Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Living inside the box

You may have noticed this in yesterday's post on the backyard facelift.

Well that picture just doesn't do it justice. Let's take a real look at it.

Remember those pallets we used for the floating deck? Well, we took one apart and made this planter box. I absolutely love it! The reclaimed look steals my heart. And the price wasn't bad either: FREE!!!

There's no bottom- just the 4 sides, so I stapled some weed blocking fabric to the bottom sides. I also left 1/16th" gaps between the boards for drainage. The biggest expense was filling them with dirt! It took 6 cubic feet to fill it 3/4 of the way, which came out to around $18. But I can't complain! I think it's a bargain at almost any price when you get exactly what you want.

If you try this project, just know that you'll need a few hours just to take the pallet apart. You'll also need a hammer and a pry bar to separate the wood from the nails. When picking pallets, look for ones that are not dried out, cracking, or damaged. Also, look for pallets that are 48"x40" as these are most always made in the US. The US has standards that pallets must meet to ensure bugs and plant disease aren't unknowingly introduced to the environment. Most pallets have "IPPC" stamped on them somewhere, so you can be sure these ones meet those standards. The last thing you want when building a planter box is to introduce harmful disease and chemicals to your plants. So a little work on the front end will ensure a good outcome in the long run.

Have fun!

Monday, May 24, 2010

I've been busy.....

I can't believe it's been 2 weeks since I last posted. I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Mainly because I've been hard at work making our neglected backyard into an outdoor family room.

This is what our yard- and Mr. Nest and I- used to look like. We've all gone through some, ummmm, changes. :)

The yard and I were one with each other, skinny and plain. But dogs and a baby have taken their toll on both of us.

So, time for a change! For me: more exercise and healthy eating. For the yard: a facelift. This is what I started out with 4 days ago (Friday) at 9am.

Mr. Nest and I began digging out and edging the area for a floating deck using pallets. My grand idea took a nosedive south when we laid out the pallets and found too many fragile boards. I forged ahead, convinced we'd find another solution.

Next the sand went down. And I spent almost 45 minutes trying to level it. If I may offer a tip to those thinking about taking on this project: don't do it alone! It's a pain in the butt! (10am)

Then I got to use a "tamper." Although, I like calling it a "stamper" because isn't that what you're doing? Stamping the sand into the ground so it's compact? Well, it makes sense to me. Anyway, I used the stamper, I laid down the pallets top-side-down (12pm). That's when I found out that one side was an inch shy. Measure twice, cut once- yeah, that's good advice. So I carved out the extra inch on the left and the pallets finally fit.

It was getting horribly warm out in the sun, and after my maddening measuring mistake slight snafu, I made a Home Depot run to get materials for the decking. 

I wish I wish I wish I'd gotten pictures of my Toyota Camry stuffed to the gills with 16 8 foot deck boards! I also wish I'd gotten pictures of the crazy faces the men in Home Depot and its parking lot were making as I drove the flatbed full of lumber like a skilled carpenter! I should've been wearing this shirt:

So by 5pm that evening, this was our deck.

Not too shabby if I say so myself. But it still didn't look quite right to me. So I got up at 6:30am on Sunday and did this:

I'm THRILLED with the results! Once the grass grows in between the stones and the deck gets that gray patina of wear and age, it will really start feeling like the established garden backyard I've been going for.

Now, I need to finish picking out plants for the garden. So far, I have a lilac (on the left) and a Butterfly Broom Bush on the right (it just finished flowering- it was so pretty!). Any ideas for plants that will get full sun, flower pretty, and add lots of color?

So what do you think?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Amp-ing it up.

As I'm sure you've read by now, we're getting ready to renovate our kitchen. I'm beyond thrilled/excited/ready! I've been waiting for this for 3 1/2 years. Because we're on a tight schedule (this needs to be done before we go on vacation at the end of July), I got organized. We prioritized our wants/needs for the kitchen and made a checklist.

    • *Plan cabinets, sink, faucet, and counters with Ikea Kitchen Planner
    • *Get quotes for electric: need grounded outlets and new ones installed
    • *Get quotes for plumbing: dishwasher line and heat
    • *Price out flooring options and make a selection
    • *Get quotes for replacement window overlooking backyard (something like this would be lovely!)
    • *Start ripping it all out!!!

Well, the quotes for the electrical work were headache inducing. One reigned supreme though: an upgrade from our shabby, overloaded 100amp system to a shiny new 200amp system! The price tag is still steep, but I'm thinking ka-ching for resale value.

While getting one of the quotes for the electrical work, the idea of radiant floor heat was brought up. Now, Mr. Nest and I have always loved this idea- especially for our kitchen and bathroom- but we could never get past the cost. Our house is old and made of plaster, and, as you've figured out by now, it's been poorly maintained and neglected . Most people who buy a house are customizing it and improving it. We're just trying to get our nest back to standard. If we can take it beyond that, it means miracles happened. So radiant floor heat never seemed like an option.

Until now.

We worked with Pex when we re-did our 3/4 bath, and loved it. It's cheap, easy to use, and really efficient. Oh, and did I mention cheap? So when this friendly electrician mentioned doing radiant floor heat with Pex, I perked right up! Then he said the words that make me drool: "You could even do it yourselves." DING DING DING! We have a winner!!!!

So that's the new plan. Once our shiny new 200 amp service is installed next week (can't.even.wait.), we'll start ripping out the cabinets and then the flooring and get down to work!

So long you nasty, neglected kitchen!

Friday, May 7, 2010

What I've learned since my 1st Mother's Day

When I think back to the day I found out I was carrying this beautiful miracle, it feels like something that happened only 5 minutes ago. I even remember the skirt I was wearing and how different my whole body felt after seeing those pink lines (yes, the plural of line because I had to take 3 tests to be sure they were right!). When I told Mr. Nest over dinner at our favorite bar (the first time I'd been there and NOT had a drink), I remember saying to him, "Our lives will never be the same."

And they haven't.

Our lives have been forever changed in the most fantastic, amazing, challenging, irreplaceable, magical way I could never imagine existing before now. I've grown in ways I was not prepared for- and still am surprised by! And that includes my waist line. :) In many ways I've become more confident- having my daughter gives me license to put my foot down more, to give the answer I want to give instead of the answer I think someone else wants to hear, to dream bigger than I ever have before, to take risks but think harder about them, to love without restriction.... there's simply too much to write here.

I am so proud of the family I have helped to create. It certainly hasn't been easy, and lord knows I've doubted myself (and will continue to) along the way. After all, there's no handbook for this. There's definitely no model by which I can go by: I didn't have a typical childhood. Or adolescence. Even adulthood (so far) has been a little out-of-the-box. But having my daughter has been like having a chance to do it over again- the "right way." I have more fun with her than I've ever had in my life. I see the world for what I can make it, not what it owes me. And while other mothers may worry and meltdown when their children get messy (ahem, Kate Gosselin), I welcome it because it usually means she'll need a bath and baths are so much fun, too! My home is filled with laughter and music and silliness, and I couldn't ask for more.

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms and soon-to-be-moms! May it be filled with the fun, laughter, and love I know mine will be.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tiling outside the box.

Even though we're pretty set on the backsplash we've chosen for the new kitchen renovation, the wanna-be designer in me is always looking for something more.

Then I found these.

  These are from Mosaichse.com Aren't they stunning?

I can't get enough. It's perfection.

And if you're in the mood to drool.....

I have it on good accord that these tiles are super cheap in Morocco. What's the likelihood of Mr. Nest agreeing to a Moroccan vacation to pick up tile? :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gray Matter

It's been a crazy week! Thank goodness for hump day! 

I'm very excited to reveal my new living room. Like I said before- the orange had to go!




Please pardon the mess! And the Picnik collage. And the blur in the first picture.

But isn't it so much better?! Let's see it again!



I love that it's classier, cooler for the summer, and makes all the white trim pop. I've also started noticing little details in the room that I forgot about. Like my ORB front door hardware. And how pretty the amber hardwoods are.

We also added this beauty to the mix:

She was $10 at the annual flea market at the church in town. She's a little rough around the edges

but there's potential

and I think she'll clean up just fine! After all, it's amazing what a little paint (or stain) can do, right?!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Weekend Bliss

This weekend was a whirlwind. And a heat wave. And completely productive. And totally fun. :)

On Friday, I got some of this
in this color

and tackled this room

and totally surprised Mr. Nest! He came in through the back door and saw the dropcloth laying in the laundry pile. "Whatchya been paintin'?" he asked. Then he looked up and said "Oh!"

Wanna see the "after" pic? Well then check back tomorrow for the reveal! (The tease is worth it)

We spent Saturday walking/eating around New Hope, PA, with good friends. It seemed like everyone else in the PA/NJ area had the same idea, though. Boy was it crowded! But seriously, with beauty like this, it's totally worth it.

It was a fantastic day. We came home hot, tired, and happy to meet a super nice Craigslister who bought two of these rugs (the second rug isn't shown, but it's identical).

And now I'll take this moment to vent about Craigslisting: One of the things I appreciate most about CL is the ability to pick things up quickly and mostly anonymously. One Some of the things I hate most about CL is that people don't show up when they say they will, and they don't pay any attention to pick up requests ("Please call before you come." and "I'm available after 6pm."). Both of these instructions were given to one particular gentleman who was only willing to buy 1 rug and at 40% of what I was asking. I told him I had someone else who committed to buying both, but if she didn't show up, I'd sell one to him at his discounted price. I told him to call me before he came. When the other CL'er called on her way (per my request), I kindly called this gentleman to tell him not to come. He did not answer and there was no voicemail. An hour later, he and his wife showed up at my front door just as we were hauling the rugs out to a waiting SUV. They had some unkind words for me for causing them inconvenience before stomping off my porch. I felt bad for .02 seconds (ok, more like 45 minutes) before I realized that I did all I could, and it was a shame it turned out that way.... but at least those damn rugs are gone! :)

Sunday was certainly our most productive day because we planned our new (Ikea) kitchen! Here's a sneak peak at what we chose:

If Mr. Nest gets his way, Laminate Stone Effect counters

We may actually keep the kitchen at my $3k budget!!!!! So what if I'm just pretending like we don't have to do the enormous, budget-doubling, bank account-robbing electrical work that was quoted of us last week. :)

Demo is set for the end of the month!