Borrowed Inspiration: Macrame Challenge

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

While up to my knees and elbows in dirt and landscaping, my favorite blogger, Ashley over at Domestic Imperfection, came up with a Try Something New challenge.  Seriously this lady was my biggest inspiration for creating my own blog, I've been following her since we both had half as many children as we do today, and somehow I have never tried one of her projects!  I'm not even sure how that happened.

So to make up for this colossal oversight, I decided that it was high time I joined in and got on board with her for this challenge.  I was actually really excited about the prospect of having a small, fun project to jump into after all the weeks of ongoing labor-intensive projects we've been committed to... and don't worry, I'll be back soon to finish sharing the outdoor progress!

Ashley's first challenge was macrame.  I have to admit, I had no idea this stuff was back in fashion, but when I started poking around Pinterest for some idea of how in the world I was going to get involved, I quickly realized that I loved the modern uses for this vintage craft and found several things that I am really excited to try.
I instantly fell in love with these macrame lights and thought something like this would be perfect for the entry way, which is still just as plain as the day I last posted about it.  Now that we have a stellar entry on the outside of the house, the inside of the entryway has jumped way up on my priority list.  But naturally, this would be a huge undertaking for a newbie like me and since I waited until the night before the challenge 'deadline' I had to keep poking for something more manageable.  I have a feeling I'll be back to this light idea in the future, though.

The idea I settled on was creating a fishnet-like weave around a bottle.  Except that nothing is ever simple and I didn't have a cool bottle laying around... one of these days I might become a wine drinker just so I can collect cool bottles!  I did have this large plastic jar in my stash, however (in a previous life it was a cheese ball tub) which I thought would be pretty perfect and needed a home anyway.  Bonus! - because it's plastic I won't have to worry about any of the littles getting ahold of it and breaking it like they did my 5-gallon antique glass milk jug!

I also didn't have any twine on hand, so I further substituted with a thick yarn and went with it.  Embrace the Crazy Life and keep moving.  Substitutions are the name of the game around here (except when it comes to baking soda and baking powder... Once was enough for that!)

The older munchkins thought Mom had gone a little nuts as I sat at the kitchen table cutting string and tying knots around this container, but once I finished up they all oohhed and ahhhed over it so I guess I avoided the loony bin for yet another day.

I followed this tutorial and was able to complete the whole thing in about an hour and a half.  Because of my previous disappointment with wrapping bottles in twine (which is totally my only reason... it had nothing to do with the fact that it was late the night before the challenge day and hubby had already gone to bed before me), I chose not to wrap the bottom or the mouth of the container as the tutorial showed.  The indentation on the bottom worked out well for using the alternative method of tying off the strands without worrying about it sitting on the knots.

It's obviously very plain, but soon it's going to become the vase for a very colorful display I've had in mind, so the plainness is going to work just fine.  Once the landscaping is done, I'll be back to show you how it turns out!  And maybe to revisit that chandelier idea...

Lesson of the day: Don't be afraid to try something new or to substitute what you have on hand for recommended supplies!  Even if it doesn't turn out as epic or shiny as the pinterest version, just embrace it's uniqueness and call it character!  

If you have done any macrame projects of your own, please share them with me and Ashley!  Also, be sure to follow her blog for details on the next Try Something New challenge!

DIY Tall Tapered Planters

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Over the last couple weeks we took a sledge hammer to our front steps and completely reworked our outdoor garden.

We are still in love with it!  We keep walking out there just to look at it and marvel at how awesome it turned out.

However, we aren't thrilled with the total lack of color and life we have going on right now.  We have so little green left!  We have always loved the raspberry color of our front door, but with all that brown being so prominent right now, it was making the door look brown, too.  We clearly need some color.

I have been admiring these tall, tapered planters for a while but the ones I have found commercially are a) expensive b) not quite as large as I wanted and c) made me question how stable they would actually be.    When I finally stumbled across these DIY plans, I knew these were the ones.  

I had originally planned for two of them to stand on each side of our new steps, but because of our color situation we decided to add a third one on the other side of the garage to pull the color all the way across the front of the house.

We also added a small paver pad here so we would have a place to sit the third planter.

All in all, these planters cost us a bit more than the $20 the original poster quoted, but that's probably because we didn't have scrap fence posts laying around.  They only took a few hours to build, not counting waiting for the glue to dry.  As you can see, hubby used an abundance of glue... I'm not sure if it was really necessary to the structure, but it did help to fill the gaps where some of the boards are slightly uneven and the excess sands off easily enough.

We followed the plans here with just a couple of variations.  

First of all, we chose to use 1x3 and 1x2 furring strips for the corner trim instead of ripping down fence pickets as they did in the original plans.  Because of this the side with the small trim is about 1/4" thinner than the overlapping side, but it's so slight that you can really only see it when you look straight down on the planter and I figure that's not something that will happen often.  Keep in mind that furring strips are not pressure treated for outside weathering, so if that concerns you, don't go this route.

Second, we chose to put the 2x2 supports lower inside the planter and towards the center so that the black pot insert will sit on the supports instead of hanging on them.  The black insert seems pretty sturdy, but it's a big pot and we weren't comfortable with the idea of all that weight hanging on its ledge.  I really don't want the pot to crack and/or go crashing down into the planter - I have enough messes to clean on a daily basis and have no need for extras!
*In this picture you can also see my laziness shining through... It's true, the inside of the planters are a disaster with incomplete paint and dried glue still oozing through the cracks

Third, the pots that we found had no drainage holes.  If I haven't told you before, my thumbs are not the slightest bit green.  It took the first rain for me to realize that we needed to add some ourselves.  Save yourself a bit of trouble, and make sure your pot has drainage before you fill it.

To finish the planters, I painted them to match the new, lighter raspberry color we chose for the front door.  

While I would never have chosen to paint these such a bold color on their own, I think it works really well to bring out the color on the door and the subtle red in the house and paver bricks.  It will also offer a great contrast to the greens from the garden (once the greens fill in that is!).

 They certainly added a splash of color and interest!

I knew I wanted something tall and evergreen for these, and I was so excited to find this really cool spirally ornamental grass!  It was love at first sight.  It's called Big Twister Rush and I already love it, so once it fills out a bit it should look all the better!

Front Yard Raised Bed Garden

Monday, June 12, 2017

Operation Curb Appeal is in full force this month!

When we rebuilt our steps and sidewalk last week, we pulled out the bushes on both sides of our old steps, leaving us with the magnolia bush that I typically refer to as "the monstrosity on the corner."

I get compliments on this bush every year in early spring because the blooms are gorgeous, but I think it's stupid because it blooms before the leaves even come in for the season, the blooms dry up and then it's just this crazy green bush the rest of the year that seems to double in size annually, no matter how badly I butcher prune it every spring and fall.  I have been waiting to yank the last of these bushes out since we moved in here three years ago.  Most of the prickly stuff and filler plants that were originally planted here got pulled out the year we moved in and it had been just these three bushes ever since.  Until I was ready to replant the garden, I didn't want to lose what little bit of green life we had out here. Apparently I think ugly bushes are better than bare dirt.

But now it was time for them to go.  Anybody sad?  No?  Good, me neither.

Once the monstrosity was out, we could actually see the shape of the existing garden.  Originally, the garden was a sort of kidney bean shape that was pretty symmetrical, and by all examples on the internet, apparently a common garden shape.  While I liked the general outline of the space, with the new steps and pavers in place, we needed to redesign.

Because the yard has a few high spots and low spots, we wanted something that would work with the contour and provide a clean transition from garden to lawn.  I wanted a flat paver mower strip, but Andrew's practical arguments won (basically because I refused to dig any more and all that dirt in the garden right now is the same rocky fill dirt that makes up our entire property) and we went with a low raised bed garden built with wall blocks that match the pavers.

I really thought the steps were going to be the biggest piece of the front yard work, but it turns out I was wrong!  Getting this wall laid out, pieced together, leveled and such was a major exercise in overthinking and overdoing.  Andrew and I both earned some muscles and headaches for our trouble and in the end we managed by just embracing the crazy and letting go of our perfectionism.  Because it took about a week longer than we had anticipated, we also had plenty of opportunities to get the whole family involved!

Then I sort of failed to get any decent after photos because, well, we haven't really gotten to a clean stopping point.  But here is the progress so far!

I love the way it continues along the line we created with the pavers and swoops out, as well as the combination of curves around the straight edges of our new entry steps.  I maintain that a paver strip would have been a whole lot easier to install, although the wall definitely adds a pop to the dimension of the front of the house and it does look really nice around the slight slope of the yard.

The length of the bed is about 14 1/2' from the landing to the outside edge of the circle.  The circle diameter is about 6' and the narrowest portion near the steps is 3' deep.  We planted it with ornamental grasses, astilbe, a bleeding heart, ferns, hostas, and ground cover.  Once these establish, they should spread and grow enough to fill the entire space.  The tree is a Fragrant Fountain Japanese Snowbell and will max out at about 6' tall, making it rather perfect for this small space and I anticipate it being a refreshing upgrade to the Magnolia Monstrosity.

As you can see, we also changed our minds and used the extra topsoil we had from filling the garden to even out the yard enough to seed.  After having a disaster spread over the front of our house the past couple of weeks from these hardscape projects and both of us missing all the green, we agreed that we didn't want to wait on the settling afterall.  We laid down a layer of topsoil, spread seed heavily over the whole thing, and laid down the germination blankets.  We will still likely need to add some soil here and there as things settle over time since we sped up our timeline.  The yard still looks like a disaster, but at least now it is on its way to mending and we're that much closer to the yard Andrew's been waiting for!

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