Friday, September 30, 2011

The Power of Accepting Help from Experts, Sneak Peek

My house is undergoing its first Large Scale Project today! I'm very excited, and I think the house is too. Here's a hint...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Comment on Comments

I keep hearing that there are problems leaving comments on my blog. Without comments I just feel like someone standing on a busy street talking to myself, so I am trying to figure out how to fix it. (Not, of course, that I actually know what it feels like to talk to oneself on a busy street because of course I don't do that. Much.)

I'm looking into other blog addresses and possibilities, but in the meantime I've changed the settings on comments to hopefully make it work a little better. The "comments" box should pop up in a separate window, and you shouldn't have to do that annoying word verification before it will send your comment.

Please keep me posted if you have more problems, and I'll keep working on fixing it!

Let the Festivities Begin

I'm learning that a little goes a long way when it comes to holiday decorating. I'm pretty crazy about autumn/Thanksgiving decorations, however, and since I hate Halloween I think I deserve to overdo it on the autumn theme. To kick off my efforts, I got these great little pumpkins - a whole bag of them for $5 at Safeway! They're now on the buffet table in my dining room...

Accompanying my evening entertainments... (speaking of which, if you haven't already seen National Georgraphic's documentary "The President's Photographer," you should check it out. Netflix has it.)

(Please ignore all those unsightly cords - this is still a work in progress!)

And preparing to settle next to any cup of hot tea I put on the table in the mornings...and evenings. (I'm convinced if I drink enough hot tea, the 105 degree weather will begin to feel appropriate for the late-September season.)

And lest you did not notice this on your own, let me point to the table featured in that last photograph. I am mad about this unique find from Ross - can't you just picture Ernest Hemingway sitting next to it? It was $50, rather steep for Ross, but of course I snatched it up - literally - and ran for the cash register.

My new coffee table/footstool was another great Ross victory. I found this exact same product on (or, since they seem to be trying to go with that totally lame moniker) but couldn't bring myself to pay the $300 they demanded. The table is perfect for my living room - each of those four cushions flip to be either a soft place for feet or a table. And because Ross rode in to the rescue, I paid only $120.

(Almost forgot, the mirror in the first picture is from Ross as well. $25! Cost Plus wanted four times that much for a very similar mirror.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Old House Inspiration: October Edition

I have a love affair with This Old House magazine, and really don't know how I lived without it as long as I did. I declare a monthly holiday on the day it arrives, and reading it becomes my first priority for the evening. (This is much easier and more rewarding on nights like tonight, when the other priorities included excitement such as putting away laundry and mopping.)

I feel rather selfish holding onto all this inspiration, however, so am sharing the highlights from the October version of brilliance.

Idea 1: Fire Prevention Week is October 9 - 15. Now I really don't have an excuse not to make sure my smoke detectors are up to date!

Idea 2: This lamp is gorgeous. I already picked one for the front porch but am wondering if this is small enough to work in my hallways? Or maybe the back patio? Love it, love it, love it...and it's only $31 at Home Depot.

Idea 3: I am very, very skeptical that this actually works, but wouldn't it be wonderful if it did? It's a dwarf orange tree that supposedly grows in a container inside. Given my despair with growing a single thing outside during the Phoenix summer (which is like the military's Hell Week for plants), this is a fascinating concept.

Idea 4: I've been searching for a solution to a backyard problem, and lo and behold there it is: bluestone as a downspout splash. The condension line for my air conditioning (it cost me a $250 visit from the a/c guy at 9 p.m. to be able to throw around lingo like that!) drops about four feet into the dirt near my house, so it's created this dramatic little hole in the dirt that is creepy. Bluestone would be a great solution - I've never been able to pay $20 for the ugly plastic splash "stones" sold at Home Depot.

Idea 5: Subway tile. I can't get enough of it, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that the colored, wallpaper-type "tiles" at Home Depot are far cheaper and more practical. This photograph sealed it: I must have subway tile in my kitchen, no matter how long it takes me to save for it. Even more inspiring: this couple says they covered the entire wall with subway tile for $50.

Idea 6: House numbers. My address does not make sense and thus no one can ever find me on the first trip down the street - address numbers would be very helpful. I love the antique-style plaques displayed by some of my neighbors, but was horrified to learn they can cost at least $100 without even trying.

I have turned my eyes (and my shell-shocked wallet) toward the idea of simple numbers that reflect the historic quality of my home but are a little funky, too. These numbers were featured in the magazine, and they're fun...and at $3 a pop, they look even better.

At $10 each, these are pricier...but having a short address would help.

Shangri La style

French style

Whimsical style

So now I need help - which do you like best? Here's the setting...the numbers will go just to the right of that window.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Follow the Not-Real-Brick Road

I reached a level of daring one night this week that can only be caused by a really discouraging meeting with my landscaper (since when did DIRT cost more than a vacation?!) and a long day at work. These daring moods can be dangerous - they usually lead to me hurting myself or throwing a paintbrush across the room, sometimes in that order. This one, however, worked out okay.

My co-worker/neighbor bragged about a concrete stain that he'd discovered, and very kindly gave me an entire can that he had left over. It looked great on his patio so I got out a paint roller and delved in on my front walkway.

This walkway has been the topic of much discussion lately. If I had won the lottery recently, it would be factored into my landscape plan as a lovely brick path that guided salesmen to my door. (I can't believe the number of solicitors who stop by every day in this neighborhood!) Since I am not independently wealthy and I happen to like the original walkway, this is what I have:

(Note: that is not an unwanted solicitor, but the cutest and most wonderful just-turned-two-year-old nephew on earth.)

Armed with a can of concrete stain and a rebellious attitude about the expensive landscaping decisions I have to make, I tackled the walkway.

It's not perfect because I didn't do it right. I need to touch up the edges with a brush - the roller, understandably, was limited in its ability to adequately dance with the weeds that line part of the sidewalk - but tadaaa it is definitely an improvement. A bright one. Thankfully, it didn't scare away my friends the neighborhood cats: an adorable little furry creature plopped down next to the walkway as soon as I'd gone inside. I think that means I did a good job of making it appear welcoming.

Lest you believe my statements that I have somehow become spontaneous, I will assure you I was not as calm about this project as I may appear. After I put away the painting tools, I failed to sleep for most of the night - I lay awake wondering how I could remove the color and kicking myself for doing something drastic to the appearance of my home when the sun had already set. (I hate it when logic reigns after I do something stupid.) My fears disappeared in the morning when I confirmed that it really does look great. Now I just have to cut down on the amount of dirt in my yard so I don't have a display of my postal worker's shoe tread on the sidewalk every day...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In Other News, Happy Equinox!

Every year I decide that I just simply cannot take another never-ending Phoenix summer. But then the tiny hints of autumn sneak in (it might even be under 100 degrees soon!) and suddenly life doesn't seem so oppressive. The autumnal equinox is just a scientific way of saying "don't hide under the air conditioning vent or scream at dust storms any more."

In celebration, I plan to tackle some of these wonderful fall decorations...though I may wait to make the wreath until I'm sure the dust storms won't blow it away.




Measured Memories

I love it when my time spent "with" others' blogs gives ideas I would never have otherwise considered. A recent example was this Pottery Barn knock-off from 517 Creations.

With my nephew's birthday coming up, last month I followed this expert advice and started my own.

I already had a tall board on hand, since the former owner of my home left it behind. I've never used wood stain before, so I waited until I felt brave (partly because of the challenge ahead but mostly because it was still 110 degrees outside!) and then began.

Home Depot had a very useful display of wood stain options, so I picked the one that I thought looked most like a ruler from the wide array of colors.

I remembered plastic gloves because I had heard numerous horror stories about stained hands, but neglected to get a container for the stain. In a stroke of creative genius, I found this single-serving Pringles can in the recycle bin: proof that junk food is helpful to art.

As soon as I saw the difference of just one coat of the stain, I knew I had a new addiction - this is FUN.

The part that was not addicting, however, was the ridiculous amount of drying time. To the girl who pays extra for Instadry nail polish, four hours between coats of woodstain felt like an eternity. I avoided the temptation of rushing the stain process by painting a hallway and making a semi-perfect batch of eggplant parmesan.

I failed to completely follow the advice and steps of 517 Creations' perfect ruler, and ended up marking every half inch on my ruler rather than more infrequent marks. (Yes, I do realize this photo shows marks every quarter inch...I erased them when I realized I'd never be able to paint a line every quarter inch without it becoming a mess!)

At first I was bothered because my ruler looks more cluttered than the original, but it quickly grew on me. Since I cannot fully deny accusations of OCD, I liked the idea of being able to be more exact in height measurements...especially since I also cannot deny accusations of doting on my nephew, and knew he'd probably get measured frequently because (duh) it's fun!

A trip to Michael's introduced me to another new addiction: paint pens!

I intended to use just black, but instead was delighted to find green and blue pens that perfectly matched the colors of my nephew's room. These blue lines only took a few minutes to paint with the pen.

I added a small hook to the side of the ruler to make easy storage for a pen (the Sharpie was later replaced with a green paint pen, since I feared the marker would bleed when it was used on the wood).

I was extremely skeptical about the method the 517 Creations creator used for transferring numbers to the ruler, but after contemplating vinyl numbers and many other options, I decided to give it a try - it worked perfectly!

The hardest part of this entire project was waiting to deliver it as a birthday gift. It is now in use and, though my nephew of course doesn't care about this new addition to the room, I'm excited to have a memory-maker that can go to new rooms and homes if necessary.

Of course it's rude to reveal the cost of gifts, but since my sister and I compete about who can pay less for treasures from Goodwill's half-off day I think she'll forgive me for this wonderful summary:

Board - Free

Wood stain - $5

Paint pens - $4

Foam brush - $.96

Metal hook - $.47

And since the project used another one of the supplies from my Home Depot stash, it's about time to do more shopping.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Terrific Two

Today is my nephew's second birthday, which may be the strongest evidence ever that time flies when you're having fun. I can't remember life without this little guy, so I thought I'd share some photos of his help on my house as a thinly-veiled excuse to brag about him on my blog.

Even before I bought the house, my strong helper was a visionary. This stone, apparently located erroneously, was quickly put in its place (that place was in a corner of the sidewalk around the corner, for those who are curious about the landscape advice of a one-year-old).

He has helped me feed birds...

Watch birds...

And clean up after our bird-bribing adventures.

When I get depressed about yardwork, he reminds me that gravel and weeds can be pretty cool.

Happy birthday to the most wonderful kid on earth - I love you!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Making Prescott Shorter

Tonight I felt like painting. Nothing impressive, since I'm far too tired this week to tackle a whole room or neck-breaking trim I got out the supplies I bought weeks ago with big plans for painting a subway sign.

Other bloggers have done this project with great success, and I've enjoyed reading about it here, here and here. Armed with these bloggers' great experiences, I delved into the project. I jotted down a list of places, concepts and things to mix together so the signs would communicate "a few of my favorite things" to anyone who happened to look.

I failed to properly account for my impatience with mathematics.

I didn't know it then, but my project was doomed from this first step: I failed to properly measure for the 2" letters I had purchased at Michael's. I thought this sketch would do the trick. (Bonus points for you if you notice the hidden message in the darker letters...I had hopes that I could paint those letters in yellow rather than leaving them white, so the hidden message would run throughout each line of my sign.)

At first I just tried placing the sticky letters in a straight line by looking at it closely. That didn't work. I can only imagine how awful this would have looked once the canvas was painted black! (One bonus point if you know what word was going to be at the top of my sign even without looking at the sketch above.)

So I took off the letters, got out two (TWO!) ruler mechanisms and made pencil marks all over the beautiful, clean canvas.

When I got to the end of the canvas, I realized one of my problems: the canvas lied. It introduced itself as 24" but didn't quite make it there. (Kind of like my statements that I'm 5'3", I guess...)

I decided to just roll the letters off the top and bottom a little to account for the slightly-smaller-than-advertised canvas, and placed the letters on the canvas again. The first word went on well - it's straight, it fit, it's ready to go. The second word...not so much. Here's where I realized the error of incorrect measurements. Poor Prescott, it fell off the canvas. Anyone who has spent any time in Prescott knows it won't fall off the left wing at any point; my canvas made political miracles happen.

Faced with another failure, I did what any responsible blogger would do. I gave up, left the mess and ate ice cream before going to sleep. Maybe inspiration will strike again tomorrow.

Thoughts from A Design Star Photo Follower

I don't have a TV, as you may know, and that limits my ability to follow important world news like who won HGTV's Design Star earlier this week. I have never watched an edition of the show, but discovered at the beginning of this season that they post wonderful "summary" photos after every episode. I eagerly awaited each week's successes and failures, and think I got a good sense of the contestants' personalities just from the photos and descriptions (I was thrilled when Cathy went home!).

So it came down to the final two contestants and earlier this week I eagerly checked out this photo collection to see who won. It provides a great example of each week's work.

*Spoiler alert* I'm not really happy with the winner. I liked Karl's designs every week, and he became my favorite when he painted that not-quite-perfect chair rail that looked like the beach.

They posted pictures of some before and afters from Meg's upcoming show, though, and I have to admit I really like all of them. It's always fun to watch other people decorate while I relax...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Color Week:Stripes!

After enjoying the fresh paint in the hallway for awhile, I was ready to tackle a brave new world: stripes.

I've poured over online instructions to learn from the advice and mistakes of others. Young House Love and Living with Lindsay were the most helpful; after reading their details, I even splurged on the Edge Lock paint tape. Outcome: it's worth every penny! The tape is thinner and more flexible than normal paint tape, so it fits into every texture and prevents those annoying microdrips of paint that can be seen from a mile away to a perfectionist's trained eye.

This was one of those projects that makes you think, for just a moment, that maybe all the math you took in school had a point after all. I followed YHL's advice and calculated the exact measurements of each stripe (about 5.8 inches). It made almost no difference whatsoever. If you were to measure my stripes they're not exact, but thankfully even I can't tell.

The prep work, I will admit, was the hardest project I've undertaken so far. It involved lots of trial and error, and a LOT of pencil marks. I created new yoga positions while I tried to hold the level while writing on the wall.

The painting itself was easy, and incredibly fun. I obediently peeled off the tape as soon as I'd finished painting...and voila!

I cleaned my brush, packed up all the equipment and put it neatly in the "paint cabinet," then turned around and saw this...

My plan of doing only one wall didn't work when viewed at this angle - it looked very odd. So I got all the equipment back out, measured still more perfect lines, and completed the project with this extra wall of stripes...

So there you have it - two more products revealed in my stash of Important Things!

I love the way the stripes look but if I were doing it again, I'd pick a paint that was in the same finish as the base color. The lighter stripe is in eggshell; it's nice and it looks sleek, but in an ideal world I'd pick the same finish and just go with the lighter color.

Also, I'd stock up on erasers if I were ever to attempt this project again. I went through three mechanical pencils erasing the pencil marks on the wall, even after I painted over most of them!