Archive for September, 2011

… or Katie toward Goodwill?

My friend Emily and I decided to swing by the Super Goodwill after our company picnic on Friday.  I wasn’t expecting to find anything, when I bumped into tall, dark, and handsome:

Hello, lover.  I’m grooving on the open lattice on the sides (would you call that “lattice”?) and the two shelves.

Also, please allow me to direct your attention to the height of this end table.  That bad boy measures a whopping 26″ tall, which is perfect for that chair-arm height shown above.  Our two other side tables in the living room are way too short to really be functional by these sofas (one’s 23.5″ and the other’s a shade under 20″), so if you place a glass of wine on them, you really need to half-climb over the chair arms to retrieve it.

The other great thing?  The price.

Twenty dollars, and nary a scratch on the thing.  It must have been my lucky Goodwill day because I also found a hardcover copy of Tina Fey’s Bossypants for $2.50.

Emily got two pairs of pants and the stinkeye from some woman who thought Emily stole her purse (she didn’t).

Anyone else find any secondhand treasures lately?


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Wolfpack of Three

Meet Widget:

He is the nine-and-a-half-pound chi-mix that became a part of our family yesterday morning (adopted through D.C.-based Lucky Dog Animal Rescue).  What we know about him so far:

  • He’s about two years old.
  • He rides well in the car for at least an hour.
  • While riding in the car, he wants to be in a lap at all times, and if the driver’s lap is the only one available, safety be damned!
  • He doesn’t talk much except when he spots deer or another dog from the screened-in porch and when he’s killing his toys.
  • He really likes meals, treats, and walks (no surprises there).
  • He SEEMS pretty well housebroken.  No accidents yet, other than peeing on one of the PetSmart displays.
  • I can’t stop shopping for him.

We’re pretty sure he’s liking his new home so far and pretty sure he thinks he’s the boss.  He’s cute and sweet, but we’re trying to be firm with him anyway.

I think he thinks that couch is his.

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Curtain Bonanza (part two)

I’ve put it off long enough; time for some more curtain-y goodness.  When we last left off, I had finally found and collected our already-owned curtain rods and hanging apparatus and purchased panels that were long enough for our purposes.

Once I’d settled down enough from the excitement of actually locating our curtain hardware, I thought long and hard about the mismatched styles and colors.  And then I decided to spray paint.  Here’s where snafu #3 comes in.  Everything started out alright: I bought a can of “oil-rubbed bronze” spray paint at Home Depot.  That can worked for about 2 minutes before it became hopelessly…clogged?  I don’t even know, but it stopped working, so I exchanged it for a second can.  Everything seemed to be going okay.  Here’s a shot of some of the hardware chilling on the cardboard it sat on in the lawn during paint time:

Don’t those brackets look like cobras?  Here are some rods and finials pre-spraying (I think this color is more accurate to real life – also, I had used the cardboard for a previous painting project already, hence that black “cloud” on the box):

Since I’d already had problems with my first can of spray paint, I guess it should not have come as any surprise that I had problems with the second.  Gr.  But this time, the whole top of the can fell off.  Just popped right off in two pieces, and wouldn’t go back on.  I mean, one piece did.  It’s kind of hard to explain.

That’s one piece on, one piece off.  The big piece on the ground just would NOT pop back onto the top.  Also note that I had taped the receipt to the can in case I needed to jet back over to Home Depot and exchange THIS can also.  I learned my lesson the first time (“This stupid piece of…!  Guess I’ll get another one.  Did I even save that receipt?  Crap.  Where’s that receipt?!?!”).  But you know what?  I’m not going to lose to some poorly-designed piece of engineering, so I found that if I set that one piece back in place and pushed on it, it still sprayed.  It actually sprayed better than before, because it had been kind of spitting unevenly, but once I broke it and jerry-rigged it,  it let out more of a fine mist.  It was messy though, so I wore latex gloves.  Gangsta!

Maybe I just don’t know how to spray paint.  I don’t know.  But snafu #3 was definitely faulty spray paint/faulty spray painter.

Here’s an after-paint pic:

The nice thing is that the hardware started out bronze, so I feel like any spots where my spray-paint-coverage was less-than-perfect still look okay.  I mean, if some bronze peeks through the oil-rubbed-bronze… isn’t that how it’s supposed to look?  That’s what I tell myself.

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Cleanin’ Ain’t Easy

Every day for about a week now, I have said I would vaccum the house.

House still needs to be vaccumed, today.

Katie and I are a good team when it comes to cleaning the house in advance of the few parties we’ve had since moving in and the few dinners and visits with family members and friends. We’ve developed a nice rhythm of who-does-what: I’ll vaccum and do the dishes, Katie will mop the kitchen floor and clean the bathroom, etc.

It’s the cleaning when no one is around, when it’s just us two in the house, that’s become a challenge.

Case in point, we had an Open House/BBQ on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, and we were a cleaning tornado for all of Saturday and most of Sunday morning. I was even vaccuming the living room as our first guests arrived.

But that was almost two weeks ago, and as I continue to say, I need to vaccum the house, not because we’re having a party, just because.  

New homeowners agree there’s a huge difference in the level of pride you take in your home than how you could ever feel about a rental. You own the place; you want it to look its best, even when no one’s looking. So, while I’ve learned the hard way that maintaining a yard has almost become a part-time job, so too is keeping the house in shape so that party-prep doesn’t have to take two-full days.

I was interested to what suggestions are out there related to a weekly house-cleaning checklist. Here’s one I thought was decent:

  • KITCHEN: Mop the floor, clean the exterior of appliances, wipe the counters and cabinet doors, polish the sink.
  • BATHROOM: Scrub the sink, toilet (exterior and interior), tub, and faucets.
  • Dust furniture and shelves.
  • Shake or vaccum area rugs.
  • Vaccum living areas. (I’ll do it this weekend, I promise.)
  • Mop hard-surface floors.
  • Change bed linens.
  • Sweep front entry and walkway.

I won’t say what we do and don’t do on a weekly basis, but I will say we now have some goals to work toward. Does this seem like a doable weekly list? Is there anything missing?

And, where did I leave that vaccum?


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Quick Before & After

When we first bought our house, our bathroom decor was… less than our taste.

Please note the fishing-themed wallpaper and the copious oak accents (including the toilet paper roll “cage,” which I refused to use).  And yet, we really wanted to buy this house.  And this is the only bathroom.  Kinda weird when you think about it.  But the nice thing about owning as opposed to renting is that you don’t have to live with anyone else’s decor decisions.  Here’s a peek at what our bathroom looks like now, after peeling the wallpaper, painting, replacing the toilet seat and toilet paper holder, ditching the humongous medicine cabinet, hanging a towel bar and towel ring, trashing the chair rail (which looks like wood, but was plastic or something), installing a wall-mounted light fixture, and staining the vanity and giving it new hardware:

We also painted the door and trim white and replaced the brass hardware there with brushed nickel.  Longterm, we want to swap out the standing shower for a tub/shower combo and do some tiling (floor, shower, walls?) and probably replace the vanity altogether.  I’m also still looking for the perfect shelf to hang above the toilet; I’d like one with a little guardrail so jars of cotton balls or Q-tips don’t end up in the toilet.  I’ve also considered some kind of rail-plus-hanging-vessels set up comme ca:

That’s Ikea’s Asker system (they have it filed under “kitchen”).  Looking for that image, however, led me to discover that some people have trouble keeping the hooks on the bar, which would increase the likelihood of our cotton balls and Q-tips taking a dive.  So the search continues.

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Curtain Bonanza (part one)

Alternate title for this post: “Truly A First Time for Everything.”

I have always managed to avoid installing curtain rods.  Someone’s always been willing to do it for me: my mom, Andrew’s dad, my friend Mike.  It’s nice to have people do things for you, but kind of crippling to be so dependent.  Especially when your bare window is in what is supposed to be your dressing room:

Yeah, it was hard to maintain my modesty in front of that window.  That all changed yesterday, when I – yes! me! Katie! – FINALLY added curtain-hanging to my repertoire.  And it’s not even that hard!  But, as with everything house-related that Andrew and I have taken on, there were a few snafus.

First off, I have had six curtain rods of varying lengths stashed in the spare bedroom closet for, oh, a year.  At some point, the brackets and screws, which were all in a paper Dunkin’ Donuts bag, got separated from the rods, and that was pretty annoying because, well, they were lost.  And looking for things is annoying.  So that prevented me from hanging curtains earlier.  But a few weeks back, Andrew said we had to sort through the piles of stuff that had been sitting in our basement untouched since move-in day.  He said those piles of unorganized junk were “embarrassing.”  And… we found the Dunkin’ Donuts bag with all the hardware!  I totally danced a jig of joy.  Snafu #1 (missing pieces) was solved!

Snafu #2: the 84-inch, white sailcloth panels I bought at Target were too short.  Gr.  Mildly irritating, but no biggie, because they sell the same curtains in 96-inch-length online.  Aaaannndd… those were sold out.  I combed the websites for Crate & Barrel, Amazon, Pottery Barn, PBteen, Overstock, Bed Bath & Beyond, and JC Penney, looking for something white that was at least 9o-some inches long and didn’t have grommets (I had already decided on using oil-rubbed-bronze curtain rods; grommets seem mostly to come in other finishes) at a reasonable price.  Pottery Barn Kids actually had some cotton sailcloth panels I almost bought, until I decided sailcloth was just “meh.”  Plus, I’d gotten this three-pound catalog from Restoration Hardware that had this whole section featuring Belgian linen, and I was like, “man, I love linen.”  It’s still casual, but a step up from cotton sailcloth in texture and specialness.  So my focus shifted.  And then, I came across this picture from centsationalgirl:

Those curtains are from Pier 1, which I hadn’t yet considered, and they briefly had me contemplating a patterned panel (an idea I abandoned pretty quickly, given my gun-shyness around patterns).  Apparently, you can’t buy anything on the Pier 1 website, but you can add things to your order, and then your local store has everything ready to go for you when you show up.  The store in Catonsville just happened to have white linen curtain panels – on sale – in stock!  Yessssss.  Happily added two panels to my “cart.”  Fast-forward to this email the next day from Pier 1: “Please call us about your order.”  Noooooo.  They had ONE panel in stock.  What am I going to do with one panel?  The saleswoman, trying to be helpful, called me back a couple hours after I had originally talked to her.  She had hunted down the sole other panel in the Baltimore area and put it on hold for me at the White Marsh store.  For those unfamiliar with the area, Catonsville is about 6 miles away from us.  White Marsh is about THIRTY.  And I’m a busy girl.  Le.  Sigh.

Back to the googling board.  At least I had focus for my search now: “white linen curtain.”  Boom.  Ikea.  Fifty dollars for two panels (I’d been resigned to spending around $60 for two panels).  Sometimes I try to fight it, but Ikea can be so clutch.

I spent my Labor Day making the drive down to the College Park store, which is about a half-hour away.  I figured I should make the trip worth my while, so I bought a pile of options (not all linen, FYI):

You really can’t beat the prices, the generous lengths, and the iron-on hem tape that’s included with a lot of the offerings.  I should have thought of Ikea sooner, considering it’s where I got our bedroom curtains:

I bought those babies for my first post-college apartment (back when I was REALLY cheap), but I still adore them.  (Actually, we have two sets of two panels.  I only bought one set from Ikea; the other was a thrift-store score my mom made later on.)

Anyhoo.  Wow, we’ve only gotten past two snafus, and there are at least three more.  So many obstacles!  Geez, it’s no wonder it took me a year to hang curtains.  I’m going to have to make this a TBC (“to be continued”) episode, since I have homework to do.  I mean schoolwork.  It gets confusing when I have schoolwork (homework) and housework (also homework).  Make sure to tune in next time for the still-unrevealed twists and turns in this epic curtain saga.

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Walk This Way

Our front porch and walkway left a lot to be desired, and years of wear and tear had left it beaten, bruised and primed to collect huge puddles during even the weakest rain showers. 

The goal is to have a new, shiny porch and a walkway that curves from the front door to the driveway, with a flower bed in the area between the walkway and the porch. It will boost our curb appeal and hopefully be designed for better runoff so we can avoid the ponds that form just outside the door every time it rains.

But first, we had to remove the existing walkway and come up with a temporary fix. So, I enlisted the help of my father and my very strong younger brother on a Sunday in July to–quite simply–bust the walkway to bits. We rented a jackhammer and got started just early enough so we wouldn’t wake up the neighborhood.

The jackhammer sliced through the top layer of concrete, leaving us some big blocks for relatively easy collection. However, once we removed those big pieces, we were left with another 4-6 inches of compacted rocks and gravel.

That’s when the real work began. It probably took about 45 minutes to remove the top layer, but then about 3-4 hours to remove the junk underneath.

Another unexpected part of the job involved battling some unreal roots that had crawled along the front of the porch. My father spent most of his day chipping away at this beast:

It took the entire day, but I had ordered plenty of fill dirt to dump into the new ditch in front of the house, and when we finished, we were left with this: 

But we had to spruce it up a little before we have the time (and money) to tackle the full porch renovation and new walkway installation. So another trip to the home improvement store for some flowers, mulch and rocks completed the transformation from this:

To this (notice the temporary mini-walkway to the right of the porch): 

It’s not the final product, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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