a late summer fairy garden


I’d originally hoped to let our youngest Sprout incorporate a fairy garden into our herb garden back in May, but since the house project got started later than I’d expected we decided to wait it out.  Its a good thing too, since the stucco crew really left a mess in that area.  Once we were sure they were done, I ripped out all of the mint and parsley that had gone bonkers, planted a few fresh new herbs, and let our eager fairy garden designer get to work.  We had some stuff from years past and also found a few items on clearance since most of the stores are eager to push Summer out the door in favor of Fall.  I guess that is one great benefit to getting around to this so late in the game!


our English Tudor remodel: this ‘n’ that


Home projects (and really any project, even commercial ones!) rarely proceed as scheduled.   We aren’t in a hurry, so its no skin off our backs.  But I really thought we’d be done before we headed back East to visit family a few weeks ago. It didn’t happen.  We had to wait on the metal roofing for the overhang on the kitchen/dining area exterior wall.  Which was backordered.  And now we are waiting for the backordered railing system from Trex.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles I suppose.

The overhang installation was finished yesterday and I think that it was done well.  We truly are fortunate to have a great contractor and his subs.  The jury is still out on the color I selected from a teeny tiny color swatch a few months ago.  I think its more clay colored than I was anticipating, but that could also be due to lighting.  I’m trying to sneak a peek at it during different times of the day before I form a solid opinion.  Its supposed to be “copper” but of course is a fabricated copper and not the real deal.  The idea was to create a bit of an accent that coordinated with the rest of the house, bringing out some of the tones in the roof shingles especially.  Maybe it will look better once the railing is up too.

The rest of the lighting has also been installed and I’m pleased with how the style fits with what we are trying to achieve here.  They’re also dawn to dusk LEDs and weren’t too terribly expensive as they are by Home Decorator’s Collection from Home Depot.  The seeded glass is nice because it allows more light to radiate through than a shaded light and yet the seeding helps to camouflage spider webs and bugs that will inevitably find their way into the fixture.  They are definitely more obvious with clear glass!

our English Tudor remodel: getting all decked out


I believe our contractor was hoping to have the deck completed by now, but once they started working on “refreshing” the framing after pulling off all of those warped Redwood boards they found quite a mess.  That seems to be a common theme with this remodel!  Older houses are always full of surprises and unexpected challenges.

So, last week was spent reinforcing the deck and doing whatever it is that contractors do to make it square and level.  Many of the joists were “floating” and not even attached to the side of the house.  And, extra joists were added to support the Trexx decking which requires support every 12 inches I’m told.  We are super excited about the Trexx!  We could’ve gone with Redwood again, but as we have experienced firsthand, that is not always a great choice.  Especially for busy families.  Previous owners had installed the deck and it was obvious when we purchased the house a few years ago that the deck had not been maintained.  I get it.  You have to reseal a Redwood deck fairly often and with a busy family life that sort of thing can be put on the back burner and easily forgotten.  And, out here with our extreme high desert temps (colder winters and boiling hot and dry summers), wood just doesn’t fare well.  In the end, I think the Trexx will be the better choice despite the extra initial cost.  If you consider the cost of building and maintaining a wooden deck versus a Trexx, I think its a wash and really about an even cost in the long run.  Our Sprouts, of course, don’t really care about all of that.  They’re just excited that they will be able to  walk barefoot on the new deck and not get splinters!

while waiting


While we are waiting for the gray stucco to “cure”, I decided it might be a good idea to finish a little project I started back in April!  Life just happened, as it does, and my painting project stalled.  How did it get to be July anyways?

We’ve had this little vintage “telephone cabinet” for over a decade.  Back in the day, a rotary phone would be placed on top and the phone book, etc. placed on the open shelf.  The drawers were for miscellaneous doo-dads I suppose.  This piece has been a sheet music cabinet for us, an awkward bedside table, and most recently has sat in our entryway.  As most folks know, its just nice to have a surface in the entryway so there is a place for packages, a guest’s purse, etc.  Or flowers are always nice too. Continue reading

updating our ugly 80’s powder room

this is the best “before” photo I have (I’m terrible about taking photos since I often just spontaneously jump into a project!)  Check out the groovy oak toilet seat too!

Our powder room lies  nestled in the walk through laundry area off of our garage.  With three Sprouts, you can imagine how frequently this wee bathroom is accessed!  We have aspirations to paint it just to freshen it up, but recently we jumped at the opportunity to have the fixtures replaced (have I mentioned that I have the most awesome father-in-law ever?).  Continue reading

renew your grout on a shoestring budget


We’ve lived in this 1980s Tudor style house for several years now and the grout on the main level continues to be my nemesis.  The tile covers the entryway, kitchen, dining area, laundry room, and powder room.  It was disgusting when we first moved in and I buckled down to clean it with vinegar and baking soda back then.  It worked and looked so much better!  However, the grout needed resealing.  If we had an unlimited budget, I’d replace it to be sure.  But since that is not a reality, I’ve continued to clean it periodically with the baking soda and vinegar, Bar Keeper’s Friend, and a host of other cleaning methods.  I even got a steam mop in hopes of making the process easier.  It didn’t.  The main problem is that the kitchen gets disgusting fairly quickly.  We cook a lot and its a main traffic area as well.

Thankfully, I stumbled across Grout Renew recently.  For about $13 a bottle, this stuff is amazing!  Its a polyblend that renews the grout and acts as a sealant.  The process is a bit laborious but well worth the time.  I used a short bristled craft paint brush instead of their recommended toothbrush application because the craft brush gave me more control.  And, after painting each grout line, I used a piece of toilet paper and quickly wiped the excess that oozed on the tile itself.  The polyblend dries more rapidly than I’d anticipated and wiping the excess as you go is a lot easier than scraping the dried polyblend with your fingernail later on!

the powder room floor before Grout Renew
the powder room floor before Grout Renew


here you can compare the old dirty grout lines with the fresh Grout Renew lines
here you can compare the old dirty grout lines with the fresh Grout Renew lines

The Grout Renew comes in several colorways.  I’d recommend picking two or three that you think may work.  You can always return what you don’t use.  And, instead of buying the recommended grout cleaner, I used a more economical and eco-friendly solution that I use on furniture before painting it: two parts Dawn dish detergent, two part warm water, and one part white vinegar.  It works like a charm.

I’m super pleased with our results.  It makes the floor look cleaner, brighter, and newer.  I haven’t steam mopped it yet, though.  I’m trusting that Grout Renew will tolerate that well too.

the grout lines above the blue painter's tape have been treated, the lines below are the original grout lines
the grout lines above the blue painter’s tape have been treated, the lines below are the original grout lines