Friday, July 13, 2012

Frost on the Windows

This is the story of how I transformed one little window in our house from boring to awesome! From less than private to very private! From letting the sun in to...still letting the sun in!! Here it is before, oh so boring...

And then, AWESOME!

Okay, lets back up a bit. What I really want to do is frost the window in our upstairs bathroom. I want lots of light, but I also want, let us just be honest, I NEED to be able to stand naked in this room and not have the world see it. (Or just the neighbors, but that can feel like the world.) These two photos are the best I have to offer, regarding the window in question. You get the point, eh?


However, I had never frosted a window before, so I needed to try it out in a place where a little extra privacy would be nice but also was not in a place where I would have to confront every day if things went horribly array. On that note we travel from the upstairs bathroom all the way down to the basement stairwell. This area is a mess, so be warned. The plaster needs to be repaired, the walls are painted a grotesque yellow-cream, aka smoker white, the tile on the floor is old and dingy the shelves and ad-hoc at best, etc etc. In all honesty, this is the sort of space someone in their right mind does not let anyone on the "outside" see. And yet, we leave this area on display. In the end, it is just a matter of practicality...we store food in this space. Someday...oh someday... 

I knew I wanted something a little more visual than just straight up frost so I cut squares which I would turn  90 degrees for the diamond effect. Over the course of many episodes of Mater Chef I cut out a million of these squares. Obviously, the cat was very involved. She always is.

Then I created a work station. This job requires the following....

If you take on this project, know that there are all sorts of paper types for this kind DIY. Read the instructions for application, it's your best bet. And make sure the window is VERY clean. 

I used an exacto knife and sciccors as part of my measurement process as I went along. Every singe pice required trimming of some sort or another. When you have the shape you need. Peel. Smooth out the paper on the window with your MPR card (or equivalent) as go. Take a sip of your Arnie Palemer. And repeat.

Then stand back and admire your work. Watch the world disappear before your eyes. And continue on. 

Do not be fooled. This project takes hours, it is tedious. And up close, it will look less than perfect. After all was said and done, I felt kinda bummed about all the bubbles in the paper. All I could see were the bubbles. I felt relieved that I had chosen to test out the project down in the stair well and did not go straight for the bathroom window.

But then, a miracle happened. The bubbles started to move out of the paper...two weeks later, that same bubbly mess above looked like this... I still do not really understand it. Maybe it is the type of paper I used, but now it looks great and mostly bubble free.

The light comes in nice and bright still, but I do not have to see the neighbors house, and they can't see in. Happiness ensues. 

Now, I just have to deiced: Do I want the same pattern in the bathroom? Or maybe I should try something else entirely. Like this perhaps? As always, I am open to suggestions. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

High Summer Reflections

It's more of less mid July and our garden is growing in - full force. It's been really fun to compare this years garden to last years garden, there are defiantly some elements of it that are turning out to be more successful and some less so. A few of these successes have something to do with me, but most do not.

I learned last year that letting my viney butternut squash plants creep out of the beds and grow along in the grass attracts squirrels, who then sabotage the fruit with their wee teeth, so this year we've built a trellis. I have yet to see if this keep the squirrels away, but it does look a lot prettier.

I also learned last year that two zucchini plants is enough to feed a family of four. So this year, instead of planting an entire packet of zucchini seeds, I planted two seeds and got two plants and we have been having zucchini for with dinner regularly (yum and yummier) but not so often that we hate zucchini.

All six of our tomato plants have tomatoes on them! Truly, I can not believe it. Last year our first tomato arrived at the very end of July. I do think it helped that I used a grow light, the plants this year were a wee bit bigger when they were transplanted than last years, but ultimately I think summer 2012 has been hotter and sunnier by far that summer 2011. I have noticed a few tomatoes have small brown spots and I'll need to look into that, it could be an issue (a very big issue?!?). Or maybe, hopefully, it means I need to be watering the garden more. This summer has also by much much more dry than last year and I probably do not water the garden with the frequency it craves.

I planted some pumpkin seeds this week where the garlic used to be. Yeah, it's a bit late in the year, especially for a Minnesota Gardner. I might be a crazy fool but I already had the seeds and I empty space so I figure, what's the worst that can happen? Into the dirt the seeds went.

I have no idea what to make of the tiny Brussels Sprouts plants. Should they be bigger? Did the earwig infestation I had to kill off a few weeks ago put them behind? Or are they fine? If you have advice, please do share. Otherwise, time will tell. And then I will tell you.

I plucked the first cucumber of the year off my overgrown plants this past weekend. It was sweet, crisp and oh so delicious. (Ask one of my roommates if you do not believe me!) This time last year, our cucumber plants were just getting going. Again, it's been oh so hot & oh so sunny. 

Oh so hot is great for cucumbers and peppers and tomatoes, but it is not so good for lettuce and spinach and other greens. If it's one or the other though, then last year we had one, and this year the other. And variety is always nice. I am not complaining. I love the garden this, I loved it last year. I love the ways in which it changes and the ways it stays the same.

If you are wondering why your pepper plants are so tiny, as I was, it could be as simple as a lack of Magnesium in the soil and a little Epsom salt may just be the trick you were looking for. Truly, our plants have nearly doubled in size since the first application I put a week and a half ago. And here I almost thought I would have to give up on pepper plants, as if I just didn't have the right color thumb to make it work. Silly, Amber.

Just for kicks, I now present you with today's garden...

And our garden as of July 10th last year...

On that note, thunder clouds are rolling in, and the garden and I are rejoicing. Do a little jig with me, won't you?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cold Rhubarb Drinks

Remember back in May when I went on and on about the joys of Rhubarb? And I made the Rhubarb Vodka mix? Well I finally strained the vodka...and it's delicious....Happy sippin'!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Garlic Harvest & Creating Support

It's been a while since I gave you an update on the state of our garden. So here is where the garden was exactly one week ago. Honestly, at this point I had done little besides water it a few times and harvest some greens. But it was starting to get unruly and I was feeling bad about all the neglect.
First up: staked the tomato plants, which were starting to creep along the floor of the bed. Clearly this was an over due task, but better late than never! I bought a package of 6 stakes for $6.99 at the local hardware store - since I happen to have 6 tomato plants I took this as a sign from the universe that I was making the right choice in my method of support. I took advice from the University of Maine on this method and I'm excited to see how it goes.
Last year I caged the plants but  eventually they out grew the cages and the weight of the plants made them topple over. Husband built an ad-hoc support/brace for the cages to deal with the problem but that eventually required the support gardening tape to tie them off. Basically it was a mess.
Next up, I caged the bell peppers and the jalapenos. I am happy to report that I actually managed to get cages around the peppers before they were too big to actually cage. This is the definition of success I'm working with. 
Next up, havest the garlic! Garlic is ready to be harvested when the tips go yellow. I recommend heading over to A Way To Garden for all sorts of helpful information about caring for your veggies. I love her site!!
 This was the best smelling chore I've ever had!
After I pulled out all of the heads of garlic, I hung them in garage where they will dry for the next several weeks. In total, we have 13 heads of garlic drying out in the garage. 

Last but not least I awkwardly added last years cucumber trellis back to the bed. Again, I should have done this earlier in the year but too bad so sad, I didn't. They will figure out how to climb up it eventually. 
I wish I could say the neglect our yard has suffered has all been brought back to pace with this recent work, but there is always more to be done. I'd like to figure out a way to grow the squash vertically, I never planted the cantelope. (Next Year?) The yard hasn't been mowed in weeks, weeds have taken over every bed in the yard and as you can tell from the photo below white clover has taken over our lawn. Ah, well! It's summer! I'll take any reason I can to be out doors. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Snap Peas!

Yesterday on my walk around the yard I came across something very exciting! 
 Snap Peas!!
 And they were delicious.
These little guys made my day!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

House Tour: Living Room

On with the house tour already, you say! I couldn't agree more. 

Here are some old photos of our living room, they date back to about March 2011, just a few months after we moved in. In this first photo, I am standing in the stairwell looking down at the living room. This was the first of many many ways I have tried to arrange this room. What I like about this arrangement is that the rug we have is actually proportional to the set-up, it makes use of that over-sized, yet insanely comfy chair and people can pass through the living room without walking in front of the TV. What I don't like about this arrangement is that the couch was way too close to the TV and it the room only seat three people (comfortably) and there was a lot of space not being used. 
Here I am standing beside that over-sized yet insanely comfy chair looking up at the stairwell. See all that space behind the couch, it was basically just a hallway area. Not much going on.
This photo gives you a better look at what was actually being utilized in the room. Also you can see clearly in this photo that we have a whole other room off the living room. We call that room the sun room/white room/library. It also is not being utilized to the best of it's ability.
Standing in the door way of the sun room/white room/library you see how the living room flows into the dining room. 
From the dining room, one heads into the kitchen, make sense?
And the kitchen, originally looked this...
But now we are off topic. Let's go back to the living room. One of the most exciting things about transitioning from being a renter to a home owner is the power to paint a room. To paint it whatever color you want, and to not have to worry about painting it again, until you feel like it. So that's what we did. And it went from this...
To this...
And for a while that held us over. But soon, we wanted more improvements. And also, we needed somewhere to put all the books piled up around the house...(see the very bottom right corner of the photo above...piles of books, books, and more books.) 

Which meant our living room went from this (please refer to the green above for a more accurate depiction of what the room really looks like)...
To this! Yes, we love books THAT much. 
Since these photos were taken, we added new floor to ceiling curtains, got a real entertainment center/tv stand, rearranged the furniture about 50 times, bought some shelves from IKEA for our cd's (to add much needed symmetry and storage) and now our living room (more or less) looks like this.

And this. 
So the theme of the living room now is....wait for it...RANDOM. I would love a rug that actually filled up the space. And some furniture that wasn't made for giants. My dream is to have seating for lots and lots of people in this room. But it's so awkwardly long and it's right in the center of everything that it's hard to find good fung-shway. 

Now is that part where I twiddle my thumbs and wait for you to give me brilliant comments on how to best arrange this space. Ready..Set...COMMENT!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Weekend of Epicly Awesome Proportions

Ah Summer! It's my favorite time of the year. I love the heat and the sunshine and being out doors. I do not love being on computers. And, as you may have already noticed, it's hard to blog when you aren't on a computer. So be warned, these blog posts will come at you inconsistently at best over the next few months. But I really will try to at least make weekly posts. 

On that note, the ZF's had a wonderful summer weekend. Full of all the things I love. Good Food. Reading. Bikes Rides. Farmers Markets. Friends. And breath taking views. For the quick & dirty re-cap keep reading.

Friday night Chris and I went out for a fancy dinner at Meritage to celebrate his 31st year. We had tiny tuna tartar tacos, and an amazing House-Made Merguez Sausage w black olive purée, couscous, baby sweet bell pepper, lemon, micro cilantro and harissa phyllo (see below). I had the special for dinner, which was some dang good crab and Chris had some very good fish. Overall it was a delicious meal, although, if I'm honest I thought it was a bit over priced. 
Saturday, we biked to the farmer's market in Lowertown and ate delicious breakfast sandwiches. It was my first bike ride through downtown, and despite my fear of biking down the Smith Ave Bridge all went well. I would even go so far as to say that it went better than well. It was awesome. When we got home, I made a few planted terrariums. Then I set about to reading for the rest of the weekend. Oh, summer, you are divine!
There was about an hour or so of weeding our strawberry patch that also happened.. Which also resulted in picking strawberries. 'Twas well worth the weeding time. 
Sunday evening we celebrated the birthday of a dear friend, (who also happened to be our roommate for the last three weeks or so). On the way home we caught this sunset from the top of the high bridge. 
It was stunning. And the perfect ending to a lovely summer weekend.