General Mom

Mom-of-5, building a home in California, step by step, with Faith and Feistiness ~ by General Mom Contractor

Decorating Inspirations: Paintings

I get a lot of designer magazines every week. So I gather up inspiration for how to style or decorate and also ideas of what to hang on the wall. One major problem with these magazines: the price. So DIY here we come!

I’ve been thrifting old ugly canvases and reprinting them for about 8 years now. Seeing past the ugly art is the key. I usually look for a large format canvas that are fully wrapped around the back so you don’t see the staples.

I had a 9′ blank wall to decorate in my dining room and I found two large 30″ square canvases at Burlington Coat Factory in the clearance section for $15 each.

Here is the dining room bare with the ugly art leaning in the background.

They had a glossy gesso finish on them with lots of texture that I loved. So I bought white gesso from Hobby Lobby to cover it up and so the new acrylic paint would bind to it.


My little guys even got in on the fun and some paint on their PJ’s. So I had to to a break before I even got started!

Here is the inspiration photo from Ballard Designs wanting $300 for each painting (which is likely printed and gloss gesso put on top).

I liked the circles and especially liked the arabesque patterns. I have a lot of that pattern in my house. Do you remember the Craigslist marble backsplash story? Well I traced the marble behind the stove and made a template out of a cereal box.


IMG_0837.JPGThen I used an ice cream container for the circles and a shower squeegee for the dragging the paint.

Isn’t art so fascinating how it comes together. It’s a mess for a while and you keep working it until it just feels finished. Or the kids bug you for lunch…either way.


And here is the side by side inspiration on the left and my creation on the right. Not bad for $30!


Bath Shelves and Trim

Why does finishing a project make us so happy? My hubby installed the nook shelves and trim in the master bathroom this weekend. When our countertops were installed, I had three shelves cut out of the left over pieces. So, the hubs cut three pieces of primed shoe molding and nailed them under each shelf. He still wants to add left over pieces of walnut from the kitchen island as an apron across the front.

These were my inspirations on Pinterest.


And here is what my master bath shelves look like now. I think the walnut trim will really complete the look with the cabinetry.



I’ve Got A Golden Ticket!!!!!!!!! (a signed permit card is gold!)

I keep singing “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because the County Inspector just signed the Final Inspection on my Gold permit card! That means we are officially DONE!! Yippee!! Jump for Joy!

Since it’s summer break from homeschooling, I plan on posting more on design process tips and pictures of the interior with linked sources for you.

Bottom line, if a mom with five homeschooled kids can build a house in 9 months (21 months total) in one of the toughest counties in California then you can!

Be sure to put your email in the bottom of this page and new posts will come to you directly without spam.

Time for General Mom to have a cup of coffee!


My Inspiration Corner

I was tagged on Instagram (IG) this week to post a picture in my home that inspires me.

Definitely my bathroom vanity nook inspires me. It’s a peaceful place where creativity and reflection occur. I love the natural light that comes through the closet and through the balcony French doors.

We still have some floating shelves to install on the right and a little base moulding. Then the master bath is near complete. The cabinets are custom made from my drawings out of solid rock maple and stained. They are two huge drawers built in a “U” shape to go around the plumbing. A makeup drawer is hidden on the right. Cabinet hardware is Ikea. Countertops are Snow White solid surface. These were remnants I found from an Apple headquarters remodel job! Faucet and sink are Toto. Mirrors are Joss & Main and TJ Maxx. Tile is from Porcelanosa made in Spain. Paint is Rice Grain from Sherwin Williams. More pictures of the bath to follow!

Stay tuned by putting your email at the bottom to get posts emailed! Feel free to ask questions too. I love chatting house talk.

The Walnut “Continent”

I almost gave up on the idea of a walnut countertop for the island. We lovingly call it a continent since it’s so massive 78″ x 103″. It took me 7+ months to make it happen! Perseverance during a stressful time is so hard but God was the source of strength! I couldn’t come up with that kind of strength, sanity and solutions on my own.

The walnut countertop all started with an inspiration on Houzz of a white kitchen with a dark wood island top that warmed up the space. It fulfilled my big idea of having a unique work of art and it would be warm to the touch when you are having long coffee chats.

Then the search for material and a craftsman began. I found several online companies who make and ship wood tops. I quickly was overwhelmed to the vastness of materials, thickness, widths of boards, edge details, finishes, and prices. Put your head in your hands kind of amount of information!

Online was still a viable option. At the end of the day, I always try to find local options, if possible. We started with our cabinet maker who couldn’t get walnut in our budget and instead sourced Rock Maple that he was going to stain. He started gluing it up and the boards began twisting and warping because of the length and width. He wasn’t comfortable moving forward with the project and politely bowed out. Ok, back to the drawing board!

Back to online. Now I’m worried about shipping a top that big and during transit could look like Jenga by the time it arrived.

Back to Craigslist? Since I bought all our appliances and tile on Craigslist maybe, just maybe something will turn into a lead for the island. As I type this, I realize why the hubs shakes his head at me and then he’s totally amazed when I pull it off. He knows it’s a miracle because it makes no sense! So I searched “wood counter” “walnut” and up popped an ad for walnut slabs nearby. What? I know!

So, I drove up the next day and saw amazing, huge slabs of walnut. Not in my budget. I was wandering around asking lots of questions and in awe of the massive tree slabs I was looking at! I showed the owner my inspiration photo to which he showed me the walnut planks that get glued up. I think I heard angels singing! This is it!

I knew it was perfect but now to find someone who can do the execution to build and finish it. I asked for any referrals and they sent me to Norman Windrose of Windrose Fine Furniture. It took me some time to go to his shop, look at his FB pictures of work, get referrals, etc. By this time 5 months have ticked by and I was totally tired of my cardboard countertop with white table clothes! Time to press on!!

Norm specializes in fine furniture, slab countertops and tables. This would be the biggest top he’s done but he was fearless and confident in his craft. So we engaged him and I ordered 160 board feet of 3″ American Walnut planks 12-14″ wide, S4S meaning milled on all four sides and very few knots. The hubs scoured the internet for the biggest router bit he could find on the internet. We went with a Roman Medium Ogee which is gorgeous!

Now on to the photos!! This is the top being delivered.

Me helping since it was about 400 pounds…

And here she is all warm and inviting…


Some close ups… We chose an oil finish, articulating faucet and a granite composite Blanco sink that will be used for washing my commercial size pans.



A close up of the hand carved 90 degrees angles that just can’t be routered! It took Norman one full day to do the four corners (8 90’s). He also had to go around 8 times with the router going down a little “bit” at a time.

So glad we persevered through the end! So very happy and thankful for the end result! Now time for some coffee!!

Stay tuned by putting your email at the bottom to get posts emailed! Feel free to ask questions too. I love chatting house talk.

Laundry Room Innovation

We have laundry insanity. Our major weakness is putting dried, folded clothes in baskets and then not putting them away. Baskets of clean clothes everywhere! I racked my brain how to solve this design problem! No more baskets!

Here is the top view of the blueprints so you can see the concept. I basically jack-n-jill’d the bathroom and the laundry room between two bedrooms. Two boys in the right bedroom and two girls on the left. Notice that instead of walls in the laundry I put sliding doors which expose the back of the children’s closets. Therefore, we can take clothes from the dryer and hang them in the closets or put them on the shelves right away!


Here is my hubby putting the towers in. You can see the bedroom in the background with those doors open.

Hanging up clothes and finally get organized!

All done! Open the dryer and put the clothes away. So very glad to have this laundry solution in place! Maybe it will help you!


House Building Requires Weakness

In order to enjoy house building, you have to understand and embrace your current home’s weaknesses. Meaning, whatever is “broken” in your current home whether that be lack of functioning space or poor design, make a list and design your home to fix these problems! Certainly you will need to depend on God’s grace for the new weaknesses that arise and the personalities to match.

I am a 20 year veteran recruiter. I’ve asked, heard and rehearsed my own responses to, “So, tell me your strengths and weaknesses.” The trick is knowing your weakness in an interview and spinning it into a strength! Same for house building!

Kitchen Weaknesses
With a growing family of 7, I cook with industrial sized kitchen pans and have to plate 7 dishes three times a day. So one of my weaknesses is clearly space in the kitchen. I need a large cooking surface and plating area/ serving spaces. The 1500 sq ft. rental we were in for a year and a half emphasized how great of a need it is to get the new kitchen space correct.

I designed a large 48″ range and counter space on both sides of it. I can plate the dishes and my food runners (i.e. 5 children) can set the table. Problem solved. The picture shows my baking weakness/ strength on the left with a pantry with pocket doors. My mixer, blender, toaster are hiding behind the pretty doors!


I also put three large sinks in my kitchen! Hubs objected and snickered for months, but, the weakness showed itself at our rental and I had solid proof that my new system would be optimal!

Sink #1 , the main sink, under the kitchen window with the view from God!

Sink #2 , the island sink for huge pots and pans. My rental kitchen sink looked like a pan graveyard overflowing with soaking pans and lids. You can’t even rinse dinner dishes it’s so daunting! Right behind my new cooking area is this island sink which is dark brown, 33″ Granite composite.

IMG_8233.JPGSink #3 is our beverage and snack station sink. It’s a 24″ Granite composite Blanco white sink. It is perfect for the espresso machine, wine fridge, lunch making area and kids fruit basket area. Problems solved.

The battle of dirty dishes, clean dishes, and arguing to put dishes away was huge. The main sink, is for rinsing dishes and houses a cute metal basket hiding children’s cups to be reused. I put a dishwashers on either side of the main sink for this weakness….dirty dishes/ clean dishes/ putting away dishes nightmare. We go through an entire place setting at every meal. Since we homeschool, we go through 21 dishes and silverware and cups a day. So the crazy cycle was creating strife and I’m solved it with one clean dishwasher, one dirty dishwasher. Rarely putting away dishes. Just go and get the clean dishes out all day. Use them and put them in the empty dishwasher. Run it at night and that’s the new clean dishwasher. It’s genius!

So many more weaknesses that are now strengths that I want to tell you but then this would become a novel! I’ll show my laundry room weakness turned strength soon! Stay tuned by putting your email at the bottom to get posts emailed! Feel free to ask questions too. I love chatting house talk.

Plumbing – How to Avoid the Looney Bin

Do you remember the old Kohler ad where the lady puts a faucet on the architect’s desk and says,”Design a house around this?”

I remember this ad so clearly, like it was a ominous warning from God long ago! Don’t you love the perplexed look on her husband’s face? He nailed it!

Times have changed in the plumbing industry, dramatically. I would recommend beginning the plumbing shopping right after the style of the house is determined. It will seriously take you that long to:
1. Find fixtures that fit within your budget.
2. Determine finish sections for the whole project.
3. Order the valves for the plumbing rough-in so you are not stuck in a back order time delay.
4. Go to fifty million showrooms and box stores who have limited product lines.
5. Come to grips on how you feel about plastic and if you like paying lots of money for it.

As you know, I’m on a budget but plumbing is a tough one to stay on budget without always picturing a leaky faucet in your mind. Our last house, I bought everything from Home Depot and it barely made five years without issues. We installed all of the faucets and showers ourselves and it was a pain with missing plastic components and the operation was faulty.

10 years later, the quality of plumbing is significantly worse at Home Depot and Lowe’s. It’s an isle of plastic with chrome over it. Plastic inside and out is not a good combo for longevity. Who are these manufacturers kidding?

Even Hansgrohe/Grohe have jumped on the plastic bandwagon. They have an excellent brand reputation and now they are charging a ton of money for cheap plastic trim pieces. They still make a great faucet. But if you want the matching line for the shower, you get plastic shower trim and heads. Get ready to tap your fingernails on everything!

I refuse to pay a lot of money for plastic or even half plastic/half decent quality. So after much stressful deliberation, lack of time, quality for the money, I’m going with Toto and a hint of California Faucets and Kohler. I don’t have the budget, but love the quality of Rohl, Lefroy Brooks, Graff and more.


So, if you will be remodeling or building, remember the brilliant lady in the video. Get on the plumbing fixtures ASAP. Then you can take your time using my previous tips on saving money on the internet!
~ Regards from the looney bin,
General Mom

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Ephesians 6:10

Let the Iron Work Begin

Finding the right people to hire is the absolute most difficult and critical part of building a home. It requires talking to many people in the same trade, seeing their work and checking references.

One of the most visual impacting pieces of our project is the iron work. The front door is a full 9′ radius iron and glass door. I researched to the moon and back on this one and it boiled down to a door made in China or handcrafted. Cost was similar but quality was significantly different. So we opted for handcrafted. I interviewed several (10) local iron craftsman and finally settled on Silva’s Artistic Iron Work. He makes everything by hand. Truly a work of art!

We were referred by friends who has his amazing work in their house. I have been to his shop over the past 6 months and have seen him in action. Simply amazing! We also visited a home to see his work recently installed. So the homework is exhausting but will alleviate future headaches.

Silva started on the front door and he sent me this photo of our door being made in his shop! Super duper excited!


Our covered porch has a radius that mimics the front door.


It should look similar to this.

After he completes the door, he will work on the banister. It’s a ton of work but will be a piece of art!

Black Friday to Cyber Monday Tips to Save Money

This is the first Cyber Monday that this, Mom-of-5 kids, was prepared to shop online with new money saving skills. I’ve outlined the detailed steps below to save 5-10% below the advertised sale price!

Step 1: Research what you really want, can afford and most importantly if it will fit in your space in advance of a sale.  Research different brands by going to the store and writing down what you do and don’t like.  Be sure to read all the specs on line and measure to see if it fits. It pays off when you finally find a sale.

Step 2: Register for all the major cash back sites in advance. It’s free! These offer the best selection of stores:
Big Crumbs
Fat Wallet
Be aware that they rotate stores and how much cash back they offer. It’s kind of like the stock market and the percentages fluctuate. Once you know what you want you can search by appliances, toys, boots etc. Then you will see what stores like Sears, Home Depot are offering for cash back. Normally they offer anywhere from 1% to 10% (percentages double for Cyber Monday). Go for the highest cash back!

Step three: Go to the website directly you want to purchase from, Sears for example, to create an account and sign in. Otherwise, you have to do it when purchasing and this makes you feel like you won’t get that cash back with too many steps. Also, sign up for credit cards of those big stores in advance since, on big sale days they give extra savings of points or free financing.  At the least, make sure your credit limit is enough for your purchases when you are ready.

Step four: Close all web pages even if there is stuff in your cart. It remembers you when you come back in the next step.

Step five: Figure out which top three cash back sites are offering the biggest percentages and then click through that link to “shop and buy”.  That link takes you to directly to Sears for example. If you look up at the URL it sometimes says “ref” that means it got your referral site. So Sears will report your cash back at the end of the transaction or report which may take days.  I have received $$ back in my cash back account/paypal within a few days. Some are faster than others. But be smart, keep notes of how much your order was and which cash back sites owe you and what percentage too!

Step six: Use those retailer credit cards for extra discounts during checkout.

Step seven:  There are discount codes that sometimes work for free shipping or for first time buyers. Beware that you need the code during research time to cut and paste. Because you do not want to click through a site like Retailmenot or you will lose the tracking process of the cash back site.

Step eight: Some products have rebates which need your online receipt and postmarked by certain dates.

See, you can do this!! Are you exhausted or excited to save money on your next purchase??

Breakdown of my Cyber Monday Cost Savings:  I found a Bosch Dishwasher that our whole family agreed upon at a local store.  I searched all the box stores to see what deals they offered today.  I have been following a e-tailer in Missouri called Goedeker’s for a year with no tax and no shipping and they had a sale on this Bosch. The model was MSRP $1099, the box stores price $999 today.  My e-tailer had it on sale for a $100 less than that.  Making it $829 no shipping, no tax.  They had a $50 rebate form and I got 2% cash back from my entry cash back site. Our local electric company PG&E is offering an energy rebate of $50 as well.  So for $700 I got one of the top of the line Bosch dishwashers!

Have any savvy savings tips? Please share with us!


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