August Rush

I wish this blog post had the same budget as that movie! Alas, this is not a feel-good Hollywood drama.

However, this post is supposed to make me feel good by reminding me of all the progress we’ve made on our home despite the financial setbacks. Bring on the Hollywood ending!

It did feel really good to open up here and be honest about the job snafu and all the trials that come with expat-riatism (should be a word!), so I will definitely be doing that more. I hope that writing about my experience will make some new expat feel better by knowing she is not the only one struggling with immigration issues.

Anyway, you want to know what never fails to turn my sad face upside down? This happy one:

Our kitten Ludovico

Yes, that’s an updated picture of our little fuzzball Ludovico. He’s made such an impact on our lives already — I actually okayed a scratching post the other day saying “I guess that doesn’t look so bad.” If you want to see A LOT (okay, too many) pictures of Ludo, I post them on my Instagram almost daily. You should follow me!

Ludovico was a big change for us, but a lot of the updates we made  this month were small, affordable ones like adding some hooks and hardware in our toilet and bathroom, thrifting some kitchen necessities, and splurging (well, as much as broke people can splurge!) on a designer clock.

Ikea Grundtal toilet paper roll holder

I didn’t blog about this, but it bears mentioning that you can make a stuck-to-the-wall toilet paper roll holder much prettier by running some acrylic caulk around the edge and smoothing it out with a paper towel, like so:

Ikea Grundtal toilet paper roll holder

See? No more gross see-through holes!

We did make a couple of big changes this month. They were just ridiculously cheap! We added a bunch of hand-me-down furniture to our living room.

Living room

And ain’t nothing wrong with this discounted Pax wardrobe:

Ikea As-Is Pax wardrobe

Well, that is, until we broke it.

Ikea broken Pax wardrobe

Womp womp. That’s okay. “We can rebuild him…we have the technology.” More on that later.

This month, we also added a thrifted chandelier to our living room, lovingly spray painted white, the rainbow’s most forgiving color.

Thrifted chandelier spray painted white

Funny story, I am in the process of repainting it. Yes! It’s true! Maybe this month has been a wash.

Ah well, at least we got some relaxing in before the summer ended.

Bosbad Amersfoort


Pax of lies

It started out innocently enough.

I found a tall, 2-door white Pax cabinet in the Ikea clearance section. It was €39.99, a 50% discount, and there was literally nothing wrong with it.

So I texted Rolan that picture and told him the deal.

“Found this perfect Pax cabinet for half off. Should I nab it? Would be hard to carry on my bike, though.”

“It does look perfect. Ask them if we can reserve it and pick it up later.”

No problem, right? Wrong. They don’t hold or reserve things at the Ikea Clearance section.

I should’ve given up right then and there. Should’ve known that the cabinet was cursed. Should’ve reminded myself of a bunch of cliches like ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.’ and ‘You get what you pay for!’

We decided to leave it up to chance. We would return to Ikea when Rolan got home from work and if it was still there, we’d figure out what to do then.

So we did. And it was. But how would we get it home?

We’d have to take it apart, of course.

By ourselves. In the store.

By the end of the disassembly I’m sure Rolan would’ve preferred to just buy the darn thing new, all nicely put together in a big cardboard box.

But the next roadblock was waiting for us.

And it was even more fun than the last — like a game of Tetris when the game board is super full and every piece is a long, straight one.

It didn’t exactly fit, but luckily we had one nylon rope to hold the backdoor down and some fabric to put between the boards and the windshield. Rolan’s view on the right side was compromised a bit, so we drove slow and avoided speed bumps.

After all of that, you’d expect to see a nice picture of our beautiful new 50% off Ikea Pax wardrobe standing proudly in the bedroom holding hangars of clothes, right?

Wrong again.

While I was recovering from my tonsillectomy, Rolan got bored and tried to put together the doomed Pax wardrobe by himself. The picture you see above is what happened after he attempted to stand the wardrobe up. Now all the little places where the screws go in look like this or worse.

So I guess the moral of the story is ‘Let sleeping clearance Pax wardrobes lie.’

Maybe ‘A Pax in a box is worth two already put together in the store‘?

Ooh! Or ‘Idle hands make the devil ruin your Pax.’

But it’s probably just closer to ‘Four hands are better than two.’

July on the fly

Whoa. So. That was July.

I’ve noticed that there are days that feel like we are crawling in progress on projects and then the next day I actually hear myself tell Rolan that maybe we are taking on too many projects at once. How can both of those statements be true?

July was a big month for us.

First of all, I started this blog at the beginning of July. I started writing as a way to keep track of all the progress we were making on our new home, but I also wanted a place for my friends and family overseas to see what was going on in my world. So if you are reading, thanks!

We also signed the contract and moved into our first apartment at the beginning of last month. Did you guys enjoy the tour of our new apartment?

We packed all our belongings and loaded everything into the back of an uncle’s van. And yes, the thing smooshed in the bottom of the pile in the picture above is indeed our mattress.

Moving is always fun, but for some extra kicks throw in a pair of elevator doors that close after 2 seconds and you’ve got yourself a regular ‘ole hootenanny! (Favorite new word: hootenanny!)

It wasn’t long after moving in, we realized we needed to shed some light on our new baby. Holland stays pretty bright late in the day during the summer, but an apartment with no light fixtures does not make for very safe midnight snacking.

So we hunted down a few light fixtures on the cheap, including a great thrift store find by Rolan.

My man seriously delivered on his promise. Which means I should probably follow suit on that promise I made to finish the laminate trim.

Still haven’t made much progress on that front. That is such a boring job. I was much more interested in dreaming up plans for our bedroom, which include some really beautiful prints that I shared with you from my new favorite Etsy seller Seasideprints.

The bedroom plan also includes a beautiful Maskros pendant lamp from Ikea, which I just so happened to find 50% off!

It just needed a loving touch from a completely sane person. Who would return something so beautiful to Ikea? Maybe the crazy person was hoping for a store credit to use on all the new stuff from the 2013 Ikea catalog.

I shouldn’t be so hard on us, I guess. Looking back through the archives, we’ve been risking life and limb to quickly get settled into our new place. Poor Rolan put his health in danger installing steel pipe curtain rods and I had a tonsillectomy!

With any luck, we’ll have some curtain updates coming after the weekend when we get back from our vacation — which, spoiler alert, won’t be to any of these unique Holland vacation destinations.

Well folks (or should I say folk? Hi, mom!), that was the last month all wrapped up into one nice little package. Feels good to look at it all together like this. I think we deserve a vacation. Heck, I think I deserve a vacation after writing all of this up.

I even updated the To-Do List. For preservation’s sake. You know, in case I ever get to thinking we’re slacking off again.

Save the Maskros!

You guys already know that I love me some Maskros. And its rise in popularity did nothing to hinder my obsession.

It’s a relatively inexpensive lamp for its size. The small one is only €50. However, given that it’s made of paper, I was holding out hope that someday some crazy person would decide they’d had enough of its flowery nonsense and offer it to me for less than the retail price. The longer I held out, the more unlikely it seemed that there was a crazy person out there for me.

Ultimately, though, crazy never lets me down:

As I was strolling through the Utrecht Ikea As-Is section with my boyfriend’s mother, she picks up this sad, white blob and starts picking at it. “This could be a nice lamp” she said as she showed it to me. When I finally realized what it was, I said — probably WAY louder than I should have — “This is it! This is the one! The one I’ve been searching for!” And then I hugged it. I hugged the lamp. In the store.

Maybe I’m the crazy one.

The fact that I could not tell what it was at first should give you some clue as to how badly this baby had been treated. It looked like someone had thrown it or kicked it or something. Most of the paper flowers were bent every which way.

The beauty of this light fixture really is in its simplicity, though. Even if it’s all messed up and already assembled, it can be fixed. The paper flowers can be removed. You can rebuild it. You can make it stronger.

Well, maybe not stronger, but you can at least make it pretty again.

I am here to tell you that fixing an as-is Maskros is as easy as popping off all the little flowers and smoothing the heinously bent petals by just running your fingers across them while they are laying on a flat surface. Once you have smoothed out every bent petal, place all the flowers in a big pile, making sure that there are no rogue petals being bent. It helps if you stack them in piles of 5. Then simply place something flat and heavy on top of the pile and let it sit overnight.

When you wake up in the morning, your pile will look something like this:

This flattening process will iron out all the little wrinkles and creases in the paper and also give the flowers a more uniform curve.

Then it’s time to pop all the flowers back into their little plastic holders. I found it was easiest to start at the top of the fixture and go down row by row. Oh and we also had a microphone stand handy to place the light on so it wasn’t resting on the little metal arms. You could just as easily tie the light’s wire to something and work while it’s hanging. Just don’t let the light rest on the newly ironed petals or you’ll be back to square one.

So you see, this Maskros just needed some TLC. For 50% off I’ll hug, rub and love on a pendant light. I’d be crazy not to!

Sleeping in style

Yesterday I added some links on the sidebar with ways to link up with me on social networking sites like Pinterest and Instagram. If you are enjoying what’s happening on this here blogaroo, please do feel free to follow me over on those sites as well!

Today I wanted to share some of my favorite bedroom inspiration photos from my Style Inspiration board on Pinterest.

Many of my favorite home design blogs stress the importance of knowing what you like, so I have been pinning home design images that resonate with me to see if there were any similarities. Here are some of my favorite bedroom images:

I’ll admit it: This photo makes me sleepy. But in a good way! This has got to be my favorite bedroom inspiration image of all time because I love how cozy and lived in it feels. I imagine myself just diving into the bed, sinking down into the mountain of pillows and snoozing away, not having a care in the world.

Realizing my love for this image led me to discover that there are many, many rooms on my list that have a lot of the same qualities, like:

Big, graphic, monochromatic patterns

Soft, white, fleece-y fur elements

Bright flashes of color in the pillows

Neutral, textured wall and duvet

And others like polka dots, ottomans, and flowers near the bed.

This is really a great exercise to get to know your personal style. Looking at all those pictures together, I never realized they had so much in common. And now that I see it, it’s easy to understand why I like them and how to make my own bedroom inspire the same cozy feelings that these pictures give me.

Anyone else inspired by these bedroom images? Do they make you sleepy (in a good way)?

And if you care to see more Pinterest favorites like these, feel free to follow my Style Inspiration board.

We’ve got pipes of steel

Rolan and I are still nursing me back to health, but I wanted to show you guys the progress we made on the curtains in the bedroom.

If you remember from my bedroom moodboard post, we are planning to put galvanized steel plumbing pipes up as curtain rods in all the rooms with windows. Rolan ordered 2 33.7mm steel pipes that were exactly the width of our rooms plus a few extra centimeters (just in case). We also ordered 5 rail supports and 4 plastic plugs for the ends. All in all, the total came to just under €100 — and they delivered!

The only trouble was, we didn’t anticipate how to get the nearly 6 meter long pipe up to our apartment. It wouldn’t fit up the staircase and certainly not in the elevator. Luckily, the nice Dutch delivery man spoke enough English to help me stash it here, next to the parking garage, while I waited for reinforcements Rolan to come home from work and solve the puzzle.

Luckily, he remembered we have a balcony that overlooks a garden and we live on the third floor, so we were able to pass the long pipe up from the garden to the balcony and then into the living room. I wish I had a picture of this, but sadly my hands and mind were occupied making sure the pipe didn’t fall on and/or impale someone. I’m sure our neighbors were scratching their heads in confusion if they saw the scene, though.

The predicament did allow me to take this funny Instagram picture after our trip to the Gamma to buy some fail-safe precautions:

I am seriously not reading that 50 Shades book, but I couldn’t look the cashier in the eye for wondering what she must be thinking of our purchase.

Anyway, once the pipes were all safely in the apartment, Rolan did some measuring and some calculating and some re-measuring and then got out his power drill and went to town on the ceilings.

We found out that there are a couple places in our ceilings that are not, erm, drillable? Is that a word? No, probably not, but… that’s what they were: undrillable. So we remeasured and recalculated and tried again. It was a trial and error process. Very scientific.

Once we got the holes drilled, the new challenge became getting the screws into their anchors. Rolan battled the ceiling on that for awhile and came out victorious once again, so the only thing left to do was measure the length that the pipe needed to be and trim it down to that size.

Safety nuts, avert your eyes! We realized after this project was over that safety goggles and a mask to cover your nose and mouth are ESSENTIAL. But my man managed to manually saw the pipe down to size, apply the plastic plugs and hang the curtain rod like a pro — with hopefully no damage to his lungs and eyes.

The next fun challenge will be finding curtain rods that are big enough to slide easily over these pipes, but that is a story for another day. Today we are basking in all the glory that comes with privacy from our neighbors!

If any of you are from the Netherlands and wanting to tackle this same project, we highly recommend They were WAY cheaper than Gamma and Praxis and their selection is unbeatable. The delivery is fast and the nice delivery man will even speak English to you while you chat nervously on the phone to your boyfriend about what to do with the 6 meter long pipe he ordered. Any American readers can check out Simplified Building for a similar service, though I can’t vouch personally for this site.

And lastly, here are some places I found inspiration (and motivation) for this project:

Have any of you tried any unconventional ways to hang curtains in your home? Please leave a comment with a link so I can check it out!

Setting the mood in the bedroom

When I dreamed of what our bedroom would look like, I couldn’t think of much else besides the sea.

We met on a cruise ship, where Rolan was finishing his study to become a maritime officer. Rolan went to school near the sea on an island in Holland called Terschelling. Our first vacation was to an island off the coast of Holland where we camped in a tent and “swam” (brr!) in the North Sea. Rolan loves fishing and even keeps an aquarium. Besides all that, we both love the sea and feel calm and at peace when we are near it. It only followed that our bedroom should bring us those same feelings of serenity.

My design for the bedroom actually started with a bright orange velvet curtain as its foundation, hoping that the orange would remind us of the sky at sunset in the picture above. But when we borrowed some orange velvet curtains from Rolan’s uncle, I felt like the orange was just a bit… too much for the room. It wasn’t serene or calm. It was more like the feeling I’d imagine you’d have if you ate a package of cookies, downed a Red Bull and then jumped into a pool full of ice water.

Little bit of a jolt there.

So I went back to the drawing board where the textiles were concerned and this, I am happy to say, is one mood board I have been consistently happy with for just over a week:

So, without further ado, the breakdown:

  1. Rolan has had his heart set on having steel pipe curtain rods because it’s a.) inexpensive, b.) “cool-looking” and c.) strong enough to span the entire width of our bedroom without sagging in the middle or needing a center support bracket. I like it much better than those track systems and I do think it will “man-up” this bedroom a little. Win-win-win.
  2. The Ikea Maskros lamp. I’ve dreamed of the day when my bedroom could have one of these babies. I don’t even care that it’s everywhere nowadays. I think it’s beautiful and simple and, if its popularity is any indication, the public is nodding in agreement with me.
  3. Ikea Premiär picture. I don’t know if this is the exact picture we’ll hang, but I do know that I want something big, beachy and with a lot of that beautiful turquoise you see in this picture.
  4. Chiasso flock wall art set. I wanted something reflective in this room, because it’s a little on the small side. I think any little touches of mirror that we can add will do wonders to amp up the light in the room. I like these little bird mirrors because it stays true to the beach feel, can be hung anywhere in the room and is also a nod to one of Rolan’s grandfathers, who photographed birds as a hobby.
  5. Our bedroom is severely lacking in clothes storage and I’m pretty sure we’ve nailed down the Ikea PAX system as our weapon of choice to eliminate that problem. Rolan really loved the look and feel of the Pax Birkeland white door and I’m inclined to agree with him.
  6. Ikea Henny Väv duvet cover. This duvet cover was in our favorite bedroom in the showroom at the store. Rolan bought it for me as a Welcome Home surprise after my last trip home. I really love how much texture is in the pattern. From far away it looks grey and closer it looks white. It’s the best of both worlds.
  7. I plan to bring in a lot of color and pattern with the pillows on the bed, starting with this beautiful Cotton Starfish pillow at Delinda Boutique’s Etsy shop.
  8. The nautical colors and shapes in these pillows from Posh Street Pillows Etsy shop will bring pops of orange, turquoise and navy into the bed.
  9. I’ve already mentioned my intense LOVE for these prints from Seaside Prints. Here I picked 5 that would coincide just perfectly in this bedroom.
  10. There is A LOT of light coming into our bedroom at night from the garden outside so we went with these beautiful and heavy dark blue Ikea Sanela curtains. Luckily, we found all three of our curtains in the bargain bin at the end of Ikea, so we saved a BUNDLE on these curtains!
  11. I love how this Ikea Ofelia blanket calls to mind the soft sea foam you see on the beach. It looks comfy and warm, too!
  12. This Ikea Branäs laundry basket has a beachy feel to it thanks to the handwoven rattan exterior. And it’s big enough to hold a lot of dirty laundry!
  13. This rug is very reminiscent of a water ripple and I like that it’s neutral with just a hint of blue instead of the other way around. This Ikea Eivor Cirkel rug should be a nice, soft feeling on our toes in the morning.