Miscellaneous Other Projects

22 04 2010

I’ve been trying to get some other projects out of the way that have been on my to-do list for a long time (sometimes I get on the house-updating kick!).  Mostly, these have been hanging pictures.

To do this, I borrowed my dad’s laser level and stud finder.  The two in the entryway were pretty easy – they had two hooks in the frames, so I had to use the laser level to figure out where to put the nails and then hung them up one-two-three.

I was tired of the old pictures here, so I put some new ones up!

The other picture was a little more complicated because I was hanging it over my electrical box. And didn’t want to be electrocuted.  Fortunately, my dad’s stud finder has a handy little alarm that goes off for electricity. So I was able to mark on the wall where the wires are and avoid them to hang up this picture.  I really felt like it was a job well-done to get these out of the way!

I finally got this one up! Only took me about six months or so :)





A Photo Project

21 04 2010

Since this was fairy involved, I thought I’d write a separate post about the photo project in my guest room.

I’m a big fan of Pottery Barn. I can’t always (or almost ever) afford their stuff, but they put together such great rooms that I’m always hunting through the catalog for ideas for my house and tearing them out. One of these was the idea that inspired this photo project – in the background of a bedroom layout, they had black and white photo in white frames with big mats hanging on the walls, and on the mats was written the date that the picture was taken and who was in it.

Since my friends and family will be the ones enjoying the guest room, I wanted to make them feel welcome by hanging up some of my favorite memories and I thought this would be a great way to do it. I chose a number of photos that I had and converted them to black and white – mostly they were photos I’d taken, but several were from when I was younger, and my parents had taken them.  I ordered them from Snapfish in 4×6 and 5×7, because I wanted to get 8×10 frames for the smaller ones and 11X14 frames for the bigger ones to leave them with a large mat to write on.

Once they arrived, I picked up the frames and mats that I wanted at Michaels (to me, the happiest place on earth). I ended up with 13 (I know, not my favorite number) frames, four of them being smaller.  The 9 larger frames came with the mats I wanted, but I had to get extra mats for the other frames. 

When I got home, I worked on setting up the pictures. I chose the 13 photos I would use and wrote on the backs who was in them and what I wanted to put on the mat.  Then, I first wrote out the mats in pencil – I’m not really a script writer, but I thought script would look better, so I wanted to make sure I practiced first before using a permanent marker.  Once I’d traced over what I’d written with a Sharpie, I let it dry and then erased any visible pencil marks.  I used the paper included with the frame (the one with the picture on it) by placing my photo on it to center it, and then taping it there.

Then, I cleaned out the inside glass of the frame, let that dry, and then put the picture and mat in there. I repeated this for all of the 13 photos and frames.

Like a blank canvas

I’d read somewhere that when hanging a project like this, it’s a good idea to lay it out first on the floor to identify how you want it to be set up. GOOD IDEA.  I laid it out on the guest bed (there isn’t enough floor space) and moved things around until I was happy with it. 

Laying it out beforehand helped

Then, I started with the middle picture, so I could try to center the whole thing on the wall.  The larger frames each had two hooks in the back, so the nails could bear the wait of the frame. Because of this, it would have been helpful if I’d waited to borrow my dad’s laser level to hang them, but I didn’t.  I would hold up the picture where I wanted it and eyeball it. I marked the two corners with a pencil and then measured where each hook was on the back of the frame – you’d think that both hooks would be placed the same, but you’d be wrong. And yes, I learned that the hard way.

I’d take my measurements and make additional pencil marks on the wall until I knew where I wanted my nails.  Then I’d hammer in the nails,  making sure that they stuck out a little bit so I could easily hang up my picture – I recommend using nails with wider heads for the frame to grip. I didn’t, and it caused me a lot of frustration!

Once the picture was up (because the nails weren’t nailed into studs), I could just push the picture back so it was flush with the wall.  I repeated this for each picture until they were all up, and then I went back and cleaned off the glass on the front – I decided to wait to do this until the end, because I knew I’d get fingerprints on them.  And now, I’ve got a cool photo project that highlights my family and friends in the guest room!

All finished!





Guest Room Makeover

20 04 2010

I finally got around to working on making over my guest room – I was going to post a quick update before it was completely finished, but I ended up waiting until all my final projects in there were completed.

The reason I wanted to makeover my guest room is because I felt like it was the room that anything I was unsure about went.  My old bed?  Guest room.  A mish mash of my artwork and photos, none of which had matching frames, or even frames of the same color? Guest room.  An old dresser of my parents? Guest room.  My sister’s end tables? Guest room.  Anything extra I had just kind of got thrown in there, and every time I walked by, I just hurried right past – it was the only room in the house that I really hated. 

Not bad, just not...great

It did have one redeeming feature, and that was the window treatments I’d put up – I LOVE those curtains.  So I needed to make sure that whatever color I chose would still complement them, which wasn’t difficult because they’re a neutral tan/brown.  Originally, I thought about changing the color of the room to a shade of blue, but I realized that with the bathroom across the hall already a shade of blue (and my entire first floor blue), that would be too much on one house.  So I stayed with green, but found a deeper, warmer shade that would compliment the quilt I already had in the room.

See? Better already!

Then, before I started to move things out and paint, I began planning.  I knew I wanted/needed to keep the bed in there, but I wanted to soften it up.  It’s an Ikea bed, very modern and low to the ground, with no box spring.  The headboard is boxy, and I had recently read that to soften up a boxy headboard, you should put three Euro pillows along the back – lots of pillows always softens things up – I may have gone overboard with the pillows, but you can judge from the final product! 

You can never have too many pillows. Right?

Another way to soften up a boxy headboard is with round nightstands and lamps.  I would have loved to add in new nightstands, but to be more economical, I decided to use the stacks of big art books that I was keeping in the room as nightstands instead and just replace the square lamps.  I chose lamps that are round all over – a round base, smooth cylinders, round lampshades, even a circular light pull.  Since the room is fairly dark because it doesn’t have an overhead light, I bought a third floor lamp in the same style, which really helps to brighten up the room and continue the softening.

Not soft, but still a neat bedside table

Round lampshades help to soften the room a bit (from Target)

I also really wanted to incorporate natural elements into the room – I’m a total sucker for them.  I needed more storage in the room, so I was replacing the old dresser, which had three broken drawers, with a smaller, dark brown dresser from Walmart.  That’s not a “natural” element, but to compliment it and add to my storage, I included a dark wicker chest from Target.  I softened that up with a knobby cream throw and am storing extra sheets and towels in the chest. 

This is one of my two favorite things in the room

The dresser ended up being a little shorter than I anticipated, so to give it some height, I found a wooden vase at Michaels, and added some bamboo and other reeds to it.  I also found a great rectangular dish on clearance there, and put three candles on it to give the room a lovely spa feel (I want my guests to feel welcome!). 

This is the other

Michaels can be awesome for home decor

This is very spa-like to me

I should add that I subsequently (after taking this picture) added a round mirror from Target, which also makes me very happy. Though it’s pretty small so it’s not THAT useful for guests.

My Target mirror

I kept the same bedding, but added an extra burnt orange pillow that I had already, and picked up a dark brown pillow to increase the “squishiness” feeling of the bed. 

Then, I tried to think of what else would be nice for guests – I already keep a couple of extra clean bathrobes in the closet, and have towels, shampoos, soaps, conditioners, etc. from hotels available for them.  My parents had given me an old tv, which I set up on the two round side tables from my sister – they double as shelves, so I also have some good reads for guests in there.  For the side tables, I already had a flashlight, and I put out a dish with some individually wrapped chocolates.  I also picked up an alarm clock that guests can use. 

Not all of this planning happened in advance, I must admit – I had an idea of the way I wanted the room to go, and the type of furniture I wanted to include, but some of it happened on the fly once I’d painted the room and rearranged the bed (which is HEAVY, let me tell you).  And then I was faced with what to do with the walls.

Since I had had so many mismatched frames/pictures in there before, I wanted to be a little bit more coordinated.  I knew that I wanted to do a photo project on one wall – something I’d seen done in a Pottery Barn catalog – since it was fairly involved, I am posting a separate entry about it tomorrow morning.

Above the bed, I didn’t hang anything – I read that somewhere you shouldn’t hang things over the bed (in case they fall down). So I found a quote that I liked “Make each day your masterpiece” – one of those removable wall quotes you see everywhere these days – and put that above the bed.  On the opposite wall, I found a print I liked of a house at the beach with a labrador and framed and hung that up.  Room complete!

I took this before all the wall art





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.

Sigh.

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.

Nope.

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.

Phew.

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.








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