Aug 17, 2013

A Post About a Post

When I spilled the details about our long-term plans for the exterior of the house here, I mentioned that we were planning on bulking up the post that supports our front porch overhang.  Hence this post about our post.

Pre Post.

We just thought the proportion looked funny.  We had this cute octagon window happening on one side of our little porch along with the expanse of the rest of the east-facing part of our house and this puny, ugly support post on the other.  Things had gotten a little better since we painted last year, but we still longed for a way to balance the proportion and dress things up a little.

The top of the post (plus Steve measuring).

The bottom of the post.  Someone needs to mow those dandelions!

Steve used cedar because we knew it would withstand the abuse it'd get outside and because we wanted it to match the texture of the trim on other parts of the house- since eventually the post will be painted white like the rest of our exterior trim.  He opted to do mitered corners for a nice polished look.

Checking the fit.

Once Steve had all four pieces cut to size, he nailed them in.

Any excuse to use a nail gun.

At this point you can see how much better the proportion of the overhang looks with the post bulked up.

Steve's on a roll with the nail gun.

Once Steve was done with the hard parts, he turned things over to me to do the easy and tedious parts (being a linear-sequential person has its benefits).  My first job was to sand all sides of the post to make sure the corners met tightly and knock all of the splinters down so things were nice and smooth.  Since it's hard to use a palm sander and photograph the process at the same time, you get this photo instead.  I'm sorry.  But obviously not that sorry.

Super dork.  Yes that is sawdust in my hair.

After that I filled the nail holes and corners where the sides joined.  Note to all- mitered corners are super pretty and a total pain in the you-know-what to seal with caulk.  Seriously, it took me about four times as long to seal this post as it took Steve to bulk it up.  Our plan is to make the post look a little more finished by adding a foot and maybe a crown (similar to this), but I decided to go ahead and prime the post as is.  I figured it'd save me a little work after the fact and the high contrast would allow me to see if I needed to re-caulk any areas.


Nevermind the still-naked planters down the north side of the house.  Don't you think the proportion looks better?  It added some much-needed balance.


Our next step will be finishing off the post.  Crossing our fingers we'll get it done before I go back to work full time!

Aug 14, 2013


Wayyyyyy back last July when we painted the exterior of our house, we had used a cleaning product called 30 Seconds Outdoor Cleaner to de-mildew our siding.  It did such a fabulous job of removing gunk from everything it touched.  In fact, maybe it did a little too fabulous of a job?  Check out what our front door deadbolt and handle looked like after experiencing a shower of 30 Seconds.

Spots everywhere!

When it first noticed what had happened, I thought the handle was just dusty.  Once I discovered wiping the spots didn't help, I tried a variety of soaps, wash cloths and sponges to no avail.  I admitted defeat and started planning on saving up for a new deadbolt and knob.

Fast forward 13 months.  I was watering the plants and scowling at the spots and decided to give cleaning those dang spots off the oil-rubbed bronze one last-ditch effort.  I decided to try a cleaning product that'd have some abrasive muscle behind it.  What did I have to lose?

Canned air, baking soda, and an old sock.

I got our sock- er, rag- damp on the toe, poured a little baking soda onto it, and then started scrubbing away at those spots.  I scrubbed for a good five minutes or so and then blew all the excess baking soda off with some canned air (nobody said it was just for dusting electronics!!).  Prepare to be amazed.

Second life.

No more spots!  To be fair, the oil-rubbed bronze wasn't a gorgeous lustrous finish like it was when we first bought it, but it's now over 5 years old (we brought it with us from our first house), so gorgeous lustrous finish is no longer required.  And it's going to save us from having to buy a new deadbolt/latch/knob combo, which will save us about $125.  Not to shabby for some baking soda and an old sock, eh?

Aug 7, 2013

All the (Stitch) Fixins

Fashion blogger I am not, but I am so excited about Stitch Fix that I had to write a post about it.  Stitch Fix is a "personal styling service."  They have a stylist send a package of 5 items of clothing/accessories to you whenever you decide you want it.  You  get to keep anything in your fix that you like and send back anything you don't like.

Here's how it works.  You sign up for a Fix through Stitch Fix's website.  They'll ask you all kinds of questions about yourself.  What is your height and weight?  What size tops/bottoms do you normally wear?  How are you proportioned- short/long torso, arms, legs?  You also get asked about how you feel about your body.  Are there certain aspects of your figure that you like to show off or hide?  Then you get asked questions about your fashion choices.  They have several styles that you are asked how much you like or dislike.  You can sort through collections of clothes and indicate if you like some, a lot, a few, or none of the clothes pictured.  You can also tell them if you're hoping to add a specific item to your wardrobe, if there's types or colors of clothes you don't want to receive (for example, I rarely wear skirts or dresses, so I asked not to receive those) or if you'd like to shift your style at all, and how adventurous you'd like your Stitch Fix package to be.  Lastly, you get to decide when your Stitch Fix arrives.  You can schedule a single package whenever you want or you can schedule recurring Fixes.  And you get to tell your stylist how much you'd typically spend on different types of pieces so they can attempt to operate within your typical budget.

Once you've got everything set up, you are charged a $20 deposit, called a "styling fee."  Stitch Fix will have one of their stylists hand-pick items to send to you based on your exhaustive answers to all the stuff mentioned above.  Your Fix arrives when you tell it to.  You then have three days to try on the items in your box and decide what you'd like to keep and what you'd like to return.  If you keep all five items in your fix, you get a 25% discount on every item in your fix.  If you decide to keep at least one item from your fix, your $20 styling fee gets applied to the cost of anything you want to keep.  Any items you don't want to keep?  They provide a prepaid envelope in your Fix- just put anything you don't want in the bag and drop it in the mail when your three days are up.

I got my first fix last week.  I have to say that part of the fun was the excitement of waiting for it to come.  I was curious to see what my stylist would pick for me since they give you the opportunity to link to a Pinterest board to your profile to give your stylist a flavor for what you like, and the idea of someone hand-picking pieces for me that would have a similar feel to items on my Pinterest fashion board was pretty thrilling.  The package arrived a day earlier than expected and the packaging itself was so pretty!  All five of my items were inside, along with the name of my stylist, and an inventory and price list for each item in my Fix.  Pulling items out of the package was like Christmas.  My favorite part was that each item of clothing included a card showing two different ways you could style the item.  I felt so excited to not only have someone send me things they thought I would like and would look good on me, but also give me some ideas of what I could wear with it!

So let's see the items, shall we?!

This coral crepe blouse and the blue floral necklace were in my fix.  I have to say, I loved the style of the blouse on first sight but was a little sad about the color- I didn't think coral would be a good color on me.  To my surprise, it worked!  And the fit of the blouse was PERFECT.  The neckline was flattering but not too exposing to wear to work.  The pockets and eaupulets gave it a little safari flair and the sleeves were just a tiny bit puffed to keep things feminine.  My favorite part was the bottom hem.  It was very flattering and it flowed enough to do exactly what I told my stylist I wanted- minimize my hips and tummy.  Unfortunately my posing in the photo pulled the hemline up high enough that it did exactly the opposite!  #FashionModelFail

Dog cameo.

I also loved the blue floral necklace.  I would have never thought to pair it with the coral shirt, but one of the suggestions on the style card that came with the shirt showed a necklace almost exactly like it, so I gave it a go and LOVED it.  Verdict: kept both!  Wore this outfit on a shopping date with my mom.

More dog cameos.

This purple and black stripe dolman-sleeve top was also included.  Normally dolman sleeves just bug me, but Steve thought it was really flattering.  It is a really nice weight- it feels like a light summer terry sweatshirt.  The style card showed it with jeans or tucked into a pencil skirt (I'd have never have thought to do that!) and the casual suggestion showed it with a mint scarf.  I opted for a chunky mint bracelet for easier photographing.  Verdict: kept it!  Wore this out to sushi with Tabi and Will.

Someone get this girl a camera tripod, stat.

Next was this cute patterned tank.  I loved it on sight, and the fit was right on.  I grumbled a little at the care instructions- hand wash cold, hang dry- and a little bit more at the price ($38 for a TANK??), and put it back in the box.  The next day, I tried it back on, and with a few different combinations of pants and shorts and cardis and blazers I already owned, and decided that the neckline and the pattern would make it fabulous as a shell that I could wear to work all year.  Verdict: kept!  I wore this to my friend Kalen's wedding shower.

Seriously need some photography help.

The last item in my Fix was a pair of Kut from the Kloth jeans.  I was wary.  Pants and I rarely get along.  I've got a high waist, long legs, and my hips are much wider than my waist proportionally.  And I had tried Kut jeans on at department stores before with disastrous results.  The jeans were a really dark navy wash in a slim boot cut, and unlike most Kut jeans, the back pockets were blissfully unadorned.  Much to my surprise, they fit.  LIKE A GLOVE.  They were the perfect length for me to wear with flats provided they didn't shrink in the wash (33" inseam, told ya I have long legs) and dark enough that I could wear them to work.  Even better, they had a lot of stretch and felt so comfy.  They were priced about $5 more than I've seen similar styles from Kut in department stores.  Verdict: kept!  Sorry, I don't have any pictures of the jeans because it's been in the low 80s here for the last few days and I just can't convince myself to wear them while it's so warm outside.

So if you've been keeping score, this means that I decided to keep all five items that came in my Fix, which meant that each item in my Fix would be discounted 25%.  And with my $20 prepaid styling fee, I essentially got one piece for free.  FUH.  REE.

Now, from what I understand, most people don't love everything in their first Fix as much as I did.  So when I logged back into StitchFix to let them know what I was keeping, they also asked for feedback.  How did each item fit?  How did I feel about each item- love? like? OK?  What did you think of the prices of each item?  When they asked for other comments, I asked to keep my same stylist.  I've read other stories in blog land about people getting passed from stylist to stylist with mixed results, and since I had such a positive experience the first time around, I wanted my gal, Ishara, to keep on keeping on.

Overall I am pretty darn happy about my StitchFix experience.  I had a lot of fun waiting for my Fix and discovering the items my stylist sent me.  It was fun to try things on in my own house with access to my own closet.  And I loved the little cards with styling suggestions.  I also totally rocked it in terms of getting items that I thought were cute but pushed my fashion boundaries a little, and the fit of each item was great.  And can I tell you how marvelous it is to find a pair of jeans that fit without trying on a million bazillion pairs at the mall?!  The only cons I experienced were getting sent items that included non-lazy-girl washing instructions (although I did cheat for the items marked "hand wash" and just turned them inside out and sent them through a regular cycle in a lingerie bag) and the fact that some of the items were priced at more than I'd normally pay for them if I picked them out myself.  However, because I kept all five items in my fix, the discount I scored brought the price of each item pretty close to or under what I'd budget for them if I had been looking for them at my local mall.

I'd totally recommend StitchFix if you're looking to give your wardrobe a shot in the arm, want help creating fresh ensembles when dressing, or if you just really love the anticipation leading up to Christmas (hee!).  If you want to give them a go, you can tell them I sent you by following this link.  I'd also recommend liking them on Facebook- they post great tips and some photos of items you can request in your Fixes.  If you decide to give them a try, let me know!  I'm curious to hear about your experiences with them too!

Aug 5, 2013

Laying Down Roots

People.  I have got PLANTS!

So I gotta tell you that my sister-in-law Tabi is the best.  She and I have organized a little work-swap this summer.  A few weeks ago I came over to her place and helped her with a project, and this week she came over and helped me with a project- getting the area behind the retaining wall prepped and planted!  This has been such a genius idea inspired by Erica at Northwest Edible Life.  We both get twice as much work done as if we had tackled these projects alone, and we get to hang out and chat while we work.  What a blessing!

The night before Tabi came over I made sure to weed the area between the tree and the wall as best I could.  Once that was done I put in about 15 cubic feet of low-quality (read:cheap!) potting soil.

Blank canvas.

We kicked off our day together with a trip to McAuliffe's, the local nursery that had been so incredibly helpful to me in creating some of our long-range landscaping plans via email early this year.  Sure there were closer nurseries to my house, but I wanted to spend some money at McAuliffe's as a thank you for their (free) help.  It was really easy to find, and everything was easy access and displayed beautifully.  One of their employees helped point me in the right direction for shade plants that would be able to survive under our giant maple without spreading like crazy.  We had a great time poking through the plants and arranging them in a red wagon as we made decisions.

You get iphone photos when I forget my camera at home.

About $100 later (aw yeah, stayed within budget!) we grabbed 6 cubic feet of high quality potting soil and headed home.

The haul.  McAuliffe's provided some burlap to protect the plants on the ride home.

When we got ready to plant that day, we raked up the last of the weeds, dead leaves, and anything else laying around the base of the tree.  We amended the soil with the good potting soil and got things mixed together pretty well and raked smooth.

Then came the fun part- deciding on an arrangement!  I was so glad to have Tabi with me, since she's such a creative person and has a really good eye for making everyday things look artful.  When we were happy with our arrangement from a variety of angles, we got out the trowels and went to work!

View from the front.

From the side.

The other side.

Caesar was better with supervisory duties than he was with a trowel.

We lucked out with it being the most overcast day we've had in a while, so the plants seemed to do just fine through the travel and planting process.  And then I got even luckier because we had two days of rain right in a row to keep everything nice and moist.

Let's meet the plants, shall we??

These viney fellas are called Persian Chocolate Moneywort.  They're spreaders, but not to the point where they'll choke out other plants.  I'm so happy to have something that will do a little spilling over the edge of the retaining wall.  They're semi-evergreen, so the deep green and red of the leaves will show most of the year and the bright flowers will make an appearance in late spring.  There's a whole lotta green going on in this bed, so I'm really excited about the contrast of these little guys.


Super excited about the Wild Ginger (or English Ginger), which also have a tendency to spread, though I've read they're difficult to establish.  I only got three of them because they were so dang expensive.  They're not edible, but they can smell gingery.

Shiny and cute as buttons.

Salal is a native Northwest plant.  It's deer resistant, will grow to between 3 and 5 feet tall if left unattended, and spreads (as anyone who has walked through the woods in Western Washington can attest).  I planted these toward the back of the retaining wall bed, closer to our fence line.  I figured I'd have an easier time controlling them if they had somewhere "acceptable" to spread and the three feet between where they're planted and our fence line seems like a good buffer zone.  Bonus: it's evergreen (hello privacy!) and it takes pruning well (which is great because I tend to get carried away with shears).

Native, evergreen, and pretty.  Win.

And I planted several varieties of fern.  I don't remember all of the varieties, but I think one was called leatherleaf, and one was called curly or frilly...?  In any case, they're quite pretty (and definitely not to scale in my sad photoshop rendering).

Fern party.

Here's my favorite one, the Japanese Painted Fern.

Pretty colors.

And here's how things are looking after a few nice days of rain.


Yeah, it's a little sparse in the bed, but they'll start to fill in as time passes (fingers crossed!).  Oh, and check out that cute arbor on our front gate!  We inherited it from Steve's parents when they moved.  There's already a clematis growing on it, and I can now say with assurance that although it suffered some damage on the ride from their old house to ours, it's alive and well.

Anyone else organize a work trade with a friend and have a story to share?  How about some gardening advice for me?  I've never grown any of the plants we put down in this bed before!