Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The $100 hole

Who knew that a simple do-it-yourself electrical project could cost more than $100? That's the price for wanting lamps in the middle of the living room without visible cords. A special brass outlet box, some Romex and two hole-saws later, we've got an electrical receptacle in the middle of our living room, to be cleverly hidden beneath our sofa.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Yummy Sandwich

I don't have a picture to share because I ate the evidence. But I would like to share a recipe for the most delicious of sandwiches. I'll call it the "party leftovers sandwich". See, we had a party this weekend a put out a spread of hors d'oeuvres including and antipasto plate with peppers and marinated roasted vegetables and salami. But not all was consumed so we were left with a few spears of zucchini, slices of eggplant, strips of roasted red peppers, pickled cherry peppers and some slow roasted tomatoes. We had some leftover salami and sharp cheese as well as a couple of hoagie rolls from a different sandwich creation earlier in the week. Now, some of this stuff came out of jars from the store but not all. I slow roasted the tomatoes to the tune of Orangette's Pomodori al Forno. And I roasted the eggplant and zucchini, coated in oil and salt & pepper & oregano at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes and then cooled it all down in the fridge for a few hours. And that, my goodness, is the basics for a great sandwich: A chewy hoagie, slathered with a grainy mustard (Justin uses mayo) and piled high with roasted & pickled veggies and topped with a thin slice of salami and a sprinkling of grated cheese (we used Parmesan). Yum!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Well, our first anniversary of home ownership came and went yesterday without so much as a nod from us. We forgot. Good think a home can't divorce its owners...

We've come a long way from last December 1.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Dull Boy...

Well it was all work and no play this 4-day weekend despite our best intentions at play. We did take a break from the work on Thursday to celebrate the holiday with some good friends but we were up and eager, just like the black Friday shoppers, to install countless feet of trim around the main floor of our house. This trim project took the better parts of Friday, Saturday and Sunday and there is still work to be done. But, I'd say it is about 80% done and I think a few weekday evenings should have us putting a nail in this project (pun intended).

Here's Justin setting the nails on the crown molding above our cabinets.
And a snapshot of a corner that we trimmed out this weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I can hardly contain myself

Umm, there is almost nothing that gives me that same feeling as seeing all of my "stuff" tucked away neatly in a well thought-out organization scheme. So, it was a good Monday night this week when I got to whip out the label maker and dump all of my baking goods and assorted grains and non-perishables into plastic bins. No more plastic sacks of bulk flour (and for this bread-baking household, that's a big deal.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Well, Justin just finished up his 14th straight day of work, thanks to a construction project that requires closing city streets. So, rather than slave away on the house on the weekends, he's been slaving away in the evenings. And you can only get so much done between 5 and 9 pm. Yesterday though, while I was out grocery shopping, he tackled the closet. Now, I had installed the shelf and rod a while back but our stereo components have been sitting on the floor since we moved in and we wanted a little more organization. So Justin built a little cubby for the stereo, ipod and whatever else we decide to store in the closet. It really cleans up the space. For my part, I decided to unpack the 5 boxes of CDs and see about organizing them in a way that doesn't take up as much space. Justin's been working on copying his music to his ipod but I'm not ready to give away all of my shiny Paul Simon discs quite yet. I am however totally ready to get rid of the jewel cases. I've condensed my entire collection down into those two cases in the bottom right of the photo.

Last weekend, we really made a push to get the doors hung and the hardware on the doors. Justin painted the doors and the trim and I caulked and touched up the tan paint once the trim was completed. Finally, we have some privacy for our bathroom! We only have one more door to hang, the coat closet door which needs a modest repair first.

In other news, I ordered a rug for the dining room after much deliberation. I visited a half dozen stores and surfed to the ends of the internet to find a rug that met my decor requirements as well as budget. I ended up purchasing this one off of It's got a real arts and crafts vibe to it and the color ties well to the living room sofa. And despite its heft, they shipped it to me for $1. Sweet!

Another internet find that I unpacked this week was this interesting pillow I found on I'm trying to create an eclectic feel for my living space and I think this pillow is a little quirky.

And finally, we got the trim around the fireplace installed. On one hand it covers up all of the cracked and damaged tile in the surround. On the other hand, it is a behemoth of black metal. I'm getting used to it though and the whole family (cats especially) is enjoying the warmth.

So there you have it. Our projects are a little smaller and take a little longer but at the end of the week, there is something to show for it.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Well, the first batch of doors came out of the oven, oops, I mean garage/paint barn and are almost ready to hang. I'm a little slow with the cleaned up door hardware though so we have no clean hinges on which to hang the doors. I've actually cleaned up most of the hardware but I've been trying to alter the brassiness of the metal to make it look aged. My tricks aren't working. I've probably invested an hour of researching the internet for techniques and another couple of hours trying out the techniques. I'm told that heating the hinges and then applying peanut oil and then heating them again will darken brass but that doesn't work. It just makes the hinges oily and a little tacky. Neither does ammonia fuming. I built an elaborate shelving system to hold my hinges and my dish of ammonia in an old kitty litter bucket and left it out to do it's magic for 24 hours and besides a little blue spotting (probably where the hinges weren't completely dry), the ammonia did nothing. We bought some chemical darkening solution from a hobby shop and while it worked okay, it seemed to take a lot of the chemical to do a very little surface area. Sooo, all this added up to spray paint. We want a black finish and lucky for us, Rustoleum makes one.

In lieu of hanging wooden doors, Justin hung the glass shower door in the bathroom on the main floor. This is his third shower door so he's becoming a pro. Now we can show off the tile that we painstakingly hung, piece by piece.

The new shower door! This photo is really yellow because I took the photo on the wrong camera setting.

I wasn't just painting hardware, I cleaned up a whole load of it too tonight. PS. Our internet research for this task did work: boil the hardware in water + 1T baking soda and scrub paint off with scouring pad.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Some inspiration for the bedroom

I've been wanting to change up our bedroom decor a bit and I've been surfing the web for some inspiration. I'm starting with a few constraints that seem to be more constraining than initially thought. First, I would prefer to change up the room without repainting it another color and without buying new furniture, namely a new headboard. As you may remember, our current bedroom scheme is gold, brown with a touch of purple.
Here's the current design:
I do know that I'd like to replace our bedside tables. They just aren't doing anything for me anymore and I'd like to bring some color into the room via the nighstands. So, I'm scouting Craigslist for some tables that I can jazz up with paint.

Justin and I disagree on color options for the bedding which is where 85% of the change to the room is likely to occur. He'd prefer the light/medium blue accent against the brown. It's a classic combination and it would look good but since there is so much blue on the main floor of our house, I was hoping to get a different palette.

Clean and simple with a lovely gold or tan accent.

I am leaning in several directions. I really like a pink/rose/red/purple combination.

I couldn't find any photos of my exact vision but these are sort of the idea.

I like the idea of lavendar for the bedspread with white accents like this photo. This would save me from buying new rugs. Right now I have a purple shag rug in the bedroom that would go well with this scheme and the black cat for the foot of the bed.

And I'm loving the idea of orange for the bedroom. These rooms are gorgeous and would work fine with my existing black furniture and brown walls.

Love the green and teal accents. I could do that!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What we've been up to.

Well, it hasn't been blogging, that's for sure. But the bungalow is coming along nicely. We finished up the fireplace prep and got the gutters installed and enough exterior paint on the house to get us through the winter. Justin found a tool chest at his grandmother's house that he's claimed for his own and started organizing the mounds of hardware and tools we have littering the basement. We've got two interior doors patched and nearly painted and ready to hang...just one more coat of paint likely. Justin's mastering the art of spray painting.

When I moved out to Washington from Indiana, I brought 2/3 of my childhood bedroom set but I left the large decorative metal & glass cabinet behind because it just wasn't practical for my college accommodations. Ten years later, I figured it would be a nice addition to my decor and so when I heard that my freshly retired parents were taking a road trip out west, I asked them to bring it along. They trucked it over 3000 miles and we took it another 7 miles down the road to the powdercoater to have it refinished. And now it is reunited with it's furniture mates. I must find something interesting to display in this cabinet. Any thoughts? There are 2 glass shelves that install in the cabinet yet.

Fire in the Hearth

Just in time for the cold months, we've got our cozy heat insert installed. Everyone's a big fan, especially the cats who sprawl out in front of the fireplace and toast their bellies. The trim pieces are being built custom and we should get those installed at the end of the week. I'm a little nervous about the gas bill...Justin's taken quite a liking to the fire.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hunkering Down

The last of the outdoor projects should be wrapped up this week as we prepare to hunker down for the winter. Not that this means no further progress on the house, just back to inside tasks. The gutter man has been pushing us off for the last week but claims that he will be on site tomorrow. We'll see. We continued to prepare for his arrival by doing some more minor painting on the porch.

Laura has been working away at re-grouting the tile surrounding the fireplace in the living room and completed the grout on the walls yesterday. I wired up the circuit for the upcoming fireplace installation last week, and theoretically by the end of the month we will have a nice cozy hearth to enjoy.

When we bought the house and had the inspection it appeared that the light bulbs in the garage were burned out as they did not come on when we went in there. Only after we bought the place and started the renovation did we discover that yes, the garage was wired but was not actually hooked to a source of power. At the time it was a pain but this summer we lived with it. As the days have gotten shorter I decided to remedy this with a kludge using parts found in the basement. Needless to say the fluorescent tubes in the garage do indeed work, and appear to have never been used.

We have started making our list of wintertime projects and by all accounts should have plenty to do until spring. Unfortunately much of what we need to do involves painting which is my least favorite. Maybe I will work on teaching the cats to paint trim while we are away at work. From what I can tell they have not been doing much while we are gone, however there are not nearly as many spiders inside as I assumed there would be. Perhaps that is what they do all day.

Laura's Fireplace Re-Grouting Progress.
New Triptych of Mt. St. Helens Photos in the Living Room. Before, During and After the 1980 Eruption

Friday, September 18, 2009


We're really into the outdoor projects, Justin and I. The inside is by no means finished but we're running low on summer evenings and autumn is nipping at our heels. So before the rain becomes a daily annoyance, we're getting our house prepped for new gutters. Mostly this means painting the rafter tails to seal up the wood but in the back of the house, it means a small structural repair. You see, when we pulled off the old gutter back there, there was a 4 inch sag in the center of our eve. We should have noticed it because our gutter had a way of collecting all of the rain water in the middle of the gutter and then spilling it over the side. But, we have had a long, dry summer and I suppose we put it out of our minds, until it became inconvenient. Our gutter removal crew (Justin) made the discovery of the sag last weekend when he pulled off all of the silt-filled gutters and our gutter contractor didn't have a plan to address the problem, except running the downspouts to the low spot which seemed pretty half-assed. So we decided to undertake a little structural repair ourselves and Justin dreamed up a pretty clever solution. The short version is that we levered up the low spot in the roof and attached a structural fascia board to the rafter tails to hold everything in place. The pictures fill in some of the detail.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Checkin' off the list

Our to-do list is getting shorter. It still seems endless but we have been checking off the boxes and a pretty good clip these days. Here's a run-down of what we checked off this weekend:
  • buy and plant foundation plants in front yard
  • caulk south facing windows
  • touch-up paint on south facing windows
  • touch-up paint in living room
  • remove hardware and prep interior doors for paint stripping
  • clean out garage
  • remove gutters

As you can see, we were busy! We'll be painting rafter tails this week to ready the house for new gutters. We want to get those on before the rainy season starts.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

We took this holiday literally. We labored. Most of our time since last December when we purchased the bungalow has been on fixin' up the inside. The outside has been a bit of an eyesore, at least to me who is used to lots of flowers. At my last place, I hired a landscape designer to help with a plan and since implementing that plan and tending to the plants for several years, I know what I like and what I don't. With that confidence, I put together a landscape design for the front yard over the last few weeks and this weekend we installed it over the three day weekend.
On Friday night, Justin went off-script and started spreading some of the compost we had delivered. I wasn't ready for 4 days of labor so mostly I watched and made dinner. Bright and early on Saturday, we trucked it over to the rental yard and borrowed a sod cutter. Justin loves the sod cutter. He says it's like driving a Tasmanian devil. Justin drove the machine and I rolled up all of our weedy sod, readying it for the dump. We then spread 12 yards of compost around the freshly barren lawn. That took it out of us for Saturday. Except for a fun visit to the nursery for plants (I need a little bright spot to all of the dirt!). Sunday morning the weather was disgusting-hard driving rain. Although we were planning to rototill all of the compost to amend the soil, the prospect of working in the rain wasn't appealling. Instead, we trucked it out to the burbs to some more nurseries for more plants. It rained for most of the shopping but it sure beat laboring in the rain. By the time we returned home, the rain had let up and we got our rototilling on. By the time we had tilled the yard and raked it mostly even and cleaned up, it was time for bed. Today, we headed out to a couple more nurseries to see about filling out the rest of the plant list (we still have a few more plants to get!). And then we planted. Justin dug the holes and I filled them in. He also built a threshold to go around a basement window to hold back the dirt from the wood around the window.
We are sore and tired but there's a chicken roasting in the oven for dinner and a great view out of out dining room to our new front yard.

Here are some photos:

In process: sod removed and compost spread.

After planting:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ah, How Cute

Here's Tink tongue-bathing Cricket and spooning. She's such a sweetie.

Puttin' Up

Yep, that's right. I'm a canner. As much as I reject gender roles, I can't help but enjoy the traditional homemaker tasks. I like to dust and cook and I'll take folding laundry any day over heavy lifting. So, this weekend when it came to canning 75 pounds of tomatoes, I said "Sign me up!". My friend Jen came over to share the bounty (actually she brought the bounty) and we made sauce and pickled cucumbers for a full shift. My dogs were barking when we wrapped up around 5 with quite a haul. Here's a photo taken before the last set of processed cans came out of the canners:This was our first opportunity to use all five burners on our range simultaneously. When we picked out the stove, we thought that fifth burner might come in handy for just this sort of thing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


We must be crazy. Take a perfectly put together exterior and two do-it-yourselfers and all of a sudden the window trim needs to be replaced (and subsequently painted). It was just going to be a paint job...a touch up really. But Justin, the unfailing perfectionist didn't like the way the wood on the trim was coming off in chunks when he scraped the paint. Hence, the larger job.

We shall see how much time and money this little project will set us back. The silver lining: the north side doesn't need to be redone!

Here's inspector Justin on the ladder preparing to remove trim boards.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

C.O.P.S. live

Hmm, this was the scene from our front porch today. Someone did something naughty...

There were two women being apprehended. Our guess is that the car they were driving was stolen but who knows. There were some big guns!

Shuffle off to Buffalo

While I was in Buffalo for work for the week, Justin supervised the big machinery tearing up our yard for a new side sewer. During this week of 100+ temperatures, we had plumbers laboring out in the sun digging a new trench. Fun times!
This weekend, we committed to installing the tile backsplash in the kitchen. We had all of the tile up on Saturday. Here's a preview prior to the grouting phase:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Steamy Days of Summer

Seattle thermostats crept up near 90 degrees this weekend so we decided to go to the lake. It wasn't temperate there either but at least there was cool water to jump into when the heat was too much to bear. We returned to a home that wasn't too hot inside thanks to our passive cooling techniques (blinds).

Justin managed to muster up enough energy to do a couple of small projects around the house: installing a stainless steel backspash behind the range and installing a mini-blind in a closet. Let me wow you with photos of both finished products.

Our sleek new backsplash: step 1 of our kitchen backsplash project.

Mini-blind in the closet, bumped out a little by the closet shelf.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Would you like to come stay with us?

We have an extra room to stay in now and it is awfully cute! Well, we have had the room since we moved in but just this weekend we finished the painting the the picture hanging and clearing the out the clutter from the move.

We're training our kitten to do home improvement projects so we can have an extra set of hands. So far, we've taught her to climb ladders which is important because she's pretty short. All the climbing tuckered her out so we caught her cat napping on the ladder of all places!

Justin did most of the painting this time around (although Cricket got her whiskers into it).

Here's the makeover of the awkward walk-in closet in the guest room:

And the final product. Doesn't it look cozy?We're all ready now for a house guest. Would you like to come stay with us?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's a girl!

We have a new addition and her name is Cricket.

DOB: 4/28/09; 2.25 lbs on 7/9/09
She loves to play!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Well, it's a start.

The plan this weekend was to go on a hike up Mt. Pilchuck, an all day affair, but our hike leader canceled the hike due to iffy weather. So, I had an extra day burning a hole in my pocket. I decided to maximize it. I was up at 8, painting the kitchen on Saturday morning. I wrapped up around 9:30 and changed into my spandex bike gear. My friends came over with their bikes at 10 and we cycled around Mercer Island and back. I had a quick lunch and pulled out the blue paint to do all the touch-up. Finished that, decided the iffy weather was going to turn out to just be sunny and cool so I got out my gardening tools and dug in (literally). I weeded one of the planting areas in the front of the house and trimmed up the lone shrub, a lanky euphorbia. The OCD started to kick in and I decided to go for some of the more obnoxious weeds in the backyard too (it's full of them). So, it's a start. Summer isn't the best time of year to plant a new garden so I will just be defending my fresh bed against weeds until fall when I can get to planting. My yard waste bin is full until Thursday when I can get started on the blackberry bramble behind the garage.

Painted and ready for service. Next up: a tile backsplash and crown moulding for the kitchen
My freshly weeded flower bed. This is where my witch hazel is going.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I can see clearly now...

Sad to say but this year I am really only container gardening. We need a plan before it makes sense to tear up the front yard and install something more ecologically friendly and attractive than a lawn and a plan we do not have-yet. It seems that we've just had a few too many other things to do besides create a landscape plan. I did start a plant list though and I'm trying to stick to 80% drought tolerant plants, especially in the full sun areas. I think I'll have a lot of lavender and spirea which I love. I am going to try a rock rose or two as well as some ornamental grasses and yarrow. I know from my last yard what I'm not going to install (sumac trees! Stipa gigantica!). I'm also going to splurge my water budget for a hydrangea or two and definitely a beautiful witch hazel tree. We'll be putting in a cherry tree and apple tree somewhere in the yard but I haven't a clue what variety yet. Something is all about the fruit.

My container garden:
We have new windows in the basement! Seriously, the old ones were bad. Panes were broken, there were no latches on some and you could see through the frames to the outside. Someday we'll get around to framing out these walls, insulating and creating a more livable space down there but in the meantime, we'll just have one that is more air-tight.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Slowin' down

Well, the sunny spring days have been a major distraction from home improvement projects. We've discovered a nice walking route through the Cheasty greenbelt and bike-to-work month got us onto our saddles again, peddling to the daily grind. So, our progress at home has slowed down. Aside from some incidentals that don't matter much, we can say we're officially done with the living, dining, and master bedroom. We're all painted and moved in and things are looking done. The kitchen is up next for her trim-out. But this is pretty much where we've stalled on the painting front.

Instead of painting, we've been doing a lot of cleaning and organizing. This last weekend we hosted a baby shower so we got the place dusted and prepped and gave the ol' oven a workout. I got busy filling our built-in cabinets in the living room with books and other curiosities. This weekend we had nothing going on except a visit from our internet provider to fix our ever-failing connection. So, we decided to tackle the basement. Before we moved in, Justin and I built some shelves for convenient storage. But, we didn't build enough shelving and we installed the shelving in front of one of the basement windows. Tomorrow, we are having new windows installed throughout the basement so we had our excuse to address the chaos down there that we created on moving day.

A place for everything and everything in its place (almost).

We also picked up the cabinets for our desk space that we're building. Two out of three were correct but the third one was the wrong dimension so back it went and a new one is ordered and on its way. Here are the two in the approximately correct location. We have a bunch to do with the attic access before we can officially install these.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

More progress has been made in the war on blue trim. The battle in the living room was completed yesterday and the results are pretty dramatic. We finished up the painting around noon and headed out to a volunteer activity with a few friends. We returned home pretty pooped. Laura crashed on the couch while I pulled the blue tape and put the furniture back together. My mom was coming over for brunch today and a little motivation seems to move us along towards wrapping up a major task such as this. Of course a few lessons were learned that will be applied on the next painting task in the living room. Another event is coming up at the end of the month so that goal seems pretty achievable.

We also received the blinds for the bedrooms on Friday so the master bedroom is now equipped with window coverings. I'm sure the neighbors are just as excited as we are.

Looking into the dining room from the living room you can see the blue paint and the new and improved white.

The fireplace built-in less the cabinet doors.

The master bedroom complete with blinds. A few more items to go but now way more livable.