Merry Garden, 2015

April 23, 2015   //  Posted in: Backyard, Gardening   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

We spent our weekends skiing this winter (right up through the beginning of the month – best season ever); the hobby consumed a lot of our free time and forced us to pause on some projects, but it was a completely worthwhile way to make the most of the winter season (without resenting it). And then, in a single day, the seasons and our priorities changed. Our final snow piles melted just as the buds popped on the tree in our backyard, and when that first sporadic 80-degree afternoon hit, all hell broke loose. Lawn chairs, out! Bikes, out! Dog poop, discarded! Sunroom, cleaned! Branches cleared, brush destroyed, campfire had.

Spring, Rochester, NY. 2015

I put the garden high up on my own list of priorities this year so that it wouldn’t be as delayed as other seasons… somehow, it’s just one of those things that I can put off until mid-May before I realize it, and by then I’ve lost a full month of the season, and end up nurturing a garden that never seems to fully catch up before the first frost in September or October. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I’m ahead on my garden for the season, but I think I’m pacing more appropriately. The Public Market was filled with vendors hocking healthy seedlings (the basil plants I bought have already tripled in size), so around here, we’re busy voting for the veggies we want to nurture (tomatoes, giant beans, asst. squash, peppers, strawberries for sure), and actively preparing the garden bed for this year’s crop.

The garden I built two years ago was a series of fenced-in squares in the back of our property; good for a first year/late-in-season effort, and it made way for the larger round fenced-in bed that I upgraded to last year (the bigger circle devoured all of the squares, and gave us a bit more square footage). Last year’s tomato crop consumed half of that circle, while cucumbers and butternut squash occupied the other half. Those vines plants spread outward like crazy, and I found that they smothered each other, themselves, and other plants we had in the ground. To give everyone more space this year, I doubled the size of the garden bed by extending it to the left, into a part of the backyard that had once been heavily overgrown with brush, and these days only sported mowed weeds and mossy ground cover.

How to make a bigger gardening space.

It was easy to put the rototiller into action – our soil is extremely soft and sandy. I marked off the new area using a few scrap boards, and had the whole ground overturned in 20 minutes. This is the same rototiller I’ve used other years, a Black & Decker battery operated 36V product that has earned its keep 10x over.

I kept the garden expansion as easy on myself as possible; the fencing had remained up all winter because it was surrounding a few raspberry and blueberry bushes that I didn’t want wildlife to snack on, so I left most of it in place and reconfigured a few posts to help the existing fence form the shape of the new garden. Let’s skip to a little not-to-scale hand-sketch to demonstrate how the old (blue) fence was opened and shifted. Red lines on the right demonstrate where I added some new fencing to close off the new garden.

How I made a bigger garden, sketched.

Eventually, when I’m confident that the garden is large enough to contain our annual crop and I’m feeling like investing more, I’ll throw some real posts and more decorative fencing in to make it more “permanent” but there will always have to be some element of super-tall metal fence to keep the deer out. As it exists now, it’s great.

The New (And Lots To Fill You In On)

April 10, 2015   //  Posted in: Casual Celebrations, DIY Network Projects   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

I can’t say it enough, it has been a total pleasure collaborating with the team at Scripps Networks for and its blog Made + Remade over the last 3.5 years – I know, it’s been that long, see how young I looked ;). I’ve always encouraged you to check out the additional content that I publish over there, but today, on top of that, I want to introduce you to the new Shiny, like a fresh coat of gloss white, and savvy and slick like you wish all websites could be. Visit it today, and get lost in some really cool stuff.

My biggest project of late involved organizing and reconfiguring my own bedroom closet – a simple process of gutting and restructuring that made a bigger impact than I could have imagined. Everyone’s closets are a bit different, but I think you’ll find some inspiration through this process. Read through my initial thoughts and plans for the closet makeover to gain insight into why I was spending time and effort on a 10 sq. ft. space, and then check out the post outlining how I did it, and see the final reveal. Hi!

An easy, organized closet makeover to see on

The redesign of our main entryway was another project that I think you’ll enjoy. The space was modest, but a “blank slate” in the true sense of the term. It demanded wall repairs. Paint (including painting the radiators). I installed an adhesive wallpaper with amazing results, and then refinished vintage metal kitchen cabinets, and paired them (upside down) to create a floating sideboard fit to store winter hats and gloves within kid reach. Bolt on some custom leather handles, and I now I have myself something I can really be thrilled to have in our home.

I still have a few finishing details to take care of in here (sometimes hooks take a long time to arrive in the mail, and I’m working on a custom countertop to make the two cabinets look more seamless). Till then, enjoy this:

How I installed vintage cabinets as a floating sideboard on

Other posts I wrote that you may enjoy:

The Story Of A Touch-Free Flush

April 01, 2015   //  Posted in: Bathroom, DIY, Supporting Sponsors   //  By: Emily   //  one response

I’ll be completely honest here, toilets are one of the last things I expected to zoom in on on this blog, but here I am, giving an up-close peek into our bathroom, and geeking out over high-tech fixtures.

Last December, I toured the HGTV Dream Home as a correspondent for Delta. The company paid for the trip and offered one of the products it was featuring in the Dream Home. The house was fit with Touch2O fixtures (we already have one of those faucets), a pot filler, and various bathroom accessories, but the Brevard™ with FlushIQ™ toilets featuring touch-free flush technology had me especially curious. I can’t believe how far home technology has come.

Delta's FlushIQ Toilet

I suspect you have some initial skepticisms (you may not even realize it yet) but I think I can dispel some curiosities as I go, so keep on scanning.

There’s only one thing I can’t attest to yet, and that’s how exactly I explain this technology to the Grandmas (based on Touch2O lessons, this may be entertaining and potentially awkward, but not promising).

Before I get into the installation, let’s touch upon some of the cool-factor:

  • The sensors serve multiple purposes; and use varying color codes and flash sequences to warn of leaks, low batteries, and plumbing issues.
  • Overflow protection stops the ability to re-flush if the water reaches a critical level in the bowl (kids who use all of toilet paper, I’m side-eying you).
  • The seat and lid are slow-close, and they’re also quick release, so you can completely remove the seat and lid while cleaning.
  • 1.28 gallons per flush means saving money on water

No touch flush sensor on Delta Toilet.

Our main bathroom toilet has a sprayer attached to it which we use when cleaning our daughter’s cloth diapers. The hookup from the main valve didn’t have to change, but for posterity, I snapped a photo of how it was attached to the old toilet.

Removing an old toilet that has a diaper sprayer attached to it.

Removing a toilet is one of those life skills we all need, and short of suggesting that maybe you should have an extra set of hands for lifting the fixtures, this is an upgrade you can easily do by yourself (start to finish in less than an hour).

Start by turning off the water, and flushing the toilet one last time to remove some of the water from the bowl and tank without it refilling. Use both small cups and sponges to remove the rest of the toilet water from the bowl and tank – sure, it’s clean water, but your toilet is still dirty, so discard all of it, and scrub your hands well when you’re done.

Unscrew the water source. You’ll probably find that a few more drops of water leak out from the connection, so be prepared with a towel.

Disconnect toilet water source.

The old toilet is installed using two bolts, one on either side of the base. Remove both, and then lift the toilet straight up.

How to remove a toilet.

Your toilet looks like this underneath it too, believe me. Hope that there is no standing water beneath it, and only dust and dirt that was inadvertently swept and collected beneath the base. This is your chance to clean where you’ve never cleaned before, and it will be equally disgusting and incredibly satisfying.

Cleaning beneath your toilet.

The wax ring that sealed this old toilet around the plumbing will pry free, much of its residue left around the floor flange. You’ll want to clean away as much of the old wax as possible, so that the new wax ring can have a chance at a tight seal with the flange (and not just be smushing against old layers of wax). Use whatever tools you have on hand that you can easily clean, and be careful not to drop anything down the pipe (rings, earrings, glasses, whatever).

This is a rare opportunity to also check the condition of your flange and pipe. Scope it out for cracks, especially if it’s old, and if you’re like us, move that bathroom renovation back up to the top of your to-do list because…. well, sometimes you’ll find minor issues that could potentially become major ($$$).

Removing wax and inspecting a floor flange during the toilet replacement.

Once the wax is cleaned away, identify the grooves in the flange and, following instructions, navigate the bolts into the grooves to lock them in place. Make sure that the bolts are directly across from each other, and evenly distanced from the wall behind the toilet. Just like with the toilet you removed, the bolts will fall evenly on each side of the toilet base.

Installing new toilet bolts.

The toilet comes with a new wax ring. If you stumbled upon this tutorial and you just need to reseal a leaking toilet, you can buy a new wax ring at the store for ~$5 and repair the leak yourself following these same instructions.

New wax ring for a toilet install.

This is where it helps to have an extra set of hands. Lift the uninstalled new toilet, and slowly lower it over the bolts ensuring that they remain straight up and down. Also, have your partner bend down to make sure the wax ring is aligning with the plumbing on the underside of the toilet.

And then when you’re confident that the orientation of the toilet is right on, the heavier of you two, or maybe even both of you, climb up on that toilet and let your weight help to compress the wax ring and create a tight seal around all of that important plumbing. Monitor that the toilet isn’t twisting on the flange, and watch to see when the base of the toilet comes in contact with the floor. I’m not a fan of using caulk during a toilet install, but in some towns and cities it’s to code, so do your homework. For what it’s worth, I think some towns also require plumbers to replace toilets and related plumbing fixtures.

Put all pressure on the toilet to compress the wax seal.

Once the wax ring is compressed to the best of your ability, use the bolts at the base to tighten the fixture the rest of the way. Alternately tighten one side, and then the other, and back and forth, so that it evenly compresses. Don’t over-tighten, but do test the seat periodically to feel if it bounces or shifts.

Tighten the FlushIQ toilet.

The tank itself isn’t connected to the toilet base when it arrived, but Delta’s product has a SmartFit™ Tank-to-Bowl Connection which means that the tank is complete pre-assembled in the box. This means that it installs quickly, and you won’t have to be fidgeting with the connections and seals, which can result in leak points. Just follow directions to bolt it into place. This toilet has three bolts. Don’t over tighten, because like with any toilet, if a bolt cracks the porcelain tank, you’re done. Also, make sure that the back of the tank is square with the wall behind it.

Once the tank was installed on the base, I expected a complicated process to connect the electronics that make this toilet have its touch-free flush. In reality, this was the easiest part of the install, as it was literally just a matter of plugging a wire emerging from the base to a wire on the tank.

No touch flush Delta toilet electronics.

The no-touch mechanism operates off four AA batteries, sealed in a case at the top of the tank (well out of reach of the water, but covered to resist getting tapped with splashes or condensation).

No touch flush Delta toilet electronics.

You might wonder at some point prior to purchasing this product whether the toilet is going to try and flush on you while you’re sitting on it – if you’ve used a public bathroom with a self-flushing toilet ever, you’ll know the fear I’m talking about. With the FlushIQ, I’m very relieved to say that it doesn’t flush while you’re sitting there because the raised lid blocks the sensor, and when the lid is closed and you’re simply walking around your bathroom, you can’t trigger the flush unless you “wave” very close to the sensor. The mechanism also has a locking feature that you can set so that the toilet doesn’t try and flush while you’re cleaning it.

The seat that comes with the toilet is a slow-close, quick release seat which is nice for several reasons: The quick release means that the seat and lid can unlock in and out of place for easy cleaning of both the seat and lid, and of the toilet base (no tools necessary for removal), and the slow-close feature eliminates the slamming of dropped lids and seats (a feature as nice as self-closing drawers in a kitchen).

Slow-close, quick release toilet seat.


When you’re done, the last step is to turn the water back on. Go ahead, give it a try. Watch closely at all connections to monitor for water drips – it should all remain dry. Flush it a few times to make sure the tank and bowl empty and fill as you would expect and, again, check for signs of moisture beneath the tank.

Good to go – uh, gross.

Thanks Delta ;)