Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Curb Appeal

Happy Tuesday after a 3-day weekend! Everett had an extra day off school last Friday, so we took the opportunity to travel to the Oregon Coast. It was a heavenly break from the real world. We are having one of those periods in life where it seems things are more difficult than average. Right when you think the universe is balanced again, Alice bashes her head and ends up in the hospital. I'm spending a lot of time wondering when the carpet will be ripped out from underneath me, and I'm looking for that one thing that will put us on course again. In the meantime, I'm doing an A+ job ruining things in my path (breaking wineglasses, shattering my iPhone, staining all my white clothes, etc.). Let's just say that my personal curb appeal is not looking so good right now.

That being said, you can only imagine my disappointment coming home to grass that needs mowing, weeds that need pulling, and wallpaper that needs stripping. And so life continues, along with all the projects we have on our to-do list. But if I'm honest, these projects are what make me happy. I feel the most like myself when I am outside working in the yard, doing home improvement projects, or creating new things. It's all that other stuff that gets in the way...you know, like having a job and making money and stuff like that. Le sigh.

Despite all that, we are full steam ahead with our spring outdoor projects. 

The most obvious change we have made to our house so far was painting the front door. One other change that may not be as noticeable was that I painted the shutters a glossy black. They needed a little facelift, as the color was definitely showing age. This After picture was taken last summer, and believe me when I say it looks even better now! Especially since there isn't a weird smoke cloud looming over the city (this picture was taken when half of Washington and Oregon were on fire).

I planted dozens upon dozens of bulbs last fall, and those gave us a great show this spring. My mother-in-law helped me add some hydrangeas last summer, and those survived the winter. We have also transplanted quite a few hostas from our backyard to the front, and some hellebore I brought from the old house is thriving.

Finally, I spray painted a few pots I had on hand and put them on our front porch. The picture of the pots was taken over two weeks ago. Much of what is in there was grown from seed in our house, so they started off small. They look even better today with everything blossoming and spilling over the sides.

That's all for the front yard now. We have done a lot of work in the back as well, so maybe I'll remember to share that one of these days. In the meantime, send all #goodvibes our way. I'm hoping that vacation ended our streak of bad luck, but it can't hurt to keep praying!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Painting a Rocking Chair

The weather is warming, the rain is ceasing, and flowers are blooming. Garage sale season is finally here! 

Now we own some sawhorses (of which we share 50:50 custody with my mom), and a rickety old rocking chair.

I am a firm believer in paint. Specifically Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. You know what I love most? There are roughly 37 paint color options and that's IT. No staring at color cards and buying 3 different paint samples before settling on a color. You get what you get. Sort of...

We are going for "French Country" in this room, so I bought a can of Napoleonic Blue. Is there anything more French? Except it was a tad too Crayola for me, so I custom mixed it with a bit of Graphite from a sample that was available. By the way, I buy my Annie Sloan paint from Mel's in North Spokane.

I think my blue to black ratio was about 1/8 - 1/12. I just kind of eyeballed it.

I really love the result. It is so pretty in person, and it has a very custom feel to it since the color is truly a one-and-only-anywhere-ever. And of course I added a bit of wax to make it glow, and to protect the chalk paint. Then I did some distressing with sandpaper around the edges to give the curves some contrast. I've been watching Queer Eye, and I can just picture Jonathan yelling at this chair saying, "Highlight those curves, Queen!" while chasing after it with sandpaper.

The back pillow will eventually end up outside when we have our annual drought. It is technically an indoor pillow, so here it resides until the rain officially ends.

I'm so happy I could rescue this chair from its fate in the junk yard. There is something so gratifying about upcycling things: good deeds, saving money, turning something old into something new-er. This chair has watched generations of children grow, seen maple sprouts turn into a tree canopy, and now gets to be a part of our family's story. 

Chair news aside, it's been busy around here, as usual. The garden is coming together, and we enjoyed our first fresh-cut salad the other night. Lawdy I love the summer. Even though I am already covered in mosquito bites.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Wallpaper Removal Round 1

The projects never end when you own a home. Even though our house was move-in ready a year ago, there are still remnants from the former owners that are not necessarily our taste. Namely: wallpaper.

For the most part, I believe most of the wallpaper in our house was tastefully chosen. I love the way the living room wallpaper reflects the golden afternoon light. The whole room is aglow, and it makes me feel so happy and content. However, if you look closely the print is super outdated, and it is in pretty poor shape.

Our bedroom wallpaper is a classic smoky blue color that is still very popular in many homes, and it is dark enough to hide any aging. But then you look closer and it has an odd texture, and there is a white border that was added on top that is...no longer white. Not to mention the off-white wallpaper accent wall and off-white trim that make the room feel dingy.

Alice's bedroom would not be so offensive, except the emerald green carpet that is paired with it. The kids' bathroom has already been (mostly) cleared of wallpaper. This project was expedited when they decided to take the wallpaper removal process into their own hands. Once the weather gets nicer I'll need to wrap up that project, so more on that later.

Today, we talk about the dining room. This wallpaper pattern was by far the most offensive to me. The pattern was a compacted version of what is currently in the living room. When I took a picture of my kids, all I could see was the wallpaper.

The pattern was far too dark and busy for the size of the room, and it really did date the house. When I say date, I do not mean in the classic way like our original pine finishes and built-ins. The picture below is one I saved from the listing.

I had the help of a couple girlfriends. It took 2 days just to get this stuff off the walls, one day of priming, 2 weeks debating on a color, and an evening of painting. Here is what I did:

  •  Rough up the walls with a scoring tool. I used the "Paper Tiger".
  • Get the walls damp with soapy water. I dipped a washcloth in hot, soapy water and got the walls super damp. Have plenty of towels ready so you do not damage any baseboards or wood flooring.
  • Start picking at a seam and peal as much as you can at once. This paper was put on really well, and the glue was stubborn in many places. Having a flat head screwdriver was helpful in these areas, and tweezers were often a requirement. Do not let the walls dry! The glue will reset itself and you will end taking two steps back in any progress you have made.
  • Once all the paper was off I washed down the walls once more with water, vinegar, and tea tree oil. While they were wet, I took a plastic ice scraper (for windshields) to the walls to get that last layer of glue off. 
Virgin walls!

  • Apply paintable caulk around molding, baseboards, windows, etc. Seal it all in! We use the painter's tape trick for this, making sure to tape the wood finish really well, and do not forget to remove it while the caulk is still wet. 
  • I filled any plaster cracks and nail holes with the paintable caulk and spackling compound. This probably isn't the way a contractor would fill these, but it meets our needs for now. I read blogs where they tore out all the plaster and redid it with drywall, but that was a bit beyond my capabilities and time frame.
  • Apply 2 coats of primer. I am SOOO glad I did this. There were a few areas that still had glue I unknowingly missed, causing the primer to bubble. I was able to scrape that off and add another coat of primer without any repercussions. Losing a layer of paint like that would have killed me. 
Freshly primed walls.

  • Two coats of paint finished the job.  

I love how you can see the "matching" living room wallpaper in these pictures. It helps me picture what the whole space will look like once I am brave enough to tackle the next room.

This is much easier on the eye.

You would not believe how much brighter the house feels now. It is amazing how much one room can affect lighting. I'm nervous and excited to get rid of that "golden" living room wallpaper.

What are some wallpaper removal tricks you've picked up? I need all the help I can get!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Buffalo Check Quilt

Another project to share!

If you are looking for a relatively fast and easy quilt, look no further than the buffalo check! I am a sucker for anything gingham or buffalo check.

It also helps that the pattern is very easy and goes by fast. This would be a great project for a first-time quilter. I used 6 inch squares with a 1/4 inch seam allowance and used this pattern. As always, my favorite binding tutorial is HERE.

This project is a donation, and I had so much fun making it. If the price is right, it may just end up on Alice's big girl bed...although I think it will clash with the wallpaper in there. (More on wallpaper later.)

Now back to my socks!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Icelandic Sweater

Did you know March is Icelandic Wool Month?! Ever since we visited Iceland, Jeff has coveted  handmade Icelandic sweaters. The problem is that they are ridiculously expensive.

When you are in Iceland spending an excessive amount on food and lodging, coughing up hundreds of dollars for a sweater is less than appealing. Since Jeff and I are cheap, he assumed for years that I was just going to make him one. Ha! Why does he think I know how to make a sweater? In both my distant and recent memories, I know I have uttered this statement at least three times: "Jeff, I am never going to knit you a sweater. Ever. So please remove that from your life expectations."

...I knit him a sweater...

The problem with making somebody something for Christmas is that you have to do it all in secret. Anyone with a child will tell you that secrets are not easy to keep with little mouths that talk. 

For 3 months, everyone in the house was talking about the blanket Mommy was knitting for Baby KJ (a rumor I personally started). By the way, it took me a god's age to make this because I really only had time to work on it a few hours a week. Stop judging me!

I had to restart the bugger 3 times. Please feel sorry for me. When you cast on hundreds of stitches using tiny little needles this is no small task. One time I was a good 8 inches deep into the project when I realized I had twisted the knitting at some point. *@#^$%@#!

Starting off is easy once you get over the initial cast-on drama. You really just knit in the round for the body and the sleeves. I put stitch markers at every 50 stitches, and a different colored one at the halfway mark, to easily keep track of counting.

Once you get to the sleeves it's business as usual. Keep knitting in the round until you get to the desired length. I made the sleeves and body a little longer for Jeff, since he is taller than the average global citizen.

When it came time to join the sleeves to the body...now this is where it started getting tricky. I have an image that I took on my phone. I will spare you from that image since it is poor quality.

At this point we were really getting down to the wire. Christmas was around the corner, and I only had a few days left to finish the project. I made excuses to hide from Jeff for hours at a time: my mom needs help wrapping presents, my brother needs a babysitter, I have to help out at church. Lord, forgive me for all the lies. On Christmas Eve it was finally done (after I spent 4 hours that morning knitting in a Starbucks).

I blocked the sweater in the upstairs shower underneath towels and the thickest Harry Potter books on our shelf. I crept upstairs early Christmas morning and quickly wrapped it after weaving in a few loose threads.

In conclusion, knitting a sweater (especially in secret) is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared for late nights and voluntary seclusion. If you decide to tackle such a project, hopefully it will be worth it. In my mind, this sweater will be passed on to our son and grandchildren. May they appreciate it as much as I am imagining. Who am I kidding, it will be at Goodwill in 15 years.

A few things to note if you are considering such a project:

  • The pattern I used is from the Handknitting Association of Iceland. The kit I used included the pattern, the yarn, and all the knitting needles I would need. The website also offers free pattern downloads, but I thought the price of the kit was worth it, considering the yarn was authentically Icelandic and of high quality. I think it was around $90 at the time plus shipping.
  • If you decide to use yarn from Icelandic sheep, be aware that is is very course and slightly scratchy. This does not mean the quality is inferior. On the contrary, the yarn is more lightweight, durable, and waterproof than other softer wool options you will find on the market. If it protects Icelandic sheep from harsh climates, it will do the same for you. Jeff wears a shirt under his sweater to protect his delicate, American skin. 
  • Lettlopi (pure Icelandic wool yarn) can be purchased from the Handknitting Association of Iceland, but I also found some at this shop in Western Washington. You can order online from Tolt Yarn and Wool with extrasuperduper fast shipping. I know this because I just bought some Lettlopi to make a sweater for myself! This is a much more economical way to complete the project since you do not have to pay international shipping, and you can get the needles from Joann with coupons one week at a time...I told you I am cheap. I got this pattern for my sweater, but you can use a free one from the Handknitting Association of Iceland.
  • When knitting the fair isle pattern, do not knit too tight or too loose. Keep one ball of yarn to your left and one ball to your right, making sure to stay consistent on which one gets looped under/over to avoid twisting. If my memory serves me right, I believe the "under" yarn will pop more in the pattern, so plan accordingly.
  • Have fun and take your time. Expect mistakes, and embrace a missed stitch - hopefully it will be under the arm and no one will notice. Otherwise, I am here for you when you have to backstitch.  
The kids and I went on a pilgrimage to Tolt when we were in the Seattle area last weekend. It was everything dreamy that I was imagining, and no one gave me the stink eye when my toddler was pulling every reachable pink and purple skein off the shelves. Definitely visit them if you happen to be near Seattle, and snatch up one of their cute mugs. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Making a Modern Concept Quilt

I was looking through some old photographs and realized I never fully shared the quilt I made a while back, other than on Instagram.

This quilt took a pretty long time for me to make. Like, months...more months than are in one year. In my defense I got pregnant and lost steam, as you do. It was originally supposed to be a wedding present for one of my best friends. My present to her was not puking at her wedding instead. I think she was thrilled to receive such a gift. Anyway, one thing led to another and it became an anniversary present instead...anniversary plus a few months.

So here's what I did. 

I knew the happy couple loved visiting Mt. Rainier when they lived in Seattle, and that area meant a lot to them. I found a picture they had taken while hiking, then went to town trying to recreate the scene in a modern, textile format.

Some of the fabric I used was left over from the previous quilt I made, and the other pieces were acquired to fill the colors that were needed. I think cutting fabric is my least favorite task of all tasks that could possibly exist in this world, and try doing this task during the first trimester. Sheesh. I'm sweating just thinking about it.

Once I got over my anxiety and finished cutting (after Alice was born), Jeff helped me arrange the strips. I should mention that it really only took me another 30 minutes of cutting. I hate how crippling anxiety can be.

Anyway, then I sewed the rows together.

Next, I joined all the rows and trimmed to a rectangle, adding more strips to the ends when/if needed. 

 Here's a picture of the sweetest baby there ever was, since that's how old these pictures are. 

My friend's favorite color was turquoise (it was even her wedding color), so that explains the background color choice.

(Try to ignore my feet.)

This quilt may have taken the back burner for a little longer than originally planned, but I am so glad I was able to wait for Alice to arrive before finishing it. She was the sweetest little baby helper ever. And I did manage to finish it in less than 2 years, so small victories. 

The good news...I signed up to make another quilt for Everett's school auction.
The bad news...this means I need to start cutting fabric pieces pronto. Help me!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Months of Making

It's been a while since this space has been updated. A lot has happened in the last few months: holidays, ski trips, birthdays, and making memories. I think these days of the kids being young, innocent, and happy will be our best. As challenging and busy as this life can be, it is so rich, so full of good things.

I have dedicated a lot more time to creating things these past few months. Starting with Everett's Halloween costume. Luckily I didn't have to put too much work into it, and I was able to add wings to his dinosaur costume from last year to create a dragon.

There were wings that came with the Simplicity 1765 dinosaur costume pattern, but I just could not get them to look right, and Everett seemed pretty bummed by the way they turned out. So I decided to go rogue and design them myself to create a more cape-like effect - something I thought he would love since all his friends would be dressed like superheroes.

Yes, I wear Christmas pajamas all year. 

I used the costume for dimensions, added a seam allowance, then cut 4 pieces of the hand-drawn wings. After sewing the right sides together leaving the large (body) sides open, I trimmed the seams, turned right-side out, pressed, then top stitched around the outside of the wings to give it a finished look. To attach the wings to the body, I pressed down the large/body/open sides a bit to close off that last area of the wings, attached them to the body near the original costume seams, then did my best to stitch along the original lines. A couple hand stitches along the shoulders, arms, and wrists finished the look.

Alice's unicorn costume from last year still fit like a glove. She was just the sweetest. I died every time she walked up to a door and said, "Tricky Treat."

It was a fun and crazy Halloween! Someone please remind me to take the afternoon off work next time though, because feeding two littles and getting them dressed before the chaos began was a little much.

Other highlights from our autumn included harvesting all our squash, making pumpkin pie with said squash, preserving seeds for next year, visiting the arboretum, planting hundreds of bulbs for spring blooms, Everett's first Harry Potter symphony concert, walks in the leaves, beginning the wallpaper removal process, and Everett starting a new school.

Even in times of struggle, may you always find ways to create in your life, may you always find joy in the ones you love, and may you remember these times with fondness.

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