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Gardening

Well I think the Summer is IMG_4531finally here in the UK, we have had a lot of wind recently and wind is not good for my garden, it dries the soil out, flattens the flowers and because it has been a cold wind it has stopped things growing!  Thankfully now we are getting warmer temperatures during the day and, hopefully, no more frosts I can think about putting in the bedding plants.  My rockery is still looking really colourful with the tulips still flowering well and the pansies too.​

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My garden has a lot of established shrubs in and plenty of Spring bulbs but I always try and leave a small area at the front of the borders for some nice annuals, this space has primulas in now and they need to be transferred to another bed to die back over the Summer and then they can be re-planted back in the borders in the Autumn.

This year I have grown Calendula from seed and that will go at the back of the front bit, if you see what I mean!  The rest of the annuIMG_4570 (2)als I have bought from a small garden centre that acts as a day centre for adults with learning difficulties.  They have grown some wonderful plants and I had my pick early on in the Season.  The French Marigolds go in next and then the Alyssum and Lobelia are planted at the  front of the bed.  The Alyssum and Lobelia will hopefully knit together to form a small hedgerow right at the front of the border and the French Marigolds will stand up behind with the Calendula standing tall at the back.

I also bought some oxygenating plants recently to try and rid the pond of Spring slime, fortunately it is working and the slime is coming to the surface so I can scoop it out using a small fishing net.  The other day I was scooping and emptying when I came across a little smooth newt!  I popped him back in the pond but not before I managed a photo of him.​

We seem to have waited a long time for Summer to come this year but the garden will look wonderful soon if the wind stays away and the temperatures continue to rise.  I hope you all have a great Summer and can spend lots of time outdoors in your gardens.

I will be back soon.

Mowing Time in PA

20150426_135642…and I thought last year my cleated tennis shoes would do the job on my multi-acre hillside, especially with a new self-propelled push mower. Not so! Even the propellation (is that a word?!) wasn’t enough for this little girl. I used to watch my dad mow this entire yard, with seemingly little effort. Then he’d come in and take a drink of the sun tea he had made. I remember the first time I tried to tackle the job, after over an hour later with the upper hill still untouched, gritty and breathless, I thought, “he probably would have liked if one of us had made the tea and had it ready for him.” In later years he attached a piece of rope to the mower, to stand up a few feet and allow the mower to slide down on its own, then pull it back up with the rope, so he didn’t need to bend or walk so much. He did this the fall he had to have had the cancer, before we knew it. A dying “old man” still did a much better job than this relatively in-shape girl could.

I bit the bullet and put on my pristine pink Safety Girl boots, knowing the pretty toes would green up pretty quickly from grass. I was able to mow more of the hillside (all the way up to the second garden!) with these babies. I still can’t do the full job my dad did but I think he would have been proud of what I can accomplish.

Stairway Reveal

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Before photo, hallway carpet

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After photo, hallway carpet

So I took a bit of a weekend break from Andy to finish this project so I can move outside for the summer. I touched up the edges where the walls meet the ceilings, with white ceiling paint. I scrubbed and scraped the beautiful wood steps. I couldn’t bring myself to re-glue the stair post that had been loose since I was a toddler. I think it may have been a product of my sister or I getting our head wedged in there (I’d bet it was me).

I ordered some nice laminate plank flooring from BigBox because it was a superb price and debated laying it in the hallway, but the pine of the bedrooms would have been juxtapositioned against the Brazilian cherry all wrong. So I took the remnant from carpeting the new room and got to work. I removed the old carpeting, and was again glad I did, because my parents’ Yorkiepoo Tebow did indeed mark it in at least four places. As I rolled it and bundled it for the garbage men, I rolled my eyes at my mom’s insistence that her dog did not have accidents.  I remember telling her a year+ ago, as I cleaned up after him, “of course they’re not accidents. They are ‘on purposes.’ He doesn’t know he’s not supposed to use the house as his personal bathroom.” The last of all possible rugs and carpeting  have been removed. Good riddance!

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Tracing the new carpet using the old carpet

For this I definitely used my Ironclad TuffChix gloves from SafetyGirl. They kept my hands clean, as well as kept them from getting chewed up by the rough carpet backing.

Before I tossed the old carpet, I used it as a template for my new piece. Since this pattern has sculptured squares, it was very important to keep it straight. I think I did a good job. I replaced the brass threshold trim pieces and tacked the end piece over the curve of the first step. Here are the before and after shots. I did keep to budget very well on this, using leftover paint, carpet, and padding from the other rooms. The only things new I used were some rollers and a brush.

For the rest of the summer I will be headed outside. I have a dilapidated chicken coop stuffed with junk, a shooting range, storage barns, a greenhouse, a mancave, old dog houses, gardening sheds, etc. to go through. Lucky for me I have men friends who are eager to look through these in exchange for taking off my hands the things I can’t use. I will be salvaging what I can at a local scrap dealer. I will also be listing a girlfriend to help with yardwork in exchange for helping her with her own.

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Before photo, stairwell (looking up)

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After photo, stairwell (looking down)

And I’ve been largely silent on Andy lately. He’s been super-busy with Lucy’s end-of-season hockey, and now both Lucy and Grace are involved in many spring events – softball, honors bands and concerts, track, you name it. Lucy is a viable driver now so buckle up! We were lucky to wrap the weekend up with a wonderful turkey dinner, with two sets of mashed potatoes – skins on for Grace, and skins off for Lucy. And because Andy broke the serving bowl full of veggies, no broccoli and carrots.

Hard Hat Hair

msavgft_-06_brown_v-gard-fas-trac-slotted-protective-capWe recently got a question from a reader on how to avoid hardhat hair. There are a few options, and none of them is difficult or expensive, but none of them is going to have  you looking like you just stepped out of a salon. Sorry! Consider it the cost of the job.

You can…

Wrap a bandana around the suspension unit to lessen the marks left behind by them.

Wear a natural-fiber hat under the hat in the winter – synthetic fibers will create static and fly-aways.

Never start with even damp hair. Wet hair will exacerbate the condition!

Style your hair while you wear the hat! If it’s long, wrap your hair into a loose bun or twisty pony shoved under the hat, and let the hat set the curl. If it’s short, carry a volumizing product with you and when you remove the hat, rub just a bit of the product between your hands and fluff your locks.

Don’t wear metal barettes, which can conduct electricity.

If you wear a ponytail down, make it low!

And here’s my personal favorite: if you part your hair on the side, start on the opposite side, and part low. When you take off the hat, flip the part to its typical position and the worst of the dented hair will be under smoother hair.

Stairway Risers

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Before stairs

This weekend I had a decent chunk of time but it was too nice to spend most of it indoors. I had a nice lunch with a college friend Brit, and as we were eating Lebanese food at a new eatery, it wasn’t long before we each took out our phones to show each other our remodels. She mentioned that she has a pink tool belt – probably ours! I told her she can get a pair of workboots to match. Later I took advantage of the warm and sunny Saturday to get my mower out and make sure it was ready for the year. I also scrubbed out my kitties’ litter box. Both of these tasks were well-suited for my Safety Girl pink work boots. I was able to wash my sheets and hang them outside to dry. I love clothes dried on the line!

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In progress stairs, carpet coming up and first coats of paint down.

Sunday my friend JD came and helped me go through the garage. We cleaned, cleaned out, and organized, and I sent him home with whatever he wanted that I didn’t need, for his help. In about an hour and a half, it was still cluttered, but it was cleaner and more organized clutter. This will be an ongoing summer project, and will definitely require Safety Girl’s Tough Chix gloves. And a tetanus shot.

After the sun went down both Saturday and Sunday I forced myself to paint the stairway. I am still working on the trim. I removed the runner because I love the look of the bare steps. Prying out the staples in the carpet again required the gloves. I will still need to put another coat on all the trim and clean the steps well. I am debating whether to shampoo the landing carpet, which is still in decent shape but isn’t the most contemporary, or replace it with a leftover piece of the sculptured gray carpeting from the music room. I’ll let you know.

One more weekend here (two if I do the carpeting) and I should be ready to reveal it.

Brit is going to come help me with the flooring someday this summer and I will buy her those pink work boots for her effort!

20150411_064059I’m still moving slowly, and working in the darkest, smallest area of the house was not fun on such a gorgeous weekend! Because this is a small area and I wanted to marry the upstairs and downstairs with the colors, I am using the downstairs trim color (lightest creamy white) and a mix that I made of the green (living room and library) and all the gray paints I have thus used (purply from the music room, and dark and light colonial in my guest room). Since this is my own creation, I needed to make very sure that I mixed enough to do the entire space.

I started painting the stairwell this weekend, and again refuse to use masking tape. With a very precise brush and steady hand, it’s always not necessary. In the stairwell, unfortunately, I had to switch from right to left hand to keep my line of vision clear, or paint downhill (not smart).

These illustrations aren’t very good because the lighting in the hallway is shadowed by the hand rail, and the color of the paint is the same saturation as the old color.

Start with a very sharp-edged angled brush like Construction Gear’s line of Purdy and Merit Pro brushes. Load the brush with paint halfway up the bristles and remove the paint from the right side of the brush if the long end of the brush angle is pointing away from you. This will leave paint on the side of the brush you are going to press against the wall. Position the brush a couple inches up and out from the point that your wall and trim meet, and press the brush against the wall to fan out the bristles and push the paint to the tips of the brush. Drag the brush down to the wall/trim junction and use that fanned-out brush to get as close to the edge as possible. Drag the brush smoothly towards yourself. Fill in this arc with the rest of the paint on the brush. Move forward on the wall about a foot and repeat. If you are left-handed, reverse the paint loading.

20150411_063954Use the brush to go over spots that will need more attention, due to imperfections in the wall, or to put another coat on any spackle you used to patch the wall.

You will most likely need to trim this out two or three times to get good coverage and remove brush streaks. When painting the main surface with the roller, get as close as you can without going over. This will also help with coverage and to remove brush streaks. Next week I will show you the finished paint job.

When I’m done with this area, I will have three more rooms to paint in this house, out of ten. I admit, I am very much looking forward to the end of painting, and if I ever paint again, I will never decide to paint the entire interior in a year. I am thinking of putting the house on a rotation of one room updated every year. That way, some (like the laundry room) will be done on a good weekend while others (like the living room) will take a month and new furniture.

Stairwell Repairs

Easter’s been here and gone, and it was a wonderful holiday. We had Good Friday off so Andy took me to a very rare dinner. We only have time and money to go out a couple times a year. He spent a good bit of the weekend with Lucy’s hockey, then on Sunday we and the girls all went to church together, and spent the day with his extended family. We had started shopping for Easter basket goodies about a month ago and probably had more fun stuffing and hiding them, than the girls did finding them! One of the places we thought to hide a basket was in the ceiling joists, as part of his drywall has been ripped down due to a second-floor tub leak. We didn’t hide anything there but if I can get him to guest write a blog, you may hear more about his drywall work. It was a great holiday.

20150403_11112120150404_155123I removed the extra handrails. Then I finished scraping the wallpaper and had two small DIY projects: drywall patching and stucco repair. You can see from the photo on the left, how horrid the wall was behind the paper. I remembered a trick from my days of actually building rooms from scratch. Smooth on a light coat of spackle to fill nail holes and other imperfections. When it is dry but not cured, run a damp sponge over it to wipe off excess paste and to get rid of the spackle edges. When it’s cured just a swipe of the sandpaper will do this way. Less dust, less work. I used a double-sided scrubby sponge for this task.

20150403_133552When I was removing the wallpaper, some of the DYI spray ran down to the first-floor ceiling, creating water marks. When I tried to wipe them off, the stucco itself came off! You can see the photos in this post. 20150404_173523To patch quickly and easily, I just took the scraper I was using to spread spackle, loaded it up with the spackling paste, and dabbed it overhead onto the ceiling to blend in. Since the ceiling was white, there was no need to paint. Another way of doing this is mixing the spackle compound with water until milkshake consistency and dab with a large-holed sponge. Unfortunately I didn’t have that type of sponge and had to make do!

I also deglossed all the doorway and baseboard moulding this weekend. The products from our stores that made this weekend easier were the ever-famous rubber gloves for the deglosser, and glasses and a half-mask respirator for the drywall. Even tho the sanding was minimal, there is dust all over the area. And you know if it’s on the wood, it would be in my lungs if not for the respirator!

Next weekend is yet another busy one. I sit for my graduate exam and Grace has a PMEA music concert. But I hope to start painting the walls.

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