Happy Memorial Day weekend! While it’s really a time to honor our Nation’s deceased veterans, the focus tends to be a little more a little more on barbecues and booze (….and appliance sales…. go ‘merica*). The good new is that with a long weekend you can do both! Attend a Memorial service, spend some beautifying a loved one’s grave site…and celebrate with friends and family.
And if you like your celebrations on the boozy side, here are some cocktail recipes for you to try out.
Matt and I are both mad for Gin + Tonics… although I’m a little more open to variation than he is. Rosemary-gin-lemonade? Sounds deliciously summery.
If lemonade isn’t your jam, maybe try a different fruit with your g+t. I think the blackberry sounds especially amazing!
Our go-to Sangria recipe is, oddly enough, more winter-friendly, using oranges, lemons, and limes. Peaches just started appearing in stores here and I cannot wait to try this more seasonal recipe.
Mojitos are one of my favorite summery drinks, and I just planted some mint this year (if you do grow your own mint make sure you keep it in a container otherwise it could take over). You can also easily make mojitos by the pitcher.
Ever heard of a caipirinha? Most people I know haven’t, but they’re all missing out. It’s basically a Brazilian margarita–delicious, simple to make, and massively boozy (so be careful about how fast you go through them!)
Looking for more? I’m a little biased towards gin and rum so if you’re looking for something else Total Wine’s website has a recipe index by type of liquor.
And of course, please be responsible people.
*I feel like there really needs to be a be a proper sarcasm tag in HTML…
As Matt worked on the shed, I worked on digging up the stones on half of our patio. I like the stones, but the patio as-is just isn’t working so I’m going to reporpose the stones for paths and edging elsewhere.
I’m currently about 1/3 of the way through the patio. Looks gorgeous, huh? We’ve got a fine crop of weeds this year. (you can also see my make-shift herb/veggie garden in the pots–tomato, basil, and mint. It will be a good summer for caprese and mojitos…. if I can keep basil alive more than a week…)
This isn’t going to be the final layout (there will be a fair amount of tetris-ing, I’m sure) but I wanted to get an idea of how many of the stones I would need before I start digging them into place. I’m also planning on having some sort of ground-cover between the stones so those un-mowable patches of weeds won’t be staying.
I also have a PSA for newbie-gardeners: know thy evil plants.
I grabbed a pretty innocuous looking weed to rip it up and immediately knew something was amiss by the stabbing pain. Ok thorns, no biggie, right? WRONG! The stabbing/burning continued after I let go. Ohshit. I ran my hand under cold water and washed it with soap to try and wash away whatever toxin was causing the burning, but no luck. I even tried hot water which is a treatment for marine stingers… doesn’t work with mid-western flora apparently. On a whim I googled “Stinging nettles” and sure enough, it looked exactly like what I had grabbed bare-handed. Joy. The next morning–12 hours later–my hand was still burning. I tried hydro-cortisone and antihistamines but it still didn’t really start to subside until around 18 hours later. For the next couple of days it still felt like I had a mostly-healed burn on my palm.
It doesn’t look all that terrifying does it? The barbs on the stems really just look like fuzz… until you grab them. I was feeling kind of like a dumbass for not knowing what stinging nettles look like (#citygirl) but apparently none of my co-workers did either. One found out about them the same way I did, but another just knew she had these killer plants in her yard (seriously, one just brushed against her arm once and started the whole burning awfulness). My sister suggested this link for weed identification… but she also suggested having Matt do all the weed pulling and I kind of like that idea.
It doesn’t help matters that we have another plant that looks pretty similar to the nettles.
This one? Not a nettle. The leaves are still jagged, but a little broader and they get bluebell-like flowers on them later in the summer. Anyone know what they really are? The leaves seem to wrong for bluebells…
Fuzzy stem, still not a nettle. These guys get brown-eyed susan like flowers on them, but they’re way taller (about 4+ feet at their peak) and spindly-er than the brown-eyed susans I’m used to.
These guys just flowered. The flowers are more purple than they look here and I think they’re adorable… I just have no clue what they are.
And my final mystery plant… I don’t remember these flowering last summer (but we didn’t move in until July). It’s currently about 2 feet tall and too well-placed for me to just write off as a weed.
For those of you playing along at home, any ideas on my mystery plants? The first 2 have just about taken over our back yard so they clearly spread like mad.
Goodbye sad little shed, we will not miss you. Especially since you were a beast to take down.
It may not have looked like much, but this thing was surprisingly solid. We started by detaching it from our fence so that wouldn’t get pulled down with it. Then Matt went it and unscrewed everything he could and then took a crowbar to the roof.
An hour later he had the roof off, but it was ungodly heavy.
“Real men work in khakis.” –Matt Also, this was just 2 weekends ago and we really did need jackets. Yay for early May in Minnesota. At least it wasn’t snowing….
Before we could do anything else we stripped off all the shingles–they weighed a ton! Then we were able to wrestle the roof away from where it fell so Matt could work on breaking it down into manageable chunks.
After lunch we tackled the walls. Some of the plywood panels pried off relatively easier than others….
After about 3 hours of work the whole thing was down. The shed was really assembled in the most mind-boggling way–nails, screws, bolts, staples… they used every kind of fastener known to man. Plus, every one of the 4×4’s supporting the corners was made up of multiple pieces sistered together. 3 were 2 separate pieces, and one was made up of 3 different pieces cobbled together.
It still doesn’t look like much, but I think it looks better. It’s one of the sunnier parts of our backyard so may be a possible spot for our future vegetable garden.
…plus assorted miscellaneous things like stain and hardware and things that we didn’t fully track (like small accessories, if you’re wondering where we got something, just ask). In realty it’s the final damage was probably closer to $1200, which I think is pretty damn good considering we replaced all the baseboards and ceiling, and also got a giant rug.
*Pssst you can also find it at Overstock and Wayfair… I just found the best deal through Rugs USA
We have a ceiling!!!! I have been positively pumped for this moment ever since I decided to add faux tin panels to our dining room ceiling!
Why faux tin? Tin ceilings are fairly period-appropriate for the house but legit tin is super pricey and would need to be nailed up. Plus, the fake stuff is super easy to cut and manipulate–scissors and glue is all you need. I also wanted the ceiling to remain white, like someone had painted the tin (which is totally even a thing) and that seemed like a waste of good tin. If you’re feeling super hard core though, check your local salvage places for tin panels. If you’re local, The Mall of St Paul on has some and I would assume Architectural Antiques in Northeast Minneapolis has some too (I got distracted by doorknobs last time I was there…. omg that place is pure heaven).
If you’re going to jazz up a ceiling with faux tin, here’s what you need.
Tiles in your pattern of choice (there are loads of options!)
Locktite Power Grab (you need an adhesive that holds instantly because gravity)*
Scissors and utility knife
Yup, that’s about it.
We had ordered 160sqft of tile and had 150sqft of ceiling, so we didn’t have a ton of wiggle-room in how the pattern fell. Thankfully the electrical box for the ceiling light was already nearly perfectly centered.
Then we chalk-lined the center lines on the ceiling….and then adjusted them ever-so-slightly to make sure the pattern was centered on the light.
We followed the directions that came with the tiles and ran a bead of adhesive around the perimeter, and then in 3 cross-shaped sections in the middle. (White-on-white isn’t so visible in photos, so I traced the glue lines in blue)
We started in the center, cutting out a semi-circle out of 2 panels to sandwich around the light fixture. Ideally you should cut the power and take out the fixture, but we’ll be replacing this one soon, we just don’t have the new one yet. #poorplanning
If you’re working with 2×4′ panels it’s really a two person job. Because the panels are very thin, they’re also very bendy so having an extra set of hands to both support the other end and help line up that end is incredibly useful.
Depending on the shape of your room and the placement of any fixtures, you could start in a corner. I just wanted to get our ceiling fixture centered on the pattern. You may want to sketch up a quick layout too so you can figure out where the panels will fall. Because our room was a simple shape and our light fixture was nearly perfectly centered, I was able to just visualize the layout and go.
From there we added all the panels that wouldn’t need to be trimmed down. Because the panels are designed to interlock, as long as you get the first one well-placed, the rest should follow suit.
And then filled everything else in.
(sorry for the ucky pictures… we were working on this mainly after work so natural light wasn’t on our side)
These panels are super easy to cut–scissors will work just fine. If you’re not putting up crown molding (although I would suggest it) you may want to use a utility knife and straight-edge for your cuts. It did take us several nights of work to get them all up, mainly because the caulk gun started to give me blisters, so we’d max out at around 5 panels per night.
We saved the panel that would go over the radiator pipes for (second to) last because we figured it would be really annoying to get the cutouts just right. We cut out one of the squares from the pattern so we had a big gap around the pipes. Then I tested the cuts on some poster board and used that as a template. Using some of our scrap pieces, I used a straight edge to cut out a single square (I cut just to the outside of the pattern sections that overlap so it would fit into place) and traced my template onto there. Now it was much easier to manipulate a single square around the pipes. We wedged it into place and pulled down the edges to add the adhesive (it would have gotten everywhere if we had put the adhesive on first). Sorry I don’t have more pictures of this… I got sucked into the process and neglected my camera.
Because the previous tiles were stapled onto 1×2’s we were left with a small gap between the crown molding and the ceiling. No bueno.
We could have just moved the existing crown up, but I decided to add on to what was already there. I found some approximately 1.5″ cove molding at Menards (I can’t find it on their site, otherwise I would link) which was exactly what I was looking for! Now the crown molding sort of curves into the ceiling.
Crown molding is an absolute beast to put up by the way. It’s an exercise in geometry and I’m pretty sure luck plays into it as well. Uneven, not square walls make it especially beastly. Basically I’m saying I’m not even remotely qualified to give you a tutorial on installing crown molding because we’re not even entirely sure how we managed it at this point. There are tons of tutorials out there on youtube though. Good luck.
And now we have an actually nice looking ceiling! Pretty amazing right? I think it’s amazing a least, so please just humor me here….
The electrical box for the light sticks out a little bit because of the drop in the previous ceiling, but we should be able to find either a canopy or medallion that will hide that. Our new light fixture has been ordered and is on its way so the end of this makeover is in sight!
*You’ll need LOTS. I originally picked up 3 tubes, then went back for another 12… we ended up using 11 total for our 150sqft ceiling
I have a weakness for paper flowers. They’re beautiful in their own way without looking just like a fake flower. With Easter right around the corner they seemed like a good Friday inspiration. If you’ve got some time on Saturday you could even whip some up for centerpieces or get crafty with your kiddos.
Tissue paper dahlias are probably the most basic option, but they look pretty spectacular as a backdrop.
Daffodils are possibly the quintessential spring flower, but these you could keep year round.
Go big or go home right? If you have an over-sized floor vase this would be the perfect spring addition.
The instructions are in Spanish, but the pictures are pretty easy to follow to make fun watercolor mums.
Mmm… Magnolias! They’re one of my favs, but we’re nowhere near their natural range. These might be my own weekend craft.
This flower garland doesn’t have to accessorize a giant egg (although it is pretty cute). You could also use it a runner for a centerpiece at Easter dinner (or your next springy brunch!).
Our dining room ceiling was pretty sad when we moved in: fugly acoustical tiles and unfortunate saggy bits. Something needed to be done.
I pretty much assumed that there was some reason that there were acoustical tiles there instead of plaster, so I wasn’t terribly hopeful for the condition of the ceiling underneath. I figured the safest course of action would be to plan on covering the ceiling. Added bonus, a faux tin ceiling would be a pretty snazzy, and fairly period-accurate detail for the house and it would bump up the formality of our dining room a bit.
After doing some research and crowd-sourcing ideas from Facebook, I decided on this pattern:
It was one of the more affordable options (yay!) and after looking at a few companies who still used the same patterns they did back when they made actual tin ceilings, this one popped up a lot. You can find it in several different scales, but I opted for the 2-by-4 so each square on the panel would be roughly 1sqft. This was the same size as the existing titles so I already had a good reference for how it would look.
Immediately after moving into the house we had several things tested for asbestos, including the ceiling tiles. I knew we were planning on ripping them out and I wanted to be sure it was going to be safe to DIY. Thankfully the test results came back negative so we were good to go!
My back has been killing me for the past couple weeks so Matt removed the ceiling while I curled up with a heating pad and researched massage therapists. And yup, it was more-or-less what I expected to find underneath (except there was modern wiring!!!!)
We originally thought we were going to keep the 1x2s so we wouldn’t have to mess with the height of the crown molding. This did mean we had to pull out all the staples, which Matt did over the course of a couple evenings.
Then the tiles arrived and we re-assessed matters. After going back and forth a bit we decided that prying out the boards and semi-patching the holes would make putting up the tiles way easier in the long run…. so Matt went to work prying off the 1×2’s. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad except a former owner of this house was clearly a strong believer in overkill so a number of nails holding up the boards were HUGE.
Matt pulled out most of the boards without incident, but there were two runs that were clearly put up before the crown molding was so there wasn’t enough space to pry the nails entirely out. We tried a metal hand saw, but it while it might have worked on a sheet of aluminum, it wasn’t going to get through a chunky steel nail. So we went shopping.
There are some good options out there, like reciprocating saws and the Dremel Multi Max, but we didn’t want to spend a lot. We eventually settled on a pair of 14″ bolt cutters which were just small enough to fit in the little gap we made after prying the boards as far away from the ceiling as we could.
After prying off all the boards, we had to deal with the two biggest holes (we decided the smaller ones shouldn’t be a serious issue). Matt removed some extra plaster to make the holes squarer and then we cut and screwed up 3/8″ drywall. We didn’t bother taping and mudding because it’s not going to be visible, we just needed a solid surface to glue the tiles too.
As with any project, prep-work is half (or possibly even three quarters) of the battle, but all the extra work should make the tile install go much smoother.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed we did this before adding the baseboards, but I was on a baseboard kick and got that post prepped first.
After we removed the built-in bookcases in the dining room we uncovered patches of floor that were a completely different finish from the rest of the floor.
I didn’t really want to refinish the entire floor at this point, nor did I want to invest in heavy equipment rental since we just had 2 small patches we needed to blend in. I decided to try stripping the old finish off with just my little palm sander and if it was too difficult or if I royally effed it up then I was really only back where I started.
Since a palm sander really isn’t designed for stripping floors this was a little bit of a pain, but Matt turned out to be a sanding champ! I left him to the sanding while I worked on painting our baseboards and after a few evenings (and about 10 replacement pads for the sander) we were down to this:
What’s even more remarkable is that the patch with the darker stain had some kind of ancient adhesive built up around the edges and Matt was able to get that all off.
Now that we were down to bare wood I had to find a stain. I took a picture of the rest of the floor, compared it to the actual floor to make sure it was a pretty good photo match and off we went to the hardware store. When choosing a stain color you want to be looking at actual wood samples rather than the picture on the can, and most hardware stores I’ve been to have these. After quite a bit of of waffling we decided on Minwax Cherry. Not the color I would have expected based on the name or the can, but you know what? It was actually pretty darn close.
Because, as we’ve already established, I am fairly neurotic, I went back out to buy a slightly more yellowy stain to do a second coat with and decided on Minwax Golden Oak.
It’s not a perfect solution, but I didn’t expect to get a seamless match unless we redid the entire floor which is more time, effort and money then we want to add to this project at the moment. Most of this section will also be covered by a buffet so I think by the time we’re done here it won’t even be noticeable unless you specifically point it out to someone.
After fighting with them for a week, the dining room baseboards are now installed and they look FABULOUS! Trying to mimic Victorian baseboards with trim you can find at an accessible hardware store can be a bit of a pain in the ass, but guess what? It’s doable! It’s not exactly cheap (it cost us around $200 for a 150sqft room), but it is still reasonably affordable.
To recap: This is what the rest of the house has that I was trying to at least somewhat match.
And I ended up being my neurotic self and choosing a 4 part baseboard option.
(This image isn’t exactly too scale since, so the base cap really isn’t that chunky)
If I hadn’t had a specific plinth height to work around at all the doorways, I probably would have gone with a 5 1/4″ baseboard, the chair rail, and quarter round since the look would be very similar, but about an inch or so shorter than what I needed.
I’m pretty sure I saw all the same pieces at Home Depot, Menards, and Lowes (I’m positive of everything except the base cap), but I ended up buying the Chair Rail and Base Cap from Lowes and the 1×6 (select pine) and quarter round from Home Depot, just because I happened to be at Lowes when I had my trim meltdown.
When buying your trim pieces, not only do you need to measure your total length of trim, but you should also calculate how many pieces you’ll need to avoid as may same-wall joints as possible. Example: our longest wall was 15′, we could only fit 8′ boards into our car so after cutting pieces to fit that wall we’d have 1′ of board that would effectively be dead to us since we don’t have either a 1′ long run or a 9′ long run anywhere and piecing in a 1′ long piece unnecessarily would look a little awkward (you want to try and limit as many seams as possible). Basically just be aware that you may have to overestimate more than you might think.
I decided to paint everything before installing it (although you will still need to fill and touch up your nail holes later on). I used 2 coats of primer (the bare wood absorbed quite a bit of the first coat so I decided to play and it safe) and then one coat of Benjamin Moore Advance.
After everything was dry, I moved on to the install. Matt and I decided to buy a brad nailer for this very purpose since, let’s be honest, while you can definitely hammer everything in by hand it will be a beast. We also have other trim we’ll be replacing in the house later on so buying seemed like the best option. Most hardware stores have tool rental options you could look into as well.
We started off with the easiest section of wall–single length of board, no miters. You want to measure as precisely as possible because if you cut your pieces too short they’ll be gappy, too long and they won’t fit.
I dry-fit after each cut: cut my 1×6, dry fit; cut my base cap, dry fit; cut my chair rail, dry fit. This way I could figure out after one cut if I screwed up my measurement somewhere before possibly ruining any of the other pieces.
I felt like a champ after doing this bit! It fit together like a dream and looked perfect! I was on top of the world! I was going to conquer this dining room in less time than I thought!
And then I moved on to a corner.
Oh sweetzombiejesus kill me now.
A pretty well known fact about old houses is that nothing is square. As a teenager I once watched my dad, my aunt, and my uncle work to install a hardwood floor into a 150 year old farm house… you think I would have learned something from that. Apparently not, but here’s my best advice for tackling a baseboard install.
1- Dry-fit ALL your pieces before nailing anything in.
I started by working wall-by-wall (luckily only with the 1×6) and at my very first corner I hit a snag (see above re: walls not square). So I had to rip off the first board and yank all the nails out of it. Ugh. THEN I did the same damn thing while trying to join the boards on the long wall. *headdesk*
Also, pick a start point and work consecutively from there. If you have sections of walls that don’t have corners you can do those independently. Otherwise though you want to go in order rather than trying to make something meet in the middle. We had a couple spots where we had to shim up the 1×6 to make it level with the previous board and other places where we had to grind off a bit of the floor to make a piece sit level (what we took off from the floor was entirely under the previous baseboard and was a combination of some sort of adhesive and a height change from years of refinishing the exposed floor).
2- Keep your saw close by
We keep our miter saw in the basement so I had maneuver 8′ boards up the stairs and around a couple corners and sometimes the cuts require a bit of tweaking so I’d to haul them BACK downstairs and back up again. This virtually destroys my motivation. After 2 days of not much progress we shoved the dining room table into the living room and I moved the saw into the same room I was working in.
3- Saw blades have width
I actually knew this before starting, but if you’re new to power tools this is worth noting. Basically, when you’re going for very precise cuts where you line your saw blade up with your cut mark matters. It’s also why if you’re cutting multiple lengths out of one board you don’t mark off all the measurements an then cut–you’ll get progressively more off the more cuts you make.
4- Know your joints
There are 3 main types of joints you’ll deal with for trim: butt, miter, and scarf.
You can use a butt joint for corners when you have straight pieces (I used it for the 1×6’s). You can also do a version of a butt joint with fancier trim pieces; this would be a coped corner.
The other option for corners is a mitered joint, but this can get finicky when your walls are not square. If you’re painting the trim and it’s just a little off, it’s not a big deal because you can caulk the gap unless it’s ginormous.
The scarf joint is for joining two straight pieces of trim because most trim you find will be 8-10′ long and many walls are longer than that.
5- Cut your longest pieces first
This way if you screw up you can just keep cutting them down and use them in a shorter space. I managed to do this without even thinking about it–go me!
So after a couple of false starts and a few headaches we got all the baseboard molding up!
The 1×6 was the worst to deal with–it’s not flexible and has the most area to line up well for corners. I opted for butt joints with this because the mitered corners were not lining up well at all. It also didn’t help matters that the miter saw would slide a little on our hardwood floor, making some of my cuts off because the board I was cutting would no longer be square against the blade. ARGH!!!! This took a couple evenings of work, but getting the first layer installed well would make everything else a lot easier.
Next up I added the base cap. SO much easier. I was able to knock out this layer in about an hour and my scarf joint were much, much cleaner.
And finally, the chair rail.
I still have to add the quarter round, fill the holes, caulk any gaps, and touch up with paint. The worst is over though and it’s looking good!
*I don’t think any reasonable person could truthfully admit that they wouldn’t have even considered that title.
I’ve been on the hunt for baseboard molding for a couple weeks now. We have to replace all of it in the dining room because chunks were cut out behind the bookcases and we’d never get a perfect match unless we had someone custom make it. So I’ve been trying to find something with a similar weight and style to the rest of the house.
Finding something comparable to Victorian trim in today’s shops is hard. The existing trim was about 10″ tall and you can’t detour too far from that height because there are 10″ tall plinths at the base of all the door moldings and it’s designed to be a similar height as the baseboards.
I figured I’ve have to get two different trim pieces (technically 3 once you figure in quarter-round) and that’s even how the existing trim was made. The trouble was that I couldn’t find two pieces of trim that, when combined, gave me the look I wanted at the height I needed.
At this point normal people may have settled. It’s clearly what happened in our kitchen and it’s not bad… but the base trim is barely visible in the kitchen and will be quite prominent in the dining room given the contrast with the walls.
Also, I am far from normal.
After being disappointed with Home Depot and Menards I trekked out to West St Paul to hit up Lowes. At this point I was ready to buy trim come hell or high water. I spent a good 45 minutes there laying out different combinations of trim on the floor and muttering to myself and eventually I settled on a 4 part baseboard plan. (FYI: All the stores seem to have nearly identical trim options).
It goes as such:
Because that’s not going to be a pain in the ass to install at all.
Since we’re painting, I went with pine for all the pieces since it’s inexpensive (and the MDF was more warped and I think the plasticy stuff is just gross). I chose Select Pine for the flat base piece because it’s straighter and less knot-y than standard pine boards and paint won’t hide knots.
This weekend we also picked up a new toy to help us with the install.
Wheeeeeee! I did NOT want to hammering in 4 different types of trim pieces by hand. Plus, we’re also going to end up adding on to the crown molding AND we’re going to redo all the moldings in Matt’s study at some point* AND fixing some broken quarter-round throughout the house so this seemed like a reasonable investment vs renting. Plus it’s cordless and doesn’t require a compressor, how cool issat???
Pro-tip: If you go with cordless tools, try and stick to the same line so the batteries are interchangeable. We’ve opted for Ryobi since it seems pretty well reviewed for the price point (not necessarily for the professional user, but good for the homeowner with some projects, i.e. us). Added (and completely useless) bonus: I love the green color.
We were originally hoping to install the baseboards this weekend, but since I didn’t pick out trim until Thursday night and it all needs to be primed and painted, this is the current state of things:
(Isn’t our basement lovely?)
But it’s going to look spectacular!
*Somebody really hated that room. It has the same janky ceiling tile as the dining room, trim that belongs in a 1950’s ranch and walls that appear to have been paneled and then heavily painted? Poorly skim-coated? Something… Needless to same that room does not quite match the rest of the house.