Friday, May 30, 2014

Five for Friday: The Great Outdoors

Note: I never thought about needing to say this before, but it just occurred to me that, just for the record, none of the products/links on any Five for Friday posts are affiliated with us. They are purely things we enjoy (or dream of enjoying one day). 

This weekend we are hosting our very first outdoor gathering at this house. Ever.

I'm a little nervous; party planning does not come naturally to me. I'm much more comfortable grouting tile or painting a ceiling. Or vacuuming the crawl space. Or...alphabetizing the DVDs. Am I conveying that I'm pretty much more comfortable doing anything else? Because I am.  

But I love people and I love food (not necessarily in that order...I'm kidding, I'm kidding...mostly) and I love an excuse to shop for things, so I'm hoping I'll get better with practice. 

But while I've been putting off doing things looking for party inspiration, I've come across some awesome, cute or just downright nifty little things that I would love to have for our next outdoor soirĂ©e. 

Note: no Infinity Pools or solid gold grills on this list. Keepin' it real. Everything's under $100.

Melamine Dishes


This may come as a shock considering that we have two small children, but we don't have any plastic dishes. Like a couple cups, max, and I think they have a penguin and a snowman on them.  We'd love to have some dishes that felt more appropriate for outside use so we didn't have to purchase paper plates every time we host some kind of backyard function.  At $44 for four these are a little pricey but they're soooo gorgeous!

A Fire Pit


 I know, I know, this one's a little predictable. But I suppose some things are popular for a reason. Firepits have a lot of good reasons: they're cozy, they make a nice centerpiece for an outside gathering, you can use them to roast marshmallows...and the undeniable appeal of just staring at fire...

We know there are literally thousands of links on Pinterest about making your own fire pit (most of them are done very inexpensively, as well) and maybe one day we will, but right now we like the simplicity - and mobility - of a store bought one. Besides, at $89 this is pretty darn affordable.

Enamelware Mugs


Are these not perfect for drinking beverages around your fire pit?! Who doesn't love the idea of a cool evening around a fire with some cider or cocoa, but without the stress of breakable ceramic mugs. Also, there's something charmingly "old-school camp outs" about enamelware. It makes me want to find something flannel and curl up with a Nancy Drew. Oops, almost forgot, they're only $14 for a set of two. 

Fancy S'mores


Okay, so, this is not something you can purchase (though I feel like you should be able to. And have them delivered to your front door while you are marathon-watching Grimm...but that's just me...), they are fairly easy to make and also one of those things that can be done with whatever you have hanging out in your cabinets. Black Sea Salt and Swedish Fish? That works!

Burt's Bees Spray


Now, this falls into the category of: Things We Usually Have on Hand, but Have Run Out of, so We Don't Anymore. (Very wordy category.) You all are probably familiar with this product, but if you are not, you should walk right up and introduce yourself. Be forward, Burt digs that. *wink* This stuff smells amazing (very citrusy) and, as someone whom mosquitoes usually view as a buffet, I can tell you it works pretty well. It's also softens your skin, so bonus points for that. $8 for a 4.0 oz spray bottle. 

Ah, nothing as cathartic as making an imaginary shopping list. I should probably go think about party food now...

Oh, look, the driveway really needs weeding. Better do that first... 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I am the Egg-Chair

So this past weekend we went down to the Lakeside Farmer's Market to hit up one of our favorite vendors, Greenway Beef. The name is slightly misleading considering they sell, well, pretty much everything. After filling a couple bags full of produce (they have a sweet mix and match/fill a bag deal for $7) we headed down the street to one of the more popular thrift stores around town, Consignment Connection. Normally we see tons of stuff there that we want but nothing that we need and leave empty handed, but not this time.

When we got there this was awaiting us. The second we pulled in Meredith's eyes lit up and she HAD TO HAVE IT. Better yet? It was $12. The only problem was that they weren't open yet! In fact, they didn't open for another thirty minutes.


So, we decided that Meredith and Alice would stay to stake our claim and Grayson and I would run down the street to get something from Hardees while we waited (we're suckers for Hardees breakfast, it's our one weakness when it comes to fast food).

We took turns guaranteeing that no one took our chair.

...while eating our bacon egg and cheese biscuits.

It was all quite silly.

As it turns out, it's a good thing we didn't just leave and come back later because as soon as the doors opened I took it to the counter and asked them to hold it for us while we looked around and while we were in the other room someone still tried to buy it! Thankfully they told them that no, they couldn't buy it because a crazy family had already staked their claim since early that morning (or at least that's what I imagine they told them).

Here it is in our living room against our board and batten. It's quite at home and already feels like part of the family.

We love that it's yellow, but you can tell it wasn't painted all that "thoroughly" by its last owner so we're not sure if we should try and match the current color and give it a second coat, or try something different. Any thoughts? Also, what consignment shops are we missing out on? We both love anything that's heavy on the furniture and decor side of their inventory. Any suggestions for our next outing?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

All Dressed Up

Note: apologies for the terrible pictures in this post. It was a "put down baby, take picture, pick baby back up" kind of photo shoot. Also, I didn't do anything to "style" this project, which another reason why the pictures are kind of sad. But, considering what usually lives on top of this dresser is our (10 year!) old television and that television's antenna, the bare surface is actually an upgrade. I love you guys and hope you will forgive me for this post's lack of sparkling visuals. Man, a new t.v., we have got to get on that...

Some of you may remember us posting this photo a while back:

That was the morning I looked at that dresser long hard and thought, "Something's gotta change...and that something, Dresser, is you".

Well, a month and a half it is!

Okay, not the most mind-blowing furniture update, but it's a little fresher, a little brighter and (except for one part, which I'll get to in a minute), it was quick and easy. 

To start off, I removed the knobs. A simple task, I just held the screws in place with a Phillips Head screwdriver and unscrewed the knobs from the front. 

Then I removed the screws and put them in a cup while I was working on the knobs, because leaving them exposed turned the dresser into a terrifying Medieval torture device.

I laid the knobs out on some cardboard we had kicking around and gave them four very thin coats of white, high-gloss spray paint, waiting about an hour between each coat and alternately flipping them over to make sure I got good coverage. (I probably didn't need to wait an hour between coats, but, because they're something that's going to see a lot of handling, I didn't want to risk them being even the slightest bit tacky or drippy.) 

After they had dried fully ( I let them sit on the porch til they didn't smell like spray paint anymore; about two days. This also ensured they were super dry), it was a simple matter of remembering where I'd put the screws inserting the screws and attaching the knobs back on to the drawers. 

Here's what it looked like:

Originally, I had just planned on doing the knobs, but the too was looking in need of a little...something. 

So, I thought, why not? And painted the top, too!

I wiped it down really well to get any residue off, then sanded it lightly, followed by another wipe down and then three thin coats of Behr Pure White in Semi-gloss. (The above picture is one coat in, which is why it looks terrifying.)

I think it's pretty cute. And one of those projects where the effort to result ratio weighs pretty heavily toward the "result" side; I always like those. 

I should say that, since I can never seem to leave well enough alone, I am adding a stenciled pattern to the top:

It's slowly progressing; five minutes here, a half-hour there. Hopefully, it will be done soon. Then we can seal it and post actual finished (!) pictures. 

Anyone have any projects that they've done with a high result to effort ratio? I'm always looking for something I can knock out in a couple of afternoons (with help from the Nap Fairy) that just makes things pop in a new way. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Five for Friday: Homearama Edition

This is the last one, I promise! After this, we'll put down the notepads and step away from the Homearama recaps.

But, before we do, a Homearama-inspired Five for Friday!

Five design trends we spied at Homearama on our trip last Saturday that got us really excited. 

First up: Stenciled Walls


The Statement Wall 2.0. All the fun of wallpaper, none of the disgusting paste or hassle of removing it when you want to change up the look of a room. This room is from the John and Sherry Petersick designed showhouse. (Aside: oh, my goodness, how much do I want that chicken painting? It's called "Princess Truthful" by Lesli Devito and if I had oodles of money you would all be getting a chicken portrait for Christmas.) 
We are planning a stencil wall (actually, a faux stencil wall; we're just free-handing it) in Grayson's Viking Bedroom, but right now we're torn: swords or arrows?

Next up: Rain chains


We noticed several houses had swapped out traditional downspouts for rain chains. Now, we know rain chains may not actually be a practical replacement for all downspouts, but for certain areas, like a front porch, they do look a little nicer. These copper ones are from Target and run about $40.

Three: Shutter-free windows


Some of you already know how we feel about shutters. We like real shutters just fine, but we're tired of seeing faux shutters slapped on houses to beef up windows. But, as other people have said, sometimes windows without shutters look a little, well...naked. So we were thrilled when we saw several show homes embracing the "shutter-free" look and instead choosing chunkier window casing. We think it's a win-win: no improperly-sized vinyl rectangles, no feeling like your house is too "exposed".

Four: Dark floors, light walls


This isn't really a "trend", because it's so classic, but it still gets us every time. Dark-stained wood flooring paired with light colored walls. It positively glows!

and finally: Statement Bathroom Tile

We saw this:


and this:


and we immediately wanted to run home and re-tile our bathroom. Not terribly expensive, either (of course, I suppose it depends on the size of your bathroom; if you are one of those lucky ducks with a bathroom you could host a party in, I suppose it could cost a bit more). Home Depot carries hexagon penny tile for around $6 a square foot.

That's it! No more Homearama talk, promise! Next week we're in birthday-mode. A certain someone *coughJosephcough* is turning the big 3-0! He's pretty excited. And by excited, I mean not having a panic attack at all...

Thursday, May 22, 2014


We've talked about it before, when we got our trees cut down and also when we excavated the sidewalk, but we've sort of danced around a lot of the details. Today will change all of that. 

Today is about what we've done to the yard so far and why, as well as what we plan on doing in the future.

We have some drainage issues. Nothing serious; no pools of water in our crawl space or moats containing crocodiles. Our street is on an incline and we're somewhere in the middle, which means we see a lot of water pass our yard but we also see a lot of it stop and stay a while.

It might not look like it but this is a pond waiting to happen (especially in that bare spot on the right side near the walk).

 Our goal was to put an end to this. It's kind of a long train of thought, but, humor us, hop on board! It goes like this: These giant trees don't allow the yard to get enough sun which means the grass can't thrive, which means when the water sweeps in it erodes the soil. 

So the first step was to get the trees down. Once that was done we thought it best to raise the level of the yard so that the water didn't feel quite as welcome. This meant the sidewalk needed to be removed so it wasn't underground after we added dirt. Once these two projects had been completed we were left with a muddy dreary, wintry, mess of a "yard". 

I didn't edit the coloring of this picture. Even the sun was sad about our yard.


So, in early spring (yes, yes we know that's not when you're supposed to do this. Our timing was less than perfect) we bought a truckload of dirt. It was the biggest truckload they sold and probably ran us about $275. It was actually pretty difficult to acquire because it was so rainy that the dirt sifters couldn't handle the dirt being so wet and we actually had to wait a few weeks before we could get ours. They dumped it in the yard and we got to work.

This picture doesn't do the size of that pile justice. It went on forever.

Initially we had plans of doing it perfectly, but as we shoveled and raked the dirt out and tried to get everything done before summer came we began to let go of visions of getting out there with stakes and twine and levels and bow rakes and transforming it into a perfect zen garden front yard with trowel marks curving gently around awaiting the planting of our grass seed. 

Instead we just spread it out. And eyeballed it. And called it done. 

It's not exactly level. But that's okay. We figured this was more of a phase one deal anyway. We'll come back later and add dirt here, or remove some there.  It's a work in progress. 

After the dirt was spread, I ran around with a tamp pretending I knew what I was doing. Tamping here and there but not exactly everywhere. Then we ran around with a hand crank grass spreader and covered everything in seed, raked a little, and waited. 

And watered. 

And waited. 

And watered. 

And then we got nervous. 

Did we do something wrong? We didn't use straw because the guy at southern states said it wasn't necessary! Should we call them? Did we wait too long? Is this seed defective? The birds didn't eat it all, I can see it right there!

Finally we gave Southern States a call to ask them what was up. You know what was up? Not the ground temperature that's for sure. Apparently, the ground temperature needs to be consistently above 50 degrees for the seed to do anything. All that hurrying didn't amount to a hill of beans with an unexpectedly cold spring. 

So, armed with some other pointers we got back out there and did a little reseeding in a few areas, did a lot of raking to stir up the dirt and make it more habitable for the grass seed, got on a better watering regimen, and as the temperature rose we started to see some baby grass come up.


It was so sparse at first that it was still a tad disheartening but we just kept watering and now we have this:

It's even nice enough for Alice to enjoy it a little, though she seems a tad skeptical.

There are still plenty of bare spots but we knew we'd have to reseed in the fall anyway (which is really when you should be doing all of this). 

We got so jazzed about our grass that we started to work on other things out there as well. 

Meredith painted the well and we planted some boxwoods across the front of the house and redid the mulch beds that we had lost when we resoiled.

Worker man doesn't have time to stand still for a picture. Blurry pictures on your blog are not his concern.

We also temporarily laid some slate for a walk. 

We basically just outlined each slate and then dug up the area underneath (similar to how Young House Love installed their much more precise/professional looking walk). We threw down some more seed around where we dug up but don't expect it to do much over the summer. We sold all of the slate from our first walk so we pulled this slate out of the short bit of sidewalk that we had at the bottom of the stairs on our back porch. 

And what did we find under that walk?

Another sidewalk!

This is me grimacing at the sense this makes.

As far as future plans go we've been throwing around ideas and we think we're going to change things around quite a bit. As you may have noticed we've already gotten rid of the smaller driveway. It just didn't seem necessary and cutting a little extra grass is more appealing than maintaining a useless driveway. This left us with a small unattractive, grass-less section, where the air handler is but we realized that if we move the fence up about six or eight feet all that stuff will get shifted to the back yard and the fencing would then be even with the other side of the house. So that's the plan for over there.


We took down a lot of the short fence bordering the small driveway when we found out it was ours, since it was falling apart anyway. Now we are going to replace it with a cross beam fence that would wrap around the front of the yard to the driveway and then a small section of it on the other side of the driveway to balance it out. 

Rather than redo the sidewalk that went to the street we're just going to have a sidewalk that goes to the driveway. The only thing we used that sidewalk for was to check the mail and if we move the mailbox to the end of the driveway we don't need it at all. This should save us quite a bit of money when we finally lay a more permanent walk (we're thinking brick, to match the steps and foundation) as well as get rid of an unnecessary feature that cuts through the yard.

But for now here we are. One driveway, six scrawny hedges, and eight trees down. Six boxwoods up. A slightly improved well. Dirt. Mulch. Some grass. Temporary mulch bed dividers and a temporary walk. We're feeling pretty confident that we'll actually make something of this yard. One day soon we intend for this to be the most charming yard on the street.

Right now it's in that "awkward phase".

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Homerama (a-lamma-damma-ding-dong)


Apologies for the ridiculous title; everytime I type "Homerama" I just can't stop. It brings out the "Greaser" in me. Thankfully, I do not own enough black leather for my inner Greaser to become my outer Greaser.  

Saturday we, like hundreds of other families, couples and singletons, attended RichmondHomerama 2014.

If you're unfamiliar with Homerama, it's pretty much a model home show; seven houses designed by local building companies and decked out to the nines by interior designers, with proceeds from ticket sales benefitting Habitat for Humanity.

There has been a lot of Homerama blogging from various sources already. (Starting here Ashley has a lovely, very thorough, break-down of each house on her blog, Attempts at Domestication and John and Sherry Petersik of Young House Love, who actually designed one of the homes, walk you through their entire experience starting here. It's pretty awesome.)

So, rather than repeat everything that has already been said, we decided to do what we do best: make a list!

But not just any list; a list of imaginary awards that we would hand out to the various Homerama houses, if we had the opportunity (and access to tiny golden statues).

Without further ado, Meredith and Joseph present:
The First Annual Little House Blue Housies Awards!
*pause for raucous cheering*

To start things off, we first present the award for...
Walk-in Closet Most Likely to Make You Feel the Need to Purchase Your Own Clothes!

Aaaaand the winner is:

Checkout counter?

This closet is beautiful. If I had this closet in my house, it would be where I would host dinner parties. I would also be loath to enter it in my pajamas for fear that it would judge me. And probably mutter something in french about my hair after I had left.

Up next is our award for...

Best Use of Camouflage by a Utilitarian Object!

And the Award goes to:

This vent!

It's made of wood and inlayed into the floor so it's completely flush. We fondly refer to this as "ninja vent" because it is almost undetectable until you're right on top of it. Thankfully, it's purpose is just circulating air and not assassinating you. Otherwise, we'd be goners. The house (House #6, Viniterra by Falcon Custom Homes) had beautiful hardwood floors done by Evans Carpet. They were the only thing I actually had enough guts to ask someone about; they were so interesting and probably cost more than our entire house.

For our third award, we present:

Hardware Most Likely to Inspire Doorknob Envy!

To be honest, we really don't remember much about the hardware in the other houses. (Which is kind of telling about how interesting it was.) These though, these stand out. They're statement pieces. And they're saying, "Hey, psst, come open this door. You know you want to." And all I can think is, "You're right. I do want to...I'd follow you anywhere, beautiful doorknobs..."

Award number four...

Most Perplexing Use of Decorative Metal Letters!

Is it French? Is it "lice" all scrambled up? Who knows!
Really, do you know? We couldn't figure it out. 

But we made a lot of jokes, so it's a winner.

Number five:

Best Subterranean-Waterfall-Inspired Shower!

Well, only subterranean waterfall-inspired shower. 

Is this a shower or a cave? 

Granted the fixtures are beautiful, kind of like jewels sparkling in a mine...

A mine that you shower in.

Our Sixth Award:

Bathroom Whose Square Footage is Closest to that of our House!

Oh, but there's more! Bathroom, that is. The bathroom/water closet in this house came in at just under 600 square feet. That's 230 square feet less than our house. It was impressive, you could put on quite a concert, singing in a shower like that. 

Not that anyone here does that. 

And certainly not Andrew Lloyd Webber medleys. 

Anyway...moving along, we have our final award:

House Most Likely to Have Been Designed by King Minos as a Home for His Minotaur!


You may not be able to tell from this floor plan sketch, but we got lost in this house. Twice. 

Now, I certainly don't claim to have a fantastic sense of direction, but when I wander through multiple hallways on my way from the living room to the guest bedrooms, I start looking for the Goblin King and an M.C. Escher staircase. 

And thus concludes the awards portion of our post. In all seriousness, we had a great time. There was a Moon Bounce and free snow cones, tons of food and everyone we talked with was really nice and just seemed happy to be there; like the fanciest block party we've ever been to. 

We will definitely be going back next year. And we probably won't be able to resist another round of silly awards. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bench me, I'm dreaming

You know those things you walk past in a store and, for lack of a better word, lust over?

And sometimes, when you're out with your kids and you need to pick up baby wipes (Or toilet paper. Or trash bags.), you convince yourself that you need to go to Target because they totally have the best price. And, as long as you're there, you might as well swing by that thing you've been eyeing because, hey, it might be on clearance. 

Well, that was me with this bench:


It's cute, right? 

I love the rag rug meets metallic top and the baaaarely finished legs. 

But, alas, it's $110. 

And I just can't do that. 

I mean, it's a bench. 

Do you know how many unnecessary dollar store knick-knacks I could buy with $110? hundred and nine!

(One hundred and nine pieces of junk that I absolutely do not need, but that's the way my brain works.)

However, I would totally pay...hmm, $23. 

What? No way!

Uh, yeah, way!

It was a "stars and planets and orbiting satellites aligned" deals, topped with me being one of "those ladies", to whom even the deeply discounted clearance sticker wasn't enough. 

Here's how it all went down:

It started innocently enough, almost exactly the same as the hypothetical situation above. We needed baby wipes. We get baby wipes from Target. 

So, we're meandering around Target, checking all the back end caps (because that's where they like to stash the clearance stuff) when, lo and behold, what do I spy?

My bench!

With a little red clearance sticker pasted to one leg!

Now, I have not seen this bench in while. Which makes me wonder, is it really $54.98 or could it be...even less?

So, Alice in one arm, bench in the other and trusty Grayson by my side, we hot-footed it to the nearest red-shirted employee. 

It went like this:

Me, breathless with excitement and from carrying a twenty pound baby and a twenty-five pound bench halfway around the store: Excuse me, could you check the price on this for me?

Very nice, very calm Target Lady: Of course! I'm happy to assist you and I don't think you seem crazy at all! 

Okay, she didn't say that last part, but she scanned the bench without even the faintest whiff of condemnation. 

Target Lady: $33

Me: (inside, having a Mary Katherine Gallagher moment) Yes! Alright! Target's number one! 

Me: (outside) Great! Thank you!

After that, Grayson helped me grab a cart (he's such a sensible boy) and we loaded up the bench (and a lamp that was also on clearance ($12, yes, please!), but more on that in a minute). 


While I was putting the bench in the cart I noticed that it was missing one of the protective feet:

I figured it could be replaced easily enough, but it meant the bench would be wobbly until it was fixed, which was kind of annoying. 

It was then that all those segments from the Today Show about store discounts came flooding back to me. " Ask for more off", they whispered... "You never know unless you ask..."

Now, this is outside my comfort zone, talking money with store employees. I am one of those people that hates returning things for perfectly legitimate reasons even when I have the receipt. Like the employees are going to judge me, "Ooh, she changed her mind and this reflects poorly on the rest of her life. And her shoes are ugly." 

I mean, in my head, that's what they're thinking. 

But, so help me, I was going to buy this bench! And I was going to pay even less than the clearance price! Or, at least, I was going to try...

I wheeled the cart (and the bench and the baby and the Grayson) up to the Customer Service desk and asked the man, very nicely: 

"Umm, this has some damage, it's missing a little footy thing (technical term)." 

Man, without missing a beat: Yeah, we'll take $10 off. That okay?

Me: (outside) Yeah, great, thank you! 

Me: (inside) Oh, yeah! Target number one! Alright! (see above)

Here it is, all settled in our house:

It's acting as our little shoe station right now. It's a good height for Grayson to hop on when it's time to put shoes on and the crate Joseph made is underneath to toss shoes inside when it's time to take them off. 

I think it's going to work out nicely. 

Oh, but I do have a question!

I mentioned that I also picked up this lamp:

Nate Berkus, $12, missing the little switch cover where you turn it on and off but I don't think that's too big a deal. 

My question is: what kind of shade do you pair with a lamp like this? It's obviously a statement lamp (I mean, it's gold!) and it's a little on the tall side, I feel, so I'm tempted to pair it with a really plain shade. But maybe that's wrong, maybe it needs a shade that stands up to its bold shape and color. I don't know. 

Also, my picture is terrible, here is a professional one: 

So, please, en"light"en me. 

Ha, yeah, see what I did there? 

Oh, goodness, someone help me...