General Mom

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

Category: Uncategorized

Custom Access Panel Magazine Rack

General Mom is still cooking up projects on the house!  Sometimes it takes sheer frustration of a project not being done, to have the motivation to complete it! Truth? 

Since our master shower has a steam unit, it also must have an access panel (for service and power which I hope we never have to deal with).  Nonetheless, we hid the steam unit, which is as big as a computer server, during construction in a sneaky little spot on an outside wall where the roof meets in the toilet area.  If you want a steam unit, you have to plan for this space carefully since its big. Locating it in the bottom of a linen closet would be my first choice. 

We looked at this makeshift piece of drywall for over a year and we were tired of looking at it.  

 We thought of the typical ways of covering it up with a small door, but it was a perfect opportunity for something custom and useful. So, I gave the engineer hubs all my Pinterest ideas of making it a magazine holder like this one below.  

 Trick was to make it removable for access. So, he came up with an ingenious solution of using spring clips on all four corners of the panel so it snaps into place and comes off easily. Awesome!

 The hubs then designed a wood frame and made low profile rails to hold the magazines.  I wasn’t planning on having a library in there! 

 I primed and painted it with the same semigloss as the base trim. And now we have the cutest access panel, if I do say so myself! 


Clamp It

This seemed like a reasonable General Mom “fix” for my little girl’s frustrating experience with her hair model. I was hoping it would have been like the sturdy one I had in the 80s!

One review of the product on Amazon from another mom said:
“Very disappointed in this. There should be a way to secure to table to use this. No toddler can hold in one hand and brush with the other. It was not thought out well. Had one growing up and remembered how much fun it was. You would think they would make things better today then back in the 1980’s!! Do not recommend!!”

I guess I should add this photo on Amazon. Clamps to the rescue!


Decorating a Shared Room with Coral and Blue

I was beginning to think I would need to repaint the girls shared bedroom. Afterall, it was light yellow with straw yellow carpet. It was basically blah, blah, blah and very monochromatic.

I started the transformation with these adorable coral and white striped drapes at TJMaxx for $29 for the pair. I was surprised that it totally changed the blah room to wow!

Then, I found these Cynthia Rowley blue ruffle comforters at TJMaxx for $35 each. The coral monogram initials came from Kirkland’s above their beds. They actually only had an “M” but I needed an “N” that the hubs had to jig saw off the extra leg and dremel it smooth. I touched up the sanded spot with acrylic paint to match. And now we have an “N”! These layers of colors really started to transform the room.

I already had the antique hutch which holds folded clothes and books that I transformed years ago during the black furniture rage. I considered painting all the pieces again. Would love your feedback if they should stay black or change to blue or coral!

I found this old record cabinet years ago and it is bright red inside with a built in switch. I lined it with white shelf paper so that folded clothes can hide inside. A cute coral scripture hangs above it from Hobby Lobby that was 90% off making it $4. All the artwork was the same discounted awesomeness.


I pulled out these antique mirrors that look cute in a grouping with some added ribbon to match the bedding.

There we have it…avoided painting the walls, added lots of color and found decor at big discounts made for a fresh, fun shared bedroom.


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.


The hubs extraordinaire added the walnut trim to each shelf and it really does add architectural cohesion to the cabinets! I love it!



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.