House Crashing on Steroids

I had the honor and pleasure of checking out Housing Work’s Design on a Dime event hosted in NYC this past week. If you aren’t familiar with Housing Works, you can check out their site and get to know their cause in more detail. Basically, really well curated home goods are deeply discounted and sold at the Design on a Dime event, and if you don’t live in NYC, you can always check out their online auctions, which are also pretty sweet. All the money goes to helping those with HIV/AIDs with housing, medical, support, and other services. It’s such a well organized and brilliant organization.

I know a bunch of designers just cringed at me exposing this gem of a source.

I am so excited to show off a few of my favorite “rooms” for those who didn’t make it. Enjoy the beautiful chaos!

doad, #doad

doad, #doad, housing works, housingworks, design on a dime, designonadime

doad, #doad, housing works, housingworks, design on a dime, designonadime

doad, #doad, housing works, housingworks, design on a dime, designonadime

doad, #doad, housing works, housingworks, design on a dime, designonadime

doad, #doad, housing works, housingworks, design on a dime, designonadime

doad, #doad, housing works, housingworks, design on a dime, designonadime

 

 

Prettying up the front yard

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of HGTVGardens.com.

We finally have the confidence to tackle the front yard and address the lack of color! We were introduced to HGTVGardens a few weeks back and have been happily using it as a guide to help us do everything from picking flowers, to schooling us in what the best plants are for our specific area. They have this pretty and simple tool you can use, and it’s very visual – great for Joey and I who don’t know the names of most plants or their variations for that matter.

But the most helpful part so far has been the tool that tells me what plants work best for me and my location, Which is something I always get confused about. I know I don’t see palm trees in my neighbor’s yard – or anywhere in New York for that matter, so I know not to plant a palm tree because it most likely wouldn’t survive, but what about everything else?

Last year we went to Brimfield, and I picked up this swan, and she kinda just sat there for the year because we didn’t know what to plant in her. This year I was so so so excited to hit up the front yard and 1.) not be pregnant while doing gardening and 2.) have a little more knowledge as to what to plant. The very first day of good weather we were outside with the baby planting and raking leaves, and filling this swan with pansies!

After reviewing our options, and checking out the profiles of a few dozen flowers (and people’s pictures), we kept it simple with pansies not only for the swan, but the front yard. It was kind of like what I imagine an online dating site to be like if you wanted to date a flower. If that were the case, I probably wouldn’t have picked pansies to date, but red hot poker instead.  We even created a profile (on HGTVGardens.com, not a dating site) so we can go back and upload our progress on our front yard. If you want to see how we are doing, follow us here. I think we are going to really get into this gardening thing. There is a whole social vibe going on at HGTVGardens – a lot like a pinterest for gardeners or a massive forum with photos organized in an attractive way. It’s easy to get blissfully lost in it all.

 

hgtvgardens

Atlas loved being outside and staring at the inside of his stroller until he passed out. So happy to have him in the sunshine after such a long winter. I can’t wait until we get to do stuff like this for him:

:

You can spot 22 other great playhouse ideas here, on HGTVGarden’s Family Garden section. But before we get out the toolbox and deal with projects like building a playhouse, we want to get the front yard in tip-top shape, and we’ve started with these tiny pansies.

hgtvgardens

hgtvgardens

hgtvgardens

The pansies look so small and new, I can’t wait for them to fill out. We are far from complete – this was just a few hours of work actually. We need to decide on mulch and other landscaping ideas to make this look crisp and finished. Right now we are stalking other people’s yards to see what we like best. So far, black mulch is winning. I am also so excited to see a collection of beds and borders because I never thought of doing the front yard like this until I saw other people’s.

While we are on the topic of outdoors, I am on the hunt for attractive fence solutions and I LOVE this idea I found here. I can even envision doing a vertical garden on part of the fence. The community of gardeners and want-to-be gardeners have a slew of pictures and ideas on HGTVGardens.com of great back yards I still need to dig through. It’s like having a million garden magazines at your fingertips.

We seriously need all the tips and help we can get. Have you started your spring planting? Did you find anything great on HGTVGardens.com?

Brought to you by the gardening crew at HGTV. This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of HGTVGardens.com.

5 Tips to Keep & Grow Healthy Plants & Vegetables This Spring!

I tend to kill plants. Like every plant I have ever bought. Even cacti. I have tried over and over again to nurture and love them so they flourish  yet I fail. I follow the instructions exactly, and somehow I am unable to grow anything from a seed, or keep anything alive. I had Joey build me some raised beds before winter started so I can meditate and focus on healthy plants in the box. I wish I was kidding. I blame New York. Dirty air and crapy winter kills the spirit of my plants. At least that’s what I tell my myself. I am determined to do better this year and play by the rules of the land. I did a ton of research and made some rules for me to follow. hopefully this will help other like me with a black thumb!

We are in zone 6. You can find a zone map with a simple Google search, or check out the map I snached for you below.

 

source

 SO, I did some research for what I can expect when creating a zone 6 planting schedule.

planting chart, zone 6

source

Tip #1: Plant fruits, veggies, and flowers at the right time for your region.

I also want lots of flowers. Right now the top three to plants that seem like they will survive my wrath are wisteria (which I think is so dreamy! And yes, I have killed the wisteria in my yard), clematis, and petunias

spring flowers

spring flowers

Tip #2: Plant the right stuff in the right place.

how to make a raised bed

The veggies that will work in the raised bed we built that I am excited about are potato, garlic, and carrot. Our raised beds aren’t ideal for strawberries, but I am going to try anyway.

#3 Use the right soil for the right situation.

At first, I dug right into the ground and that was a bad idea for a few reasons. I learned the soil is probably the most important part if you want anything to grow properly. Organic soil is pretty cheap, especially if you are just backyard farming in raised beds. For about $5 a cubic foot, you can get going in the right direction for dirt cheap. Har har.

#4 Prep your soil.

Break up the soil and add organic material to it like composte. If your soil is sandy or clay-ish it’s even more important to pay attention to prepping your soil.

#5 Wait for a cloudy day.

When you decide to sow your seeds, do it when it’s overcast. Your seeds will not get baked from the sun this way. Make sure to moisten the ground the day before as well.

With even more info under my sleeve, I am really hoping to have some success this year! 

If you have any tips for a successful garden, please share in the comments below!

 

 

This little light

Hello friends! I feel like I have been in a cave and lost track of time. I guess that’s kind of a true statement. It’s cold here in New York, and freakishly windy, so we haven’t left the house all that much yet. It’s also feels like one long day since Atlas was born. I think I got three hours of sleep last night, but don’t quote me on that. Time has been a precious commodity to say the least, even more so than sacred sleep. We were shocked when we realized yesterday our little man was already four weeks old. Please someone, tell me where I can get a pause button. It’s amazing how kids really shine a light on time and how quickly it passes.

Speaking of light…..

We were so in love with Atlas’ bathroom light from Barn Light Electric (and it’s color!), we decided to go for it with another light from them for the side of our house. If you remember the side entrance from the post we did about building a flower bed, you know we have some work to do out there.

side of house, side door, side entrance

Basically this tiny space has a laundry-list-of-a-wish-list going on. This door leads into the garden room, which is next to my office. You can see that glob of green is covering my office window and pretty effectively keeping the sunlight out. That sad arch around the door is made of wood and has seen better days. We are figuring out exactly what we want to do as far as replacement because we are just going to paint the whole house and get it over with. But first, we start with inspiration. Sans tacky red light, and hello shiny blue friend.

school house electric, porcelain light

Isn’t he handsom? I think it was love at first sight. I was a little worried about using this as an outside light, but it’s been holding up so well. Good lookin’ and sturdy, just what a lady wants. Now, please forgive these awful pictures – it’s winter and everything is dead and gross outside, not lush and green like the picture above.

side entrance

barnlight outdoor light

This little light has kickstarted a slew of ideas. I think it’s great when little edits make huge impact. Here is what we are thinking:

A warm white base on the house with a light black on the detail work. The brilliant blue from the light will then be used around the outside as an accent on other things like the mailbox, doorbell, etc. I also want to deck out the back with some amazing brass lights, and go a little wonderland with topiaries. If you can’t visualize it, here is a little somethin’.

tudor mood board

I am super anticipating the weather to get better and work to begin outside. Have you kickstarted anything for spring yet? Hanging this light has me working on Spring to-do lists like mad!

 

 

 

 

TIMBER! Tips for getting the city to do your dirty work.

Thanks so much for your kind words, advice, encouragement, and blessings through our pregnancy! We are super happy to announce we gave birth on 1/23/2013 to a healthy baby boy we lovingly named Atlas Archer. He has gobbled up our attention, and I am sure he will continue to do so indefinitely.  A lot has happened since our last post. A LOT. We will catch you fine folks up bit by bit, but let’s start will a small victory pre-baby!

sleeping baby

This isn’t us being cheap, trust me. We had a rotting tree in the very front of our yard which housed carpenter ants and/or termites and we got some quotes to get it removed. First quote, $2,000 smackers. Yep. $1K to cut it down and $1K to get rid of the stump. Next quote seemed reasonable at $800, but what do we know? We never had to have a tree removed before. The closest thing we got to this was throwing away a Bonzi that my awesome green thumb happened to kill. This was serious, and not in our DIY ability.

So while chatting with our neighbor who is older and wiser, she exclaimed “Have the city do it! That’s a city tree!”. That idea was totally up our ally. This also supports my case of we are not being cheap but me telling you a little TMI. Guess how much we pay in property/school tax? Go on. Guess. $25,000 a year on average. We have no children in the public school system, and we wont. We have paid something like $75,000 since we moved in and this was the first thing we were requesting. Yes, yes we know they take our trash and deliver our mail and fix our roads (which they are pretty awesome at up here in Westchester), but for $75K, heck I would DIY that if it left me with some extra money in the bank. So saving a grand or two made us very happy and somehow justified our $75K in tax contribution over the past three years. So back to the tree…

Oh man. This tree. If you ever want to practice being a Real Housewife of New Jersey, then try and get the city to take down one of their carpenter ant/termite infested trees which just happens to live on the edge of your property. If you can get someone on the phone in less than a dozen tries, tell me where you live because I want to move there.

I suspect where we live is a bit overpopulated and that’s why it was such a pain in the butt, but I have some tips and tricks to help you get that nasty thing off your property and replaced with a new one if you want.

How to get your tree removed for free:

1 – Make sure your tree is within city guidelines of being a “public” tree. For us, it’s he first three feet of property is owned by the city, hence, their tree, their problem. When you call, someone will most likely come and inspect the tree to confirm if it’s theirs to deal with.

2 – Do a search for “Bureau of Forestry + your town”. You want to find the contact information for the City Tree Inspector.

3 – We called because they hadn’t yet set up the online form. I am sure every town has it’s own process and perhaps a small fee. Ours was $25, but they never charged us.

4 – Be prepared to call and follow up. Over and over and over again. It must have taken a dozen calls to have them come and remove the branches (step 1), and then we had to call about 10 more times to find out when the “stump” would be removed only to find out there was no budget left until January. Once January hit, we called every day until someone finally someone called back and told us the stup would be removed. Victory!

5 – Tree planting is offered in most towns as well. We like having a pretty tree there, just knot the gnarly termites/carpenter ants, so we will be requesting a replacement next.

city tree

city tree

The moment the tree finally came down, Joey was able to catch it on his iPhone as he stayed nice and toasty inside as it found it’s way to the ground.

Right now things are looking a little more like this:

front of house, tudor house

Winter really kills the landscape around here.

We really hope this was helpful. We had no idea the city would remove the tree at no cost with just a bit of pushing! Do you have any tips to share?

Building Raised Beds with Safety in Mind

I have been bugging Joey about putting a raised bed on the side of the house to grow some small fruits and veggies for a while now. We got about as far as a sketch, a location, and a discussion for a long long time.

sketch of raised bed

I have this vision of our yard being something like this one day..

outdoor fireplace, backyard, backyard fireplace

But today, we will focus on working with what we have and then get fancier as we get mor comfortable with working beyond wood.

You would not believe how much research one has to do to grow edibles safely in a raised bed! Learning lessons from the previous owners (rotting wood detail on our precious home!), we decided to use pressure treated wood to build a stacked bed on the side of the house. Pressure treated wood has a shelf life of up to 20 years while most other woods only boast a fraction of that life span. Boy-o-boy were we in for a treat.

side of house, side door, side entrance

Did you know pressure treated wood contains arsenic?! If you aren’t so in touch with your heavy metals, arsenic is a poison that, once collected in your body, has no was to be removed. If you build up enough, the results could be fatal. All this from pressure treated wood in your local hardware store. Pressure treated wood is usually used on decks, play-sets, and picnic tables. We could not believe this existed!  The reason pressure treated wood is so tempting is because it’s poisons are what keeps rot from happening and bugs from chowing down on the wood and keeping it usable for that 20 years-ish we mentioned above. It makes it last so much longer than wood that hasn’t been treated. See how complicated this gets? We want wood that will last so we can build beds and grow food. We don’t want the food to be poisoned. So, building a raised bed safely and then growing in it safely took a lot of research and preparation before we felt comfortable. Ready for a super long post + video? Here we go!

First off, we thought we had all of our safety items and tools to get started. We thought.

3m safety, 3m mask, 3m sandpaper, 3m earplugs, tools to make a raised bed

3M safety glasses for cutting wood, the paint mask, which I insist on because of the poison wood, the 3M earplug because the saw is loud and it’s an all day project and Joey needs his ears working for his job after all! See all the wood dust build up on the side of Joey’s face? That’s what gets up your nose, mouth and ears if you don’t cover up. Gross. He looks looney, but who cares? The sandpaper is to rub down the corners so we don’t get splinters in the future. Who wants a poison wood splinter? Not me. The most important (to us) safety item to get before dealing with pressure treated wood is these 3M Tekk gloves. Reason being is you have no idea how much you put your hands by your face. You touch the wood (which is often wet when you buy it) and then touch your eyes, face, mouth, etc and then you have just introduced the chemicals to your body. Gloves people.

For safety tips and DIY projects, a good place to check out is 3M’s new DIY page. It’s a fun place to poke around and see a bunch of really great projects. They also have a giveaway going on with all the protective gear we used for this project!  http://3mdiy.com/

3m blue gloves, 3m tekk gloves

So now that the raised bed is built safely, and looking pretty, now what? It’s still riddled with poison! After mucho research, here is what we decided would be the safest way to plant fruits and vegetables in a pressure treated raised bed.

how to build a flower bed, flower bed,

how to build a raised bed

1. Coat the inside of the bed with an oil based NON film forming stain. The government recommends using the below options which will work for one year, then needs to be redone every year:

  • Clear, water-based, acrylic tint base stain (no tint added);
  • Oil-based deck toner base deck stain (no tint added).
  • Semi-transparent, oil-based, sealant with UV blocker
  • Clear, oil-based penetrating sealant with alkyd and acrylic; and
  • Clear, oil-based, acrylic stain
how to seal pressure treated wood

2. Now, we are going to get even safer, and add another layer of protection. We couldn’t find any guaranteed methods/confirmation of no arsenic leaking into the soil, so we wanted to just be super duper safe. There are two things we care about a lot in this house. One, is education. We have been planning our kids education for the past eight years and we are only just over 4 months pregnant. The second is food quality. It’s totally up to you and what you feel is safe. Some research we found said gravity alone will not allow the arsenic to make it into the food. Totally makes sense, we are no scientists over here and have no idea what’s true and what’s not. However, I would feel like a dope if I fed my newborn baby arsenic riddled veggies, so let’s talk about that extra layer of protection. The next step is to add a layer of film that is food safe! We plan to refresh this yearly when we re-coat with the oil based sealant. A reason for double-wrapping is because once the soil is put on top of the plastic film, what if you puncture it with your tools, or a bug pops a hole through it?

how to seal pressure treated wood

Want more safety tips on working with pressure treated wood? We made a handy video we will share with you Monday!

how to build a raised bed, diy raised bed

how to make a raised bed

Though more expensive and sure to decay, moving forward I think we will opt for using white oak that’s not treated. Even though I feel pretty good about the solutions we found, I am not a fan of knowing my food is growing so close to poison. The whole reason for the raised beds is because the house (built in 1930) was painted with lead paint at some time (we did a home lead test), and through the years the flaking paint has made its way to the soil.

So now what to plant? Summer is almost over and kids are already back in school! Now that I have some beds, I am a bit limited on what I can grow. We are totally new at this, but in a second life I would totally be a farmer. This stuff is just so interesting to me. We are going to give brussels Sprouts, broccoli, collard greens, blueberries and strawberries a try.

Have you ever begun a project thinking you would get it done in snap, only to find out there were a bunch of bumps in the road ahead? Share and save us all from time sucking adventures!

Content and/or other value provided by our partner, 3M DIY.

All safely materials were graciously supplied by 3M, and we are grateful they did because this project sure needed them! Though sponsored, all opinions are our own. 

 

We Started Water Harvesting. Finally.

Last Spring we bought this water harvesting barrel, and never got to setting it up. It was quite easy. Here’s a beak down of what we did.

1. Pick a Place. 2. Measure barrel (to the top of the barrel). 3. Cut drain (to the point you measured) 4. Put the Barrel under the drain 5. Enjoy.

Like I said, seriously simple. So why are we water harvesting? Here are our top 10 reasons we water harvest!

#1 It was super simple to get started!

#2 It’s free (almost) and there is so much of it! For every inch of rain on a 2K squarefoot roof, 1,250 gallons of water can be reused. Pretty awesome.

#3 Most people use 3K gallons of water a week to maintain their lawn, we figure, waste not want not. The grass is happy and we save 1/2 the gallons with just one barrel. Plus, it’s better for landscape growth!

#4 This leads to……reduced water bills!

#5 It’s a small action that makes a large impact.

#6 Water harvesting is easy to maintain. You don’t need to buy a bunch or replenish filters.

#7 It doesn’t take up a lot of space, yet holds a lot of water.

#8 It provides an emergency supply of water.

#9 It’s convenient because we don’t have a hose where we want to plant some beds.

#10 We don’t feel bad “wasting” water.

 

 

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