There were 2 projects when it came to the mantle:
1. Level it (the mantle had settled quite a bit. I have no idea how the previous owner's stuff didn't slide right off it)
2. Paint it (the natural wood against the brick did nothing for the mantle)
The before (with the previous owner's things):
After painting everything, Brent put the pieces back in with shims and then mortered it. It was his first morter job, and I think he did great. Oh, and morter totally smells like chocolate milkshake. Then we let the morter dry for several days.
I am really happy with how it turned out.
Next fireplace project: Spraying the screen. I'm not sure whether to do it black or silver though. I think I'm leaning toward black though.