest review, not prompted by Evercare or any other company to review the product. All opinions are my own. 

Product Love: Cleaning Supplies

I have more posts in draft form than I’d like to mention- my brain gets some great ideas, I get interrupted, then the posts sit there in a sad state until I can remember again why I thought it was such a smart idea to write about.

But I’m trying to be better about action, no matter the state of things, so with that in mind, I’m unleashing drafts into the world!


I’m not a clean freak by any means. I like things tidy and generally uncluttered, but I don’t get mad at Q when he leaves shoes out of the closet because, usually, mine are sitting out at the random spot they were removed too. I don’t deep clean my house every week, but do my best to sweep up hair/crumbs, put things away, wipe down counters, and so on.

In the course of life, I’ve found that some products and tools work better for me than others, so I’m sharing my favorite ones with you! These are actually products I love and use, and I was not compensated to mention them– all opinions are my own!


Barkeeper’s Friend: Seriously this stuff is amazing. I originally bought it to deal with some nasty stains on my stainless steel kitchen sink, but it has saved the day so many times. Highly recommend for use with really bad burned on stains on all-clad cookware!


barkeepers friend


Mr. Clean Magic Eraser: Marks on walls, cleaning grout, and everything in between. Magic indeed!

magic eraser

Lysol Wipes: I have a 6 year old little boy in my life. Sticky stuff gets everywhere. These wipes are the answer to just about anything. Plus they save a lazy bathroom cleaner like me!

lysol wipes


Swiffer: I have hardwood floors throughout the entire house, with the exception of the bathroom and kitchen. With my Swiffer, I can use it on all of those surfaces to grab the various crumbs and bits of grime. And, my long, dark hairs since I shed A LOT (how do I still have all this hair on my head if I shed so much?!?! Mysteries of life, right there).




There was an article in the New York Times a few weeks again about celebrating the art of clutter. I think it’s worth a read.

It’s no secret how much I love cleaning out stuff, organizing, and the feeling that I’m surrounded by the things I love and enjoy the most. But that also doesn’t mean that I live in a clean, organized, minimalist home either.

My house is home to myself, Q, and half-time to a 6 year old little boy. Q and I work full-time and often are still working when we walk in the door. My dining room table is more often than not covered with papers from our jobs, mail, and various other items. The pile of sewing and ironing is constantly moved around to avoid doing it. Recipes, coupons, receipts, and other random items to remember are strewn about. The box of things to sell on Craigslist lingers.

I walked down into the basement the other night and there is quite the mishmash of furniture items, house decor, and other items deemed unessential at the moment, but needs to be saved. A lot of it is from my grandmother’s house that sold this past December– it’s the stuff of memories and pieces that are too good or special to get rid of, but don’t have a spot in our home yet. Many minimalists/organizers/declutter freaks would gasp at the sight of my messy basement, especially since it’s been like that for over 6 months. And frankly, I do have moments when I look at all the stuff and just want to throw it all away. God forbid there was a fire in my house tomorrow, the stuff would be gone and the memories would remain. That doesn’t make it any easier to part with those items, but someday I will make a decision to either use it or get rid of it. I’m not there yet– I think celebrating this in-between stage of holding onto good, important things, is where we all should think about a little bit more.

Even if all that stuff remained, cluttered about the house, but it would mean that we’re spending our free time not worrying about whether every single item in our house is bringing us joy. Instead we’re together doing something joy-filled, whether it be teaching the 6 year old to play checkers or having some much needed quiet time together on the sun porch to catch up with each other. My house may be filled with items destined for trash, recycle, or donation, but it’s filled with experiences, love, and memories which far outweigh any joy having less stuff could ever bring me.

Wordless Wednesday: Lilacs


Anxiously awaiting warmer temperatures and the blooming of the lilacs in my backyard.

Habits, Cleaning &Cohabitation

Q& I have lived together well over a year now and Little Man has been staying with us on a part-time basis for just about a year. Since Q & I waited almost a year into dating before I even met his son, we also eased into Little Man staying at the house on his weekends with his Dad. It was the right thing for us to do and I think helped build a good relationship of trust for Little Man with me.

In this time, I’m embraced the mess and sometimes grossness of having two boys around, especially a 6 year old little boy who has an endless imagination and levels of creativity that often involve leaving messes around in the form of Lego piles, cardboard boxes, and crayons all about. Don’t get this post wrong– I love every single minute of it. This recovering Type A, organizational, clean freak has embraced the wild fun of having a child in the house, though am teaching him to keep the wild somewhat tame, all the while maintaining important rules of cleanliness like making beds, washing hands, and picking up toys.

And of course, I was married before I met Q, and I have an older brother, so I’m no stranger to the messes that can come with the male gender. And frankly, I lived with 5 girls in college, who though like-minded gals like myself that were relatively clean, we did make our fair share of messes. And I’m sure if Q could chime in here, he would say I have my own peculiar habits as well, though I’m sure he would mostly complain about my long, dark brown hairs appearing just about everywhere.

But there is something about cohabitation and the weird habits of other people that amuses me, as any person who lives with a roommate or significant other can attest. Why does a person dry their hands with paper towels and then leave it on the counter when the trash is only a cabinet away? Why does a little boy leave small Lego pieces in each room like Hansel and Gretel’s crumb path? There probably is some deep psychological reason for any of these things, laziness/forgetfulness probably being one of the traits. Again, I do weird things too like leaving my glasses in the most random spots that I think are handy– and of course, 10 minutes later being baffled as to where they are and why the heck did I leave them there?

A friend frequently complains about the lack of help she gets around the house from her family when it comes to cleaning and how angry it makes her. I spent a good deal of my time when I was married trying to get my ex-husband into the same cleaning mindset I had– it was a futile effort that only made me frustrated and bitter. Sidenote: it was not the reason why we divorced, but often the bigger issues are played out in the most mundane things. The point being– I wasn’t going to change him. I could teach him better ways to be organized or clean the way I thought was best, but in the end, it left me frustrated and doing double the work anyway because my overachiever self thought that things were better my way.

One of the lessons of the divorce was that people cannot change who they essentially are. Habits can change, but human behavior on what a person believes or wants often cannot. My entire relationship with Q has been based on this idea– I take him for who he is and he takes me for what I am. Do I hate it that most of his clothes live in a pile on the bench in our room? Sure, but he’s an adult who does his own laundry and confines his mess to the spot he has designated as his own. If we have company coming over, he throws it into his side of the closet and deals with it after. I don’t pick up after him and he doesn’t pick up after me. I take it for what it is and don’t passive aggressively take it out on him or see it as a reflection of how he feels about me, our house, or family. It’s just dishes- the world won’t end if I don’t do them within an hour of using them.

The long and short of this is- don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s just dust/trash/soap scum/mess. We’re human, we’re weird, and I’ll never try to understand it. I’ll just keep throwing the darn paper towels in the trash!


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