Posts Tagged ‘home projects’

New landscaping beds come with lessons to be learned. Or relearned…because some things I should already know.

Here’s where we started back in mid-March:


Here we were after adding edging in April:

And here we are in late May:

So what lessons can we learn from all this?

  1. Delayed gratification.  Landscaping is not completed in 30 minutes, no matter what impression you may have gathered from watching a gardening show.  In fact, most landscaping projects won’t be completed in a day or even in a long weekend of planting. Learn to accept that landscaping projects take time – weeks, months, even years – to reach their full potential.  While these areas are starting to settle in and look like they belong, it will be several more seasons before the plants grow to fill in their space.
  2. Amend, amend, amend. Can I get an amen?  Our soil is clay, which is just as difficult as too-sandy soil. If you were blessed with naturally loamy soil, be grateful and don’t gloat.  Regardless of your soil type, it needs a diet of healthy food and fiber to stay in peak condition.  Yes, fiber:  mulch, manure, compost, pine fines, etc..  They nourish your soil, but they are organic and will decay over time.  Humans and animals don’t eat just once and then never again, do we? Your soil needs to eat, too.  Feed your soil and your soil will feed your plants.
  3. In matters of transplants, size matters.  Sometimes smaller IS better.  Smaller shrubs are younger and therefore cheaper. But beyond the dollars and cents, smaller perennials are generally more adaptable to new surroundings. With a little encouragement, they will settle in and grow better than older plants who may resent being moved.  Spend the money you saved on amendments. See point #2 – you can never have too much soil amendment material.
  4. They look out of scale! Yes, those smaller shrubs may look out of scale when you plant them. But unlike buying a too-small bedside table or too-tight shirt (both of which will always look and/or feel wrong), the plants will eventually fit the space.  Refer back to point #1.  If you need instant gratification, buy new cushions for your outdoor chairs.
  5. Plants need personal space. It’s tempting to cram plants in right to compensate for their current size, but consider what they will need when they reach maturity.  The ‘Sky Pencil’ hollies will only get 18-24 inches in diameter, so we placed about a foot from the wall.  The ‘Compacta’ hollies and azaleas will mound to about 3-4 feet in diameter, so we left ample room around them to accommodate their eventual size.
  6. Use fill-ins as needed.  To keep the planting scheme from looking sparse, I tucked hostas in between the shrubs.  They are shade-lovers and quick to forgive if I want or need to relocate them in a few years.  I’ll also add caladiums and impatiens for summer color, then plant tulips in the fall for spring color. Over time, the shrubs should fill in and each season I can evaluate how much – if any annual “filler” plants are needed and relocate any hostas that are no longer needed.

Happy landscaping!

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I’ve had a vague hankering for a plate rack filled with creamy white platters for a while. But it wasn’t until I stumbled over this photo of a simple plate rack that it finally crystallized into a full-blown D-I-M project (you know: “do-it-myself”) – I knew I could accomplish this pretty handily.  Well, maybe with a little help from Mr. Official…

Google image = inspiration

I roughed out a sketch and drew up a materials list for a rack 36 inches wide and 48 inches tall (that allows 16 inches for each shelf – something to keep in mind when you’re considering loading it up with platters, most of which are 12 inches and up these days), then gathered the materials. Here’s my shopping list, in case you’re suddenly struck by the same longing:

Materials for 36×48 plate rack:
3 each 1x4x6 pine boards for the shelves, cut in half
1 each 1x4x8 pine board for the sides, cut in half
1 each 1x6x6 pine board for the top and bottom, cut in half
3 each 3-foot dowels (I used a squared-off screening or lattice wood instead)
36 wood screws (I used #6 x 1 1/4-inch)
1 small can of stain (I chose dark walnut)
1 can of water-based polyurethane (alternatively, you could paint it)
1 pair of heavy-duty picture hangers (capable of holding at least 50 pounds)

So I had the supplies, the creative spark, and the mental image of the finished piece. But right about then, the annual holiday tsunami hit, and my project stayed high and dry in the garage, until just a few days ago.

The tools needed are your standard fare: router, a saw to cut the boards in half, and a drill to make pilot holes and screw in the screws. Once I (ahem, we) got started, it really was a very easy project.

1. Route grooves down the middle of one of the 1x4x6 boards and the same distance from one edge of the 1x6x6.
2. Cut all the boards in half.
3. Make sure everything was either 3 feet or 4 feet long.
4. Lay it out and assemble.
5. Sand, stain, seal.
6. Wait for everything to dry.  Tap, tap, tap.
6. Add hangers and hang.
7. Acquire platters to fill it up; the most time-consuming and expensive part!

The total investment was about $50 in cash and around 4 or 5 hours of actual effort.  There was most definitely a good cost-benefit ratio. Here’s the rack before staining, and the finished rack, hung fairly level, all by myself (to my husband’s barely concealed astonishment.)

Here’s the dining room, ready for some Sunday dinners, all decked out in winter white and silver:

And the Edwardian hutch. The Christmas village is gone, but in its place is a mix of traditional and contemporary white pieces including an elephant for luck.

Happy project-ing!

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Yesterday, a day of rest?  Well, yes and no.

No lunch out and no shopping.  So I gave our local merchants a break.

But rest for our family?  Hardly.

It all started Friday night.  Mr. Official and Swimmer Girl were each at different football games. Big dog and I were home alone and a little bored.  So I washed, dried and spraypainted eight old chargers, taking them from 1990s gold leaf:

to a “hammererd” pewter finish:

That was quick and easy – a can of Krylon Fusion spray paint was all it took.

Then on Saturday, I stenciled a monogram on them – a set of the entire alphabet in 3-inch stencils was available at Hobby Lobby for about $5, which was way cheaper and – just as importantly – faster than ordering a larger letters.   In retrospect, I maybe coulda/shoulda/woulda done a more elaborate background design, but I think I like the elegant simplicity of just the single monogram.  Plus there’s a little more saving grace if I’m not precisely centered, although I did make a concerted stab at measuring and marking the center of each plate:

 After mentally weighing the paint options, I went with a blue that is somewhere between wedgewood blue and turquoise, playing off the colors in the dining room and my china. As expected, the stencil’s edges were a little rough, so after lunch yesterday, I carefully re-outlined them in the same color.  

The only thing left to do now is spray them with sealer so I can rinse or handwash them as needed.  Unless I decide to crackle them or outline them, or something else.

These were so easy to do, I don’t know why I didn’t think to do this a long time ago.   And if you don’t yet have chargers, check places like Old Time Pottery, Hobby Lobby and Target. They have them in old and silver, plus glossy white, black and lacquered reds – whatever fits your style.  And as you can see, a few squirts of acrylic paint is all it takes to personalize them.

As soon as the monogram touchups were done, swimmer girl and I did a little domestic work (she, vacuuming; I, laundry folding), then dashed out the door to a baby shower for a dear friend.   That’s what happens when you overschedule yourself on your day of rest.  Rest does not enter the picture.

We wrapped up the day with an early Thanksgiving dinner with our church family.  All in all, it was a very full, good good day of rest, but definitely not restful.

Happy Monday,

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Granted, the math doesn’t work, but let’s hope my plans do.

As of today, there are eight precious weekends before Labor Day weekend. (And I am determined that Labor Day weekend is not going to be a weekend of labor for us this year.)

So what loose ends do I really really want to wrap up by the time the Vols kick off their opening game in 50 days?

  • Finish refinishing a bedroom dresser. After languishing for a year, this has drifted to the top of my priority list only because I am tired of feeling guilty every time I pass it in the garage.
    • Put the finishing touches on our new master bathroom: paint walls, hang a shelf, re-do the cabinet storage and hang a chandelier. Easy peasy, right?  Don’t answer that.
      • Recover the dining room seat cushions. By hook or by crook, they’re gonna get done this summer. I have the new foam cushions, I just need fabric and some quality time with the staple gun.
        • Power wash and paint the porch rails and front door. This is one of those jobs I really have to psych myself up for. But the good thing is, the porch stays shady all day long.
          • Find the perfect couch for Mr. Official’s man cave.  It will make it the bees’ knees up there.  And once it’s installed upstairs, the final loose end for the summer is….
            • Paint the stairwell areas and hang pictures. I promised myself these areas should wait until we were moved in. Well, we’re moved in and the days are slipping past.

              So there you have it:  my top weekend projects to finish before September 2, not counting the garage cleanout at the old place.  Most of these will take about a weekend to do, if I use my time wisely (and maybe get a little help. Hint, hint.)

              I just noticed that everything except #3 and #5 involves paint or stain. Guess I better stock up on brushes and rollers and paint thinner.  Joy.

              But I’m not going to think about any of these until we wrap up the next housewarming party, which happens tomorrow night.  It’s gonna be great to see some old friends of ours and get acquainted with some other Friday night football widows as the men in striped shirts swap gridiron war stories.

              Happy project-ing!

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              After my success at hanging a blind (it’s the little things that mean a lot, isn’t it?) I decided I would shoot for tying up at least a couple if not several loose ends every week – ideally one a day, but some of these “ends” are going to take longer than a day and some weeks have other stuff crowding the schedule. (I’m pretty sure there are enough undone and almost-done things around here to keep me busy every day all summer long.)

              During the past week, I managed to finish the following tasks:

              .  I scraped the ceiling in the old house’s laundry room. It was only ten years overdue. Okay, we’ll cut me some slack and call it four years overdue since that’s when I scraped the bonus room and it was the next-to-last room to be scraped, and promised I’d move onto the laundry room next.

              It took me under two hours, start to finish. Honestly, in the last four years, I couldn’t spare two hours to scrape the blasted ceiling and a couple more hours to paint it??? I have made myself a promise that I will focus on the success and I won’t beat myself up over these loose ends, but that was definitely a hall-of-shame project. It’s done, and the new owners – whoever they might be – can enjoy the house popcorn-free.

              Bonus:  Also on Saturday I rearranged an alcove in the new garage so I can use my wire shelves from the old house and store my canning supplies and other stuff that’s coming out of the attic.  As I swept and tidied, guess what I found behind the water heater? The missing wand to the wood blind we just hung. So now to replace the replacement with the original, and take the other wand back to the old house.  Confused yet? Me, too.

              Monday.  I can’t take full credit for this one, but I did help. A little.  My brave menfolk – all three of them – took turns climbing into the fiery furnace (aka attic) and handing down boxes and tubs.  No one could stay up there long – it was simply too hot.  Sidenote:  Two attics are NOT double the fun.  The Christmas and other seasonal stuff is now tucked away in the new walk-in attic (God bless the genius architect who first designed a house with an attic you can WALK into instead of climb into.)  The canning jars are now on their new shelves in the garage, along with the ice cream freezer and even our turkey fryer/low country boiling pot.  (Forgot we even had it!)

              Unfortunately, the rest of the stuff is now one ginormous loose end.  The old house’s garage looks like a scene from “The Hoarders” with six piles o’ stuff:  one for each member of our family, plus one designated for a garage sale.  The next step in the process is for the individual piles to begin shrinking as everyone culls through their stuff and moves things to the garage sale pile, or to the trash.  But when theory meets reality, they are often complete strangers, unknown to each other.  Sigh. I’m sure the piles will eventually go away.

              Tuesday.  I patched all the nail holes and did a final clean sweep of the old house before the painters arrived.  I can finally say the house is really and truly ready to be painted.

              The rest of the week was spent on getting several work-related tasks and volunteer loose ends pushed to the finish line, in between playing swim taxi to and from practice.  I’m hoping next week I’ll have a little more time to tie up a few more loose ends, because I do believe I am on a roll.

              Happy end-tying!

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              Around here, summer is generally bookended in by Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.  If we’re lucky, July 4th lands on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday and creates a tri-fected mid-summer long weekend. (The odds are in our favor on that one.)

              But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As of this weekend, we can now officially herald the beginning of true summer weather here in middle Tennessee, and most of the U.S. (But not Chicago and the entire state of Colorado – I’ve seen enough cold temps and even snow in late May in those areas to exclude them from that sweeping generalization.)

              And for places farther south of here, summer begins much earlier as this popular list declares:

              Mr. Official and I typically spend the summer holiday weekends grinding away on one or more projects that we are eager to tackle.  This year, we have a plethora of projects to choose from:  fences, moving stuff, and setting up for our all-summer VBS (aka SBV) at church. Or all of the above.

              Amid the hustle and bustle, I hope we all take some time to pause and remember and honor those for whom this weekend is specifically dedicated.  Our country is so richly blessed with freedoms and liberties that other nations don’t dare dream of having.  I fear familiarity breeds contempt and our personal freedoms are being traded for the illusion of security, which – as Ben Franklin put it, if you sacrifice one for the other, you deserve neither.  (Smart man, that Mr. Franklin.  We could use a few more like him these days.)

              I pray for all our troops actively serving in foreign lands.  A few of you I know, most of you I do not.  But I do deeply appreciate the job you do and the dangers you face with courage and conviction.  May God bless you and your families, and keep you safe while you keep us safe.

              Now, if I can just make sure I don’t blink and miss summer as it revs up into high gear and speeds along toward Labor Day weekend, pausing just long enough to celebrate the 4th of July in between.

              Happy weekend and happy summer!

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              I have issues with ends and endings.  Run-on sentences that don’t end?  Guilty.  Crying at happy endings? Again, affirmative.  Split ends? I don’t want to talk about it, but thanks for noticing.

              But mainly, loose ends.  You know, those projects that get *almost* done?  Everything except one, (usually tiny), final step.  I tell myself I’ll get around to that last bit…tomorrow.  Or eventually.  But I don’t. Which is how we wound up living with unfinished trim in our bonus room for two (or was it three?) years.  It’s why I am hauling several tubs of half-finished (or never-even-started!) craft projects out of the attic of the old house, and trying to decide what to take and what to leave.  (Well, donate or throw away.  I wouldn’t actually LEAVE them in the old house.)  It’s why I’m STILL hauling stuff out of the old house, even though we officially moved three weeks ago.

              New house, fresh start, new resolve.  It’s time to start finishing things before I start something else.  To that end, I am dedicating this summer to tying up all the loose ends of moving and settling in.  By the time Labor Day (and football season) rolls around, I hope I can pronounce them all finished, as far as the eye can see.  So every week this summer, I’ll update you with my efforts…successful or not.

              I figure it’s good to start with baby steps – something fast, easy, and almost fun.  Like hanging a wood blind.

              When we were preparing to move into this house, all window blinds were hung, except one.  (Apparently the former owners were had “loose end” issues, too.)  “How hard can this be?” I thought as I snagged some brackets on a trip to Lowe’s.  Harder than I thought – the blind is bigger than the brackets I bought.

              Undaunted, I went online and discovered the world of “high profile” vs. “low profile” blinds.  I got sidetracked and it wasn’t until a few weeks had past that I remembered to order the brackets (sidenote:  if you need blind parts, check eBay; wayyyy cheaper than the blind replacement specialty e-tailers.)  And a few days later, they showed up.   Thank goodness eBay sellers and mail carriers follow through, even when I forget what I ordered.

              Before: window clear, floor covered

              Before I made this resolution, those brackets would have sat around for several days, eventually shuffled into a junk drawer or tucked away in some obscure location, never to be seen or thought of  again.  Not this time.  As of yesterday, the blind is hung (thanks to middle son for his help.)  Yes, that’s the valance leaning up against the bookcase.  No, it’s not hung. (The clips I ordered were for the wrong size – gahhh!  But  I have contacted the seller to arrange for a return and exchange.)  And in the interest of full disclosure, after I took these before-and-after shots, I had to locate a tilt wand. They’re not as easy to find as you might imagine. Fortunately an extra old blind at the old house had one that was the right size.  But I did, and I got it installed – another loose end tied tight.

              While we were in the bonus room/man cave with ladder and screwdrivers handy, I also re-attached the fan canopies and air duct vents that we loosened so we could paint this room before we moved in.

              (The more I think about it, the more I am convinced this “loose end syndrome”  is a debilitating affliction, perhaps a disability.  It’s definitely a congenital defect, as our children suffer from it, too.)

              After:  window covered, floor clear

              Since we were on a roll, I also put away the boxes we used to hold files during the move (yeah, I know how many days ago that was) and tidied and vacuumed.  The man cave is not finished yet, but it definitely looks better than it did before we hung that blind!  What a difference tying up just one little loose end can make.

              I’m not sure what my next loose end(s) to tie up will be…probably whatever has me at my wit’s end and fit to be tied.  Stay tuned!

              Here’s to a summer of happy tying,

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