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Amanda Rioux Photographer

Farmhouse Renovation

My husband Chris and I are not strangers to large projects so when we found an opportunity to renovate an old farmhouse on 10 acres, we decided to go for it. For a long time now we have been wanting to change our lifestyle a bit. My parents both grew up on farms and some of my best memories in life were days spent picking berries, petting farm animals, and going on adventures with the cousins. For our farmhouse we envisioned a life where the kids play outdoors  and have more responsibility. We also wanted to start growing some of our own food and add some animals to the mix. This is how the 2 1/2 month long farmhouse renovation began…..

Now, if you skip to the pictures below you are going to miss the reality behind how challenging it was to renovate a property like this. Truthfully, it was the most stressful project we have ever done and there were days we felt like we were never going to get there. We started by gutting the entire house and there were so many issues we had to deal with such as: a spider infestation, plumbing issues, structural problems, overgrown acreage, and a work crew that caused as many problems as they fixed! The house itself was built by a retiree who purchased a log cabin kit and worked on it on the weekends with his friends. Since they didn’t have construction backgrounds there were a lot of problems with the house. Case in point: the stairs. Kai fell down them when we just went to look at the house and then a workman fell down them on the first day of the renovation. The stairs had very narrow treads and so they had to be rebuilt…..twice(don’t ask)! At any rate, the stairs sort of set the tone for how the rest of the project would go. Many days it felt like 2 steps forward, 10 steps back but we kept plugging along.

I had created a book with detailed design instructions for everyone to follow and Chris managed the work crew to see that things were finished correctly. While he worked day and night at the new house, I managed the home, 3 kids, a farm dog (in a subdivision), and preparing our old house to sell. Doug was our yard man, and he was excellent as he cleared the creek and property and then put up a gated fence. But perhaps the real hero of this whole renovation was Ricardo Perez our painter who became like family through this process. Ricardo used over 200 tubes of caulking to fix issues in our house and then he painted the entire inside, porch, roof, outside building, and later our old house! He worked nonstop without complaint and later helped Chris with other carpentry projects when we let the work crew go. He’s the kind of guy who would overhear a conversation about putting a bookshelf in the staircase and then the next morning surprise you with it. After a month of working with us he started living on the property in our camper and I have to say that when it was time for him to move on, it was a sad day for all of us.

The Vision

The vision for the house was born out of my love for my Grandma’s house growing up as well as my own personal style. I wanted the house to look like a very open and airy 1930’s farmhouse cottage with a little Anthropologie thrown in. For months I scoured sights like Etsy and Ebay as well as Goodwill and Antique Shops looking for the right textiles, furniture pieces, and decor to go in the house. I basically swapped out all of my more modern furniture for antiques and then had them repainted by the fabulous Heather Rosenberry at Rosenberry Redo’s. Heather is fantastic to work with and executed my vision for each piece to perfection. She painted almost everything in the entire house and distressed it. I had purchased a 1920’s farm table that had a bad top and Heather and her husband Keith made a new top out of old barn wood from the Rocky Fork property and extended it so it could accommodate 8 chairs. The result is something I hope to pass down to my children someday.

The Living Area

The kitchen/living area has a lot of fun elements that I worked hard to pull together such as: a vintage mustard couch & chair, 1930’s quilts, pillows made from vintage dresden plates, antique signs, vintage Fisher Price farm toys, lighting fixtures made from old wood and mason jars, Goodwill finds, and old dishes and accents that belonged to my Grandma. The old countertops were replaced with butcher block, the old sink replaced with a farm sink, the wallpaper from behind stove was replaced with tin tiles, and a new island was brought in with bar stools. Other changes include the floors and large beam which were sanded and restained as well as the walls and ceilings which were all painted a honeymilk white. I also finally got around to having canvases made of recent photos of the family to put up on the walls. All in all, I am very pleased with the end result as I think this space reflects who we are as a family more than any other home we’ve ever lived in. It’s the kind of place where some doors are harder to shut than others, and some walls are a little wonky, and of course the floors are never shined to perfection because there are paw prints, kid prints, and chicken feed on the floor, but I love all of it’s quirks because after all, we are a quirky family and it fits us!

The Bedrooms

The master bedroom sports several antique 1930’s pieces as well as a vintage garden quilt and my Dad’s old typewriter. Over our bed I decided to hang a painting that I received for my 30th birthday of a guitar Chris proposed to me with. We still have curtains to hang and a few other things to pull together for this room but I like the simplicity of it so far.

Kai’s room is off the master and is just like it was in our previous house. My son deals with anxiety especially in situations where change is involved so we chose a room location closest to us for his room and worked hard to put all of his things just as they were in our home before.

Lyric’s room is also very similar to her previous room. Although technically she has her own room, she actually will be sleeping in Maizy’s room as she doesn’t like to sleep in a room by herself. My favorite new element to her room are the vintage hobnail lamps. I bought some shades from Hobby Lobby and covered them with the same fabric as her comforter and then attached them to the vintage lamps.

Maizy’s room is probably my favorite bedroom in the house with it’s spaciousness and bright, cheery colors. I was able to find  two vintage Jenny Lind beds at The Tanner House in Nolensville and Heather Rosenberry painted and refinished them as well as the rest of her furniture. The quilts are my absolute favorite element as they are made from all the girls dresses, crib bedding, my old pjs, and my Grandma’s old sheets. Melanie from Southern Charm Quilts(Etsy) did a fantastic job and they were very much worth the wait. This is the kind of room that is perfect for a sleepover which Maizy insisted on first thing.

The Bathrooms

Oh my word! The bathrooms in the house nearly sent me over the edge! We completely gutted them but had problem after problem with plumbing issues. I believe we had 4 different plumbers work on them before we could say we were finished. My favorite aspect of both bathrooms is the vintage style tile as well as the new vanities.

The Basement

Although we technically downsized in square footage, the basement if counted boosts us right back up to where we were. Before the basement was grey unfinished cinder block and wall to wall storage. Although we didn’t finish the basement out, we did paint the entire space as well as build some walls to create storage. We then created a space for the kids to hang out and be messy downstairs as well as a place for our chicks to stay until they can go to their coop. I think this space will come in handy in the upcoming winter months when the kids can’t play outside.

The outside

Last but not least, the outside of the house as well as surrounding property also got a total makeover. Railings were put up on the wrap around porch, the house was pressure washed, and the porch and roof were repainted. Rose bushes were planted around the house, new gravel was brought in for  the drive, as well as sod for areas where grass had not been growing. We also cleared  the creek, cut back trees, patched pavement on the basketball area, and put a fence around the majority of the property. There was a second building on the property that was literally crumbling and we rebuilt the outside of that building as well as put a new roof on it. Someday we’d love to make it into a guesthouse as it is pre-plumbed for a bathroom but that is for another time. The kids area that is visible from the kitchen window boasts a new playset, picnic tables, and our vintage camper as a play house. Lastly, we decided to leave the right hand pasture on the property for future goats but did make a bonfire area on the left pasture for entertaining.

Although this renovation process has been a stressful one, I do feel thankful and blessed now that we are done with the major parts of it. We celebrated the final product with wonderful family and friends and I loved seeing the house full of people laughing and the property full of kids running and exploring. I envision that this place will be a place where we will make many precious memories together and I can’t wait to get started!

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Camper Sweet Camper

Some women live in fear of what their husbands are secretly looking at on the internet. I am one of those women……But not for the reason you might think. You see, if I were to look up my husband’s internet history I would find retro hot dog carts, unusual living spaces, and vintage campers. Now don’t get me wrong. I also share a great love for those items but what I would reserve for my pinterest board, Chris would go ahead and have delivered to the house! These things have happened. As you can imagine, we’ve had many “discussions” about his surprise expenditures over the years and after 10 years of marriage they have all but stopped.

But the one item we both still look at with great regularity is the vintage camper. There is just something neat about those retro tin cans that remind me so much of the importance of family and the simplicity of life back in the “good ole days”. I recently busted my hubbie posting on the camper wanted ads. Why did I see his post you might ask? Because I was looking for a vintage camper……. They are actually very hard to find in decent condition where we live so when I found an older model Shasta for a good price I immediately sent the post to Chris which is how we ended up with a an old camper in our driveway.

This began several months of restoration and a lot of blood sweat and tears. Of course after we bought the camper we realized that it had water damage so we had to hire someone to restore the ceiling and put a new vent in. We also had to have quite a few of the cabinets rebuilt. After that we retiled the floor, painted the inside/outside, put on new tires, and had seat cushions made. The finished result is not my dream camper as we would have really liked to have a 50’s model, but I think it at least comes close to the kind of camping we both envisioned when we started on this project.

To road test the Shasta we recently took it out on an overnight excursion to a local camp ground. We were able to pull it successfully to the campsite and found out that at least half of our electrical outlets worked in the unit. Having one working outlet at least allowed us to plug in a fan for sleeping comfortably at night. We were still not brave enough to turn on the proprane fueled stove but we didn’t need it because we used our campfire instead. Our kids enjoyed making s’mores, playing card games, and exploring the camp grounds and we found that even the sleeping wasn’t bad as our little compact trailer sleeps five rather comfortably. The other thing we noticed about driving around a vintage camper is that you make lots of new friends along the way. Once parked at the campsite we observed other campers milling around looking on curiously so we invited them in to take a look. It seems that retro campers are a fun conversation piece for people from all walks of life.

At any rate, it was a good first camping experience and we plan on making more trips when the weather cools down a bit. Here are some photos of the restoration. This type of camper is not for everyone but I think it fits our family well and I’m happy we decided to purchase one.

P.S. Sorry about the poor quality iphone before pics!

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A Dollhouse Treasure

The people that know me know that I love old things. There is something truly special about holding an item that was made years ago and is chock full of history. My love for antiques is especially great when it comes to vintage toys. Vintage toys can tell you so much about an era and the people that lived during that time. I’ve always particularly loved items from the 50’s because they speak of a simpler more wholesome life style that I would love to get back to. Decades before kids were glued to their handheld devices, kids still played outside and enjoyed handcrafted toys made out of materials like wood and tin. These were the days when toys were still made in America and people took great pride in their craftsmanship.

This is a story about how the technological advances of today led me to a beautiful discovery from the past………..It all started about a week ago when a man posted a message in a local group on Facebook showing a picture of  a vintage dollhouse lot that he found in a house he was selling. Several people tagged my name in the post because they knew how much I would appreciate the items on display. The owner of the items contacted me and wanted to know what to price the lot for and I let him know what a fair price would be. This fair price was out of my range and I let him know where he could find the right buyer and wished him best of luck. A couple of days later, I noticed that the gentleman had listed the lot on the local want ads. I hated that I would not be the new owner of his dollhouse furniture but I hoped that whoever did get the items would appreciate them. A couple of days went by and I didn’t hear anything else regarding what happened to them when the owner of the items contacted me yet again and let me know that he did not receive any other offers and just wanted to get rid of them without the hassle of ebay. I was delighted to pay the price I initially mentioned to him as being the highest price that I could pay at the moment, especially since I knew that these were worth so much more.

My husband picked up the items last night and the whole Rioux family gathered around in awe as we went through the carefully packed boxes. You could tell that this lot was someone’s beloved collection and it should be treated accordingly. The vintage boxes included: Strombecker furniture, Linemar furniture, Flagg dolls, and many other accessories and unidentified furniture. The items all date from the late 40’s to early 50’s and were made in the U.S.A. by reputable toy companies from that time. Strombecker was a well known post WWII company that made solid wood doll furniture from the 40’s-60’s. The dining room, nursery, and living room sets included in this lot are from Strombecker and are in their entirety.

But perhaps my favorite furniture set was the kitchen furniture complete with working washing machine created by Linemar. Linemar is actually a division of the well known Marx company that made toys made out of tin. In 1955 Time magazine called Louis Marx “The Toy King” due to the popularity of his toys. We actually already had an antique Marx doll house and were delighted to add to our collection. And last but not least is the small family owned Flagg Company which made the doll families included in the lot which date back to 1947. These dolls were designed by Sheila and Charles Flagg from Massachusetts. Sheila was the designer of the dolls but Charles created the molds as well as clothing templates for them. It is also reported that the whole family including the Flagg children actually hand painted the faces and hair on these dolls. I love the idea of working together as family towards some sort of creative endeavor. It sort of reminds me of our family working together to make our Stink bath products as well as some other projects we’ve had in the works.

The only unknown in the furniture lot is all of the bedroom furniture complete with stitched slipcovers. They look like they could almost be homemade but the stitching is impeccable so I’m not so sure. At any rate, this dollhouse lot has been akin to finding a buried treasure and we will continue to do our research to figure out the origins of all of the items included. It has been such a great hands on history lesson for my children as we’ve talked about the differences between life now and life in the 1950’s. My kids are developing such an appreciation for things from the past and I’ve enjoyed watching my youngest play with the set carefully today while talking about her “special” dollhouse friends. You can enjoy the pictures below and please feel free to comment with any knowledge or memories you may have about the items featured!

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Grandma Hazel’s Sheets

My Grandma Hazel died several years ago and I still have days when I cry just thinking about it. She was spunky and loving and she never forgot a birthday even though she had almost 50 grandchildren! She was a godly lady who had a great sense of humor and she gave wonderful advice. She sang loudly and off key in church and kept every Cool Whip container she ever owned(watch out if you tried to throw one away). But perhaps the most interesting part of her life revolved around her romance with my Grandad Ned who passed away during open heart surgery when I was only 2. Although Grandma Hazel was considered wealthy being the local store owner and senator’s daughter, Ned was from a poor family who didn’t have much. The one thing Ned had going for him was that he was good looking enough to rival any Hollywood star in his day. They met in church, fell in love and had 10 children. Somewhere in the midst of raising what turned out to be mostly boys on their modest farm, Ned was called away to serve in WWII.

Other than their children, their letters during that time are one of the most beautiful things left that symbolize the kind of love most people only dream about. Grandma once told me a story about Grandad when he was stationed away from home during Christmas one year.  He knew that the military train would literally be chugging along right in front of his farm but he would not be able to see his family. He ended up using a roll of toilet paper to write Hazel and the kids a love letter and then wrapped it up in plastic and threw it out in his front yard when the train passed! When I was in my 20’s I went to stay with Grandma during one summer and I helped get her pictures and letters in order. I cherish that time with her because she told me so much about our family history and what it was like raising such a huge family on little more than love.

Years later when she passed away, all the family members were able to keep something to remember her by. I chose to keep some of her well worn sheets and slips. It may seem like an odd choice to those on the outside but some of my best memories involved those well worn linens. When I was a child growing up my sister Megan and I looked forward to spending the night with Grandma Hazel. We’d wear Grandma’s old slips, and  read out of date magazines while we cozied up to her in her feminine, floral sheets. As I got older I tried to help out a lot more when I would visit. Grammy Hazel always had a steady stream of visitors so I would help by doing laundry and making all of the beds.

For years I’ve had these items in my chest upstairs. I knew I wanted to do a project with them but I just couldn’t decide what to do. As spring started to hit us this year, I decided to do a photo shoot involving my girls and some things that made me think of my Grandma. Megan, the girls and I went out to the property my father-in-law owns and and had a tea party. The kite and aprons are made from those well loved sheets and it made me smile seeing something so familiar on my girls. I know I have big shoes to fill when I think about the legacy I want to pass down to my children. There are so many difficult parenting days when I want to call my Grammy and ask her what to do about potty training a challenging 3 year old, or how I can get my tomatoes to grow… But I am so thankful for the time I had with her and for all the wonderful people she left behind to help me answer those questions.

P.S. A big thank you goes out to my lovely sister Megan for helping me shoot this today despite the chilly weather, muddy shoes, ticks, wardrobe malfunctions, and toddler temper tantrums! We had quite a few obstacles to overcome with our location and subjects but we made it work because that’s how Lemasters do it!

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My Super Sleuths!

It was “Read Across America” week this week and my two oldest kiddos had to dress up for school as a book character. Maizy told me the night before that she wanted to be Nancy Drew and not just any Nancy Drew but the 40’s version. I’ve created a monster! We did our best to throw together a costume and even though it crosses several decades, I think we did o.k.. My middle child has serious sensory issues so costumes are always tough for him. Themed days at school are usually really explosive for him so we tried to avoid the blow out by going with an outfit that would be easy to wear. Thank you Pinterest! Our efforts were rewarded as he excitedly put on his costume this morning and ran out the door for the bus. Here are a few pics!pennies-for-patients-5pennies-for-patients-4pennies-for-patients-2pennies-for-patients

Winter LaLaloopsy Land!

My youngest daughter has strong opinions about what she likes(and doesn’t like) and as result decided that this year she would have a “Snowflake Lalaloopsy” party for her third birthday. If you are new to the world of Lalaloopsy I should tell you that they are these wonky sort of dolls that have buttons for eyes and wear brightly colored clothes. They are sort of a cross between Tim Burton’s “Coraline” and Rainbow Bright. Snowflake happens to be the name of their winter themed doll so it wasn’t a far stretch to fashion a January party in honor of our very own little Snowflake.

What is wonderful about a winter themed party after the holidays is that you can hit up all of the after Christmas sales and pretty much get everything you need for free! I’m pretty sure If I had waited a few more days Target would have started paying people to take holiday themed item off their hands! We used $1.25 wrapping paper for our backdrop as well as other 80% off decorations from Target and buttons/yarn from Michaels for our decor. My husband refinished an old T.V. cabinet so we could feature “Snowflake” in a winter scene complete with her very own snowman made out of a sock.(Give me some ribbon, buttons, and a glue gun and I’m dangerous!) Drinks were made to look like snowmen, knitting yarn was hung from the ceiling to look like snow and pretty soon we had a nice wintry scene indoors.

We live in an area full of amazingly talented people which meant that we didn’t have to go far to get the cake made by The Bekahry (www.facebook.com/TheBekahry). Our birthday girl especially loved the Lalaloopsy cookies made just down the street by Sweet G’s(www.facebook.com/SweetGcookiecompany). Lyric stared at the “Snowflake Lalaloopsy” cookie the whole morning before the party claiming it as her own! The other fantastic vendor we used was Josette, ( www.etsy.com/shop/josettesaprons) who makes the cutest little aprons you’ve ever seen on Etsy. When I described what I wanted, she started working immediately and within weeks I had the cutest “Snowflake” themed apron this side of Nashville. Instead of a traditional party hat I decided to make our little one a top hat to go with her themed attire.

All in all this was a very easy but fun party and our birthday girl was in heaven as we decorated hats, and ate sweet treats honoring her favorite Lalaloopsy doll!

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Lyric’s Kitchen

We decided to make a play kitchen for Lyric from an old end table we found at an antique shop. This was our Christmas project and it was a lot of fun! Enjoy!december-6december-5december-3december-4december-2

Camping Mini Shoots 2013

Thanks so much to all of you who participated in the Rustic/Camping Mini Shoots this year! I enjoyed each and every family! Here are a few pics from the 2 day shoot. Hope this gets you in the holiday spirit!

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School House Rocks!

It’s been a busy month! We had to squeeze our back to school photo session in on a rainy Saturday morning. I typically don’t use the studio area in our house very much but decided it was my best shot with all of the inconsistent weather we’ve been having lately. My husband Chris painted one of our studio walls with chalkboard paint and I drug some of our photo props/play things upstairs to capture the kids as they prepare to begin a new school year. Of course, my fake studio flooring was giving me problems so please just try to ignore it. I was too tired to care and decided to just overlook it and let the kids do their thing. They love to play and act so this session was a breeze once I got them into character. You can see that Maizy really got into her role as a teacher! She was made for the job and it is always funny watching her boss around the younger two. She drew the map on the wall and if you look closely you’ll notice she over estimated how many states she would need and as a result the U.S. got two extra states! These are the things I’ll look back on years from now and get a good laugh out of.

This year is an especially exciting school year as I am now the School Counselor at the school where my children attend. I think this will be a positive change for all of us and will greatly simplify our lives! There was a point last year when there were so many things going on at all of our different schools, I felt I couldn’t keep up! Even though it has been a busy couple of weeks I think we will all feel good about the change when we are settled. I’m hoping that next year I’ll actually get some school mini-sessions open to the public, but for now I’m just happy to have captured my 3 little students. Hope everyone has a wonderful year!

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The Back To School Blues

It’s official. Summer is over and it is time for the kids and I to go back to school. I’m not sure why I feel this twinge of sadness as we approach the school year…. I love my job and I am a person who seeks routine. Still, knowing that the carefree days of summer are behind us always sort of hits me in the gut! Over the past few months we’ve had a lot of quality family time together. This is what I’ll miss the most as we approach the hustle and bustle of another busy year. Of course I know this melancholy won’t last very long and soon summer photos will be replaced with back to school pictures and all of the excitement of fall. But today my plan is to soak up our last few days of vacation and be present as we enjoy this time together!

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