Thursday, June 20, 2013

Painted Floors

We have two porches - on the first floor a porch with small panes of glass on 3 sides. You've seen it before on older houses, French doors off the living room. It's a great space and we haven't used it for a few summers, somehow it became storage. Yes, I admit it - I have the potential to become a star on an episode of Hoarders.  If you really want to see the scary "before" picture you'll have to look at an earlier post, I'm not showing it again until "after" pictures are a reality.

The porch should be used to be charming. It had a green and white checkered board floor. It was a bear to tape out but I really wanted it and my husband painted it after I taped it while I was 9 months pregnant.

So I thought I would never get tired of the checks, but I did. Plus it was worn looking after a few years. I needed to decide - paint the checks again or start over. Well, of course I want to do something new. 
But what?

It's really a fun opportunity to be bold because it is a porch not a living room. You can go all out on the floor if you're really not ready with everything else that goes in the room...meaning the porch furniture probably isn't that expensive so you can change it and not spend a small fortune versus living room furniture. I'm excited to have a fun project that will probably be ready when summer is just about over!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Clean Slate

Sometimes the only thing to do is wipe the slate clean.

When we first bought this house, there were grand plans and deep pockets.  The long list of plans included a deck and all new landscaping (and accidentally running over that speed limit sign...).  Then life decided to show us a different set of plans.  Although these were the toughest plans I've worked with to date, and included some really, really tough losses (loved ones, jobs, savings) they also came with some really big blessings - getting to spend precious time with loved ones, learning that there's more to life than work (or a paycheck for that matter), a clean bill of health, a happy marriage, two new grandchildren and a deeper understanding that life is precious and time is fleeting.

Like John Lennon said, "Life's what happens when your busy making plans".  Plans these days are pretty much a clean slate. "Planning" is much more organic in the sense that we have a general idea of where we are headed and we otherwise "plan" to suit the weather.  I will say this, the things that get accomplished are executed with a sense of pleasure that was missing prior to these last few years. Before, it seemed that the more money I made, the more  money I needed in order to pay for the stuff that I thought I "needed" to make it all feel good - pretzel-y, right?  It was a pretty vicious cycle.  These days I try to first, do what's right, and second, do what feels good to me - nothing too complicated. I like to think I've always operated from the standpoint of what was right and good, but adding those two little words "to me" have made a huge difference in the way I look at life and my general happiness.  

.....which is my long winded way of getting to the point of today's post.  

To me "garden" is first a verb, then a noun.  I love to garden.  It was the thing I thought about the most when we starting making plans for this house...

I had plans of a low slung deck with

large teak adirondacks and a low table 
where we'd put our feet on the edge and talk the night away.  

There would be a gravel path with slate stepping stones with

boxwoods, hydrangeas, and rose beds all tied up with 

a picket fence and an arbor full of roses...

So, after a few whirlwind years, and with a new perspective, I am back to garden, the verb.... to the doing, rather than the plan.  I have yet to really garden at this house, but last year after the loss of my sweetheart dad, I planted a vegetable garden.  I tended to him for so long that I didn't know what else to do with myself and all of the tending I had grown accustomed to giving.  All I can tell you is we never ate so many tomatoes - ever.  

This year, after getting outside and painting the addition, a different task, but nonetheless a therapeutic one, it was time to start tackling the garden.

this is the entrance to my office, which is off the kitchen.  See the arrows pointing at the skewed stepping stones?  I have no idea why they were just out there floating like that - they didn't even make sense as it relates to a natural gait. I used to think I would throw them away and get nice "new" stones set in gravel.  These days, I think much more economically (both in the physical and financial realms).  So bearing in mind what my sister always says, "from tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow", I thought, fixing this path is a project I can accomplish on my own without added labor and a minimum amount of cash...

I started by pulling up all of the slate.  Cleaned up, for the most part, they were all in pretty good shape except for one - see it up there cracked in half....  Then I trenched a clean path and filled it with Quikrete Earth Essentials Paver Base.  I came across this at Lowes while looking for pea gravel - I actually like this much better with the slate -

 It was $3.90/per bag x 6 = total cash spent $23.40 + tax. The bag has a helpful chart to help you determine how many bags you will need.... 

It was surprisingly easy and definitely easier trenching out the path after all of the rain we've had lately, so if you haven't had any rain, you may want to consider this if you decide to carve out a path of your own - you might just want to give that grass a good long, slow soak....

I poured four bags of the base into the path and 

 used a garden rake to even it out, 
and the back side of the rake to smooth it over.

Then I placed the stones in a pattern that pleased my eye as well as my gait
and used the last two bags to surround the stones and set them in place.

I probably should have "tamped" them with a mallet or something, but they seem pretty well set to me without the effort.  And shortly after taking this photo, we had a healthy downpour of rain - again - not a stone out of place.

If i get ambitious, I might just add a brick edge on either side like the image from the plans - I'll keep you posted....

So there you have it - Who knew that $24.00, six bags of paver base and a couple of clean slates could make a girl so happy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

No More Pencils.....

This was the last day of school for my youngest - technically speaking she has 2 more days but they are half days and exams are scheduled for both mornings, so today was really the last day.

It was so different, no end of the year parties when you're in high school. 

I remember making special autograph tee shirts for the whole class, organizing water balloon fights for the end of the year party,

agonizing over the perfect gift for the extra special teacher who really made my child feel extra special,

writing notes to express my true appreciation for those teachers who went above and beyond

and when they were finally released we (the children and I) had a celebratory restaurant lunch!

So yeah it's kind of a let down for me. We'll still go out for lunch but...

I think I'm the only one who doesn't feel this way.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ikea Faux Dotted Swiss

Some girls like faux fur, faux bois, faux tans, faux boo.. well, you get the drift - as for me - I like a good faux dotted swiss......  

Well, truthfully, I like dotted swiss curtains, but what I like even more is saving money.   A love of fabrics and fiscal prudence are gifts from my mom - she had a true love of design and I have yet to meet someone who loves finding a great bargain more than she did. She especially loved window treatments and changed them more than some people change their shoes.

So, when our the last new window was finally installed, trimmed and painted in the back bedroom of our second floor, it was time for me to call upon the skills my mother cultivated in me.  

Our new old house is an early 1920's hybrid of craftsman meets colonial, which we completely gutted and have restored into a rather respectable cozy home - and while we have allowed the hard details of the house to lean to the more masculine side of things, the soft details are all girl... well, mostly, so far as my husband will endure.  To me it's really just about balance of design - which speaks to me across the board - I like balance - like a vanilla and chocolate twist, bacon and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, circles and squares, stripes and checks, etc, etc.  So to balance the masculine details, I settled on the idea of feminine dotted swiss cafe curtains.  I wanted these throughout the second floor of our house for continuity both inside and out.  As for the dotted swiss, I didn't want the curtains to be silky or formal - I wanted them to suit the casual nature of the architecture. 

bad old windows & aluminum siding         beautiful new windows & cedar siding    

 To my great surprise, dotted swiss cafe curtains are not as readily available in the stores as they were when I was a kid.  So I did an online search and was further shocked by the fact that for the smallest window on my second floor it was going to be $35/per window for one pair of 72"w cafe curtains - that is just barely more than double the 32" width of the window - not lush by any measure.  My mom was all about making something look like more than it actually was and, ideally, doing it for the least amount of money possible.   I couldn't bear to think that it was going to cost me nearly $400 for 9 pairs of   cafe curtains that weren't even going to look lush. Undeterred, I continued to search, until one day I when was walking through Ikea with my sister and came across these...

Matilda sheer panels from Ikea.  Take a look at those dimensions - that's right, that 55"w is PER PANEL - or 110"w per pair.  For $19.99!!  Wait, because this gets better... the 98"l made it possible for me to get three - count 'em, three - pairs of cafe length curtains from each package.  Now, I am a girl who knows how to operate a sewing machine (I have 4 of them), knows what she likes, is rarely deterred and loves to find a bargain - so this deal hit all the bells for me.  Cutting these panels into three sets of curtains meant I was getting nearly quadruple the width of each window for $6.50 PER WINDOW!  To get this kind of "lushness" it would have cost me $70 per window online and it would have been four separate panels per window instead of two.  Of course, I did have to cut and sew them, and they aren't exactly dotted swiss, but look below - now tell me that isn't some cute fabric....

It's what I like to call "faux" dotted swiss... and it's machine washable and 100% cotton!-

I bought three pairs for a grand total of $60 and couldn't wait to get home to spike the bargain in the end-zone.  I measured all the windows and went to work.  

It was ridiculously easy.  
The sides were already finished and from every package the last pair cut from the bottom of the panel were technically already hemmed-

Just pin the hem and the head of the curtain, iron, sew and iron again.  
This fabric irons BEAUTIFULLY.

Last pair of 9 complete...

All that's left to do is put them in place, stand back, and

know that my mom is somewhere up there beaming with pride!

                       tv/sitting room                            guest bedroom                            master bedroom

As I mentioned, I grew up with a mom who loved curtains - like L-O-V-E-D - curtains.  When I was 5, she would persuade me into a trip to her favorite linen shop with the chance of having lunch across the street at the Woolworth's lunch counter with one of the older sales ladies from the linen shop while she shopped for curtains.  Before you draw any rash conclusions about my mom letting her 5 year old go off with "strangers" so she could "shop", it bears noting, that times were definitely different back in 1974 - and my mom had been going to that linen store, dealing with that same sweet sales lady, for the better part of 15 years.  It was a win-win as far as I was concerned - I must confess, curtain bargains didn't hold the same charm for me back then and I was VERY happy to sit at the counter of Woolworth's with a sweet old sales lady who was clearly charmed by my 5 year old nature.  Given my later need for a special diet for hyperactivity, I suspect the owner of the linen shop probably happily picked up the tab for that grilled cheese and coke to keep my mom in the store and me, well, not.  See, everybody wins... 

As for the bargain hunting, I am the youngest of five so my mom not only knew how to find a bargain - it was a financial imperative.  My mom would say - we have champagne tastes and a beer budget, but she made it fun and taught us all a lot about quality and getting the most for your money. My mother's ability to comb through that jamb-packed linen shop for just the right curtain style, impressed me - maybe via osmosis, but just the same... On the way over to 5th Street, my mom would quiz me on fabrics, colors and styles.  Later, when I was a little older, we'd do the math to get the right size for the window opening or maybe the math of how much it was going to cost to furnish the kitchen with new curtains for Easter.  The money math we kept just between us - nobody, sometimes not even my dad,  -needed to know just how good she was at finding a bargain.  

Our house was always tasteful, dignified, but most importantly, cozy.  How my mom did it all with five kids and one man's salary, I don't know, but she passed on the importance of making a house a home, knowing good quality, and virtue of prudent economics - sometimes under the clever guise of new kitchen curtains and the promise of a grilled cheese at Woolworths.... now, who's beaming with pride...

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