Banning Plastic Ugliness

From the title, you would think that I am throwing away the kids outdoor toys! But no... I'm not sure we would survive without that kind of plastic ugliness! Instead, I am talking about this plastic ugliness which is haunts our driveway. 

The black and white vent is for our tankless hot water heater, and the white one is for the high efficiency furnace, both housed in our basement utility/storage room. This kind of stuff doesn't bother a lot of people because it's part of the house. It makes me crazy though. 

So Handy Hubby goes out for a quick run and I grab the can of plastic spray paint before he has even turned the corner. Same can from this project last month which got me thinking about other stuff to remake.  I used some old boxes from our recycling bin to mask off the surrounding area. The black one had a rubber flange which made it easy to slide stuff behind it. I made sure not to spray directly into the intake (thus the blue tape).
And now... voila!

I think it looks loads better and I won't have to cringe at the glaring white tube sticking out of my house. Of course now that patched grout stands out a lot more. It's not quite as obvious as it looks in the picture but it's definitely different. Any ideas on what I could apply to darken it only slightly?


Powder Room Bling: Part 2

Next step in the "bathroom bling" project was to attempt a ceiling stencil. I really wanted some wow but didn't really want to stencil the walls. I thought about stenciling the wall behind the sink and I still thing that might have worked but I decided to do something much harder instead. What was I thinking? This is a really a non-tutorial - don't do anything I did and your project will come out just fine! I ordered a Moroccan Dream stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils (available here).  The stencil is beautiful and well-made so the problems are all mine!

First, I let it sit rolled in the container for more than a month - bad idea. Unroll your stencil as soon as it arrives to prevent it from being permanently curled.  Second, I started the project on the most humid day of the year - Saturday during Hurricane Irene. Third, I should have used spray adhesive instead of tape to get a clear line. Fourth, I should have practiced first on cardboard or scrap wood. Fifth, I used too much paint on the roller. Sixth, I painted over glossy metallic paint (they recommend using flat paint as a base) So, other than those fails, the project was great!! Hahaha.  It took me about 4 hours over two days to stencil the 7'x3' ceiling in our powder room.  It then took another 1.5 hours to touch up the paint and rough edges from where the paint bled through. Argh.


I really like the results so I guess it was worth it. Maybe. Still a few more pieces to get finished to get the bathroom pulled together.

Any projects in the works at your house?


Powder Room Bling: Part 1

Our first floor powder room still feels like a luxury for us. For years we only had 1 bathroom on the second floor and a room which sometimes acted like a bathroom in the basement.  It's primarily used by the kids (mostly) and guests. As a result, it absolutely had to be kid friendly but yet I wanted to spruce it up for our guests. I have always loved jewel box powder rooms, so that's my inspiration. The walls are painted Naval by Sherwin Williams (or Duron) in an eggshell finish. It gleams a bit in the light which I love. The vanity was from Expo Design Center before it went out of business (doing a renovation during a recession definitely paid off), and the mirror was purchased from my friend's yard sale. The only art on the wall is our Washington Monument print which I love. Overall, it was fine but nothing memorable or special so I decided it needed to be amped up a bit. I thought about doing something to the walls but I think I want to add a bunch more art to the walls.

Long story short - I was bored with it.

The only place left to go was the ceiling. To date, I have never painted a ceiling anything but boring white. I love the look of painted ceilings but I feel like they make the ceiling look a little low and I don't ever think that's a good thing particularly. In the bathroom though, I don't really care since we spend limited time in there.

Here's the ceiling in all of its boring white glory.

But, instead of just painting it something simple, I decided to go for a metallic. I bought some metallic paint at our local paint store. I think it was about $25 for a small container but it does seem to go pretty far. Our bathroom is itsy bitsy so one container was definitely plenty.

After the first coat, I had second thoughts.

What was I thinking?

Ironically, Amy came over the night after I painted it (as well as my neighbor Meghan).  I asked them to go and look at it. Their first reaction: "Is it supposed to be streaky?" Umm...no.  But, I persevered since I was already knee-deep and did a second coat.  It was an improvement and hope was renewed.  Finally, I did a third coat.  Phew...

This is only step one of about 3 so stay tuned!


Hurricane Prep

What a week! First the earthquake. Then on Wednesday, Angus decided to bring me a nice treat.

My friend Meg wants me to frame this picture. I don't need to frame it because the image is burned into my memory forever. Good thing my neighbors weren't home or they would have heard the screaming and thought I was being attacked. I was able to get the squirrel away from him and use a rake and shovel to put it in the trash cane. OMG YUCK!!!

Now, we are faced with Hurricane Irene barreling up the Atlantic coast. Thought I would drop in for a quick Saturday post about our preparations as the rain starts coming down. Sounds like it's going to be a bit more of a tropical storm event but better safe than sorry. Unfortunately we don't have much control over the power outage situation so we just have to keep our fingers crossed that any power losses will be brief. We lived here in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel wreaked havoc on Northern Virginia. We lost power for a little over 48 hours which caused my neighbor to install a huge generator. Hallelujah. At least we have somewhere to stick valuable frozen food now!  Ironically, we haven't lost power for more than a few hours since he installed the generator (thanks Myron!).  We are lucky to live in one of the highest parts of Arlington so flooding is not a major concern.

Now, 8 years later, here we are again. Fortunately the mid-Atlantic rarely gets hurricanes of any significant size. But, like when we get major snowstorms, there is mass panic.  I wanted to share non-extreme things we do to get ready for a hurricane.

1. Patio Prep

This one is pretty standard but you always see patio furniture flying in hurricane home videos (stupid people - evacuate!!).  As a result, we put our chairs in the garage. We also put our smaller potted plants away not just because they might blow away and break but because the plants may never dry out again after 3+ inches of rain in a short period of time.

We also put the trash cans in the garage. Well, at least the recycling. No way was I putting that nasty dead squirrel into the garage!  Trash day is Tuesday fortunately.

2. De-accessorized the Screen Porch

Finally, out on the screen porch, I took a few minutes to put away the small stuff and stack the chairs against the house. We brought all of the small throw cushions inside and I loaded small stuff into the rolling cooler and the old trunk out there (which is where I store things in the winter). On second thought, I may go back out and get the battery operated candles!

My five year old so kindly stacked all of the pillows neatly in the living room. She even color coded them!

3. Sump Pump Prep.

Although we never had a sump pump or French drain system in our basement prior to our addition, we installed one during the renovation, and a second one when we finished the basement. Arlington County requires you to install drainage in any new addition and we knew we would need it since we were one of the only houses on our street without any sort of sump pump or drain system. Call us lucky I guess.  But, ever since the addition we had lamented not installing a sump pump with a battery back-up system. Unfortunately, not something you think about until it is really too late. Of course, it's too late once the power goes out and you have no way to drain the system. We finally got smart (yesterday) and bought a battery operated pump which hooks to a hose.
(this one in case you are curious) 
Fortunately I have Amazon Prime (thanks Amazon Moms) so for $3.99 we had it delivered today (yes, on a Saturday!). Worst case scenario, we run in until the power comes back or the rain stops - whichever comes first! The sump pump is under our stairs down to the basement and there's a whole in the wall where we can run the hose into the old bathroom in Jim's workshop (hard to explain but believe me on that).

4. Flashlights Ready.

We try not to use too many candles during power outages because of the fire danger with kids. We have an abundance of flashlights (thanks to my Dad's Christmas stocking stuffing skills). Fortunately we had plenty of batteries on hand (we buy in bulk from BJs Warehouse), so all we needed to do was make sure we had a few ready to go just in case.

5. Food and Water.

I think it's a bit extreme to buy loads of toilet paper, food and water, but that seems to be everyone else's first instinct. We keep bottled water on hand most of the time (small bottles but still bottles). We also have quite a bit of juice and sparkling water so no one will go thirsty. I generally keep the same amount of food on hand at all times - which is probably enough for a week or two with a little creativity.

We wouldn't be eating fresh fruit and vegetables for the whole time obviously but I could definitely make enough healthy meals with what I have around to get us through most short-term emergencies. I have a lot of bottled water and perhaps more importantly - wine and beer.

So, that's our tropical storm prep checklist. What other things to do you do to prepare for a tropical storm. Admittedly, if we were getting a hurricane, I would probably do some more stuff but I think we can definitely handle the 40 mph winds without much worry. It's the power outages that I dread the most!

Have a great weekend!

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Old Chair. New Home.

I forgot to mention the little earthquake we had here in Virginia on Tuesday afternoon. Maybe you heard about it?! The good news is that the damage was generally pretty minimal considering we almost never get earthquakes. People in California were certainly laughing at our ridiculousness.

I was at my office which is on the 8th floor of a building in Washington and I could definitely feel it! I was on the phone and hung up with a quick "My building is shaking!"  As soon as I realized what it was after a quick mental checklist of possibilities - earthquake (no way!), window washers (they were there that day), construction (across the street), bomb (yes, this is D.C. after all and that was a thought - but no correlating boom), EARTHQUAKE!! I ran to stand in the doorway of my office. I looked into the hallway in time to see other people doing the same thing, and then a co-worker yelled that everyone had to get out of the building immediately. Down the stairs we walked (fortunately only 8 floors). Everyone got to practice their emergency drills (again, yes, this is D.C.) although we modified ours for a quick walk to the park across the street instead of 2 blocks away to a hotel which wouldn't let us in. Fortunately, I had my phone and was able to receive some emails, but no phone calls. I quickly emailed my husband (he works in a REALLY old building) and then texted my son's babysitter, and received a quick email from my daughter's school saying everything was fine. Big sigh of relief. We were able to go back into our building a few minutes later. Wow. I know a lot of people in the world live with daily, weekly, or monthly earthquakes but I think I'll pass. Thanks.

So, after my DIY upholstery cleaning last weekend, my grandmother's wingback chair continued to sit in the living room for 4 more days.

Last night, I got Handy Hubby to help me carry it upstairs to its new home in our room. Finally!  That only took three or four months.

For comparison purposes, here's what the room looked like with the other chair (purchased from Overstock about two years ago).

I think the blue chair makes much more of a statement in that corner of the room. I need a different pillow, and the bed is now desperately in need of an update. More on that to come!

The final verdict on the DIY cleaning is that it did work to get quite a lot of the stains out. I think it could still use a professional cleaning but it's not longer really urgent. I'll be interested to see what my mom thinks when she sees it again.

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DIY Upholstery Cleaning

I finally feel like I am getting back into the swing of some house projects. Finally.  Good thing because I had several in the works, and several that are dependent on other projects. Handy Hubby and I spent about 15 minutes discussing a few things that I want him to build upstairs, and we talked about a few bigger projects on the main floor. In the mean time, I wanted to knock-out a few small projects to get me inspired and to get our house back to "normal" until the next project hits.

Honestly, I never thought I would DIY cleaning my upholstery but here I am. I guess I figured it was too risky or I would screw it up or something. This blue velvet wingback chair inspired me to take the plunge and give it a try.  This chair was my grandmother's and every time I look I at it I think of her. She had it even in her bedroom in her last apartment.  I'm planning to use it our bedroom which already has a chair which I'll use in our basement eventually.  Unfortunately it has been jammed in an awkward corner of our living room for about 3 months, so something had to change...quickly.

This wingback is really good quality (Henredon) but was definitely in need of a good cleaning, so I did some web research and found this.  I found similar advice on other sites so I decided to give it a shot. At the very least, it would get the dust and light dirt out, right?

I started by making the soap foam using some Mrs. Meyers dish soap (which I LOVE) and  a little bit of old store brand fabric hand washing soap I had hanging around the laundry room. Total, it was less than 1/8 of a cup of soap. I added about 3/4 of a cup of water and whipped it up with my stand mixer. It's pretty amazing after only a minute or two!  From this...
To this!

I then grabbed some tools - spatula, old toothbrush, a white t-shirt rag, and old towel and went to work.  I loaded the spatula with soap suds and then scrubbed with the toothbrush on the grimiest parts.

I did the chair in sections (about 8"x8") starting at the top and working down. The suds and toothbrush definitely lifted some grungy mystery stains. I then blotted up the residue with the old t-shirt slightly dampened. I ended up rinsing the t-shirt about halfway through because it was looking pretty gross itself - proof it was working I guess!

When the suds in the bowl started to look less fluffy and more watery, I simply popped them back in the mixer for another whirl. Worked like a charm.

Overall, I think it was worth the effort - it took about an hour to do the whole project including mixing the suds. I can definitely see an improvement although not perfect by any means.

A little hard to tell in this photo, but it's definitely enough to keep me from calling in a professional until I have other carpets and furniture that need extra TLC.

Here's the back which is upholstered in a different fabric which is really pretty actually. I think the colors will work well in our room.

Less than 2 weeks until my oldest goes to kindergarten. I'm getting teary already!!

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Lamps on the Loose

My lamps have been running around the house again. Remember these?

In our room
Also seen here...
And back in our room again, here...
Honestly, I had started to lose hope because they were not really at home in our room or our living room. I liked the lamps but they seemed out of place.

Then they found their way down to the guest room in our lower level.

Here's a picture of the room with the old lamps to jog your memory a bit.

They seem much more at home here than they have anywhere else in the house so I think they will stay here. The shades are perfect with the wall color and comforter and they really match the feel of this room. I need to make an update to the ceiling light in this room though because I really hate it. I'm just thankful I don't have to go to sleep looking at it!

Do you like it? Any lamps running around your house this week?


I'm back...

On Friday we got back from 2 weeks in Ocean City, NJ. Yup, 2 weeks!!  This is our annual journey to the Jersey shore and we love it. It's only a four hour drive from our house in Virginia so not bad at all compared to our jaunts to upstate New York and Massachusetts to see family.  My parents, brother, sister-in-law, and some extended family go every year as well. My grandparents grew up in Ventnor and Margate (near Atlantic City) so this is like home for my mom and her brothers.

The good news is that all of that beach time means I am now rejuvenated and ready to jump into a whole bunch of projects around the house. I spent some time catching up on blogs on a couple of rainy afternoons so I have loads of inspiration!  Also, I think I am looking at my house with a fresh eye after being away for 2 weeks. I already cleaned up and organized a couple of piles of papers!!  I'll be back soon with several projects to share so hang tight!


Yearly Family Pictures

I keep forgetting to post about our family picture session we had back in June. I am planning to make this an annual event. It's all worth it just for one or two great group pictures. I can take great pictures of my kids but asking a friend to hang out with our family for an hour so we can try to get one group picture is not my idea of a friendship. For the past 2 years we have hired a great photographer Marion Meakem in McLean, Virginia. We go to her house which has a lush green yard and take pictures for 30-45 minutes.  A day or so later I pick up the CD of pictures from her and print them at my leisure. Glorious. The price is insanely reasonable thus making annual pictures an easy decision. If you are local and want her info, please email me.

Here are a few of my favorites.

I love that I can make the pictures black and white using Picasa, my favorite free photo editor.

For comparison, here's our favorite picture from last year's session.

And now...

Now I just need to decide which ones to hang in our stairway gallery and pick up a few more frames.


House Tour Room-by-Room Link-up Party: Finished Basements

This is the last room on the house tour until September. I am having blogging fatigue this month so I am going to only post when I can in August and then jump back into blogging in September. I should have a pretty good log of projects and updates to share then. Hope you'll stick around!  Here's the updated tour schedule.

This week's house tour is headed down to your finished basements. We have a partially finished basement. The part under the new addition is completely finished except for a small storage closet under the stairs (our sump pump also is under there for easy access).

The main room is our rec room which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

We also have a small guest bedroom and bathroom wedged into this 600 square foot space. It's efficient to say the least!

The other half is unfinished and serves as Handy Hubby's workshop and our storage room (including extra refrigerator).  We had planned to leave this space unfinished for a while but 6 months after moving into the house, we realized we wanted our basement ready for company and TOYS!

Now, let's see your finished basements or tell us about your plans to finish yours off, or fix it up!  Don't forget to link back or grab my button below!

HOUSEography House Tour Link Party