Friday, December 11, 2015

Suite Dreams Are Made of This

Ever since our master bedroom became livable back in June, our renovation velocity has slowed a bit in that part of the house. Sure, we styled the bookshelf, got the gallery wall up, organized the closet, and Mr. W installed most of the molding (after a spirited cursing fight) but the room felt like there was a huge hole in it because of the blank wall over our bed.

We had planned the entire room around this one piece of art. Not just any piece—a painting that our friend Pete did for Mr. W back in 2002. If you read this blog regularly, you know that we tragically lost Pete in 2012, so to have one of his paintings hanging above us every night is pretty much equivalent to having an angel chillin' over our headboard.

The only catch was, his original painting was about 15x20" and we wanted a 24x36" canvas. So we had a high-res scan of the painting made, Mr. W worked some Photoshop magic on it to adjust the aspect ratio (which took many hours), and then we had a company print the new image to look like it was painted on canvas.

This whole process took weeks, during which I said over and over to Mr. W (because he loves it when I do this) "You know what would really make the room feel finished? If we could get Pete's picture done." Rinse. Repeat. 

Though it was a long wait, it was worth it. Every time I walk into the room now, it makes me smile.

It also makes me smile that Mr. W has been plugging away on the master bathroom. He has the shower almost completely tiled (after many tedious days working to get the slope just right on the shower floor).

And last weekend, he built and veneered the bathtub surround. We're going with teak veneer in this bathroom and I think it's going to look so purty once it's varnished.

Here are a few examples of the aesthetic we're after:


If we're lucky, maybe by the end of the year he'll have the vanity built, too. Our countertop slab of French vanilla marble is just sitting at the local building supply waiting to be cut and installed. Once it's in, once the bathroom is workable, I'm prepared to celebrate with a glass of champagne and a bubble bath. Most likely followed by some touch-up spackling and painting...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Tale of Two Light Sources

Back around Labor Day, I noticed that was having a sale and I decided it was officially time for us to replace the light fixture hanging in our dining room. We've been trying to keep with the mid-century aesthetic of our home and a cool sputnik-style chandelier just felt much more appropriate to the space than the box light that came with the house.

Here's a shot of the old light. Solid, but not very exciting.

I jumped on the sale and ordered the light—of course making sure Mr. W was on board with it before I sealed the deal. Thankfully he was, and a few days later this eruption of chrome-covered disco goodness arrived on our doorstep.

Mr. W went to work hanging and wiring it and once it was done, we turned it on to admire its brilliance.

"It's kind of...loud," he said, eyeing it skeptically.

"It's not—it's beautiful," I countered. "It makes me want to sing the Katy Perry firework song. Lampy you're a fiiiirrework!"

Mr. W wasn't convinced.

A little later, the real crux of the issue occurred to me: I was the new chandelier and Mr. W was the old one.

Mr. W is practical, sleek, sort of timeless, a bit sharp around the edges. He's solid. Maybe even a smidge square. But lights up a room without screaming "Look At Me!" first.

Then there's me... Kind of explosive, limbs often flailing in every direction, a style that most certainly is not for everyone. The opposite of subtle and refined.

Surely if Mr. W could learn to love me, he could learn to love the new light fixture. Surely he could come to appreciate the graphic flowery pattern it casts on the ceiling when it's lit. Surely he would soon feel the urge to dance under it to "Stayin' Alive" and "Boogie Shoes."

I'm sorry to report that he has not joined me for any dining room disco parties, but I do think he's gotten used to the lamp.

And I believe that with some persuasion, Friday nights doing the electric slide under it are just a few short months away.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Those Good-For-Nothing Chickens: A Love Story

Our girls are a year and a half old now, and sometime in late June they began their very first molting session. (If you want to see some extremely sad looking hens, Google "chicken molting.")

I had read articles online about the amount of feathers chicken owners have in their yards during molt season. One blogger described it as looking like "a group of teenage girls had a pillow fight." Seemed awfully dramatic to me. For some reason, I believed our ladies would only lose a feather here or there, largely retaining their beguiling avian beauty.

And to some degree, they did. All of them lost their tail feathers. Carrie Birdshaw lost some on her head. Charlotte had a bald butt for awhile. And Samantha's chin looked like she had stolen it from elderly man for a couple weeks. Yet, Miranda, our beautiful red (and neurotic) Welsummer stayed perfectly intact for months. Then, almost overnight, she turned into this...

Poor, pathetic little baldypants. It makes me laugh and want to cry a little every time I see her foraging in the backyard like that. Haggard little creature....

In addition to most corners of our yard, the coop and the run looking like this        —>      —>
we have also been egg-deprived for weeks. Carrie Birdshaw has not laid an egg in over 4 months. Charlotte and Miranda  slowed down, but were still giving us at least a few a week— and now both of them have stopped altogether, too. The only girl earning her keep around here is my sweet, sweet Sammy. Nearly every day, we find one of her blue-green eggs in the nesting box. I love that chicken.

Mr. W and I have been joking about how we're going to turn them into soup if they keep up this hiatus. But even if none of them ever go back to laying full time (although I really, really, really hope they do because we miss our farm fresh eggs) we'll continue to treat them just like any other pet. Why? If only because of how incredibly adorable they are when they take dirt baths. I mean, seriously...

I haven't seen the four of them all bathing together like that since they were babies. My heart almost exploded when I walked outside and found them all snuggled together.

And the fact that they look like little heavy-eyed weed addicts just makes it even better. Total stoners. (This was before Miranda started shedding, by the way.) 

I swear they go into a trance when they're "in the tub." Carrie even played dead for a minute.

Antics like these are what will make us keep chickens for the long haul. Eggs or no eggs, they provide great entertainment. And if I ever decide to open a pillow factory, once a year I'm going to be more than set on my supply of feathers...


Friday, October 23, 2015

Creating Curb Appeal in the Land of No Curbs

I remember once hearing from a real estate professional—or maybe on HGTV—that neighborhoods with proper sidewalks are considered higher value. If you live somewhere with crumbly asphalt sidewalks or nothing at all, you're in trouble. Concrete, allegedly, is a big moneymaker.

Well, out here in the country, there plain darn just ain't a lot of concrete sidewalks. Sure, some of the ritzier neighborhoods in town have them, but most of the people dwelling in those areas aren't spread out on acre-plus lots. On our street, most everyone has some sort of mulch or gravel or even just bare dirt leading out to the road. Which can make it a little tricky to really master curb appeal.

Perhaps in the country, we just have "drive-by appeal" or "front-of-house allure."

Anyway, our curblessness has been in desperate need of a little polishing. So after we finished the backyard compacted granite project, we started tweaking the front yard. We had already run a line of lavender plants from the front to the back to create separation between the granite and the mud patch that will soon be our new lawn.

Next, we raked up all the wood chips that lined the front of the house and pulled up the 1960s stepping stones.

We found stone blocks at Home Depot that matched our front planters and chimney almost perfectly, so Mr. W arranged them in a similar pattern to form a new walkway to the front door.

The old stepping stones were placed so haphazardly, as soon as we laid down the new walkway it felt like order had descended upon the house. Sure, the decomposed granite makes it look a little like we installed a sand volleyball court in front of our house, but overall I think it looks so much better than it did before.

We may not have curbs at our house, but I think we've nailed the appeal. Now to start saving to pay for a new driveway...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Grumbling and Graveling in the Backyard

Ever since we started renovating our house, I've had to listen to people gush over how impressed they are that Mr. W is doing most of the work. How does he know how to install kitchen cabinets? That deck he built is beautiful. He did the tile in the bathroom—Gorge! You're so lucky to have him!

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

Readers, I've had enough. And I think it's high time I get a little recognition for my contributions—particularly because this week I did something that most every wife I know would never do: I spent every free moment of the better part of my week shoveling gravel and granite in our backyard. I'm not sure whether this makes me a complete idiot or a backyard bad ass.

Let me tell you, it was back-breaking work. Like sweat-all-the-way-through-your-shirt, every-muscle-is-sore, work. Oh, and did I mention it's been about 90° here this week? Yet, I pulled on my garden boots and grabbed my shovel countless times to help transform our yard.

It all started when we killed the grass during our add-on in the spring. We decided we should probably re-seed the grass before Godzilla El Niño hits this autumn/winter—but as part of that, we also decided it would be a good idea to rip out about half of the lawn and replace it with decomposed granite. Although we're supposed to get lots of rain this year, it's clear that we may be in a perpetual state of drought in California, so granite makes more sense than anything that requires water.

Because our baby grass will be fragile once planted, we had to lay down the granite first so that the delivery trucks could drop off loads without running over any fledgling blades.

Monday morning, after we laid down weed-blocking landscape fabric, the local rockery showed up with our base gravel...

I don't know how much the pile weighed but I'm going to guess it was about a sh*t ton. Yep, technical measurement...

We shoveled and raked it all out and then Mr. W compacted it with a fancy machine called "The Wacker." Here he is wacking now...

After that, it was on to two layers of decomposed granite, each of which had to be wacked into compacty perfection. Of course, the nosey chickens broke out of their yard and tried to help. Nothing like chicken poop on a brand new, pristine patio to make your day.

Once the patio was finished, we moved on to the vegetation row that will separate the patio area from the new grass. We planted 20 lavender plants today...again in 90° heat. We need to get another load of gravel to lay in the planter bed, but you can get an idea of what it'll look like in the progress shots below:

I'm pretty excited about how it's all coming along. I'll be really, really excited when we have some living lawn again.

And I'll be really relieved when I can put away my shovel for an extended period of time. But that won't happen until we finish the front yard, too. Stay tuned. And feel free to tell me I'm a backyard bad ass for helping Mr. W with this.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What We're Making: A Bench You Can't Sit On

Earlier this month, we completed the gallery wall project we had slated for our recently renovated master bedroom. But pretty much as soon as we hung the final frame on the wall, I started thinking the room looked unbalanced. #neversatisfied Though the wall looked sharp, we pretty much had a bowling lane running down the east side of the room. If I didn't find a way to break up the space and balance the heavy bed and couch on the west side of the room, I was going to have to start wearing an eye patch every time I walked in the room so I'd only see one side at a time. And nobody wanted that.

I decided a bench on the gallery wall would solve the problem, so I spent many an evening researching options on All Modern, Overstock, Crate & Barrel, Wayfair, Dot and Bo....and on and on. (Follow me on Pinterest and you can track the madness.) Unfortunately, nothing I found was the dimension I was seeking—I needed something long and shallow. And on top of that, the stuff I really liked was pricey. So I did what any self-sufficient DIYer would do: I asked Mr. W for help. 

I set him to task, cutting me a nice long bench base from one of our discarded closet doors, then I ordered some cool mid-century-esque bench legs from Home Depot. I had some foam left over from a previous bench project we'd done in the guest room, so all I needed was some nice fabric and a few coverable buttons. Easy peasy. Right.

I hit Joann Fabrics over the weekend and found some awesome, toothy navy blue upholstery fabric and went to work Sunday afternoon thinking I could bang out the project in a couple hours. Instead, it took five. Here's a time lapse of the first few steps before I got burnt out and was cussing too much to stop and take pictures:

Staining the legs with walnut stain.

Piecing together some old and new pieces of foam for the cushion.

Covering the whole thing with batting. And yes, I got a blister from using the staple gun so much.

My little helper. Not really helping.

Covering in my snazzy fabric. Pardon all the cat hair...
After this, the wheels sort of fell off. Covering the buttons was harder than I thought it would be and actually installing the buttons was super hard because I'm not sure I had the right kind of needle. It's a good thing we don't have kids and a curse jar at our house because that thing would have been filled with dollar bills.

Once I got the buttons placed, I hot glued fabric to the bottom and installed the legs. I was quite proud of how it looked when I was finished. However, when I tried to sit on it lightly, the wood began to bow. It is possible to sit on the corner where the legs add strength, but trying to rest on the middle of it would likely snap it in half.

So it becomes another piece of art on the gallery wall. Fashion before function, my friends.

I know, I know. The corners need some work.

One more peek at the before:

And the after:

The room is so much more balanced now, don't you think?!