dil·i·gence:careful and persistent work or effort

Proverbs 13: 4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Sew simple

That was the difficulty level of the project to add these curtains to the side window in the breakfast room.
Back when I sewed the panels for the picture window, I purposely purchased extra fabric thinking I may use it for recovering seat cushions or some other project in the kitchen area.  Or maybe somewhere in another part of the house- I like the fabric that much.
But, I soon realized that even though I don't really need privacy in the breakfast room (dining in the nude is fairly uncommon around here), I wanted something to soften the harsh lines of the side window.
And, figured a simple cafe curtain hung using ring clips was just what I had in mind:  casual and simple.
Seriously guys, even if the last thing you sewed was the dinosaur pillow in 6th grade, you can sew a simple panel.  I promise.  And, if you can sew a simple panel, that means you can make long panels, valances, or cafe curtains by simply changing your dimensions.
Now I have come a ways with my sewing skills, which are still super basic, but I now even do the double fold thingy on hems, and I pay extra attention to making my hems substantial.  I feel like it makes the finished product look more professional.  (Notice I said more professional.  Haha.)
 And, if I ever do decide to dine in the buff, I can pull them shut.
But, I suspect most of the time, it'll look like this.
And, I love the way it all ties together.  Another one of those 'what took me so long?' projects.  :)


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Outdoor Deck Tiles

Sarah from The Ugly Duckling House was talking today about outdoor deck tiles, and reading her post made me realize that I never blogged about MY outdoor deck tiles from Ikea!  Probably because the project was completed pre-blog.

Here's the before:
Pretty basic concrete slab leading to the front door.  And, here's the after:
Lovely 12" square interlocking tiles really make a huge improvement.
Here's a closeup of the tiles.  Each tile is actually made up of 4 smaller squares.  Aren't they lovely?!
And, since they are interlocking (and floating), the installation is a cinch.  We had the front porch covered except for the part around the edges that needed to be cut in an hour or two. 
When it was all said and done, we ended up putting the cut edges next to the house, but that was just a matter of sliding the entire layer of connected tiles out from the house several inches and squeezing in a cut tile.  As you can see from this picture, I decided not to do anything on the front face of the slab.  I had thought about adding something to cover the concrete completely, but I worried about drainage and really just never came up with a good plan. 
The one thing we did do, though, was tack down the tiles where the step is from the walkway to the front porch.  I found that it was too easy to stub your toe on it as you stepped up onto the porch.  But, those screws can easily be removed if I ever decide to replace the decking.  But, I can't imagine why on earth I'd do that!
And, frankly, since the front garden has taken off, the front face of the concrete slab is hardly an eyesore.
Now that I have shown you what a difference these guys made on my front porch, I will say that if you plan to use them, do yourself a favor and seal them.  I did not seal mine prior to putting them down, and after 2 summers they are looking kind of rough already.  I get a lot of direct sun for most of the day (hence the lovely perennials), which really has wreaked havoc on the tiles.  I think I discovered after installation that they are stained but not sealed (!??!?!), so I really should take care of them soon.  But, well, that's just another project for the list.  :)

Hope that helps, Sarah, if you decide to give outdoor deck tiles a shot!



Wire, wire, pants on fire

You know those projects that perennially stay on the back burner?  You want to accomplish them, but they're invisible, or they don't nag on you like some other projects.  Or, maybe they do nag on you, but they're just easy to ignore.  Or, maybe they're hidden above a drop ceiling in your basement.  (Or, am I the only one with secrets hidden in the drop ceiling of the basement?)

Colin and I embarked on one of those projects today quite by accident.  You know the scene:  one minute you're tightening what you believe to be the *one* connection on the cable line to the modem, and the next minute you've ripped apart the entire basement drop ceiling following wires zigzagging across the house.

Okay, ya'll.  I'm about to show you something that you absolutely will not believe.  Colin and I removed all of these wires from all over the basement- none of which were hooked to absolutely ANYthing.
I know, I know.  I hope you were sitting down when you saw that.  How on God's green earth?!  That's what I want to know.  There were coax, speaker, component, and telephone wire going in every direction across the basement, and many ended in a live end plugged to nothing or they were just cut!  The more ceiling tiles we moved, the more wires we found.  Seriously, it was like a wire graveyard down there.
Colin says we can take these wires somewhere and get moolah for them.  Is that true?


Monday, August 20, 2012

Crossing the Finish Line

Reading shelter blogs has a way of broadening horizons, opening minds, developing taste pallets.  Wouldn't you agree?  I never imagined I would be one to mix finishes in my home, but that's what I did last week when I installed oil rubbed bronze (ORB) cabinet hardware in the kitchen.
For the 5 years we've lived here, we have had no hardware on the kitchen cabinets.  That means grasping for drawer or door corners with grubby hands, which inevitably leaves a mess behind.  And then there's the unfortunately phenomenon of not knowing/remembering which side some doors open on, which is really a lose-lose.  But, no fear:  cabinet hardware to the rescue!
The install was pretty simple (drill hole, insert screw, screw on knob), and the results have me scratching my head and wondering why I didn't install hardware 5 years ago.  Except, if I had, they probably wouldn't have been ORB, and I love ORB, so I'm glad I waited!

See, I always thought all hardware had to match match.  That meant picking a finish (whether it be ORB or brushed nickel or tacky a lovely brass), and using it throughout your entire house (or at least consistently throughout a room):  door knobs, plumbing fixtures, lighting, everything.  But, I'm just not so sure anymore.  When we moved into our house, all of the door hardware was an absolutely awful shiny brass.  I switched them almost immediately to antique bronze, and we have several antique bronze light fixtures around the house, which I like.  But, when we gave the master bath a small facelift a couple years ago, and now that we updated the kitchen, I've been working in some ORB fixtures.  Everything in the master bath is ORB, including the plumbing and the lights.

And, in the kitchen, I am sure you remember these awesome ORB pendents that I fell in love with.
Several years ago, I never would have made these choices.  But, I think mixing finishes like this gives the house an acquired look.  A layered look, if you will.  The finishes I've chosen (two different sades of bronze) play well together.  And, though I don't see any brushed nickel in my future now, I won't absolutely rule it out!  Because I anticipate my tastes will keep changing and maturing.

But enough talk of mixing finishes.  Let's do a couple before and afters.  Because, you may argue that finishes in a room should never be mixed.  And, you may argue that my picture taking leaves a little bit to be desired (I was going to snap some more pics tonight before I posted this, but it's dark and rainy!), but you cannot argue the improvement the cabinet hardware makes in our kitchen!

Wouldn't you agree?!



Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Little Emily That Could

Several weeks ago my toilet started hissing at me.  Now, I'm no plumber, but I do know that a hissing toilet is not a good thing.  So, I did what any environmentally conscious non-plumber homeowner would do:  I turned the water supply to the toilet on and off each time I used the bathroom.  Now, as you can imagine, that got pretty old.  Honestly, I was buying time trying to figure out who my victim was going to be to help me figure out what was wrong with the toilet and fix it.

But, no victim presented himself to me, so I decided to consider tackling the toilet repair myself.  First, I took the lid off the tank and attempted to familiarize myself with the parts of a working toilet and what they each do.  I've found that, in DIY, if you're attempting to repair something and you actually know how it is supposed to work, you're miles ahead.
So, after a basic lesson in toilet anatomy, I decided to start taking mine apart.  In some odd stroke of luck, I already had a toilet repair kit in the basement that was only missing the flapper, which I had already determined wasn't the problem.  The problem was a leaky pump thingy (yes, that is the official term).
So, I turned the water supply off, flushed the toilet, and then soaked up the remaining water in the tank.  That was easy enough.  Next step was to unhook the pump thingy from the water supply.  I quickly determined there to be 2 nuts securing that to the bottom of the tank. 
 I did have to use a wrench, but loosening those was also pretty simple.  In no time, I had the old pump out of the toilet and the new one sitting in place.
I routed the little black water tube into the white cylinder thingy- the same as it was before I took anything apart.  Then, all I had to do was screw the two nuts back onto the water supply line underneath the tank.  I hand tightened them and then gave them a few more turns with the wrench.  I figured if anything went wrong, it'd be because this seal was bad.  But, I screwed everything back together and tentatively turned the water back on, and...no leaks!  Things have looked like this for the afternoon and evening:
...but so far, things are dry!

I never considered myself a plumber, but I suppose I should add that to my resume.  This is a good thing, since we'll be getting a new dishwasher soon (RIP Frigidaire), and it will need to be hooked up.  Tell me:  is a dishwasher any harder to hook up than a toilet?  I have a feeling it is...



When 'good enough' isn't

Remember back in April, when I declared the kitchen project 90% done?  Well, apparently 90% was good enough, because that's where progress stalled the rest of the spring and much of the summer.  But eventually, "good enough" became super-annoying-weight-on-my-shoulders-when-will-this-kitchen-ever-be-done.  And, that's when I got serious about finishing that last 10%. 

Let me see if I can bring you up to speed on what has changed since then.  Almost immediately once I painted the bead board backsplash in the grey-beige color I had used on the top half of the breakfast room, I knew it wouldn't stay.  It was kind of Country Meets Country.  When I was really going for Country Meets Modern.
Plus, because of the U shape of the kitchen and because of its location smack in the middle of the house, it still doesn't get as much natural light as I wish- even after we removed the top half of the wall.  So, at times it's kinda dark.  And, once I added the dark-ish paint on the backsplash, it was just too dark.  But, I lived with it for a while to make sure it didn't grow on me.  Sadly, it didn't.  So, even though I was smart enough to paint the backsplash before installing it, I still found myself painting it again once it was installed.  Huge bummer.  4 coats of semi-gloss white later, and I'm much happier.
 As if painting and re-painting the backsplash wasn't bad enough, I quickly remembered one of the reasons I didn't go with a shiny, clean white for the backsplash in the first place:  the light switches and outlets.  They were bone.  Personally, I'm a bright white kinda girl.  I love me some fresh, white molding, and I definitely prefer white outlets and switches.  And, while I was willing to live with the bone outlets paired with the greige backsplash, they would never work with a white background.  So, along with repainting the backsplash, I had to also swap all of the switches and outlets.  How many could one small kitchen have?  Our teensy, tiny kitchen has 4 light switches and 7 outlets!  Swapping these out wasn't necessarily hard- just time consuming and a task that required extreme body contortions since the jutting out upper and lower cabinets prevented me from getting the angles I needed for the job to be simpler.  But, after a week of tackling a switch or a plug or two per evening, and I had them all swapped out.  And, looking fine if I do say so.

Well, all except this sucker.
This guy has been a major thorn in my side.  He is a GFI, and he (along with the 83203343496756 wires hooked to him) refuse, and I mean REFUSE, to fit back into the box.  I will eventually be having another session during which I hope to convince him to get back in there, but in the meantime, we just focus on not electrocuting ourselves.  :)

I think part of what caused this project to drag on was the amount of finishing work there was.  I'm more of a big picture DIYer.  That's why I love painting and hanging things on the walls:  the gratification is almost immediate.  I found the painting and caulking and nail hole filling and sanding and re-painting, etc, etc that the beadboard backsplash required to be almost torturous.  I found so much gratification in the actual installation of the beadboard, but then I felt the finishing work was just a drag, frankly.  I knew it needed to be done for the project to be complete, but I really found no pleasure in it.

That being said, I have to say I am super proud of the molding I decided to install below the half wall.  I hope to some day have something much more interesting topping the half wall:  some old hunk of a barn beam would be awesome.  But, for the meantime, I decided to make it look as good as possible with a piece of stock wood that we cut down and stained.   In order for it to look finished off, I decided to add some cove molding around the underside.  I managed to get it done using a cheap-o miter box and saw from the home improvement store.  And, while I will admit that mitering a 90 degree angle was more challenging than I would have liked, we got 'er done, and I think it looks super finished.  It's a detail that I am glad I did not overlook.
 So, let's see:  what else is on the kitchen to do list?
  1. Strong-arm the GFI outlet back into the wall.
  2. Paint ceiling in kitchen (which continues into dining room, living room, and all the way down the bedroom hallway.  Don't expect this to get done anytime soon.)
  3. Borrow a miter saw (preferably one that comes equip with a knowledgeable operator familiar with complex angles/cuts) to cut this corner molding, because frankly I am at a loss.
I think that's it!  So, perhaps we can call this thing 97% done now?  Here's some eye candy, because, frankly, I think I can live with 97%.