I’ve got a problem…

19 04 2010

I have to admit it, I have a problem.

I just LOVE Target.

It can’t be helped, every time I go in there, I find so many things that I just fall in love with.  Mostly accessories.

Like these canisters from Liberty of London - Target is only carrying their stuff for a limited time, and although I already HAD stainless steel canisters, I just kept thinking about how they would brighten up my kitchen.  So I brought them home.

Aren't they pretty?

At first, I was just going to get the three black and white ones. but the other flowers were so happy and pretty, I had to bring those home too.

They do brighten up my counters

I just can’t help myself.

So I try very hard not to go to Target very often. Except this weekend. I went twice.


Is there a store that draws you in?

Getting the Yard Ready After a Hard Winter

19 04 2010
So, as you know from my previous posts, we had a hard winter here in the northeast. Here at the beach, we had three blizzards and two noreasters (with the noreasters happening in a two week period).  Not only has my back suffered, but my yard suffered because of too much water, blowing winds and general yuckiness.

It definitely needed some TLC after this winter!

This was post-raking/seeding, but the yard still looks sad. I should take an updated pic with the baby grass growing!

I started in the front yard – I picked up mulch (two separate weekends – four bags the first time, and eight the next time. That’s about the limit for a MINI Cooper’s trunk).  I raked out the beds in the front, taking out the old mulch. Last year, I’d mistakenly picked up rubber tire mulch. It does look good year round, but I learned from watching Yard Crashers that the point of mulch isn’t just to look pretty – it’s to give some nutrients to the plants. “Oops,” I thought and decided to get rid of the old mulch and put down some better stuff.

After raking, I cut back some of the plants a little bit (they had become overgrown) and finally put down the mulch.  This made me neighbor of the year, because I share a big section in the middle of the front yard with my next door neighbor (the “yard” is mostly stone) and I mulched that too – they said it’s the best it’s looked in years.

Much better

This is why I'm neighbor of the year. My neighbor has promised to cut that back once it's bloomed

Can't wait until my neighbors mention wanting to paint those shutters again and I mention hating that color

Because I have stone, weeds are really obvious when the grow, so I had to get some weed killer and spray that on the front stones. I do it when I know there isn’t going to be any rain for a couple of days, and in the morning, so it’s dry by the time I take my dog out front for a walk later in the day.

I also picked up and planted a new rose bush in a planter on my front stoop – I used to have two beautiful rose bushes, but they didn’t survive the move, so I’m hoping to get back to my rose gardening this year!  And I put out a hanging basket with pansies in it. Very spring-like. Plus, I love pansies because they look like little faces.

The backyard was another project and a half. I do have grass back there, but it’s being slowly destroyed by a very cute basset hound and endless amounts of rain and flooding. On a dry day, I raked the entire yard to get up any old grass and the leaves that came from my neighbors’ yard.  I had picked up a little aerator at Lowe’s and decided to aerate and seed the entire lawn, which was not an insignificant amount of work. The aerator involved a lot of elbow grease to get through my tough dirt, but I managed to do it and put down grass seed the day before a big rain.

The grass seed package said it would start growing in 5 days. When it didn’t I was bitterly disappointed and resigned to having a yard with bad grass.  But lo and behold, about a week ago, grass started sprouting up in the thin patches – I’m very excited! Of course, that’s the one spot in the whole yard that my dog has decided he needs to sleep in while enjoying the sunshine, but I’m hoping the little sprouts are hardy enough to survive.

I had two pots sitting on each side of my deck stair that had formerly been home to gerbera daisies. I dumped out the old dirt (you can always re-use this if you mix in some new dirt, according to Yard Crashers, but I didn’t go that way) and put in some new potting soil. I added two new gerberas to each – I just think they look like such happy flowers – and watered them. I dumped out a third pot with a since-dead tomato plant in it, and put pansies in there instead. The fourth pot I reserved for future use and put that in the shed (which I’d cleaned out earlier in the day). 

Happy Gerberas!

There’s so much more to be done outside (more on that later), but this was a good start in de-winterizing my yard and making it feel much more spring-like!

Unclogging a Toilet

16 04 2010

We’ve all been there – you flush the toilet, and suddenly, water stops draining and starts rising. Uh oh, you say in your head or out loud, hoping, praying that it stops before it reaches the lid.  But it doesn’t and water starts to pour onto the floor as you scramble to pick up whatever is around, muttering expletives the whole time.

Sound familiar?

Last year, I made the mistake of flushing paper towels. I know, I know, I already knew it was a big no-no, but I had a momentary memory lapse and did it after cleaning up from a puppy working on his housebreaking skills.  As soon as I flushed, I knew it was stupid.  But nothing happened immediately, so I thought I was safe.


I panicked, envisioning having to call a plumber and a) explain to him why my toilet was clogged and b) pay him. What to do?

First I tried a plunger. My first plunger was too small and didn’t create a good suction. So I had to buy another one. That one didn’t work either, so I had to buy ANOTHER one. Yes, I now own four or so plungers.

Then, I searched high and low for drain cleaner that was useful for toilets. I finally found some at the local hardware store and tried that. No dice.  You have to make sure to find one that’s suitable for toilets, because most of them are not – don’t just stick Drano down there hoping for the best.

Finally, I scoured the internet, desperate for a non-plumber solution. And I found a crazy one, but I was just desperate enough to try it. 

First, they told me to push dishwashing liquid in the toilet and wait for about 15 minutes. (O-kay, I thought).  Then, pour very very hot or boiling water (I used hot, because I admit, I was nervous about pouring boiling water into a cold porcelain bowl) into the toilet and as you do it, the drain should start to clear.

I admit, I though “yeah, right” when I first read this.  But I tried it, and guess what?

It worked.


Now, I’m not advocating not calling in the professionals if you need them, but I was lucky that this worked for me and I didn’t need a plumber. I will also mention that someone said too much dishwashing liquid can kill off the “good” bacteria in your sewer system. I bought this until I realized that hey, I use all kinds of cleansers in my toilet to clean it, so I don’t think that’s the case – just wanted to pass along my thoughts if you were wondering :)

Spring Has Sprung!

15 04 2010

Though this is not technically a “handy” homeowner girl post, I’m just loving that spring is finally here (and hopefully for good – there was that incident in 2002 when it snowed the week of my college graduation).  So I thought I’d share some photos from around my yard this week:

I have this lovely little tree in my front yard.

I can't take credit for it, because it was planted before I moved here

I'm not even sure what kind of tree it is

But in the spring, it gets these pretty little pink flowers

And it smells divine

Seriously, I wish you had smell-o-vision

Even the bugs like them :)

There's a dogwood out front too, which I think is technically my neighbors' tree

But it's just starting to bloom and is so pretty - I love the dogwoods!

In the backyard, I have a new umbrella - this red makes me happy!

Pansies are another favorite spring flower of mine

I like that they seem to have faces

This isn't a very exciting picture, except for me - my new grass is growing!

I enjoy these spiky gerbera daisies more than I thought I would

But my regular gerberas are pretty snazzy too - brightly colored flowers just brighten up my day!

I love that they look like they're glowing - not sure how I captured that!

This made me think of "he loves me, he loves me not" - maybe the birds are playing it!

Up close and personal

I hated the pillows that came with my swing, but I found these at Walmart - now I just have to learn how to clean the cushions...

I had a little garden helper too. His version of helping involves trimming the grass & lying in it. Also, watching me work.

Unclogging a drain

15 04 2010

Since this is fairly gross, I decided not to take any pictures of how I handled this – not all drains are alike and not all clogs are alike (sometimes you have to snake a drain and sometimes even that doesn’t work and you need to call in the pros, like my parents just did for my Grandma’s kitchen sink).

But for me, this is what happened.

A few months’ ago, I noticed that my sink drains were slow in both my bathrooms. I’ve been finding so many sloppy jobs around here lately and hearing about sloppy work under the pretty drywall from my neighbor, who’s remodeling his kitchen, so after watching one too many episodes of Holmes on Homes, I had myself convinced that it was because my drains weren’t properly vented.

Sometimes, it is the simple answer though. I had a clog.

On Saturday night, while I was caulking the tub, I thought I’d stick some Drano down the drain to see what happened. (PS, if you ever have a toilet clog, do NOT use Drano – it says right on the bottle that it’s not suitable for toilet clogs. I did have some success with another method, which I’ll share in a later post).  Since it was a tough clog, I left the Drano in there for the recommended 30 minutes before running some hot water. I also thought I’d take out the stopper to see what was up. 


It was very visible and (not to gross you out) made up of hair. Not just mine either, but clearly had started with the previous owners. Thoroughly grossed out, I used first tweezers and then needle-nosed pliers to pull it out.  Then I picked it up with one of my clorox bleach wipes, which made me feel a little less gross about the whole thing.  Though my skin is crawling a bit as I think of it now.


In the process of doing this, the end of the stopper that attaches to the mechanism in the drain that either opens or shuts it fell down into the drain.  Awesome, I know.  It didn’t cause any clogging, but now I have to see if I can replace that piece so that I can use the stopper again.  In the meantime, I’m terrified to drop anything small in the sink, because it will disappear down the drain! I’m hoping to get to Lowe’s in the next couple of days to talk to them and hopefully fix it up!

Guess what arrived yesterday?

14 04 2010

So guess what arrived yesterday by UPS?

Any guesses?

How about now?

That’s right, my much anticipated “bloomerang” lilacs are here!


I first saw them in a magazine about a month ago, when I was really craving a little bit of spring.  I thought, how nice would it be to step out on my deck and smell lilacs?  No matter that I’m wildly allergic to the flowers and can’t keep them in the house without constantly sneezing. I just love them.

So I checked out White Flower Farm in Connecticut to learn more about the special variety mentioned in the magazine – bloomerangs.  The idea is that they bloom twice, and who wouldn’t love to have two lilac blooms a season?

I placed my order, and they let me know that they don’t ship them until it’s planting season, so I had to wait for my bit of spring to arrive.  Yesterday, they finally came in a big box, and it was very funny to get plants delivered that way! Normally, I’m picking them up at Lowes or a garden center. 

I’ve scheduled a few posts for the next week or so to catch everyone up on what I’ve been doing, and I may mention in one of those my dilemma – plant them directly in the ground, or in pots? I’d talked to my neighbo about getting them (he and his girlfriend are avid orchid gardeners, among other plants), and he said that lilacs need full sun and don’t love water.  He said that they have theirs in big pots so that they can follow the sun with them and keep them happy.

They've got some growing to do!

I was still debating what to do, until the little pots arrived – because they are a LOT small than I expected them to be.  So if I were to plant them right in the ground, they would be open to a certain basset hound nibbling on them, as he is prone to do with my garden vegetation. So I’ve decided to go with pots, getting slightly larger ones so that they have room to grow. Sounds like a trip to Lowes is in order!

I can't wait for the first blooms!

Finally Got My Accent Wall

14 04 2010

Since I got rid of the red paint on the wall that sits in the middle of my open living room/dining room/kitchen downstairs, I’ve been very  happy with the airy feel that the very light blue walls give me.

Open, airy (this was after I moved everything to paint)

But a couple of months ago, I started to get “itchy” about the color. 

It had been a huge job, so I knew I didn’t want to re-paint the whole room. Plus, I did like that the color made it feel HUGE (though the lack of furniture until recently also helped that :)).  But one day, as I was sitting on the couch, I suddenly thought, what if I painted the middle wall a darker shade of blue and made it an accent wall? 

I thought about it for a few days, and then saw Sabrina Soto say the exact same thing on HGTV, saying that a darker accent wall can add depth to a space. And that’s just what I needed, a little depth.

I got the paint in January, and used it for the interior of my coat closet (it’s called Evening Eclipse, if you’re interested).  But then I dilly-dallied, because I’d forgotten how time consuming and annoying (though also terribly rewarding) painting can be. 

Finally, this weekend, I got around to it. 

I started with prep – I knew I didn’t want to change any of the positions of the artwork I had hanging up, so there was no need to spackel over nail holes.  I just took all the pictures down (leaving their nails up, more on that later), removed all of the electrical covers and vent cover, and moved the furniture out of the way.  I put down some floor protection and got on my painting clothes before getting out the paint, the brushes, the roller and pan. 

Not terrible, just needed some help!

First I cut in, and this is where some trouble started. I may have mentioned before that I don’t like painters’ tape, with the exception of the time I used it to create a line between the paint in the kitchen and the dining room.  But I was having some trouble cutting in on my own – I couldn’t decide if my hand was just unsteady or if the wall/ceiling was crooked.  So I decided to put some painters’ tape along the ceiling to help create a straight line.

Of course, the paint bled through (although I’d made sure to rub the tape well to help it stick), so the line isn’t as straight as I’d like, and there’s one spot that’s really bugging me.

But I digress.

I cut in twice, including around the nails – I would remove the nail, paint over the hole and put it right back in (no hammering until I was ready to rehang the pictures).  That way, I didn’t create extra holes, but I didn’t forget where they were either!  I also rolled two coats of paint – since it’s a darker color, one coat wasn’t enough to cover the walls.  I let it dry between coats, which took a little bit longer than usual because it was so warm here yesterday.  Once it was dry (and I removed the painters’ tape to my disappointment), I tapped in the nails, re-hung my pictures and fixed up my furniture again.  The darker paint does give the open space some depth, and I couldn’t be happier with it!

And after!

The view from the kitchen

It’s Here, It’s Here! My Dining Room Sideboard

13 04 2010

As I mentioned in my projects for this year, I was most excited about a new furniture addition – a dresser from Pier 1 that I planned to use as my dining room sideboard.


It’s here!

Isn't it purty?

It was a bit of a hassle to get it – I’d called a few months ago to find out what their reservation policy was and learned that if you asked them to hold something, you had to pick it up in 48 hours or so.  Since I have a MINI, I can’t really fit big pieces of furniture in there, and since you can’t order this piece online from them, I had to wait until my dad came down with his pickup to help me.

A couple of weeks’ ago, he was here and we headed over. That’s when I learned that it’s their policy NOT to sell you the floor model.  Supposedly, you need to order it from them, it comes in in 10 days and then you can pick it up.  Or they can give you the name of a delivery service – helpful, since that costs MONEY.  But I wasn’t taking no for an answer – they should have told me on the phone when I called that if I wanted to buy a piece of furniture, I’d need to order it ahead of time (because I would have done that).  The manager eventually relented, making me promise that I wouldn’t return it (no way) and wouldn’t ask for a discount for any scratches (there weren’t any, just a bit of dust). 

After all that haggling, we finally got to load it into the truck and take it home! (so if you’re buying furniture from Pier 1, order it in advance!) I will add that it is HEAVY, and while we managed, it might have been helpful to have a third, or even fourth person there.  Also, get some of those furniture moving pads for under the feet, and then you could just slide it along the floor once you get it in the front door.  GOOD LUCK if you’re planning to take it up stairs!

I have to say I’m hugely happy with the piece and love the extra storage.  It really makes my dining room feel finished, which is kind of a strange feeling after living with such an open space for the last year and a half. 

It's very funny to have this room pretty much finished!

Re-caulking the Bathtub for a Fun Saturday Night

12 04 2010

I know, I’ve been a bad blogger lately. I promise that I’ve been diligently working on a number of home projects, but blogging instead on work-related subjects over at Zen and the Art of Legal Network Maintenance. So I’ve got a lot to catch up on!

I’ll start with my project from Saturday night – re-caulking the bathtub. I know you’re jealous that I spent Saturday night scraping caulk out of the tub.  Admit it.

I had bought a tube of caulk a while ago – I went with a bright white caulk (to match the bright white grout in my tub) and made sure it was for use in the bathroom.  The existing caulking in the tub was gross – admittedly, I should have done this a while ago (like, right after I moved in), but it was only something I noticed recently and finally got around to this weekend.  Caulking is important because it helps to keep the moisture out of the seams around the tub, which can lead to mold.  I may or may not have had some mold under the caulk in my tub.

See, it's grody.

The first step is to clean out the existing caulk. I’d bought a handy little tool for this, and although it started out working okay, I later ditched it in favor of a spackel knife, which worked much better.

Handy little caulk remover tool - careful, it's sharp!

Use the pointy end to scrape out the caulk (note: this picture is just for show since I had to use both hands to try to pull the caulk out while not injuring myself)

Then, use the flat side of the tool to scrap out any excess. If your last homeowner was like mine, there will be caulk glopped everywere.

You have to be careful not to scratch the tiles up (which is why I started with the plastic tool), but it took me about 2 hours to scrape out all the caulk and using the spackel knife was much more efficient! Making sure it’s very clean is important so that the new caulk will adhere properly to the tile.

Ah, so much better already!

Once it’s all cleaned off, the instructions on the tube suggested using rubbing alcohol over the surface to make sure it’s really clean. Since it was 10pm on Saturday night by that point and I didn’t have any rubbing alcohol, I first wiped it with a sponge and then one of those clorox bleach wipes and let it thoroughly dry.  (I also wanted a little bleach to get in there in case I DID have mold)

When I was finally ready to put the new caulk in, I found myself wishing for one of those handy dandy caulk guns that push it out easily – because let me tell you, caulk is not easy to get out of the tube. I ended up twisting the tube and squeezing it that way to push the caulk out.  I decided to do the tub in sections, so that it wouldn’t dry before I was ready.  I squeezed out a section of caulk, and then wiped it into the crevice with my finger, stopping as it glopped up (technical term) to wipe my finger on a sponge.  After I rinsed the excess off the sponge, I used that to clean up any mess I’d left behind.  According to the tube, you want to do this before the caulk forms a skin.

Just after squeezing out some caulk...

After wiping it with my finger (and finishing the whole thing)

Once the entire tub is finished, you have to wait 36 hours to expose it to water or moisture. So if you don’t have a second shower or bathtub, you’ll have to visit a friend’s house or suffer through being dirty for a day and a half.  But the process is worth it – whenever I go into the bathroom, I’m so happy to see how clean my tub looks!


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