Friday, May 30, 2014

God Made Dirt, So Dirt Don't Hurt...

...until the next day. And it's not the dirt that hurts, it's your muscles from moving a pile of dirt. Let me explain.

When we dug into the hill of our backyard to create our fire pit, we had to move the dirt somewhere. Unfortunately, our wheelbarrow had just popped a tired and finding a replacement ended up being harder than expected. Because we found an opening in the weather, though, we trudged on and decided (perhaps misguided) to just move the dirt into the flowerbed against the house that we wanted to completely reno anyway.

Obviously a couple of months ago.

Well, the time has come. That time was Memorial Day weekend. The place was our backyard. It was decided on a whim that we had had enough of our unflattering dirt pile and that it finally needed to be leveled and the other dirt pile...near our back fence.

So we started digging.

We made pretty good headway the first day, especially considering the fact that we started here.

And ended up stopping here.

It's amazing how moving a little dirt can really make such a huge difference. It's hard to believe it, but the entire brown area that you see here (anywhere with no grass) was the original size of the flowerbed. It was waaaay too deep and, much like the 11 other flowerbeds that used to be scattered about, took up more yard than necessary.

We are hoping to start a vegetable garden near the back fence either late this year or early next summer, so the dirt that we moved will be used soon enough. Because we are going to be tilling it eventually, though, we decided to start pulling out as many rocks as we could while shoveling. The pile started pretty small.

Yes, we were tossing the rocks into the pile. Yes, she refused to move. No, she never got hit. Ninja Puppy.

I would tell you the final count on the amount of rocks we ended up with when we had finished, but apparently counting isn't Sam's strong point. A visual will have to do.

That was at the end of the next day when our friend John came over to help. We managed to finish flattening the entire area and were left with the cleanest of clean slates...well...except for the tree, but he's staying.

To finish it off, we are going to cut the flowerbed in half so it's not so deep, allowing us to use grass seed on the half towards the yard and put in some partial-shade-lovin' plants in the bed itself. We started small and haven't done much else due to sore muscles. At least the hostas that Alex and Abby gave us seem to be doing well!

Of course, we are still hoping to finish the hammock stands, too. Right now, the yard is so lush, it's making them look bad.

But with the POWER OF PHOTOSHOP, I can show you what we are looking at for a finished product.

At the moment, we are just happy with a more inviting yard, some green grass, and a place for the pups to play. Hopefully, though, we will have a nice new flowerbed that matches the other side near the porch soon.

And looking over all of this is my birthday gift from Scott. He's a bird house!

We hope everyone had a happy Memorial Day (but also remembered the importance of those who fight for our freedom). May 25 was also my Grandma's birthday! Happy Birthday, Grandma!

We have been moving around some furniture in the house. I'll show you next week!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rug Life

Since I have been working on the bench for our entry way, our poor little feet-wiping rug has been holding our shoes.

It has always been one of the first things you see when you enter the house. Unfortunately, I think it's one of the first things most people overlook because of it's blah nature and neutral color against the wood floor. For $13 from Walmart, it had done it's job, but needed a face lift.

I had seen rug stenciling done before, but I didn't know how labor intensive it was. I was afraid that it would make the rug 'crunchy' or that it would bleed under my pattern and be a mess. I figured I would look into it and see if there were solutions for these issues, then give it a try. I really liked the way that the rug in our kitchen sitting area looked (that Beth made), so I was hoping for this to turn out half as well.

I first found out how to keep from getting that stiff, rough surface feel from the painted parts of the rug. Instead of using an acrylic, using a t-shirt or fabric paint will actually keep the pile soft. This is a low pile rug, so I figured my risk was minimal, but it was worth knowing. I grabbed two cans of aerosol t-shirt paint in apple green from Michaels. The aerosol is supposed to make it work like regular spray paint, so that is also going to help keep my pattern pretty crisp and make it super easy to apply.

Then I had to figure out a pattern. Since the Home Depot painters tape is always such a bust, I went for masking tape instead. The masking tape worked really well and stuck to the carpet evenly. The adhesive wasn't strong enough to pull out any rug fibers, so it made a good stenciling material.

I then just started laying down my pattern. I kind of made it up as I went along and ended up with something agreeable. I almost went a little more simple, but discovered that this project really does work with super fun grids and patterns.

The blue is HD painters tape. I ran out of my masking tape :(

I didn't measure or anything, so feel free to just go crazy. Notice that I also taped up the edges. I felt that a nice border of the original material would really help make it look cohesive.

I shook up my paint really well, removed the safety tab, then started spraying. I'm glad for the two bottles because the rug did soak in the paint. The first bottle sprayed with no issue whereas the second almost immediately stopped up and needed to be messed with, resulting in only a spurting spray. I'd say next time getting a larger bottle from a different company online might not be a bad idea (and slightly more cost effective with these $5 a bottle).

When I had emptied my spray cans (as much as possible), the rug looked like so.

The spray/dye is really watery, which I found to be a little problematic when pulling the tape initially. Instead, I dabbed the tape with a paper towel to get off the excess dye, keeping it from running off of the tape onto the initially covered areas. Here, the left half of the rug has been dabbed off and you can see how much of a difference it makes.

When pulling up the tape, I recommend gloves. My fingers will probably be green for a week because I just jumped right in. Carefully remove all of the tape and throw it away. This is the result: my tapeless rug.

Not bad for around $10 and less than an hours time! It is nice and bright, with so much character now! The excess dye that is on the floor around it can actually be cleaned up with a little water and paper towels without much effort. Let the whole rug dry for an hour before using. I actually let mine dry over night just in case.

It looks really good in the entry (though I'm still not sold on that bench color), and I love having it be one of the first things people see when they come inside.

One of the best parts is that it doesn't seem to have a smell or residual dye coming off of it onto anyone's feet (or paws), so there aren't green footprints everywhere. And just like all the tutorials said, it's still very soft.

Have a rug that needs a new life? Paint it!

(Today is my birthday! I turned 27. Don't worry, age shall never slow my love for home improvement!)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Color Conundrum

Every once in a while, a project fails. Not a full 'burn the house down' fail, but just little disappointments that make us have to take a step back and approach an issue from another angle. The most recent case of this is the bench that Dad built for our entry.

Don't misunderstand: it's not the bench that's the problem. It has been used a lot, but it has never been finished, whether it by painted, stained, or just covered in poly. I had been putting it off because I kept second, third, and fourth guessing myself on how exactly I wanted to paint or stain it. I finally decided on red and found some spray paint that I liked because I thought it was a darker red color.

I started by flipping the bench upside down so I could paint the bottom of the bench and any sides underneath that might be seen.

I'm glad I bought two cans because one can did two coats on the bottom before I had to flip it over and do the top.

Notice how intense the color is? That's actually not far off. At this point, I wasn't really sold. The color was coming out kind of a purple/pink red than a darker red. Instead of stopping, though, I decided to finish and see if that would change my mind.

I decided that maybe it was just that the garage is not a great backdrop. I figured I would try it in place and see if that made things better.

I still wasn't sold. I think that instead of the red, I needed to go bold, but not bright. It doesn't help that we like to keep the front door open a lot and the colors clash a bit.

I am going to try giving it a nice coat of a dark grey. I think that because it's against the white backdrop and we have the red front door, it'll look like it belongs in the space rather than fight the space. If I could go back, I would probably have stained it, but I know I can't get in the cracks between the slats to fully refinish the piece. Oh well, sometimes you really don't know how something's going to look until you just do it.

UPDATE: I painted it blue....and I'm still not sold. For the time being, I think I'm going to leave it for a day or two and see if I can be inspired before diving in again. Oh well...not every project can be an immediate win.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Raising the Bar

Sometimes things can be DIY'd and sometimes they can't. This unfortunately is the story of a time where we had to replace rather than refurbish.

We like our kitchen. We really love our cabinets and we end up spending every evening in there because with just Scott and I, it's easier to cozy up to our little bar area and watch Big Bang Theory on the TV above the fridge rather than sit at our giant dining table by ourselves (don't worry, the dining table is used often enough to make up for it). Because of this, we use our bar stools a lot. They aren't just there for decoration.

Unfortunately, they are used so often that they had started showing their age. We had tightened bolts and recovered the cushions, but they were still rickety and squeaky. They did not inspire confidence in even the tiniest of sitting persons. To make matters worse, they swayed a little when you sat on them, which led people to (not necessarily on purpose) start rocking themselves on them. This, in turn, would loosen the bolts more. The cycle continued.

They were also pretty ugly

The first thing that always crosses my mind is 'How can I make this better and spend the least amount of money' or 'Can I DIY a solution that will create a really unique result?'. In most cases, these questions are answered by me setting up camp in the garage with a drill, some wood, and a can of spray paint. In this instance, though, I knew that I didn't have the experience to build something that would last, it wouldn't be as cost effective in the long run to try to DIY something, and the metal on the existing stools was so warped that I couldn't fix what we had.

With a heavy heart, I closed my garage door and opened my laptop. I searched sites such as Overstock, Wayfair, Amazon, Target, Walmart,and even Meijer to try to find a cost effective solution for two bar stools. I actually ended up at Garden Ridge here in town. They had some that fulfilled our checklist of items:

+Modern to Mid-Century Styled
+Around $100 for two
+Durable, easy to clean, with good reviews
+Either 25 inches or height adjustable
+Ability to swivel
+Comfortable for us to eat dinner at almost every night

We ended up with these.

And they have been wonderful!

They match the kitchen like they were supposed to be there the whole time. They really look sleek with the chrome (which is also easy to wipe down). The white pleather seats are padded just enough to keep your behind from falling asleep, but is low profile and keeps the stools light weight. They were $60 each, which means that they exceeded our original budget for them by around $20, but the selection for anything below $100 for two was either uncomfortable or low quality. We couldn't be more pleased.

They really make the kitchen feel more adult and established, but maybe that's just me. Sometimes splurging on an item you are going to use often really helps anchor and entire room.

Don't worry if this doesn't fulfill your want for my normally destructive nature, though. If you check out this picture, you might see something missing.

Can you tell?

It was an exploratory mission! And it showed a lot of adhesive, some old laminate flooring, and a subfloor that is in really good shape. We aren't thinking of redoing the floor soon, but we needed to know what we were dealing with before we even considered purchasing anything. I just know I'm tired of a floor you can take a tile out of, expose a disgusting subfloor, and no one really notices unless they look closely.

For now, though, we're just happy with our new stools. Leela also seems pretty pleased.

I have two other projects that you should keep your eyes out for this weekend! One might be a flop, but the other is not! Happy Friday!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sank you, Doctor

If you're not picking up what I'm putting down:

One of the first things we did when we moved in was paint our door. We really like the color, but always felt that something was missing.

I try to make sure to put up wreaths, but I don't have anything for most seasons, so it stays bare. It's a nice color, but it's also the first thing people see when they enter my home. I felt that there was a missed opportunity to display something that really reflected our personalities.

About a year or two ago, I was walking through Anthropologie when I spotted the coolest (and most adorable) door knocker I had ever seen.

I am a big rabbit fan, so this little guy immediately spoke to me. I picked it up and checked the price. $40 seemed like a bit much and wasn't in our current budget for essentially a decoration, so I sadly put it down and left it behind.

In the past few months, I have been searching the interwebs for other cool options, wondering if I might find something else that would strike my fancy at a lower price point. This one was interesting and would be cool on any modern home.

On Pinterest I found a woodpecker, lobster, and clauddagh that caught my eye. The lobster especially, since it felt fun and connected me to some of my Florida roots.

None of these options compared to the little hare that had grabbed my attention in the first place, though. Our front door remained lonely.

Then the most amazing thing happened! I was visiting with my family recently and it happens to be around my birthday, so they gave me my gift early. It was my little hoppy friend! It might seem like an odd birthday gift, but I can't even explain how elated I was about getting a door knocker for my birthday.

The details on him are what really bring the look home. I love the choppy cuts in to the metal for the fur.  The face is just as adorable. Simple and stylized, but with great lines and....just look at that face!

He kind of looks like he's a riding skeleton in the Olympics. Too bad he got the bronze! (Ba dum, bing!)

It didn't come with hardware, so I had to go to Home Depot and grab some brass screws to attach him to the door. I then just mounted him at the top where someone had previously taken down a door knocker. I leveled the bottom hole, then drilled the second screw. Installation was a breeze.


I wish I entered my house more from the front door now, just so I could see him more often. He really steals your heart as you enter the house. Our entry that looked like this.

Please ignore lack of gardening
Now is just a little more inviting like this.

Notice the duck on the roof. I told you the door knocker was inviting!

Our only worry was the storm door. We weren't sure he would fit under the glass. Thankfully, there is more room between the doors than we remembered.

Though he's a little hard to see in the photos due to the reflection, it's not as bad in real life.

To add to our little welcome area, we want to replace our dying doorbell at some point, as well as adding some stylish sconce lights around the door to more evenly light the space. So far we have our eye on these.

So what do you think? Is having a fun little door knocker worth it or do you like a basic one just as much for your home? Are there other ways that you can make your entry more inviting? Let us know in the comments!