welcome to spring

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our area got a whole lot of rain at the beginning of april.  which finally allowed our horrible looking yard to turn a rich shade of green.  and to grow at an alarming rate.  so the rain, plus a few other little distractions, made it hard for ross to get out and mow it for several weeks.

so then it looked like this:

but last weekend he finally got out to mow (and even got to “cheat” by borrowing our neighbor’s riding lawn mower – ours is a push mower, aka “would’ve taken 6 hours to mow”)

left: unmowed grass,  right: mowed grass

and voila, the after.  much better.

and now for a casual stroll around our yard.  i love when our yard finally starts to come back to life.

grape hyacinths.  we have them everywhere.

our one lone yellow tulip in the back mulch bed…

and the one lone daffodil right beside it.  must plant more bulbs back there this fall so these two don’t seem so random.  which right now, they are.

seedum, transplanted from the mother-in-law’s house a few years ago and growing really well.

more seedum.  this stuff is so pretty for not having any flowers.

gratuitous puppy pic!

and in the front yard:

on either side of our front porch we have tulips, more grape hyacinths, and creeping phlox – since they’re all in bloom at the same time it really jazzes up the front of the house without me having to do any work.  love me some perennials.

and tah-dahhhh!  garden 2k11 has begun!

ross had a work thing up in roanoke earlier this week and was kind enough to buy me some pepper seedlings at the roanoke farmer’s market.  these seedlings (red, yellow, and orange bell peppers) look soo much better than what i can usually get my pepper seedlings to look like and i’m A-OK with not growing them from seed this year.

all we did was transplant them from their plastic 4-pack into larger pots, where they’ll await their final transplant into the garden sometime in mid may.  can’t wait.

and finally, i started my tomato seeds – the only seeds i’ll be growing under lights this year.  everything else will get direct-seeded into the garden in may along with the peppers.

this year’s tomatoes:  amish paste (like a roma), black cherry (a purpleish cherry), carbon (purple beefsteak), german red strawberry (red beefsteak), and moneymaker (small, very round red tomato).

gratuitous baby pic!  our little future farmer (i told him we’d call him a farmer and not a gardener so he could sound more masculine – think that will convince him to help mom in the garden?)

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start your garden engines: 2k11

fact:  we’re having a garden this year.

fact:  it will be much smaller than last year’s, but it will exist.

fact:  i haven’t done the first thing to start it yet.

but i will very, very soon.  say, this weekend if all goes well.

the plan for the garden this year is pretty straightforward:

– i didn’t buy any new seeds.  all the seeds to be planted are from my already existing stash.  this is probably a good idea no matter how big of a garden i wanted, because i have a ton of leftover seeds and they don’t stay good forever.

– i’ve decided to buy pepper seedlings and not start them from seed this year.  they never get as big as they need to when i’ve started them myself, so i’m just going to make it easy on myself and buy seedlings at the farmer’s market or southern states

– i’m keeping the number of plants to a minimum.  i.e. last year i grew 12 different types of tomatoes – not 12 different plants – TYPES. and then around 2-3 plants of each type, sometimes more.  that’s a LOT.  scaling back big time this year to 4 types of tomatoes:  moneymaker, black cherry, carbon, and german red strawberry.  other plants include: green beans, squash, zucchini, basil, cilantro, lettuce, and spinach.  and only using half of my raised bed space to do it.

– tomatoes are the only thing i’m starting from seed this year.  everything else just gets direct-seeded once the weather is warmer.

so those are my major changes as i attempt to garden while coping with being a first time mom.  but maybe it’ll be the perfect outlet for me:  a relaxing way to be outside, have an excuse to not need to be in real clothes, and introduce the babe to dirt.

nursery novel: chapter 6

so i know i’ve been holding out on revealing the entire nursery.  and really, i don’t feel like it’s quite ready for its debut now either.  but we’ve finished up with most of the little things that were left to do, so i’m just going to show you where we are now.

but first let’s look  at how far we’ve come.  this is what the room looked like when we bought the house.

and here it is in the throes of prepubescent awkardness – like the decor version of headgear and a training bra

and finally how she looked right before we had to completely dismantle her

right after my parents left at the end of february, this is how the nursery looked.  very much like a nursery, but without a whole lot of pizazz.  as in, where’s all the orange i’d been talking about?  where was the fun artwork on the walls?  and for those with especially discerning eyes:  where the heck was the baby’s crib mattress?

but here’s what the nursery looks like now…

we swapped out the rug. the backstory is i had fallen in love with a bright orange rug way back in the summer, but it cost a million dollars and wasn’t even big enough for the room.  although i searched and searched, i could never find another orange rug that met my standards.  so when we found the neutral, natural fiber rug at ikea for a really great price, we just went with it.  but it obviously didn’t have any punch to it.  enter this guy – a little bit smaller than the ikea rug, but for a great price (made even greater by the parentals going in halfsies with us) and with free shipping – so it was a no brainer.  softer, brighter, and just more fun.  i think it totally makes the room.

our desk turned changing table.  love how this turned out, and it has tons of storage.

we hung stuff! we had always intended to decorate the walls, it was just a matter of getting the frames together and getting some fun artwork to put inside the frames.

it’s hard to see, but here’s the artwork hanging over the changing table. a swatch of fabric from our crib sheets, a letterpress card with a swatch of our crib skirt fabric as a backdrop, and then some homemade art i made in photoshop.  all with frames we already owned, so this whole wall was virtually free.  not bad, right?

our diaper station:  cloth dipes, cloth wipes, and some happy heinies spray.  diapering in general is going to be an adventure for ross and i, as neither of us have done a whole lot of diapering in our lives, so why not make it even more of an adventure by throwing the whole cloth element in?  at least they’re bright and colorful

the chair where i’ll probably be spending many many a long night:  nursing, rocking, rocking, nursing, trying not to fall asleep.  the pillow and the chair were gifts from momma tomko, the afghan handmade by a friend from my parents’ church, and the wicker ottoman a great place for extra storage and propping up the tired feet.

you can just make out the side table next to the chair – i’ve gotten as far as buying a lamp base, but still have to find (or make?) the perfect lamp shade.  thankfully, the room’s lights are on a dimmer, so i’ll be able to light the room enough to get around without killing myself in the middle of the night.

we went pretty simple with the artwork above the crib – mainly because of my fear that the more we hung, the more chances for something to fall on the baby.  this piece is actually a cloth napkin gifted to me by the mother-in-law and we just framed it in a frame we already had.  so again, free art.

– we ordered the crib mattress! yep, through some generous gift cards and baby donations we were able to pull the trigger on buying our splurgy (but definitely worth it) organic crib mattress.  which means we were also able to put on our bright orange striped crib sheet as well.

a nook for storage and some unfinished wall decor

the bumbo, books, and baby’s laundry hamper

i had to have some live greenery in the babe’s space – this moss came from ikea of all places and i love its frilly frizzy texture

so it’s still a work in progress, but it accomplished some of the biggest goals we had for the space:

– be gender neutral, but not your stereotypical pastel green and yellow

– stay away from a distinct “theme” like Disney, Noah’s ark, or whatever other nursery-in-a-bag themes there are out there

– be bright and fun but not cluttered and too childish

– and the bottom line…finished or not, it’ll be home to baby wilsie in a very short time – eek!!

it’s probably time

so with my due date being two weeks from today (it was very hard to type that just now.  i’m glad i’m sitting down), i thought it would be fun to take an “official” poll of what kind of bun i’m incubating in my oven.

is baby b-dubs a he or a she?  ross and i can’t even decide ourselves, so i’d love to hear what everyone else thinks!  vote in the poll on my sidebar

washing our hands of the bathroom

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why hello there!

even though our little bathroom upgrade was scheduled to be next on the list to discuss, i’ve been hearing some grumblings about the lack of a proper nursery reveal.  but there are just enough significant finishing touches left that i can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on that post quite yet.  but i hope to very soon!

so onto the loo:

this little makeover happened to our vanity, but i’ll back up for a quick sec to reveal the change that happened during the parents’ weekend o’rama.  remember this item from my dad’s to-do list?

well, bada bing:

bada boom.  much better, right?

continuing on…

this is really the issue at hand

phase I, if you recall,  of the bathroom makeover took place last spring and included a new paint job, installing an exhaust vent, replacing the ceiling fan for a vintagey light, and putting up some really cool retro tin ceiling tiles.

we had hoped to finish the rest of the project “a little later that summer” but we all know how that goes.

it’s hard to tell from the picture, but our sink looked like it belonged in a cheesy beach house somewhere:  the sink was scalloped like a shell and the built in soap dish (which is hidden under a more attractive soap dish) had its own special shell/scalloped design as well.  not attractive.   not our style.

enter the new sink.  a modern rectangular shape, classic white, undermount sink we scored off of overstock for a great price.

the plan was to take a leftover piece of the countertop from our desk project and use it for the bathroom sink vanity.  here’s ross cutting out the template for the sink.

and then it was out to the “workshop” to try out our first project not involving a borrowed power tool:  cutting out the sink hole with our brand new jig saw

finally it was done, and we were on to the job of staining/polying the wood and then mounting the sink underneath

yay, it fits!

now for the installation.

first, the old sink and counter had to come out.  we made the executive decision to keep the existing faucet because it matched all the other hardware in the room.

the caulk around the sink had been pretty disgusting for a very long time, but  knowing that we would eventually change out the sink, it seemed pointless to recaulk.

so when we finally got to remove this bad boy, i was very very happy.

with a quick tug, off comes the sink

yum, this looks delish

we had also decided not to reinstall a backsplash, so this area got mudded, sanded, and repainted to blend seamlessly in with the rest of the wall

it appears that i don’t have pictures of it, but sink installation went very well.

refitting the plumbing went “seemingly” well, and then sprung a leak and then caused ross to pitch a 5-alarm temper tantrum and then take everything apart and redo the whole thing, and finally…be functioning and leak free.

ross used his most excellent caulking skills to caulk around the sink once it was in place

and then the caulk got painted to blend into the wall as well.  it may be hard to see in this picture, but the back left corner of the vanity doesn’t sit flush with the wall, because, as example 2,984,829, our house is crooked!  so the extra wide band of caulk stood out, which was the biggest reason for painting it.

so one more time, the WAY before…

the middle before…

and the after!

we’re really happy we were able to slip this last project in before baby.  it’s been on the to-do list for a very long time, so aside from hanging a picture on the bare walls, changing out the blinds for something that picks up on the wood tones in the countertop, and on the long-term replacing the toilet, this room is finito.

pulling it all together

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the day had finally arrived to cross our fingers, toes, and eyes, and hope that all the many measurements were right and that the desk as we envisioned it would actually come together.

– we had purchased the ikea butcher block and managed to stuff it into the car to get it home

– ross had cut two identical halves and stained/polyed them

– ross and danny had made our shelving sketch into reality

– dad had primed and painted every nook and cranny of the shelves

– ross and i picked out drawer hardware, a decorative table leg to act as a support, and some metal brackets to join the two pieces together

now we just had to put it all together.

first, the room had to be almost completely cleared

and then it got a nice thorough scrubbing

just to keep it real:  the house pretty much looked like this the entire weekend, but we all dealt with it, knowing it would all come together in the end

finally, the shelving gets to move into its forever home.

enter the first two roadblocks:  addressing the floor vent on the right that got halfway obstructed by the shelf…

and then shimming up the unlevelness of the shelf created by our ever so quaint, yet ever so crooked house.  it was off by half an inch, yikes!

but finally, it was time to bring in the desk top

it fits!!

then dad and ross started strategizing about how to join the two slabs together and mount the leg support in the center

which turned into a lengthy process of drilling, screwing, brackets, sawdust, and a few broken screws

but finally!  she’s in and set up.

enter 3rd roadblock of the day:  there’s only one plug in the room.  thankfully, both of our surge protectors had cords long enough to plug into the wall and then be strategically placed in front of each of our workstations (ross is on the left and i’m on the right).  it was overwhelming the amount of cords we have!

and a few days later after we got some artwork up on the walls:

we’re so proud of this project – it was by no means an easy one, but after lots and lots of planning and lots and lots of help, we gotter done.  as you can see, it gives us plenty of “office” space while leaving a lot of the room open for our posh air mattress to be brought in and convert the whole room into a guest bedroom at a moment’s notice.  the next time we have guests over, i’ll try to document how everything gets set up and the few little hidden tweaks i’ve made to create a nice bedroomy feel.  at the mother’s insistence, we’re also considering a nice area rug to go into this space too, but that will come later.

thanks for following the evolution of our latest house project.  next up, the domino effect that started in our one full bathroom.  and then:  the nursery reveal!!

 

the rest of the office transformation story: 1, and 2

puttin the parents to work

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i mentioned that we recently had a long visit from my parents.  back in mid-february i blocked off a super long weekend, thursday-sunday, in order for my parents to come visit and accomplish a boatload of things around the house.  primarily projects in the nursery and the study, but to keep my dad sufficiently occupied (ross couldn’t take off work, boo) while mom and i did things like midwife’s appointments, decor shopping, and other extraneous things, i created him a fun little to-do list.

and of course, his enthusiastic response: “Thanks for all the descriptive visuals.  Mom and I decided to come visit anyway!  Ha!

surprisingly, he got most of this list accomplished and probably could have gotten all of it had i not forgotten about these little beauties that needed priming and painting.

but projects really started to come together during this weekend.  i’ll be sharing the “as-of-now” finished products of both the nursery and study very soon.  thanks again, mom and dad!

nursery novel: chapter 5

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i haven’t always been very domestic.  maybe it was all the learning to play softball at 6, running around the house collecting frogs, fort-building, and other tomboyish activities throughout my childhood that delayed that part of my genetic makeup, but literally, until my junior year in college i was pretty much an idiot in the kitchen, had never grown anything (at least anything of real importance) from seed, and could barely have turned on a sewing machine, much less created anything with one.

fast forward to today and i can definitely hold my own in the kitchen (no one’s signing me up for iron chef, but i do ok), have a garden that will never equal my grandfather’s but gets better every year, and…. still can’t for the life of me make anything worthwhile on the sewing machine.  oh well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

so that’s why you can be very sure that all the following projects were products of my brain, but definitely not my hands.  i capitalized on the long visit from my parents and a borrowed sewing machine, and my mom and i tackled two big sewing projects in the nursery.

Sewing Project #1:  nursery curtains

so remember this inspiration picture from earlier?

we used it as a guide to make the nursery curtains.  for $9.99 i bought a 9’x6′ canvas dropcloth from lowe’s, washed it, and cut it in half.

then mom and i played around with getting the perfect length.  not easy to do when your fabric hasn’t exactly been created with squareness in mind.  but after much trial and error, we got the length pinned right and mom did some hemming magic on the sewing machine.

i still have to change out those faux wood blinds for either bamboo blinds or a roman shade with a light blocker lining, but not bad for $10 in fabric, a clearance curtain rod, and two packs of curtain clips, right?

Sewing Project #2:  DIY crib skirt

i didn’t have a clear idea what kind of fabric i was going for when making the crib skirt, but i knew i’d use this tutorial to get the job done.  so mom and i headed out to joann fabrics and proceeded to look through every bolt of fabric in the store.  this one was too girly, that one too boring, and that one not the right shade. and on and on.  but finally!  a winner:

the same applely green as the walls, with a subtle polka dot.  but being behind the dark espresso slats of our crib plus being at floor level, it definitely didn’t bring an overwhelming amount of green to the room.  and it looks great with all my crib sheets.  score.

i won’t go through all the details of the creation of these guys since we basically just followed the tutorial (with the exception of using the sewing machine instead of iron on hem tape), but in no time at all we had all 3 panels hemmed and velcroed into place.

now i just can’t wait until we get our crib mattress so i can see how everything comes together!

the greatest thing since sliced bread

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we interrupt these house project posts to document a very phenomenal and unexpected occurrence:  i have managed to create a loaf of bread that actually resembles and tastes like a real loaf of bread.

that means, big enough to hold an entire slice of cheese, dense enough to not crumble like a dried out sandcastle, but chewy enough to not taste like cardboard.

i first started to make sandwich bread regularly when we were going through our January Grocery Challenge – bread from the grocery store is expensive, so making ours at home meant one less thing we had to worry about using our $10/week allowance on.

but let me tell you:  the bread did not look like this.  it still tasted ok and smelled great coming out of the oven, but in all honesty it was a crumbly mess.  i googled the problems i was having and came up with a few potential solutions

turns out i was short changing myself on a very critical step of the kneading process.  so the third time was a charm.

glory hallelujah.  it is a miracle.

i used the following recipe and having made it now three times, i’ve added in a few of my own tweaks and comments. bread does seem intimidating at first, but it’s really not!!!  make this bread and feel accomplished.

the recipe actually makes two loaves, so while one is in use in the pantry, the other waits its turn in the fridge.  almost to the day, we go through about a loaf a week, so every other saturday is baking day.  not too bad.

Honey Oatmeal Bread

adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

4-1/2 tsp active dry yeast

1/2 c honey

4 T butter

2-1/4 c water

1 T salt

3-1/2 c whole wheat white flour*

1/2 c wheat bran*

2-3/4 c bread flour*

1 c oats

1 egg

* i mix all of these together in one bowl and then add them in the increments called for in the recipe – much easier that way.  you could also switch up these flours however you’d like, as the original recipe called for 2-3/4 c all-purpose flour and 4 c whole wheat flour

Instructions:

In a small saucepan, heat butter and honey until melted.  Remove from heat and add water;  the mixture should be warm (110-120 degrees).  Stir in the yeast and let sit until bubbly, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine salt, yeast mixture, and 3 cups of flour mixture (a little at a time so it doesn’t go everywhere).  Mixer should be set to low.  Mix until dry ingredients and wet ingredients are just blended.

Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl.  Gradually beat in the egg and 1 cup of flour mixture.  Beat for another two minutes.

Slowly mix in oats and 2 cups of flour mixture over a period of a few minutes.

With the mixer on low to medium-low, knead the dough for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and has completely pulled away from the sides and bottom of the bowl (this was where i was messing up.  the original recipe doesn’t give a kneading time so i wasn’t letting the bread knead for nearly enough time.  set your timer.  when the motor on your mixer starts to smell a little, that’s probably the right amount of time!).  You’ll probably have to add a little more flour in along the way, but no more than 2/3 to 1 cup.

Remove from mixer, place in a large greased bowl and cover with a hand towel.  Let rise in a warm and nondrafty place (our house is notoriously cool and drafty, so sometimes i’ll start the oven on low and then turn it off and stick the dough in to rise.  “warm” means somewhere in the 75-80 degree ballpark) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down.  Flour a section of the counter, turn out the dough and cover with the bowl to rise just a little more:  15 minutes.  Divide in half and shape into two loaves.  Place in two greased loaf plans and let rise in a warm nondrafty place for another hour.

During this last rise time, preheat the oven to 350F and if you have a pizza or bread stone, preheat this in the oven for about 45 minutes on the middle rack.  After the last rise, place the two loaf pans directly onto the pizza stone and bake for 35 minutes or until golden on top and hollow-sounding when you flick the top.

Let cool completely before slicing.