Monday, September 28, 2009

Technical update including cat hair

Hi, everyone!  Thanks to some advice from the lovely lady at Oh! Apostrophe, I will be doing some maintenance to my blogger template today to get bigger, better pics on here.  I want you to see every cat hair, speck of dust and blemished wall.  So, please excuse me if some of my posts end up looking kind of wonky throughout the weeks it will take me to figure it out day.  In celebration of my future blogging prowess, and since I mentioned cats, here are my boys doing the two things they do best:
1.  Looking adorable
2.  While getting cat hair all over everything 
Lucius is the grey and white, cute, friendly (and uh..'open') guy, and Maximus is the dark, mysterious (yet suprisingly clingy) one.  And yes, I have leopard print sheets.  Don't act like you don't have any!  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Taking it outside – Part 2

When we first started our big landscaping project this summer, the front of the house was looking more ‘Vince Vaughn’ than ‘Brad Pitt’:
Exterior Before Front
Straggly, funny looking bushes, random daffodils sprouting in the middle of the grass, rusted railings, and a completely empty porch.  You can’t see it in the picture, but there was also absolutely no edging around the front planting area.  Now it looks a bit more A-list:
Front Exterior After
Here is a closer shot of the plantings.  I wanted something for the space between the windows while I wait for the rhododendrons to get big and fill in that area.  I got the sexy fiberglass planter from Sam’s club, and the metal wall art was a ‘half price special’ from Hobby Lobby:
Front Exterior After 2
The porch area has been decked out with a wood planter from Homegoods, an Ikea bench, a painted wood side table from, and a couple outdoor pillows from Pier 1:
Front Exterior After 3
Here is a nice shot of the freshly scraped, sanded, primed and painted railing, and the fun Liatris I planted on the side:
Front Exterior After 4
Those big green balls of goodness are mums. Mums hardly ever come back in Wisconsin, so those are almost miraculous considering I planted them with no winter protection last fall. The last pic was taken in July, this is what those purty girls look like now:
Front Exterior After 5
OOOOHHHH! AHHHHHHH!  Stunning!  I hope they live through this winter as well. 

Things yet to do out here:  paint the front door, replace the screen door, replace the house numbers, buy a hose reel to contain the ‘black anaconda’ hose, and address our outdated mailbox.  I can’t wait for spring to see all our hard work grow and bloom!

PS – My header is the front of the house earlier in the summer when I originally planted hydrangeas in the front.  They were getting too much sun, so I moved them to the back and planted the barberry and euonymus in their place.  I loved the picture with the hydrangeas, so I used it anyway.  Sue me!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Honestly, I'm flattered

The adorable Carrie from Brick City Love just awarded me my VERY FIRST blog award, the 'Honest Scrap' award!

I’m so flattered and excited that Carrie chose me, because this is what I found out about the Honest Scrap award after googling various other blogs for the dirty details:

  • This award is bestowed upon a fellow blogger whose blog content or design is, in the giver’s opinion, brilliant. Wow, me? Neato!
  • When accepting this award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the person who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real. Done and done.
  • Choose a minimum of seven blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends (that would be me). Show the blog names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with the Honest Scrap award.
  • List at least ten honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!
Alrighty, this sounds as easy as airbrushing abs onto Robert Pattinson. Here are my 10 Honest Things:

1. My license plates say LUVBUFF because when I got my car I was obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In related news, congrats to SMG and Freddy Prinze Jr. on their new baby friend!

2. I hate the way I painted/decorated two rooms that I rushed to finish less than a year ago. Do. Not. Rush.

3. I already need to replace my 5-year-old mattress and boxspring because me and my dad accidentally let both (brand new) pieces fly out of his truck onto the busy freeway on the ride home - the mattress was lumpy and ruined from the get-go. Just enjoy that mental picture, ok? And if any of you have mattress suggestions, I'm all ears!

4. I am obsessed with chocolate brown (and chocolate in general), I have it in the decor of pretty much every room in our house.

5. I am a 'lazy' vegetarian, which means I eat a lot of cereal, cheese pizza and prepackaged foods like Morningstar and Boca. But not, uh, vegetables.

6. I play the piano, but have not gotten the poor thing tuned in it is un-playable and is currently holding up candles and mirrors in my dining room. For SHAME.

7. The best vacuum I've ever owned is a big metal Kirby that was manufactured the year I was born (1979). This silly young dude gave it away for $25 bucks on Craigslist. Sucka!

8. I don't want to plan my wedding because I hate 'bride' stuff...and I'm cheap. There, I said it.

9. I want my kitchen done incredibly bad, but I'm too scared to start it.

10. I haven't photographed the master bedroom yet because I'm obsessing over finding the perfect bed pillows. Yeah, it sounds as stupid typed out as it does in my head.

and a bonus:

11. Half of the windows in our house are still painted shut, and we broke the two windows in the living room right after we moved in but haven't replaced them yet. For SHAME.

And there you go!  I would like to share this award with the following eight creative bloggers:
Mabel's House - what an incredible writer! Totally hilarious mix of posts.
Thrifty Little Blog - great projects, and extra props for picking me as a contest winner :)
Freckles Chick - cute, funny, beautifully decorated home.
The Brick House - awesome style beat the pants off the 'weird baby in the bathroom' in the Rejuvenation contest. Yes, I voted!
Centsational Girl- just too crafty for words, her projects keep me motivated!
Just Beachy - the 'queen of beautiful molding' never disappoints, and is supportive to a new blogger as well.
Nuestra Vida Dulce - stunning room makeovers abound. Seriously.
Jeremy and Kathleen - this blog makes me want to have my wedding at home SO BAD. Lovely!

For those of you that I have never talked to before, hi!  I'm Sara, and I happily stalk your blog on a daily basis. Thanks for inspiring me every day!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taking it outside - Part 1

So, not surprisingly, my backwards self chose the *end* of summer to finally take some decent pics of the backyard.  I chose late September, when all the pretty perennials and flowers are brown and standing around like sad little sticks.  Yeah, I know how to do it up right.  It's not my fault, it just took me forever to get things done because we totally overhauled this yard.  Like, dug-it-all-up-and-started-over-overhauled.  When the entire perimeter is nothing but dirt and grass thrown haphazardly over flagstones, that's kinda what happens.  Our yard was like a box of chocolates, you never knew what you were gonna get.  Except.....we knew what we were gonna get.

So I guess it wasn't like a box of chocolates. It was more like a box of ohmygodcanwejustgetonethingplantedbeforelaborday?! So, yeah, it was a good time. Here is a before of the back yard as seen from our rooftop deck:
And here is the not-quite-done-but-I'm-so-over-it-for-this-year AFTER:

As annoying as it was to dig a million stones out of the ground, it sure saved us big monies on a retaining wall.  We put those babies to work for us and created this asian-inspired planting bed the spans the back perimeter of the yard.  Here's a horrible before picture where I have no idea what I was trying to capture.  The driveway cracks, perhaps??  You can sort of see the empty other side of our yard in the upper portion of the pic, as well as the huge stump on the right side that had to be dug out by hand, and the unused basketball hoop our awesome neighbor (we share a driveway, and that is their garage in this picture) took out for us one weekend:

And here it is now with our flagstone wall, lots of hostas, hydrangeas, the remains of a glorious bunch of orange daylilies, and a 'Wine and Roses' Weigela in place of the stump:
And where it all meets in the middle:

My happy little boxwoods (and my new header):
Annabelle Hydrangea, Silver Reed Grasses, Japanese Maple, glimerace (the frog).....
Lilac, Liatris, Lamb's Ears.  It's totally unintentional that those all start with 'L', I'm not the Michelle Duggar of landscaping or anything. 
Our stunning Dappled Willow that is looking a lot less dappled these days....I think it needs a sunnier spot.  Of course, nothing is ever simple around here. 
Next up is the front of the house.  Try to contain your excitement!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Old House Blog Contest!

Well blog friends, I've entered a contest.  It is the Old House Web Blogger Contest and all entrants are competing for a chance to win a $250 Lowe’s gift certificate and the opportunity to be a paid contributor to the Old House Blog.  How RAD would that be?  Better than Neal Patrick Harris saving the Emmys, for sure!  I'm currently working on a post about the back yard, but in the meantime click the link above and check out the details of this awesome contest.  And if when I get selected as a finalist, you will all have the opportunity to vote for my little stairway renovation that I posted about here
What was that?  You need a reminder of how gorg my stairs look now?  Well, how can I resist another photo.....

I love you, stairs!

Friday, September 18, 2009

And it's actually held guests!

While I'm on the 'let's pay our mortgage instead of shopping for home decor' train, here's a room that we tackled within a month or two of moving in and haven't done much with since.  We dubbed this the guest room, ripped out the old carpet and painted the walls 'Celery Sprig' by Behr.  I picked up some new bedding and a fun shag rug (shout out to TJ Maxx!) and swiped that sexy lamp from Target's amazeballs Home Design event in January.  The furniture and curtains I had already, so we decided to do a green and chocolate brown theme, mostly because I am obsessed with chocolate brown and have it in every single room of the house I think every color works with brown. 
The square footage is on the small side since the previous owners installed that huge dated mirrored closet in the room.  I guess the old school single door closet wasn't enough storage....and wouldn't ya know it, we have that stupid thing full of junk ourselves.  Curses, you huge incredibly ugly useful closet! We still haven't taken the carpet out from underneath, and aren't really sure when that will happen since it's screwed into the floor right through the carpet and pad.  Probably when we redo the floors.....just don't enlarge the pic, mkay?
Anywho, the room is sort of like Megan Fox, cute but plain.  I'm kidding.  But the room really is plain and I know we need a headboard and some art on the walls.  We'll see what I can DIY for a headboard.  Armed with tutorials from Centsational Girl and others, I'm sure I can make something blog-worthy.
And now, the slightly awkward pictures.  Have you ever tried to photograph a room while stuffed into a large mirrored closet?  How about standing on a laundry basket in a large mirrored closet?  I didn't think so.  Enjoy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Want vs. Need

This economy is rough. It's also rough to see all the potential in your home and not really be able to do much to see it fulfilled. If I had my way, I would spend all my time shopping for the perfect accessories and furniture to make my 'nest' as beautiful as possible. Even when you are thrifty and DIYing projects instead of buying them premade, it adds up. The city I live in is burdened by a horrible 17.1% unemployment rate that is only getting worse. We are losing car dealerships, manufacturing jobs and retail stores left and right. It is a very worrisome problem and makes me want to hold on to every last penny. Especially since I work at one of the city's largest employers that is also seeing a very hard time financially.

As I was going through my house pictures trying to figure out what to post about next, I realized that I have a ton to post about, but I just felt that none of my other rooms were 'good enough' to put out here. Meaning the rooms are fine, but there are so many other 'things' I wanted to buy for them before they went on display. Wall art, mirrors, new lighting, curtains, pillows, etc. This is a struggle I have been dealing with for awhile. My most recent credit card bill had made me realize that it is time to just work with what I have and be glad for what I have. No matter what eyecandy I see on the house blogs out there, I have to be proud of what we've done to our place even if it isn't going to be featured in a magazine anytime soon.
Here is a picture that sums up American's constant need for change nicely:

This is a scary basement room with dozens of gallons of paint that the previous owners left for us (there were more cans stashed in the cabinets).  All of the cans were over three years old, and many of them were full and seemed untouched.  90% of the gallons were tinted strange colors and in sheens that we couldn't use, so we had to add our own dozen (plus) cans to this stash.  Since we moved in, we have been systematically hardening and throwing away the cans they left here.  It is sad, and a waste.  Not to mention horrible for the environment.     
How do you learn to be happy with what you have?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Itchin’ to fix the kitchen

So, there has been one glaring omission from our main living area posts on this blog.  The good ole kitchen.  Or, the Biggest Source of Procrastination Ever, however you want to look at it.  This is the kitchen when we first saw the house:
The good things: it’s large, has a good layout, lots of light, and the cabinets are nice and solid.  The bad things: everything else.  I have a grand scheme to renovate the kitchen similar to Darby's at Fly Through Our Window, and it has just been waiting for us to get to work.  One day, we got the itch and started tearing out the bad bad ugly brick backsplash:

Aaand we have done nothing more to the backsplash since May.  As in, 4 months ago.  Oh well, who needs a pretty kitchen when you have a rad patio?   Anyway, here is our kitchen renovation plan:
Tongue and groove ceiling, beams, and crown molding ala Chris at Just Beachy. 
New Rejuvenation lights (already purchased and getting dusty in the basement)
Paint cabinets and ceiling all crisp white
Black granite counters with undermount sink
White subway tile backsplash
Large range hood
New flooring (wood or tile, not sure)
Stainless appliances
Oil Rubbed Bronze bin pulls and knobs
Removing cabinet doors for open shelving next to fridge and adding glass to doors on either side of the sink.
Paint on the walls
Curtains and table set for window nook

So, that should only take 5 years to complete!  Meh, it works for now.   

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A step in the right direction

I know, cheesy title.  I could’ve chosen ‘A step above’, ‘Stairway to heaven’, and a myriad of others, so just be glad this is the one I went with.  I thought it would be nice to share more wallpaper horror pics and the results of our front entry and stairway renovations.  We are not completely done, but it’s kinda like Joan River’s face, it’s never really ‘done.’  Here are a few gory wallpaper shots:
It was kind of irritating fun that we were able to see the blue flowered paper they had painted over.  After several months worth of weekends plugging away at the wallpaper, we were finally able to paint the entryway this lovely Ralph Lauren ‘vintage’ shade called Reflecting Pool, and the stairway was ready to be primed:

At this point, we risked life and limb to paint the 15 foot ceiling and walls going up the stairs, and then we tackled the stairs themselves.  You can sort of see here how high up we were leaning with our trusty ladder.  It was a good thing we still had the carpet on the stairs for traction:

Try to not be mesmerized by Shaun’s bulging, tattooed bicep, kay?   That white line on the ceiling was the previous owner’s failed attempt to paint the walls without getting it on the ceiling.  Cause you know, it’s always a good idea to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls and leave the grungy ceiling alone.  If the ceiling had been wallpapered, they probably would’ve made the extra effort.
After priming, painting the hallway with Behr Antique White and ripping out the carpet on the stairs, we were left with this:

The treads were actually very cool, they had used some sort of ebony stain.  However, they were in bad condition and needed to be refinished.  We decided to sand everything, re-stain the treads and railing, then paint the risers and balusters the same white as our trim throughout the house.  There was also about a million staples and nails in these poor steps.

Sanding the dark stain off the treads AFTER painting the walls ivory was not the brightest idea, you can imagine how my freshly painted walls looked after this:
Oh, well.  You learn things with every project.  I cleaned the walls and thanked myself for getting the ‘scrubbable’ flat enamel paint.  And now, the fresh and clean ‘almost after’ shots:
We used Varathane Espresso stain for the stairs, we just love how this dark shade highlights the white trim, and also how it looks next to the cedar shade in the entry and living room.  When we get around to refinishing the upstairs hardwoods, we will also use the Espresso stain for the entire second floor.  We still need to put down the shoe molding on the stair landings, paint the window and the three (!) single doors in this area, paint and rehang the french doors, and touch up some of the risers and balusters.  Joan Rivers, I totally feel your pain.  Well, not literally - but you know what I mean. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My partner in crime

I’ve called him my fiancé, sexy pants, hot man, my man, and other such wonderful things.  Who is this tube of wonderful that I share my remodeling exploits with?  Well, he is not Pedro
Shaun Nacho
Or ‘flamboyant’
Shaun Sombrero
Or a player
Shaun player
Or a miner
He does, however, have a thing for funny hats. 
And he is mine.  Love you, Shaun!
Me Shaun Wedding

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dining room picture molding FAQ

Here are the steps we took to add picture moldings to our dining room.  We did this project long before I started this blog, so I didn't take any "action" shots while we were working on it.  Sorry! 
Smooth the walls completely:  We used lots of joint compound to get the walls perfectly smooth so it would look like wood instead of wall.  Expect to cry and scream and eat dust for days!  Or get extra thin MDF or plywood and attach that to the wall instead.  We wanted to preserve our baseboards without removing them, so that plan didn't work for us. 

Pick the molding style:  The decorative molding we used was about 3/4 inch thick. It wasn't a fancy design, just a simple profile. You could easily use something thicker, but I liked that they looked like picture frames, and it seemed to fit the age of our house better than more modern flat pieces.

Map out the boxes:  I had the whole room mapped out on a piece of paper, how long every wall was, and how many boxes would fit.  I decided that keeping the top and the bottom of the boxes about 3" from the chair rail and base, and from each other, was the best look for us. We did have to fudge this a little bit due to space constraints on smaller walls, but it was between 2.5 - 3" always. We always kept it 3 inches from the chair rail, though.  Because I had wildly different wall lengths (from 21" to 90"!) I measured the outside width of the boxes to be anywhere from 18" wide to 22" wide.  As long as you have all the boxes on one wall the same height and width, it looks great.  You will have to tinker with the numbers until you find the magic ones that won't leave you with 24" wide boxes on one side of the room and 14" wide on the other! Your heights should all be the same.  Because we put the bottom of our chair rail piece at 34" from the floor, and the baseboards were about 5" tall, we had a height of 23" for all the boxes, with 3 inches space on top and on the bottom.

Attach the chair rail:  We chose to have the bottom of our chair rail at 34 inches.  It's very important to have it perfectly level because the boxes will be based off this line.  We used a nail gun, caulked the joints, and filled the nail holes with white wood filler before painting.  And then we lived with it like this for about a month before finishing the project!
Attach the molding:  We used paneling adhesive and our nail gun to attach the pieces to the wall.  The hardest part is mitering the edges and having them line up on the wall in a nice box pattern.  When they didn't, we'd either cut them down more or fill the gap with some caulk - a nice safety net when you plan on painting everything!  Once you get the first box up, it's easier to level the next one out based on the first one. I will tell you that it's better to eyeball it.  If the level says its 'level' but your eye says 'that's jacked up', then go with your eye instead.  Most of the time sometimes walls and floors aren't even!  It is definitely a two-person project because one of you will hold it up and level, then someone has to stand back to check it out.  We always put the top piece on first, because that is what you see first and it will be painfully obvious if it is not even with the chair rail.

For more visual help, please head over to Bower Power to see Katie's instructions, pictures, and diagrams.  She did such a great job putting together her play-by-play!