Woop! I have a garden.

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Before moving out here to the sticks, I was city dweller for almost a decade.  Mama only had a 10′ x 10′ patch of land to keep alive, and I failed miserably.  Everything was always half dead, but you hardly noticed because there was so little there.  Now we have this huge lot (for a DC suburb) and I feel like others notice when things aren’t alive.  I’ve resolved to make it look a little more pleasant this year, and we are off to a good start.  There is actually grass seed coming up, and tulips that I put in the ground all the way last fall have found their way up.  It’s a pretty amazing feeling.  Gracie and I even planted a teeny-tiny Rosemary bush along our front walk this weekend.  We thought it would fill out nicely and allow our company to be greeted with great smells as they approach our door.

My favorite tree this season is quickly becoming the Redbud.  It’s completely beautiful, perfect for climbing, and gives great shade after the leaves come in.  I will say, this neighborhood is not for the allergy-afflicted.  I think we would be miserable right now if we weren’t immune to flowering trees.

Any other tips out there for some sunny beginner plantings that I can not kill and feel good about?

The demo that never ends



The [endless] demo of the kitchen continues.  Hubs started working on the old vinyl tile this weekend, using a reciprocating saw fitted with a chisel tool to get under each tile and get it up.  Unfortunately, we are left with a very sticky underlayment until we can get the new floor down, which won’t be awhile.  Our first contractor seems to have gotten caught up in other projects, so we are meeting with someone new today in the hopes of getting the electrical and wall repair taken care of.  Here’s a snag of what we are ordering to update the floor.  It’s a vinyl tile product called Ceramica by Traffic Master.  We opted for this because it looks a lot better than the regular peel-and-stick, and it’s an inexpensive update for the Phase 1 renovation.  If we end up getting to stay here longer, we can update with a more expensive flooring when we get new cabinets, etc.

In hopes of making us feel like we are making progress, we stopped at the Benjamin Moore shop to grab some paint samples.  We wanted to be able to look at them over time and see what we thought.

DSC_5445 DSC_5442I’m looking for something with enough contrast to make the white trim (and eventually white cabinets) pop, but light enough that it keeps the space airy. I’m leaning towards the second from the top.  Hubs thinks they all look the same.


And the Walls Come Tumbling Down…

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This weekend afforded me my first chance to swing a sledge hammer at a wall, and I’m not going to lie, it was pretty fun!  We started out Friday night by removing all the trim from any surfaces that were coming down.  We got up first thing Saturday morning, and started removing drywall.  It didn’t take very long to get it down, especially with a hammer-one-side-and-just-kick-the-other-side-through method.  It took twice as long to clean up the mess, however.  There was dust and debris everywhere.  After the drywall was down, Hubs started cutting away studs with a saws-all.  Our contractor recommended this method, rather than hammering them out.  This way, there are no unsafe nails hanging out, and the base can be pried out with the nails in tact.  It was a good idea with little girls running around the house.

We managed to get out the studs that framed the old closet, and now we are in a holding pattern waiting to get on our contractor’s schedule to move the electrical.  In the meantime, we are planning to scrape up the old 80’s vinyl tile next.  Let the mess continue. At least not everyone is sick of the mess…


Any tips for working on getting this tile up?  It seems a little… stubborn.

The tale of a mouse, a lot of water, and a putty knife

A few weeks ago, Hubs snagged a little meecer in a humane catch-and-release trap after we found some evidence of the little guy in the oven drawer (yuck!).  We celebrated his exodus and thought that was the end of it.  That is, until Hubs later discovered a slow leak from the water supply line for the fridge.IMG_0064 IMG_0066

Sorry for the iPhone photos, but there was no way I could handle worrying about real photos in the midst of this mess.  Thankfully, the ServPro guys were out lickety-split and got to work drying everything out.

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By the time everything was said and done, we had damage to our base cabinets, the laminate flooring, the underlayment, the trim, and the insulation in the crawl space under the house.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, and we breathed a sigh of relief.  Now that we are digging into replacing the floors, it made sense to work on removing a weird wall that separates the kitchen from the entry. The space used to the laundry area before the previous owners relocated those to a new laundry room off the TV room.  Now it’ just awkward, and breaks up the space.

Since we are taking out the wall, we thought it made sense to address the really bad texture on the ceiling.  It’s just inches of joint compound gobbed up there, making the low ceilings feel even lower.  We talked to several different folks for advice.  Some said scrape and sand it off, others said to hire someone to rip it all down and start again.  Given this was an unexpected renovation, we decided to give the scraping a shot.  Best case scenario, we could save some money, worst we were only out some sweat equity.

To start, we sprayed an area with warm water. (Actually, first Hubs got on some old flight gear.  I think it might make him feel like the Maverick of home improvement.)



This is where the putty knife comes in.  We tried a couple of different tools, but we found that some warm water, 10 minutes of wait time, and a putty knife seemed to work best.  This stuff was CRAZY thick in some places, so we often had to take several passes of water, wait, scrape in order to get this junk off.


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We got a lot off, but we will definitely need to go back to patch and sand.  We figure, for a Phase 1 reno, it was worth it.  The total cost was about $10 for drop clothes for the kitchen and entry. And boy, did we need them.  This is super messy work.

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We did hit a pretty significant snag in the hallway.  There seems to be a huge section where the previous owners did some kind of patch work. The drywall itself was so uneven that there was nothing we could do to save it.  We plan to have our contractor address this part of the project for us. In the meantime, we started to remove some of the old cabinets that were in the laundry area.


We’ll finish ripping those out these week, and then we’ll start ripping down drywall.  Our contractor is going to help us move the electrical boxes in the wall, and is going to do the patchwork to get it all ready for paint and primer.  Then it will be ready for new floors and new color!  Woot!  While we weren’t planning on this, it feels good to take some steps to bring this funky little house out of the 80’s and into 2014.

What about you guys? Any unexpected DIY going on out there?


DSC_5197-2 DSC_5183I haven’t been very inspired the last few months.  I grew up in Southern California, among palm trees and Birds of Paradise.  I’m not super into winter.  The thought of going out in this mess to photograph the blankets of white is not super exciting.  Honestly, between working long hours, putting together a kitchen that recently flooded, and the weather, I haven’t done much of anything.  Knitting projects completed in the last two months: 0.

But, with warm temperatures returning, I’m attempting to get back in the saddle. We walked to a neighbors house for St. Patrick’s Day dinner – in the snow – and I caught a few fun shots.

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Winter Schminter

DSC_5023 DSC_5025 DSC_5027-2 DSC_5038 DSC_5078 DSC_5124 DSC_5181 DSC_5197Living along the Potomac in Northern Virginia mean that we get to enjoy some pretty healthy weather mood swings.  We spent our Monday afternoon hiking along the beach on Mason Neck State Park wearing just a light fleece, and two days later, the temperature was -2.

The park is an awesome treat just steps from our door.  They host a large Bald Eagle habitat, and miles of bay front trails that allow kids to dig and explore for all sorts of critters.  Googs brought out her new iPod (that she saved for two whole years to get) to take pictures on our hike.

Parking is $4 a car, or for $44 you can get a year pass and come as many times as you wish. For a real bargain, you can pay $66 and get a pass that gets you into any of the Virginia State parks for the whole year.  We are thinking about going for this one this year, since Mama has the idea that 8 is a good age to start camping…

Gearhead Problems

So, Hubs went through a triathlon phase a few years back and the love child of that affair was a bike that has hung on the wall of our den since the day he moved in.  When I moved in and suggested that we move it to the shed, his reaction insinuated that I had suggested murdering his first born.  I think he said something like, “ARE YOU PREPARED TO CLIMATE CONTROL THE SHED???”  Yeah.

So, the den has looked like this for quite awhile.

DSC_0094 DSC_0098 DSC_0107Very classy.

This of course is one of MANY problems in this space.  The room is actually the original garage in the house, and when the former owners finished it, they failed to do things like drop the outlets below the half-way point on the wall, insulate the space, or do anything with the master electrical switch.

Luckily, we had these handy bookshelves hanging out in the dining room that didn’t really seem to go there either.


So we decided to do a little switch-er-oo moves. We started by moving the bike into a new temporary home in our guest room, where it will hang until we can mount a ceiling rig in our laundry room for it.  Then we went through bookshelves and purged out things we were ready to get rid of and prepped to move the shelving.

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The results are much improved.  We have plans to get some type of thin ply-board from Home Depot cut to fit between the two tall bookcases and paint it the same color as the wall to camouflage the electrical switch.  We’re thinking we can rig it with some velcro so it can be removed if we need to access the panel.

Down the line we would like to paint the shelving to lighten the space up, and eventually we’d like to fix the problem more permanently, but for now, it will look a lot better for a total cost of less than $50, which fits perfectly into our reno budget right about now. Not. Bad.

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Next will be to do some research on how to actually paint these laminate shelves, and how to style the shelving so it’s a little more “showcasey” and a little less “bookshelfy.”  The rest will have to wait for another weekend.  Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend!