How to Survive A Kitchen Remodel

You might be wondering how we avoided starving during a major kitchen remodel that wound up growing and spilling into other parts of the house.

Options for Surviving a Kitchen Remodel

Everyone deals with a major remodel differently.  You can:

  1. Dine out every evening;
  2. Eat fast food and takeout for every meal;
  3. Move in with a relative or friend and hope they still love you afterwards; or
  4. Set up a makeshift kitchen.

Setting Up A Makeshift Kitchen

We opted for number 4.  Chris set up this little kitchen in our living room.  Not much counter space, and the dishes were being washed in the laundry room, but we coped.

Our makeshift kitchen used during kitchen remodel

Note the stylish trouble light he clipped to the curtain rod over the range for task lighting.  He got the little second-hand range on Craigslist, and it was actually from a trailer.*  It kind of felt like we were camping in our living room, and I suspect Chris actually enjoyed this.

But he was pretty amazing.  The remodel was done around the holidays, so his workload was light and, most days, he was able to spend all day working with our carpenter, Bruce.  But Chris also made lunch for himself and Bruce in the little kitchen, and often he had dinner and a glass of wine ready for me when I got home from work.

Wine definitely helps when your olive oil and your wall paint wind up living side by side and you’ve completely given up on housekeeping.

Makeshift kitchen used during kitchen remodel

As the remodel encroached further and further into the rest of the house, we had to move the makeshift kitchen first to the office and later to the upstairs landing.  Each time, the kitchen got a little smaller.  Eventually we had to put the fridge on the front porch.

But by this time, I just happy to still have my morning coffee, even if I had to go outside for the milk.  Because by then, the end was in sight, and it was well worth it.

*Always consult a professional before installing or using a trailer range in your house.

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Heidi’s January Plant Pick: Cyclamen Coum

cyclamen coum

This adorable Coum Hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen coum), a tuberous perennial that hails from Turkey, is the baby brother of my November plant pick, the Florist Cyclamen.

A Tough Beauty

The Coum Hardy Cyclamen is a tough little guy that is hardy to -20 degrees and blooms in the dead of winter.  The blossoms are just starting to appear in my shade garden.

Cyclamen Coum
Cyclamen coum at the base of a mountain ash tree

Some winters, the blossoms can be seen peeking up through the snow.  The flowers (usually pink or mauve) only get about 4 inches tall on red stems, and the plants grow in dense patches up to about 12 inches wide.  The leaves are also very attractive.

Cyclamen coum flower closeup

They are sweet, subtle little plants, not flashy show-stoppers.  But they are a welcome sight in the middle of winter when nothing else is blooming.

Great for Naturalizing

They look great in a woodland setting and thrive in hardiness zones 6 to 10 in full to partial shade.  Everything I have read about them says they need well-drained soil, but I would say the soil in my shade garden is just a touch on the heavy side, and these little guys still thrive.

They go dormant in summer, so winter is the time they shine.  To create a year-round display of blossoms, groups of Coum Hardy Cyclamen can be planted around the bases of deciduous trees along with groups of shade-tolerant spring, summer, and fall-blooming bulbs and tubers.

In fact, there is another small hardy Cyclamen variety, Cyclamen hederifolium, which blooms in fall.


My shade garden (in hardiness zone 8a) is wonderfully low-maintenance, and I do nothing at all for these little guys.  They like soil that is rich in organic matter, and this occurs naturally in my shade garden as the trees lose their leaves and cones.

Once the plant is established, it’s okay to let this cyclamen dry out a little in summer, when it goes dormant anyway.

They prefer to be undisturbed and don’t take kindly to being dug up and replanted, although I have tried it and had success.

All in all, an easy little perennial.

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Winter Floral Designs: Three Easy Ways

After the excess of the holidays, I always crave a neat, uncluttered look for my winter floral arrangements.  I’m not quite ready for the flowers of spring, I just want a little green in the house to liven things up.

For these three arrangements, I used containers that I will want to re-use later for other projects, so I filled them with artificial greens. This way, there is no guilt or replanting involved when I want to rotate the greens out later in favor of something else.

So have you got a few minutes?  That’s all you would need to make these easy winter arrangements.


I just love the buttoned-up look of topiaries.  Here is one that never needs watering or pruning.

Winter floral designs: topiary

The little white urn is perfect for more formal looks.  I used it for a very simple hydrangea arrangement last fall.

I got a ball-shaped artificial green from the craft store, as well as some preserved moss for the base of the container.  To make the trunk look more realistic, I used a real tree twig.  Some floral foam holds it all together under the moss.

topiary ingredients

To cut the floral foam into a shape that would fit into the white urn, I used the same electric carving knife that I used to cut the foam when I reupholstered my dining chairs.

This knife has become dedicated for use in crafts. It never sees the kitchen anymore.


The foam is set into the urn, and the “trunk” of the topiary is pushed securely into the foam on the bottom, and the topiary ball on top.  Then the moss is set around the base of the trunk.

Air Plant Terrarium

I had a live air plant for several years and I killed it recently by moving its location slightly.  This artificial one doesn’t care where I put it.

Winter floral designs: terrarium

I used the same small thrift store fishbowl that I used for my Thanksgiving centerpiece and my Christmas angel vignette.

I used decorative pebbles from the craft store plus, as a top layer, small bits of sea glass and shells that I collected over the years.

terrarium ingredients

Fern Urn

This arrangement is ideal for shallow spaces since the ferns fan out horizontally yet stay flat, almost two-dimensional.

Winter f loral designs: ferns in urn

For this one, I used a tall narrow urn (again, a thrift store find), some artificial ferns from the craft store, the preserved moss around the base, and florist foam inside the urn to hold it all together.

fern ingredients

It took a little time to get the supplies together for these arrangements, but the actual time of arranging them was probably a half hour for all three.

Three winter floral designs


And if you don’t have time to troll the thrift stores for the containers:

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My Top 10 Posts for 2014 and a Look Ahead at 2015

This blog, My Sweet Cottage, which I started late last summer, actually made one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 come true:  To find more things I enjoy doing.  I really love having this blog, and I have you to thank.  Your comments and encouragement keep me going and keep it fun.

A blog is a great way of documenting the year.  Here, in semi-chronological order, is a look back at my top 10 posts for 2014.

Things That Happened in 2014

1. We lost my dear mother-in-law in May, but we found a beautiful way of honoring her life.  Betty would have loved her celebration of life party.

picture string closeup

2.  I shared the colorful makeover of our little garden shed.

Potting shed with paint and new roof

3.  In a three-part series, I talked about our master bathroom remodel.

master bath looking south

4.  In another three-part series, I covered our kitchen remodel.

kitchen remodel - south wall after

5.  My mother brought me some beautiful hydrangeas for floral arrangements.

Decorating with Hydrangeas

6.  I cleaned out our basement and found all kinds of treasures to revamp or repurpose.  My husband, Chris, reupholstered the mid-century chair he remembers from his childhood.

Midcentury chair revamp

7.  My brother and his wife have been busy too with their 1908 house.  They did a stunning DIY dining room remodel.  If you haven’t already seen this post, don’t miss it!

dining room table and window2 jpg

8.  A major highlight of my year was when one of my long-held dreams came true:  We now have a greenhouse!


9. We reupholstered our old arts and crafts dining chairs with an unconventional fabric.Chair after with side table

10.  In my favorite post of 2014, my mother shared tips for setting a formal table – and some interesting stories from her experiences working in an English manor house in the 1950s.

formal place setting

The Year Ahead

I have several resolutions for 2015.  First, now that I have a greenhouse, I resolve to expand my horizons as a gardener by learning more about greenhouse gardening.

I resolve to make more time for sewing so I can do more fun projects like these gift bags.

I resolve to repurpose old items in fun ways, like these jewelry organizers and this porch bench makeover.

And finally, I resolve to be true to my own likes and dislikes.  I will look to new trends in décor and design for inspiration, but I won’t be swayed by their popularity alone.  I will stick with what speaks to me.  And I will share that with you.

Here’s to a fun and interesting 2015!

This post is part of a fun event called “Show and Tell Fridays” featuring the work of some very talented designers.  Click on the thumbnail below to check out their work.

Kitchen Remodel Part 3: Our New Original Kitchen

I call this post “Our New Original Kitchen” because when we remodeled the kitchen in our 1927 bungalow, we were actually bringing it back to its original size, reversing an unfortunate mid-century remodel that sliced it in half and lowered the ceiling.

The Story of the Wall

This is the photo that best shows the mid-century “slicing,” with the small kitchen on the right, the wall added in the 1950s in the middle, and an interior room that we called “the Weird Room” on the left.  This whole funny chopped-up space had once been the kitchen.

Kitchen remodel: Before with two rooms and dividingwall
Wall with Weird Room on the left and kitchen on the right

The Planning

This post is Part 3 in a series about our kitchen remodel.  Part 1 covers the planning process and the ways we found to save money and stay within budget yet still get the kitchen we wanted.

The Demolition

Part 2 covers all the interesting things we learned about our old house during the demolition process – when we tore down that mid-century wall.

Ready to Start!

So now we had a big empty space and we were ready to get the remodel underway.

As one strategy to save money, my husband, Chris, decided to be his own general contractor and hire his own specialists, including, luckily for us, a crackerjack carpenter – our friend Bruce.  We first met Bruce when he was the project lead on our master bathroom remodel.

And not only would Chris be the general contractor, but he would also work with Bruce on the remodel.

Chaotic Progress

Needless to say, living with a kitchen remodel is chaotic.  But it’s also very exciting.  Almost every evening when I came home from work, something new had happened.  Which made up for the fact that I was washing our dishes in the laundry sink.

Here to show a little of the progress is our cat Lily on a stroll near the north wall, apparently oblivious to the fact that the kitchen is gutted down to the studs.

Kitchen remodel: Lily with Demo of North wall

Soon after, I came home to find that our drywall contractor was working his magic, and the north wall now looked like this.

Kitchen remodel: North wall after sheetrock

The space seemed huge until the cabinets started going in.  But it was wonderful to see the kitchen slowly take shape.

south wall mostly done

A Kitchen Tour

We wanted our kitchen to be updated, cheerful and inviting and to blend with the original style of our old house.

Here is a little tour of how it all turned out.

The Countertop

Choosing a granite countertop took us weeks.  We made several visits to a huge warehouse that probably stocked every type of granite known to man.

After taking home many samples, we chose a  granite that we loved called Verde Typhoon from India.

You can imagine my excitement on the day that the granite was installed.  I was at work and Chris emailed me this photo.

Beautiful Verde Typhoon Granite

The Gas Range

We kept the location of the gas range almost the same as in the old kitchen so that any re-plumbing of the gas lines would be minimal.

Here is the range before our remodel.

Kitchen remodel: oven and fridge before

And here is the new range after, with a lot more counter space around it, but in much the same location.

Lots of prep space

The Peninsula

Now there is a peninsula where the wall used to be and walking in the back door, instead of seeing this . . .

Kitchen remodel: Before with two rooms and dividingwall
Wall with Weird Room on the left and kitchen on the right

We now see this . . .

New rangehood & range

The Sink

We also kept the sink in the same location on the south wall under the window.

This is the south wall before.

Kitchen remodel_ Kitchen before
South wall of kitchen before remodel.

And this is after with the new farmhouse sink.

looking west now

Notice also how much higher the ceiling is after the remodel.

A Parrot Light

The light over the sink came out of my childhood home, which was built in 1901 – although the light itself is from the 1930s.  It had been in storage for years so I was happy to finally have the ideal place to hang it.

Vintage parrot light

The China Cabinet

Our dining room has a couple of original built-in hutches, but they are small and there is nowhere else in the dining room to have a china cabinet.

So I wanted something in our kitchen that functioned as a china cabinet.  We placed it on the north wall between the fridge and the pantry.

north wall now

To set it apart from the rest of the cabinets, we chose a wood countertop, which Chris stained and finished.  And it has a bead board backsplash instead of the subway tile that is on the south wall.

Leaded Glass Cabinet Doors

Since the built-ins in our dining room have leaded glass cabinet doors, we continued the look in the kitchen with leaded glass on the upper cabinets.

We ordered the cabinet doors with just frames, no glass, and had a glass artist create and inset the leaded glass.

Glass Cabinet Hardware

Everywhere in our 1920s house, we have glass cabinet hardware, so it was an easy decision to continue the look in the kitchen.

glass knobs

 The Planning Desk

The planning desk was unplanned.  During the demolition, the crew came across a small closet that had been walled off, adding a tiny bit of square footage to the kitchen that we hadn’t counted on.

Kitchen remodel: demolition of closet
The green paint shows the area where the little closet was found behind a wall.

The kitchen cabinets were already on order, so we ended up finding an after-market planning desk.   Chris had to cut a little trim off on one side to make it fit into the space.

planning desk


We refinished the fir floors, not just in the kitchen but throughout the house.  One thing leads to another in a remodel.

Speaking of which . . .


Bruce converted the kitchen and the dining room doorways back into arched doorways.  They had been shared off in the mid-century remodel.

Doorway square off from 1950s remodel
Doorway squared off in 1950s remodel

So as you can see, this kitchen remodel had legs and kept walking.  In a future post, I will be talking more about the arches and the other projects that were triggered by our kitchen remodel.

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Pretty Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas: Think Burlap and Yarn – Really!

Looking to do something a little different this year with your holiday gift wrap?  Here are a couple of fun and pretty ideas that came straight from the fabric store.

Burlap Gift Bags

Since I already had my sewing machine dusted off for my porch bench winter makeover, I decided to make gift bags from some burlap (also called jute) that I had been wanting to experiment with.

Holiday gift wrap ideas

I love how the rough texture of the burlap contrasts with its girly pattern.  And I love the classic combination of the black and tan colors.  This year in holiday wrap, black seems to be the new red anyway.

Burlap is not a very tightly-woven fabric, so I added a green lining to the interior of each bag so that it can be reused without risk of something poking through the burlap.   Also the fresh green color gives a little dash of interest, and having a lining makes the bag look more finished.

The bags are about 9″X12″, a good size for carrying tablets, books, or magazines.

The little snowflake ornament and the bell are tied on with a great ruffle yarn that I recently discovered.  More on that below.

Making the Bags

I used a 10″X13″ piece of cardboard as a template to cut the burlap and the lining.  When I sewed the sides and bottom of the burlap together, I backstitched liberally to make the bag more durable.

Attaching the lining to the bag was the hardest part, but once I got my head around it, it was easy.  I used roughly the same method described very nicely here, except that I attached the straps, about an inch below the top of the bag, before I stitched the lining to the bag.  Then I just pinned the straps out of the way while I was sewing the bag and the lining together.

I learned to be careful ironing jute.  Don’t get the iron too hot and make sure to have a scrap piece of fabric between the iron and the jute or the ink from the pattern on the jute might transfer to the iron.

A Gorgeous Ribbon Alternative

I found the ruffle yarn I mentioned earlier at the fabric store and it looked pretty interesting to me at the time.  But once I got it home and had a closer look, I realized it was even better than I thought.

Holiday gift wrap ideas


It can be pulled apart for a lace-like look and it also has tiny sequins sewn in for a subtle yet festive glimmer.

It’s also an economical alternative to conventional ribbon since the bolt of yarn is 23 yards long.

So that is all for now – I’m off to do more wrapping.  Hope you are too.  Happy holidays!


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A Warm Welcome: A Porch Bench Gets a Budget Winter Makeover

A Lonely Porch

We use the bench on our covered porch almost every day in summer, but we never use it in winter.  The summer-print cushion is put away for the season and, except for one of our cats occasionally using it as a lookout post, the bench sits idle.

I have always had a fantasy about sitting on the porch in winter, bundled up with a hot chocolate watching snow fall.  But this has never happened.

Creating a Warmer Welcome

I started to wonder if we would use the bench more in winter if it was simply made cozier and more appealing.  So I decided to give it a try.

This is not the most practical idea I’ve ever come up with.  After all, even though the porch is covered, the fabric used on the bench would still be exposed to some winter weather.

But if I used a truly weatherproof fabric, it would not feel warm and comfortable, which would defeat the purpose.

So I went to Goodwill on Black Friday and for a song I bought a used sweater to convert into a soft pillow and a green fleece throw to convert into a cushion cover.

winter decorations - textile closeup

And if the weather has its way with them, oh well.  They are expendable.

For the holidays, I combined them with a Christmas pillow and a red throw.


After the holidays, they can be combined with other accessories and continue to create a warm and welcoming look for visitors – and us.

It’s day one of the new look, and Priscilla the Cat is already using the bench more.  We will see if her humans follow suit.

From Scraps to Sachets

The leftover sweater scraps were kind of charming and calling out to be used for something.

So I made these sachets with them for stocking stuffers.


I used slices of scented soap to fill them.

It’s fun to repurpose old items.  I’m planning more projects like this with other used fabrics.


Projects in this post were sewn with my Brother CS6000i sewing machine.

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Three Festive Lighting Ideas for the Holidays and Beyond

I always have a hard time following the unwritten rule of taking down the Christmas lights after the new year.

What a silly rule.  The days are short and gloomy and the fun of the holidays is over.  Seems like that is when we really need a little cheerful lighting to lift our spirits.

Well this year, I found a few simple and classy lighting ideas that can continue to shine all winter – and even beyond.


With these pretty strands of mini lights on bendable, silver-toned wire, it’s easy to create all sorts of sweet little vignettes.  The tiny LED lights have a warm white glow.

Christmas Lighting Ideas tips - angel with microlights

They have a battery pack that can easily be hidden.  In the photo above, the battery pack is under the angel.

They are fun for lighting up arrangements where a corded light would be unsightly or impossible.  In the photo below, the battery pack is hidden under a pine cone.

Christmas Lighting Ideas tips - micro LED lights

I’m looking forward to using them in centerpieces and for special occasions year-round.

Christmas Lighting Ideas tips - LED Lights with mirror

The creative possibilities for these tiny lights are endless.

The batteries last 48 hours, and there is an on-off switch on the battery pack.  So it’s best to place the battery pack where it can be easily reached.


Now that our greenhouse is almost finished, I am very eager to find the right lighting and have been imagining something involving old-fashioned, Edison-style filament bulbs.

I came across a strand of glass Christmas lights that gave me the look instantly.

Christmas Lighting Ideas Edison style vintage bulbs

I just love the industrial vibe they lend – perfect for a greenhouse.

Christmas lighting ideas Edison bulbs old fashioned

I will leave these lights in the greenhouse until I find permanent lighting.

Although they are marketed as Christmas lights, their simple design can easily work year-round.  I’m looking forward to using them in summer for evening garden parties.


Right before Thanksgiving, something unfortunate happened to my mother, Erika:  She walked into a store and was exposed to an excessive display of gaudy Christmas decorations, causing her to come down with an early case of “holiday overload.”

So she decided to take a year off from having a conventional Christmas tree.  Instead, she used some fresh, green branches from a curly willow and some small white lights to create this wintry look.

Christmas Lighting Ideas - winter tree

She placed a metal grid inside a large plastic pot to anchor the branches and then poured in sand to give the base some weight and to help keep the branches in place.

Since this is not a Christmas tree, she can keep this look long after the new year.  So “holiday overload” isn’t all bad.


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The Foraged Wreath

One of the many things I love about living in the Pacific Northwest is being able to find greens for holiday decorating right in my own garden.

An Easy DIY Christmas Wreath

It’s fun to make your own wreath, and it’s easier than it looks.

Where to Find The Greens

Often you can get free scraps of evergreen branches where Christmas trees are sold.  If you want more variety in your wreath, some nurseries also sell boughs of assorted evergreens and berries.

But I check my garden first for evergreen branches, berries, pinecones, and interesting mosses.

If you don’t have a garden, ask a neighbor or friend with one if they can spare a few cuttings.  If you don’t live in an area with evergreens, can you find other local greens or natural elements that would make an interesting wreath?

Materials and Supplies

To start with, you just need a wreath form, florist wire (found at craft stores), wire cutters, greens, and garden pruners.  Once your wreath starts to take shape, you will get a good sense of what other kinds of decorations you might want to add.

DIY Christmas Wreath - what you will need

Let’s Get Started

There are many ways to construct a wreath, and this is just my method.  I like to use drapey greens that hang nicely on either side of the wreath and meet at the bottom.

Cut the greens into about six-inch lengths and bundle them, at the cut ends, into small handfuls using the wire.

bundled greens
A handful of greens ready to be attached to the wreath form.

Securely attach the bundles to the wreath form at the cut ends using more wire.

Start at the bottom and work your way up, overlapping the greens you are adding over the ones already secured so that you are always hiding the wire from the previous bundle.  The wired cut ends should be up and the uncut loose ends pointing down.

Work your way to the top in this manner and then start again at the bottom and cover the other side, working your way up.

At the top, you will wind up with some wire showing, and this is a good place to put a bow or other decoration that covers those wires.

You can make your wreath as dense or as loose as you like, and with the wire you can add your other decorative elements.

My Wreath

This year I’m craving decorations that look natural and unpretentious, and it shows in my wreath.

DIY Christmas Wreath

One of these days I will make a wreath that is actually round and symmetrical.  But I just love a drapey, whimsical wreath.  I added large pinecones and longer greens at the bottom.

Small gold bells on wires are the only touch of glamour.  Now the wreath jingles softly as the door is opened.

wreath closeup

A Simple Garland

With a branch of the leftover greens, I made this garland.

DIY GarlandRight now I have a crush on these little white bells on jute twine, and I’ve been looking for ways to use them.

I tried them on the wreath, but they didn’t look right.  So making a wreath does involve a little experimentation, but that is all part of the fun.


I used my Fiskars Pruners for cutting the greens because they are very easy on my hands.  They are a great gift for any gardener, in fact these are going to someone on my Christmas list this year!

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Heidi’s December Plant Pick: Golden Euonymus

Golden Euonymus

With so many great shrubs that provide winter color and structure, it was tough to decide on one for my December plant pick.

But when I came across this striking Golden Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureomarginatus’), I knew I had a winner.

I’m not usually a huge fan of plants with variegated leaves.  But this beautiful combination of the soft buttery yellow with the dark green on shiny leaves can brighten any gloomy winter’s day.

Golden Euonymus

A Versatile Beauty

Golden Euonymus can thrive as a container plant on a porch or deck or it can be planted in the garden to add a splash of color.

For an even more striking display of color, it can be used as a hedge.

Un-sheared, it reaches about six feet in height and width.  But it tolerates shearing very well (although this should not be done in freezing weather).  It can be shaped to add structure to your garden or, if it’s in a container, to lend a more formal look.

Year-Round Color

Golden Euonymus is an evergreen shrub that looks beautiful all year.  The colors hold best if it’s planted in full sun, but it can tolerate part shade.


Golden Euonymus does well in hardiness zones 7-9.  It does need regular water and well-drained soil.  It tolerates salty soil and marine air.

Fertilize with a well-balanced fertilizer in spring.  This plant is fairly disease resistant and also deer resistant.

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