Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Some sewing and decorating

The office at the front of our house (which is going to be my sewing room, primarily) has been pretty much used as a catch-all the last few months as we have moved in, not that I have had time or energy for sewing anyway! Still, it has made me a bit sad every time I have walked by there and seen my machines practically hidden under and behind boxes and stacks of stuff. But late last week, I did manage to get some sewing done on my mom's machine when I took H down to the farm for a visit. I can always rely on my family to keep her totally occupied while we're there, so I try to use the opportunity to get some stuff done! In this case, I decided to whip up a few tiny dresses for friends' new babies. One of them ended up being born at the exact same time I was working on her dress, so that was a fun coincidence!


First, just made a couple of little onesie dresses. The 0-3 month onesies are so tiny! I had almost forgotten...

And then I made two little pillowcase dresses exactly the same for two brand-new little cousins.
Their great-grandmother, who passed away a little over a year ago, was especially fond of hummingbirds. They are both named after her, so when I saw this pretty hummingbird fabric, I had to use it for them!

After coming home, we spent the weekend working on various projects we want to get done before our upcoming open house party. There is so much to do, I am positive it won't all get done, but we'll see what we can knock out! 

The first one was a small project I have been planning to get around to for months and have been putting off because I was afraid it would be kind of a pain (and because of the aforementioned state of my sewing room!). Our back door has a large glass panel, and in the evening, it always makes me paranoid that the back fence neighbors can see into our house. I'm sure they're nice people (we've only met briefly), but I like to be able to bust a move in the kitchen or walk around in my night clothes without fear of offending anyone! So we obviously needed a curtain there. I decided to go the cheap-and-simple route and use an $11 canvas dropcloth from Lowe's. It shrunk a bit in the wash, which is just what I wanted. I didn't end up having to trim any width and only about a foot of length, so I only had one unfinished edge to deal with! A little pressing and a couple of lines of stitching for the rod pockets, and we have a custom curtain.


If I had it to do over again, I might use a slightly more sheer fabric, because I hadn't realized how much light that door let in, and it is a bit darker now than I would prefer. (I love a bright house!) But this is working for now and I think it looks really nice.  Especially for $11 and about half an hour of my time!

There is a lot more we have been up to, but, as I said, time is at a minimum right now, so I really shouldn't even be sitting here doing this post! More to come.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Maximizing a small backyard



"Before" panorama shot (with partially dormant plants)


"After" panorama shot taken today

The one thing we really hesitated over when buying this house was the small backyard.

Our old house, while it was itself small, had a big backyard, and we are backyard people. We go outside several times a day; whether to play with H, grill dinner, sit and chat on the patio, or work one one of our numerous projects, we just like hanging out outdoors.

The new house had beautiful landscaping, which we had never managed to tackle at the old house, and some neat things like a water feature (you can't really see it in these pictures, but it's outside the living room windows).  It was also incredibly shady, which is a huge big deal in such a hot climate (and which we had very little of at our old place). But it also had small square footage, most of which was occupied by stone patio. The stone patio is nice, but it's not exactly conducive to sprawling games of chase, kicking a ball, tackle, or little red wagon parades.








We weighed it in the balance and decided that, considering how much we loved the house and neighborhood, and how close we would be to playgrounds and parks, it was worth the small backyard.

Still, a few weeks after moving in, I was having serious doubts. "We're going to have to move again in a couple of years if we don't do something major to the backyard!" Believe me, the idea of moving again in a few years is NOT appealing. We're not totally done moving in here yet! So we started doing some major soul-searching into what would make the backyard more usable.

Pretty, but a bit hard! H has had plenty of bruises from playing out there in the few short months we've lived here.

It turned out, we had to just sort of look at the backyard differently.  We are never going to be able to have huge spread-out ball games back there, so we'll save those for the park. But we CAN have lots of fun back there if we break it into usable areas.

Our main project was to create a kid-safe play patio by covering the lower section of the patio in commercial-grade rubber playground tile. This wasn't cheap, but I think it was a fantastic investment (and a whole lot cheaper than moving again!). We ended up using Playfall tile from Overstock and Amazon (they sell it in different increments) because both offered free shipping.  All the other rubber tile products we found looked great, too, but it would cost nearly as much to ship them as the product cost! We went with 2.5" tile because it can supposedly protect against a fall from a six-foot height, so it seemed like it would offer H, her little friends, and any other little kiddos who come along a very safe place to play.


The hardest part was figuring out how many tiles to buy, since they are 2' squares and the patio is veeerrrrry curvy. I ended up cutting a more-or-less 2' square of cardboard and chalking it out. We still ended up buying a little extra after our initial shipment, but we were close -- and it was better to do it that way than way-over-order.


The tiles came in two shipments, one in two big boxes and one on a HUGE pallet. The pallet of 40 tiles weighed over 850 lbs. These things are heavy  and not much fun to move around.


It took a lot of work (poor N did most of it himself as usual!), most of which was done on the hottest day of the year so far (108, ugh) but it got done.

The tiles don't connect to the patio at all; they connect to each other using pins and adhesive.  They have drain holes underneath.



I am actually thinking it could be a great place for me to work out when it isn't so hot. I really like the color it adds, too!

Anyway, once that project was done, the backyard started feeling a lot more friendly. We started thinking about all the fun things we could put on the play patio for H to do. Right now, there's a mini-trampoline, her baby slide, her new-to-us tricycle, and, as of today, a balance beam N and I made her using 4x4, 2x4, and yoga mats.

Oh. And chalk. :-)  We've already had several little friends over to help "break it in," and they all seemed to like it.




You should see H on that balance beam. So cute!

We couldn't quite figure out what to do about the rather sharp lip at the step-down. Finally, we just decided to adhere down a $12 strip of this childproofing edge strip we found at Lowe's.  I don't know if it will last, but it seems to be working well for now.
In the past few months, we've also moved in some new patio furniture (which perfectly matches the red tile, yay!), a new grill (N's birthday present), a new hammock (N's Father's Day present), a little kid-sized bench my mom made, and H's old kiddie swing.



N and I took a nap in here this afternoon while the kiddo was at her grandparents'. True story. You can't waste a breezy, 80-degree afternoon in mid-July!




The "grownup" part of the patio, including a TV the previous owners kindly left!

There are still things we want to do (I'm thinking a few changes to the plants, which are a little tropical for our taste, and the addition of a little playhouse/tree house with a big slide that ends on the play patio) but now our backyard is a place we really enjoy spending time. We're out there every day again and having lots of fun using every square inch!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Some sewing and decorating

The office at the front of our house (which is going to be my sewing room, primarily) has been pretty much used as a catch-all the last few months as we have moved in, not that I have had time or energy for sewing anyway! Still, it has made me a bit sad every time I have walked by there and seen my machines practically hidden under and behind boxes and stacks of stuff. But late last week, I did manage to get some sewing done on my mom's machine when I took H down to the farm for a visit. I can always rely on my family to keep her totally occupied while we're there, so I try to use the opportunity to get some stuff done! In this case, I decided to whip up a few tiny dresses for friends' new babies. One of them ended up being born at the exact same time I was working on her dress, so that was a fun coincidence!


First, just made a couple of little onesie dresses. The 0-3 month onesies are so tiny! I had almost forgotten...

And then I made two little pillowcase dresses exactly the same for two brand-new little cousins.
Their great-grandmother, who passed away a little over a year ago, was especially fond of hummingbirds. They are both named after her, so when I saw this pretty hummingbird fabric, I had to use it for them!

After coming home, we spent the weekend working on various projects we want to get done before our upcoming open house party. There is so much to do, I am positive it won't all get done, but we'll see what we can knock out! 

The first one was a small project I have been planning to get around to for months and have been putting off because I was afraid it would be kind of a pain (and because of the aforementioned state of my sewing room!). Our back door has a large glass panel, and in the evening, it always makes me paranoid that the back fence neighbors can see into our house. I'm sure they're nice people (we've only met briefly), but I like to be able to bust a move in the kitchen or walk around in my night clothes without fear of offending anyone! So we obviously needed a curtain there. I decided to go the cheap-and-simple route and use an $11 canvas dropcloth from Lowe's. It shrunk a bit in the wash, which is just what I wanted. I didn't end up having to trim any width and only about a foot of length, so I only had one unfinished edge to deal with! A little pressing and a couple of lines of stitching for the rod pockets, and we have a custom curtain.


If I had it to do over again, I might use a slightly more sheer fabric, because I hadn't realized how much light that door let in, and it is a bit darker now than I would prefer. (I love a bright house!) But this is working for now and I think it looks really nice.  Especially for $11 and about half an hour of my time!

There is a lot more we have been up to, but, as I said, time is at a minimum right now, so I really shouldn't even be sitting here doing this post! More to come.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Maximizing a small backyard



"Before" panorama shot (with partially dormant plants)


"After" panorama shot taken today

The one thing we really hesitated over when buying this house was the small backyard.

Our old house, while it was itself small, had a big backyard, and we are backyard people. We go outside several times a day; whether to play with H, grill dinner, sit and chat on the patio, or work one one of our numerous projects, we just like hanging out outdoors.

The new house had beautiful landscaping, which we had never managed to tackle at the old house, and some neat things like a water feature (you can't really see it in these pictures, but it's outside the living room windows).  It was also incredibly shady, which is a huge big deal in such a hot climate (and which we had very little of at our old place). But it also had small square footage, most of which was occupied by stone patio. The stone patio is nice, but it's not exactly conducive to sprawling games of chase, kicking a ball, tackle, or little red wagon parades.








We weighed it in the balance and decided that, considering how much we loved the house and neighborhood, and how close we would be to playgrounds and parks, it was worth the small backyard.

Still, a few weeks after moving in, I was having serious doubts. "We're going to have to move again in a couple of years if we don't do something major to the backyard!" Believe me, the idea of moving again in a few years is NOT appealing. We're not totally done moving in here yet! So we started doing some major soul-searching into what would make the backyard more usable.

Pretty, but a bit hard! H has had plenty of bruises from playing out there in the few short months we've lived here.

It turned out, we had to just sort of look at the backyard differently.  We are never going to be able to have huge spread-out ball games back there, so we'll save those for the park. But we CAN have lots of fun back there if we break it into usable areas.

Our main project was to create a kid-safe play patio by covering the lower section of the patio in commercial-grade rubber playground tile. This wasn't cheap, but I think it was a fantastic investment (and a whole lot cheaper than moving again!). We ended up using Playfall tile from Overstock and Amazon (they sell it in different increments) because both offered free shipping.  All the other rubber tile products we found looked great, too, but it would cost nearly as much to ship them as the product cost! We went with 2.5" tile because it can supposedly protect against a fall from a six-foot height, so it seemed like it would offer H, her little friends, and any other little kiddos who come along a very safe place to play.


The hardest part was figuring out how many tiles to buy, since they are 2' squares and the patio is veeerrrrry curvy. I ended up cutting a more-or-less 2' square of cardboard and chalking it out. We still ended up buying a little extra after our initial shipment, but we were close -- and it was better to do it that way than way-over-order.


The tiles came in two shipments, one in two big boxes and one on a HUGE pallet. The pallet of 40 tiles weighed over 850 lbs. These things are heavy  and not much fun to move around.


It took a lot of work (poor N did most of it himself as usual!), most of which was done on the hottest day of the year so far (108, ugh) but it got done.

The tiles don't connect to the patio at all; they connect to each other using pins and adhesive.  They have drain holes underneath.



I am actually thinking it could be a great place for me to work out when it isn't so hot. I really like the color it adds, too!

Anyway, once that project was done, the backyard started feeling a lot more friendly. We started thinking about all the fun things we could put on the play patio for H to do. Right now, there's a mini-trampoline, her baby slide, her new-to-us tricycle, and, as of today, a balance beam N and I made her using 4x4, 2x4, and yoga mats.

Oh. And chalk. :-)  We've already had several little friends over to help "break it in," and they all seemed to like it.




You should see H on that balance beam. So cute!

We couldn't quite figure out what to do about the rather sharp lip at the step-down. Finally, we just decided to adhere down a $12 strip of this childproofing edge strip we found at Lowe's.  I don't know if it will last, but it seems to be working well for now.
In the past few months, we've also moved in some new patio furniture (which perfectly matches the red tile, yay!), a new grill (N's birthday present), a new hammock (N's Father's Day present), a little kid-sized bench my mom made, and H's old kiddie swing.



N and I took a nap in here this afternoon while the kiddo was at her grandparents'. True story. You can't waste a breezy, 80-degree afternoon in mid-July!




The "grownup" part of the patio, including a TV the previous owners kindly left!

There are still things we want to do (I'm thinking a few changes to the plants, which are a little tropical for our taste, and the addition of a little playhouse/tree house with a big slide that ends on the play patio) but now our backyard is a place we really enjoy spending time. We're out there every day again and having lots of fun using every square inch!