Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life's about Balance

Last night Jared and I had a conversation about spending money.

Me: "I wish I made more money so I could buy nice things for our house."

Jared: "I think we should spend money on things we can do and experience and not on material things."

Me: "So you're saying we should plan a vacation!"

Jared: "Well... yeah."

Which makes me wonder: should I stop spending so much time, energy, and money on home improvements and decorations? Should we spend more of our resources on trips and be more adventurous? How do you strike a balance between the two?

I think Jared might be right... if our house burnt to the ground and all of our "stuff" was lost (God forbid... I realize this has happened to people so I'm not trying to make a joke of it) but we were fortunate enough to get ourselves and our dog out in time... what would be left? We'd have our experiences and each other... so maybe we should rethink our investments. I know Jared would be seriously disappointed that his new TV went up in smoke... and I'd be really bummed that I just spend two weeks of my life refinishing the china hutch that never got used... but we'd have all that we really need, wouldn't we?

So, Erin... remember how we were talking about planning a trip to Sonoma for Christian's 30th birthday this year? Let's really do it... and while we're at it... let's plan a local wine tasting trip too. I'm all about new experiences...

(And... still really into fixing up the home... but I think I need to find a new sense of balance)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fun Fabrics

I'm not sure why... but for the past few weeks I have been obsessing over fabric. I've been scouring online fabric depots just for fun and want to share with you a few of my favs.

Fun Fabrics
Fun Fabrics by coffee22 on

1. I love the solid stripes and am picturing a set of throw pillows on two white Adirondack chairs in my backyard. The navy and white stripes are so nautical and just beg to be outdoors. OK, so my "white Adirondack" chairs are actually off-white, and they are $10 plastic knock-offs from Home Depot last year... but work with me.

2. Depending on the repeat of this next green leafy print, I imagine place mats or a table runner.

3. If you like geometric prints as much as I do there's no limit to options with this silver sage circular fabric. I would love to exchange the red throw pillows I have on my stone colored sofa for a set in this print.

4. This Sungold/Stolkholm print is available at Calico Corners (one of my favorites!) and actually comes in a few other vibrant colors as well. Erin and I are both loving all things yellow this season I this one made my list!

5. I'm reminded of a Rorschach inkblot test when I stare at this print... but I love the turquoise blue and can picture this in any outdoor space.

6. Just because I love the fretwork and lattice prints.

7. Lattice + black & white = I'm loving it!

8. Itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, yellow polka dot ... pillow! More yellow, and who doesn't love polka dots!?

9. This Waverly print called, "Lovely Lattice" has been in my dreams. I am going to go pick up a swatch so I can see it in person... but I think it will be the perfect backdrop to a project I've been working on for two weeks now. You'll just have to wait and see how I plan to use it, so stay tuned.

I don't like to brag (OK maybe a little) but I did just so happen to win the "Clothing & Construction Award" in High School. And you don't win that baby by stitching up scrunchies! It's been a while, but once I remember how to thread the bobbin (always the hardest part in my opinion) the possibilities are endless. So now all I need is a sewing machine and an afternoon without distractions. I'll let you know if that ever happens.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Before & After: French Doors

A few weeks ago we decided to update the window treatments on our french doors. They were masked with a few sets of sheer panels and while they did provide privacy and diffuse some sunlight, I wasn't happy with the appearance. Here is a quick before shot:

Not really doin' much for me... in fact, I could not wait to (gently) rip them off of the doors...

We drove down the street to Home Depot to pick out plain white blinds that would be consistent with the rest of our windows. Of course the pre-boxed blinds were not available in the exact size we needed for the doors. However, the helpful orange bib'ed man in the blinds department custom cut two sets of blinds to my exact measurements. So I left the store with the perfect size blinds and was able to install them the same day, beat that Next Day Blinds. (And by me... I mean the drill wielding man in my life.) Here is an after shot of the new blinds:
I love sitting in the sun room with a cup of coffee before starting the day... I can open up the blinds just enough to let in some light and still block the neighbors view enough so they can't tell I am in my bath robe...
The set of blinds each came with a trim to hide the brackets above the window. Since we used blinds on doors in this case, we bought a few L-shaped brackets to drill into the door below the blinds and super glued them to the bottom slat so the blinds wouldn't slam each time the door is opened or closed. It was a super easy option to update and improve the look of our french doors and since each blind was under $30, it was pretty cost effective too.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Before & After: Front Yard

Here it is: Our curb appeal before & after -- check it out!



So what did we plant?

(2) Wintergreen Boxwoods on either side of the porch.
They are slow-moderate growers, and will reach a maximum of 3-4' in height. They're mound-shaped shrubs and evergreen. I love their light green color.

(3) Helen Curtis Azaleas in front of the bay window.
They are slow-moderate growers as well, and will reach a maximum of 3' in height. Like the boxwoods, the azaleas are evergreen, but bloom white double flowers in May, like the example below.

I can't wait to see our new pretty white blooms next month.

So what do you think? Quite a difference right?

I still have plans for the big empty space to the left of the porch, but that will have to wait a couple of weeks. With all the improvements to our curb appeal this month -- which not only included the landscaping, but also getting our exterior painted and replacing the molding above the windows -- we exceeded our monthly "home improvement" budget for April! Which just means there will be more planting in May. Can't wait!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Looking at Knobs & Pulls

Knobs by coffee22 on

I'm searching for cabinet hardware for the china hutch I bought off of Craigslist in February. It pretty much goes without saying that the cream colored ceramic knobs have got to go. They must have been trendy at some point in the past two decades but today... not so much. Last weekend I removed the old hardware (knobs, hinges, etc.) and began sanding the entire hutch to prep for fresh paint. Tomorrow I plan to finish the rest of the sanding and get started on priming and painting... my goal is a to have a made-over hutch by Monday!

We've already bought new hardware for the kitchen cabinets but have yet to install anything. I'd like to stick with a silver or nickel finish for the hutch since it is next to our kitchen table (and near the cabinets). So I've put together a quick board of options to get an idea of what might work. There are two sets of drawers on the hutch; the top set consists of four drawers each with two knobs and the bottom set of four drawers as a single knob. I'm not sure if I should use the same knobs on all 8 drawers, or if I should look for 8 smaller knobs for the top drawers. (ee photo of hutch below.)

I was considering the idea of using the cup-shaped drawer pulls on the lower four drawers and simple knobs for the top drawers. Then for the cabinet doors I could use the same knobs to keep a consistent look. I'd like a casual look and I think the drawer pulls look less formal. Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

I know it's a day late to wish you a Happy Earth Day, but I have been running around Washington D.C. like a mad-woman for work all week. (And Erin is on assignment in Miami; darn you day jobs, you are really getting in the way of our blogging!) It's never too late for Earth Day though, is it?

This is a close up of the tree in front of my house, ain't it purdy?

I don't remember it being this beautiful last year but maybe I just never took the time to notice. Standing under it is like looking up into a canopy of white.

Last weekend it was in full springtime bloom and looked breathtaking. (Especially for those with allergies.) All jokes aside though, I actually stopped in my tracks on my way out the door and took notice of just how lovely the tree looked, and snapped a picture. I know it won't keep these adorable white blooms for long... just goes to show you the importance of the phrase, "stop and smell the roses." Or... stop and look at the trees... whatever, you get my point. Here today, gone tomorrow. Don't let the opportunity pass you by. Yadda yadda yadda.

I even used a few branches in one of my Easter centerpieces a few weeks ago. Back then the branches had pink and white buds... what a transformation. Thank you Mother Earth.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Textured Paint: Do Not Try This at Home

While I love our home for all that we've accomplished since we've been here, there's one room I can't stand to look at anymore, and unfortunately it's one of the rooms in which I probably spend the most time -- our Kitchen.

Our home's previous owners apparently had an affinity for texture, because they took it upon themselves to add a sand texture finish to the kitchen walls, which looks like stucco gone horribly wrong.

As if texture weren't enough, they painted the kitchen walls a semi-gloss mint green! It was awful. One of our first painting projects was in the kitchen, where we took the texture down a notch by painting the walls using a flat, light cream paint. But now with new hardwood flooring installed and a DIY kitchen cabinet makeover on the horizon, the time has come to get rid of the textured walls once and for all.

We're Bringing in the Professionals
I'm all for DIY home improvement projects (obviously!) but we're hiring professionals for this job. The painters are going to sand down the texture and then skim out the walls with a drywall compound until the walls are smooth. Then they'll apply a coat of primer and two coats of eggshell paint to seal everything in.

How to Prep for a Big Sanding Project
Thanks to our previously-leaky bay window, we have a lot of experience with sanding in the home. Nothing gets into every nook and cranny like sanding dust, so if you have a big sanding project to do at some point, I highly recommend the following:

1. Move everything that can be moved. From kitchen tables and chairs, rugs, home accessories, sofa cushions, and dishes, to cabinet contents, window treatments, lamps, books, small appliances, etc., move all of these items to another area. Displacing as much as you can will save you some vacuuming and dusting. Because believe me, you'll have plenty of that to do once the project is complete.

2. Drop cloth what's left behind. What can't be moved should be covered with drop cloths (plastic or fabric) before the work begins. Ideally this will keep dust from settling into what must remain in and around the project zone, but don't bank on it. Drop cloths will protect your large sofa or dining table, but be prepared to vacuum/wipe these things down once the project is complete.

Image courtesy of

I just can't wait to see final result -- all the moving, cleaning, and reorganizing will be so worth it once we have banished the most noticeable mark left by our home's previous owners. Our kitchen will have fresh, smooth walls again! There's nothing like a clean slate for an upcoming project!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Make a Donation

The other day I posted an article about spring cleaning... which is a great segue to my latest topic of conversation. More spring cleaning!

I for one am a huge fan of organizing and down sizing... it is the best kind of clean. And one of the best places to do both of those things is in the closet. While swapping out your winter wardrobe for spring/summer clothing, take some extra time to look for items you can donate. Everyone has clothes they keep and never wear so ask yourself this question: "if I saw this today in a store would I buy it?" If the answer is no, put it in the donate pile, chances are if you wouldn't buy it... you won't wear it either.

Once you've filled a few shopping bags decide on an organization to bring your donations. Or you can have them come to you. I regularly request pick ups from the Military Order of the Purple Heart. They are a congressionally chartered veteran's service organization and will accept donations of many kinds from clothing to electronics. They'll even schedule a pick up day with you and send a truck to collect your donation... how much easier could it be?

Last time I cleaned the closet Jared even joined in and between the two of us we must have donated eight large shopping bags of clothing. Most of it was really nice clothing that we just don't wear anymore (or in my case, all of my old shirts that were super short... exposed belly, not so much).

If scheduling a pickup isn't your thing, try looking for drop boxes in your area. Salvation Army has these set up in various parking lots and accepts shoes and clothing. It can simply be an extra stop on your way to the grocery store.

Another organization I have found success with is Habitat for Humanity. They will collect larger items like furniture. I discovered that some places do not accept furniture anymore but Habitat will gladly send a truck to pick up most pieces for their ReStores, which are retails stores that sell anything from furniture to appliances. Last week I had them pick up the "monster"/TV armoire that I have been itching to ditch for months. It's finally gone and we are on our way to redecorating our room off of the kitchen.

One last place I'll mention for taking donations (or recylcing old stuff) is Home Depot. Last time I was at HD I noticed a tall drop orange box near the entrance. These boxes are for two things; recycling old electronics like cell phones, and disposing of CFL bulbs (energy saving light bulbs should not be thrown out with household trash as they can release harmful toxins into landfills.) Technically this isn't really considered "donating" but it is helping the environment and if you're cleaning out closets you are bound to find stuff that needs to find a new home.

Don't forget to ask for a receipt after you make a donation. Save it in a folder for tax purposes next year. You'd be surprised how much you get back for donations. Helping yourself and helping others... it's a wonderful thing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Neighbors

Alright, new neighbors just moved in next door and it got me thinking: What do most people do when a new family moves in on their street?

Do you ring the doorbell with a basket of homemade baked goods, Bree Van de Kamp style?

Or maybe you prefer to take the more subtle approach and wait until you catch them outside before going over to make an introduction.

This is what most people on our street did when we moved in two years ago. Everyone we've met since has been perfectly friendly and we absolutely love our quiet little street but as a first-time homeowner, I was surprised to learn that the only time your doorbell will ring... is when someone is trying to sell you something. (and luckily, they don't live in the area.)

Maybe things are different in other parts of the country. I'm guessing that Southern Hospitality just didn't make it to Virginia. Then again we live just outside of Washington D.C. in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. Between long commutes and soccer games, most people are just plain busy.

All that being said, I decided to pick up a pot of flowers to bring over today. Just some simple Gerber daisies to say, "welcome to the street." My thoughts are, don't wait for your neighbors to get a dog or have a baby before you take the time to get to know them.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

In Search of a New Summer Sandal?

With more consistent warm weather rapidly approaching, you've probably already begun your search for the quintessential summer sandal (like me!). I've been trolling Zappos and Piperlime all week in my quest, and thought I would share my top 10 picks for under $100. Because even in a bad economy, we can afford to splurge on just one pair of sandals that we will enjoy now through September, right?

Top 10 Summer Sandals (Under $100)

Nine West Hippie
Image Courtesy of

**Note: I purchased this pair from Zappos this week and absolutely love them. They work well with jeans, shorts, casual skirts and dresses. Imagine throwing them on alongside a white cotton dress, turquoise earrings, and a couple of gold bangles?? So pretty!

Seychelles Get Outta Town

Image Courtesy of

Seychelles Chemise
Image Courtesy of

Anne Klein New York Alontae

Image Courtesy of

Kenneth Cole Landing Zone

Image courtesy of

AK Anne Klein Caldwell

Image Courtesy of

Calvin Klein Solanje

Image Courtesy of

Ciao Bella Rae

Image Courtesy of

Kenneth Cole Reaction Sun Dae

Image Courtesy of

Nine West Rothschild
Image Courtesy of

Have you already purchased a pair of sandals for under $100 this season? Please share, we'd love to see what is catching your eye!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Curb Appeal is Calling!

Thank goodness it's Friday, because I'm so excited about a curb appeal improvement project that Christian and I have planned this weekend.

We're going to dig up the original pair of ugh-ly Picea Glaucas -- or dwarf evergreen conifers -- that sit on either side of the sidewalk leading up to our front porch.

They look like these:

I'll take a "before" picture this weekend, so until then, you'll have to trust me when I say, it's bad. In my opinion, these shrubs really detract from our home's exterior.

Last week I took a trip to a few nearby nurseries to do a little research on appropriate shrubs for a townhouse and also to see what would catch my eye.

So far, these are my top choices for replacement evergreen shrubs:

Holly Compacta
Moderate growth rate, 3-4' tall, max (though we won't let them get that tall), low maintenance

Image courtesy of

Wintergreen Boxwood

Moderate growth rate, 3-4' tall (max), dense, hardy

Image courtesy of

Not only do we have to replace the grisly Glaucas, but we also need to plant some shrubs in front of our freshly painted bay window.

Right now, Silver King or Queen Euonymus (sounds like ooo-oh-nih-muss) is a front-runner because it will add texture and a bit of color variation to our evergreen landscape.

Image courtesy of

Once we have the "anchor" shrubs worked, then we can move on to the front yard's "accessories" -- flowers! But that will likely have to wait until the middle of May when we're past the potentially frosty nights and mornings.

What do you have planned this weekend? Any one else working on a curb appeal project? Do tell!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Magnetic Spice Rack?

I'm looking for opinions on these magnetic spice racks I've noticed popping up all over the place. Does anyone out there have these hanging around their kitchen? If so, do they work well? Did you label them? Or does everyone know the difference between dill weed and rosemary besides me? In case you've never noticed these small, stainless steel, clear top canisters here are a few images to introduce you:

Image from

Image from Flickr account found through Google search result.
What are your thoughts? Trend to buy into, or one to let pass? I will say that organizing spices is always a challenge and having them stuck on an easy to access surface would be a nice change to my current arrangement. I have an entire shelf of one cabinet dedicated to spices, in no particular order. So when I try to grab sesame seeds for my favorite stir fry recipe, I usually pick up 80% of the spice bottles until I find the right one. One thought I had was to add some magnetic strips to the inside of a cabinet door, that way they are out of sight but convenient to find. Another thing I'd have to do is create a label for each canister because I don't spend enough time in the kitchen to recognize each and every spice. Maybe fixing the labels to the sides of each canister would help identify them but not cover up the clear top. I'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring Cleaning: 10 Hot Spots

I apologize in advance because parts of this post are going to gross you out... but when I read "Wipe Out the 10 Worst Germ Hot Spots" (courtesy of Alyssa Shaffer, of Prevention at today, I had to spread the word. And when I say spread... I mean fast, faster than the laundry list of bacteria that are multiplying in my house as we speak. I can't get home fast enough to start cleaning!

For those of you who don't feel like reading the nitty-gritty, here's a run-down of the 10 Hot Spots that you must tackle when you start your spring cleaning this season:
  • Kitchen Faucet - namely, the metal aeration screen where the water comes out... full of germy germs that continue to live as a result of the constant moisture. Clean with a diluted bleach solution once a week, or as often as you feel necessary.

  • Garbage Disposal - the rubber stopper, seriously, we all know this is just teaming with unhealthy stuff. Clean with a diluted bleach solution since hot water and soap can't handle this kind of germ-i-ness.

  • Welcome Mat - the first things these mats welcome are bacteria from your shoes, which includes fecal bacteria, which makes me ill. If you've had your welcome mat for a while, you might want to think about replacing it. Or if it's new and you want to clean it, try a disinfectant spray that is safe for fabrics.

  • Vacuum Cleaner - you might think this is like a bar of soap, self cleaning... wrong. Think about all of the places your vacuum cleans, chances are the bathroom floor is one of them. Need I say more? To clean your vacuum, Alyssa suggests replacing the bag often or using an antibacterial bag and cleaning the bag cavity with a bleach solution. I have a tendency to be a germaphobe, so every once in a while I actually soak the attachments in a bucket of diluted bleach. Be sure to let them dry completely before running the vacuum on carpets, you don't want to accidentally bleach your rugs, etc. (Of course, don't soak any moving parts just in case.)

  • Dish Towel - basically these can contain a type of staph infection, which you know isn't good for anyone. So try to use them only to dry clean pots and dishes. Replace them often and launder frequently. To wipe up counter top spills, stick with paper towels.
  • Car's Dashboard - mold spores and bacteria can cling to the dashboard, yuck. I'm assuming your steering wheel is just about as dirty so you might as well clean them both with disinfectant wipes whenever possible.
  • Soap Dispensers - this one seems pretty obvious, it's the first thing you touch when you wash your hands... therefore it's the last place for bacteria before it's washed off. The article suggests that you use hot, soapy water to get your paws good and clean. I'd take it one step further and use a disinfectant wipe on the soap pump too.
  • Restaurant Ketchup Bottle - Luckily this isn't on my list of spring cleaning items so I'll skip the details.

  • The Refrigerator Seal - In a survey of 160 homes, 83% of refrigerator seals contain common molds which can be spread every time you open the door. Ewww! Double eww! To clean, wipe seals with diluted bleach (once a week if possible but who has that kind of time, or memory?)
  • Your Cell Phone - This one might be a surprise to some... or an obvious one. For most people, cell phones are almost a permanently in our hands, so germs are inevitable. But just so you know, they can harbor bacteria that causes skin, eye, and stomach infections. To clean, wipe your cell phone down with a disinfectant wipe once a week.

Starting to see a pattern? Constantly clean items that are frequently touched or often exposed to moisture with diluted bleach or disinfectant wipes. Happy spring cleaning!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I think this refinished mirror might be the fairest one of all!

A little over a week ago, Erica and I took a trip to a nearby antiques store to pour over the new stock. One item that caught my eye was this ornate "gold" mirror from the 1950s. I've been seeing mirrors like this all over the place in recent months, refinished with glossy paint in everything from black, white, magenta, and fire orange.

I decided to bring this baby home and try my hand at refinishing it. It really is amazing what a little gloss spray paint can do!

I started by taking a toothbrush reserved for cleaning, and dry-dusting the mirror frame. Then I wiped it clean with a damp cloth.

Next, I took painters tape and carefully placed it on the mirror, around the frame's perimeter.

Then I tore a leftover Sunday newspaper, placed it on the frame, and taped it in place. Because the mirror is so shapely, I tore small pieces just to ensure that I didn't miss a spot on the mirror and accidentally spray paint it later.

Once the taping was done, I took the mirror outside, covered the area in newspaper, and began painting.

About three coats and six hours later, here's the finish product -- what a difference!

While the new glossy white mirror looks about a million times better than the dusty gold, I think I'm going to redo the process this weekend...with glossy black paint.

What do you think? Leave it white or paint it black?