Prologue To My New Blog Series: One Project A Weekend

A comment I often get is “Wow, with all the painting you can do, your house must look amazing.”  Hmmm, not really… I wish. *sigh*

My answer is usually, “I’m like the mechanic with the broken down car, the chef that orders take-out, the plumber with the leaky faucet.” I’m so busy working on projects for everyone else….that I really don’t have time to work on my own home. I’m lucky if I can just keep it clean and have the dishes and laundry done on a daily basis! 

So I got an idea at the beginning of this year when I decided to update my blog…

But first, a little intro to the intro: The purpose of this “prologue” is to tell you a little about myself, the one-woman show behind EITAK Design, and give an explanation (long as it may be) as to why I’ve decided to start this series. There are two purposes actually: one is to give a little background on who I am, what it’s like to run my own business, why I feel the need to blog….and the other is to explain why it’s taken me so long to get around to doing this! Both are pretty self-serving, I must admit. I’m basically using this blog as a forum to talk about my ideas, interests, inspirations…but in the case of this particular post, I might be doing a lot of rambling and maybe just a little venting.  Isn’t that what blogging is about?

I see blogging as a journal or ongoing diary…a way of documenting thoughts and ideas and sharing them with people who have some of the same interests. I kept a diary as a kid and I’ve always had journals, sketchbooks, notebooks to jot down my thoughts and a quick sketch or two. Some of these books are just as treasured to me as a family photo album….they’re a piece of me, a moment in time captured in words and doodles. I’m not a writer by any means, but I like to write…and when I can’t get something down with words, I sketch or draw. I guess I’m treating this blog like a digital journal, one that I’m sharing with anyone interested.

I remember the days (before starting EITAK, before marriage and kids) when I kept little sketchbooks or journals for EVERYTHING! If I was traveling, I would keep a food journal of things I ate and sights I saw….complete with menu descriptions, sketches, receipts, ticket stubs and brochures. I also had a “look book” where I would tear out pages from magazines and put together a wish list of outfits, shoes, accessories, hair styles and makeup. So when my husband, Aaron, and I bought our home in 2001….naturally, I had to start a “look book” for decorating and personalizing our suburban tract home.

Back to this new blog series…  If you couldn’t already tell from this post so far (or any of my posts, for that matter) I’m kinda long-winded….um, I could talk your ear off!  And if you’re a neighbor, friend or client of mine, chances are I already have!   

The blog series is called “One Project A Weekend” and it will highlight a personal project that I’ve been able to complete in a weekend.  I’ve been trying to do a little something around my house each weekend for the past 5 months.  I’m not redecorating an entire room or  painting some elaborate mural or anything overzealous like that, we’re talking baby steps….a weekend is only two days and I have a family and work full-time!  Some of the projects may just be simple maintenance and certainly not blog-worthy (I’m not going to post pictures of every little thing…do you really want to see pictures of how I re-caulked the shower?  LOL).  And it’s not a “D-I-Y” series…I’m sure there are plenty of youtube videos and blogs out there that can show you how to do anything short of open-heart surgery!  So, not really any step-by-step pictures or how-tos or paint colors or how much something cost/where I bought it (that’s where blogging gets really time consuming for me…I just want to post a few pictures of the completed project, talk a little bit about it and check it off my “to-do” list!).  I figure if you want more info, you can just ask me by emailing or posting a comment.  

I’ve been inspired by friends and neighbors, who have been steadily completing remodeling and decorating projects in their homes, to finally tackle my own “To Do List.”  It seems like I’m always giving advice and painting tips or helping others out with their painting projects, but not really finishing up any of my own.  Yep, that’s my list pictured up there.  It was started in 2001 when we moved into our house, has been revised and added to many times, and (according to this printout) was last modified in October of 2008.  Not much has been “checked off” since the list was created years ago.  The highlighted items are projects that I thought would be easy to do first.

In January, I made a New Year’s Resolution that I would find a way to make time and focus on projects for myself, my family and our home…. and to check some things off MY “to do” list.  I decided the first step would be to stop working on the weekends.  Now, in the invitation business, most of the events I design for (weddings, parties, etc.) are weekend-oriented, which means I need to be available for my clients at a moments notice should they need anything from me.  So there’s no way to completely avoid work in that aspect of my business.  Plus, running my own business means I’m always corresponding with clients, making design revisions on proofs and keeping up with project management…pretty much every waking hour of my day, it seems.  I also do most of the custom printing and assembling in-house.  But I decided that I could at least stop booking painting projects for weekends….and devote those hours I would have spent driving to/from and working in someone else’s home, to tackling a project in my own.

The purpose of this blog series is to document my progress by digitally journaling the completion of my projects.  By publicly documenting each project, I guess I’m also putting a bit of pressure on myself to get things done!  Knowing that I need to create content for the blog might give me that extra “nudge” or create a deadline for all those projects that have been pushed to the back-burner.  Not that I need to put any more pressure on myself by adding deadlines to my already maxed-out schedule, but sometimes that’s how I do my best work (I’m thinking about all those last minute term papers I aced in college, even though I started/finished just hours before the due date).   And to tell you the truth, I need a deadline to prioritize my schedule.  I can’t just say “I’ll get to it when I have a chance” because that will never happen.  Something always comes up.  For me, I have to say “this is the due date” and put it on my calendar.

That being said, here are the reasons why it’s taken me so long to get anything done around here(this is where a little bit of the venting comes in, so please bear with me).  

1) I’m too busy working on everyone else’s projects, that I have little time to devote to my own. Sometimes, the last thing I want to do when I’ve been painting all day, is come home and paint some more.  And when I get home, that’s when I need to get on the computer and work on invitation designs, printing, assembling.  I’m always busy.   There are days in my schedule when I’m lucky to get a load of laundry or dishes done in between all the work and running around.  Did I mention that I’m a wife and a mom to two young boys, too?  EITAK allows me to be a “work-at-home-Mom” so I’m here for my family.  And running my own business allows some flexibility in my schedule so I’m able to do things like volunteer in my son’s kindergarten class and spend time with my close-knit family.  But if you have ever tried working with two rambunctious boys at home, you know that some days it’s impossible to get anything done!

Don’t get me wrong….busy is good!  And I’m very fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I do, and to do what I love.  In this economy, I really can’t turn down any work.  No job is too big or too small.  Work is work.  And quite honestly…this job is too fun to let any project or opportunity pass me by!  One day I’m applying Venetian plaster, the next day I’m antiquing furniture or glazing walls, and then I’m painting a mural of some faraway place.  The transformations are instant gratification….it’s like magic before my eyes.  Some days, I step back and say…”wow, I did that!”  It’s an awesome feeling.  And being able to be a wife, mom….AND my own boss….what could be more rewarding?

But it’s not always easy.  Creating, designing, painting…that’s the easy part.  The hard part is all the administrative stuff that comes with owning your own business – estimates, invoicing, correspondence, scheduling, meetings, research, accounting, marketing.  There’s no such thing as “regular business hours” when you’re self-employed.  Some of my clients are surprised to get emails from me as late as 1 a.m. or as early as 6 a.m….yep, more often than not, those are the times when I’m still working.

2) “Life” happened… no matter how good you are at time management and organization, there are things that will throw you for a loop and change your priorities.  Life’s events, good or bad, will always take precedence.  In 2001, when my husband, Aaron and I bought our house, we were planning our wedding.  That was so much fun and I was totally focused on it!  I naively wondered what I would do with all my “free” time after the wedding.  Ha, if I only knew then…there’s no such thing as free time.  After the wedding and honeymoon, I would say we were productive…I had quit my “day job” and put myself completely into EITAK Design, and Aaron was working for a company as their senior designer.  In our “free time” on weekends, Aaron and I started planning projects for our home.  

We had a contractor install travertine tile flooring in our entry hallway and kitchen. I started picking out paint colors for the rooms, envisioning cool decorative paint treatments and murals, working with my friend Tiffany on window treatments and fabrics, collecting interesting antiques and furniture pieces….and Aaron began installing hardwood floors and experimenting with some basic woodworking such as window casing, crown moulding, baseboards and chair rails.

Then we got really “productive” and our first son, Mason was born in 2004. When Mason arrived (a couple of weeks early) Aaron was still trying to finish up the hardwood floors in our bedroom, I remember we were sleeping on an Aerobed in the loft when I went into labor! Even though I had those “nesting instincts” of late pregnancy…I was working on client projects up until a week or so before Mason was born, so there were a lot of unfinished projects that we just couldn’t find the time or energy for once we brought home our new baby. Most of those projects have stayed unfinished…yep, they’re on “The List.”

Although I took some time off from painting after Mason was born, I was still working like crazy on the PAPER side of my business. I remember finishing up some wedding invitations when Mason was only a week old. By the time Mason was 4-5 months old and out of his colicky stage, I was actually bringing him to some of my painting jobs. Some of my clients were gracious and understanding enough to allow me to bring my baby with me, some even had their nannies watch him while I worked! It was challenging to work with my little one in the same room….but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I smile when I remember how he would try to grab at my paint brushes while I painted (sometimes I had him in the baby sling) or when he’d kick my palette and get paint on his tiny toes. Don’t worry, I wasn’t on a ladder and used non-toxic, water-based acrylics whenever I worked with him around. Jobs that I couldn’t bring him to, I booked for weekends when Aaron would be home. We somehow made it work. But that made it hard to find time at home with our own projects. We were pooped, sleep-deprived, first-time parents!

Then in 2006, when I was 7 months pregnant with our second son, Isaac, my husband was a passenger in a serious car accident.  Aaron suffered injuries that made it difficult for him to do even the most basic things (getting in and out of bed, walking up the stairs, picking things up, driving, sitting or standing for long periods of time).  Even now, almost four years later, we’re still dealing with the fallout from that accident. Things were so stressful with taking care of Aaron and 2 year-old Mason, being pregnant, working and trying to keep it all together, that I was put on bed rest (signs of early labor)…I had to postpone or cancel all my painting jobs (yes, I was still working), and….needless to say, ALL projects were put on hold. We were drained….physically, emotionally, financially. I remember assembling invitations for a client, while laying on my left side, on bed rest, and wondering how we were going to get through it? Thankfully, Aaron’s mom and my family were here to help me…and my wonderful friends/neighbors helped with Mason, arranging play-dates to get him out of the house. My poor little guy was cooped up every day with two parents that were physically unable to pick him up or play with him.

Then Isaac when was born…I was so grateful to have my family together and healthy, that I ignored the “to-do” list and focused on trying to get back our sense of “normalcy.” I had to go back to work on invitations almost immediately after Isaac was born since I was unable to schedule many painting jobs (I needed to be home to care for Aaron, Mason and baby Isaac). So that “to-do” list was basically untouched for 2-3 years! Bottom line, the day-to-day of caring for my family, keeping house, and running my business became the priority. Playing with my kids, Sunday night get-togethers with family and friends, enjoying life with my family was more important to me than fixing up things around the house. But now that Isaac’s 3 and in preschool, Mason’s 5 and in kindergarten, and Aaron’s mostly recovered….I think I’m finally ready to focus on that list!

3) When you want something done right, do it yourself.  Aaron and I are both self-proclaimed DIYers and have been since we were young.  In junior high school and high school I was constantly painting my bedroom walls and furniture.  My dad would comment on my fickle design musings, but he always supported my need to be creative.  My bedroom was my canvas and it was always evolving.  One day I’d stencil Laura Ashley cottage-style pink roses, and then I’d get bored and decide to switch to a Gothic-Baroque style with rich burgundies, black and ornamental gold.  At one point, I even painstakingly hand-covered each vertical blind in my bedroom with fabric and ribbon to coordinate with a desk I decided to paint on a whim.   

When I first met Aaron in 1992, one of the things that impressed me (besides how gorgeous and intelligent he is) was that he knew how to operate a sewing machine and had made himself some pants!  Aaron is a self-taught “jack of all trades.”  He’s very handy and pretty much fixes everything around the house.  He can do basic electrical, woodworking, plumbing.  He’s my IT guy when my computer goes berserk, he does all the landscaping and planting (I have zero “green-thumb”), he’s draws up all the plans for any building or design project we have for our house, he can do some mechanical repair….and he’s a pretty awesome cook!  So a lot of the projects on our list are things that he wants to design, build or fix himself.  After his accident, he wasn’t able to do any of those things.  And that’s why those items are still on the list.  A lot of the painting on my end depends on what Aaron does first…and that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to get those projects finished.

Part of the problem with being a DIYer is that you want to try and do everything yourself…whether it’s to save money, get it done your way, or just because it looks easy enough.  As a licensed contractor (C-33 Painting and Decorating), I’m a firm believer that there are some things you should always defer to a professional and NOT try to do yourself.  Electrical, plumbing, appliance installation/repair, major woodworking, hardscaping (decorative painting and murals…hint-hint: hire me!  LOL)….support your local tradespeople and artisans to do some of this stuff so you can have more time for projects you can do well yourself!  But hiring someone means spending money…and when something comes up like replacing a broken appliance or getting new brakes/tires for the car, it means that hiring someone else to finish those decorative projects might not be in the budget…you have to try and do it yourself or back on the back-burner it goes! 

So there you have it….the reasons why I’m blogging about my own home improvement projects and why there has been such a delay in getting to my never-ending “to do” list.  Phew….I think I got a few things off my chest.

Thanks for taking the time to read my “novel” (I think I gave fair warning that it would be a long one…and I promise that my future posts won’t be this wordy…*fingers-crossed*).

I hope you’ll enjoy the series.  Even if my personal style and home projects are not what you’re in to, perhaps you’ll find some of the posts useful or inspiring enough to kick-start your own weekend to-do list.   Some of the things I’ve already done or have planned are really simple and only need a few hours of time.  Other projects have several steps that will need to be spread out over many weekends.  What will be most challenging for me is just making the time each weekend to complete a project….just one is all I am hoping for.  I’m on a roll so far…so stay tuned for the series (we’re half way into the year, so there’s some catching up to do).  One project at a time…Let’s see how it goes….. 

Wish me luck!



  1. Chris C says:

    Wow! I'm tired just reading that. :o)

    Thanks for allowing that little glimpse into your hectic, fun, loving, creative, wonderful life and family. You are a great writer.

    Your journals and scrapbooks in the pics look like an advertisement. They're so pretty!

    I love doing DIY projects. I'm just putting the final touches on a mid-century table and 6 chairs that I bought on craigslist. I wish I took pics before I started. I'll post some pics of the finished product on FB.

  2. lynn b. says:

    Thanks Katie…this was a nice way to start off my morning. Starting this "new year" off had my mind in a whirlwind. I just need to be reminded that WE ALL have our never-ending "to-do" lists…it doesn't seem as overwhelming when you know others are right there along side you.

    Have a great productive day!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yay! Good job, katie! Well written!