Thursday, June 26, 2014

Meet the Newest Member of the Family

We have taken to calling him Bob. We don't know why.

Bob actually joined us a few months ago, adopted from an Etsy seller, and I've been so impressed with how he just moved right in that I forgot to show him off. I like that he's big (12 inches tall), bold, and brassy.

He lives on the fireplace mantel under the sunburst clock.

If it needs saying, I have no trendy plans to spray-paint him white or some ungodly neon color. Just like Mr. Rogers, I like him just the way he is.

I hope he maintains his dignity when I put tinsel on his antlers at Christmas time.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Painting Season Starts. Sort of.

Yes. I know. I KNOW. Don't tell me.

I'm going to talk about painting in a bit. I promise. But first we need to review some house history.

Here's how I think my screen porch happened: two guys consumed an entire case of Natty Light and drunk-dared themselves to construct a screen porch out of whatever they could find laying about the place.

That's as charitable as I can be. I've certainly been less so.

Of course, I didn't help by then stacking random crap in it when I was too lazy to take it all the way to the garage or curb.

Back in 2012 I got sick of the mess and cleaned it up a bit. I talked about it in this post here, and got it to this stage:

At least there was no tripping while walking through what is the arguably worst architectural feature of my home. Still, I don't really want to tear it down or spend a ton of money fixing its considerable faults. I just want the screen porch. This is a true silk purse, sow's ear situation. Or maybe even a case of turd polishing. It's borderline, really. 

Now we're going to talk about painting. 

I've been itching to get started on exterior paint projects since May. But haven't had a child-free AND rain-free weekend since then, either. Two weekends ago I was absolutely stubbornly determined that I would, swear on a stack of paint cans, make progress. Mother nature scoffed at me, and decided send the showers down. Nonstop. All weekend. 

So I set up a little indoor paint station on the screen porch. I figured I could work on painting the shutters instead of the siding. 

But while I worked, I kept noticing (and hating) the mauve paint that had been slapped on the plywood walls, 

And how badly that paint clashed with everything in the room that I wanted to be there-- the table, the chairs, the area rug. Blech. It looked dark, and like an old bruise. Here's the corner of the screen porch as it abuts the house. 

At a certain point, my hatred of mauve, the paint brush in my hand, and the realization that I would be doing no outdoor painting that weekend caused a little mental collapse, and I did this:

Yeah. My reaction was underwhelming too. I did not love it. Even though I did love it on the shutters. Yes, that's pretty insanely fickle and inconsistent. However, I decided I liked it a lot more than the dark mauve, and that I was likely to have a ton of the honey yellow left over. I also noticed that the yellow picked up one of the colors in the print of the chair cushions. So I kept going.

As I went, I realized my eye was rebelling against the combination of the two paints and that, of course, would be erased when it was all completely the yellow color. So things seemed to get better as I went.

I know I should have planned. I know I'd been talking about re-paneling those walls with something else. I know I should have ripped up the nasty wall-to-wall first. I know. I know.

Instead I knocked it out in a couple of hours while it poured outside.

It ended up like this:

It looks so much fresher!

The exterior house siding that is actually in the screen porch is white, as pictured above, and is not the same color as the actual exterior parts of the house, which is the dreaded pinky-beige. In some instances I have obsessive issues with symmetry, and this is one of them. Since the rest of the house exterior was going to be green, it only made sense that the portion on the screen porch was the same:

The color looks a little goofy and too intense in this photo, rather than the pale olive color it actually is. But the corner shows the view into the kitchen and how it looks from the seat in the wicker chairs. 

There are certainly more improvements that I'd like to be done to this area of the house (blinds or outdoor fabric drapes for the windows, tongue-and-groove wood-paneled ceiling, a different fabric on the cushions, a light/fan fixture, the carpet taken up and the concrete floor stained), but for the amount of time I put in, I was able to make a room a lot more bearable to me aesthetically. Now when I look out of my kitchen patio door I see sunshiny light, instead of brooding (can paint brood? I think that mauve did) darkness. 

I'll have more paint progress to report next week. In the meantime, I hope my readers are getting sunshine on their decks, porches, or patios. Enjoy your summer!

Friday, June 13, 2014

More Garden Update, 2014

Summer is here! Today was one of those delicious days, and we spent it picnicking at the park for lunch and grilling on the patio for dinner. It's been so nice to be done with school and winter and heavy clothing, socks and homework.

While I've been spending my last week painting, I don't have things ready to commit to blog yet, so if readers can stand one more garden update with not-so-great cell phone photos, I'm going shove some more flowers under noses. There's a little surprise at the end of the post.

You can't see it in this photo, but the bees were very happy to have penstemon and salvia. Go bees!

And below is some Missouri evening primrose:

The alliums are done, but the seed heads are interesting: 

The lilies are about ready to go (sorry for the lovely background of my van): 

And then over here there's some pink yarrow and white veronica: 

And here's the surprise: little robin birdies, tucked under the eave of my garage. Happy summer! 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Patio Daydreaming

Source: Better Homes and Gardens

I daydream about patios that look like this beauty above, featured in Better Homes and Gardens. A little hidden away. A few creature comforts. Beautiful greens and flowers. A table for meals.

When we first moved in, there was so much wrong, from leaky toilets to musty basements to weedy yards, aesthetics were taking a back seat to basic repair and maintenance. In some respects, it still is.

But this year, I started looking around my back yard and patio area and realized that instead of a place I mowed and ignored, in my hurry to get on to the next project, I wanted to live there. Iowa summers are short and need to be treasured. You only get so many, right?

I'd love to show you pictures like the above of my patio, which is just a plain spread of concrete in the corner of the house between the kitchen/screen porch and a back bedroom. But just like real life, tiny baby steps.

Here's a "before-ish" picture of the area, about a month ago when I was scrubbing out the grill (I was too busy painting in November to do it---ewww):

This photo points up, once again, how detestable my house color truly is--that fleshy beige color. Yick. The table was a freebie from a friend, and the containers are Tupperware planters that I found in the garage; They are so 70's it's hard for me not to smile when I see them. They look terrible with the house color, don't they?

Some good points: This area is sheltered by two sides of the house, and is on the northwest corner of the house. That means it gets a good combination of sun and shade. There is a cedar that shades the patio most of the day.

Other than that, it's a pretty blank slate. And it looks out on a back yard that has been neglected for so long it's a mess.

I decided to use the round table as a buffet/sideboard for serving, and as an extra horizontal surface while cooking. Adding an outdoor dining table and chairs was a priority this spring. As was adding some garden to the patio, one way or the other.

Here's a progress photo:

The patio table is from Improvements, an online home decor vendor that is a sister company to Ballard Designs. I like the simple, modern shape, and the fact that the wood is actually synthetic, so it isn't going to fade or need re-staining.

Also, I didn't make it, or fix up some old thing. I had a half dozen ideas about making or rehabbing something, and I finally decided instant results trump making room for one more thing on my eighty-bajillion-item to-do list.

The chairs are from Lowe's. The cedar is a lovely and nice smelling umbrella, so I don't plan to add that, though the table does have a hole for one.

I did a little work trying to camouflage the ugly with what was available. What I had was bricks and ferns:

Seriously. Do you need ferns? They are practically a weed in my yard.

I put some in containers and stuck them into the window well, to cover up the ugly old basement casements. I'm not sure if they'll continue to like being potted up as we get into truly hot weather, but so far, so good. 

I also put bricks around the metal edge of the window well. 

The containers are filled with an assortment of things I picked up from the local nursery. I'm pretty pleased with how that turned out:

And another progress view: 

In the upper right-hand side of the photo is the kitchen eat-in window. Just out of sight in the left fore-ground is the door to the screen porch.

I put some hostas in containers. They were also free from shady areas of my garden, and I think they make good "statement" plants for containers. The airplane houseplant is a sorry thing that I ditched outside in the hopes it would come around.

I'm considering the hows and the dollar signs of a few other improvements. Do the utility meters need a screen to hide them? Should I paint a "carpet" on the concrete to add color and provide an anchor to the dining area? Or is an actual carpet a better idea?

There's still a lot of work in the gardening sense too: This is what the edge of the patio looks like, a mass of weeds and some dying burdock. I think there was a garden bed at one time under there:

Across the yard, we made some progress on a small start to vegetable gardening:

Grant and Ben, getting it ready to plant:

Three tomato plants, some marigolds, and an empty spot I may fill with an extra pepper plant. But it's getting rather late in the season, so who knows. I also need to pick up an extra tomato cage. I might cap off the cinder block with pavers so that it looks a little more attractive, but it's not a priority for a veggie garden. The tomato plants are already about 8 inches taller than when this photo was taken!

These all may be small steps forward, but we've been enjoying the improvements, in the form of regular outdoor dining:

Potato chips and boxed wine. Because I'm classy like that.

I have not forgotten about the house painting, which occupied my entire summer last year, and more is coming soon. I'll share updates this month as the fleshy beige begins to disappear.

In the meantime, I've got some hamburgers to flip.