Monday, July 25, 2016

Slow-Going Deck Makeover Vol. 1

Man, those professional DIY bloggers are no joke. Know how they turn a project in seemingly no time and just whip out home improvements like time and money are no object? Well this ain't that blog and I'm not that girl. In the interest of total honesty, I will tell you that from start-to-finish, our deck makeover took no less than 2 months of weekend work, squeezed in between rainy storms, out-of-town trips, and tons of distractions. 

Let's start at the very beginning...a very good place to start. When we bought our house in the fall nearly two years ago, the owners apparently had not cleaned or stained the deck in at least a couple years. Neither of us knew the first thing about deck care, so when spring rolled around last year, we said, "Oh yeah, we should do that" and promptly ignored it. When this spring came, however, it was clear we couldn't live in blissful ignorance.


Yup, that's rotting wood. We had a deck board that was mushy to the touch, ready to collapse. We had algae growing on several boards, and the majority of the wood was gray.


Algae: friend to no one.


The hardest thing about deck work is finding the right amount of time with the right weather conditions. It shouldn't be too hot or too humid or have any chance of rain. Tough to find a few days that fit that bill in Tidewater Virginia.

First, we cleaned the deck using Thompson's WaterSeal Cleaner, which did an OK job. If I do it again, I'll try the BEHR product, which had everyone in Home Depot gushing when we mentioned we weren't thrilled with our cleaner.


After the cleaning, we used the BEHR wood stain and finish stripper, which you apply with a pump-up sprayer, let sit for several minutes, and then scrub with a deck brush.


Once the scrubbing was done, we sprayed off the liquid and the grime.


Probably my most proud accomplishment was properly measuring a replacement board for our rotted one, and Sean's proudest moment was probably replacing it.

You have to let some time pass between all the chemical processes, so a few days after we did the cleaning, we started staining. It was surprisingly easy. We used cheapo brushes for the boards next to the house and deck painter pads for the remaining boards.


Don't get me wrong: the boards still have some visible wear and tear, but damn a little stain goes a long way! We opted to use stain instead of the currently popular deck paint because, once paint is applied, it will almost inevitably chip.


We saved our bench/railings for another day, and lord almighty, did I scrub that bench to clean it! While I was out of town, Sean surprised me by finishing the deck staining job. He's a saint.


Cue the angels singing. See where that water's just sitting on top of the wood? The power of sealing, baby! Ideally, this stain job should last 3-5 years, and it's absolutely worth the effort. I was so stressed by the condition of the boards last summer; it's a relief to look outside and know it's protected from wear and tear.

Up next: the decorating projects!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Easy 3 Hours: Whitewash a Fireplace


When we purchased our house, the den was basically a cave. It was so dark that, when looking at it from the light-filled kitchen, I had to squint to make out shapes. We knew from the moment we walked in that we'd be painting basically every inch white and adding hardwood floors.

Painting the paneling white did WONDERS, and we actually like the country feel of the white-painted panels. What we couldn't decide, however, was whether to alter the brick fireplace or leave it as-is. It always felt very dark in this bright room and I was never in love with the brown brick. We debated it for more than a year and then I asked my designer friend Rachel and she said "YES whitewash it!" so fast and decisively, I almost was embarrassed I hadn't done it already!


So, armed with a mixture of 1 part leftover white paint to one part water and a marathon of Fixer Upper, I taped off the fireplace and got going before I could chicken out.


Brick is incredibly absorbent. Some folks like to blot the white paint to give it more of a washed look, but I found the brick absorbed the paint/water mixture so quickly, blotting basically just undid the work. This is a shot of the process.


After one coat, Sean and I both thought it could use more and decided to do a second coat of the whitewash. All in all, the whole project took 3 episodes of Fixer Upper and a tiny bit of Property Brothers.

And, the finished product! It already makes the room feel even bigger, and I love the way the blue jar pops on the white brick. The funny thing is, we think it looks better in photos than in person. Both of us were surprised how blue-gray the finished product ended up and Sean says it almost looks like the fireplace is made of bluestone, like the campus of Virginia Tech.

We've agreed to live with it like this for another week before we decide if we want to paint it all-the-way white, which he loves because it reminds him of his aunt and uncle's house. On the one hand, I like the texture of whitewash and fear opaque white will be TOO much white; on the other hand, I've never heard of too much white. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

That Rug Really Tied the Room Together


A wondrous thing happened over the Fourth of July weekend, so wondrous the Dude himself would mix me up a White Russian to celebrate. 


From the day we moved in, we had no rug for the living room a.k.a front room a.k.a formal living room (we can't seem to agree on its designation). I plopped down a dingy, IKEA flokati rug that I purchased 3 apartments ago and began my search. I considered a large natural fiber rug, or a pretty striped Dash and Albert rug, but I found myself increasingly drawn — and increasingly surprising by my attraction to — oriental rugs.

I love the way they lend gravitas but look even more intriguing when paired with really modern furniture. The only problem? They are PRICEY and I needed a huge rug...like a 9' x 12'. After initial investigations revealed a 9 x 12 oriental rug runs in the thousands (even super fake machine-made Rugs USA ones), I realized I was going to have to strike gold at either an estate sale, an auction or on Craigslist.


After nearly two years of hunting (no seriously), and always finding rugs that were either in too much disrepair or not nearly big enough or way too expensive, I stumbled upon a Craigslist listing for a 9 x 12 Indian rug with 130 knots per square inch from a pet-free, smoke-free home for.....wait for it....$350. I can't even get a rug that large from IKEA for that amount of money! It took some serious convincing to get Sean on board, but after trekking an hour from home to see it and finding it in near-perfect condition and super clean, we bought it, and even managed to shave $10 off the final price.


So before the final reveal of the rug that really ties the room together, let's remember what this room looked like when we toured the home....


And today! It's definitely the most grown-up looking thing in my entire house and for a moment, made me feel TOO grown-up. But it does really bring everything together, it's plush and comfy and now I'm on the hunt for the perfect modern coffee table that will offset its old world sensibilities. I predict that hunt will only take another six to nine months. ;)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fourth of July 2016


Who would I be if I didn't share my annual Fourth of July outfit snap? 


This year I skewed red-orange (Sean says orange) in an effort to switch it up from my usual blue, and paired with turquoise jewelry. 


 We spent this year's Fourth at our friend's house on Fort Monroe, one of the coolest places to see fireworks in Hampton Roads! Because of its position on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the James River, the Fort has a view to fireworks shows in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News and some other spots (hard to identify which are official fireworks vs. ad-hoc home fireworks). We dined on cheddar-and-bacon stuffed burgers, hot dogs, cherry pie and blueberry beer. God bless America!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Turning My Black Thumb Green


What I've been doing when not blogging: Enjoying the great outdoors and trying DESPERATELY to finish a going-on-three-month deck makeover project. Y'all....all these rainy days are no joke. Anyway, here's a peek at what's been going on outside around these parts.

I've got container garden fever! I've got these caladiums paired with hot pink annuals, purple sweet potato vine and coleus.


Walking up to the porch is like walking up to a jungle, y'all!

I went a little crazy buying sweet potato vine and coleus this year, but no ragrets.

Pretty sure these potato vines are ready to snipped and propagated. They're almost fully concealing their containers and it's only June!


I'm also loving the color in this coleus, and a little surprised my coleus has surpassed the elephant ear in height.


My hydrangea bush is delivery many more blooms this year than last year, so I'm enjoying the harvest!


I want to plant approximately 50 more bushes. No, but seriously.


I also couldn't resist this hanging copper planter I spotted at an antique shop, and decided to try my hand at succulents. Wish me luck because I definitely forgot to line the bottom with rocks for better drainage (it made me nervous since it's hanging indoors)!


And in my quest to improve my gardening game even more, I bugged Sean to mount the Gladiator GearTrack we got for Christmas. It's a really awesome hook-and-mount system for your garage stuff, like yard equipment, extension cords, etc. We cleaned out the garage first, then hung the system and now there's basically enough room in there to have a house party.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Weekending in Emerald Isle

We've just returned from our annual beach trip with Bret's family, this year to Emerald Isle, N.C. We spent a few glorious days just sunning and eating and of course, sipping cocktails. Here are some snapshots from our trip!


We kicked off the trip with dinner at Jackie's American Grille, where we enjoyed shrimp tacos, burgers and custom loaded fries. No visit is complete without popping into the beach store next door to buy a pound of taffy.

As we so often do, Bret and I accidentally color-coordinated in our Proud to Be An American colors. 

On Sunday, we headed to Circa 81 for a delicious and fun brunch! They have a Sunday Funday special on pitchers of sangria, so we enjoyed a white sangria custom-made with peach schnapps while grooving to Motown songs.


I had the "Moo Sandwich" with beef, brie and horseradish and they were sweet enough to make me a side of the potatos bravas from their tapas menu. They were so good.

Ashleigh had a starter of she-crab soup, followed by this excellent dish of shrimp and grits.

 Bret had a seafood omelette with home fries and the most adorable slice of watermelon!

And we finished up the good vibes with (clockwise) a caipirinha, an orange basil mojito and a blueberry mojito.

 After brunch, it was time to hit the beach and since it was so windy, I picked up a $5 Cinderella kite. Totally worth it.


We gussied ourselves up for dinner and ventured to the very popular Amos Mosquitos for dinner.


The view from the restaurant was lovely. 


And to keep with their kooky vibe, we enjoyed their china-lined garden beds, visible from the deck.

 We had a round of their fried pickle "lollipops," batter-dipped and juicy.


And I had delicious lump crab cakes on a bed of penne with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. So good!

 On our last full day, it was a day of beachin' and eatin'. We started with a round of beachin...

 And then headed to Bogue House for some good old-fashioned fried seafood. The fried shrimp platter with mac and cheese and fries and hush puppies nearly killed me.

And we finished off with a Mexican feast and the finale of RuPaul's Drag Race! It was a fabulous trip, and much-needed. Already counting the days until we see where next summer takes us!