Jul 1, 2015

New Fire Pit

For our shared birthdays this year, we upgraded our old fire pit (that was incredibly dangerous for small children - the whole thing got really hot, there was no safety screen/cover or barrier - a child could just walk into flames) to a fire table. We will still have to use a lot of caution and full supervision when using the fire table, but it definitely isn't quite as much of a death trap (though will still probably be mostly used for adult-only events).

The outer table rim is supposed to stay cool even when there's a fire - definitely good if a little one gets too close. This one also comes with a full grated cover to keep little hands out of the flames. And when it's not in use it converts into a coffee table... Mike would actually like to turn the table into a propane fire table long term with those special fire glass beads, which would eliminate all of the issues we have with wood smoke (like triggering asthma). But that's a project for another day.

Jun 30, 2015

The Nightstands are Finished

I am so excited to say that the newly redone and matching nightstands in the master bedroom are done! I lamented last week about how it was taking forever (lack of time and good weather), but after a week of letting the finish cure and harden, we finally put them in our bedroom over the weekend.

I know doing dark stained drawer fronts with a painted white cabinet isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it was right for us in this room right now to help balance all of the white and wood finishes. Plus these nightstands were free, so I felt a little bit more confident and empowered to experiment.

On Mike’s side we put a lined basket in the cubby to corral all of his electronics and cords and gadgets. The basket was originally used on my side, it was underneath the table (and held books!). On my side, the nightstand cubby holds books because I always seem to have books everywhere no matter how much I try to keep everything organized.

I love the knobs. I really love the knobs. They compliment the room, look great with the white paint and wood stain, and are just so darn pretty. 

I really feel like the room is coming together now. The finishing touch will be to finally get the crown molding up, but this is just such an improvement. I'm so happy with the way the nightstands came out!

Jun 26, 2015

Georgia's Not Disappointed, She's Just Hungry

Georgia says, "Oliver keeps saying he's cooking dinner for me, but all the  food he makes is plastic..."

Jun 24, 2015

June Garden Update

I can’t believe it’s the end of June in the garden already. We had a late start to the year, so things feel a bit behind, but I’m sure they will catch up before I know it. The weeds in the garden paths certainly have...

The tomatoes are growing steadily, the early types started blooming a couple of weeks ago and the others are just starting to bloom now. We've had so much rain that some of my heirlooms are getting a little bit of black spotted mildew already, which really stinks but hopefully this wet-humid weather cycle we're stuck in will change soon.

Herbs, Lettuce, Carrots, Peas, Beans, etc.
This bed has been doing very well, we've been enjoying fresh herbs and lettuce for a month now. The peas are just starting to come in this week (which is funny since it's July next week!), but it's been so hot I think the vines are going to wilt soon and my heat-tolerant romaine (lettuce) is finally starting to bolt. We've enjoyed the peas and lettuce in salads though! The green bean vines are growing, the single strip of carrots I planted also seem happy.

The flower bed is always the slowest to get going, but once things get a little bigger it goes crazy. One of my new dahlias didn't come up (oh well), but hopefully the others will make up for it. The zinnias are growing steadily and the one giant sunflower on the end (that I planted just for fun - it was pretty cool last year!) is also getting bigger.

This bed is doing great so far! The cucumbers are growing steadily up the trellis and are just starting to get some flowers. The squash and zucchini vines are so far still alive (we'll see how it goes) and I have a few tiny squash starting to appear. On the end (closest to the camera) are the musk melon vines with lots of blooms. So far starting them early indoors seems to have really helped - they are SO much bigger than they were last year and they are blooming much earlier. Hopefully this is the solution for getting more melons out of the growing season - when I've sowed the seeds directly into the bed in years past, they are just so slow to get going that we don't see a big yield before fall.

Overall I think the garden is doing very well despite the humid wet weather - hopefully we have more sun in our future to dry things out a bit.

Fruits, Pots and Perennials
Elsewhere in the yard we are definitely enjoying our spring crops. We had a very good yield of strawberries this year (not quite as good as last year because of the wet weather, but still very good) and just as those started the fade, the raspberries are coming in now. The harsh winter nipped back more of our raspberry canes than usual, and I'm fighting with the birds over the fruit, but we're still getting a nice handful of berries each day. The blackberries will be coming in soon after in July.

The fig trees (pictured above) are coming back thicker than ever. They didn't die off completely to the ground this year but they definitely went down quite a bit. We'll see how the harvest goes this summer. The blueberry bushes didn't flower this year, so we'll have to be patient and hope that next year is the year! We also can't harvest the rhubarb this year since the critters ate most of it including the roots - I need to give it time to heal and reestablish itself. The asparagus we planted this year will also take a few years before we can harvest while it establishes itself.

In the pots, my lemon and lime tree are doing much better now that they are outside. The wasps and lady bugs are keeping the aphids in check and the plants are happy in the heat and sunshine. Both are sprouting new leaves, the old leaves are healing and turning green again, both are covered in new blooms and tiny lemons and limes. My one pepper in my one pot is doing well (not pictured), we've had a few blooms and a couple tiny peppers have started growing.

Jun 23, 2015

Nightstands in Progress

As part of my plan to finally “finish off” the master bedroom (or at least get it to a good place), I’ve been meaning to refinish the nightstands for months and add new hardware. The plan was to repaint them with the classic and crisp bright white enamel (the one we’ve used throughout our house) because it stands up well to abuse and we had a can already on hand.

It was easy to get started - I sanded the whole thing and filled the dents with wood filler to smooth everything out. Once that dried I sanded things down again.

Getting them painted however was another story. For a while the problem was that every time we had a nice day, we either had fun plans or a more important project (like moving 3 cubic yards of mulch, building Oliver’s swing set or painting his play house). And then recently we’ve just had a lot of rainy days and passing thunderstorms that made it really hard to let things dry outside. It took a lot of patience - moving things outside and working, bringing them in again, over and over. Repainting spots that got damaged by a sweet kid who thought that hammering the nightstands with his toy wooden hammer was “helping” and “fixing” it. Wiping down and restaining the drawer fronts when a surprise sun shower came in faster than I could react. Repainting the big ding I made from trying to bring the nightstand in ahead of yet another storm… it went on and on.

I also devised a new plan for the drawer fronts. We decided that solid white night stands to replace our mismatched mahogany stained ones was a little too much white in the room. White trim, white doors, white dressers, white radiator cover, white shelf… vs. a mahogany headboard, a couple of wood picture frames and a chunky dark floor mirror. So I decided that we needed to bring a little wood stain into the nightstands. I looked around and fell in love with the look of small white dressers with wood stained drawers, so I decided to give that a try for the nightstands.

I tested everything out and I really like the way it comes together! Currently the nightstands are still curing, it’s been very humid in NJ these days so we need to leave extra time for the paint and stain to harden before use. I am excited to share the final results though when we set them up!

Jun 22, 2015

The Porch Project

Our porch is rotting. The posts that hold up the roof have dry rot at the bottom. The stair treads are rotting and the paint is peeling again on the railings. The rotted wood definitely has to be replaced and we've decided to upgrade to composite so we don't have to worry about it again.

Since the posts hold up the roof, the job is beyond our capabilities. We've hired a professional contractor to do everything, hopefully starting in mid-July. We probably could have done the stairs ourselves, but composite is weaker than wood and requires additional support so we wanted to make sure it's done right. The whole idea is that we don't want to have to worry about the porch again for a looooooooong time.

I've never been in love with the colonial style of the decorative posts, and decorative posts are a lot more expensive (especially in composite). From the street face-on, the decorative posts are blocked by the gutters anyways - so we decided to go with a basic square post. I like clean simple lines, it will be classic and unfussy.

When we were looking at replacing the stairs, we actually looked into moving them to the front of the porch, but it would be a lot more expensive to do it - not only is it a lot more work, suddenly we're not dealing with a repair job, we'll need new footings and full building permits with multiple inspections and all that jazz. Not worth it... unless our contractor uncovers a disaster under the stairs and we have to redo the whole thing anyway.

The main reason we wanted to move the stairs - other than cosmetic reasons - was that in the winter time when snow melts off the roof it drips onto the stairs, pools there and then refreezes into a sheet of ice. It's so dangerous that our stairs become impassible and unusable for 3 months out of the year. Our contractor came up with a good solution - when he lays the composite stair treads and risers, he's going to put in gaps between the boards that will allow water to drain. It will be a slightly more informal look, but it will prevent the water from pooling and should make a big difference. It will also help that we can shovel and salt the stairs without worrying about damaging the paint - composite stairs won't peel.

The work should hopefully start mid-July, when our contractor finishes his current job. It's one of those unglamorous but necessary projects - painful to spend the money but we have no choice. At least after this I won't have to repaint the porch steps all the time.

Jun 19, 2015


This week Georgia turned 10. TEN. Double digits! How is my little baby a full decade old?

Jun 18, 2015

Nightstand Knobs

I haven't forgotten about the master bedroom project. I haven't made any progress on the nightstands that continue to take up space in our basement, but I did manage to make a stop into Anthropologie for knobs for the nightstands.

I had my choices narrowed down to two and I wanted to make the choice in person:

Chrysanthemum Pull:                                                        Prismatic Spring Pull:

They are both so beautiful. I love the pattern in the chrysanthemum knob, but then the luminous aqua of the prismatic knob is gorgeous. In person I ended up choosing the chrysanthemum knobs, but I am still holding out hope that I can find another use for the prismatic knobs somewhere else in the house.

While the prismatic ones are beautiful from the front (look at that aqua blue!), the sides were a very plain beige color and they stuck out really far. On bright white paint I thought it would clash. On the chrysanthemum knobs, the sides are beautifully decorated with flower petals. So they will look just as pretty from the sides and above as they do from the front.

Jun 17, 2015

On Projects and Things

Sorry for the radio silence recently. Last week I was traveling for business and everything just got away from me. The weekend before I left I had grand plans to masterfully juggle everything - see friends and family, clean the house, pack for my trip, prep for Oliver's birthday and get enough posts lined up to cover for two weeks of craziness. Obviously I am not a master juggler!

(Boston! I was in Boston and it was beautiful and lovely - I just wish I had more time to enjoy the city while I was up there instead of working so much...)

The good news is that things are finally calming down. We survived my first business trip since Oliver was born, celebrated 3 birthdays and finally caught up on things like laundry and crushing a hundred boxes from amazon. Oliver turned 3, Georgia turned 10 and the blog turned 5.

Onto catching up with blog business. Before I disappeared I posted our Summer Wish List, but I also want to address our projects.

I have a lot of projects swimming around in my head these days. There's so much we want to do, so much we need to do and several things we've started that remain unfinished. There are projects I've put on lists for over a year that still only exist as ideas. But that's okay. That's life with a house and chores and bills and a kid and a dog and errands and 2 full time jobs and freelance projects and family and friends... and well, just real life. I might not post as frequently as I would like, and they might not be the posts I really want to write, but at the same time we're trying to find balance.

What we have to do this summer:
  1. Repair and seal the driveway. This winter was a doozy and left our driveway with hills and dips, cracks and all sorts of problems. 
  2. Repair the porch with a contractor. The posts are rotted, the stairs are rotting and I'm afraid the porch roof is going to fall down on us. We're hiring a professional for this one.
  3. Finish reorganizing the garage. Mike made so much progress last year... and then we filled it up with outdoor furniture. Now that it's emptied out again we need to take the time to make it a really organized, usable and orderly space for the half of the year when it's nice out. 
What I want to do this summer:
  1. Put crown molding up in our master bedroom 
  2. Refinish the master bedroom nightstands 
Projects we've started and need to finish:
  1. Finish the electrical in the basement - lights and outlets
  2. And once the electrical is done, clean up the basement and reorganize a bit
  3. Finish the electrical in the attic (but we'll have to wait for Fall it's too hot now)
  4. Install stairwell lights (also have to wait for cooler weather)

Jun 15, 2015

5 Years In The Little Yellow House

As of June 1st, we have been homeowners for 5 years and as of this past Sunday, this blog is 5 years old! It's pretty wild when I think about it - it's half a decade!

We haven't really had a chance to commemorate the occasion, spring in our family is already so crazy. However I am happy to just take another picture of our front yard to mark that another year has passed.

Jun 4, 2015

Seizing The Summer 2015

Last year we made (and completed!) a list of everything we wanted to do for the second half of the summer in August and early September, making fun a priority for the season. It was great and it really helped me to remember to make time for the important things and enjoy the best summer has to offer. Oliver will never remember a manicured lawn or well weeded garden beds, but he might remember the pool or a trip to the beach.

This year I want to make time to enjoy things from the beginning of the season. I have two business trips (my first since Oliver was born) coming up in June and July, and I know that the summer could easily slip away if we don't make an effort.

This year with the whole summer before us, here are all the fun things I want to do:

1. Go to the beach 3+ more times before September (once a month in June, July and August)
2. Continue to use our local zoo membership and go once a month (this is our plan through the Fall)
3. Once the pool opens in July, go to the pool at least 2x times per week (if it ever opens)
4. "Host" a neighborhood wide water balloon fight for the kids with sprinklers and water balloons
5. Take Oliver out for an ice cream cone
6. Have dinner alfresco on the patio under the globe lights

I also want to make:

1. Homemade ice cream and popsicles
2. Fresh salsa and marinara with tomatoes from the garden
3. Refrigerator pickles with cucumbers from the garden

It's a tall order - especially when our schedules are already so busy, but the most important thing is that we enjoy our summer and make family memories for Oliver.

Jun 3, 2015

In the Kitchen

Growing up we had two cross-stitch artworks in our kitchen, made by my mother when I was little. One was a picture of beets and one was a picture of a tomato. I LOVED these things growing up, they always made the kitchen feel like home to me. I even went through a phase in elementary school where I spent a long time debating which one would become MINE in my "grownup" house someday (because of course my mom said I had to share with my sister). Sometimes I would lean towards the tomatoes because it had pink in it (my favorite color at the time) and sometimes I would lean towards the beets because they were all purple (my second favorite color). Then we grew up and while my sister might want one someday, right now she lives in Manhattan with limited wall space so I get to have both of them for safe keeping.

I know they don't really go with any of our things or our style (country cross stitch kind of clashes with the glam bird plates on the other wall), but I love them. Not only to they feel like home to me, but they also help keep the memory of mother with me when I cook.