Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Wish List: Herb Gardens

The co-habitation that I'm currently partaking in has me doing all kinds of things that I never thought to have interest in.  Picking out backsplashes?  Not six months ago.  Deciding whether to cover up sconce holes or leave them be?  Who cares?!  Planting flowers?  Um worms are in there, need I say more?  But alas, I am in full nesting mode--as much as a girl can be for not being married.  And as such, things like herb gardens strike my fancy.

Last summer I was dabbling ever so slightly in herbs (nothing illegal for all of you even thinking of going there), just some parsley, basil and chives.  Why those?  Well because I found these ah-dorable pots and because chives were the only thing at the green house that was left after parsley and basil.  

Unfortunately the parsley and basil didn't make it through the season.  Obviously because I wasn't living here, J is taking the blame for being a bad herb daddy.  But this year I want to start fresh.  Yes it's only almost March, but after seeing my tulip bulbs peeking through the soil, I'm getting antsy for Spring.  

I love these little pots, but I'm looking to plant a few more things and have been perusing Pinterest for some ideas:

Or maybe:

If we had space J would let me:

No really, if we had space:
Ideally I would have enough space for any of these options, and I'd almost be willing to have an in-ground vegetable and herb garden if I could just conquer that fear of critters, bugs, and slimy things.  But I'm anxious to plant a few pots of tasty herbs this spring and hopefully keep them going until fall.

Have you ever planted an herb garden?  What are your favorites to plant?  I'm thinking we'll need parsley for sure (J's favorite), basil so I can make some homemade pesto, chives because they taste delicious sprinkled on just about anything, and rosemary.  Can't wait!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blogging Inspiration

I first got started in the blogosphere back in October of last year.  I knew nothing about it, never thought of myself as having something to say that others might want to read.  But as I go, this little blog o' mine gets a few more page views each day, a few more followers on Google Friend Connect (15?! I get just as excited with each additional follower as I did when I got my first one.)  My Facebook page is growing as well.  But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few home blogs that inspired me to get started and those that I've found along the way.

 Young House Love Like every other DIY home blogger, I get a lot of inspiration from Young House Love.  To be honest, seeing them chronicle their home renovation really kicked my butt into gear to start this blog.  Would it be nice to have blogging be my full time job?  Maybe, but I really love my political gig.  So for now I blog at night and do projects on the weekends.  And friends and family who might not see the house regularly get an opportunity to look at our latest projects.

House*Tweaking Dana over at House*Tweaking has amazing taste and is an aspiring interior designer.  With two young children and a baby on the way, I honestly don't know how she does it.  But her photos are amazing, her design sense is fantastic, and I can only hope to be as talented in the interior design arena some day.

House of Fifty is all things awe-worthy.  Founder Janell created the House of Fifty E-Zine and always has the most beautiful and classic design ideas.

eighteen 25 is my go to site whenever I'm looking for a good printable (they do adorable subway art printables), a craft idea, or posts on their favorite things.  These three sisters have created a wonderful, resourceful site and obviously love what they do.

Old Town Home As a former resident of D.C., I can appreciate the beauty in row houses.  Sure they all look scrunched together, but inside they can be magical.  Alex and Wendy at Old Town Home are restoring an 1880's era town home in Alexandria, Virginia.  They've done an amazing job thus far and I'm looking forward to see where they can go from here.

This is just a sampling of the home blogs that are out there, but they're the ones I read the most.  As you're looking to spruce up your current abode, I highly recommend checking these guys out.

Monday, February 27, 2012

And We're Back

It's that time of year folks.  The time of year when political candidates are squaring off against each other in debates and getting ready for that, in Ohio's case, March 6th Primary Election.  In my line of work, that means some later nights at the office and not much time left to blog when I get home.  Especially when I'm dedicating more mornings to the gym and less to sleeping in.  But all of that aside, it's been a week since my last post but we're back in action.  Until things get crazy again, of course.

We'll start where we left off last week: with the grout.  Nice that I don't even need to link to that last post because, well, just scroll down and you'll see it.  

J got the backsplash up and ready last weekend when he was borderline sick as a dog.  Come Sunday he was completely out of commission and Monday (thank goodness he had it off for the holiday) was much the same.  I am also thankful for our guest room in instances like these so we could both sleep in peace.  It looks like my busy schedule (read: lack of blogging) worked out for us because the grouting came on Friday.

He was unsupervised since I was at work so you're only gonna get about five pictures out of this deal, but you'll get the gist.

To begin, J sealed the tiles:

Typically you wouldn't seal the tiles before you grout, but in the instance of installing glass tiles, we've found that sealing them before the grout helps eliminate a lot of haze that the grout can leave on the tiles.  You do, however, seal a couple of days after grouting; once it has had time to set and harden up.  Which we will be doing coming up.

After the sealer was applied, J mixed up the grout and got to work.  Spreading it on with a trowel and working it into place at a 45 degree angle to the lines of the tiles which were running horizontally and vertically.

Once it's spread out enough that a thin layer is covering the tiles, you let it sit for about 20 minutes before wiping it down with a damp sponge:
The key is to continuously clean your sponge so you aren't spreading the grout any further. J waited another 20 - 30 minutes after the first wipe down to do it again--ensuring he got it all.  And the rest is just waiting for the grout to dry.  

And the finished product:

There's something about grout that ties it all together.  Even though it's such a subtle difference, it just adds that final dimension.  I cannot wait for the remaining backsplash to get here, back order totally puts a kink in things.  But we're plenty busy planning our new pendant lights and deciding when we can pull the trigger on that last coat of Brandon Beige to touch everything up one last time.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Houston, We Have a Backsplash

In what seems like the blink of an eye, which is more than I can say for how the rest of the kitchen process felt like, it is finally time to put up the backsplash

Before we could do that, however, we had to install the new microwave so the new backsplash could be placed around it.  J had the bracket already up when I got home from work Friday evening so he just needed me to hold the microwave into place from below while he screwed into it through the top of the cabinet.

I gave you the short and sweet version of this story mainly because what actually happened isn't suitable for young ears.  But the PG version?  Here you go:  While securing the microwave into place the first time, a piece of the microwave where the screw needed to go fell inside of the microwave itself.  Cue cursing.  Cue nasty call to Sears to complain about the product's quality.  Cue packing up the microwave to take it back to aforementioned Sears, only to have the piece fall out of the microwave.

So we pulled the microwave back out of the box, J masterfully put the loose piece back into the microwave, and we successfully mounted the appliance a second time.  
  Saturday morning J was feeling slightly under the weather, but he powered through and began working on the backsplash.  To start, we gathered our tools:
All of this plus one wet saw:
J began by marking off the edge that we would start laying the tile on.  The counter is slightly longer than the upper cabinets (an issue we inherited, not created) so we had to make the decision whether the tile would be square with the cabinets or go slightly over and be square with the counter.

The counter won so J marked off the line:
And then he busted out the mastic and got to work.  Moving in 1' x 1' increments, J used the trowel to spread the mastic onto the wall and used the teeth on either end to achieve the correct amount of mastic depth.  
Typically, this would be the point where you lay the tile on top of the mastic, but because we have glass tiles and you can see through them, you don't want to see the ridges left behind by the trowel.  So J smoothed them out.
He then put the spacers on the counter to make sure the tile didn't sink too close to the counter:
And then the first square was put up:
He used the float to press the squares down into the mastic and continued like so, fitting the un-even edges together like a puzzle as he went.  To fit the smaller areas, he was able to cut the mesh on the back of the tile:

Mid way point:
Once the wall was done with the bigger sheets, it was time to fit smaller tiles into the open spots.  This required cutting actual tiles and not just the mesh, which required the use of the wet saw.
And once he was done filling in the spots along the middle of the backsplash, it was time to even out that edge by the counter:
For this, J had to cut each individual tile:
 And then filed the rough edges:
A few dozen times of this, and the backsplash was complete!

Next on the list is the grout.  Unfortunately, the tile store gave us the wrong kind of grout so we have to exchange that before we can get started.  Thankfully, however, the delay is giving J plenty of time to get some rest so he can hopefully get over whatever it is that he has.  We're both looking forward to completing the grout and getting the stove back in place for the look of a more completed kitchen.

And that was our weekend, how was yours?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Some Organization + Quick Vegetable Soup

At the start of the year I made a concerted effort to be more organized when it came to packing my lunch and planning a menu.  I am proud to say that I have successfully planned meals each night and it has saved me a ton of time at the store wandering the aisles deciding what I want to get.  Now we don't always follow the plan in day order, but for the most part we are a more efficient household as a result.  It doesn't hurt to have this handy dandy planner, though:

The menu, when updated and not sitting on my computer, is put into a page protector and any new recipes are printed out and slipped it behind it, then hung on the fridge.  That way, when J makes the dinner (he usually does and believe me, I know how lucky I am!), he can follow an easily accessible recipe.

After a month and a half of getting that part of my life in order, I'm making a better effort of picking out healthier meals and getting to the far 3 days down this week which is about three times more than I've been going.  And on the food front, I came across a delicious vegetable soup recipe last weekend that I had to try.  At 60 calories/1 cup serving, I was intrigued. 

Vegetable Soup
adapted from A Veggie Venture

6 cups broth (I bought 2 containers of organic vegetable broth)
2 carrots peeled and diced
4 teaspoons of garlic, minced
1/2 cabbage, chopped
1 bag frozen green beans
1 large zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt

To be honest, I didn't follow the original instructions at all and the soup turned out perfect. Below is what I did:
1. Chop and dice all vegetables
2. Combine in large stock pot
3. Add vegetable broth
4. Add herbs
5. Add tomato paste
6. Add garlic  and salt

7. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to low heat.

At this point the vegetables are tender, but I let the soup cook for a couple of hours on low.

Nutrition information from A Veggie Venture:
NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Cup: 61 Calories; 0 g Tot Fat; 0 g Sat Fat; 13 g Carb; 3 g Fiber; NetCarb10; 701 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol; 4 g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points .5 & PointsPlus 1


And in other news, I saw this as I was walking out the door this morning:
My tulip bulbs are coming up!  It's only February 17th, WAY too early for this!

How's that for a hodge-podge Friday post?  Little organizing, little cooking, and a little gardening.  Three of my favorite things.  Happy weekend all!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bobbins and Burp Cloths

As you may or may not recall, I received a sewing machine for Christmas.  My ultimate goal is to make all kinds of pretty things for the house: window treatments, decorative pillows, blankets, you name it.  But I'm starting small and trying to master such basics as sewing in a straight line.  Harder than you might think, people.

Per the usual, most of my craftiness comes from finding a project on Pinterest and then making it myself.  We've done framed fabriccanvas art, and (my favorite) some nail and string art.  This time, however, we're using the sewing machine.

I came across a tutorial for burp cloths on Pinterest.  It linked me to The Crafty Couple's Blog where I took a few notes, ran to Jo-Ann's, and got to work.  And before you go there, these are NOT for J and I; they are for his soon-to-be-born niece, Clare.  I am dying for a baby girl to spoil so she'll be getting lots of pink things, I assure you.

For a little variety, I bought two different kinds of flannel fabric from JoAnn's for the front of the cloth.  Then I bought enough terry cloth for the back of the cloth.  Once home, I pre-washed the fabric to make it a little softer and hopefully get any shrinkage out of the way.

I then cut the fabric into 10" x 15" rectangles:

I cut three out of this fabric and three out of a brown and pink polka dot fabric.  Then I cut six out of the terry cloth.

Once all the cutting was done, I took each set of flannel and terry cloth and flipped them inside out, lined them up, and pinned them around three sides, leaving one of the short sides open.

Unfortunately the pins didn't photograph well on this fabric so we're going to switch over to the pink one:
Once you're all pinned, sew around the three pinned edges.  I used both a 1/8" and 1/4" seam allowance (on separate cloths) to see the difference and I think I like the 1/8" allowance better.

After you're done, remove the pins and snip the edges the two sewn corners, being careful not to cut the stitch:
sorry, the project was done at night so not much good light...

Next, reach inside the cloth and pull it right side out.  You can use a chopstick to pop out the inside corners to make sure everything is where it needs to be.

After the fabric is right side out, fold in the top edge and pin.  There is no rhyme or reason to this one, per se, it's more folding until it's even with the rest of the edges.
Then proceed to stitch around all four edges using a 1/4" seam allowance.

If you are giving these away as gifts (which I did) you can roll them up and tie some ribbon around the middle for a cute little package:
This was a fairly simple project.  The most difficult part came when I was switching out the white thread to brown thread and having to remember just how that works on the sewing machine--which led to a LOT of cursing of the bobbin and the bobbin case and eventually led to a couple French martinis for Melissa.  Thank God for user manuals and instructional dvds.  

These are en route to J's sister in law as we speak, hope she likes them!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday Wish List: Office Space

A while back, like let's head back to November, back, I showed you a sneak peak of our office space on the third floor loft above the master bedroom.  Unfortunately, much to J's disappointment, that space is still not unpacked.  It's more because I don't know where to put my stuff because there is only the one desk as storage space and less the fact that I don't want to do it. 

But I've been perusing Pinterest for some ideas on office spaces and I am addicted to some of these spaces!  Truly, it makes me wish I could do my day job from our cozy third floor with a view.

I am loving this long white desk with the pop of color coming from the accent chairs!  Cozy and oozing of productivity and organization!  And those desk lamps!  This would be great for a space for kids to do their homework or for associates at an in-home business. 

There is so much to enjoy about this room, starting with the green walls.  Everything is clean and organized and I like the L shaped desk that permits more workspace and utilizes the corner of the room well.  Also loving the book shelves!

And what would an office post be without a beautiful space from Pottery Barn?
Oh the crafts that could be made in this room!  Again, I love the organization, and the wrapping paper unit on the wall would be so handy!

I'm hoping to get the office a little more usable soon, but it will most likely be during the month of March once work slows down a tad.

Have any of you decorated a home office?  How much space were you able to dedicate to it and what pieces were a must have?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Lesson in Quilling

This blog was initially started just to document the process of rehabbing our home.  But amongst all of the documenting, it's evolved into my little place to share not only these projects but also some crafts and things that I might not otherwise  try without the motivation to "post it on the blog."

One such craft is quilling.  Like most of the folks I have mentioned this to, not many knew what quilling was.  So I'll start with a dictionary definition:

quilling |╦łkwili ng |nouna piece of quilled lace or other fabric used as a trim.• a type of ornamental craftwork involving the shaping of paper,fabric, or glass into delicate pleats or folds.
I first saw this on Martha Stewart's website where I found a tutorial on making a quilled Valentine's card and I thought to myself, "well this looks simple enough."  Ohhhh if only I knew.  But I like a challenge so I went to Michael's and bought my card stock and craft knife.  

The card was going to be for J because a) I didn't have time to mass produce Valentine's for all of my family (they got Hallmark ones though, which I feel is a very close second) and b) even if I could make multiples, I wasn't quite sure what kind of envelope would carry it without smashing the paper.  But enough about that, let's get to work.
For the life of me, I could not find quilling strips anywhere.  So I figured I'd make my own with some card stock.  There isn't any rhyme or reason to the strips, other than to make them uniform in size.  You can make them as narrow or as wide as you like, but I'd go into the project with a plan on whether you're doing letters, flowers, hearts, bells, etc. 

I then took a deeper pink color of 12" x 12" card stock and made the card itself:
Next, I took a piece of white card stock and cut out a square to place inside the card for a space to write:
The actual square is smaller and is centered in the pink.
Once that was set, I looked at the different script fonts on my computer to pick one that I liked and that would fit the card well:
They may all look the same, but I promise you they are different!  I ended up with the middle one because I liked the rounded edges a lot.  And this is where the work began.

Unfortunately I didn't get this done at home because it's hard to find time and space away from J where he wouldn't walk in on my project.  So I took my quilling strips to work and hammered it out there.  

Martha's website doesn't have a step by step tutorial on how to get the letters done, other than to say you make the curls by using scissors like you would to curl a ribbon.  They also suggest printing your script on the card and quilling over it as a template.  I didn't want the words printed on the card, so I printed them out on paper and made the letters separately--mainly by trial and error.  

I took the strips I had and cut those in half both length wise and width wise to make them easier to maneuver when folding into the letters.  I did not buy a rounded quilling tool to make the curves a bit less jagged, but I think I did alright without.  

I started with the M because it looked the most difficult and by the time I got it pieced together, it didn't look half bad:

I continued letter by letter until they were complete.  Matching up each strip to a portion of the letter, gluing the strips together to make a complete letter and then affixing the letters to the card.  Once the phrase was done, I made two hearts and put them on.  With that, the card was complete:

I'm no Martha, but for a first timer working with limited time, I'd say it looks pretty good.

As for the sizes for the card and the strips, I definitely eyeballed it, using a ruler to ensure a straight edge. 

Hope you are having (or had) a great Valentine's Day.  J made dinner this evening (as he does) which is all a girl can really ask for when she gets home from work.  So thankful.

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