Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Green Your Spring

Since we were in San Diego for my cousin's wedding this weekend, I haven't had a chance to venture back into the bathroom to work on the next steps of the remodel. We're still sleeping off the festivities and catching up at work. When I get home I've just been collapsing on the couch! And the laundry? Still in a crumpled pile on the guest bed :)

Since my mind's consumed with work, I thought I'd share some information I gathered at work that will help your house stay a little more organized and healthy. I work as a sustainability specialist and often compile "Green Tips" for our employees. From tips for spring cleaning to local sources of fresh veges, these ideas will motivate you to do a little spring cleaning, healthy eating, and will help you reduce the environmental footprint of your home (now my work voice is coming out - aaah!).

Pic from http://thevividedge.com/
 To tackle spring cleaning in an environmentally friendly way, check out these 10 tips for Green Spring Cleaning from the Sierra Trading Post. These are especially useful if you're worried about chemicals around young kids. Their tips include using vinegar (nature's cleaning miracle) as a cleaning agent and sprinkling baking soda on the carpet before you vacuum to eliminate any odors. And really, I'll take tips from anyone who will say that buying fresh flowers for our house is the "green" way of freshening the air :)

Pic from the Garland Store

If you're not interested in making your own cleaning products (or just too lazy/busy/tired like me), I recommend Earth Friendly Products.
Pic from Earth Friendly Products

Their lemongrass handsoap is my favorite, and they make all kinds of cleaning products for every room of your home. I was We were lucky enough to get a gift certificate as a wedding present to try some of these great products. The hand soap lathers up nicely, smells great, and I know I'm not sending a bad chemical down the drain.

Another product that's made spring cleaning more bearable is our new Bionaire steam mop. Usually, I hate mopping. Its the chore my husband and I both groan about so we probably don't do it as much as we should.

Recently our floors have been cleaner because the steam mop is so easy to use. It was another wedding gift (really gotta love the wedding gifts!) that I've used a lot. I even used it to clean our kitchen cupboards (picture me very awkwardly holding a full-sized mop sideways in a smallll kitchen). A great perk of the steam mop compared to the traditional mop and bucket (or Swiffer) is that you don't need any chemicals. This is environmentally friendly and will save you money in the long run since you won't have to buy any cleaners.

Pic from Local Harvest
When you're finished cleaning, you can focus on the most important part of your day - eating :)  My new favorite way to get fresh, local fruits and vegetables is to subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Local Harvest has a directory of CSA programs around the country.

Most CSA programs have convenient pick up locations where you go once a week to get a box of fresh produce. The one we signed up for last year was 20 weeks long. I was skeptical at first. What kinds of food would we get? Would we eat it all? Would I know what to do with it?

Pic from www.crossfitinvictus.com

I was very pleasantly surprised. In addition to the vegetables I expected, we got tons of berries and fruit. Once we even got a homemade pie! There were a few staples in the box (lettuce every week), but mostly we got anything that was in season. The farm sent weekly emails with recipes and coupons for other things sold at the farm. It was so fun - the fruit and veges were so fresh and I was forced to got to experiment in the kitchen with produce I've never used before. Who knew rhubarb was so good?

Our one complaint is that the food didn't last a super long time. I think part of this was because of the very mild (read: rainy) summer Portland had last year, and the fact that there was just so much darn food. Most boxes are packed full of so much food Matt and I would never eat it all. We shared a box with my brother- and sister-in-law. I highly recommend this idea if there are only two of you. It also cuts the cost in half!

These are just a few of the green tips for your home. Do you have any tips to green your spring?

This post is linked up at 

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Friday, March 25, 2011

A Little Spring Crafting Inspiration

Although its still pretty gloomy outside in Portland, I've got spring fever. I can't wait to wake up to the sun peaking through the window, to see flowers blooming in the yard, and to enjoy a cold beer on a warm day.

Matt and I in Corfu, Greece in 2007

 Sort of like that :) Actually, I'd just be happy with a day without rain!

Lucky for me, I'm not alone in blogland. There are quite a few inspiring ideas out there to infuse a little sun in your home (even if its not outside... yet). I'll be in sunny partly cloudy San Diego this weekend for my cousin's wedding. When I get back I plan on tackling these three projects to brighten up our home.

Felt So Cute made this great mossy monogram wreath.

Her tutorial is easy to follow and the end result looks fantastic!

I can't wait to make my "N" version and hang it on the mantle. We don't have many live plants in our house, so I like the idea of the moss to add an earthy element to the room.

I'd also like to try and make this wreath to brighten up our front door.

The Adventures of Ordy and Joon DIYed a sunny lemon wreath that will provide some much needed color to our front yard in this dreary Portland weather. The bright yellow will be a great contrast to our purple door. Ordy and Joon also offer up a great tutorial that will help me brighten up our front yard in no time!

The last project I can't wait to try is this sunburst mirror. I love that its inexpensive and can bring a bit of warm wood into the room. J and J Home are the creative minds behind this fun wall art.

This mirror will hang in our living room, on the opposite wall from some inexpensive DIY art I made a couple weeks ago. The mirror will reflect some more light in the room and with these two pieces, the room will really start to feel homey.

Thank you to Felt So Cute, The Adventures of Ordy and Joon, and J and J Home for sharing their ideas. I can't wait to 'borrow' them.

I'm off to stay classy in San Diego. (Anchorman reference to get me geared up for the trip.)

What has inspired you lately?
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Free Canvas Print!

After creating some art for the wall in our living room, I've been frantically trying to think of how we can fill the rest of the walls in our home (its so fun!). One of my girlfriends recently suggested canvas prints, and her email jogged my memory of a great deal I'd seen! (Seriously, am I supposed to forget things at the ripe old age of 28?)

Canvas People is offering a free 8x10 print to first time customers. That's me!

If you go to their Create Your Canvas page, you are able to select a free 8x10. Even after the $14.95 shipping charge, that's still a great deal. I can't vouch for the final product because I haven't ordered my free print yet. I'm still deciding between this picture from our trip to South Korea

and this picture from our wedding reception.

What do you think? Which one should I choose for the free print? Does anyone have experience ordering things from Canvas People?

Also, I feel like I must mention, I wasn't paid or anything for this post. I just like free things :) Pin It

Monday, March 21, 2011

Are we there yet?

Almost. We're almost done with the shower. We might call Guinness Book to see if we can get in there for longest DIY project :) I'm kidding - trying to fit house projects around work and Matt's school is sometimes tough, but we make it work. We're just a little slow. We finished up the shower grout this weekend (tutorial below).

But first, we had to put our game faces on for our big end-of-season dodgeball tournament.

I'm the girl on the right that looks like she's doing a bad dance move, not playing dodgeball. My teammates are much more intimidating.

We didn't take home the big trophy but we've got our sights on next season. After our early exit from dodgeball I enjoyed a bridal shower for a long time friend, which left Sunday for grouting.

After finishing up the tiling over the last two (or was it three?) weekends, we were ready to grout. 

Here's the shower before grout.

Again, not sure why I'm obsessed with this blue tape.

After grout. Its starting to look like a real shower!

I don't know what the spot is in the center. Something is on our camera lens. Maybe taking pictures with mortar- and grout-covered hands is a bad idea?

We still need to seal the grout and caulk the joints, but we're very close to being finished. Grouting was a straight forward process.

You need:
three buckets (one for grout, two for water)
putty knife
rubber float
rag (to keep your hands clean if you're messy like me)
grout (look at the box to see how much you'll need)

We used white sanded grout between the big tiles and white non sanded grout between the little tiles (the sand would scratch the little glass tiles). I was worried it would look funny but the two different types of grout blend together well.

I love those little tiles!

We started with the sanded grout on the big tiles, and then did the little tiles with the non sanded grout. We just mixed it according to the package directions using the putty knife and a bucket (very clear instructions). Matt used the rubber float to push the grout into the joints.

All the tips we read said to go at a diagonal (compared to the tile) with the rubber float. This is true, it helps fill the space between the tiles better. Matt also found that using the short end was easier - he had more control and it actually helped save time. As Matt filled the joints with grout, I followed him with a sponge to clean up the lines and tiles.

Wait about 10 minutes after grouting to start with the sponge. Sponge off the tiles in a circular motion; this will prevent you from taking too much grout out of the joints. I'm very impatient and wanted to "shape" the lines of grout with the sponge, but it was much better to lightly sponge in a circular motion and let the grout even out naturally.

Rinse your sponge out a lot! We had two buckets of water. One for the first rinse to get the grout off the sponge, and the second for a clean rinse.

Because we were working together, we were able to tackle the whole shower at once. If you're working alone, I highly recommend grouting in sections. After about 25 minutes the grout really started to set which would make it difficult to sponge off.

About 2 hours later you'll see a haze drying on your tiles. You can buff this off with a dry cheesecloth to make your tiles shiny again.

Wear a mask when you do this (and all tile work I think). There is lots of dust during this step and the silica in the grout is bad for your lungs.

That's it! We still need to caulk the joints and seal the grout. We'll caulk the joints tomorrow, to clean up the corners and seal the tile to the tub and plumbing.

This space will disappear with the caulk.
Caulk is used in the corner joints and around the plumbing (rather than having the tiles touch the plumbing) to create a good seal. The last step is to seal the grout. We need to wait at least three days to allow the grout to cure and at least two coats are recommended in the shower.

Once we've completed these steps and replaced the plumbing fixtures, I'll be so happy to show you the before and after of our first attempt at tiling! Then its on to the rest of the bathroom...

I hope everyone had a great, jam-packed weekend like us, but with more sleep!

PS. If anyone has tips for cleaning a camera lens please let me know! Its just a point and shoot, not a big lens.

Update: To see the last step in our shower redo, click here.

This post is linked up at The DIY Show Off and Tatertots and Jello. Pin It

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Say Goodbye to the Naked Wall

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Usually I'm pretty pooped after work. Today I had an unusual amount of energy because I wanted to finish up a half done project from the weekend. A few days ago I showed you a glimpse of a project to finally get some art hung in our family room.

Although we've been in our house nearly a year, our walls are pathetically bare. I feel a lot of pressure to choose *just the right thing* and therefore haven't been able to make any decisions. I've bought and returned napkins to frame. I've hung up and taken down old photos. After reading a post from Young House Love about inexpensive art, I finally had my solution.

I hope they don't mind I borrowed their idea (albeit changed it up a bit). Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

A few days ago the biggest wall in our family room looked like this.

Not a whole lot going on there. Our family room is pretty big and this particular wall is massive, so I had a lot of space to fill. I liked the idea of lots of smaller frames and a simple design with bright colors. I used the YHL idea of scrapbook paper in different colors, but switched it up a bit with dark frames and a design on the front.

It was pretty easy to make. First, I found the frames (12x12) at Michael's, on sale for $9.99. $7.50 each with a 25% off coupon. Not Bad!

Picking the colors for the background was the hard part. I think I sat in the scrapbook aisle of Michael's for half an hour putting different paper on the ground, arranging and rearranging it. The other customers thought I was crazy.

To make the design on the front I bought a stencil and used some white acrylic paint I already had.

I measured from corner to corner to find the center of the paper and used a screw tip to put a tiny mark on the page.

Then I used a foam brush to put paint on the stencil and just eyeballed the stencil onto the mark I made in the center. I didn't actually measure the stencil size compared to the paper to find the exact center (but I did look up the word eyeballed. Its a real verb). I decided to embrace the imperfections in the interest of time.

The stenciling was pretty easy. After one row I decided that stenciling the whole paper might be too much so I did this plus sign-looking design. But the possibilities are endless!

Hanging 8 frames evenly spaced intimidated me a little bit, but it was pretty easy to do with a tape measure and laser level. I laid out the frames on the ground with the spacing I wanted, back side up. This allowed me to measure the distance from one hanger to the other.

I repeated this exercise on the wall, using a laser level to keep the frames even.

Carl helped. That cat is obsessed with light!

I just hammered in some nails on my pencil marks and that was it!

For some scrapbook paper, paint and cheap little frames, it turned out pretty well!

In the YHL post, they mentioned this art from Crate and Barrel that retails for $369.

I'd say for 70 bucks including the frames, my DIY version will work just fine :)

For fun, the before and after of our family room.

Thanks again to Young House Love for the inspiration to get my booty in gear and make some art on the cheap!

This post is linked up at 5 Days 5 WaysThe Inspired Room, Today's Creative Blog, The Stories of A to Z, Someday Crafts, The DIY Showoff, and


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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Excuses, Excuses (Or why we're not done with the bathroom yet)

Do you ever have one of those weekends where it leaves you more tired than you started, but you didn't actually get anything done? No? Oh. Must just be me. You'll have to teach me about those time management skills when I get off the couch and out of my snuggie.

I definitely had one of those weekends. Matt and I got to catch up with lots of friends and family at a going away party, a birthday party, and the Shamrock Run in downtown Portland.

Those are the guys at the front of the line. I was in the back retying my shoes and thinking about breakfast. At all races I can't stop retying my shoes. They never "feel right". I do it until the whistle blows and then think about my shoes and socks the whole race. Its a problem. I need help :)

The run was lots of fun and a great way to start a Sunday. It was also a good way to end a Sunday - I was pretty lazy the rest of the day.

On Saturday we did get a little bit of tiling done in the shower. A little bit. Here's the shower currently (not to mention we still have to tackle the rest of the bathroom).

We have two more rows left, the very top and bottom. Turns out when you've got two bathrooms you aren't in any hurry to finish up such a daunting project. I promise to have a much more interesting update by next weekend.

The other problem is that I have home improvement ADD and while I should have been tiling I started another project. Inspired by a post on Young House Love, I started making some art to go behind the couch in the family room.

 Its currently a work in progress, but I'll share the short how-to when I'm finished. If you have a stencil and acrylic paint its really easy.

I also decided that thinking about working on the bathroom isn't a good enough reason to skip all the housework. Actually working on the bathroom might be a good excuse, but we did little of that this weekend. Most of the house looks like this.

A mess. So I'm off to become reacquainted with the vacuum and steam mop and get organized for the week.

How was your weekend? Get any fun projects done? Do you love your snuggie as much as I do?  Pin It

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Useful Art for the Kitchen

My first "turn some old, ugly art from goodwill into something great" project is complete. As promised, it was really easy. However, it didn't turn out as the perfectly quaint little piece of art I pictured in my head :) I haven't lost hope though, it could easily be improved.

My husband actually came up with the idea. Matt and I were wandering around Macy's and he saw a spatula with a bunch of measurement conversions on it. He mentioned that it would be convenient to have in the kitchen. I thought, "I can make that!" 

"I can make that" is a declaration that often leaves my lips... my follow through is a different story.

Off I went in search of a frame to use for the project. I found this one during a trip to goodwill.

I used some Rustoleum Specialty Lacquer spray paint in white and some acrylic paint in Leaf Green to paint the frame and matte.

I then googled "kitchen conversions" and used the CSG Networks conversions table. The idea of measuring out a drop, dash, and pinch was fun so I included that information from Robbie's Kitchen website. I don't know anything about either site, just trying to give credit to my conversion sources.

I attempted to use photoshop to spruce it up a bit and then printed out the conversions table using our printer at home.

Diego the dog cat tried to help me photograph it for you.

Once he went outside I got a better photo.

My favorite part.

I like the way the frame and matte turned out, but I don't love it. So far I'm out of creative juices but I may try to rearrange and print it again later. We'll see if I can come up with a more exciting display.

The good news is that I can vouch that its useful! We've already used the chart to figure out how to divide up the water needed for thinset to make smaller batches for tiling. So even if the closest I've come to cooking lately is calling the Spaghetti Factory, its handy for house projects too.

Here's a before and after look at the frame.

And this is how it looks in our kitchen (please forgive the kitchen. Its on the 2011 totally-gut-and-remodel to do list).

Any ideas on how to give it a little more pizazz?

Update! A reader asked for the document I used for this artwork (which totally made me fist pump in the air, so honored!). Here is a jpg file. If you'd like the pdf (better quality) please leave a comment and I'll email you! (I'm having trouble uploading the pdf.) Also, if you blog about it I ask that you kindly link back to this post.

Post linked up at Thrifty Decor Chick and Between Naps on the Porch.

Visit thecsiproject.com 
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