Category Archives: Around the House

Cane Chairs

 

I finally found two great little petite chairs for the front of our living room.  I’ve been searching for a pair of Lewittes caned wingback chairs for over a year, but not having much luck.  I had a saved Craigslist search and these popped up in the next town over, so I decided to go for it.

Before:

The burgundy fabric was not going to work for me and the padding was a little flat, so I decided to try having something reupholstered for the first time.  The recovering of the chairs cost seven times what the chairs themselves cost, but I am so pleased with how they turned out.  The upholsterer added padding to the seat and back cushions, and even made the back of the seat cushions follow the curve of the back of the chairs.

I chose a fabric by Richloom – Olson Cement.  It is a nice putty color in a subtle herringbone pattern.

I love the caning, and with a little Restor-A-Finish on the wood, I think they will clean up really nicely.  The size is perfect for under the front windows in the living room and they don’t block traffic in and out of the room.  The best thing about them is they are good short-people chairs.  I (at 5’3″) can sit all the way back in the chair and the front of the seat hits the back of my knees with my feet flat on the floor.

Progress Report: Year 2 in Review

We started out year two in what we call our forever home by having four large pine trees and four large Sweet Gum trees cut down.  The pine trees were buckling the driveway and the sweet gum trees, in addition to their annoying gumballs all over the yard, were in decline and needed to go.  That project took two days and the cost came in at $2300.

Sweet Gum Trees

Pine Trees (1)

We also checked off a couple of boxes from our home inspection.  There were two vent boots on the roof that were cracked, so we had those replaced at a cost of $200.  Also, our electrical panel was an electrical hazard, so we had a new one installed.  At the same time, they added an outlet to our foyer and were able to get the stairwell light to work using the switch at the top of the stairs.  The electrical work came in at $1848.

Cracked Vent Boots(Cracked Vent Boots – No after pictures)

Electrical Panel

As our anniversary gift, we had sun tunnels installed in the den to allow more natural light into the room.  That upgrade came in at $1470.

Sun Tunnels

We had a few minor plumbing and HVAC repairs that came up – the repair costs came in around $550.  This included repairing a leaky drain in the guest bathroom tub, replacing a leaky faucet in the main floor bathroom, and replacing the contactor in the upstairs HVAC.

Faucet

Smaller projects around the house included adding curtains to the master bedroom and Bradley’s office.  I added chairs and tables to our front porch to make it feel more inviting.  Bradley changed out the fluorescent light in the kitchen for a new polished nickel track light.

Master Bedroom2

Office 0715b

Porch Chairs1

Kitchen Light1

We also moved the full-size bed into the spare front bedroom and put a queen-size bed in the guest bedroom.

Third BR 0715a

Guest BR 0715a

We continue to make progress pulling out unwanted overgrowth in the yard.  I was able to add more Daphnes behind the Drift Roses to the right side of the front porch shrubbery bed.  In front of the garage, I added two Miss Scarlett Illiciums on either side of the Gardenias.  My mom planted daffodil and tulip bulbs along the driveway as well.  Before we know it, we will have flowers popping up throughout the year.

Illicium

Looking forward into 2016, our big to-do list item is a master bathroom remodel.  We discovered a leak coming through the kitchen ceiling back in October.  It turned out to be our master shower pan leaking.  We have had several contractors out to get quotes on a small remodel, and we will begin moving forward shortly.  That renovation will probably exclude any other major projects around the house this year, barring any unexpected repairs.

I hope to finish pulling out the azaleas that are floating in the middle of the front yard without anything to anchor them.  And since I didn’t get to it last year, I hope to paint the shutters navy – December’s Eve by Sherwin Williams to be exact.

Progress Report: Year 1 in Review

It has been a little over a year since we moved into our forever home. We purchased our house with full knowledge that a 40 year old home would bring with it a good many things that need to be addressed. We are trying to prioritize and go down the list one step at a time. The positives far out-weighed these issues though – a large wooded lot, a well-built, custom home, a friendly neighborhood with lots of pride of ownership.

Fencing

Our first project was fencing the back yard for our dog. Our back yard goes quite far down to a creek, so there was no need for privacy fencing. My only request was that we use black fencing instead of galvanized steel. All told, that came in at $2600.

Pressure Valve

We noticed the water heater was leaking a little, so our plumber took a look at it and found that we needed a new pressure reduction valve. Evidently, as more homes are built in our county, the water service just turns up the pressure to accommodate, and without a pressure reduction valve, the PSI is crazy high. That repair came in at $325.

The garage door in our basement did not have a lock on it and one of the garage door openers in the main garage did not work. The repairman also added safety cables to the doors to keep the springs from snapping down and hurting someone. Everything came in at $650.

HVAC

We moved in knowing that the HVAC systems were on borrowed time. The downstairs unit was installed in 1988 and the upstairs unit was installed in 1993. Sure enough, once it was warm enough to try the AC, we found that the downstairs did not cool. We replaced the condenser, as well as had the systems serviced. Before the year was over, we also replaced the starter in the downstairs furnace and the control board on the upstairs furnace. All HVAC work came in at $3500.
2014-08-20 16.15.29-1
In August, a pop-up storm with strong winds dropped a poplar tree onto the roof over the garage. It took with it our power lines and cable lines that run above ground to the house. To have the power lines reattached to the house and replace the gutter that the tree crunched came in at $625.

Smaller projects included painting all of the bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, the kitchen and the den.  I also painted the front door and our bathroom vanity cabinets and stained the deck.  My sister showed me how to replace cracked glass panes in two windows, so now I know how to remove glazing and reglaze the windows.

Light fixtures in the foyer, stairwells, dining room and our bedroom closet were all replaced.  Bradley replaced the weather stripping at the bottom of the door leading to the garage.  He also changed out the kitchen faucet for me.  We replaced the very old shower heads in the two spare bathrooms as well as the pulls on the vanity cabinets and added a few towel rings and a toilet paper holder.

2015-03-04 16.02.15

We have pulled out a lot of invasive shrubs and small obstructive trees along the driveway and in front of the porch.  My mom has planted a lot of flowering plants and native plants along the driveway.  Above is a picture of one of the Hellebores she put in that has already bloomed this year despite being transplanted recently.  In a seemingly never-ending battle, I was able to kill back the english ivy along the left side of the house to about 10-15 feet.

2015-03-05 15.51.03

2015-03-05 15.50.54

As we look forward into 2015, we have decided to have a half dozen trees removed – a few sweet gums that are in decline and a few pine trees that are the culprits behind our buckling driveway.  In addition, we will be having the electrical panel replaced, at which time they will trace all of the lines and label everything for us.  We will also get them to help us with a light in the stairwell that Bradley could never get to work and I would like to have an outlet added in our foyer that I can use for a lamp, our Christmas tree, or something I’m sure I haven’t even thought of yet.

I have plans to add more shrubs to the bed at the front porch.  Once nicer weather moves in, I will be painting the shutters navy.  Finally, if it’s in the cards financially, we hope to have the top third of our driveway removed and repoured and maybe bump out the top part to make the turn into the driveway less severe.

Cleaners that Work

Over the past year, Pinterest has led me to so many interesting blogs and ideas that I would have never come across otherwise.  So many of these ideas have been so helpful around the house.  I thought I would share my very favorite finds.

Magic Shower Cleaner (source here)

I used this last night for the first time, and I am converted.  We have a tub with a textured bottom and it always looks so dirty.  The only thing that has remotely worked in the past is a magic eraser, but I had to scrub so hard, I would be sore all over.  This recipe just calls for a cup of vinegar, heated in the microwave for a couple of minutes and a cup of blue Dawn dish soap.  I sprayed the shower down and let it sit for a few hours.  When I started wiping it down with a wet sponge, the grime lifted off without any effort.  It was really astonishing!

Miracle Carpet Spot Cleaner (source here)

I hate carpet.  I wish I had hard-surface floors in every room of my house – like my parents home – where you can see every bit of dirt or dust instead of it hiding down in layers of carpet and rug pads.  That said, I do have carpet and I do have cats, one of which is broken and doesn’t always find the litter box to be convenient.   I have tried tons of different carpet spot cleaners, all of which leave a residue that then attracts more dust/dirt.  My carpet cleaner does an okay job and makes me feel better about pulling the dirty water back out of the carpet.  But this trick seems to be where it’s at – even if it is by far the stinkiest remedy.

I just fill a spray bottle with one part hot water and one part ammonia. Spray the spot and lay a white towel over the sprayed area.  Use a hot iron over the towel and the spray turns to steam and is absorbed by the towel, stain and all.  The ammonia smell dissipates very quickly and I have had no problems with the cats being interested in the spots I clean.  The spots are gone and there is no residue left to attract more dirt so the spot doesn’t reappear after a few days like they have when I’ve used store-bought cleaners.

To remove dust and hair on lampshades, I use a lint roller.  It wouldn’t work well on pleated shades I am guessing, but all of our shades are straight-sided and this trick works wonderfully!

Stainless Steel Cleaner (source here)

I don’t have stainless steel appliances, but I tried this trick on my Simple Human trash can.  It gets pretty spotty from things inevitably spilling down or splattering from items we throw away.  My all-purpose spray never gets all of that off of it.  I mixed a tablespoon of Cream of Tartar with a few drops of water and coated the sides of the trash can.  I used a sponge to rub it in and then washed it off with a wet rag.  All of the spots and streaks were gone!

Garbage Disposal Cleaner (source here)

This house is the first place I have lived with a garbage disposal.  I am still a little shy of putting things down it sometimes.  I usually clean it with vinegar and baking soda or occasionally squirt some cleaner down the drain that is specifically for the disposal.  Then I read about sharpening the disposal blades by putting ice through it.  This recipe accomplishes both at the same time.  I filled an ice tray with a small slice of lemon and vinegar and froze it.  When they were frozen, I put the cubes in a freezer bag because the vinegar is strong smelling.  Now I can just pull out a cube and send it down the disposal for a quick refresher.

Self-Disinfecting Toilet Brush (source here)

I have written about this before, but it is worth including.  I hate having to leave the toilet wand under the seat  to dry, so when I saw this idea, I knew I had to make it.  I used a Marvicide jar with diluted Barbicide from Sally’s Beauty Supply for the base.  The toilet wand came from Target and perfectly fit the jar without any modifications.  No more nasty toilet wand floating around in the bathroom cabinets.

Laundry Cleaning Tricks

I’m not obsessive about our laundry, but I have picked up a few helpful tricks.  The first is using peroxide to remove blood from clothing.  It is amazing how well this works.

Another is using dish detergent to remove grease stains.  Someone in our house has a penchant for getting food stains on his shirts a lot and this trick works even if it has accidentally made it through the washer and dryer undetected.

I also never use fabric softener when I wash our towels.  Evidently it builds up on the towels and makes them less absorbant and a little funky even.  I have started using straight vinegar in the fabric softener compartment in the washer.  I also add a couple dozen drops of lavender essential oil to the bottle of vinegar to add a hint of the fresh scent to our laundry.

Now for a few tricks that I did not find to be all that useful for me:

  1. Using car wax on the stove top to make cleanup easier.  I didn’t really experience any difference after the wax, but maybe I did something wrong. (source here)
  2. Homemade ring cleaner using powdered laundry detergent.  I have yet to try other homemade recipes, but for whatever reason this one did not work for me.  (source here)

Bamboo Towels

Recently I came across a blog about running your bath towels through the wash with vinegar and then again with baking soda to help get rid of any smells or residual soap.  I tried it out and felt like it did help freshen them, but it seems that nothing will bring back the softness that our towels had over six years ago.  So I started the search for new towels.

After realizing the amazing qualities of bamboo sheets – anti-microbial, softness, moisture wicking – I thought bamboo towels might be the way to go.  Turns out, from what I can tell, towels are not made from 100% rayon from bamboo.  The ratio seems to fall right around 25% bamboo/75% cotton.  This gives the towels the softness and absorption expected from bamboo but the durability of cotton.

I purchased a set of towels by the same company that made our sheets at Tuesday Morning.  Initially, I am very excited about these towels.  They are really soft, but not in the way our cotton towels were when new.  It is kind of a silky soft rather than a fluffy soft – and supposedly will get softer over time like the sheet sets (although initially Bradley is not 100% convinced – he likes the fluffiness of nice cotton towels).  They seem to be very absorbent even though they aren’t as thick as high-end cotton towels.  Also, they seem to hold the heat from our towel warmer much better than our old cotton ones.  I plan to be diligent about washing them as recommended: wash in cold water and dry on low heat, use no bleach or fabric softener.  Time will tell.