Perhaps I should actually make the title of this post, "You Know Your House is a Hot Mess When..." It's no secret that Alex and I have been a bit preoccupied over the last several months. Between our day jobs, Lulu's battle against cancer, subsequent surgery, then radiation, and now surgery for Mel this week to remove a cyst on his side, two teeth, and a mass in his mouth, we're finding it difficult to carve out time for our serious home renovation projects. But as most of us know, home ownership isn't just about remaking and improving spaces, it's also about maintaining your home and yard (no matter how small that yard may be).

We've both known that a lot of these maintenance items have been put on the back burner, but I suppose we were living in pure blissful denial that we'd eventually need to deal with them...well until last week, anyway. While in the guest room applying makeup and drying my hair reality was unapologetically thrust into my mid-morning face. (Wait a second, why am I using the guest room to ready myself, you might wonder? For the last several years, the guest room dresser has served as my make shift vanity while our master bath has been in a state of flux. Okay, back to my story.) During this time of markup application I heard a repeated SCRAPE, SCRAPE, SCRAPE noise coming from our alley area. 

Wondering what it is I might see, I peered out the window of the guest room to discover that a neighbor's handyman/gardener was in the alley adjacent to our home and was raking up the ivy and tree debris along our house and patio wall. While part of me was mortified that it had become such an eyesore that a neighbor stepped in to tackle it, the other part of me was relieved knowing that it would be done. I hope this doesn't make me a bad person/neighbor. Apparently our blight was just too much for them, and for that, I'm very sorry.

I sheepishly slipped through the back gate, thanked the gentleman for his time and efforts, and thrust a stack of wrapped sugar cookies in his hands as a gesture of my now unending gratitude. I then called Alex to tell him what had transpired, share a few choice words, then let off a little steam about the fact that we were now "that house in the neighborhood!" 

As much as I prefer that the events hadn't transpired, this was the wake up call I needed. This was enough to kick my tail into gear and I knew I needed to pay special attention to our front "yard" before some family of raccoons decided they'd had enough with our filth.

I use the term "yard" loosely as our house sits directly on the sidewalk, but we do have two planted urns and a small patch of garden surrounding the city tree out front. The urn arrangements were looking sparse, and were in need of a little cleaning up.

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I'm very excited to share a behind the scenes look at the making of a local lookbook. It combined two of my absolutely favorite things (Old Town and dressing up Lulu), along with a few things completely out of my normal comfort zone (getting gussied up and wearing very tall heels). If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you may have seen a few of the preview photos we were posting during a photo shoot for the Cobblestone Runway Lookbook.

At the expert hands of professional stylists, makeup artists, fashionistas, and other willing participants, they had this normally paint splattered girl looking cleaned up and almost unrecognizable.

Photo Credit: Alumbra Photography

Now let me tell you a little something about myself. I like to think of myself as a real trend setting fashionista, as comfortable on the catwalk as I am with a nail gun or paint roller. 

Wait a second, that's not right at all. In fact, it's perhaps one of the most egregious falsehoods I've ever uttered.

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The single most important aspect (out of many very important aspects) of a marble topped vanity is the seemingly simple responsibility of the vanity to provide a rigid support structure for the marble top. Without the necessary support structure, the heavy marble top will not be adequately supported and may crack under its own weight.

In the stone and tile world the amount of give allowed under a piece of stone is called deflection. And when you're using a natural stone product, your deflection is only allowed to be L/720 (complicated calculation of dead load + live load and the amount of allowed flex), lest you risk some cracking.

This need for minimal deflection has been a major challenge in our quest to convert an antique store find into a suitable vanity for our bathroom.

This is the point in a project where I get into my own head. I essentially cripple myself with thoughts on how I can make this work. Rather than jumping in and trying things out, I make excuses for why I shouldn't work on the project and instead obsess about how to properly accomplish what I need to accomplish.

This is my process, no matter how infuriating and counter productive it tends to be. It insights fury and threats of "hiring someone to just get the damn thing done" from my better half, and side-eye skepticism from the pets in our home. The thing is, as inconvenient and ridiculous as it is, this is my hideous personality and it seems to work for me. Ugh.

After sufficient deliberation in the vacant corners of my brain where I often become all too distracted by the dust bunnies and tumbleweed ideas I uncover (I haven't built that automatic door opener for the bedroom yet, maybe I should do that first), I came up with an adequate solution for support that should alter the structure of the vanity to offer sufficient support for our future marble top.

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Sometimes, you've just got to stop and smell the roses.

This famous saying seemed so much more popular and prevalent when I was growing up than it seems to be today, which is a bit ironic given that it likely applies much more today than when we were kids.

Whether it was the grandma saying it to her grandkids or muttered in a sarcastic tone while Elmer Fudd was being schooled by Bugs Bunny, the general feeling behind the sentiment is pretty straight forward. Life is full of amazing things, and if you're going 100mph all the time, you're going to miss a lot of those things you'd otherwise appreciate.

Today, in the digital age of multitasking smartphones and the 24x7 connection to social media, the worldwide collective have given rise to new terms meant to embrace the idea of stopping to smell the roses for the latest generation. Unfortunately, #YOLO and the likes sorely miss the point of the statement by focusing far more on the rush of the experience than the ability to slow down and appreciate it.

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While we're not the type of blog that spends a lot of time blogging about blogging, I wanted to share some of the major changes we've been making behind the scenes over the last week. Well, it's actually been a work in progress over the last several months, we just implemented it over the past week, so you can probably guess that I'm very nerd excited about it and want to fill you all in on the enhancements and features. Trust me, I'm under no delusions and know most if not all of you will find this utterly boring, but hopefully one or two people will say "damn, that's cool," while snort laughing and adjusting their horned rim glasses repaired with white tape.

The thing is, our blog is geared towards DIY, and while changes to the blog may not be exactly a home improvement related item, our blog is definitely DIY. I've mentioned this before, but we don't run our blog on a blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger, but instead a 100% custom programmed blogging platform that I built in ASP.NET a few years ago. (When I say I'm in IT, my background and interests lie in website and web application development.) So in the scope of our DIY geared website, this blog is about as DIY as most DIY blogs come.

Back when I built the blog I thought about things related to web development much differently. This was in about 2010 and the JavaScript revolution and mobile friendly responsive web design wave hadn't yet swept the world. In general, the blogging platform was decent, sufficient, and did the job it was meant to do, but it didn't do it in a particular graceful way. Our previous incarnation of the blog was bloated when it came to HTML and "page weight" (amount of data that had to be downloaded on each page load), slow, clunky, inefficient, error prone, and left a lot to be desired when it came to general usability. Without getting overly technical, our blog was the beater you see driving down the highway.

This month our blog will turn three years old, and late last year I figured it was high time to take a good hard look at our blog to figure out what could be improved or overhauled to better serve our needs and the needs of our readers. We'd had our slow and old blogging engine for long enough, and it was time I put in some effort to get with the times.

So what did we do besides essentially leave the whole old look and feel entirely intact? Well, a whole lot!

Our blogging engine is built on an ASP.NET Web Forms platform. The thing about Web Forms is that it adds a whole bunch of extra and largely unnecessary HTML and JavaScript, which pretty much just slows things down. So I went ahead and stripped it all out. Suddenly our page downloads were about half as big as they were previously. This included the removal of ASP.NET Ajax JavaScript, extra markup for validators, and the happy removal of the bloated and dreaded ViewState.

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