Greenhorn Farmhouse Interior Part 1: 7 repairs and changes to create a better framework

With much of the exterior work at Greenhorn Farmhouse completed, it was time to tackle the interior. Sometimes a house has a great layout, and in those cases, I can jump right in with cabinets, paint, tile, and flooring, etc. But sometimes, there are repairs that need to made and a house might even benefit from some reconfiguration. Addressing these types of issues creates a good framework for adding all of the finishing touches.

This old farmhouse would undergo 7 such foundational changes and repairs.

1. Sub-floors

During demo, the house had been emptied of debris and personal items. Then kitchen cabinets, a couple of old brick chimneys, the bathtub, bathroom vanity and toilet were all removed.

In the now vacant rooms, it became readily apparent that the living room floor sloped drastically in the corner, as did one of the bedroom floors. The kitchen floor had a pretty severe sag as well. I decided that the best thing to do would be to pull up the subfloor and have a look.

I found that the existing joists were not attached to the exterior foundation at all. While they were attached in the center of the room, on the exterior side they were free floating. No wonder the floor was un-level. This was not something I’d anticipated and I was glad I’d built a buffer into my budget.

Eventually, my crew would need to install new joists, joist hangers and subfloor to insure the floor was level and structurally sound. But before we did that, I’d need to address the wall dividing the living and dining rooms.

New sub-floor

2. Living Room Wall

I’ve never completely bought into the open plan concept. Years ago, I was actually opposed to it. I liked having separate living spaces. I think this preference was heavily influenced by the presence of five small children in the home. Having separate spaces allowed me to contain the inevitable mess and chaos more effectively. In recent years the open concept has grown on me, though I’m still not that girl who is always in favor of taking down walls.

None-the-less, in this house, it was the right decision. The living area immediately felt twice as large.

Living room/dining room wall before removal

Living room/dining room wall removed

3. Bedroom wall

Sometimes, a space can benefit from simply moving a wall. Remember, this is an old farmhouse, and as is often the case, the bedrooms were all small. There wasn’t a lot I could do about this, short of building an addition. However, there was something I could do.

The master bedroom had a small jog in the wall it shared with the living room. By pushing that wall out, I was able to gain a few feet in the master bedroom. The actual area gained was relatively small, but the impact was huge. This had the added benefit of eliminating a strange and unnecessary jog in the living room.

Living room wall jog into bedroom

Bedroom wall pushed back

4. Laundry Room

The next task was to build a new laundry room closet. The existing laundry room was too narrow to really function well. There just wasn’t enough room between the front of the appliances and the opposing wall.

If the room were just a little bit wider, the appliances could have been placed on the adjacent wall. As this was not a viable option, I decided to convert the former laundry room into a spacious pantry, and create a new laundry room closet.

I incorporated a pocket door system into the new framing to provide a way to close the pantry without sacrificing floor space. Later, I would build a barn-style door for this purpose.

Framing new laundry room

5. Relocate bathroom door

Before we put away the framing nailer, there was one more issue to address. In old homes, it’s very common to find bathroom access directly off of the kitchen. In an era where adding plumbing was expensive and even considered a luxury, it made sense to locate all the plumbing as close together as possible. As a result, bathrooms were often located right next to kitchens and this house was no exception.

The bathroom door was right in the middle of the kitchen wall. While this could function perfectly well, I really disliked it. So I closed up the door between the kitchen and bathroom then relocated it to the end of the bathroom, near the new laundry room.

Eventually, the stove would sit just about where that door had been.

The stove sits where the bathroom door used to be.

6. Bathroom layout

This was the first step in reconfiguring the bathroom layout. The tub and vanity remained in the same locations, but the toilet was relocated to the area where there door had been previously.

7. Kitchen Layout

Finally, I needed to create a new kitchen layout. When working with floor plans, I still like to start with good old-fashioned pencil and graph paper. Eventually, the design makes it’s way into Home Designer, the 3D design program I use.

Creating a design in 3 dimensions is not only a lot of fun, but it helps highlight any design elements that might not work well. My clients love it too. It helps them see what I see in my mind’s eye.

This design morphed several times before I settled on a layout that I loved. Unfortunately, it involved closing up another window.

This particular window was really more of a pass through between the kitchen and the front entry area and didn’t make much sense anyway. Closing it also provided some wall space in the entry where one could hang coat hooks or place a bench.

Floor plan before

Floor plan after

With the new framework in place, it was finally time to focus on the finishes. Next week I’ll talk about finishes, paint color, tile, cabinetry, flooring, and more.

Greenhorn Farmhouse – Next Steps

With demo day at the Greenhorn Farmhouse completed, I decided to turn our attention to the outside of the house. This was February, in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and we were experiencing weather in the 60’s. This was a gift horse I wasn’t about to look in the mouth.

I set the crew to work replacing damaged siding, and damaged exterior trim. They prepared the gables for painting and I had them enclosed two windows. I can hear you gasp! I know … close in windows! That’s almost sacrilegious, right up there with removing a tree. It just shouldn’t be done. But the existing laundry room did not function well and in order to relocate it, those windows needed to go. You’ll understand why when I show the before and after floor plans in a future post.  For now, just try to trust me.

The siding was cedar, batten board stained a dark brown. As we removed damaged sections, we discovered old clapboards underneath the cedar. I debated long and hard about removing the cedar and restoring the old clapboard. In the end I decided to keep the cedar. Lead-based paint remediation can be expensive and I was pretty sure the paint would contain lead. That wouldn’t be a huge problem if the paint was sound. I could seal and paint over it, a process referred to as encapsulation. It’s an acceptable method for dealing with lead-based paint.

However, if the paint were in poor condition and peeling or chipping it would have to be scraped and sanded and that’s the part that gets expensive. There are environmental regulations that govern this process.

Additionally, I had no way of knowing if all the clapboards were sound. Somebody, sometime, had chosen to cover them. I had to assume the odds were good that at least some of the clapboards were damaged and would require repair or replacement. In the end I decided to stay with the devil I knew.

After the siding and trim repairs were made, we focused on replacing the windows. 22 windows in all! That is a lot of windows for a 1500 square foot house! I think that’s one of the things I loved about this house. It was filled with natural light inside and breathtaking views outside.

I chose a window manufactured in the Chicago area by a company named Lang. They were a double paned, double hung vinyl window and I was extremely happy with the windows and the with price. I was however, less than thrilled with the company itself. As a result, I no longer use Lang windows. If you’re looking for replacement windows, I recommend Simonton and I’ll explain why in a future post.

Many of the window sills were rotted and had to be replaced before new windows could be installed, and again, I was thankful for the mild weather.

Rotted sills

Front windows before replacement

Front windows replaced

While one crew worked on siding, paint prep, including prepping the garage, and window replacement, a roofing crew tackled the roof. The existing roof consisted of old shake shingles, and two layers of asphalt shingles. Based on their appearance, I could not believe the house did not leak. However, the only evidence of water damage was around the skylights in the front porch. I would be removing those and closing up those opening. That porch has 6 large windows and the door has glass as well. It did not need the extra light, the skylights were unsightly and they can be prone to leaking.

Roof when I purchased the house.


Because the roof still had the original wood shingles (sometimes called shake shingles), we would have to install new roof decking. Wood shingles are applied over spaced planks. This allows the wood to dry properly and helps avoid rot. Asphalt shingles are applied over solid decking material.

Inside of the attic, looking up as the roof was being replaced.

Roof in process

New roof and window replacement in process

New Roof

With these tasks completed, we were ready for paint. That meant I had to choose a paint color. I looked at several. Did I want something light? Did I want something trendy, maybe a gray or greige? Something that looked farmhouse or something that looked mountain? In the end I went with dark brown.

That might seem like an unlikely choice and I admit, it’s not my go-to favorite. But, I believe in function, not just form. Someone was going to have to maintain this house. That meant time and money. Because the original cedar siding was dark brown, I knew that going back with a dark brown stain/sealer would be the easiest to maintain. It could be reapplied when needed but would not need to be scraped or sanded. And, in the end, with white trim I thought it looked great.

Before the exterior work was finished, we’d also replace the garage doors and the front deck, reglaze broken windows in the garage, and paint a shed.

One more thing before I go …. in the interest of transparency. The whole process wasn’t nearly as smooth and organized as I laid it out here. We’d start something, realize we didn’t have what we needed and focus on something else until the materials could be purchased and delivered. Or weather would change our plans for a couple of days. Or the roofers didn’t arrive when I’d hoped. Or the gutter guys finally arrived and had to temporarily abandon the project due to a tornado warning.

Sometimes this work can make me want to pull my hair out or hide out at home with a fire in the wood stove, a good book and a cup of tea. But these things are all part of the process.

In a recent article, Dan Miller of talked about the importance of embracing our journey. He said, “What if the journey itself is part of the growth and process leading to ultimate “success?” That’s true with renovation work. Of course I’m pushing for the finished product but I learn a lot from the process and the bumps and surprises, the delays and backorders … all of it is part of the journey too.

The Greenhorn Farmhouse Rehab Begins – Demo Day!

The February morning was clear and crisp and the sun was slowing making it’s climb in the eastern sky, promising another unseasonably warm day. Fiery shades of orange blended with pink hues and cast their colors over the land and the buildings.

A 30 yard rolloff dumpster, what would be the first of many, sat in front of the garage and my 6 man crew would soon arrive to start filling it. I unlocked doors, walked through the house taking inventory and starting to form a mental rehab plan.

It had taken months, but finally, the papers were signed, I held the keys in my hand and the house was mine.

The first thing we needed to do was clear out the debris. There was quite a bit of stuff to remove and because the house had sat vacant for so long, dust had collected on everything. This would be a dirty job.

This is what I found inside the house that day:

While the crew worked on the cleaning and demo, I was checking the lights, water and furnace.  The furnace fired right up. That was good news. All of the lights worked. More good news. Then I discovered the first unexpected issue.

This house sits on 2 acres at the base of a mountain. Because of it’s rural location, it has a well that provides the water and the well pump was bad. It would have to be replaced before we could have water. So now I had a decision to make. Should I put in a cheap pump from Lowes or should I spend the $500 for something that would last.

I decided to install the quality pump. If I ended up keeping the house I’d be glad, and if I sold the house I could take pride in knowing I had not shortcut the new owners.

When you’re rehabbing a flip, it’s tempting to focus on the “bling”, all the stuff people see. Because it’s hard for buyers to get excited about well pumps, furnaces, and roofs, too many rehabbers shortcut these essential systems in favor of pretty tile or granite. And too many buyers make purchase decisions based on paint colors.

This is where a good realtor is invaluable. A good realtor will help buyers see past the relatively inexpensive finishes. They’ll help a buyer consider the less exciting, less visible components of the house. There’s nothing wrong with pretty finishes. I work hard to create a beautiful space but if that’s all you consider, it could cost you a whole lot of money.

In the end, I ordered the better pump. It would mean we wouldn’t have water for a couple of weeks, but regardless of whether I kept the house or sold it, I was committed to quality.

Bedroom after cleaning

Kitchen after cleaning

Bedroom after cleaning

Kitchen after cleaning

After removing the contents of the house, half of the crew worked to remove the multi-colored carpet “wall paper” that covered some of the living room walls. The other half removed some of the exterior overgrowth.

Carpet “wall paper”

Carpet “wall paper” removed



Overgrowth and rotting wood box

Overgrowth removed

Overgrowth and wood box removed

Already the house was improving! Still, we had a long way to go! Here’s a sneak preview of the final product!


I Bought a New House … Almost

Not long ago, in a blog post I shared about goals and my desire to finally make some progress in renovating my farmhouse. I started making slight progress, but somehow, every time I think I’ll really focus on it, something happens to distract my time, energy and money. This time was no exception. 

First, I was hired to oversee the renovation of another old house in our community. I’m excited about the project and the new friendship being forged in the process.

Then, in a situation very similar to last year, my efforts have been further derailed by another house. 

Yep. I bought another house.

This was the blog post I started writing a couple of days ago. The post went on to tell the story. How I talked with the owner months ago and she wanted too much money. How she called me last week and asked if I still wanted it, for $60,000 less. Yes!!

How the house was going to be auctioned as a foreclosure next week. We would have to move fast if we were going to close before the sale. But, then she was hospitalized and that delayed things and jeopardized the closing.

It told how everything seemed to be coming together finally. I’d delivered the signed contract to the title company and I was planning the rehab. The sellers were relieved to avoid foreclosure.

That was the post I started writing. That was the post I wanted to write. But the thing about real estate investing and foreclosures is that you have to expect the unexpected. It’s unpredictable, and a deal isn’t done until it’s closed.


This truth was hammered home again when the title company called. The owners owed back taxes to the IRS and the house had a $350,000 tax lien. They claim they don’t owe it, and honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine these people could possibly owe that much in back taxes.

But regardless, the issue will have to be addressed before I can buy the property. This means the lender will have to agree to postpone the foreclosure sale.

So for now, we are asking the lender for more time. If the lender is willing we may be able to deal with the lien, either by determining the IRS has the wrong guy (it happens), or petitioning the IRS to lift the lien to allow for the transfer of the property. They have a process for doing this, but it takes time.

One thing is for sure, this is a very good reminder of the importance of doing your due diligence when buying property. Not many people realize that when a property is bought at auction, the buyer may be purchasing more than just the house.

There are certain liens that survive and the buyer becomes responsible for those. In some instances, a junior lien holder such as bank that provided a second mortgage, will initiate foreclosure. If you were to purchase that home at auction, you would also be responsible for the first mortgage. Can you imaging buying a house at auction for $50,000 for instance and then learning you are also responsible for the $100,000 first mortgage?

And the thing is, a lien can be placed the day before a sale, making it very difficult to be 100% sure you’re getting a clean title.

These are the nitty-gritty, messy details that they never really talk about on Flip or Flop or similar shows. It can be risky business. You have to be very careful, very diligent and make no assumptions.

For now, thankful that I dodged that bullet,  I’ll keep working with the seller. I’ll keep trying to help them avoid foreclosure, knowing much of it is out of my control. I’ll work with Susan, my new friend and client, to see that their new home is structurally sound, updated and beautiful. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get a project or two around here completed.

4 Distinctions Between A Designer and a Decorator and why you need to know the difference

There’s something about the New Year that makes us want to clean, organize, purge, remodel and redecorate! I’m no exception. Though we’ve had an unseasonably warm and dry winter, Monday morning was cold and cloudy. I watched from the window as the  ice and sleet turned to snow. It seemed like a good day to spend a little time sitting by the fire and working on the plans for the organizing, remodeling and redecorating I want to do in this New Year.

I’m not alone. Many of my friends and family are embarking on home projects. I think there’s something innate in most of us that causes us to want to create beautiful living spaces. Certainly, networks like HGTV and DYI have tapped into this and it’s made them very successful.

Sometimes, as you embark on your project you might find that you could use a little help. But getting help can be confusing. For example, Interior Decorator and Interior Designer are titles that are often used interchangeably. While there is certainly overlap, there are really two distinct things. If you’re seeking help with your projects, make sure you understand the difference so you get the help you need.

So, what is an Interior Decorator and what does he or she do?

  1. Interior Decorators address the aesthetics of a space. They are responsible for applying the finishing touches to an area. They choose colors, fabrics, textures and furnishings. It’s their job to make sure these things work together to express the preferences and personalities of their clients.
  2. They work within the confines of an existing space to make it beautiful. In addition to applying finishes, they determine furniture placement. Correctly placed furniture enhances the functionality and beauty of a space.
  3. They often shop for their clients, sourcing furniture, fabric, finishes, curtains, rugs and decor.
  4. While there are courses available for Interior Decorators, there is not a licensing requirement.

Interior Designers, on the other hand address the function of a space. Of course, function has a tremendous impact on the aesthetics, and sometimes Designers will also function as the Decorator as well, but Designers work within a scope that is deeper and wider than that of a Decorator.

  1. Designers need to be knowledgeable and aware of building code and structural requirements. They need to understand the building process because they may need to suggest moving walls, doorways, windows, plumbing, or even building an addition.
  2. Designers can work directly with architects, engineers and contractors.
  3. They seek to understand how a client will use a space.  After understanding the needs and desires of a client, they will design structures and changes to best meet those needs.  Again, these could include structural changes. They consider how light, sound, heating and cooling will affect the comfort and function of a space.
  4. In most states, Designers must meet educational and testing requirements and be licensed before they can claim to be a Designer.

So next time you’re in the middle of big project and decide you need some help, you’ll know where to turn. In the meantime, if you’re tackling a DYI project and get a little stuck, send me an email. Chances are good I’ve tackled it at one point or another, mostly because I am addicted to remodeling and decorating. I really would love to help!

How the Story Ends…

After publishing 5 Years, 5 Minutes and the Happiest Place on Earth, I was contacted with the following: “Inquiring minds want to know, how does this story end?” So, for all the inquiring minds …

In the original post I wrote, “Let’s be … people who choose, and choose again and keep choosing to embrace joy, to grab it fiercely and hold on tenaciously.” Those words really are the rest of this story.

When I checked out of the hotel, I had to pay several hundreds of dollars for the repair with the assurance that there would be a partial refund coming the following week. The following week I received a bill for over $2000.00. When I questioned some of the line items, I received a bill for $2400.00. I spent hours on the phone with the hotel manager, with the maintenance supervisior, with the third party contractor who installed the tub, with his franchise headquarters in Canada. I talked with attorney’s. Finally, I obtained the contact information for the person who runs the hotel. He agreed to seek another bid from another repair company and I have not heard from them in over a month.

I don’t yet know how the story will end. I only know that this is an opportunity for me to practice choosing joy, to continue choosing it when the bad situation only gets worse, to choose it when I am tempted to worry and Anxiety, that relentless adversary, would attempt to place me in his shackles and isolate me from joy.

I chose not to let the situation steal the joy of Disneyland and being with family. That was a personal victory, but I didn’t realize at the time that the joy of Christmas would be threatened as well, that in the following days and weeks I would be confronted with the same decision, with the same choice.

This story is still a cliff-hanger. I still choose to cling to joy. I am learning what it means to cling relentlessly and how to hold on with tenancity when my grasp feels weak and the days without resolution feel long. I am hopeful that I’ve heard the last of this, but if not, well, I guess I’ll keep practicing, keep choosing.

5 Years, 5 Minutes and the Happiest Place on Earth

“Mom, you need to come in here.” This was Anna calling to me from the bathroom of our hotel room. Half an hour earlier I had stretched the hotel blow dryer from its location next to the sink, into the room that contained the bathtub and toilet. I wrapped the cord around the faucet, and put the blow dryer in my shoe.

About now you are probably wondering what in the world I was doing. Well, let me tell you. I was feeling brilliant!

We were at Disneyland celebrating Anna’s 21st birthday. Yes, her birthday was in July and yes it was now December. But there we were, with my parents, my son and daughter-in-law and my nephew. It was our second day and until now it had been magical!

Disneyland had been transformed into a Magical Christmas Wonderland. Garlands hung from buildings.  Lights twinkled, illuminating trees and roof lines. Christmas trees rose tall and majestic on Main Street. Christmas carols floated on the air. The very atmosphere was charged with a festive energy as gingerbread scented snow fell from the Southern California sky. Yep, snow in Southern California. Only at Disneyland!

An early catastrophe had been avoided when a kind man working Space Mountain recovered my cell phone. It had fallen from my pocket on our first ride on our first day.  In that moment, when he placed the phone in my hand I was sure nothing could mar this trip.

From there it only got better. We had not waited more than 10 minutes to get on a ride. I’d enjoyed a Disneyland corn dog … hands down the best corn dogs on earth … and I consider myself a connoisseur.  We’d laughed and laughed until I cried and my sides hurt.  I was surrounded by people I love.

The magic continued into day two. We’d walked thirteen miles the first day, and the park would be open later this night. For these reasons we decided an afternoon break was in order.

Knowing we’d be returning to the hotel room, we board a raft on the Grizzly River Raft Ride, affectionately known in our family as GRRR. The day before, we’d exited the ride with clothes soaked, hair hanging damp in our faces, and water squishing in our shoes with each step.

This time however we were prepared! We donned our newly purchased plastic ponchos, (at least the girls did), full of naive expectation that the plastic would somehow protect us. We’d learn that the water would find it’s way over the top, in the sides and splash up from the bottom. As a result, when we started the mile-long walk back to our hotel room we were once again wet and cold, but happy.

After changing from my wet clothes, I put the blow dryer in the porcelain sink with my wet shoes, hoping they would dry and plopped onto the bed with my laptop to complete some work before we returned to the park.

My dad asked about the persistent noise and in an effort to ease the annoyance I moved the shoes and blow dryer to the bathtub. I closed the door, the noise was muffled and I returned to the bed satisfied that I’d solved this minor issue and could only be considered brilliant …. until my high horse violently bucked me off with those 7 little words from Anna, “Mom, you need to come in here.”

I responded, somewhat tongue in cheek and with a little chuckle,  “What, did the blow dryer melt my shoe?”

“No worse. It melted a hole in the tub!”

What?! How can that be? A blow dryer can’t put a hole in a bathtub!! But it did. Right there, where the bottom of the tub meets it’s side was a silver dollar sized hole. There was no denying it. My mind raced. Could I fix it. Yes, I probably could. With a repair kit and a little bit of time. That was it. I’d just find a Lowes or Home Depot and I’d fix the tub before we left. But I wasn’t sure I could find an exact color match and did I really want to spend my vacation repairing a bathtub?

Google “what to do if you melt a hotel bathtub” and you will get exactly zero responses. Nada. Zip. Apparently I am the first person in the history of the internet to make this particular blunder.

I weighed my options, then drug myself to the front desk and attempted to explain to the manager what had happened. After several attempts to comprehend what I was saying he simply said he would send a maintenance man.

I left the office, dejected and depressed. This mistake was going to cost me more than the rest of the trip combined and I had certainly not budgeted for “melted bathtub”.

As I walked back to our room alone, I had some time to think. I recalled something I’d heard recently. “If the thing you are worried about will not matter in 5 years, don’t give it more than 5 minutes of energy or worry.” My memory was sketchy on the details. Maybe it actually said not to give it more than 5 hours of worry. I don’t know, but I had a firm grasp on the concept.

I knew, in that moment, I had a choice to make. I could let this ruin my trip or I could choose joy. I have the incredible privilege of being able to choose how I frame this story, not just here on my blog, but there, in that moment. In the moment of my distress. And in the moments that would follow.

I was in Disneyland. With three of my kids, two of which I don’t see often. I was spending time with my nephew, my parents. I was in the Happiest Place on Earth. A place where the worries of life can be set aside for a time and you can be transported back to childhood. Where magic is real and one can believe that dreams do come true.  I was experiencing something that, for many, remains only a distant dream.

A place that is the reality of one man’s audacious dream, a dream that today touches millions of lives every year, providing joy for it’s guests and employment for thousands of families.

I love the story of Walt Disney because he was a dreamer.  Disneyland was another dream in a long list of dreams pursued and obtained by Walt. Dreams that were pursued with great risk and at great cost. If you haven’t already, watch the movie Walt Before Mickey. Be inspired. Be challenged.

In that moment, walking from the office to the hotel room, confronted with my choice, I chose not to let stress steal joy. I chose not to steal the joy of those with me. There was not a thing, not one thing I could do about that tub. It was stupid, but it had happened and I would have to make it right. That was the cold, hard truth. But I didn’t have to let it be more than that. The circumstances had not changed, but I could.

In 5 years, it would be a mere memory, something the kids would bring up to tease me and we would all laugh together. I chose not to give it more than 5 minutes of worry, 5 minutes of energy. If I’m really honest, I chose not to give it 5 more minutes of worry. I’d surpassed the 5 minute milestone before I’d ever made it to the front desk. None-the-less, on that walk, alone, I made a choice.

That’s the real beauty, the real magic and most of us miss it. We have a choice! We can embrace faith or embrace fear. We can choose stress or we can choose joy. We can focus on what we don’t have or we can be thankful for the blessings we do have.

The choices we make ultimately make all the difference in our lives, in who we become, in our characters. They even affect our health. Choosing joy combats the damaging effects of stress. And, it affects those around us. Let’s be carriers of joy, people who enrich the lives around us in spite of negative circumstances. People who choose, and choose again and keep choosing to embrace joy, to grab it fiercely and hold on tenaciously.

There is tremendous power in realizing we can choose and in choosing joy.

5 years, 5 minutes. It’s your choice.


A Tear-Down or the Realization of a Dream?

I’d been waiting a year for this moment. Well, a year and a lifetime. It was late. Darkness and silence surrounded me. The rest of the house slept. I lay on the air mattress on the floor of the living room and I thought about the journey that had brought me here.

As a child, in this sleepy, Colorado mountain community, I’d always loved this house. I didn’t know then that the proper name for the roof style was “gambrel”. To me it was simply “that barn house”. Towering cottonwood trees lined the front of the property. A creek wound it’s way through shrub oak and among the pines between the old barn and the southern boundary. The Greenhorn Mountain rose tall to the west. Strong. Constant. Beautiful. I didn’t know anything about the place, it’s history, it’s owners. I was a kid and knew only that I loved it.

I would leave this place, this community. Not by my choice. Not willingly. Not without tears and an aching heart. My journey away from here took me first to Arizona, then eventually to other parts of Colorado, to Indiana. I was privileged to live in some other cultures and see some of the world. I’d lived in Europe, traveled to Asia and Africa, had a baby in Holland. But somehow, in the back of my mind and deep in my heart a love for this place remained.

Nearly thirty years after leaving, I returned. When I did, I drove by this house, this barn house. I couldn’t tell if it was occupied or not. The car in the drive might indicate it was, but the place looked abandoned. I would learn that the house was going into foreclosure. That started an exercise in patience that would last nearly 10 months. 10 months of waiting. 10 months of working on contracts, repair estimates, financing and appraisals. Just before closing we almost lost the house when our lender quit the business and did not notify anyone. But finally, finally we were here.

I lay in the dark that night remembering the broken, winding road that had brought me here. So thankful to have this place. So grateful to be here … and wondering if I’d made a huge mistake.

The smell of dog urine was so strong as to be nearly unbearable. Every window was open to the August night, and still I found it difficult to breathe. I was thankful that the kids were upstairs, removed from the foul and toxic odors, bedrooms newly painted and floors newly refinished. I remembered the words of my friend and realtor when I’d first talked with her about buying this house. “I think that house is a teardown.” I wondered now if she was right.

Of course the floors had been mopped and bleached, but urine penetrated the wood floors and the odor hung heavy in the still, night air. The bank had winterized the house in March, an exercise in futility since by that point bitter cold temperatures had already wreaked their havoc.

The plumbing would all need to be replaced as well as the water heater due to freeze damage. Soot covered the ceiling and walls around the water heater. It was unclear if it was due to poor venting or a fire, but either way, it would need to be addressed. A toilet bowl was cracked where water had frozen. The well pump was failing. Cracks had formed on some of the walls and the living room ceiling was failing where a poor attempt had been made to patch a former leak. Walls were black with woodsmoke, tile had fallen from the shower wall, windows were cracked or broken.

My mind played that list over knowing these items were just scratching the surface. And again, I wondered if maybe my friend was right. I thought of all those others who had wanted this house, who had placed their offers and received the news that theirs was not the highest and best. Maybe it wasn’t too late to sell it to one of them. But I was used to trusting my instincts and my instincts told me that this place was worth saving. That the bones were great. That I couldn’t tear down 100 years of history.

So I used the sheet to cover my nose and filter the foul air and I remembered all of the reasons I’d loved this house in the first place. I drifted off to sleep determined to address the odors and dreaming of what this place would become.

It isn’t finished yet. Weeks before closing on the house, I had started a new business. It would grow rapidly and consume my time and energy, requiring long days and more than an occasional evening. I bought and rehabbed the Greenhorn Farmhouse. Kids got married and wedding preparations replaced rehab. But little by little it’s improving and I have very high expectations for the coming year.


I’ve been replacing windows one at a time and have just three remaining. If you’ve never done that before, I’ll show you how in an upcoming post. It’s not nearly as hard as it sounds and you can save a great deal of money by doing it yourself.

Today, my crew worked to repair and stabilize the barn. A back wall was pushing out and I was concerned about the structure.  They removed years of accumulated manure, now composted and compacted with dirt. With picks and shovels, they dug holes in the rocky ground. New support posts were set in holes and concrete was poured.

Tomorrow the walls will be pulled back into place and attached to the posts. Someday I will re-side the barn and install proper barn doors but for now I’ll rest easier knowing the horses are safe and the historical building will continue to stand there along the creek and among the trees.

Dream the Life You Want then Live the Life you Dream: 6 strategies for achieving your 2018 goals

Just three days. Three days until we ring in the New Year. Three days until one calendar will come down to be replaced by another. New. Clean. Squares on a page, blank except for numbers to count the days, waiting for ink to consume the empty space. A blank page upon which we will write our story. And that’s the amazing thing. We have the incredible privilege of writing our own stories!

It’s a truth we often want to ignore, deny and avoid.  It’s uncomfortable. It means that our reality, our circumstances, our lives are in some way, at some level our own responsibility. Like a sword, it severs excuses. Like a flame it burns away blame we too often place onto others. It calls us to responsibility. We squirm. We try to avoid it, but it’s there, this truth. If we can summon our courage, raise our eyes and look it in the face, if we can set aside fear for just a minute, if we can come to embrace it, we will find freedom.

We don’t have to be stuck. We don’t have to settle. We don’t have to give up on dreams!

As I’ve thought about the coming year and considered goals, and what I will write in those blank, little squares, I’m increasingly mindful of this truth. My story will be written. Will I write it or will I let others write it for me? Will it be written by my intention or by the tyranny of the urgent? At the end of 2018, will I be able to say I lived the life I wanted to live, did the things I wanted to do, accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish, grew in the ways I wanted to grow, and developed the character traits I desired.  I hope so. With intention, with discipline, with faith.

It seems everyone has strategies and advice on goal setting. I’ve read the books, watched the Ted Talks, and listened to the podcasts. This year I’ve compiled those things into 6 strategies I want to implement in 2018.

1. Define the “why”.

I recently heard best-selling author Jeff Goins speaking about Michael Hyatt’s goal setting program. Jeff said a couple of things that were really eye-opening for me. He spoke of the need to define the “why”. Why do I want to accomplish a certain thing? Jeff said that the “why” has to be real, not some politically correct version of a “why”, or a “why” I think I should have. It needs to be a real, deep down in my heart reason for wanting to have or do this thing. He gave the example of losing weight and getting in better shape. The politically correct “why” is to be healthier and to have energy to play with the kids. The real “why” might simply be to look great and have greater confidence as result. We might be able to fool others, but we can’t trick ourselves. Define your “why”. Make it compelling. Make it urgent and be honest with yourself. I can’t explain it, but for some reason, that’s the hard part for me, being honest with myself. It’s scary. It feels vulnerable. But it’s powerful.

2. Focus on the smaller goals first

Jeff Goins said something else that really struck a cord. He said that sometimes it’s better to attack the smaller goals and then the big goals will take care of themselves.

In his book, This Life I Live, Rory Feek shares his journey to becoming a successful songwriter and realizing his lifelong dream. For a year he wrote at least one song a day. Day after day he wrote and he just kept writing. It didn’t matter that none of them became hits. He wrote. It didn’t matter that weeks and months passed without success. He wrote. After nearly a year, and over 300 songs, one song became a hit. And then another and another.

The goal could have been to write a hit song. In fact, that was part of his  ultimate goal, but the goal to get there was measurable and attainable. Write at least one song a day. Staying faithful to the smaller goal allowed the larger goal to take care of itself.

3. Be Consistent.

One of the hardest parts of setting and achieving goals is practicing discipline. You’ve heard the saying, “Pay the price of discipline or pay the cost of regret”. The reality is that few things are accomplished or achieved without practicing discipline. Discipline means doing the thing you need to do even when you don’t feel like it. It’s foregoing the good in pursuit of the best. It’s being consistent and tenacious, when you’re tired, when you’ve had a long day, when it feels like the world is resting on your shoulders, when your heart is aching. You do the thing anyway, because you can see beyond that moment in time, beyond those feelings, beyond the fatigue. The pain of the moment fades in the light of the promise of what is to come and you know that the cost of discipline pales in comparison to the cost of regret and joy comes in the morning.

4. Measure your goals and review your progress

Too often I’ve been known to set a goal and even go so far as to write it down only to stick it in a drawer and forget about it. Then I wonder why my life looks the same a year later. Goals are meant to be measured, reviewed and evaluated. This year I will review my goals each morning. I’ll keep them in forefront of my mind. I’ll evaluate my progress and tweak the goals if needed.

5. Celebrate wins, reward yourself.

I’ve never been very good at this. To me, accomplishing a goal is the reward. I don’t need a celebration. I’m much more comfortable just moving on to the next thing. But perhaps, just maybe, I’m missing the boat. My daughter Anna buys herself a little something every time she finishes a semester of college. She looks forward to this. It’s a little celebration, an acknowledgement that what she’s accomplished took effort and commitment, that she’s making progress toward the ultimate goal. I think it’s helpful. I think it’s good. Maybe I could use a little more celebration. Maybe we can celebrate together?

6. No place for fear.

What keeps us from achieving more? What keeps us stuck, struggling month to month to pay the bills? Or dieting year after year only to find the scale is moving in the wrong direction? What keeps us from pursing that thing we really love? Why don’t we tackle that project we’ve been putting off or get that education we talk about. The paperwork remains undone, the closets cluttered and unorganized. We still can’t get the car in the garage. We long for change so why don’t we create it?

For me, in my life, it’s usually FEAR. Fear is a ruthless slave master. His whispered lies become chains to bind us and we believe them. He cripples us from action. He’s a thief, stealing joy, stealing hope, stealing dreams. He tells us that we aren’t enough, will never be enough, that our best isn’t enough, and if we try we will only fail. He shouts that there’s not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money. He wants us to believe that our dreams are too big, too unrealistic, that people like us don’t accomplish things like that. Fear is a liar made powerful by our own decisions to believe him. Silence him with truth. Dis-empower him with  faith. Conquer him with love.

Then let yourself dream. And dream big. Then dream a little bigger. Define your why. Be honest with yourself, even when it’s hard, even when it’s vulnerable. Set goals and tackle the smaller goals first. Let them pave the way to accomplishing the larger goals. Be consistent. Practice discipline. Learn to find joy in the discipline because of the harvest it will reap. Measure your goals, evaluate your progress, change course as needed. Know that challenges are beneficial. And celebrate! Celebrate your wins, celebrate your milestones. Enjoy the journey.

Write your own story!  Find your courage, be bold, be playful, laugh, be audacious if you want. Dream the life you want then live the life you dream. If you haven’t started yet, why not start now?

5 Quick, Homemade, Budget Friendly, Last Minute Gift Ideas

In just three days the sun will rise on a Christmas morning. All of the preparations, whether complete or not will be set aside for the celebration. The weeks of planning and busyness will cease,  the stress and planning will fade making way for peace, joy, and laughter as we celebrate that baby in the manger, Emmanuel, God with us.

If, in these final days before Christmas you find yourself in need of a last minute gift and a budget that is nearly exhausted, here are five homemade, budget friendly, last minute gift ideas. Each is easy to make, useful and can be beautifully presented. You could buy them in a store but in less time that you would spend fighting traffic and for a fraction of the cost, you can prepare these at home. All of them make terrific gifts!

Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar

(I saw these at Walmart for $6.00 a jar)


1 3/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1 quart sized mason jar, or equivalent jar, such as from spaghetti sauce.


Combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Place in your jar. Tap around the edges with a spoon to pack it.

Add the brown sugar next and tap it down as well.

Add the white sugar followed by the chocolate chips.

Baking Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat 3/4 c. softened butter, 1 large egg, and 3/4 tsp. vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy. Add the contents of the cookie mix jar and mix well making sure to incorporate any clumps.

Drop by the spoonful onto an uncreased cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes. Let set for a couple of minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 2 dozen.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.

You can find a printable instruction label here. It can be tied around the jar or glued to the back using a glue stick.

Peppermint Body Scrub:


4 cups white sugar

1/4 cup crushed candy canes

1 cup olive oil

20-25  drops peppermint essential oil

You will also need a glass jar.


Measure and pour the sugar into a mixing bowl. Sugar is a wonderful exfoliant.

Add the olive oil to the sugar, and stir. This should look like damp sand. Be careful not to use too much oil, just enough to dampen the sugar.  If the sugar is too dry after adding a cup of oil, you can add more, 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Add peppermint extract.  Peppermint has been shown to reduce depression related anxiety, sore muscles, headaches and skin conditions.

Place a handful of your crushed candy canes in a ziplock plastic bag, and make the pieces even smaller with the help of a rolling pin. Alternatively a food process works great. The candy should be similar in texture to the sugar.

Place some of the sugar-and-oil mixture at the base of the glass container, and then sprinkle with a layer of the crushed candy. Continue layering until the container is filled. Use ribbons or fabric to decorate the jar. Makes approximately 4 cups.

For a free printable recipe click here.

Brown Sugar Vanilla scrub:


1 cup of packed brown sugar

1/2 cup olive oil, (almond oil is great too)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Optional: 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil, or 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.

Mix all ingredients until the mixture resembles wet sand. Put mixture in a jar. Use fabric and/or ribbon to decorate the jar.

For a printable recipe click here.

Hot Chocolate Ornament:

The ornament pictured here was created by my daughter, Alia.


Hot Chocolate mix of your choice.

Candy cane, coarsely chopped.

Glass Ornaments


Using a funnel, place enough hot chocolate mix for one, 8 oz cup in a clean, glass ornament.

Add the chopped candy cane.

Replace the top, and add a ribbon by which to hang it.

To use, empty contents of the ornament into a cup, add 8 oz of hot water and stir. These are fun little gifts for kids!

Cider Mulling Reindeer-

(Makes 6 Reindeer)


3 Large oranges

3 cups firmly packed brown sugar Mulling Spices (I used this recipe)

6 small whole nutmegs

12 whole allspice

36 whole cloves

6 Red Hot Candies

Black Edible gel food coloring or edible marker


Slice 3 the oranges in half, and scoop out the flesh. Take care to avoid breaking through the outer orange rind. Crumple up tinfoil into small balls to fill your orange halves. Place orange halves cut side facing up, on a baking sheet. Bake at 225°F for 3 hours, until dry and hard. It might help to turn the over about 2 hours into the baking time. Cool the oranges completely. Pack your mulling spices firmly into each orange half.

Creating the Reindeer:

Place a whole nutmeg in the center to make the Reindeer head. Push it firmly into the mulling spices. Using a food safe marker, create the eyes. Food safe gel dye can work too but I find it tends to smear. If you choose this method, paint the eyes a day ahead to allow the gel to dry thoroughly. Place a red hot candy at the base of the nutmeg to form the nose, then  place 2 whole allspice as ears on either side of the nutmeg. Use 6 whole cloves on each Reindeer head to form the antlers.

Wrap your Reindeer Mulling Spice tightly in plastic wrap.

To use, place the entire Reindeer in a gallon of Apple Cider or Juice and simmer.

A printable version of this recipe can be found here.