Preamble: 2015 was a busy year. I didn’t write much here—being busy and all—but I swear: we worked on the house. In fact, when I started to write this “2015 year-end review,” I quickly realized that 1) I had way too much ground to cover, and 2) nobody would ever want to read it all in one sitting. And so I divided the year-end review into multiple parts—enjoy! [Click here for Part I, “planting adventures” and here for Part II, “outdoor projects.”]

2015 may have been the year of a thousand tiny tasks. Aside from the big kitchen update, we’ve focused on smaller upgrades around the house. They can make a big difference.

One small upgrade that we’re somewhat obsessed with is changing outlets and light switches from the “double D” and toggle style to the rectangular or “decora” style.


(The Fimo plate cover in the “before” photo came with the house—I claim no responsibility.) There are two reasons we’re replacing them: One, the old ones were yellowed with age and soooo grubby—imagine 40+ years’ worth of finger smudges and errant wall paint. Two, lighting controls typically have a life expectancy of about 30 years so it’s past their time. We weren’t having problems, per se, with our light switches, but we did have problems with a couple outlets. (Blown fuses; you’ve been there.) These problem outlets were so old and brittle that they just broke into pieces when we removed them from the wall.


In key locations we are installing those nifty outlets with USBs, motion sensor lights, and dimmers. Motion sensors and dimmers—very fancy!


(The photo above includes a sneak peak into the living room, where I’ve been hard at work the past couple months. Update on that in my next post!) I prefer the white metal plate covers made by Mulberry, but found that the selection at Home Depot can be limited so I ordered our plate covers from Mr.Supply—if Mulberry manufactures it, they carry it. (Not an affiliate link.)

We’re sloooowly moving through the house and eventually we’ll get to them all. Who would have thought that fresh and clean outlets and light switches could bring such joy?

More details that bring joy: FLOOR REGISTERS. Floor registers are another unending task around here as we spiff things up, room by room. Our floor registers were in rough shape: rusty, dented, stuck in whatever open/close position. I first gave them a good scrubbing with hot water, a degreaser, a scrub brush, and Brillo pads. I let them dry out in the sun. (This is a warm sunny day project.) Then I spray painted the tops, going over them twice or thrice with light coats, and taking care to coat all the fins, and then finally WD-40ed the turn dials, working them back and forth, back and forth, until they turned easily.


(And….there’s another living room sneak peak for you.) I couldn’t do much about the dented fins, but once painted the dents were barely noticeable. The dining room and entry registers are now bronze, while the living room registers are now black. The difference in color is partly because of indecision, partly because I used what spray paint I had on hand…I like them both, though I like the black just a bit more.

And while we’re talking about duct work, I’ve also been cleaning out wall vents and, here, the fireplace fan. Look at all the change I found inside!! At least I get paid for my efforts.



Throughout the house there is evidence of destructive children having been in residence. Exhibit A: the door to the guest bedroom. It was covered with trails of hardened glue from what was—I’m guessing—a magazine collage. Since replacing bedroom doors is not in the cards at this time, it had to be fixed.

And so we took down the door and set it up on saw horses in the garage. I sanded it with a palm sander until the glue was gone. I then applied layers of stain until it matched the other side. Easy! Actually, the entire time I was sanding, my arm about to fall off because it was taking forever—I was using the finest grit possible so that I wouldn’t sand through the veneer—I was grumbling, “if I ever have a kid…[grumble, grumble]…who thinks it is okay to glue sh*t to a door, or carve their name into a door frame…[grumble, grumble]…they will learn about sand paper, and wood filler, and wood stains and restorers, and they will FIX the damage they’ve caused, and they will NEVER do it again!” [grumble, grumble]

Other doors have also had face lifts recently, but I’m going to save the gory details of those for future Big Reveals. And, unrelated, we’ve done a fair amount of crumbling-grout-scraping, and shower- and bathtub-caulking, but again, I’ll save all that fun until there’s something nice to show you…like—what do we have here?—this!


Before and After in one photo! This is the office ceiling above my desk. On the left is an old canister light (with separate light bulb); on the right is its replacement: an LED lightbulb and trim-in-one. On a whim at Home Depot I had picked up two EcoSmart Soft White Dimmable LED Downlights. When they were both installed we were all “hey now! Those awful canister lights which we were considering removing entirely—except that doing so would involve drywall repair and tears—can just be replaced, almost as easily as screwing in a light bulb, and holy moly such improvement!” Later, back in January, we were wandering through an Ace Hardware and happened upon a sale of similar lightbulb-and-trim-in-one fixtures, from a different brand (Feit), and with great excitement we ordered enough to replace all the canisters in our bedroom and sunroom, 20 in total. We’re, uh, still waiting on those to be delivered, so we’re keeping our excitement in check.

I’m going to wrap up now—and reward you for your patience—with one more sneak peak, this time of the stained glass I’m making for the windows on either side of the front door.