Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Decked out a little more...

It's all deck talk, all the time around here. Or at least that's what it feels like. For the last month, I've been working on, thinking of or talking about our deck. Don't get me wrong, it's not because I don't like it. In fact, it's because I have so many ideas swimming around in my head that I can't wait to have it all finished.

So, over the holiday weekend, it was time to furnish the deck. Two months ago, we bought a Martha Stewart dining set from Home Depot and this weekend we put it together. And by "we," I mean Ryan. In full disclosure, I wanted to help but he wanted to do it himself. Who was I to argue? So as he toiled away in the 95 degree heat, I watched from the window in the cool, cool air conditioning.  
One thing we hadn't purchased, however, was an umbrella base for the umbrella I got at Kohl's on super-duper sale. Kohl's sale + Kohl's cash + Kohl's coupon = $199 dollar umbrella for $57! So off to Lowe's we went and in addition to beautiful granite base that passed Ryan's sturdiness test, I found an awesome patio rug. We hustled on home and put it all together. 

Boom! Our finished patio:

I love how the striped umbrella plays off of the swirls in the rug. 

The dining set fits perfectly on the bay window side of the deck and leaves a clear path from the back door to the stairs. 

However, the other side of the deck has lots o' space to fill. 

We have two wee chairs holding court right now. But I want to put a couple of oversized club chairs with a side table and ottomans to create a more relaxed lounging area, something like this: 

I am thinking either emerald green or royal blue accents. But even without the lounge area of the deck, we are super happy with the results of our hard work. It's an interesting sense of pride that I haven't felt before. Is that the joy of homeownership everyone speaks of?! 

Can't wait for our first summer party! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

All decked out...

Ever since we moved into our house, we knew we would have to refinish our deck. 

The wood was cracked, gray and had only hints of stain on it. The railings were a little better, but still the old stain was barely hanging on. Ryan power-washed the deck but we didn't even strip or use wood cleaner on it because it was pretty much down to the bare wood (...and we're a tad lazy).

Our biggest decision was, do we use a transparent or solid wood stain? There are advantages to both but for us, we decided that the solid wood was best for us. It's easier to cover mistakes and gives a more uniform finish. We had so many nicks and dents throughout, we thought the transparent would just highlight the imperfections. 

So we gathered our supplies. We asked some of the pros at Home Depot the best way to stain a deck and we got varying answers. We decided on a paint pad on a pole for the floors, a mitt for the railings and a small brush for the details. 

We started from the top and did the railings and spindles first, then the floors on a different day. 
Here's my groom hard at work. 

A note to anyone considering using the mitt to paint their railing slats, DON'T DO IT. It sounds easy as pie: dip the mitt into the stain, grip the railing and coat evenly. Now, if your wood is smooth as a whistle, it might work. But if you've got any splits in the wood, the tiny hairs in fabric of the mitt get everywhere so it looks like a cotton ball attacked your deck. So I went back over each railing slat with a tiny square detailing pad and it was the perfect size. You can find it at Home Depot in this handy-dandy kit. 

To be honest this whole process took a lot longer than I thought it would. I thought we would paint the rails one day, and the floors another day. But of course, thanks to endless weekends of rain, it took us almost a month. Plus, all of the nooks and crannies of the deck were very time-consuming. Since I work from home, I spent a few mornings doing the detail work and second-coating the railings and finally it was complete just in time for Memorial Day.

We are so happy with the results. The color we chose was Sable and it works perfectly with our house color. This picture really shows the difference in the paint versus the bare wood. 

Next up was furnishing the deck. Stay tuned for details....

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dill-icious summer salad...

Memorial Day is here! And that means summer is on its way. 

First and foremost, a huge thank you to the brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way every day to protect our freedoms. And a special thank you to the families of our servicemen and women for their sacrifices as well.

Back to blogging....
When the weather gets toasty, light, refreshing salads are always tops on my list. If you live in Ohio, there is a great magazine you should check out. It's called Edible Ohio Valley and it celebrates the tastes and recipes of the Ohio Valley. An old friend of mine runs the magazine with her two sisters and it's really well designed and well written. Anyway, on to the food...

In the current issue, there is an article about herbs. I have really been into cooking lately and would like to plant some pots of herbs on our deck to use more fresh ingredients. The article also included some great recipes, and the Creamy Dill Potatoes sounded like a perfect summer side dish.


  • 10-12 small red skin potatoes 
  • 1 C Greek yogurt 
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh dill 
  • 1 minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper
                          Boil 10-12 small red skin potatoes in salted water until cooked through (about 10-12 minutes). Set aside to cool slightly. In a small bowl mix together Greek yogurt, chopped fresh dill, and minced shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Serve potatoes whole and warm with sauce on the side — or cold with quartered or whole potatoes tossed in the yogurt dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

                          Per usual, I didn't have all of the proper ingredients, so I improvised and substituted and it actually turned out well. It started with the red skin potatoes. I had about 8 small- to medium-sized golden potatoes that I boiled.

                          After 12 minutes, I drained them and let them cool. 

                          After they cooled, I cut them into quarters and that is where the substituting got me into trouble. The skin on the golden potatoes is thinner than the red skin, so it peeled off when I cut them, making it a little messier than it should have been. 

                          While the potatoes were cooling, I mixed together the dressing. I only had a 6oz greek yogurt so I added in a little bit of reduced-fat sour cream and low-fat mayo. I also didn't have a shallot on hand (who does?!) and minced up some white onion. Then I went off-book and put in the juice of half a lemon. I then added in the fresh dill and mixed it all together.

                          I slowly combined the potatoes and the dressing, being careful not to smash the potatoes, since they were very soft. (Note: golden potatoes cook faster, so cut back the cooking time by a couple of minutes)

                          Even with the substitutions, I think they turned out great. The dill has a good, fresh bite to it that gives the recipe the perfect summer flavor. 

                          What are your favorite summer foods? 

                          Friday, May 18, 2012

                          Outta sight! organization

                          I am a very tidy person. Some (my husband) might call it OCD. I call it organized. So it drives me insane to see a mess, especially in the family room where we spend the majority of our time. As you may have seen in my first mantel post, we keep our blankets neatly rolled up in a small basket we had from our old apartment.

                          I'm not naming names, but some of us aren't the best at remembering to fold them when we're done with them. They usually end up in a pile next to or on top of the basket. For my own sanity, I needed a better blanket storage solution. So on a recent trip to HomeGoods, this little beauty came home with me.

                          She's (yes, she) about 24" high, a rich brown and better proportioned for the fireplace than the old basket. 

                          She currently holds three blankets and two lounging pillows (not to be confused with show pillows) out of sight and out of mind. She's so deep that "we" don't have to worry about folding the blankets anymore. We can just toss them in and the family room still looks organized. 

                          A little organization goes a long way. The room looks great and I get to keep my sanity. 
                          Mission accomplished. 

                          PS: Yes, I rearranged the mantel again. More to come in a future post. 

                          Thursday, May 17, 2012

                          sad day for 5-year-old me....

                          Besides double braids, one piece rompers and sweet braided headbands with feathers attached, five-year-old me LOVED one thing... Donna Summer's song, "Hot Stuff." It was the first 45 I ever remember owning and I would rollerskate to it in my basement over and over again.

                          So I was especially sad to hear that Donna Summer passed away today after a battle with cancer. On the Radio, She Worked Hard for the Money, Bad Girls and of course, Hot Stuff will always remind me of my childhood. RIP Donna. Hopefully we can share a skate someday under the big disco ball in the sky.

                          Friday, May 11, 2012

                          roses are... pushy

                          in anticipation of our landscaping coming in a few weeks, we are staining our deck. There's only one problem. Our rose bushes. They were planted way too close to each other -- and the deck -- so they don't have room to breath and are growing over and through the slats. I love roses but not climbing over my shoulders while I'm enjoying a beverage on my new patio furniture.

                          It may not look like much here but, at the rate they are growing, they will take over half of the deck in a month. There is no way we can stain the deck in this state, especially the outside and slats. 

                          So off to Home Depot I went and made my favorite home purchase yet:

                          I went to town with the hedge clippers. It was fun. 

                          I cut and cut and cut until there were a few inches of space between the bushes and deck. 
                          Then I went in and cleaned out the really thick areas and the dead branches all around the bush. 
                          I had to contain myself, hedge clipping is way too much fun. 

                          It will be so much easier to paint the deck now. We won't have to worry about rouge branches poking out and petals shedding on our fresh paint. 

                          And I'll be able to enjoy my Summer Shandy in rose-free peace. 

                          Friday, May 4, 2012

                          you complete me...

                          my parents just bought new chairs for their den, so they bequeathed their old leather chairs to us. yay! free furniture! 

                          My husband requested we put one in the family room. I thought the room was fine the way it was but, boy, I didn't know what I was missing. It looks great in the room. I was afraid there wouldn't be enough clearance to walk from the kitchen into the family room. 

                          There is definitely enough room and even though the couch and chair are overstuffed, it actually makes the room feel cozy – and complete. 

                          The husband loves it and it will be the perfect place to read a book by the fireplace come winter. 

                          Thanks mom and dad! 

                          Wednesday, May 2, 2012

                          be our guest: guest bedroom finishing touches

                          when last we left the guest bedroom, I just had a few final things to add to make the room complete: lamps, a throw and some wall decor. 

                          On one of my many morning strolls through Target after hitting the gym, I found these lamp shades and paired them with $10 lamp bases from Walmart. I chose to match the base to color of the table so they blended together and let the shade be the hero.

                           I just love the pattern of the shades. It adds a fun, contemporary touch in an otherwise simple room. 

                          On the dresser opposite the bed, I created a vignette of so items we already owned. A flea market pitcher and bowl, a wooden lady statue my husband had, and a reed diffuser to make sure the room always smells refreshing to our guests. 

                          The wall to the right of the bed was empty. Since buying more furniture wasn't in the cards, I again used items we had around the house. 

                          I took a piano bench that used to belong to my grandmother and topped it with the first painting I ever received from my talented cousin Molly as well a clearance rack candle holder from Target. I like to create those little "moments" around a room to add some layers and give it personality. 

                          Mixing patterns is also a great way to give a room a lived-in feel that isn't so matchy-matchy-I-just-bought-all-of this-during-on-one-shopping-trip

                          Then I finished it up with some art that we had in our guest room in Chicago, added a sunburst mirror as well as some reading material on the nightstand and there you have it. A cozy guest room on a budget. 

                          I hope it makes our guests feel right at home.