Friday, August 30, 2013

Weekend Escape: Northern Michigan


I am very excited for this long holiday weekend! Our family has a wonderful place on a lake in Northern Michigan so that is where we will be. Looking forward to relaxing and re-charging, much needed!


Here's our view from the deck:

Maddy loves it up north.. lots of walks, swimming and play time.

We have done some projects/updating up here so I will be sharing those soon. This weekend will be no work and all play though.  :)

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Progress: Exterior Painting

When we bought our house, we knew the exterior would have to be painted. The baby blue aluminum siding was faded and chalky. It also matched the roof color too closely so it all blended together. After we got the new windows installed, you couldn't even notice that there was new windows and new trim since the contrast was so low. 

Here is the listing photo:

Before we could paint the siding, the landscaping had to be cleaned up. I ripped out those scraggly bushes and that tall tree on the left (which was also making the house look smaller). 

I painted about 5 different sample colors and it took me forever to pick one. I couldn't decide to go with a light gray, taupe, or darker blue/charcoal.

I decided to go bold and pick the darkest color I sampled, Sherwin Williams "Web Gray". It's a nice charcoal color with a hint of blue.  We used SW paint on our last house (A-100) and liked the quality so we went with it again. SW was having a 30% off sale so we got it for a pretty good price. 

The darker color requires two coats and we are painting it with a brush and a small foam roller (instead of a sprayer) so it is taking longer than expected to finish.

We still have a lot to do:

-finish painting the siding
-paint the trim to match the new window trim
-keep/repair or cover up the scallops
-update the porch/railings
-add in plants, mulch, general landscaping
-paint and fix the trim on the garage
-we wanted to replace the front door with a nice warm wood tone one but our door is a custom size ($$$) so I'm trying to think of a way to update it (paint, change out the glass?)

I'm anxious just looking at that To-Do list! But with time, we'll check them off one by one. 

We did finish painting the front of the house so it wasn't two toned for long. Didn't want the neighbors to think we were crazy!

p.s. Can you find Maddy peeking out to say hello?


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Raised Garden Bed

This is the first year I've attempted a garden. Back in March, I bought seeds & a tray to give the plants a head start. Most of my seeds grew nicely into little seedling plants. We built a simple frame for the raised bed and filled it in with soil. I should have done more research on how big each plant would grow because I definitely planted too much in this small space! Because there were too many plants in my bed, some didn't get the sun or the room that they needed to grow. 

Yikes.. that's a bit of a mess.. I planted Cherry Tomatoes, Large Tomatoes (I forget what kind), Cucumber, Summer Squash, Romaine Lettuce, Sweet Bell Peppers & Basil. I ended up pulling out 1 Tomato and 4 Sweet Pepper plants to put in separate containers. Clearly, way too many varieties planted!

Next year, I will do a few things differently:

-Smaller tomato variation: since these are so large, they took forever to turn green. I think Roma would be a better size

- Less tomato plants, maybe 4 total, 2 Cherry + 2 Roma

- Add zucchini (instead of cucumber) & squash in large pots (or maybe a smaller raised bed) in front of the trellis we have on the patio. This should save space and add some extra privacy.

- More herbs: we love the basil and would add rosemary, mint, and maybe dill

-Skip the Lettuce, or at least reduce it and plant earlier. In the summer heat, it was sort of soft and not crisp. 

How is your garden growing? 


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Loving: String Lights

After some super annoying delays, the Mulberry tree is finally removed from our backyard! Now that I bought some new outdoor furniture, it was time for rearranging. Our back patio is just a small concrete pad so we are hoping next year to extend it and cover it with either pavers or wood planks like we did at our first house front porch

I hung up these string lights, stretching them from the trellis to a hook that is next to the door.  This was not an easy one person job but I was too excited and couldn't wait for Dave to get home. I used 3 strands here.

I'm really happy with the ambient lighting they provide when its dark out. Summer is still in full force here in Michigan so we will be able to enjoy this space at least for a few more weeks and even later if we light the fire-pit!

Any end of summer outdoor projects you are working on??


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blueberry & Banana Cobbler

I had a ton of blueberries left over from the blueberry scones and wanted to use them in a quick dessert last night. Cobbler is a really easy dish to make and you can use any fruit you like. Along with the blueberries, I also had some ripe bananas so I threw in some as well. I used small ceramic cups since I just wanted to make two individual servings. 

These next few steps don't have to be exact, it's hard to screw it up!

Add your fruit to the cups, I filled them to about 1/2 the container.
Mix in 2 tablespoons sugar + 1 teaspoon flour + 1/4 cup topping

I made a larger batch of the topping to keep in the freezer for next time so you could half/quarter this recipe if you only wanted a small amount.

1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
8 tbs cold butter (1 stick)

Add the dry ingredients together and mix. Cut up the cold butter into 1/2 pieces, add to dry ingredients and mix. I used my handheld mixer with the beater attachments. Mix until the butter is into small pieces.  

Add the topping over your fruit, I like to make sure there are some pieces of butter on top so it melts across the top.

I baked them for about 15 minutes @ 350 degrees. I wanted the top extra crispy so I turned on the broiler for a couple of minutes.. be sure to keep an eye on them because they can burn easily.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Simple, fresh & delicious! The blueberries were amazing but I think I would leave out the banana next time since it was kinda mushy. This would be amazing with peaches, strawberries, raspberries, or maybe apples if they were in small enough pieces.

I stored the extra topping in a ziplock in the freezer for the next time we have a craving or need a last minute dessert. 

What's your favorite summer-time dessert?


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Outdoor Patio Furniture Options

In the backyard, branched over our house and the patio, is a large Mulberry tree. I didn't realize Mulberry trees produced fruit all summer long. I kept waiting for the berries to stop falling everywhere, but it has been a pain and basically impossible to keep that area clean. Since it was also ruining our neighbor's patio, we decided to have the tree removed. Removing the tree will also allow more grass to grow instead of muddy patches. With the threat of berry colored bird droppings reduced, I really wanted to spruce up our outdoor space to enjoy what is left of summer.

I have been on the lookout for some patio furniture that was at a decent price and looked nice. With summer coming to an end, there are some great deals out there. I wanted something that was classic and would last us at least a few years. We have a dining set so a comfy chair, benches, and/or sofa would work.

We were driving by Pier 1 and they had some of these outside with a SALE sign. I demanded asked David nicely to turn around so I could get a closer look. I wanted to have the seating arranged in an L-shape facing out towards the yard.

While I liked this set, we need 2 benches + 1 chair, 2 sidetables and cushions for all of it that added up very quickly. Even with some of the promos they have been running (10% off), it was more than I wanted to spend. 

Of course Ikea is always on my list when searching around for furniture so I looked online to see what they had. The only one I really liked was the ARHOLMA sofa and our local Ikea was out of stock. After reading some reviews, I couldn't convince myself that driving to the next closest Ikea (250 miles away) would be worth it.
I also checked Craigslist which had a couple of decent sets but for $600-$800 and in used condition, it just didn't feel like a great deal. 

So are you ready to see what I ended up buying?! 

I ran into Lowe's to pickup a small fire-pit and noticed they had some patio furniture left. I saw the bench first and at $98, was priced right. They also had the matching chair & end tables, and their cushions were all on major sale. It looks very similar to the Pier 1 set at almost 50% less! Thankfully, the Lowe's employees were nice enough to load all of this (2 benches, 1 chair, 2 end tables) into my vehicle plus the fire-pit.
To provide some extra lighting, I picked up a few strands of these round globe lights from Target.

I can't wait to put it all together and show you the finished space!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

DIY Cake Stand

I was looking for a couple of new items to add for the brunch table I posted about here.  I was limited on time so I ran into Target to see if they had a cake stand that wasn't clear glass since I already have a few of those. They didn't have what I was looking for so I decided to make my own. While a DIY Cake Stand is not a new idea, it is the first time I've attempted it.

This square plate from the Threshold line, $4.99- raised edges add some texture & interest
Salt & pepper shakers that had a flat top, $4.99
Silicone sealant/glue that I had on hand, $4.57

I just squeezed some of the silicone on the top of the salt shaker, flipped over the plate and there was a round Threshold logo located perfectly in the middle. I lined up the top of the shaker with that logo and pressed down. Seriously.. couldn't be easier!

DIY Cake Stand

I put a candle on there to have some weight on the plate/shaker while the silicone was drying. After letting it dry for an hour or so, the stand is complete & very secure!

There is also a dinner plate so I might have to find a larger base to make a matching set..

Have you tried any DIY cake stands before? What did you make yours from?


Monday, August 19, 2013

Casual Summer Brunch

This past weekend, David & I ran a 5K Saturday morning and afterwards had some family & friends over for brunch. The race was an early morning event part of the Woodward Dream Cruise, which is a huge gathering & celebration of classic cars in the Motor City.

Here are some photos of the table set up. I found these pretty botanical napkins at Target.

I made two quiches the night before and reheated them in the morning which worked out perfectly. I used the base recipe from Everyday Occasions and added in a bunch of veggies + bacon. Quiches are a great way to use up whatever you have on hand.  My co-worker was so sweet and brought me in some fresh eggs from his chickens. Aren't they pretty? I love the color of the minty green ones.

I also made a double batch of Blueberry Scones. It was my first time making scones, but actually relatively easy & turned out delicious. I will be making again soon!

I have a quick tutorial for the cake stand that the scones are on, so check back tomorrow!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

No Sew Removable Pillow Covers

I've seen plenty of tutorials on how to make throw pillow covers (sew, no sew, envelope, etc) but when I came up with this super simple removable version, I just had to share. I picked up some pillow cases from Ikea in prints that I liked but didn't come as throw pillow covers. I was planning on just cutting off the extra fabric and sewing it or using the iron hem tape for the closures. It wouldn't have been removable but it would have looked pretty..

However, when I opened the package, I found a nice surprise.. button closure ends! I think it's mostly the extra pillow cases that are part of a duvet collection which have these buttons, so you might want to check. I also bought a yellow/white striped one that I love.

These next few steps took less than 5 minutes and created a removable throw pillow cover with no sewing involved.

Put your throw pillow insert (20"x20") into the pillow case, button the end & mark the opposite side for the line to cut (allowing for about 3/4" seam).

Fold inside out and grab your iron on hem tape, I used the Heat n' Bond brand. Cut a piece of the tape to fit along the width of the opening and align along the edge.

Iron along the edge, checking as you go to make sure the tape is still lined up. Let it cool for a minute or two and then flip right-side out. You will have one edge perfectly hemmed together and the other a button closure!

I really like removable covers so they can be swapped out or washed easily. I always use the Ikea feather inserts that are about $7, they are a great value!

Here's my finished product!

And a quick photo with the other print:

Can't wait to stop into Ikea to see what other patterns I can find.. definitely have to plan a trip there soon! 


Our First House: Basement Before & After

One of the reasons we considered not buying our first house was due to the crazy basement. I'm so upset I didn't get a proper before showing the red and orange shag carpet on the WALLS. It was insane. The rest of the room was covered in dark brown paneling, missing ceiling tiles and hardly any light.

This photo was taken as the carpet was coming down off the upper walls and we were starting to paint the paneling, it gives you an idea just how nasty it was.

We added new carpet, just a remnant from Lowe's that we cut to size once we got home. Painted and fixed the ceiling tiles. Added some pot lights. There was also nasty carpet on the stairs, so we pulled that up, cleaned the stairs and painted them.

This space is so much brighter & comfortable!

I dont have a before picture of the laundry room but it was more of that dark brown paneling and a falling down shelf. While we had the paint sprayer used on the exterior, we also painted all the walls and the ceiling white. The sprayer made this job much easier.

The table is made of an inexpensive interior door ($17) and some scrap wood. After a coat of paint, it makes the perfect table for folding clothes or crafting.

This concludes the tour of first home.. Can't wait to show you around our current home!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Our First House: Quick Bathroom Update #2

We were pretty lucky to start with decent bones in this upstairs bathroom. All of the tile and fixtures were in good shape, just needed some updating & style. 

More dark brown trim, a weird cushiony brown toilet cover. What is up with the toilets in this house??

Hollywood lights and basic mirror were not doing us any favors in this room:

Since this 1970's house didn't have much character, any chance I get to add some molding/details, I did! Here we installed board & batten wainscoting. We took it up to about 2/3rds on the wall to make the room visually seem taller. I painted the vanity and the wall cabinet white using the same cabinet paint as the kitchen.

The round mirror I found at Hobby Lobby but it was dark brown so surprise, surprise.. I painted it white! Again, we kept the counters to save on $$ and also because it looked so much better that I liked it. Adding in some new hardware, faucet & lighting finished off this project.

While there was a little more to do in this bathroom with adding the board & batten, it was still a relatively quick project and I love the outcome!

Who's ready to grab a paintbrush and transform a room?! :-)

**Paint Colors:
Trim: Ultra White, Cabinet & Trim Paint - Dutch Boy
Walls: Notre Dame - Valspar