The Grand Backyard Plan

Spring in Alaska is fickle.  It’s been warmer than usual which has me thinking about planting, and then we had snow again yesterday!  Apparently I’ll have to give it a bit more time, but I’m bound and determined that we are going to get the back yard set up this summer! Last year, we were still getting settled and the priority was getting the fence in so the dogs would have room to run. We did get the yard hydroseeded late last summer, although I’m not sure how well it will come back this year after the dogs have been abusing it all winter. Hopefully the additional seed we put down last week will help get things going this season.

In the meantime I’m fine tuning my vision for the entire space. It’s gone through a few revisions, as I talk things through with the hubs and watch exposure, but I think I’ve created a plan to get the basics established this summer so we can build on them each year.

First up is the deck, which I cleaned last weekend to get the juices flowing. We pretty much ignored this space all winter while we focused on indoor projects, so I cleared the space and gave it a good sweeping. I dug out the outdoor rug I bought on the buy/sell page at the end of last summer for $10 and placed the Adirondack chairs and garden stools to create a seating area. I added the lovely lanterns on the hooks and a couple of throw pillows for a little style. It still needs a good pressure wash, but it’s a nice place to sit for a few minutes for now.  Here’s a quick before and after.

DeckBefore

DeckAfter

The plan starts with building a sectional seating unit like this with storage underneath where the cushions can be kept during the winter. I’m envisioning an L-shape along the wall and out from the corner made of a few pieces which could be rearranged for other set ups. I might also do a few ottoman pieces like this to store the propane bottles for the heater and fryer. A table like this would provide a spot to stash little things like candles and bug spray when not in use, but I might just leave the space open since I could also store such things inside the L shape during the season.

The hub’s green egg table will occupy the corner of the deck where the egg currently sits with our new oil-less fryer next to it. I’m excited to finally see the table all finished, set up and ready to use.

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The displaced Adirondack chairs will move to the firepit area that will be created along the edge of a pea gravel patio next to the deck. The pit itself will be created by stacking landscape stones around the freebie washing machine bin we snagged during construction. I love the idea of creating a cover that would make it also function as a table, especially with a little game board for fun!

Behind that, underneath the family room windows we’ll install a raised garden bed made of cinderblock like this, but with removable tubs like this which can one day be transferred to and from the greenhouse I’ll have one day as the seasons shift. I’d like to try a hanging strawberry planter like this, so that might hang from the eave between the windows or over top of the raised bed or maybe I’ll try something like this on the back of the shed.

The massive hot tub we scored on Craigslist has yet to be used because it’s just so huge and costly to run, so we’re passing it on to the family cabin down on the Kenai, where it should be much more utilized and appreciated during fishing season.  We’ve got our eye on a few 2-person tubs and might invest in that later this year or next season.

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I’ve realized this alcove along the side of the house where I originally planned to do a full garden just doesn’t get enough sun to be productive, so instead we’ll put the chicken coop here. I’d like something similar to this which should have a small footprint next to the house. Locating them just off the deck will make taking care of the chickens easier and the house should provide extra radiant heat during the winter to keep them cozy.

Beyond the coop I’m considering installing a potting bench with a simple design like this. I’m not convinced that I’ll use it enough to warrant the construction, so I might hold off on this idea until next year when I see how much need there really is. My other idea for the space is to build a smoke house – which I’m sure would get lots of use or a small tool shed to house things like rakes, shovels, etc. so they don’t take up space in the garage or the hub’s storage shed. If we go that route I could always add the potting bench or smoke house along the back wall of the garage, where I could see it from the laundry room.

tentAlthough we bought a canvas gazebo canopy on the buy/sell page last year, I decided it wasn’t the right fit for the deck so we resold it. Eventually I want to add a pergola to the deck with some sort of shade cloth, but that might be a few years down the road still. In the interim I plan to create a simple shade like this by attaching poles to the sides of the deck with a few simple brackets. We may have to install an eye bolt on the back of the house to complete the set-up but it should be much easier to take down quickly if there are winds in the forecast.

And no deck is complete without some sort of pest deterrent, especially in Alaska. Ours will come from the wine bottle tiki torches we had in Kodiak, but this time around rather than hang from a railing or post they will sit in holders like this around the perimeter of the deck. The poles for the bottles can be attached just like the shade poles mentioned above and I plan to fill the bottles half full with pebbles so they don’t require as much tiki fuel.

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Finally, I’ll add some landscape around deck in the form of flower beds filled with perennials similar to the ones out front and along the far side of the house.   I also plan to add a clematis in front of the big wheel the hubs found me, which is now tied to the fence near the deck. I may disguise the low area around it with a bit of a retaining wall to create a small bed in front of the wheel as well. We’ll see how far I get this year.

If I get all of this accomplished by fall and still have some decent weather to work with I may attempt to create a walkway like this from the patio to the back gate.  So that’s the master plan.  Watch for posts as we attempt each portion!

A Little Change

Does anyone else feel like we’re barreling through April? I can’t believe we’re half-way through the month already! It’s been another super busy week, but we’re slowly working on a few projects, including finishing up the wall-to-wall desk in the office and creating a tea station in the kitchen. I’ll share those updates soon, but today I thought I’d show you a little change we made in the guest room.

That room was a hot mess while we were installing the closet system. This is what progress looks like during the in-between stages! Just seeing this gives me hives. Luckily, I could close the door and somewhat ignore it until we got things back in order.

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Now that the closet is done and my fabric stash is organized, I was ready to rearrange a bit. We finally brought back my family heirloom hope chest last fall when we did our big road trip. I wasn’t sure where we’d use it while we were building but, as the rooms came together I decided it would work best in the guest room. That meant the dresser needed to go elsewhere, so we moved it next door into the spare room, which I hope will one day be a child’s room. Here’s the space with the dresser and then the hope chest.

Dresser

HopeChest

Since the hope chest is smaller and lower it now leaves the whole wall open for a large art piece. I’m contemplating a few ideas and will share some once I narrow it down a bit. I’m also toying with doing a full-length mirror that sits on the floor next to the chest in this awkward space just as you enter the room. I think guests would appreciate having a mirror in the room and it would give me a spot to do outfit pictures when I start doing fashion posts. Another option is to ditch the chair, which looks great but isn’t all that comfortable and put a mirror in the corner.  If I did that I’d probably move the hope chest to the foot of the bed as a bench so there was still a spot to sit.  What do you think?

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I plan to have the chest refinished in a cream color on the base and a dark stain on the top, but that might not happen for a while. In the meantime it’s the perfect place to store all of the extra sheets and blankets. The dresser will also be refinished at some point, but looks good in it’s new home for now. (Please ignore the not-so-lovely elliptical which has since been eliminated.)

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Little by little my plans for each space are coming together. I wish we were farther along, but looking back we’ve made pretty good progress in the 15 months we’ve lived here, especially considering we both also work full-time and run a side business! In the end what matters is that it’s home and those I love live there. :)

Lantern Love

Can someone please tell me where the heck the week went? We spent a good deal of it dealing with a broken dishwasher, a security breach at our insurance company and damage to one of our couch cushions – all of which required calling various customer service centers, most of whom were not very helpful. I was actually so frustrated with the process I started writing a post about the experience, but felt that it was turning into a rant. Since I’d rather focus on more productive things I decided to share a fun little update I did on our back deck instead.

Spring in Alaska is very different than the rest of the country. There aren’t any flowers blooming here yet, but our occasional days of warmer temps and sunshine have me shifting attention to our outdoor spaces. Last year we installed two hooks on either side of the window on the back of the house for hanging planters. This year, I plan to create sectional seating under that area and worried that hanging baskets would be a ‘head hazard’ for anyone sitting or getting up. Since I didn’t want to take the hooks down, or deal with the holes that would create, I decided to hang lanterns on them instead.

I spotted these at Target during a recent visit and picked up two to try out for just $13 each. I really liked the style and size, but worried that the open top might collect water which could become a mosquito breeding ground if I didn’t take it down when not in use.

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The width did fit my new Luminara candles but I wasn’t crazy about how the height worked out. You couldn’t see the flame, which is kinda the point.

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Luckily I had a plan B. I also found these at Pier 1 and because I had a reward coupon and a gift card left over from Christmas (thanks sis!) I got them for FREE! I’ve always liked this style and have looked at similar designs many times before. Granted the top isn’t fully covered, but it should reduce the amount of water that might collect if I do leave them up.

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Since these are taller than the first option they fit the Luminara candles much better. They also seemed a little sturdier than the first option too.

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And who doesn’t love FREE?! I plan to clean the deck and start getting things set up this weekend, so watch for a post about that soon, followed by one on my plans for the yard this season. Until then I hope you get outside and enjoy some spring sunshine! :)

We Have Shelves!

6So remember way back when I told you we planned to add shelves above the wall-to-wall desk in the studio?  Well it’s finally happened.  Although the desk itself hasn’t had any additional progress since you last saw it, the finished shelves give you a sense of what the whole thing will look like when we’re done.  And now that we have some extra storage space, we can organize and move things around to finish the rest of the pieces while we continue using the space.  Here’s a quick recap of how they came together.

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After much debate and a good deal of Pinterest browsing, I decided to go with the rustic industrial shelves you see everywhere these days.  Yes it’s trendy right now, but both the hubs and I love the look, plus it compliments the craftsman style of our home so we’ll be happy with it long after others move on to the ‘next’ thing.  The first step was gathering enough supplies, which sound simple, but turned out to be a little difficult.  The hubs had to visit several stores and event shop online to find enough of the pipes, nipples and flanges in the right sizes.  And even when he did find enough, it wasn’t always the same color so we ended up painting all the parts to match.  The metal supports start with a flange which screws onto the base of a piece of pipe.  The other end of the pipe is capped with a nipple, which also screws on.  The hubs attached the supports with extra long screws, directly into the studs for additional strength.  You might notice that some of the pieces seem higher than others in the picture above.  That’s because he initially attached each lower support with just one screw and we made them pivot on the single attachment to decide which height we liked best.  We ended up going with the higher option just to give ourselves a little extra space when sitting.

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Once we had the lower supports lined up and screwed in, he moved on to the top supports, directly above.  We didn’t have a specific height in mind, so we just eyeballed it to decide what would work best with what we planned to have on the lower shelf.  It looked a little strange from across the room without the boards, but this is how it sat for several days while we searched for wood that wasn’t split, bowed or cracked on multiple trips to various local hardware stores.

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Eventually, the hubs found two decent boards in the right size, length and most importantly, price range.  He set them up in the garage and I got to staining.  I forgot to take a picture before I started, but you get the basic before and after idea.

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I had originally planned to stain the boards, then do a white crackle paint over top and randomly sand areas to create the faux reclaimed barn wood look described here, but once we saw the color of the stain and how it brought out the grain of the pine we fell in love with it and decided to leave it as is.  Realizing that the stain we’d used was a primer, stain and sealer all in one, helped reaffirm that decision – especially when we considered that we wanted the same finish on both the desktop and the shelves.  I was secretly relieved that we wouldn’t be painting and sanding in the house, because my allergies would have kicked into overdrive if that had happened.

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When the boards were dry the hubs cut them to size and I helped him carry them in.  All we had to do was set them up on the supports with the cut edge hidden against the wall.  It was at this point that I broke out in my happy dance.  Literally.  I’m just giddy with how it turned out.  They provide a TON of storage space for my photography props, which until now have been piled up against the opposite wall.

You might notice that the far end of the shelves don’t go all the way to the wall.  That’s by design.  We will eventually add sliding barn doors to the inside of this doorway so we needed room for the doors to slide open next to the desk.  Since the space is on the hubs side of the desk I rarely even  notice it.

I’ve started organizing things on the shelves and will share the final set up when it’s done.  It’s a process to decide what goes where, but it’s already making the desktop clearer and the room feels larger without the pile of props in the corner.

The next step is staining the desktop, which should happen this week.  After that will be setting up the pull out shelf for the printer and then we’ll move on to finishing the cabinets with paint and new hardware.  And finally, I’ll add some decorative finishing touches to pull it all together and make it cozy.  So stay tuned to see each step in the coming weeks! :)

The Keys to Consignment Success

Floor

I’m not one for hosting yard sales – especially since we live in the boonies and no one would find it – and dealing with people on the buy/sell pages can be quite a headache, so when heard about an upcoming consignment sale for women’s and girls’ clothing I figured it was worth a try. I’d recently purged my closet and still had a stack of stuff left from the previous purge so I certainly had plenty to offer. In total I ended up with 115 items!

I registered as a consigner, paid the $10 consignment fee and started entering my items into the online system. Making sure I had the correct size and category for each item was a bit tedious, but it helped when I printed the tags generated by the system and started tagging items since I had several that were similar.

Tags

I rented a tagging gun from the sale’s organizers so I could attach all those tags with the plastic barbs just like the department stores. Although it’s a fairly simple tool I couldn’t quite figure out how to load the barbs. Luckily, a quick online search pulled up a YouTube video that got me rolling. After a few attempts I felt comfortable with the gun and things went pretty quickly.

This sale required consigners to provide their own hangers. I certainly wasn’t giving up my nice felt hangers and didn’t want to buy plastic hangers to use, so I was glad to hear other consigners suggest asking local retailers for their extra hangers. I stopped by the Sears where I meet my carpool to see if they could spare some. Apparently they – and many other retailers – just throw hangers away so the cashier was happy to help me load up two large bags from the bins under her register!

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Now that I had everything on hangers and tagged I organized everything by category in the guest closet (which was completed just in time!) and bagged batches of items so they would be easier to transport to the sale. I can’t take credit for this awesome idea, it was another suggestion from the sale’s organizers. But it sure worked well!

Bags

I opted to work a few shifts at the sale so instead of the standard 65%, I got to keep 80% of my sales total. Since the sale was located 45 minutes from my house I decided to work shifts when I already planned to be there such as organizing and putting out items when I dropped off my items, a shift just prior to the half-off presale and a third sorting the left over items when I came to pick up my own items. And because I was out on the floor for all of these shifts I also got to see what was available and set aside a few items I wanted to try.

I ended up buying five items for a whopping total of $14.50 and sold 31 for $148.80! Not bad for items I no longer use! And if I leave all of the items that didn’t sell tagged, I can put them in the fall sale without having to re-enter them. Guess that means part of my guest closet will be in use until then. :)

So now that I’ve been both a consigner and a shopper I thought I’d share a few tips on how to make the most of a consignment sale for both roles. Here are my tips for shopping a consignment sale:

  1. Get there early! Sometimes you have to wait in line, but you’ll be able to grab the best stuff at the best prices before they’re gone later in the day
  2. Make a list of items you’re looking to add to your wardrobe so you can keep an eye out for them, but don’t limit yourself to just that (unless you’re shopping on a budget) because you might find a great deal on something you didn’t even consider.
  3. Try on everything before buying. Because this is a consignment sale there are no returns if you change your mind once you get home.
  4. Be open to altering something you try on to make it just right, but be realistic about the options each piece will provide so you don’t end up with something you won’t use.

Here’s a few tips for consigners:

  1. Don’t try to sell items that are obviously out of style, unless your sale is right before Halloween or a community event like 80’s prom!
  2. Consider the season of the sale when selecting items.  Sweaters don’t sell as well at spring sales and shorts aren’t very popular in the fall.
  3. Double check all of your items to make sure there is no damage that might keep it from selling.  And if you find something either mend it or remove it from your sales list.
  4. Price your items fairly.  Here’s a handy chart to help and a few more tips on increasing your sales.
  5. Go for it!  If you’re going to go through the process of registering, prepping and tagging you might as well offer as many items as possible and increase your chances of earning more.

I hope these tips help you find consignment success, either as a shopper or a seller!  If you have additional tips, please share them with a comment below.

Getting My Fabric Stash Organized

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When we first moved into the house I decided to store my plentiful fabric stash in the guest room dresser. It seemed like a good plan, but it was difficult to remember what was in each drawer and that sometimes made it hard to find things. Now that my heirloom hope chest came home on our trip last year I’ve decided to move the dresser to the spare room and put the hope chest in its place. Because the dresser is pretty darn heavy, I’d have to empty it before we moved it and that gave me the perfect reason to set up a new system for my stash.

I still wanted to utilize space in the guest room since it doesn’t get a lot of use and I wanted it out of sight yet easily accessible. I decided to use under the bed sealable storage bags and luckily found a pack of two on sale for just a few bucks.

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I laid out the first bag on the bed and started adding fabric. Then more…and more…and more! I was amazed at just how much I could fit in one bag!  And because the top was clear I could quickly scan the entire bag to find exactly what I want.

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During the process, Luna decided to help sort the remaining fabric whenever a drawer became half full! I told you she loves drawers!

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I moved what remained to the second bag and still had empty space, so I added two small containers of items for specific projects and a few circle punches I recently picked up to fill in the gaps. And thanks to the clear top I can still find everything quickly.

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I put both bags under the bed behind the dust ruffle so guests will never even know they are there. Although Luna was not too happy that I’ve reduced her hiding space significantly. But since she has plenty of other places to hide out I think she’ll adapt. :)

Guest Closet Finished

Closet3 One of my no-spend January projects was supposed to be finishing the guest room closet with a closet kit we’d purchased on the local buy/sell page for $100. Unfortunately, we soon realized that the previous owner wasn’t very adept at assembling furniture so the hubs had to do a little reinforcing and correct some minor issues. Although that didn’t take long, we soon realized the top shelves that came with the kit weren’t quite long enough for the closet we were installing them in. They were supposed to sit on cleats on the wall for support, but ours were just shy of touching the cleat. Closet2 We tried adding L-brackets to the edge of the shelves to secure them into the cleat with screws through the bracket, but that didn’t work so we needed a new plan. Frustrated, we took a break from the project and the closet sat like this for a while. Closet1 After a few days, the hubs suggested we buy a full length piece of wood and stain it to match. That made sense to me and since no-spend January was over by this point, we purchased a board and used some stain we already had to make it match. Once we had the shelf in we added the hanging rods, adjustable shelf inside the cubby and the drawer. I thought about using the unusable top shelves for additional shelves inside the cubby, but we’d cut them down to be narrower so we could still access the space above from the door of the closet so they no longer fit the peg spacing. I’m toying with another idea that they might work for in another room, so I’ve just set them to the side for now. Finally the hubs reinstalled the closet doors, which had been removed to make room for us to work during the project. Closet6 Now that everything was done, I did a little organizing on the top shelf. I arranged some finished craft projects in one corner and a couple bags of batting that were too big to store elsewhere in the other corner. I love that they are out of sight, yet easily accessible when needed. Closet5 Closet4 I also kept a stash of hangers left over from my recent consignment sale (post coming soon) and a few pairs of slippers so future guests can keep their tootsies cozy and their clothes in order. Hooray for one more project crossed off the ever-growing list!