Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finishing touches

I've been trying to focus on finishing touches in the house, like rugs and curtains and lighting. Over on Little Green Notebook there was a post on eSale Rugs. I ended up falling down the rabbit hole, driving Greg crazy by incessantly asking him, "Do you like this one? What about this one? How about these?"

I thought this Draper Stripe rug by Dwell Studio would be perfect (fairly inexpensive and cute) but Greg hated it. eSale Rugs seemed like it was more his style.

They had a bunch of rugs at 50% off ("Two more days!" they said a month ago--it sounds like everything is always 50% off) and we found one that we could both agree on. It arrived and we discovered that it was about an inch wider than they claimed, but other than that we liked it okay.

We don't love it (it's too wide) but you can't really beat $80 for a thick wool rug. And now our hallway doesn't echo when I yell, "What do you think of this rug? What about this one?" Anybody have a great source for rugs? I can't convince Greg to buy that beautiful Schoolhouse Electric one yet.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The saddest new planting bed ever

I whined and complained that I wanted rain so the ground would soften. After about five days of heavy rain we got a sun break and I headed out to plant the future meadowscape:

Despite the rain, the ground was still hard as a rock in places. Despite my sincerest desire to not hurt the dogwood, I ran into a lot of roots and might have just said, "Eff it, let's hope it lives." I really hope it lives.

Keeping with the tradition of doing everything wrong, I also planted everything too closely together. I followed Carolyn Kolb's recommendations for planting grasses . . . sort of. She recommends cutting off the bottom 1/2" from nursery starts (my bread knife worked perfectly), roughing up the roots a bit, then giving the grasses a smidge of granular fertilizer and some compost to get them going.

Despite the fact that I've been sitting on these grasses for over a month, I had neither compost nor fertilizer on hand. Fish emulsion a few weeks after planting will have to do.

Everything looks so lame right now but I'm hopeful it will look great come spring. And next fall should be spectacular. I have a mix of switch grass (Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'), Pennisetum 'White Lancer' (Pennisetum macrourum), and little bluestem grasses (Schizachyrium scoparium 'Blue Heaven'), plus a fountain grass for good measure (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Redhead'). This is part of the master plan that Scott drew up. Hopefully I won't screw it up too much. I need to smother more lawn so I can fit in the rest of the grasses and plants I have planned.

The inspiration for this planting scheme was a photo by Pam Penick, located here. Large swaths of different colored grasses will be intermixed with some bright drought-tolerant perennials. My goal is to water this once a week or less, once established.

I'm trying to tell myself that this will grow and look okay but I always doubt my spacing. But hey, this looked lame once, too.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Oaklanders are coming!

As part of their Renovation Road Trip extravaganza, I got a visit from Chris and Meryl of Picardy Project. Meryl and I have known each other for about a year online but had never met in person. That always makes me nervous, so I obsessed over the state of the house in the days leading up to their visit. You'd think that would mean I would attempt to fix or hide my shoddier work but my brain went into stupid mode and said "YOU SHOULD BUY AN ENORMOUS PLANT."

So instead of buying renovation supplies to make their work go faster, I bought a new plant. Because you know Chris and Meryl would walk into the house and immediately judge that my air isn't pure enough. I found a bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) at Ikea, which is one of the top plants for removing toxins from your home.

Oh my god, what am I talking about? Sorry, I'm so sleepy today. Anyway, Meryl and Chris showed up and it was immediately like we'd known each other forever. I highly recommend letting them in, should they ever arrive on your doorstep.

I didn't have any major projects for them to help with; instead I had a long "homeowner fatigue" list of things I could probably do myself but I'm tired and a little worried I'll do it wrong, and also there's a new episode of Revenge on the Tivo and those cookies won't eat themselves in bed.

First up: that hideous light fixture over the kitchen sink. This is what it looked like right after I moved in.

I took it down halfway when I painted the kitchen and the wiring looked strange to me. Chris took down the fixture and confirmed that, nope, everything in there was pretty normal. I felt really silly. I'd spent all this time with an ugly light when my wiring was totally normal! He got the fixture, an old piece I bought on craigslist three and a half years ago, rewired and hung up in less than an hour.

I've been wanting to repaint the kitchen, so this should be just the motivation I need.

Next we moved to the living room, where I was pretty sure there was an electrical box in the center of the ceiling, hiding beneath a spot where the plaster looked a little different. Chris climbed up into the attic, confirmed that there was indeed a box there, then carefully excavated the box and revealed the wires.

You know how normally when you hire an electrician or a plumber they'll use a sledgehammer to open a tiny hole in the wall? And then they'll leave dirty fingerprints everywhere, necessitating touch-up painting and a ton of patchwork? Chris and Meryl don't do that. There are tarps and careful placement of hands and no additional patching or painting required.

You remember how my wiring in the kitchen was supposed to be weird but it was just fine? Well, ha ha Chris, I TOLD YOU MY WIRING WAS JACKED. This is where everything got a little frustrating. For Chris, that is. Electrical is his gig, so Meryl handed him tools and assisted with testing while I braided Meryl's hair and tried to convince her to move to Portland. I was useless. The rest of the day was mostly Chris wandering from ladder to outlet to attic to ladder muttering, "This just isn't right."

Greetings from the attic.

It turns out there is an extra wire in the ceiling box. A whole bunch of weird stuff runs to here and we can't tell if the light that used to be here ever had a switch hooked to it. Despite digging around in the insulation in the attic and chasing wires, we just couldn't figure it out.

We decided to leave it for a professional electrician, one who we can pay to swim around in the attic insulation. Chris recommended installing a new switch and running brand new wire to the box. I asked him if he'd cut the switch box hole for me, because I didn't want an electrician to do it. I don't want to patch and paint this room again.

So he made me a perfect one. Then he and Meryl spent the rest of the afternoon in a shame spiral, convinced that they had failed because they hadn't magically fixed the fact that my entire house is wired imperfectly. There was a rush to fix anything else I could throw at them.

Shaky bathroom vanity? It's properly anchored to the wall now.

Strike plate that would fall out of the door jamb because the screws were stripped and the holes were way too big?

The holes were filled with toothpicks (a This Old House trick), then four-inch screws were driven in. The strike plate doesn't fall out anymore and it will make it much more difficult for someone to kick in the door.

All the sticky parts were lubricated and weatherstripping was put up. It was like Christmas but without your drunk aunt saying something shitty to you.

Please come back, Meryl and Chris, because I've thought of 600 more things I need help with. I promise none of them are electrical.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Much better

Our dining room is kind of a mess. When Greg moved in we put his dresser in our bedroom and transferred mine to the dining room where it served as a buffet. It worked great for storing table linens and big bowls, but it couldn't store any of our alcohol out of site. 

We already have a lot of bottles of random stuff that we rarely use but might need for cocktails down the line. Then our friends moved to India and left their bar supplies with us, so we suddenly looked like full blown alcoholics. You can sort of see that in these two photos, which show the state of our dining room on a daily basis. Computers! Shoes! Cans of paint for no reason!

Boxes! More paint! Oh my god.

Enter the new bar storage and my attempt to style a shot.

I found this deco-styled buffet on craigslist for $100. I waited and watched and the price dropped to $80 and, miracle of miracles, Greg actually liked it. Guys, we never agree on furniture. Ever.

I want to replace the hardware, but otherwise it's exactly what we need. All of the extraneous bottles got tucked underneath and we can keep just a couple of bottles handy up top. I know, the carpet is fabulous. Someday that will go away.

Then my dresser could go where I really wanted it: in the living room. Previously we had a mid-century style corner table and a cheap pressboard TV stand.


Ignoring the fact that I'm still waiting on the delivery of the last rod for the left-hand window, this is making me like the curtains I made much more. They don't take center stage, they provide some contrast and texture, and they don't offend me. I also hung Enje blinds from Ikea, which give the room a wonderful gauzy light during the day.

I know the TV is awful. We only watch it if people come over for a movie night, or I'd huck it. I prefer to watch TV in bed, like a fat, lazy American.

One! million! pillows!

Now I just need a big-ass farmhouse style table for the dining room, some curtains (*sigh*), and to refinish the floors and maybe I'll be happy with that room. It'll still look like a tornado hit it, but it will be a stylish tornado.

Dream table, from Restoration Hardware

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to make your own French-Belgian linen drapes

Well, the curtains are done.


If you'd like to make your own version of CB2's French-Belgian linen panels you just have to follow a few easy steps.

First, fall in love with an expensive fabric. The hallmark of a good sewing project is thinking you're going to save money by making it yourself, then spending a TON of money and wondering if you should have hired child laborers instead (kids with ADD can sew a straighter seam than me). I chose a Tencel "linen-look" fabric that drapes beautifully and can be dyed.

Next, cut off eight foot lengths from your bolt of fabric. Don't vacuum or swiffer the floors first. You want the fabric to catch as much dust and hair as possible. Ideally you should be muttering, "Oh my god, what is wrong with me?" every couple of minutes.

Starch and iron all your edges. The rolled hem foot on the sewing machine is a bitch to use and if all the stars are not aligned correctly everything will go to hell and you'll be ripping out stitches for hours. A crisp fabric really helps in this case. Practice using your rolled hem foot until you feel confident using it. I bought a smaller piece of my fabric and sewed the edge, cut it off, then sewed it again and again and again, for what seemed like forever.

Start sewing on your real fabric. So far so good.

Oh my god, what is wrong with me? Son of a . . . bitch . . . shit. I hate the rolled hem foot.

Rip out the seams and redo it when this happens. Start to wonder if it wouldn't be faster to use a regular foot, even with all the pressing you'd need to do. Run your finished panels through the washing machine before hemming the bottom, just in case they shrink (pros do this before they ever start sewing but I have issues). Notice that a lot of your seams now look like hell when they seemed just fine pre-washing.

What is wrong with with my rolled hem foot? Blerg.

Spend an exorbitant amount of time at JC Penney (sorry, JCP) trying to special order the stupid corner bracket for your curtain rods. They have a new system and the clerk is 1000 years old (but nice! so nice!). Pull up the part on your phone and show her, as you realize that you could've just ordered online, in your pajamas no less, and saved everyone the headache.

Wait for freaking EVER for your hardware to arrive. Learn that JC Penney screwed up charging your gift card twice, so your order never shipped. Also, they processed the order under the name "Haether."

Hem your panels. You'd think by this point you could reasonably sew with your rolled hem foot but YOU ARE WRONG. Decide that the lack of overhead light in the living room is probably a good thing.

Hang up your panels with simple clip rings and realize that you can't really see the shitty hems, so maybe everything's gonna be okay. And you know what? They do vaguely resemble the inspiration panels.

Congrats! When they are closed they look like you spent a lot of time and money to hang white bedsheets.

Also, you screwed up the length.

So. Greg thinks they need some color and I'm worried about the sun bleaching any color we put in them, which is why I wanted white curtains in the first place. We're going to live with them for a while and I'm going to get more Ikea Enje blinds so I can get rid of the current situation:

This attractive option was installed by the house stager from my reveal. She was *so* worried I'd peek at the room that she posted signs everywhere and glued (OH, SO MUCH GLUE) those awful looking blind inserts into the window casing.

And then she emailed me, admonishing over and over not to peek. My friend told me I should peek, just to spite her, but I am a rule follower. I didn't peek. And I didn't remove those god-awful blinds until now.

I have a couple of options now. The first, to dye the curtains navy. We have a lot of blue in the room currently.

Second: dip dye the bottoms dark blue. The blue wouldn't bleach out because it would fall below the window. This is on-trend right now but it will eventually go out of style. Of course, if that happens I can just dye them navy at that point.

It might look something like this.

Or this.

So I guess the last step in making these panels is crippling self-doubt. Tada! Any opinions are greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The saddest marigolds in all the land

Some of the plants are having a harder time with the rain than others.

No Day of the Dead garlands for me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Garden bloggers' bloom day October 2012

The rains are finally here! Not everyone is happy about it but I'm selfish and sick of watering the garden. I'm also eager to finally get the ground softened so I can plant these guys:

I snapped most of these last week, right before the rain kicked in.

Salvia 'Black and Blue'
Mexican milkweed Asclepias curassavica

Greg's father gave us what he dubbed "screaming orange" crocosmia in July. They got in the ground late so they bloomed late . . . I wish I could do that every year. They are so hard to photograph but they are the most fantastic yellow-orange-red combo.

NOID Crocosmia

The yellow Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' and orange Zauschneria californica 'Wayne's Select' are still blooming like crazy.

Okay, this isn't a bloom so much as a fruit, but my creeping snowberry (Symphoricarpos mollis) is gorgeous right now.

Symphoricarpos mollis

Agastache 'Ava'

NOID canna
Happy bloom day, y'all! Head over to Carol's to see the rest of the show.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Damn it.

This is why we can't have nice things.

A cat or a raccoon or someone who really hates birds broke the $5 birdbath that I drove all the way to Cornelius in rush hour traffic to get. This is the third one I've lost. I don't know how I can find them any cheaper than that.

I give up.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's still growing.

Last week was windy. All that wind really fluffed up my castor bean plant, causing it to lose some height but gain some width. 

No joke, it's as wide as my Honda is long.

But I'm more excited because my Mahonia media 'Arthur Menzies' put on about 8 inches of growth overnight.

Grow, baby, grow! That castor bean is going to die soon and I'll have a big gaping hole that you need to fill.