Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Little Ponies

Last weekend I went to North Carolina to visit family. While there, we went hiking at Grayson Highlands State park in Virginia (the Web site doesn't do it justice). I was ambivalent about going because it was a 45 minute drive and I was sick of being in the car, but once I got there I changed my tune entirely. I can sum up the awesomeness of this park in two words: wild ponies. Yes, you heard me, wild ponies. Once you enter the gate, you never know where the ponies may show up.

Most of the ponies we met were pretty friendly too. This little guy followed us for awhile, probably hoping for handouts. Seriously, how cool is it to hang out with wild ponies?

The hiking wasn't bad either, but bring a jacket and decent shoes. It gets chilly quick and the trails are rocky.

This place must be a big hit with kids (and kids at heart); it would have been my dream destination in my pony-lovin' youth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pink Garden Pom-Poms

My pretty pink peony poppies did not show up in time for my Pink Parade for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, they wanted to make an entrance. And what an entrance it is.

Their stems may be wild and twisted (I wonder if they always grow like this, since this is my first experience with them?), but their blooms are gorgeous pink puffballs that make me smile.

Like so many of my flowers, these poppies were winter-sown and oh, so worth the effort.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kitchen Island inspiration for Tight Spaces

(image: Anastasia Faiella)

I love Anastasia Faiella's renovated kitchen, which was recently profiled on Apartment Therapy. But the most inspiring piece for me is the movable island. I haven't seen one that looks this great and is still on casters. It's definitely something I'm going to keep in mind for my own kitchen reno, where I'll be losing some counter space to make room for a bigger dining table. Something like this just might fit though.

Visit AT to see the dramatic before and afters.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Neverending Summer To-Do List

Restoring nine windows is just one
of the projects on my to-do list.

Thanks to a job change, I'm lucky enough to have some extended time off this summer for traveling and hopefully tackling some of the things on my never-ending to-do list.

This brings up a topic I struggle with almost every weekend, do I spend free time doing projects, planning for proiects, relaxing and having fun or trying to squeeze in all three? I'm not good at balance; instead I have a bad habit of becoming singularly focused on big projects and work myself ragged until it's done. All of which makes for a very unfun and tiring vacation, weekend, etc. Then I'm not able to find the motivation to do another project for a long time.

This time, I'd really like to strike a balance between getting things done, and still having fun even when I'm home. Anyone who has tips on how to do that, please share! So far I'm thinking: take some time off during the day to do things I don't have time to do when I'm working (eating some breakfasts and lunches out, making a nice lunch for the Boy and I, going to a movie during the day, going swimming, etc.).

But without further ado, here's my list. I'm sure there's still more on it than I can possibly accomplish, even though we've started a few things already and even finished one or two.


  • Pick out a new AC
  • Fix living room walls and repaint (Done!, but it almost killed me)

  • Fix bedroom ceiling and paint
  • Finish patch in kitchen
  • Touch-up bathroom paint and paint window
  • Patch and paint bathroom door
  • Hem bedroom curtains
  • Frame and hang art in living room

  • Stain deck, see it here!
  • Paint/restore three or four windows and storms (two will have to do)
  • Paint front door and shutters (Done!)
  • Paint awnings (or at least fix the horrid rusty one!)
  • Paint garage doors
  • Remove hideous bushes by driveway(done! thanks to the Boy)
  • Patch and seal driveway (The Boy said he'd do this one on his break, yay!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I've Been Deprived

As the boy will be the first to tell you, I'm no chef. I've never loved cooking; I only do it to save money and eat healthier. Lately, however I'm trying new recipes and liking the results (usually). The other day I was faced with too many blueberries and no desire to eat them, I saw a blueberry recipe and it hit me, make blueberry crisp!

So, using this recipe, that's exactly what I did, I made my first crisp. And let me tell you fellow non-chefs, sisters who hate to cook, it was so simple to make and yet it tastes devine. It's also an easy way to please a dessert-loving man. My crisp didn't live through the night, we gobbled it up so fast. What I'm saying is, crisps are the new black. You heard it here first.

My first bite of blueberry crisp was delicious. I suddenly felt several things, pride, satisfaction and great sadness. What, sadness you say? Yup, I was totally bummed. Why? Because I've wasted 30 years of my life not eating crisps. What kind of crap is that?

In fact, the only reason I thought to make a crisp and knew it's wonders was because last year Jared's sister made a tasty apple crisp while we were visiting. Without her, I'd still be clueless to this day. And you know who I blame for this don't you? That's right, I blame my mother.

I mean come on, how could she deprive me of this quick, easy and extremely tasty dessert? It's even healthy, what with all the fruit and all. Crisps are like a mother's dream. Sure, she was a bit busy what with holding down a full-time job, raising me (but I was a dream child, or so I've been told), going to school and taking care of the house. But still, crisps are so quick and easy, even the most busy of moms can squeeze them in. I demand an explanation!

Parents of the world, let this be a lesson to you, don't deprive your kids of an important experience, bake a crisp today!

Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for the state crisps may have on your waistlines. Proceed with caution and only make them when there's a big group around to minimize temptation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Pink Parade for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

My little city garden is overflowing with pretty pink blooms this month, and I couldn't be more delighted. Come on in, let me show you around.

There are zinnias galore in several shades of pink, coneflowers, poppies and gladiolas, just to name a few.

Other blooms in my garden:
  • Balloon flower
  • Brown-Eyed Susans
  • Cerinthe
  • Cleome
  • Coreopsis
  • Cosmos
  • Dianthus
  • Daisies
  • Liatris
  • Nasturiums
  • Petunias
  • Roses
  • Scabiosa
  • Verbena
And most of them were winter-sown!

Want to see more blooms? Visit May Dreams Gardens every month on the 15th to see what's blooming in gardens around the world.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting Organized 15 Minutes at a Time

Though most of my clutter is carefully hidden away, lately I've been feeling a bit squished in my little house because there's TOO MUCH STUFF! As is my typical way, I first blamed the boyfriend. Afterall, I didn't feel so squished before he got here. But then he reminded me that 99% of his stuff is contained in one single room, manland. He's got me there. It's my crap that's out of control.

I couldn't find the time to fit in a massive organizing session, so I've been finally taking some of great organizing advice to start small and keep at it. In just four short sessions of around 15 minutes I've already tackled my over-flowing coffee table drawer (shown below after being attacked), bathroom storage cabinets and closet. I forgot to take a before of the coffee table drawer, but trust me, you couldn't fit another thing in there when I started.

If I don't love it and use it, it's out of here! And if you need to declutter, try just working on it a few minutes at a time, you might be surprised how much you can accomplish.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What's No Longer Black, White and Purple All Over?

Well, it took almost the entire day and caused more than a few fights, but we can strike another project off the summer to-do list: painting the front door and shutters. I've wanted to tackle painting the black shutters and hideous purple door since I first saw the house, and thanks to the Boy, it's finally done. Now min hus stands out from the other neighboring white houses with black shutters.

I'm happy with how it turned out, but oh so tired. I really hope I never have to strip that much paint off of anything ever again. I'll post more details (probably) when I have more energy.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Door? A Scary DIY Tale

Grab a pillow, boys and girls, and make yourself comfortable, today I'm going to tell you a scary story about a boy, a girl and a DIY project.*

It all started, as most scary stories do, with a simple, but flawed plan. The boy and the girl planned to go shopping and buy supplies, strip and paint their front door, and clean and paint their shutters. All in ONE day. They foolishly forgot the DIY golden rule: all projects will take four times as long and cost three times as much as planned.

"We'll easily be able to finish this in one day," the silly boy exclaimed.

The girl was not convinced, so they did some preliminary window-shopping the night before. All was well until suddenly the girl sprouted a second head! And not just any head mind you, but a grouchy, snarling, hungry witch's head! The witch put a spell over the girl, so that to anyone else it looked like she was still her usual self, but she wasn't. Suddenly the girl started snarling and snapping at the boy when he didn't find the paint stripper fast enough. The boy snapped back about her painting choices and a fight ensued. Finally, the girl was able to overpower the witch and cut off her head. The boy and the girl managed to make up and go to sleep dreaming happy dreams of a successful project. (the fools!)

The next morning the girl got up, made coffee, and tried not to dread the work ahead. Later, the boy and girl went to a discount home improvement store. They found door hardware at half the price of what was at the nasty box store. This made them happy, but they still had to go to the big, nasty box store. The paint section proved tricky again, as the girl had a minor panic attack over picking a paint sheen and annoyed the paint guy. But eventually the couple got their purchases and headed home.

This, boys and girls, is where the real trouble began. First, they discovered that someone evil had painted over the same hinges and screws they needed to remove to begin their project. Eventually, they unhinged the door and removed the old hardware. Then, they soon realized that if they installed the new hardware where the old mortise lock had been, they'd be left with a huge, gaping hole in the door. This worried the girl terribly. She started stripping the paint off the door and it wasn't going well. Morning had faded into afternoon.

Suddenly the evil witch gathered all her magical powers and regrew a head on the girl's body, and all hell broke loose. The girl began hyperventilating as she realized they'd never finish the door that day, let alone the shutters. She also panicked about the right way to fix the hardware problem quickly. The boy wanted to ride off into the sunset to slay the evil lock problem, but the girl knew she'd never finish the door alone. She began yelling and pacing and came quite close to crying. The boy thought she was having a nervous breakdown. They fought and swore they'd never do DIY together again. It began to look like the evil door and witch had won.

Eventually, the girl slayed the evil witch and the boy and the girl calmed down. The girl apologized, and the boy made her repeat it several more times as they spent the next SIX HOURS scraping that stupid door and removing all the old paint. Both of them feared they had fallen into a time warp, because how could it possibly take SIX FRIGGIN' HOURS to strip a door? But by that time, it was dark, and they were dirty, hungry, sore and tired. So the boy and the girl went into their cottage and slept. Without a front door. Oh don't worry boys and girls, they had a great security system in place of the door consisting of a locked storm door, a $1 alarm that would sound at the first sign of trouble, a bunch of newspapers (to block evil, prying eyes) and a vacuum (to booby trap any wannabe criminals).

As for the evil door? And the shutters? Stay tuned kids, stay tuned.

* I'm sure it goes without saying, but this tale is purely fictional. It has nothing to do with reality. Any similarities to real people, real huses and real DIY projects are purely coincidental. And anyone who says otherwise is LYING.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tired, But Satisfied: Getting Back in the Thick of It

window before

I rarely feel like a "real Houseblogger," those renovation enthusiasts at who tackle major project after major DIY project, without pause. You know, the people who totally renovate their entire house, room by room, in a year or so. While I love reading those blogs, sometimes they make me feel extremely inadequate, not to mention jealous.

It's not just bloggers either, my stepdad has been spending almost every free moment he has for OVER A YEAR renovating a house. They took that place to the studs and brought it back. Yeah, that's not me.

I'll go all out on larger projects until they are done, because unfinished project chaos drives me NUTS (though there are some things I manage to ignore for weeks or years), but after they're done I need a nice, long break before I can even contemplate another project. I'm just one of those people who needs major doses of R&R every week. Min hus is on the "never going to be totally finished and will look its best before I sell it" plan.

Case in point, the reason I felt so satisfied this weekend, despite my aching body, is that I finally got back to restoring the windows after a two year break. This summer my goal is to restore four windows, though that may be optimistic. Last Saturday, I finally got started, and managed to scrape (using a heat gun) the paint off the trim of one window, and repaint it. It took about four hours and the project is only half done, if that, as I still need to reglaze the window, paint the window, and repaint the storms.

window during

While the caulk and wood filler was drying, I managed to clean the back stormdoor, light and deck; and do some gardening. Meanwhile, the Boy spent the day working on his own projects in manland. By the end of the day I was exhausted, and even though I had to pop some ibuprophen the next day, I felt great, almost like a real houseblogger.

window after

Our faithful companions were as helpful as usual during the day's work. Here's Piggy, being his usual supportive self. (check out that belly. His fur never grew back after he was neutered, it cracks me up.)


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