Friday, December 20, 2013

Snug as a bug, slub as a mustard

Since spending an ungodly amount of money on having the house insulated, we've noticed a drop in our heating costs. The house is less drafty than before, which really helped when the temperature dropped to 6 degrees. The one exception has been the bedroom, where we have sliding glass doors with a broken thermal seal. The old curtains had thermal liners but they weren't big enough to cover the whole expanse of glass, and as a result this room was freezing.

I wanted new drapes anyway and I wanted to try something I'd seen on various blogs: curtains made from dropcloths. I bought the heavier weight canvas cloth in the largest size I could find.

I had to wash them three times and then air them out for about a month because they smelled awful. I wanted to do pinch pleats on my drapes but, due to a poorly situated seam in the dropcloth, I didn't have enough fabric. I had picked up a roll of 54" thermal blackout fabric this summer on clearance, so I used that as a guide for making sure the curtains were square. I have a terrible time making things square, which is why most of the baby blankets I've made have been trapezoids. But I think these turned out pretty well!

They are fully lined, so they're HEAVY. As you can see, "sewing a straight line" is not in my grab bag of skills.

Wonky seams aside, these things really work. Our bedroom is a black pit when they are closed and the room is about 15 degrees warmer. And since they cost me less than $100 to make, I bought a new duvet cover.

Ignore the uneven artwork, I was just experimenting.

I've had my heart set on mustard since before I painted the room. I saw an image on Pinterest of a dark moody room with a tufted mustard armchair. I loved the image so much I didn't even pin it and now I can't find it. It was that good.

Greg really doesn't like this color and I am deeply in love with it. I get it, it's a divisive color. I look at it and see curry and goldenrod and deliciousness. Greg looks at it and sees baby poop and old mustard. Tomato, tomahto.

We both agree that this duvet is incredibly soft. It's Coyuchi organic cotton and it's the first time I've opened a package of bedding and smelled . . . nothing. It's dreamy. I recommend it, if you're in the market for a new duvet (and they come in lots of colors if you hate the mustard).


The last step before I declare this room "done" is to replace the bedside lamps with better task lighting. Those lamps suck for reading or drawing or anything detailed. And since I do everything from bed (I'd cook dinner from there if it was possible) I need good light.

On the upside, Greg really like the colorful pillow I sewed! It has a zipper in it and it's pretty square and I'm pretty darn proud of it. So, are you with Greg or with me? Help me convince him it's good. How can you hate on a color called "slub mustard?"

Monday, December 16, 2013

Necessity is the mother of invention

I hosted a number of garden bloggers recently for a technical pow-wow-slash-holiday party and the tree topper we ordered from Etsy hadn't yet arrived.

Antique gold paper star from Kissa Design

Five minutes before people arrived I tied a spent Allium schubertii to the top branch.

I think I like it better. The gold star arrived a few days later and is hanging like mistletoe in our entryway.

I think stars atop trees are supposed to represent the star that the Wise Men followed to Bethlehem? A bunch of dudes following a funky looking onion across the countryside makes about as much sense as the rest of the Christmas mythology to me, so this suits us.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Water heater safety

I was recently watching Ask This Old House and they did a segment on water heater safety. Because water expands as it heats, your tank is essentially a pressured tank that can explode if there aren't safety measures in place. One of the safety measures on all tanks is the Temperature and Pressure (T&P) valve. If the tank gets above 210 degrees the T&P valve will release steam from the pipe that runs down the side of your water heater to lower the pressure. If you see water around the pipe or witness steam coming from the pipe, it's time to have your T&P valve replaced and your water heater serviced.

Where it becomes dangerous is when people see that the pipe is leaking and put a cap on it. This turns your water heater into a bomb. In the This Old House segment (skip to the 10:00 mark) they show a house where someone had capped their T&P valve and it blew up, landing three blocks away and demolishing their house. Mythbusters later proved this by capping a water heater T&P valve and letting it overheat:

So, PSA time: don't ever cap the pipe you see on the side of your water heater. If you're seeing water from the pipe, have your water heater serviced.

Last week I noticed water around the water heater and surmised that it came from the T&P valve on my heater. I knew that I could replace the valve myself but I was worried about WHY our water heater was getting so hot, so I called American Plumbing Services. Because I'm about a mile and half from them, he offered to charge me by the quarter hour, instead of their usual base rate of 1 hour. My total cost was $51, which was totally worth it. I had a Thanksgiving dinner to plan! I highly recommend APS, if you're in the Portland area. They were fantastic.

They replaced the valve and said to call them if it starts releasing water again, because that could mean our thermostat is going bad and letting the water get too hot. This is another reason not to crank your water heater beyond 120 degrees.

So go check your water heater, make sure the T&P valve isn't capped, and then maybe flush your water heater of sediment while you're there. It takes about two minutes and you'll extend the life of your appliance.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Entryway, take two

A year ago, right before Thanksgiving, I decided to paint our entryway. The color didn't turn out quite like it was supposed to but we lived with it. 

So shiny! So blue!

When I consulted with Anna to pick a paint color for the dining room she noticed that we have a lot of mid-range brown furniture and suggested French Press by Benjamin Moore for the entryway. 

The color has really grown on me but initially both Greg and I missed having blue in here. How silly is that? I really like mixing brown and black but Greg isn't a fan of the black doors with this color. 

I'm really, really, really over gallery walls (I blame Pinterest) but I still like them in very small spaces. I'd love to cover every inch of our bathroom in artwork . . . too bad humidity is so bad for it. I crammed all the spare artwork I could find to juj it up in here.

Greg was teasing that some day someone else will own this house and they'll see all the layers of paint and think they were applied over a 60 year period when in reality it was over three. For now I think this is staying. I finally admitted that our baseboards are so layered in paint that I can't freehand a straight line and used Frog Tape. Holy shit, that stuff actually works!

I'm thinking a more colorful rug will make me fall in love with this entryway. Any opinions?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Garden Island

The weather sucks in Portland right now. Let's visit somewhere warmer. To the Kauai vacations photos!

Photo by Greg
Photo by Greg

We had a wonderful time in Kauai, despite a couple of hiccups. It rained off and on the whole time, which made us panic that we were going to have another experience like we did in Oahu. About halfway through our trip we got word that one of Greg's team members, who was only 53, passed away. We had a pretty sad three days processing that and it was hard to feel okay enjoying a tropical vacation. But if there's a better place to be sad than the ocean, I'm not sure where it is.

It helps that we stayed in Koloa, where you can see sea turtles frequently. We got to swim five feet from them while we were snorkeling. Another time we were floating aimlessly on boogie boards and one popped up right next to me. They are gorgeous animals.

Not a sea turtle (red-crested cardinal)

We visited Hanalei town, which was a wonderful little town.

Waimea Canyon was foggy but it was still beautiful.

By the time we got to one of the best viewpoints, it was so foggy that you couldn't see the canyon at all. It happens to be one the wettest spots on earth, receiving an average of almost 374 inches of rain per year.

We visited blowholes. We were underwhelmed.

We drank wine and contemplated on the beach.

We visited Ke'e beach, which sits at the base of Bali Ha'i. The waves were huge that day, as we were getting a lot of rough surf from Typhoon Haiyan.

We visited Opaeka'a Falls and it was pouring so hard that we snapped this photo and ran back to the car. There were flash flood warnings that day.

We drank a lot of maitais.

We admired the plumeria and chenille plant that surrounded our condo.

I still think I like Maui a smidge more but Kauai gets two thumbs up. And I thought its sunsets were better than Maui's.

Stay warm, Portlanders! Maitais help.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A visit to the Limahuli Garden

Toward the end of our trip we headed to the north end of the island and took the highway as far as it goes, to one end of the Na Pali Coast. The Limahuli Valley was one of the first inhabited areas of the Hawaiian islands and it has been established as a National Tropical Botanical Garden (other gardens I've toured include McBryde and Kahanu).

"Set in a narrow valley framed by soaring cliffs, Limahuli Garden and Preserve evokes the history of Kaua`i, and of the Hawaiian Islands. Born of volcanoes and isolated by thousands of miles of ocean from the rest of the world, those few species of plants, animals, and insects that arrived on these remote and barren shores had millions of years to evolve into unique forms found nowhere else on Earth." [Source]

The terraces at Limahuli Garden were built 700 years ago and incorporate canals that carefully divert water from a stream to water the crops of taro grown here.

Hawaiian kava (Piper methysticum)
Song of India (Dracaena reflexa)
Indian mulberry (Morinda citrifolia)
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

This is my color! I love it!

Dwarf poinciana (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
Unlabeled, I think it's a Pandanus

Ornamental ti (Cordyline fructicosa)
Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa)
Cape plumbago (Plumbago auriculata)
Sweet sop, custard apple (Annona squamosa)
Laua'e (Microsorum grossum)

Makou, a celery relative that is endemic to the Hawaiian islands (Peucedanum sandwicense)

Soil not necessary
Hau (Rauvolfia sandwicensis)
Rasp fern (Sadleria cyatheoides)
I'i (Dryopteris fusco-atra)
Palapalai (Microlepia strigosa)
Hawane, endemic to Kauai (Pritchardia limahuliensis)
Akia (Wikstroemia uva-ursi)

Strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum), pretty but invasive

Pandanus tectorius (I think)
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Dwarf 'iliau (Wilkesia hobdyi)

The finest sign ever.
Brighamia insignis (endemic)

If you're ever on Kauai I really recommend this garden. It's beautiful and it's stuffed with incredibly rare plants that you won't see anywhere else in the world.