Monday, June 30, 2014

A Little Americana, Just in Time

As I mentioned last week that I had an Easter wreath hanging on my pantry door. Normally I'm all over holidays like bells on bob-tails, but I just forgot. Maybe because my spring-summer decor is still pretty lacking. Despite my procrastinating, I figure what better time than the present (except maybe two months ago) to get around to the current holiday.

I kept switching between the idea of a generic, seasonless bit of swag to hold us over for whenever there's no holiday near (or I am just lacking the motivation decorations) and something perfect for the summer months, specifically Independence Day. Sure enough, I settled on something neutral, but with the ability to punch it up.

I give you, my AmeRicana wreath:

Pow, right in the kisser.

I honestly had no idea what I was after when I ventured into my local Michaels. All I knew is that I didn't want to spend too much time/money if it would be July-exclusive, but I didn't want it to be underwhelming if it turned out to be more permanent.

The balance I struck was a more labor intensive basic wreath that can be updated in a few minutes for whatever holiday comes my way (strangely, I believe Labor Day is next, then Halloween).  And since it's me, "labor intensive" still loosely translates to about an hour.

It's basically a grapevine wreath, a little wooden scrolly doo-dah (technical term, I'm sure), and an R covered in moss. So, like $5 + a new pack of hot glue sticks and some old paint.

This was an example of my favorite type of DIY: super simple. I just painted the scrolly doo-dah a light champagney-silver, hot glued moss onto a wooden initial, and glued it all together. Or for you picture folks:

Gluing the moss onto the R was the trickiest, most time consuming piece. I just kept piling moss on there until no wood was visible. I applied it in teeny, tiny little patches and at the end it looked kindy hairy and gross, with hot glue strings everywhere.

Then I trimmed down all the extra moss and hot glue strings with a pair of scissors and the R looked like this:

Then I just glued the scroll onto the back of the wreath, painted side down. Once the glue dried, I flipped it over and glued the R onto the center of the scroll.

The final, holiday-free version looks like this:

The real pow comes from the 4th elements: simply some red, white, and blue fake flowers (about $10, but I got another wreath out of them) and a little red birdy. I just cut the flowers close tho there base (leaving about 1/2 - 1 inch of stem, and pushed it through the wreath.

Here's one more for good measure:

There you have it: our house pantry door is now Easter-free and summer ready!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is it Easter yet?

Hey Katie!

Who me?

Yes you! I am calling you out.

That's right guys, I'm yelling at myself about this one. I didn't even notice how badly I screwed this up... When was Easter again? Two months ago? Okay, I guess I should take this down.

Not sure how I missed this or what will replace it on our pantry door. I could do something generic to hold me over between holidays or go ahead into some Fourth of July decoration, which is sneaking up on us rather quickly. No matter what I choose, the egg wreath has g2g. Otherwise, I run the risk of it staying up until Halloween.

I just found my Wednesday project.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Dog-Friendly Back Yard

As I undertake the landscaping around our house, I'm trying to be very mindful of keeping the resident who enjoys the outdoor areas the most safe: Mr. Boone.

In case you're new here, Boone's the dog, not the husband.

Boone is the bright spot of every day and my best friend. I relish every moment I'm with him and am already sad at the thought that one day he won't be here. Now I want to go cry as I watch Marley and Me. That being said, I really want to provide Boone with the opportunity to enjoy a safe and secure yard everyday.

I bet most people are thinking any yard with a fence and a bowl of water is "dog friendly." You'd be wrong. In what is turning out to be a really discouraging sign for how I'll one day handle motherhood, I practically had a panic attack when I realized that gardenias, hydrangeas, and just about every shrub is considered toxic to dogs.

While we don't intend to leave Boone unattended in the backyard, the whole point of having a fence is to not have to keep such a close watch. I know the first time I catch him chewing on something, I will worry whether it's toxic and about "how toxic?" a toxic plant may be. Like just an upset stomach...or death... because there's a big difference. To avoid all that worry, everything has to be dog safe. Now my definition of dog safe may make some purist scream and send the PETA crew after me. But it's looking like a highly evolved state after the emotional journey I took to get here.

First, there was the initial stage of: "There will be no plants in our backyard. Let's look into AstroTurf." Like, who really wants beautiful green things and fresh air. Overrated if my little Booboise's safety is on the line.

That short lived silliness was followed by: "Our backyard will be 100% pet safe (not a single toxin)." I researched and researched and took my ASPCA plant list with me to Lowe's. I was sorely disappointed. I may have reverted back to Stage 1 for a few minutes. Every single plant I ever wanted or found appealing was toxic.

Finally, I tapped into my childhood and analyzed how my parents may have handled the situation. Now all the organic moms will start throwing BPA-free bottles in my direction. As a third child, I know a thing or two about lax parenting (and I wouldn't have it any other way, Mom and Dad). As it turns out, I grew to adulthood without any major damage. Through that comfort, I eventually reached the "good enough" stage that I'm at now.

I found a chart that lists plants that should be avoided by listing the severity of a dog's reaction to ingesting said plant. I don't know how this bad boy isn't everywhere, but I had to search high and low to find something like this and finally found it on an independent vet's website who's based in California. I warn you, this is about to get science-y. The amazing thing about this list, and the thing all other lists were missing, is it classifies any potential toxin as major toxicity (serious illness or death), minor toxicity (vomitting, diarrhea, upset stomach), oxalates (crystals in sap that can swelling, breathing difficulties, and "burning pain" when ingested) , and dermatitis (rash caused by sap, may be painful but not life threatening). Plants that fall into more than one category are listed as such. It's assumed that common plants not on the list are safe to pets, but the list is not all inclusive.

The list is crazy long, but here's a snippet so you can see how it work:

I'm using this list to guide for what can and cannot be included in our yard. Obviously, I'm aiming to find plants that aren't on the list at all (yay, roses!), but I'm filtering through the ones that may be safe enough. Anything that's not listed, I'm cross referencing my ASPCA list, which simply says whether a plant is or is not poisonous.

Anything that is majorly toxic or contains oxalates is 100% out of the question. It's just not worth risking it. If that's a chance you're knowingly willing to take, we can't be friends. I have a few hydrangeas I'll have to replant elsewhere before our fence goes up. Boone barely notices they exist, but it's just not happening.

Dermatitis is being taken under advisory, but it's not a deal breaker. It makes me comfortable that things rated as risk of dermatitis won't kill him, but I hate the idea that it's painful. I'm not in the business of preventing any and all pain, but I want to  avoid it as much as possible. I'm okay with these plants being in our front yard, where Boone will never be without supervision. I'm also considering these plants in our back yard, assuming they're in moderation and not particularly appealing to Boo. We have a couple of arborvitae (2,4) and he pays them no mind other than enjoying their shade.

Minor toxicity is not a big concern. We know that Boone has a very sensitive stomach so we have more than our share of experience with vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach. Not only has he gotten really good about controlling his...err...flare-ups...but it's an unavoidable fact in his life. Home-boy can't eat anything other than his sensitive stomach food and treats without getting the runs. Overshare, I know. Once again, I'm avoiding plants that may attract a lot of his attention and anything that obviously whets his appetite is out. The reason I have made peace with this one and only class of toxins (weird sentence alert) is because they are so prevalent; almost every shrub, bush, and flower I can think of falls into this category.

I feel confident that if Boone were to get a little two friendly with a minor toxin or dermatitis inducer, I could handle it with some basic pet first aid or get him to the vet if the situation escalated. The litmus test seemed to be will he die? Nada. Will he be in a lot of (unusual for him) pain? Nope. Might have a bad night? Okay.

For anyone interested, I have a whole heap of dog safety tips on my Pinterest board Boone's Page.

Disclaimer: While I'm know there are many other factors to consider for pets outdoors (shade, shelter, security, entertainment, human interaction, and general safety), this post is solely referring to my main concern at this point: landscaping. 

I'm fully aware that most dog owners do not have the convenience of planning their landscaping, from scratch, to accommodate the family dog. I'm not even suggesting you need to. I'm just saying that in my situation, there's no reason not to consider the dog's environment fully. We are starting from nothing and plan on having dogs for the rest of our lives. I also like to think, if our home's future owners are dog people, they will appreciate the consideration, although some will likely think it was unnecessary and others will say it's not far enough.

Friday, June 13, 2014

...All the Boys to the Yard

...maybe just one boy: Mr. Boone. And he was brought there by characteristic Golden loyalty to his mom, not milkshakes.

Yard work. What I'm trying to say is I did some yard work.

Our house is lucky enough to sit on a decent sized lot in Brightwalk (~5,600 sq. ft.), most of that being our side yard. It's especially nice that in an area where many people are only ten feet from their neighbors, our house looks onto a little lawn with a view of a park.

The downside is, everyone can see the side of our house very easily. And the side lacks the charm of the front. From that angle, it looks much more "builder basic." Like whoa.

I never really thought about photographing it, because there wasn't much to see. The problem was, you could clearly see what wasn't there.

But you can see what's there now. (Dear world, my iPhone does not do well in sunsets. Sorry.)

Now do you see what I meant by builder basic? I know it doesn't look like much, but those holes did not dig themselves. One day, I think this will be the only visible prettiest side yard in all of Brightwalk.

That first little guy (no, it's not a large weed) by the front corner is a gardenia we planted back around Easter. Pat's mom's favorite flower is gardenia and she was coming for a visit. (Just so you guys don't think there's any favoritism, my mom's favorite flower is a daisy; I planted seeds in both a little pot and the ground, but neither sprouted...sorry Mare Bear.)

The two dead looking things under the small windows are green hydrangeas, my favorite flower. I know they won't be big full bushes for quite a while, but at this point I'm crossing my fingers and saying my prayers that they don't die. Like tomorrow. Eventually, our fence will come between these two. Unless they die first. Like tomorrow.

The little guys under the three windows are wintergreen boxwoods. This should grow to be a nice foundational hedge over the next couple of years. So far, these bad boys are looking the most spritely.

Last, and very hard to see in front of the grill cover, is a something-or-another arborvitae (emerald?). We have one on both corners of our covered patio.

There's still a long list of future plans. I know I've touched on this before, but I figure I'd let you know where we stand today. The list:
  • Dig up all the sod along the side of the house and make it a real bed
  •  Add boxwoods under foyer window (between the gardenia and the first hydrangea)
  • Plant mosquito repellent plants around both arborvitae (lavender, rosemary, and lemongrass anyone?)
  • Plant roses (English, If I ever find some) along the garage
  • Install fence, patio, and retaining wall
  • Keep everything pet-friendly (more on that later)
The other exciting outdoor update is our little front porch has gained at least a tiny bit o' personality.
Our newly black rocking chair has a little table and some flowers to keep it company. Yes, one day we will make the pilgrimage to Cracker Barrel for the second rocker.

I picked those flowers because I thought they were really pretty. They seemed completely exotic to me.

They're petunias. This girl had no idea what a petunia looked like. I can't imagine this foreshadows anything good for the rest of the yard.

Now a question: Aside from water and fertilizer, how does one keep grass alive?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Guest Bathroom Overhaul

Now that our guestroom is up and running (or at the very least functional) we've had way more overnight guests than I expected. Like three within in a month. And all those people need somewhere things people need to do.

Up to this point our guest bathroom has had a pretty sad existence. It's become the place where all the mismatch bath stuff from all our old apartments and college dorm rooms ended up. Nothing says "be our guest" like a thread-bare, 10 year old towel.

Prior to the guestroom attracting friends and family, it wasn't a concern. Our house has three bathrooms and two people. That bathroom was pretty much only used when something so nasty was about to go down we didn't want to foul up the two most used bathrooms. Gross. Now I bet you can't wait to stay with us.

I want the guest bathroom to be as impressive as the rest of our house. I want it to look decorated, and finished, and at the very least, not an after thought.

So here's where we began:

Marvelous, isn't she?

Maybe not. But she is now:

I started by painting the ceiling a darkish, but not-quite-navy color (leftover from painting our master). I kind of think I'm crazy to go that dark, but I also really, really like it. The space is relatively small and everything else is bright and light so why not. It's just paint. Worse case is I paint it something lighter if I get tired of it later.

Normally, when I paint ceilings, I don't spend too much time cutting in because I know I'll just be painting the wall within a few days. But given how dark the ceiling color is and how light the wall color is, I took my time and did it right. I did not want to have to do four coats of trim work to stop the blue from bleeding through.

I'll have you know that I painted that perfectly straight line free hand. No painter's tape here. I guess we finally learned what architecture school was good for...

Next, the walls got a nice light grey color. While the old wall color (Builder Beige) was just as light, it has a bit too much of a yellow undertone to it. And it's just not cute. You might remember from the master bath makeover that I was looking for the perfect, foggy, barely-blue grey. I inadvertently found it in here. Even though I was looking for a greyish-white.

I've had my eye on that shower curtain for a while, but restrained myself until it was time to tackle this bathroom. Glad I did, because I scored it on clearance. It matches literally nothing, but I love the way it plays nicely with the blue ceiling and light walls. The big coup for me is the new mirror. Why? Because it's the only full length mirror in our house that is fully and easily visible.

The cabinet got new nickel hardware. We had our builder install the same knobs we have in our kitchen in both full baths, but the rest of the room is outfitted in brushed nickel. I had no idea how much that would bother me, especially since I normally advocate mixing finishes. In the end, I think it's just too small a space to include both finishes enough to make them feel intentional.

I still have a bit of work to do figuring out the accessories. The walls really need some pictures and the towel rack needs some color/personality/updating. But who cares? This is a big upgrade! Repeat after me, "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Because we all love a good before and after, here ya go:

So there you have it, our new and improved guest bathroom. Poop away.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I'll Be There For You...

...when this Friends marathon is over.

This is not the obligatory "family time" out-of-office you'll get from most bloggers. But I like to keep it real. And sometimes, reality needs a little less real and a little more sitcom.

I wanted to let you all know that I don't foresee myself blogging until this Friends marathon on TV Land ends. I thought it would be a few hours; we're going on close to a week. I have no idea how king this will last.

Chances are, you won't miss me if you are watching this marathon too. The best part is they're scrambling all the seasons together. It's channel 56 if you have Time Warner in the Charlotte area.

You're welcome.