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Knock Knock….Spring is That You?

3.30.2010

All around blogland I have been seeing beautiful and inspiring pictures of spring.  I love seeing all sorts of flowers and green re-making its appearance. 

So I thought I would share what good ole Zone 5 looks like this time of year.   Not as springy as the warm places are sporting but I am taking what we can get.

Especially considering that last weekend we started with this….mother nature did not get the memo that it was the middle of March. 

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But…..

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Unfortunately the rabbits (and weeds) are also making their spring appearance-IMG_0803

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ahhhh spring…..

I just may have gone to Home Depot yesterday to buy some potting soil and pansies for the front porch.  And while I was there, the vegetable vendor just might have been there delivering all his goodies.  And I might have browsed them to see if lettuce and spinach were there.  You know because they can withstand a freeze and all.  And it does not hurt to check.  And to stare at the mini tomatoes and herbs.  Sigh.  But I sad happy to report that I restrained myself by repeating over and over “It is too early….they will freeze and die…and then you will be very very angry.”  So for the next couple of weeks I will just have to take solace in the green beginning to poke up and knowing that they are waiting for me to take home and be part of our garden this year.

Now if I can just figure out just how to get rid of the bunnies and weeds and figure out how to have the beds add compost to themselves I would be set.  Hmmmm….

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Garden Report Card

3.29.2010

Last year at this time, I was a gardening newbie.  Other than a couple of strawberries in a pot that were rather unsuccessful, I had never grown anything edible.

But I had grand visions and we built three raised beds.  And largely it was a success.  If I can do it with no background knowledge, so can you.

We started with three empty raised beds and a lot of gravel….

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And planted some little sprouts in the them (wow my old camera was pretty crappy)…MOV02216

And by July we had this…DSC02382

Since it is now officially spring and am now a “seasoned” veteran, it is time to  plan for this year’s selections.

Should I have done this earlier?  Yeah probably.  Especially if I was going to start seeds indoors.

And this would be the case if that did not miserably fail at this task last year.  I blame the sunny window that was not sunny enough.

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So this year we are sticking with plants that I buy and direct sowing seeds in the garden.  Once it thaws out I mean.

So here is what I planted last year -

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Strawberries- A  We did not get a lot of fruit last year, but according to my sources that it normal and we should get a lot more this year.   Our lack of fruit also could be a result of a furry friend named Jack hijacking the fruit.  The entire summer, I was cursing the birds thinking they were the culprits.  Until Jack was caught not once, but four times with a perfect red wipe berry in between his paws.  Which he promptly ate as soon as saw him.  So even though this crop will not need to be replanted, a dog deterrent/fence will be in order.

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Radishes- C  They grew very quickly and easily.  But I do not think we will replant this because Derek does not like radishes.  And other than an occasional one on my salad I am not huge on them.  So we decided that the garden real estate will be better served for something else.  But if you are new to gardening, this is a quick and easy crop to start with.

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Red Leaf Lettuce- B  I really learned last year that lettuce is a cold season crop.  Once it it gets too hot, it starts to bolt and then tastes nasty.  So this will definitely be repeated this year but I will not be afraid to harvest some of it early and will replant a second crop for late summer/fall when in cools off.

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White Onions- A  These were easy and we used them a lot.  I started these from an onion set which was easier than seed.  And they stored well.  Will be a repeat this year and I may add some purple onions. 

Chives-B These would get an A except we did not use them as much as I thought I would.  But they are a perennial and are already looking very robust in the snow.  Even if they did not I would be replanting.

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Pole Beans-B  This grew after the bunnies decimated them twice (note to self to install dog and rabbit deterrent).  But the trellis I installed was not tall enough and I waited a little too long to harvest them.  So they were, well, stringy.  But I have learned from my mistakes and they should be spectacular this year.  At least I hope.

Sugar Snap Peas-F  One of the lowest grades in the garden because…well they never grew.  I replanted them twice and really thought that I had been successful.  But my “success” turned out to be giant weeds that I spent the summer fighting and no peas in sight.  But I will not be beaten by these peas and will be triumphant this year.  Hopefully.

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Tomato-A  We bought this plant on a whim and ended up with so.many.tomatoes.  We are not huge tomato people, but the sauce and salsa and brushetta is already being planned for this year.

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Jalapeño- A A random purchase and we ended up with tons of them.  Way too many for our Mexican nights.  So I gave a lot away and made jelly with them.  I was happy how that turned out and  a single plant does not take up too much space, so it is on the shopping list for this year..

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Mint-A  We bought it for the mojitos.  And it did not disappoint.  Enough said.

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Basil- A+ Probably the most used plant in the garden.  So easy to grow and so easy to use.

Parsley-C Looks pretty and was easy to grow but I did not find a whole lot of uses for it.  But it is a perennial so it is back.

Cilantro-F The only other F in the bunch.  I killed it planting it.  But let’s try it again.

Sage- C-See parsley.  Exactly.

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Raspberries- Since they fruit during the second year, I can’t comment on that yet.  But they grew really well and I have high hopes for this summer

Carrots-D Since Derek is allergic to uncooked carrots (i know weird) and I hate cooked carrots these did not used that much.  Not to mention I really struggled with unearthing them.  As in hours digging struggled.  So these will not be repeated.

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Pomegranate- B  I bought a dwarf pomegranate online last year.  And I had to plant it in a pot because it cannot survive the winter outdoors. So it is growing in my kitchen right now.  There is tons of fruit on it but I am a little unsure how big they will grow.  I can’t wait to see what it does this summer, especially now that it is in a bigger and prettier pot.

I am also planning on moving all the herbs out of the raised beds and into pots on the deck.  Why?  First of all I want to free up some space in the beds for some new things. And my hope is that if they are closer to the kitchen that they will be used more often.  And last but not least, the more pots I fill with herbs , the less I will have to fill with flowers.  There will be flowers of course, just not every pot.

So with all the new space what is going in there?

Here is what I am thinking, but I am open to suggestions and to my whims when I am staring at plants and I decide something looks good.

-Cantaloupe-  I love this fruit and they are not cheap at the store.  From what I read they take a lot of room but I am up for the challenge.  Maybe.

-Spinach- This will like lettuce in that we will not be munching on it in July, but we have been trying to eat more of it.

-Grapes-I really want a grape arbor.  Just need to figure out a place for it that will not look dumb.  We will see….

-Red Pepper- We use this a lot in cooking and hopefully it will as easy as the jalapeño

-Potato-  I am considering this but am still unsure.  They are cheap at the store and we really should not be eating them that much.  But I really like them.

-Asparagus-I think I might give this one a whirl because we should be eating more of it and it a perennial

So what do you think?  Anything I need to be adding or subtracting off my list?

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Wanna Paint Some Cabinets?

3.25.2010

So did you happen to see our bed on the bragging board on Knock Off Wood?

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Welcome to all the new readers/followers that found us.  Yeah!

With all the new people joining us, I have been getting a lot of email and one one of the most frequent questions is “What’s your process for painting cabinets?”

I touched on it on my post about my love affair with Ace Cabinet and Trim paint.  But I did not spell it out specifically for cabinets.  Or windows.  And I want to give you guys what you want.

So why have I not done a post like this before?  Was it a secret?

Well, back before I was blogger I did not take pictures of every.single.step of a project.  Crazy huh?  I always thought that the next time I decided to paint a cabinet that I would make sure the camera was not far away.  Because strangely that is the way that DIY bloggers have to roll.

But that has not happened because frankly I am starting to run out out of honey oak to paint.   Which is a tragedy/celebration at the exact same time. So if you can forgive this post for the lack of pictures on every step, I hope you can learn a little something about how I did things.

Without further ado, the process for painting cabinets-

!. Start with gorgeous cabinets.  Pretty pink counters and florescent light fixtures were an added bonus in our kitchen.DSC00912.

2.  Take down all the doors and remove hardware.  I would recommend numbering the doors with blue painter’s tape and draw yourself a diagram about which goes where.  Unless you really like puzzles and think that a game at the end of the project would be fun.DSC01136

3.  If you are replacing hinges or drilling for a different type, this is a good time to do that.  We went from exposed brass hinges to concealed hinges.  Was it a huge pain for a minor detail?  Yes.  But it was so worth it because I truly believe that this little detail helped make the kitchen.  For the handy hinge how to go to this post.

4. Wipe down cabinets with TSP substitute (buy at a hardware store).  I did this step outside on a tarp and let them dry on the drywall.  I was amazed how much grease and grime came off with this step. Yuck.

5. If you are replacing you old hardware with new hardware that will be installed in a different location, fill the old holes with wood filler.  If you are doing the new hinge thing, this is also the time to break out the wood filler.  For large areas to fill on the hinge holes, I used wood epoxy (also can be found at your local hardware store).  It had to be mixed and it was more difficult to use than wood filler, but it is sturdier and does not crack.

6. Empty your cabinets.  Unless you want them covered in dust and paint.

7. Sand with an orbital sander with a medium grit sand paper.  I would suggest wearing a mask and protective eyewear while doing this.  Being outside for the door sanding  is another bonus because it gets everywhere.  I did a quick sand by hand on the parts that I could  not get with the orbital.  But if I am being honest, it was not the most through job (just a couple of swipes) and it turned out OK with the paint.DSC02764

8. Wipe down everything with a tack cloth in order to get rid of the dust.  Vacuum the floor and any other flat surface where dust collected. A smooth finish and dust are mortal enemies.

9. Set up you cabinet doors and drawers in the area you are planning on painting them.  Make sure to tarp the floor. We were lucky enough to have two empty bedrooms and the cabinets took every square inch of them.  To minimize the amount of contact the doors had with a surface while they were drying, I set up thin boards to keep them off the ground.DSC01140

10. Prime with water-based Zinsser 1-2-3 primer.  For the black cabinets I used a gray primer (tinted at hardware store as "dark as they could make it").  For the doors, flip and prime the other side.  Except for the cabinets that will eventually have glass doors, I did not paint the inside of the cabinets.  One because I am lazy and two I think it would be difficult to find anything in black cabinets.

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11. Apply two coats of your paint.  I used Ace Cabinet and Trim paint in Cannonball.  (post here for paint application tips…check it out)  For the doors this means paint, flip, paint, flip, paint, flip, paint, flip.  Since the paint takes a least 24 hours to dry, this takes while.  Read more about this here. I started with the back so that the final front side would never touch the wood support and possibly mess it up.  To apply the paint, I used a high quality brush.  Even on the larger surfaces, I did not use a roller because I wanted to minimize my brush marks as much as possible and with a brush I had figured out how to do that using the technique I linked to earlier.  Could a roller have worked just as well?  Possibly, but I cannot comment because I never trusted tried  it.

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12.  After they dry, finish two coats of polyurethane in a satin finish.    I skipped this step the first time I painted the cabinets.  Frankly I was sick of painting and I thought they looked fine.  And they did, but a year later they were not cleaning as easily as I would of liked them to.  So I had to do half of this process over again (like I mentioned here).  Not fun.  Learn from my mistake and do the poly the first time.  An added bonus to the ploy? This also seemed to also make the paint harden faster.  I did not sand in between coats of poly, but make sure you apply it really really thinly or you it has the potential of it getting overly shiny.

13.  Re-install with hardware and hinges.  And enjoy your brand new cabinets!DSC01411  Hope this tutorial helps if you are thinking about tackling cabinet painting.  It is a huge job but makes such a difference for not a whole lot of money.  I am starting to get reader pics of their results following my process and I hope to share them soon.  If you have any you would like to share, send them my way!

If painting is not your thing, check out my how-to on cabinet glazing.  Another effective way to tame the honey oak beast!  Happy painting!

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Spring Break!

3.22.2010

Even though my flight was delayed three hours, I was 10 seconds from being embarrassingly airsick and it rained the entire time, my Spring Break Trip to D.C. to visit my college roomie was spectacular because…..

IMG_0719Isn’t she the cutest baby ever? 

Just in case you can’t decide here is some more pics…IMG_0667(1)

And with her beautiful mommy…IMG_0724

In case you still can’t decide…email me.  I have over 100 more pictures to make my case.  I was so busy snapping pics of baby that I somehow missed getting a picture of Katie and I.  Ouch.

I also brought with me her first birthday present, a new fun quilt.IMG_0676(1)

This was by far the most difficult pattern I have attempted thus far.  And I am happy with the results, but it is not perfect.  I titled it appropriately “Learning Experience.”

I used the free Off the Grid  pattern on Moda Bake Shop with Hunky Dory Fabrics by Chez Moi.  I thought the fun prints and colors were perfect for a little girl.

And the back-

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And the best pictures of a quilt…being loved by a baby-IMG_0664

Oh the leggings…IMG_0670

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And let me share this insanely creative idea for making incredibly cute big blocks inexpensively for babys that Katie came up with.  Use shoeboxes and cover them with scrapbook/wrapping paper and clear packing tape. Genius!

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I am not up on my baby crafts, but I thought that was so creative and thrifty.  She was always the crafty one of the two of us.

Of course we did some home decor and fabric shopping during the visit.  I gave Katie her first sewing lesson….and let’s just say we chose a project that was a little tough for her teeny tiny sewing machine.  I was forbidden from taking pics of this and hopefully we can try again next time

Derek is happy to report that since I had to get back on a plane I was not able to buy anything of substance on our escapades.  But Katie scored this amazing mid century modern screen that she plans on using as a headboard from a store called Modernicus.  And it was only $125.  If you are in the DC area and love authentic mid century modern pieces, you will love this store. 

And they helped us wrestle into her Camry in the rain….double score.

And now for your parting gift….IMG_0773

Yum!

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