Thursday, January 26, 2017


by Kathleen

A few random photos of a few random times this past Fall...

The last of the garden gifts... misshaped beets, scraggly carrots, and some self planted and quite delicious butternut squash.

A thyme flavored adult beverage at our favorite local watering hole.

Knitting around the bonfire with friends and loved ones.

A very late second bloom on our clematis. In spring they cover the iron fence in profuse abundance, but there's nothing like an unexpected shot of beauty, even if  small, in the middle of bleak November.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


by Kathleen

I read a fair number of decorating blogs. Some I like their sense of style, some I like their writing, some... I just haven't taken them off my bloglovin' list yet. 
Many of the more "professional" ones seem to magically poof their rooms... from dull and bare into fully completed, painted, decorated, finished to the Nth detail showpieces. Yeah. That's not how it works in the real life me-world.

When we first moved into this house three years ago last July, there were things that we did right away because we couldn't stand to live with them any longer than we had to. We took up the first and second floor carpet to reveal untouched red oak flooring. We started cutting out the half dead and horribly overgrown hedges (cutting back many flowering shrubs makes them bloom more the next year). And we painted some walls, including the icky yucky ugly kitchen wallpaper.
And then we... stopped.

We had plans (boy, did we have plans!). But in the real world there are limits to our time and money, and to our energy after a long work day. And so painting cabinets, changing hardware, and things involving saws and wiring waited.
So I am thrilled, tickled turquoise even, to show that we did a big old bunch of work on the kitchen... finally!

Here is the kitchen from the listing agent as it was when we bought the house
The wallpaper was a speckled lattice with fruit design (that never looked clean). The cabinets were cream fronts with faux wood grained bases, and colonial style handles and hinges. There was a cooktop (an out-of-production Jenn-Air with two burners and a useless grill insert... that's two burners, TWO!) and a small wall oven. And a humongous non-functioning microwave... I have never seen a microwave that big or more broken.

Our immediate plan was paint the wallpaper, and toss the microwave, and that we did. The we planned and plotted and started collecting... I got a very nice used range for $75. We found a stainless steel range hood for $25. We got three metal and one wood sliding cabinet inserts for free from a friend who moved. We took the doors off the left upper and over-frig cabinets. We gathered paint chips, copied and shared inspirational photos. We got our ducks in a row.
Until finally... we were ready.

The first step was the heaviest construction wise. Jeff took out the cooktop and cut out the base cabinets for the range placement.

We knew about this dead fan, but...
(Hello back yard!)

this one next to it was a surprise.

Opening in base prepared, box for range hood made, and hood attached. Also right side upper cabinet gone. (the box to the right covers the AC vent for the next room so it'll have to stay)

Sides get closed in, painted and a surprise is added to the shallow right box.

A slide out knife board!

Very, very scary wiring... ooooooo.

Shiny happy new wiring! 
(new skill for resume... pulling 50 feet of heavy gauge wire)
Also note lovely slide out cabinet insert... ooh ah.

Somewhere around here we painted the one upper cabinet and all the remaining walls white.
Then we could put the range in place and attach the stainless back splash.

Some time before, we had made an admittedly bold choice for the color we wanted on the lower cabinets. We were concerned that we were crazy... not for the first time. So we painted one set of cabinets and lived with it for several months. We found our love for the bold turquoise didn't fade, and we embraced it for the remainder of the base cabinets... and decided to use it as an accent on the window frame.

We also put up a temporary wire rack to hold spices... 

And after looking for some time we lucked out on a handle style we both liked going on sale JUST as we committed to the work.

We want to change all the fixtures, but could only manage the over sink one this time around.

Still have one more magnet strip to apply. (and no, we have no children in the house and none visit)

DONE!!!        for now...

This is phase two complete. This was a big work load as it involved all the cabinetry, some heavy duty wiring, and the range replacement. We still want to move a microwave into the cabinet above the wall stove (which we've kept). Make a more permanent, interesting, cabinet for spices. Replace the other two light fixtures. Change out the sink for an apron front style (I say stainless, he says white porcelain). Treat the vent covering box in some way. Paint the toe kicks black.
And two more biggies... change the counters (black we're thinking) and floors (still very up in the air, but probably a gray/black/white tile design).

But that's for another day... or rather another year.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Lowering the drinking age

by Kathleen

So what do you do when a baby shower is approaching and you want to make a cute gift in limited time, while also giving it that personal touch?

Well, when the father is a master brewer...

You make baby beer socks!
That's a lager on the left and a stout on the right. 

The lager sock is a basic toe-up with short row heel, but after deciding that I just don't like toe-up even when it's short and tiny, I did the stout top-down with a heel flap. I got fancy on the lager foam with short rows and bobbles, but it was taking too long and I was late (as usual), so the stout has a smoother, creamier garter cuff. 
To the above right you can see the third yarn that I didn't get to... it was going to be an Irish red, but honestly I didn't like the color... so when I ran out of time I didn't worry about it.
The sock yarns are Plymouth Encore, DK weight, mostly acrylic. The foam is whatever off white I had laying around (the lager has silver sparkles!).

They were a big hit! And as the mother started getting weepy that I'd hand knit for her baby, I made her laugh by pointing out the beer connection. Couldn't ask for more than that!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blue Bobbles

by Kathleen
I was going through my photos (although it seems easier to delete bad, duplicate, and unremarkable photos in digital albums, it seems harder to get around to doing so), and I realized that I never shared this shawl I made some time ago. 
Juneberry by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.
We were spending the day in DC, and I saw that Fibrespace (a yarn store in Old Town Alexandria) was open. I'd been by there before, but it had never been open, so I struck a deal... Jeff went to visit a small bookstore down the block and I went into the yarn store (and a good time was had by all).

One technique I'd never done was bobbles, so when I saw that this gorgeous lace pattern, with it's wonderful border, made using sport rather than lace weight, contained bobbles... 
And then, I found a beautiful locally hand dyed silk and wool blend yarn by Neighborhood Fiber Company (the one purchase I allow with no justification needed is local small artist dyed yarn and rovings)...

It was a match made in heaven (well, technically in DC).

It's been several years now since I made this, and I wear it a lot... like, pretty much every day during the winter. It's the perfect size to wrap around my neck and tuck into my coat when it's really cold out. Or drape over my shoulders when the room is just a tiny bit chilly. It's so pretty, yet it's perfectly functional as well. A most successful knit.
And I can do bobbles now!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

cats iz the craaaaaaziest peoples...

by Kathleen

Jeff and I have been talking about getting another kitten for a little while. Last time we got a kitten (5 years ago) our older female was too set in her ways, and (being of a stubborn nature anyway) never accepted the kitten. At all.
We didn't want our now adult ex-kitten to get old and crotchety the same way. So a new kitten before she was too old made sense.
So I visited the local no kill shelter to acquaint myself with the types and personalities and... whoops...

two is always better than one... right?

Please meet...



(from Miles Davis and Jerry Mulligan, jazz greats)

 They were 4 months old at the time of these photos (taken in July). Though we did have to get them their shots, they were already fixed. And they're extremely socialized... so friendly and unafraid they came and hung out with the crowd at our annual August party.
The older cats were wary at first... and as we were fearing the 5 year old female was the most unwelcoming. Simon wasn't what I'd call happy, but he'd been through this a couple times before. he wasn't getting in an uproar as Zeeba was.

And the kittens have worked on him, sloooooowly.....
"Mooom, he's touching me!"
No photos exist of the kitten's getting that close to Zeeba... yet.
Four cats. But I don't qualify as a crazy cat lady yet since that's only two cats if you split the count between Jeff and I. That works yes?

Five months later...
I've been sitting on this post trying to get a good photo of the kittens now that they're almost adults, but no luck. Plenty of good Mulligans, but Miles just isn't very photogenic (as an almost all black cat he just disappears). I'll have to post again, if I ever achieve that elusive goal.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The big wall

by Kathleen

This a rather picture heavy post, and my first attempt at video...

The most controversial (among our friends) redecorating choice we planned to make in our house was to remove the living room wall mural. (photo from the listing)

A lovely (seriously, not sarcastic) example of the 60's chinoiserie style of specialty focal wallpaper. On a textured background a "Chinese" scene was "brushed" in gold...  tall craggy mountains in the background, pagoda buildings with bridges and pine trees in front, complete with a little lady with a parasol standing on a bridge.
Nice... but so not us.
Some of our friends felt that it was so iconic that it had to stay. But they didn't have to live with it. We decided it would go and go quickly. And so it did.

We were lucky... it was pretty easy to remove. And this is a photo essay of the process.

The first step is to pierce the paper with a tool made expressly for the purpose. There are many versions about, but what we used is called the Zinsser Paper Tiger. Its spiky wheels roll about and leave these trails of poked holes so you can see where you've been. Don't skimp on this step.

Because after piercing you soak the paper in something to dissolve the glue backing. The more holes you've poked the easier the solution gets behind the paper. There are a lot of different wallpaper glue removers, but we made our own with water, vinegar and liquid fabric softener. If I had to do it again I might skip the softener... I think it was there mostly to thicken the spray so it wouldn't drip, but it left a slick feel to the walls. And didn't really thicken it enough to justify its inclusion.
Spray it on heavy and let it soak in... about 5 minutes. But not too long or it'll dry and you'll just have to respray. Once it's saturated the wallpaper should scrape off smoothly... if you're lucky. Which we were... video as proof:

Notice, by the way, how I'm holding the scraper at a low angle... the lower angle you hold the less you'll dig into your wall, and the smoother the paper will slide off.

Some process shots (and yes, that green is the original underneath color)...


Yay! No wall paper!

The next step (after giving the walls a good damp wiping down to remove any leftover glue or fabric softener) is to fix any damage, dings, or dents. We had a lot of mudding and sanding, and mudding and sanding to do. But the clean flat wall afterwards was worth it.

Last step, and anything but least...

We went for a light, bright green. We covered the full wall (the dining section had been painted white previously). I'll be honest, I don't remember if we primed it. But obviously if we'd wanted white walls we would have had to prime over that original green. I think this color covered, as it was, with two coats.
We're still choosing artworks for the wall. We have a different option up now... more long and rectangular with darker colors. That's the great thing about having artist in the house... I never have to go without art!!!

Here there be socks

by kathleen

My usual sock model was unavailable

So Simon kindly filled in.

Boring variation of knits and purls in a wonderful sock yarn bought on vacation in the OBX (vacation yarn is souvenir yarn so it doesn't count as stash... right?)... the Black Pelican colorway.