Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The day after Labor Day, Brandon and I headed to Boston for a little trip to celebrate my 30th birthday. Brandon’s been there for work several times, but I’d never been and I wanted to get in on the action! Paul Revere, This Old House, fresh seafood! Boston just seemed like the place I needed to see.

I’ve got a few things to post about our trip, so to start, here were some of the highlights. :)

in Boston Common
We rented bikes one day and took this picture on a bench in Boston Common, the oldest park in the US.  Since we live so close to Chicago, and my last city trip was to NYC, I loved that Boston was busy, but not-so-crowded, smaller, and bike friendly! It made for great touring.

Victoria at a real card catalog!
We went to the Boston Public Library, the first publicly funded library in the US, where I was pretty excited to find a real, working card catalog.  I was and am absolutely in love with Boston’s history!  The Midwest is comparatively new, so as a history-buff, I adored everything that was “America’s first…” or “America’s oldest…”

Boston 017
We stayed near the Craigie Bridge on Monsignor O’Brien Highway, which opens and closes, and whose control panel Brandon helped build and start-up. He’s pointing at the part that opens :) and standing in front of the control tower where the panel is operated. He pretty much hated that I was taking this picture, but he played nice and smiled. :)

Victoria and an original WWII Duck Boat
I was pretty excited to take a Duck Boat tour!! Brandon had talked about them when he was working on the Craigie Bridge (the Duck Boats are amphibious and go underneath it!), then I saw them featured on This Old House. I love an informative and historical tour, so I was sold.

To commemorate the trip, I made a photo book on Shutterfly with a coupon code I got from TravelZoo for a free book! (I am signed up for a LOT of email lists…and I never unsubscribe from them because of little gems like that one that come along occasionally! I am an email hoarder!) Even without that coupon code, though, Shutterfly is always running specials on photo books. They’re great quality and a great way to remember an occasion, a year, or special people in your life.

Shutterfly Photo Book
(I wasn’t paid for that endorsement! I just love these books for capturing memories. I put a lot of work into them, but for me, it still is easier than traditional scrapbooking.)

All in all, we had a pretty good time on our Boston trip. :)

Boston 009

Have you been on a fun trip lately?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall and Flowers

Fall is in the air!

I know we’ve got a few days left of summer, but the weather is changing, we’re battling our yearly mouse-in-the-house, and I’m sipping pumpkin spice coffee as I type. :)

Our lawn hasn’t been mowed in who-knows-how-long since our mower broke. I’ll hopefully get to that soon, because I know our neighbors must hate us. :)

And even though the leaves are starting to change (or in the case of one of our cottonwoods, fall), I’ve still got some pretty wildflowers bringing new color to our un-mowed yard! And if I remember correctly from last year, I should have pretty colors for a while longer.

fall wildflowers

fall wildflowers

bee on wildflower


How’s your yard looking?

(Check out these pictures bigger on flickr!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aerogarden Update #12: Biggest Basil Ever

Boy oh boy! After 9 months, my basil is looking amazing!!  I can barely believe that the plant has lasted this long, as well as looking better than ever. This big ol’ basil beauty is the original one I planted in January!

Biggest basil ever!

The leaves are just huge, dark green, and begging to be cooked into something delicious. This is much more like what basil looks like at the store. I’ve been doing something right! I suspect I need to give the bowl a more thorough cleaning more often! (Read about my basil trials and tribulations .)

Here’s what the whole garden is currently looking like:

Aerogarden update #12

The cilantro is tall but droopy…but I’m just gonna hang in there with it as long as it hangs in there with me.

young cilantro and basil

The little basil is growing like a champ.  After trimming off some of the big basil to use, I turned the big plant to allow more light to hit the cilantro and baby basil. Hopefully that will help them out a bit.

And lastly, here are some leaves I cut off before I took the pictures of the whole plant/garden. They’re huge! They and some more big ol’ basil clippings went right into some yummy turkey meatloaf. It was so much more delicious with fresh basil instead of dried!

big ol' basil leaves

Who would have thought that basil would be so exciting?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Here’s to you, Grandma.

On Monday, Brian’s Grandma left us for the great TV-watchin’ couch in the sky.

She was an amazing woman, a true matriarch. We’ll miss her dearly.

Today, we’ll be saying our last goodbyes to her.

Here’s to you, Grandma.

Grandma Fane on her 90th birthday with a beer in hand!

Grandma - A Lion of a Lady
by Krysten Fane

A pot spoon, a loud TV, a tom cat, or TC.

A doll house, a rotary phone, family photos abound.

A stack of newspapers, a TV guide, a cigarette

Curtains closed till noon.

A set of dice, a strong mind, a witty comment soon.

A sense of humor, a sense of style, a set of clip on earrings,

A next door neighbor, a grocery list, a love of back-seat-only driving.

A family dinner on Sunday, a John Collins, an RC soda,

DQ pints, fried chicken and her secret potato salad.

Nothing ever wasted, nothing taken for granted.

Loyal, kind and caring,

Stubborn, strict and fair,

Your presence felt forever.

Edna Fane was here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sewing Room Organization Part #1: Shelves

So this will be part 1 of a very long long process of really putting my sewing room together in a functional and organized way. Every sewer or crafter knows just how easily their craft room turns into a tornado zone! I know you all have paths through the messes like I do. :)

I’m starting my process with some shelving for the bins upon bins upon bins of fabric that I have. :) These shelves aren’t adorably styled or anything, but they are functional and the bins are labeled. That makes for a happy me. :)

new sewing room shelves

I don’t have real before pictures of what this section used to look like, but here’s what most of the sewing room looks like (this isn’t even the worst corner really, believe it or not!).

what most of the sewing room looks like

To make the shelves, I started with some pre-made shelving uprights from Menards and 1”x12”x8’ pine boards, two per shelf.

premade shelf uprights and 1"x12" boards

I put the unit together temporarily (with just a few screws) outside for painting. Grandpa helped me with all this, so even though it was hot and muggy, it wasn’t too bad.

I painted the unit with some old oil-based paint we found in the basement (with a pretty cool label, and like many oil-based paints, it mixed up like new! I don’t know if it had ever been opened, really) in, you guessed it, Grandpa’s trusty Wagner Wide Shot Power Painter. What would I do without that thing?

old oil-based paint and Wagner Wide Shot Power Painter Sprayer

I was very happy that just a nice, thick coat was all I needed. (Granted, I knew this shelf would be housing large plastic bins in the basement, so I wasn’t being too picky.)

painted shelves

Then, I somehow man-handled all the individual pieces into the basement by myself and installed it there. It’s held together mostly by itself (as the shelves screw into the uprights, they sturdy the whole unit up and keep it pretty plumb and level…though I helped it along of course!) but I did put a couple of concrete screws in it, too, to hold it to the wall and stop it from tipping. I think I used 1 or 2 concrete screws straight through the uprights and a concrete screw in an L bracket somewhere else. Just those 2 or 3 screws into the wall make a huge difference!

sewing room shelves installed

Once everything was secured together, I filled them up!

new sewing room shelves

I have some more plans for shelves like this elsewhere, some plans for shelves on wheels, and I’ll hopefully come up with some other fabric and notions storage solutions along the way as well. I will keep you updated in this long process, which I’m sure will be very drawn out. :)

What have you been building lately?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Our Unfinished Basement

In the spirit of all this organizing, my sewing room, in the basement, is definitely next on the list. It’s going to be a long, long process though. :)

But before I start showing you my sewing room, I want to show you the basement and what we’ve already done to it. The clean, full basement was definitely a huge selling point, and for us, it’s also definitely a huge testament to what paint can do.

So when we bought the house, the basement was all a sort of pinkish color. Floors, walls, ceiling. Part of the ceiling had really terrible drywall work but most was unfinished.

Here’s our basement when we first moved in.

basement before

As basements easily become, it was a catch-all. Eventually we knew we wanted a few defined areas: a tool room, my sewing/craft room, a little living space, and a home office-type space for Brandon.

We opened up a few walls that were down there and also decided to take down the ceiling drywall and paint all the ceilings (the open joists) white, which we had done in a previous house. It’s a lot of work but it keeps the ceilings seeming higher and leaves everything open for access to pipes and plumbing.

basement before, drywall ceiling down

We bought a Wagner Paint Crew Plus Spray Painter and also used Grandpa’s trusty Wagner Wide Shot Power Sprayer.

beginning to paint the basement ceiling with Wagner paint sprayer

(Update: First we primed with Zinsser FastPrime2 – a water-based primer/sealer to make sure we had good coverage over the old joists – with no bleed-through of stains or tannin.  Then we painted with Conco’s High Hide White in Satin…it was an inexpensive paint we got at Menards that had great coverage and still looks good a few years later!)

Did I say it was messy? We were painted disasters for many many weekends.

the aftermath of spraying the basement ceiling

Brandon all painted up

But the amazingly bright ceilings were worth it!

Here’s a shot of the ceilings partially done. What a difference.

basement ceiling painting in progress

Here’s a shot of the future living space and sewing room with the ceilings painted (but you can still see the pinkish walls).

basement in progress

We painted all the cinder block a very light gray and we painted the floors with Valspar Oil Gloss Floor Paint in Lake Country.

basement painted!

Isn’t it so much more bright and open? Paint is so amazing.

Here’s our tool room before we got started.

future tool room - before

And then after we got our hands on it.

basement tool room painted

And, to be fair, since these “after” pictures show the basement totally empty (we were painting the floors after all!), here’s a picture of Brandon’s sort of home office/computer workshop.

Brandon's side of the basement

It’s very “lived” in, we’ll call it. We’re definitely not finished working on the basement. We have lots of plans for peg board and other organizing, but in the meantime we’re so happy with the lightness and brightness.  Speaking of brightness, I forgot to mention that Brandon added a ton of fluorescent fixtures up in between the joists, so they’re not really visible but they give off so much light! We put natural colored bulbs in them so that it’s not too industrial office feeling down there.

I’m not really ready to show you the disaster that is my sewing room yet, but it’s a heap of fabric and crafts just waiting to be organized, and I’m getting started! I will keep you posted along the way.

What about you? I know you have amazing paint stories…or spaces that desperately need to be organized? Tell me tell me!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Aerogarden Update #11

Or, Update #1 since the big bowl wash out!

And, boy what a difference washing out that bowl has made!

The basil has never looked this good!

bushy, full basil in Aerogarden

The sprouts are getting big, too! The cilantro has gotten so tall, it’s falling over…but it’s got little cilantro shaped leaves! And the baby basil is growing steadily, too.

cilantro and basil sprouts in Aerogarden

These sprouts look pretty different from when I started this Aerogarden earlier this year:

cilantro and basil sprouts in Aerogarden, Jan 2012

After I washed out the bowl, I was re-reading some of the information I found on early on, I saw that cleaning out the bowl was totally given as a big refresher for tired looking plants. I know I had gotten the idea somewhere, but if only I had re-read that advice earlier! Oh well. It’s still exciting to see this new Aerogarden grow and to see the existing basil doing so well. I love watching the sprouts grow every day! It’s so amazing to watch little green things grow. :)

What about you? Do you grow anything in an Aerogarden or otherwise? Do you love watching the sprouts as much as I do?

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