Thrift Diving’s 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul Makeover

Two years ago I signed up for Serena’s Thrift Diving challenge: a 30-day outdoor patio makeover. She’s hosting another one this month, also outdoors. It’s amazing how these challenges can light a fire under your feet.

Serena hosts these challenges a few times a year. You can read about her April challenge here. Several of us sign up for the extra motivation that comes with a deadline. She even has a closed Facebook group where we can post pictures, ask questions and share in other do-it-yourself projects. It’s a lot of fun.

Today, however, I’m feeling the pressure of the challenge. We have college tours coming up this month and a weekend away chaperoning a school activity, so I need to keep moving. Writing this post will help me collect my thoughts. I have a good start thanks to Serena’s Outdoor Overhaul Makeover Journal. 

These are my goals for my 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul

Goal #1: Clean, *repair* and paint my old potting bench

green potting bench

15 year-old garden/potting bench

Repair wasn’t part of the deal, but this morning I moved the bench on my own to the patio for cleaning and broke one of the planks. The bench is 15 years old and stays outside year round so it’s not that surprising. It looks like they used staples instead of screws to attach the top planks. I’ll need to sort that out.

The broken plank exposed a few startled silver fish. After they vacated the premises I employed my multi-step cleaning process.

I used my small leaf blower to chase away the large debris. I used a small brush to clean the crevices, then a larger brush and finally gave it a strong blast with the hose before one last scrubbing.

We have two more sunny days before a set of storms pass through, so I’m taking advantage of the weather.

Then, finally, the fun begins: repainting my old potting bench

Goal #2: Research gate options for side yard

makeshift gate

Makeshift “gate” to keep Tessa and our other cats safe in the yard

This is a long story, but I’ll try to make it quick. We had to replace the damaged fence along our side yard over a year ago. It took nine months from the start of the quotes to a finished fence for a variety of reasons. We had cat-netting along the old fence to keep the kitties safe in the yard. I wanted to add a second gate so we could reduce the amount of netting which gets tangled in the vines, but one that you could see through. The fence company couldn’t do it.  It’s now been six months and I still haven’t sorted out a quote or a DIY solution to keep our climbing kitten safe in the yard.

 Goal #3: Outdoor sandbox for cats

Tessa's future sandbox

Back corner of garden under neighboring pine tree

Yes, you read that correctly. When you have small children you keep your sandbox covered to avoid unwanted deposits from the cats. My boys are young adults and the sandbox is history, but our kitten, Tessa, prefers using the garden mulch to take care of business. I’m hoping to add a sandy area along the back fence to encourage her to use that instead. Cats like sand, so it should do the trick.

Goal #4: Camouflage and Beautify

back corner of garden

Back corner of garden where things don’t like to grow

The back corner of the garden has always been challenging. A large, neighboring pine tree shades the area, drops pine needles and sends up roots. It’s almost impossible to dig in that area, and when we have managed to wrangle the roots out-of-the-way to plant other things, they struggle to thrive.  I’m going to look for a planting box that sits on the soil at an angle. I’ll plant a shade-loving vine, then add a trellis behind the box. This will beautify the area, and at the same time camouflage Tessa’s outdoor facilities.  Win-win!

Goal #5: Create a step up to the raised garden along the back fence

Fence line

Raised garden bed along fence line. A few pavers should do the trick

Ah, age! It doesn’t look like much of a rise, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get up and down from the raised planting area along the back fence. It hurts my back, or my knees or my feet. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner, but I’m going to buy a few pavers to create one or two steps to make it more accessible. After these last storms I can remove the cover from the table and chairs.

Tessa loves spending time in the garden. It will be nice to have her company as I work through this 30-day challenge.

Tessa on the potting bench

Tessa lounging and playing on the potting bench

Thank you Serena for inspiring us.

Do you have a room, patio or deck in need of some TLC?

30-Day Patio Makeover

In late June I signed up for Serena’s Thrift Diving challenge: a 30-day outdoor patio makeover. Serena hosts these challenges a few times a year. Many of her followers sign up for the fun of it and for the extra motivation that comes with a deadline.  I’m an avid follower of her down-to-earth, informative and fun blog.

Our deck needed refreshing more than a complete makeover, but I signed up for the July challenge anyway.

Deck in need of refreshing

Deck in need of refreshing

I forgot, momentarily, that I would be in Canada for nearly a third of the month, so I quickly realized that I better get to it.  It was the impetus I needed. I pulled together most of the details before boarding a plane July 18th.

I found Thrift Diving through Leilani of Keeping Up with Mrs. Smith. Serena and Leilani are DIY goddesses. I admire their skills with power tools and their can-do attitude.

Here are the results of my 30-Day Patio Revival

Goal #1: Power Wash the Deck

Believe it or not, this step was the most intimidating.  I don’t own a pressure washer, and I’d never tried using one. It’s a powerful tool requiring precautions. I borrowed a pressure washer from my friend Jasmin, then watched a couple of videos on how to use it before getting started. Comically, the hose detached at least twice, showering me with a startling blast of water before I finally got the hang of it.

My son helped me move everything off the deck, and then I got to work.

Power Washed Deck

Power Washed Deck

Mouse peruses the clean deck

Mouse peruses the clean deck

It worked so well, that I used it on the back patio, in the garage and along the driveway. I even pressure washed the table and chairs out back. They’ve never looked so good.

Pressure/Power Washing in Progress

Pressure/Power Washing in Progress

power washed patio

Clean Patio, Slinky Approved

Goal #2: Replace the Outdoor Carpet

A few years ago, I bought a light-weight area rug to go under the furniture. On the plus side, they crafted the rug from recycled materials and it was incredibly light in weight.

striped garden mat

Outdoor Rug by Gaiam

On the down side, and believe me this is a big one for me, I kept tripping over the edge. The lighter weight proved to be a major disadvantage. Even with furniture weighing it down, the edges would still lift up.  My balance is not what it used to be. It had to go.

Outdoor Area Rug

New Outdoor Area Rug

I shopped on-line for the perfect size, weight and color and found one in a neutral tone that is warmer, softer and a bit more substantial under foot. It arrived while I was away. It’s not always easy buying something like this on-line, but I’m pleased with the quality and design. The 15% off coupon was nice, too.

Goal #3: Make Slip Covers for the Patio Cushions

This is where the pressure of the 30-day challenge really came into play. I bought the fabric for new covers several months ago, then got busy with family, work and travel. The fabric sat there taunting me. I envisioned summer and fall passing me by, with that beautiful fabric remaining folded and unused.  Once I came to terms with the fact that I had to make the covers in stages, it was easier to get moving.

I set up the ironing board and ironed the fabric. Done for the day.

The ironing board in the middle of the kitchen

The ironing board in the middle of the kitchen

Then I dusted off the patio cushions and brought them inside. Done for the day.

lindy and slinky on the patio cushions

My “fancy” cutting table, also know as the living room floor. Slinky and Lindy liked the novelty of the outdoor cushions on the floor

lindy on the patio cushion

Lindy is probably wondering why I don’t just leave this cushion in the open doorway.

I worked in stages to get things done, and low and behold, I had three new slip covers.

Deck cushions squared corner

Squaring off the corner of the settee cushion

recovering deck chair cushions

I slip-covered two cushions together. I added cotton batting for softness and padding. The covers are also reversible

rocking chair recovered

Recovering the seat cushion for the rocking chair. Extra padding, squared off corners in front, and curved seams in back.

The floral print fabric was a bit more pricey, so I bought just enough for one side of the covers. I bought a less expensive, coordinating green stripe for the reverse side. I also bought extra padding to make the cushions more comfortable. (Please don’t mention this to the squirrels).

I’ve never made box corners before, but I like the way they look. I looked at a few sites, and found not only simple directions, but a blog with a sample of the same striped green fabric. What are the odds?

Goal #4: Use a Stencil

Serena uses stencils in a number of her projects. She’s a pro.

She revamped this gorgeous bathroom,

made a folding area for her laundry room,

and she even stenciled these pillows

I needed to start small, so using leftover craft paint and a $3 stencil, I added a pattern to the underside of our small patio table.

Stenciled Table

Stenciled Table: I turned the table upside down on a towel, then used my craft light so I could see in the small space.  I repeated the stencil pattern twice using craft paint on the underside of the table.

It was easy and fun, not to mention removable, if I didn’t like the results. Since I painted the underside of the table, I don’t need to worry about damaging it with use.

Goal #5: Hide the BBQ

We only use our BBQ once or twice a year, so the rest of the time it’s pushed to the corner of the deck. Even with a cover, it looks like an unwanted appliance shoved into a corner. I wanted to find a solution to mask the appearance but at the same time make it easy to get to.

BBQ on deck (before)

BBQ on deck (before)

I “borrowed” this folding screen from our garage to see if it would do the job. I like it! I plan to keep it on the deck.

BBQ after behind screen

Re-purposed folding screen hides the BBQ and a cozy cat bed

Like many things around here, this screen has had multiple uses over time. It once hid my young son’s “technology corner”, a spot in our living room where he liked to sit with his friends and his plush animals playing with his hand-held DS. Year’s later I removed the damaged paper from the screen and re-covered it with leftover fabric from my first swing cover. We used the screen in the garage for many years to mask the water heater and furnace and to discourage small hands from reaching into dangerous places. I’ve now pressed it into use on the deck.

View of the deck behind the furniture

There is a small cat bed behind the screen as well as the BBQ. I relocated this broken cat perch (it used to have a third level) from inside the house, and moved the potted succulent from the back garden to the front to fill in the space and add interest.

Impulse Purchase!

poufs

Poufs

These poufs are a complete afterthought, but one of my favorite additions. Boomdee has an aqua pouf on her deck. They’re part ottoman and part bean-bag chair. They make an easy-to-move foot rest, impromptu seating and a place to put your tray. I bought the last two at Target as they are clearing out everything for the back to school shoppers.

I sat with Mike on the deck this weekend, reading and chatting and enjoying the comfortable space. It feels good to have it pulled together once again.

Before:

deck before

Deck: Starting point

After:

deck after

Deck: After (new slip covers, new rug, stenciled table, screen to mask the BBQ, a pair of poufs and a few more plants)

 

deck after.JPG

Deck: After (alternate view)

Deck Garden

Deck Garden

Special thanks to Serena for inspiring us all. Have a look at Serena’s Before and After post at Thrift Diving.

Do you have a room, patio or deck in need of some TLC?

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Wild About Washi Tape

Have you joined the Washi Tape craze?

Washi tape gift box

I first spotted this colorful tape on a wall at MyMaido, a Japanese stationery store at Santana Row. An artist used the strips to make a small mural. Though intrigued, I couldn’t see myself using it in that way.

Over the next few years the colorful tape started popping up in crafting stores, the Scrapbook Island and on Pinterest.

The tape has been around since 2006. In a nutshell, it’s masking tape made beautiful. It’s easy to apply and easy to remove. According to Tofugo

Washi is made of up the Japanese characters 和 (wa) which means harmony and is often used to symbolize Japan, and 紙 (shi) which means paper. So put them together, and it means Japanese paper. Unlike western paper which is made from tree pulp, washi is made from Japanese shrubs. Washi can be made of almost any plant, but is typically made from ganpi, kozo, mitsumata, or sometimes hemp. Washi is known in the west for the beautiful designs that are printed or painted on it, and its differences from other papers through its light weight and textured feel.

I’ve always loved stationery, especially stickers and tape. It’s hard to describe the appeal, but it’s been there my whole life. I bought a couple of rolls of Washi tape at Scrapbook Island to use on a card, but then the rolls sat in my craft stash on standby, wondering what to do next.

Now I can’t get enough of it. The prices have come down while the variety of colors and prints has multiplied exponentially. Some of the earlier tapes didn’t adhere as well, but that’s improved too.

My friend Kelly uses colorful Washi tape to outline her gorgeous package labels. I capitalized on her idea and do the same. I also like using it to cover the ugly markings on a reused box before shipping.

My friend Stephanie crafted a gorgeous card using the tape, and from there, inspiration struck: I used a similar pattern to cover a plain brown box with a friend’s favorite colors before sending it as a gift.

No room is safe from this tape. Several years ago I hung a framed magnetic board inside a kitchen cabinet to keep phone numbers and coupons at hand.  Eventually the frame broke from constant use. I re-framed the board with Washi Tape, then added a few contrasting strips like a shelf under the cards.

Washi tape magnet board

Framing a magnet board

When I converted my son’s bedroom into a guest room this fall, I spruced up the wall lamp shades with postage-themed tape. It really added a nice finishing touch and was fun to do.

Washi tape lampshade

A bit of lampshade bling

It was nice receiving this free letter-opener in the mail but it’s not much to look at. I covered the advertising with Washi tape, beautifying an otherwise utilitarian object.

washi tape letter opener

Beautifying my office supplies

Even the tiny house in my fairy garden got a new set of floral Washi tape drapes.

Can you tell I’ve been having fun?

How about you? Do you have a favorite something that you just can’t get enough of?

Newly Hung Washi Tape Drapes

Newly Hung Washi Tape Drapes

Ten Day Challenge: Teen Room to Guest Room

I’m a fool for home redecorating and makeovers. For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed the “before and after” transformations offered up in magazines, home design shows and even in my neighborhood.  Then I joined the blogging world and found an even bigger neighborhood. Oh my goodness. I’m having so much fun.

What’s even more inspiring is seeing transformations unfold from do-it-yourself bloggers. In most cases they have a small budget, big ideas and a can-do attitude.

I discovered Serena’s blog through Leilani’s blog via Boomdee’s blog and so it goes around here. It’s like a never-ending game of telephone where someone whispers in your ear, then you turn and whisper in someone else’s ear, and before you know it you’re trying to keep up with dozens of amazing bloggers.

Serena and Leilani inspired me to dip my toe into a ten-day room challenge of my own.

The goal: Turn my son’s teen room into a guest room by the end of September.

The motivation: Boomdee’s coming to town.

The challenge: One cranky left foot (you can read about that here) and my busy life.

The catch:  Since my son’s move to the dorms is seasonal, I assured him that any changes would be temporary.

With that in mind, I’ve left the three main pieces of furniture in place. I can easily remove the decorative items and bring the room back to neutral.

I’ve been teary off and on since my son moved out. Spending time in his room is helping me connect to his youth, honoring it and letting go. I discovered forgotten treasures including photos, snippets of writing and a box of smashed pennies from family vacations. Lindy’s been keeping me company. I’m sure she’s wondering where he went.

First up, the big clean. Moving out is messy business. New items arrived for weeks, destined for the dorms: by mail a heavy box of textbooks and an extra-long mattress pad specific to dormitory beds. We picked up a desk lamp, laundry supplies, school supplies and extra socks for those busy weeks when he can’t do laundry. Here it is, piled up on moving day. It looks like cleaning my kitchen counter was a low priority that day.

makeover packing for college

My college-bound son left a pile of things he no longer wants, so I’ve been having fun passing them on through my Buy Nothing Cambrian group. One happy six-year-old is now the proud owner of a Star Wars wallet. I love that.

I sorted, cleaned and recycled my way through the room.

Mike flipped the mattress so I could vacuum the bed frame which also needed a quick repair. Once it was all back together, I added a mattress topper and covered the bed with our king-sized duvet cover.

Bed frame cleaned and repaired

Bed frame cleaned and repaired

The duvet cover has all the colors I wanted to feature in the room, and it’s large enough to act as a bed spread for the queen-sized bed. I found a turquoise pillow at an import shop on end-of-summer clearance. It’s the perfect color to pull together the blanket and spread.

Duvet cover and velveteen pillow

Duvet cover and velveteen pillow

My son is a minimalist, so his walls were spare; he had a piece of artwork from middle school and a poster passed on from a friend. I rolled them up, put them in the closet and pondered ideas for quick and affordable decor. Somehow it all fell in place. Serendipity!

I decorated all three walls for about forty dollars. The packet of decals came from our local Target. They were originally destined for the long wall next to the bed, but it wasn’t large enough to fill the space. Instead Mike carefully laid it out on the wall above the desk. This is wear the bum foot became a drag. I really wanted to put up that decal, but instead sat back and [impatiently] watched while he expertly put it on the wall. It looks shiny in the photo, but in person it looks great.

Wall decal from Target

Wall decal from Target

The bird print above the bed and to the right of the lamp was a happy find. While waiting out my phone repair appointment, I wandered into a little shop called Azuca. There it was: a lightweight, wood panel with this charming print and the quote We are birds of a feather.

Washi tape, wall calendar page and wooden art

Washi tape, wall calendar page and wooden art

Before I fully realized it, the room was taking shape. It has a sense of travel and flight, with birds figuring prominently. The colors complement my premier guest, the delightful and sophisticated Edmonton blogger nicknamed Boomdee. Little did she know that so many of her gifts would later help decorate a future guest room. Wait till you see all the treasures!

Which brings me to the third wall. I’ve been saving my gorgeous 2014 wall calendar, featuring the artwork of Katie Daisy. I love turning calendars into new treasures. After removing the coils with a pair of tin snips, I punched holes in the top of the pages and threaded them with vintage seam binding. The colors work beautifully in the room and each saying warms and uplifts. I used one of the pages as a compliment to the bird panel.

Katie Daisy calendar wall bunting/banner

Katie Daisy calendar wall bunting/banner

Please stop by tomorrow for the  “reveal.” Gosh that’s fun to say.

Meanwhile, if you love makeovers as much as I do, then you’re in for a treat. Check out:

Fairy Garden Additions: A Little *Little* Free Library

Mary Elizabeth planted the seed. In her sincerest voice she asked “when will you be building a Little Free Library for your fairy garden?”

Well.

I picked up the fairy-dusted gauntlet and came up with this:
miniature little free library

The shell for the library illustrates a classic case of the box being more interesting than the contents. Setting aside three tiny jars of purple glitter, I got to work on the structure. I finished it in no time.  Fairy structures are like that. If you’ve been putting off building one, today’s the day. Working in miniature is rewarding and relaxing. If you use items on hand, it’s also affordable if not free.

miniature library

Miniature Library Materials

Old matchboxes infused with special memories served as the basis for the larger books. Toothpicks covered with vintage stickers made slender chapter books. Miniature titles are at the ready for diminutive passersby.

The roof signage came from the bottom of one of the LFL brochures. It’s the perfect size.  Serendipity.

mini little free library

The mini LFL sits at the curb of the fairy garden

Like its bigger cousin, this L(L)FL sits near the curb. It was my son’s idea to support it with a clothes pin. Garden builders under 18 often have the best ideas.

My fairy gardening style is ever-evolving. Check out my Page, above, Fairy Garden Frivolity for a look back.

The Little Free Library movement encourages ‘reading for children, literacy for adults, and libraries around the world.’ Little Free Library.org

Waiting for the Birds

Tick-tock

Tick-tock…the waiting game

I’m tracking my various nesting materials in the garden, but no discernible visitors just yet.  At first I was hoping to spot a bird swooping by.  Now I’d be happy with any sign that they’ve found the super-soft bits of wool, laundry lint and yarn. I hung the wreath in the Magnolia tree outside my home office window. The bag of laundry lint is hanging from the Pittosporum out back.  I even added a third, large plastic bag, weighted down with a garden table for the squirrels. It’s directly in their path. No takers.

Nesting Wreath

Nesting Wreath

After our last big storm I found remnants of what may have been a nest from last year under the pine tree. The bits of blue lint were unmistakably the color of our flannel sheets. So…I remain hopeful.

On the subject of birds, I signed up for tweets (I crack myself up) about Phoebe the Allen Hummingbird.  I learned today that she’s already laid the first egg of her next brood. These hummers generally lay a pair at a time, the size of tiny breath mints.

Phoebe's nest.  First egg, February 10th

Phoebe’s nest. First egg, February 10th

Here is the link to the live webcam in case you missed it. Warning: watching the nest all day is habit-forming. That said, it’s a habit worth forming.  Enjoy!

Craft it Forward: Do You Want to Play?

Lavender Bath Salts

Lavender Bath Salts

What a fun day! I discovered a great new blog and at the same time squeaked in on her pay-it-forward 2013 offer.

What is ‘pay-it-forward’ you ask? I took part in something similar several years ago on Facebook. Here is how it works:

The first five people to comment on this post will receive something I’ve handmade. You’ll receive your handmade gift via snail mail sometime during 2013. Who doesn’t like ‘real’ mail?

I can’t say what  exactly it will be but it will follow a gardening theme. It might be a set of cards, a decorative piece, who knows. Surprises are part of the fun.

In return, please pay it forward by offering the same deal to five other people, via your blog, Facebook or Google +.

If you want to play, please comment below.  Remember, the first five to comment receive a Gardening Nirvana craft-it-forward creation.

kitty cat tag board album

Kitty-cat chipboard album

tag board purse album

Purse-shaped tag board album

Fold-out greeting card

Fold-out greeting card

Here’s a peak at a few of the crafts I put together back in 2009’s pay-it-forward.

In the meantime, check out Gjeometry.  Sewing, an adorable cat and her sidekick pooch figure prominently in her blog. Catja says:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning from the blogs and websites of other sewers, DIY enthusiasts, crafters, designers and fashion entrepreneurs around the globe and wanted to set up shop in a little corner of that community.  Let’s be friends.”