What I’m Knitting: Knit Pillow Changes

Remember those pillows I was working on last winter?  Well, surprise surprise, I’m nowhere near finished.  This may have something to do with the fact that we bought a house, or maybe it’s because I completely changed the project and started over…

I chose to do a cable pattern because I didn’t have any extra thick yarn to satisfy my chunky pillow desires.  Well, one day I was at Michael’s and they had some chunky yarn on sale, and before I knew it my cart was filled with like 10 skeins.  Does this happen to anyone besides me?

I’m using Loops & Threads Phat in White, and this yarn is very interesting.  It sort of looks like long thin tubes of nylon mesh stuffed with batting (you know, the fluffy white stuff you fill pillows and stuffed animals with).  It’s a strange texture, but pretty fun to work with.

This does mean that my finished pillows will look a lot more like the inspiration photos I shared, plus there is the added bonus that I can work in a much simpler pattern thus reducing the time that these should take.  I’ve started the first one in a simple 1 x 1 rib.  In all honesty, they should be done by now but did you realize how hot it was this summer?  Not ideal knitting weather, so I took a break to work on settling in to the new house.  Plus, as always there’s research to be done.  The data for my thesis project isn’t going to collect itself!

Has anyone else started a project over in the middle of it?

-Steph

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Yard Work: Cutting Down the Awkward Tree

Front yard before

Front yard before

Both the front and back yards of the house need some/a lot of work, but the very first thing I wanted to tackle was cutting down the awkward ugly bush/tree next to our driveway.  I don’t even know what it was supposed to be, but it looked like somebody tried to shape an evergreen into some sort of arch and failed miserably.  It was one of the first things I noticed when we first toured the house, and I don’t mean noticed in a good way.  Once we moved in we also realized that it blocked our view of the street while backing out of our driveway, so there was a safety incentive to get rid of it as well.

Ugly tree close up

Ugly tree close up

The morning of the 4th of July we decided it was as good a time as any to break out the reciprocating saw and hack the thing down.  But when we took a closer look we realized the trunk was much thicker than we expected and an actual hand saw would be necessary.  So we got ready to take a trip to Jerry’s, the locally owned home improvement store that is approximately 10 million times better than Home Depot or Lowe’s. But first we experienced our first earthquake, so that was fun.

Anyway, it didn’t really take us very long to cut the tree down, but it did take us a while to hack it up into movable pieces and drag said pieces to our backyard.  A pile of branches now sits on one of the concrete slabs behind our house, waiting for us to build a fire pit we can burn it in.  And then we had to try and clean up all the tiny branches and dead needles that had been stuck inside the tree without a rake because we forgot to get one of those when we bought the saw.

Ugly be gone!

Ugly be gone!

All the work was definitely worth it because our front yard looks so much better without that ugly green lump!

Front yard after

Front yard after

The next task for the front yard will be building a new retaining wall along the sidewalk and cleaning up all the plant beds next to the house and fence.  The eventual goal is to turn the front yard into a native plant rain garden because I hate mowing so the grass has got to go and native plants are good for water conservation.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before we get to start working on that.

– Steph

Kitchen Project: Painting the Cabinets

Let me introduce you to our kitchen.

The kitchen when we moved in (photo from the MLS listing)

The kitchen as seen in the MLS listing

It isn’t a large kitchen.  It also isn’t fancy.  There are a few things I like about this kitchen, but there are also things I very much dislike.

I like the large window, the island, the way the cabinets go all the way up to the ceiling and I like that we have a dishwasher.

I don’t like the electric stove, but in this part of the country where gas lines don’t exist it’s something I just have to accept.  I don’t like that the dishwasher is old and all the racks inside are rusty.  I don’t like that the appliances are white, and I don’t like that we have a range hood/microwave combo.  All of these things I can live with for now (the rusty dishwasher parts will be re-coated with a repair kit so don’t worry about me needing a tetanus shot every time I wash dishes).

View from the dining room.  Boob light clearly visible. (Photo from MLS listing)

View from the dining room. Boob light clearly visible.

What I really didn’t want to live with was the cabinets.  More specifically the cabinet color.  The previous owners clearly did as cheap an update as they could and didn’t install solid wood cabinets.  Instead we have poorly installed cheap particleboard cabinets covered in wood grain laminate.  They were an odd peachy tan color with brown faux-antiquing gunk in the corners and on the edges.  For me, that was the worst part.  I’m really not the biggest fan of the shabby chic look, especially when it makes my cabinets look like they have years of built up cooking grease all over them.  It just looked dirty and gross.  Yuck.

Stupid faux antiquing

Stupid faux antiquing. It looks so grimy!

Since the only affordable option for an update was paint, that’s what we (or really, I should say I) decided to do.  The tricky part was picking a color.  I love the look of an all white kitchen because I think they look clean and bright, but we worried our white appliances would look even more dingy than they already do if they were next to shiny white cabinets.  My second choice was navy, but that wasn’t going to look very good with our black, brown, and cream backsplash.  This wasn’t the deal breaker on the navy cabinets though.  That was caused by the black counter tops.

I think I am the first person ever to say this, but I wish our counters were laminate.  If they were, I could have gone with the cement coating route and been very happy.  It would have fit in great with the industrial feel we’re trying to achieve and would have looked awesome with navy cabinets.  But instead of cheap laminate we have granite.  Yes, I am complaining about having granite counters.  I still don’t really understand why the previous owners installed cheap cabinets and an expensive counter, but I suspect they heard granite was a big “selling point” and figured it would trick buyers into thinking the kitchen renovation was more well done than it actually was.  Anyway, granite isn’t my favorite stone for counter materials despite the fact that it’s low maintenance, doesn’t scratch, doesn’t stain, blah blah blah, because I think the pattern is often too busy which makes it difficult to tell if it’s actually clean.  In the case of our counters, the material isn’t even the biggest issue.  The biggest issue is the color.

Our counter top is black with little iridescent patches and some gold/brown swirls.  You might be thinking “Well, that doesn’t sound that bad!”  But let’s play a little game where you think up colors that would look good with a black counter, off-white appliances, and the black, brown, and cream backsplash.  How many colors can you think of?  Now you know our struggle.

Close up of the countertop

Close up of the countertop

So, what color did we actually decide to pick?  Black.  I know a lot of people don’t like black cabinets because dark colors tend to make a space look small, but we get enough light from the big window over the sink and the patio door off the dining room that I don’t think we’ll have this problem.  Plus, we don’t really have that many cabinets so the black color shouldn’t overpower the space.  For something fun I chose to paint the insides gold.  Our new kitchen will hopefully have a moody luxe feel and I am super excited about it!

Now, remember how I said the cabinets were covered in wood grain laminate?  Yeah, it turns out even the “I stick to everything” Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer doesn’t stick to these suckers.  So after trying to do this thing the simple and easy way by just washing and priming, I ended up having to sand off a layer of peeling paint as well as the ultra smooth finish before everything finally behaved the way it should.  Oh, and since I had to sand off the fruit of Scott’s two day labors, he’s not exactly keen on helping me do anything else kitchen paint related.  The rest is all on me.

They turned out even better than I expected!

They turned out even better than I expected!

So, I have finished painting the cabinet boxes and we’ve have finally been able to store our dishes like adults rather than having them piled on our dining room table and a plastic shelving unit.  Still on the agenda is adding black contact paper to the shelves, sanding and painting the doors, along with painting the island and refinishing its butcher block top.  I’m really excited to start using that.  It’s mostly functioned as a tool storage zone because a) we had no other place to put tools while I was working on the painting, and b) I didn’t think there was any way I was going to be able to clean the surface enough where I would feel comfortable cutting food on it.  Who knows what kind of fluids may have soaked into the wood surface before we moved in? Yuck x 2.

My goal is to have this kitchen painting project complete by the end of August.  Wish me luck!

-Steph

We Bought a House!

I promised I had two nuggets of good news, and today I finally have a chance to share the second one.  If you’ve found me on Instagram you might already now this one (and I suppose the title of this post also gave it away) but we bought a house!  Our offer was accepted over Spring Break, which made it the second good thing to happen that week, and we closed on May 5th.  Wow.  I can’t believe it’s already been two months since I’ve become a home owner! Eeek!

Let’s get to the house details shall we?

The house was built in 1978, has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, all in just over 1000 square feet.  It has a two car garage, a fenced back yard, and sits in a nice little neighborhood with friendly neighbors.  It is nearly 100% perfect, but has the one major drawback of being right next to the highway. Wah-wah.  Even though the noise is pretty negligible inside the house, we certainly won’t be hosting the most relaxing backyard barbeques.

Despite the noise, I am so excited to make this house our home for the next (at least) 4 years.  I think the fact that I won’t have to move again in that time frame is cause enough to celebrate haha!  And of course I have 10 million ideas for DIY projects and renovations.  The house was owned by an elderly couple and was a rental for several years, so nothing in it is super fancy.  There were also a couple cheaply done “updates” that we get to deal with also.  The most notable are the poorly laid cheap laminate flooring and the poorly installed cheap laminate cabinets in the kitchen.  The generic beige carpet in the bedrooms have seen better days as well (I’m looking at you, mysterious pink stain in the guest bedroom).  So, this blog is about to get a lot more home decor/renovation-y from now on, which I am SO EXCITED about because this is exactly the kind of stuff I wanted to write about when I started this blog.

We did get a few things done before moving in, most notably having our popcorn ceilings scraped.  I feel like I didn’t get a very good start on the whole DIY blogger thing by hiring this out, but Scott was wiling to front the cost to get it over with, and I do still need to skim coat over the freshly revealed drywall.  Our contractor had supposedly never heard of somebody wanting smooth ceilings and our cost was going to double to have him do an “orange peel” texture that is nearly as bad as popcorn, and he couldn’t even give us an estimate on doing a smooth texture because it would just be “so much work”.  So I do still get to start bulking up my DIY muscles, just as soon as I finish with a little kitchen update.  But that’s a story for another time….

– Steph

Whale Watching in Depoe Bay

Last time we spoke (which I know was forever ago…. I’m sorry, I’m still getting used to this time management thing when it comes to grad school) I mentioned that our Spring Break this year wasn’t 100% complete horribleness.  We did take a camping trip out to the Oregon coast since Spring Break happened to correspond perfectly with the grey whale migration this year.  On their way from winter breeding waters in Hawaii, herds of grey whales swim past Oregon on their way to Alaska where they give birth and raise their young.  We chose a camping spot within easy driving distance of Depoe Bay, the “whale watching capital”, so we could spend a day looking for the spouts and tails out at sea.

Our gorgeous campsite

Our gorgeous campsite

The day we chose for our whale search was a bit grey, with a chance of storms and rough waters.  Luckily, there were still some whale watching boats willing to bob around on the waves with their tourist cargo.  After having a delicious seafood lunch at Gracie’s Sea Hag and taking some motion sickness meds, we got on a little ocean fishing boat with about a dozen other whale watchers to see what we could find.

Whale waves

Whale waves

The nice thing about going out with a boat company was that there were several other boats out at any time that could give tips to the rest of the boats so everyone could participate in the whale watching fun.  The captain of our boat got a tip right away that a pair of whales were nearby, so we headed to that spot to catch a glimpse of the majestic animals.  Luckily for us, we had the best pair of whales in the ocean!  They stayed near the surface for a long time, so long in fact, that our captain eventually just decided we should probably leave them to see if there were any others to spot.  We probably could have watched them all afternoon!

Our whale spotting was extra lucky for a couple of reasons.  Our pair of whales happened to be mating, which was why they were so close to the surface.  Our captain said this was rare, since grey whales tend to get it on in the warm romantic waters of Hawaii.  Second, the whales hung around for so long!  The captain said he had never seen whales that stuck near the surface for as long as ours did.  If people were lucky enough to stumble upon a mating pair, they usually only stayed in one spot for 5-10 minutes or so.  We were watching our whales for at least an hour!

(I just realized that sounds kind of kinky… I promise we couldn’t really see any, ahem, parts, just lots of noses and tails and breaching)

So, the weekend certainly had its positive moments, captured thanks to Scott’s ability to simultaneously hold the rail of the rocking boat while snapping some awesome pictures and videos.  I was very glad he took that challenge and let me just enjoy the ride :)

– Steph