Friday, November 4, 2011

finished the slipcover!

Almost.  It's far enough along that it looks finished to the casual observer and that's good enough for now.  I want to do something with tabs and buttonholes  and covered buttons so that the band around the circumference will be more fitted.  Then I want to get some firmer foam for the seat cushions and cover them in a more tailored way.  I also want to make some throw pillows with the leftover bits of fabric.  In my spare time.

Here's the original pattern.  As I mentioned before, I had to do something different with the skirt because I didn't have quite enough fabric in the $3.00/yard remnant to follow the pattern exactly.  That's how it ended up getting all fancy.

Here's the end result and a couple of other views.  I'm not sure why I didn't take a full picture from the front.  Maybe I didn't feel like moving the coffee table.

Although the appearance of this couch has been vastly improved, over all I'm not that impressed with the whole idea of slipcovers, now that I've done one, or at least I'm not impressed with the drape and tie variety.  It's kind of makeshift, even if it doesn't look that way.  Actually it sort of does look makeshift, but I can live with it for now.  I sort of want to see if I can figure out how to actually reupholster the couch properly one of these years.  We'll see.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hydrangea Heaven

I have always loved hydrangeas.  We used to have a huge old Pee Gee hydrangea growing right outside by the corner of our bedroom but sadly it went away along with the rest of the old part of our house.  I've been wanting another one ever since, but have hesitated because of all the deer that we have running around here, eating everything in sight.

Finally I broke down and bought myself a pair of Endless Summer hydrangeas and some deer spray, which actually seems to work quite well.  It stinks when you first spray it on, but then the smell goes away.  Apparently the deer can still smell it for about 3 months afterwards, so it's a pretty easy solution as long as it works.

The one we planted by our front steps is doing really well, but I neglected to plant the other one for about a week and it got dry and droopy a couple of times and died shortly after I planted it.  That'll teach me.

Then suddenly my friend JoAnn had a hydrangea that she needed to move.  It was enormous - about 4 or 5 feet across, with absolutely gorgeous blue flowers.  I had spent the summer admiring it, full of hope that one day my own little hydrangea would get that big and healthy.  It was so huge, and she couldn't figure out where else in her yard to put it, and then when it broke into four pieces while she was digging it up, she decided to offer them to me!

So I am now the proud owner of four(!) offspring of this lovely bush which are now gracing the hillside outside of my not-yet-screened-in back porch with their glorious beauty.  I can hardly wait to see them bloom and grow next summer.  And I like the fact that they remind me of JoAnn whenever I park my car in the back, which is pretty much every single day.

After we planted them I gave them a pretty hard pruning so that the root systems could establish themselves in their new location without having to work too hard to feed so many leaves and flowers.  The deer gave me some further assistance later that evening:

So we got right on spraying them with the deer spray after that.  Although hydrangeas are not the most practical choice for our location because of the deer, the fact that they'll get morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.  I really want them to thrive.

Another less than ideal situation is the fact that they were divided and transplanted at the end of the summer when it was still quite hot.  Hydrangeas can apparently be a little delicate and sensitive during warm weather, so Doug rigged up a couple of screens to give them more shade while they adapt.  We took them down about a month later after the weather got cooler.

So now I'm just waiting and waiting and waiting until next summer to see how they do.  I'm absolutely thrilled to have ended up with an entire row of blue hydrangeas!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August Home Improvements

We've made a little progress on our house this month. Nothing major - just a few little cosmetic improvements to make our house an even more pleasant place to live.  The first thing we did was to pick out and install the glass for the tops of our cabinets.  After all this time we finally got around to it - because we discovered that there's a really cool glass store in Kensington that has all kinds of different glass textures.  I wanted something slightly wavy and I found exactly the style I had in mind.

You might notice that the sample moulding piece I made way back in October of 2009  is still languishing up there on top of the cabinet as are the actual lengths of moulding that I painted and got all ready to go in March of 2010.  I have I feeling I'm going to have to do it myself if I want to ever get it installed.  All that's left to do in the kitchen, besides the door trim and the baseboards is this top of the cabinet moulding and the shoe moulding around the floor.  That's it.

After I get everything else done, hahaha, I want to take a class at the glass studio and learn how to do this:

I stole that picture from their website so I'm assuming they will teach people how to do leaded glass.  If you look around my house (or this blog) you'll see that I have a thing for clear leaded glass (as opposed to stained glass).

Considering how I had to live for five years of my life, I guess you could say I'm fairly adaptable and tolerant of things not looking the way they ought to.  I was absolutely horrified at myself when I first hung this construction paper over the bottom halves of the windows in the living room a few months ago to keep people on the street from looking in and being tempted by our new TV.

Doug has in the meantime informed me that if someone wanted to steal a TV they'd be going after a much bigger one than what we have. What do I know? I didn't even have a TV for six years after the fire and I think the one we got recently is huge.

Anyway, after a while I sort of got used to the construction paper on the windows and it wasn't until a couple of my good friends gently reminded me that this really isn't a good look for the living room that I decided to buckle down and make some curtains.  I've them on four windows on the main floor and four windows upstairs.

I think it's a big improvement, marred only by the fact that there is no window trim or baseboards there yet.  But you can't have everything now can you?  So why not put up curtains before the window trim is finished?  After all. we've got to keep the order of doing things UNUSUAL in order to maintain any kind of consistency around here.

When I was in South Carolina I bought a coffee table at an antique store for 75 dollars which I think is a pretty good deal.  It's very cute.  Check it out:

The table is oval with a glass top.  It's exactly the right size to go in front of the couch.  And if I get tired of it in the living room, it's metal, so I can paint it with rustoleum and put it out in the not-yet-screened-in back porch.

Next up is finishing the damn slipcover for the couch.  It has been languishing upstairs by the sewing machine for over a month.  I lost my momentum due to the sheer tediousness of sewing all of those long seams and then it got interrupted by curtain making and a dress.  (A dress!!!)  But now it's time to get back to it.  Sigh.  Here's what it looks like so far:

I'd almost rather pull weeds than work on this slipcover, so wish me luck!!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gutters Finished!

I'm happy to report that Doug has finished installing the gutters.  He did a beautiful job on them and is now I'm sure feeling quite relieved to have finally finished something that he'd been putting off for a long time.  I am happy about the water no longer hitting and wearing out the porch roofs from the roof above, no more lack-of-gutter induced erosion around our house, and no more sprained ankles caused by these grass-covered areas of erosion for me!  And there won't be huge amounts of water pouring all over me and my bass whenever I go to or from my car during a rainstorm.  Not anymore.  Yaaay Doug!

Here are some photos of his excellent handiwork:

I think the house looks a little more finished now with the gutters on.  And now we'll be able to do some foundation planting too.

I like the way he's got the downspout from the gable gutter on the right heading directly into the porch gutter.  And the porch gutter's downspout goes into an underground pipe so there will be no erosion on that hill

Doug decided to use brackets to attach the gutters to the house instead of the big long screws that go across the gutter.  He thinks those are more prone to coming loose.  Hopefully ours will be less prone to coming loose because I think this was a lot more work.  But sturdy is good, especially with gutters.

He spent a lot of time relocating and declogging these pipes which come out on the other side of the driveway.  He installed these pipes under the driveway about 15 years ago and they just sat there in a state of neglect.  I'm glad they are finally being used for their intended purpose.

Now I'm actually looking forward to getting some rain so that we can enjoy the greatness of his gutters.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

our new crape myrtles are blooming!

We are so excited at how well our five crape myrtles are doing.  For a while we thought maybe they wouldn't bloom during the first year after we planted them (last fall).  But they are now in full bloom and they look extremely happy out there all along the front sidewalk.  Our crape myrtles are called "Muskogee" and they are supposed to grow into medium sized trees that will stop growing just before they get to the power lines.

We are ever so slightly disappointed at how pink they are - it seems like they were less pink and more purple when we bought them last fall.  They almost matched the front door.  I guess I'm just going to have to go for a blending of various shades of blue and purple now.  That will probably look better than the matchy-matchy effect anyway.   I wonder if our soil has slightly affected the crape myrtle color?  It makes a huge difference for hydrangeas.  I also wonder whether our new hydrangea will eventually switch over to being pink in its new location.  I guess we'll have to wait and see!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ladder Rack

We are working on a bunch of different outdoor projects here in Foam Core Fantasyland and we've even managed to finish some of them, and almost finish some others.
  • The World's Biggest Tree Stump is long gone and tomorrow we will be covering the area with sod so it will be as if it had never been there.
  • We put weed fabric behind our new retaining wall and backfilled it with topsoil.  Tomorrow we will also top that soil with sod.
  • Doug has been working to find and de-clog the drain pipes he installed under the driveway about 15 years ago so that we can hook them up to the gutters and not have a lake in our driveway every time it rains.
  • I cleared out a space for the other hydrangea we bought on impulse about a week ago and it is now planted near the back door.  It looked pretty sad and wilted so Doug pruned it back quite a bit.
  • Doug built a ladder rack so the ladders will no longer be piled up in the dirt.  They look very tidy now and he also figured out a way to make rollers so they are much easier to put away.  And they can be locked so no one will be able to steal them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

gutter madness

The delightful flurry of activity continues, with Doug finally being in the mood to put gutters on our house after six long years of not having them.  However, the past two days' attempts to buy what we need so that we can finally have these gutters has been less than delightful.

Yesterday I drove all the way up to the Gaithersburg Roof Center to pick up some gutter hanging brackets and clips.  Doug had called ahead to make sure they had what we needed so I thought it would be a relatively short and simple errand.  Wrong.  For starters, somebody misinterpreted something Doug said so they had to look up the number of the proper part, which took just about forever.

Finally they said they had those in stock, so I paid for them, got my ticket and went out to the warehouse pickup area to get them.  The first guy came out, looked for them for about five minutes, came back, shrugged his shoulders, and said "We don't have them."  That's it.  The second guy was sure he'd be able to find them and spent a lot of time conducting a thorough search, but still came up empty-handed.

He escorted me back to the service center where I watched them all act is if  the fact that the inventory was showing something that the warehouse didn't have was the main area of concern.  After they finished discussing that highly improbable situation amongst themselves and got over their indignation at the realization that an error had occured, they finally realized that I was still standing there waiting patiently, apparently for nothing, and they said "Now we're going to have to credit this back to your card" like it was my fault that they had sold me something they didn't have in stock that I had driven all the way up there to buy, based on inaccurate information they'd given out over the phone.  There was not a single word of apology or regret over the situation.  The only impression I got about how they felt about it was that I had inconvenienced them in some way and that they were doubly annoyed because they had to deal with the existence of their own incompetence.

I didn't say anything - I've been in plenty of situations that have been far more challenging to my patience than this one was.  There are plenty of people out there who will not take responsibility for any errors and that lack of caring is what causes sloppy work to happen and also eliminates any perceived need to apologize for the sloppy work.  That kind of attitude makes it impossible for those kinds of people to be conscientious in any way.

So no apology for that mess.  I will give him credit for offering to call the other Roof Centers to see if they had what we needed in stock.  He found out that I could get the parts I needed if I went to two other stores, so I left feeling momentarily hopeful that I would be able to get this taken care of relatively quickly the next day.

Unfortunately Doug's phone calls this morning to the two individual stores to verify that they really did have what we needed resulted in us temporarily going back to square one because they actually didn't have everything after all.

So we decided to give up on the Roof Center and try our luck with Seamless Gutters.  They said they had everything we needed so I went on up to their store in Gaithersburg and bought the brackets and the clips and took them home, happy that there'd been such an easy solution to the previous day's frustrations.

No such luck.  They entered the order correctly but put 6" brackets in the box instead of the 5" ones we needed.  They weren't labeled in any way and although I looked to make sure they were the kind we needed, I did not notice that they were an inch too big.  The size difference is not noticeable when there are 40 of them piled inside a cardboard box, but they need to be the right size and they weren't.

After lunch I took them back and was full of hope that this would be an easy and simple exchange.  No such luck.  And of course they didn't have what we needed, and I again received a refund and no apology.  So that was two wasted trips to the Seamless Gutter place in one day.

I don't know what tomorrow has in store.  I have managed to maintain my usual veneer of calm over an undercurrent of mild annoyance at the huge amounts of my time that have been wasted.  The fact that I can take pride in my ability to remain calm in the face of rudeness and incompetence has kept me from losing it so far.  And I think any tendencies that I previously might have had to become frustrated in these kinds of situations have been severely dulled as a result of my experiences over the past six years.  It's either so constantly present that I don't even notice it, or I'm unable to feel it because what would be the point?  Or I'm now completely immune to frustration - who knows?  Maybe I'm just too tired to care.

Doug, on the other hand, is livid.  He plans to go up there and let them have it tomorrow.  I am worried that he will cause some sort of scene and they'll beat him up or have him thrown in jail.  He is very frustrated.   I don't know whether to accompany him in a show of support or not.  I don't like to see him acting the way he's going to act and sometimes my efforts to calm him down just make things worse.  So wish us luck!

Although my dealings with these people have been unsuccessful so far, I still believe that if you want people to help you, you've got to make sure they want to help you.  In other words, treat them with respect even if they don't deserve it.  Maybe that's my whole problem.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A New Wall

Our front porch area is starting to finally look rather civilized, between all the weeding  and us putting in the little retaining wall last week.  We even put our very first foundation plant - the lovely hydrangea you can see in the picture below.  Isn't it pretty?  I hope it likes it there.  And the wall is a perfect height for sitting.

I've started attacking the weeds next to the fence and have made some good progress.  It's going to take forever to get it completely under control after so many years of neglect.  I pruned those two azalea bushes to about half of their former size because vines had killed many of the branches.  That'll teach me.  Hopefully if I manage to get all of the weeds out and throw down some mulch it will be easier to deal with in the future.  All that liriope I planted had better hurry up and spread the way it is supposed to.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

no more giant tree stump!

I've been on a roll lately with getting things happening around here.  There's been an unexpected and completely delightful spirit of cooperation in the air that has caused many good things to happen recently.  Doug's brother came over with his chain saw the next day after we pulled down the stump and he chopped it into manageable pieces.  I was able to take about a third of it to the dump.  Doug put the rest of it out by the street, hoping someone would help themselves, and about an hour after I got home the rest of it disappeared.  So that was easy.

Also this week we've been building a wall near the front steps.  Between all the weeding of the liriope and this cute little wall, our front yard is starting to look pretty spiffy!

Monday, July 4, 2011

T I M B E R ! ! !

We have had a really ugly looking 20 foot tall Norway Spruce stump adorning our front yard for almost four years .  It has been irritating me every single time I've had to look at it, so that's been almost 2000 different times during the years since the electric company cut the top off of it.  Although I've mentioned it a few times, I'm apparently really really patient and I don't like to nag, so nothing has ever come of it - until today.

Every time I mentioned getting a chain saw and just cutting it down myself, Doug has said that I should wait because he wanted to pull it out of the ground so that there would be no tree stump. I'm not sure how this happened, but all of a sudden Doug responded to my most recent threat of chopping it down myself and today was the day we finally got it down. Doug did most of the work, but I sawed most of the tree roots so that it would come out of the ground easily.

Isn't it hideous?  I think it is a real eyesore.

At first Doug toyed with the notion of attaching it to his car and pulling it down that way.  Fortunately he changed his mind.  I guess he didn't want to end up in one of those Darwin Awards videos.

He decided instead to use his magic pulley.  This is the same pulley that Doug used to lift the all of the foam core panels up to build the roof of our house and that we later used to build the front section and the front porch.  This pulley has amazing powers!  It will lift or pull hundreds of pounds, maybe even a thousand.  He attached it to an unused concrete pier near our foundation at one end and to the top of the tree at the other end.

After the rope broke he used a chain around the trunk instead.

We also decided to cut most of the big outer roots with a Saws-All.

Now we're making some progress!

Watch it come down in this exciting video!

Yaaay!  It's down at last!  Now all we have to do is chop it up and take it to the dump.   And that WILL be happening tomorrow!  Yaay Doug!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Powder Room Finished

The powder room is finished! It really really is! It even has a door knob - the first interior door knob in our entire house. Doug installed it and the shoe moulding so that I could finally get this room finished.

The hallway moulding, on the other hand, is not finished. But the door has its final coat of paint now. Here's a shot of the mirror over the sink, the cubbyhole over the toilet and the medicine cabinet over the toilet.

We even have a door stop so that the door knob won't smash a hole into the drywall. And Doug finally put in the shoe moulding so that I could finish painting the baseboards.

Here's a toilet's-eye view of the sink and the towel bar:

And here's our very first interior door knob. After almost a year of living here, it's really great to be able to use something other than a wadded up paper towel stuffed in the hole to open and close the door.

It feels so good to have one small room completely finished. Once I get door knobs and door stops for the piano room, it will be the second room in that category.
One room at a time!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Basement Steps

We've been back in our house for almost a year and there are still many big projects left to tackle.  For those who ask how the house is coming along, the answer is either "slowly" or "it's not," depending on my mood and how recently any work has taken place.

Near the end of February Doug went off on another vacation, oops, tour (but to me it's very much like a vacation when you get to go to a warm location, make less money than you would if you'd stayed home, and spend all day relaxing on the bus).  So I decided it was time to do the finishing of the basement steps since he wouldn't be here running up and down them twenty five times a day.

They were starting to show some wear and tear after a year of use in their unfinished state and the newel post had gotten a few large cracks in it that I needed to repair first.  I guess that's proof that we have a really dry basement, so thank goodness for that.

It's not very visible on the picture below, but there were many black heel marks on all of the risers just from one year of use.  That made me start to rethink the practicality of having white risers and stringers and stained treads.  That is the look I want to have for the upstairs steps and Doug wanted the basement steps to match.  Before he left he had moved over to the idea of staining everything to match the flooring, but with a darker banister and newel post.

Once I got all of those obnoxious heel marks sanded off, actually while I was sanding them, probably in a inhaled sawdust fueled combination of delirium, anger, and resentment, I started imagining other possibilities for these steps.  I've never been someone who enjoys any activity that involves getting dirty, and there I was, once again, covered in dust and thinking "I don't ever want to do this again and I don't ever want to ever again see heel marks on something I've gone to the trouble to make look so nice."

Staining the risers the same color as the treads would help, but since we'd been planning on painting those risers, the stair place had made them out of poplar and the grain pattern was kind of unattractive, which wouldn't have mattered since they were going to be painted.  If I used the same stain that I used for the oak treads, it might look pretty bad with all those dark stripes in the wood.

Since the inevitable return of the black heel marks was just making me nuts as I sanded them off, I decided to follow through on that mood (nuts) and do something totally bizarre.  This is not my style at all, but I thought Doug might actually like it because he often likes unusual things and the non-tradition style would call more attention to the overly fancy and expensive basement staircase that he just had to have.

So what in the world at 3:30 in the morning was I thinking I might do to solve all of my various issues with these steps?   Stain the stringers and risers the same color as the banister, of course!  They'd match and it would look all coordinated and hide the heel marks!  I'm sure I was on the edge of hallucinating when I decided this, but somehow I decided to follow through and actually do it.

The taping was a huge amount of work, but pleasant enough because there was no dust involved and I could do it sitting down.  Because I'm so lazy.

I tried a few stain colors out on a sample piece of oak, to decide which colors to use.  That didn't pan out too well because the grain on the newel post took the color very differently than the tread sample.  The banister was different too.  The Jacobean stain color that looked so nice on the sample was scary dark on the newel post.  Fortunately, however, it did a fantastic job of hiding the weirdly slanted grain patterns on the risers.

I had to do something about how horrifyingly blackish the newel post looked, so I sanded it some and did some more reading on the internet about the various colors, considered how things would look against the background wall color, and then selected Red Mahogany for the second coat of stain.  Of course I then felt compelled to lessen the effect of the very dark Jacobean stain with even more sanding.  Sanding is very hard on a person's wrists.  I hate sanding!

So I put on the Red Mahogany over the sanded Jacobean.  What a huge relief!  The color is actually halfway decent!  Then I removed all of the tape, and kind of thought uh-oh about how it looked, but it was too far gone for me to permit myself too much remorse so I continued.  The "natural" colored stain that I used on the treads is actually darker than our flooring material over all but it kind of blends in with the darkest parts so I guess it's okay.

I'm actually pretty pleased with the color on the newel post now.  It almost looks like an antique.  For about a week I went back and forth between horror at what I'd done to Doug's staircase and thinking that it sort of looked interesting and okay.

I plan to paint the sides of the steps white to match the balusters, but I'm not going to do that until all of the trim is up.  Doug wants to make cubby holes under the steps and it makes more sense to do all of the painting in that area at the same time.  I hate to leave it unfinished, but that's the way it often goes around here.

Doug was extremely surprised when he got home and saw what I had done because it was so completely out of the blue and not like anything we had discussed.  It's not quite as dark as it looks in the picture above.  He didn't love it at first (probably because it wasn't his idea) but he definitely wasn't horrified the way I was.  Now he likes it and I do too.  I've actually grown slightly fond of it because it definitely has personality and I might as well like it since I did it.

Putting on the three coats of polyurethane really dressed it up.  The stairs have a sort of furniture-ish look about them now.

And if you use your imagination, you can see that the newel post looks sort of resembles a trumpet mouthpiece with a very large shank.  Right?  Which is somehow appropriate for heading down into mouthpiece land.  Or maybe I'm still hallucinating from all of that dust I inhaled.

I learned a lot from this experience and I have a much better idea of what I will do for the upstairs steps.  They are the ones that really need to be done correctly so that they'll look good and now I am not afraid.  I think I know what I am doing and I know that I can make them look good, with no surprises.  I'll definitely be sticking to plan A up there.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Piano Room is Finished

The piano room is completely finished!  Everything is done.  All of the baseboards all of the shoe moulding, all of the thresholds, all of the window trim, all of the window handles, all of the lights, all of the painting, all of the staining, EVERYTHING!  This is the first room in our house that is completely and totally finished.  Now I can finally start making it into a real room instead of a storage room for unpacked things.

The thresholds that Doug made turned out really nice.  We got some great advice about screwing them down and filling in the holes with plugs made out of the same wood.  They are nearly invisible.

I messed around with a few different colors of stain and managed to somewhat disguise the fact that the thresholds are red oak while the floors are white oak.  It's impossible to hide the grain, but the red did get somewhat subdued by the different stains I used.  The threshold doesn't match the floor exactly, but it's a compatible shade so it blends in pretty well.

The Minwax stain colors I used were Provincial, which is a kind of neutral medium dark brown, and Driftwood, which looks like it has gray paint added to it.  I wiped the Provincial off almost immediately but I let the Driftwood sit on there for about ten minutes before wiping.  Then I put on three coats of oil-based semigloss polyurethane that we already had on hand and that made it a little shinier than I wanted it to be.  But I'm sure it will get scuffed up soon enough and look more normal.  I'll get some satin next time.

Here's the completely finished room.  Look at those cute sconces on the sides of the windows!  I am really going to enjoy spending time in here. 

Damn!  I just noticed it's not completely finished yet - we don't have doorknobs!  Sheesh, it's always something.  Okay, the doorknobs are next!  I've grown so accustomed to not having doorknobs that I didn't even notice they were missing.  But at least I can start unpacking everything now.