Insulating and Refinishing Floors Upstairs

AKA something I'm not anxious to do again

My 30th birthday was February 2 and we had a big family birthday party! It was awesome. That also meant we had a big house deadline and had to have the upstairs livable and guest room set up. That mostly meant insulating, reinstalling wall beadboard, and refinishing the floors. We ended up doing it all ourselves and while it isn't something I'm chomping at the bit to do again, we did save a boatload of money. 

there was too much and logan had to come pick me up!

We closed on the house and promptly found out the only room that had insulation was the master bathroom. Totally makes sense, right? The living room and master bedroom had to be torn down to the studs anyway, so we planned to later tackle upstairs ourselves. We really want to keep the beadboard upstairs, so we chose to do blow-in insulation. Disclaimer: they make a nozzle you can only order online for doing blow-in insulation in walls. It makes smaller holes and has decent reviews. Don't be like me. Plan ahead and order it if you're tackling this job! We will next time for sure. 

But we didn't have time to wait on that nozzle, so we removed beadboard at the very top of the walls and the middle, underneath a wall-stud-brace we found. The process overall wasn't so bad, but it was so messy. I was stationed on the porch with the machine and Logan primarily did the blowing. 

so boring, but someone has to man the machine

I found it easier to break the bales into chunks and stage them to dump into the machine. For some reason breaking the bale directly in the machine super stressed me out, so I improvised. Once we got that ready, we tried to duct tape around the section we were currently insulating upstairs to contain blow-out and waste (you can see below), but we found it most effective to make a cardboard shield and just go section-by-section, wall-by-wall. We used our cell phones like walkie-talkies, both of us on headsets, and we just trudged on until we knocked it out. 

captain insulation

We still have to finish insulating the hallway downstairs and our dining room, so sometime this year we'll be right back at insulation. Oh joy.

Once the messy work was done, we could do the floors! We have heart pine upstairs! Way back in August we asked our initial contractor for a quote to do the floors and it came in right at $2,800. Womp womp womp. We skipped it initially because of the cost, but I'm even more glad we did in hindsight. Our 2-3 week job took 2-3 months and we're honestly not too happy with his quality of work. I don't even want to think how long it would've taken him to get the floors done too...

Thanks to choosing to DIY the floors, I now know there are 2 jobs I never wish to repeat: reupholstering furniture and refinishing hardwood floors. It was the worst. Every part of my body hurt by the end and I honestly didn't think I'd be able to finish the job. That little sander Logan is holding below weighs 40lbs and it's all forearm strength. Logan went into beastmode though and managed most of the sanding once I was worn out and in tears. It took about a full 24 hours of sanding, then 2 days of sealing, and a week of curing. But, we saved over $2,000 by doing it ourselves! 

Nothing in the house is anywhere close to finished, but it's so nice to know we've gone from this:

diarrhea carpet

To this:

much better!

- Sarah 

Intro to Meal Prep and Meal Planning

When I left the restaurant and began working a steady schedule, I was too brain dead to figure out what we'd have for dinner fresh every day. I just didn't want to put forth the energy. I also didn't have free food and a commercial kitchen at my disposal to take dinner home whenever I wanted to. That led me to meal planning. Suddenly it went from planning an entire meal from nothing to picking something off the list! It made life significantly easier and I loved it! A few years later a friend, who is a body builder, introduced me to meal prep and life was changed for the better. Meal prep is where you spend some time on day per week cooking the majority of your meals for the week, so all you do is reheat and move on with your life. This post will go over my basic approach to meal planning and prep and I'll start posting my weekly recipes. Sorry there aren't a lot of pictures this week, but stick with me and we'll go far. 

Meal Planning

I start each week by planning about 7 dinner meals each week. I do about 5 meals from scratch and default to 2 easy or frozen meals for convenience. We also will have at least one fend-for-yourself night (FFYN) each week where we're both on our own. Every family is different, so you have to observe your patterns and do what works best for you. I don't find it helpful for our family to plan what we eat each day of the week, like so:

  • Monday - tacos
  • Tuesday - spaghetti
  • Wednesday - meatloaf
  • Thursday - pork chops
  • Friday - stir fry

I have a friend who plans her family's meals like that and she loves it. To each their own. I usually draft the meal list overall and pick what I want whatever day I feel like fixing that particular dish. Like so: tacos, spaghetti, meatloaf, pork chops, stir fry. Knowing what my options are makes it easier to pick what we're going to eat or communicate to Logan what we have if he needs to cook one night.

Once my recipes/meals are chosen I then make my grocery list side-by-side so I know I have all the ingredients for everything I want to make. I'll take inventory of the pantry and fridge too and try to make sure we always have staples around. I highly suggest (and am obsessed with) Aldi or Lidl if you have one around. They save us so much money!

Weekly Meal Prep

Every Sunday I will prep my breakfast (Logan doesn't eat breakfast) and 5 lunches each for me and Logan for a total of about 15 meals. You have to find your personal rhythms and adjust your preferences there. I find that I can eat the same 5 breakfasts per week, but I can only eat the same lunch 3 times max. That leads me to plan one breakfast per week, then 2 different lunches for myself and usually 2 different lunches for Logan.  

My biggest tip for weekly meal prep: practice and don't give up! It's going to take forever at first, create a giant mess, and it'll take you some time to figure out what recipes work well and are easy to knock out. Personally I will spend 2 hours max on meal prep and like to keep it to 1.5 hours. It took me about 6 months to nail my 1.5ish hour rhythm, but now I can usually breeze right through. 

I like to do a mix of recipes to make it easy. Breakfast is usually baked oatmeal (recipe will be below) or some combo of scrambled eggs, vegetables, and grains. I'll usually mix in a baked/roasted or crock pot recipe in addition to cooking stuff on the stove top. Again, be patient and find your groove. 

I also try to pull out all of my ingredients and lay them out in a semi-organized manner when I start cooking. It saves time and sanity because you aren't running to the fridge or pantry 1,000 times while trying not to burn your whatevers. 

And lastly, you're going to use a lot of plastic storage containers. Every one has a favorite size and shape, but I largely prefer square shaped ones and 2-part segmented rectangles. Pro tip: eggs and beans super stink if you let them sit/don't rinse or clean your plastic storage container pretty soon after you eat the mean. 


I love talking food and talking to other people who meal prep! We all need new inspiration and all get bored. Please feel free to text me if you ever want to talk food! I have a board on Pinterest and also use cookbooks, food blogs, and magazines for recipe inspiration.

I like to be fancy, Logan just wants to eat, so I try to strike a balance between the two. Logan doesn't like to cook, but he will to help me out some nights. If he does, he likes it to be easy, so it'll usually be burgers (veggie or turkey) and instant mashed potatoes or something easy and frozen. We don't discriminate around here. Let's be full and let's be easy. 

Whatever meals we don't make get rolled over to the next week (provided the ingredients haven't gone bad and I didn't waste food). We have family here this weekend, so it's an off week and no formal menu is planned. Here's what we have on hand though: stir fry with egg rolls (rollover meal), burgers+veggie burgers and fries or mashed potatoes, frozen fajita meal (for Logan), and shrimp and veggies or potatoes. We'll also likely work in a FFYN this week and stretch it out. 

We will use leftovers for FFYNs or for lunches later in the week. I also don't usually have different "meal prep" recipes or "dinner recipes." Most things we make work well both places.

I typically follow a pescatarian diet, but Logan eats meat. I've started playing around with substituting mushrooms in recipes that call for chicken. Logan gets the chicken, I get the mushrooms, we both win. Early disclaimer: I rarely follow recipes exactly.  Here are a couple of my favorite recipes as of late (remember, we don't judge for convenience in this house):

  • Shrimp nachos - frozen cooked salad shrimp (takes 6 mins to thaw under water), toss in a skillet to warm up with whatever taco spices you like and a little oil/butter. Throw those babies on top of tortilla chips and go to town with whatever nacho toppings you like. You do you. Puts dinner on the table in about 15 minutes and is easy to fill with veggies. Favorite toppings include: black or pinto beans, tomatoes, avocado or guacamole, cheese, salsa, corn. Substitutions: swap out the tortilla chips for tacos, tostadas, or taco salad. 
  • Arrabbiata - serve with penne or spaghetti. Also garlic bread (frozen or home made, whatever). 
  • Shrimp Scampi - there are a million variations, but we like to serve ours with spaghetti or fettuccine and plenty of garlic bread. I'll also do some kind of green vegetable. Whatever is easy and I'm in the mood for. 
  • Spaghetti Carbonara - total classic. Add peas, I like an extra egg....just skip the cream. Don't do it. You don't need it. But I won't judge if you want it. If you've never made it before I suggest watching a couple videos to the technique and putting the pasta straight from the water/pot into the bacon pan. Also feel free to use bacon, pancetta, or guanciale. Whatever is available. 
  • Spaghetti Amatriciana - my favorite pasta sauce of all time. I can't get enough. So good for dinner or prep or breakfast or life in general. Serve the sauce with penne, spaghetti, fettuccine, or bucatini. Again, use bacon, pancetta, or guanciale. 
  • Chicken Teriyaki - I usually will make this for Logan's lunch meal prep. Serve with rice and some kind of vegetable. You can choose to dump a bag of frozen stir fry veggies 30 minutes - 1 hour before the chicken is done if you want. 
  • Creamy Chipotle Carrot Soup (vegan!) - this is a recent find for me and I'm obsessed with it. I don't think it's spicy at all, but everyone is different.
  • Mexican Street Corn Tostadas - the corn also makes an excellent topping for tacos or nachos. I usually add chili powder to the corn mix and extra lime juice.  I don't eat cilantro so I leave it out altogether and also don't like red onion so I sub onion powder in.
  • Zucchini and Black Bean Tacos - very loose guideline recipe here. I did not make the cream sauce, so let me know if you do. I just cooked the veggies then did whatever taco seasons I was feeling at the time. I only recently made this for the first time but it will definitely get put into rotation. 
  • French Onion Chicken - we're obsessed with this recipe. I added a ton of garlic and portabello mushrooms. Serve with rice or noodles and tons of french bread. Pro tip: you may have to drain the mushrooms if you use them. Sometimes they put off extra liquid you won't want in the final dish really.
  • Chicken goo - this is a family recipe so we have no idea what it's actually called. Grab a casserole dish. Add a can of cream of mushroom soup and the same amount (just eyeball it) of sour cream. Add some/lots of garlic, salt, pepper, and dried parsley. Taste and adjust. Add some chicken, cubed or tenders, and bury in the goo. Top with portabello mushrooms cut about the same size as the chicken. Cover and bake at 375-400 until the chicken is done. Serve with wild rice. Only wild rice. Don't even think about white or brown rice. Crescent rolls are also a good idea here. 

Let me know if you try any of the recipes! I know that was a ton of information, but I'll be back next week with a regular meal plan menu. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below or on Facebook!

Big Fat Construction Updates

We're long overdue for this update, but here's where construction stands! We still don't know exactly when it will be done, but so far it's starting to look goodSo good. Power has been turned off and on and the house at different times for different reasons, so the pictures below aren't edited. Here's the summary:

  • All floor joists in the living room had to be replaced and new subfloor laid
  • Ceilings/floors of upper rooms had to be reinforced with new joists and beams
  • We took out the wall between the living room and dining room! 
  • New insulation and drywall will be installed
  • There was a weird concrete slab in the dining room (I forgot to take a before picture) so now we're expanding into the dining room #ohjoy
  • The beadboard in the hallway isn't really salvageable, below you can see an examples of the channels the former owners cut into the beadboard to rewire 
  • We widened the doorway to the living room and it made a huge difference
  • We're saving the original floor joists for projects later

We have to move in 9/23 regardless of the state of the house, but hopefully it'll be finished.  Click the pictures below to scroll through!

Small Updates, Big Changes Coming

We spent the past week or so interviewing contractors, getting quotes, and acting like real adults. It's been stressful, but it's what you sign on for buying an 87 year old house, so we won't complain. I think we mentioned it before, but there's no insulation in the whole house, the entire living room floor has been compromised/eaten by termites and has to be replaced, and that damage extends into the dining room. Womp womp womp. But that decision has led us to the path of opening up the wall between the living room and the dining room! It was always on the "one day" list, but it's now been expedited. We're going to remove the fireplace, but we aren't really fireplace people to begin with. Oh, and the two upper bedrooms are falling in! Holla!

Moving has been pushed back and is still a little TBD. Things at the house have quickly progressed to "over my head" status, so I've chosen to focus on small things I can accomplish instead. This weekend I started a "cat-binet," which will eventually house a litter box and supplies and stuff. We inherited a random cabinet-island-thing that lived in our dining room. I measured the cabinet and, lo and behold, it fit perfectly in the space between the wall and our utility sink! The old top wasn't secured (it was the same style as the kitchen), so off it came and I built a new one out of old baseboards. I'll post the finished product once it's actually finished.


I also started working on the master closet. Remember the scary, small, closet we originally got? It's very small and it's in the corner of our master bath, so it's actually hard to photograph accurately. The shelves were too deep and at my eye level ( I'm short) and the door was tiny. It was practically non-functional for us. So we ripped it all out! I bought new brackets and basic dowels for rods, then used old baseboard wood for shelves. Reversing the layout also seemed to be a better flow into the space. It's still a tiny closet, but hopefully it will function much better for us now. Eventually I'll hang a curtain that matches the shower curtain to act as a new door, but it's white and there's about to be a lot of dust. Also the camera battery died so the progress picture is from my phone. I promise the short dowel is level. 

closet BA.jpg

That about wraps it for this past week. We've hired a contractor and Logan is going to do a write up of that process later. Of course we'll keep you posted along the way. Big changes are coming!