Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas with the Coughlins

There is something about the holiday spirit. People are giving & gracious to one another; the air smells of distinct pine trees, sweet sugar cookies & cinnamon, spice & all things nice. The energy & anticipation is contagious...inspiring...joyful.

This year is our first Christmas as a married couple. Our first Coughlin Christmas is certainly one to be joyful about. We are starting new traditions and keeping some of the old. And with new traditions, come new ways to decorate for the season, for our home, our Christmas as Maria & Andrew Coughlin.

My goal this season was to decorate our house simply. It's so easy to get caught up in all the commercials, the ads and truly believe that you NEED lots and lots of decorations and things for your house to feel like Christmas.

In reality, you just need a few simple, classic pieces that will put you in the spirit.  I got a lot of my inspiration this year from my Christmas Pinterest board, various blogs and my backyard. I didn't buy much to decorate, I just used what we had and added a few pieces from the yard (or my neighbors!) to spruce it up.

We visited Clarks Christmas Tree Farm in Little Compton for the second year in a row. We picked out this 5 foot beauty and brought her home. After a long day of sanding sheetrock, we decked the hauls and decorated the tree. The first ornament up? Our new married ornament! Thanks Mom!

One of my favorite things about the month of December is going to the mailbox to see what Christmas cards lie waiting in the box. I love seeing what photos people chose, what joyful saying is printed on the front and how we have all changed in a year.

I wanted to create a space where I could display all these beautiful cards. I searched all over the internet for ideas, and I kept going back to one. A simple garland with cards tied by ribbon or mini clothespins.

Holiday Dinner Parties are also one of my favorite things about the month of December. We hosted a Christmas dinner with Andrew's family and I decided to again, keep it simple. I used our beautiful gold foil napkins from C.Wonder and added a little greenery from the back yard for the table settings. I also clipped some holly from my neighbor's tree (with permission of course!) and adorned the 3 tiered tray I recently picked up at Home Goods for the centerpiece.

Add in there a pretty Frontgate copper tray with all the fixings for a rich, warm hot chocolate, and our dining room was ready for a holiday party.

Looks pretty festive, right?!

Try not to get caught up in the hustle & bustle of the holidays. Keep it simple. And ENJOY these next few days before Christmas.  Merry, Merry from the Coughlins! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Moneypit Monday: Subfloors & hallways

If you've ever been to Europe you've certainly heard and seen the saying, "Mind the Gap". This weekend I felt like I was more or less getting on and off a train, "minding the gap" on each trip up and down the stairs!

Andrew decided at 8pm on Thursday night that it was the PERFECT time to rip up our hallway flooring and start the process of replacing it.  Yay!!! (insert sarcastic comment here).  Since we finished painting the hallway Wednesday night, I had a "normal" upstairs for about 24 hours.

We decided over a year ago that we would replace the hallway flooring once we finished the walls and before we put up trim and finished off the linen closet. The floor is worn down, splintering & patched in.  The stairs & landing are worth salvaging with some hand sanding & poly, but the upstairs hall has seen some serious abuse over the past 100 years. And not surprisingly so.

Once the pine boards were removed using a hammer, crow bar & some Budweiser, we were left with this…

Turns out our 100+ year old subfloor has just a few gaps and enough dust to start a time capsule. And speaking of time capsules, underneath the subfloor were the original pipes for the gas lighting of the house. How cool is that?!  They must not have been in use long since the durable, inexpensive light bulb that we know today was introduced in 1908.

And then, there was the dead mouse carcass. Also for the time capsule…

This weekend Andrew made his weekly trip to our home away from home, Home Depot, and purchased 5 sheets of 1/2" plywood. He created 2 layers for the new subfloor and I'd say it's much improved! This money pit project cost us less than $100 - taking the old flooring to the dump, screws & plywood and more Budweiser:) Next step is to purchase the new flooring at Downs & Reader.

Be on the lookout for the new flooring reveal when we return from the holidays!

Happy Moneypit Monday y'all!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Recipe Roundup: Ultimate Comfort Food!

Happy Friday y'all!

I wanted to share some DELICIOUS recipes that we have been cooking lately.  As the colder temps are coming in, I am craving anything and everything COMFORT FOOD. Seriously…the winter weight is also setting in.  It's amazing what a little cheese, couch time and egg nog will do!

With my gluten free diet, comfort food is sometimes a challenge. I don't love the gf breads out there unless I fry them up (um, not so healthy) and the doughs are just not an easy, bake it real quick situation. These are a few recipes that we found to satisfy my warm, comfort food need without a ton of hassle.


I am in LOVE with this recipe by gluten-free-girl. Y'all, even if you are not gluten free, like my husband, you will find this recipe to be one of the best eggplant parmesan recipes you've ever had. Trust me.

It is super easy to cook, adds lots of extra flavors like red pepper & tomatoes, and isn't fried. One of the more healthy eggplant parms that I've ever had. Perfect for those cold, rainy winter nights.

Plus, if you haven't read Shauna & Danny's blog, hop on over! She is a beautiful writer and she has some amazingly delicious recipes to share.

Try it out for yourself!


Chicken pot pie is one of the ULTIMATE comfort foods! Its also a big request in our house once winter sets in.  In the bitterness of winter, this staple is on the table at our house probably every other week (do you see where my winter weight comes from?!).

To top it all off, one of Andrew's favorite things about chicken pot pie, is what he gets to say. This e-card says it all.  Such a charmer…

So when I found this recipe for chicken pot pie soup, I knew we had to try it out! And y'all, it is just as good as the pie! For us, we substituted regular flour for gluten free flour and it was just the same! I also added some mushrooms for extra flavor. It turned out to be a super creamy dish without all the crust hassle. This one will definitely be a repeat in our kitchen…watch out thighs!


And since we are on the subject of winter weight and thighs, lets add cookie dough bars into the mix, shall we?! I haven't tried out this recipe yet, but I have a feeling over the holidays it is going to be the perfect excuse to try it out. Calories don't count at Christmas, right?!!?     

Averie Cooks makes a simple, two ingredient dessert, and its gluten free! All you need is the Pillsbury g-free cookie dough in a tub and some reese cups to make these mouthwatering treats. How easy is that? I'll let you know how they are:)

Have a great weekend cooking y'all! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Moneypit Monday: Picture This!

In this little world of blogging that I've found myself in, there are many people I follow who have a weekly or monthly theme.  I've never been one to follow the crowd, but I couldn't resist with this theme. It is so fitting of our house…in fact, it is fitting for most old, fixer-upper, dream inspired houses. If you are a homeowner and have ever watched the 1980s movie "The Money Pit" with Tom Hanks, you know what I am talking about!

Today I am starting my first post in the new "Moneypit Monday" series. And what better way to start than with our new picture window!

Picture this…

This was one of the very first BIG ticket items we knew needed replacing when we moved in 1 1/2 years ago.  The view of Middle Ave & the sea from our house are gorgeous, but not with those streaks & smudges! Somehow it kept getting placed further and further down on the priority list.  We assumed the window would have to be custom built and would cost a fortune. Right after the wedding, we decided to bite the bullet. I called around, came up with some decent quotes, but nothing great.

In one of our weekly trips to Home Depot, I found Andrew in the back talking to the window people. Good news! Our favorite of the Home Depot windows, the Anderson 400 series, had a picture window our size: 67"x60", with a 4 week lead time. We have put 6 other Anderson 400 windows in the house and have been really happy with the quality and price. It was ordered that day and we even got a 10% discount. Good news indeed.

For all you New Englanders out there, you know that 4 weeks makes a drastic difference in the weather.  So as you can imagine, by the time this pretty window came in, it was November and temperatures for installing windows were not ideal. But, Andrew and I trudged forward Thanksgiving weekend and got our hands dirty.

It would seem to be such an easy project. Take old window out, put new window in. 

But as all money pits go, this is never the case. After all the shingles were removed from the window's exterior, we started to remove the boards surrounding to get better access to the window. Come to find out, there was NO framing. At all. The window was basically held in by the interior wall where they had put extra plaster to "hold it in". So in taking out the old window, we also took out part of the interior plaster wall. Good times.

5 hours later we had a 5ft. x 5ft hole in our living room, with 30 degree temps, a new frame from the new window, tyvek & weather shield on the exterior.

Day 2 of installing the window was a bit tricky. The first attempt involved putting the window in with the truck and 2 friends who we almost killed in the process. With another 30 degree day and a slightly small hole, the project was put on hold while Andrew brainstormed. The second attempt was just the two of us. Check it out…

Window Success.

To finish it off, we insulated with foam sealant, put lath back up on the walls, then sheet rocked & mudded the partial wall.

Now, picture this!

Happy Moneypit Monday y'all!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My Wife Won't Do That...

Andrew came home from work a few days ago to a cranky, sniffly, sarcastic wife. As Andrew likes to put it, I had done a lot of "suffering" that day. I had spent 7 hours doing my least favorite thing of all time: sanding sheetrock & plaster.  The first hour was exciting, progress was seen. After that, it was all dust and throbbing pains in my arm. I spent every hour cleaning out the white goop from my eyes, going outside for air and texting Andrew to say "I don't care what the F it costs to get someone else to do this job, but we are paying it next time!" Thanks to the Christmas station on Pandora, it was tolerable.

And this was my first time truly executing the task, solo.

We are currently working to finish the upstairs hall, stairwell & front entryway, which are all connected. This rehab of a big, awkward space has been going on for 8-9 months now!! When we moved in, the plaster walls were sponge painted baby blue, with popcorn, swirly ceilings and brass light fixtures. Can you imagine?? (Actually, you can, see pics below).


hallway renovations to our 1905 house

torn out plaster ceiling with new insulation and window

After tearing out the three bedrooms upstairs, parts of the hall inevitably got torn out as well. At one point this summer I hardly noticed that half the wall & ceiling was missing or that you could see every screw hole in the new sheetrock. In the past two months we have installed a new window in the upstairs hall, torn out the plaster ceiling & replaced it with insulation & sheetrock, rewired & installed can lights both upstairs & downstairs and spent 6 full days total mudding, then sanding, and repeating. This week, I have spent 2 days sanding sheetrock and today I did the final "spot mud". This awkward space will be ready for primer this weekend (fingers crossed).



As we sat on the couch reviewing our week, Andrew got quiet and said, "I shouldn't tell you this…but the boys in the shop heard what you were doing…and told me, 'My wife won't do that!!' You are lucky that yours does…"

It got me to thinking...Yes, Andrew, you ARE lucky that I would sand the sheetrock, first and foremost. And I may never do it again, for the record. But I am also lucky to have a husband who trusts me, challenges me, and teaches me HOW to build this house, how to restore things the right way, and how perfection is worth it in the end.

We have gutted & rebuilt 4 rooms so far.  In each room I have gradually acquired new skills, built on those I had, and learned to accept the new challenges ahead.  I have learned that things are never what they seem, that restoring a house is HARD WORK, and that my bitching does no good other than fill the airspace with negativity rather than drilling noises. I have learned more things in the past year and a half than I ever imagined possible. I might not like it all the time (just ask Andrew), but I am now a carpenter, a painter, an electrician and a builder every day as we transform this house into our home.

I am happy... in fact be the wife that WILL do that.

sanding sheetrock for the third week on the upstairs walls and ceiling

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thankful for 3

In this month of giving thanks, I've been thinking about what I am most thankful for. Immediate things have come to mind over the past few weeks. I have a loving husband who is both capable of caring for me deeply and calling me out on my crap. I have two careers that allow me flexibility and the ability to do the things I love. I am grateful for our house, our home…it has shown me what a labor of love truly is, what I am capable of, and what it means to create a home with the one you love. I am forever thankful for my parents who support me, my dreams, my crazy life, every day, unconditionally. And I am thankful for my sister, my brother-in-law, my friends and every amazing opportunity this life has presented to me. But I haven't been able to put my finger on that one thing that I am MOST thankful for this year...

We spent Thanksgiving in Newport this year with Andrew's family. We did all the usuals - played a little pig-skin, told stories, ate delicious turkey & fixings, and stuffed ourselves with yummy pie. As I sat around the warm, candle-lit table (my sister-in-law has beautiful taste…see pics below!) I couldn't help but feel thankful.

As we were driving home to Tiverton, it suddenly occurred to me what I am most thankful for this year. Becoming an AUNT.  To hear Eloise and Curly call me "Aunt Maria"…there is no other feeling in this world. It is an absolute joy to call these three my niece and nephews.  I am honored. I am humbled. And I am so grateful for their love, their developing personalities, and the way they have welcomed me into their lives.

I am thankful for Eloise - for her style, her type A personality, and her ability to see the best in people. She has entered her tough teenage years and I have seen her grow into a beautiful, thoughtful and sweet young lady. She and I have become friends, and for that I am grateful.

I am thankful for Curly - for his zest for life, his love of socks, and his genuine love & kindness. This boy puts his heart & soul into the things he loves - currently, it is all things baseball and Red Sox.  He gives a pretty great hug too.

And I am thankful for Benedict, our little piggy - for his snuggles, his love of "buck bucks" (chickens), and his love of "ya-yas" (pretty girls).  I got to hold him a few weeks after he was born, and man was I hooked.

Andrew, or Uncle Dandy as he is so fondly called, treats these three as his own and I have watched him interact with them over the years. He loves these kids as if they were his own. They are his friends…his comfort…his joy. I was always hopeful that one day I would get to claim these three as my family too. And honestly, when we got married, that was also top on the list of getting hitched…becoming an aunt!

And so I am giving thanks for marriage, aunt-hood, and three little ones that warm my heart. What are you most thankful for this year?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Custom House Portraits

I was lucky enough to take a quick road trip up to Boston this week to celebrate my dear friend's birthday. Ellie and I have been friends since 6th grade and we have shared so much of life together - high school, deaths, swimming days, college, marriages, births, our love of ice cream & Dawson's Creek and all the in between.

Ellie and her husband Tommy have an incredible story with their son Tucker. Tucker was born at 25 weeks with many complications - after almost a year in the hospital, he is back at home and thriving. He is a true example of a miracle! You can read more about his story here.

Not only is Ellie an incredible wife, mother & friend, but she is an incredibly talented artist. I can remember as a teenager begging her to draw just about anything, but mostly Christmas gifts for my family. She was talented then and she is even more talented now. 

Her latest venture is in custom house portraits. We were fortunate to receive a custom drawing of our house for a wedding present. I cannot think of a more thoughtful and perfect gift! We recently purchased a frame for it and look forward to hanging it in our entryway when we finish renovating the hallway in December.

If you are having difficulty coming up with the perfect gift for a family member, why not have Ellie commission a house portrait?! It will be the perfect gift, especially for any of those new home buyers out there. She has also launched a college portfolio this fall. All Virginia schools are highlighted and there will be more to come! Contact Ellie on her Etsy sight, Custom Portraits by E.

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