The weekend of my birthday my request was to work on putting in a fire pit. A few days before we went to Home Depot and bought 22 retaining wall stones and laid them our roughly where we wanted it to go.
Next was to move the stones out of the way and dig out enough for one layer of stones to be level with the ground.
The tough part was getting the first layer of stones level enough to balance another level of stones on top. Luckily that was when Brian and Meghan showed up to help! We didn't have any trowels or other hand tools, so we used the rocks we found in the soil as primitive tools.
We added some "River Pebbles" to the bottom of the fire pit and then used rocks we found in the soil to decorate the outer edge. Even though Meghan did an awesome job collecting wet firewood from around the yard, Benn had to bring some dry wood from our landlord Dennis in order to start a fire.

It works!

Or course, the first thing my Dad says when he sees it, "Why is it so tiny?"
So maybe the next fire pit blog post will be about making it bigger ;-P
After a fantastic kick-off weekend at our new place we were super motivated to keep working! So every day after work we went to Woodhaven to do a little more. Slowly, but surely it's getting there! One of the greatest features of the house was also something that needed the most cleaning: all the recessed lighting! And the house has a lot of it! 28 fixtures and bulbs to be exact. Most on cathedral ceilings. All the fixtures were yellowed, stained and covered in years of baked on dust and possibly cigarette smoke.
Even the lightbulbs themselves were dirty.
So we took all of the lightbulbs out and cleaned them. It was surprisingly easy to clean them off with some Clorox wipes! In a few minutes they all looked brand new!
The fixtures were a little trickier. We took two pieces of cardboard and cut half circles out of each of them. Then we used them as a mask so we could spray paint the fixtures with white Rustoleum spray paint. On the lower ceilings Benn held the cardboard while I painted, but on the higher ceilings tall-man-Benn was on his own.
It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it. The fixtures looked brand new. With the clean bulbs re-installed, it looked great! Not bad for a Saturday's worth of work.
We also started painting the ceilings. The bright white ceiling paint made a huge difference!
Our friend Lindsay Rath gets a huge shout out for coming over and helping us get started painting our ceilings!
We started in the kitchen because they were the lowest ceilings. When I moved onto the foyer/dining room I ran into a problem. I could only reach the first section of the sloping ceiling with our ladder. You can see the top of our 6 foot ladder in the corner of the picture below.
It was time to invest in a longer ladder! After another trip to Home Depot I was finally able to reach the very top from our new 8 foot ladder! That became our new motto: Our ceiling aren't too high, our ladders are too short!
Speaking of time on ladders, Benn also cleaning and dusted all of high windows!
Now we just have to finish painting the ceilings so we can get to the fun part! Painting the walls!
Welcome to Woodhaven
Mountain Lodge Studio and Artists’ Retreat

...ok, it’s just a house in the woods, but it certainly feels like that to us first time homebuyers!
It’s official: Hat and Key Studio really does have a studio now! We closed on our new house on Friday, September 26. And by later that day we were already working on it. We are so excited about all the awesome spaces, like the cathedral ceilings in the living room and wall of windows.
And the big bright kitchen and cool loft above.
And the super cool master suite.
But because the house was a bank owned foreclosure. That meant we saved a little money in exchange for an exceedingly frustrating home buying experience and a house in “as is” condition. Thanks to our super awesome family and friends our lengthy to-do list of repairs and work has had many things checked off in the very first weekend we had the home!

Friday we changed all the locks.
Including the one that the realtor's lock box was still on. So I guess we have to return that at some point.
We also hung numbers on the trees so that people would be able to find our place at the end of the long gravel road.
All the troops showed up on Saturday! The biggest thank you goes out to my mom Nadine and our close friend Cassie McKernan. The two of them spent the entire day Saturday, all 7 hours, cleaning the kitchen. They scrubbed the inside and outside of every single one of our 36 new (and completely disgusting) cabinets.
Now they are actually white! They aren’t sticky to the touch! They smell like clean instead of awful! Nadine and Cassie took the grand prize of helpers. We were planning on painting the cabinets to make them look new and clean, but after the hard work of our cleaning crew and brand new hardware installed by my sister Kari and our friends Jesse and Bart the kitchen looked amazing.
Benn spent several hours cleaning the small forest that was growing in our gutters.
Benn’s dad Bob helped us clean off our decks and yard.
He also helped us in the seemingly never-ending battle to wash all of our windows. Kari also proudly claims she was part of the window washing team, though I have no evidence of this.
Bob even got Red Rum written in nail polish off our bathroom mirror!
My dad Dean helped us with lots of odd handyman repair jobs. He helped us get our master bathroom toilet working.
He fixed the whole in the wall where Fannie Mae repaired some frozen pipes.
He sealed up some holes in the garage that were clearly major mouse highways.
He also helped us hang some doors. Fannie Mae installed new carpet while we were under contract.
It was as awesome as it was unexpected. But the workers didn’t rehang the doors because the new carpet was too plush. So Dean helped us trim and re-hang all the doors in the house!
He also helped us figure out the bathroom light switch was dead and replaced it for us. We also had a broken switch in our foyer. That one was a little trickier. It was a three way dimmer. My dad helped us get started, but it took Benn’s love of puzzles (and another trip to Home Depot) to finally get it working.

With the light in the bathroom working it was clear just how dirty it was. A huge thank you to Benn’s mom Doreen and our friend Bart for cleaning it for us!

Speaking of clean bathrooms, Doreen also gets the prize for cleaning our master bathroom!
Benn installed a new security motion sensor light above our garage.
He also started power-washing one of our decks. Thanks Uncle Markie for lending us your power-washer!
Dean and I ripped out the old front stairs and bought supplies to build new ones. On Sunday Dean and Benn built a new set of steps for our front porch. That was quite the project and we’ve got lots more stairs to repair, so they may get a blog post all to themselves!
Kari also decided she loved the instant gratification of power washing.
It was so great to so many family members and friends come over to help us! It really made our first weekend feel like a party even though I walked over of 33,000 steps and was totally exhausted Sunday night. Even though we still have lots of work to do, our first weekend was a huge success! Thanks to everyone that helped us make it such a fun and productive time!
One last thank you to Dean and Nadine for trash-picking this sweet patio set from a fancy shore house that would rather throw furniture away then store it for the off season. Our gain!