Jun 30, 2012

Mantel Madness: Again?

Oh man.  The decorating ADD has kicked in big time.

I LOVE the mantel that Steve built for me.  But after looking at it for about a month, I began to feel that it didn't quite look right.  The scale was still off, somehow.  So I asked Steve to move the mantel down the wall, closer to the top of the piano.  He dutifully agreed and retrieved his power drill from the garage.

Power tools?  Steve's in.

Steve held the mantel up to the wall while I stood back and looked.  I thought bringing it closer to the piano would help fix the scale, but it actually made it worse.  So we sat and stared at the blank wall, trying to think of a way to improve the proportion of piano:mantel:wall space.

Itty bitty piano, big giant wall.

I always hate suggesting ideas that would mean extra work for Steve, but I had a thought cross my mind and I just couldn't ignore it.  What about an overmantel?  As long as we were sticking a mantel over a non-fireplace, why not just go all the way and make it even more fireplace-y looking by adding an overmantel?  Surprisingly, Steve was all for it.  It still amazes me that this man will take on extra work when I get hare-brained ideas like this.

I went to find images and tutorials of DIY faux fireplaces and Steve began sketching some diagrams of his plans.

Here's what I found on Pinterest:

Remodelaholic has a lengthy tutorial that includes lots of less-than-glamorous (but very useful!) photos of the process.


A Place For Us had a short tutorial, and their mantel looks pretty similar to the one that Steve built.

From A Place For Us Blog

Remodelando La Casa had a short tutorial as well, but I really love the way their overmantel looks, with the super-thick crown and the large set-in panel in the middle.  It's just begging for a big art-deco style round mirror, don't you think?

From Remodelando La Casa

Steve looked at these and agreed that he liked the way the one from Remodelando La Casa turned out the best.  He also said that he had already figured out most of the how-to details while I was busy searching the interwebs.  Here's his diagrams.

Front view.  A 3-D rendering, even.

Side view.  I could've helped if the diagram called for stick people.

Looks pretty nice, huh?  You can see in both pictures that we'd end up attaching the mantel to the built up overmantle, and adding a little behind the existing mantel on both outside edges so that the mantel will still be flush to the wall.  We also considered bead board or planking for the inset panel in the middle, but I think I'd rather just have it appear smooth- it'd be more versatile if and when we redecorate.

Essentially, we'll hang the mantle just above the piano (like an inch-ish, to ensure the piano won't bump against the mantle when I'm playing loudly), and continue a little bit of the backing down under the mantle so that it looks like it takes up the whole height of the wall but is partially hidden by the piano.

So when we're done, hopefully we'll have something that resembles this:

Less horribly photoshopped, please.

So the mantel madness continues.  Steve is itching to do some woodworking, so we will probably at least have progress to share in the next week or two.  Cross your fingers for us!

Jun 29, 2012

Mello Yellow

A few months after we moved into this house, I figured we needed new kitchen linens.  After all, most of what we were using were bought for us as wedding gifts, and they were certainly showing their age.  We had some that were tan and cream, some that had rust accents, some that had wine accents- altogether our kitchen towels were a motley crew.  Kohl's had an awesome sale in December, and I was able to upgrade linens.  I went with a happy sunflower yellow.

It coordinates nicely with our Tuscan themed dishes, feels more modern than the wine color I had been using as an accent before, and it looks great with our black kitchen cabinets and black and stainless appliances.

Such a happy color.

One problem- our towels don't match the rug under our sink anymore.  In fact, there's a few other issues with the sink rug.  We got it to keep the dogs' water and food dishes from sliding around the floor.  It works great for that, but the placement means that anyone who dares walk over to the sink when they visit will likely kick the water bowl or worse yet, step in it and get their feet wet.  The dog water needs to go to an area of our kitchen with less foot traffic.  The other issue is mostly our fault, not the rug's.  If I wanted to blame the rug, I'd say that it's too small.  In truth, Steve and I drop things on the floor when we cook.  Whenever it happens, it's a dream come true for our dogs, who will come running from all ends of the house when they hear one or both of us in the kitchen just to be present for any "oops" that will escape our lips.  In and of itself, that's not a big deal.  However, it does train our dogs to think that there must be tasty morsels on our kitchen floor, which has led to regular tongue-mopping of the kitchen floor by our doxies.  It's so gross!  They leave the floor slimy and smelly (not to mention unsanitary).  I've been hand-mopping with a solution that includes tea tree oil, and the smell is really off-putting to the dogs, so that stops the lick-fest for a while.  But about a week after I mop, the dogs are right back at the licking again.  And I'm tired of hand-mopping my kitchen on a weekly basis.

Dog-licking real estate.

So we decided it was time to get a kitchen rug.  We wanted something that would pick up the yellow in the towels without being obnoxiously loud, a runner shape so that it could work next to the stove and next to the sink, and most importantly, it had to be easy to clean.  With the frequency that bacon is cooked in this house, machine washing is a necessity.

I browsed and browsed and couldn't find anything that would fit the bill.  Until the Crate and Barrel catalog came last month.

I love Crate and Barrel catalogs.

I wondered how true to life those colors were, and if it was machine washable.  So I moseyed over to C&B's website.

There it was, the Harper rug in Maize.  The dimensions were perfect, and it was machine washable.  What about the colors, though?  I loved the pattern, but the yellow looked kind of washed-out to me.  Time-worn more than vibrant.  Sometimes you can find out more about the colors if people have reviewed it, and I was in luck: 4 reviewers gave it 5 stars each.  Wow!  I was impressed.  AND I was in luck with the colors.  Two separate reviewers said:  "It is more yellow than what the picture depicts." and "The sales lady showed me this one which I thought from the catalog was green, but it is not. It is gold tone and grey." Unfortunately, the Crate and Barrel closest to my house is about an hour's drive, and they didn't have the runner in stock any more, so I crossed my fingers and bought it online, sight unseen.  I can always return it if it's not quite right!

Once I placed my order, I got a message that the rug was on back-order until early July.  Bummer dude!  I figured I'd just exercise my patience.  It's really hard for me, but I have to admit that it's fun waiting for a package to arrive.

As July has been drawing nearer, I have been getting more and more antsy for that rug!  You can imagine my excitement when I saw an email from Crate and Barrel pop up in my inbox today.  I expected it was a notice that the rug was back in stock and my order would be shipped shortly.  No dice!  The back-order has been pushed back to late July.  Ugh.  I have to be patient for another month!  You better believe there will be all kinds of pictures and exclamation points in a post about that rug's arrival.

Jun 24, 2012

Getting Off On The Right Foot

Project Fun-This-Place-Up has gotten another boost courtesy of a coupon for  Overstock is awesome if a) they have exactly the thing you want, or b) you have endless patience to wait for exactly the thing you want.

The rug in our entry.  It is the perfect size.  And I do like the colors and pattern.  BUT- it's not very fun, just kind of average.  And dark.  And it hurts to walk on it in bare feet.  Side note: what's the point of an area rug that's uncomfortable for bare feet??  "Welcome to our home, please remove your shoes and endure foot discomfort now that you've arrived."  Not exactly the warm welcome we want to give guests.


Which led me to stalk Overstock for a rug that would be the perfect dimensions (3'x5' or something very close to that), durable and easy to clean, more "fun," more colorful but still coordinating with the blues, grays, and browns we've already got going in the rest of the entry and the living room.  And soft.  It had to be soft.

I picked a few favorites that were blue/green combos that were either in brighter colors or more bold patterns (or both).  And typically when we purchase something like this, Steve and I both have to love it.  Or one of us has to be desperate for it and the other one agrees to trust their judgment and go with it.

In this case, Steve and I went against our natural tendency toward a more traditional style and stepped out on a limb by choosing a rug in a modern abstract pattern.

Look Ma, I learned how to take a screen shot!

Read that?  Durable.  Soft pile.  4.7 out of 5 stars.  Hues of limeaid and raisin.  Oh yeah.  Upon deeper inspection, all of the reviewers talked about what great quality the rug was and how plush it was for the price, and one talked about how well it had held up to abuse in her husband's man cave/game room.  It was already on sale for 15% off.  Plus I had a coupon.  And the great thing about Overstock?  Free shipping and easy returns.  So we crossed our fingers and went for it.

Here's what things were looking like before.  Stanley the stuffie squirrel is looking cute!  What a handsome devil, even in profile.

Squirrel charm.

We were home with the UPS delivery man dropped off the new rug, so obviously I brought the rug inside immediately, giddy to open the packaging and unroll it.  Indy was suspicious at first.  There was vigorous sniffing of the packaging and not a little barking and cowering.

It appears this tube of carpet intends to kill us all.

Steve held Indy while I opened the rug and laid it in our entry.  Wow, it was exactly what we were aiming for!  The colors were bold but not in-your-face bright.  It was deliciously plush on bare feet, and it juuuust fit where we wanted it to go.

Hello limeaid!

Even Indy approved, once he got over being scared out of his wits.  I've actually caught him rolling on it the day after the rug arrived.

Dachshund stamp of approval.

The green is a little different than the hydrangeas in the giant ball jar, and a little different than the embroidered green leaves and vines on our bench pillow, but I think it still works.

Stanley approves, too.

Although I really like the rug, I'm still not 100% sold on it.  I think it's like getting a bold new haircut and then being surprised by your reflection when you walk past a mirror. I'm still adjusting to seeing something so modern there.  It definitely is an attention-getter.  And I think it'll be less divergent from the style in the living room, kitchen, and dining room once I make a little more progress with my "fun things up in here" project.  


I'm still a little unsure though, and hoping that purchasing this rug wasn't a mistake.  What do you think?  Is it too modern?  Or does it work?

Getting Squirrelly

A few weeks ago, I was home from work, sick.  In the middle of the day, I wandered over into the kitchen, looked outside, and saw this.

Undeterred by rain.

A squirrel!  I was delighted; he was the first squirrel I'd seen since we moved in.  He looks like a Stanley, doesn't he?  Yes, he's definitely named Stanley.  So I stood there and took a bazillion photos of Stanley hanging out on our fence.

Gah!  Isn't he cute?!  He probably has rabies, but whatever.  He's cute and he's named Stanley.

So, remember my crisis over my house not being "fun" enough (here)?  Well, not to long after the crisis, I saw a great sale on Joss & Main for artgoodies, which included some super cute pillows.  Due to some technical difficulties that we will not discuss here (*ahem*IWasAtWork*ahem*), I could not purchase the super cute pillow I had my eye on before it sold out.  I sulked for a while, and then made a visit to artgoodies' Etsy store, just to take a look around.  They had it!  The pillow I saw on Joss & Main and couldn't buy before it sold out!!

block print squirrel stuffie by artgoodies, $16

A squeezable version of Stanley!  Of course I ordered it right away.  I couldn't order it fast enough, to be honest.  And after I was done hyperventilating and submitting my payment information, then I had to wait.

And now the wait is over.  Yippee!


I love Etsy shops for stuff like this.  A "Thank You" sticker and a cute ribbon go a long way to making  purchase feel personal.

You're welcome!!

And here he is, Stanley's less animated doppleganger.  Cute as can be, yes?


He even looks cute from the back!  Albeit less squirrelly.

Stanley has flowers on his backside, go figure.

After I got done squeezing  him in joy, Stanley the Stuffie Squirrel went happily to live on the bench in our entry.  He'll look at you if you sit there to take your shoes off.  He won't bite though, I promise.

A perfect bushy-tailed gentleman.

I am so excited to have our little homage to Stanley hanging out on that bench.  We are starting to up the fun factor here, people!  Hang on to your socks, because I'm just getting started.

Jun 23, 2012

Pearly Lights

My car is a beast.  Not in looks, in heart.  It's a 12 year old Honda Civic. I've owned it for 8 years.  I will likely hit the 200,000 mile mark within the next month.  I've taken good care of it, but it's showing its age, for sure.  In the last year or so, my headlights have gotten so oxidized and filmy that it's become hard for me to drive at night.  And before you go thinking that I'm acting like an octogenarian when it comes to driving at night, let me tell you that it is not just me being a wimp.  When I'm being followed by another car at night, I can see the shadow my car casts on the road in front of me because my headlights can't even illuminate the road directly in front of me as well as the headlights of the car BEHIND me.  It's a problem.

To illustrate, here is what driving at night is supposed to look like:

And here's what it looks like in my car:

Not good.

I have been on a mission to "fix" my headlights for a while.  I have tried everything to reduce the cloudiness that was going on with those things.  Elbow grease.  Green scrubby pads.  Magic Eraser.  Nothing really worked.  I almost bought some "as seen on TV" stuff but couldn't stomach spending so much money for something that got mixed reviews.

And then today I saw an article about removing headlight oxidization with toothpaste, of all things.  It had to be a hoax.  Some troll wanted me to go smear toothpaste on my headlights.  So I looked it up somewhere else and found the same thing.  Toothpaste!  With before and after pictures that looked amazing.

I had to try.

Here's what my car's headlights looked like before, up close and personal.


Take a damp rag and squeeze a generous ribbon of toothpaste out.

Hey, look at me, I've got a glob of toothpaste on a damp rag.

Then start scrubbing your headlight using a circular motion.  You don't need to exert a lot of force, but you do need to scrub for a few minutes.


The more oxidized your headlights are, the longer you will need to scrub.  I ended up scrubbing for about 10 minutes.  And contemplating how strange it is to scrub your headlights with toothpaste.

Are we done yet?

Then you just rinse your headlights off with water.  If your headlights are still not as clear as you'd like, repeat the process.

I have to say that although my headlights did not look *perfect,* they were much improved.  See for yourself- I snapped this picture after I finished scrubbing the headlight on the passenger side.

Passenger side is lookin good!  Driver side, not so much.

And here's a close-up of the driver's side headlight after I was done.

Minty fresh.

Pretty awesome!  I love that it makes my car look like less of a hoopty, and obviously I am less dangerous on the roads at night because now I can SEE!  Plus I didn't have to buy the "as seen on TV" stuff or replace the headlight cover, and obviously I already had toothpaste.  Headlight fix and safety WIN for zero dollars!!  Not bad for a tube of toothpaste and a damp rag, eh?

Jun 20, 2012

Laundry Closet: Move-In to Present

Yep, closet.  My kingdom for a mudroom....  Ah, well.  The laundry closet is serving us just fine.

Here's a little context about our laundry closet.  It is right smack-dab in the middle of our house.  If you're sitting on the couch, it's directly behind you.  If you're leaving the guest bathroom, it's the first thing you see when you walk into the hallway.  If you're laying on the guest bed, it's right next to your head.  See, here's where it lives.  When you walk in the front door, there's the dining room and kitchen on your left, the living room on your right, and then a set of bi-fold doors just beyond the living room.  That's where.

Sneaky laundry closet.

If you came in from the garage, you'd see the office, linen closet, and guest bedroom on your left.  The master bedroom is on your right where the hallway widens.  I am unsure why our carpet looks pinkish and the walls appear an unsavory shade of brown here.  In real life they're both a very soft well-matched beige.

Alien abduction happening in the front yard?

Tangent here:  I love those three leaves on the wall!  Let's take a closer look, shall we?


This was a total case of oh-my-gosh-I-love-it-and-am-going-to-buy-it-even-if-it's-not-in-the-budget-because-I-can't-walk-away-without-it.  We got these from Fred Meyer this past winter.  Not on sale.  I seriously couldn't leave them.  (haha, get it, "leave" them??)

But I digress.  There you are, laundry closet!


When we bought this house (or, to be technical, when my parents bought this house), this was a big area of concern for us.  We had a hand-me-down full size washer/dryer that worked like a charm, but was LOUD.  Wasn't a big deal in our last house- the machines were in our utility room, which had a door you could actually close, and was very far away from the bedrooms and the den.  You'd never know if the machines were running until you heard the buzzer signal it was done.

Not the case here.  Those noisy machines would make watching TV impossible in this house.  We'd never be able to put a load of clothes in the dryer before bed and expect to sleep in this house.  We'd hear the washing machine draining while we ate dinner in this house.

So we started watching the sales. And around the Fourth of July last year, we found a big one at Best Buy.  Brand new top end HE front loaders that were suuuuper quiet and had very positive reviews, originally $1300 a piece, on sale for $650 each.  We were so excited!  We snatched them right up, the folks promised us they could hold the models until we were ready for them to be delivered in August, and all was right with the world.

True to their word, Best Buy delivered the washer and dryer the week we asked them to in August, about 5 days after someone purchased our existing set off craigslist.  The guys even hooked up the washing machine for me and started its initial cleanse cycle before they left.  I was a happy camper for about 15 minutes.  And then water abruptly began pouring out the bottom of the washing machine.  I ran over and shut the cycle off, but not before there was enough sitting water that I needed a beach towel to soak it up.  Thus began a week-long ordeal of calling Best Buy looking for a solution, them offering troubleshooting advice over the phone which resulted in more water on the floor, them offering to send someone out two weeks later (apparently their technicians will only visit our town every other Tuesday), then offering to send someone out within a week at an extra expense.  *Our* extra expense.  We talked to associates, managers, distribution managers, customer service representatives, corporate office representatives.  No one was able to offer us anything better than "we're sorry" and "wait for two weeks until it's our scheduled day for your town."  Stellar customer service, eh?  So we decided to return them.  And laughably, Best Buy agreed but said they couldn't come pick the washer and dryer back up until Tuesday two weeks from now.

So Steve and I dragged the defective(?) washer and dryer out to our garage to save our laundry closet from any more unanticipated water flow, and went back on the hunt for a new washer/dryer.

We ended up at Judd & Black, a local appliance company.  Their prices were the lowest we'd seen (we checked Sears, Home Depot, and Lowe's) and they assured us that not only would they be able to send out a technician same-day if we had any difficulty, but they would also be able to deliver our washer and dryer on any day we chose.  We ended up choosing a top of the line Electrolux washer/dryer set.  The major selling points were, of course, it was whisper quiet.  The salesman was able to pull up a youtube video of the washer placed on updended cinder blocks running the spin cycle with a load full of towels- it hardly wiggled and barely made any discernable noise.  Second, both the washer and dryer had steam cycles.  This means that it is possible to sanitize almost ANYTHING in those puppies.  Dog beds.  Pillows.  Tennis shoes.  The steam cycle in the dryer is also a-ma-zing for taking out wrinkles.  I hardly ever iron anymore.  It also had a million different cycles to choose from, my two favorites being "Quick Wash"- about 15 minutes for an average size load, and "Allergen"- which runs super-hot and includes steam.  And on top of that, it was energy efficient, so between the two machines, we got an $800 rebate from the manufacturer and a $200 rebate from our energy provider.  All that to say, totally worth the money.  And Judd & Black called to make sure we were happy with our purchase.  And offered to refund us a portion of the purchase price when the washer showed up with a quarter-sized dent on one side.  That's what customer service should be like.

Meanwhile, it look lots of phone calling and a Better Business Bureau complaint before Best Buy refunded our money (six weeks after they had picked the washer and dryer back up, to be exact).

Moral of the story:  Never buy appliances at Best Buy.  Always buy appliances at Judd & Black (and if you go to the one in Everett, ask to work with Mary- she's great).

End rant.  Back to the laundry closet.

These bi-folds had funky little white wooden pull handles when we moved in.  Oddly, the handles were placed at the inner edge of each bi-fold, so it had two little pull handles that met in the middle.  While it might look better that way, it makes it MUCH harder to slide the bi-folds open and shut.  So we removed the white handles, patched the holes, and replaced the pulls with some nice (what else) oil rubbed bronze ones to match the door hardware in the rest of the house, located in the correct spot on the door.

Behind Door #1 AND Door #2.

I wasn't joking when I called this a closet.  It is juuuuust deep enough to close the doors.  The glass-fronted upper cabinets were a craigslist find.  It was the perfect dimensions for the laundry closet, and structurally everything was good.  But it had legs and was a terrible scratched-up flat silver color.  It was no match for Spackle and spray paint, though.  We just removed the legs, patched them up with Spackle, removed the glass panes and hardware, sanded everything to within an inch of its life, and then used enough glossy white spray paint to choke a horse (which I think is six cans' worth).  Once it was dry, we put the glass panes and hardware back on, and simply screwed it to the studs.  You can see the support underneath the cabinets.  Still need to patch and paint that at some point....

In the closet.

I wanted this space to be fun, because let's face it, laundry is not.  The paint is the same blue that is in our master bedroom and bathroom, Valspar's Rising Tide in Sherwin Williams' low VOC line, Harmony.  Low VOC paint is great because it's less harmful to the environment and it doesn't have that terrible fumey paint smell, so it's not as bad for you to breathe.  The garbage can came from Ikea and the ironing board cover came from an adorable Etsy shop, City Chic Country Mouse.  Go visit.  You will be hard pressed not to fall in love with their fun ironing board covers, dish towels, oven mitts, and aprons.

You can see all of the rigamarole we keep corralled in that cabinet.  Laundry supplies, extra batteries, extra candles, cleaning sprays, extra vases, extra light bulbs.  We use baskets to keep like items together and for easier access- sometimes you just need to pull a basket out and set it on top of the washer and dryer to see everything in it. 

Makes you want to start a load of laundry?  Didn't think so.

My favorite part of this whole room, er, closet, is our cheeky little rag bag.

Someone's wearing sassy pants today.

Seriously?  Who folds those things?!?!  It's an exercise in futility, people.  I custom ordered the bag from Zazzle.  I just googled the crown image and set the type and the message and they screen printed it for me for about $12.  Sassy AND cheap.  (No snide comments, please.)

There's a little more to be done here.  Obviously, the support for the cabinet needs to be patched and painted white.  I also want to add a little fun art.  I found this fun idea online.  I think I'd choose to cover the letters with nickels instead of fabric, though.  It'd feel like my own personal laundromat in there.  Wonder when I'll get to work on that project??


And now I'm feeling guilty about our overflowing laundry basket.  Duty calls.