Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DIY is for dummies.

Disclaimer: This post will have no pictures. Consider it more of a confession or apology or complain-fest rather than a tutorial.

You might have guessed by the title of this post, and lack of posts in general, that I'm having a tough time in the DIY category lately. Allow me to give you an example.

Our fourth bedroom, alright it has no door so I guess it's not a bedroom but that's what it's supposed to be, had a ceiling fan in it. An old-brassy-wooden-with-caning-on-the-blades kind of ceiling fan. The glass globe on the light part of the fan had flowers on it if that gives you any indication as to what I'm working with here.

I'm not in any position to change it right now. Mostly because the room doesn't even have a freaking door so why try to pretty it up with a new fan, right? Well, damnit if that stupid pull chain for the light on the fan didn't stop working. As in, you cannot pull it AT ALL. And wouldn't you know it got stuck in the OFF position? Because getting stuck in the ON position would be too easy seeing as how I'd be able to still use the light switch to work the thing. Nope, too easy, silly homeowner.

The simple thing to do would be to ignore it, which I did, for a few months.

The next easy thing to do would be to google and find out you can replace the little pulley switch thing. Great! And they sell it at our little hardware store in town? Even better!

Then you let it sit around some more because you realize once again that none of your breakers in the garage are labeled so it's going to require some time and switch flipping and running up and down the stairs before you find the room you're looking for. But you've been doing some fan installation in other rooms so you've got a few breakers labeled now and that means there's less switch flipping to go through so you figure today's the day to finally fix that damn fan so you have light in that fourth bedroom again.

Ok, perfect, it only takes five trips up the stairs before you find the breaker you're looking for which you promptly note on the paper you've taped to the breaker box so you don't have to ever unintentionally flip that switch again.

You climb your step ladder and start trying to remove the old pulley. Damnit again. One of the wires runs all the way up into the top. So you take it apart a little further and find the connection. Easy peasy. HA!

You get the thing all put back together and as you're trying to put the flowery glass globe back on you realize you can only use two tiny lightbulbs because the globe won't fit over two compact fluorescents. But in doing that maneuvering one of the sockets that was already loose to begin with completely breaks off. You consider burning your house down but fear the insurance adjuster might wonder why you already had all of your precious valuables in the detached garage out of harms way.

So now what do you do? Take the whole thing apart again so you can dig even further to access the small screw that holds the socket on? Or just take the whole thing down and replace it with one of the other flowery light fixtures you removed from another room? I went with what I thought was the path of least resistance and opted to just replace it with more flowers and less fan.

Are you still reading? I'm sorry. 

First, turn the power off...... again. Second, remove the fan blades. Third, remove all the skin from your knuckles as you scrape them repeatedly against the sandpaper textured ceiling while trying to remove the ridiculously tight nuts that are holding the entire contraption up. Four, get showered with drywall bits as the fan comes away from the ceiling only to realize they somehow stuck the wire nut connections back through the bracket through the tiniest hole that you can't access unless you unscrew the bracket while still holding the heavy base of the ceiling fan in one arm and the screwdriver in the other.

Ok, so maybe there was a little bit of a tutorial in there after all.

At this point you're thinking the hard part is done. I mean, you're replacing a big fan with a simple light. Two connections and a couple of screws and you're done.

But wait, there you go again being optimistic you silly homeowner. Because the screws that held the bracket for the fan to the electrical box in the ceiling aren't long enough to reach through the plate that holds the light fixture up. So you search through the graveyard of light fixtures that you've gathered in the corner of this forgotten bedroom and naturally don't find a suitable substitute. Which means you have to go outside to the workshop and rifle through your husband's neatly organized tools and screws until you find one.

Oh and while all this is happening you have a two year old at your ankles asking what he can do to help. Since there isn't much that's safe for a toddler to accomplish electrically speaking he takes it upon himself to empty out your stash of buttons and ribbons on the floor beneath where you're working so that every time you drop a screw (which is basically every time you undo one) you have to search through a mountain of buttons to find it.

So you venture to the workshop grabbing three drawers from the little screw cabinet/shelf/organizer thing and hope something in there works. And then the stars align and you finally get that light fixture up and the room is illuminated once more which really only shows you how long it's been since you vacuumed in there so you go ahead and do that too while you're in there.

Are you still there?

The point, you ask? Well, this is what every home improvement project I've tackled so far looks like, only sometimes far messier. I'm looking at you master bathroom wallpaper. And I'm starting to get discouraged. Like, why do I even do this to myself? I have a lovely home that gives us warm fuzzies when we think about living here for the long term. But it's chock full o' 1980s and sometimes it's frustrating to walk around and see nothing but DIY projects staring you in the face that you're too scared to start because everything up to this point has been so awfully painful and expensive that you're not sure you've got the strength to go on.

In a nutshell, that's why you haven't heard from me lately. I've been doing things but they've either taken forever or been not pretty to look at and I just don't figure anybody really wants to see that. Isn't the internet for looking at and sharing beautiful things? Am I the only one who has a hard time with DIY? All these professional bloggers make it look so easy which leads me to believe they're lying. Yep, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Let it shine...... just not into my windows!

Both of the houses we've lived in here in Illinois have had these dusk to dawn automatic lamp posts in the front yard.

The lamp post in question. Ignore the dirt patch surrounding it. 

Now, I'm all for making your home feel welcoming but not when it illuminates all the rooms on the front of the house. When we moved in here and I realized this house had the same style of lamp post I went straight to the breaker box to turn it off like I did at the last house. But to my disappointment I discovered that none of the breakers are labeled. Not a single one! Boo to that.

So the next best thing was to just go unscrew the lightbulb until we figured out what to do with it. So that worked for awhile until yesterday when Reid and I were getting some outside things done and he had the bright idea to black out the glass panes that face the house. This way the light would shine out to the street but wouldn't illuminate every room that faces the road. Brilliant!

I already had some Looking Glass spray paint so I figured that would be less offensive than just painting them black or a color. When I went to remove the two panes we would be painting I discovered they were plastic and not glass but luckily we also had some plastic primer so we were good to go.

There are six panes total so I just pulled out the back two and figured we'd start with that. If I needed to do one or two more it wouldn't be a problem to repeat the whole process.

I followed the directions on the plastic primer can and did two coats on the smooth side which is the side that faces out. After that had dried the recommended hour I did two quick coats of the Looking Glass paint which dries super quick. I didn't follow it up with any kind of sealer coat but if I find it's not holding up to the elements I might always go back and do that. 

Two coats of plastic primer and two coats of Looking Glass. 

This is what it looks like from the front of the panes. This diamond pattern will actually be facing towards the lightbulb. The smooth painted side will face out.

So this is what it looks like in the day time. Pretty inconspicuous, don't you think?

And what do you know? It worked perfectly! I tried getting a picture of it last night but my phone wasn't feeling it so you'll have to take my word for it.

So there you go. Complete instructions on how to spray paint two panes of plastic from your lamp post. Don't you feel smarter now that I've shared that little trick with you? You're welcome. ;)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Seeking opinions re: kitchen sink

When we bought this house it had the same old standard double bowl stainless sink that a lot of people have.

Seeing as how we were spoiled by our giant-1930's-cast iron-single bowl-double drainboard monster of a kitchen sink at our last house, it goes without saying that this new sink we have just isn't cutting it. You can see it in the background of this pic. Ignore the dishes all over it. I was in the middle of a Top Chef cook fest. Trust me, it was a thing of beauty.

So we are in the market for a new kitchen sink. And a new faucet. And new countertops.

Don't you just love how home renovations spiral that way? You start off with a simple statement of "I hate this sink" and your spouse chimes in with "I hate this faucet" and you both realize the other is also right and decide that if you're going to change out one it's easier to do both and yadda, yadda, yadda.

So I'll start with our first dilemma and the reason I'm asking for input. Our first instinct was to go with a single bowl. That's a given. But then the choice came down to materials.

Do we stick with cast iron like we had previously knowing it's a little pricier or do we go with stainless?

Here is the first sink I'm considering.

American Standard Multi-Function Sink

Here's a really neat video of how it works.

So basically this is the best of both worlds, although I don't really consider a double sink to be great so I'm not sure I need all this. You get a large single basin sink. But you also get a smaller basin that sits inside the large basin on a track as well as a cutting board and colander that all sit along the same track. The smaller basin has it's own drain that basically drains into the large sink and then out the regular drain. It also has feet on it that allow it to stand flat if placed on the counter.

Pros: single basin, less expensive than the cast iron, no worries about scorching/scratching/etc., comes with accessories which are always fun.

Cons: our hard water makes it difficult to keep clean looking, where do I store all those accessories if I don't use them regularly?

Our second and original option is this one.

Kohler Cape Dory Kitchen Sink

There isn't a ton to say about this one. It's Kohler so that means it's guaranteed not to chip, crack or burn. It also means $$$$. This one is almost twice the cost of the other one. What is it about single bowl sinks that makes them so much more expensive than double bowls? 

Pros: single basin, lifetime guarantee so if something happens we have that, material we're accustomed to living with.

Cons: expensive compared to stainless.

So any opinions? I can't seem to make a decision. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Flying with a 2 year old

We just got back from a trip to Tampa and I thought I'd share my experience on what worked and what didn't as we took Sam on his first airplane ride. Like I do with most things I'm trying for the first time I researched the hell out of flying with a toddler. Thank the lord for blogs and google!

1. Talk about the upcoming trip. We started this a few weeks before the trip and I ordered this book from Amazon so Sam could see and be able to identify some of the things we might see in the airport. It was less than five bucks and we took it with us on the airplane. It's also a good distraction since there are tons of things to look at on each page. I could ask him to find the alligator or the bananas and he would search for it and it would help pass some of the "no electronics" time during takeoff and landing.

2. This little sticker book was essential. Seriously. I wish I had bought one for each leg of the trip since the stickers really didn't re-stick as well as I would have hoped but for $1.50 I couldn't complain too much. This one only came out when we were actually ON the airplane. And once we got home I actually threw it away. This way if we fly again we can get another one and it won't have lost its luster. This actually wound up being the best entertainment for the plane. I've never really let Sam play with stickers since I'm too scared they will wind up everywhere so it was quite a novelty item.

3. I got Sam his own backpack which he liked the idea of but refused to put on his back. (I actually ordered the Skip Hop Fox one off amazon but it didn't arrive in time so I ran to Target and bought the Monkey one. I'm still a little devastated that the fox had to go back because it was the cutest thing ever but really who needs two toddler backpacks? It's hard for me to talk about but I'm getting over it.) It did work great as a diaper/snack/toy bag throughout the week since I didn't bring our regular diaper bag with us. But mostly I just used it to pack his toys for the plane in. In the bag I brought two wooden spinning tops and a wooden jacob's ladder, cheap plastic animals from Target's birthday party section, Imaginext Toy Story figurines, the Hess truck race car that winds up, the books above plus two Dr. Seuss board books (Go, Dogs, Go! and Put Me in the Zoo), his JellyCat sheep and the blanket MeeMee crocheted for him as a baby that he sleeps with every night. *Ugh I just saw they have an elephant backpack! And here I am stuck with this dumb monkey. Grrrrr.

4. Like I said above, I left our regular diaper bag at home. We have this Skip Hop one (in a pattern called Blossom that isn't available any longer) and I like it alot since it hooks on the stroller, is messenger style, and is masculine enough that Reid will carry it. But the messenger style isn't always my favorite so I used Reid's old college book bag to carry our things on the plane. This way my hands were entirely free and I didn't have to worry about the flap coming open and stuff spilling everywhere when I had to kick it under the seat for takeoff and landing.

5. It goes without saying that the iPad was involved when electronics were allowed on the plane. I didn't download any movies or get any new apps. I did purchase a pair of children's headphones which Sam was excited about at first but then refused to wear. They are like these but have chickens on them! I didn't really worry about the noise from the iPad since the noise on the plane muffled the sound of his games and he didn't seem to mind not being able to really hear anything so it worked fine.

6. It also goes without saying that there was food involved. But not the food I expected. I definitely overpacked when it came to the snacks department but I figured better safe than sorry. Sam loved the individual bags of Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal which he's had on car trips before. I packed plenty of lollipops and fruit snacks as a last resort and not once did I have to pull them out. Sam enjoyed getting his own cup of orange or apple juice from the flight attendant and we also snacked on a couple of GoPicnic boxes I picked up at Target! Those things are seriously the best. I will definitely be using them in the future. On our way back we had some long wait times at the airport so we took that opportunity to sit down and eat instead of grabbing something and waiting at the gate. I think this helped keep Sam on track with meals even though they were a little later in the day than usual.

7. We chose to do flights with one layover as opposed to going the direct route. Not knowing how Sam would react we didn't want to be stuck with him on a plane for four hours. We had less than 5 minutes of crying on all four flights and that was only when we walked onto the first airplane and had to sit in our seats. I'll admit I had a little panic attack myself since it was early in the morning and one of those tiny airplanes but he got over it after a few minutes and it was smooth sailing from then on out.

8. Run! We had to return our rental car to the airport at noon and I thought our first flight was at 2 but it was actually at 2:40 so we had some extra time in the Tampa airport. We were stuck in that particular terminal because of how their security is set up otherwise we would have rode the tram around to kill some time. Instead we took turns letting Sam run the length of the terminal. He got a kick out of us "chasing" him and killed some time all the while burning off some energy. I'm convinced the running helped him get tired enough to take a nap on this flight which was a blessing and a curse.

9. If you can afford a seat for your child, do it. I couldn't imagine holding Sam on my lap the whole time. He's only two months past the age limit to do so but I just think it would be miserable trying to juggle all that.

Now for things that didn't work......

1. Masking tape. I had seen someone suggest that you bring some and let your kid stick pieces of it everywhere. Cheaper and easier to clean up than stickers I suppose but Sam didn't want to touch it. It DID come in handy when it came to patching the tear in the stroller bag though.

2. Window seats. Sam couldn't care less about looking out the window and we kept the shade down most of the time. On one of the flights he sat in the middle seat next to a stranger and that didn't seem to bother him either. I just didn't want him on the aisle since I figured he might try to make an escape.

3. Sitting in the back of the plane to help mask any noise he might make. This was a recommendation I saw online somewhere and I imagine it would be good if a child was crying but truthfully I hated this. We sat in the very back on the flight out of Tampa which is when Sam fell asleep. I could barely hear him when he would ask me for something since it was so loud and there was a non-stop trail of people using the restroom the entire flight which meant I kept having to shift his head over as he slept in my arms to keep people from bumping him.

Do I look like I just spent the week in a hotel with a toddler or what? I'm pretty sure I could no longer feel my arm.

We did the early morning flight on the way down and the afternoon flight on the way back home and I would say both were fine. Sam does alright when he goes without a nap for a day or two so we can be flexible that way but if I had a choice I would do mornings. I'd rather arrive at my destination and still have some time left in the day as opposed to getting home at 10 pm and having to go straight to bed.

I was brave (or crazy depending on how you look at it) and didn't bring a gazillion changes of clothes or diapers on the plane with us in the event our luggage was lost. I had a pair of pjs for the flight home and put those on him once we landed in case he fell asleep in the car on the way home from the airport.

I went through the hassle of buying a new stroller (off Craigslist naturally) since our Graco stroller was over the 20 lb. weight limit that American Airlines has for gate checking and I was glad I did. I couldn't imagine using an umbrella stroller all week. I ordered a padded bag for it but like the backpack it didn't make it in time so I used the red gate check bag they sell at Babies R Us and it did ok. I brought two bungee cords and secured the stroller before putting it in the bag since some people complained that theirs got jostled a lot since the bag is so large. I just used the bag for laundry once we were at the hotel and kept the bungee cords in the basket beneath the stroller and it all worked out great. There is one small rip in the bag and a few dirty scuffs but nothing that can't easily be repaired. I was really worried about it since it gets such terrible reviews online but I would say it did it's job just fine with the precautions I took to keep the stroller closed. 

Phew! What a long post. Sorry for the lack of pictures but there really isn't much to show except for all the products. And all of my links go to Amazon but the majority of the stuff came from stores that almost every big town would have so it shouldn't be too hard to find any of it.

*I feel like I should also mention that I was not flying alone since a lot of other posts seem to be about that. I had my husband as well as one of his coworkers with me although they sat behind or in front of me and Sam on every flight. I don't know how I would handle things differently had I been alone but truthfully I think it would have only affected getting luggage to the gate to check in since I didn't have to do any of that myself. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Seeking Advice

Alright, folks. Mama Blossom needs some advice. Fast.

We got the go ahead to close on our new house on Friday. This glorious new home has a formal living room and an eat-in kitchen with an island.


We only own one very large dining table and it will be living in the formal dining room leaving us table-less in the kitchen where we are likely to spend the majority of our time.

Important details:

  1. My parents have a round, wooden pedestal table in their garage that they will be bringing up for us but their trip north has not been scheduled yet and could be a few months away.
  2. Because we have a table to go there but just don't have it in our possession I don't want to spend a lot of money on something unless I'm certain I can use it somewhere else in the house (i.e. a patio table that could be covered with a table cloth to disguise it and then go outside when the weather gets nice).
  3. I would prefer something round. There is a small island separating the kitchen area from the eating area and while it's not equipped to have seating at it, it is square in shape so I'd like to keep from putting something else square next to it.
  4. I've looked on Craigslist (my favorite place to shop for furniture) and keep finding table/chair sets which seems wasteful since we already have chairs picked out.
I emailed a woman about an hour away who had listed this table from Ikea which retails for $199. After seeing pics of the actual table she was selling, her asking price of $75 seemed too steep for something that retails for less than 200 bucks. But I'm still smitten with it and here's a pic of that table with the chairs we would like to eventually get.

So I'm asking for suggestions. Help! Please! What do we do to fill this void in the most efficient and economical way possible?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A New Year

I'm enjoying a quiet moment while I wait for Sam to wake up from his nap so we can go to Target and I can spend some Christmas cash on some new make up. One of Reid's requests lately has been that I dress a little more lady like so I made that one of my resolutions for the year. (And, no, he's not some control freak. He just has to look at me all the time and would prefer I stop wearing men's clothing which doesn't seem like too much to ask so I'm working on it.)

No more sleeping in old, stained no longer white men's v-neck t-shirts. Instead I stocked up on new pjs when Target put their holiday gift sets on sale for $8. Can I just say how much I love flannel? Seriously, I could live in the two sets of flannel pjs I got but I think that's the opposite of what Reid was asking for so they will stay sleepwear. I also got four sets of the knit top/bottom sets for when its not quite so cold, you know, when next summer gets here. Brrrr.......

I also threw out my favorite yoga pants. I had three pairs so I replaced them with some leggings from H&M and so far I'm loving that switch also. Let's be honest here. Those old yoga pants were from my pre-Sam days AND were worn during and after being pregnant so needless to say there wasn't a whole lotta stretch left in those babies. They served me well and now it is time for them to be laid to rest. RIP yoga pants. I will miss you and your fold over waist band that I rarely folded over which really just means they looked like maternity pants. :)

As for make up, I recently bought a new tin of Benefit's Dr. Feelgood. That stuff is amazing. It's like wearing a powder with no color. It mattifies and makes your skin feel smooth. I bought my first tin when I lived in London years ago and I was excited to see they still sell it. It's a little pricey but totally worth it. It can be worn alone or under make up. I'm planning to wear it alone every day and dab on a little mascara and call it done. Don't want to go too nuts. I have some Bare Minerals make up but I'm tired of it so if anyone wants it holler and I'll send it to you before I trash it. It's the light and fairly light combo pack with the mineral veil, and glee and warmth.

I used to use Neutrogena Clean Tint mascara but I can't seem to find it anymore. It was this awesome stuff that gradually darkened your lashes after repeated wearing. It was super light and non-clumpy and washed off easy. Not sure what I'll replace it with but I'll let you know if I find something amazing.