Monday, July 5

Patio complete!

8 days after it began, construction was complete.  The contractor said 3 days.  Contractor man, why can't you just overestimate and tell me 10 days, then leave me really happy when its completed early?  Instead I'm left frustrated.  If someone asks I'll say it was good work, but have to tell them about how it took more than twice as long as your estimate, you woke me up early for stupid questions, and you rushed cleanup, leaving concrete speckles on my door and trash cans.  Sigh, enough negativity.  Here's the pictures!


(of course I waited until the crew showed up to snap pictures) 
Cellar door that I would never have been able to open.  And look at the nasty broken concrete!
Old gate.  No privacy.
Gregory the cat wondering why this looks so ghetto.  And in case you were wondering, IKEA Lack tables were not meant to get rained on.

 Goodbye, wall!
Goodbye, door and stairs to basement!

Hello, place for Prius!!

Hello, private patio! (Gate is open in)
Hi, herb and vegetable garden!
From left to right, Basil, Tomatoes (I forget which kinds made it from seeds, so I will be surprised later.  Some Big Boys, Cherry, and heirlooms were planted at different points), Jalapeno pepper, green peppers, chilli pepper, eggplant, and squash. Not pictured: Dill, parsley, and Blue Basil to the left, Cucumbers to the right.
Grill where the awful metal door was.  Wildflower seed sprouts on the table.
New locking gate.  Red chair and cute pillow from Home Depot.

I also have a bunch of pictures on how I built the vegetable bed (it's pretty much the size of a coffin, and of course I had to get a pic of me laying in it.  Because I am weird.) that I'll save for another post. 

I'll probably hang some flower beds off the fence for more color in the future, but I'm invested enough time and money into this area for this month.

Time to grill some farmers market goodies (peaches, corn, eggplant) and steak tonight!  I don't want this long weekend to be over.

Thursday, June 24


Construction! is going on in my back "yard."  Having contractors around has been...interesting.  I got a million (or 6) quotes from different people who came recommended by neighbors, and went with the cheapest (big surprise).  After meeting him a few times to talk about the project, I signed a contract Saturday morning and gave him a check for a third of the project cost.  (A bit scary handing that check over)  He told me he would start Tuesday morning at 8am, given there was no problem getting the permit on Monday.  I called and checked on Monday afternoon that everything was good, and he said he'd be there at 7:30am. (Which is when I'm usually rolling out of bed and into the shower, grumpy.)  I got up (and dressed) early and his crew appeared at 7:15!  I guess early is way better than late or not showing up at all.

They've started early the last few days.  Yesterday he rang the doorbell right as I was getting out of the shower, causing me to run down in my pink robe, and got another peek at the robe as I had just hit the snooze button when the damn doorbell rang.  Plus, the house sounding like it is under siege (pounding, scraping, jackhammers) is freaking out the cats. 

I'll do a post when it is finished with before, during, and after pics.  This will be a busy weekend, as though I could have asked them to build one for me, I'm convinced I have to build a raised flower/vegetable bed by myself.  My plants (most from seeds) will finally have a home!

Here's a pics of my flowers out front.  Sunflowers (from seeds) and daylilies I bought at the Farmers' market last year that decided to come back for this spring!

Saturday, May 29


After an early morning of helping a friend with her moving away yard sale, hitting the Waverly farmers market, gardening, and grocery shopping, despite multiple invites to drinks, here's my Saturday night in:

Mmmm... berries for dinner.
(I am wearing shorts, they're just true to their name.)

Wednesday, May 26

garden: before

OK, so my back area is one thing I will not be DIY-ing.  Not at first at least.  The way I see it, I need a concrete wall knocked down, break-up current concrete, reinforce with rebar (which I have embarrassingly called rhubarb in public), pour new concrete and add a privacy fence to have a parking pad and private patio/garden and be happy.  Once we get up to the finished fence, I have ideas ideas for making the most of the concrete.

This plan (currently in the picking a contractor phase) is not stopping me from starting my summer garden.  I started with a couple packs of seeds, and have moved my seedlings into increasing larger pots.  Practicing my patience to nurture those seeds...

(Except one day I cheated and bought some berry plants.)

Crappy back area now:
Gross, right?
Greggy is only allowed outside with supervision, so he loves when I'm out gardening.
 (Please ignore the huge styrofoam blocks.  The only part of a giant ceiling fan packaging that can't be recycled.  And the peeling IKEA table that was not meant for the outside.) 

 Close-up of the bigger pots.  Raspberries, strawberries, and a couple tomatoes.

Grow strawberries, grow!

Some deformed raspberries

Today's raspberry harvest. I should start a CSA!

And my topsy-turvy tomato planter:

All these pics are actually a week old, because I even procrastinate on blogging.
Now the little white pots on the table that held cucumbers have been replanted, and some yellow flowers have appeared on my tomato plants.

And the sunflowers and lilies out front are getting closer to their debut.  Pics will come when they decide to show their face.

Wednesday, May 5

More projects

My kitchen was recently featured on Better After, so if you came from Lindsey's lovely site, welcome!

Here's another little project involving slapping paint on ugly wood.  I found this little sucker at a yardsale and walked away with it, a teapot, and a paper towel holder for $11.
It needed a few nails to keep the rim on, a good sanding, and some attention.

A lot of sanding.  Looks like an animal used the lower shelf as a chew toy.

Luckily I picked up a handheld power sander. (craigslist <3)

And felt powerful.

Then after a couple of coats of red and white:

And the kitchen miscellany collected quickly.

And because I love surprises...
..I added leftover fabric from one of my first projects to the drawer!

More to come, when I get a free weekend.  I currently have a nighttable and two plaid 70s chairs to makeover in my livingroom.  And a wine cabinet that I've had for almost a year, that I think will be the first wood item I DON'T just paint over.  Actual staining will be attempted!

This weekend is visits from family, neighborhood things, and painting a bedroom and installing a ceiling fan.

Wednesday, March 24

Wednesday Night Steak

Haven't blogged in a while, so here's a quickie.

Picked up a book at the library that inspires me to learn to bake my own bread.  Stay tuned to see my adventures.

While picking up flour, yeast, cornmeal, etc to prepare, I grabbed a NY Strip.  It's a nice day, why not grill a steak on a Wednesday?

Lizzie the housemate returned from England just in time for impromptu steak and raved about my preparation.  I thought I'd share the joy.  I didn't take process pictures, as I didn't think to post about this until it was cooked.  And I can't tell you specifics on how long I cooked it, just a few minutes on each side until I guessed it was ready and it was!

Here's the magic part.  Salt the sucker with loads of Kosher salt.  You want so much salt you can barely see the red of the meat.  I read about this here:  How to turn cheap choice steaks into gucci prime steaks which has an explanation and cute little illustrations of salt crystals and rosemary springs invading the meat.  I guess I followed this to the T before, and did it by memory today.  Once I covered my 1"+ NY Strip with loads of salt, I coarsely chopped a couple heads of garlic and a twig of rosemary (from my 1 year old and still going strong rosemary plant, natch) and smushed it into the salt layer with a fork.  Then I used another plate to flip the steaks over and repeat on the other side.  Leave them alone for 45min.  Chop a potato or two into wedges, drizzle a bit of olive oil over top and bake at 400degrees for about 45minutes.  I'm pretty impatient, so I think only heated the grill for about two minutes with a quick spray of Pam before I threw the steaks on.  Here's the final product:

Steak, crispy wedges and a pool of Ranch dressing.  Mmmmmmm.  And the orange craziness is home brewed Thai Iced Tea, which is not as good as from a restaurant, but still pretty tasty.

And in case you're wondering? Perfect medium rare.

And yes, I am eating at the decoupage table in front of the TV.  Dining room tables are for dinner parties.

I picked up a cute nightstand to refinish, and found pics of something else I haven't posted yet, so house project posts will resume.  Currently I'm busy planning a neighborhood block party (there are over 300 hamburger/hotdog buns in my car) for Saturday to get people outside to socialize and also discuss the importance of filling out the Census.  Be counted!

Friday, February 26

RIP Grandma Sue

I've been in Florida with my family since Wednesday organizing a celebration of my grandmothers life.  She has had varied health problems for years, but has been in and out of surgeries and rehab centers since October.  She passed Monday.

This has been a good time to spend with the family.  I'm actually terrible at keeping in touch with family and friends unless we are in the same zip code.  Luckily, my grandparents got the chance to visit me and my humble (or not so, since I feel it deserved a blog) abode in August.  My grandfather told me yesterday that she was so proud of me and my house, and my craftiness.  We have spent the last few days organizing her craft hobbies. We found enough faux flowers to create over 20 arrangements for the service, stamps and cards to create homemade thank you cards for the neighbors who have brought us days worth of food, and all the supplies needed for memory boards of photos.

My job has been to scan and organize old photos into a slideshow for the service.  These are some of my favorites:

Not sure why there is a garter involved (not a wedding).  Spunky lady!
Here's a couple of us over the years:
(That mumu was one of her faves, and is still in her closet over 20 years later.)

And here's one from August:

She was a short little lady (I'm about 5'5" and she's on the step!), but did not fade into the background.  She let you know what she wanted and when she wanted it.  She's always been independent, but makes sure everyone around her is taken care of too.

We're estimating over 100 guests at the service tomorrow. 

Monday, February 15

My $13 Kitchen facelift

Yay!  The snowing ceased (I'm ignoring the little recurrence today) and I made it out of the city over the weekend to purchase supplies for my dream kitchen backsplash (well, until I can replace it with some hot mini-mosaic tile).

Almost 2 rolls of Scotch mounting tape (which I actually found at a dollar store), and about 11 Ikea placemats later, a new look!

But first I want to give props to my inspiration, from this post on Curbly, transforming a rental kitchen with dollar store placemats.


I hate the pinkish tile that clashes with the beige-toned marble.

But the thought of ripping that all off (all the way up around the window too) and losing my kitchen for days stressed me out.

Here's a couple of hours over 2 days, no mess...


I know it's not for everyone, but I love it.  My kitchen pops!  Has personality!  

Here's in progress:


 Measure the area, mark off cuts in dry-erase (which wipes off when you need it to), chop with kitchen shears, stickies on back and place it on the wall! Shiny side on the back will provide extra uses for the extra placemats I bought in case of failure.

And the outlet plates help to hold them on.

Magically, the green dots match the mat and towel I bought ages ago.

Also part of the kitchen upgrade was a wine glass rack:

And a storage shelf, which needs some upgrading before pictures.

Productive weekend!

Sunday, February 7

Please stop snowing

To clarify, it's not current snowing.  I measured 22" outside my front door from Saturday.  While I could have trekked over to the park and had more sledding fun, I'm still not 100% from LAST weekend's cold.  I figure freezing and exercise will not be good for me in my weakened state.  So I stayed inside, watching movies, doing my homework, and contemplating future house projects.

I have a new idea for my kitchen.

It involves 13 of these (measured about 12, but one extra for mistakes):


And something to do with this area: 

I hate my backsplash.  It has the most awful pink tinted tiles. I want to have an awesome mosaic tile backsplash, but that would require peeling the pink ones off, and probably losing my kitchen for at least a weekend.  I think for $13 of placemats and some heavy duty double-sided sticky tape it's worth a shot at a change.

This project is dependent on me actually digging my car out of the snow and making it out to the White Marsh Ikea.  This is much more likely to happen if we don't get a blizzard every weekend!  (Two in a row, but who is counting?!)

Weather gods, please stop torturing me.

Wednesday, February 3

Dresser Re-Do`

I bought this cute little dresser for $50 on craigslist, which was even a bonus for being less than a mile from my house.  Buying local!

It was the perfect size for the bedroom I am renting out as furnished. (She is from abroad so she doesn't have the insane amount of accumulated clothes I have stuffed in mine) The only problem is that the darker wood didn't match the fresh light or white furniture that fills the room.



Damaged wood, and a kinda grimy contact paper lining inside.
I'm sure someone will say it looks better as wood and hate the after, but sanding is hard and white goes better with the room.


Okay, so I totally cheated. No sanding or primer.  Just two coats of white semi-gloss, blue spray paint on the knobs. Time will tell if I will regret cutting corners, but it looks good and is charming for now. I think the white really brings out the design on the bottom.

 In progress...

Here are the supplies:

(purple toes!)
What's that brown paper you ask?



The drawer liner was a big pain in the ass.  I had to be as precise as possible in cutting it to size, line the drawer sides with protective cardboard, spray a layer of adhesive in, and try to stick the paper down.  Correctly.  The first time.  Sigh.  What a pain.  The paper is a roll of wrapping paper I saw at the dollar store. (near Eastpoint Mall, which I will agree with a recommendation that it is the best dollar store)  There was a drawer (or two) that required an extra strip of paper to fill out an edge.

All in all I'm really happy with it (as is the roomie who uses it), but I think it needs a bit more.  A stencil on the side or top?  I don't know.


It finally takes a decision to spend an evening working on my MS coursework to procrastinate on the school work to blog.  That and hearing people actually read this!  (Hi, Adam!)

(It's been so long since December!)

During the snowstorm (when I wasn't sledding) I was furiously decoupaging (a la my table) a little something for my grandmother's 75th birthday.  She recently asked my sister and I to come up with a list of memories of growing up and visiting her house (which is mere blocks from my parents' house).  I incorporated clip art representations of the memories and photos of us into a decorative platter.  There's a small pic, glare and all, to mask the embarrassing pics of my youth.  The ribbon was something I had laying around to wrap it, but I like the addition.  It hangs on her dining room wall.  My art is spreading.

I left the Baltimore snow of the last post and had a lovely vacation in Sunny South Florida.  It's nice to visit the parents and see the gradual changes of my childhood home to the modern world.  For a while, I would drag my wireless router on vacation to freely use my computer, now they have their own!  A beautiful (Philips) HDTV finally replaced the big clunker (and bigger than mine, jealous!).  I was called over to my grandparents house to work on the problem of "My internet is slow.  Outlook doesn't work" to find that their 5 year old computer only had 256MB of RAM.  Sigh.  An upgrade to 1GB allowed Outlook to run without freezing.

It was a lovely trip and I got to have holiday dinner with both sets of grandparents and more.  Yummy ham and london broil and my signature cheesy potato casserole.  By Christmas evening the eating was over and after multiple family events over the two days I had to go out and go drinking.  I first stopped at a little Hollywood dive bar to see my high school buddy J's band jam.  He puts free music (his and mixtapes of various artists) on his site, so you should definitely check it out.   After a phone call I was rushed to Ft Lauderdale with a promise of a middle-school reunion with my two best friends of that era.  Because I allowed myself to drink by planning on bumming off of the rides of others, I had to endure a $26 cab ride to transport from high-school friends to middle-school.  Seeing the Sarahs was a fabulous time, but I definitely can not keep up with South Florida...the bars are open until 4!  I'm conditioned by Baltimore's last call at 1:30, with the bar clocks set to be fast.

(I'm currently taking a break to watch my cat tear through the house, chasing a big ass fly.  I saw it coming near me, and I woke the sleeping pet to take care of it.  The fly is big and slow so I think Gregory can catch it.  I tried, but I'm no Obama.)

After vacation, I came back and underwent LASIK surgery.  Totally worth it.  No pain in the surgery (the worst was removing the tape from my lids at the end), and discomfort the first night (I had to keep my eyes closed for 3 hours and couldn't sleep, despite the TylenolPMs they gave me).  Sometimes I still feel like I'm wearing contacts and I still reach for glasses in the morning, even though I can see the clock (which I never have been able to do).

At the end of January I took a weekend trip up to Boston.  Visiting Chris was wonderful, and we just ate and drank the town with little agenda.  We had lovely conversations about how grown-up we are (me a homeowner and him doing really well on the relationship front). And both of us at the young age of.....shhh. The hundred year-old house he rents a room in made me yearn for the comforts (and efficient heating) of my modernized home.  I can totally see myself living in Boston at some point.  And my company is headquartered up there...hmmm...

Back to Baltimore for a while, back to projects.  I'll follow this up with a couple quick posts about my recent furniture make-overs.  My current project is decorating the blue wall in the basement, then a wine rack in the kitchen (Dilemma: buy something for around $30 or attempt to DIY something for about $10?  Laziness might win on this one)  Super bowl party this weekend, so the house will also be clean, if anyone can actually get here with the 1, 2, 3? feet of snow we're supposed to get, depending on who you ask.