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5/24/2011

Outdoor Living!

I love the outdoors… and so does Bailey!  So, everyday after getting home from work/daycare we head outside.  In fact, as soon as we get home Bailey points to the back door and says “outside”… and who am I to deny that sweet little voice?!?  So, outside we go!

We spend a lot of time hanging out on the patio under the shade of the pergola (which Craig and I pre-built and assembled ourselves).  It’s the perfect place to enjoy a sunny afternoon!  Dare I say it… this is mine and Bailey’s favorite room in the house space at our house! 

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Once outside, Bailey and I enjoy working in the garden.  She loves to help me pull weeds and water the plants.  She also likes to play with rocks, sticks, leaves, or any other cool things she can find.

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When she’s not on the patio sorting her rocks you can probably find her running around the yard chasing Sydney, playing in the grass, swinging in the swing Nanny and PoPo gave her for her birthday, or visiting with Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

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But one things for sure… no matter what it is that she’s doing, as long as she’s outside she’s happy.  And as long as she’s happy… I’m happy! 

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary…

…how does your garden grow?

Things are actually growing pretty well around here!  Playing in the dirt planting a garden is definitely one of the things I look forward to the most every spring.  And this spring was no exception!

Each year I plant a small vegetable garden along the back side of the house.  And each year my garden is picked over by deer and rabbits who think of it as their own personal salad bar.  Well so far, so good this year.  No signs of the critters yet (although I’m pretty sure I just jinxed it by typing that).  I’ve tried everything to deter them (Deer-Off spray, bars of soap, human hair, and even a home-made mix of glue, cayenne pepper, and eggs), but nothing ever seems to work.  I’ve learned over the last couple of years that in order for me to get the veggies I want I have to plant some extras so that the animals can get what they want too… which means I keep planting more and more.

This year, in addition to the normal row of tomato plants and bell peppers I decided to try container vegetable gardens for the first time.  I was inspired by the amazing container gardens I saw on our trip to the North Carolina Arboretum last summer.  Here’s a picture of what I saw there.

That’s right… containers with a mix of tomatoes, squash, beans, peppers, herbs, and greens.  Who knew you could mix so many different vegetables in the same pots?  I certainly didn’t! 

I love how this type of gardening allows you to plant so much in such a small space.  Plus, I think they’re really beautiful and interesting to look at… especially if you stick a trellis in the pot from them to climb up.  So, I figured what the heck!  I’ll give it a try!

I bought some of my favorite veggies (tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, and squash), mixed up some soil and home-made compost, and got to digging.  In addition to the veggies I planted some nasturtium seeds for an extra splash of color.  In separate pots I planted various herbs from seeds (chives, basil, lavender, rosemary).

Here’s what the planters looked like with my baby veggies a couple days after they were planted…

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…and here’s what they look like now!

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Huge difference in less than a month’s time!  It’s so fun to watch them grow… and super exciting now that they’re all flowering!  It won’t be long and we’ll have all kinds of fresh, organic veggies to eat!

And here’s a glimpse at the row of tomatoes (with a few other veggies mixed in) I planted this year…

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Off to a good start!  I decided to try a row of marigolds in front this time to see it that would help to deter the deer (supposedly deer don’t like the smell of them).  I’m guess they won’t make a difference.  The deer will probably just turn their noses up and skip over them like I do when I come across pickled beets on a salad bar.  Yuck!  I mean, honestly… who puts that on a salad?!?  Anyway, eventually the tomatoes will fill in and grow to cover the back wall of the house.  If this year’s “crop” is anything like last year’s I’ll have plenty for us and plenty left over to share with the neighbors.

So there’s a quick run down of what’s growing in my vegetable garden and planters this year.  I’ll let you know when we get our first taste!

5/23/2011

Iris Festival

While Craig stayed at home to do some much-needed prep work for our upcoming flooring installation, Bailey and I spent the afternoon in Greeneville, Tennessee with friends at the Iris Festival

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What a fun way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon! 

5/20/2011

New Friends!

Over the past 2-3 weeks we’ve noticed some new visitors to the back yard (read about some of our past visitors here and here)… 3 wild mallard ducks who we fondly refer to as Huey, Dewey,and Louie!  They visit us occasionally in the mornings and almost every evening to get a quick snack under our bird feeders. 

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Of course… a duck (make that 3 ducks) can’t survive on bird seed alone.  That’s where Bailey and I come in.  A couple times a week we will head in to the back yard (bag of bread in hand) to treat our little buddies to a proper meal.  And they very happily come running waddling straight to us!

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Although, I’m not sure who gets more excited about it all… Bailey or the ducks… but everyone always seems to be enjoying themselves!

5/17/2011

The New Cooktop…

…turned out to be a pretty big project.  We decided that a large vent hood overhead would break up the open feel we were trying to create in the kitchen and family room, so when we purchased our appliances we opted for a cooktop with a built in downdraft.  Since our house is built on a concrete slab the downdraft couldn’t be vented through the floor.  Instead it would have to be vented through the 1/2 wall my dad built (that is the base for our peninsula) and out an exterior, brick wall.  Thankfully Craig was able to put his left brain to good use and get the job done!  Here’s how he did it.

The first thing he did was use water based duct sealant to connect three different pieces of ductwork and then secure them with sheet metal screws. 

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He then cut a hole in the back of the cabinet that was supporting the cooktop, ran the ductwork through the hole, and attached it to the base of the downdraft inside the cabinet.

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Next he knocked a hole in the drywall and exterior brick where the duct would be vented out of the house.

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After the hole was drilled he inserted a circular duct to which he attached a wall cap with a spring-controlled damper and removable screen (to keep the outside air and critters outside where they belong).

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Next he attached the final rectangular piece of ductwork that runs horizontally through the 1/2 wall.  Once again he secured the seams with water based duct sealant and secured everything with sheet metal screws.  Finally, after doing all this, he filled in the cracks around the hole in the exterior wall with Great Stuff (the window and door kind… the regular kind would have expanded too much)

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As if this wasn’t enough work to do, Craig also had to complete the wiring for the cooktop.  Thankfully this was a pretty simple task.  We had already run the wires down the wall in the kitchen when we rewired everything, so it really ended up being just a matter of carrying the wires through the 1/2 wall and installing an electrical box on the inside of the cabinet. 

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Once the electrical box was installed and the wires were connected… VOILA!!!  We had a working cooktop with built-in down draft! 

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And so far we are both totally in love!  I mean, who wouldn’t be?  It’s so pretty!  Doesn’t it just make you want to go cook something? 

Let There Be Light!

As mentioned in this previous post, Craig has been working on lighting.  Well, I thought that I would give you a little update on how that’s going. 

Let me remind you what kind of lighting we were working with before hand (pay special attention to how dark the room looks even when these lights were both turned on).

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Two VERY out dated fixtures… one placed on either end of the long, narrow kitchen.  There were no overhead lights in the family room, so we had to rely solely on lamps.  Craig borrowed a “light meter” from work to measure the amount of foot-candles brightness of the rooms.  Our old kitchen scored between 4 and 5 (depending on which corner of the black hole you were standing in at the time) and our family room scored even lower.  Just for perspective… the ideal measurement for general kitchen use is 20-50 and for food preparation is 50-100.  Living rooms are recommended to be 10-20.  So, obviously our old lighting (or lack there of) just wasn’t cutting it. 

So on to the solution… installing dimmable recessed lights in the ceilings in both spaces and under-cabinet lights where else but under the cabinet! 

As mentioned before, we laid out our desired plan for the recessed lights by taping circles to the ceiling.  Before cutting any of the holes Craig drilled a pilot hole in the center of each circle and inserted a dowel rod just to check that we wouldn’t run into any problems (a.k.a. cut the hole for our light right in the middle of one of the roof trusses).  After a quick trip into the attic to make sure everything would work he then cut the holes and inserted the cans.  We ended up having to change our original design a couple of times due to those pesky trusses, but I think it all worked out well in the end!

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The under-cabinet lighting also turned out great!  It was pretty simple to wire them in and attach them to the cabinets.  Initially I wasn’t sold on the idea that we had to have them.  Craig did some convincing and in the end I’m really glad that we did it.  It looks great and really makes the countertops shine!

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Our general kitchen lighting now measures 30-50 depending on where you’re standing!  And the food preparation areas (countertops) measure in at around 80!  The family room is now measuring 15-20!  Definitely a HUGE improvement!  We plan to also install fixtures over the sink and peninsula, but aren’t quite there yet… we’re still combing the five large catalogs we have to try to find the perfect fixtures.  Who knew this would be the toughest renovation related decision to make?

5/15/2011

Racks By The Tracks

Racks By The Tracks is a free barbeque, blues, and beer festival held in downtown Kingsport each May.  The festivities are held next to the Chamber of Commerce and Citizen’s Bank buildings on Main Street which occupy the old train depots (hence the name Racks By The Tracks).  It was held yesterday and we were very excited to join in the festivities (we went last year, but Bailey was so small that we didn’t really get to stay and enjoy ourselves… but we made up for it this year)!  We were also very excited to have my sister Erin and her boyfriend Matt join us for the weekend!

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Once in downtown we set up camp in front of the stage and set out to find some lunch… which wasn’t very hard considering all of the excellent barbeque and ribs there were to choose from!  Naturally, we also had to help ourselves to a beer of two (you know… to help wash down the food and enjoy the music)!

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The weather was a little dicey (eventually we got rained out), but we all seemed to really enjoy ourselves!

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Can’t wait to do it again next year!