Play Ball

I was chatting with a friend the other day, and she mentioned how much she loves following along on the blog and how busy we are.

That totally brought me to a stop. I’ve made a big mistake if I’ve given the impression that all we do is go, go, go. We always have chores to do and projects to work on, but we also take time to relax.

So I thought I’d share with you how we’ve spent a lot of evenings this summer. When the MR gets home from work, we adjourn to the deck chairs off the kitchen with wine, cheese and crackers, and this contraption.

K-9 Kannon

Earlier this summer, Grandma MeeMee gave the MR the K-9 Kannon. This tongue-in-cheek present has provided hours of entertainment. You see, while me and the MR want to relax and talk about the day, the dogs are ready to run.

Let's Go

With just the pull of the trigger, they’re off.

On the Run

And it’s a long way down to the meadow.

Down in the meadow

After a few turns, Cocoa comes back with her tongue hanging out ready to rest.

Tongue haning out Cocoa

But Bogart is far from calling it quits. So Cocoa makes a show of playing. She runs with him to the landing and then watches as he retrieves the tennis ball.

Cocoa on landing 2

She then greets him on his return running back up with him.

He's Back

And the processes starts all over again. The really great thing about using the Kannon is that you don’t have to touch a slobbery tennis ball. The ball fits into the end of the gun with no fuss or muss.

Even though Bogart celebrated his 10th birthday this July, he still has a lot of get-up-and-go. He can play ball for hours, and I don’t mind hanging out with my guy as an added bonus.

Bogart Rests 3

How do you kick back and relax come evening?

Advertisements

Garden Update 8.26.13–Details

While summer is drawing to a close, we still have plenty to work on outside.

The MR pulled out the leaf blower on Saturday. I noticed a few fallen leaves on the driveway. Fall is just around the corner. Many of our summer flowers have died away. I took a few hours last week to dead head the candytuft.

While it’s a bit tedious, I just listen to an audiobook on my phone while I work away snipping little clumps of dead flowers that obscure the beauty of the plants.

Candy tuft looking fuzzy

They go from looking ratty to neat and tidy in a matter of minutes.

Candy tuft all cleaned up

Since we have more than 30 of these plants lining the driveway, the transformation goes on, and on, and on.

The MR made a more permanent upgrade this weekend. The stone garden beds were part of a kit. (You can read all about it here.) While they looked great, the top edge didn’t match up perfectly. Here’s a picture from a few weeks back.

Garden from Deck Closer with arrows

The MR had talked about renting a special saw to cut through these big, old slabs of concrete to make everything fit together nicely. When he mentioned this to a friend, the fellow suggested a diamond saw blade. While they’re more expensive than a regular saw blade, buying one would still be cheaper than renting a saw. Well, the MR went one better. When he was at the hardware store the other day, he found a masonry blade for his skill saw. It cost all of $2, and it totally did the trick. I guess “totally” would be an overstatement. The MR was able to make a guideline cut along the top edge and then tap away the rest with a hammer.

However he managed to do it, it looks so much more finished and together now.

Overhead of garden beds

While he was in the garden arranging everything, the MR did find eight cantaloupe growing away and a giant cucumber in need of picking.

We have eaten both of the apples (the total harvest from our fruit trees this year), a few handfuls of beans, and now we have a cucumber for our gyros tonight.

Produce

It’s been a rather disappointing harvest, but I know next year will be better. While things aren’t growing as well as I hoped, all you have to do is look at the two garden photos above to see major change.

Next year, all the fruit trees will be protected and more established. With fencing and chicken wire, the garden has been doing better. We are learning to deal with the wild life and poor soil. A cover crop and some worm castings should help next year’s plants get a better start. On the bright side, we do have a lot of blackberries in need of picking. That’s on my to-do list for this afternoon.

And now I wanted to share the beauty of a summer morning. I love the black trees against the white fog as I watch the day begin.

Morning Fog 2

Hope you’re enjoying the last days of summer and the beauty that around you. 

Volleyball try-outs start today. Good luck Baby Girl! We love you.

Some Assistance, Please

With all the help I received when the MR’s folks were here, I kind of got used to the idea of someone lending a helping hand. Now, the girls do chores and help with the dishes and dinner, but my projects are usually my own.

This summer, Baby Girl has been working off the money she owes us from her big trip to Europe last winter, and you can only clean your room so many times. So she’s swept, she’s mopped, she’s picked berries and weeds, she’s rearranged the junk in the side yard (here), she’s painted rocks, and she’s climbed ladders for me. It’s so nice to have an assistant.

Now in case you’re wondering, yes I can climb a ladder, but no I don’t like to do it. After I climbed on the arm of the couch to fix the drapes and wound up falling in the houseplants, the MR told me to stop. That was a few years ago, and my balance really hasn’t improved since then.

Anyways, Baby Girl has helped without judging or asking why and for that I’m deeply grateful. My ideas can be a little out there, so I appreciate not having to explain everything. After spending some time out in the sewing room, I decided to get those completed book pendants off the cutting table. BG even put spackle on the holes I made in the ceiling on my last attempt to hang them.

Hanging Pendants

The pendants look much better hanging up, and they’re no longer taking up valuable space in my work area.

New Pendants in place 2

As you can see, I have a lot of stuff out there, and it can get a bit jumbled–creative minds, you know.

But that was not the end of BG’s ladder climbing days. Over a year ago, I showed you the knick-knacks I’d added to the alcoves in the kitchen. They were filled with cacti when we moved in. Once I’d donated the plants to the FFA spring sale, I needed something to fill the void. Well, I was pleased with my collection of decorative bottles, vases, candles, and plates.

Showcasing color, shine, and a little whimsy.

Spring of 2012, I’d finally filled each of the alcoves.

Then a friend in the decorator business visited. Afterwards, she mentioned that she liked each of the vignettes, but that they didn’t really go together. She recommended a more cohesive display. Oh, she pushed my buttons. Didn’t she realize those pieces are gigantic? It’s a major pain to find things that are interesting, affordable, and the right scale. I stomped my foot and pouted, but I knew she was right.

So for the last few months, I’ve been keeping my eye open for pieces that might work. Since I had a copper garbage can, I mean vase, and a gold wine decanter, I thought it might be fun to add some silver. I’ve also been trying to incorporate green into our decorating scheme, and when BG saw a vase she loved in greens and blues and another in silver, I brought them home. Yesterday, she went back up the ladder, and we did a little playing.

Baby Girl Rearranging

While I liked this new arrangement, BG liked the two beige vases better. By leaving the beige vases with the blue bottle, we could add some blue elsewhere. So maybe we have a glass, metal, and blue theme going on. I’m not sure it’s anymore cohesive, but here’ what we ended up with.

Alcoves After

It’s really hard to tell from this vantage point, but the alcoves vary in height and depth. The the new silver vase is 14.5 inches tall, while the smaller beige vase is 21 inches tall, and the glass pedestal bowl is about 40 inches tall. Some of my finds seemed much smaller when we put them in place. Along with the size issue, each of the alcoves has a three inch drop, so the pieces are arranged on boards and bricks. To add to the fun, a light is positioned in the bottom of each space, so the area for arranging is limited by that as well.

While I’m happy with the additions and subtractions we’ve made, I am toying with the idea of switching the plate display to the middle alcove and filling the copper garbage can with silk hydrangeas and positioning it next to the tall glass bowl. That way we’d have a touch of blue in all but the center alcove. Then I could hunt for a blue glass platter… The possibilities are endless. Maybe I’ll come with something really exciting for the holiday season and switch everything around come January.

Now you may be wondering what we did with the pieces we removed. Don’t worry, we have plenty of places needing a little something. After we painted over the faux-finishing in the bathrooms, they’ve taken on a subdued/bare look. The MR suggested a tall vase for the powder room. I tried one of the tall beige vases, but we liked it better in the alcoves, so I decided to use the hurricane instead.

Hurricane in Powder Room

When you take a closer look, you can see the blue of the inner glass lantern. I used Gallery Glass to paint it and add a little color.

Hurricane Up Close

Now we have something besides the sink that’s blue in the powder room.

The painted vase made its way to the master WC.

World Vase in Master

I swirled paint in this large vase last spring and was disappointed that it turned out so dark, but I like how the navy paint picks up the navy of the tile. Maybe I’ll fill it with water until the paint soaks off and start all over again. I now own a dozen samples of beige, white, and gray paint to mix with the navy–it took us a while to decide on colors.

World Vase up close

While the windows are frosted, these pieces obscure a bit of the view of the outside entry. A little privacy isn’t a bad thing.

I will miss Baby Girl’s help when she has all-day volleyball practices starting next week and then heads back to school the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Toes, Footprints, and Cocoa

Of course, I always have little furry helpers, but while they’re extremely excited, they tend to be a tripping hazard.

Do you have big or little helpers around the house? Done any rearranging lately? Should I buy some blue silk hydrangeas?

My Own Personal Handyman

The MR’s folks visited for a few weeks this summer, and it was better than having a genie in a bottle. With a genie, you only get three wishes; Papa Larry made it through over half the items on my honey-do list.

While MeeMee, the girls, and I were planning a day out, Papa was left with time on his hands. He’d already helped the MR with some mowing and other work around the house, and he had done a bang up job painting the little bench and redoing the supports, so I offered up a few small jobs he just might want to do.

While us girls went shopping, Papa got busy.

I had received a hummingbird feeder as a gift and had no idea how to hang it on the deck or from the roof. This shepherd’s crook was the perfect solution.

Feeder

Me and Baby Girl had bought another peg board for the MR for his birthday. I hate digging through the tool box to find the right screwdriver and thought this would help get things organized. Well, his birthday is in February, and the board was still just sitting on the floor in the garage. Not a problem, it was up on the wall lickety-split.

peg board

Then we had these really cute sconces that hung beside our bed at the old house. While I like them so much more than the ones in the guest room currently, they aren’t hard-wired in, so they wouldn’t be a good replacement. Before I got rid of the them, Sweet Miss said she’d like them for her room. Flash forward 18 months and the sconces were still sitting on the floor in the sewing room. These were a little tricky to install, but Papa got the job done.

bed side sconces 2

They look oh so fab, but unfortunately they put a kink in Sweet Miss’ plans to rearrange her room–oops. I guess things can change in 18 months. While he was up there, I pointed out the broken piece on her dresser; Papa used gorilla tape to fix that up.

Dresser 2

 

Unfortunately, you do have to be careful not to over-stuff your drawers, so it all closes up neatly. We’re taking little steps.

And finally, we had the hose guard that needed a little spiffying up.

Hose Guide

Papa gave the post a coat of paint and combined the pretty one with the practical one.

Hoseguard 2

I’m not sure it quite matches my vision, but it’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps this is just phase one of the hose guard upgrade.

Now the MR would have definitely gotten around to these things some day, but he’s a busy guy. Along with putting in long hours at work, he keeps the driveway clear, mows the lawn, and is constantly doing jobs I don’t even understand. Who wants to spend a couple weeks caulking the flashing along the roof line and the edge of the deck so our house stays in one piece? It’s a good idea, but I’m not doing it. After he’s spent all day Saturday on his own set of jobs, I don’t have the heart to bug him with a list of my own.

So all that to say a huge thanks to Papa Larry for helping me and in turn helping out the MR. Don’t worry; I’m starting on a new list for your visit next summer.

Who do you go to for a helping hand?

By the by, as I was putting the finishing touches on this post, I looked up to see Mt. Rainier sitting over the fog-filled valley. It’s just too pretty a sight not to share.

Mt Rainier 2

 

And now poof, all the fog is gone, and it’s another spectacular summer morning. Hope you’re enjoying the end of August as summer winds down.

Garden Update 8.19.13–Experts & Something New

It’s been another week of ups and downs in the garden. If you’ve been following along this  summer, I’m sure you saw that coming.

Let’s get the downs over  with. Now that we’ve gotten the deer out of the orchard, something else has moved in–bugs in a big way. Our trees have issues, so I snipped a few leaves and headed to Molbak’s. They had Master Gardeners on hand Saturday to answer questions. So I pulled out a baggy full of leaves.

Diseased Leaves

They looked at them and said hmm. They didn’t have the answers, but they suggested I take pictures of the leaves and send them to a real expert. Apparently, you can send your questions to ask-a-mastergardener@live.com, and they get back to you with all the answers. My leaves were a little crumpled by the time I got them home, but I went out and took pictures Sunday afternoon, so next week maybe I’ll know what’s going on and how to help our little trees.

While wandering the orchard, I checked on my fruit. The grapes look great. The vines are twining, and growing like crazy, and this little cluster of fruit makes me oh so happy.

Grapes

Then I wandered over to the Enterprise apple tree to check on our two apples; wait make that one lonely apple. The branches are low to the ground and I believe one evil canine, who shall remain nameless, mistook an apple for a tennis ball. I found an apple a short distance from the tree without any bite marks, so it wasn’t deer wanting a snack. And one of our dogs was following me quite closely as I took the apple from my pocket and put it on the counter. I know the apples aren’t supposed to ripen until mid-October, but you better believe we ate that apple for dinner last night.

OK, we’ve looked at negative, now let’s look at the positive.

If you’re local Molbak’s (a huge garden and gift center) is having a clearance sale–50-70 percent off the regular price. I picked up an $80 decorative shrub for $24. I checked to see that it likes sun, is evergreen, and blooms for months. Unfortunately, I neglected to check cold hardiness, so we need to put it in a pot and bring it indoors during the cold months. It’s still quite pretty. The blue flowers are supposed to smell wonderful, and I thought it would be the perfect anniversary gift for the MR. He likes plants that require creative pruning.

New Plants 2

I also bought this hot pink celosia because the color is amazing.

Celous

It’s almost other-worldly in its intensity and even better in person.

Now let mosey on over to the garden where we have good news. The beans are on the rebound.

Beans

Most of them are useless sticks with one or two leaves, but those big leafy ones have actually managed to produce some beans.

We Got Beans

The melons appear to be taking over. They really like the warm dry summer we’ve been having.

Melon Explosion

And look what I found hiding in that mass of leaves.

Melons

We’ve got cantaloupe. Go ahead and jump and down with excitement; something is growing in our garden. I also found tiny zucchini and pumpkins. Even the lettuce is growing.

Lettuce

Maybe next week we’ll be enjoying salad from our own garden–oh the possibilities.

Finally, let’s check out what’s growing in the dining room. I know most people don’t have seedlings on their china buffet, but they’re not us. The MR ordered Russian sage seeds after we admired the plants during our week in Chelan. I was quick to plant them, and we’ve been watching them grow anxiously for the last month. I do believe 15-20 of the seedlings are going to survive. They had some iffy moments when I found them after our weekend trip to Seaside. Perhaps we forgot to tell Sweet Miss to water them.

This isn’t pretty.

Attractive No

But when I see those tiny seedlings, I think of this beautiful display at Molbak’s and the $10 price tag on each individual Russian sage plant.

Russian Sage Display 2

Maybe in a few years our hillside will look like this. I’ll have to order some echinacea seeds for next year.

At long last, so many things are on the upswing all around.

Are you adding new things to your garden? Enjoying any end of season bargains? How is the harvest? Inquiring minds want to know.

Building a Better Box–a Cushion Tutorial

Along with the new paint job, the little bench just wouldn’t have been the same without a new box cushion and some snazzy pillows.

Garden Update August 6 006

While the process may seem intimidating, it’s really quite simple. Since this is the third time I’ve recovered this particular cushion, I figured I had it down pat. It still pays to be careful.

First of all, you measure the top and bottom of your cushion and cut two pieces of material to that exact size. My cushion had spent the last five years outside and was quite grungy, and we were having a worm crisis, so the garage floor was quite grungy. I figured a quick measuring while it was leaning against the shoes would be fine–not so much.

Garden and bend 003

Have you ever heard that old adage measure twice, cut once? Sometimes, I need to listen. Oh well, I’d bought fabric for the cushion and fabric for throw pillows, so I just rethought things a little bit, and decided to make the top of the cushion in one fabric and the rest in another. If I get tired of the contrast of the green, I can always flip the cushion over and give it a new look. See, I didn’t make a mistake, I was just trying to make it more versatile.

As you can see, I stripped off the old fabric–which went directly into the trash–and brought the foam inside to simply use it as a pattern. While we’re talking about the old cushion fabric, I just want to relive once more the beauty of the matching plaids from the cover to the cording to the side panel. I was quite proud of all that matching once upon a time.

Bench and Princess08072013_0000

OK, enough of living in the past. so we’re back to cutting a piece of fabric for the top and the bottom to the exact size of the cushion. Now you may be questioning this. Won’t it be too small? What about seam allowance? It’ll never work. Trust me. You know how your favorite jeans start out a little snug but end up looking great? Fabric tends to stretch, and you don’t want saggy, sad cushions (think baggy bottoms).

So I traced around the foam cushion with chalk, cut out the bottom, and then used that as a pattern for the top.

Cutting Collage

Then I pulled out the zipper for the cushion, measured it, and cut two strips the same size as the zipper about 3-inches wide. My cushion is only 4 inches wide, but I needed room to insert the zipper, and decided to cut it to size after I’d inserted the zipper. I basted the two strips together down the long seam, ironed the seam open, pinned the zipper on top, and then sewed both sides in place. After that I just trimmed the strip to the proper size.

Zipper Collage

Next it was time to make a ton of welting. I wanted to add welting to both sides of the cushion and to the back pillow. The great thing about welting is that it hides a multitude of sins while making your cushion look more professional and wear better. I tried to pick up some cotton cording at the fabric store but ran out of luck, so I decided to use some macrame cord. No, I don’t do macrame, but my grandma did. When someone in my family dies, I’ve become the default repository for anything “crafty”. It’s a little weird that I’ve had stacks of strange things from my Grandma GiGi for the last 20 years, but they do come in handy.

So with a rotary cutter, I cut a bunch of 2-inch wide strips of fabric in the blue, pieced them together, and then started sewing.

Making Cording

Next, I attached the welting to the top of the cushion and to the bottom of the cushion. You need to start sewing about an inch or so from the end of the welting. That gives you room to match things up neatly. Clip the seam allowance at the corners to get a nice turn, and stop just before you get to the end. Cut the cord so you have a bit of overlap. Cut the inner cord to the ends meet exactly, but leave an extra inch or so on the outside casing. Remove a little of the stitching, turn the edges to the inside. Pin it so it all matches up neatly with the beginning (this is why you started a little in from the end), and finish it off so pretty.

Cording Meet Up Collage

So I’d added welting to the top and the bottom, and now it was time to join everything all together. I had a strip of 4-inch fabric for the front along with the strip with the zipper for the sides and back. If you’ve pieced you side strip, make sure the front doesn’t have a seam. I started sewing the side strip to the front at the corner placing the seam there. That way I was certain it would be one unbroken piece along the front.

Start the side panel

When I got to the end of this strip, I turned it right side up and began sewing on the zippered strip. This hides the zipper tab from the outside. I didn’t worry about measuring the side strip lengthwise, so I didn’t have to be perfect. When the ends met up, I called it good. Then it was time to join the top and sides to the bottom. Make sure your zipper is open a little so it’s easier to turn your cushion right-side out.

matching the sides

Once the cushion was done, it was time to stuff the foam inside. My advice here is that a long zipper is your friend. Plastic bags can also help ease your foam into place.

Garden and bend 009

And then it was time to recover some pillows. The back pillow is a king-size pillow in fancy bird fabric with welting. I just cut two pieces of fabric the same size, added the welting to once piece, sewed the second piece of fabric together on three sides, shimmied the pillow in, and hand-sewed the remaining side.

I had some old throw pillows that I recovered in leftover pieces from the box cushion fabric, and for fun, I appliqued some birds on to these. I ironed on Wonder Under, cut out the birds, ironed them to the fabric, and zig-zagged around them in black for durability.

Pilows

While the fronts of the pillows are all fancy, I left the backs plain. This gives lots of decorating options. Here are just a few in case I get bored.

Bench Collage

In case you’d like more specific directions, check out a decorating book from the library or search online. I’m sure you can find very technical directions with precise details. But if you have cushions in need of recovering, just do it. It’s so much easier than you think.

I used outdoor fabric for the pillows and cushions, so I hope they stay looking nice much longer than the old ones. During the winter, when the rains come, the little bench will be heading back to the portico. Now, I have a cool and comfy place to while away an afternoon in the shade.

What have you been sewing lately? Revamped any pillows or cushions?

The Little Bench Gets a Face Lift

I have this crazy attachment to certain pieces of furniture. Some of them make sense, and some of them just don’t.

There’s the antique icebox that was one of the few nice pieces we had as newlyweds, the hope chest my mother gave me with such pleasure, and my grandma’s desk that always reminds me of her. And then we come to the little bench. Why am I so fond of it? It’s kind of funky, it was a clever idea, but mostly reminds me of good times. So here’s the story of the little bench.

When Baby Girl was three, Sweet Miss was in school all day long, and that meant I had many hours to be the main source of entertainment. One afternoon, I decided to go to an antique store that a friend owned. I know antique shopping with a three-year-old sounds foolish at best, but I knew they had an ice cream counter and thought a treat would keep her occupied while we wandered about. We browsed the main shop and then headed to the outdoor area, and that’s where I found it–an antique crib that would become the little bench.

Now back then, I was driving an escort station wagon. I had no room for an antique crib, but I knew if asked to borrow the MR’s truck he’d probably talk me out of buying it altogether. So I moved Baby Girl’s car seat to the front, dropped the back seats, and shoved it in. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it would make it home in one piece or wind up splintered all over the highway. Somehow, we made it, and I carried it to the front porch. The MR wasn’t that enthused when I told him my idea, but he’s a good sport and helped me by sawing off one of set of rails and sanding down the rough edges. I retrofitted a cushion, whipped up a few pillows, and we were in business.

Here’s the MR’s grandma with some of her great-grandkids on the 5th of July celebration.

Granny and the Great-Grandkids08072013_0000

For years the MR’s family sold fireworks, so we’d all get together on the 5th to celebrate.

Fast forward a bit, the pillows got an upgrade, and the little bench found it’s way into a niche. I added the dust ruffle to cover up the games and toys stored underneath.

Bench and Princess08072013_0000

Sweet Miss was all made up as a princess in a school play.

Styles change, I got rid of the country/shabby chic vibe, and the little bench made its way to the front porch. While the porch was covered, it still got its fair share of wear and tear, so by the time we moved here it was looking shabby without any claim to chic.

Still, I couldn’t get rid of it; it had found a place in my heart. So it sat under the portico lonely and neglected. Friends laughed and asked if it was where the valet sat. With all its exposure to the weather, bugs, and birds, nobody was using that bench.

portico

I swear I took before pictures, but somehow they’ve disappeared–blame it on vacations or summer.

That’s when I decided to give it a face lift with a fresh coat of paint and some new cushions. I bought a can of purple spray paint and went to town. One can simply wasn’t enough, but we had vacations and family on the schedule, so it sat halfway done for a few weeks. Then the MR’s folks came for a visit. We were planning a girls’ day, and Papa Larry was wondering what to do. I asked him if he liked to spray paint. Not only did he finish painting all the spindles, he redid the supports, so the seat was a raised an inch or two. Now your legs no longer rub on the front edge when you sit down.

That was just step one. The cushions were in desperate need of recovering, so I headed off to Joann’s armed with coupons and the knowledge that all the outdoor fabric was on sale 50 percent off. So a few weeks back, I spent the weekend sewing up a box cushion and some new throw pillows.

Baby Girl helped me move it to its new spot on the deck, and now when you drive up, you’re greeted by this sight.

Garden Update August 6 004

 

I think it’s fun and funky and adds a bit of whimsy to your first view of our home.

Here’s a few up close and personal shots.

Garden and bend 028

 

It looks a little bare without a few throw pillows.

Garden and bend 029

 

I really like the unexpected punch of purple, and I’m certain Papa Larry did a much better paint job than I ever would have. I had a few measuring mishaps when I was sewing up the cushion, so it went from a solid color to two-tone. That also turned the pillows into a piecing job, but I really like how the appliqued birds turned out.

Garden Update August 6 006

 

Now we have a comfy place to watch the sunrise, or read a book on the shady side of the house. I’m just happy to see the little bench looking sweet once more.

On Friday, I’ll share all the details on how to make a box cushion. It’s truly easier than you think.

Have you given any furniture a face lift lately? Do you love something just because of the story behind it?

On a personal note, we celebrated Sweet Miss’ 19th birthday yesterday. She was “kidnapped” by friends at 6 am and whisked off to Starbucks and Denny’s. Then while she made a card, I made her cake and lunch. Then me, Baby Girl, and Sweet Miss took the dogs to the river, dropped them off back at home, and went for pedicures. That was followed by a shrimp boil, presents, a game of cards, and cake and ice cream. Sounds like a great way to start your last year as a teenager.

Birthday Collage