Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Front yard plans

So. The side yard with its sad weird curves, its buried oil tank, and its random mohawk of roses.

I've spent so much energy in the backyard focusing on shrubs and the structure of the yard that I haven't gotten to have a lot of fun with perennials. I've decided that this is the area where I can get my rocks off and plant any perennials that I feel like and not worry about winter interest or anything. It's going to be the lab and I'm just going to plant what looks pretty in the catalog and if it looks terrible I'll just pull it up and plant something else. Anything softening that line of roses has to be an improvement.

Don't be jealous of my MS Paint skills.

That's not a dragon, that's an approximation of the perennials I will plant and the pathway we'll put next to the driveway. I'm going to plant things that butterflies and hummingbirds like and maybe put down gravel around the pavers, which butterflies use to replenish their salts. We already have a birdbath here and a hummingbird feeder, which is being thuggishly guarded by a male.  Hopefully this should draw all the pretty critters to the area viewable from my kitchen window.

These are the plants that I'm ogling right now. The palate is kind of a mess (orange! purple! red! blue!) but I'm just going to plant them and see what happens.

There are a lot of agastaches, poppies, and penstemons and a lot of plants I saw in Scott's yard. I want to work in some grasses so if anyone has a favorite to suggest (cough*scott*cough), I'm all ears. Or if you have a great flower to suggest, let me know!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The nerve of the nature!

Squirrels are such assholes.

If you are a house blogger . . .

If you are a blogger, chances are you're either redoing your kitchen or you're pregnant. No, seriously, go look at your RSS reader. Pregnant or remodeling their kitchen or sometimes both.

I don't want babies so I'm satisfying the demands of the gods by doing the only kitchen remodel I can afford: painting the door. These pictures best show the gnarly state of our kitchen door. Dinged, dented, filthy, peeling, and just sad.

Upon taking apart the doorknob, I discovered that the previous owner had affixed it with caulk. Like the kind you use to seal your bathtub. That makes sense! I used a scraper to get the caulk off, leaving me with this mess.

I sanded everything down but I didn't have wood putty because of an unfortunate accident where my tube of wood putty hardened at the top and I squeezed too hard and the whole tube pooped out its contents from the bottom end, all over me. That's pretty much what having kids is like, right?

I wanted to get the door done before the boy returned from his work trip (Surprise! Paint fumes!) so I just painted it without filling the gauges. Enh, we'll live. I also hit up the knob with some Brasso.

It looks better, ya? Of course, now that the whole thing looks shiny and new I kind of feel like it would look better with a color. Maybe I could paint it yellow and Greg would feel better about the fact that I stole his yellow hallway from him.

Or maybe that's a bad idea.

Sherwin-Williams Daffodil

Sherwin-Williams Chartreuse

Sherwin-Williams Jonquil

The kitchen has always been tricky because the yellow counters are so cool and the floor tiles ended up being so much warmer and browner than I expected--I'm still trying to find ways to bridge the gap between the two. Regardless, I need to address the trim which still needs to be filled, sanded, and painted.

Now go double up on your birth control and get ready to pick out faucets. Or suggest paint colors for the door if you're feeling opinionated.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A very good idea

I moved the birdbath from the backyard to the driveway strip so I can see the birds playing from the kitchen window. I love watching birds in the birdbath. WHO THE HELL AM I ANYMORE?

I know I'm really going to tempt the spambots by saying this, but BUSHTITS, you guys!

They ARE bushtits, right?

I'm too old for this shit, he thinks.

And then this one gave me the stinkeye and I stopped taking pictures.

Psaltriparus minimus

I'll tell you soon about the other birdbath I bought off of craigslist for $5. It was cracked, put back together poorly, and I had to drive to Cornelius in rush hour traffic to get it. It took 2.5 hours round trip. I patched it with Liquid Nails and we'll see this weekend if it will hold water. If it does? Totally worth it.

If it won't hold water I'm declaring myself barred from using craigslist again.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Amy tagged me!

Despite the fact that the game of tag always resulted in me slipping in my mary janes, eating asphalt, and crying in the nurse's office, I'm going to play.

Here are the rules:
  1. Post these rules
  2. You must post 11 random things about yourself
  3. Answer the questions set for you in their post
  4. Are jokes about "there is no Fight Club" still funny?
 11 random things about yourself:
  1. I've kept a journal my entire life. I've shredded some of them and kept others. My sister and I have a pact that if one of us dies, the other will fly to the their house and burn their journals. I secretly think my sister will read mine first.
  2. I get really handsy on planes. It's not the flying; it's the Xanax and alcohol I need to get on a plane. I love you so much. No really, I dooooooo.
  3. I drink a stupid amount of water so I pee more than 30 times per day.
  4. I'm high strung and I always have been. I hate it, and yet: I get a lot done. Think of what I could achieve if I wasn't peeing all the time!
  5. I don't think Sarah Winchester was crazy or worried about ghosts. I think she just loved home improvement. I think she would have been an awesome home blogger. Who amongst us hasn't accidentally built a staircase to nowhere?
  6. I like having secrets. Everyone should have some. Someday I want a swing-out painting that hides a wall safe. Or a bookcase that hides a secret room. And in it I will watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills without having to hear someone sighing loudly in the next room, GREG.
  7. I have the best family. I totally won the parental lottery. The older I get the more people I know with strained parental relations and I feel even luckier for having such a supportive family that I genuinely like being around.
  8. My mother was a total DIY rockstar, without the Internet. Growing up she was constantly redecorating our house on a tiny budget. There was nothing she couldn't make/fix/do. She is the reason I knew I'd be okay buying a fixer. I'm still hoping she'll teach me how to hang wallpaper.
  9. Now that I have EIGHT nieces and nephews (plus Greg's two!) I've realized that all kids are really weird. You were weird too. Let's all stop pretending anything or anyone is normal.
  10. I am super cheesy but can't abide it in other people. I'll be over-the-top sappy but if someone else tries it I roll my eyes and dry heave.
  11. I can't paint without singalong music, which is how I know that it's much more embarrassing to be caught singing the Glee cover of Endless Love than any song on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode.

What is your #1 best memory – the one that will always make you smile?

I totally can't write about any of my favorite memories because my parents read this blog. But pretty high up there would be celebrating at the bar after my graduation from library school. All of my friends came up to watch and I felt really celebrated. It was a blast.

Literate for life, yo.

If you could do anything (career wise), and money was no object, what would that be?

An Alvin Ailey dancer or a gardener. Or a garden consultant. I just want to talk about plants all day with other people who like plants.

What is the most awesome place you’ve ever visited?

Probably Florence, Italy. It's a ridiculous city--the art, the architecture, the food, the beauty. How did one country get so lucky? Of course, they have Berlusconi. So.

What is your go-to comfort food?

Kraft mac and cheese or egg noodles with butter, parmesan, and lots of salt.

What is your guilty pleasure (that you’re willing to admit to in a public forum?)

The Bachelor. It's horrible. I have to watch it even though the current bachelor can't use adverbs (he wants to "kiss her so bad" or "take it serious") or open a bottle of champagne properly despite the fact that he OWNS A WINERY. You pull the bottle away from the cork, no bubbles get spilled, and you still get to aggressively tongue that "VIP cocktail waitress" with a made up name. JEEZ.

And he always wears a vest. How does that work?

Favorite way to relieve stress?

Working really hard in the garden or dance class, followed by a long shower and wine in my jammies.

Favorite book?

Despite my suspicion that John Steinbeck hated women, East of Eden. It's followed closely by Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner or Plainsong by Kent Haruf. I love the Western experience.

Favorite movie?

Moonstruck. I dare you to find a better scene than Nicolas Cage knocking the kitchen table over, picking Cher up, and yelling, "Son of a bitch!"

What are you good at that hardly ever gets recognized? (example, are you a masterful karaoke singer? do you play a mean harmonica? is your hidden talent hopscotch?)

Whistling. I can totally whistle.

What did your 10-year-old self want to be when you grew up? Do you still want that? (Are you that?)

I honestly can't remember. When I was very young I wanted to be a housekeeper (I would clean my friends' bedrooms growing up, if they'd let me) and then I think maybe I wanted to be a teacher? I definitely wanted to be an eater at The Sizzler's all-you-can-eat buffet. So in that sense, yes, I am that.

What's holding you back?

Debt and doubt. Double-dipt cones. Possibly dub-step. I have no idea what dub-step is and it makes me feel ancient.



Same questions. But no pressure to do this, if it's not your bag.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Removing doors and patching holes

We have two doorways that lead to the back hallway and bedrooms: one from the living room and one from the kitchen. Only one of them had a door actually hanging from the hinges. Even if we had doors on both, we'd never use them. We just don't have the same sense of propriety that they did in 1938 when they built my house. Realizing that we never close the door off the living room, I asked Greg if he'd care if I just got rid of it. He responded that he'd never been sure why I hadn't removed it already.

But that means we had this situation going on when I removed the hinges. Sorry about the bad photography--this hallway gets zero light.

Bad pictures, ahoy!

My friend Sarah told me about using those free paint stirrer sticks to patch these holes. They fit perfectly.

You just trim them to fit (we used craft scissors), attach them with finishing nails (drill a pilot hole or the wood will split), hit them with some wood putty, sand them, prime them, and paint them.

It's like there was never a door here!

Oh wait, except for on the other side. We haven't figured out the best way to patch this hole yet. It's too shallow to accommodate a paint stick. So we could chisel out a deeper hole or try to find a thinner piece of wood to patch it. We'll probably go with the latter.

In case anybody is worried, we are keeping the door we removed in storage. Future owners may want to be able to close off areas of the house and you don't give away original solid-wood doors.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Where I continue to pay for my mistakes

Remember how I poured boiling water down my bathroom sink and cracked it? And then how Home Depot sent me a replacement one for free because I wrote the CEO?

That replacement sink sat in our living room for a couple of months in its humongous box because I didn't want to install it. To put in the new sink I'd need to remove the old faucet from the old sink and then reinstall it. Installing faucets is the worst: you have to get three separate parts aligned while tightening bolts from two different sides and it just totally sucks. I did it myself when I first installed the sink and it's a miracle that it was even close to normal looking.

I started by unwrapping the box in the smallest area possible. Does anyone else do this? Inevitably I decide to build a huge Ikea desk in the hallway, only to discover that I've wedged myself into a corner and it requires an act of god to get it and me out.

Last time I put the sink together I used a jigsaw to inelegantly cut out an area for the P-trap.

When my parents remodeled their bathrooms the contractor used a hole saw to create a tidy hole for the pipes. This time we were going to do it right! So I went to Home Depot, bought a hole saw and the auger/pilot hole bit for it to attach to my drill.

Except I bought a bit that's too big for my drill. So we connected it to a socket wrench and did it by hand. That's how we roll.

And that mostly worked.

Then I started to dismantle the faucet from the old sink, only to find that the plastic snaps underneath that connect the water supply tubes to the faucets are designed to be installed once. I couldn't figure out a way to get them off without just breaking them. I'm sure they sell replacement kits online but they didn't have them at the Home Depot, which meant purchasing another faucet kit. I don't know about you but I can think of about a thousand things I'd rather spend my money on than a new faucet. Like curtains. Or scotch. Or new trees for the yard. Toilet paper. Anything, really.

So Greg and I installed them and got really, really pissy with each other. I hate that part of home improvement. But it got easier from there! We had lunch! I installed the plumbing! Oh my god it was leaking underneath! Then Greg and I bickered about what was leaking (I was right, just saying), reinstalled the plunger kit again (still leaking), then tried the old plunger kit (it leaked too), then discovered that the porcelain has a tiny chip where the sink terminates and meets the gasket in the drain stem.

Fuck. Me.

It was really discouraging. Finally, with a magical combination of plumbers putty (which I kept calling "plutters pumby" even though I had NOT been drinking), wrenching, and swear words, it stopped leaking. Usually when I finish a project like that I feel exuberant afterward. This time I just felt like weeping because I have no confidence that this will continue to be watertight.

The best part of this whole story? Our bathroom looks exactly the same as it did before I lost an entire Saturday to it. Okay, we no longer have a line of caulk through the middle of our sink basin, but other than that it's the same. Do they make fifty year sinks? Next time I'm buying one of those, having it professionally installed, then never touching it again.



Have you told someone you love recently not to pour boiling water down their bathroom sink? Maybe you should go do that right now.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Painting! So much painting!

Sometimes I like painting swatches better than I like painting entire rooms or walls. But then sometimes I paint too many swatches in random places and our house starts to look like an outward manifestation of my mind and it. is. not. pretty. So I have to repaint. All of this is to say, I painted the hallway!

The original yellow, which wasn't so buttery looking IRL.

Because I am a terrible girlfriend, I removed the one paint color that Greg really likes in the house: the yellow in the hallway. (I know you're thinking it looks pretty but it was a high-sheen paint that made me feel queasy in artificial light.) When asked why I would want to repaint it, I told him, "It doesn't fit with our color story."

"I don't even know what that means."
"Just trust me."
"I like the yellow."
"I hate it. It's too shiny, too matchy with the bathroom floor."
"How about orange?"
"With a pink, yellow, and purple bathroom adjacent? No way. Any other requests?"
"Go to hell."

See? Terrible girlfriend! Instead I chose the same off-white from the kitchen. It's clean, it's neutral, and we can easily paint over it later when we find a color we both like. It we're being honest, it barely looks different but it makes me happy. It helps that I painted with an eggshell finish.

I saw a very pale blue (Benjamin Moore Whirlpool) on Making It Lovely that I wanted to use in the alcove between the kitchen and the hallway. I'm still on the fence about it--I think it makes the floor tiles look yellow. The upshot was that we realized how much more light reflected in this space with a lighter paint on the wall. It could have a little to do with the fact that we finally washed our kitchen windows, but I think the paint is helping. Before it was a french blue color that was actually very pretty.


In certain lights this color reads white but in the bright morning sunlight that streams through the kitchen window it's a very pale blue. I picked it up from Kaleidoscope Paint and I think I paid more for my first car than I did for this paint. It's low VOC but, shitballs, was it ever expensive. I'm not sure it was worth it. The trim paint I used was Benjamin Moore Aura (Snowfall White with a satin finish) and I would sell my first born for this stuff. It's dreamy to paint with. I want to bathe in it (not really. but sorta.). I'll definitely use it again.

And then we're going to put in some baseboard. Really.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Our rain garden is like a giant slurpee right now.

My poor Cryptomeria japonica was bent over with snow, like someone was pulling its ponytail from behind. We're going to have to restake it and give it some TLC this spring. Stupid snow isn't even sticking around. Hrmph.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Little things: the kitchen window

I painted the kitchen well over two years ago but I never finished painting around the window. I wanted to do a thin stripe of orange or some other funky color . . . but I couldn't find the right shade. So I ignored it and we endured this view for two years.

It didn't help that a former owner had sloppily glopped paint on the outside of the windows, obscuring the view inside.

I finally just said, "fuck it," painted the inside white and the outside trim with the color from the basement and called it good. Greg took it to the next level by scraping the outside paint from the windows and Windexing the glass.

Oh my god, it's like looking outdoors in HD, you guys. The amount of extra light that comes in to the kitchen now is staggering. We were both conflicted about cleaning the windows because we don't want birds flying into them, but then we realized that we have a bird feeder that has yet to be visited by a single bird and that we're probably okay. I have tried so hard to be the crazy lady with all the bird feeders but the birds aren't playing along.

Next up: replacing that awful light fixture (the installers did something VERY weird with the wiring or this would be done already), escutcheons on the faucet, and repainting the kitchen door. And maybe washing the rest of our windows.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On Battlestar Galactica

A lot of people make fun of my Battlestar Galactica posters in the living room but I never listen to them. I hope those people are ready to eat crow. Frakking crow.

If you have the fancy cable look for our house this weekend on Portlandia. The full episode they shot in our house doesn't have an air date that I can find (the sketch they shot here was called "Adult Babysitter") but our exterior is used in this weekend's skit about a couple obsessively watching Battlestar Galactica.

The interior shots are of someone else's house. Can we all agree now that BSG is awesome and there's nothing not-awesome about having posters of the show in our living room?

So say we all,