Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall Guy

We aren't the only ones with "yard art" at this time of year.

Friends Barb and Rich have a beautiful barn,
which gives us a huge case of barn envy whenever we visit.

Their "Fall Guy" may be a cousin of our telephone pole witch!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rear Entry Bench

Joe is fond of pointing out the one curve in the house when a visitor wants the house tour.  

It's a distinctly non-curvy house:  angular and more than a little masculine with all of the wood and muted colors.   So the one curve does sort of stand out as different…..

Back when the carpentry crew was still working, we couldn't decide what material to use for the deep curved bench that was to go below the coat rack. We knew wanted a contiguous piece but unfortunately finding affordable, thick, deep and long in one piece eluded us.  
So since last winter, we've been balancing on one foot to take our muddy boots and shoes off and sitting on the steps outside to put them back on.  

This hasn't exactly been a inconvenience.  After all we'd never ever had a seat near our back door before and thankfully neither of us has a problem balancing or sitting on the floor.  But by golly we're going to get this house done if it kills us…. and honestly it looked like an unfinished hole without the bench so we knew we needed to do something.  

My thinking cap stayed on for a few months until at last I had a eureka moment: unfinished oak butcherblock countertop from IKEA.  

The perfect thickness at 1 1/2", long and deep enough to be cut in one big piece and easily done by us!  
Oh and relatively cheap…. the 6' section was about 85.00.  

Luckily we bought our piece last spring while on a trip to the DC area, because IKEA has stopped making it!  What a bummer; we liked it so much that we were planning to use it for our pantry counters but now the oak is a thin veneer layer over particleboard AND the price has gone up over 20%!   

Since we had to cut a curve in the front, there's no way that a veneer would have worked for us.  What are you thinking IKEA? 

Progress?!!  Bah! 

Enough complaining, back to our bench which luckily is lovely solid oak strips!!
We traced the curve of the plaster ceiling and then made a cardboard template
so that the shape of the bench would exactly match the plaster curve above.

Cutting the straight ends was a cinch,
but Joe dulled and caused the premature death of many a jigsaw blade
during the cutting of the oak curve.
Thank goodness Lowes is a only a short drive away!

After Joe sanded it to perfection, I went to work with the finish and in about 10 days, the block was sporting several coats of Watco Dark Walnut and 5 coats of Waterlox Original.

Joe screwed the cleats into the wall studs on all three sides….
And  screwed the bench in from below….  

It looks like it floats right out of the wall.

Pretty nice if I do say so myself!

The deep end of the curve is terrific for sitting on and not bumping into the coats above.
A second curve in the house and another project off our still dreadfully long punch list!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Will Work for Plants

The floodgates have opened and I've officially fallen off the wagon.  After two years of self imposed exile from gardening, I'm back in the game!

On Friday we headed over to Staunton to look at a Japanese Maple (Note:  A single maple) that Faith had told me might be a good one for the front bed.  The front beds are about to be tilled and prepped with compost etc, so if the weather is cooperative, I'll have plants around the house next week!

I'm not purchasing the plants for the plan because I don't have access to wholesale prices so I'm leaving that up to Faith V.   Plus I'm better off leaving the decisions up to her because she's leagues ahead of me with her plant knowledge and design skills.

But in the meantime, there was this one maple that I needed to go see about.

Chris Lockhart the owner of the nursery was very helpful and knowledgable over at Staunton Plant.  He must have thought I was a total nut, but he was supremely patient.

I got the Maple.  Well actually I got not only one Japanese Maple, but two.  

And a Whitespire Birch
and a Sourwood
and a Vitex.  
And two Sweetbay Magnolias and three Magnolia Stellata, and that was just the trees!

Knowing that I might get swept along by the whole heady experience,
we went prepared not only with the truck but also with the 2-horse trailer!

A horse trailer can hold a lot of plants!

I managed to fit in 32! 


Faith and Walter will be bringing a trailer load of plants for the plan next week....
these are just lagniappe that I'll put "somewhere."

Joe who normally acts as my anchor (i.e. voice of reason), was as happy as I was at the prospect of plants around the house, so he was of NO help protecting the checking account at all!

In fact he was lobbying for a 10' sugar maple that I managed to resist!
Truly I exercised a LOT of self control!

When I started the part-time job at the kitchen shop, 
I said that I'd use my paycheck to pay for travel expenses for the kids to come at Christmas.  
Now I'm thinking that I'll work for plants!  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Habitat Hotel: What Do Hotel Rooms and Habitat for Humanity Have In Common?

Parents Weekend is a huge event at Washington and Lee (one of our two local universities):  catered lunches, band parties, a picture perfect football game, musical performances etc.

Parents attend classes with the students (yes, that's right) and get a chance to see if their progeny have changed their sheets or figured out how to work the dormitory washing machines since being dropped off earlier in the fall!

One thing that W&L can't manufacture for the weekend is hotel rooms.

Between the influx of visitors to Virginia Horse Center events and the convergence of two interstates here in Lexington, hotels rooms are scarce on almost any weekend.  Add the strain of 1,500 or so parents coming to town and rooms are booked years in advance for this fall weekend.

Another thing in short supply in Rockbridge County is affordable housing.  Some of what's considered affordable is run-down, old and horribly energy inefficient.   So affordable and decent quality housing is difficult to obtain.

Habitat Hotel is a way to solve both the two day housing "crisis" of Parents Weekend AND help with the ongoing housing crisis felt by many in the county.

It's so simple:  Visiting parents are matched with local residents who have agreed to offer rooms in their homes for the weekend.   The parents then make a suggested donation to the local Habitat for Humanity chapter in exchange for their rooms for the weekend.   

This year almost 50 homes in our little town served as Habitat Hotels and as a result the local Habitat group made a clear profit of 15K!

Yes, that's right $15,000 for one weekend of "work" ..... with no outlay of capital or advertising costs.

Earlier in the fall, I'd thought that we might have other guests that weekend, so it wasn't until fairly late in the process that I agreed to take part in the "Hotel"

To my surprise and delight, our visiting parents were from the UK! 

Now that's a long way to come to see your son for a weekend!

We had a terrific time hosting Steve and Emma from Bath, England!

Even if Emma hadn't taken up precious room in her luggage 
by bringing me two gorgeous Stoke-on-Trent floral mugs, blueberry curd, and a London tea towel, 
I'd have been anxious to have them back!
I'm not sure how she had room for clothes!!

Sometimes when you're asked to volunteer or help out with a cause, it means a bit of a sacrifice or inconvenience but this was a total pleasure!

Kudos to whatever local genius thought of Habitat Hotel!  We thoroughly enjoyed our little part in it!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mudroom Closet Storage!

Another thing off the "punch" list!

The closet in the mudroom has some awesome double doors that have looked like they'd have an equally neat closet inside of them.

But until recently it's been an empty closet.


Sad, very sad to have such a grand space sitting empty.

Before we could start with the shelving installation,
I had a harebrained idea to use a leftover roll of wallpaper
from the hall bathroom of the old house along the back wall.

I'll brag about my painting abilities,
but a wallpaper hanger I am most assuredly NOT!

And when it comes to hanging 11' strips,
my meager skills become hugely taxed,
so papering only the back wall as an accent
was as much as I wanted to do!

The long"crawfish" table from Sam's makes a good wallpaper  table!
The finished project!

We hashed over many options for fitting out the closet but in the end came back to our old standby
and used Elfa closet systems from the Container Store.

It enabled me to have an area for tall tools,
a niche for coiling up the central vac hose and space for the rolling mop bucket
to be just the way I wanted it.

Having the cleaning tools and dog supplies organized again has made me SO happy!

And the wallpaper is a little touch of the old house brought to Virginia!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

High Flying on the Hill

I packed up more than a few strange things when we moved;
some that I wasn't sure that we'd ever use again.

But the other day, I got into the Halloween storage tub 
and unpacked the ratty black sweat pants and turtleneck.

Then we drove to the edge of our property and set up a worktable on the tailgate.

We needed a pair of gardening gloves....
I sacrificed my old red rubber boots for the cause.
Luckily, I'd packed up the old witches hat and mask!

Time to recreate one of our best Louisiana Halloween decorations!

You need a tall ladder to make a high flyer....
A high flying witch!
 Definitely T-boned the pole!
 Just thought we'd add a little to the beautiful scenery out here on the hill!