It seems like just yesterday that we left the NICU at Akron Children’s Hospital. I have very many mixed memories of that place. Some of the scariest times of my life happened behind those walls and some of the happiest.
In the midst of a dark time we did our best to make the NICU home. Years ago I bought an art print that says, “Home is wherever I’m with you.” (Yes, it was bought from Urban Outfitters and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were popular…ok now listening to them on repeat).
Since our marriage, Dustin and I have moved six times. It’s funny to add “NICU” to that list. We spent most nights there but spent 17 at Ronald McDonald House and once a week at home to rest up. I plan on writing a lot more about making the NICU home and our experiences there. In the meantime, enjoy this video I took near the end of our stay. You can tell Bella is much more stable and is even in an open cot!
One of the biggest things I loved/hated about our home were the hardwood floors. I loved that the ugly, nasty, smelly carpet was gone, but I hated that the wood floor left behind had discoloration, stains, and a lot of water damage. I tried to overlook it and we didn’t invest in the floor being refinished for about a year. It was a good practice in patience.
We knew that having the floors refinished would be expensive, so we hoped to do them ourselves. After doing LOTS of research and asking others, we decided to have a company do it for us professionally. We hired Cardinal Flooring who had done some of our friend’s homes in the area. They were a Christian-based company and they gave us a good quote. Our entire house (all floors, closets, and stairs) would be $2,500. This is a BIG amount of cash, but we were certain that we would see the money back when we sold the home. Did I mention it NEEDED done?
I made sure to take lots of “before” pictures. Here are some of them:
The previous owner had caulked the window closed and water had gotten between the wall and onto the floor. The water damage looked more extensive than it was, but it was still super ugly. When friends came over, I tried to hide this ugly-ness. But, it was what it was, we were in the middle of the process.
Upstairs there was this massive stain. Later, we found out what it was. (Long story short, an elderly woman fell and laid here for a few days. She was found and taken to a nursing home, but she had urinated and it ate through the wood. Yuck.)
Above: general damage from water/use.
We had left all the paint splatters on the floor as well. We had hoped we would sand them away. Later, I was embarrassed when we hired out the project. The men didn’t even blink and said the sander would get it all. It did indeed! A few more pics of before:
We knew after talking to Cardinal Flooring that it would be best if we weren’t in the home while they were working. It would be more expensive if we needed to break the project up. So, we stayed at my dad’s house and closed our three cats into the basement. The trickiest part was getting all of our belongings off the hardwood floors! It was like tetris! Between the kitchen, the basement, and the bathroom, we shoved all of our closet contents and furniture into the spaces.
Yep, that’s my wedding dress in the bathtub!
Our mattress was shoved into the small bathroom.
The first step of the 3-4 day process was the sanding. The men came and got to work. Within hours the entire house looked different. The wood was sanded down and looked amazing. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The floors looked brand new.
I’ll admit, we were tempted to keep the natural wood color. All the stains and discoloration was gone. The men also patched up the water damage. They offered to keep the stain light, but I knew from lots of Pinterest searching I wanted a dark wood stain.
The main man on the project brought out different stains and swatched them for us. I was a little back and forth, but in the end, knew what I wanted. The man was pained to see us cover the beautiful wood, but we felt it would make a dramatic, modern aesthetic. (It ended up being a great choice). We left, and let them do their magic.
What’s the darkest you have?
Do you see where the water damage had been under the window? It’s gone!
Awkward large stain from elderly woman’s urine? GONE! It looks pristine!
My mom had to help me wipe down the walls/other stuff. There was a ton of dust, but not as bad as I imagined. Cardinal put two layers of clear polyurethane. The smell wasn’t too bad, but I’m glad we didn’t sleep there. We couldn’t walk on the floors for a few days. We snuck in and visited the kitties and made sure they had food/water.
At the end, we were shocked. This was one of the best investments we could’ve made into our property. I was very happy with the stain color as well. Many people said it was a bad choice, but once they saw it, were convinced it looked great. The only bummer was we had to re-paint all the baseboards. This was tricky because we had to protect our nice, new floors. Cardinal Flooring said to only use warm water to mop the floors. I’ve stuck to this and they still look great! We get many compliments and have referred three people already. (Not everyone went as dark as us.) My sister is remodeling a farm home in Plymouth, Ohio and had her downstairs done for $1,500. They look great as well!
When we woke up at The Park Vista in Gatlinburg on Sunday, June 5th, we decided to head down to the awesome pool! There is a big waterslide and two different tiers to the pool. (My little sister stayed here on her honeymoon!) The entire space is held in a large open-window building and it’s very warm in there. It’s one of my favorite pools to go when in the Smokies.
When no one was looking we took turns going down on the waterslide our stomachs and laughing a lot. It was a pretty fast slide. Afterwards, we ran back to the room, got ready, and were on our way.
Instead of heading straight to our bed and breakfast in Waynesville, North Carolina, we drove down the hill and hit the main strip in Gatlinburg. There are all different types of shops and quirky attractions.
Dustin described it as a weird fair that happens all year long.
Gatlinburg is one of those places that you either love or hate. I’ve been coming here since I was an itty bitty girl so I have fond memories here. We vacationed a lot in the area around with both sets of my grandparents. I love the odd shops like the Beef Jerky outlet and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. It also doesn’t hurt that the scenery is beautiful.
The Donut Friar, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
It was raining. That put a damper on our day. Most of the shopping is outside. So we ate at Subway and then walked around to the different shops. I insisted we stop at The Donut Friar. This shop has THE BEST donuts in the world. Dustin later said he wasn’t impressed.
I almost murdered him.
He got to eat much more than I did. I only had a little bite because of my new diet.
Each donut is made fresh in the morning and the little shop is located in The Village. There is also a lovely coffee shop right down the way but the line was too long and we had to get going.
Other places we visited included random shops, bootleggers homemade wine shop, and the moonshine distillery. Both offer free samples, which is really neat. We don’t drink a lot, but don’t mind having a try while on vacation. Our favorite was the Strawberry Wine and Java Moonshine! I also bought a bright pink sweatshirt for $10 that says “Gatlinburg.” Dustin thought it looked kinda silly because it was so bright but I loved it!
Clingman’s Dome, Great Smokey Mountains National Park
With the donut as our energy (JK, we actually ate a healthy lunch), we drove up to Clingman’s Dome. This is part of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and is located at the top of a mountain. You drive up the mountain and then go on a narrow road. At the top there is a small visitor’s center, port-a-pots, and a 1/2 mile hike to the top. On this day, it was very rainy and foggy. In fact, when we got to the place to park we couldn’t even see out. I remembered coming here as a girl and it was really awesome. Unfortunately we didn’t get a peek at the sights the entire time.
Even though it was sleeting we decided to hike to the top. It was only 1/2 mile so it couldn’t be hard, right? Oh my! It was a challenge. It was straight up the entire time. My legs were very tired and I had to stop a few times. It was frustrating because I’ve been working out and trying to get in shape. But, we made it to the top and it didn’t take too long, just a few short breaks.
The dome itself is pretty neat. Once you’re at the top you’re supposed to be able to see over 100 miles on a good day. For us, we could only see a few feet. It was foggy and cold. We still enjoyed the physical challenge though…and met some Christians who were climbing to the top to praise Jesus. That was really cool. We got back in the car and went on our way to Waynesville, North Carolina which took us about an hour and a half from Gatlinburg.
The Yellow House Bed and Breakfast, Waynesville, North Carolina
Shawn, the host, showed us to our room which was located inside the main house. Last year when we stayed we stayed in a separate suite by the upper pond. (CLICK HERE to see our trip last year.) The room we had picked this time was the Montecito. The room was lovely. The bed was super cozy and I loved the decor.
I liked that the room had charm but felt modern and super neat. The room was located on the second floor. Like last year, Shawn showed us around and made sure we knew where the snacks in the butler’s pantry were. Dustin made sure to get lots of fresh cookies. I wasn’t feeling too great and neither was Dustin when we arrived. We had some snacks at the wine and cheese reception but then headed back to our room. Surprisingly, we stayed in the room the entire night. I had thought we’d go to The Sweet Onion, a restaurant I loved from last time, but it was closed since it was a Sunday.
I took a bath and put on one of their cozy robes. We ate some food we brought in the room and also had some snacks that were free. The mini fridge was stocked with drinks, which was a nice touch. I loved the included bath salts which smell so heavenly. Some of the games we played were Chinese Checkers and 3/13.
In the evening we turned on the fireplace. I loved sitting in the big overstuffed floral chair and reading. So did Dustin. Our room also had a coffee maker so we made some tea for me and coffee for him. It was very relaxing and cozy.
I think we were both shocked when we went to bed at 10:30pm! (There are no TV’s in the rooms. There is wifi, but you’re encouraged to just connect with others).
Another cool aspect of the room was that there was music playing through a sound system that’s wired throughout the house. You can turn it off or up/down. I liked the jazz and classical sounds. It made the experience feel extra special. We had our own private bath and toilet which was nice as well.
Our room was rounded and there were windows all around the bed. You can see in this image where the room was:
Our bed was between the three windows in the back which are poking out. It was adorable. The next morning we awoke for breakfast on the patio and a full day in Asheville!
Easter and Spring is officially right around the corner! As the weather is warming up and my coffee order turns from hot to iced, my mind is on bright colors and outdoor fun. I don’t think you’re ever too old for gifts and bright colors. For this fun DIY, I decided to mix both. With some of my girlfriends in mind, I made these “Mason Jar Easter Friend Gifts.” Every single thing I purchased was found at the Dollar Tree and they only took a few minutes to put together. The best part in my opinion? The mason jars have glass handles so they’re more like summer mugs – perfect for iced drinks in the warmer weather.
I began with some adorable mason jar mugs I bought. I didn’t bother to remove the sticker on the bottom. I’m not as OCD as some other DIYers.
Next, I thought about what would go in my adorable Easter basket-esque Mason Jars. Along with the traditional candy, I wanted to add some items my friends could use everyday. I also wanted to keep the colors the same to make it look extra cool. My main focus was on a yellow, bright gift. I made sure each item I purchased had a yellow option. I bought:
-Neon mini gel pens
I figured the girls could always use writing utensils, the paper straws would be perfect for the mason jar glasses, and your hair always needs to be put back in the warmer weather so the elastic bands were the perfect touch. I also kept in mind the size of the jars and the size of the bright Easter eggs I purchased.
It was a little bit of a struggle to find yellow candy! I picked M&Ms, Butterfingers, and Juicy Fruit. Other candy not pictured included Sixlets, Taffy, and candy necklaces.
Of course you can’t have a gift that’s inspired by Spring/Easter without this fake grass stuff! I began by stuffing some in the bottom of the glasses.
You may need to take a pencil or longer object to stuff it in.
Once all the fake grass is in, it’s up to you and your creativity to fill the jar up with color coordinated/or not so coordinated items.
I thought a yellow elastic hair tie would work well in the smaller yellow Easter eggs.
I also had a little yellow gel pen ready after placing some paper straws (aren’t they cool) and a neon yellow pencil in.
The candy was ready, too!
Silly kitty, this gift isn’t for you!
If an item doesn’t match the color scheme, like these Sixlets, I placed them in a yellow egg!
Once the jar is filled, it’s ready for giving! After I was done, I realized a little tag that says “For You” would be really nice. I added more fake yellow grass and made sure there was no empty space in the jar. What a cup of sunshine!
I had planned to do three filled with yellow items, but I remembered my one friend loved pink. Since I had a lot of pink items…I went ahead and did a different color theme!
Hot pink rules. I placed the hair tie inside the pink egg. Don’t you love the mini gel pen?
It doesn’t matter if you’re 10 or 30…Disney Princesses rock. So do candy bracelets. My bestie Jess will love this.
I didn’t have pink grass, but you still get the idea of the color scheme. To make this gift more personalized you could write the recipient’s name in sharpie on the cup.
Behind the scenes picture…the kitty loved bedding down on the fake grass.
Since the mason jars didn’t have a ton of room, I had extra supplies. I thought outside of the “Easter basket box” and used little clear plastic punch cups for mini baskets. These will be given to a few of our family members.