Monday, March 19, 2012

Handmade Gifts : Baby Quilt

Recently, I completed a sweet little baby quilt using this pattern, Baby Lattice, from the Moda Bake Shop.

The patterns on the Moda Bake Shop website feature pre-cut fabrics. Baby Lattice calls for Charm packs (5 inch squares) but  I cut my own 5 inch squares. I had some reproduction feed sack prints that I had collected for another project and there was plenty for both projects. This fit my budget and helped me use up some fabric which fits right in to my de-cluttering goals.

I wanted something quick and simple that I could make in a weekend (because that was the time I had available. The baby shower was the next weekend) and that wouldn't be so elaborate that the baby's mom would feel like she couldn't use it. Grandma had already warned me that the dog would lay on it. Here it is in a quick and not-so-great picture.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Big Project for 2012: Exterior Painting

It looks like 2012 will be the year that I tackle the biggest DIY project that I think that I have ever undertaken. I'm going to remove the aluminum siding and paint the exterior of our house. 

Our house before I trimmed the shrubbery last summer.
Now, it's not the first time I have painted the exterior. When I bought the house it was covered in aluminum siding, except for the window frames inside the storm windows and a small amount of wood trim. After living here a few years, I noticed that the coating on the siding and especially the coating on the guttering was wearing off and the aluminum was starting to show, which I guess was understandable since the siding was probably 40 or so years old.
I debated about what to do. For a brief moment I considered removing the aluminum siding since I suspected that my little Craftsmen-style cottage would gain a significant amount of charm by shedding its shell, but I was too scared of what I might find underneath. At that time, I had a 5-year plan which called for fixing up the house and selling without making any expensive investments that weren't really necessary. Not knowing what was under the siding made it too big of a risk.

So, I painted the aluminum siding. If you have aluminum siding that is in securely attached, not dented, and otherwise in good condition, I highly recommend painting it. It is pretty easy (although painting the exterior of even a small house is a long project) and 15 years later my paint job still looks good. You don't have to prime and if I remember correctly, it only took one coat. I used Sherwin Williams, regular, exterior paint. After scrubbing the siding down with soap and water, I rolled the paint on, then touched up the seams and smoothed it out with a brush. Very easy.

The only peeling paint after 15 years is the wood trim on the porch.
You're probably wondering, "If the paint has held up so well, why the heck is she going to paint?" Well, let me tell you about our ice storm. I think it was 3 years ago that we had a really ugly ice storm. The ice not only pulled down the guttering on one side of the house but the weight of the ice bent the gutter to the point that it just broke off. Replacing the guttering turned out to be complicated by the fact that there was no way to attach it to the house (which I already pretty much knew and is probably why it fell down) and the estimate was for a few thousand dollars. That was a lot of money. So we just kept putting off the decision of what to do. 

Then, last spring, along came straight-line wind . Just 3 or 4 blocks down the street it lifted the roof off a car wash, tore a sign off the front of a store, and pulled trees out of the ground by their roots, including one huge tree that crushed the front part of 2 houses. We were really lucky that our house came through with minor damage. The wind peeled off 2 or 3 pieces of siding, which after banging back and forth in the high wind, were bent and twisted and couldn't be reattached.

With those pieces of siding gone, we could see what the house looked under the siding. It looked good. There were no rotted clapboards. Sometimes, original features of houses were sawed off or torn off in order to install aluminum siding but that didn't seem to be the case here. We could see that the exposed rafter tails that are a feature of the Craftsman-style were intact. So we decided, we would remove the aluminum siding, sell it for recycling, scrape, and paint the house.

It's our big project for 2012. I am excited to bring our little house back closer to what it looked like when it was built sometime around 1929. Come back soon. I'll tell you about removing the aluminum siding.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Adding Lights Under Kitchen Cabinets

I was waiting in line at Hancock Fabrics, of all places, and their display of "As Seen On TV" products caught my eye. There, among the cheesy gadgets from bad television commercials, I spotted these little battery-powered LED puck lights. I got out of line and went over for a closer look. Would these work under my kitchen cabinets?

I have wanted lights under my kitchen cabinets forever. When I re-did my kitchen, lights under the cabinets were one of the things I wanted but the options were limited (this was before LED lights were readily available), as was my budget, so I decided to make-do with just the overhead lights. Recently, I had been thinking that one of my next projects would be to add a couple sets of the puck lights that just plug in under the kitchen cabinets but these Stick N Clicks just might be the perfect solution.

The Stick N Click LEDs are so easy. Each puck is powered by 3 AAA batteries that are supposed to last for 100 hours. And, the installation is super simple. Just peel and stick. No cords hanging down. No wiring (I really don't get into wiring because I am not very confident when it comes to electricity and I don't want to kill myself or burn down the house).
At $9.99 for a package of 3, I figured they were worth a try. Not much to lose if they don't work. There was nothing to the installation. I put in the batteries. Decided where I wanted the lights.
Peeled the paper backing off the sticky square and stuck those babies up.
Considering that I spent around $28 ($20 for 6 lights and $8 for 18 AAA batteries) and 5 minutes on this upgrade, I am pretty satisfied. It's not a huge difference but with black counters the area under the cabinets was cave-like at night. The LEDs add enough light to read a recipe or a package. Each light makes a little spot of light. It makes the kitchen look warmer and a little more cozy. Here is the before
And the after
It will be interesting to see how long the batteries last and if I actually turn on the lights after years of making do without any.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Baked Bread

I baked bread. Isn't it pretty?

It's this Rustic Bread from Country Living. The recipe calls for 5 cups of bread flour, which is nothing to sneeze at if you happen to be trying to use up 25 lbs. of bread flour. I'm out of sea salt and substituted Kosher salt. I didn't adjust the quantity of salt down enough and ended up with some pretty salty bread. It's easy to make and has a nice chewy consistency so I'll try it again, with less salt.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quick Perk Up with Houseplants

Yesterday, I perked up the kitchen with a couple pots of African violets. Winter weather and gloomy, gray days have finally arrived and I began thinking how cheerful some violets would look on the windowsill.

Our kitchen has a huge picture window on the wall with the sink. It's kind of odd for a kitchen and it probably replaced 2 smaller windows that would originally been over the sink. Other houses in the neighborhood that were built about the same time as ours, 1929, typically have 2 small windows in the kitchen. This giant window, which looks out over the backyards of the neighborhood, was probably added sometime around the 1950's. I keep my small collection of McCoy pottery planters on the windowsill. As you can see, the windowsill sometimes collects odds and ends that I am too lazy to put away.

The 2 planters on the left were made specifically for African violets and I picked them up at yard sales for around ten to twenty five cents each. Before you get excited about my great bargains, I should let you know that they are both damaged. They're still great for violets though. The attached saucers have drainage holes that allow the violets to be watered from beneath, as recommended.

I have had varying degrees of luck growing violets, but at some point I usually have to throw away dead plants and start over. It's been a while since I have had violets and it wasn't as easy to find them as it used to be. Evidently I am not the only one who has not been buying little luxuries like house plants these days because the stores where I used to buy them don't seem to carry many small houseplants anymore. After checking 3 grocery stores, where there were only a few sad looking primroses and at Home Depot, where there were only a handful of orchids, I finally thought to check at a florist shop. They use them in planters and baskets were happy to sell me a couple.

I put away the junk that accumulated on the windowsill, washed the planters, cleaned the window, polished the marble sill, and added the violets. For now, I just set them down in the planters in their little plastic pots but I'll have to bring some potting soil in from the garage to warm up and then plant them properly. For $14, I added a touch of life and color to our winter kitchen. As a bonus, I was motivated to do a bit of cleaning.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Clutter Control

All over blog land there is a frenzy of decluttering and organizing. Magazine covers are screaming at me, "Organize Your Life". Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project tells me that "outer order contributes to inner calm". And, I believe her. I want a clean, organized house. Really, I swear, I want it.

It's not like I'm bad enough to qualify for one of those organizing shows on television or anything (We don't have cable so I've only seem them a few times, but trust me, I'm not that bad.). I'm certain that decluttering, organizing, and cleaning will make our house a more comfortable and more peaceful place. I just need to get motivated. Here is my strategy:

Use it up--Using up things that I have before I buy more appeals to my frugal side. Actually using the good-smelling lotion and shower gel that I get as gifts has done wonders for the state of our bathroom closet. Now, if I could only make some progress on using up 25 lbs. of bread flour Why do I have 25 lbs. of bread flour? I'd rather not talk about it.

Finish projects--I have a bit of a problem with unfinished projects. I have so many wonderful ideas for fun projects and so little time to do them. Unfinished projects are messy and take up more space than if they were finished. I promise that I will not buy any more craft or sewing supplies until I finish up some of these projects.   Good thing that I can't type and cross my fingers at the same time.

Give it away--Any time that I have something that could be useful to someone else, I try to give it to someone who will be able to use it or donate it to an appropriate charity.

Organize--Organize drawers, cabinets, closets so that everything has a place that makes it as easy as possible to find and use.

Throw it away--This is the hardest for me but it can also be so satisfying to roll our enormous garbage can up to the back door and keep tossing until it's full.

To motivate myself, I plan to keep a list of everything I get rid of and report back here. It should be interesting to see what I accomplish. And, of course, I'll be showing the projects that I finish.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Resting and Planning

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Since Christmas was on Sunday, I have a rare treat, the day after Christmas off work. There is nothing better than snuggling on the couch and enjoying the Christmas tree in the morning. Not something I have much opportunity to do most years.

To me, it always feels like everything leading up to Christmas day is just preparation. After Christmas Day I really feel like I can actually start enjoying the holiday. I'm certainly not one of those people who takes the tree down the day after Christmas. I like the old-fashioned way with the Christmas season was from Christmas to Twelfth Night or Epiphany which is January 6th rather than from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day, which is the way most people seem to celebrate now. Even as a child I looked forward to the day after Christmas when all the hubbub died downed and we are leftovers and played with our gifts.

Today I am indulging myself with a real day of rest. Not leaving the house at all and doing not much of anything. The rest of the week things at work will be fairly intense since we will have to complete 5 days of work in only 4 days and several people will be on vacation. After a pretty busy few days I was pretty worn out.

I am also taking this day of leisure to think about some of the home improvement projects that I want to tackle in the upcoming year. Some are small--new window shades, new throw pillows, LED lights under the kitchen cabinets. Some are huge--remove the aluminum siding, scrape and paint the exterior of the house. Some are in between-organize all of my craft/sewing supplies, add a beadboard backsplash to the kitchen.