Sunday, September 7, 2014

Out with the Old

Today I took advantage of the cool, overcast weather and pulled out the dying summer vegetables to make room for new fall projects.  I'd picked all the pumpkins on Friday, and there were only a few remaining green tomatoes left that I'll throw in a brown paper bag to ripen.  For this bed, I plan on experimenting with a few different new plants over the fall and winter.  I placed an order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, starting with Broad Windsor fava beans, which will serve as a winter ground cover adding nitrogen back into the soil.

I also needed some new lettuce seeds, so I picked the Tom Thumb variety.
Tom Thumb Lettuce

They're nice and compact so I can grow them in our raised beds' cinder block holes, saving space for other plants in the main beds.  Another new addition is red orach, a beautiful, cold-hardy plant that you can add to salads.  I basically just got this one because it's pretty.

Red Orach

Ok, now onto the really grand experiment for the cold season.  Using PVC pipes and row covers, we plan on turning part of the raised bed into a mini greenhouse.  I'm going to try a few flowers and herbs including borage and nasturtiums:


Jewel Peach Melba - Nasturtium

I can't wait for my seeds to arrive to get started--who says you have to wait until spring to have fun in the garden?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Summer Swan Song

I've gone in the garden nearly every day this summer, rotating pumpkins, tying up tomato plants and collecting all of our abundant produce.  But last weekend was the first time in too long that I actually (and literally) dug in with my hands to give our beds some much needed TLC.  Summer pregnancies, to quote a friend, are no joke, and while Patrick and I managed to get a good crop going before I was too far along, by the end of May, even the slightest planting or weeding would make my back hurt for days.  So after getting daily lectures and threats from both my mom and Patrick (my  mom being the scary one, Patrick being the one threatening to call her if  I did too much), I quit being a driving force in the garden.  Plenty of beautiful plants grew, but so did a lot of weeds, beetles and some unfortunate powdery mildew (but we still have pumpkins!).

This vine actually grew up our side deck railing.

On Saturday, inhaling some of the last deep breaths of summer, we all (now four of us), trekked out to the garden with an agenda.  The pumpkin and cucumber vines have worked there way across the open spaces between the garden beds and the side deck, making it near impossible to walk through without stepping on a plant.  This wasn't too troublesome until I started to plant a fall bed next door, so it was time to take action.  I used a spare trellis to spiral the excess vines upward.  While some were already too big to move, I did make enough foot space to more easily plant the first round of our fall crops.

I actually really love the effect and think it will be even better next year when I can guide them up from seedlings.  After a pretty rotten garden season last year (the spot we originally chose didn't get enough sun), it's so exciting to see the success we've had this year with the raised beds that Patrick built.  We have tons of ideas to expand and build upon what we've done so far, from fruit to winter greens,and hopefully some new animals!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

$2.50 Paint Project 2, Part 1

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays winding down, but a few more precious days of Christmas vacay remaining, Patrick and I are kicking out as many projects as possible this week.  One such project has been waiting in the cabinet for a few months, after yet another Lowe's oops rack paint find.

You may recall our beigey, off-white countertops.

They were never particularly offensive to me, but once we painted the cabinets white, the counters started to seem a little off.

The paint takes 3 days to dry, so we have only completed one side of the counters so far, allowing us to make coffee and prep meals on the other side of the kitchen.  But it's definitely worth the wait...

And a close-up (yes, the counter is textured):

We did two coats for full coverage and admittedly, I have a few spots I'd like to touch up tomorrow.  Once those sections dry and set, we'll finish the other side of the counters.

Anyone else been doing house projects this Christmas?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Laws of the Universe

One I've learned recently is that if you picture a project long enough, and go to Lowe's frequently enough, the supplies you need will eventually appear on the "oops" paint rack.  Allow me to present to you the first of several $2.50 paint projects.

I'd been dreaming and scheming of a pop of color on the doors outside.  My first idea was to go for a kelly green, like this one I saw on Pinterest a couple of months ago:

green door
 But then we were downtown last weekend and I saw a lovely grey home with an orange door (sorry, no pic).  I was confused.  But not terribly worried about it, since I have a gazillion other projects before I should even be thinking about bothering to paint the door......right? 


The universe decided the color for me when I found a quart of green exterior paint on the oops rack for just two and a half bucks. 

So the other morning, when I was exhausted from a week of painting and flooring, I decided to just do a teeny tiny project, because I have to make at least one thing new and shiny each day, right?

Enter a before and after.  Our side door (which we actually use as our main entrance) a few days ago:

 And now:

Oh, then I thought I'd go ahead and knock out the real front door during Zeph's afternoon nap.

The before:

And now:

I think it's just the welcome note of color our house needed--and so cheap!

Monday, October 22, 2012

So I Married a Cave Man

Not in the, beat-on-chest, me-want-meat sort of way, but in that Patrick loves to curl up in a cozy dark hole and read, watch tv, anything.  Cozy.  Dark. So when we decided to turn the tiny old dining room into a den/library, I knew we were going to do things a little differently than the rest of the house.  It's hard to find inspiration online because it seems that everything is so modern and minimalist these days.  Pinterest is all, stark stark stark and I need dark dark dark.  You know what I'm saying?

But not to fear, we went to Home Depot and Patrick picked this gorgeous red color from my fellow Polish homegirl Martha Stewart.  My mom and I finished the room yesterday and although it didn't seem like it took that long, retrospectively I've counted about 7 hours of painting and taping (4 of which had two people working, and none of that time includes painting the wood trim white).  But, the end result is amazing.  To refresh your memory, here is the before shot before we moved in:

 Here is the space mid-project with the floors pulled up and the trim started:

And finally....our new library as of yesterday!

We seriously kept going in there last night just to stare.  I can't wait to get the floors finished so we can start moving our things in!  First we need to finish painting the dining room since the two rooms are connected, then we can get started on the floors!  (more on that project later...oo the suspense!).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Prepare to Be FLOORED Over

Pun intended.

We've been ignoring the kitchen floor for some time now.  Knowing we wanted to replace it soon, we never bothered to give it a good scrub.  I tried to steam it once, but it hardly made a dent in the caked-in dark matter smothered into our linoleum.  To make it even worse, the print on the floor had streaks of hay all over it, essentially making it appear to have scuff marks all over.  This is the best before-shot I can find (from before we even closed on the house), which doesn't even show the awful pattern:

Anyway, we finally decided to bite the bullet and went to Lowe's Monday night in search of some vinyl stick tiles.  I'd had a sample sitting on the kitchen floor since we moved in, and hoped we would find something similar in a good price range (we were trying to keep our budget at around $1/square foot).  Well, we did one better and found the same exact tile on clearance for 88 cents per 18x18 inch tile--can I get a woot woot?  Our Lowe's only had a couple boxes, so on Tuesday my dad and I went to another store that had plenty, and they honored the other location's price, even though it wasn't on clearance there.

Tuesday night, Patrick and I got ready by scrubbing our little hearts out while watching the presidential debate.  What better to get us motivated to clean the scum off the floor? [insert binder joke here]

On Wednesday, Zeph went to spend the day with Grandma Karen and my mom came over to help me get things started.  Since the floor was clean, our final prep move was to wax the floor with Mop-n-Glo (one of our contractor's many helpful hints), which was meant to help the floor stick even more.  [sidebar: DIY projects are best done while the contractor is there doing something else, so you can get quick advice!  Our contractor is awesome].

Since the linoleum already had a small square pattern over it (yes, in addition to the hay), we counted those to find the block we would use for the center of the floor.  We laid one whole row of tile across the center of the floor, then went up towards the window in a staircase pattern to help keep our lines straight.

My mom is so limber!
Jazzy Jeff also had the brilliant idea of staggering the squares--love the look! 

We made sure to keep that staircase going so we were always laying the next tile in a full corner, eliminating any gaps or uneven lines.  We also checked each tile to make sure the pattern was going in the same direction.

We left most of the custom cut pieces til the end.

It was also important to kneel down on the first edge we stuck so the tile wouldn't move as we placed the rest of the piece down.

OMG, this is so much fun!  (it actually kind of was)

My mom left me late in the afternoon with just some of the custom trim to finish as well as behind the refrigerator:

We saved the paper from the back of the tiles to use as tracing paper for those awkward corners and side pieces.  I actually used heavy duty scissors for my cuts rather than the razor blade--it may have required more going back and trimming, but it felt more comfortable to me.

Here is a shot from behind the fridge: no half-assing it in my kitchen!

It took two tiles to get the cut right around the random board sticking out on the left side!

I finished everything but the last bit of trim along half a wall Wednesday night (I called it quits around 11:00), but finished it all up yesterday morning during Zephyr's nap.  The final product?  I think it looks absolutely stunning:

Not bad for about 8 hours of work, and less than a hundred buckaroos!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pardon the Absence...

It was one of those things where it'd been so long, I didn't know where to start, so I never did.  But here I am, to show you pretty pictures, torn-apart rooms and a lot in between.  Let's start with the pretty.

Remember this horrid lighting fixture? (although I always seemed to be the only one to abhor it so).

It is no more, my friends.  Check out my gorgeous new light, installation courtesy of Patrick's dad.

Hello, my precious....

And here's a shot from the other side:

Gor.geous.  It really only takes a few little things to really bring a space to life - some paint on the walls, some new lighting et voila!  We also have a few other projects lined up for the kitchen in the coming weeks...but more on that later.

Did you notice anything new in the background of the first new light shot?  Two things, actually.  We finally bit the bullet and decided to paint all the wood trim in the addition!!!!  Actually, we're painting wood trim everywhere downstairs, but we hired our contractor to do the addition since the walls and the floors were recently painted.  I am no pro at painting and know I would ruin that new floor in not time.  Heck, I even managed to fling some paint on it while priming in the dining room!  Luckily, I noticed right away and wiped it right up.  I also tracked a toe print all through the floor one night and was scrubbing on my hands and knees to get that stuff off.  Phew!  Anyway, hopefully in a day or two the trim will be finished.  I think it will really brighten up the space, which has still felt a little dark and drab to me, despite all the changes we've already made.

Speaking of brightening up the space, that leads me to our second major change today:  picture windows!  We needed to replace the windows per our inspection report (moisture had gotten in between the two panes) so we decided to put in a little extra money and go for what we really wanted (Patrick's brilliant idea, actually).  So here is the before in the sunroom:

And some after shots:

Love love love.  I can't wait to see it all put together with the white trim and curtains.

Ok, now onto mine and Patrick's long list.  We have slowly but surely been chugging along on the dining room and den.  Painting all that trim is taking so much longer than expected.  We did manage to get the rest of the stinky carpet up, which required emptying the dining room nd pulling and tugging.  With Zeph in his playpen, Patrick and I then rolled the carpet out the front door right onto the bed of the truck.  Not the easiest thing we've ever done.

And here's the dining room all cleared out and carpet-free:

Now just picture that with some primed trim and you have our present day dining room.  I have to say, this project is taking so much longer than anticipated.  At first I thought we'd have it done in no time by the end of the month, but now I'll simply be happy if we finish by the holidays.  Hopefully it won't take me that long to write again!