Monday, October 31, 2011

Laundry room progress



The laundry room is the smallest room in the house so you'd think it would be the easiest to paint, but that wasn't the case. It was pretty slow going because we had to disconnect the utility sink and pull the washer and dryer away from the wall. It was also pretty difficult to paint the wall behind the hot water heater, but I managed to do it with a long-handled paint brush. The color is called Fennel by Glidden, and is actually one shade lighter than the half-bath in our old house. Didn't I tell you there'd be no paint color surprises?

I realize this color may look similar to the bright green before of our guest bath, but it's a much more subtle shade of green, more of a light sage.

I used some of my great grandmother's china to hold items above the sink, and have my grandmother's sewing scissors handy to cut off tags or loose threads before throwing things in the wash.

One of my favorite additions to the room is these storage bins. We got the idea from Young House Love, who in turn got the idea from one of their readers. Thank goodness for blog inspiration, because these were the perfect solution! We use the top bin to hold wet laundry (mostly kitchen washcloths and dishtowels) and the bottom bin to hold our shoes. The bins are not made out of the most sturdy plastic, so the "shelf" on the top can't really be used to hold anything heavy (it bows a little in the middle). Other than that we're pleased with them.

I still need to make a new cover for my ironing board and figure out how to hang it (it's an old wooden board that belonged to my grandmother, and standard ironing board brackets won't hold it). We'd also like to build something or re-purpose a piece of furniture to conceal the litter box and create a drop spot for purses and bags.

Friday, October 28, 2011


We've been in our new house for about four months now and decided it was time to have a housewarming party. I admit our house is nowhere near complete, but if we waited for everything to be perfect we would never have a party. We kept it simple with light finger foods and sandwiches.

The new counters in action!

I managed to dig out some fall decor from one of our many yet-to-be-unpacked boxes, and couldn't resist picking up this skeleton garland I found at the dollar store.

I added a simple handmade touch to the decor by cutting leaves out of an old paperback book. Yes I cut up a book. Books are very special to me and I would usually cringe at this idea. I can't even stand when people dog-ear pages. Therefore I made sure to choose a book for which I would feel no remorse destroying, and bought a romance novel at Goodwill....let's just hope no one reads those leaves too closely. I'm sure the word "member" makes an appearance.

I printed out images of three leaves onto cardstock, then cut them out and used them as my template. This is pretty quick to do if you cut out more than one page at a time. I could fit about two leaves per page, and kept some full pages with a single cut-out in the middle. I got the idea from the fall Pottery Barn catalog.


Before the party, I asked Zach to core and cut some granny smith apples for the pumpkin dip I was making. I went back to our bedroom to get dressed and when I came back out to the kitchen I found this:

Yep, power tools were involved. Zach had attached the apple corer to the drill! His response to my laughter, "What? It goes waaayyyy faster this way."

The weather was clear and sunny, but not too hot; we were actually able to spend some time outside on the patio.

My Sicilian uncle, giving the camera the stink eye

Thanks to all our friends, family, and neighbors who came to celebrate with us!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Subway Tile Back Splash

The kitchen back splash is done! I'm pretty excited to share this project because A) I love how it turned out and B) I did all the work myself! Zach gave me a ton of advice along the way, but I cut, mortared, and grouted each and every tile with my own two hands!

Here's a reminder of what it looked like before:

I've always been a fan of subway tile. It's simple yet classic, and at 23 cents a tile, just right for our budget. We priced subway tile online and called a few local stores before going with Lowe's, who offered the best price. Along with the standard 6" x 3" white tile, we picked up some bullnose trim pieces for the edges of the back splash. The tiles were pre-spaced, which means they had little ridges on each edge, eliminating the need for plastic spacers.

I used this guy to cut the tile:

It's a Skil wet saw, and I highly recommend it. Although it does get your crotch a little wet. Really. Water sprays straight at you when the saw is on. If you buy pre-spaced tile, keep in mind that those little ridges on the sides make the tile a bit harder to cut straight. This is because it has the tendency to rock back and forth against the fence of the saw when you are pushing it through. (I noticed this most when I cut a tile in half and was left with an edge that only had one ridge.)

This saw can cut beveled and mitered edges...

Both extremely useful when tiling a niche.

We took advantage of the empty wall space next to the stove to create a spot for olive oil, salt and pepper, things we use often when cooking. It frees up counter space while still keeping them within easy reach of the stove.

Zach used a reciprocating saw to cut a hole in the wall then used 2 x 4s to frame it out.

I then tiled around it, using the bullnose tile for the inner edges and beveling the tiles in each corner at a 45 degree angle. This took forever; I made a few mistakes along the way and had to pop off some tiles and re-cut them. But I eventually succeeded, raising both my mortar-crusted fists in the air and declaring victory.

After the mortar dried for 24 hours, it was time to grout. Because the space between tiles was small, we used unsanded grout. We considered using white grout to match the tiles but in the end went with a light gray color (it's actually called "silver"). We like how the gray makes the tiles stand out (Note: it also makes imperfections stand out, so you have to make pretty even cuts).

I just followed the directions on the bag of grout. (Which were unhelpfully all in icon form, kind of like an IKEA manual.) I did learn one thing; a little grout goes a long way! If you leave a lot of excess grout on your tile (even when you think you scraped enough off), you will be doing a lot of scrubbing. You can always go back later and touch up any gaps in the grout line.

I finished up the back splash by sealing the grout. Since the tiles are glazed and don't require sealing, I went with a no VOC brush-on sealer (rather than one that sprays on and seals both the tile and grout). I also caulked the seam between the back splash and counter with white silicone caulk.

Obviously we still need to work on the cabinet fronts. In the meantime I'll just view it as extra motivation to keep our cabinets organized. Not that I have a problem with being unorganized. Except, as Zach will tell you, when it comes to where I put my glasses.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011


Our master bedroom is now a little more cozy thanks to our recently purchased area rug. We knew we wanted a rug made from natural fibers, which are generally more eco-friendly and durable than synthetic rugs. We have a wool area rug in the living room, and have been happy with it, but wool can be pricey and was not in the budget for the master bedroom. We'd heard good things about jute rugs, which are both natural and affordable, but were worried that a jute rug would not be soft enough.  So we searched for alternatives and found this Zig Zag Chenille Hemp rug.

Chenille and hemp seems like an unlikely combination, but was just what we were looking for. The hemp gives the rug durability and the cotton chenille makes it nice and soft. It's a neutral color but has a great zig-zag/chevron pattern that adds a little interest. We went with an 8 x 11 rug, which sticks out a few feet on each side of the bed.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Parchment Packaging for Holiday Treats

Holiday season has arrived and you may be looking for a creative way to package all those holiday treats. Ziploc bags and plastic wrap certainly have their place, but with a little bit of effort you can add a little class to your holiday food packaging.  Here's what you'll need:

parchment paper
paper cutter
hole punch
twine or ribbon
sewing machine

The size of your parchment envelopes will obviously depend on what you're packaging. First, cut a rectangular piece of parchment paper. I used a paper cutter to make sure the edges were nice and straight. Fold up one of the short ends (A) of your rectangle, but do not fold completely in half. Leave a few inches of extra paper at the top.

The next step is to sew your envelope closed. You can sew the paper just like you would fabric. Just sew a straight stitch up both sides of the envelope and along the top edge of unfolded paper (B). Fold down the top edge (B) to create the top flap of the envelope.

Use a hole punch to punch four holes in your envelope; two near edge A, and two near edge B. Make sure the two sets of holes line up.

Fill with your favorite treat and tie closed with twine. My envelopes were for Halloween so I used orange thread and black and white twine.

I filled them with rocky road fudge...mmm

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Science geek, even in his sleep

A few nights ago, I was woken up in the middle of the night by a beeping noise outside our bedroom. Zach had been studying hard all day and didn't wake up, so I nudged him.

Me: "Did you hear that beeping noise? What was it? Can you get up and check?"
Zach: Incoherent mumbling
Me: "That beeping noise...what is it?"
Zach: "It's an atom forming."

He then went on to describe the atom to me. I thought he was joking because he was awake enough to get up and check on the noise (which turned out to be the low-battery alarm for our carbon monoxide alarm).

We both fell asleep and the next day he asked "Did I say something about an atom last night?"  I bust out laughing. Only Zach would dream about atoms forming.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ninja Raccoon

For a sweet boy who just turned one year old...