Flowers are always a good idea

Here it is, mid-August and my flower garden is filled with the most luscious blossoms. Autumn may be just around the corner, but I’m going to enjoy my flowers until  the first snowflake. Here are some of the beautiful flowers in my garden, starting with the spring lilacs and peonies, and moving on to the late summer blooms. Enjoy!

 

There are lots more beautiful blooms in my garden, but that’s all the photos I have at the moment. The window boxes on the front of my house are overflowing with petunias. More photos to come!

Our kitchen reno, finally!

Little changes can make a big difference.

cropped-New-header-front-of-house-2.jpgWhen we moved into our house in January 2013, I was in love with my kitchen–more or less. It’s big and bright, has a perfect work triangle and tons of storage. I wasn’t crazy about the colour of the cabinets or counter tops, but I knew they could be changed. I really like to preserve and update what we have, rather than just tossing things into the landfill and the cabinets are solid maple and in excellent condition–all good reasons for keeping them. Also, it would have been very expensive and quite extravagant, really, to replace all the cabinets, so we decided to keep them and change the really ugly stuff. (I’m going to live with them for a while and perhaps one day I will have them painted white…although that is doubtful, given that the estimate to have them professionally refinished is about $5,000.  Hmmm…i’ll have to give this one a lot of thought).

Here are the photos of the kitchen as it looked when we bought the house. You can see it had great potential, but the dark gray counter tops were just so dreary.

BEFORE…dark gray counter tops, outdated back splash and hardware that did nothing to enhance the cabinets.

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AFTER…dscf2074

A CLOSER LOOK…quartz counter top, brick back splash and black handles that pop!
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We have so much counter space that we had to buy two slabs of granite…ykes! But, it is a beautiful piece of stone.

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I carried the brick right up over the windows to add interest and I added some pretty bar stools that I bought on sale when Target went out of business here in Ottawa. This photo captures a few of my favourite things: the gorgeous lamp I bought for a steal at Walmart (of all places) and filled it with wine corks; the pretty clock my mom gave me for Christmas last year; and the plaid curtains and valances I bought on Amazon for a fraction of the price I would have paid elsewhere. Our style could be described as casual/country/farmhouse chic…pretty much.

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Last year we had the dark and dreary gray ceramic tiles replaced with this beautiful wide plank laminate…I know, I know, everyone hates laminate. Well, not this girl! The new laminates have texture and look like real wood…and, five years from now they’ll look the same. (Left: on the day we moved in I was cleaning the grout…ugh…what a job. Right: my beautiful new laminate, heavy with texture and no grout to scrub. That makes me a happy girl!)

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We also replaced the old black energy-hog of a fridge with a sleek and shiny stainless steel model…with an ice-maker. We’re practically living on ice-water these days; it’s so refreshing!

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And, last but not least, my double under mount sinks. They are so deep I can put my soup pot right into one of them for scrubbing.

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While this reno was not on my usual shoestring budget, it was an excellent investment in our home and we get to enjoy it for years to come. My next project is tiny: add shelves to the “broom closet” to store cleaning products. Now that’s something I CAN do on a shoestring budget!

 

Thanks for dropping in. I hope you will visit again, soon. Until next time, happy renos, happy everything!

Gloria

Brick Fireplace Makeover

From dark and dreary to bright and cozy.

I guess back in 1972 this dark brick fireplace was pretty cool. Today, not so much. That dreary brick just sucked the light right out of our living room. So, after much research on Pinterest and many YouTube DIY videos, we decided to go for the gusto and paint it white.

A gallon of Behr white semi-gloss paint (we used the kind with built-in primer), a lot of elbow grease and, presto, our fireplace looks like a million bucks! By the way, we did use a wire brush to clean any dust off the bricks, but other than that, we just painted. One more tip: our brick is extremely rough and jagged and it took special effort to get full coverage. A paint brush worked fine for the grout lines, but the only thing that worked for the brick was a sponge…pound, squish, pound…that’s the technique…seriously.

Here are the before and after photos. By the way, we put up the mantel a couple of years ago at a cost of about $250; the paint job came to about $100 for paint and supplies–that’s what I call sticking to my shoestring budget.

BEFORE

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AFTER

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style=”text-align: left;”>I hired a contractor to build in a bookcase to the right of the fireplace and a bookcase that wraps around under the corner window.

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Th-th-th-that’s all for now, folks. Please drop in again, soon, for more shoestring reno ideas.

Gloria

One Bathroom Reno: Check!

Our shoestring reno budget got stretched, but it was worth every penny.

bathroom-wordWhen we moved into our 1972 bungalow in 2013, we knew we had lots of work ahead of us to make this drab house into our cozy home. We were determined to do as much of it as possible by ourselves and on a shoestring budget. That said, when it came to our kitchen and main bathroom, we simply didn’t have the time, tools or expertise to tackle a full reno. So, reluctantly, I blew the dust off of my piggy bank and hired a professional bathroom and kitchen renovation company. Goodbye shoestring budget. Goodbye savings.

Although we have another full bathroom in the basement, the main floor bathroom is the one we use every day, so we wanted it done, done right and done fast. Back in the 1970’s,  when this house was built, bathrooms were all about function and definitely not about luxury. The “spa” bathroom was an extravagance found only in the very richest homes (we thought only movie stars had big fancy bathrooms). So, here is what the bathroom looked like when we moved in…note the weird etchings on the bathroom mirror (someone must have gotten an etching kit for Christmas and thought that a zebra, a mountain goat and some seaweed would look great etched (forever) into their bathroom mirror). Note: not my shower curtain, this photo was from the real estate listing.

BEFORE

13_tripp_crescent_mls_hid746807_roommainbathroomAFTER…   Here is our new and improved bathroom.

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We went for a traditional style vanity with quartz countertop. All of the accents (hardware, mirror, medicine cabinet) in the room are  a warm dark brown.

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We replaced our old bathtub with a walk-in shower. The rain shower and handheld water sources are such a treat! A teak shower bench makes it so easy to shave my legs! All of my decor items are things I picked up on sale or at the dollar store. Who says things have to be expensive to be pretty?

I love our new light! It's pretty and provides more light than we've ever had before.

I love our new light! It’s pretty and provides more light than we’ve ever had before. Hey, look at me in the mirror…duh!!!

And, what would a bathroom reno be without some new towels? I bought these scrumptious towels and this adorable farm truck painting with a gift certificate that some wonderful friends gave me for my birthday, which fell conveniently right after our reno was completed. (I love the painting because it’s 1) farm-related 2) there are dogs in it 2) it’s red and 4) it’s so unexpected in a bathroom.

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I brought these clay fish home many years ago from a vacation in Cape Cod. I love them!

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This pretty metal storage rack was my half-price find at HomeSense. It’ sturdy, yet light enough to move for cleaning under and behind.

 

I found these sweet shells in Cape Cod and decided they would look pretty in frames. I used a piece scrapbooking paper for the backgrouond and the frames were $5 each at Wal-Mart

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So that’s it for our bathroom renovation. It’s stylish, functional and (we think) very pretty.

I hope you will drop in again, soon, to see our kitchen reno–which is also finished. Oh, and we’re in the process of painting our huge dark brick fireplace. It’s taking lots of elbow grease, but it’s really going to brighten up our living room! I will be posting photos and the tips we learned…the hard way.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Happy DIYing…and, remember to pace yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day and every reno takes longer and costs more than you think it will. But, that’s all part of the game.

Our landscaping: from barren to beautiful!

As they say,”a picture is worth a thousand words.”

So, rather than bore you with a lot of text, I’m going to post some photos of our back yard. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s a far cry from what we inherited from the last owners. It’s only been three years since we bought the house and already we’re seeing our hard work pay off. It took a lot of sweat and elbow grease, but we think it was well worth it.

Here we go. First up is our back yard in 2013, when we bought the house. The patio required hours back-breaking work every week to keep the weeds out…they popped up as quickly as I pulled them out. Also, note the lack of privacy from our rear neighbours. The decades-old wood fence was literally falling over when we moved in, so we had a chain link fence installed and a cedar hedge planted the following year. Cedar trees grow about 12″ to 18″ per year; ours were scrawny, but six feet tall, so it won’t be long before they fill out and reach a height of 12′-15′, more than enough to give us some privacy.

FIRST, THE BEFORE PHOTO:

Here’s the old patio, freshly weeded. I took the photo quickly before the weeds grew back.

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So, last year we had a huge deck built (18′ x 24′) right off the back of the house. (Note the cedar hedge to the left, that’s how it looked when it was planted in November 2014. So, this is only it’s second growing season and it’s already filled in to give us some much needed privacy. Now, it just needs to get taller!

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Then, we had a 12′ x 16′ gazebo installed on it to provide shade and protection from bugs. Always keeping in mind my shoe-string budget, we removed a huge pile of stones from the patio before they disappeared forever under the new deck. We then used the stones to create some planting beds next to the deck and in strategically located areas around the yard. Cost: Free! I added three compact shrubs in the planting bed and a ton of mulch (not one weed popped up all summer). 

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…and then a couple plants more for autumn colour…

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…and another planting bed beside of the garden shed. I planted a Snowball hydrangea bush here, which will grow to be 10′ high and 15′ wide…eventually. At the moment, this bed a half-way house for  some displaced hostas. Next year they will be moved to their permanent home along the front of the deck.

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Below, is a photo of my favourite planting bed located along the fence near the garden shed. I wanted a very natural and eclectic look, so I incorporated a “mosaic on glass” window that I made, three huge stumps from a 40-year-old tree that we had to to have cut down, a rusty old wire planter and a cute birdhouse.

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Since I took this photo, the grass has become lush and green–despite this summer’s brutal heat. We pamper our grass with regular over-seeding, spring and fall fertilizers, regular mowing and by providing adequate water.

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Here’s a closer look at this pretty and rustic planter that is hanging on the fence–a treasure I bought from a local antique dealer (very cheap).

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Next, is our orange lilies bed, with our lilac buses in the background. They totally fill up one corner of our yard.

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I painted the doors on our garden shed a shiny black to match the doors, window boxes and shutters on our house. I made two grapevine wreaths and hung one on each door. Such a pretty effect, don’t you think? A slender, slow-growing cedar tree adds a touch of nature! Again, using salvaged patio stones, we created a little walkway. I love how the vibrant green ground cover has eliminated weeds around the cedar and has started to soften the harsh edges of the patio slabs. Aren’t the sun rays pretty?

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Just outside our back door, which opens onto the deck, there’s a wicker table (not shown in this photo) that I bought at Canadian Tire a couple of years ago and then decided not to use it where I had originally planned. Above it I hung a shabby chic grill that’s shaped like a church window–another antique yard find. The sheaf of straw-like spears in the corner are the 4′ high stems from last year’s orange lilies that I tied with some twine. (Notes: 1) after the lilies have bloomed and dried, the stems pull out effortlessly; 2) no need to use nails or screws to hang things on your house–you can buy “brick clips” and “siding clips”).

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Here are a few photo of our gazebo, all ready for us to relax in. Some big square deck boxes store the furniture cushions and double as end tables. The chaise mattresses store nicely in a bigger deck box just outside the gazebo. Peter has hooked up some power cords for us so we can relax with our laptops, charge our cell phones, listen to our favourite tunes, etc.

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I love to stretch out on a chaise with my laptop on my lap and my Bichon, Cookie, at my feet.

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We love having our meals and snacks in the gazebo.Backyard work in progress--May 2016 (44)

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And, last but not least, is our STUMP! This stump is what’s left of a 40-year-old Silver Maple tree that had to be cut down. The stump wasn’t going to go away, so I turned it into a birdbath and planted some ground cover that is spreading around  the base. I read somewhere that if you add a few stones to your birdbath, butterflies will light on them to drink. In addition to the stones, I also planted some pretty flowers that are guaranteed to attract butterflies. (Since this picture was taken, I have added some smaller stones to the birdbath and it seems to have done the trick–yay!!) Oh, I forgot to say that I bought this beautiful mother-of-pearl dish at a roadside antique shop during one of our Sunday drives. Cost: $10–colour me happy!

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The next few photos show the pretty ground cover that I planted around the base of my “tree-stump bird bath.”

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Here are the “butterfly flowers.”

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That’s our progress, to date. We’re getting very close to the point at which we can stop planting and just sit back and watch our little patch of heaven flourish and grow into our beautiful secret garden–guests always welcome, of course!

The contractors are coming tomorrow morning to start gutting our bathroom for a total renovation. And as soon as they finish it, they’ll be starting on the kitchen renos! I’m dreadomg of the mess, but as the late, great, Dorothy Parker, New York columnist. always said, “I hate writing, but I love having written,” …that’s pretty much how we feel about renovating.

Thank you for stopping by. Check in regularly for more updates and have fun make your house into your special home.

Caution: Renos ahead…

New header--front of house-2We’ve been working so hard on the front and back yards of our new (old) house since we bought it in 2013, that we just haven’t had the time or energy to tackle the inside. Well, the outside is looking pretty good (as you will see in my next post), and it’s time to gut the main bathroom and update the kitchen.

Are we doing the renos, ourselves, you ask? Not a chance! Peter just doesn’t have the time and neither of us has the energy. We have hired a kitchen and bath company to do it right and do it fast. We just don’t want our kitchen and bathroom to be out of commission any longer than necessary. That said, it doesn’t come cheap, but when I look at the 0.77 percent interest rate on my “investment savings account,” I figure I’ll get a much bigger return on my dollar by investing in our home. Not that we’re planning to sell anytime soon because Peter and I love our home and our community.

The renos are scheduled to start in a couple of weeks and I will be posting photos from start to finish. For now, here’s our first photo–it’s me and Peter at the stone quarry approving the two quartz slabs that will become our new kitchen counter tops.

Gloria kissing quartz counter top July 2016Peter with quartz counter top July 2016

All I can think of right now is, “I hate renovations, but I will love have having renovated.”

I hope you’ll drop in later this month to see our progress and check out the “before” and “after” photos.

Until next time, be kind, be happy and be thankful.

 

From a neglected house to a warm and inviting home…on a shoestring budget.

I love a challenge…

The big banner photo at the top of this blog is our house today (September 2015), just two-and-a-half years after moving in (sorry for the poor lighting in this photo). It’s a big transformation from the photo below that shows how it looked just two summers ago.

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 I have been posting updates on our progress here on Home at Last, and will continue to do so until…well, forever, I guess. I hope you will ride along with me on this shoestring budget transformation.

13-Tripp-June 2013 (4)And, now, for a look back to our first summer here…the first photo shows our “lawn” in the spring of 2013.

 

 

The second photo shows are lawn just two months later. See what some love, water and fertilizer can do? 

Lawn-spring 2013(I love my lawn…I really really love my lawn!)

Thanks for stopping by. Have a wonderful day…and don’t forget to fertilize your grass this fall (now’s the time). Come spring, you’ll be rewarded with a lush green lawn!

Window boxes are for every season!

This spring I finally got the window boxes I had always dreamed of. The pretty flowers added colour, dimension and curb appeal to our little bungalow. Alas, as the dog days of summer lingered on, and they eventually took their toll on the on my gorgeous blooms. But, the story doesn’t end here…

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Dollarama, Dollarama!

Fake flowers, according to the designers, are corny, kitschy, tacky, yucky, poo poo. Oh, did I mention that I don’t care what the designers think and that I do what makes me happy?  Anyway, I couldn’t just leave my beautiful window boxes empty until next spring, so I made a quick trip to the dollar store and bought some colourful silk flowers. Here’s how my window boxes look now…IMG_7235

And, as my husband just said, “no water watering required, Babe.” But, the story doesn’t end here, either…come back and see what I will be showcasing for this winter and Christmas.

Don’t hide away your favourite treasures…

My favourite things. . .

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I love to keep my favourite things out where I can see and enjoy them. This is a little vignette in on my kitchen counter. Each piece has a special meaning or memory: the beautiful sparkly plate was a gift from my daughter; the pretty red baking crock was a gift from my mom; the flowers and the pear are souvenirs I brought from Vermont; the tiny little green pear is a little maraca that I bought at a music store, just because I liked it; I found the lovely crock canister at an antique store for $10 (it holds the wine corks I’m saving for a craft project); and the pumpkin is from flowers that I sent my mom for her birthday one year thinking that she would enjoy it after the flowers were gone…she gave it back to me because she like the flowers but, “wasn’t crazy about the pumpkin.” LOL!!! It’s so much fun to showcase your favourite treasures, rather than hiding them away in a cupboard or trunk.

Here are a few more photos. . .

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I hope this inspires you to showcase your own treasures! Thanks, for stopping by and please drop in again, soon.

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P.S. The big crock canisters holds my collection of wine corks that I’m saving up for a craft project.

My son can cook…I mean COOK!

Well, here I go again with another food story. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be talking about the work we’re doing on the house–and I will–but, first, I just had to show you this beautiful Italian dinner that my son prepared. Baked spaghetti and meatballs, garnished as only my son can do!! A side of hot garlic cheese toast and we all just melted into a pool of cheesy bliss. You are the BEST, Neil. What a wonderful son I have!!!

Neil's Italian dinner