Cozy Cottage/Rustic Decor' Ideas

Fireplace Remodel: A challenge worth taking.



Here in Colorado Springs, many people set off on the adventure of climbing Pike’s Peak, one of the many “14er’s” on the Front Range.  Some even run it! A 14er is a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet.

The reason I bring this up as an introduction to Mike’s and my adventure of remodeling our fireplace with stone is because although many people our age brave the climb of Pike’s Peak, I would never be inclined to do it because having limited energy, I like to see a result from extreme exertion. And, at least for us as newbies, remodeling to a stone fireplace, was indeed extreme exertion, but worth it. By the way, kudos to those who climb the mountain! And if you’d like to read a blog about adventures on “America’s Mountain, click here.

IMG_1931So here is our tile fireplace. These shiny, hard-to-clean terra-cotta tiles were everywhere in the home we bought 10 years ago…the floor, the bathrooms, the kitchen back splash, the fireplace…everywhere! And the fireplace is the last remodel to remove them all from the home.  Good riddance!

The estimates to transform this fireplace to a stone fireplace ranged from $6,000 and up. (This, I believe, was not counting the materials needed for the project.) We weren’t even looking for anything elaborate, such as an arched stone design to the ceiling, just a rather simple remodel. So Mike and I took on the challenge to do it ourselves.

I suppose you could call this a “tutorial,” but this is different from most tutorials in that anything learned will be just as much from our mistakes as from what we did right.

IMG_1936We decided to hire a couple of high school seniors (who incidentally were in my first-grade class when I was a teacher!), to do the demolition.  They did such a fabulous job, were hard workers, and fast too! These young men are just as delightful as they were in first grade, only now all grown up!

I actually was hoping we could use them for more of the work, but from here on out, there would be so much decision making during the job, that we knew it would be slow with a lot of changing our minds and back-and-forth discussion (commonly known as arguing!), and much re-evaluation mid-course, so alas, we had to forge ahead on our own.

IMG_1979One of our first adventures was to pick out the stone. We really wanted real stone, which we bought and had delivered, but when we got it, we felt that it was kind of mono with little color, so we added some fake stone. What you see here is a combination. The real stone is kind of blah on its own, and the fake stone looked just a little fake, but together, they look just right. See what I mean about a lot of decision making?!  We ended up using about 75% real stone.

The look for this fireplace will be “lodge.” Both Mike and I love to hang out in mountain lodges by the stone fireplace. I know some people would not choose the lodge look, but then again, I would not choose many of the fireplaces that I see! So as the song used to go, “Different strokes for different folks.”



Mike’s tendency toward meticulous work paid off in this stage of things where we had to do all the under-workings of the job just right so that the heavy stone would stay on the wall for a good long time! The estimated weight of a stone wall is 120 pounds per square foot, so things must be done right!

First, he applied concrete backer board; then black felt paper for a vapor barrier since mortar tends to attract moisture; next, the metal lath to give a good hold to the mortar which is soon to come.

And finally, we applied the first coat of mortar, which is the “scratch coat” so that the final application of mortar has something to get a grip on.


In between all this, I had been organizing rock so that it wouldn’t just be in a big pile when it came time to apply it. Trust me, in moving that stone from here to there, I have taken lots of hot baths in an attempt to soothe my achin’ muscles! And I hate to think of how Mike’s muscles must have felt as he did the heavier lifting.


Meanwhile, I tried different creative ideas to place over the fireplace unit. I tried wood burning some designs. I tried some beautiful tiles I got from a fellow etsy seller (

SONY DSCStill, the whole thing was just not striking us right, and after all, whatever we decide will be “in cement” literally!  So the tiles with wood burning now have a wonderful home…in the guest bathroom! The colors coordinate perfectly.

I take time to share this, to show that it involves lots of experimenting and thinking to hit on just the right thing. And in the process, though plans change, good can come from the experimenting, but be completely different from what we first had in mind!

IMG_2030edIt’s amazing what a big job can be done with such relatively small, regular tools. This is Mike cutting the flagstone for the hearth with his angle grinder, the only adjustment he made is that he purchased a diamond blade…cuts right through thick stone! When we bought the stone and the person behind the counter found out we were cutting our own, she told us we could make lots of money shaping stone because people and landscaping companies come in all the time asking for that service. But Mike was quick to say, no thanks! (He much prefers his woodworking that we do for our shop


And the hearth is laid, but not yet mortared on. Our achin’ backs tell us…quit for today. It will be there tomorrow!  After lifting the heavy flagstone much of the day, the rocks are going to seem feather-light for the next part of the job!



A day or two later, finished! With the hearth, that is. We get to sit on it…how exciting 🙂




IMG_2041So the first rocks went up. We loved the look. But one problem, the lovely reddish-brown mortar we chose absolutely stained all the rocks. Nice color, even on the rocks, but we didn’t want all the rocks to be the same color! So we pried them off while there was still time, and decided to use good ol’ grey non-colored mortar to proceed. It too gets all over the rocks, and is hard to clean, but doesn’t stain. These are the kinds of setbacks that newbies have. Problem is, once we learn the ropes, it won’t help us, because I’m quite sure that we will never do a stone fireplace again!

IMG_2071edMost masons recommend working bottom-up rather than top-down due to the stabilizing effect it has on the higher stones. The ones who prefer starting at the top give these two reasons: You can choose and arrange your stone lines rather than just ending up with whatever you end up with working from the bottom up. The other advantage is that when the wet mortar falls, it doesn’t mess up the rocks below and there is less clean up. All things considered, it’s probably safest to work bottom-up, which is what we did for most of the project.

IMG_2074edSo we have finished the upper part of the rock work. We have textured the side walls and still need to decide on what paint to use. We still have the bottom part of the long hearth bench to do, but you know what? We’re tired! So remember the young men I mentioned who took out the tiles? We have hired them to help us with the rock work on that area close to the floor. It will be good experience for them perhaps for the future, and Mike and I will have a much needed break from doing it completely alone. Plus lifting rock from that low position? Nope. That is for young bodies!

IMG_2084edWe have a week before we begin the last leg of the journey, the bottom of the hearth, so we are doing some things while we wait, like painting the side walls. Earlier, we textured the walls with a technique called “skip trowel,” which gives a little bit of a Sante Fe look. Mike textured one side of the fireplace and I did the other. In this picture, he is painting the base color over his texturing, which is different from the texturing I did. In fact, no two persons can ever texture exactly like the other. It is, as they say, an expression of the soul. I like them both, and it will make a conversation piece that our two sides look different from each other…expressing our personalities.

IMG_2098edThe other thing we are doing while we wait is to condition and seal the flagstones, as well as the rock around the fireplace.  This product (511 Seal and Enhance) is really good, and although it is pricey, I did one whole side of the fireplace and a couple flagstones with just about 1 1/2″ of product in a plastic cup. So it goes a long way. It conditions, protects and takes away the chalky look of the stones. With just a one quart bottle, we should have enough left when we finish to treat the stamped concrete sidewalk outside.

Back to the paint for a moment. We decided to flip-flop the paint we had above the mantel shelf, where we used a darker brown paint for the base and then added a lighter brown faux finish with a feather duster! We did that about 10 years ago and it still looks good.

SONY DSCSo on our current project, we took the same paints but used the lighter paint for the base and the darker paint to feather dust the faux finish. This is my side of the texturing. The wall above the mantel does not have the skip-trowel texturing as this does, just a regular orange peel texture.


If you have hung in there this long in your reading, I am happy to inform you that this fireplace “journey” will soon be over (this weekend) and this blog will come to an end too!

However, there is the bottom part of the hearth bench to finish. Above are pictures showing what I hope will be an interesting part of the rock hearth. In our home, not only are we blessed to have a full view of Pike’s Peak from our windows and deck, but we also see our very own bluff, Pulpit Rock, which is pictured above. And also pictured above in front are some rocks that we gathered from this bluff on Easter morning. So we plan to use them in the hearth to kind of bring the out of doors right into our house. I only wish we had thought to gather stones from the top of Pike’s Peak when we were there, but too late now! The show must go on.



After a short briefing on laying stone, we let Jonathan and Luke do the lion’s share of the work of actually getting the stones onto the wall. By the way, real stones are considerably more difficult to adhere than lighter fake stone. Meanwhile, Mike cut stones outside (stone laying is a lot like fitting a puzzle together). I followed along with the work inside and applied mortar to the joint lines and washed the stones, because, obviously, it is easier to remove unwanted mortar when it’s wet than when it’s dry.

And just in case you really are reading this as a tutorial, earlier I said that we used some (about 25%) manufactured stone to add color. Shows you what we know! After we treated the stones, the real stone was much more vibrant and the fake stone faded when it was washed and looked blah. Just the opposite of what I thought would happen. So on the bottom part of the hearth, we used zero manufactured stone.


IMG_1931IMG_2139So here you have it, before and after!

I haven’t yet cleaned and conditioned the bottom rocks, and when I do they will be much more vibrant. But I’m going to send this picture because I am so ready to be done with the fireplace and with writing this blog (although I have enjoyed it!), and now…I just want to relax by my fireplace for a while!

Mountain Hikes and Adventures

Adventures of Pike’s Peak Enthusiasts

The biggest adventure I have ever personally experienced with Pike’s Peak (other than the thrill of seeing all of its changes and nuances outside of the windows of our home each day!) is driving up there with family. It is one of the wonderful 14er’s on the Front Range of Colorado. What’s so adventurous about driving up Pike’s Peak? Well, it is a narrow road and most of the way there are no guard rails. Let me tell you, it is a thrill to look down out of the car window and see open space that could be described as an abyss!

But I’m going to show you some pictures of people who have had true adventures on “America’s Mountain.”  By the way, Pike’s Peak was Katherine Lee Bates’ inspiration for the song America the Beautiful. You can read about that here.

So following are pictures of people doing wild and crazy things on this mountain. I know that each year on New Years I shudder as I think of the group of people who climb Pike’s Peak in the often frigid temperatures, wind storms, and blizzards to set off fireworks at midnight!

Here are some pics of those who just couldn’t control themselves from experiencing the thrill of exploring this marvelous mountain.


Mountain Sparkle

Hiking Jewelry

I like to hike and I like to wear jewelry. Some jewelry doesn’t work, at least not for me. For example, I find that necklaces with metal chains, when I get sweaty, begin to chafe and feel uncomfortable. And some earrings may not feel heavy for “city life,” but when you have hiked a mountain for 3 or 4 miles, you can begin to feel them pulling on your ear with every step!


And so I have created some hiking jewelry that I sell on our etsy shop Rocky Mountain Glow.  The sparkling glass pendants have cotton cords, and the earrings are light and always have 100% sterling silver ear wires. I don’t like to have harmful metals leaching into my body through my earrings when I’m hot and sweaty, and I’m sure you don’t either!

Speaking of hiking, I have some pretty cool blogs on about our hiking adventures where we live in Colorado. Check it out:

mountain hikes and adventures


Mountain Bubble

When All Else Fails, Take a Bath…



Sometimes, my muscles ache, my head is tight, I feel tense all over. When that happens there is only one thing to do…take a very warm, almost hot, bath.

I call it my “think tank,” because there I am finally quiet with my own thoughts. No one is telling me what to think; no news is alarming my mind; I can pray. I can ponder. I can close my eyes and melt into the calming warmth.

I don’t like just plain water. I have some favorite things that I put into the bath. We sell these things on our Rocky Mountain Glow shop, but I can honestly tell you that no matter if we sell them or not, I think I shall always use these products, because I am most literally addicted to them!

Oatmeal Bath with Scoop
Cleopatra is said to have taken milk baths for her skin, I believe it!

The first is my oatmeal milk bath.  It is finely ground oatmeal with powdered milk, and yummy-smelling essential oils. I usually use orange, vanilla, and peppermint. Quite a combination that makes you close your eyes and breath it in deeply because it just smells so good.  And oatmeal is well know for getting rid of the “itchies.”

I usually add to the bath a glob of coconut oil along with this powder for extra moisturizing.


Goat Milk Soap

I am also addicted to goat milk soap. To be honest, I started making it to sell it, and we do sell it. But as long as the ingredients are available, I will never stop using this soap! It is creamy-dreamy and moisturizing.  I make a wide variety of “flavors,” combining essential oils to keep it interesting.


I love layered soap with one scent on one side and another on the other side. It may sound strange, but I have begun washing my hair with this soap. When I use a bit of conditioner with it, I have really loved the results.  Unlike most shampoos, it doesn’t strip the hair of natural oils, just gently cleans and leaves hair shiny and healthy.


So, before I leave the subject of the bath, I’ll share two of my favorite bath secrets. One is Bach for the Bath, the most wonderful music ever to soak in the tub! I never get tired of it.


The other thing I love to do is to make the bath steamy and to contrast the warmth with a cracked window, yes even in Colorado in winter! The cool breeze and the hot bath feels wonderful. At least I think so.


Cozy Cottage/Rustic Decor' Ideas

Cozy Cottage: How To Make a Leafy Lampshade


SONY DSCIn our etsy shop Rocky Mountain Glow we sell a variety of wood items. Among those items are aspen lamps, awesome aspen lamps, I might add! That’s not bragging, but when you start with the beauty of God’s creation in the wood itself, it is a delightful medium to add your own skills to. My husband, Mike, does the wood crafting, and on some of the lamps, such as this one, I add some hand wood-burning.

But the thing I wanted to highlight in this blog is the lampshade.  Many times we sell these lamps, and people are disappointed that we don’t include the lampshades. The reason we don’t is because they cost a fortune to ship! So we encourage people to purchase their own shades. But often they are disappointed because they like the leafy lampshade, and of course, those are nowhere to be found.

They are easy to make, and I’m happy to share the secret with you!

SONY DSCThis particular lampshade is from Lowes, but any good quality shade is fine as long as it fits your lamp well.  The materials you need are surprising few and simple: Leaf die cuts, which can be purchased already cut at Hobby Lobby. A “die” tool, to cut out the branches, good quality paper for the branches, some good-holding glue such as E6000 (something like Elmers or Tacky glue may not hold long-term)…and that’s it!

The paper you use cut the branches with the stamping tool can be just plain white, but I prefer to use paper that is rustic-looking on one side, just in case someone takes a peek inside the lamp; it looks more professional and classy.

So plan your design. I find that two or three leaves is best. It looks a little “much” with more. Add just a small dab of glue with a toothpick to the first leaf on all of the points of the leaf plus one dab on the center. Place inside the lamp to the highest spot of the leaf design. Next turn the lamp on to get a picture of where your design is going,  and then turn the lamp off again to apply the next leaf. Repeat this until all the leaves are placed. No need to add lots of glue or to press hard. Just a little bit with a small amount of pressure will work well. Best not to move the leaves once you place them! You don’t want glue globs showing through your shade.

Cut out your branches and turn the lamp on to use your creative imagination in where you want to place them among the leaves. Applying the glue is a little messy with the branches since they are so small, but keep a wet paper towel handy to wipe your fingers. Remember to place the rustic side of the paper out where it can be seen from the inside. Otherwise, you might as well just use white paper.



Let dry. When you turn your lamp on, the magic will happen! And no one needs to know just how easily you made your awesome leafy lampshade!

Please feel free to visit our shop!

*I suggest not using more than a 60 watt bulb if you use incandescent, for safety reasons.

Mountain Hikes and Adventures

Hiking at Dream Lake…was truly a dream!


This is Dream Lake in the Rocky Mountains, close to Estes Park. We hiked there for our anniversary a few years ago…in May! If the lake looks like this in May, think of what the hiking is like in the middle of winter!

It was thrilling and beautiful all the way up. The most scary part was crossing the stream balancing on a log. It’s not that I was afraid of drowning, but I was terrified of falling into that icy water being so far from civilization. It seems like a person could freeze to death doing something like that!




The views were incredible and even though it was very cold and snowy the higher up we got, while we were still relatively low in elevation, it wasn’t bad at all…which is why I got fooled into thinking I could wear my spring coat.





IMG_3451crreducedAt one point, however, the snow got so deep that Mike had to pry my legs out as I got stuck!  But overall there was a great balance between sunshine and wintry conditions.

We felt like we were all alone for a while since the trail is more hidden into the mountains than most trails we hike. But in reality there were some kids, dogs, and a good amount of people braving the elements that day.


IMG_3508edreduced - Copy




Once we actually arrived at Dream Lake, the only word we could utter was “Wow!” It was truly like a dream: huge, beautiful, somehow mystical-feeling, framed and almost encased by towering and awe-inspiring peaks.




IMG_3466reducedWe are hoping soon to camp close to Dream Lake… in the middle of summer! Then it will hold a whole new kind of fascination. It will, no doubt, be more crowded, but that’s OK. I am reminded of the song If Ever I Should Leave You,  in Camelot when when Sir Lancelot sings that he would never be able to forget his love no matter what season it is because each season displays a new kind of beauty. I think that experiencing Dream Lake in all the different seasons will inspire those same feelings in me.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out our blog!







Mountain Hikes and Adventures

Winter Hikes In the Rocky Mountains

I thought I’d start the hiking blog series just sharing pictures and explanations of some of our hiking adventures in the Rocky Mountains where we live.

I’m starting with some winter hikes, since…it is winter!

Mueller Snow Stomp 098edreducedSo this is Mueller Park, an awesome place to hike and camp only about an hour from our home.  Each season has its own charm at Mueller and the mountain ranges that can be seen from there in the winter are indescribable!  This range is, I believe, the peaks of  Sangre de Cristo.


Mueller Snow Stomp 110ed copyreduced

As you can see, this is before we discovered snow shoes! It makes for good exercise to tromp through knee-deep snow, but I think that from now on, we’ll take advantage of the snow shoes. Don’t you love the bright, sunny warm winter days that Colorado so often offers?







So here are Mike and I with some friends a little while later at Mueller. Yes, the snow shoes really helped!  Although I don’t think the snow was quite as deep this time. Mike’s comment to a friend who asked how it was going snow-shoeing…”Really great, expect to walk a little funny for a few days afterward!”




So now we are hiking by our neighbor’s cabin near Larkspur, Colorado. The reason we look so victorious is because it is quite an icy, slippery climb! The waterfall was gorgeous and worth taking our lives into our hands (at least, I for one, felt that I took my life into my hands!) and that is not even to mention that all the way up the trail were very distinct, fresh bear tracks!

Mueller Snow Stomp 173edreduced

I’ll end with this, one of my favorite captures of a melting snow drop 🙂

Stay tuned for more great pictures of our Rocky Mountain hikes!

If you are interested in seeing our personalized hiking sticks, click here!

Thanks for visiting my blog. Please “follow” if you’d like to see more.  Although this blog is related to our business, you are always welcome to simply visit and enjoy the blogs, no strings attached 🙂