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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Gallery Wall

Hi everyone,

We're not going to talk about it.  November 2016: The Cubs won - made the boyfriend happy and Christmas shopping easy!  I got my grant in (another two to finish before the end of the month).  We got some new things to facilitate cat/human relations in the house.  Specifically - a very high gate for the stairs that the cats have been unable to jump over (keeps the cats from getting upstairs into my stuff and from whining at the bedroom door in the middle of the night) AND a wireless camera that monitors movement and allows voice communication ("Get off the table, BOB.  Last chance").  We are calling the camera "The eye of Mommy".  Life is Good (except for that thing we are not going to talk about).

I finally followed up on one of my original house visions - a gallery wall above the TV.  I was, of course, inspired by Pinterest.

gallery wall:
Pottery Barn:

This was yet another project that the boyfriend had strong opinions about.  I am all about symmetry and he likes some angles and surprises and not too much uniformity.  Anyway, we picked up various frames from IKEA and Target.  The boyfriend had acquired the New Orleans pictures during a trip there long ago and we picked up the Seattle pictures during a recent trip there for my college roommate's wedding.  The science pictures we got from Etsy as an artistic nod to our backgrounds.

First, I did a few test runs of patterns on the kitchen table until the boyfriend and I could agree on one.

I preferred the top one.  He preferred the bottom one.  We compromised.  Sort of.  I began to like the asymmetry as long as it was still lined up.  Pinterest had so many layouts, but these two made the most sense based on the size and number of pictures we had.

I then did some not so careful measuring and nail hanging.  And then some more careful measuring and nail hanging.  I had to use a level and a straight edge and a marker.  I tried using some of those "How to hang pictures" tutorials, but honestly, nothing really worked for me, so I did it the long hard way.

Halfway there.

Finished product.  I think it looks great above the TV and there is plenty of room to expand the space there.

I've been getting some decorating confidence from "The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful" by Myquillyn Smith.  Check it out.  We may have to move soon as the boyfriend's commute it terrible (2.5 hours by shuttle/train/train/shuttle to Bethesday), but I will not be daunted if we do a rental rather than buying something this time around.  I will make our home great again.

I know.  I said we weren't going to talk about it.  We aren't.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fall Wreath

Hi everyone!

Happy fall!  It got cold last night, which inspired me to finish my fall wreath.  I really love having my front door reflect the season, and this wreath was easy to do.

This wreath was inspired by the HGTV post below.

The Halloween decorating experts at share step-by-step instructions for creating a festive pumpkin wreath with putka pods that look just like tiny pumpkins.:

I made my own version, almost exactly like theirs.  I used the following products from

Burlap Ribbon (used for past projects)

Wait, what?  I didn't own a glue gun prior to this project?  No, I didn't good reason.  I just never really needed one before.  Forgive me, please, fellow DIYers.

Anyway, I started out by spray painting the white foam wreath orange.  I thought it would allow me to have to fill in less of the wreath.  I was wrong.  

Then, I began attaching the putka pods, these adorable small pumpkin like seeds.  They really look like mini-pumpkins.  I needed 1.5 bags to finish the wreath - about 1/5 of the bag had discolored or broken seeds that I did not want to use.  It took several hours broken up over several days, due to scheduling difficulties (vacation).  Here are some shots of the wreath in progress.

Once I had it mostly covered, I hung it up on the door to see where the lack of coverage was most obvious.  I did this several times until I had filled up every viewable area on the wreath.  I started with the inner rim, which took some creative positioning.  I finished with the outer rim, which took similar positioning.  I basically hung the wreath on my knee and then rotated it as I glued on the pods with the glue stick.  If there were large gaps, I glued another pod over the gap.  I went all the way on the inner rim to the back edge, because when you open the door, you see the sides and inside of the wreath.  By the time I was finally done, even the boyfriend agreed I had not missed a spot!

He thinks it looks awesome, by the way.  As do I.  It has great color variation and I even love the random ones on the edge.  I had some burlap ribbon on hand, so I added it as well.  I am not very rustic, but I think its the touch that the boyfriend likes the most.  I have plenty left to even those out if I hate it in the future.  And it seems durable, more so than my spring wreath.  Time to get out the rest of the home decorations.  Hooray for fall!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Virginia and DC short trips

Hi everyone,

I've decided to add a travel element to the blog.  The boyfriend and I like to get away now and then, to try to relax/escape from our demanding work schedules and give our brains a break from science.  We usually spend time relaxing (sleeping), reconnecting (zzzzzzzzzzz), and having avid discussions about current events (snore).

A few months ago, we went to Alexandria, VA.  We stayed in Old Town Alexandria, which was great for shopping and restaurants.  It was also conveniently located so that we could take in a Nationals game, which was amazing.  They have so many fan events there.  Even though the ballpark wasn't as nice as the Orioles and the food and beer was quite expensive, we greatly enjoyed ourselves.  We also went to the National Harbor for a brief visit, and enjoyed a nice leisurely lunch on the Harbor and some shopping.  The harbor was beautiful, but crowded.  I preferred the vibe and pace of Old Town and wish we had spent more time exploring there.  We also went to a local brewery, Port City Brewery, and enjoyed some tasty beverages.

We also went on a local historical tour over a weekend, as there are quite a few American history sites to see near us.  We started with Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.  We saw quite a bit of the house and grounds.  The wait for the house tour was forever, but we were able to see all of the grounds before we went in.  We did not have a chance to check out the distillery nearby, but really enjoyed ourselves.  I am apparently fascinated by relevant American history.  Sorry, Mr. Pulford (high school history teacher).  It came on late.

Next, we went to Harper's Ferry.  We stayed in a nice bed and breakfast just up the street from the park.  The park is massive and beautiful.  We walked down some old train tracks and started to go through some hiking trails.  The museum there is fascinating, with a pretty even handed account of John Brown's rebellion and the players involved.

Lastly, we went to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate.  I am actually not a big fan of TJ's, particularly after reading some historical fiction on the matter years ago (Sally Hemmings, The President's Daughter).  Still, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  Monticello was amazing: agricultural yet industrial, inventive yet traditional.  We had amazing tours of the grounds and the house, as well as the slave history.  We also went to the UVA campus and walked around - very beautiful.  We got a little bit of Baltimore culture there - saw Poe's room!  We (of course) then went to a few local breweries and samples some flavors.

The boyfriend and I greatly enjoyed ourselves and were able to relax.  We like to visit nearby areas when we travel in order to see as much as possible.  Still, I would go back (particularly to Alexandria) for a day or two, just to hang out.  Good times!

Any recommendations for other local trips or the above places?

Sad news

Hi everyone,

Sad news.  Our home was burglarized.

If you remember from our early posts, I did say we lived in Baltimore City. And that we got an alarm system immediately after we purchased the house.  We knew this would happen someday.  It finally did.

First of all, it was a minimal theft.  Someone walked onto our porch at 3 am and stole some of our new potted herbs.  Two basil plants and another plant.

No one was harmed.  We actually caught the robbery on our new Ring camera/doorbell, but did not wake up to the alarm.  We reported it to the police.  We know the thief - she walks her dog in our neighborhood at odd hours in the morning.  We are pretty sure we will catch her.

Our neighbors have been incredibly supportive.  A few other neighbors have had plants stolen before and after our theft.  A neighbor offered us some replacement basil that is now potted and sitting on our porch.  It has been a blessing getting to know people on our block in this madness.

We are going to continue to leave our potted plants and herbs on our porch.  The previous basil was growing so well that the boyfriend had repotted some cuttings to give away to our neighbors.  If the thief had just asked, we would have given her some as well.  We are not going to let her actions change our lives.

We are incredibly grateful that the crime was so minimal and that no one was harmed.  Still, I have trouble understanding why anyone would steal plants.  The pots were small, inexpensive, and lightweight.  The plants were small but bountiful.  It is difficult to conceive.

I am working on a few other projects that I will be sharing with you soon.  A new fall wreath and hopefully some completed rooms.  I've been buying more pillows.  And we've been traveling.

More soon,


Monday, August 15, 2016

Outdoor space progress

It's hot.  Really really hot.

So why would I choose right now to start revamping our backyard?  Because I'm looking forward to fall, that's why.  And once it gets cool enough and the mosquitos go away, I want to get right out there and enjoy it.  As soon as possible.

Again, thanks to the previous homeowners, as we had a pretty awesome slate to start from.  The brick planters, the shed, and the fenced fountain all stayed.

Photography credit: Jaime Gervasi & Associates of Long & Foster Real Estate

We, like many others I'm sure, initially tried to make the outdoor furniture from our old place fit into our new place.  The rental backyard was much larger and had a separate dining area and sitting area, where we were able to put a portable fire pit.   The dining room table was a craigslist buy that we bought, touched up with spray paint, bought a new glass table top for, and added fabric colored seats too.  It looked the old space.  In the new space, it was just a little too big and in the way.  And there was no room for my fire pit!

So we sold it on Craigslist.  :(  It was our first DIY as a couple living together, but it didn't fit the new place.  It sold quickly and well, so I wasn't that sad.

Then it was buying time!  *rubbing hands together with an evil laugh*  After some Craigslist's searching, I really wanted wood furniture that would stand up to the elements and still allow for personal touches through fabric and color.  We lost out on a couple of sets that were online but...World Market came through with their end of summer sale!  We got their Santiago Club Chairs (note that the canvas is sold separately in some cases), St. Martin bench (no longer available), and some outdoor pillows to start.  I already had these outdoor lights and fire pit from Amazon.

I did Scotch Guard the cushions, canvases, and pillows and used a spray sealant on the wood before putting everything outside.  We are seeing how the canvas holds up (White! Nail biting!) and have already had to wash one cover that the neighborhood cats seem particularly fond of.  We may dye them a darker color if continued increased care is required.

I plan to add a colorful garden stool and either touch up spray paint the firepit or build a new one.  But I think that can wait for cooler weather.  Any other suggestions?

One final look...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bedroom Makeover

Hi everyone,

I finally did it.  I revamped our bedroom.

When the boyfriend and I combined households, we decided to use his furniture in the master bedroom instead of mine.  He was worried the cats would destroy my beautiful bed (and he wasn't wrong) and did not want to chance it.

He had dark wood furniture with clean lines, so I was fine with the plan.  In our rental, the master bedroom had green paint and brown trim.  It was like living in a forest, all the time.  I strongly considered painting the room and ended up trying to "go with it", as I spent money painting over the living room feature red wall and the dining room peach color.  It was money well spent, but there wasn't enough leftover to paint the master bedroom also.  Also, it was a rental, so I wanted to limit my home improvement of someone else's property.

The colors in the bedroom in our new home are the same as the rest of the house, beige.  While its nice to not be restricted in terms of color palette and decor, it has been challenging to be bold with colors and patterns.  The boyfriend is a big fan of neutral everything, but a roomful of brown makes me nauseated.  For a while now, we've gone with the same palette as in the previous green master bedroom at the rental.  His furniture, my old green knit blanket, his grey and black quilt and shams set.  He had an old Moroccan lantern that I liked, so I bought a few other ones and some wooden carved wall hangings to try to build on the theme.  I had been "on hold" in that place for a while.  It has been killing me trying to come up with something to go with these color options.  Green, grey, and black are just not my thing.

Here is the old bedroom.  You can see my nightstand redo on the left and the boyfriend's IKEA hack where he stained the IKEA Rast and added new knobs on the right.  I purchased the purple and silver throw pillows to try to work with the silver and black, but it wasn't enough.

Here is my jewelry cabinet, from value city furniture.  It has held up nice over the years.  Above it is a picture, vaguely french with green colors and two beautiful ceramic pieces flanking it, both from the boyfriend's collection.  These were in the living room of the rental and here we decided to try it out in the bedroom.  Nice, but random.

 This is the Moroccan feature wall we transplanted from the rental bedroom.  I got the carved wall hanging from World Market and the lanterns from various places, including Amazon.  The boyfriend's lantern came from a friend, the same one who gave him the ceramic pieces pictured above.  I pretty much have liked and used everything she has given him.  Poor guy.

So...transformation time.

I decided to use what I already had and buy small budget items, getting rid of only the items I truly could not stand anymore.  The room was also a bit bare, decor wise, but I only wanted to add things that truly updated and complimented the existing space.

I kept the Moroccan wall carving and lanterns on the dresser area the exact same.

I switched out the ceramic figures and painting for a mirrored sconce from World Market.

Antique Gold Rectangular Emma Sconce 

I got rid of the black/grey quilt and shams and replaced them with a stone grey quilt/sham option with a Moroccan pattern from Overstock.  I also got a wooden medallion to hang over the bed to add some texture and depth to the space. I used the same purple and silver throw pillows, and they look really great now.  I also used a white knit blanket I got a few months ago from Overstock for the living room.  The cats were just waiting to destroy it anyway.  I really think the bed is now the focal point to the room.

This room we use every day now makes me smile.  Between these changes and the closet redo, I think the master bedroom is 90% done.  The boyfriend considers it 99% done, in a minimalist style.  He clarified the difference between minimalist and spartan for me as well.  Smile.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

China Cabinet Redo


Hi everyone,

We have been hard at work the past few weeks.  Our amazing previous homeowners had a lovely front and back garden with trees, flowering bushes, and other niceties.  We are NOT garden people.  I have killed many a plant.  The boyfriend has actually taken over plant maintenance.  He is better, but we still killed a nice viney thing in the backyard within a few weeks of taking ownership.  Recently, we realized the yard was looking scraggly, so we tried to hire a guy in the neighborhood to help us out.  Instead of taking our money, he gave us excellent specific instructions on what to do ourselves, free of charge.  Now, I didn't really want to do it myself, but, it seemed fairly straightforward.  We pulled weeds, mulched, trimmed bushes and...voila!

We were rewarded with some beautiful late blooming hydrangeas.  And more weeding.  Weeding forever.  My brother's words before we bought a house: "Don't say I didn't warn you".  You did, bro.  You did.

We also finally decided to upgrade to some "adult" furniture.  We had been using the boyfriend's old classic IKEA bookshelf to store our alcohol and barware.  After scouring Craiglist for weeks for a china cabinet that met both of our criteria, we came across a perfect one.  Our specifications were glass doors on the top to display glasses (me), hutch area to pour drinks (boyfriend), additional storage for liquor and wine (both).  There are a LOT of really old really ugly china cabinets on Craigslist.  Similarly, there are lot of Pinteresters remaking old ugly china cabinets. 

The one we found was a very contemporary hutch with some antiquing details.  It had lighting in the glass cabinets and hutch areas.  The seller thought it had been originally from Pier One.  He was moving and did not have time to fix it up anymore.  He had matched the paint, planning to paint over the antiquing aspects to lose to "farmhouse" feel.  He even helped us transport it home after the top half wouldn't fit in the car. Craigslist win.  I feel like this is karmic payback for the time I took my Ikea bookcase to a woman with a newborn in Laurel because she couldn't coordinate fitting in the bookshelf and the baby seat. No bueno.

I was able to finish his paint job in our dining room.  I do not recommend this technique, as I had to protect it from the cats for a few hours after painting.  I painted the top half first, with several touch up coats, and then moved on to the bottom half.  I would make sure the cats wouldn't come near it for an hour, then do a touch up coat.  After 3 days of painting and touch ups, it was done.

The boyfriend expressed some distress about the "aged" knobs.  I thought they were a nice touch to the newly painted cabinet, but I could not win him over.  We agreed to spray paint them in an oil rubbed bronze color, in keeping with the original color and the rest of our fixtures in the dining and living room.  Pinterest came to the rescue in the form of this post from The Snug.  This spray paint was amazing - I am only going to buy Rustoleum Ultra Cover from now on.  No leaks, minimal smell, fast drying time, amazing results. 
How to transform dated brass doorknobs with Rust-Oleum bronze metallic paint. It really works!:

Aged knobs pre spray paint below:

Check out the finished product pictures below.  Ah, adulting.  Time for more weeding now.

On to the next one.