I Hate Sewing Drapes

Every time we talk about revamping a room I hunt for that perfect fabric for drapes.  I enjoy finding the perfect complement to the decor and knowing that whipping up some lined panels is not difficult.  Ahhhh…

Except that I hate making curtains.  I always seem to forget this small detail in the fun part of the search but as the months pass by and the massive amounts of yardage sit collecting dust in my craft room as I remember all the crappy ironing, pinning, measuring, wrestling with large amounts of fabric and plain boringness of sewing drapes.

Over I a year ago I washed our office drapes and they shrank.  Which made them look like we were going to have a flood anytime.  Not to mention sun shone through the loops at the top of them which made them look…well cheap.  And too small for the window.

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This bothered me every morning as I walked down the stairs.  And it bothered me enough to find and buy fabric on my IKEA trip.  Over one year ago.

IKEA!

I could pretend that some bolt of inspiration made me get over my curtain making hating ways.  Or that I really was going to be the queen of finishing projects this year. 

Or maybe it was because I want to buy fabric for the basement drapes and I knew I could not justify that with both office and kitchen drape fabric still inhabiting my craft room.   I let you be the judge of which one sounds more like me.

Anyway no matter what the reason…they are D-O-N-E.

how to fake pinch pleat curtains

 

And I love them.

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As you can see, they needed to be washable as our two furry friends are their constant companion.  This time I was smart and pre-washed both the drapery fabric and the lining so our shrinking problem will not repeat. 

We also moved the curtain rods to hang them higher and wider so that the windows would look larger.

But I did not just want to show you the new curtains, I also wanted to share my trick for faking pinch pleats.

how to fake pinch pleat curtains

I wanted some pleats but I also wanted to use my existing hardware.  So I sprayed the back of the top tab with starch to stiffen it up…

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And then I pleated it and stuck the clip of the ring halfway down the top tab.how to fake pinch pleat curtains

The starch keeps it stiff and non-floppy at the top and you can’t see where the clips are attached.  And you get pleats.  Super easy and can be redone in a snap for washing.

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With the completion of the drapes the office mini-makeover is now complete which I can’t wait to share.  Since it has only been a year since it was started. 

Mark your calendars for this time next year when I am ready to unveil the basement drapes.  Because did you really think I was really going to be finisher this year?

Nursery Reveal

We made it!  The nursery is officially complete even before he has decided to make his arrival.  It has taken a lot longer to put together than I envisioned back in January when we started this project, but considering the construction, all the DIY, our insanely busy spring and that I am the ultimate procrastinator, it is really not that surprising.

But before you scroll down to see what we put together, let’s walk down memory lane with the befores to see what we we were working with. 

What the space looked like when we moved in-

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And then what it really looked like for 2 and half years…..affectionately referred to the junk room.  Don’t know where to store something?  Throw it in there.  Need to paint some cabinets?  Scoot some crap around and have at it.

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And now here it is waiting patiently (unlike Derek and I) for it’s new occupant-

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completed nursery

Back in the beginning when we were planning the space, my first idea was an orange and aqua color scheme but no real theme.  I figured once we knew if we were having a boy or a girl we could add blues or pinks to make it a more gender specific space.  Of course, I figured a lot of DIY and sewing was also going to be in the cards.

One of the biggest projects in the room (and our first) was the window seatcompleted nurserycompleted nursery

Because of the window configuration, limited furniture was going fit on that wall anyway and I thought that an architectural feature that was also functional from a storage and seating standpoint would make the room.

After the construction and painting was going, we started to pick up random items we found that we thought we be good fits in the space.  Hmmmmm…somehow we had a lot of animal things so that is the loose theme we decided to run with.  However, I am a big believer in adding things that you love and not just because of a theme. 

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completed nursery

Items with personal significance were also something I wanted to incorporate in the space.  We have not shared baby boy’s name with anyone (but my mother-in-law has a pool going if anyone is interested).  However, the first initial is common knowledge.  So of course I had to incorporate that.  On the gallery wall are also photos we took at the San Diego zoo during our last vacation (technically baby’s first).  After he is born, the clip art hand and footprints will we replaced with his (and yes I realize my stand-in has a disproportionate hand to the size of the foot…I was just using those to make sure I liked the idea).

But personal items don’t end with the gallery wall as I wanted things that meant something to us, but not scream “look at my name" all over the place (although I know some curious family members that were voting for that tactic).

For example, I needed some bookends and I love that this has his birth month stamped on it.

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Or that all of those blankets were handmade for him by generous friends and family.  And that the silver scooter reminds us of Italy.

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And that cross from the Vatican in Rome was the very first thing we ever bought for, at the time, our future baby.  completed nursery

I won’t bore everyone with the personal significance of everything in the space, but overall I tried to have at least one item with meaning on every shelf.  However, don’t get me wrong, some things are in the room because they are fun and I like how they look.  Like this…

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I guess you could also say that DIY was a major theme in the space.  The only pieces of furniture that were store bought were the crib and the chair.  We either made or “revised” everything else.  I have already talked about most of those projects as we embarked on them but in case you missed them check out the abacus, dresser, changing table, bookshelves, stump table, pinwheel mobile, quilt and bedding

The space also had to be functional besides nice to look at.  We have never done this whole baby thing before, but from what I have heard, they can be messy.  So every single cloth surface (minus the chair that is stain protected) can be thrown in the washing machine.  Every pillow and cushion cover is removable and the although it took forever to find curtain fabric that I loved and could be thrown in the wash, I was ultimately successful.

The curtains are also not just for looks.  I made four panels that stretch all the way across for light control.

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I am still planning on adding black out lining to the back of them for even more light control, but I decided not to sew them together as I read varying reports about the washability of black out lining.  So it is getting hemmed separately and then just clipped behind the panels.

The cushions also remove from the window seat easily to access all the storage underneath.  In addition, the neighbor kids have shown me that they make great hiding places.  Maybe we need to drill some more air holes.

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Also every item that is hanging on the wall in baby’s reach is securely fastened to studs with screws.

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And the ultimate storage area also went through a little makeover.

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Lots of clothes and other baby paraphernalia waiting for him, but we still have tons of room that I know we will fill in the future.

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And finally just some more pictures of details of the space that I love…

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So what do you think?   You can see from some of the pictures that a furry friend already likes to spend time in the space.  Although this is normal position…

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…trying to will the stuffed animals that make noise when you squeeze them from the crib into his mouth.

Want to know where I got something?  Here is the source list for everything in the space.  Just got a little too long for a single post.

Missed the other nursery posts and want to see the DIY how-to?  Catch up with the window seat construction, abacus, dresser, changing table, bookshelves, stump table, pinwheel mobile, quilt and bedding

Finally

I have been promising this for awhile, but the outdoor space it finally ready.  But next time I want to finally get an outdoor space together, I need to actually make progress before August when it is too hot to be outside even at night….. and when all the flowers and herbs are looking a little wilty….well because they are hot too.

Anyway it would not be an After without an Before. So he is the unofficial before (stolen from the raised beds how-to).  Basically when we moved in we plopped a table in the middle of the deck with cheap plastic chairs and hung lights very very straight on the pergola.  Oh and Derek  installed outdoors speakers as soon as the wire was discovered.  Priorities.

Here we are now:

Outdoor space 8/10

I swear I did not have Winter pose…that is where she was laying when I walked out with the camera.

The other side-

Outdoor space 8/10

My reading corner-Outdoor space 8/10

The umbrella gets moved frequently to shade the plant and the sectional.  I can’t decide if I like it better with or without….hmmmm.

Outdoor space 8/10

The long view.  Yes I am aware that it leans.  I swear this is the only angle you can tell.  A couple of people have given us ideas about how to fix it but frankly none of them sound that fun and we have not cared enough to pursue it yet.  10 points if you can spy the shell pink mini blinds in the ugly master bath in this picture.

Outdoor space 8/10

On a daily basis I use our rolling cart for gardening stuff, but it multi tasks for entertaining or BBQing-

Outdoor space 8/10

Some herbs and the grape trellis.  Hopefully the grapes will be higher than the first level and able to be seen next year.  Outdoor space 8/10

And at night (without a tripod obviously).  I like how the sectional area is less lit but still bright enough.

Outdoor space 8/10

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And to prove they were not nearly so cooperative the entire time….

Outdoor space 8/10

In case you are wondering, here is where I got stuff (on a budget of course):

Tile-Top table and umbrella- Lowe’s or Home Depot years ago on clearance

Sectional: Wal-Mart (blogged here)

Rocking Chair- Jo-ann’s (blogged here)

Outdoor Rug: Home Fabrics and Rugs (blogged here)

Garden Stool: Homegoods (here)

Blue side table- hand me down transformed with the power of spray paint

Outdoor Pilliows-made by me

Rolling Cart- made my Derek (tutorial here)

Painted Pots -another DIY project (tutorial here).  The non-painted pots are from Homegoods.

And the final DIY project- the canvas panels on the pergola (here)

So what do you think?  Now I am starting to get the itch for fall and cooler weather so we can start spending time out there again.

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Good….Bad….Good….Random

Good-

Overall things are going very well in the garden.  Other that the *^#@ rabbits that keep eating everything.  But I told myself that I need to get over that, so moving on.  One of the things that has taken off the most is our first tomato plant…IMG_1181

Yep the middle half of an entire bed is a single tomato plant that has already taken over two cages.   Good thing the rabbits ate all of the peas because there was no room for them anyway.  I can’t wait to harvest the tomatoes and start making my salsa.

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Which brings me to the bad news about the next salsa ingredient…..the cilantro is not looking so hot.IMG_1176

Hmmmmm….   We thought if we staked it up that it would help with more delicious leaves and less of this-

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Not so much.   Then I thought maybe cilantro was supposed to look like this at this time of year.  But I read Kim’s post over the NewlyWoodwards and that burst that bubble.

So now I am thinking to cut my losses and replant.  Unless the blogworld had any brilliant ideas to salvage this.

Good-

In case you are interested, the how-to page has finally been updated.  I struggled getting all the columns to line up correctly and therefore have not been adding to it and worrying about it “later”.  So I finally did away with the columns to make it more user friendly. And I promise to keep it updated this time.

Random-

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Jack is digging the new sectional and this is his nightly position.  The pups are not allowed on furniture in the house, but since the outdoor furniture gets rained on a regular basis, we decided to let them cuddle on the cushions if we invited them.  Jack thinks this is a good choice on our part.

And I am thinking that the outdoor space will be ready for the big reveal by the end of the week so stay tuned!

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War Has Officially Been Declared

Rabbits are no longer welcome in our yard.

It rained a lot last week.  Like a cold week of April rain in May.  It was weird but it was a good excuse to get things done inside and deal with the stress of the end of the school year.

But one afternoon I got home from work and noticed all the pink roses were laying on the ground at the back of the yard.  The roses that were among the plants that I had spent an entire weekend preparing a bed for and planting.

“Wow it must have rained really hard last night to knock all those petals off of the roses”

Then I walked out there and saw this.  I guess the stem right under the flower were the tastiest.

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And it made me very angry.  As in hoping the rabbits were bleeding internally from the thorns.  If we did not have a solid six foot fence around our yard, I would have thought that we had a deer problem.

Obviously with the rain, my number one rabbit repelling/killing team was not spending a lot of time outside.  Failures.

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When it finally stopped raining I went out to spray Liquid Fence to deter them.  And I found even more damage.  Which made me angrier.

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But, I have had success with this product in the past.   You have to reapply it every time it rains, which gets really old.  And it smells like a mixture of rotten eggs, puke, and toilets.  Two reasons why it is not a product that I look forward to using.

I was serious though so it applied it over all non-edible plats while muttering things like “die rabbits die.”  And even though the direction of the wind kept changing, dousing me in eau de rotten eggs that took two showers to get rid of, I was satisfied that I had foiled the mangy rabbits.  Victory!

The next day I walked over to the vegetable beds and witnessed this.

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I refuse to spray liquid fence on the spinach because even if it was suitable for human consumption, I really don’t want my salad smelling or tasting like a toilet.  So I spayed some on the dirt in between the rows of spinach in the hopes that it may work.  And I laid some chives from my previously overgrown plant around it randomly.  Because in my mind, rabbits don’t like the smell of onions.  Probably not true, but in my agitation I was not thinking that straight.  And it sounded good.

According to my scientific google search, cayenne pepper and human hair also are good repellents.  But call me crazy, I again hesitate to put that all over food I hope to eat.

Sigh. So I think we are going to have to make a chicken wire fence around the raised beds to keep them out.  As well as to keep out one of the rabbit repellers who has shown a recent affinity for strawberries fresh from the plant.

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Fence….Ugly? Yes….but probably will be necessary. 

Because I will win this war one way or another.

I hope.

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A Dog’s Life

In the quest to slowly but surely get the master bedroom to being officially an “after”, I knew we had to something about one of the last eyesores in the room-the dog beds. 

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The current ones were plaid, old and furry.  But they are a necessary evil.

Because you can’t just take away their beds because they are ugly.  Well I guess you could, but that would not be very nice.

And you can buy some cute dog beds but they were never the perfect size or color for our space.  And what fun is buying them when you can easily make them?

So a little while ago I bought some fabric I loved for this purpose.IMG_0633

(In case you are curious…the fabrics are Summer Soiree by Paula Prass and Two by Two Stripe by Michael Miller)

Horribly impractical with the white being perfect to exhibit mud and the black a magnet for dog hair.

But oh well….I told myself that is what a washing machine is for.

I made the beds very simply. I just measured the space, added a couple of inches for seam allowances and the depth of the pillow, and then constructed it just like an envelope backed pillow.  In other words exactly how you could make a pillow case for a pillow form.  Super quick and easy.  And a perfect beginner sewing project.

Here is the back on one bed with the overlapping fabric.

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Then you just have to stuff it with something soft and washable. 

You could make a matching pillow form with muslin and polyfil for this purpose.

Or you could be green (and cheap) like me and find something laying around to stuff it with.  Because let’s be honest anything that is soft (for the dogs) and washable (for you) would work.

So let’s just say that you melted a king size duvet insert trying to stuff it in your washer which turned out to be too small.  Not that you (or I) would be dumb enough to do that….we are talking hypothetically.  You could cut that in pieces and stuff your beds with that.  Hypothetically of course.

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Whatever you use does not not need to be perfectly sized.  Just shove it in there and you get this….

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or this….

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Perfectly smooth….no.  But cheap and honestly our dogs have more fun shifting and digging at the lumps to get it to their liking.  Smooth beds are boring.

And if you have extra fabric you could make a little pillow for their head.  

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Winter had already shifted the pillow for her liking….but of course would not lay on it as soon as the big bad camera made an appearance.

She was however happy to try both beds before determining which was to her liking.

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Which one do you think she should choose?  Is she more a chevron or stripe type of girl?

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Garden Report Card

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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A Dog’s Life

This time of year is very busy around our house.  Not only is it Valentine’s Day, but it also Jack’s birthday and the 15th is our engagement anniversary.  We celebrated Valentine’s Day with a nice dinner on Friday but I bet you can guess who was the star of the show today.  I really wanted him to wear a doggy party hat but that got vetoed but all the males in the house.  Birthday Scrooges.
His day started with a bone.IMG_0122
Then a gourmet steak dinner.
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Followed by some doggy ice cream also known as Frosty Paws.
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Winter also enjoyed the fringe benefits of the festivities.  Hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day!

My New Toy

I know you have all been waiting on pins and needles to see what I got for Christmas and checking the blog hourly hoping I was going to update it. 

Ready?  Here's a hint...the last week my new nickname has been "paparazzi."


A new Digital SLR camera...the Canon Rebel T1i to be exact.  Whoo Hoo!

Actually it would be accurate to say that I received money for me to buy the camera at our "first Christmas".  So when we got home last weekend I was thinking about ordering it, but thought I would just do it after the holidays since we would be traveling and I did not want to miss the package.

That was before I saw that BH Photo had free overnight shipping right before Christmas.....

So on the 23rd after hitting refresh on the package status once every five minutes and not showering in case I missed the USP man waiting patiently this baby arrived.



Which quickly turned into this....

And then unfortunately this...


So why a Canon?  A couple of reasons.... like I really like the fact that it is capable of shooting HD video and it has tons a great reviews.  But the main reason is this......

I had the film version of the Rebel years ago and lens are interchangeable.

Sadly I never used the film version to it's full potential (as in never went into the modes where you actually had to adjust things) because frankly it is a pretty steep learning curve when you are paying for film and processing and don't get immediate feedback if you totally messed it up or not.  Also the controls required a lot more knowledge because there was not a huge screen.


So it has been collecting dust for the last couple of years while I have been using a point and shoot Sony Powershot.

Until now.....

But as a warning just because I have a new fancy camera, don't expect the pictures to all of a sudden be stellar.....I have a lot of learning to do and two uncooperative furry friends to do it on.  Here are some of my favorites from this weekend  (I have not picked nor figured out editing software yet, so these pics are straight from the camera).





My current thing that I LOVE about this camera.....there is no pause between pressing the button and the picture snapping so you can capture things like this....





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The Snowy Recap

Well we are home safe and sound from a great Christmas.  I can't wait to share some of my gifts but for now here is how our second Christmas went with the in-laws.

We filled the car completely with dogs and stuff.  I have no idea how we are going to travel for Christmas when we have a baby as well...might be renting a Suburban....

This Christmas marked the dogs first time staying in a hotel.  If you are traveling with pets, the La Quinta was perfect.  We had to sign a pet waiver, but there was no charge for pets, even dogs over 50 lbs.  They also put us in a room right next to the back door which was perfect for us to take them out.

Jack and Winter did not know what to make of the room....they looked around and then scratched at the door to leave.


We had a couple of inches of snow at the in-laws, but not a whole lot.  The pups liked romping around in it anyway-

Then of course there were presents...lots of presents-

Jack again was an expert present opener and enjoyed sticking his head into everything-

We gave Derek's brother a sweet pair of boxers that I "won" at a white elephant gift exchange.  This was his "excited" face.  (Yes that is puffy velvet lips...this might top the santa clause boxers and matching hat we bestowed on him lat year)

The dogs also received a present they loved....

Yep a Bud Light Tailgate Approved Beer Vest.....


And then there were cookies.....




(recipes here and here)

 After all the family fun was over it was time to say goodbye start our journey back home.

The roads were clear when we set out.  Then it started looking like this...


Which turned into this....


And then we got stuck trying to get up the driveway.  Wish I had a pic of that.

But we managed to get unstuck, parked the SUV in our neighbors clear driveway and then Derek shoveled out two spaces for the tires while his ever helpful wife snapped pictures.

But Derek's fun was not over yet....we could not get the back door open because so much snow was piled against it. The gate to the back yard also would not open because of snow, so he got to jump the six foot privacy fence to unbury the door.

The dogs had a blast romping in the snow Jack hopped like a rabbit because it was so high.  I have seen anything more hilarious. Of course we got some great pics and video....but I have a confession to make.   I can't get it off of the camera because I have no memory left of my computer.  I have used over 40GB of space.  Awesome.   Guess I have too many inspiration pictures.

So tomorrow I am going to stop procrastinating dumping tons of photos to the external hard drive.  Should be tons of fun.  Until then just imagine four feet of snow piled around cars and us up to our knees in in the driveway.

Hope everyone had  great Christmas and safe travels!
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    Haul Out the Holly

    Over Thanksgiving we participated in the pups’ favorite holiday tradition….the infamous Christmas card pic. Here is the finished product (ordered from Photoworks)-

    Yes we are one of “those people” who signs their dogs name on the card. Go ahead and make fun. I actually loved some other of the designs with multiple pictures on the site, but I thought if multiple dog pictures were included, we would really be laughed at.

    The plan was to take the picture outside where the dogs are the happiest. You know in front of the Christmasey looking pine trees. That way it was possible that the dogs might actually look somewhat happy. Unfortunately we had to switch the location because of mud and the presence of a neighbors dog that they could not take their eyes off of. The picture on the card was the best out of all of the 25 pics. My dad was meowing like a cat to get Jack to look (and prompt the head cock….I guess my father makes a pretty convincing cat sound). Winter obviously was not impressed and was more concerned with the dog 5 houses down. Most of the other shots looked something like this-so I am somewhat happy with the final result.

    It is also quite possible that the pups inability to cooperate with looking happy for the camera is a direct result of this torture-

    Our second family tradition on Thanksgiving weekend is going to cut down a tree. Tradition is probably a strong word considering it it is only our second time doing it. Last year it snowed during this tradition and Derek suffered frostbite on his toes as a result of not wearing snow boots and a wife who wanted to traipse around the lot for an hour in search of a perfect tree. But of course it was still so much fun that we wanted to do it again. This year there was no snow but we did have a cold and windy day. One of the cool things about the location we live in (at least when you are going to cut down a Christmas tree I guess) is that in 25 minutes you are in the “country”. So we did not have to drive very far to get here-We explored a every field of trees until we found the winner. Of course it was located in the field farthest away from the payment area so we also got our exercise in by dragging the nine footer a very long way. Also did I mention our tree has a slight obesity problem? Seriously we picked a really fat tree. I was worried how we were going to to fit it through the door (even in netting) and if it would engulf our family room once it was opened.

    Anyway we took a self-portrait in front of our tree which turned out to the worst picture ever and I can’t believe I am even posting it. Obviously it is was very windy and contrary to my appearance I am not drunk-So Derek got to cut it down while I helped snapped photos-Then we brought fat boy home and set it up-
    And of course we decorated. We had to change the normal location and block a doorway in order to accommodate our hefty tree. But I am loving the Christmas smell and spirit it brings to the room. Of course it will look better photographed in natural light but I could not wait to share some photos.
    I am so happy that the rest of the house is completely decorated and the boxes are all put away. Can’t wait to share those!


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    Holiday Yum

    Call me boring and unoriginal, but my all-time favorite Christmas cookie is the sugar cookie. I loved decorating them every year when I was growing up and would eat them before any one else had a chance. Also since I have a nut allergy which eliminates 70% of holiday cookies, this variety is an easy favorite. When I began to make my own sugar cookies as an adult, I started the hunt for the perfect recipe. There are so many recipes out there that it was difficult to narrow it down to the good ones. I like my sugar cookies thick and soft so that was the main criteria.
    After a lot of trial and error recipes from Allrecipes were the definite winner. I have not made a batch of them this year yet (because frankly the entire batch would disappear within a couple of days because I have no self control with these babies) so my pictures from last year were more for documentation and not very blog worthy or pretty. I will take better pictures this year....promise.

    Sugar Cookie

    Ingredients

    • 4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 cup butter, softened
    • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup sour cream

    Directions

    1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, vanilla and sour cream until well blended. Stir in the sifted ingredients. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill overnight.
    2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 1/2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.
    3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Frosting

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
    • 4 teaspoons milk
    • 4 teaspoons light corn syrup
    • assorted food coloring

    Directions

    1. In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.
    2. Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush.


    I roll the dough out pretty thick in order to get a really soft cookie. They only rise slightly when you bake them, so use that is a guide for how thick you decide to roll them out. For Christmas, I just use a top of a drinking glass to make the circle shape. Then I use the paste food coloring (the liquid kind does not give me bright enough colors in my opinion) to make red and green. I put a dallop of red and a dallop of green on each cookie and swirl it with a kabob skewer (a fork would work as well). The icing is a little drippy so have something under the cooling racks to catch it. It hardens to a shiny marble finish which I think looks great and is super easy. And everyone will be impressed that you took so much time on them (or at least that is what my friends and coworkers say....they could be lying)

    I also give tons away as gifts to coworkers which has resulted with many requests for the recipe. It is a super easy to just slip them in a bag and add a cute tag.

    Also with a quick color change you can use these cookies for many occassions like favors for a baby shower-

    Or for secretaries day-

    And while this has nothing to do with a recipe exchange, no post about the sugar cookies is complete without the story of the cookies of Christmas 2008.

    The story stars Jack as the main culprit-
    And Winter and his trusty sidekick-

    Two weeks before Christmas, I had made four batches of cookies and had them all allocated for staff at my different schools as well as other gifts. I put the first batch in bags and took them to work with me and left the rest in sealed Pyrex at the back of the counter.

    I came home to this-
    No cookies to be found. Jack and Winter never jump on the counter and we do not even crate them during the day when we are at work because they usually stay out of trouble. Luckily they did not have any glass stuck in their paws and if they ingested any while extracting the cookies, it all worked out OK. At this point I had no time to make any more so one of my schools got jipped out of their cookies because of misbehaved puppies. So a word of warning: do not leave these cookies on your counter even in a sealed glass container as your pups will still somehow sniff them out and have a sugar feast while you are away.

    This recipe is part of the DIY blog party at the NewlyWoodwards. This week the Dare To- Eat Cookies and I can't to try some concoctions of the talented bloggers out there!

    Dare to DIY


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    All You Need is A Laundry Basket

    Jack and Winter's Favorite Activity List
    1. Eating Treats
    2. Taking Naps
    3. Chasing Squirrels
    4. Taking Walks
    5. Belly rubs
    ......
    3758694. Getting nails trimmed
    3758695. Getting a Bath

    But unfortunately for them last weekend we decided that they needed a bath. We normally put it off as long as possible or pay to have their groomed so that trained people deal with the pain of fighting them. Since it was so warm outside we decided to suck it up, save the money and do it ourselves. We talked about using the tub in the basement but wanted to avoid the cleaning up the water that would get everywhere. So the backyard and the hose was the winner.

    The problem was that we had no way to contain them from running away or laying in the mud while we were trying to bath them. So what to do?

    Small wading pool? don't have one
    Rubbermaid plastic tote? won't drain

    So what is big enough to hold dogs and drain properly?

    Laundry basket! I am sure our neighbors thought we were crazy, but we wrestled the dogs into the laundry basket and bathed them in the backyard. You can tell from his annoyed facial expressions that Derek was thrilled that I stopped holding and scrubbing dogs to snap photos commemorating the event.

    Winter did her classic "I am so mad that I refuse to look at anyone" move.

    However, this experience did not scar Winter against laundry baskets for the rest of her life. Sunday evening it started thundering which always sends her into panic attacks. She can hear thunder hundreds of miles away and will subsequently start freaking out. During these times the struggles with standing or sitting still and is always trying to find somewhere to hide from the evil thunder. This time the laundry basket full of socks (clean of course) was her storm shelter of choice.
    Who knew a laundry basket was such a must have dog accessory?

    The Place to Be


    In the summer heat and humidity Winter has found her perfect nap spot. She gets a little cranky in the summer and hopefully this will improve her mood. There is a reason we did not name her "Summer."

    This Means War

    Notice to the Rabbits who are eating all my new plants- Get out my yard or else.

    I went to check on my new plants progress this morning and there were teeth marks all over my plants, especially the hostas. Grrrr.....

    So I did tons of research on rabbit repellents. And by tons of research I mean I went to Home Depot and bought one of the ones they had.

    Here is what I ended up with-

    It was expensive at $11 for a spray bottle but if it saves my plants from the bunnies it is worth it.

    So after work on Tuesday I decide to spray it on since it is not going to rain for 24 hours supposedly. First lesson- do not wear nice clothes while applying. Why? Because the smell is a mixture of piss and puke. The entire time I was applying it I had my shirt over my nose. According to the bottle, the smell is not noticeable to humans after it is dry and I sure hope so because if not it will also repel me from the garden.

    As I am finishing I am also thinking quite happily to myself that this will also keep the dogs out of the landscaping because of the smell which would be a double bonus.

    So I finish applying the spray to every new plant and then put the noxious bottle back in the garage. I then walk past the back windows still doing a happy dance and thinking how clever I am. As I am walking back in I see Jack (you know the long-haired dog that every thing sticks to) laying on his back on my plants and rubbing himself all over them (smashing them in the process of course) in order to get the smell all over him. I should have gotten a video of him to add to this post but I ran outside to yell at him before that thought popped in my head.

    Awesome......rabbit repellent is our crazy dogs new perfume.

    The Starfish Fiasco

    Image courtesy Microsoft Clip Art Gallery

    Looking at the bookshelves in the family room last night and thinking about bringing back the seashells for spring/summer I remembered the starfish incident of last spring. The memories......


    After I got the family room somewhat together I wanted to accessorize the bookshelves. So I went to Michael's and got a big bag of seashells. I arranged some of the bigger seashells and starfish on the shelves and in vases. After arranging and rearranging I figured out the perfect arrangement.

    Two days later while Derek was out of town I came home from work to find a single vase lying empty on the floor under the bookshelf.....

    So I thought,"I wonder what was in there.....there are the big seashells, the coral...where are the starfish?"

    I swung around and saw the perpetrators trying to look innocent-
    The Eater


    The Hider

    Winter is a hider so I frantically searched all her favorite hiding places: in the couch, in her bed, under our bed, in clean laundry....no starfish.

    Jack will eat anything....so I called the vet.

    J: Hi, Could I speak to the vet, I think my dog might have just ingested a starfish.
    Receptionist: A what?
    J: A starfish, you know like an animal some people use for decoration?
    Receptionist: Okay..................hold on
    Vet: Jack ate what?
    J: A starfish
    Vet: Like a ceramic statue?
    J: No like a animal
    Vet: How did he get a starfish in Kansas?
    J: It is a dried dead one, it was on a shelf for decoration
    Vet: You decorate with starfish?
    J: And seashells, it is actually very in right now so I am surprised Jack is your first patient with this problem
    Vet: First time I heard it (insinuating I am a weirdo for using dead animals for decoration)...anyway how big was it?
    J: About 7 inches across.
    Vet: Did he eat a piece of it or the whole thing?
    J: I can't find any of it so either it is hidden very well or he ate the whole thing....but he is acting fine
    Vet: Bring him in just to check. Sure it was him and not Winter?
    J: Winter is a priss and will barely eat her food. If it was her, she would have hidden it and not eaten it.

    So at 5 o'clock on a Tuesday I am loading Jack in the car, causing Winter great stress that she wasn't going also, and then sitting in traffic to get to the vet's before they leave.

    $200 and a stomach x-ray later Jack gets a clean bill of health .

    No more starfish in our house.

    In December I was putting on my snow boot when I felt something hard. I reached in and pulled out a half-eaten starfish.

    Landscaping Slow Progress

    This Saturday we made some progress on the new landscaping in the backyard. My goal was to get all the edging in for the back bed, remove sod, place raised vegetable beds, and add compost to other beds. We would have made more progress but Mother Nature was/is not cooperating. Yesterday it was cool with intermittent rain. While we were loading our cart with landscape edging in the outdoor section of Home Depot, it started to downpour. It continued to do that on and off all day. We had orginally hoped to get dirt and rock delivered Sunday, but with temperatures in the 30's and snow flurries, we decided against it. So unfortunately we are on hold for at least a couple of weeks since next weekend is Easter and we will not have time to get anything done.

    The first thing we had to do was decide on what type of edging. We wanted something cheap, nice-looking, easy to install, bendable and dog proof. This was a tall order. After much discussion/arguing at Home Depot (in the rain of course) we finally decided on the green metal edging. We had previously used this type at our old house and it is relatively easy to install.

    We brought it home and marked off the beds with a tape measure, string, spray paint and my lovely plans. We did switch around the placement of the vegetable beds because our property line is not square and the way I had drawn it on paper did not look the best when we placed them there.

    The plan




    I bet you are wondering why we have a line running parallel to the fence. Wouldn't it make more sense to have the bed run all the way to the fence since we are trying to hide it to make it less of a focal point?

    Yes but.....

    Or should I say....
    We are creating the landscaping with the pups (and our sanity) in mind. They have worn a path around the perimeter of the yard and repeatedly have killed the grass. Along that back section you can also see all the holes they have dug to try to see the dog that lives behind us. (If you look closely you can also see the various materials we have unsuccessfully stuck in the holes to get them to stop). Winter is also a digger and I do not want to give her a reason or permission to be in the landscaping beds. So we are making a 2 foot rock dog path behind the landscaping and in between the vegetable beds. Will it work....I have no idea. But I am hopeful that with practice and training it will be successful. If not, it will be a very expensive and labor intensive flop.

    But back to the edging....after we marked the lines we then laid down the edging and dug holes for the vegetable beds. Derek hammered down the edging with a rubber mallet. After his arm was numb, I tried a couple whacks and learned it was more difficult than it looks.
    We extended the bed slightly so we did not have to cut the metal edging



    We also built a support system for the raspberry bushes in the back bed. Hopefully they will form a dense thicket to hide the pretty cable box. I am trying to be optimistic that we can get the compost, garden soil and rock delivered soon so it will really start to come together. Here's hoping for rain-free warm weekends!

    See Ya Snow

    The season's first thunderstorm made me happy that spring is here. Even though we had no snow days this year (a fact I am very very bitter about since we live in Kansas)I thought a parting snow picture was appropriate.


    Just in case you were wondering, those pics were taken on a Saturday....you know a day with snow that just ruins a weekend but does not get you out of work....again very bitter

    Allow me to Introduce Myself

    Hello there! I’m Jenny.

    I love pretty creative things.

    Like DIY. And home decor. And modern quilting. And gardening. And kid's stuff. And sewing. And wine.

    Not necessarily in that order.

    I love to come up with grand ideas.  And I love to start projects but seem to lack in the area of  actually finishing them.  That is where my husband Derek comes in.  He gets to help execute all those visions and keep me on track in the unfinished project category.  Sometimes he does a better job than others.

    Together we have been renovating our house one room on a time. On a budget.

    We are the poster couple for learning as you go. We both have day jobs in totally unrelated fields and try to cram projects in on nights and weekends. And around naptime.

    When we bought our first house we became DIYers by default of being penniless graduate students and only being able to afford a place that had feng shui symbols painted on the hardwoods and a kitchen floor completed by someone who watched way too much Trading Spaces. You know after it got crazy. Armed with no budget and not knowing how to hold a paintbrush, we got to work.

    Luckily we loved it. And we didn’t kill ourselves or each other in the process.

    We are have now moved on to house number two. This time it was pink countertops, honey oak and lots of shiny fake brass. And don’t forget the nasty wallpaper. Because we had way too much fun DIYing the first time, we thought that this was a grand idea.

    Along the DIY journey, I developed a love of sewing.  And modern quilting.  And fabric purchasing.  All three have become some of my favorite hobbies and these creative endeavors also are a subject of posts while I try to figure out what the heck I am doing and try not to embarrass myself.  Well at least the first two.  I try not to bore you with pictures of piles of fabric in shopping bags.  (That is what Instagram is for, right?).

    Our son, Carter, has joined the party and we have embraced nursery decor, baby proofing and playrooms in addition to keeping our eye on all the other projects that are still waiting. We are raising him to love hardware stores and Homegoods just as much as we do.

    Grab a glass of wine, put your feet up and stay awhile. If you want to see where we have come from and determine that people who designed homes in the early 90’s in midwest surburbia need their head examined, check out the House Tour link up top with lots of good before and afters. If you want to get your hands dirty with a DIY project, head on up to the DIY Tutorials. Feeling crafty? Those tutorials are up above too.  Finally, the small collection of my quilts that I like to think of as modern, can be found in the cleverly titled Quilts tab.

    I little note- please do not use my photos without my permission (but feel free to pin away!). If you complete a project using one of our tutorials I would love to hear about it (and see it), but I ask if you blog about it to please credit me with a link back.

    Welcome to Anything Pretty!

    about me_edited-1