Thursday, August 29, 2013

Couldn't you just DYE??

Anyone who is in my presence during the summer months knows that I could go many, many weeks without repeating dresses.  I absolutely ABHOR shorts, and besides a few pairs of running shorts, I just don't wear them.  Therefore, summertime means dress time, and I couldn't be happier about it.

While I absolutely love most of the dresses I have either bought or made, there's one that's hung in my closet for the majority of the summer, unworn.  I love the dress itself, but I don't love the color.  It's a mustardy yellow that just doesn't look right unless I am SUPER tan, which rarely, if ever, happens.  I bought it sometime in the past two years at Forever 21, before the store really got into the swing of making dresses that made me question whether or not I was trying on a dress or a loose shirt.  Man, I really must be getting old when my first thought in the dressing room is, "That would be SO CUTE if it had about 6 more inches of fabric in the length."  Once you're out of college, and the first number of your age begins with "3", wearing super short dresses just makes you begin to look a little desperate.  (Unless, of course, you have thighs like Heidi Klum, which means you can parade around in your underwear and everyone will think you're a goddess.)

Since this dress still fits perfectly well, and just needed a color change, I decided to try my hand with some fabric dye (RIT brand) to change it up.  Here is a picture of the dress pre-dye:

It's alright, but it's not great.

I bought the navy blue dye, hoping that the mixture of blue+yellow=green.  I followed the directions for the dye if you're using a bucket, which I decided to do over the washer method.  Having to clean out the washer afterwards and run a few empty cycles seemed like a colossal waste of water and energy to me.  If I was dyeing a large amount of fabric, I might have chosen this method, but as I just had a small summer dress, a bucket seemed like it would work just fine.

Yes, I used a used paint stick to stir this up.  It was better than option 2, which would have been a stick off of the nearest tree...

The one part of the directions I ignored was to CONSTANTLY stir it for 30-60 minutes while the fabric was dyeing.  No chance I was devoting that much arm muscle to it.  I puttered around in the yard for about 25 minutes, pulling weeds and such while intermittently stirring the bucket (which I left sitting in the driveway to prevent spills).  When I was done, I poured the mixture out behind the garage.  There seems to be a vine of poison ivy there, and I'm hoping to kill it.  Maybe this will help?

Keep rinsing til the water runs clear (or clearish, if you're impatient, like me)
After about 10 bucket rinses in the sink, I wrung out the dress and left it outside to dry.  My idea of blue+yellow=green didn't quite pan out, but I did get an intriguing shade of grayish/blackish/green.  I'll take's more interesting than the yellow!  The thread/seam lines didn't dye, but I kind of like the contrast of colors adds a delightful mix.

Slightly scared when it began to look like this....did I just ruin it??

Now I just need the warm weather to continue into September as long as possible so that I can get a few uses out of my "new" dress before Old Man Winter forces me back into jeans and sweaters.  I can always pair the dress with a brightly colored sweater and some calf boots to take me into fall, though.  Happy end of summer, everyone!!

The camera comes out and Margot thinks it's photoshoot time for her.  She already has two calendars to her name, and is apparently ready for a third!

Monday, August 26, 2013

BGE...the best acronym you'll ever want to use.

"Let's BGE it."

If you've never used the term, you're sorely missing out.  Here's the BGE, in all of its green glory:

That's the Big Green Egg, for those of you who haven't figured it out yet.

While the Egg currently sits in its portable "nest" (I wish I could have been clever enough to make that up, but alas, the BGE company is full of marketing genius.), at some point, I WILL build it a permanent home that looks more like this:

Seriously.  This WILL happen.

Let me give credit where its due and let you know that this picture came from here: Egg Head Forum

Yep.  There are whole forums and websites dedicated to people's love of the BGE.  It's a force not to be reckoned with.  Once you get a BGE, your life is changed forever- you think I joke, but I do not.

When my husband and I became the proud parents of a BGE (and yes, it will be your baby), my bestest sisterfriend Jen was visiting for the weekend.  Unfortunately, we had NO CLUE what we were doing, and proceeded to overcook a steak, and burn the outside of a pizza crust while leaving the inside gooey.  Needless to say, Jen went home after the weekend a very hungry and ill-fed guest.  I think we made it up to her when she visited this year, by making chicken and pork chops grilled to perfection, but I can't be quite sure.  We may have scarred her for life.  

Lest you think the BGE is just a grill, let me educate you on its usefulness.  It is a smoker:

Low and slooooow, and those ribs just fall apart in your mouth.  Amazing.

It is also a pizza oven.  Forget going out to the latest "brick fired pizza kitchen".  You've got one at home.  This puppy heats upwards of 600 degrees and with its shape and ceramic dome creates....Pizza. To. Die. For.

Cook it hot hot hot! (with a side of garlic green beans..yum!)

Closeup once it's done cooking- I couldn't get that close and melt the camera!!

Last night's dinner consisted of this:

Baked potatoes, more green beans (we can't get enough of veggies on the BGE), and a chicken VERY embarrassed to have a beer up its butt)

The BGE can also be used as an oven to bake bread and pies, although we haven't attempted to conquer that yet.  While you may be giving me the "pshaw" thought, saying to yourself, My gas grill is fine, and it can do half of these things...., I do wish that I could give you a scratch and sniff/taste through the internet.  You'd become a believer in an instant.

In all fairness, the BGE is not for those who want to grill a hamburger from start to finish in 10 minutes flat.  It takes some time to heat up, and takes a few tries of figuring out what temperature and time length you consider to be perfection for your foods.  As the saying goes, though, All good things come to those who wait...

So.  I'll wait til next spring to begin my plans for the BGE to land in a permanent nest.  In the meantime, I'll enjoy all it has to offer up off its hot coals (charcoal Kingsford briquettes in this baby...blasphemy!!).  Stop on over for dinner- we're probably making something amazing.

**End note disclaimer...I would be remiss if I did not share that my husband does the BGE cooking.  I'm his prep chef, and he carries it through to the end.  He's pretty amazing at it, but we don't need this going to his head, hence the smallest lettering I could find.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don't be Frigid.

This is my fridge.

Nope, I didn't straighten the magnets before taking this.  Deal with it.
We stand at the same height.  Short.  While I'd like a new fridge, buying one would mean major sawzall surgery on the cabinets above, as they are all one continuous built in piece.  Builders did NOT take the easy way out in the 1940's.  As with everything in an old house, replacing just one thing doesn't ever happen.  A domino effect of repairs and replacements will inevitably take place.  While I sigh and dream of having a fridge that has an ice maker and can hold more than a gallon of milk, I'm holding out for a full kitchen gut. 

Last week, the first domino in the kitchen redo began to wobble.  The meat drawer in the fridge broke.

That string?  Didn't do a damn thing to help hold the drawer up post-break.

Dave and I looked at some new refrigerators online, and outwardly groaned at the work that would have to take place to get this problem taken care of.  Ugh.  New fridges aren't cheap, either!  I ended up searching around some more on the internet, and found a website with replacement parts.  Luckily, they had a part for me.  Unluckily, it was THIRTY DOLLARS.  For a piece of plastic.  Ridiculous.

I bet this piece cost 2 cents to make.

There was a small screw holding the broken drawer track to the shelf, and was the only thing that needed to come out.  I ended up having to make a run to the hardware store for a screwdriver that was tiny enough.  Isn't she beautiful?

Yep, I'm an extra long eyeglasses screwdriver!

Once I had the right screwdriver, it took five seconds to pop the old track out, and another 5 to screw the new one in.

I know, my hand looks malformed.  You try using a screwdriver and taking a picture at the same time.

Can you tell the difference between the broken and new pieces?

The first domino in the kitchen redo may have wobbled, but it's back to being stable.  Darn.

Fixed.  And I am fully aware that bananas don't go in the fridge, but I had an unfortunate fruit fly invasion that required drastic action.

I'd like to leave you with a fabulous picture today.  I stopped into a shop with my lovely friend Venesa this afternoon, and an inappropriate Buddha spoke to me.  Or, more accurately, his $5 price tag spoke to me.  He will find a happy space somewhere in my house, and I'll smile every time I look at him.  I now give you all permission to go buy something silly for your house, just because it makes you smile.  Don't we all deserve to have our homes make us smile??

What a sexy beast.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Come On In and Stay Awhile!

Like everything else in my house, my front hall closet is small.  Small, small, small.  It's behind the front door, too, so when anyone comes to visit, they must walk in, squeeze around the door while they attempt to close it, whirl around doing a 360, try not to trip over the single step up into the living room, take their shoes off, and manage to open the closet door to hang up a jacket.  That's a lot of work.

That's it, folks.

This is probably why I have never used my front door to enter the house since moving in.  I take that back.  Here is picture proof that it was used, ONCE.  We bought the house, I yelled at Dave that we needed to document our opening of the door with "our" key for the first time, and this is all we've got.  One, single entry into the house using the front door.

Yay for first time home ownership!

Because Dave and I don't use the front door to enter/exit the house, we've got a whole organizational setup going on next to the side door that I'll discuss in a later post, but this one is about my front hall closet.  For the purposes of this post, I just took a count of what is actually in the closet.  Here's the rundown:

55 pairs of shoes (boots, heels, sandals, flats- all mine) Lest you be worried that 55 isn't enough, I have more shoes hidden away in the basement and my bedroom closet.  
16 coats (Dave's and mine)
12 hats
8 prs of gloves
5 scarves
1 bin of tablecloths, cloth napkins, napkin rings
1 jumprope
2 dog jackets
1 yoga mat

Despite not using the front door every day, I do actually use the closet next to it.  Here's a picture to show how I fit everything on this list inside (neatly!)

Margot will NOT leave my side to let me take pictures!

Alright, first and foremost, the black monstrosity attached to the door...I bought this piece at IKEA a few years ago.  Because the door is a 6 panel wood door, I couldn't attach the storage container directly to it without driving the screws clear through to the other side.  Dave and I attached 4 strips of wood to the thick parts of the door, and then attached the bins to the lumber.  I probably should have painted the wood pieces to match the door, but just have never quite gotten around to it.  Maybe one day.  The bins themselves are singular bins that can be attached and stacked on top of one another.  We chose to do three bins, but probably could have fit four if we really wanted to.

Each bin pulls outward, and has a deep tub to hide your things.

For my purposes, each bin is divided up.  The bottom bin holds summer sandals, the middle bin holds flats, and the top bin holds frequently used hats and gloves.  Looking at these pictures makes me want to label my bins.  Good thing I know someone who does that...shameless plug here.

Down to the floor:  I bought a cheapo shoe rack for the bottom of the closet.  I'm still dreaming up ways I can make this closet more efficient (i.e. so it can hold more stuff), but this works for now.  My heels are arranged on the rack back to front to make it possible to hold more pairs.  And yes, they are organized by color.  You only make the mistake once of wearing one dark brown and one black shoe to work before you learn to keep things separate!!  The floor on the left side of the shoe rack houses all of my black boots, and the floor on the right side houses all of my brown boots.  I really don't ever wear sneakers unless I'm exercising, which is why there are only two pairs at the bottom of the picture.  That's all I've got.  I will have crippled feet by the time I'm 50, but I'll have a closet full of fun shoes to trade off in exchange for not wearing sensible shoes.  Such is life.

DSW and I are VERY good friends.
It's like a beautiful shoe rainbow.  Sigh.

Not sure if you can see from the picture or not, but I also use old wrapping paper tubes to keep my tall boots from falling over.  You can use paper towel tubes if you've got those.  They're free, and they work.

Last on the list is jackets and miscellaneous.  There is a window in the middle of the closet (houses built in the 40's and 50's didn't usually put a light in the closet), which makes hanging a full row of jackets difficult.  You can see the hangars and tops of the jackets from the outside of the house if I string them all the way across the bar, which is why they are pushed to each side.  This also allows me to see the top row of my shoes much more easily.  In my dreams, I have painted the inside of the closet a shockingly bright yet pleasant color, there are built in shoe racks, and the window is frosted or tinted to be reflective so the coats can be hidden.  All in due time.  Maybe this post will be a push in the right direction for me to actually make it happen!  One can wish, right?

Now, after all of my ramblings, I do actually have a point to make in this post.  If you organize and use your space wisely, you CAN actually fit a ridiculous amount of things in a tiny space.  Fifty-five pairs of shoes in one small closet is nothing to sneeze at, right??  I can't wait to do an update post when I figure out a way to double that to over 100!  Until then, I will refuse to admit that I have a shoe problem.  Right now, it's just a collection.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Grossest DIY Project to Date

Six months ago, I decided it was time to tackle the basement.  It smelled slightly musty, was full of cobwebs and the carcasses of pill bugs, and my attempt at keeping things in order down there wasn't working out so well.  My washer and dryer set is in the basement, and I frequently do messy projects there when the weather is too cold to head outside.

When we moved into the house, there was a backyard "patio" that butted up to the back side of the house.  I use the term "patio" lightly, as it wasn't really all that usable.  The back stairs were crumbling, the patio stones were overgrown with weeds, and some intelligent person had decided to use asphalt for a foot wide strip that sat between the foundation and the patio stones.  This created a serious problem, as the stones were 2 inches higher than the asphalt, which meant that every rainstorm caused the emergence of a small lake that touched the back of my house.

How awful looking, right???

During particularly heavy rainstorms, you could find me in my galoshes and rain jacket, attempting to forcefully sweep the lake away from the foundation.  It wasn't a pretty sight.  All of this extra moisture had caused the paint on the inside of the basement to flake away due to efflorescence.   Three years ago, we ponied up and had a lovely (and large!) brick paver patio put in that graded AWAY from the house.  While this solved the possible water issues, it didn't fix the damage already done to the basement walls, especially under the glass block windows.


While there are big projects that I will admit are beyond the realm of my expertise, I refused to pay someone for a job I could do myself.  Scraping and painting?  Easy peasy- I could do that.  I did my research first on how I should attack this project, and what supplies I'd need.  Here's what I needed:

1 paint scraper
1 wire brush
1 mop
1 bucket
2 bottles of Mr Clean floor cleaner
1 bottle of DryLok etch
2 bottles of DryLok Fast Plug
1 5 gallon bucket of DryLok latex basement paint (tinted cream)
1 4 inch flat brush
1 roller
3 ventilation masks
2 prs rubber gloves

(I used DryLok products, as they seemed to have the most consistent reviews for basement paint/products)

I started out by using the scraper and wire brush on the entirety of the basement walls.  This was important, as there were pieces of the cinderblock that looked perfectly fine to the naked eye, but were not.  As I ran the scraper over the walls, small pits were unearthed, that would have begun to crumble had I just slapped some paint over them.


After scraping away all of the loose bits, I washed the walls down using good old fashioned muscle and Mr Clean.  This cleaned up any remaining dust particles.

Next, I mixed up the Drylok Etch, and used it on the areas that showed efflorescence.  It's important to wear gloves and a mask for this step, as getting the etch on your skin can be toxic- it's acid!!  (I actually wore a mask and gloves for the entirety of the project, as I wasn't sure when the basement had been painted last, or if the paint was lead based).  The Etch prepped the effloresced areas to take paint and hold it.  Without using it, you take the chance that your next round of paint will flake and bubble off- no one wants that after working so hard to prep a project like this!!

Scraped and etched.

After etching, I used 2 bottles of premixed Fast Plug.  It comes in squeeze bottles for easy application.  Every pit, hole, and crack line got this form of hydraulic cement pumped into it.  I used my paint scraper to smooth out the edges as it dried.  Some pits/cracks required more than one application to really fill the holes.

No picture here for this step.  The Fast Plug turned my plastic gloves into sticky pulp, and I wasn't going to pick up a camera to document it.  Sorry!

Whew.  This was A LOT of work- not going to lie.  Dave steadfastly refused to help with this project, telling me that if I wanted to get lead poisoning, that was on me.  He was ready to make the call to hire someone to take care of it, but my tightwad tendencies wouldn't give in on this one.

After waiting the recommended 24 hours for the Fast Plug to dry, I began with the paint.  If you've never had the pleasure of working with DryLok basement paint before, let me paint you a picture(get it?  HA..I think the fumes really got to me on this sorry excuse for a joke).  Go to your kitchen, make yourself some pudding, add a cocktail of the most nostril burning cleaning products you have, and voila!  Basement paint.  It's super thick, and pretty nasty smelling.  The consistency makes it go on the wall at about the rate of oil based paint- a snail's pace.

For full disclosure, this entire process took me several weeks to complete, as I only worked on weekends, and the holidays and real life got in the way a bit.  I am glad I did it, as the basement now looks and smells MUCH better, but I'm not sure I would do it myself again.  It took me about 50 hours, all in, to complete.  Cost wise, I probably spent a little less than $200.  Brain cell cost, though?  Probably immeasurable.

Much better.  Anybody else have one of these ancient behemoth double sinks?  Love it!!

If your basement needs some sealing, and you've got the time but not the money, DIY.  The vast amount of cobwebs that hit me in the face were enough to cement my desire to never do this again. (Cement...last lame attempt at a joke, I promise:)  I now have one more DIY notch on my belt with this project, but it's one experience that I hope to never have the pleasure of repeating.