Friday, November 30, 2012

Did I Do That?!

I guess the coming Boy Meets World spinoff brought me back to my Steve Urkel days.  Am I the only one who faithfully sat through Family Matters, Full House, and Step By Step without a potty break?  Probably.  Those were the days!

Anyway, my most recent project seriously has me asking, "Did I do that?!"  If you asked me two months ago if I would ever sew a garment for Madison, I'm pretty sure I would have laughed at you.  Now I've made TWO!  There was, of course, her Pebbles costume, but that didn't really count in my mind because it was made to be "rustic".  I just popped a couple hand stitched seams down the sides, attacked it with scissors, and called it a day.  This time, I used an actual sewing machine (gasp) and made a non-costume garment for her.  Meaning it wasn't supposed to look homemade.

It all started when I saw this on Pinterest:
 Long story short: you cut the bottom off of a ladies' small or medium shirt, double fold and sew most of the waistline, pull elastic through the track, sew the elastic together, finish the seam, and you're DONE!  Meaning the skirt is 3/4 finished before you even start.

So I went to our local thrift store, bought myself a $3 shirt, and brought it home to try out the tutorial.
 And then, like the A-1 blogger I am, I forgot to take any progress pictures.  So here's the finished product (the headband was Madi's choice, not mine):
Shirt (thrifted): $3
Elastic (4 yds, only used 18 in): $2
Total: $5

It took about forty minutes to sew, including ironing (yuck).  Not a bad return for my first "real" sewing project!  The best part?  The next one (and there will be more for sure) will only be $3 (since the elastic's paid for).  Less if I drag myself to the cheap thrift store fifteen minutes down the road!

What's your favorite beginner sewing project?  I've got SO much to learn!

Happy Friday (again)

Black Friday Wins

I've never participated in Black Friday before this year.  I was always interested, but no one in my family was ever into it and I wasn't motivated to get up early by myself to brave the crowds.  This year, wild beasts couldn't have kept me away from Walmart on Thursday night! 

Remember when I told you about our tv breaking?  Well, we've lived with an old box tv that doesn't accept digital broadcasts since then.  I guess it's been about a year?  We got by with just our XBOX 360 and a Netflix subscription.  We watched Lost together (actually we've got about 20 episodes to go but we are B-O-R-E-D with it), and I broke down and watched Grey's during my "breakfast break".  (I wake up at 6, but Madison doesn't wake up 'til 7 or 8.  It's a pretty great way to ease into the day!)

We could have replaced it right away, but we really wanted to focus on getting out of debt (check!) and building our full emergency fund (check!) first.  That plan worked out pretty well for us; the new tv was like a really big, shiny, 1080p carrot.  We were INTENSE.  The most exciting thing about it all was how well the timing worked out.  We completed our emergency fund 11/15, giving us just enough time to squeeze together a couple hundred bucks for a new doorbuster tv!

Warning:  this is a short story gone long.  Feel free to skip to the bottom to see how we did. 

We shopped around and seriously considered a few different deals.  Our actual budget was $350, but the cheapskate mentality has been so thoroughly ground into us that we were thrilled to find something for way less.  Our criteria were:
  • 32"-42" (I wanted smaller, Pat wanted bigger, go figure)
  • at least 1080p
  • not plasma (LED or LCD would work)
and that was it.  We didn't worry too much about brand, Hz rating, or anything else.  In this house, it's our main (only) tv, but in the next one it'll probably be moving to our bedroom to make room for something bigger.

We found the perfect product in the Walmart Black Friday ads.  At their 10pm Thursday release, they were selling an Emerson 42" LCD 1080p for $198.  SOLD!  My only concern was that pesky "while supplies last" disclaimer.  That's why I ended up in line by myself at 6:30 that evening and only got to enjoy one slice of sweet potato pie as opposed to half the dish.  Hmmm.  Maybe I should do Black Friday EVERY year.  It's cheaper than a stomach pump!

After a couple of hours in line, they handed out numbered tickets to hold people's places.  I was number 35.  At this point, I realized that I was for sure leaving with a tv.  I also realized that I would be responsible for getting said tv through the store, to the checkout, and to the car.  All without a buggy (they were out).  So I did what any independent woman would do-I called my husband.  Well, technically I called my dad, but only so I could speak to my husband (whose phone was dead).  My mom agreed to sit with Madison after Pat put her down so he could come play security/pack mule.

They released the tvs right at 10:00.  We got ours and headed toward the checkout, only to be turned around by a somewhat disgruntled police officer telling us "The line's that way."  We turned in the direction she pointed, and saw a line extending from the checkout down to the garden center, then turning the corner.  After finding the end of the line and waiting another hour (no joke), we FINALLY made it to the checkout.  I've never been so relieved to shell out two-hundred and sixteen beans (with tax) in my life.

We celebrated our win at Whataburger with a chicken strip combo, honey butter chicken biscuit, onion rings, two large DDPs, and a chocolate shake.  We justified by saying it was still (barely) Thanksgiving day.

The next day we put it all together, and it was a sight to behold! 
 The size is pretty much perfect for our living room.  Maybe it's a little big, but not so much that you have to press your head against the wall or anything.  And yes, I'm perfectly aware that my shelves are in dire need of dusting.  Madison may or may not have pulled all the books off before I took the picture.  And I may or may not have been dusting around (instead of under) those books for the last six months or so.  I'm totally on it now, though.
 In that last shot, please look past the basket-o-junk in the foreground.  What I was trying to show was the depth difference between the two tvs.  Bear in mind that the old tv is set back like 8 feet from the new one.  As a point of reference, when the old tv sat on the buffet, with the buffet pulled out from the wall like this, the back touched the wall and the front was lined up perfectly with the front of the buffet.  So the new tv has drastically changed the feeling of the room when you first come in the front door.  Before it was like, "Hello, giant old school tv!  Oh, and there's a room too."  Now, it's all, "I'm in a living room.  Oh, and there's a tv."  See the difference?

The next purchase didn't take nearly as much saving, planning, or waiting.  We pretty much saw it, liked it, and bought it the next day.  No five hour ordeal necessary. 
Yeah, it's official.  I'm a stay-at-home mom, blogger, baker, DIYer, and now a "seamstress".  (Please not that most of those are said very sarcastically.  I'm well aware of my deficits in every area.  No need to point them out for me.)  All that's left is for me to get a DSLR camera and... I'm every woman (it's all in meeeee....")

For the story skippers, we got the tv and a sewing machine, all for less than the regular price of the tv.  Boom.

Did you get out there for Black Friday?  What about Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday? 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Catch Up

I have got so much to share here.  Over the next few weeks, I'll try to write up posts about the things we've been up to, like:
  • Building a bench
  • Staining said bench
  • Cleaning out our garage
  • Painting our garage
  • (Barely) relocating our washer/dryer
  • Buying Craigslist chairs
  • Refinishing Craigslist chairs
  • Reorienting our office
  • Building/Painting a desk
  • Rearranging the Nursery
  • Black Friday deals 
  • Repairing our mailbox (more fun than it sounds)
and so very much more.  I've been so busy DOING all this stuff I haven't had time to write about it!

I'll be back later with the first of many catch-up posts.  But for now, here's an update for our girl.  She is getting so big...seventeen months has flown by!  Her new favorite thing is climbing.  She gets in her high chair by herself, goes right to the top of any play area, almost climbs on our bed, and she surprised me yesterday at the park by doing pretty well (considering limited wingspan) with the rock wall!  She says "peese" and "tankyu" for pretty much everything, and stopped using all her baby signs except "all done", which she does throughout every meal (it can be confusing).  I love that she gets so excited now when Daddy gets home.  He was able to take off all of last week for Thanksgiving.  Before that nine days off, she had become a little indifferent to him.  Now she is a TOTAL Daddy's girl.

And, without further ado, the pictures!
 Happy Thursday!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Keeping up With the Joneses

That title would make sense if "Joneses" was synonymous with "Roof".  Which it's not.  But I can't waste any more time trying to come up with a witty title, so let's just all pretend.

Since getting our roof replaced, the other ugly elements of our home's exterior have been bugging us.  There's nothing like having a beautiful new roof to help you see how nasty the rest of the place looks!  As a matter of fact, every day since the roof was finished, my goal has been to attack the "ugliest thing".  There were a few obvious items on the list: the peeling four-toned front door and trim, the rusting porch columns, the dilapidated mailbox, the saggy brass (hee hee) porch light.

First order of business?  Hands down, the front door and trim.  It still looked just like this, almost a year later.  Sorry, neighbors.

I started by filling all the holes with wood putty, waiting for it to dry, then sanding it down.  Our door is faced with a thin wood veneer (because our house is classy like that), which was peeling off in the top right corner.  To contain the damage, I used a utility knife to score a rectangle around the damaged area, then picked off the veneer.  Then I filled the patch with more wood putty, waited for it to dry, and sanded it down.  I took zero pictures of that process, because it was all done over the course of about five of Madison's lunch times.  I couldn't make any noise here during her nap because her window is right next to the front door.

We had already selected the front door color.  That process was pretty simple: my mom painted her front door, and had plenty of leftover FREE paint.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, "free" is my favorite color.  It's a mellow, rusty red.  I think it looks very autumnal, which is appropriate for now, but with the right accent colors next to it, it can work with the other seasons as well. 

Once the door was reasonably smooth (I may or may not have sanded the patch less than necessary for a perfect finish), I applied the new red.  Since I was painting over an already red door, it only took two coats to get great coverage.  If I was starting from white, I'll bet it would have been an entirely different story. 

The next day, I painted the trim on the sides and at the top white.  I used Valspar's Exterior Semi Gloss Ultra White Paint + Primer.  It gave excellent coverage.  Two coats later, our trim was pure white, with no trace of the old yellow outline.

That left only one surface still needing some love.  See this threshold?  
 It was awful.  Chipped, peeling, dirty, but solid.  I used a putty knife to scrape away the chipping pieces, then sanded it down just enough to be sure that any remaining paint was there for the long haul.  Then I cleaned it very thoroughly with soap, water, and a dish brush that I bought specifically for paint prep.  I followed up with a tack cloth to be sure it was absolutely clear of dust and dry, then primed it. 

Since this is a surface that will be walked on, I didn't want to paint it white.  Call me crazy, but scrubbing thresholds daily is not my idea of a good time.  I lucked out when I saw a gallon of mistinted paint at Lowes for $12.  It was perfect!  Gray semi-gloss interior/exterior commercial grade paint!   It came out just like I wanted.

And now for the good!

 And after.
And after.
And after.
We do plan to install a kick plate to cover the bottom of the door.  That's why I didn't paint all the way down.  I also need to touch up over the door knob where the tape peeled off part of the paint.  I'd still call it an improvement!

What do you think?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Roof. The Roof. The Roof is On...

...actually, that's it.  The roof is ON.  Finally!  We've known for a while that we needed to replace our roof.  It was about fifteen years old (for twenty year shingles, that's pretty old), and it had sustained wind damage from a few major wind storms AND Ike.  Since we didn't want to drop $6K (+) on our already over-improved-for-the-neighborhood house, our plan was to DIY the thing.  We put it off.  Then we put it off some more.  We saved about $2,000, hoping to get it done for around that much, and then we put it off just a little longer.

That's when a few things happened.  First, Pat started working crazy long hours at work, then his dad went into the hospital.  Between work and visiting his dad, his nights and weekends (our planned time for replacing the roof) were full.  The roof problem became more urgent when we noticed three new leaks after a heavy storm.  Then his dad took a turn for the worse, and I just couldn't imagine bugging Patrick to work on the roof while he was dealing with his new grief.  I decided, on a whim, to get an estimate from a professional roofer.  I knew it was a long shot, but I thought maybe I could find someone who could make a deal to get it done for somewhere near what we had saved.

Enter Jon Simmons.  Or you can just call him Roof Hero (not his company name, just me being a dork) for short.  He came out, and instead giving an estimate like I expected, he told me some pretty great news.  Our insurance might cover the obvious wind damage!  I was pretty skeptical.  I figured that since our roof was so old, the insurance company wouldn't want to pay to replace it.  That's why we didn't file a claim when we first noticed the damage.  He encouraged me to try anyway, so I did.

First, I called our former insurance company (we changed companies in May, another reason I didn't expect them to pay) to initiate a claim.  I explained what our roofer had told us: there was significant wind damage on our roof.  I didn't know exactly when the damage had occurred, just that it had been that way for more than six months (because that's when we noticed how bad it looked) and less than a year.  I swear the adjuster sounded like she was laughing when I told her that I wasn't sure when the damage happened.  I thought that would be the end of that, but then she scheduled for an outside adjuster to come look at the damage.

Roof Hero had a guy come meet the outside adjuster, which was great, because I was free to take care of Madison the whole time instead of holding the end of a measuring tape.  I kind of figured we were spinning our wheels, but it didn't hurt to try.  The next few weeks were so awful with hospices, "arrangements", and a funeral, that we pretty much forgot about the roof/insurance process.  So when our claims adjuster called me one afternoon to tell me that we were approved and she was mailing a check, I had to sit down for a minute.  Well, more like thirty seconds.  Then Patrick, Madison, and I did a happy dance all around the house for about ten minutes.

Once it was all said and done, we only had to pay our deductible (about $1,200).  Not chump change, but still less than we planned to spend if we did the whole thing ourselves.  We opted for black max-def architectural shingles, and I couldn't be more pleased with the way it all turned out.  The roofing crew came less than a week after we got the paperwork back from the adjuster, and finished everything in a day and a half.

That's enough words.  Take a look!  Before...
And after!  There may or may not have been a few other major changes.  Just do me a favor and pretend you don't see those until I blog about them, 'kay?  Thanks.
 Let's try from another angle.  Before...
And after!  Also evident in the after:  our grass is recovering pretty well, but our back porch is still junked out.  I blame the constant projects. 
And after!
Last one, I swear!  Before...

 And after...
I've thought for a while that I hated our house.  As it turns out, I was wrong; I just hated our roof!  I'd still like to move to a larger house in a better neighborhood (and we will, hopefully soon), but this one's kind of starting to grow on me.  I think when we move I might actually feel sad about it for a while!  But then one day, Pat will be using the bathroom, and I'll need to go, and I'll use the other bathroom (because there will be two!), and I'll feel all better.  Something to look forward to!  : )

I forgot to mention: Roof Hero (Jon Simmons) had no idea that I would post about his job, so I was definitely not given any perks for mentioning him.  However, if you'd like his contact information, I'd be glad to give it to you!  Full disclosure: he gives $100 for referrals.  But I'd refer him anyway.

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Back in Black

Er, well, more like black for the first time.  And staying that way.  But typing the other, more appropriate to the situation black reference makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.  And now I'm wondering why I've used the word "black" so many times.  Let's start over.

We painted our shutters!  I'll bet you can't guess which color. 

Here they are before:
 They were a dirty, faded brown.  First, Patrick took them all down so we could clean them up and get them painted.  He kept all the extra long screws in a cup and numbered all the shutters on the back so we would know which ones went where.  I'm SO glad he thought to do that; the screws holding them up were attached at slightly different places in each shutter.  If we didn't put them up in the right order, they wouldn't be level! 

I was shocked at how naked our house looked without shutters.  Unfortunately, it stayed this way for over a month while we put off the next phase of the project.  Sorry, neighbors.
Once we got our bottoms back in gear (says the mom of a sixteen-month-old), we pulled the shutters out of the garage and scrubbed them down with some dish soap and an old bristle brush.  Well, Patrick scrubbed them down.  I supervised/splashed him the shutters with the water hose. 
 Look how dirty they were!  Here they are before (left) and after (right) cleaning.
 After they dried, we set them up to be painted in what little shade our backyard had to offer:
 We used seven (!!!) cans of Black Semi-Gloss Rustoleum.  It only took one very thin base coat and a second slightly heavier (but not thick) coat to finish.  We also painted the screws.  We just poked them into a diaper box so we could spray them all at once.
 Unfortunately, I can't share a very good after picture with you yet.  The day after we reinstalled the shutters, we got a new roof!  I rushed outside once the roofing crew got here to take these, because I don't want to show you the house with the new roof until I write that post.
 Here's another "before" so you can compare.  I like to think that the black helps the house look more current, and "current" is a pretty good adjective for a circa 1945 house. 

Happy Monday!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


How the heck did that happen?

 Anyway, I promised pictures of Madison in full costume, so here you go...
You might notice the pieces of her costume I didn't write about yesterday (bone clip, ruffle butt, treat bag).  I sewed the bone from two pieces of white felt and attached a little plastic clip to the back with a few stitches of white thread.  Easy peesey.  The ruffle butt was part of a diaper cake at one of her baby showers (I think the one with Pat's family).  The treat bag was a last minute project.  It was actually an Easter basket from my mom.  It came with a sweet yellow bow on the front and different pastel polka dots around the top.  I took off the bow, covered the polka dots with a strip of zebra ribbon (attached with quick dry tacky glue), and tied a nylabone to the handle with the same zebra ribbon.  Done!

Patrick took this video while I was off getting a pizza (what, do you expect me to sew AND cook?!)  That's why it's so shaky.  I love that her "Pebbles" sounds like "Bam Bam". 

Happy Thursday!