Jul 30, 2013

Trap Door

We've been in an uncannily long stretch of glorious sunny weather in Western Washington.  It's enough to make me want to paint something.  Well, two somethings.  Our exterior doors- the front one and the one leading into our backyard.

Normally I'm not one to put off low-effort, high-impact painting projects.  But there were a couple of reasons I have waited so long to paint our exterior doors.  First, neither of our doors are in great shape.  They've got at least half a dozen dings and scrapes each.  And while I would luuuurrrrvvve to get a new, more dramatic front door (like this or this), it's just not something that's worth spending that many pennies on right now since both doors are still perfectly serviceable.  That still left me at a loss about how to deal with the dents and scrapes before putting a glossy coat of yellow on top.  Also, I've read approximately eighty-six thousand tutorials about painting steel doors, and they all promise that if you follow their instructions, you'll end up without any discernible brush marks.  Lemme tell ya, even with products like Floetrol, I still have yet to do a standout painting project where there are no visible brush marks.  Walls and trim work?  I'm good.  Vanities, cabinetry, furniture?  Not so much.  I was skeptical, and certainly didn't want to waste a ton of time (and paint!) trying to get my front door looking like it was painted by a professional if it could not be done by myself and a paintbrush.

Things changed when I discovered that auto body filler can be used to patch dings in steel doors.  And when I ran into Lowe's for some sanding blocks and discovered that Lowe's carries auto body filler in the same aisle as their wood filler and spackle and texture, I decided to just go for it.

Wrinkle cream for cars and steel doors.

Although I did opt to try it on the door that leads to our side yard rather than our front door first.  I figured if I messed up the back door, Steve and I would be the only ones who would ever have to look at it anyway.  I followed the directions on the can to prep the door and mix the filler, applied it with a putty knife, waited several hours, and the sanded the heck out of the door.

Told ya there were lots of dings.

It seemed like it worked pretty well!  In fact, so much so, that I got a little overanxious to finish the project.  Waaaay back when we moved in we had considered painting our kitchen yellow, and I had a test pot of Sherwin Williams' beautiful White Raisin leftover.  I taped off the door, put a couple coats of primer on it, and slapped on two coats of White Raisin using a 2" brush following the order and direction of paint application I had seen on every door-painting-tutorial that exists.  Then I pulled all the tape off and admired my handiwork.

Yellow door.

Except it didn't actually happen that way.  I pulled all the tape off and realized that this yellow was much more of a sweet country yellow than I was going for.  I wanted major "pop" and next to our siding the door looked more like pee pee in the potty than sunshine on my shoulder (and just when you thought I had grown out of potty humor).  Although I still love the color White Raisin, I just didn't love it on the door.  And I realized after the fact that I didn't bother to use a type of paint that was intended for exterior surfaces, so even though I primed, the color would almost certainly fade and would probably peel at some point too.  Plus, there were VERY obvious brush marks, which I figured were from using the wrong type of paint.  Whomp, whomp.

Good thing I bought sanding blocks because I was able to put them to use sanding the door back down.

Once I admitted color defeat, I returned to my safety zone: copy someone else's color choices.  For this one, I turned to my friends imaginary friends John and Sherry.  They had painted some siding with the same color ours was- Martha Stewart's Flagstone.  And they painted their door a happy yellow- Full Sun by Eddie Bauer.  One more trip to Lowe's and I had my very own copycat color, in the correct type of paint for an exterior steel door!  I was giddy at being only a few hours away from having at least one exterior door on our house be super cute!

The right stuff.

Get a load of that yellow!

That's more like it!

And here it is after two coats.  I love how cheery it is!

Turn that frown upside down.

Although there were some things about it that I didn't love.

First, there were still visible brush strokes.  Not like crazy "in yo face" visible ones, but visible to the naked eye.  I even mixed some Floetrol in with the paint, which is a product that's designed to reduce brush strokes.  Who knows, maybe I just put too much paint on my brush at once.  I guess I was just hoping for a much more glossy and refined effect, like you'd get from a sprayer.

You can see the brush stroke texture in the reflections.

Then there was this unanticipated side effect....


Once the door was dry enough to close so we could see it with the siding, we realized that it was really bright.  Like day-glo bright.  Case in point- the beach towel is navy and neon green.  What's brighter than neon green?  THAT DOOR!  And although I love how it "grayed" our siding a little more, it looks terrible with our red-brown roofing (not to mention with all of that junk laying around in our backyard, but that's my fault, not the paint's fault).

So what did we learn here?

Always make sure you are using the correct type of paint for your project before you go cray-cray.

Try a baby step.  When you're taking a decorating risk, try it in a way that is less conspicuous or easy to change if you end up hating it.  Can you imagine if I had done the front door first?!  We'd have to give every guest and FedEx guy who came to our house complimentary sunglasses.

Take a friggin' risk!  Although it didn't pan out for me this time, I would have been sad forever about my lack of yellow doors if I hadn't given it a shot.

Trust your gut.  I was suspicious about painting with a brush and ending up with no brush marks, and it's because I just cannot make that happen.  If you want your paint to look really smooth and glossy- use a sprayer, not a brush.  No cuts, buts, or coconuts.  (Did you forget I work in public school?)

So we're living with the back door as is until we can borrow my Dad's sprayer and find a different color that is still cheery but not cheerleader-on-uppers and blends well with both our siding and our odd-toned roofing.  Make me feel better.  Have you ever made a color choice that went horribly wrong?

Jul 27, 2013

Urn Update

After completing the retaining wall, I had to wait for our home improvement budget to refill before planting around it.  It's been hard to wait so much.  This spring I thought I'd get so much planting done before I had to go back to work in August (read the grand plan here).  But here we are, late in July, and I haven't planted a single darn thing.

I couldn't take it anymore.

So I tried to do the cheapest landscaping/gardening upgrade I could, and finally get something in the urns on the front porch.

Mission Accomplished!  (And sun flare)

It was so nice to get our little overhang area cleaned out, too.  Now that we have a garden shed, all of my small pots were able to move out from under the bench.  I swept the walls, ceiling, and cement.  It looks a ton better, and you know I relish an opportunity to get rid of spiders.  I finally hung our wind chime up as well.

Way less cluttered!

The evergreens are baby Wilma Cypress.  I love the dramatic yellowish color and the skinny shape.  They can be up to 8 feet tall when mature, so I'm hoping to replant these babies once they outgrow the urns.  The petunias came together in two large pots.  I chose them mostly because they were really inexpensive, and as the summer progresses, they'll just keep getting fuller and drape nicely over the sides of the urns.

Dusty purples.


It's nice to have satisfied my gardening needs for now, gotten the front porch a little cleaner and more welcoming, and finally gotten some use out of those fabulous urns!

Come and knock on our door....
Although I have to admit that I am now really jonesing to bulk up the post in the foreground of that last photo.  It just looks so puny and unbalanced sitting out there by itself!  At least we are making some curb appeal progress!

Jul 22, 2013

Taming of the Pantry

It may not be a classic novel, but it's a classic problem.  If you are lucky enough to have a pantry with food in it, you have undoubtedly have experienced pantry disorganization chaos.  It had been about a year since our last cleaning and organizing pantry purge, so it was time.

The top half.

The bottom half.

I decided to start at the top and work my way down.  My organizing method is basically to pull everything out, sort it, make a plan for organizing and then put it back.  Or, Make It Worse to Make It Better.  So I pulled everything off our top shelf, which serves as our liquor cabinet.  Once I got everything pulled out, I was able to sort the liqours by type.  I also make a collection of unopened bottles that got moved to the same place as unopened wine bottles.  And then I was left with a huge collection of bottles that were almost empty, spoiled, or hadn't been used in at least two years.

See ya.

Some of the bottles must've been inherited from Steve's parents.  Check out the price on the bottle of Creme de Menthe!


Everything that was left got put back in, loosely organized by type of liqour and then bottle height (so we could see as many of the labels at once as possible- I hate it when we buy something because we think we're out only to find it hidden at the back of the shelf after the fact).  We had so much room left that we moved our extra mason jars and flavored syrups to the top shelf as well.  For two fairly tall people, seeing and accessing things on the top shelf is easier than seeing and accessing things on the floor, which is where the extra mason jars and flavored syrups used to live.

Rank and file.

I tackled the next two shelves the same way.  Here's everything that didn't get tossed, grouped by the type of food.


I decided to do both of the shelves at the same time so I could FINALLY get around to patching and finishing them two coats of semi-gloss paint.  It's only been two years since Steve built those pantry shelves.

Looking good!

Then came the tricky part.  I decided that I wanted to store my grouped items in boxes for a couple of reasons.  I liked the idea of being able to pull a box out  and just sift through a few items to find something I was looking for instead of scouring an entire shelf (or two).  I also knew that if we had labeled boxes, both Steve and I would be more likely to put things back in an assigned place rather than just shoving them onto any open shelf space.  I figured I could get a couple of boxes with high sides to make it easier for stacking canned goods without toppling them.  Plus, using a wipeable box or basket would be really handy for storing things that tend to leave residue on shelving like cooking oils.

After lots of measuring, I decided to use what I had as much as possible and the purchase a few plastic bins.  I was able to re-use some cardboard packages by covering them with wrapping paper or a few coats of white gloss spray paint.  Less messy things like pre-bagged snacks and boxed items ended up in those, since they're less liekely to need wiping.  I ended up buying one large plastic bin and three tall and narrow ones from Target.  I'd estimate that using materials I had on hand to make three bins myself saved me about $25.

Bin city.

This was also my first foray into the world of Washi Tape.  I definitely think it's fun, like stickers for grown ups.  But I'm not fervent about it like so many people in the crafting/DIY world seem to be.  Regardless, it was a fun and practical way to label the bins.

Label madness.

Help yourself.

This stick-it-in-a-wipeable-bin strategy has worked really well for the lower part of our pantry for about a year now.  All of my baking items are held in one itso tray.  When the mood strikes to bake, I just pull the tray out and go to town.  The corn syrup drips and cocoa powder reisdue can be wiped off the tray and our pantry shelves stay in good shape.

Baking on the left, disposable food containers & napkins on the right.

And because of reorganizing with the bins and a little juggling of my large snaplock storage, we had enough room to move our small appliances into the pantry.  It may not seem like a big deal, but our Foodsaver and blender have been making the rounds between the top of our washer and dryer to our kitchen table to our breakfast bar and back for a few months now.  I am so excited that they finally have a place to live!

Home at last.

 Overall I am very happy with how this organization project has turned out.  I was somewhat concerned that it would be difficult to access some of the bins, but so far that hasn't been the case.  And Steve has given this system rave reviews- he loves being able to pull a bin out to get something he needs when he's cooking.  Between the organizing, painting, shopping for bins, and putting everything back together, this project took about five hours and only cost about $25 (the cost of four plastic bins).  I don't think the pantry is picture perfect, but I think this was a good investment to make a space we use daily more functional and a little prettier.

Jul 18, 2013

Wall Street

Our neighbors sometimes park in front of our house.  Does this ever happen to you?  Technically all of the property beyond our fence line belongs to the city.  The preschool has even gotten permission to create and maintain a "pass-through" that runs right in front of our property.  Parents drop off their kids and then drive the little graveled path right in front of our house before being deposited back onto the street.  So I know that it shouldn't bother me that the neighbors park in front of our house.

Here's the thing though.  We have this beautiful maple tree that lives about three feet off of our fence.  It belongs to the city.  But I love that tree (even though I'll claim I don't when all its leaves fall off this autumn).  It shields our view of the icky apartment complex across the street.  It provides shade in the summer and a rain screen for the other 11 months of the year.  Stanley the Squirrel hangs out in that tree.  And our neighbor was parking on the exposed roots of that tree.  In front of our house.

The view from our front porch.  The neighbors are all at work.

No parking.

I wondered how I could keep the neighbors from parking on those tree roots in front of our house.  I could have just asked them politely to knock it off, but you never know how that type of thing is going to be received, and the last thing I wanted to do create bad blood with my neighbors.  After some thinking, I realized that if I eventually wanted to plant any kind of shade-loving ground cover under that tree, it would need to be contained somehow.  I wouldn't want any ground cover to spread all the way out to the pass through and I definitely wouldn't want it to be driven over and parked on by anyone.  It seemed like building a short retaining wall around the tree would keep the neighbors off the roots and add a nice little level planting area for some curb appeal.  Cost was also a consideration.  We were encouraged to maintain the swath of land the city owned that was in front of our property when we moved in (our tiny town doesn't have the money or personnel to maintain all city property), but we were warned that any improvements we made to city land could potentially be ruined if say, the city needed to use a backhoe to access pipes that run in front of our property.  A small retaining wall wouldn't cost a ton of money, and although I'd be sad if the city took a backhoe to it, I wouldn't be heartbroken.

Ready for fixing-upping.

Here's how things went down.  A trip to Lowe's and thirty 4x12 retaining wall blocks happened first.  Those puppies are 27 pounds each.

Who needs a gym membership?

After considering the shape and size of the retaining wall I wanted, I started right in with a measuring tape, shovel, and trowel.  I had hoped going slowly and checking (and double-checking!) with a level as I went would speed things once I got the first layer of blocks set.  I didn't bother to use proper setting technique with gravel and whatnot because this retaining wall was getting built on tree roots.  Eventually it's gonna shift, no matter how by-the-book I went, so I decided to cut some corners and save some cash by skipping the gravel.

Just getting started.

After a couple hours of work I had used all 30 blocks and called it quits for the day.

Now it acutally looks like something!

The next day involved another trip to Lowe's for 40 more blocks and two tubes of masonry Loctite.

Good stuff, Maynard.

I laid down a thick line of the Loctite and went to town, placing the blocks as fast as I could.  I'm still impressed that I remembered to get a picture.


About 45 minutes more of work and some very tired arms, we had this:

Two layers high.

And then this:

Three layers is enough!

I decided to leave the back side of the structure open for a couple of reasons.  I'm not sure if I want this to extend into our yard or not, so leaving it open here gives me time to live with it for a while and make a decision at some later point in time.  There is not room to park back there, so it'll serve it's purpose of keeping the neighbors from parking on the tree roots as is.  You can't see the unfinished sides from the road, and it saved me a not tiny amount of money in retaining wall blocks (and eventually, planting soil).

Neighbors are home but not parked on the roots!

And as long as I was out there, I limbed up the maple tree (with the help of Steve's excellent ladder skills) and cut out the random rope and bungee cord that have been stuck on the tree since we bought the house.


I can't wait to get some soil in there and start filling it with groundcover!  I still love the idea of wild ginger, but the romantic in me would love something that would drape over the edge of the retaining wall without going totally invasive.  Maybe some vinca?  I'm open to suggestion!

PS- This project is featured in I Heart Organizing's Great Outdoors Linky Party!

Jul 13, 2013

Monogram Love

I am officially on the monogram train, people.

Where's W?

I have had my eye on these lovely hand towels from West Elm for almost a year now.  I finally couldn't stand it anymore and ordered a the monogrammed one for our kitchen.

Dry your mitts here.

I decided to drape it over the door for easy access after handwashing.  The rest of our kitchen towels live on the door of the oven.  It's very convenient to most of the kitchen, but not the sink.  Having a designated handwashing towel right under the sink has curtailed the tendency of *some people* to dry their hands off with paper towels.

Fashion and function.

I love that the monogram is equal parts vintage and modern- it helps keep the kitchen from going too cutesy-country.  And I am so excited to finally own something from West Elm.  I know it's a dumb thing, but it makes me feel like an adult, having something from an upscale decor store in my home- even if it's only a hand towel.

Jul 11, 2013

Garage Progress

I've finished painting!  Since I applied the paint directly to drywall, I ended up using about 2 gallons- that stuff sucks paint right up.  Just as a reminder, here's where we started:

To the right.

To the left.

You can see how I started with our interior paint, Kilim Beige, around the doorway.  Frankly, it just wasn't covering well enough.  And here's where we're at now thanks to our leftover exterior paint.

More left.

More right.

The paint really helped things look cleaner and less cluttered.  We are still debating about paining the ceiling. We think it would look nice, but we all know that painting ceilings is not a party.  Jury's still out.

Here's the wall to the left of the door.  We moved the key hooks down so we could put up a shelf and some artwork.  In the spirit of the garage as "man domain," most of what's on the wall are pieces of memorabilia of Steve's.

Nerd alert.

My favorite part of this wall is the whiteboard on the shelf.  Our chest freezer is notoriously disorganized and I hate digging through it when meal planning, especially in winter when it's chilly in the garage.  I took the time to inventory the chest freezer and wrote it on the whiteboard.  This way, I can keep track of what's in there without rummaging around a bunch of meats by simply adding and deleting items from the whiteboard as they go in and out of the freezer.

Every freezer has some mystery meat, right?

Aside from some garden tools that had been hanging out by our water heater moving to the garden shed, this little corner got some much needed organization too.  Our exercise mats are now neatly rolled up and on the shelf with the Xbox (which we love for playing exercise videos or streaming Netflix while treadmilling).  My weenie weights hold the mats in place.  We have plans to build a small shelf below for heavier weights and kettlebells, and Steve's heavybag will get stashed there too, so all of our exercise equipment is in one spot.

Exercise center.

The front end of the garage is coming right along.  So what do you think about the ceiling?  Paint or no paint?

Psst- check out this post at Beneath My Heart's "Best DIY Projects of July" Linky Party!

Jul 8, 2013


Kenny is the BOSS, Princess Hayley, Angel, Oh ya!

What does it all mean?  I'm not sure.  I am sure that I don't want to read these phrases scrawled on the inside of our garage in sidewalk chalk and spray paint anymore.  And the best way to do that is a little cover up mission.  I recruited Martha Stewart to help me.  Or her Flagstone paint, to be exact.

Buh-bye, Princess Hayley.

We had about seven gallons of Matha Stewart's Flagstone exterior paint after using it as the base paint for our house last summer.  I figured, why not?  It's a little dark for a place that is already kind of dark, but it's free, and we had a TON of the stuff.

I decided to paint the entire finished section of wall, which includes the wall closest to the interior of our house and about four feet's worth of drywall on either side of that.  And I figured I'd add some organization and pizzazz so long as I was classing the joint up.  More on that later.  Here's how we looked after just adding the paint and a shelf that had been gathering dust in the corner for the last almost two years (don't judge).

Delightfully scribble-free.

Is there still work to be done?  Oh yes.  See: laundry basket full of shoes, half-empty box of wine in front of chest freezer, and lack of photos showing the whole finished wall for reference.  But I've already gotten to work on it.  And you'll get to see it soon.  I promise.  Spoiler alert- the finished wall may or may not include Star Trek memorabilia.

Jul 6, 2013

Guest Bath Updates

Our guest bath was virtually unused for the first 18 months that we lived here.  But lately it's been getting a workout!  We've had guests staying with us about every other weekend for a few months now.  And now that our guest bathroom's function has been road-tested, we've added a few simple updates to make life easier for overnight guests.

Adding a second rug.
Stepping out of the shower onto bare linoleum can be a slip hazard.  And also, why wouldn't you want your freshly washed piggies to have a more comfortable landing?  The rug we used in front of the shower is the exact same rug we already have in front of the sink, and it matches the gray-green paint in this bathroom perfectly.

Better footing.

Adding a second (and third and fourth) towel hook.
We had noticed that our overnight guests didn't have a convenient place to hang towels to dry.  People don't sling their wet towels over shower curtain rods for the fun of it!  Since wall space was already at a premium, and we wanted to have room for multiple towels convenient to the shower, we went with a swiveling three-hook fixture.

Three is the magic number.

I think it's super cute and love the vintage vibe.  This hook is from Target's Threshold collection, and has already gotten rave reviews from guests.

Swivel, baby.

Adding a shower caddy.
This was such a "duh" moment.  Nobody likes to bend over in the shower to retrieve the shampoo, and nobody likes to let their soap get used up on the built-in tray by the shower's over-spray.  I should mention that the shower-head was installed by Steve's parents a couple of months ago to amp up the water pressure.  Unfortanately, the showerhead and the caddy get a little tangled up, so I think the caddy is going to move to a 3M hook mounted on the back wall of the shower surround.

Caddy up.

Speaking of the shower surround, I noticed that the chips I repaired have done the unthinkable.  Like chips in a windshield, these chips have also converged and spread.  There's now a hairline crack running from the chips near the drain over halfway up the floor of our shower pan.  Since there's no way to be sure it's not leaking, replacing the tub/shower surround has claimed precedence as the next major project around the house.

Adding a pedestal mirror.
If you're used to doing your makeup with a pedestal mirror, particularly a magnifying one, then the regular old builder grade bathroom mirror is not going to cut it.  Nuff said.

Mirror at the ready.

Adding bumpers to the vanity doors.
This had been on my to-do list ever since I finished painting the vanity last summer, but somehow it just kept getting neglected.  Realizing that my guests were subjected to loud wood-on-wood crashing noises every time they shut the vanity doors made me get on it.


There's our handful of quick and easy updates to make our guests more comfortable.  So about that tub and shower surround, who's got some recommendations for me?