Saturday, December 29, 2012

A New Year's Intention

Have I mentioned that I don't make New Year's resolutions? I generally prefer to just set goals for myself whenever I feel the need. However....the timing simply worked out on this one, so here it is.....

I am setting a goal to write at least one blog post per week all year this year. Garden, house, life....whatever, but at least one post per week.

So what are your New Year's resolutions? Do you make them? Better yet, do you keep them? Or are you a rebel like me (please hold your laughter) and circumvent the whole thing?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Painting a Thrift Store Find

I have a seriously embarrassing lack of seating in my house. One of the things about moving from a 900 sq ft apartment to a 1450 sq ft can't fit many chairs in 900 sq ft, but it starts to get embarrassing when I try to have people over now. I shuffle chairs from the dining room to my music room so I and my cello students can have a place to sit. I thought about it the other day....I only had 5 dining-ish chairs. I'm not really sure how I ended up with that odd number, but I decided to remedy the situation.

There is a thrift store not far from the house called Southern Thrift that I've taken to wandering through every so often. Sometimes I don't find anything, sometimes I find something really this guy.

Now, I know it looks a little worse for wear in this picture, but I figured that for $3 (thanks to the fact that Southern Thrift gives 50% off all furniture every Monday), I could scrape off the K-Swiss sticker, sand it down and give it a fresh coat of paint.

I chose a basic glossy white. The other chairs in the dining room are stained wood, but they were significantly darker stained wood with upholstery (and don't match), and I liked the idea of a little variance. The other thing I chose to do was use spray paint with primer already in it. I'm all about saving work where I can. Some people call it lazy....I like to call it efficient.

I dragged the chair outside, sanded it down and then wiped it down with a damp rag. Once it was dry, I started spraying in thin and even coats (to avoid drips). Here's a picture after the first coat.

It took two full coats, plus a few touch ups. I let it cure for a few days in the garage before bringing it into the house to let the paint harden and to give the paint stink a chance to dissipate. Here's the finished product.

I like the contrast of the white with the darker wood tones and the aqua color on the walls. Have you been painting furniture lately? Tackling other projects? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Excuses, Excuses and Painting the Potty

Man.....I've let it go another month between posts again. Sorry y'all!

I have a (sort of) good excuse though.....I've been working my tail off. Not at blogging, but with my music. The month of October hit with a vengance. I think I played two or three weddings, sang at a master class (the same day as one of those weddings), performed on the red carpet at the BMI Country Awards (what?!) and performed a solo recital. Whew! I actually have one more thing to do before I can stop, breathe, and take a mental health day (or two or five)....I am auditioning for grad school next week. Because, you know, I didn't already have plenty to do.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook have already seen this picture, but in case you didn't see it, this is from the BMI gig. Sorry for the grainy was an iPhone picture.

And yes....I was playing on a platform that was five feet off the ground. On a ghost chair. In a VERY glittery dress. And don't you just love the calla lilies they used to decorate our music stands?!


So before the whirlwind hit, I actually did get a thing or two finished around the house. Like painting behind the toilet....something I had been putting off for way too long.

Back when I painted the bathroom green, I left out one spot. Mostly because I was intimidated and foolishly thought I was going to have to take off the toilet tank to paint behind it. This is what I was left with for the better part of three months.

Not so cool right? Once I finally got sick of looking at it, I started looking online to see how I could remedy the situation and I read that hardware stores carry special tools for painting behind the toilet.

There is no such tool. They looked at me like I had three heads when I asked about this.

So I improvised. I had one of those thin rollers that I could fit behind my toilet, but  I would have ended up with green paint all over the back of it, so I taped a trash bag to the back of the toilet tank and painted away.

Here's everything put back together. Isn't that so much better?!

So what have you guys been up to for the past month? Any cool happenings? Improvisations to share?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Changing the Furnace Filter

Oh the small joys of being a home owner...keeping up with all these small tasks that must be done on a regular/quasi regular basis. Exhibit A: Changing the furnace filter.

I have to admit from the get go that I failed to take any pictures in this process, but furnace filters are not the most interesting things. This post is more to remind myself that in three months, I need to do it again!

My understanding of furnace filters is that they are supposed to be changed every three months or so, so I didn't worry about it when we first moved into the house. Since it's been getting cooler here, I decided to check on it before we needed the heat. Let's just say that whoever replaced the furnace filter last got one that was supposed to be changed every 30 days. Let's ponder that for a moment. We've been living here for nearly four months now....gross. Makes me really glad I didn't take a picture. How embarrassing! No wonder my allergies have been so bad...

I did purchase a nicer filter this time that is supposed to last for three months. And I washed my hands thoroughly when I was finished.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bringing in the Bounty

Before I get into the title topic, I thought I'd share this picture, taken about 7 o'clock this morning. I love foggy mornings!

So onto the topic at hand....this is what I pulled out of the garden this morning.

Yes....that colander is as wide as my kitchen sink. There actually are also some jalapenos and bell peppers under all those green beans. Oh, and then there was the turnip that's the size of my hand.

Granted, I have small hands, but that's a pretty big turnip!

So, anyone have some good recipes that use lots of green beans? I've actually already frozen about a half gallon of them so far!

Monday, October 1, 2012

More Fall Plantings

The rest of my fall planting order has arrived! Woo hoo! Here's what I've got:

Moon River Peony
California Hard Neck Garlic
Naturalizing Daffodils
Apricot Beauty Tulips

With that, and the fall season, comes some to-do's:
  1. Find spots for and plant my new goodies!
  2. Plant bulbs given to me by my voice teacher and his wife (I have a giant tray full of bulbs! Mostly daffodil...they think)
  3. Plant more green onions, lettuce and mustard greens
  4. Clean out pots. I have some iris and daylilies in containers from the apartment that I have been waiting to plant in the ground. Others are just past their prime and are looking scraggly or need to be brought inside before it gets too cold.
  5. Stir compost and add leaves as they fall and are raked up
What does your fall clean-up/to-do list look like?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Painting My Drop Cloth Curtains

Ok, I've shared how I went about making curtains from drop cloths from the hardware store here and here. I actually made them a couple months ago and lived with them plain for a while to make sure I wanted to go to the extra effort of painting them. Finally, I decided to jump in.

I actually got the idea of using a stencil to paint curtains at this Apartment Therapy post, so I picked up an inexpensive stencil at a craft store, dug out some leftover red paint I had leftover from a painting project at our old apartment, and grabbed some roller covers and a paint tray from the hardware store.

Before I could get to work, I had to clear a large-ish spot in the garage, sweep it (so I didn't get my curtains dirty), and tape down some builders paper left over from this gardening project. Once that was done, I brought my curtains out to the garage (with the door open for ventilation) and got to work.

I lined up and taped down my stencil over the fabric so it wouldn't move around and started rolling. Here's a mid-process shot:

Every so often, I'd have to take the stencil out to the back yard and hose it off so I didn't get smears (got a few of those anyway, but it would have been way worse if I hadn't done this). Oh, and I also tried using an old rag instead of a roller.....the roller works way better, and is much faster.

In total, this probably took an hour. I decided to only do the bottom portion of the curtains instead of the entire thing. My best guess is that it would have taken 3 or 4 hours to do an all-over stencil like this. Anyway, here they are drying.

You can see where I had a little bit of smudging at the top of the pattern. Here's a closeup of the stenciled pattern. I have to say I'm impressed by how cleanly it came out on the whole.

And here they are in all their glory...I'm giving myself mental high fives all over the place. I'm usually not a craft person!

Oh, and the reason I only did the bottom of the curtains? There were a couple. First, there is a convenient seam at bottom-of-window-height that made it a natural choice, but I was also trying to avoid an overload of red. You see, I love definitely qualifies as my favorite color, but the giant area rug under the couch is red, the doormat is red, the front door is red, the toss pillows are see my meaning? There are plenty of other colors in the room to balance this right now, but I am acutely aware that red is one of those colors that is easy to over-do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Making Canvas Drop Cloth Curtains Part II

Ok, I promised more details and pictures regarding my process for making drop cloth curtains, so here we go!

I got my giant (9'x12') drop cloth home from the hardware store and spread it out on the floor.....or at least as spread out as I could get it.

Then I marked the middle of the long side (on each long side) so I could make my first cut

Once I had found the middle, I used a plumb line stretched between my two marks so I could make sure my cuts were straight.

And made myself a cut line before removing the plumb line.

Oh, and to make sure the fabric didn't scoot around on me, I put some heavy books and painters tape on the drop cloth. Gotta work with whatcha got right?

With my cut line marked, I broke out my scissors, held my breath, and started snipping. Once that was done, I repeated the process in the other direction to get the proper length. Then I borrowed a friend's sewing machine to hem the two raw edges on each curtain. Easy as pie. Here's the finished (but unpainted) product. Seger photo-bombed.

The curtains actually are painted now. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Making Canvas Drop Cloth Curtains, Part I

My living room has a whopping huge set of windows. There are three of them, reaching nearly floor to ceiling, and the whole set of windows stretches 11 feet. Figuring out a window treatment for this bad boy was not an easy task!

First of all, I'm really not a fan of blinds. I know they are imminently practical, but I just don't like them. Plus, these windows aren't really recessed enough for blinds. They would stick out from the windows.

I looked for pre-made curtains, but it turns out curtain panels (that are not custom made) are almost always 48" wide.....not even close unless I wanted to spend lots of time futzing with the curtains every time I wanted them open or closed. I am really not a futz-er.

So I went and priced out fabric, thinking to myself "Ok, I'll just make my own, and then I can just sew panels together to create something wider." Then I added up how much fabric I would need and nearly died of sticker shock. I would have needed 11 yards of fabric to make curtains to fit my windows. Even if I got fabric that was $10/yard (and most of the drapery fabric I really liked was more in the $20/yard range), that's $110 just for the fabric. Then I would still have to get thread, and some sort of curtain rod, plus whatever other random hardware, trim, etc. Yikes. This was starting to look like an expensive endeavor.

I considered just leaving the windows bare. They have some reasonably attractive trim around them, and leaving them bare would fit into the style of out mid-century brick ranch. However, this is the room where we hang out in the evenings, which means we are back-lit after the sun goes down. It also looks right out into the street, and I find it a little awkward and unnerving that our neighbors could see our every movement once the sun goes down.

After nearly two weeks of indecision and racking my brain for a solution, I was reading Better Homes & Gardens and happened on a story in which a woman used canvas drop cloths (from the hardware store) to make her curtains. THAT was my solution!

So off to the hardware store I went to find the largest drop cloth I could possibly find (15' x 12'), knowing that I would need to cut it in half and hem it. This cost me approximately $30 (not bad, as opposed to the $100+ I could have spent). I then thought to myself "What if I found a stencil and painted a pattern on them?" And the plan was hatched. Stay tuned. This was a lot of text! Next post about this will have more pictures....promise!

Have you ever had a decorating puzzle like this? What creative solution did you come up with? Do you purchase pre-made window treatments or do you make your own?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kitchen To-do's

Now that I've shared my kitchen painting expedition, I figure it's time to let you know what else is in store for this room. There is a fair amount of work to be done in here, but at this point, we aren't planning a major overhaul.

SO, in no particular order, here's the plan....

1. Replace the stove with a glass top, energy efficient model. The stove was the only appliance in the kitchen when we moved in and while the oven works great, some of the burners don't (namely the two larger ones). Plus, we'd love to eventually have a sleek stainless model instead of what I'll call "aged bisque" for now.

2. Replace and extend the countertops. The large space where the fridge is supposed to go (ours doesn't husband eats too much haha) would be much more useable if our counter went all the way to the wall, especially since our kitchen is rather lacking in actual work space. This is pretty far in the future, but we're thinking quartz or possibly granite.

3. Once the counters are installed, we can install a dishwasher (and I'll have a dance party)! I survived three years in Boston without one, and it's really not THAT bad to wash all of our dishes by hand, but dishwashers are just so darned convenient. Also, we already have a dishwasher (gifted to us by some friends who found out they were moving mid-kitchen renovation), so we don't even have to buy one!

4. Install a shelf or two in the extra vertical space left in the fridge nook. This will give us a nominal amount of pantry space in the kitchen that currently does not exist (our pantry is in the basement. I love it. It's huge!).

5. Figure out a better situation for the fridge.

It's may mean closing up the pass through into the living room(that may have been intended as a dining area) and widening the door to make up for the loss of natural light, though we only get part of that natural light right now because the fridge blocks it anyway. We shall see.
 Any big plans for your kitchen? Hope everyone has had a good week!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Painting the Kitchen

Our kitchen seems to be the one room in the house (besides the basement) that doesn't get a ton of natural light. I am sure the dead-body-beige paint that was there when we moved in didn't help. Here's what it looked like when we moved in (and until yesterday) it just me?

I don't have anything against the color beige, but this specific color combined with the fact that it is flat paint seemed to just suck in all the light. Yesterday, I decided to do something about it.

I had nearly a full gallon of paint left from painting the dining room, and since one of the dining room walls extends into the kitchen, it seemed like a natural move to paint the kitchen the same aqua color as the dining room.

I already had all the painting tools I needed leftover from other painting projects, so this was a buy-nothing project (my favorite kind). Satin paint (to reflect light, rather than suck it in), paint brushes, edger, roller, paint tray and painters tape were the only supplies I needed, and they were sitting in the garage waiting for me, and since I didn't have anything else to do yesterday afternoon, I decided to get to work.

I started by removing all the light and outlet covers, the knife rack, clock, etc. from the walls, plus doing some general rearranging so I had easy access to the two-plus-a-tiny-section walls that needed painting. Oh...and remember the lime green I found under the outlet covers when I painted the bedroom? I think the paint I found under the outlet covers in the kitchen might beat it.

Oh....and the ceiling was once painted yellow also. How do I know? I made the mistake of looking up behind the cornice over the sink.

With my nominal amount of prep work done, I started painting. I like to start with edging because I think roller over brush stroke makes a smoother texture transition than the other way around. Once that was done, I started in with the roller.

Also, I thought I was going to have to call in reinforcements to move the refrigerator away from the wall, but it's actually on wheels, so it's pretty easy to move by myself.

Anyway, here's the end result. I think the aqua really makes my red kitchen stuff pop.

It also makes the cabinets look brighter.

So what do you think? Not so bad for a free project and about an hour and a half of my time! What did you tackle this weekend?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall Plantings

Whew! It's been a busy month! The hubs is getting ready to deploy, so it's been a whirlwind of traveling to see family, hosting family who are visiting us, and various other social events. They haven't left much time for thinking (or sleeping), much less blogging! Hopefully things will quiet down here soon. Oh well....onward.

I mentioned some time ago (back in August) that I had planted my fall crops. Well, some have been more successful than others, but here is the latest update.

My lettuce and green onions got trampled by a visiting dog when they were still seedlings, so they died. Boo. I have plans to put a few more seeds in the ground this week, but wanted to wait until all off the visiting dogs were gone before I did so.

On the flip side, my green beans are doing fantastic. In fact, they have nearly taken up the entire raised bed where the onions and lettuce was, so maybe it's a good thing they died.

And they're also starting to put out beans. Maybe I'll even have enough to can this year!

Also, my turnips seem to be doing quite well. Anyone know how to tell when a turnip is ready to be harvested?? One of them is even showing its white root above ground. I'm looking forward to some tasty turnip greens this fall.

The broccoli and cauliflower are coming up nicely.

The peas I'm not so sure about. They got much bigger much faster in the spring. Maybe it's the difference between fall and spring plantings?

So what have you all been up to lately? Anyone do some good fall planting?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Re-Establishing Flower beds

It's been a little chaotic around here the past couple weeks, but in between the chaos (and the heat....and the mosquitoes that try to eat my face every time I step out the door), I have been hard at work trying to re-establish the flower beds in front of the house. So far, I've got one down (thankfully, the larger of the two), one to go.

If you will recall, the left flower bed looked something like this when we moved in (after I added some gifted plants)

Giant mass of weeds. Yikes. I have to admit, I was really dreading pulling all of them, so I started looking for other ways to get rid of them.

I read somewhere that you could use newspaper as a temporary, cheaper, biodegradable weed cloth under mulch, so I decided to give it a try.

I did pull the worst of the weeds, just so it was easier to lay the newspaper down, and laid down a couple layers of newspaper, soaking them with water as I went so they didn't fly off in any unexpected breezes. Once I got a reasonable-sized area covered, I used pine bark mulch (the cheap stuff....not Scotts brand or anything...that would have gotten expensive in a hurry!!) to cover the newspaper so my neighbors wouldn't talk bad about me haha.

Here's an in-process picture.

When I ran out of newspaper, I decided to take a break. That break turned into a two-week break. Oops. That was about the time the mosquitoes got really bad and started trying to eat us every time we stepped out the door.

This morning I resolved to get back on it. I tried to go to Kroger (which is supposed to open round the clock) to by more newspaper, but they were closed for some reason or another, so on to Home Depot I went for more mulch and to see if they had some kind of paper that might be serviceable. Man, am I glad. Here's what I found.
I'm hoping this stuff will actually work better than newspaper, since it's thicker. Plus, I can use the leftovers on other projects instead of just tossing/recycling whatever is left.

Scissors and giant roll of paper in hand, I got down to business, again, soaking the paper as I went to avoid shifting.

This paper went much faster than newspaper since I didn't have to put down multiple layers or deal with flimsiness.

Then, I mulched, and stood back to admire my handiwork.

The plants that are already here should grow together some. I also have an order in for things like tulip and daffodil bulbs...and a peony!

So now that I've gotten to show off a little, now comes the part where I hang my head in shame and promise to fix tomorrow...

Again. Yikes. Oh, and see E.T. peeking out the basement window? That would be my husband's sense of humor at work.

Any major gardening projects you've been tackling? Any you are dreading/putting off?

Monday, August 20, 2012

A lovely surprise...think pink

It's been a busy couple of weeks with my teaching schedule starting to pick up for the fall and some out of town guests (of the human and furry variety). In all the craziness and chaos though, I was walking out to my car the other night and saw a flash of pink in the right flower bed I hadn't noticed before.

On further inspection, here's what I found...

A calla lily! And it looks like there are more on the way. A nice present from the previous owner. Here's a closer look.

Oh, and speaking of flashes of pink, the roses have been blooming too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fall Seed Planting

Now that I've got my garden boxes built, it's time for fall plantings! Following the planting calendar for my area (zone 6), I got my fall planting in the ground just a few days ago. Here's my planting list for this go-round:

  1. Looseleaf lettuce. This is a cut-and-come-again salad mix, so I should be able to get several rounds of harvest from this. I also held back some seeds so I can do successive plantings. The next one will be in about two weeks.
  2. Green beans (Blue Lake 274, Bush Type). These are left over from the ones I planted back in the spring. Only problem in the spring was that I planted them too early, and they froze. Shame on me for not following the directions on the seed packet!
  3. Peas. These are the same bush habit Sugar Lace peas I planted in the spring as well. I actually had good luck with these this spring....hopefully I'll get some more delicious sweet peas!
  4. Cauliflower. This Cheddar Hybrid is actually orange! Park Seed says it has 25 times the beta carotene of regular cauliflower. This is an experiment, so we'll see how it goes, and whether I will choose to plant it again.
  5. Broccoli Packman Hybrid
  6. Turnips White Lady Hybrid
  7. Onions Parade. These are actually green onions.
I've also got some garlic on order as well as a packet of mustard green seeds I need to dig up. I think they got buried in my seed basket during the move, and over-looked when I started pulling things out for planting.

For flowers, I have a packet of columbine seeds, some tulip and daffodil bulbs, and a peony (which I have not received yet, but should in the next month or so).

Anyone else got big plans for their fall garden?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Just Call Me DaVinci, Part III

Ok, I think I officially deserve a break from painting for a little while. My latest project: the master bedroom.

The bedroom was painted tan, just like the rest of the house. I discovered why the house was painted right before being put on the market. When I removed the light switch and outlet covers, this is what I discovered.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, that is lime green. Almost neon. Yikes.

My goal in this room is to create a light, airy, soothing feel, so I decided to go with a lighter shade of the aqua that is in the dining room...almost white with a very slight aqua tint. I also decided to tackle this two walls at a time, mostly because it was way easier to move the stuff away from two adjacent walls (an L, if you will), take down curtains, remove outlet covers, paint, and edge and then repeat on the other side of the room. Here are things halfway done. Observe the chaos.

Actually, it was more chaotic when I moved the furniture on the other side of the room, since there was more furniture there, but that's ok. You get the idea.

After dealing with all the tape in the dining room, and not really wanting to have to tape off this whole room, I broke down and bought an edger to do the tops and bottoms of the walls as well as around doors and windows. Can I just say.....sooooo much easier than taping! This wouldn't have worked with the panels in the dining room, but made things go way faster this time around.

Anyway, here's the finished product.


That first picture made me realize I really need to do something to cover the box spring. It's pretty hideous. Also, I have quite a list of to-do's for this room. Not that there's really all that many to-do's, they just seem like big ones!
  • Find a place to put some closet space (the original owner turned the closet in this bedroom into the stairwell to the basement after he dug it out of the crawlspace...a story for another day). These will probably be Ikea wardrobes, but we shall see.
  • Get a new (queen-sized) bed.
  • Move the current bed and my dresser into the guest room (which is currently my music room until we can get the garage renovated).
Have you tackled any painting projects lately? I'd love to hear about them!