Love it or List it | Striped Hallway | Sarah Kane Photography

Now that the floors are complete and looking spectacular it's time to move onto the next project! We are still deciding on a banister for the top and bottom of the stairs, so that will have to wait.  In the meantime we are tackling a simpler project, the front hallway. We love the look of the very trendy striped hallway, but wanted to do something a bit different with it. We originally painted the hallway a very pale blue (which ended up just looking like a dirty white) with the hopes of brightening things up a bit. What a huge mistake that was! We are learning that light doesn't always mean bright and that bold is the way to go! Here are the before and after of the new hall. We are still undecided weather we will hang anything on the stripes or just let them stand alone. Next on our list, the family room. Time to update that 1980's brick fireplace. Stay tuned...

Here is the hallway before the makeover. Blah...

and here it is after!

Here are a couple before and afters side by side

My hubby is the best! It's a good thing he doesn't mind painting!

Love it or List it | Home Improvements | Sarah Kane Photography

We've been in our house now for 6 years and it's time to "love it or list it" and we've decided to love it, but it needs some improvements. The first major improvement is refinishing our hardwood floors, stairs and adding hardwood to the hallway upstairs. Since the floors were going to be stripped down to their bare wood we decided to update the stain to a white wash. Yes, this is pretty non-traditional,  but we aren't traditional people. If we are going to live in it for the next 30 years we may as well live it up! We'll end up having to update it anyway when it's time to sell.

I'm so excited!! It has completely changed the look of the house! Although we live right in the suburbs we are in a heavily wooded area that feels like we are far from everything. I could never actually live in the country because I like to be within 20 minutes of everything, so our neighborhood really is the best of both worlds. Every night we are graced with the sounds of nature's most beautiful orchestra. Although I love the trees one downfall is the lack of sun. As much as I enjoy the forest like backdrop I also long for a bright sunny house, but that's just not possible where we live. I was hoping the new floors would add some brightness to the house and I was amazed at just how much it did! 

When we started pricing for refinishing the stairs our first quote from a carpet and flooring place was $4000!!! Just to refinish our stairs?! That was way beyond what we planned on spending and started to think it wasn't possible. Yes, Scott could likely do it himself, but it would take some time (especially with his schedule). Thankfully we went to another carpet place and they said that price was outrageous (ah -yeah) and gave us the name of a guy whom they trusted. He refinished their wood floors in the store's office. They showed us the floors and they looked spectacular!  We gave him a call and couldn't believe it when he came out and quoted us a significantly lower price to do the stairs, add hardwood in the upstairs hallway and completely sand and re-stain the entire downstairs!! It was a no brainer. 

So I bet right now you are dying to get this guy's information!! Well here it is. His name is Zach Sweet. You won't find a website for him, but he is on Angie's List. The best way to reach Zach is by text or call (804) 836-7180. Zach is a bit old school. He'll show up and schedule your appointment with a flip up wall calendar (I didn't know they even made those anymore ;) Don't let that deter you, we found Zach to be one of the most trustworthy, honest, and likable person we've ever done business with! He truly cares about getting the job done right and will do whatever it takes to make sure his customers are happy. Without hesitation I would highly recommend Zach to anyone! If you are interested in having some work done now is the time to contact him. It's the slow season, but once spring and summer hits you may have to wait awhile. 

Now to view his work! The first picture is the before and the second is after :)

Look how much it brightens up the room! It's so much more noticeable in person!

Obviously we had to take off the banister to the stairs. That will be our next project. Now that they are gone I really like how open it looks, but may not be the safest route with the kids. If you have any ideas as how to keep it open, but safe leave me a comment! I would love to hear it!

Before. Yuck!!

Before. Yuck!!

We plan to redo the handrail too, but look how open it is! I hate to obstruct the view!

Tips if you are having hardwood refinished

1. You will have to be out of your house for a minimum of 4 days 

2. Make sure you cover everything! Dust will get everywhere. Even in rooms that aren't being worked on. Although Zach put up plastic to block off the rooms it will get through.

Kindergarten Eve and I'm Freaking Out! | Personal Post | Sarah Kane Photography


The day has finally come. My oldest son is starting Kindergarten tomorrow and so begins a journey of self-discovery, new friendships, broken hearts, huge mistakes, life lessons and facing fears that may or may not get the best of you. As if that isn't enough I also have to worry about what Brennan will go through! Sigh...

It's Kindergarten eve and facebook is blowing up with messages from proud excited parents "Johnny is so excited to ride the bus", "Susie can't wait to meet her teacher", "Billy want's to pick out his own clothes tomorrow". I read these and my stomach begins to churn. Most kids experience a mixture of nerves and excited about starting Kindergarten as do most parents, but Brennan and I are not like most people. I see so much of myself in him and most of it makes me happy (he's got my sense of humor and creative genes).  Unfortunately I passed along some other fun stuff to him like social anxiety. When I was a kid I was very shy around people I didn't know well and had a really difficult time connecting with adults. I grew up in a very small harbor town in Ohio where I went to a very small school (only 1 class for each grade level and no more than 20 kids in a class). One year the 7th and 8th grade classes were so small they actually combined them. Even then there were only 5 people in the class! My entire family lived within a bike ride away and I felt very safe. I was always quiet in school and around adults, but I was happy. I didn't even realize I was shy or that it was a problem until my dad got a job in Syracuse NY and I had to leave the only place I felt safe.

I was devastated when I found out we were moving. I would be leaving my friends (the same 8 friends I'd had since I was 5-years-old) my entire family and the town that I loved. I was 11 when I went from a class size of 20 to 4 classes of 25!! It was at that moment  I became consumed by my shyness and fear of meeting new people. I built an indestructible wall around myself made of fear, anger and loneliness. I pushed new people away and desperately clung to old friends that were hundreds of miles away. While they moved on  I was stuck in a world that no longer existed for me. I eventually made a few new friends, but kept them at a safe distance with good reason, we moved again when I was 14 to Buffalo and I had to start all over again. You know that wall I had been working on? Yeah it wasn't going anywhere.

Some of you who know me are probably thinking, "you? shy?" but I was. In high school I finally started to admit it (and when I say shy I mean at times it was crippling). I asked my mom to find me someone to talk to and help because I was so unhappy and didn't have a clue how to deal with it.  She did and it was helpful, but I still had a very long and painful journey ahead of me. Although I've over come most of my shyness and social anxieties there are still times I feel uncomfortable in situations, but I've learned how to control my nerves. Now instead of hiding and avoiding I purposely put myself in situations that make me uncomfortable just so I can prove to myself that I am stronger than my fears.

It took me close to 30 years, many missed opportunities, deep sadness and a lot of hard work to finally be comfortable in my own skin. Now I am a mother and one of the hardest things to do is not project my own childhood and adult issues onto my children.  Brennan is very shy, very anxious and very uncomfortable in new situations or around adults that he is not completely comfortable with.  He is not the kind of shy kid who will sit quietly in a corner avoiding eye contact. Oh no, Brennan is the kid who gets loud, gets mean, says he doesn't want or need friends etc. He's the kid that although he had lots of friends at daycare and preschool would freak out at birthday parties and refuse to play or participate (unless it was at his house). At home he's a typical energetic boy who is funny, charming, loving, stubborn, mischievous and so very sweet. Put him in a situation though where he is uncomfortable...he grows green muscles and begins busting out of his clothes.  It's heartbreaking to know that very few adults, besides his family, get to see his sweet and charming side. I want to bring my camera to the bus stop tomorrow and get smiling pictures of my not so little man proudly and excitedly boarding the bus, but if history prevails I am not hopeful of that occurring. I will bring my camera anyway.  I am riddled with fear that tomorrow he is going to turn into the hulk, refuse to get on the bus, or refuse to go into his class. I'm afraid his teacher will think he's bratty and he'll squash any chance at making new friends the very first day.  I'm afraid he'll hate school and every day will be torturous for him. I've heard from people "oh that's just Brennan" and it makes me angry. That's NOT Brennan. That's NOT who he is. He is a boy who won't let me kill even an ant. He is a boy who will let his little brother play with his favorite toys (at least 90% of the time), he is a boy who notices when I buy a new dress and tells me that I'm pretty.  That's who he is and I'll be damned if I'm going to allow him to hide behind any other role. Unfortunately I don't have a clue how to help him. I only know how to love him. That's why I turned to a professional or as I like to call her a "life coach". It sounds so much better than counselor or psychologist.  Everyone should have a life coach no matter how "normal" and happy you think you are (even life coaches should have a life coach :) They should be assigned at birth. Ok not really this is starting to sound a bit too "The Giver". Seriously though I'm not ashamed to admit that I've had many life coaches in my life and will likely have many more! 

Tomorrow is creeping up way too quickly. Of all the fear and anxiety I am feeling right now my biggest fear for tomorrow is looking into his little red face, glossy eyes and seeing that uncontrollable fear that I've seen so many times before in him and know myself all too well. When I see this I want to scoop him up in my arms and run as fast as I can taking him as far away from anything and everyone that is causing him pain.  But I can't.

I don't have any idea what tomorrow will be like although I've painted a rather terrifying scene in my head. I may have over come my shyness and social fears, but anxiety is a bigger beast I've yet to tame ;) I have a few more emotions and demons to face tomorrow along with all the normal emotions parents have sending their first born off to Kindergarten. My strength will surely be tested and I will have to dig deep to hold it together at the bus stop, but once alone and behind closed doors I'll "let it go, let - it -go. Won't hold it back anymore" You know the tune. No matter what tomorrow brings I know he'll be ok and I will love him. I turned out ok so there's hope.

So on this eve of Kindergarten, to all of those parents out there, sending their most precious gift on earth into the world, I can't tell you that everything will be sunshine and rainbows tomorrow, but I can tell you that you are not alone. Perhaps you will find comfort in the fact that my situation is way worse than yours :)

My Crazy Little Family at Bertha's Country Lane | Sarah Kane Photography

A question I am asked often is "if you're taking pictures for other families, who do you have take your family pictures?". Good question! I've tried many things. Self timer, can never get the focus right, photo shopping myself into the picture, that's just so unauthentic and setting the aperture, shutter and ISO the way I like it then handing my camera to a family member. The last option has been working out ok, but I find I am always running back and forth looking at the pictures to see if everything is right. It's just too stressful and not much fun. 

This year I've been so fortunate to find a community of local professional photographers that are committed to working together in supporting each other so that we may grow and learn together. In just a few short months I have met some really awesome people! One of them is Marek Kunicki. I reached out to the community looking for someone to trade services with and I am so glad that Mark responded! I was in a bit of a hurry to have these photos taken because my dog Lily just turned 15 years old in May and I am sad to say that we don't have any family pictures with her! In fact I hardly have any good pictures of her at all! How can I be a photographer and not have any pictures of my first baby? I adopted Lily when she was just 8 weeks old. I spotted her in a pen on the side of the road in Kent Ohio. That's where the police would put stray dogs with a sign that said "adoption". She was so tiny and sweet and all alone in that big pen. I just couldn't leave her there. Lily has been with me long before I started a family of my own.  When I decided to live on my own she was there, when I spent hours fumbling with my guitar she was there sitting behind me on my recliner, when I cried my eyes out struggling to find my way in this world she was there. She has always been there and now I am faced with the sad truth that she is not going to be with me much longer. She is not sick, but in the past year she has really started showing her age. Up until about a year ago Lily was a pretty feisty girl and trying to get her and 2 crazy boys to cooperate for photos was just too much anxiety for me to even think about. It's taken 15 years for her to calm down, but I hate that it's because she is almost completely deaf and too old to care. Lily was my first baby and I have tremendous guilt about the role she's taken on since my boys were born. She went from being the center of my world to being the family pet. Don't get me wrong, she has and will always be a part of our family and I don't love her any less, but when your children are born the dog that you once spoiled and let run the house becomes a little less important. She doesn't go for as many walks, she doesn't get as much snuggle time as she used to, and the walls are filled with pictures other than her. I know that sounds cruel, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't the truth. It's not a conscious thing that happens, it just happens. When Brennan was born Lily was still very much included in our lives. She took on the role as protector of Brennan. When he would nap she would lay at the top of the stairs until he woke up.  She always wanted to be next to him and was constantly licking him.  I don't think Lily minded this new role she had in the family because things changed on her end as well. I was once the most important person in her life, but soon Brennan became most important to her. It was something I guess we both just understood.

 As I watch her grow older and more frail I try to pay more attention to her although she's not as interested now. When she is no longer with us I will be devastated. Just the thought of it can bring me to tears.  She has been such an important part of my life and I can't believe that she's never been included in any family pictures until now!

A few weeks ago Marek took on the challenge of photographing my crazy little family. It was so weird for me being on the other side of the camera and someone else doing the job that I usually do! I learned how hard it really is to "pose" naturally and to process the posing directions someone else is giving you. I confirmed that my children are no different than anyone else's and no amount of ice cream bribes is going to make them cooperate for more than 1.5 seconds!  Marek however seemed to do the impossible. He managed to get Brenann to smile. He tapped right into Brennan's most coveted desires. Marek told Brennan he could punch him as hard as he could if he just smiled for a few pictures.  I don't condone physical violence of any kind, but I thought, "this just might work". 

Brennan's eyes lit up like the Grinch's the night he stole all of the Whoville's Christmas presents. Game on Marek. Instead of a punch, before he could be stopped, Brennan pulled back his pointy cowboy boot and kicked poor Marek right in the leg! Talk about embarrassing!!! Marek took it like a champ though and in the end he got the smile. 

In all seriousness Marek did a fantastic job! I absolutely LOVE the pictures he took and cannot wait to hang them as canvas on my wall.  My family is not the "look at the camera and smile" kind of family and I'm so ok with that. I will cherish these pictures always!

Check out Marek K. Photography here!