Leaky Pipes at Spinning Wheel

Let’s be clear – this job is not like an HGTV show. It’s always a fun conversation when someone asks about Muddy River Homes and they immediately think of a fun half hour show that takes a dilapidated home to a beautiful renovation.

I enjoy those shows, I really do – I think they’re inspiring and continue to challenge people to rethink they way we recycle neighborhoods. But sometimes they tend to sidestep challenges – or quickly resolve them with seemingly endless budgets.

Foreclosure rehabilitation isn’t for the faint of heart – surprises are around every corner and the Spinning Wheel home didn’t disappoint.

Just a few weeks into the project and the progress is already significant. Demolition is complete and I’ve made the paint and flooring choices.

In the main area where the living room and the kitchen connect, we decided to remove this half wall and it immediately opened up the flow of the space.

We were also able to salvage the cabinets with a nice paint job. Ryan will add molding and new hardware to really spruce them up.

We were making great time…until Ryan turned the water on and Spinning Wheel gave us our first surprise. Water literally flowed out from the ceiling chandelier in our kitchen. And just like that…the wet drywall had to come down.

Here’s the tiny culprit that caused so much trouble.

Pipes are now fixed, water is on – and luckily this will only eat into the budget about $800. It did however eat up time. It pushed us back a solid week and time is money. In order to make up for it, we’ll hire someone to do the taping and mudding so Ryan can move on to other items.

All in all, it’s a small hiccup that could have been much worse. For instance, if you were renovating a home for the first time and decided to leave the water on overnight…much. much. worse. A little experience and caution goes a long way.

New Project: Spinning Wheel

Six offers. It took six offers over the span of two months on our new Spinning Wheel project before we could call it ours. That’s not to say that we were offering more money each time…nope, the last three offers we submitted were the exact same. But as the year started to close, motivation to get foreclosures off the books increased and our offer became more and more appealing.

This last round of project shopping was pretty intense. In the current St. Charles County market, it’s easy to sell – difficult to buy. It’s an exciting time. Having renovated so many properties, we’re pretty open minded about what we can handle when shopping. When others can’t see past the animal stained carpets, moldy drywall, or bug infested chimneys – we see potential. Yet even with that mindset, competition was up.

That’s why we are so excited to have locked down the Spinning Wheel house. It most certainly needs some attention, but renovation and restoration, it’s going to be beautiful. Here is it’s current state:

In the living room, we’ll replace the flooring, add lighting, and replace the mantle. We’ll removed the awkward kitchen/living room cabinet to open the space completely. We’ll continue the flooring throughout the main level so it will feel like a unified space.

In the kitchen, we’ll paint the cabinets, add new hardware, new countertops, and a new backsplash. As I choose fixtures, tile, and colors, I’ll be sure to share.

A big project will be refinishing the stairs – the carpet must go. We’ll opt for some version of wood with a runner.

Upstairs the rooms will be simple. The majority of work falls in the bathrooms – in both we’ll paint vanities, replace the tops, all the hardware, and do custom tiling in the bath/showers.

The basement we’re removing the carpet and staining the concrete. We’ve never tried this before, but it’s a cheap experiment…if it looks terrible, we’ll just put carpet back!

Outside we’ll need some decking, but otherwise the yard is good to go.

So excited to get this project going and completed. When all is said and done, I’ll do a final walk through to ensure it’s family ready – and we’ll make the move! It’s not our forever home, but still our home for a season. Can’t wait to see it transform.

Farewell 2016, Happy New Year to 2017

People always warn you about certain things and it’s always hard to comprehend what they mean until you’ve walked the path. “Time will fly,” is what they tell you. And oh how quickly it does.

Looking back on 2016 there are so many things to remember and celebrate. We started the year off with a bang and Baby Jo greeted us on Leap Day. Ryan and I both took some much needed time off to soak in as much baby time as we could before she started moving and grooving on her own.

After baby break was over, we got the Janis Ann project up and out – it sold within 48 hours. We had people asking if we had any other properties to sell – it’s so flattering and reassures us that we’re doing good work. It’s also motivating us to find the means to expand Muddy River Homes.

Through the summer we took a short break to visit my family in West Virginia. I’d like to say it was an easy peasy trip, but come to find out Baby Jo hates car rides. After we got home, it was back to work, but with less sleep. Joanna wasn’t sleeping through the night and started having trouble with ear infections.

Despite the ear trouble, Jo is such a pleasant baby. She loves her big sis and Cobes can’t get enough of her new friend. It’s amazing the amount of patience Coberly extends when “Baby Joey” is pulling her hair, pinching, and nabbing toys. I know that won’t last – so it’s fun to watch for now.

With Fall, came our first rental property purchase. A small condo in St. Peters needed some attention. New kitchen, floors, and paint – we had it gone by the third showing. During this time Ryan continued the hunt for our next house, but the competition was fierce. We spent 12 weeks visiting moldy, rodent infested, and/or hoarder homes that all needed serious renovation. After a grueling search, we found the next project: Spinning Wheel.

But the last 12 weeks presented such a challenge in more ways than just our project search. Our closest friends know that at home we were still dealing with sleepless nights. Baby Joanna made it to nine months without sleeping through the night due to constant ear infections. Early December she had tubes put in and we’re already seeing an improvement in not just her, but ourselves.

We enjoyed our Christmas season and topped the year off on the 29th when we signed for the Spinning Wheel home.

Looking back on the year, we had plenty of moments to give us pause – we lost loved ones, visited the hospital too many times, and have had more “bugs” come home from daycare than we can count. But those things always seem to pale in comparison to the fun we’ve had as a family, as a couple, and as two business owners here in St. Louis.

I know everyone isn’t a fan of “resolutions” for the New Year, but I enjoy the opportunity it provides to sit back and reflect, consider how we can improve, and be mindful of God with us on this journey. Personally, I’m realigning my focus to be intentional with where I place my effort daily. I enjoy sharing our journey on this blog, and toward the end of last year – it always fell to the bottom of the list. I’m ambitious to revive it. As a couple, we’re celebrating ten years of marriage this year and we can’t wait to take time out to vacation together. As a family, we’re enjoying life with our new addition and thankful for all the support we’re surrounded with. As business owners, we’re so excited to share this next project and all the fun things 2017 has in store for us.

We hope and pray that 2017 brings you and yours new adventures.


Ashley Sturm

our first rental property

Our First Rental Property

A few months ago we decided that we were ready to add a new element to Muddy River Homes offerings – and this week, it finally happened. On Wednesday we got the keys to our very first rental property!

It’s a cute one-bedroom apartment in St. Peters that backs up to one of the city’s better parks with a trail that takes you all the way to the city RecPlex.

Walking through the apartment reminded me so much of one of our first places in Lake St. Louis. I remember the things I loved about that simple little place. I also remember what could have been better. It’s exciting to know that we’ll have the chance to really fix up the kitchen, the flooring, and bathroom to the level we like to see it. I really believe it provides the opportunity for someone to take pride in their home.

rental kitchen

rental bedroom

rental bathroom

Give us just a few weeks and we’re going to have some great before and after photos of this place – plus, a one-bedroom ready to rent!

DIY: Potato and Onion Storage

The counter, floor, on top of cabinets, refrigerator…just a few places my potatoes and onions find themselves after arriving from the grocery store. I cook with these ingredients all the time and it’s past time that they needed a place.

After a quick search, I figured out how it was going to help organize my tuber mess!

ladderWhile I love this…I do not love the price. $250? Really? I made mine for less than $40. This is another fool proof project.

With every home we renovate, we find nicknacks that make their way into our personal home. Lucky enough, Janis Ann left me a great wooden ladder. From there, simply measure your openings and buy baskets accordingly. Make sure you get a basket with several openings on the sides – that’s where you will hang the hook.


I purchased “S” hooks from Target’s shower curtain section. I hung each crate at it’s designated level and made a label. Voila! Because I have little ones, I did secure the ladder to the wall with screws and then placed rubber stoppers on the feet (no slipping!)


How useful and easy is that?

If you’re without a ladder – I also saw this variation:
That would work great with a leftover palette!

Summer Travels

Every summer as a kid my parents would pack us up into the vehicle and make a long drive out to see my grandparents in the mountains. I’ve got great summer memories filled with playing at the farm, hiking the mountainside, or walking the railroad tracks with my sister to buy jellybeans at the corner store. Of course it wasn’t until I started packing up my own babies that I really comprehended the amount of work it took to get ready.


We’ve taken two trips this summer. One was just a couple of days to see my baby brother walk the stage to earn his bachelor’s degree.          13240702_10205566120262341_8969011678394406113_n

The second trip we hauled everyone out to the farm.

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High maintenance is an understatement. Kudos to the parents that pack away with ease. My comprehensive list was anything but “ease” and Baby Jo hates the car. But after we got there…those little smiles (and the help of cousins) eased the stress of the logistics. IMG_0011 IMG_4895

Fingers crossed, by next summer Jo will learn to tolerate car rides (or at least she’ll be old enough for Benadryl by then…kidding…kinda). And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even get better at packing.

Janis Ann is Now Available

I can’t think of a better way to return from maternity leave than to announce that the Janis Ann project is up for grabs. For the last 12 weeks our family focused on the new little life that joined us. We fulfilled all those parent stereotypes of sleepless nights, forgetful days, and overwhelming happiness. Work? We pressed pause. But now we’re ready to get moving again – and we’re kicking it gear by showing off our Janis Ann gem!

This house underwent such a beautiful transformation and it’s going to be someone’s home. When I set up staging to give buyers an idea of what it would feel like to live there, I could imagine the dinners around the kitchen and dining room, the coffee bar bustling early every morning, and crackling fires in the family area. It’s a sweet space that is going to make someone very happy.

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And Then There Were Two

It’s been more than a month since I was able to sit down and find time to write. In the last four weeks our family experienced some of life’s most extreme highs and lows. We’ve said goodbye to loved ones and welcomed new life into our world. We’ve dealt with sickness and celebrated our vibrant health. So much change packed into such a short time span continues to challenge me and serves as a reminder of the grace we all need on a daily basis.

As the dust settles, our home is forever changed with the addition of Joanna Harper. This sweet baby arrived on leap day and is keeping us on our toes! Only a week into the world and she caught a nasty cold, but she’s a tough girl and is recovering. Thankfully, Nana Yvette stayed for a bit after birth and helped our family juggle. Today is my second day alone with baby and I’m trying to find my new “normal.” Again, grace.

After a tough few weeks of family change and time off, Ryan is back at Janis Ann and determined to wrap up the project. The hardwood floors are down and look beautiful. The appliances are installed and it’s beginning to look like a finished product. Can’t wait to share the final reveal!

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Three

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day One

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Two

Everything hurts.

There is no mincing words – a full day of cooking is not for the weak of heart. My 35 week pregnant feet and back are not appreciative of my ambitious adventure, but the big freezer meal prep project is complete. I’m so thankful that I’m able to stock up on delicious food to feed my family. In a few weeks, when Ryan and I both have full hearts, tired eyes, and empty stomachs – I’ll be grateful I put in the hard work and prepared this food.


The morning started early at 7:30 am. I took out a half hour to start with a clean kitchen and plot my plan for the day. I won’t give advice because I probably wasn’t the most efficient – but one thing that did help was categorizing each recipe as to whether it was straight to a freezer bag, prep up until the cooking portion, or fully cook then bag. If you are following the recipes I chose – here it is in categories:

  • Beef, Tomato and Acini di Pepe Soup – cook beef/veggies, assemble rest in freezer bag
  • Crock Pot 3-Bean Turkey Chili – straight to freezer bag
  • Chicken Rollatini with Spinach alla Parmigiana – prep up until cook, flash freeze, and bag
  • Broccoli Cheese and Potato Soup – fully cook then bag
  • Classic Lasagnas – prep up until cooking portion
  • Pizza Doughs – prep and place in freezer bag before dough rises
  • Pork Carnitas – straight to freezer bag
  • Slow Cooker Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili – straight to freezer bag
  • Stuffed Green Peppers – prep up until cooking portion, bag
  • Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions  – straight to freezer bag
  • Skinny Italian Spinach Meatballs – prep up until cook, flash freeze, and bag
  • Teriyaki Vegetables with Shrimp (Rice) – cook rice and saran wrap while hot
  • Oriental Vegetables with Shrimp (Rice) – cook rice and saran wrap while hot

My day ended at 4:00 pm, but that does include plenty of interruptions from a sick babe. Not an unreasonably long day, but intense no doubt. I love cooking, but this is a different level. Will I be doing it again? Maybe when it’s time for Baby No. 3.

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Two

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day One

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Three


That’s what I ended up spending out of pocket during my grocery trip to make 20 meals. That cost even includes the aluminum foil, saran wrap, and freezer bags. What it doesn’t factor in are the items I already had in my cupboard – including all the spices, some potatoes, tomato sauce, and the big money saver, my venison ground meat. Ryan, my hunter, takes time out every year to grind up a lean mix of venison and pork. With lean beef checking in at five dollars a pound – this saved us at least 35 dollars.

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I’ll be upfront – I never intended for this to be a cheaper option than a regular night’s dinner. I didn’t necessarily buy in “bulk” because I wanted particular items. For instance, I could have saved a dollar by buying a bulk size jar of Prego, but it wasn’t the flavor I wanted. While I’m not made of money, I want to enjoy my food. Could I have found cheaper options? Sure – but I went with quality this time.

Here is my haul – I’ve never done anything like this, it’s quite intimidating. Cooking day here we come!