Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

I don’t do Spring Cleaning


I actually don’t do much cleaning at all. Just enough that we don’t live in total filth. I don’t like to clean. I don’t even do it very well. I do the regular required things but the above and beyond spring cleaning stuff? Nope. Base boards only get scrubbed when they start looking like a different color than they were meant to be. Walls never get scrubbed – I just vacuum cobwebs when they become apparent. Windows get cleaned when I notice they exist (meaning dirty enough that they are slightly obscuring my view of the outside world). But I do occasionally make up for those short falls by doing other things. I’ve been tackling neglected projects this week.

It all started when we finally got our TV off the end table it had been perched on for the past 18 months. The DVR, Xbox, and DVD player were piled underneath. It was klassy. But when we moved the TV, we couldn’t decide what to put on the wall above the TV. None of our art worked. We looked at some wrought iron pieces and some metal scutlpure but none were It. We still haven’t found The Piece…but we will some day. For now, I found some mirrors at Ikea that will work as a place holder. BUT. But. They required a t-square, level, and math to hang. Steve didn’t get to it as fast as I wanted so I did it. And now they are driving me insane. The top left one is just a smidge too low. And the third one on the bottom won’t stay straight on its nail. All I do is stare at them. (And there will be some major spackle required when we take them down. I might have had to redo several. Or a lot.)

(I’m also currently in love with Instagram which was finally released for Android.)


One my friends and board members for Small Comforts, Joy, organized a yard sale to benefit Small Comforts – we made $1000! So exciting! We will put some of it toward our IRS 501c3 application fees. The rest will likely go toward some initial printing costs and getting some bags going. The yard sale and a small shopping trip to Old Navy prompted me to start cleaning out our walk in closet which has been clogged with boxes since we moved in. Just when I was about to get them unpacked, we decided we were moving. Now that the move is off, we can finally start living here. So our closet is lovely! Just need to install a few more shelves on 1 wall for shoes and sweaters.


I’ve hated our door since we moved in. The screen doors are ugly and don’t fit well. The front door was ok but the grid on the windows was never painted and had turned a funky yellowish color and the door was putty white. Just blah. We are in the process of ordering new storm doors for the front and back doors (goodbye tax return). And it is a process. You can buy a gun faster than a screen door. I picked out the door I wanted. It had bright, shiny, ugly brass hardware but the picture showed brushed nickel was available. The guy tells us that nickel hardware is a custom order and an extra $40. Custom? Really? For the only option that is slightly in fashion at this point? No one has wanted shiny brass since 1989. And the custom factor means they have to come our and measure for the door before they will order it – another $35. After they come out and measure, we have to return to the store to order the door and sign a contract. So because I don’t want my door to look like I ordered it in the 80’s, it will cost me another $75, require another trip to the store, and take an additional 2-3 weeks. Thanks Pella and Lowe’s. That makes me a happy customer (where is that damned sarcasm font when I need it?).

I decided new storm doors deserved a decent looking front door. I was going to paint it white but our house is rather blah outside – pale grey with white trim. I wanted the door to pop. I thought about red but everyone has a red door now. So I went deep purple. I still have to do another coast and touch up the white.


Around Thanksgiving, the cold water faucet in my powder room started dripping. I knew what the problem was – a part that was impossible to track down for a cheap builder’s faucet. Another faucet did the same thing last year. That time, I called the handyman we use for repairs and he replaced it. He is fabulous but I try to have a list of things for him to do when he comes since he charges by the hour and the first hour is pretty steep. I decided we could do it ourselves. We bought a faucet and it sat in the closet. The drip became a stream and I had to turn the cold water off completely. Steve didn’t want anything to do with it so I finally decided it was up to me. I watched You Tube videos and read the directions in the box. I bought a basin wrench and new supply lines. I started the job. No one told me how much of plumbing is brute strength. I did the faucet without any real problem but the supply lines weren’t come loose for anything. Steve tried. Not budging. So old supply lines stayed and were connected to new faucet. It works. No leaks. I was ridiculously proud.





One of these things is not like the others


Several of you have asked how the sale of the house is going.  I haven’t talked about it here because there isn’t much to say.  We’ve had dozens of showings and 2 open houses (with a 3rd scheduled).  Realtors love the house – several have said it is one of the best houses in town and the price point is perfect. Don’t! Change! A! Thing! But. But the buyers aren’t in agreement.  We apparently have 3 problems. Problem the first: it isn’t across the main road in the other town.  Now I wasn’t aware of that the other town was more prestigious. Heck, I’m not sure where one ends and the other begins.  Second problem: new construction resumed here in January and because of our price point we are only about $20K less than a new build. The floor plans aren’t as nice but the appliances and house aren’t 9 years old and you get to pick your finishes.  I get that.  Lastly, the outside of our house isn’t they look they are seeking.  We loved the fact that it doesn’t look like every other house in the county in town.  It isn’t the style that I might have chosen if I was building but I have no issues with the pretend farmhouse-ish look.  But people want brick (ours is Hardy board which is as durable as brick) and fake columns and weird little porticoes.   These photos are taken from my front yard.  With slight differences in style and amounts of brick, they are representative of what most houses in the neighborhood/town/county look like.

Nothing wrong with them. Pretty standard. Here is my house.

Please to forgive the lack of landscaping…was planning to do it this summer but since it isn’t going to by mine I lost the motivation. Plus these are the MLS photos from before we bought the house.

There are 4 houses in the neighborhood like ours. They were going to be models for a new phase but that phase was scrapped and they went back to the brick houses.  So ours does stick out. I never dreamed that would be a bad thing but no fewer than 4 buyers have specifically said they hate the outside.

I don’t show you this so you will all tell me my house is pretty. I like my house and know there is nothing wrong with it. But different strokes for different folks and all that.  Apparently, we just need to have a little patience and eventually someone will come along who loves our house as much as we do.  And for those who’ve asked why we don’t just rent it out and go north – well, I don’t want to do that for a long list of reasons. Also, my husband’s parents are graciously allowing him to stay with them in Pittsburgh so we aren’t having the cost of maintaining 2 households.  If we leave, at some point we will end up paying rent and mortgage or 2 mortgages and I don’t need new ulcers.

Bottom line is: No news is…no news.  The girls and I are here until we sell the house unless Steve and I come up with a game plan that doesn’t end with us living in a van down by the (Monongahela) river. If we are still here at the first of the year, there are a couple of additional things we are prepared to discuss to get things moving. For now, Steve works from home 1 week each month and the other 3 weeks the girls and I are on our own.  The summer was really hard for us but now that school has started it has gotten easier. The girls have their days filled and I get a few hours each week to myself. As time has marched on, I think the girls have adjusted better to this separation than Steve and I have.  It is their new normal and, while they don’t like it, they are troopers.

Those aren’t crickets, they are locust*


Been rather quiet around here, eh?  Sorry about that.  The girls and I have been enjoying time with Steve before he moves north next weekend.  So as my friend, Carla, would say – I’ve been busy living not blogging.  I also spent 3 solid days making it look like no one lived in my house so that it could go on the market.  It was a very frustrating, overwhelming, irritating task.  But we officially went on the market Sunday.  And we removed most evidence of us living here.

Have you ever seen kitchen counters so clear?

And it is rare to not see crumbs and toys strewn about this area:

And this poor dining room looks like it needs some people and some personality!

Why yes, it did take me cleaning the house within an inch of its life and putting it on the market to get around the sharing photos of my house that were requested 6 months ago. Heh.

My feelings about strangers tramping through my house, judging it, and finding it lacking aside, all is well here.  The girls are unsure of exactly what is going on but we’ve been talking in tentative terms about maybe selling the house and maybe moving closer to grandma and pap-pap.  They don’t see the bigger implications of it yet but they are excited about living closer to grandparents and aunts and uncles.

Some of our friends have become an important part of our lives and my girls will miss them. I am thankful to have found people who care about my kids at a time we were far away from family.

*The 13 year cicadas are out in our area.  It is rather deafening in many places.

Color me undecided


The girls are going to spend a little more than a week with their grandparents in Pittsburgh after school is out.  (Why yes, half of me is jumping for joy and half of me is sobbing at the thought.)  This leaves me with a brain full of possibilities.  All of the things we can do without having to consider short people.  A few of the possibilities don’t even include dates with my husband or sleeping late.  One thought I’ve been toying with is slapping a little paint on my kitchen walls.

We didn’t paint anything before moving in because 1) the whole house had been painted prior to putting it on the market and 2) I didn’t want to.  When we bought our house in Pittsburgh, we spent months with paint brushes in our hands.  It left me with a strong desire to never paint another wall.  Ever.  Ever.  Never.  Ever.  So I convinced Steve that we should live with all of the colors in the house for awhile before making any decisions.  Most of the colors are quite pleasant.  There isn’t a speck of builder’s beige.  And while there are several colors, most end up reading pretty neutral so it isn’t a crayola box in here.  But.

BUT…the kitchen has been wearing on me.  It is so…brown.  Brown floor.  Brown cabinets.  Brown walls. Take a look (the first is one of the MLS photos before we bought it):

The kitchen and living room are both the same mocha brown – the second looks truer to color to me.  I just can’t take it anymore. I want to pay someone to paint it.  A child free week would be the perfect time to complete this task. That leaves me with the question – what color?  I want to do it green.  But unless you are a man and only see 1 shade of green, that narrows it down to 3,547 choices.  And I’m afraid green won’t mesh well with the yellow in the dining and sun rooms.  So here is where you all come in.  I know colors are hard to capture on computer monitors and with cameras but give me some thoughts here oh blog readers with fabulous taste (you must have fabulous taste since you read my lovely blog).    Here are my attempts at capturing the yellow in different lights with the swatch (lime sorbet) that I’m considering.

(Last one is another MLS photo.)

It is a warm (almost mustardy but not that brown) yellow with just a slight tinge of green undertone in certain lights.

Other colors we are considering for the kitchen are a very light periwinkle or very light aqua (toward the green family).  I want a color that is light(ish) and cool to brighten things up in there.  HELP!  Does this paint swatch look like it might work or I am completely off base?  And if it sucks, what would work?  I’m usually pretty good at this but for some reason I’m finding it difficult with this open floor plan.

Favorite view


I’ve been slow to share photos of the new house – mostly because it feels like such a work in progress.  But I realized that it will likely be in progress for the next decade.  Our wish list of things to do and things to buy/replace is at least a decade long.  I was thinking about what to share and decided I would share my favorite view in the house.

It is the view from my shower.  There is no rhyme or reason but this view just makes me feel happy.  I like that I can see the window from the shower.  I like the little plantation shutters on that window (I keep them tilted so that no one is subjected to a view of me better left private).  I like seeing my happy flowers in my colorful vases that used to sit on my kitchen window in my last house and sat in my living room window in our house in Pittsburgh. Maybe it is because the shower is one of the few places I’m not often bothered.  I usually shower while the girls are in bed so I am left alone.  (On the weekends when they aren’t in bed, they come in and stare at me and I suddenly feel like a fish in an aquarium must feel.)

While our bathroom isn’t anything special, it is the nicest and largest bathroom I’ve ever had.  I like the separate shower and tub.  I like the empty floor space that has me daydreaming of some type of interesting furniture to use for linens.  There are things I find odd – there were no hooks or towel bars when we moved in,  there is no medicine cabinet, and no linen closet.  (Our first 2 home improvement purchases were a new shower head and some towel bars.)  And those glass doors are a b*tch to keep clean.  But I still smile when I stand in my shower and look out the window.

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Kitchen Excess


Okay, okay, I’ll start showing some of the house even though it is all still a work in progress.  I’ve gotten several emails professing great curiosity.  I have to admit to loving my kitchen.  It isn’t the most efficient set up – I would re-arrange things like putting the cooktop in an island to make it more central.  I also wouldn’t choose granite counters – especially black because they always look streaky.  But with all the space I could possible want, I can’t complain.  And after 2 1/2  years of being blocked off from the rest of the house when I’m in the kitchen, I love that it is open to the living room and our office area.  I look forward to having a table in our eat in area so that I can see the girls while I am making breakfast and lunch for them but I haven’t found one that I like and can afford yet.  (Please excuse that I didn’t clean my counters off – keeping it real.)

I blurred the counter in the butler’s pantry because there is some mail and items with our names on it.

So there you have it – a peak into my new kitchen.  It actually isn’t my favorite spot in the house (but it’s close)…I’ll have to take some more photos to share soon.  And yes, I feel like a shameless show-off for those who know it makes me uncomfortable to own such a great house.

And for those who don’t care about houses (seriously – doesn’t everyone love looking at photos of houses? LOL), a rare photo of my children standing still, together, looking toward the camera.

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

For a minute.  I started having visions of Tessa pulling on the stockings and those heavy stocking holders crashing down on her head.  I got nervous and took them down.  Maybe next year.

The tree is trimmed.  (The photos are more for my own record than your enjoyment because other peoples trees all start to look the same, don’t they?)

For those who have been asking for more house pictures…I’ve heard you but there isn’t much exciting to showcase right now.  The tree is currently in our empty eat in dining area.

Tessa is wearing some of her holiday finery.  And you’ll notice all of the photos/prints in the  background waiting to be hung so you see…we are still a work in progress.  One of these days I’ll take some more photos.  Once things are more settled.

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My old friend Murphy


Anyone else think all she needs is a sweatshirt hanging off her shoulder to complete the Flash Dance vibe? (Also a haircut.)

Tessa had a grand time today at a holiday craft event.  Although most of the fun was running around while holding an ornament. (That is an adult t-shirt she is wearing for a paint smock not a weird outfit.)


Three weeks after we moved into our house in Pittsburgh,  the hot water heater went kablooey.

The apartment we rented when we first moved to Nashville – no problems.  The house we rented when we moved to this suburb had only 1 maintenance issue while we were there – the ice maker…who cares?

We have officially lived in the new house for 3 weeks.   On Sunday, we all went to Home Depot to buy, among other things, a new garage door remote opener.  We only received one when we bought the house and Steve thought it might be nice to have one since he, you know, lives here too.  We pulled out of the driveway, I pushed the button on my remote, the door closed.  We returned and pushed the button, nothing.  Pushed the button again, nothing.  Huh.  We went in the front door and pulled the release arm on the opener to open the door manually.  Nothing.  Couldn’t budge the door.  Huh.  Called the garage door guy and he immediately diagnosed it.  (The huge spring thingie broke in half and a steel cable on one of the side pulleys broke.  Steve wanted to know which happened first.  I don’t know.  Chicken and the egg – doesn’t matter…just make it work.)  So tomorrow I have the privilege of paying for our first home repair in several years.  Fun stuff.

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Boo and stuff


We went to a little Halloween party last night and trick or treated with friends.  A good time was had by all.  I will say that letting my children run around, in the dark, when hoards of other kids are running amok, in the dark, while disguised gave me a few moments of feeling anxious because I lost sight of one for a moment.

After about 2 blocks, we called it a night.  (We didn’t want them to collect too much – I gave out some of last year’s Halloween candy this year to our trick or treaters because candy is a rare treat for the girls.  They get to pick a treat a day the first week after Halloween…after that it goes into a communal bowl that is then given out as an occasional treat.)  This was the first year Sabrina anticipated Halloween and the first year Tessa went trick or treating so it was fun.

In other news, we spent 4 hours cleaning out the old house, scrubbing it down, etc on Saturday and turned in our keys.  All of our stuff now resides in one place.  My hands are raw from the mix of chemicals I used to clean different areas of the house.  But it is nice to be done with that.

Nice to be done with the process but a little sad to leave that house – only a little.  We didn’t love the house but it is the only home Sabrina remembers and the only place Tessa has known.  So many firsts and celebrations happened there.  When we closed the garage door for the last time we said “Goodbye house.  Thanks for taking such good care of us for so long.”  And off we went.

We are still waiting for the new house to feel like home.  We love it and are comfortable here…it just isn’t ours yet.  We need to hang some more things.  Unpack some more things.  Figure out where everything is.  Be able to find the light switches in the dark.  And we probably need to spill some things on the carpet – with children is anything ever truly yours until you’ve spilled on it?  But it feels good here so I know it will make its way into our hearts quickly.

The girls continue to love the play set best of all…with the play room as a close second.

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Dull, boring update…move along


This post is for the people who’ve asked how things are coming along…the rest of you will find it horribly dull so feel free to move along.

We actually did some relaxing this weekend – we were pooped.  As a result, we didn’t get nearly as much done as we should have at this point.  We’ve started some lazy decorating.  Leaning artwork instead of hanging it:

And instead of painting the girls rooms, personalizing with wall decals.  Tessa’s room is a lovely yellow to begin with – she chose Dora.

Sabrina’s room is a neutral gray…I was going to paint it but decided to wait a year until I feel like it she is able to really give some input.  She chose The Princess and the Frog.

This photo is for my BFF who insists on bragging about her pre-school and its great communication.  (D – a plethora of kitchen cabinets AND a luxurious bathroom.)

I don’t normally decorate much for holidays outside of Christmas other than putting those gel clings on the window for the girls but I found these glowing cat eyes in a catalog and thought they would be seriously cool in our windows.  They are hard to get a good photo of…without flash:

With flash:

But they are a little disturbing from the inside in the morning when I wake up (these are my bedroom windows):

Totally worth it if I scare the bejezus out of some kids this Halloween.

And this has nothing to do with anything but it made me laugh when someone posted it on FaceBook last night.  My kindergarten class:

I’m on the right with the white hair and mustard yellow shirt.

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