Outdoor light makeover

imageI decided to give these ugly outdoor lights on our house a makeover. Although the style is not what I would choose were I buying new ones, the price of two cans of spray paint was much better than new lights.imageimageI bought two cans of oil rubbed bronze spray paint and went to work. I knew I didn’t want to go to the trouble of taking the lights off the side of the house, but more importantly, I couldn’t get them down without a struggle because the screws were pretty reluctant to come out. Instead, I created a cocoon of newspaper around the lights, taping it off around the base of the light.  (Note: if you’re going to do this same technique, be sure the fold the newspaper up and tape it at the bottom to create a trough to catch drips)
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After! The improvement of how the lights look is so huge. I don’t even mind them at all anymore, and I love how they blend in with the house and create a layer of colors on the house.imageIf there are any small projects that you want replaced like lights, spending the few dollars on spray paint is a great way to make it look better and buy some more time before upgrading.

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A House in Progress

As I have shared in other posts, our house required a fair amount of work after we purchased it. No gutting and hard-core remodels were required, but sometimes the surface livable changes are harder to accomplish because they don’t demand immediate action. In graduate school the professor who I worked under was a big fan of creating Running To Do Lists for the entire year: nothing was ever removed, but only checked off, and no new lists were created, only tacked on to the existing list. This system allowed us to look back after a year and see exactly what projects we had worked on, and the sense of accomplishment from seeing such a long list was amazing.

I didn’t realize how much that stuck with me until I caught myself creating a RTD List (acronyms were also a byproduct of graduate school and now from working in business) for the house. During the times that I get down that we still haven’t finished it, looking back on this list helps me realize how much we have accomplished. Even if what ever we did was not on the list, I would add it and check it off that way we could keep track of all the changes and hard work that we put into the house. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to see the entire progression of a large project.

I like to break the list down to small things, that way if I have a few spare minutes I can work on something and be able to check it off. If there is anything I have learned it is to chip away slowly, instead of just listing one huge project which never seems to be finish. Here’s an example:

House Spring/Summer To Do:

  • Sand patches, re-mud holes, and touch up paint (there are only a couple of areas in the house where this is needed so its a small to do)
  • Touch up the entryway holes
  • Prime entryway walls
  • Paint entryway
  • Paint my office
  • Hang office cabinets

etc..

If I had just listed

  • Paint entryway
  • Paint/finish office

All the small projects nested inside those two bullets would be lost, leaving me feeling like I hadn’t accomplished anything until the space was completely finished.

I have been reflecting on my list recently as September and October raced by in a blur and it is no longer summer. Some things were not finished, and will have to wait until next year, but a lot of things were accomplished. As winter sets in, I will be moving to doing more indoor projects and I’ll be sure to share those, but I’ll also go back and share the things I did over the summer that I never got around to blogging.

Some Delays

So I had thought in August that I was going to be redesigning my blog and I didn’t want to put too much effort into the current situation if it was going to change. But that did not happen as I intended and I have learned that the most relevant excuses can throw you off course. I can’t wait for something that might happen in the future, but instead if I am going to do this thing I have to just do it now, and let the changes handle themselves when they actually materialize.

So hopefully the blog redesign is in the near future, but until then I’ll keep doing what I had been doing.

— sorry for the long hiatus.

Quiet Weekend Bachelorette

My little sister is getting married next weekend…hence the absence of posts from my end here. Things have been very busy with work and wedding things, but last weekend my sisters Leigh and Lauren took Lesly up to the lake for a quiet weekend bachelorette getaway. image

Roses for the bride of course. Lesly is not into the whole crazy bachelorette thing, so a getaway to one of NE Indiana’s quiet lakes was just the ticket. The lovely little Cape Cod style cottage belonging to my sister Leigh’s in-laws was a perfect choice!image

We had a Bloody Mary bar that was fantastic. Don’t worry, I’ll share what we did and how you can create your own.image

Another shot of those roses!image

This is perhaps the best Bloody Mary mix I have ever tasted! It certainly proved to be as good as anything I have had out in a restaurant. Leigh and I found the American Spoon while exploring Traverse City, Michigan earlier in July, and the best part is that they ship. I highly recommend purchasing some of this mix, and heck, while you’re ordering check out their jams and preserves as well. I can recommend the Strawberry Rhubarb jam especially.image

Just the Bride enjoying her drink. We ate Shrimp rolls, floated in the lake, took and evening boat ride, drank wine and talked, and had a great time savoring the last experiences before the youngest, and our last unmarried sister ties the knot.

Since two of our sisters, Lindy and Libby, live out of town, we are planning to take her out for an evening of revelry the week before the wedding, but I’m glad we took this chance to get away and spend some time even so.

A DIY Bench – Guest Post

Whew! So much for blogging Fridays the last few weeks. Things have been very busy with me this month. work has piled up, family members have moved (which translates to weekend hours spent helping), and I have been working on some massive (as in size…or scope too I suppose) projects around the house. That has left me with very little time to compose some blog posts. Don’t worry, I have some things in the works however so fun things to come hopefully soon.

That being said, this post was written by my older sister Libby, who is living in Oklahoma City, OK. She’s an amazing little gal (I am not demeaning her at all. She’s tiny in stature, though mighty in personality) who can turn her hand at anything sewing/engineering, calling it “soft engineering.” Libby does not have a blog so I offered to post her bench makeover here. The exact Ikea bench/table that she used is a mystery, but don’t worry, any similar table structure would work for this tutorial. Everything following is in her own words.

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My husband is in the Navy and, because of that, we’ve moved three times in the last three years. Before the first move, we decided to leave our nice TV console in Fort Wayne at our condo for sister Lesly to use while she lived there. Now that we are in a semi-permanent location (as semi-permanent as you can be in the military) we finally moved the cabinet to our current location, big thanks to dad for driving it out to us.

Now that we have our original cabinet back, we had an extra console, some table that I had purchased at Ikea to use in the interim. I don’t remember what the style name of the table is, but it is about 18” tall by 17” deep and 46” wide. Perfect for an upholstered bench, I thought. So I bought some fabric, foam, batting and got to work.

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I started by taking the bench apart and gluing all the joints together to help with stability. While that was drying I took my fabric outside and sprayed it with Scotchgaurd. You could skip this step, but the fabric that I chose to use is fairly light with a white background and since I have an almost 2 year old, I anticipate some spills, or snotty noses being rubbed on it. While the bench and the fabric dried I cut my foam to size. I was able to find a 3” thick piece of foam on Amazon that was 17” deep and 60” long, so I laid it on top of the bench top and marked the appropriate length. Then I drew the line all the around the foam, using my right triangle and rotary cutting ruler to make sure it was all nice and square.

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An electric carving knife is recommended for cutting foam at home, but I don’t have one of those so I just used my serrated bread knife and it worked quite well. Since I drew my line all the way around the foam, I as able to make sure that each slice of the knife lined up with the mark on both sides of the foam, so I ended up with a pretty square cut.

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Once I had the foam cut to size I took that and the bench top outside, sprayed both the top and one side of the foam with spray adhesive and secured the foam to the top of the bench.

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Next step was to cover the foam with batting. You could also nix the batting but it helps with the final appearance, making the upholstery nice and smooth and soft looking. I folded my batting in half lengthwise and it was the perfect length and width so I didn’t have to cut off any extra waste. Then I just tucked the batting in along the sides and at the corners I made one cut and folded the excess under, kind of like tucking a flat sheet when you make a bed. Ready for fabric!

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Once I cut my rectangle of fabric, I used a zig zag stitch and sewed twill tape along all the raw edges. You certainly wouldn’t have to do this, but I used cotton duck, which has a tendency to fray easily. The last thing I wanted was for the edges of my fabric to fray and pull away from the upholstery tacks.

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Then I laid my fabric on the floor, flipped the bench top over so it was foam side down and centered it on the fabric.

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For the next step I used upholstery tacks and my hammer. I’ve read a lot of other tutorials on upholstering benches and most of them use a staple gun and staples to secure the fabric. I don’t own a staple gun and after pricing them, I decided to save the $10-15 it would have cost me to buy a staple gun and just buy upholstery tacks and use the hammer I already owned. It was a little more difficult than using a staple gun, but I was able to push the tack into the wood to hold it long enough to grab my hammer and tap it all the way in. I started by placing two tacks at the center of each long side and one tack in the center of each short side.

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Then I simply moved down each side, pulling the fabric taught, placing a tack and tapping it in.

When I got to the corner, I brought the corner of the fabric in so it was at a 90 degree angle to the corner of the top and tacked that. Then I tuck the extra fabric in and folded up side and finished tacking the side. I place a couple extra tacks at the corners to keep the fabric laying flat.

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Here is the top with the fabric secured and ready to be reattached to the base.

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Once I had finished tacking the fabric to the top, I applied glue to the base and placed the top back on the bottom of the bench and retightened the cams that keep the bench together.

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Voila! A new, upholstered bench. Sometime in the near future I want to buy some baskets for the open shelves for storage.

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Thank you, Libby for a great step-by-step post! I have a table of my own that I am considering turning into a bench so seeing this is really helpful.

Summer Pasta with Steak and Tomatoes

I know this could sound weird…steak in pasta? It seems strange. Sure we make pasta with chicken or seafood all the time, not to mention spaghetti chalked full of savory ground beef. But steak? Here’s the problem with steak. It is super delicious and doesn’t really have any problems other than it should be eaten the same day because day saving it transforms that succulent and juicy piece of meat into something you’re not even sure you want to eat.

I made steak the other day and as happens on days when Zach works at the hospital, he wasn’t very hungry for dinner and so I had an entire T-bone that I was forced to save (I will do many things in the name of preserving food at its best, but eating two large T-bone steaks in one sitting is not one of them). The next day however, warmed over beef wasn’t calling my name so I decided to transform it into something else. Pasta!

Makes about 4 servings.

1 T-Bone Steak, grilled (Or raw and grill it just for this recipe!)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Fresh heirloom tomatoes, about 2 cups when chopped (but you can always add more if you want)

1/4 cup red wine (I used Merlot)

1 small bunch of fresh chives

1 small bunch of fresh basil

1 small bunch of fresh oregano

8 oz. dried pasta. I used spaghetti, but penne would work really well too.

Salt and Pepper to tast

Parmesan Cheese

 

 

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Cook the pasta according to directions. Sauté the onion until in EVOO until it’s starting to become transparent, and then add in the minced garlic. Cook until fully transparent.
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Add in the chopping tomatoes, and cook until the are just beginning to break down. Add the chopped steak to the pan and pour the red wine over it; cook a few more minutes.FullSizeRender 13

As soon as the tomatoes are slightly broken down (but not completely because you don’t want mush) and the steak is warmed through add the cooked pasta. There is no need to drain the pasta as a little bit of the water will help create a light sauce, but allow most of the water to run off before adding it because you don’t want it too watery.FullSizeRender 2

Drizzle with some more olive oil, and top with the chopped fresh herbs. Word of caution, I would not skip the herbs in this dish because it really makes it, but even more the oregano is the star of this show so at least try to include it.FullSizeRender 3

Toss the pasta to evenly distribute the toppings, top with parmesan cheese and a little fresh black pepper and serve.

This turned out good really good. Zach and I agreed that normally one wouldn’t cook up a steak to simply make something else out of it, “But you could!” Zach decided, after trying it. I know what I will be doing with any leftover steak in the future!

Kitchen Renovation – Baby steps edition

It’s Friday! Word of warning, this is a wordy post (Pun intended!). So remember this room? Yeah, I know it looks pretty awful here, but this the original Kitchen when we moved in.

Granted, in this picture Zach was using it as command central for his great gardening experiment of 2014, and for pretty much every other project around the house before we lived there. But you get the picture. Our kitchen is small and needs some updating badly.

FullSizeRenderMy main beef with the kitchen comes down to two things; the actual room that houses the kitchen and dining room is a spacious and the length of half of the house, yet the kitchen is a tiny little U-shap on one side, leaving the bulk of the room for the dining area. Second beef is the upper cabinets pictured above.

FullSizeRender 2You can see in this picture that although the counter they are resting on is large enough to provide a good prep space in the kitchen, the upper cabinets are sitting too low and in the middle of the lower countertop. This wiped out the largest section of free counter in the kitchen and rendered it basically useless, merely a resting place for food as I transported it from the refrigerator to the small corner wedged between the sink and the stove.

FullSizeRender 17All of my cooking has been done on this little section of counter top. Proximity to the stove plays into this, but also this is the only semi-large spot where I can actually have an unobstructed view of what I am doing in our kitchen.

As soon as we bought the house I knew I was going to redo the kitchen. Zach and I did some preliminary pricing at Lowe’s to get an idea of what we were looking at as far as cost. As I perused through the myriad of wood cabinet options I was so conscious of price that I was very conservative in my choices. I prefer kitchens that are painted and the only non stain-ed option they had was black or white, and the different door options were all very basic and nothing really stood out to me. Zach told me to choose exactly what I liked so we could at least get a starting figure and then go from there, but the problem was I didn’t really like anything they had to choose from.

When everything was selected and designed I had a kitchen of which the cabinets I didn’t really love, the layout was scrabbled together, and the price tag was over $15,000. The kitchen designer assured us that the price was only for face value and did not include the different sales and promotions that were going on at any given time. I was not ok with that price considering I didn’t even really LOVE the plans we took away. Perhaps dropping that much would have been viable had it been my dream kitchen.

I turned to Ikea and redesigned a couple of kitchen options to see what their price difference was. The total hovered right around $8000, which considering that the end result would have been something a I liked style-wise much more than the Lowe’s option, was much more reasonable. But still, too much for us at the moment.

I talked to my Aunt who is a design ninja and she urged me to at least paint the existing kitchen so that I could be happier with it in the mean time, and I could play around with things in a way that I wouldn’t do with a new one. I perused through kitchen images that stood out to me I realized that not only was she right, but that more than a new kitchen I wanted to make my existing one work for a couple of reasons. The first reason was if I were to buy a new kitchen I would play it safe and choose something that maybe I didn’t LOVE but that would be beautiful and guaranteed to be timeless and provide good resale for the house. I don’t want to be safe with this kitchen, I want to be daring; the only way I will be daring is if I am working with what I already have, because ultimately if I hate it, I am only back at where I was in the beginning with the option of a whole new one.

The second reason was that the more money devoted to the renovation the longer it would take for us to actually get around to completing it. I enjoy the challenge of creating a beautiful space on a tiny budget (don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a larger budget if I could). With having a small budget I think outside the box more and am far more creative than I would be otherwise. Having only a tiny investment in something gives one the courage to be daring because if it fails (which it seems for me rarely to happen. I frequently love the results) I am not out much other than my time.

All that to say I have decided to work with what I have, and the first step was getting rid of that upper section of cabinets. It proved as simple as removing three screws and one odd nail from the wall, four screws from the base, and the help of my sister-in-law to lift it down and carry it to the basement. The results are dramatic.

Before….

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FullSizeRender 3It has totally changed the space. I am so happy with the results, that if it weren’t for the problem of needing a space for a dishwasher, I would almost just leave the kitchen as it is now. It opens up the room so much to light and gives me a huge section of functional counter-space now. Since taking it down, I have been able to add decor touches to the room (including the gallery wall on the far end) and I simply love spending time here.

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My plants are happy about having more light.IMG_7453As for the future, I have worked out a floor plan and I can’t wait to get started on the project, although it likely wont be for several months.

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