Ramona’s Zoo Birthday Party


We set the birthday party bar pretty high on Ramona’s 3rd. About a month before Ramona turned 4 (and about a week before Beckett came), we were in a panic about what we were going to do.

Obviously the house wasn’t finished to have the party there…unless you call no electricity and a complete construction zone a party. We decided it was best to have it where there was no threat of injury. Enter the Fort Worth Zoo.


Since we had an hour for set up and take down, we had to keep the decor to a minimum. We just didn’t have the time, so we wanted to make sure what we did was awesome. We used Caitlin‘s genius DIY of succulents in these geometric dip bowls. I used the picture from Ramona’s street art with “is 4″ cut from the Silhouette machine.

This was such a simple centerpiece. It took about 30 minutes to create the whole thing, and it was ready to put on the table. Bam. Who knew throwing a party could be easy?


It wouldn’t be a party without a Fort Worth classic – a Black Forrest Cake from Swiss Pastry Shop. It’s gluten free and totally delicious. We cut the “Happy Birthday Ramona” with the Silhouette. Instead of the using the letters, we used the cut out for a punch out effect. It was easier to attach to the baker’s twine and gave us a more unique look. That elephant image was used on the invite…which we will have up as a printable for you!


With little ones, cupcakes are always easier especially on location. I got 6″ candles since I love the look of giant candles. 6″ isn’t giant but on a cupcake the proportions make me happy.


Believe it or not Beckett slept through the entire party. That was back in his chill days like age 0-3.5 weeks.

So there’s our relatively fuss free zoo birthday party. Simple DIYs that made a big difference. The centerpieces made the space feel less like a classroom. The cake and food is always top notch with us (Nick smoked some pork…it was delicious). The kids got to go into the zoo afterwards. It was a win for all.

We are looking forward to sharing the invite and favor bag printables with you later this week!

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DIY Birthday Street Art


Nothing like blogging about a project 4-5 months after it happened, right? Well welcome to Ramona’s birthday week. Sit back and enjoy some birthday DIYs while the house finishes this week (fingers crossed).

A cool tradition in the town that we moved to, one that’s been going on for as long as anyone can remember, is painting an old railroad building to tell someone happy birthday. The building is right along the road that drives through the center of town so everyone can see it. It’s a really endearing small town tradition.

This year, for Ramona’s birthday, I decided I would do it a bit differently… street art style. The whole time I was working on it I kept telling Amber “I’m pretty much the Banksy of [insert town name here]”


I’ll skip over the technical details, but basically I created a threshold image of Ramona in photoshop. Exported it to Illustrator, so I could create a vector image out of it. Once I blew the image up, I took it to Office Max and had them print it out on their giant plot printer. It printed 36 inches wide, so I made it 72″ x 72″ to have 2 long prints that would need to be connected.

Photo was from our maternity session with J Noel Photography.

The prints kept screwing up, so I had to end up print them about 50 different ways. Eventually we got a combination that would work.

I went that night with Amber’s sister Apryle, and we painted the wall pink. Remember Beckett was 2 weeks old, so Amber was preoccupied.


The next night I made some wheatpaste… which is basically just boiling water and flour together until the gluten forms a glue.


I went out when it was dark, well because it just seemed right, and mopped on the glue. Yes mopped with an actual mop.


Once the surface was covered, I put up the prints and mopped over them with the wheatpaste. And continued to paste until all of Ramona was all the way up on the wall. It’s a similar process to Mod Podge.

We placed the letter individually the same way.


The next day was Ramona’s actual birthday, so we took her in the morning to show her our little birthday card to her. She loved it, though I’m not sure she appreciated how much work it was. Hopefully she’ll see this when she gets older and think we were cool parents back in the day.

She called it the “big Nona” – Nona is our nickname for her. Hilarious because she calls the Statue of Liberty the “big lady”. We can’t pass the building now without having to read her what’s on it. Nothing says I love you like birthday street art especially when it’s legal.

Check out more of the birthday party, grab a printable invitation, and see our favor bags with a free printable!

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Upstairs Flooring: History in the Making

Upstairs Flooring

Once it was decided that we had to finish the upstairs, the electrical, drywall, trim, and paint went up pretty quick. (Remember all the rooms were already framed.) A huge downside to finishing the space is we knew we’d have to compromise on flooring. Thus history was made…


The Wills went shopping for carpet. (Dramatic much?) We’ve had 2 previous houses (2.5 if you count our downstairs since it’s technically finished), and we’ve replaced all the flooring in both houses even still shopping for carpet was a first for us. We’ve never bought/shopping for carpet ever in the history of Wills casas if you’re wondering that’s like 9 years almost a third of our life and basically all of our adult lives. Uncharted territory for sure.

I was immediately drawn to this patterned carpet. It reads diamonds in the picture, but it was more of a scallop pattern. It took me all of one day to get tired of it. It was $2.84 a square foot without pad or installation.

Upstairs Flooring

This square pattern carpet was a pretty good option. It was $2.73 per square foot (again without pad or installation as all these prices will be). It wasn’t that soft, but I liked the pattern.

Upstairs Flooring For comparison sake, we found another carpet that had a square pattern. It was only $1.94 per square foot. I didn’t care for this option. It felt busy and the color options weren’t that great either.

Upstairs Flooring Samples I found 2 basic carpets sans pattern to take to the house as well. They were both around $1.60 per square foot. We weren’t thrilled with our choices in the warehouse, but all the samples looked much better in the house. Amazing what natural light and white walls can do for a carpet sample.

We knew we couldn’t go to light on the color because of the playroom and general shenanigans that will happen upstairs with our kids and my crafting. We also didn’t want to go too dark since dark carpet shows every piece of dirt even if it hides stains.

Upstairs We went with the middle sample. It’s a basic one color carpet that’s not too light or dark. It’s soft and reasonably priced. It didn’t make sense to buy the patterned carpet. Neither of us were thrilled enough to spend over a $1 more per square foot (there’s like 1400 square feet up here – playroom, office, media room, guest bedroom + a bathroom that is not carpeted but still up here.).

Office Here’s my office. It’s got a little nook to the right and 4 (!!!) windows. Blogging headquarters y’all. I’m really excited to have my own space to craft and what not.

One good thing about having carpet up here is it helps with the noise. It muffles all the bouncing, screaming, and playing that the kids will do up here, so Nick can get work done downstairs in his office. Once it was installed there was a significant difference in the noise level which will only get better once we have rugs, furniture, and things throughout the house.

Nearly there folks…as if we haven’t been saying that for months.

FYI we were nominated for Apartment Therapy’s Homies Award for Best Home Project & DIY Blog. It would be so amazing if you could stop by and vote for us!! We would so appreciate it!

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How to Build a House and Stay Happily Married

This is the true story of two married people, picked to build a house, work together and have their lives written on a blog, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start being real…

Or this is just where we answer your burning questions in a less dramatic way then reality according to MTV. Either way prepare to have your world rocked.

Katie (my favorite reader…if I played favorites – I love you all equally like any good mother) had this incredible question up her sleeve:

All your recent great work has led me to a question. Because you’ve built from the ground up, what did your timing, choice, and sourcing process look like? Did you have to methodically go room by room, or focus on material (all tile, all countertops, etc.) and then go from there? As someone who agonizes for months over drawer pulls, how did you handle all of that?

So. Much. Goodness. Also this post was completely cowritten by us, so you get both the husband and the wife’s view of the process.

As far as approach, whether or not we went room by room or focused on materials… the answer is both.

Basically we went room by room ahead of time and planned out the overall feel before we started meeting with the subcontractors (cabinets, counters, etc). Some of our vision was easier to pull off than others. The island marble (white, gray veining with a waterfall) was our plan from the moment we put pen to paper with our architect. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easily executed.

However since you’re dealing with subcontractors for each specific thing (i.e. flooring, plumbing, cabinets, etc.), all meetings and final decisions are made based on a specific materials. We found the process to go smoother when we considered the whole room then broke it down by materials. It made the details in the meetings less daunting and the communication clearer between us and the subcontractors…not that they always listened to us 100%.

This is why the master bath countertop being gray was so disappointing because all the other design decisions had been made (flooring and cabinet color) and executed before the countertop arrived more on the gray side. It changed the feel and our vision of that space. That’s kinda the downside of having such a strong opinion about how a space should come together. Still worth it though.

Our sourcing was a combination of budget considerations along with achieving the look we wanted. This is where building a complete custom house is awesome because you are limitless with option. No one tells you no (think kid in a candy store scenario). Light fixtures were big for us. We met with a consultant from a lighting supply store early on, and we weren’t super happy with the selection (or pricing) and ended up sourcing a lot of the fixtures ourselves (like the killer vintage pendants above the island). We also got some crazy looks for busting out an ikea fixture. We’re not brand whores and don’t think that just because something is cheap it won’t look good, so it didn’t bother us.

How we planned: it was a constant conversation on text, facebook and pinterest. So many times Nick would be in the other room (or at work) and see something he really liked (a light fixture for example) and message Amber a link on facebook. We used secret boards on pinterest to have conversations with each other and post tons of options for a specific thing (I think at one point there were 30 options in a row posted for our master vanity light).

Lastly, some decisions you make or change mid-stream as the room evolves. When they framed out our bathroom, the idea of a generic tub just didn’t set well with us. The more we went up there the more we realized that we wanted to do something different. They had already framed out for a jet tub when we had them yank out the framing and cut into the foundation to plumb for the clawfoot tub.

Was it overwhelming? We don’t think so. Well sometimes. Did we get all the choices right? Don’t think so either. There’s not a ton we would change, but there’s definitely things like the fireplace and the exterior color scheme that we would do differently in retrospect.

We were able to make decisions very quickly. Even though Amber is usually the one antagonizing every choice, there’s nothing like living with your parents to help speed up the process. Kidding (kinda).

The key is to think of the space as a whole, then break it down by the materials. Allow yourself to adjust as you see things coming together. Research the heck out of every decision to make sure you are getting exactly what you want for as cheap as you can.

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Newborn Necessities

1. Towel  /  2. Shampoo & Lotion  /  3. Swaddle Blankets
4. CBR  /  5. iBabylog app  /  6. Bundle Me
7. Nursing Cover  /  8. Sleep Sack  /  9. Burpy Bid
10. Changing Station  /  11. Honest Diapers  /  12. Dekor Plus

As promised I rounded up some of my newborn must haves. I mean I’m 4 months in with kid number 2,  so I’m basically an expert. If only people.

H&M has great organic cotton towels and bodysuits for cheap, so stock up. I love the Aden + Anais swaddles. They make swaddling less daunting. Swaddling is hard y’all. I would put Beckett in the sleep sack for night. The bundle me for his car seat is a must for winter babies. I had one with Ramona too. It’s just so nice to have them warm and be able to cover them without struggling with a loose blanket.

I couldn’t live without the iBabylog app. It tracks nursing times and sides, diaper changes, everything. Just 4 years ago I had to record all that stuff in a journal. Technology is changing the world I tell ya.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much we love Honest diapers and products. It’s amazing to have diapers and wipes delivered monthly. Magnificent. Plus they have adorable patterns. And bonus Beckett has not had a diaper rash since we have switched to exclusively using Honest diapers. We have the essentials bundle as well, so we use the lotion and shampoo (and cleaning supplies). It’s convenient, responsible, and stylish. What more can you ask for? (Answer: Nothing.)

I love the changer (10). It’s easy to delegate changing responsibilities when you can just hand that thing over instead of the entire diaper bag. I had a different diaper pail with Ramona. Then I bought the Dekor Plus, and it’s by far the best way to dispose of all those adorably patterned diapers.

Don’t be fooled by overwhelming baldness cuteness. This kid has entered into the extreme drooling stage. Jessica got me these incredible burpy bibs - burp cloth + bib. Nothing like a baby essential that is dual purpose.

So the Cord Blood Registry kit isn’t really something you use, but I felt like it needed to be included. We have saved both kids’ cord blood, and Beckett’s cord tissue (they didn’t do that when Ramona was born). We researched it and felt like it was the best choice for our family.

Any mama’s want to chime in on their must have items?

Sidenote: No one perked me to say this. The links to Honest and CBR are the same referral links available to all their clients.

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Cabinet Hardware

I should have titled this post “cabinet hardware the hidden cost in building”.  True not it’s not always necessary to spring for hardware during the build. However with our flat panel drawers and doors, it’s nearly impossible to open them without hardware. Thus let’s commence on some hardware purchasing shall we.

We knew we wanted brass throughout, but most brass options are online only. I ordered these brass pulls from Home Depot. I liked the shape. The finish was a little too 80′s brass though.

Of course we ordered the blogger’s brass staple – these Martha cup pulls from Home Depot. And sold. They have a great tone to the brass and are reasonably priced which is necessary because we have so. many. drawers.

We decided to put 2 pulls on our larger drawers. The downside to using these pulls is there’s only one size. Although these specific drawers are too large for a single cup pull regardless the size of the pull.

It wouldn’t be our build if there wasn’t a little drama. After we were high on the island countertop install, we walked in to find the hardware on the smaller drawers installed wrong. The pulls were much too close together. It was worse in person than the picture displays.

We had to explain that the pulls should be installed centered at the 1/4 and 3/4 of the drawer. Y’all, we don’t settle for anything. It really is exhausting for everyone. Seriously the pulls look so much better in their proper place. I’m so glad we don’t settle.

Just a little aside on our kitchen, no uppers = drawers galore. I’m getting old and can’t be bending down to grab things out of cabinets.

We did have to find hardware for doors too. We went with these brass goblet knobs. It completely changed the look for the living room built in. It’s going to look so good in there once we figure out a wallpaper, get furniture, and a rug…

The cup pulls and knobs look beautiful with the navy cabinets too! We are thrilled with how simple hardware pulled the cabinet spaces together. Everything looks more finished and ready to be used.

Anyone have any good hardware sources? We still haven’t purchased any towels bars, hooks, toilet paper holders and what not.

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Open It Up

Once we decided/were forced to finish the upstairs, the electrical was run and the drywall went up. When you walked up the stairs and arrived on the landing, you walked through an exterior door into the playroom. This set up was ideal for closing off an unfinished upstairs from a finished downstairs…

Obviously not so great for a finished upstairs. The thought of leaving the door to use as a baby gate was alluring, but not an exterior door. It separated the upstairs and downstairs in the oddest of ways.

We decided to open the whole threshold up. When we were talking about it, Nick wanted to take down the 3 foot wall that created that landing space. I was not in agreement (and neither was Cody aka project manager…he was more adamantly against it than I was). I was thinking if we left it then we could use that entire back wall. The landing wall would keep all the toy baskets and what nots in place.

After the threshold was opened up, that landing wall really felt weird. You walked up the stairs, then had to walk a few feet more to be in the actual space. Okay Nick was right. Write this day down. History was made.

Taking that 3 feet out opened the space up tremendously. It was such a small and simple change, but it was really the best choice. Now to get a baby gate and finish the upstairs! We’d be ready! FYI our builder says we will be finished this Friday which probably means 3 Fridays from that! So close!

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Boom Goes the Dynamite

Remember how I was upset the other day and wrote down all the reasons I have to celebrate? I think we are finally at a stage on the blog where we can talk about it. I wanted to get a little further along in the build process before we said anything. You know answer the BIG question of why in world we haven’t closed yet?!?


We were supposed to close on December 30th. Even though the house wasn’t quite finished – the floors weren’t stained, the island had no countertop, and a long list of etceteras. Our appraisal came back where we needed it to be. We were through underwriting. Imagine us twiddling our thumbs (very anxiously) waiting for the house to be finished “enough” to close. Then…

A little dramatic but it really did feel like someone dropped an a-bomb on us. Underwriting decided we couldn’t close with the upstairs being unfinished. Remember that genius plan we had to DIY the upstairs after we moved in? Save money upfront. Give us the best of both worlds – new + reno. We even added more square footage since hey we were finishing that later so might as well.

It wasn’t a safety thing. I should be very clear in saying having an unfinished upstairs is fairly common where we are building. It usually isn’t as much square footage as ours but unfinished nonetheless. This completely blindsided everyone – us, the builder, the loan officer, and now you.

We all put on our thinking caps/went into panic mode. You can see Beckett is very seriously reviewing our options. We found a bank that would keep the loan in house, so we could close without having to finish the upstairs. Once we got all the paperwork back, there was a fairly insignificant difference between the monthly payment closing without the upstairs finished (new lender) vs paying the extra to finish the upstairs (original lender). From there the choice was simple, let’s finish this thing off.

In case you forgot our post framing walk through, the upstairs is entirely framed out and insulated. We started the whole build process again for the nearly 1500 square feet up there. Ugh. At this point we were so over building as you can imagine from all the work/running around/general headache (see: mirrors or countertops).

So that happened. Aren’t y’all excited you get to see the upstairs come together? Honestly I wasn’t at first, but now I’m so glad things turned out this way. Let’s get this {expletive} built.

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The Never Ending Countertop Quest Part 2: The Reckoning

So yesterday Amber talked about us driving all over God’s green earth looking for marble for our island. It was arduous to say the least. I was completely worn out and was just over the whole process. I didn’t want to go to anymore slab yards. The last thing I wanted to talk about was marble. This led to this poignant text in which Amber said what we were both thinking.

Agreed sweetheart. Agreed.

Above was the marble slab that we agreed to use. It wasn’t perfect. The fact that it was only 2cm thick, meant that we would have to miter the edges to get the look that we wanted.


This was the image we gave our marble fabricator with the instructions: “MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THIS”

The slab wasn’t perfect, but we were happy and ready to move on. Maybe not Jack-on-the-edge-of-the-Titanic-happy, but at least as happy as this guy:

We moved on.

Then… *cue dramatic music*…. we started getting messages from the fabricator. They weren’t liking the idea of mitering the marble because they were afraid it wouldn’t hold up well. They asked if they could laminate the edge instead.

They dropped off a sample of what the edge would look like (notice seam through the middle). Needless to say that wouldn’t work. So they would miter it. We moved on.

A few days later the fabricator sent us some pics of our slab with their attempt to miter the edges. It turned out that (according to what we were told after some questioning), they didn’t have equipment to miter a countertop as long as ours (about 9ft) and were cutting it by hand. The result was a jagged edge which meant a bigger (and sloppier looking) seam. Not going to work either.

(Here’s an aside from the brain of Nick, free of charge: Let’s be honest, the build process is a complete beat down. It’s exhausting. Your subs will make tons of mistakes, and you have to either make the decision to live with it or make them redo it. We, as a couple, have stuck to our guns throughout the whole build process. Would we have been as bad if we didn’t have a blog? I don’t know, but I do empathize with those people who are just sick of waiting and just want it be done. It’s tough and the crappiest part about all of this is you feel like a jerk even though you’re not the one that made the mistake.)

So we talked to our builder, and he told the fabricator to find someone that could make the cuts cleaner and send the slab over to them.

A few days went by and we didn’t hear anything. Then we got a call from the fabricator who said they were returning the 2 cm slab. There was a new 3cm calacatta slab at a yard we had visited months previously, and we should go look at it.

We hesitantly agreed. Mainly because we didn’t want to do this whole thing over again but didn’t have a choice.

So I went by myself. I waited at the front for 30 mins to be helped. Once someone told me where the slab was, I walked around back and there she was… the most beautiful piece of stone that ever existed. I called Amber and said “That’s it. That’s the one.” and I moved on.

Think we’re done? Not quite. I know no one is still reading this, so I’d like to take this time to say that Amber doesn’t like the song “Sunday, bloody Sunday” and that makes sad on the inside.

For some reason, probably just because… well, this is the way things have gone on this project, our fabricator sent us to look at another slab after we had already agreed on the calcutta one. I drove all the way (by myself again) to North Dallas to look at it for no reason. Well, you will notice, it’s not even the same kind of marble and had blue veins.


For the final time, we called the fabricator and said we liked the 3cm calacatta marble that we already told you to get. Please, just use that one. We moved on.

Finally a week or so later, Amber texted me this pic. The top was finally on, and as you can see for yourself it was perfect. So. Damn. Perfect.

I was at work, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get up and give it one of these… cause I did.

I couldn’t wait to get to the house and see it. And let me tell you, it was just as (if not even more) incredible in person. I maintain that it is the single most beautiful piece of stone I’ve ever seen… especially since it meant I didn’t have to go to any more slab yards.

After the top was on, they made templates for the waterfalling of the sides.

Then a couple of days later… well you know the drill. Floor-to-counter straight sexiness.

Pretty much spot on for what we were looking for. (Side Note: The floors are dirty in the pic and look weird for some reason, you probably didn’t notice though because you were too busy looking at them countertops.)

We’re done. It’s over. No more countertop discussions. The crazy thing is, writing this post caused me to relive all of the emotion / stress / anxiety / pain / frustration / et al that we encountered during this process, and I probably won’t sleep well tonight because of it.

In the end we’re ecstatic at the way it turned out. I might even go as far as to say that we’re jumping for joy.

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The Never Ending Countertop Quest Part I

Yes getting a countertop for the island was such a long and draining process it requires 2 parts, and the use of quest in the title. The house was really coming together with the wood floors finished, but it was such a bummer to walk in and see no countertop on the island. Remember the Carrara marble was way too gray, so we had to find another white with gray marbling option for the island. It was kinda like a slap in the face every visit to the house (which by the way happens at least once a day). The prospect of getting what we wanted for the island was bleak especially since we were told there were no Calcutta slabs long enough for our island at ANY slab yard in the DFW area.

We decided to look into Quartzite countertops. Quartzite is different from Quartz which is much better explained in this link than I could attempt. I called our fabricator to ask for his distributor. I sent him pictures of which Quartzite we wanted to look at, so he would make sure they had it before we headed out with 2 kids. He called a place in Dallas and said they had Super White but not Luce di Luna. However he mentioned that sometimes the names change, so they might have that option too.

We headed out to Dallas which is about an 1 and a half drive from where we live with both kids. We got there, and the place didn’t sell Quartzite at all. Only Quartz which super white was just a plain white counter. I may or may not have punched a piece of Quartz so hard it broke in half. (That didn’t happen. I thought I’d add it for dramatic effect as if this story needs more drama.)

There was a stone place next door, so we went there because why the heck not we just drove over an hour for nothing. We walked in and what did we see first thing…a slab of Calcutta marble long enough to cover the island. This picture does not do this slab justice. It was gorgeous even in the disgusting light of a warehouse.

I called our fabricator and griped about the Quartz place. He did try to argue that there was no difference between Quartz and Quartzite. I did not send him a link to their differences, but I did think about it. At this point I was frustrated and also feeling like a huge brat for being frustrated. (Definitely feeling the glaring shamefulness of first world problems.) I told him to call the place next door and get this Calcutta slab.

Unfortunately, he had never worked with that slab yard, so he came back with an insanely expensive price. Totally worth the beauty of that Calcutta marble, but absolutely out of budget and not going to happen. However he suddenly found a slab that might work at the original warehouse we got our Absolute Black.

Are you still reading? Someone get you a medal. So we got to the other slab yard (no. 3 for the day) which was another hour drive and doesn’t allow children. We had to take shifts watching the kids. Guess what we found? Some quartzite. We figured might as well explore this option while we’re here since we thought it might be cheaper. Mainly it is more durable than marble which is a huge concern for an island in a home with 2 kids.

This is Sea Pearl Quartzite. The price was about the same as the Calcutta was going to be (possibly a little more since we needed 2 slabs). The Calcutta slab that was the right size wasn’t at this slab yard…it was at the one in Dallas!! Nick was ready to just get the Sea Pearl since we’d seen it, and this whole process took us literally the entire day 9-5. I wasn’t sold on it, but once I relented (mainly due to exhaustion) he checked it out again and decided I was, in fact, right there was too much green in it. We left for our 45 min drive home knowing that we’d have to go to Dallas the next morning to look at a Calcutta slab since we already learned our lesson about buying a slab before looking at it.

Loaded up the kids the next morning for day 2 of countertop shopping. Nothing says family time like a trip to a marble yard that doesn’t allow kids. Again this slab was prettier than it’s pictured. There was more movement and more brown to it than we wanted. I know you can’t really see the brown, but it was there.

We said get it. End the torture now. It is a 2 cm Calcutta Danby. Finally we could tell the fabricator get this one. After my many hours at the warehouse the day before, I learned a lot about edges and all things countertops. I told our guy we wanted a mitered edge on this countertop. End of story…oh wait no there’s a 2nd part. More drama and a beautiful reveal tomorrow.

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