Tuesday, March 31, 2009

go to your happy place

I have an unmanageable collection of magazines. I admit it. I have them packed into storage boxes under my bed. I used to be the sort that would never dream of tearing out a page in the magazine. I would put a little post-it in the corner, with a little note like "love this chair!" But soon the realization hit me that I would never ever take the time to go back through those magazines again.

I started tearing out pages and putting them in file folders. These were ideas that I was collecting for the house. I had folders for each room of the house, plus the garden and what not. That seemed to work out OK for me. And I didn't feel too guilty about tearing up my magazines.
Recently, I was flipping through a magazine and realized there were certain images that made me pause my flipping. Something would catch my eye and make me smile. Sometimes there are just little things in life that make you happy. If only for a second, it brightens your day. Or sometimes, you see a certain shade of blue in a vignette, and you think about how great it would be to paint the inside of a cabinet that color.

I began clipping out these little bitty pictures and taping them into a little journal. My journal is just one of those little blank books you can buy at Borders or B&N. I am not shooting for fancy scrapbook pages. Just little arrangements that make me happy, or capture inspiration. I carry my little journal in my purse. It is nice to glance through it as a little pick-me up. It's also a nice place to tuck away paint chips (more inspiration!).

I snapped a few pictures of some favorite pages to share with you. Who knows... maybe you all will be inspired to do something similar.

How do you organize your creativity and inspiration?

This is from an ad for dog food. I like the 70s filter they used on the picture. I chopped up the text, obviously. I am weird, I just like it.

I liked the repetition of the arch and the hardware on the door. The text I got from another magazine. To the right, just knitting stuff. Reminding me - you bought the knitting stuff, maybe you should use it!

I love the pig. I just do. I labeled it "friends" as a reminder that we don't eat our friends. (That is what I tell Steven, a non-vegetarian. To which he replies, So. I didn't know this cow/pig/fish, etc.") To the right, a b&w children's illustration. Just so simple.

I liked the color of this greeting card envelope. It's in the whole robins egg, duck egg vibe. So of course it needed some ducks peeking out, right?

DIY: deep cleaning woodwork

Steven is away from home a few days for a work-related seminar. No fun for him, and well, no fun for me either. I am wrangling our four busy boys and trying to keep the house in some sort of order. Progress has stalled a smidge on the dining room since powersanders and toddlers don't really mix.

Anyway... In the effort to appear efficient, organized and productive, I spent a little quality time with the staircase. It is the first thing you see when you enter the house, and even though it gets cleaned every now and again with some nice citrus cleaner, it really needed a deep Spring cleaning.

For those of you doing your own Spring cleaning, follow along. It's easy!

Step One: Deep Clean
Spray down your woodwork with some TSP substitute. You can pick this up at Home Depot, Lowe's, or most any hardware store. Let it sit a minute. Then wipe down with an old rag. To get in the nooks and crannies, I put an old rag on a plastic putty knife. You can drag the edge around and get into the edges. And when you look at the rag, you will see just how dirty it really was!
Step Two: Restore & Polish
After you deep clean, your wood will be dull and ugly. You will wonder why the hell you spent all that time scrubbing just to make your wood look that bad. Don't fret - you just need to nourish it and shine it back up. Pick up some wood restore/polish. I used one called Howard Feed-N-Wax.

Note: Old wood does not like oil. Always use a wax instead of oil.

Step Three: Watch your kids walk all over the wood you just spent hours cleaning
Look how shiny! Before it was grungy, even though it was just dusted! The steps will shine up more as well. Usually, you put the wax on for 20 minutes or so and then give them a nice buff.

Monday, March 30, 2009

what would Anna do?

So I have a problem... a big one... in my dining room.

See, the people who owned and decorated before me, shall now forever be known in this blog as Idiots With Paintbrushes, or IWP. The idiocy in the dining room goes far beyond the peach, seafoam green and olive green spongepainting debacle I found under the wallpaper. Remember, these are also the people who sponged the living room and put up two lighthouse borders. And spongepainted the kitchen white and green with burgundy borders. All with a rectangular kitchen sponge, I might add...

Here is my latest problem. They used texture paint on the top half of the wall. They papered the bottom half. They put a border down the middle of the wall and the top of the wall. I removed the wallpaper and found that the texture paint is only where they did not paper.

So, I have smooth walls on the bottom half of the wall, and for a couple inches around the top. And the top half of the walls are textured (except the few inches around the top since a border was there). And this is not a straight line of textured vs. smooth -- they did it slap-dash. Perhaps they were drunk?

Anyway... there is a blog I read religiously called "Door Sixteen." D16 is written by Anna, a fellow old home owner who engages in projects a lot like mine. Anna, I have found, to be very meticulous. She mentioned once spending half a day sealing grout with a tiny paintbrush. Yeah, more meticulous than me I am afraid.

So, I am standing in my dining room. Near tears. Pondering... What would Anna do? What would Anna do?? Anna's room are always perfect. Must... be... like.. Anna... Must... do... as... Anna...

Maybe do a skim coat over all the walls and make them all flat? Taking forever to skim everything, wait for it to dry and then sand? HORRORS!!!!

But what would Sarah Beth do? Try to add sand to my primer and sadly fail at matching the smooth part to the sandy part?

I actually thought about doing board and batten or beadboard on the smooth part... but realized that our baseboards would be a nightmare to install paneling against. Yikes!

So I ask ya...
What would YOU do?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

DIY: how to steam wallpaper (and what were they thinking with that nasty paper?)

I am sure it happens to other DIYers... you are talking about a project you are working on, and when people find out that you are doing things yourself, they say, "Really????" Putting a HUGE emphasis on the really like they cannot possibly believe what you just said. I could have told them I poop purple leprechauns and gotten the same reaction.

There hasn't been a project yet that we have been afraid to tackle, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, plaster, all that... Yet, I can understand some people's hesitation at some things. Electrical can seem a bit scary, yes. But other projects are darn right easy, if not a bit tedious. Steaming wallpaper is one of those. I know people who'd rather paint or wallpaper over the top of existing wallpaper than to remove the old. They say, "It is too difficult and time-consuming."

Time-consuming, maybe. Difficult? No way. Not if you have plaster. Now, if you have drywall and you need to remove wallpaper, well... you have my sympathy. That job sucks. You will need to use a Paper Tiger (a little rotary tool that pokes walls in the paper), a chemical remover (or vinegar in a spray bottle) and a ton of elbow grease. Do not use a steamer. Drywall does not like water.

But if you have plaster, you are in luck... removal is pretty easy.

First, you will need to assemble a couple supplies. You will need a wallpaper scraper. I have one made by Zinsser that you will see in the photos below, and I like it. But there are others so do experiment and find one you like.

You will need a wallpaper steamer. I bought a Wagner Power Steamer 705. It was reasonably priced, and felt it made sense to buy rather than rent when I have wallpaper in so many rooms of the house.

Finally, you will need a bunch of towels to put along the floor since the water will run down and you don't want it pooling on your floor or base boards.

Now that you've rounded up your tools, you are all set.

Step 1
Lay out your towels. Put water in your machine and get ready to have fun. Well, not really. But I do like to put on some wallpapering music. Tonight it was Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits. I don't know if Alice is a home improvement guy, but I am sure he could mess it up with a steamer if he wanted to. But I digress...

My wall was papered half way up and then they put a thick foam border along the middle like a chair rail and along the top like crown. Bonus! Pull off the face paper so that you can start steaming off the border. If you don't have border, skip down a few steps.

Step 2
Once you have peeled off the border's face paper, steam the backing paper off. (Getting rid of the border first gives you access to the main wallpaper, which is probably buried under the border). Just a minute in each spot will get the paper good and steamy. Too short a time, the paper won't get wet enough and you'll leave a bunch of adhesive behind. And for some reason, the adhesive on borders is the worst!
Step 3
Use you scraper to take off the border. You'll need to dig in a bit to get rid of the glue gunk. If it doesn't all come off, you can use some cleanser later to get rid of any stragglers.
Step 4
With the border out of the way, we have access to the top edge of our wallpaper now. (Lucky you if you didn't have a border... you can start here!) Fingernails are handy for getting the top edge of the facepaper... tear all the face paper off. Some people will swear by using the Paper Tiger and punching holes in the paper and steaming it off in tact. But I find it just makes the paper tear off in annoying little strips. I like to do it this way.
Step 5
With the face paper gone, you can start steaming the backing paper. Again, just a minute will give good saturation.
Step 6
Use your scraper to remove the wallpaper backing paper.

Step 7
Repeat, repeat, repeat and do a happy dance when you are done. Then cry when you see the ugly paint the previous owner left behind for you. Then quickly, cover that crap up with new paint!!! HURRY!!


All those little wallpaper scrappies on your floor... hurry and sweep those up before they dry or someone steps on them. When they dry, they will stick down to your floor and are a total pain to scrape back up.

Oh, you might notice I am wearing a sweater here. 1) It freaking snowed today - where is Spring? and 2) steamers will drip/leak very hot water. Don't wear short sleeves - long sleeves offer some protection. Even through your clothes the water is very hot and will let you know if it hits you!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Progress on the baby's room

Steven has been working so diligently in Bowie's room. I thought I would show you some of the progress... I know it doesn't seem like much, but it really is hard work and it is getting close!

Here it was before... With the lath and plaster all removed. The old knob and tube wiring in place. The ceiling was torn out.

And now... Steven extended the wall up all the way to the new ceiling (the roof!) with old wood we salvaged from tearing out the wall around the living room fireplace. The extra door there will be covered with drywall. We have all new wiring for a ceiling fan/light fixture, light cove over his window shelf, phone, cable, outlets, etc.

Before... this is his closet wall. This closet will stay. That door in the right corner will be removed and drywalled over.

And now... this is the wall opposite the closet wall. This closet will be turned into deep shelving for toys and books. The corrugated metal you see laying on the floor is what we are using for his ceiling. Over the metal, we are doing (non-supportive) beams. I can't wait!

Steven is currently trying to put in more framing on the ceiling to attach the metal to. After that, we will be having a drywall party to get the walls up. :)

Garden Tour Part Two: Cozy little side garden

Next stop on our Garden Tour is the little garden beside the stairs leading up to the porch. So, imagine yourself walking up the lavender-lined slate sidewalk. You'll reach the front of the house, look to the right, and see the garden that I posted yesterday. Look to your left, and there is the flowering plum tree garden (more about that in a bit). Directly in front of you are the steps to the front porch. Turn left and walk between the flowering plum tree and the porch steps. Here you will find this tiny little garden. Look closely at the picture and you will see the steps leading up. There are my big pots that I do in annuals each year (mainly kale and bright whites for contrast). Right now, they are crunchy but after it warms a bit, I will be hard at working on all my planters.
On the left of the picture, you see a blue spruce. Now, I like the blue spruce OK. In fact, I like them a lot, but notsomuch in MY yard. Not the look I am going for. But it came with the house and I would feel terrible for chopping down a perfectly healthy tree. I am worried about how large this tree will get... so at the first sign of it going insane and growing super tall, I may need to take it out. For now, it gets pruned a lot. I am thinking of when it gets bigger, pruning it pencil thin so it is tall and narrow and more storybook.
Just to the right of the spruce is a rather scraggly looking russian sage. I adore russian sage and I am hoping mine will rebound. It isn't looking very promising right now.
The three big moundy plants in the very front are more catmint. Boy, the feral cats love these. I snapped a cute picture of the cat we have dubbed "Red" rolling around in it like some junkie getting a fix. Damn stoner cats!
Smaller plants in this area include a few varieties of allium (I love these!!) and sea thrifts. A Japanese peony is springing up to the right of the structure that Steven thinks looks like an oil rig. The sweet pea that took over that oil rig looks pretty dead right now. Drats! Oh, and near the base of the spruce is a carpet rose called "baby's blanket." The big trellis in the very back has clematis working its way up.
About that sad little path in front there. This path winds around the sideyard all the way to the gate that leads to the little fenced in area that the dogs use. We put this path in last year but didn't get the opportunity to finish it. We spent months looking at different materials to use for it. We found stones that are just right so hopefully in the next month or two, we will have a finished path.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Garden Tour Part One: front yard

Isn't the above garden dreamy? I love this type of garden. Now, formal gardens are beautiful. But I really love a garden that makes me feel like curling up with a book on a comfy chair, or one my kids can run barefoot through chasing butterflies. I am on my way to creating this sort of look at my cottage, and I would love to share!

With half of the flower beds mulched... I thought now would be a nice time to do a Garden Tour. Things are not that pretty right now, but give me a few weeks and things will be bumpin' !! I thought it would be nice to show how gardens start sparse and then fill in. This is why gardeners are always watching things closely and making edits when necessary. Not just pruning, but moving things around and shaking things up.

I will try to sit down tonight and create a garden map, so you can get an overall idea of the layout. I think that will help you get oriented better.

So, for now, let's start with something easy to figure out... I have a long bed that goes all the way across the front of the house.

When we bought the house, there were a few scraggly junipers planted along the front. Now, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings who love juniper. But I am not a fan. I think they smell like cat pee. Literally. Like you are walking along and think, oh, what is that smell? It smells like cat pee! And you look down, and sure enough, there is a juniper. So, out when the juniper. Below shows the juniper, and the slate sidewalk before I put in the lavender:

I did the front of the house in 3 vignettes. I marked the beds in swooping curves since straight lines don't happen in nature. Steven got to work, tilling and putting in the edging:

Now, eventually this edging will be replaced with stones. Anyway, the 3 swoops make up 3 vignettes. No, it's not your eyes... we put the mulch down at different times, so some have faded a bit. Mulch stays pretty and bright for a week. I don't care what the bag says.

Now I will show you a picture and give the description below so you can follow along!

Across the front of the house, as if you are standing on our slate sidewalk you get the view above.

This bed is on the leftside of the house (in front of the porch on the corner of the house). There are 3 Sarah Bernhardt pink peonies in the back row, just starting to send up their red shoots, like little missiles. The bigger mounds in the middle are purple catmint. Catmint is a favorite of mine... and I soon found all the cats in the neighborhood love it as well. Around the front arc are pink purple salvia. The metal structure you see is one we welded ourselves. On the left side, up grows sweet-smelling honeysuckle. On the right, wildly fast growing (yet to bloom yet) wisteria in a tree and a vine form.

In the middle vignette is another of my very favorites. Front and center here is a Nikko Blue hydrangea. It is flanked by pink potentilla, a.k.a. buttercup shrub. The potentilla are, in turn, flanked by pink petite bee balm.

And the righthand vignette. Far left, tree peony. On the trellis, pink dawn climbing rose. Next, pink flowering almond. Far right, lilac. Across the front are pink and purple veronica.

Soon, this scruffy little garden will fill in and look great. I actually overplanted it slightly so that it wouldn't look so sparse the first couple years. I may edit and thin out as the seasons go on.

Stay tuned for the next installment - the garden beside the front porch stairs. Later will be the rose garden, the sitting bench garden, and the washbasin garden. The garden surrounding our new tree (replacing the dead plum) will be a bit later as it will take significant plantings to repair the damage.

Succulents for a future project... just gorgeous!

I went on a little planning mission at the greenhouse... not buying yet since it is still too early in my zone (we are expecting snow this weekend!). But I spotted these beauties and fell in love. I love succulents. I have a great project planned for these later on involving tomato cages, moss and a fabulous urn. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Out with the old and in with the new!

So much progress was made in our "Spring Clean Up" today!

Steven (and Emery) tore the dead plum tree out. Steven used his bare hands. Could he be any more man-tastic?

Here is where the tree was... this spot will be filled tomorrow. I found my new tree today and am going to pick it up tomorrow. Come back tomorrow to see what I got!

Out with the old! Emery (left) and Satchel (right) are bagging up the old mulch we raked out of the beds.

In with the new. We picked up 2 cubic yards of black mulch at Kaw Valley today. It may not look like much, but Steven had to pack it all down here. It entirely filled the bed of our (borrowed) pick-up.
We got the new mulch spread on about half our beds. I will post up pictures tomorrow of the progress on that. It may not sound like much, but I think once you see really how many beds I have, and how big they are -- you will see why it is a week long job!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Farewell my sweet plum tree...

I will miss you, beautiful flowering plum tree...

You see, last Fall, our gorgeous little tree died. I hoped and hoped that maybe it wasn't true. Maybe the tree would rebound and be OK this Spring. But sadly, the tree is still crusty and dead. Above is a picture of it in its full glory last year. Below is what it looked like today:

It used to make a neat little feature leading up to our steps. It even arched over the path that leads around to the side garden, to the backyard... almost as if it knew that its job was to be pretty and make an entrance there:

But I had to face reality today and begin researching options for replacement. (Sniffle sniffle...)

I sincerely hope you will all chime in and give your feedback. Please let me know which of these options below are your favorites!

Weeping Peach - Pink Cascade... I bet it would make a neat arch when full grown. And a peach tree is more unique, right?
Robinson Crabapple. Do you think Crabapples are too common?

Oklahoma Redbud... It doesn't get as big as the Eastern.

Cherry Akebono... it may be a smidge too big...

Pink Dogwood. Too common? But so pretty!

I am totally open to suggestion as well... but, obviously, am partial to pink! I am looking for something not 15 - 20 feet high. Trying to stay 15 or so wide. Bushy is nice, not too narrow.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy happy weekend!

Happy weekend!

Unfortunately, I won't get to post a happy, fun blog today. Today... well... today has NOT been a good day. Instead of working on home stuff or fun stuff, I was in battle with my hubby's car. Our youngest hid my car keys somewhere, so I had to use Steven's VW today. VW. 'nuff said. Joking. But it did live up to its reputation today as being cranky and not-freaking-reliable.

What time I had once FINALLY managed to get home, I had to arrange for exam proctoring at the public library. See, I am working on a MBA. I am doing it online since, when my company does have work for me, I travel 100% of the time. So online really is the only way I can do school. After I already started the class, they sent out the syllabus and it has a whole section in there about how the exams are proctored. Which pretty much sucks because my undergrad that I did online didn't have proctoring. Proctoring means I have to spend my Saturday at the library so someone can watch me take a test. I thought doing a class online implied that I am too busy to be tied down to a schedule. So this proctoring thing is going to be really hard since, potentially, my only day at home will be Saturday, yet the library is only open 4 hours on Saturday, but the two exams for my classes total 5 hours. SUPER!

Anyway... enough complaining for me. I did finish painting one more window yesterday. 4 more to go on the front of the house. It's getting there.

I feel better having vented. Now I can take my favorite boys out to Chipotle for spicy tacos and yummy chippies. Whew!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I have paint in places it should not go.

I am a painting machine. And I don't mean that in a cool, good way, like one might say "Hey, baby... I'm a real sex machine." But more like I am covered in crusty paint, with big globs in my hair. So, it's more like, "I.. am... a.. sex... machine... Take me to your leader."

I would like to finish the windows on the front of the house while the weather is still nice. But, I am determined to get my first "collection" of sample pots finished up to take around to the local greenhouses. I figure being early Spring, it's a good time to pester them to buy my crap.

In my dreams, my little business takes off and makes me enough money that I could actually stay home and ride out the bad economy. But reality (dressed like the devil, of course) sits on my other shoulder and tells me that I am destined to log into dice.com everyday and continue to get zero job listings for my career field.

At any rate, it is a fun project to keep me occupied.

And since I still don't have pictures of my kitchen because I am busy getting paint in my hair... here is a picture of a fat monkey wearing a shirt:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Re-creating a fairy tale...

I mentioned in a reply a reader, Bea, that I wanted my cottage to look like a Thomas Kinkade cottage... I couldn't help but find a few examples to share with you. :) I have been busy priming pots today, but hope to put up kitchen pictures yet today!

Here is an old picture our cottage after a bit of landscaping in the front. This is before we added the lavender along with slate path, the wisteria and honeysuckle on a trellis, etc. Everything has filled in so much since then!

Someday we plan to roll our eaves like a storybook house. Our cottage used to have a ballastrade before its 1947 remodel. This picture makes me so jealous that we don't have one anymore! Look! A blue door!
Isn't thatch so cute? And look at the windows trimmed in blue. My blue is lighter... but still so pretty!

This path is like our slate path. I have ours flanked in lavender with some lanterns lighting the way. There is a gazebo on the lot next to ours. My boys love to play in it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bring the Indoors Outside!

My love of gardening has led me to try something new... My little handmade pots get rave reviews when given as gifts. They happily line my steps and I am always asked, "Where did you get that pot?"

So I decided to try my hand at selling them. I opened up an Etsy store on a whim... but I am hoping to take a few of my samples to the local greenhouses for bulk sales.

All my pots are handpainted, all materials are U.S. materials. I am starting with 4 designs. All my designs are sort of meant to "Bring the Indoors Out!" Meaning, I am taking the hot seasonal colors, trendy & fun fabrics, and reinterpreting them on gardening pots.

I can't wait to line up my whole collection in their bright, fun colors, with a bunch of white plants, on a display.

So far, I only have listed the chalk-able Little Star herb pots... but there will also be larger pots with influences from Amy Butler, Joel Dewberry, David Hicks, Madeline Weinrib and more!

For a sneak peek at the pots... go to: http://milksugar.etsy.com

How did I come up with my shop name? I take my tea with milk and sugar (and a dash of vanilla!)