As soon as we moved into our house in October I knew I wanted built-in bookcases to flank our fireplace in the living room.  I priced custom built ones and nearly puked at the price.  Then I looked at Ikea.  They were in our price range, but I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of all of the composite materials instead of wood.  I did a sketch of what I wanted and showed my dad.  He was planning something similar for his living room.  He said if I paid for the materials, he would help me build custom ones.  Chris and I got some Lowe’s gift cards for Christmas; we decided to use them for bookcase materials.  My dad and I got to work in January.

It was a ton of work–many early mornings on weekends.  It was totally worth it though.  We now have custom, childproof bookcases that hold books, pictures, electronics and other odds and ends.

I’m just going to post a bunch of pictures about the process.  If you’re not into posts with tons of pictures, I suggest coming back another day.  Otherwise, enjoy!


A before shot, wires everywhere and cheap walmart bookcases. Notice the precarious cable box and blu-ray player balanced on books on top of another walmart bookcase….oh and right next to the baby’s toys. NOT SAFE!

When I mentioned how precarious the current setup was, and how Bitsy was starting to pull up, my dad immediately jumped to high gear to get the shelves done.  “If it is for my Bitsy’s safety, then we’ll do it!” He loves his granddaughter so much, melts my heart!


My dad in Lowes. We spent THREE HOURS there one Saturday; finalizing plans, sketching, and ultimately buying the supplies.


We used kitchen cabinets for the base of the bookcases. I wanted the bottom half to have doors so it would be safer for Bitsy and it could hide tv/cable/internet wiring. I primed and painted them during the week using the same white paint we used for all the trim in the living room.
***that nasty orange color was there when we moved in. it is getting painted over ASAP. I cannot stand it!

During the week while I was painting at my house, my dad built the shelf parts at his house.  We decided to put standards in so that the shelves would be adjustable.  Chris and I decided that we wanted beadboard in the back instead of just the wall.  This allowed for additional support straps to be put in behind the beadboard.


On the weekend we put the bookcases together.

The shelves are attached to the floor, the wall behind and the wall next to them.  My dad said that if we were to get a tornado, the shelves wouldn’t go anywhere!  He also used a spade bit to drill a hole in the side of the shelf at the same level as the wires coming from the tv over the fireplace.   He used the same bit to do holes in the lower two shelves and down through the cabinet.  There are outlets on the wall in the cabinet part.  Before we put the cabinets in, we cut holes for the outlets.  The wires go down the back of the shelves and into the cabinet.  I love not having to see them!

Once the shelves were completely installed, we trimmed them out with moulding.  All of the edges are trimmed up to give them a nice finished look.  We used a nail gun, then filled in the holes with wood putty before priming and painting.  My dad’s catchphrase is “putty and paint make up for the carpenter I ain’t!” Totally true, the shelves are far from perfect, but the putty and paint hide the flaws!


When everything was put together all that was left to do was paint!

We did one coat of primer and two coats of paint.  I have to admit, we splurge on paint.  I used to use cheaper paint, but it always ended up costing more time and money because I had to touch up, or use more…just not worth it.  Now I always go to Village Paint in Scotia.  Yes, it does cost more.  But it is so worth it!  The staff is amazingly helpful and the product is high quality (and no, they aren’t paying me to say so!).


The finished product!

TaDa!  The finished bookcases!  Once the white paint was dry, I touched up the grey on the walls.  I also put the hardware on the doors of the cabinets.  We already had all of the decor on the shelves and the mantle; I just looked around on pinterest to get inspiration to stage them.  They were finished just a couple of weeks before Valentine’s day, so that’s why there are so many hearts! When Chris came home from work and saw the finished product for the first time, he was very impressed.  He said “Look at all those books…it actually makes us look smart!”  Ha!



I’ve been struggling to figure out the identity of this blog.  This is the fourth iteration of it.  I hope this one sticks.  On my drive home from work this afternoon, I was reflecting on the crazy path that had lead me to that drive…that drive home from the job I said I would never do again after I left a similar one almost 4 years ago, to the same suburban town I used to hate, to the house I didn’t think we could afford, to a husband and a 10 month old that I never could have imagined.  

When I was studying career development theory in graduate school, happenstance theory was my favorite.  I loved it because it was basically the theory that nothing is in your control.  I thought it was so crazy.  Essentially, it says that the catalyst for an individual’s career development is coincidences.  Every person’s life is a series of coincidences that lead the person to a career.  It frustrated me; as a counselor studying this theory, how was I supposed to use it help clients grow in and plan their careers?  We moved on to planned happenstance, which made me feel a little better.  At least with planned happenstance there was a concerted effort to put oneself in the right place at the right time in order to “encourage” such coincidences.  

If you asked me 4 years ago where I would be in the spring of 2014, I would not have told you this.  Slightly over four years ago I was about to give up on online dating when I stumbled upon Chris’ profile.  A chance encounter with the father of an old high school friend a few weeks later led me to graduate school to become a school counselor.  

Then Chris and I decided to get married and made a 5 year plan.  Live in an apartment, save money for a downpayment on a house, pay down student loans, get tenure, and then think about a house and a baby.  

That brilliant plan lasted for about the first 5 weeks of our marriage.  I found out I was pregnant 5 weeks to the day after we got married.  Before I became a mom, I said I would never be a SAHM.  I said I would never breastfeed once my baby got teeth.  Now I stay at home 4 days a week and just work part-time.  I plan on breastfeeding until Bitsy’s 1st birthday.  

I used to think that I could plan it all out.  If I followed a prescribed path, my life would unfold neatly in front of me.  There were certain steps and milestones that, once met, would allow me to effortlessly progress towards the end goal.  

Now I find myself in a place where I never could have imagined myself.  Doing things I never though myself capable of.  I always wanted a family and a house, I never thought I would have both of those things by the age of 26.  A series of coincidences and chance encounters combined with a whole lot of perseverance and faith have led me here.  Time and chance have shown me that even though my life might not be folding out in front of me the way I planned, it is a pretty darn good life.  

Lentil and Quinoa Chili for a Lenten Supper

It’s Lent and we are Catholic.  That means no meat on Fridays.  I’ve got gluten and wheat sensitivity, so that adds another level of complication. Oh, and we’re broke so we can’t really afford fancy fish.  I have been totally stuck about what to cook for dinner on Fridays.  I have been wanting to try quinoa and had seen some quinoa chili recipes so I decided to try that last night.

I didn’t have a ton of time (or energy) because I had worked in the office all day and then I went straight to tutoring.  I didn’t want to buy a ton of new ingredients, so I made it work with what we had.  I was also trying to make it friendly to Bitsy, so it’s not quite as spicy as I would normally make it.  


Here is the recipe:

Ingredients (is it weird that we have all of this stuff on hand?):

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 cup regular lentils
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes (I only had Italian spiced ones on hand, I would’ve preferred to use plain)
  • 2 shredded carrots (I peel them and run them through my food processor)
  • Tomato paste
  • Chili powder (to taste)
  • Crushed red pepper (to taste)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package.  This was my first experience cooking it; it’s very similar to cooking rice.  I didn’t have any broth on hand, but if I did I think that would have made it a bit better.

While the quinoa is cooking, rinse the lentils really well.  Put them in a saucepan with 4ish cups of salted water.  Bring it to a boil and let them cook for about 20 minutes (really just while you are doing all of the other prep).

Drizzle the bottom of a large stock pot with a generous amount of olive oil and turn it to medium heat.  Add the green and red peppers and the onion to the oil.  When the onions are almost translucent add the garlic.  Be careful not to burn the garlic…burnt garlic is so gross!

When the peppers are soft and the onions are cooked through, add the beans, carrots and the tomatoes.

By this point, the quinoa and the lentils are probably cooked.  Add the quinoa to the vegetables.  Drain the lentils and add them to the vegetables as well.

Add about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, a cup of water, chili powder, crushed red pepper and salt and pepper and mix it well.

Turn the heat down and let it simmer until most of the liquid is cooked off.

We served it with shredded cheddar, tortilla chips and hot sauce.  If you skipped the cheese it would be vegan!

Again, I was pressed for time so didn’t really get to let it simmer for long.  Ideally, I think it would be great to simmer for a while to really let the flavors blend.  If I wasn’t cooking for the baby, I probably would have added a jalapeno as well to give it more spice.  The carrots are not really necessary.  I add them to sneak in more veggies and bulk it up.  The carrots also cut some of the acidity of the tomatoes.

I couldn’t believe what a hit this was!  Bitsy had 3 helpings!   Chris loved it and said it was even better when he reheated it for lunch today.