Grout Pens – The adult coloring book-homeowners edition


Ever heard of a grout pen? It is a paint pen with a felt tip designed to color your grout.

Does it last? So far, not really. Is there something satisfying about using it? Definitely. Would I recommend it? Yes-but understand that it is not a permanent solution to your discolored grout.

I hate my kitchen floor. That’s not news. It is outdated, off-white ceramic tile, with little blue diamonds. It shows every single crumb, hair, you name it. Eventually, I plan to cover it up with more of my favorite gray luxury vinyl plank, but until then-I am stuck with it. So-this weekend I decided to spend $21 on three “miracle grout pens” from Lowes. “Miracle” is a stretch, considering it is just some sort of paint solution inside a pen with a felt tip. Come on, any experienced or inexperienced crafter has used a paint pen.


Here is my experience with the “Miracle Grout Pen” —

  1. The felt tip wears out VERY quickly. I learned early-on in the process to continuously shake the pen and then press the tip to the floor in order to dispense additional paint. If you press the entire time, your felt tip will have to be flipped over and over again. These particular pens came with a second tip, but even that was not enough.
  2. Once you mop your floor for the first time, you will notice that your paint pen has. rubbed off. Great. All of your hard work has been in vain.
  3. It does lighten and brighten your space. It looks like new for a little bit. You can keep one on hand for touch up I guess. It’s not a fool proof solution by ANY means.
  4. I found the process to be oddly therapeutic, as if my kitchen floor was a giant, hideous adult coloring book page. 

The verdict: Quick fix/get what you pay for/looks cleaner/still hate the floor. Someone come help me install more vinyl plank.

Here is the before…you can see all of the grout lines:



Here are the afters–



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Bedroom in Cornflower Blue

20181001_152112Let me tell you a little bit about this bedroom–this is the master bedroom. Earlier this year, in fact, months ago, I decided that I wanted to paint the bedroom. Simple right?

WRONG! The wall that was nearest to the street, had clearly been wallpapered at one point and then of course painted over. The paper was peeling, but beyond that, there were strange plastic seams going down the wall. Upon examining the baseboard, I noticed that JUST that wall was protruding farther than the other walls. That’s when the fun really began.


I couldn’t in good conscience do what others had done and simply paint over the disaster….and disaster it was. I ripped down the seams…and behind it was some sort of particle board that had been glued directly onto the plaster walls. Ripping it down revealed a delightful MUSTARD yellow wall with fabulous glue squiggles, and giant chunks of missing plaster.

I am {not} proud to report that the room remained in that state for several months as I patiently waited for my father to help me out. He fixed the wall, and I used leftover paint from my old house and managed to stretch it to paint the entire room.


My mother who has a keen interior design sense added the finishing touches, a few decorative pieces, pillows, a throw, a lamp, etc. I still plan to add some additional artwork, but for now, I’m pleased to have a relaxing oasis.

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The Magic of Paint



Photo Credit: Grace McC Photography

Hello Everyone-It has been a while. Fall is finally here, the crisp air, the delicious smells, pumpkins, leaves, I love it all.

I was itching to do a project a few weeks ago. Having done house projects for an entire year, my shift had focused to my embroidery hoops, but alas! I can’t escape my love for home improvements, so here it is! Paint to rescue again.

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I was staring at the black table and chairs that my sister got for my first house at a garage sale…and I thought….it’s time for a change. The best part about this was, I was able to start this project without going to the store! Instead of 500 trips to Home Depot, I only ended up with one. What a miracle.

Already having the white paint on hand, I painted the legs and bottom area of the table. I then used leftover gray to paint the surface. I did have to get some spray paint for the chairs, and it took several cans. Let me tell you something about spray paint-it’s fumey…and the wind is your enemy. I took what I thought were the necessary precautions, such as wearing a mask, paint clothes, putting down a tarp….

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Well–I should have worn a hate…my hair had a nice film of premature white…and my feet were covered with dried paint and leaves by the end. I did not mean to make my body into an experimental paper-mache project. Be careful people. How many brain cells did I kill? I don’t remember.

Once everything was dry, I ordered a can of polycrylic on amazon. When it came I added two coats to the surface of the table. I’m hoping that serves as a decent protective barrier, but I’m not totally optimistic.

Finally, I reapolstered the chairs in a great fabric that my mom had purchased for me a while ago. The dining room looks so fresh and wonderful. I never really had planned on it being anything special, but I’m pleased to report that it is now one of my favorite rooms.

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Photo Credit: Grace McC Photography


Photo Credit: Grace McC Photography


Photo Credit: Grace McC Photography


Photo Credit: Grace McC Photography


Stay tuned for a post about my bedroom.

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“Finishing” an existing split-rail fence on the cheap


That’s right, folks-It finally happened. Our yard is officially “toy poodle proof.” Well-hopefully. Lewis Clark  and Audrey St. Clair are still in the early stages of exploring their “new yard.” I can tell you with confidence that Lew is happy beyond measure. It is the first time in his 8.5 years on earth that he has the freedom to explore a backyard unleashed. He has already chosen his favorite spot – a lookout point at the top of the yard so that he can channel his inner Simba (yes, I know…a cat) and bask in the glory of his mighty kingdom.


That being said-I will now explain the steps required to finish the fencing in our yard, and the many bug bites, sunburns, sweat, and battle scars that were endured in the process.

Finishing Existing Split-Rail Fencing – On a Dime

Split Rails
Auger (borrowed in our case)
Mesh Fencing (We used Everbilt Steel Welded Wire – 4 ft by 100 feet from HD)
Staple Gun
BUG SPRAY (I learned the hard way)
Landscaping staples (if you want)
Lumber for Gates

Disclaimer: We skipped a few steps. If you really want to do this project “right” then you probably would cement in each fence post. We were working with what already existed.

  1. Digging Post Holes
    In our case, we needed to dig about 6 to 7 new post holes. We borrowed the neighbor’s auger and went to town. We did have to purchase about 8 additional split rails and 7 new posts. We transported them effectively in the Toyota Corolla.
  2. Installing and trimming Split Rails
    Most of the yard was already fenced, so we were lucky. It is not that difficult installing the split rails when you are using full pieces, but it took some “fen-angling” when we got to the end of the yard and needed to custom-cut the piece. We tried using a few different saws, but ultimately went with the chop saw.
  3. Securing the Fence
    We went through and screwed together each rail to each post. May not have been necessary, but it’s an older fence.
  4. Building Gates
    The double gates were certainly the most challenging since we were working with a slight slope. Therefore, one is larger than the other. They function properly though and that’s what matters.
    20180701_093759I am pleased to report that I single-handedly built and installed 2 additional gates for the yard. The first one I found to be quite simple because I used L-brackets. The small gate at the top of the yard was more challenging since I simply went in at an angle with long screws. This was all completed in 90+ degree weather so there was a lot of pain and sweat involved.
  5. Mesh, Staples, and Staple Gun
    One would think that this part might be easy–it’s not. I definitely recommend having more than one person help you with this part. Someone needs to unroll and hold the wire mesh while the other person goes at it with the staple gun. This process requires a lot of pressing, bending, etc. Wear gloves and long pants, and expect to go through a CRAP TON of staples. When you get to the end of the fence, cut the mesh with “snips” (is that the technical term?).20180708_105843
  6. Bury the Bottom of the Fencing
    We were as careful as possible when installing the mesh to try to press it into the ground, but when you are working with a slopped lot, you can only do so much. After stapling, we went back with a shovel and covered areas in which the fencing did not completely come in contact with the ground. While we don’t anticipate our dogs trying to squeeze under, other dogs definitely dig. We won’t be leaving them outside alone to test this theory. We also added some landscaping staples every foot or so for some additional peace of mind.
  7. Enjoy your backyard!
    I am ecstatic that this project is complete. It is such a treat to be able to enjoy the deck and let the dogs in and out with the extra security of a fence. This fence would likely be way too low for a bigger dog, but for toy poodles with some light supervision, it should be just fine.



Things that I learned throughout this process:

  • Wear pants when working outside even if it is SUPER hot. I have 27 + bug bites.
  • There are ways to angle the staple gun that make it easier to use.
  • L-brackets are an awesome invention.
  • The screws that come with the hinges are soft and horrible. Yes–I may have stripped one of them completely.
  • I am woman hear me roar.




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Fire Pit Patio


Fire Pit Patio – Before Grass Seed

Well this was unexpected! We knew that we wanted to eventually level off a small part of the upper yard so that we could have a small controlled fire (per our township rules), but what we didn’t know is that it would happen this summer!


One day I got home from work and Adam and his mom had started digging out a piece of the hillside. That night, using cinder blocks that had been strewn about the yard, we built a small retaining wall and capped it with other landscaping bricks that Adam had dug up a few months ago with the rototiller.


We went out and purchased several square pavers and a few bags of gravel and went to work. The worst part about this project (besides our shoes being absolutely caked in mud) was lugging all 30 of the 37 pound pavers from the car up the hill-of-a-backyard.


The firepit patio is far from perfect, and we may have skipped a few “professional steps” but it will serve it’s purpose and we can’t wait to have some friends over to enjoy it.

We will be planting grass around it within the next few days and adding a boarder to secure everything in place. I think there are some tiki torches in our future.


Next up: Work has already begun on operation finish fence (that’s not a very creative name, sorry). 

  1. Buy 6 split rails and 5 fence posts – Status: COMPLETE
  2. Install Said Items – Status: COMPLETE
  3. Purchase wire mesh and staples: Status: COMPLETE
  4. Add mesh to the perimeter of the yard/fence – Status: IN PROGRESS
  5. Purchase lumber, hinges, and clasps for gates – Status: NOT STARTED
  6. Build double gate, single gate, and small gate – Status: NOT STARTED

Sneak Peek:


More soon. Stay tuned.

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Summer Update: Backyard


September 2017 vs. June 2018

It’s no secret that when we moved into Operation 1302, our yard looked like a lush, prehistoric habitat for valociraptors, or perhaps a hopping hangout for local insects. That much we all know. It took many hours of labor to get the yard even remotely under control.

20180617_131907You might remember back in October, my post “Jungle-be-Gone”, dedicated to the loads upon loads of brush that we removed with the gracious help of Adam’s mom and dad.

Well, I am pleased to provide you with a delightful summer update. While there is always another project lingering around the corner, our backyard is finally taking shape and living up to its potential. That’s right-we relocated the dinosaurs, and replaced their habitat with a suburban yard. Okay, okay, it doesn’t sound that glamorous, but let me tell you that it is a giant weight off of my shoulders.




After (Hi Audrey)

The weeding seems to be an endless task, but we managed to uncover and utilize the lovely rectangular stones as an accent wall. We eliminated a large majority of the garden, which took up most of the yard, and was too far gone for my limited expertise. We managed to start the process of growing grass–in fact, we successfully grew it, but it is a bit patchy, and needs work.

Besides finishing up the large flower bed out back with mulch, we still need to treat most of the yard for weeds. That seems to be a theme here. Our next yard project, which may or may not take place this summer, will be to finish fencing in the yard with split rail, building a few gates, and adding mesh so that we can let the dogs out unleashed.


Stay tuned.


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New Door – Top of Basement Stairs


The door.

Okay-there is nothing extravagant about this post. We wanted a door at the top of the basement stairs leading into the kitchen – safety purposes (people falling down the steps…yeah…we are clumsy, moisture reasons, Star Wars man cave privacy, and let’s face it–the basement is the cat’s lair.

There used to be a door there, so the frame was preexisting. We think that the door was removed when they put in the new kitchen cabinets. You see, the door does not open all of the way due to the cabinet above the fridge. Nevertheless, we opted to place it there.

Here is how the project went:

  1. We bought a door and knob in September when we moved in.
  2. Said door lived in our garage for 8 months.
  3. We did a billion other projects instead.
  4. Finally, we decided to install the door in question.
  5. I purchased some hinges at Home Depot.
  6. Adam chiseled out a place for the hinges.
  7. I put 2 coats of paint on both sides of the door, which was already primed.
  8. Took a weird door installation selfie.
  9. Adam installed the hardware. Chiseled some more. Sanded….sanded again.
  10. Ordered a cat door from amazon (same one we had in our old house). Installed that. Caulked.


Voila – a door. These hollow core doors are essentially made of cardboard and foam, but it serves its purpose.

Next project master bedroom wall.

One last thing: Look at the spooky sky from yesterday. 20180516_200412


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More Floor!


One evening last week my husband and I journeyed to Home Depot to “see if they happen to have” enough flooring in stock to do our 233 sq. ft. family room. Well, they did…so we loaded up the car and went on our merry way. When we got home, we began to remove the urine-soaked carpet (Lewis the toy poodle has a pee problem).

My job was bundling carpet rolls and of course, staple removal. Luckily, there weren’t nearly as many staples as had been in the hardwood upstairs.


Adam laid the floor the next day while I was at work. He did about 3/4ths of the room, and finished up the rest the next day. The floor laid seamlessly, with the last row being the most challenging (as the most cuts had to be made).

20180427_171728Once all of the flooring was laid, we headed to Lowes to grab baseboard and quarter round. We bought the contractor’s pack of baseboard (figuring we will use the remaining pieces in the kitchen someday). We managed to fit the baseboard into my Toyota Corolla by putting the seats down and shoving it through the trunk and all the way to the dashboard.20180501_182216Adam cut each piece, brought it to the driveway, I painted it with 2 coats, and then he installed it. Next came the quarter round. Same process. I learned that painting quarter round sucks! The paint brush separates in 2 and it is a pain in the behind, so eventually I used my edging tool rather than a paint brush. I should have done that in the first place.

The final step involved caulking the gaps and installing thresholds.


Finally, we put the furniture back in the room. After about 4-5 days of having all of the family room furniture shoved in the living room, I was happy to no longer live in a construction zone.



Before (when we moved in)


After – Today

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Operation 1302: Shed


Before and After

Another weekend of beautiful weather has resulted in heavy labor and the magic of paint!
Today I spent 6.5 hours straight prepping and painting the shed–we are talking no breaks (okay, I peed once and reheated my coffee, but does that really count?)…

…and guess what! I’m not even finished. I still need to paint the back and put a second coat on the trim work. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to show off the before/after. This shed is massive (at least to me).


When we moved in in September, it was covered with scum and had a giant hole in the deck part. Adam and his dad repaired the boards in October, power washed it, and added a gutter/downspout to prevent future rot and damage.


Here is what the shed looked like when we moved in.


Here is how I painted the shed:

  1. Stared at it, dreading the prep work.
  2. Got an old rag and some simple green and wiped down all surfaces (when I say all-I may be exaggerating…)
  3. Removed a few nails and old decorations.
  4. Painted the trim work (It still needs a second coat).
  5. Mixed my giant bucket of gray paint forever and ever and ever.
  6. Looked up how the heck to open said giant bucket of paint…..(I know…you’d think that would be obvious. It wasn’t. It involved a hammer and screwdriver)
  7. Trimmed out various parts of the front of the shed. Used a paintbrush to get paint into every groove and crevice (This was not fun and the raw wood was like a sponge).
  8. Balanced haphazardly on a ladder….it wasn’t my best moment.
  9. Alternated between using a really giant paintbrush, small paintbrush, big roller, and small roller (there was a lot of trial and error involved).
  10. Painted the railing (THIS SUCKED SO MUCH-so tedious)
  11. Painted the deck floor.
  12. Ran out of steam after 6.5 hours and took a shower. 

Despite needing to finish, I am VERY happy with the results.



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Curb Appeal: Painted Shutters & Front Door

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Hello everyone- Happy April! Spring has finally sprung here in western Pennsylvania (well, at least for this weekend-Tuesday we are expecting snow again).

My husband and I have been itching all winter to get outside and tackle our never-ending project list, and this weekend we finally had an opportunity to get a solid start, thanks to a birthday gift from my dad! Yes, my dad got up on a scary-high ladder and painted oshuttersand I am SO grateful and impressed.

20180414_081830 - CopyPainting the shutters and front door  were in the back of my mind prior to the purchase of #Operation1302. However, other projects and some unfortunate but necessary repairs took priority.

Never underestimate the power of paint to completely transform and refresh a space!

20180414_171010 - Copy - CopyWe decided to go with black shutters, because they are classic, and also allow us flexibility for the front door and other home accents. My husband and I had been admiring a specific house that was similar to ours but on another street. We both liked their bright red front door, so one evening, we took a handful of paint samples and went on our routine evening walk. We held up the samples once we got to our “inspiration house” and were able to identify a very similar paint color-“Crimson Red”.
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I have learned a lot over the years about prep. Prep is everything. It is the most grueling and annoying part of every project, but it is imperative. If you skip a step of prep work, you WILL regret it. I doubt you’ll take that advice though, if you’re anything like me. I had to learn the hard way. My dad started his shutter painting process be thoroughly spraying them down with Simple Green and scrubbing them. You wouldn’t believe the amount of grime that poured off of those things. He also scrubbed the gutter, which desperately needed to be cleaned. The shutters took the paint very well. However, my dad is a pro-so I’m not sure if I would have had such a great result.


I was REALLY careful this time with the front door. While my dad balanced on a freaky ladder, telling stories about his work as a painter along with his radio hobby, I sanded, cleaned, and primed the front door. Of course, I’ve learned from my dad that red is one of the most transparent paint colors. It’s a good thing that I picked up some gray primer, because I’m sure that that made all the difference.

I used one coat of primer and 3 coats of red paint, but I probably could have gotten away with 2. Once the door was dry, Adam and his friend reinstalled it and the hardware. There is something so charming about a red door!

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One finishing touch that I unfortunately neglected to photograph–the front door has two windows at the top, which we always thought were sort of odd, because they were frosted glass. My dad discovered that the “frosting” was some sort of privacy sticker. So this morning, equipped with some goo gone, we scraped the remaining stickers off. Voila! More light.

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In conclusion-paint is awesome.


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