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Big Beans, PVC, and DIYNetwork.com

May 27, 2015   //  Posted in: DIY, DIY Network Projects, Gardening   //  By: Emily   //  6 responses
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My Dad gave us a handful of his giant bean seeds at the end of the last growing season. We’ve been pretty excited about growing those beans in our own garden–his were like, 10-feet tall and loaded, and I hoped to experience similarly here because plants of that magnitude are kind of cool for kids to cultivate. Since last fall those beans became the topic of many garden planning conversations, and the leading prompt for many childish renditions of “beans, beans, the magical fruit.” It’s been a few years since I sprouted any plants from seed, but these took a unusually long time to crack while wrapped in a damp paper towel housed around the inside edge of a glass in a sunny window, elementary-school science class-style. But, you know, made it happen (fist bump).

Sprouting giant bean seeds.

I almost thought I wouldn’t get them sprouted to go into the ground on the timeline I had set for myself, which coincided with a great post deadline that I had with DIY Network. That seems par for the course, as the garden itself seems a little delayed this year; strawberries are still on the small side, and the tomato seedlings birthed by my parents are also about 1/4 of the size I would expect them to be; on the plus side, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the green bell pepper plants (store bought), and our blueberries and raspberries are recovering nicely from the cold winter, so one way or another it’s going to be a good year. Photo below by Pete, who has now on more than one occasion caught me gardening during a flash downpour while wearing a white t-shirt. Go figure.

Garden rain storm, May 2015.

Back to the beans.

They had to be able to grow tall in our garden, so I created what’s possibly the best, very low-cost trellis using PVC pipe, rebar, and twine. And not only is it awesome in person and easy to make, it’s kind of a big deal because it was the first “How to” style content that I prepared for DIYNetwork.com, separate from the projects posted on its blog Made + Remade! And it only cost like, $10. And there’s no way it’ll ever blow over. Check out the full tutorial with lots of photos right here.

Make a PVC trellis to grow giant beans.

If you missed out on the post overviewing the garden expansion I undertook this year, check it out here. It’s going to be a good season!

The Landscape Of Our Living Room

May 26, 2015   //  Posted in: Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment
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Back at the time that we invested in our sectional, we knew that the size of our large sunken living room would be accommodating enough for a secondary seating area; it’s not that we don’t spent plenty of time lounging on the big couch, we sure do, but we view it more “for entertaining,” and all that means is that it’s a big awesome couch near the fireplace without a television plopped in front of it.

A small, cozy second seating area in our sunken living room.

The really good thing about the big West Elm sectional in its current orientation is that it makes for prime wall projection; anything and everything from PS3 to DVD and Roku shines up against the big white wall opposite the windows for–what can only be described as: dun dun dun–The Ultimate Entertainment Experience. And because the projection can be seen out of the front windows, for the first few months we used it, our living room literally stopped traffic (the ‘hood seems to be used to our antics, now). We’ve talked about getting a screen installed on the ceiling that we can use to project against, but it would only be so that I could hang some art on that giant blank wall so it doesn’t seem a worthy tradeoff. I love the wall projection enough to live with a gigantic blank white wall, which I think says a lot.

Living room wall projection.

Projection technology isn’t really what I’m getting at here. What I’m here to show you is the cheapest couch ever* that in my mind financially offsets the cost of our big sectional and satisfies our family’s needs for a smaller, more concentrated seating area at which we can snuggle, put our feet up, and watch some quality PBS Kids on a traditional screen.

The Anywhere Convertible Sofa is from Urban Outfitters. I bit the bullet and bought it when there was a 25% off promotion with free shipping and the whole shebang with taxes only rang up for a little over $300, which I think is pretty awesome. I didn’t want to over-invest in furniture that was knowingly going to be jumped on/eaten on/spilled on/peed on, and that price tag fits the bill. If it lasts a decade, I’ll be pleased.

Adding the Anywhere Sofa from Urban Outfitters as a small, kid-friendly seating area in our living room.

There were a few length limitations that held me back from purchasing similar models, but this loveseat (sized: 54″ long x 24″ deep) has clean lines and identical seat height as the sectional (27″ total height, 17″ low seat height). Those similarities help to make it seem like the two styles are more closely related than you’d know. The charcoal color of the Anywhere Sofa is a little darker than the heather gray of the West Elm Tillary, but they’re both perfectly neutral enough to work in our living room with the stonework and light floors.

Adding the Anywhere Sofa from Urban Outfitters as a small, kid-friendly seating area in our living room.

The real perk of this couch is that it’s a pull-out foam bed sofa, because our kid loves to have slumber parties in the living room, and if being inexpensive wasn’t good enough, an inexpensive loveseat-turns-bed seems like the totally obvious solution for our children. For what it’s worth, Pete tells me that as a bed for adults it’s pretty damn uncomfortable, but the kids love it. As a couch, it’s firm, but it’s so nice to have arms and a back support that doesn’t fall out from under you that I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Cody insists it to be his “OMG GIANT DOG BED!” which I am trying hard to forbid… lest it decay in like, 2 weeks.

We put the television up on the wall with the cords running between the joists last fall, and that’s a good anchor in this part of the living room. The coffee table is something some of my friends might recognize–because I took it from our apartment after they moved out and abandoned it–and as a temporary solution it has been fitting. It’s exactly the same width as our giant roll of paper and makes for a great paper-wrapped coloring surface. I’m in the middle of refinishing a different table that will also work well in this small space, but it’s round, so I’m already not convinced that I’ll like it as much as this hand-me-down.

Living room, our secondary TV watching area.

The room is still coming together; as our main living space it is consistently improving to better suit our lifestyle.

*not actually ever, IKEA’s SOLSTA is similar. I checked out SOLSTA recently in person and can attest to it not being too bad in comparison to the Anywhere Sofa. If you’re asking me if one is better than the other, all I can say is… cheap is cheap, both are very lightweight, small, and obviously not heavy investment pieces.

Two Cents On Solar LED Strands

April 30, 2015   //  Posted in: Backyard, Decor   //  By: Emily   //  one response
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Solar-powered LED lights?

A review of solar LED light strands.

Conceptually, awesome.

We upgraded our holiday strands to regular electric LEDs a few years ago and have been really happy with the results, so testing solar strands seemed like a logical progression in the grand scheme of things. Pete snagged a LivingSocial deal last fall that gave us four packages of outdoor solar string lights (2 packages of 200 lights, and two packages of 100 lights) from the company Touch Of ECO. When opportunity calls, you do what seems most economical in the hopes that you can that you can make your backyard as sweet as the family homestead in Parenthood.

When you check out the products on the company website linked above and your jaw smashes against the floor, without even looking for a LivingSocial receipt I can say with confidence that we didn’t pay anything close to the listed prices. LED strands are still kind of expensive as it is, but solar LEDs have a really long ways to go in order to become affordable to the masses, especially compared cost-wise to the holiday lights I ran last winter that probably cost me all of $10 in electricity from December – February.

I’m pretty sure that based on the above photo above (which is a strand draped around the treehouse) that you can you can also predict that the light quality in person is nothing like what’s presented on the website either, I mean, unless maybe you’re running $2,000 worth of strands in 10 square feet. To which I say, ‘five stars, as if.’

I’ve been meaning to write about my experience with these lights for awhile; I didn’t right away because I’ve been trying to give them a fair chance. Two of the four strands continue to respond like duds, flickering at sunset for a very short period of time but never seeming like they receive a full charge. A third strand would stay lit for an hour or two, but that’s still less time than the best of the four strands (the lone strand that made it up onto the treehouse before the winter hit). The best of the four strands will stay lit for 3-4 hours, and sometimes I catch it flickering sporadically if I’m awake during the night. That’s still not to say that the one strand still in the backyard is bright in the same way as a strand of electric lights – it doesn’t compare at all, nowhere near sufficient to serve as patio light strands – but we can see it from the windows of the house, which livens up the property a little bit in a non-holidayesque way.

LED solar light strand.

I will say that there’s something incredibly convenient and wonderful about the idea of solar LED light strands, especially when it comes to having an automatic light source for places that are out-of-reach of an electrical outlet. I’m not sure that technology for solar light strands is where I’d expect it to be, but I do hope that it evolves in time.

Have you found ones that work? Do share.