Saturday, October 8, 2011

raised garden bed

i have always wanted a garden, and having grown up in the deserts of the southwest, i never really had the opportunity to try.  i moved to the florida panhandle 5 years ago, but i've been too chicken to pull the trigger and risk failing miserably.  the closest i came was two years ago when i threw some tomato plants into pots and enjoyed a summer's worth of fresh cherry tomatoes in my salads.

well here we go...

i just finished my second grad degree in august (i am SO sick of school right now), and now i have free time to research and give gardening a proper try.  i'd planned on waiting until next spring, since in my ignorance i assumed nothing would grow until spring.  some friends who garden in this area set me straight.  apparently plenty of veggies will grow through the winter in this region.

i googled the heck out of winter gardening, and i decided to build a raised garden bed and composed a list of winter vegetables to try.  the raised garden bed is apparently preferable for two reasons: 1.) you have 100% control of the soil composition, so if you have crap dirt, it's definitely the way to go, and 2.) it heats up better in the sun than an in ground garden, so your plants will grow better in colder months.  my gardening friends all have raised garden beds, too, and agreed with my decision to go this way.

one thing i learned is that a raised garden bed for edible plants should be made of cedar.  cedar is naturally bug and rot resistant, whereas other types of wood need to be treated with chemicals to hold up as well.  chemical treated wood isn't the best thing to use to enclose a patch of dirt for growing food. 

i started with a hodge podge design based on the wood widths and lengths available at my local home depot.  i did the math and came up with a 4' x 5' bed with a depth of 8 inches.  i wish i knew a good local shop to buy wood from, because having these big chains cut your wood for you is almost always an exercise in frustration/hilarity.  this trip was no exception.  i'll spare you the details, but i ended up having to go get more wood for him to cut because part of the first batch was wrecked.  he was obviously trying to get it right, and he apologized for the screw ups.  he finally admitted that he'd been working there for less than two weeks.  two weeks and he's already cutting wood for customers with no help?  poor guy.

i also grabbed a box of galvanized nails (they won't rust) to hammer this rig together.  my home depot bill totaled $35.

this is what i ended up starting with:

after hammering it into a square, this is what i ended up with:

next, i pulled all the weeds and grass tidbits out of the space, buried the studs, and leveled the bed.  some websites recommended putting down weed cloth, but i decided not to.  my soil is actually kind of decent, which is odd for being so close to the coast, and i figured if i ever decide to try root plants like carrots and potatoes i'll need the depth.  also, leveling the bed is apparently very important to make sure your water runoff doesn't screw up your bed.  that was a pain in the butt for me, since this bed is on a very slight slope.  i had to dig one edge into the ground a bit.

another trip to home depot was in order to buy stuff to fill it up with.  as far as dirt composition, i read about a hundred different recommendations.  almost all are some combo of topsoil and fertilizer type material.  i found a combo bag of organic compost and manure, and ended up settling on a 2:1 ratio of topsoil to the compost/manure.  for my bed, that added up to 10 forty lb. bags of topsoil and 5 forty lb. bags of compost/manure.  about $20 worth of dirt.

i also bought some plants and seeds.  i don't know what the heck the deal is, but lowe's didn't have any winter veggie plants at all, and home depot's selection was quite slim.  my gardening friend, chris, said he'd been all over town looking for stuff, but could only find seeds.  so, since this whole project is an experiment and an adventure anyway, i bought some plants and some seeds.  this is what i ended up with:

plants - romaine, butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
seeds - arugula, spinach, sweet pepper medley, radish, green onion, red onion

about $20 worth of plants and seeds.

i threw in the topsoil and manure/compost and made sure it was mixed well.  then i planted plants and seeds, and voila!

my dog approves.  she had great fun shredding the little plastic containers the plants went in while i wasn't looking.

i watered everything before i came in and washed the grime off, and now it's raining.  not sure if that's a good thing or not, but at least i'm certain it will be watered well tonight!

definitely not the most frugal outdoor project i've ever attempted.  i sure did have fun with it though!  i don't know how successful i'll be this first year, but i'm hopeful.  the idea of walking outside and picking myself a salad is so appealing to me.  and i've started making my own compost, so in the future i'll just have the expense of the plants and seeds in the spring/fall.

wish me luck!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

de-boring-izing the guest bath

i bought my house 3 years ago, and it seems like i've barely scratched the surface.  it's not a large house, and there are rooms that i haven't touched with paint, hammer and nail, window treatments, etc.  nothing.  it looks the same dang way it did when i got here.

also, after 3 years i have yet to host a party.  which is RIDICULOUS because i live in florida and i have a pool.  i mean seriously, 3 years and i haven't managed to justify hosting some sort of pool party?

well recently there has been talk of a 4th of july crawfish boil going down in my backyard, and before that happened, i decided to finally put some crap in my guest bath besides towels and a shower curtain.

honestly, what i did is not even blogworthy.  i spend a lot of time perusing blogs, and some ladies just seem to have natural creative tendencies.  me?  well i bootleg and steal a lot of ideas from their blogs.  :)

here are some photos.  the guest bath is TINY.  i can't get the entire room in one shot.  this is the only area that isn't a bathtub, toilet, sink, towel holder, or blocked by the door.

i HATE that the walls are still white, but for some reason my boyfriend actually cares what color i paint rooms.  is this odd?  i think it is.  it seems that most ladies can just throw paint wherever they like and their husbands couldn't care less.  i made the mistake of mentioning peach once, and his head spun 180 degrees while he vomited pea soup.

also, i have to choose my paint battles.  my dining room desperately needs paint before the guest bath.  there are a couple of horrid cracks in the plaster that mock me every time i walk through there.  we will be negotiating that paint color first.  plus, that's where i want to hang the gallery shelves that i intend to make.  (another blog idea i'm stealing!)

anyway, back to the guest bath...

i've had that conch shell for eleventy billion years, and i've always wanted a cute way to display it because i adore the thing.  my granddad gave it to me when i was little.  i love the whole "put it up to your ear and you can hear the ocean" effect, plus it's just plain pretty.

i've had that beach sign for about 2 years, thank you very much tj maxx clearance rack, and it's been sitting in my dining room, homeless.

the vase is 5 years old.  my boyfriend sent me daisies (my favorite flower) for my birthday and they came in that vase.  it was too cute to throw out, so it's been collecting dust as well.

the frames i just found today at a yard sale.  i hit it late, around 10:30, and these ladies were a little panicky to try and get rid of everything.  i wish they'd had more stuff i wanted, it was mostly clothes and yarn.  they sold me 3 frames for a dollar.  i painted these two with the same "oops" paint i used on my bird feeder project.  by sheer coincidence, that color ties in nicely with the blue/green/brown floral shower curtain i have in the guest bath.  the pictures i put in the frames are two watercolors i bought last weekend at an estate sale for a dollar each.  the recently deceased was an artist.  in hindsight, i wish i'd bought a dozen more of them.

the third frame i found today is a bit larger, and i think i'm going to try my hand at turning that into a chalkboard.  my projects-i-want-to-try list needs to be written down somewhere!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

found something cool by accident today...

i was lucky enough to be the first responder on a pretty $15 mirror listed on craigslist yesterday!  i checked the right listing at the right moment for a change.

so i arranged to meet the woman selling the mirror this morning.  she works out of a cute house in a downtown neighborhood, about a 5 minute drive from my house.  i drove down to meet her at 10AM and found a sea of cars and people at the mansion next door and a giant ESTATE SALE sign.

omgomgomgomg.  :)

i bought the mirror and visited with my new craigslist friend, veronica, for a bit.  she was incredibly sweet with the cutest german accent, and she was telling me some of her crazy craigslist stories.  apparently she's moving back to europe, so she's been slowly liquidating a lot of her decor and furniture.  she's having a garage sale this weekend, so i'll probably stop by.

she told me a little bit about the old couple who used to live in the mansion next door.  apparently she was friendly with them, and she said it was very difficult for her to watch people walking in and picking apart their estate.  this made me feel a little guilty about being so excited to go poke around, so i at least managed to keep from salivating all over her driveway as i pondered what i might find.

we said goodbye, and i waited until i was sure she'd gone inside to beeline towards the estate sale.

this had to be the coolest estate sale i've ever been to.  i was a couple hours late, so i missed a lot of great deals on giant outdoor urns and whatnot, but there was still a ton of outrageous pieces to drool over.  unfortunately my house is smallish and on the full side as far as furniture goes (i'm looking for a buffet, but that's about it), so i had to walk away from the gorgeous chairs and claw footed tables i saw.

i found a heavy glass cake cover for $10, and now i'm super excited to try and build a cake stand to go with it using a platter and a candlestick holder.  i saw that idea on someone's blog here that i follow, but for the life of me i can't find the bookmark to properly reference it here - sorry!  i did a quick google search though, so here's a link to the basic idea.  so, so cute.  time to hunt down a platter and candlestick holder i like!

also, one or both of the previous owners were apparently artists because there was a mountain of beautiful watercolors to choose from.  i plucked out a couple of small beachy paintings to frame and put in my bathroom.  i'm going to try michael's for a couple of simple black frames to put them in.
and then, in the back corner of a shed, behind a dusty box of old LP's, i found this little gem with a $5 sticker on it:
I LOVE IT.  i was carrying it through the house as i kept browsing, and half a dozen people made comments about it.  it is obnoxiously filthy.  i'm sure it was sitting in that shed for a long time, so i'm going to have to put some serious elbow grease into cleaning it up.  i think it would look super cute on a buffet table, but since i haven't found one yet, it might have to take up temporary residence on my dining room fireplace mantle.

also, and i really, really, REALLY wish i had thought to take a picture of it, but i was too busy scraping my jaw off the floor along with everyone else walking through, these folks were serious liza minnelli lovers.  borderline mental even.  they had an ENTIRE UPSTAIRS ROOM dedicated to the woman.  i'm talking all four walls, covered with framed pictures of her.  it was super creeptastic.

i'm sad because after i got the craigslist mirror home i realized it wasn't big enough for the space i had in mind.  i think it's going over the guest room dresser instead.  but hey, if i hadn't bought the mirror, i wouldn't have found the awesome estate sale!


i made these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies a few days ago, and they're already gone.  25 cookies eaten by 2 people in 3 days lol.

my baking and cooking adventures haven't exactly been successful lately, so of course i didn't bother with any photos as i was baking.  however, here is a photo of the last two lonely cookies before... well, you know.  :)

i made a few alterations to cut a few calories: half sugar/half splenda, half white/half wheat flour, and applesauce instead of oil.  i also had to do half chocolate/half white chocolate chips because my boyfriend eats my chocolate chips like tic tacs and there was only 1 cup left haha.

he suggested maybe adding mini marshmallows or coconut next time.  i'd like to add pecans or walnuts.

i cooked them for 12 minutes at 350 on my pampered chef baking stone.  they came out with more of a cake-like consistency, which i LOVE!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

lava rocks are much lighter than regular rocks!

i learned something interesting about lava rock last weekend: it apparently weighs about half as much as regular rock does.  that definitely helps explain the outrageous price tag!

this fact made me insanely excited, because i had previously dismissed lava rock for my plant beds out front since it costs $250/ton vs $90/ton for the "alabama red rock" that is common around here.  however, with this new knowledge, i knew i could buy 0.75 tons of lava rock instead of 1.5 tons of red rock to fill my beds.  still more expensive, but $180 vs $140 is a lot less scary!

i went for it.  :)  i know it's probably silly, but i just love the porous look, deeper color, and color variance of the lava rock.  i think it looks great.  it gives our front yard a pop of deep red and ties in nicely with my flower pots.

we were fortunate enough to choose a slightly overcast friday evening to complete this project, so we didn't die of heat stroke out there.  ("felt like" 103 degrees outside yesterday, yikes!)

i shoveled the entire load of rocks off the flatbed into buckets, which my boyfriend couriered to and dumped in the plant beds.  our little relay system was great, but my upper back is definitely making known its displeasure today.  i'd probably be in traction if i'd gone with 1.5 tons of the heavier rocks hahaha.

my next yard project: pavers.  there's a thatch of overgrown yuck at the base of the driveway that is just begging to be leveled and turned into a small patio for the garbage cans.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

it's HOT!

it is hot hot hot outside!  with the humidity, it is borderline unbearable out there.  plus today marks the first day of hurricane season, so we get to listen to the fear mongering of weathermen/women from now through november.  they're getting right to it, too.  the top story on the front page of The Weather Channel's website is this little gem speculating about which cities are the most overdue to be nailed by a hurricane.  here in the florida panhandle, "jim cantore" is a bad word.

i am going to (mostly) blame the heat for my lack of progress on my bench project.  i don't have a work room, basement, garage, etc., and it is so hard to get excited about hanging out in the backyard to roast and work on it.

i sanded it down by hand about a week ago, which wasn't too bad.  (i found a $10 working hand sander at a yard sale a few days later though, so if i can ever hunt down the buffet of my dreams i won't end up with my shoulder in a sling from trying to sand it!)  i've put two coats of stain on the top so far, and i'm planning to do four.  i ended up buying a different color stain called antique walnut so i could get the minwax stain that already has poly in it, and the finish isn't nearly as dark as i wanted.  i'm not sure if i'll keep it or if i'll sand and paint over it, but it's good staining practice regardless.  it's really a challenge to keep a "wet edge" when it's 90 something degrees outside haha.

here's the bench in it's current state.  see how light the stain is?  not even close to the dark walnut look i wanted.  we'll see what another couple of coats does.
the legs are still raw because i haven't started painting yet.  i figure at this point i might as well wait until i finish staining in case i decide to paint the whole thing.
there were some great yard sales last weekend.  it's definitely my new addiction.  i'm really excited about finding a hand sander.  i also found a beautiful glass decanter for a couple of bucks.  it will look splendid on my silver tray i found for $1 that will hopefully end up sitting atop my buffet that i am still hunting for!  (no pics because the tray and decanter both need a good cleaning.)

the other item i found was a heavy concrete planter for $10.  i've been drooling over these big, heavy, outdoor planters forever, but i could never bring myself to spend the money on a new one.  i dug the last $5 hydrangea off the back of the shelf at home depot and set it all up where my patio meets the edge of my pool surround.

i also relocated the bird feeder to the new pot, which is far away from our fence and any low hanging limbs.  i learned the hard way that i'd put my feeder in a spot that was easily accessible to the fat, hungry squirrels that live in our oak tree.  after two days of having the thing completely emptied overnight, i finally caught one of the little buggers bowed up on the edge of my bowl going to town.  at least i know the thing is sturdy enough to support a fat squirrel's weight, i guess!
it looks like i'm going to be very busy with school for the next couple of weeks, but i'm hoping to at least finish the stain on the bench.  i'm also hoping to try this project using mod podge, food coloring, and glass jars.  it looks like we might host a pool party for july 4th, and i think these would look cute around the pool with some sand and tea lights inside.

Monday, May 23, 2011

painting with a twist

on friday evening, i attended a class at our local painting with a twist.  despite my curiosity, i was really wary of doing this for a long time, but after two unacquainted friends both raved to me about how cool it was, i finally broke down and signed up.  i felt sure that i would fall flat on my face having never painted anything but walls.

the idea is that you walk in the door, with or without any artistic ability/background (i am most definitely in the "without" camp on that one), sit down at a blank canvas with paint, brushes, and water cup, follow the directions given by the instructor, and walk out with your painting 3 hours later.

sounds ridiculous, right?  i certainly thought so.  i'm an engineer, and we don't do art, which is why i struggle so much to find other creative outlets.  as evidenced by the handful of blog posts i've made thus far, i really am all over the place as far as projects go.

the "twist" part of painting with a twist means that students are welcome to bring in any food and drink - yes, this includes booze - they'd like to partake of during the class.  i elected to bring in a fruit salad, cheese, crackers, and a bottle of merlot.

they usually have 1 to 2 classes per day, and each class walks students through how to paint a different painting.  the class i chose to sign up for was chanel.  i did not realize it at the time, since as i said i am totally ignorant when it comes to all things art, but my friend later told me i chose a semi-difficult painting to cut my teeth on due to all the blending.  oops.

so on friday night i walked into class with my bottle of wine, fruit, and cheese and set up camp.  turns out this was a very small class of only 5 students.  perfect.  lots of individual attention, which i fully expect i will need.  3 veterans who have taken previous classes, 2 rookies.

i'm not sure what i expected, but it was amazing.  the instructor was fantastic.  she reassured us all from the get go that acrylic paint is wonderful because you can mess up as much as you want and it can always be fixed, so don't stress yourself out by trying to be perfect.  i did my best to follow that advice, and after two glasses of merlot it wasn't all that difficult to do!

here is my blank canvas.  i took this picture as evidence that i really started with nothing.
we spent the first hour of class following step by step directions on how to sketch the base of the painting.  this was broken down for us into a series of lines and shapes from one corner of the canvas to the other.  i had no idea so much of the class would be dedicated to sketching.  i suspect this part would be really difficult for any person(s) with O.C.D.  next, we started outlining miss chanel's silhouette in black paint.  here is a picture of my sketch with the first bit of painted outline.
the next step was to slap blue and white paint all over the background, which was super fun.  then we kind of hopped around a bit.  we did some work on the scarf, which is actually white layered with blue and black and then layered with white again.  finishing the scarf was my favorite part, as i really loved how mine turned out.

the face and the hat both scared the heck out of me.  we really did freehand all those circles and lines in the hat.  i was horrible at doing the shadowing on the face.  i did a lot of floundering before i got something that looked alright.  there was a lot of mixing paint with water and adding more paint and blending and craziness.  i was using too much paint and everything came out really dark, but the instructor showed me how to fix it up, and it turned out looking like a face, so hooray!

i started to fall behind a bit when i was struggling with the shadowing, and i got so wrapped up in what i was doing that i didn't get to take any more "in progress" pictures.

here is my finished masterpiece.  the last step was to sign in the corner.
i'm pretty darn satisfied with it.  i would have sworn my friends were taking crazy pills, but it really was a lot of fun, and you really do not need any artistic talent whatsoever

i'm happy to have another creative outlet at my disposal.