Historical finds in a 1912 home

Unfortunately we haven’t found any safes or hidden envelopes with gold coins, but we have found some neat historical items while remodeling. The coolest item is an old grocery receipt (actually a balance statement) from 1952. It is labeled Wintschen’s Grocery, which no longer exists.

It leads me to think the family that lived in the home at that time may have struggled financially, as there were quite a few charge receipts found and obviously they were not “settled” if they were found in the floorboards! It is interesting to note only 5-8 items were purchased at a time – yet items like bread could have easily been made at home, which leads me to think they weren’t very frugal and ran to the store frequently to “charge it.” Of course, that is just my own conjecture but charging $10 in 1950 is like borrowing $100 today…for groceries…sustenance. On this statement, they had an $8.47 balance owed already and they charged an additional  $3-4 for molasses, cream/butter, apples, cranberries, bread and bananas. It was the day before Thanksgiving, so obviously they were preparing for a large meal and needed some extra [out of the norm] items such as cranberries and bananas.

Witschen's Grocery statement

Witschen’s Grocery statement

We also found lumber stamped “Indian Brand” with an image of the stereotypical Native American with headdress. This is obviously no longer PC but at the time, the term Indian was probably thrown around a lot in commerce.

Indian brand wood

Indian brand wood

We found lumber signed by the installer, which was kind of cool. I encouraged Ross to sign his name on the new lumber – and I think I even scribbled something on some boards.

Hand signed wood

Hand signed wood

We also came  across more Indian-theme items in the form of a 1955 calendar. There were many old newspapers, too, used for insulation, shims, etc. Included were ads for workers – and I quote “Women need not apply.”

1955 Indian-theme calendar

1955 Indian-theme calendar

Cool stuff, but I still wish we would have found a box of money!

DIY Skinnies…Skinny Jeans Tutorial

This isn’t really a tutorial…more of a humblebrag. I had a bunch of slacks and cords from my dress-up work days and some boot-cut jeans. I found this tutorial showing how simple it is to cut your jeans down to skinny jeans. It seriously took me only one naptime to get this done and if I had to give myself a skills assessment I’d say I’m a sewing beginner..lacking any real skill and sometimes downright dangerous (broken needles anyone? :/ ). I plan to take a couple more naptimes to alter ALL of my slacks and cords that are boot cut. Oh yeah AND make a quilt, AND sew a bunch of pillows, AND hem the drapes….

I used a straight stitch [because that is all I know]. The top and bottom of the cut I reinforced by back-and-forth stitching a few times. They’ve been through the wash and seem to hold up fine.

Feeding a pair of slacks through my trusty Brother

Feeding a pair of slacks through my trusty Brother sewing machine

I pinned the pants while wearing them inside out which worked well. Be careful you do not pin the ankles too tightly, so you can still slip them on and off.

Sewing a straight stitch

Sewing a straight stitch

The before picture is kind of wonky because I was about a month post-birth and had dumps like a truck and thighs like what what what…. This pair of pants are what we women like to call ‘the fat jeans:’

Boot cut pants before sewing

Boot cut pants before sewing

Here is the quick and simple “after’ with my new skinny jeans. I ♥ them. I feel ♣  to have them. Shine bright like a ♦. Damn special characters get me every time… ;P

My "new" skinny jeans!

My “new” skinny jeans!

DIY Sheepskin Throw Blanket Hack

I really wanted to buy a sheepskin throw for our couches in the living room, but they cost $50-100 for a tiny one (rug size!). After purchasing a few different fabrics on Fabric.com, I realized I could buy faux fur fabric and sew it into a blanket myself for at least half of the cost.

I purchased the fabric awhile ago and we actually threw it over our chairs before I even finished sewing it (oops). This accounts for the wear and tear on the sheepskin before finishing the project. When I finally started this project, my husband actually asked “What are you doing? …what’s wrong with using it like that?” Needless to say we are used to unfinished projects around here.

To sew it, I simply pinned the fabric inside out and sewed all but 6-8 inches closed with my sewing machine. I went slowly due to the high tufts of faux fur, and it went fine. At first I was worried about sewing such a thick fur but my Brother sewing machine was a rock star. Here is a picture of the fabric turned opposite side out and pinned for sewing:

The original faux sheepskin fabric pinned together (odd side out) for sewing

The original faux sheepskin fabric pinned together (odd side out) for sewing

Then I just flipped the blanket inside out and hand-sewed the remaining edge. Here is the after shot of my finished faux sheepskin throw. I love this look and the comfortable element it adds to our living room!

 

My finished sheepskin throw

My finished sheepskin throw

A word on washing (since this fabric collects crap like no one’s business…). I found a great tutorial on cleaning and brushing (yes brushing!) your sheepskin on this blog. I’ve washed my faux sheepskin already, too many times to count, and it is still in great shape.

 

 

Book Review: How to be the Smartest Renter on the Block

My mom was a librarian so I have a special love for the amazing FREE library resources provided by libraries. When I was little, a fresh pile of books from the library was like hitting the jackpot. I still feel like I won something when I leave the library with a free book.

As per usual, when I want to learn about something, I check the library first! I went online to request library books about rental property ownership and leases. Oh yeah, and I also requested some books about potty training…but that is another post for another day.
The first book I checked out was How to be the Smartest Renter on Your Block: A Minnesota Tenants’ Rights Guide by Homelinemn.org. Although written to serve the renter, not the landlord, I thought it would be helpful to know renters’ rights in every conceivable circumstance so we are not putting ourselves at risk of a lawsuit.

How to be the Smartest Renter on Your Block

Ten years ago, I certainly was not a savvy renter. I learned a lot about tenant rights in this book. I originally requested it on a whim, and thought it might be the most irrelevant out of all of the books I requested. I’m so glad I gave it a shot. There are such obscure laws about fees you can and cannot charge tenants that I never would have found out about otherwise.
Here are a few tidbits I gleaned from this book (from a landlord’s perspective):

  • You can charge $75 for a background check but you have to write the criteria for which a renter could be denied acceptance.
  • You may charge an application fee but must provide criteria for acceptance. You must also include the name, address and phone of any screening company. You must state your reasons for denied acceptance.
  • State parking guidelines and that violators will be towed.
  • You can charge pet rent of $25 per month for cat and $50 per month for dog. Pets must be declared and approved, obviously.
  • Lease must clarify late fees – after a grace period of typically five days. Late fees cannot exceed 8 percent of overdue rent.
  • If it is a shared utility meter the landlord must put the bill in their own name and fairly bill the tenants. The billing formula must be written into the lease and you cannot add fees. The lease must state upon tenant request the landlord will provide the utility bill and/or previous utility bills up to two years earlier. The lease must also state the average utility bill each quarter for the previous year.
  • Bounced check/non-sufficient funds fee is $30 according to the Minnesota laws.
  • You should state that bilateral attorney fees will cover the attorney fees of winning party in the event of a lawsuit.
  • A party fee equal to the fine will be charged in the event of a noise violation.
  • You cannot ask about protected classes such as:
    • skin color
    • creed
    • disability
    • children in household
    • marital status
    • national origin
    • race
    • social program or public assistance
    • religion
    • gender or pregnancies
    • sexual preferences
    • age or ancestry

 

  • Legitimate legal reasons for breaking a lease:
    • Domestic abuse
    • Joining the armed forces
    • Death of tenant
    • Property is condemned
    • Judge’s order
    • Building is unfit (such as burned down)
  • If a tenant wants to end a lease early and does not come to an agreement with the landlord, the tenant owes the remainder of the lease term and can be sued in court to force payment. The landlord can re-rent the lease at any time. List a break-lease fee in the contract, usually the security deposit plus one month’s rent.
  • A landlord must have reasonable business purpose for entering a property as well as give reasonable notice (verbal is suitable). Law does not state 24 hours.
  • You must provide a copy of the written lease to renter.
  • There is no federal law limiting number of occupants in a single dwelling but city ordinances can limit unrelated people living together.
  • Any deposit to reserve a property must be accompanied by a written agreement. It must state the deposit will be returned within 7 days of conditions being met. If tenant is accepted the deposit must go towards rent.
  • A landlord may ask for name, employer, sources of income, social security number, eviction history and date of birth.
  • If it is proven a tenant lied on an application you may sue the tenant for $500.
  • Security deposit is usually a full-month’s rent.
  • Tenants who are being evicted must receive a formal court notice and have a chance to defend themselves in court. Landlords cannot simply change the locks nor threaten eviction verbally.
  • For nonpayment of rent, landlords can file evictions as soon as the day after rent is due.
  • A tenant may arrive at court with all monies due and have redemption and can include the following:
    • Any rent that is due.
    • Lawful late fees.
    • Approximately $320 for court filing fees
    • Approximately $80 for service of process which is fees for court delivering papers to the tenant.
    • A maximum of $5 for attorney’s fees.
  • Minnesota law requires a landlord provide a receipt when rent is paid in cash.
  • You can legally evict for violation of any contract terms, plus four criminal situations:
    • Illegal drugs
    • Possession of illegal weapons
    • Possession of stolen properties
    • Engaging in prostitution
  • Take pictures of the condition of the property before move-in and at move-out.
  • Security deposit due on the first day of the lease.
  • The landlord must return the full deposit, part of the deposit with an explanation, or a letter stating what happened to the deposit within 3 weeks/21 days of move out.
    • The trigger starts when the tenant turns in their keys
    • A forwarding address must be provided to the landlord to send the deposit
    • Landlords can keep the deposit provided one of these reasons:
      • Debt that is owed from tenancy for utilities or rent
      • Damages beyond ordinary wear and tear (must be proven)
  • Minnesota law requires the landlords store any remaining property for 28 days after the tenant vacates the property. They should notify the tenant 14 days in advance of the sale if reachable, and must apply revenue to all monies owed from tenancy.
  • Tenants must receive a Certificate of Rent Paid by Jan. 31 of each year (one for each unmarried tenant). The Certificate must state each tenant paid an equal amount regardless of how the actual rent is split.

I loved learning all of these little-known facts about renting. Many of these rights are completely unknown to the average renter, in my experience. Were your rights ever violated as a renter? I’ve heard horror stories from friends and coworkers about having ongoing leaks and maintenance issues, among others.

Baby Shower Diaper Cake + Bridal Shower Towel Cake

I’ve made towel cakes and diaper cakes for many showers and they are always a huge hit. The key thing to remember is they will cost at least $100 in the end…and no, you may not use generic-brand diapers or towels. This is a gift after all – and gifts are supposed to be generous, from the heart and free from any underlying motivations.

To create the layers, I use any cardboard I have lying around the house (usually an empty beer case – sorry not sorry) and trace three different size circles for each layer. Don’t worry, the beer logo is on the bottom side and if someone actually sees it, that is good for party laughs anyway. I use different size bowls or pans to trace circles for each layer. Using simple Elmer’s Glue, I glue the ends of toilet paper rolls to each circle to create each layer. It works best if you glue it one layer at a time then let it dry (I put something slightly heavy on top to keep the cardboard from warping. I made the diaper cake early on, when we did not yet know if it was going to be a boy or a girl, which is why I used neutral colors (silver and white). I included an outfit, a cuddly lamb and a soft blanket – so the entire gift ended up being over $100.

Silver and white diaper cake

My silver and white diaper cake

I used this tutorial for my diaper cake and this tutorial for the towel cake. If buying diapers, shoot for size two, because babies grow out of newborn and size one diapers too darn fast. I used Pampers Swaddlers and all you can see is the white side of the diaper. The bow on the diaper cake was made from the same ribbon I used on the cake layers – using this bow tutorial. Do not use tape on the diapers – only rubber bands. Likewise, do not use sharp sewing pins on the towels, only safety pins. This is the perfect shower gift if the bride and groom have actually registered for towels – I was in luck, because the bride registered for chocolate-colored towels which were perfect for the cake. Any extra towels that I didn’t use I wrapped as the shower gift.

Finished towel cake with artificial cream flowers

My finished towel cake with artificial cream flowers

For my sister-in-law’s baby shower, I was also in charge of dessert. It was a ‘baby’s first library’ themed shower, so I ordered cupcakes with green frosting (one with red frosting) and made my own cupcake caterpillar using a squeeze tube of black frosting:

Very Hungry Caterpillar cupcakes

Very Hungry Caterpillar cupcakes

I am a big believer in purchasing bulk (unless it is a year’s supply of brownie mix #beentheredonethat), so I ordered a ream of baby-themed wrapping paper online. Yes, an entire ream. I can hardly lift it. It’s a great workout. I actually ordered baby shower wrap, wedding wrap, birthday wrap and holiday wrap (four reams in all). It was about $50 but it will last me the rest of my frickin life. It is worth not running out of wrapping paper every time you need to wrap a gift or shoving everything into gift bags (sooo lame). I usually round out the gift wrap with some bags or accessories that match. The bag below is recycled from a gift I received and the moon and stars were cut from another gift bag I received. The pretty little box was saved from something I purchased for my son. Waste not want not!

Baby shower presents

Baby shower presents

 

Lead Paint Testing

It did not come as a huge shock to us that of the two layers of wallpaper and up to four layers of paint inside the house, at least some walls contained lead paint. Because we removed so many walls and the house was built in 1912, care had to be exercised in regard to lead paint. Ross bought lead test strips and tested before he did any work on the walls.

Lead Check test packages

Lead Check test packages

They were easy to use and indicated at least a few rooms had lead. The tip turns red if lead is present.

A lead test turns red

A lead test turns red

Ross purchased a 3M Tekk HEPA ventilator and wore goggles and disposable clothing. Obviously, with me being pregnant, I was not allowed within a five mile radius of the property. I didn’t really want to do any work anyway. 😀 😉

hot.

hot.

Anyone that is impatient, has too much money, or does not want to take safety precautions should hire someone to take care of the lead in a home. But if you do your research and take proper care, you should be able to remove materials containing lead paint yourself.

For best quality + cost savings, roast your own coffee beans

Our journey to roasting our own coffee beans began when I was given a bag of [fill in any mainstream coffee brand here] whole coffee beans as a gift. We then had to buy our first coffee bean grinder – which are surprisingly cheap btw. From then on, we preferred whole beans to ground coffee, as the brewed coffee tasted so much better. Freshly-ground coffee is better than buying grounds and letting them hang out in your pantry or refrigerator, resulting in them being a bit stale.

A batch of our whole freshly-roasted coffee beans

A batch of our whole freshly-roasted coffee beans

Once we were on the ‘buying whole beans’ bandwagon, I began looking for ways to purchase bulk beans to save money. Buying name brand coffee is expensive! Plus, buying beans from other countries takes advantage of economies of scale (eliminates middlemen) and supports fair trade too if that is your jam.

Eventually, I landed on websites for buying bulk green (raw) beans. We tried a few different sites offering raw beans, but the best experience we have had is buying from Sweet Maria’s. It can be difficult to know what type/region of beans you will like, so we purchase the sampler.

Our shipment of raw/green beans

Our shipment of raw/green coffee beans

It is surprisingly easy to roast them – anyone with an oven can try it! I just cover the bottom of a 9×13 pan with beans (uncovered). Start at 400 degrees and you can go up from there, if you want to rush the process. When the beans crack they are fully roasted, so it is easy to figure out the timing. They need to be stirred frequently (like every minute or two). You definitely do not want to burn beans. In that case you will be drinking a pretty dark roast…if you can drink it at all.

The only caveat – the smoke makes your house smell…and not in the good coffeehouse sort of way. Roasting your own beans is best done outside on the grill, or at least with all of the windows open and fans on indoors. Ross hates the way our house smells after roasting beans. We eventually bought a spit for our grill (one of those rotating things) and Ross built a little nest for the beans out of temporary aluminum pans. Using only small amounts of beans at a time, we can roast them outside and not stink up our house.

Our homemade grill spit system and beans after roasting

Our homemade grill spit system and beans after roasting

One tip is to use a large-hole strainer (or sieve) after roasting to get all of the husks off the beans. I shake the strainer over the deck and let all the husks fall into the yard. (My neighbors already know I’m cray). There are a bunch of other tips online, such as rinsing your beans (and drying them) before you roast them, to remove any dirt etc. We may or may not do this…but you should… :/

As far as brewing, we sometimes use a french press if it is convenient, but honestly, I prefer the drip machine. Sometimes when I make a french press it is crazy strong and I grimace a bit! (Maybe that is just the dirt I didn’t wash off…) But overall, we love the taste of our coffees and can hardly stand the cheap pre-ground ‘commercial’ coffees anymore. It’s kind of like wine…the more you drink the pickier you are – for better or worse!

 

Nursery Decor (borrowed, thrifted, gifted!)

I wanted to share our nursery decor because I honestly believe you can have a beautiful nursery with very little cost. Creativity is priceless and so much better than money. We gave ourselves about a year to decorate the nursery because time is money – meaning the faster you need things done the more money you will probably spend.

We kept our eyes open for things on Craigslist such as the AngelCare movement monitor, which we love for those “Is he breathing?” moments. (Yes, I contacted AngelCare and retrofitted the cord safety guard). I also took stock of other moms’ advice that a blanket on the floor is the safest place to change the baby. Instead of a traditional changing table I can change George on the floor and that has worked really well for us! I store tons of diapers under the crib.

Here is a picture of our nursery from the walk-in closet. I am a clothes whore hoarder so I use the entire closet in our master bedroom and Ross shares the closet in the nursery (am I the only wife that does this?).

Nursery from the view of the walk-in closet

Nursery from the view of the walk-in closet

We were lucky enough to be gifted the crib from Ross’ sister in law, who used it for all of her three kids. The little changing table on top is actually from a pack-n-play and fits perfectly for diaper changes (if we are not using a blanket on the floor). When it is nighttime we just take the changing table off. The bedding is also from my sister-in-law. I have three sheets that I switch out, two of which were from a coworker (and happened to be in pale green which is kind of a theme color).

The crib that was gifted to us, with a pack-and-play changing table over it

The crib that was gifted to us, with a pack-n-play changing table over it

The nursing chair I use is actually a recliner I inherited when my grandmother passed on. It was a maroon color so I purchased a stretchy slipcover on eBay in a soft chocolate brown. The slipcover was probably the most expensive thing in the nursery. The ottoman was found on Craigslist and actually had gold rivets which I removed. It was a lighter brown and I took it into the backyard and dyed it with dark brown fabric dye. The results are not ideal as it is a little lighter than the recliner but after dying it four times I gave up!

The quilt/blanket over the top I purchased on eBay. It had a tiny hole I handstitched and you really don’t even notice. The toy bin/book bin was an afterthought; it was given to us by a neighbor whose children are in high school at this point. I know people say you need a table for water or beverage while nursing, but honestly, I mostly use a water bottle and just sit it next to me in the chair. If I have coffee I just set it on the window sill.

The nursing chair/recliner and toy/book bin

The nursing chair/recliner and toy/book bin

This dresser has a beautiful backstory. It was made for Ross as a baby by his grandfather, George. I painted it a soft ivory similar to the wall paint, and it has worked so well for baby clothes and diapers, while not taking up a ton of room. The little reading lamp (and shade!) were thrifted at a consignment store.

Dresser that was made by Ross' grandfather

Dresser that was made by Ross’ grandfather

The five framed prints around the room are classic Winnie the Pooh. I scored them (with frames and mats) at a garage sale for $5 apiece, which I think is a total steal. They have beautiful mats which look custom and detailed ivory frames which match everything else perfectly. The drapes are from Ikea and I’ve never gotten around to hemming them but I’m starting to think they look okay as-is. That is the danger of leaving projects too long I guess!

View of nursery from the hallway

View of nursery from the hallway

I really enjoy this room. So much so that my water actually broke (with George) while sitting in this room, chilling in the nursing chair!