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Imported Happiness

May 16, 2011   //  Posted in: Being Thrifty, Decor   //  By: Emily   //  9 responses
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Peonies are easily my favorite flower. And that’s why Pete included them in my latest blog header, how sweet. Mom and dad had a big ol’ peony patch that I coveted year after year; I even (tried to) paint the blossoms during the summer I was really into oil painting (circa. 2000). Because Mom spends time taming back some of her plants every fall, I ended up with some really hearty, well rooted peony plants for my own garden in the fall of 2009.

Unfortunately, as they started to grow last spring, the dog doused them, if you catch my drift. They didn’t even have a chance. I expelled lots of emotions over this and I subsequently trained the dog not to pee in that corner of the yard. This isn’t a post about my dog or excretion. Moving on.

I can happily report that they’re back this year. And then it gets annoying again; mine are much more stunted than others I see in the community. Maybe they don’t get enough sun, maybe the cooler weather by the lake is delaying their development. But today they look like this. Here’s to hoping I get one or two or maybe three blooms. Even little blooms would do.

Peonies, threatened by flooding. In an overgrown bed. Yikes.

Oh sweet embarrassment, I really need to weed and mulch back there.

That was a nice long way of getting to my real point, that I hope those peonies keep on keepin’ on so in another month I can retire these babies:

Long stem faux-peonies

I found them at a garage sale a few years ago (for a sweet $2) and I don’t have any history accumulating fake flowers, but being peonies, in good condition no less, I decided to give it a shot. The stems were kind of long, which I felt was oddly distracting to the overall look and feel I was going for, so this year I hacked the stems a little shorter to display in a smaller vase.

Shortened the faux-peonies with the help of some wire cutters.

Hell, I’ll even admit that I misted them with some Peony Bath & Body Works body spray someone gave me one time. These can work for me until the real deal is in bloom.

Shortened peonies on the mantel.

Ooh, how about a bonus shot with Cody, since be was behaving while I snapped from a few different angles:

Cody and the peonies

Anniversaries + My Bulleted Home Buying Story

May 13, 2011   //  Posted in: Casual Celebrations, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  14 responses
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This weekend (5/15) marks the two year anniversary of me. Of “grown up” me. Of me living in my home. My very own home. Any of you who knew me when I made the decision to buy a home may recall that it was very much something I decided upon on a whim.

The short version of the story:

  • Gas prices dropped in winter 2008. All of a sudden, I had a lot of extra money in my bank account every week (OK not a lot, but enough to be noticeable since it dropped from $4.30 to $2.40/gallon, and I had been filling my Jeep every 6 days). It was enough to make me scratch my head and wonder what I could do with that money. I pulled out my calculator.
  • About 4 minutes later, I had calculated how much I could save and what I could afford and had made the executive decision to buy a house to live in when my lease expired in August 2009. I am the executive decision maker of me-related things, after all.
  • I began home shopping online about 4 minutes after that (I did make a quick call to sanity check myself with my parents. They were cool. Maybe they know better than to question me. Should have gone to law school.)
  • I had every intent of not moving out of my apartment until August 2009, but I found my home, knew it was the right fit, and stopped looking all together on my second day of house hunting. I think I spend on average more time at Wegmans than I did looking at homes. It was Feburary. I’m an action-oriented kind of girl. Of course I couldn’t stall the sellers until August, so we agreed on May, and that was that.
  • I proceeded to eat nothing but Ramen noodles, plain lettuce, and Wegmans-brand yogurt for 3 months because I needed to save a shiz-load of money in a short period of time. Somewhere in there, the first-time homebuyer tax credit (the one you didn’t have to pay back) was announced, which made me very happy.
  • I found my female roomie a male subletter for the apartment. I am forever indebted to her because it sounds like the dude was a creepster. I had good intentions but of course would never admit that this was a matchmaking attempt. Apparently I’m no Patti Stanger.
  • I closed on the house on 5/15. The 24 hours leading up to my closing was possibly the most emotional 24 hours in my life to date; let’s just say Wells Fargo made me cry a lot (in my cubicle, at work, which was awesome), but that’s not to say I wouldn’t refer you to get a loan through them. And then it was done. And I was a changed girl.

You’ve probably perused the before/after section of the site before. But seriously, when I pull together the photos side by side like I’m about to show you, I’m blown away at how much I’ve done to this place in 2 years.

Please enjoy, and celebrate homeownership pride with me; afterall, forbes.com is – it announced this week that Rochester, NY is the best city in which to buy a home. Frickin’ HIGH FIVE, people.

On to the photos:

Exterior of the house: It was stripped. (Thank you, tax credit.)

Curb Appeal: Before + DuringOf course, it looked a hell of a lot better once it was finished (it’s just fun to show that the house was temporarily yellow).

Curb Appeal: After (and amidst a front porch revamp)

The front entryway is a work in progress – that front porch should be finished within the next few weeks (it’s been begging for railings):

The deck and pergolas on the back of the house are entirely new. DIY’ed too, just search “deck” on this site (or click right here) and see a whole slew of posts about this project. Impressive change, right?

The Living Room: A dramatic makeover from carpeted drab space to bright and slick (I can’t describe it any other way) happiness.

Living Room: Before + After

The Sunroom: It was storage for children’s toys before I moved in. And it was carpeted. What can I say, anything was an improvement. Yes, there’s a margarita in my photo; call it a grown-up toy.

The Dining Room: It’s more so a workspace for me than a functional dining room, but it too received a nice makeover from floor to ceiling.

Dining Room: Before + After

And I am in love with my DIY’ed built-in-shelves as much as a girl could be in love with something like that. Not in a creepy Taboo kind of way. You can see how I built them here and here.

Dining Room: Before + AfterThe Kitchen: The initial change involved painting it white. It’s hard to tell in the original photo, but each wall was painted a different shade of blue. And then I removed 7 upper cabinets to make way for open shelving.

Kitchen: Before + AfterFrom another angle:

Kitchen: Before + After

The stairwell recieved an updo too. Not just paint, I swapped in a new closet door and made a collage of frames on the wall more recently.

Stairwell (looking up the steps)

The view down the stairs is improved too; those horizontal faux-wood blinds are throughout the whole house and really change each room dramatically in a way that plastic blinds don’t. Plus, the hardwood landing looks sexy. People don’t usually call hardwood floors sexy, do they? Just me?

Stairwell (looking down the steps)The Bathroom: Teal just wasn’t for me. Not shown: A rubber duckie shower curtain. Neutral gray, new curtain rods, and soon to come, a new vanity really make the space… bearable.

Bathroom: Before + AfterMaster Bedroom: It’s bright in there; even dark gray works well without making the space feel small(er than it is). The refinished floors and blinds are wonderful in here.

The Nursery-turned-Walk-In-Closet: Animals were painted over, and the room was neutralized and made highly functional with the help of some big IKEA shelves. I was lacking closet space in every single apartment I lived in, so you could say I’m making up for it in a big way.

The Basement: We built workbenches over the winter, but the biggest change was the installation of glass block windows. Let there be light!

Thank you again for all of your support, encouragement, and kind words about the projects you’ve seen so far; lots more to come.

More Business Cards (Bloggy-Calling-Cards)

May 12, 2011   //  Posted in: Being Thrifty, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  8 responses
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It’s that time of the business cycle again. Time for more business cards. Calling cards. Business-bloggy-calling-cards, as I so eloquently referred to my first batch that was made of cardboard and plain white stock.

Business Blogger Calling Cards (from the first batch)

This second batch was decidedly still going to be DIY’ed. Because I’m watching the wallet, and because if you can do something that will stand out enough all by yourself, why bother outsourcing?

The idea for this new batch occurred to me a few weeks ago, when I found a huge box of sandpaper in my grandparent’s attic (I find all kinds of good things up there). I took some of the sandpaper partially because I figured it’s one of those products you always seem to want on hand (and Grandpa conveniently had preserved sheets of varying grit), but also because it was being stored in this radical, hardwood, vintage box that I really, really wanted to put to good use (somewhere, someday, it’s not about that box yet).

Sandpaper 5 inches deep. Like the box too.

I’ve had it sitting on my stair, right where I placed it when I brought it home, and just this week when I finally had depleted my original business card supply, I thought that that “free” paper (of varying grit) might make for an interesting business card material.

And I think the whole idea of DIY’ing my business cards insinuates handiness, DIY-ness, and resourcefulness. I’m pretty much all about all three of those things, if you haven’t noticed yet.

80 grit. Soon to be a business card.

Check out that old 3M logo. Frustratingly, WordPress won’t let me rotate it counterclockwise:

Vintage 3M logo.

So I picked a couple of sheets to cut down into simple 2″x3.5″ business card size (a little smaller than the original creative that was more so hacked to a random size).

Just like the first batch, I employed the awesome stamp that Pete designed for me and had produced by the folks at The Stamp Maker. (I just had a good experience, I’m not getting perked for the shout-out to the company.)

While the stamp was wet, I sprinkled on some of the purple embossing powder that was leftover from the first go-around (which Pete still believes to be more like a thermography- than embossing-process).

The end result of my embossing efforts are just OK. I think my stamp is a little too thick to handle the expansion of the powder, rendering it hard to read:

An embossed calling-blogger-business card

So after I did a few embossed versions (5 to be exact, hoping for a cure to the illegibility I suppose), but I did more with simple plain black ink. And yes, I experimented with stamping on the rough side too; didn’t work out too well:

Business Cards, round 2.So the most legible ones will go to my wallet; and the illegible ones will be stored for future sanding projects, so no loss.

On a different note, only related because I used an iron to cure the embossing powder, how in the world do I clean an iron that looks like this? Can I even clean it? Or do I just buy new?

Gross iron. How do I fix this?

I can’t even use it on clothes anymore (I probably ironed something I shouldn’t have, and then followed it up by ironing 40 sweaters which left behind traces of themselves). Tips appreciated!