if there was ever a bete noire in our house it is the “fireplace” and we are not quite sure what we will do with it. you see there is not a chimney so no crackling wood fires for us and that gas radiator thing (original to our 1920′s house) is no longer safe to use. there is a gas line but we are not exactly sold on the look of the ventless gas logs. maybe we will remove the whole thing and gain the wall space… you see we have some to decisions to make. we will likely not reach a conclusion soon but while we think it through the one thing that we know is that we HATE the look of the wood grain of the mantle. its an odd looking grain and clashes with the many other wood grains in the room and we have no shortage of unpainted wood in our house (also the mantle piece is not original to the house so i don’t want to hear any crap about painting it!!)
so it was sanded, and primed, and sanded, and primed, and sanded, and then two coats of semi-gloss paint. we choose Behr’s Clear Moon for the color and we are really, really happy with how the whole thing turned out. it looks clean and fresh but not at all put of place in our old home.
and if any of you out there have any suggestions for the future of our fireplace that we maybe haven’t thought of feel free to shout them out. maybe they will be the subject of vol.2!
so part of our backyard was this big ole swampy mess. the first part of the problem was that the downspout on that part of the house becomes a geyser during a big rain, the second is that the soil was so badly eroded in spots that all the excess water would pool and become a flooded mess. (see photo) nothing but weeds could survive.
so the last time Nick’s dad came to down we debated the options. we knew needed to till and add top soil to repair that section but what to do about the excess water from the down spout? clearly the area required some real drainage but did we really want to get into digging a drainage trench just yet? and if so which direction should it go? admittedly i thought we were jumping the gun a bit and that we needed to pump the brakes before making a decision on such a project. so i came up with a plan instead to simply divert the water while thinking through the next step. and then the home gods smiled on us. while cleaning debris out of where nick needed to till (we have found a crazy amount of broken glass in the yard) i tried to move what i thought was just a random piece of whatever but it was heavy, real heavy. i had called in nick and his dad to remove what turned out to be a cover to a DRAIN in our yard!!
we removed some leaves and such and then stuck a garden hose inside and sure enough the water came out of a pipe that leads out to the sidewalk. holy moly were we excited. this was the first was the first time that instead of a project taking 3 times longer than we thought it would it turned out that the work had already been done for us. so it was on to tilling, adding extra soil, and then some grass seed. we also added an extender to the downspout so that the water flows directly into the drain and so for, so good. we haven’t had anymore issues with flooding and the grass has begun to grow. we’re hopeful that by this time next summer the grass will be filled in completely and the swampy mess will be a distant memory. oh and the crape myrtle is finally in bloom!
PS- Adam Troy, i apologize for not getting a picture of Nick using the tiller. i know how you like that sort of thing.
ikea hands down has the most budget friendly curtains in town. however, a few years ago they decided to stop offering curtains varying lengths and switched to one size of extra long curtains under the guise of this making production more cost effective and passing that savings on to us and that the customer can customize the length to meet their needs. personally i think this mostly makes ikea’s job easier and creates more work for me but that’s just my opinion. this led to me having to choose between paying double for the size i needed at Target or busting out the hem tape for the Ikea ones. in the end i choose ikea largely because these curtains are just place holders and it seemed silly to pay $100 more curtains that i plan on trashing in the next year or two. (we also live only 10 miles from an ikea so it nots a pilgrimage for us, we pop in to buy one thing and are out in under 30 min on the reg) the basic white ones were out of stock for a little while so we had to continue to live with the horrible blinds for longer than we wanted, it was a glorious day when we finally got to take them down…
but then it was time to hem 20 curtains. the upside of having to do so many was that by the 5th one i had a pretty good system going. step one, ignore the ikea directions for using the hem tape. they are stupid. the process goes like this.
1-find something to binge watch (orange is the new black and designing women on youtube got me through this process)
2- fold the curtains with the front facing inside and pin at the top, this keeps the curtains from shifting while measuring.
3- measure from the top and place a pin through both layers to mark your desired length.
4-using another pin flip one side up and pin in place, flip the other side up and use the original pin to secure that side. now remove the very first pin from the top and the curtain should now be the same length on both ends with the flap facing the back.
5- iron the folded edge and and trim of the excess leaving about 3 inches.
6- line up the hem tape inside the fold and pin to secure it in place. iron along the mew using the hottest non steam setting. allow the hem to cool briefly before checking for any areas that did not adhere properly.
7-trim the remaining excess and your done.
so was it worth the time spent? am i happy with the finished curtains? yes and mostly yes. the curtains have the clean and crisp look i was craving after removing so many dark and dingy window coverings and i know that almost no one would notice but they do lack the polish of curtains that come finished but at $100 vs $200 they will certainly do for now. (coming soon: a pintrest board featuring spendy curtains for the future)
ps- did i consider whipping out the old sewing machine? yes but in the end the amount time spent would have largely been the same and i don’t really have table space right now for sewing projects, but if i did i absolutely would have gone that route.
we hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend and enjoying the crazy beautiful weather (at least in DC). we’ve been taking it very easy this weekend i.e. sleeping late, watching soccer & tennis, riding bikes, swimming, eating (and drinking), and taking in the amazing fireworks that were set off in the neighborhood etc. even though things have been a little quiet here on the blog the last few weeks we have still been hard at it around the house, i blame the multiple 95+ degree days around here for making my brain too melty to type. so what has been happening? Nick’s dad made it back down to finish up a project out on our front porch. back in may Jim started the bear of a task that was stripping the multiple layers paint off of the railings on our porch. they’re not really railings though, they are more like built in benches and unfortunately for Jim we really liked the look of the exposed wood which created even more work than repainting them would have. Especially since one of them had a section of rotted wood that he painstaking repaired, the result though is really wonderful and we couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. (we’re coming for you soon porch floor…)
nick and i finally made some headway in the painting department. the previous owners decided to prime all of the walls in the house prior to us moving in which would have been great except that they made zero effort to avoid getting primer all over the wood trim so before we could really start to paint we needed to figure out the best way to remove the primer without damaging the finish to the wood too noticeably. after trying out a few different combinations we found that the mix of denatured alcohol and small pieces of scotch-brite worked out the best (be sure to wear gloves or your finger nails will start looking weird, trust me). with that job behind us we tackled the living room first and the color turned out great, its the exact gray/purple/blue that we were looking for and we will continue with the color (and the trim clean up) in the entryway and dining room too. the best part is that we were finally able to begin ripping out the lilac carpet!!! we left the carpet there in the interim so we wouldn’t have to worry about the floors while we painted so this was the main event as far as we were concerned. and the floors look awesome. they do need a little work but just minor sanding. i’ll save the big reveal for when the other rooms are finished but here is a peak!
last but not least my parents came back down last weekend so that they could deliver the new jewelry bench that my father handmade for me. the bench looks amazing and i now look like a professional, weird. he also squeezed some electrical work in too. we now have outdoor outlets which was something that we really wanted (and we are currently researching string lighting options for the side yard) my dad also installed 8 (eight!) outlets in the basement where my new bench is located (something he really wanted) apparently the use of multiple extension cords and power strips in my work space was really freaking the guy out. oh electricians. what did my mom do you ask? she broke the hand me down wallpaper steamer from nick’s parents while attempting to finish that chore off in the hallway. i just wanted to throw that in there because she felt really bad about it and i thought she would want me to share that (jk) R.I.P wallpaper steamer.
my dad (a retired electrician) came down last week to kick off round one of electrical fun around the house. on the top of our wish list was ceiling fans for the living room and our bedroom. our house won’t have air conditioning anytime soon (we have window units in the bedrooms) and so we wanted to get them in before the DC summer steam heat starts. we came to the conclusion that all of the ceiling fans in our budget are universally pretty ugly so we picked the least offensive ones we saw at home depot. they are brushed nickel and basic but they do the trick (until we get rich and buy some mega fancy fans, fingers crossed).
next up was dimmer switches in the dining room and breakfast nook. when my dad got to the one in the breakfast nook we realized that removing the switch that was there also meant removing the only outlet in the room, or so we thought. we discovered an ancient outlet hiding under the built in table that amazingly was still energized so my dad switched it out for a new one. while looking around the house my dad also came across two outlets that were even older than the one in the the nook that were original to the house. i was amazed to hear that he had never even seen these types of outlets in person before and had only read about them (he took them to home to show them off to the other electricians). we also got a new overhead light in the kitchen and he rerouted our dryer outlet to a better location. we have our dueling lists of things we would like to upgrade around the house in the future, dad’s list is safety oriented and ours is largely aesthetic, so we’ll tackle a little bit of both over time (until nick takes me me away to europe for two weeks and we leave dad with free reign of the house. wink-wink nudge-nudge to nick!)
over the memorial day weekend nick and i installed two rain barrels at the house. the project had been on our to-do list since moving in and every time we’d have a drenching rain we would kick ourselves for not having purchased them yet. there is a program in DC ( DC Greenworks ) that gives you a $1 per gallon rebate on up to two rain barrels that are at least 50 gallons each. you have to submit an application that includes the receipt, before and after photos etc. i originally wanted the type where you shorten the downspout and then it flows directly into the top of the barrel but I could not find one that was well reviewed, the right size, has a planter on top, and was in our budget. so we went with the diverter type, they are a little annoying to install.
the steps included : leveling the ground, making a base from paving stones, drilling a hole in the side of the barrel to feed the tube into, cutting off the downspout so that diverter will sit evenly with the tubing, cutting an additional inch off of the bottom piece of the downspout, reconnecting everything to the diverter and screwing that into place, and in our case having to install and additional piece of wood so that were would have somewhere to strap the downspout to below the diverter. like i said, its a little annoying. but the good news is that so far they are working well. the only hiccup is that we are going to have to run tubing of off the front downspout because when it really pours the barrel can’t keep up with the rush of water ( see last photo). oh and these are the barrels we purchased from the home depot . we’ll update you on how they work out for us over the course of the summer, and of course on how long it takes for our rebate to arrive…
last weekend nick and i finally made the trek out to the Old Luckett’s Store spring sale in Leesburg Va. In additional to the store itself the adjacent field is filled with additional vintage and antique sellers. We’ve been wanting to make the trip for some time but there was nowhere in our old apartment for any additional furniture to find a home, now we have have half empty rooms. We made a short list of things we would like to find, overslept, and then parked a mile away. get there early. there was a lot there but in my opinion there was too much stuff that had been given the Rachel Ashwell treatment (white or pale dusty paint, sandpapered edges, you know the drill) but here and there we spotted some untouched gems that were very reasonably priced. full credit goes to nick for spotting these marble and iron side tables. we have a rough game plan of incorporating metallic pops into our living room and our new side table is perfect fit. once we get it all cleaned up and repainted i’ll post a follow up.
PS- we only bought one because, well, we’re not the matchy-matchy types. but while popping into the shops in downtown Leesburg i saw a table that would be a perfect complement (it features the same wire work detail as the shelf in our new table, see above) but it was all shabby chic-ed out and way way over priced. so if any of you happen to come across something similar while out thrift-ing or trolling craigslist , you know where to find us!
a few weeks back i mentioned something about termites and just remembered that i forgot to update on that situation. one saturday afternoon while nick was away, i was crossing the threshold from our basement to the yard when i looked down and saw what could only be termites but i had never heard of termites having wings. (a little back story, our house was treated for termites prior to our moving in so we already knew that there was an issue. the previous owner paid for the treatment and we are under warranty for a year so i actually hoped that it was termites so we wouldn’t have to pay for the exterminator to come back out) as soon as i showed the technician the video he immediately was like “oh yeah, they’re just swarmers” (not a statement you would usually take as a positive one). he explained that this was a normal sighting after treatment and that these termites were looking to mate, take flight, and colonize somewhere else since the colony in our house is dying (apparently you never see the type that actually does all the damage eating away at your wood). this was also a small swarm which was hard to comprehend but i am grateful for that. he also went on to elaborate more on what was in the termite report and confirm that the termite damage was contained to the stairwell and nothing structural. the stairs were already slated for eventual demolition, its easy to understand why.
one more note about the basement: it is looking a lot more organized these days and that is in large part due to the awesome new work bench that nick’s dad built for us in one day. thanks jim!!!
we’re getting there. there are few more things we’d like to tackle outside before the summer heat shows up but the list is shrinking. out front some marigolds and petunias have been planted to replace the bush with the bagworms and to fill in the hole on the other side. the irises were very beautiful while in bloom and i look forward to finding another spot for them in the future.
we planted some creeping phlox between the fence and the stonewall, hopefully it will start to spread out soon. the side yard is looking much more tidy, the flower beds have been dug out and a about thirty flower pots have been thrown away as well as the picnic bench (totally rotted out).
nick tackled the removal of the huge fountain grasses in front of the sunroom. i had already attacked them with hedge clippers a few weeks back to make things look less crazy and it was time to dig them up and the hundreds of rocks that surrounded them. once the grasses were out and the rocks removed and stacked he smoothed the area out with top soil and then mulch. we wont be planting anything there until next year but we’re thinking either azaleas or rhododendrons. (side note: the DC dump will not accept rocks so feel free to share any suggestions for disposing of them.
in the back yard the beast of a rosemary bush is gone and a potted herb garden has taken its place. i removed yet another flower bed and then enlarged that area adding a raised bed for vegetables (i had to add moth balls to the garden thanks to a cat trying use it as a liter box, so far they are working to deter her). the crape myrtle that had been completely swallowed up by a vine is now looking great thanks to my mom and her incredible pruning skills. and after a huge help from nick’s dad with taming the three myrtle trees they don’t look quite so sad anymore.
the progress we’ve made so far has been very encouraging but i can tell you that i never want to see ivy ever again!
which is what i learned on sunday. nick and i wanted to make a gate that would replace the sad and weather worn lattice that covered the crawl space under our sunroom. we wanted to be able to use that space to store our lawnmower (carrying it in and out the basement was getting old fast and we only did it once) we headed out to the home depot to buy a new piece of lattice, some 1×2′s, hinges, a latch, and some other assorted business. nick started loading everything into the car while i ran back in to grab some twine to tie the lattice onto the roof. i then ran the twine through the windows so that nick was trapped in the car and i was on the outside so i had no choice but to crawl in through the hatchback, in a dress. nick was endlessly amused.
once i made it out of the back of the car the project came together very quickly and the steps included; cutting out the size we needed (our jigsaw worked better than the circular saw), cutting and nailing the frame in place and then the first coat of spray paint. we then headed out for a bike ride, it was a crucial step.
back from our spin around the neighborhood, including the franciscan monastery (see photo, its a beautiful place) we put on a second coat of paint and then it was time to install our new gate. the end result looks great (or at least a major improvement) and most importantly it functions and our lawnmower has a new home.
ps- this project ran us about $40