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Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Slew of Completed Knitting Projects

As I said nearly two months ago, my passion for knitting has been reignited. I've also developed an "I can learn anything" attitude when approaching possible projects.

In the past couple months I have:
-Taught myself how to knit projects using double pointed needles, which I have found to be pretty easy. It also relieves the boredom I sometimes experience with regular flat knitting as well as opens up a lot of other possibilities for projects besides scarves.
-Learned how to knit a thumb gusset for a glove. It is surprisingly easy despite the fact that the directions usually look fairly complicated.
-Finally tackled socks. A project I once found to be daunting and way out of my league I have now conquered. I'm finding myself becoming a little obsessed now.
-Figured out how to knit a beanie. I made one for Jeff.
-Discovered the ability to just shrug knitting failures off and try again. I've always been afraid to start something only to discover that it might not fit or look right in the end, so I have avoided lots of things like beanies and socks. The first pair of socks I made are a little big, but I don't really care. The first beanie I made for Jeff is a little small, but I shrugged it off and started a new one.
-Found out that I can learn from my mistakes and that messing up in a project is not the worst thing in the world.

As you can see, I have made a lot of progress on the knitting front that I am really proud of. Since I've been slacking on blogging (which apparently is a pretty frequent occurrence for me) I figured I could just share all my projects in one post.
These charcoal colored beauties were my very first DPN project. One of the gloves is shorter than the other and one of them has an added row in the cable repeat, but I don't think anyone but me will notice. I don't really care because I love them. I did learn that making pattern charts in Excel is a good idea for somewhat complicated patterns that require a bit of precision.
The next project I decided to tackle featured a very cool pattern and a very fun pink colored yarn. Again, these were fingerless gloves. Not the most practical, but fun and easy enough to make with plenty of challenge still involved.
Third we come to a deep teal colored cowl. This fits extremely close to the neck and is very warm. I reversed one of the cables on one side, but since it sits pretty scrunched up around your neck, it doesn't really seem noticeable. This yarn is the same brand as the pink gloves. It has a fiber content of 30% wool and I was beginning to get curious about working with 100% wool.
These are the latest fingerless gloves. They featured a complicated cable pattern that required pretty much all of my attention. No mindless tv knitting for me. This was also my first foray into using all wool yarn, and I am a convert! I love it! So warm and cuddly and it just feels natural on my skin. Much better than the typical acrylic crap I've been using. It also does not pill on the surface which is nice. Unfortunately it's around 3-4 times more expensive, sometimes more than that for artisan types! This yarn is even locally made!
Finally we have my proudest accomplishment to date. SOCKS! When I first started knitting I never dreamed I would be able to knit socks. It required pattern reading, decreases, selvages, turning, shaping, and use of DPNS. Yet here we are with my completed pair of socks! I absolutely adore them even though they are a little baggy and the yarn worked up in weird patterns. I can't wait to start another pair, I've already purchased more yarn to make more socks.

I mentioned earlier that I made a hat for Jeff, but I didn't bother to photograph it since the first hat wasn't entirely successful. I am working on the second, hopefully more appropriately sized beanie now. It will probably be finished tomorrow, but we will see.

The main thing I have learned from all of this? I can knit pretty much anything as long as I just start it!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Just Because

Today is an absolutely gorgeous winter day. The sun is shining while the air is cool and crisp. The dogs decided to make the most of it and enjoyed the sun together on the porch. Too cute!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning Something New

The colder weather around here has reignited my excitement for knitting. A few extra goodies from Christmas didn't hurt either. I have always enjoyed working with yarn and I fondly remember the days when I sat with my Grandma as she taught me, with the patience of a saint, how to crochet. I cherish those memories made while we created something. I always watched her so closely as she crocheted. She moved the hook and yarn with such speed and ease that it amazed me. Maybe one day I would get that skilled, but that day hasn't come yet. I still suck at reading patterns and counting stitches, but I still enjoy it and always think of her when I crochet. But I've always had the itch to try knitting.

I envied the pretty stitch patterns that simply could not be replicated through crochet. Cables were something I dreamed of being able to do someday but I always imagined that they were impossibly difficult to pull off. Thanks to the modern conveniences of YouTube and the internet and the infinite books on knitting, I was able to teach myself. I never progressed past flat knitting, which basically means scarves and only scarves. Then sometime in the last year or so I challenged myself to buck up and try out cables once and for all. The worst thing that could happen was that I messed up and tried again. Lucky for me, it turns out cables are ridiculously easy. I had a hard time understanding why I held off for so long when something with such an amazing end result requires very little skill other than basic knitting knowledge. I made a pillow covered in cables with my newly discovered skill.

Fast forward to Christmas where I find myself opening presents that include double pointed knitting needles and a book on how to knit socks. Those are two things I knew absolutely nothing about. I figured that if I received them as gifts then certainly I would figure something out.

Over the past weekend I decided to give it a go. I found a cute pattern on Ravelry that included one of my beloved cables and even a thumb gusset. Not only was I completely clueless as to how to knit in the round (something you do on double pointed needles) but I was even more clueless about how to make a hole for a finger and knitting to go around it. A handful of YouTube videos and an hour or so of scouring message boards looking for helpful hints and tricks I set out to make my first real project on DPNs.

Amazingly, they are working up very quickly and I am in LOVE with the results. I finished the first mitt tonight and have been tickled with the results. I've been pretty goofy all night being completely full of myself and proud for learning a handful of new skills. In fact, I finished 5 hours ago and I am still wearing the single mitt. Obviously, I am proud. I won't share a picture until I have the other one finished, but I expect that to be within the week. I just needed an outlet to share my excitement. After all, Glenn and Jeff can only get so excited over a knitted fingerless glove.

Love to all!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Snow Day!

First I would like to apologize for the extreme tardiness of my last post. Life gets in the way sometimes and I get easily distracted. I started writing that post back in the beginning of November! Sheesh. But we can just glaze over that and pretend it never happened.

As I am sure many of you have seen that the state of Washington, particularly the region around the Sound has been a pretty popular news topic. Mother Nature decided to have a snow party in our area and has been dumping snow on us this week. And when I say dumping, I really mean it! We have had 8 inches or so fall in just one day!
Needless to say this has all been quite the adventure. I had my first experience driving in ice early Monday morning and then my first experience driving in snow later in the same day! It was so weird and a little bit scary. Thankfully I don't have too many places to go and I feel like I am a pretty safe and observant driver.

Since Jeff and his friend Jason had been staying with us since last Wednesday (Jeff is now a permanent resident) I decided I would take them out to breakfast on the last full day here. We made the trek out to Denny's in what seemed like a blizzard of snow to me.
It was crazy and fun all at the same time. I still can't get over how weird everything looks all covered in snow!

On Tuesday Glenn ended up taking a snow day because the streets looked pretty gross and not safe to drive on and he worked from home. It was nice getting to have him home all day, even if he did have to work!
Wednesday morning we awoke to an amazing amount of snow outside. It was piled everywhere! Glenn took another snow day, but this time he just took the day off. I called in to work and I was told not to come in today and to enjoy the snow. How fun! I've never had a snow day before!
Jeff and I decided to brave the snow and get donuts. It was pretty funny crunching around in the snow. We saw some people go by with cross country skis and some with snow shoes! You can see how deep the snow if you look at where Jeff's feet are supposed to be! Later in the day though, we were getting a bit stir crazy. Normally we are perfectly fine not going anywhere, but just knowing that we actually could not leave the house gave us a little cabin fever.
Today (Thursday) was supposed to be a little bit better but the streets still looked pretty bad. Despite the worst of the snow having passed the next stage was here in full force. Ice everywhere. All the piles of snow were solidifying and icicles were forming everywhere.
Even the plants were covered in ice, some shrubs even being frozen solid! My work called me around noon and told me that my shift for the evening was canceled and to stay home. I'm not complaining.
Glenn ended up working at home again today as well. Around lunch time we just HAD to get out of the house so we all suited up and made our way over to Southern Kitchen for a delicious and filling lunch of catfish and fried chicken. YUM!
I should also mention that before we walked to Southern Kitchen we attempted to drive so we could get lunch and take Jeff to a credit union. Once our car made it off of our driveway and partially into the street we came to a definite halt. The tires whirred around to no avail. Jeff got out of the car while Glenn accelerated and steered us back into the garage. Guess we weren't going anywhere by car for awhile.
We've definitely been having a lot of fun experiencing all the crazy snow and learning how to deal with it now that we have a big ol' house to take care of. Things have certainly been interesting around here. And if you are wondering if I still like the weather around here, I have to answer with a resounding YES! This stuff doesn't happen everyday after all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Our Biggest Undertaking

I'm not really sure where to begin when it comes to the story of how a single room in our house went from a semi demolished bathroom (when we first saw it when touring the house) to a very simply/cheaply finished bathroom (when we had the inspection) to a completely gutted bathroom (during the renovation) to a stunning one of a kind bathroom that truly represents who we are. There's a lot to tell in that story! I think the best way will be to break it down in a bit.

I will let this post act as a summary of my feelings from beginning to end. Hopefully I can get Glenn to detail his experience as well because he certainly had a much different experience than I did.

When we first saw the bathroom while touring the home it had a gross blue toilet, a sink (I'm not positive on that) and a gutted shower/tub area with the lath showing. The owner assured us that they would finish it if we were to buy the house. Ideally we would have rather them not finished the bathroom because we wanted to redo it anyway. It seemed such a shame for someone to spend time and money on something we would rip out. Unfortunately our loan required the bathroom to be finished in order for the house to qualify. The bathroom got finished. On the cheap.

During our inspection the inspector noted that there was basically no water pressure but that he wasn't sure what the reason for it was. Glenn was almost certain that it had something to do with the mixing cartridge and I was certain that this was all way over my head. Just a short time later and the house was ours and we would eventually start thinking about what we wanted to do to the bathroom. And then it sat.

Fast forward to the middle of August and you will find Glenn ripping out the shower. A week or so later Glenn pulled the sink out and I finished pulling up the sheet laminate flooring. We also got Freyja at that time :o) Not much longer after that, Glenn pulled out the toilet, much to my disgust. We stuck all the fixtures in the atrium and attempted to get rid of them via Craigslist, which we did. At this point we had found ourselves relegated to using the downstairs bathroom only. It was annoying, but it was doable.

If I'm completely honest with myself, I can't really recall a whole lot of what happened while doing the bathroom and in what order things happened. It seems like such a blur, and really it was. Once our friend Ashley informed us she would be visiting we had a deadline. The bathroom simply HAD to be finished by October 13. With maybe a month to go we kicked it into high gear.
We ordered a beautiful acrylic claw foot slipper tub online (SCARY!) and began a relentless search for the perfect piece of furniture to turn into a vanity.
On one fateful weekend Glenn lined up a handful of yard sales for us to visit and we began searching. We had no idea what we were looking for, but we were positive that we would know it when we laid eyes on it. Thanks to Glenn's hard work and persistence we found exactly what we were looking for and to this day we still don't know what to call it. I later finished the vanity with a good coating of polyurethane to give it some durability.

Next on the list was to find a sink and a faucet to go on top of the previously mentioned vanity. We found a nice looking inexpensive faucet on Amazon and we got a nice vessel sink at Lowe's.
Lastly we needed to find a toilet. We were pretty adamant about getting a highly efficient dual flush toilet, but all the ones we had seen up to this point were pretty ugly and not as efficient as we would have liked. Finally we remembered a very cool place we had once visited in Seattle called EcoHaus. Sure enough, they had the most perfect toilet for us at more than half off! So basically we got the most efficient dual flush toilet commercially available for a steal.
Now we had everything we needed for the bathroom except for the flooring. At this time we were walking on plywood, but we weren't in there all that often. Again, we made a trip to the big blue home improvement store to find what we needed. They had cute little hex tiles that I just loved. Best of all, they came with a mesh backing, and if I have learned anything from Holmes on Homes it is that a mesh backed tile does not need to be "buttered" with thin set.
I feel like tiling should be a separate post, as this one is already pretty lengthy, so I will just finish with we bought the tile and we laid the tile.
My next task was to paint the walls. We chose a deep cobalt blue called Bottle Blue from the Eddie Bauer for Valspar collection. It really is a beautiful color that plays quite nicely with the rich warm wood tone and the bright white of everything else. Painting was a breeze.
Finally everything was getting installed! Somewhere in between we made a trip to Target and Bed Bath & Beyond to pick up some bathroom necessities like a shower curtain, bathmat, hand towels, and curtain hooks. The bathroom was really looking like a bathroom now! Not only is it functional, but oh my goodness is it beautiful!
On the last day of our deadline I ran to Lowe's, at this point we were extremely familiar with their employees, and picked up a big white framed mirror to go above the vanity. The previous bathroom had no mirror so we didn't realize that the lights were installed too low to allow the mirror to hang at a proper height. Being too exhausted too care and too happy with everything else to worry about it, we hung the mirror as high as we could and called it complete.
The very last thing we did a few weeks later was reward ourselves, as promised, with white huge, luxurious, expensive, fluffy bath sheets that I had my eye on at Macy's. We only bought two because they were so expensive. We also splurged and bought some pretty luxurious guest towels (not sheets this time) so our guests can bathe happy too.
This has been a pretty long post for a pretty long and tiring project, but I think you get the idea. Until next time!

Friday, October 28, 2011

How I Lost My Mojo...But Made It Work Anyway

I would consider myself a pretty good painter. I've painted quite a few walls and developed techniques along the way. I've painted walls every color from primer white to glossy black. I'm not afraid of color in the least and in fact embrace it.
When we first bought the house, the downstairs bathroom was a lovely shade of poop brown. According to my rule book, two colors should never be painted in bathrooms - brown and yellow. I don't think I need to explain why, those are just my rules. Anyway, I had been wanting to get rid of that gross brown for quite a while but the right color never seemed to jump out at me, no matter how many paint swatches I stared at. Finally, after multiple paint samples for the dining room I found our color. Fuchsia!

As soon as the color was selected I knew where I wanted to take the rest of the room. Ideally I would be going all out glam and glitz, but that's not realistic since I live with a man. Not exactly fair. Anyway I decided that I wanted to keep everything black and white except for the crazy colored walls, that way nothing would be too overwhelming. We'll get back to all this good stuff, but we've got to get past the bad first.
Since the brown on the walls was such a dark color I knew it needed to be primed. When we were picking up paint for the dining room we also grabbed a can of primer. I have heard that this primer is an excellent quality primer so I was confident it would work just fine.
I put on two coats (this picture only shows one) and everything looked nice. I began painting the fuchsia and that is where my problems began. Despite putting on two solid coats of primer, patches of ugly brown were beginning to peek through in various spots. Some were worse than others.

This was not pretty and I was a bit upset. I continued on in hopes that a couple more coats would fix everything. It usually does, but not this time. Things were starting to look worse. It basically looked like a murder scene as Glenn so kindly pointed out when I hesitantly showed him my progress. I decided I needed to start over.
This time I was going to use a primer I had used a million times before and was comfortable using. We picked up a gallon at Lowe's and I got to work yet again. This time my primer practically refused to stick to the walls. It was like I had painted latex over oil based, which was certainly not the case. Now I was more than a bit upset. It left these hideous patchy spots all over with a really bizarre texture. Some spots even had gruesome looking drips when I came back to look at it 15 minutes later.

I lost it. I was at my wit's end and I broke down in tears. I didn't know what to do and I was literally sobbing on the bathroom floor like a child. It's embarrassing to admit that, but not only is it true, I feel like it is an important aspect to my story. I angrily stabbed out words on my computer begging for some sort of consolation from Glenn while he was at work. Unfortunately for me he was busy and was not about to deal with me being ridiculous. In fact, he thought it was funny. At this point I was fuming. In retrospect, this may be about the most absurd display of behavior I have ever exhibited.
After calming down and hours of Googling possible solutions I decided I would try oil-based primer. It supposedly works wonders and stinks to the high heavens. I had nothing to lose and what did it matter if I added yet another useless can of primer to my ever growing collection. As soon as I set the primer soaked roller to the wall my worries started to melt away. It covered like a dream and aside from the textural mistakes, the wall looked clean and new again. Two coats later and my bathroom was ready for it's lipstick.

Six or seven coats of pink paint in I learned a valuable lesson. Tinted primer is ALWAYS a good idea. I could get into the science of how the pigments work to reflect light and why you need a base of a certain color to get the truest final result, but I'm not going to. If you are doing a bold color, just be safe and get a gray tinted primer. I was quickly running out of paint and I realized that more layers of color were just not going to even out some of the lighter areas in the bathroom. I decided to just accept the bathroom for what it was and enjoy the fact that I have a pink room in my house and that I have a pretty incredible husband who is basically a saint for dealing with me through this awful month long process.
To tie everything together I began adding the details. I wanted a semi-masculine shower curtain to balance all the girly. I went with horizontal racing stripes.
To keep things a little bit glam I replaced the old shower curtain and rings with shiny chrome. At some point all the rest of the metals in the room will also be chrome.
I finally got to buy the rug I have been wanting for ages now. The fun zig zag pattern adds a bit of chaos and graphic pop.
We added a simple black framed mirror in place of the mirrored medicine cabinet.
To make up for the storage I removed we added an interesting chrome and glass shelf unit. The stuff sitting on it is not permanent. I'll be accessorizing more appropriately at a later time. I also bought some hanging ceramic pots to keep bathroom essentials in like Q-Tips and cotton balls.

That my friends, is how I lost my mojo. It certainly wasn't pretty and I certainly didn't enjoy it. There was a lesson to be learned and I have since taken it to heart. I didn't hesitate for one second in buying tinted primer for the dining room. I also learned that despite all of my frustration, I still love the color pink and I love my pink bathroom more and more every day.

Vacancy

As I am sure I mentioned before, our guest room has also been completed in my absence from blogging. I think that the end result, while pretty minimalistic for the time being, is quite beautiful. It is also a bit of a departure from our usual style.

While preparing to tackle this project I thought for a long and hard time about what direction I wanted to go. The main thing was that I wanted it to be clean and comfortable for our guests and I also wanted it to feel cozy and relaxing. Our typical style is not exactly cozy and relaxing looking since we tend to lean towards bright or cool colors and more modern-type design. We just needed to be creative.
It took us (me) a really long time to settle on a color to paint the walls because I really wanted to let the bedding dictate the style. I didn't want to find a color I loved and then never be able to find bedding for it. That would suck. On one of our many, many trips to Target we found a bedding set (complete with decorative pillows!) that we both really liked. I pored over my hundreds of paint swatches I chose a few colors to get samples of. Turns out all of them were terrible. At least at this point we had a direction and were able to choose new colors based on what we didn't like about the previous choices. I picked two more and off to Lowe's again. Since I always check the "oops section" I also found a 50 cent no name paint sample in a similar shade of yellow and grabbed that as well.
I slapped all of the samples up on the wall and sure enough, we decided on the sample with no name. Surely it could be color matched just fine. We took it in to Lowe's, where the paint guy probably dreads seeing me, and handed over the sample to get matched. I came back about 20 minutes later and see the paint guy shaking his head and muttering. Things must not have been going well for him. I wandered back to where Glenn was in the plumbing section and waited for him to finish up before going back to the paint area. When we returned to the paint section the guy set our gallon on the counter with an exasperated look and told us that it took him three tries to get the color close enough. It wasn't exact, but I liked it and I wasn't about to make him do it again so I thanked him and we were off. Then the walls got painted.
A while back we made a visit to JC Penney and purchase a mattress set at an AMAZING deal. Seriously, we saved almost twice what we paid because the mattress was being discontinued. We got the mattress set delivered only to find out that the box spring would not fit up the stairs. We decided our best option was just to refuse delivery of the box spring, get our money back, and find a different option. The mattress was just fine though. Since there is this hilariously cheesy looking place that we pass by quite often called The Mattress Ranch we decided to give it a shot and see what they recommended. Lucky for us they had a couple of cool guys working who were more interested in being honest with us than trying to sell us something more expensive. They showed us a bed frame that basically had a box spring built in and it was very cheap and compact enough to fit in our car. Deal! Little did we know that it would take about 2-3 hours between the two of us to set it up.
The next step was a headboard. The wall that the bed is up against is actually sloped so we had a fairly tight space to work within. It couldn't be any taller than 47" which ruled out a lot of headboards that I really liked. On top of that, everything was just so expensive! I wanted to keep this room budget-friendly - after all we were working on a complete bathroom renovation at the same time - so it was time to think outside of the box. On one of our countless trips to Lowe's Glenn mentioned using a piece of fencing as a headboard. I was definitely intrigued. The particular piece we looked at also happens to be similar to my dream fencing for the outside. The horizontal/semi-irregular spacing of the slats made it interesting looking but simple. A pass with the sander and a coat of stain and poly in one and we were golden! Glenn installed the headboard to the frame because I am a weenie.
As for finishing touches to the room it's still pretty simple at this point. The main goal was just to make it comfortable and functional for the time being. We added an inexpensive rug to the end of the bed that we bought at IKEA to keep things cozy.
We bought my favorite sheets from Target (organic cotton in a beautiful shimmery gold color - so soft).
We installed a more attractive roman shade to cover the hideous blinds for now.
I also added a couple of hooks inside the closet that actually allow hangers to fit inside that tiny space!

I still have a lot more that I would like to do in this room to really personalize it and give it some character, but that is all for another day after we have completed other things that are a little higher on our priority list. But for now, I love the room and I think it looks beautiful. In case anyone is looking, there is an availability for guests right now! :o)